Disney Day 2: Magic Kingdom

In my continued mission to give Annmarie what she asked for (more pictures of Brianna), I bring you day 2 of our Disney vacation. Don’t worry, I’m only sharing 4 days (the 4 parks) and I’m keeping it down to one a week. But Magic Kingdom is the day that has my very favorite pictures from our trip so this is going to be a really picture-intensive post.

Arriving at Magic Kingdom:

My brother Adam. His first time at Disney!

Magic Carpet ride:

Brianna with Prince Eric and Ariel:

Now for the big part of the day. Brianna went to Bippidy Boppity Boutique and got princessified. It was actually a really great deal. I’d bought the Cinderella dress on eBay before our trip and we snuck it into our backpack that morning, because the whole thing was a surprise for B. We didn’t have reservations (because I like to live dangerously like that) but had no problem getting an appointment for the time period we wanted. So for the price, B got to get changed into her dress, get her hair, nails and makeup done. The price included the tiara ($10) and the Mickey barrette ($10) as well as a bag with her palette of makeup, 2 bottles of nail polish, and face decals. Those things alone were worth around $30-$35 total, so we only paid about $20 for the services themselves. SO worth it. Here’s some of the process:

My goofy girl. the beginning:



Now, they do a “big reveal” where they turn the princess around and let her finally see herself in the mirror. B’s face truly lit up. I didn’t get any pictures but the Disney photographer did. Unfortunately, I’m an idiot and I lost that PhotoPass, even though I KNOW better and knew I needed to take a picture of the number on the back in event of losing it. Argh. So I don’t have pictures of that and I’m sad about it.

Next, we had reservations at Cinderella’s Royal Table for a late lunch, right across from the boutique. This was magical for all of us (and the food was surprisingly good). Well worth the expensive price and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

First you get your picture taken with Cinderella

You get to color and wait for the other princesses to come to your table while you start with appetizers

Everyone gets either a wand or a sword (For the boys) and a wishing star or two. During the meal, they do a small “ceremony” with the entire dining room where everyone wishes.

Right behind us during the ceremony is Snow White. I love this picture:

Then, after it was over she came over to the table for pictures:

Sleeping Beauty:

Ariel (there’s another picture of B and Ariel that’s my favorite picture of the trip but I’m saving it for Wednesday):


And, finally, Cinderella’s Castle, which really is magical, inside and out:

This day was the only day we experienced any rain, and it was several downpours, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the day because we’d brought ponchos. It did stop me from taking too many more pictures at Magic Kingdom, though.

At the end of the day, we decided to take the monorail from Magic Kingdom to Epcot, just so Adam could experience it. There’s a few pictures from that as well:

Texas Salsa from Author Gail Dayton

Note: I imported all of my posts from Whipped Out but I’ve been trying to go through and grab tutorials and some of the recipes that I didn’t post, so we still have them. This was one of those.


Hi, ya??all! Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and Joyous [Insert your Holiday of Preference]!

I am a writer. Hearta??s Blood (steampunk fantasy romance) will be out in January, but I actually spend more time cooking, taking care of family members and doing laundry than I do writing. (Cleaning? Whata??s that?) Yeah, Ia??m a writer, but Ia??m a wife and daughter and mom and grandmother first.

Ia??ve been enjoying the Whipped Out blog since it started, partly because it makes me think about cooking and creativity and other stuff. For instance:

Some folks talk about how America is becoming homogenized, and people eat the same things everywhere in the countrya??which is true. I love learning about and trying new recipes from all over the world, like many of you.

But eating patternsa??especially favorites and holiday foodsa??are still regional, and cultural. I contend that a persona??s culture can be determined by what they eat on holidays. For instance, if you eat latkes on Hanukkah, (of sweet potatoes or white) one can be fairly certain that you are Jewish. Those who eat haggis on Hogmanay have got to be Scottish, because who else would eat haggis? (I have tasted haggis, and actually, ita??s not that bad. Ita??s not that great…but ita??s not awful. It just sounds awful.)

And of course, if you have tamales on Christmas Eve and black-eyed peas on New Yeara??s Day, ita??s a sure bet that you are a Texan. Texas is both part of the Old South and on the Mexican border, so we get both in our food culture. Even those with Spanish surnames who have been born and raised in Texas will eat black-eyed peas on New Yeara??s. Theya??re not going to pass up any chance for luck.

Being a Texan, I have made tamales from scratcha??but they are definitely labor-intensive, so unless I have a big bunch of people available for the labor, Ia??ll hit up one of the local Mexican restaurants for my couple dozen Christmas Eve tamales, and make the salsa to go with them.

Pace Picante Sauce isna??t bad, if thata??s all you can get, but even in the dead of winter, ita??s just about as cheap to make your own, and it tastes a LOT better.

I made a batch of salsa last week, and thought of the Whipped Out gang, so Ia??m going to share the (very adjustable) recipe with ya??all. (I only have picturesa??of the end producta??because I didna??t think of blogging about it till after it was cooking… You can see how full the pot was to start with. Also, notice how the chip isna??t sinking. The big pink-red tomato chunks are the tomatoes out of the can.) This batch made about a gallon of salsa. I had one quart jar, plus 3 quart-sized Tupperware containers full. Very full.



1. TOMATOES. Start with several pounds of tomatoes. Whatevera??s cheapest and as ripe as you can get them. Roma, Beefsteaka??anything but cherry (I dona??t use them because theya??re expensive and ita??s hard to get enough, but if you have your own plants and your bowl runneth over, then use a??em!). They all work. One summer I bought a whole flat of seconds at the fruit stand in Hedley, Texas for $4. They dona??t have to be pretty. They can even be a little uber-ripe. If tomatoes are really expensive, you can fill in with cans of diced tomatoes. That works just fine. You will adjust your amounts of other things according to how many tomatoes you have.

In my most recent batch, I used about 4 pounds of fresh Roma tomatoes and two big cans of diced. (I should have bought petite diced, because the canned tomatoes were in Big chunks.) This batch filled my Dutch oven to the top before it started cooking.

2. ONIONS. Get about half as many onions as you have tomatoes, by size, not weight. If your pile of tomatoes fills your Dutch oven (before theya??re chopped), then youa??ll need onions to half fill it.

I used 1 1/2 of those big sweet 1015 onions in my recent batch. (They were Big onions. Smaller onions, Ia??d probably have used 2 1/2. I had a half onion sitting in my fridge already, waiting to be used, so I used it.)

3. JALAPENO PEPPERS. This is the tricky part. You will want about half as many peppers as you have onions. However. Peppers have varying amounts of heat depending on what season they were grown in, how big they are, and how hot it was. Really. Big fat early spring peppers are usually fairly mild. Little August peppers will turn your eyeballs inside out. Also, the real Heat of the pepper is in the seeds. If you want a milder salsa, buy the bigger peppers and take out all the seeds. If you want it hotter, look for the smaller peppers, and leave the seeds in. Even then, ita??s still a guesstimate as to how hot the salsa will be. Because you just cana??t tell.

I used two medium-sized jalapenos in my batch, and left in half the seeds. (I like a medium hot salsaa??this came out perfect.)

4. CILANTRO. Also known as Chinese parsley, so if Mexican foods are less available where you are, look at the Asian foods. Ita??s sold by the bunch, like parsley, and has a very strong pungent flavor. Until ita??s dried, then it has no flavor at all that I can tell. I like cilantro, but some people dona??t, so you can adjust this to your taste. Still, I think a good salsa really needs some cilantro.

I used half the bunch of cilantro in my batch. (Ita??s Strong! Ia??m going to use the rest of it in a carne guisada, and in my black-eyed peas.)

5. SPICES. This is one of those a??to tastea?? things. In my Dutch oven sized batch, I used: Oregano (preferably Mexican) a?? about 1 tablespoon

Salt a?? maybe a couple of teaspoons. (I didna??t really measure)

Ground cumin a?? about a teaspoon

Black pepper a?? just over half a teaspoon

Cayenne pepper a?? about half a teaspoon

6. VINEGAR. This goes in last, and I think gives the salsa a really tart edge that I like. It also makes it possible to can the salsa with a water bath process. (I usually freeze the extras, but I used to can it.)

This size batch needs at least a cup of vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the best with it, but you can use whatever vinegar you have. Larger batches need up to 2 cups.

To make it, you chop the tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro finea??I put them in my food processor and zizz them up till theya??re chunky, but not too chunky. If you think a tortilla chip will have trouble dipping up a chunk, you might chop it some more. I usually do a couple of tomatoes plus half an onion, or a pepper, or a bunch of cilantro in each food processor batch. Tomato, plus something else. As you chop, dump it into your cookpot. You can go ahead and turn on the heat. Ita??s going to be cooking a long time. All the juices, everything goes in.

Once everything is chopped, add the spices and the vinegar, and bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to a fast simmer and let it cook. And cook, and cook. Dona??t cover it. Ita??s going to be juicy enough it wona??t stick, but youa??ll want to come stir it every so often. Your whole house will smell Amazing.

Cook it down to a nice, thick sludge. It will still be plenty juicy, but thick salsas are best. I have likened properly thickened salsa to the mud pots at Yellowstone Park. Instead of bubbling, they sort of bloop.

When I make this in the summer (when tomatoes are cheap-ish), I usually start it cooking around 9 p.m., because it heats the whole house up so much. Then I cook it until I just cana??t stay up any more. I made this winter batch in mid-afternoon, so I got it cooked down just right.

Once ita??s thick, ita??s ready to eat, put in jars to can, or stick in Tupperware to freeze. And yes, hot-from-the-stove salsa is good to eat just the way it is. Some restaurants serve it hot. Ita??s good any old way you want to eat it.

Bonus recipe: I make guacamole with my homemade salsa. Just mash up a ripe avocado with a few big spoons of salsa, a little Worcestershire sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice and a little extra garlic/garlic salt, and you have a Very Good guacamole. Yum!

Peanut Butter Bars: Summer Dessert

First, I’m sad to announce that we’ve decided to disband Whipped Out. Apparently, the three of us are too busy to update multiple blogs. Who knew? I’m going to be doing two things: 1) porting all of the recipes from there to here and 2) installing a new theme on this blog and updating the look, so it’s a little more clean. Hopefully I’ll also be able to create an index page for the recipes. So it looks like recipes will be appearing here again (sorry to those of you on diets).

As many of you know, I like to bake. Sadly for me, my family almost never eats what I bake. I’m pretty sure it’s not because the things don’t taste good, but apparently, they like processed cookies and snacks more than homemade. Because of the awful, oppressive heat, I haven’t been doing a lot of baking this summer, but the other day I ran across this recipe for peanut butter bars–a recipe which doesn’t require you to turn on the oven at all–and I knew I had to make it. And I’m glad I did, because it was goooood. SO good. And seriously? Ridiculously easy.

Peanut Butter Bars (adapted from allrecipes.com)


1 1/2 cups melted butter (you can use a cup only, if it makes you feel better, the bars will be more crumbly)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky, your choice)

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or dark chocolate if you’re feeling spunky)

4 Tbsp peanut butter.

Okay, now for the complicated instructions:

1. Mix together melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar and 1 cup peanut butter. Combine well. Press into ungreased 9×13 pan.

2. Melt together chocolate chips and 4 tbsp of peanut butter. If you do it in the microwave, do it on 50% power. Mix well. Pour on top of peanut butter crust.

3. Chill. Cut into squares. Curse me for showing you how easy it is to make these because they taste BETTER than Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Resign yourself to either having huge hips or freezing half this batch. I’m not responsible for the choice you make here.

4. Remind yourself to make a half batch next time.

(Oh, and you should keep these refrigerated, otherwise the chocolate on top gets soft and they get kind of messy.)

These were a hit at my house. My family actually ate like…half a pan of them! I’m going to inflict the rest on the moms at our mom’s night out gathering tonight. Heheheh.

YA reading

I haven’t been doing much reading this past month. Well, not entire books anyway. I’ve been reading a lot of Kindle samples on my iPhone. Love those samples. I always read before bed, but recently I’ve been using that time to read the samples instead of entire books. During my vacation, I had pictures of sitting by the pool and reading one of the many books I’d purchased previously. That didn’t happen. I didn’t read much during my vacation. Maybe a little at night, as I finished up my re-read of the Patricia Briggs Mercedes Thompson series. I didn’t do any reading at all during RWA, or the week after my return (with the exception of the aforementioned sample chapters).

So this week, I became determined that I needed to just start reading again and stop with the reading-based anhedonia (look, my psych roots are showing when I use big words like that 😉 ) so read some more samples (I’m serious, that’s what I did!) and I bought two books based on those samples. Despite the fact that I have a number of unread-purchased books I should be reading. But I won’t disclose that number and you won’t ask. In fact, we’ll pretend I own NO unread books, shall we? Thank you.

First I read Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater. (there are some spoilers in this paragraph so you may not want to read it) I thought the sample was pretty good, and it got glowing–GLOWING–reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so it seemed like a safe bet. Um, yeah, I decided during the reading of this book that I’m broken. I didn’t really love it. I thought it was just middle of the road okay. I skimmed some parts in the middle, I felt like parts of the story were underdeveloped and I didn’t even like the heroine’s love interest a little bit and felt no empathy for him. I would have been okay if he’d died, it might have made the book more interesting.A? Do you ever have one of those moments during a book where you realize you’re not really enjoying it but you push on, because many, many other people clearly enjoyed it and so there must be some big pay-off at the end that makes the book suddenly magical? That was me during the Lament. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it was a bad book, because I don’t think it was. I’m saying it was a book that didn’t work for me, I didn’t love it and I won’t be picking up the sequel. There are books like that out there for everyone, I suspect. In this author’s case, I’m pretty sure she’ll do just fine without my business because there are people out there who really think her work is wonderful, and I’m glad.

Next, I bought A Matter of Magic by Patricia Wrede. A Matter of Magic is actually an omnibus re-release of two books: Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward. I’m only a third of the way into The Magician’s Ward, but I quite enjoyed Mairelon the Magician. It’s a YA alternate-history fantasy set in Regency England. In this case, magic is a huge part of the culture of England, and magician’s not a secret at all but living as part of society. In fact, if you’re a magician, you can be part of Society (capital S) even if you’ve come from the gutters.

Mairelon the Magician is a book that doesn’t take itself, or the story, seriously. There are a number of secondary characters to keep track of, but they add to the book’s plot/conflict. The conflict and plot themselves are not complicated, but they’re well-paced, with no extra “filler” and nothing to slow it down, which kept me turning the pages. And though the story doesn’t take itself seriously, and it is a magic-filled fantasy, it makes itself entirely believable, as if this alternate history just could have happened.

I enjoyed both the primary characters (Kim and Mairelon) as well as the robust cast of secondary characters, and I was glad to have the second book to start reading immediately. It’s by no means the best fantasy or alternate history I’ve ever read, but it’s good entertainment, well-paced and fun. And I haven’t felt the urge to skim, haven’t been bored or felt dissatisfied. Since I’ve been in a reading slump, I call that a win!

Not-Wordless Wednesday: Animal Kingdom

Not wordless because how can I be expected to just post a picture with no words? Words are my life! We had dinner at Animal Kingdom in one of the outdoor pavilions and there were birds everywhere. I even had a duck sit down right NEXT to my chair. He couldn’t have got any closer without sitting in my lap. But this guy cracked us up because when a nearby family left their table to go look at something, leaving their food unattended, he was quick to get over to the table, crane his neck up and pick food right from their plates. Enterprising!

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