To All the Peeps We’ve Known and Loved…..

Veggie Tales Marshmallow Song lyrics

Dearest Boo,   remember being in high school youth group when Chad was our director?  And remember his introducing us to “Veggie Tales”?  How we all so loved watching them during the lock-ins.  It helped us all get in touch with our inner child.

“VeggieTales” is a series of children’s computer animated films featuring vegetables with faces, but without arms or legs.  The main theme of each video conveyed Christian moral themes and taught Biblical values and lessons. The animated feature involved stories told by a group of recurring vegetable characters who lived on a kitchen countertop.  The videos generally follow a standard format where a moral issue is discussed in the opening scene  followed by one or more “films” that address the issue, with a silly song in the middle.  I just loved the characters:  Larry the Cucumber,  Bob the Tomato, Archibald Asparagus, Junior Asparagus, Frankencelery, Madame Blueberry, Percy Pea, Annie Scallion, and so many new ones since we stopped our perverse passion for the veggies.  All this explains the embedded video.  It’s from “Bob and Larry’s Campfire Songs”.

And campfires remind me of S’mores and S’mores remind me of marshmallows and marshmallows remind me of Peeps.  One of your all time favorite candy.  I would always make sure that you had some for whatever gift giving occasion.  Red hearts for Valentine’s Day, yellow chicks in your Easter basket,  pink tulips for your birthday, white ghosts for Halloween, green trees for Christmas and this year snowmen!   That must be in honor of the Great Blizzard of 2009.  Three days of 50 – 60 mph wind gusts and falling snow, drifting snow, blowing snow, and the dreaded snow plow snow that buries in your driveway hour after you spend back breaking hours shoveling it out.  I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I’ve just been!  I know that there is a hot, dark place in Hell reserved for those plows.

It took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to pee. By the time I got undressed, finished the bathroom job and dressed again.  I was too tired to shovel.  Reminds me of my favorite scene in the movie “A Christmas Story” where Randy’s mom bundles him up for the walk to school.  The poor child has on so many layers of clothing he cannot put down his arms.  It just is not Christmas until I have the chance to watch it once during the holiday.  And of course, we cannot forget the part when Ralphie’s friends Flick and Schwartz were fighting over whether a person’s tongue will stick to a frozen flagpole.  Schwartz ultimately issues Flick a “triple dog dare”  and Flick’s tongue gets stuck to the pole, much to his terror.  Aw, the memories that brings back to mind of some dumb kid in our neighborhood, when we were growing up, who decided to try this same trick (long before the movie came out).  This big dummy used a metal trailer instead of a flagpole, but the end results were the same.  The first layer of tongue was painfully ripped away and left on the side of the trailer.  I have it on the best authority that it was a painful, embarrassing episode that was never repeated but often told with great glee by all the nasty, horrible  siblings who took great joy in being able to recount the only time this poor, creative youngster ever made a mistake.  Yes, that poor, tortured soul was indeed me and the nasty, horrible siblings were your aunts Rose, Margaret, Bev, Charlotte, Teri and brothers Al and Mike.

Once again, I have “rabbit tracked” away from the theme of the blog – Peeps.  When you were young you would actually eat the Peeps, even the stale ones.   As you grew older we would “play” with the Peeps.  We first started just putting the entire package into the microwave for two minutes to see what would happen.  Peep guts everywhere!  Fun to do, but disgusting to clean up.  The next progression was to “Peep Joust”.  To have a Peep Joust, simply stick a toothpick in two Peeps, place them facing each other in a microwave, and fire that sucker up.  Soon enough, the two Peeps will swell and one will stab the other one with its toothpick jousting lance.  And finally we had the “Mortal Peep Fight”.  With that we would put two Peeps on a plate in the microwave for a pre-determined length of time.  The winner was determined by which Peep was the largest size when the timer rang.  All so much fun.

That had to stem from your sheer joy of taking things apart.  The best gift ever when you were young was when something broke and you were able to take it apart.  The joy on your face as you got out the screw drivers, hammers and what ever other tool you could find was total joy for me.  You were so curious to see how something was put together and how long it would take for you to dismantle it.  Of course, cleaning up your mess was a whole other story.

Again, “rabbit tracks” from Peeps…..this year, since I had tons of extra time to cook and bake I went nuts.  By the middle of December the only thing left in the cupboard that was “bakable or cookable” was some sugar and corn syrup.  Much like Old Mother Hubbard, my cupboards were bare.  Staring at your Christmas stocking and the little snowman Peeps, it hit me.  Eureka!  I could make marshmallows.  I had heard of homemade marshmallows, but have never tasted them.  A little bit of research on the web and I had tons of recipes to try.  And they all looked easy.  I made one batch and loved the little darlings.  Imagine my surprise the next day to watch one of my favorite shows, “The Bonnie Hunt Show”, only to see Brian and Michael Voltaggio (Top Chef cast members) making marshmallows!!  Oh my gosh!  Could we be on the cutting edge of the next food craze – marshmallows??  Again, apologies for the camera work.  Some day I will be better, I promise.

In honor of Peeps and homemade marshmallows and with deep apologies to Willie Nelson I bring you my version of “To All the Peeps We’ve Know and Loved”.  Truly Joy Rising!

To all the peeps we’ve loved before

Who traveled in and out our door.

We’re glad you’re not a frog

We dedicate this blog

To all the peeps we’ve loved before

Hand  Loved Marshmallows

Recipe from Alton Brown

Prep time:    35 minutes

Cook time:   10 minutes

Serves:  approximately 9 dozen marshmallows about 1” square


  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 c water, divided into ½ c and ½ c
  • 1 ½  c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c light corn syrup
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ c powdered sugar
  • ¼ c cornstarch
  • nonstick spray (Pam)


  1. Place the gelatin in the bowl of a stand mixer along with ½ c of the water.
  2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining ½ c water, sugar, corn syrup and salt.
  3. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.
  5. Once mixture reaches this temperature immediately remove from the heat.
  6. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while still running, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.
  7. Once you have added all the syrup, increase the speed to high.
  8. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes.  The mixture will look just like thick, melted marshmallows.
  9. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping.
  10. While the mixture is whipping you can prepare the pan.
  11. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, making sure to cover the bottom and sides.  This will help remove the marshmallow from the pan when set.
  12. Lightly spray the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray. This will help with the stickiness of the mixture at removal time.
  13. Add the cornstarch and powdered sugar together and move this around the pan to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan.  The same procedure you would use to coat the bottom of a cake pan.
  14. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
  15. Add the powdered sugar and cornstarch together and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan.
  16. When the mixture is ready, pour it into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan.
  17. Dust the top with enough of the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture to lightly cover.  Reserve the rest to coat your pizza wheel at the cutting time.
  18. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
  19. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1” squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the powdered sugar/cornstarch reserves.  You can, also, use mini cookie cutter.  Be mindful to use one with straight sides to ease in the cutting.
  20. Once cut, lightly dust all side of each marshmallow with the remaining powdered sugar mixture, using additional if needed.
  21. Store in airtight container for up to three weeks.

Insanity is the Mother of Invention

When dawn broke, they started to wander about the forest, seeking a path, but all hope soon faded. They were well and truly lost. On they walked and walked, till suddenly they came upon a strange cottage in the middle of a glade.

“This is chocolate!” gasped Hansel as he broke a lump of plaster from the wall.

“And this is icing!” exclaimed Gretel, putting another piece of wall in her mouth. Starving but delighted, the children began to eat pieces of candy broken off the cottage.

“Isn’t this delicious?” said Gretel, with her mouth full. She had never tasted anything so nice.
Clearly Hansel and Gretel had never been to our home the day after Thanksgiving!

Dearest Boo,  when you were in kindergarten we started a tradition that lasted until you went to high school.  A story you enjoyed was “Hansel and Gretel”, so I had the brilliant (?) idea of making a gingerbread house.  We had so much fun going to all the different stores in town looking for all kinds of candies to put on our “house”.  You were able to invite one friend to help us decorate.  The first year you invited Derrick.  Derrick and his family were one of my most favorite of people we knew.  His parents and I were church youth leaders until your senior year of high school.  We chaperoned so many of your church trips/activities.  You and I  just loved this family.

One memory that pops instantly into my mind took place at Derrick’s graduation party.  It is the memory of you and their uncle having a meatball eating contest.  Child, I don’t think that there were any meatballs left for the rest of the guests to eat!  The eating contest results carried over into the next day, as we flew to Tulsa to help look for an apartment for me to live in while I was working there for the next year.  You were not a happy camper.

I am pretty sure if Norman Rockwell were to come back alive and wanted to paint the All American family he would pick that family.  We were all such better people for knowing them and having them in our lives.  LeAnne and Dave had the most perfect marriage; one that I so envied.  I so miss her bright, shiny smile, her cheerful attitude and her willingness to serve our God.  My wish is that some day you will find that kind of marriage.

Anyway, back to the gingerbread house.  Before Derrick came over we baked the gingerbread house, made the frosting, and laid out all the candies.  Once Derrick got there we set about to build the house.  Try as best I could I could not get the house to stay together.  I would frost the edges and hold them together until they would appear to be sticking together.  Once I took away my hands the sides would all come tumbling down.  Bless your hearts.  We would all work together to hold up the house frame, thinking that it just needed more even pressure to be a bit more stable.  Before you could say “huff and puff and blow your house down” that was exactly what happened.  We just had a pile of gingerbread covered with a ton of frosting.  I was beside myself, as I just could not disappoint the two of you.  Both of you were so looking forward to decorating the house.  What was a Mother to do???  Now, this is the point that Insanity became the Mother of my Invention.  I ran to get my “silver bullet”, my never fail answer to everything wrong.  I got my trusty hot glue gun!  Yes, I know that it was a bit drastic, but I needed that gosh darn house to hold together.  We had such a fun afternoon gluing and sticking on the candies.   It was during the next year that I discovered the little fact that I was not supposed to use buttercream frosting; I needed to use Royal Icing.  For the next ten years we used Royal Icing, I promise, and the houses/decorations were perfect.  I had no worries or illusions about our first house.  I never figured that anyone would eat it; we made it strictly for decoration.

We held our yearly party for families on New Year’s Eve.  For us holidays were about family and as you grew older we wanted to you see that you did not have to drink to have a good time.  Getting together with friends was not about the food and beverages you served.  You don’t need alcohol to get high; you can get high on life by surrounding yourself with people that were dear to you.  And we did have a wonderful time that year, too .  That is until that year when two of the young girls came upstairs chewing on some peppermint sticks.  My heart fell into my stomach as I realized that the only place that we had peppermint sticks was on the gingerbread house.  The house that had candy hot glued to the surface.  I raced over to the girls, ripped the candy from their little hands and flew down to the dinning room faster than a five year old Christmas morning!  What an idiot I was to have the gingerbread house on the buffet table!  Of course any normal person would assume that it was safe to eat.  Who in their right mind would ever use glue to hold it together?  I quickly scooped up the house and moved it to a safe spot.  Kind of like being in the witness protection program.  It looked the same, but it was in a place that no one could or would find it ever again.

Although I knew about Royal Icing and it’s power for gingerbread houses, I never tried it on cookies.  Why my mind never made the connection will forever be one of the great mysteries of the world.  This year I took the leap and used Royal Icing on my sugar cookies.  For a first time I would say that I was pleasantly pleased with the results.  Could they be better – of course.  It is true, practice will make better.  Check back for Valentine’s Day.  Joy Rising!

Vanilla-Almond Sugar Cookies

Prep time:  15 minutes

Bake time:  10-12 minutes

Oven temp:  350 degrees


  • 3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp pure almond extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside.
  3. Cream the sugar and butter in mixer; add egg and extracts mixing thoroughly.
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl to be sure everything is mixed together.
  5. Roll onto a lightly floured surface to desired thickness and cut into shapes.
  6. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
  8. Frost cookies as desired with your favorite frosting  (I used Royal Icing).

Oh the weather outside is frightful; Mother Nature is so spiteful

Dearest Boo, what a Christmas we experienced! Since Tuesday night, the 22nd, we have been under a storm watch. Tuesday night we had brief showers, which turned into ice. Luckily, that was only about 1/4″. Wednesday more of the same, but then that afternoon the snow and wind started. We had snow and wind until Saturday afternoon. This was a full out blizzard. Blizzards are severe winter storms that pack a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a blizzard. Officially, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as large amounts of falling OR blowing snow with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 of a mile for an extended period of time (greater than 3 hours). This being said, we must have had a blizzard times one million. I shoveled out the driveway at least three times on Thursday, four times on Friday and twice on Saturday. The weather report says that it was 10″ to 12″, but the strong winds kept drifting shut our driveway. I know that I shoveled the same snow at least seven times off the driveway.

If I never see another snow flake again I will be one happy little camper. The definition of snow is frozen water that falls from the sky. All snow flakes have six sides, but no two snow flakes are the same. Sorry, Mother Nature, but I was outside long enough shoveling to know that I HAD to have seen some double snowflakes, twins if you will – maybe even triplets! There is no way possible that there could be that many flakes and not have any alike.

Getting up this morning to the sound of the snow plows was not that exciting, as I knew that meant there would be a giant sized pile of crusted, heavy snow to shovel from the end of the driveway. Laying in bed, not wanting to get up, I had a light bulb moment. I am a Snow Dummy! We don’t have a snow blower, except for ourselves…….and you would think that I could remember how to shovel snow after all these years of living in Nebraska. But no, I must have had brain freeze when I was outdoors. I would shovel the snow up onto the yard, just at the edge of the driveway. Dummy, dummy, dummy. It was piled so high, that when the wind came blowing over it, the wind would just blow it all back into the driveway. I must have been shoveling the same 10″ – 12″ of snow for the past three days. And now I get to go back outdoors and shovel it again. However, this time I am going to be smarter than the average snow flake! First I will move the large piles of snow that is lining the driveway, to get rid of the “World’s Largest Snow Tunnel” that I created.

Boo, I know that your Christmas was made special because your BF, John, was able to be here for five days. Luckily, he was able to fly out for home on Monday. I say lucky for him, as if he had waited one or two days he would have been stranded here and not able to be with his family for Christmas. And really lucky for him, as if he were here he would be doing the one shoveling with me instead of you. Asking you to be outdoors in the cold wind always worries me, as I don’t want to trigger an asthma attack for you. You are always mindful of being ready to help, but I do still worry.

One of John’s gifts from us was to try to re-created his favorite dish from Macaroni Grill, Penne with vodka Sauce. No problem, I knew that your little friend, Giada De Laurentiis, would not let us down – and I was right. She had a recipe on her website. I fixed it for him the Friday night that he was here. It was easy and delicious – only problem being that it was not the same at all. What you did not remember was that it had sausage and was baked. Okay, okay – easy fix. So, Sunday, when I was in Omaha celebrating Christmas with my mother, siblings and their families, you were able to make the dish for him. I think that it was a success, not exact but pretty darn close. It is a dish that we will fix again. The picture is not all that good, but it shows how successful you were. The smell was so intoxicating that you both just chowed down, without taking a picture first. This picture is of the leftovers.  Oh, Italian food – Joy Rising!

Vodka Penne Rustica

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes at 350 degrees
Serves: 4 – 6


  • 1 quart marinara sauce  (we love the Sorrisos brand,  it’s from Nebraska)
  • 1 c vodka
  • 1/2 c heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1# penne
  • 1/2# ground italian sausage


  1. Boil 4 quarts water in large pot with 2 T salt
  2. Once it boils, add in the penne.  Cook until al dente (this means “to the tooth” when you bite down on one of the penne it will have a bit of firmness.  It does not have to be completely cooked, as it will finish cooking in the oven) about 8-10 minutes.  Drain; let penne sit in colander.
  3. In a sauce pan drop in the ground sausage in chunks about the size of a quarter.   Remove from pan onto plate with paper towels to help drain away the grease.
  4. In the same sauce pan pour in the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat until this mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often.  This will take about 20 minutes.
  5. Stir the cream into the sauce/vodka mixture.  Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through.
  6. Add the browned sausage into the sauce/vodka mixture.
  7. Stir in the parmesan cheese into the sauce/vodka mixture until melted and well blended.
  8. Pour the penne back into the pot and pour in the sauce.  Stir to be sure all penne is coated.  Keep it “loose” as the sauce will soak into the penne as it bakes.
  9. Spray 2 quart casserole dish with Pam; pour in the mixture from the pot.
  10. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 c parmesan cheese; you can add more if you prefer
  11. Bake for about 20 mintues at 350 degrees; just to melt the cheese and have it brown.    You may need to place it until the broiler for 2 -3 minutes, if your cheese did not brown.