Michelle Smiles

Teaching my children to question authority, except mine.

Fish Two Ways


rainbowfishI received an email asking how to cook fish.  Until about 5 years ago, I rarely cooked fish because I never got it right.  It was always dry and/or tasteless.  My momma showed me how to broil it and suddenly the mystery was gone.  Now we eat fish at least once a week.  Our Sam’s Club sells nice tilapia fillets (not frozen – in the fresh meat and cheese section) and we bring them home and put meal portions and freeze them.  If you are already a fish cook at home, you can skip this but here are 2 simple ways to make fish at home.  And just an FYI for those who don’t know what to buy – tilapia is a mild and relatively inexpensive fish to try.

Broiled Tilapia (works with any white fish)

Make sure your fillets are defrosted and dry.  Start your broiler.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and put the fillets on it.  Drizzle the fillets with a little olive oil – you can also squirt some lemon juice on it if you like.  Sprinkle a rub or herb mixture that you enjoy (we use the rub from the ribs because we like the sweet heat – but use sparingly because it is potent) over the fish and pop under the broiler.  I usually let it go for 6 minutes and then check it.  If you can easily break it apart (flake it) with your fork, it is done.  If you can’t easily break it apart, stick it back under for another minute or 2.

Lightly breaded, pan cooked tilapia

dsc00697-1Put some bread crumbs on a plate.  They can be plain or seasoned.  (I used plain.)  Add a few shakes of oregano.  I also added a little bit of ground chipolte pepper because we like thing with a kick around Casa de Smiles – but you can leave that out.  Mix the herb into your bread crumbs.

Pour a little bit of olive oil in your palm.  Rub it all over both sides of your fillet.  Then put your fillet in the bread crumbs and flip so that both sides have a light coating of bread crumbs.

dsc00702Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on medium-medhigh (my stove dial runs 1-10, I use 5.5 or 6).  Make sure it is hot before you put your fish in it or the bread crumbs will just suck up all of the oil instead of starting to cook.  Then put your fillets in.  I cook them for 3-4 min on each side – you only want to flip them once.  Give them a squirt of lemon when you put them on the plate. I just started making them this way and my husband has declared he likes them this way a little bit more than broiled.  I like them both ways – but either way is a good way to start cooking fish at home for your family.



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Happy Birthday


Happy 40th to my sister.  Damn sis, you is old!

Sorry we aren’t there to celebrate with you!


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Silver lining: a blog post


Wednesday, my friend Malia tweeted that she had an extra early pass to a consignment sale for Thursday evening.  Seeing an opportunity to pick up some fall/winter items for the girls without having to take the girls, I quickly raised my hand and did my best Horshack imitation.  (If you are too young to remember Welcome Back Kotter and Horshack’s “Ooohhh, Ohhhh, Mr. Kotter” please don’t tell me.  Yes, John Travolta had a career even before Grease.)  We made arrangements to meet up so that I could get the pass.

Thursday, I trucked the kids up to Chickafila and we had a quick bite with Malia.  I planned an evening appointment to look at a couple of houses around the sale.  As Steve was putting Sabrina to bed, I headed off to the sale.  (Just so that you can fully appreciate the time I invested – Chickafila was 20 min each way and the sale was about 25 min each way.)

I was looking forward to the sale.  Sabrina has grown a couple of inches and all of her pants have become capris and her dresses would be obscene if she was any older.  We don’t have as many hand me downs for this size – I imagine when kids hit 3T they are more active and the clothes don’t make it through as intact.  She needed some clothes and a winter coat.  I spent an hour going through the racks.  I found a coat, a fall jacket, a couple of pairs of PJs, and a decent number of outfits for Sabrina.  For Tessa, I picked up several pairs of PJs and a couple of outfits.  Plus, I found cute matching skirts that would be darling at Christmas with white turtlenecks and tights.

I went through everything a third time to make sure I wasn’t going to have buyers remorse.  I discarded a couple of things and wavered over an outfit that was $10 – I don’t usually spend that much at a consignment sale outfit but this was Gymboree and really cute so I kept it.  Then I got in the very long line.  I kept shifting my heavy pile of things while I watched other ladies paying for their items.  It suddenly occurred to me that an awful lot of them were paying with cash.  And there were a lot of checks being written.  Huh.  Then, with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I saw the sigh “CASH OR CHECK ONLY”.  I had a grand total of $6 cash in my purse and I never carry my check book because I never write checks.  It hadn’t occurred to me that I couldn’t use my bank card because the past couple of sales I’ve gone to have been really large and they took credit cards.  Despite all of the time invested, I had to put my items back and walk away empty handed. I was just sick – and so mad at myself.

dsc00820I went back first thing this morning and was able to find almost everything I had chosen last night – a couple of PJs for Sabrina weren’t there but otherwise I think I found it all again – even the matching Christmas skirts.  They are the red things at the right of the photo.  And the really loud, obnoxious printed thing slightly left of center is a really cute Halloween dress.  Really. I swear – it is cute.

dsc00815And as a bonus, I picked up a toy for each of the girls.  That little piano thing?  Yeah, I’m going to regret that by 4:30 this afternoon.  But Tessa will love it.  And the other thing?  A Sit N Spin!  I always wanted one when I was a kid but never had one (see transcript from therapy session #257, also session #322 where I discuss never getting a Big Wheel).  So when I saw this, I had to get it for myself her.

Point of all of this?  I am a moron.  I wasted Malia’s early bird pass but thank her for offering it up.  And I love consignment sales.  And all is well that ends well.

posted under Misc. | 11 Comments »

Becoming that which I mock


dsc00782My plans for the day? A playdate for Sabrina.  Lunch with a friend and her kids.  Then I am going to sign Sabrina up for a dance class (“Creative Movement”).  Before my momma days, this is the kind of day I would have mockingly said was in my future as a stay at home mom.  But I would have been kidding.  I wouldn’t have guessed that I would really become That Mom.


Formerly mock-worthy the first?  A play date.  I set it up.  I set it up as much for me as for Sabrina.  I like days when I actually get to interact with other grownups who don’t just reside in my computer or operate a cash register at Target.  I knew play dates were in my future but I didn’t guess that I would enjoy some of them too.  (I find group play dates kind of suck.)

Mock-worthy the second?  Lunching.  I’m a lady who lunches.  Sort of – if you can call going to a burrito version of Subway with 2 adults and 4 children “lunching”.  Lunch used to be walking downtown in my grownup clothes and heels to grab something between meetings.  Now it is marked on my calendar a week in advance and anticipated.  Naps are planned around it.  Outfits (for the children) are thought out.

Mock-worthy the third: Dance class.  This all started yesterday with a friend’s status update.  I was thinking about signing Sabrina up for a Mom’s Day Out program – which in my understanding was 1 morning a week for a couple of hours.  Around here, they are a couple of mornings a week and more pre-school-ish than anything else.  They also have waiting lists if you don’t sign up in January for the fall.  Who knew?  So that is out this year and I’m okay with that.  I just wanted her to get a little weekly socialization – I’m not ready to send her off to a school setting yet.  She’s my baby.  Anywho, I saw this status update about dance class for my friend’s daughter is is exactly Sabrina’s age.  I joked that I thought that toddlers taking dance class was something that only happened on TV (likening it to my desire to attend boarding school when Facts of Life was popular).  Apparently not – most of the girls around here take “Creative Movement” when they are turn 3. I’m not one to do what everyone else does (in fact, I usually work hard to do the opposite) but Sabrina probably needs to interact with people who aren’t her parents.

dsc00779I never took any lessons for dance or baton or gymnastics or soccer or anything else when I was a kid.  Steve and I discussed it before we had kids and agreed we wanted our children to have the opportunity to try things – to find their bliss – but that we weren’t going to be the parents that had our kids in all sorts of lessons and activities so that they needed a date book to keep it all straight.  One thing/activity at a time – this momma doesn’t want to run a taxi service.  So I guess this is the beginning of that.  Sabrina is ridiculously excited at the prospect of taking “ballet” class.  And momma is feeling like she missed the page of the toddler handbook that told me when I am supposed to start thinking of these things.  I feel a little dazed that it is already time to think of things like lessons and pre-school.  In my head, she just came home yesterday – she is just a baby.  My baby.  I’m not ready to share her with the world yet.

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Slap Your Momma* Ribs


dsc00687I was very excited when we moved south – I was sure we would get some great BBQ.  There are a few places around but Nashville isn’t known for its BBQ.  We found ourselves turning to a chain restaurant (Texas Roadhouse) when we wanted ribs.  Then it closed.  Just boarded up the windows one day.  So we were left rib-less.  We decided to splurge a little on a trip to Sam’s Club and buy a pack of ribs despite my dismal failures in the past at making ribs.  I asked Twitter (long and slow was the only suggestion) and then did a little googling and managed to make some damn fine ribs if I do say so myself.

dsc00630First, it starts with the rub.  I made Alton Brown’s Rub #9.  Sort of.  Don’t tell Alton (I love him) but I changed it up a little bit.  I only used 3/4 cup of light brown sugar and I added a tablespoon of ground chipolte pepper.  It makes a lot so if you don’t think you’ll use it for other things halve or quarter the recipe.  I put a little on fish before I broil it and will probably try it on chicken and/or pork chops one of these days.

dsc00635The ribs at Sam’s come 3 racks in a pack.  I bring them home and put the rub on all of them then wrap them in 2 layers of foil and throw 2 in the freezer and 1 in the frig overnight so the rub can flavor the meat (no idea if this is necessary or if it does anything but I tell myself it does so go with me here.  You only want to use enough rub to cover them – you don’t want it to be too thick. I’m usually of the school of thought ‘if a little is good, more must be better’ but Steve declared the rub was overwhelming the first time I made them so I’ve decreased the amount to a couple of tablespoons rubbed over the ribs.

dsc00681After they’ve spent the night in the frig with the rub on them, put them in a 225 degree oven for 3 – 3.5 hours.  (They will give off juice so put them on a pan that will catch it.)  After they hang out in the oven all afternoon, fire up the grill and get out your favorite BBQ sauce.  We like Sweet Baby Ray’s but any sauce that makes you smile will do.  Don’t be shy with the BBQ sauce.  Slather it on the ribs then throw them on the grill.  They only need 7 or 8 minutes on each side – you are basically cooking on the sauce because the ribs are done after their time in the oven.

dsc00685Assuming your cut of ribs is good, they should be fall off the bone yummy.  I will admit out of the 4 racks I have made this way, 1 was disappointing.  Because I didn’t vary the cooking technique, I’m assuming that particular rack just wasn’t as good.  The first 3 racks we declared as good as the Roadhouse.  The last one was fine but it wasn’t falling off the bone so it wasn’t quite as amazing.

Visit Rachel for more Mouthwatering Monday recipes.


*I took brownies to a gathering this weekend and one of the southern ladies tasted them and said “Slap your momma, these are awesome!” It made me laugh so I decided to call my ribs Slap Your Momma Ribs.

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By the time Steve gets home every night, I am very weary of hearing Sabrina declare “No Tessa! Mine!”  Apparently, sharing goes against every molecule in her body.  She goes to time out multiple times a day for grabbing things away from Tessa.  It doesn’t even matter if the item is truly Sabrina’s or if it belongs to Tessa.  She doesn’t want Tessa to have it unless she decides to give it to her.  Tessa is largely oblivious to all of it at this point.  She doesn’t usually react when Sabrina takes something – she just finds something else to play with until Sabrina tries to take that away as well.  I spend most of my day telling Sabrina to share, to stop taking things from her sister, to stop hoarding all of the toys into a spot that Tessa (theoretically) can’t access.  I know I am basically asking her to stop being 3.  I suppose I just need to get used to it because I will be telling them to quit fighting over crayons and then clothes and then boys and then the car keys as the years pass.

First, she tries to put everything on a chair so Tessa can’t reach it or in something mobile like the wagon so she can move it around to keep it out of reach.


This is Sabrina’s reaction when I tell her to share.  She puts her head down and whines “I can’t share my toys with Tessa.”


Then she decides to cooperate – at least while I am paying attention.  (Tessa always gives me the innocent look like she has no idea she is causing her sister angst. But she is a bit of an instigator already.)


Fortunately, they are both cute so I don’t list them on Craigslist.



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Just stop it


dsc003591The photo has nothing to do with anything – I bought them and they made me smile.

My sense of humor comes from my dad. It has always gotten me into trouble.  I’ve learned to bite my tongue.  A lot.  I make many slightly inappropriate comments but keep most to myself unless I am with my BFF or my husband.  I crack myself.  Some people appreciate my sense of humor – some do not.  I’m not mean unless you are stupid and mean then the gloves are off because you deserve it – much of my humor is self deprecating.  I tend to crack jokes about situations and make dry observations – I don’t usually say mean things about people.  I’m a nice person.  Really I am don’t listen to my husband’s friends who think I hate babies and kick puppies.  There are people who I banter with and don’t bite my tongue so much – but those are the people who have similar senses of humor and dish it out as well as they take it.

That said, people choose to take offense.  I don’t mean when really hateful things are said – I mean when people are either making jokes that obviously aren’t meant to be offensive or if they say something without thinking.  It seems like people look for things to be offended by.  Two scenarios today are on my mind.

Scenario the first: I attended a Mom’s Club brunch today.  A woman who I would call a casual friend made a comment today about the “Mexican” workers building a house next door.  There were several ways I could choose to hear this comment – I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt (truly believing she didn’t mean a thing by it) and assume she didn’t mean it in any offensive way.

Scenario the second: Someone on facebook asked “Why does God make stupid people?”  There were about a dozen responses.  I chimed in “Because someone has to flip the burgers.”  You could choose to chuckle and think ‘Oh that scamp Michelle, there she goes again with that witty repartee of hers!” Or you could do what one woman did and take offense saying “That burger flipping comment was inappropriate! I flipped burgers to get through college.”  Perhaps I simply meant we can’t all be social workers rocket scientists and someone needs to do the more menial jobs in the world.  And I did mean that sort of.  But it was also a flip comment to be funny.  I spent 2 years scooping ice cream and a summer working on a road crew – my resume isn’t all minimum wage social work jobs, you know.  I removed my comment and apologized for offending her but it kind of pissed me off.  I felt bullied.  I didn’t mean anything offensive and I didn’t feel it was an offensive comment.  I think it was clear that it wasn’t intended to be offensive.  But it wasn’t someone I knew and it wasn’t my facebook page so I did what I felt was right in the situation.

The point of my little rant is simply this: can’t we all just error on the side of assuming that people didn’t mean it that way?  That maybe most of us are nice people who are really damn funny occasionally put a foot in our mouths?  I’m all for educating others when they need it.  You’ve heard my soap boxes – you know I’m not shy with my opinions.  I’m all for being sensitive to others who have different gifts.  But let’s stop looking for offense.  Don’t we all have enough to worry about in life without finding new things to be angry about?  Even Freud admitted that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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Have to give her credit for creativity


dsc00587I spend much of my day insisting that Sabrina stop grabbing things out of Tessa’s hands and mouth.  Sabrina spends much of her day being indignant that she isn’t allowed to immediately reclaim that which is rightfully hers (whether it is truly hers or not).  Tessa is just happy checking out anything she can get her hands on.

I remind Sabrina that if she doesn’t want Tessa to play with something, she should put it away so that Tessa can’t get it.  Sabrina’s response is usually “Noooooo, I can’t put it away!”  But she is starting to get smart about it.  She has started using this toy as a fence.  She piles thing behind it that she doesn’t want Tessa to play with (basically anything and everything because she would prefer that Tessa play with nothing – not even her own toys).  I had to laugh at her creativity.  The area where we keep most of the toys is behind that black chair in the photo.


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“White” Pizza


First, let’s just agree that while this is a chicken pizza I’m not pretending it is good for you.  Second, this isn’t white pizza in the traditional sense – nary a drop of olive oil to be found.  All righty then?  Let’s begin.

Michelle’s White Pizza

dsc005521 Boboli pizza crust (or other favorite)

1 container herbed cream cheese – I like Aloutte Light or if I am feeling flush I love Boursin Light

1/2 – 3/4 lb ground chicken or diced chicken breast

12 oz mushrooms

Couple of tablespoons Robusto Italian dressing or Zesty Italian (I used to use an amazing spicy chicken/steak basting sauce that is no longer made- so think a little spicy and italian dressing consistency)

2 Cups grated Mozzarella cheese or Italian blend

I told you it wasn’t health food.

First, spread a layer of the herbed cream cheese on your crust.  Make it thin-ish.  I don’t use the whole container as you can see in the photo.  (Oh and FYI – Mike’s Light Hard Cranberry Lemonade? YUM! I rarely drink at home but finished 2 while making this pizza.)


Brown the ground chicken or chicken breast.  Throw in the mushrooms when the chicken is almost finished.  Add a couple of tablespoons of your italian dressing and cook until mushrooms as done. I also added a couple of shakes of cayenne pepper and a good bit of black pepper because we like the spice.  Top your cream cheese covered crust with this mixture.  Get some of the italian dressing on there too but don’t get so much that it is running off the sides.  (Onions and peppers would probably be good too if you like that kind of thing.)


Top with your favorite pizza cheese.


Bake according to pizza crust directions.  I believe this was 450 degrees for 10 min.




Don’t know what to do with the left over herbed cream cheese?  It is great on crackers.  It is fabulous stirred into macaroni and cheese (some day I will make home made mac & cheese and share that sinful recipe – I only make it once every couple of years because my heart skips a couple of beats just while making it).  I also enjoyed a little on a low carb tortilla with 2 scrambled eggs the next morning.



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How I spent my summer vacation


dsc00515I mentioned that I was doing some Christmas ornaments for the girls.  I didn’t mention that it has taken over my dining room light fixture.  I also didn’t mention what a pain in the ass it has been figuring out how to make this work.  It started last Christmas when I saw hand painted ornaments on Etsy.  I loved them.  I wanted them.  I wasn’t willing to pay $25 each for them.  I thought “Pffft! I can do those myself for a lot less!”  As anyone who has ever walked into a craft store knows those are the ‘famous last words’ people often speak of.

First I tried with some clear balls that we had – too small!  Plus I messed them up royally while testing out different paints on glass.  I couldn’t find the right size at a decent price on line.  In June, Hobby Lobby put out the Christmas stuff and between grumbling over Christmas in June I was grabbing up the big 4” ornaments.

dsc00535After many false starts with paint that just didn’t work, I finally like the ornaments I am painting enough that I am making them for some family and some friends.  Let me just say that it would have been cheaper and easier to order them from Etsy for $25 each.  I started out thinking I could paint them white with a sponge or brush and some white paint.  How cute is that?  The only way I’ve been successful is spray painting them white so not only is my dining room full of ornaments, so is my garage.  In this one, I found out that one of the brands I used ran when I put the clear coat on.  I’ve also discovered that 90% of glass paint is transparent – even the stuff that claims to be opaque.  But after buying and discarding copious amounts of supplies, I’m finally figuring out what works.

None of the ornaments in the photos that follow has the shiny clear coat on it yet (except Tessa’s) or the ribbon to hang it with.  I’m thinking of selling some as the holidays get closer. (If you think that I should get my head examined for thinking of selling them, feel free to say so in the comments.  But maybe do it anon – I try to act tough but my little feelings get hurt sometimes.)







posted under Misc. | 14 Comments »
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