Thursday, December 18, 2008

This year's Christmas wall-hanging

I always have great aspirations to make many Christmas-themed projects during the holiday season, but I usually end up only completing one. This year I made a Christmas wall-hanging for my Secret Snowperson. I wouldn't have put nearly as much effort into this gift, but I happen to really like the person whose name I picked.

Therefore, I made a three-squared wall-hanging. Two of the squares (the tree and the present) were paper-pieced. Every time I paper-piece, I love it! I always ask myself, "Could I make a whole quilt out of paper-pieced blocks? Would I have the patience?"

Here are some pictures of my paper-piecing progress on the tree block.

After I assembled all of it, I got a little panicky... I think just because I'm giving it away. Usually my wall-hangings don't make me so nervous. One thing I changed... I didn't really think it looked Christmas-y enough, so I added ornaments and garland to the middle block - the tree.

And here's the finished project:

If only I had a picture of Traci's face when she saw it. Unless she was faking those happily watered eyes!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pearl the Rascally Chi-Pin

Dave and I have a new problem.

It was weird. Pearl often jumps up on our bed at very wee hours of the morning (like around 5:30) - when she is ready for her breakfast. It's pretty funny because she's so tiny, and we actually have a pretty high bed, so often times we'll hear a running start, then a thump as she hits the side of the bed. She doesn't wait too long until she tries again and is successful. We have discouraged this behavior from the start because we don't want our doggies sharing the bed (except on the rare nights when Dave is out of town... then I don't mind so much.).

Well, anyway, she's been doing this more and more, so Dave and I have been concerned because one of the biggest problems with little dogs as they age is joint problems due to jumping down seemingly low surfaces. So I've been mildly concerned.

The weird part is that the other day I said to Dave, I says, "I wonder why we don't come home and find her just hanging out on our bed." I should have knocked on wood because when we came home that day, she was on the bed! Now it's becoming a habit apparently! Here is Pearl yesterday while Dave and I were eating breakfast:

She knows she's not supposed to be on the bed because as soon as you even say, "Pearl!" She flops back on her back and exposes her belly while frantically wagging her tail. She's more trying to hide under the blanket in this one:

So now I'm torn. I don't like her little puppy legs already accruing joint damage! But I don't want to buy a set of doggie stairs because then it's just encouraging this darned behavior! But I don't want an arthritic 15-year-old mutt shuffling across my floor when I'm 40! If she were just 3 pounds smaller, like Danny, she would've given up trying to jump on high surfaces ages ago!

Monday, December 15, 2008

English Toffee = Absolutely Fabulous

I tried this recipe from Elsie Marley's blog. It was fargin' delicious and easy! I highly recommend it to all. Here is one of the pictures... the rest of mine turned out hideously ugly, so I'll let you look at Elsie Marley's blog (I don't feel comfortable enough yet to call her just by her first name) because she has better pics.

This is right as the toffee reached "Soft Crack" at 290 degrees. Mmmm... smell that yummy nuttiness.

Stay tuned for blogging awesomeness on Thursday evening! I have to wait until after our staff Secret Snowperson party.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My URL changed! Update immediately to forego missing awesomeness!

I figured since my blog is really taking off, and going big time any day now, I needed a more relevant URL.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The BEST recipes!

By sharing these recipes with the world, you'll all see that I am not one of those stingy people who refuses to give away their most popular recipes. We had our company Christmas party last night , and it was potluck style. Yes, I was made fun of for nearly bringing my entire kitchen (one entree, two desserts), but I didn't hear my co-workers taking that issue into account when they requested these various dishes. Also, I didn't hear them complaining while they were consuming the food.

All right, dish #1 - the entree:

Em's Mac 'n Cheese
(okay, another reason I'm not being stingy is because this recipe actually belongs to Emeril and didn't originate with me anyway. BUT I've added my own touches based on people's reactions!)

6 tbsp butter
1/2 lb elbow macaroni
6 tbsp flour
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar (6 oz)
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
1 tsp Essence (see below)

2 1/2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use 1 tbsp of the butter to grease a 2-quart baking dish (or to grease a crockpot if you're bringing this dish to someone's house, or a potluck). Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the mac and cook until al dente (about ten minutes). Drain in a colander and rinse. Melt the remaining 5 tbsp butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minute, stirring constantly. Do not let the flour burn! Using a whisk, add the milk in a steady stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, and 2 cups of the cheese - stir well, then stir in macaroni. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of the cheese with the breadcrumbs and 1 tsp Essence (only 1 tsp! The first time I made this, I put the ENTIRE recipe of Essence into the Mac 'n Cheese. It was horrible!) . Sprinkle evenly over the mac and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
Helpful hints from Lester: Everyone's favorite part is the crunch and kick on top with the essence, cheese, and breadcrumb mixture, SO... I usually pour half the macaroni in the dish, sprinkle a whole other batch of the Essence, breadcrumb, and cheese mixture on top, then do the same with the other half of the noodles, right on top of the first half. Also, if you bring the Mac 'n Cheese in a crockpot, you can just leave it on "warm" setting, or even "low," and it should be fine.

Unfortunately, the one bad picture I got last night of my baked and cooked goods was the Mac 'n Cheese. In this pic, the Essence mixture on top isn't thoroughly cooked in yet, so only some of it looks delicious. It got baked in before everyone ate it though! (It's in my fancy crockpot, and the crockpot carrying bag, right before we left for the party)

Dish #2 - the first dessert

Delicioso Pumpkin Bread
(I originally got this recipe off of, where it had a perfect 5 out of 5 star rating from over 2,000 users. I followed some of the user reviews, so it's changed a teeny bit.)

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup applesauce if you wish to be calorie conscious)
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 package mini chocolate chips (my personal addition, thank you very much. Quite fabulous.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 7x3 inch loaf pans (or 2 4x9 inch loaf pans).

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water, and sugars until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Mix in mini chocolate chips. Pour into the prepared pans.

Bake for about 50 minutes (or about 1 hour 10 minutes if using the bigger loaf pans) in the preheated oven. Loaves are done with toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

These babies go fabulous with some cream cheese frosting slathered on top. Mm-mmm good!

And finally, the piece de resistance - the dish in which one co-worker once told me she'd like to roll around naked... *drum roll please*...

Dish #3 - the second dessert...

Holiday Cereal Treat!
(I haven't come up with a more clever name yet.)

Combine in bowl:
8 cups Corn Chex
9 cups Golden Grahams
2 cups coconut
1 cup slivered (or sliced) almonds

Combine in saucepan:
1 cup sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
3/4 cup butter

Bring contents in saucepan to boil and boil for two minutes. Pour over cereal mixture and stir to coat. Let cool on cookie sheets.

Ladies and Gents (do I have any gents reading this blog?), this recipe may seem simple, but the mind-blowing goodness of it will... blow your mind. Just try it.

All right, this is one long blog posting. I insist all of you make each and everyone of these recipes before the end of the holiday season (and then several times thereafter).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Upside down turkey

I decided I wanted more turkey. Our Thanksgiving leftovers didn't last very long, so we went out and bought ourselves an 11 lb. turkey - that's according to the patented weight test Dave and I have developed to weigh the dogs. You see, this turkey didn't have a tag telling me exactly how much it weighed. Obviously I could tell it was smaller than the other turkeys, so I picked it. When we got home, I found out it weighed too little for the scale to detect it (much like the dogs). Dave hopped up on the scale and got his weekly tally (a whopping 142). He then stepped down, grabbed the turkey, and stepped back up. 153!

Not only did I want more turkey, I also wanted to try the upside-down cooking method. I quizzed a foster mom with whom I work on this method, then I came home and found a very basic recipe on Seemed easy enough.

But first I thought I would brine it. I followed this recipe for the brining. First lesson learned: one shouldn't give up so easily on one's quest to find an oven bag at the grocery store just because one has unused kitty litter bags at home that are surely big enough to brine a turkey. That was an awful pain in the arse. (When we first got Danny, we thought we could train him to pee and poo in a litter box. We weren't so successful.)

So anyway, I began the brining last night and put the turkey in the fridge. Today around 3:00PM, I got the turkey out, rinsed it, drip-dried it, then transferred it to our roasting pan, BUT... upside down. I then put slabs of butter in it and on it, according to the first recipe I posted above. Apparently brining one's turkey causes it to cook 20-30 minutes faster, so I checked it after about 2 hours and 15 minutes, and I used my handy meat thermometer - the one I normally use to make sure foster parents don't have their water turned up too high (it works much better on meat). It was just about 180 degrees, though it didn't look finished like most turkeys look. I stuck it back in the oven for approximately 15 more minutes, then took it out and stabbed it all over with the meat thermometer. Everything checked out.

I quickly realized that upside-down turkeys do not turn out nearly as pretty as rightside-up turkeys.

I flipped it right side up, and uh... not much prettier. But we're not making it the centerpiece of any table, so no biggie. Check out this awesome platter! I think I got it at a thrift store a couple years ago (what do you think, Heif?).

We quickly began eating the turkey. I made myself a sandwich, and Dave just had some turkey smothered in ketchup. He likes most of his food smothered in ketchup. It's really precious. He forbade me from taking a picture of him enjoying the delicious upside-down turkey specifically because he didn't want to be featured on my blog, so a picture of my sandwich had to suffice.

It just tasted like turkey to me. :-( Dave swears that it's tastier and juicier, but I sense he's just saying that because he knows the brining and the upside-down cooking was supposed to create those results. When confronted on this suspicion, Dave denied all wrong-doing.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas and stockings!

So I finished making stockings for our entire family! By our family I mean mine and Dave's. And by family, I mean me, Dave, Danny, and Pearl. Look!

I must say, I'm quite proud of myself. I did this without a pattern... not that it's much of a feat, but I will brag about it anyway. If you'll look closely, you'll notice Dave's stocking has a scalloped edge on the cuff. Neat, huh?

Last night we bought Home Alone from Target and watched it while we decorated for Christmas. Well, I mean I decorated for Christmas while Dave claimed he was too busy studying for finals to join me. Very rude. He claims I suffer from "Finals Amnesia" and therefore can't remember from semester to semester how he can't seem to participate in anything except sitting at his desk and reading books/typing outlines/reciting memorized outlines back to himself. Hey, change of subject, but here's a close-up of the doggies' stockings. Aren't they fabulous? Look at the wittle paw print fabric and the wittle hearts I put on the wittle paw print fabric! I know whose getting two seemingly big juicy bones but in actuality two teeny juicy bones for Christmas...

Danny and Pearl!