Saturday, December 28, 2013

A sleepy holiday weekend

Not much is happening around here this weekend - Shawn is sick, and I just stayed around town cleaning a bit and looking online and in stores for white bookcases.  No luck.  We will try Elder's tomorrow if he feels better - I am striking out completely on Craigslist.

So instead I bring you pictures of Christmas.

Max & Turk enjoying their elf mice.

Another shot of my new ornaments.

The Presbyterian Church, decked out for the holidays.

This little beauty, enjoying Christmas Eve at my Mom's.

Grandparents, getting into the holiday spirit on Christmas Eve...

And Christmas Day!

And Turk lounging on my new red throw...

and wondering what part of the tree to snack on next. 

I really think we should bring back the twelve nights celebrations, and stretch out the Christmas parties through January 6th.  Six days is not enough.  : )

Hoping your Christmas is Merry & Bright,

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry, Merry Christmas!

In addition to the normal decorations, I did something new with the chandelier this year:

And I used the leftover ribbon & ornaments to add some red to our tree.  

I really love the red against the blue dining room - I'm going to try to remember to do this next year, too!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Thanksgiving surprise

We went to my parents for Thanksgiving - over 20 people crammed into their 1898 farmhouse-style home.  They live in the town where I grew up, in the house that I grew up in, and it is always wonderful to come home and see what has changed and what has stayed the same.   I look around each time, and remember all the years of holidays and every-days before them, with different groupings of people, much of the same food, and different news and celebrations. 

This time there was a turkey in the oven, and another one outside in a deep fryer manned by my brother Matt.  Dad built a bonfire in the firepit I gave them years ago, and people wandered back and forth from the snacks inside to the fire outside. 

Shawn disappeared early, after getting the kids so whipped up that he and they were all kicked outside to play.  I wandered out later to see the bonfire. 

While I was there a small kitten wandered up, crying at the little girls and looking very hungry and very cold.  He jumped up to try to eatthe drippings from the turkey, frozen on a plate, while my dad explained that he was one of the wild strays born under the porch. 

One thing led to another, and soon I was holding the kitten, and then bringing him inside on the porch where he stopped shivering and began purring.  Of course we brought him home. 

The big question was whether Max would accept him.  I have always thought Max is lonely - he trys to play with us sometimes as if we are cats, but we never appreciate the flurry of teeth and claws.  The first night and morning he hissed at the kitten in its carrier, and we kept them seperated in seperate rooms.  Early that morning, he went around to each door, pawing at it to be opened, and I realized he wanted to check the rest of the rooms in case there were kittens in there, too!

Later that evening, he and the kitten began playing together through the door, batting at each others paws and chirping.  A sighting, a meeting, and at their second meeting they began to play, and did not stop for two hours.  They played for 3 hours that night!

Now they sit on opposite sides of the door when the kitten is put away, and cry for each other.

This Thanksgiving, I think we can say that we are thankful for new friends.  : )

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fozzie's Sandwich Shop

Again, no post from Shawn on this great adventure - the one where I tried to balance out Italian Beef with a Diet Coke.  Like that is going to undo the massive amounts of beef on this sandwich. 

This is my first Italian Beef sandwich.  I thought it was really good -the beef had a great flavor, the peppers and giardiniera had a wonderful pickle-y flavor.  Fozzie's is a fun place - kind of a hole in the wall place, with just a few tables pushed up against the wall.  The menu is huge. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Strange Donuts field trip

So, Shawn has not posted about all the places we ate last weekend.  Boo Shawn. 

In the meantime, I'm sharing them instead.  He doesn't read this blog, so he won't know. 

Here they are in all their glory:

If he had posted a review, he would have told you how much he loves them.  He got a butterfinger donut, and I got a chocolate cake and an apple fritter (we shared them all).  He loved the butterfinger donut - it was crunchy and sweet.  The chocolate icing on the cake donuts was good - crazy sweet with that thin layer of crunch where the sugar has crystalized into a crust.  The donuts were good, too, but I would stay with the "strange" varieties.  The crumb on the cake donut was dryer than I usually like, and the fritter was too dry in some spots, too greasy in others, and had very little apple flavor.  In all, though, I recommend checking it out.  The storefront in Maplewood is very cute, the staff is fun, and the donuts come in a lot of interesting flavors. 


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Freezer Cooking Part 2: Sunday Night Stew

A while back I mentioned that I had made the Pioneer Woman's chili, which turned out very well.  The next recipe I tried was her Sunday Night Stew, found here with delicious looking pictures. 

I thought it was amazing.  The recipe was pretty simple, overall - brown the meat, then stew, add cooked vegetables, and enjoy.  The long stewing time made it a little ambitious for a weeknight (I was up until 10), but I knew when I started that I was making it to freeze. 

My stew did now get as thick as hers, and the sauce was not as rich a color as the pictures, but it was delicious.  As promised, it froze well and tasted even better later on. 

Next time I am going to brown the meat more, which I think will help deepen the color of the broth. 

I can't say that this was a total crowd pleaser - Shawn was only moderately impressed by the addition of parsnips.  I am not sure I am a huge fan of parsnips, in general, but I do think I like it in the stew.  They are a very different taste - very rooty and a little sweet.  After freezing, the parsnip flavor mellows and blends with the stew, and it becomes even better overall. 


A Challenge

If you know Shawn, you know he talks about food...a lot.
Every day.

He keeps track of restaurants I have never heard of, food trends (the cronut? really?), chefs and above all, sandwiches. Those he has made, those he has eaten, and those he hopes to eat. If he were this passionate about running instead of restaurants, I would be a size two. But I digress...

So here is the challenge. Shawn said a few times he wanted to be a food writer... but you need experience for that kind of thing. I, high on a constant diet of shelter blogs and pinterest, saw an opportunity: if you want to write, you need experience writing. And that is cheap and easy on a blog.

Start writing, Shawn. I am waiting for fame and a steady diet of comp'd appetizers. : )

And a way to rationalize being talked into this madness:

I'm off to run.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Back to the eighties for Halloween...Rainbow Brite & Snake Eyes

I am especially proud of this year's Halloween costumes. 

There is a fine line between genius and insanity...and we got really, really close to it.  :)

I am Rainbow Brite, with the help of a blue skater dress and some rainbow socks. 
Shawn is Snake Eyes from GI Joe. 

These may be the best Halloween costumes we have ever done.

Happy Halloween,

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Christmas Cookie Trials: Fruitcake Cookies

I am trying out new cookie recipes for Christmas.  This one is beautiful!

These are Ina Garten's fruitcake cookies, with the pecans & apricots substituted into the recipe from "Barefoot Contessa at Home".   I got the substitution from the recipe online.  I just kind of eyeballed the ounces of fruit and nuts, and substituted Moscato for the dry sherry.  I did use baking raisins (they come in smaller packs, and are moister - and I think they were really good for these since the cookie is so dense), and maraschino baking cherries because I couldn't find any candied cherries. 

It was beautiful and smelled just like fruitcake.
The cloves are the only spice, and the batter smells amazing.

I let the first batch brown a bit too much (I blame the 'golden brown' instuctions - really, the edges of the cookie should have just barely browned. 

They are so pretty with the cherries and apricots. 

Merry Christmas in October,

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Freezer cooking: Part 1 - Chili

I can tell it's Fall - I suddenly have the desire to cook.  It comes on for a few weeks when the weather turns, before winter closes in and I remember how much more I like to eat out. 

In honor of Fall (and in an attempt to not completely undo all the running I have been doing all week with one meal out) I decided to make some things we could freeze and eat later.  I started with the Pioneer Woman's chili (linked here), and am moving on to the Sunday Night Stew.  The chili turned out well - very thick and meaty.  I really like chili with a lot of big tomato chunks in it, so I think next time I will add some extra tomatos. 

Happy Fall,

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Old Webster Jazz and Blues Festival

Shawn and I spent a few hours tonight at the Jazz and Blues Festival.  People were everywhere, enjoying the music. 

The music was great, but they could have used some more food vendors set up with a better selection.  Shawn had a pulled pork sandwich, and I had a muffaletta sandwich for the first time.  I love olives, but it was way to salty for me so never again. 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

In search of a grown-up bed

I have never had a bed with a headboard.


And after watching the paint wear off the wall in the back of our bed (more painting - yea!) I think we need one.

As a reminder, here is what we are working with in our bedroom: 

I'm thinking about an iron bed to keep the room open and light - head board only, so we can still move around the end of the bed easily and use it for boring, necessary things like sorting laundry, switching out summer and winter clothes, and storing my work clothes after work until I get motivated to hang them up. 
I found this on Pinterest, and loved it:

This one is actually for sale in the US, for a reasonable price:
With a coat of white or silver paint, it is almost identical to the first bed.  What do you think?  Should I go for it?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

South Dakota: Our Journey West!

Shawn and I just came back from a week in South Dakota, and it was beyond amazing.

We traveled up through St. Joseph and Sioux Falls, to see the Laura Ingall's Wilder house in De Smet:

Everywhere you look, there are feilds:  corn, prarie, and 180 degrees of the bluest sky and summer sun.  We joked that this is the edge of the world - at some point the road stops, and you will look around and see nothing but corn and sky going on forever. 

It was beautiful and lonely and wonderful standing out there on the prarie, listening to the wind sing over the grass. 

From there we drove to Rapid city, with a quick stop at Wall Drug before moving on to Mount Rushmore.  I've seen Mount Rushmore on the TV so many times, and it is incredible to actually be there seeing it in person.  It is larger - and higher - than it appears on TV, sitting at the top of a granite crest. The carvers grew so talented at using dynamite, they were able to blast the rock within inches of the finished surface.  The cracks in the granite are inspected each year, with caulking applied to keep water from splitting the rock.  In 10,000 years, the sculpture will have lost only one inch to erosion due to the toughness of the granite. 


Next post:  Black Elk Wilderness & Custer State Park!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rhododendron for shade

Ever since my six holly bushes died in the drought, I have been trying to find something to take their place as a privacy hedge along the heavily shaded back fence. 

The plant manager at Lowes has solved my problem - shade tolerant, evergreen rhododendrom.  I had no idea that they were evergreen.

I like the Black Satin PJM and Catawbiense versions found here and here.


The house wanted pink

When we moved into our house, it looked like this:

It reminded me of a park - lush, green, and neat. 
And the art deco style house, frankly, reminded me a little bit of an apartment building - all vertical lines and geometric shapes.

So I was thinking of how to soften it up, and I started with flowers.  If we had a frame farmhouse, a sloping dutch colonial, or a Queen Anne style victorian I might have done wispy, wavey wildflowers in pastels - pale pinks, lavendars, and delicate white flowers to make it look wild and romantic. 

But our house was built very near to the 40's - tailored lines.  And the more I looked at it, the more I thought that it needed a touch of glamour - nothing wispy or shy, but something loud and confident, like the bright red lipstick of an old Hollywood starlet. 

This house needed pink.

A lot of pink!

And a little bit of white.  The six little vinca I planted went crazy at the bottom of the stairs. 
Shawn is so excited about our hot pink yard.  : )