Thursday, December 30, 2010

Routine, how I need you!

Don't get me wrong, I've had a fabulous time this holiday season with the kids in and out. We are currently on our last leg of kid visits with the North Dakota Callie here. Alex is back home with us and the Texas Callie is visiting her sweetie in Indiana. Whew! What a whirlwind.
Yesterday we jetted around town a little. We did some shopping, hit the diner for the BEST clam chowder in town, made tacos for dinner and watched a goofy movie from the kids' childhood with Nick. It was Galaxy Quest, and I have to admit, I wasn't feeling it as much as they did. It was nice to see them laughing with their dad and having a good time.
Today, Nick really wants to drive up to Boston and spend the day. Again, I'm just not feeling it. I'm tired, my house is a wreck, I'm behind on laundry, I'm behind on grocery shopping AND we're having friends over for New Year's Eve tomorrow night.
(side note: I just mentioned to Nick how much I have to do and he suggested Boston on Sunday. Just as I was thinking he's getting it, he says a movie this afternoon might be a good idea...oy! At least a movie doesn't take as much time and I MIGHT get a much needed visit to the commissary in)
Monday, the boys go back to school. SCORE! Callie is here until very early Tuesday morning. I have no clue what we will do Monday morning while her dad is at school, because she and I just never really connected. She'll probably sleep in and I'll most likely be able to finally make a menu and get some work done. I'm so ready!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Loot!

I mentioned before that I did very, very well this year at Christmas. My husband AND my kids really picked out some great stuff for me. It didn't hurt that I was VERY specific on what I wanted. I actually took Nick downtown and walked through a few shops and pointed out things I liked. He paid attention.
I got a beautiful bracelet made with sea glass. I've been intrigued with sea glass since we got here and I found so much of it just down the road on the beach. I can't wait until it warms up and I can collect more treasures.
Isn't it cool?!

Callie bought me this purse. I LOVE it. It's not a big name designer but it's exactly like the one I wanted. I have never owned a bag that cost more than around $70.00 and that's ok with me. I just can't see paying that kind of money for a purse that I will probably get tired of in a couple of months. I do love this one though. It's the perfect size and I think it's just as cute as it can be. Unfortunately, a larger bag usually means I will fill it with even more stuff.

This wild looking contraption is an electric wine bottle opener. Yes, you heard me right. I never knew such a thing existed, but here it is. You have to keep it charged and then when you're ready to pop the cork, push one button to drill the spiral down into it, and another button to pull it back up. It's fantastic. I'm not sure I will ever get to use it because Nick wants to play with it every time there is a new bottle to open. This came from J.D. He knows me well.

This cutie came from my dear husband. When we were walking around downtown a few days ago, we stuck our heads into a candle shop. This beauty was sitting inside amongst a ton of candles. I said ...ohhhh I like that lighthouse. Boom.. it's under the tree. (he did tell me it was 50% off so I'm thinking of going back for more. What great gifts for moms. Their birthdays are coming up!) You can put a tea light or small candle inside to make it light up.

This was the big one! A bread machine! After reading about my friend Michelle talk about all the yummy breads she makes and noticing that she saves so many steps (kneading etc) by using a machine made me want one. She was kind enough to look up my Santa on facebook and throw him a hint. It worked! My geek of a husband researched machines and said this one is the "Bread Machine 6000"  or "The Mac Daddy" of the bread machines. I have made two loaves so far and it's so nice! I LOVE it. I will share my new amazing recipe for white bread in another post. Nick and Callie keep wanting me to make more. It must be good!

I followed Michelle's advice and took the dough out before it baked. I too, like the look of a loaf in a more traditional pan than the one that comes with the machine. It's not that much trouble, just pull it out after the "dough" session is over and let it do it's final rise in the pan. Bake in the oven, have your family drooling over the smell and take it out. I'm not sure what this tastes like after a day or two, it just doesn't last that long here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Ho Ho Ho!

Can Christmas really be over already? I always feel like I didn't get everything accomplished and that I didn't spend as much time with loved ones as I wanted. On the other hand, I've had a wonderful holiday. We enjoyed JD and Meghan so much and Callie is still here for a few more days.
Nick has been off work and for the first time ever, he's not eating up his leave. One more perk to being enrolled in a senior service members school!
JD and Meghan left Christmas eve. Callie and I made a fabulous dinner yesterday complete with fried turkey. She missed out on cooking Thanksgiving dinner so she really wanted to cook something for Christmas. We had a great time and the food was amazing.
We had Christmas a little early with the kids since JD and Meghan were leaving. I did very, very well!
I'll post some random photos from that night. Here are the girls trying to get the dogs ready for a picture in front of the tree.

Clearly they were having a difficult time.

One of my gifts from Nick. He wrapped it himself. Not too bad, huh?

Callie opening gifts.

J.D. inspecting one of his gifts. I love it when the kids really get into their presents. Notice he has pajama pants across his legs and his book open. He immediately dug right in! Meghan is checking out her "Pacific" DVD set.

Callie showing off new boots.

The girls modeling new pajamas, socks and sweaters. Cute!

Nick's new Star Wars pancake molds and spatula. We, of course, had pancakes the next morning!
I will post photos and comments about my fabulous gifts later. I really enjoyed ALL of my presents this year.
Happy Sunday everyone. I'm going to enjoy my Christmas tree and music for a little while longer. I'm just not ready to give it up. It doesn't hurt that it's snowing outside and we have heavy snow/blizzard conditions on the way. Nick is headed to the store for me and we're hunkering down. Sounds like it's time to break out the Wii!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours, have a very merry Christmas. I hope your day is blessed with family, love and peace.
Please remember all the service members and families who are separated this holiday season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Week in far

I don't really want to take time to post much, I'm enjoying the kids! I do want to post a few photos and will update more later.
Out and about in Newport. Callie with a Fishing Santa.

Callie in front of The Breakers.. a Newport Mansion.

The kids in front of the beautiful Poinsetta Christmas Tree at The Elms, another Newport Mansion.

Cleo checking out snow for the first time ever.

Callie rolling out her pie crust.

My men getting ready to boil lobsters and enjoying a cigar.

Eating lobster and steak for our "Christmas" Dinner (a little early)
There you have it. The last few days in a couple of photos. I will post our Christmas photos another time. We opened our gifts last night and I did very, very well! I can't wait to share it all with you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Distractions

You'll have to excuse my lack of blogging. I'm afraid there's something going on in my house that's distracted me.
Here are the culprits.
My son and future daughter-in-law. JD and Meghan. I chose a nice picture of Meghan because I still like her. The following photos are goofy ones of JD and Callie from this last summer.

Goofy... didn't I tell you?

Dork boy doing his Stevie Wonder impression. I'm sure he's breaking all kinds of unwritten PC rules here. Callie was laughing her fool head off at him.

Remember this one? She was sitting atop a barstool with a saddle.

There just are no words for this.

Road trip across Texas last summer. More good times.

Last night we drove to the airport to get JD and Meghan. We came home, ate some Italian Beef Hoagie Sandwiches and had a few drinks. Nothing like a little alcohol to start a game of "Catchphrase"  I may or may not be very competitive and may or may not have disturbed my neighbors as I yelled my answers. Somehow yelling them loudly makes me think my teammates will guess more quickly.
After the joyous game where the girls beat the boys TWICE, I introduced the Talking Tom Cat on Nick's Ipad to the kids. We laughed so hard at this cat mocking the kids that my neighbors probably heard that too.
I will try to actually take photos today. We're going to do some sight seeing, maybe some shopping, clam chowder for lunch and the Red Parrot for dinner. My boy wants oysters so off to find oysters we go!
 For me, the holidays have officially started. Nothing makes a momma happier than having her babies matter how old they are. We are missing two, that one that up and married her love and moved off to Hawaii, and the one that is still in North Dakota with her mom.  It's not quite right, but it's close.
Happy Monday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

I love to bake cookies, breads etc for my friends and family for Christmas. My neighbors get goodies and I always tuck a few into the boxes I send back to family.
While shopping at The Christmas Tree Shop recently, I found these cute little bread pans.
Aren't they precious? Notice the price tag. What a deal! Unfortunately, that price tag that thrilled me in the store had me wanting to curse today when I was washing the pans to prepare them for baking. I struggled to get those little suckers off.
Here they are ready for me to fill. Notice the mess. I never claimed to be neat in the kitchen!

 Ready to go in the oven.

I use Paula Deen's pumpkin bread recipe from her book, "The Lady and Sons"

3 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 C canned pumpkin
2/3 C water
3 1/3 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmet
1/2 to 3/4 C chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Mix sugar and oil with mixer. Add eggs and blend. Add pumpkin and blend. Add water and blend. Combine remaining ingredients and add slowly. Fill pans equally and bake for one hour or until golden brown.
Varations: For the oil, substitute 1/2 C oil and add 1/2 C applesauce. For banana bread, substitute 2 cups mashed, ripe bananas for pumpkin and omit nutmeg.

This bread is delicious and will make your house smell heavenly as it's baking. Very Christmasy!
Isn't this nice?  A gift in a gift!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

I've decided that I like writing about my favorite things so much, that I may make this a regular post here. I need to slow down and enjoy the little things I enjoy instead of focusing on things that drive me crazy...most of those are things I can't control.
Here's this week's version.
This is Cleo, short for Cleopatra. We have had her since Callie was in the fourth grade. She's Callie's dog. She can be a major pain, but she is also a funny little dog a lot of the time. Since Callie's been gone, I find myself shifting energy from my girl to her dog. Instead of seeing a cute shirt or pair of shoes Callie would like when I'm out, I find different bandanas for the holidays and Christmas sweaters for the dog. I may need professional help. I do love seeing her in her cute little sweater. She's very festive. It IS cold outside, after all.

This are my Christmas aprons. They are favorites right now because I know Callie will be here soon and we'll be in the kitchen together. Yay! I'm excited.

A better picture of the ornaments hanging in my kitchen window. I SO love these.

A cheap Christmas decoration I just had to have because it represents this part of the country. I can't tell you how many times we've gone out and had a bucket of clams. How fitting? This lovely sits next to my stove.

These are my MOST favorite things right now. No, not my feet.. those wool socks I'm wearing. When the weather first started turning cold, I voiced my complaints on facebook and my friend Michelle told me that wool socks were a must have. So, I immediately went to LL Bean online and ordered two pair. I LOVE these socks. They are so warm. I can step outside in these socks (no shoes) to let the dog out for a second and standing on the cold patio I'm not cold for a few minutes. (at least my feet are not!) I LOVE LOVE LOVE them!

This is a cup of hot chocolate that I laced with Peppermint Schnapps. YUM! It's warming in so many ways. I drank this a few times last year in Hawaii. Winters there are chilly at most and very rainy. I need this so much more here! Notice it's sitting on a table next to my Christmas tree. I'm sitting here with my hot chocolate, next to the tree, with the dog in the floor and life is good. My two boys are upstairs studying for their respective classes. I can't wait for Christmas break and for our kids to start arriving!

Weekly Menu week of 13 Dec

I'm behind. Big surprise! I feel behind a lot lately.  I really struggled with a menu this week. I'm just tired of being in the kitchen. Don't get me wrong, normally I LOVE being in the kitchen, but this small house is challenging to do holiday baking and cooking.
I baked/made candy a LOT on Sunday. I still have more to do :::sigh:::  First, I have to figure out what to feed my family this week.
Yesterday Nick didn't work. What is up with that? He gets two weeks off at Christmas because he's a "student" already. I just don't get much done around the house when he's here. However, we did mail four out of 6 packages yesterday. He was a huge help hauling them to the post office.
I had nothing planned for dinner last night. The commissary here is closed on Monday so I couldn't do heavy shopping. I was going to run down to the closest store and grab something when Nick suggested Hamburger Helper. YUCK! I ate plenty of hamburger helper in my day and I never want to again.  He bought the lovely box the last time he accompanied me to the commissary. I wondered then why! He said, "Oh my kids love it"  Blech.
So, he is digging around the kitchen and says, "Hey, I'll make that Cheeseburger Mac"  I said ok then, I'll have left over potato soup. You and Alex can have the HH.
That's what happened. He cooked up the stuff, opened a can of beans and they had their manly dinner.
The rest of the week is almost as easy. I was going to make a meatloaf tonight, but Alex asked for spaghetti. Why not? It's easier anyway, at least the way I make it with a jar sauce!
Tuesday: Spaghetti, salad, and rolls
Wednesday: Chicken Tacos/Nachos
Thursday: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Asparagus
Friday: Callie flies in! She doesn't arrive until around 7:30 PM  so we'll probably eat on the way home.
I'm so excited to see her. She's been stuck in a tiny dorm room for a whole semester without home cooking, without real TV (other than what she can find on her laptap) and without her momma. I think I'll spoil her. She also wants to wrap Christmas gifts. She feels left out of the festivities this year. I am saving them all for her :)
Saturday or Sunday we'll have the Italian Hoagies again. J.D. and his fiance, Meghan, arrive Sunday evening. I think a crockpot full of beefy goodness will be a nice welcome :)
I'm off to the commissary, well, after I shower, clean the kitchen, etc, so my family won't starve tonight or have to suffer through another boxed meal.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Candied Curried Pecans

Back when my husband was battalion commander, I really had to step up my hostessing skills.  I wanted to be that wife that had people into my home and I wanted it to be fabulous!
The first coffee I hosted for my girls was a salad supper. I made chicken salad with bakery croissants, spinach salad with candied curried pecans, and I bought a fantastic mediterranean orzo salad with sun dried tomatoes from our neighborhood Safeway's deli department. It was a huge hit.
Nick picked at the candied curried pecans so much that I decided they would be great just as a snack. So, for the last two years, I made them and served them in a beautiful crystal dish at my Christmas Open House and my coffee group ornament exchange. (oh how I miss my girls)
I have already made two batches of pecans this year. One was for the spinach salad I took to the Army social potluck on Friday night, the other for gift/goody packages I'm sending to my family.
They smell so good as they are baking low and slow in the oven.
Here is the recipe.

Candied Curried Pecans
(makes three cups)

1 ½ tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ¼ tsp kosher salt
¾ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp honey
3 Cups pecan halves

Pre-heat oven to 250*. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Mix numbers 1, 2, 4, 5 and 1 tsp of 3  in small bowl and blend.

Melt butter and honey with remaining ¼ tsp salt in heavy medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add pecan halves and stir to coat. Remove from heat. Add spice mixture and toss to coat pecans evenly. Spread pecans in single layer on prepared baking sheet.

Bake pecans until dry and toasted about 40 minutes. Cool completely. Separate pecans.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Otis and Me

Back in the day, before I married my Soldier and became a kept woman, I worked here .  It is a very nice apartment community. I had a fabulous office with marble floors, expensive furniture and lovely music playing all the time.
In the kitchen of the attached club room, there was an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie oven. When you walked into my office you smelled fresh baked cookies. There were yummy flavors like chocolate chip pecan, white chocolate macadamia nut, and lots of others. A few flavors I saved specifically for Christmas. One was oatmeal cranberry. These are DELICIOUS!  I absolutely love them. I would also buy the holiday specific sugar cookies with red and green M&Ms. We would make peanut butter with chocolate kisses and snicker doodles at Christmas too. I would have hot cider on the stove and hot chocolate in a carafe. It was homey and welcoming.
I have a confession. At Christmas I would order an extra case of the oatmeal cranberry cookie dough and make them for my family and friends. I cheated! I hated when someone would ask for the recipe and someone ALWAYS did. They are that good. This year, I was really missing those cookies and my sweet little neighbor girl stopped by with a fundraiser. She was selling Otis cookie dough! The heavens opened and the angels sang. I ordered the oatmeal cranberry AND a new one that is called Holiday Joy. It's a sugar cookie with pieces of peppermint candy in it. YUM!

I immediately pre-heated my oven. I HAD to make a few of these. Look at those little jewels. They are more precious than gold.

Yes, my house was smelling yummy right about now. I imagine it's what Mrs. Claus' kitchen smells like at the North Pole.

Holiday Joy. And I do mean "JOY"

Oatmeal Cranberry. Those little lovely specks are dried cranberries. So sweet and so tart. I grabbed one, poured a big ol' glass of milk and chowed down.

I only wish I had ordered more dough. It will take some self control to actually bake these and give them away. It's really why I bought them. :::sigh:::  The Christmas spirit of giving, right?