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How Many?

It is December. Also known as the month where I am too busy for words.

Trips to IKEA in the past week:  TWO

Trying to figure out WTF are we doing with the kitchen!?! This kitchen must die.

death to this kitchen

Inspiration…

ikea kitchen shopping

Come to me, wooden countertop. I love you.

ikea kitchen shopping2

Tristan: Currently thinking WTF!?! While contemplating the fact that we have to paint the ENTIRE house…

wtf

Veggies eaten: A GAZILLION

I have been trying to fight off the plague (aka one of the nuggets had strep – and I can NOT get sick this month!); so I’ve been fueling myself with goodness.

green smoothiesgrapefruitorange chix sesame kaletofu honey mustard saladrainbow dinner2bburgers ala jenny2

Miles on the treadmill so far this week:  TEN!

Sweat it out, baby. Sweat it out.

X-mas presents purchased:  ZERO

Send elves!

~

Thankful for Thanksgiving

So, Thanksgiving was a week and a half ago you say? Balderdash. I’ve never been one for the timely recap, so why start now?

I am still basking in the glow of my first Thanksgiving as hostess. Last year, I hosted our family X-mas dinner, and this year, Thanksgiving. Here is how it all went down…

Tuesday: I worked for 2/3 of the day, and then went to pick up my fresh local turkey (thanks Carl!). The weather was insane… 76*, and picking up my turkey for Thanksgiving? what the what?

crazy turkey weatherbeautiful treeme and turkey

This guy weighed 14.48 lbs., and cost an arm and a leg. Seriously, I never thought I would hand over that much cash for poultry. However, I’d do it again in a heartbeat (or rather, next year, come Thanksgiving). When the only meat I eat is local/humane, I knew it was time to step up and buy a local turkey – or pass on it, altogether.  I can’t recommend it enough. I say, know where your meat comes from. Or don’t eat it.

Wednesday:  I was fortunate to have the day off, and spent my time cleaning and doing a bit of cooking for Thursday. I made Ree’s make-ahead mashed potatoes, which I was thrilled to get out of the way. I also made veggie dip and hummus, and cranberry orange salad dressing.

mashed taters

Thursday:  The big day! I baked my apple pie bright and early, and then dealt with the turkey. It seems I didn’t get many pictures throughout the day, as I was busy being the cook/hostess. Oh, well. Maybe next year? Here is what I managed to capture (or holler at Tristan to take a pic of… flash pictures, I’m looking at YOU. *ahem*).

apple pie2apple pieappetizers tdaygoat cheese ball tdaytday saladturkey on platterwhole wheat rolls2

The majority of my meal, was local. Aside from the crackers, it was all homemade (and if I’d had more time, I would have made the crackers, too!). Most of my ingredients were purchased at my local Farmers Market… the veggies for the crudité plate, the cranberry pistachio goat cheese ball (Bosky Acres), the turkey, the potatoes (in both the sweet and mashed forms) the apples in the pie and salad, the herbs, etc. You get the picture.

Local.

Lovely.

After the big day, the rest of the weekend involved two days of well-deserved holiday relaxation, and one day of working on the new house…

Friday: Couch – meet Angie. Lovely. No Black Friday shopping for me. Crowds of grouchy, sleep-deprived, insane cheapskates don’t appeal.

Many episodes of Supernatural were viewed, with Tristan and Lilly by my side. (The show may be a little cheesy – but damn, those Winchester brothers are easy on the eyes, no? It’s one of my current guilty pleasures).

Supernatural

Saturday:  Another lovely lazy day. I had planned on getting several things accomplished, but staying in my PJs was just too damn tempting. (I NEVER get to have a lazy weekend – ever – so I decided to make it count).  I think we watched some more Supernatural, and I know I took a nap. It was all very exciting. (You might think I’m kidding, but sadly, no).

That night we had tickets to see Daniel Tosh at Ovens Auditorium here in Charlotte.  The opening act was Tommy Johnagin , who was absolutely hilarious. I might have enjoyed his set a smidge better than Tosh, even? I like Tosh well enough, but as I told Tristan… I only find approximately 85% of what he says, funny. If you aren’t familiar with him, his humor is VERY politically incorrect, and more than a little masochistic and homophobic. Wait, that doesn’t make him sound very funny, does it? He is, I promise. Much more of a “guy’s comic”… but still amusing, definitely.

tosh tixtosh

Sunday:  I spent most of the day Sunday on my feet, cruising around Lowes, picking out a new refrigerator, and dishwasher (thank YOU holiday sales), and finalizing paint colors for the new house*. I then put in a few hours at the new house*… generally up on a ladder, or down on my knees; prepping the walls to be painted. Muscles I didn’t know I even had, hurt this past week. Yeeouch.

* Yes, new house. Have I mentioned that yet? We’re moving in January. I think.

~

Pumpkin Pie Granola

This is a super-easy, very basic autumn-spiced granola recipe… feel free to add nuts, dried fruits or even chocolate chips (but add the chocolate once the granola is cool!). I was looking for a lower-calorie granola to eat by the bowlful, so I left this plain. Delicious!

pumpkin granola ingreds

Pumpkin Pie Granola:

  • 4.5 c. rolled oats
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • just a dash of ground ginger (less than 1/8 tsp.)
  • just a dash of ground cloves (less than 1/8 tsp.)
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
  • 1/4 c. applesauce (pref. unsweetened/homemade)
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

pump gran ingreds2

Mix the oats and spices together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together the wet ingredients, along with the brown sugar. Mix well, until sugar dissolves. Pour the wet mix into the oat mixture and combine until all the oats are “wet”.

Dump onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper, spread out and bake in a preheated 325* oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour (depending on how toasty you like your granola. I’m a “well done” girl, myself; and went the whole hour). Stir at least 3 times while baking.

pumpkin granola3

The granola will continue to harden as it cools. Cool completely, before storing in an airtight container. (Ball jars are perfect!).

My favorite way to enjoy it thus far is for breakfast, on top of a big bowl of plain Greek yogurt, and homemade unsweetened cinnamon applesauce.

pumpkin granola2

Enjoy!

~

Lilly Turns TWO!

My dear, sweet little pup turned two years old on Monday. Once again, Bella was there to celebrate with us. (Funny how she always happens to be staying with us when cake is involved?!?).

This year I went the DIY route, and baked up a puppy perfect birthday cake myself. (Recipe below). The pups went crazaaaaay for it. Definitely a hit.

bday girl Lilwaiting for new toynew toy dnabday playtimebday playtime2new toy2singing to Lil

lilly eating cake

This would be the one and only shot I would get of Lilly eating her cake. I use the term “eating” very loosely, as hoovering might be more appropriate. She gobbled it up, and I spent the next several minutes concerned that she was either going to choke, or throw it up. She did neither; but word to the un-wise… you might want to cut each slice into cubes (which I did on the following days). It is THAT delicious.

My homemade puppy birthday cake…

lils bday cake2

Lilly’s Pumpkin Peanut Butter Birthday Cake:

  • 1 c. shredded carrots
  • 1 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. peanut butter
  • 1/4 c. pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of vanilla extract

lils cake ingredsDSC_0673

Mix well, and spread in a greased (I used Spectrum Canola Spray) loaf pan.

Bake in a preheated 350* oven for 30-40 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely. Frost, if desired. (I cut this cake into 6 slices; you could definitely make the servings smaller depending on the size of your pup).

Quick Peanut Butter Puppy Frosting:

  • a few spoonfuls of nonfat plain yogurt
  • slightly less than equal amount of peanut butter

Blend together with hand-mixer until smooth and fluffy.

Happy Birthday to my darling girl!

~

Vaya con Dios

Speaking of my brother

bud and ann

Christopher (and his girlfriend, Ann), will be spending the next 6 months in San José del Cabo, Mexico. They are temporarily transferring down there for work. (Rough, eh?).  Last winter Christopher was sent to La Quinta, CA… and now this year, Mexico. (Ah, to be young and free from responsibilities again…)

As someone who picked up and moved overseas in my early twenties, I love to see my brother broadening his mind with travel.

They’ve only been there for just a couple of days so far, but it looks like the work fun has already begun…

palmilla

Maybe he will let his big sis visit in the spring?

bud in sand mexico

Just don’t bury me in the sand, okay?

 

~

They Say It’s Your Birthday…

Scenes from a birthday.

Mine, yes. But not just mine. My younger brother, Christopher, shares my birthday. He was born 7 years after me, to the very day.

As adults, we don’t always have the opportunity to celebrate together every year – but this year, we did. Dinner and margaritas with the family at Cantina 1511, and then over to Mom & Dad’s for presents and cake. My cake was a ‘ Sour Cream Coconut Cake’ from Tizzerts, and was amazingly delicious.

Apparently, when Christopher was born, my main concern was whether I would have my own cake each year, on our birthday. (Keep in mind – I was 7!).  Throughout my childhood, my Mom always made sure that I did. Thanks, Mom. Now, it’s up to Tristan. So far, so good. ;)

cantina1511 bdaybirthday twinsbday dinner - the whole famcamera happy peoplebday dinner abb tehcake with candles abbsmiley angeold schoolabb with knifebday cakesbday cdbbday cakes3bday me and mombday picturesikeadecor bdaymmm cakebday giftswine gifts

My favorite new present is my itty-bitty-teeny-weeny Product (RED) iPod Nano, from Tristan… Isn’t she cute? (Not Gaga!).

teeny iPod2

And quite the upgrade. Five years ago Tristan bought me my very first iPod, the 2nd gen Nano (which was only 4 GB… my new one is 16 GB!). Ah, geek love.

 

~

Bourdain and Ripert

Last Wednesday evening, I dragged Tristan to Good vs. Evil at the Belk Theater in uptown Charlotte for an entertaining evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert.

bourdain tixblumenthalduke energy bldg

It turned out to be a surprisingly intimate evening with the two chefs.

I was REALLY EXCITED about this show… as I have been a fan of Bourdain for years and years. I’ve read all of his culinary/travel books, the most recent being Medium Raw ; and am crazy about his show, No Reservations … Travel, drinking, swearing and great food? Seriously, what’s not to love? As for Ripert, I knew substantially less about him, other than what I’d seen on Top Chef and in relationship to his friendship with Bourdain. After this though, Le Bernardin is definitely on my must list for our next trip to NYC. (We’ll have to save up though – even to just do lunch! $$$). 

First off, they took turns interrogating each other in the hot seat. (The hot seat consisting of the rather crap folding chair they claimed felt as if  it was going to collapse at any moment).

bourdain1

Bourdain was the first one out, he introduced Ripert and then proceeded to grill him on his culinary background, Le Bernardin and his dislike for fellow chef Gordon Ramsey. (Apparently Ripert, a Buddhist, thinks Ramsey is a meanie. He is not wrong).

grilling ripertgrilling bourdain2

Then it was Bourdain’s turn in the hot-seat, where Ripert grilled him (mostly) on his slightly salacious past.  It didn’t take long for the f-bombs to start flying. Which I admit to loving about Bourdain.

“I sure as hell know…”

After the interrogations, they sat down together, Bourdain with a beer and Ripert with a Diet Coke (his choice of beverage surprised me). They mused about the current culinary “it’” movement of Farm to Table. They both have very strong opinions and aren’t afraid to express them.  It felt more like we were eavesdropping on two good friends having a conversation, rather than speaking in front of an audience.

bourdain ripert 2

With an audience of food obsessives (and the person they dragged along with them!), this was a love fest. Most of us got the references they spoke of, and ‘celebrity chef’ slams.

Bourdain talked about how cooking should be a necessary skill that is taught to every child… along the lines of potty-training, learning to tie your shoe laces, riding a bike, etc. “Everyone should know how to chop a fucking onion” he said – to which I agree wholeheartedly.

bourdain ripert 3

Bourdain slammed Sandra Lee (to many cheers!) and Guy Fieri . He spoke about his current “riff” with Paula Deen – and how she is the most dangerous woman in America. True, true. Cheeseburger meatloaf with a stick of buttah, anyone?

They touched on the topic of sustainable seafood (yet another reason I want an iPhone, for the Monterey Bay Aquarium app while dining out!)… Ripert advocated it, while Bourdain said he would eat the last Bluefin Tuna in the ocean if he could. Both commented that they had signed some sort of agreement to never eat shark fins. (Rightly so, the practice of harvesting the fins sounds horrific).  They discussed cheap food, fast food and the nastiness that is the McRib. They also spoke up for foie gras… apparently it is being done “correctly” here in the US, by the three farms that produce it.

Towards the end of the show there was a brief Q &A segment. Which was, I’m not going to lie, quite awkward. It didn’t help that the first guy up was clearly hammered, kissing ass, and talking nonsense.  Bourdain eventually told him to “fuck off” and called on someone else. (It needed to happen). It was disorganized, and could have used ushers manning the mic stations (or something like that) because well, yeah, awkward.

But all in all – it was a fantastically fun evening. I think it even inspired Tristan to want to learn how to cook, a wee bit. Which is music to my ears.

~

Why I Crew

 

A little more than a week ago, I took part in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, as a Crew Member. A Team Leader of the Information Services Crew, to be exact. I have volunteered as a Crew Member before. I have even participated in the Avon (now defunct) 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, as a Walker.

closing4Finish lineclt closing

Why do I crew?

I crew for the woman I saw on both Saturday and Sunday crossing the finish line, her body wracked with sobs. She seemed sad, and happy, at the same time. A fellow Team Leader, Lisa, (a stranger to the woman) gave her a hug at the finish line on Sunday. I later found out the woman is a breast cancer survivor, as I stood next to her during the Closing Ceremony.

I crew for my Gram… because she has battled (and won) this disease. She had a mastectomy, and is an 18 year survivor!

I crew for myself, as a woman with a history of breast cancer in her family.

I love that I do this. I’m very proud. I do it for you.

crew walking in

The Crew Members on my particular team ranged from average to awesome. Some members of my team were FABULOUS. (Some were… meh. I could tell their heart wasn’t really in it). I received some less-than-enthusiastic responses to our early start time. (Yes, 4 a.m. is early. Yes, you knew this when you signed up. *ahem*.  You are doing this for charity. Presumably you are doing this because Breast Cancer has touched your life in one way or another. It is ONE weekend out of the whole year. Suck. It. Up. – Rant over).  So, I made the best of it – relying on those that I could count on – and picking up the slack myself.

I got 2.5 hrs. of sleep on Friday night, and then worked for 18 hours. On my feet. (Saturday night was very exciting… I got a whole 3.75 hrs. of sleep!). I was in Uptown Charlotte at 3:45 a.m. Saturday morning.  I joked that the only time I sat down that weekend was to pee. (Sadly it wasn’t really a joke).

pink hair and little sleep

I have never worn so much pink in my entire life.

pink lacespink nails

I had a fabulous time.

People ask me why I crew, raise money, and am involved with the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. To understand, perhaps you have to see it in person. Even if you don’t know someone participating in one of the walks… come out. Attend an opening or closing ceremony. Cheer for and support those who walk (and those of us who work it!).

lisa signlining up for closingboobscheerleader

I’ll be back next year, and the year after that. I even hope to WALK the event again, in 2013. I’m thinking of doing it in Washington DC…? (That way I can still Crew in Charlotte).

next year

I set a modest little goal for myself for fundraising, of $300.00 (Crew is not required to fundraise, but is encouraged to do so). This year, time got away from me. I didn’t even *try* to start fundraising until a week before the event. Ooops.

fundraising pic

Thank you to all of my donors who stepped-up to the plate last-minute, to help me surpass my goal. You guys are the best! Next year – I’ll do better. You can always do better. :)

Learn more about the good work performed by the Avon Foundation and the Avon Walk  at AvonWalk.org

 

~

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

I’m here.

I’m alive.

I’m Mama to this cutie-patootie pup… (who never stops moving!)

lickin lilly

(I’m currently being swallowed up by my upcoming event this weekend… the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer – but I should be back tomorrow with a new post!)

~

Taste of Home

I was born and raised in Illinois, and my extended family lives there to this day. My parents still own our former house there (which my Dad built, and they now rent out). My Mom goes back about every 8 weeks or so to help out my Gram. I get back as often as I can, which let’s face it – isn’t often enough. I love it there. I was raised in a small town that had a population of less than 2,000 when I was growing up. No stoplights. No fast-food restaurants. (They now have both). My best friend/neighbor was homeschooled, did not have a TV, was in 4-H and had a horse named Nettie. There was an apple orchard in our “neighborhood”  (which was made up of a private lane with 7 houses on it). Nowadays when I imagine living in that environment , it gives me the shakes. No thank you. I’m a city girl now. But, back then – I loved it. It was quaint and perfect. Let’s just say, my IL roots run deep.

My Dad had to be back in IL for work (his company is based there) for a couple of weeks at the end of September, and as he drove up there (crazy man!), he offered to bring home anything that we wanted.

Ooooh!

After hearing all of my requests… he might have regretted offering.

First I asked him to get me some Schlafly Pumpkin Ale.  It is unavailable here in NC, and I’ve heard it is one of the kings of pumpkin beer (which I adore). Done and done.

 schlafly pumpkin ale

Second, he brought me a huge bag of apples from our neighbor’s apple orchard. That’s right, I grew up across from an apple orchard. Benny & Shirley gave me my first job (when I was in single digits!)… picking up the apples that had fallen from the trees. I distinctly remember… I could choose to get paid $3… OR… get a gallon of their homemade apple cider as payment. I always chose the cider. I was a foodie even in the 1980s!

peck of IL apples

I also asked my Dad to hunt down some canned pumpkin. I had just gotten wind of the pumpkin shortage, and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find any down here in Charlotte. Libby’s Pumpkin is based in Morton, IL  – where something like 95% of the canned pumpkin sold worldwide is processed. And most of that pumpkin is grown with 50 miles of the processing plant there. Morton is just a town over from where I grew up, so in a way canned pumpkin has always seemed a bit like a “local product” to me.

Well, he is accepted this challenge… and then some. This is what my current pumpkin stash looks like today, thanks to my Dad hunting down every can between Illinois and North Carolina…

29 cans of pumpkin

(It has grown even since my last post).

He also brought me a stash of my Grandpa’s old canning jars. I have become obsessed with Ball jars over the past couple of years, and am constantly collecting them. I’ll have to buy new rings and lids for these, but otherwise I’ll be set for a long time!

grandpa's jars

My Gram and Grandpa used to do a LOT of canning back in the day. I really wish my Grandpa was around today to see just how interested I’ve become in all of his old loves… (gardening, canning, etc). Unfortunately he has been gone from us for 14 years now. It’s hard to believe it has been that long.

It was such a treat to get these goodies from Illinois… Thanks, Dad!

I’ve eaten at least an apple a day, since receiving my stash – and I swear I’ve hardly made a dent in my supply. Yum.

~

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