Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What I wanted for Christmas

Some of you may know that there was only one thing on my Christmas list, but I knew I would never get it, so I didn't have my hopes up. But on Christmas morning, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a Bosch mixer, blender, and cookie paddles too! We are talking little-kid excitement here, with the jumping up and down and clapping. And yesterday, I used it for the first time to make whole wheat bread, which I have finally mastered after many trial loafs that resembled collapsed bricks. So delicious and healthy!

Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 4 loaves
Grind together:
6 cups wheat kernels (makes 9 1/2 to 10 cups of flour)
3 500mg vitamin C tablets (break in half)
Mix until smooth:
4 cups water
½ cup honey (or heaping 1/2 cup sugar)
½ cup powdered milk
½ cup oil
3 cups whole wheat flour
Add, and then mix for two minutes:
2 Tbsp SAF instant yeast
½ cup vital wheat gluten
2 Tbsp salt
Rest of whole wheat flour
Mix for 10-12 minutes in heavy-duty mixer, or turn out onto counter and knead for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 150 degrees (or warm setting). When it’s preheated, turn it off.
Put dough onto oiled counter, roll into a log, and cut into 4 equal parts (3 if your pans are large). Roll dough into loaves, as if you're rolling up a sleeping bag, and plop into sprayed bread pans, seam side down.
Put pans in oven (make sure it’s warm, but turned off). Let rise for 40 minutes, then, leaving pans in the oven, turn it to 350 degrees, and bake for 20-25 minutes (total time, including preheating).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas at the Ranch

Every year, on the Sunday before Christmas, all the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids gather at my Grandma and Grandpa Kelly's ranch for lunch. Bree had a blast, playing inside with the girls, and outside with the boys (she prefers outside!). It's awesome that there are so many of them close in age.

Ward Christmas Social; the Nightmare is Behind Us

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy our Christmas social. It's our best-attended social of the year (I don't recognize a third of the people there). But this year, as the Relief Society president, I feel that I had more than my fair share of headache. I wasn't supposed to be in charge of the activity, by any means, but I guess when people have a problem or question, they assume I will have a solution for them.
After stressing for weeks that not enough people were signing up to bring food, I finally resorted to mild threats. I also bought the hams and turkeys to cook for the main dish. Luckily, I was able to borrow roasters, and I figured I'd cook them myself--no big deal; it's just as easy to cook 7 as it is to cook 1. However, the day of the social turned into a nightmare when I did not do a mental calculation of how many amps our kitchen breaker could support. So, of course when I plugged all those roasters in, our breaker failed. A simple reset didn't fix the problem, and while I drove the roasters to the church kitchen, I prayed that the food would be cooked by 6:00. It wasn't. So, at 6:45, I apologized to the gym full of hungry ward members, and told them that while the ham was pre-cooked and safe to eat, the turkey wasn't done yet, and that they'd have to come back later if they wanted any.
I quickly realized that RS presidents don't get to actually enjoy socials, since they are busy finding serving spoons, refilling water jugs, and answering questions about the program for the evening, including at what time exactly the Santa should get dressed. And, of course, the closing prayer was a signal for everyone to hurry home, without a thought to helping clean up, and half of them forgetting their dishes. (Thank you Amy, Joanna, and Rose for all your help--you saved me from a breakdown!)
So, one of my New Year's Resolutions is that I will never do this again. Ever. My counselors and I will plan and carry out events for the RELIEF SOCIETY only, as intended. Watch out, Ward Council, I'm putting my foot down.
Anyway, while I was in the kitchen washing dishes in the hopes of getting home by 9:30, I persuaded Chad to take Mason to see Santa (Bree was at my Mom's). As Chad pointed out, there's really no point; he's too young to know any better. But he sure looks cute.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Light Parade

Who says there's nothing to do in Globe? Okay, okay, that was me. However, there are some advantages to living in a small town, and one of them is the cute little light parade that anyone who feels the inclination can be a part of. So Amy and I took our kids downtown (I walked the 5 blocks to get there) to see all sorts of firetrucks, police vehicles, buggies, trailers, school bands, and dancers, all decked out in Christmas lights. A lot of the "floats" were representing a company, and advertised accordingly (Globe Cinema, which burned down 3 years ago, had a float with a sign: Theater coming in 2009!). And then there were a bunch of random people, like the guy on his lit-up bicycle who kept going back and forth. The highlight was definitely Santa at the end. Bree and Calan got so excited, and Bree was waving, and saying "Hi Santa! What're you doing? That's Santa, huh, that's Santa." (the video was rather dark and noisy, but you get the idea.) In the past I haven't been one to take the kids to these community things, because Chad's always working, and I have to take the kids myself. But Bree enjoyed it so much, that I'm sure I'll do it again next time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pottery Barn's got nothing on me!

When the weather finally turned cold here (just before Thanksgiving), we decided that in order to keep our heating bill down, Bree would need a quilt that would actually cover her toddler bed (the quilt that came with her set was baby-sized). Since we're trying to be frugal, I decided to make one. Luckily, my friend Amy has a very large stash of quilting material that she's always offering to anyone within earshot. I found some adorable fabric that matches the kids' room. That, paired with an old red sheet that we never use, and some batting that my grandma donated, completed the necessary materials! Free! And I got to use my grandma's amazing quilting machine to quilt it together with a gorgeous rose pattern. Now Bree is all snug and warm under her custom-made Pottery Barn worthy quilt. I'm not sure if she fully appreciates the work that went into it, but I know she appreciates being warm!

The perfect Christmas cookie

I love frosted sugar cookies, especially at Christmas. And, in case you don't know, not all sugar cookie recipes are created equal. They range from the amazingly delicious to the absolutely disgusting (Chad points out here that everyone has different tastes, and what I may think is disgusting might just be the way someone else was raised. Whatever.) My mom's recipe has always been my favorite--crispy, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery. Chad's a fan of the soft Lofthouse-style cookies. So I went in search of a compromise. I found a few recipes online, and this was the third one I tried. It's easy to roll out and handle, and is so delicious. When I asked Chad if these were the best sugar cookies I've ever made, he looked at me like, "Do you seriously not know?" So, here it is:
1 cup butter, softened (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1) Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla for a few minutes until fluffy.
2) Mix in 1 cup of flour, and the baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix in rest of flour.
3) Cover bowl and chill for 2 hours (I can never wait this long, so I'm sure not to soften my butter too much)
4) Roll out on floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on ungreased pan and bake at 400 degrees for 4-6 minutes.
Let cool completely before frosting:
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk
(Mix butter, vanilla, and sugar. Add enough milk to desired consistency & mix until fluffy. Keep chilled)

Family photo...oh boy

After about 50 takes, and fiddling with lighting in my poorly-lit living room, this is the best we came up with. It was quite a challenge to get the kids to smile at a self-timed camera, and Bree spent a lot of time rolling her eyes and making fishy faces when we weren't looking. I'm pretty happy with it, although it's a little grainy. Maybe Santa will give me a light kit for Christmas. So Merry Christmas from Chad, Megan, Bree, and Mason!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A word on mistletoe

I've always thought kissing under the mistletoe was a cute little tradition. When I was a kid, I'd drag my parents under there for a kiss on the cheek. When I was a teenager I'd fantasized about a romantic kiss with the guy I liked. As an adult, I include a bundle of mistletoe in our Christmas decorations every year. But this year, mistletoe has reared her ugly head. A large, formerly beautiful tree in our front yard has completely succomed to mistletoe's deadly force. Yes, it was a gradual process, but unfortunately, when we moved into this house, the parasite had already infested every major branch. This spring, when I didn't see any new leaves, and then when the mistletoe itself turned yellow and died, I knew the tree had given up the ghost. The tree is a sad sight, and is a constant reminder of my newly-developed dislike for mistletoe. Of course, the plastic version hanging on our ceiling never hurt anyone, so I guess I can still endure a kiss or two beneath those green leaves.

Christmas Tag

This was emailed to me this week by my sis-in-law Jenn in Missouri and friend Tina in Florida, who don't know each other. Don't know why I thought that occurrence was cool, but for the sake of being Christmasy, I'm posting my answers here. Feel free to post it on your blog too.
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. Bags are so lazy.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Real trees belong outside. Besides, by the time they make it to Arizona, they're all dried and crispy anyway.
3. When do you put up the tree? This year it was the day before Thanksgiving.
4. When do you take the tree down? After New Year's festivities are over and depression has set in.
5. Do you like Egg Nog? Just the name makes me cringe.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? Humongous homemade Barbie house that my mom made for my sisters and I, complete with wall-to-wall real carpeting and 3 bedrooms. Can't tell you how many hours we spent playing in that thing, well into my middle-school years.
7. Hardest person to buy for? Fran (sorry, but it's true)
8. Easiest person to buy for? Bree
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Two: one that Jessica gave me the year I moved away from home, and one that Chad got in Africa on his mission.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? This year I'm going with email.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? How can a gift be bad?
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I love so many...maybe The Grinch
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? November
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No, but I've given a few to D.I.
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Fudge, pie, and cocoa.
16. Lights on the tree? White only. Sorry Chad; colored lights belong on the exterior of the house.
17. Favorite Christmas song? N'Sync's acapella version of Oh Holy Night. Okay, so I'm a dork.
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Usually at home, since Chad doesn't get time off at Christmas.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yep. And they're reindeer.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Pajamas Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? My calling. Whoops, did that slip out?
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Really loving the homespun look. And the greens have to be apple green, to go with my kitchen walls. This drives Chad nuts.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I love beef roast with potatoes and carrots, rolls, and salad. But this year Chad wins, and we're doing ham.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? A Bosch mixer with blender and food processer attachments. So if anyone feels like blowing $600 on me, feel free!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


The other morning Bree woke up and was fake-crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, pointing to her temple, "I hurt my feelings."

I've been encouraging Bree to say her own prayers. I'll start her off, and give her an example of "I'm thankful for _____," then I'm quiet and let her take it from there. It's always interesting to hear what she says. Some days, she says a sweet "bless Daddy be safe, bless gramma and papa, bless Mason," etc. And then, for instance, after Halloween, every night for a week, she would say "Thanks go trick or treating, get candy." Last night, she said, "and Santa Claus come down the chimdey, decorations the tree, and be Christmas time. Name Jesus Christ, amen."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A child-proof tree

It is true that with a little effort and discipline, you can train your small toddlers to leave the Christmas decorations alone. This has been my mantra ever since having kids, because I won't be deprived of Christmas ornaments on my tree simply because there are babies around. That being said, a compromise was decided upon last year. We have stored away the beautiful glittering glass balls and breakable snowmen that used to adorn our elegant tree, to be brought out again some day in the future. Instead, we now have a cute country-esque theme comprised solely of wooden, cloth, and plastic ornaments. And candy canes. I love it just as much as the elegant tree, and even more so because Bree was able to help decorate (see her "cluster" method of hanging ornaments, above right). Yes, I am still training my children to leave the tree alone, and they are so good--even 10-month-old Mason! But, with a child-proof tree, I'm better safe than sorry.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving at Gramma and Papa's

Since Chad never gets the holidays off, we celebrated Thanksgiving a little early so we could visit my parents. Bree gets insanely excited whenever I mention grandma or papa. She loves visiting their house, playing with all the toys, riding the tractor and the wheelbarrow, petting Patches, and taking full advantage of her grandparents' love. Mason is now old enough to get excited about it too. He wiggles and reaches for my parents now, and does a lot of that ridiculous grinning (see video). Chad and I were so eager to escape to the middle of nowhere. We ate a delicious turkey dinner, played games, watched movies, I did some quilting (I'll post photos soon), and enjoyed knowing that we were out of cell phone range and unreachable! A true vacation.

The best ways to eat pumpkin

Since last month, I've been exploring the uses of pumpkin. I asked myself, "Do I only eat pumpkin pie and pumpkin cookies because 'tis the season? Or do I actually like food made from pumpkin?" As a result, I have discovered and thoroughly enjoyed desserts like Joanna's pumpkin sheet cake with cream cheese frosting and pecans, my fried pumpkin donut holes with glaze, and Amy's pumpkin cookies which don't need chocolate chips to taste amazing! So for Thanksgiving, instead of the same old slimy pumpkin pie, I made a pumpkin cheesecake, a la Cheesecake Factory. So good! The taste makes you think you're eating pumpkin pie, but the texture is heavenly and smooth. Pumpkin pie used to be the healthiest dessert on the Thanksgiving table...
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sugar, plus
1 tablespoon sugar
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
whipped cream
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2 Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 1 T sugar in a medium bowl.
3 Stir well enough to coat all of the crumbs with the butter, but not so much as to turn the mixture into paste.
4 Keep it crumbly.
5 Put foil partway up the outside part of an 8-inch springform pan. (I didn't do this)
6 Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the springform pan.
7 You don't want the crust to form all of the way up the back of each slice of cheesecake.
8 Bake the crust for 5 minutes, then set aside until you are ready to fill it.
9 In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, 1 C sugar, and vanilla.
10 Mix with an electric mixer until smooth.
11 Add the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and continue beating until smooth and creamy.
12 Pour the filling into the pan.
13 Bake for 60-70 minutes.
14 The top will turn a bit darker at this point.
15 Remove from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool.
16 When the cheesecake has come to room temperature, put it into the refrigerator.
17 When the cheesecake has chilled, remove the pan sides and cut the cake into 8 equal pieces.
18 Serve with a generous portion of whipped cream on top.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm In Like

This morning I drove over an hour to the nearest theater with the only other die-hard Twilight fan I could find in Globe to see the 10:00am showing of Twilight. I've been planning on seeing this movie since pre-production stages, and I was pretty excited. I did not, however, let myself expect too much, because that inevitably leads to disappointment. And I didn't read the book right before seeing the movie, since I have discovered that this only causes annoyance when I notice the differences between novel and movie. So, I was all geared up to enjoy myself, but I had already decided that I wasn't a fan of Robert Pattison, who plays Edward (couldn't they have found someone hotter to play the part?). It was awesome to see the characters come to life. I truly was riveted the entire time, and it was over too quickly. Edward actually grew on me (except for some of his more "constipated" expressions, as my sis-in-law put it. He was going for intense but overshot), and I was pretty impressed with the acting of the other characters (I really liked Charlie and James). This particular kissing scene was hot but not inappropriately steamy. All in all, I can't actually say that I loved it, but I really really liked it. I'm looking forward to the sequels, and am trusting that they will get better as we go along.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Us!

Today is Chad's birthday, and my gifts to him are #1: his new computer game expansion pack that allows him to advance his characters another 10 levels (thereby ensuring that he'll spend even more time on the computer), #2: the fact that it's 11:00 and he's still sleeping. My mom's watching the kids, so they're not here to wake him personally.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I thought I'd commemorate it by posting myself a birthday card from the Relief Society presidency (I don't think my secretary will send me one in the mail from myself). There we are, from left to right: Judy, my amazingly organized and on top of things secretary; Amy, my 2nd counselor and one of my best friends and co-young-moms; Marsha, my totally experienced wealth of knowledge 1st counselor; and me, a RS president who feels like she'll never get things totally together. So this is the adorable photo (taken at one of our meetings at my house) that we send to our sisters on their birthdays along with a message that my secretary photo-shopped on there. I could not function without you ladies! Thank you!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy Easter! Happy Birthday!

Yes, I realize that I'm like 7 months late in posting these. But when my camera was still fairly new, I took a couple videos sideways like a dummy, and couldn't figure out how to rotate them. Well, just today I installed the CD that came with my camera (I'm usually right on top of those things; I've had this camera 11 months now...), and I discovered how to rotate my videos! I didn't think it could be done! So now you get to be reminded of how cute Bree was at her 2nd birthday/Easter (they were within a couple weeks of each other). Enjoy!

A meme?

This is a new word I learned today, but I'm having trouble getting a handle on a clear definition. It's an idea/value that can change and mutate as it's passed from person to person. I actually ran across the word as I was reading through one of those questionnaires you get emailed to you, where you read your friend's answers, then change the answers to apply to you, then forward them along. Technically, calling these types of emails is not an entirely accurate application of the term "meme," nonetheless, it is quite common apparently. So, here's my "meme" of the day:
Birth Month
If you want to play, go here and copy your birth month. Then strike out stuff that doesn't apply to you (I tried to put strike-out instructions here, but it just kept applying the command instead of showing it. A simple google search will provide instructions)
NOVEMBER: Has a lot of ideas. Difficult to fathom (I think I'm pretty obvious).Thinks forward. Unique and brilliant. Extraordinary ideas. Sharp thinking. Fine and strong clairvoyance (um...clair-whatuh?). Can become good doctors (or nurses). Dynamic in personality. Secretive (I can keep secrets, but I don't like to). Inquisitive. Knows how to dig secrets (again with the secrets). Always thinking. Less talkative but amiable. Brave and generous. Patient. Stubborn and hard-hearted (Stubborn, yes; hard-hearted, no). If there is a will, there is a way. Determined. Never give up. Hardly becomes angry unless provoked. Loves to be alone. Thinks differently from others. Sharp-minded. Motivates oneself. Does not appreciates praises (hello, who doesn't like praise?). High-spirited. Well-built and tough (well-built is a nice way to put it...). Deep love and emotions. Romantic. Uncertain in relationships (not so much anymore). Homely (oh goodness, no). Hardworking. High abilities. Trustworthy. Honest and keeps secrets (more secrets?). Not able to control emotions (so true). Unpredictable (I am a creature of obligation and habit, and therefore entirely predictable).

Friday, November 14, 2008

5th Folder, 5th Photo

This tag was quick and easy, and a fun little surprise. The tag is to post the 5th Photo of the 5th Folder in your MY PICTURES. (I only had 2 photos in that folder, so I posted the 2nd one)

Fran, you're going to love this! Don't cry. Whoops, too late. Remember July 21st, 2005? When your children and grand-children started moving away in droves? Well, you thought it would be funny to pack your granny-rocking-chair in Mike's truck so they'd take you with them to Missouri, Beverly Hillbilly style. And then Chad and I moved to Arizona a few months later. We swear, it was nothing personal! It seems so long ago that we were all in Vegas together. But don't worry, we won't forget you! We're very loyal, and show our kids pictures of you on a regular basis so they'll know who you are. We love you!

I tag anyone who is curious as to what's in their 5th folder!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pecan Tassies

Cookie Days are here again! After half of our group moved away, it took us a while to get it together and re-organize our weekly tribute to baking. Last week we made some delicious pumpkin cookies at Amy's, and today it was my turn. I have been dying to try my mother-in-law's Pecan Tassie recipe (tassies are cookie-tarts made in mini-muffin pans). Chad remembers his mom making these around the holidays, and had been mentioning that I should get the recipe. They turned out SOOOO good! I am a huge pecan pie fan, and these, as Amy said, have the perfect filling-to-crust ratio, since pecan pie is super-rich.
Here's the recipe:

1 3 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted flour
1 egg
1 T soft butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
dash salt
sm. chopped pecans added at final step
Pastry: Mix room temperature cream cheese and 1/2 cup butter. Blend in flour. Chill an hour. Shape into 2 doz. 1" balls. Press dough against bottom and sides of mini-muffin tins.
Filling: Beat together everything but nuts. Place sm. chopped pecans in bottom of crust and add filling. Sprinkle top with sm. chopped pecans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 mins.

On a side note, today's get-together was slightly hindered by the fact that my oven's bottom heating element is broken, and I didn't find this out until my gorgeous hand-made rolls made from freshly-ground wheat flour (I was so proud) came out of the oven nicely brown on top and soggy and disgusting on the bottom. So. Sad. Heather suggested I flip them over to cook the bottoms, which I did, and so they were edible with a nice flavor but chewy/crusty texture. Luckily I have several friendly neighbors, so at least I was able to take the tassies across the street to bake!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fall is here! (knock on wood)

So yesterday marked the first day so far this season that the A/C hasn't kicked on! So...drum roll... I turned the A/C off! Wow, it only took until November 4th for fall weather to start. I'm optimistic because the weather report says that we won't break 75* all week! Yay! So, even though it's not quite cold enough to light up the fireplace yet, we're getting closer. Maybe I'll get to start wearing my long-sleeves by the time Christmas comes around...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Is life over?

I guess I didn't think that America would be dumb enough to do it, so I didn't consider the fact that Obama could actually be our next president. Frankly, I'm a little concerned about the future of our country, not to mention the future of Joe the plumber. I can't think about this tonight. I'll think about it tomorrow.

Chic Shawls by Megan

So, I sent off a homemade baby gift to my sis-in-law yesterday: a cute and convenient nursing shawl. They are all the rage in Globe! My friend Amy was the first to sport one, and then she made shawls for Elise and me because we just HAD to have one. So I'm just passing it along! Using this is way better than nursing under a blanket--much better all-around coverage. I keep telling Amy she should go into business...maybe we could be business partners...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

3 Nights of Halloween

This was a big year for Halloween festivities. It started Wednesday at the church Trunk-or-Treat. Bree was so excited at the idea of dressing up and going trick-or-treating--this year, she actually had some concept of Halloween from books and videos we'd been watching. And she loved her Tinker Bell costume! (on a side note, this was a big year for Tinker Bell costumes, because of the new Tinker Bell movie, but I hadn't thought of that--I just wanted Bree and Mason to have cute coordinating costumes.) Anyway, Bree was sort of dazed as we walked around the parking lot getting candy; there was so much going on, what with the scary trunks, music, games and food. She got a tiny bottle of bubbles from the fishing pond, tried her hand at the beanbag toss (sadly, she has no natural throwing ability), and won at the cupcake walk (she took a couple licks of her cupcake frosting and was done).

On Thursday, we had night number two of Halloween festivities, when we went to our local Fry's grocery store's Midnight Madness event (not sure why it's called that; it started at 4pm and ended at 11...). This was a neat little bonus, since I needed to do some grocery shopping anyway, and when I have to take the kids with me they're not always thrilled or cooperative at the store. So I dressed the kids up and off we went. It turned out to be really cute. All the Fry's employees were wearing costumes. There was trick-or-treating all around the store at the many booths: ring toss, beanbag toss, cookie decorating (this was the one Bree was interested in), and free donuts and cider. So, the kids happily ate their sugar while I got my shopping done, we enjoyed some delicious caramel apple and pumpkin donuts (both of which were surprisingly delicious!), and I got a killer deal on some Halloween candy. Oh, and I got some adorable pictures!

Last night we had our big Halloween finale. Bree got to trick-or-treat at actual houses, which was a whole different experience. We started with a few of our close neighbors--just the ones we know, and they thought Bree was so cute, she got whole handfuls of candy. Then we drove over to our friends the Huishes for dinner and more trick-or-treating (our neighborhood doesn't have many houses that hand out candy; plus it's really hilly). Bree and Calan had a blast running around from house to house, while Mason and Cora were content to ride in the stroller. That neighborhood was packed with people! I've never seen anything like it in real life; it was a zoo of trick-or-treaters. The Huishes actually ran out of candy long before the night was over. Well, by the end of the night we were all hopped up on candy and pumpkin donut holes that I made (yummy!). The kids were exhausted and hysterical when I loaded them in the truck to go home, but they fell right asleep when we got there (no energy for a bath, so they went to bed slightly sticky!).

What a fun few days of festivities! It's silly how much fun I have watching my kids experience these things. They are growing up so fast, but I truly am "enjoying while it lasts" as everyone and their mother likes to instruct me! Now Halloween's over; next stop: Christmas! Oh, wait, no: Thanksgiving. Sorry, got a little over-excited there!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


True to my word, we carved pumpkins again this year, so now our tradition is two years and counting! Bree was a little grossed out by the pumpkin guts again, but Chad got her to at least help a little this time. Chad made a scary pumpkin, and although I wasn't planning on making a cute happy jack-o-lantern, when I looked at my blank pumpkin, it's shape was just asking for a silly lopsided smile, which coordinated perfectly with a "dimple" on the right. Bree thought my pumpkin turned out really cute (see video).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Party Time!

My friend Cecilie throws an adults only Halloween party every year, and although Chad is never able to go because of work, I'm always up for a good time, especially if it involves good food and dressing up! I tried to get creative, and I made my costume. I think it was a little too creative, because no one could tell what I was supposed to be. Maybe if I'd had a top hat or a skimpy leotard...can you tell what I am? I thought the guts turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. And my Frankencheese ball was a big hit--it was not only adorable but delicious as well! Here's the recipe:

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cartons (4 ounces each) whipped cream cheese
Green food coloring (I mixed in a little black too)
1 can (4-1/4 ounces) chopped ripe olives, drained
2 pepperoncinis
2 slices peeled parsnip (I used boiled egg)
4 colossal ripe olives
Black decorating gel
1 pretzel rod
1 small cucumber

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce and pepper sauce until smooth. Stir in the cheddar cheese, bacon and onions. Shape into a 5-in. x 4-in. x 3-in. rectangle; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled.
Unwrap rectangle; place on a serving platter with a 3-in. side on top. Tint whipped cream cheese green; spread over top and sides of rectangle.
Add ripe olives for hair, pepperoncinis for ears, and parsnip (or egg) slices and two colossal olives for eyes (I used toothpicks to hold the eyes on). With black decorating gel, pipe the brow, mouth and stitches.
Break pretzel rod into two small pieces; add a colossal olive to each end. Press into sides of head for bolts. Cut a small piece from end of cucumber for a nose. Yield: 3 cups.
(Thanks mom, for the recipe; I think credit is due to Taste of Home magazine.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

How to Make Truffles!

Since I'll be making the truffles for my brother Adam's wedding in December, my mom loaned me her truffle molds to practice. I've made truffles without molds, by rolling ganache filling into balls and then dipping them in melted chocolate. That way works fine, but the truffles don't always turn out that pretty unless you're a real pro. Once I got the hang of using the molds, it was faster and they are beautiful and professional-looking.
The recipe is so simple: for the filling, just heat 1/2 cup of cream until very hot, then stir in 2 cups chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate for this batch) until melted. The ganache should be smooth and shiny. (I added about a tsp of orange extract to my ganache--so good!) Allow to cool for a few minutes, then put into a pastry bag (it must be a sturdy plastic one--flimsy ones won't cut it!).
For the shells, ideally you'll want properly tempered chocolate. There is a lot of info on the web on how to do this, but it basically involves heating the chocolate in a double-boiler until melted, then cooling it to its "tempering temperature."
Tempering Temperatures for different types of chocolate: Dark: 88-90*; Milk: 86-88*; White: 80-82*
If you've made chocolate candy before and wondered why sometimes it turns out beautifully hard and shiny (correctly tempered) and sometimes soft and dull after it hardens, this is why. (Of course, I should have done the research BEFORE making the truffles, but now I know for future reference!) I just melted my chocolate in the microwave, and some of my truffles came out hard and shiny, and some not so much. But they were all delicious!
Spoon the tempered chocolate into the mold wells--no need to be perfect; you'll scrape off excess later. Lift the mold up a couple feet and drop it onto the counter a few times or until you no longer see any air bubbles clinging to the bottom of the mold. Then turn the mold over onto a plate/bowl large enough to catch the dripping. Tap the mold a little until only a thin layer of chocolate remains in the wells. Turn the mold back over and scrape off the excess chocolate with a knife or spatula. Allow the chocolate to cool (I put my molds in the freezer to speed it up). Pipe ganache filling into shells, leaving a little space for the rest of the shell. Spoon tempered chocolate into molds, filling in around ganache. Tap the mold tray a few times to help chocolate fill in all the spaces. Scrape off excess chocolate, and allow chocolates to cool completely before popping them out of the molds.
I'm going to try some with dark chocolate and mint, and some with toasted almonds and white chocolate. This really was easy--I did it while simultaneously watching my kids and my friend Amy's two kids. The only part that seems daunting is the tempering, which I didn't bother with this time. So give it a try! The possibilities are as endless as they are delicious!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Schnepf Farms

Today my friend Amy and I took our kids down to Queen Creek to an awesome agrotourism attraction--Schnepf Farms. We met up with Sarah and her group too. We had a lot of fun! There were rides for the little kids, farm animals to pet, good food, play grounds, plus pumpkins and a huge corn maze (which we opted not to go for--it sounded a little forbidding given the heat and likelihood of us getting lost inside). I was surprised at how brave Bree and Calan were going on those rides by themselves! Especially the roller coaster, where I sat behind them watching their little bodies get whipped around...but they loved it! We all got tired out after only 3-1/2 hours of it, but the fun and the memories were well worth the trip. And who knows? Maybe we'll take the kids again when the weather actually cools down!

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