I'm a little behind...

I've been catching up on old posts, so make sure you scroll down.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jack-o-Lanterns

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).
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!




Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Krispy Kreme and Story Time

Today started with a nutritious breakfast of a Krispy Kreme donut (my mom bought us a dozen when we were in town yesterday). This was Bree's first experience with Krispy Kreme. I picked out a couple with sprinkles (or, as Bree would say, "splinklies"), because I knew Bree would love them. It really came in handy last night as a distraction as Grandma sneaked out the door. (Note-to-self: inticing sprinkly donut = no post-Grandma break-down!) So, even though I gained back those 2 pounds I tried so hard to lose last week, the donuts were delicious! (I'm so close to my weight goal! Mason's almost 9 months, but these last 10 lbs are the worst!)

Then, at 9:45 this morning we attended the weekly Baby Story Time at our library. Bree and Mason both love the songs, books, and toys. Thanks to Jill, the teacher, who is new in town and who volunteered to organize this group. We don't have "Mommy and Me" or "Gymboree" here in Globe, so I'm grateful for story time!

A Day for Danelle

Yesterday my mom and I went to the temple to do the work for my sister, Danelle, who passed away almost two years ago. I did her initiatory work, and my mom did her endowment. It was an amazing and wonderful experience, and I'm so thankful that I was able to be a part of it. I loved spending the day alone with my mom--it's been too long since we did something like that just the two of us! We did some shopping, went to Red Robin in Danelle's honor, and talked about life. Thanks, Mom--I love you!

My house isn't green anymore!

Can you believe it? After 2-1/2 years in this hidous green house, I finally did something about it! We took forever to decide what to do...we thought we wanted to stucco, which we couldn't afford, so we waited and waited. Well, we finally figured that we'd never have the money, so we just patched up the old siding and painted it! I love the color--depending on the lighting, it's silvery-gray or light blue! Now, if you live in Globe and you drive by my house, you will realize that only the front is painted...this is only temporary, I promise. I still have some scraping and patching to do in the back, but I assure you that it won't be long now! People are going to get lost in our neighborhood now, because the "eye-sore of a mint-green house" landmark will be missing! Yay!
Before: In Progress:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yay for October!

Although it is true that we have been "enjoying" weather in the 85-90 range, I am so ready for fall and all the festivities it brings. This past week we brought out the fall/Halloween decorations, and I realized that I couldn't possibly have Chad put up lights on our house when we haven't painted it yet (painting has been on my to-do list for months now, but I was waiting for just the right time...you know, for cooler weather, etc.). So, thanks to this motivation, Chad and I got out there and painted the chimney and eve where the orange Halloween lights were to go. Well, once I had started painting, I couldn't stop. The weather was cooperating nicely, giving me a cloud cover and a bit of humidity to prevent the paint from drying immediately in the can and on the brush, which is what would happen on a normal AZ day. Using a roller (incidentally a great work-out), paint brush, and a steady hand, I actually finished the front of the house--details and all! It looks amazing--I'll post photos next time (I haven't taken any during the daytime yet!) Anyway, to make a long story short, Chad put up the lights, and I put out the wreath, fake jack-o-lantern (a must for our hot weather), and some glowing tombstones. Bree loves going out there to look at the lights.
We also decorated a haunted cookie house. Chad put up a show of protesting, but he always gets into it once we get going, providing excellent advice. I broke down and bought a pre-assemble house kit (I've done it from scratch before, but it is a pain, and decorating is most of the fun anyway). Bree was so excited to help decorate the "cookie house" and by the time we were finished, there was black icing everywhere, but the house turned out really cute.

Finally on the agenda this week was fondue. Some friends of ours invited us over for chocolate fondue, and we took our pot since they didn't have one. Bonus: we got to take home the leftover chocolate, which meant an extra night of fondue goodness. We've never let Bree participate in the fondue-process before (for obvious reasons... chocolate + upholstery=very bad). Now that she's 2-1/2, she has mostly mastered the art of eating without making a total disaster. Also, now that she's 2-1/2, she is no longer content to always let us put food into her mouth, especially when it involves fun things like skewers and dipping that she wants to do herself. Well, not surprisingly, Bree shares her parents' love for chocolate fondue! (BTW, she dressed herself, obviously. The winter clothes just came out of storage--wishful thinking on my part--and they're still a novelty!)
So, that's what's been happening at the Wallace house this week. Stay tuned for photos on the house. And later this month, I will reveal the adorable costumes my adorable kids will be wearing for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Family Campout

Chad and I have been talking about going camping ever since we moved to Globe 2-1/2 years ago, but we never made it happen. We had heard that there were nice places to camp nearby, but we didn't know exactly where. And then there was the issue of weather and timing--too hot in the summer, too cold come fall.
Finally, I did some research on the internet, and found the Pinal Peak campgrounds. Globe sits in the shadows of the beautiful Pinal Mountains (photo to the right is the view of Globe from the mountains), and after driving about an hour on a windy dirt road through the mountains, we came to the campgrounds, which are at about 7500 ft elevation. It was beautiful up there--Ponderosa pines and oak trees (yes--oak trees!) provided shade until the sun went down. Then it got cold! I am not used to needing to pack cold-weather clothing, and unfortunately we made it up there with no sweatshirt for Bree or socks for Mason. So I dressed Mason in his teddy-bear sleeper right away, and we tried to make Bree wear Chad's huge fleece, but she preferred to freeze. Luckily we brought firewood, and there were piles of firewood everywhere up there, so we managed to keep warm.
I was worried that we wouldn't get any sleep, but after Bree whined for at least 30 minutes (Mason had no trouble falling asleep in his playpen), we finally slept with only one early morning trip to the potty (Bree's little potty came in very handy!). The kids loved the campfire, we roasted hot dogs and had s'mores, and since Jiffy Pop is impossible to find in Globe, I made popcorn in a pan on our camp stove (which, incidentally, I have deemed decrepit and unsafe).
So, all in all, our first family campout was a success--delicious food, beautiful surroundings (by the way, we only saw one other person on that entire mountain!), comfortable sleep arrangements (we knew that 8-man tent would come in handy some day!). This was just the first of what we hope will be a yearly family tradition.
P.S.: I wish I had more/better pics, but my camera died after the first few shots! *tear*
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