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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday 5: Hurry it up! Edition

1.  4 1/2 hours left before Christmas vacation officially begins for me!  I'm very thankful that this year the state of Kansas gave their employees a half day on Christmas eve, all day Christmas, and all day on the 26th as holidays.  Let's face it, no one's been cranking out any 'real' work since last Friday!

2.  I got pretty much in and out of the post office today, miraculously!  Clearly, I'm a bit behind in sending packages, but my nephew will get it on the 26th.  Close enough, right?  :/

3.  Please don't drive 25 mph in a 35 or 40 mph zone.  Especially if you then decide to turn and don't use a blinker.  There should be a separate circle of hell for those people.

4.  Still no completed Christmas cards.  Ugh.  They are sitting here practically staring at me.  So rude!  I did buy a bunch of stamps today, but I don't wanna do them tonight.  Maybe they'll be Happy New Year's cards instead?

5.  I completed this list in 20 minutes.  Partly because I'm lazy and don't want to think of a better idea for the Tuesday 5 tonight and partly because I'm in a hurry to change into my pajamas and curl up in bed with my Kindle.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Random 5!

1.  I am making English Toffee Cheesecake for my work's Christmas party tomorrow.  I just realized when I looked in the refrigerator that I was one block of cream cheese short for the NY cheesecake recipe I was going to use.  So I Googled 'cheesecake with 24 oz. cream cheese' and pulled up that recipe, for which I have all the ingredients.  Yes!

2.  I haven't been drinking much pop lately.  (I live in Kansas, it's pop.)  However, when we went to the store the other day, my husband was looking for some Squirt.  It's one of those citrus-y types of pop, but WAY better than Mountain Dew.  (That stuff is nasty!)  He made me want some, too.  I hadn't had it in quite a while.  It's still delicious.  I like all the 'Midwest' sort of brands.  Dr. Pepper, Squirt, and R.C. Cola, which I very much prefer over Coke & Pepsi.  Pepsi is just gross, but Coke is okay, and I'll order it if I go somewhere they serve Mr. Pibb.  No, it is NOT the same as Dr. Pepper!

3.  I have gotten into the habit of buying big bouquets from the grocery store every couple weeks.  The previous owner of our home left a huge vase on top of the refrigerator.  Until recently, it was being used to store wine bottle corks to use for an art project.  However, for my birthday, my hubby bought me a gorgeous bouquet, didn't know where I kept my lead crystal vase, and pulled this one down to use it.  It is currently holding a luscious mix of magenta alstroemeria, red roses, trachelium, white spider mums (I think) and white pine needles.  It makes me happy to see fresh flowers in a beautiful vase.

4.  I just taught myself to crochet (again) over the weekend.  I had the book for a long time, but finally decided to pick up the hook again and start.  However, I'm confused by a notation in the book for directions in making a blanket.  It says to decrease as before, 4 times.  Does that mean I decrease into the next 8 stitches, since a decrease usually uses 2 for a double crochet decrease?  Or does it mean something else?  I'm a little confused.  To be honest, it's all still confusing, except for the actual crochet stitches.

5.  I got to volunteer with Harvesters today through my work.  We helped sort boxes, pack apples, and tie produce bags.  It doesn't sound like much, but I'm sure the prep work we did today will help things run smoother.  If you haven't heard of them, I recommend visiting them here.  They are an organization based out of Kansas City and they do a LOT of good.  Did you know they provide backpacks full of food for children to bring home on the weekend?  The kids are identified by school personnel as at-risk students who may or may not have food available to them at home, due to all kinds of reasons, but mainly because their parents are incapable of providing for them.  Very, very worthy of donated time and money.

Have a blessed week everyone and let's hope those Christmas cards write, stamp, and mail themselves sometime between now and Saturday!  Blerg.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Food quirks

"Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double beetloaf...I hate meatloaf!"

Ralphie's younger brother Randy, in "A Christmas Story" had it right.

I cannot stand meatloaf.  It is usually dry and gross and the flavor is in no way appealing to me.  

I grew up in a family 6 brothers and sisters and when I was younger, my Mom made meatloaf, meatballs, and hamburger A LOT.  I was the child that had to sit at the table for hours on end, because I wouldn't eat my hamburger.  Boy, was I stubborn!  

To this day, I am not a fan of ground beef.  I prefer black bean and spinach enchiladas to beef ones and do not eat hamburgers on a regular basis, if I can help it.  I refuse to eat pizza with beef on it. *gag*  I actually don't like any meat on my pizza at all.  About the only thing I like with ground beef in it is bierocks.

However, my husband LOVES the stuff.  He loves my beef enchiladas.  He devours my BBQ meatballs and he loves super supreme pizza with everything but the kitchen sink on it.  Ugh!

This morning I was feeling industrious and really wanted to start cleaning out some extras that had piled up in my freezer.  I had 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef left over from a 3 lb. roll I'd bought a couple weeks ago and half a pound of ground beef left over from a 2 lb. package when I made sloppy joes a few weeks ago.  (I do like the sloppy joes I make, though I don't make it very often.)  I Googled 2 lb. ground beef recipes, which led me to Allrecipes.com.

I am not a huge fan of Allrecipes.com, but sometimes you can find some real gems.  Today's search led me to a recipe for Smoky Chipotle Meatloaf.  I had everything on hand, which is always a plus.  I hate having to run to the store for stuff when I just want to cook something and be done with it.  I actually had a small Tupperware in my freezer that had leftover chipotles in adobo sauce from the last time I made something with it.

By the way, what is with the recipes that call for chipotle?!  You only ever need a couple for each recipe.  That's why I always freeze the rest.  I also freeze leftover broth and tomato paste, because Lord knows I never make two recipes in a row that use all of the leftovers!  

Anyhoo...this is the very first time in my 10+ years of marriage that I have actually made meatloaf!  And?  It was delicious!!  I really, really liked it.  It was really moist, so it doesn't hold together incredibly well,  (I actually almost double the oats called for in the recipe) but it was super moist and delicious.  I totally forgot to put potatoes on  ( I got distracted by my stepdaughter whining about being BOOOOORED) but I did get some home grown frozen corn to go with it.  I think next time I'll have to make the cheesy hashbrown casserole to go with it.

Enjoy!  

Oh, and tell me, what food quirks do you guys have?  Mine's actually not just ground beef.  I cannot stand regular boneless chicken breasts either.  They are always too dry, no matter how you prepare them.  Not a fan of pork either.  I could easily be vegetarian, or at least pescetarian, because I LOVE seafood.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday 5: My Favorite Christmas-y Things

Okay, so I have a friend who, for the last two years, has thrown a "Favorite things" party.  It's a group of fun gals that get together at a restaurant.  We usually have some drinks, share lots of laughs and chat a bunch.  We also bring one of our favorite things to give as gifts to everyone else. It can be homemade or something from a store.  It's a really fun idea and I received some wonderful gifts last year.  We are having one again this year, so I thought about a Tuesday 5 dedicated to some of my favorite things.

1.  The gift I gave last year was a Li Bien ornament from Pier 1 Imports.  I give one to my Mom every year, usually get one for myself, and love to give the smaller ones with the dove as gifts.  They are beautiful and hand painted, on the INSIDE of the glass.  They are crazy good.  I usually go for the nativity scene one for myself, but they also have little woodland creatures, a nutcracker, an angel, and a couple of other ones in different shapes and sizes.  If you go just before Christmas, you can usually pick them up for 40% off, even better!!


2.  The best present I have ever received from my parents, as an adult, was a nativity set that we found at Sam's Club.  They are probably 10 to 12 inches tall and ceramic, but the clothing is actual fabric.  It also came with a big creche that is made of real wood and includes a light in the stable that really lights up.  It is one of my favorite decorations and is absolutely gorgeous.  My parents said they tried to find them again the next year, for some of my other siblings, but couldn't.

The three wise men actually had little necklaces and the sheep's wool is fabric as well. 


3.  So, a few years ago, my husband gifted me with a 
Julia always did do her own thing, didn't she?  (Relax, it's a starting pistol!)
cookbook featuring Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.  There's a recipe in there for pan-fried duck.  I decided to make it for Christmas Eve a few years ago.  It went over like gangbusters!  Everyone loved it!  I even used the liver and heart and cracklings in a salad that I made a homemade dressing for as well.  We all cleaned our plates.  Since then, we have duck every year for Christmas Eve.  It's a satisfying meal and my hubby and I have a great time preparing it in the kitchen.  (I'm totally the one sipping wine and pretending the duck is a puppet.  My husband is usually the one with the butcher skills, shaking his head at me.)

4.  Speaking of Christmas traditions, one of my very favorite traditions as a kid was driving around and looking at all the lights.  In our small town, it probably took an hour or so to drive all around the town checking them out.  We would "Ooooh" and "Aaaaah" and point out the window exclaiming, "Did you see that?!"  "Cool!"  It was especially great, because usually we would get home and leave all the lights off in the living room, except the tree and listen to Christmas music in the glow of the tree.  That's how I remember it anyhow.  We would listen to all the oldies...Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams.  Now this was all on albums kids, you know, the large, round plastic circles with grooves in it, actual records?  My parents still have that stereo and all of those records, though if you're reading this Mom, I'll gladly take the stereo and all the records off your hands.  You know, so you can upgrade to the latest rip-roarin' sound system!  ;)  I still love driving around looking at lights and our bigger city now has a special lights display set up around the lake that you can drive through for a donation.  You can even tune in to one of the local radio stations for music that goes with it.  


Now there's a lights display!  Love the silo!
5.  Finally, I can't talk about my favorite Christmas-y things without mentioning SNOW!  I know, I know, snow can be a real pain in the butt.  Unfortunately, it doesn't just fall on your lawn, it has to go and fall on the street, too and you usually then have to drive in it.  However, every year I mentally beg for snow.  I can't say it out loud, I get too many boos.  I love Christmas snow.  It's so magical.  One of the best Christmases we had was when we lived in a tiny little town and got snowed in for Christmas.  We got a couple feet and couldn't go anywhere we were supposed to for the big day.  So, we stayed home, in our jammies 'til the afternoon, watching Christmas movies and drinking hot cocoa.  Then, my stepdaughter went outside and played in the snow with the neighbor kids for a long time, building forts and having snowball fights.  Not to say that I don't love going home to see my family, because I do.  I love catching up with everyone and playing pitch and eating and drinking late into the night, but that year was a great time.  It was totally still and beautiful and practically a holy experience.   Let it snow!

Merry Christmas all!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday 5: Interactive Blog Edition!

Man, did that 4 day weekend fly by or what?  Yikes!  Amidst all the gabbing and cooking and card playing, I never did manage to sit down and write an extra blog post.  I really wanted to, but I got a bit lazy on Sunday.  So, here's the regularly scheduled Tuesday post.

I am calling it an interactive blog edition, because I need some help from my readers on a few issues.

1.  As you may have noticed, the title of my blog changed.  Frankly, the old name just wasn't doing it for me and I needed a change.  However, I'm not sure I like this one either.  I need your help.  Vote  in the comments for a (potentially) new name change.


Here are the choices:

     A.   The Stepmom Files
     B.  Rarely Wicked Stepmother (That's my name now.)
     C.  The Occasional Mom
     D.  Your idea here  (Submit a suggestion below.)



2.  Tonight I made a great, easy, hearty meal that I loved as a kid and still love today.  Goulash!  What's your favorite recipe for a cold winter night that is simple and hearty?  Leave the recipe below if you'd like, so everyone can add another recipe to their list.

3.  I am a catalog hoarder.  I love catalogs.  I will sign up for catalogs whenever I am presented with the opportunity.  My favorites are Crate & Barrel and L.L. Bean.  Any of you have guilty pleasures like that?

'Tis the season!
4.  My top 5 Christmas movies are: 

  1. A Christmas Story
  2. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
  3. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  4. Elf
  5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Rankin-Bass claymation version, of course). 

 If you could live in any Christmas movie setting, which would it be?  My choice would be the glowing nostalgia in A Christmas Story.

5.  Advent is upon us and those of us who follow along will know that this is a time of anticipation and waiting for the Christ child.  I am not a patient person by nature.  However, I love the tradition and meaning of the season.  What more beautiful and perfect gift to be given to us than the Savior?  I hope this season of waiting brings you hope and joy, love and laughter.  Please share your most favorite Christmas gift that you have received?  Mine was a camera that I received as a kid.  It carried 110 film and I loved it.  

I hope everyone has a blessed week!