Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final T-day shots

The other stuff!

The closest we got to a group shot - Karin was taking the picture!

My pretty table! It was a great excuse to expand my china set. Woot!

Hans and Katy doing the wishbone - Katy won!

That would be Hans and I headed to the San Marcos outlet malls at midnight. Karin and Karl followed behind us. We didn't score any huge deals, but we got some Christmas shopping knocked out and picked up a couple items for ourselves, too. It was fun, crowded, and FREEZING!

The big meal!

Did I mention I cooked a lot?

I cooked a lot.

We had an 18-lb turkey (thank goodness for Reynold's Oven Bags!), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole (my extended family have french fried onions coursing through their veins), mandarin jello salad, stuffing (the only thing not entirely from scratch, aided a bit by Williams & Sonoma), and rolls and gravy. Hans helped so much - I'm grateful for a hubby that cooks! And we even managed to time everything so it was done at the same time! I've never been able to do that before and am currently still patting myself on the back for that.

And, of course, what meal would be complete without pie? We had pumpkin AND pecan. Yum yum.

Not a lot of recipes used.

The jello salad is just a carton of Cool Whip, a large carton of large curd cottage cheese, a package of jello (large), and two large cans of mandarin oranges. Mix and refrigerate to set.

The rolls recipe IS a good one - I'll have to upload that one later. It's a better crocker one (the red plaid cookbook).

Pumpkin pie recipe from Williams & Sonoma.

Pecan Pie recipe from the Pioneer Woman.

Post-Thanksgiving catch up

I needed time to recover! I've been vegging out and neglecting everything, including my blog. We had a great Thanksgiving this year - and hope you did, too.

For the first time, Hans and I hosted Thanksgiving for his family. His mom, stepdad, brother, and niece, all drove in and stayed at our home. We love having a place big enough for that!

Wednesday night, I tried out the Pioneer Woman's recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls. Caution: This recipe makes a TON! It took a lot of time, even with my big helper, Katlyn. But judging by how many John and Karl had each, they were pretty tasty. They went so fast I didn't even have time to snap a pic with the maple frosting on top. MmmmMMMMmm!!

Cinnamon rolls:

  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 packages Active Dry Yeast
  • 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • Plenty Of Melted Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.
After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).
When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.
Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.
Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.
Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes. [Note: I left mine overnight in the fridge and it worked great].
For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.

  • 1 bag Powdered Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
  • ½ cups Milk
  • ¼ cups Melted Butter
  • ⅛ teaspoons Salt

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yummy gobble gobble

I'm really into turkeys this week.

Check out these little yummy gobblers I made for our Sunday School kids this week. They were quick and easy, which made them even better!

Shopping list:
Oreos - make sure you get double stuff!!
Candy Corn
Reese's mini cups
Yellow/red frosting - the kind in the decorator's tube
Chocolate frosting - again, the decorator's tube helps
First, pipe a line of chocolate frosting along the side of one oreo. Stick five candy corn into the gap and set aside for the icing to set. On the opposite side of the cookie, pipe another line to attach the other cookie. It helps to set these against something (I used the lip of the pan) until the icing hardens.

While that sets, cut off a sliver (maybe a quarter?) of each reese's cup.With a dab of icing, attach to the Oreo that has the candy corn in it. Use icing to secure a whopper head and candy corn beak (for the beak, cut off the orange part and just use the white part). Dab on yellow icing for the eyes and a dab of black icing for the eyeballs (I used brown sprinkles - way easier!). Use the red icing for the wattle (I was too lazy for that part). You can also use the yellow icing to draw on feet.

Don't forget to eat all the extra candy!

One down!

In my last blog, I vowed not to start any new projects until my three in progress were finished.

Well, I've finished one! And one's almost done. And one got tabled because it's no longer time sensitive (that's how I make myself feel better about dropping tasks =D).

Behold, my little wooden turkey dude.

He was pretty easy to make. You start with a piece of 2x4 that's about 3.5 inches long. I had no 2x4s handy, so I used 1x4s and glued them together with wood glue and that worked well enough. The turkey's head comes from a paint stirring stick - mine's from Wally World. Cut the stick to about 4.5 inches.
Paint both the stick and the wood block with a brown paint. Use a piece of sandpaper to polish the edges for a worn feel, and to make them smoother and softer.

For the turkey's face, dab red paint for cheeks and smudge it with your finger. It shouldn't be too defined, just like when you put blush on your own cheeks. No geisha turkeys here, please. From yellow and red cardstock, cut out a beak and wattle (is that a real word?). I used my finger to smudge brown paint around the corners, to add some texture and definition. Glue those onto the wood. Then, using the back end of your brush, dab two dots of black for eyes, a cute little white dimples near the corners of the nose.

Cut 7 craft sticks (Mine from Michaels) in half. Turn them over and trace them onto fall-inspired scrapbook paper, then cut out the paper and glue it to the stick (Modge Podge is awesome, yo). Flip your block over and glue your craft sticks in a semi-circle pattern. I used wood glue, but don't recommend it. It took too long - go for hot glue.

Finally, tie a ribbon into a bow and add it to the front. I used the kind with wire in it and it helped it keep it's shape. He's a fancy turkey.

Here are the original directions from UCreate, explained much more comprehensively than I'm capable of.

Gobble, Gobble.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Open Letter:

Dear Government Official/University President/Employer at any company:

Hello. Happy Friday. Did you know Thanksgiving is next week? Good. I'm glad you're aware. While I'm oh-so-thankful to have Thursday and Friday off this year (first time in three years!) it's got me thinking - why don't we have holiday WEEKS instead of just observed days? Consider these things.

University classes have already started thinning out with students (and probably teachers) giving themselves a few days off to travel and prepare. Many employees end up taking extra days off too. You know what this means? The students and employees who stay behind aren't able to be half as productive. I don't mean just morale (Who wants to work when no one else is there?) but also productivity. If you're trying to get someone on the phone this week, forget about it! All the people on your list to contact? Those are the people who have taken off early for the holiday.

Now let's talk about that week between Christmas and New Year's. Why? Why do we work that? Again, half the world is taking it off anyway, and the other half can get literally nothing done. Like this year! We'll have Friday off for Christmas, a weekend, work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and part of Thursday, and be off again for three more days. What, exactly, does anyone think will get accomplished in those 3.5 days? I can tell you. A whole lot of nada.

So Mr. Obama, if you're reading this, or any of you legislative representatives that I know read my blog, I plead with you to use some common sense. Push for Thanksgiving week and Christmas-to-New-Year week. Employees and students will appreciate it (and face it, you know you will, too) and we won't waste time, money, and morale on days that are a total wash anyway.


Another cubicle monkey

Monday, November 15, 2010

Project ADD

For the love of all things Martha Stewart, I'm having a crafting problem.

I keep starting crafty projects and not finishing them. Because I start something else! Hans keeps making fun of me.

So, this week, I'm not letting myself start any new projects until I finish the  three already in progress. Little wooden turkey dude, Christmas quilt, and Harry Potter scarf must be finished before I am allowed to start anything new.

Keep me accountable, people.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Welcome home, Elder Torres!

Edgar is home!!

Two years ago, Edgar performed Hans' baptism. He was my first friend when I moved into the Capital Ward. And then he left to serve a mission in the Arcadia Mission (Los Angeles). And Tuesday night, he arrived home!

He is currently staying with his family in Elgin, but last night Andrew picked him up and we got the old Office FHE group back together for dinner at Salt Lick. Edgar's been cravin' some good BBQ for the last two years.

It's really great to have him home and you can actually feel the spiritual high he's still riding just being in the same room with him! Glad to have you back, buddy.

(Thanks, Andrew, for the photos! And thanks, Riss, for the cookie cake recipe - everyone loved it!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Makin' whoopie

There's a lot to celebrate this week!

Yesterday was my co-worker Jolie's last day with us. No, we're not celebrating she's leaving (we kind of hate that part) but we did want to celebrate all her awesome-ness and how much we've enjoyed working with her. We did so with food. Lots of food. And two bottles of champagne (for them) and ginger ale (for me). For her going away, I decided to try out the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie recipe that Steph said had my name written all over it.

But wait! Yesterday was also Molly's birthday. And I couldn't remember if she liked pumpkin, but I did remember that her wedding cake was red velvet. Looks like I'm making two versions of Whoopies!

There was measuring ....

And mixing...

And spooning onto trays.

You may remember I tried these before and while they were very tasty, didn't look so pretty. This time I picked up a 2" cookie scoop from Target and it made all the difference in the world. It helped the whoopies stay rounded and fluffier, and more uniform in size. I don't know how I have baked for so long without a cookie scoop.

I also lined the cookie tray with parchment paper this time and that also worked miracles. The bottoms didn't get as dark and they were really easy to get off the tray.

Last time, I just spooned the icing onto the cookies. This time I put it into a plastic bag, snipped off a corner, and piped it into the center of the cookie. This helped so that when I put the top cookie on it spread evenly and didn't squirt over the edges as much.

The pumpkin recipe produced a much moister cookie/cake. Very dense, very very moist. The red velvet recipe was a lot lighter, but a lot drier. It also flattened out significantly more than the pumpkin one. Both were incredibly delicious (one of my coworkers simply said "Oh. My. Gosh.") and even though I usually like pumpkin way better, something about this red velvet was amazing. Maybe the buttermilk? I'm not sure. It was some of the best red velvet I've had. Wish I wouldn't have run out of red food coloring.

Find the pumpkin recipe at Our Best Bites and the red velvet at Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body. I used the cream cheese icing from the pumpkin one for both. I cut the pumpkin recipe in half and it made about a dozen. The red velvet made exactly one dozen. (That's a dozen whoopie pies - or 24 individual cookies/cakes).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That is neat.

A couple weeks ago I read about Amazon's Universal Wish List. Have you heard about this? It's so cool!! If you have an Amazon account, go to the website and click on "Wish List" (it's up at the top right, next to the button for 'cart'). This feature isn't new - you've been able to browse and tag items on Amazon for a long time.

What's new is that you can now tag stuff anywhere on the web. You download a toolbar button and any time you're browsing and online show and see something you like, click "add to wishlist" and it'll keep track of it in Amazon. And these lists can be public or private, so they can help your family know what you might like for Christmas/Birthdays/Anniversaries/Wednesdays. If you look at mine, I have stuff from Crate and Barrel, Down East Basics, Target, Victoria's Secret, Etsy - all over! I know I kind of went crazy with it.

By searching public wish lists, I found one my brother started and one my dad started - it helped me buy their Christmas gifts for this year. Yup, it's that easy. Everyone should have one of these - no one will worry about what gift to give ever again.

(Nope, not getting paid to hawk this product - just really love it!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A quick and free makeover

You may have noticed in my the photo in my last post that we've done some re-arranging.We LOVE the difference it makes just changing where all the furniture.

Our living room is cavernous, to the point where we're not sure what to do with all the space. Hans was pretty set on mounting the TV above the fireplace, so we kind of based everything off that. This is what it looked like:

Once we moved the dining table into the dining room, we were left feeling like the couch cut the room in half and we didn't know what to do with the left half. Or the wall to the right of the fireplace, for that matter.

After seeing this image on a blog, I thought "Hey, that arrangement might work for us!" So we tried it. We moved the tv to the right wall, and mounted it there. We shifted the bookcase to the opposite corner, and moved the couch by the window. We bought the gorgeous, giant frame on the cheap from Ikea.

Now it's easier to see the TV, it's not as high so it's more comfortable to watch, there's less glare, the room feels more balance, and we have the fireplace to decorate as the centerpiece for the room.

We're feeling that it needs some arm chairs to round it out, but we're not sure where to look. Suggestions?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A simple banner

For Halloween I tried to make bunting from cute fabric. It didn't happen, that's why you never saw it on this blog.

So for Thanksgiving, I tried to go a little easier. I bought some fun scrapbook paper (tried to get the thicker variety) from Hobby Lobby, some craft twine, and we already had a ton of clothes pins lying around the house from other projects.

I found a font I liked (ChunkFive, free download here) and printed the letters out on regular typing paper. I cut out each letter, traced them on the back of the scrapbook paper, and then cut out the letters.

Keep in mind you only need to cut out templates for HAPY THNKSGIV. I almost forgot about that.

On a side note, I think I may need one of these soon. After all those bats and letters, I'm pretty over hand cutting.

Oh, and the cute Turkey dude and the autumn leaves garland were both half off at Hobby Lobby. Score.

ooOOOoooo, sparkly

Lately, I am loving Martha Stewart's website. I've always kind of avoided it before as unoriginal (everybody does MS stuff) but what can I say? It's cute. I came across a post for a pumpkin centerpiece and it looked so easy that not even I could mess it up. And I love it!

  1. Grab some small pumpkins from the local grocery store. These are actually pie pumpkins for about $3 each at HEB.
  2. Using a brush, apply glue to the entire pumpkin. I used Modge Podge and it worked great (love that stuff).
  3. Sprinkle fine glitter all over the pumpkin. Don't use anything but fine glitter, it looks dumb. Just sayin'. I used Martha Stewart's glitter from Michaels. It was about $4.50 a jar, but I didn't use nearly all the jar and will be able to use the rest again next year. I used three different colors, though I wish the lighter two contrasted a little more.
  4. Display them on a platter/charger/board/SOMETHING so you don't get glitter everywhere. My orange charger is from (guess where?) HomeGoods.
I don't recommend doing this project in the living room......

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sugar was a bad idea

We spent part of this weekend in Houston with Hans' family. His stepdad had family visiting from Panama - his mother, nephew and nephew's family (wife, and two of their five kids).

Saturday night, Hans and I took the kids out for frozen yogurt. Evveeerrryone had to have a pic with a spoon in their mouth.

Jack doesn't speak much English and jabbered away in Spanish as if I could understand every word. I think I caught "agua" at one point.

Gretel doesn't speak, but she'll sing if Journey's on the radio.

Katlyn (our niece) had some awesome one liners:
- "Girls don't sweat. They glow."
- About the rollingstones' song, you can't always get what you want: "Hey! That's what my mom always tells me!"

Gretel and Jack are actually quadruplets (their brothers were left at home). Natural quadruplets (no fertility). I told Hans I will kill him if he does that to me.

Frozen yogurt at 9:30 at night means it's really hard to get a bunch of 7 year olds in bed.