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Posts from the ‘family’ Category

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.

~

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.

 

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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

 

~

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.

~

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese

There is a chain bagel shop that Tristan and I used to frequent back when I lived in Asheville, that has been selling pumpkin cream cheese come fall for years. I introduced Tristan to it years ago – long  before I started making everything from scratch. Now mine is superior… Mwahahaha!

pump cc55

Better than Bruegger’s Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese!

Ingredients:

8 oz.  block cream cheese (I like to use the 1/3 less fat style)

3 TBSP. brown sugar

1/2 c. canned  pumpkin

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1.5 tsp. cinnamon (or more to taste)

1.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or more to taste)

pump cc1

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and creamy.

I generally start with a spoon, and then whip out my hand-mixer (could use stand-mixer as well – but for me it isn’t worth dirtying those components!).

Keeps in the refrigerator for 10 days.

The best part of my cream cheese (besides the taste, of course!)…? No funny ingredients! No thickeners, no added colors, no preservatives, and certainly no corn syrup!

Take a look at Bruegger’s ingredients…

Ingredients: PASTEURIZED CREAM, PUMPKIN BASE (PUMPKIN PUREE, CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, BROWN SUGAR, SPICES, CITRIC ACID, SALT, ANNATTO EXTRACT [FOR COLOR], SODIUM BENZOATE AND POTASSIUM SORBATE [PRESERVATIVES]), NON FAT MILK, MILK PROTEINS, LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, NATURAL ACIDS, XANTHAN, LOCUST BEAN, AND GUAR GUMS, POTASSIUM SORBATE (MAINTAINS FRESHNESS)

No thanks.

But this… this I can do.

Mmmm.

pump cc2

Enjoy it on toast, pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, bagels, or my personal favorite… pumpkin muffins! (even better when topped with my pumpkin butter!)

super deluxe muffinspump cc3

pump cc7

 

Pumpkin muffin and pumpkin butter recipes to follow… 

~

Weekends

Weekends always go by far too quickly. My life is busy, busy… and I look forward to my weekends, like a kid looking forward to Xmas.

Though I usually have so much that I want to accomplish, that they end up being just as busy as my weekdays… and… well… it’s just a vicious circle really.

However, this past weekend, I was able to take a well-deserved lazy day on Saturday. I had gotten off of work a few hours early on Friday, and was able to do my weekly grocery shopping, as well as a much-needed trip to Costco that afternoon. Then I came home and turned my kitchen into pumpkin-flavored heaven, as promised.

Pumpkin muffins (so moist and doughy!), pumpkin butter and pumpkin cream cheese. All made with real food ingredients, and respectably healthy.

muffs big and minipumpkin butter pump cc55

Put all three together, and you have a winning combination, as we happily discovered…

super deluxe muffins

Saturday morning was my usual ritual of Farmers’ Market and coffee…

sat am coffeefarmers bounty basket

I was thrilled to find GREENS at the market again… and (possibly?) went a little crazy, buying Collards (two types), and arugula! As well as 3 green peppers, breakfast radishes, and something called ‘Asparagus Beans’… (they look like Chinese Long Beans to me). I also bought some fingerling potatoes, eggs and some chicken breasts… as well as these super-cute itty-bitty tomatoes …

gorgeous tomspretty toms2

Awwww.

I returned home in a light drizzle, to find Susan and Victor (Tristan’s Mom and nephew) at our house, hanging out. After Susan and I caught up -we’re both quite chatty (much to Victor’s dismay – 12 year old boys get bored pretty easily around women); they headed out, and that marked the end of my productive day! The rest of the day was spent in sweats, on the couch with Tristan, watching the first season of Raising Hope on DVD, and taking a nap.  It rained, it poured, and we lounged. Fantastic. I didn’t even have to cook dinner, courtesy of Mellow Mushroom and my lovely boyfriend who went to pick it up.

We were excited for the premiere of Saturday Night Live with Alec Baldwin, and bought some Schweddy Balls in his honor. It didn’t disappoint! (The ice cream or the show!).

balls ice creamballs ice cream4

(If you don’t get that reference, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends).

When it comes to relaxing, I’m normally such a guiltaholic (Tristan says it’s my Catholic school childhood!); but on Saturday I was able to take a step back, and not give myself a hard time for relaxing. I know I deserve it (always!), but sometimes it is honestly hard to let go.

Sunday morning I had a mini lie-in, and then a breakfast of coffee, local eggs and homemade pumpkin muffins.

Then it was back to the business of my weekend to-do list… multiple loads of laundry, and of course, keeping busy in the kitchen.

I turned these… applesauce1

into applesauce. (will post the recipe tomorrow)

And I  lightened up my favorite hummus recipe, by using some vegetable broth (not exactly authentic – but rest-assured there was evoo and tahini in there – just less of it – as I tend to eat hummus by the boatload).

Sunday night I made my Minestrone soup (recipe to come), and indulged in a giant bowl of healthy comfort food. Seriously, it is so GOOD. I’ve been eating it nonstop ever since.

I also enjoyed my first Schlafly Pumpkin Ale this weekend, as well (which came to me all the way from Illinois! More on that later).

 schlafly1

 

Do you find it easy to ‘let go’ and relax on the weekends….? Or are you a control-freak, like me? 🙂

~

WIAW–Nothing Fancy

Despite the fact that I did my “big” shopping last weekend (meaning $100+ at both EarthFare AND Trader Joe’s each; along with a basic HT run for $45), it hasn’t been showing in my food this week. Wha? Who knows. Call it busyness, laziness, and the desire to eat “comfort food”. Also, I seem to have forgotten how to buy vegetables at the grocery store, as opposed to the Farmers Market. The FM is a leeetle slow these days, being in that limbo space between summer and fall. I believe in buying seasonally (within reason), and am a bit stuck right now. So, don’t be appalled at the dire lack of green veggies here…

I. Am. Aware. Smile

This WIAW features a distinct lack of green veggies, and a low-key birthday celebration… enjoy!

 The past two mornings I’ve eaten this…

yogurt smoosh

In the mix:

Total 2% Plain Greek Yogurt

TBSP HoneyCrunch Peanut Butter (homemade)

TBSP Strawberry Rhubarb Jam (gift from Gram)

2 Mini Banana Oat Bran Muffins (homemade – recipe coming this afternoon!)

Sprinkle of chia seeds

As much as I love my yogurt smooshes, this is an unusual combo for me. I’m usually all about the fresh fruit and crunchy granola on top of my yogurt… but this is a nice compromise, before moving into my staple hot oats of autumn.

I’m still on the iced coffee, but foresee switching back to my beloved lattes and French press soon. Well… as soon as it ceases being 80-something degrees here every. damn. day!

coffee yogurt

Lunch has also been on repeat this week…

beans goat ricecakessweet pots

In the mix:

2 Lundberg Brown Rice Cakes

1/2 c. Refried beans

1 oz goat cheese

Cholula, salt, pepper

And…

leftover homemade sweet potato “fries”, with a big dollop of organic ketchup on top, served cold. (Yes, I like my leftover sweet potato fries cold. Always).

Where is the green!?!!?!?

Afternoon snack of a LOCAL apple (hooray for apple season!)

apple

Yesterday happened to be my Mom’s birthday. As my Dad was out-of-town on business, and Tristan was hanging with the guys, I took her out for a “nothing fancy” girls birthday dinner out.

dish

Our first stop was Dish  for a local OMB beer and veggie plates for both of us.

(I don’t have any pics from here, as it was exceptionally dark at our table).

I had the Three Vegetable Plate with…

Smoky Lima Beans, Mashed Red-skinned Potatoes, Collards (GREEN!!!), a deliciously fluffy biscuit and half a deviled-egg.

For dessert and coffee, we trekked over to Amelie’s

car brownie

Salted Caramel Brownie, anyone?

mom ameliesbday gift

Bella was there to greet us, when I dropped my Mom back off at her house. Cute puppy pics, just because!

bella1bella2

I didn’t get home until after 11pm, which is insanely late for me on a weeknight. (Oooh, wild-child!). Needless to say, I’m knackered today. ZzZzZzZzZzZz.

~

Surprise Visitor

Look what came to visit the other day…

Can you see him?

pmantis2

How about now….?

pmantis1

While working in the yard, we found him perched on top of my portable greenhouse, but didn’t think much of it at the time. A few hours later Tristan opened our patio door and BAM! there he was. Sitting right on top of our gazebo, just a few inches from the house.

Hellooooo!

I think he wanted to play.

Or did he….? 

~