Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Happy New Year everybody!

Recently I had some friends over and I tortured all of them by making them play a long, no name card game.  When played properly, with liberal amounts of alcohol, it can be quite a fun way to while away an hour or so.  However, somewhere along the way, we didn't quite manage that.  Was it our complaining neighbor? Was it too little alcohol? Was it the 3 separate conversations going on at all times?  Who's to say.  In any case, if you want to try the game yourself despite my glowing review of how much fun we had, below you will find the rules.

Use 2 decks for 2 - 5 players; 3 decks for 6 - 8 players.  Deal 11 cards to each player.  Place the rest of the deck on the table and turn the top card over to start the discard pile.  2s are wild and Jokers are removed from the decks. Each hand or round has a different objective, which are listed below.

Each player must being their turn by picking up a card from the deck or from the discard pile.  Once a player has the necessary cards, they may put them down during their turn; but only if they have have met all of the requirements listed for that hand.  If other players have already put down their cards, the player whose turn it is may add cards to those already down. Otherwise, the player ends their turn by discarding a card.  If the player has not yet put down their cards but other players have done so, the first player cannot discard any cards that can be used by those already down.  It is a good strategy to try to keep unnecessary cards on hand to discard.

Once a player has completed their turn and before the next player begins their turn, a third player may "steal" the top card from the discard pile if the second player allows it.  The third player then must take an additional card from the down-turned pile.  The second player then begins their turn by picking up a card.

1st hand: 2 matched sets of 3
2nd hand: 1 matched set of 3 & a run (same suit) of 4
3rd hand:  2 runs (same suit) of 4
4th hand: 1 matched set of 4 & a run (same suit) of 5
5th hand:  2 runs (same suit) of 5
6th hand:  1 matched set of 4 & a run (same suit) of 7
7th hand:  3 matched sets of 4
8th hand:  1 matched set of 3 & 2 runs (each of same suit) of 5
9th hand:  1 matched set of 4 & 1 run (same suit) of 10
10th hand: 3 runs (each of same suit) of 5

At the end of each hand, the winner is the first person to get rid of all of their cards.  All other players must then add up the point value of the cards they are still holding in their hand.  The fewer cards you have, the lower your score and the better off you are.

2s are 20 points each
aces are 15 points each
9 and greater are 10 points each
8 and less are 5 points each

So please, have fun and next time you have an hour or two to kill with friends, break out the playing cards!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Dinner

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown!

Dear readers, I know none of you (by which I mean all 8) are named Charles, but I wanted to make sure that as you read you are in the appropriate frame of mind and humming Hark The Herald Angels Sing as you read my blog.  Now enjoy some pics of the ol' homestead!

 
Oh Santa!  You brought us a bag full of Christmas cards!  Thanks!
 
This year the hubby thought it just wouldn't be Christmas without a snowman dispensing hot chocolate.  So. . .  dispense he did!

For our Christmas dinner, I decided to try a few new recipes along with a few tried and true.
Mac n Cheese (courtesy of Kraft)

2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced (I used 4)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (I skipped this step)
1 tbsp lemon zest (I just zested the entire lemon)
salt & pepper

Blanch green beans in a large stock pot of well salted boiling water until bright green in color & tender crisp, roughly 2 minutes.  Drain and shock in a bowl of ice water to stop from cooking.

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add oil & butter. Add garlic & red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the beans and zest lemon directly into the skillet, salt and pepper generously.  Saute until beans are coated & heated through, about 5 minutes.

Apple Pecan Cornbread Dressing
I honestly did take a picture of the finished dressing, but due to my poor photography skills and bad lighting in the kitchen, the picture looked quite hideous.  I decided to spare you all the horror.


Cornbread (I buy a pie-sized round of cornbread from the Vons bakery, but if you prefer to follow the original recipe linked above, she gives you directions on baking your own.)
1 tsp olive oil
6 slices bacon (I used 8)
2 cups diced onions
1.5 cups diced celery
3 cups peeled & cored Fuji apples
1 tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp chopped thyme
2 tsp dry sage
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne (I skipped this)
1.5 cups toasted pecans
1-1.5 cups chicken broth
2 tbs butter
1 egg

In large skillet, fry bacon in olive oil.  Remove from pan, chop, & set aside.  Add onion, celery & apples to grease and saute 1 minute.  Add garlic & thyme and continue cooking 5 minutes until veggies are soft.

Spoon mixture into bowl with cornbread crumbles, stir in sage, salt, pepper, cayenne, pecans and bacon.  Whisk together broth, butter & eggs and pour over mixture, tossing until moistened.

(The first time I made this recipe, it must have expected that I would have a lot more cornbread than I actually had because it called for 4.5 cups chicken broth, a stick of butter, & 4 eggs.  Needless to say after adding all of that, my dressing was more liquid than solid.)

Spoon into greased 11"x15" baking dish and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Uncover and cook an extra 10 minutes.

Pecan Orange Bread
1 can of 8 Pillsbury Grands buttermilk biscuits
1/2 cup of sugar
1 stick melted butter
2 oranges
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
8 oz cream cheese
1 dash orange extract

Spray small bundt pan with nonstick spray.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Zest one orange into bowl with sugar.  Pour small amount of melted butter into pan & follow with half of the pecans.

Each biscuit has a natural seam where it is possible to pull apart the top half from bottom half with fingers.  Insert a dollop of cream cheese (about 1 tsp), spreading evenly before pinching two halves back together around the edge to seal.

Dip the biscuit into the melted butter to coat, then dip into sugar and orange zest to mostly cover both sides.  Place into pan allowing room for biscuit to expand as it cooks.  Continue with next 3 biscuits.
When half of the biscuits are placed, zest the second orange into sugar bowl and continue with the rest of the biscuits.

Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and turn onto plate and glaze with mixture of confectioners sugar, juice from one orange & orange extract.

Happy New Year and enjoy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thanksgiving succotash


Hey there!  So I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, I know I did!  My family came over, we had plenty to eat and eggnog to drink, and by some early Christmas miracle I managed to have all of my side dishes hot and ready at the same time that the turkey was ready to serve!  How in the world?!?

My family is trying to eat a little healthier lately, not enough to give up boxed mac n cheese, but just enough to incorporate a few more veggies here and there.  So I went running to my cook books to dig though all of my many veggie recipes that I print out with the best of intentions that never seem to pan out as planned.  However, I did find a recipe from Melinda Lee for succotash.  After tasting the edamame succotash served at the Carnation Cafe on Main Street in Disneyland, I've been wanting to try my hand at making it at home.  I understand that succotash is a Native American combination of corn and beans.  The recipe I used from Melinda Lee uses baby lima beans, corn, & is topped with bacon.  Yup, we're nothing if not healthy!

Here's the recipe as it appears on Melinda's site:

Succotash:  Corn & Lima Beans with Cream and Bacon
2 cups, fresh or frozen baby limas (I used frozen)
2 cups, half-and-half
4 cups, corn kernels - from about 6 to 8 ears (I used canned and it was perfectly fine)
pepper (to taste)
8 strips bacon - fried until brown and crisp - coarsely chopped

Bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil in a medium-size pot.  Add the lima beans and cook them just until tender; about 4 to 5 minutes.  Bring the half-and-half to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the corn and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Drain the lima beans and add them to the corn.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  Place in a serving bowl and top with the bacon.  (When I was making this recipe, I noticed my corn was still swimming in half-and-half after cooking, which didn't look quite to me, so I ended up draining most of the half-and-half.  The result was very yummy and everyone seemed to enjoy it.)

Cheers!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Movie Night

It's October, that means pumpkin stew and scary movie night at my house!  When the evenings grow cooler and the afternoons are mild, I know it's time to host a movie night out in the back yard.  Hubby sets up our inflatable Disney outdoor screen and this year he even set up a cemetery in front.  Spooky!

Fog machines? Check. Tombstones? Check. Cemetery fence & giant pumpkin? Check. Comfortable, plastic seating with lots to eat & drink? Double check!


This year, I also tried out a recipe I found on Pinterest and found it to be wonderful.  I am so in love with little deep fried pumpkin fritters!  As you can see below, I used a 2.5" deep skillet and about 1" of oil to deep fry my fritters.  If you want the original recipe, you can find it at Simply Delicious and it is to die for!  However, I found a few of the ingredients to be completely unknown to me, so I just made do as best I could.  Here's my version, which I freely admit may or may not be exactly like the original but with different wording.  Who's to say?  Obviously not me.


Makes approximately 20 fritters

Fritters
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbs sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/8 tsp salt
about an inch of canola oil for deep frying

Caramel sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp salt

  • Combine all fritter ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan or skillet, the temp is about right when a 1" square of white bread browns in 60 seconds
  • Fry spoonfuls of the batter until golden brown and cooked throughout, about 2 to 3 minute
  • Remove from the oil and allow to drain on paper towel
  • Continue till all batter is cooked.  These little guys are so good I doubled the recipe.


  • To make the caramel sauce, combine all ingredients in a saucepan that allows plenty of room for sauce to expand as it cooks so it doesn't boil over.  I also doubled this recipe and ended up with way too much sauce for the fritters.
  • Cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the sauce is thick and glossy.  This step actually took me much longer because I used a barely-big-enough pan and my sauce kept boiling over when the temperature went too high.
  • Pour the syrup of the fritters and enjoy. Immensely.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Home Grown Pumpkins


This summer both the hubby and I were brimming with energy and eager anticipation, this was the year we were finally going to harvest our pumpkins!  Like Linus, we would have the most sincere pumpkin patch in the neighborhood!  Off we went to Home Depot, or maybe Lowe's, I don't remember, but we bought pumpkin seeds aplenty.  We germinated 9 seeds from the giant pumpkin seed packet and 4 of the regular pumpkin seeds.  I thought we were off to a good start with our 13 tiny pumpkin vines, very lucky!

At this point, hubby took over by planting the tiny plants and going so far as to install sprinklers in the back yard.  Hooray!  Our little vines thrived.
 They grew and spread.  Quickly.

Even though we started off with many tiny budding pumpkins, we eventually ended up with fewer than 10.  And all were of the giant variety.
The vines soon began to die off as our little pumpkins swelled.
 
By September, our vines were sorry looking indeed.  We decided it was time to bring in our harvest.
For a couple of weeks, our front porch was festooned with knee-high pumpkins.  It was indeed a glorious sight!
We even brought one of our beloved pumpkins into the house where it nestles warmly next to our fireplace.
However, we knew that as wonderful as our dear little pumpkins were, we did have an abundance of pumpkin riches.  When hubby's family came over for our annual pumpkin stew diner, we sent the kids home with a pumpkin of their own to carve.  After all, if we kept them, what on earth would we do with so many giant pumpkins after Thanksgiving?

We still have a pumpkin in the back yard decorating our little cemetery, one in the living room, and a giant ghost of a pumpkin on our front porch.  As you can see, our little ghostly pumpkin is watched over by a miniature griffin and a grinning jack-o-lantern.
What a fearful sight!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fashionable doilies?

Ahhh...  I would like to claim to have just returned from my summer progress, just as the British royalty in the middle ages used to spend the summer traveling in order to outrun the plague; I would like to say that I too have spent the summer traveling.  But alas, I must confess that my travels have all been literary travels spent between the pages of books.  Which is ironic because I just finished reading The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, both of which are about the monarchy in the 1400s and 1600s.

Perhaps it is because of my recent readings, but I have again been preoccupied with home-making arts; embroidery, sewing, doily-making, canning & preserving, growing a small garden which I will never have time to maintain.  Sigh...  In any case, I feel that lately every time I go online I'm seeing doilies used in modern and creative ways.  Have you noticed this same thing?

My husband teases me that I'm secretly (or not so secretly) an old woman at heart because I love using doilies around the house to create delicate web shapes in the dust that adorns all flat spaces in my home.  And I'm sure you all remember growing up with doilies hanging on the kitchen wall, stretched over a flat pie tin or plate?  I know I do.

Hand Crocheted Doily in a Wall hanging item

Lately, I've been seeing doilies used in much more imaginative ways that intrigue me and my secret inner old lady. For instance, I have seen collages of wall art created by stretching doilies in embroidery hoops and creating an artistic grouping.  It looks tidy and old fashioned, but yet modern.  Then I've seen doilies cut into smaller pieces and displayed in hoops, which lends the look of something otherworldly, almost exotic to something so familiar.  Look at the picture below and tell me it doesn't look like an exotic flower or a close up of an octopus.  Fabulous!

New Low Price, Embroidery Hoop Wall Art with White Crocheted Doily and Mauve Embroidery Thread

I've also been impressed with groupings of doilies, both together as a conglomerate, and seperately in frames.


Vintage Doily Wall Art

 2009-07-doilies.jpg

One trend that I especially love is the vivisection of doilies to create one giant table runner that was never dreamed of by the original creators.  It is a little horrifying in the initial mutilation, but then results in a beautiful and fragile explosion of creativity.  It makes me want to Mod Podge a Frankenstein creature out of doilies; the ultimate dichotomy of unity and individualism, strength and fragility, beauty and disfigurement.  Maybe one day...

greenstyledoily.jpg

And now don't I feel ashamed for using my doilies in such a bland and expected fashion?  How completely boring!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Memorial Day

Hey there kiddies!  So it turns out I've been quite uninspired lately and haven't been doing anything particularly noteworthy.  But I did have a small little get-together at my house which gave me the opportunity to experiment with a new recipe or two.  And, of course, it was Memorial Day weekend so I just had to decorate the house.




And of course I'm just pleased as punch to finally be able to buy my very own presidential plate!  I may be a nerd, but I'm a patriotic nerd, or so my husband claims.  I plan to give this little beauty a permanent home on my kitchen wall where I can admire it year 'round.


And of course, here's what we served:

Grilled hot dogs & bratwurst (hot dogs plus grill = yummy goodness)

Grilled corn on the cob (same idea as above)

Fruit Salad (recipe courtesy of what2eat.net)

Baked Beans

2 cups chopped onion (I just used one large onion, Costco sized)
4 tbsp butter
2 tsps dry mustard
1 tbsp all spice
1 tsp pepper
1 55oz can B&M beans (which I couldn't find so I used Bush's instead)
1/2 cup catsup
1/2 cup brown sugar
Bake everything, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 350 degrees

Potato Salad (yeah, didn't follow a recipe but I probably should've... yeah...)

Mandarin Orange Pie (blogged about this recipe during Christmas dinner.  Made it exactly the same except this time I only used half of the Cool Whip.)

In all fairness, I feel that I should confess and tell you, my gentle readers, that I have been quite distracted lately.  My crocheting has suffered, my blogging has suffered, but I've been entirely engrossed.  Not only have I discovered the joys of Pinterest, but I have also bought a new laptop.  Yes, even though I am quite the cheapskate, I have bought a laptop that actually causes me no fiscal guilt.  I realized that I needed a laptop for blogging, tracking my online shop, and reading articles.  I ended up buying a Google Chromebook, the Acer C7.  Can you believe this sweet little machine sells for $200?  So now I am thoroughly distracted, which is ironic because I bought this laptop so I could blog more easily & frequently.