Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holiday Prep: Side dish recipes part 3

Note: I hope you don't make ALL these recipes! I'm just trying to help give ideas and get ideas myself. I like having lots of options.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Salad
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 pomegranate (seeds only)
3 carrots
3-5 ribs celery
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 TBSP honey
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt

1) Chop cranberries into very small pieces. Remove seeds from pomegranate (see note.) Peel and shred carrot with box grater. Slice celery into half-moons.
2) Toast walnuts in a pan over medium heat for 5-10 minutes (if desired) and then chop.
3) Mix together mayonnaise, honey, lemon juice, and salt.
4) Toss together all ingredients, pouring on the mayonnaise mixture last and stirring well. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then serve. OR, keep the mayonnaise dressing on the side, refrigerate overnight, and pour dressing over and toss right before service if making in advance.

Story time: the day I met Cody's family for the first time was Thanksgiving. I walked in the house, asked if I could help in the kitchen, and was given a pomegranate to seed. I cut into it and splattered red juice all over my carefully coordinated outfit. I was so embarrased and wore an old T-shirt the rest of the day while my future mother-in-law cleaned my shirt. :) Since then, I have learned a better way of seeding a pomegranate.

Notes on how to seed a pomegranate: Fill a large bowl with water. Carefully cut the pomegranate in half. (or even quarters) Submerse the pomegranate halves in water and work the red seeds out with your fingers. The seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl and the white pith will float. Discard the peel and the pith. Keep just the seeds. Drain from water. Done!

This next recipe I'm not sure if I have permission to post or not, but it is really THE best, most fool-proof roll recipe I have ever used. I've failed multiple times with rolls, but never with this recipe. Plus, it rises overnight in the refrigerator. I've even let it go two nights with no ill effect. So nice when you already have way too much to do on Thanksgiving! I love things that can be done in advance. They work beautifully in any shape (my favorite is small crescents brushed with butter, Cody's are butterhorn style), and I've also made them into cinnamon or orange rolls.

Nan's "yummy-nummy" Refrigerator Rolls

1 1/2 c water

1 TBLS yeast

1 tsp salt

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup shortening

2 eggs

1 potato, mashed

6-7 cup flour (can use 2 cups whole wheat and about 4-5 cups white)

Dissolve yeast in water. Add next 5 ingredients and 3 cups of the flour and mix. Slowly add the rest of the flour, kneading as you go, until the dough sticks together and is smooth and elastic. Knead for 5-10 minutes. Put in greased container and refrigerate over night. Roll out into desired shape.

Let rise 1-3 hours. (1 hour in a hot kitchen, or 3-5 hours in a cooler place...don't skimp on rise time.) Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes. 1 batch makes about 30 rolls.

Roasted Root Vegetables

1 onion

3 carrots

3 parsnips

1 turnip

1 beet (if the red doesn't bother you)

4 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 TBSP honey (optional)

Peel all vegetables and cut into 1" cubes. Mix with all other ingredients in a crock-pot sprayed with cooking spray. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-6 hours, depending on crock-pot. Vegetables are done when they are fork tender.

*this recipe is smaller, about the portion size for 4-6 adults. But on Thanksgiving, most people eat fewer vegetables. :) This recipe is great for every day, though. Other veggies we love adding: sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, butternut squash, or jicama.

Phew! I think that's it for me on Side Dishes. If you have any ideas for recipes, please let me know! You can put it in a comment or on your own blog. If you desire, I'll link it up here so that you can be famous. :)

Also, if you try any of these recipes, I'd love to hear your thoughts and your family's reactions. Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Growing pile of boxes

It's been nearly a week since we found out we would have to move. I thought you might like a little update of how things are going.

This is our little pile of packed boxes. I know it is tiny right now, but that's okay. We are packing a few boxes a day, and starting with the least used things. In these boxes are some of our food storage, extra bathroom supplies (like extra soap, shampoo, and sanitary supplies which I won't need for another six months), summer clothes/things the kids have outgrown, and books. We are also filling a sell/donate pile, and filling our garbage cans.

At first I was quite upset about this move. Not necessarily leaving this house--I knew it would happen someday, I just didn't expect this quickly--but the way it all happened. The yelling, the irrational threats and accusations from the landlords, etc. But on Saturday I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the Relief Society General meeting in Salt Lake, at the Conference Center. Despite throwing up three times in the car (sorry again, mom, and thanks so much for being understanding!), I loved the meeting and really really needed to do that.

President Monson talked about not judging other people. For the first, oh, thirty seconds of the talk, I thought to myself, "Ooooh, I sure hope my Landlady is listening to this!" But then, I had a humbling moment and realized that it was I who really needed to hear it. Just as I don't want to be judged unfairly, I cannot judge others. We really have no right. I don't know what is going through our landlord's minds right now. And even if it is something against us, it is not for me to hold a grudge. I decided then and there to forgive them, whether or not they ever forgive us. And that decision really lightened my mood. I was able to go to church on Sunday, see them there, and just smile. I feel no more anger, and it is so nice! I still pray someday they will forgive us, and I still pray that the best things will come from this move, and that we can follow God's will... but holding hatred or contention in my heart will only make me unhappy. After that meeting, I have been able to pack boxes much more willingly. I am seeing so many good things right now, and feeling the love of God more fully--especially manifested in the actions and kind words of others.

There isn't much else to report. We don't have a place to move to yet, but we are working on it. Right now we have two really promising options, with a wonderful third back-up option also on stand-by. To all of you who have given us suggestions, we thank you. We've taken them all to heart, and applied what we can. I'll try to keep everyone informed as we go through this process. Thanks again for your love, support, and prayers!

Holiday Prep: Side dish recipes part 2

More recipes! Again, I'd love to hear any recipes you have.

ALL these recipes make a large batch of food, enough for 10-12 adults for Thanksgiving.

Sausage-Apple Stuffing
1 large loaf bread (chewy artisan bread, like sourdough, ciabatta, or french baguette) OR 1 pan cornbread
1/2 pound bulk sausage
1 large apple (Macintosh, Gala, or Granny Smith), cored and chopped
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, washed well and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 TBSP olive oil
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
6-8 cups chicken stock
1 TBSP poultry seasoning (mixture of sage, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram)

1) Cut bread into cubes and lay out on a large tray. Drizzle with 2 TBSP olive oil. Bake in oven at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until lightly toasted. Can be done in advance and frozen, if desired.
2) In a skillet, cook the sausage. Stir frequently to break up big chunks. Cook about 7-10 minutes, until all brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
3) Add 3 TBSP olive oil to the sausage pan and return to medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot. Cook for 5-10 minutes until soft. Add chopped apple, cook for 3-5 minutes more. Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.
4) In a large bowl, toss together toasted bread cubes, cooked sausage, cooked vegetable mixture, and butter. Add chicken stock until softened and desired consistency (different people like their stuffing softer or dryer. Add more or less stock depending on your favorite tastes.)
5) Pour stuffing into a crock-pot sprayed with cooking spray. Heat on low for 2-6 hours, or high for 1-3 hours (depending on crock-pot) until hot through and steamy. Check once or twice during heating to make sure it is not too hot or dry. Add more chicken stock if needed.

*This recipe is very adaptable. You can use your favorite bread or fillings. You can use bacon instead of sausage, or leave the meat out entirely. Try adding mushrooms, water chestnuts, peppers, or other vegetables to change the flavor. Different types of bread, like rye, wheat bread, or even leftover muffins make great stuffing. In the south, adding clams or oysters and beaten eggs is also very popular. Get creative!

Pineapple Cheese Salad
1 pkg Knox gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup whipped cream (real, 1 cup before whipping, then whip plain)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Dissolve Gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Bring pineapple and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture. Mix well and let set in refrigerator until slightly jelled--about 1 hour. Add whipped cream and grated cheese and mix well. Let set in refrigerator until set.

*We usually make a double batch of this one and keep it in a Tupperware 13x9 pan. It sets firm enough to cut into cubes and serve. If you haven't had it before, you might want to test it before Thanksgiving to make sure your family will like it.

Super Easy mixed-berry Jell-o
1 (large) box raspberry jell-o
2 cups mixed frozen berries
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 TBSP powdered sugar
1 cup (or 1 single serving cup) strawberry yogurt

Make jell-o according to package directions, but reduce cold water by 1/2 cup. Pour jell-o into a bowl or pan and sprinkle on mixed berries while still frozen. Cover with Plastic-wrap or a lid and let set in fridge for 3 hours or overnight. Just before serving, whip cream with vanilla and powdered sugar. Use electric beaters or a mixer and whip for about 5 mintues, until airy and medium peaks. Add strawberry yogurt and whip again until fairly firm. Spread over the jell-o and serve.

Still more to come!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Holiday Prep: Side Dish Recipes part 1

Here's a few side dish recipes that I love and will be using this Thanksgiving. I'm posting them now so that if you want you can test the recipe before Thanksgiving. I'll link it up in later posts so that you can easily find them later. I would still love to hear some of your recipes, though, perhaps in a post of your own on your individual blogs...? :)

One thing you'll notice about these side-dish recipes... I've tried to give you an alternative baking method to the oven. Not all of us...okay, few of us... have more than one oven. I save my oven for the turkey and the rolls on T-day, and that is it. Anything that can be heated elsewhere, I try to!

Green Bean Casserole
Green bean casserole with fried onions on top has been a staple at Thanksgiving meals for many years now. But frankly, I find it bland and greasy. Here's a new version that makes our home happy!

1 onion
2 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 (large) bag frozen green beans--about 8 servings (or 2 cans, drained)
1/2 tsp garlic
6 strips of bacon
1 large carrot
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream OR plain yogurt
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced almonds*

1) Peel, wash, and finely slice the onion into long strips, or julienne.
2) In a large skillet, add the onion, olive oil, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Put on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes: carmelizing the onion. If you hear loud hissing, or it starts getting dark fast, turn the heat down. This is a long, slow process.
3) Meanwhile, in a second skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
4) Peel the carrot and shred it on a box grater.
5) Mix together the carrot, garlic, mayonnaise, sour cream, and parmesan cheese.
6) Once the onion is caramelized to a nice golden color and is very soft, turn off heat. Mix together the onion, mayonnaise sauce mixture, crumbled crispy bacon, and the bag of frozen green beans. Pour mixture into a greased 13x9 pan and top with sliced almonds. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until heated through and bubbly; OR place in a small crock-pot, top with almonds, and cook on low for 1-2 hours until bubbly. You can mix this up a day in advance and just heat it before you eat it.

*If you don't like almonds, don't want almonds, are allergic, or just want something different, you can try these things for toppers: those standard french-fried onions (though they can get soggy over time), 10 ritz crackers, crushed and mixed with 2 tbsp melted butter, or extra parmesan cheese.

Orange-Glazed Yams
about 2-3 pounds yams (aka sweet potatoes)
about 1 cup (half a container) orange juice concentrate
1/2 stick of butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
about 1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg and ginger (optional)

1) Wash and peel yams. Slice into wedges about 3-4 inches long and 1/2 to 1" wide.
2) Put yams and all other ingredients into an electric skillet, or a large frying pan. Cover with a lid. Cook on medium-low for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to prevent burning. Cook until yams are soft (It might take longer than 30 minutes). Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes enough to serve about 10 people at Thanksgiving.

Jellied Cranberry Sauce
1 pound fresh cranberries (can be found in produce section)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 orange worth...but measure)
1/4 cup 100% cranberry juice--NOT cocktail
1 cup honey

1) Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice, and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2) Add washed cranberries (watch out for ones that are wrinkled or bad). Cook for exactly 15 minutes--set a timer--stirring occasionally, until cranberries burst and sauce begins to thicken. Don't overcook.
3) Pour into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Serve chilled.

Excellent Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup sour cream
4 oz (1/2 block) cream cheese
1 tsp garlic
salt & pepper to taste
3 green onions
1/2 cup milk, maybe more

1) Peel and cube potatoes. Place in a big pot and barely cover with cold water. Add 1 TBSP salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until potatoes yield to a fork with ease. Meanwhile...
2) slice green onions on a bias--the whole onion, both white and green. Assemble other ingredients.
3) Drain potatoes.* Let sit in the colander under a clean towel while...
4) Put empty pot back on the stovetop. Melt butter in the bottom. Add the garlic and green onions. Cook for about 30 seconds until aromatic. Add potatoes and other ingredients to the pot and mash away! You can use a hand masher or an electric beater. Add more milk if it is too thick for you. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if desired. Make it as smooth or as chunky as you prefer, but be careful not to mash too long... potatoes can get gluey if over mixed. Serve as-is or with gravy. Can be frozen and re-heated later.
*My mom and grandma always drain the potatoes into their gravy pot and use that water instead of plain water. Good way to preserve those nutrients, and have hot water for the gravy!

Stay tuned... More Recipes are on the way!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

SSS: Thank you.

Something Super Saturday

This week hasn't been an easy one. We were yelled at by our landlords and are now getting started on the moving process. Just thinking about moving at this time is daunting--I'm pregnant, we have our lives established here, and we don't know how much is going to change yet.

But we have received so much love since the mess with the landlords, it has truly been overwhelming and we are very grateful. We've had phone calls and emails and comments...we just really, really appreciate it. Thank you.

My original idea for today's post was actually freshly pressed apple cider...aaaaaaah......

Holiday Prep: Countdown--Two months

Thanksgiving is still two months away. (And, ironically, Christmas is three months away...) This makes me sigh in relief, and also smile in anticipation. Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday... well, I shouldn't say favorite, more like tied for favorite with nearly every holiday... I am already getting excited for it. And how does that excitement translate for me? Into preparation!

Here's my task for the next month for Thanksgiving:
-Make the final plans for Thanksgiving. Where will we be? Are we guests or hosts? Do I need to buy airline tickets or make hotel reservations? Do we need to request time off of work? Do I need to pull the kids out of school? Do I need to find substitutes for church or any other obligations I might have?
-Decide what recipes I am going to make. If I'm traveling and someone else is in charge of the bulk of the menu, this might be a very easy task. If I'm in charge, this might take longer. Either way, I need to choose what I'm making and what I'm not. I usually go with mostly family favorite recipes (Like my great-grandma's recipe for orange glazed yams, Alton Brown's brined turkey, my mom's rhubarb pie, my personal recipe for apple pie, dad's family's favorite pineapple cheese salad, and Nan's Yummy-Nummy rolls) but I always add at least one or two new things just to keep life interesting. Maybe stuffed mushrooms for an early appetizer? What about Rachael Ray's pumpkin-muffin stuffing? Don't get rid of those recipes that you take a bite of and say, "Yes. It is officially Thanksgiving." But having something new can really be the talk of the table.
-Once I've made the decision, I might want to test the recipe if it is new. Now is a good time to test--here in September and early October, which will give your family a few months to forget you ever made it before Thanksgiving comes. If you test that sweet potato souffle the day before Thanksgiving, there's no way you'll want to make it again the day of!
-If there is ANYTHING you can make in advance, make a note to do it. Another thing that will really help the day of is to use cooking devices other than the oven. We do our yams in an electric skillet. Stuffing goes in the crock-pot (No, NOT in the turkey! NEVER in the turkey! That's just food poisoning waiting to happen!... more on that later...). We always make our pies at least one day in advance. Mashed potatoes can be frozen weeks in advance and then warmed in the microwave, if that's not a travesty. All these little things help add up to less time waiting for the oven to be done. In the end, we typically only need to use the oven for the turkey, and then while the turkey rests, the rolls can go in, and then we eat.
-Think about buying a really good meat thermometer, whether probe-style or instant read, this will be the #1 thing to insure the perfect Turkey. Just giving you guys a heads-up. I would NOT make a turkey without one. NO, the little white-and-red pop-up doo-dads that are stuck in a turkey breast and they claim are thermometers do NOT work. More on this in my amazing turkey how-to.
-Make sure you have the other necessary equipment. If you need to borrow an extra table or chairs, get that in line now. Think through it all: beds, bedding, cooking equipment, dishes, etc. I'm not suggesting to go buy a bunch of expensive new china and a dining room set--but if you think about it now, you have a chance to borrow from friends or find the resources available to you.

As with all my holiday prep posts, I hope you take from it what you want and discard the rest. These posts are mostly for me, and because they make me happy to write up.

If you would like any of the recipes I mentioned above, hang on. I will be posting my personal favorites in a few days. If you have a specific request, you can comment now or when you see what recipes I put up. There will also be special demonstrations on the brined turkey and pie crust. (And gravy, if I can talk my mom into it...because I am really bad at gravy...)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Holiday Prep: Pie Crust Demonstration

Ready for this? How to make the perfect pie crust from scratch.

Recipe for a 2 crust pie crust:
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
4-5 TBSP water

Measure out the ingredients. In my bowl I have the flour and salt. You'll want your bowl to have a secure fitting lid. You'll see why soon. If you have the time, refrigerate your ingredients for half an hour or so before starting. It helps--trust me.

Using the pastry blender, cut the shortening into the flour until it is all crumbly. Like this.

Pour the water over, starting with 4 TBSP first. Notice my ice cube? Cold ingredients help the pie crust stay flaky. So I chill my flour and shortening and use ice water.
Put the lid on the bowl and shake the mixture to combine. Shaking causes less agitation to the flour, which means less development of the gluten in the flour, which means a nice flaky crust instead of a tough chewy one. Pretty smart, huh! If you mix it with a fork or knead it by hand, it will almost always be too tough.
Check to see if it is the right consistency. You should be able to take a piece in your hand, press it together, and have it stay. If it is too dry, add the last tablespoon of water and shake again. I usually have to use all 5 tbsp, or sometimes even 6. Why? Because I live in a very dry place! If it is humid, it really will make a difference. So check.
Once it's all ready, press it together into a disc and put the lid on. Refrigerate for an hour or so, or even overnight. This can even be frozen here. The refrigeration time will allow the flour to really absorb the water and the shortening to firm up--again, creating a flaky, tender crust.
Now its time to roll! Get out the wax paper, rolling pin, pie pans, a butter knife, and flour. Cut off 2 pieces of wax paper about 2 feet long each. Sprinkle one with flour.
Place a single pie-crust amount (remember, this recipe makes 2 crusts, so you have to cut your disc in half after you refrigerated it) in the center of the wax paper and dust the top with flour. Cover with the other wax paper and begin rolling out. Move the pie crust, not your rolling pin: go straight forward and backward, using even pressure. Turn it quarter turns between each roll. This way it will stay in roughly a circle shape instead of going amorphous blob on you.
Keep on rolling!
Check to see if the size is right by comparing to your pan. You need about a two inch leeway on all sides so that it will rest in the pan easily and still have edge crimping room.
Remove the top wax paper, then put it back on. (makes it easier to remove later... you'll thank me.) Flip and remove the other wax paper. Then put it in the pie pan, as this video demonstrates:

For top crusts, roll out just the same. Fill your bottom crust with your filling (peach shown here), then place the top crust on just as I did before.
Then trim all the sides of the pie down using the knife, until about 1" of both the top and the bottom hangs over the sides.
All trimmed down!
Tuck the edges under the sides of the pie pan as shown.
Gently crimp edges together in your favorite pattern (fork, pinched, twisted, whatever your grandma taught you or whatever you can manage).

For a lattice-top pie, roll out the top crust just like before. But instead of putting it straight on the pie, cut it into long strips. The more strips, the more weaving you have.
Put half the strips on in one direction.
alternate folding half the first strips back and placing on a new strip. You're going over and under in a weaving pattern.
Done! Then just cut the edges back, fold under, and crimp just as a solid-top pie. It is a teensy bit trickier this way, but very beautiful.
Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash: 1 egg mixed thoroughly with 1 TBSP of water. This will help get that beautiful golden brown shine. I also like to sprinkle mine with sugar. Prick, or "dock" the tops of non-lattice pies with a sharp knife to release steam.

Pies are now ready for the oven! Bake on a tray to catch leakage--and there probably will be a little leakage. You may want to wrap the edges of the crust with foil for part or all of the baking time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pregnancy update: 15 weeks

Today I am fifteen weeks along. When I think that, I think two things after: firstly, WOW! Fifteen weeks! This is just cruising by! then, Oh man. Fifteen weeks. This pregnancy is dragging along... (Classic indecisive and irrational pregnancy brain.)

The nausea is sticking around longer than I wanted it to. I haven't been as pukey this time, but I often can't eat more than a few bites. Some days all I can manage is a smoothie.

I feel like I poked out last night. I was sitting and watching TV when I suddenly got completely short of breath like someone was squishing my tummy. I had lean back to give my belly more room and this morning I still have stretching pains. Weird. But I guess that's how the human body is--nothing is smooth and steady. Everything is in kind of lurches... just imagine growth spurts. My kids will wear the same clothes just fine for a few months, then I'll put their pants on and they're three inches too short. The baby is doing similar things--as well as my body. Despite the little growth spurt, I still don't feel like I look very pregnant. Just fat. Well, I always feel fat... just more fat... but I sometimes wear maternity clothes because the cut of the clothes might give a hint at the little life within and not just the largeness.

I am one in a huge "wave of babies." It is exciting to be pregnant along with many of my sisters, cousins, and friends. I love the fact that we'll have cousins and second-cousins close in age! So awesome!

Lee and Annalisa love the baby. Lee understands exactly what is happening. Annalisa has no clue. But she loves babies, and mostly looks confused when we try to explain to her that there's a baby growing in mommy's tummy. Lee told his whole preschool class a week ago that "my mommy had her baby! In a long long time!" His teacher told me until the clarification, she nearly had a heart attack. :)

I've had a few really weird symptoms, of course. But for the most part, things are plugging away. I'm so happy this baby is coming in March and not in the summer. I am sick of summer pregnancies. (Yes, I know what you are all thinking... 'Lisa, you're in for a surprise... it's the pregnancy that makes you huge and hot and swollen and miserable in the last month. Not the time of year.' True. But I can hope, right?)

Fifteen weeks down! only *approximately* twenty-five more until baby #3!

A Life Update

I feel like a major downer right now. It's not who I want to be, but we all sometimes have these kinds of days. I will try to just write out the facts, not all of the gory sad details that have left us feeling pretty depressed...

I mentioned about a month ago that we have been having some troubles with our landlords. They have only gotten worse since then. We have really tried hard to make amends--making phone calls, trying to sit down and talk out the problems, apologizing in both word and in letter... and nothing. Recently, our landlady can't even talk to us without yelling and has hung up on us twice. They've accused us of a lot of very unkind and false things, and are completely unwilling to hear our side of the story or accept our apologies. While it is very difficult to hear these attacks on our character without being able to defend ourselves, we also know we have done everything in our power to fix our mistakes and be good people. It is unfortunate and very disheartening to know that our landlords, who we have always looked up to, have chosen to believe gossip and misinterpretations over going to the source and finding the truth.

Ultimately, of course, this means we are going to be moving as quickly as possible. We are filling out applications to places now and are trying to get this over with... though it will probably still take a few months to get everything arranged. I'm setting a goal to pack a box a day and deep-clean one room a week, unless things need to be set into even faster motion.

There's really not much anyone can do now. If you live around us, we'd appreciate any ideas of where we can live (we do have a few of our own, but more is welcome). Thank you for all your support. At this time, what we really need is friends--especially Cody. The worst of the accusations were leveled at him, and he does not deserve it. (Nobody deserves to be told they should be arrested and that they are a menace and a troublemaker.)

We're trying to look at this as a time for us to move on and try to make new friends and find a good place to live. This has been a good house for us, but we can't stay when this kind of circumstance is going on.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Picture Time!


My cute nephew Ben had his balloon stuck to his head. :)

Ben and Anna playing under Grandma's table

Lee inspecting the katydid that was on our porch roof. The kids thought it was so cool!

Anna coloring at her new birthday desk

And Anna cheesing it up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coming soon to a "For Kicks and Giggles" blog near you...

I've been blogging like a mad woman. I know it doesn't show yet, but believe me, it will.

At this moment I have 13--that's right, 13--"Holiday Prep" posts scheduled to post. I'm adding more often too. I'm so excited about it! Things you have to look forward to:

-Recipes GALORE! Everything from a berjillion side dish options, to pies, to leftovers, etc.
-A specific count-down of what to do at what times. The count-down will come up a few days early so that you have time to actually digest it before having to do it. For example, there's one for 1 month before Thanksgiving, 1 week before, 3 days before, etc. This is going to be my personal lifesaver, I think.
-Decorations ideas
-A wonderful how-to specifically for making the perfect, juicy, delicious turkey (we've all eaten a dry turkey. It's time turkey became the main course again!).
-Pie crust demo
-Tips on maintaining sanity and happiness and happy guests
-shopping list suggestions

That's not all! It's going to be so fun. Well, for me at least. I've been having a blast putting together all these posts. I hope you have fun looking them over and trying a few new things.

I'll still of course be putting up lots of silly posts about my darling kids, our daily activities, and just life in general. I've caught myself recently talking to people about the posts I've been working on and realize they haven't read them, because they're not posted yet... as it should be. The posts will be coming up at the right times between now and Thanksgiving, and beyond (there will even be Christmas posts). Just don't think I'm neglecting this blog. Because you'll soon find out what I've been up to!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Holiday Prep: Making a list & checking it twice

I LOOOOOVE lists. I get it from my mother. ;) It's a family trait. Lists and schedules... I'll tell you why I love them. For some people it increases the stress of an event. For me, it eliminates it, and gives me another day to have fun. I love thinking about the upcoming holidays, imagining what they'll be like, remembering the tastes, smells... the way the Christmas lights glow... And for me, all of this is aided by making a list and/or a schedule. I take a half hour or so and just think about everything that is coming up and allow myself to get really excited as I write down what I need to do to get it all done. For me, planning an event is probably more fun than doing it, and lasts a whole lot longer!

These tips actually don't come all from me, they come from this lady that came to a Relief Society meeting about "Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas." I really liked her idea. I don't do mine in a binder, though (although I should). I do mine on an Excel spreadsheet, because I never lose my laptop. I do lose everything else. :D

A few months before Christmas, start preparing your binder. This lady had a big fat binder that she had worked hard on one year with laminating and whatnot so that it would be really durable. She uses the same thing every year, just updates it. Here's the sections of the binder:
1) A calendar of AT LEAST November, December, and January. Hopefully by now the kids have brought home their curriculum from school, and you can see when the concerts are, classroom parties... also check church, extracurricular activities, work schedules, etc. to make sure you can plan in all those parties and things you are "obligated" to attend. Write them all in the calendar. If you can see right now that something is going to overlap, make the decision NOW on what is more important, or how you're going to attend it, and write it in. (I am still somewhat miffed about that time in seventh grade that my parents went to my brother's concert instead of mine, and whoever was in charge of the video camera mixed up the on and off and ended up recording a bunch of clapping and none of my songs...) Then tell whatever needs to be cut, that it's cut. Also make sure you write in if you're going to be traveling, or if someone is coming to visit. If so, add a day for packing or a day for prepping the house... whatever you need.

Next, you plan in a couple of project days. A day for cooking holiday goodies. Schedule at least one day for shopping. Finally, and most importantly, pick a day a week for just family quiet time. Whatever is relaxing for you, schedule it in! Two really important things for me are my family's new tradition of looking at Christmas lights, complete with a store-bought package of cookies that has a note attached: "You're our family's pick for Best Christmas Light Display in town!" (to be chosen by the kids and delivered anonymously... so fun...)... AND a temple trip. Whatever traditions are important to you, make sure you put them in, and take some time just to have a quiet evening in December. Trust me, you will be so glad you did. Those quiet nights can do wonders to rejuvenate and de-stress!

2) Gift list. Who do you need to give to? Who do you want to give to? What are you giving? Are there homemade gifts you want to do? Deciding this early will help get your early projects underway and also eliminate those things that are not important. My #1 problem with this list is that I ALWAYS lose my mind entirely the week before Christmas and end up buying a whole bunch of unnecessary gifts. Waste of money. So plan carefully. Budget if you need to, whatever works best for you.

3) Receipt pocket. A pencil bag, zip-lock bag, or just a plain envelope works really well to keep all those shopping receipts. It is a very good idea to hold on to those, and if you keep it with your binder, you'll never lose them. Plus, if your shopping list is in the binder, you can just take the binder with you to the store, check off the things you need to purchase, and then put the receipt in when you're done. Voila! Budget + organization = happy brain & wallet!

4) Decorations lists & pictures, if desired. The lady who told me about this wondrous binder had pictures of all her decorations in the places they went. She said once she decorated a place the way she really really liked it, she took a picture. She would also store the items according to location, not type. (The mantlepiece decor...outside lights...Christmas Tree... etc.) Then she would keep a picture in her binder as well as the box of decorations. She could hand the picture and the box to a husband or a kid and they can do it themselves (assuming they're old enough), and it comes out just the way she likes it. SO Smart!

5) Christmas card list. Now is a really good time of year to update addresses if you need them. Imagine how nice it would be to have an updated list ready to roll come the first week of December!

6) Recipes. I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful family cookbook that contains the majority of my favorite recipes. But nearly every year I try something new... sometimes with great success, others not so much. Having one place where you keep all your holiday recipes is awesome. You can easily add the successful recipe and pull out the failures.

I am certain there is more I am forgetting. If any of you have good ideas for what to put in such a binder, or what kind of planning you like to do before the holidays roll around, I would love to hear it! These "Holiday Prep" posts are to help ME remember everything I need to do, and hopefully help someone else too. They're not to be stressful, just fun. So let's share the wealth of all our combined knowledge! I'd love to hear your tips.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

SSS: The Turkey in the Fridge

Something Super Saturday

Right now there is a turkey thawing in my fridge. I hope it is completely thawed now, so that tonight I can brine it, so tomorrow we can smoke it and have it for dinner.

I am using this turkey to document an epic (and most certainly Oscar-winning-worthy) Turkey-How-To, which will make its premier sometime in November, as part of my "Holiday Prep" series.

I ADORE smoked turkey. I also have had this particular turkey in my freezer since shortly after I got the freezer. (about seven months) I love the freezer! I love getting things at a good price and preserving it for later when a turkey roast is two-fifty a pound at the store, and you can't even buy a whole turkey! I love having my husband help make dinner--and he is always in charge of the smoker! I love making delicious food! I love sharing said delicious food with happy guests! Everything this little turkey symbolizes makes me happy. And it is definitely Super.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marshmallow experiment

There's a famous child psychology experiment out there. A child is left in a room. (monitored, but alone.) They are given a single marshmallow, and told that if they wait five minutes before eating it, they can have two. Some kids eat the marshmallow anyway. Some wait the five minutes and are given two.

Several years ago this experiment was done. Those children were followed over the course of their lives into adulthood. The kids who had the discipline to wait five minutes typically had higher grades in school, fewer behavioral problems, and higher salaries as adults.

Cody just tried the experiment with Lee just for fun.

It was fun to watch Lee think about it, touch and even lick the marshmallow, but he put it back on the counter and sat on the couch and started asking "has it been five minutes yet?" But in the end, he got his two marshmallows!

I must be my father's daughter. I just love trying psychological tests on my kids. ;)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Living for someone

I hope what I'm about to say doesn't sound blasphemous or preachy. I just had a moment of pondering during my dinner preparations tonight and wanted to write it down.

It's a heroic statement to say "I'd die for you." But today while making dinner while holding back a stomach full of unhappiness while singing songs to Anna to keep her happy and running downstairs to tell Cody I love him and helping Lee find a fun activity to work on... something just came to me. It's much, much harder to live for someone than to die for them.

Dying just takes a solitary moment of bravery. But donating your life to someone else takes bravery every moment for eternity. I am so glad I am a mother. I'm glad I have a mother who donated her life to me. I realize now what that sacrifice really means: it means no more "me." And I mean no more. Everything I once was--my goals to be a world-famous author or Broadway star, any hope of a career, some days even just a quiet, hot shower... all of me is now devoted to my children. I know they're worth it.

But my ultimate realization is that I am incredibly grateful for my Savior who not only died for me, but lived for me too. He left a perfect example of love, and a whole (huge) book full of careful instruction for life. And after his mortal mission was completed, he began his immortal mission which continues now and through eternity. How beautiful! How selfless! How divine!

Being a devoted parent is the closest thing to Godhood one can achieve in this life. For a moment, we can step back and watch ourselves get completely lost in the development of others. After all, isn't that who God is? Our perfect, kind, merciful, and wonderful Heavenly Father.

Halloween Hairbows

I was having way too much fun the other day. It all started with looking up how to make different kinds of bug-style hairbows, since Cody had mentioned he liked the bugs best. Then I found a website that had pictures (and patterns for $5, but the picture is perfectly sufficient for me and free) of a whole bunch of super cute hairbows, including holiday ones. I couldn't wait to try some, and since I had black ribbon, these were the first ones.

I'm also planning pumpkins and turkeys, as soon as I can get ribbon shopping again. :D oh how I love making little girly hairbows!

One cute thing about when I was making these spiders--Anna found the red pom-poms that I put inside the 'bums' of the spiders to give just a hint of red and make it super-cutsy. She would grab the pom-poms and run around the house yelling "Christmas! Yay Christmas!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Announcing: Holiday Prep

I really wanted to do this last year but ended up not. So this year nothing is going to stop me!

I am going to start posting my personal advice for lower-stress (I could never promise "stress-free") holiday preparations.

I have to admit, Aubri, you are the one who truly inspired me to do this. Your stories a few years ago as you cooked your first Thanksgiving dinner made me smile and realize that the first time (or the fiftieth time) you prepare for the big holiday events can be very daunting! I'm going to go step-by-step through the whole holiday prep--mostly Thanksgiving, since this will be primarily focused on the foods--with recipes, shopping tips, and instructions on how to get the meal done on time, tasting fabulous (yes, even the yams) and with hopefully a little less stress than normal.

The first key for a low-stress holiday is in early preparation. I know that today is September 13. And you'd better believe that the holidays are already on my mind. If there are projects I want to make for gifts or decorations, I'd better be starting now. Working at Wal-Mart at the very end of December, you would not believe the hordes of people who would purchase yards and yards of fabric the week before Christmas, saying that they were going to make someone a quilt for Christmas, or pajamas for all their twenty grandchildren, etc. C'mon, are we all crazy? If you start your projects now and pretend like Christmas truly is two weeks away, you can get those projects done perhaps even before November starts. And you'll be SO glad you did! Imagine not having those late-night project sessions through December, when you're already booked to the gills with holiday parties, concerts, shopping, and other events? Besides, if you start now, you have some time to collect a few coupons, watch for sales, and get good deals on supplies you might need. That can really save you money--not to mention spreading out your spending over three months so that you don't have to fork it all out in December.

So my tasks for this week and the next few: come up with a very loose shopping list/general idea for what I want to give to my family members and friends. If it is something I can make, I'm going to get started on it. A really good idea for friend gifts is something preserved, like a jar of jelly or pickle relish (I had HUGE success with dill relish a few years ago... green and red and beautiful, and different). And when is the perfect time to make pickle relish or jelly or little jars of soup mix or whatever you want to give away? Right. NOW.

Another task is to start watching for sales and coupons and things for non-perishable holiday staples: canned pumpkin, flour, sugar, shortening, salt, *boxed/bagged stuffing mix, chocolate, chicken/vegetable stock, etc. Stock up if you can. Yes, some of these things will come on sale right before the holiday. But certain items, like onions, celery, peppers, carrots are available now and are perhaps even cheaper now. But Lisa, green peppers won't keep until Thanksgiving! Aha... the freezer! Buy them now in bulk. Wash and chop. Bag into individual baggies, mark, and freeze. Come Thanksgiving day, you can cut your prep time WAAAY back if you already have frozen peppers, onions, celery, and carrots ready to just open, sprinkle in, and go. I tend to use about four pounds of onions in the week of Thanksgiving (yes, really, probably more). I put them in my gravy, in the brine for the turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole or other vegetables, and on and on. Having a bunch of prepped onions sure sounds nice to me!

*About pre-packaged items like boxed stuffing mix, gravy packets, and canned cranberry sauce... These things are convenient. You need to decide what is the most important to make from scratch, and what isn't. If you've never made homemade stuffing before, maybe going with a trustworthy box is better. But you can give yourself an edge on stuffing right now if you have the freezer space: within the next month or so, make a large pan of cornbread. Whatever you have leftover, cut into cubes and freeze in a zip-lock bag. Nothing is better than cornbread stuffing! You can also freeze cubes of other bread, whether it be store-bought or homemade. Rather than tossing out bread ends, keep them in a bag in the freezer. You can use them to either make stuffing or breadcrumbs--both of which are nice to have around at the holiday time.

AND last of all... For you, Aubri, who inspired me to go through all this, and yet now you're eating vegan... Well, it will not be a vegan Thanksgiving for me. :D But you'd be surprised how you can slightly modify recipes, substituting olive oil or vegetable oil for butter, vegetable stock for chicken stock, etc. Nobody, not even you Aubri, should feel the slightest bit obligated to listen to any of my advice. But I do hope I inspire someone out there in the blogworld cosmos--simply because it is fun! I love the Holiday season. It is the most wonderful time of the year. But it can also be one of the most frustrating and difficult times of the year. I really find for me that good preparation helps so much. So take what tips you like, leave the rest, and have a wonderful Holiday season!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Anna is 2

More pictures from a mega fun day!

SSS: Annalisa, of course!

Something Super Saturday!

Today is Annalisa's birthday. She is a super kid and we love her so much. Here's some pictures from this morning:

I'll probably post more later. Until then, happy Saturday!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hairbows for Anna's Birthday

Shh! Don't tell Annalisa these are for her tomorrow!

I tried little sunflowers--they're plastic flowers, so they were SUPER fast and easy to put together--just take off the stems and glue on the clip.

The black & white dragonflies were a little more labor intensive, but I love the way they turned out. I used white organza ribbon for the inside wing to look light and airy, and the body is made out of black velvet ribbon. Cody loves the bugs the best, so although I had once planned on just doing bows, he talked me into (not hard to do) more dragonflies.

I also purchased a beautiful pink printed ribbon and worked on making them into butterflies last night. For some reason, they just weren't clicking. I think I couldn't get the wings shaped right, but it could have been the print on the ribbon... who knows? If I get time tonight, between making homemade doughnut dough, cleaning the house, wrapping a few gifts, and other last-minute birthday preparations, I might attempt some more bows. If not, these two sets will be it. I can always finish more later for her.

Part of me is hoping this little babe inside me is a girl just for the hairbows. :D (I'm still guessing it's a boy though.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

No more waiting

Remember a while back when I mentioned Cody had interviewed for a job? Here's more of the story.

The job was more like a promotion within Prudential, for whom he is currently employed. It would have required a large move to Iowa. We have been waiting and stressing over it for about a month now, and at last got word.

Needless to say, we're not moving. But that doesn't mean we won't have a lot of fun here! And I'm a bit relieved we don't have to pack up and leave by the first of October. (A bit. ;) ) Now I can focus on Annalisa's birthday... in *gasp* THREE days!

Ultrasound Today

We just got back from my first ultrasound. I am just floored at the image quality and technology! Our baby is only an inch long, but we could see its little hands waving and its mouth moving as it sucked on its thumb.

Baby's heartbeat is 160. Makes me lean even more toward the it's-a-boy side. Growth is right on track--it measured 12 weeks 5 days, and my technical due-date puts me at 12 weeks 6 days. Perfect! No changing the due date this time--phew.

We have two ultrasound pictures, but since the scanner is downstairs in the office and I am mega lazy, I'm not going to put them up right now. They're kind of blurry anyway--nothing like the amazing live feed we got to see. And besides, my *30-oz of fluid the hour before you come in and NO peeing* full bladder takes up the majority of the pictures anyway. Maybe later I'll have Cody put them up.

Have a happy day!

Where is everybody?

With Lee in preschool for several hours every day, I'm getting more alone time with Anna. She likes it. She likes having some time each day without competition and with extra attention. But she also loves it when Lee comes home too! It's good balance for her. Today she practiced saying where everyone is.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Long Labor Day Weekend

We decided Thursday about noon to go to Riverton for the weekend. We'd been kinda wishy-washy about it, but when Cody arranged everything so nicely, of course we decided to go!

In half an hour, we packed up the van, locked up the house, and left. We had a very full van, taking down us, Cody's work partner Danny, and also Raychel and her two kids. We went straight to Chuck E. Cheese's for our cousin Parker's birthday party. Lee and Anna loved all the fun games, especially with their cool cousins.

We camped out in the backyard of the "Riverton House" in our tent. Cody and I told an elaborate story about a family camping with a magic pumpkin, a trip to the moon, and then to Japan to get the kids to sleep.

Friday Cody had to work, so he was gone on appointments all day. The kids and I stayed down and played with cousins all day. Lee was in heaven. We had an adventure with a crazy rooster...that is perhaps a bit too gruesome for this blog today. But it was hilarious too!

Saturday was Dad S.'s 60th birthday. We went to the park to celebrate. All of the pictures here are from that party. I didn't keep my camera out the rest of the time... duh Lisa...
This is Anna's "Sad Face." It's a work in progress. :)

Here is Gavon about an hour before he broke his leg. Poor guy! The party ended with him being taken to the hospital crying. But it was still a really fun weekend of cousins, cakes, and parties.

ALSO (you thought I was done, ha!), yesterday we went up to my Grandparent's F house for a Labor Day BBQ. It was so good to see them and hang out and play. Once again my camera remained safely stowed in my diaper bag. (I will never learn.)

It was a very big, kind of crazy, just-the-way-we-like-it weekend. Thanks, everyone!