Tag Archives: Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic Blog

OKMH – The October Box

OKMH Collage 2013

It’s that time again, kids – time for another One Kitchen Many Hearts box. Wahoo! I love mail days like OKMH, where blogging buddies send care packages to one another round-robin-style. For October, I sent a box of love to Madelyn in California and received a box from Kat in Minnesota. Here’s what Kat sent. It started with this card. So much promise in a 4×6 format.

OKMH - October 2013 - Card

As promised, there was so much to squeal over. As the postscript hints, there was a pashmina (possibly from Paris) in a lovely blue hue. So pretty. Ooo la la!

OKMH - October 2013 - Pashmina

And two bags of what can only be deemed the Rolls Royce of rice.

OKMH - October 2013 - MN Wild Rice

I already have plans that involve roasted chicken with mushrooms and grilled shrimp with lemons. Or maybe a wild rice salad with dried cranberries, oranges and nuts. So many possibilities hidden in those gorgeous ebony grains. In sharp contrast, these next goodies have no possibility of lasting. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

Caramello Bar - RIP

No mincing words here. That Caramello Bar died instantly. Thankfully, it was a quick & painless death. I made sure of that. It wasn’t pretty, but it was quick. These are lasting a little longer, but not by much.

Chocolate & Caramel Collage

Okay, confess. When you see a chocolate bar with grid lines, and that bar breaks contrary to said lines, are you compelled to ‘fix’ it by evening it up? To the point that you may eat additional squares just to make sure the bar is neatly within the lines? No? Tell the truth! It can’t just be me!

Yes, I color within the lines.

But my favorite squee-inducing gift from Kat is the vintage cookbooks (cookbooklets?) from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Seriously, they are too much fun!

OKMH - October 2013 - Vintage Cookbooks

Techniques, ingredients and product sizes may have changed over the years, but the tried & true recipes and killer artwork of yesteryear never go out of style.

40's Cookbook Art Collage

Vintage Cookbook Collage

Never has a sandwich filling been so happy to leap onto a loaf of bread.

OKMH - October 2013 - 50's Happy Sandwich

Hello 1950’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Hubba hubba! Please pass the gravy.

OKMH - October 2013 - Thanksgiving Spread

Pillsbury’s annual bake-off contests have been bringing home bakers together through blood-sport baking battles throughout the years, but I had no idea how many years. Kat’s flea market collection included these two vintage gems.

OKMH - October 2013 - Vintage 50's Baking Books

OKMH - October 2013 - Pillsbury Bake-Off Book

That’s the $25,000 winner from the second annual Pillsbury Bake-Off. From 1950. At the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Amazing. Also stellar – Mrs. G. Harold Kirk of Bar Harbor, who knows how to dress for an occasion.

OKMH - October 2013 - Dolled Up Contestant

In an age where people feel comfortable wearing their pajama pants to shop and/or board airplanes, Mrs. Kirk is a breath of fresh air. She is, without a doubt, even more fabulous than her prize-winning crabmeat cobbler.

I was super excited to find this recipe for Raisin Cream Pie, since it reminded me of the Sour Cream Raisin Pies of my youth, and then this recipe card fell out of the booklet and I got a bonus recipe for Baked Beans. Like a gift from heaven.

OKMH - October 2013 - Bonus Baked Beans Recipe

The best indication a recipe was loved is the stains all over it. This one was obviously a favorite. Most touching for me, was this wee booklet that still had the mailing label attached. It was a simple shortening recipe booklet from Swift & Co. addressed to Mrs. Robert Fleischehhacker of Fort Ripley, MN.

OKMH - October 2013 - Vintage Mailing Label

Did you catch that? Two pennies for postage? No way! Most notable was her address – Route #2 with no zip code. These, my friends, were simpler times. When people knew their neighbors, shared their tables and crafted meals not only from scratch, but with a great deal of love. And just like the recipe booklets, this box from Kat is meant to be shared. I may make a dish soon to share on the blog. And I’m thinking of baking a wild rice casserole for our extended family at Thanksgiving. But I probably won’t share the chocolate.

And just when you thought I was getting sentimental.

OKMH - October 2013 - 40's Cookbook Art1

To see what everyone else shipped & received this month, visit:

Mads @ La Petite Pancake – recipient of my box
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – who sent this box to me
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic
Megan @ Wanna Be A Country Cleaver
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World

Advertisements

16 Comments

Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

One Kitchen Many Hearts: August

OKMH Collage 2013

It’s that time again – time for another OKMH box exchange! I love getting a box of love from my blogging buddies almost as much as I love sending them. This month, my box came from Megan of Country Cleaver fame. Megan hails from the Seattle area and mark my words – she will be a famous foodie soon. She’s destined for greatness and a spot on the Food Network. And I’m going to be a founding member of her fan club. Perhaps even Vice President.

Our theme this month was “Pimp My Desk” or “Office Essentials” or “Back to School” – whichever you think is less offensive. Here’s what Megan sent:

Photo5

This sweet little bookmark is adorable and Megan’s timing was perfect. I literally just set a new paperback out to read when her box arrived. It was immediately put to use in my copy of ‘The Winter Garden’ by Kristin Hannah. Ever read her stuff? This one tells the story of two sisters who grew up with an adoring father and a ridiculously frigid mother. Without giving too much away, the girls learn more about their mother through the Russian fairytales she shares from her youth. It’s a good story, but overall I think I preferred her other novel ‘Firefly Lane’. If you’ve read any of her other books and have recommendations, please share!

Collage3

What better accompaniment to a good book and a lazy Saturday than a cup of tea and some sea salt caramels? Again, perfect timing. The caramels died as soon as the box was opened (yes, all 3 of them). The tea lasted longer, but only because it wasn’t rolled in caramel and dipped in chocolate. So stinkin’ good!

Next up was a spa treatment box filled with lip balm, hand salve and a soap truffle. See my previous comment to know why Megan slapped a post-it note on it that read “Soap Truffle – DO NOT EAT!” She knows me well.

Collage2

She knows me so well, she fostered my obsession with Seattle’s Beecher’s Cheese by sending me a bag of their crackers. Beecher’s is always the first place I hit when we go to Seattle and walk through Pike Place Market. I love that place. If it were possible to die from the over-consumption of fresh squeaky cheese curds, I’d be the first to do it. I could eat them by the tub. Oh wait, I totally HAVE eaten them by the tub. I’m not called ‘The Cheesel’ (like weasel) for nothing, folks.

Collage1

These little pupper magnets have to be the most adorable things ever. There’s actually a Boston Terrier magnet in honor of our beloved Ziggy who passed away in March and a pug to represent our sweet friend Miss Josie Pugglesworth of the Long Beach Pugglesworths. If the magnets didn’t having me smiling ear to ear, the pens certainly did. They’re anti-theft pens for your desk. Why anti-theft? Just read them. Springfield Sexual Addiction Center? Hilarious!

I loved everything in my box, but I’ll cherish this card from Megan most.

Collage4jpg

The post-it notes explained each gift, but that sweet card and the love behind it are the real treasure. Our Story: Seven friends meet on the internet via their blogs and become real-life friends forever. And that is the greatest gift of all.

Want to see more? Check out what I sent to Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic by clicking HERE. From there, you can click from blog to blog & follow the fun.

13 Comments

Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Things I Love

Caramel Week: Chocolate Alfajores

Chocolate Alfajores for Caramel Week - Inside NanaBread's Head

Definition: Alfajores (Al-fa-ho-res) are a South American type of shortbread sandwich cookie that are filled with dulce de leche (caramel filling). These delicious cookies can trace their origin back to the Moorish occupation of Andalusia, Spain and the great culinary traditions of the Mediterranean Basin.

Caramel Week Logo

To celebrate Caramel Week, I tried a new twist on a traditional favorite – a chocolate version filled with homemade salted vanilla bean caramel, both in the traditional scalloped round shape and a less traditional square.

Chocolate Alfajores Close-Up - Inside NanaBread's Head

Chocolate Alfajores: The Cookie Dough (makes 3-4 dozen)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
Dulce de leche caramel (recipe below or store-bought)
powdered sugar & cocoa for dusting

Cream the butter & sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition, then beat in vanilla bean paste or extract until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cocoa; sift to remove all lumps. Turning the mixer to low speed, gradually add the flour and beat until it just starts to come together; turn the mixer to medium and beat 10-15 seconds. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough into a smooth ball; pat into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or until firm.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats and set aside. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, making sure the dough doesn’t stick to the counter or board. Using a 2″ cookie cutter (round & fluted is traditional), cut out the cookies and carefully transfer them to the baking sheets, about 1″ apart.

Place the cookie sheets into the freezer and allow the dough to chill for 15-20 minutes, or until very firm. Once firm, pop them into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

You can save time by buying a jar of dulce de leche caramel (Trader Joe’s has a great one) but if you want to tackle it from scratch, here’s mine.

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel: (makes approximately 2 1/2 cups)

2 cans ( ozs. each) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy whipping cream, as needed
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a large heavy bottom saucepan, heat the sweetened condensed milk until it comes to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until it turns a golden tan color. If the mixture starts to thicken, add heavy cream 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to cook until the caramel turns a light brown shade, adding cream to thin it out some as needed. The finished caramel should coat a spoon thickly, but still pour from the spoon easily. When it reaches that stage, remove it from the heat and add whisk in the vanilla bean paste and sea salt. Allow the caramel to cool completely before using.

To Assemble the Alfajores:

Lay the cooled cookies out in rows so you can work quickly. I like to place one row ‘bottoms up’ and the next ‘face up’ so I can keep my pairs matched. Scrape the caramel mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and twist it until the caramel is compressed into the bottom of the bag. Pipe a generous layer of caramel onto the bottom side of half of the cookies. Using the remaining cookies, put a lid on each alfajor and gently press to make sure it’s seated. Once all cookies are filled, dust them lightly with powdered sugar or, as I did, a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Then try not to eat them all at once.

Chocolate Alfajores by Inside NanaBread's Head

If alfajores have piqued your interest, please drop by my friend Kirsten’s blog at Comfortably Domestic. She baked up a batch using her favorite shortbread recipe and a deep, dark caramel that will make your mouth water. Pinky swear.

Recipe Source: The caramel shown is my own recipe. The alfajor cookie dough was adapted slightly from Vianney Rodriguez at Sweetlifebake.com, who used the recipe from The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando. If you’d like to see Vianney’s traditional vanilla alfajor dough, CLICK HERE.

Chocolate Alfajores with Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel - Inside NanaBread's Head

For more Caramel Week goodies, visit our other Theme Weavers:

MONDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Crock Pot Dulce de Leche Caramel

Madelyn at La Petite Pancake – Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

Rebeka at Kvetchin Kitchen – Caramel Apple Pie

TUESDAY:
Allison at Decadent Philistines – Salted Caramel Pork Loin with Shaved Brussel Sprout & Apple Salad

Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – Chewy Milk Dud Brownies

WEDNESDAY:
Jeanne at Inside NanaBread’s Head – Chocolate Alfajor Cookies (that’s me!)

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Vanilla Alfajor Cookies

Haley at The Girly Girl Cooks – Almost Famous Fairground Caramel Sauce

Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – Dulce de Leche Milkshakes

THURSDAY:
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – Caramel Popcorn Crunch Sundae

Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Red Wine Caramel Sauce

Christina at Buffy and George – Butterscotch Pudding

FRIDAY:
Megan at Country Cleaver – Pear & Caramel Mini-Cheesecakes

Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – Caramel Cake

SATURDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – DIY Dulce de Leche Caramel Coffee Creamer

Katie at The Hill Country Cook – Salted Caramel Pie

Caramel Week Logo

21 Comments

Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

OKMH: The Secret Santa Project

The OKMH Gang (clockwise from top left) - Mads, Kirsten, Megan, Kat, Allison & me

The OKMH Gang (clockwise from top left) – Mads, Kirsten, Megan, Kat, Allison & me

As 2012 draws to a close (that seems so unreal) so does our first year of One Kitchen Many Hearts boxes. This little ‘boxes of love’ project has been one of the greatest joys of the year for me. Not necessarily for what I received, but for how much fun I had hand-picking items to send to each beloved friend. I anxiously waited, every other month, to see how those gifts would be received. And when a box of love was a success, it made the whole world seem brighter.

For December, our final exchange of 2012, we decided to draw names Secret Santa style and surprise each other. No teasers. No hints. No “wait until you see what I’m sending you” tweets. Until that box showed up on each porch, there would be no clue as to who was sending to whom. My Secret Santa was Kirsten (my twin separated at birth) from Comfortably Domestic in Michigan. And true to her ‘kindred spirit’ form, she totally nailed it.

Perfect theme. Perfect choices. And SO…. MUCH…. LOOT!

OKMH Dec - A Sleigh full of Gifts

Check out this card. Clearly, she’s on board with my exercise regime.

OKMH Dec - Front of Card

OKMH Dec - Inside the Card

Yup. She gets me. She knows that I pine (whine) over her glorious abundance of snow while we languish in shorts and sip iced drinks well into January. I covet her snow. So she sent me a Winter Wonderland in a box, and it was perfect. Perfect timing, perfect selections… just perfect in every way.

My first squeal came when I discovered the tub of Mayan Hot Cocoa Mix. She posted this recipe on her blog and I swooned, but then she sent me some! AND she even sent a fabulous snowflake mug and a tub of miniature freeze-dried marshmallows. How fun is that? They’re so tiny & cute!

OKMH Dec - Cocoa Marshmallow & A Cup

So of course I immediately made a cup so I could enjoy it while I unpacked the rest of the box. Evidently, I am all about instant gratification when it comes to hot cocoa. Kirsten’s is even more decadent because it has a hint of cayenne pepper in it. Not enough so that you taste it, but just enough that you feel a slight burn in the back of your throat. I love that sweet little burn.

OKMH Dec - First Cup of Cocoa

SO. GOOD. If that wasn’t enough, she included these cute ‘cup’ cookie cutters.

OKMH Dec - Cup Cookie Cutters

I haven’t made cookies with them yet, but I’m going to. Soon. Until I get around to it, here’s a suggestion of how they would work. Just imagine it’s a chocolate almond shortbread cookie. Or a cranberry orange sugar cookie.

OKMH Dec - Cup Cookie Cutter

Get a load of the Winter Wonderland goodies she sourced for this baking kit:

OKMH Dec - Holiday Baking Bonanza

It’s a virtual baking blizzard up in here! That snowflake spatula is sturdy, man! Even the stiffest cookie or bread doughs will be conquered with that beast. I love it! And a girl can never, ever have too many cupcake wrappers. There’s just no such thing as ‘enough’ cupcake wrappers.

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Baking Cups

And there were sprinkles. Snowflake Sprinkles, y’all!

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Sprinkles

This snowflake cookie cutter is sturdy, too. This ain’t no flimsy aluminum cookie cutter, my friends. This cutter says ‘I could do this all day.’ It laughs at flimsy cookie cutters. At nearly 4″ across, if this made actual snowflakes, they could kill on impact. Can you just imagine giant buttery snowflakes falling from the sky? I can, and I’m catching them in my mug of hot cocoa.

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Cutter & Spatula

One cookie, and you’d be stuffed to the gills. I would pretend to be a dainty eater. You’d be all like, “Can I offer you another holiday treat?” And I’d be all like, “No thanks; I just ate a snowflake. I couldn’t eat another bite!”

But I saved the best baking surprise for last. It’s this little unassuming bottle:

OKMH Dec - Nectar of the Gods

It’s unicorn tears. I’m just kidding. It’s actually fiori di sicilia and it’s a baker’s secret weapon. A blend of citrus & vanilla, it brightens everything from ice cream to cookies to bread dough. I cannot WAIT to crack that puppy open! I just have to find the perfect recipe. Something truly worthy. Suggestions?

Also included in the box – two sweet winter-themed hand towels (who doesn’t love a penguin, seriously) and a snowflake ornament. Ah-door-ah-bull.

OKMH Dec - Cute Ornament & Towels

But wait, there’s more! No OKMH box is complete without something girlie and Kirsten went for mani/pedi fun. As a south coaster, Kirsten knows I’m a slave to humidity. When winter comes and the heaters click on, I begin to shrivel like a lizard. There’s nothing pretty about it, either. So for my dry lizard skin, there is Carmex healing cream. As soon as I put it on, my skin said, “Ahhhhhhhhh.” And there was polish! I love these two sparkly, frosty colors together. So pretty!

OKMH Dec - Hand Care

And for those days when sweet & frosty won’t cut it, she included this wild OPI set as a tribute to my Day of the Dead Mask post from October. So much fun, and they even came with little DOTD stickers for your nails, too!

OKMH Dec - DOTD Nail Polish

These are going in my Tub-O-Polish for girlie nail painting parties like Hoegarden. Or when I want to spice up my toes (even though no one will see them this winter). It’s like wearing racy underwear under a boring business suit. Hypothetically speaking, of course. {giggling}

Always a mom at heart, she included these reuseable snack bags for the grandkids – Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug. They’re going to love them. I’ve already stuffed them with snacks and juice boxes. No kidding.

OKMH Dec - Reusable Snack Bags

I love that these are washable, and the kids are going to love the cute prints. Lilly Bug is all girl with a pink fetish and Jonah Bear is all about the super heroes. Thanks for thinking of them, Kirsten. So thoughtful.

But I saved my very favorite surprise for last.

Did I mention Kirsten is a knitter? I wish I knew how to knit. We made a deal recently. She’ll teach me to knit if I’ll teach her to sew. We just need a few weeks together. That’s all. Or maybe a month. A month would be much better.

Lucky for me, Kirsten is a gifted knitter and she made something special just for me in the most beautiful shade of blue. Seriously, I died.

OKMH Dec - Hand-Knitted Gloves

Fingerless Victorian-inspired gloves. Fingerless because she knows it never gets cold enough down here to wear a heavy coat. Victorian because we share a love of antiques. Some day we will wear gloves and sip chai tea together as we browse antique shops. It’s a dream of ours, and one I’m determined WILL come true. Some day. Until then, check out the details on these beauties:

OKMH Dec - Glove Details

Not just ruffles, but ruffles with contrasting trim in black. And those buttons. They kill me. I don’t know how she did it. Well, actually there’s a story behind the gloves. If you look at the photo of the inside of the card again, you’ll see that little note on the top left corner about a funny story. It turns out that Kirsten crafted these gloves while they were traveling by car for Thanksgiving. She was so excited to get them done on the drive, she showed them to her husband, who commented “Did you mean to knit two left-handed gloves?” To her surprise, she’d accidentally made two lefts. She had to rip one apart and re-knit it into a right handed glove. She calls that a funny story. I would have cried.

OKMH Dec - gloves & a heart

Those gloves are a symbol of how nothing gets in the way of our devotion to make each box as perfect as possible. I can’t speak for all the ladies, but I believe the preparation and care and love that goes into crafting each OKMH box is the best part of this project. Well, that and hearing how much each box meant to those who received them. And although 2012 is almost behind us, I have a feeling One Kitchen Many Hearts will continue for years to come.

I’m sending a big bear hug to Kirsten, along with a very special thanks for my Winter Wonderland extravaganza. I could not imagine a better holiday surprise. As Kirsten so eloquently puts it, I love these ladies more than cake. And if you’d like to see what everyone else received, drop in on them at the links below. In case you’re curious, I sent my Secret Santa box to Mads. {squee!}

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic

Megan at Country Cleaver

Kat at Tenaciously Yours

Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World

Mads at La Petite Pancake

10 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

It’s 85F in Houston this week. Must be time to break out the flip-flops!

It’s always warm in deep south Texas, which explains why we are a flip-flop culture. All across the ‘Southern Coast’ casual flip-flops are our footwear of choice, especially in the summer when temperatures top 100 degrees. I can’t speak for everyone, but my clan likes them cute and cheap. If we can score a nifty pair for under $15, we’re as happy as clams. It also helps us justify having a closet FULL of them. I’m not joking when I confess that I usually have at least a dozen pair of flip-flops in various closets at any given time. I have them stacked in my bedroom closet. I keep them in the coat closet downstairs so I can throw them on for a trip to the grocery store. I stash a pair in the little niche in my kitchen so I can run out and grab the mail each afternoon. And it’s not just me. Most of my friends and family collect them the same way we collect nail polish, sunglasses and souvenir t-shirts.

Imagine my surprise when I received a pair of flip-flops from my dear friend Kirsten from Michigan. Her BFF Jennifer started a company making flip-flops from recycled blue jeans and she convinced her to send me a pair. How cool is that? As much as I love the shoes, I also love the story behind them. Jeans Gone Green creates unique flip-flops made from blue jeans that go unsold at thrift and resale shops. After the unwanted jeans are collected, they’re turned over to Grand Traverse Industries in Traverse City, Michigan, who in turn provides jobs for those with special needs or limited job opportunities. Their employees cut and prepare the denim for a team of artisans and seamstresses who design and create one-of-a-kind footwear. And we’re not talking about plain cheapo flip-flops, folks. We’re talking high-end footwear embellished with Swarovski crystals. No kidding. These are not my run-of-the-mill sporting goods store flip-flops. These are by far the swankiest flip-flops I’ve ever possessed.

Another nice touch is the packaging. No clunky cardboard shoe boxes here! Jeans Gone Green packages their footwear in handmade denim bags made from portions of the jeans not used in their shoes. The long, narrow shape makes the bags a perfect size for reusing as wine bottle totes, a e-reader bag, or a beach bag for a rolled towel, a tube of sunscreen and a bottle of water. When they say they recycle old denim, they really mean it. I just love that.

As a bonus, the owner (Jennifer) offered to set up a discount code for readers of this blog. If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, visit the Jeans Gone Green website and use the internet promo code NANABREAD to receive a discount. This offer is only good for purchases made on their website, not in stores. And speaking of stores, the company is rapidly expanding, including into stores across Texas. Don’t forget to look for them in a boutique near you. For your convenience, they have a “Where to Buy” link on their website, but if you can’t find them in your favorite shop, ask for them! They’re partnering with new shops all the time. Here’s the scoop on the company:

Jeans Gone Green
http://jeansgonegreen.com/
Traverse City, Michigan
“Good People – Good Things”

Special thanks to my friend Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic and Jennifer of Jeans Gone Green. What a wonderful surprise, ladies. Thanks so much!

Note: This post was written of my own volition. I was not in any way solicited, compensated, or reimbursed to promote Jeans Gone Green and/or their footwear. These were simply a gift from a friend. I am sharing them with you because I loved them and thought you might, too. Furthermore, I will in NO WAY be compensated or reimbursed for any purchases made using the NANABREAD discount code. That has been offered by the owner of the company as an unsolicited gift to readers of this blog. You are in no way obligated to make a purchase. If you do, it may help to note that mine ran a little small, so you may wish to order a size larger than you normally wear.

13 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

Yup. It’s’ Thursday.

And that means Friday is just around the corner. Do you have any big plans for the weekend? Our family will be celebrating a birthday.

Happy birthday, Jonah Bear! You're five and I'm stunned.

Jonah (our grandson, if you’re a new reader) turns 5 next week. I can hardly believe it. I honestly remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. He scared the water out of us. We thought we’d have time to drive to Austin for the big day and be there to hold My Baby’s hand to see her through the birth of her first child. Instead, little Jonah Bear went into distress and an emergency c-section was performed. That drive from Houston to Austin was the longest 3 hours of my life. Don’t worry. The story has a happy ending. He ended up being fine and we got there just about the time our daughter was settled into a room. When we saw Jonah for the first time, he was pink and swollen and wearing a knit cap. He looked like a tiny boxer that lost a really long bout, and we immediately fell in love. Now he’s a healthy, happy, funny boy who absorbs every detail like a sponge. He has a heart as big as Texas and a smile that will melt your heart. He is one of our greatest joys in life (as is his spunky little sister, Lilly Bug).

Hang onto your hats! Lilly Bug is in da' house!

Be A Good Cookie Week benefiting Cookies for Kids Cancer continues! It started with Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic on Sunday night when she announced what our blogging circle of friends was up to via the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook. (Sidebar: For a great take on what we’re up to this week, click here). On Monday, she started the week with a walk on the savory side with Parmesan Cheese Bites laced with cayenne pepper. My mouth still waters just thinking about these little gems. They are on my holiday “to do” list for sure. My Toasted Coconut Shortbreads were up next (on Tuesday). I’m saving these for a cookie exchange playdate next week, and let me tell you – it has been a challenge not to dig into that tub-o-cookies in my fridge. Yesterday, Megan at Wanna Be A Country Cleaver knocked my socks off with German Chocolate Cookies. Coconut, nuts and German chocolate in a warm, gooey cookie? Yes, please! This morning, I awoke to Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies by Kat at Tenaciously Yours. Now THAT is a breakfast, my friend. And because oatmeal is involved, you can bet I would use that excuse to eat them at 7am. Or 8am. Or all day. Her 1-to-1 chocolate to cookie dough ratio rocks.

Still to come this week – Mads at Le Petite Pancake and Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what these ladies are baking. There’s a rumor going around that homemade gingersnaps may be in the works. GAH! Oh, and hey let’s not forget there are two giveaways going on for Be A Good Cookie Week! Click here to enter Kirsten’s giveaway and click here to enter mine. That’s two fabulous baking giveaways so you can bake your own holidays favorites and support Cookies for Kids Cancer at the same time. Better hurry – both giveaways end this weekend. You don’t want to miss your chance to win, or these fabulous recipes.

Parmesan Bites, Coconut Shortbreads, German Chocolate & Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

With all the decorating, shopping, baking and everything else that goes with the holidays, I’ve noticed that I’ve let a few things slide. For example, I really need to strip our beds and wash all the sheets. My pantry shelves are a mess and need to be emptied, cleaned and reorganized. Don’t even get me started on the closet in my sewing room. I’m afraid to even open that door. Most shocking, though, was what crawled out from under my sofa yesterday.

Hello, little dust bunny! If I weren't horrified, I'd think you're kinda cute.

Best thing about wood floors: they’re easy to care for.
Worst thing about wood floors: dust bunnies made of rug fuzz are highly visible.

Okay, kids. That’s all I’ve got. I’m off to strip beds, bake more cookies, and avoid closets at all cost. Hope you’re having a wonderful week, and that your weekend is even better.

PS – Did you hear about the reindeer that got loose on I-45 in Houston yesterday? Evidently, they busted out of their trailer and ran amok on one of the busiest freeways in town. Chaos ensued. Reindeer wranglers were called. No animals were harmed by their shenanigans, and all is well. I wish I’d seen it with my own eyes, though. Just the thought of it sleighs me.

And I’ll leave you with that golden nugget.

29 Comments

Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts

For the record, I am not dead.


Although, if I were, it would make me supremely happy to know that this little guy was hanging out with me. I know it has been two weeks since my last post, and for that I sincerely apologize. It wasn’t until a reader checked in on me that it really sunk in. I’ve been a terrible blogger this month. The good news is this – I am not dead. I’m not even sick. My allergies are bugging me a little, but it’s Houston in the fall and that’s completely normal. Annoying, but normal.

Fact is, I’ve just been a little too focused on other things. We were out so much for our long vacation and a week visiting family for Thanksgiving and a long weekend with the grandkids that I kind of got busy trying to make up for all that. We got our broken attic door fixed, so The Complete Package and I were finally able to drag all the Christmas decorations down. I spent 2 days unpacking it all, putting the tree up, and decorating the family room. Contrary to previous years’ decorations, I decided to focus all my Christmas cheer on one room instead of the entire downstairs. It has worked out pretty well, since it’s the room we spend most of our time in. Or at least that’s what I’m choosing to believe this year. One room is enough. Nothing beats sitting in a room at night with the lights from the tree casting a warm glow around the room, especially if there’s a fire going in the fireplace at the same time. I love our family room during the holidays.

See? When I said I finished my Christmas shopping, I wasn't lying.

I mixed up a ton of shortbread cookie dough for Cookie Week, which just happens to start Monday over at Kirsten’s Comfortably Domestic blog. It’s like Pie Week from November, but with cookies and a cause instead. Six bloggers are selecting six recipes from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook to feature on our blogs this week. My post will be up Tuesday, but please click here to check out Kirsten’s posts. She’s kicking it off Monday with a savory recipe and from what I understand, it was good enough to inspire snacking right out of the bowl – before they were even baked. Now that’s gotta be a good cracker. PS – I’m doing a giveaway with my cookie post and so is Kirsten. Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m giving away, so don’t forget to drop by Tuesday and enter. And visit Kirsten’s blog to enter her giveaway, too.

If you haven't tackled your holiday baking, you're going to want this.

Last week, The Complete Package and I spent two whole days sitting in a big tall building in downtown Houston for a retirement seminar. It’s hard to believe we’re attending stuff like this since he’s 54 and I’m 48, but the truth is this – you can never start planning for retirement too early. And frankly, even then it’s a crap shoot. But we enjoyed the seminar, and we learned some things we didn’t know and need to look into, and we feel like we’re better prepared to move forward. And that counts for something. Or at least it should.

We'll be THAT couple & TCP will probably honk and flip you the bird

The Complete Package made homemade pomegranate Turkish Delight last week. It was an experiment in recapturing his favorite sweet from our last vacation. It took one full week to ‘set up’ and the results were disappointing. Too soft – the texture just fell apart when you touched it instead of being the consistency of a soft gummy worm. But all is not lost. We have other recipes and techniques to try, and try again we will! As a bonus, we had leftover pistachios and we’re planning to try homemade pistachio ice cream soon. See? When God closes a door, he opens a window somewhere else.

Time to break out Christine again. She's evil; pure evil.

This weekend, TCP picked up one of his Christmas presents early. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but it’s black and shiny and produces grilled and smoke meats in an outdoor setting. Okay, so that’s not so subtle a hint. The upside is that we’ll be enjoying smokey meat for years to come. The downside is that it came in a huge box and looked like the assembly instructions for an entire Ikea living room set. He spent 2 days assembling the darn thing. It’s up, it’s seasoned, and it’s ready to roll. Now we just need 200 pounds of cow or pig to fill it. I’m not kidding – this thing is a beast, and TCP is determined to tame it.

TCP's smokey pork ribs. I'll have what he's having.

I’m hosting a day of cookie baking with friends next week. We’re going to bake holiday cookies all day, with each of us making a different cookie. While it’s all baking we going to hang out and play cards and visit. When it’s all done, we’re going to divide it all up a la cookie exchange so everyone goes home with a jumbo tray of mixed goodies. I can’t wait. Something about this Christmas just seems shinier and brighter. Maybe it’s the colder weather we’ve been having. Maybe it’s that our decorations and tree are finally up. Maybe it’s Cookie Week with my blogging friends and our cookiepalooza day next week. Whatever it is, I’m all in. I’m looking forward to this Christmas more than any other.

My favorite band of holiday misfits in finger puppet form

How about you? Are you looking forward to the holidays? Will you be traveling to see family and friends? Are you listening to that radio channel that plays nothing but holiday music in your hometown, or dragging out your holiday CD collection at home? Are there any favorite TV specials or holiday-themed movies you just HAVE to watch every year for the holidays? And lastly – and this is an important one – do you drink eggnog, and if so do you add booze or no booze? Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of eggnog, but I could be persuaded… with the right recipe. If you have one, feel free to share!

What's the story with eggnog? Booze or no booze?

Happy holidays, everyone. Thanks for checking on me. I’m well. Everything’s fine. And I hope you can say the same. -Jeanne

17 Comments

Filed under Family Stuff, Miscellaneous Thoughts