Thursday, February 11, 2016

So. . .We Meet Again?

Hey, Polar Vortex! I thought we had an understanding. After the past couple of winters I thought we had a deal. But I see you've decided to be a jerk about it.
OK. Whatever. I get it
We've all got our roles to play.
You, apparently have to be a frigid bitch. And I am stuck being Olaf, the stupid snowman stuck in winter longing only for sunshine. I know that movie was based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale called The Snow Queen, but I feel like Ol' Hans based his story on actual events. No one could write so convincingly about the misery of cold without having actually experiencing it. I guess Denmark is pretty cold?
Today's Selfie

Look, I'm not diametrically opposed to winter per se. I just feel like it should be short and sweet. Preferably occurring around the holidays. Maybe a decent (but quick melting) snow in January to provide a couple of snow days and opportunities for sledding. But then - that's it. I want it back to business as usual. I want school to be in session so my kids can get out in time to actually enjoy the summer. I mean we live in Kentucky not Minnesota "for cryin' out loud!" We are supposed to have relatively mild winters with short periods of cold and snow. Short periods!
So there you have it, Winter. I am officially putting you on notice. For once I'm on the side of the rodent Incredibly Smart and Cuddly Groundhog. You have a few more weeks and then you really need to go. 
As I wise man once said, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bourbon Balls!

So I was looking back over my recipes and it struck me that I had never posted a Bourbon Ball recipe.
I know, right?
Also yesterday was Chocolate Covered Anything Day - seriously that's a thing -  so I figured it was the perfect time for a Christmas Classic.
I used Maker's 46 for this because I like the smooth buttery flavor, it goes well with the chocolate. But Buffalo Trace, with it's spicier profile, would also be nice.
These Bourbon Balls are incredibly easy to make but they do make a big ol' mess so beware.
Just a few simple ingredients can turn into. . .

Look at 'em all lined up. Yeah they aren't in straight lines but give 'em a break - they're drunk!

Bourbon Balls

18 oz. Chocolate (you can use chocolate chips, melting chocolate, or a combination)
3 Tbs. Coconut Oil
1/2 Pound (2 sticks) Butter, softened
3 Pounds Powdered Sugar
1/3 Cup Bourbon*
Pecan Halves

Combine butter and powdered sugar in stand mixer using paddle attachment. Add sugar a little bit at a time unless you want your  kitchen to look like a Columbian coke den. After about half of the sugar has been incorporated add the bourbon, mix well until mixture is smooth. Switch to dough hook and continue add the sugar until all of it has been incorporated. Dough should be a smooth Play-Doh like consistency.
Using a small dough scoop or a Tablespoon scoop the sugar dough onto wax paper or waxed paper. Shape each into a ball and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
Melt your Chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat until smooth. Add Coconut Oil and stir in until completely melted into the chocolate. Turn the heat to lowest setting.
Dip each Bourbon Ball into melted chocolate and place on waxed paper. Promptly top each one with a Pecan. (It would be helpful to have two people here. One for dipping and one for topping.)
Allow to rest at room temperature until chocolate has hardened. Place in airtight containers and place somewhere cool and dark. i.e. the basement, any un-heated room, or even the refrigerator.

*You can always add a bit more Bourbon (up to another 1/4 Cup) Just be sure to add more powdered sugar.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Happened?!?!

Not me, but close. Photo from Consumer Affairs.
When did The Holidays become so stressful? When did Christmas stop being a magical time of year when everything was possible? When, exactly, did the whole thing become a major operation?
Oh, yeah! Now I remember. It was when I had kids. And my own house. And dogs who shed all over the rug. And cats that will not stay out of the Christmas trees.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am thankful every day for my family and home.
It's not them, it's me.
 I think maybe I have become so bogged down in the details of actually running the family and all the particulars of making sure The Holidays are absolutely perfect that I haven't let myself actually enjoy the results.
Perhaps it is I who have lost the magic. But seriously, how do I get it back when there is just so freakin' much to do?
Seriously, I'm asking here.
I watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation the other day and for the first time I saw it as Semi-Autobiographical. Yes, it's hilarious. But whoever the writers were - they got it. I mean, they really got it. They understood that the pressure to create the perfect holiday experience will drive you into a slow descent to madness.
As for me? I'm one more "Hey, Mom! I need you to. . ." away from fixing the newel post.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The War on Thanksgiving

OK, people. We need to talk. I really don't give a rat's furry behind if you wish me Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. I don't care if you drink your coffee out of a plain red Starbucks cup or an ugly Dunkin Donuts cup. I don't even give a flying fig if the dress is blue and black or white and gold. But for the love of mike, can we please, please, PLEASE stop steam rolling over Thanksgiving.
Look, I get it. Christmas is awesome! I love it too. I have eight Christmas trees (eight!) for crying out loud. But it seems like more and more, every year, just as soon as Halloween is over - out come the Christmas decorations. Away go the jack-o-lanterns, up go the Christmas trees. Why?
Everyone is so rushed and so busy these days. Our Christmas shopping lists seem to get longer and more elaborate every year. And if you have kids and those kids happen to participate in extracurricular activities then forget about free time. Everyone is so overbooked. So why do we rush head-long into stressing about Christmas?
Why not take the time around Thanksgiving to celebrate in the spirit the holiday was intended? Enjoy the slowed do pace as autumn slowly rolls into winter. Take the time to be with the family - just be. Be thankful. Not just Facebook post thankful, but actually thankful for all the things that you have in your life. Everyone has SOMETHING to be thankful for. Don't rush it. As my friend, Ferris Beuller, once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

It is after all the Season of the Pumpkin. Pumpkin Spice Coffee. Pumpkin Spice Donuts. Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Rolls. Pumpkin Pie. Pumpkin Greek Yogurt. And, I kid you not, Pumpkin Facials. But, as delicious as all that is, there always seems to be a bit of artifice about it. As though we have to cram as much Pumpkin into as many products as we possibly can before the sleigh bells jingle and everything has to taste like eggnog and chestnuts.
But why not have something as wholesome as it is delicious. These Pumpkin Spice Muffins are about as healthy as a muffin can be. I mean muffins are basically just cupcakes that we convince ourselves that it's OK to eat for breakfast. And if you're going to eat cupcakes for breakfast they should at least be full of delicious, real pumpkin.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

3 Cups White Wheat Flour (white is perfectly acceptable, but the white wheat version allows me to sneak a little nutrition in without my kids knowing it.)
2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Oil
3 Eggs
2 Cups Canned Pumpkin (not Pumpkin Pie Filling)
1 Tbs. Vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tbs. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/8 tsp. Ground Cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 24 muffin cups. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, salt, soda, and spices. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, add eggs and oil. Mix until thouroghly combined. Add vanilla, mix. Add pumpkin and mix well.
Slowly add the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Spoon batter into muffin cups until all cups have equal amounts. Batter will be thick. Top with Streusel Topping (optional). Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pans. Cover and store at room temperature.

Streusel Topping

1/4 Cup Flour
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Oats
1/2 Cup Cold Butter, cut into small cubes.

Combine all ingredients. Spoon onto top of each muffin.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Oh, Captain! My Captain.

Fifteen years ago today I married my best friend. We stood up in front of all our family and friends and vowed to a lot of very improbable things. To say that we had no idea what we were getting into would be an understatement.
We've been married for fifteen years but we've been partners in crime for almost 18. We've had quite a few adventures in that time. A couple of really great kids. A couple of dogs and a few cats. We've bought a house and built another one. We've seen most of our friends get married and have their own kids. We've lost family members and a few friends. We've had some health scares and we've come close to splitting a couple of times. There's been more than a few times when I've felt like it was the two of us against the world. And we've travelled probably a million miles on road trips.
The Captain drives a tow boat for 28 days at a time and even though he's the one on a boat, I'm the one left adrift. You see, he is my home. It doesn't matter where we are as long as we are together we are home. And when he is not at home neither am I.
So Happy Anniversary to my Captain, my best friend, and my partner for life. I could not be me without you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

DIY Yarn Wreath with Felt Flowers

My new sister-in-law, Ginger*, just had a birthday. And Boyd, my brother and her husband, decided to be helpful and shared with me her Etsy wish list. On said list was a couple of really pretty wreaths made out of yarn and felt flowers.
 Unfortunately, her birthday was a week away and I didn't have time to have anything shipped.
Fortunately, though, I did have time to make a run to the craft store and put in some time making something.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how to make felt flowers.
Fortunately, I have a smart phone with a data plan and there are more than a few tutorials on the interwebs.
The whole project wasn't too very difficult but it did take a bit of time. Anyone with a modicum of craftiness should be able to pull this off. On a scale of Paris Hilton to Martha Stewart, I give it a Marie Osmond.

What You'll Need
1 Styrofoam Wreath Form (mine was 16")
1 Skein Yarn (I used a thick marled variety)
Felt in Various Colors (I got 4 different colors in the pre-cut sheets)
Assorted Trimmings (I used some green wired roping and a couple of burlap floral picks. But you could use anything that fit with your theme. Good choices are wired ribbon or roping, floral picks with flowers or berries.)
Floral Pins (the U-shaped kind)
Straight Sewing Pins
Fabric Glue
Needle and Thread

Start by wrapping a loop of yarn around the wreath form tying off the end with a double knot, trimming the tail.

Continue wrapping the yarn, going slowly and scooting the yarn to close any gaps.

Pause about every 5"-6" to secure with a floral pin.

Once you reach the end keep wrapping to form a 1/2" overlap. Cut a 6" tail and form a loop, trimming the tail.

To form the flowers, cut rough spirals from the felt. (You can vary the size of your flowers by varying the size of the spirals you cut.) Starting from the inside carefully wrap your felt in a inverted cone shape. Use a needle and a corosponding colored thread to throw in a few stitches into the back of the flower to secure. I used two or three X shaped stitches - you may need a few more on the larger flowers.
Continue cutting and forming your flowers until you've used 3 different colored sheets of felt.

Use the fourth color to cut out rough leaf shapes.

Fold each leaf in half and stitch a seam along the edge of the fold, leaving a bit on each end.

Arrange your flowers, leaves and trim as you would like them. Use floral pins to secure the leaves (I also used them to secure the roping in a loose free form looping shape)

Then use the straight sewing pins to stab the center of each flower into the wreath form to secure them where you would like them. Tuck in any remaining trim you wish to use, securing with pins if necessary.
Finally, use scraps to cut circles (roughly about the size of a pencil eraser) out of each color of felt, one circle for each flower. Use the fabric glue to secure each circle over the center of each flower, covering the sewing pin.

Stand back and admire your handiwork.

*As always, no actual names are used on this site.