Saturday, January 31, 2009

Yep, it's January

We had some crazy weather earlier this week. In the very, very early hours of Monday morning, we had a thunder, lightening and rain storm like we haven't seen in I can't tell you how many years! It literally poured buckets and buckets of rain ... that is, before it turned into hail. Then, in some areas it hailed so hard it looked like it had snowed - some places had two inches of hail and it stayed all night and into the day it was so cold. The thunder was so close overhead, that our house literally shook. Poor Slips - she was terrified and woke us up to comfort her. Thankfully, it was a fast moving storm. After about an hour or so, the thunder and lightening had travelled far enough east that Slippers finally began to calm down and we could all go back to sleep.

By Tuesday, it was absolutely beautiful! The sky was a beautiful shade of blue and so clear there was not a cloud in sight, and the sun was shining and it had, in fact, turned quite warm. The rest of the week our temperatures fluctuated between the mid-seventies to mid-eighties -- and that's about where we stand right now.

With all of this wonderful weather, Kevin and I began to think that it will soon be 'porch sittin'' weather - we like to sit outside on the front porch and have breakfast on the weekend and read the paper - so we decided to work outside a bit this morning and get things back into shape.

Kevin removed all of the dead impatiens from the front of the walk way. He tilled the soil really well and planted new impatiens that will soon explode into bright, cheery colors:

While he was busy doing that, I removed all of the furniture and plants from the front porch, washed everything down and then began replacing it, rearranging as I went along. This morning we were out early and found some new cushions for the chairs and love seat. I also found a pretty green planter and some beautiful red cyclamen - just in time for Valentine's day!

Since the red camelias are in bloom, I picked a few of those and added them to an old red and white enameled pitcher. I thought it looked pretty on the little coffee table in front of the love seat.

Now all we need is a little coffee, some bagels and juice and the Sunday L.A. Times and we'll be all set.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lemon Bars, Rice Krispies Treats and the Superbowl

Tomorrow, it's our turn in the office to bring treats for the staff. We sign up twice during the school year to bring treats; typically, one time it's just for break-time snacks such as bagels, fruit and yogurt. The other time, we typically do a lunch of some sort. Well since it's almost Superbowl Sunday, we decided to use that as our theme for lunch. We're serving grilled hotdogs, pasta and potato salads, chips and dips, and desserts. I signed up to make the desserts.

I mentioned it to Kevin the other day and asked if he'd like to bring desserts for his staff on Friday, too, and he thought that was great idea! So tonight after dinner, we got busy and whipped up two sheet pans full of Rice Krispies treats, and another sheet pan of lemon bars. We had a fun time working side by side in the kitchen. We're a great team! In fact, we have matching "Weir Cooking" aprons - though we forgot to wear them tonight. Wow, who knew that would make so many treats! Our kitchen is literally over flowing with goodies! I think both of our staffs will be verrrry happy with us tomorrow!

And, come on ... who doesn't love Rice Krispies treats and lemon bars?
Mmmmm ... the fresh, tart scent of the lemons made my mouth water as we were squeezing the lemons for juice and grating the rind! Lemon bars are especially nice with a cup of hot tea. First you take a bite of the bar and let it sort of melt in your mouth, then take a sip of tea and wash it down.

Now I've done it ... I think I need to go sample a lemon bar!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The $1.00 Angel

It's been about two weeks or so since I've browsed my favorite thrift store, so today at lunch I decided to check it out to see what was 'new'.

When I arrived, there was a customer looking at a collection of ceramic pommanders in one of the glass cases. I commented that the pommanders were really pretty; each one was a different pattern, one prettier than the next. She and I chatted for a moment, then I headed off in another direction.

A few minutes later, we were both looking through the housewares section when she commented to me that she loved looking through thrift stores. I readily agreed. She said that one of her favorite things to look for were angel food cake pans. And off we went, launching into a very pleasant conversation. She remarked that she makes many, many angel food cakes during the summer months and everyone always comments on how delicious they are. She said that she uses a mix - something that most of those enjoying the cake would never guess! So for a fun gift, she will go to a thrift store and find an angel food cake pan - which typically run about a dollar - and purchase a box of the cake mix, wrap the whole thing in cellophane and tie it with a brightly colored ribbon, then gift it to those who'd really enjoyed the angel food cake she'd made.

I told her that I'd never baked an angel food cake myself, but that my grandmother used to make them all the time. We serve them with berries during the summer months and we all love it! She picked up a couple of pans and showed me the difference; one was a two piece pan set, the other - quite solid - was one piece. She spoke of the advantages and disadvantages of both and explained exactly how to turn the pan over onto the top of a bottle and while the cake cooled. Just then her husband came over and joined in the conversation. As we continued to talk, one of the store employees came over and joined in the conversation as well. I told her that she'd sold me and she gladly handed me both of the pans with which she'd conducted her demonstration -- each of which was one dollar. The store employee looked at me with a wistful look and said 'My mom would be so happy to know that someone will put those pans to good use. Both of those pans were hers; she passed away in November and when she passed, I donated them to the store. She made many wonderful cakes with those pans and would be so pleased to know that someone else will use them to make many, many more.'

I was touched by his comments. I truly think he was happy to know that his mom's pans were going to such a loving home. I'm both happy and honored to think that I can carry on such a wonderful tradition. I might just have to test out those pans this weekend and bring a cake by the store...just so he (and the rest of the staff) can relive a little piece of the past.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Answer: Dogs and Fertilizer

Question: What are two things you should never mix?

Go ahead. Ask me how I know.

Last weekend Kevin and I went to mom and dad's to help put a storage cupboard together. Or rather, I should say, Kevin put the cupboard together - with dad supervising, of course. Mom and I hung out in the house and chatted and fixed lunch for all of us. A few minutes after we'd been there, Slippers came running inside, 'fresh' from her exploration of the front yard. Pretty soon we all started noticing that there was a certain scent -- okay, stink! -- in the air. Sure enough, it was Slippers. Apparently she'd rolled in the grass that had been recently fertilized and inherited the stink. And boy, did she! She stunk to high heaven.

At first, we thought we could ignore it. Soon, however, it was evident that the ripeness could NOT be avoided and I herded Slippers outside and gave her a bath. Whew! What a relief for us all!

Flash forward to today. Kevin was going to a meeting this evening, so after work I decided to drop off some homemade enchiladas at mom and dad's house. Having been stuck at home all day, I thought I'd give Slippers a treat and take her with me for an outing. Everything was fine until just before I put her back in the car to leave. I noticed that she was rolling in the grass and, you guessed it, she STUNK ... again!!

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh LAWD! I had to drive home with that stinker. YUCK!!

We walked in the door and I immediately changed clothes and began 'the proceedings'. You know what I discovered? It's a whole lot easier to give a dog a bath OUTside with a garden house, than it is to give them one INside in the bathtub. The first hurdle is getting them in the tub. No easy feat, mind you, with a 90 pound dog that has a mind of her own ... and that mind tells her she is NOT getting in that tub! We went a few rounds before I finally won and got her in the tub. Then, of course, comes the challenge of getting her coat wet enough to add the shampoo and lather. It was definitely much easier outside as the faucet in the tub is much shorter than she. No matter, we muddled through -- and she even began to relax and enjoy the warmth of the water and getting a bit of a massage as I worked the suds first in, then out, of her coat.

Things were definitely going well. ... until she began to shake. Niiiiiice. Now I ask you, who *doesn't* love a spray of water all over the walls and mirrors in their bathroom? Anyone? Anyone at all?

Everything's fine now. She's warm, dry, clean - BRUSHED (her favorite part!) - and calm, and laying on her blanket on the couch. Sheeesh. What an ordeal! Next time, she stays home!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day!

"Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

Barack Obama
Inaugural Address
January 20, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Comfort Food

Mmmm. I just love it when our house smells warm and comforting with wholesome food cooking in the kitchen. It's not so much that this is unusual as we cook dinner at home most nights; however, some dishes just lend themselves to these 'comfort food' aromas. This evening is just such an evening. Actually, though, the meal won't be enjoyed until tomorrow evening; Kevin had a small medical procedure done today and wasn't quite up for this version of comfort food tonight. (So instead we had another comfort food ... chicken potpies!)

This particular meal is one my grandmother used to make quite often and we all loved it! What is it? Chuck roast with homemade noodles. Just typing it is making my mouth water! Typically this would be a weekend meal because noodle making is a bit more labor intensive than what you might want to do on an average weeknight. However, since today was a holiday and we had the time, we went ahead and pre-cooked the roast (mostly finished, but not quite all the way) and made the noodles and stashed them in the fridge (which is fine to do since the noodles need to dry a bit anyway). I can hardly wait for dinner tomorrow night!

Chuck Roast with Homemade Noodles

1 boneless chuck roast (3-4 pounds)
1 onion, sliced into 1" half moons
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups water, divided
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 14-ounce can beef broth
Pepper to taste

In a dutch oven, brown roast and onion in oil. Add 1/2 cup of water. Cover and bake at 325 for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Meanwhile, for the noodles, combine the flour and salt in a bowl; make a well in the center. Beat egg and milk; pour into the well. Stir to form a stiff dough. Turn onto a well-floured surface roll into a 15"x12" rectangle. Cut into 1/8" strips. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Remove roast and keep warm; add broth and remaining water to the pan. Bring to a boil; add noodles. Cook 8-10 minutes or until tender. Pepper to taste. Serve alongside roast.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Everything old is new again...

Early in December, I mentioned to Kevin (okay, I more than mentioned...I selected - online -, then added to the cart, then mentioned) how much I'd like a new set of plain white dishes for my birthday or Christmas.

Curiously enough...I got a new set of white dishes for my birthday! I then asked mom (hi mom!) if she'd like our old set of white dishes, which were perfectly fine - in great condition actually. It's just that it was a set of eight and I really wanted a set of 12 for larger gatherings (see Christmas eve post...). She said she'd like the dishes, and we brought them over about a month ago.

Last week she began cleaning their home, room by room. When she got to the dining room, she wanted to put her 'new' white dishes in their china buffet. Which meant, of course, that she'd have to get rid of the items that were currently occupying that space. Which prompted a phone call to me: "I'd like to put my white dishes away in the buffet - would you still like grandma's old china?" Me: "Of course!"

It did take me a few days to break the news to Kevin that we were inheriting another set of dishes. But, trooper that he is, he just smiled and said "That's fine." Awwww, don't you just love him?!

So yesterday, we went to mom and dad's house and packed up our 'new' 'old' set of dishes; once those were packed and in our car, we then put away mom and dad's 'old' 'new' set of dishes.

I think what they say is true: there is never anything new - we all just keep trading 'stuff'!!

I love my 'new' dishes! When we got them home, I washed all of the pieces, took everything out of our china cabinet (which, coincidentally, also belonged to my grandmother -- thanks, Deb, for 'giving' me that cabinet! ...and no, Patrick, mom doesn't get it back now that you're moving!), and began arranging the pieces, one by one. I absolutely love the way it looks! See for yourself:
Aren't they just beautiful? The manufacturer is J & G Meakin; the pattern is Nordic Blue Onion. It's actually ironstone made in England. I just love it! Thanks, mom and dad, for bequeathing this treasure to me. I think it's in it's rightful spot - grandma's china in grandma's china cabinet ... what could be more natural?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that it's 2009! Where did 2008 go? I suppose we think this every year, but the last year really did go by fast. And NO, it's not because I'm getting older! Because just remember ... if I'm getting older, it means you're getting older, too! Yeah - kinda puts a new perspective on things, doesn't it?!

So ... what will this wonderful new year bring? Who knows? I do, know, however, that I've got many goals I'm thinking about and would like to achieve. To follow, just a few of the things I have in mind:

~ Since mid-September, Kevin and I have been enjoying our Wii Fit and losing some weight. In addition to the activity of the Wii, we've been cutting down on fats and eating more fruits and vegetables, which has also contributed to our weight loss. Flush with success, we will both continue to work out on the Wii no less than 4 times per week (more when possible), and continue to improve our eating habits. Goal: 1) being more physically fit and, 2) weight loss

~ Kevin and I will seriously begin our house search in March. We will go in and get our pre-approval and begin the search. The plan is to keep socking away as much money as possible. Then, by late March, we will have added to our available stash of cash, (hopefully) interest rates will have gone down (we've heard rumors of a new legislation looming that will help us tremendously: 4.5% interest for all first-time home buyers!), new deductions and such will have been stabilized on our paychecks - at least enough for the bank to see what our 'regular' income is (deductions such as new tax rates, new insurance rates, etc.), and Kevin will have been at his job a bit longer. Though the plan is to begin all of the paper work and searching at the end of March, our goal is to have found something by May, clear escrow in June and begin moving in July - when we're both off work! Goal: 1) saving money and, 2) purchasing a home of our own

~ Having been inspired by fellow bloggers, I am on a serious mission to cut our grocery bill and put that extra cash in our house fund. To this end, I will be actively seeking out as many coupons as we can use for the items we buy, looking high and low for the best deals on those products, religiously using up leftovers, and committing to eating out only twice per month (this one is fairly easy since we really don't eat out all that often). Goal: 1) cutting the grocery budget, 2) saving money and, 3) using up leftovers (aka - stop wasting so much food!)

Those are the 'serious' goals. Here are the 'fun' goals:

~ Enjoy the Huntington Library more often
~ Attend as many Dodger games as we can
~ Hollywood Bowl summer concerts
~ CalPhil Concerts on the Green at the Arboretum
~ Watching Kevin's band 'gig'
~ Day trips/weekends away in: San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs
~ Disneyland!
~ Griffith Observatory
~ A concert or two at the Greek
~ Farmer's markets
~ Walks on the beach
~ Picnics
~ Hikes in the local mountains
~ Recipe experimentation: trying at least one recipe from each magazine I receive (just so you know, that should result in no less than 7 new recipes per month!)
~ Summer vacation (destination will depend on if we're moving at that time or not...)
~ Spending as much time as possible with family and friends
~ Thrifting, antiquing, bargain hunting
~ Movies & books - catching up on all of those "I've been wanting to see/read that!"
~ Crafting
~ Taking a class or two ... just for fun!
~ Being open to possibilities and opportunities that come my way ...

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope your 2009 is filled with love, happiness and joy!!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Merry Christmas to all ...

We had a wonderful Christmas! I hope you all did as well. It was a cool and rainy day - which is somewhat unusual for us on Christmas, but it was definitely a welcome change.

Deb, Bill and the boys spent the night at mom and dad's house, so they were all just waiting for Kevin and I to arrive on Christmas morning before the gift opening frenzy could begin. All in all, it was an orderly frenzy - if such a thing exists. There is always so much fun and excitement on Christmas morning and I really want to watch everyone open their gifts. It's difficult, though, to watch everyone at the same time! As with most things - we just sit back, relax, and do the best we can. (as you can see, Drew is still wearing his paper crown from Christmas eve. Personally, I think he slept in it, but he swears he didn't! ;o)
We all received many nice gifts - the greatest one of all, though, was being able to spend the day together.