Sunday, September 26, 2010

Whose bright idea was this anyway??


We are exhausted! Why? Because this past week, yours truly had the 'grand' idea to follow the Organized Christmas Grand Plan. It's great!

... but we're pooped. Since we actually started a little late (hard to believe, right?, since we're still how far away from the holidays?), we had a bit of catching up to do. Instead of tackling just one area this weekend, we actually tackled THREE - the front porch/yard, the living room and the entry way. Honestly, it sounded like a good idea when Kevin and I first talked about it. However, this afternoon at 2:30, having just finished the last item on the list, we're kind of re-thinking the 'good idea' bit.

The upside is we're finished with the first three weeks of the plan, and I must admit, things are looking gorgeous! The front porch and front yard look clean, well-groomed and inviting. The entry way sparkles with shimmering family photos on the hutch, a fresh, clean, beautiful beaded runner and new scented candles. The living room shines from top to bottom with sparkling clean floors, windows, well-vacuumed and Febreezed sofa and loveseat cushions, new candles and cinnamon apple scented potpourri.

Is it worth it?! YOU BET!

... but maybe just tackle one area at a time ;o)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's Pumpkin Time!!

Okay, so technically it's not quite fall yet - not until later this week - but I'm definitely in a fall frame of mind. With that in mind, I just had to try this pumpkin scone mix: Last fall, I tried to buy this scone mix for weeks, and Cost Plus was always out. A couple of weeks ago, Kevin and I stopped in for something and they had it (!), so Kevin put two in our basket =)

It's a super easy mix that takes no more than three minutes to mix and 12-15 minutes to bake. The only ingredient required, besides the mix of course, is 3/4 cup water. I wanted to bump up the flavor a bit, so I used apple cider instead of water and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top of the scones. MAN! Does our kitchen smell delicious! They've just come out of the oven.

I'm finding it difficult to wait to sink my teeth into one of these treasures! ... but I suppose I really should let it cool first!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't sit under the apple tree...

it's loaded, and you're likely to get plunked in the head!! This year mom and dad's apple tree appears to have a bumper crop. Dad is trying a new squirrel repellant and it seems to be working. Check out these photos!

Feeding the Freezer

Yep, another 'Feed the Freezer' weekend. Kevin had a few games so I did a little stocking the freezer.

I made chicken enchiladas - YUM!. I normally make these a few times per year and always make enough to stock the freezer. They are so delicious and super easy on a night I don't feel like cooking. In fact, I froze them in aluminum pans that can go directly from freezer to oven. It doesn't get any easier than that.

I also made Italian meatballs. Again, YUM! We love meatball sandwiches and having these on hand makes it easy to make them for Friday night dinners - or any other night during the week, but we often reserve Friday nights for soup and/or sandwiches.

TOTAL = 5 containers of chicken enchiladas (5 dinners), and 5 containers of Italian meatballs (5 dinners).

Ahhhh, I feel sooo relaxed knowing that dinner is waiting in the freezer ;o)

Actually, tonight dinner is waiting in the crockpot. I'm trying out a new (to me) crockpot recipe: orange chicken. It's super simple - I hope it's delicious as well. I'm always scouting out easy crockpot recipes that are also delicious - they don't always qualify for both categories and, if they don't, I'm really not interested!. I'm crossing my fingers that this one qualifies. If so, I'll share it in a future post.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Winchell's Can Have It!

(or "How Labor Day 2010 Earned It's Name")

I'll admit it, I'm a magazine junkie. I just love them! I love finding and trying out new recipes, giving seasonal crafts a go of it, and discovering new and interesting places in this amazing country of ours. You name it, I love what magazines have to offer. So when the current issue of All You magazine had a recipe for Apple Cider Donuts, don't you just know I had to try it out! I showed Kevin the photo in the magazine and he agreed that the donuts looked delicious and it sounded like a fun project! We decided that, since today is the Labor Day holiday, and we woke up to a nice thick marine layer which cooled the temperatures down considerably, it would be the perfect morning to try our hand at making these fall confections.

...or so we thought. Let me just say this about that: should you ever find yourself considering making homemade donuts, don't. Run, don't walk, to your nearest Winchell's. They do it for a living - YOU don't. How exactly did I come to this conclusion? I'm glad you asked.

We both re-read the recipe last night so that we knew (or at least thought we knew) what we were in for this morning. I mentioned that it might take us a while to get through the process, but Kevin pointed out that the magazine indicated 35 minutes, so we should be fine. Huh. Okay, sounds good to me. Yeah. Riiiiiight.

We began our "35 minute" task about 10 minutes after 7:00 this morning. Gosh, no worries. We should be ready to eat about 8:00 - right? Not exactly. Things went along pretty well at first. Put sugar and cinnamon in a brown paper bag to shake the donuts in when they've cooled. CHECK. Cook cider until it's thickened a bit. CHECK. ( that we have to let the cider cool to room temperature, we're really beginning to cut into this 35 minute process.) Mix the dry ingredients. CHECK. Prepare the wet ingredients. DOUBLE CHECK. Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes (wow, that 35 minute process is already well past 35 minutes!) ... it will be 'a little sticky'. A little sticky? Kevin said it was so sticky it looked like we forgot to add the flour. No worries. We have to turn the dough onto a well floured surface, so that should take care of it.Well, it should have. Let's add a bit more flour. There, that looks better. Cut out donut shapes and put them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Sounds easy, right? Well not so much. A little misshapen, but not too bad. Place donuts in small batches into hot oil that has been heated to 375 degrees. Really? WOW, that's HOT! Okay, here we go ... YIKES! Are they supposed to turn black almost instantly? No? Well, maybe the oil is too hot. Um yeah, definitely too hot. That POP just hit Kevin under the chin! OUCH!! After running cold water over the area, you can still see that, very shortly, there will be a good sized blister where the oil landed. Let's turn that down just a smidge, what say? There, that's better.How many more donuts and donut holes do we have to go? LORD, are we ever going to finish? Sheeeesh, at this rate we'll be lucky if we're eating BRUNCH this morning!

Finally! We're finished!! A mere 2 hours, one bad burn, and a horrifically messy kitchen later, we have 8 donuts that at least look decent (the first batch got tossed before we took a picture) and a decent quantity of donut holes. Wow. What a huge amount of effort for very little in return. Our final conclusion is that it was fun to try ... ONCE ... but if you really want donuts, go to Winchell's!

You can thank us later.

Petey Turns 100,000

...well almost. He's a gas tank away from 100,000 miles. He looks great, don't you think?

How to Beat the Heat in Just Under Eighty Miles....

Ventura. Ahhhh, that fun and funky seaside town that's just under eighty miles from home.

We've had a mini heat wave going for about a week or so (just in time to coincide with the start of school, wouldn't you know it?!), and Saturday was supposed to be both the hottest day of it, and the last day of it. Beginning Sunday, the weather forecasters said we were going to begin cooling down. So, to the celebrate the last day of the heat wave, we thought we'd escape from it!

Bev, Ken, Kevin and I headed up the coast for a day-long road trip. We had so much fun! We promised Bev and Ken the best BBQ they'd ever eaten, and the best ice cream they'd ever eaten, and they felt - as we do - that we were right on the money with our promise.

Heading up the coast, we did run in to some traffic which slowed us down a bit, but really, for a holiday weekend, it wasn't too bad at all. It would normally take us about an hour and 20 minutes to get there and it took us about an hour and 45 minutes. Eh, what can you do. We knew that what was waiting for us would be worth it.

We got up there just in time for lunch. Whaaaat a coinky-dink, huh? ;o) If you're looking for a nice sit-down BBQ restaurant, you'd better keep driving. If you're looking for the best darn BBQ in - at the very least - southern California, stop at the corner on Main where you see something that looks like a former der Weinerschnitzel. Better yet, roll down your window to make sure. If you smell the mouth watering scent of smoky BBQ, you're in the right spot. Mouth watering you say? You tell me:
Can't you almost t-a-s-t-e it? Mmmm. Trust me, it's as good as it looks. Ken made it through about two bites before he said "I was skeptical at first, but I have to admit ... this is the best BBQ I've ever had!"

After lunch (and buying enough to fill several coolers to take home to the freezer), we headed downtown to walk off lunch ... before hitting McConnell's ice cream shop on the way out of town. We meandered from shop to shop, not looking for anything in particular, but just enjoying the hunt. Kevin found a perfect birthday or Christmas gift for a friend, and I found some vintage juice glasses - something that mom had been looking for to go with her new 'retro' dishes. Other than that, we didn't buy anything - just enjoyed the shops ... and people watching, of course! If there was ever a spot that was perfect for people watching, Ventura would definitely be it.

After a few hours, we made it back to the car to head to our next destination, McConnell's ice cream shop: Yes, it's a bit pricey, but it's worth every single penny. Besides, their scoops aren't exactly on the small side. Man! Is this stuff good! Kevin had mint chocolate chip, Bev chose Brazilian coffee, it was pistachio for me, while Ken had half chocolate chip and half rocky road. Mmmm. Sooo good! Again, Ken said we delivered on our promise of the best ice cream. (If you live in southern California, check out your local Ralph's grocery store. Many of them have a small selection of McConnell's ice creams. You won't be disappointed!)

Heading home, we decided to go another route. We headed south on the 126, which goes through Heritage Valley (Fillmore, Piru, etc.) and the view is of all the wonderful agriculture in this area. Lots and lots of citrus and avocado groves as well as nuts, and regional honey. We stopped at a road side stand that had, in addition to fruits, veggies, honey and other regional goodies, an aviary, a koi pond, a bee hive and a shop that had all sorts of things. Bev found a rustic iron wine rack for their new outdoor kitchen, and some iron geckos for decoration. We enjoyed watching the bees and the guys fed the fish. All in all, a nice little distraction for the road home. We got back in the car and popped in an old-time radio comedy: Fibber McGee and Molly, and the Great Gildersleeve.

We made it back to the area about 6:30 and enjoyed a glass of wine on Bev & Ken's patio. The wine rack found a new home and it looks like it was made just for that spot.

What a wonderful way to beat the heat.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Batter Up!

This past Sunday, a large group of us from work attended a Rancho Cucamonga Quakes baseball game. The Quakes are part of the Angels farm system. It was the 40th birthday of the husband of one of my friends at work and she set up the event. We all had such a great time! We cheered, and laughed and giggled, and ate (birthday cake, too!), and oh yeah ... watched the game. It's so much fun to have a crazy bunch of friends at work. You just never know what's going to happen when we all get together. Thanks, Catherine, for setting this up for us!