Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Talk

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I certainly hope you did, too.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Blue, blue skies, lots of sunshine and ... it was COLD! A perfectly cool, crisp day with clear skies and lots of sunshine - now that is my idea of a perfect fall day.

Kevin and I arrived at mom and dad's early to help get the turkey in the oven. First, rinse off the brine; next, pat the turkey dry. Follow that by trussing the bird; then, place into a sturdy roasting pan (a must for a 20 pound turkey!); and finally, into a nice, hot oven. WHEW! Okay, now it's time for a rest =)

While the boys rested, mom and I made cute little table decorationsfrom a 'Party in a Pad' paper craft book I'd found a while back. Everyone had darling little name tags and napkin ring holders in fall patterns and colors. We didn't make all of the things in the book, so there are still some to make for next year.

Deb, Bill and the boys arrived not too long after that. Deb and the boys put our Thanksgiving table together:Isn't it pretty?! Deb made the floral arrangement in the basket. Some of the roses are from her own garden! Just beautiful.

Vicky arrived next and brought a carload full of goodies! Veggies and dip, deviled eggs (yum!), fresh bread and rolls. Mmmmm....delish! Oh and poinsettias! It's become a tradition that when we gather together for Thanksgiving, Vicky brings two gorgeous poinsettias to mom and dad. The first year, she brought them in two darling little snowman baskets; now, we pull them out every year, place the poinsettias in them, and place them on the hearth in the livingroom. It's sort of a kick-off of the Christmas season which is just around the corner.

Just after Halloween, I found a few bags of Milk Maid caramels on the clearance table at the grocery store. I picked them up thinking that it would be fun to make caramel apples with the boys on Thanksgiving. When I asked if they wanted to, they both readily agreed! We set up a table out in the back yard.First, we had to get all of our ingredients ready. Apples, sticks, a pan to melt the caramels, and, oh yes ... unwrapping all of those individual caramels! The boys, Kevin and ... Slippers ... made that an easy task.To stay out of the kitchen, we used the burner on the BBQ to melt the caramels - Kevin was our Master ChefThe boys had fun goofing around with the apples before the main event began ...Mmmmm...melted caramel!Okay, I think we're all set ... let the dipping begin!
Okay, so this project is a bit messy. Who cares? It sure was fun! And now, the celebration of the final product: Ta Da!

Back in the kitchen, all of the girls were working hard to ready our feast for the table ... Oh goodness, and what a feast it was! A delicious roast turkey, moist and juicy with just the right spices from the brine, and all of the 'fixin's'. Good food. Great company. A warm, and cozy home. Needless to say we all stepped away from the table full - not just with turkey, but lots of love and good cheer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

An apple and a pecan pie in the oven, the pumpkin yet to make, and a sweet potato casserole coming up. It's definitely beginning to smell like Thanksgiving here.

Tomorrow, it's up to mom and dad's for a feast! Mom, Dad, Deb, Bill, Pat, Drew, Vicky, Kevin and myself. It sounds like just the perfect sized gathering to me. We're bringing 'fixin's' to make an apple/cranberry spiced cider, and apples, caramel and sprinkles so the boys can make caramel apples. It sounds like a wonderful day!

I'm sure I won't have time to check in tomorrow, so I thought I'd stop in this evening and wish you all a wonderful holiday. I hope you enjoy a cozy, festive Thanksgiving with your family.
Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life... a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year - and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God. ~Ray Stannard Baker
Count your blessings - I know I'll be counting mine. Happy Thanksgiving!

Soup Love

Ours is the only school district I know that is working today, the day before Thanksgiving. Next year will be different - we will be off the entire week - but this year, we'll we're all grumbling a little bit about having to be here. I know that sounds terrible. I mean, we all love our jobs and are so thankful to have them, but still ... it would have been nice to have had today off.

To make working a bit easier to take today, I suggested to Jeff, Semeen and Linda that we re-create our hot drink bar for the staff. Everyone agreed that it was a good, morale-boosting idea, so we had pumpkin spice latte, chai tea, apple/cranberry spiced cider and hot cocoa. It was the perfect compliment to such a chilly morning.

After we had things set up in the lounge, parents began arriving with their own crock-pots filled with goodies. We weren't aware of it, but apparently they'd planned a staff lunch for us today! There was crock-pot after crock-pot of warm, delicious homemade soup! And a counter filled with a variety of salads and breads.

Mmmm...soup love. There is just something about a nice, warm pot of soup that fills my heart and soul. It makes me feel loved. It's like someone wrapping their arms around you just when you need it most. There were so many to choose from! Corn chowder, vegetable, potato, clam chowder, sausage tortellini, chili bean ... oh my goodness! They all smelled and looked --- and TASTED - so delicious!

A big THANK YOU to our PTSA for loving us with piping hot soup today! We love you right back!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Great 2011 Coupon Challenge

(AKA: TG2011CC)
I have a confession to make: I use coupons for everything! Groceries, clothing, restaurants, housewares, health and beauty supplies, haircuts, oil changes for the car, etc. – you name it, if there’s a coupon for it, I’ll find it!

All of this couponing has me wondering: How much do we save in an average year by using coupons as often as possible? So … I’ve decided that, for the year 2011, I’m going to setup a spreadsheet and begin tracking every single coupon we use – for anything – and record just how much we save by being coupon users.

I will have three separate spreadsheets: one for groceries, one for clothing, and one for everything else. The spreadsheets will be fairly detailed. (Why yes, I am a bit obsessive – why do you ask?)

Groceries – Because I also use a loyalty card at my favorite grocery store, as well as coupons, I’m going to track the savings of both. I’m going to indicate the amount of each individual coupon, the amount doubled, total coupon savings, total loyalty card savings and finally, the total of what we actually spent.

Clothing - A couple of things about clothing: First of all, I will admit it – I am an absolute clothes horse. I love them, and buy a lot of them. A lot. The other half of that equation is that I will never buy clothing unless it is on sale. I don’t buy it because it’s on sale, but I will never pay full price for any piece of clothing I buy. So for the clothing spreadsheet, I’m going to indicate original price of the item, the clearance price, total coupon savings, total overall savings, and then the total of what we actually paid.

Everything Else – For all other purchases (restaurant, housewares, oil changes, haircuts, etc.), I will indicate what the original price was, total coupon savings, and then the total of what we actually spent.

I think that will pretty much cover just about everything. I’m very excited about this! In fact, I’m so excited that I don’t think I can wait until January to begin. Therefore, so that I can get myself in the mindset, I’m going to begin right now. I figure that it will be a good motivator – not to mention it will give me practice before I actually begin TG2011CC. I can hardly wait to see the savings add up! So that I can visually track it, I’m going to add a ticker. You’ll see it just off to the right hand side. Anyone want to join me?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Houston's, Peter Pan and the Ayres

What do these things have in common? I'm glad you asked!

Today, is my wonderful-amazing-fabulously-awesome husband's birthday. (Happy Birthday, Kevin - I love you so much!) To celebrate this event, we went away for the weekend. It's funny - we talked about how even going away for just a short time can really relax and rejuvenate you so much that it really feels as if you've been away much longer. Such is the case with this weekend.

A month or so ago, Kevin read a review in the Times about Peter Pan 360,which had just begun an 8 week run at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The article gave it great reviews and talked about the wonderful venue (a very small theater - in the the round!), and the amazing special effects. When Kevin read the article to me, I knew this was something we had to experience. Because Kevin and I enjoy giving each other 'experiences' as gifts, I thought this would be PERFECT to celebrate Kevin's birthday! And, since we were going to the show on a Saturday night, why not just go ahead and spend the night instead of feeling like we had to rush home.

Soooo ... that's exactly what we did! I found a hotel that, while small, looked very nice (online) and was near the OCPAC, so I booked it. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised! It was a very charming, 'European'-style boutique hotel. The decor was beautiful, our room was clean, cozy and nicely appointed, and our stay included a wonderful breakfast buffet this morning. Because it was raining, we ate inside the restaurant - which was nice, but it was too bad that it was so wet outside because we would have loved to have enjoyed breakfast on the patio. Isn't it cute?It really reminds me of the Mission Inn in Riverside where we had brunch earlier this year. The lobby was already decked out for Christmas, so - of course! - I had to take a few photos: There was also the most adorable little gift shop in the lobby. When we stepped inside, Kevin said 'This is definitely a Ranny place!' - and he wasn't kidding. Absolutely adorable! After we'd checked in to the hotel and freshened up a bit, we headed to Houston's for dinner.Ever been there? We hadn't either. Oh. Ma. Ga. It was delicious! Kevin had the Hawaiian rib eye and I had the most delectable pork chop I've ever eaten. Wow. If you have the chance, go - we highly recommend it!

After dinner, it was off to Neverland ... errr ... the Performing Arts Center. Not that we were cutting it close or anything, but I will say that we made it with just five minutes to spare. Why? It was Irma's fault. She's Kevin's GPS and she'd apparently decided to take the night off and leave us to fend for ourselves. Lucky for her, Kevin didn't throw her out the window. Not because he wasn't tempted, but because he didn't want to get a ticket for littering ... Anyway - the show lived up to it's great review - it was utterly amazing. Our seats where right in the front row - seats 1 and 2 (I had no idea when I bought them - it was really just dumb luck!), and we were treated to quite an eyeful. Stunning, right? Oh my goodness - it was quite the show. Amazing!

How lucky we are to be able to do things like this. Kevin, honey, I absolutely adore you. Happy birthday, my angel, and many, many more to come.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Showered with Love

I have a friend who is getting married in January. January 1st to be exact - 1.1.11 - an easy anniversary date to remember, that's for sure!

Anyway, her shower is this Sunday and I won't be able to be there. But her little gift turned out so cute, I just had to share. I had a couple of ideas, but finally settled on this particular one. It's definitely one she'll be able to put to good use! Like most brides-to-be, she's crazy about anything that has their name together and/or their initials. I thought a personalized stamper would be the perfect gift. It will be especially useful when sending all of those thank-you notes that will no doubt keep them busy the rest of the month of January. I found the stamper at Expressionary --- it's this one (only with their information, of course!). Kevin and I have the same one - which I just love. We gave several of these last year as Christmas gifts and they were a huge hit!

Her colors are black and white damask with a touch of turquoise blue. I had a really cute wrap bag, but it looked a bit plain to me, so I added some fun stickers, and found a crystal chandelier ornament that I attached to the front. Inside, in addition to the stamper, I found some cute black and white notecards with their initial.
I had fun putting this gift together - I hope she likes it!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Dinner with Friends

This past Saturday night we had some friends over for dinner. They'd just gotten back from a wonderful vacation to Boston and were full of stories of their adventures and wonderful food! We had a great time visiting, eating and playing Scrabble.

When Kevin and I were working on the dinner preparations, we realized that, since we moved into this house, we've had a couple of large parties, but we really haven't had small dinner parties. I think for the upcoming year, we'll have to remedy that situation. Our little dining room is just perfect for parties of four or six. We had a delicious menu!

~ Asian pear rounds with stilton cheese and cracked black pepper
~ Candied pecans

~ Baby spinach and arugula with maple roasted pumpkin, toasted pumpkin seeds and crumbled feta with a maple cider vinaigrette
~ Three cheese semolina artisan bread from La Brea Bakery (YUM!)

Main Course:
~ Garlic and rosemary pork roast with roasted carrots, onions and sweet potatoes
~ Sweet and savory caramelized apples

~ Ginger and Mint Chocolate wafer cookies
~ Dark chocolate (some with Fleur de sel, some without) (WITH was much better!)
~ Assorted dried fruit

Mmmm. It was a delicious meal. Don't ask me why, but the only thing I took photos of was the dessert tray!

Touches of Fall

In addition to our Halloween decorations (which, now that I've posted them, I will now put away), we have little touches of fall around the house. I absolutely love fall! It's my favorite time of the year. All of those autumn colors just really dazzle my eye and I can't resist them.

With that in mind, the daughter of a friend of mine is attending Harvard. So that we could partake in a New England autumn without actually having to be in New England (though I'd love to be there!), she sent us a big box of fall leaves from Haaahvahd Yaaahd. Hmmm ... I forgot to take pictures of the stack of pumpkins on our front porch! Oh well, maybe later. Like the leaves, the Indian corn and the other pumpkins around they house, they'll be hanging around until Thanksgiving.

What happened to the rest of October?

Huh. I was thinking that I'd just posted something and I looked at the last date and it says October 17th. My gosh ... how did October skate past me so fast?

Since we're now into November, it seems a bit silly to show you my Halloween tree, but I'm going to do it anyway! Afterall, it is just the first of November - it's not as if it's the middle of the month or anything.

So without further ado, here are a couple of pics of the Halloween tree for this year: I made some cute little ornaments to hang on the tree:
(sorry, I think they may be a bit blurry...). I also bought these sweet little ornaments from someone on etsy...but I can't remember who! If you're out there reading this, thanks! I love them! Okay, I feel better now - we can move in to November =)