Sunday, September 30, 2012

The dirty little secret that nooooooone ever tells you about butternut squash...

So, it's fall (or as Kevin likes to say 'nothing says fall like 105 degree temperatures. ...smarty pants!). And being the fall-loving girl that I am, I've been thinking about all sorts of scrumptious, can't-hardly-wait-for-fall dishes I want to make and enjoy.'s time for SQUASH! ROASTS!! PUMPKINS!! SOUPS!!

The other day I ran across a yummy sounding recipe for butternut squash lasagna. (insert Scooby Doo 'HUH?' here). I think I'm going to have to make us some of that!

I read the recipe and, to be honest, while it didn't *sound* difficult, there are lot of steps involved to make the lasagna. (thank you, Michael Chiarello!) Oh well, I thought, we're making it for Sunday dinner and what are Sundays for but making special recipes that you don't have time to create during the week? Right?

We were so excited about making the squash this weekend that we went during the week and did all of our grocery shopping so that we could make sure we had all of the ingredients on hand for the Sunday cookfest. (Okay, okay ... I did forget mozzarella, but Kevin was running an errand anyway and picked some up on his way home this morning).

Because the process is so involved, I thought I'd knock out the first step - roasting the squash - earlier this morning before it got too hot. I re-read the recipe: Cut the tops and bottoms off of two 3-5 pound butternut squash. Use vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin on the outside of the squash. Cut squash in half; scoop out seeds. Lay squash flat side down on cutting board and cut into 1" chunks. Season squash with specified ingredients; place on roasting pan and roast for 50 minutes until tender. See what I mean? That doesn't sound so difficult, does it?


Have you ever tried to cut a butternut squash? Let me tell you, it is woefully misnamed as there is nothing 'squashy' about it (until it's roasted, of course). I placed the squash on a cutting board, took out the largest serrated knife we own (barring a saw from the garage, which, by the way, I was sorely tempted to use!) and *tried* to cut the top from one of the two squash. Uh, yeah...RIGHT. I made it about a quarter of the way through and the knife got stuck. Plan B: use the electric knife!! Once I was able to (very carefully) remove the first knife, I assembled the electric knife and assumed it would now be a piece of cake to cut that darn squash. WRONG I changed the knife blades in the electric knife to blades that, no kidding, resembled a small saw, and tried again. Well, it F-I-N-A-L-L-Y worked! But make no mistake, it still wasn't easy!

Then came the peeling portion of the preparation. REALLY? I'm not sure which is worse, attempting to *cut* the squash, or attempting to *peel* the squash. It may be a toss up. Several times I stopped to count and make sure all of my fingers were still attached. They were, but only by the grace of God!

Now that we have two peeled butternut squash, it's time to cut them in half and scoop out the seeds. Let me say this about that, the next time the damn seeds can stay INside for all I care. At one point, I literally held up a squash half and threatened 'You'd better be worth it!' Once again, I employed the use of the electric saw ... er ... knife with less than stellar results. Well, eventually the results were stellar, but not until I wrangled with those darn squash for a while. WHEW!

Next step: lay squash flat side down and cut into 1" chunks. Uh, yeah, I think NOT! I decided to ROAST the squash first, and then I'll cut it into chunks - when it actually lives up to the name 'squash'. I couldn't fathom putting the poor little electric knife through anymore; the motor was already hot and I swear I thought I saw a little trickle of smoke escape from the handle. I *know* I heard it whimper.

Here it is, looking all yummy and innocent getting ready to have the dickens roasted out of it:
Even Slippers seemed to be disgusted by the whole affair. Her look says it all ("What do you mean it's a 'vegetarian' lasagna? Where's the meat?)

I can only hope it's all worth it in the end. I'll letcha know how it all turns out. Either way, now I know why people buy those small bags of peeled, cored, and chunked butternut squash. *IF* we make it again, that's what I'll be using! Next Sunday we'll stick with an easy recipe - I've experimented enough for a week or two anyway.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


(Why are they called 'Periodicals' anyway? Isn't that really just a snooty-nose-in-the-air name for magazine?)

Well I know it's fall because we're right smack in the middle of our fall magazine drive fundraiser at school. Yes indeedy, time to re-up our subscriptions to most of the 13 magazines that we subscribe to. Yep, you read that right - 13 magazines. (Kimberly, our mail carrier, absolutely hates us at the beginning of each month!) I say most of our magazines because when I looked up the end dates for all our subscriptions, I found out some very interesting.

Apparently I've re-subscribed to the same magazines year after year not realizing that often the subscriptions are for two years, not just one. When we do our fundraiser, the staff is able to purchase magazines at a heavy discount, so it doesn't occur to me that the meager $10.00 I'm paying for a particular title is actually for more than 12 months. What a deal, right? Anyway...what I discovered is that the current subscription for one of my magazines isn't due for renewal until 2020. Guess I'm a little ahead on that one. A couple others are due for renewal in 2016. Another one in 2014.

OKAY! I admit it, I'm a magazine junkie! And so is Kevin. We're not really interested in a 12 step program to curb our addiction. In fact, we squeal with delight each time we receive a 'fix' in the mail. There is just something about a brand new issue of a beloved magazine arriving in the mail: smooth, crisp, un-read pages; a glossy cover with a fabulous photo on the cover; page after page of wonderful ideas/recipes/stories. Sheer Heaven!

So, now that I don't have to renew my subscription to a couple of things, I'm thinking of ordering a new title or two (sorry Kimberly!) for even more monthly inspiration. In reviewing the vast quantity of magazine titles to choose from(who says magazines are suffering during this economy?), it struck me: Who thinks up these names anyway?

For instance, did you know that there is a magazine called 'Hot Bike Baggers'? Do you even know what a 'hot bike bagger' is? No, me neither. How about 'Gun Dog'? Does that arrive on your doorstep? Nope, not mine either. Then there's always 'Dirt Rag' - which I misread at 'Dirt Bag' until I typed this post. And why, I ask you, do we need 21 different 'Game and Fish' magazines? I kid you not. They go by state: 'Fish & Game Kentucky', 'Fish & Game Pennsylvania', 'Fish & Game California'. I realize that different regions probably do have different types of fish and game, but really? Do you fish differently in Iowa than you would say in Maryland? Isn't the method at least similar enough that you could capture all 'Fish and Gamers' if not with one magazine, at least one per *region*? And what about the other 29 states? Is there no fishing or gaming in any of those states? Or are they just not allowed to do so because they don't have a magazine?

Curios questions, these.

I think I'll stick with something simple such as Sunset magazine. Maybe I'll subscribe to it until 2020 when, no doubt, there will be even goofier magazine titles out there from which to choose.

A Philosophical Debate:

Are orange pants ever a good idea?

Let me start by saying that I am a girl who loves orange. Pretty much any shade of orange really, except for possibly a neon fluorescent shade, but other than that, I'm definitely and orangophile.

I have a couple of really cute sweaters in varying shades, a couple of tops that are either out-right orange or have orange in them, and a couple of scarves that are in the orange-ish vein - you get the idea.

Something I don't have is orange pants. Frankly, I'd never even given orange pants a thought. At least not in a very long time. We're talking sometime in the mid-70's when my excuse for having absolutely no fashion sense at all was that I was but a mere child. Nope, orange pants weren't even in my vocab.

...until today.

I happened to get out of the office at lunch today and headed over to the mall just to get out a bit. I was looking at a rack of new arrivals for fall when I happened to spy a top I already own:
paired with a really cute pair of orange corduroy pants:

At first I thought "Those are so cute! I *have* to have them!" ...and then I started thinking. Orange. Pants. Orange pants. Are orange pants ever really a good idea? Hmmm. Maybe they are. If you're 5'10" and a size 2. Huh. I'm neither 5'10" tall, nor am I a size 2. Maybe orange pants aren't such a good idea. At least for me. I mean, do I *really* want my caboose covered in orange corduroy? Isn't that just inviting some sort of talk that should really be avoided? I think so.

Needless to say I thought better of it and left the orange pants hanging right where I found them. Next to my cute top that I wear with *navy* pants - muuuuch more flattering.

Oh, and I found an adorable pair of *navy* peep toe pumps for $5.00! Now those, you can talk about all you want ;o)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cinema 2341

Last weekend we did something I've been wanting to do for a very long time: we hosted an outdoor movie night in our driveway.

I thought about doing it last summer at our old house, but time just seemed to sort of slip away and we never did it. I also think I was a bit hesitant because 1) I didn't know who would actually show up (some of our old neighbors got along, some of them didn't) and, 2) our house was right smack on the corner and it was kind of a busy street sometimes. It was hard to tell who might be coming and going and if it would be a busy night, which would disrupt the movie (lots of car traffic = lots of noise!).

Anyway, we really do want to foster a wonderful neighborhood climate in our new home, so this was the perfect venue.

We made flyers for all of the houses in the neighborhood, and our little friends in the 'hood colored them in and delivered one to each house. I borrowed some of the equipment from work and Kevin combined it with our DVD player to show the movie on the garage door. We bought a white, king-sized sheet and some PVC pipe and Kevin fashioned the perfect movie screen. Here are a few pics of the set-up (sorry, we got busy and it got dark before we could take more photos of everyone enjoying the movie):

We added homemade lemonade and some goodie bags with movie treats; neighbor Julie made and brought lots and lots of popcorn; Marisa, who lent us the movie (a Japanese animation film called 'My Neighbor Totoro' also brought boxes of Japanese cookies; Hernando and Xiomara brought cheese & crackers; Brian, who works for Disney, and his wife Christine brought a TON of Disney DVDs to be passed around and shared. We set up chairs in the driveway and blankets on the lawn, and some of the kids brought their own blankets and beanbag chairs.

We had a great turnout - about 20 people! We ended the night by saying 'this was the first of many more movie nights to come'. Can't wait for the next one.

...I think Nemo is calling.

End of Summer BBQ

A couple of weeks ago our little neighborhood held an impromptu end of summer BBQ. Because there are lots of little ones, their parents got together and decided to rent something fun for the day. And boy was it ever fun!

At first we thought they were renting a jump house, but because it was so hot, they went with something a bit, um, cooler. A water slide! The kids - and adults - had a blast.

The BBQ started about noon or so, and we finally pulled the plug about 8:30. The kids stopped playing on the slide around 7:00 because the sun was just starting to go down and it got a little cool to be in the water. To warm things up, we pulled out our fire pit, put it on the front lawn, spread out lots of blankets and provided the provisions to make s'mores.

It was a great way to wind down a busy summer. The BBQ was a casual affair where, because we all live in the 'hood, we came and went as we pleased. Kevin and I came home for a bit to make a potato salad to share for dinner. One of the neighborhood pups went missing for a bit and we all headed out on a hunt for him (he didn't get too far, just a few houses down the street). People left and came back as it suited them. It was great! Here are a few pics of the event.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Once in a ...

blue moon.
Beautiful, wasn't it?

Goes to Eleven

On Saturday, August 18th, Kevin and I celebrated our 11 year wedding anniversary! Neither of us can believe it's been that long, but then again, neither of us can remember a time when we weren't together.

To celebrate, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner and some jazz at a small restaurant in Old Town Pasadena called redwhite+bluezz. If you've never been and you live in the Pasadena area, go. Right now. I'll wait.

The food was amazing, wine delicious, and music very smooooooth.

After dinner, we went for a drive along my favorite bridge and then headed home. When we pulled in the driveway, some of the neighborhood kids shouted 'There they are!' and came running over. We kinda felt celebrity-ish ;o) One of the neighbors soon followed and handed us a wonderful bottle of chilled champagne to celebrate our anniversary. How sweet is that? Thanks, Julie!

Honey, I love you more now that we the day we got married. I've loved every chapter in our book so far and can't wait to turn the next page. Here's to eleven more...and then another eleven...and, well, you get the idea. Muuuahhh.

Shout out to 'cuz Dallas

Girl, you need to get a different phone!

Every time I send you a message, or reply to a message that you've sent me, it gets returned to me as 'undeliverable'.

Deb suggested that I try to email you from mom's old email account, but I didn't want to freak you out, so I haven't.

When you read this message...

Thanks for your kind and caring words about mom and more recently, dad. It's been a long and painful 11 months (can you believe everything started nearly 1 year ago? Yep, it was October ...), but we're all starting to recover. Maybe. Somewhat.

Anyway - I just wanted you to know that I've received your emails and tried to respond but haven't been successful. You can either leave me a message here, send me one at the regular email and I'll try again, or send a message through mom's old email and we can try again that way.

Take care and send everyone our love!

Are you there, blogger...It's me, Randa



Holy smokes it's been a long time since I've blogged!!!

I'm so sorry. Just after my last blog post I was off work for the summer and on the 2nd of July, Kevin and I made the big move. And yes, I do mean B-I-G. I don't think either of us has ever worked harder in our entire lives than we did preparing the house to move into, and then actually moving.

I've told everyone that this was the most difficult move we've ever made. The difficulty was not because of the emotional circumstances of moving into the house, but in the sheer magnitude of 'stuff' that we moved. It wasn't like a typical move in that we didn't move into an empty house. Because we kept some of mom and dad's furniture and home goods (not to be confused with Home Goods, Deb and Vicky - don't get too excited ;o), we basically had to take everything that we'd kept out of the cupboards, combine it with our things and *then* put everything back where it belonged. It was something of a monumental task, especially considering we'd put a lot of work into the house before we moved: stripping wallpaper, painting, refinishing the hardwood floors, adding carpet to a couple of rooms.

BUT. Now that it's done, let me just say this: It's AMAZING! Not only is it a darling house, it's our home. It's our *family* home where everyone is welcome and surrounded by love. Mom and dad are definitely both here with us and it's such a nice warm, comforting feeling. More than once we've said 'Well, George (dad) helped me with this', or 'I could just hear mom laughing when I did that'. It's ... good and right. Pat said 'it's a good mix of Grandma & Papa and Aunt Ran & Uncle Kevin' - I think that about says it all.

As for the 'hood, well, it's wonderful. A couple of people asked me how it felt to move back into this house since it was the house I grew up in. I said it felt normal. Many of the neighbors are still the same, several of the kids I grew up with in the neighborhood now live in their parents and grandparents homes, and the new neighbors who've moved in over the last couple of years are great! There will definitely be lots of fun times in our neighborhood in the years to come. In fact, we've already had several neighborhood get togethers over the last couple of weeks and it's we've had a blast. There are lots of kids around so it will be fun watching them all grow up. We hosted a neighborhood movie night this past weekend (more on that in another post), and it went really well. On Monday, my boss asked how the movie night went and I told him it was great. He said he'd love to do those kinds of things in his neighborhood, but he didn't think it would go well. As he put it "not everyone lives in a golden knoll like you." Ahhh, so true =)

I know I said this a few months back, but I really will post some pictures of our new home very soon. We've got nearly everything put away and spruced up - just a little bit more to go. WooHoo!!