Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 13 Posts in 2013

I thought I would jump in on the bandwagon to do a quick "Top 13 in 2013" post.

13. Coming in at the 13th most viewed post is:  Puppy-sitting. Pole Competition. Apple Picking. Friend Making Monday. Looking back, that was a really fun weekend. I started getting back into pole dancing and that weekend even inspired and motivated me to train harder and enter in my first competition.

12. Ranking in at 12th most viewed post was one of my favorite recipes: maple Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Bisque. Yum

11. And in eleventh place is one of my other favorite recipes: Homemade Ravioli. I seriously love the convenience of these! Too bad they aren't the healthiest option

10. In tenth position is my post about Unforgettable Moments where I had so much fun announcing our engagement. (I have been working on my "how we met" series which will lead into the "how we got engaged" story)

9. My Dance Room is the ninth most viewed post and gives a tour of my dream room. Well, having a pole wasn't always in my childhood dreams but a room/area that is specifically made for dancing always was.

8. Friend Making Monday-10 Things That Make Me Happy. The title is as obvious as it gets.

7. "I'd Like To Quit The Gym" and Ten Things Tuesday In the seventh most viewed post, I discussed my anxiety over quitting the gym as well as some other tasks that had to get accomplished.

6. My neurosis was in clear view when I explained my Thanksgiving Menu in the sixth most viewed post.

5. In the fifth most viewed post, I showed a bunch of pictures from a weekend of brewing beer and other fun activities. I'm Clearly A Few Days Late On This One...Brewing Beer and Friend Making Monday

4. The fourth most viewed post was on my decision making process for living painting the living room. Debate of the day: Smoky Olive or Mark Twain Olive.

3. Crossing things off my list was the third most viewed post and helped me get a handle on the multiple to-do items going on at that time.

2. The Before Tour was the second most viewed post and probably the hardest/most complicated one for me to figure out. I had the hardest time posting the pictures and formatting them! But the post was really important to me so that I have a record of what this house looked like and all the progress we have made with it.

1. 100 Things About Me is the most viewed post and it is pretty self-explanatory!

Tonight is New Years Eve and we have hosted it for five+ years now for our group of friends. I'll be making bacon wrapped dates and a chocolate-y treat that's super easy. Ryan is making a large pork shoulder for some pulled pork sandwiches.
For the most part, everyone will bring an appetizer or chip/dip as well as their own drinks.

What are you doing for New Years Eve?

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not drink and drive.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Master Bathroom Plans

Our master bathroom is really outdated.

The wallpaper makes me cringe and the mustard yellow tub and sinks is very authentic to the 1970's.


Although Ryan loves the wallpaper and wants to keep it, I ripped a small piece of it on a whim to get me going on re-doing the bathroom.

Unfortunately, it isn't in our  budget at this time to do a major renovation so we are stuck with the outdated vanity and mustard yellow bathtub for now. The tile is in great condition and I don't hate it so we are keeping that for the time being. My mission for this house is to never see mustard yellow ever again!

The plan is to work with the existing shower curtain and matching accessories so we will stick with a darker neutral color for the walls but have a cranberry color on the mirror wall and use some orange accessories around the room. Also, I have to pay homage to the original wallpaper and will find some way to re-purpose a small piece of it.
Phase 1: Strip wallpaper
Phase 2: Paint wall behind mirror and exposed medicine cabinet a cranberry color.
Phase 3: Paint walls (slightly darker color than what is in the bedroom)
Phase 4: Paint all trim (deep rich espresso-like brown)
Phase 5: Decorate with a few orange accessories

Saturday, December 21, 2013

School Vacation

I'm pretty sure I could speak for nearly every teacher and say we get just as excited for school vacations as the studetns do.

My break officially started as of 3:00 yesterday afternoon. Last night,  I worked on organizing my articulation cards -a process I have been working on since the end of the last school year- while we had a movie on in the background.

I have a lot of projects that I want to do over the next week and a half while I am on vacation-looking at two potential wedding venues, organizing my office, and hopefully peeling the wallpaper in the bathroom.
I brought home some school related items too-some paperwork that must get done and some projects (like the articulation cards).

Hopefully now that I have some time in the next week, I can start posting more too.

Do you have this week off? What have you been up to?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Rebecca at My Little Devils with wings asked me to be a guest blogger and I eagerly accepted.

Check out our Christmas Traditions.

What are some of your holiday traditions?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Bacon Wrapped Dates

Happy Monday!

I've been so caught up in the excitement between Thanksgiving, the holidays, and a very happy event, blogging has sort of taken a back seat. Oh well.

Other than the initial excitement of being engaged and realizing planning a real wedding is not nearly as fun as planning a pinterest wedding, this past week had been relatively normal. This past weekend, Ryan and I went to look at a potential venue and spent the day together feeling very engaged. Later that evening, we had an impromptu double date followed by a Sunday of errands and house cleaning. It was actually one of the best weekend's in a while.

friend makin mondays
If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: www.alltheweigh.com so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Share Your Favorite Holiday Recipe
Anyways, this week's Friends Making Monday is all about exchanging a holiday recipe and since I still have to share the bacon-wrapped date recipe from Thanksgiving, this turned out to be perfect time. Love when that stuff happens!

And to be honest, I cant really call it a recipe. The name of it says it all. These fall into that category of pathetically easy.

Three ingredients and you're done.

You need:
  • Pre-pitted dates
  • Bacon
  • Pecans

I've noticed that the quality of bacon makes a HUGE difference. So far , I've used maple bacon and apple-cured bacon. Holy delicious-ness

So easy:
1. Line a baking sheet with rim with tin foil for easy clean -up.  Place a cookie sheet on top.

2. Stuff a pecan in the date

3. Cut a piece of bacon to fit around the date.

4. Cook until bacon is crisp. It can go in at 350 for 15-20 minutes, 400 for 10-15 minutes, or 450 for 7-10 minutes. Just really keep your eye on it to make sure the bacon doesn't burn.

If you want, they can be stuffed and wrapped the day before. Just keep covered in the fridge until ready to bake.

I've made these for a few different get together's and they have always turned out to impress the crowd. (Except for the time when I forgot about them in the oven and burnt them. Woops)

What's your favorite holiday recipe?

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s question!  Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Unforgettable Moments

I swear this week's questions could not have been more perfect.

Keep reading to find out why...
If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: www.alltheweigh.com so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!
 Unforgettable Moments
1. Share the details of your first kiss.
  • First kiss ever: Summer before 7th grade, behind the baseball field at camp
  • First kiss with Ryan: The end of our first date. We were sitting in the parking lot of the restaurant, getting ready to leave. The clock changed from 11:59 to 12:00, which turned the date to May 1st. I looked over at Ryan, said "Happy May" at which point, he leaned over, tilted my chin, and in that moment right before the kiss, I got those butterflies. I still get butterflies when he tilts my chin like that.
2. Did you put your foot in your mouth in 2013? If so, tell us about it.
  • No comment. 
3. Share the story of one of your most embarrassing moments.
  • I actually don't get that embarrassed too easily. While I definitely have mortifying  moments, nothing major sticks out. 
4. Tell us what it was like when you traveled outside of your home state or country for the first time.
  • When I was 15, I went to Israel for five weeks with 57 other people from my camp. We were all the same age and had practically grown up together, summer after summer. It was such an unforgettable experience. I recently found my journal from that summer and got such a kick out of re-reading it.
Dead Sea, 1999
5. Share something that forced you outside of your comfort zone in 2013.
  • I left my job for a new position working with a different age group. It didn't work out, which is absolutely okay because I ended up in a way better position. It's funny how things just seem to work out.
6. Tell us about a gift that you received that meant a lot to you.
  • I know it's so silly, but Ryan went to the store and came home with "my juice".  I am slightly obsessed with having juice in the house, specifically Ocean Spray's cran-grape lite. A few weeks ago, he saw that I was out and without asking him, he went to the store to get some. Little things like that are great. 
  • Another amazing gift was from my parents. My father and I both have a thing for clocks, especially grandfather clocks. For years, he had been saying how he wanted to get a grandfather clock for his office. A few weeks before we closed on our house, he asked me if I would go help him pick out a clock at my favorite store, The Country Store. When we got there, we went through a bunch of the clocks and decided we both like the same one the best. When we went to pay and deal with the delivery aspect of it, he told me it was being delivered to our new house-and not his office, as a housewarming gift. It is one of the most special gifts. 
7. Share the details of the best date that you’ve been on in the last year.
  • Actually, Ryan took me to a Slayer concert over the weekend with another couple. While the music and heavy metal is not necessarily my thing, I had a wonderful time with him (and the other couple we went with). We went for a nice dinner beforehand and spent the night at a hotel which always makes things more fun. The actual concert was an experience and I am glad I went to share it with Ryan. Now, I get to hold it over his head until he comes to see a musical theater show with me. 
8.  Describe one beautiful moment that was not captured by a photo.
  • Ryan and I went for a walk on some of the trails behind our house yesterday afternoon. It was lightly raining and Mulder had a great time on the trails. We spent the entire walk giggling and laughing and cracking jokes. When we got to the top where the abandoned ski lift, we were both acting giddy....is this the moment we get engaged??? He was thinking the same thing but told me he didnt have the ring with him and this wasn't it. The whole rest of the day, we joked about it. 
9.  Share one important thing that you hope to accomplish before the end of the year.
  • Perfecting the layback on the pole
10.  Tell us about one defining moment of 2013.
  • Yesterday, in the early evening, Ryan and I got engaged. It was spontaneous and perfect and SO US. I can't wait to share the proposal story later this week (no, it didn't happen during the walk)
Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions. Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments. Happy Monday, friends!
I'm still on cloud-nine and don't plan on coming down any time soon.
So.....how was your weekend??

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Visual Recap: Friendsgiving 1, Friendsgiving 2, Thanksgiving

I have opted to take the last few weeks off from any sort of blogging since I have been spending all my free time doing Thanksgiving related tasks and taking care of writing all 60+ progress reports for school that are conveniently due on Monday. Great timing!

Since I am spending the rest of the night parked on the couch in oversized sweatpants to accommodate the amount of food I consumed yesterday and writing the remaining progress reports, I don't have too much time to write an actual post. But since we last left off,  this is what's been going on:

Pre-cooked bacon wrapped dates
Friendsgiving 1

Friendsgiving 1

My hands were brown after peeling 25 pounds of potatoes over the course of two days

Thanksgiving at our house

Crescent waffles anyone?

This year's turkey tray


Thanksgiving at our house

Tired after a day of lots of food and lots of family

I hope to write more soon, especially a post on the bacon wrapped dates (I made them for one of the Friendsgiving's and for Thanksgiving at our house) and they were a hit at both events.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hug Your Dog A Little Extra Tonight and Friends Making Monday-Holidays

On Friday night, Ryan took the teenager out to celebrate his success in school lately while I had some alone-time. It.was.perfect.

I finished up my CPI training on Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed the course. Unfortunately, while I was there, I received some horribly sad news about one of Mulder's best friend's.

August 2012

His friend Chullain was hit by a car on Friday night and did not make it. It is unfathomable to think that we will never get to play with this amazing dog again and the amount of sadness I am feeling for our friends, Ed and Emily, is overwhelming. Please hug your puppies a little extra tonight.

We went over their house on Saturday night to be there with them (and join in on their wine tasting they were having for their upcoming wedding-p.s. such a fun idea to do a blind wine tasting. The boys got really into it)

Sunday, I got down and dirty in my Thanksgiving preparations. After spending the better part of the day helping the teenager with a project, I did a bunch of errands and food shopping.

And that is the extent of the weekend. Did you do anything fun?

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: www.alltheweigh.com so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

1.  What are you plans for Thanksgiving this year?  Hosting for 15 people. 
2.  At what point do you being celebrating the Christmas season?  I start getting presents as early as October just as I see them but
3.  Do you celebrate Christmas, or do you celebrate another holiday? I grew up Jewish but ever since I started dating Ryan, we celebrate Christmas together. We actually got each other the same gift our first Christmas together. Awwww
4.  If you could have one present (you know, a material good, not love or world peace) what would you want? a proposal. 
5.  Share an idea or two that you can plan to do for someone who may need to feel loved throughout the holiday season.  Invite them over! When I lived in Florida for grad school, one of our professors invited anyone and everyone to their house for Thanksgiving , especially because so many people couldn't travel home or didn't have anywhere else to go.
6.  Would you rather spend the holiday season on the beach or in the snow?  Snow. 
7. What is your favorite Thanksgiving food? Mashed potatoes. 
8.  Will you participate in Black Friday shopping? Absolutely not. I live very close to the outlets so the traffic gets insane. I couldn't imagine dealing with all that. I would probably bitch out too many people.
9.  Will you travel for the holidays or stay at home?  If you’re traveling, are you flying or driving or making alternate plans?  We will be visiting Ryan's father's side of the family, which is his tradition. We start out at our house, then to his parents house, then to his aunt/uncles. All driving. I haven't quite figured out Chanukah plans yet, but i would like to have my brother, his wife, and nephew over at least one of the nights so i can spoil him.
10.  List at least 5 things for which you are currently thankful.
  1.  The teenager doing well in school. It finally feels like all this hard work is paying off
  2. Reconciling with my family
  3. My friends. I love them to death
  4.  My new job. It makes the world of difference having a job that I enjoy going to rather than dreading.
  5. Ryan. Even when I don't like him, I love him
  6. Mulder. And Bauer. And Windsor. I love all of my dogs, past and present.
(I couldn't pick just 5. I'm lucky )

You're turn
Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions!  Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments, and take a moment to share it on Facebook and twitter too!  Why not spread the friend makin’ love?! :)  Happy Monday, friends!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bragging Alert

Bragging alert....
If you've been reading for a while, you would know that the teenager hasn't always been the best student. Words that would describe his school-attitude would be lazy, lack of effort, easy to give up, rushing to get the assignment done just to get it done, etc. There were numerous meetings and emails with his teachers throughout the school years and grades were still barely passing.
(Now a lot had to do with some issues regarding "his other side" which I will not discuss here on the blog, but even so, the explanations aren't an excuse.)
Homework was a constant battle of forgetting it at school, lying about it being done/not having any. Assignments were rushed just for the sake of them being done.
The list goes on.
There was just plain old no motivation or pride on his part.
So, this year. I took matters into my own hands and told the teenager things were going to be different. I told Ryan to leave ALL school related issues to me.
I flat out explained (and wrote down for him) how it would be working. I would be checking his homework on a DAILY basis. We wrote out lists for what it meant to be on the "good side" and the rewards of what would happen for that and we did the same for the "bad side". We came up with results/consequences on a daily basis as well as a long term basis (i.e. report card time)
But, remember when I said my new method was working...
Well, here's the first term report card. All core classes within the A- range. (The B- is from an extra support class and doesn't get factored in, but is merely there as a guideline).
What can't be seen is the comments section which all show comments such as "great effort," "recent improvement," and "always tries hard."
Yeah, and that honor roll standing at the bottom. That says HIGHEST HONOR ROLL
The teenager is very proud of himself and I hope he continues doing what he is doing! 
This report card is going to get framed


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Proof-I Wore Lipstick

I am NOT a lipstick person. I don't mind throwing it on for special occasions but for everyday, it feels too weird to me. Plus, I never remember to re-apply.
But last week at work...low and behold.
Here's the proof. Lipstick on top of piles of paperwork.
I even remembered to re-apply.
And then, the next day....I wore it again.
I even went on a few day streak.
But then I switched back to chapstick. 
Totally not a lipstick wearing gal

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Actual Timeline-Part 2

Are you prepared to see just how type-A and neurotic I am?

(Disclaimer, I already know I am neurotic and don't need you telling me I am nuts)

After I went through all of my dishes that I am going to serve and determined when I was going to make them, I needed to put them in chronological order because I am OCD like that. And, I want to make sure I add in other tasks that need to get accomplished in the next few weeks too- tasks such as cleaning, shopping, and decorating.

So, here goes the official time line. 

Saturday, 11-16-13

  • Figure out if I have every dish/serving ware, etc  I need as well as enough table room and chairs, and table settings
  • Decide on "decorations"
  • Make shopping list 
Sunday, 11-17-13

  • Shop for any items needed to cook, host, decorate, etc.
  • Do big shopping trip #1 for all non-perishables and anything I need to cook before the next shopping trip

Tuesday, 11-19-13

Wednesday, 11-20-13

Friday, 11-22-13

  • Defrost extra pumpkin loaf and batch of chocolate chip cookies for upcoming Friendsgivings
Saturday, 11-23-13
  • Food shopping for all perishables
  • Initial house clean -all clutter gets put away, etc. 
  • Make bacon wrapped dates and put in oven at 2:45, cook for 15 minutes and head on over to Friensgiving part 1
Sunday, 11-24-12

  • -Morning: make mashed potatoes for Friendsgiving
  • Leave house by 1:30-ish for Friendsgiving 2
Monday, 11-25-13

  • Prep green beans/almonds/garlic
  • Peel potatoes (Right after I peeled all the potatoes last year, I clearly remember saying that I refused to peel a potato for a minimum of six months)
  • Make applesauce
Tuesday, 11-26-13

  • Defrost butternut squash soup
  • -Set table, chairs, decorations
  • Deep clean both bathrooms (enlist help of teenager and boyfriend)
  • Pick up reserved turkeys. Yes, two turkeys (Ryan and his cousin had the great idea to fry a turkey as well. I'm staying completely out of the fried turkey fiasco) 
Wednesday, Pre-Turkey Day

  • Morning: Defrost chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin loaf, apple bread
  • Prepare Veggie tray and dips
  • Prepare cheese and crackers
  • Prepare bacon wrapped dates
  • Prepare ingredients for stuffing
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Prepare fruit platter
  • Turkey: clean, season, and other stuff. 
Thursday, Turkey Day
(I plan to have dinner served at 4:00. This day is a little more scheduled in terms of exact times) 

  • 9:00: Preheat oven, take turkey out to come to room temperature
  • 9:30-9:45: Put turkey in
  • Late morning: Begin mashed potatoes
  • 1:00: Begin re-warming butternut squash soup. I'm going for efficiency and will put it in the microwave to begin the process and then into the mini-crockpot. 
  • Set up drink station, cheese/crackers/veggie tray, put bacon-wrapped dates in oven, put potato latkes in oven
  • 2:00 Guests arrive. Put mashed potatoes in crockpot to keep warm
  • 2:30: Put sweet potatoes in oven and begin working on stuffing
  • 3:15: Take out turkey and let sit. Begin cooking green beans
  • 3:30: Begin gravy
  • 3:45: Microwave corn. Teenager begins with crescent waffles. 
  • 4:00 EAT

There isn't really much prep for desserts other than put them on the table so no need to bother with any of that. 
Also, I opted against making the cinnamon pin-wheels (it just became too much) and added in potato latkes (the pre-made kind from the kosher butchery) because it will also be the second night of Chanukah.

Found this here:

Roasting times are for a preheated 325 degrees F. oven.
Approximate Roasting Times for Stuffed Turkey
Turkey Weight
6 to 8 pounds3 to 3-1/2 hours
8 to 12 pounds3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours
12 to 16 pounds4-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours
16 to 20 pounds5-1/2 to 6 hours
20 to 24 pounds6 to 6-1/2 hours
Approximate Roasting Times for Unstuffed Turkey
Turkey Weight
6 to 8 pounds2-1/2 to 3 hours
8 to 12 pounds3 to 4 hours
12 to 16 pounds4 to 5 hours
16 to 20 pounds5 to 5-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds5-1/2 to 6 hours

In case you missed the previous posts on how to host a Thanksgiving dinner, here you go:

I'm feeling significantly more prepared for Thanksgiving-although not less stressed about it! I'm currently freaking out that my 20 pound turkey is not going to fit in our oven and Thanksgiving will be ruined. 

Holy shit. What the fuck would I do if it didn't fit?!?!?! 

Question for you:
What would you do if you screwed up the turkey?
Have you ever had a major kitchen fail? On an important meal??

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Twice Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes....Holy Yum

I found this recipe via a pinterest search and tested it out a few weeks ago. It passed the test for taste and for being able to freeze and reheat well. (It actually tasted better the second time)

I recently made another batch of these sweet potatoes so they will be ready for Thanksgiving.

I'm all about planning ahead and doing as much as you can in advance when hosting a big meal like Thanksgiving.

They are very easy to make and came out great-rich, creamy, sweet potato-y awesomeness.

Recipe adapted from here
Serves 12

What you need:
  • 6 Medium sweet potatoes
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 TBSP butter, softened
  • 1/4 firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp maple sugar
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

How to make them:

  • Wash your potatoes and pat them dry. Bake at 350 until soft to the touch. Mine took almost an hour and fifteen minutes. I did them to two pans because I had so many

  • Meanwhile, cream together remaining ingredients.

  • Once the potatoes are cooked through and you are able to handle with your hands, cut them in half and scoop out the potato, leaving enough so that you don't break the skin

  • Add the potato to the cream cheese mixture and mix thoroughly
  • Fill the potatoes with the mixture.
  • If you want to get all super fancy and Martha Stewart-like, you can use a cupcake frosting tool (I didn't have one and borrowed from my mom), to pipe the tops of the potatoes. Seriously though, it makes such a fun presentation.

  • If you are going to freeze the potato for later use, package it very carefully and put it in the freezer. Once it is frozen, you can store a bunch of them in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. When defrosting, place on cookie sheet in the fridge overnight.

  • Bake at 350 until warmed through, 5-10 minutes. If you are reheating these directly from the fridge, it will take much longer-keep that in mind.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Make A Timeline for Cooking Thanksgiving-Part 1

With only two weekends (yet all day commitments throughout the both of them), plus a full time job, a part time job, a teenager that requires constant monitoring for maintaining progress in school (by the way, it is 100% working and we may have hit a breakthrough!-more on that later),  I have limited time to get everything all set up for Thanksgiving.

Last year, I found it incredibly helpful to set up a general timeline of when I was going to make each item. This also helped ensure that all the food would be served at the right time and it also helped me figure out how I was going to do it. Considering that the turkey takes up the entire oven for nearly the whole day, it will be reaaaaly tough to cook anything else in the oven.

In order to make my timeline, I first look at my proposed menu and decide what can get cooked in advance, prepped in advance etc., be frozen, etc. I also take into account my appliances: I have two ovens, two large crock-pots, an electric cooktop, microwave, stovetop with 4 burners, and a crockpot with three small pots. I may decide to borrow a crock-pot from a friend, just in case.

I go through each item on my menu and write down when I will prepare it. It's also very helpful to have  my recipes next to me while I do this so I can consider cooking time, temperature need, how long it will take to prep, etc.

So, just going through my menu, here is the estimated timeline:

  • Veggie tray and dips: Completely prepared on Wednesday and wrapped tightly in saran wrap
  • Cheese/crackers: Same as above. I can even go as far as prepping this on Tuesday and will have  it set on the serving tray and wrapped tightly in saran wrap
  • Bacon wrapped dates: Prep  on Wednesday and stored ready to go on the cookie sheet (again, wrapped tightly in saran wrap) and stored in fridge. These need to go into oven 2-3 hours before dinner to be served. The beauty of this is that they can be put in at 350 for 20-25 minutes, 400 for 10-12 minutes, or 450 for 8-10 minutes. 
  • Butternut squash soup: Anal retentiveness in me already made this early in the week and it is now hanging out in the freezer.  Plan is to take it out Tuesday afternoon to defrost in the fridge and start re-warming it in the old crockpot on Thursday.
  • Green beans with almonds and garlic: Prep on Monday or Tuesday by tearing off the stems, chopping the garlic and gathering all ingredients. Cook on electric cook-top (one of the best investments I made) 20-30 minutes prior to serving on Thanksgiving
  • Stuffing: I got this recipe here and we all loved it last year. I will prep this on Wednesday by getting all the ingredients ready to go and put into plastic baggies. It takes a full hour in the oven so I will begin sauteeing the veggies on the cooktop 1.5 hours prior to serving
  • Twice baked stuffed sweet potatoes : Made these over the weekend (recipe to post soon) and they are currently chilling out in the freezer. I will put these in the fridge to defrost (ready on the cookie sheet) on Wednesday and they will go into the oven 1.5 hours before dinner is served.
(If you are following along, I so far have the stuffing and the twice baked potatoes in the same oven at 350 degrees around the same time)

((SO GLAD I HAVE TWO OVENS! that was one of my biggest wishes requirements when we were house hunting))

  • Mashed potatoes: A little tip I picked up from my mother: you can peel and chop the potatoes a few days before you make them-just don't add salt to the water! As long as you change the water frequently, they will last. I will peel and prep them them on Tuesday and change the water each morning and afternoon. I plan to heat, and mash the potatoes Thursday morning and then will reheat in the new crock-pot later on in the day. This is one of the biggest time savers! 

We interrupt this post for this breaking news: I didn't want to post anything in case I gave up/forgot to do it/any other excuse, but so far, I am 8 days into this 30 day sit-up challenge. I like the idea of the small challenge like this, and adding 5 sit-ups to the previous day isn't really that big a deal. Ask me that in 20 more days, but still...
Anyways, I just stopped mid-post to do them. And I am impressed with myself that I made those 50 sit-ups a priority. They really don't take that long and as long as I had the motivation...why not.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Thanksgiving post.

  • Salad/dressings: Since I am asking someone to bring this, no worries for me. Usually, people will ask if they can bring something and I won't hesitate to say, "Why yes, thank you. How about a salad?" Salad's are easy to prepare-even for the non-cook and since they require some time in terms of chopping vegetables, etc., it's a great item to have someone else take care of. 
  • Crescent rolls/bread and butter: I will get this prepped earlier in the afternoon when I have a moment by taking apart the rolls and pressing them into squares. And thanks to pinterest for teaching me that you can put crescent rolls in the waffle iron, this can be started 10-15 minutes prior to serving the meal and it will still be relatively warm. And, I have made the executive decision that the teenager will be in charge of making the crescent rolls waffles on Thanksgiving.
  • Cranberry sauce: Easy. Open can, Put in dish. Will do this the night before-it's just one less thing to do and as long as it's wrapped up well, it will be fine.
  • Corn: Microwave 10 minutes or so before dinner is served
  • Vegetable Medley: I don't have to worry too much about this. This is a staple in Ryan's family and his mom will bring this. 

And most importantly...

  • Turkey: I need to get an official head count to determine what size I am going to buy which makes a huge difference for cooking. I don't remember what I got last year, but we are estimated at 12-15 people (albeit one person is the four year old) so I figure 1.5 pounds per person which means a 22+ pound turkey. Following these tips, and of course Martha's tips I need to account for 4-5 days to defrost (that means, Operation Defrost Turkey begins the Friday before Thanksgiving. On Wednesday, I prep the turkey as much as I can-starting with the gross task of cleaning the turkey, followed by seasoning it, etc. Working backwards...If I want to serve the turkey around 3:30, 5 minutes or so for carving brings me to 3:25 and it should sit out for 20-25 minutes to let the juices sit, which brings me to 3:00. I will need to account for 20 minutes per pound (1 hour for three pounds). If the turkey is 21 pounds, it will need 7 hours in the oven, which means it should go in around 8:00 am. Again, these are rough estimates and can get worked out later, but it's good to get a general idea now and re-adjust as needed. 
  • Gravy: This will get made while the turkey is setting and Ryan is carving. 
  • Drinks: Drinks are relatively easy to take care of. Just remember to add a few cucumbers or lemons or whatever you want to infuse the water with into the pitcher the day before or morning of and chill in the fridge until needed. I'll keep the drink bucket near the kitchen and add the ice just before guests arrive and fill with the drinks. 
  • Applesauce: I can make this on Monday night, from start to finish, and will re-warm in the small crockpot and keep some out cold
  • Chocolate chip cookies: Making a double, maybe triple batch sometime this weekend and freezing. I will thaw out the night before. I will probably bring some cookies to each of my Friendsgivings.
  • Cinnamon pin-wheels: It would help if I got this recipe from my mother first!! I know they can be frozen so I will make these sometime the week before and defrost them on Wednesday
  • Pumpkin loaf : Making a loaf (well actually three!) this afternoon and freezing. They will need to thaw out two days in advance (beginning on Tuesday) so that I can slice it and prepare for serving on Wednesday. Again, since this makes a triple batch, I will bring these to both Friendsgivings
  • Apple bread: Same as the pumpkin loaf
  • Fruit platter: Prep on Wednesday and wrap up tightly
  • Pie: Someone will bring it and I don't need to worry about it

Since taking a better look at the meal plan, I opted out of the roasted squash-too much other stuff going on and there won't be enough room in the oven. Maybe another time.

Ok,  that was a shitload of stuff to figure out...but its SO WORTH IT. After writing it all out, I already feel like I have a good handle on all my cooking. Last year, I had the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off from work but this year, I do not. I am debating on if I should take a half a day or not.

Next up: Formating this into an actual time line that goes in order, which will also include other things like setting the table, decorations, and cleaning (yes, I plan my cleaning too)-

In case you missed the previous posts on how to host a Thanksgiving dinner, here you go:
Tips and Tricks on Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving Menu

That's it for now!

Question for you:
Does your family have a "staple" dish that shows up at all the holiday meals?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu

Ok, really quickly before I get into the Thanksgiving related stuff. My weekend: celebrated friends recent engagement, birthday party for long-time camp friend, but mostly, it was all about spending time with my favorite guy of all time

We had a lot of fun singing and dancing-he was especially fond of the "tootsie roll" song and would go nuts, flapping his arms and legs, when we sang and danced together. Laughing baby=instant happiness in the world.

Anyways, Thanksgiving is getting closer, and I am realizing just how little time I have to prepare for everything! The next two weekends are jam packed-CPI training all next weekend, and the following weekend I have a birthday party on Friday, and a Friendsgiving on Saturday and another Friendsgiving on Sunday. That means I have significantly less time to prep for it than I would have liked.

That being said, I have already planned out my menu:

Appetizers: I like for most of the appetizers to be able to be made in advance and require very little work the day of. I had way too many appetizers last year so I decided to scale back this year
  • Veggie tray in the shape of a turkey & 2-3 different types of dips
Last year's veggie platter
Thanks pinterest for the idea

  • Cheese/crackers
  • Bacon wrapped dates (inspired by the dish we ate the day of the pole competition)
  • Butternut squash soup ( I will be making this later today and freezing it)
  • Added: potato latkes-these will be pre-made and all I have to do is put them in the oven. It is also Chanukah! 

Vegetables/Side Dishes:
  • Green beans with almonds and garlic
  • Stuffing
  • Twice baked stuffed sweet potatoes (I made yesterday and froze them. Recipe to be posted this week)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Salad/dressings (asking someone to bring this)
  • Crescent rolls/bread and butter
  • Roasted squash (I'm still undecided on this one)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Corn
  • Vegetable Medley (an infamous dish made by Ryan's mother)
Main Course:
  • Turkey (obviously)
  • Gravy
  • Wine (2 white, 1 red)
  • Soda's
  • Infused water

In case you missed it, here are other posts related to the series:
So, instead of doing my mounds of paperwork (because progress reports are due at the same time as Thanksgiving so I should be taking care of that stuff now...) but, instead I am going to meet up with some friends at the dog park and then hit up Ikea with them.

Questions for you:
What's going on in your neck of the woods?
Do you have a local dog park?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tips and Tricks for Hosting Thanksgiving

 So, now that we finally have confirmed that we will be hosting Thanksgiving, I wanted to document the crazy process I go through when I host an event.  Even though I talk a big talk about stressing out for planning and hosting an event, I really really do love it.

  • Consider this the start of a "How to Host Thanksgiving Series"

Forewarning:  I am an anal retentive planner. I tend to go overboard (it's that mentality that it is better to be over dressed than underdressed). I have a weird obsession with making lists. I pretend to have super organization skills.

And to top that off, I am my mother's daughter (who is my grandmother's daughter). And if you know my mother or grandmother, you would know that they are the epitome of Jewish matriarch when it comes to this sort of stuff. So..... some may find my planning process to be a bit neurotic, and it probably is. Hey, what can I say, I learned from my mom and grandmother!

I learned a lot when I hosted Thanksgiving last year.  Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be stress inducing. I mean, it's a huge undertaking and people look forward to this meal and the day all year long. It ranks pretty high on the pedestal.

So, not only did I host Thanksgiving but I hosted it for my first time. Add to that, the fact that I hosted for my boyfriend's family. Yeah, I was feeling the pressure. (All internal pressure though, Ryan's family is amazing and so laid-back. I probably could have served frozen pizzas if I really fucked it up and they wouldn’t have judged at all)

But my anal-retentiveness organization paid off and everything came out great and I was extremely satisfied and proud of myself.  I'm sure my mom and grandma would be proud of me too.

So, I thought I would share some tips and tricks from what I learned from hosting my first Thanksgiving:

  • Organization really pays off. I made lists and lists, so I could refer back to them. 
  • Planning ahead can and will be the biggest stress reliever. Plan out your menu, your cooking timeline, what pots/pans you will be using and when they will be available, etc.   
  • Prep as MUCH AS YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME!!!!!  
  • Read through each recipe ahead of time and figure out what you can do in advance.  You would be amazed at how much time adds up from chopping vegetables.  
  • Become best friends with your freezer. Lots of recipes that I use can be frozen (butternut squash soup, twice stuffed potatoes, pumpkin loaf, etc....)  
  • When prepping for a dish-especially for the foods that need to be cooked the day of- put all the ingredients in the serving dish.  For example, I make the stuffing the day of the Thanksgiving....but.....I chopped up all the vegetables and measured out the specific amounts and store in plastic bags. The plastic bags go right in the casserole dish. This way, it's all together and all measured out for quick assembly.  
  • Make a time line for other things too, like cleaning the house, setting the table, etc.   
  • Double check, triple check and cross reference your menu plan, recipe's, and grocery list. There is NOTHING worse than having to run out to the store again because you didn't have everything you need when you needed it!   
  • Plan out where each item is actually going! I like to put the index card with my recipe on it in the actual dish where it is going to be made in! Don't forget to account for serving ware as well. I usually do this a few weeks in advance so that I can get more things as needed.   
  • Figure out what items will be cooking at what times and where they will be cooking. For instance, when I made the turnkey last year, I had to take into account that I only had one oven. I couldn't plan to use the oven for anything else. Same thing goes with the stove. With only four burners, I needed to account for that. I invested in an electric cook top and it was a great purchase because it added another cooking space (and is great when we go to potluck dinners and I can use that to warm up/cook something without interrupting the host)  
  • Try out new recipes in advance. Last year, I even went as far as doing a mini-practice Thanksgiving, where I cooked a turnkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, etc. (on a much smaller scale) just to see how it would all play out. I had never cooked a turkey before, and I definitely didn't want Thanksgiving Day to be my first. This year, I am adding twice-baked sweet potatoes to our meal plan, which I made for the first time a few weeks ago to test it out. (P.S. I also tested out freezing them, and turned out, they tasted even better the second time. Score!)

I just noticed a theme as I was typing these all up: The word "advance" came up multiple times. Do as much as you can in advance.

OK, I think that is the general gist of it all.
It's not as scary of an undertaking as it sounds. Actually, it turns out to be a boatload of fun for me. 

I'm going to do a whole series on this and document the what goes into hosting a big meal like this, so hopefully a lot more of these tips/tricks will make more sense as I go through the process and post about it. 

Question for you:
What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
Have you ever hosted a big meal?

What tips or tricks do you have that help; make the day go smoothly?

(One of my mothers tricks-she is even more neurotic than me-is to tape the countertops with the cheap dollar store plastic table clothes on the days she does a massive food prep. that way, she lets anything and everything spill on the counters and then throws it all away at the end of the day. i may adopt this trick this year-ill let you know how it goes! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And Ryan Said, "Let There Be Light!"

Over the weekend, Ryan and I finally got around to one of the projects we've been talking about for months but have never actually gotten around to doing anything about it. I gave you a quick sneak peak, but now for the whole story.

We had a chandelier from the previous owners hanging above our dining room table. It wasn't amazing but it was functional. It stayed hanging up for a while but we eventually removed it with the intentions of updating it, thinking that taking it down would prompt us to make the moves.

Months went by and we lived in a dark shadow in that area. After contemplating purchasing a new chandelier and even going as far as looking at prices (holy expensive!), we ended up FINALLY getting around to it this weekend and for less than $35.00.

We purchased two cans of spray paint, 8 light bulbs, 8 tube thingies to go over the sockets, and a cap for where it all meets.

We first hung the old chandelier outside on a tree and gave it a really good cleaning, followed by covering the socket thingies with tin-foil.

hanging up light fixtures on trees is a normal thing to do, right?
the layers of caked on dirt and grime were NASTY

When we bought the spray paint, we were really going for a textured type of look and decided on the hammer -effect. The actual color looks nothing like the bronze we were picturing but it's still fine. It's more of a pewter-grey-ish stone color.
don't be fooled by the "dark bronze" label

Time to paint!

Hi Ryan! 

After a couple coats of spray paint, it had to dry overnight.

We hung it up on the pull-up bar so it could dry inside
Then, Ryan spent a few hours on Sunday wiring the new light fixture and doing all the fun electrical work that goes along with it.
went from this crazy thing....
...to this

All the lighting for the kitchen/dining/living room on separate switches with dimmers

And I just realized how dirty the walls look. Ignore that please!
I am so happy with how it came out. It is soooo nice to be able to see in that area again. I have been working on my puzzle for months in darkness, so it really makes it so much better to be able to see what I am doing and not strain my eyes.

making VERY SLOW progress

It's hard to see the difference in the pictures, but it makes a big difference. Spray paint is amazing!

Despite living with a licensed electrician, we had some crappy lighting going on on our house for a while! (We still need to do something about a lamp in the bedroom and are still in the process of lights for the living room-more on that another time though)

I have today off due to elections so I am going to get working on some stuff around the house, some Thanksgiving prep stuff, and maybe even some paperwork (maybe)

Question for you:
What do you do with a "random" day off from work?