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: 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.... 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?

Monday, November 4, 2013

whats your thoughts on food...friend making monday

Since I missed last weeks entry, I really wanted to make sure I got this one in. I love these posts that Kenlie does each week and I find myself looking forward to them week after week. Thanks Kenlie!!!

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: 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!

Food Matters

1. Are you familiar with GMO’s?  Is it an issue that matters to you?  I never put too much thought into it, but the idea of it doesn't sit well with me

2.  List a few items that are typically on your grocery list.  Without fail, I will ALWAYS have Quakers maple and brown sugar oatmeal and Ocean sprays cran-grape lite. If I had to live off of one food and one drink, it would be those.

3.  What is your favorite place to shop for produce?  I unfortunately go for convenience and generally only go to Stop and Shop which is literally four minutes from my house. There are a bunch of other farmer markets very close by but I don't always have cash on me and it is just easier to go to one store. If I had endless time, I would prefer to go to local farmer's markets for fresh produce. I loved when we went over the summer and bought those fiddleheads.

4. Do you eat processed foods? Yeah...although, I don't eat them nearly as much as I used to. I've been pretty good at making things on the weekends (like last weekend when I made my sweet and tangy salsa) so I try to make sure I have convenient snacks on hand.

5.  Do you look for the “organic” label when you shop?  It's fun to go down that aisle at stop and shop but it is expensive.

6. What did you eat for breakfast this morning?  Same thing as always-see #2. Oatmeal and juice.

7.  How many meals per week do you cook at home?  I try to cook most of my meals at home. Between Ryan and I, we usually cook or at least prepare foods at home most nights of the week. Friday's and Saturday's are a different story.

8. Do you think that foods that have been genetically engineered should be labeled? Yes, absolutely.

9. What matters most to you when you’re choosing a restaurant?  Good food. Clean. We have said for a long time that you can tell if the restaurant is going to be good based on their bread and butter. Usually, that holds true. I also like to try new places or at least non-chain restaurants.

10.  What is your favorite meal to cook at home?  I love making ravioli, lasagna (I got the recipe from the wine tour in Italy a few years ago and it is THE MOST DECADENT lasagna I have ever eaten), and any kind of soup. My comfort food though is plain boring chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn mixed up together so that is always good to make as well.

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions!  Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments, and have a happy Monday, friends!

That's all I got for today but since I have tomorrow off, I have grand plans for taking care of a bunch of Thanksgiving related posts coming your way.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Friends Make My Life Worth Living

This turned out to be one of my favorite weekends in a long while. Everything was just so ....pleasant.

I had plans to celebrate one of my closest friend's birthday on Friday night with a girls night-in that involved sweatpants/comfy clothes, wine, pizza, and that kind of laughter that comes from deep within the belly. I will never stop being grateful for the group of girls that are my friends. They absolutely make my life worth living. 
Laughing makes it tough to take a picture! 

Saturday, Ryan and I had a fun lunch date (he enjoyed sushi for the first time!!), did a few errands, and then finally started a project that we've been talking about for months now. More on that later in the week but here's a sneak peek: 

While we were working outside, Mulder sat patiently and watched us. 
Love this puppy. 
By early evening, we were deciding what to do for the night and came to the conclusion that staying in was all we really wanted to do. We invited some friends over for an epic challenge of world domination and broke out the RISK. 

I was yellow and at one point, I almost conquered all of Asia.

But then Emily ended up taking over the entire board.
Well played, Emily
We took a special shot of whiskey to toast our friend, Ed, passing the bar and had a few drinks throughout the night. I bought this Robust Porter by Foolproof Brewing Company but was ultimately very disappointed. It was way too bitter for me and left a weird after-taste.  

Ryan worked on some electrical projects today while I did some cooking (sweet and tangy salsa and maple butternut squash and sweet potato bisque) . While Ryan was working on the lighting projects in the house, I assisted every now and again and ended up making my way into the attic (I just transferred $5.00 to my savings account) 

Heading up into the attic
Questions for you.
What did you do this weekend?
What house projects are you working on?

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Loaf

My grandmother baked this pumpkin loaf a lot while we were growing up, and she still does. I love love love getting a lot of my recipes from her. My mother isn't so much of a baker, so I glad that I am taking the time to learn my grandmother's recipes and write them down. 

This is one of the recipes I will make for Friends-giving and Thanksgiving, and since it freezes well and makes three loaves at a time, I will make this again in the next week or so and store it in the freezer until needed. When I made this last weekend, I kept out two loaves for us to eat during the week and froze another loaf to use to "make their day" at work last Friday (it thaws within a few hours, but I left it out overnight and it was fine)

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 12 oz bag of chocolate chips

How To:
1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray three loaf pans with cooking spray

2. Beat together eggs and sugar
    eggs and sugar
3. Add in baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. flour, and oil. Mix thoroughly, but do not over beat.

Add in dry ingredients
4. Add in pumpkin and mix thoroughly, making sure not to over beat. 

Pumpkin out of a can does not look pretty! 
5. Gently fold in chocolate chips

Sneak a few chocolate chips and eat them right then and there
6. Split among three loaf pans

Add caption

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until tooth pick comes out clean. 


Hope you enjoy the pumpkin loaves! 

For Easier Viewing:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 12 oz bag of chocolate chips
How To:
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 and spray three loaf pans with cooking spray
  2.  Beat together eggs and sugar
  3. Add in baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. flour, and oil. Mix thoroughly, but do not over beat.
  4. Add in pumpkin and mix thoroughly, making sure not to over beat. 
  5. Gently fold in chocolate chips
  6. Split among three loaf pans
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until tooth pick comes out clean. 

What other pumpkin treats do you crave in the Fall?