Friday, December 31, 2010

Candle In The Wind . . .

From the time I could understand words, my mother instilled the fear of fire into me.  She grew up in England before the days of central heating, where a coal fire was the only way to keep the shivers at bay (and not very well, either.  You toasted on one side while the other froze).

So when candles became the rage, I never succumbed to the temptation to buy and light them.  All my friends did, but the idea of touching match to wick was just more than I could bring myself to do.

Okay, I exaggerate.  Before I learned to say NO SMOKING IN MY HOUSE, I'd burn a votive candle when my friend Judy came over.  When I visited my brother, I used to take a candle with me because it seemed to dissipate the smoke somehow.  (Either that or it was wishful thinking.)

Jar_candle My friend Gail waxed poetically (pun intended) about certain candles.  She particularly liked the lemon icebox cookies aroma.  (They're soybean wax/no lead Kitchen Pantry Lights from Swan Creek Candle Company.)  Gail told me she sits her candles in a potpourri warmer and the aroma keeps her from eating cookies all day. (She should know.  She's a Weight Watchers graduate and has kept the weight off for several years.)

I thought about it for a long time before I broke down and bought myself a candle warmer and yes, a jar candle of lemon icebox cookies.  At first, I timidly warmed the candle in the kitchen, fearing the cats would knock it over.  But after a couple of weeks and they didn't go near it, I worked up the courage to bring it into my office, where it's sitting even as I type this.

Oh, the heavenly aroma of lemon icebox cookies is enough to make me get out a spoon and gouge out a piece of wax...it just smells sooooo good.  I've also got a butterscotch toffee candle that someone gave me as a gift that smells just like butterscotch pudding.  Yum.

Supposedly burning (or melting) aromatic candles should heighten the senses and cause your creativity to flow.  I don't yet have enough experience to know if that's true.  But if it is...I've got a world of dessert-flavored candles in my future.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cabin Fever?

Cabin Once upon a time, when I had a day job, I used to experience cabin fever any day I HAD to stay home.  It was like permanent itching powder on the back of my neck.  Get out, do something, Go ANYWHERE.

I don't feel that way any more.  Nowadays, any day I DON'T have to go out and be somewhere doing something is just fine.  In fact, it's paradise!

Yesterday was cold and snowy.  The flakes were so big they were clumps.  I sat in my little comfy chair and read a book for about four hours by the glow of the Christmas tree.  Sometimes my cat  would come and sit with me for a while.  Just to make sure I knew he loved me, he'd settle on the back of the chair and purr.

Can life get much better than that?

It got worse. 

Just as the sky was transitioning from afternoon to evening mode, I had to put on my hat, big coat, and gloves and venture out into the 10 degree almost night.  By the time I finished my errands, it was even colder, although at least the snowflakes were a more reasonable size.  I am NOT going out today, and if I'm lucky, I won't have to go anywhere until at least a couple of days.  Can you say "settle back in a comfy chair and read, Read, READ?"  (Or maybe watch a DVD or two?)

Woman and cat Ahhhhh...heaven again.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mmm-mmm Good!

Don't you just love Christmas?  Not only do you get and give lovely presents to/from family and friends, you get to revel in the feast--for days on end.  Mind you, I am not a great cook--but I'm getting better!

Turkey-salad-sandwich Yesterday I was just going to make a turkey salad sandwich and a turkey pot pie out of the leftovers.  But after I got the bird out of the roasting pan, I figured--why not just get it all over with in one day instead of drawing the whole leftover prep out over the weekend.

Turkey-carcass Up first--lunch!  Turkey salad.  (Mmmmm....  It was delish.)  I denuded the skeleton (isn't it funny to think of a turkey skeleton?), got out the soup pot and toss in all the bones.  I boiled them for three hours.  Meanwhile, I got my veggies ready for the soup and the turkey pie.  Of course, lunch intervened, and by the time I'd strained the broth from the bones, I'd forgotten which bowl of veggies was what and dumped my turkey pie veggies in the soup.  Oh, what the heck--I figured and dumped the rest of the veggies in the soup, too.  Then I dumped in the meat that came off the bones.  Whoa--this is one pretty thick soup.

PotSoup I used a bunch of leftovers for my turkey pie, too.  Leftover gravy, leftover pearl onions in white sauce, tossed in a can of chicken broth, more veggies and lots of meat.  Whoa!  Using the onion sauce and gravy really gave my pie a great taste.

I made everything without a recipe.  I like the feeling I get when tossing stuff together and it coming out tasting very fine indeed.  (Secret ingredient in both the soup and pie:  a pinch of herbs de Provence--but just a pinch--that spice packs a lot of whollop!)

What great tasting food do you make without a recipe?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Counting Down to Christmas Part II

Star with blinky lights The house is clean, the decorating is done, the wrapping is almost finished (one more), and I'm stuffed from all the holiday goodies I've eaten in the last month.  I should be working on the WIP but I don't feel like it.

I've already watched most of my holiday favorites (Elf, Rudolph, White Christmas, The Santa Claus) and I'm thinking about watching the Polar Express this afternoon.

And as a treat, I've decided to do a little counted cross stitch, something I haven't had time for in YEARS.  I picked up a couple of little you-make Christmas ornaments and it will be a pleasant way to pass the time until tonight when we host some of our family for another round of junk food before the big prime rib feast tomorrow.

I've got dip to make and cookies to thaw and other goodies that need to be prepared.

Santa and flying reindeer In the meantime, look out for Santa!  (NORAD's tracking him, you know!  Last I checked, he was in China.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Counting Down To Christmas

Wrapped Xmas gifts Two shopping days left.  I have only two more gifts to buy (, and then I'm done.  Tomorrow I'm wrapping.  That'll take a few hours.  Tomorrow I intend to VEG.  And Saturday (the big day), we're hosting Christmas dinner.  (Prime rib.)

Scone In the meantime, there seems to be an abundance of food EVERYWHERE I LOOK!  We got a "bread" basket as a gift, filled with wonderful breakfast foods.  I ate the scones with the Devon cream.  (Oh, god, it was enough to make me swoon.)  Last night I visited friends and two of them brought delicious cookies.  (One of them also made her world-famous Chex Mix and gave me an ENTIRE bag of the stuff!!!)

I went grocery shopping yesterday.  Didn't I buy the stuff to make our family's pink dip?  (Nobody else on the planet makes pink dip (which gets its color from ketchup).)  That means potato chips have to happen on Christmas Eve.  We've eaten two pizzas in the last week; had Chinese food for supper last night.  We're going out to lunch for our annual Christmas date today, and tomorrow we're going out to dinner at my Aunt's. 
Christmas cookies
I've got cookies in the freezer.  I've got a vat of mixed nuts (no peanuts).  Red & Green peanut M&Ms.  Holiday Hershey kisses.  The only healthy thing we've got in the house is the remains of a wonderful fruit basket we received as a gift.  (Grapes are gone.  I keep telling myself that eating them canceled out all the bad stuff.)

Can you see a diet on my horizon?  How about you?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas . . .

Blizzard "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...just like the ones I used to know...."

It seems like these words have been ingrained into most of America and people wax poetically about those beautiful ice crystals mounting up and decorating their homes and yards.

Well, to that I say:  BULL!  See that picture above?  That's snow.  Oh, yeah, it can be pretty, but to people traveling to be with family and friends for the holidays, it can be lethal.  It not only snarls street traffic, it plays havoc with the entire airline industry!  I don't know about you, but I've already had enough of the stuff for the year, and it winter only officially started yesterday.

Our next-door neighbors drive to Indiana every holiday season to be with their "real" family.  Hubby has drive 78 miles to pick up his mother who'll visit for Christmas.  Several years ago it took him two hours to drive five miles when lake-effect snow off Lake Erie turned his 90 minute drive into a seven hour ordeal.  (That was before we had a cell phone.  Insert image of Ivy frantic with worry.)

Basketball One Christmas, many years ago (the one where I gave my brothers a new basketball--my Aunt wrapped it for me and I picked it up on Christmas Eve), it was 64 degrees and sunny.  My only real memory of that Christmas is of me sitting in the kitchen watching Jonny Quest, with just the screen door closed, while my brothers dribbled (doink, doink, doink) out on the driveway.

The first Christmas Hubby and I were in our current house, it was another sunny, dry, GREEN Christmas and we took a leisurely walk down the street.  That felt nice.  I wouldn't walk down our sidewalk in snow.  For one thing, despite paying tons of money for our town to clear our sidewalks, they really only make them more treacherous because the sidewalk plows do a lousy job and toss snow into your driveway (where it usually freezes and you have to wait weeks for a thaw, meanwhile bruising the underside of your car every time you drive over it).

Hawaiian christmas Green Christmases are safer.  And wouldn't you really rather have people alive to enjoy the holiday than a picturesque landscape?

I would.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What's for dessert?

Here in the Land of Ivy Bend -- we've always had pie for Christmas dinner dessert.  One or two people have a tiny slice and then nobody wants the leftovers.  Mr. L usually spends the next couple of weeks eating said pies for breakfast. (Naturally, I freeze them in individual slices.)  However, much as he loves pies, Mr. I gets sick of them after a while.  So this year I've decided to do something different for Thanksgiving dessert:  carrot cake.

Carrot cake Hey, it's got veggies in it--it's good for you, right?  There's just one problem:  I can't stand that cream cheese frosting.  Ick--it's too sweet and cloying and kinda slimy, too.  I thought I'd make a lovely carrot cake in a bundt pan and lightly dust it with confectioner's sugar.

Whoa, Nelly!  Brother and Hubby don't WANT it lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar.  They want the whole thing slathered in slimy icing.

Bundt cake Okay, I'm game to have cream cheese frosting on hand, then anyone who wants it can dig in, but since it's likely I'm the one who'll be eating carrot cake for the next two weeks for breakfast, I don't want my breakfast covered in goop.

So, what do you think I should do?  Frosting or sugar?

Monday, December 20, 2010

They all came with bows, too!

Food processor My brother is a teensy bit upset with me.  Last Christmas I asked for and received a wonderful food processor.  Over the past twenty or so years, my brother has practically outfitted my entire kitchen, and everything he bought me still works.

Presto fry pan I think the first "appliance" he bought me was an electric fry pan.  Boy, what a little workhorse.  I used to make chili in it (I do that now in the crock pot, which he also bought me), and now hubby makes his wonderful seared scallops in it.  Next up was a hand mixer (which I just used last week to whip up a batch of cookies).  Then there's the little toaster oven, which gets used at least five to seven days a week, be it reheating pizza (lunch) or cooking our breaded chicken entrees. 

As I mentioned, last year I asked for and got the food processor, but it's still sitting in the box.  I've been meaning to make something using it, and even got a cookbook dedicated to food prepared in a food processor, but I just haven't gotten around to opening the box.  (I think it's the fear of cleaning it that has kept me from investigating it further.)

Mixmaster I've got a few hand-me-down appliances, too.  Like my mother's first Oster blender.  Yup, it's got to be about 35 years old, but it still purees like new.  And her old (20 years?) Mix Master.  (Used that last week, too.)

Then there's the milkshake machine hubby bought me for my last birthday.  I've wanted one of those for YEARS, but it seems like I just keep forgetting to buy some ice cream to make the shakes with. (I prefer just vanilla ice cream and milk--NO syrup.) 

Sunbeam toaster And of course nothing beats my 50+ year-old Sunbeam toaster, which I bought at a yard sale in 1979 for $4.  (I know it's 52 years old because someone stamped the date on the bottom of it.)  I found another one at a yard sale last year that looks brand new.  (Mom has one, plus one back up.  She had two back-ups, but dropped one and broke it last year.  Handy all those back-ups, eh?)

So what's your favorite kitchen appliance?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Seasonal Silliness

Llb_as_an_elf I'm an elf!  The DVD of the movie "Elf" has stuff you can do, including make a cartoon of yourself as an elf.  So I did.  (Does my nose really look like a flesh-toned golf ball?)

Tis the season for pure silliness, so I bought myself a pair of deely-boppers (at least that's what Hubby calls them).  They're little red sparkly balls on springs attached to a headband.  I have reindeer antlers, too, but they aren't as comfortable as the deely-boppers, which I wore for about 5 hours last night.  I either looked incredibly cute or incredibly stoooopid.   I also had on my light bulb earrings.  (Every time I put them on Hubby says, "Do they light?"  I think he's testing me to see how many times he can say it before I bonk him on the head.)

Meanwhile, I'm also wearing my Dollar Tree "diamonds and emeralds."  Now, Claire's at the mall has wonderful rhinestone bracelets in the $6-12 range.  But these little dollar store bracelets are almost as nice and considerably cheaper.  And in bad light, they look spectacular.  (Oh, I am such a cheap date.)

Why is it you can get a way with silly stuff at Christmastime but not other times of the year?  I hereby proclaim that silliness should be the order of every day.

Long live silliness!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Loving that Christmas Bustling . . .

I need to start my Christmas cards. I've sent out family cards, but that's it. I don't even know who to send cards to anymore. (My list has been shrinking over the years.)

To try to get into the holiday spirit, I figured I'd run out and do some quick holiday shopping yesterday morning. Turns out I spent more on ME! I bopped into Target with a specific mission. Well, they didn't have what I wanted, but I still ended up spending $50 on stuff I HAD to have.

I bought four more Christmas CDs. (This is a basic necessity of life. There can never be too many Christmas CDs lounging around old Ivy Bend.) One of them is very different from anything I have--music from around the world featuring Spanish flamenco guitar, Cuban Rumba, Hawaiian folk and Caribbean reggae. (Copied that last bit right off the liner notes.)

I really did need that glitter toenail polish, too, you know. And the candle warmer (because I just spent an ungodly amount of money on a candle that smells like lemon squares and I don't want to burn it because the cats are attracted to flames). And new lights for home office. I mean, I had to get them NOW because where are you going to find white lights in the middle of summer should you ever need them? Oh, and snowflake Post-it notes. Had to have them. And I had to get Mom's dog a present, didn't I?

So, have you found you've shopped more for yourself than those on your list?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Butt Ugly

I’ve been a fan of Puff Plus tissues for years. They’re easy on the nose (though useless for cleaning your glasses), and aren’t filled with lint like their sister Puffs without lotion.

Puffs But for some reason the company that makes this marvelous product has insisted on putting them in horrible, BUTT UGLY boxes. Like a pink box with big (gaudy) white daisies. Currently their Christmas boxes feature the same wooden/pointy people as on their commercials. (Do they think it’s little kids parting with their hard-earned money to buy this product?)

These boxes are so unattractive and intrusive to my d├ęcor that I’ve been reusing the same tissue boxes for years. When I run out, I simply take the tissues out of the new box and put them into the old boxes. Works for me. My favorite box is very Victorian; a green background with pink roses.
Awwwwww.) I’ve got a white box with gray accents in the bedroom.
Puffs2 One day these old boxes will simply fall apart from old age. Then I’ll have to think about using wrapping paper to disguise the "new" boxes.

Either that, or hope they hire a new graphic designer.

How about you?  Don't you think these are ugly?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To Bake--Or Not To Bake?

Cut out cookies It's no secret that I like to eat.  Especially sweet stuff.  Cookies, cake, candy, I like it all.  The problem is, I eat it, I wear it, and who wants that.

But tis the holidays!  You're supposed to overeat.  You're supposed to bake, Bake, BAKE!  (The Pop-n-Fresh Doughboy said so!)

My excuse this year NOT to bake (and I'm really clinging to it) is I HAVE NO TIME.  Now, we all know this is a lie.  I used to work 40 hours a week, AND put in my time at the co-op and I still managed to find time to bake for the holidays.  I'm desperately trying NOT to find time to bake because I keep seeing my butt in the full-length mirror and thinking, "I really need to go on a diet."  (Can you say New Year's Resolution?)

Peanut_butter_fudge There's a box of brownie mix on the counter that's saying, "Bake, me, Bake me!" I recently found Eva Wiley's (God bless her soul) peanut butter fudge recipe--the BEST in the universe.  And I came across Ruth Megan's peanut butter cookie recipe that I thought was lost forever.  *Sigh*  in the same league as the fudge recipe.

Cut-out cookies are just too much work, what with decorating and all...so the above are my choices for Christmas goodies.  Then again, maybe I should just buy them.

Cookies_2 But that doesn't solve the butt problem.

(That's part of last year's production on the right.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's for supper?

No doubt about it, more and more, people are interested in where their food comes from. That's one of the reasons I decided to grow some of my own and have shared some of my garden mishaps. Overall, I think this is an excellent idea. (Both knowing where your food comes from, and people reading my blog posts.)

Hand bellYesterday, we walked into our local grocery store and were greeted by a young man with a bell, which did a very good job of drawing our attention right to him. It was one of those big hand bells like you see/hear with bell choirs, which are particularly visible about this time of year. The young man was standing bedside a set-up which usually holds fruits or vegetables, but he had a bed of ice and about ten pretty lively lobsters.

For weeks the store has been warning us they were going to sell lobster for $6.99, and this was the weekend for it. Actually, we'd gone to the store to buy a pound of cod, but there was that young man and his bell.

Live lobster Hubby inspected the lobster, and choose a pretty lively little guy. I walked away. Much as I want to know where my food comes from, I don't want to know it personally. The young man put Mr. Lobster into a plastic bag and into our cart. As we walked through the store, picking up a quart of milk, a yam, bread, etc., Mr. Lobster continued to flex his ... legs (?) and let us know that he was enjoying the ride.

Back home, we settled him on the bag of onions in the garage and went inside where it was above 15F. Sadly, that's the last I saw of Mr. Lobster until he was on my plate in pieces. Still, it looked enough like the little guy in our cart to fill me with tremendous guilt.

Okay, with the downturn in the economy not progressing much, lobster men are still suffering. People still aren't buying as many "luxury" items, and lobster is considered a luxury for most. So we were REALLY helping the economy of both Maine and our fair city by buying that lobster.

Meat case Point two: we're omnivores. We eat meat. I mentioned to Hubby that I felt guilty knowing we were going to kill and eat Mr. Lobster. He pointed out that he was the one who'd be doing the cooking, and swept his arm toward the meat counter and said, "Remember, this meat used to be cows, pigs, and chickens not too long ago. Now it's dinner."

Cooked lobster He was right. The thing is, I don't usually meet my dinner while it's still alive. (And, mind you, dipped in melted butter, Mr. Lobster was exquisite.)

So why do I still feel so guilty?

Friday, December 10, 2010

We Are Not Alone

When I think of the inhabitants of Ivy Bend (the domicile hubby and I call home), I think of hubby, me, and our kitty kids.  But it's just not so.

Last night we were enjoying our Happy Hour in our finished basement pub when our little Princess scampered across the floor in pursuit of a BIG black UGLY spider.  Mr. Spider was soon dispatched, thanks to hubby's shoe. Then came the big flush.  Down went Mr. Spider.

Not 20 minutes later, as I was perusing Christmas With Victoria  for the 20th time, I looked down to grab my whiskey and soda from James the Butler (i.e. drink stand) and saw Mr. Icky-Bug sitting on the arm of the couch next to me.

Can any other woman fly off a couch and SCREAM as loud as me?  I think not!  Then with the blue Croc (shoe) of death in hand, I proceeded to beat Mr. Icky-Bug into a coma, while hubby cheered, "Flush him, Flush him!"  A wad of toilet paper later, and Mr. Icky-Bug was making his way down to the waste treatment plant.

Now I like to think of myself as a pacifist, but I will not tolerate bugs in my home.  They can live a long and happy life OUTSIDE of my house, the choice is theirs, but coming inside is the absolute kiss of death.

I don't like to think about the millions of other creatures (spiders, aphids, ants, dust mites) that might be living among us, let alone the occasional mouse who finds his/her way in here on a cold desolate night.  The idea that unknown creatures reside amongst us is downright creepy.  Early this morning, something was trying to scratch its way into the attic.  A few bangs on the wall soon discouraged it.  But what will happen when I'm not around listening for it?

I believe I'll take the Scarlett O'Hara approach to all this and "think about it another day."