Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another Competition

On Christmas Eve, I presented the family with a new challenge. They have until our family vacation in July to complete it.
Whoever has the whole thing filled will be eligible for the prize. I'll put names in a hat and draw one out. There is only one prize and it can only be enjoyed by the person who wins it.

The kids immediately went to their poker money to start filling the book. There was a lot of trading going on. I thought it would be harder to fill this up. Apparently, it's not so hard to find all the states. I thought some were hard to find. Maybe everyone will have a chance to win. I'm even eligible for the prize and I hope I win!!!

PS Someone left their quarter folder behind. It's empty, so that tells me it must belong to one of the adults.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Gifts

I always am excited when I have a surprise for someone in the family. It doesn't always happen each year to everyone. But this year, I had a few. I'm terrible at keeping secrets and usually tell someone. This year, I kept the surprises to myself so everyone could enjoy them.

We started off with Justin. When they were decorating their tree, Mindy had sent me pictures. She remarked about how much she loved her ornament collection and all the special memories they conjured. She then sent me photos of the 3 lonely ornaments Justin had. I decided to get him an ornament. Hallmark has a nice collection of retro ornaments. Since I've been in email contact with his mom, I emailed her to find out what Justin's favorite toys were back in the 1980's.  She responded that he really loved his cabbage patch doll. She told me the story that went along with it.

Hallmark does not currently have cabbage patch ornaments, so I went on Ebay and found two from 1983---little boys. I ordered them and was excited for the surprise. The very next day, Justin's mom sent me an email. She said, "Justin's going to kill me for doing this, but I found two photos of him with his cabbage patch dolls." I was beyond the moon!! The "plan" immediately came to mind.

I printed those pictures. On Christmas Eve, I had Justin open the ornaments first. I had Mindy start video-ing (she had no idea what was happening). Then I presented him with the photos and told the story as related by his mom. She said that her mother searched all over to find him the doll. Her father was not happy that she was buying his grandson a doll! I then added that in the photos, it looked like he had TWO cabbage patch dolls!
He said they were "twinges!" We all got a huge laugh out of the whole thing. He seemed to get a kick out of it too. I had Mindy send the video to his parents. They thought it was great! Welcome to the family Justin---initiation by fire!! That's how we do it 'round here. Over the poker table, Butch called him cabbage patch boy---for which he'll be forever known! At least in our family---where you have to be a good sport! And he is. Surprise #1---score!

I surprised Sandy with an album by Kid Rock and a guitar pick that he used. She was beside herself. My cousin is married to a sound man who travels with many different famous bands. This year, he toured with Kid Rock, so that's how I scored the guitar pick! Thanks, Terry (and Judy)! Sandy is going to set up a little Kid Rock shrine on a shelf at her house. I knew she'd love it. Surprise #2---score.

Greg had put "Notre Dame art" on his Christmas list for the past few years. This year, I found some awesome pictures on Easy. They used the map of Indiana---specifically South Bend as the background for the Fighting Irish leprechaun, the ND logo and the shamrock. I had them framed. They were awesome. I can't wait to see them on the wall. Surprise #3---score.

I was pretty excited for Butch this year. We don't really do a lot in the way of gifts. We're at a point in our lives where if we want something, we just buy it for ourselves. There's not much we want. When I Christmas shop, guys are especially hard for me. But this year, I had a couple of good ideas. One, I got him a scratch off world map and had it framed. We're doing a lot of traveling now and I thought it would be fun for him to scratch off where we've been. Two, when he saw the needlepoint belt that Stephanie is stitching for Nicky, he made a comment that he thought it was neat. So, I decided to get one for him. I didn't have time to stitch it, but planned to give him the canvas. I was really excited when I came across a needlepoint belt of the "old" course at St. Andrews in Scotland---which he was privileged to play. I knew he would love that. The only problem was that you had to purchase the best already needlepointed. You couldn't just get the canvas. So, I got him the finished best just because it was the "old" course---I knew he'd love it. Three, I picked out a needlepoint canvas to actually stitch for him. It has classic cars on it. He liked the canvas, so I'm sure he'll love the belt. Three surprises for him. Surprise #3---score.

That was really it for BIG surprises this year. I say big surprises because most of the gifts are a surprise. I usually only pick one or two things from the santa lists. Luckily for me, the family seems to like what I pick out for them. They never return anything unless there's a size issue. That makes me happy. We're not a gift card kind of family. We like the process of trying to find just the right gift for each person. They always come up with fun stuff for me too. I know it's hard for a gal "who has everything!"
But what could be better than Russell Stover chocolates and a PINK fishing rod?

Christmas 2015 is in the books!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's All About the Food

Much to Butch's chagrin! He doesn't care about food at all. But, the family certainly does. They all have their favorites. We have many choices and lots of it. The hardest part about the food is the list making, the grocery shopping and the storage of it all. I usually make 2 or 3 trips to the store to get it all. This year, with Butch's help, I was able to get by with 2 trips and 1 to Sam's. I always talk about quantities---like the 27 sticks of butter at Thanksgiving.  I didn't even count the butter this time. At one point, I had 8-16 oz. containers of sour cream and 12-8 oz. cream cheeses in the refrigerator. Sort of mind-boggling! We used it all! 

This year, since our days with Sandy and family were going to be so short, we did not have family baking day. I only made two types of cookies---chocolate chip and pecan butter balls. I always have a cookie tray that we refill every morning when everyone is here.
By the time Sandy, Stephanie and Mindy brought their "goodies" our tray looked like this. We didn't even make a dent in the cookies. We also had pumpkin spice muffins, banana bread that Morgan made and a pumpkin bread that Greg's mom made. I didn't even get out the banana bread I made. We also have a few candies around. This year, I got the personalized M&M's from a Groupon special. And then there's the petit fours I always order with Connie for Christmas Eve (we've made a tradition out of driving across town to pick them up which includes lunch). I had planned to make a cake for Christmas day, but abandoned that idea when I saw how many sweets we still had. Nor did I make a single pie. Ordinarily, it's not a problem. 14 people for nearly a week consume a lot of food.

I made 4 batches of party mix. That always goes. After 3 days, there was one little baggie full that I gave to Nicky. There's the recipe that's on the boxes of the Chex cereals and then there's my mom's recipe. Hers is the best! This would be a good time to mention that if you want any recipes of the foods I mention, I'll be happy to share them. Just leave me a comment.

We open our gifts on Christmas Eve. We eat while we open---which means all finger foods. It varies a little each year as I try a few new things. Then there is always the standard family favorites: beef tenderloin on Sister Shubert rolls with homemade horseradish cream, boiled shrimp with cocktail sauce, meatballs in barbecue sauce, pickle roll-ups, mom's cheese ball, chicken almond cheeseball, hot crab spread (new this year), green onion dip, clam dip, spinach dip and all of the assorted crackers and chips to go with them. That's 10 different things. Everyone helps. I usually post a job list, but this year, since time was short, I just put all the jobs in a hat and they drew out. The most time consuming job is the pickle roll-ups. No one wants that job. There's usually a lot of trading of jobs going on. Two of the "boys" (Greg and Justin) drew "peel shrimp"---but they really lucked out. Little did I know that the shrimp I bought was already peeled!! All I had to do was cook it and chill. With everyone helping, it takes about an hour an a half to get all the food ready. It would probably only take a half hour, but you have to factor in "move around space" for 14 people in the kitchen---and mixing bowls, spoons, etc. 

We start opening gifts when we put the tenderloin in the oven to bake. When it's done, we eat and continue to  open gifts---taking breaks to clean up wrappings, refill plates and drinks (we're not even going to talk about the amount of beverages consumed---they do love their cocktails!). It's an all evening affair. We open one at a time so everyone can see what each gets. Of course, the gifts lead to stories and before you know it, we've spent 4 hours just opening, eating and hanging out. It's such a fun family time. We end Christmas Eve with cleaning up, putting the furniture back in order and a poker game. The teens/young adults were up until 3 a.m. That didn't bother me at all. I love to hear them laughing and having a good time.

The jobs also included prep work for our Christmas dinner. Peeling potatoes is another unwanted chore---nearly 10 pounds for this gang. I changed up our Christmas dinner this year. Instead of turkey, I made Chicken Wellington---for 14. Can you spell "time consuming?" Along with the Wellington, we had party potatoes, carrot casserole, green bean bundles (unbundled these days), cranberry congealed salad (or I should say Jello salad for the northerners), corn pudding, peas (for those that don't like the green beans) and 7-Up Biscuits. This was the first time I made those biscuits. It didn't start off well. I had asked Butch a couple of times in days prior if we had 7-Up. He said we did, but in reality, we had Sprite. He's in charge of beverages. Now to me, they are two completely different tastes. I was a little aggravated. After all 7-Up is in the title---not Lemon/Lime Biscuits. Butch came back with, "well, the recipe calls for Bisquick and you bought the cheap, Kroger brand." Hey, that should have been my line! I countered with, "biscuit mix is biscuit mix." Well, after all of the hullabaloo, they were EXCELLENT! They were so soft and tender. Since they were also so easy to make (Butch made them and he doesn't cook), I'll be making them again. Maybe even for our New Year's Eve dinner.
Mindy set the table. Even though it's my favorite thing to do, I let her do it. She had so much fun with it. The table favors this year were those ornaments that Butch and I made back in the early 1970's. After my post about wondering where they had all gone, my sister said she had a box full of them. She sent them to me. Neither of us can figure out how in the world she came to have them. The box even included the ones with our names on them. I can't imagine ever getting rid of them, but apparently, I took them to St. Louis and left them. Considering Jennifer doesn't celebrate Christmas, I'm so fortunate that she even kept them or remembered that she had them. Thanks, Jen!

Okay, so back to all of this food. I was so happy. When it came right down to it, we had just the right amount. There were not too many leftovers. I sent Sandy and Stephanie home with some, but there wasn't much left---well, except for the sweets. I didn't keep any of that as I don't need it around here. They didn't want the candy, so I plan to take that to bridge next week. The ladies like chocolate.

A few other food related side notes: 
While shopping, I came across these:

Short story: while in Scotland several years ago, we stopped at a tea room for lunch. I was so interesting--in some woman's home. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with pickles. When it arrived, I asked about the pickles. Well, pickles to the Scots is some sort of sweet relish that's put on the grilled cheese. It was so good that we asked about it. We stopped at a grocery store and brought Branston "pickles" home with us. Now it's in our grocery stores. I don't understand the one on the left "Bringout" as it's exactly the same as the Branston---and, no, it's not the other side of the jar. I didn't buy any---$5.79 is kind of pricey.
I had no idea that food brands have Pinterest boards. I'll need to check them out---as if I need another recipe!
I had some leftover, uncooked chicken from Christmas. I ended up making poppyseed chicken---well, I didn't have any poppyseed, so it was poppyseedless chicken---still good . I had this mix in the pantry. Almost like having a turkey dinner, except with chicken.

Okay, not really.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pre Christmas Post---Post Christmas

It's been a whirlwind Christmas this year. Sandy and family arrived on Tuesday afternoon. The whole family was here for happy hour and Jordan's birthday dinner. I used a fun and delicious recipe that I got from Connie. I told everybody that they would have to be adventuresome. You'll see why. I started passing around the ingredients in order.

Fiesta Stack Ups
Layer in each bowl---being careful not to take too much of each thing as it can get pretty big..
Crushed Fritos (I just used the regular small ones and didn't crush them)
Chili (just make a pot of your favorite)
Shredded cheddar
Sliced green onions
Sliced black olives
Chopped pecans (yes, pecans)
Shredded coconut (yes, coconut---that's where the adventuresome part comes in)

Really delicious. I made way too much rice and chili. I had the chili done in advance and in the freezer. It was an easy dish to pull together. Everyone loved it---although some did not do the coconut. It's just that little sweet with the savory.

For dessert, I made another of Connie's recipes---a Chocolate Cherry Cake. Jordan loves chocolate cakes, so I always do some sort of chocolate dessert for her birthday. Connie complains that she's not a good cook---but I swear---all of my best recipes have come from her.

Wednesday was a lunch at the club, manicure, stitch and watch a movie kind of day.

We watched Mindy's favorite Christmas movie---Love Actually. I hadn't seen it in quite awhile, so that was fun.
There were a couple of "iffy" spots for Elizabeth, but she was in and out a lot. There was really only one time that she was in the room during a mature scene, but so intent on her stitching, that she didn't even look up. I quickly fast forwarded it and she didn't even notice!
 Victoria and Morgan did not stitch and watch the movie with us. They were upstairs with "the boys."

Later, we went to Stephanie and Nicky's for dinner and a game. They jambalaya---always so delicious and great for a crowd. Steph said it took her three days to clean up. Well, that could have been more from the game where Butch made it rain with styrofoam!
While at Steph's I saw this pillow that I made her a few years ago. I love it and remember how much fun I had making it. I'm so happy to see that my girls appreciate my handwork!

Christmas Eve starts with a big breakfast: bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, biscuits, gravy, potatoes, orange juice and fruit salad. After clean-up, we start food prep for our Christmas Eve "pick up" food dinner. Everyone has a few hours in the afternoon to rest, play games, or as I was happy to find out---do this:
 Yep, that would be all of the "little" girls stitching together.
Jordan and Elizabeth have already completed their first projects. Only Victoria and Morgan are new to stitching. I may have unleashed an expensive monster here!! Just one more way to keep us all together. I already have ideas for an Eads girls stitching retreat weekend---somewhere in the Smoky Mountains.

Okay, next up: It's All about the food!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Urban Living

Mindy loves living downtown. I think it comes from living and working in New Orleans French Quarter. There is so much about that I understand. After all, Justin works straight down Demonbreun from the Rhythm. They like being able to walk to restaurants and bars. For them, I get it. Condo living is a perfect fit---no weekly yard work or home repairs. With Justin's crazy, long hours and Mindy's work travel schedule---they certainly don't need that. In fact, here's an article that explains what's happening right in Mindy's neighborhood. She and Justin live on Demonbreun. 

We locals don't go downtown much. You've got the parking issue. Now that my parking guru has retired, we no longer get free parking everywhere. I miss the days when there would be someone saving a prime spot for me. 

Everything downtown is expensive. The restaurants and hotels can compete with New York prices. We don't do the honky tonks or bar scene. About the only thing we do downtown is go to the theater. Still, it's a fun and exciting place to be. And it's a good investment to buy downtown. 

Okay, maybe I should qualify my statement about us locals. I should say we "old" locals don't go downtown. The young people love it! 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Elf Update

post signatureWe're still having fun with our elf---or at least I should say that I am. It's still a silent game.
 I saw this idea on another website. It was easy enough to do.
 Butch came up with this one. He's much more imaginative than I am.

 Uh oh, the television fell on him.
 Found him in my car one morning.
The other idea I saw on a website. With all of my scrapbook supplies, it took me about two minutes to make this little sign.
This one I almost didn't find. I'm not the most observant person in the world. We had Steph and Nicky stay for dinner after happy hour on Friday.  I was just making toasted ravioli (our Krogers sells them now) and a Caesar salad. When I texted this photo to the girls, Steph told me that Butch thought I would find it when I went to the freezer to get the ravioli. What he didn't know was that I had already moved the ravioli to the kitchen freezer in the afternoon. The only reason I found this was that I went to put some soup in the freezer. As I closed the door, the knitting caught my eye. I opened the door again and saw him sitting there. I laughed out loud!! On second thought, I guess he could have been there in the afternoon and I just didn't see him. Like I said, not so observant.

One of the girls asked about how I was coming up with the ideas. If you know me, you know that I don't do anything on the fly. I made a list!! I walked around and thought of where I could put the elf and just jotted them down. Then, when it's my "turn," I just consult the list. Pretty easy.

We have just a couple more days as I'm retiring him after tomorrow.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Holiday Tips

post signatureThis is going to be a bit of a random post---hopefully with a few tips you can use for the holidays.

Back in the 1970's, I remember reading a cleaning article in one of the women's magazines of the day. It talked about the dirtiest "inch" in your kitchen. I've never forgotten it and periodically make sure to clean it.
The dirtiest inch in your kitchen is your can opener blade. It's one of those things that maybe you just don't think about cleaning. It can get pretty gunky. I just pop it out and let it soak in the sink full of sudsy water while I'm cleaning up. It's pretty easy to clean.
And don't forget about your toilet handle. I'd venture to say that's another thing you might not think about cleaning. 

We spend a lot of time putting together our holiday menus and the grocery list for all of the food supplies. But what about the spices? Now's a good time to check what you have on hand. There's nothing worse than getting in to a recipe only to find that you are out of some spice. As I was checking mine, I decided to take a look at this turmeric. It occurred to me that I have no idea what I've ever used this for. 
Upon closer inspection, the first thing I noticed was the name---Ann Page. Could that be from the A&P line of grocery stores we had in St. Louis? I don't even know if there are any more of those left. Considering I left St. Louis on January 1st, 1977, I'd say this is really OLD!!!
Yep, 53 cents---that's really old!! I tossed it. Now I'm sort of regretting that. It's almost an antique and I just threw it away.

While you are checking things to put on your grocery list, don't forget to check your wraps. I can't tell you how many times I've been in the middle of baking only to run out of parchment paper or waxed paper. Or on Christmas day, you are cleaning up and discover that  you have run out of Saran Wrap, aluminum foil or Ziplock bags. Check them now.

Lastly, don't forget to pick up a bag or two of ice. Maybe if you have a small family or just a few people for dinner, you won't need it. But for our gang, we always run out of ice. This year, I'm putting it on the list now.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I've Had It!

post signatureI'm sick of Christmas music. That sounds downright---Scrooge-ish. I can't help it. There are only about 15 Christmas songs sung by 250 different artists. Whoever sings them---they are the same songs---over, and over and over and over....multiply that by 64 years. I think I've heard Silent Night about 517,002 times. Enough for me. No music this morning---classical later when I'm baking. Or showtunes. Yeah, showtunes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Who Doesn't Like a Surprise?

Don't you just love the unexpected? I know I do. They are the best kind of gifts. I've gotten a few already this holiday season.
We got this plush throw from our financial advisor. It's huge! I don't think you can ever have too many throws---especially in this drafty old house.
And this is why I love Starbucks. They sure know how to treat their customers! Makes me feel special.
The second surprise came when I opened the box and it WASN'T coffee! I'm not a coffee drinker, so this was unexpected. Plus, how does Starbucks know we have a Kuerig?
I wear slipper ALL. THE. TIME. Connie surprised me with these--so soft. Plus, knowing me so well, she was sure to get the ones with the "grippers" on the bottom. My stairs are deadly. I certainly don't need to break something else!
My friend, Miriam sent me this homemade card all the way from the UK. The stamp is an added bonus for this stamp collector. Swoon!
Cheri from PA surprised me with this homemade card yesterday. Hmmm. Looks like she and Miriam had the same idea with their newsprint cut-outs. I especially appreciate these cards since I didn't do anything creative this holiday season. Heck, I was barely able to get upstairs until the last couple weeks.

Keep the surprises coming folks! There's nothing I love better...
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Monday, December 14, 2015

Easy Recipes

post signatureIt's the time of year when everybody is busy with holiday preparations. So, I thought I would share a couple of the easiest recipes I have.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins
1 spice cake mix (used dry)
1-15 oz. can pumpkin
1/3 cup applesauce

Mix all ingredients and fill muffin cups. I only got 22 instead of 24. The recipe didn't call for it, but I sprinkled the tops with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 for 12-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.

If you use mini muffin cups, you'll need to adjust the timing. I think they would be better with nuts. I plan to add some the next time I make them. The applesauce makes them so moist. I put some of them in the freezer for Christmas morning.

Now this next recipe is mysterious. I'm pretty certain I got it from my friend, Nancy. But when I contacted her about whether to drain the cans or not, she had no recollection of it. I can remember exactly which seat at her kitchen table I was sitting at when we had it. I jotted down the ingredients with no instructions. I was able to find it on the internet. Maybe when Nancy sees the recipe, it will jog her memory.

8 Can Soup
1 can Veg All
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn
1 can green beans
1 can Campbells old-fashioned vegetable soup
1 can diced potatoes
1 can Hormel chili
1 can Hormel chili without beans

Put all ingredients into a big pot---do not drain anything. Heat 45 minutes. It's very thick, but when I found the exact recipe, it specifically said to not add any water. I'd say it's your call. I like thick soups. You can freeze it too.

I found several variations on the internet. One called for a pound of ground beef. Another used Rotel tomatoes. I don't think you can go wrong. In fact, I had some leftover macaroni and cheese that I added. It was delicious. I doubled the recipe to give some to the girls and still have some to freeze. It just might be my next freezer club meal.

I don't think there's anything easier than these recipes. If you have a recipe of your own that is super simple, share it with me and I'll put it on the blog!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Getting in on the act.

post signatureSince Sandy and family are having so much fun with their elf this year, I decided to get ours out and dust him off. I thought Butch would get a kick out of it. Little did I know...
My first placement was on Butch's nightstand holding  his prayer book. He never said a word. I thought maybe he hadn't noticed him.
So I moved him to his vanity. From there, the game was "on." Butch never said a word, but I noticed that the elf had disappeared.
I found him here holding my glasses on my nightstand. It has become a silent game between us. He's a man of few words anyway, so never saying anything is more HIS style. I'm dying---I'm a talker. So, I'm sharing our elf's escapades with the girls. They are getting a kick out of it too.
 This was my next move---holding Butch's coffee on top of the Kuerig.
Butch perched him on my computer. I've had fun documenting the elf's movements. You're supposed to name your elf. We never did.
Butch went to the farm with Bruce last week to cut firewood. When he got home on Thursday the elf was here. A close-up:
I bought some personalized M&M's this year. There was a Groupon special for them.
This was Butch's "move" yesterday. I died---laughing so hard!! I mean out loud laughing until the tears ran down mylegs!! (Thanks for that one Linda.)

My turn.

Just me trying to keep it fun!!