Thursday, December 20, 2012

First A Wedding...Then Christmas


Sweet friends,

Have a very blessed Christmas if I am not able to pop on here again before Santa flies into town.

I am off to love on my Godbabies and do my best not to moan about attending a wedding three days before Christmas.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It's a good thing the bride is one of my most favorite people on the planet.  Yaya forever!  Only for family (as in the kind you pick but you know better than the peeps to whom you are related- who are all awesome- but this family is my adoptive bunch) would I fly to a wedding the weekend before the most major holiday of the year.  Only for my Yaya would I forgo sleeping for a few days to make sure every. single. thing. I need for Christmas is purchased, made, wrapped, and ready to go for the 24th. 

I'm exhausted.  And am counting on adrenaline and Diet Coke to keep me awake over the weekend.

But I can't wait to see my most precious bestie, who has had that title for exactly 34 years today (Happy Birthday!), Florida, my Godsister, my Yaya and my two Godbabies.  And of course Jacqueline and Josie and everyone else. 

So if I am not back on before the sleigh arrives, happiest holiday wishes!  Sending you good tidings for a joyous, peaceful and fun Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
KK


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Time To Talk Is Now


I have mixed feelings on the 2nd Amendment.  While I would NEVER own a gun.  Never ever ever.  I do understand the right to bear arms.  Of course, I think that right was thought up in a time when folks traveled by horse and the term whole foods meant you didn't cut the corn off the cob.  In a time when Starbucks and Diet Coke and email didn't exist.  In a time when a twitter war involved tweeting of actual birds.  In a time when you hunted for food because that was the only way to put meat on a table.  But that's not what I am getting at. 

I saw this on Facebook.  So I admit right here that it is entirely possible it is not all true.  But it's probably not all false either.  And the dialog is worth discussing. 




Ironically, it seems that CT has a really progressive set of standards in place when it comes to guns.  The minimum age is 21.  And I had no idea any state made it mandatory for classes first.  CT does.  I think that's awesome.

But it didn't prevent the violence.  It was not enough to save the children.

Because mental health is just such an enormous battle that has long been ignored and misunderstood and shamed.

It's not just in the US and not just violence with guns.  This story got buried but did anyone notice that 22 children were stabbed at a school in China on Friday, too? 

Look at those numbers.  I don't understand why everyone is putting up that ridiculous Reagan quote all over Facebook to say that laws don't need to change.  If your child was killed, I promise you, this would be a no-brainer.   Or the bologna that this is not the right time to talk about this subject.  Oh honey, no time like the present!  But I guess you are right.  The day before was when it should have been discussed.  But folks fear bullies.  Like their own political parties or financial backers or big name associations.  So now is the only option.

Every time this happens and the super right wing hop on TV to say that they need cases of guns to protect themselves from the government and zombies, I always wonder the exact same thing.  What are the statistics on guns protecting people at home?  How many times do they actually save, rather than steal, lives?  And how many lives could have been saved if mental health care was easier to receive?

It is not about the way we have always done things.  It's about the ways we plan to protect the innocent in the future.  It's learning our lessons and using that knowledge to make positive changes towards safety.  Freedom to me is not the ability to own a big weapon.  Freedom is about actually being safe in my own country.

I don't have the answers.  In fact, I think the healthy attitude is to believe that the answers we come up with this week might not meet our needs a year or two down the road.  But respectful conversations need to happen and changes do need to be made in multiple areas.  When you know better, you do better.  Let's do better!

I said this on Facebook and Twitter but I will repeat here.

I have to wonder if this is what the Mayans were talking about.  The loss of 20 sweet babies sure feels a lot like the end of the world as we know it!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tears And Prayers



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I can't control my tears over this story today. 

My heart just breaks for the families of those who were killed today in CT.  I cannot imagine sending your child to school, probably talking about the upcoming Christmas break, and then getting a text that there was a shooting at the school  I am gasping.  Such horror.

Sending up endless prayers for all involved in today's tragedy.  May God find a way to bring some peace and comfort in the coming days to those families.

Great Deal On Wine

I love to shop online for clothes and accessories (and anything because I am allergic to malls).  But in the last few years I have discovered a new love of shopping online for wine. 

I love getting a box of vino at my door.  Now that is a happy package!


Anyhoo...I just noticed a fun deal on Zulily.  They are offering a $50 credit to wine.com for just $35.  I've shopped there before with success and thought I should pass along the tip.
And in other fun news...I am nearly finished with Christmas gifts. 

I decided to make something for nearly all of my friends and family this year after seeing it on Lera's blog last Christmas.  I bought all the components.  But didn't sit down to actually make this item (a post soon...but not until after Christmas of course) until last night.  Only to find that it was a LOT more difficult than I anticipated.  I just could not get it to look the way I envisioned for a full year now.  Or how it looked on Lera's blog.  I gave up at one point.  And then tried again and am now sort of OK with it.  It's not what I wanted.  So in the end, folks might just get a jar of jam if I can't get settled with it.  But I am hoping a little time away from this "quick" (famous last words of every crafter) with make me realize what I have is close enough to what I want to have.

Jury is still out.

But I do have jam made just in case.

So either way, Christmas gifts are almost all ready to be wrapped.  Woo hoo.  THAT is my Christmas.  Wrapping.  That's the VERY BEST part of Christmas for me.  Hands down, my happy place involves packaging and ribbon.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Tour Of The Keebler Elf Treehouse


So years ago...back in college to be exact...one of my besties, Little (who is both my sorority "little" and in size, is rather little) and I signed up to go on an alternative spring break. 

Did y'all ever do those in college?  Where you go do service work instead of sitting on a beach?  Well neither have I!

We went to all these meetings and were on a team headed to St. Jude's in TN when SJ's cancelled on us about a week before break.

Sad, sad sorority girls!  With no spring break plans.  Here we turned down fun, drunken party trips to do a little good in the world and we were rejected without reason days before it even began.

So we scrambled to come up with other ideas.  Little's grandparents live in Boulder, CO.  We both adore CO.  So off we went.  Lots of little day trips were planned.  And compromises were made (we went skiing for me and to the USAFA for her).  We went on the most fun factory tour ever at Celestial Seasonings.  You know, the tea.  That tour is so much fun.  If you are ever in the Denver area, go!  The gift shop ROCKS too.

As I said, we went to the United States Air Force Academy per her request.  Her friend was in school there, she loves a man in uniform and we planned to watch him march.  But the weather turned, as it does in the mountains.  And the boys didn't end up marching that day.  We saw the famous chapel and took a tour and went to the gift shop but it just wasn't what she we hoped for. 

So we're driving and see the...it is Bush that's in Denver?  Well, whatever beer plant is there, we saw.  I don't like beer so those details don't stick in my mind.  But then...we see the Keebler cookie plant.  And hello, I LOVE cookies!  I screamed to turn around, we were going to tour Keebler.  Even if was only half as awesome as Celestial Seasonings, it would turn the day around for us.


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We pull in.  No signs for the tour.  I wonder if we missed it.

But seriously, no signs.  Do you think they perhaps don't give a tour?  No...not possible.  Everyone wants to see cookies being made.  And elves making them!

Because I was the force behind this adventure, she insisted I run into this office to ask.

And like the Pollyanna I am, I bopped myself on in there.

"Um, excuse me, when is your next tour?"

A confused woman behind the front desk says, "A tour of what?"

"The cookie factor.  Do you offer tours?" 

"Oh no, I think they used to but don't any more.  I have some cookies on my desk...do you want one?"

I.  Am.  An.  Idiot.

This was over a decade ago and I am still giggling at that moment.  That nice receptionist offering me a cookie because I must have seemed so terribly pathetic and perhaps a little insane.

Needless to say, no boys in uniform marching and no damn Keebler elf sighting.  Hmph!

We did however laugh a LOT.  I mean, seriously, you have to laugh at yourself!

So should you find yourself in the Denver/Boulder area, DO go to Celestial Seasonings, DO go to Peppercorn (best store EVER), but do NOT go to the Keebler plant on a quest for cooking making elves.  I believe they remain in the North Pole for the most part and just pop down to the US to shoot cookie commercials.


This post is for you Little, who reads my blog, and Katie who reminded me of this story via her blog the other day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Homemade Chicken or Turkey Stock


I use gallons of stock in the winter months.  To make soups and stews and even when cooking brown rice.  And I do buy boxes of stock.  But when possible, I much prefer to use homemade.  The flavor difference is night and day.  Truly.  And it's about the easiest thing you could ever make.

So after I cooked my extra bird on Thanksgiving (I ate dinner with my family but knowing I wanted the meat and bones, I cooked my own big bird the day before.  Yes...I did that.  I do it ever year, actually.), I save the bones to make yummy stock a few days later when I had time.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy!  Also, you only need two ingredients.  Bones and water.  Of course, if you have the others on hand, add them.  But only the first two are really required.  Last year I made an awesome broth with bones, water and celery.  So it's completely flexible.  This year I had an onion to use but totally forgot so it never made it into the pot.  Oh well. 

Homemade Chicken or Turkey Stock

Ingredients:
* Chicken and/or Turkey bones.  You can freeze them until you need them if you prefer.
* Water.  Lots of water.
* Celery (my favorite but not required)
* Carrots (I only use when I have them on hand)
* Onions (I forgot to use)
* Salt and Pepper (to taste- you could omit)
* Bay Leaf (I've never used one but I bet it would be good)

Directions:
* Use your biggest pot.  I use the pot I use when canning.  It's HUGE.  You could also use two big pots and split the bones between them.
* Toss the bones in the pot. 
* Fill with water, leaving about 1 inch at the top.
* Add in any veggies.  Just make them small enough to fit in the pot.  No need to really chop them up though.  If adding celery, DO include the leaves.  They are one of the sweetest, most flavorful parts.
* And seasoning.  If adding salt, be very light.  You can always add more salt to soups.  Stock should not be salty to allow it to be used in as many recipes as possible.
* Bring to a simmer and let it go for as many hours as you have.  At least one.  I think I let mine go a good three.  It's on a low simmer though and you do not need to be in the kitchen.  Just let the flavors from the bones and veggies marry up.  As long as you keep it simmering on low, you won't need to worry about the liquid spilling over.




* When you realize it's late and you need to go to bed, pour into freezable containers, using a strainer to keep out any bits, for future use. Cool in the fridge and pop in the freezer the next day.







This is what I ended up with from the bones of one turkey and my largest stock pot.  The tall containers hold 4 cups and the bottom round container probably holds about that much too.  It tastes amazing.  If you find yourself sick, this is actually really good plain. 




The bonus!

Even though I am careful to pick the bird bones as clean as possible, I always end up missing some meat.  When you cook the bones for several hours, any leftover meat, even the meat that was less than tender, just falls right off and is delicious.  I put all the extra meat, carrots and some celery, along with stock, into that middle bowl and had an incredibly yummy soup the next day.  Mmmm!




Total time actually spent doing something for this recipe?  Maybe 15 mins if you include me carefully picking out all the extra meat for my bonus soup.  That's start to finish.  The three hours in between of simmering don't count as you don't need to do a darn thing.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chocolate Covered Cherries. Or How To Be The Most Popular Girl At A Party.





I first made these like six or seven years ago for a volunteer group meeting and as usual, someone said something not so nice.  My feelings were hurt.  So I didn't make them again.

But then I decided they sounded good.  I mean, I really liked them the first time.  So I gave them a go again.

This time I took them to a different volunteer group holiday party (my name is KK and I am a volunteer-aholic) and holy moly were they a hit.  They were ranting and raving like I had invented both chocolate and cherries. 

And so the chocolate covered cherries are alive and well again.  Woo hoo!

You must make them.  MUST.  It's not even a real recipe.  Exactly two ingredients.  Maybe three. 

Ready?

Chocolate Covered Cherries

Ingredients:
* 1 jar of maraschino cherries WITH stems
* some melting chocolate (not chocolate chips)
* a dab (like 1/4-1/2) tsp vegetable oil - optional








Directions:
* Drain juice out of maraschino cherries.  Save for drinks or another recipe.
* Once drained, lay cherries out in a single layer on top of paper towels.  Gently pat dry.  As dry as possible without smooshing them.
* Take a sauce pot and add a few inches of water.  Find another pot that fits over it without falling inside of it or the water touching it.  You just made yourself a double boiler- yay! 
* Add chocolate melts (and oil if you don't think they will melt well).  Bring water up to a boil.
* As your chocolate slowly starts to melt, watch it carefully and stir it with a spatula.
* Hold the stem of a cherry and dip it into the melted chocolate.  Gently tap the side of the bowl to remove excess. 
* Set to dry on a Silpat mat or parchment paper line cookie sheet.
* Once all the cherries are covered in chocolate, set the cookie sheet in the freezer to set up super quickly or the fridge for an hour or so. 
* I keep them refrigerated until I need them.  Or until I eat them.  Which is a need, right?




**Did you know that chocolate chips are not meant to melt?  Think about it.  You bake them at THREE HUNDRED FIFTY degrees.  And then don't lose their shape.  On purpose.  I have had occasional success melting them with the addition of oil/Crisco but then you risk them not getting hard.  So please make your life easier and just pick up the Hershey's chocolate melts that are in the same shelf as the chips.


Friday, December 7, 2012

What's Up Doc....Or The Last Of My Carrot Harvest


I pulled the last of my carrots the other day and have been joyfully eating them ever since.  Most I roasted with a little EVOO, Kosher salt, pepper, tiny bit of cinnamon and tiny bit of honey.  They were so sweet though- much sweeter than what you can buy at a regular grocery store.  Next year, I can omit the honey.  Just no need with all their natural sugars.




Many of you asked me about the flavor and inside of the colored carrots.  They all pretty much taste the same.  Like carrots.  But the insides also all look the same.  So even though the outsides might be yellow, red, deep orange, purple or of course regular carrot orange, the insides were all nearly the same.  I adore the contrast and will absolutely grow multi-colored carrots again next year. 




I didn't peel any of my carrots.  They were all grown in really good, organic soil with compost and other goodness.  And the colors...well that's half the fun in eating them.  I wanted to eat a purple carrot. 

One day I will have a yard big enough to GROW FOOD AND NOT GRASS!  One day...

Did you grow anything in your garden, large or small, this year? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

When You're Down And Out, Lift Up You're Head And Shout


I started this list a while back but figured today was as good as any to post it. 

Just a few little things I try to remember (this will hopefully serve to jog my memory in the future) to do when I am having one of those grouchy, grumpy, tears just randomly falling down my face, blue blue, not happy, nothing is going right, bad days.

1. Meditate.  Sit in the middle of your bed, in your office chair, or in your (parked) car in a parking lot.  Close your eyes.  And breathe deeply.  In...one...two...three...four...five.  And out...one...two...three...four...five.  Repeat.  Repeat again.  Now concentrate on NOTHING.  I often need to think about a blank piece of paper or a white wall.  Now the rest, is up to you.  Sometimes I concentrate on one thing I am truly grateful for.  Sometimes I pray.  But I always do so in a way that clears my foggy thoughts and leaves me feeling lighter.  If you don't feel lighter, keep those eyes closed and keep breathing. 

2. Stretch.  Or any exercise.  But since this is me and I am not a fan of exercising, stretching is often the most I can bring myself to do.  Sometimes I just hang out upside down on my big yoga ball. 

3. Clean.  For me, it's usually vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom.  Because both are fast to accomplish and make me feel worlds better.  So to clarify, I don't like cleaning.  Who does?  But I like the feeling I get after I have finished cleaning.  A little project like cleaning the bathroom (my home is very small) or mopping the kitchen can have a big moral boost for me.

4. Walk the dog.  We walk a specific route every evening.  Depending on the weather, it takes us 30-50 minutes (it takes us a LOT longer in the summer than the winter because of the heat and her achy joints).  But I take in the beauty of my city, breath fresh (city) air, stretch my legs and get a little exercise in. 

5. Drink water.  On bad mood days I am tempted (and often give in) to drink Diet Coke.  But I feel better when I drink water.  I just forget that in the middle of an "I need a band aid for my woes" moment.  Those Mio water flavor thingys help to change up the flavors a lot.

6. Eat a healthy meal.  Again, I am tempted to eat crap when feeling blue.  But even if I just make eggs or a baked potato with homemade salsa, I feel better than eating fast food.  Plus, not eating enough can often be half my mood issue. 

7. Cry.  Allow myself the space to get those tears out of my system.  This usually happens while driving from point A to B.  I just wallow for 10 minutes and get it all out.  I can feel a difference in myself in a month when I have not had a good cry.  I need that release.

8. Take a drive.  Sometimes I do this while singing at the top of my lungs (I am an AMAZING singer in my car).  Sometimes I do this in silence.  Sometimes I talk it out (yes I talk to myself).  Sometimes I cry it out.  But it nearly always helps to relax me to just take a little drive.

9. Watch Lifetime.  I don't resort to this very often.  But if you are feeling particularly glum and down on your luck, just flip on any Lifetime TV Movie.  And you will instantly see that your personal level of bad luck and crazy is less than the lead actress in that movie.  Any movie.  Your life is better!

10. Call a bestie.  I rarely call and say I'm down and need cheering up.  Just hearing her voice and stories of the kids is enough to turn my frown upside down. 

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