Christmas Wrap-Up

Christmas was very good here. I thought for a little bit it wasn’t but then I grew up and got over it! (long story).

We spent the night at my Aunt and Uncle’s house on Christmas Eve since my Grandparents and my nephew were already there. Robert and I opened most of our presents to each other on the 23rd. We didn’t want to take everything over to the relatives as they were having a rather lean Christmas AND it would’ve been a pain to haul it all there and haul it all back. We already had to take some presents for them, clothes for us and the dog and her stuff, so the car was full.

I got Robert a lot of tools that he was wanting… jack stands, a creeper, a droplight for the garage, and a benchtop grinding wheel. He  also requested socks and underwear and boy did I cover that one! I also got him some sweatpants he was wanting and some long sleeved tshirts. He was happy with all of it.

He got me some really nice skillets, a mixing bowl, tongs, silicon spatulas, the sneakers I wanted, two pair of jeans, something nice from Victoria’s Secret and some perfum (which he just remembered he had yesterday and got it out for me).

We took lots of stuff over to the relatives. We bought groceries for Christmas Eve dinner, and Christmas day breakfast and dinner. We also bought their dogs a 40lb. bag of dog food, a huge box of Milkbones (from Sam’s) and some other treats. We had several presents for my nephew and two presents each for everyone else. And we had stocking stuffers for 8 people. It was kind of crazy. We could afford to be Santa in moderation this year though and no one else really could so I did my best to spend our budget wisely and get everyone nice gifts they could really use (but that weren’t totally boring). I totally scored on a few things – I found the nightgowns my Aunt likes on clearance and was able to get her three for the price of one. I found Tony Stewart flannel so I could make Tony Stewart pillow cases to go with the Tony Stewart sleeping bag we got my nephew.

I loaded  Robert’s stocking with matchbox fire trucks… he uses them in his training work at the fire station and has been wanting to add to his collection. Anyway, Christmas Eve was fun… we just hung out and ate and enjoyed being together. Christmas morning  was fun… my nephew  was all excited and enjoyed his gifts very much. After the presents were opened we started working on cooking dinner and then my Aunt, Grandma and Robert and I played the new game I got from my sister-in-law, Ticket to Ride. It was really enjoyable. Robert and I have played it a few more times since then too.

Daisy enjoyed spending time with her four-footed cousins and playing and hanging out. She behaved really well and just in general has been turning out to be a really great dog.

By the time we came home on Christmas Day we were glad to be home. Robert was off to the fire station for the night. The last few days we’ve been cleaning and working and spending time together and cooking and just enjoying ourselves.

Today we took Daisy to the dog park… she was scared but she did ok. She was jumping on the people a lot, which is bad but I think it was because she was nervous. I made more of the brown butter, brown sugar shorties today. Yum! Best cookies ever.

In the morning I have to take Daisy to the vet again. She has worms again or still has them or something, not really sure. I am going to a different vet than I did the first time. The first guy was just junk, so not going back there.

Need to get to bed. Oh, I’ve recently been trying out Paperback Swap (.com)… it’s great! I love it!

Best part of Christmas 2008 – Seeing how much my nephew really believes in Santa this year. He was using the NORAD Santa tracker all day to see where Santa was, talking to his “elf on the shelf” Phillip Johnny Bob, decorating a cookie for Santa… he just really believed and it was so precious to see his innocence for once. He usually a bit of a cynic and a know it all, as most 6 year olds are I guess. But on Christmas Eve he was filled with wonder and joy. It was awesome.

Great Weekend

We had a great time at Caddo Lake State Park. It was a really unique place. So much so that at one point, kayaking down the river, I saw a sign with a Texas flag on it and said “Look, they’re from Texas too!”. To which my lovely husband said “Duh!” Oh well. It was just so different from the part of Texas we are from that I felt like we were someplace else entirely. I also felt like we were getting away.

I haven’t downloaded the pictures yet, but I hopefully can do that tomorrow. Highlights of the weekend – going on a 6-mile kayak on Caddo Lake. My amazing patient and wonderful husband kept paddling even when I was very tired and getting a bit cranky. He was so excited to be out on the water, it was great.

We cooked fajitas on the campfire for lunch Saturday, and made a combo turkey/beef meatloaf in the dutch oven for dinner (on the campfire) along with foil packets of asparagus and red potatoes. And then we had s’mores with dark chocolate. Yum!

Sunday we had my attempt at the Weight Watchers version of chili dogs, using turkey chili, turkey dogs and wheat buns. It worked pretty well. We also did some geocaching which we hadn’t done since we were in Mexico for Christmas. It was awesome to be outside, being active together and just being together. It was really refreshing for Robert, who has been completely stressed lately and it was a relief to me to see him so visibly relax.

It was a good trip. Today, I got some decent work done posting. The kitchen is another story – it’s trashed! It will get done though. Tomorrow we are getting physicals for life insurance and I have a Weight Watchers meeting. It should be a busy day. I hope I can get some work done.

Wait, where did my week go?

I was just telling Robert the other day that in the past 6 months I have finally come to understand the saying “time flies.” In the past, I honestly almost never felt that way. Days continued to go by slowly, no matter what was going on. The past 6 months have gone by in a blink or less. This week, I feel like I haven’t even gotten started and already it is Thursday. We are planning to go camping this weekend so I think tomorrow will be filled with preparations for that.

I think no matter what we do this weekend there will be some kayaking involved. My poor husband has been itching to do some serious kayaking lately and it just has not happened. I am not sure yet where we are going either. Obviously someplace with a lake. 🙂

I increased my paid posts by 1/3 last month (75 vs. 50 in August) so that made me happy. It is still not as high as I want to be, but at least it is forward progress. I am struggling to make time to work on posting AND work on other story ideas and find places to pitch them to. I guess it is something I need to learn how to do. I need to make more money so I can get my savings account built up, take some classes and just generally have more flexibility (and security as far as back up funds). I need to get better at keeping myself on a schedule and if I can do that,  I think it will all fall into place.

I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting on Tuesday. I joined the program about 2 years ago and used the online tools and lost about 30 pounds. When I met Robert, we quickly discovered that we both love to try new and interesting foods (and chicken wings) and we love to cook. That 30 pounds came back AND it brought along some friends as my mother would say. So, I need to get that taken care of, seriously. Luckily, my husband thinks it’s ok to make that monthly expense a priority as it will improve my health in the long term. He is also thinking about joining at some point, though right now he is so busy with work it isn’t going to happen. Maybe in another month.

I need to take some photos of the quilt blocks I made for exchanging with my cousin. They are super cute, as are the ones she sent to me. We are exchanging them every month until our quilting retreat in March. I will try to do that later today.

Is it naptime yet?

So, my internet requests on freecycle finally paid off. Someone contacted me that had two boxes of pears and about 75 canning jars. Woo!

And, over the weekend Tom Thumb had apples for 88 cents per pound. So, I bought about 26 pounds. I picked up the pears on Monday afternoon and took them straight to my Aunt’s house, along with my canner, jars, the apples, cookbooks…. I had a full car!

It was all really good. The only bad part is we didn’t even get started in earnest until 5pm.

Round 1, three quarts of apple pie filling. Round two was 12 pints of applesauce. Round three was six pints of apple/pear butter and one pint of apple slices. Round four was eight half pints of ginger pear preserves. Round five was me going home and going to bed since it was 4am!

The thing was, there was still an entire box of pears left. Oh my!

Since these were nice, from the tree, home grown pears (and probably organic) they were seriously tough to peel. Wow. My knuckles were swollen from holding the peeler by the end of the night. I went to bed with an ice pack wrapped around my hand! But, my Aunt and I both agreed that while it was hard work, it was fun to be together and you really can’t beat free pears.

My Aunt is planning to use the remainder to can sliced pears, make carrot cake jam, some autumn fruit conserve or something and one other thing which I can’t remember at the moment. Robert doesn’t like pears so much and she and my Uncle really like them, so I was willing to leave the extra box in exchange for her help on the apples and such.

After all of that canning and being up til 4 am, yesterday got kind of wasted. I slept until noon. Got up, used a few pears to make some Pear Pecan bread (adapted from my Apple Walnut Bread recipe), took a shower and then headed out to a Stampin’ Up gathering at my friend Correna’s house.

Yummy Apple Walnut Bread (from Seventeen Magazine sometime in the early 90s…seriously!).

  • 1/4 cup butter or shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups chopped apples
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan. In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and egg. In a medium bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture then add fruit and nuts. Spread batter into pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

My Notes: For this batch, I used pears (shredded, not chopped, and liquid gently squeezed out) and pecans since that is what I had on hand. I omitted the cinnamon and nutmeg and used ground ginger. Delicious! I am pretty confident you could use applesauce (or pear puree or whatever), pumpkin or any other fruit or veggie that bakes well. Zucchini, of course. You can adapt the spices for whatever flavor you are looking for. Flaked coconut would probably be good too, but the bread wouldn’t be nearly as moist.

When baking, because of the moistness of the apples/pears/whatever I always have to bake this up to 15 minutes longer than the recipe suggests.

I am guessing this would make good muffins as well, you would just have to adjust the baking time. Enjoy!

Score!

Too much to write and no time to do it.

My freecycle posts have paid off. I am getting a lot of canning jars tomorrow and Tuesday and, a few bushels (potentially) of pears. My Aunt is coming over Wednesday and we will make pear stuff and applesauce and all that. She is bringing herself to work and her tools.. apple peeler/corer/slicer thingie, food processor, etc. Also, she loves pears. Robert doesn’t so I will limit the amount of pear stuff I keep but, having her here will help me get the apple stuff all done so it’s all good.

More news, and photos, later.

Where am I and what happened to the heat?

Living in Texas for the past three and a half years I have gotten somewhat used to the seemingly unending heat. It’s just always hot here, or, it seems that way compared to where I grew up in Indiana with nice Lake Michigan breezes.

But lately…

I have had the windows open constantly. The air conditioning hasn’t been on since sometime last week. It IS like Indiana in the fall. Woo! The only unfortunately part is that Robert’s allergies are bad enough thatw e do have to close everything up when we go to bed. But, it still stays cool enough that we don’t need the air on. Awesomeness! I really get excited when we can save big chunks of electricity.

I am doing pretty well on posting this week and actually beginning to get my income on target for the budget that I would like to have. That is definitely a good feeling. And I think in my last post I mentioned that I would tell you my motivational secret this time around. It’s a bit odd I guess and probably won’t work for everyone, or even a lot of people.

My husband is my motivation. Not in the way you might think either. There is no pressure to make tons of money or anything coming from him. There are some clear targets that need to be hit as far as contributing to bills and all that  but honestly, they aren’t all that high. So, the motivation comes from him in a different way.

I was sitting at home one day last week, not feeling like doing much of anything at all. Then I thought about Robert and how much he would love to have the job I have. And then, I thought about him actually having a job like mine. And how he would be going 90 mph with his hair on fire to do the very best (and make the very most) that he could. And I realized how truly lucky I am that I have the opportunity to do this. And that I have him to support me (not in the financial sense, but in the emtional sense). I expressed an interest in this opportunity and did some of the ground work and he has been behind me 100% the whole time.

What an awesome gift. Why on earth would I waste it? Motivating? To me it was.

In other news… I made some amazing muffins this evening. I got the recipe over at Owlhaven for these Baked Apple Donuts. I didn’t have any apples on hand, but I had two pears, which was just the right amount. I didn’t bother chopping them, I just ran them over the cheese grater, peel and all. They are seriously good.

I think next time I will substitute applesauce for the butter in the actual batter and then just brush some melted butter over the tops instead of dipping them in butter (eek!) before dipping them in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

At the same time, I baked some brown rice in the oven. It came out pretty well, same as when I make it on the stovetop, but, it was easy and got accomplished while the muffins were baking so that was nice. We had the brown rice with left over proteins from the week – chicken in sun dried tomato sauce and bbq brisket.

I’m really looking forward to the weekend. It will be nice to spend some time with my husband. It’s been a  really long week for him (starting on September 8th since he hasn’t had a day off since then!) so I haven’t had a whole lot of time to spend with him. I’m not complaining… it will just be nice to have some good quality time together. And, he has Monday off. Yay!

Why am I still awake? I dunno…

So, it’s almost midnight. I am not sure what time zone wordpress thinks I’m in as it says it’s 4:58am. I’ll have to look in to that one.

My pre-midnight snack

My pre-midnight snack

I recently (like 30 minutes ago) made some hot chocolate. It was definitely NOT from a paper envelope. My hot chocolate was memories, thoughts, and awesomeness. You see, The chocolate itself was real, and real 77% cocoa from Amsterdam. My husband brought it home from a business trip. He always brings home chocolates from Europe. 😀 I told you he was a good man! The base of my hot chocolate was some organix milk. I’ve recently discovered that while I do not care for “regular” milk from one of those cardboard containers, the organic stuff is pretty decent. I’d prefer glass but can’t find it for the most part. Not glass AND organic.

To the milk and the chocolate I added a touch of sugar, a bit of Texas honey (gotta keep it local!) and some super yummy and amazing vanilla that I bought at a market in Mexico. I served it up in my recently acquired Donald Duck mug. My husband brought it back from his Dad’s house. I found it in a box in the closet and brought it out. I asked if it was ok if I used it. Of course he says. I say good, cause I LOVE Donald Duck! Oh, wow, so did my Dad my husband says to me. There are a lot of people I can do without in this world. I wish I had had the opportunity to know my father in law. To even talk to him once. Or for him to even know we were getting married. He died the month before we got engaged. I’m not sure why it gets me teary eyed and really sad to think about. I just wish I had known him. His kids are the coolest ever.

Well anyway. Lots was done today. I went on a grocery binge. I, um, don’t think I’ll be needing anything next week. So when I came home I decided I was tired of shuffling things around in the pantry and hauled them out, cleaned it up and organized it. Poor husband won’t be able to find anything, even though I feel like it logical (the veggies are together, beans are together, flours are all lined up, etc.). It was no small feat. I am blessed, oh so blessed, with a pantry that makes other women jealous. I could not get a good photo this evening. I will try again tomorrow.

We have filled up the gas cans. We have groceries galore. We’ve brought in all the small things from the yard. We’ve battened down the hatches so to speak. We’ll see what the morning brings with hurricane Ike not so far away from us. We are supposed to get winds in the 60mph range and a lot of rain. My biggest concerns are keeping the packed freezer cold enough if the power goes out and that my tiny baby plant sprouts survive it all ok. Oh, and that my poor husband makes it through the day at work tomorrow (and Sunday probably).

Let’s pray it turns out more like Gustav and less like Katrina. And paray especially hard for anyone who did not evacuate Galveston. I hope they all did. Because it could take a direct hit.