Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Everyday Food #58 - Seared Steak With Roasted Mushrooms and Spinach Salad

Seared Steak with Roasted Mushrooms and Spinach Salad -- From Everyday Food #58, December 2008, page 110 - "2 for 1 Suppers" section. YUMMY! Well worth the trips to three grocery stores trying to find flank steak that didn't cost more than sirloin steak. (Finally, Kroger $6.99 -I actually went to the "Butcher" section). I loved the seasoning rub. Though I will cut back a little on the 2 teaspoons of salt, if using regular salt instead of coarse salt. The mushrooms came out good, I also tossed in a few quartered small potatoes to roast along with them. Because the flank steak was still a little pricey, I only got a little over a pound and did not double the amount (3 pounds) needed for the do-over into the Steak Tostadas with Cilantro Sour Cream on the next page for the next day. I'll definitely make these again and be watching the ads for the next time flank steak goes on sale.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Reality Sewing Bites and Kisses Roll Call of 2008

While I have sewn and posted many sewing projects this year, a few have become reach-for items in the closets and others have gone on to Goodwill.

Here is the Reality Roll Call of 2008 (sponsored by Hershey's, because I love sewing and chocolate!):


Sandra Betzina Today's Fit Vogue 1071 - I wish I had made this trial run in a better fabric, and I will sew it again. Easy, trendy but not frumpy.

Sandra Betzina Today's Fit Vogue 7717 - Unfortunately OOP (Out-Of-Print). I can't wait for warmer weather to make several more for Spring and Summer, and to try the rest of the pattern's wardrobe.

Sandra Betzina Today's Fit Vogue 2949 - Didn't think I would like and wear this as much as I have. Got looks (not strange) and compliments everytime I wore it.

Sandra Betzina Today's Fit Vogue 1058 - Another for the list to make again. It goes with pants, skirts and ties it all together.

Sandra Betzina Today's Fit Vogue 2945 - Nominee for the 2008 Hall of Fame! I've got two fabrics on the launch pile to make more.

Vogue 7799 - For a pattern I had no hopes nor agenda, a triple play! Here's View B. I lucked out with the fabric, too, and have been washing and wearing this at least once a week. And would be doing the same for View A except it was a bad/itchy/scratchy fabric choice. View C has been in and out of the closet, too. It feels dressier than the others, perhaps it's the draping.

Burda 7997 Young Fashion Teen - With a few minor adjustments, made great shorts for L. I still plan to make the bunny for Easter 2009!

Burda Easy 7793 - L liked the tank tops, and she did wear the overblouse a few times.

Burda 8516 Young Fashion Teen - Great to wear over tank tops like Burda 7793 when you need a little more coverage.

Burda 7808 View B - Cute and fun to wear, I liked this version better than View A, which fell into the Bites column.

Burda 8134 (top) and Burda 7966 - Cute bedtime wear (nightwear sounds like going out to party). Combo'd with Kwik Sew 2811, with these patterns I'm all set for bed (that doesn't sound good, either!). Here's the original post and intention to make the tops to go with the Nick and Nora sleep pants.

Burda 8316 Young Fashion Teen - L thought these made great knock-around pants. Very fun and comfy to wear. We made these a couple of times, here's the first pair.

Burda 7966 capris - I actually ended up wearing these. First impressions aren't always right, as I'm sure this post has proven.

Burda 7991 Young Fashion Teen - Best teen pants ever! L LOVED all versions!

Burda 7789 Young Fashion Teen - Fun to wear, cute skirt for L.

Burda 8517 Young Fashion Teen - Good go-to dress when you need one. L also really liked the top version.


Burda 7795 - I tried to wear a couple of times, finally got rid of this - I felt like Sgt. Pepper!

Burda 7782 - History, too. Anything requiring that much fiddling to get it to work, doesn't.

Vogue 8505 - Thank goodness for Sandra Betzina Today's Fit OOP 8515 to make it wearable. Unfortunately, I haven't. I'll give it until Go Texan Day and if it still languishes in the closet, out it goes.

Sandra Betzina Today's Fit Vogue 2980 - So disappointed it didn't work. I loved Sandra's made-up versions. Regretfully gave away the top and the pattern at an ASG Neighborhood Group meeting.

Vogue 8462 - Frump-a-dump. Such potential, it's just plain too big all over. I tried wearing the View C top the other day to give it one more chance. Seriously, someone else will absolutely love these, great fabric and color, oh well. All three - jacket, top, pattern - are on their way to Goodwill.

Vogue 8522 - Most likely combination of bad fabric and styling choice. Only worn once, it's just not me.

Burda 7940 - Made, never worn more than once by L. Still hanging in the closet, will give it until Spring to see the light of day.

Burda 7871 Young Fashion Teen - Not worn by either of us yet. Most likely to be outed in next closet purge. Too orange, too small, too big. Reality - we both look and feel goofy in it. May keep the pattern around for tinkering, but odds are it's leaving, too.

Burda 7968 - How can a pattern be skanky (Camisole) and frumpy (blouse)?

Burda 7967 - Bad fabric choice, PITA to iron after every washing, and so it hangs on the back of the sewing room door, begging for pressing next time I fire up the iron. But I ignore. It's probably too preppy for me, style and fabric-wise.

Burda 7925 - I even made the top twice. But while wearing it, felt a little too Carol Brady Bunch. Still hope for the pants in 2009, though.

Burda 7808 View A - Loved the other version I made, hated this one. Wore it only once.

Burda 7822 Young Fashion Teen - Picture says more than I can. This was probably the biggest flop.

Burda 7802 View C Pants - After wearing, they were just too big, too baggy, too... Out!

Did I mention the Goodwill drop-off people recognize and greet me at this point?

Burda 8076 - Gone!

Burda 7965 - Too loose, too baggy - out!

Burda 7788 - Pretty neckline, but too short and wide. May try to use neckline on something else.
Burda 7775 - Too short, too "petite-y"

Burda 7804 - One's enough. The asymetrical side eventually got on my nerves.

Burda 7779 - Not me, too 80's. Ditto.

Burda 7797 - Not bad, but not worn.

Burda 7824 Young Fashion Teen - Another petite-y top. So pretty, but not the right proportion if you are over 6 feet tall.

Burda 7876 Young Fashion Teen - Such a well-drafted pattern. Never worn, but still in her closet.

And there you go. I've off to plan and sew new projects for 2009 and have some more chocolate!

Money Monday - Frozen Assets

I read this article in the November 2008 issue of Southern Living magazine, and thought it was a very innovative space and money-saving tip. I've flat packed and frozen leftovers with quart-sized Zip-locs, but sometimes it can be messy and the bags can stick together. I liked the idea of using boxes - to not only make the transfer process more secure, but also provide a good storage and space-saving shape.
"...Line a box with a large zip-top plastic freezer bag, folding the edges of the bag over the edges of the box (the way you would place a liner in a trash can), so that the box supports the bag when filled. Seal the bag, and freeze vertically while still inside the box. Once frozen, remove the filled bag from the box and stack horizontally. Downsize to smaller freezer bags and boxes for fewer servings."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Everyday Food #58 - Chocolate Gingerbread Bars

From the Everyday Food #58 December 2008 issue, page 142 --
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
confectioner's sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line bottom with strip of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides, butter paper. Dust paper and sides of pan with additional cocoa powder; set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda. Set aside. In large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, molasses, egg and sour cream until smooth. Add flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (do not overmix). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top.
Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean (about 30 to 35 minutes). Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely. Using paper overhang, lift gingerbread from pan. Transfer to cutting board and cut into 16 squares. Before serving, dust with powdered sugar.
Our rating: 2/3 forks up A little too spicy for L, but T and I liked them. They reminded me of a cakey brownie. I may try baking them again in mini loaf pans for potential gift-giving. The molasses intensified the chocolatey-ness. I may cut back a little on the pumpkin pie spice, or be more careful measuring - I think a little extra spilled over into the bowl. Love the fact that these, like many other Everyday Food recipes, use a whisk instead of a mixer. I used a tea ball to help sprinkle the confectioner's sugar on top of the bars.

Who are these people and what are they doing here?!

As you can obviously tell, I have a rather eclectic group of friends and fellow bloggers in the right alley. I thought each week on Sunday I would randomly showcase one from the list and why they are there. I love to discover new blogs, and I think you will enjoy the introduction for new places to visit in Bloggy Land.
This week - Sew Stylish
Not only does Helen sew, but she knits (crochets, too!) beautifully. Pop on over to her blog and just gawk at the gorgeous things she's created. Especially check out her December 22 entry. Sew Stylish, KNIT STYLISH! Wow! And she's a very nice person, too. Even across the pond and in the midst of planning her wedding, she helped me find very good homes for a friend's knitting stash.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fabric Shopping at Target

Further proof you can find fabric in unusual places -- and get a bonus potholder! I originally bought this on sale (it was back by the towels) for the potholder, but then I noticed the "towel" was a nice medium-weight 100% cotton. With cute trees that while didn't scream "Christmas", could easily be embellished and used for seasonal Winter sewing and craft projects. I loved the colors, too. It measures 18" x 28" with turned under edges. There you go, a nice hunk of fabric and if you incorporate the finished edges, a potential project half-done! Run to Target and see if it might be lurking in the markdown section...or the red Clearance endcaps near the sheets and towels.

Cinnamon Rolls


3/4 cup water, plus 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons butter, softened
*2 1/2 cups bread flour (1/2 cup white whole wheat, 2 cups bread flour)
1/4 cup sugar Italic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bread machine yeast
*1/3 cup sugar (1/4 cup)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (Penzeys Vietnamese)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
*1 cup powdered sugar (2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan, except the cinnamon filling and glaze. (I know, duh!).
Select Dough/Manual cycle.
Grease a 9x9x2 inch square pan. Prepare Cinnamon Filling.

Flatten dough with hands or rolling pin into 9" square (or best attempt) on lightly floured surface. Spread or dot with 2 tablespoons butter or margarine; sprinkle with Cinnamon Filling. Roll dough up tightly; pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Cut roll into 1' slices. Place in pan. (Stop here and refrigerate if needed to bake later). Cover and let rise in warm place 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until double.
Heat oven to 350, bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle Vanilla Glaze over warm rolls. Serve warm.

*Modified from Betty Crocker's Bread Machine Cookbook, page 79. I subsituted 1/2 cup of the bread flour with King Arthur White Whole Wheat. I probably don't use two tablespoons of butter, but just dot the dough with bits of butter instead. I also reduced the sugar in the filling to 1/4 cup, with enough left over to refill our cinnamon sugar shaker. I use Penzeys Vietnamese cinnamon. I've played with the glaze, too - reducing it to 2/3 cup powdered sugar and splashing in enough milk to get the right consistency. Nine rolls is the minimum amount you'll get, depending upon how long you make the roll and if you cut the slices a little less than 1" wide. You can also prepare the rolls the night before, refrigerating at the point you have sliced and put in the pan. In the morning, let them get a little close to room temperature and then proceed to let them rise until double. I put them in the oven, select the lowest setting and then turn it off when it is preheated. It is warm but not enough to begin baking. I also reduced the heat from 375 to 350, as these bake and brown pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I've discovered they do not freeze well, either at the prebaked or baked roll stage.

Here's a link where someone actually figured the calorie stats, along with comments and more variations. I think and hope my changes may make it a little bit healthier.

Kinda Kolache

This was my attempt to make cheese kolaches, with the leftover cream cheese filling from the cream cheese coffee cake. I used my cinnamon roll bread machine recipe for the dough, made golf-ball sized balls and tried to center the cream cheese. But I couldn't figure out how to make and get it to look like the traditional squares. So I flattened them and added more cream cheese on top until it looked like a cream cheese danish. That's good in my book, too. I let them cool and then drizzled a little glaze...further distancing away from a kolache... While it resembled a danish, it tasted just like a cheese kolache. Only with more filling, and frosting. Which in my book is win-win. Everyone here liked them and I'll definitely do this again next time I'm in a cream cheese baking mode and mood!
I also had enough leftover dough to make some cinnamon rolls, albeit smaller. I thought I had posted my recipe earlier, but I will do so in a separate post.

New Tea Fav

Celestial Seasonings Roastaroma I found a box of 20 teabags at Whole Foods for only $2.99. I was surprised it brewed dark like coffee, but it doesn't taste like coffee. I like the cinnamon, allspice and anise flavors - add a little milk and sugar and you're all set.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Burda World of Fashion spotted in Pearland!

In the new Barnes and Noble in Pearland Town Center. And it's the December 2008 issue, priced at $12.50. Google and print an online store coupon and/or your Member Card and grab it. There were six issues as of this morning. It's pretty rare to find Burda WOF on the newsstands. I figure if enough people buy it, they will continue to stock it. In the meantime, these came home with me. Seriously, I have a magazine addiction. And an eye for upcoming projects. A couple of them under consideration for ASG Neighborhood Group programs. So it's all in the name of research, right? Fortunately I don't buy these all the time, but it appears January is a good month for magazines. So much for New Year's Resolutions. . .

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Taste of Home - Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Our traditional Christmas breakfast...and breakfast later on, as it makes more than one coffee cake and it freezes well! Giftable, too! L and I would bring one to our friend, Mary, on Christmas Eve.

This is from the February/March 1995 Taste of Home issue. Be forewarned, it takes two days, as the dough is refrigerated overnight. Through the years I've reduced by half the dough ingredients, because the original amount would make four, maybe even five huge coffee cakes. But I kept the filling the same, because who doesn't like cream cheese? Use your best judgement how much to use on each loaf -- big eyes make for gooey mess. Suffice to say you will have some left over if you have cut the dough ingredients in half. You could refrigerate and use it later for a small batch of kolaches, or sweet rolls, or if you are not afraid of an egg, swipe a spoonful occasionally. I have also substituted low fat sour cream and the Neufachel 1/3 less fat cream cheese. Stay away from the fat-free stuff. Another nice touch is to use almond extract for the vanilla in the glaze if you are sprinkling toasted almonds on top.


1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
2 packages dry yeast (FYI: 1 package equals 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water, 110-115 degrees
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups flour

2 packages cream cheese, softened, 8 ounce size
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
sliced almonds, toasted, optional

In a saucepan, combine sour cream, sugar, butter and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for 5-10 minutes or until well blended. Cool to room temperature. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add sour cream mixture and eggs; mix well. Gradually stir in flour. Dough will be very soft. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next day, combine filling ingredients in a mixing bowl until well blended. Turn dough onto a floured board; knead 5-6 times. Divide into four equal portions. Roll each portion into a 12 x 8 rectangle. Spread 1/4 of the filling on each to within 1 inch of edges. Roll up, jelly-roll style from long side; pinch seams and ends to seal. Place seam side down on greased baking sheet/s. Do this part if you want to get artsy-creative: Cut six X's on top of loaves. Lately I've been putting it seam side up and if it unrolls a little exposing the cream cheese, that's OK, too. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 375 (I adjust it down to 350 if it starts to brown too quickly) for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Combined the first three glaze ingredients, drizzle over loaves. Sprinkle with almonds if desired.

Merry Christmas!

Netflix Stars - Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

5/5 stars! An unexpected social commentary on the eve of World War II. Frances McDormand was great and actually in a movie that is not a Cohen brothers movie.
Amy Adams is showing up and proving her versatility lately. She was in Charlie Wilson's War and now this one.

Netflix Stars - Mamma Mia!

1/5 stars - Somebody owed somebody some favors...

Netflix Stars - Charlie Wilson's War

4.5/5 stars - A very realistic and dramatic portrayal of a relatively unknown aspect of the Cold War. The actors are all top-notch and give a great performance.

Netflix Stars - House Bunny

Believe it or not, 3/5. Yes, the premise is a bit silly and predictable, and you can tell it is an Adam Sandler-produced movie, but it was funny fluff. You'll find yourself laughing despite it all. And keep your eyes open for the cast -- Collin Hanks, Rumer Willis, the guy from All-American Rejects, the girls next door...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa, please bring me time, nice fabric, patterns that fit...

If you were expecting a sweetness post to sip with a mug of cocoa - Skip to the next blog on your list and grab something stronger. This rant began when a friend asked me about local sewing machine dealers in the Houston area and this is part of my email response...

"...But just as the fabric stores are changing, so are the sewing machine dealers. As you discovered with quilting shops selling sewing machines. Are you a fabric store or a sewing machine store? Stand-alone, one-brand dealers are disappearing. And I think it is difficult and frustrating to deal with these new hybrid stores. Everyone knows nothing. Arrgh!

What is happening to the middle market? And to sewing machines? You can find cheap machines at Wal-Mart and Jo-Ann's, and then pricey my-first-car-didn't-cost-this-much! $$$ brands such as Berninas, etc. Are sewing machines becoming disposable like toasters and small electronics? When a machine is sold in the $100-ish range, and repairs can come close to that, as I'm sure you've discovered -- what is a sew-er supposed to do? Take up scrapbooking?! And in this economy, how many people are willing to take the risk to throw it all behind one expensive brand of machine and hope for business. Especially when you have the Internet deals, eBay and even Craigslist.

A friend of mine had a Riccar, all-metal, a workhorse from the late 60's/70's. Yet she spent years and $$$ trying to get it repaired and ultimately never could get it to work 100% again. I lost track of how many repair people and dealers told her it could not be fixed. Even asking online! They just gave up or didn't have the expertise or equipment/parts. That's crazy!

As if today's sew-er isn't challenged enough trying to find decent fabric and patterns properly drafted, we must contend with finding good machines and keeping them working.

I asked L the other day if any of her classmates sewed. She said one maybe - who only takes things apart and embellishes. Nothing from start to finish. L also said when clothing is so cheap (and falls apart after 3 washings), there really isn't an investment wardrobe or the inclination (and money!) to create something to wear. That's a really sad, endless loop!

So yes, I agree with you -- it is crazy out there. And amazing that the 4th largest city has such dismal* offerings..."

I'm sure your city is the same, too. What do you do?

(*with the exception of H, my repair guy!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Money Monday - Jingle all the way

...to the bank! We've been saving our silver change (pennies go to Popeye) in one of L's old formula cans for years. When it is filled almost to the top, on average there's at least $50-$60 worth of coins. And the bank will give you wrappers for free, all you have to do is ask. Every little bit helps and adds up.

Upcoming Jo-Ann's Pattern Sales

New Year's Sale - December 31-January 4
Vogue Patterns - $3.99
McCall's - $1.99
50% off buttons
50% off quilting notions
50% off thread

It's a snap!

In the December issue of Family Circle magazine, there is a 6-page Crayola advertising section, celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the 64 crayon box. (Wasn't that box coveted by us all? With the crayon sharpener in the back! Wherein sometimes-always a crayon broke off? What I really had big eyes for was the hinged white box of 108 or 128 or more -- I was only 4 and anything over 100 would have had my head spinning. With a handle! Rows and rows of colors with a special separate holder for each one. Your crayon paper wrap would stay pristine. And it had two sharpeners! Maybe even more, this was a really $$ collection. The girl across the apartment hall had one and oh how I wanted one, too. But she was in First Grade and I was told by my Mom that you had to be that age to have one. Years later when I was 12 I did get a Sears Kenmore sewing machine for Christmas so that more than made up for the Crayolas, Easy Bake Oven and Play-Doh Fun Factory MIA's. Aren't you glad, too? Who wants to read a blog about EBO's and PDFF's creations. Though I imagine there probably is a blog out there.) Back to the present...Crayola and Family Circle have joined forces to raise $10,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. All you have to do is use your camera phone and take a picture of the Crayola logo and send it to fc@snaptag.mobi or 949-331-8147. The phone number worked for me. To participate, you must be 21 or older and a legal resident of the 50 United States and District of Columbia.

The promotion ends December 31, 2008 or until 10,000 messages are received. I just sent one last night, so it is still going on.
And yes, I just tried it -- you can take a picture of this picture in the blog post - it works!

Kirkland Spiced Pecan Cereal at Costco

Just appeared at the cereal endcap at my Costco - Spiced Pecan Cereal. A 34 ounce 2-bag box (bless them, I hate the one big bag boxes) for $6.49. And what you see on the box is what you get inside -- all of the pecans were whole, the granola clusters bigger than a quarter. Smells and tastes great. If you like cinnamon, this is for you. Good for you, too -- 3/4 cup serving is 190 calories, 7g fat, 0.5 sat, 100mg sodium, 33g carb, 5g protein, 70% calcium, 10% iron, only 11g sugar and 7g of fiber! (stats are without milk)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who are these people and what are they doing here?!

As you can obviously tell, I have a rather eclectic group of friends and fellow bloggers in the right alley. I thought each week on Sunday I would randomly showcase one from the list and why they are there. I love to discover new blogs, and I think you will enjoy the introduction for new places to visit in Bloggy Land.

Or maybe it's Pink Bunnies Lippers? Hard to tell when the blog names don't have spaces! Kristina lives in Western (Buffalo) NY. As a fellow (former) Upstater we share the same homegrown humor. Her blog is very entertaining and she has a sidebar of other fun blogs to visit, too.

Three yards of buttons and beads

Target finally marked down their Christmas decorations 30%, so I grabbed this holiday garland I've been eyeing the past month. It's from the "Birchwood Chalet" collection, in the rustic aisle section. Nine feet long, it was just enough to drape along my sewing room window valance, and not so holiday-ish that I can't keep it up all year.

Smithville Gingerbread Man

Here is a life-size, 25-foot tall, permanent replica of the Guinness World Record Gingerbread man from last year. (2009 edition - page 124) It is actually the painted underside of the cookie pan used. Click here for a link to the event.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spicy Apple Bread

Mariani Dried Fuji Apples from Costco + Penzeys Apple Pie Spice
+ favorite Betty Crocker Bread Machine Cookbook = Spicy Apple Bread!

I made the one pound version. (1-1/2 pound ingredients in enclosures). I think next time I will add a little more butter and more apples - perhaps 1/2 cup instead of 1/4 cup. I tossed in a handful of chopped walnuts at the last minute and that may have contributed to a little dryness. It was still tasty with a little bit of butter, though!
2/3 cup water (1 cup + 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon margarine or butter, softened (2 tablespoons)
2 cups bread flour (3 cups)
1/4 cup cut-up dried apples (1/3 cup)
1 tablespoon dry milk (2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon sugar (2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon salt (1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons Apple pie spice (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast (2 teaspoons)
Place ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine manufacturer. Select Sweet or Basic/White cycle. It smells wonderful while baking!

Add these to the creepy list

Anyone else think these are creepy, too? Of all the designs the USPS has used and could use, this year's are the worst. They look angry. I don't like nutcrackers and this is what the USPS APC (Automated Postal Center) is currently dispensing. Bring back the Forever bell! That could be Christmas-y, really, better than these guys.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Netflix Stars - Two stinkers in a row!

Let's move on to another letter of the alphabet, shall we? Tropic Thunder and Tortilla Soup.
Perhaps Tortilla Soup would have been given a better chance had we not popped it in after the horrible Tropic Thunder. Seriously, don't be eating Crunch & Munch during the first one. Otherwise the beginning of Tortilla Soup would have had you starving during the first 10 minutes. At least it cleared the way to get two more newer, and hopefully better, ones from our queue in time for Christmas.

Another Place in Time Christmas

Weren't you surprised this year at the Christmas merchandise -- selection and prices, especially?! Last year we found some cute ornaments, cards and decorations at Target - this year the prices seem higher, the selection lower. Disappointing! But enter the smaller and independent retailers and you'll find treasure and great prices. Last week at Another Place in Time, all Christmas items were already marked down 25% - 33% this week! They still had a great offering of goodies, L and I must have spent 30 minutes in the gift shop house ooing and ahing over everything. The tree at the top of my page is from there and it was less than $5. Way cheaper and cuter than anything Target had. This candle holder was less than $4; and they have a great new holiday scent in their square candle section - "Monterey Pine" No gaggy Pine-Sol/run-from-the-room-holding-your-nose-and-mouth scent here, it's lovely. One of their employees is battling cancer, and owner Mike Lowery is having a Holiday Open House this Sunday, December 21, from 6 PM to 9 PM to help raise money for her treatment. Ticket prices are $10 and well worth the cost of admission to be able to view and enjoy a Houston Heights home lavishly decorated with over 200 Santas, 2,500! Christmas ornaments on 6 trees! Judging by what they sell in the shop, I can't even begin to imagine his personal collection! You can purchase tickets at Another Place in Time or at the door. Call 713/864-9717 or email at info@anotherplaceintime for more information.
Update 01-02-09 - Over $11,000 was raised and Lynn Huber was able to begin her chemotherapy treatment on New Year's Eve!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Good Day For Soup!

I realize we aren't going to get much sympathy from our neighbors to the North, but this morning our temperatures dropped 15 degrees in one hour to 43 and it stayed there all day. T is in Wisconsin where the high was 7! ("My face hurts!") It may go down to 35 tonight. I know, boo-hoo. But we did take the weather opportunity to make this soup. And knock back some of my eleventy-billion cans of Bellagio cocoa stash. We'll enjoy this while we can.

This soup is from the Pillsbury Fast and Healthy magazine, November/December 1992 - "Speedy Soups for Busy Days." An oldie but goodie. I was even able to find Buitoni's tortellini in whole wheat. They seemed to hold their shape better with no discernable taste or visual difference - just, "this tastes good!"


4 1/2 cups water + 4 teaspoonfuls Penzeys Chicken soup base
-OR- 3 cans chicken broth + 1 cup water
3 carrots, sliced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package cheese tortellini, uncooked
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
In a dutch oven, combine broth, carrots, oregano and garlic. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add tortellini, boil gently 4-5 minutes or until tortellini is almost tender. Add spinach. Reduce heat; simmer 2-3 minutes or until tortellini is tender, stirring occasionally.

Money Monday - Making a list and checking it twice

One way to save more money is to not spend it on things you already have! I keep a running list of what's in the pantry, the refrigerator freezer and chest freezer. No sense getting frostbite digging in the depths of the big freezer when the chopped pecans are easily accessible in the refrigerator freezer. There was a time I kept buying diced tomatoes every time I went grocery shopping! (Should have checked the list and I would have seen I had almost a year's supply in the pantry. I think I must have typo-dropped the "1" from "10.") I keep a list on the computer as a Word document - "Freezer Inventory," post it on the side of my refrigerator and try to update it through the week as items are added or used. I also note the date either when the item was added or the use by date if it is coming up quickly.

Netflix Stars - Fred Claus

Fred Claus - 4.25/5 Cute and funny movie! Vince Vaughn is the older sibling of Nick (Santa) Claus. If you have siblings, you'll identify...Especially in the "Siblings Anonymous" scene. Be ready for some surprise appearances and confessions. Kevin Spacey is perfectly typecast - what is it about that guy?!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who are these people and why are they here?!

As you can obviously tell, I have a rather eclectic group of friends and fellow bloggers in the right alley. I thought each week on Sunday I would randomly showcase one from the list and why they are there. I love to discover new blogs, and I think you will enjoy the introduction for new places to visit in Bloggy Land.

I met Monica several years ago in the Houston Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. We were so lucky to have her in our Neighborhood Group before she and her husband retired and moved to the top of a hill in the Texas Hill Country. I'm glad she is my friend in real life and here in Bloggy Land. She is so fun and so talented. These were her "Dancing With The Stars" ATC's for Quilting Arts' Artist Trading Card swaps at this year's Houston International Quilt Festival. How lucky were the swappers who were able to get one. This was one of the "Start To Finish" series of "Postcards Battle Cancer - Fiberart For a Cause" she did for the American Cancer Society in 2006. Monica and her hubby are into NASCAR and she picked up these car bits from a repair garage floor and sewed them onto postcards! Here's the sewing journal book she just made for me - hand-bound with handmade beads, covered with netting and pattern tissue. We are the Mutt and Jeff of friends!

Let's Get Crocking - Maple Ginger Sauced Apples

I got the inspiration for this from the January 2009 issue of Fitness magazine. They had a month-long calendar of healthy snacks, one of which was Maple-Ginger Applesauce on page 76. I've been wanting to try making crockpot applesauce. And I liked the interesting combination of fresh ginger and maple syrup. I had 5 Red Delicious apples a little past their prime - but a good volunteer for this experiment. Peeled and sliced, I then added 1/4 cup water, some grated fresh ginger (about a teaspoon), drizzled some maple syrup on top, sprinkled a little Ceylon cinnamon, and tossed in a handful of craisins for color into a 2-quart slowcooker. Crock on Low for 2-4 hours. I did not mash the slices, just stirred and ladled some warm over Blue Bell's Low Fat Country Vanilla Frozen Yogurt. It's not a snack anymore but dessert. So good! I found this porcelain ginger grater at Whole Foods. It did a great job saving my fingers and using that last bit of leftover ginger .