Monday, December 31, 2007

When One Door Closes - Meet Moxy & Toby

We appreciate the support people have offered because of our loss of our dear kitty, Chesterfield. Today's story is connected to that.

There is a saying that when one door closes, another one opens. Our story today is a wonderful example of that.

We are on winter break and we decided that it would be a good time to start figuring out what kind of kitties we wanted to get. Heaven knows we have to have kitties! We visited two of the local no-kill shelters. We found lots of lovely kitties. Many of whom could have been good additions to our home, but none of them said, "I MUST go home with you." I began to wonder why that was. It seemed odd. I thought maybe I was just not ready to get new kitties yet. We took a break from looking to visit a friend and exchange presents. She owns a farm and has wild life conservancy land. As we were leaving Ethan noticed two kittens huddled in a deep bank of snow along Karen's fence. We got out of the car to check on them. As Ethan picked up one it meowed for the other. They are obviously siblings. They were cold, wet and scared. Our hearts went out to them. We took them into the car to warm them up and get them dry. They were thankful to have been found. It was clear that they were not outdoor or feral cats since they did not know how or where to hide. We were concerned that the kittens had gotten lost so we walked around the neighborhood to try and find their home. After going door to door we found that no one recognized them. One person told us that lots of animals get dumped. People seem to think that any animal knows how to hunt and be safe. After a lot of grappling we decided to take them to the local shelter to see if they had been micro chipped. We wanted to make sure that these beautiful babies got back home. The people at the shelter scanned them and found no microchip. We then had to make a choice. My husband was concerned because we know nothing about them. The kids and I could not stand the idea of putting them in the shelter and we really wanted them. These kitties were the reason we did not respond to the others. We are sure of it.
We took them home. The next step was to see what they thought of Reisha, our Golden Retriever. She was as happy as the rest of us. She smiled and waged her tail. The boy kitten was curious. The girl was not so sure about the dog. A few hours later we let them see each other and were happy to find it was a good match.
The kittens must have been outside for some time. They ate and pooped three times within the first few hours at home. Then they explored every room on our main floor. It was clear by then that they were going to stay. We decided to call the girl Moxy and the boy is Toby.
The kids are sure that they were sent to us by our beloved kitties who have passed away. Toby has many of Winston's unusual behaviors. He drinks, eats and plays like Winston did. Moxy, on the other hand, looks a lot like Winston and acts a bit like Chesterfield did. It seems too much like a coincidence that we needed two kitties and that we found two kitties. In all my years I have not seen kittens in the snow like these were. We are so happy and thankful that this miracle has occurred. As I write this blog entry the kittens are running and playing. They are even including Reisha in the escapades. Don't you think these babies were heaven sent?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Chesterfield - A Tribute and Sad, Heart Broken Goodbye

This is a hard post to write, but one that it very important. My very beloved Chesterfield passed away on Thursday and we are heartbroken. She was my little "Kitten" angel baby.

Before we had kids I volunteered at an animal rescue agency. On March 27, 1988 we received a call from a frantic woman who only spoke Spanish. I could recognize enough of what she said to send my husband to her house with a box. We had no idea what was in store for us.

Larr arrived home with not an animal, per say. What he came home with was a placenta (yeah - you read that right!) with three kittens inside. The vet told me that some animals instinctively know when they will not survive the birthing process so they push out the reproductive organs in a safe place, hopeful that their young will make it. It was a dicey process. Each of the three kittens were only about 3" long. They were wriggling around and were tangled up in their umbilical cords. I delivered the first two easily. The third was smaller and more tangled. It took me more than an hour to get her undone. By that time she had her cord around her neck and her rear left ankle. (We would later figure out that she had suffered slight brain damage from this event.) Being the animal lover that I am I already had kitten formula and a kitten bottle on hand. I also had a picnic basket with a heating pad, fuzzy cloth and tick-tock clock at the ready. The first two kittens only lasted a few hours. I buried them with love and cloud covered cloth. I then poured all of my hope in to the remaining runt. That night I would wake about every 40 minutes to check on her, feed her and tell her how special she was. Much to everyone's amazement, she survived - not only that - she thrived! She was my constant companion for the first few months of her life. I worked at a treatment facility and the kids loved her. She needed to be fed every 20-30 minutes so my kids tried to be the best so that they could feed her. She grew until she was the size of a regular 4 month old cat and then she got no larger. I believe that is why her mother could not survive her birth - she must have been simply too tiny to do it. As Chesterfield grew we found that she was lovey to me and feisty to others. Once when our friend Greg came over she was so taken aback that Chesterfield climbed up his leg, hissing all the way. Our then one year old Winston was taken by her and helped raise Chesterfield. They became the very best buddies. But I digress. When Chesterfield was about 2 weeks old we found that her back paw had dried up, becoming shriveled and the thigh above it was infected. The vet cautioned me not to fall in love. Chesterfield only had a 1 in 1, 000 chance to make it. The vet lanced the infected leg and the dried up foot shoot off like it had been fired from a rifle. She, of course, healed nicely. She adored me. She only had to look at me and she would begin to pur. Winston and I were her world. She was soft and funny and insistent. If she wanted to be held she would do whatever it took to make sure that it happened. For much of her life I was the only one who could touch her. Others would get a sure and heavy hissing. As she aged she became more tolerant, allowing a few others to touch her. Sometimes we would have to trick her so that the kids could pet her. Being a cat, she could not count and did not realize that I had only two hands. If I was holding her with her looking over my shoulder the kids could get in a few lovely pats. When she discovered our trick we got a firm hiss every time. You had to be extra careful of her power leg. Since she was a three legged kitty she developed a very unique style to getting around, which included a lot of pivoting. When she needed to scratch on that side of her body she would come to me and pump her stump as if she had a leg. I would then supply to nails and help her satisfy the itch. Sometimes she would get the stump going so fast that it would cause her to fall over. If I wanted her all I had to do was call "Kitten, Kitten!" and she would come running. I think she saw herself as a kitten her entire life. One of her favorite things to do was to groom me. She tried to clean my "fur" but with such long hair I had to stop her before she gaged herself. She also loved to clean my ears. She would purr loudly while she cleaned my ears. I would have to place my finger over parts to prevent her from licking off my skins.

On Wednesday evening I was going to work in my craft room, but decided to read with the kitten instead. She must have purred for 6 hours straight. The next day we could see that she was slipping away. Our beloved Winston had been her constant companion. He died of old age last spring. Since then she had become more friendly, allowing, even asking the kids to hold her. We had expected that she would have passed away after Winston was gone. Each day that she was still with us was a blessing. I secretly worried that I would come home and find her dead. Thursday we found that she was slipping away. She had stopped eating and drinking. She had not used her cat box in quite a while. In the morning I heard a soft chirpy meow when I passed by the chair she snuggled under. I picked her up and held her for most of the day. Sometimes I agreed to share her with the kids. By late afternoon she was mostly limp, with sudden fits of enough strength to pick up her head, look into my eyes and meow. I could hardly stand it. I kissed her, petted her and told her how lucky we were to have her. She knew she was very loved. I knew her time was short so Ethan and I decided to hold her until she passed away. She passed away at about 12:30 a.m. She made a few furtive noises then I could feel the electrical pulses in her body fade. Earlier in the evening her breathing would become shallow, then it would get stronger, more like she was asleep. In my heart I had hoped that she was only ill. In my mind I knew she was leaving us. In March she would have been 20 human years old. After she died I continued holding and petting her. I wanted to try and remember everything about her. I wanted to imprint how she felt to hold. I rubbed her sweet little feet that she crossed in such a dainty way. I tried to memorize the feeling of her extra soft fur right behind her ears. My heart was breaking. Like Winston, Chesterfield had been part of my entire adult life. She had been one of my very first, very loved pets. Eventually I had to put her down. Ethan and I cried for a long time. All of us are very sad. We will miss our little, lovely kitten.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post Christmas Sledding

On Christmas morning we awoke to a beautiful blanket of soft, fluffy snow. The flakes were the kind that you might see in a movie. We had a wonderful morning, enjoying each other's company, having fun opening gifts and a great breakfast. This was the first Christmas without Uncle Joe. We were worried how Aunt Kathy would fair, but she has been a trooper so far. That is not to say that it is not hard for her, but it is good to have that behind us.
The day after Christmas cousin Evan came to stay the night. It is really fun getting to spend more than an hour or two with him. He is such a great young man. It is easy love them.
We took Evan, Ethan, Ellie and Christy sledding. Christy was not too sure she wanted to go, but was glad that she did. We found a great place that has a nice bit of hills, but also a reasonable climb back up. Also, the stand of trees just west of it blocks most of the wind. The kids enjoyed sledding for several hours. They sipped on hot mint tea as we drove to Noodles for dinner. It was a lot of fun.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Festivities

The holiday season is in full swing around here. I've made several Christmas Morning Orange Cinnamon Roll kits for local friends. When possible I have also attached fun snowflake photo ornaments with pics of the family's kiddos. The cinnamon roll kits have become tradition. The idea is that they do a second rise Christmas Eve night and are baked on Christmas morning, filling the house with the wonderful smell of warm cinnamon, vanilla and butter.

When I was young my mother saved up and took the family to see "The Nutcracker" twice. It was very special for me. Last year I decided that our kids are old enough to appreciate the ballet so I asked my in-laws if we could go together. Every Christmas we see some sort of production and this was just the right one. I could hardly wait for Saturday to arrive. It was a great evening. The dancers, sets, costumes - all of it was amazing! My kids had so much fun. One other neat thing was to see the glass chandelier. We had seen it up close and personal when it was being created in New York. What an amazing thing to see it hanging at the Ellie Calkins Opera House in Denver.

Sunday evening we had dinner with some friends. They made an amazing meal. We had thick and wonderful pork chops that they had marinated in terriyaki sauce over night and grilled. I had no idea they could be so good! There was also a nice almond rice dish and a great vegetable casserole dish. We finished up the meal with a brownie pizza with a brownie base cover with a cream cheese mixture, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, walnuts and chocolate sauce. As if that was not enough we topped it off with whipped cream. I ate more that evening than I usually do in a entire day. The conversation was fun and petting her many dogs (they breed dogs) was a lot of fun, too.

Today I am finishing up last minute stuff. I've made cheese wafers and the cake for the busche de Noel. Christmas proper gets started this evening.

Broccoli & Carrot Casserole, inspired by Paula Dean of

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli & carrots cooked and drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Cheeses (sharp & medium cheddar, swiss)
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups crushed crackers
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, combine broccoli & carrots, mayonnaise, cheese, soup and eggs. Mix well with a metal spoon. Mix in 1 cup of crushed crackers and mix again. Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the crushed crackers and pour the melted butter evenly over the crackers. Bake for 35 minutes or until set and browned.

Cheese Wafers

1/2 # Swiss Cheese, shredded
1/2 # butter, room temp.
1 1/3 cup Flour (maybe more)
1/4 tea. Pepper

Mix all ingredients together well. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a mounded tablespoon of mixture on a cookie pan. Test it by cooking one . A good cheese wafer is delicate but cohesive. If it is too lacy add a small bit more flour and mix again. Once it is correct cook the rest, topping with paprika for a nice touch. Keeps well for a few days in an airtight container. These are a nice change from so much sugar.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Getting Done with my Annual Christmas Illness Early

Nearly every teacher I know gets sick the day or weekend after the end of a semester. It is like out bodies hold off the germs until we know we have the luxury of being sick and can recover without having to call in a sub. This year it hit me hard and early. I felt okay last Friday. By the evening I thought I was just extremely tired. On Saturday we had the triple birthday party at my Aunt's house. I could hardly stay afloat - which is bad since I was the one who knew how to get to her new apartment and I was one of the honorees. By the afternoon I had a fever.Sunday we had our cookie party. I rallied myself up to make it through that. I could hardly breathe or stand, but I could not, rather would not, cancel. We had planned it for so long and the girls were so excited. On Monday I finally went to the doctor. I had sinitus, a sinus infection. I got four kinds of meds and slept like I was dead. Each day I feel a small bit better. I think I resemble a human again. Sadly, the kids got it, too. They both ran the fever and had to be home for two days. They are on meds, too. Things are beginning to look up. I am at least glad that I won't be sick for Christmas this year. Now I simply have to figure out how to make up for the lost pre-Christmas time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cookie Party with Recipes

Sunday dawned on a splendid day full of blue skies and a light, pleasant breeze. My kitchen was clean and my tables were cleared just in time for a few friends to show up to make cookies. Unloading the car was a bit of work as we ended up with three working stations complete with stand mixers, measuring cups and the works. We each made a few different things and then split the goods amongst ourselves. I made the Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars from the recipe I posted about a week ago. Ellie and I made Piazelles together and I made a Dried Cherry Almond Biscotti with White Chocolate coating. Connie made fudge and cookie brittle. Missa made Christmas Cand Cane cookies and Whoopee Pies. It hectic, but also a lot of fun. Missa's recipes came from so I put up the recipes here. We put some candy canes in the food processor for the topping for the cookies and loved how it came out. They made a terrible racket, but were beautiful. I just had to take a photo before she used them. And the smell was heavenly, too. Her Whoopee Pies were a bit of a challenge, but the result was very tasty. She says she is not too sure she will make them again. They are not the prettiest of cookies, but my mouth sure finds delight in them. My husband loved the cookie brittle that Connie made. It is rather like an extra crispy, buttery chocolate chip cookie. We loved the fudge, too. Here's recipes for you to try.

Whoopee Pie

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate,

chopped 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey's or Scharffen Berger

1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoons fine salt

18 large marshmallows, (not minis)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet.
Put the unsweetened and semisweet chocolates and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl; heat at 75 percent power until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir, and continue to microwave until completely melted, about 2 minutes more. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.)
Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until smooth.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into another bowl. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until moistened. Switch to a rubber spatula and finish folding the batter together; take care not to over-mix.
Use a small cookie scoop or spoon to drop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto the prepared pan. Repeat to make 36 cookies, spacing them about 1-inch apart. Bake until the cookies spring back when lightly touched, about 6 minutes.
Cool the cookies slightly. Transfer half of the cookies to a rack. Turn the remaining cookies on the pan over, so they lay flat side up. Place a marshmallow on top of each flipped cookie and return pan to the oven. Cook just until the marshmallow begins to soften and puff, about 3 minutes. Cool marshmallow topped cookies slightly, about 2 minutes. Top with the remaining cookies, pressing lightly to make sandwiches. Cool whoopee pies completely on wire racks. Serve.
Store in tightly sealed container for up to 1 week.

Christmas Candy Cane Cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy canes or hard peppermint candies

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter or margarine, at room temperature

1/2 cup plain or butter-flavored shortening

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon liquid red food coloring

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have ready two ungreased baking sheets. In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the crushed candy; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat together the butter, shortening, confectioners' sugar, egg, vanilla, and peppermint extract until light and fluffy, 2 or 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually add the flour, beating just until blended. Remove half of the dough from the bowl and set aside on a sheet of waxed paper. To the dough remaining in the bowl, add the red food coloring and beat until evenly colored. (At this point both of the doughs can be tightly wrapped separately in aluminum foil and refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to three months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before proceeding.) For each candy cane, scoop 1 teaspoonful of the plain dough and the same amount of pink dough. Roll each scoop between the palms of your hands to make a 4-inch rope. Twist the ropes together and shape into a candy cane. As they are made, arrange the canes on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 1-inch apart. Bake for about 9 minutes until firm to the touch and barely golden. Reverse the baking sheets on the racks and from front to back once during baking. The moment the cookies come from the oven, sprinkle each one with the sugar-and-peppermint mixture. With a wide turner, immediately transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container, separating the layers with sheets of waxed paper.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Small Wreaths of Joy for a Friend - Another Holiday Craft

The second gift I made for my Secret Santa was this little "JOY" wreath. It was simple and fun to make. I snuck into her office and copied photographs for this project. I then took them to the craft store and picked out three wreaths that would work nicely. I then got some of the fun Martha Stewart glitter in a lovely shade of medium blue and used it to jazz up the letters. The dried letters were applied to the wreaths with large glue dots. I also attached a few snowflakes that I got from the scrapbook store. I attached the photos to nice card stock and attached those to the back of the wreaths with more glue dots. I used the small ones so that she could easily trade out the photos. I then attached the wreaths with medium sage green ribbon. They seemed to slip around a lot so I then tied small bits of organza ribbon in blue between the wreaths. She was happy with her gift.

Christmas Words Blocks Crafting

Last month my brain was set on fire when I surveyed the Basic Grey November 2007 Newsletter. The first page featured these wonderful blocks that spelled out "Noel." I was on a mission - I wanted to create those blocks for myself. My local stores were out of the specific papers so I had to revision the idea and come up with something slightly new. I found these fun papers in a pad. I decided that I had to have it. I then had my father-in-law make me a mound of wooden blocks. They were a blast to make, but they came out different than I had expected. For one thing these babies are HEAVY. They could hold down your tablecloth in the event that a gale force wind swept through your house. And the took MUCH longer to make than I had expected. But, it was still a lot of fun. I used my Cricut machine to cut out the letters using the "Opposites Attract" cartridge. I used the "George and Basic Shapes" cartridge to cut out the various squares. I figured out four colors for each side and made one large square as well as one small square of each of the colors. I then glued all of the large base colors on each of the sides. While those were in the various stages of drying I cut out the letters and ran them through my Xyron machine so that they would be easy to attach. I then glued on the smaller squares. Lastly I embellished each inner square or letter and put them together. One set went to my Secret Santa at work. Another will go to my friend, Natalie. Hopefully I will get them to her sometime before the holiday is over. If you wanted to make some of these but don't have a father-in-law to make them for you check your local craft store for other options. At Michael's I saw a sheet for something similar that was done on Styrofoam blocks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The End of a Season - I Have Mixed Feelings

Sunday was a glorious day in Colorado. It was a tad bit cold. When the kids raced I think it was around 12 degrees, but it was a scene straight out of a movie set. The snow sparkled like it was made of glass glitter. The snowflakes landed softly. On dark surfaces you could make out the unique beauty of each individual one. Midway through the race the sun broke through the clouds creating streaks of bright light that filtered through the bare tree branches, illuminating the fat, downy snowflakes a it floated past.

It was the last race of the season. And a very important one since it was the 2007 Colorado Cyclocross State Championship.

We had to leave our home around 6:30 in the morning to make it to the race in plenty of time. The roads were not as icy as I thought they might be. The snow began falling on Saturday afternoon and had not stopped. Lyons had about 8" of the soft snow. The kids, especially Ellie, were happy to race in the snow. It is a slower race, but it had its own fun. Ethan says your back tire kind of fish-tails around, making it a very different experience from the usual race. (It is really kind of cool, Mom) If you look at the photo of Ellie here you will see her big smile. I love how she loves to race. Ellie came in 5th in her division and Ethan came in 8th. I was please with those results.

I have mixed feelings about the season being over. I will enjoy not getting up before dawn to make sure we are out of the door and on the road in plenty of time to get registered for the race. I will not miss the squabbles they seem to start as we rush out the door. I will not miss having to unpack a car that looks like a "stuff" bomb went off. (You might be amazed how much gear, food, water bottle, tools, etc. you take to a race.) However, I will miss the opportunity to cheer for my kids and their team mates when they whiz past me. I will miss taking photos of them and being thrilled when I get good ones. I will miss being an active part of this activity. It gives us a way to be focused together. Racing picks back up in March, so we will have to find ways to fulfill those need in another way;.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cookie Exchange Recipes - Nanaimo Bar & Variations on a Theme

Next week some friends are coming over for lunch and to make cookies. I am working on trying to figure out what I want to make. I want something more unusual than chocolate chip cookies. My dear friend, Karen, from Canada gives us Nanaimo Bars every year. They are sinful and wonderful. I have even been known to hijack them off of the place, hide them and rearrange the place so you couldn't know they were gone. I decided it might be fun (albeit dangerous) to make my own. Below you will find several variations. The Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar recipe comes from the You can see a video on how to construct them on their site.

Now, I need to find two more recipes. Any suggestions?

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar Cookie


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 1/4 cup sugar 1/3 cup cocoa 1 large egg, beaten 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut 1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds

Peanut Butter Filling:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened 1/3 cup peanut butter 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or casserole with aluminum foil, with long flaps hanging over each edge.

For the cookie:

Put the butter in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer over medium-low heat. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and cocoa, and stir to combine. Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until warm to the touch and slightly thickened (it should be about the consistency of hot fudge), about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan. (Save the pan of water for melting the chocolate.)

For the filling:

Beat the butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light. Spread over the cookie and freeze while you prepare the chocolate glaze.
For the glaze:

Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl, and set over the barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat until completely melted, about 1 minute more.). When cool but still runny, pour the chocolate layer over the chilled peanut butter layer and carefully smooth out with an offset spatula. Freeze 30 minutes.
To serve, remove from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pull out of the pan using the foil flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Serve cool or at room temperature.
Busy baker's tips: Finished bars can be wrapped in the pan in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.

Nanaimo Bar Recipe - Traditional

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

Orange Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Bottom Layer
2 cups Graham wafer crumbs1 cup Coconut, unsweetened, flaked1/2 cup Pecans; toasted, chopped2/3 cup Butter1/3 cup Cocoa powder; unsweetened sifted1/4 cup Sugar, granulated1 Egg; beaten

Grand Marnier Layer
2 cups Icing Sugar1/4 cup Butter; softened1/4 cup Grand Marnier;or orange liqueur1 tablespoon Orange rind; coarsely grated

Chocolate Topping
1 tablespoon Butter4 ounces Semisweet chocolate; melted
In bowl, stir together crumbs, coconut and pecans. In small saucepan, gently heat butter, cocoa and sugar until butter melts. Remove from heat; whisk in egg. Blend into crumb mixture. Press into greased 9 inch square cake pan. Bake in 350F oven for 10 minutes. Let cool on rack.
Grand Marnier Layer: In bowl, place half of icing sugar with butter, mix in half of the icing sugar with butter; mix in Grand Marnier, remaining icing sugar and orange rind. Spread over base.
Chocolate Topping: Stir butter into chocolate until melted; spread evenly over Grand Marnier layer. Let cool for 20 minutes in refrigerator; cut into bars. (Bars can be covered, refrigerated up to 2 weeks, or frozen up to 2 months. Let soften slightly before serving.

Cherry Almond Nanaimo Bars

From Canadian Living Magazine, September 1988, adapted from the Captain Kennedy Tea House Cookbook, by the Captain Kennedy Tea House in Lockport, Manitoba.

1/2 c. butter
1/3 c. cocoa
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 c. chopped almonds, toasted

In heavy saucepan over low heat, cook butter, sugar and egg until thickened and smooth, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. (or, in microwave-safe bowl, cook same ingredients, whisking every 30 seconds, at 50% until thickened and smooth, about 3 minutes) Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Add graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds. Pat firmly and evenly into greased 9" square pan. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

2 c. sifted icing sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/3 c. chopped maraschino cherries

In bowl, using electric mixer, beat together icing sugar, butter, cherry juice and almond extract until smooth. Stir in cherries. Spread over bottom layer. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp. butter

In top of double boiler over hot not boiling water, melt chocolate with butter, stirring until smooth. (or melt chocolate with butter in microwave at 50% for 3 minutes, stirring once) Spread over filling. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Bars can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen several months if well wrapped.

Make a Wish - Tanabata Star Streamers

Our local library rocks! They offer fun, free classes. The most recent one we attended was the Tanabata Star Streamer class. It is a Japanese decoration that is part of a festival in July. They did it now because they are nice decorations. They connect to a story about a princess who is a good weaver and her lover turned husband who is a Shepard. The king allows them to marry, but then the lovers become engrossed in their love and forgo their daily duties. The king then split them up and allowed them to only see each other one day a year. They then became a star and the Milky Way in the sky. The folded umbrellas represent the stars. At the bottom of the streamer is a small banner on which you write a wish.

The Star Streamers look better in person than they do here in the photos. You make an uneven number of the little umbrellas which are created with a simple origami fold from squares of paper. You separate the umbrellas with beads. We used tube beads and pony beads. At the end you put little streamers with a message or a wish written on it. You can see some awesome photos of the real deal here.

They were an absolute blast to make. I love how Ethan's streamer with the wooden beads came out. His paper squares were cut from ads in a magazine. The print is very suited to the craft. I would like to try and make some of these with my students.

Next up, my Secret Santa crafts. I hope she loves what I made for her.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Blossoms of Lights

Christmas is a magical time. One element of that magic for me is the wonderful and dazzling light displays. Last week Ellie and Ethan got to go to the opening of the Blossoms of Lights at the local botanic gardens. When we were there just a few weeks ago we stopped and talked to one of the men who were getting ready for this event. He was putting the lights on the Candy Cane striped tree you see in one of the photos here. He said that the trunk alone had 245 strings of lights. He could not even estimate how many were used for the entire garden display. I asked him if he took his skill home and made light magic there too. "No, if you want to see my lights you gotta come here. At home I only put up some fake garlands on my mailbox." We replied that we could understand how he would tire of it, but thanked him in advance for the wonderment and excitement his work would create for others. It is really like something out of a fun dream.
The kids actually went with their Aunt Lilia and Uncle Mark. They don't have their own kids so our lucky kids get to fill the part from time to time. They always do it up right. They went out for dinner at a place that features live performers during dinner. Then they got fun glasses that put up optical images of snowmen and Santa faces when you looked at the lights. They were going to get peppermint hot chocolate from the Starbucks at the park, but they ran out just as it was their turn to purchase them. The kids were both aglow and a buzzin' by the time they got home. What lucky children I have.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pondering My Special Gifts

Each year I try to make something special for my family members for Christmas. Most years I can't seem to find something to make for my husband. He seems to be stocked with knitted hats, quilts blankets and the like. I can't seem to come up with anything I could make to compliment his rock climbing hobby. I guess I will have to stick to the weekly baked muffins that he loves.
The kids are another story. I was stymied for a while. They are really too old for the cute stuff and they too have their share of home knitted goods, as well as quilted ones. One of my personal favorites was the year that I got blank nesting dolls and painted each one to look like they were at different ages. I made one set for each child. I made sure to paint them in their favorite outfits from each age, adored with their favorite items. This year was harder, until I found the biking gift websites. I found these wonderful clocks made from chainrings. They were too expensive, but I have found a way to make my own. I called my lovely bike mechanic and he had three very used and beatup chainrings I could have. "They are really beat up and dirty - are you sure you want them?" I assured him that I could handle a bit of bike grease, dirt and scuffed up metal. New chainrings are lovely, but a beatup one means it has seen some life and love on the road. Besides, they were the right price - free. I will clean them up, cut a circle of wood to fit behind it, paint it, maybe mount a photo on it or paint on the team logo and add the clock mechanism. My clocks will not have the pendulum, those were a bit much to figure out on my time frame, but I am excited about this gift. I can't wait to get started. Won't they be surprised! Now, the tough decisions hit me. One chainring matches the one that is part of the team logo. Which kid should get that? Should I put the team name on it? Who should get the larger one? Should I make some for our friends who introduced us to bike racing? These will be figured out and constructed with secret joy. My kids don't even have a hint of what I am up to, as long as they don't look in the bag I have from the bike store. Even if they spied them, they could not guess what I am up to!

And an update. Remember how I mentioned that I missed some deals on things my kids wanted? Well, one is resolved. Ellie had wanted a special comforter with funky snowflakes? Ellie and her best friend, Christy, had a special shopping day. It was a very big deal. They had scoped out the local mall and counted the number of stores in each one. They picked the one with 200 stores. Off we went. We had lunch, we shopped, we saw and we did not purchase. They had the idea that it would all be very magical. They would be surrounded with irresistible stuff they wanted to get for each other. They each saved up $20 and wanted to buy coordinating gifts on this shopping trip. Only it was not quite what they expected. Toys-R-Us was not so special now that they are older. They were disappointed in the stores in the mall. It was geared at the adult clothes horses with money, not two tweeners out to be dazzled. In the end we shopped at the Target near Chirsty's house and found just what was needed. Ellie REALLY wanted the comforter, but it was regularly $39.99. Christy needed a new blanket. How lucky for them to find that the comforter and pillow sham sets (regardless of size) were on sale for $19.99. It hit the spot. Ellie and Christy topped it all of with a fun dinner and a stay-the-night with both of them enjoying their new gifts.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Should Have, Would Have, but Didn't - The Price of a Surprise

When the kids were younger it was much easier to get all of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. In fact, I prided myself in only having to pick out things for my Secret Santa as almost everything else was already done. Now it is different. I need their input much more. I have recently stumbled in this endeavor. I have been in the stores with both children when they have wanted something that was on a reasonable sale price and then when I went back to get it, the item was gone. Ellie had wished for a special comforter for her bed. It was from Target. It had lovely flannel with multicolored, funky snowflakes on one side and snowmen on the other. Ethan had wanted two things, the chocolate fountain miss being the bigger of the two mistakes. He has wanted one for a few years. I have not bought one because they cost a lot of money, are bulky to store and who needs so much sugar? However, when the $80 model from Sam's club was on clearance for $19 he had high hopes. So did I they had 15 of them on the clearance rack. I was already buying a lot of groceries and I could not stomach spending more. When I went back the next day they were gone, baby, gone. I had them check all of the stores and there was none to be had. Ellie was bummed as well as Ethan. She had hopes of being the gift giver with that one. So this causes me to wonder if the cost of a surprise under the tree is worth my missing those opportunities. As I get older and people get harder to shop for, I am thinking maybe getting the right thing is more important than "Surprise! Look what I picked out for you!" I am not fully convinced, but I am giving it some thought.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And So Begins the Christmas Season at Our House

Right after Thanksgiving was over, my kids were ready to embrace all the fun of the Christmas season. I went down to the present closet and found wonderful 90% off purchased I made last January. (I love when I do that - what fun - two times over, at least.) I found three new Christmas music CDs that I got at Whole Foods, the fine organic grocery store here. I also found a few different crafting kits. One was for a photo advent calendar. It was a great idea, but too intense and needy. I cut mine up for another project I hope to tackle this evening. The other was for making paper ornaments. Those were such fun! One was easy to put together. The kit had rub-on words, fun stickers and other embellishments. The other was much more difficult. Ethan loved those. Those involved 20 circles that were folded in three places. It took a bit of figuring out, but we've got it now. I kept the directions so that we can make more with circles I cut out on my Cricut. You can see the finished products in the photo above. The down side was that the adhesive was worn out. It was a delightful opportunity to pull out my handy dandy mini stapler with colored staples. That solved the problem and made the stapler seem kind of festive. The next day Ellie and I made gingerbread cookies. I was amazed with how many we ended up with. We pulled out our cookie decorating stuff and borrowed some from my mother. I was thrilled to find that she had some silver dragees. They are hard to find and expensive these days. I am secretly hoping that she will let me keep them. My one disappointment is that I cannot find either of my beautiful copper snowflake cookie cutters. One year we cut out all kinds of them, decorated them with royal icing and my beloved silver dragees, along with edible glitter and hung them with ribbon in the windows. I will have to look some more to see if I can find them.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Yummy Muffins

I love to read other people's blogs. I rarely leave comments, but I often try the recipes they post. I knew I wanted to have some instant fun food to hand to my family and friends while we were getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, shopping and for Ethan to take when he went snowboarding. I made my usual healthy muffins that my husband would live on if I let him, gingerbread muffins and Apricot Almond Muffins from a recipe that I found on Bemused blog. Honestly, she was my inspiration for this jag of cooking. The muffins were a great hit. If you have not visited Be*mused, you ought to. Here's her recipe:

Apricot Almond Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup diced dried apricots (I prefer Sun-Maid California sun-dried apricots. I use the full bag.)
1/3 cup sliced natural almonds

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Stir until well blended. Add diced apricots, stir, set aside.

3. In separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, egg and vanilla. Add the liquid ingredients all at once and fold until evenly moistened. Don't overmix! (The key to perfect muffins!)

4. Divide the batter evenly among a dozen prepared muffin cups. (Butter or line with paper muffin liners.) Sprinkle the almonds evenly on the tops. Bake until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. (20-22 minutes.)

5. Cool on a wire rack before removing from pan. Yield: 12 muffins.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My Life as Told Through My Dishes - Thanksgiving Day

As Ellie and I set out the dishes that we needed for Thanksgiving, I realized that you could tell a bit of my history through the connections I have with my special dishes. The first one is my fine china. We got 7 place settings when we got married. I wish that I had bought an 8th one and that I had asked for the accessory pieces to go with it. Now the pattern is discontinued. I can only buy what I can find through a special dealer. Receiving these as gifts was a big thrill. They represented the future I was wishing for. We don't use them often, but I love when we do.

Next up is my pottery salad bowl. This is a special item I got when we went on a trip to Wisconsin. Ethan was just about two years old. I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom at the time. We were always broke. We had sold our second car and were only paying cash for things in order to become debt free (if you did not count our house loan.) A friend of ours has a house on the lake in Madison County. He said that if we could get ourselves there that we could stay in his house for a week. When we arrived we found that he had left us each $100 to spend. I got this at "Pottery by Thor" in Egg Harbor. I love the bowl. It is a blend of beauty and function. I was fun to be able to buy such a luxurious thing without worrying about paying for it.

Next up is the turkey platter I painted for my mother. I painted it at a paint- your-own-pottery studio that my friend Natalie open and ran. I was very careful to put the kind of designs that my mother always points out in catalogs. I also used her favorite colors. It was a sort of grown up version of coloring a picture for my mommy. It made use both feel good.

The blue snowflake plates are linked, in a way, to the turkey platter. Only I was on the receiving end. Natalie and I used to love looking at the catalogs and the bisque. I always gravitated towards these shapes. One of the times she came for a long weekend she surprised me by bringing me these pieces of bisque. We made all kinds of things that weekend. It was also on the edge of the time when my kids were little enough to enjoy allowing my to put their hand prints on all kinds of things. Each time I get these out I think of that gesture Natalie made and how I felt like she really "saw me" and gave me something from her heart. The kids also have fun measuring up how their hands have grown.
The final one is the blue plate with Ellie's Cinnamon Orange Snow recipe. I bought the blue plates on the day when our remodeling was done and we could move back into the main floor of our house. We needed dishes badly. Most of the ones I loved were too expensive. The Gods of Good Deals for People Who Need Them smiled on me that day and I found boxes of four place settings for $5 a box. I bought several and now we are good even when some get broken. The oranges were a special recipe that Ellie created for the holidays. You quarter clementine oranges, set them on a bed of shaved ice and then sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar. They were quite good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ThanksGiving Decorations

As much as I enjoy the silliness of my Halloween decorations, so do I enjoy the calm beauty of the minimal Thanksgiving decorations I have. My little windows sport a few things which I might post soon. I tried to take a photo of them but the light was too bright and they only came out as silhouettes. The items here are really only for decoration. The plates are fun, but I use my good china that we got when we were married for the actual feast. I love the little bell. The leaf plates were this year's new addition. The funny thing was when I unpacked this stuff I could not remember the word that I had spelled. I kept looking at it and wondering what the "r" was for. Ellie helped me remember that it was "Grateful." I was grateful for her help with it. I also felt a bit like a dork. You'd think that since I made them, I would remember the word I embellished!

Monday, November 12, 2007

New England Cran-Maple Chutney Recipe & Talking at Races

I am in a funny place. I have both been planning for and anticipating Thanksgiving, and feeling like it crept up on me. It is a week and a half away. I feel both behind schedule and right on track. Funny, kind of silly, kind of place to be. Anyhow, here's the next recipe I want to try. I was going to make it this weekend, but I could not find crystallized ginger at my regular grocery store. They had all manner of funky stuff like candied pineapple and crystallized cherries, but no ginger. I will scope it out at another store and report back. I found this in our local newspaper and then on the ButterBall Turkey website. I think it will be good:

New England Cran-Maple Chutney

Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 10 - 20 minutes Ready In: Less than 2 1/2 hours Servings: 8 servings (3 cups total)

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons
lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey Dijon-style mustard
1 bag
(12 ounce) fresh cranberries
1/2 cup (2.5oz) chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup sugar


1. Combine all ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. 2. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberries begin to pop and mixture thickens. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to chill and allow flavors to blend. 3. Transfer chutney to a bowl and serve with roasted Butterball Turkey.


Chutney mixture can be prepared and refrigerated up to 1 week before serving.

We spent the weekend at races. Now if you read this blog often you will see that I spend nearly every weekend at the races, but this time it was even more true. On Saturday we helped put the race on so we were there nearly all day. I volunteered to serve food for 2 hours, but the other folks did not show and people were so happy for free food that I stayed. My kids were happily hanging out with other kids, so it was all good. I made special aprons with our team logo on them. Too bad I don't have a photo to show you. I served up over 400 hot dogs, 150 bowls of soup and over 200 muffins. We also had fruit. One of the team parents made a Starbucks run and brought back a Chia with soy milk. It was great. I had been craving one. I do not buy myself Starbuck so it was a real treat. It was a great day for a bike race. Sunday was a good race, too. Ethan stayed home sick and Ellie came in second place. As we were walking to the car she asked me why everyone wants to talk to me. It seems that I am sort of a walking information site. I am also easy to spot since I have such long and distinctly straight hair (it goes down to my waist.) She finds it both great and a hassle. Great because we have so many friends and can help people, but a hassle that we can't go far without being stopped. I told her I thought I was helping to keep Junior Cycling in Colorado strong. Thankfully she had not hassled me for stopping and petting every dog that goes to the races. I love them and they seem happy, usually, to have me give them a little doggy lovin'.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Balsamic Caramelized Red Onions

In a recent blog entry I mentioned that my cousin and her son were coming over for dinner. They are vegetarian and I wanted to make a meal where there was no meat in sight, but it was also a fun meal. I made white pizza (pizza with whole wheat crust, Alfredo sauce in the place of a red sauce and mozzarella cheese). It is a hit every single time. When I take the extras to a bike race and the kids find out I have it I am swarmed by hands seeking a slice. I wanted to add a bit of pizazz for the adults so I offered marinated artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and balsamic caramelized red onions as toppers. In the end we ate the separate from the pizza and loved it. I made the onion recipe up. The photo here does not look as inviting as I had hoped. In person they were lovely. The photo is of the cooking midway. By the time they were done they were quite dark. Here's how to do it:

Balsamic Caramelized Red Onions

2-3 Red Onions, cut into large sections (I cut mine into 8 pieces)
4-5 TBL. Olive Oil
2 TBL Butter
6+ TBL Balsamic Vinegar*

While your pan heats up on medium high add the olive oil and butter. Once it is hot add in the onions. Stir to coat. Saute onions as you normally would. Once the onions are wilted add in the balsamic vinegar. Adding it in too soon will result in it baking off. Stir occasionally. The Olive Oil, butter and vinegar mix will begin to thicken and coat the onions. Remove when the onions become a golden brown. Add more balsamic vinegar, if needed. Be careful not to drown the onions, but only coat them lightly. They may be served warm or at room temperature.

They are nice as side dish, on crackers, on pizza, etc.
*The Balsamic vinegar I used is called Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar with Lemon by Jane from Tulocay's Napa Valley. It is wonderful stuff all by itself. As a way to wrap things up we dipped the crusts in small bits of flavored vinegars - sounds weird, but it is wonderful!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Needing to Find Balance - Is It Possible?

The weekend was so fun and so busy that I did not get any blogging done, even though Saturday was the first year anniversary of my doing this blog. It was a weekend of biking and a party, instead. It was not a weekend of much cleaning or doing our chores. The weather was amazing. The races this weekend were both international events. It was almost like a carnival due to all of the cycling related vendors that had booths. One that I thought was fun was "Peddling for Properties." A pair of men who take you out on cruiser bikes (the kind with big, comfy saddles, basket on the fun handlebars, etc.) and you ride around the areas you think you might want to live in. They stop at coffee houses, little family own restaurants, etc. I think it sounds like a blast. I secretly wanted to take one of their cruisers out for a spin, but I did not have a helmet. We also tasted just about everything that Cliff Bar sells, had freshly grilled burritos, the works. And let's not forget the actual races. They were fun. The course was VERY long, but the kids were troopers. I am just so darn impressed with them. :) Ellie came in 3rd on Saturday and Ethan rode his fastest cross race ever on Sunday. But I am actually less impressed with their standings since those are rather arbitrary based on who shows up, but rather, I am impressed with their stamina and determination. )Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, but with more riders. I have included a photo here from the adult race just to give you an idea of how busy it was. My favorite non-kid part was all of the dogs. It was a dog-petting-orama, which I love. I met some really unusual dogs. Saturday we hosted my cousin and her son along with my mother over for dinner. I made some great food. Maybe I will post about that tomorrow.

As fun as all that is, I still struggle a bit. Some weekends I want to get everything picked up, food for the week made, etc. I get that done, but then I have no time for myself and feel robbed when I have done all of that and it is suddenly Sunday evening and I have not done anything for myself. This weekend I did very little cleaning and enjoyed doing my cross stitch and sitting with my husband instead. I feel more calm and rested today, but I know that my upstairs and the bathrooms are a mess. I used to believe that I could just REALLY clean one room a day to spread it out, but the mess spread faster than I could clean at that rate. Thus, I still seek some balance in my life.

It is amazing to me that it was Halloween less than a week ago and that Thanksgiving is in less than three weeks. I'd love to hear what others are making. I seem to feel the need to find new recipes for Thanksgiving every year.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Almost My Blogaversary & Thinking About ThanksGiving

Much to my amazement, I have been writing my blog for almost one year. Tomorrow is the day. Besides that, I am happy to shift gears. As much as I love Halloween, I must admit that the house is less cluttered when it is not so decorated. Thanksgiving gives us a brief respite from all that.

I am now turning my thoughts towards what we will have for Thanksgiving. Last year I made a wonderful turkey. Here's the recipe that I will most likely do again. It is from, from Tyler Florence, Food 911:

Maple-Roasted Turkey with Sage, Smoked Bacon, and Cornbread Stuffing

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 bunch fresh sage, leaves finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 loaf cornbread, cubed (about 6 cups)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream 3 cups chicken stock 1
(12 to 14 pound) fresh turkey
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup hot water
8 strips smoked bacon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 lemon, juiced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and remove the top rack.
Combine the butter and sage in a mixing bowl, mash with a fork or spoon until the sage is well incorporated and the butter has flecks of green in it; season with salt and pepper.
In a saute pan, melt 4 tablespoons of the sage butter, add the onions, cook and stir for 15 minutes until soft and golden. Remove from heat. Put the cornbread in a large mixing bowl and scrape the sauteed onion mixture on top. Add the egg, heavy cream, and just enough chicken stock to moisten the stuffing without making it soggy (about 1/2 cup.) Toss well to combine, season with salt and pepper.

Remove the neck and gizzards from the inside of the turkey and discard. Rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out with cold water, pat dry. Sprinkle the cavity and skin liberally with salt and pepper. Using your fingers, gently lift the skin from the breast and legs, and slip pieces of the sage butter underneath; massaging it in as you go. Fill the bird with the cornbread stuffing without packing too tightly; cook the remaining stuffing separately in a buttered baking dish. Truss the turkey; place it on a rack in a large roasting pan, and put into the oven.
Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the maple syrup and hot water to thin the glaze out a bit; use this to baste the turkey every 30 minutes. The turkey should take about 3 hours to cook (i.e. 15 to 20 minutes per pound.) If the legs or breast brown too quickly, cover with foil.

About 2 hours into cooking, shingle the strips of bacon oven the turkey breast to cover; continue to roast and baste for another hour or so. The turkey is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees F (the thigh juices will also run clear when pricked with a knife.) Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes before carving, so the juices can settle back into the meat.
Skim off the excess fat from the pan drippings with a spoon and place the roasting pan over 2 burners set on medium-high heat. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up brown bits stuck to bottom of pan. Whisk the flour into the drippings, stirring as it thickens to prevent lumps. Add the remaining chicken stock and bring to a simmer; season with salt and pepper and hit it with a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Simmer for 5 minutes and then strain to remove any particles. Serve the gravy with the maple-roasted turkey and cornbread stuffing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Home Tour - Not the Kitchen

It is funny how different things look in photo from how they look in person. My bookshelf is much more fun in person. One of my favorite items (which is hard to see in the photo) is my Halloween tree. I think it is tres cool! We used to make a simple Halloween village up there, but it has given way to many things, like my ravens, nutcracker witch and the fake vintage minipails. The next picture features one of my fun additions - cookie cutters that allow you to make a witch, cat, pumpkin or haunted house that stands up. The recipe is weird, tasty and not good for the cookies, but I aim to try another recipe. I love fun cookie cutters. The formal teak table sports some really fun things. The centerpiece is a tray I made with the paint-your-own-ceramics stuff one year when Natalie and her family came. The kids were young enough that their hands still fit in the space. I then made them look like little frankenstiens. It is labeled "Frankenellie" and "Ethanstein." They love to compare sizes each year. I also have fun, new dishes from Target. I could not decide between the glittery black plastic plates for the ones (more childish) that has a spider web on it. So, I went for two of each. I am hoping there will still be some after Halloween. Eventually I would like less cute stuff, but this is fun, too.
Last night we made Ellie yet another costume. This one is the Watermelon Fairy. It is quite a contrast. This one is Hot Pink and Electric Lime Green, complete with feather boas. She will come with me to Trick or Treat Street at my school this evening and wear it. I am hopeful that the weather on Halloween will cooperate and that she will be able to sport most of her costume. I promise to do a photo shot and show you what I am talking about.