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Saturday, December 31, 2011

I have no one to kiss at midnight. And I couldn't be happier.

Troy was supposed to be off tonight, but due to some schedule rearranging, it looks like he is away when the clock will strike midnight.  And I'm ok with that.  Really.  I promise.

Why am I content to be alone tonight?  Because it means that my husband is working.  Something 2010 Sarah was praying for constantly.  It would be wrong for me to be upset that something I wished and hoped for had come true.  So, I'm content.  I'm thankful.  I'm lucky.  I'm grateful.  And most importantly, I'm blessed. ****

Last year, I couldn't wait for 2010 to be over because I was so over 2010.  I was miserable in 2010.  2011 has been a better year for us in so many ways, but I think the most important improvement this year was simply my attitude.  Looking at life differently has helped me these past 12 months.

In some ways, I want to go back in time and tell 2010 me that things WILL GET BETTER.  But in other ways I'm glad that I can't go back and give 2010 me the details.  Because sometimes the journey and the experiences are more important than the results.  And 2010 me needs the down times to appreciate the great times that are headed our way.

I have some fun things planned for you guys for 2012, and I'm thankful that many (hopefully most!) of you are planning to stick around to see what the next chapter brings me/us!  May the best of 2011 be the worst of 2012 for everyone out there in blog land.

****And I also have Nutella cookies that I made.  And you bet your sweet ass that I'll be posting the recipe soon.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Just this moment

One photo.  No caption and no explanation.  A tradition started by Soulemama.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Potentially the lamest post I've ever written - how to fold a fittest sheet

I mean really - folding sheets?  It's like blogging Mardi Gras up in here!  Show me your pillow cases and I'll give you some beads.  Wink wink.

Fitted sheets used to be the bane of my existence.  They cluttered up the corner of the multi-purpose closets we've had in previous apartments (I've never had a dedicated pantry or linen closet until now), and I hated trying to fold them and make them look like a chimp didn't put the laundry away.

Hand to god, this is pretty much what my fitted sheets used to look like after folding.

And this is what they look like now.  THIS makes my type A self very very happy.

Once I finally figured out how to fold one and not make it look like a pile of crap, I was a happy camper.  Despite the fact that this post has the potential to be super lame, I'm sharing my laundry folding "gift" with you in hopes that you can convert your linen closets from rat's nest to organized bliss.

And because my mom taught kindergarten, first, and second grade for almost 30 years, I'm going to use the old "hamburger" and "hot dog" descriptive directions.

Step 1
Lay the sheet down in a large space.  Arrange it so that little elasticky (it's a word!) corners all faces inward.  If you've ever jumped so hard on a trampoline that you bounced off and ended up underneath it, this view will look familiar to you.  Not that I've ever done that...
Step 2
Gather the two bottom corners and tuck them in to the top corners.  Your sheet will now look like a hot dog.
Step 3
Fold the left-hand corner of sheet over the right-hand corner of the sheet.  You now have a hamburger.
Step 4
Fold it in half once more.  And now you have a beautifully organized fitted sheet.  And a hot dog.
Step 5 (this one is for the truly anal-retentive amongst you)
Tuck the flat sheet, fitted sheet, and one pillowcase in the other pillowcase.  Then you'll have a nice and tidy little sheet package.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What to do with leftover egg nog

You know, if you actually have any leftover.  Egg nog is not a treat that lasts more than a few days in our house because it's a such a favorite of all three members of our little family.  Jack refers to it as "Christmas milk".

Christmas milk French toast is an awesome make ahead dish that is perfect for breakfast, or dinner.  And since you can prep it up to 12 hours before serving, it's a perfect part of a weeknight "breakfast" dinner.

Christmas Milk French Toast
6-12 slices of bread (homemade is awesome in this)
1 cup of egg nog
6 eggs
1 tblsp of cinnamon (we love cinnamon, so cut it back if you're not cinnamon freaks like us)
Splash of homemade vanilla if desired

You'll notice I didn't add any sugar to the recipe.  Egg nog is sweet enough - there is no need to increase the sweetness for this recipe.

Lay one layer of sliced bread on the bottom of a baking pan.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, crack and beat the 6 eggs.  Add the egg nog and the vanilla and pour over the bread.
Using a fork, push the eggy mixture in to the bread.
Yes I was wearing owl jammies while taking this photo.  Why do you ask?
Let it soak in the fridge overnight (or throughout the day if you're making it in the morning for dinner), and then bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until browned and crispy.
Serve with maple syrup or your topping of choice.  And a smile.  Cause it's freaking good.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Extending the holiday joy all year long

It is said that Christmas cards account for almost a quarter of a million of paper waste each year.  Yowzer.

We adore receiving holidays cards from people that we love, and feel honored that people think to include us in their holiday wishes.  So to extend the life of the paper, I have a wonderful tip to share with you courtesy of my former boss' family.

They keep holiday cards in a basket on their dining room table year round.  They're a religious family and say prayers each night before dinner (supper if you're in the midwest).  Every few nights, they select a card from the basket and talk about the people who sent them that card.  They talk about what that person/family means to their family, and they say a prayer that the card sender is having a good year.

What a great way to keep family and friends in their thoughts and prayers all year long.  It turns a simple holiday card in to a tool to send a loved one blessings until the next card arrives in the mail.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas.  May your day be spent surrounded by people you love.

I am thankful that we'll be with family for the next two days celebrating the reason for the season.  I'm also thankful for you, dear blog reader for sticking around - for god knows what reason - and I am sending you lovely thoughts for a blessed day.

Also, in what I'm sure is going to be THE song of the 2012 holiday season, I give you a Jack original:

Find the perfect Christmas tree
Find the perfect Christmas tree
Find the perfect Christmas tree
And Poppy cuts it down
(then make a fart noise with your mouth)
Jack told me that he told Santa he wanted a water bottle and a a gun.  Check out his fingers.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Meal plan for December 26th-January 1st

Tis the end of the year, and the eatin' is fine.

Here is what my family will be enjoying this week!

Monday:: Christmas dinner at my parent's house.  My dad is trying to deep fry a turkey for the first time.  When he asked us all what we were bringing for dinner, my sister said "a video camera and a fire extinguisher". 

Tuesday:: apple pancakes (didn't get made last week), eggs, bacon (freezer), and fruit (home canned)

Wednesday::  nephew's birthday at Chucke Cheese's.  Mmmmm, cardboard pizza!

Thursday::  meeting up with an out of state friend (and one of Jack's god mothers!) in Seattle

Friday:: tomato soup (home canned from the garden), grilled cheese sandwiches, asparagus (freezer), and pears (home canned)

Saturday:: Let's be honest, Jack and I will probably walk to the library, get a cartoon DVD, and I'll make popcorn and we'll have "dinner" and a movie on the couch.  I'll add a bowl of apple slices to make it a healthyish dinner.

Sunday:: dinner at my parent's.

This was a stock up week for me!  This week I spent $3.50 on raw milk from a local farm, and $13 in organic eggs from the milk man.  $28.28 from Trader Joes for a ton of brussel sprouts for Monday's Christmas dinner, frozen asparagus, asiago cheese, and 2 frozen mac and cheeses (I'm not a machine people.  That stuff is GOOD).

Two funny Trader Joe's stories:
1) I realized during our trip to TJ's that my aunt and Jack must be frequent visitor's as the sample lady knew Jack by name.  HA!
2) Jack was playing with the flat wedge of asiago that I picked up.  He was flying it around the cart and making motor noises.  He said "mommy, guess what this is"?  I said "an airplane"?  He said "no mommy, it's ASIAGO.  Pay attention!"  Brat.
I also spent $27.46 at Fred Meyer (grocery store) and bought: anniversary card for my in-laws, satsumas, relish, organic bananas, organic egg nog (Christmas milk as Jack calls it), avocado, binder clips, natural ham, carrots, a yogurt (Jack picked that as his special treat), and celery salt.

I came in $37 under budget for the month for groceries.  Excellent, considering the repairs to Troy's truck were $684. Blerg.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My name is Sarah, and I'm a chapstick addict

I can't emphasize enough how much I need chapstick around me.  Constantly.  I have them stashed all around the house, and whenever I fly on planes, I bring multiple versions to double and triple check to make sure I'm not stuck away from the precious stuff.

And you know what else?  These make an easy holiday gift.  We're talking 15 minutes from start to clean up.  You can do this.

In a pot over medium heat fitted with a double boiler, melt a little bit of beeswax.
Then add some coconut oil.
Then add some (1-2 tsp) honey and stir (might I recommend a plastic utensil OR a junky spoon you'll only want to use for stuff with beeswax).

Edited 5/22/12: if you are having trouble with "lack of measurements", it is because I just eyeball it.  The measurements depend on how many tubs you want to make, and how big the tubs are.  Start with about 1/3 cup of beeswax (solid), 1/4 cup of coconut oil, and 1 tsp of honey.

Pour in to your containers of choice.
Let set for about 15 minutes, and then you're good to go!
If you want to "flavor" this, you have two options.  You can add essential oils to the double boiler when everything is melted, or you can add a few drops of essential oil in to your container.  If adding them in the containers, you'll want to stir with a toothpick right after you've incorporated the melted mixture.

For a harder chapstick, you'll want to go a bit heavy on the beeswax.  For a softer chapstick, add more honey and a few drizzles of olive oil and/or almond oil and/or jojoba oil.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peppermint bark - it doesn't get any easier than this!

I am obsessed with peppermint bark.  It's so creamy and indulgent and heralds the start of the holiday baking season.  If you need a last minute (sweet) appetizer or dessert for your holiday dinner this weekend, look no further.  This is delicious and simple.  The monkey that taught me to sew gave me this recipe.

Also, since you're already melting the chocolate, why not make some chocolate covered graham crackers?  I made these for Jack's preschool teachers as a Christmas present/thanks for putting up with my crazy punk.

My homemade graham cracker recipe is here.  I've recently discovered Bob's Red Mill Graham flour, and use some of that with normal whole wheat pastry flour when making these.  I leave out the wheat germ.

In a double boiler over lowish heat, melt dark or semi sweet chocolate.  I used the big 1 pound bar from Trader Joes.
Once it has melted, add a splash of peppermint extract, and pour it over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes.

While the dark chocolate is in the freezer, clean the double boiler and add in 1.5 bags of white chocolate chips. 
White chocolate is a finicky item to melt.  You don't want to stir it constantly, lest it becomes a pasty lump.  Wait until the chocolate is shiny, and then give it a few gentle stirs.
Pour it over the dark chocolate that has been frozen.
Sprinkle with crushed candy canes, and pop it back in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
Peppermint bark is beautiful if you spend the time to cut it in to chunks.  I don't really care about pretty - if it tastes good, it's ok by me.  I just break it with my hands and call it done.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yo, I got nuts on my meat

Alternative (mother appropriate) title: delicious cashew chicken

Need something delicious to go on top of the fried rice you just made?  Look no further than cashew chicken!  Packed full of protein and loaded with rich flavor, this is the perfect weeknight dish.  It came together so quickly - I swear! (That's what she said, that's what she said, and THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID).

Recipe: Cashew Chicken
1 boneless & skinless chicken breast, about 10 oz. (cut into small cubes)
1/2 cup unsalted cashew nuts
1 small green bell pepper, about 4 oz. (cut into small square pieces) (I hate peppers, and used celery)
5 slices ginger
1/4 onion (cut into small square pieces) (I used green onions because I had them)

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon rice wine

1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
3/4 teaspoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
3 dashes white pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon rice wine (also called Mirin at the grocery store)
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt to taste


Marinate the chicken meat with the baking soda for 15-20 minutes and then rinse the chicken thoroughly. (Please make sure that the chicken is properly rinsed clean of the baking soda.).  This sounds so weird, but what it does to the chicken is AMAZING.  The chicken came out so ridiculously tender; I was shocked.  It's almost like the only word to describe the texture is "silky".  Is there anything baking soda can't do?  To make this a faster weeknight meal, cut the chicken the night before, baking soda it (I'm making that a verb), rinse, and then store in the fridge.
Pat the chicken meat dry with paper towels and then marinate with the rest of the ingredients (rice wine and cornstarch) for 15 minutes.  I marinated it while I made the fried rice.

Mix the sauce together and set aside.  Weeknight tip: make the sauce night before and store in the fridge.

Heat up a wok with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and stir-fry the chicken meat until the color turns white or half-cooked. Dish out and set aside.
Add another 1 tablespoon of cooking oil into the wok and add in the ginger slices, bell peppers (celery) and onions.
The sign of a good cook is a crusty wok.  Oy vey
Stir-fry until you smell the peppery aroma from the green peppers (celery) and add the chicken meat back in.
Add in the sauce and stir continuously until the chicken meat is cooked and well coated with the sauce. Add salt to taste, if you like. I did
Add in the cashews and do a few quick stirs. Dish out and serve the Cashew Chicken hot over rice.

We topped ours with Sambal Oelek (chili sauce) cause we like it hot and spicy in this house!  That's what she said!

Want to see a trick I use when trying a new recipe?  Take a clip with a magnet on the back (5 pack from Target for under $10), and clip the recipe to the hood on your stove.  It's right at eye-level and off of the counter so that you don't have to keep picking up the recipe to figure out the next step/ingredient.
I bet I could sell this idea to Williams and Sonoma or Sur La Table and they'd retail for about $15.  They're probably rename them something like "hands-free recipe device" or "Ergonomic food instruction display".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Would appreciate the collective power of prayer and good thoughts

Troy has an interview this morning for a fire fighter position! (squeal)

1) it's 2.5 hours away
2) price of gas.  Oy

1) they work 24 hours, and have 48 hours off, so even with the commute, he'd still be home more often than he is now
2) this would straight up change our lives yo

Any prayers, happy thoughts, good wishes, or whatever you believe in would be much appreciated!

If only my hands actually looked like this (minus the Lee Press On Nails), and not the dishpan hands I'm actually rocking.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meal plan for December 19th-25th

Holy crap, the start of Hanukkah and Christmas is this week!  Hurray!  I hope this week finds you surrounded by loved ones.

Here is what we're eating this week in our house.

Monday:: homemade reubens, roasted brussel sprouts, and sweet potato fries

Tuesday:: spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad

Wednesday:: Soba noodles with shrimp

Thursday:: apple pancakes, bacon, and "eggies"

Friday:: homemade pizza and roasted brussel sprouts

Saturday:: Christmas eve dinner at Troy's parent's

Sunday:: Christmas dinner at Troy's aunt's

This week I spent $30.91 on groceries.  $3.99 of that being a sandwich from the deli, and $2.99 for a 6 pack of Hansen's soda; I NEEDED a root beer to go with my sandwich!  I was out and about later than expected and was starving.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fried rice

Fried rice is one of my absolute favorite comfort foods.   When we lived in Los Angeles for 4 years, I would look forward to coming home to Washington to get some of my favorite fried rice.  Oddly enough, the west side of Los Angeles didn't have any good Chinese food (it was all in the valley).

I saw this recipe the other day and thought I should give it a try.  It was delicious!  Not exactly what my favorite restaurant rice tastes like, but we all enjoyed it a lot.

Fried Rice Recipe
12 oz. overnight rice
4 oz. chicken breast (cut into cubes) (I used some smoked pork we had in the freezer)
4 oz. shrimp (cleaned and deveined) (I didn't include)
2 oz. long beans (tips removed and chopped into very short pieces) (I used frozen peas)
2 oz. carrots (cut into tiny cubes) (I also did green onion and diced celery)
2 eggs (beaten)
2-inch ginger (peeled and cut into thin long strips) (I used a lot less.  I don't love ginger)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon oyster sauce
2 tablespoon cooking oil
3 dashes white pepper powder (I used normal black pepper)
Salt to taste (optional)

Quick note about seasoning a wok.  You might notice in these photos that I clearly don't know how to properly do it.  So yeah... 

Heat up a wok with two tablespoons of oil. Add ginger strips and fry until aromatic.
Follow with meat and veggies. Stir fry until they are half cooked.
The meat I used was already cooked, so I didn't add it at this point
Add in the overnight rice and stir well with the ingredients.  I ended up using white rice because I used all my brown rice in making rice bags.  I then bought cheap white rice to fill the bags, and well, that's all I had in the cupboard.
Add soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper powder and continue to stir the fried rice for a couple of minutes.
Make a “well” in the middle of the fried rice and pour the beaten eggs in the well.
Notice how the bottom of the wok is getting more and more burnt?  Go me!
Wait for 30 seconds and then cover the “egg well” with the fried rice. Leave it for 30 seconds and continue to stir-fry so the eggs form small pieces and mix well with the fried rice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Another fast last-minute holiday gift

Anne B - avert your eyes!  I know how much you hate opening your Christmas gifts before Christmas.  Turn away now.

She gone?  Let's proceed.

These rice bag things are great for easing aches and pains (if heated in the microwave), and for boo boos (if put in the freezer).  You can turn them in to therapeutic aids by adding aromatics like herbs or essential oils.  They're also simple to make.  A monkey could make these.  I know, because one of them had to teach me how to use the sewing machine.  If you think I'm joking, I don't want to tell you how long I spent trying to make my sister's sewing machine work before I realized it wasn't turned on.  Ahem.

Start with some cute fabric that is double size of what you want the end product to be. 
Figure out what part of the fabric will be the "top" and then fold a little edge over on to the ugly part of the fabric; you're basically just hemming it on one side.
Then fold it in half.  Turn it inside out, and make a basic stitch around the sides.  You'll want to leave the top open.
Next, turn it inside out so that the pretty part of the fabric is showing.  Then, sew a straight line from the long end to the top.  You'll want to make a few of these lines.  This is creating "segments" so that the rice doesn't just flop around.
Fill the different "divides" of the bag with rice.  White rice is the cheapest.  You're using this as a heating pad - not eating it.
The next part is the most complicated because you need to figure out how to sew the open end without spilling rice all over.  Not that I did that or anything...  I found that the best thing was to use simple binder clips on the various openings until you were ready to sew it.  You're connecting the edges that you hemmed earlier.

Finished product.
A few of what I churned out. 
To date, they've been shipped to people around the country, but mostly they're being used as sandbags for epic battles for Star Wars Christmas tree ornaments.  They are also the key part of a game called "Bad Guys" in which Jack throws them at Troy and yells "bad guys".

Happy sewing!
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