Friday, December 30, 2005

Books, movies, and my new iPod!

It's Friday, already and I haven't done much of anything around here. I'm not looking forward to going to work on Tuesday, especially since the "children" don't go back to school until Jan. 9th. They seem to behave better when there is a little bit of structure in their life.

Anyway, I haven't been crafting or cooking lately. I've been deeply engrossed in a novel that I started on Tuesday on our drive back home. It's called Wedding Ring by Emilie Richards. I'm about half way through it and some parts had me in tears -- it's a very good book. Besides the three main characters and each of their lives, it's about a wedding ring quilt that they are trying to restore. This book is making me want to quilt again. Of course in my situation, I need to do some serious reorganization before I sit down and actually quilt. I still have that village quilt I was happy to get back into during the fall. "What ever happened to that?", I ask myself.

Besides reading I watched this great movie yesterday, Kindom of Heaven. Once I got past the bloody battle scenes, it was very good. My dd bought the dvd for dh last month. I'm surprised I enjoyed it, because that is usually not my type of movie.

For Christmas I received some wonderful gifts. My dd gave me Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, which I was hoping for. I heard so many good things about this cookbook that I just had to have it. I also received an iPod Shuffle from dh, which I have been wanting since it came out. So besides reading and movie watching, I was copying some of my favorite cd's and figuring out how to get them onto my iPod. That was little bit of a time-snatcher, but I have some of my favorite tunes on there and now it's more of incentive to get my behind to the gym and work out!

Have a great FRIDAY!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pumpkin Bread

This recipe has been floating around the family for a few years. Mom was very busy this month, she made pumpkin breads and assorted cookies for everyone. This bread was very good and very moist.

Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Bread

A dessert bread made from pumpkins - Every year in Half Moon Bay, California there is a Pumpkin Festival, at which prizes are given for the largest pumpkin in the world. Never mind that for the last two years the winner has been in Nova Scotia: the citizens of Half Moon Bay take pumpkins very seriously. At Christmas time in Half Moon Bay, people give each other little tins of this bread as presents.

Yield: 3 loaves

3 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cup cooked pumpkin
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Cream cheese (optional - for serving)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter containers well.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the eggs, oil, pumpkin and water. Beat thoroughly. It's easier to get all the lumps out if you use an electric mixer. Stir in the walnuts with a wooden spoon.

Pour the batter into containers, filling each only half to two-thirds full. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the sizes of your containers. If you're using a very small container, start checking much sooner. The bread is done when a wooden pick in the middle comes out clean.

Cool about ten minutes, then loosen the edges of the bread with a knife, and turn out of the pans to cool the rest of the way on a rack.

For baking containers, use a loaf pan, metal soup cans or one-pound coffee cans, etc. If you use the coffee cans, this recipe will use three of them.

Serve each slice spread with cream cheese, if desired.

Our Christmas get-away

We had a nice time in Sacramento, but I was looking forward to coming back home. I knew I had extra time off until I had to go back to work and I was anxious to get home and just hang out at the house to sew, cook, clean, organize, or just read. Even though our first morning there was cold and foggy, most days were sunny and mild.

Anyway, at my Mom's we made tamales on Friday night. It was me, my brother, my dd and my Mom making tamales. It's a matter of us assembling them and then my Mom showing us how to make them and cooking them in her big steamer pots. Although, it was just us, usually we have more relatives involved in the process, we had a great time. My brother is always fun to be around.

My brother, sister-in-law, and my two neices and nephew, and my neice's dh came for dinner on Christmas Eve, and of course, my dd and dh. For dessert on Christmas Eve, after we ate tamales, beans & rice, and more, Mom made us Beignets! Yikes, like we didn't have enough to eat! Not a great photograph, but they were delicious!

We had Beignets with hot cocoa in these cute cups!

On Christmas day we went to my brother and sister-in-law's house for dinner. Where they had both sides of the family over for dinner. It was nice to see everybody again, funny how a year goes by so quickly.

Again, I was walking around Mom's house and snapping photos of . . . whatever . . . here's another one of my cross-stitch projects that I gave to my Mom many years ago.

Another cross-stitch project hiding behind the lamp . . .

Yes, I do cross-stitch, it's just been a long time and it's been very hard for me to get back into it lately. I will have to make it a New Year's Resolution, because I really did enjoy it.

I'll try to post some more photos, it seems to make my blogging a little more interesting, even though my camera is not all that great. No I didn't get a new camera for Christmas (sigh).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

At work troubles

Not a very good morning at work today. I had the unfortunate task of writing a "blue slip" on one of our children, which is his second one within two weeks. Anyway, according to our policy the second "blue slip" is a suspension from our program for a year. As for us teachers, we are relieved. It's really hard to do our job when a child does not listen and then makes it unbearable for other children and adults who are around him. We have tried to work with him and his parents, but it's been useless. Personally, I think he would rather have Grandma watch him than come to our program before and after school. He's a clever kid.

We've been having some awesome sunrises lately, my camera doesn't seem to catch the beautiful colors. And it doesn't seem to feel like Christmas around here either, the temperature has been around 76. That's pretty warm, I didn't have to wear long sleeves or a jacket all day and I'm usually cold. Of course, when we go up NorCal for Christmas it will be a whole different story. I hear it's pretty cold up there. This picture is taken at work outside our back door.

After work, my dd and I ran a few errands and then we were off Christmas shopping. I needed to get a few things for my coworkers and then something for my mom. We ended up in Orange County, a much better place to shop than my town. I still need to shop for dd and dh, and I have to do that tomorrow and have it done! We are leaving very early Thursday morning for Sacramento, again. We are making tamales Friday night. It's a family affair so I want to be sure we arrive ahead of time and well rested to make them.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Of course!

You Are Italian Food

Comforting yet overwhelming.
People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sunday morning thoughts

I had this dream that I went to a cross-stitch get-together at my friend's house. There were few of our friends there. I don't remember what I was stitching but the linen was beautiful. I'm sure I was dreaming in color. Anyway, my friend, the hostess, was a little rude to me, I don't know why. It was almost like she was saying if you stitch quickly the sooner you can leave! I don't know why I dreamt that, but when I was doing my Christmas cards yesterday I was reflecting on each and every recipient. I guess she just sort of stuck in my head and I dreamt about her in an odd way. I don't see her often, but we are good friends. When we do see each other it's always "we'll get together soon" or she will call me next week -- it never happens. I guess we just get busy with our families and it's hard to find the time to actually visit with each other. Or maybe it's just "out of sight, out of mind".

Our neighbors are back from their cruise to Mexico. She just came over to pick up her keys and a huge bagful of mail. She brought us a gift from Mexico -- a wall hanging for our patio. Right now it's hanging in the kitchen. I love the bright colors!

Okay, I think it's time for a new camera. My pictures either come out too dark or too light. I've had it for about 3 years. It's not an expensive camera, maybe that's why. I hope Santa is nice to me this year. (I did drop some hints)

Saturday, December 17, 2005

About those Springerle

Well, they turned out to be a complete flop! After reading the recipe, which I had already mixed the dough, I was supposed to let them rest for at least 12 hours uncovered before baking them. Okay, so I rolled them out with my fancy rolling pin and carefully cut them and put them on baking sheets to let them sit for "12 hours". Okay, so I went to my first aid class and came home around 10pm and thought that was plenty of time to start baking them. So that was okay, I was fine with that even though I had to be at work by 6:30am. Well, those darn cookies turned out to be hard as rocks! I mean they were tasty, I love the anise flavor, but sheesh, when I took a bite I thought I was going to end up back at the dentist office. Maybe I should dunk these in coffee or a cup of tea. So I obviously did something wrong. I don't want to throw them out, maybe I could whirl them in the food processor and use them for a crust for cheesecake or something. Maybe I should stick to American cookie recipes, I dunno . . . I know the rolling pin works well with regular type rolled cookies -- I should stick to that.

Today was another day that flew by, at least I'm finally done with my Christmas cards. I almost thought, "let's skip it this year". Oh no, I couldn't do that. Some of my cards are going to England, I know those will arrive late. I usually receive my in-law's cards late, too. I'm not worried about that.

I also went to Trader Joe's for a little grocery shopping. I bought this wonderful wreath -- a real wreath! I am so happy with it. I hung it near the hallway, so every time I pass by it I can smell fresh Evergreen. I don't know why I'm making a big deal out of it, but it brings back memories of my childhood. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. Now, I'm thinking about going back and buying another wreath for the doorway.

Last night I made a roast in the Crockpot. It came out okay, I had alot of left over. Today I made Shepherd's Pie with the left over beef. I haven't made that in a long time, which is one of dh's favorites. I am not a big fan of this dish, in fact I don't eat it. But dh loves it!

. . . served up with cabbage.

Dh came back for seconds and polished off the rest. I still have more left over beef, I'm thinking about chili?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Twenty-seven years

I can't believe dh and I have been married this long! Today at work my co-worker asked me if it snowed when I got married. She knew I was married in London about a week before Christmas, I told her no it didn't snow, but it was very, very cold. I was not prepared for the weather when I flew over there to be married . . . but yes it did snow the following week, just in time for Christmas. That was the only "white Christmas" I've ever had, it was a wonderul one, too. I can remember back then like it was yesterday, if only I could write and express how I felt that day (well, besides nervous and excited). I have so many recollections of our first year of marriage, we were young, in love, and the both of us are from two different cultures and that was only the beginning! Oh, how I wish I kept a journal of that first year! My dh is Irish, but employed with P&O shipping in the UK, he was an officer with the British Merchant Navy. Anyway, to make a very long story short we were off to many countries on one of the ships. We lived aboard for about 9 months and I saw so much, learned so much and will never forget those times. I always said I learned so much in those 9 months at sea than I have ever learned in school. As I reminisced with my co-worker this morning, she said it sounded exciting and I should write a book. Yeah, right, if I could only write!

Anyway, our marriage has had it's ups and downs, it is definately not perfect, but I love my husband very much and have no regrets of running off to a foreign land to marry him.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Springerle

Yes, another gadget! I have a rolling pin similar to this one that has been sitting around in one of my kitchen drawers forever.

I think I may have used a few times, but not within the last few years. I did a little digging in my recipe files and found a recipe that should be used with this type of rolling pin. I usually make a plain rolled cookie dough, but since I did the Swedish cookies, why not bake German cookies. Again, I have all the ingredients. I'll let you know the results. I know my dd is going to be surprised when she comes home this weekend and discovers all these cookies. She's going to wonder how I did it with only a toaster oven!

I have a busy afternoon and then I'm off to my first aid class tonight. Oh yeah, tomorrow my dh and I celebrate our anniversary. I think I will make a special dinner tomorrow night, I'm not sure what we plan to do, but I know going out will be a crazy on a Friday night during the holiday rush . . . . we'll see, we still might go out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Jury Duty

Well, I went and did my civic duty. I sat and waited with everybody else. I brought my book to read, which I stopped reading about a year ago, "Double Shot". I must have become busy or something and forgot about it. Now, I'm back into that book and I want to finish it! I've read everyone of her books and it was pretty easy to get back into the story. Anyway, back to "jury duty" . . . I was a little concerned because I didn't want to get stuck on a panel when we we're planning to go back up to Sacramento for Christmas. We're leaving on the 22nd. I was relieved to hear when they said that the courts will be closed from Dec. 22nd until Jan. 4th. So I thought, okay I'm going to take my chances and stay to see if I get selected, I could have postponed my jury service if I wanted to. But I thought it would be nice to get away from children and do something different for a week or two. By 11:30 we were told that we were all excused and she said before we do a jig, we will probably be called back in a year from now. That's okay, I'll look forward to seeing if I get a week or two off from work.

I came home started baking another batch of cookies, the batch that I had waiting for me in the fridge. These were gingerbread cookies, they are the rolled cookies, which are my favorites. I guess because you can do as many as you can and if you get busy you can stop and put the batter in the fridge and continue the next day. I suppose you could do that with any cookies, but with rolled cookies it's best to roll the dough when it's chilled. I have at least 3 different types of cookies done so far. Pretty good for me. Sometimes I wonder why do I bother? Especially since I don't need to have any sweets around the house (I'm still going to Weight Watcher's, you know) and my dh isn't really a "cookie person". Well, dd loves cookies and it's just "tradition". Plus she can help me decorate them when she comes home this weekend. My mom always made cookies during the holidays and I want to do the same. Of course, she still does and we are swamped with cookies, but I plan on giving mine to my cousin Chris and her family, and then there's my Aunt Lucy and cousin Gabe I dont' want to forget. I like the smell of cookies in the house anyway.

Okay, I guess I'll mix up a batch of chocolate chip cookies now . . . take care.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Baking setback, among other things

Today I had planned to bake cookies. I don't know how many different types of cookies I was going to bake, but I was going to make an effort in spite of my crazy schedule. Today I worked a split shift, plus I squeezed in a workout routine. I checked the messages on my phone and I received a call from the CPR/First Aid training center, they informed me that my card expired and they had classes available this week. Well, I knew that it expired and I was being my procrastinator self and waited to the last minute. Within minutes I was schedule for training tonight and Thursday night. So much for planning anything else for the next couple of days. I have Jury Duty tomorrow. Although, I don't have to wake up at 5:00am, my schedule may change even more.

I did mix a batch of gingerbread dough during my break today, but I'm just too tired to do anything else - maybe tomorrow night.

Monday, December 12, 2005

My Swedish cookies

Okay, back to my Swedish cookies, I was able to make a few yesterday. Yes, it is a bit time consuming, but it was something different and I enjoy being in the kitchen with my tv on to keep me company. I was also able to put to use of my tartlet pans that were suppose to be used for Sandbakelser, which I was clueless about. Anyway, I did a taste test and they are delicious! They would be great with "a nice cup of tea". I became a little busy yesterday and I wasn't able to finish baking the batch, so I'm going to finish it up tonight. I plan on mixing up a different batch of cookie dough for me to bake tomorrow. I'm working split shifts today and tomorrow, then I have Jury Duty on Wednesday. I have no idea what's going to happen after that, but I want to have some homemade cookies ready for when dd comes home from college. She will be finished with finals and I would like to have the house completely decorated and cookies waiting for her when she comes home!

Okay, here are a few of the cookies, some are a little toasty looking, but I'm getting the hang of it. Oh, if you flip the cookies over you can fill them with jam or cream.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sandbakelser (Swedish Cookies)

Well, I was up early this morning and watched a little news until the Food Channel came on .... they are making cookies on just about every show! So I was in the mood to at least make a batch, but it took me a long time to decide on what cookies to make. I pulled out my Betty Crocker Cooky Book that my dd gave me last year for Christmas. I was determined to make cookies out of that book. I came across a picture of Swedish cookies that are called Sandbakelser. I've never heard of them before, but I had the little tartlet molds in my stash of pans forever! I didn't know that is what they are used for. I bought them to make hors d'oeuvres -- ha, like I make that on regular basis. I think I only used them once or maybe twice. There was even a recipe for Sandbakelser on the box of tartlet pans, I had know idea. Anyway, I had all the ingredients to make Sandbakelser.

.... to be continued

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Woohoo, more decorations!

Well, finally we went to our storage unit today and picked up 4 big tubs of Christmas decorations. I didn't realize there were that many. My dh got the storage unit 2 years ago along with our neighbor, thinking it was a good idea.... well, the space was so small! We could easily manage that same space in our garage, for crying out loud! Anyway, last year I couldn't get into the unit because it was in his name and he had a combination lock on it (which I accidently threw out the combination, whooops! ssshhh) And to make a long story short, I couldn't get them to break the lock and dh was too busy to deal with it (I married a workaholic), and we just couldn't get our priorities straight. So I went to Target and bought a pre-lit artificial tree, we had a beautiful tree with minimal decorations. Life was so hectic then, that I didn't really care. This year I wanted all our decorations and we needed to get into that storage unit -- pronto!! Okay, so we picked up the tubs of decorations and left behind the old tree, who cares, I love the pre-lit tree I bought at Target last year. No hassles with lights! Now, I know "real trees" are the best, but in So. Calif. I don't think that's the best idea. I grew up in No. Calif. and my Mom always had a real tree, a "fake tree" wasn't heard of. In fact, all my friends had "real trees". But since, living down here we had a "real tree" once or twice and decided it was best to just go and buy a "fake tree" and it's been fine since. Dh and I are just a little paranoid about fires and the weather down here has been usually dry during Christmas time. So later tonight I will put more decorations on the tree and look into these tubs and maybe it's time to retire some of these Christmas decorations. I told dh that I was going to condense everything into 2 tubs. I hope I can commit to that one. Ugh.

This morning I was up early, went to my usual Weight Watcher meeting and was sorely dissapponted to see that I didn't lose a pound. I didn't gain either, but I have really been sticking to the program, working out, and avoiding alcohol, too. I was very sad and just about came home in tears, wait, I did come home in tears! I snapped out of it and started sewing. Oh, what a stress reliever that was. I had the radio on to Christmas music and I think I sewed until noon. I made the pillowcases for the children at work, for when they make their reading pillows next week. One side of the pillow is Christmas fabric that was donated by one of the parents and the other side is white fabric, where the children can draw thier own design using fabric markers. We have bags of fiberfill at work, the children can stuff their pillows and then sew them up. I know it will be a big hit with the them next week.

My neighbor came by this morning and dropped off their keys and an invitation to their annual "cookies and beer" party. We will be house-sitting while they are on a cruise to Alcupulco. Yes, a cruise that they invited us to go with them, but not a good month for us, nor a good time. Anyway, she brought over this beautiful wreath she made for me. I was so embarrassed because it was an amazing wreath and the wreath I had on our door looked old, faded, and just plain tired compared to the one she was giving me. So I promptly took that one down and threw it in the garage and replaced it with my new wreath. It looks beautiful!

Okay, enough rambling. Have a great weekend, or what's left of it.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Christmas Memories

I just wanted to post a photo of one of my favorite ornaments from when I was a child. My mom gave me this ornament last year when we were visiting last Christmas. She carefully wrapped it and put it in a plastic container for me to take home. I remembered these ornaments when I was young, we had dozens of them, but I also remembered them breaking as years went by. These look unique because they are glass-type balls, but each one had a little scene in the center. I have never seen any like this since I was a child. So if there is any current ones out there like this please show me the way. Anyway, this is one of the last surviving ornaments from days gone by. Thank you, Mom.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Busy December

Wow, has it been that long since I last wrote? Well, the Christmas season is in full swing and I haven't even started my Christmas shopping. Nope, not working extra hours either. The days are flying by and I haven't even been able to read my favorite blogs. What have I been doing? Just plain homelife, juggling bills, running up to Long Beach again last weekend. Plus decorating, putting up the tree, running to Jo-Ann's a couple of times and buying more decorations! I'm still wanting to go to our storage unit this weekend and retrieving more decorations! My Avon biz has me in a tizzy and I'm not going to worry about it for now, it's just taking up my time. I'll work that better over the new year, even though now is the time to make sales. I've been spending more time at the gym. It's been daily, I've figured out that it takes about 3 hours out of my day to workout and then come home and shower and get on with my day. That's too much. So some days I stay home and workout to a couple of dvd's instead to save me some time.

Anyway, work has been getting better. Some children I just have to tolerate. Some of the children are really having a great time with all the fun art projects we've been doing with them. I have to remember to take some pictures of some of their projects. Most of the projects I think up as soon as I walk in the door, so much for being organized.

While visiting my Mom's over Thanksgiving, I noticed she still has two of my early cross-stitch projects, one in the kitchen and the other in the dining room. I couldn't resist in taking a picture. I have done so many stitchery projects in the past, but have no photo of them. Here was my opportunity to take a picture of the pair and post one of them.


Have a great evening!

Halloween treat bags

Good morning! A quick craft share with mini treat bags. Very simple to put together, I'm looking forward to making these because I love...