New Years Resolutions

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Personally, I think New Years Resolutions are kind of crappy. They had to be invented by a procrastinator. I mean really, what is the point in waiting until the beginning of a new year to do something that you're perfectly capable of doing now? Nothing. You just want to procrastinate so when you remember that you need to lose weight sometime around the holidays, you think "Oh, that can be my New Years Resolution" when what you're really saying is that you sure as hell aren't going to avoid cookies and cakes over the holidays, so damn it, you're going to procrastinate and cram as much junk food in your mouth between now and December 31st at 11:59 PM before you grudgingly get your ass to the gym or dust off the Wii Fit.

And really, how often do you keep your New Years Resolutions? Yeah. I thought so. If I had a dollar for every resolution that I didn't keep, well, I'd have a lot more money than I currently have.

But if you don't make a resolution or two or twenty people will inevitably ask you what it is and then you have to say "oh I don't have any." and the person doesn't think "wow this person is so great that they don't need to improve anything in the new year" they think "Lazy! Cheater! How dare this person not make a resolution!"

So, being the procrastinator that I am, of course I have resolutions for the new year. But, cunning genius that I am as well, I've decided I'm not going to call them resolutions and they aren't just happening because its a new year. I know, I know, you wish you came up with this genius scheme all on your own. Its okay, I'm sharing my awesome idea with you and I won't be offended if you claim it to be your own.


Losing Weight: The most common and rarely ever kept resolution of the new year. You wake up on January 1st, march your ass to the gym and damn near die on the treadmill. Knowing that you can't give up in just a day, you stick it out and continue going to the gym for about a month before you say F it and give up all together. Then when spring rolls around and you need to think about your flabbiness in a bathing suit, you curse yourself for not having more motivation, more drive, and damn it why the hell did I eat a Big Mac yesterday! I'm all too aware of the cycle of losing weight.

But, this time I really think I can convince myself that its necessary to exercise and actually lose weight. I'm getting married on September 17th. So, I have 8 months to shed as many pounds as possible and tone up all bits of flabbiness before my final dress fitting and walking down the aisle. To all of you people out there reading this and thinking 'stupid women only want to lose weight before their wedding so they look good; they should want to look good all of the time. The wedding shouldn't be the cause." well, you're wrong. I could not lose a pound and my dress would still fit and my arms wouldn't look like deflating balloon animals. However, I actually enjoy eating healthier foods (stop laughing. I really am serious.) and I'm well aware that unless I get taller (not gonna happen) that it's a bit hard to find jeans that actually fit me considering I'm 10 lbs overweight, which all currently resides in my stomach. So, I could spend $20 on each pair of jeans at the tailor, or I could lose weight. I'm cheap, so loosing weight is the better option for me.

Quitting Smoking: Yes, I picked up this lovely little habit. Honestly, I'm not sure why I started smoking anymore. I broke up with my high school boyfriend the summer after we graduated and bought a pack of cigarettes. At first, it was just smoking when drinking, but then came that little issue of not actually finishing a pack in a night, so then I'd be stuck smoking the rest of them to avoid wasting money or having the cigarettes go stale. I've quit a few times and picked it back up again for random reasons. I've noticed if I have a boyfriend that smokes, I have no desire to quit smoking. So try having a fiance that works for a cigarette company, that smokes, and that you live with. Yeah, right, you try quitting then!

A few weeks ago, Tom decided that he didn't want to order more cigarettes and he wanted to quit. I had the tentative plan to quit smoking on the last day of our honeymoon because all of the wedding stress would be behind us (read: me). So, he didn't order any more cigarettes. I slowly watched the cartons decrease down to 1 and then finally, Tom was completely out of cigarettes. He smokes a pack a day and a pack lasts me 2-3 days, so the obvious solution was for him to smoke my cigarettes until they were all gone and we'd quit together.

Well, that day appears to be tomorrow...maybe. Tom took the last pack last night. I still have 7 cigarettes left. Which means that my last cigarette will probably be tomorrow morning on the way to work. Honestly, I don't mind quitting. Living in Maryland, its rather tempting to quit once it gets cold outside. Really, who wants to stand outside in 30 degree weather with 15 mph wind gusts and smoke a cigarette? Yeah, not me!

So, although they are not resolutions per say, they are "things I'm going to do this year".

What are yours?

Reeses Pieces Cookies

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This was a completely random recipe. The recipe on the back of the Reeses Pieces wanted oatmeal cookies and I didn't feel like doing that; plus I had used the rest of the shortening on the Chocolate Caramel Cookies.
So I decided to randomly make my own cookie dough. Its pretty similar to chocolate chip cookie dough because I figured that would work best. I don't actually have a chocolate chip recipe, I just use the one on the back of the chips. I was too lazy to look one up, so I just added the basic ingredients until it looked right.

Reeses Pieces Cookies
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation 
Servings: 4 dozen

Ingredients:
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • Reeses Pieces minis
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Stir to combine.
4. Slowly add flour into creamed mixture, about 3/4 of a cup at a time.
5. Pour 1/2 bag of Reeses Pieces into a bowl. 
6. Drop teaspoon sized balls of dough onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly brown.
7. Press Reeses pieces into cookies. Work quickly!
8. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then cool for 10-15 minutes or a wire rack.

I tried some of these by adding the pieces onto the dough before I baked it, but I didn't think they turned out as pretty looking. They kind of melted into the dough and the colors spread.

Chocolate Caramel Sugar Cookies

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There is about 2 foot of snow on the ground. Since I'm a great procrastinator and I don't feel like shoveling out my car or cleaning the bathroom, I decided to bake cookies.

When I was at the grocery store last week I saw Hershey's Kisses with caramel in the middle. I bought them and wondered if I could turn them into a cookie. I used a basic sugar cookie dough.


Chocolate Caramel Sugar Cookies 
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation 
Servings: 4 dozen 
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup butter
    • 1/2 scant cup shortening
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 bag Hershey's Kisses with Caramel
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Grease baking sheets.
3. In a mixing bowl cream butter, sugar and shortening.
4. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well.
5. Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder into a separate bowl and stir to combine.
6. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the creamed mixture; about 3/4 of a cup at a time.
7. Roll dough into a ball and place it on parchment or wax paper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
8. Unwrap 48 of the kisses.
9. Roll dough into teaspoon sized balls and place on cookie sheet. Press down to flatten.
10. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes or until edges are slightly browned.
11. Take cookie sheets out of the oven, place kisses in the center of each cookie. Don't press down too hard or the kiss will go through the cookie. Work quickly!
12. Put cookies back in the oven for 1-2 minutes.
13. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before cooling on wire racks.

I ended up with 46 cookies. A few were a little on the larger side so I probably could have gotten 50 some cookies from this recipe. I tried adding the kiss half way into baking but it melted through the cookie and left a mess on the cookie pan, so you're definitely better off  adding them at the end. You could also stick them in as soon as the cookies come out of the oven but I'm too impatient for that.

Weekly Dinner Breakdown

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Okay, so I lied. I never came back and edited the last post. I realized it wasn't really a good week to show a breakdown because we have two Christmas parties this week and I wouldn't be cooking dinner. But I realized that after I planned out meals for the week. So, since I have the information I'll break it down based off what we were 'supposed' to eat.

Here's is how to have dinner for 6 nights (3 people) for under $50.

Sunday - Minestrone Soup
Celery $0.99
Carrots $1.29
Cabbage $0.89
Macaroni $1.99
Stewed tomatoes $1.00
I added in a package of beef cubes that were $3.25. So $3.25 + $6.16 for the vegetables  =  $9.41

Monday - Chicken Cordon Bleu w/ french fries and corn
Chicken breasts (3)  $3.48 (I got more meals out of the chicken than I expected when I wrote $5.12 in the previous post)
Swiss cheese  $3.10 for 1/2 lb.
Ham $3.77 for 1/2 lb.
French fries $1.00 (I used half a bag that was $2)
Canned corn $1.00
Total for meal: $12.35 However, we didn't use all of the ham or cheese, they both also made two sandwiches.

Tuesday - Lasagna
Ground beef $1.71 ($13.65 for 8 meals)
Lasagna noodles $0.75 ($1.50 for the box, used half)
Tomato sauce $1.00
Tomato paste $1.00
Ricotta cheese $1.50 ($3 container, used half)
Eggs (2) $0.22 ($2 carton of 18 eggs, $0.11 each)
Mozzarella cheese $1.50
Excluding the cost for spices like garlic, oregano and parsley = $7.68

Wednesday - Cajun pork chops with roasted potatoes and green beans
Pork chops (3) $3.25
Potatoes (5) $0.60 (I'm estimating 20 potatoes were in the bag)
Canned green beans $1.00
Excluding cajun seasoning, butter and salt $4.85

Thursday - Steak and mushroom teriyaki
London broil roast $5.00
mushrooms $1.99
teriyaki $1.15 (half the bottle, $2.29)
onion $0.30
Udon noodles $1.99
Excluding oil $10.43

Friday - Grilled cheese
Potato bread $1.00 ($1.99 loaf, 5 sandwiches)
American Cheese $0.55 (5 slices)
Excluding butter $1.55

Total cost for the week $46.27. Honestly, I never did the math on this before and I'm pretty damn impressed. We feed 3 people 6 meals for the same price as two people going out for dinner one night.

I think I'm going to start doing this weekly to see what the average is in a month.

Impressive!

Dinner on a Budget

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I'm a really strong believer in homemade or homecooked food vs. fast food and packaged meals. If I wanted the same nutritional value as a piece of cardboard covered in salt, well then I'd eat a piece of cardboard covered in salt.

That's not to say that we don't ever order food in, but it is rare. Its usually once a month we'll decide that we really want pizza, Chinese food, sushi or something similar. On average, I make dinner 5 nights a week. Sunday is usually a meal requiring more difficulty than what goes on during the week. Monday-Wednesday includes meals that can take up to an hour to prep/cook. Thursday and Friday are my "off-but-still-cooking" days because I do the cleaning and there's no reason to spend more time in the kitchen when other rooms need attention too. Saturday is affectionately known as "fend for your damn self".

We have a pretty strict budget for the grocery store. To feed 3 people for 7 days, we have $140 a week. That is a bit high, compared to some people and I know if we stopped buying soda, juice and chips, we could stay significantly under that. However, that $140 also includes toilet paper, paper towels and misc. cleaning supplies that we need throughout the month.

I know it takes time, but each week before we go to the grocery store I plan out what I'm going to cook for the week (with input from Tom and C) and write out a grocery list with those ingredients. I look at the weekly circular to see whats on sale and sometimes get meal ideas from there. I'll also look on coupon.com and see if there are any worthwhile coupons. Doing this is 98% effective from picking up stupid stuff that we don't need at the store. And its also nice to not have to stand in front of the freezer staring at all of the stuff in it thinking "now what the hell am I going to make for dinner?" Instead, I have a little sheet of paper telling me what to cook.

Here's an example for this week:
Sunday - minestrone soup
Monday - chicken cordon bleu with french fries and corn
Tuesday - (actually I'll have to edit once I get home...I can't remember what the hell I'm cooking!)
Wednesday -
Thursday -
Friday -

Anyway, another money saving trick I have is to buy meats in bulk. I priced out our regular grocery store to a discount warehouse to a grocery store near my work. It turned out that the grocery store by work was the best. They always carry family sized packages and they even have deals like 5 for $20. Typically, their prices are 10-30% cheaper than other stores. The money for the meats also comes out of our grocery budget. When the freezer gets low, I take my $60 grocery contribution and put it towards meats. If we have extra money left over in the budget after shopping, the rest of it goes to me for extra meats. In this case, we had $120 I could spend because hardly spent anything the week before.

Here's the breakdown of what I bought today:
Family pack chicken breasts              $12.10      7 breasts
Family pack chicken breasts              $11.01      7 breasts
Family pack boneless pork chops      $11.23      10 pork chops
Custom pack fillet mignon                  $57.50       12 steaks
Family pack 80/20 ground beef         $8.65         4.23 lbs (approx. 4 portions)
5 for $20 boneless pork chops          $5.00         6 pork chops
5 for $20 london broil roast               $5.00         2.25 lbs.
5 for $20 london broil roast               $5.00         2.03 lbs.
5 for $20 london broil roast               $5.00         1.99 lbs.
5 for $20 80/20 ground beef             $5.00          2.79 lbs (approx 3 portions)
Beef stir fry                                       $3.44          1.52 lbs
Beef stir fry                                       $3.68          1.78 lbs.

Total Cost:  $ 128 and some change.

Okay so lets look at this in meal format. The chicken breasts are usually gigantic and half of the time I can butterfly them and make two meals. Say that doesn't happen at all though. Then I'd have 14 chicken breasts, 16 pork chops, 12 steaks, 7 1-lb. portions of ground beef, 2 stir fry meals, and 3 meals with the london broil. Then I divide the individual servings into meals. 14 chicken breasts will make 4 meals of 3 breasts and one meal with 2 breasts each. I only count the ones that serve 3.

So - 4 chicken, 5 pork, 4 steak, 7 ground beef, 2 stir fry, and 3 roast = 25 meals. $128/25 = $5.12 per meal. Thats not even PER SERVING!

Typically, I stay under $10 per meal and that includes the starch and vegetable...and that's for two men who eat a hell of a lot! Based off the meat purchases, you can see that we eat pretty well. Who else do you know eating fillet for that price? Honestly, its my favorite steak and I pretty much refuse to buy any other type. Any why should I if I'm getting 6-8 oz. of fillet for that price?

Once I get home tonight I'll do a complete break down of what the meals we're eating this week really cost.

I dare you to challenge yourself to this.

Cookie, Cookie, Cookie

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What do two back-to-back blogs mean? That I spent the whole day baking.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love shopping for presents, decorating the tree and house, entertaining and baking cookies.

Every year I make at least 4 types of cookies. It started off when I was 18 and decided that the premade frozen cookies weren't enough of a challenge. That year I baked chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar cookies and oatmeal cookies.

This year I decided to make chocolate chip, sugar, peanut butter and snickerdoodle. I tried making the sugar and snickerdoodle yesterday with a recipe I found using whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. The cookies turned out horrible!

For chocolate chip, I just use whatever recipe is on the back of the mini chocolate chips. I always use the minis because I think they taste better in the cookies. I add in anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup of applesauce to make them softer.

Peanut Butter Cookies - these also included whole wheat flour. I wasn't really impressed, honestly. I've made better peanut butter cookies. If you chose to follow this recipe, make sure to read the reviews. The cookies definitely burn in 6-9 minutes. The first batch I made burned in under 5. Maybe it was because the oven was already hot from making other cookies. The 2nd batch, I let the oven cool for 30 minutes before turning it on again and preheating for only 10 minutes before putting the cookies in. They were done in 8 minutes.

Snickerdoodle's - after my whole wheat flour fiasco, I went in search of a recipe using regular flour. I don't have almond extract so I just used more vanilla. I also think the dough could stand to be refrigerated overnight because even after 2 hours, it was still pretty sticky. I also mixed sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and then shook the cookie dough around in that. And make sure your cookies are small. Like super tiny small. My first batch spread and ran together, even after flattening them out. I also ended up doubling the sugar and cinnamon to coat them in. Overall, I still wasn't super impressed. I have a cookbook at my moms house that I need to remember to take back. There was an awesome recipe for snickerdoodles in there.

Sugar Cookies - I used this recipe based off the ratings. I'm not a fan of using shortening, but I just wanted to make sugar cookies and get it over with. If you want to use cookie cutters, definitely freeze the dough for at least 20 minutes. I used cutters and a round glass to make the cookies. I don't typically frost them, but Tom had a dream he was frosting sugar cookies with his grandparents so I decided to try them that way. The best thing about this recipe compared to others is that the dough isn't sticky and goopy. It was very, very, manageable and didn't require tons of flour on the rolling pin and countertop.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

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I saw this recipe on a recipe blog by ladies on thenest.com. What in the world could be better than cookie dough and cupcakes together? In my world, not much.

This was my first time making the recipe and afterwards I noticed there are some changes that should occur, so I'm including those.



Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes 
Source: The Nest
Yield: 24 cupcakes
Printer Friendly


Ingredients:
    • 24 paper cupcake liners
    • 1 package (18.25 oz) plain yellow cake mix
    • 1 package (3.4 oz) vanilla instant pudding
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1 cup vegetable oil
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 18 oz. refrigerated cookie dough log
    • chocolate or vanilla icing

Directions:
1. Cut the cookie dough into 1/2 in slices, then cut in half. Put on a cookie sheet and stick in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, but up to overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 and line cupcake tins with the liners.
3. Put the cake mix, instant pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs and vanilla into a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer, scrap down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and turn the mixer back on to medium speed and let run for 2 minutes.
4. Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners about 1/3 of the way full.
5. Put a chunk of the cookie dough on top of the cupcake.
6. Bake the cupcakes for 18-23 minutes. They should look a little undone and slightly golden. They will spring back if you touch them.
7. Cool the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes and cool on wire racks for 15 minutes. They might sink a bit in the center.
8. Once completely cool, decorate with frosting.

I can cook a turkey!

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Cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal from scratch is crazy. Honestly, I cook dinner just about every night but this was completely exhausting. So, if you ever take on the task of doing this, definitely give yourself two days. One for prep and one for cooking.

On Saturday I made the sugar coated pecans and the apple pie in the morning. For the pecans, you definitely need to double the egg whites. I needed 4 egg whites for 2 lbs. of pecans. I used vanilla extract instead of water and probably used more than the recipe said. I also used more than the called for amount of cinnamon. What can I say, I'm too lazy to measure everything.


For the apple pie, I used 4 Granny Smith apples and 5 small Gala apples. The crust was Pilsbury premade crust. I just used a sharp knife to cut out strips for the lattice top.

Once the baking was complete, I decided to chop up everything else necessary. 4 stalks of celery for the stuffing, 1 1/4 onions for the stuffing, and 1 onion for the green bean casserole. Since Tom picked up fresh green beans instead of the precut bagged ones, I chopped off the ends and tossed them into boiling water for 5 minutes and then put them into an ice bath.

Later in the evening I realized that George the Turkey still had some frozen spots, so I filled up the sink and stuck him in there, changing the water every 30 minutes until he wasn't frozen. I didn't want to chance leaving him at room temperature overnight, so he was dried off and wrapped up in two plastic bags and stuck back in the fridge.

At this point, I was exhausted already. I had baked, prepped as much as possible, cleaned the entire apartment and decorated the Christmas tree. I seriously don't recommend trying this...ever. Then I realized that I hadn't peeled the potatoes.

I peeled about 4 of them before Tom came in and decided he was going to do it for me. It was cute because I don't think he's ever peeled a potato in his life. I had to teach him how to do it.

Sunday I woke up 30 minutes after my alarm was supposed to go off and freaked out a bit because I was worried about George not being done on time. Tom removed the first bag of George's innards with no problems. Removing George's neck wasn't so easy. The neck fell out of the bag and we both looked at each other and yelled "GROSS!" before picking up tongs to remove his neck.

George was stuffed with a quartered lemon and orange and seasoned according to the recipe. I put him inside a cooking bag because I didn't want to have to deal with basting him.

45 minutes behind schedule, George went into the oven.

Stuffing: I forgot to take a picture before everyone started eating. If you use this recipe, you definitely need more than it calls for. To serve 12 with leftovers, I needed an extra 4 stalks of celery, another small onion, and almost 3/4 of a loaf of bread. Without it, the stuffing was maybe 1/2 inch thick in the pan. Following the recipe, I sauted the onions and celery and then promptly forgot that it would be hot as I shoved my hands into a large bowl to mix everything together. So fair warning: stuff that is sauted is hot!  Genius I know!


Mashed Potatoes: I definitely made more than we needed. I used a 5 lb. bag of all purpose potatoes. There were too many potatoes to cook in even our largest pot, so I filled it as much as I could and boiled those first. When they were done, I transfered the potatoes and the water to a large bowl and boiled the second batch. Once complete and drained, all of the potatoes went into the large pot to be mashed. I wanted to use milk, cream cheese, sour cream and chives. Somehow I completely forgot to add the sour cream. If you do this, just know that the potatoes will be pretty dense.


Green Bean Casserole: This stuff was awesome! Never again will I use the typical recipe with cream of mushroom soup. I really like cheese so I ignored the recipe calling for 1 cup of cheddar and added 1 1/2 cups instead. It turned out awesomely cheesy and delicious. I'm definitely going to start incorporating this into every day meals. Oh and I ignored the recipe and used French Fried Onions instead of stuffing.


Cranberry Sauce: Canned cranberry creeps me out so I wanted to try this. We definitely didn't need to use an entire bag of cranberries. The recipe called for sugar and orange juice. If I make this again, I'm going to cut the orange juice in half (or more) and add in water. The orange juice flavor came across almost as strong as the cranberry.

AND NOW FOR THE STAR OF THE SHOW........GEORGE!
Tom keeps telling me that I need to change George's name because a turkey can't be a boy, so fine....Georgia or G for short. So, G turned out really well. I was really worried about it. G is a Butterball turkey and their website says that a 19.25lb turkey should take 4-5 hours to cook. At 4 hours I checked G and the pop up timer I had inserted was up and the meat thermometer said 200 degrees. G was done! And had a very nice golden skin! My uncle carved G and said he was really impressed with how juicy and tender G was. So, now I know I can cook a turkey. Which is quite an accomplishment.

Everyone raved over the sugar coated pecans and I even had to write down the recipe for my mom and aunt. My cousin's boyfriend who refuses to eat just about anything even liked them, so I was happy.

And now, the pictures of how the tables were set for Christmas to eat Thanksgiving, just because I find it amusing!


This is Awesome

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So during my lunch break at work, I started posting about my hair and how we have a hate-hate relationship. I got sidetracked on TheKnot, starting at Salt's Blog, which then lead me to click on Brie's Blog, and finally I ended up here: Operation Beautiful.

And then I had to stop posting something negative. I'm sure at some point I'll come back and fill you all in on the lovely story of my hair and why we hate each other, but after reading Operation Beautiful, I just can't. It doesn't feel right.

Operation Beautiful is a genius idea. Who would have expected that something so small and simple could (and obviously has) made such a difference to so many people? If you happen to come across this blog and read this specific post, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to leave a note with encouraging words. This needs to be passed on.

My Black Friday Adventure

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I honestly can't believe that I am still awake right now. Tom and I woke up at 4 AM and went to Target. There was a gigantic line outside that we had to stand in for about 10 minutes before we finally got into the store.


Target just remodeled their store and did the absolutel most stupid thing ever. They put the toy section right in front of the electronics. I have never saw the crazy chaos that we experienced before in my life. It was completely insane. You would have thought they were giving away TVs for free with the amount of people that had them in their cart. The aisles were jam packed, you couldn't move an inch and the lines to check out were horrendous. Never in my Black Friday shopping experience have I ever saw anything like that. We could not wait to get out of there.

We bought 700 thread count sheets for $30, toys for my best friends kids, and the Norelco Arcitec Razor for Tom. I think we stood in line for about 35 minutes to check out. It was just crazy. My friend Shannon had texted me and asked where we were. She had went to Toys R Us first and was at Wal-mart. She said it was completely insane at both places.

Tom and I went over to the mall afterwards and picked up some of our other gifts. The mall was completely empty compared to Target. We ended up buying both of our wedding bands because they were on sale for $299 each.

Shannon texted me again and said that they were still standing in line at Walmart. It had been a good hour and half since I had last heard from her. Thank God we didn't go there!

We stopped at Fashion Bug on the way back and picked up a gift certificate for my mom. Tom said he wanted to see just how bad Walmart really was, so we drove through the parking lot and found it as full as a typical Saturday. We went inside and it was busy, but not crazy so we decided to do some more shopping. Tom bought the rest of the presents for me, I picked up some stuff for him, and then when we were checking out, we got an amazing deal. I wanted a Nintendo DS but they were sold out. A worker just so happened to walk up the aisle we were in, carrying a basket full of electronics. He stopped at us and said "I have two GPS in here, anyone want one?" Completely randomly, I said "Would you happen to have  DS in there?"

Would you believe he pulled out a blue Nintendo DS Lite? I could't believe it! Tom bought that for me as well. Then we headed over to Game Stop and spent even more money.

And the best present? My dad called me later in the day and said that he had finally received a portion of the money that he had been waiting on from an old lawsuit. He told me the amount and what he planned to do with it and what was left over. Then he said that he wanted to pay off my car and give us some money for Christmas. I met him at the bank and he transfered the money into my checking account. I had told him over and over that I didn't want any money from him but once he told me the lump sum he was going to receive (back payments for over two years because of a crappy lawyer), I decided screw it, I'm going to offend him more by not accepting the money so I'll just take it. And the balance on my car was really low. It would have been paid off in about 6 months anyway.

Tom and I decided to take the money that he gave us for Christmas and use it towards the money we just spend on our wedding bands. So, as of Tuesday, I'll no longer have a car payment. So now I have even more money that I can put towards our wedding.

Around 2 PM today, we went and bought a Christmas tree. Its 6 foot tall and really fat. I hope that all of the branches fall by tomorrow so we can decorate it before my family comes over on Sunday. I've spent the rest of my day wrapping all of the presents we bought and we decorated the living room.

I'm waiting for Chinese food to show up now and planning out my grocery list for tomorrow!

Did you go Black Friday shopping? How was your trip?

Apple Pie

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A few years ago I was at my aunts house over the summer and watched her put a lattice top on a pie. I thought it looked way better than a typical closed top pie. That Christmas, I decided I wanted to make apple pie so I could use that lattice top. Never having made a pie before in my life, I decided to avoid making one with apple pie filling and make it with real apples.

What can I say, I'm an overachiever. My mom thought I was crazy, but I was determined to do this. So I went on allrecipes.com and found Emily's Famous Apple Pie.


Emily's Famous Apple Pie
Source: All Recipes
Servings: 1 pie
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2/3 cup white sugar
    • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 2 pack of pie crusts
    • 4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
    • 4 gala apples, peeled, cored and sliced
    • 1 egg yolk

*You can peel, core and slice all of the apples one (1) day before making the pie. Put them into a large bowl and squeeze 1/2 a lemon on top. Cover them securely with plastic wrap. This will stop them from browning. 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put all of the sliced apples into a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Place one of the pie crust into a 10 inch pie pan. Pour the 3/4 of the sugar mixture over the apples and toss to coat.
Put one layer of apples into the pie crust and shake a little more of the sugar mixture on top. Repeat.
Put the top layer of apples into the pie.
Roll out the other pie crust and cut into 1 inch strips.
Put 4 strips of dough across the pie horizontally. Lift strips 1 and 3 and put a strip of dough vertically. Repeat from the opposite side.
Lift strips 2 and 3 and put a strip of dough vertically. Repeat from the opposite side.
Continue doing that until the lattice top looks the way you would like.
Using a fork or your fingers, press down on the edges of the pie to make the lattice top as seamless as possible from the crust.
Use a brush to put the egg yolk onto the dough.
Bake for 45 minutes.

The first time that I made the pie I was actually crazy enough to use Best Pie Crust Ever recipe on allrecipes.com and make my own dough for the lattice top. It turned out but its just too easy to buy the premade stuff and avoid the hassle of covering yourself and your entire kitchen in flour.

Wanna hear the amusing part? Since my mom can't cook anything, we didn't have a chefs knife in the house...ever. So can you imagine peeling all of those apples with a vegetable peeler and then coring and slicing them with a steak knife? Its pretty freaking impressive I still have fingers!

When my other aunt came over for Christmas she asked me where I bought the pie. I looked at her funny and said that I made it, what was she talking about? She said that she had never seen a homemade pie look so good, especially the first time someone made one and that I should email it to my other aunt to show her.

** The picture above is the pie that I just made that is coming with Tom and I to his parents house tomorrow. Honestly, I'm disappointed. It doesn't look nearly as good as it usually does. I don't think I got the egg yolk everywhere and it didn't brown properly. I know its still decent looking for a homemade pie, but I'm just a perfectionist and I'm really not happy with it.

George the Turkey

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This is just the beginning of a crazy week for us. Tom is flying back from Vegas tonight after celebrating his brothers 30th birthday. He won't get home until almost mid-night. On Thursday we are spending Thanksgiving with his family at his parents house. I volunteered to make two apple pies so that is how I'm going to spend my Wednesday night. (I know it will be too late for anyone who sees it and wants to make it for Thanksgiving, but its great for Christmas too.)

Since we won't be around to see my family and this is the first year I'm not living at home, I randomly decided to host Thanksgiving on Sunday. It started off on Saturday but my aunt and cousin weren't sure if they would have to work or not, so we switched it to Sunday.

So here's how crazy this week is going to be:
Tuesday 12:00 AM - Tom gets home.
Wednesday 5:30 PM - wash clothes and make 2 apple pies
Thursday - 2 hour drive to and from his parents house for Thanksgiving
Friday - Black Friday shopping and buying the Christmas tree
Saturday - grocery shopping, cleaning the apartment, decorating the tree
Sunday - hosting Thanksgiving for my family

Yes, I will admit I am completely insane for deciding this. I've never cooked an entire meal for a large group of people before. I've made a few sides or dessert, but never an entire meal. And surely never an entire freaking turkey.

Which brings us to George the Turkey. Our guest list started off as Tom, our roommate C, my mom, her boyfriend, my aunt, uncle, cousin, and cousin's boyfriend. Somehow this turned into maybe my other aunt and my mom's boyfriends daughter joining us as well. Holy hell!

I had planned on a 12 lb. turkey but quickly realized that it just wasn't going to be enough. I stopped at Giant today to pick up a turkey in the 15-20 lb. range. Tom is very picky about his turkeys and would only allow me to buy a Butterball turkey. So, after picking up and moving around about 20 turkeys, I had it narrowed down to two options. 14.93 lbs or 19.25 lbs. I called my mom and told her to pick a weight. She picked the larger turkey, stating that you'd rather have to much turkey than too little turkey. So, even though the woman burns just about everything, sometimes shes quite good at being logical when I'm standing in front of the turkeys ay Giant, holding one in each hand trying to decide which would be better for us.

Since the turkey is so large and takes up half of the bottom shelf of my apartment sized refrigerator, I decided the turkey needed a name. When I picked him up out of the freezer, he looked like a George. So, George he became.

Obviously, George alone is not enough to serve to everyone so I went to my immediate go-to for recipes, www.allrecipes.com where I found tons of stuff. So here's the menu with links (for everything I'm making):

Appetizer
Sugar Coated Pecans - I'm making 2 lbs of these, like the recipe calls for. As it states in the reviews, I'm going to double the egg whites and use vanilla extract instead of water.
Cheese Ball - my aunt is making this
Veggies & Dip - my aunt is making this too

Main/Sides
HomeStyle Turkey, The Michigander Way  
- 19.25 lb. turkey - this recipe is for a 12 lb turkey but the ratings saying that its not hard to adjust. I also thought it was pretty neat that our roommate C is from Michigan and Tom lived there for a few years. If you make this, definitely read the reviews. I'm going to use a cooking bag, add garlic and stuff the cavity of the turkey with lemon and onion.  
Bread & Celery Stuffing
- I scaled the recipe up to 12 servings. I'm going to add in 3 chopped Granny Smith apples, toast the bread first, saute the onion and celery and add in some sage for flavor.   
Mashed Potatoes
- No fancy recipe here, I'm going to make 5-7 lbs. of all purpose potatoes and add in 1/2 cup milk, 8 oz. softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, a random amount of chives and some salt and pepper for taste. 
Green Bean Casserole I
- I'm really excited about making this because its not the typical recipe. Instead of topping it with stuffing I'm going to go the classic route and use French Fried Onions. I will also use fresh green beans instead of frozen or canned ones.  
Corn
Cranberry Sauce I
- Canned cranberry sauce creeps me out because nothing should look like jello unless it actually is jello! So, even though I have no idea if anyone is going to eat it, I'm going to make this. I figure I can always just add in more sugar than the recipe calls for to make it sweeter. 
Savory Turkey Gravy
- My grocery store doesn't sell turkey stock so I'm going to use whatever the turkey decides to give me. And if thats not enough, I always have chicken stock on hand. 
Sweet Potatoes - my mom is making this
Rolls
- I've never made bread before and I figured this is not the time to try, so we're going with some lovely store bought rolls!

Dessert
Pumpkin Pie - my mom is making this
Amazing Apple Pie with this Lattice Top
- make 3 layers of apples with sugar. I don't like cloves so I substitute nutmeg in its place.

I'll post the entire apple pie and lattice top recipe on Wednesday and include pictures of it. I'll try to take pictures of everything as its done on Sunday to post pictures of that too!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Black Friday Shopping

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Hi, my name is Nichole and I am a Black Friday shopping addict.

I've always loved shopping. I'm definitely a shop-a-holic. But I'm also really stingy with spending my money. I hate buying something only to find out another store had it for a lower price or it went on sale the next week. So, insert Black Friday.

The first year I went, I convinced my mom that it was perfectly reasonable to wake up at 4:30 AM on a day off and go stand in line with tons of other people to get great deals on items. Believe me, it took a lot of convincing. We started off at Target, picking up $3 DVDs, $2 bath towels, a $20 home foot spa kit, some shirts and a few other things. Then we went to Best Buy because they had a DVD set that I wanted. When I realized that the line was wrapped around the store twice, I gave up and said I would just order the DVD online. We moved onto the mall, buying clothes and random stuff for my dad, a $50 Sony DVD player at Sears, a $40 new winter coat from JC Penney, and somewhere in between we managed to get all of the gifts we needed for family members. Looking back, I realized that this was the most naive Black Friday adventure I ever had. Which was pretty excusable, it was our first trip.

A lot of people refuse to ever go Black Friday shopping because they think it is utter chaos. Not once in my 5 years of Black Friday shopping have I endured chaos. Whiny people, long lines, and parking far away? Yes, but that all comes with the territory. You need a game plan on a day like this. You can't just go in there and wander around thinking "hmm should I pick up that candle for Aunt Marge?" NO! You need to know what you are buying Aunt Marge way before you ever enter the store.

I've learned a lot of tips and tricks to making Black Friday shopping pretty damn efficient. Here's what you need to do:
  • Go to www.bfads.net and view all of the stores ads before you go. Some stores start posting these ads as early as the beginning of November. 
  • Make a list of what you need to buy.
  • Compare stores to see who has the best deal on items. 
  • Understand that is going to be crowded and people are going to get in your way. 
  • Realize that you are not going to get everything on your list. 
  • Prioritize your list to see which store you need to go to first. 
  • Unless you live in a desolate area, avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. 
Have you ever noticed that when people talk about the chaos of Black Friday shopping it always seems to stem around going to Wal-Mart? If not, well now you know. All of the Wal-Marts in my area are typically chaotic every single time you visit. People clog up the aisles with their carts, kids run around like hellions, the cashiers take their good old time ringing up each person and its generally just a mess. So why in the world would you go there?

Target typically has the same items for the same price and well, is much easier to navigate. I've also noticed, stupid people don't shop at Target. At Target you are not going to find the woman who blocks the aisle with her cart and stares at the price sign over the display. At Wal-Mart you will find tons and tons of those people. Honestly, I believe that they are standing there and waiting for the smiley face to come down and slash prices like he does in the commerical. The smiley face is not real people!!

Okay, now back to more tips:
  • Everyone is going to be in the electronics section. It doesn't matter what store you go to. 
  • Never shop alone. Having another person with you (or 2, or 3) maximizes your ability to get everything that you want. 
  • Carts are not necessary. Okay, fine, if your buying something gigantic, yes a cart is necessary, but this is where multiple people come in. One person is the cart pusher and the other is the grabber. The cart pusher stands out of the way while the grabber squeezes through and gets everything off the shelves that is necessary. 
  • Do not think that you can go into a toy store and not get frazzled. If you have children to buy for, you're probably better off doing it online. Or, I advise at least 3 years of Black Friday shopping experience before you decide to hit up a Toys R Us. 
  • Understand that you are going to stand in lines. 
  • If you are a coffee drinker or you think you're definitely going to need a pick-me-up before shopping, I highly advise iced coffee. Even if you live in New York and its 15 degrees outside. Hot coffee needs time to cool and you aren't going to have that kind of time once you get in the store. So, buy an iced coffee, slurp it down as fast as possible without getting a brain freeze and then get shopping!
  • Know that the stuff with the best deals is going to sell out first. 
The only time I saw some form of craziness was at Target about 3 years ago. And it was only in the electronics section. I guess they had a good deal on TVs or computers. Everyone rushed over to that side of the store as soon as we were let in. The outside perimeter of the electronics section is where they had all of the DVDs for $3 and $5. I wanted some of those DVDs and I should have grabbed them first. However, I went to another section of the store and then proceeded to make my way over. I had to squeeze in between carts, dodge people, and do a couple of ballerina type moves to grab the DVDs and make it out of there. It was a bit harrowing, but thats what makes Black Friday fun. You know its going to be like that! You just need to embrace it. And have some freaking patience.

And my final bits of advice:
  • Most stores open at 5 or 5:30. You should get there no later than 5:30 AM.
  • The malls are generally less crowded than individual stores. 
  • The second wave of people comes around 9 AM, so you want to be on your way out at this point. 
  • Have an alternate route home. In my area, there's probably a 25 mile radius of nothing but stores and a mall. Navigating any of those streets was not fun. By knowing a back route, I bypassed about 25 minutes of traffic. 
 Oh, and you wanna know what really shocked me...I thought there would be tons and tons of people out last year because of the whole recession thing. No. It was the most unpopulated Black Friday experience I ever had. Tom and I were so efficient and bought everything we needed and then some.

Happy Shopping!!

A Funny Story

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My fiance, Tom, is metrosexual. I absolutely love this about him. I've had boyfriends with some sketchy personal grooming habits. One hated clipping his nails so his would typically be longer than mine before I could convince him to do it. Another had no idea you could put conditioner on a beard to make it softer. Of course, my face paid the price. One wanted to bring the unibrow in style and refused to let me get near him with tweezers.

For a while, I thought this was just the way that guys are. They're "manly" and don't care about things like moisturizing body wash, using a shower poof instead of a wash rag, or showering on a daily basis. Then I met Tom.

Tom showers regularly, refuses to have a unibrow, clips his finger and toe nails often, knows what manscaping is, shaves his face regularly, and understands that using lotion or chapstick does not make you gay. Score!

One night I mentioned that I was going to get a pedicure that upcoming weekend. Tom asked me what it was like and I explained it the best I could, but told him its really something that you just need to do to really get the full effect of it. So, that weekend he came with me and got a pedicure. I was instantly happy! I had a new pedicure buddy!

Months later, I had a gift certificate to a nail salon. Tom came with me and randomly decided he would get a mani/pedi too. We're sitting there in the chairs with our feet in the bubbles and a guy and girl walk in. I can't really describe them any better than "white trash". One of the salon workers asks what the girl is getting done. She says "a pedicure and my cousin is going to get his eyebrows waxed." The guy says "I'm not sure yet."

The girl comes and sits in the chair next to Tom. The guy walked over and being classy and all, says "Dude. I didn't know guys got pedicures. Thats weird." Tom and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes.

The guy stands there for a few minutes just watching. Then the salon worker gives Tom and I the bowl to soak our hands in for the manicure. Apparently the guy had been in a salon before because he says "A manicure too? I thought only gay guys did that shit."

The entire salon went silent. The workers stopped what they were doing and just stared back and forth between Tom and the guy. You seriously could have heard a pin drop. The girl says "Oh my God you can't say shit like that!"

Tom: "You watch football, right?"
Guy: "yeah man."
Tom: "Well a lot of football players get manicures and pedicures. You wanna know why? If you take care of your hands and feet, they'll take care of you."
Guy: "Uhh yeah maybe."
Tom: "You wash your hands and feet right? This is the same thing. So if doing that is gay...."

I couldnt say anything during the entire conversation. I was in complete shock that someone would be so ignorant to say something like that. Well, no, thats not true. I can't believe someone would said it ALOUD!

Finally, the girl looks at Tom and says "I am so sorry. I can't believe he would say something like that. I've seen tons of guys get manicures and their eyebrows waxed. And obviously you're with her (points at me) so you're not gay."

The rest of the time we were there the guy kept sneaking glances over at us. It was ridiculous. Once we left, Tom said "Yet he was there to get his eyebrows waxed".

No wonder there are so many guys out there who think that any type of grooming or even giving a shit about what they look like will make others think they are gay. Just because there are assholes like that guy out there.

Cooking Adventures with my Mom

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If you read the previous post about my mom and her cooking skills, you'll know that she is famous for burning well...everything.

As a kid, I honestly thought that most food came burnt. I didn't realize that it had everything to do with cooking skills....which my mom was obviously lacking. Before I share a burnt food story, I'll share a meal my mom liked making but my dad and I could not stand.

She told me that my grandfather used to eat this meal when he was a kid. It was simple...carrots and potatoes cut up into bite size pieces and ground beef, all cooked on the stove. Which doesn't sound horrible until you add the 'gravy'. Basically it was just flour and water mixed together and heated up with the vegetables. Can you imagine how gross that is?

I was a teenager before I realized that it was a meal made from what was on hand during the Depression. And while it was probably a great meal during that time, warm, somewhat hearty and filling....it completely lacked all flavor and taste. So, not once in the 40 some years of making this meal did anyone think that it could possibly be spiced up. Beef broth, real gravy, a bay leaf, oregano, garlic, someone in the spice or condiment family could have completely saved this meal. But no one did.

And now for the burnt food stories. I was about 5 or 6 years old at a family friends cookout with my parents. Hamburgers and hot dogs were on the grill and when they were done, someone served me a hot dog. I asked my mom why mine wasn't cooked. When she asked what I was talking about, I explained that her hot dogs were black all over and tasted like chalk on the outside and hot dog on the inside. Of course everyone that overheard my description was laughing. My dad explained that my mom liked her hot dogs much darker than most people. It was then that I realized my mom had some cooking issues.

Grilled Cheese. Its a simple and fast food that kids love. Well, I never really loved it because my grilled cheese was always burnt and crispy. I used to think that there was something wrong with our stove and that was the reason why a grilled cheese would go from white to black in a matter of minutes. Finally, tired of eating charcoaled bread, I stopped asking for grilled cheese. Would you believe that I was 23 before I finally had a real non-burnt cooked on the stove grilled cheese? My fiance made it for me. And for what its worth, I can make my own grilled cheese on the stove without burning it.

The toaster oven was another real issue for my mom. As a kid I used to think that it had two settings, white and burnt, because everything that went into it started off white and came out burnt. Obviously, it was my mom, not the toaster oven. Okay, honestly thats not completely fair to say. I think I was 16 or 17 before we finally got a toaster oven that wouldn't instantly burn your food. But still, you would think that if you knew you had a device that burned food, you would watch what you put in it very, very closely to avoid eating burnt food.

Nope, not my mom. Here's where we bring up the goldfish memory again. I swear to you, my mom will put something into the toaster oven and then go sit down on the couch and completely forget she was cooking anything. She also can completely manage to ignore burning smells until the toaster oven is filled with smoke and the food is usually on fire and the smoke alarm is going off begging to be put into a house with people that know how to cook. For the life of me, I can not figure out how this is possible. No one would believe me when I would tell them this either. Then, my fiance saw it first hand. He was in the dining room and watched her put a slice of pizza into the toaster oven to heat up and go sit on the couch. A few minutes later, he smelled the cheese bubbling and figured it was done. My mom never moved. Now the couch is approximately 5 feet from the toaster oven. Then the cheese smelled burnt and my mom still didn't move. 3 or 4 minutes later, my mom finally gets up from the couch and goes to check on her pizza. Its been in the toaster oven for 9 or 10 minutes now and was completely burnt. And you know what she does? She starts complaining about how crappy the toaster oven is.

There were a few more times where my fiance saw my mother do this and managed to save the food for her. Honestly, I think he was just being too nice and should have let it burn since thats how she likes most of her food anyway.


And now because that story reminded me, I'll tell you about what my fiance did. We were at my mom's house and decided to make something with chicken. The kitchen is small, honestly its the fridge, a small amount of counter space, the sink, another small amount of counter space, the stove and then a window. Facing the window we had a small storage area with more counter space. I'm standing at the small counter space with my back to the window, doing something while Tom is cooking the chicken. On the wall I can see some pretty colors and shapes and since its a few days after the 4th of July, I figured my neighbors were setting off fireworks outside the window and I was seeing the reflection. So, I thought "ooo pretty fireworks." I can't remember what Tom said, or if he even said anything at all, but I turned around and the chicken is on fire. Not like the actual chicken breast is on fire, but the entire pan has 4-5 foot flames coming off of it. Before I can react, think, talk, just about anything, he moves the pan down by his side so the flames aren't reaching the ceiling and coming precariously close to the curtains on the window anymore. My brain started to register to get him to move so I could open the window or the door to throw the flaming pan outside but I couldn't react fast enough. By the time my brian had started to work and think of solutions, the chicken had de-flamed itself and was now just sizzling nicely in the pan.

Of course, Tom felt pretty bad about damn near setting our kitchen on fire but since I've dealt with so much with my mom it didn't even register as a blip on my "hmm this could be an issue' radar. And would you believe that the chicken wasn't actually burnt? I think what happened is the olive oil he was cooking it in jumped out of the pan onto the flame and lit up the entire pan but once he took it off the heat, the fire just contained itself to the pan. Who knows.

And honestly, he reacted way better than I did the first time something was on fire in the kitchen. I was about 16 and my mom and then boyfriend were in the living room. Somehow a tea towel got too close to the flame and caught on fire. I didn't realize it until I pulled the towel away and it was flaming. Instead of tossing it into the sink which was mere centimeters away, I did the smartest thing I could think of while holding a flaming towel. I screamed. And since that I didn't put the fire out, I screamed again. Not actual words, just "AHHHHHHHH". After about 3 screams the boyfriend ran in, grabbed the towel out of my hand and threw it into the sink and turned the water on. I just stood there dumb founded for a few minutes until I realized what happened.

So yeah, even those of us who can typically cook have some really dumb moments in the kitchen. :-)

I need to whine

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Sunday night T told me he wasn't feeling well. He took his temperature and it was 100.7. I made him take some Tylenol cold and gave him the number to my doctors office. I also attempted to not stay to close to him because its not really a week at work where I can manage to get sick.

T texts his brother/boss and says that he's going to stay home and so is our roommate because his license expired. (He turned 21 on Friday.) I wake up on Monday morning and feel fine. T still has a temperature, but its a slight one, 99.7. I called my doctors office to see if I could make an appointment for him, but apparently I didn't write down enough of the information from his insurance card, so I call him and tell him he'll need to do it.

He calls me back around 11 AM and says he made an appointment for 3:30 at the doctor's other office because my doctor doesn't have any openings. Our roommate C had already taken T's car to go get his license renewed. At 2 PM, T calls me and says that C is still not back and he's not answering his phone. So, I talk to my boss and leave work at 2:30 to go to T to the doctors.

As soon as we walked into the doctors office, I felt this overwhelming desire to cough. And cough. And cough. T fills out the new patient paperwork and finally we see the doctor. The doctor takes T's temperature, looks in his ears and at his throat and decides that T has the flu.

Really? He couldn't have managed to get any other non-contagious cold, he has to go and get the flu. Well, at least its the regular flu, not the swine herp as the girls on P&E refer to it. I tell the doctor that I'm a patient of another doctor in the practice, and ask if I should have her call something in for me, since its damn near inevitable that I'll get the flu too. He writes us both an RX for Tamiflu and we leave.

The lovely Giant grocery store fills the RX right away and we go home. I Lysol the desk that we share and T goes to the bedroom. And then calls for me every 5 minutes. I finally convince him to eat some chicken noodle soup because he hasn't ate since Sunday around 2 PM. I guess I'm slightly psychic since I decided on Sunday morning to make chicken noodle while standing at the grocery store. T takes the Tamiflu and a few hours later, his temperature. Its 101.5.

Now I'm cranky because I know I'm going to get sick soon but I absolutely have to go into work the next day because if not, no one is going to get paid. We go to bed around 10 PM and T tosses and turns and sticks to me constantly because his skin is so hot. I finally fell asleep around 2 AM.

Then, at 3:40 AM I wake up coughing so hard, I'm flying upright and the entire bed is shaking. Then because I get even more whiny and emotional when I'm getting my period, I start crying. Which makes my entire head stuff up and I feel like I'm going to die. T wakes up a bit later and asks why I don't take the cough medicine in the cabinet so I can go back to sleep. I know he partially meant it because he wants me to feel better and partially because its hard to sleep when the entire bed is thrashing around from the person next to you damn near hacking up a lung.

I said "because it expired." but what I thought in my head was "of course you want to take it because you want to be able to sleep, yet I couldn't sleep while you were kickboxing half the night and I have to go to work in the morning so shut the hell up." Did I mention I'm cranky when sick?

I get out of bed and go blow my nose in the bathroom until some of the pressure leaves. Then the cat starts crawling under my feet so I go and feed her, coughing and moaning all of the way. I get back in bed and T asks me whats wrong. I tell him I feel like I got ran over by an f-ing ice cream truck because my entire body is sore and I'm f-ing freezing. Which then gets me crying again because it hurt to even think about how much I hurt.

T's fever must have kicked back up because he started radiating tons of heat and I managed to warm up a bit, just being next to him. I couldn't lay on my side because my nose would stuff up and I wasn't comfortable on my back. I finally fell asleep and just when I felt like I was actually in that deep sleep my alarm for work goes off.

Now I'm pissy and cranky again. I get out of bed, brush my teeth and pee. I go to flush the toilet and the handle that flushes it makes a popping noise and refuses to flush. I know that there is some way you can manually flush the toilet if you take off the lid, but because my head is so stuffy, I still can't remember. And I think "Now on top of every other f-ing thing I have to do today, I have to call maintence at the apartment and so help them God if they tell me they can't fix it today."

Yes, we do have 2 bathrooms but the other one belongs to our roommate. And while he's a nice enough guy and all, he doesn't clean his bathroom frequently. So the thought of evening having to use it makes me want to scream. Loudly. But I'm sure that would give me a sore throat and then I'd just feel worse.

So, all of this manages to happen before 6:30 AM. I walk outside to go to work and its raining. Yup, like sheets of pouring rain. F you world!

I stopped at Dunkin Donuts for my coffee and bagel which was relatively uneventful, or so I thought. Now I'm at work. The coffee tastes fine, yay for still-working taste buds! But the bagel is as hard as a rock. Like it sat out overnight and then they decided to toast it, giving it a rock/brick like consistancy. Only about a centimeter around the edges is edible so I eat that and then lick off the cream cheese, cuz well, you know thats healthy for you. The payroll courier showed up so at least I have that done. My boss shows up and I tell him that I'm more than likely contagious so I'm leaving as soon as the banks open. He tells me that before I leave I need to figure out this new gadget that we bought. Its a high tech gadget and he and I are the only ones who know about it. It also doesn't come with instructions. I'm sure trying to figure it out when my brain is already foggy is going to go over well.

Now I just need to wait for the banks to open so I can deposit money into the company bank account. Then I need to call my doctor and see if she can give me something for the coughing. Then call the apartment complex and tell them they are going to fix the toilet today. Then get gas because my gas light is almost on. Then get the RX's filled. Then go home and curl up in bed with Mr. Kickboxer himself and attempt to sleep.

Okay, I think I'm done whining now. :-(

Risotto - you can make it

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A lot of people won't even try to make risotto because they think its either too hard or too time consuming. But really, its not that hard and if you plan out the rest of your meal well, its not that time consuming either.

The first time I made risotto it turned out like crap. But the 2nd and 3rd and 4th time, it was completely awesome. So, don't give up if it doesn't work out on your first try.

I get the majority of my recipes from allrecipes.com. Here is the link for the risotto I made last: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Gourmet-Mushroom-Risotto/Detail.aspx

Print that out and buy the ingredients. Actually, scale down the recipe size because its freaking huge. You could feed a family of 12 on the listed size as a full meal. In my case, I scaled it down to 3 and even then, I only added 1 package of mushrooms.

Also, you can use any type of mushroom that your grocery store carries. Since making dinner is enough work, I buy the sliced ones so I have less work to do. If you can't or don't feel like printing out the recipe here it is, with my alterations:

Ingredients
  • 3 cups chicken broth, divided (I use Natures Promise Organic Low Sodium Chicken broth)
  • 1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb mushrooms (I like portabello or shitake)
  • 3 stems green onion, chopped (or scallions or shallots)
  • 3/4 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbs and 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped chives (dried in the spice aisle is what I use)
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs and 2 tsp Parmesan cheese (yeah right, don't measure this)
  • salt and pepper to taste
The picture shows an entire meal I made; broiled filet mignon, mushroom risotto and corn. If you are planning on an entire meal, here is what you need to do.

Create a assembly line. Get out the rice and measure it. Chop up the mushrooms and green onions and either put on a plate or leave on your cutting board. Open the chicken broth. Measure out the white wine. Now, prep all of the other food you are making. In my case, I seasoned the steaks, turned the broiler on, put the steaks in a pan, opened the can of corn, drained it, and put butter into a saucepan to melt with the corn.

Now you're ready to start on the risotto. You have about 7 minutes of risotto cooking before you need to give it all of your attention. The recipe directions will be in black and my comments/adjustments in red.

Directions
1. Pour the chicken broth into a saucepan and put on medium-low heat.
2. Warm 2 tbs of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. I don't ever measure the amount of oil. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Depending on how dry the mushrooms look, sometimes I'll add in extra oil to really make them juicy. When they're cooked, put them and their liquid into a bowl and set aside.
3. Add 1 tbs of oil to the skillet and stir in the chopped green onion. Cook for 1 minute. Add in the rice, stirring to coat with the oil, about 2 minutes. I rarely do this for 2 minutes, probably because I keep the flame pretty high. When the rice changes to a pale golden color, you know you are good. Pour in the wine and stir until it is absored. Depending on how high you have your heat, this can take up to 2 minutes.

4. Pour the chicken broth into a measuring cup. It makes it much easier to pour into the saucepan. If you're making a complete meal that takes about 20 minutes, nowis the time to get everything going. Now, pour 1/2 to 1 cup of broth into the rice mixture. The more you pour, the longer its going to take for the rice to absorb it. It says stir constantly. I'm lazy and don't. So I'll stir it to make sure the liquid is moving around and then leave it for about a minute and repeat. When the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid it will look filmy.
When it gets to the point that you think if you leave it another minute it will stick to the pan or burn, add in more chicken stock. (See picture for when I add more) Repeat adding in chicken stock until the rice absorbs all of the liquid. This will take about 20 minutes. I test the rice now. If its not soft enough, I'll add a bit more of chicken stock, even if its cold just to make sure the rice fluffs up enough.
5. Lower the heat and stir in the mushrooms. I do this when the rice has almost completely absorbed all liquid. Once the mushrooms are stirred in nicely into the rice, add the chives (I used the dried ones from the spice aisle in the grocery store), then the butter and finally the Parmesan cheese.

Remove from the heat. I keep stirring until all of the butter is melted. I also never measure the Parmesan cheese. The risotto should be sticky, clumping together and have a filmy look. Taste test again and then add in salt and pepper to your liking. I've noticed that shitake mushrooms and low sodium chicken broth still make for a pretty salty risotto.

The rest of your meal should be done now, so plate everything and enjoy!
If its not done, the risotto will stay warm for about 20 minutes. If your meal just won't come together in that time, keep the risotto on the heat, but very, very low and make sure to keep stirring it so it won't stick to the pan. You can also add in more butter to keep it moist.

Happy Risotto Eating!

The Problem with Frozen Lasagna

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There are days when I don't feel like bringing anything for lunch. Its troublesome enough to wake up on time and get out of bed, so why should I be bothered to think and actually prepare food for later?

I like the single-serve frozen lasagna's from Lean Cuisine and Stouffer's. I think they're rather yummy for being completely frozen and stuffed into a box. But there are some issues to this.

Do you actually listen to the directions and poke holes into the plastic or only rip part of it back? I used to and then I realized it was really creating a problem. All of my cheese would melt and stick to the plastic piece and not my lasagna. And the cheese is my favorite part damnit!

Theres another issue too. The box lies. Every microwave I've used has taken longer than the time listed to cook it. If the box says 4 minutes, it typically needs 7. If the box says 6-8 minutes, it needs 10-12.

So even though the box lies and it took me a while to figure out my cheese issue, I still like frozen lasagna. Other frozen meals....not so much. Healthy Choice cheated me one time with their new steamers meals. I picked out some meal, took it out of the box and realized that I had about 8 oz. of food in a giant plastic container. Seriously, there was 2 tiny pieces of beef, 3 potato chunks, 3 carrot slices and then some gravy. I paid almost $4 for 2 bites of food and 15 oz. of plastic. Awesome!!

My Mom Can Burn Water, Can You?

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My mom can't cook. She says its because she is the youngest of 6 children and she never got to practice on anyone. Unfortunately that meant that my dad and I got to be her guinea pigs. I think its a crap excuse though. All of my aunts can cook or bake pretty well. My mom can do neither. I think the cooking gene just passed her by.

Now here's how talented my mom is with her lack of cooking skills. She can burn water. Really, water!

Okay, fine, I'm exaggerating a little bit, but 99% of its true! My mom is an avid ice tea drinker. She makes about 1-2 gallons a week. Back before she switched to artifical sugars, she used to make sweet tea. And herein lies the issue.

To properly make ice tea, you boil water in a large pot, then add in the sugar once its boiling, stir to dissolve and then add in the tea bags and turn off the heat. Pretty common sense, huh? Well, experienced cook that my mom is, she also likes to cut corners. So instead of adding the sugar once the water was boiling, she liked to do it beforehand. Which lead to a lot of problems. On multiple occasions.

Here's an example: I was 11 years old. It was fall. My mom had decided to make a pot of ice tea. While she was waiting for the water to boil, she got on the computer. On the 3rd floor of the house. Then, because my mother also possesses the attention span of a goldfish, she was tired and decided to go to bed.

A bit later, all of the water has evaporated from the pot. The sugar is now corroding into hard, burnt sugar bubbles all over the bottom of the pan. Smoke is filling the kitchen. The smoke detector goes off. My dad comes in my room and tells me "Mom's trying to kill us with the ice tea". Its about 2 AM. So, I grab the cat, put shoes on and go stand outside on a busy street while my mom and dad open all of the windows to air out the house. Do you know how bad burnt sugar smells? Did you know that it takes a long time to go away too?

A few months later, she does it again. Same scenario. But this time its colder out, so I'm standing outside in pajamas, a coat, and shoes waiting for the house to air out. In the middle of the night. When I had school the next day.

Would you believe in the dead of a Maryland winter, with two feet of snow on the ground, she does it again?!?! At this point, I'm pretty used to being woke up in the middle of the night. This time, all my dad did was yell "Nichole, your mom did it again." And I knew exactly what it was. This time was the worst though. Every other time, it was white smoke. This time, it was black smoke. Acrid black sugar burnt smoke. And this time we needed to involve the fire department because it was so bad. Needless to say, I was pretty cranky. And it didn't help that when I went to school the next morning, I was sitting next to the boy I liked and I opened my bookbag and out came a gigantic whiff of burnt sugar. He gave me a disgusted look.

My mom would joke that she was just testing the smoke detector. Ha. Ha. Not funny! I was pretty tired of this little outdoor field trip in the middle of the night because my mom couldn't be bothered to remember she was making something. So, I bought a Mr. Ice Tea Maker. If I could find the creator of this invention, I would hug them. Repeatedly. And tell them just how awesome I think they are for saving my life.

Since that fateful day when the Mr. Ice Tea Maker entered our lives, we were able to sleep in peace knowing that my mom was not trying to kill us with burnt sugar any longer. So, she just moved on to the toaster oven.

Seriously. She has got to have the attention span of a goldfish. I can't figure out how you can decide that you are hungry, put something in the toaster oven, knowing it doesn't take very long and then just completely forget about it. Not just momentarily forget either, I'm talking have no recollection of even putting something in the toaster oven. Many, many times have I saved a slice of pizza, piece of bread, or whatever the hell else she was heating up from being charred beyond recognition.

One night I even woke up in the middle of the night because I could smell something burning. I went downstairs and lo and behold, the toaster oven was left on. What does my mom say when I asked her why she is trying to kill me? "Wow, you could smell that from all of the way up here? Thats impressive."

When she did manage to cook, it was always burnt. Sometimes even charcoal-y. I guess she figured I might as well burn it to make sure that its completely cooked. Meat typically represented shoe leather. Vegetables were mushy. Everything generally had that overall taste of being overdone. My dad decided her new middle name should be Burn It.

I was on vacation and I found a sign. It read "When the smoke detector goes off, dinner is done." This summed up my mother completely. Thank God my father can cook and he passed on the ability to me. I might go crazy if I cooked like my mother.

Whiskers, the cat from hell

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For as long as I can remember, I've always liked cats better than dogs. Dogs bark, slobber, need to be walked, and you have to clean up their crap. Cats are more self sufficient. You pet them, brush them, play with them, and then you leave them alone. They like being alone.

When I was 7 or 8 years old I convinced my mom that I needed a cat. The goldfish just weren't doing it for me on the fun-and-amusing pet factor. So, we picked out a kitten from a pet store. Whiskers was black and white, and eventually, evil and from hell.

Maybe I was just naive, but I thought that if you played with, brushed and pet the cat when it wasn't doing anything else, it would like you. My mom took care of the feeding and the litter box. This wasn't the case with Whiskers. I think he hated me from the beginning and it just took a bit to for him to plan revenge on me. To this day, I don't know what I did to that evil ball of fur.

His first plan of attack as a kitten was to sit in a doll house in my bedroom and stare at me with his yellow-green eyes at night. I'll admit, it did kind of freak me out at first. He was black and white so all I could see in that dark room was his eyes. When this plan failed to scare me to death, Whiskers created a new one. I like to call it the "Attack to Death While Sleeping Plan". If I moved so much as an inch while in bed, Whiskers would come hurtling out of no where and pounce on whatever part of me was moving, repeatedly, with claws fully extended until he managed to stab me and yell for my mom to come get him. And I'm not talking just clawing me through a sheet or something, he managed to go through the comforter and the sheet on a regular basis. When my mom would come in the room, he would mask this face of innocence and sit there, pleasantly on the bed like 'what happened? She just started screaming.' Bastard.

A few months after we had him, my mom decided to get him neutered so he would pee everywhere and in hopes that maybe he would lighten up a bit. When they say that men are very protective of their balls, they aren't lying. And that even includes cats. Whiskers was nice the first few hours at home, probably from the sedative they gave him. He quickly returned to Cat From Hell.

In elementary school there was this thing you would do if you caught someone looking at you. You would open your eyes wider and push your face forward in a "wtf are you looking at" kind of thing. I have no idea how, but the cat managed to pick this lovely trait up. Even if I was looking to see where he was (usually for my own safety) he would push his head out in that fashion. I believe if he could talk, that face would have been followed with "yeah beotch you found me. Wtf are you going to do about it?".

I guess torturing me while I was sleeping wasn't good enough because Whiskers came up with another plan. When you walked down the steps, you were in the living room and that lead to the dining room and the kitchen. We had a coffee table in the living room with a bottom shelf that my mom kept knick knacks on. When coming down the steps, you couldn't see this part of the coffee table because it was blocked by the entertainment center. Whiskers decided this was his new hiding spot. I get to the middle of the coffee table and he would dart out and attack my feet. His new idea of attacking changed too. Instead of just repeated claws extended pouncing, he now would dig his claws into your foot and twist his paw around to make sure they really stuck deep in you and if you moved, it would only hurt more. At first, my mom and I just thought that he was playing. When we both realized that he would do this every time  I walked by, we realized it was much more serious. A vendetta of sorts.


My mom commented that maybe the cat just liked hearing me scream or something. Which seems odd since I don't know many cats that like high pitched or loud noises, but maybe he was the exception. Or maybe he just really did hate me.

It got to the point where I would need to call out to my mom or dad before coming down the steps so someone could shake his treat bag and get him to go into the kitchen. It was really bad when no one was in the living room or kitchen. Whiskers also didn't care if I had shoes on. That just meant he could attack my ankles instead. I could never pet him either. If I got too close to him, paws would come flying with claws extended. 16 years later and I still have scars from this evil thing.

My mom decided that maybe it would be better for me and the furniture if the cat was declawed. At least then I wouldn't be attacked so much. Great idea, Mom, but it didn't work. I believe that while sitting in the waiting room and on the car ride home, Whiskers realized that he could no longer torment me with his claws so he needed a new plan. When you don't have front claws to torture people, whats the next best thing? Oh, thats right, your razor sharp teeth. Awesome!

Demon cat had now decided that biting feet, hands, and anything else that got too close to him, was even better than having claws. It wasn't that gentle nip of 'hey stop touching me'. It was a 'I have every desire to remove all the flesh on your hand' type of bite. Honestly, I think a tiger would have been friendlier.

Whats funny is how nicely he treated his toys. He had a fake mouse and a felt fish with cat nip inside. He would toss the mouse around a bit, but always put it back in the same spot and lick its 'fur' so it looked normal again. He would bunny kick the fish and chew on it, but would always sleep curled up with it, as if he was apologizing.

I lived in fear of this cat for about 4 years. I couldn't walk anywhere in the dark at all and most times I couldn't walk around in the daylight without being attacked. He hated me, plain and simple. I was 12 years old when my mom realized that Whiskers had blood in his litter box. She took him to the vet and they did some form of operation on him for about $600 and it was fixed. He was a little bit nicer then, I could walk past him without getting attacked, but he never would let me pet him. Almost a year later, my mom noticed the blood in his litter box again. It was some extreme version of a Urinary Track Infection that would cost $4000 to fix. Four grand is a lot of money now, but it was even more in the late 90's.

My mom came home from the vet with him and explained to me that we would have to put him down. This expensive procedure couldn't even guaratee that the problem would be resolved and he might end up dying during the operation. I think he knew that we couldn't do it. The last week that we had him, he was almost friendly. I could finally pet him and sometimes he would even sleep on my bed with me at night. Not to try and kill me, but just to sleep. Even for as much as he hated me, I was still sad when we put him down. Most cats live at least 10 years and he was barely 5 years old. It didn't seem right that he would have such a short life.

It took months after Whiskers was gone for me to feel comfortable walking by the coffee table or moving around in bed. We would see cats that looked just like him all of the time and I would always wonder if he somehow got away and was still out there, or was reincarnated as another kitten, just waiting for someone else to torture.

You would think this experience would have led me to never have another cat again, but it didn't. Maybe I'm just crazy, but I thought it was worth another shot to have another cat. I got Gidget when I was 17. Her history will come later...
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