Monday, December 27, 2010

Goin' To California

Christmas was a blast with Reno family, now I am off to CA to see LG family and start cleaning out my grandmother's house. Weird. Christmas Eve the turkey turned out wonderfully and my stuffing (first time ever) was a massive success! And my sister-in-law brought her big book of Christmas carols and we had a big post-dinner sing-along/dance party (we sang, the little guys danced). Our friends brought a chocolate cake they made out of one of the Ina Garten cookbooks, and it was kind of ridiculous. A pound of butter and a  pound of chocolate and it was still kind of dry. Tasty though.

Christmas morning we went and watched the kiddoes open presents. I got a high-tech flashlight and some  fancy smelly lotion (surprisingly nice), as well as a vacuum wine cork thing (from the wine drinkers) and a fleece that didn't fit, boo. Matt got me the Jack Spratt books (funnier than Thursday Next, in my opinion) and this awesome print:
which will be the first thing on the wall in the new house. I got him an awesome Van Halen shirt and some  CDs, but the biggest excitement was his coffee press, which he adores. The relatives all got homemade apple butter and other tasty perishables wrapped in a nice dishtowel from Williams Sonoma, we'll see if they get used. Hope everybody had a lovely Christmas and got nice stuff (but not too much stuff)! I'll be back for the weekend...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have Yourself A Merry Little Pagan Winter Celebration?

I may have posted this before but it is another of my favorites and vaguely holiday-related so Merry Christmas everybody! Off to baste the turkey!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

More Pictures! Holiday Roundup.

Homemade swag.
Nerdiest swag ever. It's a tiny tuba.

This is my awesome tree. I paid  more to get it from the Boy Scouts instead of the grocery store but then they trimmed the trunk for me and loaded it in my car without getting needles everywhere. Also it is a much nicer tree than I have ever had before and has hardly shed at all in almost two weeks! No idea how the fancy decor bloggers get such good tree pictures, however I imagine it has to do with proper lighting and big white walls to shoot against instead of busy red brick and speakers. Now I remember why I am not a fancy decor blogger.
Hungarian ornaments. Oddly enough I have a heart and an umbrella. They were from one of my sisters, years ago.
Hummingbird from my aunt. He has a matching peacock buddy, too. You can also see my beloved cranberry wood garlands in the background. I think these are so pretty, I got two last year and had to get two more this year because I love them so much (and they are pretty short).
My oh-so-festively decorated mantel. If I wasn't getting ready to move I would acknowledge that it needs bigger art or something as everything is slightly too uniformly short. But right now it just has to hold all the holiday cards. There is some hand-me-down silver garland action here too. Not as cool as the cranberry  garland. Also tiny felt trees from my sister and silver candlesticks from the in-laws.

And this is my centerpiece. Every year it gets a different combo of ball colors, but the dish is always the same. It is a random wedding gift from I-have-no-idea-who and once a year I bust it out and fill it with balls. 

Now back to cooking!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pictures! Also, Recipe Roundup And Peppermint Bark Recipe!

This is peppermint bark. It is pretty simple to make. I melt a bag of milk chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds, then stir, repeat 3-4 times until there are no chips visible). Spread it in a foil-lined cookie sheet and put it in the fridge until it hardens. Put six standard-sized candy canes in a bag and bash them with the bottom of a pint glass (or other convenient hitting implement) until they are a mix of small chunks and powder, nothing bigger than about 1/2 inch. Melt the white chocolate just like you did the milk chocolate, then before you spread it on, stir in the candy cane bits and spread away. Once it has all hardened, break it into chunks and enjoy! It may not look like much but it tastes like pepperminty heaven!
 Bourbon balls from Cookbook's recipe. No Nilla wafers here! Tempering chocolate is still not my forte but they taste a lot better than they look!
Honey caramel nut bars via Sunset magazine. These need to cool COMPLETELY before you try and cut them. Not as in wait until they're just warm. Like, the next day. 
 Nuts with sea salt, garlic powder and Italian spices. Easy, but these need a lot of olive oil or all of your spicy goodness will fall to the bottom of the bowl once they've cooled off. So sad. Until you get to the bottom of the bowl... These are ridiculously tasty when they are still hot.
 Snappy little gingersnaps. Yum.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Swear Pictures Are Really Forthcoming

So the party Friday night was generally a success. And I slept all day yesterday, just about. We missed a couple of people because a storm blew in Friday afternoon and they decided to stay in. But the overall turnout was still great! People brought candy and cookies and little pesto cheese pinwheels. Also vodka, tequila, wine and beer. We always end parties with more booze than we start them. I am drinking leftover cider with gingersnaps right now.

In a hierarchy of homemade popularity we had :
bourbon balls,
peppermint bark,
my grandmother's korozot (nothing like the recipes you find on the internet, hers is WAY better)
hummus (had to explain how to make it at least twice)
nut bars (should have sprung for cashews instead of subbing in walnuts)
roasted red pepper/artichoke dip (didn't need to compensate for not using marinated veggies by adding too much garlic, whoops)

We killed the soft cheeses and the Irish cheddar (mmm, Trader Joe's I love you) and still have a solid chunk each of gouda and apricot stilton (to serve for Christmas Eve, not eat all up). I have been sending visitors away with care packages of cookies and am doing my best to defend the rest of the candy for specific recipients. Also somebody brought some candy cane taffy from Whole Foods and it is shockingly good. It's like saltwater taffy and so pepperminty and delicious! The big bowl of veggies was almost completely cleaned out (and now I am craving more radishes), as was the antipasto platter (Matt was so sad to not have any leftover salami). The secret smash hit was TJ's pigs in blankets. They were a late addition and stuck to the pan coming out of the oven but once people spotted them they disappeared in minutes. Overall it was a great party and I am still tired!

Next up, Christmas dinner!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recipe/Spread Pictures Pending

I want some action shots of the spread tonight before I post some how-tos. So probably tomorrow. The second cookie option turned out to be these and in retrospect I should not have cheated and subbed out the salted cashews for some walnuts I had on hand. Matt called them hippie cookies and I think that's why. The cashews would have  made them richer. Although the shortbread is nice and buttery. They aren't super-sweet either.

Next time, not more sugar, but a little more in the spice dept. and no cheating on the expensive nuts. Then they will be worth popping that Benadryl for.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Flash Of Genius

No, not me. The person who designed the functional Christmas tree stand I now own. Pictures to follow shortly. I used to think it was just me having trouble getting the tree up. This new stand makes it clear I was completely incorrect on that front. It took about 5 minutes and there wasn't ANY swearing.

Also my house is so full of candy I am not sure what to do about it. Oh yeah,that's right. Make another batch of bourbon balls.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So Maybe I was A Tad Unrealistic

...because although I offered to join the cooking party, I am also preparing to cook for an actual party. It is a week from tomorrow and it is LARGE. We throw a Christmas party every year and this is our last one in Reno. I am expecting 30-40 people  (it's hard to predict).

So here is the initial rundown of what I plan to serve, and thus, have to prepare in the next week:
artichoke dip
roasted red pepper tapenade
this awesome looking thingy (as a replacement for my usual)
along with a regular cheese plate, some fruit (with the cheeses) and veggies (with the dips), crackers, baguettes and an antipasto plate with olives and salami and whatnot. But that stuff just needs assembling. Also super-awesome fancy pigs in blankets from Trader Joe's, as well as their delicious olive tapenade.

and on the sweet side:
gingersnaps (would it be weird to put in chunks of candied ginger? I love that stuff)
peppermint bark
bourbon balls
snickerdoodles? Is that too much? I can't skip either of the candy options as they are two of my biggest hits, and I LOVE gingersnaps so I am thinking these are the ones to scratch.

People always bring sweet stuff and it doesn't move as fast as the savories so I am not going all out here. I am trying to think of a couple more hot options. I'd do Cookbook's awesome-sounding hot artichoke spinach dip but I am without a crock pot. In the past people have also bought chips and seven layer dip as well as shrimp w/cocktail sauce so I am inclined to skip those two things. I  am trying to keep it not totally heavy, too.

But I am also tempted to make my grandmother's korozot as it is a huge hit as long as I tell people what it is. All the recipes I find on the internet seem to have a stick of butter. Hers is blue cheese mashed up with cream cheese, grated onion, mustard and paprika. Maybe instead of the artichoke dip? But I already have all that other cheese going on too...

Opinions VERY welcome! What do you look forward to at holiday parties?

And after this is Christmas dinner, and my mother-in-law has already announced that SHE wants to do lamb (even though it was totally awesome last year when I did it). Maybe I can do the korozott then instead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Ahh measuring tapes, the bane of my existence. I finally got my dad to send me a floor plan, and while it is good to know that we really can't bring our giant couch, it still puts a couple of kinks in some of my theoretical plans. But it sure is nice when you find out a room is a little bit bigger than you thought  it was and suddenly planning everything out gets a little bit easier. However, our living room is still a totally wacky shape and it will be interesting to see if I can make it comfortable without succumbing to the siren song of a more size-appropriate Craigslist couch (do they have bedbugs in the Bay Area?)

Also, despite the Blogger picture issues driving me bonkers, I found a Christmas present for the new place. I just can't post you a picture of it. Not  even from my own Flickr account. Stupid Blogger. Does anybody know how Blogspot lets you post pictures? Or at least if it sucks less?

Also, ginger carrot soup is very good for colds but my entire head is still blocked up solidly. SOLID. LY. I feel like I am descending in a plane and my ears will not pop. Ergh.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In Theory

I should be posting my list of cooking challenges, how awesome my job hunt is going, and how productive I am being. Instead I am watching old Doctor Who (as in, Eccleston-era, not OLD Doctor Who) and sniffling  a lot while feeling very congested/sorry for myself. I hope this goes away soon. Matt's has lasted for almost a week and he had a good three-day head start on me. Can anyone recommend good time-wasters from Netflix streaming? Hey, how about a pretty picture?
I am going to miss my blue walls. Also, I would like a lime green lounge-y chair for Christmas please, Santa.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Opinions? Also, Gloating.

So I succumbed to Cyber Monday. had a deal where if you spend over $100, you get $30 off. So if I buy two pairs of shoes (like I usually do, assuming there is NO WAY both of them will actually fit) they are $54 each, instead of the normal-sale $72 or the full-price $90. And I have been hunting for a pair of dressy flats for pretty much all of 2010. Also, free shipping AND returns (crucial for how many shoes I return). Then I can return the pair that doesn't fit (there's always at least one) and still enjoy my discount, ha!

So these are the front-runners. I am pretty pleased with them. They are not 100% comfy but about 85% and that is good for me as Clarks usually take a little breaking in. They also are awesomely gunmetal gray with STUDS and a tiny (a.k.a. comfortable) wedge heel. How could I not love them?

This was very cheering after wasting most of my day at the Nevada Job Connect office. They seem to be catering to people who have no idea how to use a computer or write a resume. I feel like I should be able to find a job without the help of anyone there. Yeesh. It seems weird to be talking about this and shopping in the same post. But that's also why I can't buy shoes unless they're at least 40% off. It's weird how I can justify spending money sometimes even though I haven't had a job in a month. But I am working on it. And I have been hunting for shoes like these for at least a year now. Also, I am attempting not to purchase clothing until I have employment to justify it. I can get through holiday parties etc. on the wardrobe I have. But not the shoes.