Monday, November 29

Thanksgiving '10

Here it is Monday night, and I'm just finally going through the pictures I took at our Thanksgiving get-together.

A lot of them are the kind of terrible candid photos that you save to blackmail people with. "I have a shot of you mid-blink with your mouth open! HAHAHA!"

But I did have a few decent pics. Like these.

Alex, Holly and one of the twin cousins, being read to by their aunt.

My youngest brother and sister-in-law. She's trying to put those dried, crunchy onions on her green beans, and he's munching on them.

Here the locals gang up to make four boxes of stuffing at once. Yum, Stove Top is the best.

A summary of the local craziness: an eyeball wound up on the counter next to the napkins and nice china dishes.

I didn't know my brother still HAD that eyeball. He used to roll it in amongst the feet of the ladies when we had a Bible study at our house, eons and eons ago ... now his sons roll it in amongst the aunts and uncles.

Tuesday, November 23

Orange chicken

This isn't my photo. My orange chicken vanished in a single meal and not a scrap was left. But it looked exactly like the Panda Express kind, so I lifted the photo off their site. :-)

I was pondering dinner last night. I had some chicken thawed to make into stir fry, but I'm kind of tired of our same old stir fry recipes that I make all the time. And I'm out of soy sauce. So I asked Ryan, "Doesn't Panda Express sell those bottles of their sauce?"

He's very partial to their orange chicken, so he whisked out and bought me a bottle.

While he was gone, I diced up my chicken, soaked it in beaten egg, and dredged it in flour. It was four boneless thighs-worth, and it made a lot of floured chicken. "The kids won't eat this," I thought to myself. "Holly might, but Alex never eats anything. This will be enough."

So I poured oil in my iron skillet and got to fryin'. I don't fry much food, nor do I like it much, but I was thrilled with how the nuggets got all brown and crispy, just like the Panda kind. It made a whole big bowlful of nuggets. I tossed them onto a plate with a paper towel to drain, then from there into a skillet on another burner on Low to keep warm.

Then you just warm up about 1/2 a cup of the panda sauce in the microwave, dump it on your chicken, and toss to coat. This was easily done. I mixed mine with diced carrots, because I don't feel it's a proper stir-fry without some kind of veggie. We ate it on top of Asian noodles.

And even Alex went back for seconds and thirds. I was astonished and the orange chicken was gone in minutes.

The recipe on the Panda website just calls for frozen Popcorn Chicken, and that would probably speed this up quite a lot. Frying jillions of little chicken nuggets takes aaaaaaages and you get popped with oil a lot. Or, I did. But man, if you have four bucks lying around, go get a bottle of their Orange Chicken sauce. I can't want to try it with other kinds of stir fry.

Monday, November 22

Christmas tree!

It's the week of Thanksgiving, so I decided that it was close enough to Christmas to set up our Christmas tree.

It's just a little plastic three-footer, but it pleased the kids immensely. I only have about five ornaments, but one of them is a bell, and they've taken turns ringing it.

Happy faces! They're just about over their colds now, and their little moods have vastly improved. Ryan and I are well, too, and we just have that rotten lingering cough.

Sunday, November 21

Munchkins in their natural habitat

Today it's cold and showery. It was clear when we woke up, then it clouded up and rained, then it cleared up and rained.

It's so weird to see bright sun shining on pouring rain. I'll bet we were inside a rainbow.

Anyway, my camera takes short videos along with pictures. The munchkins were running around (or, rather, rolling around), doing their not-quite-wrestling matches. I thought I'd grab a video.

Look at the boundless energy of toddlers! Why don't I have those kinds of energy levels anymore??

Thursday, November 18

Sinful cranberry muffins

I was cleaning out my fridge, and found about a cup of cooked cranberries I had saved to make into muffins.

I looked at them dubiously. No mold or otherwise fuzzy lifeforms had come to inhabit them.

My first attempt at cranberry muffins were disgusting. I used the Blueberry Muffins recipe from the Betty Crocker cookbook, and they were just revolting. Not enough sugar. I only halfway-salvaged them by adding that crumbly sugar topping stuff to them, and then only the top half was edible.

So I whipped out good ol' Pioneer Woman's cookbook to see what kind of muffins she makes.

She has a recipe for Marmalade Muffins, which you can see here. I modified it a bit to make them cranberry.

* 2 sticks Salted Butter, Softened
* 1 cup White Sugar
* 2 cups Flour
* 2 whole Eggs
* 1 cup water
* 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
* 1 cup of cooked cranberries
* 1/2 cup cranberry juice
* 1 cup Brown Sugar (lightly Packed)

Cream together butter and white sugar in a mixing bowl. Add eggs, beat well, and mix in flour. Dissolve baking soda into water, then add to the rest of the batter along with the cranberries. Mix well, but don't overmix!

Grease muffin tins and cram with as much batter as you can, making each one 2/3rds to 3/4ths full.

Bake at 375ºF for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar and cranberry juice. Drizzle this glaze over the warm muffins. Remove muffins from the pan while still warm.

I was going to combine this with the Betty Crocker recipe, but that one uses no butter and almost no sugar. Talk about one joyless muffin.

These, on the other hand ...


Tuesday, November 16

Tuesday Chronicles

I'm of the opinion that Tuesdays are worse than Mondays. At least with Monday, you see it coming. And yet Tuesday sneaks in and winds up being way worse.

Munchkins watching TV.

Monday morning, the munchkins either had a cold relapse, or came down with an all-new bug. They had been well for about a week. One blessed week of no drippy noses and no coughing.

Now we're back to all of the above, and what's worse, my husband has finally come down with it, too. So we have a houseful of grumpy, fussy people all getting on each other's nerves.

But that's not even the kicker!

Monday night I made mashed potatoes and baked chicken. I forgot that it's unwise to put potato skins down the garbage disposal, and did just that. My sink promptly backed up. No amount of plunging or running the disposal could clear it up. It did drain, very slowly, so I had to wash dishes in slow stages, waiting for the water to drain in between. I figured that I would put in a maintenance request on Tuesday morning and put it out of my mind.

And I thoughtlessly turned on the dishwasher as I was going to bed.

The dishwasher drains into the garbage disposal.

Also, we have this little deal up by the faucet called an air gap (I think is what it's called). For months now, whenever the dishwasher drains, that little air vent turns into a six-inch-high fountain that squirts into the sink. It's a bit messy, but since I run the dishwasher at night, it's generally not something I deal with.

So I'm lying in bed, listening to the dishwasher drain, and it sounds awfully splashy. With the sink not draining, I can just bet that the sink is filling up.

After two cycles of draining, I got up to check.

Anyone who says that dishwashers use less water than hand-washing must never have had a dishwasher like this one. I don't use this much water hand-washing on my worst day.

I bailed the sink with a bucket, dumping the bucket down the toilet, and watched warily until the dishwasher was finally on its drying cycle.

When we got up Tuesday morning, my sink was encrusted with grime from the settling water, and the apartment reeked of stopped-up drain. I've had the door open all day, trying to air it out.

The maintenance guy came and made short work of opening the trap at the bottom of the sink. It was full of--just guess!--potato skins. He also fixed the blockage that made the fountain into my sink whenever the dishwasher drained.

So that was my trial for the day. Somehow the plumbing just always backs up in November. Not October, not December. Just November.

Streams on Tuesday

A view looking south through the White Mountains from the fire tower manned by Barbara Mortensen, a fire and airplane lookout on Pine Mountain, Gorham vicinity, N.H. (LOC)

This was my Streams in the Desert today:

"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb . . . and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11).

When James and John came to Christ with their mother, asking Him to give them the best place in the kingdom, He did not refuse their request, but told them it would be given to them if they could do His work, drink His cup, and be baptized with His baptism.

Do we want the competition? The greatest things are always hedged about by the hardest things, and we, too, shall find mountains and forests and chariots of iron. Hardship is the price of coronation. Triumphal arches are not woven out of rose blossoms and silken cords, but of hard blows and bloody scars. The very hardships that you are enduring in your life today are given by the Master for the explicit purpose of enabling you to win your crown.

Do not wait for some ideal situation, some romantic difficulty, some far-away emergency; but rise to meet the actual conditions which the Providence of God has placed around you today. Your crown of glory lies embedded in the very heart of these things--those hardships and trials that are pressing you this very hour, week and month of your life. The hardest things are not those that the world knows of. Down in your secret soul unseen and unknown by any but Jesus, there is a little trial that you would not dare to mention that is harder for you to bear than martyrdom.

There, beloved, lies your crown. God help you to overcome, and sometime wear it. --Selected

Sick kids and sick husband are my trial today. This spoke to me a lot. I also have another trial that I'm rather dismayed about, but will become a hilarious story later on. Why is November the month for the plumbing to back up?

Friday, November 12

Clinic woes

I'm going to moan and groan in this post. You have been warned.

Yesterday I finally bit the bullet and went down to the local clinic to get my Official First Pregnancy Test done so I can start regular doctor's visits.

I know I left it a bit late, seeing as I'm going on four months here. But as I learned when I was pregnant with my first two, if you don't go to the doc until after the first 3 months, there's a bunch of tests they can't do on you. You know, a bunch of those tests that tell you something's horribly wrong with the baby and you should abort it right now.

Those ones that are only about 40% accurate and give false positives all the time. Yeah, THOSE tests.

Anyway, I also left it a bit late because I hate going to the clinic.

Someday we'll have decent insurance and I won't have to go there. But until then, lowest common denominator, and that's the clinic.

I went equipped with a thick book, and stuff to write my menu and grocery list on, since I hadn't done that. I knew I was in for a long wait, because you have to stand in the Walk Ins line for a pregnancy test. They don't let you make an appointment for it.
Dark Lord of Derkholm

So I stood in line for an hour. I got my lists all made and ploughed through a decent chunk of my book. My book being The Dark Lord of Derkholm, which is 517 pages, I thought it was a good candidate for a long, long doctor's office visit.

Finally made it up to the clerk, and found out the test was only going to be half price, since they like returning patients. That was nice. I got my number and sat down.

Slowly the waiting room drained out, and they called all the numbers above and below mine, but never mine. So I read my book and waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Finally I noticed the various nurses packing up and leaving, and I was the last person still waiting. So, feeling near tears (this was now two hours later), I got up and asked the clerk if they had called my number. She checked, looked horrified, and said that they'd be with me in just a moment.

And indeed, in just a moment they whisked me into the back, did the test, filled out my paperwork, and had me all finished up in about five minutes. Turns out I'm due April 9th. If I can hit this due date, I'll have a birthday in March, April, and May.

Oh, dear clinic. My first visit back, you make me wait three and a half hours because you forgot about me. How I have not missed our long, awful relationship.

Wednesday, November 10

Things I love about Fall

Japanese Mountain Maple Bonsai Tree Leaves (Acer palmatum), Red Autumn /Fall Colours

Farmgirl did a post about the twenty things she loves about fall. So I thought I'd do a list, too!

1. Long pants
2. Heavy, savory foods, like chicken pot pie and meatloaf
3. Turkey
4. Trees changing color
5. Big, puffy clouds
6. Rain
7. Soups and breads
8. The lead-up to Christmas
9. The inevitable Lord of the Rings Extended Edition marathon
10. New birds outside
11. The excuse to make fudge
12. The smell of pine from a Christmas tree
13. The way Christmas lights make the nights so cheery
14. Fabulous sunsets
15. Pie. Did I already mention that?
16. Fires in the fireplace (at other people's houses, heh)
17. Scented candles
18. That watery, slanted look the sunlight gets
19. Fog (when nobody is driving in it)
20. The spiffy movies that always come out in December

I have kind of an oddball list, but it's what I like. :-)

Saturday, November 6

Saturday adventures

Blogging seems so romantic sometimes. Today I was reading this one cooking blog where the lady was sitting down to blog with her fruit turnover and her cup of coffee.

When you have small children, it's not quite like that. It's more like, "Great, they're in the bath and can amuse themselves for five minutes! I can update my blog! What to write about? Quick! An idea!"

Much flipping through camera and recent pictures to see if any new material needs to be gathered.

Pictures are quickly snapped. They are only halfway through being color-adjusted when screaming erupts from the bathtub, and the prospective blogger rushes away, and does not return until after the kids are in bed.

Then she's too tired to write much. So she just posts her pics and goes to bed.

Anyway, this morning I ventured out to the local farmer's market. I had eschewed buying produce at the store, and saved a bit of cash to take to the farmer's market and get fresher produce there. I really had a hankering for some apples that weren't, you know, picked green, ripened under lights, then waxed like a candle.

At the farmer's market, I found apples ... with the dirt still on them. I'm totally going back next week. Also they had so much other stuff that I have to think about what dishes I want to make with the fresh veg out there. The prices are reasonable, about what you'd pay at the grocery store, and the stand I went to, the lady let me mix and match apple varieties.

So I got some Fujis and some Pink Ladies. Aren't the pink ones ever so gorgeous? I should have grabbed a few Asian Pears, too, while I was at it. They're still expensive at the store, and at the stand, they were part of the mix and patch package.

I took Alex with me, all by himself. He was enthralled to be out somewhere alone with Mama. I think he'll be my partner every time I go. :-)

Wednesday, November 3

Pretty Wednesday

This is a shrub we have around our apartment complex. I believe I have identified it as Pyracantha, which is not poisonous, and you're even supposed to be able to make jam out of the berries.

I crushed a berry and it's just a pulpy white mess inside with no juice. But then, raw cranberries are like that, too. Who knows?

Speaking of raw cranberries ...

I went to the store last night to buy a jug of cranberry juice. It's hard to find some without corn syrup in it, which upsets my stomach. I'd been reading that it's better to drink it unsweetened, but that kind doesn't seem available on the west coast.

So then it dawned on me to see if they had fresh cranberries. It's November, after all. So I went to the produce department and circulated around it for a while. Had no luck until I spied the produce guy hauling out a new trolley of apple boxes. He directed me over to the produce sprinkler-cooler thing along the wall, where the cranberries were parked right alongside the Brussels sprouts. No wonder I hadn't been able to locate them!

I got two bags for slightly over 3 bucks, which is what I would have paid for a gallon of sweetened. I spirited it home and boiled up a batch of juice. It's real easy. You just boil the berries until they all split, then strain out the berries and drink the juice.

I expected it to be way more sour than it was. I was expecting, like, lemon-juice, but it was only about as sour as, say, that unsweetened plum leather I made in the summer. A bit tangy but not overly offensive.

And it works better than the sweetened stuff from the jug. In fact, I think this stuff is dangerous. I shall only drink it in small doses.

Tuesday, November 2


I promised I'd post a Halloween pic of Holly, so here's one, finally.

I scrounged around for some kind of costume, and came up with my old tiger ears and tail. There really ought to be a mask, but for some reason there isn't one. (Maybe this was the old-fashioned kind of costume where you paint on a cat nose and whiskers with Mom's eyeliner?)

Anyway, Alex and Holly each took an item.

You can see which items they nabbed.

They were sick with colds, and it was freezing out there, so no trick or treating this year. Besides, do you know how much candy that is? I shudder just thinking about them ingesting that much sugar!

The lit jack o' lanterns outside the front door were beacons to the trick or treaters. I heard one little kid exclaim, "Look! Pumpkins! And toys!" (as he spotted Alex's dirty muddy truck in the flowerbed). We had ten or fifteen, a real improvement over two. Most were little kids, but a few were junior highers in the bare minimum of costume. I harassed them about it, too.

I think I enjoy Halloween as an adult way more than I did as a kid.


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