Sunday, November 30, 2008

Making Sure it Came Together

Making sure that dinner for 18 came together, I was certain would require some serious delegating. I sent an email out three days before everyone arrived announcing who would be responsible for which dish. I did most of the shopping (except noted below) and everyone was handed a recipe card and their ingredients when it was time to get started. Here's the menu (which contains some our all-time favorite "old school" dishes):

cheese platter/bleu cheese dip/crackers - Stephanie
lil' smokies in bbq sauce - Bobby H.
Hawaiian meatballs - Bobby P.
clam dip and chips - Tami G. 
turkey - Me
ham - Me
mashed potatoes - Tami G.
candied yams - Amada
corn casserole - Jacque'
"Three-stick Stuffing" - Jenn
green beans with toasted almonds - Shannon
carrot ginger soup - Jessica (brought from home)
best-ever green salad - Linda
fresh cranberry sauce - Seaira and Brianna
gravy - Shannon
Grandpa's famous sugar cookies - Grandpa (baked and brought from home)
pumpkin pies - Shannon (baked and brought from home)
7-layer bars - Tami G. (baked and brought from home)

If you're paying attention, you'll notice that Greg and Gary have no food to prepare. Actually, Greg manned the bbq which cooked the stuffing, heated the rolls, and kept some of the other dishes warm while the rest was in the oven. Uncle Gary had another important job... another post about that soon!

The Jones Women (not including me) arrived a bit too late for Steph to achieve her appetizer in time, so Bobby H. stepped up and took on the cheese platter.

Tami G. was busy at the sink peeling potatoes for most of the morning.

Here's Shannon (my mom)  in action at the stove top doing the gravy and green beans before we sit down to the feast.

Amanda prepares the candied yams.

I realized after I took this picture of "the finale" that my salad plate (including rolls) was missing... use your imagination! You might also imagine the ham and turkey because they are literally buried under the other items!

Good work team!

Conquering the Bird

Let me begin by saying that this was the first year I hosted Thanksgiving. What an undertaking!
Also a very overdue, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who ever made a thanksgiving turkey that I consumed without pausing to appreciate the art, patience, and time it took to achieve this culinary feat (namely, my grandmother, great-grandmother, and my friend Susan).

Below is a picture of "My Bird" as I lovingly referred to it. In preparation for hosting a dinner for 18 people, I had pre-ordered a 24 pound, "free range, organic turkey." This is not it. Due to a mix-up at the store, my original bird was lost. This bird became "My Bird" and the fact that it was free helped us bond.

If he looks a little oversized for the roasting pan (vintage Lulu) it's because he was... but it all worked out in the end. He's coated in butter mixed with freshly chopped sage, rosemary, and thyme. He's stuffed with a large bundle of the same herbs and a couple lemons--oh, and a stick of butter. Yes, the clock on my oven reads "4:36" and yes, that's A.M.

Many hours later (no basting!) he came out like this:

I had brined him the day before in a new 5-gallon bucket following Alton Brown's instructions. He slow-roasted at about 275 degrees until his thermometer said he was done. All told, it took about 23 hours to pull it off and I would do it all the same--if not slower-- next time.

My grandfather, who made a 12-hour drive to our house for the holiday, carved the turkey. I'm certain it tasted better than it would have otherwise because of this fact.

What was left of My Bird, after the bones had been picked clean for leftovers, was set to simmer all day yesterday. After some straining and more picking-through, I have almost two gallons of savory, delicious turkey broth. Can you say, "Turkey noodle soup?"

One more thing: Avery really like the turkey. She ate a lot of it. Check out what happened next on YouTube.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Streetcar Adventure

We spent Saturday morning exploring downtown Portland on the Portland Streetcar.
It was a lot of fun. Linda had created her own adventure on the Streetcar recently and she's the one who told us all about it. We drove down to the Southwest waterfront and parked the car, loaded Avery into the stroller and hopped aboard the Streetcar. Off we went!

We rode through Portland State University and downtown Portland and decided to get off in the Pearl District to explore on foot a bit. The day was crisp and clear at about 50 degrees. Geneva took some time to stop and smell the flowers.
I so enjoy living in a city that has beautiful sidewalk grates.

We decided to lunch at the Deschutes Brewery.
  The beer was excellent and surprisingly, the food was amazing! We are not talking "pub food" by any means. Yummy.

After lunch we headed toward the nearest Streetcar stop to head back to the car. On the way we stumbled upon a snowboarding exhibition. The girls enjoyed watching the tricks and bouncing to the music.

Just another Saturday in Portland...
(We've gotta live it up before the rain comes!)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Things I Love (Friday)

  • When people tell me how much Avery looks like "a Purse" (not the accessory--Purse is my maiden name). We have the same eyes. We have the same chin. When we smile our upper lip practically disappears. In as much as Geneva is "a Jones," Avery is "a Purse." I love that we have one of each! (Obviously, I need to have more pictures of the two of us taken if this is the "best" one I could find!)
  • The reality show, Top Chef on Bravo... and is it just me or is there some new layer of sexiness to top judge Tom Colicchio this season? I'm not sure what it is. Yes, I see that he is bald (probably not by choice) and also on the pudgy side... I can't explain the subtle attraction, so I wont try. And by the way, 'question for those of you who caught the season premier last week... What's with the apple-peeling challenge? Can you think of one mom with kids in the 1-5 year range that couldn't kick all those chefs' booties when it comes to peeling apples??? I'm just saying.
  • Easy Chicken Pot Pie (not soon to be featured on Top Chef--but SUPER delicious):
2 cooked chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup sauteed, sliced carrots
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 can cream of chicken condensed soup
1 can chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Bisquick
3/4 cup milk
1/2 stick of butter, melted

In a 2-quart casserole dish, combine the first three ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the soups into your "sauce" and pour into the dish. Mix the Bisquick with milk into your "dough" and spread over the top. Finish with the melted butter and bake at 350 for 60 minutes.
  • Adele's song Chasing Pavements. I love this song. I love this video (even though I'm not sure I totally "get it"). I was pulling into the garage this morning when the song came on. I had just dropped Geneva at school and Avery was in the car with me. I turned the engine off and was listening (ok... singing) to the song when she said, "No Mama. OUT." Note to self: No more karaoke.
  • The seriousness of Kitchen Floor Ballet performances in our household. 
  • Diet Coke in the can. (I know I shouldn't... but I can't help it!)
  • Papa Murphy's "Meat" pizza. Not just for the convenience folks! This is damn GOOD pizza people. (And again, I know I shouldn't... but I just can't help it.)
  • 30 Rock. I can not believe I am just jumping on this wagon. Genius. 
  • Geneva's thankfulness. Her gymnastics class got to make prints on a huge poster yesterday durning class. Her teacher, Brian, asked each student what they were thankful for. Geneva's response: the trampoline and her friend Natalie. Sweet girl.
  • Not having to pump my gas. Seriously, I love so many things about Oregon and this is at the top of the list.
  • Reporting with confidence that I now have only one child in diapers. Geneva has been diaper and pull-up free for over a month now. No accidents** (not even at night)! So exciting and a little bittersweet.
  • Sharing my life with this man. (I hope that doesn't make you want to barf or something!)
** That's me knocking on wood!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My New Obsession

Okay, so below is a picture of what Geneva and I made on Sunday morning... YUM!
My friend Clisty blogged about these little treats recently and I just could not resist.
She calls them "faux-nuts." And you can read about them yourself at her blog. Just click the link (the word blog in green above) and read to the end of her post about her hubby's birthday.

They were so easy and everyone really enjoyed them.
However, this is not my new "obsession" (Thank Goodness!!!).

My new obsession is clipping coupons!
We get the paper every day. Once in awhile, when I knew I would be making a trip to Michael's or JoAnn's Fabrics, I would go back in the pile and clip the weekly coupon (40% off any one regularly priced item in the store), however, I have never been someone who used grocery store coupons... man-o-man was I missing out!
I saw this woman on Oprah who called herself the CEO of her family (love that!) and she makes it her job to save as much money as possible on their daily expenses--I know, I know... seems obvious.... but I need the show to "bop" me over the head!
The first time I went to the grocery store armed with my coupons the shopping definitely took longer. I would say it was worth it... You decide: 
I saved $82.37!
That was using my store discount card, my store's coupons, and the coupons from other stores (because while my store does not do "double coupons," they do accept competitors' coupons).
So here's what the kitchen table looks like on Sunday morning:

AND... as you know, I think I'm very crafty too.
So I made this cute, little felt coupon holder to carry in my purse.
Having done it, there are several things I would do differently next time: use a heavier felt, or adhese the felt to a heavy cardstock to give the envelope some sturdiness, practice with my "cross stitch" before trying to free-hand something on the fly (it has been almost 20 years since I've cross-stitched anything!), and figured out how to make separate compartments within to separate the different departments in the grocery store.

When it's all done though, it's pretty damn cute.
Don't you agree???

Happy Shopping!
Save some moola and clip those coupons!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy Saturday... Some Random Catching-Up and My Big Idea

We've been keeping ourselves busy, busy these days. My three-year old is becoming such a big girl in ways that make me both delighted and frustrated (depending on the situation). She loves to dress herself. I'm the mom who tries not to care too much about this. Most of the time I do fine in celebrating with her how independent she is becoming; however, there is also a big downside. She is so fascinated by this new freedom that she wakes up every night and changes her pajamas at least once. For example, last night she went to bed wearing her "bow" pajamas. When Greg and I went up to bed we checked on the girls. Geneva was now wearing pink thermals with white polka-dots. Then this morning when she came in to let us know she was awake she was wearing a flower set! The contents of her pajama drawer are strewn about the entire room--it's crazy.

Grandma Lulu took the little monkey down to Willamette Park in Portland this morning for her walk on the riverfront. They really enjoy their time together.

Avery has decided she's too old to need a nap. In the past two weeks, the kid has actually napped only two times. The other 12 days she just stands in her crib and cries. She is so stubborn. Instead of getting frustrated and upset, like I used to do, I've had to reframe my reaction. Now I accept that she will be unhappy for this time (90 minutes) but I also know that she has to stay in her crib until the time is up because I need this time for myself. So, Avery can choose to spend her hour and a half crying or sleeping and I'm ok with her decision. I use this time having a quiet lunch, showering, and spending the remaining 45 minutes relaxing with a DVR'd show or getting crafty. I really think that her feeling upset for this block of time is a good tradeoff for having a happy Mommy the rest of the day.

Thankfully, when she does get up from her nap, she snaps out of her sadness immediately. Her evenings are manageable... she's a little tired and would prefer to just be held from 6pm to 8pm (haha--I wish I were kidding) but we have been getting through it and she's been sleeping great at night. Here she is trying on Daddy's new socks:

Instead of getting started on all the Holiday gifts (crafty-crafty) I want to make for my family this year, I've been reading blogs and making stuff for ME when I see something that is inspiring! Here's a picture of the notecards I just made for myself. 

I started another blog some time ago. It's a space I've been using to keep track of all the stationary designs I've made.

Because I've been reading other crafty blogs and leaving my comments all over the World Wide Web, I've connected to some other crafty moms. As a result, I've begun doing what I've been thinking about for ages and just hadn't figured out how to start yet... until now. 
(no, not bartending... bartering--trading, yep)
It all started with this cute little acorn necklace that Molly made. Long story - short, she made me a couple and I wanted to make her a thank-you gift. I sent her some cards...

... Next thing you know, I'm designing some business/calling cards for her and I get these fabulous gloves (love them) in return.

I really think I'm onto something here. I wold much rather trade creations than sell them. In this economy I think we should get creative with our Holidays... Don't you? I'm considering challenging myself to giving only homemade or bartered gifts this year. For example, I know my brothers are not into handmade stationary sets, but I know they love fudge and I think my younger brother might find some appreciation in a hand knitted scarf... who knows, I would be happy to make someone else's holiday cards this year if they wanted to make a scarf for me to give my brother...? I think this could work.

What about you? What do you create? Beautiful photographs, jewelry, jam, knit hats or scarves, cupcakes, websites, candles, soap, recipes? What skills or services could you barter? Do you babysit, decorate, bake, cook, entertain, clean, sew, garden, cut hair?
Wanna trade?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Very Exciting

I am beginning to understand that given the right variables, almost anything can feel very exciting. For example, this is a picture of my washer and dryer. When we bought the Elk Grove home it came with these. Because that house was a new home, we enjoyed the benefit that the washer and dryer were also brand new. However, because that house was one of the models for the development, we did not get to choose any of the features of the home. This was really not a big deal because as many of you know, I loved that house. 
Well as it turns out, our washer and dryer are pieces of (substitute your favorite euphemism for "shit" here if you're offended by my choice) shit. I have to say that I really didn't know that my Whirlpool Calypso washer was so bad until I talked to the repair man on Monday and he almost laughed--well, not really... but I'll get to that.

So last week the washer started stopping in the middle of the cycle and displaying the code "ld" on the screen. Of course I ignored it for a few more loads and "coaxed" the washer through our laundry piles. Finally, it stopped being flexible and it just gave up. Linda did some research and for two days we brainstormed and tried to fix the problem ourselves. Thursday the house started looking like it vomited dirty clothes all over itself. (Below is the pile from my bedroom alone.) Linda called several repair services. The soonest anyone could come out was Monday.

Monday morning, Lulu called the repair shop to confirm our appointment window. She spoke with Mr. Repairman himself and "apologetically" handed me the phone so he could repeat what he had just explained to her. Apparently, as I mentioned before, the make and model washing machine we owned was "a piece." Given the description of what was happening, Mr. Repairman explained that with the service call fee, replacement part, and labor we would be billed more than $300. In addition, he estimated that it would be "no more than six months" before we had to call him back for a different problem. "Had you spoken to me initially, I would have told you not to waste your time or money on repairs with this machine," He reported. Great (five days later).
So... after checking Consumer Reports and getting the same recommendation from Mr. Repairman... I called:

... and these lovely gentlemen delivered my new washer in less than 24 hours!
Isn't it pretty!

We now have a silly-looking mismatched pair in the laundry room... however, the Calypso dryer is working fine** and it can stay with us as long as that is the case. The piles of laundry are getting smaller--100% credit due to Grandma Lulu and I am happy and yes, excited about my new washer!
Happy Sudsing!
(Well actually, not too much sudsing with the "he" detergent--wink.)

**(that's me knocking on wood)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Best $2 I've Spent in Awhile...

Ya know the $1 bins at all my favorite stores (Michaels, Target, JoAnn's, etc.)? Well, I am the schmuck that has to rifle through every one of them and generally find $5-$10 worth of stuff I did not intend to purchase in my bags by the time I check-out. I'm hopeless. Sometimes, however, I find a gem.
I picked up these wooden snowflakes at one of these stores (see how bad I am... I don't even remember which store it was!) a short time ago. The natives were getting restless the other day so I busted out "Project Snowflake" for their entertainment.
$2 in wooden snowflakes + watercolor paints and markers = 1 HOUR of quiet play
(Let me remind you, an hour of quiet for a one-year-old and a three-year-old is unheard of!)

This was Avery's first "go" with watercolor painting... she loved it! Eventually, she switched to markers.
Geneva stuck with her paints the entire time, loving the combination she made by mixing several of her paints together.

Here she is intent on mixing the right shade of blue.

Avery adds markers to her masterpiece.

The finished products are prominently displayed on the sliding glass door.

Are they not the most beautiful snowflakes you've ever seen?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rainy Day Walk

I guess we had better get used to walking in the Oregon weather. Despite the showers, yesterday was a gorgeous day. It was pretty warm and when the sun made a showing the rainbow displays were amazing.
We decided to bundle up and head out for a walk (Momma, Daddy, Grandma Lulu, Geneva and Avery).

Everyone wore their wellies so we could jump in puddles and kick the leaves.
"See mine?" (Guess who loves her wellies?)

NeeNee handled her own umbrella while the rain poured down on us for the first half of our walk. At the turn-around point, the sun broke through. 

We used to get a few mushrooms in the lawn when we lived in California. Once the rain came (especially if we still the the automatic sprinklers set) the grass would get wet enough to produce a few here and there.
We never saw anything like this before though:

And check these out!
The were big, speckled and spongy.
Very cool.

Pay attention to what you see today!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy Barack Obama Day

The Jones family did some celebrating today!

It was the perfect occasion to make felt crowns.
I've been wanting to do these for awhile now and just kept putting it off.
Avery and I stopped off at the craft store between our trip to the gym and picking up NeeNee from preschool this morning.

She helped me pick out the felt colors and we scrounged up the embellishments from around the house.

Our new celebration crowns will be donned for many a happy occasion...
(Yes, my children are usually naked when they are at home... Impossible to keep clothing on them.)

We even made homemade crowns for Daddy and Grandma Lulu!
We sang made-up songs about Obama, danced around the kitchen, and enjoyed the front page of the newspaper hung prominently in the center of the action.

We rounded out the evening with a delicious dinner of chicken cacciatore (thank you Lulu!), a lovely bottle of red wine, and pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. Geneva decided to top hers with chocolate frosting and a candle because she was feeling quite festive!

We Did It!

First of all, "Happy Barack Obama Day!"
I was not able to even turn on the television yesterday until I put the girls to bed at 8pm. I know it's silly, but I felt like I might "jinx" the outcome... I just couldn't take it. Instead, I focused my thoughts toward the outcome I wanted and kept myself busy, busy with mundane things. I was so elated when I finally turned on the news (CNN). Of course, I immediately changed the channel to FOX--just to see what they were reporting (Yippy, the same thing!) I changed it right back to CNN so I could enjoy the coverage. I heard McCain's concession and Obama's acceptance speeches. I sent my girls an email to their special accounts to share with them what I was feeling: Hope. Anyhoo... we'll have a special celebration tonight. 

Back to the mundane that got me through the suspense.

Here's a couple pictures of my closet "before.
No, it hasn't been a crazy week--it always looks like this.

The other side is just as bad.

I literally emptied the entire closet (including the dresser) so I could start from "scratch."

And here's the result.
My "new beginning."

It looks like I have a lot more space than I thought I did. I think I should embrace my civic responsibility and stimulate the economy by filling some of this empty space!
I'll be taking a trunkful to the Buffalo Exchange in the hopes that I can get some free "shop" on. The rest is going to donation...
good riddance and cheers to a different future!
(Okay, so I'm stretching the metaphor a little thin.)