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About this blog

Assorted ramblings and such. Topics include cooking, baking, home improvement projects, crafts, and pets.

Entries in this blog


Anchor bolts are the language of love....

Until recently, I foolishly assumed that since the laundry area shelves and brackets were 1.5 inch thick solid wood, that they had been properly anchored to the wall by the previous owners.

Long story short, they weren't! :angry-cussingblack:

 They are now, and I'm extremely grateful that no one was hurt when one of the brackets holding up a fully loaded shelf pulled itself out of the wall. :pray: 

Everyone, please check to make sure your shelves are secure! 


Cranberry-Orange-Pecan Muffins

I had an idea last month for a new muffin recipe that incorporates some of the flavors of the holidays. I took my recipe for tart cherry pecan muffins with vanilla butter, and started tweaking. Here's what I came up with:


Gather up the following:

2 large eggs

1 cup sour cream

2/3 cup granulated sugar

8 Tablespoons (1/4 pound) melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 oranges, zested and juiced 

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tsp salt 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, washed and sorted to remove any icky ones

1 cup toasted pecan halves ( you can chop them afterwards if you prefer smaller pieces)

Medium size mixing bowl and big spoon for stirring

2 regular size muffin pans

Oven-proof skillet or baking sheet for toasting nuts

Set your oven to 400F, either grease your muffin pans, or line them with cupcake/muffin liners and set aside. 

Zest and juice the oranges, strain out the seeds and pulp, and set the juice aside. You are not going to use all of the orange juice you got from juicing the oranges for this recipe, so someone is going to get a small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice when you make these. I've made double batches of these the last two times I've made these, so please don't stress if it looks like I have more zest or juice than you will have. I took pictures from different batches I made and I'm not sure if these are all from the same batch or not.


If you look closely, you'll see that I haven't strained the juice yet. I like to go through the seeds/pulp mixture, fish out the seeds and save the pulp to add it to the muffin batter for extra fiber. Be sure to measure out the juice without the pulp if you choose to incorporate the pulp in the recipe. The recipe works either way, it's your choice.

Melt the butter and add the zest to the bowl with melted butter.

Take the pecans and place them in a single layer in your oven-proof skillet or baking sheet and place in oven. Bake them just until they start to color and smell like toasty-nutty-goodness. Be sure and shake the pan every few minutes so they cook evenly. It takes about 8 minutes in my oven, but ovens do vary, so watch and make a note of how long it takes for your oven. Place the toasted nuts in the bowl with the melted butter and orange zest. The hot nuts will make a sizzling sound when they hit the butter, so don't be freaked out that something bad is going on in your bowl. 

I forgot to get pictures of each ingredient going in the bowl, so to the zest, butter, and nuts lounging in your bowl, add the following and stir well after each addition:

Sour cream


1/4- 1/3 cup of the reserved orange juice ( Put in 1/4 cup of juice for now, and add more at the end if the batter looks too dry.)

Baking powder

Baking soda


Eggs ( We are adding the eggs at this point, as raw eggs added directly after hot nuts could possibly end up with tiny bits of cooked egg in the batter. We obviously don't want that.)

Vanilla extract


Washed and sorted cranberries


After everything is combined, place in your prepared muffin pans:


This batch was done with only 1/4 cup of the orange juice so it is a thicker batter. I made a batch this weekend with 1/3 cup orange juice so the batter was much thinner, but it baked up just fine and had more orange flavor.

Bake the muffins at 400F for 17-20 minutes or until lightly browned. I like to bake one pan at a time on the middle oven shelf. If you choose to bake both pans at once, open the oven at the halfway point and switch the positions of your muffin pans to help get more even results.


Okay, because of the cranberries, these can be a little tart when you bite into a whole cranberry. If you like that sort of thing, then just warm these up, slap some butter on them and eat. If they are too tart for your liking, then make up a quick batch of vanilla butter.

Vanilla Butter

8 Tablespoons softened butter (1/4 pound)

3-4 Tablespoons powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

These amounts are approximations, don't stress about it, just do it to where it tastes good to you. 

Place the softened butter in a mixing bowl and whip until fluffly. Beat in the vanilla extract and sugar to taste.

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of these muffins with vanilla butter on them, but here's one with some orange butter from the trial run of these muffins. Orange butter is just whipped butter with orange zest, orange juice, and powdered sugar to taste. 


Happy holidays to you and yours.



Back In The Home Improvement Saddle Again....

I managed to pull myself away from the never ending drama of the presidential election long enough to finish the decoupage floor in our new bedroom.


Circus Act is pretending to be a professional kitty model for y'all. :pb_lol:


I wanted the look of reclaimed wood, but the real deal was more than I wanted to spend at this time.


You can tell it's not a real wood floor when the light hits it the right way, but a real wood floor for this room will have to wait for now. :pb_smile:

As for the room itself, I still need to get a window air conditioner installed, stain, cut, and install a transition strip, cut and reinstall a small section of baseboard to fit around said transition strip, make new curtains, buy and install a French door, and figure out what to do about the padded seat for the bay window. All of these projects will be done over time, and I can't do the air conditioner and French door all by myself.

The previous owners had a piece of foam cut to size for the bay window, and had a white cover made to fit. The white cover desperately needed washing, so I took a gamble that it wouldn't shrink, and I lost. I'm trying to decide if I should cut the foam into three pieces and reuse the existing cover for two of them, or just make a whole new cover for it. In the meantime, I have a very heavy window curtain I made for the last place we lived ( think comforter with a curtain attached to the front), folded up in the bay window so the kitties have a soft bed to snuggle into while they keep an eye on the neighborhood.


Miss Thing votes that we keep things as they are, no more changes! :pb_lol:




Time Marches on...

When my mother was alive, she had a big calendar where she kept track of all the birthdays and anniversaries of her family and friends. Some people only got a card, but the ones closest to her got a card and a phone call on their special day. One of my relatives is having a birthday today, the first one without a card and a phone call from my mother. I texted my relative this morning to wish them a Happy Birthday and said that I hoped they had something fun planned for today. My relative texted me back thanking me for remembering and said their day was going well so far. 

Her loss is felt, but we all keep trudging along...


Orneriness and my Middle Aged Brain

I was reading @HerNameIsBuffy's latest blog entry about the process of leaving a job and showing your soon-to-be former coworkers how to get along okay once you're gone. This brought back a memory of when I was in Buffy's shoes.

My husband had finished graduate school and had a job lined up, so we had to pack up everything we owned and move halfway across the country. I kept my employer informed during this entire process, so that she knew exactly how much longer I would be with her. She decided that instead of replacing me, that she would redistribute my work to the remaining employees. I felt bad about this, but it wasn't my decision.

As the time got closer to my departure, I worked each day at teaching my duties to my coworkers. Most of them were fine, understood the situation, and were glad that I was still around to answer any questions while they got up to speed. All of the people I worked with were older than me. When I say older than me, I mean 20-40 years older than me. I learned a lot from that experience, but it's weird being put in a place where you are "the voice" for your entire generation. :pb_lol: 

Anyway, one of the women was upset that our employer had chosen to not hire a replacement for me, and took it out on me. Whenever I would try to show her how to do my duties, she would try to put me off if at all possible. I kept trying to teach her the best I could, but it's hard to teach something when your student has no interest in learning. One day, her frustration boiled over, and she told me that she felt that once you reach a certain age, you shouldn't have to learn anything new. I remember staring at her and thinking that an attitude like that would not keep your mind healthy as you age, and to remember not to become like her as I grew older.

Now that I'm middle aged, things dont come as easily for me as they did when I was in my twenties.  I understand some of my former coworker's frustration, but I have chosen to keep trying instead of admitting defeat. I have days where I end up cussing and crying because I do have to work harder to obtain and retain new information, but I'm too ornery to just give up and stick with what I already know. I've read that reading, doing puzzles, and trying new things are good ways to keep our minds sharp as time marches on.

So, when I'm cussing because the baseboard snapped while removing it from the wall, or wanting to to throw my sewing machine across the room because the tension is screwed up again, or slamming drawers in the kitchen because my new recipe failed, I'm helping my brain by making it work to find a solution. :pb_razz:

Just don't say that to me at that moment or I'll smack you. :pb_lol:




The End of an Era

We had some bad storms roll through here last night, so I went over to the website for the local paper to see if they had any reports of storm damage. Looks like our area lucked out for the most part. There's some wind and hail damage, but there doesn't appear to be any loss of life.  Anyway, after reading the article about the storms, I decided to go see if there were any interesting letters in the "Letters to the Editor" section. 

I hadn't done this in a while, so I ended up reading some older letters from August. I learned that one of the usual letter writers has flounced, and will no longer be sharing the insights she has pulled from chain emails, Fox News, Breitbart/WND/Newsmax, and her rear end. Her tirades about how perfect the world was when women and minorities knew their place; and didn't have crazy ideas about thinking they were equal to white, heterosexual, Christian men were legendary. Her breathless rants on various right-wing conspiracy theories, coupled with her extremely conservative religious beliefs always held my interest.

Goodbye, Mrs. X. I really hope you'll decide to spend the time you used to spend on writing letters to the newspaper on something less apocalyptic in tone.  Have you ever considered playing with your grandchildren, reading some light-hearted novels, or perhaps doing some craft projects? Maybe learning how not to be so damned afraid of everything all the time?  I know, I know, you don't have time for such frivolous things when the "End Times" are just around the corner.

PS: If you ever decide to start a blog, please let me know. I know some people who would enjoy reading what you have to say. 


Family Recipe Box: Mother's Tacos

When I tell people that Mother learned to make tacos in Germany, they look at me a bit funny. The story is that my Father got drafted a few months after they were married and the Army sent him to Germany. Mother went with him, and while they were there, they became friends with some of the other soldiers and their wives. One of the soldiers they were friends had married a woman whose family was from Mexico, and she taught Mother how to make tacos the way her family did. When my parents returned to the States after my Father finished his time in the Army, Mother started making tacos for family and friends whenever there was a gathering.

I apologize in advance for the quality of my photographs. I don't have good lighting in my kitchen, it's another thing on the never ending list of home improvement projects we plan to do.

Okay, for this recipe you need:

Ground beef  (1lb will make approximately 12-15 tacos)

White corn tortillas (Get more than you need so you can make chips!)

Canola oil

Electric skillet

Salt and pepper


Whatever toppings you like on your tacos

You could do these on your stove top in your favorite frying pan, but a large electric skillet is the best way to go if you are cooking for a crowd.

Pour about a 1/2 inch (1.27 centimeters) of oil into the electric skillet, and set it on 400F (200C). Get out two plates, a big bowl for the hamburger, the biggest baking sheet you have, and put your oven on its lowest temperature or the "keep warm" setting if you have it.  (Depending on how many tacos you plan to make, you may need to remove one of your oven racks and place the other one on the lowest level.)

Put the tortillas on one plate (reserve some for chips), the hamburger in the bowl, mix a little salt and pepper into the meat with your clean hands, and flatten out a small amount of meat on one half of the top side of a tortilla and put it on the empty plate. Keep stacking up tacos until you use up all of the meat.


If you plan to make chips, cut or tear each tortilla into four pieces and set aside. You can make the chips first if you want, but if you are not home alone, people will come in and start eating them and you won't get any. 



Test the oil by tearing off a small piece of tortilla and placing it in the oil. It should bubble and immediately start frying if the oil is hot enough. If the oil is ready, pick the taco up in your non-dominant hand and and gently slide it into the oil. Leave the taco flat for about 15 seconds while you use the spatula in your dominant hand to gently flick the oil away from you and onto the meat. Place the spatula under the side of the taco without meat and gently fold it over away from you as you don't want to slosh hot oil on yourself. ( I'm sorry I don't have pictures of the process of folding them over.) Once your tacos are all folded over, it will look like this:


Continue to gently flick the hot oil onto the tacos until the shells start feeling hard when you poke them with the spatula, and then gently turn them over onto the other side and flick oil on that side. Continue frying them until the meat at the edge is a dark reddish brown. If you're unsure if they are done, pull one out and cut it open to make sure the middle is not pink.


As each batch of tacos gets done, scoop them out of the oil with your spatula and place on the baking sheet and put them in the oven to keep warm. 


They are not very pretty, and that dark one in the middle got left in a little too long. I think I had to settle a kitty dispute or something that night.

I forgot to get pictures of the chips, sorry. After the tacos are done, gently put the cut tortillas into the oil in batches like you did the tacos. Fry on each side until crisp, remove from the oil, salt them as desired, let cool and drain until they won't burn your mouth, and serve with the tacos and some salsa or guacamole.

A big pot of pinto beans, cornbread, enchiladas, etc...goes nicely with tacos and chips, or just have them by themselves. They may break apart when you try to open them up to add your toppings which can make things messy. You can always turn them on their side, apply your toppings, and pretend it's a tostada if that works for you. No worries.  If you have any leftover tacos, reheat them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400F (200C) or until you hear them sizzling. Top as desired.

Since they don't have as much meat as some other tacos, you maybe wondering how many to make for your household. If it's just tacos and chips, I usually eat five or six tacos, my husband eats six to eight, and the last time I made them for my relatives, one of the really big men ate fourteen. 






I'm not 100%, but I'm here.

A few of you may have noticed that I fell off the face of the earth in mid-January. I had planned on cutting back on my FJ time to try and get some home improvement projects finished before a mid-May deadline, but not to go away completely. I was planning out what projects were most important to have finished, and then all Hell broke loose.

My Mother unexpectedly died, and I'm one of those who needs something physical to do while I grieve, so I've been busy cooking, baking, and working on our house. Baseboards don't complain if you rip them off the wall and yell obscenities as you throw them across the room. The walls don't mind when you throw a rolling pin at them because pie crust doesn't come easy for you. Salespeople, on the other hand, get a wee bit testy if you scream at them to get off your porch and direct them to have intimate relations with rusty farm equipment. 

I'm working my way through the "firsts" as the calendar works it's way through the year. Special days come and go for the first time with no phone call or card from or to my Mother to mark the occasion. No more wondering what to buy her for her birthday, Mother's Day, or Christmas. No more mischievous grins as I ask if she liked the case of toilet paper I sent her.

No more discussions of holiday menus or her reminding me that her favorite times were back when her family would drive out to West Texas to see us, and she was cooking for a whole house full of family and friends. Her mobility had decreased over the last few years to where she could no longer stand long enough to cook like that, so I always offered to cook or help cook when I went to see her so she could once again feed a house full of people.

I'm the only one left who knows how to make some of her recipes. When I went back for the funeral, I ended up giving an impromptu chicken fried steak lesson the evening after we buried her. My family is very food-focused, and it was something I could do to help keep those traditions alive and show my appreciation to the relatives who put us up while we were there. We went back again last month to see her headstone, and I made more chicken fried steak, and gave another lesson on how to make her tacos. When we left, there were enough leftovers to last at least three days.

I think Mom would have approved. 





When I heard the news from @Peas n carrots that XGay Greg and Dede had been found in Washington state, I knew that I needed a cake to celebrate their return. Originally, I had planned on making a jelly roll cake and filling it with orange curd. As Donald Trump would say, I currently have oranges coming out of my whatever. :pb_lol: So, I pulled out the oranges, butter, and the double boiler, and then realized that I didn't have enough eggs to make the cake and the orange curd. Bummer. :pb_sad:

Dammit, we must have cake to mark this occasion!!!1111!! So after sobbing uncontrollably for five or ten hours, I decided to make my old standby of sour cream chocolate cake with whipped chocolate frosting. It's fast, it's easy and Mr. Cartmann99 chooses it some years for his birthday cake, so I know it won't go to waste. 

Since the frosting is an uncooked frosting, and both it and the cake are the same flavor, we are going to make the frosting first and any frosting left on the beaters will just wind up in the cake. I'm chief cook and bottle washer around these parts, so this saves me from having to wash the beaters until I'm finished with the cake. Also, if you keel over and die before the cake is done, you get to leave this world with chocolate frosting on your breath. :thumbsup3: 

Preheat your oven to 350 F (180C for you furriners. :wink-kitty:).Beg, borrow, or steal the following:


The salt went rogue and shouldn't be in this picture, sorry about that. If you are really on the ball, you remembered to take the butter out to soften. If you are me, you forgot and had to cut it up into chunks before tossing it into the mixing bowl. Beat the butter for eight minutes so it's nice and creamy, then add everything else and beat until combined. 


Remember that since the cook reserves the right to eat all of the frosting that sticks to the beaters, you may have to move the beaters in and out of bowl a few times. :wink-kitty: 

For the cake, rustle up the following:


I forgot to get out the baking soda when I took this picture. Bad blogger!!! :embarrassed:

My kitchen was on the cool side, so even though the butter had been out on the counter for awhile, it was still solid enough that I decided to cut it up before adding it to the mixing bowl. Cream the butter, sugar, molasses, instant coffee, salt, and baking soda together.


Add in the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract, and beat until combined. Alternate adding the milk and flour beginning and ending with the milk. Pour the batter into greased pans or one larger pan. I don't recommend using bacon grease for greasing your pan or pans, but I can't stop you from doing so either. :bacon: :wink-kitty:

In my oven, this cake tests clean in a 9x13 or 10x12 at about 35 minutes. Here at Snooty McBetterThanYou Kitchens Inc, we test our cakes for doneness by jamming a fork into the center of them. We're extra-super fancy that way. :pb_lol:

Let the cake cool, and frost with the chocolate frosting. Since we are making this cake in honor of the return of XGay and Dede, we're going to decorate the cake with some pecans. :text-woo:


Since leaving the cake in this fashion will result in pecan pilferage on the level of Davey Waller, I added a few more pecans before serving.


Happy XGay and Dede Haislip day, everyone! :pb_lol:




15 amps and two Heaters

One of the fun things about a house built in the 1950s being inhabited by 21st century residents is the electrical system. Nobody thought twice back then about having three bedrooms sharing one 15 amp circuit. A few lamps, three clocks, and a couple of radios or record players could all be safely run at the same time . Even if you used one of the bedrooms for a home office, an electric typewriter wouldn't trip the breaker. 

Some of you know that we spent a good amount of our savings last August upgrading the insulation in our exterior walls and attic. It is much more comfortable in our home, and while I hated spending the money, it was definitely worth the expense. That said, attempting to maintain our entire home at 65F (18C) during the winter, results in us spending more money than we would like. So, we decided to go with supplemental zone heating. For us, this meant setting our main thermostat at a lower setting than normal, and using an electric oil-filled radiator to warm up the space we were using to about 65F (18F). Since we wear layers, 65F (18C) is plenty warm for us. 

Back to the problem of only having 15 amps to work with in the bedrooms. We have two small electric oil-filled radiators that use 500 watts on the lowest setting, and two larger ones that use 700 watts on the lowest setting. One of the small electric oil-filled radiators is in our bathroom ( it does have a GFCI plug), because our bathroom gets no heat from the central system, and the other small electric oil-filled radiator is in my husband's home office which we are temporarily using for our bedroom. This bedroom is the smallest bedroom in the house, and only has one exterior wall.  Because of this, the lowest setting on the heater coupled with our normal winter bedding makes it plenty warm in there on the coldest nights.

Having only 15 amps to work with, presents a challenge if we want to run a heater in more than one bedroom as 15 amps = 1800 watts. The wiring can handle 1800 watts, but the 15 amp breaker should only carry 12 amps on a continuous basis before tripping. We have some newer wiring and circuits in our kitchen that can carry 20 amps, or 2400 watts (amps x volts = watts), but that doesn't do anything for us in the bedrooms. Just as a point of reference, our garage has 30 amp breakers, but the wiring is not of a high enough gauge to handle 3600 watts, so that job was obviously not done by an electrician. :pb_eek: Edited to add: Please note that I am in the United States and used 120 volts for these calculations. While you do have 240 volt circuits in the US for larger appliances such as electric stoves or dryers, 120 is the standard for household voltage. The voltage in your country may be different.

The front bedroom, which is my craft/sewing/computer room plus kitty headquarters, currently is serving as all of the above plus my husband's temporary home office. This room is the most uncomfortable room in the house. I've puzzled until my puzzler is sore trying to figure out why there is such a large temperature discrepancy between it and its mirror image bedroom at the back of the house. I know the back bedroom gets the morning sun, but the front bedroom gets the afternoon sun, so shouldn't that equal out? I dunno, but I have cold kitties and the kitten, aka Circus Act has some sort of issue about not liking enclosed spaces and refuses to use the fuzzy cat bed because it has a roof.


The picture is a couple of months old, but it captures Circus Act being totally adorable.

The nineteen year old, aka Cranky Old Lady, she understands curling up in her little house to stay warm, but she screams her head off when we have to pull her out to do meds twice a day because she's toasty warm in her house. When I need to go in there to perform assorted financial acts of wizardry, Circus Act wants in my lap because he's cold, and I end up trying to type with one hand to keep him away from my papers and from chomping on my computer cords. Plus, I'm cold too, but I can't bring in one of the heaters, because I'm afraid that Circus Act will either knock it over or chomp on the cord. He's like a puppy in his chewing habits. He is getting better as he gets older, but he's still learning right now.

In other words, I need a heater that's in my price range, safe, low wattage, and that Circus Act can't knock over or somehow destroy. There's no such thing as perfection on this earth, but I found something that works pretty darn well for my needs. Since it was coming up on cyber Monday, I found a 25% off coupon and ended up buying two heaters for the two larger bedrooms in our house. I thought I could get away with installing these without having to use any power tools, but I did end up having to get out the cordless drill, so I guess that means I broke my "No more home improvement projects until January" sabbatical. It was only for one afternoon, and now that it's done, I think it was worth it.


Can you tell that this floor is a work in progress? :pb_lol:


Hey, I get a lady and a baby with my heaters! I hope she likes to clean and do dishes, I'll offer to play with the baby while she scrubs the bathroom tile. :kitty-wink:


Well, the lady and the baby must have gotten lost on the way here. 


Cranky Old Lady is making sure that the lady and her baby don't try to break in. Actually, she heard the ice cream truck  and wanted to keep an eye on her as she drove down our street. It rained last weekend so our lawn/weeds have exploded into a temporary patch of green.


Using the template to mark the holes on the wall. The instructions said I wouldn't need a drill, but I tried screwing the drywall anchors in as directed and had trouble, so I got out the cordless drill and drilled some pilot holes.


The pilot holes were not enough and I couldn't find the box of bits to get a larger one. Since it was only two holes, I just used the bit for screwing in Phillips head screws to enlarge the holes. :embarrassed: 


Okay, I got the drywall anchors in place, and got the clips to hold the heater in place screwed in. Please ignore the ugly grey thing with boxes on it. It's part of my husband's junk from his home office that had to temporarily go in here until he gets his home office back.


I struggled a bit getting the heater on the clips and I didn't read ahead to see that if I wanted to use the locking bar option, that I needed to insert the screw part of the way before hanging the heater on the wall. :doh:I was afraid to take it back off the wall, so I put a mirror on the floor and eventually got the screw in place with the teeny tiny Allen wrench that came with it.


The second heater for the back bedroom went much faster. I even remembered to put the screw partially in place for the locking bar, before I hung it. Unfortunately, it fell out as I was getting the heater on the wall, so I again used the mirror to assist me in getting the screw tightened up. 

As I expected, the heater in the back bedroom is working better for us than the one in the front bedroom. On the coldest nights, the back bedroom heater can keep the room at our desired temperature of 65F (18C) or higher at less than the highest setting, while the front bedroom heater struggles at the highest setting to reach even 65F (18C). We've had a similar experience with our window air conditioners in these two rooms, so it's the room, not the heater. Still, we've been pleased and are happy that we no longer have to make room on the floor in the back bedroom for one of the electric oil-filled radiators, and that Circus Act has not found a way to destroy the heater in the front bedroom. I did take the precaution of wiping down the cords of both heaters with vinegar to dissuade him from chewing on them. So far, he hasn't expressed an interest in the cords, and likes to lay on the floor next to the heater when it's on.

According to the owners manual, my Envi heaters are 475 watts/3.95 Amps and are designed to work best when installed 6" to 8" from the floor, in an insulated room of no more than 150 sq feet (14 sq meters). The square footage can be increased if the room is very well insulated, or will need to be decreased if the room is less insulated. Multiple heaters can be installed to heat larger rooms, and the heater works best as a supplemental heat source which allows you to decrease the temperature on your central heating system while heating only the room you are in. There is also a hardwired version available in some regions.

After I got the heaters installed, I had some hot chocolate with chocolate whipped cream.


Sadly, the whipped cream melted a bit while I was trying to get a good picture. Still, it was tasty! :pb_smile:



A Slightly Belated Thanksgiving Dinner

I suck. I've got containers of homemade brock in my freezer, and I'm just now finishing this series on Thanksgiving. :pb_lol:

 For those wondering what in the world is brock, it's kind of a cross between broth and stock that I make from the turkey carcass. In other words, it's a dessert topping and a floor wax!

I can't get the video to embed right now, so we'll have to do it the old school way.

Here's the transcript for my readers who are unable to watch the video or are hearing impaired.

Okay, first up I require entertainment while cooking holiday meals. I don't have to have jugglers or magicians performing in my kitchen, but a holiday themed video or music makes the work go faster. I decided that Barbara Stanwyck,  Dennis Morgan, Reginald Gardiner, and Sydney Greenstreet would be good company, so I fired up Christmas in Connecticut on my Kindle.

I gave the turkey breast a bath, a TSA exam, inserted the temperature probe and stuck him in the oven. 


It's just the two of us this year, so I picked out a turkey breast that was a little less than nine pounds. That's plenty for us to have for dinner and a couple of days of leftovers. I used the convection setting on my oven to try and speed things up, so It took less than two hours for him to hit temperature. I pulled him out and let him have a nice half-hour rest on the counter while I finished up the rest. Letting your turkey rest for 30 minutes or so after roasting makes for a juicier turkey, and is very helpful if you only have one oven and have sides that need to go in the oven for 30 minutes or so.

I crumbled up the cornbread I made and let it sit out to stale overnight. I chopped up celery, onion, sage, and parsley, and measured out the pecans. We had our first freeze the weekend before Thanksgiving, but luckily the sage and parsley plants survived the freeze. The basil and tomato plants were not as lucky. 


Now it's time for bacon!!!!1111!!!


After the bacon is all crispy, toss it in the bowl with the crumbled up cornbread. Leave the bacon grease in the pan and add the celery and onions and cook until the onion turns translucent. Remove the veggies, and throw them in the bowl with the cornbread. Add the pecan halves to the pan and cook those until the pecans start to smell a little nutty but not burnt.

Throw in the fresh herbs and cook those for about 60 seconds, and then pour the pecans and herbs into the bowl with all of the other stuff. Stir it up well to break up the bacon, add enough chicken broth or stock to moisten it enough to hold together, and put the mixture back in the cast iron skillet. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until nicely browned on top.

Go through your potatoes and pick out enough to fill up your pot. I usually use a two quart saucepan for mine. Scrub potatoes well and cut into quarters or eighths or whatever depending on how big they are. Peel one head, yes one entire head of garlic, and put the potatoes and garlic in your pot, add some salt, and enough water to fill the pan. Boil the potatoes until fork tender.


Drain off most but not all of the cooking water. (I recommended putting your colander over another pot and draining the potatoes into that until you get a feel for how much water you prefer to leave in the bottom of the pan.) Add your desired seasonings, and mash with a potato masher. 


Yup, a whole stick of butter and a splash of heavy cream is how I like my "holiday" mashed potatoes. :pb_lol:

I forgot to get pictures of me making gravy, sorry. After the cornbread dressing came out of the oven, I put some of the rolls I made yesterday on a baking sheet and heated them in the oven until they were nice and warm. I pulled the cranberry-orange sauce out of the fridge, hacked off some turkey and yelled for Mr Cartmann99 to sequester the kitties so we could eat.


As I explained earlier, when we don't have guests I pare down the menu as we run out of refrigerator space without hungry relatives helping us eat everything. 

I wasn't totally satisfied with the rolls, so I did some tweaking the following week and they turned out much better. I'm fussy that way.

Anyway, a very, very belated Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! :pb_smile:


Day 3 of Thanksgiving Prep

Okay, we're up to day three of Thanksgiving prep. Let's make some cornbread for the dressing.


I was losing the light and couldn't get a good shot of the batter, so here it is in the oven:


You'll have to wait till the next post to see it transformed into cornbread dressing. :wink-kitty:

Okay, next up is some French bread rolls:


Please note that my container for wheat gluten is an old yogurt container. Fancy! :dance: Since we are working with wheat, here's a shot of the wheatberries before they took a spin in my grain mill:


That's hard red wheatberries on the left and soft white wheatberries on the right. After a few minutes in the grain mill ( please wear ear protection!), You get this:


Hard red flour is again on the left and soft white flour Is on the right. Because these flours are whole grain, it's best to only grind what you need for a recipe, or store the flour in the freezer. My shoulders balk at too much kneading, so I'm going to use the dough cycle on my bread machine to make the dough and do the first rise and punch down.


Ugly dough, huh? After shaping, rising, and baking, you get this:


True confession time: I forgot to grease or line the baking sheet with parchment :doh:, so these stuck to the pan. I carefully arranged them so you couldn't see the raggedy bottoms. :pb_lol:

Day three is over, what will tomorrow bring? :think:



Thanksgiving Prep Day 2

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans....:pb_lol: Here it is a week after Thanksgiving and I still haven't finished blogging about it.

While doing my preps for Thanksgiving, I heard a story on the radio about Kim Kardashian wanting Kanye West to buy her a very expensive diamond choker as a push present. I chuckled to myself and found myself feeling extremely grateful that I was not born into her family. I would either be the black sheep that no one talks about, or they'd hold numerous interventions trying to show me the error of my ways. I have no desire to spend my time worrying over clothes that cost more than my car, finding a plastic surgeon to "fix" my face, or fighting the paparazzi wherever I go. :hand: 

Back to food...

My favorite potato for mashing, baking, and roasting is Klondike Rose. Recently, we have been having trouble finding any at the stores we usually shop at, so Mr. Cartmann99 selected another potato with yellow flesh that advertised itself as having a buttery taste. He asked that I do a taste test and if I wasn't happy with it, to let him know and he would pop by another grocery store chain to see if they had some.


The potatoes he selected were fine, but they were not as good as the Klondike Rose potatoes. After discussing it, we decided that we should grow some potatoes in our garden. After some furious Googling, I located a gentleman in Washington state who grows some red skinned yellow fleshed potatoes with a taste profile similar to the Klondike Rose. Once his online seed store opens back up, we intend to place an order so that we can try to grow our own. :pb_smile: 

Along with the pies from the previous day, Mr Cartmann99 asked for something a little lighter to have with his tea. He is an avid hot tea drinker. He starts his day with English Breakfast, has Earl Grey in the early afternoon, and finishes out his day with an assortment of herb teas. His favorite shortbread cookie is a coffee flavored shortbread cookie. I also make a vanilla-orange and a chocolate-peppermint version of these.


Technically, this batch is mocha because I used the food processor to make some hot cocoa mix and didn't wash the work bowl in between. Scandalous! :twisted:



 I also made some cranberry-orange sauce. I love cranberry sauce. I sometimes put whipped cream on top and eat it for dessert. 


The cranberries had a nice bath.



This isn't the best picture. I've got a better shot I'll put up later of the cranberry sauce on Mr Cartmann99's plate.


Speaking of whipped cream...



Day two is over and we have cookies, cranberry-orange sauce, and whipped cream! :dance:


Thanksgiving Prep Day 1

One of the things I've learned, is the importance of starting my Thanksgiving preparations early. My preparation actually begins on the Sunday night before Thanksgiving when I pull the turkey and any other needed items out of the freezer, but the real work starts on the following Monday. We are not having guests this year, so I will be making the scaled down version of my Thanksgiving dinner. That means that some dishes will be absent as we only have so much room in the refrigerator to work with. Because the weather has turned colder, I'm starting with pies. I usually make those on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but it's cool enough that I think they will keep okay covered up on the washing machine.

We'll start with apple. I don't always make an apple pie, but my husband asked for apple pie instead of the Maple-Pecan Chiffon cake we had last year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Here we go:



The small container to the left of the apples contains a pie crust I had in the freezer. I ended up using five apples, but I think four would have been better. I forgot to replace the pie plate I got rid of last year, so this one is going in a 9x9 baking dish. Gotta roll with the punches around here. :dance:


Since this recipe calls for fresh lemon juice, I decided to go ahead and zest the lemon too. You'll notice I didn't peel the apples before cutting and coring them. I rarely peel fruits and vegetables if the peel is edible. The peel is a source of fiber, and you lose some of the nutrients if you choose to peel them.


I told you I cut up too many apples for this dish. :pb_lol: I still have to add the crumb topping, so I'm going to have to be careful not to spill it.


I'll have a picture of the baked apple pie further down. I was starting to lose my natural light.

Okay, next up is pumpkin:


The powdered milk is there because the recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk. I make a homemade version of sweetened condensed milk with dry milk powder, water, sugar, and butter. The small container in front of the powdered milk is another pie crust I had in the freezer.

I'm not posting a shot of the batter in the bowl because the lighting is so poor. Here's a shot of the pie in the oven:



Making pretty pies is not my strong suit. I promise they taste better than they look. I had to go referee a kitty dispute while the apple one was baking, so the top got more brown than I intended. My official taste tester said the apple one was good, and I had some of the pumpkin and it had a good flavor. Especially when you add a tiny dollop of whipped cream. 



Day one is over, and we have pie. Life is good. :dance:



Potato Pancakes

Growing up, we ate a LOT of mashed potatoes. It was one of the few vegetables my Mother could get everyone to eat. We occasionally had some left over and Mother would do what her Mother taught her to do with them and make us some potato pancakes. My Mother was born during the Great Depression, and her Mother did not believe in wasting food. Potato pancakes are simple, cheap, use up leftover food, and don't take long to prepare. I discovered this week that some people, grew up in homes where cheese was added to the top like you do when you are cooking hamburgers. I feel cheated by this revelation, as I love cheese, and yet my Mother never made any with cheese. :pb_sad: 

I pulled some leftover garlic mashed potatoes out of the freezer and thought about how to gussy them up. This is about two cups of thawed mashed potatoes.


Those of you who follow the Rodrigues family will be relieved to learn that no green eyeliner or Aqua-Net was involved in the "gussying up" of this recipe. :pb_lol:

Luckily, we haven't had a freeze yet, so I went outside to the garden to see what looked good. I got sidetracked and picked up a gallon of pecans from the ground, but that's a story for another time. I chose some chives, parsley, and tomatoes. Did I ever tell you that my sixty year old house has a built-in food processor?


Sorry, couldn't resist.:pb_lol: While chopping everything, I noticed the cutting board needed some TLC. Later that day, I cleaned it with vinegar and water and gave it a nice rubdown with a little unscented Daddy Van's

I left the parsley and tomatoes on the cutting board, and mixed the chives and one egg into the potatoes. I also mixed in enough flour to make them stiff enough to handle. If you look over to the right, you'll see some ratty looking green painter's tape on the floor. It's to remind us that the transition strips are missing and to be careful not to trip as the kitchen floor is higher than the living room. My temporary pet gates are cardboard and a partial sheet of hardboard, and since I ripped off the window trim in the bathroom, that window is covered with a 6ml layer of plastic sheeting. Martha Stewart would run away screaming if she were here. :pb_lol:


Over on the big burner, I've got a cast iron skillet with small amount of oil in the bottom getting nice and hot. Medium heat works well for this. Drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot skillet, flatten them out, and cook them on each side until golden brown.


The reddish specks are the peels as I don't normally peel my potatoes. They are reddish brown because I used Klondike Rose potatoes. When your potato pancakes are done, arrange on a plate with the sliced tomatoes, put a ramekin in the center with whatever sauce you prefer, a little salt and pepper, sprinkle the parsley over everything, and serve.


Now, that @apple1 has shared that her family had cheese on their potato pancakes, I want to do a version with cheese! :dance:


Here in West Texas, the seasons here are a bit different than in some other parts of the United States. Since we have had seven days in a row where the highs were 80F or less, I have declared that FallWinSpri has arrived. :dance:FallWinSpri is my favorite season. Where I live, FallWinSpri usually starts sometime between mid-October and November 1st, and usually ends sometime between the end of February and mid-March. As the name implies, FallWinSpri is my term for the seasons of Fall, Winter, and Spring. It is the portion of the year in West Texas where the majority of daytime highs are 80F or less. You might get a little snow and ice before it's over, but you should never bet on a white Christmas. When FallWinSpri ends, you transition into Almost Summer, followed by Summer, and then Still Summer.

Anyhoo, Mr. Cartmann99 brought me something from the garden last week:


He's a little on the puny side, but look at the beautiful greens on top! I stood there admiring the green carrot top and hating the idea of chopping that off for the compost pile. So, I Googled and found out that the tops are edible, and one way to eat them is to make pesto out of them. Mr. Cartmann99 thought this was funny because he has a thing for basil, we have an abundant supply in our backyard and here I am talking about making pesto out of carrot tops. :pb_lol: 

Seriously, meet the section of the garden devoted to basil:


If I stand behind the tallest plant next to the fence, the basil comes up to my waist. The two smaller plants on the left are lemon basil. You don't want to know how much basil pesto, basil salt, and dried basil Mr. Cartmann99 has made this year. :pb_eek:

So, I gave Mr. Carrot a nice bath, ate the carrot like a ravenous rabbit, and chopped off the greens. You only want the leaves, but the little stems the leaves are attached to are fine, just cut right below where the leaves begin and then follow your favorite pesto recipe. 


I prefer fettucine over linguini for pesto, so that's what I used for this. Since the tomato plants are still producing, I mixed them in with the hot pasta and put more Parmesan on top. 


He brought me another carrot and a French Breakfast radish later in the week, and I made more pesto from those leaves. I think a pesto of just the radish leaves would be too hot for me, but a small amount mixed in with the carrot leaves was quite nice. :pb_smile:


Crown Mouldings

 Back to the misadventures of Cartmann99 and the fixer-upper house that she and Mr. Cartmann99 bought...

It's obvious that at some point in the past, this house had owners who loved it and tried to make improvements that would increase its value. For instance, someone put in a water softener system, a sprinkler system for the yard, a decorative rock area with drought resistant plants, and several raised plant beds. We also have six trees in our yard including two beautiful crepe myrtles and two pecan trees.

Then, someone decided that adding crown moulding to the kitchen and master bedroom would be nice. If you've ever put up crown moulding, you know that there is more to the job than just cutting it to size, and nailing it to the wall. When we bought this house, this is what the crown moulding looked like in the master bedroom:



Notice the ring of yellow glue between the ceiling and crown moulding, the visible nails, the dirty smears and fingerprints, and the complete absence of painters caulk where the moulding meets the wall and between the lengths of moulding. :doh: The wall color is ours, you can see a bit of the original dark grey paint peeking out underneath the moulding on the left side of the picture. 

Painting crown mouldings makes me cranky, it definitely doesn't come easily for me. Also, our central air died before I finished this room, and August in West Texas is a tad on the warm side. The crown moulding was subjected to some rather harsh language and some childish temper tantrums when I got frustrated at my progress and the temperature in the room. Still, I met my standard of "At least 50% better than it was". I apologize for the picture quality. Trying to get a good picture of white crown moulding next to a white ceiling is challenging for me. :pb_redface:


I forgot to get a before picture of the kitchen crown moulding, but it looked very similar to the before shot of the master bedroom. The previous owners chose a dark green color for the kitchen walls, but I chose to lighten up the room with a light yellow color.


I bought crown moulding for the bathroom last Fall. Sadly, it is still stacked up in the former dining room. At the rate I'm going, I'll be buried with an assortment of tools and with paint splatters on my feet. :dance:







Being Married to a Gardener has its Perks...

When I'm not scraping, sanding, staining, or painting something, I'm usually in the kitchen. Sadly, all the home improvement projects have currently taken precedence over cooking. Thankfully, my husband is an awesome gardener and brings me wonderful tomatoes that don't need anything to be mouthwatering.


A few minutes work and you have this...


Some toasted bread, mayonnaise, sliced garden fresh tomatoes, lemon basil, and a little salt. I know the first freeze is coming and I want to enjoy these babies while I still can.


If These Walls Could Talk...

Some of the people that used to own my house had very different taste than I do. As I work on the house, I've found evidence of some of the walls being painted lime green, dark purple,  and orange. At one time, someone even painted some of the baseboards orange. :my_confused:

While we are on the subject of baseboards, I understand that painting them and not getting that color on the walls or on the floor requires work and it can be highly frustrating. I also know that removing them to make them easier to paint runs the risk of them getting damaged no matter how careful you are. ( You also may find some desiccated spider eggs and lots of bullets! :dance:) That said, some of the previous owners of this house were complete nutbags. 

The picture below is of a baseboard in my living room. Please note the swipe of paint that was left on THE HARDWOOD FLOOR. These dimwits didn't have the sense to even try and mask off the floor, or wipe up paint spills and smears as they went along! There are whole walls with a stripe of paint on the floor that has to be removed before I can redo the floors. Gah!!!IMG_20151021_173659_hdr.thumb.jpg.fcea5a

When we bought this house, the only areas that still had carpet were some of the closets.  To keep the free edge of the carpeting in place, they used a strip of duct tape to adhere it to the floor. Yes, I am serious, duct tape on the hardwood floor.  :doh:Anyway, the duct tape was old and coming off in spots, so the hardwood floors in front of those closets were a sticky mess. I ripped out all the remaining carpet, padding, tack strips, and cleaned up all the adhesive residue from the duct tape.

While the previous owners did remove the carpeting, foam padding, and tack strips from the bedroom floors, for some bizarre reason they chose to leave the squiggles of adhesive on the floor. When you do that, you end up with sticky squiggles of dirt on the floor which looks like this:


Yikes, I had forgotten how scary that floor used to look!  :pb_eek: 

Any way, after you scrape and clean everything off the floor, you sand, stain, apply polyurethane, paint the baseboards, and end up with this:



Till next time,


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