Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halloween 2013

Happy very belated Halloween!

I was oblivious to how much I enjoy dressing up before this Halloween - dressing up was just always something you did, kind of like a non-optional social convention. However, when I look back at how we kind of really enjoy dressing up for Halloween, and make excuses to dress up for birthday parties, and how I'm willing to put in a good amount of effort for our family's costumes, it struck me that I really do enjoy dressing up.

And also that I'm a geek.

That's right - I let my geek-flag fly this year! I've always wanted to dress up my boys as ewoks (come on, who hasn't??), and I saw it as a great opportunity to dress up a Princess Leia! But not the cinnamon buns outfit. Or the slinky bikini, either. Nope, I had to dress like Leia on the forest moon Endor. Which basically left me with two outfit options: brown dress, or camo poncho. After a trip to Value Village, I decided the poncho would be my best bet. Not from the presence of any ponchos on their racks, mind you. No, I found a scrap sheet of white fleece and decided to make a poncho from that. So, I cut a hole for the head, trimmed some excess fabric off an end and reattached it from a collar on the poncho. But Leia's poncho isn't white - it's camo. What to do, what to do? Well, having never dyed anything before in my life I decided to start easy by dying with tea! I did a base color of a camel-brown from orange pekoe tea bags. The fleece took it very well actually, and while tea dying can result in an uneven color with a marble effect, that works perfectly for camo! I washed and dried the fabric to let the color set and then got some acrylic paints to sponge on the contrasting camo colors. $2 for the fleece, $1/acrylic color, and I've got one Rebel leader poncho! A few braids, a belt, some light pants and a blaster, and I was set to be Leia!
My biggest boy found an Optimus Prime costume at a garage sale this summer, and he's been waiting ever since for Halloween, so he was all set, and for the other two, my little ewoks, I made ewok hoods! Well, first I crocheted a cowl hood with bear ears attached, then I sewed a felt hood on top! The bigger ewok got the spear :) Oh, and my husband went as James Hetfield from the 80s.... Yah.

Happy belated Halloween!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thanksgiving 3 & Catchup Post

Again, too much busy-ness in life for me to be able to sit down and post! I promised you a recap of Thanksgiving 3, so here it is.

It was wonderful! Everyone was able to make it, which was the sure sign of success. The turkey was fully thawed that morning (whew...) so prepping it was low-stress... until I realized I didn't have the proper recipe for the turkey and stuffing. "No worries," I thought, "I'll just call my grandma!" But, alas, Grandma is always out shopping Saturday mornings and was hence unreachable. So I wung it (my computer tells me that's a typo, but I'm sure that's the past-tense verb for 'winging it'). I knew the basics of our old family recipes - and the fact that they were horrifying. For about 50 years now, my family has made turkeys by rubbing butter all over a brown paper bag, wrapping that over a bird in a roasting pan, turning the temperature up for the first half hour, then dropping it down to 325 to finish baking. Why is this horrifying? A better question is: How is it NOT??? SERIOUSLY - who came up with the idea to rub an accelerant all over paper and put it in a hot oven??? Anyway, I thought that I'd Google How to cook a Paper Bag Turkey and see what came up... I was even more horrified.
Some of the top hits? "WORST ways to cook a turkey!", "Why NOT to cook your turkey in a Paper Bag", and a slew of resources informing me I'd surely kill my guests with this ill-advised cooking method.


Turns out, it's not just dangerous to throw greasy paper in your oven, but there's a big concern about using low-quality paper that might include inks, dyes, adhesives and even metal filings. Oh, and someone said NEVER to cook turkey at a temperature less than 350 or a guest will die.

Again, pleasant.

By this time I was panicking a little bit. I was running low on time to think, knowing I'd need 4.5 hours to cook my turkey, plus resting time, so I needed that bird in the oven. But then I remembered that it truly has been around 50 years that my family has been cooking large birds like this, and not once has anyone started a fire (beer can chickens on the bbq are a totally different story...), and no one has become sick from chemical leeching from the paper bags. That, and Martha Stewart recommended you cook her featured turkey recipe for this year at 325 (sans dying guests).
So I stuck with what was familiar, cut off all the parts of the bag which had ink or glue, and buttered that bad boy up! The real trick is to put butter on every inch of the bag, so much so that the bag turns translucent. Then you press it down around the turkey and the roasting rack in your pan. I was planning to make a gravy, so I poured some white wine in the bottom, and threw in some onion and a couple garlic cloves with the turkey neck. Then I let it cook at 425 for 30 minutes, and 325 for the remaining 4 hours. The result?? PERFECTION! Honestly - this thing had crispy skin, juicy meat, and looked like something from a Thanksgiving magazine ad.

I forgot to get sage at the grocery store, so while my turkey was perfect, my stuffing was under-seasoned, but I even got a compliment from a guest on that (apparently a guest who has been subjected to over-seasoned stuffing many-a-year). My potatoes were wonderful, the sweet potatoes were a hit, and the gravy turned out perfect! My guests brought pickled beets, roasted carrots, homemade wine, kale salad, pies and port! It was a wonderful, normal, down-home cooking meal, which is exactly what I was aiming for! I have to admit, I toyed with the idea of sweet potatoes fries with a chili mayo, prosciutto cups with pear and asiago, and deconstructed pumpkin pie cups, but I figured that wasn't what this crowd needed - they needed something that tasted like home. The craziest we got was that the pies were smoked! Concern for oven space, and the presence of a new smoker in their household, lead our friends to opt to smoke the apple and pumpkin pies they brought! The apple pie was particularly well suited to the method - although I heard that a peach pie they made was even better!

And so it came to pass that Thanksgiving 3 was finished.

Now, I mentioned that this would also be a catch-up post. I'll do that quickly!

1. Halloween has also passed since my last post. I plan to do a separate post about that to do it justice, just not today.

2. We got snow. LOTS of snow. From Saturday morning to Sunday night, we went from zero snow, to people-are-stuck-in-their-driveways snow. About a foot dump. It's beautiful :)

3. 'Tis the season for tea! So while everyone else was staying home Saturday night because it was snowing so much, I trekked out to do a tea party! The weather was particularly mood-setting! I try to only do two shows a month, but this month everyone wants stuff, so between Nov 2 and Dec 5 I have 5 shows booked, and another person wanting to book in somewhere! In addition to that, I've agreed to donate to a Christmas giveaway that my friends' company is hosting. I'll put together a prize package, and anyone who likes my business page that day will be entered for the draw! Then, on the 11th I'll have a table at their Christmas Wrap Up party where I'll be selling tea for the holidays!

4. Our hot water tank is leaking. And for some reason the soonest we can get a plumber is the 13th. 9 days with a hot water tank leak? Oh joy...

5. I'm crazy. Sometimes I don't realize it, sometimes I do. Today, I realized it when I was making plans to do a 100% healthy-eating household from the middle of November to Christmas. ...and then I realized it wouldn't feel like Christmas without my Christmas baking. And even though I could bake the stuff and personally hold off from eating it, that wouldn't actually help the household hold to their healthy lifestyle as well (and, you know, the kids would flip if I made cookies and they didn't get them). So I'm really not sure what to do. Perhaps totally healthy meals but snacks still allowed until the New Year? Basically I got sick of being fat and intend to do something about it (once again), and hubby's eager to join the effort, but I don't want it to encroach on our festivities, or be unnecessarily hard because I picked an arbitrary start date! I'm really stumped on this one...

Anyway, that's all for now! I'd best be off!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)