Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BoC: Christmas Tour Part V

A favorite place for me to seasonally decorate is the shelf in our dinning room that we use to hold our extra appliances. I just threw some of the extra decorations I had together. I also brought the Christmas cactus up from the basement as it had buds on it. Now I am betting that the blooms will open while we are out of town. Maybe a few will be left when we get home. In the end I decided to add the hanging arrangement above. The basket is holding all of the Christmas letters that we receive.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BoC: Christmas Tour Part IV

Since M and I hardly ever eat at the table, I thought I would go ahead and decorate it as well. Not too much, but just enough. My mom made the table runner as a Christmas gift last year and I was so excited to see it when I got it out of the Christmas decorations.
The bowl is from M's grandma's house. It was something that I choose when we were cleaning out the house after she went to heaven. The faux-antique ornaments were a super steal. I got them last February in a little store when I was visiting family. They were marked down over 75 percent. I grabbed up all that they had. Another exciting thing to get out of the Christmas decorations.

The antique eggnog cups were a gift from my mom last year for Christmas. We even use them to enjoy our eggnog.

Monday, December 29, 2008

BoC: Christmas Tour Part III

M comes from a real tree family and I come from an artificial tree family. Our first Christmas together we bought a real tree only to find out that we weren't supposed to have them in our apartment. (We didn't get caught, but we did remove it piece by piece in many garbage bags. This process ended up with a clogged vacuum and a backed up kitchen drain. But we will always have the memories.)
The next two years in our apartment we used an artificial tree that we purchased at a second hand store. It was somewhat of a Charlie Brown tree and we donated it back to the store when we moved this summer. So that meant that this year we would have to get a new tree. Now the debate was on again, real or artificial? We ended up picking up a real tree at Menards of all places.
This year I am going to keep my eyes open for a decent artificial tree at the after Christmas sales for the future. So we will see what next year brings.

We have no shortage of ornaments around here. M's grandma made the grandkids a new ornament every year and my mom would (and still does) make or buy a new ornament for us every year. It is so much fun decorating the tree every year and thinking back on the Christmases past. So, our tree may not look like it has a theme, but it has a theme of love.

(You can't see it very well in the picture, but our topper is a shabby chic white wooden star. I love it!!)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

BoC: Christmas Tour Part II

One of the fun things with a new house is figuring out how you want to decorate it for the seasons. We don't have many shelves or places to put extra decorations in our house. When I got out the Christmas decorations I knew I wanted to have a few extra pieces out, but where to put them? I decided the ledge that overlooks the foyer would work out nicely. I really like how the lights tend to spotlight each individual item. I don't really think that the picture does it justice. (The lights are from our wedding. I had bought them on clearance the Christmas before we got married. We will never be short of Christmas lights.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

BoC: Christmas Tour Part I

While we are off celebrating Christmas with our families, I thought I would share what Christmas looks like around here. I hope you enjoy!

I currently don't have a picture of the outside of our house. I will see if I can conquer the snow and do that. For now, when you first enter you will see our nativity scene on our coat hook mirror.

And since we don't have a chimney, our stockings are hung by the stairs with care. My mom has made many of these stockings, each different. We even have a set that is still at their house. I am thinking I will try to add some greenery up there next year.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Foodie Friday: Chili for a Crowd

Last week Friday was our annual preschool party/Christmas service/Christmas lunch. This year I made a large batch of chili for everyone in a roaster oven. I found my recipe online (only to later discover that the oven's instruction manual had one right in front of my face.) Not a drop was left, so I am considering it a success.
Chili for 50! (Recipezaar)
-5 1/2 pd. ground beef
-2 pd. ground sausage
-9 oz. chopped green chilies
-112 oz. crushed tomatoes
-112 oz. tomato sauce
-1 oz. cumin
-2 1/2 oz. chili powder
-5 lg. onions diced
-42 oz. kidney beans
-2 T garlic salt
-1 t paprika
I added all of my ingredients into the roaster oven and let it bake for a few hours at 225 degrees. (Stir it occasionally.) About an hour before lunch I turned the roaster up to 350. I had diced onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and oyster crackers available for toppings.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Ta-da! Here is your very own Christmas card from the Bowl of Cherrys. And you thought that you wouldn't get any mail today.

I pray that you are enjoying a wonderful Christmas with those you love! God's richest blessings to all of you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Dream Gone

As I planned what treats I was going to prepare for Christmas, I found this yummy looking recipe for Eggnog Truffles from Katie at Good Things Catered. While I am a baker, I have never really tried to tackle the whole candy making area. Lets just say, a candy maker I am not. Here are Katie's perfectly spherical truffles:

And here are my pancake/egg shaped reproductions:

See the resemblance? No? Oh, fine, I don't either.

At least my cookies have all been turning out. I guess I will leave the candy making to those more gifted in that area. (Like Katie and my sister-in-law Jenny.)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Halfway Point

Today marks the midpoint of my pregnancy! I am still doing really well. It is true what they say about the 2nd trimester being the easy one. We will get to see our little one in January via ultrasound. We are hoping to keep the gender a surprise, we will see if he/she cooperates. According to what I read, I should be able to feel his/hers movements at any time. So far I haven't felt anything except for a bit of indigestion. :o) Maybe he/she takes after her parents and is being stubborn.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Foodie Friday: Monterey Tortilla Casseroles

I got this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I am on their email list to get a recipe a day. This one sounded yummy and it was! We decided it was a little on the spicy side. I used medium salsa verde and next time will definitely switch to mild. (I guess we aren't as tough as we think we are.)

-6 6-inch corn tortillas, each cut into 6 wedges

-2 c cubed cooked chicken

-1 c frozen whole kernel corn

-16 oz salsa verde

-3 T sour cream

-3 T fresh cilantro

-1 T flour

-1 c cheese (they suggested Mexican Chihauhua, I didn't have that, go figure, I used pepper jack)

1. Spray four 10 to 12 oz baking dishes with cooking spray. (I had to use five as two of mine weren't big enough. I really can count.) Place 5 tortilla wedges in the bottom of each. Place remaining pieces on a baking sheet; bake in at 350 until crisp. (About 10 minutes.)

2. Combine chicken, corn, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, and flour. Divide among four dishes.

3. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange baked tortilla pieces atop casseroles. Top with cheese; bake 5 to 10 minutes. (Garnish with extra sour cream, jalapeno slices, extra cilantro, and tomatoes if desired.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Day: Part II

While the storm was basically over in a day, digging out from the storm was going to take a bit longer. M went out to start the shoveling process and came back in reporting that our driveway was one solid 12 inch snow drift. Thanks to M, enough of our driveway got shoveled that we can get out. Unfortunately, M had to go to work, but I don't think that I will be going out there today. I was out for 10 minuted while he shoveled and my legs were instantly frozen. I guess he will have to clear the rest of the driveway once he gets home. (I wouldn't want to hurt the baby.)
It is crazy to see how the snow is drifted outside. The neighbors across the street have three foot drifts in some parts of their driveways and blocking their front doors. Our air conditioning unit is almost completely buried in the backyard, yet there are also spots that are almost completely bare back there.

The one casualty that we have discovered so far is a crack in one of our front windows. We both heard something in the middle of the night and couldn't quite identify it. This morning, I saw the window and realized that must have been it. Hopefully that is covered in our one year home warranty.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Day: Part I

Remember when I was bragging about the sun and above zero temperatures? Well, they are gone and have been replaced by wind, snow, blowing snow, drifting snow, and freezing cold. Oh well, I knew it was too good to last.

The good thing about all of this is that on the actual day of the blizzard, M and I didn't set foot outside of the house. We stayed in where we were nice and cozy glancing out the window to see how the storm was progressing. Everything in town was closed, so even if you could get out, there was nothing to get out to.

We enjoyed watching several movies, finishing the Christmas cards, and starting on the Christmas baking. (Having an extra set of hands when baking is really nice. I don't know if I ever want to go back to baking alone again.) I really enjoyed the day with just the two of us. (M has been working extra hours lately, and it was so nice just being together.) It was also nice to get a jump on Christmas preparations.

Monday, December 15, 2008

But You Never Guessed

Fleet Farm!!

I was at the good old FF the other day looking for a good pair of winter boots. I not only came away with the boots, but 5 Christmas presents, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, and two kinds of sparkling beverages for the pregnant lady at Christmas.

Time and time again, M and I stop at Fleet Farm and find just what we were looking for at a decent price. Once you get over the tire rubber smell, it really isn't such a bad place to shop. However, with the exception of my winter hat and my new boots, I have not purchased clothing for myself there. Don't think that I ever will go that far. But other than that, I think the sky is the limit!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Perfect Pair

I love the combination of cranberries and white chocolate. Whoever came up with this magnificent food pairing is really a geneous. I will eat it as a snack mix with a few other ingredients thrown in. I will add the combination to cookies and bars. And lately I have been enjoying this delicious twosome in my oatmeal with a few almonds sprinkled in.

I just was out shopping and bought a new bag of each. Here they are sitting on my counter just waiting to be used.

The best part is, you will never guess where I bought them. You will have to stay tuned to find out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Foodie Friday: Pizza Calzones

You all know I love me a good pizza. (Okay, I don't think that I have ever met a bad one.) Here is a slight variation.

Once the dough has rested for ten minutes, roll it out into two circles. Fill one side of each circle with the pizza toppings of your choice. (We used pizza sauce, black olives, pepperoni, and chunks of string cheese as I was out of mozzarella.) Make sure to leave enough room to close it up.

Close the dough, pinching each side. (You may want to prick the top with a fork a few times for ventilation.) I spread a little olive oil on top and then sprinkled it with pizza seasonings. You definitely do not have to do this step. The choice is yours. (We have also made other types of calzones, but I will leave that for another post.)

Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes. This time we served it with a big old spoonful of sauce on the top.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Was Wrong

You won't hear me saying that very often, so mark this date. (J/K I am actually wrong quite often and am usually not afraid to admit it.) Remember how I thought that the snow would keep the giant rabbits from mowing down our grass? Well, the snow is here, and apparently the rabbits are still here too.

(Notice the distinct line in the snow. That is our exact property line. Wonder what M planted that they like so much. Maybe it still has a hint of the timber that M dragged around.)

M just says, "I hope that rabbit turds are good for the lawn."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guess What This Is?

Check out this picture and see if you can tell me what that is in the sky.

Yes, it is the SUN!!! Not only is it the sun, but it is above freezing outside right now. There still is a bit of a breeze in the air, but I don't want to be greedy and ask for too much.

Ah, how refreshing to feel the sun kissing your cheeks rather than frost bite nipping at them.

Hope that all of you are having a sunny day as well.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

December Obsessions

I don't know if it is the pregnancy, or simply gluttony, but I can't get enough of these lately. (Not necessarily at the same time.)

Mission Cillantro Lime Tortilla Chips

m&m's Holiday Mint Candies

And for those times that I am not really hungry:

Seasonal Sensations Baked Goodies Candle (from Target)

with three layers: Gingerbread House, Maple Pecan Cookies, and Hot Cocoa & Cookies

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Foodie Friday: Loaded Potato Soup in Bread Bowls

I am enjoying listening to Christmas music and puttering around the kitchen this afternoon. (And enjoying the fact that I have the energy to do it!) I decided that I wanted to make a hearty soup for supper as it is very cold here today. (I also needed to make something in the slow cooker as M will not be home before I have to leave again.)

I started with a basic dough recipe for the bread bowls.

Basic Dough Recipe

1 pkg yeast

1 c hot water

1 T sugar

1 t oil

1/4 t salt

2 1/2 c flour*

Dissolve yeast in water in large mixing bowl. (I used my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook.) Add sugar, oil, salt and 1 1/2 c flour. Mix. Gradually add in more flour until a dough ball forms. Turn out onto floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out into four even circles. Grease four small bowls. Place bowls on baking sheet upside down. (You may want to cover the sheets with foil and spray with cooking spray.) Drape dough circles over bowls. (Sometimes this takes some artful arranging. They won't look perfect, but will be yummy.) Bake for 10 to 15 minute. (Until they are starting to brown.) Carefully remove from sheet and pry out of bowls. (It will be very hot.) Place on wire rack to cool.

*I used a combination of whole wheat flour and bread flour.

Loaded Potato Soup

10 slices bacon** (chopped into 1/4 inch pieces)

3 med. carrots (quartered and chopped)

3 celery stalks chopped

1 med. onion chopped

5 med. potatoes chopped into 1 inch or smaller pieces

1 c heavy cream

4-5 c chicken broth

1 pkg frozen broccoli

Shredded cheese to taste

Green onions sliced as garnish

Brown bacon in large stock pot. Remove bacon and add onion, celery, and carrots. Saute until soft. Add bacon back into pot. Add cream and stock. Add potatoes. (I didn't have much time to let this cook, so I microwaved the potato pieces with some water for about 10 minutes to get them cooking before adding them to the mix.) Add broccoli. Bring to rapid bowl for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Cook on high for a few hours, on low all day. 15 minutes before serving, add in cheese. (Or you could just add once served, which is what we did.) Serve in bread bowls garnished with green onions.

**I used thick cut bacon. We get it from M's parents. You may want to use more if you are using thinner cut bacon.

A Look Into the Future

Here is M over Thanksgiving playing with my cousin's son. I enjoyed seeing this slight glimpse into the future. (And catching a glimpse of those cute chunky thighs!!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The "F" Word . . . Finances

When we first got married it soon became apparent that we would need to work on some sort of financial planning. Some of our family members suggested that we look into Dave Ramsey for some practical advice. We read through his book, "The Total Money Makeover," and found some good common sense ways to manage our household finances. One of the main things we came away with was the monthly budget. At the start of every month we sit down and decide where every cent we make that month is going. (As Dave says, we spend it first "on paper, on purpose.") Following this routine has helped us to get out of debt, except the mortgage.

Financial planning has also helped me to be a better household planner. Since we only have so much allotted for groceries in a month, I better figure out what I am going to make and what I am going to need to make it. I take a pretty laid-back approach to menu planning. I look through recipes (from books, magazines, binders, the internet) and pick out around 20 dishes that sound good. Armed with a shopping list, I hit the grocery store and buy almost everything that I will need to make those dishes. (Obviously some perishables won't last through the month and I take that into account while shopping.) When it comes time to answer the age-old question, "What's for dinner?" I simply pick the dish that I would like to make that night and go.

Throughout the month I make small additional trips to the grocery store to pick up extra milk or veggies or whatever else we may end up needing. I also make sure to have some ready to bake items on hand like frozen pizzas. This way when I don't feel like cooking all I have to do is heat up the oven and we have food.

I took this picture of the fridge yesterday after unloading all of the groceries for the month.
And you know, it works. We never have gone hungry.