Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bathroom News

I haven't posted much lately because Jason & I have been busy sprucing up the bathroom. It started in April when we had to take down a hideous drop ceiling that was in our bathroom. You might be saying to yourself... a drop ceiling? in the bathroom?? Yes, you read correctly. Why anyone would put a drop ceiling in a bathroom we would discover at a later date.

Turns out that the electrical was running on the bathroom side of the ceiling, instead of in the attic and no one had ever fixed it. Luckily, it only cost $175 to get it all fixed by an electrician. We had to scrape an wallpaper border off the walls. Then sand, spackle and sand some more. And we've spent the last week painting.

I am going to search my home computer for a "before" picture. Unfortunately, we didn't specifically take one before we started. But maybe we have one stashed away somewhere.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Halloween Get Together

I'm having a small Halloween get together and want to have a relatively low stress menu. I know I'm going to make soup because it's been getting chilly here and I think it will be cool that night...

I will make Potato Leek Soup for sure (with my homemade stock!!) and if I get lots of people to RSVP, I will make a pot of Split Pea Soup. I'll pick up some yummy bread too...

Other potential munchies:
  • Deviled eggs - could boil the eggs Thurs or Fri
  • Veggies w/ranch dip - easy to make
  • Cheeseball - make on Fri
  • Peppered salami - slice on Sat morning
  • Cheese & crackers - a variety of both
  • Cookies - could make Thurs or Fri
  • Meatballs (in a crock pot) - throw in the pot Sat

Just thinking out loud so I can figure out what works the best.

EDIT: OK, now I've received a lot of RSVPs, so it's definitely Potato Leek and Split Pea. I also am picking up croissant sandwiches from Costco. Other munchies: Munchies (Doritos, Cheetos, sunchips, pretzels), Kettle potato chips, cheeseball, salami with cheese and crackers, candy bars and caramel & candied apples that I bought at the store. I am trying to make this as low stress for myself as possible.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Locks of Love

Yea! I finally got my hair cut off so I can donate it to Locks of Love. They take donated hair and make wigs for children who have cancer and have lost all their hair. The minimum length for donation is 10", but I've been saving mine up so I am sending them a whopping 13 1/2"!!

Here is the before picture taken at work:


Here is the after picture taken at home:


Honestly, this is probably the best it will ever look! The stylist blew it dry and flipped out the ends.

I heart Russell

How can you not love a cat that looks like this:

Russell sleeping on the couch

I could've saved it for weekend cat blogging, but I decided that I couldn't wait!!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Games, games and more games!

My husband calls me a maniac. I mean, he literally called me a maniac yesterday. I spent almost 12 hours playing games! Board games! Yes, board games! German board games to be more specific...

Of all the games listed below, the only one I'd played before was Power Grid. That being said, yesterday I played:

Cheops with John, Dave, and Lincoln. It has cute little scarabs that Lincoln kept insisting looked like mini-Sugar Babies. I think he was hungry. I won this one :-) It's easy to learn how to play and fun.

The Usual Suspects - John, Dave, Lincoln (I'm behind the camera)

Atlantic Star with the same group. This one was fairly easy to learn too. With a little different strategy, I could have done better. I finished last in this one.

Power Grid with John, Anna, Nicole and Danny. This is the second time I've played this and I really like it! Lots of strategy without the headache! I'm debating buying this one.

Power Grid

Princes of Florence with Anna, Erin, John and Chris. I made some classic beginner mistakes and therefore finished 2nd or 3rd. Overall, pretty fun, I'd play it again. My friend Lana had recommended I try this, so I was glad to finally get a chance.

Ingenious with Erin and Anna. This game was super easy to learn and play. I'd play it again, a great quick game.

Samurai with Dave, Danny and Anna. I didn't quite understand the winning parameters, but I ended up winning anyway.

Attika with Devon and Dave. I won this one. This one is fun. It's strategy with a little luck in tile flipping. According to Dave, this game is best with 2 people, 3 is OK, 4 sucks. (Just a mental note for myself - and anyone reading this apparently!)

Overall, I had a lot of fun and the day flew by!! It's amazing how 12 hours can fly by playing games while a day at work can just drag on and on! Super fun and I can't wait til the next one! I think it's scheduled for Feb. 8th.

Oh, and I bought Puerto Rico so I can't wait to invite some gamers over so I can play it again. I've only played it a couple times, but I enjoyed it.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Pepperoni and Jalopeno Pizza

Ok, my sister made a deep dish pizza the other day and since then I've been obsessed with making a pizza too. I didn't have the time to make the dough she did, so I cheated and bought pizza dough from my favorite Italian sandwich shop in Burbank for $1.29. It was tasty! Jason said that it tasted better than most of the frozen pizzas we eat.

It was nothing fancy! I rolled out the dough, put a little tomato sauce on the dough, added shredded mozzarella, dried oregano, pepperoni, red onion slivers and jalopenos on half. I decided to try some variations on the crust. Here's a picture first:


On the left half of the crust, I sprinkled a California blend of garlic powder. On the upper right quadrant, I brushed it with olive oil, then put some pre-minced garlic on the oil and then sprinkled it with romano cheese. Then for experimental validity, I left the lower right quadrant untouched. The best crust was the one with the real garlic and romano cheese. I think I'll do that to the whole pizza next time.

I have all the ingredients, so next time I think I'll try making the dough from scratch, but overall this was pretty easy and good. I also made myself a salad and it looked so yummy, I had to take a picture!

My Salad

Nothing that exciting, but it was fun to make! I love making salads. The variations are endless!! Lately, I've been in love with gorgonzola cheese in my salad. As for dressing, our current favorite is the Girard's Light Champagne vinaigrette. It is good. I think it tastes very similar to the dressing at the Olive Garden, except that it's about 60 calories per serving vs. 200 calories!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Making Stock: Part Two

Making stock has made me appreciate the ability we have nowadays (am I 85?) to just buy stock in a can. The convenience offered to people who like to cook is immense! Imagine if you lived back in colonial times. If you wanted to make some chicken noodle soup, you'd have to make this stock. Without refrigerators or even being aware of the so-called "danger zone", how did people survive?

Anyway, I digress. After I took my stock out of the fridge, it looked like this:

Stock with Schmaltz

I took off all the schmaltz and bagged it for future sauteeing and then proceeded to stir it to see if the stock had obtained the gelatinous consistency that it should. Thankfully! It had. It's hard to tell in the picture, but I tried: (hmmm... I'm having problems uploading this picture)

So, after two nights of slaving over a hot, simmering stove, I ended up with almost 3 quarts of liquid love. I can't wait to try it and hopefully, it will taste way better than anything I could get out of a can, no matter how convenient!!

The finished product!

One last word of clarification...
In my last post, I cited that the disadvantages to watching Good Eats were time and money. Time in that I spent two nights working on the stock and money in that I bought 3 fine mesh strainers to use to strain my broth. Who knew that a big fine mesh strainer could cost $15?? I had no clue! But it will be worth it in the long run because I'm sure I will need those items for future endeavors. I can already see myself sifting flour or powdered sugar this winter for cookies! :-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Making Stock: Part One

Watching Good Eats has some advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that it's immensely entertaining and you end up learning a lot about cooking! The disadvantages are the time and money ones. I see AB do things on his show that I decide I MUST try at home!

Recently I was watching his True Brew IV episode about making chicken stock and decided I must do it! Since I learned from AB how to cut up chickens, I've been saving their carcasses in my freezer with the anticipation of making my own, but didn't really know where to start!

Last Sunday was a relatively quiet day around the house, so I decided that I would give it a shot! First, I took my frozen chickens out of the freezer and let them sit out a bit just to get a little unfrozen, then added them into my 12 qt. stockpot like this:

While those were sitting, I ran around to a few stores to get all my ingredients as outlined in the
Chicken Stock recipe. I cut them up and then threw them in the pot. Here's the before picture:

After letting it simmer and smell delicious all day, the really stressful part was trying to get the stock to cool to below 40 degrees to get it out of the "danger zone"!! I had borrowed a cooler from my sis-in-law to give it an ice bath, but the pots I was planning on using didn't fit! So there was a lot of jockeying and it was really kind of stressful as I thought of all those bacteria multiplying in my "liquid love" (as Alton puts it!). It ended up taking about 1 1/2 hours. Not too bad!

The true test was last night. I let it refrigerate overnight and it's supposed to take on a gelatinous texture, but when I checked it, it had not. So, I took AB's advice once more and reduced it. Now I'm just waiting to go home to see if it set properly!!! Cross your fingers for me!!