Sunday, November 30, 2008

And the Band Played On

Caleb & Steph
Originally uploaded by BookMamma
Thanksgiving Preparations & Execution - CHECK

Hotwheels Halls Decked - CHECK

Holiday Card Photo Taken - next on the To-Do list...

Hopefully we'll get that done this week. In the meantime, I uploaded tons of photos to Flickr this weekend. Thanks to Sandypants for all the great Margarita Ball photos!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gotta Have Some Green Stuff

My Grandmother used to insist on having something green on her plate at each meal. Especially at a chinese buffet. She would always put 2-3 of those seasoned green beans on her plate because she "HAD to". It made her feel better about the fried eggroll and General Tso.

Anytime I have people over for dinner I always have the same quandry about the menu: lack of green veggie that everyone will eat. Sure, I could just pop open a can of green beans if I'm lazy, but if you're going through the trouble of having guests for dinner, you probably want it to look like you put forth some effort. Thus my quandry.
Roasted asparagus is good, but it gets cold before you can eat it.
Ditto for steamed broccoli.
Salad is... okay. But then you have to lay out bowls and that's another thing to wash.

So imagine how thrilled I was to find these recipes that were easy & quick and tasted great. They green up a dinner spread beautifully too! Broccoli slaw is supposed to be served cold, but the crunch isn't effected if you have it on the table for a little while for people to get seconds. Turnip greens are supposed to be served hot, so doing them in the crockpot is perfect. Throw the ingredients in and forget about them while you finish up everything else.

Broccoli Slaw
10 to 12 servings

2 bags (3-ounce) Oriental Ramen Noodle Soup
3 TBS low-fat butter substitute
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 bags (12-ounce) bags broccoli cole slaw (in the bagged salad section)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
Chopped green onions, for garnish

Dressing Mix:
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup brown or white sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 ramen noodle seasoning packet

Put the ramen noodles in a bag and crush them with a rolling pin while melting butter in a large skillet over low/medium heat. Add the crushed noodles and slivered almonds to the skillet and saute, stirring occasionally (keep temperature at low/medium heat). Meanwhile, whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Place the shredded broccoli into bowl and toss with the noodles, almonds, and sunflower seeds. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Garnish with chopped green onions.

Happy Thanksgiving! I feel so blessed and thankful this year... and that Hope feeling still lingers. I hope you can take a moment between dinner preparations to think upon some of the things that YOU are thankful for.

This is at the top of my list:

The Story of Papa Loyd's Famous Cornbread Dressing

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I've always loved to cook and see family. We're the kind that stays, eats some more, and stays, naps a little, and stays, talk a lot, watch some football, stays a bit longer, and eventually waddle our way back to our cars with heaping plates of leftovers for the next day.

I thought I would share with you the killer cornbread dressing recipe from my Grandfather. I love to make it every year in his memory, in the very big silver "dressing bowl" he taught me to prepare it in.

The year before Papa Loyd died he was still stubbornly insisting on hosting Christmas Day dinner at his house like we always did. I went over to help with the preparations and brought my video camera to try and capture the infamous dressing recipe on tape. I let him boss me around and call all the shots - watching that video makes me laugh as I cry.

Me & Papa Loyd circa 1979
Papa Loyd's Holiday Dressing & Giblet Gravy

Note: no shortcuts allowed. No broth instead of homemade stock. No store bought cornbread. I've tried the shortcuts and they just. don't. work. It's not the same.

1 hen (not chicken)
2-3 onions, finely chopped
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 large pones cornbread (if you don't know what a pone is you have no business making this recipe)
1/4 butter
2 TBS yellow mustard
2 TBS ketchup
2 TBS Italian seasoning
1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh sage, finely chopped (reduce amount if dried)
3 slices bread, torn up into small pieces
1 (8 oz.) can oysters, drained & chopped
3 TBS jarred pimento, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

The day before: cook cornbread & cool completely. Crumble both pones.

Day of Thanksgiving:
Remove giblets from hen and set aside.

Rinse hen and place in stockpot & cover with water, about 8 cups. Simmer covered until done, reserving broth. De-bone hen & reserve meat.

Preheat oven 350 degrees

In large saucepan melt butter & add onion, celery, and bell pepper. Add all the broth from hen, cover and simmer 10 minutes.

In BIG ("dressing") bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, torn bread pieces, & the broth mix until it reaches spaghetti sauce consistency. If mix is too soupy, add more bread pieces.

Add all the remaining ingredients & mix well.

Pour mixture into a large roasting pan. Bake 1 hour until golden.

Serve hot with giblet gravy & hen meat on the side.

Finely chop hen giblets.

Simmer 3 cups chicken broth on stovetop. Add flour a little at a time, stirring constantly until a smooth, thin rue is formed. Add chopped giblets, blend well, and simmer.

Salt, pepper, and otherwise season to taste, can add one or two sliced boiled eggs to gravy if you want to be extra-Southern.

Yields: enough for a crowd of at least 10-15.

Eliot Loyd is Papa Loyd's namesake.
I see his spirit in that boy every day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Howdy, Pilgrim

If you are a fan of "This American Life" then you already know Sarah Vowell. She has a new book out called The Wordy Shipmates that is perfect to read the week of Thanksgiving. It will make you the most fascinating conversationalist in the room at dinner. Trust me. 

Sarah Vowell Pictures, Images and Photos

If you are not familiar with Sarah Vowell, PLEASE take a moment over your morning coffee to listen to one of her segments on this, my most favorite radio show in the universe. 
Believe me... if you do listen, you won't be sorry.

Part 2

In the spirit of Puritans, check out these pilgrim hats we will be chowing down on Thursday.

24 chocolate-striped shortbread cookies
12-ounce package of chocolate chips
24 marshmallows
tube of yellow decorators' frosting

1. Set the chocolate-striped cookies stripes down on a wax-paper-covered tray, spacing them well apart.

2. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave or double boiler.

3. One at a time, stick a wooden toothpick into a marshmallow, dip the marshmallow into the melted chocolate, and promptly center it atop a cookie.

4. Using a second toothpick to lightly hold down the marshmallow, carefully pull out the first toothpick.

5. Chill the hats until the chocolate sets, then pipe a yellow decorators' frosting buckle on the front of each hat.

Oh, and did I mention my back decided to go out on me today? 

Countdown to T-Day

For the first time in 50+ years, my dad's Milner side of the family isn't getting together for Thanksgiving. This is sad, but not entirely tragic because I'll see them in about a month for Christmas, but still... it will be odd not piling in to Aunt Lynda's house and stuffing our faces. 

This year I am hosting my immediate family... and a few extended family for Thanksgiving. To be exact, 21 adults and 5 kids under the age of 7. Luckily, its a potluck and I'm getting lots of help from the Fam.

So each day until Thanksgiving I will post one recipe that we'll be enjoying. Here's one we did today...

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 TBS oil
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
orange food coloring 
2 cups water

Mix all ingredients together. Cook and stir over medium heat until lumps disappear. Knead the dough on cool surface (like a countertop) until smooth & cool enough for kids to handle.
Throw the dough and some cookie cutters on the table and you can buy enough time to get your own pumpkin pie in the oven!

Meme Time! (aka BookMamma's Tired)

The rules? Answer the following questions in one word and then pass it on to seven others.
Tagged by Rhonda.

Where is your cell phone? Charger
Where is your significant other? Bed
Your hair color? Brunette
Your mother? Sweet
Your father? Busy
Your favorite thing? Cocktails
Your dream last night? Work
Your dream/goal? Progressive
The room you’re in? Kitchen
Your hobby? Books
Your fear? Assasination
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Maintaining
Where were you last night? Purgatory
What you’re not? Skinny
One of your wish-list items? Boots
Where you grew up? South
Last thing you did? Coffee
What are you wearing? Jammies
Your TV? Loud
Your pet? Kids
Your computer? Disenfected
Your mood? Sleepy
Missing someone? Grandmother
Your car? Un-vaccumed
Something you’re not wearing? Bra
Favorite store? DSW
Your summer? Speedy
Love someone? Completely
Your favorite color? Green
When is the last time you laughed? Today
Last time you cried? Yesterday

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Boy Briefs, the Religilous Version

The boys attend an Episcopal daycare (not so much because we want spirituality/religion to be taught to them there, but more because its the best daycare we've ever seen). The classes have chapel every Wednesday, and it is taught by a sweet older lady whose twin daughters just happen to be Finn & Eli's teachers.  

We're arriving one morning and pass Chapel Teacher in the hall. 

"Good morning, Finn," she says. 

"Good morning," Finn stoically replies back. We walk a little further down the hall. When we get safely out of earshot Finn whispers to me, "Mommy... know what? That my chapel teacher. Her name's GOD." 


We've recently been attending church at the very place the boys go to school. This is great for Caleb and I but kind of weird for the boys because they aren't exactly sure if they're going for school or for church. But they're smart... they'll figure it out eventually. 

At children's church the kids go back and do songs and crafts before coming in to sit with the adults for communion. Last Sunday, Finn was NOT happy when he arrived at our pew and was loudly protesting a paper in his hand. 

"Mom, this isn't my NAME," he gestures wildly to the paper. It's covered in glue and marker scribbles with the name "Ben" prominently written at the top.
"MY NAME'S NOT BEN! That lady got my name wrong!" 

We get him calmed down and manage to get through communion with just a few huffy pouts and indignation. In the car, Hubs tries to explain. 

Hotwheel Hubs: "Finn, the teacher didn't do it on purpose, she just thought you said "Ben". Let's practice telling people your  name. Say F-f-f-f-FINN."

Finn: "F-f-f-f-BEN." 

Me: "Hmmm. Say, 'frog'."

Finn: "Frog."

Me: "Say, 'fabulous'."

Finn: "Fabulous."

Hubs: "Say, 'FINN'."

Finn: "Ben."

Me & Hubs: ... sigh


The daycare makes a delicious Thanksgiving lunch for all the families of the kids each year. I signed up to help set up and serve the plates -  it was a great way to match the kids I see every day to their parents & grandparents. Both Grandaddy and Nana came to eat with Eli, and Nana stayed over to eat with Finn, Hubs, and I. 

Our priest, Susan, was also scurrying around serving food and refilling tea glasses. She was dressed in her usual priestly uniform Finn watched her for a while and elbowed his dad. 

"Daddy, know what? Dat lady's name's GOD." Finn stoically goes back to eating his roll. 

Which leaves me thinking maybe if we can keep him thinking all women are God, he'll turn out just fine. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Writes a Post About It

WARNING: This post is less about sunshine and puppies and more for the purpose of documenting a pretty craptastic week... in the hopes it can only get better.

Finn continues to have a rough time at school. His teachers and his parents are looking in to it. 

Yesterday, my purse gets stolen. Out of my car. In my driveway. **
The only nice bag I've ever had in my life, my iPod, 4 credit cards, my driver's license, my checkbook, my Kohl's & Victoria Secret cards, all my various shades of lipstick, my cute antique business card holder, and a mix of restaurant & movie gift cards - all gone. 
We spent the day cancelling accounts, filing fraud alerts on our credit reports, filling out bank paperwork, and getting a new license (whose photo was nowhere near as good as the one that was stolen.)

The thief missed a few things... another iPod, some beloved CD's, and a substantial gift card to the mall were all overlooked. He/She was also nice enough to pull some office paperwork out of my purse before they took it, so that will come in handy. This is me trying to find a positive thing. 

Like everyone, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the holidays will be slim around here.

** FAQs:  
Yes, I know it was stupid for me to leave my purse in the car. 
No, I don't usually do that. 
Yes, I meant to go back and get my stuff out of the car after I got home from work, but the boys were fussy & hungry and I only had so many arms to get the backpacks, coats, squirmy Eli, and car keys shuffled into the house. 
No, I have NEVER left my purse in an unlocked car in my driveway before. 
Yes, we usually park in the garage but there's stuff we're taking to Goodwill packed in there at the moment.
No, I don't feel entirely safe in my own home after this happened 3 yards away from where my family was sleeping. 
 And Yes, it only takes one stupid mistake for some bonehead jerk to steal your identity by using your credit card to buy a disposable cell phone at 2:30AM. 
(Also, Yes - I know it could have been much worse.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One Day I Better Look Back and Laugh

It's been kind of rough over at the Hotwheel Hacienda of late. "Almost-Four" has been trying (at best) the past few weeks and we're at our wits end.  

Please send vodka. 

Oh NO she didn't!

So, in the interest in leaving a productive post, I want to share with you a FABULOUS recipe that came my way. It's super quick, very tasty, and looks like you put lots of effort into it. 

Sarah's Fantabulous Quick Supper Recipe:
16/17 oz package of already cooked Pot Roast (au jus, if you can find it)
1 cup of picante sauce, hot or mild to taste
1/2 cup of sliced white mushrooms
1 box of quick-cook couscous (I use whole wheat)
1 1/4 cup of chicken broth
2 tsp of butter/margarine (can substitute olive oil, if desired)
Warm the pot roast in the microwave per directions on package.
Transfer the liquid from the roast into a skillet, over medium heat. 
Add in the mushrooms and picante sauce and simmer. 
Chop up the pot roast into 1" chunks; add to skillet; bring to boil. 
Pull heat down to medium, cover, leave alone for a bit.

Using the chicken broth and butter/margarine/olive oil, prepare the couscous. It literally takes about five minutes.

Once the couscous is done, layer the dish with the couscous first and then the roast, topping it all with the juice. I found that this made about three equal sized portions, perfect for a family of four with two small kids.

The verdict? My kids ate up every bite and licked the plate. Success! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"One Nation... Invisisisible"

This morning, I bundled up Finn & Eli and loaded them into the wagon equipped with a variety of Star Wars toys and strategically placed pieces of Halloween candy. Did I mention it was 7:15 AM? We headed to the local middle school, our polling place, and voted in a truly historic election. 

The boys were great, despite the short wait. It only took about 45 minutes from start to finish, and they stayed put, stayed (relatively) quiet, and I was able to have plenty of time to make sure I didn't screw up my ballot. 

We voted

Some find it difficult to choose between the "lesser of two evils" and don't bother to vote because they don't think it matters. To this I say, no human is perfect. If we all wait around until the perfect candidate with the perfect political philosophy comes along before we cast a vote, I have a feeling we could end up in a similar situation as our friends in the Middle East and other oppressed peoples of the world. 

And if you're STILL not convinced...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Candy Pushing

Candy Pusher
Originally uploaded by BookMamma
Halloween 2008 was great - we went to a library costume party, had a costume parade at school, and finished up the night with Trick-or-Treating.

Caleb & I have a costume party to attend this evening and then we bid Halloween farewell and get ready for my other favorite holiday... Thanksgiving. And you know what that means - Macy's Parade is almost here!! (For those of you who don't know, I'm a sucker for a parade. I don't know why - but I LOVE them. I will go see it in person before I die.)

In the meantime, enjoy our Flickr pictures by clicking on the link.


We are the champions...

Hubs and I won "Most Original Costumes" at the party last weekend. Our Juno & Bleeker rocked the Casbah. Actually, I think it was Caleb's legs that sealed the deal...

Bleeker & Juno

No, I'm NOT pregnant. We rigged up a pretty convincing belly. So much so that there were some pretty mad people watching me have libations.
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