Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Love/Hate Relationship

This is the time of year when the local UPS guy either loves me...or hates me.



Monday, November 28, 2011

A Day for the Birds

Truly, one of the most beautiful Thanksgiving days that I can remember...

...even the birds were enjoying it. (Okay - perhaps not the turkeys...but the heron certainly was.)



Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pumpkin Lust

It's become very evident in my ever-approaching old age that everyone can always use a little extra "lust" in their lives.

Lust is good.

And Pumpkin Lust?

Even better.

Really. Trust me.

I made several desserts for our annual Thanksgiving Dessert Party, but the clear favorite among everyone was the Pumpkin Lust.

It was SOOO good that next year, I don't think I'm even going to bother with pies or cakes or breads.

Just some delicious, sinful Pumpkin Lust.

Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Lust

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tbs sugar
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, soft
1 cup powdered sugar
2 (8 oz) containers cool whip (or one 16 oz container)
2 small packages (3.4oz) of Jello Instant Pumpkin Spice Pudding
3 cups cold milk
Nutmeg for sprinkling

Assembled ingredients:

For the crust:

1. Combine butter, flour, chopped pecans and sugar and press into a 9 x 13 in baking dish. Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the Cream Cheese Layer:

1. Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 1/2 cups cool whip until smooth. Spread over crust.

For the Pumpkin Layer:

1. Mix pudding mixes with cold milk, whisking for several minutes. Set it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to let it thicken. Spread over the cream cheese layer. Top with remaining container of cool whip. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Cut into squares and serve. Keep refrigerated.

And trust me - this is SINFULLY GOOD.



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Brandy Sauce Recipe


To go along with the delicious homemade pumpkin pies for tomorrow, (recipes to follow later), I've whipped up a delicious brandy sauce...




Brandy Sauce.

You read that right. Read it again. Hee.

(I know, I know - me and "homemade" don't normally go together - but bear with me!)

So, here's the recipe (& photos) of the DELICIOUS Brandy Sauce that can be drizzed on top of pumpkin pie.

Killer Brandy Sauce

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy or Cognac
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg

1. Assemble all the ingredients

2. Melt butter over low heat in a small, heavy saucepan.

3. Stir in the sugar, spirits, water, nutmeg and salt. Cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is blended. Remove from heat.

4. Whisk egg until light & frothy. Vigorously whisk the egg into the liquor mixture.

5. Set the sauce over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring gently. Cook until thickened, about 1 minute. The sauce will not curdle.

6. Serve at once OR set aside at room temperature for up to 8 hours OR let cool, then cover & refrigerate for up to 3 days.

7. When ready to serve, reheat over low heat, stirring. If the sauce separates, remove from the heat and whisk in a little warm water.

8. Spoon over pumpkin pie, bread puddings, any cake made with fruit or nuts.

I hope you enjoy this - it is really easy and really, really tasty!



Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas List Made Easy

My newspaper was about 15" thick yesterday, which was my first clue.

My second clue was the advent of the Crazy Target Lady ads that have been blanketing the airwaves the last few days. Which, for the record, drive me CRAZY myself. I really, really hate the Crazy Target Lady.

You really need to chill, lady.

Yes, Thanksgiving is coming in a few days, which means one thing - that Black Friday is right around the corner. Or in my case, Cyber Friday, as I refuse to do any shopping except sitting in my pajamas, curled up with my laptop, with a cup of hot cocoa at my side. With potato chips and chocolate for sustenance.

For today's post, I decided to share my organizational idea for my Christmas list.

Hey. When you have seven kids, plus spouses, plus eight grandchildren, plus nephews, nieces, in-laws, etc - the list can get a litte....hairy. Add to that a mild case of OCD, and I need All. the. help. I. can. get.

For the last 15+ years, I have used an Excel spreadsheet for my Christmas list. Here's a quick peek:

(Click on image to Enlarge)

Here's my list, in easy steps:

1. Across the top, I list everyone that I will be getting a gift for...couples are listed together.

2. The next row is the budgeted amount that I plan to spend for each person/couple.

3. The next rows are for the gifts. For each gift, I have the following:

--Gift Idea
--Where to purchase from/or order from if doing online
--The date I purchased/ordered
--The date I received
--The amount spent

4. I have the Excel spreadsheet keep track on how I'm doing on the budget. I know to the penny how much I still have left to spend. This is always highlighted in RED - so I know if I'm in the RED or not. Hee.

Speaking of RED, let me explain the other color coding:

--A Blue box means that I have the gift IN HAND
--A Green box means that I have ordered BUT NOT RECEIVED the gift
--A Purple box means that it is just an idea at this point - but nothing has been purchased yet

And finally, an Orange box means that I am DONE shopping for that person/couple. Woot!

I keep all of my spreadsheets from past years, so I can peek to see what I got for someone in years' past. This is helpful if I have been buying them books or video games - I won't repeat what I already got them. You can see the different tabs on the bottom of the spreadsheet where I can click on 2010 or 2009 pretty quickly.

So - there's my Christmas tip for the day...

Good luck - and happy shopping!



Sunday, November 20, 2011

Invoking the "Or Else!" Clause

I would imagine...that if there was a way to capture just how many times I say a particular word or phrase - and then rank them to see what I say the very most...the clear winner would be:

"Clean your room!"

Followed closely by, "What were you THINKING??!!"

The "Clean your room" phrase is a very common refrain around our house, to the point where I sound pretty much like a broken record...which, when I say THAT, the kids look at me in confusion and say, "What's a record, anyway?"

(The things our kids missed out on by not being born old....right???!)

So...This weekend was no exception.

My 12-year old daughter's room looked as if a clothing factory vomited in it, leaving unidentifiable rags and scraps and supposedly-still-wearable outfits all over the floor, bed, nightstand, dresser - pretty much any flat surface was blanketed in piles and piles of...stuff.


Being the Obsessively-Compulsive-Organizer/Clean Freak that I am, this was giving me all sorts of migraines and nightmares. I finally reached the point today where I simply Couldn't. Take. It. Anymore. Period.

"Clean your room," I calmly directed her shortly after breakfast.

I've learned from experience that my first direct will usually be ignored - and this was no exception.

"Clean your room NOW," I said, a little more forcefully after lunch.

This did get the girl up from the sofa and to her room, where she managed to disappear for a few hours. Doing what, I have no idea, as I soon found out.

It appears that her definition of a "clean room" and MY definition of a "clean room" are far, far apart.

"CLEAN YOUR ROOM - OR ELSE!" was stated a little bit before dinner.

Yup. I whipped out and quickly invoked the "Or else!" clause.

It's amazing how that little addition of "Or else!" makes all the difference in cleaning a room. Or anything, for that matter.

I checked a few minutes ago and the room is spotless.

SPOTLESS, I'm telling you.

Huh. You'd think I would have learned that by now after all the times I've had to invoke the "or else" clause.

I really need to make the "or else" phrase my #1-said phrase - it definitely needs to go to the top of my list.

It gets results.

And that's what parenting is all about - getting results. Hee.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back From the Dead

Where, oh where, has the time gone?

And what in the world have I been up to?

Other than blogging, of course...because it's pretty obvious that I haven't been doing any of THAT.

Well...(taking big breath)... I've been traveling... visiting Disney World... baking cookies... meeting with contractors and electricians and decorators... doing lots of laundry... paying lots of bills... taking care of pets... dealing with daughter's sprained ankle... raking lots of leaves... volunteering at church... grocery shopping for Thanksgiving... running Red Cross meetings... preparing Girl Scout curriculums... watching football... watching "Revenge"... spending way too many hours on texting my sons... preparing "honey-do" lists for Hubby... going to birthday parties for the grandkids... and making lots of chili.


In other words...just living.


Off to get some rest.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Feet? No - Happy Wheels!

I would be the first to tell you that I think feet are some of the ugliest things that God ever created.

No, really. Seriously. Feet are ugly. Gnarly. Yucky.

Apparently, someone else thought so, too, because at some point, someone invented shoes, in order to hide all of the ugly feet in the world. And thank God for THAT.

However, with that said, I certainly appreciate what feet do for us, which allow us to get from Point A to Point B.

But that may soon change.

This morning, I rode a Segway for the first time in my of those two-wheeled thingies that lets you get from Point A to Point B - and it was pretty freaking AWESOME.

I'm looking pretty happy, if I do say so myself...

I was a little nervous, at first...It's all about the balance, and pushing your toes down to go fast and pushing your heel down to slow up...tilting the handle bars to turn...and praying to God that you don't crash and burn.

Which is exactly what some woman did right in front of me, as I was preparing to hop on mine. When that lady hit the deck, I was about ready to turn around and walk away, without ever giving it a try.

But I pushed through my nervousness and apprehension and certainty that, being the most uncoordinated person in the world, I would be the second person to crash and burn myself, injuring not only myself, but probably a few innocent bystanders, as well.

And other than a crazy, obviously-suicidal squirrel that ran right in front of me and just about got PLOWED - there were no casualties.

I've decided that I want to turn my feet in and trade them in for wheels, because at certain points today, I felt like I was flying....

Yup - give me wings or wheels, and you can have my ugly feet.


*I did the "Segway Around the World" tour at Epcot in Disney World this morning...I would give it 5 stars! My only complaint? NOT LONG ENOUGH! Hee.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Patience Is A Virtue

Although "Patience" is my middle name (not really - it's actually 'Renae' - but just go along with me for the sake of my story), there are times when I have totally lost it.

Patience, that is. (Not my mind...although, actually, I DO think I've lost my mind sometimes...but that's a different story for a different day. Ahem.)

Last July, our family headed down to our vacation home in Florida...while we were having fun at the beach and sweltering in the sun, Hubby and I began the arduous process of remodeling the house.

We met with the decorator/designer, the contractor, the "tile" guy, the plumber, the electrician, and the "cabinet" guy.

Yes. We are talking MAJOR remodel here - as in, totally gutting the house and starting over, basically, from the ground up.

In August, if you remember, my daughter and I headed to Orlando for a few weeks so that the tear-down could begin. Which it did, as evidenced by these photos, taken in mid-August upon our return to the house:

My gutted kitchen...nothing but a shell of its former self....

Part of the master bath...but pretty much all bathrooms look like this now...

And now, here we find ourselves in almost mid-November, and guess what?

The house looks exactly the same.

Well, okay - we DO have new tile on the floor now...but that's about it.

Why, you ask?

Because my dear, dear Hubby - and I love him dearly, don't get me wrong - but dear, dear Hubby has taken THIS long to make up his mind on deciding on the cabinets he wants - in the bathrooms, the bar and the kitchen.


So, while he's been agonizing over the cabinet decision, the painters have been on hold, the carpet installers have been on hold, and of course, the decorator has been on hold.

About two weeks ago, I'd had it - and pretty much forced him to take a 2-day trip to Florida so he could meet with the Cabinet Guy in person and nail down the decision. Time is a'wastin', after all, and I'm not gettin' any younger.

I think we're making progress. Finally.

The cabinets are now on order, and will hopefully be done by mid-December. Then, the granite guys can go in, the painters can finish up, the carpet installers can finish, and we may - just may - have a somewhat-completed house by Christmas vacation.

I really should be used to this by now. Hubby did the exact same thing when we were remodeling our lake house here in Kansas City. It took forever - but the results were well worth it.

I keep telling that to myself as I watch the calendar tick by....

Tick. Tick. Tick.




Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rediscovering Us

Sometimes...through no fault of our own...we lose the "us" that defines us as a couple.

Hubby and I have been married now for over 12 those years, we've weathered children, stepchildren, ex-spouses, house moves, illnesses and a whole myriad of other stressors common to everyday life.

We're certainly stronger for it...and isn't difficult to notice that when it's just the two of us...we often find ourselves discussing the children...and the stepchildren...and the ex-spouses...and the house moves...etc...etc....

Yesterday was the anniversary of our very first date. I had blogged all about it two years ago, and if you want to read all of the juicy details of that eventful evening way back in 1998, you can click on Flashback Friday: First Date and have at it. I won't bore you with the details for a second time....

Hubby came home from work yesterday afternoon with a beautiful bouquet of red roses...much like how he had presented me with flowers thirteen years ago.

A close-up of my beautiful red roses...

"These are beautiful," I graciously said, and then added, "But you didn't give me roses that day. It was a bouquet of fall wildflowers."

"Because I didn't love you thirteen years ago...yet." he replied. "You deserve roses now."

And then he whisked me off to the same restaurant we had dined at back in 1998...The Grand Street Cafe...where he asked the hostess if we could be seated at a particular table - the same table we had dined before, of course.

We love this place...

And after sitting at "our" table, he then set the ground rules for the evening.

We were to talk about "us."

No discussing the children. Or the stepchildren. Or the ex-spouses. Etcetera. Etcetera.

And so we did.

We talked about "us."

We sat for two hours, and in between nibbling on the most delectable and delicious food ever, we talked about ourselves.

Our hopes. Our goals. Our dreams.

And especially, our thoughts that night back in 1998, when we were carefully sizing each other up and wondering where that date would lead us.

At the end of the evening, he brought us home, where he walked me up to the front door and re-enacted our first kiss.

And my toes curled...exactly like what happened back in 1998.

What a lovely anniversary of our first date.

And how nice to re-discover the "us" - where it all began in the first place.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Breakdown of Tom/My Son

With my oldest son away at college, I am relegated to following his activities by creeping following him on Facebook.

Two weeks ago, a photo was posted on his Wall that gave me hope that life was going good. He looked confident, powerful, and a tad-bit Tom Cruise-ish (when Tom was still cool and before he got all crazy and weird):

My confidence and peace of mind, though, was shot to heck, when another photo appeared just tonight. This must have been what Tom Cruise looked like AFTER he got all weird and jumped up and down on couches:


What's a mother to do, other than worry while her kids are away???

It's no wonder we get grey hair.



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm In the Money

While sorting through the mail the other day, I came across a most-curious thing.

Amidst all of the usual bills, statements and junk mailings, there was an envelope that was most definitely a check.

A check???!!!


A check.

Addressed to me.

How curious.

It was from Hearst Publishing, and my mind raced with the possibilities of what it could be for....and more importantly, how much it would be for....

Did I win a contest?

Did I win a sweepstakes?

Did the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes?

(Nah...I knew better than that - there were no balloons, roses or TV cameras at my front door. Darn.)

So, with fingers trembling, heart racing, I carefully opened up the envelope to see how much my check was for...visions of new shoes, exotic vacations, and a fancy, schmancy restaurant dancing in my head.

And then I saw it:


A whole $1.81.


Can I even get dinner at McDonald's for that??!!