We’re Back

Hello All,

It has been so long since I last blogged. So many things have happened since then. Sam and I celebrated our honeymoon. We all celebrated Thanksgiving. We decorated our house for Christmas! All these things will show up on the blog soon. So stay tuned! ūüôā

‚̧ Ian

Hopefully Helpful Thanksgiving Advice

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Well here we are…Thanksgiving day is nearly upon us. If you are hosting a holiday meal you should have been planning before now, BUT if you have procrastinated….do not despair my friendly advice will see you through to a perfect holiday meal.

ALL ABOUT THE BIRD:

1. Choosing a bird(s):¬†people have lots of opinions about the perfect turkey. Fresh, frozen, free range, heritage? Blah Blah Blah… I think that if cooked well, fresh or frozen turkeys will taste equally delicious. My advice is this, if you have 5-6 days to defrost your turkey just buy it frozen. It will save you a few dollars at the grocery store and it will taste wonderful.¬†Norbest¬†is my favorite turkey brand.¬†If you go this route allow¬†1 day per 4 pounds¬†for your happy little bird to defrost. Place it on a towel at the bottom of your refrigerator so it doesn’t leak everywhere.

2. Have enough turkey: Let’s face it…most people want white meat. I’m sorry to all you dark meat lovers, but it’s true. So make sure there is enough. Once you start carving a turkey it can be sad just how little breast meat there is. If you need to do more than one turkey, just do it! If you don’t have time, oven space, or the desire to make an entire 2nd turkey, just make an extra turkey breast in your CrockPot. Click Here to find a delicious recipe for a slow-cooker turkey breast from¬†Taste of Home.¬†

3. If you have ANY turkey questions, there are experts to answer them:¬†The lovely people at Butterball,¬†even if you don’t buy their turkey, are happy to answer all your questions via the¬†Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-Butterball (1-800-288-8372).¬†They are real live-savers, and they know EVERYTHING about turkey.

4. Choose the right roasting pan: Having the right tools makes cooking easier, but a good cook can make do with even the most primitive tools. Nevertheless a good non-stick roasting pan will make your turkey and your gravy a complete success. Last year my mom bought me an amazing non-stick roasting pan from KitchenAid.  It is a bit of an investment, but it truly changed everything. Instead of trying to scrap up yummy bits for my gravy, I just used a nice silicone spatula to painlessly gather yummy drippings from the pan for my gravy.

5. Don’t stuff the bird: I know many of you are ready to stop reading my blog forever now, and a year ago I would have agreed with you. BUT, last year I tried an “unstuffed bird” and it was so much more moist. And it cooked in much less time.

6.¬†Plan Plan Plan the cooking time:¬†Your bird will need time to roast, so plan oven space accordingly. However, make sure to plan enough time. I roast my turkey at¬†325¬į in a conventional oven for about 15 minutes per pound.¬†

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Side Dishes:

Turkey is great…but there are so many other wonderful things to be eaten as well.

Obviously, the most important side dish is¬†Stuffing or Dressing. This is important, and it is one of my biggest pet peeves. If it is cooked INSIDE THE BIRD it is called stuffing. If you cook it OUTSIDE THE BIRD it is called dressing…capish?

Here is the recipe AND cooking method for my favorite stuffing. Stuffing should be simple and delicious. Many people add weird things like cranberries, chestnuts, or sausage. Please don’t..it’s not good and many of your guests may not eat pork sausage (WE DON”T) so just don’t do it. For goodness sake, one year MARTHA added oysters…and that’s enough to make me leave the table.

If you aren’t stuffing the bird, for heaven’s sake don’t bake the dressing in the oven. It will dry out and be gross. Just cook it in your Crock Pot. This method saves time, space, and requires no thought at all. The first year I made stuffing in my slow cooker it changed my life!

Ian’s Traditional No-Fuss Slow-Cooker Stuffing/Dressing:

1 stalk celery (not rib, the whole stock cut into ribs): washed, dried, chopped

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 large bags bread crumbs: These are everywhere this time of year I buy Franz. Save the seasoning packet that it comes with. 

5-6 slices stale white bread cubed (just set some out a on the counter a few days before you make your stuffing. Adding this bread will make your stuffing even more moist and delicious.

4-5 cans¬†Swanson’s¬†chicken Broth (don’t buy fat free, it has not flavor)

Sage

Thyme

Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

  1. In a large skillet, saute celery and onion in butter/margarine until tender. Set aside.
  2. In very large bowl combine breadcrumbs, stale bread, and sauted veggies.
  3. Add at least 3 tablespoons of sage to mixture, 1-2 teaspoons of Thyme, and seasoning packets from breadcrumbs. Make sure there is enough flavor.
  4. Slowly begin to mix in the chicken broth, one can at a time. Only do this until the mixture is moist. STOP when it is moist.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Put mixture in greased large slow-cooker. Cook on low setting for at least 4 hours.
  7. Or, stuff into your turkey and allow extra cooking time.
  8. Or, (BUT PLEASE DON”T) bake in a greased casserole dish in your oven at 325¬į for 1.5 hours.

 

Vegetable Sides: 

1.¬†Veggies are always a conundrum to me because no one seems to like the same thing. I usually stick to several standbys.¬†Homeade Creamed Corn…honestly for this search Pinterest for a recipe that sounds appealing to you, I’m still looking for the perfect one. Roasted Acorn Squash. Again find a recipe that you like. And¬†Brussels Sprouts.¬†Sadly in our family I have to eat them alone. I like to steam them and then drizzle a sauce mixture of lemon juice and mayonnaise.

2. Fresh Green Salad:¬†This is always nice to help you feel better after eating so many “cooked” dishes.

3. Mashed Potatoes:¬†Really just an excuse for gravy, but they can be tasty. I do believe that instant mashed potatoes have their time and place, but it is not on Thanksgiving Day. Make your own, mash them with your hand mixer. The best part about these is that they can be made ahead and put in a greased slow-cooker for several hours too. There’s no reason to be slaving over a hot stove for the final hours leading up to your meal. Get some of these things done ahead of time.

 

GRAVY: 

I am always guilty of smothering my Thanksgiving meal in gravy. It’s just so tasty. I love a simply gravy recipe. This recipe from¬†What’s Gaby Cooking is perfect!

 

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We’ll talk about dessert another time. Enjoy! And keep planning!

 

 

 

Our Thanksgiving Table…and My Holiday Tips & Tricks

It’s that time already. We are in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations. (If you haven’t started your preparations already, you should hurry)! Sam and I love to host holidays. Last year we hosted Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful.

This year our decorations are purely ornamental because Sam and I are taking a snowshoeing trip to Central Oregon for the week to celebrate our belated honeymoon. But, nonetheless we have to have holiday decorations up, so here is our dining room.

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Here is Sam lovingly laying out the Thanksgiving table cloth and table runner. I hate trying even them out and line up corners…Sam is really good at it!

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Here is one view of the finished product. This table setting is really my testament to how you really can “design on a dime.” You just have to purchase things after each holiday.

  1. The tablecloth was a summertime clearance buy at Macy’s. I paid $5
  2. The table runner was a Michael’s purchase…$2.38¬†
  3. The centerpiece was only $6.00 at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts. 
  4. The green tapers and their holders were less than $10 at Target. 
  5. The plates and water glasses were from the¬†DollarTree.¬†Don’t judge…they look great.
  6. The napkins were literally 25¬Ę each at Kohl’s in July.¬†

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Here’s another view of our table. Complete with bread and the gravy boat that my mom bought us.

Next stay tuned for my¬†EASY THANKSGIVING HACKS…

Chili Tacos on a Week Night

Hello Friends. Even with just Sam and I, the struggle to figure out what to have for dinner on a weeknight is hard. Especially when it gets dark so soon, and it seems that we should all be inside huddled next the heater, avoiding the chilly temperatures outside.

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But, my love for tacos (soft shell for me, crunchy shell for Sam)¬† knows no bounds. And sometimes I want tacos for dinner, but I don’t want to prep any meat or beans. And that’s okay! One my family’s old tricks is to use chili as a substitute. It takes all the prep work out, and literally all you’ll have to do is open up a few containers, and chop up some veggies! It couldn’t be simpler.

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Like I said yesterday, we are trying to cut out ground beef with turkey. We absolutely love¬†NALLEY TURKEY CHILI.¬†It tastes just like its beef counterpart but has considerably less fat and calories. It can usually be found on sale for just 98¬Ę¬†at¬†our local¬†Winco Foods. Once again, if you haven’t yet discovered this magical land of affordable groceries or, heaven forbid, you live in an area that has not embraced it yet, please please please find a¬†Winco¬† and see for your self. It is amazing!

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Sam loves Mexican Rice. Whenever we have tacos or burritos, I always add this delicious Mexican Rice. Once again, it is a Winco find. I buy it for $1 so I usually stock up. All you do is add water and simmer for 25 minutes.

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In our house, no taco is complete with out¬†TACO BELL MILD SAUCE.¬†I love this stuff. I could literally just drink it from the bottle. Also, I don’t know how much you pay at your grocery store,¬†BUT…it I found it for only $1.30 at WINCO.¬†

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I won’t lie… I love to have freshly shredded cheese, but some nights it is not worth the hassle. Just buy a bag of shredded cheese. It’s almost as good, I just don’t think it melts the same.

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We “taco,” (yes it can be a verb) pretty simply. But I HAVE to have a nice sweet onion.

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Our final toppings always include DARIGOLD SOUR CREAM. It really is the best, and a giant tub of the stuff costs¬†less than $5.00 at Costco.¬†And we love love love¬†Herdez Guacamole Salsa¬†too.¬†It has changed our lives. It’s a bit spicy, so beware. And it can be hard to find, but we always buy it at our beloved¬†Target.¬†

All My Thoughts on…Throw Pillows

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I have a deep love for throw pillows! I always have. We have throw pillows for every season. The smattering you see here is just a tiny sample of the collection. Along with other random stuff in our upstairs loft that doubles as family room, exercise space, and holiday storage area.

Recently, one of you asked about my advice on buying throw pillows. So here are my thoughts.

  1. NEVER NEVER NEVER pay full price for throw pillows! They are ridiculously over priced. At retail, they seem to range anywhere from $25 to $50, and I don’t know about you, but I would feel pretty silly if I came home with at $50 decorative pillow.
  2. Don’t buy throw pillows at department stores! Our dear department stores need to make a buck off you anyway they can, so many things, like throw pillows are always priced at a huge mark up.¬†Buying throw pillows from department stores is literally like throwing money in the toilet!
  3. Buy colors, not necessarily designs that you like.¬†Here’s what I mean. In the photo above There are several pillows with specific designs like the “letter” or the “Jack-o’-lantern.” Those pillows cost more, so I usually buy just one for each season, usually for the center of my couch or love seat. Keep reading…
  4. Buy in pairs. Some of the pillows I have are just seasonal colors. The orange pillow in the photo came in a set, and so did the blue floral pillow. Each of those pillows work on my couch at different times of the year. They both came in a set of 2 for¬†$14.99!¬†You don’t always have to have the pillow with the pumpkins, or the hearts, or whatever, just make sure you have a festive/seasonal color and your room will look great.
  5. Obviously, Look for Sales!¬†I picked up some great Thanksgiving throw pillows that Sam fell in love with last weekend. They were only¬†$9.99 at SEARS! So maybe I’ll buy throws at ONE department store. But, that’s only because Sears has basically become a discount store now.
  6. Where to buy? Okay here’s the part I love…giving you advice. The best throw pillows that come in pairs come from¬†TJ MAXX.¬†Hands down. They will always have the best price. Usually just¬†$14.99-$19.99¬†for a set of 2.¬†Marshalls and Ross Dress for Less¬†are a close tie for 2nd place. Finally,¬†Target¬†is another gem for pillows too. They are usually overpriced, but less than major department stores, so take a look there. I know you shop there already!

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Here are the pillows that Sam fell in love with at Sears. And I must admit, I love them too.

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Here’s one of them on our love seat!

20171105_213620Here’s another new pillow in our arm chair

 

Thanks Starbucks…

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Today I have many things to share…they will come. They include all my advice on¬†THROW PILLOWS¬†and my favorite¬†FRENCH DIP SANDWICH¬† that we are having for dinner tonight. But, first I have some things to say, things that I think are meaningful thoughts, for this morning.

Thanks Starbucks...I mean its the place where many of us start out day with the magical beverage that brings us back to life. But in our family, it means so much more. Many of you know, but many of you don’t know that Sam and I met at Starbucks. I was a customer at his drive-up window. I wasn’t even supposed to be in that part of town that summer day,¬† but we met…dated for¬† 2 weeks and then began a long distance romance that lasted for over a year until we finally lived only 50 miles apart instead of 750 miles apart.

Besides introducing us, Starbucks also helped Sam finish school online through Arizona State University. The incredible Starbucks College Achievement Plan gave Sam the opportunity to finish school without accumulating more student loan debt. And, at the end, his graduation was a huge party. We spent a long weekend at Arizona State University in Tempe and Starbucks treated all their CAP (College Achievement Plan) graduates and their families like royalty.

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But, our run with Starbucks has come to an end. This morning the alarm didn’t sound at 4am, he didn’t put on a black polo or a green apron. Sam put on a tie and went to his new “big boy job,” as we lovingly call it. This morning I went to Starbucks, got coffee, and wasn’t greeted by that adorable smile. It was bitter sweet for both of us. We’re so excited for this new chapter, and lovingly closing the door on the Starbucks chapter.¬†

Post Script: My thoughts on the new Starbucks holiday cups!

I love them! And while I do feel a bit sorry for Tom Turkey as I drink from a cup with a Christmas Tree on it while it’s only November 2, I’m ecstatic. I’m happy that this cup feels more festive than last year’s plain red cup. And I’ll happily be drinking Peppermint Mochas and Chestnut Prailine Lattes until Chirstmas ūüôā Oh and definitely enjoying the Holiday Turkey & Stuffing Panini¬†(while trying to forget that it packs 530 calories).

Dusting…why is it so hard? HELP!

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Well here we are…Halloween has come and gone. I know it ended less than 12 hours ago, but I suddenly feel guilty for still having any Halloween decor still up, outside or inside the house. I don’t want us to be “those” neighbors.

Suddenly all I can think about are cornucopias, turkeys, and pilgrims. I think we’ll have to endure our Halloween decor until we have time to transform our house into an “Ode to Jamestown” on Friday afternoon.

But here are my real thoughts for today. How did everything get soooooo dusty over the past few weeks? We keep our house impeccably clean! Bathrooms cleans, bed made, rugs vacuumed, furniture vacuumed, floors swiffered, pillow fluffed…but some how there is the inevitable collection of dust that accumulates much faster than I think it should. I’m sure Martha Stewart’s house, or houses/farms/estates rather, are never dusty (let’s just chose not to think about the army of people she employs to make sure of this).

And as much as I love to clean, I HATE to dust. And I’m not really sure that I know how. I have memories of my mom using Pledge Lemon furniture polish and then Orange Glo when that changed the world in the 90s. The wood surfaces in our house always smelled like citrus and were unusually slippery. But, we don’t have any real wood in our house and I’m not sure what to do.

What I do: Currently, I use a Swiffer Duster .¬† This little beauty magically traps dust while I frolic about the house thinking that I’m doing something amazing. But, then the dust comes back all to soon. Then I inevitably end up begrudgingly slaving around the house with a damp cleaning cloth trying to pick up all the dust. It never seems to work…and there’s not the satisfyingly wonderful, yet seemingly toxic,citrus smell.

WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?

Please tell me how you dust. I’d really love to know. Do you use the Swiffer too, furniture polish, some magic tool I have yet to discover? Please please please share your dusting secrets, or any other secrets for that matter ūüėČ with me.