Have a WOW thanksgiving

Hello!It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. This is because…I’m pregnant. I’m thrilled and excited to welcome a little girl in March. But it means that all the free time I previously used to craft and blog, has been taken over by the all important sleepingvand vomiting. It seems really unfair to have the harder pregnancy second, when there’s a toddler you need to care for regardless of how you feel. Nothing like the feeling of someone climbing on you as you puke. Or a toddler who refuses all food except the one that makes you queasy. But at 25 weeks I’m starting to feel better, and we are approaching one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving

When we moved out of our one bedroom apartment into a place big enough for a dining table, I called dibs. Thanksgiving is one of the big holidays in my family, and in my opinion, the most fun. 

You know those crafts and tablescapes you see in home and garden magazines and Pinterest and think, who on earth actually does that? Well, me I do. I drive my family crazy in the process, but it’s my thing, deal with it. There’s an inverse bell curve over my excitement of these crazy projects. While I’m currently at the point where I’d be willing to throw the whole thing out if I wasn’t afraid of hearing I told you so, I’m sure by the time it’s all put together I’ll be thrilled. Or at least I’ll pretend to be while promising myself it’ll be different next year.

Two years ago was my first time hosting. I had a 8 month old and was insistent on doing all the cooking myself. Because so many members of my family have food restrictions, I did end up delegating some, but most of it was on me and my poor husband who hadn’t really understood what he had obligated himself to when he agreed to host. That’s on him though, he attended our wedding, he knows who he married.We didn’t have nearly enough dishes for everyone, and our dishes didn’t really go with the theme I had planned. I thought maybe we could get mix and match china from the thrift store, but my aesthetically opinionated husband thought that would look terrible and agreed to buy service for 16 in white at the dollar store. I was thrilled, I was worried he was going to insist we mix our plates with some borrowed from my mother and call it a day. That would have been more practical, but it really would have ruined the “look,” and for all his complaints about my crazy projects I know mismatched dishes would make him itchy.

With leaves out table seats 12. Which is bigger than we almost ever need, but not big enough for thanksgiving. We got a card table to add on, but even with matching tablecloths, the widths were different. So we got a board the length of our card table but the width of our dining table cut at Home Depot. Since it’s only a few inches different on either side, it does well to extend the table top under the cloth. So far no one has put too much pressure and flipped it. 

I already had one of these red and orange table cloths, since it fit with the season, I bought a second. But I wasn’t really sure how to make this color scheme modern and stylish. I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, “ oh I just saw this in a magazine” and sent me a link. I wasn’t sure if it would be too much without the white table cloth, but she assured me it would work. And it did 


The Monday before thanksgiving I had anxiously ordered red napkins. They weren’t QUITE right, but I was all in at this point. I sent my husband to the store for orange flowers. He came back with carnations because apparently he can’t read my mind to know I NEEDED tulips. Also, carnations were the only orange flower they had at the grocery store. There were a lot of crafts that didn’t get done, the custom printed leftover boxes that looked like pie, the bunting that said “thankful” in golden script. In retrospect trying that hard might have been embarrassing, also I’ll just start earlier next year (I’ve never gotten to these projects). In the end worked out beautifully, and everyone agreed I could do it again, including my husband who ended up responsible for 90% of the cleaning aftarwards and cooking the actual turkey (after much research he spatchcocked it without a brine. It worked very well and if you’re interested please consult Serious Eats). He might regret it at this point, but it’s too late now we’re heading in on year three and this holiday is officially MINE!

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Living Centerpiece IKEA Hack

I have a confession: I have a beautiful home. It’s tastefully yet interestingly decorated. It’s functional and beautiful. It’s relatively clean. That’s not really my confession. My confession is I have almost nothing to do with this. My husband, in addition to his many other talents, has an amazing eye. When people compliment my home, I always feel a little shame knowing they assume I chose the design.

Truth is, if a decision isn’t made almost instantly, I get anxious. If it were up to me, we would have bought the the first house we looked at. Conversely, my husband will carefully consider every option for the smallest decision. It drives me crazy, but we have a lovely home.

I love the way fresh flowers look on the table, but it’s not really practical to buy a fresh bunch every week. There are some nice fake flowers, but hubs is a snob about stuff like that. So, his most recent project was a living centerpiece for our dining table, almost entirely made from stuff from ikea. 

  

  

 Nice, right?  

I don’t have in progress pictures, because I didn’t do the project

He bought 3 of these bowls

 

and lined the bottom with river rocks (which apparently they don’t sell at ikea any more but you can get at home depot 

The plant section of ikea is filled with mostly plastic plants, but hidden in plain sight are some real ones. These plants are hearty- I mean they live in an ikea. He picked out a mix of succulents and cacti gently flattened the dirt and roots, and aranged them on top of the pebbles. He added a little potting soil we had in the basement, just to make it even. Then he put another layer of pebbles and that’s it. I assume he’s going to water them now and then, though I don’t really know for sure- plants stress me out.

Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Bars

I was invited to a gigantic BBQ for memorial day, so I needed something impressive to bring. After crowdsourcing suggestions, I stumbled upon this recipe after someone suggested a different recipe from this site. I’m a BIG fan of salty sweet combo, and we’re a dark chocolate house, so it seemed like a good fit. But pie didn’t seem like the most practical thing to bring to a BBQ. I figured I could switch the recipe into bars fairly easily. I also doubled the recipe due to the number of guests 

Crush the Oreos in the food processor, or by hand. I had to do it in two batches because two packages of Oreos won’t fit in my food processor, but it was still quick work.

  Cut two sticks of butter into chunks and melt them in a microwave safe dish for 30 seconds. Stirring should melt any remaining pieces, but, if some remain, microwave for 15 seconds until melted.

  Mix the melted butter into the cookie crumbs until incorporated.

 Line a 9”X13” cake pan with parchment paper, making sure the sides of the pan are covered as well as the bottom. I used baking spray to grease the parchment paper. Pour the cookie mixture into the pan and pound it flat with the bottom of a heavy glass. Then freeze the crust for 10 minutes.

Cut two more sticks of butter into chunks and throw them in a small sauce pan. Add 1 1/3 cups of brown sugar and mix over medium heat until it begins to bubble. (As I write this, I wonder if I actually let it bubble – I don’t remember bubbles.)


Cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat and stir in half a cup of whipping cream.

Let it sit for 15 minutes and then pour it on top of the cookie crust. Spread the mixture evenly and put the cake pan back in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. Now this is important – make sure the pan is flat in the freezer. Otherwise, the caramel will pool in a corner. Not only will your caramel be uneven, but the structural integrity of the bar will be fucked up.

When you’re almost ready to take the pan out of the freezer, put 24 OZ of dark chocolate chips into a large microwave safe bowl. Melt the chips at 30-second intervals, stirring in between.


When the chips are melted, add two cups of whipping cream and stir until it looks chocolatey and shiny. Pour the chocolate over the caramel and freeze for another 30 minutes. Then place the cake pan in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

  
Slice into bars of desired size. They are very rich, so I’d go small and let people have seconds. Right before serving, sprinkle some sea salt on top. Table salt will work if that’s all you have, but it won’t give the same visual flourish.


These were a huge hit at the BBQ. One guy called them life changing! Just so you know, I was speaking from experience when I wrote about freezing the caramel on an uneven surface. The bars fell apart that were cut from the side where the caramel pooled. The chocolate slid right off as the caramel oozed out. Still delicious, but less impressive… And we all know how important it is to be impressive. Also, as far as BBQ food goes, these are not the ideal dessert to have out in the sun. I’m sure the people who got to them early had a cleaner experience. If I did this over again, I’d probably make mini pies in cupcake wrappers, so that you get the hand held dessert, but with a little more protection from it dripping down your hand. Also, mini pies would be much easier to transport in my awesome cupcake caddy—which is also very impressive.

 

Watermelonade

We’re potty training! My kid proved his readiness by just refusing to pee on day one. Not in the potty, not on the floor. He went five hours. It was clear I needed to push liquid to move the learning along, but there was a problem. We mostly give water because, you know, that’s what they tell you to do now a days, and juice isn’t something we typically keep in the house. I’m not pretending we’ve got perfect nutrition. In fact, the main reason we don’t keep juice around is because drinking it would really cut into my diet soda and coffee time. As a result, we’ve been pretty good at the the no juice thing…so good, that my kid won’t drink it. He won’t drink milk either, just water. So pushing liquid was pretty much just me offering water, which he mostly rejected.

I had the brilliant idea – what if mommy made an extra special yummy juice? This is less a recipe than an experiment determined by ingredients in my fridge. It started out as a lemonade, but I only had 3 lemons. I also had 3 limes, so lemon/limeade? Why not. I had entirely forgotten about half a watermelon in my fruit drawer that was still good.

  My kid gobbled up a few pieces of the watermelon I had cut up, so I cubed the rest of it. I juiced the lemons/limes and forced the juice through a sieve into the blender.

 Then I threw in a bunch of watermelon, poured in enough cold water to mostly cover it, and blended.

 I  added half a cup of sugar and blended more. Then I poured it all through the sieve again into this glass carafe that makes me feel like I’m playing restaurant (fancy!).

 I topped it off with  carbonated water to give it a little fizz…

 And a few shakes of salt to bring out the sweet. (Also, if the salt made my kid thirsty, he’d drink more, right?)

End result: my kid hated it!

But I liked it. So serve this at some fancy BBQ. Maybe put some liquor in it? Don’t tell anyone this drink was born out of potty training desperation.

 And the potty training, it’s going ok.

Ingredients

  • 3 lemons
  • 3 limes
  • ¼ watermelon cubed
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • cold water
  • carbonated water
  • pinch of salt

Tools

  • Citrus juicer
  • Sieve
  • Blender

Juice lemons and limes. Pour juice through a sieve into the blender. Add watermelon and enough water to blend. (The amount of water needed will depend on the quality of your blender.) Blend to a puree. Add sugar to taste, and blend again. Pour juice through the sieve into a pitcher. Add carbonated water to taste. Shake in salt, and stir. Enjoy.

Table for my Toddler

I made a thing! This project has been on deck for a few months, and I finally did it. You see, I have this gorgeous dining room table. It’s made from reclaimed wood and virtually unfinished, perfect for a two year old to ruin. This isn’t one of those special occasion tables either, we eat almost every meal on it. Lately, my kid has even taken to eating his snacks there rather than the kitchen counter which is our other seating option.

Obviously, keeping the table clean has been a problem. My solutions have been tablecloths, which require being washed after every meal, and placemats, which don’t cover enough for my messy family. My solution is a wipeable table cover that straps on to the table.
I got two yards of faux leather vinyl and threw it over the table wrong side up. I pinned the corners in place and cut it to fit. Then I sewed some edging on, before sewing up the corners. Finally, I added elastic on all four corners to hold it tight to the table.

I love it! The table looks fine, and it makes everything easier. It cuts steps out of setting and cleaning up. I’ll take it off in I ever need to be fancy, but day to day I can leave it on and wipe it clean.

Go me,
 Look how innocuous it is
  

  Pinned and cut

  The notched out corners

  Sewing the edges

  
The elastic holding it on

  

   

Complete! 

  
It’s first meal

Birthday success (what I live for)

I did it guys. I threw this fucking party. It almost killed me and my parenting took a real nose dive in the short term, but I did it. It wasn’t perfect. I could write a list longer than this blog of things I didn’t get to, but that would probably be annoying, so I’ll try to hold back on the nit picking. The one place where I really failed though, was the photos for this blog. I mean how the fuck do other bloggers do it? I mean on Go Day, I am operating at capacity. There’s not time to bring things over to the good light and take a thousand photos. I got a few quick shots with my phone and on to the next thing. Despite screaming at my family: “always be taking pictures! Do that thing where you’re not in the moment because you’re too focused on taking pictures that everyone complains about on Facebook” there’s still a lot left undocumented.
If you read my Practice cheater donuts you know I promised I was practicing for something big at my son’s birthday. I was nervous about it working out, but it worked out beautifully

Elmo donuts, and Cookie Monster donuts *tutorial coming soon*
   
Abby, Big Bird, Count, and Oscar donuts (it kills me that I forgot the Oscar eyebrows, kills me)

 I made all the decorations ahead of time out of marshmallow fondant and candy melts. Morning of I picked up 3 dozen plain donuts and dipped and decorated them. My mother in law helped me assembly line the process and was very nice about dealing with my insanity.

Also this other stuff

   
    
    
    
     

  
By the time it was time for candles, almost all the donuts were gone. The kids had a blast, my home is destroyed, I’m totally exhausted. I have plans to do nothing tomorrow to recover, but it was awesome. 

 

 

Oscar the Quiche

My son’s second birthday party is barely a week away and I have so much to do. It is a lot of work to host a Pinterest perfect birthday party, especially when you can’t start any projects until after 8:00PM. Frankly, it’s not a great idea. If you have any other way of fulfilling yourself creatively and personally, I suggest you do the other thing and order a cake from the grocery store. If you insist on going all out, you’re going to need food—themed food.

Now, sweet themed food is easy. You can decorate cakes and cookies with icing, build characters out of fondant, modeling chocolate, or marzipan, mould candy, or wrap store bought candy bars in decorative paper; you’ve been on Pinterest, you know all this. But you can’t just serve sweets at a party full of toddlers. It doesn’t matter how cool your mom friends are. There’s going to be some judgement if you don’t at least throw a carrot stick in there.

Savory food is harder to make on theme, double so for something healthy (ish). So I’m really proud of how this came out.

I present to you

BAM BA BA BAM

Oscar the Quiche

I’d love to give you a tutorial, but honestly, I did so many things wrong that it’s a wonder it came out. I went wrong trying to make a spinach quiche with a layer of cheese and egg on top. I wanted a nice white background so you could really see Oscar. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the layers mixed. To smooth it out, I just kept adding eggs, milk and cheese. I stopped measuring. The cheese formed a crust on top that made it impossible to get the spinach to stay on. Because it took so long to cook, I was up until 2:00AM. It’s a good thing my kid likes Sesame Street, because he watched a lot of it the next day. Yay super mom!

Instead of telling you what I did, I’ll tell you what I wish I did.

Blind bake a roll out pie crust according to directions on the box. Or, you know, use homemade if you’re fancy. Cut a scrap of dough for Oscar’s eyebrows and bake on a lined cookie sheet along with the crust.

 

 Find a recipe for a white quiche and prepare it. If it’s just too weird to serve a plain quiche with spinach toppings (is it weird? It feels weird, but I can’t really articulate why), layer spinach leaves at the bottom of the crust before pouring in the filling. That should work, right?

Fill the crust and bake for 10 minutes less than the recipe suggests. While it’s cooking, blend a cup of spinach in the food processor, and beat one last egg. Take the quiche out and arrange the spinach and olives into Oscar’s face. After sewing a dozen Oscar puppets, I’ve become fairly familiar with the features. Use small amounts of spinach for more control. Place the crust eyebrow in place and carefully brush the egg all over. Bake for the remaining 10 minutes.

 

 That should be it.

Oh, and I also made this far less impressive bacon snuffleupagus quiche.