Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Holiday Traditions

I can remember being on some parenting listserv (maybe misc.kids; maybe Parent-L) when C. was little and people were discussing holiday traditions. I picked up a few from that discussion and thought I'd share them.

First of all, being the children's book lover that I am, we do an Advent Calendar with Holiday books. The eventual goal (we may be there this year...) is to have 24 Holiday-themed books. When you get out your holiday decorations after Thanksgiving, wrap each book in wrapping paper and set it out under the tree. Starting with December 1st (or later if you don't have 24 books yet), each night one child gets to pick a "present" to unwrap and we read the book as a family. Some of the books are wonderful classics that we look forward to every year and that are always the first opened. Some are really silly, goofy stories that get read once a year and that's it. And some are even Christmas board books from C's first Christmas!

The other tradition we have is to give new pajamas for Christmas Eve! It doesn't matter where we are on Christmas eve, the kids each get to open a present that contains new (but already-washed) pajamas. They get to wear them that night and then they have new jammies for Christmas morning pictures! My Sister-In-Law does this, but adds one element--the pajamas always arrive from Rudolph (the kids find them on the porch).

Oh, wait! I guess you'd call it a tradition... when I was growing up, my brother and I always got to exchange each other's presents on Christmas Eve. It took an edge off of the overwhelming excitement of waiting until Christmas morning, and we really appreciated the gifts to/from each other. Now that we often spend Christmas Eve at my in-law's, we allow our kids to open their gifts to each other the day BEFORE Christmas Eve.

I'd love to hear anyone else's holiday traditions!

Found this link at Kiddley with another neat advent idea...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Trader Joe's--Looking for Suggestions

A little over a week ago, a Trader Joe's opened in the Milwaukee area. I had heard such wonderful things about TJ's since I entered the online world and could not WAIT to try it out.

I've been twice (the first time was on opening day and I wouldn't recommend that! craziness...) and bought several things, some which I enjoyed and others which I have not.

First, the good things:
Trader Giotto's Bruschetta in a jar (this was DIVINE as a pasta sauce and on toasted bread)
Some brand of shelf-stable gnocchi (very reasonable... like $1.29 and great texture!)
Hearth-baked Italian bread (also very good, though it had big air holes in it)
TJ's raspberry preserves (yummy, fresh raspberry taste)

I picked up some "two buck chuck" (actually $2.99 here)--a merlot and a chardonnay--and while not the best wine I've had, it was totally drinkable and inexpensive!

But the truly yucky things were:
Dark chocolate covered ginger snaps (would have been fine, but the bottoms of the cookies were this styrofoam-type material... gag!)
Organic, Free-range chicken broth (tasted like water but with a funky smell--digusting!)

While we were in the store, we tried some hummus (very garlicky and yummy) and cherry cider (good, but too pricey for my blood at $4 something). We also bought a nut and dried fruit mix for C the vegetarian, but haven't tried that yet.

So please help me! I can see the appeal and some of the things I've tried have been wonderful, but I don't want to have a lot of costly mistake purchases, either.

:) Thanks in advance...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cable knit set

I'm pretty proud of this one...

One of C's dearest friends just had a birthday (the party is tonight) and we were struggling to come up with a gift. We knew that this friend, E, just got a new, cool, North Face winter jacket, and that it was such an unique color (berry) that they were having a tough time finding a hat and mittens to match. So I asked if E would like a handknit set to match.

We went to my favorite LYS, Ruhama's, and came up with two yarns: Mission Falls 1824 wool (color mallow 025) for the main color, and Tahki Bunny Print (color 23) for accent.

E decided that she'd rather have a headband than a hat, so I searched for a pattern. The headbands I'd done before had been knit the long way, and I wasn't sure how that would work with the two colors/yarns, so I tried to find something I could knit in the round. I found a cute pattern at Knitty for a headband with cables, and thought I'd give it a try!

I loved it! I did the seed stitch beginning and end with the bunny print and the rest with the 1824 wool.

Then I tried to find a nice mitten pattern with a cable, but couldn't. I ended up winging it and making a simple mitten pattern, using the bunny print for the wrists and 1824 for the rest, but adding a single cable up the back. Unfortunately, when I got 3/4 of the mitten done, I realized that I should have set off the cable with purl stitches... I held my breath and dropped two stitches on each side of the cable all the way down to the wrist. I then picked them up purlwise and was amazed that it actually worked! :) I got a little cocky with my confidence and even made the left mitten with a cable that turned the opposite way!

When I finished the second mitten, I had quite a bit of yarn left, so I decided to start a scarf. I wanted it to match, so I wrote a pattern using the cable from the headband pattern, but putting the smaller cables opposite-facing on either side of the bigger center cable. I also learned how to do cabling without a cable needle. I did need to run back and get a fourth ball of yarn to finish the scarf, but luckily they still had that dye lot!

OK, on to the pictures:
That is one L-O-N-G cable:

And a close-up of the cable pattern:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Semi-Homemade" Meal: ravioli, garlic biscuits, salad

This is one of those meals that I previously wouldn't even have posted about (I can barely take credit for "cooking" this), but since the vegetarian struck our house, I've been VERY unmotivated to cook and have been relying on the same ol, same ol... So this was one of the few "new" meals I've made in awhile.

Baked ravioli

1 package frozen ravioli (I used large round cheese ones)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I used Newman's Own Cabernet Marinara)
8 oz. shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend)
2 T. pesto (I used one of the cubes of my own homemade pesto)

Boil the ravioli according to the directions on the package. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 and heat the jar of spaghetti sauce, adding the pesto while it heats.

Drain the ravioli, and then toss it with the warmed spaghetti sauce. Pour it into a 9x13 pan and cover with the shredded cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Garlic biscuits

1 pkg. Pillsbury frozen biscuits
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic
shredded parmesan

Smash the clove of garlic and remove the skin (leave the garlic in one piece). Place it into a cup with the butter and olive oil, then microwave until the butter is melted. Dip each frozen biscuit into the buttery mixture, then put on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the top of each with some parmesan, and then bake according to the package directions


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cuban Food! Ropa Vieja, Black Beans, Fried Plantains

Ropa Vieja
from the owner/chef of Cubanitas herself

Delicious food with the funny name which means “old clothes” because when you shred the flank steak it resembles it. It’s a little time consuming, but worth the effort.


4 lb flank steak

one whole onion

one finely chopped onion

1 bay leaf

Tbsp olive oil


In a pot, put all ingredients, cover with water and boil for 1 ½ hours to 2 hours on medium heat. Remove from pot and cool. Cut the fat. Shred.


½ cup olive oil

1 medium red pepper, julienne about ¼ in thick

1 medium green pepper julienne about ¼ in. thick

finely chopped medium Spanish onion

finely chopped 3-5 cloves of garlic

¾ to 1 cup of tomato puree

½ cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf

tsp. cumin

tsp. oregano

salt to taste

black pepper to taste

In large sauté pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add peppers, onions and garlic and heat until you smell the flavors coming out. Add shredded beef, tomato sauce, bay leaf, wine, cumin, oregano, salt, black pepper. Let simmer for about 20 to allow ingredients immerse themselves. Appearance should be saucy. Remove bay leaf.

Serve over white rice. Serves 6. Can be made ahead of time and heated when needed.


My friend Amy's Cuban Black Beans

1 lb. dry black beans or 4 15 oz. cans cooked black beans (don't drain if using canned beans)
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 green pepper and 1 red pepper, chopped (or sub. can of pimento for red pepper)
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. olive oil
4 c. water
1 6 oz. can tomato paste or tomato sauce
1 T. white vinegar
2 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 t. pepper
(opt: jalapeno or hot sauce to taste)

shredded cheese, chopped tomato, sliced green onion, sour cream

Rinse and soak beans (if using dried). Saute onions, peppers and garlic in oil until tender. Add beans and rest of ingredients (except garnishes). Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about two hours, or until beans are tender and flavors are meshed.


Fried Plantains
3 mostly-ripe plantains (yellow, but not black)
olive oil and butter OR canola oil

Slice plantains at an angle into slices about 1/2 inch thick (it's sometimes easier to slice them in the peel and then remove the peeling when they're sliced). Saute lightly in a blend of oil and butter or deep fry in canola oil until they soften slightly and start to turn a golden yellow. Remove and place on wax paper. Flatten each partially-cooked plantain slice, then re-saute in oil or oil and butter until they are golden and somewhat crispy on the outside. Season with salt.

Monday, November 13, 2006

8 1/2 years old!

OK, so I'm a bit late...

Last Wednesday was T's Half Birthday.

We celebrated with the traditional half-birthday cake (I claim no responsibility for the frosting of this cake--I was on hold for the third day in a row with DirecTV):

And blowing out the candles (in case you're keeping track, he left 2 candles, so some would say that's two girlfriends...):
He had a rough week last week. It was his first week of standardized testing (moronic "No Child Left Behind") and I think the lack of routine was a bad thing. :) At least, I hope this is NOT what an 8 1/2 YO boy is like! We did, however, have a very nice time Friday afternoon doing some Christmas shopping. And a week off of seeing his friends seems to have helped bring back memories of how to be nice to his family, too.

He's still my special guy...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Target Halloween--90% off

Yay! My favorite time of year... I actually held off this year and didn't buy halloween stuff at 50% or at 75% off at Target. I did look when it was 50% off, but the one thing I was looking for (a specific adult costume) was sold out.

So here's today's haul:
It includes:

Hollographic Bat Princess costume (M's size) $1.99
Spidergirl costume (C's size) $2.49
Springy witch hat $0.49
Get booed pack (for next year) $0.42
2 pumpkin carving sets $0.39 each
Little Pumpkin and Ghost treat cups $0.29 each
Flashlight w/ image projector $0.39
Ghost garbage can $0.99
3 cat napkins (packs) and 3 bat napkins $0.29 each
Socks (for M.) $0.39
pumpkin garland $0.19
Lizard and slinky party toys $0.19 each pack
Fear Factor test tube slime $0.19
2 20 packs plastic treat bags $0.19 each
M sized candy corn tshirt $0.40
My sized bone heart tshirt $0.50
T sized "My Sister Is A Witch" tshirt $0.40
M and C sized "My Brother's a Monster" tshirts $0.40 each
T sized glow in dark bat tee $0.40
G sized dracula boxers $0.79
S'mores snack size candy bars (only candy I found) $0.21

That's a lot of fun for under $15! I also had a prescription filled and had the $10 off coupon for that.

whee!!! Can't wait for the Christmas clearance--that is the MOST fun! :)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another Booga Bag... not in love

Remember the first booga bag I made? It turned out soooo cool that I jumped on the felting bandwagon with both feet! Every Michael's coupon that I got in the Sunday paper was turned into a skein of Paton's Classic Wool for an eventual booga bag!

So I finally got to working on my second one :) It's a blend of three denim shades--a new denim, a worn denim, and a denim marl.

Here it is, fully knit:
(looking pretty cool)

But now here it is, felted and assembled:

It's okay, but not quite right. Here--see if you can tell what's wrong now, in comparison with the first booga I made:

Yeah... definitely not right. I have never re-felted and I'm a bit frightened, but off I go to try and save it. Cross fingers for me?

Oven-roasted Pot Roast; Roast veggies; butternut squash

(Vegetarian variation below)

After dissing Cee's potroast, I figured I should really post my own recipe!

Oven-roasted Pot Roast with veggies

1 2-3 lb. beef roast (chuck is the best for flavor)
salt, pepper
olive oil
beef boullion

Season roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Brown in olive oil on top of stove. Meanwhile, chop one onion finely and place it, along with a few cloves of crushed garlic, in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. When roast is browned, lay it on top of the onions and garlic. Pour in about half a cup of Merlot, 3/4 of a cup of water, and half a beef boullion cube. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake at 275 degrees for about three hours. Take the roast out of the oven, raise the temperature to 325 degrees and add in peeled and cut carrots and celery. Re-cover the pan and bake for another hour and a half until the vegetables are tender. Remove the roast and veggies from the pan (cover with foil to keep warm) and make gravy with the remaining juice (add about 1 T. flour, dissolved in 1 c. water to the drippings and heat, stirring frequently, until thickened)
roasted squash

We usually buy butternut, but I tried a different type of squash (I don't even remember what it was called). I didn't care for it as much as butternut.

Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. place the squash halves, cut side up, into a baking dish. Pour about half an inch of water into the bottom of the baking dish. Season the squash with salt and pepper and then put butter and parmesan cheese into the section where the seeds used to be. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 350 (or so) for about 45 minutes.
Mashed white and sweet potatoes

Boil peeled and quartered potatoes in water for about 15 minutes. Drain off the water, then mash the potatoes with half and half, butter, salt and pepper. Serve with gravy.
Breadsmith Italian bread

Vegetarian meal

In addition to the squash and mashed potatoes and bread, I made C. her own little container of roasted veggies (baked for that last hour and a half in veggie boullion and worchestire sauce) and vegetarian gravy made with the drippings from her roasted veggies. She said it was very good and that she couldn't imagine mashed potatoes without gravy!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dirty Rice; Macque Choux; corn muffins

Dirty Rice
Made from a Zatarain's mix, but added 12 oz. spicy sausage, fresh chopped red bell pepper and jalapeno pepper and onion.

Macque Choux
made from a combination of several recipes found online

chopped jalapeno
chopped red pepper

in olive oil until they begin to soften. Add frozen corn and heat through. Season with salt, pepper, and cajun seasoning. Add some heavy cream and Frank's red hot sauce to taste.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What Accent do you have?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

North Central

The West

The Inland North



The South

The Northeast

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Our community always does trick-or-treating on the Sunday before Halloween. Here's pictures of them in the "outdoor" version of their costumes. C. is with her friend, M2.

At the neighbor's door:

And pictures of their loot afterwards: