Monthly Archives: November 2012

Construction rolls on slowly…

The bathroom renovations seem to be coming along slowly because of the holiday, but things are happening…behind the walls. Last week the plumbers installed the shower base and this week they replaced and relocated our pipes. In our building–because it is filled with a bunch of retired people who are around all day, who never remodel their tired apartments and who like to find things to complain about–you become really popular when you have work done. (And by popular, I mean hated.) So I wasn’t surprised at all when the guy across the hall knocked on the door to tell me how I had basically ruined his day with my construction work…

Wednesday the electrician came to work on the wiring and yesterday we passed our inspections of the electric and plumbing work. Today, the drywalling begins…

I really need to pick a paint color…pronto.

Do you know how hard it is to choose a winning grey?

(The picture above shows our shiny new pipes and our nifty new pocket door frame.)

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’tis the season (of dryness)

Winter is almost upon us. I am the first person to pull out her winter coat in the fall and the last one to put it away in the spring. (And my winter coat is one of those big, puffy longs ones…so I look pretty ridiculous walking around in it as early as September.) I hate being cold. And I hate being dry. Dry skin creeps me out and dry air in the house makes me crazy. I feel terrible when I try to pet Presley and I shock her! For the next six months, I will be fighting a (losing) battle against chills and dryness.

This summer I started using Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter. It is thick and rich and creamy and it smells like summer. I am determined to stay protected from dry, crackly skin while pretending to be on a beach in Hawaii. I used to think body butters were oily, but this one isn’t. (Or maybe my skin is just getting older more absorbent??) It’s perfect for daily use all over and it makes my nails and cuticles happy, too!

I have been using Burt’s Bees lip balm since college…it’s like an addiction around here. If I misplace it, I start feeling like my lips are drying up and I start hyperventilating…ridiculous. I sometimes wonder if it really works since I have to keep applying it all of the time…

Do you have a winter beauty routine? Any products you love and can’t live without?

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Christopher Kimball at Unity Temple

Last night, Naoto & I had the pleasure of listening to a talk about the science of cooking with Christopher Kimball. The event was held at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, where Naoto & I got married. Mr. Kimball is the host of America’s Test Kitchen on PBS and the founder of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Naoto and I watch America’s Test Kitchen whenever we can, and we especially love the equipment tests and Christopher Kimball’s geeky wit. I was happy to see that he wore his signature bow tie, though I missed his red apron. (I suppose it would be weird for him to wear it outside of the kitchen…) What I liked best about the night was that Christopher Kimball was able to debunk a few myths about cooking–things that you hear TV “chefs” claiming all of the time. (Example: Searing meat does not “hold in the juices”.) It’s nice to know the Test Kitchen is out there trying recipes hundreds of times and getting it right so I only have to try it once.

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my mom’s twinkie cake

When Hostess filed for bankruptcy the week of Thanksgiving (which, for the record, is very sad to me…even though I have probably only eaten five Twinkies in my whole life and even though hopefully some other brand might buy the product rights and the Twinkie may make its comeback in the future), I joked to my mom that she should bring her Twinkie cake for Thanksgiving dessert. I know, I know…we followed our completely traditional Thanksgiving meal with something completely nontraditional…it was delicious!

This is one of those old-school recipes that I loved as a child. Ahhh…the innocence of childhood…when I didn’t realize that blue can of Crisco was filled with artery-clogging hydrogenated oil…sigh…Now, as a semi-responsible adult, I am a label reader and I manage to talk myself out of many treats that list hydrogenated oil in the ingredients. I make an occasional exception (Chewy Sweettarts are one.) and to me, this Twinkie cake is one of the best exceptions.

This recipe comes from my mom’s recipe box, and her recipe says it comes from her mom’s kitchen. (We all have these recipe cards in our recipe boxes.) I’m sure my grandmother found the recipe somewhere else, maybe from one of those church cookbooks where recipes get passed around to all of the members of the tiny, small-town congregation. And, I should also say that this cake isn’t meant to be one of those fake-out recipes…it doesn’t taste exactly like a Twinkie. It lacks the weird sponginess and the sugary, light and fluffy filling. The cake (from a box-mix) is dense and moist and the filling is rich and creamy. It has the spirit of a Twinkie, but it is decidedly homemade (and delicious.)


Twinkie Cake

Box of Yellow cake mix
Prepare cake per directions.
Bake in jelly roll pan

For the filling:

5 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
Cook over low heat until thick like paste.  Cool

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oleo*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Crisco
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat well. Cream together until fluffy.
Add the thick flour & milk mixture once cooled. Beat again until fluffy.

Slice cooled cake in half. Spread fluffy filling on half & then put remaining half on top.
Refrigerate. ENJOY!!

If you’d like to make a HoHo cake, use chocolate cake mix instead.

In spite of the fact that my dad ate three (!!!) pieces on Thanksgiving, we still had some cake leftover for Naoto & I to enjoy over the weekend. mmmm…




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the season of Turkey leftovers…

We cook a fifteen pound bird for Thanksgiving dinner, and since we were only feeding five people, we had some a lot of leftovers. On Saturday night, we made Mexican turkey soup, a modified Ina Garten–better known as the Barefoot Contessa–recipe. It was the perfect recipe for our leftovers because we got to use up the rest of the turkey and the leftover celery and carrots from the dressing.

Mexican Turkey Soup-

original recipe here, or it can be found in Barefoot Contessa At Home.

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, chopped

2.5 quarts chicken stock (or turkey stock if you made some)

28oz whole tomatoes, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

leftover turkey (Ina’s recipe calls for 2 whole chicken breasts, we used about 4 cups of turkey)

salt & pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, cook your carrots and celery in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. (Please don’t burn the garlic.) Then add the stock, the can of tomatoes, cumin, coriander, cilantro and leftover turkey. Bring everything to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

We garnished our soup with store-bought tortilla chips and fresh avocado and finished everything off with a squeeze of lime. The lime makes the soup.

You can also top the soup with shredded cheddar or sour cream.

Either way, don’t forget about the lime.


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This was my Thanksgiving…

Another Thanksgiving is behind us…it’s all a little sad for both Naoto and me–we love hosting a party, even a small one of my parents and our friend, Santron. Even though the guest list was small, the food was plentiful! We had all of the classics: the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing (we make this one every year–it’s Naoto’s signature dish!), green bean casserole (I caved for the classic, although we used the Trader Joe’s stuff and it was much lighter than the Campbells version!), fresh veggies (courtesy of Santron), Hawaiian rolls (courtesy of my mom) and Kathy’s grandma’s cranberry sauce…I made it on Wednesday and I am a cranberry sauce convert…the cognac makes it delectable!

For dessert, my mom made a Twinkie cake, in honor of the “late, great” snack.

The table was half planned, and half happy accident. On Wednesday night I cut a long sheet of kraft paper and made a table runner. I used my fancy gold paint to draw feathers and polka dots. My mom brought up some pheasant feathers (from my dad’s “feather collection”) that I used with my glittery votives to fill out the center of the table. I forgot to buy flowers so my mom mentioned my jade plant (purchased this summer at Trader Joes) as an option. It’s in a copper pot, so it was kind of perfect. (Well, probably not perfect for Sandra Lee, Queen of the Tablescape, but perfect for us.) I finished off the table with a tiny turkey, a gift from my parents earlier this fall.

For the place cards, I used acorns from this Paper Source garland kit (not available again until next fall). I was in a neutral & metallic mood apparently…


The meal ended with a table viewing of Psy and MC Hammer singing at this year’s American Music Awards…clearly it will be a meal I never forget.

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Happy Thanksgiving!


I am getting in just under the wire to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! Today got away from me with table preparations, last minute cleaning and keeping the chef on track–between Naoto’s cooking skills and my nagging and timing reminders, we somehow get the meal on the table!

So, I’m going to sleep with a thankful heart…


Christmas came early…


Davids Tea teapot

…in the form of a teapot.

I am an avid coffee drinker (obviously, you know this from these posts). But lately, especially in the afternoons, I’ve been drinking tea. Part of it is out of pure laziness–it’s way less mess to boil some water, grab a mug, pop in a teabag and enjoy than it is to boil the water, grind the beans, measure it all out into the French press… The other part is that it just feels nice to take a little afternoon break and have a spot of tea (read with a British accent) to warm up. So, I’ve started buying a few teas again and I asked for a teapot for Christmas (the specific teapot above, actually). Last night, on his way home from work, Naoto stopped and got it for me so that we could start using it tomorrow for Thanksgiving. Yay for early Christmas presents! And, as a bonus, it came with two free tiny teacups!

The teapot is from here. Davids Tea deserves a post all its own–soon!

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Thanksgiving Preparations Roll On…


I’m still working on cleaning up the spare room and wiping down well, everything in our home…construction dust does not stay in the construction area…lesson learned.

I also looked over our recipes and made my shopping list and did *almost* all of the grocery shopping. I say “almost” because I can never get it done in one shot, no matter how hard I try or how many lists I make. Upon returning home from the store, I realized we haven’t come up with a solution for cranberry sauce…canned or homemade? I admit that I really love the canned jelly stuff…it might be the noise it makes as it exits the can, it might be it’s jiggly can form, it might be that it’s a familiar friend at the table every year…I enjoy having it around. But I’m also intrigued with making my own…and it’s something that can be made the day before, so I feel like taking a stab at it. What’s the worst that can happen? If it’s a disaster, we can always open the expired can from the back of my cupboard! (just kidding…)

While I’m cleaning, I’m also contemplating what the table will look like. The table is my favorite part, but I never give it the time it deserves…mainly because I leave it for the last minute! I’m thinking candles, kraft paper, my new favorite gold paint, and feathers will be involved…but that’s all I’ve got. Hopefully I’ll be back tomorrow with some accomplishments…



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Thankful Quotes

Almost all of my Thanksgiving invitations in past years have included a quote about being thankful. (The 2008 invitations above included a quote from Willie Nelson.)

I, like most people I suppose, am a big fan of quotes. I love having little bits of wisdom to think about or turn to when I’m stuck or sad, or happy and thankful. I always notice good quotes, but I don’t always take note of them (except for on this Pinterest board), so one of my goals for the upcoming days is to always write down sayings or words of wisdom or song lyrics that speak to me. And actually just yesterday, as I was Tweet lamenting my compared failure at coming up with a good Thanksgiving table, Donovan reminded me of this: Comparison is the thief of joy.

So, while I am digging out our spare room–which by the way is already a complete dumping ground for ongoing projects, hoarded craft supplies, and home improvement tools but now has also become the dumping ground for the contents of one closet and the master bath–please enjoy these grateful quotes. Some I have used for Thanksgivings past. If you have any grateful quotes to add, please include them in the comments! I love expanding my world of words to live by!

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. -William Arthur Ward

Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart. -Henry Clay

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -John F. Kennedy

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. -Marcel Proust

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. -A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others. -Marcus Tullius Cicero

When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around. –Willie Nelson

Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart. -Seneca

God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart. –Izaak Walton

For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything thy goodness sends. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. –Henry Ward Beecher

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