Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kid-free Thanksgiving

How do you spend a kid-free Thanksgiving Break?

One of the things you learn to appreciate about being a divorced parent, though it takes some getting used to, is time away from your children. It's hardest on the holidays, namely because holidays are meant to be shared with those closest to you, but also because holidays include extended time with the other parent.

This year Marc's kids and my kids were away for the entire Thanksgiving Break. Sometimes when we have several kid-free and work-free days in a row, we take the opportunity for a road trip to Oklahoma City (or Vegas) or some other kind of mini-vacay. However, since we did recently drop quite a bit of cashola on a wedding-ola and honeymoon-ola, we decided it might be best to stay close to home.

So, how do you spend a kid-free Thanksgiving Break?

Well, exciting or not, here's how we spent ours! Five whole days with no work and no kiddos...

First, we made a big mess cooking lots of delicious food for friends and for Thanksgiving dinner, and left it there. A while.

And I caught up on a lot of sewing. Uninterrupted. Not even by Marc!

Marc cleaned out a huge closet full of things that needed to be sorted and organized,

and thrown out!

We cleaned out another closet too...this is just the pile of stuff we kept. We gave away at least two equally sized piles of blankets, mattress toppers, and junk!

We kept cleaning, moving and finding MORE stuff...

We made a trip to Whole Foods, one of our favorite places to shop that we don't get to go to often, and bought some delicious and wonderful food. Then we, well Marc, made an amazing meal of braised lamb chops, roasted baby carrots and fingerling potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts (which were AMAZING) for some wonderful and special guests. I would say that I played a part in the evening, but I ruined the artichoke appetizer. I guess I sliced the cheese and placed the crackers on the plate okay...

...and we let our nephew turn the Littles' room into WW III, which they would normally get in big trouble about!

I finished a triple baby sling order - Booyah!

Then we PAINTED!

We finally finished the house painting project we started last OCTOBER!!

It is SUCH a good feeling to get that done and get our place cleaned up. Woo!

Then, on our final kid-free night, we headed out for an unexpectedly, and much needed, fancy meal at Smoke on Cherry Street. Be on the lookout for my review on Tulsa Kids blog, Honeybee Mama. It was outstanding!

We also saw two movies (actually IN a movie theater), spent some great time with my bubba and sis-in-law, attempted some Black Friday shopping (and failed, but had some awesome Village Inn breakfast), and slept in at least one of those days. One day I woke up at 3:45 unable to go back to sleep (hence all the productive sewing time), and the next day Marc woke up at 2 never to return to his slumber! What's wrong with us?!

It was a Happy Turkey Day, and we were very happy to have kids back home with us Sunday night! what point do I reeeeaaaally have to start decorating for Christmas? There's another good reason we did a lot of cleaning and organizing!

Love and Honey, kids!

Monday, November 28, 2011

{my moment}

{my moment}
A moment captured from the week that captured my heart.
A Friday (or Monday when Thanksgiving Break screws up all sense of time and reality)
ritual inspired by Soulemama.

This week (which was really last week) is a tie between two.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link in your comment to your moment so we can share with you!
Happy Lovies!

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Thanksgiving Stuffing

I only make it once a year, and I make it from scratch. Well, mostly from scratch. This year I did use one little "trick" as you'll see.

I start with fresh bread. No stuffing in a bag that says "just add water." I use sourdough, french, and seeded rye.

Slice everything into big, fat chunks and pile it up onto baking sheets. Ignore the pizza tray - at present I can only locate one of our cookie sheets. At one time we had three. The kids probably took them outside to build a rocket ship or something...but that's another blog post.

Then I spray the top liberally with cooking spray (cheap option - better would be drizzling with olive oil) and several pats of butter. Give a good liberal sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground peppercorns.

Place in a 250 degree oven. It will take almost an hour for everything to toast just right. You'll need to turn once or twice throughout baking time so you get the moisture out of every bread chunk. You can also reapply butter and/or oil when you turn the pieces.

Meanwhile, start chopping your veggies. I like big chunks of carrots, onion and celery.

Saute in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan, and a good "knob" of butter as Jamie Oliver would say! Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute over medium-high heat.

Cook until veggies are soft, then add 2-3 teaspoons of minced garlic. This is one of my new favorite finds. Of COURSE fresh garlic is better, but this is a time saver and definitely convenient!

Turn off the heat once you add the garlic, and remove from the burner after you've turned everything a few times - you don't want your garlic to burn!

By this time, you've probably turned your bread pieces a couple of times, and there's far less steam coming from the oven as the moisture is released. Pull out those toasted, buttery bread chunks and chop up your fresh herbs. Rosemary, thyme and sage.

Dump your bread chunks into a large roasting pan, and start piling up your sauteed veggies on top.

Then, I add dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. This year I did add one packaged item I found unopened in my pantry. These salad topping combos are really yummy additions for recipes like this, and especially granola and cookies.

I also added regular dried cranberries and chopped walnuts.

Mix it all up,

and toss in those fresh herbs!

Then cover with two cartons of reduced sodium chicken broth.

Mix well so all pieces get wet, sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper, crank up the oven to 350, and bake uncovered. Stuffing will cook for about an hour, or until everything is moist, but not soggy, and a little crispy on top. You will need to go in and turn everything 3-4 times to make sure you don't have mush in the bottom of the pan and croutons on top!

The worst part about this post is I don't have a picture of the finished product! How horrible am I?! As soon as I pulled it out of the oven it was time for us to get out of the house and over to my Momma's for Thanksgiving Dinner. Before I sat down to start typing I thought I might be able to get a decent pic of leftovers, but apparently my wonderful and delightful husband polished those off in a midnight snack last night! Grrrr...

I'll tell you this though, the color of bread and veggies will be significantly darker than the above pictures. Think about toasted bread - with the oil, butter, herbs, broth and heat you'll end up with a walnutty color by the end of cooking time, and there is no gravy needed for this stuffing!


Love and Honey,

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Twihard Saga

As promised, here's my Mama Monday post, arriving on Tuesday. I'm posting late because the activity I wanted to write about happened yesterday evening: three moms going out on the town to watch the latest installment of the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn Part I.

Yep, along with oh so many ladies in their mid twenties and thirties, I am engrossed with Bella, Edward, Jacob, the werewolves and the Volturi. So are my two best friends. In fact, I started reading them because one of them brought the first book, Twilight, to work one day so I could see if I liked it. I think I completed the book in about three days. And that was as a single mom with two kids under the age of three and a full time job!

So what if it's technically found in the Young Adult section of the book store? As soon as I started reading that first book, I connected with something in the heroine of the series, Bella. No matter our age, I think there is something that remains from childhood and adolescence inside us. Hopes and dreams, insecurities and searching for true love - they're universal sentiments we all share. Especially as women, we identify as we read the story from Bella's point of view.

Remember the first time you held hands with a boy in 7th grade, or how it felt when you made eye contact with the cutest boy in school across the high school cafeteria? Heart pounding, a lump in your throat, you were frightened and elated all at the same time. Those are the emotions author Stephenie Meyer captures so perfectly in her writing, and that's what grabbed me.

When I read the series, I was nearing the end of my divorce "saga" and trudging the trenches of single motherhood, working hard every moment of every day to succeed in my job, raise my children well, and pay off debt so I could land a place of my own (instead of my mom's). I read while I had my coffee in the morning, during my lunch break at work, and cracked it open again the second I got those little boys in their beds at night. When I'd leave work at the end of the day, I imagined Edward's silver Volvo waiting for me at the door instead of having to walk all the way to the parking lot. Honestly, I think I was dating him right along with Bella!

Though the storyline revolves around vampires, werewolves, and in this final installment, vampire-human offspring, that's not what I clung to when reading the series. The pure and innocent love story between two people (well, one non person) is what kept me coming back for more. And that's just what draws us in when we see the movies as well.

Let's be honest, the movies come across pretty cheese, like an amped up version of a CW show. I do think Breaking Dawn has the best acting of the three, but I'm not really a movie critic so I won't pretend to write a real review here. We weren't there for the acting or special effects; we were there for mommy time and to relive the enchantment we felt when reading about Bella, Edward, Jacob. Cheesy or not, seeing the books acted out on the big screen reminds you of all those moments as they happened in the book. It's also fun to whisper and giggle with your best friends and say, "That's not how it happened in the book," or "I can't believe they left out the best part!"

As three moms of littles, we were ecstatic to get out with just the girls and have some, well, almost grown-up time. So excited in fact, I neglected to get a single picture of the evening! I could have at least gotten a pic of all us girls dressed up (yes, we dressed up for a Monday night out with each other and imaginary vampires - hey, we don't get out much!) in front of the Breaking Dawn poster! I'm pretty sure it'll be a while before I'm thinking completely linear after that opening scene of Jacob with his shirt off.

The highlight of the evening though, was Megan and me trying to figure out how to pay for our popcorn and drinks. I needed to pay her back for the movie pass, then she gave that money back to me since we were splitting the popcorn. Then I opted for the Twilight Collector's Cup. Then we realized after we paid the outrageous amount that it hadn't afforded us two drinks, just the one collector's drink, and refills for the special cup were another whopping three bucks! Through our sticker shock we decided to just share the one drink.

At least I got a picture of the cup.

And I'll think about how much it cost me every time I drink out of it!

I had a blast with my girls, and I hope they're with me next year when the final movie comes out as well. Maybe next time we get together we'll do something distinctly grown-up, like sip martinis while gambling and talking about npr...or something like that!

Still Team Edward,

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mom's Kona Banana Bread

In our family, it is an oh so special treat. Growing up, my brother and I would be so excited when we could smell that familiar, warm and toasty fragrance: banana bread. Sometimes I think the only reason she even bought bananas was to make it. At least...I never really ate bananas growing up...

The recipe is called "Kona Banana Bread." I'm not sure where she found the recipe or why it's called Kona, but that's what it is! Here's my well loved (and splattered) recipe card.

It all starts with a couple of really ripe bananas.

If they're bright yellow or green, not only will the bananas be harder to mush up, your bread won't be as sweet. So, just wait until they're good and brown!

Then, start with one stick (1/2 cup) of butter. We always had margarine in our fridge growing up, so that's what I used for this recipe. Butter butter is fine too, I just like to make it like Mom did!

Add one cup of sugar.

Cream butter and sugar until incorporated and fluffy. Mom always used a fork, but I opted for my mixer this time.

Then, add 2 eggs, "one at the time" as Paula Deen would say. She always cracks them into a separate bowl, just in case you get a bad one. I don't think I've ever seen a bad egg, but I don't want to ruin a perfectly good batch of whatever-it-is, so I'll take her advice! Mix those up until it's nice and creamy.

Now, the recipe calls for 3/4 cup mashed bananas. I'm not sure how you would magically know that a certain size or length of banana would equal 3/4 cup, but regardless, Mom always used 2 medium to large sized bananas. I think that's the main "secret" to her bread; the extra banana makes the bread really moist!

Mush up your bananas with a fork. It should be super easy since they're nice and ripe!

Add those to your wet mixture and blend them in.

Then, the fun part! I have very few recipes that I make regularly that require my nifty little sifter, and this is one of them. Add one and one fourth* cup of all purpose flour,

 3/4 teaspoon baking soda,

1/2 teaspoon salt,

and crank that little arm to sift it into your wet ingredients!

One more final mix,

And pour into a loaf pan, greased with butter (that's how my mom used to do it - with a napkin and a nob of butter!) or sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake for one hour in a preheated 350 degree oven. It takes a good hour since it's so moist to bake just right. I always set my timer for 45 minutes (since the recipe says 45 min - 1 hour), but it always takes an hour!

It should be dark and crusty along the edges and dark yellowy-tan on the inside. A toothpick, knive or fork should come out clean. Tada!

Slice and enjoy with a big ole glass of milk. It's delicious slathered with butter while it's warm, or cream cheese too! The kids gobbled up most of this loaf this morning before school. Not a bad way to start the day if you ask me!

Mom's Kona Banana Bread

1//2 cup (one stick) of softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup mashed bananas (2 bananas)
1 1/4 cup* sifted all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add one egg at a time, then incorporate bananas. Sift together flour, soda and salt and incorporate into wet mixture. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for 45min-1 hour.

Love and honey,

*This blog post has been edited as of November 28, 2012. Thanks to a reader pointing out my goof, I have adjusted the recipe at the bottom of the post to reflect that the flour measurement for the bread should be 1 and 1/4 cups instead of just one cup. The original post mentioned only one cup in both the tutorial and the printed recipe at the bottom, although my mother's recipe card at the top of the post says 1 1/4c. My apologies to anyone who has had a botched batch up until now!

Friday, November 18, 2011

{my moment}

A moment captured from the week that captured my heart.
*Note - This moment is from the week in October before our wedding,
not this current week. Posting now since I was too busy to post there for a while! 
A Friday ritual inspired by Soulemama.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link in your comment to your moment!
Happy Weekend Lovies!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

{haiku wednesday}

measuring, cutting
sunshine, coffee and sewing
table worn with love


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