December 24, 2008

Gatos lindos

We've been clicking away at our kittens for a while now, catching them being cute and mischievous.

So please to enjoy a random selection of our cute kitties from this past year. I'm sure there's more to come in 2009.

Okay, so these first pix aren't even of one of our cats. Nope, this is Ember. Ember is a special lil' kitten that had a hard start to life, but thanks to Matt's sister, Lisa, Ember is doing well. In fact, we got to visit with Lisa and Ember in November, and Ember has grown quite a bit and may even be regular cat-sized now (albeit, small kitty).

These pictures, however, are from... erm, July? Ember is wee and tiny, as can be seen by her size-relative-to-PEZ measurement. (hee hee) Also, Ember is patient as all get out, and had a very short-lived career as a Roomba rider. (Sadly, no photos of this magic.)

The other cats didn't know what to make of Ember during her visit. Well, other than hiss and keep away from her. Walter, lured on by kitten play, finally braved his wee opponent and found that maybe she's not so terrifying afterall. I think he still misses her.

Learn a New Term!

Hey! Here's an exciting opportunity to learn a common phrase that we use around our household: pussy-pussy.

Pussy-pussy: one who puts the comfort of a cat above the comfort of one's self. See the tenth photo to the right. Nanc is a pussy-pussy.

Posted by Nanc at 12:46 PM | Comments (3)

PupCake Treats

I baked up two batches of doggie biscuits a few weekends ago as part of a Secret Santa gift exchange at work. A single batch makes plenty, but I wanted to try out two varieties and figured that I could gift the extras to my puppy-lovin' friends, too.

I used the Dog Treats I recipe from (I use this site a lot for new recipes, and I rely heavily on the reviews.) The recipe as listed makes "cheesy-beef" treats, and following the suggestions of many reviewers, I made the alternative peanut butter variety.

The recipe worked up as promised and the dough was easy to roll-up, which is nice because I'm not so great at the rolling pin portion of baking. I used two of my small, bento "cookie" cutters, a star (cheesy-beef) and a heart (peanut butter).

I couldn't just gift these in sandwich baggies, so I bought a few red and green plaid gift bags from The Container Store. With Matt's help, I worked up a cute label that I glued to the front of the bags. (Hopefully, this will prevent anyone from thinking that they are people cookies.)

I have no puppies of my own to taste test these treats and the neighbors weren't home either to lend their dogs. (I thought about simply 'tossing my cookies' [ha ha] over the fence, but figured that may not go over so well if caught.) Our cats seemed to enjoy the cheesy-beef flavor well enough: Walter licked at his a bit, Marie gummed a few pieces until it was mush, and Dil nom'd hers down in no time flat.

I've since heard great reviews from all recipients, even the picky pups! Many a pup owner has asked for the recipe, so I figure if they're willing to do the "work" of making these, too, they must be good. (Although, the work is really nominal.)

Merry Christmas Eve!

Posted by Nanc at 10:35 AM | Comments (2)

December 20, 2008

Like tiny, blank canvases

Matt and I have been to a few baby stores lately (go figure) and have looked at our fair share of clothes. There's some awfully cute stuff out there, but mostly if you know the sex of your baby. We don't.

Not satisfied to accept only the pale green and washed-out yellow pallet, we decided to take this matter into our own hands.

First, we purchased a few packages of the common white onsie in three different sizes (0-3 mo, 3-6 mo, and 6-9 mo). We didn't want to do all this work, only to have our child grow out of the kewl clothes so soon.

We set up four buckets of Rit dye, and got to soaking these duds. (Note: the onsies were washed first, but not dried, so they were damp when they go into the dye bath.) We went with gold, scarlet, purple, and black as our colors. (One package of tan was divided in thirds and added to all but the black dye, which toned down these to a less Crayola-esque color pallet.)

Two comments for future dying: (1) use two packets of dye for richer colors, and (2) use the washing machine method, instead of buckets there'll be a lot less mess to deal with and the dye will take more evenly to the clothes.

We didn't stop once we had some color on them! Our friends Stina and Jesse came over and helped us kick it up to the next level of awesome. Following Make's instructions on bleach stenciling, we rounded up a random assortment of items and a spray bottle of 50/50 bleach and water mixture.

This was so fun and easy to do. Like many a craft project, it's tricky to brainstorm the first idea or two, but once you get started you're spurred on by the possibilities.

Tools (wrenches), card-board cutouts, leaves, fridge letter magnets, a "wings" pin from an airline, and all sorts of household items were used to make our stencils. The selected item blocks the bleach (although there's some bleed), and you watch it until the dye fades to the desired lightness.

Some colors, like black, don't fade to gray, but to an orange color instead. Also, you want to be careful on how light you let it get, as the bleach can start to "eat" the cloth. Which is why this craft is great for babies/kids: they grow out of their clothes so quickly that you can (hopefully) retire the shirts before they wear holes in it.

We are very pleased with the results of our craft. Although not an official Crafturday, we had fun making and doing, and our child is gonna rawk in these duds.

And if this don't beat all - at my last shower (baby, not washing), Rachel and Chris pulled out a couple packs of white bibs and onsies and a pack of fabric markers. The knit grrls each drew or wrote on an item for the babe. I'll heat set the ink with a few minutes under an iron, and we should be golden!

I can't wait until I can stuff my lil' pumpkin into some of these outfits. Very clever, very fun, very awesome!

Posted by Nanc at 11:26 PM | Comments (8)

December 15, 2008

OMG, Rachel was Here!

Sadly, she is has left already.

This weekend my awesome SIL, Rachel, flew into town along with the adorable Sammers as a surprise - for me.

This apparently took enormous efforts of lying and sneaky skullduggery by Matty and Chris, to which I was completely oblivious. (I hope they don't take advantage of this weakness.)

Late on Friday, after claiming to working late, Matt came home through the front door - which is odd, since we park in the garage and come in through that door. "Look what I found in the bushes!", Matt claimed, a slightly confused and blinking child in his arms.

Rising from my nap on the couch, I instantly recognized Sammy. With a quick hello to the boys, I ran out to the porch to find and hug Rachel! (You don't get one: Sammy, without the other: Rachel.)

What a great and awesome surprise and a fun weekend! Rachel was in town for my fourth (and final) baby shower, which she co-organized with Chris. (Those sneaks!) The party was a great success (tons-o-loot), and hopefully I will scrounge pictures to post from those that took 'em. (um,... Jen?)

The weather was beautiful, and just before we had to send Rachel and Sammers back to cold, dreary MN, Rachel took some pregger photos of me. Hopefully, I don't look like a dolt in all of them and I can show 'em off.

Seriously, if you haven't looked at the great work Rachel does with her camera, you're missing out. I am totally looking forward to her return visit (with family) once Cheerio is out, and the magic she'll make happen with her lens.

Edited to add link to proofs site. Great job, Rach!

Posted by Nanc at 03:26 PM | Comments (1)

December 04, 2008

Thanksgiving wrapup

While we couldn't get back home for Thanksgiving this year, we quickly put together a wonderful meal with friends.

We decided to have an orphan's Thanksgiving, and invite everyone we knew that wasn't going to be spending time with family. We had a fantastic time, and some tasty food ta' boot.

The rules of 'Orphan's Thanksgiving' are simple. We provided the meat, drinks, and some side dishes. Anyone who shows up should bring a dish to share that is "required eating for Thanksgiving."

Everyone has very different ideas of what is a "must have." Even Nanc and I have different dishes that are requirements for Thanksgiving. Nanc's is Brussel sprouts (yuck!) and mine is green bean casserole (nanc - bleghk!).

Meat-wise, we did both ham and turkey. The ham was a Honey Baked Ham©, and we waited for about an hour to pick it up on Wednesday afternoon. If there was ever a ham worth waiting for, it is a honey bake spiral ham. I drool as I write this. (Yes, even after a week of eating leftover ham.)

The turkey was a basic Butterball from the grocery, on the small side, about 11-12 pounds. I needed it small because of the way I wanted to cook it. It turned out delicious and moist, and looked much like a turkey that you see on TV. Without tooting my own horn too much, this turkey was so tasty.

It's also the first turkey that I've been responsible for cooking in several years. I've written a lot of detail about the prep at the bottom of this article, mainly so I can look it up when I make turkey next year.

We had a wonderful time visiting with our friends, and had a good meal with all the fixin's. Cathie and Stan brought a number of dishes, including a tasty almond dessert called almendrada, a homemade potato salad, and a popcorn salad.

Yes, I said popcorn salad. From what Cathie told me, the recipe was invented on a dare. It tasted pretty good. It had bacon in it. Need I say more?

Nancy L., Dirk, and Nancy's Dad J.L. also came for dinner, and brought the very necessary mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Ming came and brought a wonderful fresh fruit tart from La Madeleine.

After dinner, we had a few more stragglers show up for dessert and video games. We had a great time, and so very much to be thankful for.

Origins of green bean casserole

I thought I would add this little footnote in. File this into the category of useless knowledge. Contrary to popular belief, the Pilgrims and Indians did not eat green bean casserole at the first Thanksgiving. Actually, green bean casserole comes straight from the better-living-through-science 1950's.

According to Wikipedia, GBC was invented at the Campbell's Soup test kitchen in 1955 by a woman named Dorcus Reilly. The recipe was specifically devised to "promote the use and increased purchase of the company's products." Pretty sneaky...

Turkey prep in detail

I got up about 6 a.m. to brine the turkey. The brine was a combination of water, orange juice concentrate, brown sugar, kosher salt, ice, and spices. The turkey stayed in the briny bath for about 6 hours. I probably would've added turkey stock to the brine, but I didn't have any.

Around noon, we pulled the bird out of the salt bath, dried it off, and made a quick rub of more kosher salt, grub rub, and poultry seasoning. Then we trussed up the turkey, put a couple of oranges, an apple, and some rosemary in the cavity, and speared it onto a rotisserie.

The grill was all set up and ready to go, at about 300 degrees. I used the burners on the edges, so that the turkey was only exposed to indirect heat. I added some foil woodchip packets (applewood, natch), and let it spin for about 3 and a half hours. Whenever I got bored, I would baste the turkey with some melted butter. Tasty? You betcha!

Posted by Matty at 03:28 PM | Comments (2)