Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Do You Spell Success?

post signatureMaybe you have to have a few epic fails before you can declare success!! Or, is Steph really turning in to a good cook after all? You be the judge.

Let’s let her tell the story:

Sometime in September I saw the cutest fall treats on Facebook. They were little candy acorns, and I could tell no cooking was required. I decided I would make them for Thanksgiving and surprise everyone with my contribution.

Fast forward to the weekend before Thanksgiving. I actually read the recipe so I can make the grocery list and discover it’s not an easy thing at all! Let’s just say it included melting various amounts of chocolate one at a time for each candy and using a kitchen blow torch. Given my track record with cooking, it’s no surprise I don’t own one of those! So, I decide I’m going to modify the recipe to something simpler that I can handle. But, since I am not an experienced cook, I worried that my modified version wouldn’t turn out, so I needed a back-up plan. I found what appeared to be another simple dessert, Pralines and Cream Dream, on the internet. I made the grocery list and Nicky made the first run to the grocery store.

I began with the acorn treats. My modified recipe required a Hershey kiss and a butterscotch chip be adhered to a mini nilla wafer using frosting. I patiently unwrapped all the Hershey kisses and assembled the first acorn. Being economical, I had Nicky buy the knock-off brand nilla wafers, which were still pretty large. Since this was a festive Thanksgiving contribution I needed to be perfect, I really wanted the “right” mini nilla wafers that would give the acorns the correct proportions. Nicky made his second trip to the grocery store and the rest of the acorns were assembled without incident.

Next up: the Pralines and Cream Dream. Let me just say that individually, none of the steps were all that difficult. However, each was somewhat time consuming which was adding up to a very tedious recipe. I was able to make the crust just fine, and had blended the two creamy interior layers. Once everything gets assembled, the dessert is topped with homemade candied pecans and caramel. That’s where it got interesting. The directions were to put the sugar and pecans over medium heat and stir until the sugar was melted. I did that and waited. And waited. And waited. It was taking forever and that sugar wasn’t melting! So I kicked the heat up a notch. That did the trick and the sugar melted pretty fast. I wanted to be sure each pecan had the same amount of “candiedness” so I stirred and cooked and stirred until I really had nothing but a solid black burned pecan mass. I opened the back door to air out the smoky kitchen and sent Nicky to the grocery store for the third time to buy more pecans.

While Nicky was at the store, I pulled out another pan and prepped the sugar (wait, not enough sugar! Texted Nicky to add that to the list.) for the second attempt at candying the pecans. I noticed some black specks mixed in with the sugar and investigated to discover that the non-stick coating on the pan was coming off! No way was this going to work – that pan needed to be trashed. But since my other pan would need a power drill to remove the black mass, I decided it was best to just buy a new one. Nicky makes his fourth trip to the grocery store. This time when he came home, the list had grown to include beer. I can’t blame him, I needed a drink, too!

All in all, I made 3 “simple” treats. It took a little over 4 hours and 4 trips to the grocery store. Casualties of the cooking war included 1 box of fake mini nilla wafers, 2 cups of pecans, 1 cup of sugar, and one non-stick cooking pan. Judging by that, it looks like I lost the fight. But, my treats were a success, so I’d say I won! Maybe next year I’ll just stick with the fancy napkin folds for my festive contribution.
Stephanie has given me permission to share her recipe for the Pralines and Cream Dessert. It's really good! She made it on Sunday and froze it. I asked her if the recipe said she could freeze it. She said, "no" but didn't give it a second thought. Just goes to show that sometimes maybe inexperience is a good thing. I would never have thought you could freeze this. It came out just fine. Nice to know when you have leftovers that could go to waste!

Pralines and Cream Dessert
 1 box crushed Sandies pecan cookies
¼ cup melted butter
Mix and press in to a sprayed 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes. Cool.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. cool whip, thawed
¼ cup powdered sugar
Beat until smooth. Refrigerated until ready to assemble.

2 small boxes INSTANT butterscotch pudding
3 ½ cups milk
Mix together and refrigerate until ready to assemble.

1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup sugar
Combine in medium pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is melted. Spread on to parchment paper and cool.

12 oz. cool whip
¼ cup caramel ice cream topping
Spread cream cheese mixture over crust. Top with pudding. Spread cool whip over pudding. Sprinkle with candied pecans and drizzle caramel topping over all. Refrigerate.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Our Thanksgiving

post signatureHere's a rundown of our visit to Charlotte.

We got there Tuesday night and kicked off our holiday. On Wednesday, we did a little shopping---Hobby Lobby for wrapping paper and a stop at Pier One---they have great holiday items. That was really about all I could handle with these cumbersome boots. Plus they rub me the wrong way which aggravates my hives---story of my life these days. 

The highlight of Wednesday was "tea" at the Ballantyne Hotel. I had made reservations for us girls a month ago. This was actually a celebration of Elizabeth's birthday. I had planned something special in Nashville, but due to my situation, that didn't happen. 
She finally got her birthday present---her very first pair of UGGS! I got them a little big so she can get two years out of them---we hope!!
When you are ten, you want to sleep in your new UGGS! Her dad wouldn't let her, but when she came down the next morning in her pajamas, she had them on!! I told her I was going to take a marker and put UGGS on the back of my boots! She replied with her normal, "Grammy!" She doesn't fall for my jokes anymore---being 10 and all!

 I was so happy to have the spot in front of the fireplace. 

They had some really good varieties of tea, but , unfortunately they do not sell it. I like to get those private blends whenever I can. The food was good---I can't believe I didn't think to get a photo of all the treats! The only thing missing was Mindy. She stayed behind in Nashville to be with her fiancĂ©. 

After tea, we went home, napped, did a little food prep (not much to do as Sandy had done most of it), had corn chowder with rolls for dinner and family games after. I think I was the first to bed around midnight. 

Thanksgiving was a gorgeous day. We always get the last minute food stuff out of the way so we can enjoy the Macy's day parade. Nicky is in charge of the bloody Mary's. Butch put together the betting grid for the football games. There's always some sort of gambling/contest with our gang.

  Sandy's table was beautiful. 
 Steph did the fancy napkin fold---they'll show again up in another post.
We love setting fancy tables in this family, complete with table/party favors. Sandy always comes up with something clever. She found the basic idea on Pinterest and made it her own. 
 After dinner, it was so nice that everyone went outside.
There was a little football toss in the front. I guess, this year, we decided to become "that" family who plays a little football on Thanksgiving. You always hear about it, but that's never been us. Come to think of it---this is the very first time we've EVER played football---and I say "we" very loosely. We "big" girls did not get in on the action. Rather, we watched from the porch and snapped a few pictures.
 As kids are known to do, they were all out there barefooted or in their socks. 
 Nicky took one for his team. Steph wouldn't let him back in the house.
 And just like a little kid, he ruined his good pants. Grass stains, but thankfully, no hole!

After more football on tv, naps and snacks, we spent the evening playing many games of "Catch Phrase." Even Mitchell graced us with his presence!! He was in and out quite a bit---as college kids are when their friends are in town. But apparently---all his friends had family obligations too! That's okay, we'll take what we can get!!

We don't do the Black Friday shopping anymore---haven't done that in many years. It was fun to me---years ago---to get up before dawn and be in the stores at 5 a.m. Of course, that was always up my alley as an early bird. Now-a-days, we choose a movie and lunch for Black Friday. Turns out, many of the family stayed up until 3 a.m.---and decided to sleep in. It was just Sandy, Elizabeth and me for the movie. We saw The Big Dinosaur---the new Disney Pixar. It was sooo good---sad and tragic, but good---even if you aren't with a kid!! Always a tear-jerker happy ending. I'm always reduced to mush!

More family fun and games, much talking and just hanging out. Another perfect Thanksgiving at the Lapps' house. 

We got an early start on Friday and were home by 11:15 a.m. We gain an hour coming home which is nice. We ALWAYS like to leave early whenever we travel. When it's over, it's over. Otherwise, you sit around waiting to leave. Same is true when we fly. Just give us the earliest flight! Sometimes I'm over-ruled on that, but I like getting home and having time to unpack and get settled. The fun has to end sometime!!

The Lapps will be here for Christmas in a mere three weeks! Nothing but fun times ahead!!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Twenty Five!!!

post signatureThe number of sticks of butter in our Thanksgiving dinner.

Seriously?? Unbelievable!

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!

post signatureI wanted to post a few photos and tell you about our visit in Charlotte, but iCloud doesn't seem to be cooperating.

Instead, I'll just wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

What's on our menu---you ask?

Greg's stuffing
Barb's dressing
mashed potatoes
carrot casserole
spinach casserole
sweet potato casserole
corn pudding
homemade cranberry sauce
yeast rolls
pumpkin pie
apple pie

Something for everyone but more than can fit on a plate! Reminds me of our big, Italian family Thanksgivings---just add pasta!

A lot to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Let the Holidays Begin!!

post signatureWe leave today for Charlotte and Thanksgiving with the Lapps family. We're all so excited!! We have quite a few fun things planned.

Tomorrow we'll do our regular pre-Thanksgiving shopping. We don't do the "black Friday" thing anymore. I have to admit, I did enjoy that "back in the day." 5 a.m. never scared me---I was right there. But not any more. There's really not a thing that I need that badly to fight the crazy crowds. Instead, we'll head out tomorrow and go to Hobby Lobby---I need that wrapping paper---they have the best---very thick, tons on the roll and half price (I know, they mark it up so they can mark it down---that's what everyone's doing these days). We go to Pier 1 and Steinmart. After that, it's wherever anyone else wants to go. I'm not sure how I'll keep up, but I always have my book with me, so I'm good to read while waiting.

I have a special treat planned for lunch---high tea at the Ballantine Hotel. This is to make up for the fact that the special day I had planned for Elizabeth didn't happen when she was here due to my incapacitated state!! We'll make up for it---and it's HIGH tea!! I'm really excited about that.

When we get home, we'll start prepping for Thanksgiving. It goes pretty fast with so many people helping. It's all fun when we're together!!

Stephanie even cooked! Gasp!! Her treats look really good.
I'll get back to you on that!!

On Friday, we'll do a movie and lunch somewhere. Family games are always in the mix. And lots of football for the guys. All fun, all good!

Safe travels to everyone out there!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Now I Remember Why I Don't Like Pinterest

post signatureYou can get lost there for hours!!!

Basically, Pinterest is a place where you set up electronic bulletin boards for any and every topic under the sun. You get to decide what you name your boards and what you "pin" to them.

It's a conspiracy, I tell you!!! Pinterest sends things to you via email based upon the boards you have set up. Who can resist following a link to some of your favorite things? Before you know it, you've spent a few hours just browsing around.

To make matters worse, they keep you informed about who is "following" you and what they are pinning. In a way, that's sort of fun. First off, I didn't know that guys did Pinterest. Imagine my delight when I was notified that my new "son-in-law-to-be" started following my boards. I can see where he might like my recipe boards---after all, he loves to cook. And he might even enjoy iPhone ideas or travel info. But I seriously doubt he's interested in my "The Royals" board---or anything related to scrapbooking. Still, it's flattering when someone follows you. I've said it before, he's become my #1!!

And then there's Analise---the 11 year old granddaughter of my closest friend. I had to chuckle when she started following me. What in the world would an eleven year old find interesting in an old lady's boards. Surely not books, fonts or bathroom ideas!! Still, I thought it was cute. So cute, that I decided to follow her back!!! I thought she'd get a kick out of that.

What are eleven year olds pinning? Of course, her pins would be all about girly stuff---even if she's not allowed yet---fancy, crazy makeup techniques and "over-the-top" fingernail fashions. What little Analise doesn't know is that---covertly---this allows Connie and I to keep an eye on what she's up to!! Now that sounds like a good idea! Until maybe it's not. I guess if anything untowardly starts popping up, I'll just "unfollow" her! She's a little sweetheart, so I don't expect anything like that to happen. Wait, there might not even be anything untowardly on Pinterest anyway. No worries!

So, back to the hours I just lost this morning. I started checking out a few things. Then I realized that my neatly organized boards needed a little re-organizing. Of course they are all in alphabetical order. Would you expect anything less from me?

The next time I have a few hours, I'm going to re-organize and divide my recipe board. I should have done that to begin with and had specific categories. Right now, all recipes are jumbled together. I have 635 pins there---a huge mess. That will haunt me. But here's the kicker: I don't think I've ever referred to that board to get a single new recipe! I get so many new recipes from blogs that I follow--you just can't try them all. OMGosh! My mind is spinning. So much information comes at me all the time!! So much to do.

Still, I'll leave you with this---just in case you have a few hours to kill and would like to check out my boards---I'm not above aiding and abetting!!

Here I am: Barb's Pinterest Boards

And if you only have time to check out one board---do pick "The Royals." They are all so darn cute!!

Friday, November 20, 2015


post signature
 I am thinking: Where in the world did I put the Christmas wrapping paper? I'm sure I had plenty leftover and even purchased some on sale last year. For the life of me, I can't find it. Frustrating as I want to get some of these gifts wrapped. Although I'm pretty close to being done with my shopping, I won't know until I have it all laid out and inventoried!

I am thankful for: Great friends that are always willing to have a little get-a-way now and then! We had a fun and relaxing time at the farm. We had lunch outside yesterday, but it was pretty chilly to do much else. We stitched, read, talked and watched movies and tv. 

From the kitchen: I will be making my hostess gifts this year---but not until the first part of December. Of course, I'm banking on being out of these boots in another couple of weeks.

I am wearing: I'm ready to transition to pants as the weather cools. But, these boots will keep me in capris for a bit longer.

I am hoping:  I haven't bitten off more than I can chew with my December schedule. It's pretty busy---which I like---through the holidays. Still, this year, I'm acting like I have no limitations---when I just might. We'll see....

I am reading: The Secret Daughter---a book about adoption that shows all sides---adoptee, adoptive parents and the birth mother. You can really feel each person's pain. So far it's very interesting. I'll let you know if it's worth the read when I finish.

I'm watching: Bates Motel. It is my newest passion. I only have 3 episodes left to be caught up with the series---getting ready to start season 4. I'm trying to stretch it out because whenever I do this, it's a letdown to have to wait for a series in "real" time. I really like the binge watching. I also started Scandal---so that will be another good one to take Bates' place. 

I am busy creating: Still stitching away. I'm nearly finished with my "Along Came a Spider" Halloween canvas. I'll also be finishing up a couple of Connie's projects. Of course all that's left is the harder---un-fun stuff. I can see why she was stalled. Why am I doing it for her? Because, uhhhh, that's just what friends do!

I'm bummed: about that wrapping paper. Just can't stop thinking about it. Not having it is really holding me up.

I am hearing: a new Pandora station. I decided that I wanted to listen to some opera. I put "opera" in the search and up popped "opera to relax radio." It wasn't exactly what I was looking for---I really wanted those Italian tenors singing opera. But I went with it and am loving it. Basically, it's a lot of current/pop songs set to symphony music. Truly relaxing. Not really opera at all.

I appreciate:  a good life hack. I think I already shared the one about cherry or grape tomatoes this summer. It's one of my favorites and worth repeating. When slicing a bunch of small tomatoes, place them on a plate that will hold the number you need. Invert another plate on top and slice through the middle with a serrated knife. Works perfectly! 

Well, here's another I discovered and tried this week. When you need to peel a large number of hard boiled eggs---I was making egg salad---just drain the eggs and shake vigorously in the pan. The eggs will all crack against each other. The shells will literally just slide off. No more wasted egg as you try to pry the shells off! 

Around the house: Tomorrow, the Christmas decorating begins. I have a couple of ladies who have been decorating the outside of the house and doing other "un-fun" tasks for twenty years now. I used to have them the weekend after Thanksgiving, but several years ago, they requested to come the weekend before. As it turned out, I like that better. I can usually get the house decorated before going to Charlotte for Thanksgiving. That won't happen this year, but it will be nice to have some of it done before we leave on Tuesday.

I’m craving: good salads---all-the-time.

I’m feeling: like this broken ankle and toe will never heal. It's better, but still painful. I have stopped the ibuprofen, so I guess it's to be expected.

I’ve completed: several tasks for the wedding. Working on getting the invitations ready to go out. 

I’m writing: "stuff" for the wedding: directions, greetings, menus, program, a lot.

I’m organizing: Mindy's gifts are not organized yet, but hopefully tonight they will be. Right now they are just all over the sunroom---waiting to be seen by Justin. Then we'll get them consolidated and put in boxes until they can take everything to their condo.

I’m obsessing over: Mindy is obsessing for the both of us.  She's welcome to the job. I'm not really the obsessive type. Oh wait, I am---but more like in the OCD department. 

I’m looking forward to: our Thanksgiving trip to Charlotte with the Lapps. It's always so much fun. I may not be able to do quite as much as I'd like, but to be sitting around with family---well, it doesn't get any better than that!