Thursday, December 20, 2012

26 Random Acts

I hope I am joining what will become a national phenomenon. From the moment I read about the 26 Random Acts of Kindness here, I was ready to join in. I've always tried to be a good and kind person, but I'm hoping that this challenge will encourage others to participate as well. This isn't the first I've heard of "paying it forward", but with the tragic even at Sandy Hook Elementary, our country needs this more than ever. It wasn't long ago that our country came together after 9/11 and started treating their neighbors with kindness. Sad that it takes a tragic event to stir these acts of benevolence, but it does seem to ease to pain felt by the loss of innocent victims. We wanted to help somehow, but felt that there was nothing we could do.

Random Act of Kindness #1 - in honor of Charlotte Bacon (age 6)
100% tip to our waitress

Last night, at our usual YoTaco Wednesday dinner, we decided as a family to start our 26 Acts of Kindness.  The people at Tres Amigos know us when we walk it and can even tell us what our order is going to be because we are there every Wednesday. We are pretty predictable. It's not always easy to give a large tip at dinner, but because our bill was small we were easily able to give a 100% tip to our waitress. It's a small act that I hope will spread to others.

Random Act of Kindness #2 in honor of Daniel Barden (age 7)
Sent Christmas cards purchased from Habitat for Humanity and World Wildlife Federation to support the good work they do.

This act is just as small, but I hope will have some impact. I purchased Christmas cards from Habitat for Humanity and the World Wildlife Federation to send out to family and friends. I would have sent cards regardless, but it made me feel good to support these two causes.

Now it's time for me to go Tweet my actions using the  #26Acts hashtag. If you don't use Twitter, you can also participate on FaceBook here.

I hope you will join me and my family in honoring the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary and then continue beyond that honors others who have lost their lives to senseless violence or while serving our country. Let us once again be the United States of America - standing together.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Color Run 2012

We have stopped being so serious about our 5k races. No, really. We've started looking for races that are fun, in unique locations, or support something that is important to us. It has really made a difference in our experience. This past weekend was exactly that. I had heard about the Color Run from another blogger and it looked like it would be fun. 
We signed up early and created a team. K1 decided to name us the Super Awesome Rainbow Unicorns. Huh? Ok, no one could come up with anything, so thus we were named. Then she came up with a design so we could have matching t-shirts.
The day before, teammate Mer and I went across the bridge to pick up our race packets. December is beautiful in central Florida and St. Pete is the perfect beach location for a run. We stopped for lunch at a little Thai restaurant that looked not so good on the outside, but was surprisingly cute on the inside. Lanna Thai and Sushi on Park Street gave us good service in a beautiful setting. The food was yummy and we were ready to hit the road. 
The rest of the trip was uneventful. However, when I got home I noticed that not only was I missing MY shirt, but my race bib, too.  I got the rest of the team's stuff and my race packet, but not my shirt and bib. It's too far of a drive to go back, so I contacted the race people and made arrangements to pick up the remaining items the day of the race. That sounds simple enough, but we didn't expect the amount of people trying to get to the race. The roads were so congested! That was a little stressful, but we finally found a place to park (thanks for not towing us St. Pete!) and made our way over to get my stuff and explored a bit before the race. 
I've never seen so much white at a race before. People were in tutus and wedding gowns and generally just having a great time.
We didn't think I would have enough time to walk back to the car to drop off my official race t-shirt, so I wore it under my other shirt. Yes, I was hot and NO, it didn't stay clean even under the other shirt. And to top it off, my battery died on my camera. I did manage to squeak out a few more pictures after the actual race, but it was probably for the best because all that color powder would have probably messed up my camera.
We ran for most of the race, but it was mostly in-between color stations. K1 and K2 haven't been running as much lately, so little walk breaks were a welcomed rest. We were colored by the end, but the REAL color would happen at the stage afterwards when there was periodic COLOR BLASTS. Everyone would open their color packets and toss it into the air. It was crazy and exciting with lots of music and energy.
Poor K1, I opened my packet right into her face. She's such a trooper.
I'm smiling, but what I'm really thinking is "Hurry up before the battery dies so I can get this 2nd t-shirt off!"

It was a fun race that I'm glad we went to. I think the kids enjoyed it most, but what kid doesn't like to get messy? Oh, and yes, the dye comes out. Bleach for the shirts and lots of scrubbing in the shower, but it was worth it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Zatarain's from Klout

Are you familiar with Klout? It's something I stumbled upon here in bloggy world. I'm still finding my way through it, but I have received some "perks" from it. 
Zatarain's sent me (and some other Klout users) a package of 3 types of their pasta dinner mixes. These are great to have in the pantry for those nights when you need to cook something quick. Our first pick was to try the gumbo.
We almost always have shrimp and chicken in the freezer, but we decided to use the sausage we had from a recent buy one get one sale at the grocery store with the shrimp. It felt like it was a free meal! Plus, even though it's filled with flavor, it's not too spicy for the kids.
The dinner was a hit and filled with the family quoting lines from Disney's The Princess and the Frog

Bon App├ętit!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jekyll & Hyde

It's your Sweet 26, K1! 
Blow out the candles and make a wish!
 Season Tickets to the Straz Center Broadway series?
Wish granted!
It's always fun dressing up for the show. Yes, she is taller than me. The heels don't help.
She has been looking forward to Jekyll & Hyde for quite a while and it was a great performance.
Some classic posters to look at while we wait to take our seats. K1 was in her school production of Little Shop last spring. She had a ball doing it.
 We just love having our "girls night" outings, especially when it includes a musical.
 Time for the show!




Monday, December 10, 2012

Sweet 16 Oktoberfest

I'm still playing catch up from when my computer was down, so we are still in "rewind" mode until I get caught up with all the things from October and November that I wanted to post.
It may seem like a strange request, but for my daughter's "Sweet 16" birthday, she requested to go to the local Oktoberfest. Fine by me! Being German, I love authentic German food. Yum!
Good thing we don't eat this all the time. Lots of meat and carbs, but it's soooo yummy.
We decided to burn some of those calories off with a little dancing. The kids really loved the band and the costumes.
It wouldn't be a birthday if we didn't make her get up in front of everyone as the band sang to her. She was totally embarrassed  but I'm sure it's a memory she will always love.
Then everyone danced a special birthday dance. Too much fun!
After feeling like we went to another country, it seemed appropriate for her first gift to open be a luggage set from her Grandma Mary. K1 is so excited about her trip to Spain this coming summer. Until then, she will be enjoying her other gift: season tickets to the Broadway series at the Straz Center. This kid has some grown-up taste already at such a young age. Poor thing, she's just like her mother.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Giraffe Baby Hat

http://www.crochettoday.com/crochet-patterns/giraffe-hat
Recently, I wanted to make this adorable hat that I found in Crochet Today! magazine and I had the perfect baby for it. I love making hats because they work up quickly and there are so many things you can do to make them unique. It didn't take me long to get this rolling.
And then I decided that I didn't like it and that I wasn't following the directions of only working in the back loops, so I ripped it out. I do this a lot. This is why I take so much longer than the average person to finish a project. It MUST be perfect or I'll do it over and over again.
 Finally, I got it to look just like I wanted. Many of you saw this progress as I posted it in Facebook. So much better with the texture added from crocheting in the back loops only.
This is my initial model. She's a sweet baby doll that I've had all my life. Poor thing has definitely been well loved.
However, this sweet little hat belongs to the cutest baby in the world. Isn't he precious?
I sure wish I was a crocheter when my own children were babies, but I guess I'll just have to be happy making gifts for all the other babies that come in and out of my life. There have sure been some cute ones!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Coconut Water


I won't lie, I love getting free stuff. Sometimes I win it and sometimes I just get it. Is that still winning? Hmmm, maybe so. Free is free, right? Well, this time it was a sampling of VitaCoco's pure coconut water. They were giving these out and I snatched one up as quick as I could. I actually thought I was going to get a coupon or at best, a tiny little sample. These were actually large packages (about the size of my hand), but I have not seen them in my stores yet, so I'm not sure if they are the full size. I'm sure my mailman wasn't impressed with the weight. That box was heavy!

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the health benefits of coconut water, so I was anxious to test it out. Of the three flavors sent, I liked the plain and the pineapple best. The flavors aren't very strong - you mostly just taste the coconut. It was very light and refreshing.

I'm definitely going to be looking for these in stores. I was really impressed with flavor and it's a nice change from plain old boring water. If you see some, I would recommend that you try some, too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Tortellini Soup


One of my favorite traditions of Thanksgiving is making tortellini soup from stock created with the leftover turkey. My uncle Harold, introduced my family to this and it's been something that we always look forward to. You can also create this with stock from a box and with chicken any time of year, but this is a sure fire way to use every little bit of the Thanksgiving turkey. 

To make the stock, just place the turkey carcass in a large pot and cover with water. Cook on low until the meat easily falls off the bone. You will then remove the carcass and pull off any remaining meat to return to the pot. You know have stock!  Be sure to remove all bones and pieces. You can replace the chicken and stock in the recipe below with the homemade turkey one.

Tortellini Soup
1-1/2 cups water or chicken broth
1 carrot, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 onion, chopped (1/3 cup)
1/8 tsp pepper

In large saucepan, stir together the above ingredients. Heat to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

1 package cheese filled tortellini or ravioli
1-1/2 cups chicken, chopped
1 cup fresh celery, chopped

Stir in tortellini and celery, cover an simmer about 15 minutes or more until tortellini or ravioli is tender. Stir in chicken and heat through. When served, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and parsley to taste.

Here was our Thanksgiving table all set and ready to go. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your families!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cheese Fondue

I haven't really disappeared - but my computer has. It has a mind of it's own, I swear. It works fine when take it to get looked at, but acts up when I bring it home. So, until I can get it really fixed, I'm not downloading my pictures onto it. Which is why I haven't posted anything for awhile. However, I did find a few pictures I had stashed away, so I thought I would get out here and post something.

We love going to the Melting Pot restaurant, but it can be pretty pricey. Plus, I only want the cheese and chocolate anyway. So, we found a couple of recipes for cheese fondue that we can make at home. Yes, I do believe that fondue maker is from the 70's. It still works. You can also use a double boiler to melt the cheese and then use some Sterno to keep it warm.


Cheese Fondue

1 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 pound shredded Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions
  1. Simmer wine in fondue pot. 
  2. Add Swiss cheese, Gruyere cheese, 1/4 pound at a time. 
  3. Stir after each addition of cheese until melted. 
  4. Stir in flour. 
  5. When all the cheese has melted, stir in salt and nutmeg.

Beer Cheese Fondue
8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
8 ounces shredded Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, halved
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle  of your favorite beer

Directions
  1. Combine Cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, flour, salt, and black pepper in a bowl.
  2. Rub cut side of garlic clove around bottom and sides of fondue pot.
  3. Pour beer into fondue pot and slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, about 5 minutes.
  4. Gradually stir cheese mixture into beer, adding small amounts at a time, until cheese is melted and blended, 10 to 15 minutes.

Don't forget to have plenty of stuff on hand to dip in. We like Granny Smith apples, carrots, rye bread, French bread, and sourdough bread. Happy dipping!




Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slow Cook Apple Butter

I love apple butter. My grandma used to make it for me when I was a little girl. Probably the only reason I like to eat at Cracker Barrel is because I know I can get it there. They do sell it there at the Country Store. However, it's full of preservatives for shelf life. Publix recently started selling a pretty good version at the bakery, but it's not cheap. So, I decided to make my own.

I tried using an apple peeler/corer, but it was just a huge mess and it peeled more apple away than I liked. So, I just did it with a knife and potato peeler. It went pretty quickly.

Slow Cook Apple Butter


Apples - I used 8 small Red Delicious, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves 
1/2 tsp nutmeg
dash of salt
1/2 cup water
Mix all together in a 4 Quart Slow Cooker and cook overnight on low. You could also cook during the day, but you need a good 10-15 hours or longer. I've heard some people cook for 24 hours. However, I used my emulsion wand blender to mix it all up after about 10 hours and it turned out perfectly. Place in jars (or Tupperware) and cool completely before placing a lid. I filled 2 medium jars. Keep refrigerated for 2-3 weeks. 

Mine turned out a little spicy, so I adjusted the amount of cloves and nutmeg before posting this. You should experiment with the amounts to adjust to your own liking. I was worried that it would be runny (the Publix one was) but once it cooled, it was nice and thick. I may try to cut back on the sugar with the next batch, or use honey instead. Hmmm, I wonder what different apples would taste like? Time to try out some more. Enjoy!