Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Greeting Cards


With the holiday season officially upon us, I think it's safe to say you'll be sending and receiving a fair number of cards. What do you do with those cards once the season is over? Make paper airplanes out of them? Cut them up and make collages? Make paper shirts for your dolls? Use them for scrap paper? Why not recycle them!

By "recycle them" I don't mean taking them to a place that recycles paper (though you can do that, if you like), I mean donate them. Did you know you can purchase holiday cards through St. Jude's? And did you know they need your donations of old holiday cards in order to sell those cards? That's right! The kids at St. Jude's take the cards you send them, recreate them, and sell them! Isn't that amazing? I have been doing this for years and I spend the whole year collecting cards to send. They don't do just holiday cards, the kids do cards for all occasions, so any card you send them is welcome, Christmas or not. (Their website says they're actually in need of birthday and thank you cards.) If you want more info on the recycle card program, click here. Otherwise, be sure to mail your cards to:

St. Jude's Ranch for Children
Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude's Street
Boulder City, NV 89005


Can you believe tomorrow is December 1st? Funny how the older you get the faster the years seem to go by. I need to start on my Christmas cards! When do you have yours sent out by?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Week, Day 7

Today's Thanksgiving recipe is... Mississippi Pecan Pie!

I love to bake and am a huge fan of sweets. My mom is a big fan of baking and my dad a big fan of sweets, so I guess it's only natural I would combine the two loves. And I'm not trying to brag, but I make a mean pie. When I was around 14 I entered a pie competition at a local street fair type event and won first place! Yes, I was crowned Pie Queen.



Both photos are taken from a recipe-scrapbook my mother made me when I got married.

Did you think I was kidding? I had a tiara AND a scepter! And I won a check for $75 which is a ton of cash for a 14 year old (it's still a lot of cash to me!). Enough about that, I'm sure you're wanting to hear about my Mississippi Pecan Pie! I hope you like the recipe, it is so easy.

Mississippi Pecan Pie
Ingredients
1 cup white corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
1 cup pecans
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, slightly beaten
9 inch unbaked pie shell

Place all ingredients into a 9 inch pie shell and bake 50 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It may not look completely done when the 50 minutes are up, but TAKE IT OUT. It will continue to cook as it cools and harden a bit. You don't want to overcook it! I also add about a halfish cup of chocolate chips to the pie shell before I pour the mixture in for a little added surprise.



*blink blink* What? Oh you mean you want the actual recipe that I baked to win the title of Pie Queen? You drive a hard bargain, my friend. But because I love you all so much, I shall share it with you.

Chocolate Chip Pie
Ingredients
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour (all purpose, please)
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup butter (melted and cooled, please)
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1 unbaked pie shell

Beat eggs until foamy. Beat in sugar, flour, butter, oil, and vanilla until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Bake in a 235 degree oven for 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool for 1 hour and chill before serving, refrigerate the leftovers. (Ha! Leftovers??)


Thank you all so much for taking a part in my Thanksgiving Recipe Week. I enjoyed sharing my favorite holiday recipes with y'all and I hope you enjoyed it as well. If you happen to make any of the recipes I posted, please let me know! I'd love to see how it turned out. Unless it turned out badly, in which case I shall wear the Cone of Shame and deny giving you the recipe.


My sister and me "cooking."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Week, Day 6

Today's Thanksgiving recipe is... Cornbread Muffins!

I love cornbread. I love muffins. The combination of cornbread and muffins is pure genius. Genius, I tell ya! If you don't eat all these the day you cook them, mix them up in a glass of milk for a delicious night-time snack! Nom!!

Cornbread Muffins
Ingredients
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup milk
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup suar
4 t. baking powder
1 egg
1/3 cup oil

Mix cornmeal and milk in a small bown to allow the cornmeal time to soak. In a large bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, and sugar. Mix the egg and oil together and add to cornmeal and milk mixture. Add the two mixtures together and stir until combined. Pour into a muffin pan and bake for 12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Week, Day 5


Today's Thanksgiving Week Recipe is... Sausage Cheese Balls!

Happy Thanksgiving!! Odds are you're up early and starting to slave away on a fantastic meal for you and your family. Why don't you make up these sausage cheese balls for them to enjoy when they wake up? Perfect to snack on while you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Sausage Cheese Balls
Ingredients
1 pack uncooked roll of sausage
2 cups shredded cheese (should be one package)
3/4 cup Bisquick mix
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder

Mix all ingredients together. (This can get a bit tricky, I usually just use my hands. My MIL uses a food processor so you could do that, too.). Roll into 1 inch balls and bake for 15 minutes on an ungreased baking sheet in a 350 degree oven. Drain on a paper towel and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Week, Day 4

Today's Thanksgiving recipe is... Sweet Potato Casserole!

I hate sweet potatoes. HATE. LOATHE. The smell alone makes me gag and I've never actually managed to swallow an entire bite without having to spit it out. I don't like sweet potato casserole, sweet potato fries, baked sweet potatoes... NOTHING. I'm strange, I know. However, it's one of Husband's favorite holiday dishes so I have to make it for him. I secretly think he only likes it for the marshmallows. ;)

Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients
3 cups sweet potatoes (Again, I'm a bad Southerner and used canned)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 t. vanilla

Combine and mix well. Pour into a buttered baking dish and top with the following:

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. When you've got about 5 or 10 minutes left, top with marshmallows and continue baking.

Husband loves this recipe, but all this sweet potato talk is making me feel a little queasy. If you'll excuse me...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Week, Day 3

Today's Thanksgiving recipe is... Dressing!

Notice I said dressing and not stuffing. I'm not sure if dressing is more of a Southern thing and stuffing is more of a Northern thing, but I have never been to a Thanksgiving dinner and had stuffing.

To clarify, stuffing and dressing are very similar. Stuffing is actually stuffed inside the bird of your choice while dressing is served as a side dish. I'll be honest: stuffing freaks me out. I don't feel like the bird can properly cook when it's stuffed with... stuff. Plus the act of actually stuffing said bird freaks me out even more.

This is actually my Mother-In-Law's dressing recipe. Hope she doesn't mind me sharing it with you all!

Ingredients


Cornbread*
2 slices of bread
Small onion
Bell pepper
1 t. poultry seasoning
3 eggs
Chicken broth (until soupy, picture below)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place cornbread, bread, onion, and bell pepper in a food processor. (I don't own a food processor but I use my blender and it works fine, you just can't cram everything in at once and need to pre-chop your veggies.) In a bowl combine your bread mixture along with the eggs, poultry seasoning, and chicken broth until soupy. The picture below would be "soupy" which is similar in consistency to grits or oatmeal:



Place in a large casserole dish and bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how mushy you like your dressing. We like ours a little more on the not-mushy side so it usually takes an hour, if not more. Ta-da!




*You can use whatever cornbread recipe you like, but if you'd like to use my MIL's, here it is:

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1t. salt
1 egg
2 t. baking powder
Milk

Combine ingredients and incorporate milk until batter is the consistency of a pancake batter. Heat an oven safe skillet (preferably an iron skillet) with a small amount of oil to cover the bottom. Once skillet is heated add batter and cook for a few minutes, just to cook the bottom. Then transfer to a 450 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes or until golden, brown, and delicious. I usually do this the day before simply to cut down on my oven time day-of.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Week, Day 2

Today's Thanksgiving recipe is... TURKEY!

I thought it might be good to start with the turkey earlier in the week so you can decide what recipe you want to use. And if you haven't already bought your bird, do so! It needs to thaw completely in your fridge for a couple of days before you can cook it.

I cooked my very first turkey last year, and let me tell you, I was SO NERVOUS. I didn't have a back-up plan if something were to go wrong. After all was said and done I was surprised at how simple cooking a turkey was, and this recipe is very simple. I was worried it wasn't going to taste seasoned enough. I was expecting to have to inject all sorts of things into Mr. Bird, but that wasn't the case. His own natural juices were seasoning enough.

Ingredients


Turkey
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 turkey roasting bag (can be found by the Ziploc bags at most stores)

Be sure not to buy a turkey breast, but a full bird (bones and gizzards and all). Remove neck and gizzard bag and rinse turkey off with water. Take the flour and shake it around in the roasting bag to cover it (this will help with sticking). Insert your stick of butter where the sun don't shine (on Mr. Bird, of course!) and place turkey in bag. Turkey will go in a roasting pan breast side down in a 250 degree oven for 7 hours. Yes I said 7 hours. Yes, your turkey will be done before the 7 hour mark. The point is to slow-roast your turkey. When the 7 hours are up (and if you go over/under by a little it's not a big deal), it should literally fall off the bone for the most part.

Why breast side down, you ask? Yes, I know it looks weird, and it's sometimes a little difficult to get it out of the roasting pan this way. Most people, me included, are white meat fans. What is the breast? White meat. Having the white meat soaking in juice for 7 hours will make it incredibly moist. Say bye-bye to dry turkey meat!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipe Week, Day 1

Today's Thanksgiving recipe is... Pumpkin Spice Bread!

How could I not start the week off with a pumpkin recipe? (By the way, I found pumpkin soy milk this week!!!!) This recipe is from Mrs. Wilma Holiday, a little old lady that went to my church back in Mississippi. I've made it a few times and it's quite lovely. It's pretty easy, but there's a bit of mixing involved and it takes a while to bake.

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Ingredients

3 1/2 C. flour
2 t. cinnamon (I used a little more)
4 eggs
2/3 C. water
1 15oz can pumpkin (I'm a bad Southerner and use canned)
1 t. vanilla
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cloves
2 C. white sugar
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. cooking oil
1/2-1 C. nuts *optional (I used a cup of walnuts)
2/3 C. raisins or dates *optional (I didn't use any)

Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Toss nuts and fruits lightly in flour mixture. Beat sugar in a mixer at low speed and add oil. Add eggs one at a time and beat, then add pumpkin, flour mixture, water, and vanilla. Beat until mixed thoroughly. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

I cooked in two regular sized loaf pans. I had a little batter left over and have some baby sized loaf pans and used the rest of the batter in those. It also freezes well! Hope ya'll enjoy! :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yule Ball

Many of you know that Husband got me tickets to a Yule Ball for our anniversary. The Yule Ball was last night, before the showing of Deathly Hallows. The evening started with (not so good) food and dancing and ended with the awesomeness that was Deathly Hallows. I'm not going to spend too much time talking about it in this post. Partly because I got 4 hours of sleep and partly because I think the pictures I took should do the talking for me. I'll talk about the movie a little more in depth when I have a more clear head (and more coffee). So here are my photos from the evening! I hope you enjoy!























Thursday, November 18, 2010

Positive Thoughts for Daisy

Just a quick blog post as today is a busy, crazy day. We noticed yesterday that Daisy was having trouble breathing so Husband made her a vet appointment and we took her in. The vet couldn't really find anything wrong, and sent us home with antibiotics. Last night we noticed Daisy wasn't eating and was very lethargic. Thankfully she made it through the night and went back to the vet this morning. They did an X-ray to find out that she has a lot of gas in her belly (making her feel full and not want to eat) and fluid in her lungs (which basically means pneumonia). Outlook is very, very grim at this point. :(

We said our goodbyes and left Daisy at the vet. I've cried most of the day. She may be a guinea pig, but she is our baby. We don't have dogs or cats or kids, Daisy and Chloe are all we have and are very important to us.

The vet called just a minute ago and said that after oxygen, some antibiotics, and IV fluids, Daisy is now eating again. She's not out of the woods but I think this is a good sign. Please keep her (and us!) in your thoughts today. I'm not ready to lose her yet!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving, the forgotten holiday


I love Thanksgiving. I love fall in general, really. I love the changing color of the leaves that will eventually leave behind skeletons of trees. I love the crisp, autumn wind as it chaps my face (though I admit we get little of that here in Texas). I love pumpkins. Anything and everything to do with pumpkins: carving, decorating, eating, smelling, ANYTHING. And it was pumpkins that made me realize that retailers don't really care about Thanksgiving (or fall).

There's a Bath & Body works in the shopping mall that I work in, maybe a block away. I was having a bad day at work and decided to walk there on my lunch break and treat myself to some nice, smelly goodies. The first thing that caught my attention was a candle in a scent named Creamy Pumpkin. I was curious as to what a creamy pumpkin smelled like, so I picked it up and sniffed. The answer? Creamy Pumpkin smells like heaven (actually it smells like pumpkin mixed with buttercream icing or cinnamon rolls, which is what my heaven smells like). I quickly scanned the store in search for anything else in the scent, determined to drop my paycheck on one of everything. However, I came up empty handed. After finally breaking down and asking a sales associate for help, I was informed that Creamy Pumpkin was only available in as a candle and a hand soap, but their Christmas scents were out. Would I like to smell their Holiday Vanilla Bean? No! I don't want to smell your Holiday Vanilla Bean!!! (That's what she said.) I bought two candles and a ton of hand soaps and left feeling more depressed than I went in. I shot a message to whoever runs B&BW's Facebook page and they said they have had a crazy good response to the Creamy Pumpkin scent and I wasn't the only one let down by the fact that it wasn't more accessible in other products and they would pass the word on to people of higher authority.

A few days later I was at my local grocery store looking at the soy milk products. I've recently switched and am using mostly soy instead of regular milk and I was curious to see what all the store had. As I was scanning the cartons I see a picture of a pumpkin. Well shut the front door! A pumpkin spice flavored soy milk!! I grabbed a carton and went on my merry way. Pumpkin spice soy milk, for those wondering, tastes like heaven. I drank the carton within a few days and went back for more only to find the pumpkin section had been replaced with soy egg-nog. Seriously? I, again, asked a sales associate for help only to be offered egg-nog as a substitute. I do not want your egg-nog! I want my pumpkin spice soy milk that was apparently only available for a freaking day.

Repeat the same story as above with a pumpkin pie spice coffee creamer (also tasting of heaven) which has now been replaced by gingerbread creamer and some kind of chocolate-mint creamer.

Since when did the holiday season jump from Halloween to Christmas? I realize there is probably more money for retailers in Christmas than Thanksgiving. I also realize that I, as a consumer, am part of the problem. Heck, I've been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks now. (What? I challenge you to find me Thanksgiving music!!)

I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea, I love Christmas. October to December is my favorite time of year, but why are we rushing things? Christmas is going to get here sooner or later, why can't we stop and savor the flavors that fall has to offer a little while longer, while we still can? What do you think, am I getting my panties in a bunch over nothing?

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm gong to blog every single day next week. About what, you ask? Well FOOD, silly! You can't have Thanksgiving without food! I'll post my favorite recipes Sunday-Saturday of next week, so be on the look out!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The End Is Near


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I hits theaters this Friday November 19th. I'm sure most of my fellow Potter-Heads will be seeing it at midnight on the 18th.

I, like many others, have an unhealthy obsession with That Wizard Boy. People ask me all the time, "What is it about this story that you like so much?" In all honesty, I'm not sure I could tell you.

Is it her writing?
Yes, JK Rowling's writing is amazing. Each time I reread an HP book I'm blown away by her talent. I hope to be half as talented as her pinky-toe nail one day.


Is it her characters?

The characters JKR has come up with really come to life on the page. I always find myself laughing out loud at most of the dialogue between Ron and Harry. She also knows how to tug at your heartstrings with the dialogue between Harry and Sirius (or Lupin, Dumbledore, etc). Her characters are also very real and believable to me.


Is it the story itself?

I think this is more plausible than anything. I started reading this series when I was in college and it was so nice to be able to pick up an HP book and get away to a world that was so different than mine. A world that was amazing and filled with magic, but also filled with darkness and fear.


So all in all, I really have no idea why I like Harry Potter so much. There's no one specific thing that calls out to me above the rest, it's just a perfect combination of things that make up the perfect story for me. What about you? Are you a Harry Potter fan? What appeals most to you? Are you seeing the movie at midnight?

Also, I've been such a good girl and have only watched the very first trailer! I watched it (maybe a few dozen times...) and cried every time. I realized I didn't want a single thing to be spoiled for me, so I decided not to watch or read anything else about the movie. I've only caught the trailer on TV once and I quickly changed the channel! Ha!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Operation Narnia


It's no secret that The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are among my all time favorite books. It was one of the few YA/MG series that my small town library had, and I inhaled them (though not literally, inhaling a book sounds painful). This was some of the first books I can remember reading to get away from the stress of life. I felt like Narnia was a second home to me. I, too, was a Pevensie, a queen of Narnia.

When I heard that Samaritan's Purse was teaming up with the new Narnia movie, my ears perked up. Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan's Purse have always been close to my heart. Operation Christmas Child takes up donations of shoe boxes filled with goodies and sends them to children around the world who otherwise wouldn't have a Christmas. The website says, "In Narnia, it was always winter and never Christmas until Aslan arrived with hope. In the same way, simple shoe box gifts filled with toys, school supplies and hygiene items can bring hope to children around the world by reminding them they are loved and not forgotten."

I've participated for as long as I can remember. If you'd like to participate, here's what you need to do:

*Find a shoe box (I usually buy the plastic shoe boxes because the family can use it after to store things in or use to get water.)

*Decide if you want it to be for a boy or a girl and fill it with things!

*Print a label from their website and include a donation for shipping (you can pay online)

*Wrap a rubber band around your box and drop it off! (Click here for locations in your area)

Gift ideas:
Toys
small cars, balls, dolls, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, toys that light up or make noise (with extra batteries), etc.

School Supplies
pens, pencils and sharpener, crayons or markers, stamps and ink pad sets, writing pads or paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.

Hygiene Items
toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap (in a plastic bag), comb, washcloth, etc.

Other
Hard candy and lollipops (please double bag all candy), mints, gum, T-shirts, socks, ball caps; sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries)

A personal note
In a separate envelope, you may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. (If you include your name and address, the child may write back.)


Things not to include:

Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snowglobes or glass containers; aerosol cans.



I urge you all to participate. It's easy, simple, and fun! I finished up my shoe boxes today and I'll have them ready to drop off for national collection week which is November 15-22.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Super Mega Insane Holiday Giveaway

I'm wanting to do a big holiday giveaway here on my blog. I don't have details yet, but I'm hoping it will be Super Mega Intense. I've got a few things I've been hoarding for giveaways, but I don't think it's enough to be Super Mega Intense. If you are an author and have something you'd like to donate (book, book plate, swag, lock of hair, signature on a piece of paper) I would greatly appreciate it!! And just think, you may make someone's holiday season that otherwise may not have a good one (*pulls at heartstrings*). If you have something you'd like to donate, please email me at stephanienpellegrin at gmail dot com. Thank you all so so much in advance! And look for Super Mega Insane details soon!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo

In case you have been living under a rock, November is National Novel Writing Month. Basically everyone gets together, writes over 1,600 words a day, and completes a 50,000 word novel in a month. I've never been able to participate in NaNoWriMo, and this year is no different. (Instead I'll be participating in John Green's NaFADOYBIMSCOM (National Finish A Draft Of Your Book, I Mean Seriously, Come On Month).)

I'm still working on my contemporary and don't really want to set it aside to start something new, and I feel like cheating doing NaNoWriMo when I have already started on a project, so I'm in NaNo lingo. Plus November is an awful month for us. I work retail* and our family lives out of state so when we go home for Thanksgiving it's epic.

During the past couple of weeks I've changed my writing style a bit. Usually while I'm writing I feel the only reason that I'm writing is to get published and be this big famous author and buy everyone I know a house and swim in my basement of money like Scrooge McDuck. Let's face it, folks: authors don't make a lot of money. (Unless you're one of the lucky ones and become uber famous, which I seriously doubt I'll be.) I'm now writing just for me and no one else. I'm writing because I have a story that I feel like needs to be told. I'm writing because my characters deserve to have their story told. I'm not writing specifically for publication (though if that happens I'd gladly accept!), just for myself and my characters. That realization, I feel, has made me a better, happier writer. I don't have to worry about trends and whether I think people will like it. If I like it then it's good enough for me. :)

*I won't be working retail too much longer, though (at least for the time being). I talked to my supervisor yesterday and put in my resignation, my last day will be November 20th. There wasn't one specific reason why I decided to quit, just a lot of things added up and the time seemed right. There was never any possibility for advancement or a raise, and this particular position wasn't bettering me as a person or giving me any useful life skills. None of my bosses were upset and all seems to be well, so I'm thankful. I'll probably look for something else part time after the holidays. I thought and prayed about it a lot and it just seems like the right decision that needed to be made. I hope I'm not making a mistake.

With all that being said, I'm excited to not be working (at least for a few months) and to have extra time to pour into my WIP (and read!). Expect more frequent blog updates from me in the future.

Are you participating in Nano? I'd love to know how your first day went!