23 December 2012

Christmas Eve Eve

GZMoohoo posted elsewhere today that I was over at his house, doing some Christmas baking and helping with the decorating. First, the baking. I am in charge of both the traditional cheese ball and, for the first time this year, dessert for the massive Elvecrog family get-together.

Here they are, in the order mentioned above:

Cheese Ball - cream cheese, herb/garlic goat cheese, cheddar, tabasco, and pecans.

Peppermint Shortbread Bars, from The Kitchn

Foolproof Fudge

And of course, Cranberry Bread as always.

We were really very productive and efficient - all of the above plus grocery shopping was finished by 3:30pm or so. That left plenty of time for some decorating. First, the extraordinarily all-inclusive Nativity Scene.

And then some of the old stand-bys for the Christmas Tree (or Christmas Bush, all grown up):


Our favorite bicycling related ornament. There are many.

Hand crafted in the Old World European style. In Romania.

Merry Christmas to All!

09 December 2012

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Twin Cities metro area is getting its' first snowfall of the winter and boy is it a doozy. The originally predicted 2-4" have been surpassed with 7 inches already on the ground and it is still coming down out there at quite a clip. Calvin was entirely fascinated by it this morning:


We decided to leave the car where it is, safely parked in the garage, and take the train downtown to get some exercise at our local gym. We ran into one of our neighbors already out there shoveling. An omen of things to come. The train was (and still is) running exactly on time. Unlike the buses, it pretty much always does. I love the train.


We came home and decided it was time to get out there and shovel some of this stuff. I felt very accomplished when I finished all the sidewalks out front:

That blue shovel is pretty awesome. Good hardware store purchase.

We are now in the warm house reading our books and listening to some Christmas music on the radio. I love December, even if it does come with lots of shoveling.

P.S. To my regular readers: I sold my grandfather's car yesterday. The guy paid cash and took it home with him, after we gave him a discount for the sorry state of the front brakes. It could not have happened at a more opportune time (imagine moving it in all this snow!), and my grandparent's are almost $2000 richer just before the holidays, not to mention the car insurance and garage space savings. It worked out wonderfully.

30 November 2012

NaBloPoMo: Looking Back

As I usually do (although I didn't get to it last year), I thought I'd round up this blog-everyday-for-a-month month with a retrospective of my 4 favorite posts from each year. First, to find the last retrospective and copy and paste... and realize that we've been doing this for a long time now, wow. Way to persevere!

NaBloPoMo 2012
Pannekoekun Huis
70 Years!
1996 Ford Taurus
New House: Part 6A

NaBloPoMo 2011
Day 1: Leaves!
Calvin the Video Star
Cat Ownership 2.0
Dance Your Cares Away

NaBloPoMo 2010:
Turkey Day
Stuffed Squash
Happy Birthday, Grandpa!
Beauty of Fall

NaBloPoMo 2009:
Turkey Day, Part 2
Old Friends
Day 5 - A YouTube Clip
Moon in the Morning

NaBloPoMo 2008:
Pasta Carbonara
A Day in the Life
Yes We Did
88 Years Young

NaBloPoMo 2007:
Les Aventures de Domo-Kun
Sunday in France
A 10 Hour Day
A Month of Posts - Day 1

It's been fun once again and, as I said last year, I hope I can keep up with the blogging more frequently. Goodness knows I have MORE than enough photos of the cat to blog pretty much indefinitely. I mean, come on, look at how cute he is!


29 November 2012

New House: Part 6B

Subtitle: The Finished Product, Part 2.

Continuing on, as promised. Not pictured: The basement utility/storage room and the attic that has been converted into a large bedroom + storage. It's still a disaster up there... We'll get to it eventually.

The Kitchen

IMG_3009Basement TV Room


Laundry Room, Basement (I LOVE having my own washer/dryer. Laundry is no longer annoying!)


Basement Bedroom aka Calvin's Room


Backyard, in sunnier, warmer times.

Calvin approves of this whole new house deal - there are stairs and all sorts of exciting windows! He's also allowed in our bedroom in the new house, which means he can keep warm under the covers while I am getting ready in the mornings. Little stinker:

Out of focus, I know... still, cute!

28 November 2012

New House: Part 6A

Subtitle: The Finished Product, Part 1

Here are some photos I took very recently of the state of the house right now. It's not entirely finished, and I don't think it ever will be, but it's decorated and we have pretty much all of our furniture etc. So now, part 1 of the photo tour.

The Living Room

The Dining Room

The Office

The Bathroom

Our Bedroom, plus Calvin looking into the backyard.

To be continued...

27 November 2012

Business Traveler

As I believe I mentioned in the comments to Santini's blog, I am off tomorrow to travel to my company's boat factory in Cadillac, MI. All my bags are packed and I'm ready to go...


I don't have much time for blogging tonight, nor will I when I am in Michigan, so I'll leave you this evening with some videos of my boats in action:

Calvin doesn't want me to go:

Silly cat, sitting on the sink.

26 November 2012

Recipe Sources

I find that I spend a lot of time on my blog talking about food - recipes I like, what I had for dinner, restaurants, holiday events that focus on food etc. I even have a shared food blog with some of my family members who also like to blog (you know who you are). So I thought it might be fun to take a look at where I get some of my recipes/ideas. Here is a photo of the Cookbook section of my bookshelf:


The main books, from left to right:
  • Good Eats: The Early Years by Alton Brown. This is actually Andy's book, which I guess makes it ours now? We loved to watch "Good Eats" when it was on the Food network and we've found that this book has some extremely easy to follow recipes for fairly complicated things. 
  • How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. An essential for any beginning cook, or someone who is just forgetful. How long to cook potatoes, again? And what's the best way to make applesauce?
  • Food Network Kitchens: Making it Easy. This was an impulse buy while wandering Barnes & Noble once upon a time. I don't think I've actually used it for anything yet. Hmm.
  • The Joy of Cooking, 1976 Edition & The Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Edition. The first one is my copy, inherited from my father and the newer one is Andy's. We both understand the value of this book and many of our favorite recipes come from one of these two books.
  • Art of the Slow Cooker, by Andrew Schloss. I inherited my parents' slow cooker (from 1979!) a few years back and I was looking for things to make besides pork roast. My cousin Adam gave me this cookbook for Christmas and I have found all sorts of yummy recipes inside.
  • Just 4 Things: Another impulse Barnes & Noble purchase (it's now for sale for $0.01 if you follow that link!) that has proved useful - very basic recipes requiring minimal ingredients. The few things I've tried so far have been quite excellent.
  • Kenmore Microwave Cooking: My parents have this book and I found it at Goodwill for $1. It's great for knowing how long to cook basic things in the microwave - broccoli, potatoes, eggs, etc. I would not recommend any of the more complex recipes, however. And yes, the cover of mine is just as 1980s cheesy as the one I linked to on EBay.

That's pretty much it for my in-use, hard copy sources. There are also two websites that I rely on A LOT to figure out potential recipes/meal ideas. They are:
  • Simply Recipes. The Parmesan Chicken is so, so bad for you but also unbelievably delicious. However, our favorite is the Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce. Also not health food.
  • The Pioneer Woman. A lot of her recipes are very high on butter/oil and carbs, making them slightly less than ideal but also super delicious. My personal favorite is the Crispy Yogurt Chicken. We'll have to make that again soon.
That was fun! Where do all of you get your cooking ideas, aside from our totally fantastic food blog, of course?

And now, the obligatory Calvin photo. It would not be a complete blog post without cat content:

25 November 2012

New House: Part 5 (The Super Train)

When Andy and I first started talking about buying a house we determined that wherever we ended up, it would need to be close to either a main bus line or the light rail line (or Super Train, as Andy likes to call it). I am the only car owner between the two of us, so Andy needs good transit access to get to work near the Capitol building in St. Paul. When we learned that Jill and Andrej were looking to sell their house, we knew it was perfect from a transit perspective (not to mention for many other reasons). Our New House is only two-ish blocks from this:

The VA Medical Center Station on the Hiawatha Line (soon to be the Blue Line)

Today we took the train here:
Warehouse District Station, Downtown Minneapolis

The gym we are members of has a location only two blocks from this stop, which used to be the end of the line. They extended it one more stop when Target Field opened a few years ago. It is indispensable for getting to Twins games and all sorts of other sporting events. And really, to getting all sorts of other places. Here's a map:


We also use it all the time to go to Mall of America for shopping or movies... and occasionally, to go on some rides. They are building a second line (the Central Corridor or Green Line) that will connect the two downtowns, branching off at the Metrodome Station and then terminating at the newly renovated Union Depot in St. Paul. It is set to open approximately 18 months from now. We're a little excited. The Green Line will have a stop just in front of Andy's office, so his commute will be a breeze.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have turkey stock simmering on my stove that I need to check on. I leave you with another cute Calvin photo:

Nap time.

24 November 2012

1996 Ford Taurus

My grandfather just celebrated both his 70th wedding anniversary and his 92nd birthday. For a guy with that many years under his belt, he is in phenomenal health. However, for an average person... perhaps not so much. His children recently made the very wise (and perhaps tardy) decision to tell him that he really shouldn't be driving anymore. He is taking it surprisingly well - they are giving up their underground, heated garage space as of the end of the month and Andy and I volunteered to act as used-car brokers. So today I went over there to take some photos of their beloved vehicle, a 1996 Ford Taurus with only 91,000 miles on it:

Parked in the aforementioned underground parking space, where they've kept it for the last decade.

In the out-of-doors, from the other side. It's in amazingly good shape.

The pristine interior. Grandpa Bud always took excellent care of his cars.

He took it for his final drive today - out of the garage to the parking lot for photos and then back into the garage to stay parked until we move it on December 1st. I plan to post an online ad late this week and I don't think we'll have any trouble selling it. Any takers out there in the blogosphere?

And now, the Calvin photo of the day:

He does love his Purrrniture.

23 November 2012

What's for Dinner?

For lunch today, of course we had Thanksgiving leftovers, after a trip to the gym in downtown Minneapolis to work off some of yesterday's food. We were not the only people who had that idea. We also did a bit of browsing of the Black Friday sales at Macy's and elsewhere. Nothing too super tempting.

Dinner was another story - two meals of leftovers just weren't appealing. So we started cooking - can you guess what we had based on the following photo slide show?






It was super delicious and a nice break from Turkey. I think we'll be making Turkey & Dumpling soup on Sunday with the carcass that Gzmoohoo sent home with us. I am looking forward to it already.

Calvin observed the cooking progress from the usually forbidden table:


22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had a lovely time celebrating Thanksgiving over at Gzmoohoo's house. I didn't get any photos of people (I am bad at remembering to do that), but here are some photos of the delicious food and fun activities:

The turkey had just come out of the oven and the potatoes were cooking away on the stove.

The table all set and ready to go, just waiting for all the wonderful food.

Pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, and apple pie. That's half a pie per person.

IMG_3003Mom made whipped cream by hand. So much better than Reddi Whip, and don't even talk to me about the abomination that is Cool Whip.

Adam was brave enough to have a piece of each right off the bat. I staggered my three pieces over a few hours instead. All delicious.

Then it was time for the Miller family tradition of word games. First Bananagrams, then some Boggle. I won with 48 points. The words "smash" and "mash" in that particular round put me over the edge.

Our sign that it was time to head home. We had a wonderful time, as I think did everyone else.

Calvin was very happy to see us and I think will soon be taking up his usual place on the couch, snuggling between his two people:


P.S. A note to those who may be curious - there are absolutely no Cheetos available on Thanksgiving, even if it seems like there might be. No Cheetos!

21 November 2012

Turkey Day Eve

I have heard from various sources that today, the day before Thanksgiving, is the busiest day for bars all year. Bigger even than, say, New Year's Eve. Do people dread seeing their families that much, or is it that all their old friends are back in town? Regardless, I don't think I will be taking part. We've got very important basketball to watch here. Plus, I've already put on my comfy pants and it's been a pretty busy day, considering that I did not have to go to work.

After sleeping in a bit (but only a bit - the cat won't let me sleep in too late), and hanging out with the cat...


... I got in my pre-Thanksgiving workout and then headed on over to my parents' house to help Mrs. Smith with some Tgiving prep. We started with a yummy lunch, then proceeded to make the always traditional cranberry bread (with 11 ingredients as usual). It goes from this:


To this in not very much time at all:


While at the gym, I noticed once again that my workout shoes are getting pretty worn out - they look just fine from the outside but I can feel that the internal support is breaking down. Mom and I like any excuse to go shopping for shoes, so off to my former employer we went. They were having a buy one, get one half off sale so I may have splurged.

Hondaramic, no?

I almost got some in bright orange, but these fit better. Also...

They were half price, I couldn't resist.