Wednesday, December 17, 2008

there's just never one around when you need one...

We were out running errands on Saturday and it was a relatively clear day, so we could see the Charlotte skyline in the distance. Jack loves this and almost always points it out, "Look, there's Charlotte!" But, we weren't actually headed uptown, so after a moment, the buildings disappeared from view. Then Jack asked, "Where do beavers live?" "Usually by rivers, I guess." I said, and Doug nodded, both of us looking at each other, knowing better than to think this is just a random question. We didn't have to wait long for Jack to connect the dots. "Urgh! Well, we need to get some beavers here to chop down these trees so we can see the buildings again!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

the only santa ainsley was interested in seeing...

...was the one in the display window of the Apple Store. We stood there so long, I thought the employees would call security and have us taken away for loitering...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

november pictures

Here are November's pictures. There are some from Kate's wedding shower, at which Ryan, Emily and I made a surprise appearance. I wish I had more from Thanksgiving, but other than the ones I have already posted, I only have the one of Ainsley in Gommie's apron. Emily took some great shots, but we seem to have misplaced the cable that connects her camera to the computer, so for now, it's just not meant to be.

December's pictures will no doubt have lots of Christmas-y things and maybe even a few pictures of Ryan's (finally) finished room with his new loft and desk. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 5, 2008

in case you missed it...

A performance by Ryan's future wife and father-in-law.

on my mind today

We don't need to make this decision for several more months, but today I'm thinking about whether or not to put Ainsley in preschool next year.

12 hours a week of "kid-free" time versus never again having an excuse not to get things done.

also, why i will probably have to wear my yoga pants until january

Thursday, December 4, 2008

why i've had to wear my yoga pants every day this week

Does this ever happen to you?

It's lunch time and you've been eating the ridiculously fattening Thanksgiving leftovers every day for lunch and you've really had enough now, so you think, whatever...I'll just have a bowl of cereal. You know, because you really just can't be bothered to fix anything for just you. Which is why you've been reheating leftovers all week. So you're just going to have a bowl of cereal when you remember the leftovers from taco night last night. And so you look and see that there is probably a little more than you really need, but not really enough for two servings. And so you go ahead and heat it all up and end up making the world's largest taco and by the time you finish, you're incredibly full and you've made a giant mess and you're wishing you had just had a bowl of cereal.

No? Hmm...just me then.

thanksgiving postmortem

How is it even remotely possible that Thanksgiving was already an entire week ago?? They say time flies when you're having fun. Well, I'm going to tell you that it flies even when you're not. Okay, to be fair, it's not that I'm not having fun. I mean, it's Christmastime! The music is fun! And the planning is fun! And the shopping has even been a little enjoyable! But some of us have been sick. And some of us have been tired. And, quite frankly, I'm a little sick and tired of being sick and tired. And my ears are stuffy and not being able to hear well is making me a bit cranky and forgetful. Wait, what am I supposed to be writing about today? Oh, right...Thanksgiving!

So, here is what I made: Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter (as an appetizer, mid-afternoon) Roast Turkey, Stuffing/Dressing (Is there a difference? I never know what to call it!), Mashed Potatoes with Gravy, Butternut Squash Puree, Spinach Gratin, Roasted Asparagus, Cranberry Conserve, Homemade Bread, Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie and Key Lime Pie (with whipped cream). For 10 people. 4 of them children. 2 of the children didn't eat anything but bread. I know, I went a little nuts. But I have to say that at the time, I didn't feel like I was going nuts. I actually felt less stressed than I ever have preparing any other holiday meal and I think that's because I was really able to do a lot ahead. Preparation is key.

Here's what worked:

1.) Brining the turkey. I used this brining blend from Williams Sonoma. And these brining bags. They both worked wonderfully. In fact, the only problem I think you could possibly have is if the person helping you fill the brining bag happens to let go of the side of the bag for a second, causing the bag to collapse and brine to spill out all over your kitchen cabinets and floor and even run under the refrigerator and then you have to pull out your refrigerator (which most likely has not been done for years! Gross!!) and clean and disinfect your kitchen (AGAIN!). But really, the odds of that happening are, like, slim to none, right?

Now, I suppose I could have made my own brine but I really liked all of the ingredients in this one and it was incredibly easy to do. Here is what the brine looked like:

By the time I bought all of those fabulous spices and such, I probably would have spent the same as I did on the mix at Williams Sonoma and the gas to drive there. And did I mention how easy it was? I'll definitely do this again.

2.) The Spinach Gratin. I think this was my favorite dish. Yes, it's a Barefoot Contessa recipe and I was able to put it all together the night before and then bake it after I took the turkey out to rest. I was very sad on Tuesday night when I finished off the last of the leftovers of this dish.

And speaking of dishes I made in advance...

3.) Mashed Potatoes. Now, I read about this potato recipe on and I have to admit I was a little skeptical. I wasn't really sure how these potatoes would taste made in advance and then warmed in the oven (I put them in at the same time as the spinach). But, since my least favorite part of making Thanksgiving dinner is making the mashed potatoes right at the end so they stay warm while you're trying to get everything else on the table, I thought I would take a chance. So glad I did. I will make them this way from now on...

4.) Butternut Squash/Butternut Squash Ravioli. I went with Holly's suggestion and looked for a recipe for Butternut Squash Ravioli and found this one, which I used as a guide. Earlier in the week, I roasted the butternut squash, pureed it in the food processor and then froze the puree. I took it out Thursday morning to defrost, made the filling and then assembled the ravioli using wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta. I think I let the sage brown butter go just a bit too long, but sometimes that happens when you're trying to cook and show your mother pictures of people you went to high school with on Facebook at the same time. (Note to Santa: Need a laptop to use in the kitchen.) Here is what the dish looked like:

Since I only needed part of the butternut squash for this recipe, I ended up warming up the rest and adding cream and pure maple syrup to serve as another last minute side dish. I'm not sure anyone ended up eating it, but it did look pretty on the table.

Here's what didn't work:

1.) Having sick kids the week leading up to and including Thanksgiving Day. Not that there is anything I could have done about this, but it really kind of puts a damper on the holiday. Not to mention the fact that it's incredibly hard to get things done when your baby looks at you like this:

I'm quite sure my house didn't pass the "White Glove Test," and so a special thank you goes out to my guests for pretending not to notice!

2.) The Gravy. I didn't take into account how the large amount of salt in the turkey brine would make the pan drippings really salty. When I made the gravy, I used some of the pan drippings and some chicken broth, and then I added some half and half at the end, but I think it was still a little too salty. Of course, Williams Sonoma does make a Turkey Gravy base...

3.) The pie crusts. I just don't know what it is with me and pie crust, but I can't seem to get it right. I've tried many different recipes...from pies that I have really enjoyed...but I just don't have the touch. So, I thought I would just get my old standby Pillsbury crusts that you just unroll and put in the pan. Only when I went to the store, they were out of Pillsbury pie crusts (which really ticked me off because I even had a coupon!), so I ended up buying the Harris Teeter brand pie crusts, and they sucked. Really, they were awful. And I didn't realize just how awful until Tuesday night when we were having our Turkey Pot Pie for dinner made with the Pillsbury crusts that Doug bought over the weekend. So, so much better.

So, I guess I'm just going to have to get over it and make pie after pie until I get the stupid crust right. (Right now, Doug is high-fiving everyone around him as he reads this...)

And so there you have it. I truly had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you all did too.