Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Merry Monday Thoughts

I had planned on featuring our Christmas decorations this week, but as they weren't completely finished before the unfortunate camera spill, I'm making you wait until next week. Sorry my friends!


After spending Black Friday somewhere between Walmart, Kohls, and the MALL (why oh why?!), I've decided to do a little discussion on Christmas presents today. 


We really didn't buy that much, except for some much-needed clothes for Scott and some of those bargain DVD's, and in wandering around, I found myself beginning to wonder.


I saw so many people completely piled up to their ears like in cartoons, arms full of this year's latest toy, the latest iPod (excuse me...iPHONE...or is it iPad?? ack.) model on sale, and lines wrapped around stores three times over all for 40% off clothes that were too expensive to begin with. 


Through certain circumstances this year, we're a little tight on money for Christmas gifts, and I know we're not alone. So it continues to baffle me why I see all my fellow strugglers loading up with gifts and stretching credit limits when the mortgage payment continues to fall behind.


Now don't get me wrong. I know that many people do it the right way - they save up money, and spend it at retailers which in turn stimulates the economy. Or I guess that's what they say. I could probably go on another tangent entirely about how Black Friday deals really aren't that great except on few token items. 


My point is that it frustrates me to see parents still buying boxes and boxes of the latest toys that will get played with for 15 minutes and then thrown in a closet, all to create the illusion of a lush and wealthy Christmas for their children, when things really aren't okay.


When I was growing up, both my parents worked at our family business. We sold boats, boat parts, and performed maintenance and service. And as anyone in the boat business knows, winter is a time when the dollar has to be stretched in order to make it back to the summer. So needless to say, we didn't always have wealthy Christmases. My parents always made sure there were plenty of gifts, and I'm sure sometimes at the expense of bills getting paid, but we were never under the illusion that we were getting all the latest things just because it was Christmas. 


When I look back on Christmases in our family, I don't remember all the gifts we received, but really just the memories. I remember my parents sprinkling red glitter on the front porch and telling me it was dust from Rudolph's nose. I remember mornings of leaping on my parents' bed with my brother, begging for them to get up. I remember services at church, bellowing Handel's Messiah loudly with my dad while playing relentless games of Scrabble. I remember baking bread and watching Charlie Brown's Christmas with my mom. I remember the way our house smelled and looked, full of warm food and twinkling lights.


And to me, those were the best Christmas gifts. We learned to make do, to be creative, and to be appreciative of the gifts we did receive and what we had because it was still more than many other hungry families around the world had.


It's so easy to get caught up in the materialism of the season. Brother needs this and this. Co-worker needs that. Might as well go ahead and buy this because it's so marked down. Heaven knows I'm guilty of it. 


But I hope that during this period of economic downturn that we remember to spend a little less time shopping and a little more time making memories with our families. Because what are your children going to remember - that you bought them the latest video game? Or that you took time out of your day to do an art project, watch a movie, bake, or play a game with them.


Throughout the month I'll be posting ideas of homemade Christmas gifts and recipes, but what I hope you really remember on this Merry Monday (or Tuesday, as life may have it), is to enjoy your family and friends. Throw parties. Go caroling. Play games. Enjoy each other's company. And take time to remember the reason for this season.


Have a merry day!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Merry Monday.... on hold.

So, I have been M.I.A. for a few days due to some great holiday merriment which included a lot of delicious food and gluttony, getting up and meeting some precious friends at 6am to go shopping ALL DAY on Friday, and some good family time. I hope your holiday was wonderful too!
Thanksgiving Meal 2010. Wonder how much wine I've had at this point?



Today's Merry Monday post is temporarily on hold, as my camera (which was actually Scott's to begin with, but his had an image stabilizing feature which helped me with my obsessive no-flash-macro photos), has met with an untimely death. 


I rarely spill things, and when I do - it's catastrophic. 


Incident #1: I spilled water all over my laptop in college, which resulted in a loud sizzle, and the replacement of 90% of the parts in the computer (under warranty, thankfully). 


Incident #2 was Saturday...when my camera and a cup of coffee managed to both spill off a table, and the majority of the coffee landed on the camera. We had hope that it might live at first, as it seemed to be functioning normally after I cleaned it up...but alas, the camera has passed on to the great wild yonder.


So...after I shed quite a few tears last night, Scott and I have agreed that the camera is "just a thing", and we have moved on to continuing to build the nest-egg that already was the "Upgrade Megan's Camera Fund". 


Never fear though - I do still have my old camera, which works just fine and takes great photos - so I'll be up and running again soon! 


In the meantime, I highly recommend going to check out my best friend Kate's blog, where she is doing an Advent feature EVERY DAY until Christmas. Someone's been a busy little girl! 


She is a fabulous writer, so click here to follow along with her story.
Kate and I in college, doing what we do. Which is apparently a little odd.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

And a wonderful Thanksgiving to you!



Because there's not really any better way to put it....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Testing testing...iMovie!

So, today I discovered iMovie on my computer. I've had this computer about four or five months now so I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but nonetheless, I found it!


For non-Mac users, iMovie is a program where you can do basic editing on your videos you take, putting together clips and adding music. I was stubborn and didn't watch the tutorial, and still managed to do pretty well I think! I've probably also grossly underestimated the projects you can take on with it, but...I'm ignorant. What can I say.


Here's my first attempt at a little mini-film - made up of scenes of time we spent with Scott's hilarious nephews last Saturday. 


Cameron is the blondie and also the youngest, and Jadon will be four in May. Jadon is probably going to be a filmmaker one day, because he MUST be behind the camera viewing the screen at all times. You'll see this as I'm trying to convince him to be in front of the camera. Oh well.


Enjoy!


video

Monday, November 22, 2010

Soundtrack for the Season!

Merry Monday!


My Christmas decorations have rolled in and are about to be unloaded this week! As the next few days are going to be action-packed and full of cooking, eating, and other merriment, I'm keeping today's Merry Monday post fairly simple. Christmas soundtrack, anyone?


Here is a list of a few* of my favorite Christmas songs which will hopefully add a little extra bounce to your holiday bustle this week!


*Few = necessity, unless you want a blog entry that's 12 pages long!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mini-Rant

Join with me for a moment to frown and mutter against the ignorance of some Americans. 

My friend Samantha and I were out running a few errands yesterday and stopped by Dunkin' Donuts to pick up some coffees for our husbands, who were playing Rockband babysitting her daughter Ella while we were out.

It was evening, so it was pretty quiet in the store, and only one woman in front of us. Except little did we know, this one woman would take ten minutes to complete her order because she was too busy making them re-make her order twelve times because, as she termed it so pleasantly to Sam and I, "Those ()#*$'ing Indians don't know what they're )@#(#'ing doing and they're probably not even LEGAL..."...and another long string of profanities that I won't share.

In the ten minutes that we waited behind her, she complained about:
1. How much her meal cost (HOW much tax? ...scoff, painstakingly pulls out eight extra cents)
2. Her coffee (can I have MILK in this please?? DO YOU UNDERSTAND ENGLISH?? STAND WHERE I CAN SEE YOU SO I KNOW YOU'RE NOT SPITTING IN MY DRINK)
3. Her sandwich (You burned it! YOU BURNED MY FLATBREAD. I KNOW IT'S BURNED BECAUSE I GET THESE ALL THE TIME. [Really? Because I'm pretty sure you were confused as to why it cost so much...])
4. The service (Could you take any longer? WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG. [Again...really? REALLY?])

Finally, this offense to society marched her self-righteous tail out of Dunkin' Donuts and Sam & I, a couple behind us that had witnessed the entire ordeal, and the two sweet Indian ladies working behind the counter, all started to laugh hysterically. 

I would like to note that these two ladies completed our order accurately, politely, and quickly. 

We all have our moments, I'm guilty too. But let's remember to guard our actions carefully my friends, and not make snap-judgments just because of someone's ethnicity.

Fall in Vermont

It's a sick day for Megs today, which always makes me homesick for my parents, and with them, the entire state of Vermont. The trees in Maryland are just about bare, with the exception of a few brilliantly colored Bradford Pears, but I'm still reveling in the beauty that is Fall in Vermont. Here are a few photos of my home-away-from-home for you to enjoy (which, don't be deceived, has already had snow...I'm just still in an Autumn-state-of-mind.).


A classic Vermont sugar shack. Ever wonder where your maple syrup comes from?


Fog across the slopes of my favorite mountain and where I used to work - Killington.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ever feel like it's going to be one of those days?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey Leftovers: Day Two

It seemed appropriate this week to combine the Thursday dinner feature with more turkey leftovers.


So far, Mr. Bird has given us (including the initial meal) eight servings. EIGHT. So tonight I used up the last of the leftovers and made Turkey Tetrazzini, which made another eight servings. That means this 11.5 pound bird has given us SIXTEEN SERVINGS. For a little more than $5! Whew, I can hardly stand it.


And the Turkey Tetrazzini....was awesome. If I do say so myself. Scott had about three of the eight servings in one sitting, if that tells you anything. It was a little more involved than most of the recipes I do, but still probably didn't take more than forty-five minutes to assemble.


This delicious recipe came from Epicurious.com, so I give them all the credit for coming up with this!


Turkey Tetrazzini:


Ingredients:
10 ounces mushrooms, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
10 ounces spaghetti
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey
1 cup cooked peas
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs


Directions:
In a large heavy saucepan cook the mushrooms in 1/4 cup of the butter over moderate heat, stirring, until most of the liquid they give off has evaporated. Stir in the flour, and cook the mixture over low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes.
Mmm... mushrooms.
Ready to add the flour.
After cooking in flour for a couple minutes.
Add in a stream the milk, the broth, and the wine, stirring. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes. In a kettle of boiling salted water cook the spaghetti until it is al dente and drain well.


Bringing to a boil.
Mushroom sauce ready to be mixed with other ingredients.
In a large bowl, combine well the spaghetti, the mushroom sauce, the turkey, the peas, and salt and pepper to taste, stir in 1/3 cup of the Parmesan, and transfer the mixture to a buttered shallow 3-quart casserole. In a small bowl combine well the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan, the bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the Tetrazzini, and dot the top with the remaining 1 tbsp butter, cut into bits.



Exciting note: The Tetrazzini can be prepared up to this point up to 1 month in advance and kept covered and frozen. Awesome make-ahead dish! All you have to do is pop it in the oven and you have fresh dinner!

Bake the Tetrazzini in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the top is golden.
Hello, Tetrazzini. I think this might be love at first sight.
A new favorite for our family.
I'm pretty sure I'll be roasting turkeys more now, just so that Scott can eat more of this. He was like a little kid staring at a chocolate cake, and it's not too disgustingly unhealthy (not much cheese!), so I think I'll indulge him.

Tricks of the Trade:
  • Two things about this recipe made me take longer than usual: I always do chicken broth from bouillon cubes, and I realized a good way into the recipe that I needed milk, which was precisely what Scott was out at the store to get at that same moment since we were out. Fortunately, I had powdered milk in the cupboard, which worked fabulously. I'd say I recommend it, since this is almost 2 cups of milk and powdered milk is MUCH cheaper! Scott had wrinkled his nose at it but couldn't tell at all in the end.
  • Freshly grated is always relative term for me. To me, freshly grated cheese is what you buy in bags at the grocery store. So, my Parmesan cheese was pre-packaged and pre-shredded...and no one was the wiser.
  • I cooked my spaghetti right from the beginning, that way the sauce wouldn't be kept waiting once it thickened. Better to have cold spaghetti than overcooked sauce.
  • Instead of getting another dish dirty, I combined everything in my large saucepan that the sauce was already in - worked out very well.
  • Word of advice: keep your last tablespoon of butter chilled if you plan on "dotting it". I had just left it out and by the time I got to this step it was pretty soft and I couldn't exactly cut it into bits.
  • I am PUMPED about "making-ahead" this recipe once I have a big enough freezer. If you're ever making meals for friends who have recently been hospitalized or had a baby, this would be a great one for sure.
And that, my friends, is the last of Mr. Bird. Although, I heard a rumor that we might be meeting Mrs. Bird sometime in December... hmm...




Wednesday, November 17, 2010

     I'm a big believer in for-no-reason parties -- last minute-parties, where the house is less than squeaky clean, where the guest list is "whoever could come with three days' notice," and the menu is "whatever I could think of and whatever goes with feta or chutney."
     There's something about seeing your house filled with people you love, something about feeding people, especially on days when it seems like you can't make a dent in any of the larger, more theoretical challenges in life.
     I don't know where we'll be in five years or how exactly we'll pay the mortgage the next few months or when we'll have another child, but I do know how to make dinner, and to see the people I care about gobble it up makes me feel like something is right, even when it seems like nothing is. There's something so healing about those quiet moments at the table, when everyones mouth -- or mind or heart -- is full, when you feel connected and nourished and content, even if it's just for a split second.

Thank you, Shauna Niequist, for putting it so perfectly.

Turkey Leftovers: Day One

**Update: You can find an easy-to-print version of this recipe here! **


Feeling a little more stuffed than your Thanksgiving turkey?

If you're anything like me, you manage to consume so much on Thanksgiving that you don't really feel like eating much of anything for the next 4 days after. But what on earth to do with the leftover turkey?!

Move over Panera Bread Company, because I've put together a recipe that will knock the socks off anything on your menu!

I'm a huge fan of any sort of "salad" - egg, tuna, chicken, especially Waldorf salads. So I decided to combine a few recipes and make up my own version of a Turkey Waldorf salad, light enough that your taste buds and stomach will thank you after 24 hours of major eating, and super simple.

Turkey Waldorf

Ingredients:
2 cups chopped turkey
1/2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup Miracle Whip
1/2 cup Craisins or dried cranberries
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped Granny Smith apple

Directions:
Mix up all those wonderful ingredients.



A nut-grinding mill. Awesome, wonderful contraption.




Serve on a bed of baby spinach, with crumbled feta or mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top. Whew, wasn't that difficult??

Yum. Delicious, light, and portable. Pack this and that spinach and some crusty bread rolls in a cooler and have a little picnic break in your car while you're out fighting for Black Friday bargains.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Boxcar Children

...Seriously. I was drifting through old photo albums and came across this gem. 


A little background information:


I DETEST "ricers" - Honda's with ridiculous mufflers and even more ridiculous spoilers. Give me a good old American muscle car any day.


One day during our sophomore year of college, Scott and his best friend Christian were bored. And they noticed that there was a lot of cardboard near one of the dumpsters near the lot where my car was parked. And I just happened to be at work for the next few hours.


The result...you guessed it. My poor, poor car.











Monday, November 15, 2010

Merry Monday!

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching (can you believe it's next week??), I thought it would be fitting to spend a little time focusing on some simple decorating tips to get your home glowing for friends and family.


My personal philosophy is to make the big four holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Years) all flow together as seamlessly as possible so that you don't spend half your time hauling huge plastic bins from your attic or basement.


When I decorate for Halloween, I tend to do less scary and more of an autumn theme, so this makes the transition to Thanksgiving pretty easy. And when I decorate for Thanksgiving, it's usually with Halloween "leftovers" and a few things for Christmas.


I also don't really believe in intricate decorations that will take you more time than the entire food preparation. For example, I have recently read about stamping your linens with decorative fall designs, placeholders so complicated you'd need to be a surgeon to execute them, and wishbone napkin rings. That's right...you're supposed to SAVE all the wishbones from those millions of chickens that you roast, spray paint them silver, and then wrap them and silver thread around your napkins. Whaattt??


So in the name of simplicity, I'll begin with one of nature's best decorations: gourds. I have a small love affair with gourds, because they are one of the cheapest and easiest decorations for October and November. My apartment is covered with them, in all shapes and sizes.







My only disappointment is that you can't keep them year-round. But it's always fun to find more interesting ones every year!


A lot of websites and magazines focus on doing elaborate centerpieces for your Thanksgiving table, however in my family, all the food was brought out to the table instead of serving yourself buffet style so there was virtually no room for a centerpiece. We think you might as well get a good look at all the delicious food you spent hours preparing! I still think our table looked lovely, don't you? Simplicity at its finest.
At my parent's house in Vermont, with my wonderful grandparents
helping get everything set up.
However, if you're going to do a centerpiece, I have found a couple that I really enjoy, and are designed to last till Christmas. Which I'm a fan of, of course.
Better Homes & Gardens has an incredible feature on
centerpieces specifically designed to last till Christmas. I think
this one is especially beautiful and have every intention
of doing this centerpiece when I have a dining room
table large enough. I think this would look lovely as a
mantelpiece as well.
An adorable idea from Martha Stewart.
I also love the idea of wandering outside, finding what you find, and making something out of it. This is something I put together for Thanksgiving one year at my old home in North Carolina - all from our small suburban yard. (Borrow from your neighbors too, but make sure you know them well first!)




I also love this idea. Such a simple place marker, and extremely easy to find.
At least if you live in the South anyways. (Credit to Martha Stewart again for this idea.)
 One last idea that I stumbled across and I think is brilliant is more of a permanent fixture that could be changed year-round.
Hello, bird-bath table! Better Homes & Gardens strikes again with another great idea. Glass table top on top of a bird bath filled with seasonal goodies. This particular one is florist's moss and a mixture of decorative ornaments. Just think of the possibilities!


And because I could go on and on, one last decor possibility. Another one that I plan on doing as soon as I have a staircase to decorate on! I think this would also be lovely if you had a front porch railing.
Eternal credit to Better Homes & Gardens
Have great Thanksgiving decorating tricks? Send me photos - I'd love to share them with everyone!


Merry Monday everyone!