Friday, December 26, 2008

I love my gadgets, I do!!

I have a new favorite kitchen gadget! And the funny thing is, it's an old-timey kitchen gadget that I will use extensively to replace more modern kitchen gadgets. Want to know what it is? It's a PRESSURE COOKER!

I blogged a few posts back about using a pressure canner, but this is a cooker. Hannah gave it to me for Christmas, and it will totally replace my rice cooker (Günter and Beca, you want it?), and my microwave for many things. It will also replace my crock pot for actual cooking (but the crock pot is still a good thing if you're taking a hot dish to a pot luck).

I had to play with it today, of course, so the first thing I cooked in it was brown rice. 15 minutes from measuring to eating. Then I did some dried pinto beans. I had soaked them, but cooking time for perfect beans was 10 minutes total. I bought a chuck roast this morning that I will cook in it tomorrow. I'm excited.

I had told Hannah that I wanted one, but that it had to be stainless steel. She said she had to go to 6 different stores to find it (and she actually even set foot in WalMart), and finally found it at Sears. You can get aluminum ones many places (which is what my canner is), but I don't like the idea of cooking in aluminum.

I love kitchen gadgets. I would love, love, love to have a KitchenAid mixer. Trouble is, we have a TINY kitchen. If I had a big kitchen with LOTS of counter space, I'd have every electric gadget I could lay my hands on and just leave them out and ready to use all the time. The trouble with a little kitchen and gadgets is that I have to dig them out, unpack them, use them, clean them, pack them, and re-bury them. Too much trouble. So finding a gadget that will virtually replace several others is truly a blessing. Thanks, Hannah!

Note to Günter and Beca: I also adored my stocking (they gave me my very own stocking, which I hadn't had since I was 18). Whistling chickens and fish pens aren't exactly blog material. BUT, Tom has barely taken off his Mr. Rogers cardigan.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

I certainly hope you had a joyous holiday!! I know we did (except possibly Hannah, who's been suffering from a stomach malady for several days, but had a big ol' bowl of suck-it-up soup and managed to fool everybody). I've posted a bunch of pictures here, primarily for the benefit of two of Tom's sisters who live far away and were unable to be here.The post-gift mess.

Hannah's sweeter than sweet beau, Tony.

Günter and Beca with assorted cousins.
Nice hat, Hannah!
Grover (our grand-nephew) -- the star of the show!

Günter got a mortar and pestle, which thrilled him no end.

Eating is always a good thing (unless you're Hannah).

Grandma, always the party animal, makes the kids work for their goodies. Here they are, playing a game that involves rapid passing of gifts from right to left on certain cues. Hilarity ensued.

More eating. Yeah!!

And more!
Anyway, it was a delightful day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

From Tasty to Tasteless

I said last week that I really love the holidays. I do, I really do, but one of my neighbors could easily turn a person off. I have posted some pictures of this over-the-top house, but they don't really do it justice. This house is a monument to bad taste! The house actually blares electronic Christmas music, and the lights flash in time to the music. It's unbelievable. Check this out:

If you click on the image, it will show up full size. You almost have to do that to get the full effect. Note the odd juxtaposition of the plastic dog, Baachus, and what the hell are Uncle Sam and the tin soldiers doing in the caged off area?.
Through the gate, there is a lit up nativity scene. It's all white, though, and looks like ghosts. It's positively frightening.
And here we have the seven dwarves. WTF?? This one's a little dark, as I was afraid to use the flash (Tom and I snuck over there at about 1:00 a.m.).
Here you can sort of get the essence of the ghostly nativity.
And who can forget the Wise Men being guarded by Frosty the Snowman. There's a Santa Claus on the porch.
Okay, I get it -- they're using Venus as Snow White! I braved the flash this time.

On another note, the reason we were up so late last night is that we of little social life actually went to TWO parties!! Woo-hoo! One of them was a party we go to every year at Candy and Floyd's house, where everyone exchanges "white elephant" gifts. Here is a picture of our swag from this year:
Of course, everyone needs a statue of Bob Hope. And the leather obelisks are just beyond comprehension! They still have price stickers on the bottom -- someone paid $26 for the big one, and $20 for the smaller one. Go figure.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Who Can Take the Sunshine, Sprinkle It With Dew

This is our Christmas tree. Maybe someone can enlighten me on what is actually eco-friendly for holiday trees. First, I have to say that I have to have one. This is an artificial tree that I got about 10 years ago. It's not exactly biodegradable, but it also means I haven't killed a live tree for 10 years. It's also not messy, and not a fire hazard. And I have to say that it looks damn good. It's a 9-foot douglas fir. You can see Davey hanging out beneath it.
I've been busily making lots and lots and lots of candy to give away for x-mas. I have to say, this is my best bunch EVER!

This is a tray of chocolate covered carmels, with crushed roasted almonds. The picture above is prior to the second chocolate dipping. These are so amazingly good!

Above is a bumper crop of glass candy. It has to be stored in glass jars because it is so strong that the smell seeps into everything around it. I made cinnamon, anise, wintergreen, spearmint, peppermint, clove, and butter rum.

And this is a picture of the boys. Inserted here just because they were being very cute.

This is "marbelized mint bark." Not my favorite, but Hannah says it's hers. Oh, and to the left you can see some of my homemade sauerkraut.

Peanut butter balls, prior to second chocolate dipping.
I love the holiday season!