Thanksgiving Day Play-by-play

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Christine here – as suggested by Judy, let’s try this “live-blogging” thing! Here’s a run down of some of the prep, cooking, and fun that’s going on in our houses today…

(Forgive the less-than-perfect photos, we’re going for quickness here!)

7:47 am- C: Woke up early and went down to the garage to flip the bird (haha). This year we were lucky to have an extra fridge (thanks Judy!) in the garage that we could use for the turkey and brine (all alone…). I like how this picture looks a bit omnious, hehehe.

lonely turkey

9:07am- D: Wish I had a renovated kitchen!!  My counter is under there somewhere… Not enough space!

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10:04 am- C: Made some curry chicken salad for lunch, seems funny to be cooking something that won’t be used for Thanksgiving dinner whatsoever.

curry chicken salad

10:52 am- C: Started the cranberry sauce so that it has time to cool and gel before dinner tonight. Love how festive and bright cranberries look 🙂

cranberry sauce

11:00 am- C: Snapped a shot of Diana’s guava chiffon mini cupcakes fresh out of the oven, so cute!

guava chiffon mini cupcakes

12:15ish pm- C: Finished up the turkey stock for the gravy (ugh, blurry cell-phone pic!). In case you’re wondering, yes, that is a turkey neck!

turkey stock

12:51am- D: Christine is oiling down the bird and giving it a massage.  Guess it runs in the family!

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12:54am- D:  Stopped for a lunch break.  It’s nice having lil sis around.  🙂

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12:58am- D: Aromatics getting stuffed into the bird.

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1:06pm- D: Caped crusader?  Breast plate of armor?  Burn guard?  Maybe all of the above?  🙂

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1:07 pm- D: Note to selves: 25.68lbs is the capacity of this oven.

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1:41pm- D: Bird is already browning… gotta put the cape on!!

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Whew, you may now call him Superturkey.2013-11-28 13.42.21

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Kitchen and Craft Room remodel pictures, finally!

Okay, it’s a bit anti-climactic at this point since we’ve been living in the house for about 3 months now, but some friends afar have asked for pictures of the remodel.  I wasn’t sure how to best do “before and after” pictures since we moved 3 rooms around (kitchen moved to where the dining room was, dining table moved to where the kids’ craft area was, kids craft/project area + my laptop moved to the old kitchen location). I could sit around and weigh the options, but in the end, I decided it was best to just start posting pictures. 🙂

First is our new kitchen — ooooh, ahhhh….  (Confession: Even after only 3 months I had to move a ton of our junk stuff just outside the picture so it would look all nice and clean, but of course you knew that, right? haha)

DR corner after

We are LOVING the island, having all that extra counter space for prep and eating, plus the extra sink on it. I had initially wanted NO seating at the island, but the kitchen designer pushed back and said it’s something we would really enjoy, and we decided to take her expert advice, and she was right!  We are also loving the huge gas rangetop and the second dishwasher (soooooo useful when you are counting on your kids to empty the dishwasher).  Lots to love, I am so grateful.

Here’s a before and after of this particular space: (I hate those “before and after” makeover pictures where it seriously looks like they told the person to look as terrible and depressed as possible in the before picture. Sadly, I didn’t have to do anything extra to make the space look this cluttered, just ordinary life, but I do recognize that this unfairly makes the before even worse and the after even better.  Oh well)

DR corner BandA

The dining area didn’t change much (other than get moved to a new location), but the kids’ craft/project area did!  Here are two sets of before and afters.  The first is what their craft area used to look like compared to now.  The second is how the space changed from old kitchen to new craft/project area.

Art Area BandAOf course it will never look this tidy — it’s a craft/project area, so it’s always messy! 🙂

Kitchen View BandAThere were a lot of subtle things we had to do with walls, doors, and windows to make this all happen.  Come to think of it, I think almost every door and window in these spaces had to be moved/replaced!

Here’s a comparison of the view into this space as you walk through the front door…

Entry View BandA

We also expanded the laundry/pantry area just a little bit and reconfigured the doors.  The new door is in the middle dividing the laundry/cleaning supplies from the second fridge and pantry cabinets.

Laundry Pantry BandA

We also expanded the kids’ bedroom and added a nice cubby area for shoes/jackets/backpacks, etc.  I’ll have to post those pictures another time.  In the meantime, we’ve started having friends and family over to start “using” the new space, and it’s been working out great for us!  It’s been an inconvenient and sometimes painful 6 months, but we love the changes. (much like pregnancy and childbirth)  As we enter into the major “celebrations and gatherings” season of the year, we look forward to really putting the new spaces to the test!

Move Over Ciceros!

Last week I made the best pizza ever.  The secret?  Instead of using a pizza dough recipe, I used a focaccia recipe for the crust.  The previous pizza I made (see Oct 28 post) was way too doughy.  This one, however, was crispy and extremely flavorful.  One late night, I was struck hard with savory carb cravings and had to exercise great restraint to not gobble up the last remaining piece, which I had promised to save for a friend.  I am proud to say that I prevailed and didn’t succumb!  Much to the culinary delight of my friend 🙂

Focaccia Pizza

Wings and Things

This is what I get for not officially following our blog (although I thought I was!).

For about a month now, I’ve been expecting notifications for your posts and when I never got any, I figured everyone was super busy! Then yesterday on a whim I decided to check in and saw there were all these posts that I hadn’t read!

Silly me.

Anyway, it was fun catching up on all that you guys have been up to :). As for me…recently I’ve been trying to cook more and have been trying some new recipes. I’ve been on a bit of a chicken wing craze and one of the things that I’ve really been wanting to try is Korean fried chicken (a la Bon Chon), but still haven’t gotten around to it. I was talking to my coworker about my fried chicken wing research and he shared a recipe that he had been wanting to try for a while by Andrew Zimmern. While they weren’t fried, they sounded pretty good and easy since they were a “one-pot” dish. I ended up making them that very night, go figure!

Andrew Zimmern’s One-pot Sticky Chicken Wings

Here’s how they turned out!Image

That glazed look gets me every time!

The recipe was super easy, but unfortunately I think they ended up looking a little better than they tasted. Not that they were bad (I made a big batch and ate them all!), but they weren’t quite as good as I was hoping. If I ever make them again, here’s what I would do differently:

  1. Use less soy sauce, or use low-sodium soy sauce. The wings were really flavorful, but a bit too salty to me (probably due to the type of soy sauce I was using).
  2. Don’t over reduce the sauce (this probably contributed to the saltiness too). While cooking, the sauce didn’t look like it was thickening much as it was reducing, so I continued to cook off more and more liquid and was ultimately left with very little sauce. Note to self: taste the sauce as it reduces!

Along with the wings, I cooked some roasted vegetables using a new method. Usually when I roast vegetables, I cut squash and some root vegetables in big chunks and cook them spaced out on a roasting pan. This time, I used a recipe that I found for “The Best Roasted Vegetables Ever” (how could I not try them?), which required cutting all the vegetables into small cubes and mixing them all together in a baking dish.

The Wednesday Chef’s Best Roasted Vegetables Ever

Here’s what they looked like before going in the oven – so colorful and healthful too! I followed the recipe pretty closely, except I added 1 sweet potato in lieu of a regular potato.

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I forgot to take an after shot, but they still looked pretty nice and colorful after roasting. They tasted good too! It was definitely different because the vegetable flavors mixed more and when eating them, you’re likely to eat several types of veggies with each bite. I think I’ll still roast vegetables the typical way when I’m looking for something quick, but this way would be fun to change things up every now and then!

That’s all for the kitchen chronicles for now 😀

A’s Wizard of Oz Costume: One Dress, Two Ways

one dress two ways

So, for months, A was planning a veeeery nice and easy (for me) costume. She was going to be a gymnast! (nothin’ for me to do, woo hoo!)  Then, literally 10 days before Halloween, she was talking to one of her friends about Halloween plans and found out that her friend was going to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.  A had just read The Wizard of Oz in the spring (the whole entire original book, I haven’t even done that), so she was very familiar with the story, and she started thinking how fun it would be to be Glinda to her friend’s Dorothy, and her friend thought it would be fun too. So… “easy Halloween costume plans” went out the door, replaced by a new list of multiple pieces that needed to be purchased and created in less than 10 days.

For some reason, the thought never occurred to me to search online for a kids’ Glinda costume and buy it!  I literally just checked online right now and learned that I probably could have bought one for about $25-$50.  But it would have looked like this and it wouldn’t have been as nice as what we ended up with in the end. (Whew, always a relief to realize later — after finding out what your other options could have been — that you would have made the same decision!)

storebought Glinda

Not sure why it NEVER occurred to me to go online and look into buying the costume!  I actually do think it’s a great idea… IF you can buy what you want at a reasonable price.  Maybe it’s because we can’t often find what we want.  (hello? Magic 8 Ball costume? Cookie Jar costume?)  Maybe I always assume it’ll be really expensive and I don’t want to spend so much money on a once-a-year costume… Which is usually pretty bad logic on my part because I always end up spending a decent amount of money on the raw materials to create the costume anyway, not to mention all the TIME I spend on them.  But that’s me, I often manage to find the most complicated way to achieve what I want. 🙂 Which brings me to the 3rd and 4th reason why I like to make their Halloween costumes: you get a more personalize look, and it’s fun for me!  (ok, I’ll admit it)

Anyways, back to the assumption that I was going to make the costume… We started thinking about the dress, and we went to A’s closet to see what we could come up with as a base. We had a couple of options, but ended up deciding to use her flowergirl dress from this summer.  I offered to dye the dress pink (thinking about the Glinda from the movie), but she hadn’t been tainted by the images from the movie yet (she had only read the book), so she didn’t mind being a white Glinda. Plus she was aghast at the idea of dying her beloved flowergirl dress (not that she will likely wear it again).  We did look at pictures of Glinda from the movie for ideas, and later that week we also watched the movie to get into character, haha.

Glinda the Good Witch of the North 2

We decided we needed to work on…

  1. dress — modify it to look less flowergirl
  2. crown — THIS would really shout “Glinda”, you’re definitely not a flowergirl with that ridiculously tall crown
  3. wand — not the dinky handheld ones, but one more like a staff
  4. petticoat — at her request, to make the dress puffier
  5. necklace — a last minute addition I decided to do the night before
  6. evil flying monkey accessories (haha, me and my big mouth, I offered)
  7. large pink bubble to surround her (yes, she wanted this, but I had to draw the line somewhere, plus I’m not THAT talented)

We modified the dress by taking off the flower, adding some silver glittery tulle to the waist area, and I created big puffy sleeves a la Glinda in the movie. I made a tall wand using wood parts that I spray-painted silver and decorated with glitter glue. I knew I had to get the crown right so I made some practice templates to try the size, shape, and height. I learned that taller is better, but make sure it’s not too loose or else Glinda gets a bonus nose shield. :-/

Sample crowns

I have to say, one of the pieces I was most proud of was the petticoat because I managed to make it using only 4 items, in just a few minutes, and it was so cheap!  (The fabric was fortuitously on sale.)  I used a fat embroidery needle and yarn to baste and gather the folded tulle on the rough open end and white duct tape to hold down the gather AND to make the waste area not itchy.  Added more yarn for the tie, and voila, done.  Easy.  And for around $4, can’t beat that.

petticoat

Back to me and my big mouth…  When A and her friend were talking about the movie, they mentioned that they each had a little stuffed monkey and they could pretend that they were the evil witch’s flying monkeys.  I offered on the spot to sew wings for the monkeys.  Later on I realized that Glinda wouldn’t ever really be around the monkeys, but it was too late, the girls wanted the monkeys with wings.  I have to admit it was pretty fun.  I was wondering how to best attach the wings to the stuffies without permanently hot gluing them on, then I realized that making them little vests and hot gluing the wings to the vests would be the best idea.  And then when I looked up the images online, I saw that they had hats, so of course I had to make little hats too.  And embellish the vests and hats, of course. 😉

Evil Monkeys(I think right after my camera, the next most important tool in my house would be the hot glue gun!!)

These got done with just enough time to pack everything up and get over to school for their annual Halloween Carnival.  Dorothy and Glinda (and the monkeys) looked so cute!

Glinda and Dorothy

Whew!  This year’s costume plans went from “yay, just put on a leotard and be a gymnast!” to a multi-piece outfit, but it was worth it in the end.  A looked Glinda-riffically beautiful (it was so rewarding when several of her friends came over oooohing and aaaahing over her costume) — and most importantly, she definitely did NOT look like a flowergirl, which I’d call a success!  Nonetheless, I’m relieved Halloween 2013 is over. 🙂

For Halloween, K was a…

This is not just any ole’ 8 Ball, not just any ole’ Magic 8 Ball, but one that combines low-tech paper mache with high tech!  We had an iPad attached to her costume which played a randomized slideshow of the Magic 8 Ball answers. I created a digital “Magic 8 Ball” template in Photoshop and K and I populated it with about 19 different fun or funny phrases that we came up with (including the obligatory YES, NO, MAYBE, and ASK AGAIN LATER).  Here are some of my favorites…

4 in one

It was definitely a very unique costume!  I especially loved the basic, low tech look with the high tech element of surprise.  There was a lot of interest in it at the school Halloween Carnival. 🙂

We also had a lot of fun testing it out (I think I literally lost my voice from laughing so hard), and apparently it’s a TRUE Magic 8 Ball!  Here’s what we learned when I asked it a bunch of questions…

Q: Do I need to take a shower?     A: I DOUBT IT

Q: Does K like mushrooms?     A: NO

Q: Is God Real?     A: YES

Wow… Magical… 😉

The behind-the-scenes for K’s costume

Okay, last week I posted a picture of us paper mache-ing K’s Halloween costume. I was able to get some of the other pictures off my cameras (laptop is still in repair though 😦 ) and here’s some of the work in progress…

First you gotta go find a 36″ balloon and blow it up…

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Then you apply paper mache all over it.  (this is the picture I posted last week)Image

Then the next morning you go and check on it and see that it has cracked all over. 😦 And you feel really sad and frustrated because you’re not sure how it happened and how to avoid it.

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You patch it up as best you can and apply another layer of paper mache all over. Repeat a couple more times before you catch on to what’s going on. You realize that the balloon is contracting and expanding A LOT over the course of the day. (working on it at night and in the garage where it’s cold means the balloon was contracted a bit while at the same time the paper mache was damp and flexible, then during the days, the warmer temps expand the balloon and the paper contracts as it dries — double whammies, a very bad combo.) So… you try to relieve some of the pressure by piercing a hole in the balloon ever so carefully, which worked the first time, but not the second time, and the balloon pops. Thankfully, you had to buy the 36″ balloons in a six-pack, so you blow up another balloon.  THIS time, you’re smart enough not to tie it in a knot, you tie it in a way that you can expand it when you’re applying the paper mache and need the firm structure, and then let some air out as it’s drying. Repeat a couple more times.

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(note different color balloon inside, this is at the “relieve some of the pressure, I’m bursting at the seams!” phase)  At one point, the rip was so bad (and the paper mache was already several layers thick) that I had to just pull out the glue gun and some fabric and bandage it up.  But we eventually got to the point where it wasn’t ripping any more and it seemed solid enough to let the air out of the balloon entirely.  Then it was time to cut holes and color it…

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(view from inside)

Test if it fits… (it fits!)

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Time to spray paint it.  (I hate pictures of my messy garage, and I hate blah pictures of myself even more, but I figured I should include myself so someone years from now will believe I had a part in this.)  I think I killed several of our brain cells from the spray paint, P-U!

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Then you apply the very important sticker…

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Yes, my 10-year old is revealing that she is a pool shark, haha!  No, really, did anyone ever think her costume would be in this direction???

Well, I have a video of K’s costume, but I can’t seem to figure out how to post a video here.  Hopefully I can do it tomorrow so you can get the full “reveal” of the costume.  Also need to post about A’s costume, which is ENTIRELY different, and I’m awaiting permission to post a picture with her friend. More to come…