Well, we made it through the first full week of 2014! Happy New Year!
It was nice to be home the last two weeks after traveling the last four weeks. Every trip we made was so special and exciting, but with two trips to Cincinnati, one trip to Chicago and one to Dallas, we were a bit road weary by the time we pulled into our driveway on the evening of 12/29. Especially since we drove all those places except Chicago, which also meant our Khaki was also able to join us. She’s vacationed with us before and has always done well in the car and hotels, but we could tell she was as ready to be back in our own bed as we were. She did have her first elevator ride, as one of our hotel rooms was on the sixth floor. I was able to teach her to get in, go to the back and sit down, but once we started moving, she always had to get about an inch from the opening in the door. She didn’t mind the ride, but she wanted to be the first out!
She even received Christmas toys from her Grandma Jan. Here she’s being extra patient to wait before chomping down on this stuffed little gingerbread girl so you can see it’s cute little face.
We went to Cincinnati for the week of Thanksgiving. That was the first time I’d been home since we moved to Arkansas, so the week was very full. My sister graciously lent me her kitchen to make Thanksgiving dinner. My mom and I enjoyed the afternoon cooking together while my sister went to her in-laws. Then we all enjoyed a nice, quiet Thanksgiving dinner. It was also nice that the hotel we stayed at was in the parking lot of a mall. So I was able to get quiet a lot of Christmas shopping done.
The following week we flew to Chicago (my absolute favorite city) courteously of The Bald Eagle’s company, who flew us both in for year-end meetings and the annual holiday party. It was nice to finally get to meet some of my hubby’s co-workers that I’ve heard so much about. Plus I won a $50 gift card to Target in a raffle (Merry Christmas to me!). It was also nice that I had a week with very little responsibility to recharge after Thanksgiving. The Bald Eagle had to work during the days, but given some of the spouses were in town, the meetings ended on time or early, and we were even able to get a dinner in alone. But the highlight of my week was taking the train downtown and meeting my nephew, who goes to Columbia College. That particular day it was -10 ° wind chill in Chicago, but we did get to walk down Michigan Ave. just so I felt like I’d officially been to Chicago. I get so excited for my nephew and his future – it’s fun to live vicariously through him and my niece.
We came back to AR to find a big surprise – snow and ice-covered everything. The storm had come on Thursday, and we flew in on a Sunday, but if we didn’t realize it before, it officially sank in that we live in the south now. Even though Ohio would have had the road conditions completely cleared four days after a storm that only brought a couple of inches of snow and ice, the strategy here is evidently just to wait it out until the sun melts it all. I will give them credit, we live at the bottom of a pretty big downhill S curve, and after seeing the road conditions leading up to that hill, I thought for sure we’d be lucky to turn into our drive on the first try if not just to make it down the hill without landing in a ditch. Surprisingly the hill had been totally salted/sanded and was in perfect condition – thank goodness! The most difficult part of our drive proved to be the last 100 yards and the small incline at the end of our driveway, but after four attempts The Bald Eagle skillfully guided us to the front door.
After Chicago, it was back to work for me, but then that weekend we made the six-hour drive to Dallas to volunteer with Operation Christmas Child for our third season. I wrote about this charity before Thanksgiving. We were at the processing center sorting, inspecting and preparing the shoeboxes for their trip to their destination countries and hands of children all over the world. I’ve actually started a separate blog about Operation Christmas Child at http://occshoeboxes.wordpress.com/. Check there for tips and information about packing your own shoeboxes this year.
After Dallas, it was back to AR for one more week of work, and then back to Cincinnati for Christmas. We got to spend time with our families, go to the candlelight service at our old church to see everyone, and have a great meal with a couple that’s very dear to both The Bald Eagle and I. We had a great dinner with my in-laws with all the traditional family favorites – The Bald Eagle’s favorite cheese ball, chili spaghetti and my mother-in-law’s infamous apple pie. I’ve never tasted a better apple pie in my life and every one is just as good as the last. This year I finally asked my mother-in-law for her cheese ball recipe (and why didn’t I asked for the apple pie recipe, too?!?!) so I could complete New Year’s Eve for my husband by making it for him. Mama Jan’s Cheese Ball
This year The Bald Eagle gave me one of my best Christmas gifts, I was able to spend all of Christmas day with my family participating in all our family traditions. This was the first Christmas I was able to be a part of the whole day in more than a dozen years. And what are our traditions, you ask? Well, we start Christmas Eve with an Italian dinner at my mom’s house. Normally I make a lasagna, but this year I mixed things up with shrimp stuffed shells from Cooking Light (Recipe Here).
Then on Christmas everyone goes to my sister’s house in the morning to open presents and eat an incredible Christmas brunch, my favorite meal. The goal of the day is to stay in your Christmas PJs and I succeeded. Even though my niece and nephew are 15 and 19, my sister still makes them sit at the top of the stairs and wait until everyone arrives before they can come downstairs and see what Santa brought them. Then we take turns going around a circle and each taking a turn opening a gift just to draw things out as long as possible. There are always a lot of laughs, and it’s one of my favorite times with my family. My sister always writes very creative and witty tags for her gifts. This year she also give the kids and I a toy (Lego Barbie for me), which was a really neat idea. After a very filling brunch, watching some Christmas movies and taking a lovely Christmas nap, the kids and I got out our toys and played like we were 8 years old. That will have to be a new family tradition. Then The Bald Eagle joined us for dinner, the traditional make-your-own-pizza-bar. I started that tradition at our house many years ago, and it was nice to pass the torch onto my sister. It was a great Christmas. As my mom said – she had a lot of fun on my vacation.
Even though I know Christmas isn’t all about the presents, especially now that we live far away from our family, but I just have to share with you a surprising little gem I received this year. All my Christmas presents were exactly what I wanted, and even though I asked for this, the Ninja chopper/processor/blender far exceeded my expectations. If you spend much time cooking/baking, I highly recommend it!
Lastly, I ask that you keep my friend Kathleen and her family in your thoughts and prayers. Unfortunately her 2014 started with a bang, and not a pleasant one. Earlier this week she came home after work with her two preschoolers and it was literally raining inside her house. A water pipe burst in their attic and water was literally raining from the attic down the second floor and onto the first. If it was raining onto the first floor, you can imagine what the second floor looked like. This is their master bedroom . . .
This is the entrance into the master bath. . .
And this is the view from the attic into the master bath that hadn’t existed before. . .
I really thought I was going to get sick to my stomach when I saw these pictures. I can’t imagine how she felt walking into the house and finding that or the fear her two little children must have had. Fortunately, she has a wonderful attitude and they have lots of family nearby that they can live with temporarily until the house is fixed, which obviously from the pictures, may be a while. I know when I think I’m having a bad day I’m going to look at these pictures and probably realize my bad day is nothing compared to this.
Sorry if I ended on a sad note! Just a reminder to count your blessings ever day. I know even Kathleen would still agree there are many to count.
Hope you all are starting your best year ever!
Baby Blue Bird (aka Dayna)
Once again I have to apologize for taking so long to write. I’m finally finished with a very long and big work project I’ve been working on night, day and weekend for the past month. It kept me almost completely out of one of my favorite places – the kitchen. So much so, Oliver took up residence on the kitchen table.
So, a few weekends ago, Khaki sat me down and looked at me like this. . .
Which I interpreted to mean, “You can’t let this happen! You have to get back in that kitchen and bake – for all our sakes.” And then Oliver looked at me like this . . .
Which I took to mean, “If you’re going to kick me out, you better make it for a good reason.”
So, I decided it was time to pull off something I’d been planning for quite a few months . . . Super Sweet Roll Saturday.
You see, if you didn’t already know, I’m a bit of an odd duck and I love to daydream about baking. What if I put this frosting recipe on that cake? What if I made that bread to go with this soup? I can’t make anything without a recipe, but I’m becoming more comfortable with improvising on some ingredients once I’ve found a base recipe.
So, once I found The Pioneer Woman’s Sweet Roll Dough (recipe HERE), I’ve been day dreaming about all the different kinds of fillings and frostings that would go into that dough. Back in May when my mom and aunt visited I made PW’s Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing. These were the cinnamon rolls I never imagined I could make. Cinnamon rolls are my absolute favorite guilty pleasure. I could eat them every day and twice on Sunday. And if that happened, I’d have to be rolled out of this house to an early grave.
It seemed like a perfect reward for weeks of hard work to spend a Saturday afternoon making as many sweet roll concoctions as I could manage. Of course when I brought them all to work Monday morning everyone thought I needed a straight jacket, but once they started eating them, everyone seemed grateful I’d gone off my rocker a bit.
There were Pumpkin Sweet Rolls.
There were Orange Marmalade Rolls
And lastly there were Savory Sausage Rolls
And they did a great job of filling the spot Oliver had once occupied. . .
Unfortunately, this is what my kitchen looked like after Tornado Sweet Roll was done, but believe me when I say, it was worth the clean up.
Hope you all are enjoying the fall. The leaves here are on the verge of popping into all different shades of yellow, orange and red. The Bald Eagle and I have been scouting out some great drives through the Ozarks. Hopefully they don’t all fall before we can get out there and take it all in.
Have a great week!
Baby Bluebird (aka Dayna)
Hello from NW Arkansas!
If you’ve read my blog before you may think the title of this post is referring to the Razorbacks here at The University of Arkansas. And although Fayetteville is know for their Hogs, this weekend was all about Harley Davidson Hogs. This weekend was Bikes, Blues and Barbeque here in Fayetteville, and before I go any further, let me just say pictures could not do it justice.
Bikes, Blues and Barbeque is a bike rally that can probably only be compared to Sturgis. They were expecting over 400,000 people to ride into our little downtown on their motorcycles this weekend, and from what I witnessed today, I’d say those estimates were accurate. We’ve been hearing the bikes coming in from Missouri and past our house for the last couple of days. I personally have never seen, or heard, anything like it. In fact, my hearing may never be the same. Full disclosure, my loving husband, also referred to as The Bald Eagle, owns a Harley, but we weren’t hard core enough to take it out of the garage today. He’s ridden in the Rolling Thunder in DC, but this was something even he didn’t expect to see here in Arkansas.
Again, pictures are not going to do this justice, but let me try. . .
I was on the wrong side of the street for this picture, but if you look closely . . .
Yes, those are bunnies on bikes!!
We did partake in the barbeque part of BBB, too.
This is The Bald Eagle holding a giant turkey leg. I wish we had a chicken leg to hold up beside the turkey leg so you could see how humungous this was!! It got the best me, too. I’m glad Thanksgiving is two months away, because it will take me that long to be hungry for turkey again.
I couldn’t end a blog without telling you about the latest sweet and yummy recipe I discovered. Salted Caramel Rice Crispy Treats are a little piece of heaven. Not Hog heaven. Marshmallow, crispy, sweet and salty heaven. A modern take on the favorite family treat. Try it and you’ll never go back to the plain Jane original.
Hope everyone is having a heavenly weekend!!
Baby Bluebird (aka Dayna)
We should have Labor Day every month!! It’s so nice to have an extra “weekend” day to catch up on chores, sleep and TV. 🙂 And blogging, of course. Things have been pretty uneventful around here, so I haven’t had too much to talk about.
We’ve been visited by two of these little snakes on separate occasions. Yes, this is the hardwood floor in our foyer. A couple of weeks later his cousin showed up in our kitchen. Fortunately, The Bald Eagle was able to capture both of these little guys and get them out of the house before I came home. Otherwise, he’d still be peeling me off the ceiling. I’m completely and utterly terrified of snakes!
Then he sent me a text of this unwelcome guest that showed up in our bedroom. . .
Yes, that is a little lizard. In our bedroom. When I came home from work, I just assumed The Bald Eagle captured this little guy, too. Unfortunately, I found out that the little bugger (the lizard, not The Bald Eagle) was too quick to be caught. He was last seen behind our bed . . . about a week ago. I’m just hoping he found his way out the way he came in, but I’m still concerned I’m going to wake up one night and see his beady little eyes staring back at me. Yikes!! How are these things getting in?!?!
Over Labor Day weekend we also got our first taste of the University of Arkansas football spirit. The team mascot is a razorback. A razorback is a hog, if you didn’t know. And they are the largest sports team in the state (no pro ball of any kind in Arkansas). The Razorbacks played their first home football game on Saturday (and won). All the local stations had special programs about the Razorbacks leading up to the game. The whole town was wearing Razorback red – not just Saturday, but Friday, too. Most cars had Razorback flags flying from the windows. People were practicing their “Wooo Pig Sooie” chants. (Seriously, it’s called “Calling the Hogs” – you should Google it. Very interesting.) And for those of us who really don’t care and weren’t at the game, there was 3+ hours of quiet in Northwest Arkansas this past Saturday afternoon. So, we had a lovely dinner at a popular restaurant with no waiting. We were one of 20 cars on the interstate. It was outstanding!
I haven’t been baking too much lately because The Bald Eagle and I decided we needed to try to eat a little healthier. We’re trying . . . some days we’re more successful than others. I did make a very yummy White Bean and Chipotle Hummus dip. I didn’t take a picture because, if you’re not familiar with hummus, it’s just a cream looking dip – not too exciting to look at, but the addition of the chipotle peppers really makes it pop. Hummus is a pretty healthy dip because of the fiber of the beans and the good fat of the sesame seed paste (or you can use creamy peanut butter). I like to dip with pita bread, but it can be even healthier if you dip with veggies.
I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. Until next time . . .
Baby Bluebird (aka Dayna)
Someone in The Nest is celebrating a birthday today!! I’m not going to name names, but I’ll give you a hint. . .
Of course, this calls for cake!! (Like I need an excuse to bake a cake!!)
Because I like to experiment with new recipes, I tried The BEST chocolate cake with My Favorite Fluffy Buttercream Frosting. To quote the birthday boy – “this cake is sinful!!” I prefer it to my previously posted Chocolate Chip Cake. The brewed coffee give you an extra kick of caffeine and the frosting in the perfect compromise between heavy traditional buttercream and a fluffy whipped frosting. Of course I had to add a generous layer of sprinkles because that’s The Bald Eagle’s favorite.
I baked and frosted the cake Saturday afternoon, but we ended up have a big dinner out and then popcorn at the movie theater, so the cake went untouched Saturday. Then Sunday while I was cooking dinner, The Bald Eagle came into the kitchen and sheepishly took me by the hand. He led me over to the table where the cake had been sitting and then coyly pointed to the side of the cake.
Couple of things.
1) I immediately thought of a dog we used to have who always told on himself every time he had an accident in the house. Instead of running the other way, he waited until you came into the room and then sniffed at the puddle to draw your attention to the fact he had been naughty.
2) Notice the skill displayed here. The top was left untouched so as not to tip anyone off who looked at the cake from the other side. Clearly the perpetrator of this crime had some experience in sneaking cake.
3) This cake was made in the honor of said perpetrator’s birthday. He was sneaking from his own cake!! This cake sat untouched for 24 hours. At any point in time it would have been completely acceptable for The Bald Eagle to whip out a knife and claim a piece of his cake, but instead he nibbled off half the side of a cake while I wasn’t looking like an 8-year-old. . .
Proving you can get older, but that doesn’t mean you have to grow up!! Happy birthday to the oldest little boy I know. You may try my patience like I never thought possible, but I still love you. And in the end, you always make me laugh. This is for life. This is forever.
Happy Monday to everyone else! Hope you have a fantastic week!
Baby Bluebird (aka Dayna)
This post is all about patience. Waiting seems to be a theme in my life.
First, thanks for being patient with me and the long delay between posts. Unfortunately, I was bitten by the stomach bug that’s been going around. It hit me about 10 days ago, and I thought I shook it two times, but the third time finally got me down this week. So, I’ve had to practice a lot of patience these last four days because every time I felt like my appetite was coming back (usually around dinner time), the nausea and all the nasty stuff that goes with it would come back, too. I’ve tried to get off my anti-nausea medicine because it tends to make me sleepy, but that’s backfired on me as well.
And The Bald Eagle has practiced patience this week, too. It seems like almost every time I’ve gotten sick in the last 10 years, The Bald Eagle has not been in The Nest. He hasn’t purposely flown the coop, but he travels a lot for work, and it seems like the flu bugs always come visit me when he’s already on the road. Finally, my sickness lined up with a week he was home, and so he was finally able to make a small dent in returning the nursing I’ve given him over the years. He makes great toast! I do need to teach him how to scramble an egg for future reference, but great toast was what I needed this time. 🙂
Oliver, our neighbor cat, is a master at patience. Let me show you a typical scene on our front porch.
This is Oliver, or Little O, right outside our front door waiting.
This cat is like a statue. His ability to wait . . .
And wait . . .
And wait never seems to end. And what is he waiting for, you might ask?
His ultimate obsession – our dog, Khaki. And his ultimate challenge – access to our air-conditioned house. This is Khaki looking in through the sidelight of our front door. She was out roaming the land while Oliver waited her out – knowing it was just a matter of time before Khaki had to come back up the front porch steps to get back inside. If you look closely, you can see Little O standing right beside Khaki looking in.
Oliver knows he can easily sneak in once the door is open for Khaki. He also knows his visit will be brief because the temptation of jumping on the kitchen countertop will overtake him within two and a half minutes of his entry into the house. And after he’s escorted out the back door, he’ll recover from the whole affair on our covered barbecue grill and wait for his next chance to snuggle up to his favorite dog and race into our house.
And speaking of Khaki, she has her own skills in patience. Exhibit A.
First, this is a treat that only comes around 2 or 3 times a year – an empty peanut butter jar. Secondly, this is one of those big, bulk size jars. She’s smart enough not to stick her nose into the jar, but she does extend her tongue as far into that jar as she possibly can. I love how she holds the jar between her paws.
Before the stomach bug bit me, I had a couple of baking moments that required a lot of patience. First, I made my Simple Peach Cobbler. It’s simple because it’s only 3 ingredients – canned peaches, yellow cake mix and butter (butter cures all ills), but I don’t call it Easy Peach Cobbler, because it does require some patience in preparation. You need to cover the top of the cobbler with a thin layer of butter. I enjoy making the cobbler because cutting the butter and placing the pieces on top of the dry cake mix is like putting a puzzle together. You must cover every nook and cranny of the top of the cobbler with butter for it to turn out properly. I also enjoy making it because it comes out an unbelievable hit every time.
And then there’s this one accomplishment I have to share with you. A week ago I made this cake for a co-worker’s birthday.
This was one of those ‘I can’t believe I made this” moments, but it did take a great deal of patience since this was my first attempt at trying to decorate a cake like this. I found this great Rose Cake Tutorial and couldn’t wait to try it. If you ever decide to try this yourself (believe me, you can do it if I did) but if you do, make sure you buy or make extra frosting because this does take more than a traditional frosting would.
That’s enough about patience for now. Hope you’re all doing well and have successfully dodged the stomach bug. Thanks for reading!
Baby Bluebird (aka Dayna)
Before I start on topic, I need to rant just a second. A couple of times this week I’ve heard celebrities referring to non-celebrities as civilians. Who do these celebrities think they are, war hero’s? Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says a civilian is one not on active duty in the armed services or not on a police or firefighting force. Sorry, but I think that’s disrespectful to people who serve our country and should really be our role models by suggesting celebrities aren’t also civilians. Get over yourselves celebrities! Sorry, I try not to make it a habit of getting on my soap box on my blog, but I just heard that term again on TV and it really tweaked my beak!
While we’re off subject talking about beaks, I actually saw a roadrunner in our backyard one afternoon this week. And by roadrunner, I mean the bird . . . like on the cartoon. True to his name, he was too fast for me to grab my camera and snap a picture, but he looked just like this . . .
(courtesy of Wikipedia)
which is how I knew he was a roadrunner because he trotted just like the cartoon character. See, cartoons can be educational. I did some research and they can be seen in the western two-thirds of Arkansas. Cool!! Beats those ugly armadillos we see along the side of the road all the time.
Ok, back on topic. First dreaming. While I was on an extended vacation for the 4th of July I finally joined Pinterest. You may have noticed there’s a button on the right of my blog now that says, “Follow me on Pinterest”. If you click on that button you’ll go to my Pinterest page. So, what is Pinterest, you may ask? With Pinterest you build boards, like bulletin boards. Each board has its own theme. And then you “pin” pictures from the internet that you like to each board. For example, I have one board that’s just all cookies, one that’s cakes and then one with several great quotes I found. But since it’s the internet, you can get from the picture to the website where the picture came from. So, with baking it’s been very educational because I can find beautiful looking foods and then get to the recipe behind them. Now I have all kinds of ideas I can keep experimenting with! It’s addicting!
Now on to reminiscing. I finally had a little time to try my Mom’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake. This was my dad’s favorite dessert, so my mom made it every year for his birthday. I remember one of my favorite parts was getting to drink the leftover pineapple juice. Yummy! I have never attempted it – mainly because I’ve never owned an iron skillet, and that’s what you bake it in.
It came out really well! Everyone at work loved it. The cake is nice and spongy and the crush pineapple guarantees you get a good dose of pineapple flavor in every bite.
Then my generous neighbor shared some of her fabulous zucchini from her garden. Zucchini reminds me of my grandmother. When I was little, grandma always had a garden in the summer. There were always plenty of three vegetables – tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables to roast. All you have to do is slice it, toss it in a little olive oil, place it on a cookie sheet coated in cooking spray and bake for about 15-25 minutes on 450º – time depending on how thick you sliced the zucchini and how crisp you like it. You can also do this with yellow squash or eggplant. So good, I could eat it for breakfast!
But what my grandma always did with her zucchini was make Grandma’s Zucchini Bread. I don’t think I’ve ever made this myself but it was just how I remembered. It’s great because you start out by pureeing the zucchini in a blender or food processor. It’s such a vibrant color of green you can easily trick yourself into believing it’s healthy.
but then you add all the flour and oil, which makes it taste so good!
Triple yummy!! You probably could eat a slice of this every day for breakfast and people wouldn’t even think you were weird. 🙂
Hope you all are having a great weekend!
Thanks for reading!
Baby Bluebird (aka Dayna)