Sunday, February 28, 2010

1,464 gallons of leaves

This weekend my sweet husband and I took on tow of the giant home projects that we have been putting off. The garage, and the lawn.

When we moved into our house, almost a year ago p.s., we got everything put together quickly. Mainly due to the fact that everything that did not have a place in the house, we threw into the garage. And then we added to it. And added to it. Christmas came around, and we added more. In all seriousness, the amount of things on one side of the garage (because we squeeze on car on the other side) was just about as tall as I am. Serious. I could not even open my car door all the way. So we spent a few hours of quality time on saturday organizing, and putting things in the attic. After all was said and done, we didn't even throw anything away, but have a beautiful sparkly garage with tons of room to work and do the laundry.

But you wouldn't know it. Because we felt so good about the garage, we decided to tackle the leaves in the front yard. And now my beautiful sparkly garage is filled with 1,464 gallons of leaves. 44 trash bags full. I kid you not. 44 bags. OUR LAWN IS NOT THAT BIG. How did all those leaves get there? Is this a normal experience to have that many bags of leaves?

First off, I have to tell you that I think that raking leaves is dumb. It's a natural process, people. Leaves fall on the ground, why do we have to put them in trash bags and pay to haul them off? I think it's ridiculous. Granted, our house does look nice an pretty all cleaned up, but seriously.

And I probably would have just let it go, except that every other person's lawn in our neighborhood is sans leaves. And every time someone drove or walked by, I was convinced that they were cursing us in their mind for our unruly yard. Personally, I think there is some magnetic force that just attracts the whole neighborhoods leaves to our yard. All of them. Right there. In our front yard.

So, there you are neighbors, we raked our leaves. And we might even get a lawn mower this year, so we can cut the grass more than twice a summer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

This trailer makes me want to move to England so I can watch this show. Hey, maybe it can be my photography specialty.....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Valentines Day!

Every year since we have been engaged, my husband buys me flowers for Valentines day. He likes to send them to my work, so all the ladies can oooh and aww over what a sweet husband he is. And he has a history of writing really silly notes, that make me laugh because I can imagine what the florist is thinking when they have to pen the thoughts of my sweet husbands goofy antics.

Every year except this year. Three weeks ago my husband was laid off from his job. In some ways it was a relief because he had been unhappy at it for the past few months. But at the same time it has been a bit of a scary time for us. We have really tightened our boot straps, so it was agreed that there would be no flowers for Valentines Day this year. And that was really okay with me.

But Ryan cheated. I woke up on Valentines day to a wonderful bouquet of flowers:

He woke up early and snuck out of bed, and created a homemade gathering of petals that dawned my bedside table, along with a sweet note.

I may not have had a big fancy vase of fresh buds to show off to my friends at work, but this was much more of a gift. The time and thoughfullness far exceeded anything that could been produced by any shop.

We didn't have a fancy dinner this year, or go out to the theatre or get dressed up, but I know I will remember this one more than any of the others. I love you, Ryan, and appreciate everything you are, and everything you do.

I hope that your Valentine's day was spent with people you love -- weather it be your honey, best friend, sister, or parents. And I wish you a year full of sweet times with these people.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Easy As Pie

Easy as pie? Who coined that term, anyway? Had he ever tried to make a pie crust?? I think not.

I love to make pie. It's my one food I can make, and make well. But making a homemade pie crust is anything but easy...or so I thought. This year my Grandma let me in on the family pie crust recipe. Passed down from generations. Well, I actually don't know if that is true. But it sounds cool. It has been at least 4 I think I'm allowed to say that.

So my pie fillings are no longer thrown in store bought, refrigerated pie crust (which are actually a great alternative), but now are dressed in the flakey, crumbly goodness they deserve.

Recently, my husbands step-grandmother lost a hard fought battle with cancer. A neat woman who has stories upon stories of witty pranks, and free spirited adventures. I never got to know her very well, but I figure that she has to be a pretty special woman to have married into a family of 8 children, and mother one more in addition to the 3 that she already had. As the family all trickled in, I had the opportunity to learn more about her, and hear many of the wonderful memories they had of her.

I have never been a person who is good at dealing with people who are grieving, and I think because I am an in-law, it ads another dynamic to the awkwardness that I am. So I loved on them the best way that I know how-- by feeding them.

And, this is where our pie crust lesson comes in. I am about to share with you the best thing that has happened to me in my baking realm.

Grandma Mecozzi/DeSerf's Amazingly Tasty and Wonderful Pie Crust

 Okay, the first thing that you do when you are cooking a pie is to pick out a cute aapron. This is essential for baking confidence. I chose this one because of the polka dots and ruffles, good combination form me.
Next, In a large bowl, sift 3 cups flour. I didn't know what sifting was the first time I made this, so basically it's putting the flour though a fine colendar. I just got this one (above), but the first time I made this pie I used our silverware tray. They actually have sifters, but anything with tiny holes will work fine. But you can not skip this step, it is essential.

Then, add 1 tablespoon sugar to the bowl.

and 3/4 tsp salt (Yes, I know, this picture sucks. But it is really hard to take photos of of yourself on the timer when you are cooking! I washed my hands about a billion times. I have much more respect for the cooking bloggers who do this all the time.)
Next, add 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1.25 cups shortening (Crisco). I spared you the picture of the crisco because I didn't want you to barf.
The next step is to chop the above ingredients. This, I also did not know how to do. But an easy way to do this is to take two table knives, and hold them next to each other (like above -- don't mind my creepy hands), and then run them through the bowl. Like so:
Do this until about all the flour seems attached to some crisco. Then, set this aside for a bit.
In a small bowl combine 1 beaten egg, 5 tablespoons water, & 1 tablespoons vinegar. Yes, I said vinegar. I think that's the magic ingredient that keeps the dough very soft and easily moldable.
At this point, and you are me, you call your mom to try to figure out how to half and egg because you are making 1.5 times this recipe. Crap.
Once you have that figured out, mix the egg mixture into the bowl, and mix together. I just use my hands, because the next step is to...

Form them into dough balls. I make one slightly larger than the other because the top of my pie doesn't need as much dough as the bottom.

Then put them in a ziplock baggie and let them refrigerate for a couple of hours, right between your pickles and butter. I will try to make my dough the night before I have to make the pies to give them at least 8 hours. But this particular day, I only did 4 hours, so it's okay to do less than that, I guess.

After they have chilled for a while, it is time to roll out the dough. Mama Mecozzi taught me a nifty little trick to roll the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper. It helps the dough to not get stuck to the counter and the pin, and easy to peel off to put in the pie pan.

So, roll out, put in in pan, and wal-ah! Pie crust. If you're making a filled pie, like an apple pie, bake on 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until crust looks nice and golden. I'm not sure for an unfilled pie. I'm sure Betty Crocker would, so you might refer to her.

Also, if you are making an apple pie, I would suggest this little ditty:
Um, it kind of revolutionized my life. Not only does it peel the apples, but cuts them into nice even piece, and cores them, ALL IN ONE FOUL SWOOP. Incredible! It also makes great spiraled potatoes.

And there it is, the best and easiest pie crust. I hope I'm not shunned from the family for sharing all it's glory...

Here's a rundown of the ingredients: 
3 cups flour sifted
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1.25 cups shortening (Crisco)
Mix above chopped up.
1 beaten egg
5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoons vinegar
Mix to form balls and refrigerate

And no, I will not share my apple pie or strawberry pie filling recipe. Secret, top secret. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Saga of Pete

You know we love our dog. A lot. I spend serious buck at the gormet doggie bakery getting Pete treats that I know aren't contaminated by bad chemicals from China.

But we also try (keyword: try) very hard to not act like Pete is our child. We promised to never call ourselves Pete's mom and dad. That is reserved only for those of the human variety. And we try really hard not to FREAK OUT and take him to the vet for every little thing. And we promised we would never be those people who spend $500 on their dog. But then recently, this happened (excuse the quality, I took with my phone):

wtf? We decided that Pete must be in an underground boxing community, because his wound was alarmingly simular to Hasim Rahman after his fight with Evander Holyfield.
We aren't sure what he did, but the vet said that he probably had a concussion from it. And then life got worse for my little Pete. They had to shave his head, drain it, and wear a Cone of Shame for 5 days!
And then it still went downhill for the little guy. Somehow, he broke it, and then it had to be ducktaped. How humiliating.
No worries though, here is Pete sans C.O.S., and here we are sans $300 bucks. Not quite $500, but close in my book. Oh well, what can I say, he's our baby puppy.