Thursday, December 30, 2010

It's Cookie Time

I love cooking. And baking. And eating. I haven't done a big Christmas cookie smash for several years, though, and I decided it was time. There were some hits and some duds, so I thought I'd share.

Peanut butter cookies - with only 3 ingredients, it seemed a great idea. I don't know what I could have done wrong, but even the dog didn't want to eat them. The reviews sounded good...

Snickerdoodles- Alex likes this kind of cookie but I've never made it before. This recipe seemed reasonable, so I tried it. Rolling them in the sugar becomes a little tedious, but the end result was very tasty. He was pleased, so mission accomplished.

White chocolate chip Oatmeal Cranberry cookies - Alex had a friend visiting who requested macadamia and white chocolate cookies. I didn't have macadamia nuts, so this was the compromise. Even slightly overbaked, these were really good.

Hello Dollies - I don't know about the name, but these will make you sit up and take notice! Golly, these are good. I used cinnamon graham crackers, and added a handful of white chocolate chips (left over from previous recipe) plus some dried cranberries. I would have added some peanuts or pistachios for some non-sweet items, but we'd eaten them all. I definitely recommend using the 8x8 pan rather than the 9x13.

Potato Candy - I don't know about this one. There are a bunch of recipes for it, the one I started with said to use two small potatoes. You can feed the US army with as much candy as that makes! This link uses a smaller portion of potatoes. Don't worry, there's no potato flavor after all that sugar is added. I unfortunately didn't have as much peanut butter as I thought As soon as I get more peanut butter, I will try smashing out the remaining candies, layer additional peanut butter, and re-roll it. I think the peanut butter does cut the sweetness factor, so hopefully adding more will make this a nice idea. Even the kids didn't eat much of this because it was just too sweet.

Butter Toffee - How easy is this? Put it in a pan, boil it until it is the color of peanut butter, then pour it out and let it cool. It's really yummy. I did not melt the chocolate in a separate bowl, but rather just put the Ghirardelli chocolate chips directly onto the hot toffee. They melted right away, and it worked out great. This really makes a lot; I used two sheet pans. I did not coat both sides, and it was sufficiently chocolate. I also only needed 1/3 of the crushed peppermint quantities she listed. Next time I need something different to take for a party or gift, I know what to make!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

We stayed home and cooked and celebrated with just the two of us this year. Alex helped with the chopping – he minced ½ cup of garlic – and had him help cook some other things. He half-heartedly complained about it as he was doing it but turned out the things he helped with were the things he liked the best!

Our menu:

Turkey – baked with rosemary and garlic

Hama Honey Baked Ham that was given to me

Stuffing – used a Stove Top package and added sauteed onions, mushrooms, celery, and grated carrots. Per Alex’s request, we actually stuffed the turkey this year rather than cooking it on the side.

Green bean casserole from Pioneer Woman – added mushrooms, subbed red pepper for the nasty pimento things. I did have some bread crumbs taking up space in the cabinet, so tried using them. If I ever do that again, it would be with ½ cup, not a full cup of crumbs. Chances are good I’ll simply leave it off completely. I did not think it added anything except to make it grainy.

Corn casserole – recipe from high school Home Ec class, but added onions, green and red bell peppers for color. It uses creamed corn and cornmeal. I used to love it, I haven’t made it in a while, and it was still ok but not as exciting as I’d remembered.

Mashed potatoes – cooked them the day before, then mashed and baked again.

Sweet potatoes – I baked some sweet potatoes to make the peanut yams recipe, but decided I had plenty of carbs and yellow items on the table so saved them for later.

Mini Cornbread loaves – came from Boston Market and were leftovers from a food distribution at church

Pumpkin pie – came from Walmart and was a leftover from a food distribution at church

Cranberry Cheesecake pie – the result was visually odd, but the taste was good

Nutella Cream Cheese Pudding – Alex requested something chocolate. I was looking through my printed recipes to find my corn casserole directions, and came across this recipe that I’ve had for eons and had never tried. It has a nutella custard that gets layered with a nutella glaze. I made the custard on Wed and made Alex do the glaze and then create the layers. There’s something that gives a strange taste, I think it is the honey in the glaze, but he was very pleased with it.

We certainly have plenty of leftovers to stuff ourselves with over the next few days. We have so much to be thankful for!

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to feel like an idiot

Ever since my disastrous problems with the previous laptop constantly crashing hard drives, I've been trying really hard to make sure I have relatively recent backups of my current system. Yesterday, I realized it was a month since I'd backed up my email, and figured I should update that. I plugged in the backup drive... and promptly copied the old version onto the laptop, rather than the other way around.

Intelligence is highly overrated.

If you've sent me anything in the past month that I had not responded to, you probably aren't going to get an answer now. So sorry! I've now learned to change the name of the backup file so it is more obvious which one is which. I did look at the path names, but the string is so long I couldn't see the beginning of it, which is what included the drive designation. I did realize the error as soon as it started copying, but the "cancel" option wasn't as helpful as I'd hoped; the transfer stopped, but apparently Windows deletes the original file before moving the new one over and the delete had already taken place.

I would try to blame the head cold/sinus infection for my befuddlement, but sadly, I really don't think that had anything to do with this particular act of genius.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Growing Up

Alex is getting older.
  • I acknowledge the calendar says he's 16.
  • I know he is a junior in high school.
  • I realize he's taking classes with titles like physics and trigonometry.
It just doesn't truly sink in. Maybe his behavior contributes to that...

I'll tell you what smacks it in your face, though. Two weeks ago, he ordered his class ring. Ouch.

Last week, his first college recruitment pamphlet arrived in the mail. Gulp.

Watch out, world. Ready or not, here he comes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Junior Year Schedule

The junior year schedule looks like this:
1st: Physics
2nd: Latin II
3rd: American History
4th: Trigonometry / Calculus (one semester each)
5th: English
6th: Network Infrastructure

He liked the Latin teacher he started with last year. Halfway through, she joined the Peace Corp and left. His new teacher was ok, but not as much fun, and he did not learn it as easily. Unfortunately, now there is no local teacher at all. To avoid having to restart with Spanish and do another two years, we are doing the Virtual School option for his Latin II class. He has a teacher, and she will be in contact with us periodically. He can also contact her with any questions. Otherwise, it is primarily a work at your own pace as you teach yourself sort of thing. Not our preference, but better than starting over.

Hello, everyone

I knew it had been a while since I’d posted anything, I just hadn’t realized it was quite so long as it has been. I was extremely busy with the census for those months in between, and just did not have time for sleep, never mind blog posts.

However, my employment with them ended a couple weeks ago, so I’m trying to get life back into some semblance of routine and normalcy. Not to mention looking for a job!

Here’s a recent funny moment: We were driving past a company with GTO in big letters on their sign, with smaller letters underneath. I was driving, so that’s all I saw. Alex read the whole sign, which said Gates That Open. His comment? “Gates that do NOT open are called fences.”

I think he has a point.

Friday, February 5, 2010

World Nutella Day

Today is World Nutella Day. I invite you to join me in celebrating this tasty, chocolately confection. If you need some ideas, there are plenty of recipes for you to try. Yum!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MS certifications - Vista

His computer runs XP, and my replacement laptop will be Windows 7, so I'm not sure where he might need to use this anytime soon, but the physical confirmation of the test taken back in December has arrived:

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Computer

The HP manager called me back and offered two choices: I could get an off-the-shelf model of a computer with some newer features than my original one but without a few things I have on this one, or I could have my computer rebuilt again to my original specs.

After thinking about it, and reviewing the details with the computer people in my family, I decided to go with the newer model. I should have it within a week at the most. (They won't ship it until I send them a tracking number for this one being returned.) Now, I'll get to learn how to use Windows 7.

Assuming this new one works properly, I can take HP laptops back off the Never.Ever.Purchase.Again.Ever list...

Did you notice?

It was fun to write the date today. Well, assuming you write it in the US format of MM/DD/YY.


Yes, little things like palindromic dates make me smile.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

At which point, the patience runs out

The last couple of days, I've had some interesting quirks with the computer. Notably, the unexpected Blue Screen Of Death with weird error messages about missing a disk in a device. Huh?

The first time was on New Year's Eve. Well, ok, who knows what happened, but it seemed a good time to make sure my backup was as up-to-date as physically possible. You may recall I do not have a good history with hard drives on this laptop.

It crashed once again over the weekend, and then I got a BSOD again Tuesday. Three times in less than a week is no longer a "no worries" affair. I went to the diagnostic screen and had it check the hard drive. Once again, I got an error that the disc is bad and needs to be replaced. I both expected it and yet couldn't believe it at the same time.

I promptly found the records of all my other calls, and gave the HP support people a chat. I said apparently they are great fun people that I should put on my speed dial! I explained the problem and the tech recorded all the data error messages I've gotten (I took a picture with my cell phone so I could read him what it said).

I then politely but firmly said I've had absolutely enough of this and something needed to be done besides simply replacing the drive yet again. He informed me that he was submitting a case report to a supervisor, listing the many service calls on record for the same problem with the same machine, and I should get a call in the next 24-48 hours from a manager who can review options with me. At this point, I'm thinking my options need to include starting over from scratch with a brand new computer at no additional cost to me. Replacing the hard drive every 3 months is simply ludicrous.

I really do feel I've been fairly patient with all this up to this point, but that patience has run out. Meanwhile, anything I save on the computer now will also be saved to the backup. Who knows when this thing might go completely kaput? Argh!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Egg Nog

So many times I've been doing something and thought about posting it, but I've just never remembered to do it by the time I got around to a computer. Then I'd either forgotten or it didn't seem worth it. That probably means you wouldn't have cared anyway...

However, for my digital scrapbook, I'd like to note that after 3 years of saying we were going to make our own eggnog, we finally did it. I use "we" in a general sense, as I found the recipe but I made Alex do it himself. He's been really excited about it, so I figured he should be the one to get the praise when it finally got made.

There are so many eggnog recipes out there, I wasn't sure which to do. We finally opted to try this easy eggnog for the first one. As promised, it was easy! Either it calls for much too much vanilla, or we used the wrong amount, because it was quite vanilla-y. Otherwise, it tasted great.

It came out a lot thinner than I'd expected. My sister had warned me that self-made tends to be thinner than store bought, and apparently I didn't take her advice under as much advisement as I thought. We typically use skim milk, and since this was made with the thicker whole milk, I figured it would balance out even with the other ingredients. Turns out, not so much.

There are other recipes that call for beating the egg white separately and then folding it in, which would theoretically thicken it a little. Or we could try one of the cooked recipes, which probably thickens it a bit as well. As much fun as Alex had making this batch, we'll probably try it again. If not, at least that's one of those "bucket list" items now checked off!