Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Funday #12

Well, Thanksgiving weekend is wrapping up and it's time for #SundayFunday!

Our family has had a fabulous time together. The kids have been off school for 5 days in a row... which has been awesome! Dave's been off work for 4 days in a row, which NEVER happens! We hung out, watched some football (bummer than our Razorbacks lost to LSU! Rats!), snuggled up and watched a couple holiday movies, and the kids loved watching Punkin Chunkin' on the Discovery Channel. (That's this insanely ridiculous show that only comes on once a year about these crazy people in Delaware who build crazy catapults and see who can throw a pumpkin with it the furthest! Yes, it's nuts! But the kids love it because it's hosted by The Mythbusters and they LOVE those guys!)

My cousin Spencer came to celebrate Thanksgiving with us on Friday with a couple of his Navy buddies before they head off to their next schooling locations. It was really fun to hang out with him and laugh a bunch. The RiceCakes just LOVE him and so, they thought this holiday was extra special since he came over to visit with us.

This year, the food was outright amazing at our house. I'm not just saying that because I was the one doing the cooking either. All four kids, Dave, AND the Navy guys all thought so too. We had a turducken (that's a boneless turkey, stuffed with a boneless duck, stuffed with a boneless chicken) that was stuffed with crawfish etouffe instead of regular stuffing. It was the best one we've ever had. You better believe that I'll be going back to the Cajun Meat Market for another one at Christmas! We also had homemade macaroni & cheese and mashed potatoes with gravy. Abi made our green bean casserole. Dave told her it was the best he's ever had so, she was feeling pretty awesome about that! I also made the Milk Chocolate Pecan Pie I wrote about earlier in the month and Pumpkin Pie. Jack was pretty stoked... he's the kid that loves pie! The kids were all excited because I got a couple bottles of sparkling grape juice for them. I have some wine glasses that were my Grampa John's and I let the kids drink out of them for special occasions so, they were feeling especially fancy this Thanksgiving! Dave found a new moscato that we really love... and we used it to make mimosas! YUM! And when the Navy guys came over, I had a batch of Grammy World Famous Bourbon Slushies!

I know that not everyone was celebrating a holiday this weekend but, I hope that you had some sweet time with your family just the same! Before we get back into the swing of things this week, let's link up and hang out for a few!

You remember how this works right?

1. Link up your post!
2. Grab the button from the sidebar!
3. Turn OFF your captcha! (It makes me all stabby!)
4. Tweet your link and use the #SundayFunday hashtag! (The more links we get... the more fun we have!)
5. Come back and visit all the other posts and comment away!!!

Happy #SundayFunday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The RiceCakes are Talkin' Turkey!

Hey! I'm linking up with the girls over at VlogTalk this week for their special holiday linky #KidsTalkinTurkey!

The RiceCakes are super excited to have time off from school this week!

They're also really excited about THE FOOD! ... and a certain Friday afternoon football game...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!


Vlog Talk

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Funday #11

Well, I dunno about you but, I'm all jacked up on a Skinny Peppermint Mocha (with an extra shot!) from "The Bux"... you know it's BOGO on holiday drinks between 2pm and 5pm today right? YAY!

I hope that you're having a great weekend. This one's been a busy one for our family. We've had LOTS going on and I'm totally stoked that the kids will be home for 5 days in a row next week! Hooray for fewer alarm clock wake ups!!!

My cousin Spencer (OK, technically, he's my third cousin... but explaining exactly how we're related gets complicated... especially since most people don't even KNOW their third cousins!) joined the Navy earlier in the year and has been at A School near us. He's spending Thanksgiving with us this year... and bringing a Navy buddy too! We're thrilled to get to hang out with Spencer and share our home with him since he won't be able to get back to his family for the holiday. Relationships like that are a huge perk to having such a close extended family on my Dad's side of the family tree. Plus, it's good to share the love with our military guys that are far away from home... even if they aren't deployed.

That being said... let's get this #SundayFunday started!

Link up your favorite post from the last week... maybe one that didn't get a ton of comment love. (But please no giveaways!)

Turn off your captcha so that it's EASY for people to comment on your blog. (You don't need it anyway!)

Grab the Sunday Funday button from the side bar and add it to your post!

Then tweet about your link up AND go visit everyone else and be generous with your comments!

Easy peasy!

Have a wonderful time with your family this week! (Even if you're outside of the States and aren't celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday... November is a great time of the year to be mindful of all we've been blessed with and take time to express that thanks!)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Milk Chocolate Pecan Pie

Thanksgiving is next week so, let's talk turkey!

OK, actually let's talk pecan pie!

Milk Chocolate Pecan Pie!!!!

I learned how to make pecan pie when I was in junior high. It was my Dad's favorite kind of pie during the holidays but, my Mom doesn't like nuts so she didn't make it. If we ever had one, it was bought from the store. One year I decided to figure out how to bake it. It's really not that hard. My Dad said that my first attempt was the best pecan pie he'd ever had. I think that's really sayin' something because my Grammy (his Mom) is a great cook! I've made this pie every year since Dave and I got married.

It's taken some tweaking to figure out how I like it best. It turns out, my favorite variation involves milk chocolate chips. At this point, I figure that it's too good to NOT share!

I want to preface this by saying one thing. You can TOTALLY "cheat" and use the refrigerated crusts that the grocery store sells (the kind you unroll... NOT the frozen ones.) I don't. I like making the pastry. I think it's fun and it's really NOT hard. The ones you make yourself taste a LOT better too. The only recommendation I'd make is DON'T use the graham crackery (ie. NOT in the fridge section of the grocery store) kind of crust. I know people who've done that and the result is gross. Never wreck a great filling with a bad pastry. That sort of crust is alright when you're talking about pies that are served chilled (think cheesecake or french silk) but, NOT OK for pecan pie ok?

Let's start with the recipe for the pastry! You can use it for all kinds other pies (Pumpkin anyone?!) so, keep this one handy!

Pastry for Single Crust Pie

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Cup shortening (butter flavored Crisco works the BEST!)
4 to 5 Tbsp cold water

1. In a medium bowl stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea size. (If you don’t have a pastry blender, a couple butter knives works just as well!)

This is a pastry blender. This particular one costs about $4
That's not pricey! It's worth getting one if you like making pastries!
 2. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the water over part of the flour mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened pastry to the side of the bowl. Repeat moistening pastry flour mixture, using 1 Tbsp of water at a time, until all the flour mixture is moistened. Form pastry into a ball. (Think PlayDoh! And don't rush this part. Getting this part right will make this pie to die for!)

 3. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten pastry. Roll pastry from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.

 4. Wrap pastry around the rolling pin. Unroll into a 9 inch pie plate. Ease into pie plate without stretching it. (Be careful! Keeping it even and not stretching it will ensure even baking and keep your slices prettier!)

 5. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pie plate. Fold under extra pastry. Do not prick pastry.(If you use a refrigerated crust, you DO have to prick holes in the bottom!) Fill and bake as directed in all recipes.
OK now we're gettin' to the good stuff!
Milk Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 Single Crust Pie (Again, the Pillsbury ones work well but, I like to make it myself. Don't be intimidated. TRY IT!)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 Cup light-colored corn syrup
2/3 Cup sugar
1/3 Cup butter, melted
3 tsp. vanilla (Use real vanilla not imitation!)
1 1/4 Cup pecan halves (Don't chop/crush them! Leave them halved!)
1/2 Cup milk chocolate pieces (Use Hershey’s! Don't even try to tell me that other brands taste the same cuz they totally DON'T. And double check that you're using MILK CHOCOLATE and not SEMI-SWEET. It's NOT the same!)
1. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare and roll out pie crust. Line a 9 inch pie plate with the pastry circle and trim. Crimp edges as desired. (Be creative! There are some pretty crust embellishing techniques for the edges. Find one you really like and practice.)
2. For filling, in a medium bowl combine eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter, and vanilla; mix well. Stir in pecan halves.
3. Press 1/2 Cup milk chocolate pieces into the bottom of the pastry.
4. Place the pastry-lined pie plate on the oven rack. Carefully pour the filling into the pastry shell. (This is to keep you from spilling on the counter AND from having to pick up a really liquidy pie and carry it across the the kitchen to your oven and spilling all over the floor. Filling your pie while it's sitting on the rack is the new black!) To prevent over browning, cover edge of pie with foil. (Be careful not to mess up your edges!) Bake about 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 20-25 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center come out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill within 2 hours.
pitchable pie tins fold up and lose shape. You can get a good Pyrex one for under $10 and it'll last forever! Trust me, you're gonna want to make this pie every year for Thanksgiving. So, take the money you'd spend on the throw-aways and get a good pie plate that you'll use for the rest of your life! DO follow the directions about filling it when the pie plate is sitting on the rack in the oven. Those racks slide out for a reason! Use 'em!
******These two recipes are adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook... meaning I do things a little differently than they would but, we're still basically following their directions. The commentary in italics is my own.******

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sunday Funday #10

Yay! It's time for #SundayFunday!

You know the drill!

Link up a post from the last week. (No giveaways please!)
Grab the button from the sidebar! While you're pasting it onto your post, go ahead and turn your captcha OFF! 
Then go visit all the other links and comment, Comment, COMMENT! :)
And if you're on "The Twitter"... tweet about #SundayFunday and spread the word around! It's always fun to get new bloggy buddies thru mutual friends!

It's been really fun to get to know a bunch of new bloggers from their post link ups for the past 10 weeks! You guys are so amazing and I'm loving getting to know you thru your writing! 
Thanks for participating!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Random Stuff I've Done

A couple weeks ago, Mama Kat's writers workshop prompts included making a list of 22 Things You've Done. I meant to get in on the listing action then but, life happened so, I didn't end up writing it in time to meet the deadline. But that doesn't mean I can't list a bunch of random stuff I've done now right?!

Of course not!

So here ya go! 22 Things Random Things...

1. I took French for 7 years. I tested out of 4 semesters of foreign language in college but, I took it for another 3 years anyway. I had enough credits to minor in French.

2. I turned down a full ride to Loyola University in New Orleans AFTER I auditioned for their Theater Dept and won another scholarship to would've covered all my books. At the time, I was so stressed out by school and life that I was literally losing my mind.

3. I was holding my favorite Grampa's hand when he died after being in a coma for 9 days. I was 18 at the time and it remains one of the most remarkable moments of my life. I still miss him terribly.

4. I eloped in Las Vegas with the love of my life when I was 20 years old. Only one of my friends was in attendance. (I love you Megan.) People think that Dave talked me into eloping, but he didn't. I am NOT a big white dress kind of girl. And Dave HATES being in front of large groups of people. We both hate to spend money. Vegas was perfect in my book... and I'd do it again.

5. I have lived in 17 different houses, in 6 different states. I'm a great packer but, I hate to do it.

6. I ran on my high school's cross country team and really sucked. I ran on my track team and had ONE good race. I loved to run but, I hated racing. "Oh you want to pass me? Here I'll move over and slow down so you can. I'm not in a hurry." I'm pretty sure people thought I was an idiot. I only started enjoying track & field when they started letting me throw things. I have won trophies throwing shot put and discus but, more importantly, I'm still friends with the girls I threw with. Those are some amazing ladies!

7. I lost someone I loved to suicide and recovering from that event was one of the most difficult journeys I've ever taken.

8. I buy stocking stuffers at Christmas in my Grampa's old shirt. It sounds silly but, he always filled our stockings with the most random stuff when we were together at Christmas. So, now... when I go buy stuff to fill my kids' stockings, I wear that shirt to remind me of him. I hate that he didn't get to meet Dave or my kids but, I like to think that he's laughing when they dig thru their stockings on Christmas morning.

9. I bought the coolest pair of shoes I own at Target, in the Garden section. They were on clearance for $3.
Seriously... I love these shoes!

10. I once went sailing, with an older kid, in a Sunfish (a 2 man sailboat) when I was 6 years and it tipped over. I had on a life jacket but, a HUGE fish (that I couldn't see, even though I was only 43.5 feet tall, because the water was murky) swam under me and ran its dorsal fin all along the bottom of my feet. I lost it. To this day, I will not swim in water when I can't see the bottom. I don't care how illogical that sounds.

11. My family owns a winery in Arkansas and the vineyards are one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's over 100 years old and my Grampa and his siblings were born there. Lots of family members have been married there. It's awesome to have a tangible place so full of family history.

12. I owned my first car when I was pregnant with my first son, at age 21. Dave and I bought our first house about a month later.

13. When I was 10, I was one of the fastest freestyle swimmers in Los Angeles County. I got invited to a competition at the 1984 Olympic Pool in 1990. That's the largest venue I've ever competed in ANYTHING in... the crowd was mind-blowing. My Dad took me to the event and it was one of the best days I've ever spent with him.
This is my claim to fame.
Well this AND the fact that I'm only 2 degrees from Kevin Bacon.

14. I've been so depressed that I attempted suicide. At some point, I'll tell you the whole story but, for now, just know that it's an absolute miracle that I'm alive. Since then, I've regarded time as a gift. I try to use it wisely. It's possible to be on the edge of insanity and find your way back. There, but for the grace of God, go I.

15. I love it when my kids have days off from school. I miss hearing them laugh when they're away for the day. Sometimes, I get more done when they're occupied and out of the house but, I prefer to have them hanging around. They're the funniest people I know and they make my heart happy.
I did NOT make them post like this.
They're such little goofballs that they did it themselves!
16. I love to play games. Word games... board games... puzzles... card games... I don't care. I love to hang out with people and play. I think people are more open, share their heart, and tell more interesting stories when they're doing something else at the same time. Kids are more likely to talk about their day when you're sitting down and playing a game with them. That's another thing that I get from my Grammy... after my love for her bourbon slushies!

17. I think artichokes are the best pizza topping ever. I like to order it so I don't have to share with the non-artichoke lovers in my family.

18. I took a year off, after high school, and got a full time job working at a pharmaceutical lab. It was the best year of my life (up to that point) right after the worst year of my life. My friend Chris did my heart the most good by cracking me up daily at work... usually by doing an impression of the Backstreet Boys' stupid chair dance. Never believe anyone that says nerdy scientists don't have a sense of humor.

19. My first tax-paying/ get an actual paycheck (IE. not babysitting) job was teaching art at my school's summer day camp... I was 11. I loved it.

20. My first serious job was working at a florist. I loved the women that I worked with so much. My neighbor Rhonda, got me the job (she worked there too) after my junior year in high school. Last year, she lost her battle with breast cancer after a long LONG fight. I was devastated.

21. Dave proposed to me in a place where I'd bargained with God about marriage as a kid. As in, "God I'll know this is the person you want me to marry, if they ask me to marry them RIGHT HERE." I'd completely forgot about our deal... until he showed me the ring. Then I cried... not because Dave loved me, but because God did. He remembered the prayer of a 10 year old.

22. My brothers are two of my most favorite people because they're both hysterically funny, but I learned not to cross Danny because he'll lock you out of the house... naked. He's a badass like that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Funday #9 at The Fence

It's the first #SundayFunday of November! Get cozy, link up, and enjoy reading the posts from our neighbors!

Just a few reminders:

#1 Remember to grab the button from the side bar!

#2 Turn your captcha off! (Everyone who MIGHT be attempting to comment on your blog HATES it. Spam filters will catch 99.9999999% of junk comments. Walk on the wild side... turn it off!)

#3 Please don't link up giveaways.

#4 Go visit the other links and be generous with your comments! Everyone loves feedback!

#5 Share that you linked up on "The Twitter" with the #SundayFunday hashtag!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nap Ninjas

At some point, after my youngest brother was born, my other brother and I decided that we weren’t going to take naps anymore. We’d let our parents tuck us in and then we’d get up and play. Lots of kids do this around that age (we were 2 and 4 at the time) but, we one upped them all. Our bedroom window faced the backyard and we lived in a single story house. I knew how to open the window and get the screen off. We’d wait until our parents left and get up, climb out our bedroom window, and play in the backyard.
As a parent, I realize how insanely dangerous such a thing was for us. I mean, we had a baby pool in the back yard. It wasn’t really deep. There was only about 18 inches of water in it but, that’s definitely enough to hurt a 2 and 4 year old without an adult around.
We would take our shorts off and wade in the water. We’d run in a circle and try to make a whirl pool. We’d catch frogs and watch them swim in the pool. When we got tired of that, we’d play on the swing set. Because my Mom sold Mary Kay, she was gone during the day much of the time. My Dad went to school at night to get his Master’s degree so, he was the one home with us for much of the time during the day and he was the one putting us down for a nap.
Once, our bedroom window slid shut behind us after we’d climbed out. We got tired of playing outside and wanted to go back in but couldn’t crawl back through the window like we’d done before! So, we opened the back gate, walked around to the front of the house and rang the doorbell.
You can imagine how much my Dad flipped out when he answered the door and opened it to find the two of us, soaked from playing in the pool, sweating like race horses from playing on the swing set, dirty as all get out when he’d though we’d been sleeping like angels for the last hour. We'd been playing so quietly, that he hadn't heard us. It was like we were kid ninjas.
If my kids did something like that, it would give me a heart attack. It’s the number one reason why I don’t want a pool in the backyard. But gosh, it sure was fun when we were kids. A couple of times, we even crawled out the window at bedtime. I can remember watching frogs swim in the pool in the moonlight. But when we rang the doorbell, the gig was up. Our parents were on to us. They caught us in the backyard at least 2 more times before we gave it up.