Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas House: Part 1

Happy Monday!

This weekend we made a ton of headway on our Christmas decorating and also the overall organization of our house. After 6 months, we've learned what we use most and what we're ok leaving in storage. Finally, after all that time, we've started using the attic! Our 'sunroom' is looking excellent, and I'm glad we got some of the junk we had lying around put away/donated before our parents come next month.

Because I love a good list, here's what we accomplished:
-Bought a new ladder (for $20 marked down from $40 at Lowe's)
-Blew off the roof, sun porch, and front porch
-Got all of the autumn decorations labelled and put away
-Put up the Christmas lights (on the roof and around the banisters)
-Organized the sun porch and moved things inside, to the attic, and into a giveaway pile
-Gave away the things in the giveaway pile
-Put up and decorated the Christmas tree
-Dressed Jack in his Christmas sweater!

On Saturday we got up and ran a couple of errands. Things were surprisingly calm around town, and we finished up early and got some great deals. We also gave ourselves just enough time to get hungry, so we decided to ask Scoutmob for a recommendation. 
That's how we found Sushi Itto, which just so happened to be less than 5 minutes out of our way. I've mentioned before that Thomas and I don't eat seafood--any, at all--but that we LOVE veggie sushi. We do get some strange looks when we order all veggie entrees, but it's totally worth it.

We shared the Yasai Roll (left) and the Avocado Roll (right). The Yasai (tempura vegetable) roll was absolutely the best sushi I've ever had--it was crispy, flavorful, and generally delicious. Thomas also had a small salad, and we ended the meal both pleasantly full, all for only $13 including tip. CHA-CHING.

The rest of the day was spent doing household chores and decorating. It took us quite a while to put up all our blow-up yard decor, my favorite of which is the light up yeti (we got 12 for good measure).
Just kidding!

Seriously though, we did decorate quite a bit. Our big accomplishments this weekend were the outside lights and the putting up the Christmas tree.
Not quite Clark Griswold's place, but we're satisfied!

 Look how intently he's concentrating.

I'm also looking pretty serious.

Finally, we placed the star ever so carefully on the tip top of the tree.

And Dahoo Dores! We even have two presents already.

Here's baby Jack dog looking adorable.
And, again, in his Christmas sweater.

As the time neared to put up the Christmas decorations, I started to worry about Charlotte's potential reaction to the Christmas tree. I've owned quite a few cats over the course of my life, and all of them have had varied reactions to a huge tree suddenly appearing in the house. Those reactions have included: nothing, playing with/breaking the ornaments, climbing the tree, knocking down the tree, and even peeing on on the tree skirt. And that's why I was concerned.

Charlotte enjoys high places, so I was concerned that she might be a Christmas tree climbing sort. The full extent of her behavior has yet to be seen, but so far she has already been playing with some of the low hanging ornaments (don't worry--they're plastic) and obsessively skritching around on the tree skirt. I wouldn't be shocked if we came home to find the tree on it's side at some point...but worst case scenario, we just pick that sucker back up!

Next weekend will be dedicated to Christmas crafts, so I'll be posting some fun tutorials soon!


Friday, November 25, 2011


I hope you all had a fun and food filled Thanksgiving! We woke up early yesterday morning to make a huge batch of crescent rolls. For whatever reason, the dough didn't rise as quickly as it was supposed to and the whole process ended up taking 5ish hours.
 Charlotte waiting for the dough to rise.

We also prepared the potatoes before heading to the dinner, so we had a full trunk of goods to deliver to Mari and Holly's. Some of the cream from the potatoes leaked into the bottom of our oven (even with the tray in place), and thankfully we avoided a fire since, according to Thomas, "cream doesn't have a flash point. The house and our hair ended up smelling good and smokey, but overall our preparations were a success.

Here are the desserts I made: Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Squares, and Chocolate Chip Pound Cake.

Once we got to Mari and Holly's, we milled around and nibbled feasted on appetizers. I'm a HUGE appetizer fan, and we hadn't eaten all day in preparation for the evening's events. My absolute favorite appetizer (and maybe food in general) was the Charlston Cheese, which I hadn't had before. HOLY HELL. It is amazing, and I have no idea why no one has ever made it or even mentioned it to me over the last 21 years of my life. It's literally comprised of some of the earth's best ingredients: Mayo, cream cheese, onion, cheddar cheese, and bacon. I mean come on.

While I lounged around stuffing myself with various cheeses, Thomas, Mari, and Holly gathered around the stove to move the Turducken [a chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey] to a serving platter. It was a process, but the results were worth it.
The Turducken in all its glory.

There was even a small oven fire during the preparation process--turns out french fried onions do have a flash point--but sadly I didn't get pictures because it was put out so quickly. Darn!

After appetizers, we all gathered on the patio for dinner. The weather was perfect and we all fit at the same table (everyone was at the kids table at this party)! Here's Thomas' plate--his was cuter than mine because I was already pretty full from appetizers and just got a sampler.
Aren't those crescent rolls georgeous?!

 I'm a proud crescent roll parent.

It got a little chilly out, so we moved inside after dinner. Everyone gathered in a living room, and we played a spirited game of Apples to Apples. Team Gladys (Mari and Wayne) ended up winning, but Team  Holly came in at a close second. I didn't get pictures of the game, but I did get some pictures of Thomas and I being ridiculous.

My double chin is obviously temporary and due to the Charlston Cheese. Right...?

Here are some of the normal ones, for our moms and stuff.

When I said 'normal,' I meant 'as normal as it gets.'

If you're braving the Black Friday waters today, I wish you good luck. There is no discount in the world that would force me out into Atlanta traffic today--and that's saying a lot. 

-T, K, J, & C

Thursday, November 24, 2011



Today marks our first holiday away from home and I would be lying if I said I wasn't just a little sad. It's hard adjusting to new places and people--and mostly to being away from our families back home--but we're lucky to have great family and friends here to spend the day with. We'll be having lunch/dinner at Thomas' aunt's house, and there will be lots of people that we've gotten to know over the last few months joining us.

This Thanksgiving, we have so much to be thankful for. It's easy to get lost in the daily grind, and for me it's easy to let the little things build up. Today, I want to make a point of remembering the people and things that I'm lucky to have, and I can't think of a better way to do that than to blog about it. 

1. I'm thankful for Thomas. He is the absolute best husband I could have ever hoped to find, and he loves me regardless of all of my picky, crazy, stressed out ways. He is my perfect match and balances my personality so well. To this day, he is the only person (besides my mom) who can make me feel better when I'm having the worst day.

2. I'm thankful for Jack and Charlotte. Pets are a daily reminder of pure and unconditional love, and nothing feels better than getting home to a house full of excited animals. 

3. I'm thankful for my amazingly supportive parents. From a young age, they've allowed me to make my own decisions and given me priceless advice (even when I didn't think it was so priceless). Even though it was extremely hard for them to watch their "baby girl" move away, they encouraged Thomas and I to move to Atlanta because they knew it was the best thing for us. Whether it's through a phone call, an iChat, or a random package in the mail, they continue to show me that they'll always be there, regardless of the distance between us.

4. I'm thankful for my amazing in-laws, and for how well our families blend. While Thomas comes from a big family and I come from a small one, they're similar in all of the important ways and nothing makes me happier than knowing that they're all celebrating Thanksgiving together back home. I mean, who else has an awkward family photo as good as this one?

5. I'm thankful for all of the people who have helped us get to where we are today. We've had so much help from family and friends--with everything from finding a place to live, to getting a job, to making new friends. Mari and Holly, Jeanie and Wayne, and lots of others--we couldn't do it without you!

6. I'm thankful for our house. It's old and little, but it fits us and our babies, and was a huge reason we were able to make this move work. Plus, it's so super cute!

7. I'm thankful for our jobs. Thomas' internship has been such a great experience, and he's met so many amazing people over the course of the last few months. My job is also unbelievably awesome, and the people I work with are some of the coolest people I've ever met. It's honestly still kind of surreal that I work for such an amazing company, and I couldn't be luckier to have found work (especially since we all know I was losing my mind staying home all day).

8. I'm thankful for our old and new friends. We miss all of you at home, and we look forward to seeing you when we visit next May. As for our new friends--you were the final piece in the puzzle of making Atlanta feel like home. 

I hope that you all have an amazing Thanksgiving, and that you have as many things to be thankful for as I do. Feast on, people!


P.S. Shout out to my father-in-law for showing me (and everyone else he knows) this Thanksgiving song. Ignore the video--focus on the lyrical content.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pecan Squares are way cooler than Pecan Pie.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Last night after work, Thomas and I met some coworkers at nearby Flip Burger for dinner. Flip is kind of a schmancy looking place, but the prices are fairly reasonable and the food is unique and tasty.

Thomas started off the meal with a pistachio and white truffle milkshake.

I had the rbq burger--brisket with coleslaw and smoked mayo. SO GOOD. The waitress switched our sides, so this is Thomas' side, the Moroccan Cauliflower Salad.

Thomas had the Butcher's Cut burger--grassfed beef, bleu cheese, caramelized onions, pickled shallots, and soy truffle vin. Also pictured: MY onion rings.

Today was a short day at work, and I started baking as soon as I got home. On the to-do list for this afternoon was pecan squares and a traditional pumpkin pie.

The pecan square recipe I used is from Thomas' mom and grandmother, and they've gotten rave reviews every time I've been around. They're a fun pecan pie alternative, and they're super easy to make. Here's what you'll need (Hint: SO.MUCH.BUTTER):

First, sift the flour and powdered sugar together in a large bowl.

Add 3/4 cup of softened butter and mix it until it's course, using your hands or a pastry blender.

Next, press the mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 pan.

It should look like this when you're done pressing.

Bake the dough at 350F for 15 minutes, until just brown around the edges. Cool.

While you wait, find your cat sitting in a chair and photograph her.

In a sauce pan on medium to high heat, mix the brown sugar, honey, cream, and 2/3 cup butter.

Boil the mixture until it gets all bubbly.

Then, add the pecans.

Pour the molten filling into the crust, then bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.

And, wahlah! Allow to cool completely before serving (this is why there isn't a cut up picture yet).

Pecan Squares
2 cups flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened

Sift together the flour and powdered sugar. Cut in the softened butter using a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles course meal. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool.
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 cups coarsley chopped pecans

Bring brown sugar, honey, butter, and whipping cream to a boil over medium-high head. Stir in pecans, then pour hot filling into crust. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbly. Cool completely before cutting into 2-inch squares.

Tomorrow's list includes:
1. A big mess o' homemade crescent rolls.
2. Two containers worth of scalloped potatoes.
3. Deviled eggs? I've been craving them, so we'll see what happens...


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

$100 Chili

Yesterday Thomas won a chili cookoff at work!

I'm super proud and am allowing him to spend the winnings ($100!) on whatever he desires. Thankfully I saw this win coming and took lots of pictures of the process so that I could do a recipe tutorial, so here it is!

You'll need:

Begin by chopping your veggies in 1/4-1/2 inch dice.

Be sure to scrape the seeds out of your jalapenos, unless you want to burn everyone's faces off.

Next, chop up the chipotles in adobo.

Then blacken the poblano chiles over an open flame (if possible).

Be careful. Don't light yourself on fire. Try to roast them evenly.

As soon as you're done with one, wrap it in saran wrap immediately so it can steam. The KEY here is steam. Once they've steamed for a few minutes, slough the burnt skin off with your hands (gross sounding. Just do it). Try to get as much of the black stuff off as possible. Cut up the chiles in a similar size dice to what you've already done.

 Cube the chuck roast with a 1/2 inch dice.

Heat up a large skillet or dutch oven until it's really nice and hot. Cover the bottom of the pan with bacon grease or vegetable oil, then brown your meat in batches being careful to leave a bit of space between each piece of meat. Once the meat is in the pan, let it sit while the color develops for a minute or two before moving it.

Once you've finished up the beef, if the oil is a little 'trashed,' get rid of it, but leave all the yummy stuff in the bottom. Add a fresh coat of grease or oil, and reheat the pan. Put in your veggies (all except the chipotles in adobo) and the chile powder.

Reduce the heat to medium. Saute it all for around 6-7 minutes, until the onions are nice and translucent. Add the chipotles, the cumin, the oregano, and salt and pepper. Saute for another 2 minutes or so.

Next, deglaze using a quarter cup of whiskey and a bottle of a full bodied--but not too dark--beer. Let it reduce by 1/2, then add the meat back in. Add the tomatoes, and crush them up with your hands into the pot. 

Once everything is in and all coated up, add the chicken stock. Throw in a bundle of thyme and take it out an hour or so in. Bring the whole pot to a boil, then let it simmer partially uncovered stirring occasionally for 2.5-3 hours. If it reduces a little too much or gets kind of dry, feel free to add a little more chicken stock.

In the last half hour, make a roux using 2/3 of a stick of butter and 1/3 cup of flour. Foam the butter and cook the rue until it's a medium to dark brown and has a toasty smell

Whenever the meat is to the desired tenderness, turn off the heat on the pan and add enough rue to achieve your desired thickness. Make sure the rue is mixed in well and cover the pot. Let it sit off the heat for at least 1/2 hour. It's even better if left in the fridge over night.

Thomas'  Texas Chili
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large (or 4 medium) jalapenos, scraped of their seeds
2/3 a cup of carrots, chopped
2/3 a cup of celery, chopped
2-4 chiles in Adobo (depending on your heat preference), chopped
3 poblano chiles, chopped
2.5-3lb. USDA Prime Chuck Roast (with a decent amount of fat on it), cut to 1/2 dice
5-6 tablespoons of ancho chile powder
1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup whiskey
1 (14 oz) beer
4 cups chicken stock
1 thyme bundle
1 can of whole tomatoes, crushed by hand

2/3 stick of butter, melted
1/3 cup flour

1. Begin by chopping the onion, jalapenos, carrots, celery, and chiles in adobo in 1/4-1/2 inch dice.
2. Blacken the poblano chiles over an open flame, then wrap them in saran wrap to steam. Once they've steamed for a few minutes, slough off the blackened skin and chop then into a 1/2 inch dice.
3. Start heating a large skillet or dutch oven. Once hot, add a layer of vegetable oil or bacon grease. In the meantime, cube up the chuck roast in a 1/2 inch dice.
4. Brown your meat in batches being careful to leave space between each piece.
5. Throw out the old oil if necessary, then add new oil and reheat the pan. Add the veggies except for the chipotles in adobo, as well as the chili powder.
6. Reduce the heat to medium. Saute it all for around 6-7 minutes, until the onions are nice and translucent. Add the chipotles, the cumin, the oregano, and salt and pepper. Saute for another 2 minutes or so.
7. Deglaze using a quarter cup of whiskey and a bottle of a full bodied--but not too dark--beer. Let it reduce by 1/2, then add the meat back in. 
8. Crush the tomatoes up with your hands and add them to the pot. 
9. Once everything is in and all coated up, add the chicken stock. 
10. Throw in a bundle of thyme (which you'll take out an hour or so in). Bring it all to a boil, then let it simmer partially uncovered stirring occasionally for 2.5-3 hours. 
11. In the last half hour, make a roux using 2/3 of a stick of butter and 1/3 cup of flour. Foam the butter and cook the roux until it's a medium to dark brown and has a toasty smell. Turn the heat off. 
12.Whenever the meat is to the desired tenderness, turn off the heat and add enough rue to achieve your desired thickness. Make sure the rue is well mixed in and cover the pot. Let it sit off the heat for at least 1/2 hour. Serve with sour cream or crema.

I know there are a million steps, but trust me, it's delicious! Enjoy:]