Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy new year!


Is it here yet?


How about now?




Wake me up when it gets here.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

going, going, gone

Have you noticed how many gadgets that were essential items in 2000 are mostly non-existent as we head into a new decade?

Fax Machines. I actually had a designated phone number for this gadget that I had to pay an extra $30 a month for. Several times a day I would send and receive documents using this device. Toward the end of its existence in my home office, I mostly received spam through it. That’s when I cut the cord and sent it to the dump. Now I have room for a cute charging station to charge my gadgets.

Landline. In 2008 we eliminated this once and for all. It’s now cell phones all the way, with each person having their own specific number.

Dial-up Internet. Remember the sounds that used to make? Sounded like aliens landing in the room. You can still listen to it here if you’re feeling nostalgic.

Handwritten Letters and Christmas Cards. You remember the ones that arrived in your mailbox outside? This year, for the first time, we sent out digital holiday cards, and saved a bundle in postage. We received exactly 20 Christmas cards in our outside mailbox this year. I'm very glad some have continued with this tradition.

Film Cameras and Film. With digital cameras and phones, the only film you’ll see around here is on our windows (and possibly a roll or two in the back of the freezer).

Telephone Books. Even though trucks still deliver these things in our neighborhood, if I see them coming, they don’t deliver to our house and haven’t since 2005. If they sneak them in, they're quickly thrown in the recycling bin (the books that is). I can search for any business or person on my phone or computer. I can even map out their exact location and take a look at their street. Scary!

Encyclopedias. Some of you are probably not old enough to remember these. People actually sold them door-to-door. They took up large amounts of space on bookshelves. They’ve been replaced by Wikipedia. People also did research in books like encyclopedias in libraries. Lately it seems when I go to the library, there are more people sitting at computers than browsing the isles of books. When my daughter does homework, it’s now Google she goes to first for information. I do still check out plenty of fiction and non-fiction books at the library though. You can’t beat this free resource for entertainment.

Classified Ads. These have been replaced by Craigslist. And their service is FREE. We’ve successfully sold many of our old gadgets through Craigslist in the last few years.

Checks. I rarely write checks anymore. Between debit cards and online bill paying, my checkbook doesn't get out very often.

Wires. So many wires used to be strung throughout my office. My new computer actually has just one. The mouse and keyboard are both wireless items that I can use across the room if I want to.

Here’s the newest gadget in my office...

red Swingline

It’s a Swingline.

“And if, if they take my stapler, I will, I will set this building on fire.”

(a line from one of my favorite movies from over a decade ago, Office Space)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

there's a tree in our house

Getting a Christmas tree into our living room and decorated involves a series of traditions. These traditions have remained unchanged for the last 12 years.

First, we must drive into a less populated area than where we live, preferably to a higher altitude where there is the possibility of seeing some snow fall, or at least fog, which was the case this year. Second, we must hike approximately two miles and view 282 trees before settling on the perfect tree at a u-cut tree farm. After sawing down the perfect tree and securing it onto the top of the car, we must have hot chocolate from the Thermos I carefully prepared and remembered to put in the car along with the mugs, can of whipping cream, rubber boots, raincoats, scarves, hats, gloves, dog leash, poop bags, camera, and extra socks.

cutting down the tree

That's the one! M struggles to cut through it's massive trunk. Hence the strained expression on his face. Isabel had to complete the job, cutting through the trunk like butter. Just kidding, but she looks like a tough girl with the saw doesn't she?

cutting down the tree

cutting down the tree

cutting down the tree

That same night, the tree is decorated while watching a Christmas movie. But not just any Christmas movie. It has to be this Christmas movie...

White Christmas

Every year I threaten to purchase new lights because these are so energy inefficient. I just love the brightness of these big round blue, green, yellow, pink, red and white orbs though, and will be sad when we have used the last extra string for replacement bulbs.

energy inefficient lights


Monday, December 7, 2009

bah humbug

a letter to Santa

I stare at the boxes marked 'Christmas decorations' occupying several shelves along a wall in our basement. Attempting to maneuver around several large objects, my mood is quickly turning sour. I'm tired and grumpy. Just trying to get through the holidays. Too much to do and not nearly enough time to do it. My 12-year-old daughter bounds down the stairs, "Want some help?" I tell her I don't think we'll be putting up Christmas decorations this year. She thinks I'm kidding and immediately pitches in, clearing a path, carrying several wooden Santas up the stairs. Before I can say bah humbug, holiday tunes are blasting and the Santa collection lines the mantle. Iz and I dust and polish.

"Are you going to put out milk and cookies for Santa this year?" I ask.

"I'm not going to break tradition."

My husband opens a bottle of wine, pours me a glass and thanks me for creating such a nice home. The three of us share a family hug.

How can I stay Scrooge in this environment?

We don't have a tree yet. We're hoping for some snow by next weekend as we head out in search of the perfect tree. The weather has turned very cold, but sunny.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

gooey chocolate brownies and stick to your ribs beef stew

The stew was/is fabulous! It may even be the best beef stew I've ever had. The key ingredient? red wine. Sundried tomatoes added a little something yummy too. And so did the fresh rosemary. I wouldn't know about the carrots or peas, because I opted to leave those out so my family would actually eat it. The le Creuset performed beautifully! The chuck meat was marinated in an expensive bottle of red wine all night remember. Ouch! I hesitated before pouring in the last half... does it really need all that? I did include the entire bottle. I did think to pick up an extra though, so all is good.

We mopped up the sauce with these soft delicious dinner rolls featured on The Pioneer Woman's site. I'd show you a photo, but they were gone quicker than I could grab my camera. She has a beautiful one over there though. They are the easiest thing ever to make, and your family will think you slaved for hours making bread dough and then they'll thank you profusely for dedicating your day to the kitchen and their stomachs and sense of well being. I happened to have some French sea salt in the cupboard, which added just the right crunchy touch. But any coarse sea salt, or even regular table salt for that matter, will do in a pinch.


For dessert I whipped up these brownies. This is my go-to brownie recipe and the brownies that all other brownies are compared to by my dear sweet husband. He especially loves them slightly under baked so they're extra gooey in the center. Shhhh, don't tell him... it's a recipe I acquired from an old boyfriend.

Parker's Beef Stew 
Ina Garten's (aka the Barefoot Contessa)
2 1/2 pounds good quality chuck beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 (750-ml bottle) good red wine
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed
3 bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 pound white mushrooms, stems discarded and cut in 1/2
1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 cups or 1 (14 1/2-ounce can) chicken stock or broth
1 large (or 2 small) branch fresh rosemary
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas

Place the beef in a bowl with red wine, garlic, and bay leaves. Place in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Lift the beef out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade. In batches, dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Place the beef in a large oven-proof Dutch oven and continue to brown the remaining beef, adding oil as necessary. (If the beef is very lean, you'll need more oil.) Place all the beef in the Dutch oven.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil to the large pot and add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven over the beef. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade to the empty pot and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat on top of the stove. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to bake it for about 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking. If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the heat to 250 or 275 degrees F.

Before serving, stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve hot. (Or if you have a picky family like mine, leave out the peas and carrots and serve a raw veggie on the side.)

Although I found this recipe online, its also included in Ina Garten's book "Back to Basics" although it's a slight variation that includes beef instead of chicken broth, and she thickens the sauce a bit at the end. Not sure it needs that.