Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cherry Crunch

This is a very simple recipe that’s great for Christmas time when you’re doing lots of cooking and baking.  Actually, it’s pretty nice to have any time during the year, but I always make a lot of it in December.  Sometimes you just need something relatively easy.  As a nice little bonus, pretty much all of the ingredients seem to be on sale this time of year, so it’s pretty budget friendly.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a dessert to make just because you want something easy, or don’t want to buy a lot of expensive ingredients.  It’s delicious!  Everyone who has ever had it raves about it, and most people ask for the recipe.  I took one to my chiropractor’s office today, and they were very happy with it. 

Cherry Crunch:

2 cans cherry pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
½ cup sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

Spread pie filling in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. 

Melt butter in a large glass bowl (about 30 - 60 seconds, depending on your microwave).  Combine cake mix, sugar, pecans, and melted butter.  The consistency will be a little like cookie dough.  Drop and spread over the cherries.  It’s okay if there are a few gaps, it will spread out a little when you bake it. 

Bake at 350 for 50 - 60 minutes, until golden brown. 


I think it’s best served warm.  Nick thinks it’s best at room temperature.  We both agree that a little vanilla ice cream on top makes it out of this world good.  And of course we agree that this time of year it’s also great served with Christmas music.  On that note, I’ll leave you with Barenaked Ladies and Sara McLachlan’s God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Kitten Ornament

I may have spoken too soon in my last post when I said that Caroline was being good about not bothering the Christmas tree. 

It’s her first Christmas, and she’s quickly discovering all the joys of the season.  Yesterday it was pulling ornaments off the lower branches.  Today it has been the joys of climbing the tree.  At least she makes an adorable ornament. 

I’ll leave you with Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, though Caroline says that climbing the Christmas tree is more fun

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Transition From Thanksgiving To Christmas

Time always seem to fly, but the weeks from Thanksgiving to New Year’s seem to go especially fast.  I think it has something to do with moving so quickly from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

It’s beginning to look like Christmas here.  We’ve put the tree up.  On a side note, Caroline has been surprisingly good about not destroying it.  I’m just hoping she continues the good behavior.
We’ve also put up a few Christmas lights.  We don’t normally put any up because we don’t have outlets outside, but our neighbors put lights inside their living room windows, and it looks really nice.  Our houses have the same basic plan, so we copied their idea.  The fall wreaths are still up.  I need to find some replacement pieces for one of our Christmas wreaths, so those haven’t gone up yet.  Hopefully this weekend.

Thanksgiving was wonderful.  It was the second time in the ten years that Nick and I have been together that he didn’t have to work, and it was so nice to have him home.  We were able to go together to take te dinner to the hospice house, which was a nice experience.

I took off the Wednesday before, and baked pretty much all day.  Howard and Caroline had a vet appointment in the morning, but other than that my day was spent baking.  I made three pumpkin pies, thirty chocolate cupcakes, cherry crunch, blueberry crunch (taken to the vet’s office for a pre-Thanksgiving dessert), and two apple cakes.

I also got started on making sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes in an effort to help things go smoothly on Thanksgiving Day. Nick peeled all of the potatoes (a little over 15 pounds between home and hospice) and basically handled keeping the dishwasher emptied so we could mostly clean as I cooked.

One of my coworkers made four pies (two pumpkin, a blueberry, and a cherry) for the hospice Thanksgiving, and dropped them off with us on Thanksgiving morning.  I made an apple cake and chocolate cupcakes to add some more variety.  The dinner menu consisted of turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and rolls.  Unfortunately, I got a little behind and didn’t get the ham done in time to take there.  I felt a little bad about that, but I think there was probably still plenty of food.
We took everything in disposable pans, and brought disposable plates and cutlery.  Our goal was easy cleanup for them.

The people at the hospice house were incredibly nice.  A few of the nurses hugged us, and some of the family members were filling plates and saying the food looked and smelled good when we left.  They made me cry.  I didn’t cry until we got outside, but they get me every time.  If you’ve been there, you know what it’s like.  Hospice is an incredible organization, but it’s just still heartbreaking to be there.  A turkey dinner is a very small thing for someone going through that.  It was nice to have Nick with me this time, and he’s pretty good at dealing with the fact that I cry pretty much anytime I go there.  At least it was mostly a good cry this time.

We came home from the hospice house, ate a quick lunch, and got to work on the Thanksgiving preparations for our dinner that evening.  Our menu was essentially the same as what we took, with the addition of ham.  For desserts we had two pumpkin pies, apple cake, chocolate cupcakes, and a cherry crunch.

We invited a few friends and neighbors over, and gave people the option of just coming for dessert.  Our neighbors and a friend came.  We didn’t have many guests as we were expecting due to illness and changes in plans, but we had a wonderful time with the people who were able to come.

Our neighbors brought us the adorable Thanksgiving decoration in the picture.  I just love it.  Pretty much every available surface in our kitchen, dining area, the chest freezer, and washing machine were covered in food and drinks.  No one left hungry.

We go for very informal, so basically we all sat around talking, eating, and making silly videos with the kids for hours.  It was wonderful.  We sent leftovers home with everyone and still barely managed to fit everything in the fridge.

You can probably guess that I didn’t do much of anything on Friday.  We ate leftovers, watched Miracle on 34th Street, and did a little online shopping.  It was nice to have the lazy day after all of the activity the day before.  We put the Christmas tree up on Saturday, and went to Lowe’s for Christmas lights.

Our Christmas shopping is mostly finished, but I haven’t wrapped anything yet.  This year Nick and I decided not to buy anything for each other for our birthdays or Christmas.  Instead, we’re planning to take a trip to somewhere warm during the winter, after the holidays.  This is the first year we’re trying it, so we’ll see how it goes.  I think it will be good.  I love the idea of a warm weather getaway during one of the dreary, cold weeks.  And our house is fairly small, so not accumulating more stuff is always a good thing.

So what about you?  How was your Thanksgiving?   Does it look like Christmas at your house?

I’ll leave you with Bing Crosby’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A Catch Up Post

Somehow it has been over two months since I’ve posted anything.  As usual, I’m not sure where the time has gone.  I think it has mostly been spent on normal, day to day things.

We participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 30th.  Normally we choose a walk within about an hour of us that coincides with a weekend Nick has off, but this time we were able to join a walk close to home, which was nice.  We decided to bring the dogs since it was close to home, and in a dog friendly location.  We dressed them up with purple bandanas, and brought them along.  They seemed to have a good time, and behaved reasonably well. 

Duke always gets a lot of attention because of the missing leg.  He loves people, and is always happy to make new friends, so it works out well.  People are usually surprised by how well he gets around, and a lot of people were very impressed to see a three legged dog out walking to help find a cure for Alzheimer’s.  It was one of those days that kind of helps to restore your faith in humanity.  We live in a small town, but the turnout for the walk was good, and it exceeded the fund-raising goal.  Random strangers kept asking if Duke and Chuzoo needed water (we had water for them, but I thought it was nice that people asked), and some of the coordinators asked if Duke needed a ride back to the parking lot.  He was fine (I promise he really does get around perfectly fine), but it was very nice of them to offer that.   

I do have one very exciting (at least for us) piece of new to share, though.

Nick is finally on a normal schedule!  If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that he works in a branch of the emergency services.  That meant that he had a pretty varied work schedule, with alternating nights and days, lots of weekends, and most holidays.  He has now moved to new position within another division, and works straight week days, with holidays and most weekends off.  It coincides almost perfectly with my work schedule.  He goes in and gets off an hour before I do, but we have the same holidays off, and we’re both off on the weekends now.  I had my doubts about it happening when his transfer date kept getting pushed back, but it finally happened at the beginning of October, and it has been wonderful. 

We’ve been together for ten years, and this is the first time we’ve ever had the same work schedule.  Mine has always been straight Monday through Friday, so that meant we really didn’t see much of each other most of the time. 

We made plans for pretty much every night for the first week or so that he was on the new schedule, but that really wasn’t sustainable.  We’ve mostly worked out our new normal.  It’s nice that it’s not such an ordeal to schedule things now, and we’ve finally knocked out a few projects that have been on the to do list for much longer than I care to admit.  Some things around the house just take both members of the household.  It’s such a simple thing, but being able to do those things, and eat dinner together has been a big deal for us.

One of the best things about Nick’s new schedule, though, is that he has the holidays off now.  I am so excited about Thanksgiving this year!  It will be the second one that Nick has had off in the ten years we’ve been together.   We talked about it, and didn’t want to stop taking Thanksgiving Dinner to the hospice house here, so we are still doing that.  We’re taking the meal there for lunch, and then are having our own Thanksgiving celebration at home that evening.  We’ve invited various friends and neighbors.  It won’t be a big crowd, but we’re excited to finally be able to host Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. 

There are a few people who have other plans during the day, but are planning to come for dessert since ours is later in the day.  It seems like a great way to see more people, and I have an excuse to make more desserts that way. 

I spoke to the volunteer coordinator at the hospice house today, and she was incredibly nice.  They’re all set for us to show up with the food, and as usual, have been just wonderful to deal with.

One of my coworkers volunteered to make the pies for the hospice house.  Kim’s pies are much prettier than mine, so I’m sure they’ll be appreciated.  She’s making two pumpkin, an apple, and a cherry pie.  I’m making chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing and an apple cake with browned butter icing to round out the desserts. 

The dinner menu is turkey, gravy, dressing, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, ham, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, and rolls.  The hospice house didn’t offer much feedback as to anything they’d like done differently this year, so I’m sticking to mostly the same menu and portions as last year. 

The dinner menu at home will be the same.  For desserts at home there will be pumpkin pie, apple cake with browned butter icing, chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, a fruit cobbler (I’m still trying to decide between apple and cherry) and maybe a pound cake. 

I’m excited.  I love Thanksgiving, and I love cooking for people, so I’m pretty happy with the way things have worked out. 

I had a brief moment of feeling creative, and wanted to decorate a little bit for Thanksgiving, so I decided to put together some fall wreaths for the doors.  I am normally not an arts and crafts person, at all, but it’s really hard to find fall decorations that aren’t ridiculously expensive.  So I decided to give it a try.  I think they came out reasonably well, especially considering the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.  That’s probably it for my attempts at creativity outside of the kitchen for a while, but I am choosing to call it a success. 

So how have the past couple of months been for you?  What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Meet Caroline

We’ve added a new fur baby to our family.  Meet Caroline. She’s about 16 weeks old, weighed in at just over four pounds at today’s checkup, and is full of energy.  She’s also incredibly sweet and playful.

You may remember that I said we weren’t looking to foster or adopt for a while after losing so many pets in a relatively short time.  We didn’t have a set time frame in mind, and we weren’t actively looking.  Sometimes fate (or in this case, my sister’s elderly neighbor) just decides to drop a kitten in your life (or on your sister’s porch a few hours before you’re supposed to arrive).

We went to spend the weekend with my sister, Gabrielle, three weeks ago.  The visit had been planned for months, for my parents to come, and for Nick and I to come.  Gabrielle calls me a lot, so I didn’t think much of it when she called me right before I left work.  Until she started in on a tirade about someone dropping off a kitten on her porch.  She’s a total cat person, but she works nights, and had just gotten up.  She also has six cats, five of whom arrived on her porch as kittens in her old neighborhood, in various states of ill heath.  Her current neighborhood doesn’t seem to have such a high population of homeless cats, so she thought her days of rescuing kittens on her way out the door were over.

I suggested that she ask her next door neighbor, a very nice elderly lady who seems to know all of the goings on of the neighborhood, if she knew anything about the kitten’s arrival.  And I started thinking about how fun it might be to have a kitten again.

It turned out that the kitten had been wandering the neighborhood for a couple of days.  Gabrielle’s next door neighbor, and a neighbor across the street had seen her and decided that she needed to be taken somewhere safe.  Neither of them are cat people, so they weren’t sure of the logistics of rescuing a kitten, but felt certain that Gabrielle would know.  They put the kitten on her porch, with the intention of calling her later in the day, after the time she usually gets up.  She just happened to get up earlier that day since we were all coming to stay that evening.

We had already made plans to go with Gabrielle to take two of her cats to the vet while we were there, so she just called and added an appointment for the kitten.  We knew at that point that one of us would be keeping the kitten.

After we arrived and met the kitten we decided that we would keep her.  Nick came up with the name Caroline, which I loved.  I had originally suggested Olivia, which Nick liked as well.  We ended up drawing for her name, since we both liked both names.  Our next girl will be Olivia.  Fortunately, we tend to agree on girl’s names.  Boy’s names are an entirely different story.  It took us two days to name Frankie, and I’m pretty sure it’s the only boy’s name we will ever agree on.

Caroline is settling in well.  It has been a while since we’ve had a kitten; Frankie was our last kitten (other than some short term fosters), and he’s nine.  We had forgotten how playful and energetic they are!  Caroline is interested in everything, and constantly wants to play and explore.  She’s very affectionate, and loves to cuddle when she’s not busy exploring.  We haven’t allowed Caroline to interact with the dogs yet, just because she’s so tiny.  Duke and Chuzoo are both great with cats, having spent their lives with cats, but Duke is over 90 pounds.  We just want Caroline to be a little bigger before she starts playing with the dogs.  The older cats are adjusting to having a kitten in the house.  It’s kind of fun to watch them act all offended when she does things that they did as kittens.

So even though we weren’t actively looking to add another kitty to the family, it only took us a few months.  It feels right, though.  Caroline seems happy with us, and she definitely makes us happy.