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SHARKNADO

3 Nov

For whatever reason, I really enjoy the Halloween pumpkin carving contest at work. I have won the past two years I’ve been there (Check out the pics from previous years). I am not even a creative type of person – I cant paint or draw anything more than a stick-figure.

This year I felt a lot of pressure to come up with an idea that would really set me apart. I saw a couple “cute” ideas on Pinterest, but I sat on it for a while because I knew that once I found the right kernel of an idea, I would be able to roll with it.

And on a Monday morning, there it was…..my mom called me at work saying that she had just seen the Today Show or Good Morning America (it’s all the same thing) and saw a cute idea: A pumpkin carved as a shark with a foot coming out of its mouth. There was my kernel.

I mentally prepared all week to carve a shark pumpkin with a bloody foot coming out of the shark’s mouth. But on Friday as I was driving home from work with a couple sketches, my idea blew up:  SHARKNADO.

I couldn’t find ANYONE ELSE online who had carved a sharknado pumpkin. And the pumpkins that were carved like sharks were either too intricate, the wrong angle, or just not good…..So I went rogue. I found a video online for someone who made a sharknado costume – and used that as my guide (who knew the sharknado costume was popular this year??).

Here it is in all its glory – SHARKNADO!!!!!!! I have closeups of the top and the bottom of the shark as well so you can see the details. I still cant believe I made this…..creating something felt pretty darn good 🙂

Oh, and I WON FIRST PLACE!!!!! 🙂 🙂

Sharknado

bottom of sharknado

Top of sharknado

Now the pressure is on for 2014……..oh boy! Can I win one more time?

My new oven

24 Nov

Earlier this fall around the beginning of September I started noticing my oven-cooked food being a little more difficult to cook. Things werent turning out right (soggy on bottom and burnt on top), it was taking forever to reach any kind of temperature (2 hours to hit 400), and I couldnt handle it anymore.

Quite frankly, it was depressing to cook and bake any longer. I didnt know if my food was going to turn out right or not. Then I had to learn how to make use of the top heating coil instead of the bottom one (which was no longer working) without scorching things. It took about 2.5 hours last weekend to make a tray of brownies.

This was the same oven that had been in the house practically since it was built in 1977! So it was definitely time for a new one. My parents being wonderfully awesome, foresaw the holidays coming and knew I would want to bake for everyone……so they offered to get me a new oven for my christmas present this year. How fabulous!!!!!!! Isnt it glorious????

My new oven was delivered this morning. I cant stand how awesome it is. I love it already. I cant wait to cook all of my blog recipes on my new stove 🙂 🙂  Thanks mom and dad!!!!!!!

Now my kitchen is starting to match – Dishwasher on the left and Stove on the right. Next step: replace the microwave above the range.

I made a trial run with brownies and turkey curry soup. If the soup is any good, I’ll let you know 😉

Pumpkin Carving Contest at Work

31 Oct

This is my second Halloween at my company and the 2nd time I’ve participated in the Pumpkin Carving Contest. Here was my winning pumpkin from 2011 – a cheeseburger:

So I wanted to stay within the same creative idea…but I wasnt sure what to do. My friend, Kelly, gave me the idea for the Apple. She showed me a pic, I printed it out, and it became my guide, even though I didnt get as intricate as it depicted.

Here it is – the final APPLE Pumpkin in place…..ready to be judged:

I won second place!!!!! Yaaaaay! Another year of successful competitive pumpkin carving in the books! Now to think about next year……send me any good ideas!

Mel’s Annual Halloween Party

30 Oct

My dear friend, Mel, and her husband, Matt, have been having their annual Halloween Party for 5 years now. Mel and Matt really go ALL OUT for their party. There are so many decorations and candles….the mood is definitely set perfectly. And the FOOD!!! Mel has so much food and it’s arranged so craftily and artistically. In fact, she is so good at setting up parties and arranging decorations and everything just-so, she has her own business – check it out:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/memorieswithmelanie  (contact her at: memorieswithmelanie@yahoo.com).

Look at the attention to detail

Cute centerpiece for table

This year I brought some food to help Mel out since she was making so much. Mel did all the sweets – caramel covered apple slices, chocolate covered marshmellows, chocolate drizzled cookie bites, chocolate covered pretzels, and Cake pops which were TO DIE FOR. Mel also got Corropalese Tomato Pie (BEST tomato pie in the entire WORLD – no argument). And she made Mac-n-Cheese bites that were awesome. Christine’s boyfriend brought homemade guacamole, I brought homemade salsa and chips. I also made Southwest Egg Rolls, BLT Bites (Mel’s idea), and Pizza Bites. It was a LOT of food – but look how awesome it all looks!

Here is the table setup with some mood lighting

Here it is in the light

Here is the sweet section – check out the cake pops standing up in the middle (YUM)

Healthy Southwest Egg Rolls

BLT Bites and Pizza Bites

Each year we look forward to this party- even though I dont like getting dressed up. And getting dressed up for Mel’s party is a mandate. Thinking up a costume is always hard.

Usually John comes with me so we think of a joint costume. Here are our costumes from 2009 and 2010 (2011 was snowed out):

2009 – mr and mrs spongebob

2010 – we were the Black Eyed Peas (get it?)

2010 – John’s boyfriend, Jeff, as an abortion doctor

This year, John couldnt come so it was just me in a solo costume. I decided to be NJ Tan Mom 🙂 My friend, Monica, suggested it when I was complaining about coming up with a costume on facebook. Thank you, Monica!!!

Here are some of the other party guests from last night as well!

Me, Mel, and Kendra

Me and Mel

Whoopie Cushion cracked me up!

Kendra and her sister, Christine – Tacky Tourist – out at the bonfire

And we were all thrilled to see Steph, who has a newborn and doesnt get out as much…..

Pesto

23 Sep

I LOVE PESTO.

Love it. It took me 32 years to understand it….but now that I do, I cant get enough of it! Typically, I grow at least 9 plants of basil every summer and in late September I whack them all and make 15-20 batches of pesto to freeze for the wintertime!

Pesto is so easy. It’s adaptable. There are so many variations: basil, arugula, red pepper, parsley, sun-dried tomato, spinach…etc. There are variations on nuts you can use instead of the traditional pine nuts: pistachio, walnut, almond, sunflower seed….etc. You can also vary the types of cheese! Pesto is great!

Ingredients

I stick with the traditional pesto though. Recently, at one of my farmers markets, there was a vendor selling basil for “$2/a bunch”. I said “how do you quantify a bunch?” to which she replied – “as much as you can carry with your hands.” I made out like a bandit and instantly knew I was making pesto! Look at this pile of basil!!!!!!! You can practically smell it, cant you?

Pile of Basil

Closeup

The hardest part about making pesto is trimming all of the basil.

Here are all the ingredients dumped into the food processor. It’s as easy as that – dumping everything together into the food processor. Read the recipe to see my secret ingredient.

And here it is 2 minutes later all ground up into a paste:

Here is another closeup because this stuff is off the hook.

There are a couple people who are FANS of my pesto (My brother Pat and my friend, Jeff). So I am always sure to freeze several containers and give them out when I see them. I ALWAYS have containers of it in my freezer to either take with me to someone else’s house or to enjoy in my own. It is so awesome to have some fresh garden pesto on a dreary January day…..I think my brother and I are the only ones I know who can just eat spoonfuls of this stuff. Isnt that gross? So gross, but so good!!!!!

And here was the recent grilled pizza I made with this pesto on this day. It was so darn good. I feel like the vendor had a couple strands of Lemon Basil mixed into the regular Genovese Basil because there was a bright lemony taste!

I just hacked 3 of my 5-foot tall 9 basil plants this past weekend and made about 18 batches of pesto. Here are my tall plants – in the garden and then some of them hacked down waiting to be plucked apart:

Here is the assembly line of ingredients to make it easy to dump into the processor and keep moving.

What in the world does 18 batches of pesto look like? Well, to me it looks like heaven….

39 containers of deliciousness….

Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 anchovy (optional)

Directions:

De-stem and wash all basil leaves and dry thoroughly. Place in food processor with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and salt/pepper.

Turn food processor on and grind until it forms a thick paste (about a minute). Now, you may not want to add the anchovy. And you dont have to! But it adds another dimension to the flavor and makes it richer. I really enjoy it – it does NOT taste like anchovy at all.

Drizzle in olive oil while food processor is still running and run for another 1-2 minutes. Done!

Hard….boiled

27 Jul

I have a close family – we are always in and out of my parent’s house  especially in the summertime. I think checking to see what’s in their fridge is a mandate whenever we are there. I stopped in last summer while they were away for a weekend. My mom told me she left a hardboiled egg in the fridge and that I could have it if I wanted.

I get there and see that there is NO mistaking which egg is hard boiled! What a goof!!!

Gardening Weekend…and the Farmers Market!

20 May
The forecast for this weekend was supposed to be 78-82 degrees, 100% sunny, and slight breeze….PERFECT for gardening! This weekend was also the opening day of the Lansdale Farmers Market! I’ll have to do an update of pics later in the season to show all of the fabulous produce. Obviously, since it’s May, there isnt much in the line of produce at all.

Finally open!

It was great to see my summer market friends again 🙂 Here are my faves:

Tabora Farm and Orchid – great stuffed rolls and breads! I’ve been frequenting their stand since the market first opened.

Tabora Farm Stand

Overbrook Herb Farm – my favorite stand at the market. Paul and his wife are the most gracious people with their wonderful produce and amazing knowledge of all plants and herbs. They always have something unique and I always come away having more information and knowledge than ever! Their produce and herbs are phenomenal and their prices are super!

Overbrook Herb – they are on the left

Philly Bill’s Dills……I love pickles. I am addicted to their habanero and jalapeno pickles!

Tub o’ pickles

Mainly Mushrooms….This was a new stand in the middle of the season last year and I fell instantly in love. Chris has such a fabulous collection of mushrooms that he has foraged and also has foraged for him and shipped. Some are also cultivated. He has signage that clearly explains what the mushrooms are and where they have come from. He also has interesting things other than mushrooms – like ramps and fiddleheads and dried mushrooms. My favorite are the locally harvested maitake that come out later in the season. I’ve also had his lobster mushrooms – they TASTE like lobster and you can put them in eggs and risotto. Delicious! Chris will tell you how to cook up your various types of mushrooms in order to get a great flavor from them.

Mainly Mushroom Stand

Red chanterelles on the right, maitake on the left

The spread….

Lobster musrooms – it even looks like lobster meat!

Windy Springs Farm…..I love their produce. It tastes AWESOME and is always priced so well. I frequent their stand for tomatoes, cantaloupe (honestly, the BEST cantaloupe i’ve EVER tasted), and zucchini. In the fall, I get my pumpkins and squash from them! Today they only had honey and beef and eggs. I bought 2 dozen of their eggs that were just laid that morning – talk about fresh! I am planning to try their meat this summer. My neighbor swears by it.

Windy Springs truck…I’ll update later this season with their produce

It was crowded and there were a couple other vendors that I perused….here is a scene:

Random aisle of vendors

It was also the local 4H Plant Sale. I had never been but heard that it was one of the best plant sales around! They have nursery/gardencenter-sponsored plants for sale in all types of species. They also have plants that Master Gardeners have started and planted for sale…..There were some amazing collections! They had a TON of heirloom veggie plants and fruit plants, annuals, perennials, herbs, bushes, shade plants, trees, and pond plants. It was FABULOUS. I know for next year to get up EARLY and stand in line when it opens!

4H Plant Sale

And another view of the plant sale

After runing some more errands, I was ready to start gardening! I love this time of year. Since it was about 3:30 and I was getting a late start, I decided to do my front yard to get it over with. I had 5 azalea to plant and then all the mulching. I loathe mulching, but when I start doing it I realize how easy it really is! I should have taken a before picture…I only have an after picture though.

Front Yard

Sunday is the day for the backyard! After some rest in the morning, it was time to turn the backyard into a thing of beauty. I got ALL of my vegetables from my local farm that I adore – Skippack Creek Farm. They are all organic, chemical/pesticide-free, and their tomatoes are to DIE for, amongst their other delicious produce! They are the reason I have fallen in love with Oxheart Heirloom tomatoes. They are generous and great to talk to!

Anyway, here are my before pics….

Patio and Veggie Garden

Back Garden

Some local compost I got from my brother’s township free community pile:

Compost Buckets

And the after……

Tomatoes in the back, rosemary on the left, jalapeno at far end, and 9 basil plants!

Impatiens, choleus, and milkweed planted and mulched!

Patio looking out

Herb pot….except for parsley, mint, and rosemary which are planted separately

Facing the house

I am exhausted, but sooooo happy that all the plants are in the ground. Now I sit back and watch and water 🙂 I hope everyone else was able to take advantage of the beautiful weather we had this weekend!!!

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