Wednesday, February 6, 2008

kung hall sun hei!

what? no speaka chinese? my bad. ;) that means "happy new year." tomorrow is the chinese new year! yippee! why am i excited? well... i'm sure after you read some of the traditions, youll agree that the chinese do it right... eat lotsa sweets, dont work, dont clean... my kinda holiday! seriously though... i am suuuuuper into feng shui and i really believe you have to take this stuff to heart and incorporate it into your daily life. note, i said "i believe...", i never said anything about my husband. lucky for me... he just goes with it. after being together for five years, he has gotten the hang of most of the day-to-day stuff (bathroom doors closed at all times, toilet seat down, etc...) so with that in mind... here are some things to keep in mind for the chineses new year that starts tomorrow... traditionally the nye celebration lasts fifteen days, most only follow for the first three though, which will start tonight at midnight and last through the ninth. we'll be doing almost all of these traditions in our house...wait. did i just say "we"? oops! i meant "I" will be doing as many as "I"can get away with...

taboos, traditions and superstitions for the chinese new year

1) no cleaning.
you have to clean on new year's eve (today), i did mine yesterday. that means no dusting, no sweeping, no nothing, nada. (do you love it?) and all cleaning supplies must be put away. the thought is that all of your good fortune will be swept away. you also cant wash your hair... again, washing away your fortune
fyi... this doesnt just apply to new years... you should never sweep dirt out of or remove the trash out of the front door of your house or business. it should always go out the back door. yes. yes. yes. we do this ... every now and then paul tries to sneak out the front on trash day, then i say..."its your fortune sweetheart..." he turns. he looks. he shakes his head and goes out the back door, mumbling the whole time, but he does it and makes his crazy wife happy. thats one reason why i love him.

2) out with the old, in with the new...
at midnight (tonite) you have to open your doors to "let the old year out." youre also supposed to shoot off firecrackers to "welcome in the new year." i will not be doing the firecracker part... we're friends with our neighbors and i want it to stay that way. as far as paul's concerned- i know where to draw the line... i will however, be opening the doors, for a few minutes at least... he will be telling me to close them because its cold, he'll mention something about the heating bill, i'll ask him to "just go with it honey". roll his eyes. he'll shake his head and he'll go back to bed, mumbling something about me being crazy. if you arent crazy (like me) and are planning on sleeping through the night, then just keep your windows open (as much as possible) tomorrow.

3) what you do today will set the precedent for the year
this is a new beginning! that means no talking about the past year. you also cant tell ghost stories (who does that???) or have any conversations about death (who talks about death???). hmmm... no problem there! no foul language, bad words or negativity of any kind. you cant cry on new years... if you do, youll spend the year in tears. dont spank your kids and make them cry either.... do you want to hear your children crying for a year? youre just going to have to deal with the rugrats being rugrats for the next three days.
dont forget to pay all your debts & bills. if you start the year in the red, superstition says that's where you'll end the year. dont make any loans... otherwise you'll be lending all year long.

4) dress to impress...
red is the best color to wards off evil spirits and brings luck. if you cant pull off red, at least wear something bright. a good attitude is also a plus. the wearer of both of these is sure to have a bright, sunny year! bright AND sunny??? who knew???
do not, under any circumstances wear black or white. they symbolize death and mouring... i'm sure i dont have to explain why... death and mourning are bad.

5) no cutting things...
you cant use knives or scissors for the next three days. don't get your hair cut either... symbolically, youre cutting off your good fortune.

6) let them eat cake!
you're supposed to eat a lot of sweets... you guessed it... youll have a sweeter year. (did i tell you???) at this time please refer to my secret weapon.

7) mange'! mange'! mange'!
youre supposed to eat dumplings and pork... i cant remember why... if someone finds out, let me know. what a great excuse to call a friend for a "no holds barred" feast at your favorite chinese restaurant??? (oh, how i miss pf changs... yes, i know that isnt real chinese. i can still miss it, cant i?) anyway... if you go to lunch, just make sure you take someone that is positive and prefereably wearing red and a big smile!
here are some other goodies youre sposed to eat and what they symbolize... melon (growth and good health), coconut (unity), kumquat (gold- prosperity)- we actually found these at our market the other day... they are a fave from my childhood; lotus seeds (fertility), lychee nut (close family relationships), peanuts (longevity), red melon seeds (red; for happiness, joy, honesty and sincerity), tangerines (abundance, happiness), prawns (liveliness), noodles (longevity).

if you decide to go to a chinese restaurant try this vegetarian dish called "jai." chinese families eat this on new years... the ingredients are root or fibrous vegetables. they include: lotus seed (hope for many male offspring), ginkgo nut (hope for silver), black moss seaweed (hope for wealth), dried bean curd (more hope for wealth and happiness), bamboo shoots (wishing all goes well). okay... let me just say that not only have i never heard of most of these items, i have no earthly idea where one would find any of these items... especially not up here in deez dem mountains.!

for more info on the traditions and history of the chinese new year celebration, check this out.

this is the year of the rat (yuk), so dont forget to read your chinese horoscope!

enjoy and happy new year's eve! xx~tara

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

shhh... its a secret!

i can officially announce, formally declare, write in sharpie that i have found the secret to getting absolutely anything your heart desires from your dearly beloved. the others can have the secrets of the universe... i'll happily settle for the secret to getting the shoes i've been dying for from hubby! this is all thanks to pioneer woman's bread pudding recipe... ree claims that this is the best bread pudding recipe ever offense intended ree, but in my humble little opinion, that is the understatment of the year... so i am renaming this the "thank honey for my new shoes" bread pudding!

i made this for hubby the other night and voila! look at what fed ex fairy left on my doorstep....

top secret info to follow... but to see the step by step, take a look at how a pro does it (click "it")
next time i'll add cinnamon and more pecans... just because i like them! :) and... i have extra whiskey sauce... that is going to top some vanilla haagen daaz. it just doesnt know it yet!

the best bread pudding

2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups sugar
3 1/2 to 5 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup pecans, chopped finely
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat together eggs, butter, vanilla, and milk. Add sugar and mix until sugar is dissoved. Arrange bread cubes tightly in a nine-inch baking dish, keeping the crust facing up around the edges in scattered within the dish. Pour liquid over the bread. Sprinkle pecans all over and bake for 55 to 70 minutes, or until crust is golden brown all over the top.
While the bread pudding is baking, make the ...

whiskey cream sauce

1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup Jack Daniels
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until mixture reaches a low boil. Pour a small amount over the individual servings of bread pudding.
Store leftovers in fridge. ...walk by every hour and pop a cube of bread in your mouth. contently.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

recipe for a great evening...

still cold... still no reason to go out...all the "makins" for a perfect night... good friends, good music, good wine, good food...

when i invited karen & brian over, they had no idea they would be part of my little experiment. see, i decided to make an etouffee' for dinner... BUT i had never made an etouffee' before... and i have to admit, i was really nervous to attempt anything remotely cajun, especially for this group! not that they're picky or food critique-y, but because they've tasted my mother-in-law's cooking. let me back up a little... my husband's family hails from lousiana and mimi (my mother-in-law) has officially been declared "the world's greatest chef" by everyone who has so much tasted water that she's boiled. and no. i am not exaggerating... her cooking is THAT good! AND every member of my "audience" loves mimi's etouffee'! "yikes! what was i thinking? maybe i should've just stuck with chili! everyone loves my chili! or italian? i make a mean lasagna." oh well... too late... i was already invested for the price of two pounds of shrimp.

let the cooking begin... whew! the hard part (the roux) went smoothly... onto the sauce... uh-oh! this looks nothing like mimi's... i wouldnt even taste... i made paul do it ...i knew if he said it was good, then i was "safe." (*drumroll*) he loved it and so did our friends... we had four for dinner and leftovers to freeze! you really have to try this one...its so good and its so easy!!! serve over rice with a loaf of warm french bread and a green salad and voila! you have "dinner"! another nice thing about this dish is that you can make it a few hours before your guests arrive and it just gets better as it simmers... that way you arent stuck in the kitchen cooking when you should be spending time with your friends.

Shrimp & Crawfish Etouffee'

1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons Louisiana-style hot sauce
1/3 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons seafood seasoning
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup fish stock
1 pound crawfish tails ***
1 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Gradually stir in flour, and stir constantly until the mixture turns 'peanut butter' brown or darker, at least 15 or 20 minutes. I use a large fork with the flat side to the bottom of the pan in a side to side motion. This is your base sauce or 'Roux'. It is very important to stir this constantly. If by chance the roux burns, discard and start over.

Once the roux is browned, add the onions, garlic, celery and bell pepper to the skillet, and saute for about 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and fish stock, and season with the seafood seasoning. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Season the sauce with hot pepper sauce and cayenne pepper (if using), and add the crawfish and shrimp. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque.
*** crawfish aren't in season, so i used 2 lbs of shrimp. it looked like a lot, but it was perfect.

cupcakes are the staple dessert in our home... my favorite right now are white cake with bright white fluffy frosting and sprinkles... so good!

as in life, the same goes with friday nights... all good things must come to an end... friends go home... bellies are full...sleepy hubbies...passed out puppies... ahhh... its time for bed. good night. sleep tight. dont let the bedbugs bite! thank you for a wonderful evening... lets do this again soon!

p.s thank you alicia for the shout out on your wonderful blog!

Friday, January 25, 2008

dorothy ann murphy lommler

happy birthday to you... happy birthday to you... happy birthday dear gramma... happy birthday to you.

dorothy. dottie. dot. i miss you. i miss your raspy voice. i miss your long, pointy fingernails... always painted bright orange or red (to match your lipstick, of course!) i miss watching you sit at the table in the morning doing crossword puzzles and drinking coffee. i miss our long talks... about everything under the sun... you always listened and never made me feel like a "kid." i miss your wet kisses. i miss your crowded shelves spilling over with all the books you've read. even though i didn't like them (still don't), i miss the rosette radishes you topped the dinner salads with every night. i miss sitting on the floor looking through your photo albums. over and over and over again. i miss hearing you say my name..."taaaraaah."

thank you for teaching me how to do jigsaw puzzles..."find the corners first" and for always letting me do the border, while you did the sky. thank you for teaching me the value of a sand dollar. thank you for stocking the downstairs freezer with frozen snickers... long before i knew about "calories." thank you for letting me play dress up in your cocktail dresses, leopard stilettos and long dangly earrings. thank you for teaching me how to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the world..."use alotta butter and mash them down to make 'em crispy!" thank you for the best summers a kid could ever dream of... walks to and days spent on the beach until we were properly crisp- when freckles and suntans were worn as badges of honor, afternoons spent building forts and climbing the lighthouse with my friend robbie, fishing on the end of the dock with grampa, daily seashell hunts, taking cruises on the safari II to watch the sun drop into the sea and building sandcastles... if there was something better, i never knew it and still dont!

funny... when i look back and think about the things we did together... 30 years later...these are my favorite things to do today. my gramma. my friend. happy happy birthday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

fair warning

wouldnt life be a lot easier if we had fair warning for what we "are walking into"? i know, i would take the "mystery" out of encounters we may learn something from, would shape our experiences with others if we were always prepared for them... of course, youre right. but... i sure wish someone would have been wearing one of these pins today... i would have welcomed a "shaped" experience! who needs mystery on a wednesday morning??? its so unfortunate that there are people who when having a "bad day", feel the need to "inflict" it on everyone around them...on complete and total strangers? what did i do? wrong place? wrong time?

is there an opposite of paying it forward? "billing it back?" hmmm.... now thats one debt i wouldnt want looming over my head.

p.s. this fabulous fair warning pin is available @ one-eyed collie jewelry

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

whatta monday....

this was not a "getting things done" sort of day... it was too cold...we decided to stay in...paul built a fire...tino & bunny got their baths (oh they smell soooo good)...i put clean sheets on our bed...we had my mother-in-law's homemade gumbo for both lunch and dinner (yea! no cooking for me)...we snuggled a was a perfect day.

it snowed a few days ago... here are some photos of tino & bunny playing in our backyard.
bunny is always a bit tenative of getting her feet wet at first, but once she gets into it, she literally turns into a "snow bunny." i love when she runs through the soft snow...her legs are so short, they sink right in, yet she's as fast as a gazelle...what? you've never seen a 3lb gazelle wearing a chartreuse wool sweater playing in the snow???
oh and here is my sweet little angel, tino. he is the most precious thing ever. always so curious about everything...he loves every bit of the snow, but he takes it in at his own he is with snow all over his face...he's searching for his favorite ball...he knows its there under all that the snow... somewhere...eventually he found it...and all was well with the world again.
this is a loud little lady...howling her head off bc she wasnt ready to come inside...can you say SPOILED ROTTEN??? ahh... i wouldnt change her for the world!

Monday, January 21, 2008

blog-virgin no more!

this is my first post! i faithfully read several "blogs"** daily and have been inspired to start my own. AND... i must admit that i was an uber-procrastinator in 2007, so... from past experience, i've found that if i write things down, i get more done...hopefully, that will be the case with starting to write the things that i want to accomplish in 2008 on here. this is going to be a busy year for us...

**i dont know why, but i hate hate hate the word "blog" just sounds sloppy or something...i cant put my finger on it.