Friday, December 14, 2012

Mistaken identity

Today I was taking my compost out to the back yard.  We recently had a robbery on the railroad tracks along our yard,  so when I saw a police car out front,  I stopped to be nosey. I asked if he was looking for evidence. The officer replied that he was looking for me! I was wearing all black and wandering around my yard,  so he was making sure I wasn't a burglar! This is the time of year for a lot of daylight breakins and he wanted to be sure our home was ok.  Super nice guy. Then Wolfie ran out in his socks to see if I needed any ammunition, or maybe he could release the cop car's parking brake to cause a distraction allowing me a clean getaway. Oh,  I hope this kid uses his powers for good.
Vladdie documented the interrogation in crayon.

fa la la la

Decking the halls,  and ourselves apparently!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Around these parts

:: cooking chili from fresh tomatoes tonight,  no leftovers which means it was gooooooooood. The cornbread was excellent and I couldn't figure out why it tasted so different. I have been making it with whole wheat flour for a while now,  so that couldn't be it. Same old cast iron skillet. Hmmmmm. Oh yeah,   never added the corn meal! It was corn-less corn bread! A giant pancake basically,  lol. Well,  people were ready to fight for the last piece,  so,  again,  it must have been good! 

:: hearing
 Christmas carols galore! I can't get enough of them. I am catching the kids singing them too. Vlad was singing an original carol to his friend and I overheard bits and pieces that involved shooting down terrorists and playing some air hockey. Could be a little more Christmas-y, but then again,  everyone's a critic. 

:: needing
lists and notes to remember basic things because my mind is going on multiple channels. Ah,  to be young and well-rested 

:: thinking
 about Christmas cookies. I must start tomorrow or I will never get any made. 

:: doing
 my gift shopping online and with handmade. Lots more to make but most of my buying is done. Oh, but the wrapping! 

:: making gift bags out of some old transformer t-shirts and they are rad! Even the drawstring is made from the old shirt. 

:: keeping
 up with home schooling even though there is a huge lack of focus around these parts. We are needing a Christmas break big time.  Soon,  soon, soon... 

:: loving
 the changes we made to the bathroom! And especially the guy that made it happen! 

:: wanting
 to get the house decorated but needing to get it straightened up first. 

:: plotting when to schedule my next work day. And dreading the way it will make my feet feel (like they might explode). 

:: feeling
 happy that Matt helped me make our Christmas cards. I love working on projects with him! 

:: preparing
 to write in the cards and address them. Seriously preparing,  like finger pushups and wrist stretches.

:: looking forward to seeing my brothers soon! and Margret,  which is a treat! And Zaki,  (the doggy nephew) for the first time! 

:: Loving the sound of Wolf playing the piano. It is so exciting to watch
him learn. 

:: enjoying
 my newly painted table. It is a cheery yellow and makes me feel happy. And reminds me of a super sweet guy that spent most of his vacation painting stuff for me. 

::Feeling so happy with the yarn bowl Matt made me from a wooden thrift store bowl.So cool!

::Excited to finally have made a pillow from a 1975 cloth calendar I have been holding onto for awhile.

:: putting a little love in every stitch while making presents. I love to think about the person I am knitting,  sewing or crocheting for and have happy,  loving thoughts about them while I work away. It leaves me feeling happy and that is such a good thing. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Duh moment in the kitchen.

We LOVE fresh squeezed lemonade in our home. I have used the leftover rinds for scrubbing, freshening up my disposal and feeding my compost bin. But now I have another use, saving dried lemon zest for flavoring my cooking. 
I start with squeaky clean lemons. I use my smallest feature on my wonderful multi-faceted grater and grate to the pith.

I spread it out on a glass plate and pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds once or twice depending on how many lemons I have done. Then I let it sit on the plate for a few hours in my gas oven (not on) to be sure the moisture is gone. Simply pop it in a jar and you are done. I recommend opening the jar from time to time and sniffing. Heavenly! 

Here are some muffins we made with our zest and our homemade yogurt!

Here is a link to the recipe I used, Lemon poppyseed muffins.  I used my plain yogurt, so I added a teaspoon of lemon extract. I have cast iron muffin pans, and they give the muffins such a nice crisp bottom. I totally love that, and as you can see, so does Wolfie, my assistant in the kitchen!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tanuki Day! Please do not read if you are offended by giant magical scrotums

tanuki2.jpg (468×352)

Yesterday we celebrated a beloved Hoffman holiday, Tanuki day. To the uninitiated, a Tanuki is a Japanese raccoon dog. In Japanese folklore, these creatures are featured as mischevious shape-changing hedonists. As if this isn't enough to make you love them, they have abnormally huge scrotums which they can pull out into vast sheets, creating sails, multi-roomed buildings and trampolines, as a few examples. They also can do battle with these multi-tasking testicles. These enormous testicles are seen as a sign of financial luck. According to wikipedia, children sing a schoolyard song:
"Tan Tan Tanuki no kintama wa,
Kaze mo nai no ni,
Bura bura
('"Tan-tan-tan", tanuki's bollocks ring/The wind stops blowing/But they swing, swing, swing')[12] It continues for several verses, with many regional variations. It is sung to the melody of an American Baptist hymn called "Shall We Gather at the River?".[13]"

Here are some pictures of their swiss army-like appendages;
kuniyoshi_tanuki_51.jpg (468×337)
Useful for fishing
tanuki.jpg (380×260)
Keeping warm whilst camping.
Tanuki are usually pictured in a straw hat with a bottle of sake and an I.O.U or empty purse. They are known to beat on their bellies and, um other prominent features in happiness, producing the sounds "pon-poko-pon".
     We celebrated by having a dinner of homemade ramen and a showing of "Pom Poko" by Studio Ghibli.

Click here to see the movie trailer
This movie has more scrotal tomfoolery than you can shake a ...ummm, giant magical testicle at? Plus, if you are a Studio Ghibli fan, you will enjoy looking for some characters from other Ghibli productions in some of the scenes. As if that wan't enough for me, my beloved Man With The Yellow Hat (Jeff Bennet) does voice over work in the English dub! Gods bless T.M.W.T.Y.H., for he is a harbinger of peace and quiet in my home.
     We also broke out our own collection of Tanuki and dolled him up a little, as the Tanuki do so love to party!

This Tanuki was lovingly handcrafted by my Dad-in-love as a gift.  He is a photographic cutout that is large and in charge. The Tanuki, not Dad.

At any rate, Happy Tanuki Day To all of you!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Well, we finally have heat and power after a bout with a Ohio! On Monday, we were hit by hurricane Sandy. Personally, the storm didn't seem nearly as bad as many others we have weathered. However, the rain saturated tree roots and combined with gusting winds to create a perfect storm (pun intended) to uproot many very large residential trees. So, Power went out Monday at dinner and stayed out until Friday afternoon. Mind you, many suffered much worse than we did. We had no loss of home, life or limb (human or arboreal, other than some easily moved branches). But, the effect of not knowing when it was coming back on was terrible. The house got down to 48 degrees by Friday. We had lost a full fridge and 2 freezers of food, despite much effort made to save it. Losing several hundred dollars worth of food just plain sucks! Especially food that was made from scratch and frozen to use over the winter. Here we are, getting by during the outage.
Hats at the table, no longer rude, but required! The ever-present crayons. I thank you Crayola, you saved some of my sanity.

I was 2 rows into a pattern for a barbie dress for Ollie's birthday when the power went out. I hadn't printed it :(  So, I winged it! My goal was a non-skanky style dress and I think I met that goal. Knitting with the smallest needles kept my frozen fingers nimble!

Halloween was postponed! Aunt Robyn visited with a ghoulish treat! Her treat? Power was on at her place when she got home!

Hats, many layers of clothes, more crayons...this is getting boring! and colder! The Poochies moved in with the generous Grand-Poochies for warmth and some Curious George episodes.

"In Case of Emergency" Hot chocolate
In a pan, mix 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, pinch o'salt and 1/3 cup boiling water.
Mix well and add 3 1/2 cups milk. heat until perfectly warm.
turn off heat and add 3/4 tsp. vanilla. Mix and pour.
Top with marshmallows and warm your insides!

Many candles!

Very important to keep the flashlights from wandering off! This was treated like a tabernacle of light!

Cold noses! Toast made on the stove top.

Hermes guards a pink bunny slipper while wearing a sock.

Some things I am glad about
  • Gas stove! We couldn't run the oven, but we could hand-light the burners!
  • Gas water tank meant hot water if it ran long enough!
  • Having enough pantry items to make oatmeal, cocoa, homemade spaghetti sauce (?!?) and fresh squeezed lemonade.
  • Postponed trick-or-treat meant we ate the candy we had for it.
  • Having a really good children's library and art supplies. We read A TON!!!!!!!!!
I am so sorry that there are others that still don't have power. I hope that they are getting the help they need. I am so thankful for all the wonderful people that helped and offered us help. Times like this really lets you know who cares about you. Hugs, hugs, hugs to all of you!
I will end with Wolfie's exclamation as he realized that the power was on,
"I am drunk on electricity!"

Another party? You bet!

Shortly after the party for my mom-in-love, it was time to celebrate My Dad-in-love's birthday as well! I tried this recipe for a flan and I thought it turned out really well, although the pic isn't great. This is a great recipe if you love coconut flavor but don't love the stringy bits of coconut in your goodies.

Coconut Flan
6 eggs
1 can (14 0z) of sweetened condensed milk
1 can (12 oz) of evaporated milk
1 can (15 oz?) creme de coco
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tsp. coconut extract flavoring
1 cup white sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • melt the 1 cup white sugar in a saucepan until melted and golden, pour into a 2 or 3 quart dish (2 quart will require longer baking), so that the bottom is covered. Set aside.
  • With mixer: beat 6 eggs well. Add sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, creme de coco, whole milk and coconut extract. Mix well, at least 2 minutes. 
  • Pour this into the glass dish, on top of the sugar and place the dish into a larger dish with at least an inch of water in the larger (outer) dish.
  • Bake approximately 80 minutes, checking after the first hour. May need more cooking, especially if using 2 quart dish. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean when done. 
  • Remove from outer pan and cool on a rack and then refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • To serve, run a knife around the edge and turn onto a serving plate. 
  • Top each piece with whipped topping and enjoy!

Here are some pictures of the shindig!
Wolf helps learn Grandpa's secret pizza techniques!

Singing and presenting Wendy's delicious brownies!

Coconut flan! Whoops, I started cutting it before I snapped the pic!
Gift time!

Who invited Gilligan?

Such a wonderful weekend was spent celebrating! It was nice to see Adam and Wendy, as schedules don't usually allow us to all be together. We also got to skype with Bret and Elizabeth and see baby Mae in motion! This is what makes times like this so special---family!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Party hearty!

I am a little late in posting these pictures,  but I wanted to share some pics of the partying that was done in honor of my Mother - in-love's birthday last weekend. We had so much fun,  just spending  a good chunk of time together. Which is exactly how birthdays should be celebrated,  don't you think? 

The boys helped decorate the cake,  wolf did the writing and Vlad did flowers!  Their first time using the icing bag! 
Wolf is pretty proud of his efforts
Helping Grandma Jo open her gifts 
A home made book for Grandma.

A few games of Quiddler played until the wee hours!
Although Vladdie isn't pictured (he was very busy trying to deflate a balloon with assorted flatware,  unsuccessfully),  he was present and helping Grandma celebrate! 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cordially yours...

     I am in the process of making some adjustments 'round these parts. I will be trying out some recipes for tooth powder, laundry detergent and possibly perfume. But today I wanted to try to find a replacement for the drink of choice for the 7 and under crowd around  here. They love lemonade. They only drink water (not as much as I would like, this is another story), milk (not much), kefir and lemonade. Trouble is, I don't always have lemons, so often times I rely on bottled lemon juice. Unfortunately, this contains preservatives and that has been really bothering me. 
     In my search to replace this, I have taken a cue from my favorite Aussie blog,  Rhonda Hetzel's Down to earth, and tried a fruit cordial. It is delicious! Please check out her blog for recipes as well as many other homemade delights, as it is great!  I used what I had on hand: a bag of frozen mixed berries, 2 tsp. citric acid and some sugar. I made a simple syrup of  2 cups water and 2 cups sugar. I put it in the blender with about 300 grams of berries and the citric acid and blended until liquefied. I strained it through a cheesecloth into a glass container. Ahhhh, then I added some of this cordial (to taste) with ice water. So fresh and wonderful! This would be great with mineral water or soda water too. I found it excellent with plain old ice water though, but a squueze of lemon would have made it even better!. 
      This is supposed to last for 2 weeks, but I think it probably won't be here that long. It would be easy enough to halve this recipe if you only have a couple people in your home. We will see if this becomes a staple around here and will try it with other fruits too. I know some people have an issue with giving their family sugar, but for me, right now, I would be happy just cutting out preservatives.
    If you have had experience with making fruit cordials, please comment! This is all new to me :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy anniversary!

We started out with the pillaging of a local thrift store armed with a 
half-off coupon. I scored some fabric, king-sized L. L. Bean flannel
 sheet set, coats,  boots, pj's,  books and a vintage pair of oxblood oxfords among many other things. 
A wonderful lunch at Phnom Penh and a walk through the West Side Market. A quick stop at Lilly's chocolates, which is very close to being heaven.
A lovely car ride out to Chagrin Falls and ice cream from Jeni's. A walk around the falls was nice. 
A nice long hike at the Heron rookery in Geauga county. We didn't run into another soul during an hour or more walk. Such lovely conversation.
Enjoying the sounds of a stream passing under a covered bridge. A few trees were already scarlet.
Perhaps a beaver's dam?

Can you spot the tiny toad that visited us?

This was a perfect day to cap off a decade of wonderful marriage. We talked about our hopes and dreams for the future and counted our blessings often throughout the day. I am one lucky lady!