Friday, September 28, 2012

Three Things... All Fall.

Disclaimer: all three things lead to cookies.

First thing: Some of you expressed your concern about my statement about hating Thanksgiving. I don't know what to tell you... I just don't like the following things: turkey, stuffing, squash, sweet potatoes (unless highly salted and peppered) cranberry sauce (of the real or canned variety), gravy, or pumpkin pie. So basically, load me up on mashed potatoes with butter, rolls and a slice of apple pie. Yeah, I know those things don't constitute a Thanksgiving dinner, but I simply don't care. The other thing I don't like is having to choose which family we are going to spend time with. I also hate it when people put a ton of effort into a meal, then the meal is eaten and suddenly, there is a huge stack of dishes that are dirty. PIZZA folks... on paper plates with recyclable beer cans. I can be thankful for that.

Second Thing: I think pumpkin gets a little too much attention during the fall. Don't get me wrong, I really like pumpkin coffee, bread, cookies, and icing. But there are other "fall" flavors that get overlooked... like maple.

Third Thing: Ever not like something as a kid, and then all of sudden you're an adult and you need as much of it as you can possibly have, like... RIGHTTHISSECOND? There are two things that I have done that with, one is chili, the other is maple syrup. Yeah, I know it's pretty unusual for a kid to not eat maple syrup - but I think we all know I'm a bit "off" anyway. I don't know if it was the sweetness, the stickyness or I just liked cinnamon sugar on my pancakes better.... (I don't like french toast, so didn't need it there either). Anyway, I didn't really dig maple. And now we're on maple overdrive. In case you are curious, it still really annoys me that maple syrup is so sticky... I often wait for someone else to put our syrup-y dishes in the dishwasher because I don't want to touch them and risk getting sticky. 

And finally, the cookies.

These cookies are my slightly evolved version of Martha Stewart's maple pecan shortbread. The main difference is this: Instead of rolling a log and slicing rounds, I roll it out like sugar cookies and cut out these little leaf guys. They came in a set from Williams Sonoma, which I believe were given to me by my Mom. Anyway, once you cut out the shape and put it on the cookie sheet, glaze it with maple syrup. Then bake for 8 minutes or so. Trust me when I tell you that people go bananas for these cookies... and they're way cooler than breaking out the pumpkin first thing.

Please don't stop reading because I said I hate Thanksgiving and French toast. I do like pumpkin!

Pumpkin comes after maple....

Sometimes, pumpkin and maple go together... when I make pumpkin cinnamon rolls with maple filling. I'll let you know how they come out later - they're for our tailgate tomorrow. Because as you know, I love the early part of fall, and that means football games.

Happy Early Fall to you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Big News!

Big news everyone, I bought a rug!

Oh, I'm sorry... is that not big news for you? I know... I say "big news" and you want me to say, "we bought a house" or "I'm pregnant" or "look what I got on the street for FREE!"

But, the thing is, I'm really excited about this rug, and I did a lot of hemming and hawing over it. It was $96 on Joss and Main, free shipping. The rug is 3'6 x 5'6. And here is the thing... it matches the pillows I just bought perfectly.

And the pillows... they tie the ENTIRE room together. Its like the living room has been waiting for these pillows and this rug for an eternity... or 4 years. Whatever. So, in my excitement, I designed this for you.

So that should tie you over, until the rug arrives. I'll take some "before" and "after" shots so you can really get a feel for how these little pillows and this $96 rug have really pulled this room together.

You may now go back to your daily business.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Yes, I noticed.

Showing you these pictures is going to make you think a few things. #1 - There is some sexy roofer on top of my barn. #2 - Its creepy that I'm taking the sexy roofer's photo. And #3 - it's hot outside.

#1 - it's ok, that sexy roofer is married to me. So, #2 - it's not creepy. And, just in case you think I didn't notice all of the pumpkin flavored everything all over the place, #3 - I am well aware of the fact that it is now fall. I bet you think that I didn't notice because I haven't posted anything fall related yet. Pace yourselves dear readers, I'm on it!

Before I let you in on my beef stew recipe, I want to talk about my relationship with fall. It is decidedly love/hate, in that order. When fall first breaks the oppressiveness that is Connecticut in early September, everyone rejoices. The cool air, the golden sunsets, pumpkin flavored everything, you get the idea. When its time for football games, soup counts as a meal and the days are still fairly long, I really love fall. I love everything about mid-September to late October. But then... November. Windy, rainy, dark November, with it's short days, barren landscape and stupid Thanksgiving. Oh yeah, I said it... I don't like Thanksgiving and I don't care who knows! So that, my friends, is the part of fall that I really hate. Luckily December rolls around, with all its Christmas Cheer and hot cocoa and my universe is restored...

Anyway. Beef Stew.

Growing up, I really hated beef stew. Kids are weird like that... hating things that are delicious. Fortunately, I grew out of that somewhere around 23, and have been in love with stew ever since. This recipe is pretty much a combination of all the best ideas my family ever had (relative to cooking... baking is the Hummers' real area of genius). So then... here's what you need:

1.5 lb stewing beef... more can't hurt.
32 oz beef broth
about 20 oz chicken broth
1 can tomato soup (don't add water)
2 individual packets of instant potatoes
potatoes (about 3 medium)
bay leaf
salt and pepper
oregano or whatever spices you like

1. So then, brown the beef while you cut and peel stuff. As a general rule of thumb I try to buy potatoes that aren't too lumpy because I really despise peeling them.
2. Once the beef is browned, throw it into a pot with the potatoes... make sure all of the fat and brown bits from the frying pan make it into the big pot... that's the good stuff. Add the broths and the tomato soup to the pot, and simmer.

3. Sweat the celery and carrots.

4. You can toss the carrots and celery into the big pot, and then fry up the onions you chopped.

5. At this point, if you are already hungry (I usually am) have a slice of American Cheese, or maybe some sour patch kids... whatever you have on hand basically, because this thing needs to stew for a while before it's ready to eat.
6. Add the garlic to the onions and get it a little hot.
7. Throw the onions and garlic into the big pot.

8. You should add the potato packets now, 1 at a time. These make the stew nice and thick.
9. Also toss in the spices, salt and pepper, etc. I tend to go wild on the pepper, but that is because Dan and I really like the hot stuff.
10. Wait.... wait for an eternity because that is what it will feel like. But, you don't really want to have crunchy potatoes in your stew, so you have to just keep waiting.
11. Make sure when you spoon yourself a bowlful that you don't actually eat the bay leaf. Not tasty.

12. Put it in the crock pot and eat it again tomorrow night.
13. Enjoy fall while we're still in the good part of it.

I'll be back with some other fall stuff later on this week!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Check and Check.

Just taking a minute to let you know what we are doing this weekend:

That's right, it's time for us to check those last 2 jobs off of our list: the lean-to roof on the barn, and painting the hallway.

As you may have guessed, I will not be doing any roofing. But I did patch some holes and "cut in" yesterday. Today its time to bring out the big guns... er, rollers. The hallway (which includes the stairs) is the last area in this house that has not seen a paint brush... and you can tell. I intentionally left out photos of the peeling paint, paw prints on the wall, etc. We really let things slide up there.

No more! Enter Chocolate Froth, my favorite "tan" by Behr. This paint may or may not be left over from all of the painting next door. Hey, save where you can, right? I just hope I'm not scraping the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket at the end of the day pleading for a little more paint.

So friends, wish us well! As soon as Dan finishes the roofing job, we're officially done with Glenwood, and maybe then our moving search might get a bit more real.

PS - if you are in the neighborhood and you hear something terrible, like a cat dying... no need to worry, it's just me singing along with the Wicked Soundtrack while I roll.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Wedding of all Weddings

My poor, dear, inpatient little readers (mostly just Mom and Grandma)... did I not say that there would be three posts? Did you not raise me to take the good with the bad?

Did you honestly think I was going to miss an opportunity to talk about my wedding and all the things that we worked so hard on?

Shame on you.

Today, I am going to talk about my wedding day, and about some details that I worked on or thought about in all the months leading up to the wedding. This is not going to be a list of all the work that was done, rather the product of that work. 

First things first, it did not rain. Despite the heat and humidity, it was a beautiful day complete with a cloudless blue sky. This was paramount, because as I discussed yesterday, there would not have really been a good spot for the ceremony if it were raining. I think we did well, given this site was Plan B:

I love that we will walk by this tree as long as we go to the fair. 

Back to details: I made my necklace and earrings with beads I took from a rosary that belonged to my Great Grandmother. That was my something old and something new. I also made necklaces and earrings for my bridesmaids.

I put together my flower comb after a long (rather unsuccessful) attempt to make a headband. The material is silk shantung, the same as my dress. The beaded addition was a gift from the best damn vendor of the entire wedding: April Rose, the place I bought my dress. I wore the flower piece when I went to pick up my dress, and she loved it, but added the beads siting her "love of sparkle" and "admiration of DIY".

Tie for best damn vendor also goes to my photographer, Maureen Leary. All of the pictures here today are hers, and she was amazing. I mean seriously..... she's a creative genius.

All of the stationary, including the wedding invitations, tags for drinking vessels, programs, etc. I made.

The tags read "Hi, my name is (guest name), and tonight I will be drinking _________. If lost, please return to (table name)." This was especially clever because our tables were named after local points of interest like the ski mountain Shawnee Peak, or the Saco River.

In addition to many hand-made items, we also had some great pieces from "weddings of yore" including my Grandmother's shoes and tiara, my mother's hat and my mother-in-law's dress... worn comfortably on my mannequin, who goes by the name of "Irene" har, har, har.

During the frenzy of days leading up to the wedding, my Mom and I spent nearly $200 on plants at Lowe's and wrapped them in burlap to soften the scene. We also bought about ten yards of blue ticking to cover some of the unsightly spots in our Plan B location. Another of the last minute projects was the incorporation of nearly 3 dozen birch tree limbs, to make it feel like we were outside. 

But as you can see from the photo above, this was not a single-person effort. My cousin Paul and his wife Betsy helped me fold the blue stars, my Grandma hand-painted the table signs...

Dan and I built the cake stand together that held all of our cupcakes...

Not to mention the countless friends and family members that helped us set everything up, and stuff the midnight snack packs for our guests to take on their way out, which featured my parent's infamous pepper relish, made with peppers from their garden. My Mom and Dad also worked together on the "Directions" sign, that imitates a favorite family (and also famous) Maine sign.

But by and large, I can admit that there wasn't a single project made for this wedding that didn't have my mother's touch. She helped me collect all of the mis-matched blue and white china, and then she helped wash them, made fabric folders to store the dishes in on their trek to Maine. She also ran around to Connecticut Job Lots, buying up the grill towels that we used as napkins. Not to mention the fact that she sewed all of the runners, which were then ironed by my Nana.

She helped me sew the welcome bags that were present in each and every hotel room, which included these little pine scented sachets. Never mind all of the grocery shopping she did the day before the wedding for the weenie roast, and the blueberries that filled our little table stands.

Oh yes, there was all of the behind the scenes work too: building a road, driving back and forth to Maine, painting this and that, planting flowers for my Nana, tying a million little ribbons on different things, and perhaps most importantly, trying to calm me down when things started to hit the fan. Laughing when I yelled at my Dad on the way to the ceremony. Literally a million and one things, all done by or with her. 

But lest we get start making that list, let's focus again on the gorgeous details:

like the centerpieces

the delicious local fare

the beautiful, full bouquets

the unique thistle and rose boutineers

the perfect color scheme that thankfully worked with the decor that was already in the hall (American flag bunting)

the shoes.... oh, the beautiful red shoes.

the little things, like the first Christmas present Dan ever bought me being worked into my flowers

my Mom's garter, with the addition of a horseshoe for luck.
And just when you think that the little tiny details a bride can complete obsess over are the most important thing....

I urge you to remember that nearly all of the people in the above photos are a product of four weddings. Four simple weddings way back before save-the-dates existed.

So if there is anything to take away from this post combined with yesterday's it is this: things will go wrong. It could be a few small things, it could be a list of 30 things, and it could be more than 30 insignificant things. So when you are planning your wedding, and the littlest thing sends you into a stressful, angry tizzy... just know that come wedding day, he is yours and you are his. Your smiles will reflect the love and excitement, not how many different rehearsal dinner venues canceled.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Things that go Wrong...

Today is my second first anniversary.... if that confuses you, take a look at the list below, specifically # 10. A year ago, Dan and I got married in Maine. Today, we experienced a snafu that would rival many sitcom-esque problems. Specifically those related to anniversaries and fantasy football drafts.

But problems, snafus, and other challenges are nothing new for me. So today, on our anniversary, I am going to dwell on everything that went wrong, starting at the very beginning.

1.  In 2007, I decided I wanted to get married in my Grandparent's fields in Maine. In 2008, they started renting those fields out to a farmer who grows corn.
2. I knew about the ring ahead of time.
3. Knowing about the ring ahead of time turned me into a psychopath, which also caused me to find out about my Christmas present ahead of time.

When we did get engaged on Christmas Eve, 2009 - things went well for a while. My Grandparents agreed to letting us host the wedding in their field, the farmer agreed to plant rye (grass) instead of corn, I successfully said "no" to a $4,000 dress that I was in love with, and picked a much more budget friendly option. But things started to go downhill from there.

4. Dan's Grandfather passed away.
5. On the day my bridesmaids got their dresses, we found out that my future mother-in-law had multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.
6. The hotel where all of Dan's family planned on staying... slash place that was hosting the rehearsal dinner closed/sold. They gave us 3 months notice.
7. After booking another place for the rehearsal dinner, it too closed without warning. We did not receive any notification. Luckily, my grandparents saw an article in the newspaper and called me immediately with the bad news.
8. The new hotel that the in-laws booked went up for sale... reservations would be honored, but they couldn't promise breakfast... at a bed and breakfast.
9. The hotel that Dan and all of our friends were staying at also went up for sale.
10. In the midst of everything, Diana's treatment had not gone as quickly as planned. By June it looked like she would have to miss our wedding. I received so many calls from her sisters (in tears mind you) that I stopped answering the phone. We tried to convince Diana to let us move the wedding back, but she refused.  Finally, we decided to have a wedding in Connecticut (Catholic style) just in case Diana really couldn't come to the wedding we had planned in Maine.
11. Said Catholic wedding required an enormous amount of time and energy on my part... largely hanging out with the 80 year old priest taking lessons on how to be a good Catholic wife.
12. When the Catholic Wedding came and went, it was a disaster... let's just say some new in-laws started distinguishing between "real" and "fake" weddings based on their own overzealous religious views. I was never more upset as the entire week following our first wedding.
13. My Mom called the hotel that my family was staying at for the wedding about 3 weeks before hand to confirm everything... they gave away two of our rooms the night of the wedding (and this place only had 4 rooms to begin with)
14. The rental company decided to deliver on Wednesday, instead of Thursday like I requested.
15. Hurricane Irene.

Here is the road that leads down to the field we were going to be married in. Why yes, it is completely flooded out.

The field is about third of a mile from here... 

This is probably how the field looked, but since the road down to it was washed out, there are no real pictures of how it looked after the hurricane.

This is the Saco River after it rose 16+ feet. Why 16+? Well, 16 feet was the point where the meter stick broke, so there is no telling how high the water really got.

The road to the west side of Fryeburg, where my in-laws were staying, possibly without breakfast.

The reality that confronted me 6 days before my wedding. Oh yeah, did I mention that I dreamed this would happen?
When the water finally receeded, we were faced with the following problems:

16. The tyrants at the rental company refused to reschedule our delivery which was a problem because
17. The road was no longer underwater, but was a ridiculous muddy mess.
18. Tyrannical rental company said "we're not going down there." So in the one stroke of good luck (call it proper planning) we had rented a hall at the fairgrounds for Plan B in case of rain.
19. Plan B was actually in the wrong hall...
20. I had to get permission to use the hall I wanted from the start
21. All of my helpers and I had to move all of the tables, chairs, etc. to the right hall.
22. Even after all of that, it was still a very hollow Plan B. Yes, I had the space, but no real plan for decorations, or what to do about our outdoor ceremony.
23. Saco Bound had closed the river, so our plans for the canoe trip on Saturday were VERY tenative.
24. When they finally opened the river back up, this is what our camp site looked like:

Do you remember what it looked like before?


25. The bus company I hired to be the shuttle for our guests called me the day of the wedding to let me know they undercharged me.
26. It took the morons at Jockey Cap like an hour to make 3 sandwiches so
27. I was about 45 minutes late to my own wedding.
28. I decided not to take pictures like I wanted because I felt so bad for my guests who were waiting for me for over an hour in the
29. 80% humidity, 90 degree heat that day.
30. From Wednesday through Monday that week, I slept about 23 hours.

That last one wasn't really too big a deal compared with the others, but it did make me crabby. So what's the main point of this post... aside from my whining that nearly everything went wrong for me?

That we did get married. That we are still married (pending fantasy football draft issues) and that in the end, that's kinda all that really matters.

If you want to read all about how things went down for the wedding, check up on my old blog - the story starts a week out. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, The wedding itself: Part 4 and Part 5. And finally: the Aftermath.

Why yes, I am especially long-winded.