Monday, November 30, 2009

Utah Local: Home Again

I've been debating starting this new feature called "Utah Local", but I've wanted to do it for some time now. I know that many of my readers (at least many of the ones who comment--smile) don't live in Utah. But I do want to share great local places with family and friends who do live here and help unique places stay in business so I can continue to enjoy them. So I'll be posting a new Utah Local here once a week or so.

Today is a great day to start this since I don't feel well and this is an easy post. I first heard about Home Again in Midvale from Ann Marie's blog. She is one of the consignment contributors to this interesting consignment shop. I hadn't heard of it before, but last month after reading about it, I was driving to Gardner Village and spotted it. Home Again is just around the corner from there and I was excited to see it in person and I stopped inside for a fun visit.
They have a nice mix of antiques, unique home decor, a few crafts and some refinished/refurbished furniture and there are things in all price ranges...really!

I bought this plaque for a year-round decoration, these pumpkins for a new Thanksgiving decoration, and the cute cookie jar which I washed, filled with cookies and gave to a friend as a gift. At first I was thinking that I wish I could live next door to Home Again, but then decided it's a lucky thing I don't cuz I'd be buying things all the time. By the way, there's another store in Sugarhouse, but I haven't been to that one. This is one store I'll continue to shop at since I love unique finds and they've been around for 10 years so I doubt they'll be closing their doors (like so many of my old favorites have done).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Catching Up with Our Family

This post is really for my family since I haven't posted some of the family photos I've had for a little while now, but everyone is welcome to admire these cuties. Most of us adults don't love photos so it's mostly my children and niece and nephews.

Sabrina with her friend at the art museum community night.
Alex with his friend at the same museum.

About to watch A Christmas Carol
Just hangin' out next to our newly hung (finally!) drapes

They climbed into a box and had fun for a while.

Sabrina at her Thanksgiving feast at school. (Their feast was cornbread and pumpkin pie-nothing else.)

My nephew concentrating on his artwork
My niece and her daddy
Coloring at Grandma and Grandpa's
The one photo of me

My niece rarely smiles once the camera comes out so I was lucky to get quite a few shots of her happy. I'll just share a couple here.
All the eating and playing on Thanksgiving day is exhausting...and this was just part one for him since they left to go to their other Grandma's house after this. Anyone else feel like this at the end of the day on Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Better-Than-Brad-Pitt Brownies

I found this recipe when I got this magazine in February or March of 2006. I marked several recipes that I wanted to try, but I ended up only trying this one. It was very good (super thick and fudgy), but a bit expensive compared to other brownie recipes so it kinda got lost in my boxes of cookbooks and magazines. I recently re-found it and decided to make it to take to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents'.
Everyone's family has their traditional, must-have dessert. In our family, it is my mom's chocolate chip pecan pie. She or my sister Sheri always make the pies that everyone looks forward to all year, along with pumpkin and cherry cream pie. So when I was asked to bring a dessert, I figured people wouldn't be very interested in anything besides the pie and I didn't take much of these. But they all disappeared somehow and it left Sabrina asking for more. (Lucky for her we had the rest at home.) Some people heard the name of these brownies when I first brought them in, but other people didn't hear me talk about them. A couple of people thought it was fudge while eating it. Yes, it is that fudgy. It is not your normal brownie. Cut the pieces small since they are so rich. As you can see, I didn't make them with walnuts this time due to people's allergies, but I had it with them the first time and I loved it.

My kids don't know who Brad Pitt is so they think we should change the name, but didn't give me an alternative. This is a recipe from Polka Dot Cake Studio, which used to have a New York storefront bakery, but closed that to dedicate their efforts to specialty cake orders. Sad for New Yorkers, I'm sure.

Chilling the brownies for the full time is very important. The first time I made these, I tried a tiny square right out of the oven. It wasn't great and I was disappointed. But after chilling, I tried it again and it was like a different dessert.
Better-Than-Brad-Pitt Brownies

14 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 c. non-alkalized cocoa
1 1/2 c. butter, softened
3 c. granulated sugar
1 t. salt
6 eggs, at room temperature
2 c. flour, sifted
1 3/4 c. (10 oz.) semisweet chocolate morsels
2 c. walnuts

4 oz. semisweet chocolate
4 T. unsalted butter
1/2 T. light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 300º. Butter a 9x13-inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder. Place bowl over pot filled one-third of way with barely simmering water and heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of electric mixer, using paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and salt together at high speed until well blended and light, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. At low speed, add flour in three additions, mixing just until blended. Add melted chocolate, chocolate morsels and walnuts and mix until blended.

Scrape batter into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is set but still soft and edges are just beginning to pull away from sides of pan (a toothpick will still come out gooey at this point). Cool completely in pan set on wire rack.

Cover pan and refrigerate brownies 6 hours or overnight before glazing.

To glaze brownies Combine all ingredients in medium bowl and place bowl over pot filled one-third of way with barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Invert brownies and remove pan. Peel off parchment paper and reinvert brownies so they are right-side up. Pour glaze over brownies and, using offset metal spatula, spread it evenly over top. Refrigerate brownies for 10 minutes (but not longer or glaze will harden and be difficult to cut).

Doesn't that look like a slab of fudge at a confectioners?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Baby Step Crafting

I very rarely even start a craft on my own, let alone finish one, but after seeing so many awesome Christmas decorations my friends have been making, I decided to try an easy one, a very easy one.

I have been motivated by a website that I mentioned before Dollar Store Crafts to try to do a craft with supplies from the dollar store. So I took off to Dollar Tree, the dollar store in my town, with a few ideas in my head. I hoped to find wooden blocks for a few different crafts, but they didn't have any. I did find these styrofoam blocks though and decided I'd use them for the Christmas countdown blocks that I've seen. I had the foam brush and the black paint (which I found on sale for 39 cents at JoAnn's yesterday). I didn't buy the scrapbook paper at the dollar store, but they might have some there. Or if you're like me, you have a bunch at home already.

I painted them black and let them dry. Then I tore scrapbook paper (or you could cut them into squares) and Mod Podged them on. I don't have a vinyl machine and didn't find cheap stickers of the numbers I needed so I just printed them from my computer. I used the Victorian font. Make sure that the font you use has a 6 that you can turn upside to use as a 9. Then Mod Podge those on too. Easy peasy!!!

One of the blocks needs to have these numbers: 0,1,2,3,4,5

And the other block has these numbers: 0,1,2,6,7,8

I shopped for, started and finished a craft all by myself. It's a basic craft that a child could do, but it sure felt good to see the finished product. I have a couple of other crafts I will be doing soon and I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2 of My Favorite Books That You Won’t Find at Your Library

When I was organizing the basement this past month, I found 2 books that I had been wanting to re-read, but I didn’t know which box of books they were in. So now I’ve read them both again. The first is A Grandparent’s Book that my Grandpa William Hamilton (my mom’s father) filled out and gave me years back. Did he give it to me of all his grandchildren because I’m the oldest? No, I have one cousin who is older. Because I was his favorite? No. I didn’t ever notice any favoritism with my grandparents. It is because I had been bugging them for some stories about when they were younger for a family history book I wanted to put together (and never got enough info to do). I was so thrilled to get the book! And as I read it this week (just a few months after my grandpa passed away), I was again so glad that he took the time to fill it out for me. Even though I wish I would have even more information (and some photos), this is a treasure for me. Now I need to make copies of the information for my brothers and sisters (and cousins if they’re interested).

So many things were interesting to me. When he was 15, he got out of school an hour early so he could go to work as a gas station attendant, working 63 hours a week for $50 a month. He paid $7 a month to his parents for room and board. He also noted that a car cost $195, and you could make payments of $11 a month.

Besides being interesting, it was funny. Toward the beginning, my grandpa wrote “Many of my answers seem flippant, but so do I.” Yep, I could definitely hear him answering as I read the book. Silly and joking, just like always. Like what?

“What was my parent’s favorite food when she/he was a teenager? Wedding cake—well, she married early.” She was 17 when she was married.

“Have you ever been very wealthy? Yes. I once owned 2 watches.”

“What are your thoughts and memories of the ‘Sputnik’ launch by the Soviet Union? Wow! They showed us how the skunk ate the cabbage, didn’t they?”

And here’s the beginning of a poem he wrote about his travels:
“From coast to coast
And border to border
The restroom’s always
Out of order.
I fill’er up and
Go on again
Looking in vain for
A door marked ‘men’.”

There were also parts that made me cry, remembering him, and especially reading the “Religion” section. My mother always told me that when she was young, her parents had church services in their home, but as I was growing up, my grandparents never talked about religion or went to any church. My parents are both converts (before I was born) and no one in either one of their families has joined the church. So for all baptisms, etc. we had no extended family attending. But I enjoyed reading his answers and knowing his favorite scriptures especially.
The other book was one I wrote when I was 12 years old. I interviewed my Grandma Boots. Well, we always called her Grandma Boots, but her name was Coredith Booso. A few short years after this interview, my grandma passed away so I’m happy I had the opportunity to do this. I also interviewed my parents for a chapter on each of them. Unfortunately, none of the chapters are very long or have much information.

My grandmother’s chapter talks about how she and many other young women wore leg make-up to make their legs look tan and that she had a crush on one of her substitute teachers so she stayed after school for “help”.

I am so glad that I have these, but I’ve decided that I don’t have enough. I still have a grandmother and a grandfather who I can learn things from. And I have decided (surprise, Mom & Dad!) that on Thanksgiving, my children are going to interview my parents with their own questions on video so I can make copies of it on DVD for all their grandchildren.

Just before I end, I thought this would be funny for my parents to read---in the book I wrote, at the beginning of Dad’s chapter I wrote, “In my opinion, my dad’s childhood was pretty good.” (Without going into detail, many parts of his childhood were not ideal. I didn’t learn that until later.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef

My sister Heather sent me this recipe quite a while ago and we've enjoyed having it in our "repeat" file . It's supposed to taste like the P.F. Chang dish, but I've never had it there. I usually get the lettuce wraps (Yummmmmy!) and one of the chicken dishes. But I do know we like this version.
PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef

2 t. canola oil
1/2 t. minced ginger
1 T. chopped garlic
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. water
3/4 c. dark brown sugar

1 c. canola oil
1 lb. flank steak
1/4 c. cornstarch
2 lg. green onions

Make the sauce by heating 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over med/low heat. Don't get the oil too hot or you'll get a major spatter when adding the other liquids. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches. Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to about medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat.

Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4" thick bite-size slices. Tilt the blade of your knife at about a 45 degree angle to the top of the steak so that you get wider cuts.

Dip the steak into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks.

As the beef sits, heat up one cup of oil in a wok (you may also use a skillet for this step as long as the beef will be mostly covered with oil). Heat the oil over medium heat until it's nice and hot, but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and sauté for just 2 minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. You don't need a through cooking here since the beef is going to go back on the heat later. Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly. After a couple of minutes, use a large slotted spoon or a spider to take the meat out and onto paper towels, then pour the oil out of the wok or skillet. Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it and simmer for 1 minute. Add the sauce, cook for 1 minute while stirring, then add all the green onions. Cook for 1 minute more, the remove the beef and onions with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving plate. Leave the excess sauce behind in the pan.

Sharla's Cute Car Cozy

Look what I got from Sharla at My Little Gems! She makes these soft, portable car cozies. Your child can store one little car in each of the 6 pockets and then pull them out and drive them on the built-in road. My son Alex has a big collection of Hot Wheels, but I have no idea where he has hidden them. Since he's at school, I had to use this bigger car that I did find. So you'd have more room with regular-sized Hot Wheel or Matchbox cars.
Then we he or she is all done, you can fold it all up and your child can carry it around. Isn't it the cutest idea?
Thanks, Sharla! My only son is 13 years old so even though he is keeping his collection, he won't be using this. I'll be giving it to a sweet little boy as a gift. Think he'll like it?
If you'd like one, hurry over to Sharla's blog or her Esty shop. As she says on her blog, she is a stay-at-home mom who only works on these in her free time so she doesn't have a large inventory. So hurry over before they're gone. Or if you are craftier than I am, you can check out her tutorial that she was nice enough to post and you can make your own.

She also has a kit to make this cute magnetic Christmas advent calendar. Fun!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How Great Shall Be Your Joy

Saturday my husband and I attended a very special baptism. I can’t even begin to share how strong we felt the Spirit there. My friend’s father-in-law was getting baptized after 15 years of investigating the church and many years of paying tithing, but not being ready to be a member. That alone made it wonderful, but there was more. Roque is such an amazing person that besides his family, those in our ward and his co-workers, people like his insurance agent was there and so was a couple he just met last month on the plane (more about them below). Can you imagine having such an effect on your insurance agent that he’d not only be interested in listening about your baptism, but take the time to come? That says a lot about Roque and his agent.

As I was thinking about all these lives he has touched, I really admired him and had a desire to be more like that. What a wonderful influence he has on people. Like the saying goes, “People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you make them feel.” I hope that I always make people feel accepted and loved and that I never leave anyone with a bad taste in their mouth.

Back to the couple who met Roque on the airplane…Roque was on a plane coming back from a trip to Venezuela when an LDS couple sat next to him. Of all the places they could have been seated, Heavenly Father made sure they sat together. Roque had been thinking he wanted to be baptized, but still wasn’t sure. He spoke with the couple about the gospel during the whole flight. They shared their testimonies and I have no idea what else was said, but the sister said, “I don’t know what happened, but the Spirit as there on the plane with all of us.” When Roque got off the plane, his son and daughter-in-law and their children were there to greet him. He told them immediately that he was ready to be baptized. Everyone was so happy. And we all got to share in that joy at the baptism and then today. After his confirmation, he stood to be welcomed as a new member and he helped up his hand in a fist and pumped it to show his excitement to be a member. How cute!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beef Tips & Gravy

This is a recipe that I've had for so long that I don't remember where I got it. It makes a tender beef dish with a yummy gravy that my whole family enjoys.
Beef Tips & Gravy
2 lb. cubed beef for stew, or round, or chuck roast cut into cubes
3 T. vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 c. water
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. soy sauce
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1 package (.75 oz.) dry brown gravy mix
1 c. water

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion until soft. Add beef cubes and cook, stirring often, until meat is browned on all sides. Add 2 cups water, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper to beef. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, combine gravy mix package with 1 cup water. Mix thoroughly and stir into meat mixture. Simmer, stirring frequently until slightly thickened.

Friday, November 20, 2009

If You Live in Utah, Get in Your Car Now!

Seriously! And if you don't live in Utah (or you are reading this too late), you are still in luck, so read on. See this country club? Looks like a normal building, right? You wouldn't believe what is inside!
Take a look at Tom and Lucy's Art Shoppe. But hurry over because the last day it'll be open is tomorrow, November 21st so get over there now! But if you can't get there, almost all the fabulous designers and artists sell their products online. If you go to the blog, they have all the links.
I know it's hard to see what anything is, but trust me, you want it. If you're like me, you want it all!!!

You can tell I'm not a photographer. I didn't even realize I was taking a pic of this lady right behind the wire manaquin for a silly effect.

I have been to a few boutiques lately didn't buy anything. Nothing! I was a little disappointed each time. But when I saw the blog for this one, I knew I HAD to go. Some of the things on my wish list were there.
Like these sweet pecan rolls from Fahrenheit 350° which I have seen online everywhere and have wanted to try for so long. So I bought two. What? The pecan rolls have pecans?? My children are allergic to pecans so they can't eat them. I guess I'll have to sacrifice and eat it all by myself! Bwahaha They are so amazingly good and I wish I bought more! She has other treats, like these she made perfect for Twilight-- Blood Red Caramel Apple Pecan Log and Forbidden Fruit: Caramel Apples.
Like Ritzy Misfit's neckalaces, which I have blogged about before--and now I own!!! I bought one for me and one for my friend Stacie (who never reads my blog so I'm safe). And another one that I have wanted for a while and I bought there is from Home Studio. I love lots of the scrabble tile pendants there.

The pretty "Together is the best place to be" plaque is from Elle Design Cottage and the really pretty frame, which is perfect because I wanted more frames and more color, is from Made Lovely. I wish I could tell you about each vendor, but just check out the blog for all the links so you don't miss anything.
There were two nice ladies at the front of the boutique at the checkout. I asked them a couple of questions, like if I could take photos of it for my blog. One of them asked me what my blog was. I told her and she said, "Oh, I've heard of that." What? My little blog? Guess what. It turns out that these two nice ladies have blogs of their own that I've been to! One of them was Kitty of Fahrenheit 350°. (Yes, I told her that I had drooled over the food pics on her blog before.) And the other was Marie from Makes and Takes. If you haven't been there, check it out! And if you have been, check out what's new. Tons of crafts, recipes and a lot more! Unfortunately, I didn't think to snap of photo of these lovely ladies, but it's so fun to meet people after you've visited their blog.
As if this post wasn't long enough...The art shoppe was very close to my friend awesome Sherami's house so I decided to drop by and see if by chance she was at home. To my surprise, she, her husband and their little boy were all home so I got to visit for a while. It totally made my day just to sit and chat. But I did have the thought when I was leaving that if I would have thought to call her to see if she could go with me to Tom & Lucy's, it would have been even more fun. (I did invite my sister-in-law, but she had to work and my sisters had to work or live out of state.) So grab a friend and head over. Okay, end of the commercial.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Orange Cream Cheese Crescents

In one of Alex's classes, he has to do 20 minutes of service for someone every week. This week he decided to make dessert and a card for someone and take it to them. He chose to make this recipe (one I've made many times over several years) whose simplicity is quite deceiving. Even before you take a bite, you can smell the sweet, fruity scent. It is creamy and melt-in-your-mouth perfection. They remind me of the orange rolls at Provo Bakery (in Provo, Utah), which are also addicting.
Orange Cream Cheese Crescents
3 oz. cream cheese
3 T. sugar
¼ t. almond extract
1 t. orange peel
1 pkg. refrigerated crescent rolls
½ c. powdered sugar
1 T. orange juice
1 t. orange peel
1 t. margarine, melted
1/8 t. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350º. Blend first four ingredients. Separate dough into triangles and spread cheese mixture on each. Roll each up and place on cookie sheet shaping into crescent shapes. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile prepare icing. Combine all icing ingredients while rolls are baking. Spread over hot rolls and serve warm.

Alex did a great job! And did you notice his new haircut? He cut it himself without even telling me he was going to. The day before he had cut his sideburns and did it well. Then he mentioned while I was busy with the girls, that he was going to cut his hair. I thought he meant even out his sideburns or something. Then he came back in my room. How did he cut it so straight?
He has been combing it forward for a little while now and wants his hair to grow out to look more like this:
He thought part of his hair was too thin so he cut it straight across to make it all thick. It might be a while before his hair is long enough to style like this. By then, I think we'll go to get it professionally cut so it will style the way he wants (if possible). He will look different!

Blueberry Cheesecake Crumb Cake

Bursting blueberries in every bite! I made this coffee cake that I found on  Oh My Goodness Chocolate Desserts  (even though it's not a ...