Friday, December 28, 2012


The Hubs and I went on vacation right before Christmas, to a ski resort near Somerset, PA called Hidden Valley

 The first full day we took a group ski lesson. I fell, a lot. And the group lesson really turned into a "teach Anna how to ski" lesson. The instructor even skied backwards in front of me to teach. It scared the crap out of me because I was afraid he would lose control. But he didn't.

The second day was a lot better. We had fresh snow, so it was easier to stop and the skiing wasn't as fast.

The last day, the Hubs learned how to snow board and I kept going on the beginner slope. The last day, I only fell once and it wasn't my fault. I was standing in line to go up the conveyor belt and a snowboarder couldn't stop. I didn't see him coming, and all of a sudden I was on the ground. The worst part was that he couldn't even speak English...
 The place we stayed exceeded our expectations. We reserved a king suite, which had a separate bedroom, and the living room area had a real-wood burning fire place. We expected it to be a gas fireplace, but when we checked in they said "and the wood is right outside your door". Literally 20 feet from our door. It was awesome. There were three restaurants on site, plus a cafeteria style area.

We came back home on December 23. I woke up bright and early Christmas Day to prepare breakfast for the family. We had homemade cinnamon rolls, farm-fresh scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and a cured smoked ham that the Hubs received as a Christmas bonus from work. 

I'll share the cinnamon roll recipe soon. Hopefully what I share will be more complete than what I wrote down - a list of ingredients with few instructions, no cooking time or rise time. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cookie baking

Saturday, I was baking Christmas cookies while the Hubs was deer hunting. Black powder season started and we have tags to fill.
Sometimes I'm convinced that my family has ESP. Because who would show up as I'm pulling a batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven? My uncles, Will and Joe. Who don't live near me at all. Of course I had to share a couple of each type of cookie I was making: oatmeal chocolate chip, lime coins and chocolate espresso coins. Thumbs up on all, I think.
Saturday night I decided to make another new recipe: Cherry Surprise. Imagine the red cherry dough of ribbon cookies wrapped around a hershey's kiss. They tasted delicious, but we decided they were too suggestive to put in Christmas cookie boxes, and we renamed them chocolate cherry nipples. Because the dough melted down around the kiss and, well, looked like a nipple.

So I made some today but put the kiss on top, like a peanut butter blossom instead of in the dough. Same taste, but G rated instead of XXX.

The recipe will be posted soon; I wanted to double check with Better Homes & Gardens before I reprinted their recipe... 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Life Give You Lemons

Also known as "that time you made caramels, only for them to harden into an 8x8x 1/2" sheet of toffee". 

Yes, that happened last week. 

I made caramels, but somehow between the overcast weather and the candy thermometer, the caramels hardened too much. 

My parents and brother agreed it still tasted ok, but couldn't be marketed as caramels. As soon as Mom called it "toffee" I knew what I had to do. 

Cover it in melted chocolate and chopped pecans. 

To make it more edible. 

Start out with this recipe

Then chop it up into 1/4 to 1/2" pieces. Lay it single layer on a piece of parchment paper, on a cookie sheet.

Melt 1 bag of chocolate chips in a sauce pan and pour over the toffee. 

Sprinkle 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped pecans* on top of the chocolate. 

Let the chocolate cool and harden, and then break the toffee into bite-sized pieces. 

*Make sure to chop the pecans before you start melting the chocolate, because the chocolate needs to be stirred and monitored so it doesn't burn!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quiche: version 1

Several years ago, the Hubs was on the Atkins diet and was on a big quiche kick. We got a little burnt out on egg-pies. That was over 5 years ago, so I decided to brave the possibility that we still wouldn't like quiche, and try a recipe again. One of the blogs I follow suggested using a pie crust, which differed from the way we were making quiche. Atkins diet = no carbs = no pie crust. 

I had a leftover pie crust from Thanksgiving, when I intended to make turkey pot pie, but there wasn't enough leftover turkey to have pie and "regular" leftovers, so the pie crust just hung out in the fridge. 

Until yesterday. 

The hubs isn't sure he likes it, but he's recovering from a sinus infection and bronchitis, so his taste buds can't be trusted right now. He even said "I'm sure this is delicious, but I can't taste a thing."

So of course I'll have to make another one once he recovers. 

Last night, we ate the quiche for dinner; I had a side salad with three-cheese ranch. 

Then I ate a serving for breakfast this morning too. Amazing.


8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced or diced
2 Tbsp butter (or some leftover bacon grease)
10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2-3 turkey sausage links - close to 1/2 lb 
1 refrigerator pie crust
5 eggs, beaten
1/2 -1 c milk (or heavy cream if you have some leftover from making caramels)
3 handfuls of cheese (I used Italian cheese blend because we had it in the fridge)

In a large skillet, saute the onion in the butter/grease until tender on medium heat. Then add the mushrooms and saute until they have released their liquid. Add the spinach, and cover the pan to steam.

In a separate pan, cook the turkey sausage. I removed it from the casings. Drain the grease when it is finished cooking, and then add the sausage to the veggie mixture. Turn off heat. 

Roll out the pie crust into a pie or tart pan. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until it starts to get golden. Remove from oven. It's okay if the crust bubbles up - it will flatten out once you put the filling in!

Mix the eggs and milk in a medium bowl.

Put the filling into the pie/tart pan. Then pour the egg/milk mixture over it. Sprinkle the handfuls of cheese on top. 

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Inside and Out

The building where I work was built in the 1930s and served as an elementary school. Originally, the building was heated by coal. Now, we use natural gas and the 60' tall chimney is no longer necessary. For several years now the chimney has been in pretty bad shape, needing either tuckpointing or removal. My first architecture project with my own seal on it was a brick project here at City Hall, which along with renovating the porch at the municipal court entrance and rebuilding a wall on the north side of the building also included demolishing the excess chimney. 

At this moment the demolition crews are reducing the height of the chimney, brick by brick. 
Yesterday, I, as well as several coworkers, had to evacuate our offices because the demolition crews were removing the large concrete chimney cap. This morning, the crew is back at it, despite the dense fog, and this is the view out my window. Along with the sound of falling mortar and bricks as they are deposited into a bucket on the crane. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My favorite parts of gardening

One of my favorite parts of gardening started yesterday - the arrival of seed catalogs!

Check out last year's post and the bounty of catalogs we received.

There are a several times during the year when I get really excited about the garden:

  1. Seeds catalogs arriving in the mail
  2. Stuff I ordered arriving in the mail (Should I admit that I already ordered plants for my orchard area? Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, raspberries, asparagus and rhubarb. And I'm going to try my hand at a miniature lime tree - potted and kept indoors during winter, of course.)
  3. Tilling the garden - I love the smell of soil
  4. Seeing new fruits and vegetables set on
  5. Harvest time! - It's not unusual to find me in the garden eating vegetables and fruits straight from the plants. MMmmm my mouth is watering just thinking of fresh tomatoes and blackberries. 
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