Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers out there!

My mom had a quiet day working outside until I returned from Asheville.

We celebrated with some cookie cake that was hand delivered from a cookie shop in Knoxville, thanks to my sister! It was sugary and lovely with a glass of milk:

DSCN0449

I loved how the icing was done to look almost embroidered!

DSCN0451

(oh by the way, we got a sewing machine late last week.. and I am super pumped about learning to use it! I have some projects in mind already :) )

I got my mom some stakes and decorative metal signs to identify all our ‘crops’. It will replace the homemade identifiers we were using (seed packets stuffed inside protective soda bottles, haha).

DSCN0453

DSCN0454

And look what else happened while I was away this weekend?

DSCN0442

My puppies!

Greetings all!

It’s a cool, gray day here in music city, and everyone is buzzing with the excitement of the Titans/Ravens game. I have it on, but I’m not very good at paying attention to football games, so instead I’m going through my photos and putting together my IFIC fellowship application. 

Sorting through my Christmas photos I found some good ones of my doggies back home, and I wanted to share. I miss them! 

stp82020This is Sheff, my dog. We adopted him from PetsMart back in 2000, as a skinny, scared puppy who was being bullied by a German Shepherd at home. Well actually, we fostered him but couldn’t give him up :) He’s the smartest dog I know – talks on the phone, watches TV, and has a very real conscience. Whenever one of our other fosters misbehaves, Sheff panics and runs into his crate as self-punishment. When I was in high school he would sit at the front window and wait for me to come home every afternoon. During my first semester of college, he still sat by the window, confused as to why I wasn’t returning. He’s better now, we talk on the phone every once in a while, and when my parents tell him “Elizabeth is coming home!” his ears perk up and he rounds around barking. 

stp82031This is Neuman the beagle. He was another “failed” foster that we took in during the fall of 2003. He was the largest beagle I had ever seen, but with a successful use of the green bean diet he has slimmed down to 37 pounds. haha. He is famous for his escapes and runs through the neighborhood, but more so for his pantry break-ins. Neuman has been found to consume boxes of fiber one bars, packets of soup mixes, bags of flour, and can also remove bananas from briefcases, peel and eat them (can your dog peel a banana?!). He has mellowed a lot in the past few years and sleeps during most of the day now. Unfortunately, Neuman is not a fan of our frequent foster dogs – in fact he really hates them. We call him Neuman the Nazi sometimes as he morphs into a Tasmanian Devil when one of the fosters is within 3 feet of him – it’s like he has some sacred force field around him. And he guilts Sheff into ignoring the fosters too… it’s taken months for him to allow Sheff to play with our current foster, Wags (below).

stp82040Our current foster is Wags Dexter Brown (WDB). We call him many names: Wags, WDB, Dexter, Texter, Brown Dog, etc. He’s also our longest foster, having had him since July. The special thing about Wags is that he is a survivor of distemper and we’re very lucky to still have him around. He was incredibly underweight and in poor health when we first pulled him out of the shelter, and it took weeks of TLC and medication to get him through the disease. My mom actually had to syringe feed him McDonalds sundaes to get some calories in him, as he completely refused to eat. But he’s looking and feeling good now, although the vets say he has about a 50% chance of developing neurological complications from distemper, which will likely be fatal. He’s a wonderful guy though – so playful and fun to have around. In this picture he is destroying the fleece bone that I bought the dogs for Christmas, so we had to hide it from him. He lives at the windows in the back of our house – watching for squirrels, and then lunging at the back door when he sees one. Funny thing though – he won’t go outside by himself! I’ve never seen this behavior in a dog before – he’ll be jumping and barking at the back door, but if you open the door, he rushes 2 steps out, and if you aren’t going out with him, he flies back in before you can even shut the door. Poor guy. But he’s an adorable chocolate brown lab who will hopefully be adopted to a loving family who understands his medical history and will give him a great home. We sure will miss him!

So, that’s my 3 dogs back home in Texas. One day I’ll get my own dog to spoil rotten… but first I have to enter the real world, find a job, and actual pick a city to settle in. One day… :)

Christmas time is here!

Christmas Eve has arrived. And, being in Houston, it’s a balmy 70 degrees outside, perfect for last-minute shopping, yard work, or time in the kitchen. 

Me being me, I have spent most of the afternoon with sticky hands and dirty dishes. First up was the challenge of gingerbread houses. My sister and I ‘cheated’ and made them with graham crackers, instead of baking actual gingerbread. The control freak that I am, I had printed out recipes for our ‘royal icing’ and directions for assembly of the miniature architural masterpieces. My sister, however, did not enjoy my helpful directions. 15 minutes into building, the yelling started, because “you didn’t cut the gables correctly!” and “now there will be a gap in the roof!” which means that “this is a waste of my time, you can’t do anything right!”. In her fit of rage, she demolished one of the houses, which I carefully tried to put back together. And it looks just fine. I mean, I wouldn’t want to live in it because yes, there is a gap in the roof, but it’s cute. It’s fitting for Houston, like a hurricane survivor gingerbead house. Here are a few pictures:
stp82007

stp82015

Aren’t they precious? I’m trying not to think of the amount of raw egg that I ingested from the royal icing that was all over our table, hands and clothing. I didn’t want to bother with pasteurized eggs, because I don’t think anyone will be eating these buildings. We have a much better dessert to look forward to tomorrow on Christmas day…. that is if I can find the blasted recipe! I’m trying to recreate the tiramisu masterpiece that I made earlier this year for my sister’s Prom group. I never even got to taste it, but it received rave reviews from all the hungry teenagers and parents. Apparently, it’s better than Olive Garden’s (which pleases me much because I have personal issues with that place), and even had me mistaken as a professional caterer. Now, if only I could remember where the recipe was from! You see, this is the problem with being able to find hundreds of recipes so easily online now, I never keep track of recipes that I use. I rarely even print them out; my laptop just sits on the kitchen counter as a little electronic sous chef ;)

For Christmas morning, the breakfast strata is already made and chilling in the fridge. Originally I was going to make monkey bread, but I decided I should really make something a little less artery-clogging and hyperglycemia-inducing, so I went with a lovely asparagus and leek strata. 

As for tonight on Christmas Eve, our family has a tradition of watching a movie and eating a selection of appetizers. The first year we did this we watched “Little Miss Sunshine” and ate these little mini quiches my sister whipped up. We  enjoyed it so much we have continued it every year. This year, the chosen movie is “Wall-E”. I wanted to be clever and tie the food into the movie’s theme, but we couldn’t come up with anything to go along with the environmental message of the movie. So instead, we’ll have my sister’s usual quiches (an easy pillsbury recipe), along with raw veggies with ranch and hummus, pesto and mozarella panini bites, and cauliflower popcorn (see, the dietitian in me comes out sometimes!). 

The kitchen is beckoning me back… there are things to prep. Oh yeah, and the tiramisu recipe to find….

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Saltine Challenge

I’m back in Texas with the family for the holidays. And one of the things on my Christmas to-do list was to try the saltine challenge with my family members. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the challenge, it involves trying to eat (and swallow!) 6 saltine crackers in 60 seconds, without any water/beverages. 

I presented it to my dad, who said it sounded like a “piece of cake”. After a trip to Walmart for saltines, and our cell-phone ready to act as a stopwatch, my sister and I watched as my dad suffered but managed to leave only 1 cracker on the table when time was called (although he still had a mouth full of crumbs). It’s amazing how decievingly simple it appears, but man those crackers dry your mouth out! I tried it, and got 4 of them in my mouth, but probably only 2 actually swallowed. 

I youtubed and googled it, and have yet to see anyone successfully complete the challenge.