Monday, November 8, 2010

Edible Adventures III

"Next to jazz music, there is nothing that lifts the spirit and strengthens the soul more than a good bowl of chili." -Harry James

You know that feeling you get, on a rainy but comfortable Sunday afternoon, when you're just ready for some comfort food? That is the feeling I had on Sunday when I got the idea to make some homemade chili and cornbread. I'd never made chili before, and I'm always up for making new things. So -- we did! 

The chili recipe I found was beyond easy. (The hard part was the hour-long grocery store trip to get all of the ingredients.) We got home, threw everything back into the pot, and let it simmer for an hour and half or so. We did make a few changes: we added a little more tomato sauce, used only one can of kidney beams, and replaced garlic salt for garlic powder.  

As the chili simmered on the stove, I went to make the cornbread. Here's a hint: check your materials before going to the store. I pulled out the cornmeal, and let's just say, uh, it would have 'bugged' me to use it. (BLECH!) After I went to the store, I proceeded to make some homemade honey cornbread. Oh. My. Goodness. This dinner was so tasty! The chili had a wonderful blend of sweet and spicy (I thank the Chipotle Salsa we chose!) and the bread was divine. Aaron says, "This bread isn't good, it's downright delicious!" 

You can't have a wonderful dinner like this without a tasty dessert. We had a whole mess of left-over baby carrots, so I thought I could make carrot cupcakes. I decided I wanted to try a new and different carrot cake recipe, so I found a recipe for maple carrot cupcakes. The recipe was very simple, and I was very excited to have been able to yield far more than the 18 cupcakes suggested (including a few mini-cupcakes, aren't they cute?) My only change was that the frosting recipe included was not quite sweet enough... so I just added a little bit of powdered sugar to taste. Viola! Great tasting cupcakes. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adventures in Gratitude: Turkey-Lent

I believe in gratitude. I believe that we, as both individuals and as a society, should be thankful for all of the wonderful bounty that surrounds us. Food to nourish us. Shelter to protect us. Friends and family to care for us. Because of this, I always appreciate Thanksgiving. But I don't think it is enough. I don't think there should only be one day a year when we decide it is okay to tell everyone what we are thankful for. We should be doing it every day, as often as we can. 

Several years ago, I decided to do my own little thing I call Turkey-Lent. Much how Christians show penance before Easter through Lent, I have decided to show my own penance of gratitude for all of the wonderful things that have surrounded me. Each November, I show my appreciation for all of the things I have by giving up (or greatly reduced my use and/or consumption of) something I love. 

In past years, I have given up fast food to better appreciate a home-cooked meal. I have restricted my TV time, to better appreciate books, newspapers and wonderful company. I have restricted by dessert intake (I tried to give-up sweets cold-turkey but that was just cruel to all of those around me!)  to show my appreciation for the fact that I can afford such luxuries. 

Now, as Turkey-Lent time has arrived sooner than anticipated, I am left without a penance. There are so many things I am thankful for. I just don't know how I could possibly go about showing my appreciation for so many things. So, I thought I would ask for some suggestions. (Seriously, got any ideas?) 

For now, rather than give something up, I am going to be even more appreciative. I am going to use Facebook and twitter to show the world what I am thankful for, in hopes that other people will be inspired to share their own gratefulness. My goal is to use my status update and/or twitter update to share at least one think I am thankful for. I hope to do this every day, from now until Thanksgiving. 

Anyone want to join me? 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Holiday Adventures: Halloween 2010

"I totally know what you and Aaron should be for Halloween," Kristin excitedly cooed over the phone. "You two should totally be Mario and Luigi!"

Backstory: Alright, so we play a lot of video games. It started with Aaron's overwhelming need to beat MarioKart Wii. Once we beat that, we moved on to the New Super Mario Bros. (which we have still yet to complete due to the difficulty of the last few levels in the bonus Rainbow World.) We attempted to go back and finish Super Mario Galaxy, which we had rented and never finished, but we didn't want to pay the same price for a lame ol' game when we could get Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the same price. Plus we even found it on sale! I know!  This leads us to Kristin's phone call, before which Aaron and I are sitting on the couch, playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 going back into older levels trying to collect all the coins so we can advance in the bonus round.

"Kristin thinks we should be Mario and Luigi for Halloween," I reported to Aaron. (He smiled and nodded.) "But I get to be Mario, because I am the shorter, chubbier one." ♥

Aaron makes the button-holes
on the straps of our overalls. 
There were a lot of costumes available for purchase, especially online. And a lot of people did a really good job putting together DIY Halloween costumes. I have fond memories of my mom and I making many of the costumes my siblings and I have worn in the past, so I decided to make our Halloween costumes. My mom graciously allowed me to borrow her brand new sewing machine, and she even went to several fabric stores to help me find just the right fabric. I used a clown pattern, with a few DIY adjustments, to make the overalls. The first weekend I tackled Mario's overalls. The biggest problem was the width of the pants, I ended up taking them in by about two inches... twice! Aaron used his nerd problem-solving skills to figure out how to use the button-hole maker on the sewing machine. He did a wonderful job making authentic button-holes that allowed us to have functional overalls!

The next challenge was making Luigi's overalls, mostly because I was about a half a yard short of the needed material. So Aaron and I trekked back to the fabric store and bought more fabric. Having already made the first set of overalls, the Luigi overalls were a lot less stressful, and went pretty quickly. Having purchased the red and green shirts online, and the white gloves from a costume store, the only remaining challenge was to make the hats. I had no pattern, so our hats are completely DIY. I got out one of my many pageboy caps to use as a guide for the bill and the overall look. I was able to shape the front of the hat using white felt, surrounding it with the red and green fabric. I made the Mario hat first, and kind of messed up. I made the Luigi hat, which looks awesome and went back to the Mario hat, which turned out okay. All in all, I am very proud of the costumes.

We were a big hit everywhere we went! We got a lot of wonderful comments from adults and kids alike. I absolutely loved how the itty-bitty kids thought were were the real  Mario and Luigi. Halloween night was kind of awesome. Little kids would shout to us from across the street,
" Mario! I have your game!"  We would wave like celebrities. Aaron would say catch phrases from the game and kids would light up. We even had one family ask to take a picture with us! All of the hard work most definitely payed off. We had a wonderful Halloween!

Mario and Luigi say, "Let's-a-go!"