Saturday, December 28, 2013

Breaking in my Christmas Gifts

     I hope everyone here had a wonderful Christmas.  I know we certainly did.  We spent 3 days back home, and it was just enough for Monkey to stock up on what looked like a year's worth of toys and clothes.  As much as I enjoy my visits home, I always look forward to being back in my own house, and especially in my own kitchen.  This year for Christmas my amazing husband surprised me with a bread machine under the tree!  He joked that with this I could make bread, and still be able to use the oven to cook him dinner.  I know I may sound like someone out of the dark ages, but I was amazed how easy it was to dump the ingredients in the pan and let it do it's thing.  I kept running back to it to make sure it was all okay.  I'll admit, I was a little hesitant to believe that the bread would come out as good as my hand-kneaded with love recipe, but much to my amazement, it was better!  So here's the recipe I used for my bread machine to make a 1.5 lb loaf of white bread:

1 cup warm water
3 TBS vegetable oil
3 TBS white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Dump your liquid ingredients into the pan first.  Next add the dry ingredients, saving the yeast for last.  You don't want your yeast to touch the liquid ingredients.  Place the pan into your machine and set it to Basic (or White Bread, depending on your machine).  Let cool on wire rack before slicing.

    You have no idea how excited I was that the bread just did its own thing while I was able to scurry around the house, putting away all our other holiday goodies!  Another present I was excited to try out was my first ever cast iron skillet!  I've been wanting one for a long time now, so when I opened the present from my Grandma, I couldn't wait to get it home to break it in.  After the initial breaking in of the skillet, per my step daddy's directions, I decided to try it out on breakfast.  We always have grits and eggs for breakfast on the weekend, and I always have leftover grits.  Instead of throwing them out, I made these yummy grits cakes: (The following comes from Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible)

When you make grits, pour your leftovers into a widemouth mason jar or another cylinder container.

Let them sit in the fridge overnight.  When you're ready to make breakfast, pull them out and run an offset spatula or thin knife around the edge to loosen them from the container.

Slice the grits "log" into 1/2" slices.


Heat some butter (I used 3 TBS per batch) in a skillet, and add grit cakes.  Cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown and heated through.

Enjoy :-)

And now I'm off to break in yet another Christmas present: The Big Bang DVDs

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Creature Who's Stirring

     It's that time of year.  The time when everyone on your Facebook friend's list who has a kid is blowing up your newsfeed with pictures of that dang Elf on a Shelf.  At least I'm nice enough to post them all here so that you have the option of scrolling through them.  You're welcome :-)

     The day after Thanksgiving, Elman (our resident Elf on the Shelf) made his reappearance rather dramatically by wrapping all our room doors and the front door in wrapping paper.  Monkey found him like this the next morning.

Once Elman had been around for a few days, The Justice League decided to call him in for questioning.  There must have been a struggle because they saw the need to restrain him.

     Once Monkey explained to her toys that Elman was on a secret mission from Santa himself, they decided to free him so he could return to the North Pole.  Elman came back and taught the Justice League a lesson in Christmas cheer by wrapping them up like presents.

     The Justice League and Elman finally made a truce and even became buddies while bonding over a rousing game of Trouble.

My favorite part is that Batman seems to have drawn the short straw and got the pink pegs.
     After all those nights of coming to terms with the locals, Elman decided to take a break, veg out, and enjoy Christmas specials.

     After a night of recuperating, Elman went back to work.  This time he decorated the Christmas tree with Monkey's panties!

      Elman noticed on his visits that Monkey was struggling to take care of her household chores, so he got permission from Santa to bring her one of her gifts a bit early.  One morning he showed up with a Responsibility Chart for her.

     Elman seemed to have a very calm, enjoyable evening coloring in one of Monkey's Christmas coloring books, but Monkey wasn't happy to find him sitting in her little desk where she likes to color.

      It took Monkey forever to find Elman the next day.  She finally noticed him standing in a light fixture above the stairs.  I guess he took it to heart when she said he was in the way the day before.

     Apperantly when Elman went looking for a midnight snack one evening he was severely disappointed, so we took it as a sign to bake some cookies.

     That day we made cookies just so Elman could get his fix when he came back from reporting to Santa.

     Next, I sent Elman on a secret mission to find out what J got me for Christmas.  He got in, but then he wouldn't talk.  Darn elf must have been paid off.

     Next Elman must have gone to some wild Christmas party or lost a bet, because this is how we found him the next day.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty...

     Over the past few months  J has made a personal goal to introduce Monkey to as many heroes as possible.  This means we've been having a ton of 90s flashbacks, because J insists Monkey must see the "classics", i.e. The X-Men from the 90s, The Avengers from the late 90s/early 2000s, The Justice League from the early 2000s, and the most recent addition, Spiderman from the 90s.  Elman must have been watching too, because this is how we found him one morning:

Spiderelf, Spiderelf, radioactive spiderelf
     I know it's not Christmas yet, but I'm going to wrap these up today simply because I will be busy over the next few days doing all the last-minute prep for Christmas, but I have to share one more before I go.  This one is my absolute favorite, probably because I required no help from Pinterest ;-)

Elman wrote on Monkey's bathroom mirror with Window Crayons.

Elman made it so that when Monkey looks in the mirror she magically grows elf ears, elf hair, elf glasses, an elf  nose, and even sticks out her elf tongue.  Then he wrote, "You've been elfed".

I think she enjoyed it.

     And for a little more Christmas fun for your little one, print out this Scavenger Hunt List I made for Monkey.  We used it to find different decorations people had on display around base.  It was a lot of fun.  I popped popcorn and poured eggnog, and we bundled up in the car and drove around hunting for all the things on the list.  *It looks like the last few words got pushed to another page, but if you download the file and then print, the words magically go back to where they're supposed to be.  I don't understand computers sometimes.*

Friday, December 13, 2013

I Like to Balance out my Good Grades with a Little Dumb-Assery, Just to be Fair

     You know, I make pretty good grades in school.  I always have.  I'm not claiming to be super smart or anything; I'm just really good at taking tests.  I know that some of y'all on my Facebook feed are probably getting sick of the "WooHoo! I made a 4.0 this semester" or "Guess who made a 100 on her first exam!" statuses, but school is what is relevant to me right now, so that's what I talk about most.  To be fair, though, I've decided that if I'm going to announce to the world that I made a 100 on my first Pharmacology test, I also have to announce what a dumbass I made myself out to be in Intro to Nursing last night.  Life is about balance, right?

     So last night after our first test, our teacher was going through her lecture about administering medications.  When she got to the point about injections, she split us into groups so we could all handle the needles, syringes, and "insulin" (which was really sterile water) in order to get a feel for drawing up medications.  Now, my mom got me some practice needles a while back, but honestly I was a little nervous to try them on my own, so I've never handled a needle before.  I've also heard scary stories of needle sticks from patients who have HIV, so of course I was a little apprehensive and aware of the importance of needle safety.  Yet, somehow last night when the teacher told us to draw up 2 mL of "insulin" my excitement clouded out everything else, and I jumped at the chance to claim a needle and get going.  The problem started when I couldn't get the cap off the darn thing.  I tried exerting minimal force, but the cap just wouldn't budge.  Feeling the eyes of the two other girls in my group boring into me as I struggled with the stupid thing, I finally decided to give a quick jerk to release the needle from its prison.  It was effective and overkill because the needle shot backwards out of the cap, and then forwards into the index finger of my left hand.  I just sat there, stunned for a sec on as the blood began for bubble up out of my finger.  Thinking I'd recover quickly, I stood up to grab my jacket with the intent of holding that over my wound to disguise it and stem the flow of blood.  As I stood, however, the teacher caught sight of me (and my now bleeding profusely hand) and came swiftly over.  Her look of horror just made my brain stall, so when she asked me if I wanted to go to the bathroom, I just stood there for a second wondering why she would want me to go pee at a time like this, but then it clicked, and I scurried off before any of my fellow classmates, besides the girls in my group, saw that my hand was now dripping blood onto the table.

     As I sat in the bathroom, watching the sink turn red from a tiny needle stick I tried to think of ways to recover from this clear display of incompetence.  Unfortunately, I got nothing.  Finally I stemmed the flow of blood, and I returned to class with my tail firmly tucked between my legs.  I decided to steer clear of the needles at first, but then I finally got up the courage to try again.  This time everything went smoothly, and I only had to endure one joke from my classmate about being careful where I pointed the thing after I had successfully drawn out my 2 mL.  I think it was warranted.  Luckily class let out soon after that because my finger had swollen to three times its normal size and was throbbing.  As I was packing up to leave, I offered to help my teacher pack away the needles and insulin, but she told my "No thanks" in what I'm hoping was just a normal voice, not a panicky, "Dear God don't let her near those things again" way.  My last attempt at redeeming myself involved a little humor as I told her, "Well I've been really worried about needle sticks in the hospital, so I just decided to get it out of the way in your class."  She gave me what I took as a look of pity, although it could have been a withering look of "I just wrote you down as the first to flunk out of this program".  O.o

     On a more serious note, though, through the whole thing I kept remembering this one phrase someone said about Nursing school.  They didn't remember the tests they made 100's on or the questions they got right.  They remembered the screw ups, the bad calls, the mistakes and they never made those again.  I don't think I'll ever be so careless with a needle again.

     You know I can't let you go without a recipe, so here you go:

Family Favorite Chicken Kabobs

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 tsp gr. black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic
4 small onions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
12 skewers

In an extra-large bowl mix oil, honey, soy sauce, and pepper.  Reserve a small amount for later to brush over the kabobs.  Add in chicken, garlic, onions, bell peppers, and pineapple chunks.  Let marinade for at least 2 hours.

Drain marinade, and thread chicken, vegetable, and pineapple pieces onto the skewers.  Lightly oil the grill.  Cook 12-15 minutes on high heated grill until juices run clear.  Turning and brush with reserved marinade frequently.

Enjoy.  Now I'm off of here, because typing makes my finger hurt worse :-/

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

These are Better That MRE's

     I have a Nursing exam tomorrow.  I also have a Psychology midterm on Tuesday.  Oh, and let's not forget the 15 page paper that will be hanging over my head until some time in January.  Yet all I want to do is take a nap with my cuddly new kitty, Bruce.  I think it's this time of year.  It's not even that cold out, but I find myself wanting to hibernate until March.  But, there's too much to be done, and so little time to do it all.  The holiday rush is making me feel the pinch, but my husband's looming deployment is also making me want to squeeze in as many activities as possible, so we have a plethora of fun memories to sift through as the months until he comes home pass slowly by.  And of course, I'm still cooking up a storm.  I like to fill J's last couple of months with us with a mixture of his favorites and new dishes I know he'll enjoy so that he'll appreciate my cooking even more when he is living off of galley food and MRE's.  ;-)

     I found this new recipe in my Country Cooking book, and it was really good.  It would make a great  game-day food for a football party or a small gathering.

Crab Melt Loaf
1 lb imitation crabmeat, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup diced celery
2 cups (8 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 (1 lb) loaf unsliced French bread, halved lengthwise

In a bowl, combine the first four ingredients.  Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper.  Spread over bottom of bread; replace top.  Wrap in a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until heated through.  Cut into 8 slices.

     Now that I feel slightly productive for posting a blog, I'm going to keep this tremendous momentum going by flipping through some notecards for tomorrow's test.