Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas- Come and Gone!

I hope everyone had a good Christmas! We had a really good Christmas this year and I didn't feel hardly any Christmas stress. I finished my shopping early and I took the day before Christmas Eve off to do all of my baking. I had the rest of the week off with Casey and we ended up staying with my parents until Saturday. Casey's family is only 5 minutes away and we're really lucky to have both of our families so close. It's so easy to go back and forth and we don't have to make a decision about who we see for Christmas due to traveling, we have everyone in one nice compact little town, literally =) We do have to travel in, but our 45 minute drive is nothing compared to the traveling so many people do around the holidays.

Tuck had a greeeat time. Going from being in an apartment and his thrill being watching the cars from our balcony, he was more than happy to have free run on all of my parents land and the option to chase THREE cats and to watch horses and ducks and get visits from his cousin Maddy (my sister's dog).

He was ready to square off with a cat on Christmas early. He loved getting up early and my dad usually got up with him and would let him run around for a little bit outside. Casey thoroughly enjoyed not having to get up at 6 or 7am in the morning to let him out. Thanks Dad =)

Poor Olivia... She could find solitude in the Christmas tree for the most part until Tuck would spot her.

Sporting his new rain coat from grandma and grandpa. We will get use out of this!

Lillian wide eyed on Christmas morning =)

Opening her Mozart Cube from Casey and me. We also got her the cute outfit she's wearing and a couple of others and a Busy Ball Popper (I may have had just a little bit more fun with that than she did). I wasn't really sure how to shop for a baby, but it was pretty fun to read reviews and see what other moms thought and of course testing out the product.

I think I realized half way through the day that she was more interested in bows than the actual presents. That's ok.

Meet Black Betty. She was my present from Casey and I love her. He's a good husband (for that and soo many other reasons). He also got me Animal Crossing for Wii (go ahead, call me a 5 year old, but that game is fun!), a couple of DVDs, some kitchen stuff, and giftcards. I would say that we were both very blessed this year.

I'm so thankful to have families that we are both able to visit on a holidays, and for the first time this year, a husband too =) Granted this was our 8th Christmas, but it was still nice to do one as husband and wife.

I'm slacking on the cooking stuff lately. I think I baked and cooked myself out over Christmas. I didn't even begin to capture everything in my blog, but needless to say I might be slacking on the cooking related posts. Although I did make chicken casserole tonight (mix 1 lb. of shredded chicken, a can of cream of celery and cream of chicken soup together, top with stove top and moisten the stove top with chicken broth. Bake at 350 degrees until warm). There's a recipe to tide you over! Hah. It's easy and Casey loves it... that works for me.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oreo Truffles

I've seen this recipe floating around and it seems like almost everyone has either made these or at least tried them, except me. I don't really need anymore holiday candy (I have peanutbutter blossoms and two huge pans of fudge in the kitchen) but I was curious. These are GOOD. They are also very rich, so I think the 1/4 of one I had will sustain me for the next week. I've seen variations of this recipe, but I ended up using Vicki's recipe over at Vicki's Healthy Eats and Sinful Treats.

1 lb of Oreos
8 oz. of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb of milk chocolate (I used chocolate bark)
1/2 lb of white chocolate (I used white chocolate bark)

Grind cookies to a fine powder in food processor.

Blend cream cheese, cookie powder, and vanilla together with a mixer.

Roll into small balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Insert a toothpick into the middle of each ball and freeze until firm.

Dip balls into melted chocolate and remove toothpicks. Drizzle with white chocolate and decorate while still soft. Refrigerate until hardened.

Bacon Rounds

I made these for a holiday lunch at work and they were all gone by the end of the day. These are in no way healthy, but they are amazing. If you need to bring something around the holidays and are looking for a good appetizer. Try these!

I got the recipe from Jaime over at Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats, and it's actually a Kraft recipe. The original recipe calls for these to be crescents but I used the instructions in Jaime's blog to create pinwheels and I think they look cuter if anything else.


1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
8 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (I used 2 tsp. dried parsley flakes)
1 Tbsp. milk
2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix cream cheese, bacon, Parmesan cheese, onions, parsley, and milk until well blended; set aside.

Separate each can of dough into four rectangles; firmly press perforations together to seal. Separate mixture evenly onto each rectangle and spread evenly across dough. Cut each rectangle lengthwise into 3 strips which should give you 12 pinwheels per can for a total of 24. Roll up strips to form pinwheels, and place on greased baking sheet.

Bake 12-15 minutes.

Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake

I let Casey pick which cake recipe he wanted for his birthday (it was on the 17th) and he glanced through my Google Reader and found this recipe for Paula Deen's strawberry cake. I got this recipe from Celeste over at Sugar and Spice. It's a pretty easy recipe (it actually uses a box cake mix) and it's verryyy good. I hope he enjoyed it!

(Source: Paula Deen)

1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix
1 (3-ounce) box strawberry flavored instant gelatin
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour 2 round 9-inch cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Spread Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting in between layers and on top and sides of cake.

Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if desired.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract (I used vanilla extract instead)
7 cups confectioner's sugar

Puppy Chow

...or trash, reindeer poop, muddy buddies, whatever else you would like to call it =) I've been doing a lot of baking lately and I need to clean off of my camera so tonight seemed like a good night to post some recipes! Casey and I both had today off (and the rest of the week) so we've really just spent the day relaxing and enjoying a day of doing nothing before we have to pack up and travel tomorrow to see some family for Christmas. I think it will feel much more like Christmas once we actually are in our hometown, but I think it's important that we make it feel like Christmas at our own place too. We opened our stockings today and we exchanged one present (I got a wusthof knife sharpener, woot!) and have been watching Christmas movies all day. It's been a good day and it would be a good tradition for us to have the day before Christmas Eve as 'our' day to hang out and enjoy some time together. Plus, it's our first married Christmas so that makes this year kind of special. Now that I'm done rambling and saying the word Christmas 500 times, I'll post the recipe.

I got this recipe from the Chex website.

(Source: Chex)
Servings: 18 half a cup portions

9 cups of Chex cereal (I used Rice Chex and I would actually cut back on this amount for future references so that the cereal can be coated better. I would think that 7 cups would be sufficient)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup margarine or butter (I used butter)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.

In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. I chose to melt this on low in a saucepan just b/c I try to avoid the microwave at all costs, but I'm sure that way is quicker. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.

Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Day at Work

It was door decorating day at work and the theme this year was your favorite Christmas movie. Another co-worker and I teamed up and picked the movie Elf (one of the best Christmas movies ever made). Anyway the idea of our door went with three scenes that we printed out: Buddy making his breakfast, Buddy singing, and the snowball fight.

This was the snowball scene in the lower left hand and we decorated the outside with cotton balls and snowflakes.

Here's a picture of Buddy with the words "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!". I printed out some music notes that are going to go in that blank space underneath the word Santa which just makes me think of the scene in Gimbles where he yells "SANTAAAAAA!".

This one is a little blurry but this is the scene w/ buddy eating breakfast and dumping chocolate and syrup all over everything. We decorated the outside with peppermints and that's a bottle of maple syrup in the top corner. I made the felt hats to the right and Laura glued jelly beans and pixy stix sporadically throughout the door.

I may not have gotten many financial analyses done today, but I did do Buddy great justice.

(These were taken on my cell phone so the quality isn't that great)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

So this is Christmas

A little follow through of our holiday preparations.

Usually starts with a husband untangling lights.

Which ended up with a very nicely decorated deck.

One family all bundled up and ready to go on a Christmas tree search.

Which leads to a tree tied to the top of our car which said husband must then drag up the steps

But it ends with a very nicely decorated tree.

On Nov 15th of every year we exchange ornaments. It's the day we started dating and even though we're married it's still a tradition we like to follow. It was 7 years last month, holy crap.

Casey got me a little black and white dog with an '08 around his neck to symbolize the year I got Tuck. Very thoughtful ;)

I got him some shirtless elf ESPN fans.

Stockings are hung and ready to go...

Christmas cookies are made and already being devoured. I got the recipe from Katie at Good Things Catered if you want an awesome sugar cookie recipe. I also made peanut butter blossoms but they didn't make it in our house long enough to be photographed.

My Secret Santa gift is out and I've already received mine (Thanks Danielle by the way!)

One Christmas wedding attended which resulted in a good time =)

And last but not least, one very unhappy shih tzu in an elf costume.

Can't think of anything missing so far =) Shopping is almost done. I would say by this weekend it should be finished and that will leave me 2 weeks to relax and enjoy the holiday season.

Enjoy it while it's here =)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Getting on my soapbox...

I think everyone has their cause and this is something that I feel really strongly about. This is not an opinion that I have that you can argue against. These are facts that can't be disputed. First let me tell you something so that I don't sound like a hypocrite. My dog is from a breeder. Never ever would I buy from a breeder again. There are entirely too many dogs that die in shelters (purebreds as well, in fact 25% of shelter dogs are purebreds) every year due to back yard breeders and puppy mills. There is such a thing as a good breeder, but they are very hard to find. I would like to think in my head that Tuck came from a good breeder b/c her life was showing dogs and that's usually one sign of a good breeder. I didn't check to see if she did any genetic testing or any of the millions of other checks that should be done before you buy from a breeder. Here is a list to show the few differences from a backyard breeder and a reputable breeder. Basically a reputable breeder has a love for a certain breed and works to improve that breed by doing extensive genetic testing and breeding in a responsible manner (one dog should only have one litter, usually *always* has a waiting list and would never breed without knowing the pups had homes in advance, neuter contracts, etc.). You can read more about what to expect from a reputable breeder from the above link.

Back yard breeders are killing dogs in shelters regardless of what you think. If you have a cute little maltese and so does your friend and you would just love to breed them to create another cute little maltese. You ARE a back yard breeder and you are responsible for the deaths of these shelter animals. Your pets that you breed are no better than all of the purebreds that are lying in shelters across America. I beg you PLEASE, do not contribute to this problem. I'm sure you think that one little litter is no big deal, but if that litter has 6 puppies, and those 6 puppies have puppies, you can see how easily our country has become overpopulated with dogs.

Here's a clip from a special that Oprah did not too long ago. It's not pleasant to watch but if it makes it more real to someone than it's worth it.

7 million dogs die a year in a shelter.

99% of dogs that are in pet stores ARE from a puppy mill. If you buy from a petstore you are contributing so much to these problems. I beg you to search the web for some pictures of the horrendous conditions that these dogs live in at a puppy mill. These dogs are forced to have litter after litter in inhumane conditions. These dogs usually have severe health problems and they're put in a petstore at an unreasonable price. I don't even buy toys or set foot in a pet store anymore.

I love my dog, don't get me wrong, but there are tons of shih tzus that are in shelters. If I really wanted to go through a breeder, I know I could've done a lot more research than what I did. I really want to spend my life educating people about the mistakes I've made and that other people make all the time. Some people are just simply uneducated about this, just like I was before I started doing some research.

One more paragraph that I feel I need to add. There is no such thing as a "cockapoo" or a "maltipoo". These are mutts at incredibly jacked up prices and NO responsible, reputable, breeder would ever breed these dogs. If you want a cockerspaniel poodle mix (it is insulting to call these dogs by their 'designer breed' name), check petfinder online and rescue one. They are out there and they need homes. There is no such thing as a 'teacup' chihuahua or a 'minature' shih tzu. A bad breeder is taking the runt of these litters (they usually have health problems due to being small) and breeding them with other runts to create these so called minature dogs and then they add $1k to the price. Why would you pay more for that and support that, why?

I truly didn't write this post in order to get on a high horse. I wrote this post to educate people b/c I remember how little I knew before I started my own research. This is a serious problem and I really hope we can all do our part and rescue, support reputable breeders, and shut these pet stores/puppy mills down. These babies don't deserve it, and get your puppy spayed or neutered!

*Someone* was neutered today and is doing awesome =) All it takes is for me to look at him and imagine him cramped into a cage at a puppy mill, or sitting by himself at the shelter waiting for a home and it's enough to break my heart.

I can't remember where I found this poem, but I really like it.

I Rescued a Human Today

I rescued a human today.

Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels.

I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her. I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn't be afraid.

As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn't want her to know that I hadn't been walked today. Sometimes the shelter keepers get too busy and I didn't want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn't feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone's life. She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of myhead up against the bars to comfort her.

Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.

Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms. I would promise to keep her safe. I would promise to always be by her side. I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.

I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven't walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.

-Author Unknown