Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Contradiction is my middle name!

Alright. My second New Year's resolution? To start at the beginning and bake my way through another Christmas gift: All Cakes Considered, by Melissa Gray of NPR.

So far, this is one of the best cookbooks I've ever read. Melissa Gray is a milder, more feminine version of Dave Barry (who I love). The first cake in the book is called "Man Catcher Pound Cake." I'll be making that January 1 for a gathering with Mr. Z's family.

So, yep. Let's recap. First resolution: lose weight. Second? Bake cakes. Great! Let's see how this all shakes out, shall we?

Monday, December 28, 2009

2010 Resolution: Lose Weight

I know, I know. This is SO cliche. Can you even stand it? Well, I guess I have to. Because I need to get healthy! I've been slowly and steadily gaining weight for a couple of years and even though I'm not huge, my body feels it. I feel slow and sluggish and things hurt.

For Christmas, I asked for (and received) this:

I hear she's a doozy (both the dvd and the trainer). But I'm going to do my darndest to stay on task for 30 days. And hopefully this blog will help me do so.

And on New Year's Eve, this will be delivered to my home:

Wow! I'm very excited. We had an elliptical before our basement flooded two summers ago and we've finally gotten around to replacing it (ALERT! if you are a homeowner, make sure your home has "sewage backup" insurance, it sure did come in handy for us). It will nice to have a source of cardiovascular exercise in the house again. Pair this with the 30 day shred and I should be set, right?

And let's not forget yoga. Another resolution or goal is to make it to yoga class once a week in January.

So while I take the next three days to sit on my tail, be lazy and eat the leftover Christmas goodies, I'll be mentally preparing myself for January 1. I know that's not how you're supposed to do it. I know your supposed to say to yourself, "I need to get healthy and I'm going to start today!" But this whole "New Year's Resolution/beginning of a whole new DECADE" thing makes it much easier to wait three days.

And so I will. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I love my KitchenAid mixer.

She's pink.

And her name is Betty.

And she's helped me make some of the tastiest treats ever!

Tonight we made a Mexican hot chocolate cake with cinnamon white chocolate buttercream filling and dark chocolate ganache frosting.

I can't wait to try it tomorrow! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dessert for Breakfast?

Kind of!

This morning I prepared two waffles (frozen) with almond butter, cut up apples zapped in the microwave with some cinnamon, vanilla yogurt (looks like ice cream!) and a touch of maple syrup. It kind of did taste like dessert. Yum!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Bird Nests

Mr. Z and I headed east (only about 90 miles or so) for a family Christmas celebration today. I brought a sampling of yesterday's cookies, and these puppies were the clear winners.

These cookies are a happy accident, since Red grabbed peanut butter chips instead of butterscotch chips at the store. Although I'm sure any kind of chips would make these treats a success. The nice thing about these guys is that there is no oven involved.

Heat. Mix. Drop. Cool. Eat.

Here is the recipe:
1 bag peanut butter chips
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1 bag chowmein noodles
Mini marshmallows
Peanut M&Ms

Melt all of the chips over low heat. Add chowmein noodles and marshmallows, stir until everything is coated. Drop on wax paper and top immediately with M&Ms. I drizzled white chocolate, but you could add Christmas sprinkles or chopped up heath bar... really, at this time of year, anything goes (you could also add nuts to the chocolate mixture withe the noodles and marshmallows)! Let cool and enjoy!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hmmmm....chocolate...sugar....what could this mean?

Why, Christmas cookies, of course!

By buddy Red came over this morning to bake cookies. We made a good team and some of the cookies were much easier with two people (chocolate crinkles).

We made peanut butter delights, chocolate bird nest thingys, chocolate crinkles and mini pecan pies.

Note: my pink outfit with pink apron and Red's, well, redness.

And they are tasty too!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

You only need six ingredients for this tasty breakfast.

Brown sugar

I like to use Penzeys new special blend of cinnamon. It's heavenly!

First you chop up some apple. If I'm making a single serving, I use about 1/4 of a big apple. I put the rest of the apple in the fridge for tomorrow's oats. And yes, I definitely keep the skin on, that's where the vitamins are!

Put the apple pieces in a pan and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Add some water, just a bit, to bathe the apple pieces and simmer on medium low for a few minutes.

When the apples are tender enough for your taste, add one cup of water (for a single serving) then sprinkle on some more cinnamon. When the water and apples reach a boil add 1/2 cup of oats and sprinkle with cinnamon. You can never have enough cinnamon!

Stir the oats in and cook over medium to low heat for a few minutes. I like to stir continuously. I think it makes for creamier oatmeal. When the oats meet your desired thickness, remove from heat and cover for a couple more minutes.

I like to serve my apple cinnamon oats with a tablespoon of brown sugar and two tablespoons of milk. And of course, another shake of cinnamon.

This is a perfect wintertime breakfast and only takes minutes to make!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Day!

December 9. UW-Madison calls its first snow day in almost 20 years! The morning started with a little of this.

Apple cinnamon oatmeal from scratch. I'll post the recipe soon. A little ball of brown sugar on top is the perfect touch!

Outside it looked like this (hence the snow day).

And like this.

(like the new wheels? huh? can't see 'em? it's a really sweet ride, I swear!)

And like this.

After almost six hours of work (with a short coffee break with the neighbors built in) we came inside to this.

Beef stew. Yummmmy! I finished off the night with a dear friend (Red), some hot cocoa, vanilla schnapps, chocolate chip cookies and the season finale of Glee! Loved it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pixie's Progress

Some of you may remember the horseshoe shaped bruise that graced my thigh last fall. It was very traumatic and it hurt like a son-of-a-gun.

Pixie had been out of her pasture for a couple of months and was in the very infant stages of groundwork. I was trying to get her to walk through a sandbox (see picture below) and she was having none of it. Rather than politely walking through the sandbox, like I was asking for, she jumped the box and kicked out as she landed... and I was in her way.

Yep, this is the very sandbox where our love was tested last fall (that's Miss Paulette in the picture):

As you can see, she's still not too sure. But this was Saturday, December 5 so she had four good days of "official" training under her belt.

She walked right through! It was something else.

She even stood in the box. This is huge for her!

Horses are prey animals, so they are always on the look out for the big, bad wolf. They are very observant and become nervous in new situations. They are also pack animals, so they need a strong leader to trust. In the wild there is a boss mare or lead stallion. In riding and groundwork scenarios, YOU want to be the leader. So Paulette and Ted are training Pixie to trust humans and become less skittish of her surroundings. Eventually, they will move to saddle work and start riding her. I will take lessons with them and Pixie throughout the entire process, which should last three months. I am so excited at the thought of riding her in March!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cowgirl Tough

Harmony Horsemanship has three different large pastures that are home to around six horses each. These pastures feed hay via round bales. You know, those really huge round bales of hay that you see in fields as you drive along the interstate? They look like this.

And they are so heavy they have to be moved around and delivered to the pastures by a tractor with a fork attached.

Hmmm....I wonder who is driving that tractor???

By golly, it's me!

Yep, Farmer Ted has entrusted his baby (the orange tractor) to moi! In return, I help him load round bales. I have to tell you, there is something really, really rewarding about handling such heavy machinery.

Besides the fact that it gives Mr. Z heart palpitations whenever I talk about it, it makes me feel... well, pretty darn tough. I mean look at me!

And there's definitely an art to dropping the round bale into the feeder. First you lower it (like in the picture above) then you have to cut off the strings. And make sure you get every single one, a loose string could mean very bad news to a horse's tummy. Then, you raise and maneuver the bail into the feeder so it's like a cylinder on its side with the flat part up. I didn't get a picture of this part, because Farmer Ted likes to instruct during this portion. But it takes some skill to be sure to move that bale into proper position.

Yes, I do love driving the fancy tractor. But of course, what I love most about going to the barn is seeing Miss Pixie. Her training is going very well. I'll post about that tonight or tomorrow.

We took Christmas pictures this weekend. I asked Mr. Z if we could use this as our family Christmas card this year.... he said no. Understandable.

Dinner on the Cheap

A "Friday-night-my-fridge-is-empty-creation!"

A box of Annie's mac & cheese

plus random vegetables from the fridge (leek, carrot, zucchini, spinach)

equals a pretty yummy dinner!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Don't you love new traditions? Over the years Thanksgiving has seen many traditions come and go... mostly come (we hold on to our weird habits). For example, every year Uncle Mike brings a huge box of goodies for Bloody Marys. Then after dinner, we walk around the block smoking cigars and drinking Scotch. Finally we end the night with a screening of "Christmas Vacation." I think we all know every joke in that film. We are a family of traditions... not to be confused with a traditional family.

One more tradition, we dress up. This started when my brothers and I were kids. We would dress as Pilgrims and Native Americans. My dad once wore my mom's turquoise belt with a towel hanging from it and no shirt - he was obviously not a Pilgrim.

A few years ago we resurrected this tradition and each year has had a different theme. Last year, we dressed as our favorite character from a book. This year, at the last minute, we came up with what we thought was going to be a fairly boring theme "wear what you want to wear most." Turns out it was a hit. People came in their favorite t-shirts, pajamas and sweats. And my sister-in-law and I? Well, of course, we wore our wedding dresses.

Perhaps this is a whole new tradition of its own! I can only hope.