Christmas Toffee

Earlier this year I was getting myself excited about Christmas.  Well, to be completely honest, Amanda had gotten me worked up about Christmas about 3 weeks prematurely.  She even had Christmas music playing WELL before its time.  And while I held out as long as possible, I couldn’t help myself.  I did quite a bit of Christmas related browsing and dreaming before the turkey had even been consumed.

Late one night, I sat on the kitchen counter waiting for dinner to finish cooking – browsing pinterest.  My past experiences with pinterest have fallen flat.  But this year I was too excited to take note of this.  And instead, pinned my heart out.  One of the things I pinned was a recipe that was said to be “Simple” or “As simple as it gets.”  It was for “Toffee.”

I don’t honestly know if it is toffee, I don’t know what it is -except good.  SO GOOD.  And easy.  So easy!

The first time I made it, I followed the directions to a T.  The second time I was a bit more relaxed and wavered a bit.  Both times it turned out perfectly -which makes it a successful recipe in my book.  If I can mess around with it and it still turns out?  Then it’s perfect!

We bagged what survived from us taste testing it, and used it as Christmas presents.

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Christmas Toffee

  • 1 cup whole almonds (I cut mine in ½)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread with almonds and toast.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in saucepan.  Once butter has melted completely, whisk constantly until mixture begins to darken.
  3. Spread mixture over the almonds, and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.  After a few moments, spread the chocolate even, and top with nuts.

Allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces.

The original recipe called for pecans to top it with – and I didn’t buy any, assuming we had some.  I used walnuts instead, and don’t think it took away from it at all.

Originally recipe found here: Easy Homemade Toffee

Shopping Wars: 2014 Edition

Anyone who has been reading here for any length on time, knows that I have a serious aversion to shopping. I dislike going into overly crowded stores, finding things, and paying money. None of it appeals to me. Christmas shopping only multiplies my strong dislike for shopping. Not only does it involved going into overly crowded stores, and paying way too much money – there is the slight problem that comes with trying to find something that the person in question is going to like.

When Amanda was here – shopping was fun, I would follow around in amazement as she tossed things in at random, never getting frustrated with the crowds, and never paying over the certain number she had set in her head. As a bonus, the person on the receiving end always loved her gifts. It was a win win situation. Something that I could never, and can never – recreate. My shopping episodes are limited to buying the wrong items, spending too much money, and running out of the stores because they were too crowded.

If I have a list, I do ok. So long as the store isn’t too crowded, and the items on my list are in stock. If not, it’s the perfect storm.

A recent shopping trip in London.

A recent shopping trip in London.

Lets take a step back and take a look at LAST years shopping excitement:

2013:

“This year, my Christmas spirit was HIGH. Like full tilt over the moon BUY ALL THE THINGS! Kind of high. I took advantage of it, and did some late night browsing. I ordered a few gifts, and made a list.

And then my Christmas spirit took a dive. But that was ok! Because my shopping was done. I could relax.

And then last night, as I was looking through my online purchases, I noticed something. The things I bought? Were NOT the things I thought I had bought. In fact, I really have NO idea what was going through my head at the time of purchase – because I thought I was being savvy.

And then…the mail started trickling in. Ever so slowly.

I was excited.

I ripped open the package.

And stared into the face of what was supposed to be a pajama set but instead was an…

“Oil green panel”

Now I knew that things weren’t what I thought I had bought but how does one go from pjs to a curtain panel? Closer inspection showed that what I ordered – was not sent. In its place – was a single curtain. A CURTAIN! Now I don’t know about you – but I don’t know how I was supposed to GIFT a CURTAIN! ONE panel, mind you. The product I had ordered? No longer in stock. I guess this was the closest substitute they had.”

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And now, for the 2014 edition of shopping vs. me.

This year, Amanda did her best to get me excited for Christmas. She almost persuaded me to turn on the Christmas music before Thanksgiving (a yearly argument we have!) but I stood strong, and just as we finished up the day, I turned on the Christmas tunes. I will even admit – I made a purchase before Thanksgiving was even over. In the days following, I had completed a majority of my shopping (yay for online shopping!) and was feeling pretty proud of myself for having all my gifts planned, sorted, and bought before November was over.

For the first time in years, I didn’t have to pay express shipping for an item I would just return. I was looking forward to doing away with the traditional “Chasing down of the UPS man to see if there is a package for me!” And was really feeling proud of myself. Probably too proud. Because none of my packages are expected to arrive before Christmas

Last night I looked up an item that was scheduled to be here in 3-5 business days. It has been two weeks. There was no tracking information. The company told me to call the post office. The post office told me (and I quote) “Call UPS or FedEx.” Confused I asked why. Which is when they informed me that they had no information – so it must be another shipping company’s fault.

Frustrated, I called the original company again – who then told me they were sorry and would redo my order. Except. ½ the items I ordered? Were no longer in stock. The promo code I used was invalid, and there was no way to guarantee that these things would arrive in time for Christmas.

Another item I had ordered has been stuck in Washington for two weeks with no hope of it arriving when promised. In fact, the scheduled delivery date has changed two times since I purchased it.

And finally, my personal favorite – an item that appears to be lost. Traveling from Washington, to Ontario Canada, to California, to BC Canada, before arriving in Florida where it currently awaits its next big adventure.

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Yoshi is happy she doesn’t have to go shopping

Shopping: 3 Me: 0

Turkey Enchiladas with White Cream Sauce

This is one of those recipes I found a long time ago, bookmarked, and never reconsidered it.  Mostly because it called for rotisserie chicken and since we raise our own chickens – there is no way we would ever buy a rotisserie one.  But I bookmarked it nonetheless.

Insert Thanksgiving – and an entire turkey that we hardly touched = a freezer full of precooked turkey.
I was looking for an easy meal tonight, and pulled up my trusty bookmarks and came across this one.  It was too plain for my liking, so I fixed it up a bit and called it dinner!

DSCN0302Filling:

  • 10-12 flour tortilla shells (any size)
  • 2 ½ cups of cooked, shredded chicken or turkey
  • 3 cups shredded cheese
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • Olives, Spinach, Green chilies (you can add any or none of these)

Combine ingredients, and roll into tortilla.

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We only had large flour tortilla shells, so I cut them in ½ and it worked great, but you could opt for a smaller shell.

Sauce:

  • 3 T flour
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 T salt
  • 2 T chili powder

Melt butter, combine with flour.  Add chicken broth, stir until thickened.  Remove from heat, add sour cream.

Once enchiladas are lined in pan, top with cream sauce, extra cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

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This recipe could easily be adapted and changed up with various ingredients.  I also doubled it fairly easily.

Christmas Basket for $15

I am a sucker for cheap.  What can I say?  I will buy the same thing, ten times if its cheap – instead of buying something of better quality for more money.  What can I say?  It’s not logical, but it’s my logic.

This year, I was planning to keep our gifting stunts to a minimum, but as I wrote out the list – it grew and grew, and eventually I had a nice long list of people I wanted to gift.  “‘Tis the season!” I rationalized with myself.  I wanted to gift nice things, but I also wouldn’t be against keeping us out of the hole this year either.  And so it began: My effort to gift many people nice things, without breaking the bank.

For this basket, I cheated.  In that, a lot of the things we already had on hand, from years prior.  We are somewhat Christmas hoarders.  Shiny, sparkly, pretty – we have it.

This basket is for a family with four kids – which made it hard, but possible!

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1. We usually make an order for soaps this time of year.  With free shipping, and mega sales online – I ordered a few extra for this purpose.  This cost less than $2.

2. Window clings for $1.50

3. Pencils for $1

4. Basket – you guessed it! $1

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5. I got these little jars for $1.50 each, and the candy inside came in a big pack for $2.  I will put an even $2 on this set up.

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6. I got these little snowman booklets about three years ago – and never got around to gifting them.  They were a bit on the pricey side at $3 each.

7. Candles!  Who doesn’t like candles!  $2 for both

8. Candy canes!

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The final product!

I also stuck a pack of peppermint tea in there, since the people we are gifting it to are big tea drinkers.

All in?  We spent around $15.  Considering there are 6 people getting gifts in that basket, I’d say it was a success!

Christmas Time is Coming…

Christmas and I have never gotten along.  I have countless posts on how my best plans have been thwarted by the hustle and bustle about.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas time.  I love the smells.  I love the cookies.  I love the plays, the singing, and most times, the people.  I really love the reason behind Christmas.  I love giving gifts to people, and getting that reaction you hoped for.  I love all of it.  I love wrapping it all up in a neat package and putting a bow on it….but rarely, or ever, I should say – has that happened.

You see, a long time ago – I agreed to disagree with the perfect Christmas.  You know: The one with a nice layer of snow, matching outfits, sipping coco by the tree, with smells of cinnamon.  Yea.  Not that I ever wanted that picture perfect Christmas, its just that me and shopping have never gotten along that well.  I always (ALWAYS!) have some sort of a mishap with a gift.  Last year I got an olive green curtain panel to gift someone.  I mean, I didn’t ORDER that, it just came.  As a replacement.  For the item I had ordered.  Which was not window related.  Or olive green.  You can read that story here: And They Call This Fun!?

Another year I searched high and low for the perfect coffee cup for my sister.  I finally found one I liked, forked out the extra money, and waited.  Two weeks later it showed up.  It wasn’t a coffee mug.  But rather a giant bowl.  With a handle.

I could go on and on about my mishaps.  But lets just say I try, but it rarely works out.

Since shopping and I don’t get along – I rarely get the gifts I was looking to give, and rarely get the reaction I was looking for.  I mean, what can I expect really – gifting curtain panels, and giant bowls, after all.

This year, the bug has bitten me early.  I tried, desperately to ward it off.  I ignored.  I looked the other way.  I all but closed my mind to the idea.  But the harder I tried, the more it pushed.  And before I knew it I was off riding the wagon down Christmas alley.  I tried to hang on for thanksgiving.  I really did.  I don’t listen to Christmas songs until the day after.  Don’t decorate until the day after.  Don’t give it ANY THOUGHT until the day before.

But this year?  Oh this year.

This year I have ALL THE PLANS to do ALL THE THINGS.

I have already ordered our Christmas card.  I have already scoured Pinterest, and pinned all the things.  I have ideas that are bursting with glitter and bows and ribbon – and quite frankly, I’m worried.

You see, last year I tried to do much of the same things.  I had a few simple ideas, that I thought I could make work.  Anyone remember what happened?  Lets recap:

Aside from the curtain panel, we had this gem:

santamix8You can read more on that disaster here: An Epic Fail (and other short stories)!

I apparently, cannot melt chocolate to save my life.

This year?  I have GREAT plans.  To do ALL the things, yet again.  I have lists.  Oh the lists.  I have ideas, and bows, and scents, and candles, and thoughts, and plans, and people, and and and and….

Like I said, I am quite frankly – worried.  It could go one of two ways:

The traditional way – where everything ends up a mess, and on Christmas eve I am left with an un-melted bowl of chocolate, ½ trimmed tree, unbaked cookies, and gifts that are unwrapped, unfitting, and a disaster that makes us laugh the following year.

Or, the Non-Traditional way – Things could actually go as planned.

I’m betting on traditional.  Since there is nothing like a good tradition.

What traditions do YOU have?  Can you melt chocolate?  Have you started shopping?

Welcome to The Room!

About ten years ago, we made a move from one house to another.  I will spare you the details, the stories and everything else involved with the great move – just know that nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and get to my point: My room.

When we moved in, my sister and I were basically given the run of the room upstairs.  It was a long, narrow strip of room in the middle of two attics.  It was a decent size, but awkward shape.  The floor was covered in green carpet.  The kind that you would find on a pool table.  There were about 10 closet doors along one side of the room, and cardboard paneling along the other side.

We were told at one point, it was considered an orphanage.  I don’t know how true that story is, but it’s one that my sister and I ran with for years.  It made sense.  It worked.  And now there we were.

It was a frantic move that didn’t involve a whole lot of planning or preparing.  One day we lived in one house.  The next we were moving into another.  Not for terrible reasons – the reasons were all good.  It was just a rush to get from one house to the other – for reasons I can’t recall.

At one point, we had four mattresses lining the room – one for us, and one for the dog and cat.  And then somewhere along the way, we stacked the mattresses, and made us each a bigger bed.

Our room also became a room for the chickens that were hurt.  Or…needing time to readjust.  Such as Amanda’s 10 year old hen: Big Red.  She dutifully kept our dog supplied with treats.  Moving along…

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See the carpet?

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This is one of those pictures that I really don’t know where to begin.  Yes, that is a rooster on my bed.  Yes he is crowing.  Yes those are stickers on my wall.  No I don’t know why they are there.

Anyways, over the past number of years, we have cleaned up the room, moved the chickens out (vacuumed), put drywall in, put a few decorations up.  Re-stained the closets because, can we say ORANGE?

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Also worth noting: That flooring is what was under the green carpet – leaving us not a whole lot to work with.  And yes, that is the same rooster.

We painted an accent wall, repainted the rest of the room white, threw down a few rugs – and then Amanda got married and left me alone with the giant room.  One afternoon, in a fit of anger (who knows why, really) I ripped up 1/2 the floor.  Another day I decided a good color for the room would be “Jamaican Blue.”

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Obviously we were going from bad to worse rather quickly.  None of our plans for the room were panning out, paint wasn’t cutting it anymore, and I was ready for some updates.

When I returned home from England – I went and got a price to have carpet installed, and was literally appalled that we waited so long to make the move.

This last week I moved everything we stashed in our room (note to self: its time to get rid of things!) from one room to another.  I didn’t think we had a lot of stuff, but moving things will prove you know nothing.  I painted over the blue wall, and returned the entire room to a color known as “Hint of gray” (aside from our purple wall, which is there to stay.)

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This was right before everything pictured in the room above was covered in tiny specks of paint.  Note to self: Move the laptop and all other items of importance before painting.

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….Out with the old….

DSCN0190And in with the new!  I went up yesterday, and didn’t like the look.  Hated it.  Was upset with it.  I had convinced myself that the color was going to be different, and upon seeing it – was devastated.  I know, right?  But after a few minutes, I took another look – and fell in love.

I spent the night at the shop, because the carpet man was coming to finish installing this morning at some stupid early hour, and I like my sleep on Saturday mornings.  Mom was nice enough to let him in this morning (thanks mom!)

And then?

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I don’t think I could be any more in love.

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The purple wall and our ten million closets.

DSCN0201And this?  Well this just makes me happy for reasons I can’t explain.  I think it will be my happy corner.  It’s the small things really.  The attention to details.  The carpeting AROUND the obstacles and making it look oh so pretty.

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We aren’t completely done up there yet – I have big plans to change the closet color, and then comes the adding back in of all the things, but until then – I can’t help but brag just a little…

Week 41: October 19-25

19. There is nothing prettier than flowers in the fall.

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20. Me ‘n’ Yosh

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21. I took my ‘big’ camera out today.  And was proud of the results.

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22. Point and shoot special.

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23. Woke up excited about what I would take a picture of this day.  Saw three rainbows at various points in the day – didn’t have my camera once.  Turned around, and the day was gone.  Another Yoshi special!

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24. Three days in a row.  Sorry.  She was trying to nap and listen to dogs at the same time.

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25. Summer is desperately tying to hang on.  I’m not complaining.

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Week 40: October 12-18

12. It’s hard to be sad about coming back (from town, across the world, etc.) when this is there to welcome you home.  We had just returned from a short trip to town, and she was SO HAPPY we had come back.

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13. I have never been good at math, so bear with me.  Ugly x 100 = Cute? Am I right or not?  This is the neighbors dog.  She is SO ugly, she is cute.  What do you think?

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14. My pretty girl

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15. Yes, I know.  It’s Yoshi, Yoshi, Yoshi.

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16. Happy fall, Happy pumpkin, Happy everything!

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17. A dark, gloomy sort of day.

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18. A sampling of carpet.  My room is a combination of 60’s, 50’s and maybe some 40’s.  I’m not entirely convinced that is all.  We have ugly green carpet covering some even uglier linoleum.  That blue wall was an attempt at something stupid and will soon be gone.  And hopefully within the next month or so, so will the ugly floor.  Replaced with that sampling.

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How was your week?