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Friday, November 30, 2012

How To Shrink Your Tree

Four years ago, when I was living in my first little apartment after college, christmas time came along, and I had no tree. So I ran to the nearest walmart and grabbed an averagely cheap, pre-lit, full size (6.5 ft) artificial Christmas tree. I don't love artificial trees, but it was the only kind our apartment complex allowed... so I got it. It was not a thing of beauty... but it was a thing. It served it's purpose and looked lovely once it was plugged in and sprinkled with other shiny things.
Fast forward a couple years... and I am living in a smaller townhome with a baby on the way and our spare bedroom is now a nursery, and our basement is now a spare bedroom, and we have no storage or wiggle room in our furniture layout... or room to assemble and display a full size tree for the month.

So last year we put off Christmas Decorations while we searched for a tree solution. We decided we could set a mini tree on top of the buffet in the living room... but after about a week of searching for an acceptable mini size tree that didn't break the bank or look stupid, I had given up. I told Z it was hopeless.
Then I started thinking about my 6.5 ft tree. And how it comes apart in three separately lit sections. And how the top third was still a decent size, and just had a little peg of sorts that fits down into a pole running through the center of the other trees... and then I knew all I needed was to assemble a base and we'd be in business.

So I inlisted the help of my father (this was last year, I was 9 months pregnant and not allowed to use power tools...) and in about 5 minutes he screwed two pieces of wood together and drilled a hole and we had a tree stand.

I came home, dug out the top of our tree and popped it in the little base.
Admittedly, I didn't hear the angels singing yet. I mean, it's a little sparse and sad still.

Once it was lit, wrapped in glittering ribbons, and bedazzled with all manner ornaments...

I think it looks pretty darn good. This year I got it all out again to set it up, and realized that this is really a much better situation for a 1 year old anyhow. Some day, we'll get the rest of the little tree out again, but for now, we've got the shrunken guy, and he's still merry and bright!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Perfect Roast

It's been quiet around here, I know. I have been sewing away on some bowties and suspenders for Holiday Sales. Interested? Check me out on Facebook! That's right, One Sassy housewife is now on Facebook! Moving up in the world.

We're getting down to it, aren't we? A few days to Thanksgiving, and that's the official start, isn't it? You might love it, you might dread it, you might not celebrate it, but in this country it's pretty hard to ignore it. Christmas is coming, my friends!
But I better back up before my husband, Mr. Spirit-of-Thankgiving gets all on my case. Lets talk about Thankgiving. Are you having a big meal with friends and family? Are you roasting a bird? Are visions of stuffing, yams, and greenbean casserole already dancing in your head???
Would you like to know what will be on my table come Thursday?
Roast Beef.
Yup, roast beef. We are not huge turkey people, and our family is small, and my husband requested roast beef. Who am I to deny him. Especially because I make a mean roast. And I like to see my husband scarf down anything that I make-- but especially slow roasted meaty goodness.
Roast Beef is one of those things that can be so good, or so... not. There doesn't seem to be an in between but you know you've had good roast beef, and you know you've had bad, right? Making a good one is not so complicated; It takes a little attention, a few hours, and a good family recipe. I thought I would share mine with you this week... just in case you are an 'outside the box' thanksgiving-er and needed a recipe for this week. Wink.

This recipe--like most things I make-- came from my dad, and is really in truth not a recipe at all, but years of observing him make a sunday roast. Most of my dad's cooking know how came from his mom, but if pressed, he will sheepishly admit that he does not love his mom's roast, and does not make it the same way she does. Sorry to rat you out, Dad. But you do make a darn good roast, and grandma was a sweet, forgiving woman. :)

One of the important parts of making a good roast beef is the pan. You really need a dutch oven. Mine is a Magnalite dutch oven, which has just recently come back into production! Back when I was moving out on my own, my parents scoured antique shops and ebay trying to to find a magnalite dutch oven for me. They are these awesome cast aluminum dutch ovens... it's the only thing grandma would cook in, and the only thing Dad will make a roast in too. I have a couple of really expensive and larger dutch ovens, and they would work too, but nothing NOTHING is better than the magnalite for a roast. And thats all there is to that. Enough about hardware, onto the foodwares...

Get your dutch oven on the stove top and nice and hot. Throw in enough olive oil to cover the bottom, and get it really hot. Quarter an onion and place it (cut side down) in the pan for about a minute.
See all that pretty color? Thats good stuff! Now dig those onions out to a safe place, and clean and chop some carrots into large (but hopefully kind of uniform) chunks, and throw them in there to do the same. Also peel a few garlic cloves (feel free to smash them or leave them whole depending on how vicious you happen to be feeling that day...)

(You see how all my oil is puddling on one side because my burners on our junk stove top don't sit level? That's no good. Don't be like me. Try to find a level burner. But don't make your landlord mad. But level burners are pretty important.)
Do the same thing you did with the onions, about a minute... toss them around a little. You are not cooking them right now, you are just trying to get some color and carmelization going. Pull those out and put them in the safe place with the onions.
Grab a plate and put down a few tablespoons of flour and a good amount of salt and pepper.
Mix that all together, because you are going to dredge your meat in that mixture. Dredge it a weirdo word that just means coat your raw meat in a thin layer of flour.
I am using a tip roast here... because they are typically smaller and I was making roast beef for two. Also the tip roast is typically a little leaner, but that also means it can be a bit tougher and less flavorful. I would usually use a rump roast and one with lots of marbling. All that fat marbling throughout the meat means lots and lots of flavor and it will be more tender and juicy. That is my preferred piece of meat.  But hey, get whatever is cheapest, or available, or best for your family... that's what I've got going on here.
So anyway, dredge your meat, then put it down in the same screaming hot pan, right on top of where the veggies gave up their goodness.
You are going to sear that on all sides. I even stand it up on its sides-- holding it in place with the tongs-- to get a nice seared crust on all sides of the meat... like so:
See all the seasoned, crispy, browned goodness? It's gonna be magical. Again, we are not trying to cook this through at this point, so a hot pan, a quick sear until there is nice color on all sides, and then pull that baby out.
There will be little bits stuck to the bottom of your pan... that's gooooooooood. Now we are going to deglaze the pan. Another fancy culinary term for... we are using a liquid to scrape up all those happy bits stuck to the bottom. Pour in some beef broth... it should get all sizzly and steamy, because remember your pan is still super hot...
Now use a whisk to scrape all the happy bits off the bottom of the pan, and distribute their goodness throughout the liquid.
Once you've done that, put your roast back in the pan, and add enough liquid (beef broth) to cover the meat halfway. I also usually add a nice splash of red wine in there too. If you are adverse to alcohol or if you drank all the wine (oops) it's not ESSENTIAL to the overall turnout, but it does add a nice depth of flavor-- and it's really really good. So think about it.
Or don't. It's your roast.
Pile the onion and carrots and garlic around it the meat.
 And add a little kick with some rosemary and thyme sprinkled over the top. I prefer to use fresh herbs, they are kind of amazing, but we had a stupid hot summer that dried up my herb garden so all I had was dried, and dried herbs are still 100x better than no herbs, but if you have fresh herbs... go that way. But if all you have is dried... sprinkle and go.
Throw in a little more liquid... (the picture above needs more!) and then put your lid on nice and tight and put it in the oven at 275 for several hours. Your house is going to smell great, and you will be curious whats going on, but try not to touch it. The longer it sits undisturbed, the happier it will be.
Try not to be jealous of my pristine oven. I cleaned it myself.
My roast was little-- under 3 lbs, so 3 hours was about right. If you are more like 4 or 5 lbs, you will want 4 hours at least. Low and slow is the name of the game for a nice tender, tasty, roast.
One other thing... that I didn't picture... if you plan to add potatoes to your roast, wait until about a half hour before it's done, then throw in your clean, quartered (or mini) potatoes on the top, and put the lid back on and put it back in. If you put those things in at the beginning they will become mushy and bitter and over cooked and not at all what you want them to be. So a half hour out, deal?
Soooo... you waited your three (or four) hours and it smells amazing in your kitchen and everyone is hungry so it's time to pull it all out of the oven...
Use tongs and a spatuala, and maybe a friend, to help you lift the roast meat out of the pan in one piece. It should be very tender, so this should mostly not be really easy. Let him rest while you use a slotted spoon to fish out all the veggies (and in our house surgically separate them into unique piles so that Z doesn't have to come into contact with an onion, which would really ruin his day.) and put them onto your serving platter.
Then you can make your pan juices into a nice gravy (YES! DO IT!) or not if you are not gravy people (Who are you and why do you not like gravy? Who doesn't like gravy???).
Use a sharp knife to cut the roast into nice chunky slices (Opposite the grain) and transfer those to a platter.
If it's a fancy occasion (or thanksgiving dinner!) I would put it on my fancy platter with some bright green parsley and it would look lovely and everyone would be impressed. If it's a tuesday night, I just throw it on a big plate, and it still tastes awesome and everyone is impressed. So... your choice there.
Easy, delicious, hearty, comfort food. Holiday food. Family food.
Here's an unofficial recipe, typed in recipe form for those of you that need that...

Roast Beef  

1 whole (tip, rump, chuck) Roast
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
1 whole Onion (Or more)
4 whole Carrots (or more)
2-3 whole peeled garlic cloves
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper
2-3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme (or about 1/2 teaspoon dry)
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or about 1/2 teaspoon dry)

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil (enough to cover the bottom)
Quarter onions and cut 4 or more carrots into 2-inch slices. When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the onions, browning them on both sides. Remove the onions to a plate.
Throw the carrots and garlic into the same hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.
Mix flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge your meat in the flour mixture. Make sure it is well seasoned with the salt and pepper. Place the meat in the hot pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is brown with a nice crust. Remove the roast to a plate.
With the burner still on high, use beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of the bits up and incorporated. Return roast to pan and add enough beef stock to covver the meat half way. Add the red wine (or an equivalent amount of stock). Place the vegetable all around the meat, as well as the herbs.
Cover with the lid, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

Okay, I'm getting excited for Thanksgiving now! What are you eating? Anything beefy? Or does everyone else in the world just stick with Turkey?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

10 months old!

Sam @ 10 months


at birth: 9lbs 2.7 oz
  at nine months: 22 lbs 1 oz

You are an adventurous eater and there's not much you won't eat, but... you have a sweet tooth! Fruit and sweet treats are by far your favorite! We have to serve you the rest of your food first, and reserve your fruit for last otherwise you gobble it up and don't want anything else!
Also, you are a grazer. You eat slowly... at your pace, no one elses. We will be frustrated sometimes when you don't seem to be eating your dinner, and about 20 minutes in all of a sudden you start eating, and you get it all down. You take your time, but you eat it all.


You wake up every day around 8:00 a.m.
You nap for 2-3 hours around 11:00 a.m.
You nap for about an hour around 5:00 p.m.
Bedtime is 9:30 p.m.
If we stray from this schedule... you are a grizzly bear.
You sleep on your tummy, with your knees pulled up under you and your bootie in the air. You like having your back rubbed to put you to sleep, and you won't go to sleep without a blanket and your sheep to snuggle.


Getting into all the things you are not supposed to... power cords, the dog gate, the dog bowls, laundry baskets, etc. If it is off limits... you want it. You also learned you could get inside the dog kennels one day... and oh boy was that exciting!

Your trike! Grandma and Grandpa P got you an early birthday gift... a pretty red trike, and ooh do you love it. You have always enjoyed riding in your strollers, but riding your trike (with mama and dad helping push right now) is doubly exciting. You hold on the the handles and steer and giggle with delight.
The shopping carts at Target. Specifically target, because they are bigger than most. And you turn around backwards in the seat and mama puts her arms around you and pushes you through the store facing forward and you squeal with excitement (and people give us dirty looks and judge your mama because it's probably pretty unsafe, and you don't care.)
All other shopping carts where you can't see where you are going.
When Daddy takes his shower. You get so excited when Daddy gets home at night, and he gives you a kiss and plays with you for a few minutes before going up to take his shower, and you scream is angry protest the whole time he is showering. It's not fair that Daddy is finally home and not with you, huh?

First haircut. The Grandmas were distraught, but you looked so clean cut and handsome that they forgave me.
Slides. We went to the park with Grandma and Grandpa P and you loved the slides so much. We tried to start you out easy on the small slides but you fearlessly crawled to the big ones and launched yourself down headfirst. You beamed and giggled and were breathless with excitment to get back to the top each time and do it again.
Special Skills
Pulling up to a stand on the furniture. We had to lower your crib so you didn't crawl/fall out. You pull up to a stand in your crib, on the couch, on the dog gate, on the couch, on the cabinets, on... any piece of furniture you possibly can.
Waving. You are the friendliest kid ever. You wave at everyone. All the time. Always waving. When someone enters a room, when someone leaves. When someone talks to you, or when you see something you like. You have started responding with a wave when someone says 'Bye-bye' or 'Hello' so you get the concept. You love waving.

Playing the drums. Daddy had a little pair of drumsticks cut down to your size, and he set up a drum set for you out of some of his stuff-- a tom, a splash cymbal, and some woodblocks. He set it in front of your chair and you went to town with no instruction or encouragement. And Daddy was SO PROUD.

Things I don't want to forget
Mama trained to run a half marathon this summer, and you were my little running buddy. We put in a lot of miles; you in your stroller and me pushing you along. Sometimes you would fall asleep, but often you would sit awake and wide eyed observing everything. I love that about you, so curious and clever.
You have earned a new nickname-- Mama calls you a pickle all the time. And you smile at her like-- "I know, Mom, I know."

Making videos is very frustrating to you because it means you have to hold still and that makes you very angry or very sad. Either way it begins and ends in a cry fest and your mama gave up. So no 10 month footage.

You are clever, curious, and always on the move. You are ornery, funny, and fearless. You are all boy, independant, and energy all the time. You are our sweet little boy, and we love you and love watching you grow. Just... could you not grow quite so fast? Time is flying.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sam I am

Well... I am only a couple weeks behind here, and October has long past us, and I am sure your Halloween spoils long since devoured. (Don't pretend like you don't gank your kid's candy) I couldn't let us pass over it entirely without sharing pictures of Sam's first Halloween... I know i'm late, but back up your brain just a smidge and soak in the cuteness that is about to hit you like BAM.

After much debate we landed on the perfect, clever, comfy, warm, and simple to sew costume for the boy. A little Dr. Seuss action... Sam I Am!
I used a pair for Sam's pj's as a pattern and whipped up some pants and a tunic out of fleece. Usually I am anti-fleece, but it's super cheap, stretchy and easy to sew with, which makes it perfect for costumes and fun. Plus it was super warm, which was important as it was super cold out during our festivities!
Sam was a huge fan of his sign, and the felt green eggs and ham. He also rubbed his legs and laughed hysterically the first time I put the fleece pants on him. The thing he didn't love... was his hat.
But with a little sweet talking, fast camera work, and a carrot bribe, we were able to get a few pics of him with it on... before he burst into angry tears or ripped it off and threw it.
Poor kid.
He did like being the center of attention though (he usually does) (Because he usually is). Mama even threw together a quick coodinating outfit, that was a hit with the kiddos! So many kiddos came by our house and shouted excitedly, You're the Cat in the Hat! or It's Dr. Seuss! Which made me laugh. My parents joined in on the fun and donned Thing 1 and Thing 2 visors with awesome blue hair. Good sports.
It was the perfect first Halloween costume for our little Sam I Am. I was happy that everything turned out well. I even got it done early-- and in time to submit pictures and be featured in an online costume parade on one of my favorite blogs! Fun!
Our little Sam was cute as can be. Can you even believe that little boy sitting on my lap is the same one in this picture at just 2 weeks old???
Tiny sweetie Sam I Am baby. How did you get so big???

That was Halloween around here! Better late than never.
I'm already onto all kinds of projects for other holidays and festivities... including a holiday market I am to be a part of next week. Whoo am I sewing my fingers off these days! What have you been up to while I've been away? :)