Sunday, November 28, 2010

Early Christmas decorating and Retail therapy...

Tradition was that we would pick out and and decorate our Christmas tree on the 14th of December. Because the 14th is our wedding anniversary, and we learned early on that the secret to long, and lasting connubial bliss is to begin each new year of marriage engaged in an heated argument! Oh, our intentions were always very good... And in theory, Christmas shopping, enjoying a quite dinner at our favorite restaurant on Cannery Row and stopping off for hot cocoa on our way to pick out a Christmas tree always sounded like the perfect recipe for a romantic anniversary... However, as well-intentioned as we always were, every anniversary still managed to end in massive disagreement. 

Over what, you ask? Well, it always began at the tree lot where he'd do his best to convince me that the only Christmas tree that actually looks like a tree, is his favorite, the Douglas Fir. And, being the passionate hobby-gardener he's always been, I get it... But that never stopped me from refusing to go home with him unless I got my beloved Noble Fir that reminded me of Christmas trees in Germany... The ones with the exact level of Charlie Brown, (bareness) so that each ornament dangled, and where lit candles could stand on every branch. And, for almost two decades I was the happy victor of that particular debate!   

However, when we got home is when the real disagreement began... Because he always felt that giving in at the tree lot obligated me to grant his wish for huge, multi-colored blinking lights... When everyone knows only tiny, clear lights belong on a Christmas tree!

Then we moved to North Carolina. And slowly our traditions have changed. First of all... No Noble Fir trees. Anywhere! They don't grow here. And apparently, they cannot be trucked or flown in either. There's still the Douglas Fir, much to his delight... But I just can't do it. So as much as it pains me every year... We put up an artificial tree. The only positives about the tree we chose is that it came pre-lit with tiny, clear lights and I can adjust (bend) the branches so that my ornaments dangle. But that's it... 
Another tradition that's changed now is when our tree goes up... You see, Brandon
has topped our family Christmas trees since he was big enough for us to squish
the angel between his hands. But while he no longer has to be held up to the
tree to reach it, the Army now tells us when he'll be home to help decorate  
Therefore, this is the second year our Christmas tree has
been put up and decorated long before our anniversary...
It is also the second year we face the holiday
season knowing our Ranger will deploy soon
So after we said good-bye to Brandon, I needed a little retail therapy...
I hit all my favorites... Le Creuset, Pottery Barn,
Williams-Sonoma and Sephora. And, I bought lots!
Because I just couldn't face his empty room again...
By the way... When I tried to pay Pottery Barn $60 for faux acorns to
fill my monogrammed hurricanes, the man I love begged me not to!
He said he knew where I could get even better acorns. For free!
He also offered to deliver! 
True to his word... I came downstairs this morning to find a whole bucket of cute
little acorns he gathered for me, (for free!) from the forest in my own back yard! 
What about you... How have your holiday traditions changed over the years?

CSN Stores Give-away, and one Fabulous fried turkey!

I'm thrilled to announce that my friends at CSN Stores have come back to offer my readers another Give-away just in time for the holidays! This time, CSN Stores asked me to invite you to think, bar stool... Seriously! Check out their outrageous selection of bar stools at their store,

I am so happy CSN Stores asked me to mention stools to you today because I know first hand that adding a couple of stools to an island is the easiest way to transform your kitchen into a gathering spot! Not only do my little stools provide a comfortable seat for family and friends that like to camp-out while I'm busy in the kitchen, they also provide another surface where I can stage baking sheets to help keep my countertops clear... And, when I host cookie how-to classes, my stools really come in handy!

You already know how much I love shopping on-line with the CSN family of stores... Remember this!? If you do, then you know CSN Stores has the selection I crave, at the prices I like, and that I never, ever pay for shipping! Of all the on-line shopping options available to me, I choose CSN Stores as the best! 

So what about the give-away, you say? Well, I'll tell you right now! CSN Stores is offering one reader $35 off their next CSN Stores purchase! Just pop over here, then come back and leave a comment telling me which stool or set of stools you'd like to add to your kitchen island, craft room or bar! For additional entries you can tweet this give-away or post a link to it on your Facebook wall. Just remember to let me know know which you've done, and don't forget to leave your e-mail address too. One reader-comment will be chosen at random and announced on Wednesday December 1st - Good Luck!

So would you like to know about my latest CSN Stores purchase? Well,
after the terrific experience I had buying the Popcorn maker, I decided to let
CSN Stores assist in my quest to fry our Thanksgiving turkey! After doing my
research to locate the safest and easiest fryer to use, I settled on this one!
While having my hair cut Wednesday, my stylist suggested I only use my fryer outside
because the one time he fried a turkey, he said it stunk up his whole house. However,
since it was raining Thanksgiving morning I set up in the solarium, and opened all
the windows. This proved to be a great idea... But only because it helped free up
counter space, not because the fryer smelled bad. Because it didn't smell at all!     
I was so thankful that the Organic, brined young
turkey I picked up before I bought the fryer fit!
I was also thankful the Ranger was home for Thanksgiving to help me!
This was a great purchase! Not only can I fry a holiday turkey, this fryer
is one I'll use all year long to fry fish, french fries, onion rings, veggies,
whole chickens, Cornish game hens... And, it steams and boils too!
I see a haul of steamed Lobster tails, shrimp,
potatoes and corn next summer... Don't you?
This fryer holds turkeys up to 14 pounds. And, I
pushed it to the limit with my 13.7 pound bird!
Four minutes per pound - So 55 minutes later...
Our Thanksgiving turkey was perfectly cooked!
Tender, juicy and flavorful!
And fried totally safe!
Doesn't get any better than this at Thanksgiving!

A big Thanks to CSN Stores for providing this give-away to one of my readers!

In the interest of Full Disclosure
I was not compensated for this review. CSN Stores offered to allow me to use the $35 credit toward my own purchase or give it away. I elected to purchase the Fryer at my own expense so that I might provide you with a completely unbiased opinion of the selection, value and quality of the merchandise offered through CSN Stores. CSN Stores passed my tests with flying colors, and that's why you're hearing about them here!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, 2010

After William and Julie arrived, Thanksgiving was on! 
And, so was the turkey frying! I've never fried a turkey before but I
have always wanted to try... So this year I decided we were taking the
plunge! Thank goodness the turkey I picked up at Trader Joe's fit!
While the turkey fryer heated up I busied myself with setting the table...
After watching The Pioneer Woman cream Bobby Flay with
her mashed potatoes I knew they'd have to be on our table!
Especially since they're so low-fat... Not! Why yes, that is
cream cheese on top of butter. And, finished with half and half!
Oh, my!
I couldn't see this last night when I got home, but it was the first thing I
noticed this morning when I stepped out into the solarium to set up the
turkey fryer. Appears that someone went above and beyond on the
holiday Honey-do list I left for him yesterday - And, I love it!
Okay... Enough chit-chat... Let's fry a turkey!
I said, In he goes...
And the Ranger said, How do you know it's a he?
William and Julie look hungry, don't they?
55 minutes later...
Our 13.7 pound turkey was done!
Just to be safe, I let the therm confirm it!
Smelled fantastic!
I would do this again! Especially since frying the turkey freed up my
oven for all the side dishes, and me from the task of constant basting!
Brandon said, I've got my plate!
My sweet boys!
Plus one very sweet girl!
From our table to yours... Happy Thanksgiving!
By the way, Moo... This sure beats having to drive down to Ft. Benning to see you!
Bing certainly would have missed you feeding him fried turkey scraps!
And, me... Well, I'm just thankful to have you home!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Ranger is home for Thanksgiving!

And now you know what my Happiness looks like!