Monday, December 30, 2013

hot tamales!

posted by jennifer:

so one of the things on my to do list over the holidays was making tamales.  i finally crossed it off on christmas evc.  it took most of the day, and 2 days of prep work on prior days.  but i must say it was an enjoyable day.  

wrapping tamales while listening to the chieftans christmas album,  i couldn't help but think how grateful i am to live in a part of the world where we are exposed to so many cultures and all the wonderful things that go along with those cultures.... especially the food for me.

i made three types of tamales:
  -pork with red sauce
  -chili cheese
  -chicken with roasted salsa verde

for the pork i cooked a pork shoulder in the slow cooker, shredded it, and added a homemade red sauce.  i used this cookbook for the recipe:  muy bueno.   it was written by Yvette marquez-sharpnack, veronica gonzalez-smith, and evangelina soza.  it is a beautiful written and photographed book. 

for the chili cheese tamales i roasted poblano (from the garden) and anaheim chilies (from the store).   after the chilies were roasted/blistered, peeled, and chopped; i mixed them with diced cheddar and monterey jack cheese. 

to go with the chicken tamales i made the following:

    roasted salsa verde

3 pounds tomatillos (peeled and quartered)
2 medium onions (peeled and sliced)
6 cloves garlic (peeled and cut in half)
4 T. olive oil
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 c. chopped roasted peppers (i used poblano and anaheim)

*in large baking dish toss the tomatillos, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt and pepper.

*roast in a 425 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the onion and garlic are browning and the tomatillos are breaking down.

*allow to cool (save the juices)

*when cool, add half to a blender or food processor along with half of the roasted chilies
  and some of the juice in the roasting pan.  pulse until somewhat smooth.  you want a bit of
  texture, but not huge chunks.  transfer to another container, and repeat the with the
  remaining vegetables.

*add more salt to taste

i added this to cooked, shredded chicken  (enough from two 4 pound birds) and had enough filling to make about 5 dozen tamales.

we had tamales for christmas eve dinner, i froze several dozen, and took a few dozen to our annual  boxing day gathering in fullerton. 

oh, and good news!  my auntie joyce, who was visiting from texas, was telling us about a store in her town where this time of year they sell tamales from a vending cart in the store.  you will be shopping and all of a sudden your ears will be assaulted (my word not hers) with a loud hhhhhhhoooooooooottttttttt
tamales!  of course, i had to give it a go.  and i must say i think i had a pretty loud and sustained tamale shout.  good enough that my aunt told me i could be hired by the store. so, if i ever need part time seasonal work and i am in texas, i have potential work!  yeehaw!!

man!  i have totally got this down. 



Sunday, December 22, 2013

we be elfin'

posted by jennifer:

christmas to do list:

 -pen cases for girls

 -gift tags for fullerton stockings

 -skirt for ruby

 -sugar cookies


 -gingerbread cookies

 -gift for auntie joyce

 -pretzel caramel chocolate candies

 -mexican wedding cakes

 -second batch of mexican wedding cakes

 -third batch of mexican wedding cakes

*so tamales are on the docket for monday.  i will be making pork tamales with red chili sauce, chicken tamales with salsa verde sauce, and chili cheese tamales.  enough for christmas eve dinner,  boxing day smorgasbord, and for the freezer for future meals.

*as for the mexican wedding cakes... there are about 6 left from the second batch... and they are my favorite... i am guessing if i don't do it before, then by new years a third batch will be made.

happy elfing to you.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December tablescape

It's still December, right?

Here is my display for the Christmas month.
It has elements that are important to me:

Candle light
Little white lights
The angel my mother crocheted
The snowmen my daughters made
A Nativity scene music box that plays Silent Night
My favorite pitcher, English made and inherited from my mother-in-law

I hope your Christmas preparations are full of the things you cherish
and you are enjoying the getting ready.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Friday, December 13, 2013

forecast for san diego: isolated snow flurries

posted by jennifer:

  i love christmas, and the christmas season.  this time of year, you can often find me elbow deep in cookie dough, singing along to bing crosby, the statler bros, and the beach boys (along with many others).  this time of the year my snowmen and ladies arrive.  the tree is picked out at home depot.... but a little tradition around here:  we don't untie the tree to examine it before buying it.  it is a fun surprise to see what we have once we get home.  this year emma said to me, "what if it isn't a good one?".   i feel like i had one of those parenting moments when you feel like you are qualified.  i said "it's like babies.  you never know just how they are going to look before they come out, but they are always beautiful." 

and it was. (the tree that is)  and they are.  (my babies that is).

but back to the forecast.

one thing you can always count on in the niles household is paper snowflakes.  i have been making them for years.  the first year i made them was when we were living in a one bedroom apartment after we were first married.  in 1993.  so 20 years ago.  we were poor, but i needed to deck the halls ya know?   so i cut out snowflakes (i hate to say it, but probably from paper "borrowed" from work) and glued them onto the windows.  they were very pretty, and fun to make, and enjoyed by others.

the apartment complex was managed by a married couple.  the wife approached me about the snowflakes.  knowing me and my fear of getting in trouble, i probably thought she was going to slap my wrist for using a dot of glue on the apartment window.  she didn't get mad.  she actually asked if i could make some to sell to her.  she wanted to do the same thing in their apartment. 

since then, my snowflakes are one thing people always ask about.   "are the snowflakes up yet?"   and comment about "oh good!  i hoped you had put the snowflakes up." 

they always often ask how to make them.  so here is a tutorial.  i hope i make sense.  and i am sure there are hundreds of well made  video tutorials on youtube.  but here goes:

how to make a paper snowflake.  diy.

*use thin paper.  you are going to be having to cut through several layers at once, so construction type paper would not be ideal.  i always use copy paper.  that is bought... not borrowed.

*you will need your paper to be made into a square.  you can do that by folding over the paper as seen here:

and then cutting the excess off.

*you will be left with a triangle. which is good.  don't unfold it.

*you will then fold that triangle into a smaller one. as seen here.  you want all the folded sides to line up.

*and again.  as seen here:

be sure that as you are folding you are keeping everything lined up.  when you reach this point the point of the snowflake should be nice and sharp.    the opposite side of your folded triangle should not have any folded edges.  

*now for the fun part.  you can either draw your cuts on your triangle or freestyle it.  the main thing to remember is you do not want to cut all the way across the triangle.  you can along the top, but after you have your top cut done, you just want to make your cuts along the sides.  and the tip (the pointy end).

*when you unfold it you will find a beautiful snowflake.  remember.  just like christmas trees and babies, they are all different, but all beautiful.

* i always iron my snowflakes.  so they are nice and crisp.  mind you it is the only thing around there that gets ironed.  well that and some sewing projects.  shirts? not so much.

*you can hang them up on nylon line (fishing line), thread, or you can add a small dot of white glue to them and put them on your windows.  at the end of the season, you can use a razor blade to remove them.  easy peasy.  you can also spruce up some fallen branches as i did this year. 

they can be made in just about any size. to make a smaller flake,  just make a smaller square to start with.  a variety is nice.   and the more the better. i have over a hundred hung up over our dining table.  and it still seems a little patchy.  in fact, i am hosting bookclub this sunday, and those ladies are some who most look forward to the snowflakes.  so  i think i am going to be adding more before then.

happy cutting.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

UPS has a New kid on the block

UPS packages are flying in my neighborhood,
but not by drones.
This airborne package, is being transferred from my usual UPS driver's truck, to a drop station.  From that storage pod, final delivery will be made, by bike.  How cool is that?

This is Kenyon.

He is a UPS bike delivery guy.
Using a mountain bike with a custom-made trailer, he pedals through the neighborhood bringing those online purchases, gifts, and such to their final destination....happy customers.

Bicycle delivery an operational effort on UPS's part, with environmental benefits.
UPS says, "Bikes simply make sense at this time of the year."  There is a heavy volume of packages going into residential neighborhoods and using bicycle delivery saves time and fuel.  
UPS figures that during peak season, when 3 bikes are in use it saves 17 gallons of fuel a day, plus $38,000 in vehicle maintenance costs.

Although bike delivery is new to Orange County, California, it has been in use for some years in other places.  Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Antelope, Eugene, and Medford, Oregon started bike delivery in 2008.  It has been used in New Hampshire, Maine, and Tennessee. 

Like Amazon, FedEx, and Domino's, UPS is considering the use of unmanned drones.  UPS invests heavily in technology, including alternative fuel vehicles.  I am glad they are open to all kinds of strategies in moving packages.  And I hope they continue to recognize that humans are best suited to deliver those packages.  Aren't UPS drivers the friendliest, most efficient delivery people? 
I'll watch for expanded bike delivery.  Sadly, at this time, my neighborhood will go back to truck delivery after the Christmas rush. 

In the meantime, although I miss that distinct UPS truck sound stopping in front of my house, I applaud "Brown's" very visible bike delivery.  I appreciate Kenyon's good-natured, positive attitude, as he is an asset in teaching a greener mindset.  After all, the earth is both green and brown.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Friday, December 6, 2013

for a festive celebration table, i've got you covered. diy

posted by jennifer:

in my last post i mentioned a table covering i made (with the help of my children) for our
thanksgiving table.  today i wanted to share what i did.  i was so happy with how it turned out.   plus, it was economical which is a good thing, but didn't look economical which is even a better thing.

**how to make a chalkboard tablecloth**

you will need:
-a roll of brown butcher paper
     i used paint masking paper from home depot.  a roll of a million feet was like $9.00.  so
     i will be using the same roll until i am 95 years old
-chalkboard paint (i used rust-oleum)
     i had leftover paint from another project, and this used so little i still have leftover paint
-painters masking tape
     i thought it could  free-style it at first, but um, not so much
-a big ol' paintbrush

1. measure your table you will be covering, and if you want to wrap it around the ends of the table, don't forget to add several inches to the measurement.

2. cut your butcher paper to determined length.  it will want to roll up again, so find something to weight it down.

3.  using your masking tape mark off the area you want to paint.  i did about a 2 foot stripe down the middle of mine. but you could be creative here.  maybe placemat size rectangles at each persons place?

4.  paint in your masked off area.  i only used 1 coat, and was good.    let it dry, which here in southern california was fairly quick, but if you are in a cold climate, you might want to find a low  traffic area of the house for this.  the wet paint here was almost stepped on several times, a couple of times by me as i was yelling at the kids to  be careful not to step on said wet paint.  ah, parenting.... it  is humbling is it not??

5.  after it is dried you can start decorating.  i didn't wait for any curing time on the paint as i knew this was going to be a one-time use project.  i the project was done start to finish in about 1 1/2 hours. 
i used colorful chalk, you could go with standard white for a cool look, which is what i originally thought i was going to do...  but i didn't have any white chalk.  magenta (check!),
periwinkle (check!), burnt sienna (check!), chartreuse (check!), white (okay, with color we go... and i loved it. )

6.  so thinking about smudging.  i knew that if i didn't use something the sharp lines would start being blurred lines.  which would be pretty.  like looking through a kaleidoscope when you are crying.  but not the look i was hoping for.  i tried shellac at first, but it just made the chalk disappear.  so after googling it, hairspray it was. workable fixative would work as well.
i used extra on the ends where i was worried people would rub up against the chalk. and i wanted to avoid people's sleeves and shirt fronts from  looking like my 3rd grade teacher's butt  looked like after she was standing against the chalkboard... remember those days?  ha!

7. roll it up until it is ready to use. 

so that is it.  it makes a beautiful tablecloth.  it can be customized to any occasion or festivity.
and at the end of the night, when it is covered with grease stains, wine spills and water marks, you can roll it up and into the recycling bin it goes.   or is it the trash can.  i always am questioning the recycling rules. 

oh, and to carry the theme a bit further, i made place cards using brown cardstock.  i painted a stripe of chalkboard paint on it, stamped the first initial with acrylic paint, and wrote the remainder of the name with a white gel pen.  the finishing touch.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Transplanting a 35 year old tree

I made a little nut tree,
my children four to share.
Each Advent day, from it, 
a hallmark did appear.

There was such excitement,
the guessing, it lit a spark.
All for the sake of, 
Christmas Day to hark.

Yarn tied each walnut tightly.
What could the bauble be?
Tradition spun around the fun,
happy days for me.

Slowly, grand anticipation slipped,
new lives were off and running.
A game as such takes lambs, of course,
just to keep it drumming.

Blink, new babes enter the scene.
Lo and behold,
that nut tree is a time machine!

I happily resuscitated the Advent nut tree (that I originally made some 35 years ago) for daughter #2 and her family to use.  As I did so, I felt a zephyr of Christmas spirit warm my heart.  I love that the excitement of the nightly guessing, as to what is inside each nut, lives on.  (April, do not look at the following pictures.  It would give you an unfair advantage.)

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol