Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Home Again, Home Again! (and random photos inserted at random. Hence the "random")

Guess what? We're home again! We wrapped up Atlanta on the 20th, hopped in the car, headed for home, got home, rested for 2 days, hopped in the car, headed to Alabama to see Charlie's sister, got up the next day, hopped in the car again (sensing a pattern here?) and headed back home again.

Where we thankfully will remain for the next month. Hopefully.

(Door in Woodstock, Georgia)

A very quiet holiday was had....just Charlie, Ginny (Charlie's mom) and big To Do, no cooking all day, just the three of us and what was in the fridge. That, combined with the fact that we didn't set foot in even one store, well...I could go for this kind of holiday every year! We did all of our shopping online, and even better? We succeeded at a 100% hand-made holiday! It really felt good, to know that not only were the gifts made by someone (not in a factory) but that the $ching$ was going to an individual, not some corporation/big box store. I don't know if we'll manage to do the same every year, with the same amount of success, but I think it's something we'll try for.

(Mockingbird, Alpharetta Georgia)

New Years looks to be fairly busy...we're going to have a VERY full house, with 8 of our friends coming in from Atlanta for the weekend. Looking forward to playing host, but also a wee bit stressed, just because of space. Okay, "stressed" may not be the right word for it...just trying to figure out where we're going to put everyone!

(More random shoes)

Once the crowd clears out we get to start on the real fun...doing the ceiling in the downstairs. Woot. It'll be nice to get started on it....but it'll be even nicer when it's finished, as it means we'll have to move everything from the "tall part" of the living room somewhere else...and then there's the "tall" part of "tall part." The ceiling in there is 18ft on one side, 14ft on the other...which means setting up the scaffolding. Inside. I'm ready to not be living in a construction zone!

(Ooooh, I have to sit really still so he doesn't see me....but I want to take a bite....ohhhh....damnit)

I'm hoping to manage to get some Art Time squeezed in there, somewhere, before we head to Phoenix in a month. I was enjoying getting back into painting before Atlanta, and despite having brought my supplies with me down there, I never picked up my brushes the whole time. I should've brought my watercolors, probably, but oh well.

Hope everyone had a wonderful to see what y'all have been up to!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Good Kid (movie), Bad Kid (movie)

Sooo, over the past holiday...that one centering around over-eating and family dysfunction (if you listen to the radio/TV/whatever...our Tdays have always been pleasant as far as I can recall)...Charlie and I went home from Atlanta for an extended weekend with the intent of not doing anything. For the most part, we were pretty successful. We did end up cooking a smaller Tday meal, since the fridge was barren and we needed food for the next 4 days, and our friend John ended up coming over. But that was the extent of it....kind of nice to not be making the 10-hour-drive up to Missouri for once! Though I did kind of miss sleeping in the farmhouse from the early 1800's that we usually occupy while there. We sleep in this big old sleigh style bed on the 3rd floor with lots of quilts...the balcony looks out over cow pastures, and is quite bucolic, shall we say.

Anyhooo, no sleigh beds and cows for us this year. This year it was all about chopping firewood in preparation for our actual return home in a few weeks, just in time for the rest of the holidaze, and probably some cold temperatures. (apparently we had snow there this morning) Not the most exciting, but hey, now we'll have warmth when we get back!

Wood chopping....and movie watching.

First up was Super 8, which I loved. It was like all those 80's "kids meet an alien" movies (if you're of a certain generation, you know exactly what I'm talking about) but on steroids. Suddenly, I was 10-years-old again, watching those movies and wanting THAT to happen to me! (if you've seen it, I was the kid who liked to blow things up. It's not my fault my father showed me how to use dynamite at an early age...welcome to life in rural Texas!)

Watch it. It's not deep. It plays out completely as you expect it to...but that's okay, because that's exactly what it needed to do. Considering the fact child actors tend to raise my hackles, and not one of the ones featured here did so should be an indication on my feelings about this film. Actually, I found the young woman to be quite charming. I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Conan the Barbarian. Ouch. Wow. Okay, let's just get one thing out there in the open: If you're watching ANY Conan movie, you're not looking for depth-of-character or anything beyond the most remedial/base of plots.

It needs only four things:

1) Guys in loincloths.
2) Sword-fights.
3) A monster or two.
4) A sexy woman, heroine or villianess. Preferably it's Grace Jones, though.

Got it? Good.

This new "improved" version had all those things...and it was horrible. There was none of the cheesy charm of it's predecessors. None of the goofy humor....though intensely painful attempts *were* made at humor, they failed miserably. The timing was completely off. The acting, if one can call it that, was horrible. The "style" of the filming itself was atrocious. The fight scenes were boring and overly graphic. The REAL Conan never tortured anyone...he ran around swinging his sword and hooting and hollering. This one was just mean. Boo.

We made it about 30 minutes into it...continuously saying "it'll get better"...but it never did. Eventually we just turned it off and ate more pecan pie.

***And for the record, I had my very first successful attempt at making pecan pie this year! I've tried numerous times, and it's never turned out just right. This year, it did. And I have no idea what I did differently than in times past.

Here's the recipe I used, via Epicurious. Only changes made were I used pre-made crusts (I only decided to make it about two hours before we were supposd to eat), I upped the amount of vanilla, and I pulverized 1/2 of the pecans instead of using halves.

3/4 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups pecan halves (1/2 pound)

Preheat oven to 350°F with a baking sheet on middle rack.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under and lightly press against rim of pie plate, then crimp decoratively. Lightly prick bottom all over with a fork. Chill until firm, at least 30 minutes (or freeze 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in corn syrup, vanilla, zest, and salt. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl, then whisk in corn syrup mixture.

Put pecans in pie shell and pour corn syrup mixture evenly over them. Bake on hot baking sheet until filling is set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely.