Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday gifts and treats

I love to give homemade gifts and treats this time of year and now that I am no longer eating wheat, I find myself making even more treats and bringing them with me to parties so I can indulge a little too. One of my favorite treats is peppermint bark. I found a great recipe for layered bark at epicurious.com and have been making it for the last couple of years.

It has the traditional white chocolate and peppermint candies, but then in the middle is this decadent layer of dark chocolate peppermint truffle. It truly makes the candy spectacular.

This year, after making the peppermint bark twice, I decided to mix things up a little with the third batch and make a fruit and nut bar to go along with it.

WARNING! Extremely rich and delicious.

20 oz good quality white chocolate or white chocolate chips
10 oz good quality dark, bittersweet, or semisweet chocolate
5 Tbs half and half
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup (or to taste) toasted pecans, or the nuts of your choice, roughly chopped
1 cup (or to taste) dried fruit, apricots, craisins, blueberries, peaches, etc

prepare a cookie sheet by covering it with foil.
melt 10oz of the white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Be careful, the white chocolate can seize easily if it comes into contact with moisture.

Spread the melted chocolate in an even layer on the cookie sheet. Don't expect for it to fill the entire sheet. Sprinkle the white chocolate with half of the nuts and fruit, pressing down lightly to adhere. Place the sheet in the fridge for at least 15 mins.

Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate with the half and half, stirring to combine. Once melted and mixed together, remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Allow to cool for 5 mins.

Remove the white chocolate from the fridge and distribute the chocolate mixture over the top. I usually put big dollops all over it and then use and offset spatula to spread it evenly. Put back in the fridge for 25 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, melt the last of the white chocolate, allow to cool slightly and then apply to the bark in the same manner described above. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and fruit, press to adhere, and put back in the fridge for another 20 minutes or so.

Remove from the fridge and cut into small wedges using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife. If it has sat in the fridge for longer than 20 minutes, return to room temp before attempting to cut into it. Put the wedges into a bag or tin and store in the fridge, or on the porch (if you love up north)

Enjoy!! (and if you get it as a gift from me, pretend you have no idea how easy it is to make!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We have windows!!

Yes, about 70% of our windows have been installed and in preparation for heading north for the holidays I have changed my title picture to one taken last year at home. It is the view of my parent's back yard looking down on the Fox river.

A good time was had by all!

Yes, yet again this year our friends MB and D felt us worthy enough to be invited to their Christmas extravaganza. You know the party is going to be good when MB takes two days off to cook for it.

While, her turkey was phenomenal, the friends truly made the party. As illustrated by, this video where W attempts to take mine and Stella's picture with my phone. How we winded up with a video, I'm not sure. but, I am glad that no phones were harmed in the process.

Thanks again to MB and D!

BTW... the video was taken vertical, unfortunately I can't figure out how to rotate the video, so just enjoy the increased ambiance.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wrapping underway!!

Yes, this means that framing is officially done!! Check out my flickr for more pics. And A's page for the M &W working hard on sealing up the place.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Crazy busy

Tons of things to blog about, but too busy to do it.
So, when I have a chance I'll put new pics of the house up, it is getting wrapped this week!
I'll write about our fabulous Thanksgiving. (Thanks again to our South GA friends, who really are family, by choice!)
And coming home, where it is freezing cold. Yup, I think it was 1 deg F when I got up this morning, with a windchill of -13. Ahh... a lovely WI winter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

House update

Forgot to tell you, I took about a million pictures of the house today. Check out my flickr site for all the action. We are almost done framing!!

Pumpkin Spice Cake

M and I met with some friends this evening for a potluck dinner AKA covered dish dinner. Per usual, I had decided to bring a dessert.

I spent the last few days discussing with M what I should make for dessert. This consists mainly of me asking M "what should I make?", he giving me a suggestion, me agreeing with it, and then a few hours later determining that his suggestion won't work. Thus, I end up mulling over ideas until something hits me.

You would think that M would figure my pattern out and start suggesting things he doesn't like.
Unfortunately for him, he hasn't but, every once in a while I do end up making one of his suggestions.

This morning during our normal Sunday breakfast at Ria's, I finally got an idea. Ria had two awesome specials this morning, an omelet with mushrooms and gouda, too die for, and pumpkin pancakes with crystallized ginger whip cream.

Totally ripping that idea off, I present you with:

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Crystallized Ginger

Prep a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set oven to 350 deg F

Sift together: or dump in a bowl and stir around with a whisk for a while
2 1/2 C flour
I used a modified "nearly normal flour" with an additional 1/4 tsp xanthan gum, any gluten free flour with xanthan gum should work. For you wheat eaters out there, use all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

In a stand mixer, cream together until nice and fluffy:
1/2 C butter
2 C sugar

Add and beat thoroughly:
1 large egg
1 1/2 C pumpkin puree canned or homemade

Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture alternating with 1/3 C water

Fold in:
1/2 C finely chopped crystallized ginger

Bake at 350 deg F for 45 - 50 minutes

Cool and frost with your favorite frosting, cream cheese or buttercream would work well

Easy Vanilla Buttercream from Cook's Illustrated, March & April 2005

cream together:
10 tbs Butter softened
1 1/4 C powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs cream I use half and half

beat slowly until combined, then beat on high speed until double in volume

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cookie Day!!

We all have our holiday traditions where we prepare for the holiday with our friends and families. In my family, we gather for "cookie day" a day where we make cookies for our holiday giving and eating. My mum often invites a friend or two and we share recipes and spend the day baking, eating, and sharing stories. This has been a tradition as long as I can remember.

This year I thought it would be fun to share our holiday preparations. So here is the plan:
  1. Host or go to a holiday preparation event.
  2. Blog about it, add some recipes, if you are willing to share, then send me a link to your blog with a picture and a short description for me to post here.
  3. or, if you don't have a blog, email me with a description of your event that you wouldn't mind having posted, some pictures, and recipes.
  4. Throughout the month of December I will post these events on my blog.
Oh... you probably want my email: frannylue@hotmail.com

I will be accepting posts and emails through December 31st.

Happy Holidays!!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A few shots during the day

So you can actually see something.

The view from down the street, remember there will be one more story on the back half of the house.

The front of the house, think solid walls (with big windows) and that is pretty much what you will see from the front.

M on the third floor balcony, searching for the skyline view...looks like we may have to go up to the roof for that.

For more pics head to flickr.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Moving on up

This is pretty much full height in the front of the house, one more story plus roof access to go on the back. I guess we will be in the trees! (Don't worry no trees have been harmed in the making of this house, they have however been pruned a bit!)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Moving above ground

First floor walls went up today!

Hope you all took time to vote today. M and I were in line for about an hour and a half. We then rewarded ourselves for doing our civic duty by checking out the house and getting breakfast at Ria's before heading to work.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Not only do we have walls, we have a ceiling!

Or a floor depending on how you look at it. Either way framing has finally begun!

Check out all the action here.

Now, I'm off to do some knocking on doors for Obama. Remember to get out and vote on Tuesday!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I hate laundry!!!

Or maybe it is laundromats either way, I'm not a fan.

M thinks that the laundromat philosophy is great! You can leave the laundry until you have absolutely nothing left to wear and then wash it all in 2 hours and spend the next three days folding it! Then you are done for the next month or so, depending on the amount of underwear you have.

I on the other hand, would prefer to have my own washer and dryer. That I could use whenever the mood or need arose. I could do a load here a load there and then sit down and fold it in a matter of minutes. And, if I didn't have time to throw it into the dryer I could wait an hour or two, maybe more, without having to worry about someone stealing my cloths, pulling them out and setting them somewhere. It is all in my control.

So, here at the Bass M has won this battle and we use the laundry in the basement. We honestly do not have room for a washer and dryer in our 600 sqft, and boy do I miss them. M and I have worked out a system here at the Bass, he washes and dries and I fold and try not to bitch too much about how he mixed up the colors, washed at the wrong temperature, etc. And for the most part it works for us. But sometimes the system breaks down.

See, I have this other small problem. Keys don't work for me. Yes, I know, you insert it in the correct lock and turn it and the door magically opens. Not for me, they don't turn in the lock, or I loose them. Although I secretly think they run away and hide on me. Every single door in the Bass is keyed. There are a couple hundred people living here, using their keys day after day and the locks have become super-screwy. I can open my apartment door, a few of the outside doors, but that is it. If I don't walk up to one of the doors that I have figured out how to finagle. I'm stuck. Luckily for me, the laundry room is never locked. Not so with the business center.

Yes, all of that background does lead up to a story.

This morning I get woken up twice by text messages from M. My phone chirps and the cats start running then it takes me forever to get them settled back down so I can go to sleep. The first text was at 5:40 AM. No sleeping in for Zilla. I end up talking to M about 8, his plane to the ATL is delayed and he won't be in until closer to 11:30. Drat! I thought I had gotten out of doing the laundry. "We" decide that I should get it started so that it would be done and I would have clean clothes in San Antonio next week. So, I ask M how much is on the laundry card, he says $10 or $11. So, as long as I didn't do too much I wouldn't have to try to open the business center door.

I gather up about four loads of essentials. Packed them in a couple of duffles after trashing my laundry cart. Another saga in the life of Zilla and M. And went down to the basement in my pjs at about 9AM. Got down there checked the card $6.25, great. I have 4 loads at $1.25 to wash and $1.00 to dry, I'm at $9. I'm going to have to do battle with the business center door in order to refill the card. Happy Sunday Zilla!!

Well, nothing I can do about it. I did say I had 4 loads of essentials. I piled them in the washers got it started and prepared to do battle. I ran upstairs, grabbed my spare keys, maybe they would work better, and some cash. I rode the elevator back down and started fussing with the lock, switched keys, fussed some more. Pulled the door tightly closed, pushed it as open as possible, jiggled the handle. Tried it all again. Maybe I could jimmy it with the laundry card, nope wrong kind of door. After 10 minutes I had no luck. What is a girl to do? Maybe I could stalk the lobby and see if anyone was up to help me. I ran upstairs and looked around. All the doors were dark, after all it was now 9:15 or so on a Sunday morning. If you are not in church or climbing, you should damn well be sleeping and not madly trying to do laundry. I looked at the bookshelves in the lobby, found a couple of good ones, while not a soul stirred. Now, remember I'm still in my pjs, in this case sweatpants and the '08 boatrock comp shirt, looking very attractive, let me tell you! After finding the books, I decided I really didn't want to see anyone anyway. I ran downstairs tried the lock one more time, nope, nada, nothing. And you thought this story would have a happy ending!

When the 4 loads were done, I crammed as many of the essentials into the one dryer I could afford. and brought the remaining clothes upstairs. I currently have 7 pairs of pants hanging in the shower, a rather large load in the dryer, which hopefully will be mostly dry, and a bruised thumb from trying to get into the business center. Better luck next time!

Actually, I think M may be doing the laundry for awhile and I may have to find a course on how to open doors with keys. Do you think that is offered somewhere?

Friday, October 24, 2008

"you're not a digging girl"

Yes, my husband knows me well.

This past week "we" began our first home improvement project. AKA: "We can save some money and get better quality waterproofing if "we" do it ourselves." Yes, the ubiquitous "we", luckily for me, M knows that "we" really means "he". Not that I am not willing to help, but I have a tendency to make him nervous with power tools. Little does he know how dangerous a kitchen aid mixer can be! But still some how I ended up with a Remington nail gun in my hands...

So, this past weekend M decided that "we" were going to waterproof the basement. There were only a few issues:
1. the supply store isn't open on the weekends, it's not like you can walk into Lowes and get this stuff

2. we both work during the week and the times we could get out of work were not the same

3. M was going up to North Dakota to shoot little innocent flying creatures on Wednesday. Not that I am opposed to him shooting creatures, they are good eatin', but it severely limited the amount of time "we" had to get this project done.

So, with all that in mind M was convinced that "we" could start it on Monday night and he could finish on Tuesday morning while I was at work. He then could be in to work by noon and we both could catch up with respective friends that evening. He would pack for the trip when he got home and we would crash so I could take him to the airport in time for his 6 AM flight on Wednesday. Not a problem, right?


To start it off, things got started late on Monday. I always have a late day on Monday, but arrange to take my 5PM conference call at home, so I could be over to the site soon after 6. M called me as I was scrambling to finish up at work, Damn those addictive spreadsheets!* He was stuck on 285 trying to get to the supply store.

* yes I truly think spreadsheets can be addictive, I guess that comes with being an uber-dork.

M and I met up about 6:30 and he had gotten the goop and the sheeting to go over the goop, but they didn't have any rollers. So he wanted to head to Lowes to get rollers and a shovel while I was going to head to the grocery store and then meet him there. Oh, and he was still planning to go to the climbing gym that night. We also had the offer to go out to dinner with friends. And it was getting dark.

It was then that I suggested that we could shovel off the foundations together and speed some of this up. But luckily, M sometimes has more sense than me. He looked at me and said, "you're staving" and "you're not a digging girl" Right there ladies, is why I married the man. Yes, he knew that by the time we got back from Lowes with the supplies I would be one whiney, hungry, girl and would work through my hunger, but he would pay for it later.

So, we ended up dropping the goop and supplies off at A&Ws and I went off to dinner with A&W and friends, it is wise to keep me well fed. While, M ran to Lowes and then to the gym for team decrepitude training.

In the morning M got up and "we" got working. By that I mean, I slept a half hour later, got myself to the mothership and sat through about 4 hours worth of meetings. M, on the other hand, began spreading goop on the walls. Luckily, I had outfitted him with some top of the line gloves and glasses from the said mothership.

I talked to M at noon, and he said that it was going slower than he thought, but he was starting to get the hang of it. He figured that he still might get to work later in the afternoon. About 2PM he left me a message, he wasn't going to make it in. I called him back and then waited for him to call me back. The goop was so sticky that he couldn't get the gloves off in time to answer the phone. Yup, the "we" project had officially turned into a WE project, he had determined that he would need my help to get it all done. That is how I ended up with a Remington nail gun in my hand.

I got to the site about 5:30 and M's coworker was there helping him out. It was determined that the coworker and I would begin putting the protective fabric over the goop while M continued to paint it on. We secured the fabric to the walls using the gun. After another trip to Lowes, we finished in the dark and had dinner at ElMyr* at about 9 at night.

*No one blinked when we walked in covered with goop. Yet, another reason to love L5P, no matter what you are wearing, or covered in, someone at the next table is most likely more outrageous than you.

M, after it was all done. His clothes are clean only because he changed before he left the site. He didn't want to ruin his truck. Some day the black goop will be off his arms.

So many, many kudos to M's coworker, we know there were better things he could be doing with his time. Thanks to everyone else who helped especially A&W for allowing us to borrow your garage, so someone wouldn't walk off with a $1000 worth of goop. What would someone do with that stuff anyway??

And please admire "our" handiwork. As soon as they fill, it will only be a fine memory, and hopefully a dry basement!

Beautiful, isn't it.

Oh, and you can check out the rest of the progress here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We have Walls!!

Or at least a basement! That in itself is pretty spectacular for Georgia. Yes, that is M checking out the work from above. He was really pleased with how the guys did the form work. All the rebar was centered and construction stuff like that. AKA if M's happy Zilla's happy!

Now, for all you out there that have not been able to make their way over to the site, I have set up some online tours. So click here Mum! That should take you right to the slide show. There is also what the action looks like from the street and general goings-on.

All-in-all it has been a couple of pretty exciting weeks in the our little world. They start framing next week, M is thinking that will take about three weeks to complete.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Bud!!


I had a great time visiting Bud this past weekend and celebrating his birthday. It was a weekend of sports, fun, and just a few drinks in Salt Lake City. I arrived on Friday night and had dinner with Bud and our Cousin MW. We had a great time chatting and I got to experience my first 3.2 beer, not terrible, not great, just kinda sweet tasting. Bud and I also spent part of Friday watching the curling epic "Men With Brooms". He and I are already planning for a repeat performance at the Stevens Point Mixed next year. (yes, not only did Bud get my fabulous presence as a birthday present I got him a DVD of Men with Brooms)

The next morning we got up an walked in the rain to The Park Cafe. The breakfast was stellar with the potatoes getting my ultimate compliment. Yes, I did not use ketchup, they were that good. We then went to the Tracy Aviary and had a ball. Daddy, they even had a crow!

My favorite bird was the kookaburra, although it brought up one of the many camp songs from childhood:

Kookaburra sits in an old gum tree
Merry merry king of the bush is he
Laugh kookaburra
Laugh kookaburra,
Gay your life must be

After a few minutes Bud made me stop singing it, but it continued to play in my head all day long.

That night, after watching the Brewers win, we headed out to the Tavernacle. I'm not quite sure what Salt Lake City thought of our Wisconsin-style celebration. But, I am sure the dueling pianists have had that much fun in a while. Let's just say, no one got hurt and we made some new friends.

Here we are at the end of the night, a friend of Bud's, MW, me, Bud and some random guy who popped into the picture.

On Sunday, Bud's actual birthday, after watching the Brewers and the Packers lose, we headed up to catch the tail end of Octoberfest at Snowbird. The mountains were gorgeous, topped with their first snowfall and Bud and I took in a little polka!

While I was away, M was keeping track of the house progress. We now have forms up for the basement/garage and things look like they are coming along.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A tour

consider me, spinning, in what will soon be our basement/garage...
This is what you would see (moving clockwise):

too bad that I'm not any good at photoshop. Maybe someday I'll figure out how to do a panoramic

Here is the house report:
Footings are scheduled to be poured tomorrow provided they get inspected first.
So far, only a few items of concern:
1. the hole is pretty close to the post oak
2. the footings for the retaining wall appear to be coming up too high for the pervious pavers

I'm sure M will take care of things in the morning.

We are off to a wedding this weekend, then I head to San Antonio, Michigan, and finally to Salt Lake City to see Bud. It is going to be a crazy week!

I have asked M to keep up with the pictures. We will have to see how he does.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Moving Dirt!

It has begun!

Anybody, need some dirt? A&W are taking some, but we have plenty to go around.

So, A visited the site yesterday and caught our neighbor Mr J (I have a feeling that this is the first of many Mr J stories) guiltily wheeling his wheelbarrow across the street and taking dirt. She said "take all you want, they want you to take it" so he did, but was still feeling guilty. When M and I arrive on site for our first Friday Night Happy Hour, he quickly came out of his house and told us what he did. Then asked if he could take some more. We happily said yes.

But, even with A&W and Mr J and his wheelbarrow. We have plenty of dirt to remove from the site. Anybody want some?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Voting - it is a hard fought right

I received this from a colleague at work earlier this week and thought I would post it here. So often we forget about the struggles of those who came before us. Whether you are a democrat, a republican, or an independent. Please exercise your right this November.

"This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-grandmothers; they lived only 90 years ago.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.

The women were innocent and defenseless, but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote.

And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.'

(Lucy Burns)

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

(Dora Lewis)

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the 'Night of Terror' on Nov. 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.

For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food--all of it colorless slop--was infested with worms.

(Alice Paul)

When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.


So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because--why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?

Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie 'Iron Jawed Angels.' It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.

All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.

My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry. She was--with herself. 'One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,' she said. 'What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.' The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her 'all over again.'

HBO released the movie on video and DVD . I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be, and I think a little shock therapy is in order.

It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: 'Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.'

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all you know.

We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote democratic, republican or independent party - remember to vote.

History is being made."

A beautiful site

Follow the progress here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Permitting?? could it be that easy?

Yes, after 9 weeks, to the day, we have a permit.

So I asked M, how did it go?
he said it was pretty uneventful.
No parade, no confetti, no balloons from the ceiling. Nothing.

I guess surviving the Atlanta permitting process should be enough.

We meet with the builder on Sunday, hopefully we will be digging a hole next week.

Pictures to follow.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

House update

It looks like we might actually get a permit this week. I'm not promising anything but, maybe this time next week I'll have a picture of a big hole in the ground. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

DragonCon 2008

Now, I think we all know that I'm not much for video games, scifi (unless it is a good book), gaming, etc.

But forgoing all that, Atlanta is the home to DragonCon. A huge conference / party celebrating all things "dorky" (according to M).

DragonCon takes over Atlanta's downtown you can walk down the street and pass a Jedi knight talking to a Klingon, faeries dancing with pirates, and so on. While most of the festivities take place inside the many Atlanta hotels, on Saturday morning they shut down Peachtree and have a parade.

This year I decide to surprise M and take him downtown to enjoy the parade and all of it's glorious dorkiness.

We were not disappointed...

For all of the pictures check out my flickr page
...yes this is just a taste of the glorious dorkiness.