‘Tis the season…for cold remedies. Because we have colds.

*sigh*  I have a cold.  I blame Ezra, as he was the first to succumb, and who can help but kiss and cuddle on sick kiddos?  I got it next and I missed two days of work because of it, including the company holiday party last night.  I was so bummed!  It was a Black and White 20s-style Gala, and it was going to be a fun-filled date night full of buffets, and dancing, and casino games.  Instead of was a night of nose-blowing and taking elderberry tonic every couple hours and feeling grimy from greasy chest rub.  Leo seems to have come down with it as well, but appears fairly mild so far.

I was on my Facebook a couple days ago and one of the “memories” they remind you of was from a blog I had posted exactly one year ago, and it was all about having a cold (that had turned into walking pneumonia).  Apparently this is the time of year I get sick.  Awesome.

Aside from dealing with colds, it’s been a very mild winter so far.  Mom came to town for a couple days in November.  It was great seeing her and always too short a visit.  I’ve been baking pretty frequently.

Coconut-cream-filled chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache:

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Pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting:

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Banana bread with cream cheese layer:

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Butterscotch pudding from scratch:

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We cooked the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner:

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Chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and coconut cream filling:

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I made a chocolate pudding from scratch as well but it was eaten too fast to get any photos.  The butterscotch pudding was VERY good, but extremely sweet.  It called for scotch in the recipe and you could definitely still taste that in the finished product, but it wasn’t enough to get anyone drunk or anything.

We have started Ezra on ice skating lessons.  The first lesson he was excited for it, then didn’t want to do it, and then excited for it again.  When we got to the rink they gave him those really thin-walled skates so it seemed a little difficult to hold his ankles steady.  We eventually were able to swap them out for some thicker skates and I think that helped.  I think he was just a little overwhelmed with the whole thing.  He really liked the ice, liked scooting on it with hands and knees but had NO interest in learning how to stand or move on it.  It would have been very funny if I hadn’t been so embarrassed about it.  Whenever the instructor would hold him up, he would go limp like he had no muscles.  Or he would let his legs slide out from under him like a pendulum.  Eventually the lady was like, “I’m really sorry but he’s killing my back, I cannot keep holding him up,” and I was all “No worries, go help the other kids.”  Near the end of the session he was standing on the ice, and they had brought over this “walker” to stabilize him.  It was kind of like an old person walker, but in miniature.  He was so proud of himself when he was able to get from one side of the lane to the other.  He was supposed to have another class this past Thursday but we received an email that it was cancelled because the rink had been rented out.  Um, ok…I paid good money to reserve that portion of the rink every Thursday for seven weeks, no sure how they can just bump everyone and take more money from another source, but whatever.  So, he hasn’t had a second lesson yet.  He was very verbal in his praise after the first lesson, though, so hopefully he will continue to enjoy them.

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Jesse and I have talked for months, over a year actually, about finding Luca a new home.  I reached out to a rescue group here in Salt Lake that I admired and they sent someone out to the house to do an evaluation.  Well, she brought her dog into the house and our dogs went crazy and Luca rushed her dog and so she said that he had aggression issues and the rescue sent an email saying they wouldn’t take him because he was too high risk.  Really?  So what, you only rescue puppies?  I would hazard to say most dogs are going to be territorial when another dog comes into their domain.  But Luca had calmed down after a few minutes and didn’t go after her dog again so for her to make a big deal out of a little thing seemed weird to me.  I was pretty mad about it, actually.  The rescue suggested I look into the humane society or I get a trainer to come work with him.  That was probably one of the dumbest things they could have responded with; if I wanted to drop him at a kill station, I would have done so and not reached out to a rescue program.  If I could afford to hire a personal trainer to work with him, I wouldn’t be trying to find him a new home.  Idiots.

I then put him up on KSL Classifieds and I received one text about him but no follow-up interest.  I was pretty much resigned to keeping him, and he is a good dog so it wouldn’t have been too big to deal with, but then one of my coworkers suddenly had to have one of their dogs put to sleep and immediately needed a companion dog for their remaining dog.  I told him about Luca and he came over to check him out.  He brought his dog as well and while our dogs rushed his dog, my friend didn’t freak out about it.  We kept a close eye on things and everyone sniffed each other and calmed down.  Luca went home with him that night and as far as I know it’s a match made in heaven.  Fingers crossed it remains that way.  Now we just have Benny and for a day or two he would kind of wander around like he was looking for Luca, but I don’t notice him actively missing him.  And you know what I don’t miss?  The rough play and fighting.  It’s been blissfully quiet on the dog front.

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I came into the kitchen two nights ago and Ezra was obviously up to shenanigans because he looked at me and told me I shouldn’t be in the kitchen.  I told him, I’m just here to get a drink.  After a couple minutes I noticed he had not moved at all from his spot and when I looked at him he had this sad look on his face.  When I asked him what was wrong he ran out of the room and then then came back in and said he didn’t want his drink!  Apparently he had mixed some soda with chocolate milk.  I said ok, just dump it out if you don’t want it, no biggie.  He started to stormily cry and when I asked what was wrong he said, “I thought you wouldn’t love it!  I thought you wouldn’t love it that I mixed my drinks!”  It took me a minute, but he was crying because he thought I was going to get all mad at him that he had mixed his drinks when he  knew he shouldn’t have done that.  It was kind of funny because to me it was more, well, now you don’t have chocolate milk or soda, so whatever.  But he must have had so many feelings going on they just had nowhere to go.  It’s rough being a kid, huh?  I picked him up and cuddled him for a bit and let him know all was well.

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Halloween 2015

Sometimes when I’m driving, I forget which pedals belong to which function in the car.  I’ll be driving and have to slow down because I’m coming to a light and I completely blank on which is the clutch and which is the brake.  So far I’ve been correct and haven’t got in any accidents, but it’s kind of weird, right?  There is this moment of panic where I think, “Crap!  I don’t know how to drive a stick!  Why didn’t I buy an automatic?!”  Believe me, that’s a question I have long asked myself.  My next vehicle will be an automatic.  I think it’s important I know how to drive stick, and I want Ezra and Leo to know how to drive manual (though who knows, maybe by the time they are of driving age the cars will be fully automated…but then again, I would never buy a fully automated car, too much could go wrong), for now I would like an automatic.

Ezra is turning into quite the jokester lately.  At least, he’s trying.  He’ll say, “We’re going to see cousins, get it?!  GET IT?!” or “There’s a car over there, get it?!”  Hasn’t quite mastered the punch line.  Or formed a fully-fleshed joke.

Jesse made some elk jerky last week and it was AMAZING!

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He used Cabela’s pepper jerky kit and it was a great flavor of spicy and salty.  We went back to get more kits a few days ago and couldn’t find any that were just the pepper flavor, but there was a variety pack that had pepper, original, and teriyaki. Last night I cut down a huge roast to brine overnight and Jesse is smoking it today in our smoker.  I carved the slices differently than Jesse did the first time; these pieces are flatter/wider.  Who knows how it will turn out, it’s all a testing process right now.  I decided to use the Original flavor which I think will be very similar to the Pepper, minus the spice.

I also brined some chicken thighs overnight and Jesse will be smoking those tonight for dinner.  Mmm mmm!

I’ve been trying to bake more lately.  I’ve been watching The Great Britain Baking Show and I’m like, I can do that!  Or at least it’s been motivating me to try my hand at things.  I first attempted cinnamon rolls.

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While Ezra gave them his seal of approval, I was not sold.  They were very dense and hard.  I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t let the dough hook run long enough, or I didn’t let it rise enough the first time, or what the deal was.  I’m still trying to find a line between not enough kneading and too much kneading.

Then I heard about monkey bread and decided to try that the next day.  Some people stuff the dough balls with cream cheese (or cream cheese and a couple chocolate chips) but I just went straight dough.  They were great!  I let the machine knead it for longer, I did a little hand kneading as well, and I let the dough proof for longer.  I had to use two loaf pans because I don’t have a bundt pan, but I don’t think that was a detractor.  Next time I will make a syrup out of the butter/brown sugar mix that gets poured over the top because it was very grainy the way I did it, but other than that I don’t think I would change a thing.

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I taught mom how to do a Skype video chat.  She was pretty excited about it, got to see Ezra and the baby, it was almost like being here!  We are excited for her to visit around the middle of the month.

My company does a Halloween day every year, so Velvet brought Ezra and her girls and came to visit.  I had to work that day but was able to spend an hour roaming the floor with them.

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The next day was Halloween.  Ezra got to do some trick-or-treating with the Whitaker side of the family and then after I got off work I picked him up and took him over to Velvet’s where we did trick-or-treating with her girls.

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I think Ezra was pretty happy with his candy haul this year.

Now that Halloween is over, I’m going to see if I can get some straw bales at a cheap price.  Theoretically because a lot of folks by straw bales for decorating and then no longer need them, we should be able to get them at a fraction of the cost.  That’s the theory, anyway.  And I am pricing out the cost to get someone to grade/level our backyard.  Once it has been graded, we plan to put an EXTREMELY thick layer of straw in the backyard and let it compost over the winter.  In the spring we’ll rake it off of where we want to lay grass, and then maybe do some straw bale gardening on the garden side of the yard.  But first things first, we need to get the yard graded.

 

Happenings around the house

It has been a busy couple days!  Jesse got an elk tag this year (spike elk) and has been up to Strawberry Reservoir multiple times hoping to fill his tag but didn’t get anything in that location.  He left for La Sal mountain range on Tuesday because he wanted to try his hand up there and his brother and family would be going up at the end of the week to try and fill their deer tags.  Well, Jesse filled his tag on Tuesday night!

Jesse's first elk!

Jesse’s first elk!

He drove back home on Wednesday and he had already field dressed and quartered the elk so I started processing.  Holy moly, that was a lot of animal!  Ezra met Jesse at the top the stairs and greeted him with, “We’re so excited you got an elk, daddy!”  It was adorable, especially because I didn’t tell him to say that.

elk ready for processing

elk ready for processing

Our knives weren’t very sharp so it took me awhile to get through the processing.  I was able to finish the backstrap and some organs before Velvet and kids came over for dinner that night (we had Chinese food night!) and then after they left I started again and finished the organs then got through the tenderloins and one hind leg before admitting defeat and going to bed around midnight.

loin steaks

loin steaks

huge hind leg

huge hind leg, probably about 50+ lbs

We found a knife sharpener and the processing went much more smoothly the next morning.  When we sharpened the knife edges during processing, I noticed that one of our Cuisinart knifes has a crack in it!  It’s near the base but I was a little miffed because Cuisinart is supposed to be a decent brand I thought and we’ve only had the knives for a couple years.  Maybe if I contact them they will send me a new one.  But I’d probably need the original receipts…hmm.

I think I finally finished up processing around 1:30pm and Jesse ended up leaving for camp again a little bit later that day.  (I say *I* did the processing but Jesse helped me bag it up, thanks honey!)  Our deep freezer is stuffed full of elk now.  We probably have a few hundred pounds total of steaks, hams, ground, stew meat, organs, and dog food (scraps and overly tendon-y pieces).  If Dustin and his son are able to fill their two tags, we won’t have the room to store it all, but Velvet said we can use her freezer and there are a couple other family freezers we can store with as well.  As much as I’m not looking forward to processing more animals (because it’s somewhat trying), it’s totally worth it to spend three days processing if it means a year’s worth of meat.

stuffed freezer

stuffed freezer

I was all kinds of irritated last night because I had cleaned everything up earlier in the day only to find a large bag of meat meant to be ground still in the fridge from the night before.  I had to get out the grinder again and put it together and grind the meat (we got another six stuffed quart bags) and then I had to disassemble and clean everything again.  I may still have some grinder pieces soaking in the sink.

With ground elk, I know most people grind it with the addition of some kind of fat (either pork or beef) because elk is so lean and if you try to make burgers with it it will just fall apart.  However, we like the beef patties we get from Costco and really just wanted ground to use in things like burritos, taco soup, stroganoff,  that kind of thing, so I didn’t add anything to it when I ground it up.

We really try to utilize the whole animal when we kill anything.  We kept the spike antlers to give to the dogs as chew toys.  We usually buy antlers from Best Bully Sticks and they like them well enough but these two antlers are super fresh and I have a feeling they will go crazy about them.  We kicked around the idea of keeping and tanning the hide as well but we don’t know enough about that process to really do anything worthwhile with it.  Maybe we can learn more this year to be better prepared for it next year.

On Tuesday while Jesse was gone, I decided to swap our bedroom with Ezra’s room.  I thought it was a smidge larger than our bedroom and also my closet was in that room and Jesse hardly ever uses his closet that was in our (old) bedroom.

I was able to get a lot of stuff cleared out of the bedrooms, but then I needed Velvet’s help to dismantle the bunk bed and move our heavy bed base to the new room.  I was right that the room is a bit larger, we definitely have more room for Leo’s portable crib and when we put together the big crib (which we need to do in a couple days because he’s way cramped as it is) that extra room will come in handy.  Not sure what we’ll do when Leo is old enough to stay in his crib and share a room with Ezra, there’s not a lot of leftover space in that room.  I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In any event, the majority of our stuff has been swapped around but there are still little odds and ends that need to be moved around and some shelves need to be put up still.  The first night in the new room Ezra kept getting up and he told me that he heard a scary sound in the bedroom, and he did the sound for me.  I tell you, it sounded like something straight out of a horror movie.  Ker-ker-ker-ker-cha-cha-cha-cha.  Koo-waa!  Freaked me out and I was home alone with the boys so I just said, it’s nothing, just a new room, takes some time to get used to.  But man, it took me awhile to fall asleep that night.

Ezra has been wanting me to make cakes so I tried my hand at a coffee cake and while it was pretty good, I think next time I want something with more spices and also maybe swirled batter.  Maybe what I really want are cinnamon rolls.  Yeah, that sounds good.  I used this recipe and the only difference was I subbed macadamia nuts because that’s what I hand on hand.

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I sent the remaining pieces of cake with Jesse for him to share with his hunting crew, and then last night I made apple crisp using this recipe.  Velvet got me an apple peeler/corer quite a while ago for a birthday or Christmas or something and I finally tried it out for the first time.  I had to fiddle with some settings but was able to make it work pretty well.  MUCH faster than peeling and coring by hand, that is for sure.

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I like the recipe well enough and while all the reviews said there was a good amount of crumble topping to apples, I did not find that to be true.  It’s still pretty tasty but I want larger crumble pieces that are a crunchy-sweet contrast to the tart apples.  Looking back at the pictures maybe I hadn’t cut in the butter well enough because it was still pretty powdery.  Oh well, I’ll remain on the hunt for the perfect crisp recipe a while longer I guess.

Ezra has been very accommodating in the compliments sector lately.  Yesterday, Ezra gave me props for watching a scene of his cartoon, “Good job seeing it, mom!”  I aim to please, folks.

 

kissable cheekies

kissable cheekies

Leo is rolling over now.  And then he gets all frustrated because he doesn’t want to be on his belly.  *sigh*  He is growing up so quickly!