the hyphens that define my life

Prancin’ in my Pants November 25, 2013

Filed under: Gardening — multihyphenatedme @ 7:34 pm

Prancing is not a Christmas word.

Prancin’ is what I do when, after 23 days of detoxing, dieting and exercising, I am able to button jeans that are a size smaller than when I started.  Yes, I dropped a size.  In late October, these jeans had a good inch and a half to two inches of belly between the button and the buttonhole.   I don’t think I’ve worn these jeans in over two years.  I hesitated to even try them on this morning as there is nothing worse than clothes still not fitting after working so hard.   Instead, I buttoned those babies up, without lying down mind you and without lycra stretch, these are true blue jeans, and let out a whoop.

I woke the boys up for school this morning singing this song:

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’ in my pants.

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’

I’m prancin’ in my pants.

My children have little appreciation for me or my efforts but I was (and still am) ecstatic.  It’s quite a catchy tune that I’ve been singing to myself all day.  Truthfully, the jeans are buttoned, but the jeans are snug.  I can breathe, walk, squat and bend, they’re just snug.   I’ve worn them all day as a reminder to not lose focus.

Prancing is not a Christmas word, nor is it a Thanksgiving word.  I won’t be prancing in these pants on Thanksgiving because I’m allowing myself four days to enjoy my family and good food.  Though I don’t plan to overindulge, I do plan to indulge (did you see my menu?).  I will stick to my exercise program and include a pre-Thanksgiving dinner hike.  I’m not worrying about whether or not I will be able to wedge into these pants on Monday but I will be back on my dietary regiment and exercise track.

My success thus far has been a combination of diet changes and adding more exercise.  The first two weeks was Reboot Your Life, omitting wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, caffeine and alcohol.  Lots of fruits and vegetables, some salt and some olive oil.  These last two weeks, I allowed 2 eggs a week, yogurt with probiotics, and 1% milk. My caloric intake has been between 700-1000 calories.  I’m not perfect, nor was my diet (I have cookie grubbing kids in my house that lead me astray) but most days I was on track.  My exercise program involves walking 5 days a week 30-60 minutes, with weights and calisthenics on two of the walking days, leaving two days a week for recovery days with no exercise.

Before anyone comments on how low caloric diets are unhealthy, let’s be real, being overweight is unhealthy and that trumps all discussion.  Further, I feel good and that is all that matters.  Ok, the first few days I didn’t feel so good, but once my body acclimated, I have felt great.

I’m not fretting about numbers, the scale doesn’t matter.  Fitting into my clothes is what matters.  Hearing I have to lose 30 pounds sounds far more forever long impossible than I need to drop a size or two or three.

I still have a long road ahead and holiday festivities will be a challenge.  Right now I’m focusing on today.

Today, I’m prancin’, I’m prancin’, I’m prancin’ in my pants.


Thankweenmas November 24, 2013

Filed under: Life — multihyphenatedme @ 9:26 pm
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One of the most genius party theme’s I have ever experienced was the Thankweenmas party my then 20-something friends (they are not at least 30, while, I’m, well, 45), were kind enough to invite this old lady to in years past.

The Thankweenmas concept was one party to cover all holidays in October, November and December, including Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Decorations from all three holidays were around the house and competition for the ugliest Christmas sweater was part of the fun.  One year I think there was a mixed holiday craft project, or snow globes with turkeys or something.  I was drinking and I’ve aged since then so anything could have happened.

With Chanukah (JC that’s for you) beginning on Thanksgiving this year, I realized that Chanukah, Kwanza, and Diwali were omitted from the Thankweenmas festivities.  If we’re going to include the holidays, why not include them all? Thankweenmas would need to change to Thankwalinzaweenukahmas.  That’s a mouthful but it would be a more colorful party.

As much as I love the combined approach, I’m a one holiday at a time kind of gal.  It bugs me that stores have Halloween decorations out in August, Christmas stuff out in October and Christmas music playing before Thanksgiving.  As much as I love to plan, I prefer to appreciate a holiday a couple weeks before the actual holiday, shopping for gifts included.  I may make my lists in advance but I hold off until I’m in the holiday spirit.

Some of my neighbors don’t agree with me.  Christmas lights are already strung on homes, bushes and trees.  My husband’s theory is that these people are smart to not wait to hang their lights in the snow.  In a moment of quickness, I asked Senor Scrooge if he would be willing to hang the Christmas lights if there was no snow.  He said, and I have three witnesses, absolutely.  Great, the Saturday after Thanksgiving there will be no snow, thanks for volunteering.  Score one my side.

The boys then jumped on my case for having boring light decorations.  Single strand lights are not fun, apparently.  They each had suggestion, one wants inflatable lawn décor (never in my lifetime), one wants Santa, a sleigh and reindeer on the roof (really?) and the other wants me to buy fiber optic lights and create a light show (honestly, they know the lack of my technical abilities, how is this even considered?). I told them my plan to but a gigantic 3′ diameter wreath to hang on the big window outside of the dining room with berries and red velvet bow.  Their reaction, in unison, was a huge groan.  They may have mumbled “old lady” but with my hearing I couldn’t be sure enough to go after them.

The boys have acquired this holiday disdain from their father, Bah Humbug himself.  The irony is that for all the complaining and moaning and groaning about the amount of work or what we lack, as soon as Christmas comes together they are happy and anxious and completely giddy.

And here I am talking about Christmas when it isn’t even Thanksgiving.  Truth is, I did nothing toward making Thanksgiving happen today.  I went for a walk, raked up more, yes more, leaves and painted our bedroom.  It must be the paint, named Winter’s Sky, that has me thinking of Christmas.  Tomorrow I’ll get back on the Turkey Track.


Double Feature Saturday: The Menu and The Soup – Part 2 November 23, 2013

The Menu, Part 1, of today’s double feature was just published.  Part 2 of today’s double feature is The Soup.

Butternut Squash Soup is one of my favorite fall soups.  Some years I add it to our Thanksgiving menu but not this year.

My younger sister and I went to a cooking class at The Cottage House restaurant in Flagstaff, eight or nine years ago.  The class was Thanksgiving themed yet our intention was to check out the priciest restaurant in Flagstaff at the time, drink some wine and have some sister bonding time.  This recipe is worth holding on too.  I’ve made it for potlucks, dinner and, as said, Thanksgiving.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and get as much use out of it, as I have.  Butternut squash is as easy to cook with as carrots, don’t be afraid.

Veloute of Butternut Squash

1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash

1 onion, diced

2 sticks butter, melted

2/3 c. flour

1 qt. chicken stock

3 c. apple juice

1/2 tsp each balsamic vinegar, cinnamon and curry powder

1 tsp soy sauce

1/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. cream

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. each white pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced

1/4 c. toasted almonds

Before you go all “gluten-free and vegetarian” on me, I’ve made this soup gluten-free and vegetarian and it’s STILL awesome.  This recipe is as versatile as it is delicious.

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Split squash in half lengthwise.  Remove seeds.  Brush inside of squash with some of melted butter (option:  use olive oil).  Bake 1 hour or until tender.  Let cool.  (I am usually in a rush and burn the hell out of my hands by skipping the “let it cool” direction.  I recommend planning ahead.  Do as I say, not as I do).

While squash is roasting/cooling, sauté onion in remaining melted butter (again, use olive oil as option).  Remove from heat and whisk in flour to make roux.  Set aside.  I have completely skipped the roux step for you gluten-free folks.  The soup won’t be as thick and velvety but you’ll still have flavorful and delicious butternut squash soup.

In a stock pot, combine stock (option: use vegetable stock or water in place of chicken stock), apple juice, cream (option:  omit cream), vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and seasonings and bring to boil.  Whisking constantly, add onion roux.  Stir until smooth then simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove squash pulp from skin.  Blend with enough soup to puree smoothly.  Add to soup, stir.

Add apples and simmer 5 minutes.

Serve topped with toasted almonds.


The curry, apples and almonds make this soup unbelievably good.  Change out any of the above ingredients but leave these three intact.

Why is this soup not on my Thanksgiving menu?  I love this soup.  We’ll have to have it next week as a pre-Thanksgiving ramp up. You should make this soup this week too.  Enjoy!


Double Feature Saturday: The Menu and The Soup

This is my 150th blog post this year.  My resolution was to blog everyday but with the secret of our move, I couldn’t begin blogging until the news was public. Now, with 39 days left in the year (yes, that’s it), I really want to have 200 blog posts completed.  To accomplish this feat, you must endure a few Double Features, two posts in one day.  As if the holidays alone are not enough, let’s blog twice a day to make things really interesting.

Double Feature Saturday, today, starts with The Menu.  The countdown to Thanksgiving is still on.  We’ve already made stock but I forgot to give you our Thanksgiving Menu, the perfect topic for today’s first showing.

Even though only six will be at our Thanksgiving table this year, I will still cook for a crowd and we will eat leftovers for the rest of the weekend.

Appetizers, What great meal doesn’t start with appetizers?  Plus, I need to have something out so the savages in my house, I mean my darling family, won’t eat each other’s limbs.

Relish Tray.  The iconic relish tray with green olives, kalamata olives, cornichons, baby dills and bread and butter pickles.

Vegetable Crudite with Beau Monde Dip.  I’m totally addicted to Beau Monde dip since my encounter with the little old lady at the grocery store who shared her recipe with me after I helped her read labels on the seasoning jars.  Sour cream, buttermilk, beau monde and black pepper.

Cheese Plate.  I haven’t decided on which cheeses yet or accompanying crackers, but my cheese plates always have candied walnuts and spiced apricots.

Champagne and St. Germaine cocktails to get us in the mood.  [Read, to get the cook primed].

This year we will have dinner at 4 PM, just as the Spokane sun is setting.  Our dinner menu:

Roast Turkey with sage and rosemary salt and pepper, white wine and butter.

Mashed Potatoes.  Nothing fancy, russets peeled and boiled, mashed with butter and 2% milk.  I’ve tried the sour cream, cream cheese, buttermilk, garlic, and parsnip variations but my kids love the basic version the best, why fight it.

Gravy made from homemade stock and pan drippings.

Stuffing.  Dried bread cubes, onion, celery, stock, sage, butter, giblets stuffed in the bird with the remainder baked as dressing.

Sauerkraut.  My husband’s family tradition that I love on our table.  I make James Beard’s Choucroute au Champagne as published by Epicurious, 1959.  I use baby back ribs instead of salt pork.  I have made variations with beer instead of champagne for great effect. A hot turkey sauerkraut sandwich is a fantastic leftover lunch.

Cranberry sauce.  Homemade berries cooked with sugar and water.  Easy and delicious.

Sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped then roasted until caramelized.   Pure awesomeness that needs no accoutrements.

Waldorf Salad.  Apples, walnuts, celery, no marshmallows allowed, in a whipped cream, lemon juice, mayonnaise sauce, served on lettuce.

Corn.  Straight from the freezer, heat, add butter. Simple and the kids eat it.

Brussels Sprouts.  Halved and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Fantastic.

Green Bean “Casserole”, but not the soup mix version.  My recipe has haricort verts, mushrooms and shallots in a light cream sauce.  Not as easy as opening some cans, but easy enough.

Parker House Rolls.  I’m sorry, my AWARD WINNING parker house rolls. Baked fresh Thanksgiving day and fabulous!

We’ll have white wine (varietal to be determined) and possibly more champagne.  The kids will have Orangina, a long-standing tradition.

And then there’s dessert.  In my world, if you’re going to bother laying out the above spread for dinner, there had better be a dessert buffet to follow and plenty of coffee.

Thanksgiving is not Thanksgiving in my house or my mom’s house without my grandmother’s recipe for date bars.  Date Bars.  Good for dessert, breakfast, snack or non-stop throughout life.  Dates and walnuts in an awesome bar cookie covered in powdered sugar.  DATE BARS!  I can’t wait!!

Pumpkin Pie, a thanksgiving must.  I use canned pumpkin and follow Libby’s recipe on the back of the can.  Yes, I’ve made pie from a sugar pumpkin but this is my sacrifice and nobody really cares at this point.  Pass the pie and don’t forget the homemade vanilla whipped cream.

Apple Pie.  Apples do taste better in Washington and this pie is going to be incredible.

Chocolate Pecan Pie.  Every dessert spread must have chocolate.  Add whipped cream and, well, yum.

Totally over the top, I realize, but I won’t cook all weekend.  Does your Thanksgiving menu look similar or different to ours?  I hope your dinner turns out as fabulous as I hope ours will.  At least it looks good as posted.


Stock November 21, 2013

When in need of chicken stock, sometimes I make my own, sometimes I buy pre-made Swanson’s or Trader Joe’s in a box.  At Thanksgiving, I never deviate, I always make my own stock to use for the stuffing and gravy.

Typically I buy turkey wings and legs and roast them before boiling them down to an ultimate delicious stock.  This year I bought an eleven pound turkey at a ridiculously inexpensive price, taking advantage of a spend and save deal at the grocery store.  The entire turkey was less than purchasing the packs of parts.

At 5:30 this very chilly morning (13 degrees said my thermometer), I started making turkey stock.  Buying a whole turkey changed my game plan.  I wasn’t going to roast the whole turkey, that’s next week.  Instead, I combined everything and let it cook.

Beth’s Turkey Stock

11 lb turkey

3 large onions, peeled and halved

3 whole heads of garlic, unpeeled

3 bay leaves

1 bunch parsley

3 leeks, white and green parts, halved and rinsed thoroughly, chopped

6 carrots, chopped

4 celery stalks plus inner celery leaves

1 T. dried thyme

2 T. peppercorns

1 turkey neck, season with salt and pepper and roasted

1 T. salt

Very rarely do I get everything ready as this mise en place but for this food porn blog, I had no choice but to lay it all out.


First put the turkey in the pot.  I used my gigantic pressure cooker, but didn’t pressure cook.  I’ve seemed to misplace my large soup pot so the pressure cooker pot had to do the job.  Add everything else and fill pan with water to cover one inch above everything.  Cook all day.


My house smelled fantastic today!  Once finished, I scooped out and gave our old dog the carrots and funky turkey parts.  When I make stock using wings and legs, there isn’t much meat to salvage. Since I used an entire turkey, I made a quick turkey enchilada casserole for the kids’ dinner tonight and they’ll most likely eat turkey tomorrow and over the weekend too!  I really didn’t think the leftover meat part all the way through.  Lesson learned.  Good thing our boys LOVE turkey!

The roasted turkey neck helped give the stock some color, but not like when wings and legs are roasted.  The Thanksgiving gravy won’t be as velvety brown as I would like, but the stock is full of fantastic flavor.  I have two gallons of turkey stock in the freezer now ready to use.  I will most likely use half on Thanksgiving and leave the rest for future use, maybe leftover turkey soup next weekend.


If you have never made your own stock, I recommend trying at least once.  Buy the wings and legs and get roasting.  You’ll love the difference in flavor from the boxed stock.

Happy Countdown to Thanksgiving!  Enjoy!


Countdown to Thanksgiving is ON! November 20, 2013

Filed under: Family — multihyphenatedme @ 9:41 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Christmas music is already playing around the clock on certain radio stations.  Stores are having pre-holiday sales to beat the rush.  Though I have some presents purchased, I am not counting down to Christmas, there are too many milestones to meet and plenty of other stuff to do than listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving has past.

My Thanksgiving preparations start a week in advance.  Tonight I went to the grocery store and took advantage of the super low turkey price and bought an eleven pound bird to make the ultimate stock for the stuffing and gravy.  I’ll share my stock recipe tomorrow.

Cleaning and polishing will happen this weekend.  Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with these details, just know they are happening.

In addition to planning Thanksgiving, we will also partake in bits and pieces of Hanukkah.  We light candles every night, play dreidel for chocolate gelt and, my favorite part, make latkes and matzo ball soup Wednesday night next week to kick off our long weekend.  We aren’t Jewish, we don’t even pretend to know what we’re doing (except I make some awesome latkes), but we appreciate the traditions of other cultures, so why not. Just don’t tell my kids gifts are involved, what they don’t know, won’t hurt them.

Turkey prep, no school, no work, house cleaning and polishing, Hanukkah festivities are all great and we’re excited for next week to arrive; however, none of these are what has us SUPER excited.  What has us jumping up and down in anticipation is the arrival of our nineteen year old daughter/sister that we haven’t seen since JULY!  Ooooh we can’t wait!

I use her arrival to put off everything my kids want.  My nine year old wants egg nog, not until your sister gets here.  My eight year old wants everything, no, not until your sister gets here.  My husband wants to know when he gets a break from his project list, after our daughter gets here.  The best part is that they are so accepting of this rule.  You’re right, we’ll wait.

I hope she realizes how loved and missed she is and the explosion of emotion that will greet her late Tuesday night.  Of course, little miss Southern California will be in a state of shock from the ice cold temperatures we’re having right now.  I’ll remind her to wear, not pack, her down coat.

Not only will my family be together, my nest full, we ALSO get to eat pie and date bars and latkes and so many other fantastic holiday foods.  Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is about?  Bringing together the ones you love and sharing a delicious meal. HAPPINESS! I can’t wait.  The fun starts tomorrow.  My house will smell like Thanksgiving early tomorrow morning, as soon as the stock is made.



Before getting all comfy cozy in front of our fireplace this year, we called a chimney sweep out to clean and inspect our chimney.  We learned from our neighbors that some chimneys are not lined, like theirs.  If a chimney is not lined, with terra cotta tiles, metal or something else, air can seep in through the bricks and mortar and cause issues, including fire hazards.  Fantastic.  Safety first, let’s get the chimney inspected.

Everyday in Spokane is an opportunity to learn something new.  First gas lines and now chimneys.  We learned our chimney is indeed lined (hurray!) so no issue there. The issue is with our fireplace itself.  Did you know that there is a formula for determining how big your fireplace opening should be?  The chimney sweep and my husband were throwing mathematical equations back and forth, rapid fire, doing the math in their head, while my head was spinning.  Turns out our architecture designer-builder didn’t know there was a formula to determine the correct size of the fireplace opening.  His architecture instincts led him down the path of aesthetics and not practicum.

I love architects.  I work with them every day.  My husband works with architects every day.  Architects make our world go round.  Yet not necessarily in the same direction or without bouncing all over before getting to where you need to be.  I love architects.

The problem with a fireplace opening being too big is that there is a conflict between too much air coming in from the house that can’t escape up the chimney top.  What happens with too big of an opening, or if your formula ratios are off, smoke will billow back into the house.  Fantastic.

This is the joy of owning an old home.  You start a project thinking it will be an easy breezy slam dunk then you add another project to the list.

Here is our fireplace.  You can see the smoke damage on the bricks resulting from the above issue described from previous owners.


Here’s our chimney sweep.  No tie downs, we even provided our own for their use, no thanks.  Yikes.  I wish our chimney sweep was more Dick Van Dyke-like and sang Chim-chim-cher-ee chim-chim-cher-oo.  It would have been truly fantastic if Mary Poppins herself dropped in as well.  They didn’t even have soot on their faces.  Nothing worse than a clean chimney sweep.

chimney sweep

Our fireplace fix, my Mr. Fix It husband tells me is relatively easy.  A piece of sheet metal will go on the back of the top section of the grate. Add some insulated rope around the edges and done, problem solved.  The trick is getting Mr. Fix It to fix it.  Temperatures this week are in the teens at night and mid-30s during the day.


The chimney sweep was here over a month ago, the fireplace is still not operable, the smoke is still not acid washed off the bricks.  My dining room is painted and our bedroom will be painted this weekend.  We’re making slow but steady progress but the list is still long.  I offered to sing the Mary Poppin’s soundtrack to expedite our projects but my idea was rejected not only by my husband but the rest of the house.  No appreciation for the arts, or perhaps my supercalifragilisticexpialidocious singing.