multi-hyphenated-me

the hyphens that define my life

Christmas Cookies Part 2 December 31, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — multihyphenatedme @ 6:36 pm
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Growing up, my mom didn’t bake cookies during the year, but come Christmas, she baked every cookie you could imagine.  My mom’s cookies are good.  Great.  Nostalgically awesome and I love every single one of them.

Of course she ships cookies to me despite the fact that I bake some 1600 cookies every year myself.  Even with all of the cookies in our house, we love receiving my mom’s box of cookies!  She didn’t make as many varieties as she normally does each year but she managed to pull off quite a feat considering my sister has been in and out of the hospital three times in two weeks leading up to and through the holidays.  (All is well with my sister, just in the post-honeymoon phase of the bone marrow transplant with some added heart issues to keep things crazy).

Here’s what my mom made this year:

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Growing up, these Chocolate Peppermint Drops were my favorite.  A chocolate walnut cookie with a light peppermint frosting.

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Chocolate No-Bake Cookies.  These are new to my mom’s repertoire, maybe within the last 10 years.  My youngest LOVES these cookies.

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Coconut Almond.  These are the cookies I want to hate but love.  They look so boring yet they are flavorful and damn delicious.  Curse you coconut almond cookies!

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French Cookies.  This is the cookie that is the only duplicate in my mom’s and my cookie list.  This year my recipe didn’t turn out half as good as her French Cookie.  These are incredible.  A lot of people asked if this is a Sable.  No, it’s a French Cookie.  More like a Specaloo spice cookie with walnuts.

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Mincemeat.  I hated these cookies growing up.  Bleh.  Now, I have yet to meet a cookie I don’t love, Mincemeat included.  Do you know what mincemeat is?  Martha Stewart provides not one but two recipes for Mincemeat in her Martha Stewart Cookbook.  There is the meat version with ground beef chuck, apples, beef suet, raisins, currents, cherries, brandy molasses and every yummy cookie spice; there is a no-meat, but beef suet and walnut version with the same ingredients as above…and she provides a no-meat mincemeat made with green tomatoes.  Mincemeat is wacky but this year it is my favorite cookie. My mom just buys the premade jar of mincemeat in the baking section of the grocery store.

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Molasses Crinkles.  This is my other favorite childhood Christmas cookie.  Memories of yummy happiness.

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Russian Teacakes.  These little balls of butter, nuts and powdered sugar are fantastic.

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Toffee Bars.  This is the closest thing I ate to a chocolate chip cookie growing up.  I told my kids this and they balked, “what? you didn’t have homemade chocolate chip cookies all the time like we do?”  My kids are so spoiled.

Cookie plates.  It’s what we do.  Bake, wrap and deliver a plate of love.

Thanks Mom!

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Project Cookie 2013 Complete December 22, 2013

I’m baked out.  Done.  Here’s why:

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Baklava.  Walnuts, honey, cinnamon, sugar phyllo dough and butter.  My twelve year old would eat the entire pan if I let him.

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Buckeyes.  Gluten Free and Vegan.  Whoop Whoop!  A Buckeye is a chestnut family tree that produces this little inedible and Ohio’s claim to fame.  Ohioans created this candy out of peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and chocolate.  My eight year old believes he should be able to count devouring as many of these as possible for his protein intake.  I like the way he thinks, but no way.

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Cinnamon Log Slices.  These looked like a sliced russet potato and are pretty boring if you just try one.  But if you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee with these, then yum.  The cinnamon laced cookie is rolled in cocoa powder and cinnamon prior to baking.  These will not make next year’s Christmas Cookie cut.

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Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread.  These are the family all-time favorite cookie.  If I could force myself to only make one kind of cookie at Christmas, this is the one.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe that never fails.  The secret is the fresh grated ginger and hidden chocolate chips.  Spicy, sweet and chocolatey goodness.

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Carnation Fudge with Walnuts.  I used to have a great fudge recipe and lost it (DB, if you have it message me please).  This year, we tried two fudge recipes.  Carnations evaporated milk recipe on the label with mini marshmallows and the recipe found on the jar of marshmallow fluff.  As reported above, the marshmallow fluff recipe was dry and chalky.  The Carnation recipe turned out nice and creamy. Two thumbs up.

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Coconut Macaroons.  I made this recipe last year and my husband loved them.  This year, he’s iffy. I love toasted coconut and these, I think, are great.

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Hrostule.  (Her-stah-la).  This is the cookie I swear I will never make ever again, occasionally swearing at the dough.  Then my husband walks into the kitchen while I’m pitching my fit and says, “Oh Hrostule, this is why I love you,” and I’m signed up for another year.  This year there wasn’t much drama, after 14 years of making this cookie, I think I’ve figured it out.  Six eggs, 1/4 c. whiskey, 1/2 c. butter, melted, 1 tsp anise, 1 T. vanilla, 4.5 c. flour, vegetable oil for frying.  Mix all the ingredients.  Working in small batches, roll dough very thin (this is where the swearing starts), cut into strips (I use a pastry cutter), and tie each piece into a knot.  THEN, once all the dough has been rolled, cut and tied, fry in 350 degree oil until just begins to turn golden at edges.  THEN coat in powdered sugar. Start to finish, today’s batch took me 1.5 hours.  These cookies appear at every event from my wedding to the birth of my children to any random occasion.  Hrostule will be on all future cookie lists.

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French Cookie.  This is my mom’s recipe, maybe my grandmother’s recipe.  I followed the recipe.  I’ve made this cookie at my mom’s house growing up.  I know this cookie.  Yet for some reason, it didn’t turn out right.  Something’s missing and I don’t know what.  My twelve year old LOVES this cookie too.

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Peppermint Meringue with Dark Chocolate Ganache.  My nine year old is obsessed with meringues.  He was very excited to help make these, but by helping I learned he only meant eating them.  Easy, but oven hogs as meringues cook low and slow.  This recipe is definitely a keeper. Oh, and the dark chocolate ganache is so damn good I almost crawled into the closet with the whole bowl and a spoon.  I didn’t but it was a close call.

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Palmiers.  These are the easiest cookie.  Pre-made puff pastry dough, filled with sugar, rolled and sliced.  Simple.  My husband and youngest boy decided they are going to France to test the authenticity of my Palmiers.  Bring it.

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Shaker Lemon Bars.  For my girl.  These are the best lemon bars you will ever have.  Another Martha Stewart recipe that uses the entire lemon in the filling.  The crust is a spectacular shortbread.

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Sugar Cut Outs.  The quintessential Christmas cookie.  We have 12 different cookie cutters that we use.  This year, a lady in front of me at the grocery store told me that she had special ordered mini M & M’s so she could decorate her Christmas tree cookies with M & M’s.  I thought the boys would love that idea and bought some mini M & M’s. Not a good idea.  My boys, husband included, gave the full body Santa cookie nuts (below the belt line) with the mini M & M’s.  Oh, they thought they were a damn riot.  Me, not so much.

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Ruthy’s Apricot Walnut Rugelach from Chelsea Market.  During my recent New York City trip, I purchased the Chelsea Market cookbook and attempted making rugelach for the first time.  Of the eight dozen I made, the first four were disasters – not to eat, only to look at – as I overfilled them with goodness.  The last four dozen turned out beautifully.  This is the best breakfast cookie and the recipe is a keeper.

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Pistachio Almond White Chocolate Biscotti.  Meh.  I made this last year and couldn’t remember this year if I liked it or not so I made it again.  Never again.  Not bad but not fantastic.  I aim higher than this cookie delivers.

cookie plates 2013

Then, as if the baking took no time and effort whatsoever, the cookies get wrapped up and delivered.  Some homemade Christmas magic. And, plenty of magic left at home for my sweets to devour.

I hope your Christmas is sweet.

 

C is for Christmas and Cookie December 18, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — multihyphenatedme @ 6:49 pm
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‘Twas the Wednesday before Christmas

And all through the house

Not a creature dared enter the kitchen

Not even a mouse.

For Momma is baking Christmas cookies galore

To give to as gifts to friends and neighbors

As she has done for years before.

Dad and the kids are the Chief Cookie Test Tasters

They proclaim, Delicious!

Not one is a hater.

With Ma in her apron, she bakes and she bakes

All cookies must be finished for weekend deliveries

Whatever it takes.

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I stepped away to swap out batches and lost my train of thought.  End of poem.

What’s on your baking list this season?

The cashier at the grocery store told me she’s making homemade Almond Roca every night between now and Christmas.

With our cookie plates, I like variety.  This year I’m making:

  • Sugar cut out cookies (our youngest’s favorite to decorate but not to eat)
  • Gingerbread snowflakes
  • Palmiers (mini elephant ears)
  • Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread (my all-time favorite with chocolate chips and fresh ginger)
  • Baklava
  • Peppermint Pocky Sticks
  • Cinnamon Log Slices
  • Apricot Walnut Rugalach (NYC Chelsea Market recipe)
  • Coconut Macaroons
  • Shaker Lemon Bars
  • Peppermint Meringue Cups with Ganache
  • Buckeyes (you can take the girl out of Ohio, but you can’t take the Ohio out of the girl)
  • Cranberry Pistachio White Chocolate Biscotti
  • French Cookie, like a Specaloo, a French spice cookie, with finely chopped walnuts
  • Hrustle (her-stuh-la), my husband’s favorite
  • Fudge, peppermint and walnut

Totally over-the-top with 16 and that’s how we roll.  My mom makes 10-12 different kinds and ships them to us.  My kids love getting her box of cookies, because they are so deprived of baked goods on any given day.  My mom has been baking the same kind since forever, with a couple variations each year.  The French cookie and sugar cut-out cookies our only overlap. We’re German bakers.  We can’t help it, baking is in our blood.  Baking is what we do at Christmas, or better known as my every week.

I may have to add some Date-Choco Balls and some Ginger Spiced Pecans to my repertoire as a couple of our new friends are vegans.  Or, at least, the moms are vegan and their families suffer, I mean, support them.  I don’t want anyone to go without a little Christmas sweetness and cheer.

Some of my friends are already done, the overachievers.  Not me, not this year, not next year, not any year.  I like to deliver our cookies right before the holiday.  Late nights and early mornings for me for a few days, then I’m on vacation.

If you’re baking is not done, don your apron, grab a bowl and spoon and get baking!

 

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.

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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. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/CHOUCROUTE-AU-CHAMPAGNE-101466 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

What Errands Will Get You November 2, 2013

Filed under: Cooking — multihyphenatedme @ 9:48 pm
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Days like today make for writer’s block.

Rain, housecleaning, laundry, room painting projects and errands didn’t provide any exciting or interesting fodder for discussion or comment.  Productive, but flat and uneventful.

I did accomplish a long list of errands and felt good about tackling the list when I got home.  That is until I realized I skipped five items on my grocery list.  Instead of jumping back in the car, I decided to brave the wind, rain and blustery weather and walk the five blocks to our nearest market to pick up the forgotten groceries.  Other than my three fingers on my left hand freezing because they are not in the cast I’m sporting and because I can’t wear a glove or put my hand in my pocket because of the same cast (thank you squirrels), the trip to the store was just a stroll in wild weather.

At the market I grabbed the five items I needed and headed toward the front of the store.  I was stopped in my tracks by this sign posted in the meat department:

hog casings

Just when I thought my day was ho-hum, lo and behold a sign of intrigue.

The first line is Russian, the third line is Slavic and English is the fourth line.  What language is the second line?  Or are the second and third line together?

Once I appreciated the diversity of my neighborhood, I paused to reflect on the sign’s message.  Hog casing, defined, are the cleaned small intestine of a hog used to make sausage. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to know or think about what hot dogs are made out of, what sausages are cased in or any related fine  print.  Make something delicious and eat it, let’s not discuss point of origin.

Yet here, right in my face, at my local market, hog casings are available.  Not only was this sign the high point of my day, it was also the low point.  As I’m checking out the languages on the handmade sign, getting the willies over the topic at hand, a part of my brain goes right into action and starts thinking that I should make some summer sausage.  At this moment, I want to slap myself in the face.  Not only do I have enough projects to keep me busy for quite some time (with deadlines quickly approaching), I do not need to be planning ways to use or eat hog casing.

I took the photo, checked out and walked home.  No squirrels, no additional injuries.

My husband was sleeping on the couch having snoring wars with the dog asleep on the floor when I got home.  The boys were absorbed in video games.  No one had interest in my photo or my story.

That’s what I love about this blog, my stories get told and just maybe, someone (like you) is reading.  Thank you. Hog casing?

PS – This was my first post that had no detectable writing errors found by wordpress.  Fistpump.