12/23/2013

Just a Little Lefse

....it will go a long way.

There are a few traditions that I love about the holiday season.  Most of them revolve around the kitchen.  As long as I can remember, we have had lefse at our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.





What is lefse?  It is Scandinavian flat bread that is a like a tortilla, but made mostly with potatoes.

My Grandma and Mom make it ever year before the holidays, and it lasts for the season.  It wasn't until my teenage years that I became more interested in the whole production myself.  One Saturday every November, I started to help my mom with lefse rolling and grilling.  Fresh and warm lefse with a little butter is hard to beat!

Since moving the Texas, I haven't been back to make lefse with Mom.  It was not a big deal last year because my parents visited for Christmas and brought the good stuff with them.  This year we had planned to do the same, but they had to unfortunately cancel their trip.  It was disappointing obviously, and not just because of the lefse.  Instead of whining about it too much, I decided it was time for me to carry on the tradition myself!

I had to purchase a lefse grill, potato ricer and lefse flipper, but otherwise, the investment was time more than anything else.  With my mom's recipe in hand, I made lefse this November.  It was really satisfying to know that I can do this and keep the tradition going for at least one more generation.  If nothing else, it keeps my heart closer to Wisconsin and family while I'm living far away.

To make lefse, you start by boiling potatoes and then ricing them.  I don't have a picture, but ricing is a finer way to mash the potatoes while still keeping them fluffy.  They must cool completely in the fridge overnight.  The following day is when the magic happens.  You mix in a few other ingredients, divide out the dough and start rolling and grilling.  Here was my kitchen set-up.

1.  Divide/form the dough.
2. Roll the dough.
(use the long flat stick by #2 to move the delicate rolled dough around)
3. Grill both sides.
4.  Cool in between towels (to keep from drying out).

The very first lefse!

To package, lay three folded lefse in a stack.  Then fold the stack in thirds
to make this triangle. Finally wrap in wax paper to keep.

Wrapped and ready for eating or freezing.

The final product was pretty good!  We tested it out over Thanksgiving, and it was a hit (with me anyway).  I'm not going to lie and tell you lefse is the bread of the gods or anything, it's just plain solid good...especially with butter.  My mom will have to be the true judge.  Luckily, schedules changed and I will still get to see my parents over the holidays! :)  So, although I didn't really need to start up my own lefse making this year, I am really glad I did.

Now a little song about lefse to amuse you...



Have you kept any family traditions going now that you are on your own?  

Any new ones?

11/03/2013

Houston Half





Done and done.  My second venture into long distance running was a success!   I had a few different time goals of various degrees of difficulty and I just barely beat my middle one.  1:50 would have been awesome, 1:52:30 on target and 2:00 at the slow end.  I had 9 seconds to spare from missing my target, so I guess that just means I’m good at guessing my talent? :)

The day of the race was ridiculous.  It was pouring in downtown Houston as we drove in and there was some lightening in the area.  I had planned to stop at the port-o-potty just before the race, so around 6:45am I braved the storm and ran for it.  It was basically pitch black out and raining.  A bunch of people were still just standing under their tents, so after my pit stop, I asked them what was going on.  The race was delayed one hour.  After looking at the radar we figured the heavy storms were going to pass over by then, so I decided to wait it out. 

Then, at 7:50am, I got out of the car again and got in another port-o-potty line…there were long lines now.  It was still cold and rainy, but the major storming had passed.  I stood, shivering, in the potty line pretty sure that I was going to miss the start of the race. 

The pot-o-potty set up was terrible because the lines had built up over the start of the race course.  The race organizers kept telling us to get out of the way, but I sure as heck was not not relieving myself before a 2 hour race.  Not happening.  Anyway…some people started bailing from the line, but even so, I started the race almost 10 minutes late!  It was crazy.  For about 5-6 minutes the stream of runners was constant, but the race organizers had already dropped the starting blow-up gate by the time I got there.  A volunteer had to hold it up as I ducked under to just get on my way!  :/

So I was off, really really late and kinda pissed at myself.  My original plan had been to start a little slow to loosen up from the cold, but I started soooo late, that I just had this fire to get caught up to some runners at least.  My first mile was under 8 minutes.  That is not crazy good, but it was pretty fast considering what I had left to do.  My second and third miles were pretty speedy too.  I was constantly dodging in and out trying to get around the other runners.  The first half of the race was a solid 54:21, and I just went with it.  I knew it was unsustainable, but I also felt really good and was enjoying myself…Side note:  I ran this portion almost as fast (miles/min) as Crazylegs that’s only 5 miles).  That’s how I knew it wouldn't last.  I was certainly trained and in better distance running shape, but none of my long training runs had been that fast.


This is the best picture I could find...meaning, I don't look totally exhausted.
You can even see the rain falling.


The rain continued all race and I kept slogging along.  By around mile 8, I slowed down and stopped really passing people…I had finally found some other runners to just hold on to and kinda stay with.  At this point, my legs were feeling those early miles too.  The best motivation I had was my goal time.  It really helped me stay focused on just putting one foot in front of the other, and powering up the tiny Houston hills (which are from over or under-passes).  The other thought that helped push me was that every step I took, would bring me that much closer to the finish.  "The faster you run the sooner you're done"  sums it up pretty well.

Finally, around mile 12.5 I could feel the end in sight.  I happened to be running near a girl who had a friend join her for the last mile for encouragement.  The friend was telling her how close she was to finishing.  It was something like, "just reach those over-passes and the finish is right there."  That really pushed me to finish out strong (well…kinda strong after that distance).  Then it was over in 1:52:21. J

I wasn't tearing up or anything, I was just glad to have accomplished it and ready to be dry again.  I made a quick trip to the St. Arnold’s tent for a beer and then picked up some food.  The race had donuts in the food tent, and the fried smell was just gross.  Call me crazy, but beer just seemed like a better reward than a donut.


Once I stopped running I realized how freaking cold it was with the wind and rain.  Luckily, my very, very, extremely supportive husband was waiting with car just a couple blocks away.  I hopped in and we were off for home once more.  

Super cool medal with stained glass look.


8/23/2013

Pumpkin Update









Pumpkin had a rather crappy June.  First, his parents were away for two weeks. Though, he may actually have liked that since our neighbor came by regularly to play with Him and Pi.  We will never really know.

Shortly after vacation, we had an evening in where Mr.PnP was working at the computer and I was watching The Bachelorette, or something equally worthy.  I could have sworn I heard a crazy cat distressed noise coming from the kitchen (like cry/meow/snarl all in one).  I jumped up from the couch to see what was going on.  Mr.PnP was printing something at the computer, so I thought that maybe I was just hearing things, but I soon discovered that Pumpkin was favoring his right paw.  :(

Cats obviously can't tell you what is wrong, and rather often down-play their injury or weakness.  The first vet we took him to said it was probably just a strain and it would heal on it's own.  That made me feel a little better, but watching him limp was so sad.  A few days later, he was still limping. We did some investigation and found a big scab on Pumpkin's right paw.  His paw pad was also pretty inflamed. :( 

The following day I took Pumpkin to a different vet and she was great.  She cleaned out his paw/scab area, gave him an antibiotic shot for the probable abscess or infection and another to ease the inflammation and pain.  She also bestowed upon him a collar of shame to stop him from licking and re-infecting his paw.  Poor guy had to wear it for almost a week! 


Sulking on the first day.

Being extra cuddly.  Really guilt-tripping it.


Thankfully, the treatment worked and he was back in playing shape in about two weeks.  Since then, He's been up to normal mischief like peeing in the bathroom sink, climbing ladders and being a supper cutie pie.


Helping helper who helps.


I mean, who sleeps.  Doubles as a heated wrist rest.

Must find way into the attic.

Awe $#^!...busted.


Maybe if I look away, she will just leave me alone.


Do not look her in the eyes...she's not really there.



What's the worst mischief your pet has been into?  

 



8/21/2013

Flying to Europe




I travel semi-regularly for work around the US, but this Mediterranean cruise required my first flight over seas.  I really wasn't sure what to expect.  Mr.PnP found found us an awesome flight directly from Houston to our cruise departure city, Istanbul.  We made it to the airport plenty early, and because there was practically no line at Houston's TSA, we had ample time for our first vacation drinks and dinner at the airport.  Once on the plane, it was so nice to finally get to our seats and just relax…let the vacation begin!!!

On a domestic flight, usually every little thing costs extra, be it food, drink or entertainment (for economy at least).  To our delight, not only was this all included on our Turkish Air flight, but we also found other goodies at our seat.  Each person received a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, tooth brush, lip balm, etc), pillow, blanket and slippers.  Shortly after take-off, the flight attendant passed out menus.  There were multiple courses listed and even drinks, but no prices.  I felt kind of dumb, but asked the nice lady next to me if all of the food and drinks were complimentary.  She was like, "Yeah!  Isn't it great?!"  Of course! 

Hazelnuts with mint lemonade and whiskey on the rocks.

Water and red wine for me.

We had pre-dinner drinks and hazelnuts.  Then it was time for dinner and a movie.  There were a lot of movie options, from new releases to oldies.  You'll probably never guess what I picked...The Godfather.  We were stopping in Sicily one day of the cruise, and while researching the port I found a number of Godfather tours.  It's a movie I had never seen and the flight seemed like the perfect time to remedy that.  It worked out great because it was a drama that I could fall asleep to and pick up in the “morning.”

Touch screen and pop-out controller for playing games! 

After dinner we settled down to sleep for about 6 hours until breakfast came through.  Sleeping was surprisingly easy in coach seats.  I wore a t-shirt and athletic shorts (practically pajamas), and took my shoes off to maximize my comfort level.  It wasn't until we were about to land that I tried putting my shoes back on, and much to my dismay, my feet had swelled up like sausages.  My shoelaces required significant loosening to get the shoes back on.  It was crazy and scared me a little since something that drastic has never really happened to me before.  Fortunately, my kankles righted themselves in the next 12 hours, so nothing was for the worse, just really odd!

We landed in Istanbul around 4PM on Saturday and went through customs, found a cab and made our way to the port just in time for (another) dinner.  At this point our schedules were completely messed up...two dinners, a breakfast and seven hour time difference with a nice long nap thrown in there.  To keep it simple, we had dinner at the buffet.  It was the best buffet I have ever had (and I'm not just saying that because we had been on a plane for so long).  They had uber fresh sushi and sashimi, and appetizers…I can’t recall it all, but it was good.

We made it!  Still in my travel clothes and looking a little sleepy.

We flew back on United with one connection in D.C.  The long flight on that segment was pleasant as well.  There was a free lunch and entertainment and the seats were roomier in coach (than Turkish Air).  I don't think the alcohol was free, but after 14 days of over eating and drinking that wasn't a perk we were looking for.  This time I watched Safe Haven and silently balled at the end hoping no one would notice.  It was a good fluffy movie for a plane ride...and one I would never ask Mr.PnP to consider watching.  Win-win-win if you ask me.

Overall, I found international flying to be much easier than expected.  I love new experiences, and these flights would definitely count as a new one fore me.  I'm not sure when out next trip will be, but I am already excited for it. 



Have  you ever flown over seas? 

Did you have a good experience, or bad?

8/15/2013

The Cruise





It was sa-weeetttt!  Seriously, we had so many cool experience in two Mediterranean weeks.  It was an amazing 12 day Cruise from Istanbul to Rome, with a few extra days added on in Rome. As this was our Honeymoon, we wanted to splurge a little and upgraded to a semi-luxury liner.  Cruises can get expensive really fast when you go beyond the main lines.  Luckily, Mr. PnP found Oceania, a cruise line designed for people looking for great food and destinations without all the other flashy stuff.  It was the best combination for us to maximize our sightseeing, and enjoy the excellent food and laid-back cruising. As I post about each destination, I'll link back here.

Oceania Riviera - Treasures & Monuments (May/June 2013)

Istanbul, Turkey
Kusadasi, Turkey (Ephesus)
Rhodes, Greece
Santorini, Greece
Crete, Greece
Kefalonia, Greece
Taormina, Sicily, Italy
Amalfi Coast, Italy (rough seas had us reroute to Trapani, Sicily, Italy)
Sardinia, Italy
Livorno, Italy (Florence)
Civitevecchia, Italy (Rome)



Weather

It was perfect; sunny and beautiful the entire time.  Even the detour didn't cause a bad day, just one rainy evening...by which time we were enjoying a four course steakhouse dinner and sailing through the boot and football of Italy.

Food

5 Stars...so much good food!!!  There were four specialty restaurants on board:  Jacques (Jacques Pepin's French Restaurant), Toscana (Italian), Polo Grill (American Steakhouse) and Red Ginger (Asian Fusion).  We were able to make one dinner reservation at each prior to sailing.  A few days into the Cruise, we found out that it was possible to make extra reservations the same day upon availability.  I started calling first thing in the morning and that got us three more reservations.

Room

Spacious and comfy.  We upgraded at the last minute to a balcony and it was worth every penny.  It was a nice way to relax at sail-away and get one last glimpse of the beautiful island or city we had just experienced.

Drinks

NA free!  Wine was free to bring on board too.  They had an awesome Captain's happy hour one of the first evenings where almost everything was free.  The rest of the evenings had 2-for-1 happy hours from 4-6 that we occasionally took part in.  Alcohol is definitely one way to quickly rack-up your account charges, but all-in-all we did a pretty good job of enjoying ourselves without breaking the bank.

Fellow Cruisers

We met some really nice folks.  The crowd was definitely on the older side (i.e. more than one couple asked our opinion of sailing with an "older crowd.")

Entertainment

Good.  The theater shows were pretty good (for Cruise standards) and the lounge had a nice piano player.  The pool band could have been a little more lively and the late night entertainment was as expected...low key for most evenings.  Though, the cruise director staff (the people who try to get people to let loose and have fun) were successful for one fun Deck Party night.  They even had the dance floor full for the electric slide and a few other line dances.




7/31/2013

Runyon Canyon

Okay, okay...I guess I jumped the gun a bit when I said "I'm back!"  I had good intentions of blogging semi regularly after that, but it just didn't happen.  I haven't been particularly inspired to write, or take time away from actual fun, to take pictures...I know...total blogger failure.  

I have one cool adventure to write about, though.  At the end of June I had a work trip to California and was able to muster up energy to do something fun!  I have been to LA/OC a few times before for work, but never had the energy to fight LA traffic, or do much more than get to a mall.  This time, I went for it.  I was kind of ashamed that I had never actually seen the Hollywood sign, and decided to remedy that.  That, and I wanted to visit a celebrity fitness hot-spot.

Runyon Canyon



My GPS led me here.

There were a number of trail options.  My GPS led me to the starting point at the top of the map.  I was a little disoriented at first and did the purple line hike (really short) before realizing I was at a dead end.  My goal was to do the super though hike (red), so I went on my way and figured it out. As I was hiking, I realized I was pretty much going the wrong way because everyone was going reverse.  Not that it was a problem at all, but I was going down some slightly scary and sandy paths that definitely did not have hand rails.  Everyone else was huffing and puffing up the red path and I was just trying not to fall as I stepped/slid down.  Safety is my primary concern and I totally butt slid a couple times.  After making it down the red trail, I started back with the green trail that joined with yellow until making it back to my car.


map


First lookout...off of the end of the purple trail.


More views.


I'll take the shade while I have it!


On top of the peak in that last photo.


Treacherous, butt sliding part.


Still going down!


The HOLLYWOOD sign!!!
 Bad angle, but it's just below the tower sticking up on the middle hill.



Looking down at where I'll have to climb up later.
That path is probably part of the green just before joining with yellow.


Climbing back up the green path.  I ran/walked this part since it was nicely paved.


Overall, it was a great workout with awesome views.  The hike was nice for really working my legs in a different way.  I really don't get to do hill work on Houston's flat, flat, flatness.  There were unfortunately no celeb spottings ;)  Next time, I guess!  It took about 1 hour and 15-30 minutes to do the whole loop, and is something I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a hike with views.


6/19/2013

I'm Back!

Wow...long time, no write! 

Life has been rather busy the last two months.  My regular cooking, reality TV watching and blogging was interrupted by a bunch of travel and planning for it.  Let's catch up quickly...



Visited Wisconsin


I was lucky to have an excellent weekend catching up with a ton of my family and friends.  It was seriously one of the best jam packed weekends ever.


Babcock Badger Blast ice cream on the Terrace.


I convinced my some family members to run/walk Crazy Legs with me on Saturday morning.  I was actually well trained and raced my personal best for the course.  I thoroughly enjoyed the beer, music and company following the race too.  To top it all off, I ran into the Amazing Race winner Rachel!  Ahhh!!!





To finish my time in Madison, I ran out to Picnic Point to see the construction changes.  I happened to spot this little plaque in a rock at the end to make it an "official" run.  It was the first time I had ever noticed it, and just as I was crouching down to take a picture, two older gentlemen came walking up and said something like "look, she's taking a picture of it!"  One of them was Art, who originally put the plague there.  We had a nice conversation about His efforts to conserve the Point and how they have a new UW student group on campus to help the effort.  It made me sad to know I was leaving the beautiful place that day, but at least my favorite spot is in good hands. 



This plaque used to be on the light pole at the end of the point,
but the construction took down that pole and Art negotiated this new spot for it.



Cheese curds, three times...Great Dane, Culver's and Garlic Dill "fresh" from the airport before leaving the great state.






Traveled more for work and had a lot of planning for vacation. 

There was a lot of dreaming about fresh pasta. 



Mediterranean Cruise Honeymoon!

I hope to go into more detail on each stop later on, but suffice to say, it was an absolute blast!  The food on Oceania Riviera was the best I have ever experienced on a ship.  Even the buffet on our first evening was better than any dinner on previous cruises...and that was our only buffet dinner!  We made 10 stops and visited 11 different cities in Turkey, Greece & Italy.

Shout out to our awesome neighbor who took wonderful care of our kitties while we were away!


4/19/2013

Three Things Thursday



FRUITEDITION



1.  Office Fruit Bowl


One cool perk of my office are the fruit bowls.  It sounds cheesy, but it is really nice having a free apple or orange as a afternoon pick-me-up.  Because the office is huge, I think they get replenished twice a day for people to graze at will.  Even so, I probably only catch a good selection once a week.  The bowls usually an assortment of apples and oranges with an occasional grapefruit and pear.  Other days they go crazy with a whole bowl full of bananas!  Exciting times...let me tell you! ;)

When I'm working at my desk, I seriously always crave chocolate.  It's bad sometimes, but overall I have been able to avoid raiding co-workers candy dishes.  I think it would be a slippery slope to start nibbling too much.  The fresh fruit from the basket, and from home, often helps me get through the day without caving in. 


2.  Gala Apples



I'm not sure I ever purchased Gala apples before this last year.  I grew up eating a lot of Green and Braeburn apples if any at all.  Then during the fall the family would stock up on Macintosh and Cortlands fresh from Wisconsin orchards.  I spent a lot of weekends on an apple orchard growing up, and I still love all things apples from tree climbing to baked crisps and fresh cider.

Okay...nostalgic side track out of the way...sorry about that.  Apart from orchard apples, my grocery cart rarely had apples in them as an adult.  I think they were too easy for me to forget about in the fridge, and there was always a more fun fruit around, like berries or nectarines.

A while back, I tried a Gala apple from the office fruit bowl and now I'm hooked.  It was crisp, lightly sweet and juicy.  As a small-medium apple it also didn't make me sick of the flavor/texture by the time I finished it. (I know...crazy things turn me off).  Not too long after that I noticed that Gala's were on sale at HEB, so I stocked up and started bringing them to work regularly.  They were on super sale again this week ($0.97/lb) and so I went a little crazy with 10 or so.   It will be interesting to see how long this Gala obsession lasts. 

 

3.  Cuties



I know the new commercials for Cuties say they were "made for kids," but they have become one of my favorite office snacks these days.  They are almost as good as a candy bar most of the time, and though I know they probably have a good amount of sugar in them (aka they are really sweet and tasty) at least it's natural.  I try to save the Cuties for my afternoon snack because that when my sweets craving hits hardest, and I have been pleasantly surprised that these usually hit the spot. 

One of the best things about apples and Cuties is their convenience.  No cutting or Tupperware to mess with, and that's probably what will keep them around for the time being. 





Cat Spam...just because.




4/11/2013

Three Things Thursday

I have been really boring lately...there just isn't much to write about without sounding like a doofus.

 

1.  Home Goods


This place helped me finish off the new red bathroom.  I found a white shower curtain with a dark gray pattern that perfectly matched a fluffy gray rug.  I was easily sold on the pair, but HG only had one rug, when I really need two (one for the sink and another for the tub/toilet area).  Before getting around to returning the rug, we happened to stop at another HG last weekend and that one had the smaller version of the same one!  Piecemealing decoration together is not my favorite pastime, but I'll take it this time...the rug is really soft :)  To keep from making the bathroom too dark (with red and dark gray), we got white towels for guests.  The bathroom transformation is now almost complete. 

 

 

2.  Pi Amuses Me Greatly







 

3.  Bad Combo


Curious cats and toilet paper.  Since we are on both topics, this seems like an appropriate picture.  Knock-on-wood, but it has been a while since either cat has felt the need to use a toilet paper roll as a treadmill.  They usually run against glass things these days:  pantry door, shower door, full-length mirror, and occasionally actual windows.





4/04/2013

Three Things Thursday


This week is flying by!  My brother and his girlfriend are visiting for the weekend and I am so pumped!  The weather has been a little cool the last few days, but I think we will have high 70's and sun for Saturday.  Not quite pool weather for Houstonians, but maybe the Northerners will brave it. Should be a good time either way :) 

Now on to Three Things Thursday - Food Edition

 

1. Baked Hummus Mushrooms


I first saw the idea on HTP and have been meaning to try it since.  Then one day, I was in a hurry to add protein to a dinner quickly and had both ingredients in the fridge.  400°F for about 20 minutes and...Voila!





Close up.


 

2.  Rolls


Two ways.  First, and common weekend dining-in staple, HEB sushi.  We have found that if you do a made-to-order party tray you get a much better deal.  Winning!  (sorry about that, I just really like that saying...)




Bret got creative in the kitchen this week with a fun recipe from Pioneer Woman.  I just enjoyed the veggie wrap-rolls and did not take a picture.  It was good though...very fresh and filling!  Ours were huge because we only had burrito wraps.

 

3.  Cadbury Eggs


Love! Love! Love!  We resisted buying any Easter candy this year, but future MIL sent us a box full of goodies that we have been thoroughly enjoying over the last week.  There were 8...EIGHT eggs in the box and I savored every bit of about 4 and 1/2 of them :)  I try to not focus on calories of sweets that I'm just trying to enjoy, but I was pleasantly surprised that the eggs were only 150 cals!  I looked last night as I was enjoying my last one.  Yum!

source



I grew up with huge fudge eggs from Seroogy's.  I really like the malted milk eggs though too.   The traditional Peeps and jelly beans have never been my favorites.  Though, the Starburst and Trolli (sour) jelly beans won me back a few years ago. 

 

What is your favorite Easter candy?