Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bi-Monthy Recap

There have been so many exciting things happening these days. Not all good, but all exciting none the less.

1. My best friend got married. I never would have guessed that LJ would have been such a girlie bride, but she really got into the whole wedding planning thing. Her day with Marcus was beautiful. LJ was beautiful. Mrs. Lesa was the smoking hottest mother of the bride that I've ever seen. I didn't cry ... although the bridesmaid sobbing in my ear made it difficult to resist. The reception was gorgeous and so much fun. Ty and I enjoyed dancing together and with friends. We later treated our out-of-town pals Steven and Kelsy to their favorite Shreveport spot, Tiki Tavern. (Thanks for reading the blog, guys! I'll try to write more often.) Then I had to survive a week without LJ while she was on her honeymoon. We still talked three times (texting not included).

2. My dad had surgery. I hate typing those words almost as much as I hated sitting in the doctor's office waiting on a report while my dad was having his spine operated on. My dad is tough and strong and just means the world to me. Even knowing he would be OK, it was difficult to see him so vulnerable. He probably handled the whole thing better than I did. They went in through his throat, moving all the stuff in his neck to one side to get to the spot they needed to reach (pardon my non-medical description). He made it through and all went well. Hopefully, he'll be able to have some turkey with his dressing on Thursday.

3. I went to a Sip n See for Ty's niece Ruby Belle. I haven't seen Ruby Belle since the week she was born, so it's a great treat to have her and Ty's sister Mandy here for a full week. My wonderfully artistic and talented friend Lauren Smith painted this canvas for Ruby's room. You can see more of Lauren's designs on her blog. I think it turned out fantastic, and Mandy loved it, too. I brought Lauren a loaf of homemade bread this weekend, however it's going to take a lot more bread to level the playing field.

4. I've invited about 16 of our closest friends to my house tomorrow night for Friendsgiving! Ty and Jonathan Smith are going to fry their first turkey and God-willing not burn my house down. Guests are bringing non-traditional side dishes and desserts. And I'm pretty sure the Duvall's will bring Baby Brynn along, too. It should be a wonderful start to the holiday season, and a celebration of 16 people I'm thankful for!

Monday, November 9, 2009

He Hunts, I Bake

(SPOILER ALERT: Dear Jenny and Clint, since you reprimanded me at church yesterday for not blogging ... here it is! However, this could spoil the surprise of your Tuesday night dinner.)

As many of you know, duck season opens this coming weekend in Louisiana and the following weekend in Arkansas. While I am no duck slayer myself, my boyfriend is, which means he'll be heading out of town off and on over the next few months. Typically he's only gone Friday nights so he can be back here for church Sunday morning.

For me, hunting season adds up to one thing: Baking. Lots of baking. It's strange that I never feel the urge to bake until this time of year. I bake, and I don't even eat my sweet creations (If there's something you've been craving, let me know. I'll make it. Deliveries available to Shreveport and Bossier residents only.)

So, this past weekend Ty was in Arkansas preparing the camp, and I was at home -- you guessed it -- baking. However, it wasn't unnecessary baking. I had someone in mind.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jenny unexpectedly lost her mother. It's been a heartbreaking time for her, but I've been amazed by her strength. To help her family out during this difficult time, our church and some of Jenny's other friends teamed together to deliver meals to her house for weeks to come. Life is hard enough for Jenny right now, does she really need to be worrying about what's for dinner? So, Tuesday night is my night. I'm really excited for multiple reasons. First, I love to cook for friends, and secondly, I feel like in some small way I'm making the day a little easier for a family I care about.

With it being duck season and all, of course baked goods entered the equation and Saturday night was spent baking Praline-Apple Bread. It should be good for breakfast or a quick, easy snack, and I thought you may want the recipe also. The recipe yields one loaf.

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
1 (8 oz.) container of sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring 4 minutes.

2. Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended.

3. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9x5 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans; lightly press pecans into batter.

4. Bake at 350 for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, remove from pan to wire rack.

5. Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).

(Note: to freeze, cool bread completely; wrap in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Too Much Fun to Blog

I'm sorry that I've gone from being such a reliable blogger to a total delinquent. My original plan was to blog while sitting at my desk eating lunch, but it's hard to eat while typing and this girl has her priorities in place. Plus, I've started to thoroughly enjoy watching abc.go.com while pretending I'm eating at home like I used to. I do miss those days.

However, the job change has been excellent, and I'm starting to settle into a new routine. It takes some planning. Thank goodness I'm solid in that department. Working in Minden means I must eliminate those quick, after work trips to the grocery store. I now plan out weekly dinner and lunch menus. I only go to the grocery store once a week, which gives me time to work out all those other days.

So that pretty much sums up the ins and outs of the daily life. Following is a brief photo essay of the good, fun stuff that's been going on.

Exhibit A: Bachelorette Party

My bestie LJ is getting married in less than two weeks. We've done the bridal pics, showers, showers and more showers, and perhaps the best thing of all, her bachelorette. Her sister, Crystal Wibben, and friend Lauren Smith helped plan a fun evening for LJ. The party started at my house with dinner and lingerie opening. We spent the rest of the night riding in the limo and visiting some old, favorite night spots. And I won't even tell you how the night ended.

Exhibit B: Tiger Stadium

Ty and I made the trip to Baton Rouge for the LSU/Auburn game with our friends Klint and Kathleen. The game was excellent and so were our seats, and we couldn't have asked for better weather. However, the highlight was the Prentice Tailgate. This family parties Southern style, and Uncle Johnny's homemade boudin and other fixins were as excellent as ever. While traveling, we also stopped at Ruth's Chris and Lea's. It was a good eats weekend.

Exhibit C: Wedding Wine Tasting

One of the final tasks before LJ's wedding is to make sure guests are served the best wine for a certain price. So, Friday night LJ and Marcus hosted a wedding wine tasting. Six of us sat around tasting and sipping and somehow came to a unanimous decision. However, with the bottles clearly labeled in front of us there was no way to authenticate the vote unless someone blind tasted. Per my suggestion, the group voted to blindfold me. That wasn't exactly how I saw things working out, but the blindfold test confirmed the wine a true winner.

I'm sure in the next two weeks many more good times are to come. Hopefully I'll blog about it in a more timely fashion.