Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving recap #2...

In case you didn't notice from my earlier posts about Thanksgiving dinner and our family Turkey Trot, we had a turkey theme this year.  My sister didn't know this before she came, but brought me turkey taper candles!  Aren't they fun?
The other turkey-themed activity this year was part of a family tradition that we call "the Program."  My aunt and uncle started the Program, which is basically some activity (usually chosen by the hosts) that we do in between courses.  For example, past programs have included:
*Each person showing pictures of their favorite trips
*Telling our favorite stories about each person
*Showing each person's favorite you-tube or funny internet video
This year I wanted to make it something easy for everyone.  I had a leftover cinderella pumpkin from Halloween, and I came up with the idea of turning it into a turkey. I made a turkey head out of construction paper and then I made a bunch of cut out sugar cookies on sticks (upside down christmas ornament cookie cutter for the shape, if you are wondering) and frosted them in thanksgiving colors.  Each person had to take a cookie, write something they were thankful for on the cookie (with food markers), and then stick it in the turkey.
Then we all guessed whose cookie each one was and everyone had to explain what they had written.  We did three rounds, during appetizers, after soup, and after dinner.  It was a fun way to get conversation going and remember the things we are thankful for.... and then eat turkey feather cookies!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving recap...

We spent today cleaning up and recovering from Thanksgiving... It went really well this year.  Things got started on Wednesday afternoon when our families arrived.  I'd sent out a schedule the week before using Paperless Post so everybody knew the plan for the weekend.
My plan to make everything ahead worked out great this year.  I'd made the Wednesday lasagna and Thursday breakfast pumpkin rolls (a big hit) ahead and put them in the freezer, and did the same for just about everything on the Thanksgiving menu too.  This was our Turkey Day menu:
Nick was in charge of the turkey and the wine.  We have cooked the Turkey on our gas grill for the last two years.  The turkey is good and it also gives me oven space to heat everything up, so the make ahead plan is workable. I made the soup and the cheese puffs two weekends before (put in ziplocs in the freezer).  The pesto dip is just pesto cubes I made over the summer (and put in the freezer) mixed with a block of cream cheese.  I made the sweet potatoes the weekend before and put them in the freezer, and the mashed potatoes the day before.  On Wednesday morning, I made the pies and the stuffing.  By the time everyone arrived on Wednesday afternoon, everything was about done.  The green bean recipe is so easy that all I had to do on Thursday was throw it in a pan and make sure everything else was in the oven.  Definitely the easiest Thanksgiving ever!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I love donuts...

It's true... they are so good!  Maple bars especially.  We even gave donuts as favors at our wedding.  I have found two fun doughnut-related things lately.  The first is the Smartplanet Mini Donut Maker:

Smart Planet MDM-1 Mini Donut Maker
Now, I really don't need this and I don't want another kitchen appliance, and donuts are so cheap I'm not sure why you would go to all the work to make them, but this is only $25, gets four stars on Amazon, and seems like it would be fun once or twice.

One of the other reasons I do not want Item #1 is because I found this shop called Dough a Deer that makes the cutest mini doughnuts in all flavors and colors and ships them to you.  I am crazy about it-- just look at this orange doughnut from them.  I want an excuse to order donuts!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turkey butter...

One of my favorite things from our thanksgiving last year:

Isn't it great?  I wish I could say it was my idea or that I made it, but it was really just from the dairy section of our local Safeway!  It was also the inaugural run for my china (Kate Spade Union Street) and I thought the turkey looked particularly cute on the new plates...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I love these vases...

I saw this vase in Cooking Light last month and finally got around to visiting the company's website.  Isn't it great? The company is called Chive and they have all sorts of great vases.  I really like them because I grow flowers in the garden but either never have enough for a big arrangement or the stems are too short to make it workable in the vases I have.  All of the little openings in these would be perfect for my garden blooms.  Plus I think they would look great in my house, which is mid-century modern with sort of basic furnishings. I also like these three-- "Flute," "Double Bubble," and "Caterpillar:"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thanksgiving craft project...

Every year, my husband tries to find a turkey trot run on Thanksgiving morning.  We have done a few and it's always fun.  This year, we decided to put together our own for the family, which will consist of walking or running a little route through our neighborhood.  But what turkey trot is complete without the obligatory t-shirt? (Also, we thought an incentive to participate might be good...)  So I put together my own little turkey logo from some layered circles and ovals, and "STTT" ("Steiner-Tronquet Turkey Trot") was born!

I found some $2 t-shirts and iron-on printer paper at Michaels, and created an assembly station on my ironing board.  Disclaimer:  If you are looking for high-quality t-shirts this is not the project for you, but if you are looking for a novelty (and probably one-time-wear) t-shirt I definitely recommend this approach.  My printer had a "t-shirt transfer" setting under properties which automatically printed a mirror image that would iron on properly.

All you have to do is place the printout face down on the t-shirt, iron (I found that 2 or 3 passes with the iron for 10-15 seconds worked best, with a little extra focus on the corners and edges), then peel off the backing (an exacto knife helps here).  Here is my final project:

And of course, the project wouldn't be complete without some cute packaging, so I rolled them up (with the STTT logo prominently displayed) and tied it with some cute ribbon.

Who wouldn't want to run in this?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writing thank you notes...

quip thank you cards
Kate Spade Quip Thank You Cards

I thought since I sort of ranted and raved in my earlier post on wedding gift thank you notes that it might be good to offer some more constructive advice.  I have developed a little formula that has proven pretty successful.  (My mom is always so proud when someone tells her they received a nice note from me!).  It is two simple paragraphs, can be used for any type of thank you, and goes something like this:

Dear ____:
Thank you so much for the ____.  It was so thoughtful of you and [add something personal about the item here, such as what you plan to do with it and/or what it means to you... even if you feel a little cheesy writing it, that is ok-- better to seem heartfelt than disinterested].
We had a wonderful time... [In this paragraph, add something about your relationship with the person who gave you the gift- why you were happy to see them at the wedding, see them at the holidays, etc.]  Hope to see you again soon... in the meantime, we will think of you whenever we use the ___!

Sure, a basic "thanks for the gift" is better than nothing, but I think this approach makes it a little more personal.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Make ahead mashed potatoes?

Luxurious Mashed Potatoes

In my pursuit of easy thanksgiving recipes, I came across Martha's recipe for Luxurious Mashed Potatoes.
Apparently, you can make them a day ahead of time and just heat them up in the oven. Sounds good to me!  It was a big hassle last year to have to mash them right before dinner, so I think I will make a test batch this weekend...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wedding etiquette... sending thank you notes

I received a thank you note last week for a wedding present I sent this summer... at the end of June.  Still haven't received notes for two other gifts I sent at the same time.

I suppose receiving a note four months later is better than nothing, but only marginally better in my opinion.  I really think that if the people who sent you the gifts have cause to wonder whether you received it, you have waited too long to send a thank you.  It really doesn't take more than five minutes to write, so within a month is reasonable.   Also, if they send the gift before the wedding, consider it a favor-- you can send the note now and not have to worry about it after the wedding!

There are lots of options for thank you note stationary.  Minted  has so many cute ones...  I love this for wedding thank yous-- sweet and simple:
Sweet and Simple Thank You Cards 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thinking turkey...

Now that November is here, it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving.  We are hosting this year.
Last year we grilled the turkey and it turned out great:
Pretty nice, right?  My husband gets all the credit for this one... it was really good.  All of my sides were good too, but I think I was a little too ambitious with the menu:
It turned out as good as it sounds (yes, carrot souffle is amazing!), but I'm looking for simpler recipes this year and less time in the kitchen... more Thanksgiving planning coming soon!