Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Big Announcement

2011 was a year of highs, lows, excitement and angst, for a variety of reasons. I can't think of anyone who wasn't affected by the events of the year, whether it was due to the economy, weather, or other personal circumstance. I hope that 2012 brings each and every one of you joy, hope and everything you wish for. I also hope you keep your New Year's resolution, if you have one.

I have a resolution that will actually be quite easy to keep. Are you ready for it?

My resolution is to gain 25 pounds.

(I'm hearing a chorus of "huh?!" and "what??" coming through the computer.)

That's right. Gain 25 pounds.

Matt and I are expecting a baby in July!

We are thrilled and terrified, which is the norm for first time parents, I hear. Are we ready for this? How will our lives change?

Of course, I've already browsed baby backpacks so Baby can be toted along on cross country course walks, because really, you move much faster with that than a stroller. And I've got plans to enter the Adult Team Challenge with friends and fellow eventing gal pals Katie Murphy and Suzanne Adams next September. But Baby is no stranger to equestrian accomplishments - in fact, he or she has already completed a hunter pace, and was the fastest team of the day.

2012 will be a year of firsts for us...and I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kleenex Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I hope you have all had a treasured few days with family and friends, those near and dear to you. We were blessed enough to enjoy not only both our families, but lovely friends as well. More recipes coming - namely the Breakfast Casserole - but I just had to share this with you.

Matt and I had planned to not give each other gifts this year. We'd made a few large purchases, and with an impending trip overseas next year to best friend Bex's wedding (in Ireland - YAY) among other things, we thought we had enough.

Evidently Matt thought otherwise!

Christmas Day was lovely and quiet, just the two of us and the horses and cats. We were sitting in front of a fire, the tree twinkling and Christmas carols serenading us. As I was just taking a moment to enjoy my surroundings, Matt says, "What's that?"

"What's what?"
"What are you looking at?"
"I was just enjoying the tree."
"Are you sure? What else are you looking at?"
Me, thinking he's imbibed in too much eggnog: "Umm, the tree."
"I think there's something else over there. You might want to check it out."

I'm thoroughly confused by this point.

What else is a girl to do? I got up, looked at the tree, then looked down. At the bottom of the tree was a wrapped box. Thought #1: How long has that been there while I wandered past, oblivious? Thought #2: What the heck is in there?!

It didn't take long to find out. After ripping the wrapping paper, I unearthed....a box of tissues. There was a note.
Am I getting a cold for Christmas?

So I turn them over. And I can only imagine the look on my face before I burst into tears and blubbered a million things like, "Oh my God!" and "I can't believe you did this!"
It was tickets to see the hit play War Horse at Lincoln Center....a play I'd been talking about since it opened in March. After winning 5 Tony awards, it's original June 26th curtain call was nixed for an open-ended run. And we're two lucky people to have the opportunity to experience the wonder of this play.

My parents always took my brother and I to theatre, both local community shows and Broadway, so seeing a play or musical is an occasion to get dressed up and really soak up the story that unfolds in front of you. I'm sure I'll be affected and will connect with the story, even though the "horses" are puppets and I've never been to war.

Now all I have to figure out is how to cram several boxes of tissues in my handbag.

And how to show Matt how grateful I am that he gave me such a wonderful, unexpected gift. I feel especially blessed this Christmas.

(War Horse Lincoln Center Montage Video)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Festive Cookies

Let me set the stage.

Matt and I went to the grocery store over the weekend to get everything we needed for the big Christmas gathering at our house this weekend. We have friends and family coming, some from all over the country, and others from other parts of the world! Yes, we feel really lucky to be having such a great Christmas with so many people.

I usually make Christmas tree cookies, which I'll be making this year as well. Earlier this year, I made a new recipe for chocolate chip cookies, and Matt said they were so good (and he's right - they are), that he'd like to have some made for his family visiting. Since I don't think there will be any more rugelach when they arrive Friday, I acquiesced.

Anyway.

Since chocolate chip cookies don't scream Christmas to me, I had to "Christmas" them up a bit. So I went in search of festive M&M's. You know, the red and green ones.

The first grocery store....they were out. No problem, we'll just go to another one.

The second one was out too. Every other festive candy you can think of was there, but not the M&M's. Matt grabs a regular bag (gasp) and says, "Here they are, let's go!"

"You expect me to use (gasp again) regular M&M's?"
"Well, maybe I don't like M&M's in my cookies."
"Regular M&M's aren't festive! I need these cookies to be festive!"
(between gritted teeth) "We...are...taking...these...M&Ms...and...we'll....deal."
"Oh, fine. But you get to pick out the red and green ones."
There's not enough festive in there.

For the rest of the day, I heard the word "festive" uttered around the house. I don't know why he was so frustrated.

After the "festive" M&Ms were separated from the "non-festive" ones, I decided there just wasn't enough festive in the cookie dough. So for good measure, a mess of sprinkles went in there too.
Cookie/ M&M/ Sprinkle Mess

I have to tell you, these cookies are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever eaten. Or made. They've got oatmeal in them too, so bonus! You can eat them for breakfast. They have eggs, flour, butter, and oatmeal in them. That's breakfast. And sprinkles.

Also, adding to the delicious, is another ingredient that really works.
They're singing "Now bring me some figgy pudding..." On a side note, don't you find that to be the most demanding carol ever? "...and bring it right here!" Oh really? I don't think those carolers were very popular.
Whether you choose to "festive" up these cookies or make them at any other time of year...they're phenomenal. You'll love them. And hopefully Matt's family will too, since most of the rugelach is gone. Nom nom.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the oats, flour, dry pudding mix, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks. Yield: about 7 dozen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rock & Roll Rugelach

Welcome to the Christmas recipes! Or Festivus, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, whatever you choose to celebrate. In actuality, rugelach (or rogelach or a zillion other possible spellings) is from Jewish origin, but the French are horning in and saying it was their idea. I'm horning in and saying it's delicious. So there.

My mom made rugelach (pronounced rug-lah) when I was growing up, and to me, it means Christmas. Finally this year I asked her for the recipe, and I'm so glad I did. I made them this morning, and they're just too good not to share. I eat these as a breakfast food, but they're good at any time of day. Promise.

The recipe in full is below, but I'll give you some photos to give you a rough idea of the process. Fair warning: it's a two day extravaganza, but it's easy. Time-consuming, perhaps, but again - so worth it.

So you make dough first, and roll it into balls the size of golf balls.
Aw, look. They're happy to see you.

Then you stick all the balls in the refrigerator and let them hang out overnight. After you dream about them, you can actually get to the time consuming part the next day.
Roll 'em out! Do yourself a favor and load up on the flour or else you'll have some unsticking to do. More flour is better than less. Trust me on that one.

Now, Mom said to make these into rectangular shapes. I'm here to tell you, short of some origami miracle, mine were not about to look like rectangles. That's what the majority of them looked like - above.

Slice them on the diagonal to make (sorta) wedges, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar filling on top. I found it helpful to pat down the filling with the back of the spoon. Then it was more committed to staying on the dough.
Come to mama.

Then you roll 'em up, and stick 'em in the oven! Easy peasy, right?

Let me tell you. I think I'm good at this baking business. I thought they would look like these perfect little crescent roll-ish guys. I now bow to my mother's skill, because not one of them looked like a neat little crescent roll. Not one. I had a few flubs that sort of unraveled in the oven. So if you do too, don't sweat it.

Once they're done baking, let them cool for a few minutes, then go find a guinea pig.
I asked Matt if he would eat one of my "flubs." You know, one of the rugelach that didn't quite look right. They'd taste perfect, though. Matt yelled from the living room, "I don't want the flubs!"

I gave him a flub anyway.

Two minutes later, I hear, "Do you have any more flubs in there?!"

Yeah, they're that good.
Leftover filling carnage. It's ok. Sprinkle it on your cereal or oatmeal or something.
Ahh, Christmas is here. And it's tasty. A few more recipes forthcoming this week, including the elusive Breakfast Casserole!

Rogelach/ Rugelach
1 8-oz cream cheese
2 c flour
1/2 lb (two sticks) butter
4T sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese. Blend in flour and sugar. Roll into balls about golf ball size. Refrigerate overnight.

On floured board, flatten and roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Try to make them rectangular shape -- I found they're easier to cut into triangles this way. Cut wedges.

Filling:
1 cup ground walnuts
2 t cinnamon
1 c sugar

Sprinkle wedges with sugar/cinnamon/nut mixture generously. Roll each wedge starting from wide end.

Bake at 350 for 12 - 15 minutes. Less time if they're small.

ETA: Turns out Mom didn't always have perfect crescents - she admitted at dinner this evening that she ate all of her flubs! The secret is revealed! (Now I know where I get it from.)

She also added that she would take the golf balls, roll them into tube shapes or sausages, then roll them with a rolling pin - making a more rectangle shape. To add to the Martha Stewart-esque fabulousness of my mom, she would slice the wonky ends of the dough off to make a neat rectangle - which didn't occur to me. Duh. The leftover (wonky end) dough would be combined at the end to create more rugelach! Genius!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mr. December

We all know Zeus is dashing.

But more than just us who know him took notice.

A few months back, I was asked to submit a few photos of Zeus and I for the possibility of a 2012 calendar for CANTER, the adoption organization that he came from, and I'm now fortunate enough to work for. It's no secret that CANTER is an outstanding organization with top-notch horses just waiting for a chance at a new career.

Evidently, Zeus is a poster child for this national rescue, along with 11 others.

He was chosen to be Mr. December (which he is pointing out to everyone around the barn these days), and his photo, along with our story, reminds me how lucky I am to have such a superb horse.
What I loved even more, however, were reading the stories of all the other owners and their own OTTBs. The owner of Mr. September, Malibu Eclipse, contacted me to say hello and to connect, as we had mutual friends in the horse world, and he wanted to know if his horse was any relation to my beloved Midnight Eclipse.

How cool is that?

Anyway, I'm letting you know that you should (yes, you really should) click here to purchase a calendar of your own. 100% of the proceeds go to CANTER, and that means the money goes to beautiful, exceptional horses who are still waiting for their forever homes.

And hey, if you need a last minute Christmas gift....look no further! My calendar arrived mere days after I ordered it, so yours can arrive in plenty of time for gift giving. Calendars are limited, so don't wait another moment!

Go get your calendar. Not only will you know what day it is in 2012, it's just the right thing to do. Zeus says so.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kitty Elf

Decorating is exhausting.
Dad gets tired too, when Mom is in a tizzy hanging things and talking about the Christmas dinner menu, so we're just hanging out on the couch.

So what if I look like a pretzel? I look so cute that Mom has stopped asking me to help hang ornaments from the windows.
I do love Christmas though. It usually involves lots of catnip, kitty treats and people visiting and fawning all over me. So take note, Santa Kitty....there is no such thing as too much catnip. Or kitty treats.

I'll be right here, upside down. You know where to find me.

Love,
Mojo

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Deck the Halls

It's been pretty quiet here at TMF. Horses, teaching, waiting for Winter to set in, and begin the long haul until Spring. As I type this, it's 60 degrees and raining. Go figure!

While things are relatively boring (and believe me, I'll take boring on occasion, especially when boring doesn't involve vet bills!), we've been busy decking the halls! I was determined to decorate sooner than I did last year, and now we get to enjoy it for an extra week. Lovely!

So in the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd give you a little taste of the holidays at TMF. Not all decorations are up, but here's hoping these photos bring you a little cheer, no matter where you are!
Whimsy experiences major joy keeping tabs on the squirrels, and Mojo, who I'm sure was trolling around the front yard...
Christmas kitties! I'm sensing a theme here. And a random sheep.
Nothing beats having Heat Miser and Snow Miser greet you when you enter the guest bathroom! (Bonus points if you know what Christmas movie they're from...)
Here's our dining room, also known as my favorite room in the house. If you can look past my sweaters drying on the backs of the chairs, you'll see the ornament centerpiece, snowflakes and ornaments on the window, and do I spy some glass snowflakes in the chandelier?
I love the word "Joy." It really brings about the feeling of the holidays, in my opinion. Monster thinks so too. Believe it or not, Matt is standing next to me, telling Monster about his day (a regular occurrence) and Monster sits in rapt attention, absorbing every word. It's riveting at the Wall Street Journal, I tell you!

And the final touch....
Fa la la la laaaaaa! This tree turned out so big that our ornaments look a little sparse. Go big or go home. I think I said that last year, too.

Stay tuned for more good cheer, perhaps some holiday recipes, and photos! December has only just begun...