Thursday, May 11, 2017

Death Roses and Rainbows - A Mother's Day Story

Here's a funny little story that happened last year on Mother's Day I'd like to call "Death Roses and Rainbows" that I thought you would enjoy.

Death Roses and Rainbows... A true story.
Mother's day gets you thinking.  You know the one thing every mom secretly wants, is not necessarily the cards, presents, chocolates or gifts, but just for their children to recognize all the hard work and dedication it takes to be a mom.  Of course when they are still little, it might be YEARS before they can truly appreciate all the small things you did for them on a daily basis.

When your are deep in those mommy trenches, they have no idea that one little chubby-armed hug can erase countless sleepless nights, one bubbly coo can make the smell of a poopy diaper vanish (well almost), and turn your day completely around. Even one friendly smile from a formally sulky teenager can make all  the moody ups and downs worth it.  That's it. That's all we mom's want. Just an appreciative thank you goes a long way.  We love that.  That stuff can keep us floating for the next full year, through piles of dirty dishes to wash, mountains of laundry to fold, and sassy moody door slams. 

Calgon, take me away!
So when I married my hubby, he had two older kids, and so I instantly became a step mom to teenagers at the ripe old age of 28.  They were 12 and 15 at the time.  Brenda, the oldest and I have become great friends over the years.  She is all grown up now, and is married now with a husband and a little girl of her own.  For several years she was away in the military and has just recently moved back into the area.  When she was away, she would always send me special packages on mother's day.  So sweet.  Last year, even though they now live close by, she let me know I should still be expecting a package for Mother's day... and so on the day it arrived, I was very excited.  I decided to give her a play by play via text, so she could "watch me open it".

Behold.. the box.
Well the box sort of tipped me off right away to what it was, but who doesn't love flowers!?  Still a fabulous surprise!  Not only that, but as I was cracking open the box, I noticed how well secured these were in the box, and they smelled fabulous.  The card inside said that these were cut in the Andes mountains of Ecuador (ooo fancy) and had been delivered only 3-4 days after being cut. 

The box.  The box of promises...
As I take off the outer layers of packaging I get my first glimpse of the flowers, and am taken a little aback.  They are pretty dark.  I'm guessing a dark purple or a velvety black?

Very very dark roses
Brenda has not received my text yet on what the roses look like, because the last picture she got was them still in the box unseen, but she does tell me she is so excited, if they look anything like the picture on line, she is going to be thrilled!!  So I continue to cut them out of the packaging and man they are dark.  

Dark blue leaves are normal, right?
 Like really dark.

Are these sucking the light from the room, or is it just me?
The leaves are dark indigo blue, and almost look like bat wings.  Did she really mean to send me black roses? 

I love you... double. death.
 If you get black death roses from a step child... what exactly does that say about your parenting skills?  This cannot be good.

I tell myself (starting to rationalize why she would send me black roses) she and her husband Julian love goth type things.  Maybe this is a statement that they love me as much as they love gothy things??  Yes! That has to be it.  I can't help but think these are pretty severe as far as color.  Very deathly.  I was trying to picture me putting  a snapshot of these out on Facebook with a "look what Brenda gave me for mother's day" post and wondering what people might think.   

These vampire roses almost have a dark red to them in the sunlight, so that's something.
Meanwhile, she is texting... what do they look like.  I send her that first picture from above with the double vases on the table.  I tell her as a guess, are they dark purple, or a velvety black?  There is a pause in the texts.  Finally she comes back.

Her:  Nooooooooo
Me:   No?

Her:  Why are they black?
Me: Were they suppose to be another color??

Her:  They were suppose to be several colors

Her:  I sent you RAINBOW roses.

Me: Blinking
Me:  Shut up.  They make rainbow roses??  I LOVE rainbows!

Her:  Those look like they belong in a funeral home

Me (thinking quietly): I couldn't agree more

She was so upset.  I guess the company had made a mistake and sent the wrong color roses to me.  Not only did I have 12 of these roses, but a whole TWO dozen of them. Two vases full! Twenty-four black as night roses staring at me all ghostly hallows dementor-like from the kitchen table. 

Soul sucking roses at your service...
The nice thing about our family, is that we have a pretty good since of humor. This whole situation became hilarious to me. Her dad also was getting the play by play of this flower opening fiasco, and was already texting and teasing her about "remember that time you sent your step mom DEATH roses?  She was mortified.

So. Stunned.
I also had a wild and crazy thought that somewhere else in the world, some poor goth bride in a black dress and veil were waiting for the last minute delivery of her wedding bouquet black roses, and was heartbroken to find my beautiful, cheerful rainbow roses instead.  That alone had me cracking up every time I passed the jet black flowers on the table. 

Where oh where are my death roses?  This is my special DAY!
Well she called the company and they made good on their mistake... a few days later I received another box in the mail...  

It's the "getting my hopes up box"...

and I started to unveil them... almost too nervous to peek at the contents inside....

Bright colors as far as the eye can see! 
Say WHAT?!  These are BEAUTIFUL!  Like amazing!!   I slowly take them out of the box and lovingly prep them for a vase.  

Amazing Rainbow Roses
 These are incredible.  Each flower petal is a different color.  

How in the world is this accomplished?!

I spent the next few minutes... okay days, taking pictures of these gorgeous things in different light settings.   

Seriously I couldn't stop.

There is no bad angle on rainbow roses! They look good from all directions.
 So pretty in this light.

Rainbow roses are the best. thing. ever!
Brenda knew I loved rainbows, and so she gave me rainbows for mother's day. How sweet is this kid!? We kept the rainbow roses up as long as they would last, and then I ended up pulling off the petals on half of them to dry them and did an art project with them, and the other half I dried upside down so I could keep some forever.  The fact that they started out as shocking black "death roses" that turned into something so spectacular and special makes the story even better.  I do wish you and yours a very happy mother's day this year.  Whether they be biological or step, adopted, or grafted into the family, be sure to take some time out to thank a mom near you as soon as possible.  I promise even death roses can't break the bond of motherly love!


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Puppy Ear Flap Hat - Crochet

Just a quick post. I wanted to show you my newest ear flap hat.  A puppy!  How cute is this face and floppy ears?

A sweet little puppy ear flap hat
It's seems that many of my friends are having babies this season.  Most have been girls, so I've done quite a few baby birds and giraffes, but I was invited to a baby shower for a baby boy and besides foxes, I soon realized I didn't have many boy ear flap hats in my arsenal.  I went in search of inspiration and found it in this picture by Ruth McColm (you can buy her full pattern over on etsy):

As always I used my own favorite ear flap hat pattern (link no longer available) but you can find a number of ear flap hat patterns for free on Pinterest.  For some parts such as the ears, I pieced together things I liked from different patterns to get the look I wanted.  I used the pattern for the ears from this pattern and I modified it a bit by reducing stitches near the top to narrow the ears so they would be wide and floppy at the bottom and smaller, easier to attach at the top

Puppy ear flap hat - how can you not love this face?
Here's all the parts before assembling. Ear flap hat, circle "patch" for the eye, two ears, a small nose, two buttons for the eyes and matching thread. 

After you have all the parts ready, I laid them out on the hat to find the best spacing for the puppy face.

It's always good to lay things out how they will look before hand so you can get the face placement correct
Then I attached each part with embroidery thread.  I like to sew these so that nothing shows on the inside of the hat.  I take shallow stitches that do not go all the way to the back and at the same time securing each part very snugly.  Especially the buttons, as you would not want those to come off for safety reasons.

After that my little puppy hat was completed, and I was almost sad to give him away the next day, as I usually like to keep one as a template for future hats.

Just so I could see how it would fit on a regular head, I had my 9-year-old try the hat on for size.  This was made at a 9-12 month size (the baby is born this spring and it will be ready to wear next winter), but since yarn is somewhat stretchy, it did fit on her head and would probably go up to a 2 or 3 year old toddler if the mom wanted it to.

By the way, the baby shower was fabulous, in case you want a sneak peek.  They did a very Pacific Northwest outdoors theme, with grey and white chevrons, with hints of black and woodsy elements.  Here were the center pieces, little tents on a slab of wood and mason jars filled with pens (for the games) and chocolate dipped pretzels.

Cute and woodsy
This play tent was set up over by the gift table, and will make a lovely play area for baby Duke as he grows up.

For favors, they had a "make your own trail mix" bar with little baggies and tin buckets with the different snacks of nuts, chocolate chips, and cranberries

The food was fabulous as well. My eldest daughter really loved this fruit ups served in waffle cups.

Love the waffle bowls use for serving the fruit cups
Last but not least were the woodland creatures for dessert.  These were little foxes and maybe skunks or badgers all displayed on a big slab of tree trunk.  So cute. 

Had I know this was the theme, I probably would have made my little fox ear flap hat instead, 

Little Jaxon here in one of my fox hat creations
 but I really like the way the puppy hat turned out. After Duke is born and grows up enough to wear the hat, I will post an update.

Monday, March 20, 2017

BBQ Ribs in the Pressure Cooker

Do you enjoy ribs?  Like really good, fall off the bone, covered in sweet n' tangy sauce, need three napkins and most likely an oversize bib for your shirt RIBS?  Do you have an hour?  What if I told you it was possible to go from slab of raw ribs to tender BBQ perfection in about an hour. Magic, you say?  Almost. This wizardly device known as the Instant Pot has not only defied all laws of cooking physics, but it has converted me into a full-fledged believer.

The most amazing first time ribs we just cooked in the Instant Pot
Well I purchased the Instant Pot a while back, and I've done the basic boiling water test (hidden behind a pantry door in case it exploded), I've made perfect artichokes in 20 minutes multiple times (standing right in front of the machine with only slight trepidation), and made some delicious quick meals involving frozen chicken breasts in 15 minutes (without a second thought), much to the amazement of myself and my family.  I've joined the Instant pot Facebook page (I highly recommend) and it was there I kept seeing recipes for these delectable looking BBQ ribs float by.  Ribs are one of my favorite things. The only trouble is, I don't like wasting meat or ruining it in anyway, and my fear of not getting something right or wrecking a meal has made me shy away from buying cuts of meat. One day I told my hubby bravely... "I would like to try ribs in the pressure cooker next."  No less than 2 hours later he appears with a slab O' ribs. I think that's code for - he's pretty much on board. Okay, lets DO this.

The recipe we decide to try is from Jason over at the "Great Chow" on you tube.  It seemed simple, straight forward, only had a few ingredients, and the ribs looked quite tasty.  
You only need a few things: (printable recipe at the end)

Rack of ribs
Apple juice
Apple cider vinegar
Spice rub (optional)
Your favorite BBQ sauce

We found these ribs on sale for $2.97 a pound, and recently found them for $1.99 a pound, we're planning on stocking up.

So the first thing you want to do is remove the secret "invisible" silver skin from the underside of the ribs.  Flip them to the back side and carefully feel around on one end and pull up a little.  I used a paper towel because first of all touching raw meat gives me the heebie jeebies, but second of all it give you a better grip to pull. All of the sudden this thin sheet of something started to come up as you pull steadily.  Hey I actually DID it!! 

Pour four cups of apple juice into the Instant Pot, and about 1/2 cup to 1 cup (or two glugs) of apple cider vinegar.  Turn the pot on to "saute" to get the liquid to heat up a bit (until it's warm and steaming).

Usually I only cook with 1-2 cups of liquid so this seemed like a lot, but these ribs will be braised in the liquid
We added an extra step to the original recipe because we wanted to add a rub or little bit of seasoning to the meat.  My friend recently returned from Hawaii with this little gem... which contains, salt, pepper, paprika, cane sugar, Kona coffee, and dried parsley.

It said it was great with pork and seemed like the perfect thing to add.  Sprinkle on the rub and pat into the meat on both sides. (This part is optional, you can do this whole recipe with just the first four original ingredients).

This was a light "rub" just enough to give it some extra seasoning
Next he said to put the meat in the pot in the warm liquid.  Our rack of ribs were a little long, so we cut in in half.  I was slightly worried because some people recommended only putting a small amount of liquid in the bottom and have the meat resting on the trivet above it to steam the meat.  But we did as instructed and covered the meat with the liquid.  I was also concerned that the apple cider vinegar would give a funky taste to the meat, but alas, I was wrong.  Apparently the apple cider vinegar is an acid that tenderizes the meat and I can attest that there was no aftertaste at all, only that sought-after delicious meat-heaven taste. 

Into the Apple juice/cider vinegar bath with ye!

After the meat is safely in the liquid (thicker side down), seal up the Instant Pot, make sure the release valve is set for the sealing position and set the pot for "meat/stew" and check that it's set at "high pressure" and change the set time of 35 minutes down to 32 minutes.

When you hit the "meat/stew" it automatically calls up 35 min.  Use the minus sign to lower it to 32 minutes

Once the cook cycle is finished let it rest for 5 minutes before manually releasing the pressure (I used an oven mitt) 

Wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the lid... but the house smelled like ribs

Prepare a foil lined pan with a little cooking spray and carefully place the cooked ribs down on the pan.  They will be almost falling apart.

Slather the under side with your favorite BBQ sauce.  We decided to try Jack Daniels Hickory Brown Sugar BBQ sauce and it was spectacular. 

Get in all the nooks and crannies with the sauce

Then carefully flip the over and slather the other side.  

Put the pan of ribs in a 450ยบ oven for 10-15 minutes to caramelize the BBQ sauce.  We also broiled them for a few minutes right before taking them out to make the tops all brown and bubbly.

Hello little rib sauna... enjoy your glazing time
Pull the finished awesomeness out of the oven and let it rest for about 5 minutes (mostly so you don't burn your mouth).  

Activate "smell-o-vision" here
 Seriously.  I was so stunned that these things were:

     *Fall off the bone

Did I mention awesome?!

Look here's the pan when I tried to cut the first slab of ribs... the bone pulled clean away

How is this even POSSIBLE in 32 minutes??

Fork tender and so good!

Mmmmmm smell that tangy BBQ sauce.  That Jack Daniel knows whats up!

Serve with mashed potatoes and veggies, or corn on the cob and a side salad and your are in business!

Mmm Mmm good!

I'd like to thank Jason over at the "Great Chow" for this simple, yet amazing ribs recipe.  We could not have had better or easier instructions, and we were thrilled to get a such perfect BBQ baby back ribs meal and on our first attempt too.

So I am a total convert. I used to buy ribs already made, sauced, ready to heat up.  I'm never going back again these will be my go to ribs, and hubby mentioned that even if this is a starting off point for us to get inspired and experiment with these ribs as is were absolutely amazing. No go get yourself an Instant Pot, print up the recipe here, and start eating some good grub!  Enjoy!

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