Sunday, October 31, 2010

Stove Top Pumpkin Seeds

Last weekend we had several friends over for a Pumpkin Carving Party.  So with at least 15 large pumpkins being carved, you can imagine we had a lot of seeds!  Luckily our friend Mary prefers sorting out the seeds from the guts to the actual carving so we ended up with a large bowl full of seeds.

I mean really large.  Here's the bowl with a can of pop for size reference.  It was over 5 pounds of pumpkin seeds!

With so many seeds to toast the idea of laying them all out on a cookie sheet to bake them seemed arduous.  So while I decided what to do I soaked the seeds in heavily salted water for a day in the fridge and then drained them and popped them back in the fridge for most of another day.

Instead of baking them I used a large pan on the stove.  I used just a tiny bit of olive oil, just enough for a super thin layer to coat the pan, maybe 1 tablespoon.  I put it over medium heat and once the oil was hot tossed in enough seeds to cover the bottom of the pan.

Every few minutes stir around the seeds to make sure they're getting cooked on both sides.  Cook for a total 8-12 minutes, depending on how much moisture your seeds retained.  Once cooked dump the seeds onto a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil and salt to taste.

They turned out really good; I don't normally like pumpkin seeds much but these were delicious and made the whole house smell nicely of pumpkin seeds.

Obviously we weren't going to eat 5 pounds of pumpkin seeds on our own, so I put them in cute bags to give our to our friends.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It's Blitz!

On Tuesday afternoon I was supposed to pick up our latest foster dog, a six month old Golden Retriever.  I called one of the foster coordinators to let her know I'd be late to get him when she told me that he'd actually been adopted out already by one of the surgeons at Chicago Animal Care and Control.  I was thrilled that he'd already gotten adopted and this also freed up some time in my afternoon so I could relax a bit and eat lunch instead of rushing about like I thought I would have to.

Shortly after I got home the foster coordinator emailed me asking if I wanted to take a Leonberger puppy that had come in as a local stray instead.  I was super excited; I had actually seen his picture in an email the night before with the other new dogs coming in that needed foster homes but couldn't take him since I was already supposed to be getting the Golden puppy.  As a double bonus, this dog didn't need to be picked up for a few hours, so I had time to get things in order before picking him up.

So here's Blitz!  He was neutered on Tuesday morning, so he'll be sporting the Cone of Shame Destruction for the next week or two. 

He's about 6 months old and is nearly as big as Dash, but his paws are bigger and you can tell that he's still got some growing to do.  Blitz should probably weigh about 50-60 pounds right now, but when you pet him you can feel his ribs and spine (the fur is decieving!), so I'm sure he's far under that at the moment.  Luckily he's a great eater so I'm sure we'll have some meat on his bones in no time.

One thing is for sure though, this puppy is cute!  He has that innocent expression on his face that tells you he's still just a baby. 

Blitz appears to be house trained, knows a few simple commands and is a ham for the camera.  As soon as I started taking pictures of him he got up to pose for me; I had a hard time getting pictures of his full body because all he wanted to do was sit pretty and look at the camera!

Leonbergers are a relatively rare breed, so the fact that Blitz was found wandering about is kind of surprising.  But at the same time, this probably means he'll be adopted quickly, because dogs like him usually get snatched up in a millisecond (supply and demand hard at work!).  Leos are part of the Giant Breeds of dogs, in the same class with Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands and Great Pyrenees.  The story is that Leos were bred from these other dogs to resemble a lion like the one on the coat of arms for Leonberg, Germany

I totally see the resemblance, don't you?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Landon Scored!

Landon was finally able to go to his first adoption show this past Saturday after being under house arrest for the last three weeks.  It took him three rounds of antibiotics to get over his kennel cough - apparently there's a nasty strain of it going around right now.  But midweek last week you could tell that he was suddenly feeling so much better.  Instead of having to be coaxed to eat watered down wet food he would scarf down his kibble, and I didn't even have to hide his medicine in anything because he'd eat it right along with the dry food!  In the yard he began running around more and wanted to play fetch, when before trotting more than a few steps would have thrown him into a coughing fit.

It was great to see his personality peeking through.  Although one thing that didn't change was his desire to be close to you.  Not just I'm-going-to-follow-you-from-room-to-room close, but if-I-could-surgically-attach-myself-to-you-I-would close.  We knew with how sweet and cute he was it would be no time at all before Landon got adopted and pretty much figured he'd be a one show dog.

So I wasn't terribly surprised when less than an hour after dropping Landon off at the adoption show I received a call from one of the adoption coordinators saying someone had put in an application on him and asked me to talk to them on the phone for a few minutes.  Everything sounded great; a woman and her boyfriend who live with her mother as well as her two children, 10 and 12 years old, so someone would be home almost 100% of the time.  With having so many people to love on and rarely being alone, I knew Landon would love it.

The home check went well, everyone seemed excited about the new addition to the family and Landon was completely obsessed with the kids.  They decided to name him Bufflin Joe, after former Chicago Blackhawk (and now Atlanta Thrasher) hockey player Dustin Byfuglien (through the magic of the Norgwegian language Byfuglien is pronounced Bufflin).

Congrats, Landon!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Driven Away

Tuesday evening I bid farewell to a good friend of mine.  We've known each other since I was 17 and have been though a lot together, good times and bad.

I am talking, of course, about my first car.  My little red Ford Focus that's been sitting in the garage for the last 2 years while I've been driving what was my brother's (and is now my) Ford Escape.  But even though I haven't driven it in a long time, it was sad to see my Focus go.  My parents gave me that car almost exactly 10 years ago for my 17th birthday.  That car has taken me to a lot of things in my life; high school, college, moving from Michigan to Illinois, getting married, buying a house and everything in between.

Yes, I posed for pictures with my car before we sold it

The whole story starts way back in the year 2000 (which reminds me of that Conan O'Brien sketch....anyone?).  I had gotten my driver's license at the end of the summer.  So like any teenager, I hinted, hoped and outright asked my parents for a car, but to no avail.  My dad's reasoning was airtight - there was no arguing about it.  He said:

  • A new car is too expensive
  • A used car wouldn't be reliable or safe enough
  • A new car that was very inexpensive would invariably be a tiny deathtrap that would be smashed by a larger SUV

My dad had made it clear there was no way they were getting me a car.

We get to November 4th; it's a Saturday and the day before my birthday.  My room was a bit of a disaster area and in order to get my birthday gift I had to clean my room.  My parents gave me a box, neatly wrapped up, with my gift inside to sit in my room to taunt me while I toiled.

And for the 3 full hours it took me to clean my room, my gift box did just that.  Taunt me.  Literally.  Every few minutes the box would buzz and play some weird song that reminded me of clowns.  Totally bizarre.

Finally, I finish cleaning my room and open my present - a cell phone!  This is just when they were starting to get popular, hardly anyone at school had one, so this was a big deal!  I was told to check the voicemail on the phone.  I called it, but the outgoing message was some guy and I couldn't listen to any messages.  Turns out the provider did a crappy job transferring the phone number or something, so we'd have to get that taken care of later.  In any event, my parents told me I should probably just take that huge garbage bag I had just filled up out to the garage.

I walk across the house and open the door to the garage.  Sitting in the garage is my dad's car and where my mom's mini van was usually parked sat a red Focus.  I was totally, utterly flabbergasted and in disbelief that my parents had actually gotten me a car.  I mean, my dad had really convinced me it would never happen.  I even remember my mom asking me several weeks earlier what color car I would want, were I to get one, and I told her I hadn't thought about it since I knew it wasn't going to happen.

As I walked over to take a look, all I could say was "Wow."  My dad explained that he had traded in my mom's mini van and gotten us a new Focus to share.



I didn't know what to think.  I mean,  a new car is cool, but if I have to share it with my mom anyway, we may as well share a car I can pack 6 of my friends into instead of 4.  Instant disappointment.  Which I tried very hard to hide because hey, my parents had just bought this new car and I didn't want to seem ungrateful.

So I continue to check out the car when my dad says "Ha!  Just kidding!"  My mom's car is at his friend's house a few blocks away.  This car is just for me!  I was so excited (and relieved)!  I got to drive my brand new car for the very first time to go pick up my mom's car.


 The day I got my car, preparing for its maiden voyage

My dad knew that I would want to go out with my friends to celebrate my birhday and wanted me to have a day to practice driving a new car before venturing off in it with friends.  The cell phone was basically a safety feature for the new car, should I ever get stranded and need help.

As for my dad's airtight arguments against getting me a car, well, my mom told me that when it came down to it, it was his idea to get me one.

Two years later when my parents got my brother a car, they surprised him on Christmas.  My dad re-wrote 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to basically tell him to go outside and see his new car. Unfortunately, on Christmas Eve I was tasked with printing out a copy of the poem for my dad so he could re-write it and I foolishly left it sitting on the printer.  Eric saw it (the unedited version) and figured out what was going on, but didn't say a word!

You may be wondering what sorts of shenanagins my brother could have gotten into that resulted in ownership of his car being transferred to me.  He actually moved to New York City for law school a few years ago and since he'll be living there for the foreseeable future, has no use for a car.

So thanks, mom and dad, for an amazing gift.  And for being the best parents ever (and not just because you bought me a car!).

As an aside, we sold the car to CarMax and were really happy with the process.  They made it fast and easy and gave us a great price for it!  We definitely recommend them for your used-car-selling needs.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mozzarella Sticks

Inspired by an inordinate amount of string cheese sitting in my fridge as the result of an impulse buy at Costco, I decided to make my own mozzarella sticks.  This turned out to be super easy and quick to make (not to mention a crowd pleaser!).

Here's what you'll need:

String cheese
Bread crumbs
Olive oil (or whatever your favorite oil is)

Put about 1/4 - 1/2 inch of oil in a frying pan or a sauce pan (I think I'll go this route next time but used a frying pan for this first attempt) and put over medium heat.  Cut the string cheese in half.  Beat the egg and add about a tablespoon of water to thin it out a bit (how many eggs you'll need total depends on how many mozzarella sticks you'll make; start with one and you can add more as needed).  Put several tablespoons of flour on one plate and several tablespoons of breadcrumbs on another.

Roll a piece of the cheese in flour and then tap so excess flour falls off. 

Roll in the egg to coat. 

Then roll in the bread crumbs to coat. 

I double breaded my mozzarella sticks, but you could stop here in the breading process if you want and head straight to the oil.  To double bread, after the first trip into the bread crumbs I put the cheese back into the egg and then it took a second trip into the bread crumbs.  This made for a more consistent and slightly crunchier breading and the general consensus amongst our friends was that the double breading was worth it.  Use tongs to place the cheese in the hot oil; you should be able to hear the breading sizzling a little (not too much!) when you place it in the oil. 

After a minute or two (or the breading has browned a bit) flip over with the tongs.  Another minute or two and your mozzarella stick is ready to come out of the oil.  Place it onto a plate with paper towel on it to absorb excess oil.

Wait a moment for them to cool and then enjoy!  We had a few friends over to play board games and I made an entire plate of these, which promptly disappeared!

just a few of the many mozzarella sticks

Our friend Jayme kindly volunteered to demonstrate the ooey gooey goodness of the mozzarella sticks!