Monday, November 29, 2010

On My Knees

Lately I have been listening to the band "Ascend the Hill."  They are by far, the freshest & most worshipful band I have heard since I started listening to the Wickham brothers (Phil & Evan).  If you haven't heard of them, I encourage you to do so by visiting their site  or by downloading their music for free or donation here.  Also, they are a local band from Brandon, which makes me appreciate their talent all the much more.  I challenge you, Christian or not, to listen to the songs and the amazing lyrics full through.  You will not be the same afterwards and to deny the truths sung would be foolishness.  The lyricism brings me to my knees in complete adoration and humility each time I listen to them.  My favorite album over theirs is entitled "Take the World, but give me Jesus."  To listen to my favorite track, pause the music player at the bottom of this page and click play on the embedded file below.  Also, I have included a video of their vision for Ascend The Hill - they are truly humble worshippers of Christ Jesus, just like you and I.  I hope their music encourages you and blesses you, I can't get enough of it.  Blessings.

Find more artists like Ascend The Hill at Myspace Music

Ascend The Hill - WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! from Ascend The Hill on Vimeo.

A Christmas Craft!

Lately, I have been pondering how I can rework my Christmas decor this year with the supplies I have.  Often times I do a little decoration shopping after the holidays and score some pretty cute things for next to nothing, but last year I didn't.  After doing a little "Christmas Spirit" searching via the world wide web, I found my inspiration (Knock Knocking Blog).  If I were a Christmas wreath, this is what I would look like!  I almost cried at the sight of the kitchen-aid mixer charm, on top of the teal yarn, felt roses, fabric pinwheels, and silver sparkle?  What more could a girl want?!?!  What do you think?  Looks pretty simple, I can't wait to DIM (do it myself!)  Pictures of the actual facsimile to follow....

On another note, we are getting our tree this week!  I can't wait!  Husband & I always go to the same lot and last year we started the tradition of going with dear friends.  We hope to continue that tradition again this year, plus one - their adorable baby boy.  I promise to post pictures of my Christmas Casa asap - that is once I get to decorating!  I am still loving my fall-esque white pumpkins at the moment.... How about you guys?  Any traditions already happening pre-December?  What colors or textures are you workin' this season?


This past Thursday, while baking with my Mom all day, she discovered a little slip up on one of my recipes, and boy am I glad she did before the dish was baked!  For those of you who tried to make the Broccoli Vee Casserole, I hope you figured out to cook the broccoli before hand as directed by the bag/box.  I forgot to include this fine little detail and apologize profusely if you did not cook yours first!  Hopefully no one ended up eating half-way cooked crunchy broccoli, and if you did I am so very sorry! Then again, not many people read this blog, so hopefully everyone in the blogosphere ended up okay!  Anyways, how was everyone's holiday break?  I worked all weekend, being employed at the mall, so it was pretty much a nightmare - but hey the time sure went by fast!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How To Brine A Turkey

I'll be honest with you, I didn't know what the word "brine" meant either.  I am by no means a Julia Child when it comes to cooking so don't be intimidated in the least.  This will only be my second turkey, so we're in this together.  When I saw this recipe on food network, I thought, man that looks good.  Who would have ever thought to marinate a turkey?  Not me.  Chicken, beef, sure - but turkey? Brilliant!  So, brine, by definition means:
brine [braɪn]

1. (Cookery) a strong solution of salt and water, used for salting and pickling meats, etc
2. (Earth Sciences / Physical Geography) the sea or its water
3. (Chemistry / Elements & Compounds) Chem
a.  a concentrated solution of sodium chloride in water
b.  any solution of a salt in water a potassium chloride brine
(tr) to soak in or treat with brine

Now again, this may seem daunting, but if the outcome is as good as all the reviews say, it's gotta be worth it.  We'll see two days from now & I'll let you know how it goes, but for now, here's what you'll need to get Birdie started.


  • 24 lb. turkey 
    • (I realize this is enormous, so just halve things down if you get a smaller guy)
  • 5 sweet onions
  • 10 cloves fresh garlic
  • 64 oz. vegetable broth
  • 64 oz. apple juice
  • 192 oz. water 
    • (i.e. refill the apple juice container three times)
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary 
    • (by bunch, I mean, I went outside and picked a bunch)
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh basil 
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons "Savory" seasoning
  • Ice
  • Get turkey out of bag and de-gut. Yuck yuck yuck.  I'll admit, my Dad helped me with this part last year, but I was left to my own devices this time around - bummer.
  • Rinse well inside and out.  Pat dry.
  • Carefully drop into plastic container big enough + lots of broth.  I got a "74 lb" one if that helps.
  • Add all veg broth, juice, and half of water.
  • Peel onions and quarter. Add to container.
  • Peel garlic, smash to release flavor & add to container.  It should look like this so far.

  • Next get your herbs together.  Personally, I used fresh because that what's I had on hand, and let's be honest, it just looks good. Pictured below: thyme.  
  • Pick off stems, (we don't want those in the jacuzzi) bruise, tear, chop. Don't skip this step or your herbs will do nothing for you!
  • Add to turkey box along with savory season, a couple handfuls of salt and a couple dashes of pepper.  DON'T BE SCARED TO SEASON!  Think about how big a bird this is, (no pun intended big bird) and how much water there is + the sweet apple juice!  Do not by shy folks!
  • Top with remaining 1 1/2 containers water and give the turkey a good dunk.  Try to stuff some of the onions & garlic underneath him and try to mix around him without splashing too much. He should look like this now:
  • Now doesn't that look pretty good?  I think so.  To finish add enough ice to fill in the broth spots.  I would guess 4-6 cups.  You want to keep him chilled.
  • Next, cover, put in fridge and let it soak over night, like so:
  • If all goes well this turkey should be falling off the bone after being cooked. 
  • Oh by the way, about that.  When turkey day arrives and you are ready to get the bird cooking, pull him out of his bath and pat dry. Be sure his insides are clear of marinade as well.  Discard marinade & contents - it is contaminated now.
  • Fill bird with 1-2 quarted onions, 1 orange, & celery. 
  • Make herb butter or purchase and rub underneath the skin as seen in handy video (click here).
  • Next, put turkey in roasting bag and follow directions according to weight.  For this twenty-four pounder it will take about 3 hours to cook. Although this seems quick, brining your turkey will shorten cook time, not to mention the bag.
  • Once cooking is finished let turkey sit for at least 15 minutes, pref a 30 in the bag!  This will allow the juices to redistribute and remain in the bird - a little trick I've learned from my awesome father-in-law i.e. seasoned butcher. 
  • Save drippings to make gravy, as seen in this handy video (click here).
    • I use water instead of broth and nix the wine and a fine mesh strainer will do to separate.
If you think of me tomorrow, say a little prayer! I hope that this guy turns out well and starts a new tradition of moist & flavorful turkey! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


This video is dedicated to my dearest husband! I love you!
(And of course, this is me playing the accordion silly)

*pause music at bottom of page before playing*

The Husband Diets.

Lately my husband has been on a health kick and when he is there is always a remarkable amount of lettuce in the fridge!  I figured he must be getting pretty tired of manatee's "meat," so I decided to make him a special, but healthy alternative for those munchie hours that all dieters endure! Introducing Kendi's Homemade Trail Mix!  Now these are Pete's personal faves. If you don't like any of these ingredients swap it out for something similar and you will have you very own custom trail mix!  Here's the ingredients I tend to swoon towards.

The Stuff:

  • 8 oz. roasted peanuts
  • 16 oz. can pecans (I put some aside since it's Pete's fav)
  • 2 small bags of craisans
  • 1/2 tall can raisins
  • 1 8-10 oz. can Dried Apricot
  • 1/4 bag Ghirardelli Mini White Choc Chips
  • 1/2 bag Trader Joes Honey Sesame Sticks
The only prepping for these ingredients includes cutting the apricots into halves or thirds.  Keep in mind, everything should be bite size if you swap out an ingredient.  Other than that, pour everything into a large mixing bowl and combine.  I poured mine into a cute little (lidded) glass container and set it out for him, while storing the extra in a huge tupperware container in the pantry.  Any body else getting a head start on their diets before the holidays?  Props to you guys! I'm afraid I don't have the will or self control to diet, however I think I will be joining in on the exercising once I get some fresh air in my beach cruiser.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Santa's Got A Brand New Bag

Last Wednesday a good friend of mine and I went to IKEA - pretty much my second residence!  I wanted to check out their new Christmas ornaments and get another pot for my largely expanding herb garden, while my newly-wedded friend needed some other home-ish necessities. Little did I know I would stumble across this beauty in my travels.  Now let me preface this blog by saying  I have wanted a cast iron pot since before we were been married in 2007.  I registered for one, but of course it being somewhere in the $150 range, I didn't get one - hey a girl can dream can't she?  If you know me, three years is a long awaited purchase.  I'm a get it done kind of girl so my patience truly was a blessing - who knew!  However, the best news has yet to come - this was in the clearance section for........drumroll, 29 bucks!  It wasn't returned or damaged but was merely a display item not needed any more. YAHOO! And by the way, the bigger the "dutch oven" the more expensive and this one is huge measuring over 12 inches wide not to mention her nice oblong shape.  Needless to say I will find some use for it on Thanksgiving even if I have to serve rolls in it! Boy do I love a good - and long awaited - deal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gimme Your Tots!

For my last birthday, my dearest husband bought me a TON of my favorite food network stars' DVD series.  One of my favorites, who is a little lesser known, is Anne Burrell.  She is hilarious and if you don't know who she is, think about the lady with the crazy bleach blonde pixie hair, whit to kill, and whom often speaks in a growling voice.  Ring any bells?  Okay - just google it.  Anyways, this recipe was on one of the DVDs that I received and although I'm not a huge mash-tater fan, this recipe includes heavy cream so I can only imagine it tasting pretty close to heavenly.  Again, this is for THANKSGIVING, the holiday that exhorts gluttony so just roll with it and repent later.


  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, warm
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into 9 pats


  1. Place the potatoes and garlic in a large sauce pan. Cover with 1 to 2 inches cold water and season generously with salt. The water should taste like the sea. TASTE IT! If the water is under seasoned at this point it will be hard to have a well seasoned end product. 
  2. Bring the pot of water to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. 
  3. Drain the potatoes and garlic well and pass through a food-mill or ricer. DO NOT use a food processor or blender. It will result in a very sticky and rubbery end product.
  4. While passing the potatoes, bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Once the cream has come to a boil remove from the heat.
  5. While the potatoes are still hot add 1/3 of the cream and butter and stir vigorously into the potatoes.
  6. Repeat this process 2 more times until all of the cream and butter has incorporated. 
  7. Taste the potatoes for seasoning and add salt, if needed. 
  8. Serve immediately or cover with foil and keep warm in an oven on low heat.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Layout

What do you think?  
Also, I got a little signature.  
Pretty sweet.  Any thoughts?


Friday, November 19, 2010

The "Green Stuff"

This recipe hales from the great state of Minnesota i.e. my mother-in-law.  She is a born and raised Midwesterner and knows all about the word "salad."  Now to me, salad means things like lettuce & croutons but trust me, as any Minnesotan and they'll tell you differently.  If this seems confusing to you then you need to see the movie "New In Town."  However, if you haven't acquainted yourself with the, hmm, culture, you are missing out - Don't ya know?  So onto this beloved recipe which I'd say is a GREAT substitute for lettuce and croutons any day of the week - it is green right?

Randall Scale:
Skill Rating..........a blind person could make it (no offense)
Serving Size........10-15 (this recipe is doubled)
Prep time.............30 seconds + refrigeration over night

  • 2 boxes JELLO Pistachio Pudding
  • 2 tubs 8 oz cool whip
  • 20 oz can crush pineapple in juice (not syrup)
  • 3 cup mini marsh mellows 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts *optional*
  1. Mix all dry JELLO mix with pineapple - combine well.
  2. Add walnuts if you so desire, we never add nuts but if you're feeling nutty...haha.
  3. Add marsh, combine again.
  4. Fold in cool whip.  Be sure not to over mix or it won't hold.
  5. Pour into serving dish or mold and allow to sit in fridge overnight.  
  6. Serve WITH main course - yes you heard me right. I LOVE THE MIDWEST!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Broccoli & Cheese? Yes Please.

Good Evening Ladies & Gents!  This here is the kick off for my Thanksgiving recipe series - I do hope you enjoy them and dare I say, try them out this upcoming turkey day!  The first star to enter the spotlight is the daring and rather, unusual Broccoli Vee Casserole.  Now - know this, I don't eat broccoli any other day of the year but this recipe makes me want to swim in it - props to my Mom as she is the brilliant mastermind behind hiding good things is bad food (that will make more sense once you see the recipe). Now before you jump all over my velveeta, yes, you use velveeta in this recipe, you have to try it.  It doesn't taste like velveeta when used in this recipe because all you can taste is buttery ritz cracker goodness.  Here we go!

Randall Scale:
Skill Rating..................Kindergarten Friendly
Serving Size................10-12 peeps
Prep Time...................30-40 minutes tops


  • 1 large bag frozen broccoli florets 
  • 1 medium brick Velveeta Cheese
  • 1/2 stick-a-butta
  • 1-2 sleeves Ritz Crackers
  • 1 casserole dish (somewhere around 12 by 12)
  1. Open cheese. Now, again, I know Velveeta is the king of all kings of processed cheese - heck you get it OFF THE SHELF next to the pasta sauce.  If you just can't bear to use dear old V then substitute this with a nice melty cheese like gouda or gruyere.
  2. Cube into small 1/2 inch bites - pop a few if you are so inclined.
  3. Remove Ritz sleeve numero uno and empty contents into gallon sized ziplock.  Bang bang bang til its nice and crumbly, but not too fine - a good time for the kids to help.
  4. Take broccoli out of freezer and pour into greased casserole dish or corning wear.
  5. Cover broccoli with cubed cheese like it's your number one job. Mmm mmm good.  
  6. Cover cheese with Ritzy ditzy crumbs, if you run out of crumbs enlist the kid's help again and proceed to cover completely.
  7. Remove half stick of butter from fridge.  Melt in microwave and pour over crackers - this keeps getting better and better, my mouth is watering!
  8. Preheat oven to 350-375 degrees.  Cook for 15-18 minutes.  Watch.  When finished, the crackers should be golden brown and crispy and the cheese yummily melted.  If not put back into oven until crispiness and meltiness is achieved.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Latest Shoot - The DiBernardo Family!

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of shooting portraits for the DiBernardo Family!  Their three kids are nothings short of adorable and it was such a gorgeous day outside that it was really more fun than work! I hope you enjoy this little snapshot (forgive the pun) of their photoshoot at Madard Park!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marvelous & Holy

You see a painting & it's beauty - it doesn't take a brilliant man to know that a painter created it. 
You see the earth and it's intricacies of design, the perfect workings of the human body are evidence enough for the existence of an Intelligent Designer. 
Consider the human eye: it is made up of more than two million working parts - TWO MILLION!  The eye is a ball with a lense on one side that has a light sensitive retina made up of rods and cones inside the other. The lense itself has a sturdy protective covering called the cornea that sits over the iris which designed to protect the eye from excessive light. The eye contains an amazing watery substance that is replaced every four hours, tear glands that continually flush the outside clean, an eyelid that sweeps the secretions over the cornea to keep it moist, and eyelashes to protect the eye from dust. On top of that EXTRAORDINARY muscles are attached to the eyes that instantaneously move the eye and shape the lense at the same time for the function of focus.  Did this amazing piece of complex machinery come together by some mindless process & random series of accidents?  Atheists have to muster up the faith to answer, "yes" to that question. I don't have enough faith to be an atheist. [ Campell] In speaking about the human eye, Charles Darwin (world renowned proponent of Darwinism, natural selection, & evolution) says, "The eye to this day, gives me a cold shudder. To suppose that the eye [...] could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."  Even Darwin knew there had to be something, or rather, Someone greater.
It seems so simple to me to KNOW that there is a Creator.  
Another example for you: 
"You could leave the barren side of a mountain exposed to wind, rain, the forces of nature, chance and millions of years of time …and you would never get a Mt. Rushmore, let alone a living, breathing human being. Why? It takes intelligence. You need intelligent intervention. [It took 400 intelligent workers fourteen years (1927-1941) to carve those four faces. And George and Abe just stare at you. They don’t talk. They don’t smile. They don’t do anything. How much more intelligence would it take to create a living breathing human being? Good question.] As Dr. Norman Geisler points out, it would take great intelligence to create a robot that operates like a human, and it would take even greater intelligence to create a real human being. No one alive today would believe that the faces of Mt. Rushmore came about by millions of years of... erosion, wind, rain and undirected random acts. And yet atheists believe that real-life human beings with… 206 bones, 640 muscles and hearts that beat over 100,000 times a day…are the product of a mindless, random series of accidents. This is foolish." (Charlie Campell)
And even greater truth, this one is my favorite, that this Creator - that created the vast mountains & fields & oceans & everything in them - this Creator created ME in His image.  I bear the image of Christ!  Christian, how encouraging to us!  He could have made the beautiful mountains or the deep oceans in His image, but he chose to make US like Him. I simply cannot contain such amazing news.  I am in complete awe of my God's love for me. "Oh love of God how rich and pure, shall forevermore endure.  How measureless and strong, the saints and angels song we sing, HOLY HOLY!"
How can you not believe, I ask you?  Or rather, how can you believe & keep the news to yourself?  We only have one job, and that is to go forth and make disciples of ALL nations!  Whether that be leaving the comfort of our own homes to tell others, telling our neighbors while checking the mailbox, or moving to a third world country, spread the Good News!  Jesus, perfect and without sin, came to this earth and took on the image of man.  Not only that but he came without reputation.  He dwelt among us and yet even those who SAW Him denied Him.  I will not deny my Father, nor keep His reputation quiet.  He is the author of my life, the designer of my physical being, the lover of my soul, and I am made WHOLE because of Jesus' atonement on the cross. He died and rose again so that I can go to heaven - that's good news enough!  I get to go to heaven and be with Him forever!
Challenging myself to "make disciples" today and everyday.
"Oh God be my everything, be my delight. Jesus my glory, my soul satisfied!"

Listen Here To Learn More

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back Porch Refresh

For the most part of our time here at the Oleander house, our back porch has been less than desirable.  With our herb garden growing larger and larger each day the sun rises, we decided to move it closer to the kitchen (instead of having it out front) so that we could have the visual reminder of using it!  I also have been slowly cleaning and reorganizing the garage so a few pieces have been dumped and a few repurposed.  This baker's rack is my grandma's and I can't seem to part with it so I put in on the porch to serve as a new home for my herbs (and a few other collections)!  I like that my plants have a sunny new spot, although the end of their lives is much more imminent now..... hopefully I will get a dining set out there soon so we can enjoy the crisp fall evenings that we have been so blessed with!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vintage Storybook Painting Series

As I make a mad dash to the end of the week, I have had very few hours at my actual paying job.  I am a little bummed about this while I watch Pete running around like a chicken with his head cut off, and me not working at all, however, he assures me that it's okay.  He's too good to be true - really.  
Anyways, with my time pretty freed up (aside from applying for other jobs, cooking, cleaning, laundry, church, etc...) I have been trying to scramble as many items as I can for my upcoming show!  For those of you who have yet to hear, and I'd be shocked if you hadn't - I am in another art show this Friday!  To find out more info just click here!  Also, the reason for this post, almost forgot, is to show you my newest painting series.  I have always loved vintage children's picture books and have taken a liking to them even more so in my recent travels through cyber space.  Here are a few my newest paintings.  I think they would be absolutely adorable in a nursery, playroom, or even a "grown-up room" - why not add a little whimsy to your life?  Without further ado I bring to you.....

The Meek Mr. Fox
The Lonesome Song Bird
And All The Family Gathered 'Round

(Comments & Critics Welcome)

Chicken In A Blanket

Now now now - before you go accusing me of publishing repeats (cheesy chicken pockets) just read a little further - har dee har har.  These little babies are VERY different from my cheesy chicken pockets.  Cheesy chicken pockets involve chicken cutlets, mozzarella cheese, and tenting with toothpicks.  Whereas chicken in a blanket is much more kid friendly as far as preparations go and includes a different kind of cheese - cream!  Here it is so hold on to your hats!! (randall original recipe)

Grocery........................$10-20 depending on chicken prices
Skill Rating..................easy, a kid could do it if mama turns on the oven
Serving of 4-6
Prep Time....................about an hour from start to finish


  • 8 oz. cream cheese 
    • (do not get low fat or your dinner will taste like low fat = ish)
    • "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook." -Julia Child
  • 2 T milk (doesn't matter what kind, just to make it a little creamier)
  • 3 cans of Pillsbury butter flake crescent rolls
  • 4 pre-cooked chicken breasts shredded (skinless & boneless preferred)
    • be sure not to overcook them, you can even under cook them a little as they are going to continue cooking in the oven. 
    • cook them in an olive oil coated non-stick pan on high heat to get a little bit of a skin on each side, turn down heat to medium-low and cover - this will ensure tender breasts that are easy to shred and not arduous to handle.
  • S & P to taste
  1. Mix cream cheese, milk and shredded chicken until well combined.
  2. S & P to taste.
  3. Pop open crescent roll cans and form dough into shape pictured below.
  4. Grease baking sheet.
  5. Preheat oven between 350 & 375.
  6. Spoon heaps (like lime sized, bigger than a golf ball) onto middle seam and form blanket by pairings corners a & b together and pinching shut.  Then take corners c & d and wrap, smoosh, pinch til all the guts are closed in and nothing can escape.  Be sure to completely seal your blankets!
  7. Place on baking sheet 3-4 inches apart, they will get to the size of a baseball so be sure to leave adequate space.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Remove from oven, top each with a dollop of butter, put back in oven for additional 5 minutes or until blankets have reached an all over goldenly delicious hue.  
  8. Pair with rice pilaf, salad, or nothing at all, this piece can stand alone.
  9. Enjoy!