Monday, November 29

menu plan monday

i have an oven again!!! of course, that doesn't mean my menu planning necessitates using it... i'm still more of a stovetop chef. however, i am excited about participating in my first ever cookie swap on saturday & getting to bake from scratch in my kitchen again!

later this week, i'll post pictures & my recipe for the cookie i'm doing for the swap at the casteel cafe, & i'm doing my feature friday on the kitchen this week, so you can see how awesome it looks with the new oven! i have the best kitchen for cooking & baking, so i can't wait for you to see it! stay tuned!!!

our "specials" this week:

monday - y.u.m. [thxg. leftovers still...]
tuesday - butternut squash soup
wednesday - corn-cheddar-jalapeno quesadillas
thursday - kielbasa mashed potatoes
friday - y.u.m. [before snacking alot at game night]
saturday - madrigal dinner @ local high school
sunday - @ life group

y.u.m. = yesterday's uneaten meals

Saturday, November 27

holiday series 2010: thanksgiving

we had a lovely thanksgiving! i hope you did, too. here are the pictures of our food & festivities. the tradition on the massey side is to cook all day, eat till your stuffed, then relax in the living room till your able eat pie! we played some card games & watched movies during the break.

part 1: the cooking

[mom whipping up the pumpkin pie]

[vanessa overseeing shaun making rolls]

[me chopping stuff for stuffing]

[dad reading while the rest of us work!]

[hors d'oeuvres]

we literally cook all day, & we rarely get dinner on the table at the intended time! so i was prepared this year with snacks to tide us over till turkey time! [homemade apple butter with homemade bread, "bites of fall" - roasted vegetable tartlets, cheese ball with crackers, & pumpkin spice candied almonds.]

part 2: the eating

[the table set & ready]

[mom's place setting]

[fun detail]

[dinner, buffet-style]

[the spread]

what's for dinner: turkey with gravy, cornbread dressing, cranberry relish, jalpeno-corn casserole, crescent rolls, green bean bundles, & glazed sweet potatoes.

[a bountiful & colorful plate!]

[in progress]


[zorra begging pretty please]

part 3: the resting

[the massey clan squished all together!]

there are no other pictures of this because we were plum tuckered out!

part 4: the eating, round 2


we had pecan pie, chocolate pie, buttermilk pie, & pumpkin pie. yummo!

it was so much fun having my family visit & hosting my first ever thanksgiving! cooking with my sister & mom is on my list of all-time favorite activities, & *thankfully* i had the oven so we could enjoy this! 

next week, i'll share with you our absolute favorite massey holiday tradition, which we always do the saturday after thanksgiving...

Thursday, November 25

happy thanksgiving!

from the casteel casa to you & yours:

praise be to the Lord, 
for He has heard my cry for mercy. 
the Lord is my strength and my shield; 
my heart trusts in Him, and i am helped. 
my heart leaps for joy, 
and i will give thanks to Him in song. 
the Lord is the strength of His people, 
a fortress of salvation for His anointed one. 
save Your people and bless Your inheritance; 
be their shepherd and carry them forever.  
~ psalm 28:6-9

Wednesday, November 24

the oven saga

if you haven't been following along, you may not realize that i have not had a working oven for the past six months... why, you ask? well...

we moved into the casa in july 2009, & it is an old house that is in great shape but still needs several things fixed up, updated, & renovated. much to my delight, the kitchen appliances were not on that list! the previous previous owners had replaced them about 3 years ago with all stainless steel beauties. while my oven is teeny & my fridge doesn't maximize space, i still love them. it took me a while to get used to my teeny-tiny oven [only 24" wide on the outside!], especially when i realized that the bottom "oven" is actually a broiler. but i adapted. [we hope to one day build an island in the middle of the kitchen with a full-size 30" oven...]

then one day, we started noticing the oven door was getting really stiff & difficult to open, especially when the oven was on & hot. it took a while for us to figure out the cause of the friction: the bracket that encompasses the right-side hinge was warping, causing the hinge to grate against it & warp, too. it got so bad, it caused the oven door to hang slightly crooked & not seal well when closed & baking... we called a repair company, hoping it would be covered under our home warranty. it wasn't. [and ps: the home warranty was completely worthless to us then entire year, & we didn't renew it, so i'm not sure i recommend it to anyone else.] it also wasn't repairable. so they gave us the info for the manufacturer to call & get a replacement / reimbursement / rebate - something!

not long after the repair visit, we tried using the oven one last time, & the door fell off stripping the hinge & screw entirely from the oven casement!

[the gaping hole from the hinge bracket]

[what my oven looked like for 5 months]

i am not a big oven-user. i do most of my meals on the stovetop. while i enjoy baking, it's not a regular hobby of mine, except bread. and summer is such a busy time for us, i rarely get to indulge cooking, let alone baking. 

i didn't really miss it. and i didn't want to deal with the manufacturer. [shaun would say, "and the truth comes out in the second breath!"]

but autumn arrived, & i started getting a hankering for baking breads & cookies & pies... and then my family decided to convene for thanksgiving here at the casa! all of a sudden i had motivation & a deadline - exactly what i needed! 

i called the manufacturer. it was not pleasant. the warranty on said appliance expires after a year. and even if it hadn't, it's void if you're not the original owner. there had been no recall on this model. they weren't going to give us diddly-squat for it. not cool.

i handled it kindly but firmly & asked to speak to the higher-ups. i think once it became clear that i wasn't going to drop this, they decided it would be better to work with me! i was transferred to a wonderful woman who has made the rest of the process as easy as i could have ever imagined. they offered a 70% rebate on another oven of the same brand. not bad! 

so, i started searching for ovens. did you know that finding a wall oven, that's 24" wide, that's also gas is not easy! turns out, i had to buy the exact same model to get the rebate. i wasn't super thrilled about this, but we decided to get the extended warranty to put our minds at ease, & of course, now we know what to look out for. 

then came the time crunch issue. it could not be guaranteed to arrive for THREE WEEKS! thanksgiving was in 18 days! i tried in vain to get expedited shipping. i shopped around for the quickest option - any store that would directly ship. the oven wasn't even supposed to be "available to ship" until the 20th, with it taking at least a week for shipping! if it weren't tight enough, the delivery fellas wouldn't be able to do the installation because it's a wall oven & gas. i prayed alot! [totally realizing & admitting the trivialness of my request, but hoping God would indulge me anyway!] 

it shipped 8 days earlier than expected. it arrived at the distribution center last week, 10 days before thanksgiving. they called & said they deliver to lafayette on tuesdays - would that work for me? YES! it arrived all beautiful & covered in wrap to keep it safe from scratches yesterday!

[mexican standoff!]

the fellas from my appliance repair place came first thing this morning to install my brand-new shiny oven! i was nearly biting my nails in anticipation!

[gaping hole in the wall]

after an hour of the repair fellas gasping various astonishments about how the circuit breaker for the oven also includes the kitchen outlets, kitchen lights, & office lights & then about the crazy, jerry-rigged wiring... but then, 

[my brand-new, shiny oven!]

i literally skipped into the kitchen when they finished! i spent the rest of the day baking my favorite fall cookie - spicy ginger cookies - while it's still fall, then olive oil bread to go with the apple butter simmering the slow cooker all day, then my sister made our family's favorite chocolate pie! 

tomorrow is my first thanksgiving to host on my own, & i'm so excited to break my oven in with all of our family favorites, including 3 more kinds of pies! YAY!

Monday, November 22

menu plan monday

my family is here!!! i've planned a special menu for while they are here including breakfasts & lunches. plus, i've got my thanksgiving menu planned, too! i'll be linking up the recipes to the casteel cafe throughout the week, so check back if you're interested in anything. and the best news of all: my oven arrives TOMORROW!!! we are going to make non-oven holiday goodies today & tomorrow, then enjoy a baking spree on wednesday.

breakfast - mary lou donuts
lunch - {out}
dinner - pumpkin gnocchi with pepita pesto cream sauce, salad

breakfast - pumpkin pancakes
lunch - sandwiches
dinner - {souper supper @ church} i'm making chipotle-pumpkin soup with apple salsa & cranberry sour cream, plus sweet potato biscuits

breakfast - cranberry-orange muffins
lunch - leftover soup
dinner - chicken kabobs, chickpea fritters, tzatziki & pita chips, greek salad

breakfast - waffles
lunch - appetizers {rustic vegetable tartlets, cheese ball & crackers, apple butter & olive oil bread, roasted chickpeas, pumpkin spice almonds}
dinner -
  • roasted turkey with herbed butter
  • cornbread stuffing
  • cranberry relish
  • glazed sweet potatoes
  • green bean-bacon bundles
  • croissants
  • jalapeno cheddar corn casserole
  • beverages: sweet tea, ginger ale, cranberry juice
dessert - 
  • pumpkin pie
  • pecan pie
  • chocolate pie
  • buttermilk pie
  • beverages: coffee & wassail
breakfast - eggnog french toast
lunch - leftover thanksgiving
dinner - annual massey clan junk food dinner! 

breakfast - cinnamon rolls
lunch - leftover thanksgiving
dinner - kielbasa mashed potatoes

breakfast - oatmeal bar
lunch - {out}
dinner - {life group}

Wednesday, November 17

sprucing up the front door

just a quick post today because i'm deep into getting ready for family & the pirate party this weekend! last weekend, we hosted the ag. department chili cook-off, & i really wanted to make the house look nice. so, i finally did something with the large planters on either side of the front door. they have been empty with leftover plant skeletons sticking out for over a year!

shaun bought me these gorgeous mums to fill them up with some festive fall colors. i like how they match the color of the front door peeking through the iron grate!

clearly we need to rake & clean out gutters, but one project at a time!

Monday, November 15

menu plan monday

still operating without an oven, but crossing our fingers that the new one comes SOON - i'm sooo excited! my sister flies in friday, & i'm sooo excited!! we're going to pick her up in indy & then go see "harry potter 7" with our best friends at the imax - sooo excited!!! then, as if it couldn't get any better, we're having a pirate party with the youth group on saturday - sooo ridiculously excited!!!! and THEN, my parents are arriving saturday night!!!!! [it's going to be a pretty exciting week, if you didn't gather that already!] and without further ado, here's our *exciting* menu for the week:

monday - veggie patties & fried eggs
tuesday - broiled salmon, baked sweet potatoes, lemon-butter broccoli
wednesday - squash quesadillas
thursday - butternut squash soup
friday - @ indy!
saturday - pirate party!!! [will post pictures & menu later]
sunday - @ life group

Saturday, November 13

holiday series 2010: christmas by theme

the leaves are falling like snow, christmas music is on the radio - much to my delight, & i'm in full-swing planning mode for the holidays! so, i thought i'd do a holiday series to show you how we roll here at the casteel casa. i'll be blogging along these lines each saturday & possibly a couple times in between.

this week i thought i'd share a little quirk of mine: every year, i choose a different theme for christmas. i keep a long list of themes to choose from, & usually i'm struck at some point each year with inspiration for what i want to do for the holidays.

why do i do this?
1. because i get bored easily!
2. since my decorating philosophy is to store very few seasonal items [even now that i have the storage room], i like mixing things up & being creative with what's on-hand, what's in the stores, what colors are popular at the time...
3. it makes it easy to distinguish christmases from one year to the next in pictures :)

to give you an idea, here are themes i've done in the past:

2003 - snowmen
2004 - candy canes
2005 - gingerbread men
2007 - christmas trees
2009 - ornaments

what i include in my theme-ing scheming:
- theme colors
- a handmade greeting card with danae-original poem, the paper for our annual letter, address labels, even the postage stamps!
- gift wrapping, ribbons, & gift tags
- a handmade ornament to give to various family & friends
- my annual cookie special
- decorations throughout the house
- party invitations
- thank-you notes

here's an example:

2005 - gingerbread men
- colors: red & brown
- christmas card:
[i made these with red cardstock, a gingerbread man cookie cutter, white puff paint, & glitter paint pens.]
- christmas poem [inside of the card]:
as we get ready for the holidays,
our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
wishing you calm among the craze, 
with time to have your cake and eat it, too!
- cookie: gingerbread men [of course!]

2007 - christmas trees
- colors: green & light blue
- annual letter:
- cookie: rosemary-pine nut [now one of our standards!]
- party invitation:

i wish i had more pictures, but i can't find all my christmas memorabilia at the moment... anyways, you get the idea! 

if you would like to do christmas by theme, here is my list of ideas:
- jingle bells
- hot cocoa
- 12 days of christmas
- reindeer
- poinsettias
- twas the night before christmas
- beachy
- feliz navidad
- texas
- snowflakes
- stars
- candles
- wreaths
- kisses
- santa
- stockings
- presents
- cookies
- the nutcracker

as i get ideas for any one theme, i write them down & file them away in my christmas theme box down in the storage room.

i'll be revealing my 2010 christmas theme on the "first day of christmas" [at least in my book] - december 1st. until then, happy holiday planning!

Friday, November 12

feature friday: THE DEN

so, i wrote way back when that i wanted to do a weekly "feature friday" showing each room in the house one at a time. i haven't done it yet because no room was ever "ready"! i've finally accepted the unrealistic ridiculousness of that idea, & so i present to you - finally - the first feature friday of the casteel casa!

we start with THE DEN.

1. it was the first room i ever saw in the casa.
2. it's the first room most people see.
3. it's the room we spend the most time in.
4. it's probably my most cohesively decorated room right now.

you may remember from my first post of casa pictures a basic idea of the den:

[our first viewing, not our furniture]

when we moved in, this is what it looked like:

[zorra keeping an eye on everything!]

[my mom-in-law waiting for instructions!]

before we got real grown-up furniture, we had two twin mattresses on the floor. and zorra took advantage of that fact!

[sleepy heads!]

but this is what it looks like NOW:

[view from the front door, north wall]

the curtains are in front of the 3-panel sliding door which we never open. we'd like to one day install french doors.

[view from front door, panning left]

i've got a side table for the other side of this couch, but i haven't cleaned & fixed it up yet... ah, the never ending to-do list!

[view from front door, panning further left]

it took me forever to decide on buying brown couches. we wanted to bring some color into the room with furniture, but it's hard to find good colors that aren't red. we considered a green sectional, but i was sure it would clash with the greenish-gray slate floors.

isn't the rug perfect?! i love that it's funky & not too rigidly geometric. the brown in it matches our couches; the green in it blends with the slate, & the navy in it matches our coffeetable - too perfect!

i'm planning on painting a large 4'x6' canvas for over the back of the couch. probably an abstracted desert scene.

[south wall with front door]

as you can tell, i'm still struggling to get enough color in this room to offset the overwhelming amount of paneling. it's beautiful, but a design challenge! still looking for shades/curtains i like for the door & window...

[east wall, shared with the kitchen]

i love love love our fireplace! i'm going to move the window to another room. i thought it would help offset the asymmetry of the fireplace & built-in shelf, but i decided to use the pictures above to do that instead. i'm planning to hang the small pictures about 6" higher than the mantle. and of course, i need to develop the 4th picture to be framed!

[east wall, view into kitchen]

i've always wanted a room with steps up/down into another room [random, but true!], & i love the open flow between these two most used & most loved rooms!

i know it's not alot of close-up details, but i'll save that for another time. it's late & barely even friday anymore!

Thursday, November 11

autumn awesomeness

autumn is my favorite season... i don't do alot of seasonal decorating around the casa, but i make an exception for fall!

my decorating philosophy is all about reusing items you already have on hand & not having alot of *stuff* to store. i don't usually like anything "kitchky" & i like timeless pieces.

every autumn for several years, i've done a variation of this same arrangement for my coffeetable, & i love it! it's super easy & fun, reuses items year after year, & is pretty inexpensive to recreate each time.

[an overhead view]

i love the four quadrants of this arrangement. i have a large coffeetable, so it usually takes multiple items grouped together to have any presence on it. 

i start with 3 of my square salad plates from my everyday dishes collection. i love combining the blue with the fall colors!

[quadrant 1: a plate full of
reese's peices - yum! = $2]

[quadrant 2: leaves i picked up in
the neigborhood & a spice candle
from my mom-in-law = $0]

[quadrant 3: small seasonal squash
& mini pumpkin = $2.50]

[quadrant 4: fall florals in a square
vase with a burlap wrap = $12]

the only thing i store year after year is the candle! everything else is found or bought & "consumed" [sometimes literally!] or part of my daily dish/glassware collection. and all for a total of less than $20! plus, you can make it cheaper if you choose less expensive flowers, grow your own, or come up with another idea for the fourth quadrant. 

[the view from my couch
complete with zorra under the table
& her toy on the floor!]

happy autumn!

Wednesday, November 10

cleaning on hand

so, we've been trying to "go green"[er] here at the casa, & one of our goals is becoming independent from paper towels. i wrote about going green, our homemade cleaners, & rag bucket back in may. this is what our rag bucket looked like:

we have it under our paper towels to make it just as easy to grab a rag as a paper towel. [we still use paper towels occasionally for especially gross pet messes.] but i recently found this adorable bucket at target for $2.50, & it was too perfect to pass up!

we have so much brown in the kitchen - the paneling, the cabinets, the beige counters, the island & kitchen table... anything to bring in color is welcome - especially turquoise! [actually, i was cleaning the house today & realized that every single room except one bathroom & the empty bedroom has turquoise in its color scheme! in case you can't tell, i love turquoise...]

Monday, November 8

menu plan monday

we're finally making headway with the oven situation, but still don't have the new one. i'll eventually write up the entire saga in hopes that our experience is beneficial to you should you [heaven forbid] have a similar to-do. so the menu is still created around stovetop cooking recipes.

it's a pretty easy week since we ate out tonight, & the weekend is taken care of. we're hosting the annual graduate student chili cook-off this friday for the second year, & we're really looking forward to it! we provide cornbread [two regular batches & one batch doctored with chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce], sweet tea, wassail, & coffee. the students bring their best chili recipes that are judged by a panel of faculty, & the faculty bring the hors d'oeuvres & other accompaniments. it's a blast!

monday - out [while shopping for new oven!]
tuesday - taco soup
wednesday - squash quesadillas
thursday - shrimp stir-fry with rice
friday - chili cookoff!
saturday - @ bday party for niece & bro-in-law!
sunday - @ life group