Thursday, January 19, 2012

the bash

Bringing out the traditional birthday cupcake and pretty dishes
 So, this past weekend was my 39th birthday. 

I really hate people making a fuss over me, but then again, I see how annoying it can be
when the birthday girl resists the kindness of her husband. I, on the other hand, LOVE to make
a fuss over people so I guess this was a taste of my own medicine.

Besides, perfect content for this blog. AND perfect reason to get together in the dead of winter.

We kept the gathering super small. I love the people I work with, so they were at the top of the list. We spend so much time together over the holidays, but it's work... crazy busy holiday work. This was fun.

We also invited people we never see, so another reason to celebrate. Certainly not my birthday.

Had to hang up my own birthday banner...the mom always does, even if it's her day...

 What did we serve?
Cheese and more cheese. My absolutely favorite kind of party food. This kept the
menu very simple and allowed Nathan to host, but chat too (he's good at that).

Nathan brought out our fondue pot. This made everything over the top. We found
gooey, cheesy bread is perfect with prosciutto.

Nathan "allowed" me to put all the flowers in vases, since this is my favorite thing to do in my house!

My favorite part of hosting company is the calm before the arrival. The house is picked up and there are fresh flowers everywhere! Even in the winter.

I love my house full of people!

Boy, I sure don't look like I avoid attention! Geesh, I look like a giddy 2 year old. 

My birthday treat was simple. Sugar cookie bars with a local dairy's vanilla icecream. My favorite.
Oh, and a glass of red wine.

Thanks to my "company" for helping me celebrate my last year in the 30s.

Friday, January 13, 2012

the Ending

Mexican Corn from The Homesick Texan
I better post from last week before I  need to start planning for THIS week's company!

So to round off our meal, I made this corn recipe (minus the cob) and simple black beans. 

EASY black beans:
canned black beans (however much you need, I always 2x)
garlic, thinly sliced
cilantro (optional)
Combine all ingredients and cook until beans are thickened or until desired "doneness".

I make these beans all of the time! The leftovers are perfect for oven baked nachos.

Salted Caramel Butter Bars
We finished off our night with a perfect, buttery desert. Thanks to Pinterest, I found this recipe and can not emphasize enough how much you need these bars. Don't even think about the pound of butter. It's good for you.

Special THANKS to Simon for being my baking side-kick

Penny wanted to get in on the "helping mama with the company" action and gave herself the job of place cards. She very thoughtfully wrote our names and then drew symbols of what we like. Nathan (Poppy) had a guitar and I think I was a cupcake! Hmm- who has the sweet tooth around here?!

See you next week!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the Guests

our friendly neighbors, the Johnsons

 When Nathan and I came up with the idea for this blog, our main objective was to invite neighbors into our home for a meal. In the midwest during the winter, there's a huge lack of contact with one's neighbors. Everyone hibernates and gets re-acquainted during the warmer months. 

Our neighborhood is adorable. It's full of historic houses and quirkiness.  The one thing it lacks is neighborhood children. When the Johnsons moved in a few years back, we were thrilled. Their daughter is Penny's BFF, so it was a no-brainer to invite them as our first guests. The girls see each other almost daily, but we don't get to chat with one another.

I love hanging out with this family because it reminds me of when our kids were under the age of 7. Call me crazy, but I enjoy this age group. I like the stage we are in now as well, but now I feel we all can't enjoy the same things...not like the Johnsons. Observing them is sweet. They do the things we did when our kids were "little people".

 Actually, when our neighbors moved in, Nathan discovered that he and Robert have a lot in common. They both grew up overseas. Robert in Africa, Nathan in the Philippines. They were both homeschooled for a time in their childhoods. They are both creative. Robert is a photograper. Nathan is an art teacher. They are both extroverted and are great conversationalists!

Cheyenne is just as personable. She and I have a lot in common as well! We both homeschool. Enjoy living a creative, simple life. The only bad thing, we are so busy running our houses that we don't get to socialize much! Again, during the warmer months we find ourselves chatting away on the sidewalk. So a shared meal is always a good memory.

Ellie squeezing lime on her THIRD helping of Carnitas!

An empty plate is a good sign!
 The Johnsons are also one of Ellie's very first employers. They have entrusted their children to her many times for babysitting. She is lucky to work with such nice kids and parents. And THANK YOU Robert and Cheyenne for trusting her...and giving her some spending money (now I don't have to buy a billionth pair of knee socks!).

An end to a good evening.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Salsa

Often when our family hosts a meal with Mexican-inspired food, I get my daughter involved. She makes a tasty salsa that everyone should try...I've asked to her to write a guest post.

Hi! My name is Ellie, I'm thirteen, and I write a blog called "the definition of um" and post weekly video blogs there. Today I'm going to "show" you how to make the tomatillo salsa I've been making for years, tweaked from a Rick Bayless cookbook.

You're going to need:
ten tomatillos (per batch)
two to three garlic cloves
half a white onion
three pickled jalepeƱo peppers (Regular, not-pickled peppers should be all right too)
one lime

The unwrapping of the tomatillos

 Begin by peeling all those sticky, papery wrappers off of the tomatillos. Just a side note, it's better if you get very fresh tomatillos, ones with wrappers that haven't dried onto the fruit, because those are hard to peel completely.

Nathan and Ellie, working side by to see my kid in the kitchen
     Heat a frying pan on a stove on medium-high. Slice all the tomatillos in half and throw them in the pan face-down, with the whole, peeled garlic cloves.

Roasting up the little devils
Roast the tomatillos face-down (checking them periodically) until a caramel-colored juice starts to seep out of them, or when that side looks charred, or when the tomatillos start falling to pieces. That means they're done and hate you for brutally torturing them. You beastie.

      Flip the tomatillos and roast them on the other side until that side gets charred as well. Pay attention to the garlic as you roast the tomatillos, and flip that too.

      During your slow murder of the tomatillos, you can slice half an onion up and throw that in a blender or food processor. If you'd like, you can finely chop a quarter of the onion and set this aside to add to the salsa later, and put the other quarter of the onion into the kitchen mechanism of you choice. Juice the lime and add that to the blender. Slice your jalapeƱos in half and remove all the seeds; put them in the blender.

      Add the tomatillos from the pan to the blender, and sprinkle 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt and grind a bit of pepper into your heavenly salsa potion. Blend until you can blend no more.

The Shacks serious about their salsa tasting
Gather every person in your house or building for a salsa party and stage an action shot for your scrapbook or food blog! Make sure your company smiles, unlike the stern Shackelford family.

The green pool of taste explosion!

        Stare lovingly at your creation and consume with tortilla chips or an alternative salsa-scooping food item.
Like a shoe.
        I hope you enjoy your salsa and learn your lesson about tomatillo-murdering! It's always a good thing!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Main dish

Nathan posing with the main course.
This past Saturday, we hosted our first "company" dinner. Our family unanimously decided to serve our favorite kind of dinner, tacos. It's easy to make everyone happy. Everybody can "doctor" up their meal and walk away happy. Plus it's so festive to have condiment bowls full of salsas, guacamole, pickled peppers and black beans.

I found the recipe, "Homesick Texan's Carnitas" from Smitten Kitchen's website a few months back. We have made this recipe at least four times in the past six weeks, including Christmas dinner. It's that good and THAT easy.  Plus, I was happy to learn that the homesick Texan was for real and has a beautiful blog and cookbook. Bonus.

The added citrus to the meat makes for a flavorful experience and lovely smelling kitchen!

Getting reading for the nearly 3 hour cooking process.    

Watch for tomorrow's post. My daughter Ellie will share her FANTASTIC tomatillo salsa recipe.

The end. The pork is easily shredded and has a nice crispy texture to add to your taco.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 7th

Nathan prepping the main dish.

Our first dinner was a success. So much so that I have more photos and words to share than I expected! Over the week, watch for recipes and fun photos with our neighbors.

Ellie making her perfect tomatillo salsa and happy about it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

why not?

With the beginning of the new year, so many of us are trying to create better habits or tackle big projects. I have my own big idea.

This past Fall, it occurred to me that I missed posting on my blog (, but I felt like I had moved away from crafting, sewing and sharing my thoughts on raising young kids. My children are older now and we are living a different life from 5 years ago.

I am currently working part-time outside the home and teaching my children full-time IN our home! My life is consumed with homeschooling an eight-grader, fifth-grader and second grade student. I love it and love my life. But I also love having an outlet to share photos and our home. Hopefully, this will be a project that all 5 Shackelford family members will participate.

So, why have I started a blog entitled "company"? My husband and I enjoy sharing our home and a meal with friends, family, and our neighbors. Why not document our dinner parties and share recipes, photos and stories from our guests?

It is our goal this winter to host a dinner at least 2-3 times a month and share our experience.

Sound fun? Want to be one of our guests? Let me know in the comments.

Our first guests have been invited and I'm excited to share our night with you!