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Apple Danish Awesomeness

I've been back in the kitchen again! My sister has always been the better baker in the family, but I'm hoping to learn enough to give her some competition. :)

Last night, I was looking through some old Southern Living Christmas cookbooks that Landon's mom had given me a couple weeks back. I hadn't had the chance to cook anything from them yet, so I wanted to find a recipe I could make with the stuff we already had in our kitchen (because no one likes going to Wal-mart at 8 o'clock at night for one stick of butter). We had a half peck of apples still left from our trip to the apple orchard, so I decided I wanted to use those. The winner? Apple Danish. (Don't be put off by all the steps...it's actually really easy to make.) Thank you, Christmas with Southern Living, 1986!

Ingredients: 
Pastry (recipe below)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups peeled and thinly sliced apple
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon water
Glaze recipe (below)

Divide pastry in half; roll out one half on waxed paper into a 15- x10-inch rectangle (pastry will be thin). Invert pastry into a buttered cookie sheet and peel away waxed paper.

Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add apples. tossing well; spoon onto prepared pastry.


Roll out remaining pastry on waxed paper into a 15- x 10-inch rectangle; invert pastry over filling, and peel away waxed paper. Make slits in several places to allow steam to escape. Seal and flute edges.

Combine egg white and water; beat well and brush over pastry. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle glaze over pastry while warm. Cut into bars. Yield: 15 to 18 servings (until you have a greedy customer like Landon!)




Pastry: 
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups shortening (or substitute butter or margarine at a 1:1 substitution)
2 egg yolks
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk

Combine flour and salt; cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolks and sprinkle milk over surface; stir with a fork (or your hands!) until the ingredients are moistened. Shape in a ball; chill. Will provide enough pastry for this danish.

Glaze: 
1 cup sifted powered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients, stirring well. Yield: about one half cup.

Here we go...

Landon and I have been interested in this one townhouse in Mount Pleasant for a while now, so we decided to bring a real estate agent into our fold. We visited the house twice last week with our realtor, Marianne, and loved it both times. Landon and I wanted my parents' opinion as well (they know a thing or two about houses and moving since we moved all the time when I was younger), so they accompanied us on our second trip Sunday. It was unanimous: it's awesome.

So, the next step was to get pre-approved (again! We'd be pre-approved once last week, but the seller wanted a pre-approval from a specific mortgage company). After a frantic day yesterday of pulling old bank records, faxing paystubs (an adventure into itself--I had everyone in AI from the secretary to the president to the regional HR director trying to help me find and print my paystubs yesterday!) and filling out another application, we managed to get everything into the mortgage man. This morning, we had a happy certificate pre-approving us (again!). 

We met with Marianne this morning, signed the stack of 50+ pages ("and initial here...and here...and here...") and, three hours later, it's official. We've put in a bid on the townhouse!

It was a short sale (and is now a foreclosure), so we're dealing directly with the bank. Marianne's certified in short sales and foreclosures, so she said she's very comfortable leading us through this process. Foreclosures can take a LONG time to go through, but we've got time, and plenty of it. 

And to complicate matters even more? We found out that someone else put an offer in yesterday (boo to them), so we're now competing against them, too. 

Keep your fingers crossed that 1) the other people's bid is seriously horrible, and 2) that if we do get the bid, the foreclosure goes through smoothly and quickly. There will be more to come on the House Buying Saga of 2010!


The Benefits of Teaching

I have been teaching at the college level for three years now--it's so hard to believe it's that long! I've had the opportunity to teach over 350 students: freshmen, fifth year seniors, frat boys, math majors, business majors...you name it, I've taught one. There are days when the students are either 1) comatose or 2) rambunctious like a group of kindergartners, and I have to fight to create a learning environment. There are also days when I am sick, and I would rather be anywhere other than in front of my class, sweaty and nauseous. In other words, teaching, like any job, has bad days in addition to the good ones.

And while we're on the topic of bad days, when I started my most recent teaching job at the Art Institute, I had lots of them. My students were so much more talkative than the ones I had at USC, something one might think is a good thing (and sometimes it is), but I had several very loud, very sarcastic (bordering on mean) students last quarter that tried every inch of patience. After all, I'm human, and just because I am a teacher, doesn't mean I'm all bells and roses at the start of my Monday 8 AM class.

But as the last quarter wore on, Landon told me that I had to look past the distracting students and see the REST of my classes--I needed to focus on the other 20 students in each class who were always on time, never making snide comments and never falling asleep. I took that advice to heart, and it has helped so much. I had a huge paradigm shift about halfway through the last quarter, and it shows. I came home earlier this week, talking about my students, and Landon said, "You look happy about your job." And I am. Very happy.

I realized that my students are so special, even the ones that try my patience. (After all, I only have to see THOSE students for a mere ten weeks before they go on to be a thorn in someone else's side!) The Art Institute is very small--there are approximately 800 students right now--and that environment encourages closeness between ALL of the students. I remember walking into class my first day and seeing a girl with a heavy metal t-shirt and dyed blue hair look for a seat in a crowded room: I, in my horrible, stereotyped mind, thought she would take a seat at the back of the room, which was completely empty. Instead, she sat down next to one of my preppily dressed students, and they proceeded to chatter about what they had done that past weekend. That was my first experience in the absence of cliques at AI, and it was my first experience re-learning something about myself and my students who spend four hours a week in the classroom with me.

I am now continually surprised, in a good way, by my students: I have learned to look past their bad attitudes, their oddly colored hair, their unique way of dressing (they are art students, after all. What did I expect?!), and realize that they are brave beyond measure. Many of them work two jobs, in addition to carrying a full course load, to support themselves through their education. Probably a quarter of them are parents, balancing school with the expense of daycare, nighttime feedings and worrying about their child(ren)'s future. I have had several Iraq veterans, who have clearly been deeply affected by their time overseas: I had one of my speech students share his experience, and he (a large, burly guy who's always joking) had to struggle to fight back tears as he told us about watching his friends die in combat. I have students who have struggled with domestic abuse, both from their parents and from partners, and students who have an ongoing battle with substance abuse.

I just found out yesterday that I have a student who married in high school against her mother's wishes, had twins by the time she graduated and watched her husband go off to fight in Iraq. On her first day of college last June, she found out that he had been killed in action while trying to save a wounded fellow soldier. In the following six months, she lost her father to an illness, and then her mother-in-law and her two-year-old twin boys in a horrific car accident. When she shared that with our speech class, there wasn't a dry eye in the classroom.

My students have seen the worst life has to offer, but they remain committed to an education that will allow them to change their life for the better, no matter what the cost. They are not perfect (but who is?) but they are brave, resilient and tough, and I am proud to be, for a little while anyway, a small part of their world. And that is why I love teaching.

Onion, Bacon and Spinach Tart

Southern Living recipes

Landon and I found some really old magazines up at our mountain vacation and decided to give a few of them a try when we got home. The first experiment: an onion, bacon and spinach tart.

The result? Purety awesomeness.

Ingredients needed:
1 refrigerated rolled piecrust (from a 15-ounce package)
4-8 slices bacon, crumbled (we love bacon, so we put in the 8 slices!)
6 cups baby spinach
3 yellow onions, diced into pretty small pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 eggs
3/4 cups half-and-half (though you can use milk, like we did, since we forgot the half-and-half at the store)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (we also used some cheddar and mozzerella that we had in the fridge for extra cheesiness)

1) Heat oven to 365. Fit the piecrust into a 9-inch tart pan. Trim excess crust from top edge of tart pan; refrigerate while preparing filling.

2) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bacon to skillet and cook for about 8 minutes, or until it is very crispy. Remove bacon to paper towel lined plate and let cool. Crumble when cooled.

3) Add the spinach to the already heated pan from which you just removed the bacon. Cook 1 minute, stirring until wilted. Remove from skillet and place to the side.

4) Return skillet to medium heat and add onions, salt and thyme. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring until onions are translucent and browned. Remove from heat and allow to cool, uncovered, 5 minutes.

5) Whisk together eggs, half-and-half and pepper. Stir in bacon, spinach and onions into egg mixture until combined. Pour egg mixture into crust. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and continue to bake for 20 minutes.

6) Heat broiler. Sprinkle tart with cheese and broil for 1 to 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
I forgot to take a picture until after we had demolished about half of the tart. But look at all that yummy-ness!
Serves 8.
Per serving: 295 calories, 17 g fat, 8 g protein

Pearson's Falls

Another stop on our wild and crazy mountain weekend: Pearson's Falls. It was a short and beautiful hike from the parking area to the falls: a great detour!
First site of water!
The intrepid hikers
Sign: "Do not stand on rocks." What does Landon do? Stand on the rocks, of course.
Landon upon seeing the picture: "That's my new Facebook picture." And it is!
Rest of the fam.
Pearson's Falls is located between Saluda and Tryon, NC.

I love you a bushel and a peck

When we went to Sky Top Orchard during our mountain weekend, Amber and I treated everyone to the two lines of "A Bushel and A Peck" that we knew (from "Guys and Dolls").

I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.
(if you are planning a trip to an apple orchard, and would like the rest of the lyrics, see here)

Over and over again. We're just sweet like that. Check out the other fun pics from that outing (and sing with me!): 

I haven't grown any since the fall of 2000. 

Look at all those apple pies, waiting to be baked.

Mama and Amber on the hayride. Landon, Daddy and I were about to freeze, so we huddled in the apple store instead.

Nothing says newlywed bliss like a giant apple, two scarecrows and a cup of apple cider.
Landon eats his fourth (!!!) cinnamon sugar doughnut. The Sky Top employees make them fresh every morning: those doughnuts were amazing!

The bamboo forest on the property.

There was also a chicken pen. Daddy had a glorious time harassing this one rooster.

Asian Pears!

Amber and Daddy with three half pecks of apples.

Holy moly! Look at the size of that apple!
And if you are ever in the Saluda/ Flat Rock/ Hendersonville, NC area, check out all of the fun offerings at Sky Top Orchard. It's worth the drive just for one of those hot, tasty doughnuts and a cup of apple cider!

Mountain Weekend!


We've been out of commission the last few days because we've been on a fall getaway to the North Carolina mountains. I took SO many pictures that they won't all fit into one post, so be prepared for several follow-up posts with a similar theme! :)
On our way to Saluda, NC
Our quaint and rustic cabin, High Top. No tv, phones or internet, but we did have hot AND cold water, heat and A/C. :)
Mr. Archer Landon took his new bow and arrows out for a test drive.
But then the arrow got stuck! It's still there...
There was a zipline at the cabin. So much fun!

We got stuck in the attic/loft area. To commemorate our close quarters, Landon graffeti-ed the beam closest to our heads.


Cozy fire. A good book. Lemon blossoms to snack on. A perfect fall weekend!





New(ish) Jobs

Today marked the first day of my second quarter at Art Institute. It's crazy how fast the Summer quarter went by--I'm hoping for an even better Fall quarter. Hopefully, it'll have all the fun (and food) of the Summer quarter, but with more organization and confidence on my part. It's hard to control a room full of 25 very strong, very creative personalities! After all, it is the Art Institute, as my boss Mildred always reminds me, not a college or university. Which, according to her wisdom, means we all have to be semi-crazy to work and study there. I think she may be onto something there.

It's pretty neat being there this quarter since I actually know all of the staff (and some of the 80+ faculty members). I also enjoyed turning corners in the building today to see an old student: all of the ones I encountered today greeted me with a big smile. Did they really like me that much? Or have they just forgotten what they got for their final grade?

In other Davis news, Landon started his first full day of work with Carolina First today. This kid is the one counting your money. Hide your bills, folks.

Doin' Some Road Work

Mama, Landon and I signed up for the IOP Race for the Child about a month ago, and I've been training hard since then. I am not a naturally athletic person (i.e. I was the kid picking grass in the outfield during the annual 3rd and 4th grade softball game), so deciding to train for ANYTHING has been a big deal around our household. 

So, this morning at 6 AM, our household was up and getting ready for the race--very unusual for a Saturday morning. Mama and I prepared for the 5K, and Landon got ready for the 10K. 

Landon wanted to run the 10K in under 49 minutes. My and Mama's biggest goal was to finish the race without the assistance of the Medi-Cart. 

So how did we do? 

Mama ran the 5K in 34 minutes, which smashed her previous 5K standard of 41 minutes. She came in 200th overall (out of 259) and 4th of 6 in her age group. 

Landon finished 56th (!!!!) in the 10K out of 475 runners (and 8 of 19 in his age group), and came in well under his goal at 47:01. 

And me? I finished dead last in my age group (12/12) and 241st overall (of 259). It took me 40:03 long minutes. But at least I finished (faster than my previous record of 42 minutes) and without the help of medics! And besides, I've been at this whole running thing for a month. Pretty good for the grass-picking third-grader! 

Next stop on the racing circuit: the 5K Pumpkin Run in Greenville for me (I GET TO RUN IN A COSTUME!!) and the half-marathon the same day for Landon (no costume required).

The happy runners before the race. 

The Kitchen Smells Like Fall




...or so Landon claimed last night.

And what does fall smell like? Freshly baked pumpkin pie! We decided that we needed to make a pumpkin pie since the weather has gotten (marginally) cooler, and that means, of course, that fall has arrived in the South Carolina Lowcountry!

We used this super simple recipe that requires a pie pumpkin (those cute little pumpkins that are everywhere in groceries stores right now). Before you start the recipe, cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out all of the seeds and pulp. You can put the seeds to the side if you want to roast those for another fall treat later on. If not, just discard the seeds and pulp. Next, wrap the two pumpkin halves in foil and place them on a cookie sheet to bake for an hour on 375 degrees. Remove the skins when the pumpkins are done (the skins should practically fall off if the pumpkin has roasted enough), and mash the pumpkin meat (??) in a bowl.

To this pumpkin mash, add:
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 2/3 c. carnation/condensed milk
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 eggs

Mix all ingredients until smooth and pour into 2 pie crusts (this recipe easily makes two full pies). Bake at 15 minutes at 450, then reduce heat and bake 45 minutes at 325. Knife should come out clean when done.

Yummy AND easy!
Pie #2 before heading into the oven
Landon working on the second pie
My sous chef

Pie #1 halfway through the baking process. I may have overfilled it a little in my overzealousness...

Pie #1 all ready for the whipped cream and a fork!