Saturday, November 28, 2009

Picture Me Winner

Congratulations to Steph, the winner of the 10x10 portrait from Picture Me Portrait Studio! She will have 72 hours to contact me to claim her prize or I will re-draw.

The winner was chosen using I assigned a number to each entry and let pick:
Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2009-11-29 03:14:47 UTC

Steph was number 12.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tips for a delicious Thanksgiving turkey

I love a tasty turkey and have tried several recipes in the past trying to get it just right. What I have learned is that there are several recipes with flavor I like, but it is the cooking method that makes the difference to me. Here are some tips that help make for a yummy turkey:

- When preparing the bird, rinse it well with clean water. If you have a large enough container to brine it, use a simple salt water brine or add some honey, garlic, and fresh thyme to make a honey brine. I have personally never brined a turkey, simply due to lack of space, but I do brine chickens before roasting them and it adds a lot to the flavor.

- Before roasting the turkey, whip up some soft butter with herbs in it. Use whatever herbs your taste buds prefer, but here are some that go well with turkey and work well together: sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme. Be sure to add in black pepper and some salt as well. Slip your hand between the skin and the turkey breast, separating the skin from the meat on the breasts and the drumsticks. Using a small spatula, or your hand, spread the butter mixture all over the meat, but under the skin. Spread some on the mixture inside the cavity of the bird as well and use the rest on the outside of the skin. Some people also stuff the cavity with lemons or onions and celery. I do sometimes, but have not noticed a huge difference in taste.

- You can truss the bird if you choose. Again, I never have, but I do bend the wings up underneath the turkey to prevent them from overcooking. Then, transfer the bird to a roasting pan. If you do not have a rack to sit the bird in, make several crumbled balls of foil and set the bird on those. This helps keep the bottom of the turkey from getting soggy.

- I have tried roasting my turkey several ways, but the juiciest turkey came from cooking it like this: Start in an oven that is preheated to 425 degrees. DO NOT cover the turkey. This goes against what many do, but I find that cooking it at a higher temperature to start, gives it a crisper skin and the turkey is more moist, kind of like searing a roast before cooking it. Once, the skin is nice and dark (about 30-45 minutes), take the turkey out and cover it with foil. Reduce the oven temperature and cook at 275 degrees until done. A good rule of thumb for this temperature is 10 minutes per pound.

- Remove the turkey from the oven when it reaches 170 degrees. You do not want it to be less than 165, for food safety reasons, or much higher than 170, because it will continue to cook after it is removed and you will risk overcooking it. When checking the temperature, be sure to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and make sure it is not touching the bone.

- Keep the turkey covered and let it rest for about 20 minutes. This allows the juices to distribute themselves evenly throughout the bird.

I hope you enjoy your turkey and I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving. I will share some ideas for turkey leftovers in a few days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pictures and a giveaway

A few weeks ago, I received a very nice e-mail from Kim. Along with her sweet comments, Kim asked if I would be interested in participating in a blog program with Picture Me Portrait Studio. This is the portrait studio located inside of many Walmart stores. Although we recently had pictures taken of the children this summer, I was very excited about this opportunity because I had been wanting to get a family portrait as well. Kim assisted in scheduling our appointment and this afternoon, all 6 of us headed off to one of our local Walmarts for our portrait session.

Pictures have always been hit or miss for us. More often than not, at least one thing goes wrong and we do not get the pictures we were hoping for. I am thrilled that today was one of the exceptions. No one managed to cut their own, nor their sibling's, hair. No one fell or otherwise marked their face. No one found a permanent marker and colored on anyone's face. All of these things have ruined pictures for us in the past. So far, so good. Kim had also sent me some tips for a successful portrait session and we implemented many of them today. Here are a few things that I attribute to our successful session.

- Schedule the session at a time when everyone is well rested and not hungry. Avoid meal times and nap times. We also brought fruit snacks along with us so that the little ones would stay happy throughout the session. We also picked up a few snacks in Walmart before our appointment so they could snack while the adults looked at the pictures.

- Once everyone is dressed, avoid messy snacks and drinks. We also found it helpful to bring the baby dressed in other clothes and then we dressed him at the studio right before our session.

- Arrive a few minutes early so everyone can "settle in", but do not arrive too early that they grow restless. The benefit of having pictures done at Picture Me, is that you have Walmart right there to take the kids for a walk if the wait time is running long.

- Bring a bag with a hair brush, make-up, and anything else that you might need for last minute touch ups.

Now that I shared the tips I found most helpful, let me tell you how our portrait session went.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an automated phone call reminding me of our appointment. That was followed by a phone call, later that evening, from Alicia, the studio manager. She confirmed our appointment and asked some basic questions about what I was expecting at our session (what types of poses, who would be in the pictures, backgrounds, etc). Upon arriving at the studio, all three associates were busy assisting other customers, but acknowledged me within a few seconds of my arrival. We were a few minutes early, so I did expect to wait a few minutes. Debbie, our photographer, led us back to the studio right about the time of our appointment. Now, with 4 little ones, aged between 1 year and 8 years, I expect portrait sessions to take a little while, especially when trying to take group pictures. This was not the case today. Debbie quickly figured out how to make the youngest two smile on cue and we managed to take 7 different pictures within thirty minutes. The kids were just as happy when we left as when we arrived. After the family portrait was taken, I made an offhand comment to Debbie about not liking my skirt that day. I so very much appreciate the effort she took for the remaining pictures, to avoid my skirt being visible. After the pictures were taken, we sat down together at the computer and chose what we were going to get. As part of the blog program, we chose a 10x10 specialty portrait. I am so excited about the 10x10 specialty portrait we chose. It is 3 pictures: the family portrait, the portrait of just the kids, and the one of my husband and I; along with our last name, the year, and a lighter colored G (for our last name) in the corner. It comes with a mat and frame as well. I wish I could share it with you, but it is not on the CD so you have to imagine that one, but I will share the other pictures below. We also chose to order the $7.99 picture package which comes with 30 pictures (we chose the family portrait). The package should be at the store December 4th and the 10x10 portrait should arrive about a week later. Picture Me also puts your pictures on a password protected website that you can access to view, share, and order your pictures. This is great for us because my in-laws live so far away. I was also given a Picture CD to bring home today and have been given permission to share the pictures with you. Enjoy!

The Family

My husband and me

My children

All the girls

My boys (my personal favorite from this session)

Dad and the kids

Mom and the kids

Maybe it was because I followed some of Kim's great tips, but this was by far, the best portrait session I have ever had. The kids were happy and cooperative, the photographer was friendly and efficient, and the pictures are wonderful. I cannot wait to receive my 10x10 portrait and the family pictures that we ordered. I am sure many of you are preparing to get Christmas pictures taken. If you have not considered Picture Me, I highly recommend that you do and for those of you in the Rochester, NY area, I highly recommend Debbie at the Henrietta location. You can even order cards with your portrait printed on them, giving you a unique Christmas card that is guaranteed to be a favorite of those who receive it.

Kim and Picture Me are also offering one of my readers a free 10x10 portrait ($99.99 value). This is a gorgeous piece that would fit in any where. I was given the choice of using 3, 4, or 9 pictures for our 10x10 portrait and you also get your choice of black, cream, or white mat and a classic black frame. Here is how to enter:

- Tell me the last time you had a family portrait (this was our first since 2/2001) taken and/or share a funny story about a portrait session you have had in the past. (1 entry)

- Tell me who you would include in your 10x10 portrait. (1 entry)

- Subscribe to The Happy Wife (2 entries)

- Blog about this giveaway with a link to this post (3 entries)

- Post about this giveaway with a link on a social networking page or e-mail 3 friends and cc me on the e-mail (2 entries)

I will choose the winner on November 28th and entries will be accepted until I announce the winner. I will announce and contact the winner (be sure to include contact info if it is not in your profile) immediately and they will have 72 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Disclaimer: I received no payment other than the free 10x10 portrait and the Picture CD. All opinions are my own and were not influenced by the products received.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Free Redbox Rental Code: Good for today only

For those familiar with Redbox's free rental of the month, here is your code for November: TEGJ6FD (Apparently there has been trouble with some of the codes that were sent, including the first two I listed earlier, but this one appears to be working)

Remember, it is only good today, November 2, 2009 and will expire at midnight. It can be used once per "account" (debit/credit card).

If you are unfamiliar with Redbox or their free movie program here are the details. On the first Monday of every month, Redbox offers a free rental to everyone. When you get to the Redbox machine, touch the "button" that says "Rent with a code". Enter the code above and then you will be able to choose your movie. You will still need to swipe your debit/credit card at the end of the transaction, but you will not be charged unless you keep the movie more than one night. If that does happen, you will only be charged for the additional night(s) and the charge is $1 per night. The movies are due back the next night by 9PM. One of my favorite features of Redbox is that you can return them to ANY Redbox. So, if you check out your movie at a Wegmans in Rochester, NY and then head out on a road trip, you can return your movie at a Walgreens in Chicago, IL. This actually came in quite handy on our recent cross-country road trip. Anyway, you can get another free rental code if you sign up on Redbox for weekly e-mails or text alerts.