Saturday, December 3, 2011

Scott’s Lasagna

I don’t have the recipe for Scott’s lasagna  but I will tell you this … its all about the homemade sauce and using fresh ingredients like fresh herbs, imported fresh mozzarella (packed in water), whole milk ricotta, freshly grated parmesan and a good imported pasta… I do have pics though and thought I’d share … mmmm mmmm magnifico … Mangia! Mangia!

That's Alayna's hand showing how large a
slice is ... one slice feeds both me and Scott
with an Insalata Italiano on the side.

Squash Casserole

I came up with this recipe a little over a year ago after tasting ‘the best’ squash casserole I’d ever had in a restaurant … no they didn’t share their recipe with me … I came up with this on my own and it is delicious … the ‘best’ I’ve ever had!  I don’t like my squash … well squashy … lol … you know … cooked to death and mushy!  I like mine still a bit crunchy.  Hope you try it and find it delicious as well. 

Squash Casserole
6 Yellow Squash, sliced
1 Red Onion, chopped
1 stick Butter
1 Tblsp Olive Oil
Pinch Sugar
1 sleeve Ritz Crackers, crushed      
Sea Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 can Cream of Celery soup (undiluted)
1½ cups Mexican 3-Blend Shredded Cheese

Melt one half stick of Butter in sauté pan with Olive Oil.  Sprinkle squash with Sea Salt and Pepper to taste.  Add Squash to pan along with one half of the chopped Onion.  Sprinkle with pinch of Sugar.  Saute until tender (do not overcook).  Pour cooked Squash and Onions into a large mixing bowl and add the Cream of Celery Soup, remaining Onions and Cheese.  Stir gently to mix.  Pour mixture into greased casserole dish.  Cover with crushed Ritz Crackers.  Dot with remaining half stick of Butter.  Cook in 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cleaning Gas Stovetop Burners

Remember when we were kids how our Mamas all cleaned everything with ammonia?  Oh how I hated that smell … eeeew!  Mama would open up all the windows when she cleaned and/or mopped with the stuff … you had to or the fumes would knock you out!  But it worked, right?  All these new expensive products out there and we kick the smelly ammonia to the curb and no one uses it anymore.  Well I’ve gotta tell ya … we need to go back to the simple stuff because the simple stuff does work.  I use white vinegar for lots of things around the house … always have cause … it always works … well that’s another story for another blog.  This one is about ammonia and cleaning those hard to clean gas stovetop burners.
If you cook with gas, you know how build up can occur even with regular cleaning ... so there comes a time when you have to do some heavy duty, elbow grease kinda cleaning.   Well ... I had tried everything to clean my gas stovetop burners (and the stovetop too) … everything from oven cleaners, SOS pads, Softscrub with Bleach … I could go on and on … EVERYTHING just short of sandblasting the dang things!!!  Well we do cook and cook A LOT at that so dirty burners are a sign of a well used kitchen … yes but …I like a clean kitchen.  AND you can clean them every time you cook BUT there is always that slow build up when you cook with gas!!!
Well ... I've recently become addicted to Pinterest … love it!  It has so many ideas for so many things on and when I ran across the idea of cleaning your gas stovetop burners with ammonia … I’ve gotta admit, I was a bit skeptical … who wouldn’t be … I thought I had tried EVERYTHING ... "one more thing to try that doesn’t work" I thought.
I tried it ya'll and dang gum if it didn’t work … and worked wonders at that, I tell ya.  See the photos for yourself … my burners look like brand new … well except for the scratches from wear … otherwise they are shining again like they should be.

Here’s what cha do:
Take and put your burners into a zip lock bag … now I had to use the XL Ziplock bags because my burners wouldn’t fit into the gallon size.  Then pour in ¼ cup of Ammonia … that’s it … just a ¼ cup.  Zip it closed, of course, and then let it sit.  It’s the fumes that do the work!!!  I let mine sit overnight (outside in the sun, just in case the bag sprung a leak).  Next day, simply rinse them off with warm water.  Now there was a couple spots where I had to scrub lightly with a Scotch Brite sponge to remove the gunk but no real elbow grease was used!  NOTE: The XL Ziplocks are large enough you can fit all of your burners into it! 
I know it seems too easy, right?  Well I gotta tell ya … I checked on the bag a few times myself and I was still skeptical … seeing it sit there it appeared to be doing absolutely nothing.  I thought … hmmm should I add more ammonia … maybe since my burners are extra large I need to add more … BUT I DIDN’T.  Then this morning when I brought them inside, I thought … well one more thing tried … they didn’t look any different then when I put them in the bag.  But when I took them out and started rinsing … I was in awe at all of the gunk rinsing off of them!!!  Just rinsed right off!!!


I am amazed at the difference.  I left one burner out just so I could see the difference with my own eyes and can’t wait for Scott to see them!  Oh he is gonna be glad to see how clean they came because frankly … this is one chore I had given to him cause it was that much work and I don’t have the elbow grease that he has. 
Well this ammonia thing … no elbow grease required.  Easy and cheap!  No more expensive products that DO NOT WORK for me.

NOTE: I've have done this several times since the original post and for some reason it seems to work BEST if the bags are put into direct sunlight (outside) on a warm/hot day ... I imagine its the combination of heat and sunlight that warms up the ammonia and helps it work its best.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chicken Casserole

Here's one of my favorite Chicken Casserole recipes.  I only make it when Scott isn't home cause he's not one for 'one-dish-meals' but I am ... so easy and so delicious!  The recipe comes from a family friend and I've been making it for years.  The kids loved it growing up and Alayna and I enjoyed it again just a couple days ago.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Homemade Toothpick Holder

Here's a really good idea for a homemade toothpick holder.  Save one of your glass spice jars that has the slotted cap in it and you have yourself a pretty cute toothpick holder.  I decided to post this idea because everytime someone see's ours they're like "wow what a great idea".  So here's to sharing great simple ideas!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Icing

My baby girl loves to bake ... she made her first cake all by herself at the age of 12, from scratch!!!  Me?  Oh I didn't make a cake from scratch until I was 23 ... a Red Velvet Cake.  Anyway, yesterday she decided to make a cake and when she put on one of her Nana's (my Mama) old aprons, I just know I had to take pics as she baked and blog about it.  So in addition to the pics of her, I've included the recipes she used.  She used my Mama's cake recipe (adding a 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries, chopped or mashed) and my Aunt Lilly's Strawberry Icing recipe.  Oh and the cake?  It turned out yummy! Delicious!

Doesn't she look cute in her Nana's apron?

Ingredients for Cake Batter
1 2 3 4 Cake Layers
1 cup Butter
2 cups Sugar
3 cups Swans Down Cake Flour, sifted
3 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
4 Eggs
1 cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
(1/2 cup Fresh Strawberries, mashed)

Cream butter, gradually add sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.  (Beat 10 minutes on electric mixer or longer by hand)  Sift flour with baking powder and salt.  Add eggs one at a time to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.  Add flour mixture alternately with milk and flavoring, beating after each addition until smooth.  Pour batter into four 9 inch layer cake pans, lined on bottom with wax paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes; then turn out and cool on racks.
Mary Lee McKellar Kincaid

Strawberry Icing

1 box Confectioners Sugar
1 stick Butter
½ cup Fresh Strawberries

Melt butter and let cool.  Stir in sugar and berries.
Lilly Ethelle McKellar

This youngin has always scared us with
the way she uses knives ... see how she holds it? 
This IS NOT the proper way to cut with a knife!!!
Lord, one day she's gonna cut herself!

Beautiful girl with her beautiful Strawberry Cake!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Christmas Santa Mobile

This is my beloved Santa Mobile that I have taken out once a year, every year, for the past …hmmmm … let’s just say … a long time!  LOL  I made it in third grade … yep you read that right … third grade.  I get comments about it almost every year.  Its really simply made.  Red and white poster board, cotton balls, red yarn and glue.  I’m not sure what the strip of cotton batting across the top of his beard is all about …but its there … or why he has a tongue in the middle of his beard LOL …or maybe that’s supposed to be his mouth … I don’t know.  But this I do know … I love him and he’s hung up somewhere in my house every year at Christmas!!!  This would make a great craft project for school …hey its lasted this long …

Monday, October 17, 2011

Traditional Irish Potato Soup

¼ cup Butter (not margarine)
2 large Onions, finely chopped
4-5 medium sized Potatoes, diced
3 cans Chicken Stock
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
Fresh Chives, chopped (for garnish)

Melt the Butter in a large heavy pot and add the Onions, turning them in the butter until well coated.  Sprinkle with Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper.  Cover and leave to sweat over very low heat for about 10 minutes. 

Add the Potatoes to the pot and mix well with the Butter and Onions.  Cover and cook without browning over a gentle heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Add the Chicken Stock, bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-60 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Dip out about 2 cups of the mixture and set aside.  Then with an immersion blender (you can also do this with a blender but let cool first) blend the potatoes until smooth.  Add back the 2 cups you set aside.  (I do this so that I have a few chunks of potatoes in mine but it isn’t necessary.)

Serve hot and sprinkle with Chopped Chives.  You can also sprinkle with Shredded Cheddar Cheese or Bacon Bits.

NOTE: Why does the pic above of mine have red flakes in it?  Today, I used New Red Potatoes since that’s what I had and they needed to be used.  I left the skins on because Alayna loves potato skins plus they (skins) are full of vitamins.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Italian Wedding Soup

An Italian-American Soup whose name is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata, meaning married soup, a reference that green veggies go well with meat.

2 Tblsps Olive Oil
1 cup Yellow Onion, diced
1 cup Celery, diced
1 cup Carrots, diced
1 Tblsp Ham Seasoning
1 Tblsp Garlic, minced
Sea Salt/Fresh Black Pepper, to taste
6 cups Chicken Broth (I use 4 cans)
2 tsp Dried Oregano
Pinch or two Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 Bay Leaf
30-50 Marble Sized Meatballs (I use frozen)*
1 can Cannellini Beans, undrained
2 cups Fresh Whole Spinach Leaves
8 ounces (or less) Uncooked Acini di Pepe Pasta (cooked separately/rinsed in cold water)
Parmesan Cheese, to taste upon serving

Sweat Onions, Celery, Carrots, Ham Seasoning, Garlic and Salt/Pepper until vegetables are softened.  Add Chicken Broth and seasonings.  Simmer 15-20 Minutes.  Add meatballs (cooked or uncooked) and cook until they float to top.  About 3-4 minutes.  Stir in Cannellini Beans and Spinach and cook just until Spinach wilts, about 2 minutes.  Add Pasta last and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.   Makes 12 cups.
* I use ready made frozen (when I can find them) or I make my own ahead of time, cook them and then freeze them.  Basic Meatball Recipe

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

HaPpY BiRthDAy to Me!

I know … I know … it is a little selfish of me in wanting to celebrate my 50th Birthday in a big way … but when you’ve never really had a birthday celebration … the 50th just seems like the perfect time to do it … cause life is passing by pretty dang fast by the time you turn 50!!!

I was born on a Wednesday, December 27, 1961, at 2100 hours …yep born on a military base, Turner AFB in Albany, Georgia.  Daddy literally dropped Mama off at the front door of the hospital and left her there to have me because he didn’t want to miss his show Wagon Trail, or some other western.  LOL  Men! 

I’ve never liked having a birthday in December though … with it already being such a sacred month, and then having all three of my siblings with December birthdays …5th, 12th and 22nd … mine being the last one … I always got forgotten!  My Birthday and Christmas gifts were always combined … even now as an adult … there’s no distinction between my birthday or Christmas.

Sadly, one year my Birthday was completely forgotten about until New Year’s Day … oh back then I never reminded anyone about my Birthday … they’re supposed to remember right?  It’s only been in recent years that I start early every year reminding my family that its coming up.

And Birthday Parties?  Forget that.  I had ONE  … yep just one … my entire life.  I remember begging to have one … all the other kids always had Birthday Parties … I wanted one too …with blown up balloons you sit on to see who can pop theirs first and pin the tail on the donkey and party hats … the whole nine yards … you know the classic Birthday stuff … well I had one on my 10th Birthday but it still wasn’t ON my actual birthday.  Nooooooo we had to have it the last day of school before Christmas break since everyone would be off with families celebrating Christmas and then New Year’s.

And Birthday Cakes?  LOL  When I was growing up you didn’t have the custom cakes you have today so I (guess I should say “we”) always got a Christmas themed cake, that’s what was available in the bakeries, and I would have to share it with my brother, Ricky, since no one wanted birthday cake two days after Christmas … not after eating so many Christmas goodies.

Now, I do have great memories of having my own Birthday Cake (as an adult) ON my actual birthday … like my 18th Birthday … Mama made me a Banana Cake with Banana Frosting and bought me a bottle of Mogan David Wine (legal drinking age back then was 18).  I remember having some cake and a little wine and then going to DHS, my alma mater, to cheer for a basketball game a little tipsy.  LOL

And then there was my 29th Birthday… I was pregnant with my baby girl, Alayna, and Mama and Daddy were visiting me and the boys in Pennsylvania (Scott and I were separated) and Daddy insisted Mama go out and buy me a Carvel Ice Cream Birthday Cake … yummy.  And I even got 8 inches of snow that night as a Birthday present from above!

Then on my 35th Birthday, Mama again made me my fav Banana Cake with Banana Frosting … Scott was there spending Christmas and New Year’s with us.

Back up a minute here … I gotta admit that during the years Scott and I were divorced, he did buy me Birthday presents … not Christmas presents though LOL … one year he even had the kids help pick it out.  He gave me the card and then with it a long velvet jewelry box with a ribbon on top … I opened it and inside was this bea-u-ti-ful …. (at this point I’m thinking “wth”) … child’s plastic multi-colored elastic necklace and matching bracelet … I’m sitting there like ‘mmm uh uh … thank you” as I look at my Mama who has a horrified look on her face!  The kids start laughing and I’m sorta about to cry cause I’m thinking “what a cruel thing to do” … then the kids all start saying “look under it” … “what do you mean look under it” and so Alayna proceeds to help me take out the box insert that would normally hold a real piece of jewelry in place and there underneath was a beautiful … truly beautiful tri-colored gold necklace and matching bracelet!!!

In all the years I worked, there was only one place, Perry & Walters, where they always bought me a Birthday Cake and sang Happy Birthday to me … every year!  For some reason though they thought my fav cake was Carrot Cake so that’s what they always got me LOL

A few years back, two years in a row, I believe, Scott surprised me with a Birthday Cake … the Fresh Banana Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory!!  Yum yum

And then the last Birthday Cake I remember was the year I turned 48 … the kids were all here for Christmas and they got together and bought me a ‘last minute’ sorta Birthday Cake, I don’t even remember the flavor (sorry kids lol) but they bought 48 candles and lit every last one of em … dang that was a wonderful sweet surprise!!!

 I wanted a Surprise Party this year … I wanted all the kids home on my Birthday … I wanted a big celebration …but now its not to be … Alex and Heather are pregnant so they can’t be here … we’ve decided no one would really want to come to a Birthday Party on December 27th (and any date around Christmas is pretty much out of the question) … and now my baby girl will be leaving on my 50th Birthday for the USAF Boot Camp …

But its all okay … I’ll still be turning 50 … celebration or not … there’s no way to stop that LOL … and I have so much to be thankful for … I have my first gbaby on its way … Anthony and Kay will be here … and Alayna WILL still be here for Christmas … which is a much more important Birthday than little ole mine anyway!  And maybe, if I’m lucky, someone will remember to take me out to dinner … sometime in December.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Tattoo ~ Celebrating My 50th Year

So …. The story behind my tattoo …when I first met Scott he had a tattoo … a huge parrot on his shoulder … yep, kinda like the pirates who carried real live parrot’s on their shoulders back in the day.  LOL  When Alayna was little she once asked Scott if his “parrot was an egg when he was a baby?”  LOL  Well my kids are now all grown, all of them have tattoos … all have more than one.  AND their spouses have tattoos.  So I kinda started feeling like I was a little left out.  LOL  So when thinking about this year and what it means to me …this year that I’ll be turning 50 years old (2 days after Christmas) … I decided it was MY time … time for MY tattoo.  I’ve never really wanted one before … oh there were times I kinda thought about getting a cutesy one on my boob or a heart or something else cutesy on one of my butt cheeks … yes, I thought about it.  Thought about it … that’s it.  And hidden from the world  LOL
Well my kids all said tattoos should mean something so this made me start thinking … what do I really want to put on my body that is permanent …. Can’t take it back kind of permanent … something that means a lot to me and the answer came easily.  One my husband means a lot to me and two ... my three kids are my heart!  So I took it from there …

Sooooo … I decided on the letters OMMA … what do they mean and where do they come from?  Well when Scott and I started ‘dating’ some 27 years ago … he lived in Pennsylvania and me in Georgia.  A long distance romance full of  lots and lots of letters and many expensive long distance telephone calls.  Nothing to make it easy like today’s gadgets with text messaging, emailing or calling someone halfway across the country for free.  No …what we had was work and expensive! 

We met on March 2, 1984, and he ended his 7th letter to me, on April 2, 1984, with OMMA.  His first visit to me was the weekend of April 12th and when he drove across the Georgia State Line … he saw the huge billboard “Georgia On My Mind” … wow what a coincidence … he had no idea when he came up with OMMA that that was Georgia’s slogan.  So … it was “On My Mind Always” … OMMA for short … from then on … it was out little ‘word’ to each other when ending phone calls, saying goodnight, you get the picture … even during the 7 years we were divorced … when “I Love You” just wasn’t good enough.  You’ll understand what I mean by that if you’ve ever been divorced or if you’ve ever had a really nasty fight with your spouse … the one you love.  Sometimes ‘love’ just isn’t good enough … it takes a lot more than love to make a relationship work!  Love is just the basis … a very important basis, mind you, but it does not make a marriage alone.  Anyway … to answer a question you might be thinking ….YES, I do have every single letter that Scott and I wrote to each other in that year before we first married … several years ago for one of our anniversaries I put them in notebooks … there are 4 notebooks in all.  Kinda like the Nicolas Sparks book/movie “The Notebook”.

The second part of what is on my tattoo bracelet is a decorative heart on either side of my wrist … a Celtic Heart made up of 3 intertwining hearts … one for each of our children because they are my heart and intertwined into my soul.  They are the greatest thing I’ve ever created in this almost 50 year old life of mine!!!

Thirdly, the font is a Celtic font, why? because I am of Scot-Irish decent and I have a love for heritage!

So you see … this tattoo of mine does hold a lot of meaning for me … it had to …for me to be willing to put in permanent ink my love for my husband and our children. 

Did it hurt?  Well, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t … well the top part of the wrist and sides weren’t bad AT ALL … I was even thinking “what, people think this hurts?” … but when they did the underside of my wrist my tune changed to “WTH … it feels like someone is slitting my wrist with a razor blade” … literally … it was that painful …I kept looking down expecting to see blood gushing out all over the place …LOL (no, it didn’t bleed)… though I didn’t ask them to stop or give me a break … no I fought through it praying it would be over soon!!! And Lord forgive me if it is a sin to mar my body like this but between you and me … I know you know my heart!!!

P.S. When I got home Scott said to me "your Mama would have had a fit" ... I said "I know but then she would have thought about it" ... and then said "I think I'll get one" ... I can just hear her saying it!  LOL

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creamed Corn

1 pkg Frozen Pictsweet Yellow Cream Corn
1 pkg Frozen Pictsweet White Cream Corn
1 stick Butter
About a Tblsp Sugar
Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper to Taste

Thaw frozen corn.  Add corn to skillet along with remaining ingredients and cook over medium to low heat for 20-30 minutes (adjust heat accordingly, you don’t want to boil it or burn it).  Hint: I cook mine in a cast iron skillet.  Aint nothing like cooking in cast iron!

I get compliments on this corn every time I make it for company.  It’s simple to prepare and oh so good.  My Mama taught me how to cook it! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Choice ~ Nicholas Sparks (Book Review)

If you love Nicholas Sparks, his books or movies (The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, etc.), you will love this book!  A great love story that spans from early love to marriage and family to an eventual ‘choice’ …Nicholas Sparks asks …”How far should you go to keep the hope of love alive?”  A beautiful story with a decision that will make you question yourself about your own love.  I wonder … hmmm … is there a movie in the making?  Definitely had me in tears!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lions Tigers and Bears … Oh My!

Sooooo … Alayna comes home and says “I just found out there is some kind hiking trails on the Corps of Engineers Property that you can get to right here on our street behind so and so’s house … it has little bridges over creeks and everything …11.2 miles of trails.”  Our neighborhood backs up to Army Corps of Engineers property … a lot of property (to say the least) … there’s an area that’s cleared for flying remote control planes, which you see flying over our neighborhood year round … some designated for a dog park … some designated for hunting … and tons and tons of densely wooded land.  We knew this 7 years ago when we purchased our lot and built our home.  However ….we did not know until now … today …that there were existing hiking trails back there.  We decided to check it out.  I needed to walk any way.  Well it’s a little after 7 pm and it doesn’t get dark til like 9, right?

We find the trail and at the point where we started there was an old … very old … concrete picnic table and an old tin roofed shelter … pretty cool.  We decide since its thundering way off and the trails are dense with trees and foliage … though the trails are proper hiking trails … in most spots you can even walk two by two … side by side … anyway, we decided we wouldn’t go far and would turn around real soon.  BUUUUUUTTTT curiosity got the best of us and we really wanted to see where the trail truly begins … and some 1.5 to 2 miles later we find it … whew.

Now you’ve got to picture it … these are dense woods … proper trails up and down and curving left and right and over creeks and a little pond this way and that …it was already darker in there than it was in our neighborhood when we entered it!!!

Then, at that exact moment … after satisfying our curiosity … it dawns on me … OMG … we’ve had black bear spotted in our neighborhood from these exact woods!!!  I say this out loud to Alayna … wrong thing to do … buddy she takes off running like there’s something chasing her … full out running I tell you … leaving me way behind!!!  I’m walking at a pretty good pace trying to be positive and think … “naw there aint no bear in here” when … ALL OF A SUDDEN …I hear this low guttural sound … the sound like large vicious dogs make just before they start after you … I turn around thinking “oh its just someone on the trail behind me with their dog” … I look (without my glasses … stupid me) and see nothing so I just walk on a little faster … much much faster.  Then not 2-3 seconds later I hear it again … I didn’t even stop to look or think about it … I took off running like my life depended on it … I’m scared!!!!  I’m so scared I want desperately to scream but think if I do the dang thing will chase me for sure. 

Finally when I’m a ways away (at least I think I am) from whatever the heck it is I scream for Alayna … she hears me and waits for me to catch up … me running full out!!!  I had to catch my breath so I could tell her what I heard … she just took off running again … leaving me in the dust literally … she wasn’t waiting to see what it was.  Course, I’m scared all over again and take off running full out again … I’m looking at the trees … trying to see if there are any I could climb … aint nothing but Georgia pines … not a thing I can climb… OMG where’s a good tree when I need it … well if I should need it!!!  I’m still running full out thinking this and then I come to a huge dip in the trail where they’ve put in 12x12 concrete pavers … side by side … since it is so deep and muddy … and what happens to me in my full out run … I fall face first into the mud … missed the dang pavers completely … this time I did scream and Alayna came running back for me … I’m covered in mud from my face all the way down to my ankles.  I get up as quick as I can and we take off running again … praying this time that we get outta there alive!!!  We were sooo scared and all I could hear in my head was that awful low guttural growl.

Georgia Black Bear
Once we hit civilization again Alayna and I swore we would NEVER EVER walk those trails again with just the two of us and NEVER EVER this late in the evening … heck a snake could have slithered across the path and we couldn’t have see it … it was so dark!!!

Its not til we get home that Alayna reminds me that we hear the coyotes back there almost every night … howling!  But I’m telling you … it wasn’t no dangum coyote I heard … this sound came from a much larger, huskier animal … a Georgia Black Bear …I’m just sure of it.

Lions, Tigers and Bears … Oh shit!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

the Help ~ Kathryn Stockett (Book Review)

Kathryn Stockett’s first novel which is now a major motion picture (I haven’t seen the movie yet)  A great book that I definitely recommend.  Those of you who were born in the 60’s or before will most certainly appreciate it and possibly relate.  Those born in the 70’s and beyond can learn a lot from this story.  Told in the first person by each of its characters … both sides … it takes you back to a time when there was a lot of misunderstanding …a lot of ignorance … but best of all …back to a time when things started changing … changing for the good …because of brave people who stood up for what was right.  Though it’s a totally fictional story its right on when it describes in detail the thoughts and feelings of a time gone by.  My only disappointment in this book …the dialect …most is correct at least in sentence structure …my issue? …the Southern characters pronounce their “ing” words with “ing” (i.e. swimming instead of swimin, cleaning instead of cleanin, cooking instead of cookin, you get the point) and pronouncing tomatoes … well … as “to-ma-toes” … mmmmm … I grew up in the South … we do not pronounce our ing’s on any “ing” words and we never say “to-ma-to” … it failed to spell out ‘our’ language phonetically as each character tells their respective stories…a pet peeve, I suppose.  Anyway … the Help is a powerful story, a great read and I loved it!  Can't wait to see the movie!!!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese (The BEST ever recipe)

THE Best Macaroni and Cheese recipe EVER and I’ve tried a ton of them, including every recipe published in the Southern Living magazine for several years running … all failed and most were dumped in trash can ...literally!  But this one … OMG this Macaroni and Cheese is to die for.  Great quality cheese is a must!!!  This recipe is from one of my very best friend’s, Tracy Reider, who is an amazing cook!

2 cups Elbow Macaroni
3 Tbsp Butter
2 to 2-1/2 Tbsp Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
2-1/2 cups Whole Milk (I use 1/2 Whole Milk and ½ Half-n-Half)
1 cup (8 oz) Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated 
1 cup (8 oz) Yellow American Cheese, grated (from Deli not pre-packaged)

Cook macaroni and set aside.  On burner set to medium, melt butter, flour and salt and pepper to make a roux.  Slowly stir in the milk until well blended.  Add cheese and stir until melted.  Stir in the macaroni.  Pour into a greased casserole dish.  The mixture should be soupy.  If not, add more milk or half-n-half, as needed.  Optional: Mix a half cup of shredded cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Helpful Hint: To easily grate the cheeses, freeze for about 30 minutes or so prior to grating.  

NOTE ABOUT CHEESE: Don't try to 'measure' your cheese AFTER grating it ... if you bought an 8 ounce package then that is ONE CUP ... it will look like a lot more after it is grated but that is the right amount!  Also, when buying the Yellow American Cheese from the Deli ... I get them to cut it in one big hunk (8 ounces/1 cup = half a pound).

Update (Oct 28, 2012): I continue to get rave reviews on this Mac n Cheese recipe and I CANNOT emphasize enough the importance of making it just as I do ... with top notch ingredients ... DO NOT skimp or cheap out.  The brand of 'Sharp Cheddar Cheese' I use is Cracker Barrel ~ Natural Sharp Cheddar Cheese and the brand of 'Yellow American Cheese' I use is either Boar's Head or Land o Lakes from the deli ... cut into a hunk and not sliced ... I grate them myself!!!  I also only ever use Whole Milk and Half n Half ... never the low fat or skim milk stuff.  YES its fattening but its not like you eat it all the time!  If you want it like mine you must use the GOOD cheeses.

A couple times I made it using fresh farm made 7 year Sharp Cheddar that Scott brought home from Wisconsin ... NOW that was awesome!!!

Another great thing about this recipe ~ I've made a half a recipe and have also doubled it and get great results every time!

Summer Rental ~ Mary Kay Andrews (Book Review)

Summer Rental, Mary Kay Andrews’ newest book … just in time for summer reading!  And what a great summer read it was.  I was on that beach in Nags Head NC with all these characters … living it right along with them.  Glued from start to finish!!!  Now I wanna move to the beach … to live … indefinitely!  Woohoo!!  You can check out this author and learn more about her at … she has a cool blog and along with her awesome book jacket designs … she’s written some great ‘Southern Setting’ books that I highly recommend!  AND … She’s a Georgia Girl!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tripping Without My Honey

I’ve never gone on a vacation without my hubby but since becoming an empty nester and a stay at home … hmmmm …what do you call what I do when NOW the kids are grown?  Anyway, Scott works, has very few vacation days and I don’t so I decided I’d go visit our Alex and his Heather in Seattle.  I’d planned this trip for quite some time (he’s been stationed out there for almost 3 years now).  Having my sister go with me …an added bonus!

First on our sightseeing tour … Point Defiance Park in Tacoma … a be-u-ti-ful National Park, which is FREE to visit … for now anyway … we walked along the shore of Puget Sound (which is HUGE … we saw portions of it in three cities ~ Tacoma, Seattle and Olympia), hugged a humungous tree (estimated to have been just a sapling at the time of the birth of William Shakespeare … yes, you read that right AND estimated to remain there for another 500 years … long after we are gone, my friends), stopped to say hello to a few raccoons on the side of the road (one appeared to be begging … literally… for food) and walked through some amazing gardens, rose gardens, iris gardens, Japanese gardens …  Washington purports to be the Evergreen State and we were assured of that from the time we left the airport … fir trees everywhere … or “Christmas Trees” as my sister calls them … perfectly formed and ready for lights LOL  Later we rode around Tacoma to check out the city … saw some beautiful architecture and places we wanted to come back to see later.

Next day we went to Seattle … just 20 minutes away and wow what a beautiful city … very clean (there were trash cans on every street corner … no excuse for anyone to litter) and gorgeous architecture.  The streets that lead down to Puget Sound reminded me of what I’ve seen in movies of San Francisco …steeeeeep …and we walked them so I know just how steep they were.  We parked and walked EVERYWHERE!!!  Oh and hanging baskets … huge beautiful hanging baskets on almost every street light (no need to worry about watering LOL)  Oh and homeless everywhere … park benches, in store front alcoves and lots of musical instruments being played for cash donations (very pretty music too, I might add) … acoustic guitars, electric guitars, bongos and just plain ole singing a capella and then some selling their wares, from bracelets to mini-totem poles … NOT a single one was pushy or begging.

First stop … the very first Starbucks.  Wow that place was hoppin … busy busy …the barristas were exceptionally nice and of course, as always, the Frappachino was refreshing!  Next … Pike’s Place Market … and we didn’t get to see it all … it would take days … literally!!!  Really really cool indoor marketplace … if they don’t sell it in there … it probably doesn’t exist … well maybe lol ~ fresh flower bouquets for $5-15 … BIG gorgeous bouquets too, seafood of any type, and cherries, cherries, cherries … I could go on and on … a definite MUST SEE if you are ever there!  Oh but the ‘tossing of the fish’ is just all-for-show … its not the real tossing of the fish like you see on educational channels where they toss them from the boats to the dock … its all an act so I wasn’t impressed.  On to Underground Seattle …tour was cool and interesting but a little pricy for what you actually get to see. 

Some interesting facts I learned: Seattle once boasted the tallest high-rise west of the Mississippi, in fact, it still stands, a gorgeous building, but it is surrounded by much taller high-rises - Seattle used to be below the streets and sidewalks that exist now (what is now the basements … was once the ground floor of the buildings) - when they first built the city UP, ‘skylights’ were put into the now existing sidewalks (for light below) made of a glass that after years of exposure to air has turned purple … very pretty - Seattle’s first plumbing system pipes (1854) were made of hollowed out logs … eeeeww! 

On to the waterfront (Puget Sound)… gorgeous … there’s a sidewalk/boardwalk so we were able to walk along the water for blocks and blocks and blocks.  Plenty of restaurants to choose from and from the waterfront you look up at the city.  And finally … there’s the Sky Needle, built in 1962 for the World’s Fair … it is now swallowed up by the high-rises (the photos of Seattle that you see must have been taken from a peculiar angle) … the view from up there?  AMAZING!  It’s a MUST SEE … at least once!  Overpriced though!  We went up at night and it was an awesome view (found out when we bought our tickets that we could have bought a ticket for 2 trips up in same day … once during daytime hours and then again at night … which, if I had it to do over, I would have done).

Well by now you’re probably asking ‘so how was the weather … is it really like they say it is… oh yes, most definitely!!!  Dreary one minute … sunny the next …cloudy, sunny, partly cloudy, misting, cold, overcast, back to sunny … one day the high was 67, next it was 67 with a heavy breeze making it feel much colder … then it was 85 one day …very unpredictable …it was hard to know what to wear … we wore jackets tied around our waists for those hours where the weather turned and it got cold … …and then they’d come off again … our jackets weren’t always as warm as what we really needed … DID NOT LIKE the weather!!!

Next day … back to Tacoma for some museums (and it just so happened they are FREE on the third Thursday of the month AFTER 5 pm and open til 8 so we had to pay for the first museum and then after that they were free)… since it started out being very cold and misting rain and was predicted to stay that way … first stop the Museum of Glass … some beautiful glass artwork but MOST of it (and this is no exaggeration) is outside (and FREE to see 365 days a year) on the ‘glass bridge’ and walkway.  It was definitely overrated but I did enjoy watching the glass blowing … could have sat there all day watching in fascination.  Next we went into the Washington History Museum which was right next door … fun and interesting since I love history.  We skipped the third museum since the weather cleared up (or so we thought lol) and went back into Seattle with a mission to FIND the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat.  We ended up visiting a small but pretty little park on the edge of Lake Union (the houseboats, contrary to what I thought are NOT on Puget Sound but rather on a lake) … an abandoned oil refinery made into a park … kinda cool … and dang if it didn’t get downright COLD!  We couldn’t stay long … too cold!  Sadly, we didn’t find the Sleepless in Seattle houseboat.

Next day … Portland, Oregon … not such a pretty city … architecture was too modern for my taste.  We went with the intention of visiting one of their gardens but ended up missing it because it closed so early.  We did, however, see Pittock Mansion, located high up on the mountainside overlooking Portland, Mt. Saint Helens and Mt Hood … amazing view.  It was built in 1914 but sadly Mr. Pittock only had 5 years enjoyment living there as he died in 1919 at the age of 83!!!  Since the gardens were closed … we found the world’s largest book store … Powell’s which covers an entire city block and then some … 68,000 sq ft of new and used books!!!  I found a few bargain books (hardbacks) … had to limit my purchase!  Portland has street vendor trailers everywhere … lined up and parked in parking lots … each with their own specialty … we ate lunch off one of the Greek ones and it was pretty good.  Not only was I disappointed in the architecture of Portland, the homeless were everywhere and hippies galore (more so than in Seattle).  In fact, Starbucks didn’t want us to use their bathrooms at first because they have a problem with the homeless, druggies and mentally instable persons coming in to use it!!!  With the exception of the one guy in Starbucks, who was from Orlando, the people were very unfriendly!

Next day …we headed for the shore … the Pacific Ocean!  Drove through Olympia and right through Twilight Country just outside Forks, WA (for you Twilight lovers) and yes it looks exactly like its described in the books and shown in the movies!  No vampires though!  LOL  When we got to the beach (Ocean Shores, WA) we drove right onto it … you park wherever you feel like it and then cars, mopeds, trucks and even horses ride up and down parallel to the ocean.  The air was freezing!!!  The water … warm like bath water and dirty … like lake water … eeeew.  AND no big crashing waves as I had expected.  I was very disappointed.  There were people on the beach dressed in various types of seasonal clothing from bikinis to winter coats lined with fur!!!  We didn’t stay long as it was too dang cold … in fact, we stopped on the way out of town for hot coffee!!!  July in Washington!!!  We headed back towards Tacoma and decided to stop in Olympia (Washington’s capital for those who might not know) … another beautiful clean city with a beautiful capital building… a small town though compared to Seattle.  We walked along the sidewalks/boardwalk of Puget Sound and saw some crab, fish, tons of jelly fish and two very large red jelly fish, which I’d never seen before.

Our last day … Mt. Ranier, which is completely visible (on a good day) from McChord AFB.  Wow … the first time I saw it (after being there for 3 days) I couldn’t stop saying ‘damn’ … it was so immense and breathtaking!  On this our last day we drove up to Mt. Ranier National Park thinking we’d do some hiking and maybe get a glimpse of the mountain closer up.  Unfortunately, just before we entered the park there was a motorcycle accident (2 motorcycles) caused by a deer running in front of them and involving a fatality.  Very sobering.  Since the road we were travelling was the only way in or out of the park we had to wait some 2.5 hours before we could continue.  We didn’t realize it when we started out but the road inside the park goes up nearly ¾ of the way from the top of Mt. Ranier … wow what a view and what an awful time for my new camera to start acting up!!!  I did manage to get a few good shots but none at the top where we got out … dressed in flip flops, jeans and tees … into the snow covered ground!  A definite MUST SEE if you are a nature lover or someone who appreciates God’s beautiful gifts of the outdoors!

If I get the chance to go back to Seattle (maybe after our grandbaby is born) I definitely want to do one of the water cruises on Puget Sound or maybe even the Ducks.

Thank you Alexander and Heather for being such awesome chauffeurs and tour guides!!!  I love ya’ll very much and am so glad I got to spend time with you two … ooops I mean three!!!