Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A corner that sprang to life

This is a corner of my living room that once was barren and "blah."  I added the two framed pictures a number of years back.  One is a picture of my relatives at my dad's funeral in 2003.  The other picture is from our first cousin's reunion back in 2009.  Regular readers will recall my posts on our annual cousin's reunion each spring.

The table has been in my family for generations but has lived in my basement gathering dust for years.  I never found a good use for it till now.  The basket is a recent purchase from ebay.  I'm proud of the way this area has taken wings and become not only an attractive area, but also useful.  I  use the basket to drop important mail in when I come home from work so it stays safe (from the dogs!) till I have time to get back to it.

What do you think?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A heartwarming surprise

The two knives here qualify for antique status.  The larger one belonged to my grandparents and I'm told it was handmade.  The smaller one belonged to my mother-in-law.  Over the years, every time I was in her house, when she was in the kitchen, she almost always was using that knife.  When she died back in the early 90's, I placed my claim to it!

Both of these knives have sentimental value to me.  It wasn't too long ago that I wondered where they were.  I knew they were not lost - I would never allow things that valuable to get lost. "They are probably in a box out in the shed," I thought.

Today I tackled my pantry.  I ended up tossing expired canned goods, almost empty containers of this and that.  Suddenly I had room to find things!  There in the back corner, was a small 3 drawer organizer.  Opening the drawers, I found these knives!

They have long since retired from use, but they will always be special to me.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jackie!

Jackie and I go back a long way. . . all the way to the third grade at Myrtle Grove Elementary School in Pensacola, Florida!  Today she is eligible for Medicare!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's too quiet here tonight. . .

She's a big pain the backside most of the time. . . she has taken a flying leap right into me as I tried to drink my morning coffee. . . she has sometimes made Molly's life a train wreck. . . then there was the time, in the cold of night, she refused to come inside, abandoning her training to run from one side of the backyard to the other as I totally lost patience with her, trudging through the snow trying to get this maniac in the house.  That was the night I grabbed her by her neck, dragged her into the house and threw her into her cage, and screamed, "BAD DOG."  She looked at me as if she was thinking, "Did I do something wrong?"

Sometimes I've questioned my sanity for bringing this bundle of mega energy home.  Not tonight.

Morgan will be spayed tomorrow.  I knew it would be total chaos tomorrow morning when she discovered she wasn't allowed to eat before going in for surgery.  She would be bouncing off the walls and ceiling and I would be trying to maintain my sanity to drive her to the vet and then get to work in one piece.  So I chose to board her overnight.

She knew something was out of the ordinary as we sat in the waiting room at the vet.  Then the lady came with the purple lead to wrap around her neck.  "This is the first time she has been boarded," I explained.  "It is traumatic for me and for her."  Morgan continued to bounce around and tug at the leash I had in my hand.  Finally the lady was able to hit the moving target and lead her away.

I turned the other way and went to my car.  I can deal with this, really I can. . .

This vet likes to keep all surgery cases overnight as a precaution.  So I won't get her back until Saturday.

I came home.  Molly, in her old age, she's 11 now, is quiet and gentle.  She looked around.  "It's okay, girl, Morgan will be home soon."  She crawled into my lap, enjoying the luxury of not having to fight off a young whippersnapper for my attention.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

An idea to beat the winter blahs

I admit it.  Come the middle of January, into February, I probably don't smile much.  The winter doldrums set in and I can't wait for warm weather.  This time of year, it is dark when I go to work and it is dark when I come home.

I thought it would be a good idea at work to have something planned that people could get excited about.

I gave the assignment to one of the employees that report to me.  On February 9, I want you to plan a crock pot lunch for our Division.  Send out an eye-catching invitation.  I assumed people would go for it.  But the response, so far, has exceeded my expectations.

The invitation was emailed yesterday.  Bring in a crock pot dish, or you can contribute muffins or another appropriate dish to pass.

People have rallied around this one!  "We should do something like this once a month," was one comment I got.  An older faculty member proudly boasted, "I will bring an old family recipe for chili in my old, old crock pot!"

We are a friendly bunch of employees but the intense nature of our job doesn't allow for a lot of socializing during work hours.  This will be a welcome break from the fast paced, nose to the grindstone culture we work in.

Looks like I'm not the only one excited about it!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Another winning crock pot meal!

Awhile back, I found a really great crock pot beef stew recipe.  This weekend I decided I wanted to make it again.  Can you believe, I could not find the recipe???  I looked in all the places I would have filed it.

Let's hear it for dumb luck!  When I couldn't find it, I improvised.  I remembered some of the ingredients.  Here is my "improvised" recipe and I like it even better.  With two dogs in the house - an old one and a hyperactive puppy - my first half hour at home every night after work is stressful.  I have two dogs acting like they haven't eaten in a week, one jumping all over me.  So to come home to the wonderful, inviting aroma of something cooking in the crock pot is just great.

As usual, most of the things I make don't have a definite recipe, but this is close:

one or more pounds of stew meat
large can of tomatoes
one or two cloves of garlic, chopped
a handful of fresh pearl onions
large can of tomato sauce
a half box of Swanson's beef broth
small red potatoes, quartered
a big handful of carrots
splash of red wine
couple of dashes of oregano, basil, and cinnamon
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Stir it all up, turn on the crock pot for 10 hours on low and forget about it!  The crock pot I used today automatically goes to warm setting for two hours after the 10 hours cooking time.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The countdown begins!

My annual cousins reunion down South is fast approaching in March.  This will be our fifth year.  For the benefit of those who are not familiar with this story, I grew up in Florida and was close to my cousins who were spread across the panhandle of Florida into Alabama.  I married and moved to New York State and with few exceptions, did not see my cousins for decades. I was busy raising my twin sons and didn't get back South that much.  Funerals and weddings draw relatives out of the woodwork.  When my father died in 2003, I saw all my cousins again and it was amazing.  We picked up right where we left off!

Several years later, I said, "Why don't we all get together again on the old homestead for a fun day?"  Man!  I didn't have to beg!  My father's family owned land "out in the middle of no where" that had been in the family since it was deeded from the government back in the mid-1800s.  My grandparents farmed the land until they got too old.  My grandfather was a prosperous cotton farmer until they came home from church one Sunday in their horse and buggy and their house had burned to the ground.  In those days, due to the Great Depression, my grandparents did not believe in banks.  Every dime they had was in that house when it burned to the ground.  As a kid, we would go there and walk in the woods and just have a grand time.  Some of those old cotton plants were still there and producing cotton.  In the mid-60's, my father and his siblings, built a pond from two natural springs.  We camped there for quite a few years.  The shelter my Dad built to cover the Airstream trailer we had at the time still stands to this day.  Other than that shelter, the land remains as it has for hundreds of years.  We have a dirt road that leads back to the area and we hire someone to clear the area where we meet once a year.

It is a fun day of fishing, target shooting, good food, and just catching up with everyone's life.  I really look forward to it.

It is a two day drive for me - four days round trip.  I am often asked, "Why don't you just fly?"  Well, I honestly enjoy driving down!  I love watching Spring come alive the further South I go.  Most often, there is still snow on the ground when I leave New York State.  Seeing dogwood trees in bloom in the woods along the way is a joy to me.

But more importantly, I just believe it is important to stay attached to your roots.  Yes, that seems out of date in this fast paced world we live in today.  But these are my values.

I have a pressure cooker job that is demanding 24/7.  It is gratifying to me to get back with my cousins and not have to be politically correct or on my toes for a few days.  These are people I grew up with and they count big time in my life!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Spaghetti sauce in the crock pot

Today I have my homemade spaghetti sauce simmering in one of my crock pots.  There really is no defined recipe but here is what is in this batch:

chopped onion
5 or 6 cloves of chopped garlic
ground beef
tomato sauce
large can of tomatoes
tomato paste
small handful of brown sugar
dash or two of ground cinnamon
big splash of red wine
a toss or two of basil
same for oregano
3 or 4 bay leaves
kosher salt

I think that's everything!  I put it all together and plugged in the crock pot a little after 8:00 this morning.

You just can't beat the flavor of food cooked all day in a crock pot!