December 30, 2009

Full Of Possibility...

Well, it's almost that time.  Time to close out this year and welcome a new one.

The time of year when some folks reflect back on the previous three-hundred-sixty-five days with pleasure,  some with disappointment and then there are some who don't give it much thought at all.

Some set resolutions. resolve.

Do you set resolutions?

I can honestly say I don't recall ever setting one.

Probably because I know me and I know that I am more likely than not to break it.

What is it about a new year that causes one to make resolutions?

Better yet, what is it about a new year that causes some to acutely analyze the previous 365 days?

We sure don't put that much stock in a week or a month.

So why do we put so much focus on a year?  

I don't have the answer but for whatever reason the summation of 365 days gets a lot of attention from some people.

I once had a dear friend who told me each year on December 31st that the new year had to be better than the last because the last was the worst year of her life.  I never understood her fascination with those cumulative days - the year.  Each new year was a daunting thing to her - so daunting that one January day she took her own life.  

A few days from now will mark the 20th anniversary of her passing.  There were no words then and are no words now to describe the devastation brought on by her actions.

She had an illness...

and as her illness progressed she became unable to see past each day...

and although there had been many happy days in her past she could no longer see them in the rear view mirror...

she saw no joy in yesterday and no hope in tomorrow...

and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't help her to see.

I don't know for sure but I'd say there aren't many days that slip by me that I don't think of her.  And it might sound odd but when I do think of her it is no longer with sadness for my rear view mirror does work and I can clearly see our happy days.  I also clearly see tomorrow and know that there is a great big world out there just waiting for me. 

Yes, a new year is on the horizon...

there will be no resolutions from me...

there will also be no looking back regretting what might have been...

Her memory reminds me to live my life one day at a time...

I will say my prayers and try to make each day the best it can be...

and if its not...

there will be tomorrow...

clear and full of possibility.

December 23, 2009

I Am My Own Version of Betty Crocker...

I am a magazine junky.

I just love opening my mailbox and having a new one or two there to greet me.

I especially love cooking magazines.

Prior to Christmas the lovely folks at the magazine companies like to taunt people like me with pretty pictures of their "simple" candy recipes.

And then there is my cooking hero Ina Garten.  You might be familiar with Ina - she prides herself on getting "back to basics".  Ha!

Well folks, in my opinion there is nothing "simple" or "basic" about cooking anything that requires my arch nemesis the candy thermometer.

You see, I fear the thing.

Any recipe that says something along the line of "insert candy thermometer and bring the mixture up to 245 degrees and then lower the heat and bring the mixture to 295" scares the *@^*@% out of me!

Anyway, Ina makes marsh mellows.  Yes, MAKES them.  No marsh mellow from a plastic bag for Ina.  And they are very pretty - and after watching her make them a couple of times I became envious and decided that I too could make a marsh mellow.

So, I gathered the ingredients, dug the candy thermometer out from the back of the gadget drawer, brought out my handy dandy stand mixer and got to work.

Step 1:
Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment.  Let it stand 30 minutes. 

Step 2:
Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved.  Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high.  Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage).  Immediately remove pan from heat. 

Step 3: 
With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin.  Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to incorporate.

I should mention that sometime around the beginning of step 2 the Senor came in from the office.  He sat down at the bar and we chatted about the day as I monitored the candy thermometer.  We hit 244 degrees, removed from heat, added to gelatin mixture and began to "beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes".  YES, SUCCESS, I have overcome my fear of the candy thermometer!

The mixture began to turned became thicker...

We were about seven minutes in to our 15 minute process when...


The mixer made a large thud...

There was a familiar smell...

A burning smell...

Surely not...

Yes, the mixer was DEAD.

Burnt up...

I have a large blob of half-way beaten marsh mellow mixture and a DEAD mixer.

I immediately go in to something along the lines of panic.

The Senor, being the Senor, is calm and goes in to "fix it" mode.  We discuss the hand mixer option.  We don't think it will work but, hey, what is a girl to do?

This my friends is when when the Senor began snapping photos and through much laughter informed me that I am my own "Betty-Effing-Crocker" and that I could quote him on that!

As you can see getting the beaters and mixture AWAY from the stand mixer got interesting and things with the hand mixer were a complete disaster.  I believe I had as much marsh mellow on me as I had in the bowl!

At this point we decided we had done all we could do and poured them in to the pan, covered them in roasted coconut and called it good.

The next day I cut them, coated their edges in powdered sugar and I guess for my first effort they turned out pretty good.  I'm sure they aren't as fluffy as Ina would like hers but after all she has an endless amount of stand mixers to burn through!

We did continue on that night and make Hazelnut Crunch (the Senor handled the candy thermometer portion of this recipe as I was covered in marsh mellow and still a little traumatized by the mixer situation!) and Holiday Biscotti.  They look holiday-eee, don't you think?

 Tomorrow is Christmas Eve - may you and yours have a joyous Christmas filled with love, family and friends and may each of us never forget the true meaning of Christmas. 

December 20, 2009

Santa Has Nothing On The Senor...

I am in shock!

The Senor and I exchanged gifts over the weekend and YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE what he gave me - a MacBook; Yes, you read me right - a Macbook!

I am loving it! I have never used a Mac so I have much to learn. There seem to be many differences in my new friend Mac and my old friend PC but I make friends easily and know that we will soon be best-friends-forever!

After all, the keyboard rocks, the screen rocks, the graphics rock!

Yes, I realize I'm 47 years old and probably shouldn't be using the term "rocks" but hey, if it rocks it rocks!

Then, I opened another package and it was a fabulous Na Hoku flip flop necklace. It is absolutely precious!

From the first time I saw it I thought it was the perfect adornment for a girl whose toes are claustrophobic.

It is a rare occasion when this girl is speechless but I really am.  All I can say is this...yes, I am rotten...and so very blessed...not because of the gifts but because I have the love of this man.  He is thoughtful, considerate, handsome, generous to a fault and is the person I will spend the remainder of my life with - and that folks is the greatest gift of all.

December 18, 2009

Feast of Seven Fishes...

Last night the Senor and I attended a cooking class at our local Central Market.  We have talked about taking cooking classes for years but somehow never found the time.  How we suddenly found the time during what songs and fairy-tales term "the most wonderful time of the year" but we in the real world know is the most HECTIC time of the year escapes me but we did it and it was a nice break from hectic.

The class was put on by the Central Market cooking school and was an Italian Feast of Seven Fishes.  Now, a side note on the "class" - it isn't really a "class" per se but more a presentation put on by chefs as they prepare their dishes and then serve them to the attendees.  The presentations are full of great tips but there was no "hands on" participation.

A little background on the Feast.  Many Italians and Italian Americans follow the tradition based on La Vigilia di Natale, the vigil of the holy night, and do not eat meat on Christmas Eve, the night of the birth of Christ.  Because the day is sacred, no meat is consumed, so the typical dinner includes fish.  For Italians and Italian Americans, especially those from the southern regions of Italy, the Christmas Eve dinner includes at least seven fishes but has been known to include up to as many as twenty-one fish dishes.  (On a personal note, I was stuffed after seven!)

Why seven fishes? My research shows there are many theories but the most popular explanation is based on the seven sacraments - Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Confession, Marriage, Holy Orders and Anointing of the Sick.  

The menu of fish varies and is based upon what is available at the time but usually includes calamari, clams, mussels, cod and shrimp. 

Our feast started off with a wonderful Italian-Style Crab Cake.  To put an Italian spin on the cake the chef added Parmesan and Ricotta cheeses and coated the cake in Italian-style bread crumbs.  The cheeses really added an Italian flare and was a nice touch.

Next the chefs prepared Sauteed Mussels with Leeks, Garlic & Wine, Broiled Salmon with Green Olive Tapenade and Skillet Shrimp Scampi.  When it comes to cooking fish I sometimes find it a little intimidating and I was surprised how quick and easy the recipes came together.  Each dish was very good but the star of this plate was the mussels.  The Senor and I both really enjoyed the mussels and the leeks were a wonderful addition to the recipe.  I've always been weary of cooking both mussels and leeks but after seeing them prepared one-on-one I am up for the challenge!

The last course consisted of Pasta with Clam Sauce, Calamari Fritto with Tomato-Caper Sauce and Sole with Vegetables and Artichokes.  Each of these dishes were also enjoyable. I especially liked the Tomato-Caper Sauce.  I LOVE fried calamari and hoped seeing it prepared would help to overcome my aversion to cooking it but I can already tell you that it didn't!   There is just something about the look of raw calamari that I find very unappealing!  

The only real negative to the evening was the quality of the wine they served.  We were poured a glass of white with the appetizer and first course and a glass of red with the last.  The white was passable but the red was just bad.

Overall the experience was was fun, the food was good and we learned something new about the Italian culture...and, a little fun, food and culture never hurt anyone. 

December 15, 2009

What a Sweet, Sweet Santa!

Okay, I'm sure you all think you had THE most sweet and thoughtful Secret Santa of them all...

and I'm sure YOURS was sweet and thoughtful...

BUT it turns out it that it was I

who had THE most sweet and thoughtful Secret Santa of them all!

I mean just look at what this girl did for me!

First, she went digging through my blog and learned that I am a complete Muir Woods LOVER.

She then found a BEAUTIFUL photo of Muir Woods and had a nifty little spiral notebook made for me with the photo on the cover.

She then went EVEN one step further and had this gorgeous inscription that I love inscribed on the inside cover.

I mean REALLY, can a Secret Santa be more THOUGHTFUL?

Then, she took it even further by sending me this precious mug stuffed with yummy biscotti and chocolate covered peppermint sticks.  Santa really MUST know everything because THIS girl LOVES her some biscotti!

And check out these PRECIOUS note cards with my initial and the SEASHELLS.  I ADORE all things paper and, of course, I LOVE seashells!

So yes, it is WITHOUT A DOUBT that I do have the SWEETEST AND MOST THOUGHTFUL SECRET SANTA of them all and I THANK HER from the bottom of my heart!

December 8, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree...

This Precious Little Ornament...

The decorations are out...

and the tree is up...

but none can compare...

to this precious little "ornament"...


December 3, 2009

An Award? For Me? Woo-hoo!

A big thanks to Tammy over at The Fly On The Wall for honoring me with my very first blogger award!  I have to say I was very surprised at the mention and it just made my day!

Superior Scribbler Award

So, as I understand it I am now supposed to do the following:
  1. Pass the award on to 5 deserving blog friends.
  2. Link to the Superior Scribbler who gave me this award.
  3. Display the blog and link to this post, which explains the award.
  4. Add my name to the McLinky list on that blog post.
  5. Post these rules on my blog.
So, here are five of my favorite blogs to visit (in no particular order).  I hope you will check them out - they are all fabulously fun!

Deep South Dish

That Girl Blogs

Sweet Nothings

Thrifty Decor Chick

The Style Sisters

Thanks again Tammy, as I said, YOU MADE MY DAY!


The tree is up and almost complete but I need a few more items from the attic (darn those attic stairs - the ones that it is best I don't climb!)

I love this ornament on my tree. 


"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace goodwill toward men." Luke 2:14

As our country prepares to deploy an additional thirty-thousand solders to Afghanistan please remember to pray for peace this Christmas season and always.

December 2, 2009

That Ho, Ho, Ho Kind Of Spirit

I'm so excited!  It's 45 degrees outside and, although not in my neighborhood, it snowed nearby today!  Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The cold weather and the mention of snow put me in a Ho, Ho, Ho kind of spirit so after I did a little on-line Christmas shopping at Macy's (using the FABULOUS savings code "macysff" and receiving 25% OFF PLUS FREE SHIPPING on orders of $99 and up!) I ran up to my neighborhood MJ Design's and grabbed a couple of $3.99 Christmas floral bunches came home and got a little crafty!

Now, you remember that $5.95 Southern Living bucket I bought at the junk store a few months back?  Well, I disassembled the fall arrangement I put together back then, clipped the Christmas floral bunches apart and made like an elf.  Ta-da!  What do you think?

Tonight, when the Senor gets home, he is going to once again brave the attic steps and bring down the trees and all the trimmings.  Tomorrow, I deck the halls!

December 1, 2009


Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year.  Ours, like most American families, was packed with the three F's - Family, Football and Food!  It started Wednesday night and went full throttle until late Sunday morning and I loved every second of it.

Those of you who know the Senor and I know that we are all about family.  (A shared blood line is not always required to be a member of our family - but that's for another story on another day.)  Now, back to  Thanksgiving...

We were blessed to have the kids, the grand baby, the brothers, the sister-in-law (who I love as if she were truly my sister), my parents, my grandmother, the nieces (plus one boyfriend and a Morky!), the nephew, my Uncle and a bunch of awesome cousins!  At one point the scene in my kitchen resembled that of a Chinese fire drill - it was sheer chaos and I thought my heart might explode with joy!  The families mix and mingle as if they are one - it is a rarity and an oddity and it works perfectly!

So, another Thanksgiving is behind us and once again I give thanks for the blessing of family...






November 25, 2009

Give Thanks To The Lord...

On this day before Thanksgiving a few things I'm thankful for...

God's never ending love.

The Senor - he amazes me daily with his love, support, kind heart and sense of humor.  With him I have learned it is possible to fall deeper in love each and every day.

The tradition of making cornbread dressing with Dede which has now been passed along to Mom, Sandra, McKae and me.

Family - the one I was born to and the one I married.

The Armed Forces of the United States of America.

Taylor, McKae and Cate have never had to go without health care and have never been truly hungry or thirsty.

Friends from Mrs. Curry's Kindergarten, Elementary school, Intermediate school, Junior high school, High school, the twenty-somethings, the thirty-somethings, the forty-somethings and those who have spanned some or all of those times.  What blessings they are.

Eating raw cornbread dressing with Mom, Sandra and McKae.

The honor of being a Mimi and a Step-Monster.

Health care, health insurance and access to the medication needed to treat my illness.

I was born in to a family who lives in a country where there is freedom of religion, freedom of speech and where human injustice is against the law.

I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and not a terminal illness.

My parents.  They love me unconditionally.  Through example they taught me the value of work ethic, respect for self, respect for God and respect for others.   

And of course, let's not forget the cornbread dressing with gravy!

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

November 20, 2009

I Will Play (Or Work!) For Gumbo...

Boy, I do love me some gumbo!  

And it hit me from out of the blue yesterday that I had to HAVE some gumbo before the day had ended!

Well, those of you who know the Senor and me know that he is the gumbo cook in this house.

You see, I can follow a recipe with the best of 'em.  But to create something from scratch is a whole 'notha story!

But, for some reason yesterday I was feeling a bit brave so I did a little reading...

consulted with the Senor via telephone...

dropped in on grocery store heaven - aka Central Market...

and here's what happened next...

Step 1

Poach Chicken

To a large pot add:

3 cups water
1 chicken breast (with skin and bones)
5 chicken thighs (with skin and bones)
1 onion, quartered
1 celery stalk, quartered
1 small carrot, quartered
1 teaspoon salt
2 springs of parsley

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  When chicken is done remove the chicken pieces from the pot and place the on a plate to cool.

Step 2:

Strain the broth through a sieve and discard the vegetable/herb mixture.

Step 3: 

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and bone from the meat, shred or chop the meat in large pieces and set to the side if using soon or store in airtight container in the refrigerator for later use.

(This recipe can also be done using a whole chicken.  It is my favorite way to poach chicken and can be used a million ways!)

But, back the gumbo!

Step 4:

Measure the broth and place it, along with enough canned broth, to equal 4 1/2 quarts in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil.

Step 5:

In a skillet melt a pat or two of butter and add:
1 green Bell pepper (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
3 stalks of celery (chopped)
(Known by those amazing chefs, the Cajuns, as "the trinity")
Saute over medium heat (do not allow to brown) until very soft.

Step 6:

Add 1/3 cup of jarred roux (I used Kary's Roux which is available in most grocery stores) to the boiling chicken broth and stir constantly for 10 minutes or until it is completely dissolved in the broth.

Step 7:

Chop 1 link of Andouille sausage (don't use regular smoked sausage.  Andouille is a Cajun sausage and can be purchased in specialty meat shops or from the Internet) in small pieces and brown in a skillet over medium heat in order to cook off as much fat as possible.  Remove sausage from skillet with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Step 8:

To broth/roux mixure add:
Softened combination of onion, celery and Bell pepper (trinity)
Shredded chicken
Browned Andouille sausage
1 Bay leaf
20 turns of black pepper grinder
Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 2 - 3 hour or until broth has reduced some and gumbo is of a thickened consistency.

Serve over cooked white rice and with crusty French bread.  Garnish with green onions if desired.

And if I do say so myself...

Laissez les bons temps rouler


Let The Good Times Roll

November 18, 2009

If Only...

I came across these two quotes by Algernon Black...

Both are very thought provoking...

"The religions of humanity should be a unifying force, for all the great religions reveal a basic unity in ethics. Whether it be Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism or Confucianism, all grow out of a sense of the sacredness of human life."

"This moral sensitivity to the sacredness of human personality -- the Commandments not to kill, not to hurt, not to put a stumbling block in the path of the blind, not to neglect the widow or the fatherless, not to exploit the servant or the worker -- all this can be found in the Bibles of humanity, in all the sacred books."

If only those who murder innocent people in the name of religion could read those words and comprehend them...

If only those individuals who believe violence, destruction and instilling fear in the innocent could just read those words...

and open their hearts...

to the true meaning of religion...

which is love...

If only...  

November 16, 2009

Deck The Halls For Fall....

I LOVE the Bellagio Hotel.   

I LOVE the atrium at the Bellagio Hotel.  

You never know how the atrium at the Bellagio Hotel will be dressed.  

She is truly a fashionista.  

We visited her while in Vegas and wow, oh wow, she was decked out for fall.  

Check the 'ole girl out...

November 14, 2009

Water For Christmas

I recently learned about an amazing organization called charity: water and would like to tell you a little about them. 

One billion people on the planet don't have access to clean drinking water.  That's one in six of us.  charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.  100% of public donations directly fund water projects.

It’s hard not to think about water today. In the western world, we face growing concerns about our stewardship of the world’s most precious resource. There’s talk of shortages, evidence of reservoirs and aquifers drying up, and of course, plenty of people who simply don’t care.

But forget about us.

Most of us have never really been thirsty. We’ve never had to leave our houses and walk 5 miles to fetch water. We simply turn on the tap, and water comes out. Clean. Yet more than 1.1 billion people on the planet don’t have clean water.

It’s hard to imagine what a billion people looks like really, but one in six might be easier. One in six people in our world don’t have access to the most basic of human needs. Something we can’t imagine going 12 hours without.

Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all sickness and disease and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. 

Water for Christmas is a grass roots movement bringing both awareness and real "on the ground" change to Africa's water crisis.

Stated simply, they see no reason for 4500 mothers to bury children every day for lack of clean water. And in most places, clean water flows just below the surface. With a little help, local African communities can tap into safe, clean water. Helping provide clean water and basic sanitation is thus one of the first and simplest steps to ending water-borne diseases and their accompanying cycle of poverty in the world. 

So, what I ask of you today is to click on either the charity:water or waterforchristmas links here and check out these great organizations and, if you're able, make a $10.00 donation.  Think about it, you'll probably never miss that $10.00 but it will make a huge difference in the life of a child.

"There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them." (Denis Waitley)

**All donations are tax-deductible.

November 13, 2009

Celebrate - Vegas Style!

The last leg of our trip was a quick stop in Vegas to celebrate our son's 21st birthday.

When I met the Senor Bryan had just turned 11 and suddenly, within the blink of an eye, he's 21. I am so proud of the man he has become and even more proud and thankful that I was able to be a part of those growing-up years. He is such a joy and I have no doubt his life will be filled with integrity, achievement and happiness. That's just who he is.

**Celebration lunch at Maggiano's with Bryan's Mom Kathy, step-dad David, Dennis, Bryan, Jessica, Cory, Kim, The Senor and Cate.

November 12, 2009

Wine Country Days 3 and 4

The morning of day three I was moving a bit slow.  While I laid around and enjoyed the peaceful quiet of the vineyard the Senor and brother-in-law went with our friend Bob to "punch down" the wine for a wine-maker friend of Bob's.

(Brother-in-law observing Bob punch down the wine.)

(The Senor punching down the wine.)

"Punching down" is done to keep the fermenting wine and skins mixed up during red wine fermentation.  As the wine ferments, the skins rise to the top of the tank and form a thick "cap."  It is important to break up the cap a few times a day to increase the extraction of color and flavor and to prevent the cap from drying out and/or developing bacterial problems.  A punch down means the cap was manually pushed back into the fermenting wine using an instrument that looks like a huge potato masher!

Our first stop on Day Three was Michel Schlumberger Winery.  This is a beautiful winery set back in the hills of Dry Creek Valley.  Our host, Francesco, was charming, knowledgeable and down-right funny.  The facility is not only gorgeous but is completely organic and is home to sheep, chickens and bees.  They also have an organic garden on the property.  According to Francesco it is not surprising to see mountain lion, bobcat, deer and many other wild animals roaming there.  On top of all this they produce first class wines that I love!

When we finished at Michele Schlumberger it was lunchtime and we had just enough time to pop in to The Ravenous for bite to eat.  The Ravenous is located in a funky old house in Healdsburg and the food was, well let's just say I was once again in "foodie heaven"!

Next, Sandy had arranged for a taste and pairing at Jordan Winery.  The Jordan facility sits high on a hilltop and is absolutely stunning.  Jordan is known for their "tradition of fine wines" and the tastings did not disappoint.

The remainder of the afternoon we tasted wines from the Longboard, Seghesio, Mauritson and Dutcher Crossing Wineries.

While at Mauritson we had the opportunity to meet the wine maker, Clay Mauritson.  Despite this being the busiest time of his year he was generous enough to take time to talk with us and share his passion for wine making.  It was so refreshing to speak with someone who holds such a love for what they do every day.  The Mauritson zinfandels were fabulous and, again, a case or two will be showing up on our door step any day now.

Our last night in Sonoma county we all convened on Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar.  I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to spend the evening visiting with these dear people.  Bob and Sandy and Bob and Cathy are truly some of my favorite folks and to have the opportunity to spend time with them in this amazing place was priceless.  As we shared small plates and glorious wine it occurred to me that our visit was drawing to an end and I was overcome with emotion.

Bob and Sandy are the ultimate host and hostess.  Bob met us on the deck Friday morning with mimosas.  The Senor, brother-in-law and I enjoyed our last morning on the vineyard deck while he and Sandy were busy in the kitchen whipping up breakfast.  After breakfast it was time to load our things and drop by one last winery before heading to the airport.  Bob had shared a bottle of Limerick Lane with us the night before and wanted us to see their facility before we left.  Limerick Lane's 1023 is a blend of Syrah and Zinfandel and is totally lush and fabulous and, yes, three magnums have already shown up on our door step.

Bob and Sandy escorted us to the airport.  Once again, I was overcome with emotion.  I'm terrible with good-byes and there simply were no words to adequately express our gratitude.  So we said our goodbyes, not knowing when we will see one another again, but knowing when we do it will be just like it was yesterday.