Wednesday, August 31, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

     For years, I have looked longingly at glass floats in antique shops and in magazines. On Sunday, my husband stopped at an auction on the way home from picking up Sunday papers and he found a box of 5 floats on one of the tables. He had me come take a look and then he went back to the auction and they are mine! My favorite is the aqua one that shows a the most wear and tear, but the mixed colors work well in my house. For now, they are in this tall glass vase to keep me from breaking them.

     I am a blue jean baby. I live in jeans in the cooler months. Some years are better than others for me for jean styles. This year, I'm in love with the dark denim and the very slim, straight legs. I bought 3 pair at 3 different stores, so I have my fall/winter uniform ready to go!

     Move over Jon Bon Jovi, Adam Levine is my new rock and roll crush. Even I don't understand it. He is young, thin, covered with tattoos and he won me over completely as a judge on The Voice. I've always loved the music of Maroon 5, but now...I love Adam too.

     In the spring I got a gift of a Keurig coffee maker. Love it! My husband will not give up his Mr. Coffee, so this baby is all mine and I use it 3 or 4 times a day. I have k-cups for tea, coffee, apple cider and iced tea with hot chocolate coming in the near future. This machine really is one of my favorite toys. 

     I hate to admit my new guilty pleasure...the train wreck known as Dance Moms. I stumbled on this television show by accident and I couldn't stop watching. The loud, mean dance teacher and the whiny, competitive moms just sucked me in. I'm so horrified by the way they behave and the message that they send to their children and yet I keep watching every Wednesday night. I am thrilled to say that I have never been, nor do I have friends who ever behaved like these crazy women!

     Fall colors! I am really not a fan of orange, but this time of year when the fall flowers and Halloween decorations start showing up in the stores...I can't wait to start putting things together for the front door and the porch. Here is a peek at my color choices for this fall.

     I never go anywhere without a granola bar of some kind in my purse. When I get too hungry, I get sick. Since many of them don't taste all that great, I was thrilled to find these little squares from Nature Valley. With only 80 calories and a nice crunch, they are just perfect for when you need just a little "something".

So, what is making you happy these days?

I'm going to join Kim @ Savvy Southern Style for
Wow Us Wednesdays

I'm not sure this post will WOW anyone,
but many of the others will, so make sure you visit her!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Going With the Flow

     It has been an interesting few days at our house. My daughter, who lives in Orlando, flew into New York's JFK airport on Thursday, with plans to stay until late Monday afternoon. She was supposed to be going to a wedding on Sunday, at an aquarium on Long Island. She was staying on Long Island with friends at their home. Well, we all know what has been happening along the East Coast. I wasn't thrilled that she was going on Thursday, but I also knew that at 26, I would really have to "pull rank" to get her to cancel the trip. I really wanted her to make her own decision about what to do. 

     By Thursday night, the wedding had been pushed up to Friday evening at the home of one of the bridesmaids. The gorgeous cake wasn't ready, the caterer couldn't prepare the food, so the food came from Costco. The groom was from Australia and most of his family got in ahead of the wedding, they Skyped the ceremony to those who couldn't make it. It certainly didn't turn out to be the lavish wedding that was planned, but my daughter said it was still wonderful. On Friday morning my daughter called after watching the reports that Irene was going to make a direct hit on Long Island. She was ready to get out of there. She wasn't afraid for her life, but she was afraid of being stuck in New York without power and water. She is supposed to be back at work on Tuesday and really needed to get there. Our family has been through 2 hurricanes in Florida, so we know how bad it can be. So, we started to scramble. We flew her from JFK to Chicago O'Hare yesterday morning. We drove to Chicago to pick her up and brought her home until tomorrow morning. We will then take her to Indianapolis to catch a flight back to Orlando.

     Unexpected airline tickets...$600.
12 hours spent in the car driving to airports...$200
Having my daughter out of harms way...PRICELESS!

Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do and as my mother always said,
Go With the Flow!

Friday, August 26, 2011

It Was The Summer of '69

     The year was 1969 and I was 14 years old that summer. My small hometown of Mattoon, Illinois was suddenly on the map as it was selected to host the 1969 Babe Ruth World Series for 14-15-year-olds at Grimes Field in Peterson Park. This event was a very big deal for our small town. Teams were coming in from all across the country, parades were held and princesses were selected to “look pretty on the floats”. As a 14-year-old girl, it was heaven. My own subdivision of 50 houses, hosted the team from Indianola, Iowa. As the only teenage girl in the neighborhood, I was asked to gather my girlfriends and throw a few parties to entertain the team.

     For me, it was the summer of my first “boyfriend” as I met and fell for the older brother of one of the team members. It was the summer of my first kiss…the same week, the same boy. It was the summer that I finally figured out that I might actually not always be seen as too tall and gangly or just as the best friend of the cutest girl in my class. It was easily the best summer I ever had as a kid and I still can’t help but smile when I think of the fun we had.

Wonder where they are now?

     The backdrop of that summer of course was music. What comes to mind first when I think of that summer is The Association singing Never My Love and Cherish and The Grass Roots-Midnight Confessions and I‘d Wait A Million Years. It was the days before MTV and video, we played our albums over and over until we wore them out. I still have every one of mine!

     Imagine how exciting it was last night to attend the Happy Together Tour that just happened to make a stop at our local theater. The Association, The Grass Roots, The Buckingham’s, The Turtles and Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders were all on stage singing songs from their combined multitude of hits.

     The Buckingham's founding members Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna opened the show. They may be a little older, but their voices are those we remember from Kind of a Drag, Susan, Don't You Care and Hey Baby.  

     Next up, The Grass Roots. Sadly, Rob Grill, the voice we all remember from the hits of The Grass Roots, died in July. He had been billed to be on this tour, but his health prevented him from participating this year. This formation of the band sounded really good and we enjoyed hearing the old songs, but something was missing because we knew there were no members from the original lineup.

     Next, The Association. With three original members performing I had high expectations for the group that I loved so much as a teenager. Opening the set with Windy and finishing with Cherish, the music took me back to my teen years and I couldn't believe I was finally hearing them in person. With that said, they were the one group who have really lost their vocal sound. The tight harmonies that made them famous are simply not there and at times, because I know these songs so well, it was almost painful to listen to.

     Mark Lindsay, the lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders (remember the pony tails) back in the day was next on stage. This guy is still very cool. At 69, he has more energy than a 25-year-old and his voice seems to have mellowed over the years. Singing Indian Reservation, Kicks, Hungry and Arizona, it was easy to forget that decades had passed. He could easily do a Vegas show and keep audiences entertained. He was the surprise of the night for me because while as a young teen I thought he was gorgeous, I didn't really think his career would last this long or he would be this good.

     The true stars of the show were The Turtles, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (Flo and Eddie). They were the founding fathers of the group and at 64-years-old, they sound great! I would still buy this music. They mix a bit of silly humor in between You Baby, Happy Together and She'd Rather Be With Me. I really loved these guys!

     As the show came to an end (after more than 3 hours) all the performers took to the stage together and looked as if they were having a great time. This concert was well worth the ticket price and was almost a sell out crowd here in our little town. Most of us in the audience have our AARP cards, but for one summer night in August, we all forgot that for a little while!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grab Your Kleenix-I'm Gonna Love You Through It

     I first saw this video on Good Morning America last week. I love the story it tells of love and friendship. My husband is a cancer survivor. If you are fighting the battle, have won the battle or have a loved one who is currently struggling, this video will touch your heart. In fact, it will touch your heart anyway. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Do You Blog?

     Late last night I read a blog post written by someone I consider a friend. She spoke of her recent struggle with the good, bad and the ugly of blogging. After seriously considering her words and sending her off a quick email, I went to bed thinking about the topic of blogging.

     The most common question I get when I tell people that I have a blog is, “do you make money doing it”? I find myself trying to explain that while I might make a little (very little) money, that I am much more likely to be given something free from a sponsor. I am most likely to be working lots of hours for free! I try to explain that it is possible eventually to make “real money” but that it takes time and lots of work. “Well, then why do you do it?” is often the next question. I have no doubt that some people would like to tell me to get a real job and quit wasting my education. However, is the only reason we blog to make money? Obviously not.

     Recently my local newspaper advertised for a freelance writer. What should have been my dream job, I ignored. You see my local newspaper has a definite political agenda that goes against everything I believe. I just couldn’t write for an organization like that. So for me, blogging for peanuts is better than writing for a paycheck if I can't write what I want to write.

     When I started my blog 2 years ago this month, I had no idea what I was doing or what direction I would take it. My original goal was to offer some advice and hints that I had learned from over 30 years of marriage and from raising 2 kids. I love to cook, I have a few skills with flowers and entertaining and I like really nice things for a good price. So, my target audience was actually the 20-30 set. However, after 2 years of reading, writing and bonding over blogs…I now have readers of all ages and all skill levels. Some may learn from me, but I also learn from so many others.

     Once I saw that a few people were actually going to read what I had to say, I decided I wanted to work very hard to make it grow. I wanted to be the next Pioneer Woman (she is getting a television show, how exciting). It didn’t take me long to realize that I was no Ree Drummond. I didn’t have the interesting lifestyle, the skill or the time to be the success that she is. Every time my stats started to grow quickly, we had a family emergency and I had to step back for a while. I knew that I would never be able to put the blog first and I also learned that when my life is stressful, creativity goes right out the window.

     So, why do I blog? I blog because I love to write. I also love to share places, foods and creative ideas when I find something that I love. I blog because of the wonderful community of people who support me, inspire me and make me laugh. I haven’t looked at my numbers in several months. I didn’t want to know how bad it got when I stepped back to get through the last of our family losses. I haven’t written as often and I haven’t stuck with the “party of the day” as of late. I’ve just written what I want, when I want and tried to find time to visit blog friends when I can. Guess what? I’m still here and so is my blog. So, thank you for sticking with me. It means more than you will ever know.
Why do you blog?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peaches, Ninja Turtles and Chaos-Oh My!

     While I don't always love living in Illinois, I do love our summer fruits and vegetables. Saturday we made a trip to Alma, IL to the Mazanek family orchard for peaches. We had our grandsons for the weekend and they really love seeing how things grow. The apples were already heavy on the trees and we were told that it was going to be a great fall apple crop this year.

     We also stopped at a small market in St. Peter, IL. It is a community of Old Order Mennonites. The store had handcrafted wooden items including the playhouse in the above picture from my phone. The boys loved it and said, "grandpa, why don't you get a job so you can buy this for your backyard"! I guess maybe we need to take them to where my husband works so they will see that he does have a job! It was an interesting store full of bulk items, cheeses and on Saturdays they make homemade pretzels and serve lunch. There were several people waiting for pretzels, so of course we ordered some. They were the best I've ever tasted, yeasty and pale. They looked nothing like those sold at ballgames. Glazed with butter and melt in your mouth perfect. I would definitely make the trip to St. Peter just for pretzels. The boys loved seeing the horse and buggies and the farm animals.

     The other thing they really loved this visit, was the tub we pulled out of the basement storage room. Their dad is 29 and he was obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when he was a kid. He had every piece you can imagine and we saved them all. Well, they are back in style and the boys love them. So, we brought up the tub and didn't tell them what was inside. I only wish I could capture the sounds they made when that lid came off. They had the best time with daddy's old toys! This is where the chaos came poor living room! Look, even the lampshade isn't straight!

     You can't have fresh peaches and not make something yummy, so after the boys left I decided it was time to make my husband a treat. I didn't have a recipe, so I did some searching and combined a few recipes to come up with my version of a peach crumb pie. It turned out perfectly. I will make this again. 

1 unbaked pie crust (I buy Pillsbury in the dairy case-or you can make your own)

Approx. 9 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
2 heaping Tablespoons of brown sugar
2 rounded Tablespoons of flour

1/3 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts or no nuts)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup quick oats
1/3 cup flour
6-8 T. of butter (I used unsalted because that was what I had-salted would be fine)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put piecrust into pie pan (I like to use a deep dish pan)

Add 2 T. flour and 2 T. brown sugar to peaches and mix well.

Put peach mixture into prepared crust.

Mix 1/3 cups of flour, brown sugar, nuts, oats and butter with
your fingers until a crumbly mixture forms. Sprinkly over top of peaches.

Place pie on cookie sheet to catch any bubbling over.

Bake 1 hour until nicely browned.
Serve with whipped cream of vanilla ice cream.
So good!

I am joining Yvonne @ Stone Gable for
On the Menu Monday.
Please stop to visit her today!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not Your Grandma's Potato Salad

     I've been trying to find ways to lighten up some favorite comfort foods. When I saw a lighter version of potato salad in Southern Living Magazine lately, I decided to try to make something similar. 

2 pounds new potatoes, cut in large cubes and boiled until tender in salted water.
2 T. vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup light mayonaise
1 T. brown spicy mustard
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup fined sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced radishes
1/2 cup sliced cucumber
1 T. lemon zest

Drain boiled potatoes and place in large bowl.
Drizzle on vinegar and olive oil and toss. Cool for 1 hour.

In separate bowl add sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard.

Add chopped vegetables, lemon zest, salt and pepper, mix well.

     Fold veggie mixture into cooled potatoes and chill before serving. We really enjoyed this salad. I would probably leave out the lemon zest next time simply because I didn't think it added to the flavors. The soft potatoes and the crunch of the veggies was a great combination and a nice change from regular potato salad.

I am joining Michael @ Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday.
Please stop in and say hello to her!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finally...Beautiful Summer Days!

     We finally have been able to enjoy summer the past few days. The horrible heat is gone (I hope for good) and the weather has been perfect. The sky has been a beautiful shade of blue all week long! We had this strange looking visitor a few days ago. We thought it was some unusual bird, but since have come to think it is a sick cardinal. The blue head is simply missing the feathers I guess.

On Sunday, we took a drive along the Great River Road.

It was the perfect day for a road trip.

Driving into Alton, IL you are greeted by this beautiful mural.

It always surprises me how we can drive for 2 hours
and see such a different landscape than we have where we live.  

     A trip to the Alton/Grafton area has to include a visit to Fast Eddies Bon Air for a few 29 cent shrimp, burgers and homemade brats for under $1 and tons of atmosphere!

We like to stop in Grafton to visit a few shops.

You never know what you might find on a side street somewhere!
(Click on this picture to enlarge it, please)

I am joining Susan @ A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday and
Laura @ Decor to Adore for Wayfaring Wednesday.
Please visit our hostesses.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Celebrity Cook-Along, Recipe Blog Party and OTMM

     Every month, Lynn @ Happier Than A Pig In Mud hosts a Celebrity Cook-Along party. I finally had a recipe ready to share when she picked Rachel Ray as the Celebrity of the Month.

     My husband loves Shepherd's Pie, but I had never made it. So, when I saw Rachel's 30-minute Shepherd's Pie recipe, I decided to try it. It was easy to make and delicious. It takes a few pans to make, but other than a bit of clean-up, it was very simple to prepare.

30-Minute Shepherd's Pie
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 & 3/4 pounds ground beef or ground lamb (I used beef)
1 carrot (or 2 smaller carrots) peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped (I didn't use one)
2 T. butter
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock or broth
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup frozen peas
2 T. sour cream or softened cream cheese (I used lite sour cream)
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup cream (vegetable or chicken broth may be substituted) I used the remaining beef broth and it was fine.
1 tsp. paprika

In a large pot, boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes.

While potatoes boil, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, then beef or lamb. Season with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat. If there is a lot of fat when meat is brown, drain it. Add carrot and optional onion, cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a second small pan over medium heat, cook butter and flour together, 2 minutes. Whisk in 1 cup beef broth and Worcestershire. Cook to thicken, 1 minute. Add gravy to meat mixture and stir in peas.

Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine sour cream, egg yolk and broth or cream. Pour the sour cream mixture into the potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.

Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes evenly over the meat. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from heat until even browned, about 2  to 3 minutes. I actually baked mine for 40 minutes instead of broiling it. I liked the idea of cooking that raw egg yolk a little longer than just broiling the top.

I am also joining Debi @ Bloggerette Sorority for the Recipe Blog Party
Yvonne @ Stone Gable for On The Menu Monday