Friday, January 31, 2014

24-Hour Reset Button

Have you ever noticed how a day, once it begins to slowly unravel, will progress along that continuum at a greater and greater speed until it lies in a corkscrew mess at your feet (definitely thinking in knitting terms here)?  Of course you have.

This morning the day began with the dogs barking 10 minutes (10 minutes!!!) before my alarm was set to go off at 6:00 a.m.  Feeling immensely sorry for myself, I laid back down at 5:55, turned off my alarm and decided to reward myself with 15 more minutes of sleep for my inconvenience.

Of course, I didn't awaken until I could hear the Man of the House clinking the shower door, and I remembered that I had promised him a hot breakfast.

I jumped up, got the pan ready for some scrumptious over-easy's, stuck in the toast . . . and found I was out of eggs and the one slice of bread left was a heel, slightly dry.  Bon appetit, dear!

The precious time set aside for my sanity-saving morning walk had been slept away in my early morning pity party, and I could feel the day reeling out of control.

From there on, the day continued on with:

* Forgetting to bring a book to the doctor's office, resulting in a solid hour of staring at a wall chart showing the difference between the bone structure of flat feet and high arches before the nurse even made an appearance.

* Cleanup of 2 dog messes in the house from canines that are afraid to walk down the porch stairs in the snow.

* Driving a 10,000 pound, rear-wheel drive conversion van to a rural location over icy roads.

* Discovering that the basketball games scheduled for Thursday had refs who were scheduled to show up on Friday.

* And finding the grocery store flat out of bananas---flat out!---due to the Great Winter Storm of the South, 2014 edition.

Aren't you glad that God mercifully brings every set of 24 hours to a close and pushes the reset button, allowing the sun to disappear and reappear again in time for a fresh start the next morning?!!

Yeah, I am too!

And Youngest Son, if you're reading this, yes, I shamelessly stole 3 of your sunset pictures.  Today just might not be the day to make an issue of it!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Magic Ingredients

Okay, let's be honest.  If you want a lot of flavor in a recipe, it's going to take time and it might take a lot of ingredients, the preparation of which may lead to even more time.

So, if you're going to go simple with your food, you're probably going to need a magic ingredient.  For the Italian Chicken Rice Soup, the magic ingredient was a fabulous Classico spaghetti sauce, that gave the soup the flavor of having been simmered all day.

For this yummy soup (just right for the wintry weather that they say is headed our way today!!), the magic ingredient is:

In this case, I am paying someone else to take the time to round up the tomatillos, chiles, cilantro, and onion and roast, chop, and combine them.  In return I get a delicious Salsa Verde to flavor my soup and to make it taste like, in fact, I roasted, chopped, and combined those very ingredients.

I would actually love to make my own Salsa Verde for this soup.  But that's the trade-off for simple.  There are times I let someone else do a time-consuming part of my cooking.  Sometimes.

Now, once I've let these nice people provide my soup with this awesome flavor, I add in chicken, cannellini beans, broth, corn, and spices.

Top with  some tortilla chips, sour cream and green onion, and you've got a soup that will make everyone in the family smile tonight (as the snow softly drifts and swirls outside . . . positive thinking!)  You can tell that snow is not a daily occurrence down here in the South.  It's still an occasional idealistic treat for us.

And that, friends, is the secret of magic ingredients, that makes simple taste like amazing.  Occasionally you CAN get the best of both worlds!!

Southwestern Chicken Soup (serves 4--I double!!)
1-12 oz. jar salsa verde
3 cups cooked chicken
1-15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained
3 cups chicken broth
8 oz. frozen corn
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili (Are you kidding??  I definitely double this!)
sour cream, tortilla chips, sliced green onion for toppings

Empty salsa verde into large sauce pan.  (If you double, use a Dutch oven.)  Simmer 2 minutes over medium-high heat.  Add chicken, beans, broth, corn, and spices.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Top each bowl with chips, sour cream, and sliced green onions.

Yummmy!  Bring on the snow.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


I've found my word for 2014.

I wasn't going to even pick one.  If a word doesn't come up from the inside to define what I hope my year to be, then for goodness sake, don't force it.  Who wants a "word" for the sake of a "word."

But finally it did come bubbling up and bursting out, and that word is . . .

S I M P L E.

Because when it comes to all things life, I will inevitably go for whatever is the most complicated, most amazing, most impressive, and that results in . . . most stressful.

That could be forced to work when I had unlimited time and energy (aka, single and childless!!), but now that I have limited resources by virtue of LIFE (!!), I am realizing that every single time I go for complicated, amazing and impressive, I am going to be cheating another critical area of my life . . . spouse, children, ministries, friends, creativity, or (for goodness sake) keeping my house clean!!


In real time, choosing simple looks like:

Choosing to make simple and quick Italian Chicken Rice Soup for company,
 instead of Braised Brisket in Bourbon Peach Glaze


or crocheting a Simple Scarf,
instead of leaping into making the Most Gorgeous Throw I've Ever Seen.


Or being content with Simple, Real Flowers in Bottles on the shower table, 
without having to add an Explosion of Handmade Tissue Blossoms up above.


I must remember that saying "No!" to complicated, amazing and impressive is always saying "Yes!" to peace, love and sanity.

And all by focusing on what is . . .


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Lessons Learned from a Baby Shower

#1 - DO arrange with the baby to be born on the very day the shower is planned, thereby allowing you a full two weeks to do all the cleaning, decorating, and cooking that you should have had done by the original date.

Thank you, Baby K!!

#2 - DON'T fixate upon attempt baby shower decor you have never tried before.  Certainly not something you have found online that flat out lies and claims it is able to be completed in a mere 15 minutes per flower.  And, of course not an item you begin to tackle less than 24 hours before said shower.  Never wise.

#3 - DO hire help.  It is best if this help is related to you by blood and can be compensated by unlimited Rice Krispy bars with white chocolate drizzle.

#4 - DON'T forget to vacuum the rug in the eat-in area of the kitchen.

The one everyone will need to walk over to see the gifts.

The one 2 feet from where all the guests will sit.

The one where the dogs sleep  23 of the 24 hours of the day.

The dogs who have a 5-inch thick undercoat that goes through a weekly molting.

Yes, you.

Yes, that rug.


#5 - DO enjoy everyone who walks through the door, swoon over all the beautiful, tiny girly items, hold the baby every chance you get.  And when everyone leaves, put your feet up, bask in the clean house, and ladle yourself many large cups of coffee punch.  Many.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Little Oomph - Rice Krispy Treats w/ White Chocolate Drizzle

Okay . . . this is SO something anybody could think of.

But it was not something that I had thought of.

And when I saw it online, I knew it had to happen for a recent shower for which I made some food.

That "something" is the addition of white chocolate drizzle to the very pedestrian and quite uninspiring Rice Krispy Treat.

Here are the Rice Krispy Treats pre-drizzle.


Here is the magic ingredient:

I threw a bar into the double boiler and once it was all smooth and melty, I added just a tinge of red paste food coloring to give it just a hint of pink (baby girl shower!!)

Then I drizzled it over the bars.  It added a little color, it took them up a notch!

And as my lovely college daughter said, "You wouldn't think a little chocolate would make these so much better!!

She was right!  Do try!

(Also, Ann from On Sutton Place posted a recipe for Perfect Rice Krispy Treats that use marshmallow cream instead of marshmallows.  That could be my next step up for these simple, chewy, delights!)

Saturday, January 18, 2014


I am smiling.

Actually, I'm giddy.

Youngest Daughter found out about sewing classes being offered near our home, and!

I can sew.  I like to sew.  I don't do it often.  It's certainly not a passion.  But for some reason, it makes me feel all bubbly inside to think that one of my girls would like to sew.

I loved watching her learn.  Lift the presser foot, roll the needle toward you, pin perpendicular, begin with backstitching.


And when she was done with her first class, she wore home a very cool fleece hat with a lime green band.

Not quite sure why, but I was . . .

. . . giddy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Distinct and One

I grew up in a world where "becoming one" with your mate was a big deal.

I heard the subtext often.  Becoming one meant making your man happy at all times, doing whatever he wanted, becoming whom he envisioned you to be, making his life work.  There is a level at which pleasing, adapting, and encouraging is healthy.

There is a level at which it becomes decidedly unhealthy.

That is the level where you begin to believe that "becoming one" means becoming him.

God reminded me once again today that He does not want that, expect that, or encourage that.

God made me fully me, able to express His glory in a way that no one else in the universe can (and the same for you!!)  God makes our husbands fully themselves.

When "two become one," it is not 2 halves that come together and make a whole.  It is 2 complete and healthy wholes that come together to make something new but not losing their uniqueness or their healthy "whole-ness" in the process.

The Father, Son and Spirit are One, but they do not lose each of their identities in some sort of amalgamated new being.  They are distinct, and they are one.

I can remain distinct, although in a "one" relationship.

Today, that was a freeing and life-giving reminder.


Friday, January 10, 2014

The Little Recipe That Saved the Day - Italian Chicken Rice Soup

On Sunday night I was expecting dinner guests.  This particular group had the distinguishing characteristic of including a chef, a restaurateur, an artist, and various gluten-free, dairy-free, and tree nut allergic individuals.  All of these ingredients made coming up with a menu a slightly strenuous exercise.  But at last I had it down.

A melt-in-your-mouth brisket from America's Test Kitchen
Crash Hot Potatoes from The Pioneer Woman
Mixed Greens and Pear Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette
Various Breads from Flat Rock Village Bakery

Unlike other dubious times of entertaining, this time I was going to be relaxed and ready.  I had a menu, I had a schedule, I had a plan.  On Sunday afternoon all was going exactly to that plan.  Wood floors mopped, check.  Onions caramelized to a golden perfection, check.  Potatoes boiled and set aside, check.

I reached to put my marinated briskets into the oven and glanced once again at the recipe, just to make sure that 2 hours was the correct baking time.

And then I slowly went cold, head to toe.

The recipe read, "Bake 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until tender."  It was 4:00 pm.  Company was to arrive at 6:00.  A dinner hour of 7:30 to 8:00 was not a possibility with 8 school-aged kids involved.

So, with 2 hours, I must now come up with a new main dish that:

* went with my other side dishes
* appealed to my august group of trained palates and artistic sensibilities
* included no dairy, wheat or nuts
* could be ready in 1 1/2 hours (throw in a quick trip to the grocery store!!), and
* would cause me zero stress, since my stress level was threatening to enter the red zone.

A 5-minute glance through my tried and true recipes yielded only one recipe that would work . . . Italian Chicken Rice Soup.

The addition of any great spaghetti sauce gives this soup the flavor of having been simmered for hours.   My personal choice is Classico.

My company had no idea that the soup hastily slapped into two large tureens and served with freshly grated Parmesan was the product of 15 minutes of preparation, instead of my overnight-marinated, onion-caramelized, slow-baked brisket.

The soup was hearty, savory and amazingly comforting on a chilly winter night.

And when the evening was over, there was only one recipe requested by several guests . . .

Italian Chicken Rice Soup
49 1/2 ounces chicken broth
26 ounces meatless spaghetti sauce (I used Classico Tomato Basil)
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (I used a tablespoon of dried)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups cooked rice
1 teaspoon sugar

In a Dutch oven, combine the broth spaghetti sauce, chicken, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in rice and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, another 10 minutes or until heated through. Serve with a generous grating of mozzarella or Parmesan on top! Yield: 2 1/2 quarts

Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas Un-decorating

I am always amazed by those who can put up and take down their Christmas decorations with speed and efficiency.

"Oh, I got Christmas put away today," they say glibly.

TODAY??  Meaning one day?  All done in a 24-hour span?  I feel dizzy.

No, that is not me.

The children took down the tree ornaments and railing garland/lights on Tuesday.  They are currently mounded up on the leather sofa, defying anyone to even consider sitting.  Yesterday I got the lights off the various trees and hubby took down the outside wreaths.  And there they sit in comfortable little piles.

Christmas decorating takes on an organic feel for me.  From the moment the boxes get lowered from the attic and the first ornament goes on, I am "deciding how to decorate" throughout the holiday season.  And little vignettes and additions come about on a weekly basis.  By the time Christmas has arrived, the house may, quite possibly, be the way I would like it to look "this Christmas."  Quite possibly.

I guess Christmas un-decorating takes on this same slow, organic feel.  The decorating that distractedly wove itself together in December, rambles again through a slow unraveling in January.

Pine needles make a leisurely exit into the dustpan, ornaments relax themselves into their boxes, and an assortment of woodland animals wait patiently to be wrapped, tucked into bins, and tugged back up the attic stairs.

Christmas un-decorating.  Definitely as much of an undertaking as that of decorating in the first place.

And now I'm off to engage in more of that exercise so that perhaps those with whom I live, who are not as in tune with the concept of the "organic unraveling of Christmas," may be able to feel that they are back in their right minds by this weekend.