29 December 2009

Goals for the New Year

The week between Christmas and New Years always has me thinking and reflecting. I go over in my mind what worked and what didn't, what I learned and what I still need to learn, what I did and what I still need to do.

Last year seemed to be a transitional year for me. Actually the last four years have been. I am still trying to find my way here. Each year I seem to be closer to having the life I want. Baby steps they say.

I'm not big on making New Years resolutions in the 'traditional' sense. I do however make a list of goals for the year.

My 2010 list includes...

-I will set aside more time to read.
-Make one new recipe each week and record that recipe and a photo and any notes in a notebook.
-Learn to make cheese.
-Expand our home grown veggies and herbs.
-Learn to can tomatoes, my salsa and spaghetti sauce for myself and Christmas gifts. For some reason canning tomato products scares me.
-Make more strawberry jam and pickles for myself and for Christmas gifts.
-Learn to knit scarves for myself and for Christmas gifts.
-Dust off my sewing machine and get re-acquainted with it, for myself and Christmas gifts.
-Have a 100% home made Christmas.
-Pay off all remaining debt. We are SO close. WOOHOO!!
-Take a 30 minute walk every morning before work to focus on my day and to get more exercise.
-Find a place to buy local eggs and dairy.
-Find a place to buy fish that is raised closer than Indonesia or Honduras.
-Find more people ( on line and in my community) that are trying to live a simple sustainable life also.
-Continue to purge and organize our home.
-Take my camera with me everywhere I go.
-Enjoy the journey, smell the herbs and take in the sunsets.

27 December 2009

Weekend Reading...

I am so behind on my reading that I'm sure most have read this book. Just in case you haven't though I highly recommend...Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I'm almost half way through and have really enjoyed it. I will post more about this book when I am finished.

20 December 2009

The Thrill of Accomplishment

My husband has a Tae Kwon Do School. These are some of his younger students doing spinning side kicks for the first time. Their faces are so cute when they break a board for the first time with a new kick.

19 December 2009

It's time for a Party!

Going to a Christmas Party tonight. The tin of sweets above is what I'm taking as a hostess gift. Hope she likes it. The invitation for the party said "Cocktails and Heavy Hors d'oeuvres". Sounds like my kind of party.

I will fill you in tomorrow.

This is Otis...

15 December 2009

Christmas is 10 days away...oh my.

My favorite store inside of Mills Mall that we went to this past weekend was a store called Missouri Mercantile. http://www.missourimercantile.com/
Everything it sells is made there in the state. They had a nice selection of wines, dips, sauces, pickles, soup mixes, even soaps, lotions...you name it.

I bought myself and my Mom a soy candle that smells delish.
For my step dad who we call "the grill master", I bought him a jar of BBQ rub and a jar of Rib rub.

I really wish we had something like this here. It is so hard to find local items. The convenience of having so much of it in one location would be awesome. At least with this store, even though it is in another state, it is under the 100 mile range that I have been shooting for.

Last night I made my contribution to the cookie boxes our office is putting together for the different departments at the hospital that I work at. I am really happy with the choices we made in the office this year as far as our holiday celebrating. Instead of drawing names for a 10-20 dollar gift that no one usually needs or likes we each picked a name off of the tree at the hospital and purchased gifts for those children.

The cookie bars I made are supper easy, freeze well, make a lot and are to die for.

1 stick of butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 package chocolate chips ( or you can use butterscotch, white choc...whatever)
1 1/3 cut shredded coconut
1 can (14 ounces ) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in 9x14 inch baking pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over melted butter, drizzle sweetened condensed milk, sprinkle with choc. chips and coconut. Sprinkle with the chipped nuts.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and then cut into squares.

13 December 2009

Scenes from the Weekend

We had a great weekend.

Yesterday my husband and I went to Mills Mall over in St Louis to do our Christmas shopping. What a huge place. One million square foot of shopping two weeks before Christmas. It really wasn't that bad though as far as the crowds or traffic goes.

Inside the mall is the St. Louis Blues Hockey team practice rink and it was fun watching the skaters.

We have never gone too far overboard for the holidays and this year is not any different. I do wish I could have been a little more organized to have more 'home crafted' items. Right now though I'm a little over 50/50 but I plan to improve that number next year. What we bought though is either educational or clothing so...not bad.

Today I made some Christmas cards to try to use up some of my Christmas stash from previous years, and this week I will be baking most evenings for my tins that are going to be gifts.

How is everyone's Christmas season going?

09 December 2009

17 degrees plus 50 mile an hour winds equals COLD!!!

Today was a brutally cold day. We missed out on all of the accumulating snow but got all of the winds and temperature drops. Right now we are at 17 and it is continuing to drop. Puts you in the mood for Christmas.

I am drinking hot chocolate, baking banana bread and doing laundry to heat up the house. So far we have not had to turn on the heat and it hasn't been below 60. We like it cool and we can't stand the central heat. It just sucks the air out of you. Go figure we had a fireplace in South Florida but here...Nooooo. Thank goodness for flannel sheets and grandma's quilts.

Stay warm everyone!!

07 December 2009

MIA Update and the Holiday Season

Sorry I have been MIA for so long. About a week after I got over the flu/virus/cold...whatever that was that I had for two weeks in October...I ended up with pleurisy. I had never even heard of it. Trust me, I have a very high tolerance for pain and that stuff had me in tears more than once. It is gone now and I am all better luckily in time for the holidays.

We had a very nice Thanksgiving. My best friend of 25 years came from Birmingham to celebrate the holiday with us. We had a lot of fun and good food. It was a good opening for this years Holiday Season.

When she left that Sunday we kicked it into Christmas. I pulled out the Christmas music, the Christmas socks, the Christmas dishes and the decorations.

One of my favorite things to indulge myself in this time of year is Holiday movies. I love them and they actually are the only DVD's that I collect. I love to snuggle up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of wine and watch these movies.

My favorites (in no particular order)
A Christmas Story, The Family Stone, Love Actually, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Home Alone, The Perfect Holiday, Christmas Vacation, Scrooge, The Preachers Wife, This Christmas...just to name a few.

What is your favorite Christmas movie?

06 November 2009

Biggest Loser White House Salad

Wanted to share this recipe from the obamafoodorama food blog.
We tried this salad tonight and the simple dressing is delicious. We did add some left over baked chicken breast to the salad and it made a wonderful, light meal.

Biggest Loser White House Salad

Ingredients1 head of fresh lettuce, wash, dry and cut into bite size pieces
1 cucumber peeled, and cut into bite sized pieces
2 fresh in season tomatoes, wash and cut into bite size pieces
¼ red onion, peel and cut as thinly as possible
1 bunch fresh basil, wash and chop into big pieces
4 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in large mixing bowl.

In sealable container, combine oil, lemon juice, honey and salt and pepper. Cover container and shake vigorously. Add dressing to salad and serve immediately.

03 November 2009

The Way I Grew Up...

I received an email today from a friend that hit home with me and I wanted to share.
Paul Harvey Writes:

"We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, I'd like better.

I'd really like for you to know about hand me down clothes, homemade icecream and leftover meatloaf sandwiches. I really would.

I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated.

I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car. And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen.

It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your old dog put to sleep.

I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in.

I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother/sister. And it's all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he/she wants to crawl under the covers with you because they are scared, I hope you let them.

When you want to see a movie and your little brother/sister wants to tag along, I hope you'll let him/her.

I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely.

If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make on instead of buying one.

I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books.

When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.

I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush on a boy/girl, and when you talk back to your Mom that you learn what ivory soap tastes like.

May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole.

I don't care if you try a beer once, but I hope you don't like it. And if a friend offers you a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend.

I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with Grandma/Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle.

May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays.

I hope your Mom punishes you when you throw a baseball through your neighbour's window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmas time when you give her a plaster mold of your hand.

These things I wish for you-tough times and disappointment, hard work and happiness.

To me, it's the only way to appreciate life."

02 November 2009



I always try to keep that quote in mind.
I have to believe that every small change that I make is making a difference.

Compared to the 'norm' in society, my husband and I have always pretty much lived within our means. We are no where near perfect. There have been times when we were lured in by the latest technology or gadget or going ahead and purchasing something in the name of convenience instead of making do without or figuring out a cheaper way. We used to eat out a lot more than we do now. I got my groceries in plastic or paper not in my canvas bags. But all in all we've done well and are continuing to learn and grow.

I feel really good about all that we do for our health, for the earth, for the future. I grew up watching my grandparents live sustainable lives and I know it can be done. But when I really look at what we do and what more we could/should be doing I get a little frustrated.
I not only get frustrated with myself but with 'the others' who just don't seem to care what happens in the future or to the planet or to their own health for that matter.

I get frustrated because until the farmers are offered the big bucks to grow organic, food instead of the large corporate businesses that are producing genetically modified food full of chemicals it is hard for me to find the quality food that I want to provide to my family. I get frustrated because I can sit and watch television for one hour and see six different commercials for some type of pharmaceutical drug. I get frustrated when I tell someone at work that the salad they are about to order from that particular place has 2000 mg of sodium alone yet they don't seem surprised or upset and buy it anyway taking no control of their buying power.

I have to constantly remind myself that what I believe and what I am trying to do is worth it and that I am not alone. There are others out there trying to live a better life too.

I get inspiration by visiting the blogs of people with goals and aspirations similar to my own. i get inspiration by the books and television shows that are starting to appear that help teach me the things I need to know to continue. Most of all, I find inspiration from my family and friends that compliment me on my home grown tomatoes or herbs, or gush over my home cooking.

When I over heard my mother tell another family member that I was just like my Grandmother...that made it all worth it.

What inspires you to continue?

01 November 2009

I have started watching Planet Greens show The 100 Mile Food Challenge. I haven't read the book yet, but it is now on my list because I am really enjoying the show. While I was watching it the first night my husband came in and wanted to know what it was all about. After I explained to him the details his remark was 'you mean they don't have a Wal Mart or Kroger within 100 miles?' Yes folks, sad but true.

Now in all fairness to my husband, he is a wonderful man, with wonderful characteristics. He does care about food quality, the earth and many other things but he doesn't do the cooking or the shopping so he just doesn't think about food in the same way that I do. Sadly, his way of thinking goes along with millions of others who only look at the grocery store as their source of food.

We have been eating a lot of organic/local meals but that was easier when the garden and farmers market were full of fresh local fruits and veggies. I am just learning to can and preserve so my stash is not that big this year. I will be reading up on it this winter and learning as much as I can so that next year I will be prepared when the fresh fruits and veggies are abundant.

Watching the show made me think about my location. My biggest problem isn't necessarily that my 100 mile area doesn't grow most of the things that we need. My problem has been locating these individuals that do so and are willing to sell their goods. I have a place within the 100 miles to get grass fed beef at a great cost but I cannot find anyone with local milk, cheese or eggs. This is a rural area with many Amish and Mennonite families, I know there has to be somewhere that I can get these products. I just have to keep searching. Searching and learning.

31 October 2009

Happy Halloween

I was sick for about a week or more. It wasn't either of the flu's but it zapped me of all my energy. And the bad thing about working for the hospital is that because of the flu scare when you call in sick the infection control Warden seems to call you every 30 minutes to see if you have a fever yet.
Anyway, I am better now and slowly getting everything caught up on life.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN...I'm off to continue our spoooookey movie marathon that we started this morning with Halloween.

05 October 2009

One of my passions...

I have mentioned this from time to time but have not really stressed how much this topic means to me. I am very passionate about the safety of our food, products, pharmaceuticals and services here in the United States. I am very concerned that we have all turned a blind eye to a lot of things that are going on and it is going to affect us all in the long run.

Now I think I better start off by saying no I am not some kind of health guru, no I do not know everything and no I am not perfect myself. I am still learning. I still have to remind myself that I can't just pick something off of the shelf in the store and assume it is somewhat healthy. I do believe though that every little step you take in the right direction is important no matter how small that step may be.

I believe people in general for the last few generations have become too dependant on speed, convenience, the latest technology and now over look quality, safety and health. Also, I think sometimes we all just get so caught up in life itself that we don't take the time to really question some of the things going on. We Americans tend to take the fast and easy route in the name of saving time.

I mean say I want to stop smoking and decide to take a certain prescription med to help me do so. Have you heard the side effects that are possible...heart palpitations, sleeplessness, nausea and to top it off depression with possible suicidal thoughts? What do they say about these side effects...call the doctor if you experience them. Now I'm not an expert, but if a person is having suicidal thoughts I don't think they are going to be thinking clearly enough to call the doctor. I know smoking is not good for you but these are some serious side effects.
In fairness, I don't want to pick on this one prescription. There are MANY drugs out there that are for minor illnesses or symptoms that cause major problems. Consumers need to really look at what their situation is and try to find a cure for the problem not just a drug that will cover it up and cause problems elsewhere.
I'm not against all prescription drugs. If there is a drug that has to be issued to keep someone alive or to get them through until other changes to fix the problem can be done then I'm all for it. But I think popping a pill for some of our bad choices has become entirely all too common.

And our food...it doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at expiration dates on packaged food and not think something is wrong. Food is not meant to last that long. What piece of cake can you bake, wrap up and sit on your shelf for as long as a Twinkie? Read some of those packages. I wanted a small jar of maraschino cherries to bake a pineapple upside down cake this weekend. There were 11 ingredients listed on that jar and about 9 of them were chemicals. I put them back and we had the cake without cherries. The amount of chemicals, preservatives that are allowed in our "food" amazes me. I won't even go into the genetically modified and genetically engineered food...that is a whole subject by itself.

I really didn't intend for this post to be this long but like I said, it is a subject that I am very passionate about. If each of us used our voice by using our dollars to say what type of food we will buy, things will change. Real, wholesome, affordable food should be available to everyone and we can get there by taking small steps.

If I can give up Velveeta Shells and cheese...anything is possible.

04 October 2009

My favorite place to eat out...

We hardly ever eat out anymore because it has become so difficult here to get good quality food. It never failed we would go to dinner, spend 30 to 40 bucks and feel miserable afterwards. The last time we did that we both had upset stomachs and decided no more.
There is one very good place to eat here though that we still do go to from time to time.
The 9th St Grill. http://9thstreetgrill.com/
The restaurant opened about a year after we moved here and the owners live above the restaurant on the top floor.
They start you out with a loaf of their homemade bread that is sinfully delish. They make all of their own breads including the fantastic chibatta bread that the blackened chicken sandwich I ordered comes on. Potato wedges made from actual potatoes that are served with a fantastic sauce (that I would love to figure out how to duplicate) are included. This visit hubby had a Bison Burger that he said was very good. It also was served on chibatta bread with the potato wedges.
We have yet to have room to try any of their home made desserts but they all sound heavenly.
It is so nice to have a place where we can go and enjoy real, fresh, good food. Next time I'm going for the tilapia.


I know it's Sunday...but I meant to post these Friday. Top pic is Jet Lee and bottom pic is Jet Lee and Bruce Lee. They turned 3 on September 29th and enjoyed a plate of tuna to celebrate.

23 September 2009

Fall has arrived...

Today is the first full day of fall and I am so happy. I LOVE this time of year. I can tell by some of the blogs that I read it is a favorite for many. It hasn't cooled off much here yet, we're still high 70's during the day and low 60's at night but you can tell it is fall. The air seems cleaner, crisper, and the colors are beginning to change from that vibrant summer green to the browns, yellows and deep greens of fall. I heard on the news today that our peak fall colors will be the second or third week of October and that it should be a pretty good year for it since we have had so much rain.

During the years we lived in South Florida, aside from family, I missed fall and winter more than anything.

I love fall colors, the cool crisp air, the long nights, the fuzzy warm socks, the soups and chili, the breads baking in the oven, long nights...I could go on and on.

One thing I have noticed here in our area is the amount of festivals that they have during this time of year. Who picks the names I'm not sure, but they all have to do with food. We have the Harvest festival, the Sweetcorn/Watermelon festival, the Apple n Pork festival, the Pumpkin festival, the Apple festival...I'm sure I am forgetting some but you get the drift. I love these festivals. Walking around out in the cool air, checking out area crafters and eating a plate of ribbon fries, drinking a hot apple cider is a great way to spend a fall Saturday afternoon for me.

20 September 2009

Stocking up on supplies

Since I spent 21 years living in Florida and seeing for myself how quickly gas, supplies and food are sold out in the event of an approaching hurricane I always was pretty well stocked up on things that we needed.

After moving here to the midwest though I guess I must have felt a little less threatened and slid off track a bit. The last few months I have been slowly stocking up the pantry on the things that we use on a regular basis and I have learned a few things along the way.

I am saving a lot of money by purchasing extras when they are on sale instead of having to pay full price when we have run out and need an item.

I am making less trips to the store and saving time and money by doing that.

I feel safer knowing that if we get the flu or a snow storm that keeps us in the house for a few weeks we have everything that we need to get through it.

Keeping a list of the things you have is a good idea so that you know when you run out of things.

And the most important lesson is...

You can NEVER have enough toilet paper. We ran out the other day and I had to hear from dear hubby that he doesn't understand why we have 50 cans of soup in the cabinet but NO TOILET PAPER. oops...

19 September 2009

Rhonda from Down to Earth started this challenge.
She wrote..."I am going to challenge everyone here to eat one meal a week that is either organic or local or free range and pasture fed."
I encourage you to pop over to her blog to read the entire post.

This is a topic that I am very passionate about.

My husband and I have been slowly making changes to get all chemicals and preservatives out of our lives and I think this challenge will be fun.

It amazes me that even though we live here in the "heartland", it is very challenging to find local good quality meat and dairy in our area. I have been searching to find local organic but am having a hard time. Right now we get our grass fed beef when we visit my Mom's town which is about 100 miles away. We take a cooler and stock up. We don't drink milk so that isn't an issue but I would love to have some local cheese, a good source for seafood and organic chicken.

So I started my part of this challenge last night. We had meatloaf...made with grass fed beef and all of my home grown veggies and herbs, organic mashed potatoes, local corn on the cob and home made bread. It was delicious.

18 August 2009

My immediate goals...

I have been doing a lot of thinking this past week about where I am, where I want to go from here and what I want my life to be like.
I have come to the conclusion that I am pretty happy with my life in general but certain areas do need tweaked a little. Mainly, I need to remind myself that if I am not relaxed, healthy and happy I can't do much for anyone else.

Here is the list of my immediate goals...

1. Finish organizing at home. I firmly believe this will not only bring a more sense of calm to me but it will also free up some time in the long run.
Areas left to organize...
-Filing cabinet and personal organizer
-Hall closet
-Hutch in dining room
-Our bedroom closet
-Get all herbal, natural info together for easy reference.

2. Take the time to take better care of myself. I need to get in some exercise at least every other day. Plus, take the time to do my nails, take a bubble bath, the little things that make me feel better about me.

3. Create a little time each day to read or work on crafts. I used to do this in the evenings before bed to kind of unwind, not sure why it stopped but I haven't done it in a few years and need to start back.

4. Continue getting chemicals, additives, etc. out of our lives. This is so much harder than you realize, they area everywhere. Food wise, we do well thanks to Kevin Trudeau and Jordan Rubio whose books reinforced what I already knew and scared me to death a few years ago. We eat very little packaged food, we do not even own a microwave and I have very strong beliefs about medication and plastic. Cleaning products, I also do well. Now I am working on learning about shampoos, face creams, make-up, etc. This area of my life needs some work.

5. Continue working on stocking up the pantry. It is looking pretty good, but I would like to have supplies for a month or longer. Space is an issue right now though until we move. At least I know if we can't leave the house for a few weeks we have what we need right now.

6. Continue learning as much as I can about herbs for cooking and medicinal uses and ways to live a more sustainable life.

15 August 2009

It's the little things that count.

I used to buy 5 or 6 different magazines a month. For the last four or five years though I have cut that down to just one, Body and Soul. It is a wonderful magazine full of great articles each month but the September issue is fantastic. It has a special section about 'going green'. One part of the publishers letter really summed up the issue and also summed up my feelings on the topic.

"When it comes to changing the world, daily choices really do make a difference. We can create a better more sustainable future through the personal decisions we make today, from composting our kitchen scraps to commuting by train to purchasing compact florescent light bulbs. Healthier choices not only alter our own habits, they move mountains. Healthier purchases create a profound change in demand and supply. Every time the food you buy goes through the scanner at the supermarket, it is a vote with your dollars."

Some times it does get frustrating thinking of the state the world is in right now. It seems that so much is going on that surely me getting my groceries in plastic bags doesn't really make a difference but it does. I am constantly reminding myself that every little step that I take to create a more simple lifestyle the better it is for myself, my family and the world.

10 August 2009

My Weekend, A Confession and a good recipe...

Saturday I spent the morning and early afternoon doing odds and ends around the house. Mainly i was catching up on laundry, cleaning the kitchen, organizing a couple cabinets, etc...but it was at a leisurely pace not a speed demon gotta get this done pace. I hate that pace.
In the evening, my husbands TKD School had a demonstration at the annual Cruise Night held downtown. It was fun. I am always so amazed at not only what the students are capable of doing but that he is so good at teaching them. I am very proud of what he has done with his business in just three years.
After the demo we tried out a new restaurant in town...Tavern on 10th. The old building has been renovated nicely. It has a jazzy, blues type atmosphere to it. The menu is very limited though. Not a place for dinner, more for appetizers and listening to music.

Sunday we had a nice breakfast, nothing special, just simple scrambled eggs with green peppers and onions, whole wheat toast and sausage which we ate while reading the Sunday paper. Well, the St Louis Post because it has the best coupons plus our little town doesn't do a Sunday or holiday paper. Yep, you read right...NO Sunday paper! I know, it was a big adjustment for me too.
Went to a baby shower Sunday evening and then relaxed the rest of the night.

Now for my confession. I am addicted to the reality TV show Big Brother. It's odd because I'm not much of a TV watcher, I don't like 'reality' shows at all and I am not a big fan of people embarrassing themselves for ratings...BUT...I do like this show and have been a fan through all 11 seasons.

Ok now that I feel better about confessing my addiction here is my Sunday Dinner Chicken recipe. We have roasted chicken usually once a week because there are so many different things to do with the left over chicken. I do about three or four different recipes but here's the one I do the most.

One Whole Chicken
Juice from one lemon half...or 2-3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
Black Pepper to taste
Two or three sprigs of rosemary
Two or three pinches of dried sage
Two or three sprigs of thyme

Sprinkle lemon juice on chicken and stick squeezed lemon half in cavity if desired. Put remaining spices on chicken. Bake in 350* oven for about an hour and a half, depending on size of chicken. Baste one or two times during baking. Juices will run clear when chicken is cooked through.


06 August 2009

A few great questions.

Wendy at wendyytb-overhaul.blogspot.com had a post yesterday that really got me thinking. Some of the questions she asked...
Is there something missing?
Is this really the way I want to spend the rest of my life?
What can I do to enhance the quality of my life, my families life?
These are questions I am really going to do some serious thinking about and set some concrete goals to get me where I want to be.

I do have to say that I think I am much closer to living the life I want than I was four years ago, but I still have a long way to go.

For starters, I now live in a MUCH smaller community which is something I desperately had wanted for awhile. The population where we moved from was over 600,000 in the county. Here it is about 16,000. One of the first things hubby and I noticed when moving here was the friendly, neighborly people. It also seems most people here live within their means and do not seem to be as interested in consumerism or keeping up with the "joneses" or thinking it is cool to pay outrageous prices for things. There is not a convenience store on every corner, too many shops or restaurants to even think about going to or two to three banks on every single street. It is a great little town, I love it here.

We are now closer to family and can see them much more frequently than the once every year or two that we did for 20 years while living in Florida. It is nice to be more apart of their day to day lives and to be closer in case something happens and they may need us. I firmly believe that when families started separating and moving all over the country it started a downward spiral in our society. I think a lot of consumerism along with other things has stemmed from people trying to fill the void that not having strong roots and a strong support system causes.

We did get rid of a lot of unnecessary STUFF when we moved but I am now working on simplifying and organizing even more. If it does not serve a purpose...it is going. I am going to be ruthless. LOL Paper seems to be one of the biggest unorganized messes for me. I have begun to clean out the file cabinet and make it more user friendly. I also am starting to put together a personal organizer for all important information so that it will all be in one place and possibly help keep things in line. I have learned that when I am organized, stick to lists and a routine my life does run much smoother.

Well, after I do some thinking on Wendy's questions I will get back to this topic.

05 August 2009

Great New Kitchen Helpers

The weekend I got two great new kitchen helpers.
The first is a Wilton loaf pan that has a meatloaf insert so that while cooking the meatloaf all the grease goes down to the pan underneath instead of sitting there soaking your meat. The two pans are a really good weight and quality. I had been wanting a deeper loaf pan and while looking at Target Saturday found this one. Well I can tell you, it is awesome and it works. I have been fixing meatloaf various ways for many, many years and my hubby and I both agree...the one I cooked Sunday in my new pan was the BEST one yet.

The second is a Kitchen Aid processor...in red (favorite color), a great surprise from my Mom. I hadn't told her I wanted on but yes it was on my with list. I LOVE it!! I have already been planning all the wonderful things I can make with it. I used it Sunday night to help in the meatloaf prep and last night while making salsa and it does a fantastic job.

I make all kinds of different meatloaf depending on what I have on hand and what I feel like that particular day. Here's what I did this time. Simple but really delicious.

1 pound ground beef
12 Ritz crackers
1 Egg
1 small onion
1 whole cayenne pepper
1 or two sprigs of fresh oregano
3-4 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce

I used the Kitchen Aid to make the cracker crumbs, dice the onion, pepper and oregano and then added all ingredients in a bowl and mixed by hand. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

31 July 2009

Feline Friday

The look on Bruce Lee's face sums up this week. It was a rough week here at home. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday people were here replacing all the floors. The cats were NOT happy, especially Jet Li, who now we know should have been named scared e cat. He has been Traumatised!! Bruce Lee pretty much rolled with it all and is fine. Jet Li...still after two days of no one else being in here and plenty of pampering is not fine. Tuesday was the worst. Jet got himself so worked up he was panting and planted himself in the one bathtub for HOURS even after everyone had left. We still have to have the bathroom floors done, but I said that had to wait a couple of weeks so that he could calm down.

13 July 2009

It's a learning process...

I'm still learning about the climate and growing seasons here in the Midwest. SW Florida was the complete opposite growing season so it has been a little confusing. I have decided to start out VERY small and learn a little more each year so that by the time we get the land we want, I will be ready. The container gardening that I decided to try here this year is starting to yield some results.

The first of the 25 cayenne peppers that are on this one little plant has finally turned red and the green pepper plant has already yielded two large delicious peppers. Obviously pepper plants do very well in containers.

The rosemary, choc. mint, oregano, thyme and basil are all doing well and will be able to move inside to our bay window when winter gets close. I have been able to keep them going there since we moved here. I've been growing herbs in pots inside and out for years...that is a staple I just can't do without.

I did do one tomato plant in a container and it has not done very well and I will not try that again. It had a lot of tomatoes but so far the three that turned red had bottom rot from drying out too much in between watering's. I have three huge plants in the ground and this is a pic of the first RED one. I counted about 35 green ones of various sizes on the ground planted ones and they are all doing well.

All herbs, peppers and tomato's were grown in organic soil with no extra fertilizer or insecticides.

I am getting ready to try a large pot of various salad greens.

As you see, I'm just learning so mean while...we rely on the farmers market that is here with local produce June - October for my canning and freezing.

10 July 2009


Meet Jet Li. His interests are long naps in the closet, tuna, golf balls, herbs and tormenting his brother and the humans that he lets live with him. Jet does have a softer side too though and enjoys snuggling and being brushed.

08 July 2009

Find your JOY!

Moving was a much bigger adjustment than I thought it was going to be. We moved four years ago from a rather large city in South Florida to a rather small community in Southern Illinois...it was somewhat of a culture shock. Not so much better or worse, just very very different. I went from working 186 days a year to a full time job, the food, the weather, the people, EVERYTHING was different.

The first year here I was SO happy. It was my idea to move after all. I was experiencing the four seasons, snow, a quieter, slower pace of life, more time with our families, exploring new places I had never been...it was wonderful. Then almost a year to the day I remember thinking Ok, that was fun, now I'm ready to go home. I really wasn't wanting to leave, but it was just so much change at once that I realized I wasn't really sure exactly who I was anymore.

So I took some down time and just kind of played it day by day for the next two years to kind of figure out what was next. I wasn't unhappy, I wasn't depressed, as a matter of fact I was still glad we had made the move, but I think I just needed to just BE for awhile. I spent a lot of my free time reading, watching movies, just hanging out. Then like before it just hit me one day OK, let's get on with this next chapter. I realized that working so much more than I was used to was the biggest problem for me. I wasn't able to do so many of the things that I used to do because of a lack of time and that's why I felt like I didn't know myself anymore because I wasn't doing all the things I normally had done. I hadn't really changed, but being at work so much more had changed the circumstances.

I found a blog today http://www.homemakerswhowork.wordpress.com/ and it is one of my new favorite places to visit. It is filled with real women, with real lives just trying to figure out the course of their own personal journeys like I am. I plan to visit often to maybe get some more ideas on how to better balance life so that I'm not sacrificing because of too little time.

29 June 2009

Some of my favorite things...

Ahhhh the weather has cooled down. The forecast for the next week is only upper 80's...yeah!!

My friends are always sending me these lists of favorites to fill out. For me this is always kind of difficult because I have a hard time choosing just one. But, here we go, I decided to do this one and to NOT use the answer "too many to choose" on anything.

Local Restaurant- The 9th Street Grill

Restaurant- Hops Brewery

Book Series- Janet Evonovich's Stephanie Plum Series

Christmas Movie- The Family Stone

Scary Movie- 1980 version Crawlspace...the thought still scares me even now.

Beach- Boca Grande Florida

Magazine- Body and Soul

Health Store- Mari Mann's

Nail Polish- Revlon Red

Day of the Week- Saturday

Season- Fall

Holiday- Thanksgiving

Dessert- Pumpkin Pie

Veggie- Corn on the cob

Herb- Basil

Cold Cereal -Total Raisin Bran

Frozen Entree- Don't eat them

Domestic Pet -Cats

26 June 2009

Feline Friday

Meet Bruce Lee. He is our almost three year old feline friend that allows us to live here with him and his brother Jet Li (I will introduce him next time.)
How did we meet? Well, hubby and I were out Christmas shopping and came across these two adorable brothers at the pet store. I was against it. We had just lost the last of our two other feline friends that had lived with us for 15 and 16 years and I wasn't sure if I was ready to allow myself to get attached. So we went to lunch to discuss the pro's and con's of bringing these two little guys home with us. We even discussed names. Hubby suggested Bruce Lee and Jet Li...yes he owns a Tae Kwon Do school and is a fan of both of these particular martial artists. I wasn't too crazy about those names so we decided to just think about it until we got to know them.
The pro's outweighed the cons and after talking to the woman at the pet store and learning that they had just turned 6 weeks old and had just arrived there a couple of hours prior I decided they should come home with us.
As for their names. We didn't have a cat carrier with us because we were not planning on bringing anyone home so these two very rambuctious cats were given to us to take home in two of those little cardboard carriers. I checked both carriers to make sure they were secure. We set the two of them in the back seat of the car and we didn't even make it out of the parking lot before one (Bruce) literally busted his way out of the top of the carrier meowing loudly and then just looking at us. I decided OK...I think those names will fit. And they do. These are two very active kitties.
I will update you on their activities each Friday.

Baby it's HOT outside!!!

This polar bear at the St Louis Zoo looks how I feel. It is HOT!!! Now you would think that after 20 years in South West Florida I would be used to the heat. NO...it's hot and I am thinking of the wonderful fall days ahead.
We have had a 10 day long serious heat wave with temp's way above normal. Tomorrow's forcast is actual temp's high 90's to 100 with the heat index approaching 110-115. Can anyone say Global Warming??

22 June 2009

Happy Summer

When I think of Summer, one of the many things that I think of is a nice sunny day at the ball park. Don't let the picture fool you. We are die hard Chicago Cub fans in this house. This picture was taken last July when the Cub's played the Cards.

It was a pretty laid back weekend around here for a change. Between jobs, the business and everything that life brings, we are usually very busy. This weekend though we decided to take time to relax.

The weather was HOT. We've been under a heat warning for the last three or four days and this is supposed to continue at least the rest of this week.
The changes in the weather patterns and the intensity of all the various storms are kind of scary to me. I've noticed that the weather is a topic on many peoples minds as I read postings on other blogs.

This winter we had a much colder than normal season and a lot more snow than is the 'norm' for this area.
Now we've been having much higher than normal temp's and when it storms, they are so much more intense than usual.
It has been so hot here, my cilantro has already shot up and is basically useless, plus for SOME reason, my mum is blooming.

Saturday I made hot sauce using some of the peppers that are growing like crazy on our patio.
In the afternoon hubby and I went to Applebee's for a quick appetizer before going to see The Taking of Pelham 123 starring Denzel Washington. It was a pretty good movie. Not to mention I love sitting in a cold, dark theater when it is 100 degrees outside.

The rest of the weekend we just hung out and relaxed.


1 green pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
2 jalapeno or cayenne peppers chopped
(add desired amount of seeds depending on how hot you want it)
5 or 6 cloves of garlic chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put all ingredients in blender or processor and blend until a smooth consistency.

We us it on picadilly, chili, spaghetti or other tomato based pasta dishes or Mexican dishes.


17 June 2009

Meatless Meal Idea

We are trying to eat less meat. That is a HARD thing for two meat lovers to do.

I love a good center cut pork chop but did manage to give pork up over three years ago. We primarily now eat chicken, a little ground beef here and there, fish and seafood with a steak thrown in from time to time for myself.

My goal is to limit meat to two or three nights a week, so any time I find a good meatless recipe I am excited.

I came across this recipe in Energy Times. The mushrooms will fool even dedicated meat lovers.


4 large portobello mushrooms sliced (or 8 oz white button mushrooms, quartered)

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp salt free steak seasoning salt to taste

4 wraps

1 tsp fresh minced ginger

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 cups fresh baby spinach

2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced

1. Brush mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning

2. If grilling: Preheat grill. Once grill is hot, cook mushroom strips until deep brown, about 10
minutes. Turn and grill until golden, about another 6 minutes.

3. If sauteing: Heat olive oil in large non stick skillet, over medium high heat. Add a single
layer of mushrooms and cook without stirring for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms
become red-brown on one side. Flip mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes more, until
other side is the same color.

4. Warm wraps on the grill in foil or in a dry skillet or oven. Mix ginger and mayo together
and divide among wraps; top with spinach and tomatoes. When mushrooms are done, slice
them into thinner strips, sprinkle with more seasoning if desired and place in wraps.

16 June 2009

Three Heavenly Ingredients

My Basil

My three favorite ingredients are homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and good mozzarella cheese. These ingredients on their own can be added to so many different foods to make a fabulous dish. But when you add them together...the taste is like heaven on earth.
My first experience with these three together was in the mid 90's at a place called Antonio's in downtown Ft Myers Florida. It was a cute little place with a gorgeous hand painted mural on the wall of New York City.
It was there that I tried a slice of tomato, basil pizza and I was hooked from the first bite. It was awesome.
After that, I started to grow fresh basil. Even now that I have moved north, I keep a pot growing in the bay window all winter long.
I have experimented with the three together on pizza dough, french bread, sour dough bread, pasta, plain old slices of Wonder Bread...you name it. It's a combination that I just love.
Tomato, Basil Pizza
Roll out favorite pizza dough recipe
Drizzle a little olive oil over dough
Spread 8 or so thin slices of tomatoes
Spread 10 or so fresh basil leaves
Top with 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
Bake according to your dough directions
Cheese should be slightly golden

15 June 2009

Gram's Food

If I would have realized growing up how truly blessed I was to have my Grandmother I would have paid a lot more attention.

Aside from all of her other attributes, she was a true Home Maker. Her cooking, canning, preserving, growing everything, sewing and knitting skills could rival Martha Stewart. Now that I am older I am just truly amazed at how much she could not only do, but do so well.

I wish all of those Sunday's, holidays and summers that I stood by her side in the kitchen that I would have watched her a little more closely and listened a little harder to the priceless lessons she was trying to instill in me. I wish I would have taken notes so that I could have a record of the knowledge that she possessed.

I moved to South Florida in my late teens where there was no family to have Sunday dinners with and it was shortly after that that I did realize her excellent cooking skills. I missed her home cooking. I missed the roasted chickens and turkeys, the creamy mashed potatoes, the home made dinner rolls, the strawberries in January and so much more. It was then that it started (I beleive the first lesson was deviled eggs LOL)...I would call her and tell her I wanted to make this particular dish and she would tell me what I needed and walk me through it over the phone.

Gram taught me the basics and I ran with it, trying everything. I firmly believe she was and still is with me in spirit each time I try a new recipe or cook and old favorite.

The best thing she taught me was not to be afraid to just try. Just keep practicing. If it doesn't work out you'll figure out what went wrong and it will be better next time, she would tell me.

So, I guess my love of cooking actually stemms from my love of eating my Grandmother's good food.

Thanks Gram!