Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring At Last!

Spring has finally arrived and everything is blooming and putting out new growth. In the last week or so, the trees have really greened up and the air is so sweet. The mornings are comfortable, but not hot or muggy feeling and I'm so happy that the cold seems to be behind us now.
I've not felt too good over the past couple weeks, but I've slowly but surely started cleaning up the yard and have been planting a few things, and even got most of the bushes in the front trimmed and shaped as best as I can do. It's amazing what a bit of color can do for a yard. It just makes you feel good!
There are a half dozen wrens that hang out in the back yard and this one was sitting in the drizzling rain, waiting to see if it was safe enough for it to mill around under the birch tree for something to eat.

When I took this picture, a few more wrens showed up and were happily foraging under the bird feeder.

If you look at the upper left-hand corner of this picture, there's a speck of red.......that's actually a rose. You can see the cane to the right of the tree. I'm guessing it must be about 12 feet tall!

Here's a closer look at that rose. Isn't it gorgeous?! 

This is a hosta that was here when we moved in last year. I planted another one a few feet away, but it isn't up yet. I'm trying to fill in this area at the corner of the house and I'm off to a good start!

A nice bit of color peeking over our fence from the neighbor's yard.

We're getting some much needed rain today. Nothing hard, but a nice drizzly rain and something to wash the thick coating of yellow pine pollen off of everything. The pollen counts are really, really high right now so the rain is a welcome relief. I don't really suffer with allergies myself, but my nose and throat still get a little irritated when I'm outside. I'm thankful it's not any worse because I know how some folks suffer during spring.
It's good to be back blogging again, and will be posting more pictures as my yard progresses and more of what I've planted comes up.
Hope you're having a wonderful day today and wonderful weather wherever you may be!

Monday, March 5, 2012


One of my favorite go-to meals is, burritos. They're quick and easy to put together and everyone loves them.
Everyone has their own ways of making them, including what seasonings they like to use, but I thought I would share my recipe and hope you like it.

First thing I do is cook the ground beef and chorizo sausage. I use about 2 1/2 lbs. of the ground beef and one tube of the beef chorizo. I don't use packaged seasoning any more, and much prefer the flavor of the chorizo to anything else. It also comes in pork, and even vegetarian!  

Meat, cooked and drained.

Re-fried beans.

A bit of lettuce, tomato, and onion...

I start with the beans, then meat. Sour cream and onion; lettuce, tomato, and shredded cheese. I like to add some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, as I do like spicy things. Last thing to do is to roll it up and that's it!

There's often enough leftover for another meal, so all you need to do is put the meat and beans in containers and keep them in the freezer until you're ready for them. We also like enchiladas, but that'll be a recipe for another day.   :) 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sad News.......

My husband's mother passed away earlier this afternoon. It was very peaceful and for that I am grateful as she had been in poor health for quite some time. God is a merciful God, and He decided it was time for her to go home.
I loved my mother-in-law very much. She danced to the beat of her own drum and was quite the character! She was full of wisdom and we spent many hours over the years, talking on the phone, and shared many of the same interests.
Bill was on his way to Virginia on a work-related trip and ended up changing his flight plans after talking with his Dad. Sadly, he didn't make it to the hospital before she passed away, but it looks like he'll be spending the next few days with his Dad, and I know my sister-in-law and her fiance are there as well.
I'm going to miss her but I know she's in a much better place, and I'd like to think she's running through a meadow of pretty flowers.......healthy, full of life, and bursting with joy.
That's what I believe, and that's what helps me deal with her loss. But one day I know I'll see her again, and others that have gone before her.

I love you, Mom, and you'll be in my heart forever.......

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spring Cleaning

 My kitchen window.......

The weather has been getting warmer and spring is just around the corner. I'm so glad to feel it warming up again, even though we've had a pretty mild winter here, and now I'm in full swing with my spring cleaning.
This morning I took all the cushions off the couch and love seat and vacuumed up crumbs and whatever else happened to be under there. It always amazes me how much stuff ends up under a couch cushion, but now it's clean. Then I vacuumed the living room, wiped off the coffee table, picked up some odds and ends, and now I've started on the kitchen and have some laundry going.
However, my biggest chore to do yet today is the kitchen pantry. I remember when we first moved in to this house (just shy of a year ago now) and how tidy and organized the pantry was. But now it's just a big, cluttered mess and I cringe every time I open the door to get something out of it. I only have myself to blame for the shape it's in, not keeping things where they belong and now it will probably take me at least a couple hours to do and I'm not looking forward to it. Anyone else ever feel the same???
But, as I get more and more things done, I have to keep reminding myself that I'm actually getting something accomplished and I need to stop fussing over what's still waiting for me to do. For some reason I seem to think that I can be in several different places at once, tackling all these chores, then feel like I've failed when I don't get them done. I don't know why I'm like that, but it's a work in progress, as am I!
Time to get back at it again and get more things crossed off of my list.
Hope you're all having a wonderful day and as always, I look forward to hearing from you.   :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Courtney!

I just wanted to wish our daughter, Courtney, a very happy 24th birthday! She and her husband, Eric, just moved back to the Pacific Northwest where his parents live, and while I hate that we're so far away from each other, in our hearts we're with her on her special day.

Such a little cutie!

Hope you have a really wonderful day. We love you!

Our girl all grown up!

Chicken Paprikash

Every so often I find a recipe in a magazine that becomes a big hit in our house, and this one is certainly no exception. This particular recipe comes from the "Food Network" magazine and what I like about it is that it's not expensive or time consuming to put together, has wonderful flavor, and even if you're not a big fan of chicken thighs (like me)'ll still love it!

  • kosher salt
  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a separate pot over medium heat, 2 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook 3 more minutes. Combine the flour, paprika, marjoram and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; add the chicken and toss to coat.

Push the bacon and vegetables to one side of the pot and increase the heat to medium high. Add the chicken and any remaining flour mixture to the other side and cook, turning, until browned, about 6 minutes.
I didn't have any bell pepper, but it tastes wonderful just the same!

Stir together the chicken, bacon and vegetables and cook 2 more minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Meanwhile, add the noodles to the boiling water and cook as the label directs; drain.

Uncover the pot with the chicken, increase the heat to high and cook 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the sour cream and parsley and cook 2 more minutes.

Season with salt. Serve over the noodles.

I doubled the recipe this time around, and had more than enough left over for Bill's lunch the next day plus another meal.
Serve this with a nice green salad, or maybe some corn bread and dinner is ready!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

This arrived earlier this afternoon. What a beautiful gift from my husband!
I love him more and more every day, and I am truly blessed that's he's in my life!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pepsi Tournament Bowling

Yesterday we were in Bessemer to watch Megan and RJ bowl in the Pepsi Tournament, and they did pretty good.! Megan bowled a 133, 117, and a 122. RJ bowled a 144, 122, and a 210. Now we need to see if they qualified for the State Tournament, but won't know for a couple weeks or so. Either way, we're proud of them both and I'm so glad they love bowling as much as they do.

Just before the tournament started

Go Megan!

Go RJ!

So, fingers crossed for now as we wait on the results of their scores!   :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Making Almond Milk

I recently watched a tutorial on making nut milk that was on one of my favorite PBS how-to shows, "B Organic With Michele Beschen". It wasn't something I've ever considered making, but when our son, RJ, complained about having stomach aches after eating cereal in the mornings, I realized that he might be a touch lactose intolerant and wondered if switching to nut milks might be the answer for him. So I bought some almond milk at the grocery store and after a few days we both realized that this was the answer, and I was so happy this worked for him!
Nut milks are very easy to make and best of all, they're lactose free. I've seen walnuts and almonds used, and someone in an article I read used macadamia nuts, so that gives you a few choices about what to use.
When making nut milks you need to use raw, not roasted or salted nuts, organic would be great but if you can't find them don't worry about it.
The recipe itself is very easy. Just take 1 cup of nuts and soak them overnight in filtered or distilled (not tap) water. Soaking them removes the enzyme inhibitors on the nuts. These inhibitors keep the nuts from sprouting prematurely, and can also make it more difficult for you to digest them if you like raw nuts. There's a very interesting article here that explains all of this.
Once the nuts have been soaked, you need to drain and rinse them well. Next, put them in a blender and add anywhere between 3 to 5 cups of filtered or distilled water. Three cups with give your milk a creamier consistency, but if you want something a bit thinner, just add more water. I used 3 cups for mine and will probably bump that up to 4 cups next time.
I mentioned a blender. Most all of the tutorials I watched were folks using a Vita Mix blender. Well, I don't have one and after looking at them online, I almost fell out of my chair after seeing their prices! Needless to say, there WON'T be a Vita Mix blender in my house any time soon. Even some of the other blenders that were somewhat similar to a Vita Mix, were just as expensive. Sigh. But I will tell you, you can still make nut milk without one.
Before you start blending, think about if you want your milk to have any sweetness to it. If so, you can use honey or agave nectar, or you can toss in a few pitted dates. If using dried dates, just soak them as well to soften them (I used 4 small dates). You can even add a teaspoon or two of vanilla extract, or use a vanilla bean if you have some. You could also add some cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, cacao powder, or whatever you want to flavor your milk with. Make it how you like it!
If using a standard blender, it will take a few minutes for it to really break down the nuts so just be patient.
Next, you'll need to strain the nut milk. I don't have a nut milk bag (you can buy these online or make your own), so I used a fine-meshed strainer lined with a few layers of cheesecloth. Make sure you squeeze as much liquid from the pulp as possible. You can use this pulp and add it to breads or cookies, or hot cereals. One of the tutorials suggested spreading it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and drying it in a low oven to extend its shelf life a little longer.
That's really all there is to making nut milk. It will keep in the fridge for about a week, but in my house it'll be used up before it has a chance to go bad! If the milk separates somewhat, that's ok. Just shake it before each use. I'm sorry I don't have more pictures to go along with this but I honestly didn't think about it at the time. But I did take a picture of the finished product (minus a bit after taste testing!).

I hope you'll give this a try, and's a lot of fun to make and cheaper than buying it at the store!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Happy Birthday RJ!!!

I can't believe that our youngest son, RJ, turned 15 yesterday! Seems like not so long ago we brought him home from the hospital, then he was a toddler taking his first steps and then running. Time slips by so quickly and kids grow up before we know it. Sometimes I just don't know where the time has gone.

My husband made the cake.......and I did the writing.......I think we make a great team!

And here's our young man!

We didn't do anything special really. I fixed a chicken dish we all really like and had some cake after dinner. It was just a nice evening and I know he enjoyed his day. He's definitely a joy and a blessing to his father and I.
We love you, RJ!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Waiting Impatiently!

If you're anything like me, this time of year is probably the most difficult because it's not quite time to be outside planting and having to wait nearly two more months seems like an eternity. The new seed catalogs have been arriving in the mail for the past couple weeks (making me all the more impatient), and the first of the spring bulbs are popping their heads above the ground. Birds cluster around the feeder in the birch tree busily feeding, and a pair of house wrens just started re-building last year's nest for a new batch of babies.
Well, I may not be able to plant outside yet, but I can get a step closer by starting seeds indoors so they'll be ready to set out after the last frost. I bought this seed starter at Walmart a few days ago for only $5.00, and will sit down this afternoon with my seed packets and get them going. There are 72 peat cells to work with so I must say, a great beginning to this year's garden!

Some of the things I'm going to start are lemon balm, chamomile, thyme, rosemary, stinging nettle (a great medicinal and nutrient-packed plant), marigolds, and calendula. I'm not going to start any tomatoes because I can get them cheaply at Walmart, as well as a few other things and they'll generally start setting things out in April.
Another project is to brighten up both the front and back yard. I went outside yesterday afternoon and took a long look at everything, making a mental picture of where I wanted to plant flowers and where I want my vegetable garden to be. I always think it's a shame when yards go untended or planted, but I realize that not everyone wants to, or has the desire to, be a gardener and so I have my work cut out for me because it looks like no one has ever done much around here.

 The back yard, left of the patio. That's our Yorkie, Clairee

Center of the back yard, and the birch tree with the bird feeder

This is looking off to the right of the patio. 

The ground is covered with a lot of moss, a variety of weeds, and the occasional patch of grass. It's also quite hard and rocky, but I love a challenge and can't wait to dig in and get my hands dirty! You'll have to agree though, that I've got plenty of room for vegetables and anything else I'd like to plant, so you know I've looked through the seed catalogs at least a dozen times each.......sigh.
Well, that's the start of some of my plans. What kinds of things are you planting this year? Anything new or different? Big garden or small? Be sure and let me know how your's is coming along and as my garden gets going, I'll be posting pictures and regular updates as well.

Happy gardening!   :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bird Watching

One of my joys, is sitting out in the back yard on the patio watching birds come to the feeder. It's quiet out there and if I'm really lucky and out early enough, I'll see the deer wandering through the woods. Maybe one of these days I might get lucky enough to get some pictures of them because they're so beautiful!
Recently, I've noticed a couple birds I hadn't seen before, so after taking some pictures I came in and got on the computer to see if I could identify them. It took about 30 minutes, but I found them...they were House Finches and Pine Warblers, both male and female and they've all been at the feeder all morning.

A male House Finch

Handsome fella!

Male Pine Warbler

Male and female.......

Before it flew can see the seed in its beak

Posing for the camera!

Black-Capped Chickadee.......a regular visitor

I took these pictures as I was waiting for the bread to finish baking, and glad we were blessed with such a gorgeous morning to be outside. 

Hope you're having a wonderful day!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Liquid Laundry Soap

This morning I decided to finally make up a batch of liquid laundry soap. I've been wanting to do this for a while but, not wanting to spend money on something new to store it in ( frugal and recycle!), I waited until I had emptied out a few vinegar jugs as well as a large kitty litter container. Even if I don't use all of these, they do come in handy for other things, so I'll store the the unused containers on the shelf in my laundry room for future use.
There are all kinds of recipes for this on the internet, but the one I chose was here at Rhonda's wonderful Down-To-Earth blog. She also has pictures along with her recipe that you might want to look at, too.

1/2 cup Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1/2 cup Twenty Mule Team Borax
1 cup grated Fels Naptha or Zote laundry soap

Note: One thing before I go any further concerning the grated soap. It seemed like it took FOREVER to completely dissolve, so I decided that next time I will put the grated soap in my food processor to chop it into finer pieces to cut down on time!

In a saucepan, pour in 1 quart of water and add the Washing Soda, Borax, and grated soap. Heat this and stir until everything is completely dissolved. Just make sure you don't do this on a heat high enough to boil or you will have a big mess to clean up!
Next, pour 8 quarts of cold water into a clean bucket (I used a 5-gallon bucket we bought at Home Depot ages ago).
Once the hot soap mixture is done, pour it into the bucket and stir. You'll notice that it will start to gel fairly quick and that's ok. When you fill your containers, leave a good 2 to 3 inch space at the top so you can shake the liquid before each use because as it sits, the soap will separate but that's normal.

   You can see that the larger jug held most of the liquid!

I don't have the exact cost of this, but my husband and I did a rough estimate. For a little over 2 gallons of laundry liquid we figured it cost somewhere around $1.75 to $2.00. Compare that to an equal amount of the big name brand liquids and the savings is tremendous, not to mention that you're only using a 1/4 cup per load (maybe a 1/2 cup for larger, heavily soiled loads).
For me, the cost savings also goes further because I no longer use liquid fabric softener or dryer sheets. Apart from being expensive, they have a lot of chemicals, dyes, and fragrances that can irritate your skin and really, just aren't necessary! I use a cup of plain white vinegar in the rinse cycle. Vinegar not only kills germs, it also cuts any remaining soap from your clothing AND is a natural fabric softener. Even taking clothes out of the washer, I can barely get a hint of vinegar and once the clothes are dry, there is no odor at all (just in case you were worried about that).
If you happen to notice that your whites are graying slightly after a while, Rhonda suggests adding a scoop of Oxy Clean, or something similar, to the wash load every so often to remedy the problem.
Please let me know how this works for you, especially if you've never made something like this before. I've done a few loads of clothes while writing this, and everything looks wonderfully clean and smells great!

Happy washing!   :)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Spring Cleaning & Thoughts Of Gardening

We're only in the first week of January and my mind is on getting some spring cleaning done around the house and of course, planning my garden. I had hoped to be able to get outside and work on cleaning up around the shrubs in the front yard so I could start amending the soil in a new flower bed, but it's been raining all morning and it doesn't look like I'll make it outside today. But that's ok. I've got plenty to do inside, AND I've got a new seed catalog that came in the mail the other day that I'd really like to take my time to go through. Hmmm.......sounds like a good cup of tea is in order while I'm browsing!

Just a bit of rain.......

So, my day will be a bit of cleaning, getting the laundry caught up, and maybe a nap later on (only after I go through my catalog!). Rainy days make me so sleepy and lazy, and sometimes it just feels good to snuggle under the comforter and doze off to the sound of rain falling outside.
I hope you're having a wonderful Sunday wherever you are and thanks so much for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Goals For 2012.......Not Resolutions

As the new year has arrived, I've decided it's time for something different. No more resolutions but instead, positive thinking and believing in myself.
Over the holidays my husband's sister-in-law bought me a book by Louise L. Hay called, "You Can Heal Your Life", and she said it has worked wonders in her life. Now understand, I have ALWAYS been the world's biggest pessimist and as my Mother would often tell me, I was my own worst enemy. I always expected myself to fail or fall short in one way or another and when it happened I was of the mind set of, "See??? I knew I couldn't do it!!!" or "I knew I wasn't smart enough to do that". Those thoughts came so easily to me my entire life, that I honestly believed it. What Louise Hay tries to do in her book, is to teach us to re-program the way we think and start believing in ourselves with positive attitudes and yes, FAITH, because you can't have one without the other.
The book also attempts to get you to look at/come to terms with the CAUSE of our negative thoughts and beliefs, turn them around and move forward. There are also exercises and affirmations in each chapter to help reach our goals, including daily affirmations (positive acknowledgements) to start the day.
I just started reading this book and I'm determined to change my life and thoughts into something positive to be the best person I can be, not just for myself, but to be the best wife and mother as well. I'm also learning not to overload myself with too many things during the day. I choose what I need or want to do for that day, finish them, and then move onto the next so that at the end of each day I can feel good because I actually finished what I started instead of trying to do a dozen things at the same time. For me, this is a more positive way of starting out the new year. Setting realistic goals, following through, and most importantly, learning to be kind to myself and truly LIKE what I see in the mirror every day.
So here's one of my daily affirmations.......2012 will be the best year ever and I'm worth every moment of it!