Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Noodle... Chicken Noodle... Chicken Noodle Soup

Now sing it like this...

I've been craving Chicken Noodle Soup for months.  Even through the hot part of summer I wanted some.  But I just couldn't bring myself to pop open a can of Campbells...  I don't know why I put off making soup.  For some silly reason, I kept telling myself homemade soup was too much work.  But really it's pretty easy and fast to put together and doesn't require a whole lot of ingredients.   Yesterday, I finally gave in to the crave and made a big pot of soup.

And it is divine!!

One of the chief foods of the Gods I tell you!

And this is how I make my super simple Chicken Noodle Soup...

Start by dicing up your vegetables in same-sized pieces for even cooking.  You can use pretty much whatever vegetables you have and like - I had (and like to use) onion, celery and carrots.  I used a whole large onion, 4 ribs of celery and 3 carrots.

Then, because carrots are the hardest and therefore need the most cooking time of all my vegetables, I started to saute them in a couple of Tablespoons of butter.  When they were pretty well heated through, I added the celery, stirred it up and let that cook for about 5 minutes and then added the onion.  Stirring occasionally, I let that cook until the onions started to soften.

Next add water.  I'm gonna guess at around 8 cups to start.  And then I add one of my favorite kitchen staples:  Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base.  You can find it in most grocery stores, and directly from the manufacturer.  Just add it by generous teaspoonsful until the beginnings of the soup tastes good.  Soup will get saltier if you have leftovers in the fridge overnight, so show a little restraint and don't overdo it.  (If you do get carried away, you can add more water to bring that balance back.)

Bring the vegetable and broth mixture to a low boil, add 1 can of chicken (or about 2 cups shredded breast and/or thigh meat) and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add 3-4 cups water and about 1 pound of egg noodles.  You can use the dry pasta that's widely available or a freshly made, refrigerated or frozen egg noodle of your choice.  If you live in a market where it's available Grandma's Egg Noodles is an awesome choice!

Cook until pasta is tender.  And the soup's all done and ready to eat.

So... dip yourself up a bowl and enjoy!

Leftovers, first cooled to room temperature, can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  It can also be frozen for later use.

See?  Not hard or really time consuming at all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

First Halloween

Halloween is our last 'first holiday together.'

One year ago exactly on Halloween morning I hopped a plane in Salt Lake City and ended up late that night in Atlanta.  So our anniversary celebration was to sit down together, mostly, and carve jack-o-lanterns this afternoon.

Here's the two pumpkins we picked out at the Pumpkin Patch at Due West United Methodist Church on Monday all perched on the table and ready to have us start cutting away.  First we cut out the top so that it will lift up for a candle to go inside.

And then we tackled the guts!  Pumpkin guts, oh my...

Derek used the little plastic paddle scraper from the carving kit and I just dug in with my bare hands and got messed up with pumpkin guts clear to my elbows.  I'm a messy messy girl...  well that, and I wanted to save the seeds to roast for a tasty snack.

Here they are, all washed clean and spread out to dry on some paper towels.

A couple of them had already sprouted.  I was thinking about saving a few to plant in the yard next spring.  We might have ended up with some sort of weird 'franken-fruit' if I'd remembered to put a handful aside when I was going all crazy dressing them with oil and spices and then setting in the oven to toast a bit.

Currently one of the dogs' favorite things is pumpkin puree.  And since the flesh on these was so thick there were several good sized pieces from where we cut our designs so I gathered them up in a baking dish and will let them cook low and slow until soft.  Once it all cools down, we'll see how the boys like fresh pumpkin.

And here's how the jack-o-lanterns turned out.

Derek used one of the templates in the carving kit to make this cool bat design.  When I can get candles or a glow stick or something inside to light it, I'll have to take a photo in the dark, too.

On mine, the flesh was so thick - thicker than the carving tools in some spots - that I decided I wouldn't be able to get the little pieces from any of the templates out of the pumpkin so I went with a traditional jack-o-lantern that I could cut in relative safety with a kitchen knife.  Safety is relative with me... I did end up with a tiny cut on my one finger.  But for me that's not too bad of a record!

Have a spooktacular Halloween everyone!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013


When I was a baby, not even big enough to remember her ever working on it, my Grandma Clarke made me a true patchwork quilt.  Still buried in one of the dozen boxes to be unpacked when I finally get my 'woman cave,' it's made of randomly shaped and sized pieces of silky fabric that came mostly from her dresses or the scraps of material left when she made a new one.  I can sort of remember her in a couple of the dresses and there are old black and white photos where you can match the fabric pattern up for a few more, but most of them totally escape my memory.

I was thinking about that quilt the other day and how the random acts of a life can be a lot like one of those 'crazy patch' quilts.

And that's what today is about...

Random things.

Not so much that they're too insignificant to be the topic of an entire blog post, or even Facebook update, just that the post never came together and materialized in a form I wanted to share.  Mostly it's little things...  Things like how luck works.

It's no secret that we are pretty desperately poor and really scraping to make bills each month.  That's part of what irritated me, though I kept silent about it, when Derek bought the occasional lottery ticket.  Except... last night he got a winning ticket!  One worth more than the $5 he put into it.  A LOT more!!

That's right!  $500, baby!!!

That makes the mortgage for November a whole lot easier!

And I put up the fridge magnets (FINALLY!) that I kept during last year's move.  My friend's son's pictures have been in these magnetic frames for... well, I don't really remember when I put them in the frames but it's been a long time.  Those little boys have long been grown men by now.

Nathan, the older one, used to call me whenever he could sneak it past mom's watchful eye.  It was a long distance call - they lived in Wyoming then and I still lived in Idaho.  He was polite and thoughtful, almost like an old-time suitor.  He never failed to inquire about my mom's health, the weather, work, our small black poodle...  For a little man, Nathan sure could carry on the grown up conversation!  And it just tickled me pink and gave me quite the thrill that out of all the people in the world, he'd choose to call me.

I wonder if he remembers?

For about an hour this afternoon we all made a dog pile on the bed and watched football.  I think it was the Florida/Maryland game... but I'm not enough of a fan to really follow super close so I could be wrong.  For me watching a sports event is more of a social thing than actually being a fan of the team or sport.  I understand what's happening enough to enjoy the game, but not enough to seek it out on my own.

All of which has absolutely nothing to do with anything...

Pardon the puppy porn...
In the dog pile, Gizmo kept turning over and skooching around to find the most comfortable spot.  He ended up stretched along my side on his back with my arms around his butt.  (Insert bad joke about him being such a little cuddle butt.)  What I was noticing, though, is the skin of his tummy region where it's less covered by fur.  It's both dark brown and pale pink in blotches much like the Indian Paint Ponies made famous in B-grade western movies.  And so so soft and warm!

And, she says with an evil grin, ticklish!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mama's Boy

Jack is a mama's boy!

Actually, they all are... But it's my littlest one (for a few more months anyway) that makes it most clear, with all his 40 pounds, that he is mine.  Or I am his.  We are ours?  Well, something like that.

He has such tender little feelings.  All it takes for him to be convinced he's done something earth-shatteringly bad is to speak to him with a tone of impatience in your voice.  And to be 'bad' is like the end of life as we now know it!  Jack is surely my sensitive boy.

Sleepy sleepy Jack!
Last night was one of those nights when it was needful for me to have a break away from the boys so, after work, Derek took them downstairs to hang out and watch a football game he'd saved on the DVR while I holed up in the bedroom and watched a chick flick by myself.  It was a wonderful break!

About an hour in, there was a soft knock on the door.  It was Derek asking if I knew where the dogs were.  Smiling, I guessed they were sleeping in the hall.  And that's exactly where they were!  He laughed and said they'd been running down and nose bonking him and then disappearing back upstairs but he hadn't seen one for awhile and come looking because they'd got awfully quiet.  That usually means they've found something they shouldn't be doing to occupy themselves...  I laughed and told him he could let them in and all 4 climbed up on the bed and napped the rest of the way through the movie until Derek came back upstairs and asked if they needed to go potty.

All but Jack jumped right up to go.  When he sleeps he's out cold and it takes a bit of coaxing to get him up and moving again.  Derek got a little impatient and spoke with just a wee bit of harshness in his voice and that was enough to turn Jack into a cowering pile of puppy mush...  And when he finally got outside he didn't want to come back in past Derek and when they got past that hurdle he had another panic attack when he realized he'd be kind of cornered in the hall when Derek got there to open the bedroom door.  Needless to say, my poor baby was shaking and his face was creased with worry by the time he got back to me and crawled up in my arms.  He looked like he was carrying all the burdens of the world until I got him scooped up.  Then he was his normal happy wiggling self again!  He even gave Derek a slurpy wet puppy kiss.

It's a powerful feeling to be the mommy that can make everything right with your baby's world!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oh Martha...

Martha, Martha, Martha...

(I bet in your mind you said that like the old Brady Bunch lament of Marsha, Marsha, Marsha... I know I did!)

Thanks to for the image/
screenshot of Martha Stewart's interview segment.
You can listen to it here, if you'd like.
Dear Martha,

I'm a blogger.  Of sorts.  Not a very famous one, but I do write and share blog posts all the same.  And you're right...  I'm not a trained editor.  I'm just an average person trying to make my way in the world as best I can.  I claim no special expertise in anything but being me.

I don't have the privilege of hiring expert decorators when I furnish my home.  I pick out the furniture and paint and accessories myself because they are things I like.  Usually a room comes together in layers over a long period of time not in a matter of days like a professional would do it.  And mostly I think I do a pretty decent job.  My colors match, or anyway coordinate, pretty good.  The furniture is comfortable and usually the decorations come with interesting stories.  It's enough that my family and friends and I are happy to be in the room.  And for me that's the point of having it - sharing it with other people who are just as real and average as me.  None of us care, truthfully, that the decor will never be featured in Better Homes & Gardens or on an HGTV segment.

And I don't have formal training as a chef from some hoity toity culinary institute.  While I sort of covet those amazing knife skills I'd gain with that kind of training, I wouldn't trade the lessons in running a kitchen I received from my mom to get them.  And I've never poisoned anyone with what I've fed them!  In fact, I get a lot of compliments on my cooking.  Lots of my average people family and friends seem to think I cook quite well.  And on those occasions when I don't?  Well, they have no problems telling me that either.  You see, the test kitchen that's meaningful to me is my own family dinner table.

And you know what?  The last art class I took was [a deep departure from my Business major] Fashion Illustration in college probably a good 20 years ago.  So I guess it's safe to say I have no real expertise with arts and crafts either.  But mind blowingly... I do them!  And quite often successfully enough that I want to share a picture, sans any training in photography, as sort of a brag about it with my friends.

I also did not attend Divinity School, so I can't claim any special religious expertise beyond daily communion with my Father in Heaven and time spent in the scriptures.  I have no degree in Psychology so advice and commentary on the human condition fall outside my realm of expertise, too.

And to go even further, I have no special training in writing.  Sure, I got good grades in my public school English classes (composition and grammar and sentence structure were part of basic English back in the day) but that's pretty much where it ended.  I just happen to like words.  I like how they feel rolling off my tongue, or I guess fingertips since I'm sitting here typing this out.

I guess this leaves me pretty unqualified to write a blog where such topics are discussed!  But I do it anyway.

And I'm not going to stop.

Doing and writing and sharing about my life make me happy.  It keeps me sane.  Or maybe I should say, it keeps me less insane.  Blogging is my therapy; my release from everything that would become a demon to torment my nights.  And if that's not ok with you Martha, I can live with it.

There was a time when I looked at you as a role model; someone to emulate and study because of your own uncommon rise to success.  You were a fashion model and then a stock broker by trade, correct?  Ironic how that worked out...  I don't seem to remember reading where you found the expertise to start your catering business or to build it into the empire that is Martha Stewart Living.  Where did you get to be an expert about decorating or cooking or crafting or how to compose an enticing photo?  When did you get the training to be an editor or social media guru?  I'm wondering if perhaps you're no expert either?

And that's an oddly comforting thought.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blackjack, Second of His Name

Realizing that I've mentioned it but never actually properly introduced the newest member of our family...  how about we fix that?  Meet Blackjack!

Jack for short.

Jack and a few toys (in varying stages of being shredded).

Or sometimes Jacky.  Or Jackjack.  And he's Jack-a-Lacka-Wing-Wong (in a goofy sort of sing-song voice) when I'm being silly...

He's a black and tan Doberman Pinscher who was being sold at bargain basement clearance price on eBay.  The breeder was ready to breed another of their dogs and needed the pen where this little guy was living.   He was the last puppy left from a previous litter and he had to go.  So they cut his price in half and put his picture on eBay where Derek found it and as they say, the rest is history.

Our little Jack is a name-sake for the dog Derek's family had when he was a child, another large black and tan Doberman.  And though his sister says we 'have to' get his ears done to keep the name, I think it's stuck on him by now.  With the floppy ears she says he looks like a hound... and she sings Elvis to him:  "You ain't nuttin' but a hound dawg!"

Jack is a good-natured little guy who loves to cuddle and kiss.  Kisses can be a dangerous proposition, though.  He still isn't convinced that teeth are not a part of kissing.

We feel pretty lucky to have him since he's such a perfect fit personality-wise with our other boys.  He jumps in and plays along with them, and fights his way to the front of the treats line, like he doesn't realize he's only about 1/3 their size yet.  Just give him a few months and he'll catch up.

And just like the others, he will eat anything I give him!  ANYTHING!!  Bananas, peanut butter and pumpkin puree are the currently favored treats. Somehow to me that stuff doesn't sound very dog-like but the drool streaming out their mouths would convince you they find it to be pretty darned tasty bites.

He sounds like a mooing cow when he moans in his sleep!  He's outgrown it now, but Lightning did that as a baby and I L.O.V.E.D. it so much!  So that Jack does it, too... well, it just melts my heart.

Today, Jack discovered that he fits into places the bigger dogs don't anymore.  He crawled under the futon downstairs and started nipping at feet as Thunder and Lightning and Gizmo would dart up to play with him.  One time he caught Thunder's back foot and so he stepped up onto the futon and then Jack nipped his opposite front foot and he put it up on the ottoman... with the next nip, Thunder shot straight up in the air and straddled the space in between the futon and ottoman.  It was so funny!!

We met Jack's parents when we picked him up and estimate he's going to be another huge dog based on their sizes.  And researching some other stuff Derek uncovered an interesting factoid about these very large Dobermans that neither of us knew before.  When a male's weight exceeds 100 pounds, he's referred to as a Warlock.  These Warlocks came into being in the 1970's in Europe when Dobermans' were just coming into fashion as guard dogs and there wasn't enough breeding stock to meet the demand for puppies.  Some were bred with Great Danes... and today's big boys are a throwback to those Dobie/Dane bloodlines.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like... Halloween!

Several years ago I had a wild hair and decided I needed some Halloween decorations.  That's kind of a funny thing since, to me, it's not all that big of a deal for a holiday... and it's not something my family ever made into a major celebratory event.

Yeah, I went trick-or-treating as a kid.  Usually as a ghost.  But hey... it was Idaho and often there was a foot of snow on the ground for Halloween and a sheet is something that fit pretty easily over a heavy coat and a few layers of pants!

Otherwise the clearest memory of Halloween I have is from about 5 years ago when I answered the door expecting to see some little kids out for an evening of candy collecting and found a taller-than-me grim reaper announcing "I'm here for your soul!"  I have to admit that was not the greeting I was expecting and it kind of made me pause for a moment or two...

So I don't know why I decided to get decorations.  Maybe the leftovers after the holiday were especially cute that year?  Anyway, I have a few things.  And low and behold, the plastic storage tub where they get stored made it onto the moving truck with the Christmas decorations when I moved.  And that turned out to be a fortuitous thing since Halloween is one of Derek's favorites.  He likes the spooky fantasy motif and it's one of the few holidays that Americans do actually decorate for as part of the celebrations.  He's been out of town the past few days and as a surprise I started hauling stuff out and even crafting a couple of new items so there'll be something cheery to greet him when he gets home tomorrow evening.

Here's a little peek!

 I have these on the front porch for now.  Even if the ghosts, which will light up with a little battery power, stay in place I think we'll replace the bucket with a real jack-o-lantern.  Then I can take it inside to hold candy...

 The jack-o-lanterns also light up.  The big one in the center plugs in so the kitchen table where I've got it setup now is probably not the best place for it.  The outlet is right over the dog dishes (they are infamous little chewers who gnaw on anything they can get into their mouths!) and it doesn't work.  We haven't figured out why yet.

 I put a couple of little towels on the oven door to brighten things up in the kitchen.
This is 33 cents worth of paper plates cut up and strung together with some yarn...  I think I'll find a black marker to redo his eyes and give him a gaping mouth and get a little tape to hold his arms and legs in a more interesting shape.  He's silly, but cute!

There is a template you can print and use to cut the plates here or do like me and just free cut them by looking at the picture.

I bought a pack of 45 plates for $1.  They are the cheap, flimsy, little plates that you really don't want to eat from but they work perfectly for these kinds of kid-friendly craft projects.  This nearly adult-sized skeleton takes 15 plates.  And yes, if you are making a lot of them you can buy a bigger quantity and they are even cheaper -- I saw 100 plates for $2 at Dollar General.

I also like that the cost makes him expendable.  I don't need to worry about protecting him from the weather and trying to save him for another year.  If he gets trashed it's no big deal!

This is my other big project...

I put little pictures in each of the 9 panes of the carport door.  I had thought about using markers to 'paint' something on clear contact paper but ultimately decided I was too lazy to do all that.  What I used is little treat bags that are about the size that would hold a smallish popcorn ball.  I just cut them apart (as you can see below) and used the picture on the front for this and kept the clear purple backs for another project that hasn't quite all come together yet.

This would also be a cute idea to display kids' artwork.

All I did was cut clear contact paper to fit the panes, center my 'art' on it and press onto the glass.  The easiest way I found to center the pictures was to only partially peel the contact paper back, lay the picture on the backing and then carefully lay the clear part back over it.  Mine are mylar and the static between them and the contact paper and backing was insane!  I solved that by using a sponge to moisten the back of the picture a bit.  That killed the static and made it cling in place while I pulled the contact paper back up.

Cutting the bags apart.
I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!  It's a fun and cheery greeting to arrive home to!!

Can hardly wait to see what Derek adds to our decorations over the next few days!