Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Tree 2009

Instead of putting up the big tree this year, we decided to get a cute little four-footer (no lights, unfortunately) at Menards yesterday, so a tree has gone up in our house!


It's not a Christmas tree without this ornament, a gift from my Aunt Rose long ago.

I stole this lighted wire gift box idea from an art display I saw a couple of weeks ago. I've had those boxes forever but wasn't sure what to do with them.

The side table by the window. (Yes, my living room walls are bright blue and mustard. And the couch is red. I like color in my home!)

My husband's stocking. Mine is Tweety Bird.

I think this was my husband's grandmothers. We had a couple in my house growing up too, but I think they are long gone.

My cats love to sleep under the tree every year, but since this one is on a small table they've been denied. So now they are sleeping under the table. I am going to get a large soft tree skirt and put it under for them; I'll take photos of it tonight.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Eats




I love cooking for Thanksgiving, because I get to be in charge of what we eat. We've started our own traditions, favorites that we love but we're too lazy to cook most nights. This year we had:

-fresh cranberry sauce
-turkey breast with herbs, basted with chicken stock and aromatics
-cornbread stuffing with sweet turkey sausage (our one indulgence)
-pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with shallots
-roasted vegetables and potatoes: carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabega, acorn squash, Yukon potatoes, green beans, onions, 2 cloves garlic, tossed in olive oil and rosemary and thyme
-crescent rolls (my childhood favorite)

The turkey was done much sooner than expected, so the timing was off and the carrots weren't as soft as they should have been. But it was still delicious! This was my plate:



Oh, I did have more stuffing than that. But not much more; filling half my plate with veggies saved my dupa. I haven't overstuffed myself at any point this weekend, and of course we have continued to eat. We HAD to have sandwiches that night: turkey, stuffing, cranberry with bacon on toast. It's a long-held tradition in my family. The best part nowadays is that all the leftovers we have are still so healthy. Tomorrow we'll start really diving in; I may even make soup with the turkey and veggies. Yum yum yum.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! We skipped the football games and went to the casino instead, and Hubby won a bundle. I'm getting a new computer for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Comment changes

Sorry, I've had to make some changes on my blog to require people who want to comment to sign up with some kind of ID name. I've been getting spammed on older entries almost every day, and this is the only way I can stop that. Please feel free to sign up with some kind of ID system so you can continue to post...whenever I post again, that is. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Recipes

Happy Thanksgiving!

My friend Angie was asking to see some of my Thanksgiving food photos and some recipes. I'll try to take some better ones this year, but these are the cheesy mashed potatoes I made my first Thanksgiving three years ago. I'm not making them this year; they'll be my Christmas dish instead.

This is the recipe for them, from my friend Sharyn in Massachusetts.

Mashed Potato Casserole

8 - 12 potatoes (about 3 pounds. Depends on how big the potatoes are)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled
1 stick of butter (you can use half this, and it's fine)
1 cup sour cream (regular or light)
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (you can prepare it yourself if you like. But I used the kind from the jar)
1 tablespoon coarse-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
paprika (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Wash, peel and quarter potatoes (if you use red potatoes, you don't have to peel, although I prefer my mashed potatoes peel-less). Place in a large pot and cover with water. Boil potatoes until tender (about 15 minutes).

While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Coarsely chop onion and place in the skillet. Saute until translucent (about 5 minutes).

Drain potatoes and return to pot (or use a large mixing bowl. I don't like to wash extra stuff). Add onion, butter, sour cream, horseradish, pepper and salt. Now, the original recipe says to whip the potatoes using a hand-held electric mixer. I think it makes the potatoes a little gluey, so I just mix it all up good with a large wooden spoon. If you've cooked the potatoes long enough, they'll mash up easy. Or use a potato masher! It depends on how you like your potatoes mixed. In any case, if you use a wooden spoon, beat them up good, until they're fairly smooth. Then! Stir in your cheese.

Put the entire thing in an ungreased casserole dish.* I sprinkle paprika on it at this point, but it's more for looks than for taste, so that's optional. Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Take foil off for last few minutes and it will brown up a bit, if you like that.

*If you want, refrigerate it at this point, and bake the next day. It takes more like 40 minutes to bake if it's cold when starting.


I also make a cornbread and sausage stuffing which is DIVINE. I promise there will be many pictures this year. But here's the recipe from Eating Well.


Sunday, September 27, 2009


I ran a 5K today! My first in many years. It felt good, but it was haaard. I'm pretty beat right now, I'm not gonna lie.

None of the photos were taken by me; my husband Richard was the guest photographer on this one. He also has video of me crossing the finish line (instead of a still photo) so we'll have to figure out how to upload that somehow. :)




Me and my running buddy, Cheryl. She is running an AIDS marathon in October! Go support her!



DSC02906We are nowhere near the front.

And we're off!


My time was 38:01, #356. Not bad; I just wanted to finish under 40 minutes, and I did!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lyric Opera at Millenium Park

Went to a free performance by the stars of the Lyric Opera. It was held downtown in the Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park. It was so pretty and fun!






I love my city.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lumiere Hotel, St. Louis

After we checked out of Natchez Trace, we impulsively decided to go to St. Louis as our overnight stop on our way home. Turns out there is a gorgeous new casino downtown with two stunning hotels attached. We stayed at the Lumiere. It is one of those hotels where the rooms encircle the lobby from the inside, so each floor opens up so you can look down and see everything. This is the view from our hotel room floor.



We will definitely be staying there again!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Natchez Trace villa


The villas at Natchez Trace are fabulous: roomy, air-conditioned, with two outside patios, a gas grill, two floors of bedrooms, a full kitchen and living room, and a shared dock for keeping your boat. We were able to easily fit 6 people in it for a week.

For me, the frustrating part was the air-conditioning; it's hard to reset it (and my BIL needs it to be cold) so we had it at 70 the whole time. But it was so hot and steamy outside it was actually *too* cold for me inside! Ha. So I ended up spending most of my time at the villa out on the second floor patio.

Not that it was a hardship, since it was so pretty out there.




Can't wait to go back next year!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Kate!

My sister Kate's birthday is today. It's the last year she will be in her thirties. (Not to worry, Kate, next year's milestone will be great -- especially because then we can torture Mom about having TWO daughters in their forties! Heeheehee.)

My sister's pretty amazing, with a very full plate of activities: she's a mom to two awesome boys, a wife, a teacher, and has gone back to school for yet another degree. Oh, and has lost over sixty pounds and has taken up running in 5Ks. And lives near all the relatives so she attends all the family parties. And probably does a million other things she doesn't even think to talk about because they're just second nature to her. She's smart, committed, busy, loyal, stubborn, family-oriented, kind, and passionate.

But I like her best when she is silly. Nobody does silly like Kate.


She danced with Elvis at Graceland!



DSC_3387 copy

Done now.

HEEEEEEEE. See why she's so great? For the record, when we had our mud fight at the lake on vacation -- THIS YEAR -- I would like it known that she threw the first handful of mud. Mom, she started it!!!

And just so she doesn't feel bad for me plastering my blog with pictures of her being a dork, here's the photo I took this morning after I got back from my 5K run that I did in her honor:


:) :) Happy Birthday, little sister!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The original Kudzu Planet

Hubby says that he came up with the name Kudzu Planet somewhere else, but for me, this is where it all began.


Wave to Hubby! (We had to skip that hike down into the kudzu bowl; if we couldn't see him after a few steps down, we knew we might literally lose the seven-year-old in the thickets!)


This one was taken on our last trip in 2006. The elephant kudzu tree!
Kudzu Planet

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bud and Disie Jowers


Because Natchez Trace was farmland until the New Deal and the TVA, there are over 25 family cemeteries scattered across the park. Most are tucked away beside camping spots, but I cannot imagine who would camp next to one! There were headstones all over, some broken, some worn down from years of neglect and weather, some still intact, for babies and parents and families, just like cemeteries all over. The strangest sight were the series of square unmarked stumps in rows, like above. We couldn't figure out what they were, because there were no markings on them whatsoever, but they didn't look like replacement stones. For slaves, maybe?



One cemetery we stopped at had a couple of faded plastic flower displays up, which jarred with the actual headstone, which was simply the names, misspelled once and scratched into the cement with a stick. Someone still remembers the Jowers.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Browns Lake boat dock


There is just something about this photo that is quintessential Natchez Trace to me. Maybe it's the torn-up roof, or the air of 'help yourself' honor-system hospitality; if you want to fish here or borrow a jonboat, you can just fill in the envelope and put whatever money in you feel is appropriate, and help yourself to what you need. This particular lake is tucked away on the other side of the park, where the tourists (such as they are) don't often go.

You can sign up for a turkey hunt, too! They had (rusty) clipboards inside the booth and everything!