Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Swap

I'm participating this year in the Secret Santa swap organized by ColoradoLady. Shhhhh...I've been sworn to secrecy and cannot reveal the person's name. However, I just got home from the post office and her package is on its way.

I thought about driving and delivering it in person, but it would take 18 hours and 12 minutes to get there from here and I really don't have the time. Besides, I have very few winter clothes.

More hints to follow...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Alphabe-Thursday..."D" as in Day After Thanksgiving Dinner

It's time again for Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by Ms. Jenny over at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." This week we are studying the letter "D" as in DAY after Thanksgiving DINNER.

A few years ago I was browsing the web looking for something to make with my left over Thanksgiving DAY turkey. I came upon a recipe that sounded good on recipezaar and it's been a family favorite ever since. I went looking for the recipe today so I could post the link and discovered that recipezaar is now It took a little searching, but I finally found the recipe here. The recipe is printable from the site and is called DAY After Thanksgiving DAY DINNER.

It's stuffing balls made with stuffing and mashed potatoes and baked until crisp.

Then a sauce is made with leftover gravy, chicken broth, and diced turkey.

It's then poured over the stuffing balls. Here it's shown with leftover asparagus and Cranberry Casserole.

The only changes I've made is that I bake my stuffing balls for 25 to 30 minutes instead of the 15-20 indicated in the recipe. I think that's because my stuffing is probably a little more moist than most stuffings. I also only add a dash of thyme to the sauce. It's just not one of my favorite spices.

I have some turkey and stuffing frozen, so we'll probably have this once again before the end of the year. I'll just use some of those frozen potatoes that you microwave and mash. We really like the leftovers this way!

Now head over to Ms. Jenny's site for a list of this week's participants.

Busy Days...

I'm having my annual after Thanksgiving Day panic. I feel like I have so much to do between now and Christmas. This year I had it all planned. We would go over to the storage shed the day after Thanksgiving and bring back the Christmas ornaments and the tree. Then everyone would help me decorate the tree that day and I could slowly put out the rest of the decorations at my leisure.

So, Jim, Keith, Reid and I went over to the storage shed on Friday. We weren't the only ones not shopping. There were quite a few people doing the exact same thing. We don't like to keep our decorations in the attic or garage because the heat and humidity really takes a toll on them. It's kind of a pain having to load up the truck and bring them over, but they last longer that way.

We found the containers with the ornaments right away, but we couldn't find the tree! We dug and looked behind things, but there was no tree. Then Jim and I remembered that we had trouble with the lights last year and were never able to get one section of the tree lit. Although neither of us remembered doing it...we must have thrown the tree out.

So, on black Friday I went looking for a tree and found one I liked at Home Depot. Of course, they had none left except for the display. We quickly checked online and found the same tree on their website for a cheaper price and free shipping. So, I ordered the tree. I got an E-mail saying it would be delivered by UPS on December 1st. I guess I'll be decorating the tree alone again this year. Darn...I thought I had them all manipulated into helping me the day after Thanksgiving. Oh well, there's always next year.

Today I put away all the Fall decorations and got the wreath hung on the front door. I also got the garage a little organized. It needed some work. I've almost fallen a few times on some of the clutter, so while I was pulling out the outdoor decorations (which we keep in the garage because they go outside anyway) I did a little clean up. Tomorrow I hope to get at least one package to the post office and then bring some more Christmas stuff over from the storage shed.

Over Thanksgiving weekend I finally turned on the heat. I'm worried about my family. They've lived here too long and have become real wimps when it comes to cold weather (which is anything below 60 degrees). I was making tacos this past weekend and they came into the kitchen to let me know they were cold. Can you imagine what it would be like if they lived in Alaska or Michigan? It was probably 70 degrees in the house at the time.

Jim said his hands were cold...

We turned the heat on. It's official...fall is here. However, I'm sure we'll have the A/C on again soon. We kind of go back and forth between heat and A/C for a while.

I always forget to take pictures. I took a "before" picture of our Thanksgiving dinner and then I was going to take an "after" picture of everyone sitting at the table with empty plates. Well, I forgot. So here's the before picture. You can see the half painted dining room. I haven't told my husband yet, but I'm going to repaint the woodwork. It's too dark. When he reads this he'll find out. I haven't told him because I didn't want him to try and talk me out of doing it over. Check out my gourd turkey. Isn't he cute? I found him at a craft show earlier in the month.

I wrote a note to myself and left it on the kitchen counter. It said, "Take a picture of the family together." Of course, I forgot. When my parents were alive and used to come for visits I'd always forget to take pictures, so I'd snap photos of them at the airport when they were leaving. I now have a bunch of pictures of my parents waving as they left. At least I was forgetful back then too, so I don't have to worry now.

I woke Reid up on Monday morning and had him pose with Keith as he was getting ready to leave for Austin.

They both had bare feet. How cold can it be?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for this DESSERT

Note: I already had this post written before I realized we'd be skipping our usual Alphabe-Thursday this week. Ms. Jenny suggested we write about a memory, something we're thankful for, etc., and since this recipe had a memory attached to it (and I'm always thankful for DESSERT) I decided to go ahead and post it. I'll have something else for the letter "D" next week.

Welcome to Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by Ms. Jenny Matlock at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." This week we are studying the letter "D" as in Thanksgiving Day DESSERT.

I'm typing this post on Tuesday evening and plan to get up early tomorrow morning and begin preliminary preparations for Thanksgiving Day dinner. Of course, no big meal would be complete without DESSERT, so I plan to begin my day making Pumpkin Crunch for DESSERT. That way I'll be able to include a picture when I publish this post on Wednesday afternoon.

I've mentioned before that I love pumpkin, but not pumpkin pie. I don't know why...I guess it's the texture that bothers me. Anyway, about ten years ago a lady brought Pumpkin Crunch to a bible study I was attending. I believe every single person asked for the recipe, so the following week she brought printed copies. I've since tried variations of this recipe, but this one is the best! It's very simple to make which is an extra bonus. You don't even have to get the electric mixer dirty. By the time some of you read this post it will be Thursday and I'll have already pigged out on Pumpkin Crunch for DESSERT!


1 (12-oz.) can evaporated skim milk

1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup sugar

1 box yellow cake mix with pudding

1 cup chopped pecans

2 sticks melted butter

Line a 13” x 9” pan with wax paper. Mix together evaporated milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour into pan. Sprinkle cake mix over top and gently pat. Sprinkle chopped pecans on top and gently pat. Dribble melted butter on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Cool completely. Turn onto plate and remove wax paper. (Note: I don’t have a plate big enough, so I usually cover a cookie sheet with foil and turn the cake onto that.)


1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 (8 oz.) Cool Whip

Mix together and frost cooled cake. (You could use an electric mixer for this part and cream the cream cheese first. I don't bother.)

Here are some pictures of the Pumpkin Crunch I baked this morning. You just stir the pumpkin, milk, sugar and cinnamon together with a spoon.

Pour in the wax paper lined pan and sprinkle on the cake mix. Pat it down a little, add the pecans and pat again. Drizzle the melted butter over the top. Bake.

Cool thoroughly and turn over onto a plate (I use a cookie sheet) and peel off the wax paper. Frost with the Cool Whip mixture. Keep refrigerated.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! To read more Alphabe-Thursday Thanksgiving Day posts head to Ms. Jenny's blog.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Alphabe-Thursday..."C" as in CHILI pie

It's time again for Ms. Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday and this week we are studying the letter "C" as in Ken Rogers' Mexican CHILI Pie.

I really enjoy it when the food section of the Houston Chronicle publishes recipes from their readers. They really don't do it often enough anymore. It seems most of their recipes now come from Good Housekeeping or Redbook, or they feature some chef's recipe and I don't even recognize some of the ingredients. Of course, the newspaper business has changed and the food section is now usually only four pages. I guess I should be grateful that they still have a food section!

Some years back I clipped this recipe out of the paper and we all liked it. It's become another family favorite, but it's spicy. If you like less spice you could always cut back a little on the chili powder and leave off the jalapenos. We have iron stomachs and like things hot!

Ken Rogers’ Mexican CHILI Pie

1 ½ pounds ground beef

1 tablespoon chili powder

½ teaspoon garlic salt

¼ cup sliced black olives (I use ½ a small can of chopped black olives)

1 cup sour cream

1/3 cup minced onion

1 (8 ounce) jar salad dressing (such as Miracle Whip)

2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls (8 rolls in each)

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced (I use 3 large tomatoes)

2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

Sliced canned jalapenos to taste

Sprinkle ground beef with chili powder and garlic salt. Cook in a large skillet over medium heat until meat loses pink color. Drain off fat. In a small bowl combine olives, sour cream, onion, and salad dressing.

Unroll crescent rolls. Flatten and line the sides and bottom of a 13 X 9 X 2 inch baking dish with all the rolls; pinch seams together to seal. (I lightly spray the pan with Pam first.) Spread all the meat mixture on top of the dough. Layer with one-half of the tomato slices, one half of the cheese, and one half of the olive mixture. Repeat layers. Top with jalapenos. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until crust is golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. (I usually bake it for 20-25 minutes…just keep an eye on it so the crust doesn’t burn.) Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I'm adding the pictures again at the bottom in case anyone would like to copy and paste just the above recipe into a Word Document. Besides, you don't need all know how to read and my pictures are lousy. Here they are anyway...just in case.

Here are the crescent rolls in the bottom of the pan.

The ground beef and chili powder are simmering.

Here's the before...

...and here's the after.

Be sure and visit Ms. Jenny's blog for a list of this week's participants.

I'm either crazy or brilliant!

You make the call. We were supposed to have a new dining room floor put down a year ago this past September, but that's when my Dad died and Reid relapsed. The company had already ordered the tiles, but they said they'd hold onto them and put the floor down whenever we were ready. They told us not to worry because we had enough to worry about already. (Aren't people nice?) So, they waited and when Jim was diagnosed with cancer this October I decided we'd better go ahead and get the floor down while the going was good.

I finished packing up all the dishes and glassware and we moved all the boxes over to the storage place where we keep our Christmas stuff. They came in and put down the floor. It was actually the entryway and dining room and the old floor had to be taken up and the furniture moved. It took about a week to get it all done.

We've lived in this house for 20 years and we've never painted the entryway or dining room. The wallpaper had become dated and this area of our home was long overdue for an update. However, with Thanksgiving right around the corner we've run out of time! I need to get the dishes unpacked, but we haven't painted yet. I don't want to unpack just for Thanksgiving and then pack them all up again so we can move the furniture to paint. What was I going to do?

This is where the brilliant part comes in...or perhaps the crazy part. I've decided to paint just behind the furniture for now. That way I can unpack the dishes and move the furniture into place. Then we'll throw plastic covers over the furniture and paint the rest after Thanksgiving (hopefully) or maybe the beginning of next year. Granted, it will look kind of odd for a while...especially since we're changing colors.

Today I started washing the woodwork to prepare it for painting.

There's a lot of wood and I've only done three walls for now. I'm hoping to patch holes where pictures were hung tomorrow. And I bought another dining room hutch at an antique store so I'll have more room to store dishes. The hutch I bought isn't antique, but it goes well with the furniture we have. I really wanted an antique, but this hutch holds a lot more and I need the space. Tomorrow I'm going to get Reid to take me in his truck to pick it up. Then I'll hopefully get the painting done before the end of the week and we can bring the dishes back over this weekend.

Does it sound like a plan? Would a sane person do it this way? Sigh...I wish I was 30 years younger. I get tired just thinking about painting.

Meanwhile, I did have time for a little fun. I won two Muffie dolls on eBay a while back. I never had a Muffie as a child. I was (and still am) a Ginny doll person, but over the years I've tried to surround the Ginnys with a few different faces. These Muffies were definitely in need of help and the price reflected that need. Here they are right after they arrived and getting ready for a bath and shampoo.

And here's the blond after her makeover. It was her first day of school.

And here you can see more of her curls. Her outfit was made by Susan Dart. She's adollsewloved on eBay.

The second Muffie still needs some work. She might have to wait until after the dining room.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Public Service Announcement...GERMS!

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. Reid would tell you that I've become phobic about germs, but I would disagree. However, ever since his stem cell transplant we've become much more diligent about fighting germs. Since we're going into cold and flu season I thought I'd share with you what we've learned.

Germs are everywhere, but I haven't had a cold in two years. Jim had one last Christmas and Reid had one right before the stem cell transplant (his immune system was definitely depressed at that time), but other than that we've stayed cold and flu free.

Our best friend is hand sanitizer. You can even find coupons here for Purell hand sanitizer. We have a bottle in every vehicle and carry a small bottle with us at all times. The hand sanitizer has to have alcohol and we buy sanitizer with at least 62% alcohol. Granted, we live in an area with a lot of humidity so the hand sanitizer isn't too drying on our hands. I would imagine it would be very drying in the colder climates, but you could always carry a little bottle of hand lotion too. The hand sanitizer usually contains some moisturizer, but I notice here on less humid days my hands feel dry. Of course, I also clean my kitchen counters constantly with Clorox Clean Up With Bleach and that is partially responsible too.

I don't have any small children, but I still remember the constant runny noses in the winter. I have bought in Office Depot very small bottles of Purell hand sanitizer that hang on a plastic clip and can be attached to a belt loop, back pack, lunch box, etc. The little bottle can be refilled. They have them right on the counter by the register or use the link above to order online.

When you start thinking about germs you start noticing where they are located. At Kroger I buy First Aid Antiseptic Rubbing and Massaging Wipes that contain 70% alcohol. It's Kroger's own brand and I use these wipes for my cell phone, the regular phone, computer keyboard and mouse, TV remote control, light switches, toilet handle, faucets, door knobs, etc. Just anyplace in the home that everyone comes in contact with. I don't wipe these things daily, but I would if someone had a cold.

You can't just carry that hand sanitizer with you. You have to use it all the time! Every time you get back into your vehicle get in the habit of using the hand sanitizer. Whenever you walk out of a store use your hand sanitizer. Think about all the things you touched in the store...including the door handle...that everyone else touched.

Don't get me going on filthy shopping carts. I personally think Target has the dirtiest shopping carts, but it could just be because the dirt shows up more on the red carts. Kroger's carts are gray...the color of dirt. Back in the 1970's I shopped at A&P in Virginia. I used to see them power washing the carts on a regular basis. I have never seen that done since and I can't help but wonder how often (if ever) the carts are cleaned. I always use the sanitary wipes that the stores usually supply at the entrances. If they're out I go to customer service and ask them to replace them. I recently heard on the news that there's more e coli germs on shopping carts than on toilet seats. We put food in those carts!

Any store with a pharmacy is loaded with germs. That's where sick people congregate. The counters, door handles, etc. are contaminated. You can't ever forget to use your hand sanitizer there!

Do you ever charge something? Yes, use your hand sanitizer after using the pen that everyone else uses. Think about all the things that are touched by everyone...escalators, ATM machines, parking meters, vending machines, gas pump handles, etc. When you start becoming aware you just automatically reach for the hand sanitizer.

When we arrive at a restaurant we put a bottle of hand sanitizer right on the table. As soon as the waiter collects the menus we use hand sanitizer. I don't think too many places ever clean the menus. I recently read that germs like hard surfaces like menus. Think of how many people touch the menus. Three people before you might have had a cold or wiped their nose while looking at the menu. Gross...huh? And we always use the hand sanitizer after touching any condiments on the table. Yes, everyone touches those too. If you go to the salad bar...use your hand sanitizer. Everyone touches the spoons, ladles, etc. The same thing with a buffet. Use the hand sanitizer as soon as you return to the table.

Speaking of restaurants...I absolutely hate it when they put the bread on the table with a cutting board and knife. Everyone at the table ends up touching the loaf of bread while they cut their slice. That's a pet peeve of mine. I skip the bread.

Reid pointed out to me the balls that kids play in at fast food places. Actually, all the stuff kids play on at those places are full of germs. Yes, they should definitely wash their hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer before eating their food!

Washing hands is the best option, but not always convenient. However, when washing hands I always sing Happy Birthday to myself silently two times. That's a good thing to teach kids. You want those hands thoroughly washed. Be sure and use antibacterial soap. When leaving a restroom I use a paper towel to grab the door handle and then use my hand sanitizer too. I hate it when they don't have paper towels or they don't have a trash can by the door. Ken Hoffman is a columnist for the Houston Chronicle. He says that if there isn't a trash can by the door you should throw the paper towel on the floor. He claims the next time you visit that restroom there will be one there. I don't necessarily endorse this practice, but you can carry the paper towel with you until you see a trash can. Throw it out and then use your trusty hand sanitizer.

Church...a germ haven. Why do so many churches have everyone shake hands at some point during the service? And the minister...he/she is full of germs. Everyone shakes hands with them. Do not forget your hand sanitizer on Sundays. The church I've been attending keeps bottles of hand sanitizer and boxes of tissues on the pews. Great idea! I'll be honest...communion now concerns me a little. There are individual cups for wine, but the bread worries me. Did the person handing out the bread use hand sanitizer? I've decided that at the height of cold and flu season I'll probably skip communion. I phobic? I used to believe that you had to be exposed to germs in order to build up resistance. I never used hand sanitizer until Reid was having chemo and the stem cell transplant. Among other things, the hospital stressed washing hands and using hand sanitizer.
I'm now a firm believer.

You get sick mainly by touching your face, rubbing your eyes, etc. We all absentmindedly touch our faces way more than we realize in the course of a day. I think germs are spread more by our hands than by being in the vicinity of someone coughing or sneezing. (However, I always try and move away from those people as quickly as possible.)

So, wash those hands often and use that hand sanitizer!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Alphabe-Thursday..."B" as in Beer Butt Chicken

Welcome to Alphabe-Thursday sponsored by Ms. Jenny Matlock over at Jenny Matlock..."off on my tangent." This week we are studying the letter "B" as in Peggy's BEER BUTT Chicken.

Back in the 1990's I used to enjoy weaving baskets. At that time (and I think it might still exist) there was a Basket Board on AOL that I used to participate in. There was a core group that exchanged posts almost daily. We'd exchange information on classes, patterns we liked, weaving techniques, the trials and tribulations of daily life, etc. From time to time we'd have basket swaps.

One of the ladies was a gal named Peggy Koch who lived in upstate New York and was raising a baby monkey named Davey. He was eventually going to be trained to assist a handicapped person, but he was still too young for training and lived with Peggy and her husband so he could learn socialization skills. Eventually the day would come when Peggy would have to give him back to the organization responsible for his training. Peggy would often post funny stories about Davey that we all enjoyed.

Sadly, Peggy was a diabetic and died quite suddenly of some medical complications. We were all shocked and didn't know what to do. One of the ladies who designed and wrote basket patterns came up with a pattern to honor Peggy's memory and help raise funds for the organization that would be training Davey. We all purchased the pattern and wove baskets for each other in the next basket swap. Some of us also wove a second basket for some of Peggy's friends that were also raising monkeys for the handicapped.

The lady who designed the basket was Laura Lee Zangler. She's a very talented lady and this pattern along with many of her other designs are available here. Her twill basket designs are wonderful!

Here are a couple of pictures of the basket I wove for the swap. (These are old pictures that I scanned and the colors are faded.) If you look at the second photo you can see Davey woven into the bottom of the basket. The colors are actually teal blue and navy.

After Peggy died another lady on the board shared Peggy's recipe for BEER BUTT chicken. She told us to smile and think of Peggy whenever we made it...and I do. We really enjoy this recipe and it's become a family favorite.

Peggy’s Beer Butt Chicken

2 3 pound whole chickens

1 tbsp. paprika

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional, but I always use it)

½ tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. brown sugar

2 12 oz. cans beer

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Trim fat from chicken, rinse and pat dry.

In a small bowl combine all spices and mix well. Rub about 1 tsp. of mixture inside each chicken, and the remainder of the mixture on the outside of the chickens.

Open cans of beer and pour out half of the beer from each can. Drink if desired. Stuff the onion and minced garlic into the cans…half in each.

Ease the “butt” of each chicken over the beer cans, feet down until the chickens rest on the beer cans and their legs. (Note: I use metal holders made for this type of recipe. The beer can sits in the center and the chicken fits over the whole thing. They’re now sold at grocery stores, but when I first started making this chicken we didn’t have the holders. You just have to be more careful so you don’t knock it over. Beer cans must remain upright.)

Scatter handful of soaked hickory chips over hot coals and place chicken on beer cans directly on grill. (Note: We have a gas grill and put the chips in a box made for smoking. It sits on the grill. We bought our box at Home Depot.)

Close grill lid, but leave vents open and grill for about 2 hours. Add briquettes to fire as needed (not necessary with a gas grill).

Our grill can be lit on either side. We light the grill under the box of chips and not directly under the chickens.

Can also be placed in a pan and baked in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. Beer cans must remain upright at all times. (Note: We always cook them on the grill and I've never cooked them this way.)

I'm going to post all the pictures below the recipe so you can copy and paste just the recipe in a Word Document if you want to save it. I did a search the other day to see about putting one of those print buttons on my recipe posts, but I'm scared I'll mess up the blog html if I try to add it... and then I won't be able to fix it again.

Here are the beer cans in the holders...

The chickens ready to go on the grill...

The chickens on the grill with the metal box with the wet chips...

The cooked chickens two hours later...

Now head over to Ms. Jenny's blog for more Alphabe-Thursday posts.