Thursday, April 28, 2016

Chicken and Artichoke Bake with Spinach

I have a thing for artichokes and spinach. Maybe you do too. If so, you are going to love this casserole recipe that can be made ahead, eaten immediately or frozen for later.

I found this recipe in a cookbook called Prep-Ahead Meals from Scratch by Alea Milham.

Chicken and Artichoke Bake with Spinach

1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and drained.
1 12-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
4 cups cooked rice (I used Trader Joe's frozen brown rice)
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 t. garlic powder
pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12 casserole dish.

Squeeze all of the liquid from the spinach and artichoke hearts.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, artichoke hearts, rice, chicken, 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, most of the green onions (save some for the top of the casserole), sour cream, mayonnaise, and spices. Stir until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Spread the mixture into the greased casserole dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese and onion slices. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese melts and the casserole is heated through.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Market Baker

Next Saturday, Katherine will open her Farmer's Market baked goods shop in Marion, Indiana. She has been planning this venture since last summer. She will have a table at the market which will be covered with small cakes, cookies, quick breads and pies.

Since her opening day will be right before Mother's Day, she will have some of her goods marked with "Happy Mother's Day" tags. If only Marion were closer...

Hoping for a beautiful first day!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Vegetable Butcher

I've always considered myself a butcher of vegetables. When I'm finished preparing a meal, it looks like the vegetables have gone to slaughter.

This isn't the same kind of Vegetable Butcher Cara Mangini describes in her new cookbook. She sees a vegetable butcher as one who can masterfully slice and dice everything from artichokes to zucchini and she shows you how.

I love this cookbook. For each vegetable, she tells you how to select, store, prepare, cook and use it in several recipes.

There are tons of photos demonstrating butchery skills.

If you want to eat more vegetables like I do, this is a fantastic book to have. Highly recommend.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Little Free Library

Have you seen a Little Free Library in your neighborhood or at the local park? I've seen three. One is in the front yard of a house near downtown Hudson. One is at Sunny Lake in Aurora (pictured above), and one is at the park at Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge.

Inside each Little Free Library you will find books that are free to take. The idea is to take a book and give a book (if you have one). When I opened this Little Library, I found mostly children's books, but they can contain adult books too.

The Little Free Library website has kits so you can put together your own library. They also have tips on how to get started giving away books.

I've been toying with the idea of starting one of these myself. The perfect spot might be across the street from our house in the common area by the lake. There is a bench there for the book borrower to sit and read on a nice day. I would just have to get it past our Homeowner's Association.

I've always wanted to have a library of my own. This might just be the start of something big...or little.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fairy Tale Girl

I loved reading Susan Branch books when I first got married.  Her Heart of the Home series had the most lovely illustrations, and the type looked like it had been hand lettered. So when I came across a Susan Branch book on the New Arrivals shelf in the library, I had to take it home. It is called The Fairy Tale Girl, and it is a story about her life which must have been reconstructed from journals she kept throughout the years.

Susan was born in 1947, and when she was 24 years old, she moved from the San Fernando Valley in California three hours north to San Louis Obispo with her best friend who was starting nursing school at Cal Poly. Susan got a job in a record store owned by a 21-year old guy named Cliff whom Susan would eventually marry.

The song lyrics and the atmosphere of the times reminds me so much of my junior high years because it was the same point in time. I loved reading about her daily life working in the record store and going home to cook meals from The Art of French Cooking.

The funniest part of the book is the introduction where she describes the moment she left California for Boston after her marriage to Cliff ended. She has a fear of flying, and her experience on the plane is remarkably similar to that of Carolyn's only Susan held the hand of the nun sitting next to her.

If you like Susan Branch, this is a great story. She has a new book coming out on Mother's Day called Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mr. Richards

Congratulations to Peter! 

This fall he will be addressed as Mr. Richards in the classroom.

 Peter will be teaching Algebra at Worthington Christian Schools in Columbus!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cheerleading Camp

 The highlight of my summers in high school were the weeks I spent at cheerleading camp. The first two pictures were from my Junior year on the JV squad.

 It was a week-long sleep over with my best friends. We were supposed to be on good behavior to represent our school, but we always seemed to get in some kind of trouble. The next three pictures are from my senior year on the varsity squad.

 Peggy and Cindy

 Patty and Debbie.

Me and Carla.

And most of us are still friends after all these years!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I Can't Be Trusted

Daniel and Heidi (mostly Heidi) gave me a flower for Easter. Because Heidi doesn't know yet that I can't be trusted with plants, she thought it was a good idea to put this innocent pot in my care.

It made me break out in a sweat to receive this gift. I knew I would have to work very hard to keep it alive because Daniel and Heidi were likely to stop over once in awhile. They would ask where the plant was.

They are coming over on Saturday, so I am confessing right now on the blog that the pretty Primrose doesn't have any petals.

Even before I went to Florida and forgot to tell Don to water it, it was looking under the weather.

When I got back from my trip, it looked dead. My plan was to go back up to the garden center and quickly replace it before anyone noticed.

Thankfully, Carolyn spent the night Monday and woke up before I did on Tuesday. When I saw the plant again, she had cut all the flowers off and she had watered it. She knew just what to do.

I am hopeful that flowers will soon spring forth. Then I can be nervous all over again.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Rest of the Story

All we could do was selfies. Carolyn was good at it because she wasn't holding the phone. I could not get the hang of where to focus my eyes, so I always looked goofy. Here we are at the Miromar Outlets doing some shopping.

And this is the one at the beach.

We were trying to do some glamour shots at the beach, but when we were finished, I realized I had my reading glasses on. Very glamorous!

Notice how we did a little camouflaging behind the fence.

Then we went down to The Dock for dinner and did a few more glamour shots.

Carolyn was trying to steal the boat.

We finally asked someone to take our photo so we could get a shot together that wasn't a selfie.

This is us right after we landed in Cleveland. Carolyn survived her first round trip flight!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

For my reading challenge, I needed to read a book that was published before I was born.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson was written in 1938, and made a comeback when it was republished by Persephone Books (London) in 2000.

Guinevere Pettigrew is a single woman in her mid-forties who has been a governess for 20 years. She does not like being a governess, but it is the only way for her to make a living. She's never been on a date, never been kissed, never worn makeup or donned a pretty dress.

She wasn't thinking about these things the morning she was sent to the wrong address by an employment agency. Rather than applying for a post for another governess job, Miss Pettigrew accidentally showed up at the address of Delysia LaFosse, an aspiring actress and night club singer with three boyfriends she needed to sort out. Miss Pettigrew immediately stepped in to help Miss LaFosse escape from one, then another of her men.

This is a comical Cinderella Story set in London just before World War II. The language is a little foreign, but easy to follow. The entire story takes place in one crazy day. It's a book you won't forget, and I guess it was made into a movie starring Amy Adams in 2008. That's now on my list to watch.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Traveling with your Mother

I didn't have the opportunity to travel with my mother before she died. But I can imagine what it might have been like because I've traveled with my sister who is the consummate mother.

If ever there was a mother who could not stop mothering, it is her.

She has five children, so that may be the problem. But she doesn't care if you are her offspring or her sister or a stranger, she'll be your mother.

She will tell you to wash your hands, don't let your scarf drag on the floor, put your things away, eat your veggies, go to bed along with other sundry unsolicited advice.

I never have to worry about crossing the street or turning the wrong direction or brushing my teeth when she's around. She's got me covered.

She's lucky I love her so much or I might hit her over the head when she's sleeping (just kidding).

Carolyn gets that Mother of the Year award.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Carolyn Takes Flight

It took a sisters weekend in Naples, Florida to finally get Carolyn on a plane. And it was my privilege to be her escort on her first flight. She looks calm in the photo, but as expected, she was a bundle of nerves.

I let Carolyn have the aisle seat, I was in the middle, and Jeff had the window. But who is Jeff?

This is Jeff. He was our seat mate. I think he enjoyed Carolyn's first flight more than we did. He was much needed comic relief and a very nice guy who kept offering her the window seat. We will see Jeff again because we realized that he is sitting next to us on our return flight Monday night!
With sea bands on her wrists and a pharmacy of drugs in her purse, Carolyn was all set for this adventure.

Takeoff was the most stressful part of the trip. Carolyn had a death grip on my right hand during the 15 minute ascent. When she let go of my hand, it took awhile to uncurl my thumb and fingers. She made it to cruising altitude before she broke into her anxiety pills and took one half. It seemed to calm her down.

Halfway though the trip, I stopped a flight attendant in the aisle and asked her if she had any of those plastic pins shaped like wings. I told her it was Carolyn's first flight. She didn't have any pins, but she gave Carolyn a different prize. A cookie called Stroopwafels.

I made Carolyn get up and use the bathroom just for the experience. She walked to the front of the plane, and when she got there, the same flight attendant got on the speaker and announced that we had a celebrity on board and her name was Carolyn and it was her first flight [applause].

Just as we approached Fort Meyers airport, Jeff leaned in to tell Carolyn that if she were driving, she would just be leaving Ohio. Carolyn responded, "Yeah! I totally get why people do this." And I sure hope she will do it again - like on Monday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Put a Sock in It

Have you ever slept with a sock in your mouth? A clean sock? I was reminded the other day that I had. It was all Don's idea.

He was just trying to help like husbands do. I had an infected root canal and we were thousands of miles from home.

I can't blame Don for the sock. It was all my fault for getting the root canal three days before our first bike trip to the Czech Republic. I should have waited. I thought it was risky to possibly have to get the root canal in Prague.

So when my tooth started killing me, I cried because it kept me up all night. And I had to bike the next day. The reason it was hurting so much was because I was clamping down on it in my sleep.

This is where Don's genius came into play. If I put a sock in my mouth, I couldn't close my mouth. Makes sense. Good thing I don't have a sensitive gag reflex.

The sock trick worked for the most part, but it didn't clear up the infection. For that I needed an antibiotic. Fortunately, I had one with me because I was a Girl Scout.

After several nights sleeping with a sock in my mouth, I was feeling much better and could get on with my life. Who was it that said, "Necessity is the mother of invention?"

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Avocado Toast

A few months ago, Don and I had lunch with our friends Chip and Joy at TownHall restaurant. That day, I had Smashed Avocado on toast for the first time. I did not forget that taste. I had been thinking about it.

So this week, I tried a version of my own. I made my guacamole recipe and spooned it on top of toast. But I didn't stop there.

I also scrambled a couple of eggs and added them to the top. And this was an amazing breakfast!

Friday, April 1, 2016

House #5

This is the newest house Don purchased to renovate. It kind of looks like a house Hollywood could use for a spooky movie.

What is nice about this house is that there are two rooms with bay windows upstairs and two rooms with bay windows downstairs.

The house is currently a single family set up, but Don plans to convert it into a duplex. He will be adding a front door where the front window is. That door will have an entry that goes right up the stairs. We plan to leave the built in seat in the downstairs apartment's foyer.

Here are some of the before pictures (but they are after Don and Peter ripped out the kitchen cabinets). This is the downstairs kitchen.

This will be the upstairs kitchen. it is difficult to get a photo of the entire room.

Another claw foot tub that has to be sold on Craigslist came with the downstairs bathroom.

Every inch of this house has to be painted, so guess what I will be doing this summer. Look for "after" photos in September.