Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An Unexpected Treat

Being from Southern California, I am still constantly surprised by the outright friendliness and sharing of the people in the South. Sorry So Cal people, but you are going to have suck it up and admit you are not a warm and friendly group. I know. I lived among you for most of my life. Its part of why I left. Deal with it.

Anyway...this past weekend was Memorial Weekend, and we were delighted to have my cousin (4 days younger than I) and his girlfriend, Shannon, visit us all the way from Houston. It has been many moons since my cousin and I spent any time together, and family is so scattered and out of touch, it was wonderful to reconnect. Here we are with my grandmother (his aunt) sandwiched between us. Yeah, the family tree branches are uneven.

Sunday we took our boat  out to the local river, the Blackwater, and camped out on a stretch of beach with many other boaters for a beautiful, sunny and not too hot afternoon of doing nothing but getting sun and listening to other people's radios and talk. It was nice. Having a small boat doesn't allow us to come fully prepared food-wise. Others there had the full set up, from bbq and coolers to crock pots and generators. One group next to us had been up cooking since 4 am and when we pulled up, the very nice man hurried over and welcomed us by asking "have y'all had Nassau grits? Are ya hungry? Come on and git a plate."

I have to admit I have only tried grits once, and finding them tasteless, even with salsa and cheese, I never gave them another thought. Well, my cousin, bless his 6'4" frame, went over there to check it out and came back with what looked and smelled like gumbo. And I love gumbo. Knowing we had only brought chips and apples and drinks, I thought I'd be stupid not to take up this hospitality and free food offer once I saw what Nassau grits were. And I was so glad I did! I gave the cook my email address and she said she'd send me the recipe. I can't wait. In the meantime, I found a few online recipes that seem close enough to try on my own for now.

Here we've been living in Pensacola for 7 years and never knew this Nassau grits recipe was a local tradition for DECADES! I will be setting a date with my husband to go back to the Fish House to try their  Grits a Ya Ya, which are similar in appearance, and from what I've read online, in taste too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Quilt Class after Mother's Day

I haven't taken a quilting class in years. This weekend I got a real treat! My aunt and I took Kim Brackett's class to make "Island Chain" from her new book Scrap Basket Sensations. (I got my copy from Connecting Threads last week. Fast shipping and 40% off the price too!)  If you have a stash of 2 1/2" strips (or a jelly roll or two) you will be so inspired by her two books.

Kim lives not far from here, and it was so great to meet her in person. She is so very nice! I am looking forward to future classes with her. There is always something new to learn - whether it is perspective, color arrangement, or piecing shortcuts. And what a fun way to spend a day!

This is my Island Chain. It is laid out on my design wall. I hope to sew all the blocks together this week. I used the jelly roll of "Oh My!" which my daughter gave me for Mother's Day this year. Isn't it colorful? Nice bright fall colors. The layout looks so complicated, but it is not difficult. The others in class used Bali Pops for theirs and what beautiful quilts they will be as well.

The other jelly roll I got for Mother's Day I turned into "Split Decision" a pattern I bought some time ago. This is another super easy one. Anyone who needs a baby quilt, grad quilt, or just wants to make something fast and easy will love it. Moda's "Just Wing It" is what I used. For a non-quilter, my girl sure has great taste!

Either of these can be cut and pieced in one day.

I hope sharing these encourages others to give quiltmaking a try. With one jelly roll, and one of these patterns, you will be proud of yourself and have a lovely quilt top for snuggling under or to give as a gift! If you can sew a straight line - you can do it!

There are only 2 days left for voting in the McCall's Design Star 2011 contest! I am so anxious to see how mine did. Voting numbers are not available til after this round closes, I guess. Since I have had a bit of luck lately winning prizes from Facebook and blogs, I have my fingers crossed to make it to the next round of McCall's contest! Go to mccallsquilting.com and look for the Design Star link if you haven't seen it yet. Voting ends May 25th at 1 AM.

Monday, May 16, 2011

It's What's for Dinner

Last week, Betty Crocker sent me this recipe. As I almost always do, I improvise a little and add things to make it mine, or more likely, to use up leftovers.

Here I added grilled chicken chunks, feta cheese and some rotini pasta and doubled what the original recipe called for.  It says it makes 10 servings, but those must be very tiny servings. If I make pasta salad, I make enough for about a week. How else can I ever use the giant Rubbermaid bucket?

To go with the caesar dressed salad, of course we are having Jack Daniel's EZ marinated London Broil. And fresh brewed iced tea. Doesn't that sound great?

Dinner should be ready in an hour, so hurry over! We'll watch Castle for dessert. Its the season finale. Mmmm....

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Recipes and Resources

When I first started this blog, I intended to share recipes. So far it looks like I have shared one cookie recipe. Twice. Since our friends and family consider me to be a pretty good cook, and my husband never goes hungry, you would think I would be posting recipes regularly.

I have been known to make 3 or 4 pans of lasagna at a time in Winter. My honey loves him some meaty lasagna! Therefore, I will start with a recommendation of a healthy pasta dish I recently made.

I am going to tell you how fabulous F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. and easy this recipe is. All the work was in the prep for cooking. It took about half an hour to do that, working by myself and with some distractions. Cooking time was 15 minutes. You will feel like you are in the best Italian restaurant when you sit down to eat. Seriously.

My only criticism of it is the surprise at the end of the recipe calling for Basil Pesto, which I didn't have on hand. I really should read through the whole recipe instead of assuming all the ingredients are up front. Not a good time to have to run to the store.

I plan to try this without the sausage and asparagus next time I make it just because I want to see how it goes with artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes (instead of the grape tomatoes) and maybe a few black olives tossed in. I also think this will be a perfect meal to make when our family from California is here later this month.

This is a balanced meal in itself, but who has Italian without some garlic bread and salad, right?

If you are looking for great recipe ideas, you could do like I do: sign up from the free email newsletters that most product manufacturers offer. Kraft, Betty Crocker, Land O Lakes, Campbells, etc. Whatever floats your boat.

I also get regular (daily) email recipes from Allrecipes.com, Real Simple magazine and a few others. Then there are the posts on Facebook and blogs I follow. Martha Stewart's Everyday Food blog, the Pioneer Woman Cooks, and the above cookandbemerry.com which I found thru Pioneer Woman.

Who needs to buy cookbooks anymore. It is foodie heaven on the internet for free every day!

As Julia would have said, Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Train Set and Toy Story

I try to do a decent job of boy-themed play with my grandson. Not having a daddy around to show him this stuff, I try to fill the gap when Papa is busy with other things.

You know those wooden train sets with Thomas the Tank Engine - and the generic versions of them? Sort of like this one.   We have about a million pieces: trains, bridges, mountain, etc that we set up and take down often with Tyler, our grandson. For a just-turned-two year old, he's getting good at connecting the track pieces. His train set can take up the whole floor of his play room, just so you can imagine. The train table never gets used for our elaborate constructions. It is way too small. It has been converted to Handy Manny's hangout and Tyler's desk, but that is another story.

Anyway, I have obviously seen too many Toy Story movies, and he hasn't yet. I still think Sid and his mutant toys are creepy - way too much for a child to watch. So Tyler did not get it when I was having fun with him this past Saturday. I set the pig from his farm set on the tracks and said he was Evil Dr. Porkchop. *blank look followed by eyebrows going down in the middle*  Then I got his blue plastic dinosaur and made "Rex" jump up and down on the bridge, saying he wanted to eat Dr. Porkchop and made roaring noises.  *frowning now*

Tyler got up, took the blue dinosaur, put him in the Time Out chair and wagged his finger at me. "No more dinosaurs for you!"

So, I guess we will be sticking to arranging the tracks in different configurations and seeing if Thomas can make the descending curve without crashing from now on. Or until Tyler wants to play more creatively. His choice!