May 31, 2010

Card Making for Martha Monday

I'm linking up with Heaven is a Bookstore

for Martha Monday

What are you waiting for? 
Visit Heaven is a Bookstore to see what it's all about and link up!

I pulled a bunch of scrapbooking supplies out last week and covered my kitchen island from one end to the other. Thought I'd play and make some greeting cards. Hubby walked in to the kitchen and said, "Oh my God, what are you doing?" Yeah, it was kind of a mess ...

Made an anniversary card for some friends and a few birthday cards. I am a novice scrapbooker, but still I was happy with the results ...

You know what "they" say ... practice makes perfect. I'm just going to have to keep at it. Fun stuff!

May 29, 2010

I'm Book Blogger Hoppin' Today - Does That Make Me a BOOKIE???

In the spirit of the Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!  This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!  So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list at!!

The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week, so if you don't have time to Hop today, come back later and join the fun!  This is a weekly event! 
Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

If you start following someone through the Hop, leave a comment on their blog to let them know!  Stop back during the week to see other blogs that are added!  And, most importantly, the idea is to HAVE FUN!!

Visit to get hoppin'!

And please check out my Books and Movies link above ...

May 28, 2010

What's Cookin' - Pork Roast and Rice in the Crock Pot

This is one of those dishes I grew up with and that I was taught by my Mom. It is always delicious, the leftovers are great, and you don't have to heat up the kitchen with the oven which is a bonus in Phoenix. Also, you can buy cheap cuts of meat when they're on sale and the crock pot makes them tender.

Pork Roast and Rice √† la Crock Pot

3-4 pound Pork Roast
1 can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
3 cups uncooked Instant Rice (like Minute Rice)
1 T. Kitchen Bouquet (browning and seasoning sauce)

Spray your crock pot with oil to keep everything from sticking - makes it easier to clean. Drop in the pork roast and spread the cream of mushroom soup over the top of it. Using hot tap water, fill the soup can to the top and pour this alongside the roast trying not to wash the soup off the roast. Put the lid on and set it on High for one hour, then turn it down to Low for the rest of the day.

There is nothing nicer than walking into the house after the crock pot has been working all day and the whole place smells good!

When you're ready to dish it up, put the crock pot back on High and remove the roast to a plate or serving platter. Cover it with foil and let it rest. To the soup and pork juices in the crock pot, add the instant rice and Kitchen Bouquet. Stir, put the lid back on and leave it for about 10 minutes. The rice will absorb the juice and cook right in the crock pot.

Our tried and true family favorite way to eat this meal is with pinto beans and creamed corn, sopping it all up with a tortilla. I like to cook dried pinto beans in the crock pot as well, but sometimes I'll just put them in a big pot on the stove for a few hours with lots of garlic salt. Then we'll have some with dinner and I'll freeze a few containers of beans for later. They're great with meatloaf and with a good old fashioned breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes.

Here's a crock pot story for you. A few years ago, when three of my adorable nieces and nephews were visiting from Minnesota, I had loaded up the crock pot with another recipe I'll have to post. We were gone most of the day shopping and doing touristy things. Our Yorkie, Skyler, who was probably 14-years-old at the time, didn't have much left in the way of faculties - he was blind and deaf, but he had a great sense of smell. So, of course, when we got home he was standing in the kitchen, on the floor directly under where the crock pot that I had overloaded was dripping. It had overflowed slightly and chicken juice was bubbling down the side of the crock pot, onto the counter and then dripping off onto the floor. Skyler's entire head was greasy because he was licking the floor and the juice was dripping onto the top of his head. That was probably one of the best last days of his life!

May 27, 2010

Book Club and Summer Knitting

Apparently, I am a member of the most unorthodox book club ever. I joined last October and have had so much fun ... love the reading, the discussions, the sharing, the camaraderie, the wine! As far as schedules go, it seems that we take December off because everyone is too crazy busy, and we take the summer off as well. Every year there is an "outing" of some sort to kick off the summer hiatus that does not involve reading a book.

Last night, Hubby asked me as I was getting ready to leave, "So where's book club tonight," meaning whose house. And when I told him Farrelli's Cinema Supper Club in Scottsdale, he did a double take. Yep, we went to dinner and a movie. Watched The Bounty Hunter starring Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston, which was cute and funny and very enjoyable for our group. And I had a marvelous dinner which I plan to replicate at home -- a portobello caprese sandwich that was so good! Hey, and it's vegetarian and healthy. Once I figure it out, I'll be sharing the recipe.

So we chose three books to read over June, July and August, then we meet again in September to discuss them. First (and I am so excited to read this one), the third Stieg Larsson book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I actually had just ordered this one from Barnes & Noble online a few days ago. With my membership, it was 40% off and free shipping. Sold!

Another summer selection that I suggested is The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, which I had just finished recently. All of the ladies in this book club like to cook and are foodies in some fashion. Plus, they're all into true stories and this is such an enjoyable read.

And we are also reading Carol Burnett's memoir, This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection. I adore Carol Burnett! Growing up, we faithfully watched her weekly variety show as a family and laughed so hard. All her wonderful skits with Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. Just thinking about the infamous Gone With the Wind skit where she comes sweeping down the stairs as Scarlett O'Hara wearing the curtains made into a dress - with the curtain rod still in - makes me laugh out loud.

So that's book club. On to knitting. Last month, I had mentioned in a post that I'd like to make myself the Dynamic Cardi shown in the May 2010 issue of Creative Knitting magazine. Here's the picture again ...

I decided to go ahead and order some yarn and make this gorgeous little cardi. Having just hit our first 100 degree day last Friday, it is now officially Summer in Phoenix so I'll have at least 5 months to wear it and maybe more. We've had some very warm Fall weather here in the past, too. Here's a story for you. About 6 years ago, Hubby and I were invited to a costume party on Halloween - so we're talking October 31st - and it was 105 degrees that day. The costumes were so uncomfortable and we were in an outdoor garden setting so there really wasn't any relief from the heat. I remember we all talked about growing up in cold weather areas where we had to wear parkas and hats and gloves and boots for trick or treating and you couldn't even see the costumes.

Anyway, just today I placed an order with Herrschners for Patons Grace cotton yarn in the color Tan. It's kind of a spicy color that will look good with just about everything and be wearable year round. I'm kind of excited. Can't wait for my yarn to get here, to get started on it and make something for myself to wear. Woo hoo!

May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Tempe Town Lake

For more fabulous Wordless Wednesday photos, click here.

May 25, 2010

Disqus Comments

Just a note to all of my blogger friends who use Disqus comments. For some reason, I am having trouble leaving comments on your blogs. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all.

I type in my comment, click on the leave comment button which changes to say Just a Moment, the Loading spinner starts and never ends. It just keeps spinning. I've waited for over 5 minutes at times, quit and tried again and it just won't go through.

I'm sorry, I don't know why this is happening or if I'm the only one experiencing this, but just wanted to let you know I'm not ignoring you on purpose! I have emailed technical support at Disqus about this, but who knows???

Post-It Note Tuesday - 05/25/10

Brought to you by

Here are my thoughts today ...

I love post-its!

May 23, 2010

What's Cookin' - Roasted Broccoli for Martha Monday

I'm linking up with Heaven is a Bookstore

for Martha Monday

What are you waiting for? 
Visit Heaven is a Bookstore to see what it's all about and link up!

Hubby is not a fan of most green vegetables. He'll eat peas if I mix them in with something else like pasta, but won't eat green beans. His favorite is broccoli and we've been steaming it for years. A while back, I heard about roasting broccoli and gave it a try. After some experimentation, this is my favorite way of making it. It's so different from steaming and amazingly good!

Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli spears
Olive oil (you can mix the broccoli in a bowl with olive oil drizzled over it, but I simply used spray olive oil last time and it worked great)
Salt and pepper
Minced garlic in olive oil (or minced garlic in water, but it sticks better soaked in olive oil)
Red chili pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil. Spread your broccoli spears out on the tray, spray them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Put in the oven for about 10 minutes -- they'll be sizzling and really hot so be careful on this next step. Remove from the oven and with a spoon spread a little bit of the minced garlic on each spear. Then sprinkle with red chili pepper flakes. Put back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Then serve.

They are crispy, flavorful and taste great with anything. Here we had them with filet mignon and baked potatoes. We've also done them with poached salmon. You could certainly change or omit the seasonings. Leave off the chili pepper flakes if you don't like the bite. Try other sprinkled on seasonings for a variety of flavors.

There is always a little bit of oil, garlic and chili pepper on the baking sheet after the broccoli is served and Hubby likes to take a piece of bread and wipe it up. Couldn't be more delicious!

Reading "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry"

"The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry" is an exceptional book. This true story is a first book by Kathleen Flinn who has been a writer for over 20 years. At the age of 36, Flinn had built a career as an executive with a major software firm, she managed 24 people and her team ran a $100,000,000 division. She'd fought long and hard to get where she was and had just realized that she was truly in love with Mike, the man she'd been seeing. Sounds wonderful? Maybe not! As she returned from a vacation with Mike, her boss asked to meet her in a hotel lobby rather than the office. And this is where her new life began, as the old one was yanked out from beneath her and she was suddenly without a job, an American living in London.

Her dream since being a child was to cook, to attend Le Cordon Bleu, the famous cooking school in Paris. Now, with Mike as her personal cheerleader, she applies to attend the school and is accepted. She quickly moves to France and begins the difficult task of earning a diploma in January 2004. This means successfully completing three parts of a "classic cycle" of cooking ... Basic, Intermediate and Superior Cuisine.

This is a very well-told story that made me alternately laugh out loud and hold my head in agony. You must really want a diploma to go through this process, especially when your French is lacking. Can you imagine being screamed at in French by a French chef in front of the entire class and not really understanding what he's upset about? How do you fix what you don't understand? The tag line on the cover of this book is "Love, laughter and tears in Paris at the world's most famous cooking school." Such a true statement!

Here are a few excerpts from the book:

     Le Cordon Bleu began life in the late 1800s as a cooking magazine started by French Journalist Marthe Distel. La cuisin√®re Cordon-bleu centered on classic recipes and tips for entertaining, a nineteenth-century version of Gourmet. To boost circulation, Distel offered free cooking classes to subscribers. After the first was held in 1895, the lessons proved to be more popular than the magazine. Le Cordon Bleu now has twenty-seven schools in fifteen countries; the magazine closed in the 1960s.

❧     ❧     ❧     ❧     ❧

     "Hot food always goes on a hot plate, and cold food goes on a cold plate," Anne says as Chef takes a blue-rimmed dinner plate out of the oven and sets the fish on top with some sauce and perfectly chopped parsley. With that, he bows, the class applauds, and students crowd around the chef's plate to take copious photos.
     We taste. The sweet fish couples nicely with the sting of the shallots, muted by the softness of the butter sauce. This is more like it, I think.
     He makes it all look easy, but then chefs are like that. They're magicians in white, accomplished at sleight of hand.

❧     ❧     ❧     ❧     ❧

     The Saturday after the buffet, I review the remaining ten lessons for Intermediate Cuisine. Among them is another featuring puff pastry. I head down to rue Montorgueil and pack my collapsible shopping cart with two heavy bags of flour, dry butter, and fresh yeast. Mike lugs them up the stairs to our flat. For the next three days, I make no less than six batches of puff pastry. By the fourth batch, it's light, airy, and flaky. I work slowly and methodically, remembering that you cannot rush puff pastry. You must show it respect, like a person you admire. Showing remarkable restraint, I eat none of it, so that I can fit into a wedding dress, if I ever find one.

❧     ❧     ❧     ❧     ❧

     Three days later, Mike and I move back into the apartment on rue Etienne Marcel. We trade keys, kisses, and good-byes with Niccolo and Alberto, who pack up their bags and rush for the airport. We open a bottle of wine, and for the rest of the evening Mike and I sit at our kitchen table. We dine on a simple roast chicken and marvel at the view overlooking the busy five-way intersection. We love watching Paris in action: the stream of people coming and going through the curved art-deco entrance of the Metro; tourists dragging wheeled luggage toward the train station at Les Halles; and the comedy and high drama of French driving. We watch the color of the sky change above the gray tin roofs, so solid with time, and the limestone walls graced by delicate etchings. In some buildings, the white French windows open outward onto their wrought-iron balconies, revealing interiors or inhabitants. A few others play the same game, watching the street. Sometimes we catch them watching us.

I absolutely loved this book. I enjoyed every single page and was sorry when it ended. One thing I especially love about this book is that it includes a number of recipes that are truly simple and beautiful. Even though the actual dish Chicken Cordon Bleu (Poulet Cordon Bleu) has nothing to do with the cooking school, it is a classic recipe that Flinn included in the book. It sounded fairly easy and I actually had all of the ingredients on hand so I gave it shot.

ingredients for chicken cordon bleu
butterflied chicken breasts
spread with dijon mustard
layered with swiss cheese and ham
I love having my laptop handy in the kitchen - I input this recipe into my new Recipe Manager program
chicken breasts tied with butcher's twine - I'm planning to try toothpicks as a closure next time because they'll be easier to remove for eating
flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs for dipping
ready to go into the oven
chicken cordon bleu with corn on the cob

I must say, the hardest part of this recipe was the sauce - and it really wasn't that hard, I was just distracted. First of all, I cut the recipe in half to make only two chicken breasts so that cut the sauce ingredients down to nearly nothing. And nearly nothing cooks pretty quickly.

As I started the sauce the first time, I had white wine and chicken stock reducing in a saucepan on the stove top. Hubby came in to say that when he opened the gate, Miles (or Miles-you-little-bastard, as he is sometimes known around here) shot through and took off down the street. This has been a favorite game of his since we got him. He thinks it's hilarious and has nearly been hit twice running right out in front of cars. We spent $200 on obedience classes and while he can sit and down as pretty as you please - and he did come when called just beautifully in class - at home, it's one big party. If he gets out the gate or the front door, the chase is on. So I went out with Hubby to chase Miles-you-little-bastard up and down the street with treats. When I came back in, my pan had cooked dry.

Then Hubby jumped in on the cooking action and we prepared the sauce together. One of my great joys is cooking with Hubby. When he joins me in the kitchen, we always have a good time. And it was so worth it making the sauce again. Amazing! Delicious! The chicken was perfect and tasted great with the fresh sweet corn on the cob.

I can't say enough good things about this wonderful book, the fascinating story and the lovely recipes included. It's definitely a keeper!

May 22, 2010

Happiness is ...

... receiving the Happy 101 award

from my wild and crazy blogger friend at

Hmmmm...what can I say about A Little Too Crazy to be Cool? She's very funny and definitely irreverent (two of my favorite things) and if you don't believe me, her blog states emphatically, "It's not my job to blow sunshine up your ass." I really like that about her! So if you're looking to kick back and just be yourself without anyone judging you and making you feel like the last kid to get picked for dodge ball, mosey on over to visit with A Little Too Crazy to be Cool. It's completely refreshing!!!

Of course, there are rules to be followed ... puhleeze, there are always rules ...

1. Copy and paste the darling Happy 101 award into your blog.

2. Tell everyone about the awesome blogger who passed this award on to you (see above, check) and include a link to her blog (check, check).

3. List ten things that make you happy.

4. Pass the award on to other bloggers and visit their blogs to let them know about the award.

Ten Things That Make Me Happy (in no specific order of importance):

1. Chocolate cake. Did you see yesterday's post? It is totally a cheater cake made from a Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix with store-bought chocolate fudge frosting. And it was made in my favorite cake pan, which brings me to number two ...

2. My bundt cake pan. This thing has been used (as in rode hard and put up wet) for over 30 years and always with great success. My one absolute rule in baking, though, which applies here as well is always underbake. Just a little, but underbake. And I always display my cakes on a Milk Glass cake stand - see number three.

3. My Milk Glass collection. Over the last 18 years, I have collected over 50 pieces of Milk Glass. I think I started with a bud vase or something simple, then went through a period of trolling the antique shops like my life depended on it, picking up a piece here, a piece there. And it has to be a good deal; I will not spend a lot on anything. I've also received some beautiful pieces as gifts, thank you very much. While they're all wonderful, I probably use my cake stands more than anything.

4. A pedicure. This is the most revitalizing thing I can do for myself and I mean a pedicure by a professional, not me doing it myself, all contorted and getting polish everywhere it's not supposed to be. It just makes me feel so darn pretty!

5. Here's a two-fer: Crawling back into bed in the morning with a book and a cup of coffee. This always feels so deliciously decadent to me, especially after being up for hours. Reading is the ultimate getaway when you can't get away!

6. My favorite lotion and fragrance this year is Ulta Body Lotion in Citrus Cream. I am actually allergic to a lot of perfumes and lotions, so when I find something that doesn't send me into a sinus headache or migraine, I am so happy. Another benefit of this lotion is that Hubby loves it. He tells me daily how good I smell as I waft by him ... and I am very good at wafting.

7. Here's another two-fer: Hanging out with the family watching DVDs and making microwave popcorn. Especially if the DVD includes Marky Mark, aka Mark Wahlberg. So this is now a three-fer.

8. Sunshine ... and we live in Phoenix, Arizona, which is sunshine central. The skies are blue and the sun shines here more than 300 days a year! Once when my in-laws were visiting from Colorado for a few weeks, my FIL looked out the window into the back yard and said, "Is it always this damn nice here?" I just smiled sweetly and said nothing because that's how I roll.

9. Night swimming. Living in Phoenix, we do have a pool in our back yard. It is not heated and the water is surprisingly cold. We usually swim from the end of May into October. During the hottest months, say when it's 115 degrees in August, the pool water heats up to about 95 degrees -- that's bath water temperature. And that is when I can enjoy night swimming. It's great to float on your back in the warm water and look up at the stars.

10. And, of course, I have to say knitting. I've been knitting steadily for the last three years. I always have a couple of projects going at once so I don't get bored. I love to make handmade knitted items as gifts for family and friends. In 2007, I knitted 8 scarves, 2 shrugs and a hat for Christmas gifts. I even ordered little custom labels to sew into my gifts, which made me very happy. Click on the tab under my masthead that says Completed Knitting Projects to see my online knitting journal.

So that's enough about me, what about you? I am passing this Happy 101 award on to ...  Tightwad Mom's Frugal Forum  Laundry Hurts My Feelings  Time 2 Eat Yall  Southern Comfort

I hope you have time to play -- I'm looking forward to hearing what 10 things make you happy!

May 21, 2010

A Great Lasagna Recipe

Okay, I'm totally going to cheat here and just tell you about someone else's lasagna recipe. A few weeks ago, I was trying to decide what to make for our weekly family dinner and lasagna popped in my head. I have never had a great recipe for lasagna. In fact, I've rarely made it, but once I had the thought, I had to make some.

Did an online search for lasagna recipes and found this incredible website with the best recipe. It was easy to make, absolutely delicious, got raves from the family and I will be making it over and over again.

One of the things I used to dislike about making lasagna was boiling the noodles and then having to fight with the slimy things to get them in the pan nicely. This recipe calls for the noodles to be soaked in hot tap water for 15 minutes ... that's it. Then they get layered in with all the other ingredients. It's completely genius!

So I made a pan of lasagna (this thing weighed about 10 pounds), a romaine salad with grape tomatoes and a chocolate bundt cake for dessert (my personal favorite). We washed it all down with a nice bottle of Clos Du Bois Pinot Noir.

The lasagna recipe makes a ton of food and the leftovers are delicious, too. This may be one of those dishes that just keeps getting better over the next few days. I highly recommend it and your family will love you for making it!