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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Vegetable Beef Barley Soup

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
6 cups beef broth
1 pkg (1.35 oz) hot and sour soup mix*
1 can (16 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup quick cook barley
4 eggs**

Brown ground beef, celery, and onion in dutch oven (or large pot) over medium heat until meat is brown and veggies are tender (6-8 min) Drain if neccessary.
Add broth, soup mix, tomatoes, beans, and barley. Cook covered over low heat stirring occasionally until barley thickens (11-13 min).
** optional addition: Break eggs, one at a time into saucer. Holding dish close to surface, slip egg into simmering soup. Cook until whites are completely set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard (3-5 min). Do not stir.
Laden into bowls and top each with poached egg. Serve immediately.

I didn't do the poached egg step because I was cooking ahead to pack for lunches for myself and Jason. This soup is incredible either way!!

*hot and sour soup mix is found by the Asain food at your grocery.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Potato Soup

6 to 8 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 lb cubed ham
Garlic Powder
2 cups milk
1/2 box Velvetta or shredded cheese*
1/3 cup flour**
3/4 stick of butter

Place potatoes in large pot and cover with cool water. Season to taste. Bring to a boil and add ham cubes. Cook until potatoes are almost done. Stir in milk, butter, and cheese. Mix flour with a little water to make a thickening agent. Stir into pot and cook for 8 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Serve with chives, bacon pieces, sour cream, onions, shredded cheese, or any other garnishes you like.

*I use shredded cheddar (mild and sharp) instead of Velvetta because Jason doesn't like Velvetta.
**Adjust the amount of flour to give you a viscosity you like.
You can also cream the soup with a stick blender if you want, but we like ours chunky.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A fence gate start

Lessons I learned today:

There is a reason drill bits come in multiples in a package. Apparently a 1/8 inch drill bit is disposable and easy to snap off in a hole.

A pan head screw will fly off the tip of a drill and through the air at roughly the same speed as light and lodge itself on the bottom of a stack of 15 T post, never to be seen again.

No matter how carefully I try, the pilot hole I drilled is never in exactly the right spot again.

If you have an injured knuckle, you will bump it, scrap it, jab it, and nearly rip it off at least every 30 seconds. All other knuckles will be unaffected.

Any gate kit that says you can build a complete no sag gate in 20 minutes is LYING!

Additionally, if you are trying to do this yourself with no one to help hold anything, multiple that 20 minutes by 5. Add another 10 minutes if you have never built a gate before. Add another 30 minutes if you are clumsy.

Good thing I am to stubborn to give up... Stubborn and stupidity can look very similar to the untrained eye. Look how far I have already gotten.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My new brother in law. Oh, and my sister is married now!

These two beautiful people are my baby sister, Brandy, and my new brother in law, David. They got married on Thursday! I think David is nuts to join this family, but I am glad he did. :) They live in Northwest Arkansas and I don't get to see them near as much as I would like. David has two sweet little babies and Aunt Amanda needs some spoiling time. *hint hint* I love ya'll!
And just because I can, I leave you with their engagement and marriage picture, provided by yours truly. They don't know how it got permanently pinned to their facebook so that anytime they mentioned marriage or engagement, it would post. And I am not telling them how to get rid of it because it is so freaking cool ;)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jason's Jambaylaya

Jason made this terrific jambaylaya for dinner tonight! As soon as I pulled in the carpot and opened the car door, the most wonderful aroma hit me. It tastes at least twice as good as it smells. And he was so adorable cooking :)

What you'll need:

1 1/2 pounds andouille sausage, diced
1 pound fresh pork sausage, removed from casings
1 pound bacon, diced
4 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks separated)
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
5 celery stalks, diced
3 large onions, diced
2 green peppers, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 dried bay leaf
1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups converted white rice (Uncle Bens)
3 cups crushed tomatoes
3 cups rich chicken broth
2 1/2 pounds shrimp (preferably Louisiana white), peeled and deveined
1 1/2 pounds Louisiana crawfish, peeled and deveined (optional)
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1/2 Tbsp celery salt

How to make it:

1. Preheat a large cast-iron pot over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-high and add the sausage and bacon. Cook the meat as evenly as possible, stirring slowly, until the fat is released.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add it to the pot, and turn the heat to high. Once the chicken has browned, add the celery, onions, green pepper, and garlic. Continue to stir, allowing the ingredients to brown without burning.

3. Lower the heat to medium and stir in the thyme, bay leaf, paprika, cayenne, and rice. Keep stirring for 5 to 7 minutes over medium heat.

4. Add the tomatoes and broth, raise the heat back to high until the liquid boils, and then cover and reduce to a low simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Season the shrimp and crawfish (if using) with salt and pepper, and add them to the pot. Keep the pot covered for an additional 5 minutes before removing from the heat and adding the green onions. Check for seasonings. Add salt, pepper, and the celery salt.

Makes 8 servings

Oh and that beautiful red Lodge dutch oven? That was an early Christmas gift for me. Have I mentioned how thoughtful and sweet this man is??

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Workable Tool Organization

I love to be organized. I live by the motto "a place for everything and everything in it's place". When Jason asks, "where is the widget?" I want to be able to confidently say, "The widget is in the bathroom cabinet, third shelf, in the right corner of the blue basket", and the widget be exactly there. So I have been agonizing over my store room. This small room contains all my tools, tubs of pet food and bird seed, paint supplies,huge upright deep freezer, and the water heater closet. Thankfully I have a separate garage in the back yard to hold my power lawn equipment, wheel barrow, bicycles, etc...
Jason and I went to Lowe's and bought some peg board and 1x2 boards. I cut the 1x2s to proper length to make a frame on which I mounted the peg boards that I cut to size. We also purchased the pegged fixtures. I estimate that we spend less than $50 on all the supplies for this project. I am very happy with the results:

I put two shelves above the tool box to hold my circular saw (top shelf) and battery powered combo set. Notice how I used a scrap piece of wood to build a ledge on right side of the bottom shelf? This is to keep the battery charger from getting pulled off the edge.

Directly below the shelves is the "house use" peg board. This holds basic tools, various fasteners, tape measure, and duct tape.

The full length peg board has the least used items up top. A small step stool allows quick access to these items as needed. The black case holds my favorite screw driver and bit set.

The lower half has items I may need to grab more often.

A place for everything and everything in its place makes for less stress and a happier home. :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mashed Potatoes from a box???

I remember when I first discovered that some people got their mashed potatoes from a box. I was 17 years old and the year was 1998. I was shocked and disgusted. Really? You are to lazy to peel and boil a potato?? See I was fed for the first 12 years of my life by the best cook I have ever known, my great grandmother, Edna Mae Fuller. She was taught to cook by her mother, Lillie Mae (Eason)Gibbs. I can't recall a single day of those 12 years that potatoes were not peeled or cut up in our home. Mamaw cooked at least 3 meals a day. Mamaw and Papaw NEVER ate outside the house. When Mamaw got really sick we would have Arthur's BBQ sandwhiches on Wednesday nights that my Nonny (our name for my grandmother) would bring home. But even then, Mamaw and I would peel and cut potatoes to deep fry for homemade steak fries. When Mamaw died when I was 12, it was Nonny and me that cooked. We ate out ALOT after that because Nonny often worked late and I wasn't confident in the kitchen without my Mamaw. Still, I could boil a tater for crying out loud!
Well, flash forward 13 years. I LOVE these instant potatoes. I eat them at least twice a week. My momma can't figure out how I make a meal of nothing but instant potatoes. Well you add cheese and bacon bits and sour cream. :) I still make 'good' potatoes sometimes and anytime I am feeding anyone else. But for a meal quicker than a frozen dinner, I turn to those once disdained instant potatoes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Woo Pig Sooie

The second big game of the 2011 football season for us was the New Mexico at Arkansas game in Little Rock. The University of Arkansas is located in the Northwest part of the state. A few times a year, they have "home" games at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock! Jason bought tickets for us for both Little Rock games this year! The first was on Sept 10th. Jason's sister, Ashley, and her husband, Jason B. also went. We had a great time. We walked through all the tailgating areas and started to formulate a plan for the November game to do our own tailgating. Jason set us up in the perfect spot to see Tusk arive. Tusk is the razorback mascot for the U of A.

Tusk is actually a newer Tusk. The U of A has a breeding program so when a Tusk dies, there is one to take his place.
We also got to see the team enter the stadium. There is a lot of pride in Little Rock for the Hogs. This year the school asked all the fans to wear either a red shirt or a white shirt, depending on which section you had tickets in, to honor the memory of 9/11. The fans did an outstanding job. I was hustling the night before trying to find us matching WHITE Hog shirts. We pulled it off. The result was amazing:

The student section and cheer leaders wore blue. It was moving to see the fan participation in honor of such a tragic day in our nation's history.
We had a really fun time at the game. We stopped at chick-fil-a on the way home and had some dinner. I couldn't want for a sweeter boyfriend than Jason. He always makes sure that I enjoy myself. It wouldn't have been half the experience with anyone else. The picture of us together now graces both of our mom's houses as 5x7 prints. Oh and I may have one in my office at work as well :) I want to always remember the early days of our relationship. It only gets better from here.

September was an awesome month full of football and friends :)

Jason and I went to the Salt Bowl on September 2, 2011. It was my third year to attend and Jason's first! The Salt Bowl is the annual meeting between the Bryant Hornets and the Benton Panthers. The game is held at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. The whole event is a huge affair. Tailgating is sponsered by many local banks. There were free hot dogs and bottled water at every booth. All the banks were handing out things such as fans, stickers, noise makers, and pamplets. The thing Jason liked most were the Chick-fil-a coupons!! It was a fun evening and I had a blast spending time with my beau. Bryant won (as always. Go Big Blue! I decorated the pretty Prius before the game. Jason had heck cleaning it off the next morning. Oops :)

Sweet and Sour Meat Balls

I made these delicious meat balls recently for Jason. They are fairly easy and super yummy! Try these for your dinner table. They would be great for tailgating or for an appetizer for the holidays. They are also hearty enough to serve as an entree.

2lbs ground turkey (or beef)
1 egg
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup crushed crackers (or oats)
1 can Pet milk
3 T ketchup
salt and pepper to taste
Mix this and form into balls, place into baking dish, set aside.

In a saucepan combine:
1/2 cup clear vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 onion
1/2 bell pepper
Heat until sugar melts. Pour over meatballs; bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Jason ate several right away and then took some on the road. I take that as a sign that this recipe is a keeper.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

ABC's of Me

Here we go:

A. Age: 30. (translated as hideously old and very upset about it)

B. Bed size: Queen, but I will probably upgrade to a King if I update my martial status. One can hope :)

C. Chore you dislike: taking out the trash

D. Dogs: 2. A tea cup chihuahua named Gracie and a lab/basset mix named Harley.

E. Essential start to your day: shower

F. Favorite color(s): green, pink, and white

G. Gold or silver: depends on the application. Most of my jewelry is currently silver

H. Height: 5 feet 4 and a half inches. You gotta count the half :)

I. Instruments you play(ed): trumpet, baritone, piano

J. Job title: Quality Technical Analyst

K. Kids: :*( None, yet. A whole houseful one day :)

L. Live: Benton, Arkansas

M. Mom's name: Anita Lynn

N. Nicknames: Angelface

O. Overnight hospital stays: None that I can recall, except ER visits. I don't like staying. I always come home.

P. Pet peeves: people who let their grass get high and leaves. I hate leaves.

Q. Quote from a movie: "Do or do not. There is no try." Master Yoda

R. Righty or lefty: Both, cause I am awesome like that! I shoot lefty only.

S. Siblings: 1 younger sister and 1 younger half brother.

T. Time you wake up: nearly always by 4:30. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. Always by 6.

U. Underwear: Yes, I wear underwear. You don't need any details.

V. Vegetables you don't like: radish

W. What makes you run late: too much going on

X. X-rays you've had: arms, fingers, toes, wrists, legs, head, knee, pelvic, ankle. Grace is not my middle name for good reason.

Y. Yummy food you make: just about everything

Z. Zoo animal favorites: everything but the reptile house.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Happy Housiversary To ME

I realized that today is exactly 6 years since I signed the closing papers on my first home. I can clearly remember that day and the events leading up to it...
I was 22 when I decided that I should invest in a home and stop paying rent on an apartment. One Friday I drove by a cute little house and thought, "oh, I need one of those!" I called the number on the sign and a real estate agent answered. He said he had an offer already but had plenty of other cute houses he could show me. He invited me to a home buyers seminar on Sunday. I attended the seminar and talked with a broker and the agent. We crunched some numbers around and decided how much I could afford to spend on a house.
That evening I started looking at properly online and found my house.
It was 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, carport, nice older subdivision, plenty of room for kids and pets. :)
The next morning I walked into the broker's office, filled out an application, and was preapproved for a mortgage. I took my approval letter, walked to the car and called my agent. I told him that I wanted to look at this house I had seen listed with another agency. I had already driven by twice that day and it felt right. That was on Monday.
My agent showed me the house on a Tuesday afternoon. I liked what I saw and scheduled a home inspection for Thursday. Everything looked good so I put the offer in that same day. On Sunday evening my agent called me and said, "Congrats! You got it!"
This is what my house looked like the day I bought it:

So in only 9 days I went from, "Hey, maybe I should buy a house." to "Oh my gravy, I just bought a house!"
I had to wait nearly 2 months to close on the home so I could count my second job as income and get a lower interest rate (a part time job must be held for at least two years in order to qualify that income for loan purposes).

Buying my home was the best financial decision I have made. I took out a 30 year mortgage, but by paying extra on my mortgage, I should be mortgage free in the next 9 years. And that, my friends, is priceless!
I will take a new picture of my house as soon as the snow melts away so you can see the progress.

Watching and Waiting

Simon cat has enjoyed the snowy view today. He spent an entire hour sitting motionless on the window sill watching my feathered friends gorging themselves on bird seed. I have been feeding the birds of Shady Grove subdivision since I bought my house 6 years ago. Simon has been terrorizing those same birds since he adopted me on March 19, 2005.
Seeing Simon and the birds has taught me a few lessons:

1 - Be prepared. Have the knowledge, skills, and tools in place. Study your goal.
2 - Patience is the key to success.

3 - But don't wait to long or your oppurtunity will fly away.

4 - When the time is right, strike hard and fast. Hesitation means failure.

5 - Take only what you can handle. Going for two birds at once means no bird at all.

6 - Celebrate your success. Simon does this by decapitating the bird. I prefer a good chocolate

7 - Share the bounty. Simon leaves the poor headless creature on the front mat for me. I like to treat my friends and family with my time and profit.