Monday, February 18, 2008

Crazy Couple of Weeks

Once again, I've missed posting and keeping up with my blog friends. As most of you know, I became sick on February 5 before heading home to Canton, and finally this Saturday evening, I felt better. My throat was so raw most of the time, and it seems the illness is going around. It's just affecting everyone in such different ways.

My cousin's wedding went really well, and it was a pleasure to help with it. I really appreciated the vows that were exchanged (by my cousin, David, and his wife, Jennifer) and the message that his pastor shared. He spoke about how love in a marriage is a decision a spouse must make every single day... not just an emotion. A commitment that should be lived out through actions every day of their marriage. So many people seem to forget that when the going gets rough. I'm sad to say that with all of the running around, I failed to take a picture of David and Jennifer. I hope to post one soon.

But, I was able to take some funny pictures. Because there were so many children present for the ceremony, the couple provided some special tables in the corner of the reception for our young cousins. Here is one fun part of the day where some of the big cousins played GO FISH with the little cousins. This was right after we enjoyed the dessert buffet. You read it correctly. DESSERT BUFFET. In addition to white cake and chocolate cake, there were about a dozen choices in other cakes, pies, and cheesecakes from which to choose. WOW!

While in my hometown, I packed in the errands around the wedding rehearsal and festivities. I saw my hometown chiropractor, had my rear brakes and catalytic converter replaced, had my vacuum repaired, ate lunch with my friend Susan (more on that later), and went shopping with Mom. It was a nice time, but the time went too quickly. Needless to say, I didn't receive too much rest, and it was really no wonder that my cold became worse. Before I knew it, it was time to return to Edwardsville for church on Sunday morning.

Just a day before, Dad had been asked to fill in for a band that would be playing near Edwardsville, and he accepted the job. The band would be playing at the Crystal Ballroom in a town about 20 miles north of us, so I decided to go hear the music. I had been to the Crystal Ballroom once before with Brother Chris when we went to hear a church friend, Mike Mitchell, play drums with another big band that was touring through the area. Just like the visit before, it was wonderful to watch all of the couples dancing. So many dances and so much fun. I wish that kind of dancing was still popular. I guess, with Dancing with the Stars, it may be making a comeback. Dad did a fantastic job - as always - with his solos, and (above) here he is waiting for the next song to be called. Beautiful white grand piano! I probably should have been asleep at home because later that night my sore throat returned. But, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

I missed many days of work last week, but I came to the office for a few hours on Wednesday to hear that our company site has been purchased. There are many questions to be answered, and we do not know what this will mean for each of our employees. I just ask for your prayers for all of our staff while the questions are being answered in the near future.

On Thursday, I felt the worst, so I was not able to celebrate Valentine's Day with my co-workers as planned. But, my pa was thinking of me and brightened my day when he sent me this beautiful bouquet. Of course, he was thoughtful to make sure plenty of purple was included, and the flowers are sitting in a huge purple polka-dotted cup on a purple polka-dotted saucer. Just beautiful, and it made the day much better after being so sick.

On Friday night, my cousin Kayla and I headed to Marine to watch the "nieces" so Jeff and Tracy could have a night out. We had fun touring their new play room, having dinner, watching part of Pete's Dragon (I had never seen it before), and enjoying some Valentine's Day treats (below). Spending time with the girls always makes me feel better, and so do lazy Saturdays at home! So, by Saturday evening, I pretty much felt like my old self again.

I hope all of the bloggers and blog readers have been staying healthy! There will be a lot that I'll be trying to catch up on here at the blog in the upcoming days. But, before I sign off today, I just wanted to send a BIG HELLO to my friend Laurie who is (get ready for the envy to begin) on vacation in Hawaii!!! I heard that her mom and she had a rough time with their flights, and I just pray everything is going better now. I can't wait to see the vacation photos of sunsets, the ocean and mountains. I wish I were there!!!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Catching Up With Day Five, Recipe Five

I thought I would post the recipe that immediately came to my mind when Kelly first posted her soup recipe. It is sort of similar to the one that Dani posted. And, I don't mean to be a copy cat... but this is the recipe I always intended to post. The dish I always ask Mom to make. The recipe for which I've called and called and called Mom so she could remind me how to make it. (For some reason, it never actually makes it onto a recipe card and into my recipe file.) It's the recipe that Mom always makes for me when we have a big family gathering. It's the food that always makes it into some sort of plastic container and is tucked in my bag on my way back to my house after a visit at home. And, its the food that is usually placed in the microwave immediately after I arrive at my house. I don't know why I love it so much, but I do.

Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole
2 T oil or margarine or butter
1/4 c finely chopped onion
1/8 c chopped celery
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
1 8 oz. jar Cheez Whiz
1 soup can of milk
1 c minute rice
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped broccoli (square box usually)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large skillet, saute onion and celery in butter until clear. On medium heat (warm enough to melt Cheez Whiz), add milk, soup and cheez and stir to combine with onion and celery. Add rice and broccoli. Stir continuously to slightly thaw and even distribute rice and broccoli. Keep in mind this will be baked to cook. So, if mixture seems thick, add up to another 1/2 soup can of milk. Spray 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into baking dish. Bake for 45 - 50 minutes until top browns and bubbles. Let stand for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.

Mom almost always doubles this recipe and places it in a 9x13 deep dish for our family events. If she does double, she uses a 16 oz. bag of frozen chopped broccoli or two small boxes. Either will be fine.

Since coming home, I've been trying to juggle several projects and fight a cold. So, I'm sorry I'm behind in my posting. A cold always seems to come right before I'm supposed to sing somewhere. This afternoon, my brother and I will be singing a duet at our cousin David's wedding, and I'm praying the hoarseness will hold off and my sore throat will go away. I've been taking regular doses of various herbs, vitamin C, hot tea, Cold Eeze, and that yummy vegetable beef soup that Dad posted in the comments section a day or two ago. I pray it helps when it really needs to count at 2:00 pm today. Please join me in praying for my cousin David and his soon-to-be-wife Jennifer. Hopefully, I'll be able to post some pictures from the wedding next week.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Day Four, Recipe Four

Here's one of our favorites for breakfast... especially when guests are coming over, especially on a church meeting weekend.

Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole
6 c loose packed/shredded frozen hash browns, thawed
2/3 c. butter, melted
2 c. cooked ham, diced
1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c. milk
4 eggs
1/2 t. salt (or more to taste)

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Press hash browns on bottom of pan. Drizzle with melted butter over crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Sprinkle ham and cheese over "crust" (hashbrowns). Beat eggs, milk, and salt. Pour over ham and cheese. Return to oven and bake 25 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Catching Up With Day Three, Recipe Three

This is not a recipe you'd want to make if you're trying to be healthy, count carbs, or cut sweets out of your diet. But, if you're not doing any of those crazy things, you might enjoy this as much as our family does. This is especially delicious with ham dishes or as a dessert with any meal.

Scalloped Pineapple

4 c. bread cubes
1 can chunked pineapple, drained
1 and 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c half & half or milk
7/8 c margarine or butter ***

*** I have no idea why this weird measurement is used, but that's what we've always had and always used. :)

Combine first five ingredients. Melt butter and stir into mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. It is wonderful served warm - especially with a little ice cream.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Day Two, Recipe Two

I'm feeling really snacky today, so this recipe came right to mind. Wish I had a food processor here so I could make some at lunch. This is a recipe that was given to me by my college friend, Patrick Schrappen, and he's a great cook.

Sun-dried Tomato Dip
3/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained and chopped)
1 clove garlic
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried oregano
3/4 c. milk
sprinkle of cracked pepper & salt

Combine ingredients in a food processor and mix until smooth. Chill before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with cut vegetables, chips or flatbread. DELICIOUS!

One time, when I was visiting friends in Arkansas, I was trying to make this, but we were rushing around. We couldn't find sun-dried tomatoes in the small store in town and didn't have time to head to the city. So, I thought I would just try to substitute roasted red peppers (the kind you find in small jars) for the sun-dried tomatoes. I must say, I think it was just as delicious! Just a little different flavor.

Today is the last day I'll be in the office this week as I am heading to my hometown to enjoy a few days off and attend my cousin's wedding. My brother and I are singing in the ceremony, and we need a little extra practice with Dad beforehand. In the meantime, I'm trying to work hard to get many things in place before I leave. Laundry, dishes, projects that are not completed... so I won't be able to post my recipe tomorrow. But, I'll be catching up with two recipes on Thursday since I'll have computer access at Mom and Dad's house. Sorry, in advance, for the break in posts.

The most important things to get in place? My ribs... or whatever is still out in my back. So, I must depart for the chiropractor once again. Hope each of you has a wonderful day, and I can't wait to see your recipes. Yesterday's posts made me so HUNGRY!!!

Here is the updated list of blogs whose writers are participating in Recipe Week:
Sojourning Stranger
Abundant Grace
Faith Hope and Love
Threefold Chord
Kitchen Talk
Gator Gals

And, Mr. and Mrs. Piano Man may contribute in the comment sections. Take out your recipe cards and get to copying!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Day One, Recipe One

It was a foggy foggy morning. When I awoke, I could not see the houses right across my small street. Thankfully, as the day warmed up, the fog burned off. And, I slowly - and carefully - made it to work.

I was moving slowly anyway. After a good day at church and at the nearby nursing home where we sing on the first Sundays of the month, I headed home to do some super-duper-deep cleaning of my house. Quickly, I was sidelined with a problem in my back. It hurt so badly that I barely moved for several hours. I just stayed in the fetal position and whimpered. (Just kidding... sort of...) I ventured out for some icy-hot. (I had never used the stuff before). I used ice packs. I used hot packs. I took more Tylenol than I probably should have taken. Nothing seemed to help. After my visit to the chiropractor this morning (when I realized it was 76 degrees on my car thermometer), I discovered that I had two dislocated ribs in my back. I have no idea how that happened. He said I could have done it by lifting something heavy (a regular thing for me), shoveling snow (a regular thing lately), or just sneezing really hard (well, that's pretty regular too.) I feel MUCH better now. But, I think I'll be going to the chiropractor again tomorrow. Still feeling pretty tight and achy.

It would have been a great day for me to stay at home, relax, and enjoy some tasty treats like the ones below. I'm starting to drool just thinking about them - as they're some of my favorites.

Peanut Butter Cups
2 sticks of softened margarine (1 cup)
1 lb powdered sugar
1 cup crushed graham crackers
1 cup peanut butter (we prefer mooth, but either will work)

Mix together well and press into a 9 x 13 pan. (I end up using my hands.)

Melt 6 oz of chocolate chips. (We almost always use semi-sweet but some families prefer milk chocolate. And, our family always uses a whole 12 oz bag - or two cups - when making this recipe.) Immediately spread melted chocolate on top of the peanut butter mixture to make an even chocolate coating.

Place in refrigerator (or freezer) to cool. You may need to allow them to come to room temperature slightly to cut them into squares. We serve them chilled as they can be pretty gooey while warm.

Can't wait to see AND TRY everyone else's recipes that are posted this week. Remember, if you're participating in the blog recipe exchange, don't hesitate to leave me a comment so the other participants can check out your blog.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Scenes Along A Snowy Road

Despite cleaning off my car 3 times yesterday (mid-day, 5:00 pm rush hour, and 11:30 pm), this is what my dirty car looked like this morning. (Yes, I know it should be in the garage!) The news reported that we received somewhere between 8 and 9 inches, and this morning it took me an hour to get out of my driveway and off my little street. (This end of the driveway was much better than the other end.) Thankfully, the main roads and highways were cleared off much more than my home territory so I could make my commute to work.

But, as soon as I exited the house and I looked into my beautiful back yard, I wanted to run out into the snow and make a snowman or throw snowballs.... or run back inside, hibernate all day and watch some movies while sipping hot cocoa within the warmth of my down blanket... OK. I need to stop day dreaming. There was work to be done, so I had to drive to the office. There were less cars on the highway than usual. It's funny to think that it took me less time to commute 35 + miles than it did to get 50 yards from my home.

This kind of weather always seems to generate conversation about driving. It happened here at the office after the first snowfall yesterday. Several employees called in to say they would be late for their shift because "we have to drive 20 mph on the highway because people just don't know how to drive in the snow." Then, we had other employees who got upset because of the "crazy people who are zooming past me and just don't know how to drive in the snow." I'm confused. Is it the fast folks or the slow moving folks who are the bad drivers in this kind of weather??? Or, is this just another example of us just wanting something about which to complain?

The huge signs along the interstate alerted us to upcoming accidents and expected ETAs at the next big highway. I wonder who types in those messages, because today's alerts were some doozies. I tried to take a picture of them, but it was difficult in the conditions. In an attempt to not be labeled as a "bad driver", I decided to promptly put away the camera and keep both hands on the wheel. The long, round-about poorly worded alert, however, reminded me of an interesting group and web site.

If you have time, check out the efforts of the Plain English Campaign. Here's is this group's purpose in its own words:

Since 1979, we have been campaigning against gobbledygook, jargon and misleading public information. We have helped many government departments and other official organisations with their documents, reports and publications. We believe that everyone should have access to clear and concise information.

The group presents several awards each year, and my favorites are the Golden Bull (citing the worst examples of written word) and Foot in Mouth (citing the most confusing quotes made by public figures.)

Below are some of my favorite examples from my favorite awards categories:

2006 Foot in Mouth given to model Naomi Campbell for "I love England, especially the food. There's nothing I like more than a lovely bowl of pasta."

2000 Foot in Mouth given to actress Alicia Silverstone for "I think that [the film] 'Clueless' was very deep. I think it was deep in the way that it was very light. I think lightness has to come from a very deep place if it's true lightness."

2003 Foot in Mouth given to former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for comments in a press briefing. "Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know."

The following are a few Golden Bull winners for 2007:

BAA for a sign at Gatwick Airport
‘Passenger shoe repatriation area only’

Fastway Couriers for terms and conditions
‘The Carrier shall not be liable for injury or damage to or destruction or loss of the Goods or any other property arising out of or incidental to or in connection with or occurring during the provision of the Services or for the mis-delivery or nondelivery of the Goods and whether or not caused or contributed to by the default (including negligence) of the Carrier or any agent, servant or officer of the Carrier or any other person entitled to the benefit of these conditions.’

And, finally, here's one some of my co-workers would appreciate.
Nestle for a 'Project News Report'
‘“Green Sauces” are an important product group for Buitoni Pesto Basilico. Their quality and flavour profile are enhanced by the basil used in production. However, Buitoni faced sensory profile reproducibility problems due to heterogeneous raw material, challenging the production of uniform quality.’

We make life so complicated.

(REMINDER to those participating: RECIPE POSTING begins Monday. Post one recipe each weekday next week.)