Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Back to the lists

The remodel was so big, I stuck with one big general list of things to do and abandoned my daily or weekly lists.  Consequently, I slacked off a lot and wasted a lot of the past two months.  No  more.  Yesterday I began the daily LOTTD again and it was successful.  I always do best if I write it down in the morning.  I had a small interruption in the evening to help out a friend, and it reminded me to not expect to fill up every waking minute.  And I did remember to put myself on the list - my walk, stretches, etc., intended to take care of my well-being.

Now that the snow has mostly melted, I'm getting eager to do even some small things in the yard.  It's still so cold, and I can't stay out long, but even a half hour at a time will allow for some satisfaction.

It feels good to be getting back into the groove.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Where I like to hang out

As part of my recent remodeling and redecorating, I've been moving artwork around, too, trying things out on different walls.  I am lucky to have a few pieces of lovely original artwork, among them some special pieces by our own blogger and facebook friend Jacqui Binford-Bell.  I promised to send her a picture when I had these hung and never got around to it until now.  Jacqui's style has such appeal, and from the time I saw her paintings, I knew I wanted some to hang in my home.  Over time I was able to acquire a couple of my favorites.  I'm surprised myself that these didn't include any of the goddess series nor ones with the swirly stars, which I just love.  But these were a couple that really grabbed my attention and became my choices when it came time to select my very favorite.  At first I had these hanging on darker plainer walls which really provided a much better setting for the paintings.  But I like them better hanging in this room because they have the right mood and colors for the room, and since I hang out here more than anywhere else in the house, I get to enjoy looking at them more.

This is my TV room where I sit with laptop and remote control and keep up with the world.  It is a room of whimsy and color with the bright yellow striped walls (painted on - not wallpaper), fun objects like my Book Woman afghan, a pillow that declares "It's Good to Be Queen", Harry Potter book ends, and an elephant lamp.  My daughter says it's an Alice in Wonderland room.  It's a happy little spot that reflects my attitude, personality, and most of the time my mood.

So for now I'm keeping the artwork here because here is where I like it.  One day I'll paint over all these stripes and make a more mature subdued room.  And Jacqui's lovely work will have a more suitable background.  And I'm sure I'll enjoy it just as well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Success and weariness

What a great day it turned out to be.  The dinner for my friends was just perfect.  We had fun, the food turned out great, and the weather was lovely so there were no worries about travel.  That shrimp recipe is a keeper although I cut way back on the Tabasco and it was still spicy enough.

I ended up making it a sit-down dinner served buffet style since there was too much food to manage on little plates.  I didn't deviate much from the menu I had planned.  With the extra half of cake mix that wasn't used in the Yummy Dessert, I made a birthday cake for one of the guests whose birthday is this month.  I found the cutest candles that were in the shapes of the letters Happy Birthday, but boy did those melt down fast!  We laughed that she hardly got a chance to blow any of them out.  I also added chocolate-dipped strawberries since I had bought fresh strawberries instead of frozen for the dessert.

Since it was an afternoon do, I invited my son and granddaughter later in the evening and we did the whole meal again.  I sent leftovers home with them and still have some for myself tomorrow.

It really pays off to plan and write things out.  Once I settled on the menu, I had a shopping list and a preparation schedule covering two days.  With all the thinking done in advance, it becomes a simple matter of following the plan.

I'm sorry to say I didn't get a picture of the meal.  Only the aftermath.  The new kitchen got a real workout.  Me, too.  I think I'm ready for bed.  So glad tomorrow is an extra day off this weekend.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wishing love to all this Valentine's Day

For those of us who won't receive valentine wishes from a love, here's a pretty, melancholy love song.  I bought myself some pretty flowers and invited friends over for a party. What did you do for yourself today?

Sunday Afternoon Wine and Hors D'oeuvres

This little party is for some of the very most special people in my life -- my best friend of over 50 years, her sister, their husbands and their mother.  These are people I am most comfortable with and, thus, I'm not feeling such pressure about the party preparations as I might for other groups.  I know if there are failures, we'll all laugh about them and it will not be traumatic.  I decided on hors d'oeuvres so we wouldn't be bound to sitting at the table but could relax in the living room or even walk around outside if the weather is as nice as promised. I'm having it mid-afternoon on Sunday because of issues with the freeway construction - so my friends won't have to navigate that confusing route in the dark.

The setting will be informal, but the food will be special.  Here's the menu.  If I happen to get photos, I'll post them later:

Swedish Meatballs in sauce
Shrimp (Killer Shrimp recipe)
Red beans and rice
Veggie platter with dip
Garlic bread, oven toasted
Cheese plate w/ dried fruit
Selection of wines, beer, soft drinks

Dessert: Cake (Yummy Dessert)
Coffee and tea

The meal is a combination of pre-prepared foods and some actual cooking on my part. I'm getting the meatballs and sauce already prepared from the deli. The red beans and rice is the Zatarain's (yes, from a package, but really very good). The shrimp is a new recipe I found online, but I'm not nervous about trying it as the ingredients are quite simple and it is wonderfully easy to prepare ahead and cook at the last minute. The veggie platter will include some lovely blanched and chilled asparagus spears, jicama, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and celery, all prepared the day before. The cheese platter will have just two or three selections -- whatever looks good when I'm shopping on Saturday. The hot dishes will be served in crock pots - everything is served buffet style. This interesting shrimp recipe bakes in the oven, so I won't be standing over a hot saute pan while I'm also visiting with my guests. I know it's against all the rules to try out a new recipe on guests - but that has never stopped me.

Here are the recipes:
Killer Shrimp

1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chili sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 lemon, sliced with peel
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 small Anaheim chile pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Tabasco pepper sauce
1 pound large shrimp with tails (peeled and deveined), uncooked
French Bread for dipping

In a large saucepan over medium heat, simmer butter, olive oil, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, lemon, garlic, parsley, Anaheim chile, red pepper flakes, oregano and Tabasco until well blended. Remove from heat and let cool. Place sauce in a zip-lock bag; add shrimp. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place sauce and shrimp in a large shallow baking pan; bake approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until shrimp are opaque in center (cut to test). Remove from oven.

Place mixture in shallow bowls and serve with a crusty French bread for dipping in sauce (this dish is eaten with your fingers).
Serves 4 to 6.

Yummy Dessert

1 white cake mix
8 ounces cream cheese
1 pint cream
2 cups powdered sugar
1 package Junket dessert
1 cup fresh or frozen fruit

Use half of the cake mix and bake in a 13" x 9" pan. Cool. Whip the cream to peaks gradually adding in the sugar. Fold in the softened cream cheese. Spread this mixture over the cake and chill. Make the Junket dessert using 1 1/2 cups water (or about 3/4 of the water called for). Add the fruit to the Junket and spread evenly over the cake. Chill for several hours.

If you wonder what I'll do with the other half of the cake mix, I'll bake it, too, and cut it into squares to freeze.  Those plain cake squares are a nice accompaniment to morning coffee now and then.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just when you think nothing will ever surprise you again . . .

 . . . your daughter and her boyfriend get married secretly (today) and then announce it to the world on Facebook.  Nope, didn't even call mom first.  I had to read it on Facebook.  They knew I would and they thought it would be fun and funny. 

And it was sort of funny.  I'm reading the News Feed and see familiar Zach and it says Zach and Jenn are married, and I'm thinking, "I know that."  And then I realize I DON'T know that, and read it again.  Ho-ly smokes!  And then I'm on the phone to my daughter.

It's not how I imagined my daughter's wedding at all.  But it's not about me after all, now is it?  And as she points out, it's exactly how her father and I were married -- secretly, telling no-one until afterward.  But we didn't announce it on Facebook.  Although, as Jenn pointed out, "You would have, mom, if you had had Facebook."

And so maybe I would have. 

I'm thrilled and happy for them both.  Zach is a great guy and I have felt for a long time as if he were part of the family.  This just makes it legal and official.  I couldn't be happier about it.

Still . . . just getting used to the news.