Sunday, June 28, 2015

Change It Up With Caprese Chicken

I saw something somewhere (this seems to be my mantra lately, with no real idea of where I've seen anything) about Caprese Chicken and the wheels started turning.

I tried finding the actual recipe but I was taken down too many roads with too little time, so I winged it.

Well, I didn't use any chicken wings, actually, but I used chicken breasts.  So I breasted it?

That sounds terrible.

Here's what I did:

I chopped 4 plum tomatoes, some basil from my garden and some fresh mozzarella.

I added some balsamic vinegar and a touch of salt, mixed it and let it sit for a while.

I cut the chicken breasts into halves, which I would do  next time.  You'll see why.

I put the chicken breasts into a quick marinade of balsamic vinegar and some olive oil and let them sit for about a half hour, turning a few times.

I turned on the grill at medium to let it heat up while I went into the greenhouse and picked these greens.

My chard and beets were wildly waving their greenery (and redery) so I figured it would make a nice side.  I need to find a new way to use greens.  My cook them with onion and garlic and let them wilt routine is becoming a little too routine.

Once the grill was warm, I put the chicken breasts halves on to cook.  When they were done, I put a little of the caprese on top of them to melt the cheese a little.  This is why I won't cut them again.  They were a little too small and the tomatoes kept sliding off.   A bigger surface would have worked better.  I wanted them to cook sooner, thus the cutting.

This was a really flavorful and different way to serve chicken.  If these tomatoes had been from my garden or local, I would have been even happier!

I served rice as a side, nothing fancy, though!

Linking here:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making A Perfect Arrow

When I make something, precision is always my goal. I'm a perfectionist and I can't help it.

And when something I make is going to be in public, it's even more important to me to "get it right".

Last weekend, we had the annual 5K that I have chaired for 12 years.  There are several corners where the runners and walkers have to turn, and this year,  I was a little short on volunteers.  I decided to make wooden arrows to put along the route so if I didn't get anyone to stand on those corners, at least the arrows would be there.

Until about 5 minutes ago, I didn't realize how much I like arrows.  Not shooting arrows, but arrows that point out things.  But, one of the hardest things about making an arrow is getting it even.  I like the point to be the same on both sides.

So, I make a template by folding a paper in half and drawing half of an arrow to get the shape I want.

For this project, I used an old posterboard so it would have some heft and be long enough.  And because I like to recycle.

I traced it onto some old plywood because there was no sense spending money on something that would be painted and then kept inside for all of eternity except for 4 hours once a year when they guide the runners.

 K-ster cut them all out with a combination of his skill saw and jigsaw.

And then I had to decide what to do to paint them.  I knew I would be making vinyl decals on the Cricut, but I was worried that they might not stick to some paints.

I decided to use spray paint, which I usually hate using.  I loved the richness of the blue, which is the Cultural Center's color, so I bought 2 cans and got to work.

Some people love to spray paint and do it all the time.  I hate it and do it as little as possible.  I don't like the way I do it, no matter how even I try to get it and I hate that it manages to get everywhere even when I try really hard to be far away from it and not in the wind.

I did 3 coats and brought them in for the night.

The next  night, I made my vinyl decals and was pretty excited to try them out.

And they promptly fell right off.  Not a letter would stick.  I was irate because a) I had made all of the decals already, b) I wasn't exactly sure what was making them not stick and c) I was panicking because I didn't have volunteers to stand at those corners so I needed these arrows to work.

I supposed I could have used the pretty blue arrows without words, but the words would make it so clear.  And look so much better!

I thought maybe it was the texture because though I had sanded the plywood before spraying, they had become really rough during the 3 sprayings.

I took one out and tried to sand it.  Then I had to repaint because they were scuffed.  I was afraid I'd be right back in the same place the next day, because I thought the gloss of the paint was what caused the non-sticking.

Surprisingly, the decals stuck right to the sanded and repainted arrows.  I guess it was the rough surface that was causing the trouble.

I wanted to also put the logo of the Cultural Center, but we were getting closer and closer to the end of the week and I haven't yet figured out how to get the Cricut to do custom images yet, so I left them as they are.

K-ster bolted them to some metal pipes and I put them in cones on the ground to help them stand up.  They worked really well.

I ended up having 2 volunteers stand at the two most crucial turns but I think I could do without and everyone would go the right way in the future!

Linking here:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Few Sandwiches Short of a Picnic

Do you know that expression?  It's one of the many charming phrases I grew up hearing that no one else seems to know.

If someone fits that category, they aren't quite all there.

For the 4th day this week, I'm playing with the SITS girls in their Stop the Summer Slump Blogging Challenge.  I'm a few days behind but let's pretend I'm not.

Today's theme is picnics.  We are supposed to write about a picnic, show pictures of one we had, make up a short story about picnics, etc.

I realized I haven't had many actual picnics in my life, but I suppose the closest I've ever come was one time in college.

Like probably every college, Vanderbilt had a freshman orientation program for the first few days of school called VUCEPT.  It was an acronym for something and since I was a VUCEPTOR my sophomore year, which meant I was a leader of a freshman group, I suppose I was all gung ho about what the letters stood for but 20 years later, I haven't the slightest idea beyond v(Vanderbilt) u(university).  Maybe the rest was about the conCEPT of college?

Who knows.

VUCEPT was all about making freshman feel like part of a group within the first few hours so they would embrace college life and not be sad about leaving home.  Our VUCEPTORS met us in our rooms very soon after moving in and we got together in a group of about 10.

One of the first things I remember doing, and it might actually have been the very first thing, was to go with our group across the street to Centennial Park.  This was a mini Central Park, very mini but more expansive than any park I'd ever been in, and it has its own Parthenon.  Like the one in Greece.

A Parthenon in Nashville.  Who knew?

We took a couple of pizzas to a table in the park and sat and ate pizza and got to know each other a little.  It was no picnic with a blankt or ants or kids paying with bubbles.  But, it was a meal outside in a park, with people, so I suppose was  a picnic.

I can't remember a single thing about our conversations that night and I vaguely remember some of the people in my group.  I know my VUCEPTOR was blond but I have no recollection of the guy VUCEPTOR.  I thought vucept groups became lifelong friends, but other than passing by a few of them a couple of times, I never saw them or talked to them again.

Isn't it funny how much you do with people when you have to, and you think you have a lot in common but when the push to do things together goes away, you just drift?  I can tell you a few of their names but I don't have any pictures of anything we did and it was all so busy and fast those first few days, I don't remember a lot of what we did.

Why that "picnic" stands out is a total mystery!

Linking here:

Friday, June 19, 2015

There's a Hole In My Bucket

This week, even though I keep falling behind on the days, I'm playing with the sits girls in their Stop the Summer Slump Blogging Challenge.

Today, or two days ago, the challenge is to make a bucket list of thing you must do this summer.

I have a thing about lists.  I don't make them.  Because when a list is made, then things have to actually get done.  And in a timely fashion, or they fester and cause so much stress that life becomes nothing but getting things done to cross off a list.

I had a friend in college, well I guess I still have this friend so that isn't really an accurate statement.  I have a friend who, in college, would spend inordinate amounts of time making lists.  Hours were spent on the list, perfecting the list, making the list look good and putting insurmountable numbers of things on the list.  And, SURPRISE, very little on the list was ever done and she was constantly very frustrated and didn't feel like she could do anything fun because she hadn't finished her list.

The only lists I make are shopping lists.

And packing lists.

And both of those are only done just before I leave, not weeks in advance.

Because if I write down my plans or even say them out loud, they become etched in stone, in my mine, and then I worry abut getting them done.

For me, summer has always been a time of relaxation and no plans.  I didn't realized for the first 1/3 of my life that we weren't a "normal" family because we never took summer vacations.  Owning a campground that is only open in the summer meant that we took vacations during other times of the year, or not at all.  Or we ran away for a few days but my parents were worried about leaving the park in none other than Aunt Mildred's hands for more than a couple of days.

I thought everyone had carefree summers that were spent with the tourists coming to them, instead of going off and being tourists.

Even in college, when I worked as many jobs as I could, I still felt like summer was still a break because it was a change in the routine.

When people ask me if I have plans for summer, I get very cagey.  I still teach my class at the gym and do my French group for adult and I work for my parents but because I live right on the property it doesn't feel like work, but it's hard to explain that to people.  So I usually don't really answer.  When they start telling me all of their summer plans, I start to sweat.  I can't imagine ruining my summer with week by week plans of all that must get done before school starts.  When people mention how many weeks of summer we have or how many days are left until school starts, I sneak away and hide somewhere.

I am so on the go from September to June, if I were to make serious plans and lists and expect to accomplish them in the summer, I would never get to recharge and my life would be nothing but a whirlwind of must get it done.

So, I can't share my bucket list for summer or any other time because I have no plans.  Except to plan not to plan every single day of my life.

Oh and I usually plan to have one day a week in summer when I don't get sweaty, which is really hard when I have a garden, mow grass, ride a horse and spend a lot of time outside.  Even on the non-sweaty days I still usually end up a tad moist, but that's OK because I never write down my plans to have a sweat free day.

Linking here too:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This Is Summer

I'm playing with the SITS girls this week, in their Stop the Summer Slump Blogging Challenge. 

Yesterday's theme was to step outside the usual routine and write in a different way, so I wrote like the reporter I will never be.

I'm actually a day behind, but let's pretend I'm not.

Today, the task is to write about the simple things.

There is no greater joy of summer for me than particular smells native to where I live.  First, it's the roses.  In my yard, we have rosa rugosa (below) and some other rambling and invasive white rose (above).  They bloom around the same time, right in the middle of June, and I can hardly describe the way they smell.

There isn't a much more enjoyable smell, to me.  They are pretty strong and I can't imagine being in a a closed room with them, but here, near the beach,   the smell is just part of what I grew up smelling.

Both roses have just shown up, with no help from me.  I don't water them, I am really mean to the white ones and cut them down all the time, and here they come, year after year, thumbing their noses by tantalizing mine.   They are untamable but in sandy conditions like we have here, plants have to adapt and once they do, good luck ever getting them under control.

And speaking of sand...

Another smell that is mostly prevalent in summer and a truly blissful smell because it means summer, is the beach itself.  I don't live on the beach, but I can almost see it from my house and often, I can smell it.  There's the low tide, hard boiled egg smell that isn't pretty, but mostly doesn't bother me because it means I live near the ocean and I like that.

But in the summer, there's another ocean smell that we sometimes get when the wind is just right.  If I am in my yard, smelling the roses and possibly another bush that has come into bloom which I can't name, my mind goes to every summer I can remember.

These smells are better than any perfume or food smells and for me, they are the reason summer is the best time of the year. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

National Fabric and Craft Store Requires Customers to Have PhD

"I'm not sure if this is on sale but I think I can get 40%"...  "I can't tell what the price is and what I will actually pay at the register"...  "Can I use a coupon on this, I can't tell"...  "Wait, what was the price on that?"

Have you recently been in a certain  national fabric and craft store and heard these very phrases or muttered them yourself?  Have you walked in with a fistful of coupons only to find that every, single thing you need is exempt from the coupons?  Are you frustrated that when your bill comes out of the register, you can't tell what you were charged?

Recently, customers were observed leaving the store in utter frustration, waving their receipts in the air, not sure if they got a bargain or had just been had.

It seems that the receipt that prints has so many numbers on it, a customer would need a high degree in mathematics to understand their total.  There's the original price, the sale price, the price that a coupon might have reduced and the percentage off that you possibly received because you have a value card.

The cashiers don't seem to know much more than the customers.   When asked if items are on sale, the cashiers can't answer until it is scanned.  When asked if a coupon will work, a cashier can't answer until the item is scanned as well as the coupon.  When asked why sales tax was charged on some fabrics and not others, in a state where clothing isn't taxed, no cashier could explain.

The cashiers are very good at telling people  how to text headquarters to get an on the spot coupon on their smartphones, keeping everyone in line busy until it's their turn.  However, when customers try to use their on the spot coupons, they often don't work because everything was already on sale and everyone looks like fools.

The signage in the store is also incredibly misleading.  Currently, there is a sign for a bag for $14.99.  But then it says free gift with purchase.  This reporter believes that means that with a purchase, the $14.99 bag comes along for free. 

Apparently, the free gift is a little fake flower on the bag that comes along when you pay $14.99 for the bag.

A few weeks ago, there were wreaths on the wall with prices. A customer tried to purchase one of the wreaths for the price indicated but according to the register and the cashier the prices on the wall were not correct.  In a state where the price written is the price the store must honor, it still took the customer quite a while to convince the cashier to follow the rules.

What's a frustrated customer to do?  When crafting needs to be done and the choice of stores is limited, it seems the only option is to return to school for a degree not only in math, but also in business and possibly English.  Reading the rules on the coupons and understanding the signs in the store proves to be just as difficult as understanding just what percentage a customer has just saved.  A law degree would also prove helpful for negotiation purposes. 

Until those highly coveted degrees come through, customers can brace themselves for the worst by pretending they will pay full price for everything they want.  If they can afford everything at full price, imagine the joy they will feel when coupons and sale items reduce the price.  If they cannot afford everything at full price then they can practice buying in moderation and deal with the disappointment of not getting what they wanted.

Or, they can take a gamble and bring it all to the register, coupons in hand, ready for the glares of customers in line behind them as they say "no thank you" to half of their items.

I'm playing along with as we Stop The Summer Slump and try writing in different voices and styles.  Today's post was my newspaper reporter voice.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Making Do For Free

Living in a very old house, the biggest frustration is lack of closet space.  The space we do have is pretty small, so storage is really a problem.

Until a couple of weeks ago, this is how the sheets and bedding were stored.

Piled up in a window, getting covered with dust and pollen, falling over on a pretty regular basis.  And that little table full of drawers it's sitting on?  Utterly useless because the drawers are really small.

When we moved into this house, the house I grew up in, the former tenant had left some things behind.  One of them was a bureau that we had used and must have left behind when we moved next door, into a new house that has plenty of closet space.

It was a 5 drawer bureau but try as I might, I never found one of the drawers, so it sat upstairs, unused. I was convinced that some day I'd find that drawer.

After the millionth time the pile of bedding fell over, I decided to get creative.  It occurred to me that we might be able to cut the top off the bureau and cut it down so it was a 4 drawer bureau and then glue the top back on.

I'm not picky about storage, just desperate.

But where to put it?  Another issue is space that makes sense.  There's a lot of space in this house, but things like windows, doors, fireplaces that don't work and radiators that do really put a cramp in any kind of decorating style.  Finding a place for a bureau was going to be a challenge.

There's a useless fireplace in the bedroom, complete with a mantel.    If we cut that bureau down to 4 drawers, it was going to fit perfectly on the bricks in front of the fireplace and it wouldn't be tripped over.

It took some convincing, but while I was out one day, k-ster cut it down for me.

You only see 3 drawers?  That's because he thought I wanted to put it IN the fireplace, and 3 drawers would fit in.

But, I had plans for the top of that baby, so out it came.  It now stores all of the bedding and on top, I've made use of the space to put other things that had random locations beforehand.

It's not ideal but really solves a problem!

The wood is scratched and I know plenty of people out there who would paint it but I don't like that look, so I'm leaving it as is.  Well, not with all of that dust.  I cleaned it, at least!

Linking here: 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Bo, Luke and Daisy

It's been exactly 6 months since Gwennevere went off to mousier pastures and k-ster finally agreed it was time to get kittens.

I've been looking for about a month but we have this weird situation around here where kittens aren't very plentiful.  Usually, May is the high season for kittens, but there were none to be had at  any of the shelters for the entire month.  I'm willing to pay for kittens from a shelter but I draw the line at driving more than an hour to get one.

My sister has fostered a lot of kitten litters through a shelter but for most of the winter, she didn't have any litters.  Again, a really strange thing.  I really wanted her to get a litter so I could go and play with them often to make my choice more based on how well we got along instead of who was the most demanding that I take it home, but she never got a litter and time was marching along.

We went to the only shelter that has kittens right now last Tuesday but there were only two and I didn't like the dopey look of one of them.  And the other was pretty scared.  So, we made an appointment to go back Sunday to look at two orange litters that were coming.

Call me picky, but I have some requirements when it comes to cats.  I don't want pure black.  I've only met one solid black cat that was tolerable.  I don't want long hair or Persian smooshed faces.

I wasn't too crazy about getting orange cats because my experience with orange cats hasn't been great either.

And, I've always had a theory that male urine smells worse, so I want females.

I knew I wanted to get two kittens from the same litter or at least from the same age group who already knew each other.  I always felt bad that Gwenstopher was alone for the first few months I had her and then I got another kitten but they never were really best friends.  When Bandit vanished, Gwennevere became a whole new cat and was tickled to be alone.

This time, I wanted a pair from the beginning so they'd play and sleep together.

K-ster has been ambivalent about getting a new cat.  He kept saying it wasn't time.  I told him I'd wait until May and when we went looking and came home empty handed, I think he was relieved.  He had made a mountain out of a molehill in his head and had envisioned that kittens are a lot of work and destroy things.

I've had cats my entire life, and I don't recall anything I would call "work" with kittens.  Not like puppies that need training and constant walking.  Kittens are pretty self-sufficient, though when they are small, they need to be watched so they don't get stuck in small spaces.

We went back to the shelter on Sunday and were greeted with no orange cats, but a trio of kittens by themselves in a room.  This group was super friendly and came right out and played with us.  I knew which two I wanted but both of us were sad to leave one alone.  K-ster said we should get 3.

THREE?  Do you know what 3 cats using a litter box is like?   He said it can't be worse than 2.

THREE?  Do you know how much 3 will cost?  The lady said we could have the third one for a song.

THREE?  Do you know how much kitten hell that will be?  It can't be worse than 2.

 Introducing Bo, Daisy and Luke.  Bo hitched a ride.  He bordered on the black cat I didn't want but with all that white and the cutest whiskers that make him look like a seal, I couldn't say no.  He was also the most personable at first.  He was the first one to come over to us and since they've been home, he's been the first to greet us every time.

Daisy and Luke are tigers.  Luke is a soft grey tiger and the colors are just gorgeous.  Daisy is more of a brown tiger, but she looks unlike Gwennevere enough that it's not creepy to have another tiger in the house.  Plus the white paws are so cute and different.

Have you seen that new trend where women get their ring finger fingernail painted a different color?  It's called the sparkle nail?  Well, Bo has that!

I've always been a big believer in "putting the cats away" at night.  We have a bathroom just for that purpose.  Eventually, Gwennevere and Bandit weren't locked in the bathroom anymore, but we did close off part of the house so they didn't bug us at night.

With these guys, they will spend a lot of time in the bathroom until they are big enough to be allowed all over the house during the day.  The bathroom is a fine size, but not big enough to really run around.  When we let them into the living room last night, they tore around like maniacs, racing, jumping and playing and finally wore themselves out a little bit.

Daisy was still doing wild tricks while these two were taking a time out.

Putting away three cats for the night is no easy feat and really, not a one person job.  ONce two were away, the third went on his own but I know they will figure out that trick really soon and I'll have to come up with something to lure them in.

As I write this today, they are racing through the living room.  They do a lot of talking and Daisy especially does a lot of chirping and grumbling.  When one goes into another room, he will start calling the others to come join him.  They are so ridiculously cute and funny.

And have you ever heard kittens racing on the rug?  The herd of horses at the barn has nothing on them.  For such little creatures they make a stupendous amount of noise.  If we didn't put them away at night, they'd keep us up!

Three kittens.  That's a lot of litter box cleaning.....

Linking here:

Monday, June 1, 2015

Potatoes And Greens Oh My

My greens are growing quite prolifically in the greenhouse right now, so I'm always looking for things to do with them.  One of the things I love about growing greens in the greenhouse is that they remain very clean and almost bug-free.  So much so that I don't even want to wash them because they are so perfect.  I just want to chop them up and enjoy the.  But, I have to at least rinse them because my conscience just won't have it any other way!

This is a bunch of Fordhook Swiss Chard, Rainbow Lights Swiss Chard, some other chard I forget the type of and some beet greens.  Is there any other chard that isn't Swiss?  Do we need to add the word Swiss every time?  My rainbow chard never grow anything but red or white.  When I buy it at the store with the vibrant orange, yellow or bluish red, I remember that mine never turns out that way.

But, who can complain with beautiful greenery like this, growing away like its destiny was to be planted in my greenhouse?

The other day, a woman told me that she made an Indian dish with fenugreek and potatoes.  I don't grow fenugreek and I don't think I've ever had it.  She sad it's a bitter green but when you cook, it the bitterness goes away and you throw in some spices.  Then she added roasted potatoes.

Did someone say roasted potatoes?  I LOOOOOOOVE roasted potatoes and nothing roasts them better than my Pampered Chef stoneware.

I had a bundle of theses little multicolored potatoes just waiting for something new and exciting and I thought maybe I'd try using my greens and add some roasted potatoes.

I chopped up the stems of the chard and some of the radishes that are growing in the greenhouse and sauteed them in some oil with garlic.  If I had any onions, I would have added them too, but mine are still tiny in the ground and I didn't have any on hand.  I added extra garlic but really, I could have added even more because I never tasted it at the end.

While those were sauteing, I put the chopped potatoes to roast in the oven with some oil.  When I roast vegetables or potatoes, I move them around a lot so they will cook well and not stick.  That's how I keep an eye on when they are done.  I cut the small potatoes in half and then half again so they'd cook faster and be bite sized.

Once the stems seemed soft, I added all of the lush greens and let them wilt.  Then I added quite a bit of balsamic vinegar and a little salt.  Just now, I realize that I never added the cayenne pepper that I had planned to add.  That would have been nice.

While the greens were wilting and the potatoes were finishing, I browned some thin chicken breasts.  Nothing fancy or worth showing.

When the potatoes were done, I put most of them in with the greens and mixed them around so the balsamic mixed with the potatoes.  I served it with the chicken which ended up mixed in with the greens and potatoes.

I really liked adding the potatoes to all of the chard.  It was a nice extra flavor.  I think we get tired of the way I usually serve greens, sauteed and topped with vinegar, so this was a nice change.

Linking here: