Toast

Yes, it’s a very simple thing, but I do love it! I wasn’t feeling well this morning and it’s the only thing I wanted, besides a cup of plain, black tea. Toast with butter. Plain white. It helped get over that not so great feeling. It’s what Mom used to make for me and one of the best comfort foods. Mmmm, crispy toast spread with soft butter.

Which bread makes the best toast? There are soooo many options. Raisin bread, whole grain bread, cinnamon bread, and good old white bread. All you need is a toaster and some butter. And heck no to margarine. Butter is the way to go. No chemical or artificial substitutes need apply. I grew up in Dairyland and I likes me butter! Oh, and my butter sits in the cabinet in a butter dish. I know, I know, “Shouldn’t it be refrigerated?” Well, I haven’t died yet and I’ve been eating it this way since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. My house is generally cool enough to keep it in stick form.

Want to dress it up a bit? Momma would add a small amount of cinnamon and sugar and then cut the toast into “fingers.” It made it seem like a decadent treat, when all it was just buttered toast with a sweet sprinkling, cut into four pieces. You can also butter it and add your favorite jam. What’s the best jam? Homemade freezer jam. Haven’t had freezer jam? Read my previous post. You will NEVER want any other kind. Summer is coming and it’s the perfect time to make it, because ripe fruit works best. And you don’t need anything more than fruit, sugar, a box of Sure Jell Low-Sugar Fruit Pectin, and eight 8-oz. containers. It’s a no-brainer.

Get a little protein with your toast by adding a thin layer of softened cream cheese with your jam or fresh fruit, thinly sliced. You can also butter a slice on both side, cut a hole in the middle with a biscuit cutter, drop it in a fry pan, crack an egg in the hole, dust with salt and pepper, top with the buttered cut out, flip and when the egg is cooked, enjoy. You will not see me do this, because I do not like eggs.

I could eat toast anytime of day. If you use whole grain bread, you’re not just getting a bit of comfort, you’re getting fiber, something we all need.

 

 

April 24, 2016 at 3:24 pm Leave a comment

Salad dressing

I was never much of a salad eater, perhaps because it was the only part of the meal I was ever allowed to make…and back in the day, it consisted of iceberg lettuce, rock hard tomatoes, and waxy cucumbers. Occasionally, a bit of shredded carrot made its way into the mix and maybe a radish or two in the summer, but in my world that was basically a salad. I know you’re supposed to eat your greens and I’ve learned that I actually enjoy salads, as long as they’re interesting. What makes a salad better? Arugula, mixed greens, ripe tomatoes or grape cherry tomatoes, English cucumber, peppers, red onion, nuts, cheeses, like Feta, blue or my favorite BellaVitano from Satori, dried fruit like cherries or cranberries, and of course an amazing dressing. I often make my own, but I LOVE Beekman 1802 Happy Goat Chevre Dressing, available at Target. It’s creamy and with a hint of goat cheese flavor. Makes my mouth water, just to think of it. Really, for me, it’s the dressing that makes a salad zing!

There are so many yummy salads you can make that don’t even include lettuce, like one of Rachael Ray’s chopped salads or Trisha Yearwood’s Ty’s Thai Salad (adjust the dressing…way too much oil and sugar for me. I cut the recipe in half, but would cut the oil to about 1/3 cup and use less sugar. You can always add more.).

For homemade dressings, try:

Standard Red Wine Vinegar Dressing (the little man really likes this):

1 1/2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar (0ptional).

Combine all ingredients and whisk together or shake in a sealable jar.  The touch of sugar really makes it yummy. Pour it over your favorite salad fixings.

The Beekman Boys have a great salad dressing recipe list, too.

Summer is coming and it’s time for me to ramp up the greens and veggies! They always make me feel healthier.

 

March 20, 2016 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

Kitchen Gadgets

I just bought myself a birthday present…a PL8 Professional Mandoline. Why? Because I didn’t have one. And, there are times when I want to thinly slice something and I am not a chef and am too afraid of cutting off a finger with a sharp knife. Am I not worried about slicing off a finger with the mandoline? Yes. But it does have a guide to help prevent that and I have a pair of gloves that will add additional protection! A co-worker bought them for me when I did slice part of my index finger off with a rotary cutter. Big oops, but lesson learned.

Many years ago, I used to pine over items in the Williams-Sonoma catalog. I’d think to myself, ‘Someday, I will buy that. And that. And that.’ Well, now I have just about every gadget I need. It’s taken a long time, but I can’t really think of another item I would actually need to buy. So, what are my favorites? I’ve talked about my Kuhn-Rikon garlic press, the Excalibur Dehydrator, silicone pot holders, and Wusthof knives. But I also love my:

I love lots of other items like my potato masher, my ice cream scoop (old school with the button to release the ice cream), mini-cookie cutters for fall pie crusts, and more.
Do I really need all these items? No, but they make kitchen tasks easier and more fun!

 

January 30, 2016 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

Happy 2016!

This has been my busiest year that I can recall. It just seems like the time has flown by and I know that’s said for those of us reaching old age, but it was sooooo true for me this year. When I got home from our Christmas visits to our children and grandchildren, I put my traveling suitcase inside the larger one and happily zipped it closed. This surprised me, because I do like to travel, but right now, I’m kinda over it. Plus, I’m out of travel size products.

Thinking back over the years that I’ve been doing this blog, so many products, stores, etc. are still my all-time favorites, like Oregon Chai and Target. Oregon Chai is the reason I’m still a few pounds heavier than I should be (I did get a new treadmill!), but I still find a cup of hot chai comforting, especially when I’m at work. And if you’ve never been to a Target store, it’s hard to know the difference in big box stores, but there is a big difference! Target does it all so incredibly well and right. The brightly lit stores, wide aisles, interesting items along with everyday necessities, and now they even carry Beekman 1802 products, which I also love. Plus, the stores don’t smell bad. And you can’t go wrong with a Target Red credit card. I save 5% on every purchase, it comes right off the bill, plus I always get free shipping. Believe me, when I bought my patio furniture online, it was a great savings. I even buy clothing there. Their Merona brand is a nice line. What’s not to love?

This is, I hope the countdown to my last year of employment outside the home. I’m always thinking about my next stage of life, what I really want to do, and how I should proceed. I’m currently reading, Uncover Your Calling: Work Reimagined by Richard Leider and David Shapiro. I do think I should know what I want to be, but I’m not there yet. It’s one reason why I think it’s pretty odd to expect an 18-year-old to know what he/she wants to be when they leave high school, when I know plenty of adults who have no clue. Maybe the book will help me figure it out. We’ll see. But that said, I really want to spend more time with my family and my four grandsons. They’re growing up fast and I feel like I’m missing out.

I will continue to post more of my favorite things in the coming year. There is always something new to love!

I hope, dear readers, that your new year brings you good health, stable finances, joy, and the quest for engaging with people, new cultures, and art of discovery!

 

 

 

January 3, 2016 at 4:08 pm Leave a comment

Hard Cider

I never would have guessed I’d be writing this post. As someone who never liked beer and I now like interesting beer, I feel the same way about cider. Back in the olden days, the only one I ever tasted was Woodchuck, and I was not a fan. Too sweet and I just didn’t care for the flavor. Well, folks, that’s allllll changed now. I am actually a fan of cider!

About six or so years ago, my son talked to me about getting into the cider business. At the time, there were only a handful available, Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, and Crispin. Having been in England, where there were tons of options, I thought it was a good idea. And it was, but for him, that business plan didn’t pan out as planned and in the meantime, the business stateside exploded. Now, there’s a plethora of options. You can get dry champagne style cider (Crispin original and Brut are good choices) and fruity combination ciders. Some, I admit, are not that great and though this is a bit TMI, give me ‘soapy tasting burbs.’ Am I the only one who has that issue? I hope not.

So, which ciders do I like? My current fav is just about anything by Ace from California. Unfortunately, I can’t buy it in KY! That reminds me of Coors in the old days, when you had to go to Colorado to get it. It’s totally annoying. I have to cross state lines to get it. Which flavors do I like? Pineapple rocks my world. It is the most amazingly refreshing drink. It tastes just like pineapple! You may say, “Why drink cider that tastes like pineapple and not apple?” Because it’s really good! I like their pear, and the apple. Both are good and not overly sweet.  My next favorite is CiderBoys (from my home state of Wisconsin) Raspberry Smash. Lots of fruit and bubble and soooo flavorful. Their Peach Country, Grand Mimosa and Cranberry Road are wonderfully flavored, too. I can’t wait to try more from both of these companies.

The worst cider I’ve ever had was some brand of Scrumpy in England. I thought it had gone off, because it tasted like rotten fruit, but I was told, “No, that’s the way it tastes.” O-kay.

 

RaspberrySmash1Ace-Pineapple-Cider

October 25, 2015 at 2:20 pm Leave a comment

Alaska shows

Okay, so I’m sometimes easily sucked into watching marathons on TV. I got hooked on Alaska, the Last Frontier, Alaskan Bush People, and even Living Alaska. I draw the line at the trucker and fishing shows, though. I can’t spend all my time watching TV! Which show is my fav? Hard to say. I watch all of them. Every episode. I DVR them, just in case I’m not home, because I don’t want to miss an installment. What are these shows? Reality TV for the most part, though some doubt the validity. I’m taking them with a grain of salt, but I do enjoy them, even if there is some scripting.

Alaska, the Last Frontier has just started a new season and it ends on a rough note. The show is about two brothers, Atz and Otto, and their families. Their father, Yule Kilcher moved to Alaska to escape Hitler’s reign and to create a life as a homesteader. So now, the sons are carrying on the family tradition with their sons and families, Atz Lee and Jane and Eivin and Eve. I like the dynamics and relationships and seeing the somewhat day to day living. It’s entertaining to see the interaction among all the family members, even when times get strained. In the end, you know there’s a lot of love. There is also a lot of mud, snow, and hunting. I’m not a big fan of hunting/fishing, but at least they eat and use what they kill. Otto raises cattle, so he doesn’t have to hunt for deer or bears. The group also have chickens, goats, and raise gardens for produce, which does get canned. You do get to see panoramas of Alaskan scenery. It is beautiful, but the cold winters are not for me.

Otto cracks me up. He has a great sense of humor and it comes out…like the time he had to move the outhouse, because a ‘poopsicle’ touched his butt. Okay, a bit TMI, but it was funny. He’s a creative guy who can fix just about anything. Every now and then, he gets a little crankly, but overall, he adds a lot of levity. I’m guessing he and Charlotte have no indoor plumbing. I was so surprised to see that Eiven and Eve had none. Eve grew up without it. Eivin did install ‘running water’, but it was a pipe connected to a creek. I was wondering how Eve was going to wash diapers without a decent washing machine. Otto and Charlotte did their laundry outside with an old wringer washer. They made it sound like ‘spring is here. Time to do laundry.’ Ga-ross! I need clean, so that wouldn’t work for me.

Side note: these families live not far from Homer, AK, and they do go to town for supplies. I’ve seen bananas at Eivin and Eve’s house and they are not grown that far north. Also, I have heard the senior members are millionaires, due to their land ownership. They do have lots of large equipment like backhoes, a barge, etc.  Also, Atz, Sr. is the father of singer Jewel and has been a musician himself. He and Jewel sing the show’s opener. This show has been nominated for an Emmy twice, for best reality series. I’m not the ONLY one who enjoys it.

Spoiler alert, if you aren’t aware of an significant member accident that takes place…skip to the next paragraph. I’m giving you a bit of space here, so you don’t see what I’m going to talk about, in case you really don’t want to know yet. What happened at the end of the season? Atz Lee was hiking and fell. He broke about 25 bones, including his shoulder, arm, ankle, hip, crushed ribs and punctured his lungs. He is on the mend, but isn’t leaving the cabin on two feet yet. We’ll find out more in the near future.  We also see the announcement of a new sibling for Eivin and Eve’s son Findley!

Alaskan Bush People has drawn controversy, because they have basically been squatters trying to homestead property and it hasn’t worked out until last season, when they bought land on the most bear populated island in Alaska, Chichagof. Many think this is a fake show with actors, but I don’t buy that. This is a real family unit headed by Billy and Ami Brown. They have five sons and two daughters. I find all of them entertaining. Similar to Alaska, the Last Frontier, they try to live off the land. Again, I know they do buy items from town and for ‘living off the land,’ the fact that they have supposedly lost everything more than once, they do seem to have a lot of things.

This family seems a bit like a throw back, since the movies they reference are mostly from the past, due to limited viewing abilities. Gabe, the jokester does a mean Sean Connery. Like Otto Kilcher, Noah is the family tinkerer who can make something from nothing, like a generator, a dumb waiter, a dryer, and a shower. Matt the eldest is often goofy and acts more like the youngest boy, who is actually the rather staid and Medieval loving Noah. Throw the task master Bam and extreme tree climber Bear into the mix and it makes for entertaining show. The girls Snowbird and Rain (Merry Christmas Catherine Raindrop) often are background players, even though Snow can out-shoot her brothers when hunting. I really would like to know more about their daily diets. They do live away from civilization. From time to time they travel to town for pizza, supplies, and women. The last one is something I think will prove challenging. Billy and Ami want the boys to marry, but they aren’t exactly ready for civilized girls. There have to be some in Alaska, since these guys are close to the median age of the population. But finding someone who will want to live in Brown town might be elusive. A matchmaker did try. I was sad when tender soul Noah’s heart was broken by a failed friendship.

The back story on Billy is that he grew up in a well-to-do Texas family and was the sole member when his mother, father, and sister were killed in a plane crash on March 3, 1969 near Lake Travis, TX. Billy Joe Brown’s co-workers took over the company and 16-year-old Billy Bryan Brown was homeless for a while. I’m not sure how all of that happened. Billy has written a book about it, One Wave at a Time, but I haven’t read it.

I like this show, once again, because of the family dynamics and their bush lifestyle. Do they make it look easy? No. Living in a log trapper’s shack with moss for chinking or a tent or in Matt’s case, a plastic wrap hut doesn’t look look appealing. They are often wet from the seemingly constant drizzle and red-faced from the cool temps. They barter a lot of make ends meet and have plenty of mishaps, like the only source of transportation sinking or floating away. I do love the love this family shares. More. It’s what they say to each other when parting, short for “I love you more.” They are a tender-hearted family and it’s touching.

Living Alaska is an HGTV show that features families who want to live in the last frontier. Would I want to live there? Not really. I do get a kick out of people who move from North Carolina to frigid temps and think it’s funny…at first. I bet they don’t after the first long winter with very dark or sunny nights and 60-below wind chills.  The people who are shocked to hear a moose or bear might go through their backyard and eat their dog or worse…keep the kiddies in sight, shock me the most. They obviously don’t research places prior to moving. Hello, people, this is Alaska and you are in the animal’s territory. Those people need to stay in the lower 48. Oh, and if you build a house in Alaska, please add a door for the bathroom, a closet for each bedroom, and don’t forget the heated garage! Even I am shocked by the lack of bathrooms with doors or lofts that count as a bedroom. In the end for me, no worries. I plan to visit the last frontier, not live there. In the meantime, I certainly enjoy all these shows that show me what life can be when you’re trying to live off the land or seeing a setting with spectacular scenery and wildlife. Unlike most, I’d be photographing the fauna, not shooting.

My only complaint about these shows? I want more episodes!

October 11, 2015 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

Zillow

What do I do when I have a few minutes to waste? Surf Zillow! Not familiar with it this website? It shows homes for sale all over the country and includes prices of existing homes, so you can get a better feel for a neighborhood, if you’re considering buying or listing your house. Or, you can just look at the homes to see how much people paid, which homes are in foreclosure, or daydream about buying that perfect beach house! They have aerial views to let you see what the house and neighborhood actually look like (Is that a dump? Are those railroad tracks? Wow, it’s only a few blocks from the beach!)

I love looking at houses and if someone would pay me to do that, it would be my full-time job. I’ve always loved the West…Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, so the other night, I spent some time on my iPad looking at homes. In Wyoming, near the Tetons or Jackson, I couldn’t find a single house I really liked and price was not an issue! I was looking for a log home that epitomized the ruggedness of the West and I didn’t see one. That surprised me. I thought for sure there would be one stunner that blew me away. I’m sure there is one, but it’s not currently on the market where I could see the interior. Every one I looked at needed changes. Granted, it’s personal preference when it comes to houses, but I was shocked that even up to $20 million, I didn’t see something that met my expectations. But, it’s free to look, so I’ll check out Colorado and Montana. Not that I’m going to buy there, as it’s tooooo cold in the winter for my likes, but with Zillow, it’s fun to see what’s out there.

I was on Zillow this morning while eating my baked oatmeal and I noticed that since I bought my house in 1998, it’s gone up about $33K. Looking at my brother’s house, because he lives in one of the priciest areas of the country, the house he bought in 2012 has gone up about $200,000. Zillow’s price estimates are a guess, but probably in the ballpark. That’s unreal to me that in such a short time, he will already make a big profit, whereas in my area, housing has been flat…which seems to be my luck in any place I’ve lived.  Another thing that amazes me, is watching shows like House Hunter’s, where even couples in their 30s, in  California, have budgets of $950,000. Not sure what their salaries are, but they must be a whole lot more than where I live. With Zillow, you can see the price of the house and get a peek at what the mortgage might be and even what the home might rent for, if you are an investor.

If nothing else, it is fun to be able to look at tons of properties for decorating ideas. Styles vary around the country and it’s evident in the photos. Zillow.com is the website and I use the app on my devices. As my grandma always said, “If you’re going to dream, dream big” and I do that by looking at homes. I may never get the 7000 sq. ft. house of my dreams, but I can look at them. Actually, right now, I’m into tiny homes, but I heard that someone hooked up a vehicle and stole one! I’m going to need a BIG anchor!

August 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

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