29 November 2013

Feline Friday: Those FEET!

 Anyone who meets Lily immediately notices her little white feet. We call them socks, but they're actually more like tennis shoes because they run FAST! 
 Those four little white feet are incredibly cute and sometimes naughty! But even when they're doing some not-so-nice things, those little white feet with the gray paw pads are always adorable!


27 November 2013


It's been the roughest of years. But I have much to be thankful for in this season. I mean, really...could it possibly get any better than this sight at our kitchen table?
 Such a joy to have her home. 
Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

22 November 2013

Feline Friday: Upside Down Basketball

 It's college basketball season, which means (now that I've become an IU fan!) you can find me watching Indiana basketball!

 Of course, anytime my lap is available, Lily takes full advantage. As I watched a recent game, I also had a great view of this very soft tummy:

But instead of sleeping, I discovered that Lily was actually watching the game, too!

I wonder how the Hoosiers looked UPSIDE DOWN? ;)
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20 November 2013

Recipe: Turkish Red Lentil Soup

 We recently visited our daughter, a student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to spending time with her, one of our favorite things to do while there is try out the many ethnic restaurants. Bloomington has more than its share of fantastic places to eat and although we've tried, I'm sure we won't be able to visit them all before she graduates!

On this visit, we had lunch at a Turkish restaurant, the second one we've tried in Bloomington. It was incredibly good, and the pictures below do not do it justice! I tried the eggplant pide, pictured in the lower right of the collage, a chewy bread filled with a delicious eggplant/veggie mixture. I also had a cup of their famous red lentil soup. It was so good that I decided to hunt down a recipe and make it at home!

I picked a recipe (printed below) that looked similar to the one we had tasted. It called for two ingredients I had never purchased: bulgur and red lentils. (I have cooked both brown and green lentils, but red lentils have a different taste and consistency, making them perfect for pureed soups like this one.)

At the grocery store, I found the red lentils with the soup beans and finally tracked down the bulgur in the baking section. From the size of the packages, it looks like we will be having this soup a LOT! The recipe also called for dried mint which I could not find, so I substituted fresh mint in double the amount listed. You can't go wrong with fresh herbs.

 The recipe doesn't specify the type of rice, so I used the basmati brown rice which I had on hand. Basmati rice is used in Middle Eastern cooking. This particular rice was grown in Texas -- hence the "Texmati" label.
 Although I don't know if it was necessary, I rinsed the lentils and bulgur before starting the recipe. (Helpful hint: Do not put the bulgur in a strainer with big holes!!!)

 I wish you could just touch the picture and smell this soup! Oh, my goodness...the kitchen smelled so good!

After it cooks on the stove, you need to puree it in a blender (or with an immersion blender) to achieve a smoother consistency. Helpful hint: Do NOT think you can do this with your regular hand mixer, unless you want to end up with red lentil soup splattered all over your kitchen!

After a bit of clean-up, I dug out the blender and did as the recipe suggested! :) Then I put the soup in the crock pot for a couple of hours, just to keep it warm and let the flavors meld a little bit more. It thickened up just a little in the crock pot.
This soup is soooo incredibly delicious and filling! I put a spoonful of plain yogurt (often used as a condiment in Turkish/Indian restaurants) on top of my soup and stirred it it for a little extra smoothness. Can't wait to make this one again!

 Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint 
(from Allrecipes.com) 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced tomatoes, drained
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup fine bulgur (could probably substitute couscous)
1/4 cup rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon dried mint (I used 2 T of fresh mint)
salt and ground black pepper to taste 

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Cook and stir the onion in the hot oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir the garlic into the onion and cook another 2 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes to the onion mixture; continue to cook and stir another 10 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock, red lentils, bulgur, rice, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne pepper, and mint to the tomato mixture; season with salt and black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook at a simmer until the the lentils and rice are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Pour the soup into a blender to no more than half full. Firmly hold the lid in place and carefully start the blender, using a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree. Puree in batches until smooth; pour into your serving dish. Alternately, you can use a stick blender and puree the soup in cooking pot.

17 November 2013

Too Cute to Hoot!

 Knowing how much I love owls, a friend of mine recently purchased a cast iron owl ashtray for me at an auction. He wasn't quite sure what it was, but after a little thought we determined that it had been an ashtray. He had it sandblasted so that all the rust and wear was gone.

I accidentally deleted my "before" picture, but when I received my owl, it looked MUCH better than the one in this picture I found on the internet! In fact, it really didn't even need painting, other than to prevent rusting over time.

 Enter our favorite Rust-Oleum Oil-Rubbed Bronze Metallic Spray Paint:

 Before I could say "whooooo", Spouse had given it a couple of quick coats. It turned out great! I love how it is both stylish AND functional!

Now this cute little guy now has a new mission in life in my craft room. He can hold small rings and chains...

...or jewelry tags...

 ...or trimmer blades! (Why do I have so many trimmer blades, anyway???) Or buttons...or whatever!
He's too cute to HOOT! :)

16 November 2013

Photo Organization Project: Part 3

 I am slowly working my way through box after box of photos I brought home from my parents' house. I know I'm not the only one working on a project like this, so I thought I would share my process in the event that it might work for someone else. (Here are links to the previous posts: Part 1 and Part 2) Of course, it helps to have a great assistant like Lily! :)

This week I started sorting through the "everyday" photos, snapshots of daily life. These photos fall into three categories, each with or without dates:
1) Loose photos
2) Photos in envelopes
3) Photos removed from old albums

My goal is to put them all into date order in the black photo boxes I use for storage. This is a challenge because many (most) of the photos are not dated. 

Sorting Process
 I cut some acid-free cardstock to 4.25x7 to fit in my photo boxes and labeled a card for each year. This is a quick and easy way to make dividers when you need a lot of them.  Behind each decade of pictures, I created a divider for "Undated photos from the the 1980's" (or 1990's, etc.). I can usually figure out what decade the photos are from, so any pictures I can't date go in that slot for the time being.

Loose Photos
I sorted through stacks of loose photos, separating the photos with dates from those without. Some undated photos were easy to figure out, as they were obviously taken at the same time as other photos with dates. I also sorted the photos with rounded corners from the photos with square corners. Why? Because they were obviously taken with different cameras at different times. Hopefully this will help me determine approximate dates at some point!

 Photos Removed from Albums
 Before the auction, I removed photos from perhaps 10 old photo albums. They were inexpensive photo albums with the slip-in type sleeves. Because they were bulky to store, I sold the albums at the auction and filed the photos (in order) in boxes so I could integrate them into my organization system. Since I'm the one who put them in the albums many moons ago, I'm hoping they are in relative order! We'll see about that as this project progresses. I have not yet tackled those boxes!

Photos in Envelopes
Other than the boxes of loose photos, my biggest task is sorting through the photos in developer envelopes -- simply because I have so many of them. The envelopes can be both a good and bad thing. From an organization standpoint, they are helpful since the photos are kept together. But from a preservation standpoint, you never want to keep photos in developer envelopes long-term, because the paper may not be acid free. So my goal is to remove the photos and put them in my chronologically dated photo boxes, separated by dividers made from acid-free cardstock.

 First I sorted the envelopes by subject, specifically separating out photos from my parents' winters in Arizona. I plan to make an album of some of those photos, so I decided to store them separately and not mix them in with our family photos. 
Some of the photos have those annoying little dates on the front -- something I normally don't like but am thankful for in this situation! Unfortunately my parents didn't know how to reset the date on their camera, and it often showed an obviously wrong year. So I can't always go by those dates! :)

Other photos are marked on the back with dates, or can be dated by an activity (such as a wedding) taking place in that year.  As I worked, I tried to get rid of some of the duplicate photos to reduce the bulk.

By the end of one long evening, I had gone through lots of photos and filed them into my photo boxes. I still have miles to go but have made a good start!
 Like any big project, getting started is the hardest part!

15 November 2013

Feline Friday: Antiquing

There are some new and strange things in our house these days, treasures  from my parents' house over the summer. I'm still figuring out where they'll all land but in the meantime, Lily has decided it is her duty to sleep on each one!

Antique quilt? Quite comfy, thank you!

 Grandma's Plexiglass covered dollhouse? Don't mind if I do!

 Lily has been reminded to make better choices. Hopefully today will be that day, but I am not holding my breath! ;)

14 November 2013

Mad Men Glassware

 If you've been reading my blog, you know that I've just come through a very rough summer. As such, I needed to distract myself occasionally and one evening stumbled upon Mad Men on Netflix. One episode turned into four, and now Spouse and I have worked our way through Season 5. This series is about the Madison Avenue ("MAD Men") advertising business and is set in the 1960's. Maybe it's because I grew up in that era that I love this show so much. Although it's a drama (and quite a drama at that!), I like the fact that the series is anchored in actual events from that era. I tell myself that it's historical fiction! :)

 At any rate, one thing you'll notice right away is the pervasive cocktail culture on Mad Men. Everyone drinks all the time, from morning until night, even at work. One evening while watching an episode in Season 1, I noticed this glassware and jumped right out of my chair:

 My parents had a set of water glasses in this same design! I found the set (missing three glasses) out in the garage, of all places. At the time Mom passed away five years ago, Dad and I took a few items to the Salvation Army. The glasses were on the truck to go, but I snagged them at the last minute. Somehow I forgot that they were in the garage all this time, so when I found them this summer they were pretty dirty. Although I've always liked them, I wasn't sure if I really wanted to keep them until I saw them on Mad Men!

As I watched Mad Men over the summer, I often saw glassware in this design -- including the exact set that my parents owned. So I brought them home and carefully cleaned them up. The gold leafing is very fragile, so these glasses definitely can't go in the dishwasher.

Then I got the idea to complete the set. As luck would have it, I found a set of three identical glasses on Ebay for just $9. Perfect!

Now the set is complete! Sure, they'll probably only be filled with water or tea, but I'll still channel my inner Betty Draper whenever I use them!
Now to refurbish that old bar cart that I brought home... :)

13 November 2013

YUM: Pumpkin Cookies

About this time last year, a friend from high school shared one of his mom's favorite fall cookie recipes. It was a crisp autumn day and the idea of pumpkin cookies baking just sounded SO GOOD...so I whipped up the first of what was to be many batches. 

If you like spice cookies and the flavor of pumpkin, you'll LOVE these cookies! They are also very moist (due to the pumpkin, I'm told) and they don't contain eggs. This is a very good thing if you're like me and usually don't have eggs in the refrigerator!

Tip: Add a bit more cinnamon and a touch of allspice if you'd like. I also sprinkled this batch with cinnamon sugar right out of the oven. Trust me...they are perfect with a cup of coffee on a cool fall day!

Pumpkin Cookies
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin -- not the pie filling
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips -- I use raisins
2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon -- add more!
1/2 cup nuts (optional) -- I add pecans!

Cream first 3 ingredients and add pumpkin. Stir in chips or raisins. Sift dry ingredients into mixture and stir well. Bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees. These are moist cookies and they do not contain eggs.

09 November 2013

Adventures in Pumpkin Drilling

This year, we brought home five lovely pumpkins, two to carve and three just to look cute. For the first time in several years, Spouse decided to carve his pumpkin. And I was inspired by my friend Connie to use a drill on mine. I'd tried it many years ago and loved the results, although I learned NOT to attempt it indoors!
  Because I waited so late to buy my pumpkins, I had only one evening to do the carving. As it turned out, the night was freezing cold so there was NO WAY I was going to drill a pumpkin outside! Back inside I went, drill in hand.
No matter what you're doing with your pumpkin, you have to scoop out the innards. This is my least favorite part. The pumpkin gunk makes my hands and arms itch!
Next, it was time to break out the drill. WHAT A MESS! Little bits of pumpkin flew all over the entryway, in spite of my attempts to keep things under control. This time, Spouse found the wood drill bits for me, which allowed me to make even bigger holes...and a bigger MESS!
Tinsel looked on with alarm from above...

 And I'll admit that it was pretty alarming.

 Lily thought closer supervision was necessary.

But when all was said and done (and all of the pumpkin bits were mopped up!), I was pleased with the way the pumpkin turned out. 

And Spouse's menacing pumpkin face turned out pretty well, too. All in all, it was a successful evening of pumpkin carving!

08 November 2013

Feline Friday: Twisted!


 We quite frequently see Lily in this position, with the front half going one direction and the back half going another. It happens when she turns to lick herself in a hard-to-reach place...then forgets to turn back around! It always makes me laugh to see her TWISTED!


07 November 2013

Pumpkin "Patch" Finds

This year I didn't pick up my pumpkins as early as I usually do. When I finally got around to it, it was too late to go to a real pumpkin patch. So on the Sunday afternoon before Halloween, Spouse and I ventured out to buy pumpkins from a vendor who sets up shop in an empty parking lot near us. As it turned out, I was very glad we chose to go there! I had never seen so many varieties of beautiful pumpkins, squash, and gourds!

 If you wanted to make a pumpkin pie from a real pumpkin (not a can), they had wagons full of pie pumpkins. Everyone will be glad to know that I'm not planning on making one from scratch any time soon!

 All the pumpkins were so attractively displayed -- all the stems were up! And they were perfectly shaped.
   So many gourds!
And squash!

And these little guys looked like acorns!

More squash!

 Wagons full of pumpkins!

 I loved the little striped ones!
 I LOVE white ghost pumpkins and finally bought one this year.

More gourds!

Tiny baby pumpkins!

Love these colors!

My favorite find of the afternoon was a green "Fairytale Pumpkin", which is cultivated to look like Cinderella's pumpkin/coach. I had to have one!

After much pondering, we went home with five pumpkins -- one for the three humans who live in our house (even though one is in Indiana!) and the two kitties.

 Even though it wasn't a real pumpkin "patch", I'll definitely be back next year!