28 March 2014

Feline Friday: Almost!

 Lily's sole mission in life is to steal Tinsel's NOMS. She's crafty and clever, and her devious little mind never stops. She knows EXACTLY where Tinsel's dish of food is kept in the pantry cupboard. The only problem is that it's (intentionally) too high for her to reach.

 There is, however, a way to reach it, if only Lily's mommeh would accidentally leave the rolling storage container out for just a split second. Sure enough, that's what happened one day last week. While Mommeh wasn't looking, Lily boldly made her way higher...

 The coveted NOMS were just within reach!
Until Mommeh spoiled her fun. :)

25 March 2014


In an effort to dig myself out of the latest hole I've found myself in, I've had to let some things go. Notably, the condition of the house. And the meager amount of cooking I do. And my blog. Just way too much going on right now. I am hopeful that by the end of April, I'll be done with selling all of my dad's properties and will have the estate stuff wrapped up, but that remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I had to drag myself out to my childhood home with Spouse for one last time. I knew I needed to visit once more before the closing but at the same time, I dreaded it. I'll write more about it when I've had time to process my feelings. Let's just say that it was gut-wrenching to walk through the house one last time and know that now I really must leave my childhood behind. 

 So for now I'm hunkering down again, trying to get on top of everything I've taken on. April will bring a little relief, I think -- I hope -- so until then, I'll just keep doing the best I can. Grief has taken a lot out of me. I hope that in time, I'll be able to gather up the pieces and put my life back together again.

21 March 2014

Feline Friday: Wait, Whut?

 Sometime last month I discovered the Tiny Kittens web cams. I've followed the progress of the Cupcake Kittens since birth, and now (sadly) they are almost ready to be adopted. But never fear: There are two new batches of kittens available for 24/7 viewing! Two sister mamas are co-parenting the kittens, and it really couldn't be sweeter.

 When I'm working, I sometimes keep the webcam up just so I can keep an eye on the kittens. (Because really, any day is made better with KITTENS!) Tinsel recently hopped up on the desk to investigate. She kept a curious eye on the squirming balls of fur for a few minutes....

...then decided enough was enough and refused to look at the screen again! Yes, Tinsel, those kittens are actually touching the mama! Avert your eyes!! :)

15 March 2014

Recipe: Corn & Red Lentil Soup

Whenever Spouse is gone, I like to try a new recipe I could never make when he's home. Although we like many of the same foods, he can't stand several of my favorites -- notably fish and mushrooms. He barely tolerates lentils, and I've made Turkish Lentil Soup (seriously, I could eat that soup every day of my life!) to the point where he has said, "Let's not have that for awhile." :) So with Spouse gone for a few days, it seemed like the perfect time to try Corn and Red Lentil Soup, which is packed with red lentils, eggplant, and spinach --  three of his least favorite ingredients!

This healthful recipe came from Clean Eating magazine. I know this is hard to read, so I retyped the recipe below with modifications.

 I followed the recipe fairly closely, but I did use what Bailey calls "cheater garlic" because it is so much easier than peeling and chopping fresh. Although I'm sure foodies would disagree, I think it tastes just fine.

The recipe also calls for homemade croutons with goat cheese. Call me weird, but I'm sort of afraid of goat cheese. I love goats, but the idea of cheese from a goat just gives me the willies. So I decided to use pre-made croutons (these particular croutons are really yummy) with plain yogurt instead of goat cheese. Yogurt adds a very fitting Middle Eastern touch to any type of lentil dish.

You can tell that we never have eggplant around here because poor Lily was scared of it...she actually WINCED at the smell! Sheesh, Lily! Don't be scared of a vegetable!

When I started chopping it up, she ran away! hehehe

I started the soup on the stove (basically to get the temperature up), then transferred it to the crock pot so it could simmer all afternoon.

At this point, Lily returned to the kitchen and waited patiently for a taste of something (other than eggplant). I can haz korns?

The spinach only takes a little time to wilt, so it should be added at the last minute. Again, I took the easy way out and bought baby spinach in a bag. It's so small that it didn't need to be chopped. The stems just disappear as the spinach wilts.

 Just throw it in and stir.

In about a minute, you can see the leaves start to wilt.
And here's what the soup looks like when it's done! My version didn't look quite like the photo in the magazine (looks like they added a LOT more corn than indicated!) but it was delicious, nutritious, and very filling. Sorry, Spouse, but when will you be leaving again? :)
Corn and Red Lentil Soup 
WITHOUT Goat Cheese Croutons :)
Adapted (BY ME!) from Clean Eating magazine (see original recipe above)

1.5 t olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced -- I used "cheater garlic"
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth - I used 4 cups broth + 1 cup water
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
4 cups cubed eggplant (1/2" cubes)
8 oz frozen yellow corn kernels or 1.5 cups fresh kernels
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped -- or baby spinach!
1/4 teaspoon sea salt and ground black pepper
Pre-made croutons
Plain yogurt

In a large pot, heat oil on medium-low. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, stirring often, about 1-2 minutes. Add broth and water. Stir in lentils then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in eggplant and corn and cook uncovered for 5 more minutes, until eggplant and lentils are tender. (At this point, I transferred the soup to a crock pot so it could simmer for the afternoon.*) Stir in spinach and cook uncovered until wilted, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with pre-made croutons and plain yogurt.

* Note: Putting this soup into the crock pot for six hours no doubt made it a little mushier than it would be if you cooked it on the stove. I thought it was just fine but if you'd like a little more texture and still want to use the crock pot after starting it on the stove, I'd limit the crock pot time.

14 March 2014

Feline Friday: Gargoyle Lily


I recently found Lily perched on the edge of our music cabinet, squeezed into a space just big enough for her ample backside. As she peered out over the family room, I couldn't help but think of the gargoyles of Notre Dame keeping evil spirits at bay. We don't really have any evil spirits in our house, so I guess she was practicing just in case.

Lily's not much of a climber, but I could tell she still felt pretty powerful from her not-all-that-high vantage point. :)

Not unlike these handsome guys...

As you can see from this aerial shot, she had barely enough room to execute her important duties.

 And those feet! Gargoyles must grip tightly, lest they fall to their demise!

Oops, time to wash the belly!
Yep, you're looking pretty fierce, Gargoyle Lily! :) 

11 March 2014

Happy Distractions

Still a lot going on around here, although I can almost -- just ALMOST -- see glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. 

Following our estate auction last September, I had four properties to sell, including my childhood home. There have been some challenges associated with selling each one, and each time I hand over the keys to another property, I feel my burden lighten just a little bit. As of right now, I'm finalizing the sale of the third property with just one more to go from my parents' estate. Last week I put my grandma's house on the market so I will soon have just two properties to sell. I am moving -- albeit very slowly -- in the right direction. It will be a very good thing when I can close the book on all of this.

Through all of this, it's been very good to have some distractions now and then. One of my main distractions is preparing for classes at Memory Bound. Over the weekend I made a lot of kits, and it's easy for me to completely lose myself in writing instructions, cutting, and organizing materials. And oh, how I Iove these colors!

Die cutting is a great distraction. Plus it's an easy way to build up the arm muscles! :)

I seem to have amassed a large number of boxes, so it was easy to find one in the perfect size for the completed kits. Nothing better than a Girl Scout cookie box! And no, we did not eat all of those Peanut Butter Patties. In fact, we didn't eat a single one!

As you can see by the look on her face, Lily was more than a little disappointed that the box didn't contain cookies!

Here's to taking care of business and finding happy distractions -- or cookies! -- when you can.

07 March 2014

Feline Friday: Crafty Kitty

Lily doesn't enjoy crafts all that much, but Tinsel has always been a crafty kitty. She used to specialize in foam pop dots, gripping them in her teeth and carrying them off to corners of the house. These days, she likes paper and ribbon. Gotta change with the times, I guess!

As you can see, Tinsel is always concerned that my papers might blow away. Thanks, Tinsel! :)

 And against my advice, she somehow manages to fit herself onto the tiniest corner of my craft table to check out my latest project.  She calls this quality control. :)

Oh, well...crafting is always more fun with a furry friend!

06 March 2014

Crock Pot Recipe: Corn Chowder

Over the past few days, I finished packing up my grandma's house. Of particular interest to me was her kitchen. There was nothing of great value there, but there were a few things I wanted to keep which will always remind me of her. One such item was her potato masher. Grandma (who is 102 now) has lived her life eating all the things we're not supposed to eat all that often, notably bread and potatoes. Every time I talked to her, it seemed she was making baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, or potato salad. Since I didn't have a potato masher (somehow I have survived all this time without one!), I tucked her well-worn utensil in my bag to take home.

This week I put the potato masher to good use with a recipe I've had in my binder for quite some time. I had never made this recipe because...wait for it...I didn't have a potato masher! :) 

This recipe for Corn Chowder can go into your crock pot when you leave for work and it'll be ready when you get home. Comfort food at its best.

And here's a secret: In typical fashion, I didn't read the recipe carefully and just dumped in all the ingredients at once -- not noticing that the half and half and butter are to be added in the final 30 minutes. OOPS! I fished out the butter patties but there was no way to extract the liquid! And guess what? It worked just fine. So there's a time saver for ya! :)
Corn Chowder (source: Crockingirls.com)

6-8 potatoes (peeled and diced) -- I only used 3 large ones because my crock pot is small. I'd recommend more potatoes if you can fit them in your crock pot!
1 can cream corn
1 can whole kernel corn
2 cups chicken broth
8 ounces diced ham
1 cups diced onions
1/4 Cups butter
2 cups half and half 

Place potatoes, both cans of corn, chicken broth, ham, and onions into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Mash the mixture to your desired consistency and then add the butter and half and half. Cook for an additional 30 minutes on high, and you are set!

04 March 2014

March Stuff

Thanks, dear blogging friends, for putting up with my brief period of feeling overwhelmed. I greatly appreciate the kind comments and supportive words. I've found that one of the best things I can do when I start to feel this way is take a few hours to organize myself. This gives me a renewed sense of control -- even though I know I don't have complete control over everything. 

The other thing that helps is a good night's sleep, as suggested by my college student daughter. (Go figure...the student telling the MOM to get some rest!)  I finally got some decent sleep last night, and I'll admit that it really does make a huge difference in my outlook on life.

Of course, a caramel latte and a cookie don't hurt either. Except you pay for that later at the gym. :)

As it turns out, I've scheduled myself pretty heavily with March classes at Memory Bound. This is a mostly a very good thing because it provides a complete diversion from the other tasks I'm working through at this time. Making all of the kits can get a little crazy, but it's the kind of crazy that I welcome right now! :)

I'm especially excited for this class, A Dozen Cards, made with the new Pebbles spring line. As much as I love making detailed cards, at my core I'm a clean and simple kind of girl. Gal. Or whatever.

I'm also very excited about this 6x6 Waterfall Envelope album. Love the colors.

And the design is super-fun and easy once you get the idea.

Okay, I guess I'm pretty excited about this class, too, and the first one is tonight! This is a set of masculine/teen cards made with the new Graphic 45 Good Ol' Sport line. I don't even know anything about sports (well, except Indiana basketball!) and I still love this paper. Especially the colors. And the images. The guy in the lower left corner looks like a Quidditch player to me, so I made that one into a Harry Potter card. Just go with me on that... :)

And then there's a set of sympathy cards made with the new Graphic 45 Botanical Tea line. Such pretty paper. Sympathy cards are sometimes hard to make but good to have on hand when you need one.

So here's to losing perspective for a little bit -- then gaining it back -- and continuing to move forward. Resiliency. That's what it's all about.

02 March 2014

Tipping Point

 Please note: The intent of this post is not to be whiny or sad. My purpose in writing this post is to express how I'm feeling right now, in honest terms. Anyone who has traveled through difficult times knows that it's hard to keep a positive, "can do" attitude 100% of the time. It's ok to feel overwhelmed. It's ok to feel burdened. What's important is how you respond to those feelings and work yourself back to a better place. Today I'm simply acknowledging where I am in my journey.
Thanks for stopping by.

If you've been following my blog, you know that I've had a series of unfortunate events occur over the past few months. Although I try to stay positive, right now I truly feel like I'm at a tipping point. I've added so much to my plate that I'm way out of balance. My life is completely out of kilter and I don't even recognize it anymore. The particular tasks in front of me are all new and foreign. I'm going at such a pace that I'm not giving tasks my full attention. As a result, I make mistakes. And I don't easily forgive myself, so my self-esteem takes a hit. It's all a vicious spiral.

I just needed to get this off my chest today. I know I try to project a positive image all the time, but I don't want to appear to be something I'm not. I'm fragile, just like everyone else. And I'm tired. I'm tired of it all. I'd like to think tomorrow will be a better day, but tomorrow will just add more to the scale. 

I need balance, and I'm not sure where and when I'll be able to find it.