Technical Difficulties…

Things seem to fall apart at all at once, don’t they?  My laptop is like my right arm, but my kids like to use it too.  Apparently, although no one will admit to it, the laptop has suffered repeated experiments with gravity to the point where the charging port barely works and the screen sports an ever widening racing stripe. I blame the Laptop Fairy.

The other night my techie son offered to fix the charging port for me.  Let me just offer this piece of advice to you; if you need this piece of equipment on a daily basis, DECLINE SAID OFFER. The next morning when I politely asked about my laptop, I received a laconic, if not snarky retort that it was “broken” and that it would take “some time” to fix.  To translate the foreign language of teenager, that means, head to Best Buy and get a new laptop, toot suite.  That was not exactly in the budget…

Oh, and by the way, buying a computer is about as familiar to me as selecting the feeding plan for baby emus in captivity.  With Tom on speaker, I handed the cell phone to the salesperson and stepped back.  Sorry, this ain’t my thang.

After making that expensive purchase and not feeling the high (they weren’t shoes!), I drove home.  About two blocks from the house, the car died, and I mean DIED,  as in a bunch of colorful icons lit up on the dashboard, the steering wheel froze and the car the became deathly quiet.  Thank God I was not on the highway or a busy street.  I sort of eased the car to the side of the road, but was too close to a fire hydrant.

Some guy walked over and tried to help me, but he turned out to be useless.  I needed to be home in 15 minutes to meet with a carpet cleaner to clean the apartment.  I tried to move the car myself but was not strong enough.  Damn, why don’t I work out?  Then I looked around and two sanitation workers drove up.  I ran to them and asked them for help and thank you Lord, they agreed.  We pushed the car back to a street location.  Whew!

Two hours later I walked back and tried to start the car again and it fired up.  Nervously, I drove it to our mechanic for a diagnosis.  Evidently, the crankshaft sensor and pulley thingy are shot….$1000.00.  Ugh!  The car has been very reliable and is fourteen years old, so we can’t complain, but ouch!  I can’t afford anything else to break down!

It has been a cold weekend and tomorrow is President’s Day.  The kids will be home, laying about, being their unproductive selves.  Should I make them chop wood or something?  The youngest kid inherits the broken laptop, so she will have to bribe big brother to get it fixed.  Good luck, Sis….

Here is a crockpot recipe to enjoy.

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Waffling


The only thing worse than rainy days and Mondays are snowy days and Mondays.

The sun has barely risen when Kate and I trudge out to the car, hauling her saxophone case, overstuffed backpack and grocery bag crammed with her snow pants to the car at 7:05 am. We are already late for band practice. Every Monday. Somehow it takes an hour to figure out what to wear, play with Carl Sagan, the orange tabby cat, eat half a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, chase the dog, eat more cereal, look for socks, remember to make a lunch, brush hair, ask Alexa forty nine questions, change outfits again, argue with the brother, brush teeth, look for mittens, put on coat, glare at mother for being scolded for being late AGAIN, and walk out the door.

Sigh.

Then the brother wants a ride to school, too. I should sign up to be an Uber driver.

Welcome to Monday… Anyway, it is cold, very snowy and the beginning of the week. Bleh all the way around.

How can we improve this deal? With an easy dinner that is fun, too. Enter Monsieur Waffle Iron! No, this is not “Breakfast for Dinner”. That is Tuesday night, always. Not messing with that tried and true night, no way. This is mixing up regular old dishes by tossing them in the waffle maker.

Case in point: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese. Make your fave tomato soup recipe. Here is a lovely one by Ina Garten I like. Last week I simply picked up a carton of tomato soup at the grocery store and it was very good.

The key is the sammie. Make your grilled cheese sandwich like you usually would. Slather butter on two slices of your favorite bread. For the cheese, use what you like. I put in good old creamy Velveeta and one thin slice of cheddar. Heat up your waffle iron, assemble your sandwich, toss it in and close the iron.


Now for the magic! When heated through, open up the waffle maker and you have a melty, crispy grilled cheese sandwich with lots of yummy pockets. They are heaven!!! Dipped in tomato soup and you have comfort on a cold evening. Waffling sandwiches are a fun twist for kids. Check them out on Pinterest. There are tons of variations.

 


So, now to gild the lily! We then made waffle brownies. Make a brownie mix, but add one extra egg to the batter. Pour in the batter on the waffle iron, just like you would to make waffles. When done, presto! Brownie waffles! Serve with ice cream, hot fudge and toppings of your choice.


As you can see, my kids were not too thrilled……


Be Mine


It’s becoming an annual tradition, Kate having her own Valentine card making afternoon like mine. And why not? The kid has glitter oozing from her pores, markers in every corner of her room and, if unchecked, stickers sneakily placed on every surface. Might as well channel those artistic energies toward missives of love!

So, today even though it snowed another four inches, we plowed forward to combat chronic cabin fever. Four of her buddies showed up and scissors flew. Clouds of glitter floated as the dull roar approached a high pitched squeal. I daren’t peek into the dining room for fear of the crafting armageddon. Miss Kate will be mopping tonight!

They are 11/12 year olds and the little kids are now turning into tween/teens. It is fun to hear them talk. All of a sudden they want to play outside and then the little kids come out again.

Time to make hot chocolate! I found the most dee-licious hot chocolate recipe here. The kids attended from 1-3pm so I served homemade doughnuts, Izze sodas and hot chocolate. Fun and easy!


Oh Snow You Didn’t!

Chicago is flipping out. The biggest snowstorm of the season is bearing down on the metro area and people are climbing over each other for gallons of milk, twelve packs of Old Style, extra cans of Cheese Whiz and fifty pound bags of salt. Former mayor Jane Byrne is rolling over in her grave, I am sure. “What’s a foot of snow, anyway“, she would declare.

Fleets of snow trucks are idling around town, anyway. It’s not like Chicagoans aren’t used to heavy snow. This ain’t Atlanta, y’all. No disrespect, Southern Friends, but it takes 20 plus inches of snow and air temperatures well below zero to close school, much to my children’s dismay. Hopes are high school will close tomorrow, but my bet is no dice, kiddos!

Regardless, there will be a fair amount of shoveling and that will require gallons of hot chocolate and a good, stick to your ribs meal. This is no time to get all fancy with hard to find ingredients and summer time dishes. No, frosty weather calls for comfort food like pot roast, mashed potatoes, veggies and warm, crusty bread.

My favorite pot roast recipe is from The Pioneer Woman and you can find it here. The rest of the meal comes together quickly: frozen corn, ready to go mashed potatoes ala Trader Joes, and French Bread out of a can!

How about a little dessert? I found this yummy little strudel recipe in Pinterest that was so quick and easy. All you need is puff pastry, a beaten egg, sanding sugar, your favorite fruit preserve, butter and you are ready to go!

Open up the sheet of puff pastry and cut into little rectangles.  Spoon a small dollop of preserves and a tiny dot of butter (my adaptation) in the center of each rectangle. Fold one long side over the other, painting some beaten egg to “glue” the overlapping pastry together.

Flip over and move the bundle to the cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Brush all bundles with beaten egg wash and sprinkle sanding sugar over them. Bake 400 degrees as instructed in recipe.

Out they come so brown and crispy! Yum! They are great with some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream!!

The snow is coming!!! Put on your snow pants, haul extra wood by the fireplace, load up on wine, hot toddy mix, popcorn and make sure the shovels are standing at attention by the front door. Oh, and hit the ATM for some cash to bribe the kids to do the shoveling. It’s their turn now!


Use Your Noodle…

It is high school finals week around here and I  wearily remember the stress of cramming for the tests, taking the exams and the just plain ickiness of it all. What can a sympathetic mom do to help but just offer comfort. For me, that is to offer an encouraging word such as,” If you don’t know the answer, C is statistically a good choice, or , “Iambic Pentameter is not part of Geometry!” You can imagine my advice is met with a laser-like glare, so Plan B is a ride to school and good, wholesome meals upon my high schooler’s return at the end of the day.

As I was considering whether to trim the cat’s claws or fill out the work search page on the unemployment website this morning, (both enjoyable activities) my mind drifted to dinner. What could I prepare that would be comforting on a frigid January day as my kids come home from school, mentally exhausted?

And then, like the meteor that shook Michigan last week, an idea flared brightly in my brain…! Mamaw’s Noodles! Truly a recipe handed down the generations, my great grandmother, Matilda(“Dick”) Welker, made this hearty chicken dish in her Indiana restaurant. The woman could make a mean Hoosier pie, too. She also favored Lucky Strikes and watching roller derby but that’s another story.

Quite simple to prepare, just make your favorite chicken soup, to begin the recipe. Starting the night before, I like to purchase a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and pick most of the meat from the bones, reserving the chicken meat in the fridge. Then I roast the carcass in the crockpot with water or chicken broth, a quartered onion, a coarsely chopped carrot and a couple of celery sticks, a few peppercorns and a tablespoon of salt. Roast all night.

In the morning as you get the kids ready for school, strain the roasted broth into a large stockpot and discard the remains. You now have an amazing golden chicken bone broth! Once you have your broth, add back in the chicken, sliced carrot (1 carrot), thinly sliced celery (1 stalk), sliced green onion (3 onions), salt & pepper to taste. If you have other ingredients you like to add into your chicken soup, say shredded cabbage, or green pepper, I don’t know, the kitchen sink, go for it!

Now to make the noodles. My great grandmother made them and taught my mother. I remember watching her lay out the noodles in our kitchen, stealing a few doughy strings as they dried on the kitchen towel. As I tasted one today, their salty, chewy flavor took me right back to those cozy days in the kitchen many years ago.

If you look at the pic of the recipe you will notice that it is vague. Mamaw eyeballed the recipe as I am sure she did most of her cooking. When the food felt right, it was done/ready/browned, whatever. Doesn’t help me much, but onward we go!

So, I tossed about 3 cups of flour on the counter and made a well in the center.

Beat 3 eggs, a pinch of salt and half a stick of melted butter well. Carefully pour the mixture into the well.

Now to get messy! Using your hands, slowly add the flour into the middle. You will need more flour, so keep it handy. The egg mixture will seep out, but that’s okay, keep mixing with your hands.

If you have a bench scraper or a spatula, have it handy. I did not think of this until my hands were gooped up GOOD! haha! Start using the scraper to help you mix the dough together. It will start to come together, I promise!

Form a disc and dust the rolling pin with flour.

Roll out thinly. In the beginning, turn over the disc and get flour under there to keep the dough from sticking.

You want a nice, big, thin oval.

Now roll it up, loosely, slice into 1/8″ slices with SHARP knife and shake noodles out onto a clean, floured dish cloth to dry (about an hour).

You did it…..You made homemade noodles!!! This recipe makes a LOT of noodles, so you can store the extra in a jar.

Right before serving, add the noodles to the soup. The flour on the noodles will thicken the soup and change it from “soup” to “Chicken & Noodles”. Let the noodles cook for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Serve with a small salad, but go easy on yourself and pick up a packaged Caesar salad mix.  You just created a major from-scratch masterpiece! Your loved ones will murmur mouthfulls of gratitude.  Mine did…..


Hashtag: Sore Back

If I can say one thing, there is entrepreneurial blood flowing through my veins. As a kid, The typical, boring lemonade stand was not my jam. I concocted cooking camps for little kids and managed to not kill them via poor knife skills or salmonella poisoning. For several summers I braved clouds of mosquitos, the horrors of daddy long legs and the possibility of tumbling, end over end, down a steep wooded ravine to gather buckets of plump, juicy black raspberries to sell to the local grocer for $1.50 a pint. More than once, an ill-timed trudge in my dad’s gargantuan old football cleats sent the paint bucket of berries flying. All that work for nuthin!

In my twenties, I needed to supplement my meagre salary with a side gig so I performed a little wall faux finishing with mild success. It was quick cash and fun until the work entailed walls twenty feet high and scaffolding that would scare Michaelangelo.

When Kate was born I decided to sew wildly colorful prairie skirts for babies and a new business was born. I sold them on Etsy and in a local shop. That was fun until I found myself working long retail hours again, which wasn’t a thrill the first time around, folding sweaters at The Limited, The Talbots and ACA Joe.

Another entrepreneurial experience was our Flea Market Flip Adventure. My best friend and I decided to purchase a passel of battered antique furniture and home accessory cast offs, repurpose them and sell them estate sale style. We spent the entire month of July, sanding, spray painting until every last brain cell turned Harvest Pumpkin Orange, glue gunning, curating and upholstering until our collection was complete. We sold out our stash in two days and would have set up business if we didn’t have kids, more money, a storage barn in the middle of the city and a whole helluva lot more energy.

Fast forward and my same, dear, amazing friend asked me to help her decorate a new office she is opening with a very simple hashtag decoration to wreath a flat screen TV in one of the offices. Sounds easy enough, right? It should take no more than an hour or two, I thought. Ha! When precision is needed and you have to measure and tape it out, it takes more like FIVE HOURS to complete the job. Needless to say, it looks great, but my out of shape back is tired!

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Next on the agenda was to wallpaper one little accent wall in the front reception area. No biggie, except for the fact that this is virgin territory. My mom had a business named, “Hang Tight” in the 1970’s. So, she is the expert, not me. Tess and I watched the video and set to work.

First of all, let me say, I have a new respect for my mom.  Wallpapering is hard work! We papered one measley wall and by the end, I was sore and exhausted.  My mother and her best friend papered Victorian homes with high ceilings, with weird angles and many cut outs.  They had to paste the paper and many times it would tear before they could hang it on the walls.  Cudos to you, Ladies!

This polka-dotted/Maremekko-ish paper was thick and unforgiving.  We had to man-handle it a bit to get it to match and conform to the edges, but Tess and I forced it to behave.  Being rookies, this straight wall with just one outlet was a good learning test for us.  We pasted the wall, slapped on the paper, matched the pattern and cut the excess off.  Sounds simple; it was NOT.  I feel like I ran a 5k.

My friend was so pleased, the first thing out of her mouth was, “OOH…we have another wall in back, let’s paper that, too!!!”  Tess and I hesitated, then agreed, as long as a more forgiving pattern was chosen.  But, hey, this old dog LEARNED A NEW TRICK!  Hmmm, Maybe I could wallpaper a few walls at home and coerce the kids to help.

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Throw in a little extra allowance?  Sounds like a plan…….!


A Year Later…

 

 

It has been exactly one year, to the day, since my last blog post. I could offer the excuse that time flies, the kids kept me too busy or the dog ate my home work, but really 2017 was a crappy year and I didn’t feel like talking much.

Ever felt that way? You sort of avoid the water cooler because you don’t have a good response to, “How are you this morning?”, and instead of appearing like Eyeore you remain in your cubicle, sipping your coffee and check out the latest alarming headlines before diving into work.

So, I took a year off from my blog. I missed writing, though, and despite the general crumminess of last year, there were plenty of happy moments I longed to share. Like when I surpised our son with two little kittens and when my daughter and I designed her Christmas dress together. Good times….

And now it is 2018 and I am filled with optimism that only the New Year can provide. Naive, perhaps, but I am shaking things up a bit this go around. Late last year I lost my job and it was a jarring event, to say the least. Not only was the loss of income upsetting, but being let go was hurtful to my psyche, especially since I felt the circumstances unfair. Regardless, I decided it was time to rethink the direction of my career. For over twenty years I have worked in one area of commercial real estate and now I have decided to focus on a different one. Cross your fingers; I am close to getting a job! This type of work will allow me more control of my day, direction, compensation and future. Up until now, I felt controlled by my company, with little freedom. Now I will sink or swim of my own accord….I like that!

Studies show that successful people have multiple income streams, So that is how I am going to roll, Baby! I have become a Stella & Dot Stylist and have just started selling their super cute jewelry and accessories online and at trunk shows. I already have three parties this month and one in March. It is a great way to make a little cash on the side to pay for the small things along the way and, oh man, is it fun!

I have two more side hustles up my sleeve, to be shared once fully completed…pretty excited about those, too! You see, it is all about making money, but doing it with my creative voice, one I have kept silent for decades. It’s time to have fun, too. Now, let’s hope it works!!!

Last night I made my kid’s favorite: Chicken Pot Pies. They like them served individually and the recipe is from the Joy of Cooking cookbook, but I make a few small adaptations.

  • Boil one chicken breast, shred it and use the boiled water as the chicken stock.
  • For the vegetables in the filling, I add one can of Veg-All (drained) to save lots of time.
  • Be generous with the sherry and lemon juice!
  • Homemade pie crust is best, but of course, if you don’t have time, go for the store-bought.
  • I used a small, round cookie cutter to make the flower petal top.
  • Beat one egg and brush the top for a brown, glossy finish. Enjoy!!!