Saturday, November 29, 2008

Souper Saturday--Cheesy Potato

Tonight I had to change my soup plans due to another shopping error by Handsome. You would think a grown man...oh, never mind. But I'm just sayin'. So, I had to come up with something using what was already in the house, and decided on Cheesy Potato Soup II by Joan Zaffary, from .

Original recipe:


  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 15 slices American cheese - broken into pieces
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions and celery in the butter for 5 to 10 minutes, or until tender.
2. Stir in the water and potatoes, bring to a boil and then simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add the cheese and stir until melted.

3. In a separate small bowl, combine the flour and the milk and stir well until the flour is mostly dissolved. Pour this into the soup slowly, stirring constantly, until soup has thickened, about 5 minutes. Garnish with the parsley.

My changes:

1. I used chicken broth instead of water
2. When the potatoes were tender, I pureed that whole mixture with a hand blender (kids=no chunks).

3. I prefer not to use processed cheese (American), so I melted 2 Tbsp of butter in a pan, stirred in the flour to make a roux, poured in the milk and whisked until bubbly and thickened (your basic white sauce), then stirred in shredded cheddar (about 1 1/2 cups, maybe) until melted. Then I stirred that into the soup.

If I had thought ahead, I would have reserved the two Tbsp butter for the roux out of the 6 Tbsp used to saute the onions and celery, but since I didn't think of that, I ended up using a whole stick of butter in this soup!

I garnished it with a little cheese and parsley for the photo, but bacon and/or chopped green onions or chives would have been ideal toppings.

Handsome 7 would've like some potato chunks
Me 7
Firstborn 6
Skippy 5
Pinkerbelle 9

Average 6.8

This soup was pretty good; the aforementioned toppings, which I did not have, would have improved it. I actually have a potato soup recipe that I prefer, but have not been able to find my cookbooks since we moved into this house. Handsome is in the basement right now trying to do some organizing, so maybe they'll turn up.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pinkerbelle made these Pilgrim hats for us at school. She made sure to point out that she gave me rainbow-colored yarn. I'm not sure why it always looks like I'm not wearing any make-up in photos. Actually, in real life I look a little like Angelina Jolie, but it never comes through photographically.

Enjoy your day with friends and family!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Curb Appeal

One of the things I am most thankful for this year is my home (above). There's a big long story about that, but I don't think I'll go into it right now. Let's just say that we rented, and moved a lot, for a very long time. I spent a lot of that time wishing and dreaming for my own house. I spent hours on local real estate sites, searching and longing.

Last January that is exactly how I found this neighborhood. The builder had a home listed on the MLS; Handsome was (sort of) in the area and I asked him to drive by it. He stopped into the sales office, and somehow by the end of January we were under contract for a to-be-built house. I'm not exactly sure how it happened, because we weren't planning to buy at that time, and I never dreamed that when the time came I would get a brand new house!

It was considered an inventory house, because the builder had it all planned, so we didn't get to pick the model or lot, though we did get to choose between two (it was the incentives on inventory homes that made it possible for us to buy). I was able to change some of the planned finishes/colors, and we did make some other changes that we had to pay for.

On the exterior, we chose the brick and siding color, and I chose to have the porch columns only half brick instead of entirely brick (had to pay for that one). We haven't done anything in the way of landscaping yet, but I am so pleased with the curb appeal of the house itself. I'm very happy with my choices, and so grateful to have a pretty, new house.

We did not pick the elevation of our model, but of the available choices, there's only one that I like as well as ours. Yesterday I drove around the neighborhood snapping photos of different elevations of our model. Some of pictures aren't the greatest, because I was trying not to look like some, you know, weird stalker or something, so they're just drive-by shots, so to speak.

This one (above) is directly across the street from us. It is the 'Classic' elevation. I prefer our gabled roofline.

One street over is the 'Prairie'. A little plain; I'm just not a huge fan of this one.

This is the 'Revival' elevation, which is the same as ours. See the all-brick columns? I don't care for those, especially in person. It just looks and feels too closed in when you walk up the steps, kind of unwelcoming or something. Also, when they were building our house, they decided that this elevation now comes with shutters on the upper windows. Lucky us! I really think the shutters improve it.

This is the 'Tudor'. No porch. 'Nuff said.

This is the other one I like, the 'Craftsman'. I love the stone. I don't particularly like the color choices on this one, though.

We moved in on Handsome's birthday last April. The interior is still largely undecorated. We asked about picking out paint colors since they were going to have to paint anyway. Oh, naive children. Custom colors, it turns out, would add $4000! What? Does that sound ridiculous to anybody else? Merely putting a color in the paint sprayer other than builder white costs four. thousand. dollars. Builder white it is, then, until we get around to painting.

It was kind of funny; while it was being built, I had some kind of idea that I was going to move into my new house and it would be perfect. Of course, it is not perfect, as quickly became evident. There are things I would have done differently had I known. But I got all the biggies that were on my list...4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, walkout basement w/ rough-in for future bath, fireplace, laundry upstairs with bedrooms (paid for that), and because of moving the laundry, one of my favorite features, a mudroom!

This Thanksgiving, and in this time when so many are losing theirs, I'm thankful for my house!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

And the winner is....

Jeanne@InspiringIdeas! Thanks for entering, everybody! It was fun. Jeanne, I will email you so you can send me your address.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Okay, everybody, the giveaway is closed.  Thanks for entering, and good luck!  We'll tally it up, do a drawing, and announce the winner tomorrow morning!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Souper Saturday and Hobby Lobby Bargains

Tonight Firstborn and Handsome are at a Boy Scout lock-in, so it was just three of us for supper. I decided to take the easy route with grilled cheese and tomato soup. However, I don't buy canned soup anymore...high fructose corn syrup, MSG, and all that. So I searched for a recipe, and decided to go with this one, from Angry Chicken (love the name!). As usual, I did a bit of my own thing, as follows:

Dice about 1/4 onion. Saute in olive oil with 1/2 tsp minced garlic (about 1 clove). Puree 1 14oz can diced tomatoes in blender and add to onion and garlic in saucepan. Add some water (1/2 to 3/4 cup, maybe), salt and pepper, and a little honey to taste. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 mins. Put approx 1/2 c. milk in blender, pour tomato mixture in and puree again. Serve. This made about 4 servings. (Edited Mar. 23: the reason I put the milk in the blender and then the tomato is because I read that doing it the other way will curdle the milk. I tested that tonight and it is true. If you add the milk into the tomato, it will curdle. "Add red to white and you won't be blue")

For my own bowl, I added a dollop of pesto, as Angry Chicken suggests. I really liked this soup. It had a bright, tomato-y flavor far superior to canned soup. And it was super easy. Definitely a do-over.

Me 9
Skippy 4
Pinkerbelle 10 ("is there 100?")

And, yes, the grilled cheese is made with white bread. Oh, the horror!! Handsome went to the store the other night and I asked him to get bread. I showed him the bread bag, 100% Whole Wheat.

He brought home made with Whole Grain White. Not the same. And the thing is, he knows we have virtually never bought white bread for the last eight years. (Now he'll read this and he will think I'm really mad about it still.)

I was surprised at how much I didn't like it; it was too soft, too sweet, too bland. Like eating dough or something. At least it didn't have HFCS (neither kind does).

Now, on to Hobby Lobby. When I was there Thursday, all fall decor was 80% off. I resisted. But yesterday I went back and fall was 90% off! Screeech! (That's me slamming on the brakes.) The selection was understandably depleted, but I managed to get a few things. I put them in my china cabinet so I can show you how much better it looks without the paint on the glass.

Some of the green serving dishes were available in red on Thursday, and to tell the truth, I would have much preferred the red. But the red was gone Friday, and the green's not too bad. They'd make nice gifts, or maybe I could spray paint them white? Obviously I couldn't use them for food if I did that, but I probably won't anyway.

The silver gourds kinda made me think of mercury glass, or at least all the imitators that are out now, which I really like but don't have any of. Wait, that should be "but of which I have none". I added up all the regular prices for these items and it was $97, which means that I paid $9.70 for all five pieces! Pretty durn good, if you ask me!

Don't forget to enter my's open until noon on Monday!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Big Five-Oh (Giveaway!)

Giveaway is closed!  Thanks!

This, dear readers, is my fiftieth post! As with most things, time has really flown. But here's the thing. If it weren't for Google Analytics, I would think I was all alone in the blogosphere, based on the one comment per day that I average (thanks, Dixie). However, with the magic of Big Brother (that is, Analytics) I know that I average about 50 visits a day (I know, I'm no Nester). Yes, I think it's kind of creepy that you can find out practically everything about everybody that flits across your website, and that wherever you go they can do the same to you. But it's also kind of interesting, if you're anal[lytical] like me.

I'd like to hear from you, so today I'm going to bribe you, in the guise of a giveaway. I don't have any bigwig sponsors, so don't get too excited. But it's easy,it's free, and look at it this way: your odds of winning are pretty good. For the last several years, I have been getting a little frame ornament for the Christmas tree and putting that year's photo of the kids in it. Yesterday I was at Hobby Lobby picking out this year's, and I got an extra for one lucky reader.

For those of you who came over from The Inspired Room, this is my Christmas tradition offering. By hanging a new photo ornament on the tree every year, I will always be able to see how much everybody has grown and changed each year.

I put our initial in it for now because we haven't taken the photo yet. If you win, I will put in the initial of your choice, and then when you get it you can change it to a photo if you like. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post, and tell me which initial you would like. But wait, there's more!

Bonus: if you would like to be entered twice, you can do one of two additional things. You can either mention my blog and this giveaway (and link to it) on your blog, or you can put me on your blogroll. I'm shameless, I know. If you do that, mention it in your comment and be sure I can find your blog to verify.

Don't be shy, and don't be embarrassed if you've never commented before. That's the point! In general, there are fewer visitors over the weekend, so I will leave the giveaway open until, ummm, Monday at noon. Winner will be announced Tuesday morning. (Yes, Dixie, you can enter. In fact, considered yourself entered. If I get no other comments, you win!)

P.S. When you're done leaving a comment, check out the other ideas at The Inspired Room.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Looky, Looky!

Look what came in the mail's my dad's book! By which I mean he wrote it! My dad is a preacher, and has been for 50 years. He has every sermon he ever preached outlined on a little 4x6 card, cataloged and filed. He preached full-time in Canada for 22 years (during which time I was born), and the rest in his native United States. He has even been a guest preacher in Scotland a few times. The book is based on some of his sermons.

What makes this even more exciting in our household is that Firstborn designed the cover. He gets his very own copy. (Disclaimer in case it looks familiar to anybody: he started out with free clipart, but the publisher didn't want to use that, so Firstborn drew it freehand and made some of his own changes.)

My dad and Firstborn doing the scripture reading
at our church last fall while dad was visiting.

You can watch videos of my dad's recent sermons here; I think the plan is to be able to order his book from the website as well, but they don't appear to have that up yet. If anybody would really like to order a copy, let me know.

In other news...Guess what? Tomorrow will be my 50th post! Maybe I'll have a (very small) give-away!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WFMW--Kids' Chore Wheel

Over the years I've used different systems for doling out and keeping track of chores for the kids. Some have worked better than others; we have been using the current method for a couple of months and it's been quite successful.

I call it The Wonderful Wheel of Work because the kids just love it so much! What, don't believe me? Okay, really I call it that because it (the name) kind of bugs them (snicker...bad mom!)

These are just basic daily household chores; it does not include stuff like making their beds or tidying their rooms. It also does not preclude me occasionally asking them to do something else that needs to be done. (As you can see, I blocked out my kids' names. I've gone to a lot of effort to use pseudonyms for my blog and I wouldn't want to spoil the mystique!)

I have three kids, so I came up with 6 chores, a morning and afternoon or evening one for each of them. I tried to pair them up more or less equally so that each day includes an easier and a more difficult/unpleasant job. Each day is always the same; i.e. Empty Dishwasher always goes with Set Table (if you enlarge the photo you can see that there are days A, B, and C). The only variation is that on day C, the afternoon chore for my oldest is to scoop the litter box; for the other two it's clean the bathroom.

I made a larger circle out of cardstock, pasted a different color on three of the pie wedges to differentiate morning and evening, and attached a smaller circle of a third color with a brad. The red circle has the kids' names, and every morning I rotate it. This system has cut down, though not eliminated, a lot of arguing and complaining. They can plainly see what is expected of them, and for the most part get it done without [too many] reminders. Works for me!

Check out Rocks in My Dryer for more practical ideas!

Thrift Store Bust

This morning I felt oddly at a loss, because with my chalkboard finished, I do not have any bloggy projects waiting in the wings. I had a couple of errands to run, so I thought while I was out I would stop by the thrift stores for inspiration.

I was specifically looking for old clip-on earrings for my magnets. It seems like these would be a dime a dozen, doesn't it? I did find a few, but they were $2 a pair, which just seemed a little too high. So I'll keep looking, and if I don't find them any cheaper, I'll go back.

I also looked at Michaels for this 'family' magnet; I've seen this project a number of times and it's really cute and simple. I couldn't find it, though. Can anybody help me with brand name, or what section it's in?

I had a couple other things on my thrift store list, like a winter coat for Pinkerbelle, but didn't find anything today. (I did find her a brand-new-looking American Girl Chicago sweatshirt for $1, which I will save for later as it's too big now. We've actually been to that store several times, so it's not cheating, as Firstborn would claim.) Overall, it was slim pickins.

I've recently made it a habit to squeeze all the throw pillows in the thrift/consignment stores, looking for down or feather filled ones. The cover doesn't matter, because the plan is to recover them for our bed whenever I get around to our room decor. Today I found this matching pair for $6 each. That's not bad for feather, and these are a good size, about 1'x2'.

These actually have pretty covers, and go very well with the paint color in the family room. So for now, I parked them on my craigslist couch. As you can see, what I need to be working on is window treatments.

So, somebody needs to come up with a quick and easy project that I can copy and that will cause a run on the dollar stores, like the 'boo' frame did. I'm getting antsy, here! 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chalkboard Project

Today is the unveiling of a project that has been a couple of weeks in the making. It all started with my desire for a chalkboard in the little hallway that leads from the garage to the kitchen. I had purchased some chalkboard paint with the intention of just painting a rectangle on the wall. I have used that method in previous houses and it worked well.

That, however, was before my introduction to blogging and all the creative ideas that are out there. Inspired once again by JOYS OF HOME and this project, I decided to keep my eye out for a suitable frame. Shortly thereafter, I found this one at Goodwill. It's quite large; the picture, not including the frame, is about 2'x3'. And it was "only" $9. I say "only" because GW around here can be quite ridiculous and random with their pricing; I recently saw a mauve and country blue faux oil painting from the '80s of about the same size at a different GW priced at $100!! Give me a break!!

I originally was just going to paint over the picture with the chalkboard paint like Joy did, but decided that I wanted it to be magnetic. So I went to Home Depot with a magnet and a mission. I did look at the magnetic paint, but I had heard it didn't work that well, and it was $21, more than I wanted to spend. Next I went and checked out the building supplies; flashing (for roofing, I think) is thin, flat and metallic. Magnetic? Yes. But it came in long rolls that weren't wide enough and was actually kind of pricey. Then I came across an endcap display of metal sheets. I'm really not sure what they were for; some were magnetic and some weren't and the ones that were didn't come in the right size.

I had just about resigned myself to risking the magnetic paint when I stumbled into the ductwork aisle. Thin smooth, metal. It passed the magnetic test, what about size? Aha! I couldn't believe my luck! There was a flat piece that was exactly 2'x3'! And it was under $9! Score!

I cut myself twice on the sharp edges while carrying it out, and was almost dragged across the parking lot sail-boat fashion since it was quite windy. But I got it home, primed it, and painted it with the chalkboard paint. I did the frame Heirloom White and will probably antique it with gel stain the next time I get to a craft store (I tried one color of gel stain and didn't like it, so I've got to look for a different color).

It was a little tricky getting it in the frame, as it was just a wee bit too big, by a matter of millimeters. Handsome fixed that by using his Dremel tool around the inside of the ledge, creating a little slot all the way around that the metal sheet popped into. I used the old picture as the backing.

Pinkerbelle christened it with a picture of Skippyjon Jones. She used up the last of my chalk, so until I get to Walmart I can't actually write on it, but it is hanging in my little hallway and it looks great!

This hallway is kind of the information center. On the right I have some cool metal office-y bins that I found on clearance at Joann Fabrics a couple months ago. There's one for mail and receipts, and one for each of the kids, which they are supposed to deposit all their school papers in when they get home each day. I also put up a corkboard strip to keep schedules, lunch menus, etc. accessible.

Next, I'd like to make some of this magnet bling for my new board. Time to hit the thrift stores again!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Souper Saturday--Country Split Pea

Today's offering came from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook again. I will most likely be using this book fairly frequently this winter. The full name of the recipe is Country Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Potatoes. The author describes it as a "peasant-style recipe".

The recipe again called for sherry; it seems to be a favorite ingredient of the author, as it is in a number of her recipes. Unlike last time, however, it called for dry sherry instead of cream sherry. I don't know anything about sherry, and I'm not about to start a wine cellar in order to have the correct type for each of Marjorie Druker's recipes. So, again, I skipped it, and naturally we didn't know the difference. I don't doubt that it adds a little something to the flavor, and I'm not against using wine for cooking, I just don't keep it around.

Anyhoo, the soup was thick, hearty, and satisfying. Handsome and I really enjoyed it. It tasted just like a split-pea soup should, but I would probably skip the potatoes next time, personally.

And now for the ratings:
Handsome 9
Me 9
Firstborn 7
Skippy 5
Pinkerbelle 3

Average 6.6

One thing I like about many of these soup recipes is that they start out with lots of veggies...this one had celery, carrots, and onion, as well as the split-peas...and then you blend it all up with a stick-blender and the kids are none the wiser!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Livin' the Dream

I'm going to forego my Frugal Friday post today (I didn't really have anything to say about that anyway!) to highlight my nieces' blog Bringing the Highlands Home.

Two months ago my nieces Katie and Amy fulfilled a dream and moved to Scotland. They plan to be there for at least a year. They are renting a flat in Edinburgh and have part-time jobs, and in their free time, they travel. They just started a blog a couple days ago, so that will make it much easier for me and the rest of their family to follow their adventures.

(Hope you don't mind me using your photo, girls.)

I'm really so excited for them! Who hasn't thought about doing something like this, at least in passing? Once you're married and have kids, it just pretty much ain't gonna happen. I'm so proud of them for actually making it happen! I think even my sister is glad now, and hopefully isn't still worried that they will be kidnapped and sold into s*x slavery.

I went to Scotland with my dad and brother when I was 16. Just for a couple weeks, though, and staying with your dad's friends isn't the same as traveling around on your own and staying in youth hostels. Nevertheless, it was really cool, and seeing some of their photos of places I also visited brings back memories. Now, I'm just living vicariously!

Love ya, girls!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Awesome Purchase, Part Two

Last week in Part One, I revealed my armoire purchase and mentioned that on the same day I had bought something else but wouldn't be able to pick it up for a week or so. Today was the day, and here it is, my new china cabinet!! Excuse me for a moment while I go hug it.

I was browsing craigslist one day, as I sometimes do, for no particular reason, and came across this, just listed and on my side of town. This is a solid wood piece. It probably came from a real furniture store. Not Walmart or IKEA--I still love IKEA, but it's a long distance relationship, unfortunately. (You can see the color we are eventually going to paint the walls in the upper right corner.)

It has cool dentil molding (not dental, people, although it is from the Latin for tooth), and although I'm not sure it was intentional, there's even a little bit of distressing going on.

Look inside the upper doors...beadboard! Love it! There's also a groove in the shelves for displaying plates. I was thinking I would paint this, but it just occurred to me that this matches the color scheme of my kitchen table and chairs, so I don't know.

Inside the lower doors is a nice storage area with a shelf.

I will have to fix this: she dabbled the upper glass with white paint for sort of a faux frosted look. It's a little too faux for me, plus I want to display things. It's an easy fix, though; I just need to scrape it with a razor blade.

Also this. If you enlarge the photo you can see that she didn't paint the top. Shouldn't be too hard, I guess.

Do I need a china cabinet? Not neccesarily. Do I even have an obvious place to put it? Not really. But I couldn't pass it up. Why, you ask? Well, not only is it a quality piece of furniture, and already black, but it was only....

THIRTY. FIVE. DOLLARS. Thirty-five dollars!! Picture me doing the Cabbage Patch right about now. No, wait, that would not be a pretty sight.

Is there a prize for finding the bargain of the century, 'cuz if so, I just won it!