Friday, August 14, 2009

Me and My Bright Ideas

I've referred to the farmer's basket in a previous post. Well, here's the story. At the beginning of the summer, I found out about a co-op where you sign up to receive a farmer's basket each week. Basically, the produce is from an organic farm about an hour from Nashville. They deliver on Wednesdays---not too far from my house. Even Butch said it sounded like a good idea---help out the local farmers (this one---by the way---is deployed in Iraq, so his family is "holding down the fort/farm"---one more reason to support them). We signed up for the "half" share to the tune of $25.00 a week. At first, I thought this seemed pricey. But, when I bought just enough fresh lima beans for a family dinner, it cost me $12.99. Then, when the baskets started coming---holey, moley---enough produce to keep the Jackson family supplied too. Here's a picture of last week's bounty:Above are the pear-shaped tomatoes, watermelon, green beans, fresh eggs, cantaloupe, corn on the cob, cucumbers, 3 types of eggplant, potatoes, 3 types of squash, green peppers and slicing tomatoes---all in one week.

This basket is from a previous week. We get a dozen farm fresh eggs every week(except for two weeks when a opossum made its way into the hen house) and we got fresh blackberries 4 weeks in a row. You just never know what will be in the basket. It's been so much fun---the surprise of it---that Butch will even ask when he's out-of-town: "What was in the basket?" If he's in town, I always wait to show him before putting it all away.

Now, back to my bright idea. Last week when the entire family was here, there were vegetables at every meal. I'm sure cooking a lot more. Still, I had an overabundance. Then when I picked up the basket this Wednesday night, I knew that there was no way we'd eat all of this. Out-of-towners were arriving on Thursday and I was leaving for the beach on Sunday. I gave a lot of veggies to Steph, but still there was a lot left. 

I decided to "don" my earth shoes from the '70's and "preserve the harvest." I searched the internet for tips on freezing and I had a recipe from my sister, Joyce to make "sun" pickles. I made my list and on Thursday, I added Ace Hardware to my regular list of errands where I was to find canning supplies. By the time I left the store, I had $105.60 worth of jars, plastic freezer containers, pickling salt and spices and a large gallon jar for the sun pickles. At least I resisted the urge to buy a "seal-a-meal"---another $100 bucks---the one I had in the 70's was about $20.

I'm still in my frenetic, obsessive mode, so this seemed like a piece of cake to squeeze into my already jammed packed schedule. I started this "project" at 3:30 p.m. I worked straight through until 7:30 p.m. I forgot how time consuming all the steps are: washing the vegetables, peeling, slicing, blanching, dunking in ice water, containerizing, labeling, etc. By 7 or so, Butch even chipped in to help---especially with the clean-up---you can't believe the mess I made---with company on the way.  

But here's the sum of my efforts:
In the freezer I have---1 qt. and 3 pts. of chopped green peppers (I'll have to do a lot of cooking to use up this much green pepper---and I can really only think of one dish that I use green peppers in), 1 qt. of okra already breaded and ready to fry, 3 qts. of squash, 3 qts. of eggplant, 1 qt. and 5 pts. of bread and butter pickles. I haven't even started on the tomatoes yet and didn't even make the sun pickles as the jar is so darn big, I don't think it will fit in the refrigerator.

Sheesh, it would have been a lot cheaper and less time consuming if I'd just thrown it all away---gasp!!! Me and my bright ideas! At least I saved money by not buying the "seal-a-meal!" But, I'm seriously thinking about it....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oh Crap!

You won't believe what happened to me this morning---or what I caused to happen to me this morning. You know I've been on this major, obsessive, cleaning mode. Well today, I woke up waaay too early and finally got out of bed at 4 a.m. I came upstairs to my office and decided to clean out my files. I'm working along, feeling really good about what I'm accomplishing---downloading more cd's to my computer---I'm up to 536 albums now---just really crankin' it!

Then I come across this font cd. I don't know if you know that I am also a font junkie. I have 898 fonts all neatly categorized in folders in my Font Book on my computer. This disk I found has 1000 fonts on it. I say to myself, "hmmm, if there's a thousand fonts on this disk and I only have 898 on my computer, I must not have downloaded them." You might think that I would ask myself the obvious question---"do I really need more than 898 fonts?" But, noooooo, I don't do that. Instead, I load the cd, open it and decide to "check" to see if I had gone through the fonts and just picked the ones I liked. Wellllll, I don't know what the heck I did, but the next thing I know I get a little message saying that 1000 fonts are being copied to my DESKTOP!!!! What the f? Oh My Gooodddd!!! (and you know I always say Oh My Gosh!). Suddenly, I have a thousand font icons all over my desktop. I'm totally going nuts. Another thing I'm majorly obsessive about is my computer desktop---I have about 6 things on it. I like it clean and clear---no documents or folders cluttering it up, not to mention covering my cute background picture of Butch and I.

Now I tell myself to take a deep breath and THINK---which is kind of hard to do when your heart is in palpitation mode. I calm myself---a very little---and decide to hit "command Z" for "un-do". Shucks, that didn't work. Now I have no choice but to click on each little bugger individually and drag them to the trash. Of course the easiest thing would be to "select all", but if I do that, then EVERYTHING goes. So, I proceeded to click on each one. Oh, My Gosh---I just had a brainstorm. I'll be right back....

Never mind---it isn't going to work. I thought I could just select all and then go back and "de-select" the folders and icons I want to keep. The reason I can't do it is because after I got rid of all the ones on the desktop, there is a humongous stack ON TOP of my hard drive icon. For those, I have no choice but to click on each one individually---or lose my entire hard drive.

I've worked on it for about 30 minutes before taking a break to write this, plus a minute or two for my brainstorm. Turns out, I guess it's going to be more like 5000 clicks required as each font has a number of types---bold, condensed, etc. Sheesh, this is going to take forever. So much for what I had planned for the rest of the day. Even if I tell myself to just do a little at a time, it hangs over my head. I have to stick to it until I get them all off.

You know what I say to that---FTS!!! Is there such a thing as being "too" organized?

Monday, August 10, 2009


Just goes to show that Texas Hold 'em and Fanta Grape don't mix!

The kids are getting so grown up! Jordan, Morgan, Mitchell (in the back), Elizabeth and Victoria in front.

Our "big" girls shopping day. My, the big girls are grown up too!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Obsessive Mode

Well, I've been in obsessive mode all week---as if I didn't have enough to do with the whole family here. But I have to do something when I get up before everyone in the a.m. and can't do the normal things I would normally do since everyone is still sleeping and I have to be quiet and try not to make noise.

I started last weekend in the library. I sorted out all my books and moved Butch's books to the rec room. Never again shall boy books mix with girl books. I'm hauling at least 100 books to mom for the library there. It might even be closer to 200 books. All books are now re-organized and re-categorized.

From there, I started on the rec room cabinets---that's been on my list to do for over a year. I got the cabinets cleaned out, the game closet and the art supplies closet. I got rid of all the VHS tapes and organized the DVD's. I organized all the CD's and am in the process of getting them all downloaded to my computer. I have nearly 500 albums on there now. I got rid of the old cassette tapes and the player too. I have lots of empty cabinets again!

I got up at 5:30 this morning and started in. I cleaned out the pantry, refrigerator, all kitchen cabinets, vanities in Mindy's bath and guest bath, did all the laundry and put it all away (including all the full baskets that were in the laundry room), cleaned Mindy's carpet (as best I could---but it's still ruined and looks like crap), put the dining room back together, cleaned out the mud room and the bins in there, refilled all bathroom soap dispensers and cleaned out the one that was clogged, ironed a couple things, cleaned out the drawers and remaining cabinets in the rec room, refilled toilet paper and bar soap in all bathrooms, cooked supper AND helped Butch clean out the pool shed!!!!! Plus, I still managed to get a 2 hour nap this afternoon and write 2 blog entries. I'm going to post some pictures of our week tomorrow---when I'm working in my office.

Thanks Sandy and Steph for helping me with the library and rec room. It makes it so much easier to have help with the hauling. The kids helped with the hauling too.

Now tomorrow, I'm going to get my office cleaned out---closets and desk drawers. Then it's on to putting my scrapbook room in order. It feels so good to have everything caught up. Chrissy, you would be so proud. I've come a long way from those days when you came nearly every weekend to clean up my room and organize my junk.

It's 10 p.m. and I'm going to bed---which means I'll probably be up by 4 or so....

Oh, Sandy and Steph, I cancelled the Disabled Vets pick up tomorrow too! So now I'm not mad at your dad anymore for trying to "piss me off"!!  Side note: Sandy and Steph told me I over-reacted when I was "all over" Butch for telling the DAV that they could come by tomorrow to pick up all the stuff I'm cleaning out. I give that stuff to Margarita---and he knows that. He said that he did it on purpose just to "piss me off". Well, it worked! In retaliation, I left the grill on all night just to "piss him off".  Not really, but I told him that I did.

All I've got to say is thank God we have a good sense of humor!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Grammy Camp

We have been getting together for the first week of August in Nashville for over 10 years now. It's sort of a last "hurrah" before school begins---hanging out by the pool, playing a zillion games and just having fun together. And did I mention the laughing? Well, more and more, the joke's on me!

When Steph was a teacher, and Mindy was home for the summer, we actually had a little more time together. Now we squeeze in whatever time we can. The Lapps family arrived last Friday night. I had the schedule posted on the refrigerator. The kids like to know what they can look forward to for the week. Mindy likes to have the meals posted too, but since she was only "breezing" in for 2 days, I didn't think that was necessary.

Lonnie Young---for school shoes
The Dog---who would have thought that you could spend $60 at a hot dog place?
Tast-d-lit---new low-cal ice cream shop
Washer tournament---(we actually had to postpone this due to rain) played poker instead--- Texas Hold 'em---it's so cute---the kids each have their own poker money that they keep in the cabinet. There was a little controversy over the Lapps money because they were not clearly marked. Mitchell had won "big" a few weeks ago, so he claimed the bigger bag. That problem has been corrected!

Park n' Shop
The Lapps' went to spend time with the "other" side of the family, so it was just Steph and girls at the pool. That gave me plenty of time to re-create the entire Italian dinner from last weekend. Jordan invited her boyfriend---I was impressed that he would come as he's very shy. When I mentioned it to her, she said that he'll do anything that she wants. I guess she's got it goin' on! Nathan definitely was raised right! He showed up with lemon squares- --that he made himself. They were very good---we all asked him for the recipe!

The Lapps family spent the morning at the pool and then went to lunch before dropping Greg at the airport. After dinner, we played "Bingo for Bucks". Then we taught the kids how to play Tripoly---which was the start of many games all week.

Kids shopping spree at the mall. I let the kids each get 2 outfits. I like to call it "speed shopping". The teenagers go off on their own and scout out what they would like to buy. In the meantime, Victoria and Elizabeth, Sandy and I hit their favorite stores. When we met up with the teens, we had them try on for our approval. A successful trip followed by lunch at Red Lobster and a couple hours at the pool. More games after dinner.

We picked Mindy up in the morning and had a pool day. She is working so much, that her permanent New Orleans tan was beginning to fade. After pool time, we rented "Hotel for Dogs"---cute movie, but watching anything with teenagers is a challenge. They make fun of everything! We went to the club for Mexican night. After Sandy put the little girls to bed, we watched "Obsessed" with Beyonce'---the movie was good, but it got pretty hokie at the end---which started the kids up again with their criticisms.

Everybody was on their own today. I enjoyed my day at the bridge table. After dinner, Sandy picked Greg up at the airport. When he got back, we stayed up pretty late playing Liars Poker.

The day I was most looking forward to---our "big" girls shopping trip. I really enjoy having my 3 girls to myself (no kids). We started at the book store to pick up Jordan's high school text books. We had barely arrived when Steph got a call from Jordan---a female issue that required immediate doctor attention. Unfortunately, she had to leave. Mindy, Sandy and I continued on our own. Steph returned in time to pick us up to meet Butch for lunch. He took us to a really nice place downtown. I'm not even going to say how much lunch cost, but we thought it was pretty funny that he complained about the $3.25 ice teas---which we wouldn't have even ordered if we'd known that we were going to order a bottle of wine!

After lunch, we dropped Mindy at the airport, Butch at his office and Sandy and I took Steph back to the mall. New York & Co. is our favorite place---and they really have the sales. All of the girls did pretty well. I shopped Cold Water Creek. 

We got home at 5:30 and it was time for the evening activities to begin. Tonight is the scheduled kids camp out, late night swim and s'mores. Butch and Greg put up the tent. I handed Morgan a roll of toilet paper and a shovel and told her to ask Butch where she was supposed to dig the latrine. It cracked me up that he thought I was serious. Seriously!?! 

After swimming, we started the fire in the fire pit. After several failed attempts, I put my Camp Fire Girl skills to use. I didn't get the "honor camper of the year" award 3 years in a row without knowing how to build a "friggin" fire. Besides roasting s'mores, we roasted ourselves. Having a campfire in Nashville in August amidst 95+ degrees was really pretty stupid---not to mention that I had forgotten to turn off the grill the night before, so the patio was really heated up.

I think it was about 9:15 when the teens went to the tent. Butch wanted to take bets on how long they would last. We adults stayed out another 45 minutes or so. We weren't in the house 5 minutes when Jordan was the first to come in. She said that since her trip to the doctor, she had bathroom issues that would require her being close to the "john" during the night.  Within 5 minutes, Morgan and Mitchell came in. Mitchell said, "grammy, it's not because we're scared, there's nothing to do". They didn't even bring a deck of cards for the tent. Kids now-a-days are so used to their video games, iPods and phones that they don't know what to do without them.

Butch and Greg played golf while we girls and kids had our final pool day. When the guys got home, we had the washer tournament. Each person put in a dollar. We chose teams by drawing out of a hat. Jordan's boyfriend was here again and as luck would have it, they luckily paired up. They did pretty well together. Sandy and Stephanie ended up being the winners with each winning $5.00.

We barbecued and started the "homemade ice cream fiasco". We haven't made homemade ice cream in probably 15 years. I followed the recipe in the book. As I was making the mixture, I noticed that there was no sugar in the recipe. Apparently, there was a "typo" and they left out the word "sweetened" in front of condensed milk. I added sugar, but it didn't work. We ended up with a soupy mess. I put it in the big freezer and the kids had some later. I threw it out this morning! 

We finished our week with another family game of Texas Hold 'Em. I was the big winner this time with Mitchell coming in second and Butch third. We each put in $3.00 in exchange for chips. My winning cut was $18.00. I love taking money from kids!!

Casualties of the week:
Handle fell off the back door.
After 15 years, Greg still doesn't understand "decorative" towels.
Steph should NEVER be assigned any cooking duties.
Mindy ruined her carpet by dropping her bronzer on it---thanks, Mindy---it's always expensive     having you home.
Mitchell broke a few eardrums wailing on his electric guitar to Inagadadavita.
The whole house was completely "trashed" as usual.
Elizabeth can't handle poker and Fanta Grape at the same time (picture to follow).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Turns Out I'm Still Italian After All!

You almost can't tell that I'm Italian---I have pale skin most of the time (of course the pool helped with that this year), I don't look Italian, I don't speak Italian and besides the occasional pot of spaghetti sauce, I don't cook Italian. I've been to Italy, but I'm not sure that counts. I changed all that last weekend---I'm definitely Italian through and through (okay maybe only half)---and I have the FOOD to prove it---and I've been on a roll.

It really started when I was in St. Louis for nearly a month helping mom after her surgery. Visiting my favorite Italian restaurants is a must when I'm in town. We just don't have any Italian restaurants like them here in Nashville. 

I decided that I was going to cook Italian for my friends. I left St. Louis with a cooler of toasted ravioli, Valenti bread and aged cheeses. I finally had that dinner last weekend. I decided to serve courses. There were 11 of us.

The week before, I went to the liquor store to find just the right wines for the party. I told my buddy at the store that I was serving Italian and wanted some "respectable" wines. He said, "so you're thinking the $30.00 range?" I said, "well, I was really thinking more in the $20.00 range." I didn't want to look cheap, but I was really thinking more in the $15.00 range. He helped me with 6 different types. I got 2 of each for a case. They ranged from $14.00 to $28.00 a bottle. That's when I started to complain to Connie---entertaining is expensive and I'm mad that some of our friends never do anything.  Anyway, she's good to let me vent. I swore to her that this is the last time I was doing something. Of course, it doesn't do a lot of good to complain to her because she shares my plight. She is the only one that plans and does as much as I do. We rant and rave and say we're not going to do it anymore, but then we can't hold out because we want to do fun stuff. Enough of the complaints and on to the dinner.

I started cooking on Saturday morning. Butch had gone to play golf, so I had the house to myself. I put on my music and really enjoyed the process. I used fresh herbs from my farmer (I don't know if I've reported this---another story---I get a basket of fresh vegetables every week) and lots of fresh vegetables. I cut flowers from the garden for the table and had all the food ready by 1 p.m. I took my nap floating in the pool.

Course 1: Toasted ravioli---2---1 with butter, 1 with sauce.
Course 2: Grandpa's soup via grandma---my grandpa Preli made the best soup. It's the only thing he made. When he died, grandma tried to duplicate it. She got pretty close. She babysat Sandy a lot when she was a baby, so I was at her house all the time. I wrote things down when she cooked because she didn't have any actual recipes. 
Course 3: Italian salad with all kinds of good stuff in it---like St. Louis salads. I used the Pasta House dressing recipe, but substituted balsamic vinegar for the red-wine vinegar and it was great. I served a slice of Italian bread (toasted with butter and herbs) with the salad.
Course 4: Gnocchis (home-made with Grandma Preli's recipe) with spaghetti sauce, bruggeloni (I have no idea how to spell that---it's the round steak with seasonings, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese rolled around hard boiled eggs and cooked in the the sauce) along with another slice of bread.
Course 5: Fresh Blackberry cake. For 4 weeks in a row, I've gotten a quart of fresh blackberries from the farmer. I found that recipe on the internet---homemade from scratch---delicious.

The meal was a success---and fun to do. Even Butch, who really doesn't care about food, told me it was great. 

Now this week, the whole family is here for our annual first week of August last hurrah before school begins. I was telling the girls about my dinner party last week. I had planned to make some spaghetti for them this week as I made a HUGE pot of sauce and froze it. Then I got to thinking---I made this great Italian meal for my friends, why don't I do it for the family? So, I did. The Lapps family were gone today and Butch was playing golf, so, again, I had the house to myself. I made the entire dinner over again. This time there would just be 10 of us---or so I thought. Jordan ended up calling to find out if she could bring her boyfriend. Sure, what's one more.

Did the whole meal again. I let Victoria and Elizabeth help me make the gnocchis. Funny how I have so much patience when it comes to my grandkids. When my girls were little, I could not bake with them. I "wigged out" about the mess. Our family Christmas cookie baking day ended up with me making the dough ahead of time to avoid the mess. We all rolled them out and baked them. Then, Butch was in charge of decorating. I went in the other room and just cringed when I heard the sprinkles hitting the floor.  I've come a long way.

Anyway, after cooking a huge Italian meal twice in the same week, something crazy has started to happen. I'm talking more with my hands and an accent has emerged. Turns out I'm still Italian after all! Arrivederci! (Okay, so I