Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's Only Wednesday?

When grandmother is a musician, sometimes baby must to go to practice with her. And baby might as well have an instrument, too. Just to get the idea. So this morning we made music. Baby Sister won't get to go to Arts Day on Friday but she liked her own private concert today.

Last night I did manage to get supper into the oven for Baby Sister's family before I headed home. I didn't get to taste it but Big Sister called later and said it was good--good enough to cook it again. That's my measure of how much they like a recipe. Mommy said a plus for her was having the broccoli in the recipe. A complete meal in one dish.  Found the recipe on the back of a cheese bag and then tweaked it a bit to suit what was on hand.

  • Chicken And Rice Bake

  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp. paprika  
  • 1 tsp. thyme leaves
  •                                                           1 tsp. garlic salt
  •                                                           1 cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese

  • Combine rice, broth, onion and broccoli in 11x7-inch baking pan (2-qt.). Place chicken over rice mixture. Combine paprika, thyme and garlic salt in small bowl; sprinkle over chicken.

  • Cover with foil; bake in preheated 375°F oven 40 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes more or until liquid is absorbed, rice is tender and chicken is cooked through.

  • Sprinkle chicken and rice with cheese. Bake 5 minutes more or until cheese is melted.
  •       *Recipe photo via

Big Sister has been busy, too. She's going on a trip next week during Spring Break and wanted to take this dish cloth as a gift. She has knitted before bed most evenings. She even got up early so that she could knit before school. So she finished it with a couple of days to spare!

She did a really great job on her first dish cloth. I'm very curious to see what her next project will be. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Please, Sir, I Want Some More *

I wasn't around this weekend for the first two attempts at feeding cereal to Baby Sister. I think I missed the best part--where she was quite puzzled with the strange stuff being poked into her mouth. It rolled around in her mouth and then rolled out of her mouth. Last night was bowl #3 and by this time, that little mouth popped open as soon as she saw the spoon headed her way. And like little Oliver Twist, she would have liked more when the bowl was empty.

Now if you grew up when I did, you read Dick Tracy in the comics and thought his two-way wrist radio was pretty cool--but purely imagined. Oh, how far we've come! Last night's cereal event was attended (by way of iChat) by Aunt Jessica who lives in another state. I'm happy to learn how to use new technologies when I can. But using them doesn't make them any less amazing. I'm still dazzled by things like iChat and Skype, which happily make those long distances feel smaller.

Wonder if Baby Sister thinks Aunt Jessica lives in the computer?

* Quote from Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens

Monday, March 28, 2011

Knit A Bit

Almost everyone says, “There’s nothing on TV anymore—200 channels and still nothing to watch.” But for all we say that, we rarely turn it off.  Well, Mommy does. It’s astonishing how much time there is for other things when we are not all glued to the television. Big Sister and I have enjoyed having “knit night” right at the kitchen table about once a week.

I had never thought about how much you learn (besides the knitting) when you learn to knit. But watching this busy little body settle down with needles and yarn has opened my eyes.  She’s learned patience. She’s learned to stick with it until the project is done. She’s learning about the joy of giving—all of the bracelets she’s made have been given to others. For now all of my bits and bobs of yarn are destined to be made into bracelets for the girls in her class at school. That’s a real friendship bracelet.  

Sometimes the knitting fairy checks in on her progress. (I think she might be a cousin to the tooth fairy. Maybe.) The knitting fairy really likes this dishcloth.

Another lesson Big Sister has learned while knitting is that mistakes happen and it’s not the end of the earth. The other day I heard her talking to herself when she had dropped a stitch, “Now don’t panic…stay calm...” as she worked to fix her error.  That’s a HUGE life lesson.

And what am I knitting?  I made a quick hat last night for Baby Sister.  Poor baby had outgrown her others and her almost bald head was chilly yesterday. She needed a new hat for this last blast of cold weather. Love a pattern you can finish in one sitting. Temps are headed back up by the end of the week, so I'd better be looking for summer patterns!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In The Kitchen

Yesterday, somewhere between the sun waking up and the baby waking up, I got busy in the kitchen and made hot dog chili. This was for a dinner a church group is serving this afternoon. I can't be there to help serve so I volunteered to do this. Even though I'm "grandmothering" full time, I still like to be involved in my regular activities when I can.

I'm not sure what people in other parts of the country put on top of a hot dog, but here in the South, it's all about the chili. There are many recipes for chili and everyone has their favorite kind but my family thinks this one is the best. It's easy, easy to make and it freezes well, so you can always have some on hand. Here is how I do it:

Hot Dog Chili

1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 of a 24-oz. bottle of ketchup
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt & pepper to taste

Place everything in a saucepan and mix together. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently as the meat on the bottom browns.  The meat will release it's juices as it cooks making it easier to stir. When it's all brown, cover and simmer on low heat for an hour. Or 30 minutes. Or somewhere in between. Stir every now and then.

NOT browning the meat first will give you a chili with a finer texture that is easily spooned onto the hot dog. This is also one time when I do not want extra lean ground beef. Using the extra lean makes a mushy chili. It will taste good but just doesn't look like I want it to. I never measure the ketchup either. I'll add almost a half bottle and then add more as it cooks until I like the color of the chili.

When I freeze it, I'll often put it into a Ziploc bag and freeze it flat. It will thaw quicker when it's in a thin layer than when it's in a quart container. You can also break off a corner of the flat pack if you only want to thaw a little bit for one or two hot dogs.

Well, this batch was delivered last night. Hope the folks having the hot dog supper today enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Baby Sister Says...

"I went to lunch with Mimi and her friend and the waiter brought me crayons and something to color. What does he think I am--a BABY or something??!?!!!"


 We went out yesterday to enjoy the weather and discovered it was even warmer than we thought.

It was warm enough to turn on the ceiling fan.  Almost as entertaining as television.

It was warm enough for bare feet.

Summer's coming!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grandmother Goes To Town

One book I read over and over to my girls when they were small was The County Mouse and The City Mouse.  Well, this weekend I felt a little like the country mouse when I headed to Atlanta to spend the weekend with Jessica. I'm always a tad unnerved when I hit the place on I-85 where the traffic spreads out across 6 lanes--all going in one direction. I live on a road in the country where it can be hours before a vehicle passes our house.

I've told Mommy (who is busy with work, baby, 10-year-old daughter, house, etc.) more than once that is important for the caregiver to take care of herself. If that person gives out, everyone is in trouble. So this weekend I headed south for a couple of days to relax and recharge my battery. Then tomorrow I'll be back to "grandmothering", all rested and refreshed.

Here are some highlights of my weekend:

I love walking into Jessica's apartment. Anywhere you rest your eyes there is something beautiful and interesting to see. It all is just "her."

You just see things in the city that you don't find at home. I can say with certainty that I have never seen street poets in our little town. The poems were free--you just had to provide the topic. We passed them by at first but then Jessica laughed and said, "You should have asked for a ukulele poem." I turned right around and did just that.

Turns out the poet was also a ukulele player! How funny. So after he wrote my poem and read it to us, he pulled out his koa uke and played us a tune. 

Yeah! I finally have a new computer. (I know they sell them at home, too, but I never slowed down to go to the Apple Store here.)

The new swift and yarn winder work. Good to know. (And my first phone call when I got home tonight was from Big Sister. "Mimi, I have a knitting question. How do I...?" So glad these younger folks enjoy knitting. too.)

Atlanta has so many good restaurants that it's always hard to choose one. Babette's Cafe was perfect. Take a close look at the "Senior Zone" sign in the photo.  Think that might have influenced Jessica's decision to take me there? I will admit that most dinner guests were closer to my age than hers. But it could say "elderly zone" and I would go back in a skinny minute! The food was fantastic. We sat outside on the porch and enjoyed a leisurely dinner and the perfect weather. 

R. Thomas is just a place you have to see to believe. It's on Peachtree Street, right in the middle of town. There are parrots in the cages along side of the building. Parrots that shout "Hello!" as you walk by. Crazy. Kids love it. I love it.

The dining area isn't glassed in--it's wrapped in plastic. So it's a little like indoor/outdoor dining at the same time. But the food is excellent. And healthy. They'll feed the vegan just as well as the burger lover. Natural foods, raw foods and meat. Now that really is something for everyone.

This morning we were there for breakfast. And don't worry, I didn't actually eat all of this. But I wish I could have. You really need to click on the R. Thomas link and read more about this place.

Jessica has a more complete list of all the restaurants we visited on her blog. But then look at the supper she cooked right after I left! I'd be happy just to eat in her kitchen.

Oh, you might just see Baby Sister in a new outfit or two soon. Jessica and I may have done a tiny bit of shopping besides buying the computer. But not too much. Baby Sister is growing too fast to buy much at one time. 

The weekend was all fun but I'm glad I'm back home now. Thanks, Jessica, for treating your mama well!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baby Sister Says...

"Read the book?  OoooOOohh......I thought you said EAT the book."

"Okay. I'll try it your way but I still think it was more fun my way."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Catching My Breath

A busy busy weekend was followed by the car crisis on Monday and then yesterday (Tuesday) the day started with a computer crash.  Today (Wednesday) is a day to stop, breathe and then I'll start again tomorrow.

But here is a little of our weekend...

The Through The Woods hood is finished for Jessica. Easter hood?  Or  let's look at it this way--I'm really ahead with my knitting for next winter.

Baby Sister had new party clothes for the baby shower at her house this weekend. There's a new cousin on the way!

I posted the recipe for the puff shells earlier but I wanted to show you the finished product. This was part of our party food. We love to fill them with homemade chicken salad.  Do not tell anyone how easy these puffs are.  Then they will think you are a kitchen genius.

So very thankful for a calm day today.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Granddaddy To The Rescue

Mommy and Big Sister had just walked out the door early this morning--so early it was still dark outside. The baby was asleep upstairs and I had just poured a cup of coffee and was thinking about what to write this morning. It was going to be about how I love the return to calm on Monday mornings.

Then there was this little tap on the back door. It was Big Sister. The car was still in the garage and Mommy was furiously reading the owners manual trying to figure out what was wrong. Something to do with the 4-wheel drive being locked. (Ummmm... I was the last one to drive it--think it could have been something I did?) Big Sister kept saying, "We're going to be late. We're going to be late." Yep, that was pretty much a given.

After many futile attempts to get the car into drive, we decided they would have to take my car. We all raced around to moving things from one car to the other. Big Sister got settled inside my car about the time I managed to set off the car alarm. Now this house sits in a cul de sac that is so quiet you can hear a leaf fall.

I raced to get my car keys from Mommy who was gathering up things from her car and we managed to drop the keys in the dark garage. The alarm was still blaring. And when I did find the keys, I had no clue how to shut the alarm off. I just kept pressing all the buttons over and over until God took pity on me and the neighbors and that awful noise finally stopped.

That took care of getting them to school but Mommy's car was still stuck in the garage. So I did what I always do when a crisis arises. I called Granddaddy. I'm not sure what he had planned for his day, but he put on his cape and came to our rescue. Super Granddad! I love Granddaddy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Party Girl

Yesterday was a whirlwind as we got everything together for a baby shower for my niece. Everything was going smoothly until we were almost at Baby Sister's house with all the food and realized we had left the large centerpiece on my dining room table! Thankfully there was time to send Granddaddy back to get it. How on earth did we forget the biggest thing on the table???

Baby Sister had fun in her new party clothes. She will soon have a new cousin. Someone to play with at family gatherings. We can't wait!

I enjoy making dainty little party foods and this little cupcake has to be a favorite. The recipe came from my daughter's college roommate. She didn't have a name for the recipe so we named it after her! They are easy to make and can be made ahead and frozen. A perfect party recipe.

Libby's Fudgy Nutty Chocolate Cupcakes

4 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 sticks butter
1/4 tsp. butter flavoring
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
1-3/4 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt chocolate and butter. Stir in nuts and butter flavoring.
Mix sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla
Add chocolate mixture and fold together.
Spoon into mini muffin pans, lined with paper liners.
Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Check with a toothpick for doneness.

Makes 60 mini cupcakes.

(If you want regular size cupcakes, bake 30-35 minutes.  Makes 24.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Work Day

I don't guess you can start too early learning about the importance of choosing colorful foods. Baby Sister and I had to go to the grocery store this morning. This was our third trip and I think I finally figured out how to do this. (For the life of me, I can't remember what I did when my girls were babies.) I put two of the green shopping baskets under the cart. Then when we got to the check-out, it was easy just to put the baskets up onto the conveyor belt.

When you go shopping early in the morning, there aren't many customers and it seemed that most of those had toddlers or preschoolers in tow. Taking a baby is such a conversation starter. The check-out girl just cooed at her and got a tiny smile in return. But the best was the white haired man who carried my groceries (along with Baby Sister) out. He sang to her all the way to the car.

We moved to the farm for the day so that I could spend some time in my own kitchen to get ready for the baby shower tomorrow. An hour-and-a-half here and I had made toasted pecans, chicken salad, fruit dip and lemon bars. Plus, the fruit and vegetables are prepped, too. Thankfully there are a couple of things ready and waiting in the freezer.

The secret to giving a shower? Prepare the food at one house and have the party at another! Mommy's kitchen is all clean and ready for a party. I just have to show up with the food.

Here is a recipe a sweet lady gave me many years ago. She was a local caterer and served this often at her events. It's so easy and delicious, I know why. I love sharing recipes. Every time I make this dip, I remember how special this lady was. I still feel a connection to her. Try this for your next party. You don't have to tell anyone how little work it was.

Mallow Fruit Dip

1 (7-oz.) jar marshmallow creme
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
dash of ground ginger

Gradually add marshmallow cream to softened cream cheese. (I beat the cream cheese with a mixer a little until it's fluffy), mixing until well blended.

Serve with fresh fruits, such as strawberries, apple or pear wedges, bananas and grapes. (Don't forget to use lemon juice or Fruit Fresh to keep apples, pears and bananas from turning dark.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Baby Sister Says...

"It's still cold enough for my snowman pajamas but Mommy bought me this hat because she says summer is coming.  Now tell me again....what exactly IS summer?"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Busy Girls

Now I will admit to possessing some skills with scissors, glue, tape and most things crafty, so when talk of this science project started, I'm pretty sure my name was included in the planning process somewhere along the way. But it worked out that I was not here when it was time to actually do it.

And when I got back and heard discussion of "methodology" and "variables" I was glad that Mom and Dad were around to help. I don't remember 4th grade being quite like this. So Big Sister and Dad worked on the testing process and then Big Sister was in charge of the assembly. Mom made the photos as the project was in progress. How cool it was to get an email the day of the science fair telling me that Big Sister won first place for her class!

Big Sister has also been working on another knitting project. This project I can help her with. She knitted a bracelet which meant she had to learn how to purl for this. She also learned that mistakes happen and if you don't panic, it's easier to fix it. And she learned that not everything can be finished in ten minutes. Now her friends want bracelets. I already know what she'll find out next--after the first one, it gets easier!

So what was Baby Sister doing while everyone was busy? She was doing her work, too. See the concentration? Maybe she's planning HER next project.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Times They Are A'Changing

Sunday afternoon was a great time to get started on baking for a baby shower that's happening next weekend. Baby Sister will be getting a new cousin and playmate and we'll be welcoming my sister into the "grandmother club." Spending time in the kitchen was easier yesterday because Granddaddy offered to be the baby keeper. I never lack for help with the baby. I think she is a granddadddy's girl in the making. Yesterday he taught her the importance of Sunday afternoon naps.

Thinking about this baby shower makes me remember how little girls used to learn about hosting parties. The ladies of the church would gather once a month in someone's home for the circle meeting. I always thought it was called a "circle meeting" because the ladies sat in a circle. Dainty foods were served on small plates. Planning the refreshment menu was serious business. It was all very proper. And when the circle met at our house, my job (at about age 6) was to pass the napkins around to the ladies. I felt so important. 

One thing that was usually on each plate at these meetings was a tiny paper cup of nuts. I had not thought about these little nut cups in ages until I saw the little paper cups at the grocery store this morning. Except they are no longer labeled "nut cups" -- these packages said "gelatin shot cups!!!" Oh my, how times have changed! Glad none of the ladies from the church circle could see me buying these.

A favorite recipe we use now for most showers are chicken salad puffs. A dear friend shared her recipe for the puff shells several years ago. They are so easy to make. Fill them with your favorite chicken salad. Or anything else you might think of. It's the recipe for cream puff shells but we use them for appetizers. Give them a try and you'll be surprised how easy they are.

Miniature Cream Puffs

1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Boil water and butter, then turn on low heat. Add flour all at once, stirring rapidly. Cook and stir until thick and mixture leaves sides of pan. (Looks little like play dough at this point.) Remove from heat.

Put dough into mixing bowl. (I like to use a stand mixer but have done it with a hand mixer.) Add eggs one at a time, beating good until mixture looks shiny and breaks off spoon when spoon is lifted.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet. (Use fingertip to make a swirl on the top of each one.)

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until puffy and brown. Cool and remove from sheet. Use the tip of a small sharp knife to split each puff in half ALMOST all the way through. (Leave a "hinge".)

The puffs can be made ahead and frozen unfilled.

If you want to make these for dessert, just make them larger and bake a little longer. You can tell when they are done by the golden brown color. Fill with custard or flavored whipped cream.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Working Hard

Another week has come and gone. Baby Sister has worked hard all week. We read books, sang songs, played lots of "Where's Baby Sister?", danced a little and she concentrated on playing with her toys. She has learned to squeak her favorite giraffe. And breaks into the biggest smile when it squeaks.

Granddaddy was the baby sitter yesterday while I went to ukulele practice. When I walked in the door after the practice, Baby Sister was screaming and Granddaddy was looking totally distressed. We have no clue what happened. Just one of those things. But everyone was glad Mimi was back. They would have been fine without me I know, but it did make me feel a bit like Superman or Mighty Mouse to walk in and get everything under control in minutes. (More luck than anything, but felt good just the same.)

I'll be back on duty on Monday. Think they will survive the weekend without me?  <grin>  Yep, they will be fine.