Thursday, May 24, 2018

Long Weekend Coming

Sourdough bread for the weekend.

There is a long weekend coming. And all the children and grandchildren coming. And lots of rain coming. Because we were slightly tied up with wedding things less than three weeks ago, we had not opened the lake cabin for the year until now. So this week we have been going at it with both barrels. It's a small cabin, built back when folks only wanted a little place to stay while they fished for a couple of days.

We have stretched that cabin, with it's postage stamp-sized kitchen, to its very limits over the years. Several years ago we built a screened porch that nearly doubled the footprint of the house. It's where we spend most of our lake time. Indoor space is "cozy." (That's realtor speak for small.) And we turned a storage room that years ago was the original screened porch into an extra bedroom. It only has a single bed. And it has to share space with the long rack of hanging life jackets, but that extra bed was much needed.

Well, this year as the family has continued to grow, we added a tiny cottage (with a better kitchen) beside the small cabin. It might have made better sense to bulldoze the whole thing and start over, but our grandchildren are the 4th generation to enjoy the space. Hard to part with the memories.

Having said that, I have found it easier this year than ever before to part with some of the old things, the original equipment, the "stuff" that has accumulated over the many years and filled every space. I have read much lately about "your children do not want your things." Articles aimed at those my age who are beginning to think about downsizing. So these last few days, I have thrown away, boxed and bagged, and cleared surfaces and spaces so that the cabin doesn't feel so cramped. Clearing out does make a difference.

And the new tiny cottage? Well, it needed to be furnished and equipped from scratch. Thank goodness, it really is tiny. I've "shopped" out of my house as much as I can. But I'm not quite done. The entire time Daddy-O and I have been working this week to get ready to host the family, I've been thinking about what to feed everyone for several days. Menus. Grocery lists. And with rain in the forecast, I'm doing a mental check of games and puzzles that we have on hand.

Sometimes you have to take a break.

I kept thinking what do they want this weekend? Grilled meals? Cold salads? Homemade ice cream? And then it dawned on me. They mostly want a Mimi and a Daddy-O that are not totally worn out. As much as I'd like to have everything done by Friday, it will be okay that it isn't.

But there are a few things that I AM doing regarding menus. To make the lake days easier, I'll try to get a few things cooked ahead. I baked bread yesterday. If you've made it as many times as I have, it's easy. And it had all morning to rise while we went back down to the lake to finish up a few things.

This afternoon I might bake something sweet. A treat would be nice. (Although apples and grapes are easier and healthier.) And we know that everyone likes pasta and that can be done ahead, ready to pop into the oven later. So I'll try to get that done by tomorrow.

And I'm making a list of easy family-friendly dishes. My definition of easy is very few ingredients and not much hands-on time. I'm not sure which recipes will make the cut, but this is the list I'm starting with. (All recipes are linked. Just click on them to find the recipe.) Once the kiddos arrive, I don't want to spend my days in the kitchen. Maybe you'll find something here that will help you out this weekend, too.

SLOW COOKER:
Balsamic Chicken
"Pulled" Pork
Salsa Chicken
Pepperoncini Beef Sandwiches

OVEN RECIPES:
Oven Baked Fajitas
Pesto Chicken

MAKE AHEAD:
Baked Rotini
Hot Dog Chili
Sourdough Bread
Garden Pasta Salad
Ham Delights

You know I'm not going to make all of these, but it's helped me to gather possible recipes here in one place. I imagine there will be burgers on the grill, too. Now I need to narrow down my choices, make a meal plan for the weekend and then a grocery list. I am determined to be ready to sit down and enjoy the weekend. Enjoy the lake. Enjoy the grandchildren. Enjoy the family.






Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Easy Cheeseburger Pie

Impossible Cheeseburger Pie

I am nearly back to the pre-wedding Mimi. The one with plenty of energy and an endless to do list. But it's taken some extra rest to get there. Trying to save energy last week and eliminate extra trips to the store, I did my grocery shopping when I was on the way home from Little Sister's piano recital. The farm is miles from a grocery store, so stopping at one before I got home made sense. I bought the basics without much of a meal plan.

Here is a recipe I made at the end of last week. When I had cooked the other meats I bought, and I was down to the package of ground beef, I wasn't sure what to make. Spaghetti is easy. Tacos are easy. But we may have overdone those two dishes lately. And then I remembered a recipe we enjoyed years ago. It's so easy. And it's delicious in that comfort food way.

Years and years ago when I was a stay-at-home mom with small children, I joined the Bisquick Club. Yes. There was such a thing. For a tiny fee, I got a monthly newsletter with endless ways to use Bisquick. Remember, this was pre-internet. Pre-Pinetrest. Impossible pies were in many of those newsletters. ("Impossible" because it makes its own crust from a simple batter.) There are so many impossible pies and I've made many of them. But not any of them for a long time.

I checked the pantry and I had an onion and a box of Bisquick. There was milk in the refrigerator, but it had been there since before the wedding. It was questionable. So I opted for a small can of evaporated milk...1/2 cup evaporated milk + 1/2 cup water = 1 cup whole milk. I keep a couple of cans on hand for just such emergencies. And there is always cheese in the refrigerator.



Keep this recipe in mind for a simple supper on a busy day. I think I need to look up all those other "impossible pies" now. I whipped this up in no time. Then it took 25 minutes in the oven. And then while it cooled, I turn the oven temp up a bit and roasted asparagus. 

IMPOSSIBLE CHEESEBURGER PIE

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt (or House Seasoning)
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Bisquick mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 or 10-inch pie plate with PAM.

Brown ground beef and onion, breaking up beef as it browns until there is no pink left. Drain. Salt. Spread in pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese.

Put milk, eggs and Bisquick in a blender and blend for several seconds until completely mixed. (If you don't have a blender, put everything in a small bowl and stir briskly with a fork or whisk until well blended.) Pour over ingredients in pie plate.

Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. (If it's browning too quickly, cover loosely with a sheet of foil.) Let stand for 10-15 minutes after baking for easier cutting.

For our second helping, we put a dollop of mustard and ketchup on the side for dipping. Yum.



Now...I'm working on menus for the holiday weekend. Any suggestions that are easy and make enough to feed 10?








Thursday, May 17, 2018

Wedding Weekend Goodies

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars, Milk Chocolate Cookie Bars,
& Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Bars

Near the end of the wedding dinner dance, the bride and groom borrowed the mic from the band, and addressed their wedding guests. Sweet, heartfelt words that made everyone smile and go "awww..." and made a few guests shed a tear. Jessica said she was happy to have new "bonus parents." What a lovely phrase to use instead of the typical word "in-laws."


We were all happy that both families could spend some comfortable time together in those long hours before the wedding ceremony. Let's be honest. The lead-up to any wedding is stressful. Thankfully, our stress was more of the high energy, eager anticipation kind. While hair and make-up was being done on the wedding day morning, excited chatter and lots of laughter filled the cottage as we got to know each other better.


The bridesmaids, three from each family, quickly became one family. They paired up, finding new best friends. Baby Girl, age 4, was nearly inseparable from the 5-year-old niece of the groom. Little Sister, age 7, felt very grown up as she buddied up with "that middle girl" who is 9. Little Sister understands being a middle sister. The biggest age spacing was between the two oldest, but I was happy to hear Big Sister giving words of advice to the oldest of the groom's nieces as they talked about school.


The new mother-in-law (or "bonus mother" as Jessica put it), being very thoughtful, sent us a huge tin of baked goodies to enjoy during the weekend. This resort was like a village, with lots of colorful cottages where guests stay. The cookie tin made it from her cottage to the groom's blue cottage. He was in the process of delivering it to us when his sister spied it and mistakenly took it back to their big family cottage.

The almost mother-in-law, who baked these goodies, was unaware that this red tin was still traveling from cottage to cottage—but had not made it to us. She asked me at the rehearsal dinner if we had enjoyed the cookies, I had heard that she had baked something for us, so I mumbled some generic words of thanks. The next morning the new bonus mom arrived at our brown cottage for hair and makeup, with a big red cookie tin in her hands. She thrust it forward and laughed, "I wondered why I got that underwhelmed response last night when I asked about the cookies. I DIDN'T KNOW you didn't have them!"

Well, those goodies were wonderful! And delicious! And appreciated! And we gave proper thanks to the baker. We nibbled before the wedding. But when we got back to our cottage after the wedding, at nearly midnight, they were devoured. I knew by the time I went to bed, there were two left. The morning after the wedding, I was up early and headed for my coffee and those last two cookies. And I was greatly disappointed to see that someone beat me to them.

I settled for the crumbs. And asked for the recipes. I still have that red tin, so I can fill it up again. But I'm sure the next batch won't be nearly as good as what we enjoyed during that wedding weekend. Those cookies got an extra measure of love mixed in with the butter and sugar.

Every flavor was someone's favorite. The Ooey Gooey Butter Cake was my personal pick. And, lucky for me, the easiest to make. You've got time to make these for your royal wedding viewing this weekend. Pair them with a cup of tea and you can pretend you're a guest at the royal wedding,....while watching it on TV in your pajamas!

OOEY GOOEY BUTTER CAKE BARS

1 box yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1 cup butter (16 tbsp), melted, divided
1 (8-oz) block of full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cake mix, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) of butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth Beat remaining 2 eggs. Add the beaten eggs, vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) butter and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well until all is incorporated.

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cake batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little bit gooey—but not so gooey that they completely fall apart. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Dust with a little extra powdered sugar before serving.



For the record, 1 cup of butter is 2 sticks. Look on the butter wrapper. Each stick is 8 oz.






Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Looking Back


I am slowly floating down from the wedding cloud. My coming-down-to-earth took a detour over the weekend to watch Little Sister play in her piano recital. (She just finished her first year and played Beethoven's German Dance In G Major. And she played beautifully.) But I am finally back at home where I can sit down and catch my breath. Who knew fun was so exhausting?


Jessica's wedding was held at a garden resort and most of the guests stayed on the property. It was like a big weekend house party. The resort itself had the feel of a summer camp. A camp for grownups. There was golf, of course, but there was also hunting and fishing and horseback riding and sport/clay shooting and a petting farm and hiking and lawn games and bicycles and fire pits for s'more. It was a great place for their friends, who are now scattered across the country, to gather and spend time together.


The ceremony itself was lovely. The prayers and the readings and the vows were all personal and meaningful. The bride chose to have only nieces, ages 4-17, as her attendants. They were thrilled to be included. Between the bride and groom, there were six nieces to stand with them. Yes. It's all girls on both sides. It was sweet when they exited, little ones holding hands with their groomsman.


It was an outdoor wedding, which I find a little scary to plan. The morning weather forecast gave a 50/50 chance for rain the evening of the ceremony. There was a "plan B" in case of rain, but the bride and groom rolled the weather dice. And they won. The rain held off and the the clouds kept us cool. And the ceremony went on as planned. Then the rains came while we were having dinner and dancing under the tent. (The band was fabulous.) And then the rain stopped before the music did. Perfect.

Thankfully, there were very few mishaps. There was the wedding guest who hitchhiked the last few miles in his tuxedo after his car broke down. There was a group of party crashers who wandered into the reception party...and were quickly ushered out by a guest. There was my momentary panic when Daddy-O told me my dress wouldn't zip up and I needed to "suck it in." Blessedly it was only an obstinate zipper and not a chubby mother of the bride!

And there were interesting things that happened. While our photographer was making photos of the wedding party before the ceremony, we had other resort guests walk past who asked to make photos of the bride because "this is part of our vacation!" Not exactly paparazzi like this weekend's royal wedding will have, but still. There was Baby Girl's disappointment when she saw my dress. "Mimi! Your dress. It's not fancy!" I told her I thought it was pretty fancy. "But Mimi. Gray is NOT a fancy color!" 


I look forward to having our newly expanded family together soon to swap stories about the wedding weekend. We can all hear about the parts we missed. And we are waiting anxiously on the official photographs. Everything was just beautiful and it will be fun to see it all over again.

It was a wonderful weekend, filled with family and friends. So much love. So many beautiful memories. So many good wishes for the new couple as they start a life together. Blessings to them!









Monday, April 30, 2018

Taking A Break

Black Angus cows are hard to see at twilight.

I'm sharing a photo I made last night as we drove past one of our pastures. Something for you to enjoy while I take a bit of a break from the blog. I'll be back in a couple of weeks.










Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Making And Giving

There is joy is making and joy in giving. Here is a look at some of the making and the giving that has happened around here in the last several weeks. And some of these makers gave things to me. There is also joy in receiving. 


I can barely keep up with the baby hats. The babies just keep coming. Don't you love the yarn bowl made by my friend Sue? It's made of clothesline so I can squish it up a little and pack it when I travel.


And one more sweet hat for a long anticipated baby. Jessica's co-workers look forward to "one of your mom's little hats" when a new baby arrives. (The how-to for making these hats is in a previous blog post.)  And they look forward to a "new mom" meal from Jessica, too. She makes delicious food and loves to give it when the need arises.


I love that I have friends with tremendous talent and skill. They love making AND giving. This linen handkerchief with a tatted edging was a lovely surprise in the mail a few weeks ago. It was made by a knitter friend Sonja who is skilled in many needlecrafts. She thought the mother-of-the-bride might need this for happy tears. I think she's probably right. In fact, I know she's right. There have been some happy tears already as I watched Jessica and her Daddy-O practice their father/daughter dance.


And another lovely gift given to me a few days ago. A finely handcrafted seam ripper. Have you ever seen anything like it?  Such workmanship. This was a thank you from a friend who borrowed my sewing machine when hers went on the fritz at the last minute while finishing Easter dresses for her granddaughters. Her son (father of one of the granddaughters) made this beautiful seam ripper. I am thrilled to have one. Lots of making and giving was involved in this exchange. 


For the last couple of months, my knitting energy has been focused on Jessica. I just finished a wedding shawl to keep her warm at the outdoor reception in the cool evening. She chose this pattern with a geometric design. She wasn't a fan of lace and ruffles as a little girl. She hasn't changed much. There is a lot of love knitted into this shawl. The bamboo yarn has a softness and heaviness that creates a beautiful drape. I hope when she wraps it around her shoulders, it will feel like a hug from her mother. I'll share a photo of the bride wearing it after the wedding.


And last week, I drove to a Chick Fil A on the south side of Atlanta to meet a dear knitting friend who had this stunning exquisite gift ready to give to me—a beaded lace shawl for me to wear at the wedding. This was probably the most elegant parking lot handoff ever! (The tiny beads don't show up well in these photographs, but they just twinkle in the light!) She had heard me say that if I had time after I finished Jessica's wedding shawl, I'd love to make one for myself. To be honest, I doubt that would have really happened. And she instinctively knew that. I am more grateful than words can say.


I tried to figure out what to give Jennifer in return, to thank her for this enormous gift of knitting and of time and of skill. She told me that she didn't expect anything. In her words... "I want you to know I give you the shawl freely to enjoy. I get an enormous amount of satisfaction knitting for someone who appreciates it and being a small part of your special day."

I've been on the receiving end of so much thoughtfulness lately. I love giving things I've made, but I also have loved receiving these special gifts. I fully appreciate the skill and time that went into the making of each one. So many wonderful gifts have come my way in the last couple of weeks that a song from The Sound Of Music popped into my head. Well, part of the song. These were the only words that I remembered. But I've been humming this for days now....

 🎶...somewhere in my youth or childhood,
I must have done something good.



To the many readers who commented (here, by email, & by text) on the previous post, On Being A Grandmother, I'm glad this one spoke to you. We grandmothers are entrusted with a precious mission...to pass along family traditions and stories, to care, to listen patiently, to love without limit—and to do it all with good humor. It doesn't hurt if you bake really good cookies, too!
(Before you tell you you don't bake, let me say that Tate's Bake Shop Cookies are also excellent. And I can find them in my small town grocery store.)