Friday, April 24, 2015

Unbelievably Beautiful



This wasn’t my original plan for my U post, but a few friends posted this song on Facebook, and I think it’s too beautiful not to share. I’ve always loved the song "Stand by Me", and I think Tracy Chapman has a gorgeous voice.





It’s been a long week, so why not end it with something unbelievably beautiful.





So what about you? Are you a fan of Tracy Chapman? Do you like the song?



Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thanksgiving

Yes, I’m aware that it’s April, and that Thanksgiving is a long way off. I have no desire to speed things up, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it just doesn’t get enough love, so I thought I’d make it my T post.

I absolutely love Thanksgiving. I think it’s really the perfect holiday. I love to cook, and I love spending time with family and friends, especially when I can cook for them. I also love the fact that Thanksgiving seems to come with no expectations, and it manages to bring out the best in people.

Thanksgiving feels magic. It’s at the beginning of the holiday season, when everyone still feels festive and cheerful. It’s a time to think about what’s good in our lives, and to be thankful for those things. It also seems to be a time when everyone is very conscious of including others, to invite people who may need a place to go to come share a meal and companionship.

Because of Nick’s crazy work schedule we sometimes have to get a little creative in celebrating Thanksgiving. We very rarely have our celebration on Thanksgiving Day, but we still manage to find a day to invite family and friends over for a Thanksgiving Dinner, even if it happens to be in March. It’s the people we spend it with who really matter. And it’s easier to send leftovers home with people at a different time of the year when they’re not already inundated with that kind of food. 

So what about you? Is Thanksgiving one of your favorite holidays? How do you celebrate it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sweet Tea

It occurred to me recently that I do not have a recipe for sweet tea on my blog. It’s just unacceptable for Sweet Tea Reads not to have sweet tea, so I knew that had to be my S post.

For those of you not in the know, sweet tea means cold (iced) tea with lots of sugar, served in copious amounts, sometimes with lemon or mint. It needs to be strong, and it needs to be sweet. The sugar also has to be added while the tea is hot. Bringing a glass of unsweetened iced tea with a sugar bowl or packets when someone asks for sweet tea is a bit like a restaurant bringing you flour and yeast if you’ve asked for bread. It’s just not right.

Sweet tea is one of most delicious things you can possibly drink. It’s refreshing, and it goes well with any meal. It’s also the perfect beverage to offer guests. Nothing says hospitality like a big glass of sweet tea.

Making sweet tea is a slow process. It cannot be rushed; there is simply no way to make good sweet tea in a hurry. Some things in life are worth waiting for. We southerners take our sweet tea very seriously, and pretty much constantly have a batch prepared, and a batch in the works. Growing up in the south it’s ingrained in you that you always offer guests sweet tea. 

It took me a few years to come up with what I consider to be the perfect method for making sweet tea. I spent years watching my dad try and discard recipes and ask anyone, particularly older southern women, what their method for perfect sweet tea was. I didn’t realize it until fairly recently, but he was on a quest to duplicate the sweet tea his grandmother made.

I don’t actually remember what the sweet tea at her house tasted like. At least not consciously. I can remember drinking sweet tea out of big plastic cups there, and that it was the coldest, most refreshing thing. My dad swears that my sweet tea tastes exactly like hers did, and insisted that I come up with measurements and an exact method so he can make it at home. So here it is:

Sweet Tea

1 gallon of water, divided

3 family sized tea bags (I usually buy any whichever brand is on sale, but if forced to name a favorite, it’s the round Tetley ones)

1 ½ cups sugar (NOT artificial sweetener)

Place tea bags (with any tags or strings removed) and six cups of water in a medium sauce pan over high heat, and bring to a full boil. Boil for two minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to steep for 6 - 12 hours (the longer the better). Pour the sugar into a one gallon pitcher. Remove tea bags and pour into the pitcher. Stir well. Add hot water to fill the pitcher completely, stirring constantly. Stir for another minute. Cover and leave the pitcher out on the counter for 2 - 6 hours, at least until the tea has cooled back down to room temperature. Then refrigerate. Serve cold, over ice.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Recipes

I love cooking, and I love collecting cookbooks and recipes.  You might even say I’m a little obsessed, but it makes me happy, and some of the recipes make other people really happy.  So no harm done, right?

It’s practically impossible for me to pick a favorite recipe.  So much depends on what I’m in the mood for, what else I have going on, and what I’m looking to accomplish with a recipe.  But there are definitely some recipes that are special because of where they came from or because of memories associated with them.  These are two of my special recipes:

Sausage GravyThis is my paternal grandmother’s recipe.  She doesn’t cook at all anymore, but she used to love cooking.  I have so many recipes from her, and she probably taught me more about cooking than any other person. 

This sausage gravy is absolutely delicious, and it was almost always what we had for breakfast when we’d visit them.  It’s also the very first breakfast I ever made for Nick when we were dating, and it’s the first breakfast we ever had using our new dishes that we received as wedding presents. 

Pumpkin PieThis is my maternal grandmother’s recipe.   She hated cooking for the most part, but this was one of the few things she enjoyed making.  It also helped that I was the first grandchild and it was my favorite dessert.

It’s an incredibly good pie, and it’s the only handwritten recipe I have from her.  It’s also the dessert we had the night that Nick and I announced our engagement to my side of the family.  My mom made dinner and Granny made pumpkin pie because we were coming and it was my favorite. 

So what about you?  Are there recipes that are special for you? 

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Quirky Quartet

Since Saturday’s post about painting with them went over fairly well, I thought I’d take today to introduce (or re-introduce if you’ve been around for a while) you to our quirky quartet of cats.
Milo & Howard
Howard is our oldest and first adopted cat.  I had him when Nick and I met.  He came from the county shelter, and wasn’t the cat I thought I was looking for at all.   But when I saw Howard I knew he was the right little guy for me. 
Howard is by far our friendliest and most outgoing cat.  He loves people and always greets company.  He also loves other animals and seems to greet any new pet arrival by saying “Hi!  I’m Howard, your new friend!”
Milo is our second oldest and second adopted cat.  He’s also the first fur kid Nick and I adopted together.  We adopted him a little over a month after we were married because we decided Howard need a kitty buddy.
Milo is probably our most high maintenance cat.  He’s very loving and affectionate toward very few people and doesn’t have much use for the rest.  He can also be very impatient and doesn’t handle disruptions to his routine very well.  He absolutely loves Howard, though.  The two of them are best friends and spend a lot of time cuddling together.
Frankie is our youngest cat, but third adopted.  A friend posted on Facebook about her sister needing to find a home for a kitten.  The next thing we knew we were adopting Frankie.
Frankie is more cautious than Howard, but definitely more of an explorer than Milo.  He’s very interested in scents; he loves to check out and sniff the vegetables that come in the CSA box.  Frankie also adores hair products.  I don’t use very many, so my hair is always a disappointment to him, but he loves to smell my friend Crystal’s hair.
Tara & Frankie
Tara is our second youngest and last adopted (for the moment!) cat.  She’s a failed foster.  We housed Tara and one other cat while the no-kill shelter was being renovated.  She was so timid and scared at first that we couldn’t stand the thought of taking her back to the noisy hustle and bustle of the shelter once she started to warm up to us.
Tara is still very timid and not a very social cat, but she adores Frankie and loves spending time with him.  I think she feels safe with Frankie.  She also likes to play with little things that she can bat around on the floor.  She loves the little toy mice and little things like bottle caps. 
So that’s our quirky quartet.  They all have their own quirks, and together they’re quite a quartet, but they keep life fun and interesting for us. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Painting In A House With Cats

We painted our living room and hallway last year (thanks in large part to my friend Crystal’s help; she did a great job with the trim) and in the process developed a guide for painting in a house with cats in two dozen "easy" steps.

- Stash all blinds in car so strings are not eaten and to avoid emergency trip to the vet.

- Wonder where people without cats store their blinds while painting.

- Attempt to herd all four cats into the spare room.

- Wonder what made you think four was a reasonable number of cats to have.

- Capture the one cat who managed to avoid incarceration.

- Remind yourself that your cats are rescues, and that you love them. 


- Re-capture the escape artist cat.

- Remind yourself, again, that you really do love your cats.

- Clean and apply bandages to wounds you sustained during process of incarcerating cats.

- Threaten anyone who opens the spare room door before the painting is finished with death and dismemberment.

- Begin actual taping and painting.

- Dodge the paws coming out from under spare room door.

- Narrowly miss said paws knocking over paint.

- Remind yourself, yet again, that you Really. Do. Love. Your. Cats.

- Lose one piece of plastic sheeting to evil little paws.

- Hope that the cats don’t eat or otherwise injure themselves with the plastic sheeting.

- Re-think signing up for pet insurance.

- Wonder if pet insurance even covers your cats eating plastic.

- Ignore ominous crashes from spare room for fear of what will happen when you open the door.

- Consider lowering your home owner’s insurance deductible in light of ominous crashes.

- Lose several years from life span when paw touches you from under door at 2:30 am because you got a little too close in your exhausted state.

- Consider increasing the amount of life insurance coverage you have; it’s going to take A LOT for someone to take your cats.

- Try to think of ways to convince your spouse that they should open the door instead of you to release the cats.

- Consider raising the amount of life insurance coverage your spouse has.

Fellow cat people, did I miss any?  I'd love to hear your stories of painting with cats.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Orange

Orange isn’t a color I usually think of myself as being drawn to, except when it comes to cats. I’m a sucker for orange tabbies, always have been, always will be. Howard and Milo are clear evidence of this. (I’d not so secretly like to have an orange tabby sanctuary, but Nick seems to believe that two orange guys are plenty.)

I didn’t really think there was much orange in my life, other than Howard and Milo, until I started looking around for pictures and ideas for this post. I realized I have a little more orange in my life than I thought.

So what about you? Do you like the color orange? What’s orange in your life? Are you a sucker for orange tabbies?
Howard & Milo - my favorite orange!


Violas in the garden

Pumpkin!  It's not just for Thanksgiving!

Yummy Carrots!

My favorite scent from the multipack.