Thursday, December 6, 2018

Throw Back Thursday - Frankie’s First Christmas

There’s just something about kittens and Christmas trees.  They don’t seem to be able to resist them. 

We got Frankie the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2009.  We put our Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving weekend, so he was fairly certain it was a special toy for him.

Fortunately, he was a tiny little guy at the time, and didn’t damage the tree. 

Do you have any kittens climbing your Christmas tree? 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Music Monday: Gayla Peevey - I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas

Now that it’s December, I think it’s officially alright to start posting Christmas songs for Music Monday.

This is my absolute favorite Christmas song.  It’s so cute and happy.  I think it’s impossible not to smile when you hear it. 

We’ve also dubbed it Howard’s official Christmas song.  We just change it to Howard-potamus.  I think he’s pretty happy having his own Christmas song.    

Friday, November 30, 2018

Lavender Bath Salt

I’m not usually one for making many homemade gifts, other than food, but last year I started experimenting with making bath salts.  I don’t think it gets much more relaxing than a nice long soak in a hot bath after a stressful day.  Lavender oil is known for promoting relaxation and restful sleep, so lavender bath salts can really enhance the experience.

This comes together relatively quickly and easily, and makes for a practical gift.  The recipe I use has Young Living Essential Oil.  If you’re using a different brand you may need to use more or less oil, depending on the strength and quality of the oil.

Lavender Bath Salt:

12 cups Epsom salt
35 drops lavender essential oil

Place the Epsom salt in a large glass or metal mixing bowl.  Don’t use plastic because it can absorb the essential oil.  Break up any chunks of Epsom salt.  Add the essential oil, and mix well.

Spoon into jars, and close them tightly. 

Now you can get as creative as you’d like.  I kept it relatively simple with just a ribbon and printed labels that I hole punched to get the ribbon through.  If you’re more into crafts than I am, I’m sure you can do all kinds of fun things with different ribbons and labels. 

This recipe makes seven pint size jars of bath salts, so it works well if you’re making gifts for multiple people.  The bath salts are really nice, though, so make sure you keep a jar for yourself as well. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Black Bean Soup

As much as I love Thanksgiving, and all of the food that comes with it, it’s nice to change things up a little the week after.  After all of the rich food and dessert last week, something simple is just right this week. 

This also seems to be the time of year when things just keep getting busier, so easy meals are very welcome.  A Crock Pot meal that’s ready and waiting when I get home is perfect. 

I love this recipe for so many reasons.  First of all, it’s delicious.  It’s also very simple to put together in the morning before work, especially if you do the chopping the night before.  The beans don’t have to soak, so that’s one less step.  I think it’s reasonably healthy since it’s vegetarian, and doesn’t have packaged ingredients. 

Black Bean Soup:

16 oz. (1 pound) dried black beans
2 onions, chopped
2 bell peppers, chopped
½ cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp salt
1 ½ tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp cumin
½ tsp pepper
4 cloves garlic, pressed
10 cups water

Rinse beans, and place all ingredients in a large slow cooker.  Cover and cook on Low 9 - 10 hours. 

The soup is great on it’s own, but it’s also really good topped with diced onion, avocado, or salsa.  And it pairs well with cornbread. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope you’re all spending the day with the people you love the most, and will be enjoying a wonderful meal today. 

Safe travels, happy cooking, and best wishes for a truly wonderful day. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Skipping The Gift Tags

I know it’s still a little early by some people’s standards to be sharing Christmas related posts, but I wanted to go ahead and post this one in anticipation of the Christmas shopping so many people will be doing at the end of the week.

I enjoy wrapping Christmas gifts, but I’m very slow at it, so I’m all for skipping a step when possible.  I tend to have cat “helpers”, too, so it’s nice not to have constantly take the pen for writing names on tags back from them.   Or go get another pen when they take off with the one I was using.

I tried this for the first time last year, and it worked incredibly well, so I’ll be doing it again this year.

Rather than putting tags on the gifts, I just designated a specific wrapping paper for each person we were spending Christmas with.  It was really easy to do since I had found paper that was perfect for each of our recipients.

Nick’s mom, Susan, is an extraordinary baker, so she got the cupcake paper.

Nick’s step-dad, Alan, is very into cars; buying old ones and restoring them, so he got the car paper.

 Everyone else we spent Christmas with had their own specific paper, too, but you get the idea.

It was super convenient not having to look for tags, or worry about them falling off, or the cats taking them off.  And I felt like it made the gift wrapping go a little faster.  It also made it really easy when it was time to open presents since we knew exactly who each of ours was intended for just by looking at the paper.

I think everyone liked having their own kind of personalized wrapping paper, too.  I’d like to think it added an extra little layer of happiness to the day.

Our friend Alex took a similar approach.  She used the same paper for everyone’s gifts, but we each had our own color of ribbon.  All of my gifts had green ribbon, Nick’s had red, etc.  That also worked really well. 

Have you found an easy way to keep track of which gifts are for which person?  Or a way to convince your cats that you don’t need their help wrapping?

I’ll leave you with Julie Andrews and My Favorite Things, since it references packages.  I know it’s often played as a Christmas song, but I don’t consider it to be.  What about you?  Do you think of it as a Christmas song?

Monday, November 19, 2018

Music Monday: Mary Chapin Carpenter - Thanksgiving Song

I think we’ve definitely established that Thanksgiving is absolutely my favorite holiday.  I also think Thanksgiving doesn’t get nearly the love it deserves.  This is the only Thanksgiving song I’ve been able to find.  Fortunately, I love this song!  I love the lyrics, and I think Mary Chapin Carpenter has an incredible voice.  If my favorite holiday only gets one song, I’m glad it’s this one.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and I hope things are coming together for you to have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cinnamon Sugar Butter

Flavored butters really add an extra something to a meal.  They’re super easy to make, as long as you remember to take the butter out in plenty of time to soften.  They have a big impact, and are a great way to add a little something special and extra.

Some people say that you should use unsalted butter if you’re making a sweet flavored butter.  I disagree.  I tend to view unsalted butter as the anti-butter.  It rarely makes its way into our house.  Most of the time I use salted butter, even if a recipe calls for unsalted butter.  I do not enjoy unsalted butter, and I don’t like having it sitting around in the refrigerator.  Salt helps to enhance flavor, and I really don’t think the butter tastes salty if you use salted butter for this.

Cinnamon Sugar Butter
4 oz. butter, softened
1 packed Tbsp light brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, and mix well.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Music Monday: Jewel - Hands

I’ve been a fan of Jewel ever since her first album came out.  One of my favorite songs of hers, though, is Hands. I think she has an incredible voice, and I absolutely love the lyrics. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Throw Back Thursday - Nutmeg Graters

Like the teapots from a few weeks ago, these are pictures from last year’s visit to The Charleston Museum.

It’s always interesting to me to learn about what was popular to serve guests during certain time periods.  Apparently nutmeg graters were quite the thing back then.  

I can’t help wondering how much nutmeg they were adding to their food.  Nutmeg certainly enhances some recipes, but a little goes a long way.  

It kind of makes you wonder what people might have to say about avocado toast in about 200 years.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Thanksgiving Menu Ideas

You may have noticed by now that I love Thanksgiving, and get really excited about it.  It’s a holiday all about cooking for and spending time with the people you love.  What’s not to love about it?

Sometimes, though, searching for good recipes can be a little overwhelming, so I thought I’d share links for some of my favorites.  Some of them are my recipes, and some are from other places. 

Obviously, the turkey is the main part of the traditional meal, so here’s my turkey recipe: 

Practically Fool-Proof Turkey

And you can read about my various misadventures with turkey here, in case you’d like a guide for what not to do. 

Some might argue that the side dishes are the most important part of the meal.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Green Bean Casserole.  I can’t stand this one, but Nick loves it, and I think it’s one that most people have come to expect at Thanksgiving.

Creamy Slow Cooker Macaroni & Cheese.  It’s creamy, delicious, and incredibly easy to make.  It’s also very helpful that it’s made in the Crock Pot since that frees up more oven space. 

Heavenly Mashed Potatoes.  This link is actually to The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle.  I don’t feel right posting a recipe if the author hasn’t made it available online.  I highly recommend this cookbook.  It has lots of great recipes, but it’s worth having for the mashed potatoes alone.  I didn’t think I liked mashed potatoes very much until I tried this recipe.  They are out of this world good, which I suppose is why she named the recipe Heavenly Mashed Potatoes.

Kale Salad With Red Grapes.  Don’t let the fact that this sounds fairly healthy turn you off.  It’s delicious! 

Watergate Salad.  I think is technically a dessert, but it does have salad in the name, so classify it however you want.  No judgment here.

Speaking of desserts, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them.

Pumpkin Pie.  It’s probably the most traditional Thanksgiving dessert.  It’s also one of my favorites.

Cherry Crunch.  This was a surprisingly big hit last year at Thanksgiving, so I’ll be making it again. 

Apple Crisp.  This is delicious and easy.  Perfect for a day when there’s already a lot of cooking and baking going on.

Fresh Apple Cake.  This cake is amazingly delicious, and just seems like the ultimate dessert for Fall.  The link mentions cream cheese frosting, but don’t do that.  You’ll want to use the Browned Butter Frosting.  Trust me!

Browned Butter Frosting.  This is the end all, be all of frosting.  If you’ve never had browned butter frosting, do yourself a favor, and make it.  Right now!  It’s amazingly good!  It’s rich, creamy, decadent, has a slightly nutty flavor, and pairs perfectly with the apple cake.  

Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake & Frosting.  I can’t personally vouch for this one, since I don’t like chocolate.  I can tell you, however, that everyone seems to love it.  I make this cake (or the cupcakes) several times a year, and it’s always very popular.  

Apple Cake & Browned Butter Frosting on Back Left

Banana Pound Cake.  It may not be a very traditional Thanksgiving dessert, but it’s still delicious, and always a crowd pleaser.

So what about you?  What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?  Is there a certain dish that’s always on your Thanksgiving menu? 

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Cookbook Winner

I’m sorry I didn’t get the cookbook winner posted earlier.  You’d think falling back and “gaining” the extra hour would have made it easier to get things done yesterday.  It didn’t.  If anything it seemed to have the opposite result.  But, that’s not what this post is about. 

To help make up for being late in announcing a winner, I decided to choose two.

And the winners are:

Betty from A Bench With a View

Jeanie from The Marmalade Gypsy

Betty and Jeanie, please send me your addresses at so I can get your cookbooks in the mail. 

Congratulations Betty and Jeanie!  And thanks to everyone else who entered and commented.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Thanksgiving Questions & Answers

I think we’ve established by now that I will never pass up an opportunity to talk about Thanksgiving.  I’m sorry, I just love it.

I also love America’s Test Kitchen.  It’s one of my all time favorite cooking shows.  This month the test kitchen experts are sharing their Thanksgiving favorites and traditions.  It’s a nice little peak into your favorite test kitchen expert’s celebrations. 

I thought it might be fun to borrow their questions for a blog post.  I hope you’ll answer at least some of them too.  If you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, feel free to use Christmas or any other food centric holiday.

Home or away?

Home.  Until last year traveling for Thanksgiving wasn’t an option for us due to Nick’s work schedule.  Now that he’s off for Thanksgiving we enjoy taking the meal to the hospice house for lunch, and then hosting at home for dinner. 

When do your festivities kick off?

Really only on Thanksgiving Day.  I take off work the day before, and spend the day in the kitchen.  I enjoy it, but I doubt most people would call it festive.

Any special diets to consider?

Not really.  Pretty much everyone we invite is very low maintenance when it comes to food.  I try to make a wide variety of dishes so even if someone can’t or won’t eat a few things they still have plenty of choices. 

What’s your favorite recipe?

For me it’s probably a tie between the pumpkin pie and the sweet potato casserole.  And I really love the turkey.  It’s really hard to choose, though.  Other than the green bean casserole, I love all of the traditional Thanksgiving foods.  That’s one of the reasons it’s my favorite holiday.

What’s your family’s consensus pick recipe?

We don’t actually end up celebrating with either of our families.  My parents don’t celebrate.  My sister lives three hours away, and doesn’t get the day after off of work.  Nick’s mom and step-dad are six hours away, and come to NC for Christmas.  Nick’s favorites are the green bean casserole, macaroni & cheese, and sweet potato casserole.  Last year the mashed potatoes were a big hit with most of our guests, and so was the ham.  Our neighbors are coming again this year, and have mentioned the ham from last year, so that was probably the most popular dish last year.

Any new recipes this year?

Nope.  I’m really not sure Thanksgiving Day is the time to test out a new recipe.  I am all about trying new recipes, and experimenting in the kitchen.  But I also believe in keeping the cooking low stress.  I cook two separate meals on Thanksgiving, which means the timing is pretty tight.  I don’t think that’s the time to try out something unknown.  It always takes me much longer the very first time I make something, and I just don’t have that extra time, or the extra attention to devote to a new recipe.  It’s not unusual for me to have a full oven, all four burners on the stove in use, a slow cooker or two going, and the roaster.  I’m not sure I’d have the mental space to devote to keeping track of something new.  Also, it’s always a little bit of a gamble to try out a new recipe.  You just don’t know if it’s going to turn out right, or if you’re going to like it.  There’s something to be said for sticking with the tried and true on Thanksgiving.

What’s your must-have gadget for Thanksgiving cooking?

The ZYLISS Lock N Lift can opener.  Last year and the year before cans were my nemesis.  In 2016, I very nearly lost it trying to open cans of green beans (using the electric can opener) for green bean casserole.  Last year I ended up going next door to ask our wonderful neighbors for help in opening the cans of pumpkin and evaporated milk for the pumpkin pies.  Their 10 year old opened the cans for me!  I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I struggle with electric can openers, and the regular manual ones.  A friend of ours gave me this one for Christmas last year, so I wouldn’t have to enlist the kids next door to help me with cans.  It has been a real game changer!  I highly recommend it if you’re looking for an easy to use can opener

What’s your pie preference?

Pumpkin!  I’m not sure it would be Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie!  I do make sure to have other desserts, though, to keep everyone happy.  Usually we have something chocolate, and at least one other dessert that’s not chocolate or pumpkin.

When will the first turkey sandwich get made?

Friday morning.  I LOVE Thanksgiving leftovers, and eat them for breakfast on Friday morning.  My Friday morning breakfast is usually a turkey sandwich made on a dinner roll, pumpkin pie, and cranberry sauce.  We kind of graze on the leftovers for most of the weekend.

Will anyone be watching football?

Nope.  Nick and I aren’t football fans at all.  We usually don’t even turn the TV on since we’re pretty busy that day.  We may try to break out a board game after dinner this year, but we’ll see what everyone wants to do.

Now it’s your turn.  Feel free to answer any and all of the questions.  I’d love to hear about your celebrations. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Thrifty Thursday - Thanksgiving Dinner On A Budget

I’m always very happy whenever November 1st rolls around.  That seems to be when it becomes socially acceptable to start talking about Thanksgiving.  It’s my favorite holiday, so I start talking about it, and planning it, long before now, but at least as of today it seems to be alright with everyone else.

We’ll be hosting an evening Thanksgiving meal at our house again this year.  I’m still absolutely loving the fact that Nick doesn’t have to work the holidays anymore.  We’ll also be taking Thanksgiving dinner to the local hospice house for lunch.  I’ve been in touch with them, and they’ve said they’re happy for us to bring the meal.  I’m always a little nervous that they’re going to say no, so I’m pretty excited that they said yes.  They never really offer any feedback as to anything they especially liked or didn’t like, so I’m planning to stick with essentially the same menu and setup as the last two years.  I’m assuming it isn’t broken, so I’m not going to try to fix it. 

Occasionally someone will mention the costs associated with feeding a crowd, or with cooking two separate Thanksgiving dinners, so I thought that would be a good topic for a Thrifty Thursday post.  I’ll just go ahead and get a few things out of the way. 

First, I’m not breaking anything down by specific prices or numbers.  This is mostly because I hate math.  I mean, I really, really, really hate math.  I enjoy blogging, so I’m not about to mix math in with it.  It’s also because it’s just not accurate.  A good price for something for me may be a terrible price on the same item for someone who lives in a different place, and an impossibly low, never going to find it priced like that for yet another person living in yet another place.  I think general guidelines are probably just easier for everyone.  And they don’t involve math! 

Second, I know a lot of grocery stores are regional, so I realize you may not have the same ones in your area that I do.  Again, it’s just meant to be a general idea of what works for me.  I’m only naming specific stores in case any of you have the same ones available.  I love Aldi.  If you haven’t shopped at Aldi, give them a try, even if you’re not hosting Thanksgiving.

Lastly, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, do what works for you and your guests.  You may very well have different priorities.  Don’t get caught up in trying to make it look like someone else’s ideal Thanksgiving. 

All of that being said, here’s what we do to host Thanksgiving without going broke.

Start early.  This is the time of year when grocery stores start putting the things you need for the holidays on sale.  Pay attention to the sale ads, and get the things you need ahead of time, while they’re on a good sale.  You probably won’t find butter cheaper than you will during the next few weeks.  It’s also a great time to stock up on flour, sugar, nuts, and other baking essentials. 

Shop around.  If you’re fortunate enough to have a few different grocery stores near you, check everyone’s sale ads, even if you usually only shop at one.  There’s likely going to be some competition among them to get you in the door, so if time and distance allow, consider buying the best priced items at each store.  I typically shop at three different grocery stores every week to get the best prices on what we need. 

Remember the main parts of Thanksgiving Dinner are relatively inexpensive.  Fortunately for those of us who love Thanksgiving, the traditional dishes aren’t typically very expensive.  Most grocery stores will price their turkeys very low this time of year, especially if you spend a certain amount in a single transaction.  Potatoes and sweet potatoes are typically inexpensive anyway, and likely to be priced even lower leading up to Thanksgiving. 

Buy store brands, or shop at Aldi.  I typically never buy name brand flour or sugar, unless it happens to be on a great sale that makes it cheaper than the store brands or buying it at Aldi.  I think there’s some difference if you’re buying something already prepared (salsa, cookies, etc),but when it comes to ingredients, the finished dish seems to come out the same, whether you’ve used name brand ingredients or not.  I’ve been using Aldi brand cheese, evaporated milk, and pasta in my macaroni and cheese for years.  The same goes for their canned pumpkin in my pumpkin pie

I will say, though, that in my experience, Aldi isn’t the cheapest place to buy the turkey.  Overall, I haven’t been terribly impressed with their meat prices.  Here, Harris Teeter or Ingles typically have the best prices on turkeys. 

Look into the price matching policy at the store(s) you regularly shop.  Some stores have a policy that they’ll take competitor’s coupons, or meet or beat competitor’s prices.  Read the fine print, but that may be a way for you to get the best prices, and still be able to shop at your regular grocery store.

Be on the lookout for coupons.  Look for coupons in the weekly sale ads or papers, and pay attention to the fliers the grocery stores mail you.  Take note of the expiration dates, and any minimum purchase requirements so you can plan your lists accordingly.  A Publix recently opened near us, and they seem to be in serious competition with Harris Teeter, so we’re getting coupons in the mail from both stores.  My trick for remembering to actually use the coupons is to fold them around my debit card. 

Don’t serve appetizers.  I realize this one isn’t going to work for everyone, but it does for us.  Our style of entertaining is very informal; it’s what we’re comfortable with, and it’s what works well with our house.  We have a fairly small kitchen, and eating area as well, so we end up serving Thanksgiving (and most meals we host) buffet style, and we usually eat fairly quickly after guests start arriving.  If we say 6:30, people are usually eating by 6:45.  Buffet style makes it easier to get started if you’re still waiting for a few people to show up, so you don’t have hungry guests waiting around.  There’s so much food already, and since we’re not sitting around waiting, it works for us. 

Don’t serve alcohol.  Again, I realize this choice isn’t for everyone, but it works for us.  Cocktails, or even wine and beer, can get expensive quickly, so sticking with nonalcoholic beverages (tea, coffee, soda, etc) is an easy way to reduce spending.   

Plan your menu carefully.  I tend to go a little bit overboard when it comes to the Thanksgiving menu.  In all honesty, not serving appetizers is about the only scaling down I’ve done when it comes to the menu now that we’re actually able to host Thanksgiving. Obviously, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but some things to keep in mind when deciding what and how much to prepare are the eating habits of your guests, whether or not you want leftovers, and whether or not you’re planning to send leftovers home with guests. 

If most of your guests are vegetarians you probably don’t need 20 pounds of turkey.  If most of your guests prefer desserts other than pumpkin pie, you probably don’t need multiple pumpkin pies.  Don’t feel like you have to make something no one loves just because it’s Thanksgiving, or that you can’t make something everyone loves because it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving dish.  The important thing is that everyone is happy, able to spend time together, and enjoys a good meal.

If you’re the type to go overboard with cooking, and know you’re likely going to have enough leftovers to feed your entire neighborhood for a week, ask your guests to bring containers with them so they can take leftovers home.  And know that you probably won’t be cooking for the rest of the weekend. 

So what about you?  What are your tips for hosting Thanksgiving on a budget?  What are the must have parts for you?  What are you willing to skip? 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Cookbook Giveaway

Last month when I posted about our anniversary and wedding, I shared that our wedding favor was a family and friends cookbook.  A few of you commented on what a good idea the cookbook was.  We still have a few extra copies, so I thought I’d give one away. 

Just let me know in the comments if you’re interested in having one.  I’ll draw a name on Saturday, and announce the winner on Sunday.  Make sure you check back so you can send me your address if you win.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Music Monday: Bobby Pickett - Monster Mash

With Halloween practically here, I decided Monster Mash just had to be the song for this edition of Music Monday.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

We Walk For White Flowers

I’m a little late in posting about it, but we participated, along with Chuzoo and Duke, in our local Walk to End Alzheimer’s on September 29th.  The fundraising goal for our local chapter was higher this year, since it was quickly exceeded last year.  The higher goal hasn’t been reached yet, but we have until the end of the year, so there’s still time.

If you’re not familiar with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, one of the features of the walk is a promise garden.  All registered participant’s receive a flower, and each color signifies a different meaning, as explained on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s website:

Blue represents someone with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Purple is for someone who has lost a loved one to the disease.
Yellow represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Orange is for everyone who supports the cause and vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.

Sadly, purple flowers seem to dominate, closely followed by yellow flowers.  

White flowers will one day signify Alzheimer’s survivors.  

Currently, there are no white flowers, and no survivors.  We walk to change that.  We walk for white flowers.  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Throw Back Thursday - The Duke With Four Legs Edition

Those of you who are long time visitors here at Sweet Tea Reads may remember that our dog Duke started off as a foster dog, and that he came to us heart worm positive, and with a bum leg.

Saturday, October 20th, was five years since we brought Duke home.  The memory showed up on Facebook, along with the first pictures we took of Duke, back when he still had four legs.

It’s actually a little weird seeing pictures of him with all four legs.  He gets around extremely well, and just doesn’t seem to be lacking in any way.  Well, possibly manners, but certainly nothing he needs to live a full and happy life. 

We had Duke for about six months before his leg was amputated; long enough for him to get through the heart worm treatment, and become healthy enough for the surgery.   It was also long enough for us to become too attached to ever give him up, so he became the second in a long line of foster failures

Duke recovered quickly from the amputation, and gets around much better than he did before it, as you can probably tell from this picture of him at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s last month. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Answering Questions

I’ve noticed when it comes to blogging that about half of the bloggers I usually visit seem to respond to each comment on their blog, and about half don’t seem to respond to any, at least in the comments section.  I’m never really sure which one is best.  I don’t know if people actually check back, so I very rarely respond to anything in the comments section. 

I also don’t write many (any?) posts that are going to inspire much debate, or raise very many questions.  There’s only so much discussion possible when it comes to recipes or cat pictures.  That being said, there is an occasional question in the comments section, so I thought I might start periodically doing a post with responses to those. 

I’ve skimmed over the last several posts, and these are the ones I noticed:

On Throw Back Thursday - The Baby Howard Edition, Liz asked if Howard still tries getting into places that are too small for him. 

Not really.  Howard is “portly” as the very nice nurse at the emergency vet once described him, and has been for a while.  I think he’s used to not fitting very many places.  He’s also twelve now, so doesn’t do nearly as much climbing around as he used to. He does like to squish himself into the smallest pet beds possible, but I think that’s probably just for the warm, cozy feeling.  Howard is super cuddly, and is happiest when he’s cuddled up to someone else.

When I posted my Cheap Steak Fajitas recipe, and lamented my inability to make beef stew, Bijoux made the comment that she thought I needed a Crock Pot until realizing that the recipe was a Crock Pot recipe.  

All of my failed attempts at beef stew have been in the Crock Pot.  I usually have great luck with Crock Pot recipes, so I’m not sure what the problem is when it comes to beef stew.  

Betty asked if I’d like a recipe.  

I’d love one!  If it claims to be simple or foolproof, I can definitely put that to the test.  

When I posted my Tzatziki sauce recipe, Cat asked for possible substitutions for dill.  

I’ve had it without dill, and it’s good.  That’s actually how we were taught to make it in the cooking class I took.  Honestly, I prefer it with dill, but it’s still really good without it.  If you’re looking for a substitution, though, I would probably try oregano or mint, since those are typically already found in the types of food you’re likely to be having with Tzatziki sauce.  

And I think that’s it for posts that had any kind of questions.  Like I said, I don’t seem to post very much that raises questions or leads to much debate.  

So, how do you handle questions and comments on your blog?  Do you respond to every comment, or just questions?  Or do you do something else entirely? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tzatziki Sauce

I love tzatziki sauce.  It’s one of my favorite things about eating any kind of Greek or Mediterranean food.  The food is already amazing, then you top it with an incredible sauce, and it just gets better.

We’ve taken a few cooking classes at a local Mediterranean restaurant, and one of the things we learned how to make was tzatziki sauce.  I was surprised at how simple it is to make.  I thought anything this delicious had to be at least a little bit complicated, but it’s surprisingly simple to make.

It’s also very easy to customize to your particular tastes, likes, and dislikes, so don’t be afraid to experiment.  This version is the result of my experimenting with a version of the recipe we were taught in class, and a version we tried at another restaurant out of town.

Tzatziki Sauce:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Scant 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber, seeded (or use seedless, it’s much easier)
1 garlic clove, pressed
½ tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried dill
Salt to taste, usually just a sprinkle or two

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and serve chilled.

You can use plain regular yogurt, if you prefer, or if that’s what you have on hand.  The sauce turns out just fine.  It’s a little thinner, and I assume somewhat less authentic, but still delicious.  You can also leave the salt out if you prefer.  I don’t recommend that.  I love salt, and I’m convinced there’s very little food that isn’t improved by the addition of salt, but that’s just my opinion.

The sauce doesn’t keep very long at all.  You’ll need to use it within about 24 - 36 hours of making it.  That’s really not a problem, though, with a sauce this good.  It’s great on pita chips, gyros, grilled or baked Greek seasoned chicken, Greek omelettes, basically anything that pairs well with a creamy, garlicky sauce.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Music Monday: Bill Haley & His Comets - Shake, Rattle & Roll

Saturday night was fairly cold here, and it really felt like fall, so we decided to watch a slightly Halloween-ish movie.  We decided on Clue, with all three of the endings.  This song is in the movie, and has been stuck in my head since Saturday night, so I thought I’d share it with you for Music Monday.

Does it feel like fall where you are?  Have you been watching any Halloween movies?

Monday, October 15, 2018

Music Monday: Elvis Presley - Can’t Help Falling In Love

I’ve been an Elvis fan for as long as I can remember.  My childhood best friend, Dani, and I were completely obsessed when we were four.  My mom had a few Elvis movies we loved to watch, and Dani’s mom had a cassette tape we loved to listen to.

Over 30 years later, I still love to listen to Elvis.  It’s practically impossible to pick a favorite Elvis song.  He had so many great ones!  This one is definitely at the top of the list for me, though.

What about you?  Are you an Elvis fan?  Do you have a favorite Elvis song?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Throw Back Thursday - The Teapot Edition

These are from last year’s visit to The Charleston Museum, in Charleston, South Carolina.  It’s America’s first museum.  You can read more about it here, and I’d highly encourage you to take the time to visit it if you’re ever in the Charleston area. 

The Charleston Museum has so many great displays, but the teapots really caught my eye.  I think these two are so pretty. 

The pineapple one was definitely my favorite.  The pineapple is a symbol of welcome, and pineapple decor features heavily in Charleston.  As I’ve said before, offering guests sweet tea is a huge part of hospitality in South Carolina, so I loved the pineapple teapot as the ultimate symbol of hospitality.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Easiest Apple Crisp Ever

Even though it doesn’t really feel like it, it’s officially fall.  I’m very happy for the warmer weather to hold on for as long as possible, but I do love the flavors of fall.  Enjoying fall flavors and warm weather suits me just fine.

This apple crisp is incredibly easy to make, and it’s perfect for fall, whether you’re savoring the last bit of warm weather, or have already moved on to fall weather and activities. 

Easy Apple Crisp:

2 cans apple pie filling (any brand will do, typically Aldi has apple pie filling this time of year, and it’s great, as well as inexpensive)
1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks butter, butter melted
½ cup sugar

Spread pie filling in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish

Melt butter in a glass mixing bowl in the microwave.  Combine cake mix and sugar with the melted butter.  The consistency will be a little bit like cookie dough. 

Drop and spread over the apples.  Don’t worry about it if there are a few gaps; it will spread out as it bakes.

Bake at 350 for 50 - 60 minutes, until it’s a nice golden brown.


I think it’s best served warm, with a little vanilla bean ice cream. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Music Monday: Faith Hill - It Matters To Me

Faith Hill’s It Matters To Me was one of the first CDs I ever owned.  The whole CD is great, but my favorite song on it is It Matters To Me.  I love the song. 

Fourteen year old me was obsessed with the song.  That was also about the time that I discovered the repeat feature on my CD player.  I played this song over, and over, and over, for hours at a time.  Oddly enough, the rest of my family hates the song.  They disagreed with me about how much of a good thing was too much.  I’m pretty sure my parents and sister would do just about anything to make it stop if someone started playing this song on repeat. 

I hope you enjoy it, even if you only want to enjoy it once.  Personally, I think it’s best played a few times in a row. 

Are there any songs you like to listen to over and over? 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

We Failed. Again.

It’s the good kind of failure, though.  We officially foster failed and adopted Charlie and Mortimer

It only took them a few days to work their way into our hearts.  They’re so sweet, they get along well with the other cats, and are fine with the dogs.   I hated to think of them going back to living in a cage, and it broke my heart to think about them being separated.  I couldn’t imagine one of them being left behind if someone only adopted one of them.  So we adopted them both.

We now have six cats and two dogs; half of them were foster failures.  We’ve decided that we’re just not cut out for fostering.  I don’t seem to be able to let them go (Tara, Duke, Cookie, and now Charlie and Mortimer were foster failures), and it wouldn’t be a good idea for us to have any more pets.

We’re very happy with our newest additions, and everyone is getting along and happily coexisting, so we’re calling it good.  There are worse things to fail at.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Music Monday: Augustana - Just Stay Here Tonight

I first heard this song on a TV show a few years ago, but I can’t remember which one.  That probably means the show wasn’t that memorable, but the song is great.  I think it’s happy and peppy, without being loud or annoying.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Have you found any great songs from TV shows?

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Wrap-Up & Blog Ahead

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow will be October 1st.  It feels like it should be still be sometime in May, or at least still early summer. 

Thanks everyone for your concern when I posted about the hurricane.  I’m late in posting this, but we came through the storm unscathed.  I’m not complaining, but our area didn’t get anywhere near the wind or rain that was originally forecast.  We were very fortunate.

Thank you for all of the anniversary wishes.  We both took off on Thursday and Friday, so had a four day weekend together.  We kept it fairly low key, but we had some great Indian food, more pie than we should have, and participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s (I’ll post more about that later).  It probably doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but we enjoyed it.

It’s officially fall, but we’re forecast to have temperatures in the low to mid 80s for all of next week.  I’m happy with that.  The longer we can postpone the cold, the better.  It also means the flowers will last a little longer, which always makes me happy. 

I’ve signed up for the Blog Ahead Challenge hosted by Anna at Herding Cats & Burning Soup.  The idea is to increase your number of scheduled posts by thirty during the month of October.  I’ve only done one of the Christmas posts I want to do, so I’m hoping this will be the push I need to get more of them ready to go. 

So how was September for you?  Does it seem like this year is flying by?  Are you participating in any blogging challenges in October? 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Ten Years

Just to give you fair warning, you may want to skip this post if you don’t enjoy looking at wedding pictures.

Today is our tenth anniversary.  It seems a little weird.  I know ten years isn’t much, especially for people like our grandparents who had marriages that lasted over fifty years, but today we’re happily celebrating ten years.

A friend framed our invitation for us, which was nice, because I probably wouldn’t have thought to do that. 

We got married at the Table Rock State Park, which is beautiful this time of year. 

The building is very pretty, so we didn't need to do much decorating.

We had our wedding and reception inside, but the patio was available for anyone who wanted to spend time outside. 

There are some gorgeous views from the lodge.

Even a lake view.

We took most of our pictures outside.

Nick and the groomsmen did some formal pictures.

And some more fun pictures.

And some fun ones with the bridesmaids.

And I had some fun ones with the groomsmen.

I loved the bridesmaid dresses, and I think the green looked great on all of them.

Butterflies featured heavily.  I made these to mark the reserved rows.

There were butterflies in my bouquet.

I also made the centerpieces for the table, with butterflies, of course.

For our wedding favors, we made a family and friends cookbook.  We asked everyone for recipes, and then compiled them into a cookbook.  With a butterfly cover, of course.  Almost everyone gave us at least one recipe, so we had quite a collection.  It took a lot of time to make the cookbooks, but they were very well received, and we have a lot of great recipes.  Time well spent.

We had a very informal reception, with no assigned seating.  We wanted everyone to be free to mingle and have a good time. 

The food was buffet style, with no assigned order.  Again, we wanted things to be fairly informal.

Our cake flavors were strawberry, Italian Cream, and traditional white cake.  Of course it had butterflies.

We played a wide variety of music at the reception, so practically everyone danced.

We both love oldies, so our play list included quite a few oldies.  The advantage to that, is that all of the older people danced.  They taught the younger people a few dances.

Even our youngest guest had no trouble finding dance partners.

Shoes, jackets, and even tuxedos were abandoned as the day went on.

It's hard to believe it has been ten years.  Time flies!