Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ham Spaghetti

This is a favorite in my house...including the son who swears he never eats anything with onion or mushroom in it!!

Ingredients:

1 package (16 oz) spaghetti, broken into two inch pieces
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 3/4 cups milk
1 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce or to taste
2 cups cubed fully cooked ham (about a pound)
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Cook spaghetti.  While it is cooking, combine soup, milk, onion, and Worcestershire in a large bowl.  Drain spaghetti; add to the soup mixture along with the ham.

Transfer to a lightly greased 2 1/2 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle top with cheese.  Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake 5 minutes longer or until top is lightly browned and dish is heated through out.

Friday, April 29, 2011

P.S. Networking Affair

So last night I attended my first networking event as a blogger.  Didn't know what to expect or how they are supposed to work so what you'll get are my honest opinions and impressions of the evening.

First, the venue.  The Paramount and State Theaters in Austin are absolute treasures.  They are beautiful theaters and something that should absolutely not be missed if you are in Austin.

The volunteers at both theaters are the best!!  The ushers (women of grace and maturity) are friendly, knowledgeable, and delightful!!  I think they are one of my favorite parts of attending any event at either venue!!

So the event itself.  Checking in was not the easiest process.  The line was incredibly long and I stood there about 15 minutes just waiting to check in.  Thankfully, the desk was inside the State out of the heat, but I can't help thinking there could have been a better way.  Perhaps moving check-in to the Paramount with a larger lobby may have made the process easier.  Also...it wasn't until you made it all the way up to the desk that you could see there were actually three lines divided by alphabet.  It wouldn't have helped...the lobby of the State would not have allowed for three separate lines to form.  Especially when the State also held the photographer.

As for the actual networking?  I have to say, I didn't really see any.  From my observation, everyone attending pretty much stuck with those they came with.  I overheard on more than one occasion, people asking what the event was actually for.  I guess some people had signed up just because it was a Paramount event, without an actual interest in blogging or social networking.  And I have to admit, I'm not the best with strangers and am guilty myself of not putting myself out there.

Over all, I'm calling the event a success.  It was an opportunity for me to get my feet wet in the social networking world and I learned what I personally will do different next time.  So if this complete stranger walks up to you at the next event...it's me!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Frugal Tip

Many areas of the country have local coupon deals through sites such as Living Social and Groupon to name a few.  These sites offer coupons for discounted deals on everything from fine dining to oil changes.  Are they worth it?  Depends on what you're looking for!

I've used the coupons for half price tickets to a play, a spa day, and a night at a bed and breakfast.  I've gotten oil changes for half price...you have to get them done and why pay full price??  The spa day was 92 percent off and makes for a perfect girlfriend day.  The bed and breakfast?  An escape for me and the hubby...complete with a $75 dinner gift card.

I think the best use of these offers is to try new experiences and new venues you've never tried before.  That way, you're not paying full price for something you may or may not enjoy.  But I've also gotten a half-off coupon for the restaurant right down the street where we eat on a regular basis!!

With the economy as it is today...saving every little bit helps!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hump Day #4

Raspberry Beret

1/2 measure light creme de cacao
1 measure chilled gold tequila
1 plump raspberry

Pour the creme de cacao into a shot glass.  Using the back of a spoon, slowly float the tequila over the creme de cacao.  Slowly lower the raspberry into the drink...it will settle between the creme de cacao and the tequila.

Salud!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just a Thought

Back in the day, it was said it was never polite to discuss politics or religion in polite company.  Yesterday, I watched a group I belong to begin to implode because of political viewpoints.  This is heartbreaking to watch...these people are the best of the best.  That being said, I read statements online yesterday that these same people would cringe if they heard them at a dinner party.

Let me say this as clearly as I can.  Being in cyberspace does not excuse bad manners!!  People deserve to be treated with dignity regardless if they are online or face to face.  Not seeing a person is not a permission slip to attack.

Now the definition of manners has changed over the years.  Ladies no longer don hats and gloves before leaving the house.  Dinner tables are no longer set with every piece of silver owned.  But the basics...watching one's tongue, speaking with respect...shouldn't these still endure?  Even in cyberspace?

And those are my random thoughts this morning...

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Lucky Mom

So yesterday was our family Easter dinner.  I was blessed to have my sons home for a meal.  My younger son arrived early and helped me with moving furniture and some heavy lifting.  My older son arrived later bearing beautiful tulips and a gorgeous card.

I realized how incredibly lucky I am.  They are both good kids (ok...they're in their 20's) and they both love their mom.  As we sat around after dinner, I realized I was content just having them in the same room.  It doesn't happen often enough that both of them are there at the same time.  I see them both pretty regularly but they are both busy with their own lives and fate rarely brings them to the house at the same time.

So for a few hours yesterday, my empty nest was full again and I absolutely loved it.  That's not to say I don't enjoy and love my empty nest...I do!!  I enjoy the freedom and quiet that an empty nest provides.  But sometimes, I crave that nest being full...a reminder of why the nest is there.

And those are my random thoughts this morning...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!!

My empty nest will be full today but I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a Happy Easter!!  Enjoy the day with family and friends!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

From My Easter Menu

In honor of Easter tomorrow, I thought I'd post a recipe from my menu.  It's the perfect pie for a 90 degree Easter day in Texas...light and cold!!

Pineapple Fluff Pie

Ingredients:

1 can (20 oz) unsweetened crushed pineapple, drained
1 package instant lemon pudding mix
1 carton (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, completely thawed
1 graham cracker crust (9 in)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the pineapple and pudding mix until thickened.  Fold in the whipped topping.  Spoon into crust and level.  Refrigerate until serving.

Happy Easter, everyone!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011

Anybody remember the old Chiffon margarine commercial that used the tagline "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!"?  (For my younger readers...look it up on YouTube!)

Lately it feels like that tagline should be changed to "It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature".  Still snowing in Wisconsin this week, yet another earthquake in Japan, and my state of Texas is on fire with over a million acres burned.  Mother Nature is pissed and she's not taking it anymore!!

I try to do my part...the majority of our light bulbs have been replaced with CFL's.  We recycle everything we can and have reduced our weekly trash to only one kitchen sized bag for the two of us.  We grow vegetables and fruit.

Is it enough?  Probably not.  Could we do more?  Probably so.  But I believe every little step counts so Mother Nature...could you give us a break?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Feeling Overwhelmed

As another holiday approaches, I confess to feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Getting the house ready, cleaning the house for company, etc. just seems to be a bit much this year.  Don't know if it's the menopause dragging me down a bit or I just set expectations too high for myself.

I know I don't need a huge menu.  I know my friends and family don't care if the house is spotless.  So why do I and millions of other women put the pressure on ourselves that everything has to be perfect?  Is it societal?  Is it the way we were raised?

It's rare lately that I have both my sons in the house at the same time.  I want to savor this moment not be stuck in the kitchen all day.  Maybe I can find a happy medium.

What are your solutions to holiday stress?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hump Day #3

Today's recipe is a guest recipe from my cousin Kathi.  Not only is she an incredible real estate agent, an amazing wife and daughter...she is truly who I want to be when I grow up!!

Sangria

2 bottles red wine (merlot or chianti)
5 Tbsp brandy
2 cups orange juice
3 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 each, sliced:  orange, lemon, and lime

Combine all ingredients and let sit overnight in the fridge.

Add peaches, nectarines, and oranges skewered on a cocktail spike in a glass.  Serve sangria over ice.

Club soda can be added if you prefer a sangria spritzer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spreading Fear

Today I received yet another email warning women about another threat.  This one was a crying child asking to be taking home and the woman attacked upon reaching the address.  In less than one minute, I had checked Snopes and found it to be false...another urban legend.  Hitting"Reply All" (a thing I rarely do), I informed the ladies on the email that it was not true and attached the link containing the denouement.

Why do otherwise intelligent women buy into these rumors?  Women today admittedly face threats to their safety...but why forward something you haven't even checked to be factual?  Is it a misguided attempt to keep a friend safe?  Or is it a gullibility that only exists online?  These same women wouldn't believe half of these stories if they were told them face to face.  Is it because the account purports to be verified by CNN or Fox?  If so, wouldn't a reasonable person check those sources?

What frightens me is that these friends allow this additional fear into their lives.  That they live with yet more reasons to look over their shoulders.  That this fear pushes out capacity for joy.

Please, if you receive ANY email that contains FW in the subject line...check it out!!  Don't forward something that could impact someone's daily life and/or routine without verifying at the very minimum that it is true!!

If you truly want to help a girlfriend...give them a call!  Ask how they're doing...ask if there is anything you can do for them!  This simple action will do so much more than a scary, false email.

And those are my random thoughts for today...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Even if you don't have time...

Perhaps you work more than one job, you're busy with the kids and grandkids.  Perhaps your health isn't the greatest or you're just flat out pressed for time in your busy day.  Did you know you can still help a charity?

Click to Give is a website that allows you to choose a charity to donate to.  You don't actually do the donating, the donation is made based on solely your click.  You can choose from:  Animal Care, Feed the Poor, Stop Child Abuse, End Homelessness, Impact Kids Cancer, and Sponsor Children.  You click on your choice daily, and a contribution is made to the charity of your choice.  Time spent?  Including pulling up the website...about 10 seconds.

The Veterans Site is a website dedicated to feeding homeless veterans.  Again, it is a click daily site that when you click, sponsors of the site contribute to provide meals for homeless veterans.  Less than 10 seconds and you can help those who have defended you and yours.  When they have given so much, can you really justify NOT giving that single click every day?

The Breast Cancer Site provides mammograms for women who cannot afford them.  As with the two sites above, you click and spon
sors of the site provide the contribution to pay for the mammograms.  With breast cancer being such a killer, it only takes a couple of seconds to help a mother stay with her children, or a grandmother getting the chance to see her grandbaby born.

Last but not least...there is a charity box at the bottom of this blog.  Each click pays for one minute of behavioral therapy for those affected by autism.  This therapy is incredibly expensive and out of reach for many parents.  A simple click can help.

So in less time than it takes to update your Facebook status, send a tweet, or pour that second cup of coffee...you can donate to four charities.  I really can't think of any reason not to.

http://clicktogive.com/

http://www.theveteranssite.com/clickToGive/home.faces?siteId=10

http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/clickToGive/home.faces?siteId=2

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Kid Friendly!

Taco Dogs

Ingredients

  • 1 package (1 pound) hot dogs
  • 10 slices process American cheese
  • 10 hard taco shells, warmed
  • 1 can (16 ounces) baked beans, warmed

Directions

  • Prepare hot dogs according to package directions. Place a cheese slice in the bottom of each taco shell.  Place a hot dog on top of the cheese and top with beans. 
This is a really quick and easy recipe and kids can help with this in the kitchen!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Classics

I was yakking with a girlfriend the other night, discussing what books we had on our respective e-readers.  I've taken advantage of the free books I can find and my e-reader is loaded with the classics alongside whatever murder mystery is the flavor of the moment.  As we were talking, I mentioned Jane Eyre and my friend said she had never read it.  Amazed, I asked if she was sure, that she hadn't read it in school?  She said never.  I then asked about The Count of Monte Cristo, A Tale of Two Cities, and Wuthering Heights.  Again, the answer was no.  Now my friend is a prolific reader, with not only an e-reader, but the apps also available on her laptop and on her phone so she's never without a book to read.

I have to admit I felt a sense of pity for her.  God bless my parents for providing me with the classics as a child.  I have no doubt this fostered the ravenous reading habit I have today.  And I keep the classics on my e-reader so I can re-read them and appreciate them over and over again.  When I finish the latest best seller, I archive it and remove it from my reading list.  Not so with my classics...they are always there.

Hopefully, some of my encouragement (nagging) got through and she'll download some classics to enjoy.  Speaking of which, I think I'll grab my e-reader...Pride and Prejudice awaits.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Support of Our Troops

Your cell phone is in your pocket..

He clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags. He knows he may not see some of his buddies again. 

You walk down the beach, staring
at all the pretty girls. He patrols the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists. He's told he will be held over an extra 2 months 

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight. He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home. 

You hug and kiss your girlfriend, like you do everyday. He holds his letter close and smells his love's perfume. 

You roll your eyes as a baby cries. He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they'll ever meet. 

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything. He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and
remembers why he is fighting. 

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him. He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded. 

You see only what the media wants 
you to see. He sees the broken bodies lying around him. 

You are asked to do some thing by 
your parents. You don't. He does exactly what he is told even if it puts his life in danger. 

You stay at home and watch TV. He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat. 

You crawl into your soft bed, with 
down pillows, and get comfortable.
He tries to sleep but gets woken by mortars and helicopters all night long. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hump Day #2

Angel's Kiss

1/2 measure creme de cacao
1/2 measure brandy
1/2 measure lightly whipped heavy cream

Pour the creme de cacao into a shot glass.  Using the back of a spoon, slowly float the brandy over the creme de cacao.  Pour the cream over the brandy in the same manner.

Salud!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Memories

Today is National Grilled Cheese Day.  One of my favorite memories from my childhood is being at my aunt's home for the day and her making me grilled cheese sandwiches.  They were always made with Wonder Bread, and my aunt always let me get away with not eating the crusts!  They were always cut on the diagonal and they were always the best grilled cheese ever!!

To this day, I still cut my grilled cheese on the diagonal.  For some reason, I don't cut any other sandwich that way...just my grilled cheese.  And I still don't eat the crust!

Isn't it funny how the littlest thing from your childhood can leave an impression that lasts decades later and actually influences how you do something?  What do you remember?

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Wonderful Day with Friends

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend the day with a friend I was stationed with back in the dark ages along with our respective spouses.  More than an opportunity...it was a blessing to be able to share a day with someone I've know for over 30 years.

Now it wasn't the fanciest plan of a day...or even expensive.  We spent the morning exploring a flea market, lunch at a great BBQ joint, and hours spent just sitting around and talking.  That would be the advantage of being an empty-nester.  No sitter to hire, no trying to fit friends in between school, sports, and extra curricular activities!  Just pure, unadulterated time to enjoy the company of friends.  Now that's not saying it isn't still difficult at times to schedule friend time between working and just life in general.  But as we age, I believe we learn the value of friendship is not something to be taken for granted.  We know now our time is not limitless.  We know that the sense of indestructibility we enjoyed in our 20's was just an illusion.  And we know that the pettiness that plagued friendships earlier in our lives is just that...pettiness.

So here is my new resolve...to make sure I include more time for friends.  The laundry can always wait, the grocery shopping can be done tomorrow.  The joy of time spent with friends is more important, by far.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Creole Crab Cakes

Ingredients:

1 pound lump crab meat
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers
1/3 cup minced parsley
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp paprika
Tabasco sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, toss together lightly the saltine cracker crumbs, egg, parsley, and mayonnaise until moistened.  Add the crab and seasonings.  Mix gently.  Form into 6 cakes about 3/4 inch thick.  Refrigerate for AT LEAST 1 HOUR to set up.  Fry crab cakes in butter in a heavy skillet until both sides are nicely browned, about 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Keep Your Keyboard Kind

There has been a lot in the news lately about cyber bullying.  The anonymity of the Internet has bred an entire new species of bully with those who would be too fearful to say things in person gaining the fortitude to spew hate from behind the keyboard.

And the bullying isn't the exclusive front of the teen and pre-teen crowd.  Over and over, I've seen grown women and men say hateful, hurtful things online.  Is it a lack of tech-savvyness that they are not aware how the hate spreads?  Do they believe that just because that one particular person can't see what they write that they won't hear about it from mutual parties?  Does the Golden Rule not apply in cyberspace?

Probably one of the most important lessons I've learned in life is to always be kind.  Once that person is home alone, sitting in their living room, and that front door closes...no one really knows what they are going through, dealing with, or struggling out of.  While their status on Facebook may be upbeat and happy, their life may be falling apart.

It doesn't take any extra effort to be gentle and kind.  Actually, it takes a lot more time, effort, and energy to maintain cruelty and hate.  Is it really worth it?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Revolving Door

When I returned home from the Air Force, my father had one rule to impart.  "The door is always open...just know it's not a revolving door."

Does that still hold true today?  With the economy in the toilet, jobs scarce, and housing costs in the stratosphere...is it possible to permanently empty the nest?

I struggle with this.  My heart wants my children close.  My brain tells me if they don't fall, they'll never learn to get back up.  But where do you draw the line?  What crisis is large enough to break the rules and bring them home?

I'm the softie, Hubby is the rock.  And when this particular situation arises, I do defer to him to make the final decision.  It may be the chicken's way out...but I know my limitations and I know I will cave.  He won't.  And I rely on that strength to stand strong.

So what is your stand?  Is the door always open or only in dire straits?  How do you stand strong?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hump Day

I'm going to start a new category here with a yummy cocktail featured every Wednesday to help you make it through the rest of the week.  Hope you enjoy...try something new!!!

VANILLA DAISY

Crushed ice
2 measures bourbon
1 measure fresh lemon juice
1 measure vanilla syrup
1 teaspoon grenadine
2 maraschino cherries to decorate

Put some crushed ice into a cocktail shaker with the bourbon, lemon juice, and vanilla syrup.  Shake well.  Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.  Drizzle the grenadine through the drink.  Decorate with cherries on a pick.

Salud!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

For the Love of a Rescue

I am the proud mama to two rescues.  Max is a 13 year old black Lab and Emma is a 4 year old Australian Shepherd.  You notice I didn't say owner...they own me!!

We got Max from a friend who had rescued him.  Max was owned by a college student who somehow believed a dorm room was the appropriate place to raise a Lab puppy.  Our friend had small children, and at 8 months old, Max was a bit too rambunctious for them and consistently knocked them down.  So he was headed for the pound.  Hubby said we were just going to take a look at him one morning.  As we headed out, I crammed a leash into the pocket of my jeans.  I'm no dummy!!  When we met Max, Hubby said he looked down and saw two set of puppy dog eyes, one set brown, one set blue, looking back up at him and he knew he had lost the battle before it even started.  And the look on his face when I pulled that leash out of my pocket!!  To be honest, there was a moment after we got him home when I thought he was going to be back up for adoption.  That moment?  Well, lab puppies REALLY like to chew...but who ever expected Max to eat the wall of the house?  After some major puppy proofing...he was allowed to stay...and it's 12 years later!

Emma was adopted from Craigslist.  The family who had her had rescued her from a girl who kept her on an apartment balcony.  Emma had been with the girl's ex and he just dumped her on her doorstep one day.  We call Emma "Diva" because she rules the entire household!!  She's not really fond of men, but with rescues, they come with quirks!!  One of the funniest things Emma does is bark at Hubby when she thinks he's not moving fast enough to please her.  Watching this big man jump at her bark is just hilarious!!  And thankfully, the difference in her age and Max has done wonders to get Max moving again, playing and getting rowdy!

Neither of my dogs have papers and I could care less.  The only reason to bring a pet into your home is for love...and you don't need purebred for that.  Check into your local pound or rescue groups.  Also, check Craigslist.  Unfortunately, in this economy, there are thousands of families facing foreclosure that are desperately searching for a safe haven for their pets.  These aren't strays...these are loving animals who need shelter from the storm.  Do you have room in your heart?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Common Courtesy

A few weeks ago, I read a letter in a national advice column regarding the plastic bars that go between customers' groceries at the store.  The writer wanted to know who's responsibility it was to place the bar.  Should the person in front place it behind their items...or the next person place it in advance of their groceries.

What I want to know is why is this even a question?  Shouldn't this be something done automatically as a common courtesy?  I actually stopped and consciously considered it yesterday at the store and realized I automatically place it behind my items.  This makes it easier on the next person, letting them know I've finished and they can start unloading their cart.  I actually put less thought into the actual action than the letter writer invested in their query.

I believe you place the bar.  I believe you hold the door for the person behind you, whether entering or leaving the store.  I believe if you see someone drop something, you pick it up and return it.  I believe you give up your seat to your elders.  I believe you let the pregnant woman skip in the line for the bathroom.  I believe whenever someone does any of the above for you...you say "Thank you".

Do any of these actions cost you anything?  Maybe a second or two of your time.  Is it worth it to make a fellow human being's day just a tad bit better?  Always!  These small actions make this world a better place to live, one second at a time.

Thank YOU for listening!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hubby's Favorite

Ingredients:

3 cups french fried onions

3Tbsp all-purpose flour

6 (1/2 inch thick) pork chops

1 egg, beaten

Directions:

Season pork chops with salt and pepper to taste.  Place french fried onions in plastic bag and crush with rolling pin.  Transfer to pie plate.

Dip pork chops into beaten egg, then coat with onion crumbs.  Press onions firmly into pork chop to adhere.  Place pork chops on baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until center is no longer pink.

Friday, April 1, 2011

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, breast cancer took my best friend.  Judy hadn't been getting her mammograms because she was one of those women who always took care of every one else instead of herself.  And in less than two weeks from diagnosis, she was gone.

Judy was the very definition of a friend.  Always there, no matter what.  She lived quite a ways from our office, and when the weather was bad she would spend the night at my house.  After the last night she spent, she gave me a pair of earrings and wrote a note on the card holding the earrings thanking me for the girl time.  To this day, I have not removed those earrings from the card.

I have a hard time keeping weight on and every day when we ate lunch together, Judy watched to make sure I ate everything.  One year when our office was closed for three days due to ice, Judy had spent the time off crocheting hats for every single girl in the office.  She did all the alterations anyone needed and the only way to pay her was to sneak the money on to her desk...or she'd refuse payment no matter how much work she had done.  I finally learned to make her promise to accept whatever payment I decided beforehand just to get her to accept the money.  Judy didn't have a lot of money, but if she ever heard you say you needed something...within a couple of days...it would appear on your desk.  As I sit here at my desk, I look around the room at the things she had given me over the years.  It soothes me to see them every day.

Judy suffered terribly from SAD (seasonal affective disorder).  A couple of months ago, I was in a local store and found one of those sun lamps SAD sufferers are supposed to sit under to get more sunlight.  I was thrilled it was on sale (they're quite expensive) and immediately grabbed it off the shelf.  About an aisle or so later, I realized I didn't have her to buy it for and my husband found me there in the aisle holding the box and crying.

This past Sunday, a friend had gotten a new cell phone and needed help re-entering her phone list.  As I scrolled through my contacts, Judy's name appeared.  I could feel my heart breaking all over again almost a year later.

Breast cancer is a killer.  If there is any woman in your life you love, encourage them to get their mammograms.  Hell, I don't even care if you despise them...I don't want anyone else lost to this disease.  Women, remember that you can't take care of anyone else if you don't take care of yourself first.

And that listing in my contacts?  It's still there.  I don't know if I'll remove it.  Maybe next year.  Maybe...never.

Share it

Like

Jerri's Empty Nest