spring is back…and so am i

With the arrival of spring, I think it’s time to get back to posting. Thanks to those who have asked how I’m feeling and to those who let me know they’ve missed my posts. I appreciate hearing from you!

Here are a few pictures from the yard. Spring…the pics may be the same each year, but the joy spring brings is always new! So refreshing to heart and soul.

The redbuds are in full bloom and look spectacular this year. Everything is blooming later than usual. The redbud trees usually begin blooming the last week of March or the first week of April. That makes them about three weeks late this year.

I love red tulips. They add such a bright splash of color among the daffodils. These tulips are from bulbs I saved from potted tulips DH gave me a few years ago.

The Southern Red Oak in the backyard is in full bloom, as well. The catkins are doing their pollen duties and will soon fall from the tree. From my craft room on the second story, I have a great view of this oak. It’s always fun to watch the progression from swelling buds to catkins to tiny new leaves to full grown, bright green, shiny leaves of summer.

We have five dogwood trees. Two bloom about the same time. A third is usually four or five days later to open. There is also a white one with a pink cast to the center and a pink dogwood that we planted two years ago. This one stands near the kitchen door.

The violet flush is on. Some years I pick a bunch of these during the spring flush and sugar them for decorating cookies and cakes.

Every spring, I am amazed at how quickly the peonies grow! The buds are about half an inch wide. They are my favorite flower and I look forward to their bloom.

Virginia bluebells…such a pretty flower. We dug starts of the bluebells from the woods on DH’s aunt’s farm years ago. They lived with us at our old house and moved to this house with us twenty years ago.

‘Thalia’ daffodils are such a pretty white. Each stem usually has three blossoms, sometimes two. A later blooming daffodil than most. They extend the season when the yellow daffodils are beginning to fade.

Another redbud. This one can be thoroughly enjoyed from the east porch. One year, DH planted a ring of ‘Poets’ daffodils around it and they are in full bloom right now.

I hope the spring flower tour was enjoyable. I know I enjoyed getting outside yesterday to take the pictures!

~~Rhonda

menu plan monday on wednesday ~ march 3, 2014

Last week, I had the fun of hosting my home extension group for an evening of crafting. We made decoupaged ornaments, using pictures from Christmas cards. It’s always fun to get together with friends, spend some time creating, some time laughing, and some time enjoying good food. Thanks, Lana, for bringing the delicious treats!

home extension craft night

home extension craft night

They are concentrating in these pictures, but we spent most of the time laughing together. We had a great time. I’m already looking for new ideas to craft with them again.

Here’s the menu for this week. The sushi came from the Asian Garden. Delicious! We’ll have that again, soon.

Monday
Tacoritos
Tortilla Chips
Lettuce, Cheese, Sour Cream

tacoritos

Tuesday
Fridge Food

Wednesday
Sushi

sushi 1

sushi

Thursday
Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Stir Fried Veggies
Brown Rice

Friday
Veggie Lasagna
Edamame
Garden Salad
Garlic Bread

Saturday
Roast Beef Sandwiches
Rolls
Chips
Celery and Carrot Sticks

Sunday
Oven BBQed Pork Steaks
Green Salad
Baby Baked Potatoes
Steamed Green Beans

You can find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

~~Rhonda

make a salad box . . . your own mini salad bar

Would you like an easy way to fit more salads into your menu? An easy way to help your family choose salad with dinner or for a quick and light lunch? You need a salad box! A salad box is a self-contained mini salad bar in your own fridge. Everything is prepared ahead of time and contained in the salad box till needed.

my very own salad bar

If you want to give a salad box a try, the first step is to decide where it’s going to be stored in your refrigerator. The point of the box is to be able to pull everything out in one container, so using one of the drawers isn’t the best option. If you have to pull out a lot of little containers, one by one, it isn’t going to work very well. When you’ve decided where it will be stored, measure the depth, width and height of the available space. The next step is to find a plastic container, box or tub, to fit that space. A lid in not necessary. One with squared corners will store more smaller containers than one with rounded corners.

After finding a usable box, the next step is to find smaller containers with lids that will fit inside. For starters, at least six or seven containers. More, if possible. Two sizes should suffice. Larger ones for items you need more of and smaller ones for things like toppings and extras (nuts, seeds, crumbled bacon, etc.). Some items can be included in the box in their original containers…a bag of shredded cheese, a jar of pumpkin seeds, etc. A small pair of tongs can be added to the box for those items that won’t pour well.

DH found a plastic container at Wal-Mart that perfectly fits the available shelf in the fridge. A lid isn’t necessary. I am able to fit more in my salad box because there is no lid. Containers can stack a bit higher than if there were a lid on the box. Just be sure they don’t stack higher than the allotted shelf space. Our salad box is the one with the handle hole.

salad box

Currently, the ingredients in our salad bar are:

my very own salad bar

Back row: Celery, lima beans, and cucumber.
Middle row: Raw sunflower seeds, halved cherry tomatoes, green onion, and chopped parsley.
Front row: Walnuts, radishes, turkey.

Because containers of leafy greens take up a lot of space, I store them separately, washed, cut if necessary, and ready to go. Sometimes we buy the boxes of premixed greens. Sometimes we get a head of Romaine and I wash and tear it, then store the lettuce in a container. It’s ready to go when we want salad. If our refrigerator would accommodate a larger salad box, I could keep the leafy greens in it, as well.

Beans can be anything you like. Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, edamame, green peas, etc. If the beans are canned, rinse them under running water until there is no more foam. If frozen, pour the frozen beans into the container and let them thaw in the fridge.

If they won’t be eaten within a few days, cherry tomatoes could be left whole. I cut mine in half or quarters and haven’t had any problem because the small container I use holds just enough for about three salads. They are eaten before they get mushy. Same for the cucumbers. I love cukes, so I use a lot on a salad.

Any kind of nut/seed that you like can be used. Keeping small containers of two choices with the salad fixings makes it easy to add what I like, and they will keep for quite a while in the fridge.

Fresh parsley adds a great flavor to a salad. Having it chopped and ready to go makes it easy to add. I’ve also dipped into the salad bar fixings for stir fry or for adding chopped parsley to a recipe.

When I first made up the salad bar, I had cauliflower and broccoli chopped and stored in containers. It didn’t take long for the broccoli to take on a strong smell, so I don’t keep that on the salad bar any longer. My space is limited, so I haven’t included cauliflower again. When I’m hungry for it and tired of something else on the salad bar, I’ll swap cauliflower for the other item.

One nice aspect of the salad box is the amount of variety that can be achieved. A lot of salad options out of one box. This “salad bar” in a box would be great for larger families when everyone has his or her own favorites for salad. I really like the available options. Each salad can be different without having to prepare a different set of ingredients.

salad

When making up your own salad bar, wash your hands before beginning and use clean cutting boards and knives, clean containers, and work on a clean surface. All vegetables and fruits should be washed due to pesticides and other contaminates. Buy organic, if you can, though those should be washed, as well. Check this link for more information on the best ways to wash fruits and vegetables. I can’t wait till spring/summer when I’ll have our own garden produce to add to the salad box. The freshest possible choices and guaranteed pesticide free.

Here are some ideas for stocking a salad box. Choose those you and your family like best. Don’t overstock items like cut tomatoes or cucumber that won’t last long once cut. If you have other ideas, I’d love to see them in the comments!

Veggies

  • all kinds of lettuce
  • shredded cabbage
  • Chinese cabbage
  • bok choy
  • sorrel
  • all kinds of sprouts
  • sugar snap peas
  • snow peas
  • sweet peppers
  • hot peppers
  • tomatoes
  • mushrooms
  • corn
  • shredded carrots
  • chopped fennel
  • beets
  • celery
  • green onion
  • white and/or red onion
  • cucumber
  • chopped parsley
  • chives

Fruit

  • dried cranberries
  • raisins
  • strawberries
  • grapes
  • oranges
  • Mandarin orange segments

Beans

  • lentils
  • lima beans
  • garbanzo beans
  • white beans
  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • Edamame
  • peas

Nuts and Seeds

  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • pecans
  • peanuts
  • sesame seeds
  • sunflower seeds

Protein

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • ham
  • bacon
  • tofu
  • salmon
  • salami
  • pepperoni
  • browned ground beef for taco salads
  • egg
  • water packed tuna
  • shredded cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • goat cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • cottage cheese

 Other items

  • pickles
  • olives
  • croutons
  • chow mein noodles
  • quinoa
  • rice
  • guacamole (Thanks to Joy for that great idea!)

My youngest daughter told me she pulled the salad box out and made herself a salad for lunch this past week. She wouldn’t have had salad if she had to take the time to cut all the veggies. And I probably wouldn’t, either, for a single salad. Now I’m including salad in my meals every day because it’s so easy to do.

If you use a salad box, share how it works for you. Any tips or techniques you find helpful? I’d love to hear about it.

~~Rhonda

menu plan monday ~ february 10, 2014

“Dear Lord, afford our souls a spring,
Thou know’st our winter has been long;
Shine forth, and warm our hearts to sing,
And Thy rich grace shall be our song.”

That’s the last stanza of the poem “Waiting for Spring” by John Newton. The entire poem has a much broader spiritual meaning, but this last stanza strikes a more earthly note for me right now. I want spring to come! I’m sure I’m not the only one. DH brought seed packets home from the store this weekend. We want to plant!

spring fever

We still have a parsley plant and a basil plant on the kitchen counter. They are slowly putzing along, but only offer up enough leaves for a recipe now and then. They are tired of winter, too. I do chop a few basil leaves into my salad now then. Nothing better than fresh!

winter weary plants

Here’s the menu for the week.

Monday
Hamburgers with Cheddar Cheese
Green Salad
Celery Sticks

Tuesday
Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce
Cauliflower with Bacon and Mushrooms
Steamed Sugar Snap Peas
Spinach Salad with Orange Slices and Pecans

Wednesday
Italian Sausage and White Bean Stew
Celery and Carrot Sticks

Thursday
Asian Flank Steak
Stir Fried Broccoli and Mushrooms

Friday
Pan Seared Tilapia
Oven Roasted Aspragus
Creamy Dilled Cucumber Salad

Saturday
Fridge Food

Sunday
Roasted Chicken
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Green Beans
Green Salad

You can find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday. Check it out!

~~Rhonda

menu plan monday ~ february 3, 2014

Here’s the menu for the week. The Chicken Capri was a big hit yesterday and DD took the leftovers home, so we are having it again this week by mutual consent. Also, we had the Asian Flank Steak last Wednesday and we liked it so much we are having it again this week. Thursday is our youngest daughter’s birthday and she requested Veggie Lasagna. God willing, she will be getting her driver’s license that day, too. I’ll be happy to have the extra shopper at hand! We’ll celebrate her birthday again with family and cake on Saturday afternoon.

I can’t believe she is old enough to drive. Time passes so quickly. Here she is in 2006 when we acquired her cat, Buttercup. Where did this little girl go?

we've been acquired by a cat

On to the menu:

Monday
Foil Baked Fish
Green Beans
Yellow Squash
Salad

Tuesday
Shrimp with Garlic and Parsley
Steamed Snow Peas
Salad

Wednesday
Chicken Capri
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts
Salad

Thursday
Veggie Lasagna
Salad
Bread Sticks

Friday
Asian Flank Steak
Stir Fry Sugar Snap Peas, Edamame and Broccoli
Salad

DH made the flank steak last week and it was delicious. It would be great served over rice or buttered noodles.

flank steak

Saturday
Sausage and Bean Soup
I’ll be leaving out the bell peppers as DH will not eat them or anything that includes them. ::sigh::

Sunday
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
Asparagus
Green Salad

You can find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

~~Rhonda

broccoli and cheese quiche with bacon

The inspiration for this dish came from the recipe Cheddar Broccoli Quiche. I added ingredients to mine that make it a different dish. Following is my version.

crustless quiche

Crustless Cheese and Broccoli Quiche with Bacon

1 tsp. canola oil
3 c. chopped broccoli
2 c. sliced mushrooms
4 oz. Canadian bacon, diced (or use bacon of your choice, cooked and crumbled)
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
8 eggs
2/3 cup half and half (or milk or cream)
2 tsp. dry onion (or use 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, sauteed)
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Sauté the broccoli (and onion, if using) in the canola oil, until bright green and still crunchy. Remove from pan and layer in a greased 9×9 pan.

crustless quiche

crustless quiche

Sauté the mushrooms in the same pan. Use some spray oil, if necessary. Remove from pan and layer over the broccoli.

Sauté the Canadian bacon in the same pan, until lightly browned on the edges. Remove from the pan and layer over the veggies.

Layer shredded cheddar cheese over the bacon and veggies.

Mix the remaining ingredients, whisking until well mixed. Pour over the vegetables, bacon and cheese.

crustless quiche

Bake in a 350* oven for 25-30 minutes, until egg is set and top is lightly browned.

crustless quiche

This quiche can be made in a homemade or store-bought crust, if desired. When I made the dish, I put part of it in a greased cereal bowl because my youngest daughter wanted hers without meat. If I had put that amount into the main dish, the resulting quiche would have been a bit thicker.

And, yes, you could sauté the broccoli, onion, mushrooms and even the Canadian bacon at the same time, but by doing the mushrooms and meat separately, you can control the cooking time. Mushrooms should be sautéed a few at a time, rather than the entire two cups at once. That way, they will brown and not just steam cook, due to the amount of moisture in them.

You can switch out the veggies for something you like better. Even the cheese can be changed out. Make it any way you like!

Leftovers keep well in the fridge and can be reheated for breakfast or a light lunch.

~~Rhonda

menu plan ~ January 27, 2014

I suppose I should title this post “back in the saddle again.” Where’s Gene Autry when you need him?

I haven’t been keeping up with my menu planning. The holiday season was hard this year. I didn’t feel well and the weather was not cooperative for some of our planned events. My side of the family had to deal with two cancellations due to weather. We finally had our party mid-January.

But I’m back to work on the menu and meal planning. It is so much easier to feed a family when you know what’s on the menu. No last minute scrambling to find something to eat.

Here’s what we’re eating this week.

Monday
Chicken Taco Chili
Celery Sticks

Tuesday
Broccoli and Bacon Quiche
Garden Salad

We had this for supper and it was very good. I, of course, changed the recipe a little (added mushrooms, used Canadian bacon). I’ll post pictures and how I did it tomorrow.

crustless quiche

Wednesday
Asian Flank Steak Skewers
Stir Fried Cauliflower and Broccoli, tossed with freshly grated ginger
Garden Salad

Thursday
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
Asian Sugar Snap Peas with Radish and Edamame
Roasted Kale Chips

Friday
Chicken Taco Salad

Saturday
Foil Wrapped Fish
Green Beans
Yellow Squash
Garden Salad

Sunday
Chicken Capri
Garden Salad
Stir Fried Zucchini and Summer Squash

You can find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Meanwhile, I’m staying in during this cold, cold weather and dreaming of spring. Can’t wait until this is showing up in the yard…

spring is sprung

~~Rhonda

postponements and cancellations

We spent yesterday watching a major winter storm move through. Our daughter’s friend, who was visiting for the week from Chicago, had to go home a day early to miss the storm. We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to get her to the airport because of the blizzard conditions being forecast. It’s a good thing she was able to go home yesterday, as the airport cancelled most of the flights.

And the family Christmas for Saturday was also postponed. For the second time. Some family members have to drive too far to risk the weather.

The weather was so peaceful the past few days that it was hard to believe we got 10″ of snow with this storm.

evening sun

DH keeps his bird feeders full year round. We really enjoy watching them from the kitchen window. With the weather turned bad, the birds have been feeding more heavily than ever.

Carolina Wren

busy bird feeders

My brother made the bird feeder for us. It is extra tall so it’s easily seen from the first floor windows. Our first floor sits about five feet above ground. The stand holds four feeders and has a handy hooked pole to lift the feeders on and off the hooks.

DH's bird feeders

Home, Sweet Home

home sweet home

Today the snow has passed us. The sun is shining but it’s -6* out there. Even the postal service was cancelled today. Stay warm! Stay safe!

~~Rhonda

happy new year!

We wish you joy in the new year!

2014

While areas north of us had a lot more snow, we received about an inch last night. Just enough to make things pretty out the window. Which is fine with me! I’m already thinking spring, and the sooner the better.

Our youngest daughter has a friend from Chicago staying the week and they’ve been busy in St. Louis seeing the sites. My daughter is on the right, her Chicago friend in the middle and one of her best friends since early grade school on the left.

fun at the city museum

The next few days are quieter, then my family will be here Saturday for our postponed Christmas party. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this weekend. Here are my parents and my sibs. The picture was taken in August, 2009. Mom passed away two years ago on Dec. 20. Her presence at family gatherings is always missed. Every time we got together, she wanted a picture of the entire family.

my parents and their children

Following is the menu for the Family Christmas. I’m making the pork. Everything else is being provided by family members.
Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Roast Beef
Cheesy Potato Casserole
Green Beans
Garden Salad
Jello Salad
Veggie Tray with Dip
Cheese Tray with Crackers
Christmas Cookies
Mississippi Mud Cake

I’m expecting lots of fun. Like these scenes from last year.

family Christmas party

family Christmas party

We’ll be having fridge food for dinner Sunday, I am sure. Sunday afternoon, my sister Margaret is bringing a few friends over for a house tour. We leave Christmas decorations up until January 6, which is Epiphany, so we’re good to go. We still have a library dinner to host. Then our scheduled holiday events will be done.

I usually start a new year concentrating on some serious crafting sessions during January. I’m looking forward to that. In February, we’ll begin watching for the crocus to bloom. Spring, spring! Can’t wait!

May your new year be blessed with many good things!

~~Rhonda

stained glass

We have a friend, Gary, who makes beautiful stained glass. I recently shared on Facebook the stained glass angel he made for me. I thought I’d share more of his work here. He certainly deserves the credit.

Gary surprised me one day by stopping by with a gift. The stained glass angel! In my absolute favorite color…cobalt blue! The wings are a rippled, shimmery iridescent. I took this picture early one morning as the sun came through the east window.

Stained glass angel

Stained glass angel

From outside…

stained glass angel

DH asked Gary to make stained glass for our upstairs bathroom, as a gift for me. I received the bottom piece on Christmas Day one year and the upper piece later the next year. It was so nice to take the curtains off that window, once the stained glass went in. The picture shows the ornament mobile that hangs in front of the window. My sister Genny put that together.

stained glass window

From the outside…

home sweet home

Here’s a close up of the bottom panel.

bubble tree

The downstairs bath features Gary’s work, too. I found this antique door in a shop near my sister’s house. The entire thing is held together with square cut nails. Even tiny ones, holding the window trim in place. I designed the windows with irises because I love the flower. Do you see the tiny butterfly in the window to the right? How Gary managed to cut the white glass to fit around the butterfly is beyond me!

Gary's windows

A detail from the window:

an iris in the window

Here’s Gary, just after the installation.

Gary's window

The room we call the “library” (functions as our family room) was originally a family parlor. In a 1921 remodel of the house, it became a dining room, with a built in buffet. We replaced the very arts and crafts style windows in the buffet with ones I designed and Gary made for us. They fit the color scheme and style of the house better than the original ones did.

stained glass windows in the buffet

Gary, as he installed the windows.

Gary and his window

Gary even made ornaments using glass from a hanging lamp a friend made for me when I graduated from high school. The lamp was falling apart, but I loved the glass with its dark shades of blue and green. Now I hang these in the window year round. They remind me of my friend Terry who made the lamp and they remind me of my talented friend Gary who has a generous and loving heart.

snowflake

~~Rhonda