Monday, April 30, 2012

A Scrumptious Dessert

Doesn't this look scrumptious? It was! And so was the dessert, but I'll tell you about it in a bit. Yesterday we went to a fabulous little Italian restaurant in Lockport for dinner with our next door BFFs. Rich ordered this Rigatoni with Sausage & Peppers, I had the Chicken Vesuvio, we all shared the best Bruschetta I've ever tasted, a taste of Rich's creamy Italian dressing made me wish I had ordered a salad, and the hot rolls arrived at the table drenched in olive oil and covered with fresh minced garlic. This is a REAL Italian restaurant!!!

Sandee had nothing but great things to say about the ravioli dish she selected and I didn't hear any complaints from Vic about his Portobello entree...everything we ordered was scrumptious!

We were all having much more fun than this next photo would indicate. Perhaps, just as I clicked the shutter, they both had a momentary premonition about the a** kickin' Sandee and I would give them later when we played Hand 'n Foot after having dessert at our house...giggle!

Finally...drum roll is the dessert I made for them. Most of you are familiar with an old standby recipe called Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Using that recipe but substituting Splenda for all of the sugar; using Sugar-Free Cool Whip for the cream cheese layer; and using Sugar-Free Raspberry Jell-O loaded with unsweetened raspberries for the top layer, this version is entirely sugar free! And it was scrumptious!

If you thought that finally I would post without complaining about the weather, you would be mistaken. It is even darker gray today with a bit of drizzle thrown in to the mix; I have lights on throughout the house...grrr

Lovin' Life ~~ And the Word 'Scrumptious'!  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh yeah, these are regular old chocolate chip cookies. There's nothing special about the recipe except that I only add half as many chocolate chips. What's different is the way they were baked.

My cousin Kathy, remember her? She's the professional baker. Anyway, she and I were e-mailing back and forth this week about a couple of our favorite food bloggers. I sent her a link to Picky-Palate because the author of that blog does some really cool stuff with cookies that I thought she would be interested in seeing. We were both fascinated by the cookies she bakes in muffin top pans.

So today, another windy/gray/chilly day here, I decided to bake cookies. I thought I had a muffin top pan but must have gotten rid of it. I do have two of these great regular muffin pans though. I didn't even have to spray them first. Using my largest cookie scoop, which seems to hold about 4 teaspoons, I plopped rounded scoops of dough into each muffin cup then gently pressed them into shape using my fingers.

After only ten minutes in a 350 degree oven...

Rich thinks they are perfect but he likes a bit drier cookie than I; maybe Kathy can give me some tips on how to make them more chewy.

By the way, Bella snatched a couple of them that I left too close to the edge of the table. Apparently she liked them, she wasn't even the least bit contrite about it.

Lovin' Life ~~ Finding New Ways to Make Old Recipes

Friday, April 27, 2012

Waiting for Spring

According to our thermometers, and Rich has several positioned around our house, it is in the 40s during the day...gray, windy, 40s for the most part recently. However, it feels like this to me...

Stubbornly, I refuse to wear anything but flips because that's what I've worn daily for a year or so now. This morning I stood out in the bone (ahem, foot) chilling wind to fill my van with gas. It could have been much worse though. Luckily, I did win the argument with myself about wearing a jacket...giggle

I'm not feeling very kindly toward my blogger friend who is spending days on a Gulf beach with her family or our AJ, AZ friends who've been traveling across the south and up the Atlantic coast in their RV. Our time will come. Again. It will.

Lovin' Life ~~ Even Though It's Brrrrr Here  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bev's Magical Sauce

Rich has gone to an all-day gathering of Burlington railroad enthusiasts. He will be one happy man when he gets home this evening though because I have a big pot of Italian red sauce simmering on the stove. He LOVES this sauce. There are several favorite recipes that I prepare and freeze before we leave on each of our extended trips but whether we are at home or away, this is perhaps his favorite of all the things I've cooked through the years. Ever since we returned home from AZ, he's been hinting that I make a batch.

This is my recipe; Rich typed it up as I dictated months ago; he named it Bev's Magical Sauce©2012 ; none of my Italian friends would consider it the "real thing"; none of my Italian friends would consider each others' recipe to be the "real thing" either...these statements are true!

Here is the recipe, which is actually more like a reminder for me about how to do this...nothing is exact, as one could expect from an actual recipe. All of the ingredients are common in Italian red sauce, just not necessarily together in this combination.

Olive oil to cover bottom of large pot
Onion - finely chopped 2 or 3 large
Garlic - finely chopped (I use minced in oil from a jar)
Fennel seed
Anise seed
Del Alpi Italian seasoning

To olive oil, add and sauté onion, garlic, fennel, anise, & Del Alpi Italian seasoning. Cook slowly until onion is transparent, stir often, don’t let it burn.

The photo at the right may look like it includes meat but this pot only contains the ingredients listed above. I wanted to show that I use a LOT of these seasonings.

Contadina tomato sauce 6 15 ounce cans
Contadina tomato paste 3 cans
Half & Half
Brown Sugar

Simmer 2+ hours

The half & half and brown sugar seem to blunt the tangy, acidic tomato taste leaving a richer/deeper flavor...whatever, like I'm any kind of chef...haha...but it works for us. This sauce is thick and flavorful and it freezes beautifully. Simmer with frozen meatballs (or make your own if you're so inclined and so ambitious!) and serve with pasta; serve on meatball sandwiches; serve with Italian sausage links; add browned hamburger for a meat sauce; use in any recipe calling for spaghetti sauce.

If I could somehow post the aroma in our house right now...aaaaahhhh! Well, I'd best get busy washing breakfast dishes and wiping up all the sauce splatters in my kitchen!

Lovin' Life ~~ Cookin' In a Full-Size Kitchen! 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Putting Away Christmas

Yes, I am quite aware that I'm a bad blogger but I did get all the Christmas wrap and decorations put away this week. Can you imagine coming home to this in April? The guest room bed is now cleared.

And since I've been to the dentist three times in a week, today I finally got around to shopping for groceries and essentials. That took several hours and cost three hundred dollars, including a new toaster. This will be our fourth in the last couple of years. We had everything from a $7.00 to a $75.00 version and none of them could just toast bread, evenly and that too much to ask?

We're still struggling with computer issues and I'm eagerly awaiting the delivery of my new one! Now we're off to our neighborhood homeowners' association meeting which means we'll get to see some friends we haven't had a chance to connect with yet!

Lovin' Life ~~ Still Keepin' Busy 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Still Crazy...After All These Years

Since returning home a week ago Monday, our lives have been a whirlwind of unpacking, laundry, various electronic equipment failures/challenges (don't ask!) that have necessitated many hours at stores and online, dentist visits (several...ouch), researching support programs for Mom, vet visits, a photo scanning project, groomer appointments, and getting in touch with family and friends. If you're wondering: YES! it is worth it to be gone for months and have lots of catching up to do.

My third get-together was a very special one. On Sunday I drove back down to Carlinville to meet a friend for lunch. He graduated high school a year before I did and we had not seen each other since then...46 years ago! We had connected through his SIL who is Mom's doctor and he was visiting from Portland, Oregon. We had a blast catching up and running through funny memories of working together at the "Treat" even calling another of our teen friends/co-workers, who lives in Texas, so he could sing her a special song...a blast I tell you! I had taken along the yearbook in which he had written on many, many pages. He is an actor and has performed in many cities, living a life so very different from mine; I could have listened to his stories for days. It was an amazingly crazy wonderful reunion!

Meet of my bestest old friends!

That evening Mom was really surprised when I showed up to visit her with W & M. She certainly didn't expect to see me again so soon. I had to head back home at the crack of dawn on Monday though to make my 1:00 dentist appointment...ouch and ouch!

Lovin' Life ~~ Renewing Friendships 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter Too!

Today we celebrated Easter again. It was so sweet of Marianne to wait until we got home to host her Easter dinner. That made it possible for us to see everyone within a week of getting back from AZ. I had played cards with my friends in the neighborhood Tuesday evening, we had met Greg and Jenny for lunch on Wednesday, and today we were with Rich's family. All of our great-nephews and great-nieces have grown so much since last fall! Two of Marianne's best friends were there. Judy, her friend from the old neighborhood baked and decorated the Lamb Cake, and a culinary masterpiece it was!...delicious too!!! Marianne made some of my favorite foods...kielbasa, ham, potato salad, broccoli salad....and Lisel baked two fabulous pies!

As much as we miss our grands...oh, how we do miss them...we realize how lucky we are to have so many options and such an amazing life. We have a life in Arizona with our family and friends, we have a life here with our family and friends, and we have a life on the road wherever it may take us.

Lovin' Life ~~ Wherever We May Be 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter ~ Then, The Final 200 Miles Home

It amazes me just how easily we slip back into our home and all of its many places to sit, so much space, lots of cabinets and closets, ginormous bathrooms, a variety of coffee cups to choose from, TIVO, great water pressure, a washer and dryer, get the idea. We don't really miss any of those things any time we are traveling/living in our motorhome but do appreciate them when we're home. As I said on FB though, it is a much longer walk to a bathroom here in the house...giggle We have already watched more TV (thanks to four months worth of TIVO) since yesterday than all together the past four and a half months...that could be on either the pro or the con list of being home.

We enjoyed a delightful Easter on a perfectly gorgeous spring day with my brother and his whole family. He and my SIL have a small farm with a huge yard that provides lots of space for the EB to hide eggs for my great-nephews...and that bunny hid a LOT of eggs.

That afternoon my cousin came down with a made-from-scratch, still-warm-from-the-oven coffee cake...oh my! Rich and I savored a large piece each before I packaged some for us to take out to Mom. She was so happy to see Kathy and pleased to get a homemade treat from our family baker.

We left Carlinville early Monday morning for the last leg of this journey, arriving at our house around 12:30. It appears to be a good spring for the farmers since many fields have been planted already and some have even sprouted. What a lovely sight...the rich dark earth with the fragile green shoots peeking through.

We're getting close to home exciting! This is a photo of the marsh just off the interstate near our home.

Here we are at the entrance to our neighborhood.

And this is our first home, our other home, our permanent home, our non-RV home...I don't know how to refer to it, but I know we are happy to be here for a while.

btw: For those of you with inquiring I drove the RV for the first time, a quite successful lesson I might add. And persons or property were harmed during this lesson.

Lovin' Life ~~ Wherever We May Be 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Back in Illinois!

Seeing The Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, MO means we're nearly home because the river divides Missouri from Illinois...and home. We left on December 1st; the time has just flown by though.

We won't get to our house until Monday, but we arrived in my hometown, Carlinville, on Friday to visit Mom and spend Easter weekend with my brother's family.

Even though it was only around 6:00 p.m. when we got there, Mom was already in bed. She had forgotten we were coming. That didn't stop us from visiting a while though. Rich and I; my brother and SIL; their daughter and her family made sure that Mom was entertained for a while.


We enjoyed a lot of family time Friday evening and all day Saturday at my brother's and his wife's where we park when we're in town. Our niece's kids are so cute and we have such a good time with them. The guys got all the four wheelers out just before Rich and I went to visit Mom again.

We had brought Mom a bouquet of flowers Saturday afternoon and while we were there she got a package in the mail with a card and a bag of Easter candy from her brother, his wife, their daughter and her family who all live in Florida. It was so sweet of them to remember Mom on this special weekend! It made her so happy!

Rich and I had such a great visit with Mom Saturday afternoon and then we all went to see her again that evening. That time we took her a banana split from Dairy Queen...she had one great day!

Just to make our grands even more jealous than they are already, after reading about our getting to see their cousins who are here this weekend, I bought this when we went to WalMart after getting into Carlinville yesterday. The boys LOVE this chocolate milk.

Yep, hometown proud!

Well, our snowbird days are obviously over, time to take that gadget off my sidebar...nah, maybe I'll just leave it there for now.

Lovin' Life ~~ Returning to Family & Home

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Springfield, MO ~ Another Day, A Special Artwork

I believe I mentioned how much I love dogwoods; what a gift to arrive in Springfield when they were in bloom. As we explored Springfield on Thursday, there were frequent stops to shoot them. The most beautiful trees were in residential areas. I favor the pink over the white, but barely. 

The Botanical Garden was one of our stops, thankfully! I had never seen Kanzan Japanese Flowering Cherry Trees and had to have an expert identify them from the many photos I shot. Can you imagine how beautiful these were a few days ago before the new leaves unfurled and released the pink blossoms? There were still enough of the tiny carnation-like flowers on the tree to get some photos though.

This Azalea Garden was across the walk from the flowering cherry trees and they were all in bloom too. There were even more colors than the four I'm sharing here.

We took the girls back to the RV and went back into town to visit the Springfield Art Museum...yet another great little museum!

I was intrigued by an exhibit called "From A to Z" that was curated from their permanent collection. There were 26 pieces of artwork, each selected to represent a letter of the alphabet, hung in order. Within those 26 artworks were some great pieces...perhaps I'll do a collage of them someday.

"A" was represented by this painting with its apples.

The final artwork displayed was this one titled "Zeke" to represent the letter "Z."

I think we were both a bit surprised that out of the six current exhibitions, our favorite was the annual Springfield All School Exhibition. There were hundreds of artworks in a large variety of mediums, all of which were created by K - 12 students. We were dazzled by the talent displayed in those works.

But, it was the multi-media artwork shown below that took my breath away. It's as though this high school senior peeked inside Rich's head. There are stars, puzzles, wires, a train and track, dominoes, a light switch, an RV, a small circuit board, and connectors wiring the brain to a book...did I mention wires? Anyone who knows Rich, knows that this is my husband. As though that wasn't enough, the title of this artwork is "zzzzztttt"...which is the sound Rich makes when he's fake zapping me with an imaginary electrical current! Oh my, how I love our life, how I love our great timing, how I love museums, how I love stumbling upon unexpected treasures!

And here he is, MOAO, his head intact and waiting for me in the lobby of the museum when I came out of the gift I love that man!

Lovin' Life ~~ With Its Endless Surprises!