Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I don't usually feel the need to do much spring cleaning on the inside of the house. I have a pretty good system that keeps my house clean on a daily basis (click here if you missed it the first time I posted it, and want to know more). The windows and screens, though, always need to be cleaned by the time the weather warms up.

We take the screens down over the winter and store them in the garage. I'm not sure why that seems to be standard in this part of the country. I don't think the snow would damage them. I think it's probably a hold over from a time when people put up storm windows. The only reason we take ours down is because we hang Christmas wreaths on the windows and we have to remove the screens to do it. In any case, they get dirty sitting around in the garage.

The weather was pretty nice on Saturday, so I decided it would be a good time to clean the screens and put them back up. I was planning to wash the windows, too. As it turned out, I got started a little later than I expected and the temperature dropped, so the windows are still in need of cleaning. Our windows tilt in, so all the cleaning can be done from the inside, but it was too cold to keep them open that long. I did wash the screens, though, and I wanted to share the method I used because it worked great and was a lot less labor intensive than my old way.

Normally, I fill a bucket with warm soapy water and scrub the screens with a scrub brush, then rinse them with the hose. We have a lot of windows (and therefore screens), so this takes quite a while and they tend to dry with streaks on them. I also worry about damaging the screens with the scrub brush.

This time I decided to try Scrubbing Bubbles Mega Shower Foamer. I figured if it could clean the shower without scrubbing, it could do the same for the screens. If you've never used it before, it sprays out as a liquid and turns to foam almost immediately on contact. It's perfect because the foam gets into the little holes in the screen and cleans out all the dust and dirt without any scrubbing. I let the foam work for a few minutes and then rinsed it thoroughly with the hose. It worked great and they dried without any streaks. I should mention that we have vinyl screens with metal frames. I would suggest testing it on a small area if you have metal screening material or wood frames. In fact, it's probably a good idea to test it on a small area, regardless, just to be safe.

If you happened to have had a blast of non-spring like weather over the weekend, I apologize. It snowed a little on Sunday night in our neck of the woods. I take full responsibility. Nothing brings back winter faster doing some spring cleaning!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Bar Is Open.....Again! Bonus Saturday Afternoon Drink Demo

Yes, the bar is open again. I have a bonus Saturday Afternoon Drink Demo to share. This isn't a prohibition era classic cocktail, but it's a good one. Presenting.........the Cosmopolitan!

This recipe will yield four drinks (if served in martini glasses). Start by cutting your lime in half and juicing it. We used an antique glass reamer. See?
    You can use bottled lime juice if you prefer. Now fill your cocktail shaker about 3/4 full with ice. Then add:

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • juice of half a lime (approx. 1 oz.)
  • 3 oz. cranberry juice

Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lime peel. You can rim the glasses with sugar if you like. Enjoy responsibly!

Happy Saturday!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Bar Is Open!

When life hands you lemons......make a Tom Collins! This is a simple, elegant, classic drink. You should feel ever so sophisticated and yet a little rebellious drinking it. Why? Because the Tom Collins was a popular drink during prohibition. The upper crust would sit at white linen covered tables overlooking croquet matches and lawn bowling tournaments on hot days, sipping these lovely drinks at summer parties. Alcohol was illegal from 1920 to 1933, so this drink was also found in blind pigs and speakeasies (illegal drinking establishments) where those of lesser means could enjoy it and feel sophisticated, too. It is gin based and gin was easy to make because it doesn't require the long fermentation period of other alcohols.

If you've never had a Tom Collins, it is very refreshing with a taste similar to lemonade. If you follow the recipe as stated, it is quite tart. I, personally, add a bit more sugar. Either way, it's a great drink!

Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice. Add 2 oz. gin, 1 oz. lemon juice and 1 tsp. sugar. Shake well. Strain into a Collins glass almost filled with ice. Add 3 oz. club soda. Stir and garnish with a cherry and an orange slice. Enjoy responsibly, and sophisticatedly (I'm sure that's a word) please!

The presentation here is wrong, this is not a Collins glass. A Collins glass is a tall, straight sided glass measuring 8 - 10 ounces, but we're rule breakers in the Willoughby household. We like these footed cocktail glasses so that's what we used. I promise you, they taste just as wonderful!

Happy Friday!

Bring It On

I'm generally a non-confrontational person. There are exceptions of course (you may remember this post), but I'd rather not have an ugly incident if it's avoidable. On the other hand, I'm no shrinking violet. I was thinking about this today because I saw a woman that I strongly dislike. I won't bore you with the details of why I dislike her, but I've got some good reasons.

We made eye contact for a moment and I thought she was going to say something to me. I think she dislikes me as I much as I dislike her, so I wasn't sure what she might say. I know the way she is, so it would likely have been an insult of sorts, disguised as a pleasantry (I know you know the type). My mind started racing immediately, I had to decide what I might say in return. Should I be polite, should I pretend I didn't hear her, or just let it fly and rip her a new one?

In the split second I was contemplating ripping her a new one, I measured that response against my mental yardstick of "what purpose will this serve?". I try to ask myself that question every time I am tempted to do something I might later regret. There are times when the only purpose would be the satisfaction of putting someone in their place, and I'm okay with that. Sometimes it's all you can do. Other times, I think I'm better off to keep my extensive knowledge of profanity to myself and be the bigger person. Today, though, it was really a tough decision.

As it turned out, she walked past me without saying a word. It's probably better that way because I'm still not sure what I would have said. I know what I'd like to say to her, and someday I just might. Now that would be an interesting post!

I'll be back later to open the bar. I hope you're thirsty, because we've got a great drink planned tonight!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Buy Me!

I put the last juice pouch in my daughter's lunch this morning. This really irritated me because it meant another trip to the supermarket. I'm generally a pretty organized person and I try to stay on top of what we have in the house and what we're running out of, but I'm not always successful. So after dropping my daughter off at school, I headed to the store.

If I have to go, I prefer to go to the supermarket first thing in the morning. At 8:05, the store is pretty empty and there are no lines at the checkout. I can get the things I need and get out before the piped in music gets to me.

I have heard that extensive research is done on the effect canned music has on shoppers. Could this possibly be true? Does anyone actually buy more food because of it? When I walked into the store this morning "Incense and Peppermints" by Strawberry Alarm Clock was blaring. I had no urge to buy more than what I needed. I didn't buy any incense or peppermints. I didn't buy a strawberry alarm clock, either. There is a huge display of Easter items that I thought about looking at, but the music made me want to get out fast.

I hate the idea of being manipulated while I shop. Like most stores, mine carries rotisserie chickens in the deli area. You can smell them before you even walk in the store. I'm sure the purpose is not only to sell more chicken, but to appeal to your appetite while you shop. Hungry shoppers buy more food, don't they? I don't know if it's done anymore, but I know the cookie stores in the mall used to send their oven exhaust into the mall so the smell of fresh baked cookies would tempt you.

I'm not much of an impulse shopper, I stick to my list pretty well. The only time I am willingly taken in by such methods is when they offer samples. Sam's Club, especially, has some darn good samples. During the holidays they have so many that you could eat enough little portions to call it a meal. It's true that I have made purchases based on the samples I've had, but I'm okay with that. It doesn't seem any worse than test driving a car before you buy it.

So all of this has me wondering, could I manipulate those of you who read my blog? I can't send the smell of roasted chicken or fresh baked cookies over the internet, and virtual samples would be less than satisfying. What if I put "Incense and Peppermints" on my music player? Would you be more likely to try the recipes I post? Would "Love Will Keep Us Together" tempt you to make wax tarts, line drawers or try any of my other posted projects? Or would you be burning incense, sucking on peppermints and rekindling your relationship with your better half. Most likely, you'd just stop reading my blog!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Before school this morning, my daughter told me I was pretty. She wasn't buttering me up to ask for something, or trying to get me in a good mood before telling me she did badly on a test. She said it sincerely and she meant it. She's full of compliments, this girl of mine. On a daily basis she tells me how nice my hair looks or how much she likes the clothes I'm wearing. I'm a good "cooker", too, according to her. The compliments are not just for me, either, she spreads them around. She has no ulterior motives, it's just her way of making the people in her life feel appreciated.

Her observations can be very honest, too. She calls 'em like she sees 'em. Once when she was about six, she wanted to "do" my hair for me. Before she started brushing it, she asked me if she should start with the blond part or the brown part. I picked up a new box of hair color the very next day.

I'm used to that sort of honesty, anyway. My son was the same way when he was younger. He gave me his honest opinion when I decided to change my look and wear eyeshadow in various shades of purple. The first time I used it, I asked him what he thought. He studied my eyes for a few moments and then said he liked it because it looked like "real" black eyes. He meant it in the most flattering way, even if he was unknowingly comparing me to Rocky.

I like when my kids focus on the positives (their version of it, anyway) in people. My daughter is only nine, but I think it's a good outlook to have that will serve her well in the future. My son is sixteen, he sees the uglier side of people more often than she does (now that he's driving, he see it a lot), but he's not old enough to be jaded. In any case, we've talked about the difference between ugly on the inside and ugly on the outside since both of them were toddlers. They have always known that what a person looks like or the what kind of clothes they wear has nothing to do with what kind of person they are. I don't want either of them to be shallow. They get that.

I'll still graciously accept the compliments, though. Dark roots, black eyes and all. I feel pretty!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Snack Time!

We had to make a quick stop at the supermarket after school today, and the kids were hungry. They wanted me to pick up the ingredients to make their favorite cheese spread/dip. This recipe is fast and easy, and uses ingredients you may already have on hand. Serve it with crackers, tortilla chips or pretzels. We like tortilla chips best!

Willoughby House Cheese Spread

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • dash hot sauce

Place all ingredients in bowl and beat with electric mixer on high until well mixed. Serve with crackers, tortilla chips or pretzels. This disappears quickly at my house, so I usually double the recipe.

Permanent Solution

I don't have any food or drink recipes to share with you this morning, nor do I have any fun projects. What I do have is another stupid story. You know, the ones where you can laugh at my ridiculous predicaments?

Years ago, before my kids were born, I worked in the legal department at the headquarters of a large retail company. I was a legal assistant and my job included things like preparing merger and acquisition paperwork, being a liaison between store managers and the in-house attorneys, compiling legal documentation, and preparing materials for legal seminars. I know, it doesn't sound very exciting, but I liked it.

My boss was an accomplished attorney named Deborah. She was extremely intelligent with a wicked sense of humor. Before taking the job, I had heard that she was demanding and difficult to work with, but we had very few problems. She was demanding but if you did things her way and on time, she was happy.

Deborah had no patience with incompetence, so she disliked a woman in our office named Marie. She had nothing against Marie personally, she just didn't care for the way she went about her work. If we were in a crunch to get a project done and needed some extra help, she would say "Anybody but Marie."

Preparing for Deborah's legal seminars was a big job if they were to be held out of the building, so I was relieved when she told me she was going to hold one in-house. It wasn't going to be a large group, so I thought I could handle everything myself without extra help. Everything went smoothly until we went over the check list the morning of the seminar. All of the materials had been prepared and the room had been reserved, but I had forgotten to have an overhead projector delivered. When I called the AV department there were none available.

"Just drag the white board from the storage room down there," she said.

"I can't move that thing by myself. It's huge." I told her.

"Get someone to help you, then. Anybody but Marie."

As you might have already guessed, no one was around to help except for Marie but she was more than willing. She even remembered that we needed to grab a pack of dry erase markers, which I had forgotten.

The white board was on wheels, so it wasn't heavy, but it was awkward to get it around corners, through doorways and into the elevator. We managed pretty well and had it in place fifteen minutes before the seminar was to begin. You could still see some writing on it, so I ran to the bathroom to get paper towel to clean it.

While I was gone, Marie got out the markers and wrote all over the board. She drew a crude caricature of Deborah, and in giant block letters, the words "Now presenting Deborah and her amazing assistant (Willoughby) performing for your entertainment". She was laughing hysterically when I walked back in the room.

I handed her some paper towel and told her to start wiping it off. She started on one side while I started on the other. We both noticed right away that it wasn't coming off. A quick glance at the pack of markers told me why. Instead of dry erase markers, she had grabbed a pack of colored Sharpies. You know, the permanent markers?!

I freaked out! What gets permanent marker off a white board? We tried everything we could find; water and hand soap from the bathroom, window cleaner from the maintenance department, alcohol wipes from the nurse. We got it to lighten a bit, but you could still clearly see what it said. It was a two sided board, so we could flip it around, but I couldn't leave what she had written on there, even if it was on the back side. What if Deborah flipped it over? We were literally minutes from the beginning of the seminar when I did the only thing I could think of. I used a black marker and scribbled over everything she had written. The board was a mess, but at least you couldn't see the offending pictures and writing.

I caught Deborah as she was walking into the conference room. I told her someone had scribbled on the back side of the white board with permanent marker and not to flip it. She shrugged and said nothing. The seminar went off without a hitch.

A few weeks later, Marie had the bright idea to cut all of the legal files down to letter size and cut off (and disposed of) important information in the process. Deborah was livid. She told me that was a perfect example of why she never wanted Marie to help with any of our work.

"Can you imagine letting her help with a seminar?" she asked.

I shrugged and said nothing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Behind The Scenes

After I posted my Friday Night Drink Demo, Donna asked me how we come up with the drinks we make. I don't know if anyone else has any interest in knowing, but I thought I might share a little "behind the scenes" information with you, just in case, and give you a sneak peek at what we're planning next.

I guess I should start by making sure that no one gets the wrong impression about the drinking habits at the Willoughby house. First of all, we have a cocktail or two (or a few glasses of wine)over an hour or two. We're not getting drunk, and under no circumstances are we driving. I'm not gonna lie, we like our alcoholic beverages around here, but we're responsible about enjoying them, and I urge you to do the same, okay? I feel better having said that. Let's move on.

Since I know that we are going to make cocktails on Friday evenings, I usually start searching for recipes on Friday afternoon. We rarely follow a recipe, but I like to look at a few for inspiration. Sometimes we're trying to create a particular color or flavor, sometimes we want to try something new, and sometimes we want to use what we already have without buying a new ingredient. There are also times, like this past Friday, when one of us wants something with a particular flavor. I really wanted something with coconut rum, it's one of my favorites. Thus, the Island Sunset was created.

Most of our drinks turn out well, but some need tweaking and some end up down the drain. I don't post the drinks that don't make the cut, but trust me, we've had more than a few that were undrinkable. Most notably, the mixed berry and spiced rum concoction. It sounded like a good idea but it was vile.

If you are thinking of having a cocktail night at your house, here's a few tips I'd like to pass along.
  1. There are thousands of sites on the internet that have cocktail recipes. Some are great, some are not. Most of these sites allow users to submit their own recipes and they are published without review. There's nothing wrong with that except that some recipes are far from bar/restaurant quality. Think college kids/frat house.
  2. Use a measuring cup to get an accurate measurement of your bar equipment and glasses. We have shot glasses that are supposed to be double shots (2 oz.) but actually only hold 1 1/2 ounces. We wouldn't have known if we hadn't checked them for accuracy with water and a measuring cup. Also, you wouldn't want to try to fill a 6 oz. glass with an 8 oz. drink.
  3. If you want to make a frozen drink, check to see if the recipe calls for ice cubes or crushed ice before adding the ingredients to your blender. A full cup of ice cubes equals about 1/2 cup or less of crushed ice. If you substitute one for the other, you must adjust accordingly or your drink will have the wrong consistency.

I'm glad that so many of you seem to enjoy our Friday Night Drink Demos. We love creating them and plan to continue. With spring here and summer just down the road, we'll be moving our operation from the kitchen to the backyard bar very soon. I'd like to share some pictures of the bar and possibly the instructions on how to build your own. We built ours a few years ago and it's construction and materials are a bit unusual.

Oh, and the sneak peek I promised? We're hoping to get a little sophisticated and share some classic cocktails with you. Since the creation of the Bikini Bottom, we're interested in concocting some more layered drinks, too.

If the spirit moves you (pun intended) to try any of the drinks I post, please be sure to share your thoughts on it with me. Tell me if you loved it, hated it (I can take it) or made any changes to it. I'm always up for suggestions, too. If you have a drink recipe or just a vague idea that you think we should try, let me know.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cookie Time!

Purple Hoodie Chick came over after school yesterday. My son (her boyfriend) had track practice so she had two hours to kill before he got home. What to do with the time? Make cookies, of course! We couldn't decide between chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies, so we made both. She made the chocolate chip cookies and I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. We couldn't get my daughter interested in helping or we might have made three varieties. Yes, I know, that's a lot of cookies, but it's not unusual to have a house full of teenagers at my house on the weekends.

The cookies I made are a little different from the norm because they are flourless. They are super fast and easy to make and don't require refrigerating the dough before baking. I got about 1 1/2 dozen cookies out of a single batch, but this recipe doubles well if you want more.

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl, and beat with electric mixer until well blended. Mix in chocolate chips. Form heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and place on ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake until cookies are puffed and golden, but not completely set, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 10-15 minutes. They are very delicate when warm and will crumble if you try to remove them before they have cooled.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Night Drink Demo

It's Friday night, so you know what that means.....the Friday Night Drink Demo! Tonight's drink is light and tropical. Here it is.

Island Sunset

1 1/2 oz. coconut rum
4 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. coconut cream

In a cocktail shaker or blender, combine all ingredients. Shake well or blend until coconut cream is incorporated and mixture is frothy. Pour over ice and serve. Enjoy responsibly, please!

~Note~ Coconut cream (not coconut milk) can be found with other bottled drink mixes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Recipe, Spring Projects Got Me Thinking... and A Shout Out

I hate the idea that you may be sitting at your computer reading my blog on an empty stomach. How can you concentrate if your stomach is growling? It's just not right! That's why I'm going to start with a recipe today. If you have the ingredients, it takes only minutes to make. You can whip it up in a flash and be right back here with something wonderful to eat while I drone on endlessly. I've got a lot to talk about today.

Warm, Filled Croissants

I guess it is a stretch to call this a recipe. It doesn't require making anything from scratch unless you make your own croissants (not crescent rolls, croissants). If you do, I'm impressed! They're not easy to make. I buy the cocktail size in a one pound box for less than $5 at the Sam's Club bakery. I didn't actually count them, but I think there are close to two dozen in a pound. You will also need cream cheese and jam.

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. While you are waiting for the oven to heat up, slice each croissant in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Don't cut all the way through, leave a "hinge" (like a hot dog bun). Place the "open" croissants on a cookie sheet. Cut cream cheese on the long side into 1/8 inch slices and place one slice on each croissant. Spoon jam over cream cheese and "close" the croissants. Place them in the oven for 5 - 7 minutes, or until filling is hot and croissant is crisp on top. Serve immediately.

They will be warm and flaky, with a slightly crisp top. I used blackberry jam, but any flavor would be nice. They are pretty enough for an elegant brunch, but easy enough for a quick breakfast. In fact, if I were serving them for brunch, I would probably put them on a tiered plate, like this one. I could demonstrate how that would look, but then I would have to make a dozen croissants and have them go to waste, invite some people over to eat them, or just eat them all myself. I'm not going to do any of those, so just use your imagination, ok?

Spring Projects Got Me Thinking...

The weather is finally getting nice around here, and I'm starting to plan all the outdoor projects that need to be done. Our house has wood siding and it needs to be replaced or at least painted. We painted it about ten years ago, but it's looking shabby again. Truthfully, I would rather have surgery without anesthesia than scrape paint off siding.

When we moved in, the siding was gray and we thought it made the house look a little sad. I don't have anything against gray houses, but it didn't look right on ours so after weeks of mind-numbing scraping, we painted it yellow. We knew then that it would be better to replace it than to paint it, but it's the original siding and we were trying to preserve it.

I spent a few minutes really looking at the house this morning when I got home from taking the kids to school. I parked at the curb in front of the house, and stared at it. My intention was to start a mental inventory of all the projects that we need to do. Instead, I found myself wondering about the people who lived here before we did.

The records are a little sketchy, so it's hard to say with any certainty when our house was built. We originally thought it was around 1880, but then found out it was more likely built in the 1860's. Think about it, that was around the time of the Civil War. Is it possible that anyone living here actually fought in the Civil War? Was there an anxious family living within these walls awaiting letters from a soldier via the Pony Express?

What about births and deaths? It was not uncommon for women to give birth at home before the turn of the century, especially in a rural area like this. How many children were born here? Did they all survive? It seems unlikely that they did. I don't have any facts or figures about infant mortality in the later half of the 1800's, but it was certainly much higher than it is today.

I'm sure there must have been a doctor in town, but even so, I would think people died of common ailments and injuries back then. Influenza, for instance, took the lives of the majority of those who contracted it. In 1918 it was considered a pandemic. In later years, tuberculosis was common and deadly. How many men, women, and/or children might have died here? Was there a funeral home in town or did they hold their wakes in my living room? It's chilling to think about.

Weddings, christenings, graduations, birthday parties, Christmases and other happy occasions must have happened here, too. People laughed and cried and cooked and cleaned and went about their lives here. Do you suppose they ever wondered who would live here in the future?

The neighbor that lives across the street has given us some insight on who lived here in more current times. When he moved into his house sometime in the 1950's, the family that the street was named for still lived here. He tells us that the man sat on the porch and played a fiddle in the summer. I've often wanted to buy a fiddle and hang it on the wall for just that reason.

After they moved out the house was bought by someone as an investment. It was divided into a duplex at that point with the main apartment on the first floor and a smaller apartment upstairs. It was still like that when we bought it, though a previous owner had reopened a blocked stairway that divided the two. During the duplex period, the house was seriously neglected as tenants changed frequently. We've been told that the neighbors took turns cutting the grass because the owner and his tenants never did it themselves. It was not uncommon for the backyard grass to be a foot tall at times.

The oddest story I've heard, though, is that the upstairs tenants had a falling out with the owner so he refused to pay the heating bill. It got so cold up there that they filled the bathtub with stuffed animals and other things and lit them on fire. I'm not sure if this was for heat or to make a point.

Thinking back, it makes me laugh that our real estate agent referred to this house a "fixer upper". That's an understatement! She thought it might be exactly what we were looking for, though, and she was right. We wanted a place to repair and restore and we got that in spades. From the rotted roof and sagging floors to the outdated wiring and antiquated plumbing, we've fixed it. I was even able to restore the claw foot bathtub that was used as a fire pit.

No one told us we were out of our minds to buy this place, and I don't think we would have listened if they had. We've put heart, soul, and a lot of money into making it ours. Unless someone offers us a gorgeous oceanfront home in the Carolinas free of charge, we'll probably be here for a long time. I'd doubt I'll ever stop wondering who was here before us, though.

A Shout Out

Have you checked out Purple Hoodie Chick's blog yet? To refresh your memory, she's my son's girlfriend as well as my cooking/cutting demo assistant. She's looking for suggestions on some new books to buy with her gift card. If you've got any ideas, pop on over to her blog. She'd love to hear them. Even if you don't, you can always drop by and say hi.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Birthday Night Drink Demo

I don't usually share a drink demo in the middle of the week, that's reserved for Friday. However, Mr. Willoughby, in honor of my birthday, has created a new drink. The ingredients should look familiar if you saw last Friday's post, but the amounts and the technique have changed. When made correctly you will have a blue drink with a purple bottom. What did Mr. Willoughby name his new creation? Bikini Bottom, of course! Here it is:

You should recognize our cast of characters.

For each Bikini Bottom you will need: 2 oz. light rum, 3 oz. coconut rum, 1 oz. blue curacao, 6 oz. 7-Up, a drizzle of grenadine and ice. In a cocktail shaker,mix all ingredients except grenadine and ice. Gently stir, do not shake! Pour into glass over ice. Drizzle a small amount of grenadine on top, do not stir. It will sink to the bottom of the glass causing the bottom portion of the drink to turn purple. I did my best to capture this with my camera, but the flash makes it difficult to see. Here it is anyway:

And now a close up:

Please enjoy your Bikini Bottom responsibly!

Thanks To My Fellow Bloggers and The St. Patrick's Day Story

Thanks To My Fellow Bloggers

I would like to start today's post with a great big thank you to two of my fellow bloggers, Katie of Katie's Korner and Donna of My Tasty Treasures, for the recipes I got from your blogs.

This is the Shrimp from Katie's Korner. It was spicy and delicious and the perfect side for our thick cut strip steaks. Thanks, Katie!

Here is Chicken Mutz, compliments of Donna and her Firefighter Husband. The recipe calls for stuffing the chicken with mozzarella cheese, but I strayed a bit and also made one stuffed with pepper jack cheese and one with colby jack cheese. They were all delicious. Thanks Donna!

The St. Patrick's Day Story

I know you've been waiting to find out the reason I dislike St. Patrick's Day. You couldn't sleep last night and you've been waiting for my new post all morning, right? Well, maybe not, but here it is anyway.

Today is my birthday! Because I have had the same birthday all my life, it has always been the day after St. Patrick's Day. It's not much of an issue now that I'm older (41 today, in case you were wondering), but when I was a kid I really hated it.

Remember, back when you were in elementary school, how the teacher would have all the kids draw a picture and write a personal note to the birthday girl/boy about why she/he was special? For me they were all the same. Maybe because the St. Patrick's Day decorations were still hanging on the walls, I'm not sure, but every picture that every kid drew seemed to have shamrocks, leprechauns, and/or rainbows with pots of gold in them. They would say things like "Willoughby is special because she likes to play fun games" and the drawing would be me playing jump rope with a leprechaun! Or "Willoughby is special because she is nice" followed by a drawing of me wearing a complete shamrock ensemble. Some of the drawings even depicted me as a leprechaun! It was like that all through elementary school.

Years later, after I thought I had escaped the birthday/St. Pat's connection, one of my co-workers brought in a cake for my birthday (she decorated cakes as a side job, the boss paid her to bring in cakes for everyone's birthday). The cake was frosted in white and covered with green plastic shamrocks. When it was cut, the frosting between the layers was revealed. What color do you suppose it was? That's right, green!

So that, my friends, is why I am not a fan of St. Patrick's Day. It's not quite as interesting as the reasons some of you guessed, but it's the truth.

One last, semi-interesting thing. This is my 50th post! It seems a perfect time to thank those of you who read (and perhaps) enjoy my blog. I love writing it, and I enjoy the comments you leave.

That's all for now, I've got to go put on my shamrock ensemble and play jump rope with a leprechaun. It's my birthday and that's (apparently) what I do!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day and A Project

Today's post will not be St. Patrick's Day themed. There will be no shamrocks, no leprechauns, and no green cocktails. I know, you would think that I, of all people, would be sharing a drink recipe in honor of this day. But you would be mistaken. I'm not a fan of St. Patrick's Day. I don't want you to mistakenly think that it has anything to do with Ireland, Irish people, shamrocks, leprechauns, St. Patrick (or anyone named Patrick, for that matter) or green beer. I actually like all of those things. If I gave you fifty guesses, you would probably never guess why I don't like St. Patrick's Day. If you really want to know, though, I'll tell you.........tomorrow! However, in the meantime, if you would like to take a guess, please post it in my comments (unless you are Purple Hoodie Chick, you can't guess because you know the answer, that would be cheating!).

Today's post is a project I would like to share with you. It's simple, fast, and inexpensive. With spring being only a few days away, we are fast approaching my favorite season. I like everything about spring, but the season I'm referring to is Flea Market Season!!!! I love a good flea market find, and this project relates to that. What I'm going to show you is an easy way to line drawers.

I'm not trying to insult your intelligence, I'm sure you can figure out how to cut contact paper and stick it to the bottom of a drawer. However, I think this is a better way because it's easier to change and it looks more professional. Of course, you don't have to line drawers at all, but I think it's nicer to have your clothes sitting on a lined surface than bare wood. It will also cover any stains that might be in the drawer that could tranfer to your clothing. The piece of furniture I'll be demonstrating on is not a flea market find, it's a vintage family piece. I inherited it from my grandma. It's in my daughters room and she loves it. I do too!

This is it.

We'll line a small drawer.

Here are the supplies you'll need: the drawer to be lined, newspaper, tape, pencil, scissors or razor knife, spray adhesive, sturdy cardboard (not pictured) and wallpaper (not pictured). I used leftover wallpaper from my daughter's room so it would match.

We're going to start by making a newspaper pattern of the bottom of the drawer. You could skip this step and measure the drawer bottom, but I think this way is actually easier and more accurate.

Cut or tear pieces of newspaper into pieces smaller than the drawer, being sure to keep one corner intact. Fit that corner into the corner of your drawer like this.

Don't worry about the rest of the drawer yet.

Continue adding pieces of newspaper and fitting corners until the bottom of the drawer is covered. Tape all of your pieces together before removing them. This is now your pattern.

Lay your pattern on a piece of sturdy cardboard and trace it. Cut out your piece using scissors or a razor knife. Cut inside the lines you traced by about 1/8 of an inch to leave room for the wallpaper. (I used brown cardboard when I actually did this project, but for the demo all I had was white. It makes it harder to see the edges of the patern in the pic. Sorry!)

I don't have any pictures of the next part of the process, but I think you can figure it out. Place your cut cardboard piece on the back side of the wallpaper. Cut the wallpaper several inches larger than your cardboard on all sides.

In a well ventilated area on a protective surface, coat the back side of your wallpaper and one side of your cardboard with spray adhesive (or follow instructions on can for permanent mounting). Let them sit for several minutes or until barely tacky (check the can for exact time) and then place the tacky side of your cardboard to the center of the tacky side of your wallpaper. Cut off corners of wallpaper and wrap remaining edges around cardboard. Like this:

Press the edges of the wallpaper onto the cardboard firmly. You may need an additional spray of adhesive to get them to stick tightly. Smooth out the front side and insert into the drawer. When you're done it should look like this:

Return drawer to chest and you are done! You can also use this technique to line the back "wall" of glass door cabinets and change the look when you want to. Have fun!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Little Late, But The Bar Is Open

Ok, it's a little late. I meant to post my usual Friday Night Drink Demo last night, but I've been feeling a little under the weather so it has become a Saturday Night Drink Demo. We were looking for a drink where we could use more of the Blue Curacao from last week, but wanted a drink that wouldn't be blue. So here it is; Purple Crush.

For each drink you will need: 2 oz. light rum, 1 oz. blue curacao, 1 oz. coconut rum, 1 oz. grenadine, 4 oz. 7-Up, and ice. Place all ingredients except 7-Up and ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake well. Add 3 ounces of 7-Up and stir gently. Pour into glass filled with ice. Float additional 1 ounce of 7-Up on top. Enjoy!

This makes a very sweet drink. When I say very sweet, I mean very sweet! It has a flavor similar to a grape popsicle. Please enjoy responsibly, no driving or operating heavy machinery, ok?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not So Hip

I've always thought I was a pretty cool mom. I listen to current music, I play video games (the Wii and Nintendo 64, but those are cool, right?), I'm somewhat computer literate, I know what fashions are popular and I understand text speak abbreviations (lol, omg, brb), so I must be pretty hip. Or so I thought. This morning, my son broke the news to me that I'm not entirely up to date.

His car is in the repair shop (yep, the one we just bought him) so I'll need to pick him up from school after track practice today. Here's how the conversation that ended my illusion of "Cool Mom" went:

"Call me after practice is over and I'll come and pick you

"I forgot to charge my cell phone last night, but if it's dead, I'm sure I
can borrow someone else's phone."

"Or you could use the pay phone at school. Do you have some
change with you?"

There was no verbal response for a minute, only laughter.

"Pay phone? Mom, they don't have pay phones in school."

"They don't?"

"No, not since 1985!"

"Well, I graduated from high school in 1986 and we had pay phones in the

"Ok, well, since the invention of cell phones they have not had pay
phones in school."

This was followed by more laughter. Have I really gotten so out of touch that I missed the passing of pay phones? Cell phones are not new to me, I've had one for years. We don't even have a home phone anymore because we weren't using it. But I still thought the schools had pay phones. They don't allow the kids to use their cell phones during the school day so I thought they kept the pay phones.

I've been thinking about it since he left, and remembering all the not-so-hip things people said to me when I was a teenager. The things that made me laugh.

  • Like the time I was babysitting for a neighbor. Before they left, the baby's grandfather asked me "Whatever happened to that singer called Blondie? She could really rock and roll." He was in his 60's and it sounded so out of touch. Blondie hadn't had a hit in 5 or 6 years at the time.
  • Or the time one of my high school teachers was singing "Raspberry Beret" while we were doing our classwork.
  • Or the time my grandpa asked my brother about the Emerson, Lake and Palmer t-shirt he was wearing. "Where is Emerson Lake?" he wanted to know.
  • Or the time a friend's mom referred to jeans as dungarees.
  • Or the time my grandma wanted to know who Alice Cooper was and if "she" was a good singer.

Have I become one of these people? Does it matter that I thought the Jonas Brothers Band was a Disney show and not a real band? Should I worry that I still haven't figured out the difference between goth and emo? And what about the time my son told me he was going to buy a beanie (a knit hat) and I asked him why he wanted a beanie baby? Is it ok that I still like to talk like Snoop Dog once in a while even though it's not cool anymore?


~Note~ I'll be back later with a Friday Night Drink Demo! See you then!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Not So Touched and Blogs To Check Out

Not So Touched

Last week I confessed that I watch/listen to "Little House On The Prairie" on a regular basis. It comes on the Hallmark Channel everyday (weekdays) at 10:00 am and 11:00 am. Since I'm usually not watching a whole episode, I don't always turn the television off or change the channel when it's over. That's how I stumbled up the show "Touched By An Angel", it comes on after "Little House On The Prairie".

I should start by saying that I have never watched a full episode of this show. I don't really know the premise of this show, so my comments are based on the bits and pieces that I have seen. If you are a fan of this show, by all means feel free to set me straight and tell me I'm wrong about it.

Yesterday, I happened to catch part of an episode where a man was dying (I'm guessing someone dies in every episode). He was a fairly young man and was leaving behind a wife and children. I got the impression the viewer is meant to be uplifted by his passing and the strength and dignity in which he passed. I'm sorry, but I just felt depressed. Enormously depressed, in fact. I understand the idea that his suffering was coming to an end and that he was going to Heaven, but I don't know how you could watch this and want to do anything but cry for the rest of the day. Am I missing something? Do the angels ever intervene and keep someone from dying? I'm not sure I'll ever tune back in to find out.

Blogs To Check Out

Thanks to everyone who participated in my challenge, we now have some great new blogs to check out! Some of you listed these on your own blogs and some added them to my comments, but I have listed them here (in no particular order) just in case you missed them. I hope you all enjoyed the challenge. If you have any more to add, let me know. And if I missed anyone's contribution(s), be sure to tell me!

Contributed by One Step At A Time - The House In The Roses
Contributed by 5th Sister - Catholic Reading Reflections
Contributed by Gracey - The Pulsipher Predilections
Contributed by Marvelously Mundane - Always Order Dessert
Contributed by Muddy Runner - Working It Out

Contributed by me (and listed in previous posts):
Mennonite Girls Can Cook - This blog has some outstanding recipes and check out the pictures on the right side of the page (they link you to other recipes), they're beautiful. Worth taking a look at.

Walking Across America - This blogger is currently virtually walking across Michigan. He has some great info. about the cities he visits.
View Of You Photography - Gorgeous photographs and a weekly photo scavenger hunt you can participate in!

Southern Hospitality - Gorgeous pictures and great decorating! I could spend all day on this blog!
Queenies Vintage Finds and Treasures - More gorgeous pictures and beautiful vintage finds. I would love to shop where she shops!

And a few new ones contributed by me:

The Bacon Show - A new bacon recipe every day!

Purple Hoodie Chick - Remember my son's girlfriend from the onion demo and the lasagna making marathon? This is her new blog! If you stop by, be sure and say hi!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

For The Love Of Lasagna

I was too busy to post anything yesterday. What was I so busy doing? I'm glad you asked. I was making lasagna. Not just one lasagna, but four.
It all started because my husband promised a friend that I would make him a pan of lasagna in return for a favor. I decided that if I was going to make one for him, I might as well make one for us, too. But then my son's girlfriend had a short day at school yesterday. She's taking her college aptitude exams this week and gets out of school earlier than the kids who aren't currently taking them. You may remember her from my onion cutting demo. In my mind the equation went like this: kid with no school + lasagna to be made = free help! Of course, it wouldn't be fair to have her help me and then leave empty handed, so that added one more. I happened to mention it to my dad when I talked to him and he said if I was already making three, why not make one more for he and my mom. That brought the total to four.
I bought all of the ingredients by the case or in commercial sizes at Sam's Club. It was a lot less expensive that way and left us with a lot fewer cans of tomatoes to open (except the tomato paste, that only comes in little cans).

You can find the complete recipe we used here. Other than multiplying the recipe by four, we didn't make any significant changes. We did opt to make the sauce without Italian sausage, though. I won't bore you with every step in the process, but here are some of the highlights.

The pressing of the fresh garlic.

Onions and garlic, ready to go.

Sweating the onions. See how evenly chopped they are? That technique really works! The ground beef and tomato products were added next, but not pictured.

Lots of dried herbs.

Mix it up well! That black thing is the spoon.

Simmer for 1 1/2 hours (or until it smells so good you can't stand it anymore!). My daughter joined us at this point, but there wasn't much to do with the sauce other than stir it occasionally. So we made chocolate chip cookies. This is the unbaked dough. The cookies didn't stick around long enough for me to take a picture (no, we didn't eat the whole batch, there's more dough in the refrigerator).

Now comes the time for preparing the noodles, mixing up the ricotta filling and assembling the final product(s). We used the hot water soaking method with the noodles. I got a little lazy about photographing any of these steps, but I did get an awesome shot of oil floating on the water for the noodles.

Actually, I got a few shots of oil floating on water, but this is my favorite.

Like I said, I got lazy about photographing the final steps. I also didn't get a shot of all our finished lasagnas lined up next to one another. Here's what it looked like after baking, though.

Wanna see it on a plate with salad and garlic bread?

We had ours for dinner last night. The others are still sitting in my refrigerator waiting to be baked and eaten by their recipients.

I'd like to thank my assistants. We made a big mess of the kitchen, but we had fun and the lasagna is delicious and the cookies are amazing (and gone).

Monday, March 9, 2009

If You're Looking For Something To Do

Just a quick note in case you're sitting at your computer, bored and looking for something to do. I'm a fanatic for puzzles of all sorts. Crossword puzzles, anacrostics, number puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, you get the picture. My recent obsession, however, is with KenKen puzzles. Have you tried them? They're like Sudoku, but a little more challenging. I've even got Mr. Willoughby hooked on them. They say (who are "they", anyway?) that puzzles like this keep your memory sharp and can even increase your I.Q. I don't know if there's any truth to that, but they're fun to do. Want to try one? You can find them here. Have fun!

More Great Blogs, My Kitchen and One More Thing

More Great Blogs

As some of you may recall, I posted a challenge to find some new blogs to share. While I have been anxiously awaiting the results from the rest of you, I found a few more myself. Here they are:

Check them out when you have a minute, I'm sure you'll enjoy them. I'm anxiously awaiting the day our local flea market opens for the season, and looking at the pictures of the flea market finds and vintage items on these blogs has me counting the days.

My Kitchen

When I looked at the "after" picture of 5th Sister's kitchen, I laughed out loud! She and I now have almost the exact same paint color in our kitchens. Anyone else have a yellow kitchen?

The actual color is deeper than it looks in this picture. There was quite a bit of reflection from the flash on the cooktop (you can actually see the light flares on the wall above the cooktop). And, no, my kitchen isn't really this tiny. That's just the cooking area.

One More Thing

Just in case I haven't given you enough opportunities to laugh at me lately, here's one more.

The last person out of the house this morning didn't completely shut the front door (might have been me, might not have, I'm not saying!). It's very windy here today so when I came home
from taking the kids to school and going to the supermarket, the door was wide open. No one came in and stole any of my priceless treasures, but now I'm afraid to go upstairs because I'm worried that a squirrel could have gotten into the house. They're always hanging around my front porch or running around my yard so they must have seen the door open. I haven't heard anything upstairs and I haven't found any tiny, dirty pawprints in the house, but I keep imagining that there is a furry little rodent sleeping on one of our beds or hiding behind the bathroom door waiting to jump out at me. Anyone remember the raccoon scene in the "Money Pit"?

Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

You Can't Do That

It's been a while since I've shared a stupid story with you. I have so many that's it's hard to choose, but I think something food related would be a good one for today.

This happened a little more than 16 years ago and I was pregnant with my son at the time. My parents took Mr. Willoughby and I out to dinner at a buffet style restaurant. This was toward the end of my pregnancy so I was pretty big and standing or walking for any length of time was incredibly tiring.

I went up to the buffet and put some side dishes on my plate, but when I got to the meats, the fish was gone. I wasn't interested in any other meat, I just wanted some fish so I went back to the table and sat down. A few minutes later a server was refilling some of the bins in the meat area so I went to check and see if the fish had been replenished. It hadn't so I sat back down. Again, we saw someone come out with bins of food, so my husband asked if I would like him to get me some fish. I said no, I'd do it myself. I went back to the meat area to find there was still no fish so I asked the guy who was at the carving station if they were going to bring any more out. He said yes, it should only be a minute if I wanted to wait. So that's what I did.

I was standing next to the empty fish bin waiting when a man came up behind me. I told him I was waiting for the fish and he could go around me. For some reason he seemed angry at this. He told me I had to move on and that waiting wasn't allowed. Again, I told him he could go around me, I was going to wait. This angered him to the point that he started to complain about me to other customers who were getting their food. "She's holding up the line. There's no fish but she's going to wait and hold up the line." Say what? I told him twice he could go around me. It got kind of ugly from there, and we were having a pretty heated argument. I may have even pushed up the sleeves on my maternity sweater. Other people around the buffet hurried back to their tables and away from us; the short bald man and pregnant woman who were arguing about fish.

Before we came to blows (I'm sure I could have taken him), a server brought out a full bin of fish. For just a moment I considered taking not just a few pieces, but the entire bin and heading back to my table. I could even see myself reaching past the sneeze guard, prying the pan out of the steam table and running (waddling) through the restaurant while laughing maniacally. If I hadn't thought it would be too hot for me to lift I probably would have. Instead, I took a few pieces and went back to my table. My husband and my parents hadn't even noticed what had been going on. While I was telling them about it, the man returned to his table on the other side of the dining room. He was obviously telling his family what had taken place because he was pointing at me. My husband was ready to go ask the guy to step outside, but I didn't want him to. I was all hopped up on watered down Coke, soggy steam table vegetables and 8 months worth of pregnancy hormones. I could take care of this guy myself.

I unwedged myself from the table and waddled over to his table. "I hope you choke on your food!" I said. He was speechless. I think I made my point. Oh, and the fish? It was okay, but I've had better.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Catch Of The Day

Mr. Willoughby and I enjoy spending time together in the kitchen; talking, cooking a nice meal, having a glass of wine (or cocktails) and listening to music. He's quite a catch, if I do say so myself, but that's not the catch I'm talking about tonight. The catch of the day today is flounder. We made shrimp, too, so does that make it catches of the day? I don't know.

I have to tell you that we discovered a new wine tonight, too. I always buy four bottles of wine at a time because my grocery store gives a 10% discount when you do that. I usually get three bottles I know we'll like and try one new one. We're kind of middle of the road when it comes to wine; not to sweet, not too dry. I randomly grabbed an Australian Riesling and put it in my cart. When I got home, I noticed it was a screw top! A screw top? No self respecting wine has a screw top! I put it in the wine rack and decided to save it specifically for cooking. Mr. Willoughby took it out tonight for our shrimp scampi and we couldn't resist tasting it. To our great surprise, it was excellent! I recommend giving it a try (though I can't believe I'm saying that about a screw top wine). It's Banrock Station Riesling, more dry than sweet. I promise you that you'll never miss the cork.

On the menu tonight was Broiled Flounder Parmesan (the recipe is for Tilapia, but we prefer flounder), Shrimp Scampi, Oven Baked Fries and a simple green salad. Everything was delicious, but the Shrimp Scampi Mr. Willoughby made was outstanding! We had never tried this recipe before, but this will be our new "go to" recipe for scampi. Something about the combination of lighting in my kitchen and the flash on my camera never makes food look as good in my pictures as it does in person, but trust me that this was one tasty meal. The kids enjoyed it every bit as much as we did.

Instead of dessert, we made Cafe Caramel. It's like the Caramel Machiato from Starbucks, but doesn't cost $5 a cup! Here's what you need:

Start by brewing some coffee. Yes, I know, I've got Maxwell House here, not some fancy schmancy expensive whole beans roasted in small batches by hand in a tiny village in Columbia. I like that kind, too, but tonight it's Maxwell House. And those two blue bowls in front? Those are sugar and creamer. If you prefer dairy cream or half and half, those would be fine but I like non-dairy creamer.
To each mug, add two heaping teaspoons of creamer, two teaspoons of sugar (or to taste) and approximately two tablespoons of caramel ice cream topping (I never bother to measure) and fill to within a 1/2 inch of the top with hot coffee. Stir until well mixed and caramel topping has dissolved. Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel topping.
If this were a Friday Night Drink Demo, I might add a splash of Kahlua or some Bailey's Irish Cream along with the caramel topping. I might even go so far as to skip the whipped cream and top the coffee with a dollop of Kahlua Mousse.
Happy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, March 6, 2009

It's Mexican Night and The Bar Is Open

It's late, I know, but I'm finally posting my Friday Night Drink Demo. It was Mexican night at the Willoughby house, so we decided on Blue Dolphin Margaritas to go along with our Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas. I'll include the recipe for those, too.

Blue Dolphin Margaritas

Just so you know, there are no actual dolphins in this drink. What makes them blue is Blue Curacao. If you have to ask for it at your local liquor store it's pronounced kur-ah-sow. I don't wan't you to make a fool of yourself and mispronounce it! Ready to begin? Let's go!

Here's what you'll need for a pitcher of Blue Dolphin Margaritas, go get them.

Place 2 cups of ice, 1 cup of frozen limeade, 1 cup of Blue Curacao, 1 cup of Tequila, and 1/2 cup Triple Sec into the pitcher of a blender. Blend until ice is completely crushed. Pour into salt rimmed margarita glasses and .............


Cheesy Chicken Quesadillas

  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • diced jalapeno peppers
  • salsa
  • sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place four flour tortillas on two large ungreased cookie sheets (that's two tortillas per cookie sheet). Cover each tortillas with 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup cooked and shredded chicken, and 1 tablespoon diced jalapeno peppers. Place remaining flour tortillas over cheese/chicken mixture. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven and cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges with a pizza cutter. Serve with sour cream and salsa.