Monday, August 30, 2010

Busy Girl's Chicken and Dumplins

Just look at that fat on the right side of the pot! Daisy would be proud.

The other day I visited my good friend Leslie while she put chicken n' dumplins in the pot to cook. Does this ever happen to you? When a friend mentions a certain food, and nothing will do until you have some of the same stuff? The first cool breeze of autumn is upon us and has inspired me to fix up a stew. Leslie's were probably better tasting and definitely better for you, but I just had to give dark meat chicken in the crock pot a shot.

Daisy might actually be rolling in her grave, as I didn't have time to hand-make the dumplings for this go-round, and I wasn't available to monitor stovetop cooking. It was one of those days when I'd dropped by the house around 1 PM to realize there was nothing to eat for supper, yet I still had two more appointments to knock out before the day was over. What to do, what to do... Dump something in the crock pot!

1 cup celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken. I used thighs, but white meat breasts would be much better for you and would have a lot less fat.
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 teaspoon white pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
Enough water to cover and make it the consistency you prefer
1 - 12 ounce can of refrigerated biscuits
Handful of mushrooms (optional)
  1. Sauté the celery and onion in butter or olive oil until soft.
  2. Dump the sautéed celery and onion, chicken, soups, seasonings and water into the crock pot.
  3. Set on high for 6 hours.
  4. About 3-4 hours in to cooking, flatten out biscuits with a rolling pin and cut into strips.
  5. Add the mushrooms if you'd like some (they were an afterthought for me).
  6. Add biscuits to crock pot, stir it around, and cover for remaining cook time.
  7. The biscuits will float to the top and probably brown. When cooking is done, just stir it all up and break chicken into pieces.
  8. Prepare to have some meat put on your bones.
Did you notice I said "about 3-4 hours in to cooking?" Well, I'm not exactly sure when I added the dumplins: it was in between those two afternoon appointments, and I was kind of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, if you'll excuse the pun. Since crock pot recipes are pretty forgiving, I bet you could put the chicken on low heat when you leave for work, then add the dumplins right when you get home and kick it up to high so they'll be ready in a couple of hours. This stuff keeps great and is better the next day.

This recipe was adapted from one found at

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Smitten Kitchen's Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

I love how Deb over at the Smitten Kitchen starts off this recipe with the dire warning that these bars are not good for you. But I beg to differ: they have cereal in them! Whole grains! And peanut butter. That's protein, right? And there's no doubt that dark chocolate can be good for you. So there you have it. These are actually whole grain, protein, anti-oxidant bars.

Mr. Peacock, the dog, and I are vegging on the couch this afternoon, desperately hoping for the rainy day that was forecast but will probably never come. The weekend was a lovely, long one: Mike was off on Friday, so we spent the day setting up our registries at Babies R Us and Target. I started off by gently kidding him about all the new gadgets and doohickeys that he would learn about in the next few hours, and before it was all over (and six hours later), we were both shellshocked. The sheer volume of stuff necessary for a new human being is astounding. The pack n' play, the swing, the splat mat, the mobi wrap, the monitors, OH MY. How did our parents ever make it without a rubber whale to cushion the bathtub faucet so we wouldn't bash our heads?!?

Then, so Mike could keep his Man Card, we spent yesterday afternoon looking at handguns. I don't know who had more fun: us or the guys behind the counter working with a mean pregnant redhead who obviously knows her way around a gun. Or the crazy toothless redneck customer who followed me everywhere I went.

It was all fun and games until the smallest piece I handled - a teensy tinesy Walther PPK .380 old James Bond gun (he currently carries a PPS) - bit me on the left thumb. It was brand new, and the spring was really tight and the metal still really sharp. It's certainly not the first time I've been bit in such a manner, and it really didn't hurt much, but dang. I bled all over the place. It was probably the extra blood I'm sporting to support this little girl, but I was positively dripping. There were even drops on the floor.

It's time to pack it in when your husband says, "Um, do you have an extra handkerchief so I can wipe blood off the gun?"

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

These bars are sticky and indulgent and not good for you in any way, so before you even ask, perhaps you can make them with organic, low-fat peanut butter, whole grain bio-crisped rice cereal or a sugar substitute but you shouldn’t. Nobody likes a party pooper.

For the crispy crust
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted (their recommendation) or salted (what I used, and liked) butter, melted

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
5 ounces good-quality milk (their recommendation) or semi-sweet (what I’d use next time) chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter

For the chocolate icing
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 percent cocoa), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted (their recommendation) or salted (what I used, and liked) butter

Make the crispy crust: Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.

Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refridgerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.

Make the chocolate icing: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.

Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread (actually, I found it easier to just roll it around until it coated smoothly, avoiding the risk of picking up any of the peanut butter layer with it) into an even layer. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the topping hardens.

Cut into 9 (they say, I say 16, at least!) squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Can't Leave Town for a Minute

Well, all's well that ends well.

It all began with a mole on Mike's chest. As Mike has spent most of his life out on a beach somewhere and the spot looked suspicious to me, I had been badgering him for months to have Dr. L take a look at it. We both know from prior experience that Dr. L will take a look about 15 seconds before he passes judgement, deadens Mike up, carves out said mole, and goes on to his next patient. I'm not sure if it's because most of Dr. L's patients are women, but he's pretty gruff toward Mike, and we like that just fine: get in, get it off, get out in less than an hour, get results in less than 2 days. None of this fussy come in for a consultation, come back a week later, waste 6 hours of your life, then 2 more weeks to hear from the lab.

Last time we went, Dr. L took a mole off Mike's back. That's the day I knew I could carry Mike's baby: I was riveted. Though Mike insisted that he didn't feel a thing, everything Dr. L did looked like it would hurt one of my own, and I had a visceral reaction to protect Mike. It was surprising that I literally had to sit on my hands to keep myself from stopping the procedure, only because such a deep voice in me was shouting to make that man stop stabbing my husband.

I didn't expect those protective feelings about somebody until I gave birth.

Anyway, it just happens that Mike's appointment was at the same time I was supposed to head to a client's office in Satartia, Mississippi. We agreed that as Mike had to drive us both home (the whole visceral experience left me wiped out and somewhat nauseated), it wasn't necessary for me to tag along and that he would take care of everything himself.

Next came Mom's eye. Have you ever seen somebody blow out a blood vessel in their eye? It doesn't hurt at all, but there's a lot of blood for such a sensitive area of the body, and it looks downright gnarly. Mom had recently changed a medication, so though she wasn't in any pain, she decided to err on the safe side and have it checked out. No big deal, no she didn't need me to go to the doctor with her.

And anyway, you guessed it: same time I was going to be in Satartia.

I was on my way home when Mike called first: "Since it was on my chest, I was able to watch this time. It was pretty gross. I had to sit down." Translation: it was gross enough that Mike almost passed out himself. Ha! He thought I was being a weenie last time. "Mike, do you need me to come and get you?" (knowing it would be at least an hour and a half before I could make it) "No, no, I'm on the road right now. Just wanted to let you know it was done."

Great. My recently-grossed-out-and-cut-up-husband is driving around and talking on the cell phone.

I was in the middle of a cotton field in the Delta when Mom called next: "I'm in the recovery room. They had to cut something out of my eye." What do you mean, out of your eye?!? Lymphoma is a weird thing and can apparently manifest itself on the eyeball. And the only way to find out is to actually cut out a sample and send it off to a pathologist.

Excellent. My recently-dilated-deadened-and-biopsied-on-her-eyeball mom is about to be woozily driving around and talking on the cell phone. And the doctor said it was OK, so there's nothing I can do about it.

No wonder I have migraines.

It's a wonder I wasn't stopped for speeding: my mind in a thousand different directions, and none of them included the road on which I was driving at the time. The day had snowballed from no-big-deal doctor appointments to samples taken out of somebody's eye, and that was just not acceptable. And though I was not necessarily needed at either of said appointments, it would have been nice to be there for moral support, hold a hand, or even to be able to drive the wounded home.

Welcome to motherhood: check your control over life at the door.

I found Mike at the house, gearing up to move furniture in the office. As he was supposed to keep the bandages (!!!) clean for 24 hours, he figured a trip to the pool was out. I had also convinced him not to mow the lawn or go for a run. So the next logical step would be moving filing cabinets and a pre-World-War II desk that weighs roughly 2.5 tons. Um, no. His bandage was so packed, it honestly looked like he had been stabbed.

In an effort to keep the man still, I decided we had to go check on Mom. She didn't look much better: the eye looked like she'd been socked. Between the two of them, they made Fight Club look like a bunch of pansies.

(You're welcome for the gratuitous Brad Pitt bare chest pic. Even if I did call him a pansy.)

But as I mentioned, all's well that ends well. Over the next few days, we learned that neither Mike's mole nor Mom's eye had any traces of cancer, and though they were the worse for wear, they have both almost completely recovered. It was worth it in the end to know the good news. Mom will have to return to have her eye checked on by professionals, and Mike and I both were surprised at the size of the incision on his chest.

It's ok Honey. Chicks dig scars.

Photos courtesy of icanhascheezburger and Huffington Post.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Sakes Alive" Chocolate Fudge Bars

Life is so good around here lately. Sure, I'm worried about Mom's potential cancer coming back, but I'll worry about that on Wednesday, when we meet with her doctor. The sermon at church today was about how God will take care of us, and I have to trust that. Even though last week I had a bit of a panic attack of worry regarding how I'll be able to handle the next six months of potential chemo on top of my own doctor appointments on top of an already busy schedule.

And January. Goodness, how will I make it through W-2s, W-3s, 1099s, 1096s, financials, State transmittals, sales taxes, and all the other good stuff that comes with the end of the year, on top of being 40 weeks pregnant?!? God will take care of us and not give us more than we can take.

Where was I? Oh yeah. The good. There's a sexy man sitting on the couch next to me, watching Star Wars. A sleepy dog is sacked out next to said sexy man, and a bratty cat is meowing at our feet. We have a busy and productive week ahead of us that's sure to keep us relatively out of trouble. I can feel the beginning vestiges of the welcome fall creeping up on us (knock on wood), and if you live within 100 miles of where I sit, you can appreciate that.

What sort of foods do you like best during the autumn? Any recipes you'd like me to research and try out? I'm looking forward to spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and savories like pot roast and shepherd's pie. Snuggling with a hot toddy and a hot man and a warm puppy dog while watching Miami Vice reruns. Football games and back to school....

Oh damn. I forgot the maniacal school buses that drive like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride through the neighborhood. Truly, I believe they think they'll win a prize if they hit us.

But if it means temperatures and "real feels" (what the heck happened to heat indices?) below 112 degrees, Dante and I will happily brave the sadistic bus drivers.

We had dinner with some really good friends last night, one of whom commented that my two biggest sections of this blog are Desserts and Travel. Those are just two of my favorites in life. The thing is, I've learned during my short tenure on this planet that families who know what's coming for dinner are generally happier, so I incorporate a new entree only once or twice a month. Otherwise, I tend to do similar entrees to the recipes I've already posted,and as there are currently only two of us, leftovers are an inevitability. But I figure desserts are special and can be varied. So that's where I find my adventure.

This recipe actually turned up in last Sunday's paper, next to a coupon for Martha White muffin mix. I thought that was a particularly fun way to sell muffin mix, so I decided to take them up on it. And boy, am I glad I did. Even though they perhaps should be renamed "Dirty Every Pot in the Kitchen" Chocolate Fudge Bars.

No-stick cooking spray
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 (7.4 ounce) packages Martha White Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
1 (14 ounce) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 (12 ounce) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (of course I used pecans)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Coat a 13 x 9 inch pan with no-stick cooking spray.
  • Beat brown sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in vanilla and egg.
  • Stir in muffin mix and oats.
  • Reserve one cup of mixture.
  • Pat remaining mixture into prepared pan.
  • Combine sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips over low heat until chocolate is melted, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and stir in walnuts (PECANS!).
  • Spread over muffin mixture to edge of pan.
  • Drop reserved oat mixture by teaspoonfuls over chocolate mixture.
  • Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool completely (in pan) on a wire rack.
Once reheated, this stuff is SO GOOD with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mike and I are Having A.....

Oh, I don't know. Take a look and you tell me:

Couldn't tell? OK, how about now?

Ladies and gentlemen, we are so proud to introduce to you our daughter.

It's been a big, beautiful day here at the Peacock Coop. The sun shined while it rained on our way to Dr. K's office. Here in the South, we'd call that the Devil beating his wife. Either way, rainbows were prolific. Tracy, our ultrasound tech, said that she would leave the screen on while taking measurements, but that we wouldn't know what we were viewing. As soon as she started, I was blurting out, "That's her skull!" "Aww, look at her feet!" "Mike, look at her heart beating!"

"That's a femur!!!"

Tracy and Dr. K were both impressed at this little girl's activity. The measurements weren't recorded on this DVD, but she wouldn't be still for Tracy to size her up. She even performed acrobatics while Dr. K was trying to listen to her heart. And for all you naysayers, both said it's definitely possible and most likely that I've been feeling this kid's antics for the past few weeks.

We think she's very pretty. After lunch, Mike and I went to look at handguns, specifically Kimbers and the Ruger SR9C. He also checked out a couple of shotguns.

Maybe she has Mike's nose?
I am completely enamored with her feet. Her legs are crossed, so they look backwards. I know because this is how I sit at the end of the day, when I finally have time to put up my feet.
All the wives' tales are wrong, wrong, WRONG. As I've mentioned before, I will knock you down for some fried chicken. Or a good BLT, so salty cravings don't indicate a boy. I haven't been sick for a minute, so she hasn't taken my health. I'm way more gorgeous now than before I was pregnant and my hair is so thick it requires chunking shears to thin out, so she didn't take away my beauty.

And my butt hasn't spread an inch, thankyouverymuch.

Since technically Mike is responsible for this little beauty, I'm delighting in insisting that he tell family and friends when we're together. And I have to admit that my heart melts a little every time I hear him say, "We're having a little girl."

Mike paid me a huge compliment on our way home. I asked him how in the world I would raise her to be a strong, effective, capable, intelligent, compassionate, intuitive steel magnolia. He replied, "Just be yourself, and lead by example."

Wow. Thanks Babe.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Keeping it Together

Physically, this pregnancy has been a dream. Annoyingly so: I glow. I radiate. My body is doing exactly what it's supposed to without the expected sickness, nausea, or fatigue. No major weight gain so far - my hairdresser gently asked if I had miscarried as I'm still not showing at 17 weeks. The kid is on the move, and I feel great. Empowered. Energetic. Ready to take on the world. I'm even caught off guard when sweet concerned friends ask me how I'm feeling: the other day a male pastor friend of mine asked, "How's your pregnancy going?" To which I absently replied, "It's great! How is yours?" Ugh. So much for decorum. I just don't think about it as the only physical reminders are good ones.

But I'm bitchy. :)

I try to keep it under wraps, but let's face it: there are a lot of hormones and stress factors coming together to create the perfect storm for some pretty imperfect (and often hilarious) mood swings and freakouts. You can tell me 'till you're blue in the face that I'm going to love this kid with all my heart and soul, but for right now, I just don't get it. And I probably won't get it until at least January. Of 2029. The reality is, I'm about to give up my body and our entire way of life for an angry little uncommunicative relative who just won't leave and who will probably poop on us for the next eighteen years.

What the hell have I done?

Me: What if I don't love this baby?!?
Mike: You said the same about the dog, and you love him, don't you?
Me: Sure, but people tend to frown on kenneling your kid.
Mike: OK. I'll love him enough for both of us.

And somehow that made it OK. I like best what Christina Applegate said about pregnancy psychosis. Just watch :40-:58 for the gist of it:

Don't get me wrong: I'm not stone-cold crazy all the time. My personality has always been somewhat saltier than sweet, but now it's like the Tabasco sauce of which I currently can't have enough has been thrown into the mix. My fuse is a little shorter. My temper a a shade hotter. And when something kicks me off, just sit back and enjoy the ride. We will laugh about it later, I promise. (I hope!)

After all, "assertive" often starts with showing your ass.

But I'm starkly aware that God paired me with the right man with whom to have a baby. There's no way I'd make it through any of this if not for Mr. Peacock and his quiet (often equally hilarious) solutions.

Me: What if something happens and I have to have a C-section and I'm not able to take care of the baby and change diapers? MIKE, HOW AM I GOING TO CHANGE THE BABY'S DIAPER?!?

Mike: I'm an engineer with a master's degree from Georgia Tech and access to duct tape. I can handle it.

Maybe it'll be OK after all.

When in doubt, pinky out.

Photos courtesy of daddytypes and bustedspoke.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Methodist Ladies' Chicken Lasagna Florentine

It's a glorious Monday morning here in beautiful downtown Burbank. 74 degrees (I know - shocker!), the sun is rising, and I am up, dressed, and ready for the day. Taking Dante for a W-A-L-K? Ah... No. Going outside to work in the garden? Nope. Off to the grocery store while it's still cool? Of course not! I'm sitting on my duff, waiting for the painters. Last time they were two hours late, and they said they would arrive at 7:00 this morning, which I suppose translates to sometime around 4 this afternoon. The day is totally shot.

Well, not completely. Laundry is running, dishes are washing, and here I sit, making good on my resolution to blog more often.

This is another excerpt from my current favorite read, Being Dead is No Excuse. Despite the subject material, this really is a funny cookbook written in somewhat sarcastic hyperbole (yet the truth comes in jest, you know) that strikes a chord in me. If you live in the South, these people are your neighbors.

For once, we're at a loss for words. Pecans and lasagna? But this is the quintessential Methodist death dish, and it's so good it'll kill you.

6 lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 (10-ounce) package chopped frozen spinach, thawed
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken breasts (about 3 medium breasts)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 can (10 3/4 ounce) cream of mushroom soup (of course.)
1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream
1/3 cup homemade mayonnaise (I used our olive oil stuff, and it came out just as well.)
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
Butter Pecan Topping (see below)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cook the noodles according to the package directions, drain and set aside.
  • Darin the spinach well, pressing between layers of paper towels (or kitchen towels).
  • Combine the spinach, chicken, cheddar cheese, onion, nutmeg, salt, pepper, soy sauce, soup, sour cream, and mayonnaise in a large bowl; stir to blend.
  • Arrange half the lasagna noodles in a lightly greased 11 x 7 x 1 1/2-inch baking dish.
  • Spread half the chicken mixture over the noodles.
  • Repeat this procedures with the remaining noodles and chicken mixture.
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Butter Pecan Topping.
  • Bake, covered, for 55 to 60 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.
  • Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.
  • Serves eight.

Butter Pecan Topping

2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup chopped pecans
  • Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; add the pecans and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Cool completely.
Beware: this stuff is super-duperly rich, so have a side salad nearby. The spices are great though, so I would recommend following that part of the recipe rather closely, which you know is odd for me. Especially with a casserole. Mike calls it "the chicken stuff," and requests it often.

Now for a little lagniappe: the photo below was taken at Grace Church Cemetery in St. Francisville, Louisiana. The structure is in the back of the antebellum churchyard, and Mike and I were transfixed by the architecture, brickwork, and current state of ruin. My guess is that it was some sort of crypt - there was another opening on the other side - but Mike didn't seem to agree. The other entrance was below ground level and had been haphazardly covered up with a road sign by some authority, only to be pushed aside by teenagers looking for a spooky thrill.

What do you think it is? Can you imagine the stories, sordid and toe-curling, that might have occurred at this eerie kind of spot?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nesting Under Duress

I'm very glad Mike and I are together for many reasons. Lately I'm most glad that we have been feeding off the other's energy, alternating turns in being the horsepower behind necessary renovations brought about by this kid in me and a bit of a disaster this week.

In the beginning of all this mayhem and foolishness, I was the catalyst that turned the house upside down, moving all the equipment in the gym to the garage and all the guest room furniture into the gym-turned-guest room. My reason was pragmatic: I realized that in another couple of months, I won't be able to move much anything (Mike took care of the big stuff, but I probably lifted more than I should have anyway), so I wanted to take care of the heavy lifting as soon as possible.

But as soon as the nursery was empty (and I was completely worn out), Mike took the reins and could not wait to paint. Since he would be actually painting, I happily gave him the task of picking out the color, and I. AM. ENAMORED. Inspired by the green-blues in the waves at Rosemary Beach, he selected a hue entitled Waterscape. It feels like you're sitting in a big Tiffany box, only not so bright. The pictures below are awful of the color - there is a lot more green - so you'll just have to come see it for yourself. He chose very, very well.

OK, the painting was done. Then as soon as Mike was worn out, I decided that our furniture would be scratched at Cullen's Playpen (which, of course, it wouldn't. I was being a worrywart.), so we had to have that delivered. Then began the task of unpacking the stuff, which was truly set up to withstand a nuclear meltdown. I've never seen so much packing material: the boxes were bigger than I am.

Dante helped.
Some people might say, "Aww, isn't that sweet? She's nesting!!!" Trust me, all ideas were produced solely out of practicality and snowballed into complete havoc.

I have some ideas to finish the nursery, but we'll wait until Friday the 13th, when we discover the sex of our bun. We will recover the rocker and add a mirror and a few lamps to coordinate with the bedding, and I hear blackout curtains are popular for nurseries, even though this is a north-facing room with plenty of shade. We'll figure it all out in the end. The point is, we worked for days and weeks on this project, and as soon as we thought we were finished with home improvements for a while.....

.... it rained.

And rained.
Rain would not have been a problem had our roof been on the house during said rainstorm. But we were having it replaced, and God thought now would be a good time to bring us even closer together. I was at a funeral when it rained. The roofers were on the south side of the house and didn't see me when I came in. Going to turn off the alarm, I slipped in a puddle of water and almost busted my tail. My first thought was that I'd left on a faucet... No. Washing machine blew? No... And then I looked up.

About the time the alarm went off, the roofer was ringing the doorbell to apologize profusely for the rain in the house. The garage, back hall, utility room, dining room, foyer, hallway to the office, office, jack and jill bathroom, and the door framing in the nursery all have damage. Some of the carpets were soaked, especially the one in the office, and some of the hardwood floors had standing water on them.

It was a big, fat mess.

So the next few days were spent moving everything in Mike's big, messy office into the nursery to clear the wet carpet. The good news is that we now have no option but to organize it when putting everything back together.

I could find the bright side of a plague.

Painters came two days later to make repairs, but there are some spots that still need work. They are planning to come next week to finish up the door framings, and I hate to tell them they'll have to do something more about the back hallway. Probably the most frustrating part of the whole deal is that I can show the painters 6 times where the paint is cracked and warping in a spot, and they won't do anything about it. But all Mike has to do is call them once, and they take care of it.


I've mitigated this ineffectual female syndrome by having Mike write up a list of things for them to do. Maybe that'll help next week. Wish me luck.

But all's well that ends well: Dante has a new favorite spot in this world.

Dante's "How I Spent This Summer"

It's been a big summer for our pup. He turned 2 years old on June 10th. In celebration, we sent the Pearl River SPCA, the organization that found him, a donation along with a letter and some photos. Dante also received a new bed and a new Kong, as both were almost as old as he and had seen the worse for wear.
About a week later, I received a phone call from Bonnie at the SPCA. She said that my note came at the perfect time and that she needed a human-interest story for their newsletter. So I sent her a grown-up photo of Dante, and she sent me his baby picture.

From this (they don't come much cuter):

To this:
Dante made the cover story of the newsletter, which is proudly displayed on the fridge, right next to his latest two achievements: he passed his Love on a Leash Therapy Dog test and his American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test!
We celebrated THAT with a new collar to go with his new CGC tags. Very proud indeed.

But this summer wasn't all about work. He's had a great time hanging out at Mom's house with Jack and Darlin' while Mike and I have been out of town, and he has broadened his horizons by meeting new friends. This is Dash, a friend's pet dragon. Dante was intrigued.

Right now he's in the back yard, helping Mike pick up sticks. Glad to know all this mayhem and foolishness haven't gone to his head.

St. Francisville Jaunt

Dante, Mike, Kearney, and I are all piled up on the green couch this morning, a creepy ghost movie on the TV, a cup of coffee perched precariously on the arm rest, the comics in Mike's hand, a baby wriggling happily in my belly, and Dante's head resting peacefully in the crook of my arm. It's a nice morning.

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, and as per usual, I'm sorry for not keeping up with it here. I suppose as I enjoy writing, this blog is somewhat of a luxury for me. But years down the road, I'll wish I had written more. Last night our good friend Jessica told us about her friend who sets up spa expenses as part of their family budget because it makes her a nicer person. I like that idea. So I made a new entry every week on my calendar - "BLOG!!!" - and maybe now since I've carved time out (I mean, really, as luxuries go, this one is pretty cheap.), you'll hear more from me.

Meanwhile, we need to catch up.

How about I start with Mike's recent dispatch down to St. Francisville, Louisiana, to work at the power plant? He had a project to do that had a somewhat indefinite period of time dedicated to it, but I thought it would be a fun adventure to join him. It always is.

When we first arrived in the pretty little town, we stopped by Grace Church, where we walked through the cemetery and took a few photos. It was a neat experience, walking amongst the peaceful dead and feeling our little life kicking and squirming at the same time.

The next day, I dropped Mike off at work and set off exploring on my own. I started off at the Main Street and enjoyed the architecture.

The rest of the week was spent bumping along backroads of Louisiana and the Mississippi border. I really felt the baby kick while I was driving, and I found myself talking to him in the car.

The rest of the trip was rather uneventful - just scene after beautiful scene of majestic live oaks, bucolic fields, and ancient architecture. A big craving for fried chicken raised its ugly head, and boy, were we in luck! I subjected Mike to some of the best fried chicken in the world: first at Eight Sisters Kitchen in St. Francisville, and then at the Old Country Store in Lorman, Mississippi.

That was a trip.

We arrived early for supper - around 5:15 - and once we walked through the doors of the 130-year-old establishment, we were transported back in time. Mr. D. and an employee were sitting at a table and asked how they could help us. I explained that we were looking for some fried chicken. They were unfortunately not open for supper yet, but Mr. D. set us up with some to-go boxes to take home with us.

I was in heaven.

Daisy would agree that this stuff is almost as good as hers. Which makes it currently the best fried chicken in the known universe.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Million Dollar Pound Cake

I've read somewhere that your sense of smell is most closely linked with memory. For instance, Mike gave me a perfume for my birthday one year when we just started dating, and to this day, that scent takes me back to the first fun days of falling in love.

Every now and then a recipe comes along that makes the whole kitchen and parts of the house smell like my grandmother's. I don't know if it was her cooking or Daisy's (I flatter myself to compare m creations to Daisy), but it feels like coming home and taking a trip back to my roots. Poached chicken breasts with onions and bell peppers and bacon for BLTs cooked in the cast-iron skillet are two in particular that hearken to the old days in a kitchen with brick floors.

And now I've found another.

This recipe is another that came from my new favorite book, Being Dead is No Excuse, and I love the simplicity of it. Truly, some of the most simple things in life are the best. Give a kid a gift wrapped in a big cardboard box, and you'll see what I mean.

1 pound butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (I added this to bring out the extract flavors)
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  • Cream the butter; gradually add the sugar. Beat well (as in, fluffy. I beat it for a full 5 minutes.)
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.
  • Add the flour and salt to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Begin and end with flour. Do not overmix.
  • Add the flavorings.
  • Pour batter into a greased-and-floured tube pan (10-inch tube pan or 10-cup pan).
  • Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until slightly firm to the touch.
  • Cool in pan for ten minutes.
I know it's odd to show the bottom of a cake, but it was just too pretty and decadent not to take a photo of that. I mean, look at all that lovely caramelized sugar. Yum.

Dump it out, and this is what you get. Can be topped with anything fancy - homemade whipped cream and raspberry coulis is one of my favorite combinations. Or you can be a purist and just enjoy it warm. This cake freezes exceptionally well, which makes it a great funeral dish.

But my favorite way to serve it.....

.... is toasted. With coffee. On a cool autumn morning (I know it's hot as hell out there, just bear with me). And not just any toaster will do. You have slice it up and broil this baby old-school. One day I'd love to have an honest-to-Pete gas broiler, but Mr. Peacock (wisely) doesn't trust me with an open flame in the kitchen. I suppose I'm lucky to have my gas stovetop.


Made by Lena