Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lipstick on a Donkey!

This is the first time in years I haven't put up my Christmas tree on Black Friday.  The minute Thanksgiving is over, I am always ready to pull out the glitz and glam that I can only use this time of year.  Why not this year?  What's up with that?

I pulled out a few things, but ended up spending most of the day cleaning in my craft room and attic. I had a good time doing it, too.   I gathered all sorts of things and put them in boxes for Goodwill.  I am so tempted to donate half the things in my house!  Not joking!

Then, this morning, while drinking coffee and browsing Facebook, after a series of clicks, I ended up on a 2011 post from Melissa at The Inspired Room.  In a nutshell, she said you need to give your house a good cleaning and de-cluttering before doing the decorating.

THEN... she said the phrase that I'm sure I must have heard before, but today it jumped out like never before -

“You don't want to put lipstick on a donkey.”

Photo Source (which I doctored up a bit)

That's IT!  That's why I don't want to put up my tree!  My house is a big ole mess.  For the last two months, my focus has been split between closing my booth and trying to learn how to cook without using anything with gluten (not as easy as you'd think).  My poor house is looking a bit neglected.  No offense to donkeys, but this is a phrase I plan to embrace til I can get my house in order!

Add to that, for the last 3+ years, having a booth has turned my house into a disaster area of heaps and piles.  I'm SOOOOOO ready to change all that.

Luckily, no Christmas get-togethers will be taking place at my house this year.  I may go real light on the decorating and try to spend more time cleaning up and clearing out.  Hubby could care less.  He's on board with whatever I want to do (as long as I don't drag him into it). :-D   He's a keeper.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cranberry Relish and A Great Wine

At Thanksgiving, we always have the tried and true recipes.  It just wouldn't be the same without those.  But each year, there are always a fe new things added to the mix.  This year, two new treats wowed me.

First, my niece, Denise is the family wine expert.  She has all sorts of connections who know their wines and she usually brings a bottle of her newest find for those of us who enjoy wine to sample.  This year, she brought a zinfandel - 7 Deadly Zins.  Wow.  Sometimes the first sip or two of wine can make you pucker up. This wine didn't do that.  And it wasn't overly sweet or weak either.  I don't know all the right language for wine, but I know what I like and I liked this.  It was quite tasty with our wonderful meal.

Last but not least, my niece, Carly, brought a cranberry relish that was fabulous.  She got the recipe from her mother-in-law to be, Lois.   Lois - thank you sooooo much for sharing.  It was wonderful!   You know how good cranberries are with turkey or ham?  Well, this relish is even better.  Just the right bit of tart and sweet.  I love great flavor combinations.  Just to be clear, it looks a bit like a salad, but it's a RELISH - a seasoned sauce that is used to add flavor to other foods.

Also, of note...  I've recently had to go gluten-free.  My niece clicked off quite a list of ingredients in this recipe that she could remember.  I was a little worried that there might be something in it that would have me up all night.  Not to worry.  No problems at all.

Cranberry Relish

  • 2 bags fresh cranberries
  • 1 pkg (small) Jello-strawberry, cherry or cranberry 
  • 1 medium can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 orange
  • 1 medium red apple, chopped-No need to peel. (I use red delicious.)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery (optional)

  1. Using food processor, coarsely chop cranberries. Set aside. 
  2. Mix Jello with ½ cup hot water in a large bowl. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. 
  3. Drain pineapple and add to mixture in bowl. Zest orange into mixture. OR, if you don't have a zester, you can grate the peel off carefully or do the same with a peeler. Try to avoid the white portion of the peel. Just make sure the pieces are very small before adding to the mixture. 
  4. Add chopped apple and chopped pecans. (Add celery, if desired) Mix in cranberries. 
  5. Chill several hours before serving. You can make this a day ahead if you want.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Zuppa Toscana - Best Soup EVER

When I have lots going on, I always sink into a rut when it comes to meals.  I've been in a serious rut.  Even though I still have too much going on, I'm trying new recipes.  This soup recipe is one of my most successful, rut-demolishing experiments ever.

I have meals that I like to cook often - my Go-To meals.  I have meals that I cook once in a while.  This soup went straight to the GO-TO group.  Hubby and I were both "bowled" over!

CREDIT - I'd love to give credit to whoever originated the recipe.  I'd love to give credit to whoever took this beautiful photo.  I can't find the sources.  The recipe is all over the web and so is the photo.  If anyone knows the true source, please let me know.  I'd love to give them credit.

I modified this soup a bit to work around my food issues.  All notes about that are at the end of this post.

Zuppa Toscana

  • 1 lb. Italian sausages (use spicy to get that signature Olive Garden flavor) - I reduced this by half.
  • 4-6 russet potatoes, chopped 
  • ¼ c. REAL bacon pieces  - I reduced this by half.
  • 32 oz. chicken broth  - I used a little chicken broth and a little vegetable broth.
  • 1 c. kale or Swiss chard, chopped 
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream  - Looking for a dairy-free alternative.
  • 2 Tbsp flour 
  • chopped 1 onion, 2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)  - I omitted this!

  1. Brown sausage links in a sauté pan. 
  2. Cut links in half lengthwise, then cut slices. 
  3. Place sausage, chicken broth, garlic, potatoes and onion in slow cooker. Add just enough water to cover the vegetables and meat. Note: Be very careful about liquids - too much and the soup will turn out too thin.
  4. Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft. 
  5. 30 minutes before serving:    Mix flour into cream removing lumps. 
  6. Add cream and kale to the crock pot, stir. 
  7. Cook on high 30 minutes or until broth thickens slightly. 8. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. BEST. SOUP. EVER!!!!


I have all sorts of food issues so I made some changes.  It was still awesome!  I'm sure that the soup with no modifications would be even tastier.  I can't even imagine.

I love onions and garlic but they don't like me.  I omitted these and still the recipe was out of this world.

I can't handle gluten, so I used gluten-free flour.

Dairy and I have a love-hate relationship as well.  I can tolerate some hard cheeses, but I generally avoid dairy.    However, I happened to have a carton of whipping cream on hand that I had planned to use to make real whipped cream for a special occasion.  I threw caution to the wind and used it just like the recipe called for.  I paid for it!  The next time I make this, I plan to try plain, unsweetened almond milk.  I know the soup will lose some creaminess so I may have to do a little more tweaking to compensate.  Anyone have any ideas?  Butter, in moderation, doesn't keep me walking the floors, but I'd love to find a lactose-friendlier alternative for this soup.

Also, I didn't use as much meat as this recipe called for.  I prefer to use meat like a condiment - enough for flavor.  I pretty much halved it and it still had plenty of flavor.I cooked a whole package of bacon - baked it in the oven.  It was my first time trying that method and it was great!  I cooked the entire package of sausage - a slightly healthier, natural, uncured brand.  I used a little of each in this recipe and froze the rest.

Hubby was very suspicious of the kale.  I am known for modifying recipes to make them healthier. Sometimes, that doesn't turn out so well.  I assured him it was in the original recipe and he ended up loving it. Don't leave out the greens! Sadly, it's about the only healthy thing in this soup.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Closing My Booth

Most of my house projects have been put on the back burner.  My "extra" time now is spent focusing on closing my booth at Rockin' B.  My last day will be Dec 31st.  The booth needs to be EMPTY by then.  That's just 47 days away.  Really less, because of holidays.  Oh dear.

This is less than a month ago and lots of it has already sold.

I have loved having a booth.  I also love promoting Rockin' B Antiques online.  Doing both no longer makes sense for me.  I was unwilling to spend as much time and energy as it requires to be financially worthwhile.

I am yearning to spend more time on home and family.  I had originally thought I'd have a booth for 5 years and transform my house along the way.  It will end up being just shy of 3-1/2 years and my house is not how I envision it.  I think I'll be able to do more house transforming while promoting.  We'll see.

One thing I'm really looking forward to is not having messy "stations" all over the house.  A place to price, a place to store, a place to paint, piles of this and that all over.  I'm not a clean freak, but the mess has gotten to me.

Promoting, on the other hand, is something I really enjoy.  Bonus - it's not messy at all.  It's mostly digital. And I have become pretty darned good at it.  It's easy to become good at something you enjoy doing.

The booth hasn't started looking empty yet because I keep bringing more in.

Closing the booth is an interesting and somewhat fun process.  I continue to bring in more, slowly emptying my stash of treasures from home.  There are so many things I want to keep, but I'm forcing myself to let them go.  Every week my house feels a little lighter.  It's such a great feeling.

I spend a few hours in my booth each week marking things down.  I plan to keep marking things down until they are all gone.

The scary part is that time seems to be going really fast.  Will it all sell?  If you look at these pictures, taken over a space of just about 3 or 4 weeks, you'll see plenty of changes.  Things are selling fast, but my booth is staying full.  Still, I keep finding things at home to bring in.  The booth will never empty out if I don't stop adding to it!

If you want to see more about my booth sale, you can check out my First a Dream Facebook page.  And if you live anywhere near Newnan, GA, stop by and see it for yourself!


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