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Relaxin' In the Smokies

Relaxin' In the Smokies

A few months ago, Alan and I decided to book a reservation for a 3-night stay at a resort in Gatlinburg. I've been before, in that exact same resort, so I knew we made a great choice. Man, was it nice after all of the work and time we've put into the house and our jobs. Unfortunately, our vacation was pretty short. We left the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and came back on Monday. I know so many people who say Gatlinburg is a great place to spend a long weekend because it is so close to us (which is true), but there was only so much we could do in two full days! Next time, it will be an entire week!

Friday morning, we left our cats and dog to the babysitter (my mom) and headed out. It took us about six hours to get there, with a lunch break and a couple of quick stops along the way. Once we checked into our cabin, we left to get dinner and gather a few things like bottled water, milk and breakfast items at Wal-Mart. We ended up going to dinner at a place called Calhoun's, per the suggestion of one of Alan's coworkers. Their barbecue was amazing! We left full and happy and went back to our cabin to get some much needed rest after our long day.

On Saturday, we decided to go for a pretty long drive in the mountains. Alan said he didn't care what we did the rest of our stay, as long as we could drive a stretch of road called the "Tail of the Dragon." This 11 mile stretch includes over 300 curves and is an iconic road in the motorcycle world. We were about two hours away from the start of it, but Alan knew he would regret not driving it if we were that close. Alan wasn't able to bring his bike, so we drove our car down it. It was still quite a journey! There were other cars, but there were tons of motorcycles. At probably five or six curves in that stretch, there were cameras stationed to take pictures of each bike (and vehicle) and have them available online. We didn't get any pics, but the ones we looked at reminded me of a car …   More

Garden ready recipe

Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Onion Dijon Sauce

Let’s chalk this up to one of those recipes that taste a lot better than they look. This Roasted Cabbage Wedges with Onion Dijon Sauce recipe ( from ( for minced onions in the sauce, but I’m pretty sure they were pureed for the pictures on the blog. Try as I might, I can’t mince that small. Food blog pictures always seem to look better than they do on a plate in your own kitchen.

Ah, well.

I’m a latecomer to the cabbage bandwagon and I still can’t do mayonnaise-based cole slaw (I believe it has more to do with the dressing than the cabbage, however), but I’m a complete convert. I’ve sauteed cabbage in the past, but I hadn’t tried roasting it until now.

That’s a shame because it’s better roasted than it was sauteed.

Start by cutting a head of cabbage into eight wedges (or just half a head of cabbage into fourths, depending on how many people you’re serving — this doesn’t make good leftovers), keeping in mind that larger wedges stay together better. Make sure you leave the core intact on the wedges or they’ll fall apart in the oven and make a mess. Lay these out on a greased pan.

Using a pastry brush, brush olive oil, or even butter if you want, over the tops of the wedges and season with salt and pepper and a little garlic powder.

Throw these in an oven set at about 450ºF and cook for about 10 minutes before carefully flipping and re-painting with olive oil. Continue roasting until the cabbage is nicely browned.

While they’re roasting, make the sauce. Combine butter, dijon mustard, minced onion and garlic and a little salt and pepper in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted completely and keep it warm until the cabbage is done, drizzling it over the wedges right before serving.   More

Play ball!

Play ball!

We are spending much of our time these days at the ball fields. Last year, Sylvia and Warner played and were on the same team. This year, Hays joined in and they are on three separate teams.

Keeping track of practices, games, rain make-up dates, who brings snacks when for three kids is a tad bit insane. I switched to using pencil in my datebook (yes, I’m old-fashioned and prefer an actual book, not a smartphone app). Whew! It’s crazy. Everyone said it would get busier and busier as the kids grew older and boy, were they right!

Sylvia has emerged as the most promising athlete in the baseball/softball arena. She played T-ball for the first time last year, but wanted to move up. That meant a big jump to the 9 and Under division. She just turned 7 in April, so she is a little bitty thing out there.

She did the Lady Lions softball clinic last spring, which was a big help. I was really worried she’d be overwhelmed and not up to par with the other girls, but that hasn’t been the case. She has worked hard and holds her own.

The biggest challenge for her has been emotional. She gets in one of her moods and the tears start flowing. She did that in a early game and wanted to quit, but neither her coach nor Darin and I would hear of it. She ended up with a magnificent play; as she was running from third to home, she fell. A girl from the opposing team was right beside her and grabbed the ball, attempting to tag her out. Sylvie jumped up, ran and slid home to cheers from the crowd – a huge boost to her confidence. Her coach’s mom dubbed her “MVP” for that play and the nickname has stuck.

I was most worried about Hays, who decided to play for the first time ever this year. Because he had never played, he was lacking as much as three years’ worth of experience compared to many of his teammates.

He struggled with hitting at first, striking out several games in a row. He has finally gotten the hang of it and is often making hits on …   More

Pesto Ranch Chicken

Crock Pot Pesto Ranch Chicken

I had such high hopes for this chicken.

I really did.

I love pesto. I love ranch seasoning. I love my crockpot. I love the versatility of chicken. This recipe seemed so easy. I thought I was going to add it to my dinner rotation. However.

The chicken started out simple enough. Lay a layer of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or bone-in — seriously, all the bone does is add flavor), a six-ounce jar of pesto, a package of ranch dressing seasoning mix and a half cup of chicken broth to the crock pot and set it for six hours on low. I did this on my lunch break, hoping soon after I came home from work, I’d be able to sit down to perfect chicken.

I was wrong.

Pesto’s pretty strong in the flavor department, but in this, the flavor was lacking. And it isn’t like the pesto was overpowered by a stronger flavor from the ranch packet or what have you. The chicken just tasted like plain chicken. I think part of this was because most of the pesto came off in the broth, of which I believe there was way too much. However, that broth came in handy when the chicken shredded and dried out.

This whole recipe needs work.

Next time I get the hankering for pesto chicken, I’m doing it differently. First off, I’m baking it, rather than slow-cooking. This gives me more control over the texture of the chicken. The chicken would be marinated in the ranch mix, with a little olive oil and baked part of the way on its own, with just a little chicken broth in the bottom of the dish. Half-way through cooking, I’d add the pesto on top and cover the dish with foil and bake the chicken the rest of the way.

Maybe, one of these days after I’ve completely recovered from the disappointment, I’ll give it a shot.   More

Never anything on TV

My son, Bailey, and I have a wide variety of television genres that we watch. Of course, if it was up to him he could watch sports 24 hours a day but he does have other interests, too. Thank goodness for me, his TV companion. I do enjoy sports and sometimes feel quite knowledgeable about them thanks to Bailey sharing his knowledge with me, but I don’t want to watch them ALL the time.

I think I am safe to say that his favorite would be college basketball, especially University of Kentucky. But he doesn’t just stop there he also watches the high school recruits during the McDonald’s All Star game and the Jordan classic and knows who is committed to playing where.

He also continues to follow UK grads that play in the NBA. This season, he reported to me the other day, Karl Anthony Towns was named this year’s rookie of the year. He does follow non-UK players and teams, too. This season he, along with thousands of others, has hopped on the Stephen Curry bandwagon and is hoping the Warriors can pull off the championship.

In addition to basketball, he watches football both college and professional, paying special attention to the players that are on his fantasy team and always yelling for the Colts.

NASCAR is on his radar also. He watches almost every race and has even branched out to watch the XFINITY races, too. Duane, Bailey and I entered a NASCAR contest and each week we compete for bragging rights. He cheers for his weekly contest driver, which changes each week, but he always roots for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

And the only baseball he watches is the Reds and lucky for me our Dish Network provides him with exclusive game coverage on ESPN Ohio. Who knew this even existed? Do you realize how many games professional baseball teams play? I feel like it is in the thousands as the season is relatively fresh and I have watched more games than I would like to admit. Now don’t get me wrong, I like baseball but not on TV. It’s about as boring as …   More

Singing in the Rain

The weather seems to be the main topic of conversation these days. It’s May for Pete’s sake, and even I, an admitted winter weather fan, am ready for some warmer and dryer weather. I grew up with the saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” but it’s already the middle of May and I am so over it.

I have caught myself numerous times reverting to my childhood, quoting, “Rain, rain go away. Come again another day.” Who’s with me on this? Come on admit it.

So this whole weather funk has got me thinking about rainy day songs. Lyrics that come to my mind are from rainy day classics including “Rain drops keep falling on my head,” which at least has an upbeat feel to it. But then there is “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down,” by The Carpenters, which is very gloomy, much like the current weather pattern.

After a quick Google search, I am also reminded of “Here Comes The Rain Again,” by the Eurythmics and “Kentucky Rain,” made famous by Elvis Presley. The one I am particularly drawn to at this point in time is a rainy day song by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Who’ll Stop The Rain.”

I prefer to think of happier ones like “Walkin’ on Sunshine,” and the Beatles’ classic tune “Here Comes The Sun.” The Beatles seemed to gravitate toward the sun because after another quick Google search, I was reminded of another sunshine song by them, “Good Day Sunshine.”

During that Google search, I was also reminded of John Denver’s song, “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” which has a more melancholy feel but nonetheless mentions the much sought after sunshine. I was also reminded of an old song that my mom used to sing to me, “You Are My Sunshine.”

Those lyrics are very uplifting. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know dear how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.” I didn’t have to Google those lyrics cause I know them by …   More

The great side dish

Broccoli. The vegetable often pulled out of the produce repertoire as an example of things kids don’t want to eat. When it’s raw, it’s one of the few non-leaf vegetables my dog won’t even eat (but he will shred it all over the couch after begging for it).

Now, broccoli was something I took to fairly quickly as a kid. Of course, steaming it and smothering it in CheezWiz didn’t hurt.

This likely surprises a grand total of no one, but I’ve always considered cheese a gateway food. Cheese and bacon.

Fast forward a few decades and a bowl of this Garlic Parmesan Roasted Broccoli ( is dinner — not a speck of fake, orange cheese sauce in sight. Thank goodness.

I’d been at the farmer’s market that day and picked up this huge head of broccoli. I’ve never seen them this big in the grocery store. Unfortunately, had I either picked a different head of broccoli or gone to the grocery store, I may have ended up with more broccoli. Pulling a few “branches” of broccoli away, I found the inside florets to be rotting and there were quite a few little green worms hiding among even the good broccoli. Once I separated the good from the bad broccoli and meticulously cleaned the little green worms from what I salvaged (ew!), this recipe came together in a snap. I didn’t end up with quite as much broccoli as this recipe called for, but the extra seasonings made this even better.

Like you do with any vegetable you plan to roast, toss the pieces in a little olive oil, and add garlic, salt and pepper, and toss to combine. This will not only add a certain amount of crispness to the broccoli, but will help keep it from sticking to your pan.

Slide this into a 425ºF oven and bake for about 10 minutes or so and then splash with lemon juice and dust with Parmesan cheese.

This makes for a great side dish, but, like I said, this is so good, you may just decide to skip making anything …   More

Three weeks, three sacraments

Three weeks, three sacraments

The seven sacraments are a big deal in the Catholic faith. We believe sacraments are outward signs of God’s grace. Those who are born Catholic typically receive more than half of them, four to be exact, by the time they graduate high school.

It all starts with baptism, which is received as an infant. Next comes reconciliation (formerly known as confession), then first communion and then confirmation, in which young adults profess their faith and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most Catholics will also partake in holy matrimony and many will receive annointing of the sick. The one that most of us – indeed none of us who are female – will ever receive is holy orders, in which a man is ordained a priest.

Our family recently had the unique opportunity to participate in three sacraments within a three-week period.

It started with Hays receiving his first communion on April 17. Yes, I had tears in my eyes when he walked up to receive the body and blood of Christ for the very first time. I remembered when his youngest cousin, Sydney, made her first communion, eight years earlier. Hays was just 6 months old. We were sitting on the side Sydney turned to after drinking from the chalice and I will never forget the face she made as she tasted it. She even stuck out her tongue!

It was Sydney who received the next sacrament, confirmation, the following Sunday. It was held at the huge new St. Mary of the Knobs church with several parishes present. I just love Archbishop Tobin, who confers the sacrament. He is so down-to-earth and his sermons make so much sense. It was neat to see our little Sydney so grown up. A big change from her first communion, no doubt!

The next Saturday, April 30, Sydney’s big sister, Kayla, and her fiance, Donnie, were united in holy matrimony at St. Anthony’s in Clarksville. It was, of course, a very long day, but such a special one. I could hardly believe the little girl who was Sylvia’s …   More

An Eventful Wedding Weekend

The nice spring weather we have had in recent weeks has brought about many different events, so with that said, we have been super busy here lately. We had to get Oliver neutered last week. We wanted to be responsible pet owners, so it was time. We also wanted to make sure he had his shots up to date, especially after our recent scare when he escaped. It looks like Mellie will be next, as she found her way out just days after Oliver did. We don't leave doors open or anything, I promise! This time was really unexpected (not like the last time wasn't). She was able to get out through a small hole that we have behind our dryer. Alan went to take the trash out (ironically on the same day we were to get Oliver fixed) and Mellie was just sitting there in our yard. She wasn't starting a riot with another cat, the exact opposite of her brother's reaction to being out of the house. We were able to figure out exactly where Mellie got out, because Oliver was sitting next to the dryer. After his shenanigans the week prior, he didn't dare go back out! Long story short, we got Mellie back into the house and got Oliver ready to go to his appointment. All is good in the pet department.

This past weekend, we attended a wedding in Noblesville (just maybe 20 minutes north of Indianapolis). Both the bride and groom worked with Alan, but have since moved to other companies. Due to the drive time and the late night that we expected from the wedding reception, we decided to book a nearby hotel for Saturday night.

The wedding was absolutely gorgeous! The food was great, we were seated with people who we were acquainted with and the music was actually very non-cliche (due to the bride's extended no-play list). There was even an open bar! I'll not go into detail about the direct correlation between long island iced teas and my husband dancing. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves and were very happy about our friends' marriage.

Before we went home, we decided to stop and see …   More

Two recipes for one

Got a two-fer for you this week.

Thanks to a sale on smoked sausage that, adhering to my father’s grocery training, I bought plenty of, I have two very similar, but slightly different recipes for you. Is smoked sausage good for you? No. Is it delicious when cooked up in a skillet? Yes.

Because of the sausage in my refrigerator, I couldn’t help but add some to this ( Gnocchi with Sundried Tomatoes from ( Bear and Lion Mama. Little did I know there was another, very similar recipe for Smoked Sausage Gnocchi with Sundried Tomatoes ( from ( Tammilee Tips that actually did call for sausage, which was also lurking on Pinterest and needed to be made as well.

I’ve talked about sundried tomatoes before. They’re delicious little things I wish I’d known about years ago. The other significant ingredient between the two recipes is gnocchi, thick, soft dough dumplings made from potatoes (or, more traditionally, semolina, and sometimes wheat flour). Now, you can make these yourself — there are recipes all over the Internet — but that’s a lot of work for a fairly small amount of product. I got mine at JayC, but the stock isn’t always there. This isn’t a widely eaten type of pasta, at least not around here, so I’m guessing it’s something that had to be requested for order. I’m hoping it joins the regular stock items.

We’ll start with the recipe that originally didn’t call for the sausage.

If you’re going to pull a Kate on this, you’ll start out sauteeing the sausage (which you will leave in the skillet and let cook with everything else), but if not, you’ll start with dicing your onions and sauteeing them until they’re lightly brown before adding chopped mushrooms, basil, salt and other …   More

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