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Company's Coming!

Company's Coming!

For the past couple of weeks I've been busy planning to have company over. Of course, I've had a few friends come to visit and see our project, as well as my parents, but we usually keep it to one or two people at a time. Just last week, my dad came over while my mom had an event to go to and I served him roasted chicken with vegetables. I always want things I make in my kitchen to turn out well, but usually don't stress much about it.

For my in-laws, that's another story. My usual one or two guests turned into five. My husband's mother, Carie, lives in New Albany, along with two of his high-school age sisters, and this is honestly the first time I've ever made a meal for them. These people are serious food people! They make a ton of food for every occasion. Carie makes the best sweet potato casserole (the one that actually taught me I DO like sweet potatoes!). They spend so much time in the kitchen preparing meals, while I have a cherished book of "Dump Dinner" recipes that promises food for the whole family in "minutes!" Needless to say, I was pretty nervous to host the three of them as well as Alan's other sister and her husband.

I went back and forth about what I would serve at the dinner party, alternating between fairly simple things I've made a couple times and ones that showed that I could actually cook. Unfortunately, Saturday kept creeping closer so I finalized the menu on Friday evening and crossed my fingers that the meal would turn out as planned.

Saturday afternoon was spent shopping for last minute ingredients and scurrying around trying to vacuum up all the cat fluff that easily and quickly accumulates on our floors. I got the salad put out and the table set, then started on the main course: shrimp and lobster ravioli. I discovered this delicious gem a few weeks ago. It comes pre-packaged and only takes a few minutes of boiling to be ready. I decided to go with what I know, and I know that this ravioli is good! I …   More

Little Engine That Could

When I learned that the Dolly Parton Imagination Library was coming to Washington County I was so excited. I love the fact that children who might not otherwise have books at their disposal will now have the chance to fall in love with reading before even going to school.

I have always been a reader and my daughter Paige also developed a love of reading, toting around books at a young age. I can’t say that I have read many classics, although I did read Gone With The Wind, all 2000+ pages. Paige, however, studied English at Franklin and took a lot of Literature classes along the way - she has read the classics, the good and the bad.

Bailey liked to be read to but he didn’t like to do the actual reading part. When children are small, reading is such a wonderful bonding experience. I always loved the Boxcar Children series and think I read every book during my youth. So when my children were little I couldn’t wait to share these stories with them. Ended up, I liked them more than they did but they soon found their own genres of interest.

Anyway back to the Dolly Parton Library, once I found out about it, I wanted to sign someone up but my acquaintance with little ones is few and far between these days. Then I thought of my great-nephew, Easton, who is a mere 9 months old. I got so excited thinking of all the books he could receive that I rushed to First Harrison Bank to get a form to sign him up.

When I asked his mom Ashley for help filling out the form with their pertinent information, she informed me that he was already signed up and had received two books already. Just goes to show that great minds do think alike.

The first book he received was “The Little Engine That Could,” which is one of my all-time favorites. I used this book as a reference to my kids many times during their childhood and still do. It has one of those themes that never goes away, try hard and you can achieve your goals.

I am a member of Tri Kappa sorority and a …   More

My little Messiah

My little Messiah

It’s not often that a mother can say her son is the Messiah. But I can.

OK, OK, Hays is not really the Messiah. There was only one of those. But he did portray Him in a play.

The day of the selection process (I’m not sure there were formal auditions), Hays told me he was nervous. “I really want to be picked to be Jesus,” he said at breakfast. “I prayed I would be.”

God does always answers prayers and this time it was in exactly the way Hays had hoped. He was about to burst when I picked the kiddos up from school. “Mom! I got it! I’m going to be Jesus!” I hardly had time to say “congratulations” before he continued: “Text Dad. Tell him to cut off his beard and save it. I need it to be Jesus.” God was being benevolent toward the Ferriells that day because he kept me from bursting out laughing at that comment.

Every night, Hays eagerly went over his lines. I had to read all the other parts, which was a lot of reading. Jesus’s comments during his Passion were short and to the point. Hays was very excited that he got to wear Father Rob’s microphone/headphone thingy during the play. However, he was a little worried about his friends, James and Drew, dragging him from the cross to the grave because “it hurts under my arms.” He was willing to endure the pain because he then got to sneak out a side door and re-enter the sanctuary, surprising everyone with his “resurrection.”

The big day dawned and the star of the show seemed OK. A tad nervous, but isn’t every performer before taking the stage?

I got nervous when his dad, grandparents and I arrived at church and there was no sign of Hays, or any of the second graders. The third graders (this was a co-production) got into their costumes and we waited. Eventually, the second graders arrived, already dressed and ready to go. I must note that Jesus had resigned himself to the fact that he was without a beard. Darin had declined to have his facial …   More

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Balsamic Glazed Salmon

There are few things that can churn butter more than a guy cooking [and cleaning] in the kitchen, something other than brats or pizza or steak, amirite, ladies? Bonus points for wearing an apron.

This recipe for ( Glazed Salmon was, according to the blog, ( Well Plated, was devised by the blogger’s husband.

“Seriously, this recipe is the secret to impressing the ladies,” he writes in his guest post. “Why? Because, ladies, this Balsamic Glazed Salmon is so gourmet it’s even out of Emeril Lagasse’s league. (Sssshh! Guys, trust me: (a) there’s no need to wikipedia Emeril Lagasse and (b) making Balsamic Glazed Salmon is actually easier than T.J. Oshie scoring in a shootout) … Present it with a professional flare, then watch your date swoon. All you need to do now is make sure not to chew with your mouth open or slurp your wine and you can congratulate yourself on a perfectly executed date night dinner. Score!”

Date night or no date night, though, this recipe is actually really good.

I haven’t always been a fan of salmon. The salmon I had once at Disney World as a 7-year-old was what left me with a lingering dislike for the stuff until I had it again as an adult. As so often happens, my palate changed over the years and now, I look forward to Lent season because salmon (and other fish) goes on sale, making it much easier to buy up and freeze for later.

This recipe takes a bit of set-up, mainly with the sauce. Start by heating some olive oil in a skillet and adding minced garlic, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn, until it’s starting to brown. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, honey, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Cook this for a few minutes, until it starts to thicken, then remove it from the heat.

Take the salmon and place it skin side-down on a greased baking sheet and brush liberally with the glaze and bake in a …   More

Temporary Kitchen

Our Temporary Kitchen

Our kitchen has a lot of character. Like, a WHOLE lot. When we bought the house, we had a completely different idea of what our kitchen would be like, and it was way different than the previous owners. And when we decided to move in, we had to take steps to make things "liveable," far from permanent. Unfortunately, there are many more steps we will need to take to get the kitchen fully completed.

Before we bought the house, there was a wall between the living room and kitchen. There was also a chimney (that really had no purpose, as there was no fireplace) in the living room, taking up much unnecessary room. There was also a small landing at the bottom of the stairs, making the already cramped hallway unbearable.

We knew before moving we would have to fix a lot of the major problems, so we got to work and were able to get quite a bit done. We took the wall between the living room and kitchen out. This has made our house look much more open and light. We completely took out the chimney, which has given us much more room to think about where and how to place things like furniture. We took the landing out, too, and opened up the stairs, so there isn't as much of a hallway.

We are currently still trying to figure out where the appliances, tables, TV, etc. will be permanently placed. We bought quite a few unfinished cabinets that I plan to paint white, and have thought a lot about adding a breakfast bar for us to sit at rather than a table. Today, we have a nice table and chairs that include leaves but may only bring it out when entertaining once we have the bar in place. We have placed the cabinets in their tentative places, as well as two pantries. As of right now, we are using plywood for our countertop. Like I said, our kitchen has character.

One thing I am looking forward to is the addition of an island. When we first started really planning out the layout of our kitchen, it was easy to think that an island would not be ideal …   More

Warm up with Broccoli and Beef Stir Fry

Even if you don’t like beef and broccoli stir fries when going for Asian food, take this as a cautionary tale to carefully read food labels.

( )This easy version of the popular Chinese take-out classic from ( Rainy Day Gal may just replace the need to break down take-out boxes and aside from marinating time, it could very well be quicker than calling a local restaurant for delivery.

Start with a marinade ­­— mix some baking soda, sugar, cornstarch, low-sodium soy sauce, water and vegetable oil.

Add about a pound and a half of flank steak cut into thin slices and let it marinate for about an hour.

After that, combine more soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, flour and some sherry (not strictly required, but it does add to the flavor and you only need a little bit) and whisk until smooth. Make sure it’s low-sodium or it will be too salty.

Of course, this was where I went wrong.

I normally buy low-sodium just about anything. I don’t know if I’m more sensitive to salt, but I don’t normally put salt on anything I cook at home except fresh tomatoes and the occasional watermelon. I like salty food, but it can’t be coated in it. Fast food French fries is about all I can take. It’s not good for you and gets old after a while. Plus, why rely on salt when you have a whole spice collection to play with?

This is why I didn’t even think to look at the label on my soy sauce until I took a bite of this stir fry and almost gagged. The salt flavor was overpowering. I pulled out the bottle of soy sauce to find it was lite sauce, not low-sodium.

I like to think this recipe would have been good otherwise.

Assuming you make this sauce with the correct ingredients, set it aside and heat some vegetable oil over high heat in a skillet or wok and saute two heads’ worth of broccoli crowns for a few minutes and transfer the broccoli to a plate for now.

Reduce the heat …   More

Life lessons from Dr. Suess

Life lessons from Dr. Suess

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Some of my favorite quotes by Dr. Suess. They have been running through my mind all week as I have helped my girls celebrate the writings of Dr. Suess at school. I love that the schools celebrate Dr. Suess every year for Read Across America.

These words are so simple, but when you stop to really read them and absorb them, that’s when you realize how powerful they are.

The first quote is a perfect one to teach your children to respect others, realize that everyone has a gift and something to offer. An idea that would be beneficial for all people, young and old, to embrace. “A person’s a person ....”

The second is a great way to encourage your child and help them realize how unique they are to the world. It’s easy for kids to want to be like their friends and it’s hard for parents to make them understand how awesome it is to be different. “There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

Of course anyone who has children or works with children knows how important it is to teach them how to read. Reading=success. When you can read, you can do anything. “The more you read, the more places you’ll go.”

And at the end of every vacation, every fun day, every fun activity or play date, it is easy for children to be sad it is over. It’s easy for adults, too! But instead of being sad that the event is over, “smile because it happened.” What great memories you made. It’s a good reminder for all to take time and live in the moment.

Lastly, your future is …   More

5-Ingredient Broccoli and Cheese Soup

5-Ingredient Broccoli and Cheese Soup

It’s winter and that means soup season.

No matter what the season, my mother will order broccoli and cheese soup at restaurants if it’s an option. She’s not a big soup person until you bring this out. I was hoping to be able to send her this recipe so she could make it at home whenever she wanted (they always have a fridge full of cheese — I’m a cheese lover myself, but I have no clue how they can eat that much cheese between grocery trips). It’s only five ingredients. How hard can it be?

Of course, I was proven wrong. Conquered by soup.

Simply put, cheese curdles pretty dang easily and makes for a gunky mess.

I followed the directions, heating the chicken stock, broccoli and onion in a saucepan until it came to a low boil. I reduced the heat and continued to let it cook until the onions got tender, stirred in evaporated milk and brought the soup to a simmer. I took it off the heat and let it cool a bit before adding the cheese, stirring until it … curdled.

The flavor was fine (the recipe said it was a thin soup, so if you want it creamier, try a roux), but the texture left much to be desired.

Many of those who commented and had positive things to say appear to have spoken before they cooked. I wasn’t alone when it came to the cheese curdling.

“I was SO looking forward to this soup! Then I made it and followed the directions to a T– and my shredded cheese curdled :(:( wrecked the recipe. I don’t know what I did wrong?” said Liz.

“Hi…this happened to me too, so I asked my friend who is a chef,” said commenter Tia Elizabeth. “She said the cheese will curdle if the soup is too hot. Never boil or get too hot. Make sure to only ‘simmer’ it and take it off the heat when adding the cheese. Whisk constantly while adding the cheese. Also just a note, ‘sharp’ cheddar seems to curdle very easily. Try using mild cheddar, jack, etc. I tried it again and it worked perfectly. …   More

Kate's up to something Fishy

”I’m not a strict vegetarian. I do eat beef and pork. And chicken. But not fish ‘cause that’s disgusting! How do you know when fish goes bad? It smells like fish either way! ‘Hey, this smells like a dumpster — let’s eat it!’”

— Jim Gaffigan

Fish is one of those things that you either like or you don’t.

I love it when people say, about a fish dish, “It’s good! You’ll like it. It doesn’t taste fishy.”

If the only way you’ll like fish is if it doesn’t taste fishy, then you don’t like fish and shouldn’t really bother trying to choke it down. Try something else. Treat yo’self.

That said, should you handle the consumption of fish well, there are certainly nutritional benefits to eating it.

Ironically enough, fatty fish seems to have the most of those benefits. Types like salmon, trout, sardines, tuna and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, crucial for brain function. They also tend to contain high-quality protein and various vitamins and minerals. Research has shown fish may lower your risk for heart attacks and strokes, along with autoimmune diseases like Type I diabetes, protect vision health and improve sleep quality. Some scientists believe it can even attribute to better mental health.

So for those of us who can tolerate it, our fishy friends can potentially give us a very healthy gift.

Recipes like this ( Honey Soy Tilapia from ( Jamie’s Cookin’ make it delicious. And simple.

Combine honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and minced garlic and dip two filets in the marinade and place them in a baking dish. Pour the rest of your marinade over the fish and bake at 400ºF for 20 minutes.

Or less. This ended up overcooking and the fish was dry.

That said, the flavor was good — a balance of the sweet and savory — and the recipe was super easy and fast from fridge to table.   More

Moving...It's a blast

Moving...It's a Blast

Fixing up a house is one thing, but moving while in the middle of a home improvement journey is a whole separate saga. I don't know many people who actually enjoy the moving process. I'd be lying if I said I did. There are just so many things to do.

Do I keep these items that I haven't used in three years? Do I throw these clothes out? Do I bag these up to donate? This isn't even the hard part! The worst thing about moving is, well, moving.

If you ask my husband, he would say that I do not like change. Of course, the journey of owning a house together has been an exciting one, but getting down to the nitty gritty of boxing up and moving has been laced with curiosity, joy, and disillusion.

For example, I was under the impression that we had everything we needed to move into our own space. This belief was quickly shot down. Oh, you mean we need curtains? Did someone say something about a spice rack? What's an ice cube tray? It's amazing how many simple things we take for granted and believe are always there, yet quickly remember how important or practical they are when we start from scratch without them.

Let's not forget the joys of packing, as well. We are still taking boxes to our house even after almost six weeks of living there. We have the necessities, and unfortunately quite a bit of junk already accumulated. But still we have so much more to either move or toss.

Don't get me wrong - I am absolutely ecstatic to have our own space...we just hope to keep it a bit more organized and neater than before. I'm just not ready yet to give up the dream of having an uncluttered house. I know it's coming, but it seems all I am doing is prolonging the inevitable.

And then there are the cats who try their best to provide their own clutter. We have hardwood floors in our living room. When we first bought the house, we removed the two or three layers of linoleum that had been carelessly added and came across some original hardwood …   More

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