Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Big Al!

This is the kid who never stopped smiling...I swear he came out smiling; always happy, curious, and kind. He played Nintendo like at pro at age 2 (no kidding!); took things apart, and put them back together (most of the time!); we watched him experiment, set things on fire (while taking his own picture), and blow things up; he is our diplomat, always making peace in every situation, cooling down the hot tempers of his brother and sister. The kid you could always get to help, the one you could always count on, and definitely the one who could make you laugh. A kid you're proud to say you raised.

See what I mean?! (btw, this is his first haircut)

 Loving the outdoors, thanks to a wonderful Grandma & Grandpa, who took these kids on manyyyy hikes and outdoor excursions! (If I'm not mistaken, this shirt is from you, Lori Elder!)

Always a protective hand on his sister : ) In Dad's big truck, back in the 90's. 

Al's first vehicle of his very own, along with the payments that go with it! It still looks pristine to this day, and it's almost paid off!

My birthday boys today. Al turned 23 today, and Jack turns 48 tomorrow. I'm thinkin' Al was one of the best birthday gifts he got. : )

From boy scout, to altar server, to first chair trumpet, to Sacristan, to skydiver, to Publix' favorite baker, this guy has been a blessing...happy birthday Alex!

Monday, September 26, 2011

English Food Faves, Part I (that includes Scotland)

I love looking back at all the pictures of this amazing trip! Sometimes I really can't even believe I did it; I actually traveled overseas (I'm not kidding, I hate flying) and visited, walked, ate, drank and marveled at the beauty of western Europe. Here are some of the foods I ate in England, Scotland and maybe Wales!

Fish n' chips and mushy peas. I had mushy peas for the first time in Delray Beach, FL, at a British pub called the Blue Anchor, but this time I was really in London, at the Brewmaster in Leicester Square. We met a nice fellow named Dennis there, who was from Belfast. He introduced us to our first taste of Irish whiskey! It was here that I also learned to order at the bar, as you don't get waited on in pubs. FUN!

In Chelsea, at a "mall" near our hotel. We stopped for dessert, but olives and cider sounded way better to me!

See that scarf? I literally wore it every day...it was chilly!!! That'll teach me not to wear low necked shirts!

Lunch at Hampton Court Palace, home of Henry VIII. Beef pie, shaped like a crown! Cool, huh?!

Potato skins with "bacon" at another pub (The Mitre?) No, it's not really bacon, it's just what they like to call it. It's really thick slabs of meaty, ham-like stuff. I dunno, I think I'll stick with our version.

A cheese and pesto sandwich. They only serve fat potatoes with everything. And beer. Lots of beer. (which I struggled through, but managed ; )

Fish and potato cakes, another tasty, gastronomical treat. With a "side salad". Different, but good.

A grilled vegetable tart, topped with "rocket sprouts" (like arugula). Rocket was featured in many a dish (it especially topped sandwiches). Here, we're at yet another pub, the Conan Doyle. We were getting tired of eating at this point. But not tired of drinking! ; )

Famous gingerbread in the Lake District of England. It was chewy, had a crunchy topping (not sure what) and was fabulous! So was the town of Grasmere.

Finally! Bangers and mash! (unfortunately, this was in Ireland, I didn't have time to order it in England!) Liked the mash, liked the peas; the bangers, however, were deep-fried...eeek!

Are you full yet?! Next stop, Ireland!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Duck! Post #100, Comin' at Ya!

It's a milestone...my 100th post! I'm excited, how 'bout you?! Jack & I had a fun get-together to go to tonight, but sinus bleck got in the way, and had me sleeping most of the day. I wasn't up to going; so instead of blogging pics later tonight of all the fun we had at Grillz with the gang, I'll show you what Jack, Alex, Jon & Todd did today. It was the first day of "early teal" season (I know this, as I've been a hunter's wife for about 8 seasons now), so the guys packed on their camo, loaded the boat with palm fronds and ammo, and headed for...an undisclosed location. (These things are all secret; we wouldn't want anyone to know where the ducks are landing, so I don't think I'm at liberty to say. *sigh*)

The kill. I KNOW!!! What's good about this?! Poor little fellas, minding their own business, and BLAM! They had places to go! They had families! Shot down in the prime of their life. Again, *sigh*. But on the bright side, it's male bonding time and I get to sleep in and enjoy a quiet Saturday morning. (till they get home and all hell breaks loose...boat, shotgun & duck cleaning, lots of extra laundry, etc. They do it all, so I have nothing to complain about, I'm just sayin') Usually Mitch or Todd take the birds, but Al was set on making a nice meal out of them...

Duck Stir Fry! Although this won't be on my list of popular meals to re-make, he did a great job, and the duck was really tender. Apparently you can eat it medium-rare to well done, and the less done the more tender, which it was. Still tastes like liver to me, but the guys were happy!

See ya at #101 : )

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It Was an Emergency!!!

Thank the good Lord for besties! (Sorry, I'm watching Amy Farrah Fowler right now...) Sometimes it's necessary to have an emergency meeting of the Dolce Girls in between regular gatherings. Yesterday was only Wednesday, and it was already a longggg week; so with only a day's notice, these six die-hard gals answered the call! We called our meeting to order, and the fun began! (for us anyway, I kinda felt bad for the other customers! ; ) 

One guess as to who finished TWO Leoncito margaritas in 20 minutes (no, not me!)... another of us thinks all sweet cocktails are slurpees...and yet another is a margarita waster (lightweight!) Horrors!

A shared fried ice cream and flan. Uhhh, both were fabulous. Who doesn't like flan?! Oh yeah, Melissa and Annie, so I had their portion.

Annie taught us something new! It's a "trick" she picked up from her brothers. My brothers didn't know this one, but they would have loved it! It involves making a game out of noises that boys love. 'Nuff said.

This is Becky & Deb checking each other for sobriety! Thank goodness they passed! I think...Just kiddin'! These two are a riot!

We had a lot of fun ideas for this picture, but they all had the potential of getting us in trouble with the management, so we settled for this.

Ahhh, what a wonderfully fun night with great girls! Meeting adjourned!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Orange Chicken & Broccoli (after a successful weekend!)

What a great weekend! Wayyyy too fast, but busy and fun! Jack and the crew made a great meal; I'm partial to the guys on the far left and the far right : ) They had a full kitchen, and thanks go out to many folks, especially Paul and Val! Now to plan next year's theme...

Jack & Al with Mike & Jake.

As we leave the prime rib behind, tonight's dinner is Asian inspired. I've been craving Chinese food, so when I came home today to let the ac guy in, I found this in my recipe binder. The sauce is really good; the original recipe called for beef, but it came out tough, so I used chicken the next time and continue to use it.

Fresh ingredients make a delicious meal: ginger, garlic and orange peel. Freezing the ginger makes it easy to grate.

Fresh broc, cut into small florets. Steam (I don't cook it in the microwave, I use my little steamer basket) until bright green but still crispy.

Add pepper flakes and saute for about two minutes. Then finish the "sauce", and add the chicken and veggies.

The finished product! I skipped a few steps in the pics, but out check the recipe : )

Delish is one of my favorite recipe sites, hope you enjoy it too!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hooray for Hollywood!

It's all over but the partyin'! For me, anyway. Jack is out at the hall slicing, dicing, drinking, chopping, boiling, drinking, (just kidding!) and making the best darn prime rib ever! He is super meticulous about the order of preparation for the day, and was out there by 10:15 this morning. After all, he has a reputation to uphold! He plugs those ribs with TONS of fresh garlic and some secret spices, and they always turn out soooo delicious. Also on the menu: shrimp cocktail, salad, mashed potatoes, Val's now-famous freshly sauteed green beans, water rolls and cannoli. Yummmm! Here's how the hall turned out, thanks to alot of wonderful folks who came out to set up even though there was no pot luck last night to get them out there. They are troopers! (and a shout out to my peeps Foozer & Deb! ♥)  

The couples will get a photo snapped here by "paparazzi", our very own Alex H! Aren't the stars cool? They have the names of the charities on them. And thanks, Matt, for the stantions!

Movie posters from Allposters.com, $5 each. See the bathroom door (VIP Stage Door Entrance) in the background? ; ) We put a "Clark Gable star" on the floor in front of the men's room & a "Marilyn Monroe star" in front of the ladies room. If anyone still has to ask which is which (since "mens" & "ladies" is actually covered), I'm gonna...laugh, I guess!

The wall decorations are called "scene setters", and they're 30' long each. We used two, and it goes almost the length of the hall. If you were sitting at this table, wouldn't you feel like you were in Hollywood?!

The confetti is little stars, top hats, film, clap boards & movie reels. Thanks to Mom E. & Laura (Foozer), the mini "movie posters" are color copies of Mom's actual sheet music from back in the day!

A nice view of most of the hall. Thanks to everyone for helping to make the 30th Annual Charity Ball another success! Ummm, I hope...I'll let ya know tomorrow!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apparently All We Do Is Eat....

I know....another recipe; lately my days just go from work, to the gym, to home and dinner. We're still using the Body By Vi shakes for breakfast and lunch, so after hittin' the gym, we're ready for a good meal. (Jack had a checkup at the doc today, and he lost 14 pounds in five weeks -_- Me? I lost 7. Those dang men!) We have a busy weekend coming up (YaY, Charity Ball!), so this is the last meal I'll cook for a few days. This is one of Jack's favorite meals, Pierogis with Creamy Mushrooms. Bonus: it's also fast and easy!

Fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced onion & garlic & fresh chopped dill. The recipe calls for portobellos, but I forgot about that and picked up regular shrooms. Since the portobellos do add a "meatiness",  I used smoked paprika to add that missing flavor, and it worked great.

Saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic. Add paprika and sea salt. What a wonderful aroma!

Add the flour and chicken broth, and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 6-8 minutes. (to ensure lumpless gravy, shake the flour in a small jar with some of the broth, pour into the remaining broth, and add to saucepan)

Sour cream (I used reduced-fat, not fat free) and dill are stirred in at the end.

Dinner time! Every time I've made this, I boil the pierogi separately, and top with sauce, even though the recipe says to cook the pierogi in the sauce. Mrs. T's are the best, and tonight I used spinach and feta pierogi. Yum!
I'm finding that alot of my recipes aren't online anymore, so here's the lowdown:

Weight Watchers Pierogi with Creamy Mushrooms
1 tbls olive oil
1 8 to 12-oz package of mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tbls flour
1 can low sodium chicken broth
12 frozen pierogi
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
2 tbls chopped fresh dill

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic paprika and salt; cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables; stir until blended (this is where I use my shaken gravy trick).
Stir in the broth and pierogi; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until pierogi are tender, 7-8 minutes (or do like me and boil separately, just cooking the sauce until thick). Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and dill. Enjoy!

I'm looking forward to decorating the hall tomorrow night, and will post pics this weekend. Have a great Friday everyone!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Penne a' la VODKA!

I've gotten this great idea to expand my horizons ever more regarding my love of wine. Publix features three wines every month, with suggested foods for each one, so I thought, "Hey! We'll try a new wine with it's complimentary dish every Sunday!" Brilliant...until the first Sunday I planned to do it started with a wine tasting and ended with a nap. So, Sunday's food & wine combo became Monday night's dinner. And boy, was it good! I watched Pioneer Woman on Saturday, and she made her vodka sauce with lots of cream and butter, which we don't do anymore. So this is the slimmed down version from Eating Well, and it's fab! 

The alcohol cooks out of the sauce, so no worries about getting silly from dinner. Let's let the wine do that! Afer sauteeing the onion and garlic, add the vodka and let it reduce by half, then add the crushed tomatoes, fat free half & half, worchestershire and crushed red pepper. (if I forgot anything, it's in the recipe)

Rather than capicola or pancetta, I added thin strips of super lean, paper thin ham, then stirred in lots of fresh basil. It would be just as wonderful with no meat!

This is the wine I chose for tonight, Italian Chianti. It goes well with various meats, pizza or tomato-based sauces. I liked it more than Jack, but he stoically finished his glass ; ) It has a strong finish that we're not really used to, but was still very enjoyable. Again (like Debbie!), I've (almost) never met a wine I didn't like!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wine-ding Down the Weekend...

Since we're "clients" of PRP Wine, we get invitations to customer appreciation tasting events. Ummm, OK! We're scheduled for another in-home tasting next month, so we were looking forward to this event to get an idea of what wines we may have at ours. We tried 13 wines in all (woo hoo!), from a sweeeeettt German Auslese (Jack & Debbie's fave), a semi-sweet Kabinett (which we both love), to a new-found favorite for me, Italian Sangiovese (which I had at dinner the other night and loved). We tried a rich, plummy dessert wine, Edelbereenlese (yum!) & a peppery, Chilean "bordeaux blend" that no one liked except Deb! (who really didn't find any that she didn't like : )
We learned that the protein in cheese softens the tannins in the dry reds; it actually creates a very different taste in a wine before and after a bite! Cool, huh? The last wine was a smoky Old Vine Shiraz, that tasted like it had been cooked over a campfire, and smelled like a butcher shop, but was surprisingly good! I'm really enjoying this!

Our free gift was a one pound box of Brix chocolates, made especially to compliment various wines. The little individual one had the potential of having a "golden ticket" inside for a trip to Germany, and so far no one at any of the tastings had won! Fingers crossed....open slowly...nope, we didn't win either. But we got wine and chocolate, so it was a great day!  

Peter, own rep, took this photo for us: Melissa & Kenny, me, Debbie & Jack. Pretty much looks like Peter was the one drinking, doesn't it?! Melissa also won a bottle of a merlot blend as a doorprize. SCORE!
I've found lots of great info and food & wine pairings on

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Please, Please, Please, Don't Let Us Need an New Air Conditioner!

Like Roseanne Roseannadana said, "It's always something! If it's not one thing, it's another." (or, your mother! thank you, Linda E!) Today, it was the air conditioner. Actually, it's been a problem all week, making weird noises and "draining water sounds", and crackling and groaning. My hero (that would be Jack) worked on it this morning before going out to spend the rest of his day at the Knights. (cooking for a wedding, which turned out to be the wedding of someone we know...congrats, Brad & Angie!) He did all the dirty and wet work (taking The Beast apart, pulling out the condenser, hosing all the gunk out & vacuuming it all back up) while I hold screws, get tools & flashlights, give moral support, and go to Home Depot. (hey, we all have our jobs!) It didn't help. So as I sit here in the "quiet", blogging, I'm trying to figure where a new ac unit will fit into the budget. Ugh. It won't. Fingers crossed....maybe it'll fix itself?!

It taunts me. It's making those noises right now, as I'm typing... -_-

Aaaaghhh...useless piece of *$#%!!! Ok. I feel better now.

On a side note: there's a free wine tasting (with free Brix chocolate, YaY!) in Cocoa Beach tomorrow. That usually makes things better! ; )

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The 127 Days of Blogs Challenge...

 EPIC FAIL!!! I actually have the time to blog, but nothing to say! (I know, right?!) Maybe I'm just really boring...NAH, that can't be it! ; )
Here's a sneak peek of the decorations for next week's Charity Ball at the Knights. I kind of groan about decorating for it every year, but I really do enjoy it. And the ball's fearless leader, Pete, gives me free rein on themes, party goods, etc. I'm super conscious about how much I spend, because whatever money I do spend is money that the charities don't get. But to draw a good crowd, we have to make the hall look festive!

I found all this on http://www.partycheap.com. They had excellent prices and really cool stuff. I'm a ridiculously anal comparison shopper; I'll spend hours searching different sites for the best prices.

So if this looks like a fun party to you, including great food (the best prime rib you've ever eaten, I know the cook : ) complimentary cocktail & local wine (love Lakeridge Vineyards), good music and fabulous decorations, hit me up for a ticket!
Event: 30th Annual Knights of Columbus Charity Ball
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Doors open at 6:30 pm
$30 per person
(Complimentary "portrait" on the red carpet, too!)

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Europe Food & Faves, Part I

I wanted to do a food blog from my visit to the UK and Ireland ever since I got home, but as I look through pictures tonight, I realize I won't do great justice to true European food. Actually, I don't think I even know what true European food is! (according to my friend, Brenda, whose husband is British, English food is quite bland and not so appealling) I think Doris and I ate mostly in chain restaurants (HORROR! Didn't find that out till I started to see the same menu in different cities), but it's really tough when you're on a tour, and kind of at the mercy of a schedule, with limited knowledge in local cuisine. I thought I was being adventurous, but now in looking back, not so much. Anywho, these two photos are from Chelsea, West London, England, where we stayed for four days, by the football stadium. It was a chic neighborhood, and we were very comfortable there. (the young British guy on the flight over said, "You'll like Chelsea, it's very posh!")

 Sainsbury's. Food, wines, clothing, and grocery items. I was actually looking for a jacket (since I left my BRAND NEW JACKET from Coldwater Creek on the back seat of the car when Jack dropped us off at the airport!) They had an awesome selection of wines, and I thought the fact that everything was in "pounds" was really cool. (duh, I was in ENGLAND!)

Union Market. THE coolest place. Within this market there was a barber, butcher, grocer, baker, wine shop, cheese shop and restaurant. The cheese shop also had barrels of olives, in different brines and spices. Mmmmm!

I don't think I gained toooo much weight in Europe, since we walked our butts off. I tried lots of fun and different things, and we'll "visit" them soon! : )

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dad ♥

Here's what I learned from my Dad: that cold peas taste really good, eaten right from the can. That yellow jackets love fresh pine. That I should wade in a creek whenever I get a chance. That Mom could find out anything. Work ethic. How to draw a dog from the outline of my thumb. That mashed potatoes are only good when they're "live". That walking everywhere is good for you. That oldest friends are the best friends. That beer is to be enjoyed every day. That he could wrestle a mad St. Bernard. That family comes first. Kindness. That the pink candy that tastes like Pepto Bismol is cheapest at Myer's. That no one will eat fruit until you cut it up. That when he loved you, it was unconditionally.

His favorites things were: fudge ripple ice cream, Schmidt's beer, Mom, McDonald's french fries, lumber, "boy scout" songs (Dad, they were Army songs!), vegetable gardening, walking, singing hymns, making Sunday breakfast, his Mom, being outdoors, laughing, getting his foot rubbed, and all of us. 

Dad was born in 1916, so he was 47 when I was born. I don't know how old he is here (the pic says 1924-26) but he looks like one of "Our Gang"!

Dad as a youngster, of course with a drink. I have another picture of him from this same night, with a bowl on his head. (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...)

You can see why the ladies loved him! Check out those legs! I sure see Alex in Dad in this pic.

February, 1949. Always fit and trim. He never weighed more than 170-odd pounds his whole life. Dad, could I have gotten THAT gene?!

THIS is how I remember Dad. He had the best laugh and smile, and found humor in literally everything.
He had a really sharp wit and a dry sense of humor, so I'd like to think I got a little of that. He was very easy going, which tempered Mom's nature : ) 

So I'll sit here and hold his wallet for awhile, pull out his driver's license and Social Security card (issued 12-21-1936) and hear him like he was just here yesterday. "Ter, I'll never even make it to your graduation. If I do, your Mom'll roll me down the aisle in a wheelchair!" No way, Dad, not you. You saw my graduation, wedding, the birth of all three kids, plus 10 more years. How could I ask for more than that? ♥ 
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