Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Chilly Day Calls for Soup!

It's been a chilly last couple of days, and I wasn't here yesterday because I had to take my dad to downtown Atlanta for a check-up on his defibrilator. So today was definitely the day for soup. My favorite . . .

Camellia Cottage Tuscan Chicken Vegetable Soup

Here's the recipe >>>

In a 5 or 6 quart stock pot, mix:

1 to 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
2/3 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 teaspoon (more or less) minced garlic
pinch of salt

The girls (as always) somehow knew I was chopping veggies and stood at my feet waiting for one of their favorite treats - chopped celery and carrots!

Over medium high heat, saute veggies in oil until beginning to get soft and translucent. You may need to lower the heat a bit once they get to going.

Next, add:

1 one lb (16oz) bag of frozen mixed veggies

1 can rinsed and drained kidney beans (I use dark red)
1 can rinsed and drained cannelini beans
1 can diced tomatoes with or without your favorite seasonings - (this time the ones I used had roasted garlic)
3 - 4 cups chicken broth
water as needed to fill pot

Seasonings - whatever I want to add! Including:

1 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon black pepper
1/2 Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Teaspoon dried Italian herbs
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/8 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 Teaspoon dried sweet basil
1/2 Teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar optional

Chicken Bouillion - if it's not chicken-y enough, add bouillion granules or cubes to taste

If it seems a little bland, you can add a tablespon or two of worcestershire sauce for richness.

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for at least 2 to 3 hours, or longer if possible.

About 1 hour before serving, add pre-cooked (about 1 1/2) cups diced or pulled chicken meat.

This is best when left on the simmer burner and allowed to cook slowly all day.

This soup freezes beautifully!

As always, seasonings are a matter of taste. We tend to like a little bit of warmth, but not really hot and spicy. Use this recipe as a guideline, but feel free to experiment with your favorite veggies and seasonings.

And that's my recipe for some delicious homemade chicken veggie soup. I hope you try it, and if you do, let me know how you like it!

As info, I've been trying to figure out what's going on with the comments, and I think I got it fixed this time. if not, I guess I'll have to break down and get some help. {sigh}

Be blessed, friends! Becky

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tip of the Week

Do you know how expensive things are getting these days??? Of course you do - if you are living! When I retired a few years ago, I started looking for ways to save money around the house, and here's one that works like a charm. It's homemade window cleaner, but I use it for cleaning most everything from windows to countertops to appliances to whatever I need it for!

Here's what you'll need:

1 heavy duty spray bottle - I got a set of 5 for about $8 a few years ago at BJ's Wholesale, and all but one of them are still in service, so they've been well worth the investment.

2 1/4 cup hot tap water - yup, you got it water! What did YOU think was the main ingredient in those expensive things you've been buying?

1 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar - the cheapy stuff! I buy the store brand, by the gallon at about $2 to $3.00 a gallon.

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons liquid dish soap (cannot be a cream based soap!)

Now, pour the water and the vinegar into the spray bottle. Easy Peasy, right? Then add the dish detergent. )It works better this way, because if you add the soap first, the bottle fills up with suds and it takes longer to fill it up.) Next, put the sprayer on and tighten up the cap and shake it well. You are done!

Not only does this stuff cost pennies on the bottle compared to the stuff you buy in the stores, it's also the best window cleaner I've ever found, but the best, very best thing is that there aren't any of those weird toxic chemicals in there! Vinegar is all natural and smells so very clean. Trust me you are going to love this stuff!

Be blessed, friends! Becky

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What a Glorious Day!!!

Just wanted to tell you about our day today. We got up early, and left the house about 7:30 AM. It was hubby's last day of vacation before he goes back to work tomorrow, and he wanted to go riding. We stopped at a coffee/doughnut place for breakfast, then got onto Hwy 365/23/441, etc. north of Gainesville, GA and drove to Franklin, NC where we took the bypass and on to Cherokee, NC. Just outside of Cherokee is the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we headed east/north on the parkway towards Asheville.

It was so beautiful! Not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining and the leaves were incredible! We probably only drove 40-50 miles on the parkway before heading south on 215, then west on 64 to Cashiers, Highlands, (both in NC) and back down to Dillard, GA where we splurged on a late lunch/early dinner at the famous Dillard House.

And wow, how good was that food! It's family style, which means you get what's on the menu, and lots of it, in small bowls and platters that are brought to your table. Today there was slaw, waldorf salad, tomato/cucumber salad, red pepper relish, applesauce, fried chicken, smoked chicken, salisbury steak, country ham, rice, gravy, cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, creamed cauliflower, beets, lima beans, green beans, fried okra, cabbage casserole, biscuits, cornbread and I'm sure there was more I just can't remember. And then to top it off, strawberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert. YUMMMM!

Then we were so full we just rolled all the way home, moaning as we went, lol! And even after we ate all we could hold, there are 2 styrofoam plates of leftovers in the fridge right now.

I'm just going to leave you with a few pics of our day, I hope you enjoy them! Have a great, happy, blessed week everyone! Becky

<<<<< Colors of Fall!

One of our stops along the way >>>

<< Just a weed, but the frost was still on it, and it was so pretty!

Fall colors in their purest form!>>>>>

<< Lickstone Ridge Tunnel - one of many on the parkway.

The sign at the overlook for the Qualla Indian Reservation >>>>>
Hubby and myself beside a very large, very old tree that apparently had gotten hit by lightning in years
past. >>>>>
In the picture above, if you look where my left hand is, and drop down almost to the ground, this big acorn had fallen and wedged itself into the
crevices in the tree's roots. I see a mighty oak in this acorn's future! >>
Normally there would be more pics here, including some of Dillard House, but I'm afraid to say my camera's battery died and I didn't have the backup with me. That's the way it goes, you know!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jog!

We are back home from our camping trip to Lake Richard B. Russell State Park! It was a great week in many respects. The weather was gorgeous, and that's always a great start for any vacation. We also spent much time just doing nothing, which was so good! We both read a lot, played dominoes and skip-bo, and just sat beneath the trees and watched the birds and squirrels and the glints of sunlight reflecting off the waves on the lake down below.
The squirrel to the left, well, I nicknamed it Murch because a book I was reading had a character of that name. It and it's buddies were bold little rats! They would come right up to the picnic table and take food off of it - with us sitting there! One time I caught one on top of the cooler where we kept our 'outside' drinks. Don't know what he thought he was going to do, because there was no way it was going to get into that cooler alone!

When we got there on Saturday around lunch time, there were few campsites to choose from, so we took the one we thought was best of what was left, and ended up it was a great site. It wasn't waterfront, but it was surrounded by trees, and fairly private. We put up the canopy on the camper and had a nice big 'yard'.
Saturday afternoon was my time for 'nesting', or making things nice. Getting everything organized, hanging the welcome sign and the windsock, which was strategically placed on one of the tie lines for the canopy so we wouldn't hang ourselves on it! Also putting out the tablecloths, making the bed, just making things nice for our week.

Of course while I was doing that, hubby was in his favorite place, the reclining lawn chair! He spent a lot of time in that chair this week, and I'm GLAD! He works long hard hours, and has a long commute to and from work, and this trip was all about letting him recharge, refuel and relax!

Here's a nicer pic of our camper and our 'home away from home' for the week.
We (all 4 of us!) sleep on the end in the foreground, and I sleep right at the window, with my head in the lefthand corner. I have put a memory foam topper on the hard camper mattress, and we have an old down comforter and a fleece blanket, and carry our pillows from home, so we have a nice cozy bed. I love to lay there at night with the canvas window down and look out at the stars and watch the trees blowing in the breeze and listen to the silence until I fall asleep. What a life!

The "girls", Bailey, seen here, and Bessie, seen here, just love camping. My theory is that they love the fact the four of us are together almost 24/7 and they get a lot of attention. But, they could understand what a vacation is all about, I guess.

We went canoeing a time or two, but didn't really have much heart for it after we saw the lake. As you may know, we in northern Georgia are in the midst of a horrible drought, and it's in it's third year. We live not too far from Lake Lanier, and it's down like 17 to 18 feet below full pool. Our lovely lake looks so sad! But when we were at Lake Russell about 6 months ago, it wasn't down a bit, and we had a wonderful time canoeing up into the cove that went by the campground. There was a stream coming into the lake there, and beavers had built a dam so there was a nice place to paddle and look for wildlife. We could get right up to the dams and even had beavers come up to check us out right beside the canoe.

This trip was a different story. We couldn't get NEAR the beaver dams because they were in dry land! There was just the slightest trickle of a stream, and all the coves we loved to explore were dried up. In the picture below, you can see the trickling stream, and all that sand where water used to be. If you'll look on the horizon, on the lowest point of the treeline, well that's still not as far up as we used to paddle. We would go way up past that point, curving and turning following the stream up into a marshy area where we would pull up to sandy areas and look at raccoon, deer and wild pig prints in the sand. It was so depressing to find it in such a state this trip!
If you'll look in the water here ^^^, you can tell it's very shallow - only a few inches deep, and we got stuck a couple of times and had to push our way out into deeper water. Our canoe only draws a few inches of water, so will take shallow water easily, but not this shallow.

This is one of the coves we used to love to explore. See those trees way in the back that are beginning to turn color? Well, we could paddle right up to those trees just a few months ago!

Another former cove - way back to where the trees are, that was all water, and we paddled up in there and looked for whatever we could find. We often used our paddles to scoop up lost fishing line, hooks and floats so we could get them out of the water where they wouldn't entrap animals.

Another view of how badly the lake levels have dropped. Where that green grass grows now, not so long ago it was all under water.

Ditto - all the way to the tree line and beyond used to be part of the lake where we paddled our little red canoe.

This whole area used to be under water and full of birds and small animals, but was a watering ground for larger animals like deer and wild hogs.
Okay! Enough depressing pictures. Here are a few pics of the canoe - and us!
Hubby >>>Me >>>
So, in twenty five words or less, "what I did on my vacation": eat, sleep, read, play, paddle, walk, bike, trikke, rest, relax, chill . . . . hmmmmm, that's about it! Pretty cool, huh? Everybody have a great weekend! Blessings friends, Becky

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Cake for Traveling!

Hi There! It's another cool, misty day here in northern Georgia, the kind of day we've had way too few of in recent months, so I'm enjoying it.

I'm all about planning and packing today, as we are leaving tomorrow morning to go to a GA state park about 100 miles from here. It's Richard B. Russell State Park, a 2500 plus acre state park on the banks of 26,500 acre Lake Russell near Elberton, Georgia. We love this state park for many reasons, but the main one is that it's a large park, with only 28 campsites. A cozy little campground with it's own boat ramp, docks and fishing dock. We'll be there all week, returning on the 18th, so this will be my last post for a while.

I wanted to leave you with a new recipe! My friend Linda from Brooklyn, who I met on, gave me this recipe and it's delicious, and only 3 ingredients, so it's very easy!

Pineapple Coconut Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease
a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.

1 box Angel Food Cake Mix
1 15 ounce can crushed pineapple - with juice
1/2 cup (or more) shredded coconut

Blend cake mix and pineapple well, then add coconut and mix until it's well blended. Pour into cake pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. It took me less than 40 minutes, but my oven runs a little hot.

Linda says this cake is nice with cool whip and toasted coconut as a garnish, but as you can see, we're doing just fine with nothing but the cake!

The cake definitely tasts like angel food, but with the added tang of pineapple and the sweetness of the coconut. And it rises up nicely, too.

I sure hope you enjoy this recipe! And I hope you have a great week next week. I'll check back in with you on the 18th or 19th. Blessings friends! Becky

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Welcome to Camellia Cottage

Hello, and welcome to Camellia Cottage, our small cottage home in north Georgia. I share this home with my husband of more than 20 years and our two 'girls', Bailey and Bessie, who, although they are miniature Dachshunds, tend to think they are human.

We moved here just five years ago from our home in Gwinnett County, Georgia. I had been retired for just about a year after working for a large corporation for 30 years, and hubby was (and still is) working at his job of more than 30 years. We fell in love with the area months before we actually found our home, but once we found this house, we knew it was the right one for us. It's not very large - only about 1300 square feet, but it's just right for us.

The house has a steeply pitched roof and surrounded by the hardwoods native to Georgia. Oaks, maples, sweet gum, hickory and poplar, among others. Our fenced back yard we have left natural, and it is filled with pitcher plants, solomon's seal and hearts a bursting. This year we had a couple of mulberry trees come up volunteer, and I hope to leave at least one of them.

The front yard we have changed drastically, adding a stone patio and large rock border around the flower beds. Together we laid almost 8000 pounds of stone! We removed the staid hedges and planted lilacs, buddleias, roses, Chinese snowballs, hydrangeas and many smaller perennials such as lilies, iris, lavender, columbine, dicentra (bleeding heart), peonies, foxgloves, and many more varieties.

One thing that was here when we moved in has remained. A rather large and unruly red blooming camellia bush right in front of the house. The house has been named for that bush, but not just because it's a camellia. You see, in the Victorian language of flowers, one meaning for the camellia is contentment, and we feel so happy and content here that we knew that was the perfect name for our home - Camellia Cottage.

My purpose for this blog is to share my love of home and all the things that are included in that, from cooking and meal planning, decorating, gardening, hobbies, pets, and anything else that should come up. Maybe it's food storage, or cleaning tips. Or how about products I've found that work for me. I don't work for anyone, and none of the products I tell you about have ever paid me a penny. I just like sharing information with people that may make their lives a little easier.

Well, that's all from me for right now, but I'll be back! Until next time, have a great day! Blessings, Becky