Saturday, November 29, 2008

We're home!

We really know how to log the miles on vacation. As if the 575 mile drive to my dad's isn't enough, we get there and then drive all over southwestern PA to do lots of other things. We had a lot of fun. Here are my favorite photos of the week. Somehow, though, I managed to NOT take pictures of the girls with Pap Pap and Mamaw. I'm not sure how I can do that, but I did. Oh well. They'll be here in a few weeks for Christmas.

We arrived last Saturday evening. On Sunday, we went to church. Sophie thought she was quite cute and decided to kiss herself in the mirror.

This shot came out really well:

We went to visit my grandmother and my great uncle and great aunt that day. We popped into my cousin P's house (ugh, no photos there either) and then, we grabbed a few pizzas from Bud Murphy's (the local sports bar) and headed to my friend S's new house. It's gorgeous! Speaking of gorgeous, S's girls had a blast dressing up Sophie:

Here are the girls with S and G's four kids!
And then the girls got silly:

My friend S and I:

On Monday, we went to Glisan's (another favorite restaurant in the area - diner style) with one of K's high school buddies and his mom and K's cousin L and her husband G. On Tuesday we went back to my grandmother's. E had fun pushing S around in grandma's wheelchair!

The girls with Great Grandma K:

On Wednesday, we drove 90 miles to visit my best friend from growing up, A and her family. A and I lived next door to each other from the time we were four years old. She now has five girls and we had a blast visiting with them for a few hours. Again, somehow we were so busy chatting it up and catching up on everything that we totally forgot to take any pictures! Bad me. They hadn't met Sophie yet, so again, Sophie had fun playing with the big girls. By the time we got back to Pap Pap's, my brother T and his wife P and daughter H were there!
Then came Turkey Day! We went with my brother's family to visit my grandmother one more time. Sophie took a good nap and woke up hungry before the meal was ready, so she had a little snack first:

Check out the big bread cornucopia that my sis-in-law made! Isn't that cool? I think I might have to try one of these some year.

Sophie enjoyed some snuggle time with Daddy:

On Friday, E and P and I went shopping to one of our favorite stores, and the guys took the girls to the incline in Johnstown. Pap Pap had told EJ about this the last time we visited but we didn't have time to do it, so she finally got to ride one!

Overall, EJ says the vacation was A-OK! She already misses her cousin H and was sad to leave this morning.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hello from PA!

We made it - the drive went so much better than expected. We left at 6:15 AM on Saturday and arrived at my dad's a little after 4 PM. We made a 30 minute lunch stop and a 15 minute restroom break and that was it! Little Sophie, despite being awakened at 5:40 AM, decided she wasn't going to sleep a single wink! She had a small meltdown after lunch while I was driving, so I drove for about 10 miles with one hand on the wheel and one reaching around to rub her leg. She was on the edge for the last hour of the trip but managed to hold it all together.

Maybe some pics tomorrow?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Over the river and through the woods... Pap-Pap and Mamaw's house we go! We're off to southwestern PA for the holiday. We're packed (well, nearly) and ready to go. Let's hope the Sophie handles the LONG drive well.

Italian Sausage and Orzo Soup

I was gonna skip this week's recipe swap, because I really need to get to bed as we're leaving for vacation in the morning. But then I saw it was a swap of soup recipes this week, and I LOVE SOUP! I LOVE MAKING SOUP! So, here it is!
My friend DB and I went to Maggiano's in Boston one day for an excellent meal. For my appetizer, I had this wonderful sausage orzo soup. I loved it so much that I had to try to replicate it. I dug out a cookbook I have with 1000 soup recipes and combined two of them to get pretty close. I continue to refine it, but I think it's pretty darn close.
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
6 cups beef broth
2 cans (14.5 ounce) Italian-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
4 to 6 ounces (1/4 to 1/3 of a 1 pound box) dried orzo
  1. In soup pot, squeeze the Italian sausage from its casing and brown over high heat, using wooden spoon to break up. About halfway through the browning, add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to sauté with the sausage.
  2. Once the sausage is cooked, add the broth, canned tomatoes, and spices. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add orzo and cook for 9-10 minutes or as specified on package.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Postcards from Buster - China

One of our all-time favorite shows on PBS is Postcards from Buster. This is a spinoff of the Arthur show. On Arthur, the Binky character's family adopted a baby sister from China last season. And this week, on Postcards from Buster, Buster visited China! We were so excited when we saw the commercial, so we set the PC to record it.

Whenever we mention China, Sophie gets all wide-eyed and says "Chiiiinnnnnaaa" in a slow trance-like voice! It's so cute. She often puts her dollies in the stroller, throws a toy purse over her arm, and pushes the stroller around announcing "I GO TO CHINA!!!!" And then we ask, "Who is from China?" and she'll say "E____?" and we answer "NOOOO, E went to China, but who is from China?" She'll get all giggly and say "Fofie!!!" And then we all clap and celebrate.

If you missed the episode, check out your local listing and catch it in's worth it. Of course, it just makes my heart ache to visit again! K and E and I sat here and yelled out, "Been there, done that!" and then sighed and starting dreaming about our next trip - still a few years in the future.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A productive weekend (and Quote of the Day)

Ahhh...I finally feel like I got something done this weekend. At least, something in addition to the normal grocery shopping and Mt. Laundry. I sorted through a huge pile of paperwork that I've managed to avoid for the last two weeks. I hate doing paperwork. I wish I could deal with it for just a few minutes each day, but alas, it's always the least of my concerns at night.

We went to a local craft fair on Saturday morning and found a few things - some nice hair bows for Miss Sophie and another good gift idea for some local folks. Later in the afternoon, Miss S from daycare came to babysit since she was home from college for the weekend. She had given me her email at the end of summer, but I couldn't find it I found her on Facebook of course! Anyway, K and I went out for a romantic dinner over a slice of fast-food pizza and then did a four hour holiday shopping spree, which ended up being quite successful.

We saw a few other ideas while we were out, so I was able to place an online order for that stuff today. While Sophie was napping, K took EJ to get her new tennis shoes and I actually baked some cookies to put in the freezer for the holidays. Tonight, K and EJ whipped up two batches of homemade clay that her teacher requested, and I was able to design and upload our Christmas card. I'm ready for bed. It's going to be a busy week. But first, today's best quote:

"Lazy Bones"

Before I can tell you about the quote, you need to understand a little background. Most mornings, Sophie is up before EJ. Before Sophie and I go downstairs, I'll tell her we need to go wake up EJ. So we go in her room and say "C'mon lazy bones, get up!" This morning, Sophie was awake about 6:45 and came into bed with us for a while. She was getting silly and started repeating her name over and over (but it comes out as "Fofie"). I asked her what her name was, and she said "Fofie LiLei H____". Then I asked her what my name was, and she answered "Mommy". I asked her what K's name was, and she answered "Daddy". Finally, I said, "What's your sister's name?" That's when she said "Lazy Bones". I lost it and laughed for about five minutes!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Christmas Photo sneak peek!

You can't see the rest until we do the 2nd Annual 12 Days of Christmas posts, but I couldn't resist showing you at least one...

Sweet Potato Casserole

So, over at Overwhelmed with Joy, there is a holiday recipe swap going on! You can click on the picture above to access the link to all of the recipes. There are already 30 out there, so please go take a look!

I'm not really much for the sweet sugary syrupy sweet potatoes. I actually like to just bake them and eat them with a little butter, but then I found this recipe in Better Homes and Gardens in 1997.

1.5 pounds sweet potatoes (I use the yellow ones rather than the orange ones, but either will work)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 beaten egg
3 Tbsp butter, cubed
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 pecan pieces
pecan halves (optional)
  1. Scrub and peel sweet potatoes. Cut off and discard woody portions and ends. Cut potatoes into cubes. Cook, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain.
  2. Combine hot sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, egg, the 3 Tbsp cubed butter, and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, stir to break up potatoes but not complete mash them. Put mixture into a greased 2 quart baking dish.
  3. Combine brown sugar and flour. Cut in the 2 Tbsp butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in pecan pieces and sprinkle crumb mixture on top of potatoes.
  4. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 25 minutes. Garnish with pecan halves, if desired.

This recipe makes 8 side dish servings. I usually double it for large holiday meals because aren't leftovers really the best?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


It's over. The election is done. No more TV ads. No more street corners filled with signs. No more debate about vice presidential choices, wardrobes (heck, I'd take $150k to shop at Neiman Marcus and Saks!), health, race, or age. Now, we can focus our attention for a few months on more important things - the economy, the war, whether or not your taxes will increase, and how to fix everything else. I say a few months because that's when the media will start suggesting who MIGHT run in 2012. I live in NH, and I'll bet $100 that a potential candidate will visit my state before June.

I only have one other comment about the election. In my town, we vote by paper ballot - you know, fill in the little circles with a black marker. When I arrive at the polls, there are a number of workers waiting to "check me in". I give them my last name, they look me up in their little book, cross me off, and hand me a ballot. I don't have to present a voter registration card (like I did when I lived in Charlotte County, FL), and I don't have to show ID. This year, there was another row of workers sitting behind those with the registration books. They had duplicate copies of the books and monitored what the primary checker-offer was doing. So, whoopee! My name was crossed off in two books instead of one. Think about what could go wrong here.

If I wanted to cheat, it might be easy to guess which of my acquaintances in town might not vote, or might be out of town. I could walk in a second time with a baseball cap on and tell them my acquaintance's name, and no one would probably notice that I had voted 30 minutes earlier under another name. Or I could look up names in the phone book and just present myself as Mrs. So-and-So early in the day to get another vote in. Imagine Mrs. So-and-So's surprise when she shows up at the polls a few minutes or hours later only to be told she had already voted! I've often wondered what would happen in this case?

Because it's a small NH town, we citizens get to vote on EVERYTHING - whether we should buy a new firetruck, hire a new French teacher for the middle school, or change the setback rules for swimming pools. (Remember Newhart and the town meetings?) There have been many issues in the last decade that have been decided by just a few votes. It wouldn't be hard to change some of those outcomes. With all the scandal around elections the last few rounds, you'd think there'd be a better system.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

McCain and Obama Cookies

Check out this story. There was a story in our paper yesterday and this news report on Fox. Since this is a favorite coffee/bagel shop of ours, we decided to stop in this morning after church to grab some election cookies. The cookies were yummy - if you live in the Merrimack Valley, I highly recommend you stop in Perfecto's Caffe.