Scenes from my Christmas vacation

Our family tradition has always been to spend Christmas at home.  When Daddy passed away in 2011, we knew it would be hard for Earnie to wake up and not have him there with us so we all went to Ruidoso, New Mexico for a little getaway.  Daddy loved the mountains.  And, the best part of the trip, it snowed!  As if he ordered the snow just for us.  It was really special being there with my sister and brother-in-law and my family.

So this year, with it being our first Christmas without Earnie, we went to her favorite place — the beach.  I put Mr. Bee in charge of finding us a spot.  My criteria was that it needed to be a beach front property within just a few feet from the water.  It had to be private with no chatty Kathy’s on the porch asking me where I was from, etc…  And we needed a place that was dog-friendly so we could take Ruthie, the wienerful.  Mr. Bee scored on all points.

We traveled to Gulf Shores, Alabama (just a ten hour drive) and stayed in a private community called Martinique on the Gulf.

Our place was in a gated community with homes and condos nestled among the Bon Secour Wildlife Sanctuary.  Our unit was on the bottom floor and had a perfect view of the water.  The short boardwalk in the pic was right by our patio.  It was private and very quiet almost like we had the entire property to ourselves.  We were told that if you want quiet this was the best time to stay there because starting in March it stays crowded and loud until October.

We went for long walks on the beach looking for sea shells. This was Ruthie’s first time at the beach and she loved it.  She wasn’t interested in the water, but loved running up and down the beach.  I think the sand felt good on her feet.

I sat out on the porch and read and sipped spirits.  The owner of the property was an avid reader so it was filled with all kinds of books.  I read two of his mysteries while I was there. Under the book are two layers of blankets…and Ruthie.

I sipped mimosas.  The Champagne was a gift from a neighbor for house sitting over the summer. He brought it back from France.  I saved it for just this occasion.

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I napped with the windows open to hear the sounds of the ocean.  I stared for hours at the horizon thanking God for the miracles of the sea.  I marveled at how a whole seashell could make it to the shore unbroken from it’s journey among the waves crashing into the sands.  I watched the seagulls and sandpipers soar and look for food.

We ate some really good seafood, this was on Mr. Bee’s wish list.

Gator bites from Crawfish Town.  I had never had alligator and I thought what better place to try it.  It tasted just like chicken.  Honest, it did.

Fried shrimp and hush puppies at Tacky Jack’s right on the bay.  It was a dive, but had really cold beer and even better fresh fish.  We found a fish market near us where you could purchase fresh fish to take home.  We peeled several pounds of fresh steamed shrimp and Mr. Bee ate his weight in fresh oysters.

On Christmas Eve we had pizza, Miss Bee’s pick, and I made a pumpkin pie.  On Christmas morning I made monkey bread, biscuits, eggs and bacon.  Every morning started with coffee on the patio.

It was perfect.  Until some kind of flu bug invaded my body and for two days I had 101 fever.  But, at least I was convalescing someplace pretty.

I’ll post the recipe for the monkey bread next week. I hope all your Christmas dreams came true.

Vintage Memories of Christmas

This morning, as I was laying in bed, I was thinking if I could go back to any point in time at Christmas when would it be?  I decided it would be during the “wonder” years, when you are little and you know for sure there is a giant, fatherly man coming down the chimney after midnight.  That time period would have been in the late ’60s, early ’70s.

Here are the top things I remember:

Tons of Friends Coming Over for Parties:

People like Mary and Rhoda were always at our house. Earnie had such great friends (just like me) who never had to come up with a reason to throw a party.    Earnie and Ray would have parties for their employees, a Christmas Eve party for close friends, neighbors and family, then get together for Christmas day with family for an entire day of eating, playing, and celebrating.  Not to mention the luncheons and coffees with close friends she’d host mid-week.  I remember going with Earnie to the Winn-Dixie to load up carts of jams and jellies so she could make gift baskets for people who dropped by.

Perry Como:

Move over Michael Buble’ the hottie of my time was Mr. Perry Como.  This might have been what started my love of older men.  His smooth musical stylings and TV Christmas specials, along with Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams, were the best way to spend an evening.
Christmas Decor:

Earnie decorated every room in the house.  She had a storage area in a bathroom that housed all of her decor.  She’d get up on the ladder and hand me things telling me the room they were to be delivered to.  By the end of the day our house was transformed into magic with Perry playing on the HiFi.

Cheese Grits:

This was a Christmas brunch staple in our house.  She’d serve her grits in a lovely copper chafing dish on her beautifully decorated buffet table complete with a long centerpiece of greenery and candles down the middle of the table.

When I moved to Maryland for a brief stint in my early young life, I made these and the east coast people thought they tasted like barf (that’s probably why my first marriage ended).  Here’s Earnie’s recipe from Jane Justin’s cookbook “Prescriptions for Hunger” copyright 1968:

Preheat Oven to 350
Put 8 cups of water in a large saucepan and add 1 TBL of salt.
When water starts to boil add 2 cups of grits
Cook slowly until grits are thick
Pour grits into a large bowl and add:
1 TBL Worcestershire sauce
1 Cup of whole milk
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp black pepper
3 TBL melted butter
1 Cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Mix well and put into a greased casserole.
Sprinkle with more grated cheese and a few dashes of paprika
Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

Have a fantastic Friday!

Dress Up Your Muffins

I am on a roll with the blogging.  Having a snow storm ice you in for five days makes for a well-rested Queen getting caught up on cleaning, organizing, decorating and baking.

This morning Mr. Bee helped me make Orange Cranberry muffins.  I picked up a bag of Oceanspray cranberries in the produce section recently and decided to make them since cranberries are so holiday-ish.  I made the recipe on the bag and I used new muffin papers I found at Kroger of all places.  Dressing up your muffins with these little papers makes them look like you’re a gourmet chef!

Mr. Bee helped me chop the cranberries.  Most of the ingredients you will have in your pantry…nothing fancy here.

Just before putting them in the oven I topped them off with some Turbinado sugar.  I got turned onto this when I made my first trip to England with Mr. Bee.  The English use this in their hot tea.

Here are the muffins right out the oven.  The papers pulled away from the bread perfectly.  Mr. Bee professed they were the best cranberry muffins he’s ever eaten.  Miss Bee, who is in teen-style mode right now, said nothing.

Here’s hoping you are having a motivational Monday.


A New Tradition

The day after Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law hosted a cookie decorating party.  It was so fun.  The night before I assembled all the ingredients from the Pioneer Woman’s My Favorite Sugar Cookie recipe and then the morning of Miss Bee and my soon-to-be new niece (my nephew popped the question to his sweet girlfriend while he was here) made the cookies.

Auntie M had royal icing and sprinkles galore ready for us to decorate.  We listened to Christmas music and ate bowls of taco soup during decorating breaks.  We finished the afternoon off by watching the movie Elf.  It was a great way to spend time with family creating a new tradition we can look forward to next year.

Here’s the recipe for the cookies:

1 1/3 cups of softened butter or butter flavored shortening
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp of grated orange zest (I used lemon because Lolly gave me lemons from Mississippi the size of my head)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBL, plus two tsp of whole milk

Mix butter, sugar and zet till smooth, add eggs then vanilla.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, add in batches to butter mixture.  Add milk and mix.  Then roll out onto a floured surface and cut with your cookie cutters.

Sour Cream Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas

Remember last week when I made the creamy chicken chili?  Well, I had tons of leftovers that I put into the freezer.  I decided to use the rest to make enchiladas.  I made up my own recipe last night and I have to say they were pretty tasty.

I took a 8-oz container of sour cream and a can of Hatch Green Chili Enchilada sauce and whisked them together in a bowl.

Then I took corn tortillas and filled them with onion, the chicken, Mexican blend shredded cheese and rolled each one placing them in a 9×13 greased dish.  The dish fit 10 enchiladas.  I poured the sour cream mixture over the top, topped with shredded cheddar cheese and baked for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  I served them with a southwestern chopped salad.

I still have chicken left from the original recipe!  So, one meal will now turn to three when I use the rest to make grilled tacos.

Have a thrilling Thursday. 

Another great soup recipe to add to your list

I made Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili last night…another recipe I got off of Pinterest.

I have to say, mine didn’t look like the photo.  I followed the directions perfectly, but it needed more liquid.  It didn’t affect the taste at all.  It had the perfect amount of spice and was rich and creamy. Since it was thick, I modified it by making some saffron rice and ladled the soup into bowls of rice.  Mr. Bee loved it.  It makes alot, so I put the rest in the freezer to make chicken enchiladas for another weeknight dinner.

If you’re interested in the recipe access it on my Pinterest board — The Queen’s Food.

Earnie was my Zip

I am sure you’ve noticed my less frequent blog posts lately.  Since Earnie passed away, I’ve kinda lost my “get up and go.”  Fun, inspiring ideas don’t pop up as much.  She was such a big part of my daily life, and the subject material for my blog.

I have to take one day at a time.  Some days are fun and I am able to do business as usual.  But, there have been alot of moments lately where I am quiet.  Thinking about Earnie.  Missing her.  A part of me is missing.  A big part.  Most days, Earnie was my mother.  But there were frequent days when she was like my child.  She needed my constant attention, physically and emotionally.  I loved every minute of it.  She made being her caregiver a true joy.  So, when you take all that away, it’s hard for a person to recover and jump back into life with the same zest and zip.  Earnie was my zip.

Don’t give up on checking in or reading my blog.   I’m not giving it up.  On days when you don’t see me, just pray for me.  Give me an imaginary hug.  Like Frosty the Snowman said, “I’ll be back again someday.”

Today, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon at work.  A group of us earned the luncheon as a reward for a project we excelled at.  This photo is the cake we had at the end of the meal.  Cake makes everything better.

*For you foodies out there — this cake was the bomb.  Cinnamon apple cake, with cream cheese frosting smothered with toffee bits and a giant scoop of vanilla icing. 

Quick Tip — labeling your food

Quick tip for storing food in the fridge.  Found these labels at The Container Store:

A package of 70 labels in three sizes.  Erasable and easy to remove.  Tonight we had tomato basil soup and Miss Bee didn’t finish all of hers.  I poured the rest in a container, slapped a label on it with today’s date and off you go in the fridge.  That way I don’t have to answer the age old question, “How old is this?  Do you think this is still good?” 

Open Cubicle — A take on an office party

When you’re an event planner and work with other event planners, you’re always trying to come up with ways to have…an event.  So, today was our annual “open cubicle” —  our spin on an open house. 

We each prepared (or for the gals that don’t cook, bought) a fall nibble and set our dish on the credenzas outside our cubicle doors (we each have our own enclosed offices, but they don’t have doors, weird).  We started at the front of the office and had a progressive feast down the hallway.  Here’s our parade of food for the fall frolic…

 Trader Joe’s pumpkin macarons and
a cute little acorn cookies inspired from Pinterest.
 
Egg soufflé tarts from the Black Rooster Bakery

Homemade pumpkin cream cheese roll.
Cheryl rocks at this.  Notice her fall framed foliage.
She got points for her décor.


 These are the best ever.  They are breakfast cookies made with
corn flakes, chopped bacon, and raisins.  Chandra made a
batch of these when Daddy passed away.  We took them with
us for the car ride to the cemetery.  Perfect with coffee.
 Our boss is not a cook.  So she filled her vase
with faux spider web stuff and candy.
 Pumpkin dip with ginger snaps and apples.
 Trader Joe’s apple cider. Kalyn laughed
because it looked like she was serving meds in cups
at the hospital.
 My contribution…Pumpkin Greek yogurt parfaits.
I took votive cups, filled them with layers of
maple pecan granola, yogurt and whipped cream.
Garnished with a cranberry pumpkin crisp.
 
 
Here’s my set up.

 Homemade pumpkin bread…cause you can
never have enough pumpkin

Happy fall, ya’ll.  Next office party… a chili cook-off. My team’s name…”The Heat is On.”

Awesome New Soup Recipe

Miss Bee’s favorite thing is soup.  When I saw a recipe for Cheese Tortellini and Italian Sausage soup on Pinterest I gave it a try.  Unlike the barfy oatmeal, this was a winner.  Mainly because you can dump everything in the slow cooker and do nothing.  My favorite meal.  It was so good.  Mr. Bee had three bowls and said it could rival a restaurant-style soup any day.  I made a batch of Beer Bread and had sliced apples as a side.

Brown in a skillet one package of Italian sausage.  I used Johnsville.  Drain on paper towels.

Into a greased slower cooker set on low:

one package of cheese tortellini (any brand is fine)
Cooked sausage
one bag of spinach
2 cans of Italian-style diced tomatoes
2 cans of chicken stock

On top of soup ingredients, placed one block of cream cheese cut into cubes.
The recipe says to cook for 5 hours, stirring only twice.  I think I cheated and stirred it three times.  I think the more you stir it the more likely you are to tear up the pasta.  The cheese melts and makes the soup all creamy.

Follow up thoughts:  Needs salt and pepper which I added at the end.  I did use no-salt tomatoes, so be sure to taste the soup first.  Also, I would suggest chopping the spinach first.  I just tossed in a bunch of spinach with stems on and it was a little harder to eat.

I think this would be the perfect dish for when you’re taking dinner to a friend in need.  Have a great hump day!