I feel like I've been gone forever. I've had something going on everyday since last Thursday. I guess that's a good thing since I complained of cabin fever in my last post. I read in a December issue of some random magazine that there is a thing known as "People Hangover". A lot of people feel it during the holidays. I never knew there was such a thing, but I sure have felt it. We celebrate Christmas on four occasions with several groups of family, and we have guests quite a bit at the lake. I really anticipate these get togethers, and I love our family and friends, but when it's over, I want to crawl in bed and stay awhile!
So how did I get going on this tangent? Oh, yeah, day after day of running here and there. I had a doctor's appointment on Thursday and although The Husband was supposed to be working at home, he decided to tag along. My doctor's office is way out in the southwest suburbs and there are a lot of neat stores and restaurants so we enjoyed lunch together after. My appointment went relatively well; the enlarged lymph node had shrunk to almost nothing and she said my lungs sounded clearer than she had ever heard. I was super happy about that. She did order some tests for me which are scheduled for Monday. Once I know more about this whole deal I will bring you up to date on it.
This weather has me cooking up a storm. I brought the old crockpot up from the basement and threw together this simple dish that is based on a recipe from Jacques Pepin (a wonderful French chef). I usually make it on the stove, but on this day I got started on it early and that left me wide open for the rest of the day. I've been making it for years. It's simply sausage...any kind you like, and all together if you want. I had Italian and Polish sausage as well as some breakfast sausage that I want to use up. Everything should be cut up in large but bite size pieces. In addition to the meat, I have carrots, onion and red potatoes. As much as you want. I also added a couple of cloves of garlic. And this combo just cooked away all afternoon. And that's it! The only thing I missed by not making it on the stove is the browning of the potatoes and the wonderful aroma. I season it with a pinch of salt and pepper when it's finished. So good!
Friday Emily and I went to the southwest area to a new Homegoods. It's just nicer and more organized than the one by us. She helped me pick out some decorative things for the new living room plan. One piece was perfect for the fireplace mantel, but they only had one and we needed one for each end. We called the Homegoods near home and yep, they had it. So off we went. Little scavengers we are.
Another thing I found there was this little Pet Hut that I knew would be perfect for Layla. I wish I had gotten a better picture. Milo and Layla both like to burrow under blankets, especially Layla because she is always shivering from the cold floors. Anyway, this thing here feels like mink. When the top section is pulled up, she can crawl into this sort of "hut". It's so cozy. And then you can also punch that top down and it turns into your normal dog bed. I love that pet section at Homegoods. I wish I could say Layla loves her little hut, she can sort of take it or leave it. Pout.
And Abby's boyfriend, Tom, was home for the weekend and I decided to make him some meals to bring back to school and the house he shares with a couple of guys. It's sort of bittersweet that they met just weeks before they were going away to college 4 years ago. He to Western Michigan and she, 200 miles south of Chicago. And they actually grew up just a mile apart, even went to high school on the same campus! Tom's mother passed away last April. It was during all the hullabaloo of Emily's wedding and even now, I don't know if it's a subject to put on my blog. It was just so sad. She was diagnosed with cancer and then gone a few weeks later. She was my age. It's just too sad to be 22 years old and without a mother. She was a wonderful; vivacious and warm. The day of her funeral, the streets were blocked off by police because of the crowds and many, many were left standing outside. Ugh, I could start crying right now.
I made a big pan of lasagna. I mix ricotta cheese with mozzarella, eggs and some basil. For my sauce I add ground beef or sausage to the marinara. And then I do my layers I know many of you have a method. Please feel free to share! I also made a big tray of macaroni and cheese. Boy, that has gotten so popular these past few years. It's on a lot restaurant menus.
I also made a big pan of baked chicken. I always brown it first to seal in the juices. And I have been obsessed lately with making "brown butter". And the name pretty much says it all. I always use a skillet that doesn't have a non stick coating, you want that baby to heat up. For these chicken breasts, I heated up 4 tablespoons of butter (I know, I sound like Paula Deen, but I am going to make six pieces here). Over medium heat you stir and stir, keeping that butter nice and frothy. It smells like you're cooking pancakes. Then lower the heat and add your seasoned meat. I am so loving Mrs. Dash, just her plain old table blend. Salt is not good! So, with each piece, I bring that temp back til the butter gets frothy again and so on. If it starts to smoke, you're sunk. It can burn easily so you have to keep stirring it and lower the heat when you add your meat as of course, you can't stir it then. I layered all the pieces in a big foil pan and then deglazed the pan I cooked them in with about a cup of white wine. Stir up all those browned bits and seasonings. After it was pretty much reduced to a half cup of juices, I poured that right over the chicken. Oh, heaven. Tom was so happy to have some home cooked meals. He texted me yesterday to say how good everything was.
Okay, I think I've overwhelmed you with cooking. I just get such a kick out of passing on cool things to make. Then again, I'm just that weirdo that dances around the kitchen with my broom when I get a good browned butter.
I haven't been able to share pictures of son Jeffrey's home. Frankly, he would kill me if I did. Partly because he doesn't trust the internet, and in part that he doesn't think his business should be shared with people he doesn't know. So I have to respect that. But oh, if you could see what he has done to this home. The biggest renovation came with the work he had done with the huge basement, just an empty space with concrete floors. He had a massive bar, shaped in a half oval, custom made. It seats nine. Next to that is a bank of seats built up against the wall with small tables in front...this he calls the lounge area. Then there is a large theater area with a huge television on the wall and a sectional that can seat at least 15 people. There are soundproof curtains on a track that wrap around this space. And did someone say shuffleboard? That's The Husband playing with Kevin and Declan. It's unbelievable. He worked with two designers on this and ordered all of his furniture through Emily. Right now I won't even go into the other changes he's made on his home. I am so incredibly happy for him. This is what happens when you start working at the age of sixteen, save every single penny, and make some sound investments. He has the home of his dreams at the age of 32!
Emily had her sister in law in from Seattle visit for a few days and we all met for lunch yesterday. Jackie is married to Matt, who is Mike's (Emily's hubby) brother. It was at a restaurant called Bourbon St., and it's all New Orleans style decor and food. We had such a great time, 2 1/2 hours eating and laughing and hovering over baby Jack, when he wasn't sleeping. Here we all are, that's me and Emily on the left. Before I left the house it started snowing. I was amazed how hard it was coming down. We were just blocks from home but it took twice the time to get back. I later heard the snow was falling 2 inches per hour.
Last year at this time, Chicago had 10.5 inches of snow (but that's below normal), and right now we have had 67.8 inches. This is what my steps looked like when I left yesterday. It was triple this when I got home and I shoveled before I thought to take an after pictures. As if you haven't seen enough snow already. The Husband wanted me to take a walk around the back yard where we have massive drifts as high as our fence, to take pictures.. Milo has made two perfect paths, one to the gate, and one to his favorite tree he likes to pee on. Other than that, we have layers and layers of snow that just haven't gone away with the frigid temps. Anyway, he wants me to document it for our grandchildren. In a way, he's smart, I have no pictures of the Chicago blizzard of '67, and that was monumental. And we had another the winter of '78-'79. For that one I had just started working for an insurance adjustment company. If you could get to the office early and share a desk with one or two other people, you were lucky.
So today it was very quiet. I was home alone mostly except for my sons popping in for a bit. I had planned to spend the afternoon lolling around looking at seed catalogs and a few gardening catalogs I picked up at the grocery store. I ordered my veggie seeds which should be here any day. Thinking of these things, that we will be gardening in just two short months, makes me want to do the Happy Dance!
Hoping all of you are off to a good week. Keep the faith that we've been through the worst of this winter. :)