Friday, January 7, 2011

Hey, Who’s in Charge here!

Enter Mr. Peeps Poirot, International Bird of Mystery (it's a mystery why anyone would want him lol--- Wendy), the next member to join our family. Mr Peeps is a beautiful, piebald, or parti-colored cockatiel. He was full grown when he was given to us and had never been finger-trained. No attempts by Wendy, Homer, or myself to make friends with him have ever met with much success. He will exchange kissy sounds with you, but the sight of a finger anywhere near his cage will only result in hissing and ruffled feathers. I have just about given up on ever getting any closer to him. Several times a day I stop by his cage to tell him what a handsome fellow he is and he accepts this as his due with a considerable amount of preening and posing. He shows no inclination to talk, but he will warble along with the wild birds outside our window and screech at any tv program he doesn't like--- although I did hear something the other day that sounded suspiciously like "kitty, kitty, kitty"!

Which brings me to Rudy, the next addition to our household. There is a farm not far from us, where Homer and I love to go every summer to buy fresh produce. It is on the banks of the Potomac River and I think that good river bottom soil must account for the exceptional quality of their corn. It is the best corn on the cob to be found anywhere in the country. One day while we were there, we noticed a sign for free
kittens. Now we hadn’t even talked about adopting a kitten, but before long, Homer was scampering around in the barn trying to catch one of the feisty little barn kittens. Homer finally emerged with a little ball of orange fluff , who was spitting & hissing and not the least bit happy with the situation. He was not used to being handled and wanted no part of us. Since we didn’t have a carrier with us, I wrapped him up tightly in a large towel and we made it back home only slightly bloodied. This little guy was so angry, that his nose turned bright red so we dubbed him Rudy, short for Rudolph (yes, like the reindeer!). It didn’t take Rudy long to establish his place in the household. He intended to be boss cat. When Fred bounced over wanting to make friends, Rudy arched his back and hissed. Poor Fred was totally bewildered by this reaction to his friendly advances and retreated to his corner to pout.

That feisty, playful little kitten has since grown and mellowed (well maybe slightly mellowed). Rudy and Fred are now good friends. They seem to have their own secret means of communicating and I feel sure they sometimes plot together to get their humans to perform on cue. Rudy is a very vocal cat and will yowl loudly if he wants his litter box cleaned (Wendy swears he has obsessive/compulsive discorder about it) or his food dish filled. He considers a closed door a challenge and will pry open even the heavy front door if it is not tightly latched.

Our animal family has given us many hours of amusement and pleasure and somehow we have all learned to co-exist in the same household.  Anyone who has ever lived in the same house with a cat knows that you never “own” a cat.  They know they are the superior species and will only tolerate humans as necessary to their comfort.  They will however bestow affection when it suits them.  I cannot imagine life without my family.

It is a blah kind of day outside, and I have a cold and have been coughing all day.  I think I will go start a big pot of chili with plenty of spice to perk things up.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Musings of a lazy cook!

If you were to visit my kitchen, you would find a six foot high bookcase crammed full of cook books.  I love cook books!  If you asked me why, I couldn’t begin to explain it since I am at best an indifferent cook.  I have no patience with recipes that take hours of preparation and all kinds of exotic ingredients, I just like to read about them. (I also admire all those photos that look so good…so how come it never looks like that when I fix it?)  My favorite recipes are the kind that are quick and easy and taste good.  I do occasionally dig into those cook books and try something different, but the results are usually disastrous.

 I also have, thanks to my friend Bill, and endless supply of online cook books.  It will probably take me years to get through them all.  I also like getting recipes from my friends.  I have one I got from my friend, Martha, that fits all of my criteria for a great recipe…it is quick, easy and it tastes good.  This a great recipe for those days when you have been working all day, you are really tired of take out, and you want to impress your family with some home cooking.

Martha’s “I’m too tired to cook”  Baked Chicken Breasts

Place boneless chicken breasts in a large shallow baking dish (how many depends on the size of your family.  I fix 6 because they are great leftovers.)

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Cover with canned diced tomatoes.  (These come in a variety of seasonings…my personal favorite is mild zesty green chiles)  Continue baking for another 30 minutes.
Top with grated cheese and put it back in the oven until the cheese is nicely melted.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hereeeeeee's Freddie!!!

Well, now that you know a little bit about my husband and me, it is time to introduce you to the rest of our family.

My daughter, Wendy, also lives with us and you will be hearing more about her in future posts.

The oldest member of our family is Fred the Dog.  Fred is an affectionate, easygoing, sometimes loyal member of that breed of dog commonly known as Mutt.  According to the people who originally had him, he is part collie.   According to the vet, he looks more like part cocker spaniel, so maybe he is a little of both.  He has long goldish-red hair, a great plume of a tail and eyes that can melt the hardest heart.  He has the rest of the family well trained.  We jump to attention when he wants to go out and hurry to open the door for him.  When he wants a treat of something to eat, he slaps you with a big paw, displays his best grin and gives you his “aren’t I cute” look.  I have never been able to resist this one for more than 5 minutes.

Fred fancies himself to be a fierce watch dog (during the day light hours).  When it turns dark he turns into “Chicken Dog” and goes looking for Wendy to accompany him outside.  She is a good sport and dons her coat to go outside with him to protect him from the BOOGIES even on the coldest winter nights.

Fred loves Christmas.  He always seems to know that stocking hanging on the mantle is his and will make several trips a day to stare longingly at it.  When Christmas morning arrives and he finally gets possession of that stocking, he is just like a little kid who can’t decide what he wants to play with first.

We also have two feline characters in our family and I will tell you more about them in a future post.  Rudy and Miss Kitty delight in racing through the house and leaping over Fred when he is napping.  They also like to hide behind chairs for sneak attacks when he strolls by.  Fred is really good natured and rarely ever gets annoyed with them.

Fred is also possessed of remarkable hearing.  He will start barking when the UPS truck is still way down the road.  That big brown truck is never going to sneak up on us.  On the other hand, let him gain his freedom from our fenced yard, and he suddenly goes stone deaf and no amount of calling and coaxing and offers of treats will reach him.  Last year we had a heavy snowfall, followed by a hard freeze and part of the fence sagged down and Fred jumped the fenced and was off and running.  He stayed out all afternoon before he finally got hungry and decided to come home.  Now I have to tell you, that Fred is no young pup, he just thinks he is sometimes. In dog years, he is probably older than I am.  The next day poor Fred could hardly walk and I realized that dogs can have achy joints the same as people and ibuprofen was probably not the way to go. 

I started looking around and found an organic pet product line called Flying Bassett.  They have a product called Joint Recovery Maintenance Complex--- it's all natural and the company says it would be safe for people to eat it!  Fred’s muzzle may be a little whiter than it used to be, but he moves pretty well for his age.  The vet was very pleased with him at his last check-up--- in fact, the vet says his body is about 11 yrs old, but he's actually about 15. I feel very confident recommending Flying Bassett to any pet lover.  You can find them at the following link: .  Just click on the Flying Bassett icon. They have products for cats too.

Well it’s time to go.  Today is my birthday and my daughter, Wendy, is treating me to a new hairdo.

Monday, January 3, 2011

No-Sheep Cheap Shepherd’s Pie

Since the theme of this blog is surviving and many of us will have to be tightening our belts this year (Social Security recipients did not get a cost of living raise again for the second year in a row), I thought it would be appropriate to include some recipes for tasty, inexpensive meals.  I fixed this easy Shepherds Pie last night and it was soooo good!  Let me say right now that I am not the world’s greatest cook, so tasty and easy are the operative words here.

My Easy Shepherd’s Pie

2 lbs of lean ground beef
1 cup diced onion      
1 cup diced carrots (I like the little packages of baby carrots, sliced)
1 can of julienne sliced green beans, drained
1 ½ cups of fresh or frozen corn
2 cloves of minced garlic (I use the minced garlic that comes in a jar…works fine)
Salt & pepper to taste
½ tsp of nutmeg (this is an important ingredient. It really brings out the flavor)
1 tsp of celery seed (optional)
8 oz of beef broth
2 tablespoons of butter mixed with 2 tablespoons of flour
2 lbs of potatoes, cooked and mashed

Crumble up the ground beef and brown it in a large frying pan.  Add the onions, carrots, green beans, garlic, salt & pepper and nutmeg and celery seed.

(Save out the corn for now) Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the beef broth and bring to a boil.  Stir in the butter/flour mixture to thicken.  Pour into a large shallow baking dish and set aside to cool while you fix the mashed potatoes.

Sprinkle the corn over the meat mixture then top with the hot mashed potatoes.  Spread the potatoes evenly and brush the top with butter.

Bake at 325 F for 35 to 40 minutes.

This isn’t a traditional shepherd’s pie but it is good.   

Since this is really a one dish meal, you don’t need to serve much with it.  Maybe a salad, or some sliced tomatoes.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with this recipe.  You could substitute a cup of chopped celery or frozen peas for the green beans for example.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Well here goes. This is a first for me, I have never tried writing anything before, so, be patient with me.

Let me start off by telling you a little about myself and where I am coming from. I am 74 years old and have been happily married to my current husband for 43 years. We both draw our Social Security and have been supplementing our income for the past 11 years by working for six months every year for USBC (United States Bowling Congress) at their Open Championships Tournament. This involves traveling to a different city every year and staying for six months. It is fun and challenging setting up a temporary home for our stay and when the tournament is over, we head back home...a round trip of over 3500 miles. After a lot of soul searching we have decided that this year will be our last year to travel and so we face another turning point in our lives.

I am sure there are a lot of you out there facing similar situations. We can’t survive on Social Security, so supplementing our income is crucial. Also, staying active and involved is vital to an interesting life. Nothing could be worse than spending this final phase of our lives in a state of perpetual boredom. Ugh!  So what’s next?

Since we live in a rural area where jobs are scarce and the competition is a lot younger, we have turned to the internet, hence my reason for being here on this blog.  We are open to ideas and suggestions and sincerely hope some of you will respond.

My husband, Homer, who by the way is a very young 79 years, loves going to auctions.  He brings home boxes of items he finds at estate auctions.  It is like a treasure hunt going through the boxes looking for things to sell on eBay.  It is fun, but not enough to supplement our income.  We have been looking at various online businesses and have gotten burned on a few but I guess that is all part of the learning process.  We finally found one that we really like so I am adding a link and I would be very interested in your comments.