Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Date Night

Although The Captain and I are together every day and evening, it sure is exciting to actually plan a date night. It must be something about the anticipation.

In the early part of the week we decided to dine at a restaurant we haven’t been to before. From a choice of three we decided on the one. Alleia. According to our city’s website Alleia is a sister restaurant of St. John's and The Meeting Place. Chef Daniel Lindley's latest venture is a unique interpretation of rustic Italian cuisine utilizing fresh local ingredients to create handmade pasta dishes, neopolitan style pizza, as well as an array of antipasti, insalate and secondi.

Not only was the ambiance lovely, but the food was yummilicous! We started off with the Antipasto for two. There was an array of cheeses, meats/salami, bread, olives, and arugula. We also enjoyed a wood-fired vegetable salad with marinated mozzarella and balsamic vinegar.















The Captain’s main course was conchiglie (pasta shells) with lamb sausage, salsa bianca and ricotta salata, while I chose ravioli stuffed with butternut squash. There was a reduced sauce over the ravioli but I don’t remember what it was. It had a bit of a sweet taste. Both dishes were delicious and leftovers were yummy as well.

They sat us at the front windows facing the sidewalk. We found it interesting as folks were walking by trying to find the front door. The restaurant is not marked very well and the front door is a bit hidden (even we didn’t find it). Not only did we enjoy observing folks milling around, we also had a great time taking pictures with the point/shoot camera. The light from the the setting sun was delightful and then as the sky darkened, the candles and gas lights made unique reflections in the windows. We had fun trying to capture reflections with the point/shoot. Not an easy task.















Looks like the wires are on fire!





























































Following dinner we jetted off to the movies to see True Grit. Since we arrived early at the movie we took a walk around the block then stood in the lobby watching the Popcorn Guy. I must say, it was rather amazing.  He was above the concession area and he made popcorn in that huge vat. He seemed to really enjoy his job nestled high above the crowd. After watching this event we indulged in a Diet Coke, small popcorn and some tasty Reese’s Pieces.
















This wonderful movie is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including acting honors for Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. After hearing several reviews, I went into this movie expecting it to be different from the original, but found that it followed the John Wayne version pretty darn close. Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin and Matt Damon were amazing, as usual, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld was outstanding. We both, as well as everyone in the theatre, enjoyed this movie immensely! We will certainly purchase the dvd as soon as it is released. We will also purchase the book True Grit by Charles Portis and the movie soundtrack. Awesome music!

I do think John Wayne would be proud of this remake! Well done Coen brothers! Well done! So go see the movie!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just a Few Weekend Snapshots

Snow is melted. Sun is out. Craft projects rolling around in my head for Valentine’s Day. I can’t post too many pictures here because this little blog has a few readers that might receive these projects.

Made a trip to the barber. For The Captain, not Cupcake. They are both engrossed with their iPads which is too funny! Cupcake loves going to the barber shop.










Had some great cooking time with Cupcake Girl. She loves to taste everything and I certainly let her! First up was cinnamon followed by evaporated milk then brown sugar. She discovered that most ingredients do not taste very good alone, but when mixed together, now that’s yummy!





























More tasting. This time butter. Now that she loved! Watch out Paula Deen!

















Had a little bit of crafting fun. I finished up a project that Cupcake received for Christmas and then we worked some little Valentine projects.









Brought in some spring-ee-ness to the kitchen. Beautiful sunflowers.









Finally, Skipper was gathering in lots of warmth from Kitten’s secret spot. Not so secret anymore!









And for today’s parting shot….














This must makes me laugh every time I see it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stuffed Shells

Occasionally I like to share a recipe that I find AND that turns out scrumptious! Today I found one…..tonight it was indeed scrumptious.

I found the recipe at Food Network courtesy of Rachael Ray. Click on the recipe name to be directed to the website/recipe.

4 Cheese Stuffed Shells 

8 pieces jumbo pasta shells
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese or part skim ricotta cheese
1 pound mozzarella, diced
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup shredded Asiago
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 or 7 leaves fresh basil, torn or shredded

Preheat oven or broiler to 450 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water and add pasta. Cook shells 12 to 15 minutes, they should be softened but still undercooked at the center. Drain pasta and cool.
Combine ricotta, 1/2 of the diced mozzarella, a couple of handfuls of Parmigiano and 1/2 of the Asiago. Add parsley to the cheeses and stir to combine.
To a small saucepot over moderate heat add oil, garlic and onions. Saute onions and garlic 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and season sauce with salt and pepper. Simmer sauce 5 minutes and stir in basil leaves
Pour a little sauce into the bottom of a shallow medium sized casserole dish. Fill shells with rounded spoonfuls of cheese mixture and arrange them seam side down in casserole dish. Top shells with remaining sauce and remaining mozzarella and Asiago cheeses. Place shells in very hot oven or 8 inches from hot broiler and cook 6 to 8 minutes to melt cheeses and bubble sauce.

NOTE: I added some Italian sausage to the sauce. It added just the right spice.

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Overall, this was an awesome recipe. We’ll have leftovers tomorrow evening. This is a keeper!

P.S. My daughters and I all got new crockpots for Christmas and we started a new blog about our adventures in “crocking.” Check it out!







And a little parting shot…..Kitten loves this little spot. There is a heat vent under our hutch and she loves lying either inside or right in front of it. She is so funny!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Sweet Abby

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring - it was peace.  ~Milan Kundera

Years ago I sat at the kitchen table and made the phone call, then I drove out to their house. Once I was in the den area, they let them out. All these little furry puppies, running, yapping and falling all over each other! Most of them were solid white with a bit of black and a few were white and brown. But one in particular came scampering to me. She was just a tiny ball of hair. The only one with solid black hair with a tiny patch of white on her chest. I scooped her up and smelled her precious puppy breath. I knew. She was the one. As I drove home she slept curled up in my lap, just a little bit larger than a grapefruit. No one knew I was getting her. She was a surprise. A little-bundle-of-joy surprise.







































I remember driving to church to pick up my girls who were returning from a camp. I held her out the window and all the girls in the church parking lot squealed with delight. We named her Abigail…..Abby for short.

Abby had been dressed in ribbons, dresses, underwear, bandanas, Santa hats, elf hats, etc. and accepted each thing done to her with grace and dignity.

Abby loved the water and the snow.  We use to fill an old plastic sled to give Abby her own private pool. Oh how she love it. Her long shaggy hair dripping wet and falling over her eyes. We even took her to the beach once. I’m sure she felt like she was in doggy-Disneyworld. During the last few years, when it snowed Abby would turn from an “old lady-dog” into a little puppy again!










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Like most doggies, Abby had her little quirks. For some odd reason she didn’t like floor vents. You could place a ball or treat over the vent and she would stretch as far as she could, but then bark and bark until you would get the item for her. Whenever she was out of water she would sometimes go into the bathroom and stand in front of the shower or toilet or she would just stand in front of the kitchen sink and “gruff” until her water bowl was filled. Abby also loved paper. She didn’t tear it up like most dogs. She would just sit or lie on it. Often times, the girls would be doing their homework on the floor and Abby would mosey over, find a piece of paper they had strewn about, turn around 3 times and lie down. It didn’t have to be a big piece either. She wasn’t picky, she just wanted any piece of paper under her body. When she was hot she preferred the cool floor against her soft belly.

Abby loved to “go bye-bye” and cherished each opportunity she had to ride in the car. To really get her going we could say, “Where’s the squirrel?” Oh she would bark and bark and jump around wildly at the thought of chasing a squirrel. Another favorite was getting her hair blown dry. She would just sit of lay on the floor in from of that warm blowing air.

We always said she understood every word we said. If she did something she wasn’t suppose to, she couldn’t hide her guilt. All I had to do was look at her and say, “Abby?” She would tuck her tail, hang her head and walk away. If she wasn’t guilty, she just looked at you with those big, brown eyes.


























Through her years Abby tolerated the introduction of 2 cats, several parakeets, a hamster or two and finally a 3-legged dog into the family. Then three years ago a tiny human being would occasionally come to the house. That tiny being was Cupcake. At first Cupcake cried, then she started crawling. Abby stayed clear – except when Cupcake was eating. Little kids mean little crumbs. Oh boy! After Cupcake learned to walk, Abby accepted the gently petting and would even allow Cupcake to reach into her dog food bowl to feed her by hand. Now that was acceptance! Abby was very protective of her food, but Cupcake was allowed without any grumpiness. Other than regular dog food, her favorite meal was rice. Any kind. That made her a happy doggie!

Over time Abby would occasionally play and wrestle with Skipper, the 3-legged dog, but she really wasn’t one to chase the kitties. She and Skipper had a nice relationship. They weren’t snuggle buddies, but anytime Skipper cried out, Abby was the first one there checking on her dog-friend.










Abby didn’t have any particular health problems. She developed cataracts and a little hearing loss. I suspect she may have had some arthritis. During cold weather she wasn’t fond of going up and down the stairs. Over the past few months we noticed that she may have had a few episodes of dementia. We now think it may have been was is referred to as mini-strokes.

The Tuesday before Christmas, Cupcake was visiting. Abby was exceptional spry that day and soaked up some extra loving from Cupcake. On Wednesday, December 22nd my parents were traveling through and wanted to have lunch. Before lunch, I headed out to the grocery store. I decided to put the doggies in the laundry room, which I usually don’t do if The Captain is home. Since he was still sleeping, I figured putting them up would keep them quiet when I returned home. After returning home I noticed that Abby didn’t come out to the fence to greet me with her loud barking. Skipper was also whining, which he never does. I checked on the doggies and noticed Abby was not well. She appeared to have had a seizure. After assessing her I knew. I knew it was time.

I made her comfortable until I could return after lunch. I told my parents and both daughters. While my oldest and I shed tears, The Captain told Cupcake. My oldest (Cupcake’s mama) had a great discussion with her about doggie heaven while they headed home. Thank you, my daughter for handling that. You said all the right words. Cupcake understands in her own little 3 year old way.

The Captain and I returned to our house and I wrapped Abby up and made the trip. Alone. I brought her home alone and I knew I needed to take her away alone. The folks as the veterinary office were great. Abby’s usual groomer saw us and started to cry as she walked away. She loved Abby too.

I’m thankful that Abby didn’t suffer. The day before she died was a great day and she was her usual puppy self. I’m thankful Abby was able to share her last day with Cupcake and get some extra loving.

abby santa









I miss her welcoming bark whenever anyone enters the house. I don’t know when the water bowl is empty because she isn’t here to gruff at me. I miss seeing her lay beside me on the floor while I am at the computer. I miss her looking for, then finding, me in the house. I miss her sweet doggie kisses. I miss her big brown eyes and rubbing her soft belly. I missed her when the snow fell this week. I missed her when the sun finally came out and shone on the floor. She wasn’t here to soak it up.snow2 007
























Your favorite spot is vacant now...
No eager barks to greet me.
No softly padded paws to run
Ecstatically to meet me.
No coaxing rubs, no plaintive cry
Will say it's time for feeding.
I've put away your bowl, and all
The things you won't be needing;
But I will miss you little friend,
For I could never measure
The happiness you brought me,
The comfort and the pleasure.
And since God put you here to share
In earthly joy and sorrow;
I'm sure there'll be a place for you
In Heaven's bright tomorrow...

A poem by Alice E. Chase

Thank you my sweet Abby. I miss you and I will always remember you.