Saturday, August 31, 2013


I love the rain.  I love the sound of it on the roof and windows, the smell of the grass, and the cool breeze that often follows.  It brings to mind family camping trips, long weekends inside with my siblings, and my first date with my husband.  All wonderful memories.

All week here in Chicagoland, the weather has been hot and humid in anticipation of a severe summer storm. Finally, on Friday evening, the storm rolled in.  My route home includes a long stretch of road past forest preserve lands.  As I approached the section of road, I could see the storm moving.  It was fast and rolled in almost appearing like waves in the sky.  (I don't know what I will do if they outlaw photography while driving!)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Busy Weekend

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  Hubby and I do not have children but I work at a preschool and our it is also the first official day of our school year.  This weekend was busy as I had a curriculum meeting yesterday morning, spent the afternoon setting up my classroom, and the evening at a family birthday party. We woke up early this morning for breakfast at our local diner, stopped for hubby to get a haircut, picked up a few things at the hardware store, and finally grabbed a few last minute things for school.  It is now 6:30 p.m. and I am just beginning to plan for dinners this week.

We didn't make it to the farmer's market so I will have to rely on the grocery store (still dreaming of those blue potatoes -- they were so yummy).

Here is my plan for this week:

Sunday dinner:  take-out

Monday breakfast - cottage cheese,  wheat crackers
Monday lunch - turkey sandwiches, fresh pineapple, spinach salad
Monday dinner - lemon chicken, white rice, leftover grilled corn on the cob 

Here is my Lemon Chicken Recipe (variation of Martha Stewart's):

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, split in half (butterflied)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons of lemon zest

Place chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap; pound with a mallet to an even thickness. In a shallow dish, combine flour with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in the flour mixture, tapping off excess; set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the butter is foamy. Add chicken, and cook for 2 minutes. Turn, and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove chicken from pan, and keep warm. Pour off any excess fat,

Add wine, the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the capers, and lemon juice. Cook, swirling the pan to melt the butter, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour over chicken, and serve immediately.

Tuesday breakfast - oatmeal with peach slices
Tuesday lunch - leftover chicken & rice
Tuesday dinner - baked ziti, spinach salad, garlic bread

Wednesday breakfast - cottage cheese, mango chunks
Wednesday lunch  - turkey sandwiches, spinach salad, applesauce 
Wednesday dinner - leftover ziti, spinach salad, garlic bread

Thursday breakfast - fruit and yogurt smoothie
Thursday lunch - EAT OUT
Thursday dinner - ground beef tacos with fresh salsa

Friday breakfast - cottage cheese and fresh fruit
Friday lunch - leftover tacos and salsa 
Friday dinner - BLT sandwiches, fresh fruit, cucumber salad

Saturday breakfast - scrambled egg whites, toast, fresh fruit 
Saturday lunch - hot dogs on the grill, cucumber & tomato salad  
Saturday dinner - Spanish rice with chicken (onion and peppers inside)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A New Ride . . . An Adventure in Car Buying

I didn't start driving until I was 18 and was dating my first husband (who had just moved from Chicago to the suburbs and didn't drive either).

Since learning to drive, I have purchased 4 vehicles but only 1 without the negotiating assistance of a parent. My last vehicle was a Chrysler Sebring and had been a fairly quick decision.  I had gone to the dealership with internet printouts of two vehicles I wanted to drive - the Sebring and a smaller Ford SUV.  Although I really wanted the SUV, I was driving for work and the Sebring had fewer miles, a lower interest rate, and two years left on the factory warranty.  So I traded in my Dodge Intrepid and drove the Sebring home.

Fast forward 6 years, two jobs, and 95,000 miles later to a moment earlier this month.  I returned a missed call to the dealership where my Sebring was towed after overheating the day before.  At this point, we had already spent over $3000 during the past 11 months on engine sensor repairs, new tires, and brakes.  As Andy (the service rep) explained the problem, I waited to hear a total . . . and gasped when he finally said "$1700 to replace the water pump because we have to remove the engine to get to it". I began to panic -- there was no way Hubby would authorize that type of money given the amount we've already spent.  There was only one option . . . we would need to buy a new car.

Over the next ten days, we looked a newer used cars, purchased a one month subscription to Consumer Reports to do research, consulted friends via social media, and considered our options.  After looking into a number of options, we opted to secure our own financing.  This would save us from having to deal with the wheeling and dealing of the dealership financing department.

We finally settled on a Jeep Patriot.  It is the car I've always wanted and Hubby said he wanted me to have the car I had been talking about for years (I love how thoughtful he is sometimes).

I spoke with a number of dealerships to find their best price on the vehicle.  Our wishlist was simple - air conditioning, power windows (yes, they do make manual ones), and a CD system (again, they do have some with radios only). We ended our search at a dealership who was able to come in below our budget (at least before we added a lifetime warranty).

The process was fairly simple and not as time consuming as we imagined and I have to admit -- I love driving it!


Farmer's Market Finds

We woke up early today and after stopping by our favorite local diner for breakfast, I headed to the Farmer's Market.  Lots of wonderful items on display this morning but I forgot my camera in the car.  I'll add photographs after my trip next weekend.    

My first purchase was a few Michigan peaches, which I could smell two booths away.  Although I had imagined grilled peaches with sour cream and brown sugar, hubby saw them and insisted I include them in his lunch box during the week.  Oh, well, grilled dessert will have to wait until next week.

My second purchase was a pound of blue potatoes.  Although I have eaten blue potato chips, I had never seen fresh ones available at the market or grocery store.  When I saw baby carrots in the next booth, I knew I would be roasting veggies for dinner.  

I peeled and chopped everything to a relatively uniform dice and tossed them into a bowl.  I drizzled with garlic olive oil, three cloves of garlic finely minced, salt, pepper, 1/4 of a diced onion, and Italian seasoning.  I tossed to coat and poured onto a foil lined cookie sheet.  I roasted them at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  

Here is what they looked like . . . 

I served them with spicy cheddar chicken fingers.  Hubby was thrilled!  

Here is my plan for the rest of the week:

Monday breakfast - cottage cheese and cantaloupe
Monday lunch - leftover chicken fingers, leftover carrots and potatoes
Monday dinner - baked ham slice, stuffed mushrooms, baked apples

Tuesday breakfast - oatmeal with peach slices
Tuesday lunch - lunch meat sammies, peach slices, baked chips, and angel food cake 
Tuesday dinner - ravioli with meat sauce, garlic bread, cucumber and tomato salad

Wednesday breakfast - fruit and veggie smoothies
Wednesday lunch  - leftover ravioli, fresh cantaloupe, cucumber slices and dressing
Wednesday dinner - ground beef tacos with fresh salsa

Thursday breakfast - oatmeal with bananas
Thursday lunch - leftover tacos and salsa
Thursday dinner - bratwurst and peppers on a bun, fresh pineapple

Friday breakfast - cottage cheese and fresh fruit
Friday lunch - leftover sausage and peppers, fresh fruit
Friday dinner - french bread pizza, fresh fruit, cucumber and tomato salad

Saturday breakfast - pancakes with cherry compote, turkey sausage 
Saturday lunch - EAT OUT (Julie has a curriculum meeting all day)
Saturday dinner - grilled homemade pizza
My baked apple recipe is from a cookbook titled Cooking From Quilt County by Marcia Adams.  It is a wonderful book filled with recipes and beautiful images of the Amish and Mennonite Communities.  I highly recommend it.  


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Photo Challenge: Blue

In reviewing my current photos to see what would fit into this category, I realized that MANY of my photos include blue skies!   Here are a few of my favorites: