Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Homemade Soup

There's been a lot of good soup ideas from Cheryl at Thinking About Home and from Mrs. Thomasina Tittlemouse recently.   I love to eat soup but I am not very much good at making it.  When I was growing up we always looked forward to my mom's "homemade soup" (the only name we ever gave it), so when I do make soup, this is the kind I usually make.  

I coat the bottom of my pot with olive oil and turn the stove on medium heat.

Then I throw in stew beef, in this case it is venison from a deer my husband killed.
While the meat is browning, I get my vegetables: potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic.
Other vegetables (corn, celery, beans, etc.) could also be used. The vegetables are peeled and chopped into bite size and thrown into the pot after the meat is browned.
I pour over it all a large can of tomato juice (V-8 juice is also good).
Then I look in my fridge for any extra spaghetti sauce or anything else that looks likely.  I also like to add some salsa for a little zip.  I had half a jar left so I dumped it in there.
I don't use a whole lot of spices:  a bay leaf, some rosemary, fresh ground black pepper.  I added the beef bouillon, too, which helps when you are cooking with wild game.
I simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender (an hour or so).  I usually make cornbread to go with it.

Voila!  A very hearty soup for dinner.  This is one of my "peasant meals", simple but filling.
One of these days I will try something a little more exotic.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Winter Garden

Every year my husband and I put out a little garden.  It always begins with great optimism, but the reality is that we are not very good gardeners and we live in a climate that really requires a spring and fall garden -- the summer is just so hot everything dies.  Let's just say the learning curve is steep.  But we refuse to give up!

It's now time to plant onions and other cold weather crops.  So last weekend we started. It was a bit chilly, mostly because of the wind, but we bundled up and were close to the ground, which offered a little protection.
Onions ready to plant
Putting them in
This year we are doing our garden a little differently, making little boxes to keep it organized.  We are terrible at keeping the long rows straight.  Much easier planting in the box than crawling on your knees along a long row.
filling up this box with onions
It's not necessarily the optimum time to plant garlic, but the man who runs the seed store said it would be okay to plant them now.

The cloves have to planted with the right side up
This doesn't look like much, but it's full of garlic cloves.
Our garlic bed 
There is an overflow box filled with the extra onions and garlic cloves.
One box is for lettuces.

Miscellaneous greens:
Sugar snap peas, broccoli, brussel sprouts, a cabbage
A couple of the reasons we need to keep the garden inside a fence:
Latte and Mocha

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Snake Tales

There's been some talk on Vee's blog about having a dislike of snakes (even cartoon snakes on a calendar :) and that made me think of some of our family's adventures with snakes through the years.  So if you're up for a few snake stories, read on.

About ten o'clock one night several years ago -- we hadn't been in this house long -- my daughter went outside to tell some company good-bye and she almost stepped on a snake.  My husband went out to investigate, using his cell phone for light (we can never find a working flashlight around here), and found the snake in our front yard.   It was a copperhead!  If you've never seen a copperhead, they are easily recognizable -- the first one I ever saw in person was in Georgia and I knew what it was immediately.  So my husband killed it -- probably with a hoe -- and we left it on the front walk to show my boys the next day (one way you can tell that I am a mother of boys).

The next day we showed everybody the copperhead that my daughter almost stepped on, and then I went about my business and forgot about it.  That evening I thought, "I've got to dispose of that dead snake first thing in the morning." So the NEXT morning I got up and went outside to do just that. Well, the snake was lying in the exact same position as it had been the day before, but there was absolutely NOTHING left of that snake but the skeleton, picked perfectly clean!  Now, there's no bird, cat, dog, coyote, or other little animal that could do that. The only creatures that could have done such a tidy, precise job were ants, and around here that's probably fire ants.  To think that they totally removed that snake in under 12 hours -- to me that was almost more scary than the copperhead itself!

* * * * * * * *

Fast forward to this past year.  One night I'm talking to my daughter while I'm working in the laundry room.  She and I, my oldest son and his friend were the only ones home, but we were expecting Son #2.

Suddenly she says to me, "I think I heard the garage door go up, he's home!"  But he never walked in, so I sent her to look.  In just a minute she came quietly back in from the garage, locked the door, and whispered to me: "There's somebody in the garage!"  She could hear them shuffling quietly.  I get my son, we frantically look for an elusive flashlight, we collect what weapons we can (a machete, shovel, whatever we could find) and we go out to investigate.  There are not that many places a person could hide, but my garage was very junky and had leaf debris on the floor, AND it did not have a working light.  So......my son keeps looking, my daughter and I staying closer to the door.  All of a sudden he goes "Get out! Get out now!"  I'm wondering if he saw a skunk (they are VERY prevalent here), but we get back in the house and he says it was snakes -- copperheads! He doesn't know how many.  What my daughter heard was the snake slithering around through the debris.

Well, when there are copperheads in your garage, you cannot just go to bed and ignore it.  He and his friend first put on big boots, one got a hoe the other a machete, and I drove the car around and shone the lights into the garage so maybe they could see a little better.  Let me tell you, when you are in a dark, cluttered garage looking for a venomous snake, your adrenalin is pumping.  They finally found it, but it took them several tries to kill it, finally chopping its head off.  There was only one snake, thankfully.  As we all stood in the driveway looking down at the source of our fear, now decapitated, the severed head suddenly opened its mouth wide, which was SOO EERIE!  It did it again.  Even though I knew it was dead, I still screamed. The next morning, after showing my husband what kind of havoc goes on when he's not here, we promptly disposed of the body (I did not want to have another show of efficiency from the ants).
Notice his distinctive markings
I have to add here that we did see another copperhead in the same vicinity a few days later, which we also killed.  I was very worried that the lovely couple had left a nest behind, but I found out that copperheads don't lay eggs, they have live birth.  It was a relief to know a bunch of little copperhead babies were not waiting to be born!

(I do know that snakes are still God's creatures and serve good purposes in the environment, but I have to say that copperheads in and around my house are not a safe situation for people or pets.  Also, I have seen plenty of other ones out on my walks, so they are definitely not in short supply around here.)

* * * * * * * * *
One more story:

One night we were at dinner and an argument broke out.  My husband was trying to remain calm but he was very frustrated with one of my children (no, I don't remember which one), and he jumped up from the table and strode out to the garage.  The kids and I just sat at the table quietly -- as you do when there's just been a bit of a scene -- and we hear the garage door go up (we don't have an automatic opener, you raise the door manually).  Immediately after that we heard my husband yell.  I tell the kids, "Just sit here and be quiet and give Dad some space"  because I think he's just yelling in frustration, like "ARGGGHHHHH!"  But he keeps on yelling, and finally we realize he's saying something:  "Bring me a bucket!"  ????????  We rush to check on him and find out that as he was raising the garage door, a snake fell on his head!!  He wants the bucket to catch the snake.  Thankfully, it was a harmless snake and we let it go somewhere away from the house.  We laughed and laughed, but I would not have been laughing if that snake had fallen on me!
Texas rat snake that fell on my husband
These are not all of my stories.  There was another snake in the garage a week later, there was the time a snake was INSIDE the house in the living room . . . . you get the idea.  And to this day, I am very careful to move away from the garage door when I open or close it.  One good thing came from these snake tales:  the garage got cleaned up and my husband installed a motion-detector light in there so now as soon as I go out to the garage there is light.  Hallelujah!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kitchen Flowers

Lately I have been looking at the clearance flowers at the grocery store when I shop.  For just a tiny bit of money, you can bring home something that will make you happy for at least two weeks ;)

This stargazer lily kept blooming.  It's a spectacular flower, but I don't know if I will repurchase it for the kitchen because it has a very distinctive aroma -- one that my husband did not find appealing . . . .
I have some purple iris that bloom every spring and they have the same issue.  One time I cut some and brought them inside and I promptly had to take them out again.  Pee-yew! They are definitely best enjoyed outside, in the yard.

This little bouquet was marked down to $2.00.  A lot of times I don't prefer a mixed bouquet, but the price was right, and I've been very happy at how they look inside my blue canning jar.
A little close-up:
My favorite:
Now these red beauties are not from the clearance section.  They are a gift from my husband:)
I have always lived too far south for growing tulips.  Gorgeous!
And these tiny pretties came up from some bulbs that I neglected.  I had meant to replant them in the yard but never did.

Looking at British and other European blogs with all their flowers has inspired me.  I highly recommend the practice of having flowers in (and around) the house.