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Amy’s New Kitchen

So I’ve been missing for a while……….couldn’t be helped………..I’ve been getting a new kitchen.  Well, it’s the old kitchen, but it got a MAJOR facelift!  Heck, I think it might’ve even got it’s boobs lifted and it’s tummy tucked and it’s fanny lipo’d too! 

We started this project 2 days after Christmas by turning my stairwell to the basement into a laundry room/pantry.  Then we started on the kitchen.  And it’s been a LONGGGGGGGGGGGGG, drawn out process.  And honestly, we’re STILL not finished.  The new tile flooring for the kitchen and dining room is not yet installed and the hardwood flooring in the living room and down the hall is not yet installed either.  But I thought since I’m functional again, y’all might like to see why there have been no new recipes around here in such a long time.

Here are some photos of the old kitchen.

kitchenbefore1

Think 1979 in all it’s glory!  That was my kitchen before!  No built-in dishwasher!  And harvest gold EVERYWHERE!  BLECH!

kitchenbefore2

This was the bar before. 

kitchenbefore3

This was the sink side of the kitchen before.  Notice the roll-away portable dishwasher.  That’s the best I had…….and it was pretty pitiful!  In this picture, it’s where my refrigerator used to be.  It’s now in the new laundry room/pantry. 

kitchenbefore4

This is the stove side of the kitchen.  My stove and oven are fairly new, having been added since we moved in here 9 years ago.  So neither of them was replaced.  The vent-hood above the stove was though.

And here’s how it all looks now…………

kitchenafter8

This is actually not the kitchene at all……….it’s my new laundry room/pantry just off the kitchen.  The fridge lives there now.  It’s hard to imagine that this used to house the stairs to my basement!  Currently, there are no stairs to the basement.  That’s another project for another day……….We’ll eventually put new stairs elsewhere in the house, but for right now, we have to go outside to get to the basement……but we’ll live!

kitchenafter4

This is my new bar.  We extended it out several inches so we could put bar stools up there.  Before, it wasn’t deep enough to use stools.

kitchenafter1

This was taken standing in my dining room angled toward the sink side. 

kitchenafter2

This is standing at the end of the bar looking toward the stove and oven side of the kitchen.  Notice the new pulls on the cabinets.  They’re a brushed bronze to match the new faucet on the sink.

kitchenafter3

The stove with the new marble tile backsplash and new vent-hood.

kitchenafter5

My new sink and faucet.  The sink is a composite that isn’t supposed to scratch, dent, chip or ding!  It’s called “granite” so it looks like a granite sink, but it’s whatever this composite stuff is!  LOVE IT!  9’5″ deep!  FABULOUS for washing my deepest pots!  I had trouble doing that in my little tiny sink!

kitchenafter7

Now ignore the fact that the floor still looks cruddy!  It will soon have Sicilian-Stone tile!  This entire area was empty before the remodel.  My brother built the new cabinet at the end and we added a built-in dishwasher!  Praise the Lord and pass the turnips!!!!  Finest thing I’ve ever owned!  He also built the little cabinet above the counter for the microwave so it wouldn’t take up valuable countertop space. 

ktichenafter6

And here’s a view of the whole thing!  I’m just thrilled beyond belief with it! 

So now that I have a brand spankin’ new kitchen, y’all can expect some brand spankin’ new recipes coming soon!!!!  I can’t wait to share new goodies with you!  Stay tuned!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

A new year has arrived!  It’s hard to believe that 2008 could really already be GONE!  It seems like it was just yesterday that we were ringing it in.  But here we are with a whole new year to start all over again.

To me, the new year is like starting with a clean slate.  A “do-over,” if you will! 

One of the things happening here for New Year’s is some home improvement.  You see, Tall Skinny Man, the Ankle Biters and I live in the home that was my Daddy’s.  He built this house in the early 80’s.  And he built it little by little with my brother. 

We’ve lived her for 9 years now since Daddy passed away.  Shortly after we moved here, we were tossing laundry downstairs on a Sunday morning to get a load started before heading off to church.  Ankle Biter #1 was about 4 and was heading down the stairs in front of me.  With the laundry at the bottom of the stairs, I couldn’t see the last 3 or so steps and missed them entirely.  When I realized I was going to fall, I gave AB#1 a shove because I thought a shove would hurt him a lot less than Two-Ton Tessie falling on him and smushing him.  Long story short, I ended up with a trip to the ER instead of a trip to church that morning.  And I spent the better part of the next 6 weeks in one of those fancy strappy boot thingies.  Joy!

At that point, TSM determined it might not be wise for me to do the trotting up and down the stairs to do the laundry since I’m so incredibly graceful.  So he’s done the vast majority of the laundry since then for fear I’d take another tumble down the stairs trying to do it myself. 

The problem with all that is that TSM works.  And I work.  And we both work very long hours.  And laundry piles up with 2 Ankle Biters who have absolutely NO concept of putting away clean laundry and not letting it mingle back in with the dirty laundry.  And who also have absolutely NO concept of wearing just one suit of clothes in a 24-hour span of time.  And they say GIRLS are bad about changing clothes!  As IF!   So we generate a hideous amount of laundry in this house!  And it usually takes an entire weekend to get it all completed.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to move the laundry room to the upper floor of the house.  And it’s just not happened.  I’ve also been jonesing for some of those groovy front-loading washer/dryer machines.  So at long last, I finally ordered my front-loading machines!  But who wants to banish such nice, new machines to the basement?!

So we have begun the destruction of what was the stairwell leading to our basement.  That area will now become my new laundry room.  My brother is going to build a solid floor in there and just close off the stairs to the basement.  Since it’s used primarily for storage at this point, we can just go outside to get down there instead of having the stairs.  I’d rather go outside to get something out of storage than trot up and down a flight of stairs for every load of laundy.

Here’s what we did at our house yesterday:

laundry-room-1-for-blog1

Lovely, no?  Deconstruction at its best!  This used to be just a nice little stairwell that housed my portable dishwasher, a china closet and the vast majority of items one would normally find in a pantry.  But since I don’t have a pantry, this room pretty much served in that capacity.

laundry-room-3-for-blog

That yucky, funky carpet?  That’s what was in the stairwell!  EWWWWWWWWW!  After 28 years or so, it was getting MIGHTY gross!

laundry-room-2-for-blog

I can’t wait to see it with a floor in it!  As it is right now, I’m absolutely TERRIFIED to even walk out there due to there being no rail to keep me from falling down the stairs.  So hopefully soon, it will begin to take shape!  I’ll keep you posted as the construction progresses.

What does all this have to do with food and cooking?  Well, not a darn thing!  But this room is just off my kitchen so now I’ll be able to do a load of laundry when I’m cooking dinner at night instead of it all piling up and having to wait until the weekend when we have time to do all that stair-trotting. 

But with a new year starting today, I thought I would share what will be new at my house for the new year.  I hope this big improvement at my house is just one of MANY to come this new year!  For all of us!  Have a happy, blessed 2009!  May we all wake up this time next year and be better people for the year we’ve just finished!

In Honor and Memory

Today is a gloomy, foul little rainy day here in Tennessee.  And it fits my mood, frankly.  Thirty-eight years ago today was a glorious day.  I was about 6 months old at the time.  So I had no idea at the time that it was a glorious day.  I wouldn’t know about it until I was an adult.

I’ve mentioned the former Moms Online forum here numerous times.  And I’ve mentioned that the site brought me many amazing friends.  I discovered Moms Online around Thanksgiving 1997.  I was entirely new to the web and scared to death of it because of all the bad things you heard back then about all the freaks and weirdos who were online.  But I discovered this wonderfully safe site for Moms.  I was still a fairly new mom.  My oldest ankle biter wasn’t yet 2 and a second ankle biter was just barely being considered at that point.  There was a Christian Moms forum within Moms Online.  It was there that I met a number of ladies who have been my rocks through so many of life’s trials over the past 10 years.  It was there I met Evie. 

We all have friends who come and go in our lives.  We all have friends who make different impacts on our lives.  I can’t even begin to explain the kind of impact meeting Evie and then calling her “friend” made on my life!  But I’m going to try.

Evie and I started talking on this Christian Moms board around Thanksgiving that year.  I learned that Evie had grown up here in TN, the daughter of a pastor.  I learned we were fairly close in age.  I learned that we both loved the Lord and loved to sing for His glory.  I learned that we had boy-babies born about the same distance apart that we, ourselves, had been.  I learned she had a daughter whose birthday was the very special day we finally got to bring ankle biter #1 home from the hospital.  We became fast friends.  I didn’t realize at the time just what a gift God had given me in this new friendship.

Evie came to visit me for the first time in July 1998.  She and her ankle-biter boy baby who had just turned 2 came and spent a week with me.  That was such a stretch back then.  People thought I was NUTS to invite someone from the INTERNET to come spend time with my family.  “Don’t you know that all people on the internet are axe-murderers!?!!?”  Well, Evie wasn’t an axe-murderer at all.  Far from it!

I was very newly pregnant with ankle-biter #2 that summer.  We spent a fabulous week just doing “chick” stuff all week long.  And we talked and talked and talked til all hours of the day and night! 

That weeklong visit was just the first of many over the years.  It’s hard to believe people can bond “from the wrist down” via the computer.  But we did and our friendship grew over the years to become a beautiful sisterhood.  Neither Evie or I had a sister.  We both had brothers named David.  Wonderful brothers, but no sisters for either of us.  We became sisters of the heart.

Shortly after my second ankle-biter was born, Evie found out she was pregnant with baby #4.  It was a surprise baby for her.  A miracle baby, it turned out.  Baby R was born just shortly before my AB2’s 1st birthday.  When Evie went back for her 6 week check-up after Baby R was born, they told her she had cancer.  She fought and won that battle with the evil disease.  Had Baby R not come along, she might not have ever known she had cancer in time to conquer it then. 

In October 2006, Evie called me.  She was calm when she called.  Evie wasn’t calm.  She was vibrant and energetic.  Calm meant something was wrong.  She asked me to pray because she’d discovered a lump in her lower abdomen.  Out of nowhere……….

An ultrasound said it was the cancer back after 7 years.  Evie had begged me for years to come out and visit her in her beloved Colorado, but circumstances had never allowed.  I hung up the phone and started making plans to fly to Colorado as soon as I could.  I spent a glorious few days at Evie’s house, seeing her amazingly gorgeous Colorado.  Those days will eternally be counted as some of the most wonderful I’ve ever had.  We made memories on that trip…..beautiful, amazing memories!

Evie went into surgery a couple weeks before Thanksgiving.  The cancer was not just back.  It was back with a vengeance.  She had told me before I left Colorado that God had already given her a peace about the cancer.  She said she knew she wouldn’t make it through it this time, but God had given her sweet peace.  We stood in her church on Sunday before I left and sang “It Is Well With My Soul.”  It was absolutely well with Evie’s soul.  But it wasn’t with mine.

Evie battled that cancer.  She fought it with everything she had in her tiny little body.  She fought with the spirit of a warrior!  She was determined, driven even. 

So what does all this have to do with today?  Well, 38 years ago today, Almighty God, in His infinite wisdom, gave life to the beautiful Evie.  Hers was a life that He fashioned Himself.  A child He truly created in His own image.  She mirrored His love and mercy and grace to all she met.  Today, Evie should be celebrating her 38th birthday. 

On October 2 last year, Evie’s long battle with cancer was over.  The war was ended, but not lost!  Evie won.  She drew her last breath listening to her precious mom saying, “good job, Evie” and took her next one hearing her beloved Savior say, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”  Evie’s long, horrific battle with cancer was over.

Today, Evie’s celebrating her birthday in Heaven.  Today, she’s celebrating in a place where there’s no such word as “cancer.”  Today, she’s perfect and whole and healthy again!  Today, she will have NO trouble walking through the streets of gold, celebrating with her Savior!  Today, the rest of us who loved her grieve for our own loss and our own inability to celebrate another birthday with her. 

Today, let’s celebrate Evie……………..

 Evie

This is Evie with the Tall Skinny Man.  This is when Evie was still vibrant and energetic.  She’d brought her girls to me to spend a week going through “Amy’s Cooking Camp.”  We never dreamed that in 3 short years, she would be gone.

Happy birthday, Evie!  My life is eternally blessed for having you in it!  My life will never be the same for having known and loved you as my sister!  Keep singing, my friend!  I love you and miss you every single day!  Have an amazing first birthday in Glory! 

In loving memory of Evie……………..

Anybody Still Here?

YOO HOO!  Anybody still around?  Sorry to leave y’all high and dry!  It’s been wild and crazy around my place the past week or so!  WOW!  We’ve had TCAP testing at school.  We’ve rocked off the start of the baseball season.  The Tall Skinny Man has worked umpteen thousand hours of overtime (or it seems like it!)  And I’ve been up to my armpits in work!  That has left little time for blogging and little time for any cooking either!

I’ve made nothing fabulous in the last couple weeks and have no plans to make anything fabulous either.  I do have to make some cake for a retirement party the end of the week.  But it’s same old-same old!  Nothing new and fun to share with y’all.  So that won’t even be going up here.

I just wanted to touch base with you this morning and tell you I’m still alive and hope you are too!  :o)  I’ll be back to cooking soon!  I miss it!  And I miss y’all!  I’ll see if I can’t come up with SOMETHING to share around here soon!

Much love! 

My Heart Hurts

No, I’m not having a heart attack.  It’s not a physical pain.  It’s a hurt that comes from knowing there are people out there who simply don’t know good food or don’t have it or can’t get it.  KWIM? 

Once in a while, I meet someone who doesn’t cook.  That is a completely foreign thought to me.  I honestly can NOT wrap my head around it.  How in the world do you NOT cook?  What do you eat?  I mean, I understand about hot dogs and canned soup and frozen dinners.  We’ve already established that I love my occasional can of soup!  And I’m not so persnickety that I won’t eat a hot dog.  I even enjoy eating out.  But I can’t eat canned soup or hot dogs or go out for every meal.  It’s just impossible.

I did it this past week while I was in Chattanooga.  I came home absolutely craving good, home-cooked food.  So that makes me wonder about all those folks out there that don’t cook for their families.  That is such a foreign concept to me.  I realize not everyone LOVES to cook like I do.  I get that.  But I don’t understand how anybody can NOT want home-cooking though.  How can life be lived with frozen dinners, Hamburger Helper, canned ravioli and cold-cut sandwiches?

Do these folks not ever just  crave REAL food?  Roast with carrots and potatoes?  Meatloaf and mashed potatoes?  Pork chops and cabbage?  Nothing? 

My heart truly aches for them because I can’t imagine life without “real” food.  I came home last night absolutely starving for real food!  My plan was to call the Tall Skinny Man and have him go get the stuff to make meatloaf when I got home.  Unfortunately, the drive home from Chattanooga turned into WAY too many hours due to the nasty, rainy weather.  By the time I made it to Florence, AL, Sam’s and their pizza sounded like supper to me instead of the planned meatloaf. 

But here I sit dreaming of that meatloaf because it’s homemade, not “brought on!”  I’ve done “brought on” all week long.  I had TGIF’s one night.  I had Chili’s another night.  I ate in the hotel another night because they had chili and grilled hot dogs and after the day I put over, I couldn’t stand the thought of getting back out and having to drive some more to find something to eat.  I ate BBQ in a little hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint in Cleveland, TN.  I even had THE most amazing Italian food one night.  But it wasn’t MY food.  It wasn’t home-cooked.  It wasn’t made with LOVE!

My food is.  And my heart just aches for people who don’t get that.  Food doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated in order to be good and filled with love.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with grilling a hamburger for your family.  And it beats the heck out of a Big Mac or a Whopper or a whoever. 

All that said……….go cook something for your family.  Show them how much you love them.  The oldest ankle biter has already been nipping at my ankles this morning begging for pork chops this week.  So pork chops he shall have!  If you know your family has a favorite dish, make it for them this week!  Rock their world!  And help me with making my heart stop hurting, would ya?  I need to know folks out there in cyberland are being fed with love!

See y’all tomorrow with some menus for the week! 

Happy Valentines Day

Good morning, loves!  And a very Happy Valentines Day to you all!  Today is an entire day set aside to let those you love know that you love them.  Send flowers.  Buy candy.  Give jewelry. 

For me, showing that love is about food, through food!  You know, I’ve mentioned that the first ingredient in everything you cook should be love.  That’s just how I roll.  Honestly, the best and truest satisfaction I get out of this life is making good food and serving it up to the people I love. 

I got that love from people who loved me.  My Moma and my Granny loved to cook and loved to feed people too.  Their love was passed down to me.  They showed people their love by cooking fabulous food.  Even “plain” food was fabulous because it was prepared with an amazing love.  Love for the food and an intense love for the people they were feeding it to. 

Food doesn’t have to be fancy to be filled with love.  Food doesn’t have to be expensive to be filled with love.

Since today is about love, I want to tell you a little about the people I love and about some of the things they love.

 There’s the tall skinny man.  We met my first day of Kindergarten and his first day of first grade.  Who knew back then that we’d end up with a houseful of little skinny, blonde ankle biters?  You see, the tall skinny man loves me.  Fat, fatter, a little thinner, blonde, red-headed, whatever I throw at him.  He loves me.  When I have to travel out of town, he’ll sometimes sneak sticky notes from him and the ankle biters into my luggage so I can hang them on the mirror in my hotel room.  Yesterday morning when it was evil, wicked, mean and nasty cold and snowy here, he knew I had to travel out of town so he left a sticky note on my computer that said, “B Careful”, then a big goofy heart.  He’s such a big ole goober!  One that I love! 

You know what I love?  I love to be in the kitchen cooking away and hear him coming up the stairs from work taking big deep breaths to sniff in whatever I’m cooking.  It doesn’t matter what I’m cooking.  It could be something stinky like salmon patties or kraut and weenies.  But he never fails to sniff the air and make a big production about whatever it is I’m fixing.  I love that!  It makes me feel special!  Even if the big bonehead never will tell me what he wants for supper!  Especially his own birthday meal.  But I ain’t bitter…….Just sayin’………….So tall skinny man, Happy Valentines Day.  I love you with all my kitchen!

Turns out the tall skinny man produced a couple little “mini me’s”……..those of you who have seen them, it looks like I had absolutely NOTHING to do with their gestating and birthing.  It’s like tall skinny man did it all himself.  But he didn’t.  He does have some awfully strong genes in his pool though.  Cuz his ankle biters look just like him, act just like him, and love to eat as much as he does!

The oldest ankle biter came to this world the teeniest little thing you’ve ever seen.  All 1 pound 11 ounces of him!  The minute that child took his first bite of food, it was ON!  He eats like a 350 pound linebacker, I tell you!  This is a child with a very highly refined palate.  It cracks me up.  How many times have you ever heard a 9 year old ask his mom, “When are we going to have asparagus again?”  He asked that at a restaurant in front of a the waiter a few years ago.  The waiter cracked up.  The ankle biter was serious!  This is a child who would’ve made his Mamaw Cat proud.  He eats pretty much anything and everything.  And he savors it.  He adores it.  He can’t get enough of it.  The boy loves to eat.  And his ole Mom LOVES to feed him!  In fact, I LOVE me some AB1.  Happy Valentines Day, AB1! 

AB2 is my “picky” child.  Compared to the vast majority of kids, you couldn’t call him picky at all.  He’s just picky compared to his older brother.  You know what makes AB2 happier than a pig in mud?  Soup!  Most any kind!  It cracks me up.  Now here’s the kicker……this child wouldn’t touch a casserole with a 10 foot pole.  He thinks Chicken Pot Pie is evil and of the devil.  He’d rather gnaw off his own arm than eat Chicken Pot Pie.  But now if you take all those very same ingredients and put them in a soup pot and serve it to him in a bowl, he’ll lap it up like there’s no tomorrow coming.  The boy loves him some soup.  No two ways about it.  And I love me some AB 2!  Even if he is a picky little booger!  ;o)

Since we’re talking about food and love, I can’t talk about those things without mentioning the rest of my family.  You see, my Moma is gone.  My Granny is gone.  My Daddy is gone.  He was a good cook too!  He made THE BEST slaw in the whole world!!!!  So as far as family, I’ve only got my little family with tall skinny man and my brother and his family.

My brother is a big ole lug.  He’s 10 years older than me.  Something I NEVER let him forget.  And when I was little he was meaner than a junkyard dawg to me.  Hung me from trees with my own jumprope, told people I was the little girl his mom babysits.  Stuff like that.  Though he’d deny it with his dying breath! 

My brother and his little family live next door.  That’s a blessing.  In so many ways.  One of the best ways is that we’re literally a stone’s throw from each other.  We usually eat at least 5 meals a week together.  And most weeks, it’s more than that.  I cook or my SIL cooks and we all just eat together.  Families ought to eat together more!  There’d be less fighting and bickering and back-biting and stuff like that!  It’s hard to be hatin’ when you’re breaking bread together.  KWIM?

So the ankle biters call my brother Unk because my brother and I called our Daddy’s only brother Unk.  Unk has a favorite thing I make.  It’s called Honeybun Cake.  Let me tell you something.  I’ve made MANY a cake in my day.  Fancy, fru-fru cakes!  Honeybun Cake is the least fancy, least fru-fru, least pretentious cake on the planet.  But Unk thinks there’s nothing else in the whole world like it!  He loves Honeybun Cake.  And I love him, the big lug.  But don’t tell him or anything!  Oh and he makes sure his little ankle biting nephews have all kinds of stuff their mean ole mom doesn’t keep around the house like, um, Kit Kat bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Nutty Bars and Dr. Pepper……..they love him too!  Happy Valentines Day, Unk! 

Along with Unk comes Aunt Dee.  Aunt Dee joined our family when I was about the age of AB1.  She loves my brother.  And I love her cuz she loves my brother.  Aunt Dee loves her some dessert.  Any dessert.  Doesn’t matter.  Just something with sugar in it.  I can’t tell you how many tops off leveled cakes she’s relieved me of!  LOL  She’s just good to me that way!  She’s awfully special.  Happy Valentines Day, Aunt Dee! 

And then there’s my “little” nephew.  He’s not little anymore though.  Sometime about a year ago, he got taller than me.  I’m not liking that much.  He apparently didn’t get the memo that he’s not supposed to grow up and get taller than me.  I call him my “Nephrina.”  He rolls his eyes at me.  Or socks me in the shoulder.  He’s the pickiest eater of the bunch.  But I can sure make him happy and loved with some Tater Tot Casserole.  The funny thing is, it was his mom’s recipe way back a hundred years ago or so.  But he comes to my house to eat MY Tater Tot Casserole.  I like that.  It makes me feel special.  He’s 19 now and we’re no longer cool to hang with like we were a few years ago.  So the once in a while when he lets me feed him some Tater Tot Casserole is special, cuz he’s special.  I sure love that kid.  Happy Valentines Day, Nephrina!  It’s a good thing he doesn’t read here cuz I would SOOOOOOOO be getting socked in the shoulder for telling the whole world he’s my little Nephrina!

OK, so you know about the people that I love now.  In honor of Valentines Day, I’m cooking……………NOTHING!  I plan to make the tall skinny man take me out for dinner tonight!  LOL  Cuz while I LOVE cooking and I put a lot of love into it.  I’ve got NO love for washing dishes.  And unfortunately, nobody has come up with a way for me to cook without making dishes dirty.  So somebody else gets to clean up the kitchen tonight!

Happy Valentines Day, everybody!  If you’re not a lazy slug like me and don’t mind cleaning up the kitchen, go make some food of love for your family tonight!  Just report back what it was cuz my family might love it too!  Have a great day!

What’s Cookin’, Good Lookin’?

Welcome!  I’ve toyed with the idea of food blogging for a while.  So here goes!  Just a little bit about me.  I live to cook!  I’ve been cooking since I was a little girl.  From the time I was able to read a recipe, my Granny turned me loose in her kitchen.  Cooking and feeding people  was her passion and she turned it into my passion!  There’s nothing quite so satisfying as sharing a good meal with good folks!  So join me as I share some of my family’s favorite foods, meals, menus and recipes!  Let’s get cookin’, good lookin’!