Saturday, January 20, 2018

Frozen Soup

When I'm making soup, I make a HUGE batch...and freeze some.

Frozen soup has been a lifesaver on many occasions...soup might hit the spot, or it can turn into chicken and dumplings...or chicken pot pie...

But freezing soup is tricky. For one thing, if you find a container big enough, you have to set it in the freezer so it's level -- otherwise the soup will leak and make a big mess.

I hate Tupperware, and Rubbermaid, and all those plastic containers that take up so much room in the cupboards, and they always get separated from their matching lids.

The other problem is that when you decide to eat your freezer soup, you must deal with a gigantic ice cube that doesn't fit into your pot, and isn't that easy to thaw....

Here's how I freeze soup:
Find a bowl that fits inside your soup pot.
Place a freezer bag into that bowl.
Label the bag -- then FREEZE. The soup will, of course, take on the shape of the bowl it's sitting in...
The next day, I remove the bowl (or, two weeks later...whenever I realize all my bowls are sitting in the freezer)...

To  reheat the frozen soup -- you just get the bag out of the freezer, place the whole thing it in the pot (with some hot water)...the bag will melt right off.  THEN, you just put the lid on your pot, turn the heat on low and let the ice-cube-that-will-be-soup melt down...
Sometimes, I freeze soup in individual bowls.
Same procedure...label...freeze in bowl...
At a later date -- just nuke it -- and YOU'VE GOT SOUP...!!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Italian Wedding Soup

In the winter -- I love to make soups. It just feels like home to me...I love the process, the warmth...the soup spoons...well, you get the idea. And EVERYBODY should have at least one soup they're really confident about making...

One of my "go to" soups is an Italian Wedding Soup. It starts like ALL MY SOUPS...I chop onions, celery and carrots... saute them...

Then add 10 c. of chicken stock (I usually use soup base).

My meatballs are very simple...

1/2 lb. hamburger
1/2 lb. hot sausage
1 small diced onion
1/2 c. instant rice

Drop the meatballs into the simmering soup. They poach in about 15 minutes...but, of course, if your soup is on low, or in a crockpot, they just get better and better.

The LAST thing you add to the soup before serving is a box of chopped frozen spinach. The spinach cooks in just 10 minutes -- and if you put it in sooner -- it disintegrates...

The meatballs are soft and yummy...


If I'm putting noodles, or in the case of this soup, a small Orzo pasta, I always cook it separately..and add it to the bowl as I'm serving it.

John also likes to add Parmesan cheese to this soup -- or a few drops of Tobasco -- and some crusty garlic bread is always a good idea...

And a REALLY SPECIAL MUG!!

THANKS, RHONDA!!
I LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT...It has become my favorite new thing...and it is almost big enough to be a soup mug!!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Soup, and the spoons we love...

I collect many things. One of my FAVORITE THINGS is soup spoons. The first time I actually bought soup spoons was during our sisters trip to Ireland. Since then, I have been a sucker for soup spoons.

I look for them at antique malls and flea markets, bid on them at auctions, I buy spooners to put them in -- and I get a strange thrill out of polishing old silver-plated soup spoons...here's a picture of my beautiful soup spoons -- in a classy spooner -- my holiday fabric napkins -- AND DEENA'S HOMEMADE CREAM PUFFS. oH mY gOD...THEY ARE every bit as delicious as they look, people!!


My family and friends use these soup spoons to eat soup, stew, chicken & dumplings, cereal....

After we decided soup would be the main menu for Kelcy's baby shower -- there was NO QUESTION I'd provide the soup spoons...and, well -- the cloth napkins!! And the broccoli-cheese soup, the bean soup, the veggie pizza...

Anyway -- the day before the shower, as I was polishing my very best, most beautiful 35 soup spoons -- I said to John, "there are not many people who could deliver 35 beautiful silver-plated soup spoons."

With his usual enthusiasm, he said, "yes, Rita. you are changing lives..."

Hummm?? I think that calls for a sarcasm penalty....

Here's a picture of some of the young Mom's in our family -- Becky (sans her two girls, Maddie and Avery -- our Emily and Lillian -- Kelcy and Mason and Brenda and Clayton. (these young Moms have had SIX more babies since this picture was taken!)
Lilly is going to be 9 years old...and those tiny baby boys just turned 8!!

Me and Lilly, 2009
And -- here we are -- two weeks ago -- at Hamilton!!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

TWO Good WINTER Things!!

When I think about WINTER (and it's hard NOT to nowadays) -- I think about soup. 

For me,  making soup is more of an art than a science.  When I stopped to think about it, I realized I'd made five different kinds of soup since  Christmas.  Chili, Bean Soup, Chicken tortilla soup, Sausage and cabbage soup and Italian Wedding soup...

So -- this week -- IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SOUP, PEOPLE..!!

**************

Two years ago....it was the weekend after Thanksgiving.  My cousin Linda brought her crew out for a visit.  We enjoyed TWO of my favorite winter things.  Soup and Puzzles...!! 
Ross took a picture...
Linda (LK) and her Mom -- my Aunt Ada.
Linda's son, Danny, visiting from California -- and his daughter Ally, from Atlanta.
John and Karl always share their "I-was-in-the-Navy-on-submarines-stories"...
The ladies adjourned to the puzzle table...
Aunt Ada putting in THE LAST PIECE!! (she was bizarrely thrilled)
Frankie thought they did a great job!
I got a bag of bean soup out of the freezer -- and extended it with some extra ham, a can of beans and a jar of salsa. Then, I made a big pot of Italian Wedding soup. Along with some crusty Italian Garlic bread...it was a cold day, and soup was the perfect thing.

Everybody doctor's up soup to their own taste -- WHICH IS REALLY THE BEST THING ABOUT SOUP....here's a link to a great Italian Wedding soup recipe to start with: Italian Wedding Soup From The Food Network

But I always start the soup by sauteing some onions and celery, which is not part of this recipe...feel free to put your own spin on it!!  Giada stirs in some egg, right at the end...and that can be good, too.

I LOVE this soup because when the little meatballs are poached, they are very soft...and the spinach and orzo are the perfect combination.

 Don't forget to have Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top!!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Winter Funk

This winter is soul-sucking. Although I think I SAY THIS EVERY YEAR AT THIS TIME. But, holy cow, this year has been especially terrible. The temperatures have been below zero -- for what feels like weeks now. Our roads are snow-covered, with spots of ice everywhere. Ugh. It is hard to keep the house warm, and we watch television, covered with our heavy double-fleece blankets. More ugh.

I'm trying to think of a bright spot I could write about...but I just keep thinking about HOW WONDERFUL IT WOULD BE TO BE A SNOWBIRD??  My friends who go to places like Florida, Texas or Arizona.  THEY ARE SO SMART...and I AM SO ENVIOUS...

Well, there are some good things.   About living in Iowa in the dead of winter.

Let me think...

I'm going to blog about winter activities I enjoy, and will look back fondly...

Just a minute...

It's coming to me....

Monday, January 15, 2018

Taking A Look Back...

Recently, my friend Val did a search for her name on my blog...and she was surprised by how often I wrote about her. THIS particular post was published in May, 2011.  As I was re-reading it, I got a jolt by the mention of both Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey...in the same blog post....OMG...I may have ESP, people...


*****************   

This is my world. I live in the middle of a cornfield in the State of Iowa...

Most days, I sit in my living room, in my Lazy-Boy, with the foot rest cranked up. I usually have a rice bag positioned behind my neck...(otherwise, with all the hours I spend on the computer, I'd have a terrible neck ache.)

My laptop is sitting right where it belongs. On my lap. So, this is how I work.

AND -- as you know -- the television is ALWAYS ON.


(in this case, a rerun of Gunsmoke...which is our 6:00 PM habit nowadays...old westerns...)

You name the show and I probably watch it. I start with the TODAY show...then move on to the View, All My Children, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, Rachael Ray, Oprah, Dr. Phil, all-things-HGTV, any season of the Real Housewives, Project Runway, DWTS, Americal Idol, SYTYCD, The Voice, Celebrity Apprentice, American Pickers, every Law and Order...well -- you get the idea.

And I just want to say that this week has been THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF MY TELEVISION LIFE.

Really.

Starting with the Celebrity Apprentice "FINALE" on Sunday night. Of course I knew John Rich was going to win. For crying out loud -- he designed a ZEBRA SODA CAN...!!

But -- can any of you tell me who won that final challenge? Was it Marlee? John? Did the 7-Up executives pick the basketball game or the concert as the winning event???

YOU DON'T KNOW, DO YOU??? Because they forgot to announce that little detail...

Terrible editing...just awful...somebody ought to fire Donald Trump for turning his own big "Finale" into such a phoney snoozefest...

Here's another problem this week...American Idol. It's the big 'FINALE"...I've been watching for months. They made me fall in love with Stephen Tyler. I was thrilled when they used the judge's save to bring Casey back...and I managed to get over my Pia disappointment...

Even though I was not excited about a match-up with Scotty/Lauren -- the two 16 year olds -- I'm still a fan of the show. I do exactly what they've programmed me to do. I tune in every single Wednesday...

HOWEVER...for the first time all season -- some genius executive decided to run the big AMERICAN IDOL FINALE on TUESDAY instead of WEDNESDAY?? WHA???

Like millions of other people -- I missed the first half hour. WHAT?

But MY BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT of this disappointing week of over-hyped FINALES happened on Wednesday. The day of the final episode of the Oprah show.

After 25 years, Oprah is saying goodbye...

I cannot imagine my life without my daily fix of Oprah....

It seemed fitting that I should watch the final Oprah show with the only person in the world who watches as much television as me -- my friend Valerie.

We settled in with our Kleenex and braced ourselves for this momentous occasion...and a moving, memorable hour of historic television...

Turns out, we didn't need the Kleenex...we should have stocked up on No-Doze....

Really.

It was an "Oprah-lecture". She walked on to the stage and pontificated about how she always wanted to be a teacher, and ended up with the biggest classroom in the world, how this show is for US -- her audience -- and she wants us to know that we always had the power...and because she WAS OPRAH...we all learned to be our best selves...blah, blah, blah...

About ten minutes into the show, her boring pink dress starts to annoy me. She's really too short-waisted to wear a belt...if she ever sits down, it's going to flip right up into her boobs...I'm starting to nod off on Val's sofa....

Then, in that loud, I'm-about-to-say-something-profound-voice -- Oprah booms, "here it is....the meaning of life....what I've learned after 25 years....."

Val squealed: Rita -- wake up! Oprah is about to tell us the meaning of life...

I sat up so fast I almost fell off the sofa....the moment we've been waiting for...here it comes...

Oprah: (after a long pause)... "Energy".

I looked at Val and said, "are you writing this down?"

Val: I'm not sure exactly when it happened...

Me: what?

Val: Oprah thinks she's Jesus...

It must be tough to be Oprah. Because it took a lot of restraint for her to choose that pink dress. Clearly, she was tempted to walk out on that stage in a long white robe, with a 3-D halo over her head...and a million-watt light shining down from above....

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hamilton After-Glow

We got back from our Chicago/Hamilton adventure late on Wednesday night. Lilly had school on Thursday...(and, sadly, nobody there is very interested in hearing about Alexander Hamilton.)

I felt like I wanted her to tell the story of her day, in her own words, at least once, to somebody who would understand the significance of this event.

Hummm...Howzabout my original Hamilton Inspiration? That's right....my friend Linda P.
Me, Kim (from Texas), and Linda P. -- after our June Hamilton date!!
So, on Friday afternoon, after I picked Lilly up from school, we headed into town...she happily changed clothes -- getting back into her dressy Hamilton outfit....
I knew Linda and Don would be the perfect audience.  Lilly got to tell the story of her Hamilton adventure, and Linda and Don asked lots of questions...
Their daughter Whitney (who had Chicago Hamilton tickets for the next week) -- skyped in and had more questions for Lilly...

Then, I asked her to sing...maybe for the last time...but I wanted to make a little video if I could...

And she was delighted to do it...

Friday, January 12, 2018

HAMILTON: The Trip Home

When the show was over, it was already 4:30, and we said a quick goodby to Jeff on the street (he had to go to work) -- and flagged a cab to take us back to Union Station.

Our train was leaving at 5:55. We found our track area, and had about an hour to rustle up some food. (everything on the train would be cold and old, and very expensive). Lilly and I went first (leaving Jackie and Sandy to watch our bags and coats).

After some wrong turns, we finally found the main Food Court -- and I bought a salad and wrap from Au Bo Pan, and Lilly got some pretzels from that Annie place.

The escalator that took us UP to the Food Court doesn’t have a “down” counterpart...so it took some time to find our way back to our track on the lower level. There was no way I could give directions, so we decided Lilly would be their tour guide (she was thrilled). I stayed with our stuff while the three of them went off to forage for food. Lilly quickly took them up to the Mezzanine level food court -- and they got back in plenty of time.

Amtrak boards SENIORS FIRST...yippee...so we got on the train with our bags o’ food...and it was a very quick clickety-clack two hour trip back to Princeton, Illinois. Lilly fell asleep...


It was below zero when we arrived at Princeton. Sandy went out to start her van, and clear the ice and snow. We waited in the depot for 5 or 10 minutes while she did the warm up.

After a quick bathroom stop at McDonald’s, were back on #80, heading home. As we were approaching the Big X, which is about 30 minutes from home, I asked Lilly to sing one last Hamilton song...and she sang my favorite -- the first song. Which is about 5 minutes long...and she learned it last May, and sang it all summer long.

But, during the Fall, she was kind of burned out on the Hamilton Singing...so I wasn’t sure if she would want to do it. But she was quite happy to sing for us...and she remembered every word. I started crying....thinking I’ve been planning this for 8 months, and waiting for the day, and looking forward it this trip...and it just couldn’t have gone better...but now it’s over...

We got to Bettendorf around 9:00... When Lilly and I got into my car, I was letting it warm up a bit. I said, “how are we going to remember this day, Lilly?”. And she answered without hesitation, “it was the perfect day, Grandma.”...

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hamilton Jackets

One of the joyful parts of our HAMILTON ADVENTURE was planning our outfits. I already had a wonderful white coat... but what should Lilly wear?
This jacket reminded me of the Hamilton costumes...
Lilly put some paper star decals all over the right sleeve.
Then, she painted the sleeve blue and removed the decals.
Then, she put some blue tape around the left sleeve
And painted red stripes.
The big payoff was the BACK, of course (we cut up a t-shirt)
Yep. Perfection...
You can barely see the writing...but, Lilly decided to write words on the left sleeve.
I was kind of dozing in my chair when Lilly said, "I wrote three words, Grandma, but there are four spaces."

Me:  What words did you write?

Lilly: Brave, Kind and Smart.

Me: Those are wonderful words, Lilly. And, just for the record, when you're old enough to want a man in your life -- remember those three words. Because that would be enough...

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

HAMILTON: Part Three

Jeff's selfie outside the Theater..!!

Act Two:
I was hoping a little cat nap would be all Lilly needed....and it was.  During the intermission, we went out to buy some candy and “merch” (Jeff taught her a new word) -- and she perked right up. She was completely riveted during the second act...and when they got to the song where Phillip is killed, she handed me a Kleenex...(just like she always does in the car, when we are listening to the Hamilton CD).

The show itself is an unbelievable elegant work of art.

If you've seen Hamilton, you know what I mean. The dancing, the choreography, the set...there is a high balcony where the actors would go to depict distance....and the main center stage is a circle that rotates, and has a second ring that rotates around that main circle.

And if you haven't seen Hamilton -- MAKE IT YOUR MISSION FOR 2018.  

I am not a sophisticated theater-goer (see -- I don't even know the right WORD to use)...and nobody needs me to write a review of this show. Thousands of rave reviews have been written and published about Hamilton.

But I'd like to express how special this day was. How important Hamilton has become to both me and Lilly. It became our thing...and her vehicle. She discovered she could sing. And she has an ability to memorize huge lines of verse and dialog. Who knew? Not only that -- but she isn't one bit shy about performing...and for the last six months, she's been singing Hamilton at the drop of a hat. At my friends' homes, the Princeton Talent Show, the County Fair,  my dentist, the bank...on train rides, at luncheons...HOLY COW -- IT'S BEEN JUST AMAZING....

The ramp up to this day has been THE BEST FUN EVER....Starting last Spring, when my friend Linda told us her daughter Kim bought a coupla single tickets for them to see the show...and I tagged along.   I got the CD at the library...and Lilly fell in love.

And, of course, we got to make those wonderful outfits and accessories...

I'm going to carry this purse until it falls apart...On the night before the show, I was decorating my purse, and Lilly was putting the finishing touches on her jacket...
I've already got to wear it twice -- and I hope to do it again one day...
Lilly's jacket was a big hit!!  (on our way to the ladies room, she could have sold it twice)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Hamilton: Part Two


There is something thrilling about traveling by train....one of these days, I'm gonna have to write about my career with Amtrak. It was another life. Ahh...I digress...
The train came into the station RIGHT ON TIME...
We found four seats together...and I settled down for a two hour nap...
Union Station has had a SPECTACULAR renovation.
And we were there at Christmas!!
A wonderful restaurant, just half a block away from the theater.
Sandy took a picture of us -- Jackie, me, Jeff and Lilly -- about to order our food!
After we ate, I walked over to the theater (one block away) to the Will Call window to pick up our tickets. Jeff went with the others for a little walk in the area. IT WAS SO COLD. We've had temps of ten below zero this week...and it was bone-chilling...


Our seats were good...right on the aisle...in the Mezzanine (which is actually the second balcony). We had three seats in one row, then two seats in the row above. There was one balcony level of seating higher than us.

For the first ten songs, Lilly was sitting on the edge of her seat. She listened to every word, and now and then, I’d look at her, and she’d turn her head...and just GRIN from ear to ear. It was wonderful. When the show started, and Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton came on stage, and sang that first song, I had tears running down my face. I could not believe I was actually there...FINALLY...with Lilly...seeing this wonderful Broadway show, which has been such a big part of our lives this year...

HAMILTON IS amazing. There simply are no words for how wonderful this show is...

After sitting in our comfy seats for an hour, Lilly was flagging. Hey, sometimes I forget she’s only 8 years old!  She's been up since 4:30 AM. She was coming down off her adrenaline rush...and she sat back in her seat during The Battle of Yorktown...I wasn't sure if she was sleeping but when the song was over, the audience started clapping...and so did she.

But then she hit the wall.  She slumped down in her seat and didn't move during Dear Theodosia and Non-Stop...(two of her favorite songs).

I didn't have the heart to wake her up...I only wish I could have taken a picture of her eight year old self....at that moment, in her beautiful black lace dress, wearing her Hamilton bracelet...sound asleep in that theater...