Friday, October 29, 2010

Scenes from a Stroll

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know how much I LOVE my daily walks!!!

Yesterday was one of those absolutely fantastic Autumn days here in Texas!  It was a little cool, but clear and sunny....the sky a stunning shade of blue. 

 
I waited until mid-afternoon to go on my walk through the neighborhood.  Long sleeves felt good, even that late in the day.  The exercise was invigorating and the views were awesome!  Quite a few of the houses around us are all decked out for the Fall season.

Thank goodness I finally remembered to grab my camera on the way out the door, so I could snap a few pictures and share some of my favorites with you!







 


It's hard to believe that we have almost reached the end of October and Halloween!  I've really enjoyed the decorations and displays I see on my walks, but find myself looking forward to seeing what goes up for (dare I say it already?!?!) -  Christmas. 

There.....it's out.  Just think, this time next month we'll be right there in the swing of decorating for Christmas!!!  I'm breaking into a sweat just thinking about it.  I know it helps to plan ahead and get organized, but I think I will just focus on getting through Halloween and Thanksgiving right now.  How about you?  Maybe we can think on this a bit more later....LOL. 

Hoping your weekend is off to a great start!

~Jane~

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chicken & Dumplings...the Perfect Comfort Food

There is definitely a chill in the air here....Autumn has arrived, in all its splendid glory!!!

I've been waiting for some cooler weather to break out the stockpot and make my first batch of chicken & dumplings for the season.....I figure it's about time!!!

My mom taught me the simplest way to make chicken & dumplings and it never fails.  Everyone loves it so I always make enough for leftovers.

It's sooooo simple....here is all you need....

Chicken breasts, milk, 1 stick butter, pepper, seasoned salt, celery seed, canned biscuits


 A large stock pot, preferably non-stick

I boil 3 large chicken breasts in seasoned water.  To season the water, I use black pepper, celery seed and Mrs. Dash.  (Of course, I realized today - after going to the grocery store - that we are out of Mrs. Dash; so, I am using the old stand-by favorite, Lowry's seasoned salt.)

Once the breasts are cooked, I set them aside to debone and cut into chunks.  I reserve about 1-1/2 inches of the seasoned stock created from cooking the breasts.....


To this, I add a stick of butter (or margarine), and an equal amount of milk.



While I am waiting for the liquid to simmer, I take 3 cans of "whomp" biscuits.  (You know, those small canned biscuits that you "whomp" on the edge of the counter to split open?)  On a cutting board covered with an ample of amount of flour, I flatten each biscuit and cut it into fourths.....or sixths....just depends on my mood.



Once the liquid is just beginning to come to a slow boil, simply drop the floured and cut biscuit pieces into the mixture, a few at a time, always stirring.  It's really important that you get the liquid just to that boiling stage or else the dumplings won't plump up and float to the top!  The "plumping" is key to a good dumpling.  Equally important, to stir and keep the temperature from getting too hot and the mixture from boiling over. 

Just coming to a boil...perfect!!!

Your dumplings should "plump up" and float to the surface for the first few minutes

Once I have all the dumplings in, I simply set the heat so that they simmer nicely and keep them stirred every few minutes so they don't scorch or stick together.  Generally, it will take around 45 minutes to get the dumplings cooked to the consistency we like.


When the dumplings are almost done, about the last 10-15 minutes, I stir in the chopped (or chunked) chicken meat. 


This is what the dogs look like when I am cutting up the chicken....just waiting for me to drop a piece or give them a nibble....



To finish seasoning, I add lots of freshly ground black pepper and Mrs. Dash (okay, seasoned salt...).

And, voila!  There you have it....super simple chicken & dumplings, the perfect comfort food on a cool, Autumn evening.


Now, this makes a really big pot of food, but I have three strapping guys to eat it all up!  If you reduce the chicken to 2 breasts and the biscuits to 2 cans, it is just about right for two people to have second's and then a leftover meal the next day.  (Just add a little milk or water to it when warming it up.)

It was great to have the boys and Sam's "baby", Savanna, with us for dinner tonight.  We wiped out the entire pot of dumplings and had a wonderful evening!!!  

 I am linking up with Funky Junk Interiors' Saturday Night Special,  where you can check out a array of blogs in three different categories.  How's that for adding a little variety and spice to your life???

Now, a special "Howdy and Welcome" to those of you visiting from Java's blog-hop, "Follow Friday 40 and Over"!!!  I hope you will stay and browse around The Porch for a bit and leave me a note!


Stay warm wherever you are....

~Jane~

I'm Still Your Momma....

We had a little excitement around here this past weekend.....

Not "Yippee, how fun!" kind of excitement.  But, the "Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!" kind. 

Ed and I had spent a cool and rainy Saturday just being lazy.  We watched a couple of DVD's and basically laid around all day!  I know....how decadent....totally blissful, actually.  Late in the afternoon, the sun came out and we were just about to start getting ready to go out to dinner and dancing with some friends, when my cell phone rang.  It was my youngest son, Sam....and I could tell immediately from his voice that something was wrong.

"Mom, what are you doing?" 

"Just about to get in the shower to get ready to go out.  What's up?"

"Ben is bleeding!"

"WHAT?!?!?"

"Mom, he hit his head with the weights and he's bleeding BAD!"

"WHAT?!?!?!?"

"Mom, can you come quick?  It's a lot of blood!!!"

"We're on the way out the door right now, Sam!"

Well, we weren't exactly on the way out the door.....I had to get out of my jammies.  I grabbed the first old ratty sweat shirt I found in the closet and slipped back on the capri pants and flip flops I had worn the previous day (when it was much warmer, I might add), grabbed my makeup bag (guilty....), and then we were out the door. 

Thank God they only live about 5 minutes away.  When we arrived at their apartment, Ed charged on ahead and was first up the stairs and into the apartment.  Ben was standing at the sink in his bathroom with a towel pressed against his forehead, alert (always a good sign) and blood covering his hands, forearms and t-shirt. When Ed took the towel away, it was obvious he had a pretty deep gash just above his eyebrow and needed stitches....but, he seemed to have the bleeding under control.

I went into "Panicked Mommy" mode.  Ed stayed cool as a cucumber.  Sam was trying to clean the blood off the weight bench and carpet in the living room. 

We took Ben first to a walk-in clinic across the street from the hospital, but because there was already swelling and it was on his face, they wouldn't treat him.  The nurse came out to the waiting room while he was still filling out paperwork, took a look at it and said it might require a plastic surgeon.  So, they sent us across the street to the Emergency Room at the hospital.....where we sat for the next couple of hours and waited.....and waited.  (Now, I am going to admit it.....I grabbed my makeup bag and put on some powder, blush and mascara because I felt just awful sitting there looking like I had just crawled out of bed.  Unfortunately, I didn't even have a brush, so there wasn't much that could be done about the hair....)

When the triage nurse finally called Ben back, he actually said that it would be fine if I wanted to go with him!  Hallelujah, my "man-baby" wanted me to go with him!!! 

Long story made short - once the doctor took a look at it and determined that Ben didn't ever pass out or suffer any signs of a head injury, they decided to just stitch it up.  Simple enough!!!  I stayed with Ben the entire time and the mood got a lot lighter as the evening wore on.  When he learned he would be getting his first stitches (yes, in his lifetime), he thought that was kinda cool.


"You know, Mom, chicks think scars are cool."  Oh-kay......

The nurse put some ointment on to start the numbing process......and Ben posed for pictures, which he quickly had me post to Facebook on my Blackberry.




He held really still while the doctor stuck a needle in the wound to finish deadening the area.  In face, he didn't even realize when she started stitching him up. 

It took six stitches to close the wound and while she was stitching, the doctor and Ben came up with an elaborate story for him to share of how he got the gash....something about how he was coming to the rescue of a young lady who was being pestered by a jerk.  The punchline when asked how it ended up?  "You shoulda seen the other guy when I got finished with him!"   (I guess this sounds more exciting than "I hit myself in the head with the frame of my weight bench when it popped loose.".....)


When it was all said and done, he signed his own discharge papers and took care of his own co-pay.....this part felt a little odd to me since I automatically reached for my checkbook when the guy from the business office came in to wrap things up.  

As for me, I am just so thankful that it wasn't any worse.  If that metal frame had caught him in the eye or across the mouth......well, I shudder to think what could have happened to that handsome face! 

And I am so thankful that we live so close and were able to get there quickly.....and that he allowed me to be with him throughout the ordeal.  

I know Ben is grown now - he's 21 years old, has a good job and his own health insurance - but, he will always be my "little boy" and I will always be his "momma".  

Until we meet again....

Jane




Monday, October 25, 2010

Storing Up Memories

I can't even remember when my mother got this beautiful set of barrister bookcases....at some point in my childhood they became a fixture in our home.  Many years ago, they came to my place....and now house a treasure trove of memories collected throughout the years.



It is unusual to find such a complete set of these bookcases.  Trust me, I "junk" enough to know that I am sitting on a gold mine with this pristine piece, complete with original wavy glass fronts, a topper and a base!  However, I never intend to let go of it....

The shelves are crammed full of memories from my childhood, like these Cherry Ames books my mother bought for me and which brought me many hours of reading enjoyment....



Family photos from the time I was only a few days old....my grandparents posing in front of their Christmas tree....my sister and I sitting atop a trashcan filled with leaves as my parents worked in the backyard.....




Ed has a large collection of Larry McMurtry books and together we have begun collecting first editions of some of our favorite books...."Gone With the Wind", "To Kill a Mockingbird", "Giant", several Steinbeck novels and my complete collection of Jan Karon's Mitford novels.....






A little owl perched on a pencil holder that my dad made as a child sits on a set of children's encyclopedias my sister and I poured over when we were little.....


A small brass plaque with a Mother's Day poem Sam found at a garage sale when he was in grade school and brought home for me....and the Willow Tree figurine of "Mother and Son" which Ben bought for me the first Christmas he had a job and his own money to spend....truly special pieces.


Part of the beauty of storing these items behind glass in that, in addition to being beautifully displayed, they are protected from getting knocked around and the inevitable dust that settles here in West Texas!

There are so many items that are priceless to me on these shelves. I wish I could pull out each item individually and share the wonderful memories behind it with you!  There is not a single piece that does not have a story to go along with it.  But, space and time do not allow it in a single blog post.

So, I will leave you with this final image of the barrister bookcase, sitting in the corner of our living room....right where we can enjoy it on a daily basis and share it with Family.


I am linking up with Cha Cha over at Sit Relax and Read for Sentimental Sunday.  Hop over for a visit and see how others are using items with sentimental value to make their homes warm and inviting.

I am also linking up with French Country Cottage's "Feathered Nest Friday", another terrific place to find inspiration and make new friends. 

~Jane~

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So Much for Which to Be Grateful!!!


Wow!  It's hard to believe that I published my first post as a blogger here at Janie's Porch on October 23, 2009!!!    Here's a flashback to my first attempt at blogging....please don't laugh.

This was my first header photo....

Our porch in Pampa, all decked out for Fall
 And this was the first photo I uploaded.....it was static, always appearing beneath my post, because I had not yet figured out how to insert a photo within a post.  (Yep, it took awhile to figure it out!)

Autumn arrangement on our dining room table
As I stare my first blogiversary in the face this week, I have to reflect on what a wild and crazy ride this last year has been....

So much has changed! 
  • Our lives were thrown into a state of turmoil when Ed's job came to an abrupt end just nine days before Christmas last year....to say we spent the Christmas holidays in a state of shock is an understatement.
  • My daughter's marriage disintegrated and an ugly divorce ensued as the new year unfolded.
  • We made the decision to relocate from Pampa to Abilene, putting our house there on the market the first week of the year, traditionally one of the slowest periods in the real estate market.
  • We found the perfect little fixer-upper in our first choice of neighborhoods in Abilene.
  • We had a contract on our house in Pampa in three days....and on the same day we put in an offer on our new place!
  • We went through some extensive remodeling on our new home....remember when we had no kitchen for about six weeks?!?!?!
  • Ed got his "dream job" working in the hunting and fishing department at a major sporting goods store and, in just a few short months, that part-time job has grown into a full-time job as the department team lead.
  • I realized my future did not lie in the legal business and I decided to follow my dream of becoming a licensed real estate salesperson.
  • My son, Ben, decided to leave his studies at Texas Tech and returned home to Abilene to start a new job.
  • My other son, Sam, graduated from high school.....all three kids are officially "grown up" now!
  • I joined a health club and started changing my life and my body....all for the better!
  • We got Bonnie all moved and set up in a new home with the grandbabies.
  • The boys got into their first "real" jobs and an apartment together....a major milestone.
That's just a summary of some of the life-changing events that we've been through in the short year since I started blogging! 

As I reflect on all the changes, I am in awe at how everything has worked out.  Even those circumstances that seemed overwhelming and filled with despair at the time have turned out alright.  Through it all, God has cleared the way and lit the path for us to follow.  What blessings have come out of all the trials!!!  We get to spend more time with Family.  We have learned to live a "leaner" lifestyle.  We have learned to trust more.

My heart is filled with Gratitude....to the brim!  I don't say it enough....I sometimes get lax in giving thanks.  Shame on me!  I let the little things bother me, get me down, make me doubt.  Double shame!!

Sometimes it is good just to stop and count our blessings, even write them down.  Expressing Gratitude for those blessings is a worthy exercise for our spirit and mind, something we should always make the time to do. 

I am linking up with Heidi at "Heart and Home" for Wednesday Gratitude.  I hope you will pop over and check out not only Heidi's beautiful blog but some of the other posts as well.  I guarantee you will be inspired and encouraged to practice Gratitude in your own life! 

Now, I am going to get out and enjoy this beautiful Autumn day....yet another blessing!  The sun has started its ascent into the cloudless blue sky over our cozy little house......



and the fallen leaves on the lawn and porch tell the story of the changing season.....


I challenge you to practice Gratitude today.  Look around and be very aware of the many blessings, large and small, in your life! 

Until next time,

Jane

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mission Accomplished!!!

As I have mentioned before, Ed's daughter, Anita, will become Mrs. James Allen Casey on November 6, 2010.  (Okay, nobody ever calls him anything other than "Jimmy", so I had to go look at the invitation to get his full given name....)  

What an exciting time in this young couple's lives!  

My dilemma has been....what to wear to their wedding!  (In case you missed that post, you can click HERE to read it.)  

Well, this past Saturday, my dear friend - Barbara - and I tackled this dilemma head on!  With no particular color, length or style in mind, we decided to make our first stop at David's Bridal.  All I can say is..... "THANK GOD WE DID!!!" 

Once there, we quickly searched through the racks of ready-made dresses and pulled four selections for me to try on.  Three were black.....one was red; all were around knee-length, sleeveless and very simple.

The first two black numbers were "no brainer, no way"....

The third dress was a definite possibility.  It was a classic "little black dress" and would have required only minimal alterations.  I started to get excited!!!  This wasn't going too badly....but, I still had that red one to try on.....

Before it was even zipped up, I was IN MAJOR LOVE!!!  I knew, without a doubt, this was THE ONE!!!

Barbara got excited when I stepped out of the dressing room.  Allison, our sales assistant, got excited.  I was grinning ear to ear.  It was unanimous....the red dress was going home with me!  

Having forgotten my digital camera, I pulled out my Blackberry and had Barb snap a couple of photos for me.  It felt awkward to be in front of the camera....ugh.  


But, as I twirled in front of the mirrors, she snapped this photo that captures my joy and the dress beautifully.

 

I gotta tell you, I was beside myself with how well the dress shopping went.  We left my house at 1:00 pm; we walked out of David's Bridal at 1:50.  And I haven't even told you the most amazing thing about this dress....it was marked down to $79 on the clearance rack!!!  This was a cause for celebrating....and so we did!



After a nice lunch, we hit Dillards in the mall.  We decided to go with something metallic - really hot this year and a little different from the routine died-to-match shoes or basic black.  It didn't take long to get the same feeling of euphoria when I slipped on this pair....


With the pressure off, we spent the rest of the afternoon looking for just right accessories.  We were in agreement that a shimmery metallic gold-toned pashmina from Dillards would be just perfect....they had a few in stock, so I plan on returning tomorrow to make that purchase!  And, as we looked at display after display of jewelry, we decided that I would need EITHER a "statement" necklace with simple earrings OR "statement" earrings with no necklace to complete the ensemble.  I am still on the search for this element.  (And I would love any suggestions you might have on the subject!)

Today, I spread the dress out on our bed and snapped photo after photo of the dress....


of the dress and shoes....



the detail along the neckline....




the "bling" on the shoes that takes them beyond ordinary....


Like everyone kept telling me - I just KNEW the right dress when I found it.  I couldn't have asked for it to go any smoother!!!


Thanks for all the encouraging words so many of y'all had for me....I especially loved the one suggesting the personal shopper approach at Nordstrom's.   Believe me, if I lived anywhere near a Nordstrom's, I would have tried it!!!

Hugs until next time....

Jane


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sentimental Sunday....Decorating with Memories

Cha Cha, over at Sit, Relax and Read, has the most wonderful idea!  It's all about decorating with items that are sentimental and surrounding ourselves with wonderful memories instead of just following current trends. 

Sit Relax and Read


Since this idea resonates deeply within me, I am joining her party and sharing one of the most sentimental pieces in our home today....

This is the piano my parents bought when I was a child.


I can still remember the Saturday morning when it was delivered to our little house on Blair Street....my excitement knew no bounds!  Although it was used when my parents bought it, it was truly a beautiful instrument....classic and elegant in design....timeless....


Daddy taught me my first tune that day...."I dropped my dolly in the dirt"....played with two index fingers on "black keys".


I was soon enrolled for weekly lessons...and spent many hours over the next eight years of lessons, practicing away!  I still have one of my first lesson books....



You can even see where my younger sister, Jill, crossed out my name and wrote hers when she "inherited" the book....


And our piano teacher's notes penciled in on the pages....


Over 20 years ago, my mother finally relinquished ownership of the piano to me....and it has been a focal point in my home ever since.   Here it is all decked out for Christmas one year....


And here you see it in a much simpler setting many years ago in another house where I lived when the kids were younger...


Although it is a "pain in the patootie" to move and sometimes a challenge to work into a small living room (believe me, I have cursed it many times), it is one of my most-treasured possessions. 


I cannot imagine our home without it!  It brings back so many memories for me....and I still love to sit down on the bench and run my fingers across the keys, making music and hearing melodies from the past.


I hope you will check out Sentimental Sunday and find Inspiration to surround yourself and your loved ones with the beauty of memories in your own home! 

For those of you who have been following, I will have a post on the results of the my shopping expedition shortly, so stay tuned!!! 

Wishing you a Blessed and Peaceful Sunday.....

Jane

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