Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Southern Gardener's Diary

I don't know about you, but I'm longing for Spring.  We've had the coldest winter here in nearly 20 years.  And, this Southern girl is ready for wamer weather!

I'm itching to get outside and start working in the yard.  I love to garden, but I'm definitely a novice.  I have so much to learn!  But, isn't that the fun of it?

Our yard is a mess right now showing the bruises of a harsh winter.  What looks like sticks hopefully will recover and bring back some of my favorites.

It's hard to believe that this ...

will become beautiful Chinese Indigo.

Or that my Belinda's Dream roses will ever recover and show me these again ...

I'm really missing some of my old friends from last summer

I was so excited when the new Southern Living came in the mail today.  I saw the cover with gardenias and it was instant happiness!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that gardenias are my favorite flower.  The flowers are so beautiful and delicate.  And, there is nothing more Southern in the garden to me than the scent of a bush full of gardenia blossoms.


But, I can't grow gardenias to save my life!  I've tried, but they don't like it this far South and are tricky.  But, this is my year.  I can feel it.  I'm going to conquer gardenias!

Dreaming about my garden made me think that I want to start keeping a gardening diary.  And so I am!  (Even if it's just a few blog posts here and there).  Every good project needs a plan, right? 

Oh, I'm ready to dig in the dirt! Come on in Spring!  I've been waiting for you!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blue and White China

I love this week's Show Us Your Life topic - collecting! 

Since college, I've been collecting Blue and White Transferware dishes. 

I used to have these pieces in several areas around the house.  But, my mom convinced me to move everything to one place.  And, I'm so glad she did!

One of the things I love about collecting Blue and White is that it's easy to find, there are so many patterns to choose from, and you don't have to break the bank to buy it.

All of the pieces I collect are English.  You can tell by the mark on the back of the piece.

In fact, the mark will tell you about how old the plate is and who made it.  I like 19th century pieces, so I look for ones marked "England" versus "Made in England. 

One of my favorite things about my collection is that 90% of it was given to me as a gift. 

We received this Blue Willow platter for a wedding present from one of my mom's good friends.  This is Wedgewood from about 1870 and is probably the nicest piece I own.


This oval bowl was given to me when I graduated from college.

My mom gave me most of my pieces.  She worked for years in an antique and gift store and that's where I first saw the Blue and White.  The owner would bring back pieces from England for the shop and I just loved how different each pattern was from another.  To me, they are really works of art!

I have several pieces of Blue Willow (pictured above) and the scene depicts a Chinese love story.  Many manfacturers made Blue Willow, but one piece is always different from another.

This piece is a Flow Blue Blue Willow.  You can tell because the blue is more intense and "blurry."

Here's a regular transferware Blue Willow plate.  You can really see the difference!

Some people, just collect Flow Blue

Some people only collect certain patterns, like this one - "Peony" from Johnson Brothers.  (This was actually part of my great-grandmother's dressing set).

Some people don't like pieces with crazing

But, I love it all!

Thanks for stopping by my blog!  To link back to Kelly's Korner, click here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I love Mexican food, especially Tortilla Soup.  So, I was really excited when I found this recipe!  I made a few modifications to make it even healthier and it still tastes great!  (This recipe is based off of Emeril's Favorite Tortilla Soup recipe).

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Yields 4 servings

Weight Watchers Points: 3 points per serving
(calculation does not include avacado)


1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped, or green bell pepper and 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 cups organic, lower sodium chicken stock (I use Swanson's)
*1 pound chicken breast, cooked and prepared as directed below 
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (more if desired)
Chipotle Crema, recipe below
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped, for garnish (optional)

Spray a Dutch oven or large heavy pot, with Olive Oil cooking spray.  Heat pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, peppers, salt, and cumin for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chicken and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cilantro and lime juice, and stir well. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

Chipotle Crema 
Weight Watchers points: 1 point for entire recipe!

Note: I substitute  Fage non-fat plain Greek yogurt for sour cream.  It's rich like sour cream, fat free, and a good source of protein

1/2 cup Fage 0%  plain Greek yogurt 
1 teaspoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients. Process on high speed until smooth. Serve with the soup.
Yield: 1/2 cup

Note: Chicken
I usually use bone in, skin on chicken breasts for all of my chicken recipes. I learned this from the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. The meat is much more tender this way.  (But, I do remove the skin before using).  Plus, these are almost always on sale.  I just bought some for 99 cents a pound at Winn Dixie.
For this recipe, I rubbed the breasts lightly with olive oil, then seasoned them generously with Mrs. Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Let cool, remove the skin, and cut the meat off of the bone.  Cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Healthy Recipes

I love to cook.  Even more than that, I love to eat!  Since November, I've been trying to pick up some healthier eating habits. And, I think I'm finally making progress.  Yay!

I've had a hard time losing these last ten pounds of baby weight.  With Sister, it was a piece of cake and just fell off by the time she was a year old.  But, it's been a different story after Bitty Baby. 

Big Daddy's brother is getting married in May and I'm a bridesmaid.  Our dresses are really cute and a great motivator to get those last few pounds off!

I'm still keeping up my early morning workouts and have really been watching what I eat.  So far, I've lost about 5 pounds.  Yay!

Along the way, I've found some yummy recipes that I thought I would start sharing on my blog.  All of these are quick, easy and good for you, too!  Oh, and they are kid and husband  approved! 

I've calculated the Weight Watchers info in case that's helpful.  Stay Tuned!

Monday, February 22, 2010


This weekend, Sister had her first soccer game of the season.  And, can I just say there is nothing cuter than a bunch of four and five-year olds playing soccer?

Pee Wee soccer gear is so adorable.  Tiny cleats and tiny shin guards ... I can hardly stand the cuteness! 

The weather for Saturday's game was so pretty and warm.  Nearly 70 degrees.  The kids had a great time.  And, this year, they were able to keep track of which goal was for their team :)

I hope Sister will always be this excited about playing sports.  Even more, I hope she finds a sport that she loves and sticks with it.   Sports are so awesome for girls!

Bitty Baby LOVED watching the game and was dying to get out on the field.  Finally when the game was over, we let her run around and she was fired up. 

And, of course, we couldn't resist ... we taught her to say "Goooaaalll!!!

On a sidenote, here a two of my niece's pics from the art show at the nature center.  I can show them now that she's made her debut :)

Oh, and Sister did make the paper with her Mardi Gras picture!  It was just the online edition, but we still had fun with it all the same.  (If I can figure it out, I'll try and post the pic :)  )

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympics Fever

I don't know about you, but our family is addicted to this year's Olympics.  In fact, I've stayed up WAY past my bedtime the past few nights.

Tonight, our niece and nephew came over and it's been fun to see the Olympics through the eyes of kids.

We've had so much fun watching the skiing and snowboarding. Oh, and the men's figure skating was awesome!
Did you see the men's figure skating final last night?  Talk about drama!  We're so excited that Evan Lysacek won for the U.S.  

Sister has really been into the women's competition. She's always asking me, "Are these the girls?" I love that she's watching girls do awesome things in sports!

Last night, she and I watched the women's snowboarding competition and both of us want to snowboard now.

That's pretty funny considering we live where NONE of the winter sports are available!  But, we can still dream ... isn't that what the Olympics are all about?  :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Shhhhh.  I'm blogging and watching the Olympics instead of tackling the massive pile of laundry in our bedroom :)

Speaking of shhhhh ... Bitty Baby and I went grocery shopping today and she started to get a little cranky during the last leg of our trip.  I knew we still had to make it through a couple of more aisles ... not to mention the check out line. 

So, I thought it would be fun if we started to sing.  We head toward the diaper aisle with me singing "Wheels on the Bus" and Bitty Baby looks at me and says, "Shhh."  I thought it might be a coincidence, so I start singing again.  And, again, she says, "Shhh" and this time I could tell she meant it.  

I think today was the first official time that I embarrassed her in public.  I'm sure it will happen a million more times ... especially in her teen years :).

The weather has been so pretty this week.  It's been great to see the sun again and we actually got into the 60's today.  Bliss!

Yesterday we went to a nearby nature preserve with our cousins.  It's hard to believe we have over a 100 acres of preserved swamp right in the heart of town.

The kids loved the Nature Center and had fun seeing the different animals that were there.  Bitty Baby loved the turtles.

There were lots of snakes in aquariums, but I didn't get close enough for any pictures  :)

A local school had a display of art here and I realized it was my niece's school.  She is really talented at art and I found several of her pictures there.  I took a few pics of them, but won't post them now since my sister hasn't seen them yet!

Once we finished inside, we headed outside for a nature walk through the swamp.  We got a great workout pushing two strollers through the gravel!

I've never been here before during the winter time.  We really had fun seeing the cypress swamp through a different point of view.

The water was low so we could really see the cypress knees.

The kids had such a great time getting outdoors.  I think we'll definitely be planning more fun activities soon out in the fresh air and sunshine!

I hope you're finally getting a hint of Spring where you are :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Mardi Gras!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!  Happy Mardi Gras Day!

We took a little road trip and decided to take in a small town Mardi Gras parade.  That's just our speed now that we have little ones!  

The parade kicked off with bagpipers playing "When the Saints go Marching In."  Saints fever was definitely in the air!

Of course, there was Mardi Gras royalty

And, Big Daddy gave Sister the best seat in the house :)

Sister and Bitty Baby have very different personalities.  Sister is all about a party.  Bitty Baby ... well, let's just say a picture's worth a thousand words :)

The theme this year was "Romantic Legends"  So we saw Aladdin

And, Romeo and Juliet

And Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - who threw apples, of course :)

And then the themes kind of went to the wayside ... like the giant chicken powered by a go cart motor.  Only at Mardi Gras!


The chicken's name was really cute with the reference to Mamou

About half way through the parade ... the theme definitely went to the wayside and it became about one thing ...



This was Big Daddy's favorite ... he loved the sign

Sister caught some major loot at the parade.  In fact, she had on so many beads, that a newspaper photographer took her photo ... so we'll see if she made the paper tomorrow!

What a great Mardi Gras Day!