Thursday, October 25, 2012

Homestyle Love

     Last week my friend Amy, From the Mom Cave,  shared her recipe for Beef Stew on facebook and it started a lengthy conversation about beef stew.  Beef stew is one of those old-fashioned comfort foods for which most people have a favorite recipe.  Maybe one that has been passed down through the family, clipped from a magazine, borrowed from a friend or maybe from a favorite TV chef.    Wherever it comes from, it is a perfect recipe for those cool fall days or to knock off a winter chill.

     My recipe was passed down from my mother-in-law, whom so many of my recipes came from.    She was a true country cook and was very well known for her amazing cooking skills.  This was one she made often and shared with many people.  Here is her recipe for

Magic Stew

2 lb. or less stew meat, cut up
2 - 3 large onions, sliced (less if you prefer)
4 stalks celery, cut in 2 inch pieces
3 large carrots, cut in chunks
3 large potatoes, cut in medium pieces
3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 TBSP flour
3 TBSP white sugar
1 1/2 c. tomato juice
1 c. water

Line bottom of heavy baking pan with meat.  Arrange carrots and potatoes on meat.  Lay onions and celery on top.  Combine salt, pepper, flour and sugar.  Sprinkle mixture over meat and vegetables.  Pour tomato juice and water over all.   Cover tightly with heavy-duty foil so it is airtight.  Bake 4 hours at 275 degrees. DO NOT PEEK DURING BAKING!

     I will have to admit that I was never a big fan of beef stew, but even I love this.  It is so easy and taste delicious.    For those of you who want to make it even easier and quicker to put together, I have created my quick version.

     Same as above except, omit onions, celery, carrots and potatoes and substitute 1 (29 oz.) can Veg-All Homestyle Large-Cut Vegetables.  It contains the very same vegetables, with a few added peas.  Works great!

Hope you enjoy!

Until next time...that's my view.
Kat











Thursday, October 11, 2012

Free or Not, It's All Good

     Who doesn't like to get something for free?  We've all been lured by claims of getting something for nothing.       I'm no exception, so, I was intrigued recently when I received an email from a company called www.firmoo.com offering me a free pair of eyeglasses in return for writing a review on my blog.  It just so happened it was time for me to see my ophthalmologist and I knew I needed new glasses, so, I decided to give them a try.  

     Before agreeing to the deal, I looked up their website and checked out their company.  Everything seemed to be on the up and up.  They had a wonderful selection of frames to pick from and even had a virtual try on where you could upload your  own photo and actually try on the frames you like to see what they look like on you.   After picking out the frames I liked, I sent my prescription, and ordered my glasses.  That's when I found out I hadn't read the fine print close enough.   Their offer of free glasses only applies to single vision prescriptions.  If you are only near sighted, or only far sighted, you qualify.  Unfortunately, I am both, plus I have astigmatism.  Definitely not single vision.  But, all was not lost.

     Firmoo still offered me free frames and I just had to pay for the lenses.    I am very particular about my glasses.  Besides the differences in vision, I will only wear glasses that have progressive lenses, as well as transition lenses.  If you have bought glasses with these features you know that my last several pairs of glasses purchased at the eye doctors have cost me from $400 to $500.   My glasses ordered from www.firmoo.com   cost me a total of $61.90.    Before receiving them, I was a little concerned about what the quality would be.  I have to say I am very pleased.  They are well-made, quality materials and I can see great!  Actually, I didn't realize how bad I was seeing with my old glasses until I received these.   So, what do you think?


     Firmoo is now offering a free pair of glasses to all first time customers.  Again, this is single vision, but includes both regular glasses or sunglasses.  If you don't need prescription they will send you a pair of non-prescription sunglasses.   Why not check them out at http://www.firmoo.com/free-glasses.html .

     Even though my glasses were not free, I am still very pleased with them.  My husband also ordered his glasses from http://www.firmoo.com/free-glasses.html and he, too, received a quality pair of glasses.  If you need new glasses or sunglasses, why not check them out?

Until next time...that's my view.
Kat


 












 
   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Perfect Fall Day

     







     Monday was a beautiful fall day and perfect for a day in the country with friends.  My friends and I drove out to Huber's Farm to spend a leisurely day eating delicious comfort food, browsing the farmers market, enjoying the breathtaking fall colors and wine tasting at the winery.   

    







      
     Of course the first thing on our minds when we arrived was eating. Their homestyle food is wonderful.  If you haven't had the fried biscuits with fresh apple butter (seen in the picture), let me tell you it is like heaven in your mouth.  I'm talking 5 women who usually eat very little bread ate 2 and 1/2 baskets of these luscious delights.    While we were devouring the hot bread and waiting for the main course, we belatedly celebrated Kelly's birthday with cards and gifts.


     
     After the delicious lunch, it was time to walk off all that bread while we checked out the cute, and not so cute fall decorations.   There was lots to see and the weather couldn't have been more beautiful.
 
      






       
     Three of the girls took the wagon ride out to the pumpkin patch while Libby and I decided to stay in the gift shop looking at all the goodies.  When they returned we loaded up and went down the road to the Farmers Market and Winery.
 
      








     When you walk into the Farmers Market, the smell of baking bread, fresh out of the oven, seduces your senses like a passionate lover.  And, as if that wasn't enough to entice you, there is a large glass case filled with fresh, made from scratch, fudge in several flavors.   This is just the bakery end.    They also tempt you with tables of apples of all varieties, along with any other fruits or vegetables in season, and shelves of jams, jellies, honey, sorghum and many other mouth-watering foods.  Outside you find all sorts of pumpkins and squash.   


    
          As you can see, we had a wonderful day.  There is nothing better than a beautiful fall day spent in the country with great friends.

Until next time...that's my view.
Kat






Sunday, October 7, 2012

Santa's Merriest Christmas

     Old Man Christmas, as he was lovingly known around town, had been playing the role of  Santa Claus in the town square for nearly 30 years.   Even as a young man he had been perfect for the job.  No one had ever exuded the spirit of Christmas from their very being like Chris did.  From his twinkling eyes to his naturally white beard he was the kindest, jolliest, most generous and most loving person anyone in town had ever met.   He genuinely loved the kids; all kids; and he had a way of talking with them that seemed to calm even the most difficult children.   Chris loved Christmas so much that for him it just came naturally to be Santa; it had never been like playing a part.

     This year was different.  Maybe it was time he hung up his red coat.   He felt old and tired, and couldn't quite shake the uneasy thoughts that had begun to creep in over the last couple of Christmases.    Was it his imagination, or were kids losing their belief in Santa at a much earlier age?  He had seen an increasing number of children whom instead of bright faces filled with wonder and awe had come to him with attitudes of distrust and indifference.   Maybe he had outlived his usefulness as Santa.  He would retire before he became anymore disillusioned with the thought that children no longer believed in the magic of Christmas.

     Chris was out on his regular morning walk around town.  Halfway through the park he stopped to rest on a bench overlooking the pond, as he did every morning.  Suddenly, movement from the bushes caught his attention.   Not sure of what he was seeing, he got up to take a closer look at what was huddled under the biggest bush.   "Well, hello there," he said to the wide-eyed little girl.  

     "Are you going to hurt me?" she whispered in a frightened voice.  "Oh no, I would never do that.  I love children, Chris said calmly.  "My name is Chris and I would like to help you if you will let me.  Won't you come sit on the bench and talk to me?"

     Even in her young years, 6 year old Chy (short for Chyna) had learned to be a pretty good judge of character.  Deciding that Chris was someone she could trust, she slid out from under the bush and walked to the bench.  Chris immediately removed his coat and laid it around her shoulders to stop her shivering.

     Wanting to find out who she was and why she was in the park alone so early, Chris asked Chy a few questions.  He soon learned that getting information from her would not be a problem because she was quite a little talker.   She told him that she and her parents had moved into the homeless shelter last year after her dad had lost his job and couldn't find another one to support his family.  He was working at the local hamburger place but barely made enough money for a little food and keeping her in school.   Her mom helped out with cooking at the shelter.   Chris felt the tears in his eyes as this tiny creature told her story.  Suddenly, with a startle, he realized her story had taken a turn.  She was almost bubbling, her whole face beaming, as she told him that things were going to change soon for her family.  

     "Can you keep a secret?" she asked Chris.  "Of course", he said, intrigued.  "I sneaked out this morning to go see Santa Claus.  I know if I ask him he will bring my dad a new job and we will be able to move into a house again!  Santa will help us!"  Chris was taken aback at the sincerity in that little angel's face.  What could he say to her?  His mind was racing.  All he could think of right now was to tell her that she was too early.  Santa wouldn't be in town until next week.  And he couldn't tell her that he was Santa and he might not be there at all this year.  Right now he needed to think.  First he must get Chy back to the shelter.

     When they arrived at the shelter, Chy's parents were frantic with worry.  It wasn't like her to run off.  They were so thankful and relieved when Chris walked through the door with her.   The four of them sat down with steaming mugs of hot chocolate and talked for nearly an hour.

     Chris thought of little else for the entire week.  The day came for the Christmas parade and he knew, without a doubt, what he must do.   He buttoned his coat, pulled on his boots, and laughed a jolly ho ho ho as he closed the door behind him.

     Following the parade, Chris took his familiar place on Santa's throne.   The doors were opened and it was no surprise to him that Chy was the first in line.   As she sat on his lap and whispered her wish list, Chris couldn't help but grin from ear to ear.   He wished her a Merry Christmas and gave her an enthusiastic belly laugh as she slid down.  Her faith had never wavered.  She believed in Santa with all her heart.   Chris's heart, too, was filled with the spirit of Christmas.  He had a secret he couldn't wait to share!

     The idea had been forming in Chris's mind all week.   He was getting up in years and he had no family.  His wife had died before they were able to have children.  The huge house and grounds where he lived was getting to be more than he could handle.  It all made perfect sense.  He had formed an instant bond with the Sims family from the moment he found little Chyna in the park.  They had fallen on hard times through no fault of their own and were good people.  Helping them would fill a void in his own life that he hadn't even realized was there.  It was simple; the Sims family would move in with him.  Mr. Sims would take care of the grounds, gardens and house repairs while Mrs. Sims cooked and did the housekeeping.  In return, he would provide them a place to live, free of charge and a decent salary for their work.  They would be like the family he never had.  He just knew Chyna would keep him on his toes and, therefore, keep him young.  

     Most days Chris hated to see the last child come through because it meant he had to go home to his big, empty house.  Tonight was different.  He couldn't wait to meet with Mr. & Mrs. Sims to present his proposition.  He just knew this was going to be the merriest Christmas ever.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


This story is complete fiction and was written in response to the GBE 2 picture prompt.  The picture, seen at the beginning of this story, is courtesy of morguefile.com.






Wednesday, October 3, 2012

High Praise

     On Thursday, September 20, 2012, my nearly 91 year old Dad took the trip of his life.    Thanks to a wonderful non-profit organization called Honor Flight Network, Dad took his first plane trip since World War II.   Honor Flight Network honors our veterans and their many sacrifices for our country by flying them to Washington, D.C. to visit the war memorials.   And the amazing part...it is at absolutely no cost to the veterans.

     Upon arriving at the airport at the early hour of 6:00 a.m., Dad was welcomed into a group of 105 veterans who would be his traveling companions for the day, along with around 60 volunteers.   They were each given a disposable camera to take pictures with.  On the morning flight they were served breakfast and on the return flight that evening they were served a hot dinner.    Landing in Baltimore, MD., they were greeted by some active duty soldiers.   They were then loaded on a tour bus to start their day that would include visits to all the war memorials.  At lunch they were provided sack lunches.

     The first and most important to my dad, was the World War II Memorial.  Dad was a Navy Air radio operator in a bomber plane.  He also had 2 brothers who were also in World War II, neither of which made it home.  Both were killed, one at Normandy and one at Iwo Jima.    I wrote more about them a couple of posts ago.



     Between Dad and the nice volunteer couple who assisted him all day, he got some good pictures to remember his visit.  Here are some of them:

      



    Dad at different areas of the World War II Memorial
The couple who assisted Dad
This wall is covered with 4000 gold stars.  Each star 
respresents 100 soldiers who died.

 
 
 Dad took up all his pictures at the  World War II Memorial, but they did visit all the other war memorials.

          




         
 The whole group.




Washington Monument
Raising the Flag at Iwo Jima







                                                   
                                             

     Upon arrival back at the Louisville airport, the tired veterans received a hero's welcome home.  There were groups of people waving American flags and a choir of voices singing patriotic songs.  These deserving men and women were treated like royalty the entire day.

     This is such a wonderful opportunity for veterans like my dad who would never have otherwise had the chance to visit Washington D.C. or the war memorials.  I would like to send a special thanks to the Honor Flight Network, and especially the Honor Flights Bluegrass Division, for giving my dad such a special gift.  He loved it and was so happy when he got home.  I truly appreciate all the volunteers who made this possible.

     If you are a veteran or have a parent, relative or friend who would benefit from this trip, the Honor Flight Network has regional chapters all over the United States.  Check it out by clicking on any of the links in this post.