Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nature Baby!

Since the girls got me a new camera for my birthday, I have not had much time to play around with it. Late this afternoon I decided to try some outdoor shots, grabbed my Sony Nex 3, and went to see my newest grandchild.  Emme had just awakened from her nap so we dressed her in a bright pink dress and went outside to see what kind of natural light shots I could get.  I love this one!
I tried different settings on the camera and then forgot which ones I used!   But I like this one too!
Emme is going to love flowers!  She couldn't take her eyes off these petunias!
She tried grabbing them and actually got a few pieces of a leaf in her hand.
Love the look of concentration on her face.
If there's one thing I love about babies, it's their feet.  Just look at  these little feet and toes!
I love how these shots turned out. Now, if I could just remember which settings I used to take each one!  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Surprise 60th!

Several weeks ago Jen and Adam told me that they wanted to take me out for my birthday when they were here to celebrate Ryan's 7th and Clara's 5th birthdays.  We are all August birthday babes!  Adam said he researched nice restaurants in the area and chose the Dobbin House in Gettysburg.  I had not been there in years and was excited to go, but at the same time, I told them that they really didn't have to take me out. At this point in my life, I try not to add the numbers to my age! We got dressed up and took some pictures with Aidan, Ryan, and Kari before we headed out.

When we arrived I walked in and my entire family (except for my brother Doug and his wife Angela who live in Florida) yelled "Surprise!" I was flabbergasted!  I had absolutely no clue.
From left to right is Jim (hubby), my mom, Tammy and Bill (sister-in-law and brother), Wyatt, Rodney and Kaytee.  Rodney is Kaytee's  boyfriend and Wyatt is his son. Our meals were delicious!
The chocolate cake was amazing!  Jen and Adam brought it from a bakery in southern Maryland.  It melted in your mouth with lusciousness!
The dinner was present enough, but the kids went together and got me a new camera, a Sony NEX3.  I have been wanting to upgrade for a long time and had looked at that camera just a few weeks ago. They were so afraid that I would buy it before I left for New Orleans!
These are my seven phenomenal grandkids! Aren't they adorable! You can see their personalities in their faces, can't you?
My fantastically gorgeous daughters, Jennifer, Annisa, and Becky and my precious Mom! Jennifer will be adding grandchild number 8 to the family in January 2011!
Thanks to my kids and my family for making my 60th birthday such a wonderfully special birthday.  I am still shocked that they were able to pull off the surprise.  Their love helps make turning 60 easier. Next year I start counting backwards!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Transfer the brisket to the 5-6 quart  slow cooker and season with garlic. I used Tastefully Simple's "Garlic Garlic."  Pour 12 ounces of a stout beer (I used Black and Tan) into the brisket drippings scraping up the browned bits and then add to the slow cooker. Chop four stalks of celery and arrange around the brisket.
Mix 2/3 cup dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup tomato paste, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/3 cup dijon mustard, 1/3 cup soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon paprika. Pour mixture over the brisket. Cover and cook on high 6 hours or on low for 8 hours.
The Brisket was delicious and served eight of us with leftovers. We served it with Ciabatta rolls and multigrain rolls and pasta salad as a side.  As Rachel Ray would say, "Yum-O!"
Now for the random pictures.  This is a photo of Clara at her birthday celebration August 13th. I can hardly believe that she is five!
This is three month old Emme  - all smiles!
We also celebrated Ryan's 7th birthday.  He and Clara both have August birthdays. His great-mother sure does love to hug the grandkids!
Today I took this picture of the "cupcake" in her cupcake outfit.  The cupcake bib is almost as big as she is!
Miss Sasha sure does know how to strike a pose!
Soon I will post the photos of my surprise birthday party.  And it sure was a surprise!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Casserole and Cobbler - YUM!

I love the Food Network magazine, but have tried very few recipes. So, before we left for New Orleans I went through each magazine and clipped the recipes that I vowed to make. Today I chose to do an adaptation of  "Buffalo-Chicken Macaroni and Cheese" featured in the April issue.  Because I didn't want to make it too "hot and spicy," I chose to use Tastefully Simple's Barbeque sauce along with Frank's Hot Sauce.  I also used Tastefully Simple's "Garlic Garlic" and "Onion Onion" seasoning.
Here's my adapted recipe. Cook one pound elbow macaroni. We love Mrs. Leeper's corn elbows which is gluten-free and delicious!  Look at the lovely yellow color! 
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon or two each of "Garlic Garlic" and "Onion Onion" and two stalks finely chopped celery. Saute about 5 minutes.  Stir in 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken and add 1/4 cup each of hot sauce and barbeque sauce (or 1/2 cup hot sauce or 1/2 cup barbeque sauce). Simmer one more minute.  The aroma is wonderful! Set aside.
Melt two tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in 2 tablespoons corn starch and 2 teaspoons dry mustard until smooth. Whisk in 2 1/2 cups low-fat Half and Half and 1/4 cup more hot sauce or barbeque sauce. Stir about two minutes until it begins to thicken.  Then add 12 ounces shredded cheddar and 8 ounces pepper jack cheese. Whisk until it all melts and then blend in 2/3 cup low-fat sour cream.
In buttered 13 x 9 pan put half of the cooked macaroni, then the chicken mixture, and the remaining macaroni.  Pour the cheese sauce over all.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in microwave and add one cup gluten free bread crumbs or Panko bread crumbs.  Mix and sprinkle over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.  Enjoy!  For dessert I made a peach cobbler using the Bisquick recipe, a family favorite because it is so simple and easy, yet so good!  Start with fresh ripe peaches. Aren't they beautiful!
Slice enough peaches to fill your baking dish 3/4 full.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over the peaches and stir gently.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.
Mix 1 cup Bisquick, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1/4 cup milk.  (I doubled the mixture) and drop by spoonfuls on the top of the peaches.  Bake another 20 minutes.  Serve just as is or with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.  So delicious!
Tomorrow I am going to do a slow cooker brisket recipe.  I'll let you know the results!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Orleans - Last Day!

Folks, this is the last day of my New Orleans Travelogue.  Once again, a booming thunderstorm was our wake-up call this morning.  We headed out for the Audubon Insectarium.  It is an amazing place, especially for kids, but we enjoyed it too.
My favorite part was the live butterfly room where you can walk around and butterflies sometimes will actually land on you!  The flowers and butterflies were gorgeous.
Then we had an interesting movie theater experience at the Canal Street Theaters.  It is a very unique movie theater.  When you buy your tickets, you actually select your seats on a computer monitor.  Ushers seat you and you can order food (everything from sandwiches, to pizza, to popcorn, and more), which is delivered to your very cushy seats!  The matinee price was not much different from back home - $8.00. We saw The Kids Are Alright, starring Annette Benning and Julianne Moore.  It was good and sure beat being out in the rain, or so we thought.  Our next stop was Mother's Restaurant.  Annisa emailed me that this place was on the Food Network's show, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" this week for its bread pudding, which she knows I love.  However, we almost needed a canoe to get there!  Torrential downpour!
It is a cafeteria style restaurant with walls covered with articles written about it and photos of famous people who ate there.  Above our table was a story on George and Laura Bush's visit to the 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina when they also ate at various local businesses.  President Bush's hand written letter to the owner and staff of the restaurant was on display as well.
The bread pudding was superb!  I could not eat it all - it will be breakfast tomorrow!
We both had a cup of seafood gumbo and since Jim does not like bread pudding, he got one of their saucer sized chocolate chip cookies!
Our trip to New Orleans is coming to an end.  We are so glad that we choose New Orleans because it is an amazing city in many ways.  I encourage you to plan a visit.  Tomorrow we head back home and to the family we miss so much!  See you soon!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New Orleans - Day Six!

I was really excited about our plans today.  We awoke to a boisterous thunderstorm and were glad we had scheduled a day indoors at the National WW II Museum.
Several weeks ago I was browsing the internet for things to see and do in New Orleans and discovered that this museum was here.  The sign inside the museum explains why this national museum is not in Washington, DC - fascinating!
Upon entering the museum you see several actual WW II aircraft suspended from the ceiling.  Most of the volunteer guides (docents) are WW II vets and we followed some of them as they explained artifacts to school groups. This is a dive bomber.  One of the larger planes was actually purchased on Ebay by a private citizen and donated in honor of his wife.
A special exhibit was "Loyal Forces: Animals of WW II."
This exhibit highlighted animals that actually served a role as messengers, performed other specific duties, or were pets or mascots of the soldiers.In the new section of the museum that opened a year ago, Chef John Besh opened a restaurant called "The American Sector," with imaginative interpretations of classic American foods. Kids' lunches are served in vintage metal lunch boxes!  Based on our waitress's suggestion, we ordered the tomato soup and half ham and cheese sandwich with  fries. Look at the creative presentation!  The soup was fantastic!  Definitely nor Campbell's - no offense Campbell's!
We spent the next four hours viewing "Beyond All Boundaries, a 4-D film featuring Tom Hanks as the narrator and several floors of exhibits and short films.   This flag actually flew on one of our ships on D-Day.
I learned several weeks ago that today was a special day at the museum. Dr. Sharon Taylor's father, 1Lt. Shannon Estill, age 22, was the last man killed in his squadron at the end of WW II.  He was a fighter pilot on a mission over Elsnig, Germany, when his plane was shot down.  His daughter, Sharon, was only 3 weeks old.  Listed as MIA, no one ever knew his fate until his daughter started searching with the help of German aircraft researcher, Hans Guenther Ploes. German author and director of Spiegel TV documentaries, Kay Siering, wrote and directed the documentary, "The Last Flight of Lt. Estill."  The American premiere was held tonight at the museum.  We started with a reception catered by John Besh's restaurant. I met a wonderful museum volunteer and spent some time talking with Dr. Taylor and Mr. Siering.
The documentary was beautifully done and so touching.  This woman finally discovered her father's crash site and gives accolades to the Germans who helped her discover the site and some of her father's remains, which are now buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  The film is a loving tribute to a father she knew only from photographs and the more than 400 letters he wrote to her mother.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Orleans - Day Five!

A few weeks before our trip, I posted a question on an online forum to get recommendations for good places to eat in New Orleans, places that the locals loved.  The Camellia Grill was mentioned several times.  Today we had brunch there before our day at the zoo.  Founded in 1946, it has been open since, except for two years after Katrina.
The food was amazing!  For $6.95 we split,  yes split, an enormous omelette. This is my half!  It completely filled the huge oval plate.  I couldn't eat all of it, but it was sooooo good!  We also split a pecan waffle.  Haven't had a waffle in more than a year and I enjoyed every bite of my half.
Then we headed off to the Audubon Zoo.  Although I said the Audubon Aquarium was not as nice as the Baltimore Aquarium, the Audubon Zoo was beautiful!  It was very hot with a heat index of well over 105 + degrees, so there were few people at the zoo.  One thing that set it apart from other zoos I have visited, were the beautiful sculptures throughout the zoo.  The following are just a few of the pictures I took.
This white Bengal tiger was majestic, to say the least.
I loved the grace of these whooping cranes.
Watch out!  This elephant was very close to the edge and kept swaying back and forth in her own little dance.The Rhinos were all tuckered out!
This cheetah appeared to either be laughing or roaring - can't tell which!  A week or so ago I was watching the Food Network and the show's host was visiting unique ice cream places in the US. Featured was the Creole Creamery in New Orleans.  Well, since I firmly believe that ice cream is the "perfect food," it was on my must visit list this week.  Today after a hot day at the zoo, we headed for the Creole Creamery.
It is very "ordinary looking" on the outside.  The inside is plain, witht the exception of the flavor lists and this mural on the back wall and pictures of folks eating ice cream.
Jim had a scoop of Black Gold Crunch and one of Cafe Au Lait.  I had Coffee Pecan Brittle and Lavendar Honey.  Amazing!  The unique flavors are melt-in-your mouth goodness. I could have sat there and eaten ice cream all day.  There were so many flavors to try like avocado cream and red velvet cake, to mention a few.  Hopefully we will get to go back before we leave.