Sunday, March 30, 2008

Grand Cayman, Oh So Grand

Gorgeous beaches and water that changes from turquoise to sapphire and aquamarine in a glorious swirl of color! My husband Scott received this trip as a recognition along with 127 others from his company, all recipients of the "STAR" awards, given to the top 1% in his company. We were all treated to an outstanding four day, all expense get-away for two on Grand Cayman Island.

O, land of soft, fresh breezes, or verdant trees so fair
With Thy Creator's glory, reflected ev'rywhere.
(a portion of the Cayman Islands National Song)

The Westin Casuarina on Seven Mile Beach was wonderful with a friendly staff and fabulous food. We arrived Tuesday afternoon, were treated to a seaside evening of music with a steel drum band, cocktails and dinner buffet on the lawn.

Wednesday afternoon was a cookout on the beach and a choice of water activities; banana boats, waverunners, kayacks, etc. Scott drove and I hung on as we raced around, took in the ocean view and salt spray. Our hats were the only casualties --- lost at sea.

More about the Wednesday evening dinner at the Grand Old House in a later post!

Getting up close and personal with stingrays was the adventure Thursday morning. The trip to and from the sandbar on a fabulous catamaran - Red Sail Sports was great by itself. There were too many boats in the shallowest of the sandbars where it is only 3-4 feet deep so our Australian captian took us to another location about 12 feet deep, threw out some squid. Into the Caribean Sea we went with mask, snorkel and fins---some, like me with a vest on too, watching these graceful rays below. The stronger, more coordinated ones ventured further out and below. It was rather choppy and I, in my vest stayed fairly close to boat! They are gentle, sociable, incredible sea creatures that interact with visitors, brushing their velvety underbellies against us passengers. One of the other cruise staff was a Caymanian, dove straight in, brought a ray up, cradled in his arms for me to spend some time with. I think this was my favorite adventure of the trip!

A WaveRunner snorkeling safari on Friday morning was an exciting adventure. I've been on the back of these machines but had never driven one myself until this beautiful morning. WOW!!! An incredible feeling! After slowly clearing the 200-yard, no-wake zone that runs along the Seven Mile Beach we take off at about 50 mph, stopping at two different coral reefs, don the masks, snorkel & fins. I'm a rookie, a surface snorkeler but still enjoyed to view below.

More pictures and posts to come.

Thank you to my dear sweet husband who so deserved and earned this amazing trip!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

If I were younger...and taller...

UPDATE: this item sold this week (April 1st) but I'll be making this pattern again!

This is my latest etsy listing....Spring Fashion Ladies Mini Dress Tunic.

When I first bought this pattern it reminded me of Kelly Ripa & some of the oh-so-cute outfits you see her wear. If I were younger, taller then I'd keep this for myself!
The Mulberry Elementary School Mural pictures are now posted in a bit more organized way.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Still Life for Breakfast, Peach Cobbler for Dessert!

It was really hard to decide what to include because there are so many great items. For that reason I'm showing the alternates too. Do enjoy & thank you to this set of great artists!

Peach Cobbler

Dinner tonight? Chicken Enchiladas.

Instead of my usual Pace salsa, tonight I used Newman's Own Black Bean & Corn Salsa plus a tablespoon of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers and a couple of tablespoons of Pace Chipotle Salsa.

Dessert? Quick Peach Cobbler.

1 stick butter or margarine
1 C self-rising flour
1 C sugar
1 C milk
1 large can peaches, sliced
Ice Cream, Cool Whip or whip cream is optional

Melt butter in medium Pyrex dish in the microwave. Mix flour, sugar and milk (will be thin). Add peaches to butter and pour dough over peaches. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until cobbler is completely cooked and brown on top. If desired, serve with ice cream, Cool Whip or whip cream.

This easy recipe makes a nice family dessert.
When fresh fruit is available, substitute 2 cups fresh sliced
sweetened peaches, blueberries, blackberries or a combination of fruits!

More recipes at See Food for Thought for a complete listing.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cooking My Way Around the Globe

I'm not sure what has gotten into me this past week. It was more accidental than planned and thought out but I realized last night that our menus have covered the globe. Starting with homemade Macaroni and Cheese last Saturday, I emptied the cheese drawer in the fridge with this American favorite, Provolone, a couple of different sharp Cheddars, Parmesan & whatever else needed to be used.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew on Sunday, Tortilla Soup made it's way to the table both Monday & Tuesday. Orange Chicken from Panda Express is Jonathan's FAVORITE but Wednesday night I made it myself from an America's Test Kitchen recipe that I've had printed & waiting to be made for almost 2 years. Last night was Italian with Spaghetti. One of those dishes I just make but have no recipe for, just letting it simmer all afternoon.
This salad is really simple, maybe not really Italian but a current favorite. A bed of fresh baby spinach, pear slices, sometimes orange slices, onion (green onion on this night but red onion is nice too), pecans or walnuts that have been gently toasted in a skillet with a little butter, finished with a light sprinkle of sea salt. Toss in some craisins or other dried fruit if you'd like. A simple dressing of balsamic vinegar with something sweet; honey, some fig or other preserves perhaps, top it all with bit of cheese. It's just the right combination of flavors and texture to make a really great salad that makes me never want to eat iceberg lettuce again!

Art Smith's Goat Cheese Drop Biscuits, another recipe I'd printed out but not made until now. I usually prefer a cut, not drop biscuit but these were outstanding! The preheated iron skillet gave the bottoms a lovely color and texture. This will be a keeper!
Many more of my favorites are available at, see Food for Thought.
Where shall we travel to tonight?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

So You Think You Can Paint!?! Part 4

Trying to get some other angles & shots to show the effect & an idea of the size!
Above is a shot of the main, front area, stage, rock wall. Below is the same area from further back.

Side the right you can see Kim's grandmother's Kentucky farm house shown up close on the last post.
This scene is on the opposite side wall between 2 outside windows. A path through a stand of trees with a deer crossing. Below is the same wall but to the left, a large lake scene.

Back to the front....

So You Think You Can Paint!?! Part 3

Six days.
Five artists.
Paints, ladders, brushes, sponges...
2000 square feet of cinderblock wall in an elementary cafeteria.

See earlier posts of this work in progress!

Also see Alcovy Elementary, Monarch School.

Coming soon: pics from Corley & Shiloh Elementary Schools.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

RX in a bowl!

If you get hit by the bug & want something a bit more interesting than the traditional chicken soup then I've got the recipe for you!!! It's become a family favorite --- note to self...make a DOUBLE batch! I'd love to claim as my own but must give due credit to America's Test Kitchen. Even my picky eater (that's him with Cesar) wants seconds of this warm & spicy southwestern soup.

You may use some leftover chicken or shred one of the rotisserie chickens available at the supermarket.

Before I send you to the soup recipe let me note a NEW recipe that I tried this past weekend. Moroccan Chickpea Stew was a winner with my daughter Sara & her fiance'. This won rave reviews from them & will definitely be a keeper in my recipe go-to file!
Thank you anodyne designs for this great new recipe!

Tortilla Soup from
America’s Test Kitchen Despite its somewhat lengthy list, this recipe is very easy to prepare. If you desire a soup with mild spiciness, trim the ribs and seeds from the jalapeno (or omit jalapeno altogether) and use the minimum about of chipotle in adobo sauce (1 teaspoon, pureed with the tomatoes in step 3). Our preferred brand of low-sodium chicken broth is Swanson’s Natural Goodness. If advance preparation suits you, the soup can be completed short of adding the shredded chicken to the pot at the end of step 3. Return the soup to a simmer over medium-high heat before proceeding. The tortilla strips and the garnishes are best prepared the day of serving.

Tortilla Strips
8 corn tortillas (6-inch), cut into ½-inch strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Table salt

2 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds) (skin removed and well trimmed of excess fat)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 very large white onion (about 1 pound), trimmed of root end, quartered, and peeled
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs epazote, fresh, or 8-10 sprigs fresh cilantro plus 1 sprig fresh oregano
Table salt
2 medium tomatoes, cored & quartered
½ medium jalapeno chile
1 chipotle chili en adobo, plus up to 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lime, cut into wedges
1 Hass avocado, diced fine
8 ounces cotija cheese, crumbles, or Monterey Jack cheese, dices fine
Fresh cilantro leaves
Minced jalapeno pepper
Mexican crema or sour cream

FOR THE TORTILLA STRIPS: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread tortilla strips on rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil and toss until evenly coated. Bake until strips are deep golden brown and crisped, about 14 minutes, rotating pan and shaking strips (to redistribute) halfway through baking time. Season strips lightly with salt; transfer to plate lined with several paper towels.
(Note: You may want to make extra strips!)

FOR THE SOUP: While tortilla strips bake, bring chicken, broth, 2 onion quarters, 2 garlic cloves, epazote, and ½ teaspoon salt to boil over medium-high heat in large saucepan; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer; discard solids. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces; discard bones.

Puree tomatoes, 2 remaining onion quarters, 2 remaining garlic cloves, jalapeno, chipotle chile, and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce in food processor until smooth. Heat oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering; add tomato/onion puree and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture had darkened in color, about 10 minutes. (This is when I go crazy because the smell is so absolutely WONDERFUL!) Stir strained broth into tomato mixture, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, about 15 minutes. Taste soup; if desired, add up to 2 teaspoons additional adobo sauce. Add shredded chicken and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. To serve, place portions of tortilla strips in bottom of individual bowls and ladle soup into bowls; pass garnishes separately.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

So You Think You Can Paint!?! Part 2

More pics from the Mulberry Elementary School Mural we began on Wednesday. These were taken at the end of day 3 with 2-3 more days of work to go!
See more info on the previous post from last night.
This is the school cafeteria, a pull out stage is shown in the foreground with a ramp/block wall that I'm painting to look like a stone wall. Even the other side of the wall has been painted with this technique! Thanks Richie!!!

(Please excuse all the junk---we are still "under construction"!)

The beginning stages of another landmark red barn.

Graced by a stand of pines, the entrance into the cafeteria .

Another shot of the main mural's pond with the a herd of cows just started.

In yesterday's post the pics of the main mural were too close-up to get the prospective of the room so I've added this to get a better fix on the ramp/stone wall & the barn. Just a few more feet of stone to lay...

Friday, March 7, 2008

So You Think You Can Paint!?!

I think we should start a new reality TV show & see how others might do when put to the challenge!

What can 5 artists do with dozens of paintbrushes, photos of area landmarks, ump-teen bottles of acrylic paint in just 3 days?

Ron re-created this old barn that was on the site before Mulberry Elementary (a brand new Gwinnett County School) was built. His wife Rhonda Storer is the leader of our pack & lushly landscaped the fields & acreage. Below is Union Grove Baptist Church, just around the corner from the school. Again, building rendered by Ron, landscaped by Rhonda.

This beautiful spot was painted by Kim Chambers & is her grandmother's Kentucky home! While not specifically a landmark from just around this school, this growing but still rural area of the county still has picturesque scenes such as this.
My contribution? Lots & LOTS of stone wall!!! I began with this area of tumbled down wall on Wednesday...moved over to the area around the water fountains....(more landscaping to come!)

Three of the 5 of us have done mural work with this same principal in another county school (Shiloh Elementaty) a few years ago. It has been a pleasure to work with Vivian Stranahan & her great group of teachers and kids!

More to come! This was all done in just THREE DAYS!!! We have 2-3 days more to finish this phase. Please check back!!!

Preserving the area landmarks within a new school's cafeteria...