April 28, 2011

Jack the "not so" DUMB dog

We have a dog. Jack. He's a golden retriever. He's a hairball. He's constantly dropping his hair all over my floor, which drives me nuts. Kenny is allergic, and since we are brilliant people we chose a breed that sheds more than any other. Besides the hair and a few pieces of pizza and a scone or two being snatched off the counter I really have no complaints. He's a good dog. He's extremely laid back, but we think he has the brain the size of a pea.

This is Jack. "A-doiy"

"I am regal, brave, and strong, I can stare down squirrels with my laser powers."

This is what it looks like he is saying but honestly we have questioned what really, if anything goes on in that regal looking nogin of his. He's a retriever, but he rarely retrieves. He will stand and stare up a tree looking at a squirrel for days, but he will not play fetch to save his life. He does love to bury things. All kinds of things.

He is always ecstatic to see us when we drive in. We have a long driveway so we pull the trash barrels down on the hitch of the truck. We have to make two trips, and Jack goes through his whole prancing barking routine each time we come back for a new barrel....which is maybe three minutes later, he greets Ken like he has been gone for hours.

Not that we ever tried very hard, but this dog has learned nary a trick...not one, zilch,nada. Too dumb we've said. "Musta been dropped on his head as a pup." Well then there is the tiny matter of the spinning.

Jack will chase his tale until the cows come home. Quite frankly it makes me dizzy. We thought he would out grow it, he's six, he hasn't. He still chases his tale like it's the first time. So all of this combined with many other things has earned him the title of dumb. I know...it's horrible. We love him we really do. We have told him he was dumb more than I like to admit.

He's a good dog though. Dumb as rocks, but a keeper.

"They think I'm dumb as rocks, I'm just a sleeping genius."

At night Jack sleeps in the house. Blocked in by the back door. There is no way he can see out the front of our house. It's impossible from where he sleeps. Keep that in mind.......

Have I ever told you we live next door to Kenny's brother and his wife? We do. Our properties butt up next to each others. They have a barn that is on their land, it sits in front our houses. My brother-n-law loves farming. They have some cows, and their kids have goats, chickens...fresh eggs. It's kinda fun. My kids although they really don't do much with the animals, love having this mini-farm right out their front door.

Jack, well..... he likes to race across the yard barking his fool head off at the cows and then come to a dead stop, and turn and walk quietly away. Goof ball....dumb dog.

Jack has barked maybe once in six years at night. So when we awoke to him barking like a maniac at a little after four in the morning Saturday morning, Kenny bolted out of bed to tell him to hush. But when he got up this is what he saw out our window......

This is why, our "not so dumb" dog, who couldn't see the fire, but sensed it, was barking his fool head off. With in seconds of Kenny getting out of our bed, he hollered for me to call 911 because the barn was on fire. He hollered for me to do it, because he was already on the horn trying to see if his brother was up. That's how brothers are. Brothers first, 911 second. Brother was not up, he had to call again. I got 911 on the first try.

This was my first emergency call. I decided I don't like calling 911. It's scary. It made my armpits shoot streams of water out, so much so I probably should have just gone and put out the fire with my pits, and saved all those firemen guys alot of trouble. My chin was also quivering uncontrollably, making my teeth chatter...I wonder if the 911 operator noticed the teeth chattering.

When I told her how close the barn was to the houses, she calmly told me to stay on the line while I woke all my kiddos up and evacuated them from the house. I did as the nice lady told me. Thanking God all the while that I wasn't rushing them out of a burning house...yet.

The brothers as all the fire trucks in the township arrived....

it seemed like a long time, but they actually got to us quite fast, considering we are on the far edge of the township. We are in one of those spots that confuses people. We are on the border line of two counties, and the edge of a township and just outside of the city limits. Who do we belong to? Of course this ran through my mind, what if no one wants to claim our little patch of land and the whole dad-blamed everything burns down while they decide which fire department to send our way.

I had no need to fear because as this whole nutty four in the morning panic driven scenario was playing out in my head, they were already doing their job.

Which I might add is not an easy one. I am down right in awe of firemen. I am sorry to say, despite watching Backdraft fifty times, I still did not have a true feeling for how it all really goes down, and this was a barn fire. Not a house, or a large building full of people. These men were careful, calculated, compassionate, and they all worked there booties off. The last firetruck (there were 4 or maybe 5) didn't leave until many hours later!

Because of how far off the road our houses and the barn set, they had to run hose all the way down the driveway and down the street to the corner, nearly a quarter mile to the nearest hydrant. Which meant shutting down the road. They had that hose out and pumping faster than you could say fire hose....or at least faster than I could have with my chin having convulsions. See the water blasting out of that hose? Imagine that same water pressure pumping out of your armpits........

You think I exaggerate.

When it was all said and done. Nobody was hurt. Our families and our homes were spared. But my brother-n-law and his family lost all but 4 of their beloved animals, and lots of other things....that can be replaced, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Sweet Moo-moo Cow what are you thinking?

The boys shared this tractor.....

Many a hay ride was had behind this tractor. Memories. Good memories.

We all learned a lesson in our house this weekend. Well, we learned lots of lessons. But they all sort of are summed up by the old saying, "the show must go on". As my daughter learned after being up half the night. Dead tired, but she didn't want to miss her softball team pictures at 8:30 AM and then a her first game of the season to follow. Ugh....

And well, then there was the minor detail of our house guest from France that were arriving at 10:45am. They were supposed to come in the night before, but there flight was canceled. Which I now see was an answer to prayer. What a bummer it would have been for them to arrive and be awoken to a huge roaring barn fire at four in the morning, their first night of vacation in the USA.

Oh golly...then there was the fact that we had baked all these cinnamon rolls Friday, and lots of people were going to be stopping by to pick them up. My brother-n-law had the driveway blocked because of snoopers.....I had to break the news that I had fortyish some people stopping by to pick up their rolls. I'm an annoying sister-n-law.

My eyes were burning out of my head with exhaustion, I wanted to put a sign on the door telling everyone to leave their moolah on the table and help themselves to the cinnamon rolls. But once I took a shower and washed the smoke off, and drank a pot-O-joe I was ready to face a new day.

Which we thankfully were given. A new day to spend handing out baked goods to benefit the camp we love, a new day to color Easter eggs with good friends that arrived safely and well rested.

A new day to redeem myself with this dog, that I found out is not that dumb after all. He loves us unconditionally, and is apparently extremely tuned in to his surrounding. Although, one would have never known it, unless they lit a fire under his bah-hookie.

Luv Ya,

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April 26, 2011

Tortellini Chicken

I had a senior moment a few days ago. I could have sworn I shared this recipe here before. I wanted to print off the recipe for a friend and it wasn't there. Sometimes I wonder about my noggin. Tortellini Chicken is one of my families favorites and one that I share with others quite often, because even the pickiest eaters seems to love it. It has large chunks in it so it's a casserole that is easy to separate out if someone doesn't want the mushrooms they can just push them aside.

Here's the play by play, if you want to skip right to the printable it's at the end.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2 cups Monterey Jack Cheese grated, or pre shredded from your grocer works super too!

Clean a 4 ounce package of White Button Mushrooms and set aside. If you are a mushroom lover, feel free to add more.

Boil and drain one 20 ounce package fresh Cheese Tortellini. I find it next to the cream cheese in my grocery store. If your family is apposed to the multi colored pasta, well then trade them in for a new more adventurous family! Or just buy the plain all white cheese tortellini, that would probably be easier.

Cut 3 chicken breasts into bite sized cubes.

Season 1/3 cup flour with 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt.

Unless you have a very large frying pan, you will have to brown the chicken in shifts, so start by melting 2 tablespoons of butter. Dredge chicken pieces in flour and brown in butter.

Remove cooked pieces to a plate.....

Or if you are efficient, unlike myself, you can place the browned meat directly into your casserole dish. Add the additional 2 tablespoons of butter as needed and continue browning chicken pieces until finished.

Cover chicken with drained pasta and sprinkle 1 cup of shredded cheese over the top. Honestly you could put the tortellini in first and then the chicken and sprinkle the cheese in there somewhere. There is no wrong way to do it. Just make sure everything is spread out evenly, so when you serve it up each spoonful has a little bit of everything.

Now it's time to make the sauce:

With out cleaning the pan add 3/4 cup chopped sweet onion to the pan. The moisture from the onions will help loosen all the browned goodness from the chicken. Using a spatula, saute onions and loosen browned bits, when onions start to look translucent.....

add the can of chicken broth, bouillon, and sugar. Cook for 2 minutes at a low boil.

Add mushrooms, let cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Turn temperature to low. Sprinkle in the remaining Monterey Jack Cheese, and stir until melted and combined.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/2 cup sour cream.

It may take a minute or two to get sauce to become smooth. I use a slotted spoon, you could get out the big guns and use your whisk if you want.

Pour sauce over chicken, and pasta. Try to distribute the mushrooms evenly over the casserole.

Cover tightly with tin foil, and pop in your oven for 45 minutes.

Serve with Texas Toast or a crusty loaf!

If I share this meal with someone, I usually bring them a green salad with lots of veggie's too, but most of the time the work of a salad is taken for granted by my family so I don't even bother fixing a salad for them anymore......that's the truth the whole truth Pthhthththt!

Chicken Tortellini
4 tablespoons Butter
1 20 ounce package, fresh Cheese Tortellini
3 Chicken Breasts, boneless cut into bite sized cubes
1/3 cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
3/4 cup Onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Chicken Bouillon granules (or 2 bouillon cubes)
1 8 ounce can Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Sugar
2 cups Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
4 ounces fresh white button Mushrooms (more if you like)
1/2 cup Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
1. Boil water in large pot, add tortellini, cook for 5 minutes. Drain and place tortellini’s in bottom of a lightly buttered 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle half of the Monterey Jack cheese over tortellini’s.

2. Toss chicken pieces in flour. Melt butter in large fry pan add floured chicken to sizzling butter. Lightly brown chicken in butter. Do chicken in shifts if needed. Removing chicken to a plate then adding more. Then transfer chicken pieces to baking dish. Evenly distributing them over noodles.

3. Add chopped onions to the same pan, cook until transparent. Add bouillon, chicken broth, sugar, cook for 2 minutes then add mushrooms to pan, and cook for 2 minutes more.

4. Add remaining cheese to to sauce, lightly stir with spatula until cheese is melted. Remove pan from heat and add sour cream and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour mushroom sauce over chicken and tortellini.

5. Cover dish with foil, bake for 45 minutes.


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April 25, 2011

CUPCAKES for Mothers Day...hmmmm that's a good idea!

Mothers Day is May 8. Have you thought about what you might give your Mother for Mothers day? Cupcakes perhaps? I could name at least five moms off the top of my head, licketly split, that would be delighted with a box of these babies.

If you live in the greater Grand Rapids area, you might just want to "accidentally" send this LINK to your family. Cupcakes by Design is having a Mothers Day GIVEAWAY! ONE dozen cupcakes plus a balloon bouquet delivered to your moms door step!

Red Velvet...heaven help me! Cupcakes by Design has the BEST Red Velvet evah!

Chocolate Divine.

This cupcake would definitely make any mom, wife, grandmother, sister-n-law, or sister happier than a pig in slop! Ooooh maybe that's not the best association....lets just say I'm pretty sure if you score a mama some of these decadent cupcakes she will be pleased as punch!

Take a quick second and head over to Cupcakes by Design and enter to win! And even if you don't happen to win their giveaway, it's a fantastic gift idea!

Good Luck!

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April 20, 2011

Sausage Breakfast Strata perfect for Easter Breakfast

Everyone is all a buzz about what they are serving for Easter dinner. I feel like a loser. Because I am not lifting a finger this Easter. Last week I made reservations for our whole family, plus house guests to go out for dinner. Thursday and Friday I will be shoulder deep in making cinnamon rolls for a fundraiser for The Friends of Portage Lake Cookbook. Also our much anticipated house guests will be arriving Friday night before Easter, so I want to be able to enjoy them and not be in the kitchen the whole weekend.

I himm'd I hawd, I waxed I wained, I picked the phone up, I put it down. Mothers Day is one thing....but there is just something ingrained in me that says you don't go out to dinner on Easter. Not that I am judging anyone...I am most definitely not! It's just the way I was raised...it's in my blood to fix ginormous, explode your stomach meals on holidays.

But this year I said, "I CAINT DO IT!"

I think it's good to know your limits. Good for you and good for your fam-ba-lie!

And your house guests that you don't want to make Whacko the instant they arrive. We still have cookies to bake and eggs to decorate, for heavens sakes!

In fact I might just have to make this Breakfast Strata so we have something to tide us over until our dinner buffet of ham, roast beast, and leg-O-lamb, plus pasta station, omelet station, and a hot chocolate bar...uh HUH...that's what I'm talkin' bout! I may never make Easter Dinner again!

This Sausage Breakfast Strata is my boys favorite! The best thing about this strata is that you put it together the night before, and then pop it in your oven in the morning and Voila! You have a cheesy, hearty breakfast fit for a king! Literally on Easter this would be fit for the King of Kings!

What you will need for:

Sausage Breakfast Strata
1 pound Breakfast Sausage
12 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese
12 slices of white bread
4 tablespoons of butter, softened

Brown the Breakfast Sausage in a skillet and set aside.

Crack all 12 eggs into a bowl, add milk, salt, and pepper.

Give that a good whisking.

Use the softened butter to butter one side of 6 of the slices of bread, then lay them butter side down into the 9x13 dish.

Sprinkle half of the sausage over first bread layer.

Sprinkle half the cheese...this is a hard one people I know, sprinkling takes a skilled hand, but the more you sprinkle the easier it gets. I assure you.

Place the last six slices of bread on top of the sausage and cheese layer. I used Texas toast, regular white bread slices work just as good. If you do use the Texas cut, press it down. Give it a little squish. Then repeat with the sausage and cheese sprinkling, use all the cheese and sausage up.

Now you can return to the whisked eggs. Pour eggs evenly over the Strata...did you know strata means layers? Yes-sir-ee. Strata..."Struh-tah". If you say it like that it sounds real fancy.

Let the eggs, bubble down through the layers.

Now tightly cover with plastic wrap place it in your refrigerator over night.

When you are ready to bake it, you will need 1 hour, so leave yourself time. Remove from fridge, remove plastic wrap (I figure you know these simple steps, but I have had people ask, so I am just giving it to you step by step, taking nothing for granted here Folks.) preheat oven to 350 degrees, when up to heat place Strata in and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. My experience has been closer to the 1 hour mark, especially if you use the thicker bread.

Easy! Simple! Hearty! Hey maybe you can pull this one out on Fathers Day if you don't use it this Sunday.

I've found are some great Easter Treats and Ideas, I thought I'd share with you. Go check these creative and talented ladies out, they have no idea I am sending you their way, so take a minute and say Howdy, leave them some love in their comments......but please come back to the slacker blog.

Quit Eating Out ~ Easter treats with meaning for your kiddos!

The Reluctant Entertainer, Sandy has all sorts of good Eastery stuff on her site.

Kitchen Belleicious ~ OK these look amazing!

Red Letter Words ~ Many beautiful things here to inspire.

Ezra Pound Cake ~ Cute, easy chocolate goodies.

a Holy experience ~ Ann Voskamp has beautiful poetry, insights, and a recipe for lamb.

I LUV ya! More than my Cadbury Mini Eggs...and that's ALOT!

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