Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chicken à la Twitter

I can't recall ever blogging a recipe before, but, by special request from a Twitter friend, here is the Crock-Pot®chicken recipe I threw together week before last. I tweeted the ingredients as I was creating, but it took me a few tweets, and searching a Twitter stream is a hard way to find a recipe.

Chicken à la Twitter (aka Santé Fe Chicken--that's what I was going to call it until Alyse asked for the recipe.)

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used hormone & anti-biotic free)
1 envelope taco seasoning (I used Old El Paso brand)
2 cups uncooked rice (I used Uncle Ben's original converted--orange box)
1 jar salsa (I can't recall how many ounces, but you know, a regular-sized jar--I used chipotle flavor)
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes (I think that was a 14 oz. can--you know, regular-sized)
1 can whole kernel corn (I used yellow)
1 can black beans (I used Bush's)
1/2 cup chopped olives (I used green because I like them better and had them in the pantry)
32 oz. chicken broth or stock
2 containers Philadelphia brand Philly Cooking Creme (Santa Fe flavor)

1.    Put the chicken breasts in a large Crock-Pot® (5 - 6 quarts)
2.      Sprinkle the chicken with the taco seasoning, turning to coat both sides

3.      Sprinkle rice over chicken

4.      Pour salsa over top

5.      Pour tomatoes on (don't drain)

6.      Pile on the corn (drained)

7.      Pile on beans (drained)

8.      Pile on the olives

9.      Mix the chicken broth with the cooking creme in a separate bowl, then pour the liquid mixture over into the crock pot

10.  Stir it a little, but leave the chicken on the bottom

11.  Put the lid on the Crock-Pot®and cook on high for 6 hours

12.  Check the pot after 4 hours and again at five if you're around just to make sure the rice doesn't need a little more liquid. If it does, stir in a little water or broth. (Mine was fine, but I've made similar recipes where the rice was dry and needed more liquid.)

13.  Using two forks, shred the chicken and stir in with the rest of the casserole just before serving.

If you like (I did) serve with sour cream and tortilla chips on the side.

If you have leftovers, try wrapping them up in tortillas the next day. We did this and topped with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, guacamole and I can’t even remember what else—but you get the idea. It made some pretty decent burritos.

If you try it, I hope you like it. All I can say is, we didn't have to toss any of it out.

Peace, out,


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Christmas Trees Won't Fit in the Bathroom

I can write about this now, because it's over. But, I've danced perilously close to the line between sane and crazy these last few months...

Sugar and I are blessed with a large family, and we are grateful for each and every loved one. We love it when they all come over to visit. We were not, so much, prepared for five of them to move in for an extended stay. But, the economy and other disasters made it necessary. This is what family does, right?

The guestroom became an extended-stay bedroom, which meant all my off-season clothes had to either fit into my closet or be stored in the basement. Both my office and Sugar's also became extended-stay bedrooms, which meant that everything in those offices, including all the stuff stored in the closets, had to go downstairs. All of this had to happen quickly, which meant we ended up with what looked like the aftermath of a tornado in the basement.

When we first bought our current home, the partially finished basement served as an overflow area. It was eclectically furnished, and we could hang out there when all the family was around, or when we felt like rounding up a group of friends for Karaoke and didn't want trouble with the HOA. (The sound doesn't carry outside from the basement.) Also, there was a nice-sized storage room, the laundry room, and a pre-plumbed, but unfinished, bathroom.

We tried carving office space out of the storage room, but the Christmas trees wouldn't fit in the bathroom, which was the new storage room. With all the stuff now in what used to be the unfinished-but-not-too-bad Karaoke/Family room we were low on space for everyone to hang out separately when we started getting on each other's nerves. And, as I am slightly--okay, maybe much more than slightly--OCD, the chaos in my house was driving me to the brink of a breakdown.

Suddenly, the basement we might finish one day became the basement we needed finished lickety-split. All the stuff that had just been moved to the basement had to be moved to the garage. The cars had to be parked outside. Never one to pay someone else to do something he can conceivably do himself, Sugar drew up a construction plan, got a permit, and got to work--during the one day a week, some weeks, but not all, when he was home.

Progress was slow. Nerves frayed. Construction dust drifted upstairs and covered everything, no matter how often we cleaned. After about eight weeks, Sugar looked at me and said, "Call somebody." I did, and the work is mostly finished now. We had a few bad moments when we were cleaning the aftermath and moving things back in from the garage. Several pieces of furniture are worse for the experience, and one didn't make it.

But, we have a fully-functional family/Karaoke room now, with more than one bare bulb and a disco ball for lighting, and more than one electrical outlet to replace the two power strips and spaghetti bowl of extension cords. The Christmas trees have their own storage space. Sugar has his office back, and I have a killer new writing cave. And boy, does that extra bathroom come in handy.

Peace, out...


Friday, September 30, 2011

Decisions, Decisions, or How I Chose Which Book to Buy Today

I have a Nook Color, which I might have mentioned that I love. But, it has changed my book-shopping habits more than I anticipated. Now that Amazon has unveiled the shiny new Kindle Fire, I plan to become a dual e-reader owner. (I had to have color, you see.) And I can easily justify to Sugar why it's essential that I have both--I hope.

Anyway, about book shopping....

Today I perused my to-be-read list, which consists of a stack of actual books purchased pre-Nook, and 21 books I've downloaded to my Nook but haven't yet read. These are all books I'm eager to read--some are written by friends, some by favorite authors, some both. But, on any given day, what I want to read is driven by the mood I'm in. Nothing in my to-be-read list jumped out, grabbed me by the throat, and shouted, "You must read me now!"

I checked the Goodreads recommendations--this is a great feature, by the way. Goodreads checks what you've read and rated highly and recommends books for you. There were good suggestions on the list. I decided to download either Lethal, (the new Sandra Brown novel) The Affair (the new Lee Child novel) or (and this was the odds-on favorite) Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman. I SO miss Jesse Stone.

With those three novels in mind, I logged on to the B&N website. Yes, I know I can easily shop directly from my Nook, but because the screen--and therefore the store--is bigger, I prefer shopping on my laptop.

I clicked Nook Books, selected fiction, then mystery. I sorted by Bestselling. The first 2 books on the screen were The Affair and Lethal. Should've been an easy in and out of the store, right? Not so fast. I love browsing books. So, I meandered down the list. Number three was a Michael Connelly--also a favorite author--and this was a steal--a back-list title for only $1.99. But, it was a title I'd already read and own in paperback.

The first page of 573 pages of mystery novels held 30 titles, most by name-brand authors. Many of them I've already read. Some I just wasn't in the mood for. I went to page 2. More of the same--some new titles by favorite authors, some back-list titles--plus here a few authors whose names were familiar, but whose work I've never read, along with an unfamiliar name or 2. My scrolling slowed.

There, on the bottom line of page 2, a cover and a title caught my eye" January Kills Me, by Evan Katy. I read the first sentence of the overview: "January Kills Me is a romantic comedy, an action filled mystery and a cautionary tale of how not to go about recovering from a divorce."

DING-DING-DING! We have a winner. That caught my attention. I glanced at the reviews. There were only 12 ratings so far, but the overall rating was 4.5. The five reviews on the first page were all glowing endorsements.

But, wait... the book is only 99 cents? Is this a back-list title of someone I haven't read before, or an indie author? Great cover, great title, great reviews--nothing that screamed, "This is somebody's first draft of her first novel, and she got her cousin to upload it because he knew how." It was a completely professional package. And (I had to look) Evan Katy is an indie author.

I can gamble with 99 cents. Jesse Stone, I still miss you, but maybe next week. The budget is a little tight just now.

Peace out,


P.S. As a reader, I never looked to see who published a book until the day I started researching publishers and agents as a writer. I'm not an advocate for independent publishing or authors. Neither am I predisposed to think that a novel written by an indie author is of poor quality. I am a lover of good novels, however they arrive on my e-reader. I am also the CFO of my family budget.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

For my Friend, Who Sleeps with his Autographed Nora Roberts Books

Okay, he doesn't sleep with them. But he clutches them to his chest for a few minutes every day. He loves his Nook, but he also loves the tactile sensation of holding a book with his favorite author's signature. So do I.

And who can really enjoy a book signing--where you get to meet one of your favorite authors, and maybe have your picture taken with her/him--when you have nothing tangible to be signed as a memento?

Until recently, this rather extreme measure was the only option. Now, Amazon offers this for Kindle owners, but you have to sign in with Twitter, and it appears to be only available for select authors and/or titles.

Here's what I plan to do, sometime before the South Carolina Book Festival next year. I'm going to make myself a Reader's Passport--essentially an update on an autograph book. (Disney offers something similar for your favorite characters.) I'll start with a scrapbook--one with a cover that strikes my fancy. I'll personalize it a bit, and make sections for my favorite genres--mystery/crime, thriller, romance, mainstream fiction, et cetera.

Then, like collecting passport stamps, I'm going to collect autographs. Most authors have either postcards or bookmarks--or something with the cover art of their book--at an author event. I'll ask her/him to sign whatever is available. If I've collected every book she/he has ever published, maybe I'll have my picture taken with him/her and add it to the page in the scrapbook.

Then if I want to sleep with my autographs, my bed will be much more comfortable. If you've switched to an e-reader, how will you have your books autographed?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'd Like the Buffet, Please

Dear E-Reader Provider,

I love my e-reader--truly, madly, deeply--I do. In fact, since Sugar bought it for me my blog posts are getting fewer and farther between, and I'm staying up far too late reading, because new reading material is always at my fingertips. In fact, me with an e-reader is somewhat like an alcoholic with keys to the liquor store. Which makes me one of your best customers.

But, I have issues.

If you could see your way clear to upgrade the software that drives my book-shopping experience, I would be so very grateful. You have changed the way I buy books, and not in a good way. I can't shop the way I shop brick-and-mortar stores. I can't go, for example, to the mystery section and browse alphabetically by author. No.

When I browse mysteries, or romances, or women's fiction, or just fiction, I'm given the opportunity to narrow my choices by type. Or I can see what you think are the best picks. I can, of course, see bestsellers and new releases. It's easy to find the books that are free. None of these options comes close to how I like to shop for books.

Granted, I can search for a specific author. This is usually the way I begin shopping in my local bookstore--by checking out what's new and what I might have missed by my favorite authors. But I can no longer check out the authors beside them on the shelf, or skip down to the next shelf to a cover that catches my eye and pick up a title by an author I've never heard of before but who might be my new favorite. I know this isn't your intention, but you are preventing me from discovering new authors in my favorite genres.

I feel like I'm being spoon-fed books selected by someone else, while a feast of titles I would devour is on a buffet in another room that I can't find. Please understand that I am a customer and a book lover. I just need a better way to find books I will fall in love with among the millions of titles in your online store.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Me and You and a Bartender Named Boo

Sugar and I recently returned from a much-needed vacation. Okay, he needed it much more than I did, but we are ONE in the eyes of The Lord, right? We spent two weeks in St. John--a milestone anniversary trip postponed several times due to the madness which is our life. Never mind which milestone--they are all special.

This was our sixth trip, and if we ever win The Big Pot, we'll have a home on St. John. I hold Kenny Chesney responsible for all the college spring-breakers in the airport and at Trunk Bay. Kenny did for St. John what Jimmy Buffett did for Key West, and while I'm sure the tourism industry thanks him for that, I'd just as soon he sang about the beautiful coast of somewhere else. Nevertheless, there's a lot of his music stored on my iPhone. I don't hold a grudge.

This was as laid back a vacation as you could possibly imagine. We had a very private cottage on the hillside overlooking Reef Bay and spent many days on the deck, dressed in sarongs, reading and sipping rum drinks.

 Occasionally we'd slip out of the sarongs and into the pool.

Okay, we didn't spend the entire two weeks at the cottage...

We snorkeled... One day we ventured out and snorkeled Waterlemon Key, a small offshore island. Another time I'll tell you about the British guy who talked like Hugh Grant and wore interesting, positively shredded swim trunks.

We had beach days... We spent one day at Trunk Bay, which regularly makes Top-Ten Beach lists on The Travel Channel and in travel magazines. But Trunk Bay was crowded, and we weren't feeling the crowd thing, so our other beach days were spent at Maho Bay and Francis Bay, which in my opinion, are just as beautiful as Trunk.

We hiked... We did the Reef Bay hike, and saw the petroglyphs-- pre-Columbian rock carvings chiseled by the Tainos while they smoked pre-Columbian err...herbs and communed with their dead relatives. Well, that's one of a couple prevailing theories, anyway, and I'm not buying that alien nonsense. 

We explored... we tooled around the island in the Jeep, stopping whenever we felt like it to stare at everything beautiful. We had lunch a couple of times at a favorite bar in Coral Bay, Island Blues, which has great burgers. 

But aside from the cottage deck, where we gazed at the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, and a billion stars, and the moon, while sipping cool drinks, our other favorite hangout was--as always--The Beach Bar.

The Beach Bar is the home of the Three Pain Killer Lunch. They serve a most excellent grilled Mahi Mahi sandwich, and I washed more than one of those suckers down with three Pain Killers. What? Of course on different days. Well, except for the one day we had lunch AND dinner there. Yes, mamma, it was Aspirin, not Tylenol.

Our favorite bartender was a chick named Boo. I asked her what Boo was short for. "Tiffany," she told me. I nodded, like I understood, and I guess I did. Everything makes sense when you're viewing the world from The Beach Bar...  

Peace, out...    


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

In Which I Give Thanks to Felix Hoffmann

Felix Hoffmann was a German chemist who, according to the Bayer website, in 1897, invented the first stable compound which would later be introduced as Aspirin. I will be eternally grateful for his efforts.

Yes, I went back to Jazzercise yesterday. Due to a long list of REASONS, (not to be confused with excuses) I haven't exercised much lately. First there was the NASTY cold of late September and early October, followed closely by the sprained derriere incident of early November, then the holidays...I could go on, but what's the point, really? Suffice to say, I am even more out of shape than is my custom.

Since Sugar and I recently booked a trip to St. John to celebrate the milestone anniversary (let's not get into which one, okay?) that we actually passed a couple years back when we were too over-committed to go on that first honeymoon we never took, very soon, I will have to put on a bathing suit.

So, yesterday, I drug myself on over to the dance floor and let The Queen of Pain start whipping me back into some semblance of shape. I nearly missed class because the UPS man was late getting here with our Korbel shipment, and I have to sign for that. Besides, I really didn't want to leave champagne on the front porch.  But, Brown showed up at the precise moment after which it would have been impossible for me to get to class on time.

I was really worried this time that I wouldn't be able to make it through a whole class. I told the QOP that I needed to stand in the back, but she would have none of it. "They don't want to be running over you back there any more than we do," she said. The woman has no empathy--none, I tell you. Later, it dawned on me that the reason she wanted me up front was that if she had to hop off the stage and perform CPR, she'd have less floor to cover.

By the Grace of the Good Lord, I make it through without a medical incident or fall, and I avoided throwing up on PPJ's floor. Now I'm popping Aspirin and using the hand-held massager on my major muscle groups. I won't be going to class today, as my body needs time to recover. But tomorrow I've got to haul myself back in there. Casey only has until March 19th to get me Caribbean-ready.

Peace, out...


Friday, January 14, 2011

Trot Out Your Turkeys

Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a columnist at the Salisbury Post whose pen name was Venus of Faith. He was the "country correspondent," and he reported news from the small towns--Faith, Granite Quarry, and Rockwell, among others--surrounding Salisbury, which was the "big city" in the area.

Venus, (his real name was J.T. Wyatt) often ended his columns with the challenge, "If you can beat that, trot it out." With a tip of my hat to Venus, here is my turkey story, as related by my manicurist...

Another of my manicurist's clients is married to an engineer, or possibly a physicist--a man with some such nerdy occupation. She's a drug rep, or maybe she sells hospital equipment--something like that. Suffice to say they are both college educated, and have demanding jobs, a house, mortgage, 2.5 kids, etc. They are living the American dream.

The day before Thanksgiving, Mrs. Very Busy Professional asked Mr. VBP to please stop by the grocery store and pick up a turkey as she was in over her head bringing home the bacon, frying it up in the pan, and making her mani-pedi appointments. He agreed to pick up the bird.

Now, Mr. VBP had been reading up on locally sustainable food sources, organic farming, global warming, and many other socially conscience topics. He was looking to reduce his carbon footprint, et cetera. He thinks to himself, I can do better than stopping by the grocery store. I can get us a REAL turkey for Thanksgiving.

He drives his Mercedes all the way to a farm in Boiling Springs and picks up a LIVE TURKEY and totes him home in a cage in the back seat. The bird was unhappy with this development, and spoke about it to Mr. VBP all the way back to Greenville.

Can you imagine this man's poor wife's face when he unloaded that sucker in the backyard? I crack up every time I think about it. What kind of idiot... I wonder sometimes if too much education might unhinge certain personality types... I digress.

She stared at him with confusion and disbelief. "What am I suppose to do with that?" she reasonably inquired.

"You grew up on a farm," he said, rather defensively. "You can pluck it, right?"

Amazingly, she did not kill him.

She did what all wives do in the face of husbandly idiocy. She ignored him and carried on. She got into her BMW and drove to the grocery store, leaving him to deal with his new pet.

Thanksgiving dinner came and went, but big bird was not getting along well with the family dog in the fenced in backyard. The turkey tended to peck at the small pooch. The bird was likewise unfriendly to the children, who were afraid to go outside. Mrs. VBP had meetings the day after Thanksgiving, and demanded Mr. VBP deal with the poultry.

The farm apparently had a no-return policy, and it took some imagination and a lot of phone calls to find someone willing to adopt the turkey. Then there was the matter of cleaning the feathers and stench from the Mercedes. I guess some ideas sound better on the Internet than they are in practice.

If you can beat that turkey story, trot out your turkeys.

Peace, out...


P.S. Don't forget! Bob Strother's short story collection, Scattered, Smothered, and Covered, is scheduled for release in early February and is available for advance order right now. Order your copy today and take advantage of the discount price of $9.00 -- that's six dollars off the cover price! The book can be ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore. Here is a link that will take you directly there: Scattered, Smothered, and Covered