Comfort Food

Many years ago, my sweet mother-in-law gave me a recipe for Make Ahead Chicken Casserole. I tweaked it just a little bit, and have been using it as a base recipe ever since. It’s easy, versatile and everyone loves it. It’s perfect comfort food!

Make Ahead Chicken Casserole

2 cups cooked chicken

2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 cups dry macaroni

2 cups milk

1 small onion, chopped

2 cups frozen mixed vegetables

pepper

1 cup shredded cheddar

Combine all but cheese in a large bowl.

(Side note: I don’t usually measure everything precisely for this recipe. The meat is about 1.5 chicken breasts torn up, and I guess that’s about 2 cups. There are probably two cups of vegies in that bag, right? I do use a measuring cup for the pasta, but if there are a few pieces left in the box, they get tossed in, too. I pour milk into the empty soup cans, about an inch from the top, so I can slosh it around and get more of the soup out. And cheese? I just shred a bunch until the top looks sufficiently cheesed. It works for me!)

Spread into a greased 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Enlist the dog to assist with clean-up. Sorry, folks if it makes you cringe to see the dog licking the mixing bowl. I assure you, the bowl was well-cleaned with hot soapy water afterward! Pooka loves to help Mommy cook; licking the bowl is her reward.

Cover dish with foil or lid and refrigerate 6-8 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before putting it in the oven. Heat oven to 350°. Bake uncovered for one hour.

I like to toss this casserole together on days when I know I’ll be busy or too tired to cook later in the day. Add a tossed salad and dinner rolls, and dinner is served! Another great thing about this recipe is how easily you can change it up. Use ham instead of chicken, with peas instead of mixed vegies and Swiss instead of cheddar. Substitute spiral pasta or penne for the elbows. Make it vegetarian by using cream of mushroom or celery soup and subbing mushrooms for the meat. The possibilities are endless! The casserole freezes well, too, after it’s been baked. Hungry Bird appreciates the frozen “Mom meals” I set aside for him in old Cool Whip tubs.

The best thing about this recipe? Every time I make it, I think about Mom G and smile! Love and miss you, Mom G…

A Day Out with my Bestie and a Day Out with my Sweetie

My dear Bestie drove 500 miles to come see little ol’ me this past weekend. We spent all of Saturday afternoon together, having lunch, catching up with one another and doing a little shopping. It was a joy to have a little time with her!

Decree sweater – JCP

Liz Claiborne jeans – thrifted

Scarf – can’t remember

Merrell shoes – eBay

Ambrielle cami – JCP

On Sunday, Some Postman and I drove back to our hometown. We spent the day browsing antique shops and visiting his home church. The church served a soup supper in the evening; SP ate two bowls of smoked chili. I had a tiny portion of potato soup. It was the soup with the least amount of meat in it, but still had to pick the bacon out. Mostly I enjoyed the slice of homemade pecan pie! A cold front arrived while we were enjoying supper, bringing a vicious north wind along. Our drive home was challenging. Thank goodness we drive a small car! One guy on a motorcycle merged onto the highway only to pull over less than a mile later so he could creep along to the next exit. There was field debris blowing across the road the entire trip. Fairly early on, we hit what seemed to be a clump of dirt. Some Postman discovered the next morning that included in that clump was a 3-foot long piece of heavy gauge wire that wrapped itself around the car’s front axle! It also punctured the left front tire, but somehow we made it all the way home without any problems. The tire didn’t go flat til overnight. I’d asked God to keep us safe on our homeward journey, and He did just that!

I didn’t get any outfit photos from Sunday, but did snap a few pics of the goodies we found at the antique stores:

 

1940s vintage Dachshund letter holder

 

Queen Buzzy Bee pull toy

I used to have one of these when I was little. It was played with and loved by at least two of my younger siblings, as well, and thus met its demise. Nostalgia won out when I saw this toy and I had to have it!

 

Frankoma Guernsey pitcher & juice cups

 

Frankoma Kansas trivet

A Warmer Outfit for Another Cold Day

Last Thursday was another cold, cold day in Kansas, and since my clothing the day before was lacking in true warmth, I upped the ante a bit with this outfit. It worked! Too well, at one point.

 

 Bella Bird tee – Walmart

Worthington sweater – thrifted

Faded Glory leggings – Walmart

Fleece lined leggings (underneath) – Amazon

St Johns Bay riding boots – JCP

Dachshund earrings – eBay

Thursday morning was spent at church, helping several other ladies move a bunch of stuff out of the Fellowship Hall to new homes in the new addition section of the church. After a couple hours, I was beginning to regret my warmer outfit! So off went the sweater…thankfully the ladies with whom I was working are lovely friends and they overlooked the fact that the gray-blue tee is clingy, making my fat rolls glaringly obvious. We got our work done in record time and accomplished a lot!

 Later that evening, my neighbor T and I drove out to U’s house for Book Club. The sweater was much appreciated again, because the mercury plummeted along with the sun. Brr! 

 

U on the left, T on the right

(T insisted on her face not being shown, hence the happy face.)

Oh, how I adore this fabulous group of women in our Book Club! Our monthly meetings are like therapy to me; afterwards, I am refreshed, renewed, happy and enlightened. We’ve been getting together to discuss books and life, sip a bit of wine and feast upon tasty treats, for at least 12 years now, I think. Not only has my reading taste been expanded, but so has my world. U was born in Germany: T was a flight attendant, travelling the world: MM is a writer: B runs marathons.  MJ, SA, and SK all have varied and amazing life stories I never tire of hearing. P and I are “pet in-laws” (our Dachshunds were “married”): CL hosts foreign exchange students. CC is long-distance at the time, but adds depth via email. L is a fairly new addition to our group, and we are finding her to be a rich source of knowledge as well. Each woman is unique, rich in experience, generous of heart and greatly treasured in my own heart. I am so thankful to be a part of WBC!

It’s Not All Glitz and Glammer

This outfit was from last week, on Wednesday. The day was spent at home, doing some file transferring from the old computer to the new one and working on the blog. I’m in the process of moving FHH to another blog hosting site, but am not quite ready to make the move final just yet.

Anyway, last Wednesday was a cold, cold day, and a bad hair day at the same time. This outfit was an attempt to remedy both, but did not succeed. Right after supper, I switched into two pairs of fuzzy pants, added a flannel shirt and an extra pair of socks. It took that and a Dachshund under a blanket for me to finally get warm. I am so done with winter! And we haven’t had it nearly as cold and miserable as the folks north and east of us. May spring come early to us all!

 Pieces by Kensie sweater – thrifted

Nameless black pants that have since been donated to the thrift store – doesn’t matter

Mossimo booties – Target

Scarf – thrifted

After wearing those nameless black pants most of the day, I decided that the fit was poor and stuffed them into a “to donate” sack when I gave up and donned fuzzy pants. Wearing the scarf on my head was actually kind of nice. Not only did it hide my flat, lifeless hair, but it did keep my head sort of warm. I’m not sure that I put it on my head in a fashionable manner, but it stayed put.

Dryer Balls

Oh my….I’ve had this project done for a couple of months now and am just now getting around to writing about it! This is a good thing, really, because now that I’ve been using the project for a while, I can give a well-tested review on the things.

Have you heard about Dryer Balls? Crafty folk everywhere are making balls from wool yarn and using them instead of fabric softener sheets while drying their laundry. The purpose behind these things is to save money (no more buying dryer sheets), be “green” (reducing waste and not adding chemicals to your laundry), eliminate static naturally, and reduce drying time. The more balls you add to the dryer, the less time it is supposed to take for your laundry to dry.

Here’s how it’s done:  Using 100% wool yard, tightly wind the yard into a ball, about the size of a baseball or larger. Tuck the end of the yarn inside the ball using a crochet hook. I was able to make two balls from each skein of yarn.

I experimented with some 100% wool sweater sleeves, also, cutting the sleeves into thin strips and winding them into balls.

It was far easier to wind the sweater strips than the yarn. If you have tendinitis or carpel tunnel, I would suggest you find someone else to wind the yarn. Several times, my hands cramped up so badly that tears leaked from my eyes. I took little breaks, but still had to hold the ball in one hand to keep it from unwinding. Owie! The down side to the sweater strips was that it was very difficult to tuck in the end. They were too big to use the crochet hook, so I used a skewer to cram them in as far as I could.

After you’ve wound up about six balls, squeeze them into an old pantyhose leg. Since I didn’t have any old pantyhose lying about, I bought one of those knee high stocking bubble balls at Walmart for 33¢. Use a piece of non-wool yarn to tie off between each ball and to tie the open end of the stocking closed. Toss the ball caterpillar in with a load of whites, washing in hot water. Dry the caterpillar with the laundry in the dryer, too. The heat will cause the wool fibers to felt, thus make a nice solid, un-unravel-able (a word according to Sheldon!) ball. It make take a few trips through the washer and dryer for this to be achieved. The balls will look like this when they are nicely felted:

The yarn balls felted much better than the sweater balls did. One of the yellow balls kept losing its last strand, no matter how many times I re-tucked it, so I finally just left it off. The sweater balls are considerably more dense than the yarn balls, so it took them longer to dry in the felting process. Their extra weight comes in handy using them now, though.

To use the Dryer Balls, simply toss them into the dryer along with your wet laundry. They will bounce around, helping to soften your clothes naturally. Yes, I was able to take a photo of my dryer in action with the door open! This dryer is almost 24 years old. The time quit working a couple of years ago, so I have to watch the clock and turn it off manually. A recent development is that it will keep running even after you open the door. That was a surprise! Now I wonder how much longer this old thing will keep plugging away…

Back to the balls — Now that I’ve been using them for a couple of months, I can tell you that:

1. They do soften laundry very nicely, without adding any slickness to towels or scents of any kind.

2. They are limited in their ability to reduce static. Towels are fine, as well as jeans, but socks stick together like cat hair on velvet.

3. They do not reduce drying time that much. Of course, if I had more than six balls, that might make a difference. Usually, my dryer takes about 45 minutes to dry a load of towels. With the Dryer Balls, it takes about 40 minutes. I still haven’t used the two skeins of yarn in the first photo above, so if my hands are feeling up to it, I’ll wind up a few more balls before dryer using season is over. (In warmer weather, most laundry gets dried on the clothes line around here.)

My ultimate opinion on wool dryer balls? They’re pretty neat! I like them a lot! If you’ve got wrists of steel or a kid who does, you really should make a batch of your own. If you don’t feel like winding your own, however, there are lots of industrious folks who sell them ready to go on Etsy.

Chinook Sunday in January

A south wind came along – gustily! – and brought temps up to about 60° on Sunday, so I took full advantage. Three-quarter sleeves and peep toe shoes celebrated the spring-like weather nicely. After church, dinner and a wee sit-down, I put the harness on the weenie dog, donned my walking shoes and went for an extra-long walk. It was glorious!

 Liz Claiborne top – JCP
Merona skirt – thrifted

My adopted mother-in-law gave this lovely scarf and scarf jewelry to me for Christmas. Linda is actually my youngest sister’s MIL, but since my own MIL lives in heaven now, Linda allowed me to adopt her so I can have one here on earth, too. She is such a sweetheart! Salt City Hausfrau adopted her as her MIL, too, so all three of us share the world’s sweetest MIL. We love you, Mama Linda!

Several people commented how much they liked this scarf. One friend asked, “Is it a scarf or a necklace?” My reply: It’s a “scarf-lace”! The term fits, don’t you think? My youngest sister gave me a set of the scarf jewelry for my birthday last year, also, but with a flower pendant instead of a heart. I’ve been doubly gifted!

Sofft peep toes – thrifted