Being Thankful

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Today’s the big day. Family.  Friends. Food. Football.  Naps. More food! But most of all,  thanks.  Thanks for all the things in your life–the good,  the bad, and yes, even the ugly.  They all make you who you are today.  And I’m not saying that everything in your life is perfect or great or maybe right now, it’s not even good.  But overall, if you are reading this, chances are you have a lot to be thankful for.  It might as big and as general as “I’m thankful for not going Chuck Norris on someone’s ass today at work!” or as small and trivial as “I am thankful for coffee, otherwise I just might have gone Chuck Norris on someone’s ass today at work!” So, what am I thankful for?  A lot, actually.  It’s been a very tumultuous year–to say the very least!  But through the ups and downs and all the in-betweens, here are 39 things for which I am extremely grateful.  After the top 5, they’re in no particular order–just typed as they pop into my brain.  It’s a hefty list, since I have a lot to be grateful for, so perhaps take a moment to grab a cup of coffee or another glass of wine, and a slice pie to enjoy while you read (or pretend to read in an attempt to have 5 minutes to yourself in a house full of people!).

  1.  My health.  As I get older and more aware of all the things that can and do go wrong with our bodies, I am glad that, overall, I have made it thus far without any major health complications.
  2. Family and friends.  And yes, they go together on one line because within this I am exceptionally thankful that a) not only love my family, but I genuinely like them and they are good and amazing people (because over the course of 39 years, I have met so many people who sadly cannot say that about their family) and b) I not only like my friends, but I genuinely love them and I believe that they are the family that we pick for ourselves.
  3. My pupcicle, The Darling Princess Adelaide (aka Addy).  That dog has gotten me through so much and yet, all she wants is to love and be loved.  And fed, because after all, she is my baby!
  4. Coffee. (I don’t even think it needs an explanation, especially to those who have ever seen me without it!)
  5. My Aunt Kathy.  Yes, she gets her own number because today is her birthday and whenever her birthday falls on Thanksgiving, she always says that we have to be thankful for her.
  6. Baking (with a special shout out to Granny, who taught me how)
  7. A commute that includes seeing The Statue of Liberty
  8. Being able to travel…and while it’s not as often as I would like, it is a lot more than most people
  9. Living in a place where clean, running water and electricity are expected.
  10. Books
  11. Ability to appreciate how beautiful life is
  12. Growing up knowing where my food comes from
  13. Beer
  14. Able to do math without a calculator
  15. Photography
  16. Post impressionism art
  17. Cheesecake
  18. Turkey
  19. Dressing
  20. Cranberries
  21. Mashed potatoes
  22. Green bean casserole
  23. Getting fired from Starbucks and learning that just because a company is good to work for doesn’t mean that they are good to you, as well as,
  24. Learning that it’s okay to leave (or get booted from) a job when your boss doesn’t respect your knowledge and hard work because she can’t acknowledge she doesn’t do her job.
  25. Living in a city with a great, albeit frustrating, public transportation system
  26. Going to the movies
  27. Computers, tablets, and smart phones
  28. Growing up without computers, tablets, and smart phones and know what it’s like to play outside, scrape my knees, eat clover leaves, and make my kid brother eat mud pies
  29. Autumn
  30. Snow
  31. Beaches
  32. FOOTBALL!!
  33. Okay, sports in general, but mostly #28!!
  34. The Cowboys, The Spurs, The Texas Longhorns, and The Yankees
  35. Lake houses
  36. All my favorite baristas who always make my day
  37. Wine
  38. Blogging…and 28 follower (whoop! whoop! thanks ya’ll!!)
  39. Living in a country where everyone is entitled to their own opinions free from persecution

And so much more that I could sit here all day and never be done…but I have to go check on the cranberries and start the mashed potatoes, so off I go!

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll!  gobble gobble

 

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Forget The Roses…

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Everyone should make time in their lives to walk through a park on a cool, crisp autumn day.  It’s truly a sight to behold–colors of gold and green and red and brown; everyone slightly bundled, with a crisp chill in the air so as to keep you bundled; leaves rustling; laughter; hand holding–to me it’s a sight as magical as the holidays.

I think perhaps that is why I love autumn so.  Well, that and also because I grew up in Texas and you never truly get a proper autumn in Texas.  You never really get a proper anything except summer.

I mean, how amazing does this look?

Central Park!

Central Park!

And I know, I know I am very fortunate that the park I usually choose to walk through is Central Park (I’m a bit spoiled that way), but the park near my house where I walk the pupcicle is no less gorgeous or less serene. Of course, if you live out of the city (or in a city not as compact and cramped as NYC), you might find the back porch or a town square just as magical.

The magic, I think, comes from the sense of serenity and peace and a momentary escape from the harshness that can be reality.  I think it’s why I prefer Thanksgiving to Christmas.

GASP! you say.  But it’s true.  For me, the focus has always been on family, friends and food.  Gifts are great, but they also add a lot more stress to the equation.  Of course, I’ve never had a white Christmas.  That might swing the vote the other way…at least for that year because I truly LOOOOOVE snow (you know, when I don’t have to get out and drive in it or worry about how I’m getting to and from work).

Thanksgiving allows us to focus on being thankful and happy for what we have.  Sheryl Crow sings “it’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.”  And it’s true.  I know I’m guilty of focusing on the what ifs.  Generally speaking, we tend to get so caught up in what we think we should have that we tend to forget what we already have.  Where would we all be if we spent more time appreciating and less time worrying?

via Pinterest

via Pinterest

So as you’re prepping for the week countdown to Turkey Day (gobble, gobble) and, realistically, the rest of the year, what are you thankful for?

Cawfee Tawk!

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Okay, so I don’t think it’s any great secret out there that I love coffee.  Some might say it’s less like love and more like a neurotic compulsion, but they’re just jealous that my devotion to this little bean runs so deep and that I won’t speak to anyone in full sentences until I’ve had a cup or two…maybe three.

Brewed coffee should be rich, robust and–in my humble opinion–only medium roasted.  I am definitely not a fan of dark roasts.  I want to taste all of the flavors the coffee beans have to offer (it’s a lot like wine tasting!).  Dark roasts don’t give you that.  They linger in boldness with a smokiness that tastes like…well, like you’re licking the bottom of an ashtray.  Not that I’ve licked the bottom of an ashtray (that anyone can prove), but a long time ago in a place far, far away I used to smoke and I remember well the smell and taste of stale smoke in your mouth.  That, to me, is what darks roasts tastes like–burned and ashy.  But, like wine, it takes all types, so if dark roasts are your cup of tea coffee, then enjoy and I’ll rejoice that there’s more medium roast for me.

Espresso should be golden and thick, but silky smooth and quite frankly, it should look like you’ve just pulled a shot of Guinness (which perhaps is why I love espresso so!). If you’re adding milk, it should be frothy and creamy and full-bodied and preferably breve.  But I’ll forgive you if adding half & half is pushing your comfort level…you’d be wrong, but then again, you probably like dark roast ;- )

Enter Café Grumpy.  It is, beyond a doubt, one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in my life.  It is by far THE BEST cappuccino I’ve had in NYC.  Presentation is great, but in the end it’s all about the coffee and the coffee is amazing.  I may or may not (read: I AM) drooling while I type.  It’s rich, it’s full bodied, it has a hint–a tiiiiiiiiiny hint–of anise seed.  The beans are freshly roasted (in Brooklyn!) and you can taste how fresh they are.  The foam in my cappuccino brazenly sticks to my spoon, as I whirled it around delicately not wanting to disturb the heart my barista made for me.

My cappuccino hearts me!!

My cappuccino hearts me!!

The café itself is literally very unassuming–Des and I walked right by it and had to turn back around once we realized we had gone too far.  You only notice it when you are standing right in front of it.  And the most amazing part (aside from the coffee, of course)?  No laptops allowed.  There are also no outlets, which admittedly I was slightly put off by because I was wanting to charge my phone.  However after I got over my initial astonishment, I realized that smack dab in the middle of Chelsea is a beautiful little place tucked away from the harshness that is NYC and focuses on taking bringing back the true meaning of coffee break: great coffee and conversation (or great coffee and time to yourself)!

So when you go to NYC (or live here and go to Chelsea), go to Café Grumpy–and as a thank you, take me with you! ;- )

Crockin’ Chili!

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So the following conversation happened when I opened my crockpots (SHAMELESS PLUG: naming contest still going on–I’ve had some great suggestions, but it’s not too late to put your 2 cents in!).  Ahem, where was I?  Oh yeah: conversation (loosely transcribed):

ME:  thank you! I can’t wait to use it

CHRISTI: what are you going to make?

Not sure yet.  Chili, maybe, yeah…chili

You don’t need a crockpot to make chili

No, but it still would be amazing

Now, I should interject here that Christi’s mother has THE best chili recipe, but Christi was right. I didn’t neeeeeeeeed my new crockpot to make chili.  Alright, back to Pinterest.  My mission: a crock pot chili recipe that looking tasty & interesting. I found this recipe from kitchentreaty.com

Okay, so…THE first I noticed: no meat–a slight pause for a raised-on-a-Texas-cattle-ranch girl like me, but under the motto of I’ll try anything once and the fact that it just sounds amazing, I figured what the heck!  Plus when you read about kitchentreaty.com it is a great site dedicated to cooking for vegetarians and omnivores who cohabitate/marry/hangout/party/etc (I mean, she explains it more eloquently than that–I’m just cutting to the chase so we can get to the chili!).

Almost everyone I know who enjoys cooking or baking and finds a new recipe, follows the recipe the first time and then if they feel adventurous the next time adds their own spin on it.  Not me, because…well…I just have an inability to leave well enough alone.  Plus I personally feel that all great chili recipes need some beer thrown in (even the aforementioned best chili recipe).  As I was looking down the list of ingredients–I ain’t gonna lie–I did a few double-takes on some of the spices, but I promised myself that I would only allow myself to swap out 1 cup of beer for 1 cup of veggie stock.  I’d like to interject here that I personally feel that any one who considers her/himself a chili aficionado might balk at some of the ingredients.  Albeit from the beer, I did not stray from the recipe.  That in and of itself is shocking.  Next time, though, I’m adding more jalapenos (as she suggested).  I only added one because it was making me cry while cutting and I figured that was probably hot enough.  Alas, no.  You can taste the jalapeno, but none of the heat.

Served with cornbread & Shiner Cheer (the beer I used), my tummy was very, very happy.  VERDICT: if you are vegetarian, looking for a change of chili pace, or looking for a less expensive chili–this is definitely one to add to your recipe book!  Btw, if you follow her recipe–linked above–it’s vegan and gluten-free, you know if you’re into those kinds of kinky things ;- ) Thanks kitchentreaty!

Mmm Mmm Good!

Mmm Mmm Good!

Crock Pot Pumpkin Red Lentil Chili

  • 1/2 cup of chopped yellow onion
  • 1-2 jalapenos
  • 2 15-oz cans of kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (make sure you get puree and not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 15-oz cans of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup of veggie broth
  • 1 cup of beer (whatever you may have on-hand, but I’d stay away from dark beers, like Guinness, as I think the flavor would be too overpowering)
  • 1 Tbsp of chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (yeah, cinnamon–keep reading down!)
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder (that’s right.  chocolate and a whoooooole tablespoon!)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cumin

Add all the ingredients to a 3-quart or larger crock pot and stir.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours (mine took right at 5 hours) or on low for 8-10 hours (are you kidding, who can wait that long?!?!?!?!) until lentils are done and chili is thick and hearty.  Serve with assorted toppings (I used cilantro).

It was delicious and good for you–perfect for a chili-weather kinda day!!

What A Crock!

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First, let me apologize and TOTALLY blame George R. R. Martin for lack of posts this week.  Since both my most and least favorite characters are seemingly dead, it’s back to work!

In addition to Lucille, I got another really cool birthday kitchen gadget: a crockpot.  Two actually, in a set, a big one and a tiny baby one.  I’ve always thought crockpots were fun, but now that I have one I realize they are da’bomb!!!

For those of you without an Addy in your lives, crockpots are great for throwing stuff in it in the morning, turning it on, leaving for work and viola! dinner when you get home.  However, since my darling pupcicle would see this as an open invitation to help herself and can reach all countertops in the house, for me, crockpots are great for throwing stuff in it at night and waking up in the morning with breakfast!  Or lunch or to put in the fridge for dinner.  Point being, I can’t leave my pupcicle & my crockpot unsupervised otherwise it will not fair well for the crockpot or my pupcicle when I got home.

But I digress.  What should I make?  Immediately, I went to searching on Pinterest, looking for a recipe that would be easy and preferably something I could make without going to the store.  Looking, looking, looking….and I FOUND IT!

Applesauce. photo 1

Applesauce, you say?  Yes, applesauce!  Having a new found love for apples and easy access to delicious orchard apples thanks to Wilklow Orchards, who sells delicious produce in the ferry terminal, I always have apples in the house.  I found this recipe by Fantastic Mom, which looked easy enough.  Since I’m not a big fan of sweetened applesauce nor one to leave well enough alone, I left out the sugar and added cloves, for a more “grown-up” taste (that’s in quotes because maybe kidlets like cloves and more intense/less sweet flavor).

So I chopped, chopped, chopped my way through a lot of apples, diligently peeling and coring. And ta-da–as promised a few hours later I had yummy applesauce.  Personally, I prefer really smooth applesauce, so at the end I put it through the potato ricer to give that extra smoothness that I love!  Nor did I wait for it to cool.  I discovered that I rather like warm applesauce…

HOWEVER…before I give you the recipe and having you drifting off to la-la-appleland, I have a contest for you (yes–YOU and YOU and YOU!!).  I name all of my appliances and gadgets, because, well, it’s what I do.  And my new crockpots need names, so I need your help!  There’s usually a reason for everything that has a name.  For example, my phone’s name is Alfred because, like Alfred Pennyworth, he does everything for me.  As you met Lucille last week, hopefully you got the I Love Lucy / Lucille Ball connection.  So, in that spirit my new little babies need names.  Winners get a prize, probably not from the crockpots because that’s rather hard to mail, but something else fun!  Ready, set…go!

Homemade Applesauce

  • 24 apples (I used empire, of course!)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves

Soak cinnamon sticks and cloves in water.  Peel, core, and dice the apples.  Put EVERYTHING in the crockpot (apples, water, cinnamon sticks, and cloves).  Cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Stirring occasionally helps break up apples.  Let it cool and then refrigerate.  Just don’t forget to pull out the cinnamon sticks and cloves before you start eating!!

Okay, I added a bit of ground cinnamon to make my pic look prettier!

Okay, I added a bit of ground cinnamon to make my pic look prettier!

mmm....now I just need porkchops!

mmm….now I just need porkchops!

Happy crockpotting!  And before I forget….

THANKS Sissy & TK!!  🙂

Weekend Wanderings: Portland, ME

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Here is a GREAT weekend trip idea! I’ve been to Maine once before and though it was only briefly, I definitely fell in love. Samantha is spot-on about there being no such thing as a stranger, something that pulls at my Texan heartstrings! Thanks for the post Lucy Bird! 🙂

Samantha Willner

Day 1: The Scavenger Hunt

“Whoa, that’s a wicked nice camera.”

Using a hand to shield his eyes from a sun that hadn’t yet risen, he aimed the statement at me and the Nikon tethered to my neck, oblivious to the fact that his dog’s leash had just become tangled around a tree. I was kneeling on the ground—absentmindedly snapping pictures of a purple sky on the verge of blossoming into a collage of pink and orange—trying to discern whether the boats bobbing on the horizon were actually used for fishing, or if they were just permanent fixtures of the scenery.

DSC_0240
                                        Waiting for the sun to rise over Portland.

I offered the man a smile in response to his observation, thinking that would appease his curiosity, but I was wrong…

View original post 1,710 more words

MY Molasses Cookies

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My mostest favoritest cookies in the world are molasses cookies.  Which may sound disgusting, especially if you’ve ever tried molasses.  Unless, of course, you were my Grandpa who loved molasses and like to eat it on everything.  I adored my Grandpa, but I have to admit to questioning his taste buds when it came to putting molasses in or on anything other than cookies!

Both Granny and Ome make molasses cookies.  They each have their own recipe and honestly, if I had to pick one I’d probably pick Ome’s because they’re softer (even when you’re not paying attention and over bake them slightly.  Or a lot.).  But in an effort not to pick sides–a Miss Switzerland of Grandmother Cookie Recipes, if you will–I took both recipes and meshed them together (honestly they weren’t all that different) and did a bit of tweaking.  The result?  Truly my favorite molasses cookie recipe.  Thanks Ome and Granny!!

mmmmm-molasses

mmmmm-molasses!

MY Molasses Cookies

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 cup coarse sugar (on a plate for dipping)

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a bowl, sift together dry ingredients; set aside.  In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar.  Add eggs and molasses.  Add dry ingredients (slowly, if you don’t want to be covered in flour and spices!).  Mix well.  Chill for at least an hour (I usually chill it overnight).  Shape into balls, flatten slightly and dip top into coarse sugar.  Place sugar side UP on cookie sheet/baking stone (sadly, I feel that I needed to add that step).  Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.  Viola!  Although you might want to let them cool slightly before eating, so as not to burn your mouth!  You’re welcome! 🙂

Granny’s Cream Puffs!

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I thought it only fitting that the very first thing I made with Lucille was my Granny’s Cream Puffs.  I make them every year for my birthday because when I was growing up my Granny made them for my birthday.  Momma was the master cake baker and decorator, but I always, always, always only ever requested Granny’s cream puffs.

Of course, being 93 years old Granny flat out refuses to make them anymore because QUOTE I am too damn old UNQUOTE.  So I have taken over and I am very thankful I had the insight in my teenage years to make sure Granny showed me how.  The secret Granny always said is that you have to make homemade pudding.  She’s not wrong.  Have you had pudding not from a box but cooked and just warm enough to melt the whipped cream you dolloped on top?  It’s magical.  I usually forgo the whipped cream and just eat it straight out of the pot–it might be the closest thing you can get to true love ;- )

The secret, Momma says is to make sure your eggs are room temp which allows the dough to bind better with a light, fluffiness. They’re both right.  Now, cream puffs aren’t much of a workout for Lucille, since all she did was help make the dough, but still…it was an homage to my birthday!

Delicious Chocolate Pudding Inside!

Delicious Chocolate Pudding Inside!

So without further adieu:

Granny’s* Cream Puffs

PUFFS:

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 2.25 cups of water
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 8 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 400F.  In a sauce pan, bring water to a hard boil.  Add butter and heat until butter is thoroughly melted.  Add the flour.  Yes, all of it.  Stir, stir, stir vigorously until a big, smooth blob forms (WARNING: if you don’t stir vigorously or continuously it will burn and that will be tragic!).  Put blob into a mixing bowl and beat in one egg at a time until each is thoroughly incorporated (NOTE: This is where Lucille comes in very handy!).  Once all the eggs are added the dough should be light and fluffy.  Drop by tablespoon (or other implements of transfer) to a greased cookie sheet or baking stone (I find I don’t need to grease my stone…and I truly mean that only the strictest baking sense–get your minds out of the gutter!).  Bake at 400F for 35 minutes or until golden brown.  When cool, use a bread knife to cut off the tops, fill with warm pudding, and put the top back on.  If you want to be extra fancy-schmancy you can lightly dust with powdered sugar.  I prefer to just inhale them!  🙂

PUDDING:

  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • 1/3 cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (yes, a whole tablespoon!)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla (see cinnamon comment above!)

It says to use a double boiler.  Honestly, I never do.  BUT be warned if you do not, it burns very easily–so do not walk away or stop stirring!  Whisk eggs lightly and add with milk to a saucepan/double broiler.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Bring to a slow boil, continuously stirring.  Cook until it’s thick (usually 10-15 minutes–ish.  I don’t know.  I don’t time it–I’m stirring like a mad woman.  Not vigorously like with dough, but continuously!).  When it is thick, remove from heat and add butter and vanilla and gently stir until butter is melted.  Let it cool for a few minutes and then add to puffs.  You should have a bit leftover–it is perfectly acceptable and expected for you to eat this directly out of the pan while warm.  You will thank me for that ;- )

BTW, the * is because I changed the recipe slightly from Granny’s–I add cinnamon and more cocoa, if you must know.

Lucy! You Have Some ‘Splaining To Do!

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If you will permit me to be a little sappy (and if you know me, then you  know that is a very rare thing!), I have truly amazing friends and family.  Actually, as far as I’m concerned my really good friends are also my family.  And none of them–friends and family alike–ever cease to amaze me.

The last few months have been, to say the very least, adventurous.  I mean, my entire life has been adventurous, but the last few months have really been a roller coaster ride.  And aforementioned friends and family will attest that roller coasters are something I abhor.  Although I will admit that at the end of the ride, I’m quite drunk on adrenaline and want to ride again.  Which, actually, as I’m thinking about it really can be said about life.  But digress because I don’t want this to be about the meaning of life, I want it to be about how truly luck I am to have such great friends.

Most people, I think, will say that I have never known a stranger…and while that is true, I am a novice compared to Momma or Teresa.  But those in my inner circle are truly some amazing people.  We’re all different and we all live in different places and met at different times in our lives.  Some are related to me and the rest probably thankful that they are not!!  ;- )

But this post is about my wanderlust alter ego, April (yes! of Pics by April fame).  I met April in Australia and by some divine intervention (and probably a similar sense of humor and love of movies, photography, and traveling) we became friends.  She is, by far, one of the most amazing and generous people I know.  She goes above and beyond to take time out of her day to spoil someone.  I’m not entirely sure what I did to warrant befriending April, but I’m exceptionally glad that I did.  For many, many reasons but this birthday was certainly over the top.

Why?  Glad you asked!

At the beginning of October, I get an email from April that said (basically):

Your birthday present is going to be arriving a bit early because I got a really good deal on it, but I had to buy & ship it now.  And don’t fuss at me either.  You’ve been through a lot in the last few months and I wanted to splurge and get you something special.

Hmmm…this piqued my interest.  What could it be…what could it be???  LIGHT BULB!  The week or so prior to this cryptic email we were discussing splurging on buying all the Harry Potter ebooks.  But, wait that doesn’t need to be shipped. Think, think, think.  April also likes to get stuff off my Amazon wish list.  Could it be…Bond, James Bond?  As in the Collector’s Edition will all the movies?  No.  Surely not.  But maaaaybe.  Perhaps size and weight of box will offer a clue.

Box arrives.  A big box.  A big, heavy box.  With the words KITCHEN AID stamped on the outside.  No.  Surely not.  No…no…she didn’t…she…DID!!  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE [that’s me squealing like a 5 year old girl!]!!!!

Actually, at the time I didn’t squeal like a 5 year old.  I may have teared up a little.  Or a lot.

So, without further ado, let me introduce Lucille, who is a ginger (like her namesake) and my favorite color and, ironically (not), the accent color in my kitchen.

Lucille in Action!

Lucille in Action!

So of course, I had no choice but to break her in with cookies and cream puffs and banana bread oh my!!  Yes, yes…posts to follow!

Thanks April!! :- )