Archive | December, 2008

World’s Best Chili

31 Dec

Last Saturday, we took dinner to my mother-in-law’s house.  Usually, she’s feeding all of us but after all the work she did for the Christmas feast, we wanted to give her a break so I made my World’s Best Chili and took it over there.  It was a huge success.  When we eat chili, we eat it “make your own” style.  By which, I mean that there is a big pot of chili and then a billion bowls of fixins.  Our family likes:

  • grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • Buffalo Chipotle Sauce
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped onions
  • sliced jalopeños
  • chopped black olives
  • and, of course, fritos

Although, fritos properly go in the bowl before the chili, thus making the delicious concoction of Frito Pie.

When we’re in a hurry, we used canned chili but when I have time to really cook, I make my own chili.  This is, of course, what I took to my mother-in-law’s house.  I also left out the fritos as, really, I’m the only one in my family who likes it that way (I am the only one in my family who spent significant time in Texas as a child).  So, I brought cornbread.  It was delicious and here is the recipe:

World’s Best Chili

1 lb (or so) stew beef (or a cheap roast cut up into big chunks)
(note: you can substitute hamburger meat but the stew meat
is WAY better!)
1 pkg Carroll Shelby’s Chili Mix
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 8 oz can of water
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes (could be fresh, of course)
1 16 oz can pinto beans
3 T olive oil
1 c flour
1 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 whole onion, chopped coarsely

Add oil to frying pan, heat. Mix garlic powder, pepper, and flour in shallow
dish. Add beef and coat in flour mixture. Brown beef in frying pan.
When browned, pour the whole lot (scrape the pan!) into your crock pot.

If you have all day, set crockpot to low.  If you don’t have a whole day, do it on high but know the beef won’t be as tender.

Open the Carroll Shelby bag. Set aside the masa packet for later.
Open the large bag of spices, pour all of it into the pot. Add salt
(white packet) to taste. The small red packet is chili powder. Add
this to your taste. When I’m making for just Greg and I, I dump the
whole thing in. If I’m making it for others, I do about half.
Haven’t had any complaints even among chili-wimps. :) Even the whole
packet is not mouth blistering hot but it is too hot for the kids to
really enjoy.

Add the tomato sauce and canned tomatoes. Add 8 oz can of water.
Stir it all up and leave it alone to cook.

1/2 hour before serving, open the can of beans and add to the pot.
Put the contents of the yellow packet into a small bowl, add approx.
1/2 c of water. Whisk together. Pour contents into the pot. Stir and
let cook for about 1/2 hour.

I have also made a vegetarian version when we had a chili party and some of the guests were vegetarians.  It was a huge hit and some of the non-vegetarians (meat-a-tarians!) opted for it as well.  :) Here is that recipe, too.

Vegetarian Chili

1 lb portobello mushrooms, thick slices
2 cups frozen corn
4 peppers (green, red, yellow, orange, in any combination)
1 whole onion, chopped coarsely
1 pkg Carroll Shelby’s Chili Mix
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 8 oz can of water
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes (could be fresh, of course)
1 16 oz can pinto beans
3 T olive oil
1 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper

Chop peppers and onions into bite-sized pieces. Put in crockpot. Set aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan, brown mushrooms and onions. You want them to be
softened and browned but not thoroughly cooked. Put the mushrooms in
your crock or stock pot — scrape the pan.

When browned, pour the whole lot (scrape the pan!) into your crock pot.

If you have all day, set crockpot to low.  If you don’t have a whole day, do it on high but know the beef won’t be as tender.

Open the Carroll Shelby bag. Set aside the masa packet for later.
Open the large bag of spices, pour all of it into the pot. Add salt
(white packet) to taste. The small red packet is chili powder. Add
this to your taste. When I’m making for just Greg and I, I dump the
whole thing in. If I’m making it for others, I do about half.
Haven’t had any complaints even among chili-wimps. :) Even the whole
packet is not mouth blistering hot but it is too hot for the kids to
really enjoy.

Add the tomato sauce and canned tomatoes. Add 8 oz can of water.
Stir it all up and leave it alone to cook.

1/2 hour before serving, open the can of beans and add to the pot.
Put the contents of the yellow packet into a small bowl, add approx.
1/2 c of water. Whisk together. Pour contents into the pot. Stir and
let cook for about 1/2 hour.

Taking on mountains

30 Dec

I have been reading a new blog recently, HipWriterMama shares about her writing but also looks to motivate her readers.  [click]  Today, she is sharing inspiration for accomplishing big tasks.  In general, I need this sort of inspiration.  I am naturally sluggish and would prefer to plant my behind on the couch with my laptop in my lap and just chill.  Being a mother and a teacher means that I don’t get a lot of “chill” time . . . leastwise not as much as I’d like.

But, I have responsibilities beyond mothering and teaching.  I am also a homeowner and I need to maintain my home.  I’ve gotten the daily job of dishes down but others get put off and become mountains of laundry and soap scum and . . . well, let’s not think too hard about the state of my toilets, shall we?

Beyond that, I have ambitions.  I want to be a writer.  And, I know I can do it . . . if I work at it.  As most of you know, I took up the challenge of NaNoWriMo to write a novel in a month.  I didn’t accomplish it but I did get 30,000 words written which is way better than a kick in the head (a phrase my son does not understand at all!).  I allowed myself a break after that huge effort and . . . there we are.  Still on break.  Not a single word written in a month.

So, I have a few mountains.  I need to tackle my laundry and bathroom mountains before the new year so that I can start the new year not feeling behind already.  And, I need to tackle my novel again.  Dive in and get to work on it.  I want to finish my rough draft this week.  Can I do it?

Of course I can.  I particularly like that writing my novel involves planting my butt on my couch with my laptop in my lap looking like I’m chilling.  Of course, the beads of sweat on my brow will give me away to the careful observer.

What are your mountains that need tackling?

Snoozing
Clearly, Ruby has some serious napping to do.

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

29 Dec

DSCF0099

The day after Christmas, I sat on my couch and something caught my eye from the kitchen window.  Hurray!  I am forgiven!  The Chickadees are back!

There were two on the feeder and a Junco jumped up there a bit later.  The best part was that I went out on the front porch to get a load of wood for the fire and there were five or six Chickadees in my wisteria vines at the front door.  One stayed for a few minutes to chat with me.

Happy me!

To visit more fine feathered friends, go check  out Bird Photography Weekly #18.

Patience is a virtue, they say

28 Dec

kindle_egret

Patience is not my strong suit, to say the least but I must practice it right now.  For Christmas this year, my husband has gotten me an Amazon Kindle.  It is what I wanted and I did hint rather strongly (pretty much sent him 2 articles a week about the wonders of the Kindle).  Kindle is a hot commodity right now.  They are sold out following their endorsement of Oprah earlier this year.  In addition, Amazon is evidently preparing to release Kindle 2 and speculation is rampant that they are not shipping any Kindles until the 2 is released in February.  But, Amazon isn’t saying anything and it’s really all just speculation.  But, speculating helps pass the time.

So, what am I doing while I’m waiting?  There are things to do while waiting for your new Kindle.

  • cancel all the “pre-order” book orders I’ve placed on Amazon for my favorite books
  • add those “pre-order” books to my wishlist in the Kindle versions (when I can)
  • read blogs about Kindle such as thekindle.wordpress.com
  • window-shop for pink goodies to go with my Kindle
  • window-shop for pink decals for my Kindle
  • update my wishlist on Amazon for books that I want to have on my Kindle
  • think about accessories that I need for my Kindle like a book light, car charger, screen protector, and the like.

These things pass the time but, oh my, it’s a still hard to wait.  Sigh.  Poor me.

:)

Christmas Wrap-up

27 Dec

Another christmas bird

As usual, my family had a lovely Christmas.   Between the 6am waking up of my children and the feast at the end of the day, I had a thoroughly lovely day.  My family knows how to do Christmas and are quite exacting and obnoxious in our rituals.  It is a day of family time, drinking, eating, relaxing, stressing, and lots and lots of thoughtful gifts.  We only had my children this year as my nephews were with their father.  I missed their contributions to the event. We know how to cook a true feast in our family and we have some amazing cooks.  Preparing wonderful food with time and love and eating it with much appreciation.  It’s all good.

We are also ritualistic in our gift opening.  We take the time to appreciate the gifts so that everyone can see what everyone got and appreciate the generosity of it and the joy that the receiver had in the gift.  The kids find this politeness to be difficult (and, well, so do we adults) so we tend to push each other along.  “Yes, yes, it’s lovely, who’s next!”  When we get to the stocking opening rituals, we are less polite.  Stockings are a big deal in our family. We all contribute to the stockings with a range of silly little things (sample sizes of organic toothpaste) to lovely things (my mom has been known to slip a treasured family ring or necklace into our stockings).  We open stockings melee-style so the chaos of the moment is huge.  Lots of “Oooo, look at this!” and “Who put these in the stockings?” abound.

Christmas is a warm and happy day for us.  I’m proud of the way we all come together — my family and Greg’s — for the celebration.  This is far and away my favorite holiday!

Ruby enjoyed Xmas Day

Ruby liked it too and wore a golden bow most of the day.  She had her own stocking this year filled with dog toys.  She got a huge elf toy that she is currently de-limbing and there is hollofil all over my house which seems to be coming from a hedgehog’s nose.  Oh, and the rat toy my mother got her has already lost its tail!
A very merry rat terrier Christmas, indeed!

Christmas Skies

26 Dec

Christmas Sky

The sun shone brightly
all the more brightly
for the memories of stormy clouds
and pouring rain.

© 2008, Liza Lee Miller.  All Rights Reserved.

For more bright skies  in your Friday, visit Sky Watch Friday!

Merry Christmas to all

25 Dec

xmas2008

Love, The Miller Family

Birds of the Winter Solstice

24 Dec

Anna's Hummingbird, female

I did not get the chance to go birding this Solstice. I was bustling around getting ready for our annual Holiday Party (XmasEveEve).  But I did take time to refill my hummingbird feeders (still the only birds coming to my feeders) and was rewarded with a sweet little Anna’s Hummingbird girl.  The picture above is not the one I saw but you get the idea.  :)

If you had a chance to go birding on the Winter Solstice, consider contributing to Birds of the Solstice, a project over at BirdStack!

Birds of the Solstice

An Awesome Gift

23 Dec

Teachers get lots of gifts at the holidays.  Sometimes we get good gifts and sometimes not so good ones.  I have been quite lucky in my gifts.  But this year, I feel truly blessed.  One of my students has parents and grandparents who are potters.  I guess she shared with them my love of all things Raven because this was my gift from them.

Raven mug by Jen Hennig

An amazing Raven head.  He will take a place of honor in my home.  I can’t believe how fantastic he is. I suspect that she’s spent as much time admiring Ravens as I have.  I literally gasped and clutched it tightly when I opened it.  Right now it’s on the windowsill in my kitchen and I am admiring it several times a day.

I’d like to share the name of the artist and her contact information but I’m not going to in order to preserve her daughter’s privacy.

6 Things

22 Dec

I’ve been tagged by Wren of Wrenaissance to share 6 random things about myself.

  1. I was born in Montana, dead center, far northern part of the state.  Practically in Canada.
  2. I’ve lived in two foreign countries (England and Germany).
  3. I have lived in 6 different states.
  4. I am a terrible slob.  Keeping my house clean is a huge bother.
  5. When I meet people in person, I’m very shy until I know them well.  Then, look out.
  6. I have another poem up at Winter Haiku.  Go see, please!

So, if you’d like to play along, consider yourself tagged.  If you don’t want to play, nevermind then.

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