Thursday, December 24, 2009


Pic was taken at 10PM Christmas Eve Mass at St. Anne's in Gilbert.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Party

The nieces and nephews intheir new PJ's. L to R - Lexie, Caitlin, Cole, Hayden, Hunter and baby Lincoln.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Starting Seeds

Since the laundry room gets the best dose of sunshine, we are starting our seeds on the window over the washer and dryer. So far we've sowed the heirloom tomato seeds, both the regular and cherry tomatoes that I bought on my visit to the downtown Mesa Farmer's Market. The dill seeds were harvested from our herb garden this year. After Christmas I'll be starting more herbs, the other varieties of tomatoes and hopefully some squash and peppers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Slow day at work. Crocheting mini stockings for the office Christmas tree.

Friday, December 11, 2009

First Experience With Solar Cooking

When summer temps get over 100 degrees here I am always looking for alternative ways to get dinner on the table without heating up the house. I happened to see a posting on a message board at the Phoenix Permaculture Guild about solar ovens. I looked at solar ovens about 10 years ago but gave up on the idea because they were too expensive to purchase and the do-it-yourself projects were way beyond my skills.

According to the conversation, solar ovens have come a long way in the last few years. There are two models that are reasonably priced and seemed to be popular among the locals. The Sport Solar Oven (above) from the Solar Oven Society and the Sun Oven. The discussion said that both were well made and suitable for use here in the Valley. The main difference is that the Sport is large enough to bake on a cookie sheet, but the smaller Sun Oven will heat to higher temperatures. Since I like to bake, I opted for the Sport which my wonderful husband purchased for me as an early Christmas gift. Although many of the experienced users said they didn't need the optional reflector, I purchased it anyway.

The more I surfed the web for info on solar cooking, the more excited I got. Not only was solar cooking a great way to go "green" but the recipes sounded easy and delicious. Another Valley of the Sun resident has been blogging about using the Sun Oven every day for a year. If you're going to purchase a solar oven, the Solar Oven Chef is a great place to start for tips and recipes.

I probably didn't pick the best day for my initial leap into solar cooking, but it was my only day off. It had been raining all night and was only about 45 degrees outside. The yard was a mud pit and it was cold and windy outside. Since the weather wasn't the best I decided to preheat with the reflector on and see what happened. The oven temp reached 200 degress in a half hour so I decided to keep the reflector on and go for it.

I wanted to start with some easy dishes. Sprouts had sirloin tip roasts on sale and I purchased some of their wild rice blend from the bulk section as a side dish. I cut the roast into 4 pieces and sprinkled it with Lipton Onion Soup Mix. No need for any water when cooking meat in the solar ovens. To the rice blend I added the necessary amount of water, some Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb Seasoning, a dash of tumeric, a little bit of salt, and half a chopped onion. The Sport comes with an oven thermometer and two black cooking pots so it makes it easy to do a complete meal at one time.

At the 2 hour mark I checked on the oven and noticed that there was condensation building up on the door, an indicator that the food is done. Not bad! The roast was perfect and was swimming in lots of broth that I used on the stove top to make gravy. The rice was slightly overdone but still tasty. HuzBen was impressed and loved the meal. I liked the "set it and forget it" aspect of the cooking. I checked on the oven every 30 minutes but I found out quickly that I didn't need to reposition the oven at all. I can't wait to try chicken and potato dishes, and maybe some baking. Anyone for solar baked Christmas cookies?

The Roast

The Rice Pilaf

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Downtown Mesa Farmer's Market

I love the Farmer's Market in downtown Mesa on Friday mornings (9am-Noon, on the east side of Center St just south of University Drive). The produce is great but there are many other vendors with booths to check out. Craft items, bread, tamales, tea, and beauty products were for sale today. The baby dwarf goats were on site too. . .for petting - not for sale. Aren't they are adorable?

Today I picked up organic apples and heirloom tomatoes. The heirloom tomatoes will do double duty - we will enjoy eating them and I will be saving the seeds to start plants for the veggie garden. Three of the sweet, burgundy colored cherry tomatoes yield the same amount of seeds you can purchase for $2.65-$2.99 at the garden center or online.

For more info on the Mesa Community Farmer's Market - including maps and photos - check out their webpage at Arizona Farmer's Markets. More photos here.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations

I was a big fan of Park Avenue Potluck: Recipes from New York's Savviest Hostesses. I ordered the book after reading about it over at May December - a fabulous blog by Melissa Morris. I was so excited to see Mel's blog post that there would be a sequel of sorts that would also benefit the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations: Entertaining at Home with New York's Savviest Hostesses is filled with more great recipes, beautiful photos and helpful hints from New York socialites. I can't wait to try the Pomegranate Mimosas!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

September Garden Update

(above) The potted chives going to seed at the end of summer

Now that the daily temperature should start dropping below 110 in the shade most days, it's time to start planning our winter vegetable gardens. Looking back on the last year it's clear that some changes need to be made. The tomatoes in the raised bed did not do well. The Big Boy and Early Girl tomatoes were the size of cherry tomatoes and the Sweet 100's were no bigger than marbles.

While we do change about half the soil in the raised bed each year, I think the nutrients are just tapped out. Tomato crops do best when rotated and we've been using the same raised bed year after year.

This coming winter we've decided to add a second raised bed for tomatoes, peppers and perhaps some squash. The older raised bed will be used for spinach, salad greens and herbs. Ben uses a lot of flat leaf parsley in his cooking and it will be nice to have a large amount of it, instead of a pot with 3 to 4 plants.

To make the new raised bed we are on the lookout for an old, inexpensive bookshelf. We'll just remove the back, tip it over, fill it with soil and voila - instant raised bed. Ben is checking out the second hand stores on 50% off days to see what we can find that will suit our needs.

I hope to pick up more large plastic pots too. The potted herbs did very well this year. The lemon balm has some toasted edges and the parsley went to seed in August, but the sage and thyme are loving all the heat.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Heart Attack Grill

Update - If you're reading this post you may want to see this one - the surgery I had just a few weeks after my last Single Bypass Burger.


We have wanted to visit the Heart Attack Grill in Chandler since we saw it on The Food Network. We finally got the chance last night and we had a blast.

First, Ben was weighed in by Naughty Nurse Alex. If you weigh over 350lbs, you eat for free. Ben qualified.

Ben takes a big bite out of his second Triple Bypass Burger. Yum!

Ben and Jeff with their burgers and Cokes. The Cokes are from Mexico and are still made with real sugar down there, not the nasty high fructose corn syrup we have here in the States.

Jeff finished his Triple Bypass Burger and was wheeled out to the car by Nurse Alex. But first. . .a quick check of the vital signs.

Saying goodbye to Nurse Alex - until next time. . . .

Thursday, July 30, 2009

“A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life - Virtues for Men” by Robert P. Lockwood

(HuzBen is taking over East Valley Life today to weigh in on a men's book he just finished. Thank you Dumpling!)

“A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life - Virtues for Men” by Robert P. Lockwood

Can you name the seven virtues? If you haven’t given much thought on Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Fortitude, Hope, Faith and Charity, Robert P. Lockwood’s book might give you something to think about.

Lockwood breaks down the virtues into their own chapters and during the course of 140-plus pages, used a myriad of personal stories that stretch from being a boy and lessons learned from his father (he refers to as Old Man) to the mores recent experiences of being a grandfather of twins. A lot of the stories on everyday activities, such as a love for baseball and eating in diners, some traveling and many funeral stories of friends and family alike are told, illustrating how we can find lessons and a better life in the seven virtues.

Not all stories have a clear point or will touch your interest. Often, his viewpoint is sentimental and wistful for an age gone by, which a younger reader may not identify with. That’s fine, as there are many different stories devoted to each virtue and during each chapter. At least one story made me understand a new and better way of looking at each virtue, applying them to everyday life, and living better in service to God through these virtues.

The books may be best read by the Catholic who wants a refresher, to find new meaning and understanding in his faith and look to the virtues that have been around for a long time, yet can serve us in the modern day and everyday.

“A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life - Virtues for Men” by Robert P. Lockwood is available at The Catholic Company.

(Note from Leigh - this book sounds like a great gift for someone making their Confirmation or for a new Catholic entering the Church.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Dressing with Dignity

We are not supposed to sit in judgement of of others, but really, who hasn't been in a pew before Mass and bit their tongue while watching the parade of half dressed young people (and some adults!) walk down the aisle. In fact, I think it was in church where I first heard the phrase "muffin top" to describe the spillage of flesh peeking out between a young girls crop top and her hip huggers. I was clueless and actually asked my husband why people were discussing baked goods before Mass. Hello? We Catholics all know that the baked goods and coffee come after Mass. :-)

Admittedly, some people would be horrified at my church attire on occasion, usually pedal pushers and a coodinating top during the hot Arizona summers. It's mortifying to say that and I am trying to make a conscious effort to change. It's for this reason I decided to read Dressing with Dignity.

Colleen Hammond's book, 'Dressing With Dignity' was nothing like I expected when I picked it up this weekend. Prepared for a simple primer on how to dress for the appropriate occasion and perhaps a few website resources, I was completely suprised thought provoking book and the enormous amount of research that when into it.

Starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and progressing through the centuries to the Freemasons and Coco Chanel, the author is meticuluous in her citations that back her explanations and opinions. She tracks women's slow slide down the path of feminism and explains why and how we all ended up in this morally corrupt society. It's a fascinating read that offers real solutions on how to return to modesty and femininity.

The book was first published in 2004 and as I finished the book last night I wondered how much of an impact the Pure Fashion movement and books like Dressing With Dignity have had on people in the last five years. It didn't take long to get my answer. Today we all watched the memorial service for Michael Jackson. Except for the female singer with the wildly inappropriate clevege, everyone was dressed with the respect and reverence befitting the event. No wardrobe malfunctions in sight. It's my hope that in the future young ladies choose to conduct themselves less like Paris Hilton and more like Paris Jackson.

Dressing With Dignity is available at The Catholic Company.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Novena to St. Peregrine

Novena to St. Peregrine - Patron Saint of Cancer Patients

Glorious wonder-worker, St. Peregrine,
you answered the divine call with a ready spirit,
and forsook all the comforts of a life of ease
and all the empty honors of the world
to dedicate yourself to God
in the Order of His Holy Mother.
You labored manfully for the salvation of souls.
In union with Jesus crucified,
you endured painful sufferings with such patience
as to deserve to be healed miraculously
of an incurable cancer in your leg
by a touch of His divine hand.
Obtain for me the grace to answer every call of God
and to fulfill His will in all the events of life.
Enkindle in my heart a consuming zeal
for the salvation of all men.
Deliver me from the infirmities
that afflict my body...

(Mention your need here...)

Obtain for me also a perfect resignation
to the sufferings it may please God to send me,
so that, imitating our crucified Savior and His sorrowful Mother,
I may merit eternal glory in heaven.

St. Peregrine, pray for me and for all who invoke your aid.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Magnificat Magazine

The Liturgy of the Hours is the official set of Roman Catholic prayers designated to be prayed at specific times throughout the day by Catholic clergy and laity alike. The Liturgy consists of prayers, hymns and psalms, recited in a specified order at the specified times of the day.

I tried to pray the Liturgy, but it is complicated and confusing to flip back and forth between the ribbon page markers while trying to concentrate on the prayers. I tried and gave up on the prayers many times in frustration. The Liturgy didn’t work for me until I ran across Magnificat magazine at Mary Immaculate Books and Gifts here in Mesa.

Magnificat is a Catholic magazine that contains prayers of the Mass, stories of Catholic saints, fantastic artwork (the June cover is pictured here) and yes, the Liturgy of the Hours in a daily format.

I love the fact that the publisher has managed to pack so much information into such a compact size. Magnificat tucks nicely into my purse so I can tote it to Mass or Adoration. If you're like me and you've given up on the Liturgy of the Hours due to its' complexity - give Magnificat a try.

To see more about Magnificat and other Catholic products - check out The Catholic Company.

Follow Magnificat on Twitter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

An Afternoon of Wine Tasting and Shopping

HuzBen and I had the opportunity to attend a grilling seminar/wine tasting at Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Chandler on Saturday. The event was a joint venture with Fleming's and Barbecues Galore.

After a few basic tips on the meats we would be grilling we all headed outside to the patio where Johnathan Pyant of Barbecues Galore showed off the Odeon, and its' CrossRay technology. The Odean has infrared burners built into the sidewalls rather than underneath, thus reducing flareups. It works with liquid propane or nature gas and it's a beauty.

When the steaks were finished we returned to the dining room and tasted the three cuts of beef (filet, NY Strip, ribeye) and the wines picked to accompany them. Bruce Duffy and Candy Taylor of Flemings's were on hand to answer any and all questions about the pairings. The food was tasty, the wine was delicious and we received quite an education. The best part - the cost was a mere TEN DOLLLARS each!

We enjoyed ourselves so much that we signed up for their class on marinades and rubs in July. (And we're planning on stopping in for happy hour next week!)

Fleming's is located in one of my favorite shopping plazas, Casa Paloma. Casa Paloma is a foodie's dream, with Sur La Table and AJ's Fine Foods just a few feet apart.

I couldn't resist. Sur La Table was having a Summer Sale. I finally purchased the Baker's Edge Brownie Pan I've been wanting, along with new placemats, napkins and a few goodies from the clearance rack I'll be blogging about in the future.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Losing Weight With SparkPeople

In early May I decided I needed to be more accountable for the calories I eat. I hate counting calories and I only did it one week per month to get an approximate idea of what I was eating. I knew I wanted a web based application where I could track my food and maybe my exercise.

After some serious web searching I found SparkPeople. Wow! SparkPeople is everything I never knew I wanted in a weight loss and fitness website. Not only does it have a nutrition and fitness tracker, there are message boards, home pages, blogging, teams, articles and a motivational points system. There are thosands of friendly people aiming for the same goals as me. And the best part of all - it's free!!!

I cannot say enough good things about They've turned a chore into something fun and motivating. I love it! And it's free!!! If you sign up, please stop by my SparkPeople page and say hi - I am Leanna1017.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stock

Whole chickens were on sale this week for 88 cents per pound and Ben can't pass up a bargain.

On Sunday we browned the whole chicken in the pressure cooker with some carrots, parsnips and onions. We added garlic and peppercorns, along with parsley, thyme and sage from the herb garden and filled the PC with water to 2 inches below the maxium fill line.

The cooker was at high pressure for 30 minutes and we used the quick release button when the time was up. I strained the stock while Ben stripped the meat from the bones.

At this point, the bones went back into the pot with the stock and the water level was again topped off to about 2 inches below the maximum fill line (lower than necassary in case the stock foamed up). We set the timer for another 15 minutes at high pressure and let the cooker cool off naturally.

The stock was refrigerated overnight and the fat was skimmed off the next morning. We ended up with over a gallon of aromatic chicken stock and enough chicken to make chicken and cheese enchiladas for dinner and chicken soft tacos for our lunches this week. Quite the yield from a single bird.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Me and My Pedometer - A Love Story

I am not ashamed to say it - I love my pedometer. While trying to figure out some way to be accountable for my eating and exercise habits I stumbled across articles about walking for fitness on Prevention Magazine's website. It seemed too good to be true. . . get a pedometer, walk 10,000 steps a day and lose weight. That's it? Wow - sign me up!

I had just been diagnosed with high blood pressure was put on medication. My doctor told me that if I exercised regularly, changed my eating habits, and lost some weight that there was a chance I could reverse the problem. I hated the blood pressure meds. They made me jumpy, gave me frequent panic attacks and if there was a chance that I could get off the stuff - I was going to try everything in my power to do it.

I bought a cheapie pedometer and I was off and walking. It didn't take long to figure out that my pedometer wasn't even close to being accurate. It would log over 100 steps just for using the restroom so I knew it wasn't a good indicator of my accomplishments. I was supposedly walking about 14,000 steps a day and it seemed to easy. I "googled" the name of my pedometer and found out that it was, well, crap. After some research I bought my Omron from It was highly rated by Consumer Reports and by Amazon's customers. Perfect!

The first day with my new pedometer was on a weekend and did my usual housekeeping and laundry routines so I could see how many steps I took in an average day at home. I barely clocked in with about 2,500 steps. That was a real eye opener. My standard day at work ended up being about double that number but no where near that 10,000 I should have been doing.

It took me about 2 weeks to work up to 10,000 steps a day. It was harder than I thought. I started at work by walking around my office complex during breaks and my lunch hour. The Omron pedometer has an aerobic function, so any brisk walking done for more than 10 minutes registers as aerobic walking.

I found that by going to work early and staying a few minutes late I could not only get all my steps in but I could do five-10 minute periods of aerobic walking per day in the air conditioned call center. Climate is a big consideration during the summer here in Arizona. Walking in 120 degree weather on hot asphalt is not my idea of fun.

My coworkers were very supportive and a few jumped on the bandwagon and also started walking. I kept a record of my progress with my weight and the total number of steps I took per day. Keeping a chart made my accountable for my progress. My goal was to walk the required steps on five out of seven days a week.

Walking at work was great but I still had to figure out what to do at home in my tiny house. Life in a 900 square foot home with a 6'6" husband and several pets underfoot is a challenge. Trying to walk 10,000 steps a day in such a small house was darn near impossible, or so I thought. All it really takes is some creativity and incorporating your walking into your regular routines.

Laundry, cleaning and shopping are 3 ways I added to my daily step count. When I do laundry I fold the clothes right out if the dryer and walk them back to the bedroom one item at a time. The same thing with the groceries - each item gets carried in a separate trip to the pantry. Time consuming? Sure! But what would I really be doing with that extra time? Probably sitting down in front of the TV. When the weather is nice I do a few laps around the block.

It was early March 2008 that I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and put on medication. In late April 2008 I was taken off the meds by my doctor and my blood pressure has been fine ever since. I get it checked every 4-6 weeks. My doctor said she'd never seen anyone as determined to get off that medication as I was. It took me seven weeks to do it.

Am I still fat? Absolutely - I started my journey towards fitness and weight loss at nearly 300 pounds in November 2007 and I still have a long way to go. But am I in better shape than I was a year ago? Yes! And I still wear my pedometer everyday!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mini Pizza Dinner

Top photo (l to r) Three cheese veggie pizza, Carmelized Balsamic Onion and Ranch Pizza, Veggie Cheddar Pizza.
Bottom Photo (l to r) Rosemary Chicken and Ranch Pizza, BBQ Chicken Pizza.

For standard pizza dough recipe and tips on making grilled pizza - click here.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast

Mix and let stand until it foams - 8-10 minutes

2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Mix in a large bowl with the yeast mixture until dough comes together, then transfer to a board or counter and knead until smooth. Let rise in an oiled bowl (covered loosely) until the dough doubles in size, about an hour.

Divide dough into in half for 2 pizzas or keep dividing to make mini pizzas. You can let the dough rise again at this point or you can make your pizzas if you're in a hurry. Roll out to desired size and add toppings of your choice. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes for the large pizzas or about 10 minutes for mini pizzas.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

PC Potato Salad

Pressure cookers make easy work of potato salad, especially with red potatoes since you're not peeling them. The addition of the Penzeys Shallot Salt and Pepper gives the salad a consistent onion-y taste, even if you're planning to enjoy the salad over a few days. (I hate the taste of day old onions in pasta and tuna salad, etc)

PC Potato Cabbage Salad

5 lbs red potatoes, quartered (halved if very small)
5 Tbs dill pickle juice
2 tsp yellow mustard
2 tsp brown mustard
1 tsp Penzeys Shallot Pepper
1 tsp Penzeys Shallot Salt
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups chopped green cabbage
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery

Place potatoes pressure cooker with recommended amount of water for steaming (consult your owner's manual) Bring to high pressure and cook for 5 minutes, then use quick release method.

Drain potatoes thoroughly, place in a large bowl and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Pour dill pickle juice over potatoes and toss gently. Let cool for about 15 more minutes.

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss with the potatoes. Chill and toss again just before serving.

Friday, April 03, 2009

More Lemon Recipes

The windy weather has kept my friend Ahmed busy picking up lemons in his yard. I am lucky enough be a frequent recipient of this leftovers. Time to get busy in the kitchen!


8-10 lemons 1 1/2-2 cups of lemon juice
1 cup sugar (or to taste)
2 qts water

Juice the lemons and combine all in a tall pitcher. Serve over ice.

Strawberry Lemonade

Lemon Bars

2 sticks butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup confectioners sugar plus 1 tbsp for dusting on top
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
4 tbsp flour
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon peel

Heat oven to 325°. Blend butter, 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Pat into ungreased 13x9x2-inch pan lined with parchment paper for easy removal. Bake for 15-20 minutes. For filling, blend together eggs, sugar, 4 tbsp flour, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Pour over first layer. Return to oven and bake at 325° for 20 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes then sift confectioners' sugar over the top just prior to serving.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Yorkshire Pudding

My favorite Yorkshire Pudding recipe, adapted from the recipe in "Tea and Sympathy" by Anita Naughton.

Yorkshire Pudding
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 cups milk
roast beef pan drippings

*** Things to remember - You may need to reposition your oven rack to accomodate the rising of the popovers. Do not open the oven during while baking - this may cause the popovers to fall.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Whisk in the eggs and milk until the batter has the consistency of pancake batter. Cover and let rest for 1 hour.

Put about 1 tsp of roast beef drippings in each well of a large non-stick popover pan. Place pan in the oven until you can hear the drippings make popping and crackling sounds.
Remove from oven and fill each well with batter about 3/4 full.

Bake about 30 minutes or until well risen.

Serve hot.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Easy Apricot Barbecue Chicken

Chicken leg quarters are usually a bargain at Midwestern Meats so I pick some up nearly every week. They're so versatile. This week I made Apricot Barbecue Chicken.

Easy Apricot Barbecue Chicken
4-6 chicken leg quarters
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb
3/4 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with Mrs. Dash Onion and Herb Seasoning. Bake in a shallow baking dish at 350 for 40 minutes.

Heat apricot preserves in the microwave for a few seconds and blend with the barbecue sauce. If the mixture doesn't blend easily you can microwave for a few more seconds to thin the preserves.

Spread about half the sauce mixture on the chicken and return to the oven for 10 minutes, remove and coat chicken with the remaining sauce and return to the oven for 10 more minutes.

Serve over rice.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Photo op while plant shopping. . .

Went to A & P Nurseries to get some tomato and Italian parsley plants for the garden. We ran into this big guy sleeping the ornamental grass. He looked very comfortable.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ms. Thomas' Lovely Tea House

Last weekend while shopping for a new bed we stumbled upon Ms. Thomas' Lovely Tea House on the NW corner of Mc Kellips and Power in Mesa. Dolores at Mattress Firm had nothing but praise for the establishment and I couldn't wait to check it out. I stopped in late last week to check out their gift shop (fabulous!) and I vowed to go for tea as soon as possible.

As HuzBen is not fond of tea and it took me a few days to find a dining partner. Thankfully my step mom Susan was as excited as I was to go there.

We stopped in today for tea and some shopping. Dolores was spot on, the place is wonderful. The decor is Victorian inspired, tastefully done but not cluttered. It reminded me of tea in my Aunt's parlor many years ago. The tea settings are beautiful and they include a honey pot at the table as well as sugar cubes. The tea was kept hot by a delicate looking silver teapot warmer (see blurry cell phone photo above) that I would have purchased in a second if they sold them in the gift shop.

We had the Miss Marianne Tea, which consists of a fruit cup, quiche, scones, tea sandwiches and sorbet. Other options omitted the quiche or added soup so you could customize your afternoon tea to your level of hunger. There are also some a la carte items and breakfast offerings. The food was fresh and tasty. I do wish they offered more varieties of tea.

A big plus over another popular tearoom in Mesa is that Ms. Thomas keeps her gift shop separate from the dining area. It was nice to enjoy a quiet lunch without someone kicking your while chair trying reach the price tag on a bottle of hand lotion.

When we finished I checked out the gift shop which offers lovely gifts as well as hard to find tea related items like honey spoons, sugar cube tongs and drip catchers for your teapot. I bought a butterfly drip catcher on my visit last week and it works very well, even on my little 2 cup teapot. (see picture below)

Ms. Thomas' Lovely Tea House is located at 6620 E, McKellips, Suite 102, Mesa, AZ. Phone 480-807-5133. Hours of operation are Mon-Sat 8:30am-2:30pm. Reservations strongly suggested.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A sad day. . .

I wanted to keep this blog as a fun and hopefully uplifting account of our lives. Sometimes you've just got to accept some bad with the good and yesterday was very bad. A sudden infection claimed the life of our little Chopper. Our wonderful vet, Dr. Funk, did what he could but bunnies are fragile creatures and go downhill quickly.

Since we have no children our animals are our babies and Chopper was no exception. He was pampered and spoiled and we loved him like crazy. Like all our other pets Chopper was a throw away that no one else wanted. He lived with us for a year and a half and he always brought smiles to everyone he met. Posh and Danica are meowing and looking all over for him. It's breaking my heart. I hope he felt the love we had for him during his much too brief time with us.

Friday, March 06, 2009

March Garden Update

The garden is doing quite well thanks to a very rainy winter. Of course that also means that the weeds are doing well too and I could cut the back grass every day if I had the time. Ripping the crab grass out of the raised bed is a daily chore around here.

During the few frosty days of winter we tented the garden with heavy weight row covers from Gardens Alive and clear plastic painter's drop cloths from Ace Hardware. The combination of the two made a very effective greenhouse and we only lost two tomato plants to the cold. We are already harvesting a few cherry tomatoes and the Better Boy and Early Girl's have some small green tomatoes and tons of blossoms.

The second round of lettuce was planted about 2 weeks ago and it's thriving. I put shade barriers up if it's going to be over 80 degrees so the plants don't get burned. For whatever reason the spinach never really took off this year and the leaves are still very tiny. I pluck off the roots and toss them in the salad anyway but they're barely noticable.

The radishes are huge and going to seed. I picked a plant today (in the photo) that was 4 feet tall with a radish that was a bit smaller than a tennis ball. We've used up about half of the radish bed to feed Chopper so I'll reseed that part of the garden this weekend. Raising radish greens for him has saved us a lot of money on fresh food for him. He was eating about 5 heads of romaine a week. Rabbits are cute but not cheap to feed, that's for sure.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Spices

After weeding the raised bed and cutting the grass I spent the morning organizing and labeling my bulk spices. Another project crossed off my "To Do" list.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Penzeys and British Gourmet in Scottsdale

*** May 2011 Update - I am getting lots of hits on an old entry for Penzeys and British Gourmet so I thought I'd post an update. Penzeys has relocated to Tempe Marketplace. The store is fabulous and they are planning a location in the west valley as well. Sadly - British Gourmet has closed.***

Two of my favorite food related shops are located just about a mile apart along Hayden Road in Scottsdale. British Gourmet is on the south west corner of Hayden and Thomas. They carry all sorts of food items that are difficult to find outside of the UK. HuzBen is a big fish and chips eater and loves the malt vinegar they stock. I usually treat myself to a bottle of black currant flavored soda. They carry many more British food items than CostPlus, as well as candy, beauty products, soap, teas, and baking supplies. British Gourmet has a small freezer section when you can also pick up things like steak and kidney pie.

Half a block north of British Gourmet is Penzeys Spices. I ordered their products online and I was thrilled when they decided to open a store front in Scottsdale. They only sell the highest quality spices and spice blends. Products come in various sizes so you can buy a small shaker of something you want to try out, or you can purchase a larger quantity in a cellophane bag if you want to refill a bottle you purchased previously. (The "green" way to go!) Penzeys also sells empty bottles so you can experiment with blending your own spices and herbs.

Monday, February 09, 2009

More George Foreman Chicken

I love onions, but Vidalia onions are a particular favorite. Last week at Costco I purchased Oak Hill Farms Vidalia Onion Vinagrette Salad Dressing and it is tasty! It's great on salads but my favorite way to use it is to coat boneless chicken breasts with the dressing and grill them in my George Foreman Grill. The dressing is so full of flavor that you don't even need to marinate them in the dressing, just brush it on and grill. For an extra kick you can add a thin slice of onion on top if the chicken about halfway through the grilling time.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tomatoes from the garden

Looks like we were successful at winterizing the raised bed veggie garden this year. The tomato plants along the end of the garden that looked half dead a few weeks ago are now completely green and covered in blossoms. Today I picked the first of this year's Sweet 100 tomatoes. Tiny, but tasty.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Salad from the garden

We grow the most beautiful and nutritious greens in the garden. Most get fed to Chopper but about once a week we put together a big salad with low fat dressing to share over dinner.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Here are the radishes that I picked from the garden today. Love that purple one! Most of what we harvest is given to family, friends and coworkers. Today's bunch is going to Patrice. Chopper will be eating radish tops for dinner along with some red bell peppers. It's much cheaper to grow our own greens for him and I know they are organic.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Backyard Visitors

Now that the weather is warmer, the animals like to spend time on the porch watching the birds at the feeder and bird bath. Sometimes they get a visit from a friend. Chiquita stopped by to say hello today. She's a bit camera shy. Chiquita's mom is our neighbor Stephanie.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Updated Dump Cake

Dump cake made with yellow cake mix and cherry pie filling has been around forever and it's certainly a favorite in our home. (Although it's so high in fat and sugar that we don't get to enjoy it very often!)

I'm cleaning out the freezer this week and I found 2 bags of frozen wild blueberries that I needed to use up. I wanted something quick and easy and Dump Cake was the first thing that came to mind. French Vanilla cake mix was the closest thing to yellow cake mix that we had in the pantry. It turned out to be wonderful.

Updated Dump Cake

1 large can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 can cherry pie filling
3 cups frozen wild blueberries
1 box French Vanilla cake mix
2 sticks of butter (1/2 cup) chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (325 for glass baking dish).

Dump undrained crushed pineapple baking dish 9X13" pan or glass baking dish and spread it out evenly.

Top with cherry pie filling, spread with a spoon. Dump frozen blueberries on top and spead them out evenly.

Sprinkle cake mix over these payers and dot evenly with butter pieces. Top with nuts.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Let it cool a bit before serving.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Chopper Runs Through It

Chopper runs through the house with his favorite toy, the wrapper from a tube of Ritz Crackers. Last night we had a 2 hour game of "keep away" between Chopper and the kittens. Somehow the wrapper managed to survive intact. I have $$$ worth of animal toys and THIS is how they entertain themselves!

Novena for the Salvation of Souls and the Conversion of Sinners


O JESUS, Thou didst suffer and die
that all mankind might be saved
and brought to eternal happiness.
Through the Agony of Thine Crown of Thorns
I offer it to Thy Eternal Father
that Thou wilt hear our pleas
for further the grace of final perseverance
for the just and mercy on sinners:

My dear parents and grandparents,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

My brothers and sisters and other near relatives,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

My godparents and sponsors of Confirmation,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

My spiritual and temporal benefactors,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

My friends and neighbors,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

All for whom love or duty bids me pray,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who have offended me,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who will offend me,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who have suffered disadvantage of harm through me,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those whom I, still a sinner, will offend,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who are especially beloved by Thee,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those whose death is near at hand,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who desire most to be united to Thee,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who endure the greatest sufferings and trials,
especially spiritual torments,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those whose death is most remote,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those sinners have no one to pray for them,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who are most deserving
on account of their services to the Church,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The rich who do not need Thee and are thus the most destitute,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The mighty who spurn Thee,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The spiritually blind, that they might see their folly,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The frivolous, who spend their time in idleness,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The poor, who do not seek the treasures of Heaven,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The tepid, who devote little time to prayer,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The indolent, who neglect to perform good works,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those of little faith,
who neglect the frequent reception of the Sacraments,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The habitual sinners,
who require for their salvation to a miracle of grace,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Parents who fail to watch over their children,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Superiors who are not solicitous
for the salvation of those entrusted to them,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who strive for worldly riches and pleasures,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The worldly minded,
who fail to use their wealth and talents in the service of God,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who witness the death of others,
but do not think of their own,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who blaspheme and commit sacrilege,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who violate the dignity of the human body
and mind through impurity,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who sin because of my sins and bad example,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who do not provide for the life hereafter,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those whose judgment will be severe
because of the great things entrusted to them,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The pope, kings and rulers,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The bishops and their counselors,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

My teachers and spiritual advisers,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The priests of this diocese,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The priests and religious of the Catholic Church,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

The defenders of the holy Catholic Faith,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who die on the battlefield,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who fight for their country,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who will be buried in the sea,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who are to die suddenly, in accidents and from other causes,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who will die of heart attacks,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who suffer with cancer,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who suffer with AIDS,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who shall die without the last rites of the Church,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

Those who shall die within the next twenty-four hours,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

For Catholic apostates, heretics, and other unbelievers,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

For Catholics who hold Masonic membership
or in other secret societies,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

For the conversion of the Jews, Thy chosen people of old,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

For abortionists and those who aid them,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

For women who seek abortions,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

For those who promote or practice contraception,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

For those who give scandal, especially to children,
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds

My own poor soul when I shall have to appear before Thy judgment seat.
My Jesus, pardon and mercy through Thy Sacred Wounds


Final perseverance and pardon grant unto all of these, O Lord;
and let Thy graces through these petitions
flow unto them and be fruitful.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Find For The George Foreman Grill

Many thanks to fellow Jersey Sister LadyDee who told me about all the flavors of Mrs. Dash. I was under the impression that there were still only two types of Mrs. Dash, salt and salt free. LadyDee set me straight! My new favorite is Onion and Herbs but I like all the grilling varieties as well. (Steak, Chicken, and Hamburger)

Since I am trying to lose weight, I love boneless chicken breasts on the George Foreman Grill. I usually make up different kinds of low fat marinades and let the chicken sit overnight in the fridge. Sometimes, it's too much of a hassle or I need a meal in a hurry. Now I throw on some Mrs. Dash.

Sadly, I can't find any on these newer flavors in the Valley. Thanks to my mom, who sent me a box from New Jersey over the holidays, along with the Lipton Ginger Twist Tea that you can't find here either.