Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Good food, good book, good tree...

I'm sorry about the long gaps between posts, readers and around here is, well, complicated these days. But in keeping with the totally jumbled state of my mind and household right now, I thought I'd throw out some random stuff...

1. You may remember that I've had a love-hate (read: mostly hate) relationship with the job of putting up the Christmas tree in recent years. The idea of an artificial tree (absolutely anathema in my younger years) started sounded pretty good. Well, last year a good friend of mine bought an artificial tree from Balsam Hill, a company whose trees look pretty darn realistic. But she discovered that the tree was too big for her room, and too big for her (a petite single woman) to put up and down comfortably. So she offered it to us, and I jumped at it. I put it up on Monday (real pictures of it soon) which wasn't a total piece of cake but was easier and less sappy-prickly-frustrating inducing than wrestling with a real tree. (Mainly the problem was the inadequate instructions on connecting the various plugs to make the lights work. Now that I've done it once, it'll be way easier next time.)
So now we have the tree up (lit but otherwise undecorated at the moment) and we're having fun using the remote control to change the lights from clear, to colored, to all. Very exciting. As my mom would say, "small things amuse small minds."
2. If you want to read a good novel, check out "Love Walked In" by Marisa de los Santos. It's about love and mothers and daughters and creating the family you need. It's lovely and funny and beautifully written. I'm reading the sequel right now, "Belong to Me: A Novel'>Belong to Me," and I'm loving it too.
3. I've been turning to the crockpot to help me deal with food on these crazy days, and I made a really easy and delicious tortilla soup yesterday. Here's the recipe, in case you want to give it a try on a cold December day:

1 pound shredded, cooked chicken (or raw -- I cubed boneless chicken breasts and threw them in raw and they cooked while the soup cooked and were fine).

1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes (diced, or crushed, or whole peeled tomatoes, mashed -- whatever you have on hand)

1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups water

1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 bay leaf

1 (10 oz) package frozen corn

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (I omitted this because I hate cilantro)

7 corn tortillas, vegetable oil (you can fry your own tortilla strips, but we just crumbled commercial tortilla chips into it and it was fine)

1. Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.

2. If you opt to make your own tortilla strips, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into strips, then spread on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, sprinkle tortilla strips over soup.

It's a good time to make some soup, and settle in in front of the tree with a good book. Take time to relax! That's a good reminder for all of us at this time of year, yes?!


  1. love love love love love Love Walked In! I am so glad you enjoyed it. (Belong to Me, not quite so much.)

  2. Good Morning! I understand your thoughts on real vs. artificial trees. But when it came right down to it- I'm a lazy person at heart. Cleaning up after and maintaining a real tree, no matter how pervasive the fond memories was just too much to handle. So we bought a "nice" fake tree from Lowe's about 4 years ago. Since then it has paid for itself so I think- at least fiscally speaking- we made a good decision. Can't wait to see your decorated. I hope to finish ours up tonight. Hope. Later!!!!

  3. I learned the secret of artificial trees from friends who put up no less than 12 full size trees with a ton of ornaments and lights every year.
    They never undecorated them. They just covered them with a big plastic bag or wrapped them in plastic and kept them in a shed.
    The key to this is having a door wide enough to get them through.
    I did that with our very full tree and wrapped it tightly in a sheet before we put on the plastic. You can also store them in a basement or garage. Of course I didn't learn this until I had bought those super large rubbermaid tubs that hold a BIG tree in pieces!