Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Green Giant Seasoned Steamers Giveaway

If you're a regular reader at Grams Made It you may remember that I didn't actually learn to cook until I quit working full time about six years ago. I learned the basics in 7th grade home economics class. But, as for putting a meal on the table, I just never had to do it.

When I did finally take over the cooking, I learned that the subtropical climate in South Texas makes it difficult to keep fresh produce. With only two of us to cook for, produce often spoils before I use it, or I have to stop at the grocery store every couple of days to get whatever vegetables I plan to cook.

The best way I've found for avoiding those extra trips to the grocery store is to use frozen vegetables. So when My Blog Spark offered me an opportunity to review Green Giant Seasoned Steamers, I jumped at the chance to try them for free.

Seasoned Steamers come in six interesting varieties.

My local grocery store did not have all of the varieties in stock. But, since I was making chili and cornbread for dinner, I chose Honey Roasted Sweet Corn. It was the perfect complement to our dinner.

Green Giant Seasoned Steamers cook in minutes right in the bag in your microwave oven. You can have delicious, nutritious vegetables in just minutes. The corn was tender crisp and perfectly seasoned with peppers and a touch of honey. It was so good, I might even try the Brussels Sprouts.

For more information, including nutritional information, visit the Green Giant web site.

Green Giant and My Blog Spark have teamed up to offer one of my readers the gift pack shown here. The winner will receive an apron, bowl, slotted spoon, and a coupon for the package of Green Giant Seasoned Steamers of your choice.

To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me which of the six varieties of Seasoned Steamers you would like to try.  This giveaway will close at midnight CST on Wednesday, November 28.

Everyone can download a coupon for $1.00 off of one package of Seasoned Steamers.

Disclosure: I received a gift pack identical to the one shown above and a coupon for a package of Green Giant Seasoned Steamers in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.


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Monday, November 19, 2012

She Looks Real To Me

One of the things I always tried to instill in my children is that they could grow up to be anything they wanted to be. As long as they were willing to put in the work necessary to prepare themselves, no career was out of reach.

Our children were raised to know that college was the next step after high school graduation. When Katy graduated, she told me that she wanted to take a "gap year" and go travel around Europe. While I thought that would be a lovely thing to do, I did not feel it was in the best interest of either Katy, nor our budget. So, when school started in the fall, she went to college.

Katy has related to me that she now appreciates our approach in insisting that she go to college and is taking the same tack with Our Little Princesses.

Recently, she called me to tell me that she was telling Princess E that she also could grow up to be anything she wanted to be. She gave her several examples like, you can be a mommy, or a teacher, or a doctor. She further reported that Princess E then became very excited. She was so excited that she practically jumped up and down as she replied "OR A REAL FAIRY!"

Well, she did say anything.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Visit To Aunt B's

On Saturday we spent the day at Aunt B and Uncle Mack's house. Aunt B is my sister (her real name is Bylinda). They live out in the country near LaVernia, Texas. We were there to celebrate our sister Kay's 63rd birthday. Kay lives in a group home in Seguin which is about 30 minutes from Bylinda.

We had a good crowd and a lot of delicious food. Katy and Travis came and brought Our Little Princesses. Bylinda's youngest son, Zack, came and brought his two children, McKinzey and Connor. Our good friends Helen and Dan Flores and their son, Danny, came too. Mack barbecued brisket and chicken. Bylinda made her world famous macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and homemade barbecue sauce. Katy made guacamole. Helen brought a lemon cake with seven-minute frosting, along with brownies and chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. I took spinach dip and Granny's oatmeal cookies. Everyone had plenty to eat.

It was a gorgeous day to spend in the country. The Princesses ran all over the yard. The women sat on the back patio and watched them play while we caught up on all the latest.

A trip to the country gave Our Little Princesses a close-up view of nature which Princess E found really fascinating. There were two walking sticks on one of the patio chairs. They appeared to be "doing what comes naturally." But, while she was interested in these odd-looking creatures, she didn't ask what they were doing and we didn't enlighten her. There were butterflies everywhere. When she walked out into the yard, there were so many that they would rise up in a cloud. She tried her hardest to catch one and eventually cried in disappointment when she did not succeed in holding one in her hand.

When the neighbor's dogs saw that there was a crowd, they came over to visit. This delighted Princess J, who loves puppies more than anything else. They were very sweet and playful.

The girls and Grandad really enjoyed being outdoors outside all afternoon. With Grandad's help they checked out the bird feeders; they checked out the shooting range; they climbed on the wishing well; and they lounged on the porch steps.

Aunt B made new outfits for the Princesses. They liked them so much that they wore them the rest of the day.

After dinner, Kay opened her presents while we all watched.

We did some arts and crafts with the kids and just generally hung out together for the rest of the day.

It was good to spend some quality family time. It's been a long time since we all got together.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Stick a Fork In Me ... I'm Done

I really love the fact that we live in a country where we are free to express our opinions and differences. There is little I like more than a good political discussion. But the lead up to the recent presidential election and the responses to the results are nothing like a good political discussion.

I am sick of all the vitriol and hatred that is being spewed by both sides. Clearly both sides think the other side is stupid, hateful, and horrible. And, while I once thought that we just had different political views, I'm beginning to think that way too.

For the most part, I try to keep my political views off of this blog. But if you are my friend on Facebook you know which side I am on.

For quite some time now I have practiced a policy of cutting negative people out of my life. If I'm not getting something positive out of a friendship, I'm willing to sever those ties. I find that I need to surround myself with positive people who make me feel good.

The constant spewing of hatred and gloating is getting me down. So, here's the deal. I'm going to take a break from political statements on Facebook. I'm not going to read them and I'm not going to post them. If that doesn't work, I'm going to start "un-friending" people.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It Was the 70's

On this date in 1975 I married the love of my life. We met at a bank teller's window in January of that same year. He was the teller and I was the customer. I made a daily trip to the bank for my employer.

After a couple of weeks, he invited me to have lunch. From that day forward, we went out every weekend. We had our first date on the last Saturday in January. By Valentine's Day I knew I was in love. Pretty soon we were spending every waking hour together. I met and spent time with his family and he did the same with mine. He still tells the story of how scary it was to meet my family for the first time. They were all gathered in the living room when he came to pick me up. As we left he said to me, "I'm so nervous I could pee my pants."

By late summer we were engaged. He popped the question after cooking dinner for me at the tiny cottage where he lived. We were excited and rushed to tell our parents. That's where our whirlwind romance turned into a bit of a storm.

Neither of our parents thought we were right for each other. My mother's first reaction was, "If you get married in the Catholic church, I won't be there." My response was that I understood if her convictions prevented her from being there, but we would indeed be married in the Catholic church. She eventually relented and was there front and center on my wedding day.

Grandad's parents were even less enthusiastic. His father's first question was directed to me, "Are you going to become Catholic?" My response was that perhaps I would consider it eventually, but at that time I didn't know enough about it. His response was "In that case, I cannot allow this marriage." The next few moments are burned into my memory vividly. My husband-to-be looked his father in the eye and said, "You don't understand. We are not asking for your permission. We're telling you that we are going to be married." The resulting silence was deafening. Then he looked at me and said, "We're leaving."

Those words he spoke to his father were the most beautiful words I think I had ever heard. His father was an old-fashioned patriarch. He did not give advice to his children; he gave instructions. I don't believe any of them had ever openly defied him before. To do so was especially difficult for my husband. He just does not have an ounce of defiance in him. As far as I know this was the only time he ever really stood up to his dad and it took a big toll on him. They did not even speak for a full two weeks until his older brother interceded. He brought the of them together and made them talk. It didn't resolve everything, it took a much bigger incident and a near tragedy to completely reconcile all of us.

In the first week of September, while driving home from work, the Volkswagen that my then-fiance was driving was hit broadside by a car doing approximately 80 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone. It rolled three times and hit several parked cars. When I arrived at the hospital, the paramedics were still there. They told me that when they saw the vehicle, they knew that whoever was inside would not be alive. The next week, which we all spent sitting in a hospital room and waiting room while he battled for his life, changed the way we all felt about each other. A plastic surgeon reconstructed the left side of his nose and face. It was more than a year before he could walk without crutches or a leg brace. This near tragedy brought us together as nothing else could have done.

We considered postponing our wedding, but the invitations were printed, the plans were all in place, and our money had been spent. We addressed wedding invitations while sitting in the hospital room. And that story will explain the crutches in our wedding pictures.

When you look at my wedding pictures, just remember, it was the seventies. That's the only explanation I have for the tuxedos and the bridesmaids dresses. But, I will say, orange is still one of my favorite colors and it's entirely possible that I would still choose it today.

Becky Mingle, Jan Skelton Caskey, Laurie Valenta, Brenda McWilliams McCauley, Bylinda McCabe, bride & groom, Gary Valenta, Danny Valenta, Steve Psencik, Terry Rose, John Mingle, Ray Sykowski, Pete Vanecek, Bill McCabe

My husband's parents and I eventually came to love each other. I actually told my mother-in-law that if I ever left him I would have come home to her instead of my parents. They were and are good people. They just grew up in a different way than we did and they had to learn to roll with the punches. They also had to learn to deal with an outspoken and opinionated daughter-in-law who saw things in a different way than they did.
Golly, we were young.

This is our 37th wedding anniversary. It is also our Nick and Marie's 4th anniversary, and it would have been my parent's 70th wedding anniversary. It's a really big day in our family.

November 8th is also my sister, Kay's, birthday. I think she's 63 today. My sister, Bylinda, is hosting a family birthday party for her this Saturday. We'll be traveling to LaVernia for the party and then spending the night in San Antonio so we can spend a little time with Our Little Princesses and their parents. I've set aside tomorrow for baking oatmeal cookies to take with us.

Tonight, we'll go out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. I'm thinking Italian sounds good.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New England Vacation Day 7

On our last full day in New England, we didn't have any particular place we wanted to visit nor any goal to accomplish. We decided to just drive around the area near the resort and see what we could see. Following the same pattern we had used all week, we asked the clerk at the resort to recommend a good place for lunch. She recommended three places that were nearby.

We drove up Mount Sunapee and took a quick look at the ski lift and downhill trails. Since neither of us has ever been skiing, we had very little idea what we were seeing. We laughed when we saw the first aid station and joked that we would both need to know its location if we ever tried skiing.

We went into the town of Newport for lunch at the Salt Hill Pub. They have pub food and traditional American fare. I had Stevie's Pot Roast which was served with mashed potatoes and a mixed winter squash. It was outstanding. Grandad had a cheeseburger which was served on a pretzel burger and came with all the traditional burger trimmings. He said it was really good.

After lunch the clerk at the local Rite-Aid recommended a drive up to Pillsbury State Park. He said it had beautiful views of the lake from the mountain top. When we got there, it was closed for the season. We decided just to keep driving down the same highway. It was a very rural area and it felt a little "Deliverance" if you know what I mean, so we didn't stop, we just kept going.

Eventually we came to a little town called Henniker. As we drove in to Henniker we saw homemade posters and signs advertising a community market in town square. We didn't really have any way to bring produce or baked goods home, but we decided to stop anyway and I'm so glad we did. The people were very friendly, the ginger cookie we bought from one of the vendors was huge and delicious, and the bittersweet chocolate-coconut scone was perfect for breakfast the next morning on the way to the airport.

The market was in a little park with a bandstand, complete with a band playing Texas-style Americana music.

Henniker is a beautiful little town, very picturesque. It is home to New England College which is a gorgeous little liberal arts college with about 1800 students. Most of the buildings are white clapboard construction in the New England style and the campus boasts its own covered bridge which spans the Contoocook River and connects the main campus to the athletic fields.

We saw five different covered bridges while we were in New Hampshire, this was my favorite. It was built using lattice truss construction. Both the construction of the bridge and the views from the bridge are beautiful. Interestingly, this bridge was built in 1972.

The brilliance of the autumn leaves was beginning to fade, but there was still some beautiful scenery in Henniker.

As the sun started to set, we headed back to the resort for our last night in New England. Tomorrow, we head back to South Texas.