Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup

I love homemade vegetable beef soup. It's one of those comfort foods that just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  My mother used to make it for us and store it in the fridge in a large Tupperware pitcher so that when we got home from school we could pour some in a mug and stick it in the microwave. It was a great after school snack on cold cool Louisiana winter days.

We always ate our vegetable soup with saltine crackers, but when I got married, my husband introduced me to soup with cornbread on the side. His mother gave us her soup recipe and over the years I've tweaked it a bit. In fact, I rarely make it the same way twice. I usually just make it with what I have on hand. I've decided I don't like potatoes in my soup. I'd rather fill up on beef. Big, juicy chunks of beef. And, I always make a huge pot (or two) and freeze it for easy weeknight meals.

We don't add any pasta to our soup. My husband doesn't like it and I don't really care either way. I prefer cabbage in it, but he doesn't really care for cabbage. Sometimes I finely chop the cabbage so that you can't distinguish it from onions and he's none the wiser. My mother used to put brussels sprouts in hers. brussels sprouts in my soup.

People are always asking us for recipes and some we share...some we don't. I have no problem sharing my homemade soup recipe. There's isn't really anything special about it. And, as I said earlier, I never make it the same way twice. In fact, once I browned a bunch of ground meat and used it in place of chopped beef. Another time, I didn't feel like going to the store so I left the meat out completely for a great vegetable soup. I encourage anyone trying it to put their own spin on it, too.

So, without further ado, here how I made it this time.

Ingredients for 20 quarts of soup

2 - 48 oz containers of Low Sodium Swanson Chicken Broth
1 - 64 oz bottle of Low Sodium V8 Juice
1 - 14.5 oz can Hunt's Diced Fire Roasted tomatoes or any canned tomatoes
2 - 15 oz cans Hunt's Tomato Sauce
2 - 10 oz cans Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
1 - 12 oz can Hunt's Tomato Paste
2 - 16 oz bags frozen Bird's Eye Cut Green Beans or any good, frozen green beans
2 - 16 oz bags frozen Bird's Eye Sweet Kernel Corn or any good, frozen sweet corn
1 - 32 oz bag frozen Veg-All or any good frozen vegetable mix
2 - 15.5 oz cans Goya Black Beans or any other beans that you like or have on hand
3 - large sweet onions, finely chopped
7 lbs boneless chuck roast, cut into small pieces. I bought two 3.5 lb roasts.
All purpose seasoning and kosher salt

Get cooking...

Set your burner to medium heat. In a 20 quart pot, combine the chicken broth and V8 juice. Stir in the canned tomatoes then the tomato paste. Stir well and continue stirring so the tomato paste doesn't stick to the bottom. You want to get it incorporated into the liquid. Add the veggies. Keep stirring. Remove the labels from the cans and put the cans in the dishwasher so they'll be nice and clean for a Pinterest upcycling project in your near future...or don't. In either case, take some time to clear the clutter. Now is when I chop up my onions. If I don't feel like doing a fine chop, I sometimes just cut the onions in half and then slice it up finely. We like onions, so we often cook our onions this way. If you have picky eaters, finely chopped onion is easily lost in the soup. Next, with a sharp knife, cut the meat into small, bite size pieces. A sharp knife is the key. It also makes it easy to trim away any fat. As you get a nice little pile of meat, add it to the soup. Stir. Add seasoning and salt by sprinkling generously. Stir.

Now that all of your ingredients are in the pot, add enough water to bring the level to within an inch of the rim of the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high. Stir. You want to bring it to a slow rolling boil. I usually keep it at a gentle boil for at least two hours, stirring every so often, then turn the heat down a bit and cook another hour or so. This ensures that the meat is tender and the flavors are well combined. The liquid will reduce to about three inches below the rim, concentrating the flavors even more.

For cornbread, we prefer the Jiffy Corn Muffin mix. It's a sweeter cornbread that complements the savory soup. I mix two boxes and bake in an oblong dish. When it's done, I remove it from the oven and cut it immediately then cover it with butter or margarine so that it drips into the crevices.

I usually start my soup early on a Saturday or Sunday morning so that it can cook while I'm working around the house. By late afternoon the house smells wonderful. We enjoy an early meal, then I ration it out into Glad Freezerware 8 cup containers. By bedtime, they have cooled enough to put them into the freezer. DO NOT put hot soup in your refrigerator or freezer. You run the risk of it spoiling as well as heating up the environment and spoiling everything around it.

And that's it. Easy peasy. Delicious and nutritious.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Homemade Two-Ingredient Bathroom Cleaner

I've been seeing lots of posts on Pinterest for homemade cleaning products and I've been wondering whether they really work.

This morning I woke up knowing that I needed to tackle the master bathroom - not a fun task so it's not cleaned as often as it should.  We have a huge jetted tub and tower surround constructed from that poured, man-made marble stuff. Our shower head is in the tub surround, which means water sprayed at the walls rolls down onto the deck and right onto the floor. To solve for this we have a huge set of custom, glass, sliding doors to contain the watery mess. Add very hard water to the mix and you get a really scummy, scaly, icky situation. I know it sounds disgusting, but it is what it is.

I have tried so many products to cut through the build up, with no success. Part of the problem is that to really get the shower/tub area clean I have to get into the tub. I end up getting cleaning chemicals all over me and give up before the job is done.

That is, until today!

Today's Encore stars are Dawn Dishwashing Liquid and White Vinegar appearing together in their own Encore as Bathroom Cleaner. I started off by heating 12 oz of white vinegar in the microwave for three minutes. I poured it into a spray bottle using a funnel. Then I added 12 oz of Dawn Original Dishwashing Liquid and shook gently. I sprayed down the walls, tub, doors - every surface I could reach in the shower/tub enclosure. It works on chrome, too, so all the fixtures got a heavy dose. The Dawn helped it to cling to the walls.

After about 30 minutes I took a kitchen scrubber sponge and gently scrubbed and swirled the mixture. The vinegar fumes were a little strong, but I knew they weren't harmful. I didn't get the headache or nausea that I usually experience with the store brands. As I scrubbed with one hand, I ran the other hand along the surface to check for any remaining scum. You know it's clean when it's smooth as glass. Once I had scrubbed everything down, I used a plastic cup to rinse everything down. Yes, I got wet during this process, but it was just water, soap, and vinegar so it didn't burn my skin or bleach my clothes. And it was worth it.

 I couldn't believe how well this worked. I may never buy bathroom cleaner again!


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Quick and Easy Project::A Succulent Table Garden

"It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling."

"Please Do Not Remove Label Under Penalty of Law"

When I read these warnings I get the urge to defy them. I want to mix chemicals just to see if they'll create poisonous gases or cause an explosion. I want to wander the aisles of a home textiles store and rip the tag off of every pillow. I've always been up for a challenge. I love defying the odds. I've never really set out to break the law, but I do think creatively. I visit a flea market, garage sale, or Goodwill store and my wheels spin into overdrive with the possibilities.

Recently, I decided that I wanted to plant a succulent dish garden. I've always appreciated the variety of textures and colors of these hardy, water-retaining plants that are cousins to cacti. Hmmm...water retaining...maybe I feel a kinship...Anyway, I decided to pick up a few little succulent gems at Home Depot. They had a modest selection and each plant cost a little under $4. But when it came to choosing a dish, I wasn't so lucky. I wasn't sure where my little garden would be placed so I wanted a neutral container...but I didn't want terra cotta. The other containers were too deep and they were plastic. Ewwww!!! I picked up a small bag of potting soil while I was there, which completed my purchases. Yes, I know, spending less than $50 at Home Depot sounds crazy, but I did it!

potted-succulents succulents dish garden climbing aloe graptoveria Debbie alpenglow vera higgins aloe pinto rainbow bush elephant bush golden sedum string of buttons peperomia My plant selection

I then headed next door to Walmart for a few groceries and decided to peruse the aisles for just the right dish. And lo and behold, I found it in the aisle with the party platters and serving trays. Anchor Hocking makes a 13", shallow glass dish, which they call a serving tray. It was just the right size. I know Anchor Hocking did not manufacture this dish with the intention of it being used as a table top garden. But I didn't see any warning labels on it telling me not to, so I went for it! I already had bags of aquarium gravel at home, so I made my way to the checkout lanes.

anchor-hocking-glass-dish aquarium-gravel

I often do things a little backwards, and this was no exception. After purchasing my plants, I did some Googling on how to plant them properly. I learned that I should have bought cactus mix potting soil or some pumice to add to my soil. Succulents don't like wet feet, so you need to draw moisture away from them rather than hold it close. Good drainage is key.

Sooo...Here's what I did. First I decided on how I wanted to arrange them in the dish. Then I poured a nice layer of gravel in my dish. Next, I poured a layer of potting soil. I removed each plant from its pot and positioned it in the soil. I sketched the arrangement on paper, numbered each plant, and noted the name by each. There's was no way I would remember what each one was. I wiggled each planting so that the roots were kind of in the gravel. I anchored the plants in place with more potting soil, then topped it with gravel to hide the soil. During the planting process, soil and gravel spilled into the leaves of the plants so I used an old paint brush to clean them off. I removed gravel from deep in the leaves using tweezers. I watered slightly and I was done.

Succulents only need to be watered about once a week, and sparingly at that. Watering in the morning is best. They like morning light, so I placed my dish in the window of my bedroom. My original intention was to bring the dish garden to work, but from everything I read I don't think they would thrive.

Here's my finished, succulent dish garden. I'm very happy with it.

succulents dish garden climbing aloe graptoveria Debbie alpenglow vera higgins aloe pinto rainbow bush elephant bush golden sedum string of buttons peperomia

Here's an overhead shot and plant identification. Some have very cute names.

succulents dish garden climbing aloe graptoveria Debbie alpenglow vera higgins aloe pinto rainbow bush elephant bush golden sedum string of buttons peperomia
1. Climbing Aloe - aloe ciliaris
2. Graptoveria 'Debbie'
3. 'Alpenglow' 'Vera Higgins' - Graptosedum
4. Aloe Pinto
5. Rainbow Bush or Elephant Bush - Portulacaria afra 'Variegata'
6. Golden Sedum - Sedum adolphii
7. String of Buttons - Crassula perforata
8. Peperomia - Peperomia ferreyrae

Succulents will grow in just about any kind of container, as long as they have good drainage. Here are some more clever ideas for growing your own.

A living succulent wreath for year-round color by Julie Martens. Project instructions from Better Homes & Gardens.

tea cup succulents
Do you enjoy hunting for tea cups at the flea market? You can use them to showcase succulents in a sunny window.

Barbara Jordan Dettweiler works succulents into her interior design in clever ways, like these vintage silver champagne glasses. You can read about it on her blog, Haus Design.

Succulent turtle topiary available from Simply Succulents

Do you prefer glowing rather than growing? Here are some beautiful succulent candles from

How about sewing instead of growing? This cushion's design was inspired by the Euchavaria succulent. It's by Ronel Jordaan and can be found on

The simple elegance of succulents can be adapted to any decorating style and their drought tolerance means you don't have a green thumb to grow them. I'm sure you'll see them in future posts as I find new ways to work them into my own home.

Want to see more great projects that you can do yourself? Join me at the Addicted 2 Decorating Link Party every Friday afternoon!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Do you Tangerine Tango?


I have a thing for bright colors in the coral family - brilliant coral reds, fiery coral oranges, and vibrant coral pinks. My wardrobe has reflected this through the years. And when it comes to flowers, especially roses, make them a bright shade of coral. I was so excited when Pantone announced their 2012 Color of the Year: Pantone 17-1463 Tangerine Tango. It's a bright, reddish orange that reminds me of a highly polished coral cabochon gem. We will not dwell on the fact that it is also reminiscent of the burnt orange color so popular in 1970's interior design. I mean, what child of the 70's doesn't remember the Brady Bunch kitchen?


I question their choice to include the word "tangerine" in the name. I mean, I like tangerines and "tangerine tango" is a really cool name, but I've never seen a tangerine this color. If they would have asked me what I thought the name should be, I would have named it something like "Coral Captivation". But they didn't ask me and now they've made the big announcement, so there's no turning back at this point.

I was so inspired by this bold and energetic color that I decided to feature it in the color palette for this blog. The blog had originally been created to showcase my photography, so I kept it dark, avoiding color so as not to detract from the photos. But now that I've switched directions, I decided it needed a fresh new look with cheerful and vibrant colors. I combined the vibrant orange with a pale blue since, in this case, opposites really do attract! Now I just need to decide whether to keep the dark gray body color, or change it to something lighter and brighter. What do you think?

This fiery orange-red color also reminds me of some of the most beautiful sunsets that I have been lucky enough to photograph at Lake Martin-Cypress Island Preserve in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, just a few minutes from my home. This is one of my favorites. If you like sunsets, or just nature photography in general, I have an entire Lake Martin, Cypress Island Preserve set on Flickr.

Glow - 6:12 p.m."Glow" by kim dever thibodeaux

Check out Out of Curiosity::Is Orange for You? a post by Kristi Linauer on her blog, Addicted 2 Decorating. She's just a state over in Waco, Texas. Her blog inspired me to revive this blog. Her talent and bravado have resulted in some amazing makeovers. She has the job I dream of!

Here are some inspirational photos of designs that feature colors similar to Tangerine Tango and, in some cases, have been paired with blues similar to my selection.

captivating modern living room design in green color ideas

This next one really evokes the feeling I'm striving for in my Master Bedroom Makeover.

pale blue walls orange accents beach feelingMorgan Harrison Home featured on

So tell me now...Do you Tangerine Tango?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Master Bedroom Makeover : : Walls are Painted

"The best laid schemes of mice and men, often go awry." - John Steinbeck

It was Kasey's birthday Saturday, so I didn't get started until late Saturday afternoon. Done properly, prepping walls takes longer than actually painting them, so I had a lot of work to do. Then, when I thought I was ready to begin painting the trim, I discovered I had bought oil-based paint. Sooo...I switched gears and began painting walls instead. The light coming into the room was very bright and it didn't take long to realize that the Barely Jade color we had chosen was hardly jade, it looked powder blue...Sean's least favorite color in the whole wide world. (Click here to see the before photos.)

Sunday morning, I drove to Home Depot and exchanged the oil paint for BEHR Premium Plus Ultra Pure White High-Gloss Enamel, an acrylic enamel. If you've never used an acrylic enamel, it takes a bit of getting used to. It has a thick consistency. You have to put it on kind of thick, but not so thick as to run. And once you get it on the woodwork, leave it alone. Don't try to re-brush it because it sets quickly and you'll make a mess. If you leave it alone, it will blend back into itself leaving a smooth finish.

Once I got the trim painted, I re-painted the wall next to the trim to create a nice, clean edge, then I applied a second coat of paint to the walls. I still have a few spots to touch up, but I'm pleased with the outcome. Sean and I both struggled with the fact that our room was a pale blue color, but as the sun went down and the incandescent lights were turned on, it was the pale greenish color we expected. I think once we install white crown molding and get the dark brown floors in and bring some more accents into the room, the wall color will take on a supporting role instead of playing the lead.

master bedroom makeover Glidden Barely Jade pale blue walls

Now I'm exploring options for all the finishing touches in the room, starting with new lamps. Since I plan on going white with the bed linens, I think bringing in lamps with bold, graphic design could be interesting. This Lights Up! Kimono Shade from Lamps Plus is bold in its simplicity.

Lamps Plus Lights Up Kimono Shade

There are some great fabrics on the market, so maybe I'll create my own custom drum shades to top the bright red, glass lamps we already own. I'm in LOVE with this print I found on It's called Wrenly Wren Gypsy White by Valori Wells. I not only love all the colors and the retro feel of the design, but it features the cutest little birds. And best of all, Sean likes it! I like Michael Miller's Mini Mikes Slender Stripe Retro as a coordinating design. I've attempted to show them to scale. I could use them to create the cushion and accent pillows for the window seat we're going to build.

Valori Wells Wrenly Wren Gypsy White EK-791 fabric


Or maybe we could go all white, like this turned lamp from West Elm

West Elm Turned Table Lamp

or the Zing lamp from Crate & Barrel, continuing the minimal theme. Have I mentioned that I love Crate & Barrel?

Zing White Table Lamp Crate and Barrel

We're also looking at options for the built in bookshelves. Sean can build them, but if we can buy some at an affordable price, that would be ideal.

The Victorian ceiling fan needs to be replaced with something more sleek like this contemporary Hunter 52 in. from Home Depot. I know interior design experts poo-poo ceiling fans, but we live in South Louisiana and I'm almost 45 years old. I need a ceiling fan. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Case closed.

Hunter 52 in Contemporary Onyx Bengal Ceiling Fan

Add our new bed and an area rug and it will be a wonderful place to retire to after a long day at work. If I only had a magic wand...but I don't. So we'll just continue doing a little at a time and I'll post our progress here.

Have a great week!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Master Bedroom Makeover : : Let the Games Begin!

Since Winter has abandoned South Louisiana, we started spring-cleaning early. Not your average, run-of-the-mill cleaning. Oh no. We're talking major . Like carpeting. Yep, ripping it out. Our home was built circa 1997, but we bought it in 2005. And it's time to make it "ours". So, if we're ripping out the carpeting, what better time to paint, right? And what about that archway between the living room and the dining area? Let's get rid of that, too! Oh,and the big plate glass mirrors in the bathrooms. Let's frame them. And what about...You can see what kind of year this is going to be.

I've decided to chronicle our adventures as Weekend Warriors so that maybe I can inspire others to do the same. After all, it's other people's blogs (and years of HGTV) that have given me the confidence that we can do it ourselves.

Our to-do list is long, so we have come up with a strategy. We've never installed wood floors, so we're going to start in our bedroom, then work our way out to the living room and then into the dining area. The plan is to know what we're doing by the time we're finished with the bedroom. Pretty smart, huh?

So here's our room, ready for the carpet-ectomy.

master bedroom with mustard gold walls (before)

...and here it is with a section of carpet gone.

master bedroom with mustard gold walls and partially removed carpeting (before)

...and finally, bare concrete.

master bedroom with mustard gold walls after removing carpet (before)

There's so much to do in this room. I can't wait!

First, the walls are going from the mustard gold color to a calming, watery blueish-green. It's going to look so nice with glossy white trim (yep, it's getting repainted, too). We agreed on Glidden's Duo Paint & Primer Barely Jade in a flat finish, which we picked up from Home Depot. It won't be long before we're on a first name basis with their employees. We go to the Broussard location and have had great customer service.


Our furniture has a dark coffee finish that is just going to pop against the color. I think the watery color on the walls combined with the dark woods gives it a spa-like feeling.

I painted a small portion of the wall and staged a nightstand in front of it for effect. I should note that the paint went on nicely and I got one-coat coverage, which I hadn't expected given how dark the wall color is.


For the floors, we selected Virginia Mill Works Engineered Handscraped 1/2" x 5" Potomac Plank. The hand-scraping gives it a wavy, worn surface and the satin finish will stand up to the dogs. We purchased the flooring from Lumber Liquidators in Broussard, Louisiana. They are open late until 7:00 p.m. on Thursdays and the staff is very friendly and helpful. We thought we would have to settle for laminate flooring but learned that we could actually afford real wood plank flooring. Best of all, we got 18 months interest-free financing!

Virginia Mill Works Engineered Potomac Plank Handscraped flooring

I staged a nightstand with a few planks to get an idea of what it will look like. The color is a bit off in this photo since I shot it with my phone. The LED flash is cool so the nightstand looks purple. I just don't feel like color correcting it. Don't judge.


Once we get the walls painted and the flooring installed, Sean is going to construct built-in bookcases with cabinets at the bottom and a window seat along the front wall. We'll give it a nice coat of white paint so that it becomes an architectural detail in the room. Then we'll finish off the room with white crown molding - a detail that is missing throughout our entire home.

I'm going to re-frame the girls' portraits and my wedding portrait in sleek wood frames and relocate them. Over the bed, I'm going to hang three individual matted, framed prints created from this one photo. I'm sure that project will warrant its own blog entry.

Photo Gumbo Studio cypress trees swamp Calm Before the Storm

When the room is complete, we're going to reward ourselves by finally purchasing the bed that matches our dresser and nightstands. I don't particularly care for matched furniture, but my husband is a stickler about matching furniture and symmetry and that's OK, too. If there's a secret to being married for 22 years as we have, it's learning how to compromise. Here's what the bed looks like. It's part of Crate and Barrel's Brighton Collection.


To keep that spa-like feeling, I think I'll top it off with crisp, classic white linens like these from Sferra, but mine will probably come from Ross. You can't beat their prices. I mean, you could pay more, but why? I love how fresh white bedding looks and with our dogs we need something that can be laundered often and still look great. If they're good enough for the finest hotels, they're good enough for our new master retreat!

SFERRA Sereno Sheets

So there you have it, our initiation into the Weekend Warrior Club. This is going to be so much fun! Are you feeling it?