Friday, August 2, 2013

The Kitchen: Along the Way

It was a arduous process but the kitchen remodel has been done. We used the following professionals:

  • Nick Hagar for paint
  • R and J cabinets for the cabinets
  • Diniz Design for the granite

My dear husband did all the demolition (I was his assistant) and the electrical work as well. We got our new microwave and dishwasher through Best Buy (where we found the best prices for the products we wanted) and that ended up working out as well. We love how it turned out... pictures to follow!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kitchen pics... old

Here are pictures of our kitchen right now. It looks good from afar but if you get up close you can see the many issues that we knew about when we bought the house and planned to have taken care of when we could. That time is now! We are ready to be done with the poorly constructed cabinets where sections are popping off from the wall or the base. We are ready to be done with the off-kilter drawers and cabinet doors that were "cut to fit" using poor measurements or workmanship. The magnetic hardware holding the cabinets shut are all in different places and they are sloppy plus some cabinets either don't close or you have to slam them shut. Lastly, the storage options are horrible. We have tons of space but with no shelves or extra things everything it just thrown in willy-nilly. Of course I don't like the Corian counters but that I could have dealt with if it were the only issues. We love our Viking stove and copper hood and are also keeping the Sub Zero refrigerator but getting rid of the wall oven. We are ditching the microwave with the broken numbers and buying a new stainless steel microwave and dishwasher too. We have ten foot ceilings and would like for the cabinets to go up higher. We don't want to have to move the moulding and it does have several layers of pretty moulding. This is a huge project but I know it will also make a huge difference!
Cabinet to far left is current pantry. We haven't missed a walk-in pantry at all BUT we don't like how it's right by the back door and, when open, the pantry gets in the way of people coming in and out. With so many kids over all the time this is an issue! I will want the new microwave either in the cabinet space to the left of the window or to the right of the window.

 Dishwasher will be in same place but replaced.

 We would not have spent this much on an appliance but since it came with the house we do enjoy our Sub Zero refrigerator.
This counter area is currently used as a desk/work station but I don't need that much space. I plan to move microwave to cabinet area by stainless oven/stove and get rid of black wall oven shown above. Then we will make this area mostly tall cabinets (less counter space) and it will be our new pantry. I envision wonderful pull out sections and all sorts of glorious add-ons to help make it a fantabulous pantry area full of snacks, cans, and boxes of yummy goodness. I would like the far left to still be a counter area with some work/storage space good for a busy mom like me.

Speaking of busy... this island is a work space for all. When it is not my cooking space it is an art studio. I would like to the island to be a little bigger and a lot more organized. The front of it now has a few rickety drawers and a large cavernous cabinet with no shelves at all. I want to to have more storage options, including maybe one of those narrow pull-outs that has shelves just the right size for cans. Daughter shown does not need to be remodeled; the current model is good enough.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Crab Bisque

I made this today and it was good. I've already added in my comments and additions.

Crab and Brie Soup

This is the signature soup of Dakota Restaurant in Covington. But calling it a soup is a stretch. It's so thick that you could turn a spoonful upside down and it might not come out. I'd recommend serving it only when you can afford to put a lot of lump crabmeat in it. It's very rich.

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 medium onion, cut up
  • 1 medium carrot, cut up
  • 3 ribs celery, cut up
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream (I used 1/2 and 1/2)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 8 oz. Brie cheese, rind removed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat
  • Pinch cayenne

1. Heat the butter in a heavy kettle over medium heat.

2. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves, and continue to cook until the vegetables soften.

3. Add the wine and bring that to a boil. After a minute or two, add two quarts of water (I used chicken broth) and bring to a simmer. Keep the simmer going for about a half-hour.

4. Add the cream. Return to a simmer.

5. Heat the butter in another saucepan and stir in the flour. Make a blond roux, and whisk into the soup pot.

6. Slice the Brie into small pieces and add it to the pot. Stir until the cheese melts in completely. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Add crab and make sure crab separates so that it can be enjoyed in every bite. I used crab from the seafood section at Wal-Mart that was about $8 for 1/2 a pound. It was perfect. Some recipes say to use canned crab but I cannot imagine using that in this kind of recipe!

Serves six to eight.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What is YOUR Letter?


In honor of our study of The Scarlet Letter, tomorrow my students will decorate their letters. Today I asked them to think of their own flaw, weakness, or something that has caused them secret guilt. In the novel, Hester had to publicly bear her punishment for her weakness but Dimmesdale didn't and the guilt ate away at him. I had them write down a description of their flaw, weakness, or the cause of their guilt on a piece of paper but NOT turn it in. We used the honor system. Is it possible that some of them wrote a paragraph about nothing but their love of spider monkeys or their hatred for English? Yes. However, I bet most of them did what they were supposed to do. I watched them work from afar and helped them come up with concise words and letters when they needed help. Trust issues? Distrustful. Another word for sneaky (afraid that the S would be misinterpreted)? Deceitful or dissembling. If they didn't ask for me I stayed out of their way. They took their papers with them and I will never ask to see their paragraphs again. Tomorrow they will use my glitter, ribbon, buttons, patterned paper, scalloped shapes, vivid card-stock, and other embellishments to create their own letters. Like Hester's their letters with be expected to be artistic and ornate (as much as their ability allows) and wearable. There are some differences too: Hester created her letter in jail, theirs is done in my classroom (albeit some may see a connection between jail and school). I will give them bonus for wearing it during the day. The creation of the letter is important. The wearing of the letter is equally important. People will stare. People will wonder. People will assume. It'll be good for my kiddos to experience this and think about how Hester felt to be punished for life for her passion and how living with your mistakes is not a new concept. Of course I have my letter too. It's taken from the seven deadly sins (which we briefly discussed). I always have them guess my letter and today I laughed out-loud when one of them guessed lust. I have a full-time job, three children and a new puppy; what's lust? The next guess was correct: greed. Just like my offspring, I do have issues with sometimes wanting more than I need when I am already blessed. I will wear my letter too and, depending on the moment, may or may not tell people what it means. Hester accepted her sin and wore it not necessarily with honor but without denial. I hope that my students will learn something about themselves and others through this lesson.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Tonight I was very disappointed in Carson. Oftentimes on Wednesdays we get fast food after we pick the boys up from religion class. Both my boys, like me, are into routines and patterns and don't like for things to change. However, that did not excuse Carson's tantrum in the church parking lot when he found out I was making quesadillas for dinner and that he would not be getting Cane's chicken fingers as he had hoped/expected. If Child Protection Services had heard him they would have immediately arrested me for abuse; his screams were racked with intense pain and dejection. I was declared the Worst Mom Ever. EVER! Seriously? For quesadillas? It's not like it was tuna casserole or spinach; kids are supposed to like quesadillas. They even have them on kids menus. I was so disappointed with Carson's selfishness and drama (in the church parking lot, no less) that I was stunned into silence. This whole "stunned into silence" bit happens very rarely with me. There were so many thoughts running through my head that I didn't know what to express first. In my classroom every day there are students whose only meals are those that they get at school, either because they have families who cannot afford food or they don't have a responsible, independent, adult at home to even buy food for them. Some of my students are 18 and therefore able to be on their own legally speaking. However, I still wish they had someone to mother them the way they should be mothered. If I gave some of them quesadillas they would be grateful. I hope that today was just a bad day for Carson and his ungrateful, spoiled, response doesn't repeat itself. He has a big heart and I want him to realize that him not getting Cane's does not make me a bad mother. I want him to understand that he is lucky to have a mom that feeds him and even makes home-cooked meals for him. I want him to understand that I love him no matter what but that we are a very blessed family and to have food on his plate is a good thing, whether it's Cane's or mommy's quesadillas. I pray that I can guide him to being more grateful and less indulged. I pray that I can help him be more aware of those around him and less self-centered. And if you're going to call me The Worst Mom Ever it better be about something more valid, like homework and cleaning your room, and not about quesadillas.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

You teach WHAT?

I had a desk job once... for five days. I was a temp the summer we moved back from Dallas and I mostly filed papers and occasionally answered the phone. That job was about four and a half days too long and it helped me realize exactly how amazingly unique teaching is when it comes to careers. Every day us truly different. As an example I will share with you a few of the things we have discussed in my English III classroom in the past three days. All but one were (somewhat) connected to the play we are reading: The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

  • We discussed lechery. From the play: Mary Warren tells John that Abigail will accuse him of lechery. What is that, boys and girls? It is extreme sexual indulgence/lustfulness. Yes, I got to share that definition with 91 teenagers. After all, it is in the play. We discussed what the Puritans would have thought of people today in this regard. I did NOT ask them if they were lechers. I abide by the philosophy that I don't WANT to know about this aspect of any of their lives.
  • We discussed why, in a early American setting, it was not an issue that in The Crucible Abigail was 17 and John was in his mid-30's but rather that they weren't married. We discussed that it was common for older men to marry younger girls if their wives had died. After all, I said with a wink, how on Earth were the men expected to clean their own homes and make their own food if they didn't have a wife? We were all in agreement that it was still gross.
  • My favorite discussion: how did Puritan women even KNOW they were pregnant? Um, the same way they do now. My wording "Missed monthly cycles"; I did say that they found out later but that they did indeed know, just as Elizabeth in the play was pregnant. A spin off of this in one class was how women back then tended to their monthly cycles. Really? Did I mention that I teach English? This last part was from a class that is 85% female but I still responded by telling them to Google it. I know a little about the subject but, out of respect for those few sweet boys, I didn't go there. I don't know if you've ever seen a darling, dark-skinned African American boy blush but I have and I didn't want to make it even worse for him.
  • This one is NOT academic. We discussed how some kids save their friends under nicknames instead of their real names and even their girlfriends under "Mom" in case their phones get picked up. The ensuing discussion revealed that sometimes that can lead to some unintentionally revealing texts when you think you're texting your girlfriend and it's really your mom. My contribution to this conversation was that I do not look forward to this time period in parenting.
The best story is one that I have saved for my co-workers and will not be posted on my blog. Think of it as a special little tidbits for my fellow educators. Let's just say that the fun didn't stop there. Every day is unique, for better or worse, when you are a teacher.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I am very much a morning person. I have no trouble getting out of bed and I wake up happy every day. I know that's annoying but stick with me, I get much less perfect. You would think such a person would get to work with plenty of time to spare and I used to... before kids. Now it seems that each year I get worse, especially now that Lila gets out of bed by herself and is no longer trapped in her crib. We are supposed to check in at EAHS by 7:15 and class starts at 7:30. I want to be that teacher greeting her kids with a smile as they walk in, not the teacher that rolls in right after the tardy bell rings. The truth is that I am there greeting the kids with a smile when they walk in... but barely. Getting out of the house dressed and with my things in order is no small feat. I get Cullen on the bus and, at age 12, there are still many things I do for him. Lila needs to be tended to as well, although many days Kevin is the one actually bringing her to school. I will admit there are times that I have let her have a Moon Pie or a pack of fruit chews at 6:15 a.m. just so that I can finish fixing my hair. When I actually get to work it really feels like an accomplishment. I truly feel like I should be greeted with a row of trumpets heralding my arrival. A red carpet would be nice. Mrs. Phillips is here! On time! I feel like I have qualified for the Olympics each time I sign in on time (or even close to on time) in the office. I am tempted to look around for someone applauding because I feel so accomplished. However, I have yet to have the trumpets, applause, or red carpet. My bosses have never once fussed at me for being five minutes past sign-in time; they are parents too and, most of all, they know I do my job. In addition, you need to look a little deeper. The real reason I am late is not because of what I don't do but rather because of what I do. "Mommy, can you read just one book to me?" Yes, baby, I can. "Mommy, can you snuggle me one time?" Yes, baby, I can. "Mom, can you fill out my band practice sheet?" Yes, Cullen, I can. "Mommy, can you pack me a lunch today?" Yes, Carson, I can. I think my bosses know that the kind of mom who does those things will do the same things for her students. "Mrs. Phillips, can I come take that test at lunch?" Yes, sweetie, you can. "Mrs. Phillips, can I talk to you after class?" Yes, baby, I can. "Mrs. Phillips, can you write me a letter of recommendation" Of course I will. That is the kind of mom I am. That is the kind of teacher I am. I may not be here on time but I do get here and when I am here I am ready to do my best, even if there is a bit of Moon Pie stuck to my sweater from Lila's hug goodbye that morning.