Monday, July 31, 2017

School of Days

In honor of all my present and former students, coworkers, and of course, Mama, who first instilled the love of teaching, I created a Back To School mantel today. I thoroughly enjoyed scouting through the house, trying to find things that looked like school to me. I chose sturdy treasures that wouldn't be so missed if a certain stealth cat knocked them off the mantel.  However, during the assembly stage, I dropped the school bird house into the stack of treasures. I broke a huge, mercury candle holder, the mate to the green one you see in the picture. Boy, did that make a shatter!

This dear, little, red kindergarten chair was one my mother found at an auction. And the primer was one of mine.  I know, who doesn't love Dick and Jane? While I think the schools in town had stopped using Dick and Jane, Puff, Spot, Tim and cute, little Sally by 1960...  I still used it because I went to a rural school (with super old books.) I just remember being enthralled with the ability to READ a story myself.

The lunch box started school in Excello in the year 1960 with a little first grader who stood waiting for the bus/schoolcar). I proudly carried a small bouquet of zinnias wrapped in a soggy paper towel inside scrunched tinfoil  for the teacher. I joined two others in my large class of three first graders and a whole room full of big kids.

Apples for the teacher, don't you know? The bow is made from an old measuring tape, and the wooden apples were a gift from my mom during a long-ago back to school preparation.

Paint brushes and sunflowers. I think the two should always be paired, don't you?

I am not sure where Mary went, but the lamb, white as snow, has followed her to school one day. school one day, school one day. My mother sang that song so many times during her last year.

Introducing Museum Putty (Quake Hold), which is going to help keep the items on the mantel from the mishaps of Miss Callie. In case you are wondering, she is staring in rapt, pre-planning, strategic Kitty mode at the new, quite amazing mantel. Midnight, me, and a dust pan and mop...  

Cats Rule!

Whimsy and Hugs!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cooks in the Kitchen

Hey there! Summer weather always brings out the best vegetable dishes and a bit of nostalgia as the evenings sing with wild locusts at twilight. I often forget exactly where I am as I listen to their hypnotic song. It always revealed we were nearing the end of summer and gearing up for school in the past. Now it really says little about anything happening because ... basically nothing IS happening really. Never one to crave too much variety, I am just fine with the flow of this season into that.

I made some good dishes using the vegetables from our trips to the Amish. Below is a quick version of Cowboy Caviar or Fresh Salsa. I love to chop vegetables, but this time I used the little chopper from QVC that looks like I am starting a lawn mower. Not quite a perfection pretty but so fast! The second time I made this I added pasta and Parmesan...  There is a reason we don't have a picture of that salad!

Another new idea was to use couscous and a thick chili (no beans) in stuffed peppers. It was sooo good. The chili recipe is the one I have used several times from The Pioneer Woman, Perfect Chili. Always par-boil peppers to eliminate bitterness.

I have been relocating some little girls and even tried listing a few on E-bay and Swap shop. These little jewels amazingly still are selling from the company for about $50-60. However, they run about $5 on E-bay, along with any other so-called collectible from the past...  Nope. Not selling mine for the cost of a Mocha at McDonald's.

I had company a few weekends ago, and I made this blanched zucchini, cheddar, and roasted onion quiche.  I babied it quite a bit with blind baking (with dry beans) in the crust, etc. Years ago my mother got a recipe for the basic quiche from a dear doll club member. It is rather no-fail: 4 eggs, 1/2 c. cream. 1 1/2 c.milk....  As long as everything else is rather dry, you just add a favorite cheese and anything you please! Salt and pepper to taste.

I think she has a good idea. It is time to settle down and watch some tv...  Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Happy Small School Reunion

One huge joy of teaching is being invited to class reunions of my "kids." Saturday night my son and I attended the 40th reunion of the first class I ever sponsored. First of all, we were fortunate to have the reunion in a lovely venue, Coal Miner's Daughter. My dear friend owns this place and caters delicious meals on site or hosts and caters here. I thought I would share a few snaps of the evening.

Senior trip: 1977

Revisited with a stand in for the center gentleman, our coach who is also owner of the building and was busy catering the event!!!

I am not in this photo so don't be looking! Love these "kids" who will forever be 17 to me.

Whimsy and Hugs!

Monday, July 10, 2017

10 Weeks!

Hello, there. Yes, it has come to my attention we have only ten weeks until the Queen of Seasons arrives. And while I am ALWAYS ready for Autumn...

I have quite a bit of fun planned out for Summer...  And when I say "fun," I am talking like "scrub the toilets" kind of fun...  No more lazy...  I have really been procrastinating and really rather spinning in place. I will have to keep you informed because now I have put this out there...

Saturday two friends came to finish helping me celebrate my birthday! Geez, does Queen Elizabeth 2 make any bigger deal of a birthday? I used Pioneer Woman place mats, which were a gift from another dear friend who came to see me on a day I DID NOT take a picture of my table. In fact, my table was so deep we had to dig a few minutes to carve out a spot to balance a coffee cup. !!!!!

The plates and blue bowls are also Pioneer Woman. But the little pink pie plates are my Mom's. Her mother, my Gramma Minnie, bought them for a 12th birthday party for Mom in 1936. Mom gave them to me in 2004 for my 50th birthday, and my son brought them here just a few weeks ago. The goblets were from Dollar Tree! I thought it looked like Summer.

Last week I made Zucchini Boats  ---  They were delish only next time I am just going to slice or chop zucchini. The veggie parts of the boats were too thick and "meaty"

Italian Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time22 minutes
Total Time47 minutes


Share This Recipe:


  • 3 medium, uniformly-sized zucchini
  • 1 (24 to 26 ounce) jar tomato basil marinara, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey or beef
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped brown button mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shaved or shredded Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons Italian style panko bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Measure out 1 cup of the marinara sauce and set aside.
  2. Trim ends from zucchini and slice in half, lengthwise. Use the tip of a spoon to scrape out the zucchini flesh (see recipe note), chop it and set it aside. Place the scooped out zucchini boats into a 13" x 9" baking dish and add about 1" of water. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, until just slightly fork-tender. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, add olive oil to a 12" skillet and place over MEDIUM heat. Add turkey (or beef), onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the skillet. Cook, stirring to break up the ground meat as it cooks. Continue to cook and stir until meat is thoroughly cooked and veggies have softened. Drain off as much grease as possible and return the skillet to the heat.
  4. Add the chopped zucchini flesh, mushrooms, remaining marinara in jar (reserve 1 cup for later), parsley, Italian seasoning, salt, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and allow to simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes.
  5. Remove partially cooked zucchini from baking dish and pour off water. Pour the 1 cup of reserved marinara sauce into the empty baking dish and place zucchini boats on top of the sauce.
  6. Divide the filling between the zucchini boats. If you have extra filling, spoon it into the dish around the zucchini boats. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes, or until zucchini is fork tender. Remove dish from oven and set oven to BROIL.
  7. Remove foil and sprinkle zucchini boats with mozzarella, Parmesan and the panko bread crumbs. Place dish in oven, watching closely, and cook for just a couple of minutes until cheese has melted and bread crumbs are golden brown.

Recipe Notes

My tip for scraping out zucchini flesh. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the zucchini to outline the area you want to scoop out being very careful not to cut through. You just want an outline. Use the tip of a spoon to scrape the flesh out and on to a cutting board.
© 2017 Valerie's Kitchen. All rights reserved.

We are loving vegetables from the Amish. My son is planning to work on home grown for the future.

Have a good week. My son has a rotten sinus cold, so I am sending him good thoughts and prayers for feeling well again fast!

And as for you know who.....  She did not make the same vow to stop being lazy..... or nosey...

Whimsy and Hugs!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

May All Your Sparklers Be Bright!

Have a wonderful 4th of July with your friends and family. It is the least little bit cloudy here and slight chance for more rain! Planning to grill a little and have an indoor picnic. Then going to a huge fireworks display IF weather holds out and watching  movie if not!

Whimsy and Hugs!