About Dana

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I'm a dichotomy of blue jeans, pretty jewelry, frugalista, and Southern girl living the simple rural life. I want to live my life holistically, thoughtfully, economically, and most of all gratefully, and encourage other women to do the same.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas, Y'all

Hope you have a peaceful holiday. Spend time with your family. I'll see you back here the first week of January.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lurkers at Midnight

What were you doing at midnight last night? Normally, I would be snoozing, but there was some ruckus in the hen house. Let me back up a little.

At 11:30 pm, I was stepping out of a long, hot bath. You know, the kind that makes you want to crawl right into bed? I noticed some chickens cackling.....what? For those of you who have no experience with the critters, chickens go into the hen house on a perch each night to roost. They get very sleepy and stay that way until the sun comes up the next morning.

I decided something must really be amiss for all the chickens to be making such noise. After I went downstairs and got the trusty flashlight with like 2 zillion lumens, I peered out the back door and shone the light into the coop. The chickens were out of the hen house and running around in the chicken yard, trying to escape.

Then from the right corner of the pen, my light picked up two shining eyes....an intruder! I mentally tried to decide if this was an intruder I could take. It didn't lunge toward me (of course I was probably blinding it), so I decided to go take a closer look.

Remember I just stepped out of the bath? I now had on my thin bathrobe and mud boots. Let me tell you, I was some kind of attractive. But I digress.

Turns out, when I got a little closer I saw the two eyes belonged to an opossum. Then I saw two more eyes. No, it was not an opossum wearing glasses, silly. It was TWO of those scoundrely rascals. Dang it! How did they get in again? I thought Mr. Country Belle solved this problem a few months ago (see the past post below under Related Stories).

Speaking of Mr. Country Belle, I needed to wake him up. Now that sounds simple enough, but that is a feat just slightly ranked below me turning a back flip in mid-air in a bathrobe and mud boots. So I trudged in the house and back upstairs (carefully removing my "chicken" boots first) and finally succeeded in rousing him, explaining I had no way to hold the 2 zillion lumen flashlight, keep the chickens from escaping when I opened the door, and herd two opossums out of the coop.

Ever tried to herd an opossum? They are too dumb to walk in a straight line. It was going to take a little more thought than just shuffling them out of the pen.

After some unsuccessful wrangling between myself, Mr. Country Belle, and two opossums, (Me: Get that thing away from me!) (Mr. TCB: Get the door open!) we fashioned a tool like a dog catcher uses. Only ours was made at midnight from scraps found in the garage (a PVC pipe, screw, and length of rope) and in about 3 minutes.

But it worked. Now I only have to figure out how those scoundrels got in in the first place.

I can't complain - mission accomplished, no chickens died of a heart attack, and we still live in the country. It's all a part of it.


Related Stories
Strangers in the Night

Thursday, December 13, 2012

If a Tree Falls in the Forest...

....does anyone hear it?

If someone decorates on a rural road, does anyone see it?

Well, do it anyway.

Hear ye, hear ye!

Here comes Santa!

We are enjoying the Christmas season. Please enjoy it, too, whether anyone is looking or not.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Healthy in a Hurry - Tilapia for Supper

School is in session, sports practice is back on, work is in full swing, and yet moms *still* have to pull together supper (maybe you call it dinner, if you're not Southern like me). I find that sometimes hard to do when I spend almost every afternoon at the pool where my son practices on a competitive swim team.

I have a few tried and true recipes that I know the entire family loves and that can be pulled together in a snap for days such as these.

Here's the one I want to share with you today:

Baked Tilapia in Butter Sauce

4 tilapia fillets
1/3-1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 c. diced onion
2 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. dried parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a casserole dish and place the fish fillets side by side in it. Mix all the other ingredients together in a glass bowl and pour over the fish. That's it!

Put in oven (uncovered) for 30 minutes.

Great served with brown rice (the leftover "au jus" from the fish dish tastes great mixed into the rice) and broccoli (and rolls if you're naughty).

Have a happy, busy week!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Crazy Shopping List

It's the season for shopping. I often don't shop at Walmart because I like to support my neighbors' shops whenever I can. I haven't blacklisted Walmart, of course. It's just too darn crowded in there and the register lines are so slow, I'd prefer to skip it when I can.

The other day, Walmart was the most convenient place to stop on my way through the country from one destination to another. Yes, you heard right. Walmart is smack in the middle of the country, too.

It didn't hit me until I got home and began entering receipts into my Quickbooks software how ridiculous I must have looked walking through the store with my two items - a sock monkey and cream of chicken soup. Where else can you buy a crazy assortment like this?

My son was happy for the soup. I used it to make his absolute favorite chicken casserole.

And the puppy was happy for Sock Monkey. She has a special affinity for squeaky sock monkeys, which she carries around in her mouth most of the day when she's inside the house.


Hope you have a happy day!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Homeschool Holdout

Just as in everyday life, my child often wants to try and wield his tiny amount of power to see if he has what it takes to usurp my throne. If he only knew what my crown would mean for him - to be the queen around my house is an endless parade of dirty dishes, dirty laundry, dirty floors, and dirty hand prints on the walls. But I digress.

During the homeschool day, he has decided to show his "authority" by refusing to get a new pencil for math class. Never mind we have a bucket of new and freshly sharpened pencils of every imaginable design and color, enough pencils to last him seven more years through high school graduation.

This pencil nub is what is somehow getting him through 20 math problems every day. It is now so short, the pencil grip is longer than the actual pencil and has to be removed when he occasionally attempts to sharpen it.

I have asked, cajoled, begged, and excitedly showed him all the pencils available. A rainbow one? A Halloween one? A Christmas one?

"No," he says. "This is my lucky pencil."

I pointed out that a lucky pencil would enable him to make a "100/A" on all his daily math worksheets and tests. And that is just not the case.

So I had to call in the big guns for this assignment. I asked Mr. Country Belle to "gift" my son with a snazzy mechanical pencil like the one he uses in his "real engineering job."

I pretended not to care.

The little booger accepted the pencil and started using it in math class the very next day.

I was not allowed to touch it.

I so did not care. I promised never to touch it.

(I won).

Speaking of the crazy things to go on during the homeschool day, I'll leave you with one more.

I don't have one thing to say about this.

Have a happy holiday week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Raking Leaves is for Boys

We are sorry for the havoc in process and are praying for our neighbors to the north who are experiencing the traumatic effects of Hurricane Sandy.

I can only imagine how dangerous the winds are growing.

On a much lighter note, just this weekend as Sandy approached our coast, the winds on our little slice of land were whipping and we were hundreds of miles away from the storm's major forces.

So it was with surprise I looked out the window and saw my son raking leaves.

Whatever was he doing since the 20 mph winds were making it "snow" leaves? He would be raking all over again very soon!

And suddenly I realized why.

Little boys like to jump in piles of leaves, but so do puppies.

And it's fun to roll in them, too.

You know what's not all that fun? Bathing a white dog after such an adventure.

Oh, well. It was FUN. That's what counts!


Related Posts:

My Dog's Life
Pet Photos

Thursday, October 25, 2012

You'd be Surprised What You Can Buy Locally

Rural living provides an easy opportunity to "go green." Living sustainably is eco-friendly and fiscally responsible. I'm not even mentioning the convenience. If you don't live in town, sometimes it's very time consuming to travel to all the stores you need to complete your shopping list.

When I'm not growing or making it myself, I really like to support the local farmers and craftsmen that live in my rural area.

On a recent Saturday afternoon full of errands (I group them for less driving), I purchased from three neighbor vendors who had exactly what I needed at exactly the right price.

Homegrown tomatoes from the farm stand. I didn't plant a second round, so my supply was long gone.

Chicken feed pellets produced locally from another community right down the road. It was sold by a family-owned feed-and-seed supplier 5 minutes from my house. (I love going there for good conversation and a Coke).

A flat of pansies hauled home in the back of my SUV from a grower 10 minutes from home. You can't beat 24 plants for $10 (and I didn't have to exhibit any patience growing my own flowers from seeds).

Buy local! Support your neighbors and create a better life for your family. Knowing who made what you consume each day is one important step we all can take to be environmentally and safety conscious.

Happy day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Dog's Life

I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I did I would want to come back as one of our retriever-dogs.

7 am - What we gonna do today?

8 am - Homeschool again? I need to rest.

9 am - That 30-second game of fetch EXHAUSTED me.

10 am - Is that a crumb under your seat? I love it when you snack!

The rest of the afternoon (besides the 3-minute burst of energy after supper).....

And the evening.....

Well, I won't bore you with more photos of a sleeping dog. You might get the wrong idea.

Have a happy day!

Related pet posts:
Pet Photos
What I've Learned from my Pets

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Best Broccoli Casserole

It's countdown time for me. The days are ticking by on the way to my favorite holiday. No, not Halloween. I know it's October, but when fall weather begins, I start thinking about Thanksgiving. It's the perfect holiday - full of family and food, but no pressures of gift-giving. Just cook, eat, and spend time together.

I'm thinking about what I'd like to cook for Thanksgiving dinner. We have some of the same dishes every year, but occasionally I like to throw a new dish into the mix and see how it takes. Does it disappear? Are the leftovers requested to fill family members' Tupperware* containers?

One of the common dishes I make - broccoli casserole - is something I cook throughout the year for supper. I try not to make it more than every couple of months. My Thanksgiving dishes are not known to be skinny.

Why don't you try out the recipe before Thanksgiving and see if it's something you'd like to add to this year's menu?

Country Broccoli Casserole

Bag of frozen broccoli florets (or a fresh head of broccoli, trimmed of stems with florets remaining)
can of cream of mushroom soup
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. chopped onion

1 stick butter
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put broccoli and 1-2 Tbsp. of water in a covered glass dish in the microwave and cook on high/full power for 5 minutes. Remove and drain water. Mix in the next 5 ingredients.

Melt butter in a separate dish and stir in the bread crumbs. Add as a topping to the broccoli casserole.

Put the uncovered dish in the preheated oven and cook until the topping is browned, about 30 minutes.


Want more Thanksgiving meal ideas? See these related posts:

Carrot Souffle

Southern Cornbread

Sweet Green Tea


* We call every plastic container around here Tupperware, even if it isn't.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Greek Cookbook for your Bookshelf

I have the entire right side of my dining room buffet filled with cookbooks. I'll admit there are a few I rarely pull out, some are for the holidays, and some are well-worn and a little greasy with food splashes from everyday use. From time to time (OK - pretty often), I add to them with a new title from the bookstore. I wanted to tell you about one of my latest acquisitions and suggest you get a copy for yourself (and no, no one has paid me to say this).

Patricia Moore-Pastides, an accomplished public health professional and wife of the current president of the University of South Carolina, released her cookbook, "Greek Revival: Cooking for Life," about 18 months ago. In it, she narrates stories about her time living in Greece and shares the healthy recipes she learned from taking cooking lessons while there.

Leaning on vegetables and healthy cuts of meat (occasionally), the book provides Greek recipes that are healthy and still flavorful. I have made a few of them and can assure you that you won't miss the fat in these dishes.

We may think of baklava as a primary Greek dessert, but Patricia leans heavily on fruits, like those traditionally used in Greece, for an everyday taste of sweetness. Doesn't a yogurt parfait with blueberries and lemon curd sound good?

My favorite recipe from the book (so far) is Broccoli and Blue Cheese Pita (p. 22 in the hardback copy).

I bought the book during a lecture, tasting and book signing event at a women's conference. In her presentation, Patricia was very knowledgeable not only about nutrition via food, but also about the healthy compounds like resveratrol that make up certain foods. A delightful lady and a delightful (and delicious) book.

Happy reading (and cooking)!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Happened to my Baby?










Waaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Where did my baby go? I want another! (Mr. Country Belle is sweating right now).

I'll leave you with a current photo......
....of me in denial.

Have a happy day.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Baked Venison Cubed Steak with Gravy

I just typed the title of this post, and it made me hungry all over again.

Now that the summer heat is waning into the crisp nights of fall (even in the South), it's time for some warmer fare at mealtimes. I told you earlier how I stock up my freezer every fall with venison (courtesy of a hunter-friend). My family loves fried venison cubed steak, but sometimes I need to cook something slightly different to change things up a bit. Here's my solution. Please note: You can substitute beef cubed steak for venison. We just like venison because it's naturally organic and it's super tender (You don't even need a knife).

Baked Venison Cubed Steak with Gravy

1.5 to 2 lbs. of venison cubed steak (or beef cubed steak)
salt and pepper
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can of water
packet of dried onion soup mix
can of French-style green beans (optional)
small can of sliced mushrooms (optional)

First, soak the steak in milk for about 20 minutes. Next, preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and heat oil (I use canola) in a frying pan until it reaches about 350 degrees.

Salt and pepper the steak on both sides, and roll both sides in flour. Put the battered steak in the frying pan when the oil is hot and brown both sides. It only takes a couple of minutes. The goal is not to cook the meat through but to sear/brown it on both sides quickly.

Remove steak to a glass casserole dish, arranging pieces in an even layer. Turn the heat down a little on the oil and add enough flour to thicken up what's left, constantly stirring to even out lumps and prevent burning. Add enough milk to to make a pan of gravy, constantly stirring as it slightly thickens. (I don't have an exact amount of milk; it all depends on how much oil/flour you have previously added).

After the gravy thickens slightly (just a couple of minutes max), add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the mushroom soup and can of water. Remove from heat and stir in packet of onion soup mix and the vegetables (green beans and mushrooms), if using.

Pour the mixture over the cubed steak and cover with aluminum foil.

Place the casserole dish in the preheated 200 degree oven for 2.5 hours. If you need to hurry it along, you can cook it at 250 degrees for 2 hours. The low heat is necessary to tenderize the meat further, especially if you're using beef.

What I really love is that you can prepare this in the afternoon, pop it in the oven, and not think about dinner again until 6:00 or so.

I made rosemary rolls to accompany this dish, and since the vegetables were included, that's all I served. My perfect rolls are not mine at all, but purchased frozen yeast rolls (I work and homeschool - what can I say? Not enough time to make everything homemade). I "doctored" the rolls up with butter and fresh rosemary from my garden before putting them in the oven to bake.

Happy suppertime! It's Fall!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I'm Reading in September

If you've been a reader of my blog, you know I adore reading (and writing). I have been on a non-fiction reading kick for the last year or so, so both of the books I'm reading this month are non-fiction. No surprises there!

Here they are:

1. One Year to an Organized Work Life by Regina Leeds. The title is self-explanatory. The best tips I took away from this book? Learn to say "no" once each day. Also, Regina summed it up best about messy piles in your office: If you have piles of work folders on your office floor (I do), then you probably have not made a commitment, for whatever reason, to the projects they represent. If you're serious about the projects, clear out the clutter to clear out some "brain space" for them and put them in the file cabinet so they will gain prominence and importance.

If you need it, this author also has organization books on finances and life in general.

It's a quick read and organized enough like a reference book to skim through and pull out the tidbits you need for office (and mental) organization.

2. Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst. I'm still reading this Christian book, so I don't have a full report for you now. I always find it refreshing the way Lysa explains Christian concepts and so selflessly uses failures and examples from her own life.

What comes out of your mouth when you're angry? Are you a stuffer or an exploder? The book is focused on how to respond when you have negative, raw emotions to express to those around you. What is the proper way to respond, and why, according to the Bible, should we respond in this manner? It's something I struggle with when people irritate me. I'll be the first to admit this book is for me.

Happy reading!
PS. Let me know what you're reading. I always need new books for my ever-expanding reading list.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pet Photos

It's hard to find a rural house without a dog. Or two or three. I told you about our most recent addition to the family, Happy.

Thought these photos were cute and thought they might add to an "Awwwwwwww...." moment for you, too.

Happy with her Monkey.

Hey, I said I needed a belly rub!

Happy sleeping after a long day of swimming in the river.

And for old time's sake - Molly and Pitty Pat.

Happy day to you!

Friday, September 14, 2012

True Embarrassment

I was washing laundry today and came across one of Mr. Country Belle's old outdoor work shirts that reminded me of a Saturday afternoon in our past.

At the time, we lived in a 1907 American Foursquare house in an urban neighborhood. Pre-children, Mr. Country Belle and I often spent our Saturdays cleaning house and working in our postage stamp-sized yard.

On one such Saturday morning, we were preparing to go outside and plant a few flowers when the doorbell rang. Seeing it was two elderly men dressed in suits, we opened the door to find out what they needed. They attended the neighborhood Baptist church and were bringing information to us and inviting us to visit one Sunday morning.

As they stood there making small talk, one of the men remarked to my husband about his shirt.

"What does it say?" he asked.

Mr. Country Belle, really not remembering which work shirt he had put on, stood there as the gentleman leaned in to read the print on the front of the shirt. He read it slowly and carefully.

If I tell you I wanted to suddenly bolt like nobody's business, I would be under-representing my level of mortification that day.

"It, it, it's just a work shirt," I stammered. "That's why he just wears it around the house to work in."

I should have told them they needed to save my husband's soul and get on with the housekeeping.

I'd love to hear your embarrassing story in the Comments section. Let everyone enjoy it!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

I am always shocked by how much information I have forgotten from my primary, middle (and dare I say – high school) education years. I always enjoyed school (yes, believe it), and my grades were always good (Can you believe it?).
So it’s great for me that I have been relearning so much information from homeschooling my son. The information has come in handy. A few months ago, I was working on a writing assignment for a client and needed a launch-in to an article about big ships on the high seas. I didn’t have to brainstorm much past that morning’s history lesson about the ancient Phoenicians. Helpful, especially to someone who would just a day earlier have stumbled over an accurate description if asked exactly who the Phoenicians were and what was their contribution to society?
I felt….knowledgeable.
Stop laughing.
For the past two years, I have been learning Latin. You might think a journalism major such as my illustrious self would have had some Latin experience at least in high school. But, nooooooooooo. Public schools taught Latin in the earlier years when they were focused on providing a more classical education, skipped (my) Generation X, and now appear to be teaching it again to middle and high schoolers.
I’m learning it vicariously through my son and the homework assignments given by his Latin teacher. It’s one instance where my 5th grader has to correct my grammar, and I have to look to him to see if I’m pronouncing the word right or writing the verb the correct way.
Give me a few more months, and I will finally be able to say, “I’m smarter than a 5th grader.”
Hope you are, too!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Newest Favorite Beauty "Find"

I'm a busy, busy mom like many of you, so when I find a product that gets me out the door faster by removing a few steps in my hectic day, I want to share it with everyone.

Here's a new beauty product I absolutely love. I use it to replace my primer, concealer, and makeup. No one is paying me to say this, but L'oreal's "BB Cream" [stands for Beauty Balm] is fantastic. One step equals three products I can "X" out of my morning routine (that is, on the days I decide to wear makeup). It's great to even out my complexion.

Another happy part is that you can buy it at your local drugstore.

Give it a try to speed up your routine in the a.m.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Puppy Love

I wrote a few months ago about our beloved golden retriever, Molly, who died. We still miss her, but I promised my son that by the end of the summer, he could have a new puppy. So here goes.

Hello, Happy.

Nothing like a little diversion in the form of a puppy.

We have always had American golden retrievers. They love to play outside, roll in the grass (and other undesirable things), fetch a ball, and generally run around like a good country dog should.

Happy is an English golden retriever. She has not wanted to go outside. The grass is too wet. The darkness is too dark. Why can't I pee inside instead? We have been pulling her along on the leash to force her to go outside. Inside is her heaven. So I have threatened to paint her toenails pink, like a frou-frou doggie.

All that changed on Labor Day. My son and Mr. Country Belle took Happy outside to the river, paddled away in the canoe, and let her see what her retriever roots were all about.

Yeah, baby. This is what it's all about.

I'm no longer threatening her with a girly manicure. She appears to be a full-blooded retriever at heart.

And I'll admit I love having a little-bitty baby puppy to give a bath post-rivertime (well, at least as little-bitty as a future big dog can ever be).

Hope your Labor Day was as fun as ours.