Honoring a Dad and a Hero

Jen M. from Boston (a favorite blog reader with great comments and questions) recently wrote to me regarding a piece of special memorabilia she received from her dad.

Jen inherited her dad’s Army duffel bag. It has so much sentimental value for her family and she wanted some creative ideas on how to use it in a practical manner and perhaps share it with her 3 brothers. Jen sent me a few photos which you can see below. If any of you have any good ideas on how to best use the bag please let us hear from you.

Here are my suggestions:

I think the best idea (especially to share the bag) is to purchase shadow boxes and make 4 (Jen and 3 brothers) framed pieces they can each hang in their homes. Using the heavy green canvas for the background, Jen can customize each one. Use the straps to create a border (or just a top and bottom border) or use patriotic ribbon for a colorful accent. The buttons on the bag along with a photo of dad with each child can be added in the box or a photo of dad in uniform. The identification tag can be cut and used prominently. Add a USA patch or a medal or military patch of dad’s and perhaps an engraved plaque at the bottom with dad’s name and rank.

A good framer can do all this and more, but it can get pricey. I am thinking Jen can do this herself for a lot less money if she purchases the shadow boxes at Michaels (use your coupon, Jen) and cuts and irons the fabric perfectly before gluing it in place as the backdrop. Each frame can be individually decorated with dog tags and other sentimental items. The shadow boxes do not all have to be the same size and need not be identical when completed. The shadow boxes come in white, black and a deep mahogany stain – some are very plain while others have a beaded edge.

Camouflage fabric is also available if there isn’t enough of the canvas duffel bag fabric.

A second idea is to purchase a small ottoman (see photo) that has a removable lid and cover the lid with the fabric from the bag. I don’t think there is enough fabric to cover an entire footstool, although you could supplement with camouflage. A good upholsterer can use the straps to “trim” the top and it can also provide a bit of storage.

A couple of small pillows can also be made from the fabric if it is carefully cut. Again, use the straps for accents or “stripes” and miter the corners and sew on a USA patch or one of Dad’s patches in the bottom corner.

Jen, I hope these ideas will be useful and send you on a personal journey to utilize this wonderful keepsake. I am sure you and your brothers have many mementos that will honor your dad. I would love to know what you finally decide to do.


Becky Hits 100

Ok, Becky herself isn’t 100 (although she sometimes feels like it) but BECKY KNOWS EVERYTHING is officially hitting 100 with this blog posting!

The adventure of BECKY KNOWS EVERYTHING has been amazing. With Adrienne’s encouragement (and constant support), I am thrilled to say we have been in existence for a year. And what a year it has been. I have been able to reconnect and stay in touch with a medley of friends and family. So many readers have sent in questions and offered recipes and ideas - it has been overwhelming at times. My grateful thanks to all of you.

I could come up with 100 reasons the blog has been interesting and fun for me. Chief among them is that I finally learned how to “attach” a photo or file on the computer (this took Adrienne about 6 patient tries to teach me - she only was JUST beginning to get exasperated) and I learned how to use my camera. The photos you see on the site have mostly all been taken by me in my kitchen. I also learned how to leave comments on other blogs (and would love for all of you to leave even more comments on mine) and how to ask companies for access to their products and photos. I found I cannot possibly type and talk on the phone at the same time, although generally I can eat and talk and drink and type all at once. I can do everything while I drive including put on lipstick and yell at other drivers. I guess I am going off topic a bit here...

Anyway, over the last year we have discussed so many recipes and cooking techniques, design ideas and of course there is always my personal opinion on everything else. Just ask me, I will tell you what I think! I have enjoyed reading blogs from other writers - all a new world to me once I started my own. I am so looking forward to the next 100 posts and I will rely on your constant support and questions to keep me going! May the coming year bring us all fresh insight into our lives, a new grandbaby for me, and a mutual respect for everyone we meet. Again, my thanks and appreciation go out to all of you. Love, Becky


Atkins Appetizers

Our good friends the Bradley’s were here last Saturday as a prelude to our Valentine’s Day dinner. Debbie warned me they were trying to stay on the Atkins Diet, so as I was the host for drinks and appetizers, I thought I would cooperate. I happen to know a lot about the Atkins Diet – I have been on it about 60 times. It does work if you are allergic to bread and pasta, which is not the case for me. So, here is what I came up with:

I blanched asparagus until just tender and then put them in cold water so they stayed green. I then spread a very thin bit of Dijon mustard on thin slices of ham (for a flavor bite) and placed the asparagus inside and rolled it up. Perfect!

Combining small fresh mozzarella pieces (not that hard mozzarella, but fresh), grape tomatoes and bright basil leaves on a skewer provided a bit of brightness to my platter. I marinated the mozzarella in red wine vinaigrette, but it turned the cheese pink, so I won’t do that again. Bonnie says to use olive oil, spices and white wine vinegar.

Adding to the antipasti platter were folded salami slices, provolone cheese, and black olives. I also made deviled eggs which were delicious! A really nice appetizer presentation without any bread or sweets.


A Good Egg

I have loved the requests for more “MOM” stories which makes me know you are reading and enjoying them. Here is the latest:

First, an update on Mom and the pacemaker – she does not need one and she has been declaring to anyone who will listen that she knew she was right all along!!

Her latest medical adventure (after the doctor admitted no pacemaker was necessary), involved a test on her carotid artery. Mom was convinced the doctor was just looking for something to be wrong but she went along with it all. My sister and I debated on whether I should go home but Mom asked her elderly friends at “The Moose Hall” and they convinced her that she could take care of this herself. Her friends are now all so old, they feel they have multiple medical degrees and all the right info. They surely do know every test and how it goes and Mom is a BELIEVER.

So, Mom went to the test alone. She was concerned about her hearing aids getting in the way, but the technician assured her she was fine and admonished her to “Please stop talking”. Mom said they put some gel like substance on her neck and used a tool to “scan” both sides. Pretty anti-climatic if you ask me. She came away without any results, but that is typical I guess.

Anyway 2-3 weeks later she had not heard anything from the cardiologist about the test results, but she had an appointment with her internist. Of course, HE had the test results and this ticked off Mom. Why did they let him know and not her? Of course, no answer to that, but she did have good news.

Mom actually called me (this is a very, very rare occurrence and usually involves a death notice about another elderly relative or friend) so when I saw her name on the caller ID I was a bit concerned. But, not to worry – mom was actually very excited about the news she received. The doctor told her she would live to be 99 and all her vital signs were excellent. Her only regret was that if she only lives to be 99, she won’t make it on the Today Show’s list of birthdays. Bummer.

Now, to the title of this story -
when I was growing up my Mom always referred to a really good, nice person as a “good egg.” My Mom will be 85 in early March and if there is one thing I know to be true, it is that Mom is one GOOD EGG!


Pots de Creme

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought you might need a decadent dessert idea to for your sweetie. My sister Bonnie sent me this super easy and impressive dessert that she found on http://www.cooks.com/. You can make 6 small individual cups from this recipe –it’s so rich, that’s all you'll want!

2/3 cup semi sweet choc chips
1 c. Half and half
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. sugar
Dash of salt
Whipped cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat chips and half and half, stirring constantly until smooth. Cool slightly. Beat remaining ingredients; stir into chocolate mixture. Pour into 4 ungreased 6 ounce custard cups or pot de creme cups.

Place cups in baking pan on oven rack. Pour boiling water to within 1/2 inch of tops of cups. Bake 20 minutes. Cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours. Garnish with whipped cream.


A Super Super Bowl

Well, it’s that time of year again – the Super Bowl is on tonight and I plan to make a great appetizer, even though I have no idea who is playing (I think it might be New Orleans because that is what Regis and Kelly said and by the way, don’t all of you think Kelly is WAY too skinny, and her husband is soooo cute although too short). Here is a fabulous dip to take to a party or to make if you are hosting one. It is supposedly the California Pizza Kitchen’s dip – artichoke and spinach and while it has way too many ingredients, I made it yesterday and it is DEEELICIOUS!

CPK Artichoke and Spinach Dip

¼ c. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
¾ c. diced onion
1 ½ tsp. minced garlic
½ c. flour
1 ½ c. chicken broth
1 ½ c. whipping cream
¾ c. parmesan, grated
2 tbs. chicken base or 2 crumbled bouillon cubes
1 ½. tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
¾ c. sour cream
12 oz. chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed and drained
8 oz. artichoke hearts, chopped
1 c. finely shredded Monterey Jack cheese
¾ tsp. Tabasco sauce

In large saucepan, heat oil and butter. Add onion and cook 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, cook 3- 4 minutes, stirring but don’t let garlic get brown or it gets bitter. Sprinkle on flour and cook and stir 5 minutes. You need to do this so there is no “raw” flour taste which is nasty. Whisk in broth until smooth. When mixture simmers, add cream, return to simmer and remove from heat. Add parmesan, chicken base, lemon and sugar and stir until blended. Add sour cream, spinach, artichokes, Monterey Jack and Tabasco, and stir until ingredients are combined and cheese has melted. Serve NOW!

*Becky Knows Everything: This is way too much to do at the last minute, so I make it in advance and then when ready to serve, I microwave it or put it in a casserole type pan or quiche pan and bake at 325 degrees until heated (about 20 minutes). Serve with Tostitos.


Yum! Cherry Pie

When I was growing up my dad worked for a large furniture store in our hometown. Each year in celebration of George Washington’s birthday (this was LONG before President’s Day was a reality) the store would hire someone to dress up like President Washington complete with the axe that cut down the cherry tree.

My mom would dress all 5 of us in our church-best
clothing and we would go to Reidy-Scanlen for a family photo. We knew if we behaved (almost an impossible task for 4 kids only a year apart) there would be a cherry pie waiting for us at home. Mom always made a cherry pie for George Washington’s birthday. So despite the antics of Billy and John, (Mike and I were totally good and sweet and Bonnie was an adorable baby), we always managed to get through the photo shoot and then home for the pie.

Here is Mom’s cherry pie recipe along with a photo. I would be showing you a photo of a whole pie, but before I could take the picture my husba
nd got into it! So, I figured one slice was better than nothing!

Mom's Cheery Cherry Pie

2 cans pitted tart cherries, drained, but save the juice
1 c. sugar
2 tbs. quick-cooking tapioca
7 drops red food coloring (more if you want it really really red)
2 drops almond extract (optional, don’t go and buy a whole bottle if you don’t have it)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together with ¾ c. cherry juice. Let stand in bowl for 20 minutes.

Line a pie plate with an uncooked pie crust - either homemade or those easy Pillsbury ones in the refrigerator section. You need dough for two crusts so you can make that pretty lattice weave on top that ALL cherry pies have.

Pour cherry mixture into crust. Dot with about 4 tablespoons butter. Cut the second crust or dough into long narrow strips and weave them in a lattice pattern on top of the pie. You can brush the strips with a beaten egg for a glossy look like on the Food Network, but I hardly ever do this.

Bake in center of oven for 55 minutes. Pie is done when bubbly even in center. Serve with vanilla ice cream. YUM!

*Becky Knows Everything: I always put a cookie sheet on the bottom oven rack because fruit pies can be very juicy and bubble over sometimes.


Redo Update

Emily, our NYC career girl has been working hard to update her apartment using both my suggestions and her own ideas. I promised to keep you informed so check out these great photos Emily recently sent. She purchased that cute giraffe chair and a gorgeous sofa table from Pier1.

Emily recently asked for help on choosing a lamp. So far, I have only one photo for her but I will keep looking. She needs a lamp WITHOUT a dark shade (yes, I know they are good looking but as a light source the shade blocks too much) and with wattage capability of 150. Wattage of 100 will work in a pinch but 150 is better. The wattage is what causes the search difficulty - to find something fashionable and sharp often the wattages are low - like 60. Pretty much worthless as a real light source, I would consider that ambient light only. Check out the one (so far) lamp suggestion.