Best Chicken Noodle Soup

Best Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup is one of those meals that brings me back to my childhood. Yes, I was usually a little sick when it was served to me, but not too sick, perhaps on the mend from tonsillitis, something I seemed to get often. My mother heated it up from a can and I still recall the relief of the warm broth sliding down my sore throat. The simplicity of it must have been what appealed to me. As a picky eater I did not like a lot of different foods combined in one dish, such as casseroles or stews.

But chicken noodle soup was simple with mostly chicken in small cubes, broth and noodles. To my eight year old self nothing else was needed.

I still crave chicken noodle soup when I am a little under the weather. But the canned varieties don’t cut it anymore. At least I haven’t found one that I can finish. So I set out to make my own, and make enough that I can freeze and have some ready when I need it. Over the years I tried various recipes and by trial and error, came up with one that has so much flavor, in addition to being satisfying and restorative.

My broth is made from my turkey carcass from Thanksgiving. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, I removed what meat was left on the bird. Then I placed the remains into a Dutch oven, filling it with water as high as I dared. I got the water boiling, then turned it down to a simmer and let it go for 30-45 minutes. Since the turkey had been thoroughly seasoned, including the breast cavity, I did not season the broth at all. I cooled the broth, put it in containers and froze it in quart size containers.

Turkey Broth

For the full recipe, click here.

I prefer to roast my own chicken breasts but you could certainly use a rotisserie chicken. I buy a package of two chicken breasts, with the bone in. Having the bone in increases the flavor immensely. Place the chicken breasts in a roasting pan, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, then add 2 cups of water to the pan, cover with aluminum foil and return to the oven. Turn the heat down to 325 and cook for another 1 1/2 hours. I remove the cooked breasts from the oven but let them cool in the covered pan for as long as possible. The chicken will be so tender when you let it cool in its juices. This may sound like a lot of effort but I do it while I am doing other things since the hands-on time is quite limited. I only used one of those chicken breasts in my chicken noodle soup recipe. I have another to make something else with or use in a salad. Chicken breasts are so huge nowadays.

This soup is so rich, yet simple you certainly don’t have to reserve it for sick days. It is also satisfying for those times after you have over indulged and you just want to return to a healthy routine.

The recipe makes 6 ample servings, enough to share some with a sick friend.


Christmas Vignettes

I have noticed that if I wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas I feel as if I am behind.  But if I start before Thanksgiving I feel that it is too early.  So I’m left with a 24 hour window the day after Thanksgiving (when I’m still doing dishes)that the timing feels right.  But first I have to look at all the blogs to get inspiration.  Oh well, I have managed to decorate a few areas since Thanksgiving and I thought I would share some of my vignettes.

I was outside clipping holly and doing a few other chores and this little scene just happened.


Today it is in the mid-50s here so it’s a good day to do some outside decorating.


These reindeer were brass when I found them at a thrift store.  I spray painted them silver but I would love them either way.  They are some of my favorite decorations to bring out.


Another of my vintage finds was this little caroling Santa.  I am sure he was part of a set but somehow he became separated.  I gave him a setting with the tree and snow (of kosher salt).


Something about these miniature trees is magical to me.  Every year I add a few more to my stash.


I’m still working on a few areas of the house.  But it’s starting to feel like Christmas around here.

Thanksgiving Preparations

As a military spouse I started hosting Thanksgiving dinners early on since we were often away from family for the holiday.  I love the idea of Friendsgiving – in fact military families may have invented the concept-because that is what our circumstances called us to do, create a feast with friends.  Those gatherings were pretty easy since everyone brought a dish or two and they were usually fairly casual, no fine china required.  But then the time came when we wanted to host a more traditional dinner when we were stationed near family or had family visiting us.

Even I, a relaxed kind of planner, knew I needed a real plan to pull off a big holiday event like Thanksgiving.  So every year I would write down my tasks on the days I would accomplish them.  I am a back planner.  I start with the event deadline and work backwards to see where I need to start.  This method has worked pretty well over the years.  This year I created a printable  which I am sharing with you.  Maybe it will give you some ideas or a jumping off point for your own planning.  Plans are kind of individual and personal I think, so look at it as a blueprint.

This printable will get you up to Thanksgiving Day.  Then you are on your own.  Again I back plan, starting with the time I plan for us to sit down at the table.  That time dictates when the turkey goes in the oven, the vegetables get cooked, etc.  It’s like a military operation. Ha!

I’ve added some links which might inspire you as you set up your holiday table.

Thanksgiving 2016

 Serving Pieces to look for at Thrift Stores,

What’s your planning process for Thanksgiving?  Are you methodical and steady, or do you blitzkrieg the day of?


Easy and Delicious Pumpkin Cake

There are so many pumpkin recipes all over the internet right now.  Do you really need another one?  Well, yes, actually, you do need this one.

I have been making this Pumpkin Cake for years, way before pumpkin spice was even a thing.  It’s so easy; I always have the ingredients on hand; and family and guests love it.  You can’t ask much more from a recipe than that.

I discovered the recipe over 20 years ago when I needed to make a cake to celebrate Mr. Bee’s homecoming from a deployment or birthday or another such occasion.  His favorite cake is Carrot Cake but I did not have the time to make one. I found this Pumpkin Cake recipe and decided it would be an acceptable substitute since it too had cream cheese frosting, just as the Carrot Cake does.    Hoping for the best I took the chance.

It turned out to be a winner and I haven’t made Carrot Cake for twenty years.  Being able to make it in a 9 x 12 cake pan stretches the servings too, which makes it a good option for potlucks or larger gatherings.

The canned pumpkin contributes to its moist texture.  As you can see I like my frosting a little on the gooey side so it can drip down the cake.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream sets off the flavors nicely.  We are a cake and ice cream family.  No one is scorned more than people who serve their cake without ice cream.

Since Mr. Bee’s birthday is in October, this cake is the official beginning of our holiday splurge.  Find the recipe here.















Bachelor Apartment

A couple of months ago our son transitioned from living with roommates to living alone.  After searching for a few weeks, he found a small modified one bedroom apartment in a high rise.

Living with roommates, he did not own much furniture beyond a bed, a bookcase and an end table or two.  Luckily for him, his mother is a thrift store shopper and a wannabe interior decorator.  But first, I needed to know what he (my client) was picturing for the space.

 Below are some pictures of his new place on move in day.

The sofa had been in our family room for years.  We recently updated our basement family room and replaced the couch with a sectional.  I was glad to keep it in the family though.  It’s a Pottery Barn sleeper sofa and, still in pretty good shape.

A former balcony was enclosed to make another room, which he will use as a bedroom.

He was barely moved in when these bar stools popped up at my closest thrift store for $20 each.  I texted him to get his thumbs up on the purchase because I knew they would not last.

Here we are in process.

The two of us went on a shopping trip to our local Home Goods. We were hoping to find a rug and maybe a coffee table, some lamps.  There were several rugs that would work in here but we both liked this geometric blue-gray rug.  The table is just the right size for the space.  I enjoyed our shopping so much – we agreed on everything.  I was determined not to impose my aesthetic on him, but I loved what he chose.

But that slipcover is looking awfully old and faded.  It’s dragging the room down.

In the meanwhile we collaborated on the art and pictures.  I found some prints on Etsy and sent them to him to decide which he liked.   After downloading my purchases I went to Fedex Office for the print.  Then, son and I framed the print together using an Ikea frame.  The other photos are from pictures I took on previous beach vacations and framed using thrift store frames.   The large print was purchased from this shop on Etsy.   We were both glad to have an inexpensive project.

It was a shock to discover how expensive Pottery Barn slipcovers are!  The fabrics are beautiful and no doubt they are well made.  But you can buy a brand new sofa for what they cost.  I found this twill slipcover on Amazon for around $350.  That fit our budget.

It is not a perfect fit.  The sofa slipcover is quite snug.  The covers for the cushions are quite loose.  Later we might experiment by putting one of the cushion covers in the dryer to try and shrink it a little.  And yes, it’s white.   It’s what he wanted.

I kept in mind that this is a guy’s place.  He didn’t want a lot of knick-knacks around.

As you enter the apartment, this little niche is on your right.

The mirror is from Target – last one!  The table is from Home Goods.  Tray and vase are from Mom’s stash.

This cabinet used to be in our house and I used it as a bar too.  It’s a little narrow for this wall, but we are considering some options.

I think we will pause in our decorating for now.  He’s been here for three months.  As he goes forward he can notice how he uses the space and decide for himself what to add.  I do the same in my home.  I make a few changes and then live with it for awhile.

Of course I  loved being able to help.  I remember how daunting it was to set up my first place.  If only there had been blogs back then.

Halloween Decorating

Old Town Alexandria is a beautiful, historic section of Alexandria Virginia, home to George Washington.  The colonial homes and streets of that era are well preserved, making it a quaint area to stroll around.  There are also plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy.

It’s been a few years since I have visited the area during fall and my memory was one of formal and stately decorating on these lovely old homes.  So imagine my surprise when I saw  some imaginative and playful Halloween decor.  Honestly it brought such life and fun to the neighborhood.  I thought I would share some of my favorites.

bats on door, better

bats on door

Someone took the time to place those little bats very carefully.

dried hydrangea wreath, expanded front, best

This house features the traditional mums and pumpkins, with a beautiful wreath.  Then you notice that skeleton rearing up out of the flower bed.

dried hydrangea wreath, expanded front, best1

This doorway is simply elegant. The small stoop didn’t stop the homeowner from adding style and warmth to the entry.

dried hydrangea wreath, expanded front, best-2

I love the wreath with it’s beautiful loose arrangement.

dried hydrangea wreathFall Exterior, pumpkin wreathFall Exterior

That black and white ribbon on the pumpkin wreath is so fun, not to mention the yellow door! Perfection.

witch by door, another anglewitch by door

Someone is really into Halloween – they already had candy out.

Halloween, witches' legs

Halloween, witches' legs1.jpg

Seeing this fun Halloween decorating makes me want to come up with something fun for our yard or doorway.

Do you decorate for Halloween?






Thrift Store Makeover #15

For quite some time now, a small round tray has been one of those hoped-for items on the back of my mind as I rummage around  thrift and consignment stores.  No luck and I couldn’t even find one in retail stores.  Admittedly I did not look online where I’m sure I would have found plenty.  Sometimes you just want to happen upon the perfect tray at the perfect price, you know?   Last week my patience paid off  when I was browsing at Goodwill.

This is what it looked like when I found it.

I wasn’t going for the ethnic mood that this tray exhibits, but for $1.99 I could afford to experiment with it.  All it needs is a coat or three of paint.

Once home, I got out my go-to paint, Annie Sloan chalk paint in Pure White.  After cleaning the tray and removing the sticker and it’s glue, I brushed on the first coat of paint.  I love that you don’t have to sand or do any prep before using chalk paint.  It did take three coats to cover up that bright design.

Afterwards I sealed it with Annie Sloan’s clear wax.  And I achieved exactly the look I was going for!

I don’t think I will ever have too many trays.  Large or small, they add style and organization to any table.

I’m trying to finish off a few projects that have been hanging around too long.  My motivation is to finish them all before getting caught up in the holiday rush.

Happy Thrifting!


Tips for Buying Thrift Store Frames

Tips for Buying Thrift Store Frames

Buying frames from thrift stores started as an act of necessity and now it’s my default when it comes to framing artwork or photos.  It’s not only the prices, but the beauty of unique, vintage and hard to find pieces.  Even if you love Ikea frames (and I do too) adding a vintage frame here and there adds a lot of interest to your walls.

But, maybe you don’t want to collect frames so that you have a ready supply for any and every size of art.  You just want one or two frames for a project.  Here are some tips on finding the right frame at a thrift store.  The only tools you need are screwdrivers and a measuring tape.  I have used light wire cutters for removing picture hanging wire but usually heavy duty scissors will work for this also.

Before you head out, measure your artwork or your photo, whatever you are planning to frame.  If you want to mat your art (and don’t have a mat), you will need the measurements for a mat opening.  Write your measurements down.

Take a measuring tape with you to the thrift store.  It’s the only way to be sure your picture will fit.  If the frame has a mat, measure the opening around the art to see if it is the right size for your project.

 Once you have found a frame that might work, look it over carefully for any nicks, dents, scratches.  Inspect the corners where the frame is joined.  Then check the back to see how easily it can be taken apart.  Even if this is your first experience with dismantling a frame you will be able to tell the easy ones apart from the more difficult.  These two are easy.


I try to find framed pictures that come with a mat, especially a white or cream colored mat.  That cuts down on many other steps like getting a mat that is the right size for the frame and the art.  A custom cut mat can add to your cost.

This is the front of the black frame pictured above.  It is an 11×14 frame with a mat that has an 8×10 opening.  The photo is one I took of the ocean on one of our beach vacations.  I edited it to make it seem a little more artsy, then had it printed at Walgreens.  The frame was about $4, printing was about the same so for under $10 you have something for your walls.  I did this one for my son who is setting up an apartment.  More to come on that later.

The gold color and ridged texture on this tabletop frame attracted me.  It had no mat but I knew with it’s standard size I could buy one very inexpensively.

Of course, tabletop frames are made for easily inserting photos or art.

Sometimes I violate my own rules and buy a frame that does not have a mat.  This frame was perfect for some art I had purchased online.  Read this post about finding inexpensive art online.

‘Not so great, is it?  Frame shops will custom cut a mat for you and it is not prohibitively expensive.  I recommend taking the frame and picture in to be sure the cut is accurate.  That is my plan for this picture.

Lately I have been gravitating to these modern black frames.  Notice the one above has a square mat opening.  It measures 9×9, and it is brown.  So that mat probably won’t work for me.  However, since the frame is 11×14, I can easily get a mat to fit.  I will return the art to the thrift store since it won’t work for me, but may for someone else.

I bought this artwork on Minted and to my mind it works beautifully with this vintage frame.  The soft colors in the artwork meld with the mat and the frame.  The dings and nicks on the frame are part of the charm.  I’ve had this frame for so long that I can’t remember the cost.  But I do remember it was a chore to get the previous artwork out, professionally and thoroughly installed as it was.  Then placing my art and making sure it was centered was not at all easy.  I saved a lot of money but it took some time to get it done correctly.  All worth it to me.

Sometimes the art and the framing go so well together that I cannot dismantle them, like the one above.  Can you see the blue in the frame which picks up on the blue in the picture?  Luckily I liked the art and had a place for it.  Which brings me to another point.

I try not to buy frames and pictures that go together so well that it’s a shame to rip them apart.  Usually the prices are higher on those items anyway.

While I have had a few mishaps in my framing adventures I recommend it as a great way to get unique and inexpensive frames for your art.

So, are you ready to try your hand at framing with a thrift store frame?  Start small and maybe you will become hooked as I have.

Updating the Master Bedroom

Updating the Master Bedroom

Our master bedroom has looked like this for years.  At various times there were attempts to make it inviting and cozy.  I made the bedskirt and the pillow covers, as well as the curtains.  Yet for all the softness and texture that fabric can bring, the room lacked warmth.

It was one of those situations in which I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I decided to start with the obvious. There was no question that a new rug was needed, something soft underfoot that would add warmth and beauty to the room most of us want to be a sanctuary.

The room called for something traditional but edging toward modern.  And it absolutely had to fit the room.  No more making do with cast offs from other rooms.  I looked at several websites, but settled on the Wayfair site pretty quickly.  I knew this rug was the one the moment I saw it.  And it wouldn’t break the bank to get it in an 8 x 10 size.

The pattern was just interesting enough but wouldn’t box out any other decorating decisions to come.  And the gray and cream colors are pretty neutral.

After this decision was made, it was pretty easy to click over to headboards. The four poster bed had had its day.  Our style is still traditional but something I think of as modern traditional.  It was a difficult decision to move it out – we’ve had it forever!  Does everyone attach as much sentiment to their belongings as Mr. Bee?  Finally, I got him to agree to move it on.  It hasn’t gone very far however.  It’s still in the garage.

And getting rid of the heavy wooden bed frame would make putting down the rug much easier.  I bought a metal frame so that when we removed the wooden frame, we could place the rug, then set up the metal frame for the box spring and mattress.  So easy!  The headboard came later and was simple to place against the wall.

Without the big four post bed the room felt much more spacious and more modern, even though there are still antiques in the room.  The new headboard is  very reasonably priced at $250. Assembly went without a hitch.

With these changes, the curtains looked more humble than ever.  Searching online I found the ones I liked on the Target website.  A pretty blue, linen-like fabric, they are light filtering which the others were not. That is  a big plus since the morning sun streams into that window by the nightstand.

I moved this chair from the desk to this corner.  It would never have fit there before with the previous bed.

The room isn’t quite where I want it to be yet, but it’s getting there.  I’m trying out art and pillows from other rooms.  Probably new lamps would help too?  Still considering options there.  As someone who loves to read in bed, lamps can’t be just pretty.  They have to provide good light.

Starting with the obvious need for change, the rug, really got the ball rolling. Do you have rooms that make you wonder where to begin?  Start with the obvious, the worst flaw in the room and see if that works for you.

And it’s nice not to have  to climb up into bed anymore.  Now we can just fall in.

Have a great week!

Rose Arbor

Rose Arbor

You may recall that earlier this summer I posted about my roses which were having their most prolific year yet.  If you missed it you can read about that here.  This  year there was an explosion of flowers and vines and I suddenly realized I was going to have to provide a better structure.  Otherwise I was going to have a big tangled mess on my hands.  Soon after that post  I met with a local fence and deck company representative and signed a contract for an arbor.   And, finally, this past weekend, the workmen came to build it.

It is probably better to put the arbor up first, then plant your roses, or at least plan where an arbor might go before planting.  However, I was not at all sure I would be able to grow these very persnickety flowers since I get very little sun in my yard.  The site I ordered my roses from specified that most roses need at least 8 hours of sunlight a day.  I found one little corner of my yard that might just possibly meet those requirements and crossed my fingers.

Two years later, I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Can you see that flimsy, struggling support trying to hold up this flourishing beauty?  At least a couple of times a week I had to go out and shore it up with braces and cinder blocks and rope.   It was apparent the supports were not going to last much longer with such abundance.

I intended for there to be a lattice panel on the back side of the arbor,  in addition to the sides.  This is not the type of arbor you can walk through.  There is a lower flower bed behind the roses which prevents anyone from attempting it.   Of course with the iron bench in place, it is even more obvious.  But now I am not sure.  One rose bush will have to be relocated or removed if I do so.  I will have to think about it.   I do like the idea of an enclosed little spot in the garden.  But I have a feeling that moving that rose bush will result in its demise.   Possibly I can get a few vines to criss-cross in the back there.  And that would create the enclosure I want.  I will mull it over, which is how I make all my decisions.

I had to do a little trimming on the rose vines in order to pry them apart from the  supports and each other.  That was not an easy task and I waited until the last minute to do it.  Since August is not the recommended season for rose pruning I hope they survive.  But I can always order more, right?  The construction progress was hard on my grass, but it will come back.

When we bought our house the backyard was a slope down to the driveway, with very few plantings other than azaleas along the fence on the right side.   At first our improvements hardly seem to make a difference.  But the accumulation of small projects has entirely changed the space.  There is so much pleasure in seeing a garden evolve.

I don’t seem to have any before pictures.  It was the early 2000s.  We weren’t taking so many pictures back then.

I’m looking forward to having coffee out here soon!  That morning sun looks so inviting.


I’m already thinking ‘what took me so long to do this?’.  But, I remind myself that inspiration takes time and ideas evolve and build on one another.