Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life


“Quel désastre!”

Quel desastre!!

Have you ever had a disaster in the kitchen?  I’ve had several.  Today let’s tell a few stories of disasters large and small, and your creative remedies.  I’ll start:


Brown Sludge:

When the Hubs and I were newly married, I decided to get all domestic and learn to use the crockpot.  I made some dinner with great success by meticulously  following a recipe.  I decided that I had acquired Universal Knowledge regarding the crockpot, and invented another recipe the following week.  Into the pot went frozen chicken, raw rice, pineapple, tapioca (??), garlic, sugar, and a variety of other spices and sauces I thought would combine nicely.  I cooked it on High for about 11 hours, and it smelled delicious.  I proudly opened the lid to plate my creation, and found…Brown Sludge.  The texture was sticky, bumpy, and congealed. The appearance was brown, slimy, and diaper-like.  No one on Earth could’ve identified the chicken vs the rice vs the tapioca blobs.  The taste was a decent combination of garlic, pineapple and BBQ sauce.

I figured we’d eat it.

Brown Sludge

I served it up to my poor husband who was recovering from the flu.  He manfully took a few bites and asked if we had any cereal…


Pepper Grinder Explosion:

One day, whilst trying to prepare dinner with the help of my hungry and bored 1-year-old, I handed him a couple of spice bottles, including the black pepper grinder.  He immediately began to use them as drumsticks on the wooden floor, and I went about my cooking.  About a week later, we had guests for dinner and I was trying out a new recipe (always a good idea…) that I hadn’t actual read (an even better idea…)  It was a grilling recipe, and I was to prepare the marinade, rice, and grilled items, and the Hubs was to do the actual grilling.  Because he’s awesome (and knows me well enough to panic internally when I tell him I’m trying a new recipe that I haven’t really read), he took some spices and oils out to the grill with him.  About 10 minutes into the grilling, I was summoned outside.  It seemed that while seasoning the vegetables, the black pepper grinder top flew off and broke into pieces of plastic all over the food.  It also spilled the full measure of the bottle over the vegetables: about 6 TBS of black pepper.  A bit too much for most palates…  Because I’m me, I did not have extra vegetables in the house, so we couldn’t simply chuck them out and start again.  After a quick conference, I headed inside and grabbed the splatter shield and the strainer.  We flipped the pan of veggies onto the splatter shield, then scraped them into the strainer.  After the majority of the black peppers were contained, and the overly-seasoned veggies were fed to the birds, we quietly scooped the salvageable ones back into the grill pan, and away we went.



Here are a few Quick Fixes for Cooking Disasters:

  1. Too spicy: Add a dairy or a sweetener: milk, sour cream, cream cheese plain greek yogurt, jam…
  2. Too salty: Add acid (like lemon juice – not the stuff that will kill people…)
  3. Meat is overcooked: Chop it up and throw it on salad or grains with sauce/dressing
  4. Pan fire: Fire extinguisher, but baking soda will work in a flash!
  5. It is an unsalvageable disaster: Salute it, throw it in the trash, pour a glass of wine and order pizza!

What are your stories?  Quick fixes?  Please share!

And of course, no post would be complete without a new recipe.  Here’s that grill recipe I was talking about, minus the 6 TBS of black pepper…

Grill-tastic Dinner for a Crowd









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Grill-tastic Dinner for a Crowd



Here’s a fantastic, easy dinner that is super-easy to make, and allows you to look like a genius.

Prep time: 15 minutes plus 6 hours for marinating    Grill time: 30 minutes     Serves 6


  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 6 cups chopped vegetables/fruit (I used mushrooms, peppers, onions, and pineapple)
  • 2.5 cups of rice, uncooked, plus amount of water/broth on package
  • 4 cups olive oil (or 2 cups olive oil, 2 cups vegetable oil)
  • 2 TBS of olive oil
  • 2 cups Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 cup cooking wine
  • 3 TBS minced garlic
  • 4 TBS Dried Tarragon
  • Salt and pepper


Mix oil, vinegar, cooking wine, garlic, 3 TBS tarragon, salt and pepper in large bowl.  Divide into thirds.  Mix raw chicken in with 1/3 of marinade, cover  and refrigerate for 6 hours.  Stir occasionally.  Consult rice cooking method.  I use a rice cooker, so I know my rice will be done in 30 minutes.  If using boxed rice, read directions and begin rice first.  About 30 minutes before meal time, preheat grill.  Toss veggies with 1 TBS olive oil, salt and pepper, and put in a grill pan (or wrap in foil)  When grill is ready, begin cooking chicken, about 12 minutes per side on a medium-low grill until no pink in middle.  Flip once.  Baste chicken with 1/3 marinade throughout.  When you flip chicken (about 12 minutes in), put veggies on grill.  Once grilled food is done, cover and plate the rice.  Toss rice with remaining 2 TBS olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and tarragon.  Spoon onto your biggest serving platter.  Carve chicken across the width and arrange in middle of rice.  Arrange veggies on either side of the chicken.   Microwave remaining 1/3 marinade for 45 seconds and pour over entire thing.  Serve with a giant fresh salad and fresh bread.





Creating a Sanctuary

Creating a Sanctuary

It is not news that we mothers take care of everyone.  It is also not news that we often feel as if we are failing in one area or another: we yelled today, the house is never clean, we arrived at Target accessorized in dried yogurt, the kids didn’t eat the healthy part of the meal.

Whether you are a work-out-of-the-house mom, a work-from-home-mom or a manage-your-home-mom, the workload practically triples when you have kids.

How can you possibly not have time keep the house clean?  You used to!  Well, you have triple the laundry (which includes scrubbing of bodily fluids), double the food preparation, and if you have young children, months or years of interrupted sleep.

How are you not put together?  You used to be!  Well, you’ll always hug your kids, even if they have food on their face and fingers.  You may not have had 5 consecutive hours of sleep in a long while which makes it very hard to rise at the alarm.  Your body is recovering from growing and housing babies and is forever different.  Remember, it took 10 months for the baby to grow and leave – it should take at LEAST that long to recover.

How are you not doing that one thing you love?  You used to have hours for _____!  Becoming a parent is a life-exploding, intense experience.  I think dedicating time and effort to your passion is extremely important and vital to your well-being.   The truth is, it’s hard to remember what you love when you are wrapped up in caring for this little person you love more than life.

We’ll discuss these issues at length in later posts, but I think these are the top three issues that boggle new moms.  I know they boggle me.

What has helped in my life is creating a sanctuary.  Literally, a space.


A place in my home filled with things I love and that make me Katy.  It’s helped me remember who I am at my core.  Kids don’t need a generic mother, they need their mother.  A fascinating woman full of interests and desires who loves them completely.  It’s important to keep that woman afloat, and a space for yourself is a good way to do that.

A sanctuary is a space that you keep clean and free of other people’s things.

Maybe it’s your bathroom.  Maybe you keep toys off the counter and kids out of the drawers. Maybe you keep a vase of pretty flowers or a houseplant on your sink to give the day a bit of beauty.

Maybe it’s a chair with a table that you always keep polished and clutter-free.  Maybe a stack of books and snacks are stashed out of reach for you to grab in that rare solitary moment.

Maybe it’s the porch.  Maybe you try to sweep it and keep a cheery plant or two alive.  Maybe your knitting basket is tucked away in the closet and you take it outside for a few minutes every day.

Maybe it’s a spare table in the basement or office with room for your creative supplies.

Maybe it’s a floor that you always keep clear for your yoga mat, with work-out clothes tucked away nearby.

Maybe it’s a piano or guitar and your music

Maybe it’s the kitchen because you take great creative joy in cooking.  Maybe you keep the counters wiped even if the rest of the house is a disaster.

Maybe it’s an altar with the writings of your belief system.  Maybe there are candles, flowers, a cushion.

In any case, there’s something about having a space of your own.  Maintaing your space and using it can give you a sense of comfort and peace amid the chaos and uncertainty.  Virginia Woolf reminds us,

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

I’m not saying that you must write to justify your space.  (Nor am I advocating filling your pockets with rocks and taking a walk in a river…)  However, it is important to set aside a bit of money and some space to maintain our identities.  A little of that scary budget for ourselves, and the dedication of some space and time to be who we are.  Even if you don’t visit your space as often as you may like, it is there for you to see every day.  It is allows you take a deep breath, lift your chin, and say,

I am Mom, but I am ultimately Me.  I can do this.

Let’s give ourselves space to be ourselves, together.

Do you have a sanctuary?  What will you create?  What are some of the elemental things that make you you?

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Mama’s Sanctuary

Mama's Sanctuary

I’ve thought long and hard about throwing my hat in the ring of Mommy Bloggers.  I’ve agonized over my tone: Will I sound “know-it-all,” because I surely don’t.  Will my babies read my words someday and feel sad that I complained?  Since Blondela was tiny, I wanted to write about Motherhood, but struggled with the point.  My point.  What do I want to say?  How can I, a girl who feels like she’s often making it up, contribute positively to this conversation?  If I am searching for the elusive answers to Motherhood, how can I possibly have anything to say about it?

After talking to my very inspirational friend Alysa over at, I figured it out:  We Mamas need a space.  A safe space to talk honestly about Motherhood.  A kind space where we attempt to help each other rather than deride and brag.  A space for encouragement, especially by veteran Mamas to us newbies.  A space for humor, for tears, for real.

I humbly hope to provide such a space on my blog.  A corner of the big wide internet that is kind and hopeful for Mamas.

If you are interested in the another place for honesty and kindness that fosters cooking and fellowship, please visit Alysa and her beautiful blog

Are you a mom?  Do you have something you’d like to ask or discuss?  Do you have words of wisdom?  Please share!!

The next step is giving yourself that space.  Let’s find how how together over at Creating a Sanctuary

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A Room of One’s Own: The Guest Quarters

A Room of One's Own - The Guest Quarters

When we moved to the South, we looked for a home that had a room reserved for guests.  We knew we’d be hosting family, friends, and pilgrims on their journey to Disney World.  Our guest room is in the basement, and it was my job to fit it out in preparation of our first booking.  I blocked a week off of my schedule, and hopped over to Restoration Hardware to purchase everything I would need.

Bwahahaha!.  No.  I had a budget of $0.00 and one week worth of naptimes to complete this project.  If you are not familiar with Mom-time, this was between 0-10 hours.

This, like scrappy dinners, is my favorite kind of project:  It takes creativity, ingenuity, and using what you have.  I loved this challenge.  And I must say, no one has complained.  The best thing I had on my side for this was boxes of random pictures, knickknacks, and other accouterments of life tucked away.  My dad has this axiom regarding “stuff”:  When in Doubt, Throw it Out.

My axiom is: When in Doubt: Stuff it in a Box and Put it Away For Later.

If you don’t have boxes of stuff, use your imagination!  Steal things from other rooms that are crowding or just don’t go. I’m sure you can fit out your guest space in a way that will make everyone proud.

A Place to Lay Your Head:

We had inherited an old king bed that I insisted on carting around with us from house to house.  It quickly became our guest bed.  When our old master-bedroom comforter tore and we wanted to buy a new one, I sewed it up, threw it in the washer, and up-cycled it as guest linen.

I did not have extra sham pillow inserts for the old bedding set, and buying new ones did not fit into my budget of $0.00.  I did, however, have several old regular bed pillows.  I stuffed them into the sham covers and wiggled and beat them until they looked respectable.

I also borrowed a few extra couch pillows that matched-ish to make the bed pretty.


I brainstormed what might be the barest of necessities I might enjoy while sleeping away from home.  I came up with:

  1. A place to put my glasses and book
  2. A reading light
  3. A trash can
  4. A place to put my clothes

I decided our guest room would provide:

  1. Old, mis-matched lamps were spray-painted and put in appropriate places
  2. Side tables came in the form of one hand-me-down actual bedside table and an old, particle board couch side table from my husband’s bachelor apartment.
  3. Done.
  4. An old dresser and a spare giant ottoman from a very old chair to use as suitcase holder.

Next I brainstormed what I might love in a fancy hotel:


  1. Room service
  2. A claw-foot tub
  3. Chocolates on my pillow
  4. Bottles of water
  5. Information about the place I was visiting
  6. Laundry service
  7. A Butler

Here’s what our guests will enjoy based on that list:

  1. No.
  2. Wouldn’t it be great?
  3. There are M&M’s in the cupboard.  Go crazy.
  4. Yes!!  In a wicker basket that I found in the basement and pulled some Christmas felt thing off of
  5. Back issues of Southern Living, our latest town newspaper, and any novels I have that are set in the South.  With the water bottles in the wicker basket
  6. A laundry basket and a tutorial about how to use the washer/dryer
  7. No.


Irish Blessing

  • Pull pictures and posters from your life and lay them all out on the living room floor.  Cobble together a set that goes with your linens
  • Take pictures of the native landscape or flowers.  Print and frame them in your best 8×10, black, repaired with black Sharpie frames.
  • Any little sign with welcoming words or blessings.  You can always print and frame one!  My favorite is the Irish Blessing:

May the roads rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fall soft upon your fields.

Until we meet again, my friend,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

“Headboard”/Statement Piece

If a bed is in the center of the room, everything looks better with a headboard or a giant picture.  I do not have a spare headboard.  I also did not have the budget to DIY a headboard out of plywood and stuffing like they do on HGTV.  I didn’t even have a giant picture – all my big stuff was already in the main living space.

What I did have was a few yards of extra curtain material and a hideous print of geraniums in a pink plastic frame that was left behind at our old house.  It was huge.  It was ugly.  I got a ton of grief from everyone because I insisted on dragging in across the country.

Boy am I glad I did!  Here’s how I made my “Statement Piece”:

Statement Piece

  1. Got out my kids’ finger paint and mixed until I got a nice brown.
  2. Used a dinosaur paint sponge to apply paint to ugly pink plastic frame
  3. Let frame dry
  4. Cut fabric to fit inside frame, leaving enough on the edges to “fold” so raw edges weren’t exposed
  5. Fit fabric inside of frame
  6. Hammered a few nails and stuck it on the wall.

If you have a big frame, or several smaller ones, fabric is cheap and very easy to work with.  My only tip is never go to JoAnn’s without a coupon – there is always a coupon.

My guest room is a work in progress: projects down the line include paint and curtains made from old curtains.  However, we’ve loved hosting guests in their own little space, and sharing with them a bit of our lives and the place we call home.

Truly, with some spare furniture, a budget of $0.00 and not a whole lot of time, you can make a cozy, welcoming space for your guests.  This can apply if your guests are sleeping in guest suites or on air-mattresses in the office or on the couch.  Let’s summarize:

The Necessary:

  • Pillow
  • Sheets
  • Blanket
  • Sleeping surface
  • Towels
  • Place for iPhone, book, glasses, etc
  • Place to tuck away personal belongings and clothes

The Niceties:

  • Bottles of water or glasses and a carafe
  • Extra iStuff cord and the WiFi password
  • Reading material, especially pertaining to your slice of the Earth
  • Trash Can
  • Laundry Basket
  • Place to hang anything they might need to hang
  • A welcoming verse, poem, or picture

For extra fun, here’s scrappy dinner recipe to go with the scrappy guest-room.  A few fridge ingredients are gussied up for a dinner that is lovely for guests or as a personal reward:

Lovely Tarragon Pasta

Lovely Tarragon Pasta



Lovely Tarragon Pasta

Lovely Tarragon Pasta

Here’s a delicious fresh pasta dish to celebrate the first day of spring!  Tarragon is an interesting herb that gives an otherwise heavy dish a pop of freshness.  Try something new and clean out your veggie drawer at the same time!

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • Bunch of fresh tarragon, chopped (or 2 TBS dried)
  • Olive Oil
  • Leftover veggies (I like mushrooms, zucchini, and onions)
  • Minced Garlic
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or sour cream or cream cheese)
  • Your favorite pasta
  • Finely chopped roasted pecans or pine nuts (optional)
  • Shredded parmesan cheese for garnish


Boil water for pasta.  Heat pan and cook bacon on low heat until crispy.  Cook in batches.   Dump grease as necessary.  While bacon is cooking, chop vegetables, and make salad and bread if you like.  When bacon is cooked, drain on paper towel-lined plate.  Pour all but a bit of remaining grease from pan.  Toss in minced garlic and cook for no more than 1 minute.  Do not let it turn brown.  Add a bit of olive oil and the vegetables.  Cook until soft.  Add chicken stock and tarragon, bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add heavy cream and cook on low, stirring until well-mixed and at a nice consistency.  Add crumbled bacon.  Stir in pasta.  Serve and enjoy!

Want more Clean-Out-the-Fridge dinners?  Try Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Leftover Chicken or Ooh La La Frittata!


Ooh La La Frittata

Ooh La La Frittata

Truly, there is no kitchen creativity I love more than transforming miscellaneous ingredients into a fabulous meal.  This has resulted in brilliance and disaster.  Ask the Hubs about the infamous Brown Sludge… Luckily, the following recipes lean more toward the delicious side of the spectrum.

This one may not please some who don’t enjoy having “breakfast” for dinner, but it has protein, veggies, cheese, and you’ll serve it with salad and bread, so I say it counts.

This one will get rid of your spare half-cut veggies.  Peppers, mushrooms, peas, and/or onions will all shine in this dish.  Celery, carrots, lettuce, maybe not.  Tomatoes will get mushy, but maybe you like that sort of thing.  The original recipe calls for bacon and perhaps you have some left over.  However, you can chop up any extra lunch meat and substitute that as well.   Technically, this is a breakfast or brunch item, but as I stated in Some Like it Hot: Breakfast Solutions, I never would have time to make it in the morning.


  • 1 1/2 TBS butter
  • 8 slices bacon, ham, or other lunch meat (chopped)
  • 1 cup chopped veggies
  • A few basil leaves, torn
  • 8 large eggs, beaten
  • 5 oz goat cheese (thickly sliced)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Grated Parmesan (or other hard cheese)
  • Large handful of arugula leaves (or leafy salad)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing


Preheat your oven to Broil.  Melt butter in a large (preferably non-stick) skillet.  Cook the meat until brown and crisp.  Toss in the veggies and cook for another minute or two, then add the basil.

Beat the eggs and pour them into the skillet.  Gently shake skillet over medium heat.  Frittata will begin to set at the bottom.  Top with goat cheese.  Arrange your slices nicely.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle grated parmesan over frittata and place pan under the hot broiler for a minute or two until the eggs are set on top.  PUT AN OVEN MITT ON YOUR HAND.  Remove pa and oh-so-carefully slide frittata onto a large plate.  Lightly dress arugula leaves with vinaigrette, then pile on top of the frittata.  Cut into wedges and serve with crust bread.

For more ideas, see Leftovers: Scraping Together the Scraps of Your Party