Catching The Torch

Trials by Fire in Hostessing, Motherhood, Life

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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.





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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


Downton Abbey Review, Episode 3

Downton Abbey Review Episode 3

Ok, Downton.  I’m a little less angry with you after last week.  I think sensitive subject matters are being handled well and the acting is superb.  I’m looking at you, Penelope Wilton, and your heartbreakingly internal portrayal of grief.  Thomas is just hilarious in this episode and some minimal justice is being served.  Let’s begin with what this series is really all about, shall we?

The Love Stories


Who else is glad that Mary gave Lord Boringham the heave-ho?  Even if she was in love with him, she was sort of obligated to say no to the Worst Marriage Proposal Imaginable:  “I mean, he was a nice chap, but he’s dead and I’m alive.”  Additionally, his whole “I followed you.  You’re in my brain”  vibe is quite creepy.  Mary is right to steer clear: he might secretly want to enjoy her brain with a nice Chianti…  Keep Matthew in your brain, Mary, and concentrate on the rain, the hills, and the sheep.

The Below-Stairs Love Rectangle: 

I finally get it.  Jimmy/Ivy/Alfred are acting out the Mr. Carson/Alice/Mr. Grigg love story.  Spoiler alert (that I am making up): Jimmy is going to sweep Ivy away to a life of debts and infidelity and she is going to regret not choosing Steady Freddy.  Alfred will channel his grumpiness into his career and become a respected chef, holding a place of authority in a big house, just like Carson.  And have we completely forgotten that Daisy is heiress to a farm and a chunk of cash?  Mrs. Patmore better learn to use that mixer because she’s about to lose her help.

Rose and Everybody: 

Rose, please date the singer.  Let’s have a True Class Trumps Racial Prejudice plot-line.  Side note: Mr. Ross, why are you singing like that?  I don’t get it.

Edith and Mr. Gregson:

Edith.  Your man is shady.  Also, get home before the maids get up.  Also, did you read that document you just signed?  This plot is about to get scandalous in the best way. (Also, I LOVE your bejeweled headband.  Please burn the orange Hammer Pants jumpsuit)

The Parents

Cora and Robert:

Still clueless.  Let’s begin with Cora.  Does this woman mourn anything other than the loss of a ladies maid?  I’m loving her fashion this season though – her blouses are fabulous.  And Robert is still fighting to pay the taxes his way for no other reason, seemly, than he wants it his way.  Bravo to Mary for calmly sticking to her guns: “You always said we were the caretakers of Downton, not the owners.  Let’s take care of it.”  Matthew would be proud.

Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson:

The true parental figures of the entire household are of course Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.  Mrs. Hughes laying the smack-down on Edna was fantastic.  I loved that she called her out on her so-called “seduction” of Tom by getting him completely drunk.  However, the line about laying Edna down and stripping her for a forced medical examination provided a sad look at how women’s bodies were (are?) devalued by society. Feel free to discuss in the comments.

I adored the scene of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes having a nightcap together at the end of the day.  Sneaky sneaky, giving Mr. Carson an “expensive” framed portrait of his childhood love to keep on his desk.  It will also serve as a daily reminder of his kindhearted good friend, Mrs. Hughes.  As it is with most parents, their reverie is interrupted when one of their “children” need them and we come to…


Well, I must say, I have hopes that the rape plot-line will be handled well if Anna’s conversation with Mrs. Hughes in any indication.  “It’s not your fault,” “We must go to the police” “You were attacked by an evil man” “No man should…get away with it.”  Thank you, writers.  Now please please follow through.  And with Mrs. Hughes‘ new role as President of the Meddling in Other People’s Affairs Society, I have a feeling there actually may be justice for all. I think putting Anna in situations where she has to face her attacker over and over again in daily life (the breakfast table, the prospect of him visiting again) is very real. Joanne Froggart as Anna gives an incredible performance not just with the stodgy lines she’s given, but every look, shudder, and vocal quaver.   Twirling and pulling at her wedding ring as she confesses that she feels “dirty” and “not good enough for Mr. Bates after what’s happened” was extremely effective.  The strain of this crime on their marriage is heartbreaking, and I hope the writers decide to bring us all through it without any broken hearts or broken necks.

Let’s discuss!

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Overnight Egg Casserole – my mom’s kitchen

Overnight Egg Casserole

Prep time: 20 minutes  Cook time: 45 minutes  Total Time: About 1 hour plus overnight


  • 9 eggs
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 5 pieces bacon
  • 1/2 bag shredded potatoes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Red pepper


Cook bacon on low heat in pan.  Chop red pepper.  When bacon is cooked, set aside, drain most of grease, and toss red pepper in bacon pan to brown slightly.  (about 3 minutes).  While bacon is cooking, grease a 9″x13” casserole dish (or cake pan) and pour in shredded potatoes.  Smooth to create a level layer.  Crack eggs on top of potatoes, break yolks with a fork.  Add 1/2 cheese.  Add bacon and red pepper.  Add the rest of the cheese.  Pour 1/2 cup heavy cream evenly over casserole.  Refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, cook for 45 minutes in a 350* oven.

My favorite part of this recipe is the opportunity for creativity.  Aunt Helga doesn’t like red peppers?  Substitute mushrooms!  You don’t care for bacon but have some sausage links in the freezer?  Fry them, chop them, and add to the casserole!  Cooking for Christmas?  Red and green peppers are oh-so-festive.  It’s up to you to make it your own.  Riff away and enjoy!

Tip 1: You don’t have to cook the veggies; it just adds a depth of flavor that I love.

Tip 2: Oh no, you forgot to buy heavy cream!!  Don’t worry – just use the fattiest milk you have.  If you have skim, whip in some sour cream to thicken it up a bit.

Tip 3: Run down to the kitchen when you get up, turn the oven on, and stick the casserole in.  Go get dressed.  Don’t forget to set a timer.

For more ideas, read: Some Like it Hot: Breakfast Solutions

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Not-so-eggy Egg Casserole


Prep time: 20 minutes  Cook time: 40 minutes  Total Time: 1 hour


  • 1 bag Simply Potatoes shredded potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 lb breakfast sausage
  • Bunch of chives
  • 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese


Grease 8″x 8″ pan.  Cook sausage.  Drain, crumble.  Whisk eggs with milk.  Layer: potatoes, egg mix, 1/2 cheese, sausage, 1/2 cheese, chives.  Bake for 40 minutes in 350* oven.

For more ideas, read Some Like it Hot: Breakfast Solutions


Hi there.

My mother is the consummate hostess. Cozy blankets beckoning from every perch, hot breakfast presented the very moment you stumble out of the guestroom. Kind conversation, complete indifference to breakages and spills, drinks for every particular thrist. My father contributes media, stoic patience and an endless well of generosity toward everyone who crosses their threshold.

My in-laws love life, and celebrate every moment well and with gusto. The wine flows, the cheese blooms, and crackers confetti the air. It’s always a party when you knock on their door.

My husband is a kind, funny, hard-working, wonderful soul who works in the upscale part of the food service industry. He could work beside Martha Stewart, Gordon Ramsey, or Carson the Butler without batting an eye and possibly teach them a thing or two.

Then there’s me. Singer, teacher, creator. I love having guests and hosting and throwing a party. However, I am the person who burns the roast because I was singing arias that were louder than the kitchen timer. I’ve dropped multiple pieces of china because I was reading a novel while setting the table. Crockpot creativity resulted in an infamous recipe forever known as Brown Sludge. I literally set my mother-in-law’s oven on fire because I got distracted while baking apple pie. Add two fantastic, bombastic toddlers who have assumed the roles of sous chefs and I have had some adventures in the kitchen.

Hostessing is an acquired skill, and I have had many wonderful examples. I’ve also learned a lot in my five years of marriage and motherhood; of hosting holidays, birthdays, and many overnight visits by our amazing relatives who travel hundreds of miles to see us. I’ve learned to entertain with a budget, cook to accommodate allergies, use recipes representing our current hometown, and set up three different guest rooms in the various places we’ve lived. Recently, I nearly died of shock when a guest asked if the homemade breakfast muffins were brought in from Panera.

Carrying on family traditions, presenting holidays, creating a home, and raising babies is what makes family the family. We watch our parents go about it as a matter of course, and possibly appreciate the effort that lies therein. Yet as it always has, the Family Torch is passed to the next generation. And that generation is Me. And You. Let’s catch the torch together.

Thanks for reading and I know together we can do this with style, grace, creativity. And probably without burning down the house.