All posts in Stuff I Like

Simple Cabinet Organization Solution

We needed a better solution for our cabinet for cutting boards, pizza pans, cookie sheets, etc. – mostly vertical storage, but with one shallow shelf to store a couple of pans. We made this from leftover boards and screws in our garage. Cost for materials: $0. Justification for keeping my scrap bin full: priceless.

Our original cabinet space

Our original cabinet space

BTW, this might go in my Old Redneck Workshop posts...the grooves going from side to side were the first ones I cut - the wrong direction! So, I just cut some new ones the right way.

BTW, this might go in my Old Redneck Workshop posts…the grooves going from side to side were the first ones I cut – the wrong direction! So, I just cut some new ones the right way.

Top shelf and bottom piece secured.

Top shelf and bottom piece secured.

Add the dividers

Add the dividers

All done!

All done!

Everything in place.

Everything in place.

Finding Life in the Garden

It’s October now and, even in balmy Charleston, our garden is about done. As I think back on this year’s version of our Garden Project, it occurs to me that there are parallels to be seen in gardening and life. Jesus seemed to be fond of showing people the deep truths of life in the simple and familiar things that we experience and work in every day. Stories of mustard seeds, sowing seeds, pulling weeds, fig trees… God even started everything off with a Garden.

I don’t have any intentions of matching the theology of Jesus, but here are a few things I’ve noticed that gardening has in common with life:

  • Timing is everything.
  • Embrace our partnership with God. There is a part that only He can do and there is a part that He asks us to do.
  • Follow the instructions. Invest in watering, weeding and care. If we are faithful, the harvest will nearly always be great.
  • Sometimes, even when we do everything right, something goes wrong doesn’t go the way we had hoped and we don’t know why. This is the providence of God.
  • Don’t forget to witness and value the miracles that abound in everyday life.
  • Sometimes God will surprise you. When you think the bell peppers aren’t going to make it, they produce a bumper crop.
  • Some of the best things in life happen in the morning.
  • Pull weeds early on. It’s much more painful and difficult once they’ve taken root.
  • It all starts with good soil. It may not smell great, but…
  • There is value in patience. Some things cannot be rushed.

Lord, help us to see YOU in all that we do. Show us the deep things of life in the simple. Help us to invest our hearts in our families, kids, jobs and… gardens – the way You invest in us.

Garden Project: Phase III – Tending the Garden

This is my favorite part of the garden project. Watering the plants. Stirring the soil. Pulling the weeds (which are very few with this new mushroom compost). Watching the miracles of growth. Watching the plants climb, flower…tiny little vegetables forming. There is something therapeutic about it all – partnering with God…a little.

Here are some photo updates:

Garden Project: Phase II – Planting Day

We have been preparing for our garden for some time now and Planting Day finally arrived. We always plant on the Saturday after Good Friday, which puts us a little later in the season this year, but no worries. We had to clean out the winter growth from garden bed. Our good friends Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo made a generous donation to our venture this year – a truck load of rich organic mushroom mulch! I snapped a few shots over the past couple of weeks and then set up an interval timer series with my Nikon D200 on a tripod while we were actually planting the garden.

This year, we are just planting basic, staple vegetables – zucchini squash, yellow straight neck squash, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, sweet red peppers and cantaloupe. We may try some smaller raised box beds on another part of our yard that gets full sun nearly all day. Our sycamore trees have gotten tall and are shading our garden bed more than I like, but they still get 5-6 hours of full sun. We’ll post updates as things grow…

Shrimp & Squash with Wild Brown Rice

I had to work late one night recently, so Penny and the kids took the opportunity to have dinner her mom and grandmother in Bonneau. I am the sole seafood fan in the house, so I thought I’d make a new shrimp dish I’ve had rolling around in my head for the past couple of weeks. I have been changing my eating habits to be healthier and I’ve lost about 12 pounds so far, but more importantly, I feel so much better! So this dish is a result of my changed thinking.

PREPPING: I purchased some wild-caught shrimp from our local Publix market, along with some shredded parmesan cheese. When I got home I diced a small zucchini  and a small yellow squash. I also diced a third of a large bell pepper and a third of a large sweet red pepper (they were on sale…). Then I chopped half a stick of celery and a half dozen baby sweet carrots. Lastly, I cut about 10 cherry tomatoes in half.

COOKING:  This part is all about timing…You don’t want to over cook anything or it will get mushy. With a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a tiny pat of butter in a medium hot frying pan, I sauteed the peeled shrimp, which I had cut in half to be more bite-sized. Add a liberal amount of Mrs. Dash Table Blend and a smaller amount of ground red cayenne pepper. Cooked just until the pink was starting to appear – 2 or 3 minutes. Then I added the squash, peppers, celery, carrots, more Mrs. Dash and fresh-ground pepper and stir fried for about 2 minutes. Then I added the tomatoes last. Stir fried for another 2-3 minutes and added some shredded parmesan cheese. Stirred a couple of times, removed from the burner and put a glass lid on the pan to keep hot.

I confess that in this one instance, I had forgotten to cook my brown and wild rice, which would have taken about 20 minutes or more. So, it was Uncle Ben’s 90-second brown and rice medley to the rescue! It has a bit more sodium than the one I usually cook, but it tastes great.

EATING: I had cut back my soda consumption to once a week, so I took the opportunity to drink a hot (spicy) Ginger Ale with the meal and it was perfect.

VARIATIONS:  There are lots of variations you can apply to this general recipe:  use chicken (cook a little longer initially), change up the veggies, add the cooked rice in the middle and stir fry, try your own favorite spices, serve over angel hair pasta, add a little white sauce… feel free to get creative and enjoy!

Garden Project : Phase I – Start Seedlings

We are starting our annual vegetable garden project on time, for a change, this year. We planted some of our seedlings today and will plant the rest in 2 weeks. We’ll probably plant the ones we started today around Dad’s birthday, March 20th and then the rest around Good Friday. The kids are really able to help a lot these days and are very hands-on. We’ll post progress photos as soon as they start sprouting. Our goal is to NOT mix up the labels this year…we’ve found that it’s very hard to tell a cherry tomato seedling from a Better Boy tomato seedling, ditto for yellow and zucchini squash.

Here’s our tentative lineup for this year:

  • Better Boy Hybrid Tomatoes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Straight Neck Yellow Squash
  • Zucchini Squash
  • Kentucky Wonder Green Beans
  • Silver Queen Sweet Corn
  • California Hybrid Bell Peppers

We may tweak the mix a little as we go along, but this is the initial plan. This is our first year trying corn, but we’re going to give it a whirl. We have to plant it in a square pattern instead of long rows to help with pollination. We may replace the green beans with something else – they “run” all over the place and take up a lot of space, but we may run them along the back fence or something this year.

Randolph Hall – College of Charleston

Randolph Hall is one of the original buildings at the school and is a center point of the campus. The raised part of brickwork behind the lamp posts is called The Cistern. It’s the cistern which, in ages past, was not filled with dirt, but water – for watering horses belonging to locals and travelers. Every Mother’s Day, the college builds a simple stage over the top of The Cistern and holds commencement ceremonies for graduating students. On either side of the center brick walk are expansive and lush lawns for relaxing, playing and studying…usually in that order. The massive oak trees were beaten, but not entirely broken by Hurricane Huge in 1989. They stand as a testament to the resilience of a city and a school. Lots of great memories in this place!

I made this photo of Randolph Hall to frame with my diploma. I liked the way the flag looked in this one…

On Being Prepared – A Product Review Series

I’m a believer in being prepared. Go ahead…call me MacGyver, but I carry several items around with me at all times and I use nearly all of them every day. A buddy recently asked me about the flashlight I carry, so I thought I’d do a review on it – it’s the BEST one for the money…I checked, over the past 30 years. While I was at it, I thought I’d do a mini review on each item that I carry. (OK, OK! So I’m also tinkering with my website content to see how different content affects site traffic and it’s “product review” content’s turn…still…)

In addition to the stuff I carry in my pockets, I am never far from…

So, that is my EDC (Every Day Carry) list, as it’s called in society these days. I’ll get going on the reviews soon.

P.S. – Today is Veteran’s Day and I am reminded that I also carry a USAF coin from my friend Jonathan’s squadron. I promised him that I would carry it every day until he returned home, to remind me to pray for him while he is stationed overseas for an extended tour, and indeed for all of our military personnel and their families. Jonathan, I am keeping that promise every day and I thank you for all that you sacrifice for our freedoms.

My Alltime Favorite Ad

This is an amazing PSA put together by an agency in London. It is powerful and focuses on a simple, singular message, yet it somehow touches the full gamut of human emotion and relationship — with no words, no less. Let’s embrace life today and every day.

Firecracker Chicken and Squash Alfredo


I grew up with experimental cooking my whole life. My dad loved to try new things with sauces, seafood, etc. while my mom was the experimental baker in the family. Among other recipes, she has absolutely perfected her world-famous Banana Nut Bread! I have had my own good ideas and bad over the years (one of the worst was probably Spam Fried Rice on a backpacking trip in college). However, last week I think I hit the jackpot.

Penny and the kids were up at her Mom’s house for supper and I came downstairs from work looking for leftovers in the fridge. I found some cooked penne pasta, a few crookneck yellow squash, a jar of sliced jalapeño peppers, a half-full jar of roasted garlic Alfredo sauce and two pieces of fried chicken. I was pleased at the prospects of this collection of items, so I got to work.

  • I put the chicken in the toaster oven first.
  • Then I poured some olive oil in a medium frying pan, added a pat of butter (a trick my mom taught me last week) and turned on the heat.
  • I sliced the squash, cut the slices in half and added them to the pan, along with a dozen jalapeño slices.
  • While I was sautéing the veggies, I pour a bowl full of the cooked penne pasta into a large pasta bowl, added a tiny bit of water and microwaved for one minute. I covered the pasta with Alfredo sauce and microwaved for another minute.
  • I like spicy food, so I liberally added Mrs. Dash (a great mix of salt-free spices), cayenne and black pepper to the veggies and on top of the sauce.
  • I took the chicken out of the oven, sliced and chopped it into bite-size pieces.
  • I added the chicken and veggies to the pasta and sauce in the bowl and tossed it lightly with a fork to mix everything.

I don’t know if it was one of those “things-always-taste-better-when-you’re-camping” things or not, but it was one of the best meals I’ve had – and the fact that it was made entirely out of left-overs made it even better!