A Day In The Life Of Ellen

Hi! Look For Updates about my everyday, but comedic life!
Hope you enjoy!

I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

  • Unemployment rates are at an all-time high.
  • Layoffs continue to happen in both small companies and corporate giants.
  • People are draining their savings and retirement in order to live.
  • Families are being forced into homelessness and hunger.

Yes, it's an economic crisis of gargantuan proportion.

Now, here is something you can do to help.

Unemployed folks are out there capable of doing work, begging for work and they would make some excellent employees. The problem is these capable potential employees are being turned away at the door when they apply because they are deemed to be "overqualified" for the positions they are applying for. For this reason, I think you should overlook a person's past job history for the time being and have you just look at the candidate applying.

I know what you are thinking. "How can we expect to retain this person after the crisis is over when their work history is so above the position that they are applying for?" Well, that's exactly my point. We need to get those willing to work BACK TO WORK. They will thank you with a loyal and consistent work ethic, I guarantee, if given the chance. That's all they want and it is what they deserve.

You are only fueling your own increases in unemployment tax rates in not doing exactly that. Just my two cents on the unemployment situation. Take it or leave it.

Thanks for reading.


Souper Creation

In a previous post I discussed how easy it is to play around with soup recipes depending on what you have onhand in the kitchen. It's actually really easy to have a nice homemade soup dinner on the table with minimal prep and through the use of a few convenience products.

It got REALLY cold here this week and it was just me and my daughter here for dinner tonight so I became inspired this morning and decided to rummage my pantry and refrigerator to whip up something that would be comforting when she got home after being out for the afternoon.

BTW...this will feed the three of us for a couple of days and I will probably have some left to freeze to take for lunches down the road. If you are feeding a crowd, throw the pasta in for the recommended cooking period. If you plan on having leftovers the next day I recommend boiling the pasta separately and just add it to the dish before reheating. If you store the pasta in the soup in the refrigerator it will bloat and soak up all of the broth. Not so yummy.

So this is what I came up with. Since it is kind of like a minestrone and the main ingredients are either red or green, I think I'll call it Ellen's Italian Holiday Soup. Welcome to the world. It was yummy and here is how I did it.

1 lb mild Italian bulk sausage
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, broken up and with juice
2 medium zucchini, split in half and sliced into 1 inch half moons
1 can garbonzo beans, drained
1 can red kidney beans, drained
32 oz box beef stock
64 oz tomato juice
10 oz bag fresh young spinach leaves
1 lb pasta (I used elbow macaroni since it was in the pantry, but you can use small shells or tube shaped pasta)
salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder to taste

Form meatballs out of the sausage into small (approx 1 inch) balls. Bake at 350 degrees for about 6 minutes to remove some of the grease and to harden the outside so they don't break apart once added to the soup. They should be slightly browned.

In a large stockpot combine meatballs, tomatoes, zucchini, both cans of beans, beef stock, tomato juice and seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and simmer covered for about an hour. Add whole spinach leaves. Allow to simmer until wilted (if adding pasta to the pot do it during this step, otherwise, boil separately and add to bowls before ladling soup over pasta).

Thanks for reading!


Holiday Gifts

Gary and I (Gary my husband, not @Gary1980Arb from Twitter, although he started the idea rolling in my head) were sitting around about a week ago talking about holiday plans and what we'd like to do for our families for Christmas gifts this year. We go through the same routine every year and every year it becomes a more daunting task.

Our families are lucky enough to be blessed during these difficult times. Everyone who is supposed to be employed has a job, we own our homes, are not facing any foreclosure crisis and have food to put on the table. We are pretty much able to afford what we want when we want it, so it makes the task of trying to figure out what to buy for gifts an impossibly complex and exhaustive process.

Then I remembered Gary's Twitter Food Drive idea (@Gary1980Arb this time) and the light bulb went on in my head. I devised a plan, presented it to my family and they are completely on board with it. Thus, our Christmas will be celebrated as follows...

We have agreed to take all of the Christmas budgets that we would have spent on the adult members of the family (the kids will have a completely "normal" Christmas) and pool it all together. The family matriarchs (mom, sister and me) will take the money and spend an afternoon in the grocery store stocking up on canned goods and dry goods which will then be delivered and donated to our local food bank.

To make things fun and so that we all have something to open at our family get-together, we're going to draw names. Each person will have $5 to spend at a dollar store on the person they draw and there will be a competition for the most creative compiliations of the gift dollar store items!

We will feel very good giving to our community and to those who need some help this holiday season. Isn't that, after all, what Christmas is truly about?

Thanks for reading!


Please forgive me if this post seems self-absorbed. I warn you ahead of time it will also be lengthy as I have many pictures to share. :)

We've had much good news about achievements in our house this week.

My teenage daughter tried out for and made the Winter Guard Squad at her high school. She tried out last year, but did not make it and is one of only two sophomores on the team this year. I am really proud of her. Winter Guard is like the Color Guard in the marching band (flag tossers), but Winter Guard actually performs to prerecorded music and competes. They also bring guns and sabers into the mix along with the flags. Yikes!

I also got a pleasant surprise at work. I have been promoted to an Assistant Vice President of the company.

It seemed that a mother-daughter celebration was in order, so I asked the teen if she would like to go to dinner. She thought the idea to be a good one so I asked her where she wanted to go, expecting an answer like Olive Garden or some other typical place. She said she wanted to go to Ruth's Chris. I looked at her for a moment in amazement and then threw caution to the wind. Why the heck not?

So this post is kind of to memorialize our evening out, but also to give those who have never been to Ruth's Chris steakhouse a glimpse of what you get inside. They truly, most certainly make the BEST STEAK EVER. No doubt.

Ordering at the restaurant is kind of al a carte. The side dishes all can easily feed two people and most who go order steaks and split everything else. The teen and I decided not to do that when we got there. We decided we were going to order whatever we wanted. That resulted in bringing home two massive shopping bags of food which will be devoured again tonight. I can't wait for dinner.

Ruth's Chris locations are generally unique. The one here in Richmond is in an old plantation house which is on the National Historic Homes Registry. So not only do you get awesome food, but you get an EXPERIENCE. The service is beyond excellent too. Staff is carefully screened and you really feel like you are a guest at a dinner party rather than sitting in a restaurant. The people who work there go the extra mile to be friendly and helpful.

Now, it IS very expensive to eat there (my steak alone was $35) but if you did the smart thing and shared on the sides, you can come out without too big a dent in the good old checkbook. We didn't do the smart thing last night and our bill with the tip included weighed in at around $230. But we were celebrating and we eat there maybe once a year and save it only for occasions which deserve something special.

So, to share, here are some pictures of the restaurant and the incredible meal we had last night. I know. I'm such a geek.

1. The outside of the restaurant; 2. One of the cocktail lounges

1. Our dining room; 2. Celebratory drinks...bloody mary for me, virgin daquiri for her

Shrimp appetizers. 1. Shrimp cocktail for her; 2. Barbequed shrimp for me

My steak and potato. The potatoes really do weigh a pound before they're baked!

1. Asparagus hollandaise and spinach au gratin; 2. Savannah's dessert, a banana cream pie that was literally a mini whole pie. My dessert was not as interesting but my favorite so I didn't take a picture but I had the berries and sweet cream.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed!

I have taste tested these in my kitchen MANY times and anyone who has tasted has said that it is virtually the same thing you will find in a hibachi kitchen.

Some of these combinations may sound strange, especially for the ginger salad dressing, but trust me. It all works GREAT and will give you the ability to mock a traditional Japanese steakhouse dinner at home. BTW....this is the ULTIMATE in date night meals.

When making it you will need the blender several times. I usually start by making the sauces (can be left out at room temp until time to serve) and salad dressing, just rinsing it out between uses. You can prep the fried rice ingredients early in the day and leave them covered in the refrigerator until ready to stir fry it.

Do not substitute the real butter for margarine for any of these. This is a splurge meal, after all. You can also use the same large frying pan to cook the shrimp appetizer, the fried rice and the hibachi steak. Just wipe it out between uses and serve the food in courses like you would get at a Japanese restaurant.


To mock the soup I just usually use some Knorr vegetable broth cubes and the water recommended on the package. When it simmers add some sliced mushrooms and sliced green onion and let it simmer until the veggies are tender.

Ginger Salad Dressing

1/2 cup minced onion
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbs water
2 tbs minced fresh ginger (do not substitute ginger powder)
2 tbs minced celery
2 tbs ketchup
4 tsp soy sauce (kikkoman is the best)
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until all ginger is pureed. Best if made an hour before, placed into a shaker container and chilled. Shake before using.

Shrimp Appetizer

Ingredients Per Portion
5 large srimp, peeled, cleaned, deveined
salt to taste
2 tbs peanut oil
1 tsp butter
1 tsp heavy cream
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat oil in griddle (you don't have to use the full 2 tbs per portion if making multiple portions at once, just lightly coat the bottom of the pan). Sprinkle shrimp with salt to taste. Place shrimp in griddle and saute 3 minutes per side. Remove from griddle. Melt butter and add heavy cream, heating until warmed through. Cut shrimp into bite sized pieces and add back to the griddle. Add parsley. Cook 1-2 minutes longer and squeeze lemon juice over shrimp. Remove and serve. Great with ginger sauce.

Ginger Sauce

1/2 c soy sauce
1/4 c vinegar
1 small piece ginger root (1/8 tsp ginger powder can be used here)

Place all ingredients in electric blender and set at high speed until ginger is chopped.

Magic Mustard Sauce

1 tbs crushed toasted sesame seeds
3 tbs dried mustard
2 tbs hot water
3/4 c soy sauce
1/4 garlic clove crushed
3 tbs heavy cream whipped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sesame seeds in a single layer on a flat pan and toast (keep an eye on them...they burn quickly). Mix mustard and water in a small mixing bowl until it forms a paste. Place in blender with sesame seeds, soy sauce and garlic. Blend at high speed for 1 minute. Remove and stir in whipped cream.

Fried Rice

4 cups cooked converted rice, chilled
1 c frozen peas, thawed
2 tbs finely grated carrot
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c diced onion
1 1/2 tbs butter
2 tbs soy sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Combine chilled rice, peas, carrots and onion in a bowl. Scramble eggs breaking into pea sized bites, remove from pan and add to rice mixture. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Dump rice into pan and add soy sauce and salt and pepper. Cook rice for 6-8 minutes over heat, stirring often.

Hibachi Steak

Ingredients per portion
1 6 oz sirloin steak, boneless
1 tbs peanut oil
2 large mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat griddle and pour on oil to coat surface. Sear steak on both sides. Remove from pan, cut steak into strips and return to pan with mushroom slices to cook to desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with magic mustard sauce.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy!


I've had a couple of people ask me for some recipes on Twitter recently. This recipe is similar to the cheddar biscuits you get at a famous seafood restaurant chain. I've been told that the garlic butter recipe is proprietary, but this is as darn close as you can get.

2 C Bisquick
1/2 c cold water
3/4 c grated sharp cheddar cheese

Baste With
1/4 c melted butter
1 t parsley flakes
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t Italian seasoning

Mix biscuit ingredients and drop by spoonfuls according to package directions. Bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Brush with melted butter mixture.

I never had a MySpace account. I checked it out once and found it to be too juvenile for me. When my friends started exploring FaceBook and were raving about it I took a look and decided it was more my speed. I signed up for an account, created my profile, posted a picture and sent out some friend requests.

It wasn't long before I had reconnected with about 100 friends from high school. Funny, because I didn't realize I was all that popular in high school. I enjoyed catching up, sharing family photos and chatting with everyone. I even attended a mini reunion and met up for lunch with a couple of girlfriends a few times.

There were only a few apps out there at the time and sending a round of drinks to friends on a Friday night or giving a virtual hug to someone who needed it was kind of fun. But then it all started getting out of hand.

My timeline was clogged with things like quiz results (who is like what celeb, five favorite fast food places, who would you have at your dinner table) and games (Mafia Wars, Bling, Vampire Bites). Nice that FaceBook incorporated games you could play together into its' site, but I really did not want to see who was passing what poker chip, secret vaults or weapons to whom. I wanted to see what my friends were doing and pass valuable information.

I also wound up with a nasty little chat stalker who would immediately start up a chat session every time I signed in to check out my friends updates. I think he lived on FaceBook just to harass me when I showed up. It got so bad that I disabled chat.

A friend of mine from FaceBook kept talking about how cool Twitter was so I decided to check it out. I created the account and profile and then just sat looking at it. I was completely lost and had NO idea what I was to do next. I gave up and went back to the FaceBook frustration.

Then came the infamous battle to 1 million followers between CNN and Ashton Kutcher. I figured I would help Mr. Kutcher out with my two cents worth, so I logged into my abandoned Twitter account and followed him. I noticed that my account had picked up some followers, so I followed them too. Over the next few days I slowly started getting the hang of things. I watched who others were talking to and started following and to my delight some of them started following me back. I started sending @replies to people and they responded! I was hooked.

I worked very carefully to build the number of people following me by being sure I responded to anyone who sent me a tweet, by following back others when they followed me and by retweeting my new friends often if they had information to share.

Then one day I discovered something grand. Kirstie Alley was on Twitter. I'd been a fan of hers for years, since back in her Cheers days. Every time she was on TV doing those Pier 1 commercials I told my husband that it would be my dream to hang out with her for a day, that she would be so much fun. And just as I suspected, she is an incredibly fun person. It shows on Twitter. The day Kirstie sent me my first reply I literally almost fell off of the sofa.

After I started following her and watched who she chatted with, I started following some of those folks too. By doing that, I discovered some of my best friends on Twitter. Many of my friends and family do not understand how you can truly connect with and care about people over a social networking website. My only response to them is that they should not knock it before they try it.

Twitter is an excellent source of information also. Breaking news is tweeted regularly and I often find out about things happening in the world well before I can ever get to the TV or internet. People also tweet web links full of useful stuff.

So, to sum things up, for the ultimate in chat on steroids, interaction with folks you would not ever get to meet in real life and the best immediate source of information, Twitter wins over FaceBook for me hands down. Now, I know some of you have farms to attend to so I will quit my rant here. ;)

Thanks for reading!


This soup recipe takes me back to my childhood. It was one of our traditional Sunday suppers and although it may not look like much it brings back so many good memories for me. This is one of my true definitions of "comfort food".

My dad's mother taught my mom how to make this. Daddy's family was a pretty poor, Czechoslovakian family who immigrated when my grandpa was just 16. They did their best to use what they had. This was used to stretch beef when they could afford it.

When I was a kid I remember smelling this cooking all day in the kitchen and it brings a smile to my face even today as it is simmering on the stove.

Here we go on how to make it like my mom and grandmother did.

1 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes--Make sure you squish all of the juice out in a colander over a large stock pot. They should be pretty much just tomato pulp in the colander when done.

6 potatoes (I used Idaho baking potatoes today) peeled and quartered

1 1/2 pounds peeled baby carrots

1 big bunch celery from the heart, leaves and all

2 lbs stew meat

Throw everything in the pot, add water until about an inch from the top of the pot. Add a liberal amount of salt and some pepper. Bring to a boil, lower and simmer until dinnertime (best to let it simmer 5-6 hours).

To serve put cooked Minute Rice in a bowl (grandma probably would not have liked that but it's what I grew up with and not the same without it), ladle broth and veggies and meat over rice.

Thanks for reading!


OK, I admit it. I have probably the most badly behaved dog on the face of this planet. Seriously. No joke.

When we got him five years ago, we decided to become responsible dog owners and took him to puppy obedience classes. He flunked puppy training. We then hired a personal trainer to come and attempt to work with him. She quit. We kinda gave up and just let him do his thing.

He won't come when he's called. He won't let us near him with a brush to groom him. He runs in fear and hides under the table when we run the bathwater. He takes certain pieces of dog food out of his dish and leaves them in various locations around the house. He won't let anyone near the front door of the house until we have him on his leash. The list goes on and on. We got him devil horns as his first Halloween costume for very good reason.

So, let's talk about that one doggie activity that is supposed to be fun for both dog owner and dog. FETCH.

Admission. Not surprisingly, Truffles has never quite grasped the concept of fetch. He loves to chase a ball, but never brings it back properly for you to throw it again. Instead, he brings it back to around two feet in front of you and looks at you hopefully as if he wants you to throw it. Make a move towards the ball, and he grabs it and backs up a little every time. Eventually he is about five feet away and still looking hopeful until you actually have to get up to get the ball and throw it for him.

Makes me tend to wonder whether he has us trained instead. But he's mine and I love him anyway.

Thanks for reading!


I LOVE Twitter. Do not get me wrong. Having it and my Blackberry is like having a little pocketful of friends wherever I go. Always someone to talk to or get an opinion from. And I dearly love all of my followers.

However, I do have some pet peeves about how some tweeps use it. I'm not there to lecture anyone, but this is my blog, so I can express my own opinion here.

#FollowFriday is a day to recognize your friends who you would like to give a shout out for others to possibly discover if they are not following already. Three things bother me about Follow Friday.

  • 1. People tweet meaningless lists all day which give me no real clue as to why anyone is following anyone else.
  • 2. People throughout the day only retweet (post again) the lists that include their name, not choosing their lists personally.
  • 3. People who use their own user name in every list they post.

Now, that said, there are a few that do creative #FollowFriday lists effectively. Take @Gary1980Arb or @Paulbritphoto. But they took the time with these and to come up with something more inventive than the average "name list" tweets.

The new list service that Twitter provides is cool in a pinch, but does anyone REALLY look at them? I guess time will tell as it is all relatively new.

I try very hard to do #FollowFriday justice for the friends I recommend. If I am not going to personalize it, I just feel like I should not do it at all for the week. I do still find that my best follows and followers have come from watching who my pals on Twitter are talking to.

Again, this is all strictly my opinion and not meant to preach to anyone on the use of Twitter.

Thanks for reading!


Time Flies

In case you can't tell, there is a bunny on the chair and the child is in tears because it just tried to nibble at her dress. Savannah is a year old here and we were at a photography studio memorializing the moment. It's one of my favorite pictures of her ever. She came running straight to me almost the moment after this was snapped.

This baby will be Sweet Sixteen in March. Where did all the time go? She laughed at me the first day of school when my mouth dropped when she handed me her driver's ed manual and again the day she brought home the order forms for her high school class ring. I know I have watched her growing into the beautiful young woman she is today, but it really hits home when I see this picture and then see her bounding down the hall off to meet friends.

I miss the days when she counted on me for protection and told me everything. We still talk, but these days she is much more reliant on her friends. I guess she is coming into her own.

Nowadays our house can be quite chaotic between all of her activities, functions and outings. I literally live in the bus loop after school and am a constant chauffer on the weekends. I won't know what to do with myself once she goes to college and *YIKES* that's only another couple of years from now.

That being said, I do enjoy the peace and quiet in the house when everyone is gone for a bit, so that's exactly what I plan to do for the rest of this Saturday while the husband is out of town at his brother's and Savannah is at a band competition. Yep, just me and the dog. Maybe we'll go for a walk.

Thanks for reading!


Jammie Day

Most of you who follow me on Twitter know that I am graced with the ability to work from home 1-2 days per week. I call those days "Jammie Days". There are many reasons that Jammie Days are good for the employee and the employer. Here are a few.

Employer Benefits

  • I actually put in a longer work day when I work from home. I boot up the laptop right after my daughter leaves for the school bus at 6:30 a.m. and on many days find myself still working at 4-5 p.m.
  • I don't have the distractions I do when I am in the office. Let's face it, if a co-worker pops in for water cooler talk, there's not much of a way to say no.

Employee Benefits

  • I don't have to get out of my pajamas all day.
  • I don't have to get ready and drive into the office.
  • I often can complete more intense work that requires my focus.
  • I am in the comfort of my home.
  • My dog has company (OK, so this one is ridiculous, but I do feel bad leaving him alone for the whole day.)

That's all I got for today. No, I will NOT be posting a pic of me in my jammies for this entry. Thanks for reading!

Ellen XOXO

Souper Sunday

Wow. Fall came roaring in this week bringing along my favorite time of the year. Soup Season is officially open! In my house that means that pretty much every Sunday from now until spring you will find a pot of some sort of soup (and I have recipes for hundreds of them) simmering away on the stove for dinner.

Soup is such a wonderful thing. A one pot wonder of yummy goodness and recipes range from the very complex to the very simple. Tonight we are having homemade split pea soup. You may take a look at a bag of dried split peas and think you could never do that and it takes forever, but it's really one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest soups in my repertoire. You can even make this no-brainer on a weeknight it's that quick and the items I use for my variation I keep on hand in the pantry.

There are other Sundays of course, that I feel a little more ambitious and will make chicken noodle soup from scratch or a many vegetable beef soup. Those are the days that make the house smell fantastic...all day. We're literally drooling by dinnertime.

Canned soups are great to have onhand for a weeknight. Opening a can of tomato soup and grilling cheese sandwiches happens in our house once every couple of weeks, for sure. By the way, did you know that a can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup has 32 feet of egg noodles in every can? I freaked out when I heard that on a commercial. But I digress...

It's so easy to create your own soup too. Lots easier than you may think. There are so many good packaged stock products available to create a base with. Then add whatever vegetables, pasta, rice, meats, fish or shellfish (remember to throw those shellfish in towards the end though, they don't take long to cook). One of the favorite bases I use for a create my own is a combination of tomato juice, beef stock and water.

So that's a little insight into what is one of my favorite times of the year and what makes it so special to me. Please don't be a Soup Nazi this winter. I'm sharing my easy split pea soup recipe below.

Thanks for reading!



Split Pea With Bacon Soup

1 lb dried split peas
1/2 cup finely diced carrots
3 oz package of real bacon bits
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt

Heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the carrots until tender crisp (about 10 minutes). Add split peas, water, bay leaf and salt and heat to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add real bacon bits and cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Several years ago my daughter decided she wanted a dog. Problem is, we are both allergic. Being the good mother I am I researched dog breeds and discovered that shih tzus (or as I like to refer to him...shitzu...place emphasis on the first syllable) are great for people with allergies. Thus, I contacted a breeder and Truffles became a part of our family that Christmas.

Now, for anyone who does not know, shih tzus grow long hair. A lot. Very fast. Since he will not let us anywhere near him with a brush frequent trips to the groomer to get him trimmed are necessary. We started taking him about once every two months from the time he was a puppy.

About two years into the grooming trips, Truffles developed a nasty habit of biting the hands that groomed him. It got to the point that when the groomers at the doggie spa saw Truffles on the list for the day everyone mysteriously became ill. They suggested contacting our vet to get some suggestions to make him more manageable.

After speaking with the vet, over the next few visits we tried varying doses of benadryl. When that didn't even slow him down, we all agreed that it was time for a puppy prozac prescription. The vet suggested half a pill about an hour before he was to go to the spa. I took him in that first morning confident that the problem was resolved. When I picked him up that afternoon and mentioned that we had given him the pill that morning, his groomer looked at me in amazement and said, "He was SEDATED?".

Another phone call to the vet prompted upping the dose to a full pill. When I picked him up following the full pill dose, I could finally see a difference. He couldn't stand up to pee, but he had not bitten anyone. I spent the rest of that Saturday (and every one since then where he's had a grooming appointment) trying to keep him from falling off of the sofa.

My husband is on his way to pick Truffles up from the spa now, so I bet you can guess what I will be doing this Saturday. :)

Ellen XOXO

Hi! I'm Ellen.

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