Monday, December 31, 2007
I always made resolutions for the new year when I was growing up and one by one, I always broke them. Then I learned not to make such impossible resolutions like a genuine size 12 teen wanting to fit into size 6, or wishing to be someone that I'm not. I've learned that I needed to start small, with realistic goals and then I started accomplishing things. My most proudest resolution that I kept and succeeded at, was one I made in 2001: Quit smoking. Hubby and I decided it was time to start a family and we both wanted to be the healthiest we could be as parents, so we both quit "cold turkey" on January 1, 2001 and we have never picked up a cigarette since then. 9 months later, I found I was pregnant with Oldest and the rest is history.
I try not to make dieting a resolution.. I don't think dieting is something you should do at the beginning of the year, but something you should maintain all of the year. Granted I'm no skinny minnie and I know I never will be skinny. I don't want to be skinny. I want to be healthy and I believe that if you are going to eat, eat good! I will not deprive myself of eating dessert as long as I balance it out with a salad or something healthy. I will have a soda now and then, but that won't be the only thing I drink all day long. I am blessed with a husband that happens to enjoy all my curves and tells me so almost daily. Our children eat most of what we put on their plates and they eat fruits and vegetables so I think we are doing a good job in the healthy eating dept.
Here's to a new year, with new beginnings and a brighter future. See you next year!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I cooked that turkey that was gifted to us and it was oh so yummy! I like to slip sliced onions under the skin along with parsley, garlic and pepper and it seasons the meat so well! Being that we are all white-meat eaters, I saved all the dark meat for the cats to eat. Once upon a time, I used to buy whole chickens and make our own cat food, until the kids came along and it became easier to just open a can. It's nice to give the cats fresh meat and they really enjoy it! They don't wait for me to put it down and often grab it right out of my fingers! Gotta watch out for those claws--ouch! I also made pumpkin pies from the pumpkin out of the garden and it is just yummy. Hubby doesn't like pumpkin so more for me and the girls!
Tomorrow, we are having my Mom, Aunt and Uncle coming over for a late Christmas gathering. They will be staying the night so we were busy cleaning up the guest rooms. I store all our sale items in there for the kid's consignment shop and the girls sometimes go in and play without putting them away. The door gets shut and then it's out of sight, out of mind. Until I go in to change the sheets and realize what a mess it is in there! We cranked up the Christmas music and danced, sang and cleaned up, then I rewarded the girls with hot chocolates afterwards.
Gifts for them will be 3 different kinds of fudge: Peanut Butter Fudge, Chocolate Mint Fudge and Plain Chocolate Fudge; also those Peppermint Creams I wrote about a few posts ago. I printed out pictures of the girls and framed them, and finally, the Santa Heads we painted. I know they will be well received and everything was made out of love from all of us.
How was your Christmas?
Sunday, December 23, 2007
If you happen to have corn syrup, maple syrup and walnuts in your pantry, I have a great, easy, quick canning recipe for Walnut syrup which is absolutely yummy on top of ice cream or pancakes or even oatmeal. This makes a lovely gift and so easy to make.
1 1/2 c corn syrup (dark or light, doesn't matter)
1 c maple syrup
1/2 c water
1/2 c sugar
2 c walnuts
This will make about 4 half-pints so I always double the recipe.
Combine all ingredients except for the nuts in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes until syrup mixture has thickened. Add nuts, cook 5 minutes more. Ladle into hot jars and then process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes. Done!
I grew up on this stuff, always putting it on top of my ice cream if Dad was willing to share! They sold at the store in these little tiny jars and were quite expensive-- the store here sells them for about $4 a jar. Ouch! You can make your own at a fraction of the cost. Needless to say, some of these jars are for gifts and some are for me! I made all these in about an hour and you'll impress whoever you give a jar to with your canning skills. Any ice cream and nut lover would enjoy getting this as a gift and would also make a nice hostess gift if you don't have time to make this before Christmas.
If you don't have all the ingredients on hand, you're in luck, because most stores have this stuff on sale right now for all the holiday baking people do. A quick run to the food store and you'll be able to whip this up just in time for Christmas.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Something positive happened to me today. On my way back home from the food store, I passed a little thrift shop that had "Free Stuff" signs in front. I quickly made a u-turn, because you know me, I can't resist free stuff! As I got out of the car, a woman told me that I could help myself to anything I might want, she was closing shop because she was too busy with her kids and home schooling and her farm..... Wait! Did she say home schooling? I asked her about home schooling and turns out, yes, she home schools her kids! Yay! I finally meet someone that home schools around here!
I must admit that I felt like I was floundering a bit when it came to home schooling. I mean, we have the stuff: the books, the desks, the space; but I felt at a loss at how to go about teaching stuff. Oldest can read a bit and she can write a few words, basic math and she understands the concept of certain subjects, but I always felt like I was depriving her of something else, not quite sure what. Hubby and I actually discussed putting her in school for the second semester in January. Are we doing the right thing? Is she really learning? Are we being fair to her?
Then I meet a fellow home schooler and this lady is experienced! She has 7 children (or maybe 6) and she home schools all of them. Her oldest is already out on her own, but she schools the younger ones. She has a 4 year old, 2 year old and 7 month old and some older kids, too. She also has pygmy goats! I'm so excited! We stood outside there in the 40 degree cold weather and talked, talked and talked! It seems we have much in common and she even said she had planned to take her kids to the local Deaf school to learn sign language. Well how about that! I happen to know sign language and I could teach her kids how to sign and she'll help me out. We exchanged email addresses and I already heard from her and we agreed to get together after the holidays.
I came home after talking for over an hour with my new friend and poor Hubby was so worried thinking I was in an accident when I didn't come home when I should have. I shared the good news and it has given me so much encouragement for home schooling Oldest. Things happen for a reason, and meeting this woman was a blessing for me! Wouldn't you know, I didn't pick up any free stuff because I was having such a good time talking. I did pick up a new friend, though!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
They are for sale for $20 each, which includes shipping (within the 48 states, please). If you are interested, leave me your email address and I will send you the information you'll need to pay via Paypal. I will take a check, but that means it'll take longer to send out to you. I'm sorry these won't get to you by Christmas, unless I am able to mail this on Friday (tomorrow) and then you should get it maybe on Monday. Depends on the Post Office!
They stand about 5 inches tall (some of the measurements vary but on average, they're about 5 inches). They will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. Tell me which one you want and I will put a "SOLD" note next to it.
Santa number 1. Dark red hat with gold star accents SOLD
Santa number 2. Light green hat SOLD
Santa number 3. Yellow hat with holly all around
Santa number 4. Red hat with gold polka dot accents SOLD
Santa number 6. Green hat with gold polka dot accents
Santa number 8. Red hat with Holly leaf accent SOLD
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Anyway.. that's not the topic of this post. When I posted the picture of the painted Santa heads a few days ago, I got some requests from a few people that wanted to know if they could buy them. That was their original intention by my Dad and Stepmom, to paint and then sell. I counted the blanks and I have more than enough to give some as gifts to our families and sell some to others. So, if you are interested in buying any Santa heads, carved by my dad then duplicated by a company then painted by me, (which means these are original and will not be found in stores anywhere) I will be selling a limited number of Santa heads.
I have 8 Santa heads for sale, at $20 apiece, including shipping costs (overseas shipping would be a little higher). I am still painting so the ones above are not all of them. I should be done painting tonight and will post a photo of the finished Santas tomorrow morning. You can pay via paypal and I will post that information along with the picture of the Santas in the morning. I will ship as soon as I receive payment, but I realize that some of these Santas won't get there before Christmas. I didn't plan on selling these, otherwise I would have done this sooner. Anyway, if you are interested, leave a comment.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
We are expecting baby #4.
It caught us by surprise. While we were busy working at the store and oohing and ahhing over the cutest baby clothes, teasing Hubby, "this is too cute! Let's go in the back and make another one!" While enduring yet another painful visit from Aunt Flo and begging Hubby, "get me pregnant so I don't have to deal with Aunt Flo for at least 9 months!" Be careful what you wish for, it just might come true!
This would also explain my roller coaster of emotions these past few weeks: Hubby's lack of a job, tight money, Christmas coming, baby on the way, hormones running rampant, to name a few.
We have made our peace and have accepted the responsibility of having baby #4. We never did say we were done after Youngest got here and I always thought 4 kids would be fun. Thankfully, I still have most of our baby things: the crib, highchair and stroller, and will only need to get an infant car seat and clothing for a newborn. I have the store in the spring to get the things I will need when baby gets here in the summer and I am not worried about the material things.
If Hubby doesn't find a job with insurance benefits, then I will probably have another home birth like I did with Youngest. I will contact the same mid-wife and I already know what to do and expect.
I can tell you this: There will be NO hanky-panky going on after baby#4 gets here until there is some kind of snip-snip happening first! As in, Hubby gets snip-snipped!
My estimated due date is June 28th, 2008. The girls are excited and have been walking around with dolls stuffed under their shirts and they are giving birth to everything from baby dolls to beanie babies. They lift their shirts to "nurse" their babies and go around shushing everyone because "baby" is asleep in the play stroller. They kiss my belly and come up with names: Rainbow, Carla, Sundy, Cookie, Oatmeal... There is one thing for sure, this baby is loved.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sure enough, Saturday night we got hit with an ice storm and we woke up to an icy winter wonderland. It quickly warmed up and with all our trees, it looked like it was raining. When a hard gust of wind blew, all the melted ice came flying off the branches and I sure wouldn't have wanted to be standing underneath when that happened!
We spent the day indoors painting Santas. A few years ago, my Dad was getting heavy into his wood carving and after carving, my stepmom would paint them. I guess they got lots of comments on their work, so they decided to take some of Dad's carvings to a company that will copy and make "blanks" so Dad wouldn't have to make repeat carvings of the same thing. Stepmom would set up an assembly line and paint and then they took their work on the road to different craft shows to sell their wares. Before they moved, they needed to downsize and they gave us several boxes of blank santas: ornaments, light bulb santa heads (above) and full body Santas. So, we spent the afternoon painting Santa heads and will give them out as presents.
I have another project to do with the girls today. Making salt-dough ornaments! Oldest has been bugging me to paint some more, and I really don't want to drag out all the paints again so I'm hoping she will be happy with making salt-dough ornaments. I thought that they would make cute little gifts for their cousins and we can save the Santa heads for family gifts. I need to scour the internet for a recipe for salt-dough and then I'll post pictures of our finished ornaments in my next posting.
Have a good Monday!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Remember the lady we've never met that gave us a Christmas turkey? She also included a check for us. I am in awe of her generosity and she told Mom-in-law that we didn't need to write a 'thank-you' card. No, no, no.. I AM writing a very grateful 'thank you' to her for her kindness in thinking of us, even though she has never met us.
In light of our tight budget, I have been looking for simple, inexpensive recipes to bake and make for gifts to go along with the preserves I have made over the summer. I found a great peppermint cream candy recipe that only has 3 ingredients and is Oh! so good! It reminds me of those square mints you see in candy bowls at restaurants sometimes and they always come in pastel colors, and when you pop it in your mouth it sort of melts rather quickly and leaves a minty taste. This is very similar and easy to make!
All you need is a 8 oz block of cream cheese, 2 lbs of powdered sugar and 2 tsp of peppermint extract. You can use a few drops of food coloring if you wish, and I did just for color and Christmas spirit. If you do the math, this costs less than $3 to make: 99 cent cream cheese, $1.19 powdered sugar and I already had the peppermint extract.
Bring the cheese to room temperature, and in a mixer bowl, blend the cheese and peppermint extract until creamy. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time until the whole 2 lbs are mixed in. I divided the dough for the color and used only 2 or 3 drops for the green and red. If you have a candy mold, you can press about 1 tsp into each mold and then let air dry for a couple days. If you are like me and don't have a candy mold, roll into small balls about 1/2 a tsp size and then roll in granulated sugar and press flat with your thumb or use a fork for criss cross patterns or stripes. Just for variety, I did thumbprints on the white ones, stripes on the red ones and criss crosses on the green ones.
This recipe made about 250 candies! It takes about 2 days to air dry and harden and does not need to be refrigerated. I kept it in the oven so it was out of sight from the girls and they don't keep sneaking pieces of candy. Hubby is another problem I haven't solved yet. I may have to cut him off in the bedroom if he doesn't stop eating the mints!
If you make this, and I really recommend you do, you can have your kids help roll the dough into balls and turn it into a fun family activity. A yummy, fun family activity! Enjoy!
Friday, December 14, 2007
I am a thinker, an analyzer, a watcher of people and I am very aware of my actions and surroundings. I know my behavior can affect others around me and I try to be aware and tactful. What do you do when you recognize the signs of depression in yourself and try as you might, knowing that you should be cleaning the dishes or looking after girls, your body chooses to shuffle over to the couch and plop down to watch 4 hours of TV, sending the girls to Daddy when they want or need something. I am sleeping more and getting up later in the morning. I struggle with myself to do more than watch TV and find my brain resisting my efforts. Then my miracle happened...
Even though Hubby is my everything, a girl still needs her girlfriend. Of all the days my best friend could have called, this was the day I needed it most. This is the girl that knows me better than anyone and has been my partner in crime for so many things. We have shared both good times and bad times with each other and I can always count on her to walk with me down our crazy memory lane. As if she sensed I needed her shoulder to cry on, she called and made me laugh again. We talked for nearly 6 hours on the Video Phone, while Hubby kept the girls busy and let me have my "girl talk".
We talked about everything and I shed some tears, I laughed and then eventually we ended up doing a little gossiping. It was what I really needed most today, to have some kind words and encouragement and recharge my batteries to keep me going. It was nice to not worry for a few hours and instead to enjoy talking and laughing and hearing what was going on with so-and-so and to also get a reminder that though we may be low on money, we have our health and love for one another. She is dealing with medical issues in her family and my heart aches for her. We made plans to get together with her coming all the way out here for the day, so I don't have to come up with gas money to go to her. We have known each other since high school and I predict we will grow old and grey together. Thanks friend, for calling today. I feel so much better and my heart is lighter.
I also want to thank LaRonda for leaving a heartfelt comment on my previous post. It was a kind reminder that I am not the only one that goes through tough times and to know that it isn't permanent. There IS a light at the end of this dark tunnel and every now and then we pass a window where light shines in, showing us the good things in life.
This is another Santa that my Dad carved and my Stepmom painted. They make a good team!
My soul is feeling better today and I feel optimistic again. People around us have rallied to support us and I am more than grateful for their kindness. It has always been hard for me to ask for help and I am not one to break down and reveal my weaknesses. This holiday has shown me that people are still full of hope and a willingness to help others and it just makes my heart swell. A total stranger that Hubby and I have never met but has become good friends with Hubby's mother has given us a turkey for our Christmas meal. Just that small act of kindness chokes me up and has restored my faith in human kindness and goodwill. The in-laws are coming over tomorrow and they are bringing a few gifts for the girls to wrap for each other. I feel so lucky to have such wonderful in-laws.
My Christmas spirit is coming back and it's due to all the kindness of people around me. Thank you, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas (or Happy Hanukkah) and a prosperous New Year!
Monday, December 10, 2007
She had an old cell phone of Hubby's that she played with and when I would ask her who was on the phone, she said, "My boyfriend." Oh! A boyfriend?! What's his name? "Woody", she'd say in a most coy voice while fluttering her eyes. Then she would be on the phone again later, only this time it was her boyfriend, Buzz. Only 3 and already playing the field!
When it came time to shop and the owner of the store let each child pick out $5 worth of whatever they wanted, Middle grabbed Woody and Buzz. They went to bed with her, rode in the car with her, sat on the floor patiently waiting for her to finish her dinner, watched Toy Story with her and pretty much went where she went. We would go to yard sales and find additional Woodies and Buzzes and other characters from the movie. Pretty soon, we had every single character and she played with every single one. We got a second Woody when Youngest would sneak him away and Middle burst into tears at having to share her boyfriend with her little sister.
This past sale, a couple months ago, she declared that her and Woody 'broke up'. Then Buzz was soon out of the picture. Then Jessie's head got decapitated. Then when I threatened to sweep up the toys if they didn't hurry and pick them up, Middle didn't come running when Mr. Potato Head and Piggy bank's lives were at stake. The Great Love Affair was over. Woody and Buzz have been tossed in a corner of the basement and there they sit, abandoned and lonely. Kicked aside when they bounce around on their bouncy balls and they're in the way.
Middle hasn't asked to watch the Toy Story movies lately, opting to watch 'The Little Mermaid' instead. She has been playing with her dolls, dressing and undressing her Barbies (or rather, asking me to dress and undress her Barbies for her). I'm actually kind of sad about Woody and Buzz. They were good boyfriends, always there when she needed them, did what she asked, never tried to cop a feel, never tried to push Middle into doing something she didn't want to do, and kept her company at night when she was scared of the dark. I'll be saving them, putting them into a box in case she needs them again.
Bye Woody. Bye Buzz.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I usually use a combination of the two. I take pleasure in wrapping presents and the first time Hubby came over to my house before he became my husband was when I needed help to wrap presents when my right hand was in a cast. I learned Hubby wasn't much of a present wrapper and I knew then, I'd be the wrapper of the family! I use gift bags for all the cookies and fudge I make.
2. Real or Fake tree? I grew up with fake trees and after Hubby and I moved into together, we bought a real tree. We felt so guilty afterwards, knowing how it took about 10-15 years to grow, only to be chopped down and discarded like trash. Never again! We will only buy real if the root ball is there and we can replant it afterwards.
3. When do you put up the tree? Day after Thanksgiving. All that work to put it up and decorate, I'm going to enjoy it for as long as I can!
4. When do you take the tree down? Usually first week of January. New year, time to put away the old and start fresh!
5. Do you like eggnog? Oh yes!! Mom and Dad always bought a case every year and we drank until it was gone. Don't care for the spiked stuff though. Dad would make french toast with eggnog instead of milk. Yum!
6. Favorite gift received as a child? I don't have a memory for that kind of thing. I remember moments and feelings, but not specific items. Nothing stands out.
7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, one of those rustic kinds with a realistic scene. It isn't set up yet, though.
8. Hardest person to buy for? My Aunt. She spends all year shopping for presents and expects the same kind of dedication from you.
9. Easiest person to buy for? Hubby. I know him so well and he is easy to please but hard to surprise!
10. Worst Christmas gift received? Now this, I remember! Sister and I begged and begged for an Atari game system when it came out back in the early 80's. We lived in Louisiana at the time and Dad took the family to Disney World for Christmas. Sitting in the back of the station wagon was a wrapped box just the right size for an Atari game system. Sis and I couldn't keep our eyes off it, afraid that it would disappear if we looked away. I think we opened it in the hotel room and we ripped off the paper to find... an electric typewriter. I'm quite sure we had fun at Disney World, but all I can remember is the disappointment in seeing the typewriter. Never did get an Atari game system.
11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Mail. I usually try to get them all out on Dec 1st. But since the kids have come along, I'm lucky enough to get them sent out at all!
12. Favorite Christmas movie? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
13. When do you start shopping? I have a box labeled gifts and during the year I'll find something that's just perfect for so-and-so. If it doesn't turn into a birthday gift, it becomes a Christmas gift. Box is quite empty this year with Hubby out of work.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas gift? Sure! Sorry, I have no use for a rice cooker but I know just who does!
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Aunt's fruitcake! Oh yum yum!! She uses my Grandmother's recipe and it is oh so good! I dream of it and I cry when I eat the last bite.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear right now.
17. Favorite Christmas song? How do I choose just one? I like most of them and the one playing in my head right now is "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas".
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? I remember one Christmas, before the kids came along, we had breakfast at Sis-in-Law's house, then we drove to Grandma's house for dinner and presents, then we went to Sister's house for a later dinner and more presents and then back home. We were miserable and the snap on our pants barely held together that night! Never again we vowed! Now we take turns and looks like this year we are staying home.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes.
20. Angel or star on the treetop? We have an angel. The one in the picture is one I made in high school but Hubby doesn't like it so we have a different angel on top of the tree.
21. Open presents Christmas eve or morning? When we were kids, we always opened 1 present on Christmas eve and the rest in the morning. Then Mom and Dad got divorced and it was spend Christmas eve with one parent and Christmas morning with the other. Now with my family, I am reverting back to my childhood tradition of opening 1 present on the eve of Christmas.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Commercialism and consumerism and pushy people at the stores. "Excuse me, I am not racing you to get to that DVD or that sweater. You want it? Take it! Just stop shoving!"
23. What I love most about Christmas? Just the chance to be with family. I wish it was year-round that people make time to get together with family and friends and not just for the holidays, but I'll take what I can get.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
... is all that's left of 5 dozen sugar cookies I made yesterday! Can anyone say, "breakfast, lunch and dinner???"
It snowed yesterday and while we waited for the snow to pile up a little more, I told the girls we could make sugar cookies. After the girls played out in the snow and warmed up with a cup of hot chocolate, we made sugar cookies and Oldest helped me decorate. Middle konked out from all that playing and we put her to bed after she fell asleep at the dinner table. Aww! Youngest helped licked the spoon!
I have been using this recipe for years and it is SO good! Here it is:
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c butter, softened
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 400*. In large mixer bowl combine sugar, butter and eggs. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until light and fluffy (3 to 5 minutes). Reduce speed to low and add remaining ingredients. Continue beating until well mixed. Shape dough into 1 teaspoon rounded balls and you can roll in different mixtures, OR you can cheat like I do and use a small teaspoon sized ice cream scoop and plop them on the pan then flatten and sprinkle mixtures on top. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
For cinnamon sugar cookies: Roll balls in a mixture of 2 tbsp of sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon, OR cheat and sprinkle it on top after flattening the balls.
Cherry chocolate cookies: By hand, stir in 1/4 c chopped chocolate, place 1 teaspoon size round ball on baking sheet and place 1 half of a drained maraschino cherry on top.
Sprinkles: Flatten balls on baking sheet and sprinkle or you can roll rounded balls in a bowl of sprinkles.
Spice candies or nuts: Place balls on cookie sheets and press 1 gumdrop or whole nut in the center.
Use your imagination! Easy cookie dough recipe, endless ways to gussy it up and personalize these cookies! My girls were asking for another cookie just about every 10 minutes and then I finally got smart and hid them-- Out of sight, out of mind. Too bad I couldn't hide them from myself, too! I know those elastic waist pants are around here somewhere...
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I made a batch of peppermint hard candies with a recipe I spotted in a Southern Living magazine. It looked so good in the picture and after a quick check in the pantry to make sure I had all the ingredients, I set about to make it. Looked simple enough, with basic sugar, corn syrup, flavoring and food color. I followed the directions and boiled as long as it said I should, then quickly poured it out onto a greased cookie sheet to cool. It should have broken easily with a mallet and then we would have the pleasure of eating homemade peppermint candies!
Should've, would've... it didn't end up at all like the picture!
After breaking, it was kind of like hard taffy and as soon as it touched the heat of your mouth it warmed and melted to your teeth and felt like it would pull a tooth out if you tried to open your mouth!! The pieces that I broke apart and tossed into a bowl, later all "melted" and formed into one solid mass of red peppermint blob even though it was kept in the fridge. Even overnight, it still retained it's taffy-like hardness and I wouldn't dare give a piece to the girls for fear of yanking a tooth out. So it went into the trash.
I found another minty candy recipe I'll try later once I get all the ingredients I need and this one seems more idiot-proof for me to try. Nothing more frustrating than wasting food when it doesn't go right or the cook gets careless and forgets something in the oven too long. We all have our kitchen mishaps, but every once in awhile, those mishaps turn into something yummy!
What are you doing in the kitchen for the holidays?
**if you're interested, here's the link to the peppermint candy recipe: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=1687573