Monday, December 31, 2007

Good-bye 2007

Today is the last day of 2007 and I'm not sad to see it go. I am looking forward to a new and fresh year. 2007 was a tough year, one of learning to cope with a husband that has no job and trying to make ends meet. 2007 was also a year of blessings, a new nephew to welcome into the family, a new baby in my belly, and lots of 'firsts' with my children: first lost tooth, first day without training pants, first sentence spoken...

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

The Aftermath...

Christmas Day turned out to be so wonderful for us. All my worries of not being able to get anything for the girls and very little presents under the tree were all for naught. The Grandparents came over the Saturday before Christmas and bought over about 3 presents for each child to put under the tree. We managed to buy a small doll for each girl and Santa put those under the tree while they slept along with a case of playdoh that my Mom had bought and asked me to hold until Christmas. I also made matching hats and scarves for each out of some left over fleece I had from my blanket-making days. It was nice and simple and the girls loved what they got. They played with their dolls all day and are still playing with them today. They loved their hats and looked so cute modeling them and are now looking to the skies for an excuse to wear them when it snows.

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

Quick Canning Recipe for Gift-Giving

Tomorrow is Christmas eve and I hope most of you spent the weekend at home, relaxing with family and friends and not out with the crowds at the stores. You couldn't make me go out to the store on the last weekend before Christmas.

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.

You'll need:

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.

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Everything Happens For A Reason

I truly believe that things happen for a reason. The way the old lady in the car in front of you drives so slow and there is no passing lane may save you from speeding into a 5 car accident just up ahead. The way the weather turns foul and you end up staying home and catching an important phone call. The stranger you meet at the store ends up sharing information that you needed to know. Sometimes, you don't see the reason right away and bang your head in frustration when you are stuck driving so slowly behind the old lady, but when you pass the accident, you become grateful and breathe a sigh of relief.

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

Santas For Sale!

Alright folks! Here are the Santa Heads that are for sale. These were carved by my Dad, then copied into a resin mold by a company and then painted by me. This is an original design by my dad and he does great wood carvings. I don't claim to be a professional painter, and I like to think I picked up a few tips and hints from my stepmom over the years. She is an outstanding painter in both acrylics and watercolor and I should also mention that these Santa heads are painted with acrylic paints.

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 5. Plain red hat

Santa number 6. Green hat with gold polka dot accents

Santa number 7. Candy cane hat SOLD

Santa number 8. Red hat with Holly leaf accent SOLD

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Santas For Sale-- preview!

It has been a busy day for us. Our digital camera broke and we needed to replace it. Without the camera, I cannot take the pictures I need to sell things on eBay. Without eBay, we cannot earn the money we need to cover our costs for food, gas and bills. Without money for food, gas and bills, well, we wouldn't be here right now. So we scraped together some money and scoured all the sales ads and found the best camera deal for the money. In this case, I am grateful for all the sales for Christmas and we found a pretty nice camera. It isn't my dream camera, but it'll do. It's already a better camera than what we had so I can't complain. Our old camera managed to last more than 4 years, so you can imagine what a dinosaur it must be, by now. Shame, though, because now we can't use the little photo printer that we bought to go with it, but I checked on eBay and they had some on there, so I might sell it on eBay. What good is the printer without the camera?

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

Drumroll Please...

I have been bubbling with certain information that I could not share for awhile now. First it was a matter of checking to make sure and then it was a matter of telling people in person so they don't find out by reading it here. Now that I have checked and double-checked, told all the major family members, I can finally share it here.

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

Winter Storm Project

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

Peppermint Creams

We are supposed to be getting some foul weather overnight and Sunday, in the form of freezing rain and possibly snow. The weather reports instill panic, I think, because while at the store today, we saw lots of people stocking their carts to overflowing with food items. Hubby's parents came over this morning, early as usual and they asked us to not be upset with them if they left early to beat the weather back home. Mom-in-law said that at the sight of one snowflake, they were "outta here!" So they left around 11 am after a whirlwind visit and we went to the store shortly after to pick up a few items in case we did get snowed in. Living in a rural area like we do, the roads don't get plowed right away and it's best to be safe than sorry.

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

Spirits Lifted!

In my previous post, I said I wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit because we are going through some tough times right now. Hubby has been out of work and is having a hard time finding a job. We have burned through all our savings, emptied the coin jars, and now we are sadly, eyeing the girl's piggy banks. I have been selling things on eBay and that little bit of income is helping to keep gas in the car and food in our bellies, but not enough to pay the bigger bills we have.

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!

HO Ho ho...

I really do love the Holidays, but I am not feeling the Christmas spirit yet. We put up and decorated the tree, I pulled out my treasured Santas (Santa here was carved by my dad and painted by my Step-mom) and set them on the cupboard, I've been baking a few things here and there, but it feels forced.
A few Christmas songs have wound their way into my head and like a broken record they play: "I'm dreamin' of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know...." repeat endlessly because that's the only line I can remember from that particular song. I'll switch to something different, but after doing some sort of mindless chore like folding laundry, it will inevitably pop back into my head and I'm stuck with the endless one-liner. Which is sort of funny considering I am Deaf and shouldn't have music stuck in my head anyway.
Has anyone noticed a recurring theme in all the advertising for the Holidays this year? It's the word "wish". Grant a wish, What they're wishing for, what do you wish? Blahblahblah, wishwishwish. I'm getting real sick of that word and it isn't helping my Christmas spirit!
Maybe it is because we can't afford to do any sort of shopping and I have to go to the food store on a very tight budget. Not that we spent gobs of money on presents in the past, but there was usually an average of $25 per person spent plus a couple of homemade gifts and the baked goods. Maybe it's because I wish I could buy more fabric to make things. Or I wish I could buy more ingredients to bake things. Or I wish we didn't have to worry about money.
This year, I have dreaded giving Mom-in-law a Christmas list for the girls because I know that I can't really reciprocate on the gift giving. When we got together for Thanksgiving, I handed over the demanded list and left out anything for Hubby and I. Mom-in-law didn't like that and wanted to know what we wanted. Then Sis-in-law wanted to know what the girls wanted, too.
I know that they are aware that Hubby hasn't worked in a few months and I am sure they are sensitive to the fact that we don't have much to give by way of gifts, but it still makes it hard just the same. The Holidays are supposed to be about giving and spending time with each other and taking a moment to celebrate Jesus' birthday, I know all this, but that sense of dread keeps creeping back. It puts a damper on my Christmas spirit and I am trying to get out of this funk by making things. Small felt elf shoe ornaments that I plan to give to each household, so I can't put a picture here or I'll spoil the surprise. Peppermint cream candies and fudge. A few cookies.
I am trying to stay upbeat and positive for Hubby, encouraging him with words of love and kindness, telling him that someone will hire him soon. I tell him to keep the faith in God and that there must be a reason for all this, a lesson to be learned. My own faith is starting to waver and I am getting tired. I really do hope someone hires Hubby soon, tomorrow would be nice. A phone call from someone telling him he got the job. Something steady with a good health insurance plan. I'm tired of holding my breath every time one of the girls fall down and bump their head, or one of us gets sick and I pray it doesn't go beyond a cold and a cough.
I don't mean to sound like a moaning myrtle, but this is my journal, yes? If I can't be honest with myself then I'm not doing any justice to myself. I hope the Holidays will bring you all happiness and togetherness and lots of food to eat and lots of merry-making. I hope it comes to us, too.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Great Love Affair is Over

For almost 2 years, Middle has had an ongoing love affair with Woody and Buzz from 'Toy Story'. She would ask to watch either Toy Story or Toy Story 2 every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times in a row if Oldest would tolerate it. She would watch the TV, entranced with Woody and Buzz on the screen. Then, at the children's consignment shop I worked at, they had a Woody doll and a Buzz doll! Middle would make a beeline for them every time we came in for me to work and would play with them until it was time to go home and she had to be forced to put it back. She remembered where she put it and the next time we came in, found them and resumed playing.

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

Christmas Meme

I've been tagged for a Holiday meme by Summer and I see this is making the rounds elsewhere in Blogland, too. Feel free to join in and copy this meme to your own blog with your own answers and let me know so I can go peek at yours.

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

Cookies, Anyone?

... 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:

Sugar Cookies:

1 1/2 c sugar
1 c butter, softened
2 eggs
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

Attack of the Peppermint Blob!

Every year, I like to make and give away cookies and goodies that I make. I started a little too early, I think, this year, because the fudge I made a few days ago is nearly gone! I need to remind myself that I have 3 little ones who don't realize they are sneaking pieces of someone's gift!! Well, Hubby and I are guilty of eating the fudge, too. It's so good! I can't help myself!

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:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Holiday Breakfast Recipe

I don't know about you, but I love the Christmas Holidays. I love all the baking and cooking, the holiday dinners with friends and family, the wrapping paper, decorations.. anything and everything associated with Christmas, I love! What I don't like, is all the commercialism and non-stop advertisements on TV, newspapers and even the Internet. I wish the stores would wait until after Thanksgiving to start hawking their wares. I wish the Halloween candy had a chance to be put out alone instead of competing for shelf space next to Christmas candy. Hubby has started to grumble every time a commercial comes on about how jewelry is what all women want and you men cannot go wrong with getting a diamond necklace/ring/bracelet. The girls see a princess kitchen or baby doll commercial and look at me with hopeful faces, and it is now to the point where the TV stays off for most of the day.
I bring out my small Santa collection, some vintage ones and some carved by my dad and I set them out on the old cupboard in the living room. This little guy is a vintage one from 1966.

When we lived at the old house, I was always wishing we had more room to host a holiday party. I always saw recipes I wanted to try and thought this one or that one would be perfect for a party meal. Now that we live in a bigger house and have the room to host a party, we can't get people to come up because we live so far away. If I had a friend that lived in the mountains and they invited us to come up for a holiday party, we would waste no time in getting up there. So my collection of recipes have grown and I have made some, adjusted some, discarded some and my little family consumes my culinary results. The failures get tossed outside for the cats and if they don't eat it, the opossum or skunk will.

I want to share a recipe with you that would be great for a breakfast or brunch and I've been making this for quite a few years now. I can't remember where I got it from, but it has been tweaked and perfected. I made some today for breakfast and meant to take a picture of it, but I got sidetracked with Middle's bloody toe and breakfast turned into brunch and with a hungry family it was devoured before I remembered to snap a photo. That's how good it is!

What you'll need:

1 can of crescent roll dough

1/2 of Jimmy Dean sausage, cooked and broken up

2 to 3 cups of frozen hash browns or shredded potatoes

1 cup shredded cheese

6 eggs, beaten

Mrs. Dash seasoning, original flavor

In a lightly greased 9 x 12 baking dish or pan, unroll the crescent dough and press on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the cooked sausage on top of the dough, then the potatoes, then the cheese. You can use any cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, american.. I usually use a combination of cheddar and mozzarella. I have a love affair with Mrs. Dash seasoning and sprinkle this on top of the cheese pretty liberally. Pour the scrambled eggs on top and bake in a 375* oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked and set and lightly browned. Cut into 12 pieces. Serve hot.

This is really a good breakfast dish and I make it pretty often. All 3 of my girls gobble this up without any prodding and Mom requests it when she comes to visit and I don't ever get leftovers. You could serve this with a side of fruit. I also cook the whole sausage and use half now and freeze the other half for another breakfast later. If you make this, let me know how it went and if you and your family liked it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Walk In The Woods

Weather cooperated with us today and I was able to take the girls outside for some fresh air and a walk in the woods. I've been wanting to get a picture like this for awhile now and wanted to time it with the girls walking under that fallen tree that arched across the path. Youngest started to pull away from her sisters and walked back to me with arms outstretched, saying, "Up, up!" When I tried to put her back down by the arched tree, no go. Her legs clamped around me and her little hands clenched my sweater in her fists. I like this picture, though.

Our time outside was cut short, when Youngest fell face-first into a pile of branches. All I could see was that one sturdy branch and I saw it connect with the top of her forehead. As quickly as it happened, she was just as quickly in my arms, wailing and crying. Thankfully, it was just a scratch about 2 inches long, broken skin but no blood. Whew.. Her guardian angel was looking out for her today. I carried her back into the house and she clung to me, wanting more comfort and then I mentioned "hot chocolate" and she released me, running to the fridge where she knows the makings of hot chocolate live. Hot chocolate and warm banana bread fresh from the oven cures all!

We will spend more time outside this weekend, if it isn't too cold. I'd like to gather greens and branches for garlands and maybe a wreath or two. Hope you all have a lovely weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the stores.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Rolling With The Punches

This Live Oak tree in Florida is over 200 years old. It was astonishing to walk up to this tree and admire the arching branches, humongous in size, and seemingly graceful in the way the limbs reach to the ground. This tree is protected and has become a tourist attraction. I can only imagine what this tree has seen, and the fact that it has survived over 200 years of hurricanes, disease, overzealous lumberjacks, termites and rot is no small feat. They built a deck around the base of the tree, to keep people from trampling the roots, but you are also welcome to climb and sit and pose for pictures on it's branches. It was an amazing tree to see and nearly impossible to capture the size of it on camera.

This tree has got me thinking about just how fragile life can be, but also how determination can win out in the end. We wake up daily to a new day, not knowing what life has in store for us. We can make plans and map out our days, but the reality is, anything could happen. Good or bad, the unexpected shapes our lives. It could be as small as running out of ketchup and milk and making an unplanned stop at the grocery store, then while there, bumping into an old friend which leads to an invite to dinner. Or as big as someone announcing an engagement which will then change the lives of two people and their families.

It's how you deal with the unexpected that shows what kind of person you are. I know some that can roll with the punches and it never fazes them. Then others that are very resistant to change and buckle at the slightest upset. I like to think I am somewhere in between, leaning more to the flexible side. I like stability in my life and tend to avoid confrontation or crazy over scheduling. I think I deal with the unexpected with a cool head and manage to turn it into: "since we're here...might as well!" On a smaller scale, it's like taking bananas that have gone over-ripe and making banana bread out of them. On a larger scale, it is losing a job that forces you to re-evaluate your priorities, figuring out what is absolutely necessary and what is simply, a luxury.

I made bread the other night, which gave Hubby an excuse to propose to me again when he put my wedding ring back on my finger. In all sincerity, he asked me if I would marry him, for richer or poorer, with emphasis on the poorer part. I replied, yes. I didn't marry him for money, I married him for love. And I do love him. For richer or poorer. A rejection letter came in today for a job Hubby interviewed for and we're rolling with the punches on this job searching. Tomorrow is another day. We're rolling.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Birthday Boy

Today is my husband's birthday.
I don't know what I would do without that man.
He means the world to me and our children.
Without him, they would not exist.
He is a loving father, though sometimes stern;
a single look from him quiets the girls quicker than when I holler and plead for them to behave.
I love that the girls only need to bat their eyes and smile, then he melts and dissolves.
He is a man in a house full of women, and he loves it.
He does a perfect imitation of a gorilla, and the girls love it when he becomes gorilla daddy.
Oldest calls him her furball.
He beams when he has all three of his girls in his arms.
I beam too.
He has a lovely shiny head and when he puts on his shades, combined with his goatee and his size,
he looks quite mean.
I have seen other men look him up and down and hold the door open for him.
I have seen small children cower when he comes near.
But I know that deep down, he is a pussy cat.
He's my pussy cat.
Shh, don't tell anyone.
I came home one day, to find he pierced his ear by himself.
A gold hoop now dangles from his pirate ear.
He loves music and there is not a moment when the radio isn't on.
We blew a fuse in the van that shut the radio off and poor man was miserable for the rest of the drive.
A fuse was quickly bought and replaced.
Peace was restored.
The music played on, no fat lady singing here.
He makes me laugh just to hear my high-pitched squeal.
He likes my high-pitched squeal.
He lets me warm my cold toes on him at night;
then I get to hear him squeal!
The man has a great palate, and I am always testing him, asking if he can taste what spices I used.
He is usually right 95% of the time.
I like to mix things up just to confuse him, but he is too smart for me!
When I take off my wedding ring to knead bread or make meatloaf, he puts it back on my finger--
proposing to me every time.
I always say "yes".
He wears the same aftershave since I've met him.
I don't like the way it smells when he puts it on,
so he puts it on at the last minute, before he heads out the door.
Just for me.
But I love the way he smells after he's been marinating in said aftershave at the end of the day.
He loves me;
just the way I am.
And I love him;
just the way he is.
Happy Birthday, baby.

Friday, November 23, 2007


We went to the city for Thanksgiving with Hubby's family. We decided to leave Wednesday and make a few stops along the way before arriving at the In-Law's for the night. Stopped to see my mom, had lunch, went to the super-duper used bookstore, then on to see some friends and drop off their extra luggage storage rack we borrowed for our trip to Florida. I like when we can get multiple things done all on one shot, saving both gas and time, not to mention money, too.

It was good to see everybody and Thanksgiving dinner was great! My mother-in-law got smart this year and ordered a pre-cooked turkey with all the trimmings from the local food store. They went to pick it up on Thanksgiving morning and it included just about everything you would need, even a pie of your choice. All she had to do was heat the turkey in the oven for about 2 hours and heat everything else up in the microwave. She didn't need to slave over a hot stove in a hot kitchen and instead, spent time with her 6 grandchildren. The dinner was really good, surprisingly, with the exception of the stuffing. I asked if they would do it again and was it worth the price (I don't know what they paid) and they both said yes.

We set up the Christmas tree today and stayed home, far away from crazy shoppers. I used to be one of those people that got up at 5 am to go in and get some things for cheap. But these last few years, I've not wanted to participate in that anymore. It's gotten crazy and the stores encourage it! One of the sales papers (I can look!) had advertised their sale hours to be from 4 (!!!) am until 11 am and "once it's gone, it's gone!" So unless you get there before 11, you get it for the sale price, unless, of course, it's gone! Another ad said they would start giving out tickets to people in line starting at 3 am and they didn't open until 5 am. The TV news showed people camping out in front of the stores last night and it was COLD up here.. the temps were in the 30's not counting the wind chill and it was crazy windy with trees falling over and everything.

Anyway, we stayed home, cut out paper snowflakes and set up our tree.It was a nice relaxing day, eating leftover turkey club sandwiches and pie for dinner.

This is a square folded into sixths.. folded in half then folded 1/3 and again 1/3. Snip away and then unfolded it looks like this:

Hubby, Oldest and I all had fun cutting out snowflakes. Middle wasn't interested in the slightest and Youngest was smartly put down for a nap by me. Here is our collection of snowflakes:

Do be prepared to sweep or vacuum when you're done with the snowflake making... You'll have quite a papery mess on the floor!
I hope you all are having a lovely time and enjoying all the leftovers! Have a good weekend!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bagels, Anyone?

My first try with making bagels was a delicious success! The recipe I used came from my old cookbook: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, dated 1981. Mom gave it to me when I was just a kid and starting to show an interest in cooking without her help. It is looking tattered now, and favorite recipes are marked with a smiley face and recipes I've tried that I didn't like get the frown face with a tongue sticking out. It's been a good cookbook to me over the years, and I have bought or received others, but this one remains my go-to book.

I never had a bagel until I went away to the deaf school when I was 13. In the cafeteria, they had a little bread corner with a conveyor toaster and I'd see these funny looking, donut shaped rolls. I didn't know what they were, so like any normal kid, I didn't bother with them and stuck to the plain white bread. One of my roommates would toast a bagel for breakfast everyday and when dinner was kind of gross, the bagel was her fall-back meal. She'd slather this white stuff all over it and eat it with gusto! I didn't like mayo at the time, and I thought the white stuff was a cousin of the mayo. My curiosity got the best of me and I toasted my first bagel and used butter and jam. Yummy! I learned the "white stuff" was called cream cheese and I ventured in trying just a thin layer of cream cheese on my buttered bagel. Hm, not bad. I have since progressed to toasted flavored bagels with a thick layer of cream cheese, no butter.

The bagels I made are very similar to the Lender's frozen bagels. Same size and texture. I didn't make the holes big enough so when you let the dough rise, it choked out the holes. Next time I'll know to make the holes bigger. Hubby is telling me to make more and freeze them for later. I calculated the cost of making them VS buying them and it comes out about the same, only by making them, I know exactly what is going into my bagels. I made 12 and the next time, I'll probably double it and make 24, some for now, some to freeze.

Have you tried anything new in the kitchen lately?

**Here's the Bagel Recipe if you want to try making your own...

4 1/2 to 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I use unbleached flour)
2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
3 tbsps sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

In a mixer bowl combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast. Combine warm water, the 3 tbsps sugar and salt. Pout over flour mixture. Beat at low speed of electric mixer 30 seconds, scraping bowl. Beat 3 minutes at high speed. Stir in as much remaining flour as you can mix in with a spoon.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Cut into 12 portions; shape each into a smooth ball. Punch a hole into the center of each and pull gently to make a 2 inch hole. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover; let rise 20 minutes. Broil 5 inches from heat 3 to 4 minutes, turning once (tops should not brown). Heat 1 gallon of water and the 1 tbsp of sugar to boiling; reduce heat. Cook 4 or 5 bagels at a time for 7 minutes, turning once; drain. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a 375 oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 12.

*You can add different herbs to make a herbed bagel by adding 2 tsps dried marjoram; or 1 tsp dried dillweed; or 1 tsp dried tarragon; or 1/2 tsp garlic powder to the flour/yeast mixture.

*You can make onion bagels by cooking 1/2 cup finely chopped onion in 3 tbsps of butter until tender, but not brown. Brush onion mixture over tops of bagels after first 15 minutes of baking.

*Poppy seed or Sesame seed bagels by brushing tops of bagels before baking with beaten egg and then sprinkling with poppy seed or toasted sesame seed.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Blank Menu

Day in and day out:

"What's for breakfast?

What's for lunch?

I'm hungry, mom, what's for dinner?

Can we have dessert?

Can I have a cookie/fruit snack/muffin?"

I am starting to feel a little burned out, trying to come up with a variety of meals that everyone will eat. Oldest is generally pretty good about eating everything on her plate. Middle needs lots of encouragement and she will turn her nose at most meat dishes with the exception of hot dogs and meatloaf. Youngest is going through a stage that Oldest and Middle both went through, but it is nerve-wracking to a mother-- eating very little, much like a bird. Today, though, for lunch I made homemade chicken noodle soup which happens to be one of Youngest's favorite meals and she just plowed through her bowl!

Now it is dinner-time again and I haven't a clue what to make. Seems like the past few days, the meal ideas have been slow to come and I stand in front of the open fridge staring, or in front of the pantry waiting for inspiration to strike. Sometimes an idea will come only to be shot down because I lack one of the main ingredients to make it and there is no suitable substitute. I could make a casserole with ground beef, cream of celery soup and tator tots-- absolutely simple and yummy, but no ground beef. How about bruschetta chicken with chopped pieces of chicken, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and stuffing? Not enough chicken in the freezer. agh! I know! I'll make a shepard's pie with mashed potatoes and corn and ground be-- oh wait, no ground beef.

I go to Hubby and ask him if there is anything he'd like to eat? I'm hoping for a solid answer and I'll happily go into the kitchen to whip it up, and his answer sounds like this: "Whatever you want to make, baby." Agh! If I didn't have to worry about feeding the kids, I'd tell Hubby he is on his own tonight and I'd settle for a bowl of cereal.

I've had a lot of inspiration in the baking department these past few days, though, and I've made pumpkin muffins, oatmeal raisin cookies, grandma's white bread, cinnamon rolls, brown sugar chewies, and I am getting ready to tackle trying bagels for the first time. I've got such a craving for bagels and cream cheese that if I had some made already, that's what we'd be having for dinner right now! At least I know what we will be having for breakfast tomorrow morning. I'll let you know how my attempt at bagel-making turns out.

I'm off to go stare inside the fridge for another 10 minutes. Any yummy tried-and-true meal ideas that you always make? Kid pleaser and doesn't call for a gazillion ingredients? Care to share? Pretty please?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

2 Birds With One Stone?

While I was working for the consignment shop, I managed to lose 5 pounds. Mostly because I was too busy to eat and because the store space was huge and I had to walk a mile just to get to the break room! I've been afraid to get on the scale for awhile now, because I am quite positive I gained it back and more. sigh...

Wouldn't one of these contraptions be nifty to have around the house? Instead of mindlessly riding on an exercise bike while watching TV, or having to get off a normal bike to walk it up the hill, you can ride one of these around the yard and cut the grass at the same time! I'm told it really works. It actually cuts the grass while you ride the bike. Not long after I took this picture, I kid you not, the lawn service people showed up, moved the bike to the driveway and spent the next 30 minutes cutting the grass. So much for exercise!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dream Kitchen

While in Florida, we went to the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) and it was a little disappointing. It was an expensive entry fee per person (Thanks Dad for paying the entry fees) and for that price, I expected a lot more than what there was. There was an interesting exhibit with a timeline of Florida from the period of early Indians leading up to current times, we enjoyed that part and around the corner, in the 50's era, I found my dream kitchen! I gasped when I saw it! I swooned! My heart palpitated and beat faster! I called for Hubby to "come see, come see!" We both sighed together as we drooled over the display. Good thing there was a fence blocking it off because I would have tried to stuff as much as I could in the diaper bag! I would have grabbed the dishes in the dishwasher and stuffed them in my bag, picked up the chairs and strap them on Hubby's back, unplug the fridge and drag it away to the van... Oh! This was the most perfect kitchen! Very similar to how we want to re-do our kitchen, to update it with a vintage feel, to find vintage items and install modern wiring and to actually USE vintage items. I have about half of the stuff you see in the picture:

I have several sets of 50s dinette, Formica top tables and chairs- 2 red ones, a pink one, and a grey and black one. I have lots (lots and lots!) of vintage Pyrex and Fire King bowls, ovenware and dishes. I hoard vintage tablecloths, towels and aprons! Oh! Just looking at the picture makes me salivate all over again! This kitchen was decorated in the typical Florida style of that period, so there are more coral colors than I would like- the coral floor and the walls are pink and the curtains are tropical palm trees. But the style- Oh!! I may faint!

What's your dream kitchen?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mountain Views

Today was a beautiful day in the mountains. It's been cold, rainy and chilly since we came back from vacation and we've had the wood stove going almost daily. Yesterday, the temperatures went up to 60 and we spent some time outdoors and didn't need to fire up the wood stove. Today, we had more of the milder weather and it actually warmed up to the high 60s! We took the girls outside for a photo session and yard work and I managed to sneak away for some pictures around the property.

This is the mountain we can see from our living room window when the trees are bare. When the trees are in full bloom, we can't see the mountain unless we walk to the driveway or walk to the upper part of our property and we can look over our house to the mountain. A beautiful sight and one we are thankful to be able to have.

I love the way this woodpile looks. The warm colors of the freshly cut wood, the cool greys of the bark and the colors of the fallen leaves. I posed the girls on the logs for a photo session and I can't show them because then it would give away the surprise to certain people that read this blog. The woodpile is a work in progress: they have been cut, but not split.

This is on the western part of our property. There is an easement through our land so neighbors can get through, but they never use this road. The easement was put in place when there was some sort of feud between neighbors and these neighbors asked the previous owners if they could put a road through so they wouldn't have to go on the shared driveway with the other neighbors. They have since moved and the new people use the main drive and this one is left alone, mostly. I wish I could remove the easement, but I'm not sure how to go about doing so. This photo makes me think of that poem.. you know the one.

I love this view of the trees. It's so peaceful to see and to see nothing but trees, trees and trees. It's very calming walking along the road and being surrounded by trees, tall and strong. Need to keep my eyes on the road and not so much in the trees because there are plenty of deer droppings and I have to caution the girls not to step in them!

This just fills my soul! This poor tree fell over and died, but it left a beautiful arch for us to walk under. Just tall enough for a truck to drive under. If I can, I will leave it and let it fall on it's own. I will enjoy it for as long as it is there. If I was a kid, I would beg mom for an old sheet and drape it over and get some rope to make a tent and play under it for days and days. I'm tempted to do it for my girls now, but I am not ready to let them play alone so far from the house where I can't see or hear them. If it is still there 2 or 3 years from now, then I'll put the idea in their heads on making a fort and offer them some old sheets and rope. I'll put a chair nearby so I can watch them play but not intrude on their fun, and do some crocheting or reading.

We're happy here, among the trees, living on a mountain with views of another mountain, driving on winding roads and the neighbors out of sight. I hope you are happy where you are, too.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

How To Make Roast Beef Au Jus

Here's a most yummy-licious crock pot recipe for Roast Beef Au Jus. I've been making this for years and it is a winner every time! It makes about 16 sandwiches so you can make it for a big crowd, or if you're like me, eat some now and freeze some for later. Start it in the morning, cook it all day and eat it for dinner!

What you'll need:

Crock Pot
4 to 5 lb of beef rump roast
1 oz package of dry onion soup mix (like Lipton's or store brand works fine too)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried parsley
3 beef bouillon cubes
3 cups water
12 oz can of beer (not light.. regular or dark preferred)
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sandwich Rolls

I bought 2 beef rump roasts (above) that equal out to about 4 1/2 pounds.

Trim off the fat and discard. You don't want the broth to be all fatty, so cut off the thick fat on the sides of the roast, don't worry about the little bit in the middle of the meat.

Place meat in a large crock pot and set on high.

Add the package of dry onion soup mix. I used to be picky and only buy the name brand and I have since wisened up and fattened up my wallet as well. The store brand tastes just as good!

Add the 2 teaspoons of sugar,

and the teaspoon of dried parsley.

Unwrap the bouillon cubes and add to the pot. You could substitute the cubes with 2 cans of beef broth if you wanted, but I've always used the cubes. Just a matter of preference.

Add the minced garlic. I buy my garlic already minced in jars, because I never seem to use up the garlic cloves fast enough before they sprout on me. So I buy the jarred garlic and it works out fine.

Add the beer. I always used the light beer and then one day I sent Hubby to the store to buy beer so I could make this and he came back with the regular beer. The flavor was much better and I've experimented with dark beers, too. Regular beer seems to taste the best to me. That's the only time we buy beer, to cook with!

Add the water. Put the crock pot cover on and let it cook for 6 to 8 hours. 2 pieces of meat will cook faster than 1 large piece of meat.. so just keep an eye on it. Your house will smell like a good restaurant while this is cooking and if any visitors stop by, they'll be inviting themselves for dinner.

When you can stick your fork in the meat and twist it easily, it's ready!

Take it out in chunks and start breaking it up into smaller pieces...

When it is cool enough to handle, I just use my fingers to break it up. Pick out any fatty pieces or strips of tendon and veins and feed the scraps to the cats or dogs. Your cat will sit on your lap and purr for hours and your dog will fetch your slippers!

Toss the shredded beef back into the crock and let it cook another half hour to get hot again. Sample repeatedly. Quality control is important here!

Serve on rolls and a bowl of the drippings to dip the sandwich in. SO good!

Whenever I make this, we eat a little for dinner and then I take the leftovers and freeze in batches. I can make 4 meals out of this-- one to eat now and 3 to save for later. They freeze well, and don't forget to add some of the drippings to the meat when you freeze it. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thrifty Thursday

While we were in Florida, I was amazed at the sight of so many thrift shops. It makes sense, though, all the old people that move down there and then head off to the great beyond, while their earthly belongings head off to the thrift shops. I kid you not, in a 10 mile stretch of road, there were more than 10 thrift shops, ranging from the huge nationally known stores to the smaller, more personal shops to the strictly children's items only stores. We asked my Sister to be our guide at which were the better shops and we spent a day thrifting. If I lived there, I'd be making the rounds daily and keeping some for me and selling the rest on eBay. Prices were reasonable and if we had a bigger car, we would have bought a lot more!

There was a thrift shop 2 blocks away from my Dad's place. We never stopped there until the morning we were to head to South Carolina. The minute I walked in, I was sorry we didn't go in earlier! Hubby was going to wait in the car with the kids and I knew he'd be waiting a long time, so I went back out to grab him and the girls. I found this great blanket (below) in there and it is just my style! It says it is a twin size but it's so over sized that I think I could make it fit on our bed. If it doesn't, I'll grudgingly put it on one of the girl's bed. It's not a patchwork quilt, only looks like one, but it is quilted and heavy!

I also picked up these vintage sheets (below) from the same shop. They had a great linens section and everything was sorted by size and usage, IE: twin fitted on one shelf and twin flat on another. They were all folded and then taped and it was easy to spot the vintage flower sheets I love so much. There is nothing worse than going to a shop and all the linens are in a mess and I have to dig through to find something and then figure out what size it is, too. I was very impressed with this shop and I wish there was one like it closer to me!

At other shops, we picked up some various items to re-sell on eBay. I don't know if I can part with the green dogwood melamine plates, though. They're so cute! We grew up on melamine plates and I remember eating off a ceramic plate for the first time and the scrape of a knife on the plate sent chills up my hand. Much the way fingernails on a chalkboard would do it for you hearing people, the feel of a knife scraping on a plate gets to me. I also found a great old set of 10 books titled "Science Experiences for Young Children". Each book devotes experiments to wheels, colors, air, pets and so on. Only $1.95! I can see us using them for home schooling lessons!

Like I said, if we had a bigger car, we would have come home with wayyyyy more stuff. I'm happy living here in the mountains, but man! I sure wish we had as many thrift shops up here as there were down there. I would turn it into a living, making daily visits to all the shops and then selling my finds on eBay. I know there are people out there that do it for a living, and I am trying to do it, too. If I can't open up my own place, this would be the next best thing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Zoo Adventures

While in Florida, we went to the Zoo with the family. The girls had never been to a zoo before and Hubby and I were looking forward to the girl's reactions to all the animals there. It was a very nice zoo and they had decorated for Halloween. There was to be a trick-or-treat event at the Zoo on Halloween, but we didn't go to that and we went the day before.

We saw a Speke's Gazelle (below) and he was a crowd pleaser, strutting around near the overlook and giving us a very good view of his markings and horns. There were several others resting in the shade in the distance, but this fellow was the only one willing to come close.

The girls were asking to see the Giraffes because someone had mentioned them and also, you could feed them if you bought some leaves from the staff. After viewing the other animals and repeatedly hearing, "I wanna see the giraffes!" We finally reached the Giraffe's pen. I think there were 5 of them, but we were so focused on the two that were stretching their necks and grabbing the small branches of leaves with their tongues that we didn't notice the other ones. I think all the kids fed the giraffes and after lots of picture-taking, I didn't manage to snap a single one with the giraffe's tongue wrapped around the branch. Oh well, I got a good close-up of his (her?) face.

Being Florida, they had an exhibit with a jaguar. Beautiful creature and as soon as we came along, he got up to sleep behind some bushes, but not before I snapped this picture of him (below). They also had a black panther which Hubby was enamored with and reminded him of our black cat, BC. You could tell Hubby missed his cat while we were gone.

Little lizards were everywhere!! I remember living in Louisiana and catching lizards all the time. I have been living up north for so long that I forgot what it was like to have lizards around all the time. I snapped this one at the Zoo and I'm sure the penned animals were envious of his slithering freedom.

I will have to find out if there are any Zoos nearby where we live. Plenty of farms and small mom and pop type of places, but a real, bona-fide Zoo? The closest one I can think of is all the way in DC and that is too long of a drive just to go to the Zoo. We all had a great time and all the kids conked out in the car on the way back from the zoo. The next time we go back to Florida, I think another trip to the Zoo is in order, to see the rest of the animals that we didn't get to see.