Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Napkins

Last year I bought a new Christmas tablecloth, and had wanted to also buy the cloth napkins to match. At the time, they didn't have enough of them, but I just bought what they had, and kept my eye out for any extras. Sure enough, after Christmas, they tossed some more into the clearance section, and I eventually had enough to complete my collection. So this year I was able to set my table with matching tablecloth and napkins.

One of my daughters received a napkin folding book for Christmas, and so she was happy to practice with a new design. When it came time for dinner, all of our place settings looked just like this (well, except for the fork being placed too high -- all of the place settings didn't have that special feature)

My daughter thought that a great idea for next year will be to buy some inexpensive and colorful Christmas ornaments to place in the middle of each napkin. On each ornament we will write the name of each guest with some kind of glittery pen, and that will serve as the place card. I can just picture it now. In fact I think I should take advantage of all of the sales going on at present to purchase some inexpensive ornaments in order to carry out this vision. It sounds pretty cute to me.

And as a side note, just in case someone is wondering why I have a yellow dish along with my red dish ..... I used my Fiesta dishes to serve our Christmas dinner on. I have a great variety of colors, and they actually looked quite festive.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I know that not everyone has turkey for their Christmas dinner; but for those of you that do, here is a quick and easy way to deal with some of your leftovers. When naming my recipes, I am not overly creative as you can tell by the name of this one -- "Turkey Surprise". It is quite simple. In any size baking dish that you desire, place leftover stuffing in the bottom of it. Then comes a layer of leftover mashed potatoes, followed by a layer of turkey that has been cut into small pieces. Once this has been compiled, I pour all of the leftover gravy over the top, cover it with foil, and pop it into the oven at 350 deg. for about 30 minutes, or until it is heated through. At my house this is always met with a warm reception, and seems like a quick way to finish up the leftovers. Even "non-stuffing" eaters seem to enjoy it. It is also very easy to put together, and a nice warm dinner on a very cold day.

Speaking of cold days, I just have to tell you that since my posting of December 18th we have received a total of 62 inches of snow! Prior to that we only measured 4 inches, bringing the total to 66 inches. These are all official measurements from a couple of days ago. This makes this December our snowiest December on record, and December isn't even over yet. Just last night we received an additional 10-12 inches, and even as I am writing this, we are in the midst of another big snowstorm. It is really coming down hard outside, and it is absolutely gorgeous.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas

With gift wrapping needing to be finished, big dinners to be prepared for, and a long list of goodies to bake, I'm quite certain that I won't be spending much time on the computer for the next couple of days. So in light of that, I wanted to take a moment now to wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas. Enjoy your time celebrating the birth of our dear Savior.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Funny Chickens

My most recent, and probably last, project before Christmas has been my little chickens. They are actually pincushions; but I have been enjoying them just sitting around making me smile. My daughter has had them all lined up on the window sill in my sewing room, and they have really added a bright spot. I have grown kind of attached to them, but with Christmas drawing near, some of them will find themselves in a new home come Christmas morning.

I had a great time picking out all of the different kinds of fabric to use. I tried to choose patterns that would look very cheerful. After I had made a few of the larger sizes, I decided that they needed to have a little chick to go with them.

All of the other hens were in awe of the new little baby that was added to their little flock. You see, there has only been one so far, but maybe after Christmas a few more chicks will be hatched.

They even have funny little tails:

When I finished my first little hen, it just made me smile; and I immediately thought of my sister, Kass. She is always such a cheerful person, and always makes us smile. She is a very talented artist, and everything she paints or draws is very colorful, cheerful, and sometimes very whimsical. Whenever I see something that is very colorful and makes me laugh, I think of her. She has brought a lot of joy into our lives ..... thanks, Kass.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Snowy Day

Yesterday morning when I woke up at about 6:00 a.m., the snow had begun to fall. Prior to this snowstorm, we already had a couple of inches, but nothing significant. This morning when I woke up, we had close to 3 feet of snow on the ground! It has snowed for the greater part of the day, finally stopping just a couple of hours ago. It has been an absolutely gorgeous day. Of course we have spent the greater part of it shoveling, thanks to our neighbors that loaned us their shovels (ours have mysteriously disappeared somewhere throughout the course of the year).

In this picture, if you look real close at the base of the trees, you will see the very top of a fence post of a 3 foot high fence.

This was the beautiful sight that greeted me early this morning looking out my kitchen window onto my deck:

And the playground ...

The cars in the midst of being found ....

And as darkness began to fall this evening, the driveway was finally cleared, some of the snow pulled off of the roof, and we could actually open our gate.

And the fun thing about it all .... we are supposed to get another possible 10 inches tonight. I love winter!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Baking Inspiration

Today I stumbled upon a very cute website for purchasing items for baking. It is called Bake It Pretty. They really have some cute ideas like these vintage cupcake toppers:

Or how about some cupcake liners that look like flowers:

A cupcake 101 kit including everything someone needs to make cupcakes packaged in a cute tin:

And little sugar flowers for decorating cupcakes or cakes:

There are other unique items for sale that are worth looking at if you enjoy baking or know of someone who does.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Flannel Sheets

As I write this note, it is currently 4 deg. outside. According to AccuWeather.com, our "real feel" is -25 deg. I haven't been outside to experience these temperatures yet this morning, but it sounds really cold outside!!! I know that there are many areas up in our neck of the woods that are experiencing even colder weather than this. Our furnace has been running almost non-stop through the night and this morning. But in spite of all of this, it is absolutely gorgeous outside. The sun is shining very brightly on all of our snow, and the sky is such a beautiful color of blue. During this time of year we don't get many blue skies, so it is a very welcome sight indeed. But for me it all gives me many reasons to be thankful. Thankful for a warm house with a dependable furnace, and especially my flannel sheets. Being able to climb into a bed with warm flannel sheets brings me so much joy every single night. There is no need to get into bed and have to wait for it to warm up, it is already warm. God bestows His wonderful blessings on us in every possible thing -- even flannel sheets.

"...For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." Matthew 6:8b

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Snowy Day

As I write this, we are in the midst of a snowstorm. The snow has really been coming down, and the wind threatens every now and then to mix things up a bit. But I think it is just beautiful. The perfect kind of day to stay inside and work on my Christmas projects. Today I hope to finish up my gifts of hot chocolate mix. I have been working on a creative way to present the gifts, and this is what I have come up with.

I scooped the mix into a clear cellophane bag that is used for putting cookies or candy in. Then I hit my fabric stash for some fun wintery types of fabric. Made a little gift bag and embellished it with some embroidery. My daughters helped me choose some brown ribbon with gold bells tied on it to finish it all off. Here is a picture before it was all put together:
And here is the finished product:

This was really fun to put together, and I think it makes for a very festive presentation of the gift. Now I get to spend the rest of this beautiful, snowy day, making a few more of these while sipping on some hot chocolate of my own.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dickens and Christmas

I don't think many people go through a Christmas season without reading, watching, or just thinking about "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. I always try to read the book, and watch at least one movie rendition each year. Some of the movie versions are great and others are very pitiful. In fact the other night we began watching one that was so bad, we turned it off. I'm quite certain that Charles Dickens would have been horrified to think someone had done that to his work. Last year I received as a gift, the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre production, which is a wonderful version.

This morning I came upon this website, where you can find everything you ever wanted to know about Charles Dickens and Christmas. I was directed there via a trail from the homeschool freebie site which also led me to their homeschool radio shows site which currently has a free mp3 adaptation of "The Pickwick Papers" also by Dickens. This location is currently having a Dickens Christmas Festival, wherein each week they offer a free mp3 program just in case you might be interested.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Paper Dolls

My mother has a beautiful cedar chest that she received before she was married. After she was married, she kept her special treasures in it. She has letters in it from my dad that he mailed to her when he was in the Navy during the war, childhood keepsakes, her high school prom dress, and newspaper clippings of my brothers and sisters and their special 4H awards. I can remember on special occasions (most likely rainy days when all of us kids were bored) my mom would open up her chest for us to take a peek inside. She would carefully take the items out and tell us the stories behind them. My eyes would always be searching for one thing -- her paper dolls. I loved it when she pulled out the candy box where they were kept. After she would show them to us, and tell us the story about how she made them; she would let us play with them. I can remember being so careful and not wanting to tear them in the least.

On a recent visit with her, she surprised my daughters and me by having her paper dolls out so that we could enjoy them once again. She made them from catalog pages in the late 1930's and early 1940's. My favorite of all of her dolls were the "twins". I always searched for them first amongst all of the dolls.

You will notice that they don't have any arms. That is because my mom would cut the arms off of the dolls; but then as she chose outfits from the catalog, she would leave the arms on so that any outfit would work with any doll.

Of course there are lots of dolls ...

and lots of outfits ...

After she would put the dolls back away in their safe little abode in the cedar chest, I can remember getting out our big catalogs and making some of my own. Of course they weren't as special as hers, and I didn't ever keep any of mine. I wish that I would have, because then my daughters could have played with mine. But that's okay, because they can enjoy the very same ones that my mom was always so kind enough to let me play with.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Good Life

I recently came across this picture here, and thought how much fun it would be if this could be a reality. Just imagine, you look beautiful, your hair is perfect, you are wearing a darling dress with cute shoes. The house is very tidy, you have a bouquet of beautiful flowers to enjoy (probably picked from your perfect flower garden), and you have time to sit in a comfy chair with a comfy pillow, and sew. And of course there is a hand stitched picture hanging on the wall. I love it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More Hot Chocolate

In a previous post, I shared with you a recipe for hot chocolate mix. I mixed it together yesterday, and decided I wanted to make it a bit more chocolatey. There is really a lot of room for play when whipping up a batch of hot chocolate mix. Just by adding a little more of this or a little more of that, you really can't go wrong. If you prefer a lighter chocolate flavor, stick with the other recipe. If you follow the rule (as do I) that more chocolate is always better, then try this recipe.

Hot Chocolate Mix #2

1 (25.6-oz) pkg. instant nonfat dry milk (10-2/3 cups)
1 (6-oz) jar powdered non-dairy creamer
2 cups powdered sugar
29.8 oz. instant chocolate drink mix
20 tablespoons Hershey's baking cocoa

Combine all ingredients together and mix well. Store in an airtight container and use within 6 months.

Add 4 tablespoons of this mix to 1 cup of hot water. Stir to dissolve.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Cookies

I can imagine many of you are beginning to do your holiday baking. I know I am hoping to start mine in the next couple of days. Typically, I leave it until the last minute, but I really don't want to do that this year. Somehow waiting until the day of Christmas Eve to make the sugar cut out cookies makes it more stressful than enjoyable. This year I am going to begin with the cut out cookies since they take the longest to make. Each year I also find myself on a quest to find the perfect sugar cookie recipe. If you also find yourself on the same quest each year, you might want to look here for a recipe and some easy decorating ideas. I personally haven't tried this recipe out yet, but it looks promising.

Monday, December 1, 2008


My mom taught me how to knit when I was about 9 or 10 years old. Some of my other friends at school were learning how, and I thought it looked like fun. I can imagine that this truly was a labor of love on my mother's part, because she really does not like to knit. She is a crochet person, and does so beautifully. I can't even remember ever seeing her knit, but I guess I just assumed she knew how. I learned on an old pair of wooden needles that seemed to have been a part of our household forever (of which I now have the honor of possessing). She only knew the basics, but that was enough to get me going. I still enjoy knitting; however, it takes me a really long time to finish something. I've never made anything amazing, just small projects throughout the years. My mother-in-law has also taught me more detailed knitting. She is an amazing knitter!! At one point, she even owned her own yarn shop. I have always been absolutely amazed at the projects she finishes in an unbelievable short amount of time. I'm quite certain that my niece, Rachel, has inherited this skill from her. Rachel is a busy mom with 4 small children, and never ceases to amaze me at the projects that she turns out in such rapid succession.

For the past few years I have been drawn to all of the pretty sock yarn that is out there on the market. When I visit a yarn shop, I always find my way over to this particular yarn, pick it up, and think that I would really like to learn how to knit socks. I have checked books out at the library reading about how to knit socks, but have never actually come to the point where I have begun to knit socks. For my birthday this year, one of my daughters gave me this as a gift:

Everything I need to make my own pair of socks!! My birthday is in the summertime, so obviously I haven't begun them yet; but am looking forward to the perfect cold winter day when I can sit down with a hot cup of tea, pick up my needles and yarn, and begin knitting socks.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some Gift Ideas

Here in Northern Idaho we have officially received our first snowfall. It was met with great excitement in our house. We do enjoy winter, and I think it is such a beautiful season (of course I know my dear mom will disagree). In my opinion though, it just adds to all of the blessedness of this time of year when we are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior.

With everyone's attention turning to gift buying, I thought that maybe I would rattle off a few more gift ideas that might be of help to someone.

For someone living in a cold climate:
A hat, gloves, scarf, hot chocolate mix, and a cute mug all packed in a hat box.

For someone that likes to bake:
A cookbook, new dishtowels, an apron, and some new wooden spoons.

For someone on the go:
A Starbucks gift card, travel mug, and a warm pair of gloves.

For anyone:
A new address book, note cards, fun pens, and a book of stamps.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Day After

In my opinion, the day after Thanksgiving is a wonderful day. The big feast is over, but there is an abundance of leftovers to enjoy throughout the day. But besides the food, there is something just "warm" about today. After spending so much time with preparations, there is not much to do but to just sit back and take it easy. I don't take in any of the big sales at the stores. I would much rather spend my day visiting with my family, watching a movie, getting out my sewing, listening to Christmas music (the day after Thanksgiving is always my first official day of enjoying this pleasure), and maybe even taking a nap. So all-in-all, another day of giving thanks for my many, many blessings.

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
1 Chronicles 16:34

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A very Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Colossians 3:17


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. That means that many of us will be very busy today with our various preparations. But when Friday rolls around, and you are taking it easy and enjoying the leftovers, your attention just might turn back to thinking of possible gift ideas for family and friends. If you like to sew, you might even find some free time to sit down in front of the sewing machine. Here is a quick and easy project that makes for a great gift. Pillowcases don't take too much fabric, they are quick to make, and with so many fabric choices out there, they turn out pretty cute. Team them up with a new pillow, and someone will be in for a great surprise.

Fabric needed for a pillowcase to fit a standard size pillow:

2/3 yd. of main fabric
1/3 yd. of secondary fabric
1/8 yd. of trim fabric

Cut the main fabric 24" x 42"
Cut the secondary fabric 12" x 42"
Cut the trim fabric 2-1/2" x 42"

Fold the trim fabric in half the length and press.
Fold the secondary fabric in half the length and press.

Stitch the unfinished edge of the trim piece to the unfinished edge of the secondary fabric. And then stitch to the main fabric. Stitch the bottom and side of the pillowcase, and that's all there is to it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Making Plans

I think I would be safe to say that most of us are busy making plans for the upcoming holiday. Whether they be menu planning, travel plans, or planning which guests will be invited over, plans are being made none-the-less. Most of the time our plans are carried out pretty close to how we had hoped that they would be. But occasionally, God intervenes and shows us that He has other plans for us at a particular time. I think it is important that while we are making our plans, we keep in mind that just in case God diverts our plans onto another course, that we keep in step trusting Him entirely for where He is leading us, and being ever thankful that He is at the helm.

"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving Reminders

Thanksgiving Day is getting closer by the minute. Dividing up your preparations amongst the next few days will cut down on last minute tasks and frustrations. My big task for today is to remember to take the turkey out of the freezer, and place it in the refrigerator so that it will be thawed and ready to go on Thursday. Today I will also decide which table linens to use, and iron them if necessary. And don't forget to make sure you have plenty of dish soap, laundry soap, toilet paper, paper napkins, paper towels, etc. on hand. You don't want to come to the realization on Thanksgiving morning that you do not have enough dish soap to get you through the day, and running to the store is the last thing you want to do. And yes, I speak from experience. I even had to ask one of my guests once if they would mind bringing dish soap with them when they came to my house for dinner. Fortunately, the request was made of my wonderful father and mother-in-law, and of course they were more than happy to help me out.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Banana Apple Bread

A few days ago, I mentioned the banana apple bread recipe that I really wanted to bake from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. I just happened to have all of the ingredients, and so I gave it a try.

This bread baked up so beautifully, and was delicious!! The apples really made it moist, and the spices used gave it a most wonderful flavor. I am now definitely sold on the idea of buying this cookbook. Try this recipe out, and see what you think.

A great gift idea would be to give someone who likes to bake, a copy of this cookbook. If you wanted to go another step, you could also include some of this homemade bread on a pretty plate, or in a loaf pan, so that they could make some of their own bread; because after they have eaten the loaf you have baked for them, they will definitely want more.

Mom's Banana Apple Bread

For the apples:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 Granny Smith (I actually used winesap) apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the banana bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups very ripe mashed bananas (2 to 3)

Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Lightly butter and flour a 1-1/2 quart loaf pan.

To make the apples:
Preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and brown sugar and heat until bubbling. Add the apples and cinnamon and saute until golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

To make the banana bread:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

3. In a small bowl, combine the orange juice and vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the orange juice mixture, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each flour addition. Stir in the mashed bananas until combined. Then stir in the reserved apples.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool further.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. The banana bread keeps well wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vintage Potholders

I came across a red and white vintage crocheted potholder one time while looking through some linens in a vendor's booth at a quilt show. I liked it so much that I decided I needed to collect some more. Whenever I am at a thrift shop or a yard sale, I always look to see if there are others that I would like to add to my small, but growing collection. Once again I am drawn to the cheerful color of red. One of my daughters actually made the one in the middle on the bottom row. It is in the shape of a little dress. She made it simply by looking at another vintage potholder that she has, and whipped this out for me. She is very talented that way. I typically need a pattern to walk me step by step through the entire process.

Here is a close-up of a cute flower on one of them.

I grew up in a home where my mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers all spent a great deal of time crocheting. I learned to appreciate all of the hard work that goes into making such wonderful treasures.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hot Chocolate and Brownies

It seems like there are a large number of recipes for hot chocolate mixes around; but I will go ahead and post mine just to add yet one more to the many choices. If you are going to give this as a gift, there are many creative ways you can package it to make it fun. You can put the mix in a large jar with cute fabric tied around the lid with ribbon or string. There are a great deal of tins to choose from this time of year that you could also use. A baggie full of the mix placed into a fabric bag that you have made also makes a nice presentation. You can present the mix on its own, or combine it with a mug or a set of mugs. Throw in a bag of marshmallows and some chocolate covered spoons just to make it even more complete. Another possibility is to purchase a cute set of mugs and matching snack plates. Add a hot chocolate mix and a brownie mix with a suggestion that the recipient throw a little chocolate party on some cold, wintry afternoon. I can just picture it now .... it is snowing outside, the wind is blowing, the kids are bored, and you call them to the kitchen with a table set with fun dishes each with their own brownie and a cup of steaming hot chocolate with marshmallows on top and a chocolate spoon for stirring. I would think that would bring some smiles to some faces around the table.

Hot Chocolate Mix
1 (25.6-oz.) pkg. instant nonfat dry milk (10-2/3 cups)
1 (6-oz.) jar powdered non-dairy creamer
2 cups powdered sugar
1 (16-oz.) can instant chocolate drink mix

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Put in a large airtight container. Label. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6 months. Makes about 17 cups of mix.

To use the mix when making hot chocolate, add 3 tablespoons of the hot chocolate mix to 1 cup of hot water. Stir to dissolve.

(Please note: This recipe makes for a very light chocolate drink. For a stronger chocolate flavor, try this recipe).

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Notebook

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, it is important to stay organized in order to keep things running smoothly, and to keep from becoming exhausted with all of the preparations that are needed. There are many Christmas organizing ideas out there, but for me they tend to be time consuming in themselves. I have put together a notebook of my own keeping in line with what I need to do to stay on top of things. My notebook basically revolves around all of the food that needs preparing. I don't include topics like decorating and gift buying because that just seems to happen on its own. For the past couple of years I have begun buying my Christmas cards in October and addressing the envelopes before Thanksgiving at a gradual pace, so that doesn't need to be included in my notebook. It just basically comes down to making up menus, creating grocery shopping lists, and scheduling out what to make when. I am a creature of habit, and make the same foods each year. After a few years of recreating everything, I decided to keep a record of the things we ate and things that I needed to buy. So my notebook is divided up into sections for different holidays throughout the year. I have the menu printed up on one page, followed by a page with my complete grocery list. I have absolutely everything I need on the grocery list just to make sure I don't inadvertently forget something like pepper. Before I go shopping I make a copy of the grocery list, cross off all of the things that I already have, and am ready to head to the store. This in itself saves so much time. After the grocery list page in the notebook, I have a page for each recipe that I will be preparing. Having the recipes all together in one place also saves time by not having to go search for specific recipes that you have no idea where you put them last year. Lastly, I have a page with the seven days prior to the specific holiday listed, and next to each of those days I have scheduled some sort of food preparation activity. Dividing up all of the tasks between the days prior to the holiday cuts down tremendously on last minute preparations. And that's my notebook. This saves me countless hours each year of trying to think what we should have, making up new shopping lists, and deciding what to make when. Just to make it fun, I have also typed up my recipes on cute paper and keep them in plastic sleeves so that the recipes don't get spilled on and torn. There are some spills though that just can't be avoided. I am actually in the process of putting my recipes in a new notebook, because a while back my daughter accidentally dropped an entire bottle of pancake syrup of which a good portion landed right on my notebook. The pages were so sticky, it was impossible to clean up. Thankfully though everything was stored on my computer so it is just a matter of printing them all out once again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Brownie Mix

Everyone seems to love brownies. I wonder though how many people actually make their brownies from scratch vs. buying a boxed mix in the store. I've never compared the price difference, but I can guess that it is much cheaper to make your own mix at home. I found this recipe for a brownie mix in a publication entitled "The Baking Sheet". It is put out by the King Arthur Flour company in Vermont. One of my sisters told me about this company quite a few years ago, and I have been a fan ever since. In 2004 we took a trip back east, and one of the stops I wanted to make was visiting their facility. It was a perfect place to visit, and lived up to my expectations entirely. They even had a large parking lot where we could park our trailer so my boys could keep entertained while my girls and I got to spend as much time as we wanted in the store.

Back to the gift idea though ... A pretty dish with some freshly baked brownies on it, along with a jar of this brownie mix and the recipes would be a great gift for someone. Or even just a cute tin with the mix in it would also be a cute idea. The nice thing about this mix recipe, is that it gives directions for making it in four different pan sizes, which makes it perfect for a small or large family.

Brownie Mix
4 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 3/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa
6 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of a 5-quart mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Yield: 12 cups

Mix directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 deg.. Melt butter and stir into the mix. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring until evenly moistened. Stir in the vanilla and any nuts or chips you choose. Spoon into your greased pan and bake for the time indicated.

9 x 5 - inch loaf pan (toaster oven)
1 1/2 cups brownie mix
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 medium or 1 1/2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup each nuts and chips
Bake for 22 to 24 minutes

9-inch square pan
3 cups brownie mix
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup each nuts and chips
Bake for 24 to 26 minutes

9 x 13-inch pan
4 1/4 cups brownie mix
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup each nuts and chips
Bake for 23 to 25 minutes

13 x 18-inch half-sheet pan
7 cups brownie mix
7 large eggs
1 3/4 cups unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups each nuts and chips
Bake for 27 to 29 minutes

Saturday, November 15, 2008


As we approach Thanksgiving Day, grocery stores generally put their frozen turkeys on sale. Currently in our local Safeway store, they are selling turkeys that are over 16 pounds for 27 cents a pound. Think about that for a minute ..... 27 cents a pound! Each year I really look forward to this time of year because it is when I stock up on turkeys for the year. I usually will buy 6. I cook one for Thanksgiving and one for Christmas. The others I will cook throughout the year saving the meat to use in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken. I typically measure out approximately 4 cups of meat and freeze it in quart size baggies. The baggies take up much less space in the freezer than the turkeys themselves, and they are so convenient to grab when needed. It never ceases to amaze me that I can get a huge turkey for around $6.00, and that $6.00 covers the main ingredient in numerous meals for my family.

And while we are talking turkeys, here is a possible gift idea. If you know someone who is newly married or someone just starting out on their own, why not buy a roasting pan and put a turkey baster, box of stuffing, a can of cranberry sauce, can of pumpkin, and your favorite holiday recipes inside of it. You could even include a gift certificate to a grocery store so that they can buy their holiday turkey.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hooray for Christmas

I know that many of you read my sister-in-law's blog, Femina. That means that you have most likely already read her recent post. But just in case you haven't, I encourage you to stop by her blog and read what she has to say about Christmas. It's great!

Freezing Bananas

I have recently been reading through a cookbook that my daughters checked out at the library. It is entitled, "The Sweet Melissa Baking Book". This is an awesome cookbook. In fact I have decided that it is one that I will need to purchase some day to add to my collection. I plan on making a recipe out of it this weekend. It is called "Mom's Banana Apple Bread". It sounds like such a good idea to combine the apples and bananas in a quick bread. At the end of the recipe, the author gives a wonderful tip that I have never thought of before. She says that if your bananas turn black before you are ready to bake with them, you can peel them, puree them, and store them in an airtight plastic container in your freezer. Apparently the bananas will keep a very long time, and just need to be defrosted before using them. This is great news for me because I typically make plans to make banana bread, but then the bananas go bad before I get a chance to actually make the bread. I really don't like having to throw the bananas out, but now I don't have to. In fact the other day I did freeze some. I didn't puree them though, I just mashed them up with a fork like I normally would when I bake with them. And having a store of frozen mashed bananas in my freezer means I can make banana bread at a moment's notice instead of buying bananas and waiting for them to soften up.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gift Ideas

When I was in junior high and high school, my only source of income was from babysitting. At that time the going rate for babysitting was 50 cents an hour. So it would take me quite some time to save any significant amount of money. When gift giving time came around, I needed to be creative with my gifts to make my money stretch as far as it could. One year I bought my mom a pizza pan and a box of pizza mix to go with it. Another year I spent my lunch hours typing up all of her recipes. I presented them to her for Christmas in a new wooden recipe box that I had placed strawberry decals on. One year everyone received decoupage pictures; and another year, they all got string-art pictures. It makes me chuckle now to think of some of the things that I made, but my heart was in the right place, and everyone was always very gracious in their receiving of the gift, and even hung the string-art pictures on their wall.

I have always liked making gifts, and putting together gift-basket types of gifts, so I thought that in the next couple of weeks I would try and share some gift ideas just in case it might be helpful to anyone trying to think of that perfect something. I will spare you the decoupage and string-art ideas though. Actually one of the string-art pictures still remains. It belonged to my mom and dad, and bless their hearts, they kept it hanging on their living room wall for quite some time. When my mom moved out of their house, and needed to scale down, I somehow ended up with the string-art picture. It currently hangs out in our garage, and literally, whenever I see it, it makes me smile.

Just to get us going, I thought I would expand on the above pizza idea. If you know someone who likes pizza, you could buy a pizza pan, a pizza cutter, a jar of pizza sauce, and place the dry ingredients of your favorite pizza crust in a cute jar along with your favorite pizza recipe or recipes. If you wanted to spend a little more, you could even include a pizza stone. Of course any variation of this gift would work depending on your budget.

And one important note to make as this gift giving time approaches us ... we should go into it with a joyful mindset. Guard yourself against frustrations or just giving someone something to simply cross it off of your list. You are giving them a "gift". Give it out of love and with a thankful heart to God that He has been so gracious to provide you with the means to give to others.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Dishtowels are obviously a necessity. They are something that are used so frequently that they do need replacing every now and then. I think they make a perfect gift because no matter whom the recipient might be, they can typically always use a new dishtowel. Personally, I love to get new dishtowels. To place a new dishtowel in my kitchen just seems to make everything look new and chipper.

My dishtowels are categorized into three separate piles. I have the oldest ones that look so pitiful they are only used basically as rags when a bad spill happens or some such event that I really don't mind if the towels should get stained. Then I have my middle-of-the-road towels. They are still good for all intents and purposes, they just aren't as bright and cheerful as they once were. And then I have my good dishtowels. This is made up of my current favorite towels. Their colors are still bright and new looking. In the mornings when I decide which towel to set out for the day, I always reach for this pile first. Sometimes I just take whichever towel is on top; and other days I actually take a moment and decide which one I would like to set out. Recently, when a couple of my good towels made their way to the middle-of-the-road towel pile, I decided to get a couple of new ones. I went with red -- it just seemed the most cheerful at the time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Apple Pie #3

Over the weekend I tried out another new apple pie recipe. This one intrigued me because of the orange juice used in it. My family thought it was great. The orange juice and nutmeg gave it a very good flavor. It was very juicy though, and I thought that next time I would add some more flour for thickening. And then it dawned on me that the recipe calls for a lattice crust; however, I just used a regular crust on top. In hindsight, I think next time I will use a lattice top crust because that would perhaps allow for the orange juice mixture to evaporate more and thicken up on its own.

This recipe comes from the "Ladies' Home Journal 100 Great Pie & Pastry Recipes" cookbook. I really enjoy looking through this cookbook. There is a recipe in it for a chocolate peanut butter ice cream pie that has 720 calories per slice! Wow - that's a lot!! But it looks so delicious that I plan on making it some day.

Apple Pie #3

Pastry for a two crust pie
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
8 cups Winesap or Rome Beauty apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.

For the filling, combine the sugar, orange juice, butter, flour, and nutmeg in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and butter is melted.

Roll out the bottom crust for your pie and place it in your pie plate. Spoon the sliced apples into the pastry. Pour the sugar-orange mixture over the apples.

Prepare a lattice crust with your remaining pastry, and arrange on the top of your pie.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 deg. F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes more or until the apples are tender. Cool pie completely on a wire rack or serve warm.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Burp Cloths

I had a request to share how I made the burp cloths in a previous post. I don't have step-by-step pictures to make it an official tutorial, but I will do my best to give you some simple instructions.

1. I used flannel which I pre-washed and dried. You can of course make the burp cloth any size that you would like.

2. I cut the front of mine into a rectangle that was 9 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches. At this point I added the embroidery. You could also applique or add no embellishment at all. Just make sure that your embellishment will be able to withstand multiple washings.

3. Cut strips of flannel 1 1/2 inches wide and sew them to the sides of the front piece, and then to the top and bottom.

4. Cut another piece of flannel the size of the top that now includes the small border strips.

5. Place the pieces right sides together and stitch all around with a 1/4 inch seam allowance leaving a small area open for turning.

6. Trim the seam allowances, clip the corners, and press.

7. Turn the burp cloth right side out and press once again making sure that you turn the seam allowance inside the cloth where you turned it.

8. Edge stitch close to the edge around the entire cloth.

I certainly hope that this makes some sense. If anyone has a question, I am more than happy to answer it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Freezing Fruit Pies

Today I have designated as a "day in the kitchen" for me. I have a surplus of apples that need to be tended to, as well as pears, and the last of the zucchini from my garden. I will be making a lot of applesauce to can, and pies to put in the freezer. Freezing the fruit pies is wonderful because then we can have apple pies for several months to come. How fun is it to plan a spur-of-the-moment apple pie for dessert without having to dirty up your kitchen with all of the preparations usually necessary.

I prepare the pies in the usual manner with a bottom and top crust. If your pies are typically juicy, then you can also add an additional tablespoon of thickener when you put it together. If you are going to freeze the pie, then it is best not to cut a vent in the top of it at this time. However, any observant readers will note that I actually did cut a vent in the picture of my "Apple Pie Number 2" that I posted before I froze it. I just did it out of habit, but don't think it will really make that much of a difference when it comes right down to it. Anyway, you should wrap the pie well, label it, and pop it in the freezer. I actually just pop it directly into a large freezer bag and make sure I get all of the air out of it. 2 gallon plastic storage bags are available at the grocery store in which a pie plate will fit nicely. I also label the baggie with the baking temperature and time since I could never keep track of which recipe was used in which pie. This way I don't have to hunt down the recipe at baking time, it's all right there on the bag.

When the opportunity arises to bake your pie, preheat the oven, unwrap the pie, place it on a cookie sheet, and cut vents in the top crust. Bake the unthawed pie just adding about 15 to 20 minutes to the recommended baking time. I personally have a problem with the edges of my pies getting too brown, so I purchased a couple of round pie shields that I just set right over the edges of my pie while it bakes. You can also use foil around the edges of your pie as well.

If you don't have extra pie plates to fill and freeze, you can also prepare the filling for a pie and put the filling in the freezer. When you are ready to use it, take it out of the freezer while you make the crust, put the filling directly in the crust, and continue as your recipe directs you.

I did mention that this is to be a day in the kitchen for me. I think I had better get busy on making pies myself.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Babies and Burp Cloths

Burp Cloths are a necessity. You just really need something to throw over your shoulder when you are holding a little one. When my kids were babies, I just used a cloth diaper or a small flannel receiving blanket. I guess with being busy taking care of a new baby, the thought never entered my mind to make something cute to use. Recently I made these as a baby gift:

I made them out of flannel and then added some embroidery. As long as babies need to burp on something, it might as well be fun for them to look at. We do need to come up with a more dignified name for them than "burp cloths" though, don't you think?


Bleach can be a wonderful cleaner. I use it in many ways around my house. Bleach can also be a nuisance though too -- at least for me. If I am planning on using bleach, I literally have to change my clothes into something old; because no matter how careful I try to be, one little tiny drop of bleach always manages to find itself onto someone's favorite shirt or pants. My daughters though brought to my attention a cleaning product that has alleviated some of my problems. Maybe most of you have already heard about it, but it was new to me. It is just a basic all purpose cleaner with bleach. Clorox makes one, but we are currently using WalMart's Great Value brand, and it works just as good. The WalMart brand is literally called "All Purpose Cleaner with Bleach". In fact I have been using it this morning, and as far as I can tell, I haven't ruined my clothes yet. I still just use regular liquid bleach in my washing machine when I am washing my whites. I actually find a great deal of satisfaction seeing my family wearing bright, white, clean socks; and I haven't found a powdered bleach to match the results I achieve with liquid bleach.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Apple Seeds

Seeds amaze me. I have been gardening for years, and each year God's mighty power in a little seed never ceases to amaze me. They are so little, yet they grow into a beautiful plant. I save seeds from flowers, from vegetables, and fruit. I look at all of the seeds in a single flower, and think of how many flowers that could potentially grow from just that one blossom. God's creation is amazing.

Years ago I was the leader of my daughters' Girl Scout troop. I brought apples for each of the girls to the meeting and wanted to teach them how they could start their own apple trees. They ate their apples, and planted the seeds as I had told them. When my daughters' trees started growing, it was very exciting, and the trees grew on their windowsill for a while. I don't remember what happened to their trees, but what I do remember is my son's impression of the whole process. He was only 7 at the time, and of course it was necessary that he come to the meetings with us. He would usually just play with his trucks or keep himself busy somehow during the meetings. But at this particular meeting, he must have been paying attention. When we got home he told me that he would like to plant some apple seeds. So I bought some apples, he ate one, and planted the seeds. Again, it was very exciting when his trees began growing. They grew on his windowsill for a while, but then he wanted to re-pot them. We planted them into a bucket, and the trees moved outside. They grew in the bucket for a long time, and eventually were needing to be transplanted. I gave him a corner in my garden to plant them, and as time went by they grew larger and larger. About four years ago, we transplanted one of the nicest ones into the yard. However, when we got a new puppy she chewed it in half. It is now lovingly referred to as our "apple bush". Each year in the spring I look for blossoms on his trees, and we have never seen any. We have thinned out some of the smaller trees, and there is now one very large apple tree growing in the corner of my garden. This year while I was weeding around it I noticed a very small apple laying on the ground. I looked up and could hardly believe my eyes --- there were real apples growing on the tree! Obviously I just didn't see the few blossoms that must have been growing this spring. We counted 12 apples. The other day my daughter and I picked the apples (at least the ones we could reach). I counted 18 apples growing on the tree. It has taken 13 years for this tree to bear fruit, but God was faithful nonetheless.

In case anyone is interested, it is very easy to grow your own apple tree. All you need is an apple, a small pot of dirt, and apparently about 13 years. After you eat the apple, plant the seeds in the potting soil and water it well. Place the pot in a brown paper bag and keep in a refrigerator for 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, water the pot once again and place in a sunny spot. Continue to water it and it should start to peek out of the soil in a short amount of time. And don't forget to write on the outside of the bag what kind of apple it is. We didn't do that, and I have absolutely no idea what kind of apples are growing on our tree.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Library

When my kids were very young, I started taking them to the library. They loved wandering up and down the aisles looking at all of the books, and bringing home their quota. I allowed each of them to bring home 10 books because that seemed the easiest way for me to keep track of all of them when they were younger. Whenever I would tell them we would be going to the library, their eyes would light up. It was always something they looked forward to. We still enjoy going to the library. I took my youngest daughter yesterday, and she brought home a bag literally filled to the brim with books. I personally always head for the cookbook shelves. I find so much enjoyment looking at and reading cookbooks. There is such a huge variety of cookbooks there that I always find something new to bring home. Another advantage is that you don't have to spend a lot of money on a cookbook that you may only make one or two recipes out of. So if you are wanting to get some new recipes, or just try some different types of foods, check out the cookbook section at your library. You will be amazed at the variety they have to offer.

Monday, November 3, 2008


I really like Mondays. It is the start of a new week wherein I hope to get so much accomplished. I typically make out a list for the day, which of course has enough tasks on it to need two weeks to truly accomplish; but nevertheless, I continue to make out my list. I always wake up on Monday morning with new energy and hope that I will be very productive this week with all of my tasks whether they be making lesson plans, cooking, sewing, cleaning, or menu planning. But most of all I rejoice in thinking of the many blessings that I have to look forward to and be thankful for in the coming week. Isn't it wonderful that God is so faithful that we can start a week knowing for a fact that our week will be filled with His wonderful blessings.

"I will extol You, my God, O King; and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable." Psalm 145:1-3

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Rotary Cutters

When I first became interested in quilting, I was introduced to rotary cutters. I took a special class on how to use them, and actually have never hurt myself with it, which is an amazing thing in itself. I bought my cutter probably about 18 years ago, and have even managed to change the blade a few times since then. At that time there was only one model available. Now there seem to be several different brands and types on the market. Recently when I was cutting out some fabric, I thought that perhaps I might like to look into updating mine. So when I attended the Quilt Show a couple of weeks ago, this really caught my eye:

I was able to give it a try, and liked it immediately. Some of the advantages that I like are the way that you hold onto it (it seems to be much more comfortable than my old one); the easy way of opening the safety cover over the blade (you just give it a roll on your cutting mat, and it opens by itself); when changing the blade you just have to unscrew one little knob and pop the new blade one (no more wondering in what order to put back all of the extra pieces that seem to fall off on the old ones -- at least that always left me wondering); a model is made for both left and right handed people; and boy does it glide through the fabric (of course that could have a lot to do with the fact that the blade is actually sharp, in contrast to me trying to get as much mileage out of my old blades as I possibly could). There were other colors, but I favored the red one. Here is another view of it:

And this is how you hold it:

Now I must make a note here just so as not to lead anyone astray. Yes, I have had a rotary cutter for a long time; yes, I am very interested in quilting; and no, I have never finished a full-sized quilt (well actually one, but that was before I knew what I was doing, and I don't really count that one). I have made a few doll quilts, wall hangings, and blocks to a couple of full sized quilts that have just seemed to remain in an unfinished state. But I really do have high hopes of actually completing some full sized quilts some day. Maybe now that I have this new snazzy red rotary cutter, that will be just the incentive that I need.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mexican Rice

The majority of the time when I make tacos or fajitas, I like to serve a Mexican style rice with them. For years I bought the little boxes of it in the grocery store; and I think every time after we had finished dinner, I knew that I needed to find a good recipe for it because the boxes were just never that great. And then about a year ago I stumbled onto the http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com website. It was here that I found the following that is now a permanent fixture in my recipe box. I have altered the recipe ever so slightly. If you want to see it in its original form from the source, you need to look for the recipe entitled "Army Man Rice".

Mexican Rice

2 T. oil
1 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. each oregano, cumin, & garlic powder
1 T. dry onion
Dash red pepper (optional)
8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cups water

Heat the oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and stir until it begins to brown. Add the seasonings, tomato sauce, and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, place a cover on the pan, and reduce the heat to very low. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A New Cookbook

I love to use my crockpot. It is so handy to just pop a meal in it in the morning, and then by dinnertime all that needs doing is to set the table. Recently I was talking to a friend, and she told me about a series of cookbooks entitled "Fix-It and Forget-It". She said that every recipe she has tried from the cookbooks has been good. I hadn't heard of these before, and made a mental note to look them up. You can imagine my surprise when on a recent trip to Costco I was very pleased to find this book just sitting there on the shelf waiting for me to pick it up:

This cookbook is a collection of 1400 of the best recipes from all 5 of the cookbooks in the series. Of course I bought it, and have been looking through it deciding which recipes I want to try first. I will keep you posted on our favorites.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Apple Pie #2

Here is the recipe for the next Apple Pie, or in this case it shall be referred to as Apple Pie #2. This pie recipe comes from yet another of my favorite cookbooks, "The Fannie Farmer Baking Book" by Marion Cunningham. In the cookbook, it is entitled "Basic Master Recipe: American Apple Pie". It is written for someone who has never made a pie before, and takes up a little more than 9 pages in a cookbook. That is a lot of pages! It gives extremely detailed directions along with illustrations of everything involved. So if you have never made a pie before, and are in need of being walked through the process step by step, then this cookbook is for you. I am going to limit my recipe to the most important part -- the apple filling; and assume that you either already know how to make a pie crust, or know where to find ready made crusts in your local grocery store. And as a side note, I used to buy the ready made crusts. When my children were younger, that seemed to be the easiest way to get a pie baked in a hurry. And then one day, I was referring to how my mom makes the best pie crusts in the world. One of my daughters looked at me with a surprised look on her face and said, "you mean you can make pie crusts?" At that moment I decided I needed to stop buying the ready made pie crusts, and start making them from scratch. It doesn't take that much time, and they really are far more superior to the store bought. Besides the fact that I felt horrified that my kids didn't even know that someone could "make" them.

My kitchen is very tiny, so when I do make pie crusts, I take over the kitchen table since I don't have the cupboard space. Here is proof that I did indeed make a homemade crust for "Apple Pie #2":

And now on to the recipe.
Apple Pie #2
Unbaked pie crusts for a double crust pie
8 cups sliced and peeled apples
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 T. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T. (1/4 stick) butter
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Stir together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, and salt. Combine with the apple slices. Sprinkle the lemon juice over this mixture and mix together. Pour the apple mixture into your unbaked pie crust. Slice the butter into small pieces onto the top of the apples. Place the top crust over all, press the edges of the crusts together and flute. Don't forget to cut a few slits into the top crust before baking. If you like, you can cover the edges of the pie crust with foil to keep them from browning too much.
Place the pie in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 deg. and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes, or until done.
This is what mine looked like before I popped it into the freezer. We will be tasting Apple Pie #2 at a later time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Great Apple Snack

As I have mentioned previously, we have a lot of apples at our house. It is so nice to grab a fresh apple when the afternoon munchies hit. A typical way I like to have apples for a snack is to scoop some peanut butter into a small bowl, and dip the apple slices into it before taking a big bite. The other day I improved on that a bit. At least I think it was an improvement. I put some peanut butter into a small bowl, and pushed it up against the sides of the bowl leaving a small well in the middle. Then I put a small amount of chocolate syrup into the well, heated it up in the microwave for about 20 seconds, or when the chocolate started to bubble. I gave it a good stir, and now I don't know that I will ever be able to go back to the plain old peanut butter again. This was quite tasty!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Pie

Sometimes at this time of year my kids will ask me to make a pumpkin pie. Typically though I will tell them that it is getting so close to Thanksgiving that I want to wait until then so we can really look forward to that first bite of pie after our Thanksgiving dinner. At that point my daughters will usually remind me about my dad. He really enjoyed pumpkin pie. Whenever he was wanting one, he wouldn't ask my mom. All he would do was leave a can of pumpkin out on the cupboard for her to discover. When she would see it, she immediately knew that he would like a pumpkin pie. Of course she would make him a pumpkin pie right away. So the other morning when I went into the kitchen, this is what I saw sitting on my kitchen cupboard:

with a note attached written in all capital letters saying PLEASE. So how could I resist such a request. Later that day when my kids got home from school, they were very surprised to see that I had actually baked them this:

I don't think it lessened our anticipation for our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie by any means. It only has made us look forward to it all that much more.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I love tea. In fact at this very moment I have a mug filled with hot tea beside me. There is just something special about beginning a morning with a nice cup of tea. Sometimes I drink it out of a mug. Other times I drink it out of a china teacup. But there is always some thought put into which vessel I want to begin my day with. This morning it is a mug. But I did make an entire pot of tea today so that I can continue to enjoy it throughout the morning. No, I don't actually drink the entire pot of tea; but it is quite common for me to drink part of my tea while it is hot, and then the rest of the tea gets cold while I am tending to something else. When this happens, I can just pitch the cold tea, and refill my cup with hot tea from the teapot. Sometimes though when I reach for a mug to use, I see this ugly tea stain that has been left behind. That isn't any fun. But my daughter told me of a great way to get rid of those tea stains. It only takes a couple of minutes, and your favorite mug will be as good as new. Just put some baking soda in the bottom of the mug or cup and add some vinegar. It will begin to fizz briefly. After the fizzing stops, just scrub the inside of the mug with a sponge or dishcloth, and the stain is gone. Having a shiny clean mug or teacup to pour your tea into makes the ritual all that more pleasant.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's for Dinner?

We've all been there before. You wake up in the morning with the thought that you hope to make today very productive and organized. You think that perhaps you should decide on what you will be having for dinner in the morning to be able to cross that item off of your list. Nothing really comes to mind, but it is still early, so you put it off until later. Lunchtime rolls around and you remember that you still need to come up with something for dinner. Again, it is still early, no problem. And then about 4:30 in the afternoon, you realize that you have completely forgotten about what to plan for dinner. You actually begin to break out into a slight sweat because now you know that the pressure is on. It is only a matter of minutes, maybe seconds, before someone walks into the kitchen with the age old question, "what's for dinner?" There is no answer to that question because you haven't planned anything. Time to fall back on an old standby, and calmly answer the question as if you had known all along what would be for dinner. Sometimes in our house the answer is Pasta and Meatball Soup. It is a recipe from one of my nieces that we got out of a great cookbook entitled, "Hot Providence". This is another of my cookbooks that gets pulled down from the shelf on a regular basis. So just in case you need a standby meal for those nights when you dread hearing the question that you have no answer to, the recipe follows:

Pasta & Meatball Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 T. milk
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 t. marjoram
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 egg

2 T. oil
1 onion
1 carrot, diced
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 package corkscrew pasta
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
3 cups water
1 t. salt
1 t. basil
1 t. oregano
1/2 t. rosemary
1 (28 oz.) can Italian plum tomatoes
1/4 t. pepper
Grated Parmesan or mozzarella cheese

To prepare meatballs: mix ingredients and form into round 1 inch balls. In soup pot cook the meatballs on medium/high heat until browned all around. Drain on paper towels. Save drippings.

To prepare soup: In the drippings cook onion, carrot, celery, and garlic until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, salt, spices, and bay leaves. Break up tomatoes. Add meatballs. Over high heat bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low. Cover. Simmer 30 minutes and stir in pasta. Cook for 10 more minutes. Stir in spinach. Cook 5 minutes and garnish with cheese. Serve.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Tacos -- who doesn't like tacos. At our house we have them once a month. They are so easy to make, and everyone's eyes light up around here when they find out that that is what we are having for dinner. For me, it is a quick meal to put together. The only thing out of the ordinary that I do is to make my own taco seasoning mix. Yes, I know you can just buy the little packets in the grocery store. That, of course, is the easiest. But it costs much less, and barely takes any time at all to make your own. So I am going to share my recipe for taco seasoning mix. It really isn't "my" recipe at all, but comes from another of my favorite cookbooks, "Make-A-Mix Cookery", by Eliason, Harward, & Westover. When I was first married, I came across this cookbook and liked it so much, that I bought it as gifts for several people. I believe it is out of print now, but I have begun to look for it at used bookstores to get my daughters all a copy of their own.

Taco Seasoning Mix

2 tsp. instant minced onion
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. crushed dried red pepper
1/2 tsp. instant minced garlic
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until evenly distributed. After browning 1 lb. of ground beef, add the seasoning mix, along with 1/2 cup water, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

And there you have it -- your very own taco seasoning mix.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saving Tomato Seeds

I love tomatoes, especially home grown tomatoes. There is no contest in taste between a fresh picked, home grown tomato and a store bought tomato. The flavor difference is amazing.

Each year I plant a lot of tomatoes -- 14 plants to be exact. Two of those plants are very special tomato plants. The original seed packets came from Austria from my sister and brother-in-law when they had vacationed there. They are the cutest plants. They are very small, but grow a nice sized tomato, just a little smaller than a typical Early Girl. I don't know the official name of them because the seed packet is all in German. So I just call them my "Austrian tomatoes". The first year I planted them in the garden amongst all of the other tomato plants they looked like miniature tomato plants. The following year I decided to try them in pots, and they did great. When I had finally come to the end of my seeds, I decided I would try saving the seeds from the last of the Austrian tomatoes. So I did a bit of looking around to see how one goes about saving seeds, and this is what I found out, and it works great.

Cut open the tomato that you want to save the seeds from. Scoop out the insides of the tomato where the seeds are and place them in a small container. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a couple of holes in the plastic so that air can circulate. Each day give the container a little stir. After a couple of days they will have begun to ferment. At this point carefully scrape off all of the stuff on the top, and thoroughly rinse the seeds in a small strainer. Place the seeds on a clean coffee filter or a piece of waxed paper, and let them sit to dry for a couple of days. Once they are completely dry, you can store them in a plastic bag and they are ready to plant next spring. I also label the year on the package.

Tomato seeds last a long time. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking they are only good for one year. This year I planted seeds that I had saved in 2002, and they germinated beautifully. I also have saved seeds from volunteer tomato plants that have grown in my garden that were different than any others that I have grown. This year for instance, I had some absolutely amazing cherry tomatoes that volunteered. They were the best cherry tomatoes that I have ever eaten. So I have saved the seeds, and will plant them next year. I will let you know how they turn out next summer.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Apple Pie #1

Apple season is upon us. My neighbors have been very generous with their apples this year, and have given us an abundance. They are delicious, and it is so wonderful to be able to grab a fresh apple for a snack. I wish that my boxes would stay full and crisp all year long; but unfortunately they need to be used up before they go bad. Actually it isn't unfortunate at all, because that means it is time to make up all sorts of fun apple treats. Today we had our first apple pie of the season. It really hit the spot. Every year I search for the absolutely perfect apple pie recipe. I haven't found it yet, but we sure have fun trying out different recipes. So I am going to post some of the different recipes that we try so that just in case there really is someone out there reading this blog, they can try them as well. So tonight's recipe comes from the cookbook entitled, "Just a Matter of Thyme" by Roxie Kelley and Shelly Reeves-Smith. This is actually one of my favorite cookbooks that I have. I turn to it quite often to make different things out of it. My brother and sister-in-law gave it to me for a birthday gift one year, and I still have the birthday card in it to use as a bookmark. I think birthday cards make great bookmarks ... but that is a topic for another time.

Apple Pie #1
Unbaked pie crust for double crust pie.
8 or 9 tart cooking apples, pared
¾ cup sugar, more if desired
6 Tbsp. Flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. Butter

In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of mixture on the bottom of the pie crust, and add the rest to the apples. Stir to coat apples. Fill pie crust heaping full of apple mixture, dot with butter. Place top crust over filling, flute edges. Cut slits on top crust and sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 50 minutes at 400°. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Quilt Show

This weekend is the 30th annual quilt show put on by the Washington State Quilters in Spokane, Washington. I have been attending since 1990, only missing one year when my youngest was born. It is an amazing show, and has grown a great deal since I started attending. This year I attended with my sweet mom, and my two oldest daughters. We had such a great time.

It is so inspirational to see so many completed quilts. It always makes me just want to come home and fire up the sewing machine. This was my favorite quilt of the show:

It was such a cheerful quilt. And besides, I do like red a great deal. After admiring it, I looked at the tag to read about who had made it; and it was actually made by a cousin of mine who gets together every year with all of the girls in her family to do some quilting. This particular quilt was actually a collaboration of all of them. They then had a drawing to see which one of them would get to keep it. Doesn't that sound like fun!!

I hope to make it back to the show on Sunday to hit the merchant mall. We actually ran out of time yesterday to do much shopping. I love bringing home fabric and new patterns to eventually make some day. And even if I don't ever make them, I do have fun looking at them and thinking of their many possibilities.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sweet Peas

I love sweet peas. They are such a pretty flower. They are early to bloom, have the prettiest colors, and smell so sweet. This year I was very fortunate to enjoy sweet peas all summer long. Typically they will die out once the weather gets too hot. But this year, I guess since we had such a late spring, they lasted up until last week when we got our first hard frost. But the one very special thing for me about sweet peas is that my dad loved them too. So when I see sweet peas, I think of him. When I am planting my sweet peas each year, I think of him. And when I have beautiful bouquets of sweet peas in the house, I think of him. So now every time I pull up this page I can also think of him. That is why I entitled this blog Sweet Peas and Happy Things .... for him. I can remember him, and think of all of the happy things that I have been blessed with in my life ... of which there has been an abundance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chocolate Cake

There is something about chocolate cake that even a 1 year old can appreciate.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another Day

Another day has nearly rolled by. I'm still trying to figure out how to make things look nice on the blog page. My faithful followers have requested another posting. They tell me that it doesn't really matter what I say.
I doubt I will ever have as interesting things to post as one of my nieces. If you want to read about an exciting day in a family of 7, then you should read this: http://femina.reformedblogs.com/2008/10/14/luggage/ It is a hoot!!
(And there you go, I have posted my first link)

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's All New to Me

So this is a first for me. I've officially created my own blog. Not that anyone will be adding this to their daily blog reads any time soon, but it is a beginning. I'm really not sure what I will be posting on it, but that doesn't really seem to matter. The point is, I have joined the 21st century and have a blog.