Monday, December 28, 2009


Growing up in northern Idaho (many years ago), about the most tropical of a fruit that was available to us in grocery stores was a banana. My mom always had fruit in the house; but it was always of the more ordinary kind ... apples, bananas, oranges, etc. Having grown up this way, I don't think about trying some of the more unusual fruits available to us now. I finally bought some kiwis for the first time this past year after having found out that my kids love them. Poor kids -- I felt like I had deprived them. And then last month, a friend told me that one of the stores was having a sale on pomegranates. I confessed that I had never eaten a pomegranate. He happened to have one with him, and gave me and my daughter a taste of the delicious seeds. That was all I needed. I went straight to the grocery store and bought a few pomegranates. They were so good. And then a couple of weeks ago, the same friend told me that mangoes were on sale ..... and yes, once again I had to confess that I had never had a mango. So for Christmas, I received several mangoes from this friend who must surely think I am deprived when it comes to enjoying fruit. But wait, the story gets better ... after cutting into my first mango, I came across this great big seed in the middle. It was about the size of the palm of my hand. I was so surprised! So before I even ate breakfast, I quickly checked on the internet for planting instructions, and planted my first mango seed. This will be a fun experiment.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas to all ......

During the past couple of days, and especially today and tomorrow, there has been a lot of bustling in my kitchen. The aroma of fresh cookies, sweet rolls, homemade dinner rolls, etc. have been very pleasant. So today, while I have a very brief moment away from the kitchen, I wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas!! Enjoy your time with family, and savor every precious moment. God's blessings to all of you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Surprise

Each morning during this Advent season, I have been writing a little note to my youngest daughter. This note then gets folded up and placed in a cute felt pocket, along with a little treat, and then placed on her bedroom doorknob for her to find when she wakes up. We have been following this little tradition for several years now. Many times I will find the same felt pocket placed on the stairs that go up to my bedroom with a little note and treat inside for me. Through the years I have saved every single note from her. They are so sweet.

Recently, my treat from her was a package of Christmas pencils. It has not been uncommon for me to give the kids "fun" pencils throughout the years; but to actually get my own package really was a treat for me. And the very best thing about this particular package of pencils is that there were two (yes, two!) red pencils with white polka dots on them inside. What fun I will be having making lists in the near future!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's a start

Christmas cookie baking has officially begun at our house. Whenever I begin my holiday baking, I always begin with what we call "powdered sugar cookies". Technically the recipe is entitled "Pecan Cookie Balls", but I can't think of them any other way than just plain "powdered sugar cookies". To me these are the ultimate Christmas cookie. When I was younger, that was the one cookie that I would always look forward to my mom making for us. One bite of them just says "Christmas" to me.

The second type of cookies that I made are called "Magic in the Middles". This recipe came from a Rachael Ray magazine a couple of years ago. It is soooo good. Peanut butter is in the middle of each rich, delicious chocolate cookie:

We are just getting started though. I hope to many more varieties of cookies and candy in the next few days. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas .....

Pecan Cookie Balls (aka Powdered Sugar Cookies)

Cream 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Stir in 2 cups sifted flour, 1/8 tsp. salt, 2 cups finely chopped pecans, and 2 tsp. vanilla. Mix well. Shape the stiff dough into small balls. Place on a greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet, and bake in 350 deg. oven for 12-15 min. Remove from pan and carefully roll the hot cookies in powdered sugar. Cool, then roll again in powdered sugar. Store in a tight container.

Magic in the Middles

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for dipping)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 deg. Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together granulated and brown sugars, butter, and 1/4 cup peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating to combine. Stir in dry ingredients, blending well. Set dough aside. Stir together remaining 3/4 cup peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth. With floured hands, roll peanut butter mixture into 26 (1-inch) balls. Break off about 1 tablespoon cookie dough; make an indentation in the center with thumb, and press a peanut butter ball into indentation. Wrap dough up and over filling, pressing to seal. Roll cookie to smooth it out. Repeat for each cookie. Dip top of each cookie in granulated sugar, and place 2" apart on a lightly greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet. Used greased bottom of glass to flatten each cookie to about 1/2" thickness. Bake at 375 deg. 7 to 9 minutes or until set. Let cool on wire rack.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Treasures

Christmas decorations make me smile. For me, it isn't about having the most beautiful decorations, or a tree decorated according to a particular theme. It is about memories of past Christmases. When my children were younger, I always tried to come up with a new craft of some sort for them each year. I have saved all of those projects; and now, when I pull out these various projects, they really do make me smile. I can remember their little hands being so busy around the table working on their projects. Here are a couple of treasures that my son made when he was probably about 4 years old (17 years ago). How can these not make someone smile?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas and Chocolate

I don't think that there are too many things better than the combination of chocolate and Christmas. Maybe the reason they go so well together is because at Christmas we have an excuse to make the rich and creamy desserts that normally we might try to talk ourselves out of because of the extra calories, etc. Last year for Christmas, one of my daughters gave me the book, I'm Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas by Marcel Desaulniers. What a delightful book this is!

I think that Mr. Desaulniers is one of my very favorite cookbook authors of all time. I have several of his books, and have even made a few of his recipes. The results are always out of this world delicious.

Yesterday when my youngest daughter indicated she was suffering from boredom, I suggested that she make some cookies. This was the book that she chose, and made these:

They were melt in your mouth delicious! If any of you are interested in the recipe, just leave a comment indicating so (making sure I can link back to you some way), or e-mail me (see my profile), and I will be happy to send it to you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cranberry Salad

With all of our attentions having turned towards Christmas, I thought I would share a few special dishes that I like to prepare during the holidays. Growing up, my mom always made a special cranberry salad, which I must admit, I didn't care for when I was younger. An immature palate I guess towards cranberries. However, now that my palate has fully matured, I enjoy this salad tremendously. My mom would always present it beautifully garnished; and it looked so pretty on the table amongst all of her other delicious dishes. Its main ingredients are orange jello, cranberries, apples, and oranges. Having a tart and sweet taste at the same time, it really works well as a side dish with a meal, and doesn't seem like a dessert.

Cranberry Salad

Dissolve 2 cups boiling water, and then 1 cup of cold water with a 6 ounce package of orange jello. Let thicken to egg white consistency. In a food processor, process one large orange (peel too - but I section it up to remove the seeds first), one large or two small red delicious apples (including peel - but again removing the core and seeds), and 1/2 bag of frozen cranberries. Fold these ingredients into the thickened jello and put into a jello mold, pretty bowl, or 8" square dish. Keep jello in refrigerator until it has set.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Very Necessary Gift

Etsy is such a great place to do some shopping. It seems that you can find just about anything there. I find it very interesting just cruising through the different shops, and seeing the vast array of items that are available. Quite a few of the shops I have now marked as favorites, wanting to come back at a later time to just see the cuteness, or possibly buy something at a later date. One of my recent favorite shops carries something that unfortunately I don't have anyone to buy them for; but if any of you have a little girl, or know of a little girl, this would absolutely make the perfect gift for her. I can just imagine the possibilities of all the fun that could come along with one of the tutus from the Little Miss Muffets shop on Etsy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Highlights

Our Thanksgiving Day was very nice. We were blessed (as we always are) with the presence of my father and mother-in-law. They have joined us for so many Thanksgivings now, that it wouldn't quite seem the same without them. Even though I had spent so many days prior to and the day of cooking, it really was all worthwhile. Now I have been enjoying leftovers; and have granted myself a reprieve from the kitchen for a couple of days. Here is a picture of a few of our highlights:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I have been cooking pretty much non-stop for two days now. The final dish went into the refrigerator a short time ago. Ahhhh, now I can sit back, and consider my many blessings. I am truly thankful for so much; but I think most of all I am thankful for God's abundant love and mercy that He bestows upon me constantly.
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Beautiful Sight

This morning I woke up to this beautiful sight. I just love the snow.

My daughter has been working on making snowballs this morning. She said she was getting ready "just in case".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hope for my Recipe Box

For those of you that might need an updated recipe box, you simply must hop on over to The Farm Chicks blog (in case you haven't already seen it). Serena shares how she is revamping hers. Mine is in such a dreadful state; but this gives me hope that this amazing feat really is quite possible. Perhaps after Christmas ......

Photo from The Farm Chicks Blog

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Amazing Pumpkin Muffin

This time of year it is hard to beat a warm pumpkin muffin for breakfast. The other day I came upon this recipe; and I have to admit - it is absolutely amazing! I made them this morning, and it was all I could do to resist reaching for a second one.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Little Pilgrims

This week I set out my few Thanksgiving decorations. I don't have many, but the one that always brings a smile to my face are my little Pilgrims. I don't even remember exactly what year I made them. I do remember though that my mother-in-law and I both made them at the same time. So each year when I take them out to grace my livingroom for a couple of short weeks, I can remember making them with her, and am very thankful for such a wonderful mother-in-law.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Creative Inspiration

As a seamstress and crafter, I enjoy sitting down with a good book filled with ideas. Quite often I will check them out at the library; and if I find a particular one that I enjoy, I will splurge and buy a copy of my own. A couple of years ago I came across a new book at the library entitled, Sew Pretty Homestyle, by Tone Finnanger.

I enjoyed flipping through the pages so much that I renewed it for a second round. After that period of time was over, I came to the realization that it was time to return it to the library so that someone else could enjoy it; however, I just wasn't quite finished with it. So I turned to Amazon and purchased my very own copy. Since then, I have purchased two more of her books: Sew Pretty Christmas Homestyle

Now at this point I must confess that I haven't ever actually made anything out of them quite yet; but whenever I find a free moment on my hands, and want to be inspired, I reach for one of them. And besides, who could even possibly resist not wanting to make this little guy:

(you can find him in Sew Sunny Homestyle)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Toasty Toes

Once the weather turns chilly, so do my toes. We don't wear shoes in our house, so it is a necessity for me to either don some heavy wool socks, or wear a pair of slippers - especially on my kitchen tile floor - it can get downright freezing cold! The slipper part gets tricky though because if they have hard soles on them, they tend to scuff up my hardwood floor. So I will only wear soft soled slippers. Any more, those are almost an impossibility to find. I have instructed my oldest daughters that if they ever find soft soled slippers to just buy them for me no matter what they look like. Recently one of my daughters brought these home to me, and I think they are pretty cute.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Traditions

This past Saturday was of course Halloween -- and it marked the first time in 21 years that I haven't had a little one to take trick-or-treating. Last year I knew that it would be our final year; however, I wasn't sure what this year would bring. It was kind of bitter sweet. I didn't miss the racking of our brain trying to figure out what costume we would put together this year. After putting 21 years worth of costumes together, ideas were beginning to run thin. I did miss though the lack of excitement in the house. The morning wasn't filled with comments such as, "I can't wait", "I hope it doesn't rain", and "do I really have to wear my coat under my costume?" And I also missed the rustling of new candy as it would always spill out onto the living room floor after the trick-or-treating was over, just waiting to be sorted into various piles. Instead, my youngest daughter and I spent a quiet afternoon carving pumpkins, and a warm evening at home without having to go out into the cold, windy, dark night. That part was very pleasant.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Favorite Sewing Tool

A couple of years ago, my sister, Molly, gave me a most useful gift. She said that it was by far her favorite sewing tool. It was a "Purple Thang". Yes, it has a very funny name; but I have also found it to be the first sewing tool I reach for when I am working on a project. It makes turning projects extremely easy, pushing out little corners without tearing a hole in the fabric, very handy for taking a quick 1/4" measurement, using it to push stuffing into small spaces, and even finger pressing to name just a few. If you haven't tried one of these, I highly recommend it. And of course it would make the perfect stocking stuffer for a seamstress or crafter when Christmas time rolls around.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Creative Gift Giving

With Christmas fast approaching, it is time once again for me to turn my attention to gifts for family and friends. One of my favorite gifts to give, are gift baskets. They are so much fun to put together. I like to fill each one with special items that I know will bring a smile to the recipient's face.

I try to pick up various sized baskets throughout the year when the stores are having sales. The best times that I have seen are after Christmas, and in the spring when Easter is near. You can also pick up the cellophane to wrap them with during these sales as well as the shredded paper for the basket filling. But just in case you haven't stocked up earlier in the year, all of these supplies are readily available any time of year.

Baskets aren't the only vessel that can be used for gift giving. You can be very creative with how you present your gifts. A large salad or mixing bowl, a wooden crate, tote bags, pretty pots, or even cookie jars. The ideas really are endless. A great resource for some fun ideas is the book, Southern Living at Home Beautiful Containers. My sister-in-law, Jill, gave me this book as a gift this past year. It is filled with some very creative and beautiful ideas. The book itself makes a great gift, and look how cute she presented it to me:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Easy Apple Cake

I have really been enjoying my abundance of apples these past couple of weeks. It is so much fun to either throw a bunch of apples into my largest pot to make applesauce, whip up a pie, experiment with apple crisps, and make apple cakes. And I can do all of this at a whim. I simply look around my kitchen at the numerous boxes of apples, randomly choose which variety will be my lucky subject for the day, and I am off. One of my experiments this past week was an apple cake. I found the recipe on the King Arthur Flour blog; and since I have also been recently fascinated with baking in my cast iron skillet, I knew I just had to try it. It turned out great! The only modification that I made was instead of using the boiled cider that the recipe calls for, I substituted maple syrup. This substitution was made mainly because here in northern Idaho, I don't even think anyone sells boiled cider.

(Please note that this picture is from the King Arthur blog. The lighting in my kitchen isn't always the best for taking pictures; and their picture really does this cake justice - of which it highly deserves).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Christmas Stitchery Patterns

I just happened upon a new blog this evening. It is called "Among the Gum Trees". At the present time they are offering a free stitchery pattern each week until Christmas. Nine very talented ladies are each contributing a design. From the looks of the first three weeks, I'm quite certain that I'm going to join in the fun, and hopefully stitch one or two of these.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Night for the Girls

Last night my boys were off doing "guy" things; and so I decided that all of us girls left at home should do something fun ourselves. I made a run into town for a fun meal that I didn't have to make (Sonics); but then I was left with the decision of which movie to watch. We have a few that we have been wanting to see, but just haven't had the time. After pondering the situation for a few minutes, I chose a Jane Austen movie. In my mind one can never go wrong with Jane Austen. She is one of my all-time favorite authors, but more on that in another post. I opted for Masterpiece Theatre: Northanger Abbey. I haven't seen this movie before, and it has been a while since I read the book. The movie was good, and I would watch it again; however, I do plan on pulling my copy of the book off of the shelf to read once again, because I know that an 86 minute movie can in no way do justice to the actual work itself.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Pet Lamb

When I was quite young, my dad owned some sheep on a small ranch about an hour or so from our home. He used to take me there now and then. Although I don't really have too many memories of the actual ranch, I do have a few memories of being in the car on our way there.

My dad always loved having animals. He especially enjoyed having sheep. One day after he had been away checking on the sheep, he brought a little lamb home. Apparently the ewe didn't want her after she was born. So my dad brought her home to me. We lived in town, and didn't really have a large lot for animals; but that didn't matter to him. He put up a little fence in the back yard for her, and I named her "Cocoa".

A while later we ended up moving to a small farm in a nearby town. We had quite a few sheep at this farm, and thought Cocoa could now have friends. As she grew, she was still my pet, and I can even remember going out to the pen and wrapping my arms around her wooly neck giving her hugs.

As far as I know, we don't have any pictures of me and Cocoa together. I wish we did, because I would take that picture and frame it. Actually an even more priceless picture would be one of my dad, me, and Cocoa all together.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Quick Dessert

When I have guests for dinner, it is not uncommon for me to ponder what we will have for dessert before thinking of what the main course will be. If I don't think I will have enough time for a fancy dessert, I will go with one of my quick desserts. One of my favorites is brownies with ice cream. I can make the brownies in the morning, and that leaves me the rest of the day to prepare the main part of the meal. The presentation of the dessert is a simple one. I simply put a brownie on each plate, accompanied with a scoop of ice cream drizzled with a bit of chocolate syrup. It's tough to go wrong with brownies and ice cream.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ready or Not, Here it Comes

Our summer was beautiful this year; and our September was amazing. Apparently it was the nicest summer on record for our area. Nearly ever day was sunny and beautiful. But alas, October has arrived, and along with it, colder weather. I have basically been in denial that summer is over, just wanting it to last a bit longer. This morning though when I stepped out of my house to go for my morning walk, a brisk 19 deg. hit me in the face. Brrrr! So I guess I am ready to face reality that fall is actually here. But that's okay. I think I will be able to embrace it with all of it's own special beauty.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Golden Pear Cake

The other morning once of my daughters was looking at the October issue of the magazine, "Traditional Home". We were sitting around the table eating breakfast when she casually mentioned, "Golden Pear Cake". Since my box of pears is ripening up very nicely, it caught my attention. After hearing her description, I told her to please mark where the recipe was; and in my mind I knew I should make it that afternoon.

This cake is an upside down cake made in a cast iron skillet. It turned out perfectly, and was delicious. The recipe recommends serving it with 1 cup of whipping cream mixed with a tablespoon of pear brandy and 2 tsp. sugar. I didn't have any pear brandy on hand, so we opted to serve it with regular whipped cream or ice cream. We decided that the cake part seemed to be more like a shortcake than a traditional cake. Everyone gave it a thumbs up, and consequently, this recipe will now be forever in my recipe box.

Golden Pear Cake

3/4 cup butter, softened (divided)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 medium or 3 large pears (1 1/2 pounds), cored, peeled, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Place 1/4 cup butter in 9 or 10-inch cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar. Cook and stir until sugar is melted and bubbly; remove from heat. Set aside; cool. (or, make brown sugar-butter mixture in saucepan; pour into 9-inch round cake pan, spreading evenly, and allow to cool.) Arrange pear slices in skillet or pan.

In small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In large bowl beat remaining 1/2 cup butter with mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in granulated sugar until combined. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. (Batter may appear curdles.) Spread batter evenly over pears.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes. Loosen cake from pan; invert onto plate. Serves 8 to 10.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Harvesting in Miniature

I have been blessed with an abundance of fruits and vegetables this year. As I write this, I literally have bowls and bowls and bowls of plums awaiting their fate (jam for most of them), a box of pears almost ripe enough to be working with, zucchini sitting ever so patiently waiting to be turned into bread, and lots of tomatoes for salsa. Even though it can seem overwhelming at times, I just love having all of this abundance around. It is the whole point of planting the garden in the spring, right? And as a sweet reminder of this blessed time, I have a miniature clay figure of a little lady standing amongst her harvest.

She is so sweet, and filled with detail. To give you something to compare her size with, here she is with a cherry tomato behind her:

I picked her up at a local craft/art show last summer; and never tire at looking at all of the amazing detail that she is comprised of. The artist is Elayne Watrus; and here is her website showing all of her creations "The Little Street Collection". Elayne didn't make it back to our yearly art show this year -- I looked for her specifically hoping to find a little friend for my sweet little gardening lady.