Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Music

Each year on the day after Thanksgiving I start playing my Christmas music.  I like nothing better than spending the entire Christmas season listening to it.   Over the years my collection has grown quite large, as I never think one can have too much Christmas music.  My children are quite familiar with my liking, and this year two of my daughters presented me with a start of the Christmas season gift -- yes, a new Christmas CD:

 I have seen this particular CD for the past couple of years, and as I would have expected from Celtic Woman, it is very nice.  And what is even nicer, everytime I hear it I think of my thoughtful daughters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Over the River and Through the Woods

Thanksgiving Day brings a wealth of memories to my mind.  Some of the earliest are actually hearing my sweet dad sing "Over the River and Through the Woods" to all of us in the car as we crossed the prairie on our way to a nearby town to spend the day with my grandparents.  I can remember the wonderful aroma as we walked into their house, and the table, with all of its leaves in place, set beautifully with grama's pretty crystal glasses.  While waiting for dinner, some of my siblings and I would take turns spinning in my grandparents' chairs that actually were just meant to swivle; however, one could get them spinning around at a pretty fast clip.  And I might add, we were never once told not to do it.  It was just part of the fun of being at Gramp and Grama's house.  My grandfather would have a roaring fire in his fireplace that, compared to my small size at the time, seemed like it must have encompassed an entire wall.  After we had enjoyed an amazing feast, it was time to make my grama's glasses "sing".  The memory is still so vivid in my mind of us sitting around the table talking, when someone would dip their finger in their water goblet and begin to rub it around the edge of the glass until a tone began to play.  We would all then join in the fun of making Grama's glasses "sing".

It is kind of funny what kinds of things stick in a kid's mind, and even carry on into our grown up years.  When my kids were younger, and we would travel to my parents' house for Thanksgiving, I would sing "Over the River and Through the Woods" to them.  It just seemed like the right thing to do while traveling to their grama's house.  Nowadays we have Thanksgiving at home, my kids are older, and I just sing the song in my own mind; however, at the end of dinner when we are all sitting around talking, someone, usually my son, will dip his finger into his water goblet, and begin to make my glasses sing.  I still always join in because it just seems like the proper way to end a Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Vanilla Experiment

Real vanilla is a must in my kitchen.  I haven't bothered with the imitation variety for years, and some of the best vanilla I have used has been gifts from Mexico.  Their vanilla seems so much purer than the types found locally.  I typically purchase mine at Costco since their price just can't be beat.  But recently, I have been reading articles on making your own vanilla.  I'm always up for a fun experiment so when I saw Costco recently selling vanilla beans, I decided to give it a go.  After reading many, many articles on this particular topic, I finally settled on this basic method.

Of course first, you need vanilla beans.  As mentioned above, I purchased mine at Costco:

With the Costco package you get two vials with 5 vanilla beans in each.  And just as a totally unrelated side note, the vials are really cool, and I'm determined to find a useful purpose for them.

I just used pint canning jars for my concoction of vanilla.  My choice was pint jars simply because I have a lot of them on hand.  In each of the three jars I poured one cup of vodka.  And then I placed three vanilla beans in each jar making sure that the beans were pushed down below the top level of the vodka.

The jars then found a home on one of my pantry shelves that remains in the dark, unless of course I need something off of that particular shelf. 

To help the process along, the jars need to be shaken a couple of times a week.  And look here, after just one week, it is starting to look like vanilla:

I read varying reports about how long this whole process takes.  The times varied from 2 to 6 months.  I will probably lean more toward the 6 months, as it only makes sense that the longer it sits, the better flavor it will have.

The only regret I have is that I didn't start this 6 months ago.  Wouldn't it be fun to give homemade vanilla in cute little bottles as gifts for Christmas?  Maybe next year if this works out.

I have one lonesome vanilla bean left over from my original package so I have great plans to make vanilla sugar with that.  I will have to let you know how that works out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shoebox Time

When my children were very small, their grandfather would give each of them money to go buy little gifts to fill a shoebox for the Samaritan's Purse shoebox ministry.  It seemed like it would take a couple of hours for me to take all four of them through Target with their little lists in hand of the things they wanted to put in their boxes.  They loved doing it, and the time spent in the store, adding, re-adding, and adding yet once again all of the items in the cart to make sure they had stayed within their budget, was truly a blessing to me.  Seeing their little giving spirits wanting to buy gifts for children they didn't even know was a very sweet sight to see.  My kids aren't small anymore, but we still enjoy taking part in this ministry.  In the beginning we would use actual shoe boxes; however, now we use the small plastic boxes because it just seemed like it would be fun for the recipient of the box to actually have a nice container to keep all of his/her goodies in.

Some of the favorite things we like to put in ours are:  a small baby doll for a little girl, small trucks for boys, plastic farm animals, play-dough, stickers, art supplies, bracelets, hair barettes, socks, candy, toothpaste, toothbrushes, school supplies such as pens, pencils, notebooks, and erasers, hair brushes, combs, cute bandaids, lots of candy, a small stuffed animal, hats, gloves, and little rubber duckies.  When we are all finished packing the box -- which really takes a great deal of skill to make everything fit -- we then sprinkle little hard candies all around in any open spaces.

One year my youngest daughter thought it looked like such a fun gift that she said she would like one.  So that year for Christmas I put together a box just for her, and she was thrilled.

The collection week this year is November 14-21st.  If you aren't sure where to drop off your shoebox, you can look at their website to find a location near you.  And now the shipping boxes are scanned so once they have been delivered, if you would like, they can e-mail you to let you know which country your box went to.