Thursday, November 26, 2015

A blessed Thanksgiving to you!

This marvelous graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings!
Mr. T. and I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our American readers a very blessed Thanksgiving.  Things are unsettled in our world, to put it very mildly, but our God is always in control and He is always, always good.  There is much to thank Him for! 

We hope that wherever and however you are celebrating this day, with family or friends or perhaps by serving dinner to those less fortunate, you will take some time to count your blessings and thank God for them.

"O come, let us sing unto the LORD a new song: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is His also.
The sea is His, and He made it; and His hands formed the dry land.
O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For He is our God; and we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture."
(Psalm 95:1-7)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"November" ~ a lovely poem

Vintage postcard from my collection
I found this lovely poem in the Readers' Poetry Corner of the November/December 1987 issue of Country Woman magazine.  It is written by Vivian Rice of Milaca, Minnesota.  Enjoy!

A lone gray goose flies overhead;
I hear its distant call.
The trees have lost their gold and red --
We're deep into the fall.

It's time to husk the Indian corn
To decorate the room --
To take the place of fresh-cut flowers
That now no longer bloom.

I've gathered in the last few squash;

The garden looks forlorn.
A rooster pheasant glides across
A field of rustling corn.

Our hearts are filled with thanks to God
For health and joy of living,
For beauty at this time of year,
For harvest and Thanksgiving.
~ Vivian Rice

How beautiful!  What wonderful images and thankful thoughts it conjures up for me ... and I hope for you too.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A few of my green and white dishes

Today for No Place Like Home, I thought I would share some of my green and white dishes. I have several different partial sets of dishes in this color scheme.  I guess green and white dishes are on my mind because I will very often use my varied green and white dinner plates at Thanksgiving.  They would be pretty for Christmas too!

When I was growing up, the family summer cottage kitchen was furnished with a complete set of "Colonial Homestead" dinnerware. It had everything from the usual plates, cups and saucers, etc. to tumblers, butter dishes, salt & pepper shakers, and even trivets for hot dishes. I loved those dishes and always wished for a set. The different pictures on the various pieces were deeply fascinating to me. (And now that I think about it, I think that the very completeness of the set had its own fascination.)

One day, as an adult, I was at another lady's home for a tea party and noticed she had some teacups in this pattern. I mentioned how much I had always liked these dishes and how I had never seen any, other than in the cottage of my childhood. From that time on, this dear lady kept an eye out whenever she was anywhere old dishes might be -- thrift stores, yard sales ... even the town dump. And slowly but surely my cupboard began to hold quite a respectable assortment of "Colonial Homestead" pieces. 

My friend has moved away.  By now,  in addition to cups and saucers, I have sugar bowls and creamers, dessert plates, dinner plates, a salt shaker, little sauce dishes -- that may be all.  I did have a perfectly lovely platter, sort of squarish, but it broke, unfortunately.  You can see the salt shaker and the teacup below.  Oh -- and also some green and white Fiesta salt and pepper shakers! 
And one day a few years back, my mother-in-law called to offer me some old vegetable dishes she thought might look nice in my kitchen. Yes, they also are "Colonial Homestead"! There are two sizes of bowls and they are wonderful, in perfect shape.  Here is the sugar bowl and creamer from the Colonial Homestead set (also seen at top of post):

And here is one side of a teacup -- a cameo. There's a cameo of a colonial gentleman too.

Here is the other side of the teacup -- a "God Bless Our Home" sampler.
In her search for these dishes, my friend began to find a few other green and white pieces which looked as if they might be "Colonial Homestead" but turned out not to be. So I have a few pieces from a set called "The Old Curiosity Shop". This creamer is one I found at a yard sale, but I also have a few odd saucers, a bread plate or two, and some dinner plates.  The creamer depicts an oil lamp, a pair of reading glasses, and what I think of as a Bible.  I also have another creamer, with a design of a sailing ship, which I believe is from a set called "Currier and Ives".  All of these are by Royal. 
As I was looking over the teacups in my cupboard, I also noticed a couple of other green and white ones. These are from a set called "Pastoral" and I have also some saucers, some bread plates, and some cereal bowls in this pattern. The one side of the teacup (I apologize for the blurry photo) shows a man driving a horse and wagon.

The other side of the "Pastoral" teacup shows a house and barn. The different pieces all feature various scenes from rural life.
 Someone mentioned this in the comments (I think it was Bernideen), and I just had to add to the post, that these Colonial Homestead dishes were their everyday dishes growing up, and that the set had been acquired through collecting stamps earned at the grocery store.  Several guests in our home have told us that exact same thing -- "These were the everyday dishes I grew up with!" -- and my mother-in-law told me she acquired her pieces at the First National grocery store.  So there is more history for you.  Thanks, Bernideen, for sharing that, as it jogged my memory.

I find that I am drawn to green and white dishes, and have many more of them -- just odds and ends -- in other patterns.  I wish that I had pictures of all of my green and white dishes, but alas, I do not.  Perhaps later this week I can get a few photos and add them to this post!

I am linking to Sandi's No Place Like Home at Rose Chintz Cottage.  Why not pay Sandi a visit and enjoy what others have shared?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My favorite hints and recipes for Thanksgiving

 (or for any holiday meal that involves a turkey dinner!  I know that my Canadian readers have already celebrated Thanksgiving, but perhaps you might like to try some of these ideas for your Christmas dinner.)

With Thanksgiving coming up soon in the U.S., I thought I would post this again.  In this post from a few years back,  I  shared a few links to some of my older posts which are filled with recipes and tips for Thanksgiving dinner.  If you are a new visitor to my kitchen table, you may want to check out these links.  Here goes!

I posted the following in 2012, and it includes a lot of the same links I'm sharing today, but it might be helpful to someone:  A Gathering of Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes.

For pies, which are the most intimidating part of the meal for many people, I offer these Helpful Tips for Thanksgiving Pies.  If pie crust intimidates you (as it does many others), then don't stress about it.  I give you a recipe for an easy oil pastry, but if you don't want to go that route, then the sheets of refrigerated pie crust one can buy (I've even seen them in store brands!) work very well.  You can even buy frozen pie shells that aren't half bad.  Or if you just don't want to make pies, you can buy some very nice pies from bakeries that specialize in them.
From my antique card collection
Some of our Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes are included in this post.  Maybe you will find a new family favorite!

But what if you are avoiding wheat, or a family member who'll be at your table is eating gluten free?  No worries.  This Gluten Free Pie Crust is easy to make and very good.  It's a simple press-in-pan crust and so it really won't work for a double crust pie.  But anyone who has lived without wheat for any length of time will be so happy to have a pie they can eat that they won't care if it's just a single crust pie.  It works perfectly for pumpkin pie, for example.

Probably the next most intimidating part of the meal is the turkey itself.  If you have, or are buying a frozen turkey, the rule of thumb for thawing it is to allow 24 hours in the fridge for each 5 pounds of the turkey's weight.  I find this not quite enough, so allowing an extra day would be my advice.  Invariably if I follow that rule of thumb, the giblets are still frozen in place.  Last year I bought my frozen turkey (21 pounds) on the Thursday before Thanksgiving and put it right into the fridge to start thawing.

Cooking it in an oven bag is my best advice on roasting a turkey.  It shortens the time considerably and produces tender, juicy meat.
From my Autumn in the Air booklet (Cracker Barrel, 2001)
For years, I stressed about gravy.  People love it and expect it, but making it at the last minute can be very stressful.  Usually there are other people in the kitchen, helping out with other things, and that complicates matters (even though they are truly trying to help when they watch over your shoulder and give advice).  So for a few years I then turned to canned or jarred gravy, transferring it to a saucepan and removing the evidence of the cans and jars well ahead of the guests' arrival.  That was great, but I found the gravy packets made even better gravy.  And then finally, I found this recipe:  Easy Turkey Gravy.  It truly is easy and it makes lots and lots of gravy.  If you are feeding people who think there is never enough gravy, try this.  For once they will be satisfied and there may even be some gravy left to serve with the leftovers or to make hot turkey sandwiches.

Stuffing, too, can be a source of discouragement.  I usually use a bag of Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, prepare it with celery and onion as the package instructions suggest, and also add dried cranberries.  In my tips and recipes post ( the first link at top) I detail how I cook it in a slow cooker.  Just don't leave it in there for too long, as it will burn and dry out.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes are my go-to recipe for making mashed potatoes for a lot of people.  This year I was seriously thinking of using the Idahoan instant mashed potatoes, which are actually very good and are only $1 per packet, but my hubby won't let me because he loves the make-ahead mashed potatoes so much!

Sweet Potato Casserole is our family's favorite sweet potato recipe.  I've made it with canned sweet potatoes and it comes out just fine.

Broccoli Casserole is another great side dish that always goes over well.

I tend to skip serving rolls when there is so much other good food on the table, but if your family won't let you, then try these: Homemade Dinner Rolls.  They're a homemade crescent roll and are really delicious.

If your family insists on creamed onions (as mine does), here's the recipe I use:  Scalloped Onions.  It uses the frozen small onions.  Life is far too short to peel those little pearl onions.  I always buy the frozen (unsauced) ones and make my own sauce.

Cranberry sauce or relish can be purchased and is just fine.  If you want to make your own, try the Taste of Home site for some good recipes, or you may be able to find one here.

For a memory of my childhood Thanksgivings, you might like to read A Thanksgiving Memory for a little nostalgia.  By the way, that's my grandmother in the photo at top, and the recipe is for my great-grandmother's Date Cake, which was somewhat of a tradition at our holiday dinners.  It was served thickly frosted with white frosting and with walnut or pecan halves pressed into the frosting.

And if you enjoy vintage things, you might like to take a peek at this Children's Book of Thanksgiving Prayers.  This was actually sold as a greeting card, I believe. 

For more Thanksgiving posts, click on the "Thanksgiving" label in the word cloud of labels in the right sidebar.  You may find some surprises I've forgotten about!

Today I am linking up with Sandi's No Place Like Home at Rose Chintz Cottage. And I am also linking to Gooseberry Patch's Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bell Peppers and Pasta

Photo from Taste of Home
Mr. T and I eat a lot of meatless meals, so I am always on the lookout for some new recipes.  Here is one we've been enjoying for the past few months: Bell Peppers and Pasta.  We have access to lots of free produce thanks to the generosity of friends, and one item we often get is the colored sweet  peppers -- red, yellow, and orange.  So rather than just using just red and green peppers as the recipe specifies, I often use a combination of several colors. 

This is a delicious meatless main dish!  I often use rotini instead of penne, though either one is great.  I use the Ronzoni gluten free pasta.  This is good even without the black olives, but if you like black olives, I recommend including them, as they add to the flavor.  I have also found that more salt and pepper is needed, and possibly more oregano or Italian seasoning.  Taste before adding salt, though, as some feta cheese is more salty than others.

Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Friday, November 13, 2015

A campfire just for two

Last Friday night, Mr. T and I enjoyed a simple and cost-free date in our own back yard -- a campfire just for two! 

A few weeks ago, we had hosted a fall fellowship here at our home for our church family.  We planned to end the evening with a campfire and s'mores, and I thought it would be a neat idea to string up some white lights so people could see their way out to our fire ring in our back woods.  I hesitated to bring up my idea, though, because Mr. T has plenty on his plate already and didn't really need anything else to do.  But I did suggest it that day,  sort of in the vein of "I know you don't have time; wish I had thought of this earlier" and so on.   To my surprise, he took the idea and ran with it!

He remembered some white LED lights he had purchased for 75% off after Christmas last year and thought they would work really well for this purpose.  Our grandkids were visiting for the afternoon and evening, and they gladly assisted him with the project.  He and 11-year-old Sam even tested out the idea of turning the lights on from inside the house with a small remote ordinarily used elsewhere.  It worked!

The lighting was perfect for our fellowship and making s'mores.  it was light enough so people could see what they were cooking and eating.  And, at that time, Mr. T and I both had the thought that the lights would facilitate a campfire any time ... even for just the two of us!  We decided to leave them up.

Last Friday night we needed to do something relaxing and so I suggested a campfire for two.  We did find that the lights, while helpful for getting our chairs out to the fire and getting everything settled, gave just a little too much light to be truly relaxing.  Next time, we will utilize our little remote, using the lights to get everything arranged and then switching them off to better enjoy the campfire ambiance.
Lights against a smoky sky
 We had some mulled cider left over from our fall fellowship.  I had kept it in the cider jug in the fridge and it was still fine.  This seemed like the perfect time to reheat two mugs of cider!  I balanced one on the arm of a camp chair to get the photo below.

What a wonderful way to unwind after a busy week!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dolls for the Christmas shoeboxes

Photo from Operation Christmas Child
My daughter likes to make packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child part of her kids' Christmas.   This worthy cause sends shoeboxes full of gifts to children all over the world and is a very practical way to show God's love to others.  A couple of weeks ago, my daughter took her kids shopping to buy shoeboxes and all sorts of fun things to put in them -- T-shirts, notebooks, pens and pencils, crayons, colorful packs of tissues and more.  And then she got the kids even more involved by helping them make adorable fabric dolls to go in the boxes.

She asked if I would like to join them in making dolls and we took several hours on two different Fridays to work on this project.  The kids picked out their fabrics for the dolls and clothing, and cut out the paper pattern pieces.  Then I cut out most of the pieces and my daughter did the machine sewing.  The kids and I worked at turning the various pieces -- arms, legs, faces and so on -- and the kids stuffed them.  Then their mom assembled the dolls at the sewing machine.  I made the shoes for all of the dolls.  The work went quickly and was lots of fun.

These are the two dolls I ended up with -- I can't actually say that I "made" them because there were several people involved in the process!  But I did choose my own fabrics, hair, etc.  Sorry that the  photos are so blurry -- I guess in my haste to put the dolls in a cute setting, I took the photos at quite an odd angle.  But you get the idea!
Doll 1
Doll 2
2 dolls together
 For the dolls the kids made, they are planning to make sleeping bags to go with them.  For my own shoeboxes, I'm hoping to make pillowcase dresses to add and possibly some zipper pouches for the pens and pencils.  We will see!

If you would like more ideas for filling shoeboxes, check out Maggie's post Operation Christmas Child Gift Ideas at Smashed Peas and Carrots.  She has some wonderful ideas, plus great photos of her kids with the shoeboxes they filled.  The collection week for the shoeboxes is not until next week, so it's not too late to get involved!