Saturday, September 29, 2007

Could you please repeat the question?


I seldom post on political subjects, but this was just too funny not to share! The incident in question happened a few weeks ago.

One evening around 6:30 or so, the phone rang. I answered it.

Me: Hello?

Them: (Silence)

Me: Hello?

Them: Good evening, ma’am, my name is Angela [my made up name] with XYZ Research [also my made up name]. I’d like to ask you a few questions concerning important issues that folks in your community are talking about.

Me: Okay. (After all, I’m always complaining that these researchers never ask me for my opinion when they take these polls.)

Them: First of all I need to ascertain that you are over 18 years of age and that you are a registered voter.

So I admit to this, then we go through a few more questions. Am I, or have I ever been, employed by a newspaper, or a TV or radio station? Do I hold, or have I ever held, any kind of public office, even at a local level?

Next, Angela asks what county I am registered to vote in. I tell her. She next inquires if I am registered as a Republican, Democratic, or independent voter.

Me: Republican.

Them: Okay, that’s all the questions I have for you today. Thank you very much!

The next day, around 2 in the afternoon, the phone rings again.

Me: Hello?

Them: (silence)


Me: Hello?

Them: Good afternoon, ma’am, my name is Tanya [my made up name] with XYZ Research [also my made up name]. I’d like to ask you a few questions concerning important issues that folks in your community are talking about.

Me: Well, I think I got a call from you folks yesterday. Would you want me to answer the same questions a second time? (Innocently thinking this would not make for very accurate research)

Them: Oh no, ma’am, I don’t think that could have been from us. It was probably a telemarketer. Would you be willing to answer a few questions?

Me: Okay, but...

So Tanya proceeds to ask me the same exact questions that Angela had asked the previous evening. And again, when we get to the question about whether I am registered as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent voter, Tanya is suddenly finished with her questions.

Now, I’m not employed by a research firm. But I find I can come to only one of two possible conclusions:

1) My employment history and my political affiliation are among the important issues folks in my community are talking about:
or
2) XYZ Research does not want to get the opinions of Republicans.

Which conclusion would you have reached?

A marvelous discovery...


Last week, when Mr. T and I were out for our daily walk, we made a marvelous discovery. All summer we have been taking a different route for our walk, for two reasons: first, a bridge on our usual route is being replaced and the road was impassable much of the time; and, second, the alternate route we found is shadier and much more bearable through the summer heat. In past summers we just haven’t been faithful about walking on the very hottest days, because the only time we can consistently walk together is high noon. This summer, with our alternate route, we’ve been able to walk quite comfortably for a mile or two every day. So that has been a blessing. The route isn’t yet so familiar to us that we know every inch of it as we do with our regular one.

So it was a wonderful surprise when, passing what had once been an old homestead, but is now just a cellar hole and stone walls, we noticed a grapevine that had wound its way through trees and was now heavy with bunches of purple grapes over a stone wall. On an impulse, Mr. T went over and plucked a cluster of grapes. As we headed home, we marveled over their color and aroma. They actually smelled very much like the Concord grapes I remembered picking as a child in the grape arbors belonging to relatives.

(Can you just imagine what our station wagon smelled like on those faraway fall days? Bushels of Concord grapes filled the back compartment, and the amazing aroma of them filled the entire car. Of course, we always wanted to eat some, but they are really not sweet enough to eat out of hand. We had to wait until my mother made grape juice and grape jelly from them!)

Back to 2007... as we walked, we decided to taste these grapes. And we both decided that, sure enough, these were Concord grapes gone a bit wild over the years. Later, I asked my mother (who grew up in these parts) if she ever remembered Concord grapes growing at that old house. She did.


Well, after returning home, we decided that if we could take time, later in the week, we would go back and pick some of those grapes -- just enough to make a grape pie. I looked up my old recipe which I hadn’t used for years; it was, providentially, in a Farm Journal pie cookbook which my mother had only recently handed on to me because I had always used it far more than she did.

On Wednesday we spent the morning out of town as I had a doctor’s appointment. We got back in time to go for our walk at noon, and Mr. T picked the grapes then. (The vines were all mixed in with trees and blackberry bushes.)

Once home, I washed the grapes thoroughly with fruit and veggie wash and then sorted them. My pie recipe called for 4 1/2 cups and I only had about 3 1/2 cups, but I picked a few apples from our wild tree and made some microwave applesauce and mixed that in with the grape mixture, to make up for the missing amount of grape pulp.

The resulting pie was a thing of beauty; I only wish I had thought to take a picture then, but I didn’t. Mr. T thought it was good, but I was really disappointed in the flavor -- it had sort of a “wild” taste and was not as grape-y as I remembered. But guess what? By the next day, the flavor had really mellowed! It was absolutely wonderful!



If you have access to Concord grapes, you might like to try my recipe. It is rather labor-intensive in the preparation of the grapes, but so worth the trouble! Here’s the recipe:

CONCORD GRAPE STREUSEL PIE

Unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
4 1/2 cups Concord grapes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
Oat Streusel (recipe follows)

Wash the grapes and remove the skins by pinching at the end opposite stem. (I do the pinching maneuver over a saucepan, so the pulp goes right into the saucepan. Then I simply toss the grape skins, which need to be reserved to add to the filling later, into a small bowl at hand for the purpose.)

Place the pulp in a saucepan (already done if you do it my way) and bring to a boil. (Nope, you don’t need to add water.) Cook for a few minutes until pulp is soft. (Mine took about 10 minutes, I think probably because some of my grapes weren’t quite ripe.) Remove from heat and, while pulp is still hot, put it through a strainer or a food mill to remove the seeds.

Mix the strained pulp with the reserved grape skins. (These are what will give the filling that pretty purple color.) Stir in flour, sugar, lemon juice and salt.

Place the grape mixture in the unbaked pastry shell. Sprinkle on the Oat Streusel, made by combining 1/2 cup quick oats, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and 1/4 cup either canola oil (my choice) or melted butter.

Bake the pie at 425º for 35 to 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sew Crafty Friday for September 28



This week has been busy and unusual, with different things that have taken me out of the house more often than I’d like. So busy, in fact, that I shouldn’t even be taking the time to post this. But real quick, here’s what little I’ve accomplished craft-wise this week:

I FINISHED 2 hot pads out of autumn fabric remnants. It’s fun to have these special fall accessories for my table. They are different sizes because I just used what I had. I got the idea from the “Seasonal Delights” magazine I had downloaded. Very nice!



And I have a dishcloth almost done, in the “Faded Denim” color -- just starting the edging. I’ve done quite a bit on a dishtowel -- as you can see, all I have left to do is finish the word “Thursday”. I’ve also cut out some squares for making some fall coasters for hostess gifts, but those aren’t in the picture. Lastly, I have worked a bit on my cross-stitch sampler -- I have it folded so that you can see the area I’ve been stitching on, with the bowl of apples.



Sadly, that about does it for my crafting this week. What about you? Have you done some crafting -- even a little bit? If so, head on over to Waiting for Him and share your projects. Inspire the rest of us!

Favorite Ingredients Friday for September 28


For Favorite Ingredients Friday this week, I wanted to share a recipe that I may have posted here on my blog before, but not for FIF. Since it’s apple-picking time for many people, I thought I would share my top favorite apple recipe. I hope that others enjoy this treat as much as we have over the years!

APPLE CRISP PIZZA

Pastry for a single crust pie
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 medium apples, peeled and sliced 1/2” thick
TOPPING:
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup old-fashioned (or quick-cooking) oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4 to 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

Roll out pastry to fit a 12-inch pizza pan; fold under or flute edges of
pastry. Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl; add apples and
toss mixture together well. Arrange apple slices in a single layer over
pastry in a circular pattern to completely cover pastry. Combine the
first five topping ingredients in a bowl; mix well and sprinkle over
apples. Bake at 350º for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are
tender. Remove from oven and immediately drizzle caramel topping over apples. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 servings

This is a wonderful dessert to make in the fall when the apples are
ready to pick. It makes your kitchen smell so good! You may add
vanilla ice cream on top if you like, but it’s delicious just as it is.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Slow Cooking Thursday for September 27


Here is a wonderful slow cooker recipe that I tried for the first time this week. I wondered a bit about the combination of flavors, but it is absolutely delicious and will go into our rotation of crockpot recipes!

For Sundays after church, I would serve this with the Ready Rice -- the natural brown rice variety -- and a frozen vegetable blend, cooked quickly in the microwave.


SPICY LEMON CHICKEN

1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
Garlic powder or granules to taste
1 to 2 pounds boneless chicken breast (I used chicken tenders)
4 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
4 1/2 tsp. cold water
Hot cooked rice or noodles for serving

Either grease your slow cooker or use a plastic slow cooker liner bag (my preference). Place the onion in the slow cooker. Combine the water, lemon juice, oil and seasonings; pour over onion. Add the chicken and turn to coat it. Cover and cook on Low for 4 to 5 hours.

About 15 minutes before eating, turn slow cooker to High. Combine the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl until smooth. Stir into liquid in slow cooker, mixing well. Cover and continue to cook for 15 minutes.

Serve chicken and sauce over hot cooked noodles or rice.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What's your cooking style?


What’s Your Style?

Last week, Susan from ByGrace posted some questions concerning cooking styles. I was intrigued by these questions, which she said could be answered in her comments section or on the blogs of those who have them and are so inclined. Here are her questions (in green) and my answers(in orange).

So what kind of cook are you? Meat-and-potatoes? Gourmet? Or somewhere in between?

I’d have to say I am somewhere in between. I am blessed with a husband who will try any food that I prepare. He is not at all picky and pretty much thinks everything I make is wonderful. I make quite a few meatless meals, but I do some meat-and-potatoes ones too. I don’t really like “gourmet” cooking, personally -- it’s just too fussy. I don’t mind spending time cooking and baking, but I don’t want to spend unnecessary time that I could be doing something else with -- possibly even something more important than cooking!

What's your favorite cookbook/cooking magazine?

This is a hard question, as I don’t have just one favorite. I love Taste of Home and am becoming a fan of Simple & Delicious. I enjoy Gooseberry Patch cookbooks -- they always have great recipes. I love the cooking newsletter Cook & Tell, and the author of that, Karyl Bannister, also has written a cookbook by the same name, which I’d hate to be without. I own hundreds of cookbooks, many of which I truly love and use often. Most often, though, I find myself turning to my own handwritten recipe books.

What is usually in your pantry, your staple ingredients that you can't do without?

Hmmm, good question. There are lots of things I consider necessary for cooking, and I’ll probably forget something vital, but here are a few thoughts:

* A good variety of herbs, spices, and flavorings
* Olive oil and canola oil
* Cider vinegar and seasoned rice vinegar
* Fat-free half & half
* Lemon juice and orange juice
* Pure maple syrup
* Brown sugar
* Light sour cream
* Neufchatel cream cheese (lighter)
* Corn meal
* Old-fashioned oats
* Canned diced tomatoes
* Canned beans like black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans
* Shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses (I keep them frozen)
* A good variety of frozen vegetables
* Evaporated milk
* Onions and garlic
* Potatoes and carrots
* Apples
* A good variety of pasta
* Converted rice

Oh, and I’m assuming that you are including the fridge and freezer as part of the pantry... the place where you keep cooking essentials.



What is your favorite type of dish to cook: main dish, sides, breads, desserts?

I love cooking and baking just about anything. But I have to say that my favorite type of dish to cook is desserts. I love making cookies, cakes, pies, crisps, whatever. I just don’t do so very often. I make tons of cookies for Christmas and keep them frozen. I make desserts for company or for church dinners, but mostly we don’t have desserts at home. Mr. T keeps ice cream in the freezer to appease his sweet tooth.

Do you have a signature recipe, one that everyone knows you for?

Some people jokingly say that they know the most unusual dishes at a potluck will be mine! I do have a few things that I make quite often and people sort of expect I will bring them -- Hot Pizza Dip, and Tortilla Roll-ups, Creamy White Chili, Cornbread... things like that.

What's your favorite appliance or gadget that you couldn't get along without?

Probably the microwave. I cook frozen veggies in the microwave all the time. It works great for cooking puddings and sauces too, lots less stirring. I prefer melting chocolate in the microwave, too. I will very often use the microwave for different steps in preparing a recipe. But I also adore my crockpot and use it at least once a week. I’ve really been using it a lot lately; it’s so helpful when I have many other things to do around the house, to just know that supper is under control. And I love my bread machine, especially for making dough.

And finally, what is your husband's favorite recipe that you fix? You know, the one that says "I love you - this is especially for you!"

This is a really difficult question because, as I said, he loves basically everything that I fix. His eyes will light up at almost any meal! He loves Snickerdoodles, and he also loves chocolate cake -- either one of those would say “I love you” -- but he would (and does!) read “I love you” into every meal that I make.

How about the rest of you ladies? I’d be really interested in reading your answers to Susan’s questions. So I’ll add -- as she did -- that you can answer these questions in the Comments, or, if you have your own blog, post the answers there. I will be looking forward to reading all of your answers!

Menu Plan Monday for September 24


Monday again! The weeks are flying by. There are some repeats on my menu this week, as some meals weren’t used last time. Yesterday we ended up going out for lunch with friends after church, so Sunday’s crockpot meal is all cooked and ready to reheat for tonight!

MONDAY: Spicy Lemon Chicken, Rice Pilaf, Green Beans

TUESDAY: Vegetable Chili, Cornbread

WEDNESDAY: Boston Subs, 3-Bean Salad

THURSDAY: Chicken Chop Suey (crockpot recipe), Fried Rice, Fruit Salad

FRIDAY: Grilled Steak, Potato Salad, Green Beans

SATURDAY: Southwestern Frittata, Breakfast Potatoes, Broccoli/Cauliflower Blend

SUNDAY: Round Steak Italiano, Baked Potatoes, Italian Mixed Vegetables

Saturday, September 22, 2007

More autumn decorating...



Here are a few more photos and details of my fall decorating. I am not really finished with this; a few more autumnal decorations will emerge throughout October and November, I am sure. But in the meanwhile, here are a few things I have done.

At Christmastime I put up a red and green ribbon board in my front hallway to display my collection of vintage Christmas cards. You can see this on my Christmas blog, Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen . I also have directions for making the board there, in the post called “A Simple Ribbon Board”.

Anyway, I found that I enjoyed this idea for displaying small paper and other lightweight treasures so much, that I made another ribbon board in neutral colors to use for all of the other seasons of the year.

And so I have just changed the contents of the ribbon board to reflect the fall season. This photo doesn’t really do it justice, but it is quite pretty and brightens up my front hallway very nicely.


On my kitchen counter, I have a large glass jar (actually an old churn) which I used to use for doughnuts and then for cookies. One day I put a string of white lights in it, and I have never looked back. It’s so pretty and warming! This fall, I got an inspiration to put a branch of silk autumn leaves in with the lights. Oh my! Even prettier! Again, this photo doesn’t really do it justice, but it really looks so nice. Why not find a large old jar of your own and fill it with lights and silk leaves?


And then for table decor... I just had a group of ladies over for lunch and needed a nice centerpiece. I wish I had thought to take a picture; the table looked quite a bit nicer that day,as I had an autumn print runner down the center and it looked really pretty. But alas, the runner got sticky and is in the laundry, so I’ve gone to plan B; a lovely quilted place mat made by my friend Marilyn, and then the same centerpiece I used for the ladies. It’s just a ceramic autumn-themed cake stand, with a (faux, I am sure) small carnival glass bowl atop it, which I filled with an assortment of faux squashes and gourds. I also added a cute “Indian corn” ornament made of beads. (Sometimes I hang this on the ribbon board, but for now it’s in with the squashes and gourds.)


No picture of this, but I also have a pretty evergreen garland with real cones and fake berries in shades of brown, which I leave up over my living room picture window year round. For fall, I’ve tucked silk leaves into this garland and it looks really warm and welcoming.

Just a few thoughts... hope others find them inspiring!

My autumn hutch


This week I took up the task of redecorating my hutch for fall. I wanted to leave some of the things in place, and just add others for an autumn feeling. So here’s what I did:

Top shelf: Left the Proverbs 31:31 stitchery in place; this will probably be a permanent fixture here. On either side is a lovely autumn mug. I love to drink my morning coffee from these in the fall, so I’ll likely be taking one of these down quite often to use!

Next shelf down: The maple-leaf teacup (you can’t really tell from the photo, but the leaves are autumn colors) -- just moved to the left-hand side. I had to leave the “Smile” sign in place, but added a leaf, some tiny raffia pumpkins, and some bittersweet around it. Then there’s a teeny-tiny original copy of Tasha Tudor’s book Pumpkin Moonshine. On the right-hand side, there’s a cute little glazed maple-leaf pitcher. We sometimes use this to serve maple syrup!

Next shelf down: 2 Gooseberry Patch cookbooks that feature fall crafts and recipes along with Christmas ones. You can’t really see this, but the things in the center of the shelf are resting on a rectangle of pretty fall fabric. There’s the Old Curiosity Shop pitcher again, along with 2 Fiesta salt & pepper shakers, and a sprig of bittersweet. The cute little sunflower is a favor I got at a fall ladies’ conference some years ago. The “stem” is a cinnamon stick, and the “flowerpot” is a spool trimmed with sunflower-themed ribbon. They would be fun and easy to make.

Bottom shelf: Kept that cute card in the corner -- the quote says, “What do girls do who haven’t any mothers to help them through their troubles?” It’s a quote from Louisa May Alcott; from Little Women, if I remember right. Kept the yellow Fiesta teacup, too, accessorized with a couple of orange leaves. In the opposite corner is an old mug from my grandfather’s family and a little amber glass mug -- my parents used to use a similar one to hold toothpicks. I also kept that cinnamon apple tea bag holder which is so seasonal-looking. The pretty glazed pumpkin is actually a candle holder and was a fun gift from my sister-in-law Dawn. Last but not least, in the middle is a gorgeous autumn teapot from Walmart -- they do have some wonderful seasonal stuff there!

So there is my autumn hutch. It gives me a warm cozy feeling just to look at it!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Favorite Ingredients Friday for September 21


For Favorite Ingredients Friday this week, since the theme is Sandwiches, I decided to share an old favorite of ours. This is from one of the very first issues of Quick Cooking magazine, and we enjoy this sandwich very much. The recipe originally called for a can of cheddar cheese soup, but I’ve modified it to use my homemade substitute. You can find the recipes for those here on my blog; just do a search for cream soup substitutes. (If you prefer to use the canned soup, just eliminate the flour, dry mustard, milk, and cheddar cheese, and use the soup instead.)

BEEF-STUFFED ITALIAN BREAD

1 loaf unsliced Italian bread
1 pound ground beef
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tblsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 slices American cheese, cut in half diagonally

Slice off top of bread. Carefully hollow out bottom of loaf, leaving a 1/2-inch bread shell. Cut or tear the removed bread into small pieces; set aside.

In a skillet, brown the ground beef with the green pepper and celery; cook until beef is fully cooked and brown and vegetables are tender. Drain off all but 1 Tblsp. of the fat. Stir in the flour, dry mustard; salt and pepper; cook until bubbly. Stir in the milk gradually; cook and stir until mixture is smooth and thickened. Stir in the cheddar cheese and Worcestershire sauce until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Stir in the reserved bread pieces. Spread mixture into the bread shell.

Place stuffed bread on a foil-lined baking sheet. Top the beef mixture with the triangles of American cheese, then replace the bread top.

Bake at 350º for 6 to 8 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Yield: 4 servings

Sew Crafty Friday for September 21




This hasn’t been the most accomplishing week craft-wise, but I did finish a couple of things. I’ll show you some of them.

I did finish another dishcloth in the “Gumdrop” yarn, but those are old hat by now. I probably won’t post another dishcloth photo until I finish one in a new and different color -- like the “Faded Denim” one I’m currently working on.

I also finished a crocheted snowflake -- but won’t post a photo of those until they are all stiffened and glittered and completely finished. They don’t look like much right now.

The apron I’d been working on for a friend is finished and I gave it to her yesterday. She loved it and it fits perfectly. I detest this particular apron pattern as far as working on it goes -- but I love the apron itself and the pattern, though it’s a pain, is far easier than similar aprons I’ve made. I had planned to cut out another one right away, but decided to give it a rest for awhile.


(On the window beside the door where the apron is hanging, you can see my el cheapo window treatment composed of a napkin and 2 placemats from the clearance aisle at Walmart. I had used 2 napkins -- no placemats -- on windows in other places, but had bought 2 packs of placemats ($1) by mistake, so combined them with the napkins It is different, but I think it looks quite nice.)

The other crafting I did this week was a set of 6 of these green print place mats.

I downloaded a free pattern from Craft and Fabric Links.com
and they truly were very, very easy. It only took me a couple of hours to finish all six of them, and I sandwiched it in and around other activities on an extremely busy day.


(Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, I did not make the log cabin mat in the center of the table. That was made by my friend Marilyn, and is just gorgeous. I’d like to take up quilting some day, but that’s a future project!)

In addition, I have also made a bit of progress on an embroidered dishtowel and my cross-stitch sampler, but not enough to post photos yet.

Remember, if you’ve done any crafting this week, even if you haven’t actually completed anything, head on over to http://w8ng4him.blogspot.com and share your projects. It’s such fun and so inspiring to see what others are working on

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A cozy nook


When we built our house, we planned in a sizable landing at the top of the stairs. I had the idea, at the time, that it would be a neat place for a little reading or sewing area. Well, that never happened. Instead, it became more of an unofficial “office” area. Yes, there was a bookcase there, but as time went by, a desk ended up there, then a file cabinet, then a computer... you get the idea.

Well, now all of the kids are grown and gone. Our son’s room has become a computer room/library, and our daughters’ room became our guest room. Neither of these rooms are completely the way we want them to be yet, but we’re getting there ever so slowly. The desk and computer ended up in the computer room, and the file cabinets finally joined them last winter. At last I could begin to think about my cozy nook at the top of the stairs!

(Please disregard the nasty-looking water damage on the wallpaper. This little nook is in a large dormer window, and this water damage is a result of ice backing up. Someday, Lord willing, we’ll replace the wall covering here, but there are lots of other improvements on the list before that.)

To furnish this little nook, I didn’t spend much money at all. Nearly everything was something we already had on hand. I spent a grand total of around $14 on what you see here, and $13 of that was on the rug. It was the perfect finishing touch to pull everything else together. The other $1 was spent on the table covering -- actually a napkin from the Walmart clearance aisle. Two other napkins are draped over a tension rod to form a “window treatment”, which you can just barely glimpse in the photo.

The chair was a cast-off from the living room which had been relegated to the master bedroom. The little “table” is actually the seat to a cabinet-style sewing machine. We removed the padded seat (there’s storage under it) and just made a plywood insert to fit it and create a “table top”. With a cloth over it, no one would ever guess. The lamp, doily, teacup, family photos, embroidered Hummel picture, and milk can were all in other places in the house originally. I love the way the chickens/rooster in the crewel picture go so perfectly with the rooster in the rug, and how all of the colors came together to work so well with the existing wallpaper. Little things, yes -- but little things that just remind us of how God cares about even the tiny details in our lives. I love to commit things to Him and then just watch Him work!

This cozy nook is everything I dreamed it could be... now if only I could find the time to sit here!

Monday, September 17, 2007

My late-summer hutch


Well, now that summer is nearly over (by the calendar, anyway) I finally am getting around to posting a photo of how I had decorated my hutch for summer. In the next couple of days I’m going to be working on decorating it for fall, so it’s time for me to post this if I’m going to!

You can read the story of how I acquired this hutch at my Christmas blog, Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen
in a post titled (if I remember right) “My Christmas Hutch”. I have been having fun decorating it for the different seasons!

The top shelf holds some special gifts from friends. The “tea for one” pots with an angel motif came from a dear couple with whom we have shared many cups of tea. The cross-stitch picture in the center was done by my dear friend Marilyn and features a verse from Proverbs 31 -- “Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:31)

The next shelf down features a moose pitcher from my grandmother’s collection; a sugar and creamer -- not matching; one is from the “Colonial Homestead” set and one from the “Old Curiosity Shop” set -- on a vintage hand-crocheted doily; a “Smile” wooden sign (97¢ at Walmart, but worth much more in the amount of smiles it has provoked!) and a yard-sale maple-leaf teacup.

Next shelf down: 2 Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, a set of Yankee Candle strawberry votive holders ($1 each on clearance), and a sugar bowl from my husband’s uncle’s place. In the center, though you can’t see it well, is a sand dollar painted with a Prince Edward Island theme by my daughter. Also in the center was a colorful cookbook -- Cook & Tell, by Karyl Bannister. I had taken that cookbook down and was using it at the time I took the photo.

Bottom shelf (with a definite “tea” theme): In the corners, 2 Mother’s Day cards given me by one of my daughters at different times. The one on the left features a quote from Louisa May Alcott, and the one on the right is a bunch of chipmunk & squirrel ladies having an outdoor tea party. On the left of this shelf is an old Fiesta ware teacup and saucer, along with a napkin I cross-stitched *many* years ago. Over on the right there is a pale yellow “new” Fiesta ware sugar & creamer on its own little tray. In the center is a lovely teapot given me by a friend, and a little Celestial Seasonings tin with the legend “Celebrating Tea Time”. A couple of tins of loose tea and a Marjolein Bastin tea bag holder complete the look.

Well, that is it. Hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at my summer hutch. I will try and be a bit more timely sharing my autumn decorating!

Menu Plan Monday for September 17


Monday again! Time flies by so quickly. I simply can’t believe that September is now half over. Here’s my plan for this week, in which observant readers will notice some repeats that just haven’t gotten used in previous weeks:

MONDAY: Leftovers from Sunday -- Italian Sausage with Vegetables, Ranch French Bread

TUESDAY: Slow-cooked White Chili, Cornbread

WEDNESDAY: Parmesan Chicken Fingers, Sweet Potato Fries, Coleslaw

THURSDAY: Potluck lunch at my home with 5 other ladies; I’m providing Apple Salsa with Cinnamon Chips and Apple Crisp Pizza, and possibly something else.
For my parents’ meal that evening, I’m making Gone-all-Day Beef Stew (yes, I’m going to be home, but I’ll be busy!) and Wheat Rolls.

FRIDAY: Southwestern Frittata, Breakfast Potatoes, Green Beans

SATURDAY: Crab Melt Loaf, Corn Chowder

SUNDAY: Spicy Lemon Chicken, Brown Rice, Asparagus Stir-fry Vegetables

Friday, September 14, 2007

Sew Crafty Friday for September 14


This has been a real “work in progress” week. I have worked some on sewing the apron, some on putting together a cookbook for a gift, some on crocheting a dishcloth and embroidering a dish towel (not to mention decluttering my fabric totes and washing up a bunch of fabric) but I cannot point to any one project and say it is finished. So I’m just going to show a couple of my works-in-progress.


Here is my cookbook so far -- just a decorated binder, a stack of recipe pages -- some decorated, some not -- and a bunch of magazine cut-outs to use to decorate the pages before putting them in page protectors.



And this is the cross-stitch sampler I’m working on for myself. I started this on our train trip last year. No pressure to get it done. I will occasionally work on this in the evenings to relax.



Hope others have had a more productive week than I! If you’ve accomplished some crafting this week-- even a work in progress, then do head on over to Shereen’s blog and get in on Sew Crafty Friday! We would love to have some other ladies join in the fun.

Looking forward to finishing some of these projects in the coming week!

Favorite Ingredients Friday for September 14


Today I'm going to share a very favorite muffin recipe I've been making for years. It seems like a nice treat for fall.

DOUGHNUT MUFFINS

1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom, optional
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
Melted butter and cinnamon-sugar for top

Sift together the first 7 ingredients; set aside. In a bowl, combine
the oil, egg, and milk; stir in dry ingredients just until combined.
Batter will be lumpy. Place batter in 12 greased muffin cups, filling
the cups only half full. Bake in preheated 350° oven for 20 to 25
minutes until golden brown. While muffins are still hot, remove from
tins and dip the tops in melted butter, then in cinnamon-sugar. Place
on a wire rack to cool, or serve immediately. 1/4 cup margarine will be
more than enough for dipping the muffins.

Yield: 12 muffins

These are probably our very favorite muffins in our family. They are
quick and easy to make.

** If you don't have cinnamon-sugar on hand, you can do this: Mix 3/4
cup sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Use what you need for this recipe;
store the remainder in a jar or tin for future use. **

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Gift packaging idea for flour-sack towels


As I know that some of my readers are making the embroidered flour-sack dish towels in sets for gifts, I thought I would share the way I have packaged mine. One way that would work very nicely is to simply stack them and tie with a nice ribbon -- not a narrow ribbon, but something at least 3/4-inch wide that will hold them together and keep the stack of folded towels together neatly.


But what I have done is to save the sturdy clear plastic boxes that some baby spinach and other fancy greens are packaged in. The greens are usually packed in plastic bags inside these boxes, so except for the label, the box is pristine and ready to use. And I don’t bother trying to remove the label. I have made up a label of my own to place over it with double-stick tape. Feel free to borrow the label (it’s at the top of this post) or use my idea to make one of your own.

I then stack the folded towels, tied with a ribbon, inside the box, along with a dishcloth or two, and close the lid. Simple and quite pretty!

Hope this idea is helpful to someone...

Slow Cooking Thursday for September 13


Here's this week's recipe. Sorry to say I can't remember where I found this recipe, but think it may have been in a Quick Cooking magazine.

HEARTY PASTA TOMATO SOUP

6 cups beef broth
28 ounces stewed tomatoes
15-16 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups sliced zucchini (I used the frozen zucchini-squash blend)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup sliced carrots (I used baby carrots)
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 lb. Italian link sausage, sliced about 1/2 inch thick with scissors
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pasta of your choice, OR 2 cups frozen cheese tortellini
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Place all ingredients except the last two in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on High for 4 to 5 hours until the vegetables are tender and the sausage slices are cooked and tender.

At this point, add pasta to your taste and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes or until pasta is cooked. I used orzo, so only had to wait about 15 minutes. Rotini or elbows would probably take 20 minutes or so. If you choose to use the tortellini, you need to cook it first, then stir into the soup and cook for about 30 minutes or so.

Yield: 10-12 servings

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Patchwork" coasters -- a fun and easy project!


Someone, I forget who, asked about how to make these coasters which I shared a photo of a couple weeks ago. This is not my original idea. A new acquaintance kindly shared this pattern with me a number of years ago, but I’m not sure who actually originated it. In any case, I’ve made a couple of refinements to the pattern as I received it. It’s probably still not as clear as it might be, but it takes so long for me to load photos that I probably won’t be trying to write a tutorial for it anytime soon. It’s a lot easier than it sounds -- you will just be straight stitching around the edges of a square and turning it right side out, but the result is impressively complicated looking and very pretty.


“PATCHWORK” COASTERS
(a great project for using up fabric scraps)

For each coaster you will need:

FABRICS: Five 5-inch squares of different coordinating fabrics
One 5-inch square of thin cotton batting OR flannel (be advised that thicker batting will not work)

DIRECTIONS: Choose the fabric you want to be the back of the coaster. Lay this square, right side up, on top of the batting square. Pin in place.

Fold the remaining four squares in half diagonally, wrong sides in. Press the resulting triangles so the folds are crisp and smooth.

Lay 2 of the triangles just formed on top of the fabric/batting layer. The folds of the triangles should meet at the center, and the raw edges should line up with the outer edges and corners of the squares beneath.

Do the same with the remaining 2 triangles, but slant their folded edges in the opposite direction -- like an X. Interlock the triangles like a pouch.

Pin along the outer edges of the entire stack -- 4 layers -- batting; square of fabric for back; set of 2 triangles; set of 2 triangles.

Stitch around all 4 sides in a 1/4-inch seam.

Trim seams if necessary and clip off each corner.

Turn coaster right side out and push out the corners so they are nice and square. Press coaster .

If you like, make the coasters in sets of 4, 6, or more, and tie them together with ribbon or jute for gifts. These make wonderful hostess gifts! It’s also fun to make these up in holiday fabrics for the different seasons.

Hope others have as much fun with these coasters as I have!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for September 10


Here it is Monday again! I just don’t know where the time goes, but it certainly does pass very quickly. Here’s my plan for this week:

MONDAY: Strawberry Sticky Chicken (leftover from Sunday); Rice Pilaf; Fresh Garden Vegetables

TUESDAY: Beef Ragu with Ravioli; Italian Mixed Vegetables

WEDNESDAY: Spiral Stromboli; Easy Veggie Salad

THURSDAY: (ministry meal) Alfredo Veggie Lasagna (I’m making 2 of these and will serve one to company on Saturday); Tomato Aspic; Italian Bread

FRIDAY: Crab Melt Loaf; Pasta Salad; Baby Carrots

SATURDAY: (company meal) Alfredo Veggie Lasagna; Tossed Salad; Ranch French Bread; Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert

SUNDAY: Italian Sausage with Vegetables; Ranch French Bread

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Like mommy, like son

Last evening we had two of our grandchildren here for a few hours while their mom & dad went on a “date” to Lowe’s in a nearby town. Mr. T is just beginning the process of getting our wood into the cellar for the winter. He thought that our grandson Sam would probably enjoy helping him, and he was right!



After they had gone home, I happened to remember this photo of Sam’s mommy at just about the same age (3) wearing her big brother’s outgrown (and patched) clothes and much-too-big gloves, helping with --what else? -- the winter’s wood.

Some things never change...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sew Crafty Friday for September 7



This wasn’t the most productive week, craftwise. Most of my items are works in progress!

First up, 2 dishcloths. I did manage to finish those this week, mostly in the car while traveling on Labor Day.

Next, the Saturday towel from the “Fine Chinaware” set of dishtowels. This towel is almost completed -- just a few French knots left to do! (And then, of course, five more towels.)


And lastly, here’s how the apron is progressing. I have the sides sewn to the front, and the front facing in place. You can’t really see this in the photo, but the facing is a different fabric -- a nifty blue homespun check that coordinates quite well with the sunflower fabric.



How about you? Have you done any crafting this week? Even a work in progress? Then head on over to Shereen’s blog and share what you’ve been working on. The more the merrier -- it’s fun and encouraging to share crafting with others!

Favorite Ingredients Friday for September 7


This week's theme for Favorite Ingredients Friday is Italian recipes. I have lots of recipes for Italian-type main dishes, but I thought it would be fun to share a cookie recipe. So here it is:

ITALIAN CHOCOLATE COOKIES

3 eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup cold, strong coffee
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup toasted almonds OR walnuts, chopped

FROSTING:
3/4 pound confectioners sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
2 Tablespoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
Approximately 1/4 cup milk

For cookies, beat the eggs, sugar and oil together. Add the melted chocolate, the coffee, and lemon and orange zests. Sift together the dry ingredients. Stir the sifted ingredients and the nuts into the first mixture. Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, for several hours or overnight.

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 325º. Then shape the dough into balls about the size of a walnut and bake them on parchment-lined cookie sheets for about 15 minutes. Remove cookies to wire racks to cool. When cool, frost the cookies.

To make frosting, stir the sugar and cocoa together, then add the vanilla and butter and mix well. Add 1/4 cup milk (may add more if necessary) and beat until smooth and of spreading consistency.

Yield: About 75 cookies

I found these delicious Italian cookies in a cookie cookbook years ago. I’ve made these a number of times for international-themed meals and have had folks of Italian ancestry tell me these are “the real thing”!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Slow Cooking Thursday for September 6


Today’s recipe is one I’ve used for years. It can be made in the oven in a very large casserole dish, or in the slow cooker. Both ways are yummy!

GONE-ALL-DAY STEW

1 can tomato soup, undiluted
1 cup water
1/4 cup flour
2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1-inch cubes, trimmed of fat
3 medium carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped (or use a handful of frozen baby onions)
4 medium potatoes, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup celery, cut in 1-inch slices
12 whole large fresh mushrooms (optional but good)
2 beef bouillon cubes ( or 2 tsp. beef bouillon granules)
1 Tblsp. Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
3 grinds fresh pepper

In a large casserole dish (at least 3-quart) mix the soup with the water and flour until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the casserole and bake at 275º for 4 to 5 hours. (The stew may also be cooked in a slow cooker on Low for the same amount of time.) Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

This delicious stew was a staple for us during the years our kids were at boarding school. It was the perfect meal for Sunday lunch before the trip back to school. I can’t even count the number of times I have given out this recipe over the years.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Recent picnics by the river



Wow, it just amazes me how time flies. The weeks pass so quickly that I just never seem to find time to blog about our weekly picnics. But the weather has been great and we have gone for our picnics each Wednesday. Here’s a brief synopsis:

* Wednesday, August 22 -- I had planned to make Spiral Stromboli, a Quick Cooking recipe, for our picnic. It starts with a refrigerated-dough French Loaf, a great shortcut. However, I’d forgotten that the deli had been out of the sale ham when we shopped, and so we didn’t buy the ham needed for this recipe. I had deli roast beef on hand, though, so I improvised and used that. The original recipe called for mozzarella, and I did use some of that, but I thought Swiss cheese would be really nice with the roast beef, and it was! I’ll try and post the recipe before too long. With this, we had a quick pasta salad and baby carrots. It was a wonderful evening by the river, but cool. I wore a sweater and was not too warm!

* Wednesday, August 29 -- On this night it was a bit warmer by the river -- didn’t need the sweater -- but it was still a beautiful evening. Our menu -- still-warm Beef-Stuffed French Bread (wrapped in foil), potato salad, and good old baby carrots. The beef-stuffed bread is a recipe from one of the early Quick Cooking magazines. It calls for a can of cheddar cheese soup, but I always use my homemade substitute. This time I did it a little differently and was so pleased with the time (and fat grams, and a dish!) that it saved. Rather than making up the substitute in a separate saucepan, I just left out the butter and added the flour to the browned the beef, celery, etc. in the skillet. Then I cooked it until bubbly and added the milk, stirring until thick, and then the other ingredients. This worked out really well. My ground beef was extremely lean, but I still didn’t need to add any butter.

For tonight, I’ve made another easy pasta salad, just something I throw together, and I’m making a meatball pizza sub. Maybe I’ll even get around to blogging about it tomorrow!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for September 3


Menu Plan Monday for September 3

Can it really be Monday again? And a holiday at that! We are going off for a day with family, so we’ll take along a picnic lunch. Here’s what the rest of the week looks like:

MONDAY: Chicken/Rice Salad with Almonds (leftover from Sunday’s potluck), Broccoli Stir-fry Vegetables, Wheat Rolls

TUESDAY: Beef Ragu with Ravioli, Italian Mixed Vegetables

WEDNESDAY: Meatball Pizza Subs, Pasta Salad

THURSDAY: Broccoli Chicken Casserole, Brown Sugar Carrots, Cranberry Sauce

FRIDAY: Southwestern Frittata, Breakfast Potatoes, Green Beans

SATURDAY: Crab Melt Loaf, Pasta Salad, Baby Carrots

SUNDAY: Strawberry Sticky Chicken, Brown Rice, Asparagus Stir-fry Vegetables

A splendid day at the lake




Last Tuesday was perhaps the last “beach day” for my daughter Carrie and other young moms who try to meet up at a local state park one day each week in summer. I’ve been blessed to accompany her and the kiddos the past few weeks, and this past Tuesday was a special blessing.

Three young moms, two youngish grandmas, two 3-year-olds, two 1-year-olds, a 6-month-old, and three teenage girls made up the group. It was a really nice time of fellowship and fun for all of us. The weather was perfect; it was sunny and plenty warm for swimming, but not too hot, with a nice breeze blowing. The teen girls were wonderfully patient with the 3-year-olds, keeping them safe in the water, building sand castles with them, and so on.

Later in the day, Carrie’s hubby, Jim, joined us, and later still -- after all of the other ladies and kids had departed, Mr. T joined me, Carrie & Jim & their little ones for a swim and a picnic supper. JIm roasted hot dogs; I’d brought along potato salad, baked beans and baby carrots. Afterward, Jim toasted marshmallows for us and we all enjoyed s’mores for dessert! By the time we ate, there was almost no one else left at the lake; it was literally like having our own private beach.

What a splendid day at the lake!