Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A hand-crafted birthday banner

Here is one of the handmade gifts I made for Christmas this year. I made two of these "Happy Birthday" banners for my daughters and their families. Since they each have more than one child, it wasn't practical to add a child's name at the end of the banner as the pattern was designed. So I made a separate small banner for each child's name. These could be tied onto the end of the "Happy Birthday" banner if desired, or hung beneath it.

I found the pattern in the book Stitched in Time, by Alicia Paulson. This is a lovely book, with many interesting projects with the potential to become family heirlooms. I bought mine on Amazon with a gift card I'd received for Mother's Day.

(Note: I have just added this book to my A-Store, "My Kitchen Table Collection" which you can access with the button to the right. If you are interested, Stitched in Time can be found and/or purchased on page 6.)

I did just a couple of things differently from what the pattern directed. I used muslin to back the parts of the banner, rather than matching fabric as suggested. This saved the decorative fabric and enabled me to make a number of banners with the fabric I had purchased. I think that in most cases the banners I made will be hung against a wall or above a door, so really the back side will rarely be seen. The other thing I did was not to make hanging loops at each end of the large banner, because I wanted to leave the recipients the option of tying a separate name banner to one end. I just left 8 to 10 inches at each end of the bias tape, feeling that would be enough to tie or tack up where needed.

This was my first attempt at using a font from my computer for a fabric craft. I used Georgia at the 250-point size as recommended, and loved the way it turned out. It was also my first attempt at freezer-paper stenciling, which I undertook with fear and trembling, but it turned out fairly well.

All in all, it was a fun project which I hope will become an heirloom in my daughters' families. I gave the banners along with birthday candles, birthday napkins, and a couple of fun kids' books from Gooseberry Patch.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, from our home to yours! I hope your Christmas Day was as blessed as ours was and that you have been able to enjoy fellowship with family and friends as you rejoice in the fact that the Baby in the manger was truly "Emmanuel, God with us" (Matthew 1:23) and that He came "to save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). O come, let us adore Him!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve... how can it be already? This has been one of the most hectic Christmas seasons I can remember, though surely there were others that were even more so. Times when we were involved in Christmas plays and musicals, for example. Today was busy, but a good day. This morning I finished up some crafted gifts and did some wrapping. After lunch, my granddaughters came. The 7-year-old and I did some baking, while the 9-year-old did some errands with her dad. Actually, the baking was done, but cookies and brownies needed filling, frosting and glazing, all of which this little girl is adept at. She was a great help!

Later, Mr. T and I went out for groceries and a couple of last-minute gifts. The stores weren't as busy as I expected, which was fine with me.

For supper, we had our usual Christmas Eve Soup, basically a creamy potato and carrot soup with bacon and cheddar cheese. We had focaccia bread and a multigrain Italian bread, too. My dad joined us, as well as our son and his girls. Dessert (for those who had room; most didn't) was Christmas cookies and a mug of tea. The girls opened their gifts after supper as well. When everyone left, I headed for the kitchen to make a breakfast casserole for tomorrow and then start marinating a pork roast for Christmas dinner. Busy day, but God gave strength as well as cheerfulness. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 17-20

December 17-20

Where, oh where, is December going? I simply cannot believe that Christmas is this coming Saturday. Life has been very busy for us with a lot going on; I can hardly even think back to what we did toward Christmas the past few days, but we have definitely been busy. Let's see:

* Friday, December 17. I did some housework and a bit of decorating on this day. We had five of our grandchildren with us in the evening. A busy time! But fun. Several of the older ones decorated a miniature Christmas tree which is perched on a milk can on the landing at the top of the stairs. They had a lot of fun with that. I also had a few ornaments that had not made it onto our regular tree as yet. They are on there now. The lower branches of the tree are well decorated!

* Saturday, December 18. The less said about this day, the better. Other responsibilities kept us either busy at home or out of the house most of the day and nothing at all got done toward Christmas. Oh, except that late in the evening we made a run to Walmart to find a few necessary items, some of which were components to some gifts we were giving in the gift exchange at church. And I did wrap those items that night.

* Sunday, December 19. Busy day, but in the afternoon I did try out a recipe for a mix sort of like puppy chow, but lemon flavored. Very good. That evening we went to a Sunday School Christmas program at an area church, and it was a lot of fun and very uplifting.

Monday, December 20. Finished up another handmade gift and wrapped nearly all of our presents that are being sent out west. Baked two batches of cookies. They still need to be filled/frosted, but at least they are baked. Went online and printed postage for the priority mail parcels, and scheduled a carrier pickup for them for today.

And that's how the past few days have gone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 15-16

Once again, I'd better note down what I did toward Christmas on these days, before I forget it!

On Wednesday, which is always a very busy day for me, about all I got done was to finish a handcrafted gift, but it was a time-consuming project that I'm thankful to be finished with. I'm working on a second one just like it.

On Thursday, a lot more got done. I did a bit more decorating, plus put together a gift basket for a Yankee swap. It came out so nice, I wish I had thought to take a picture of it, but I didn't. Basically, it was a recycled Christmas basket filled with fun goodies -- 2 vintage-looking holly mugs (bought at Walmart after Christmas a few years back), with chocolate-dipped spoons in one and peppermint bark in the other; a tin of homemade hot cocoa mix; a small jar candle in a vanilla gingerbread scent; a packet of mulling spices for hot cider; and a couple of candy canes. I wrapped it all up in one of those clear cellophane gift basket bags (2/$1 at Dollar Tree; what a deal!) with a scrap of glittery red and gold wired ribbon and a glitzy red snowflake ornament. It was a big hit at the swap -- got traded several times.

I also wrapped a couple of other small gifts during the day and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I made homemade hot cocoa mix; cranberry pistachio bark; chocolate dipped spoons with various goodies sprinkled on (crushed candy canes, toffee chips, mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows); and also made some homemade Italian wedding soup for supper.

The ladies' Christmas fellowship (where the Yankee swap was held) was a very nice time and I was especially blessed by the fellowship and by the devotional thoughts shared by one of the ladies. She spoke of childhood Christmases and one in particular where she received a special gift she could hardly believe was intended for her. She drew the parallel between that blue bicycle of long ago and God's "unspeakable gift" of His Son for the salvation of all who will trust Him as Savior. Many, many people in our world have no idea that this marvelous gift is intended for them! I pray that at this time of year we will take the time to share this gift with our friends and loved ones.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 13-14

Yesterday and today, I didn't get a lot done toward Christmas, but a few things got done. I finished one handmade gift yesterday and started another, and we also did a bit of Christmas shopping -- both for gifts and also for necessary components to complete more handmade gifts.

Today Mr. T unexpectedly had the afternoon off, so we went Christmas shopping again! En route, I was able to work on handmade gifts for a bit. We went to Cracker Barrel, a place I dearly love to visit at Christmas time, and thoroughly enjoyed a late lunch and the wonderful ambiance. Fire crackling in the big fireplace, the country store just brimming with Christmas delights... what a treat! And we found some marvelous gifts. Later we went to the Christmas Tree Shop and found some other gift components, containers, etc. What a fun day!

Anniversary giveaway at Green Twig!

I'm posting about this Christmasy giveaway on both of my blogs, because I know that not all of my readers visit both of them regularly.

This giveaway is over at Green Twig, the blog of my real-life friend Mrs.D. She is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Green Twig with this special event.

She is giving away a gorgeous Christmas-themed market tote and also a sweet set of wintry-looking teacups and saucers with little pine branches on them. Mrs. D is an incredible seamstress and quilter, and made the bag herself. It is so cute and looks as if it would hold a lot of groceries.

So head on over to Green Twig and leave a comment. If you have a blog of your own, Mrs. T also asks that you post about her giveaway there. Two fortunate readers will win either the bag or the teacups, so check out the giveaway now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 11-12

Oops, missed a couple of days in reporting on our Christmas preparations! I'd better post now while I can still recall what we did...

December 11 -- spent the morning in the kitchen. Made White Christmas candy (peppermint bark), another batch of Heavenly Delight fudge, and chocolate peanut morsels. Did a bit more decorating. In the afternoon we went to a small Christmas party for Mr. T's work -- a festive fun time with congenial friends and lots of yummy food. Spent time working on a handmade gift, too.

December 12 -- went to church, of course, as well as Sunday School and our usual potluck lunch. Drew names for our church gift exchange. Spent a very few minutes working on a handmade gift. In the evening, we went to a Sunday School Christmas program which three of our grandchildren were participating in.

Nothing like a Sunday School program to get one into the true spirit of Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 10

Yesterday was busy, but a lot got done toward Christmas!

I spent some good quality crafting time, and at least one more handcrafted gift is nearing completion. It was fun listening to the radio's continuous Christmas music as I worked.

Time in the kitchen produced hot cocoa mix, fudge, and a cinnamon pretzel snack mix.

In the late afternoon, Mr. T and I went to Walmart and the dollar store for the makings and containers for more kitchen gifts. After supper, we drove to a nearby town to one of our favorite bookstores. An evening visit to this shopping center, in an old mill with a gorgeous ice-rimmed waterfall, is one of our own special Christmastime traditions. It was a quick visit this time due to time constraints, but we hope to go again and maybe get some pictures. It was a fruitful trip, though, as we did find several Christmas gifts.

All in all, a wonderful day!

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 9

Yesterday was a super busy day with lots to do both at home and out of the house. I found perhaps an hour or so for crafting on handmade Christmas gifts, and was thankful to have that much time.

And as I sat at my crafting desk working on these projects, I gave thanks to God for the blessing of being able to sit in my warm, lovely home and make things for loved ones. I find so much joy in just sitting at my glass-topped desk with all of the beautiful Christmas cards beneath the glass, tucked into a cozy upstairs dormer nook, and working on special craft projects. I don't take it lightly -- it's a huge blessing from God!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

December 8

Wednesdays are always super busy for me, so I wasn't expecting to accomplish much in the way of Christmas preparations on this day. I was thankful to find time for a little bit of crafting on handmade gifts (sorry I can't show photos of any of these top secret gifts yet!). And I also made a batch of hot chocolate mix and got that packaged into gift jars. That was it, but I was happy to get that much accomplished.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

December 7

Today I devoted the afternoon to Christmas pursuits, first putting a hamburger soup in the crockpot and some dough for focaccia bread in the bread machine.

I got a small amount of crafting done, but nowhere near as much as I hoped.

However, lots of baking and candy making was accomplished! I made a double batch of Chocolate Spritz, and a batch of Whipped Shortbread. (You should be able to find these recipes here on my blog by typing them into the search box at the top left.) I also made Lemon Ice Candy (just crushed lemon candy mixed into melted white almond bark and spread on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet -- chill until firm, then break into pieces) and some Chocolate Peppermint Bark. I won't have time for baking tomorrow, so I'm thankful for what was accomplished today.

Monday, December 06, 2010

December 6

Today was a perfect day to bake in the Christmas kitchen. Snow fell lightly and softly all day long and the wind gusted from time to time. In the midst of the usual Monday tasks of laundry and other housework, I took time to bake 2 kinds of Christmas cookies -- macaroon kisses and gingerbread men. Both are now stored in tins in the freezer, awaiting gift-giving time.

After supper -- a beef pot pie, mashed winter squash, and coleslaw -- I spent some time working on a handcrafted gift and working a bit in my Christmas notebook. There are still a few items I need to buy for further Christmas baking!

December 5

Didn't find time to post this yesterday, so will write it up now. Saturday was a very productive day as far as getting things done toward Christmas and also for getting in the Christmas spirit.

Mr. T and I were both busy with other projects in the morning, but after lunch we went downtown for a bit and browsed in one of our favorite shops which features books, toys, and art supplies. I picked up a few items to complete some Christmas gifts for some of the grandkids. Then we went and visited our town's Festival of Trees and saw some very interesting ones. The chocolate lover's tree was our favorite! After that we made a quick stop at the dollar store where we picked up some Christmas jars to use for gifts of hot chocolate mix. We also got a couple of Christmas tins to use to package candy gifts in.

When we got home, I washed all the jars and tins so they are ready to use when I'm ready to fill them.

Then Mr. T suggested we put up the Christmas tree. We both have colds, but we decided we had enough energy to do this. Our tree is a very old artificial one given us by friends who were downsizing. Although it's old, it's the most real-looking artificial tree I've ever seen. (It even loses its needles when you bump against it!) We got the tree up and the lights in place and then decided we still had enough energy left to add the ornaments.

We had a simple supper of fried egg sandwiches and home fries and applesauce, and then after supper I pressed the tree skirt and put it in place under the tree. I also added the snowflakes and icicles to the garland over the picture window.

Later, I worked on a couple of handmade gifts. Indeed, a very productive day!

Sunday was a busy day and we were out of the house until 3:30 or so. But I did manage to complete one embroidered gift and start another -- transferring the design and actually starting the embroidery.

All in all, I'm pleased with our progress in preparing for Christmas!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

December 4

Let's see, what did I accomplish yesterday toward Christmas (or otherwise)?

Well, for one thing, I made tortilla enchilada soup in the crockpot. And the crockpot just happens to be one of my secrets for finding more time for Christmas crafting, baking, decorating, or whatever. Supper prepares itself while I spend time on other pursuits. If there is bread baking in the bread machine at the same time, or if one prepares a cornbread mix or some purchased bakery bread, you have a meal. Fortunately, my husband never tires of soup, and I have a good variety of crockpot soup recipes in my file.

I spent some time working on Christmas crafts -- that is, projects I'm making for gifts. I can't really get specific, as some of the recipients read my blogs. But I did some sewing, some embroidery, and some cutting of stencils.

Another thing I did was to try a couple of new recipes. One was a recipe for Cinnamon Chip Bread. It came out quite well, although I had a few issues with it. The other recipe was for Heavenly Fudge. I found this recipe in Gooseberry Patch Christmas book #4, I believe. It's a relatively standard fudge recipe using 12 ounces of chocolate chips and a can of sweetened condensed milk, but includes a half cup of butterscotch morsels as well. This turned out well, and will be among the treats we share with others this Christmas season!

Friday, December 03, 2010

December 3

Yesterday was another slow day with this cold. I felt as if I accomplished very little toward Christmas.

But I did manage to get all of the fall decorations put away, and to get a few Christmas things in place. (I must note that all photos in this post are from previous years.)

On our front door is a grapevine wreath twined with silk ivy. I just change out the trims seasonally. So I pulled off the fall leaves and added a string of cranberry red wooden beads and a red plaid bow. Centered in the wreath is a small blackboard. I erased "Give Thanks" and printed "Christmas is Coming."

In the front hallway I took down the fall ribbon board and replaced it with the green and red Christmas ribbon board. Before the day was done, I had filled it with vintage cards.

I emptied my hutch of the gorgeous fall items. But since most of my Christmas things are in the attic, I simply filled the hutch shelves temporarily with some of my favorite Christmas books, mugs, etc. Later, those things can easily be moved when I get out some of my treasures.

The kitchen table now has red and white plaid placemats and a pretty Christmas runner down the center. In the middle, I placed my small clear cake dome with a small red and white doily inside and a small holly print teacup and teapot atop the doily. Sorry -- I was too lazy to take a picture.

For the kitchen island, for now I put down a simple red and white striped dishtowel on top and set my large Mitford teacup in the center -- minus the cookie cutters you see in this pic from last year.
Again, my island decor will change, but for now this puts me in the Christmas spirit!

The Christmas spoon rest is on the stove.

These sparkly, jingly heart ornaments are dangling from kitchen cupboard knobs.

In the living room, I took the fall leaves off the pine cone and evergreen garland over the picture window. I will add sparkly snowflakes and icicles once the trims come down from the attic. For now, I have just hung this family photo ornament at the center.

Lastly, I turned and refolded my simple flannel throw on the couch so that the Christmas print side (seen below) is visible. The rest of the year, the plain dark green side is uppermost.

And that's the extent of my simple Christmas decorating so far!

I also spent some time working on crafts for Christmas gifts, but it's awful how this cold has sapped my energy. I'm hoping for more energy today!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

December 2

I wanted December 1 to be a day when I sort of prepared for Christmas -- took the fall decor down, got out some of the Christmas decor, hunted up some Christmas recipes to add ingredients to my shopping list, etc. It just didn't work out that way yesterday.

I changed all of the calendars in the house to December -- that's something, right?

It had looked as if Mr. T would have yesterday free (too much rain to work in the woods) but he ended up doing other things like working on our vehicles, etc. If he had been home, he would have been able to help with getting items out of the attic. I had to be out of the house most of the afternoon as well, so it just wasn't to be yesterday. It's probably just as well, since I came down with a truly awful head cold yesterday morning and I don't have a whole lot of energy anyhow.

So not not a lot of Christmasy preparations got done. I did spend quite a bit of time working on handcrafted gifts, though I can't share specifics since many of the recipients read my blogs.

Supper was the usual Wednesday night pizza (I leave the dough in the bread machine while I deal with my afternoon commitments out of the house). I also made this wonderful Creamy Turkey Soup, which I highly recommend. I'm hoping it cures colds!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

December 1

December 1! Where, oh where, did November go? It seemed as if November had barely started before it was time for Thanksgiving!

I'd like to post here every day through December (as well as in my Christmas blog, Mrs.T's Christmas Kitchen -- see link in sidebar) but we'll see! When I post here, I will probably share some favorite images of Christmas cards old and new from my collection.

Do be sure to check out the archives in my Christmas blog as well as the Christmas link in the word cloud of labels here at my kitchen table. You are sure to find some recipes, craft or decorating ideas you can use.

Yesterday was a busy day mostly spent out of the house as I helped my daughter with some household tasks at her home. When I got back, I set the turkey bones to simmering with some onion, celery, bay leaf, pepper, and cloves, to make turkey broth.

Supper was gingerbread waffles (a yummy recipe from the Gooseberry Patch book Christmas Pantry), homemade applesauce, and sausage patties.

After supper I took the remaining turkey meat from the bones and strained the broth. All ready to make turkey soup today!

I also spent an hour or two last evening working on some top secret Christmas craft projects! They are coming along pretty well, but I have many more such items on my crafting for Christmas list.

Wednesdays are always busy for me, but I'm hoping to get some crafting done today and also start my Christmas decorating. Maybe even make some easy Christmas cookies!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Blessed Thanksgiving to You!

I hope that all of my readers and friends have had a truly blessed Thanksgiving Day! Our day was full of food, fun, family, and friends.

Here are just a few verses of praise to our wonderful Lord on this Thanksgiving Day:

"Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
"Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, Thou preservest man and beast.
"How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings."
(Psalm 36:5-7)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving menu and recipes

Well, our 20 pound turkey has been thawing in the fridge since Saturday, and I've finally firmed up what I'm making for Thanksgiving and what our 7 guests will be bringing.

Our Thanksgiving menu will include:

Roast Turkey
Roast Duck (homegrown, brought by guests)
Mashed Potatoes, Gravy
Sweet Potatoes (brought by guests)
Squash (brought by guests)
Creamed Onions
Peas (brought by guests)
Salad (brought by guests)
Cranberry Sauce

Crumb-Topped Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry Dream Pie
Key Lime Pie (brought by guests)

The beverages with dinner will be cider and water.

With dessert, I plan to serve coffee and hot spiced cider; tea will be available for those who prefer it.

I suppose most of you already have your menu set and know exactly what recipes you'll be using. But just in case, I will share some of my tried-and-true methods and recipes here.

For the turkey, I have tried a number of roasting methods. But the foolproof, best way I have found is to buy a turkey-sized oven bag and follow the chart and directions for roast turkey. Moist and wonderful every time. I roast it unstuffed.

For the stuffing, I buy a bag of Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing and follow the directions on the bag, sauteeing plenty of chopped celery and onion in the butter before adding it. Other wonderful additions to stuffing include dried cranberries and/or some crumbled, cooked, drained sausage.

Usually, I cook the stuffing in a crockpot on low, adding a little chicken broth if necessary from time to time to keep it moist. One can bake the stuffing in the oven, of course, but I like the crockpot better. And the oven is usually pretty full of other things, anyway.

For mashed potatoes, these are the best:


8 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut up
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Salt to taste
Parsley flakes

In large saucepan or dutch oven, combine potatoes and enough water to nearly cover them. Bring to boil; reduce heat, and cook, covered, 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain. Mash the potatoes, gradually adding cream cheese, sour cream, salt, and onion powder. Beat with electric mixer (or by hand if you prefer) until fluffy. Spoon into a greased 3-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.
Cover and refrigerate overnight. *
One hour before serving, remove potatoes from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350º. Bake potatoes uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
* Potatoes can be baked immediately if you prefer to eat them the same day. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

This recipe is a must for Thanksgiving and other gatherings when large amounts of people will be eating mashed potatoes. For our Thanksgivings when we have 20+ people, I usually double this or make 1 1/2 times the recipe.

For years I struggled with making turkey gravy, often resorting to packets of mix or canned or jarred gravy. The following recipe, which I found online, is just perfect and so easy. And it makes a lot, so gravy hounds can really enjoy themselves and ladle on the gravy to their heart's content. (On second thought, it's probably not all that good for their hearts...)


5 cups turkey stock with pan drippings
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup milk
1/3 cup flour

Bring the turkey stock to boil in a large saucepan. Stir in soup, and season with poultry seasoning, pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to low, and let simmer.

Warm the milk in the microwave, and whisk in the flour with a fork until there are no lumps. (Or shake the milk and flour together in a plastic shaker.) Return the gravy to a boil, and gradually stir in the milk mixture. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Be careful not to let the mixture scorch on the bottom of the pan.

For cranberry sauce, I am going to have a can of jellied sauce, but will do something with whole cranberries also. Last year we tried and enjoyed a baked cranberry sauce recipe from the Susan Branch e-newsletter. This year, I may make that again, but I'm also considering a cranberry chutney.

We have to have pie. Even for just a few people, I think it's nice to offer a choice of pie flavors. I am making three and a friend is bringing a key lime pie.

First, my best advice on pie crust:

(for a 1-crust pie)

1 1/3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/3 c. canola oil
3-5 T. milk

Stir together flour and salt in a small to medium bowl. Measure oil into glass measuring cup, add milk to oil. Pour milk and oil into the flour/salt mixture. Combine with a fork till it forms a nice ball of dough. Take a wet dishcloth and wash off a section of your counter. Lay a large piece of wax paper on the wet area (so it’ll stick). Put the dough on the wax paper and lay another piece of wax paper on top. Roll out the dough to desired size and shape between the 2 pieces of wax paper. This works really well and saves you having to flour the counter!

For a double crust pie, use

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk

Mix and roll out as above.

I have double or tripled this recipe with no problems. However, I do find that when doubling or tripling, I end up with an extra crust or two, so keep that in mind when figuring how much pastry you’ll need.

Many people think they wouldn’t like a pie crust made with oil. I always use an oil crust for my pies, and they always turn out well. I think an oil pastry is much less finicky than one made with shortening or butter; the dough is much easier to work with. And of course, a crust made with canola oil is healthier, too!

I should also add that many pastry-challenged people use the refrigerated, already-rolled-out sheets of pie crust, and they like them a lot. I'm too frugal to buy them, but I like them too.


1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
Unbaked 9” pie shell
6 apples, peeled, cored, sliced
Lemon juice
Crumb topping:
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of salt
1/2 cup butter

Begin by mixing together the brown sugar and spices in a small bowl. In the pie shell, alternate layers of apples with the spice mixture. Sprinkle each layer with lemon juice before adding another layer. When all apples and spices are in pie shell, make the topping by mixing the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and dash of salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until crumbs form. Top the pie with the crumb topping.
Bake the pie at 450º for 15 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350º and bake 30 minutes more. Serve warm with cheddar cheese or ice cream on the side.

This excellent pie comes from Jane & Michael Stern’s wonderful cookbook, Square Meals. I have made this pie so many times that its page in my handwritten cookbook is freckled with apple juice and spices.


1 9-inch unbaked pie crust
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 425º. Combine all ingredients except pie crust in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until well combined. Pour into crust.

Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350º. Bake pie for 35 to 40 minutes longer or until knife inserted 1 inch from crust comes out clean. Cool pie before cutting or serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

I have never really cared for pumpkin pie, I must confess. A couple of years ago I found the above recipe on line and I have never looked back. This one is truly delicious and so easy. I am going to top it -- as my friend Marilyn always tops her pumpkin pies -- with a baked pastry cutout in the form of a turkey.

The third pie I'm planning to make is a new one to me, but I like its festive appearance, and the recipe sounds quite simple. You can find the recipe here: Cranberry Dream Pie

If you would like to see more of my Thanksgiving recipes, do click on the "Thanksgiving" link in the word cloud of labels in the sidebar to the right. Enjoy!

I hope that these recipes, even if a bit last-minute, may enhance your family's Thanksgiving this year!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fall comfort food -- soup and bread

Steaming bowls of soup accompanied by hearty homemade bread -- this is some of our very favorite comfort food in our family! We could eat a different soup (or leftover soup) every day for quite awhile and not get tired of soup. Maybe in a few days I can get together some posts with recipes and links to more of my favorite soup recipes. Meanwhile, I will just share the links to what I prepared this past Tuesday evening. Both the soup and bread are somewhat unusual.

This Cream of Lentil Soup recipe was a new one for me. I kept seeing the recipe in a back issue of Country Woman magazine and was really intrigued by it. We love lentil soup, and I have a favorite recipe for it. But this Cream of Lentil one was so unusual, I just had to try it. It was delicious! The combination of flavors was subtle and yet complex -- it all added up to one very good soup. I used evaporated milk instead of cream. My only problem was that there really wasn't enough liquid (since one drains the cooking liquid from the lentils before assembling the soup) t o make it properly "soupy". I ended up adding some fat-free half & half to bring it to the right consistency. I'd definitely make this again.

To go along with this soup, I made an old favorite -- Herbed Oatmeal Pan Bread from one of the early issues of Taste of Home. I always seem to crave this bread in the fall. It's so hearty and rustic-looking.

What are some of your favorite soup and bread recipes?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A vintage find!

On our recent trip out west, our daughter took me shopping and out to lunch one day. It's always such a treat to spend special time with her, a busy mom of three. One place we visited is perhaps my favorite shop there in Elko, Nevada: a wonderful consignment boutique called Mishmash & Muddle. I like to visit this shop whenever I am in Elko, and have never yet left without purchasing something. The shop has a wonderful assortment of treasures, from clothing to dishes to jewelry to -- my favorite -- vintage linens. For the most part, the prices are extremely reasonable.

Here are my best finds this trip. Not sure if they are meant to be tea towels, napkins, or possibly even guest towels.

The price was only $2 each (as is; there are some stains and fold marks).

At first I hesitated, but then my daughter suggested they could be used in my Valentine decorating. Sold!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Two terrific Lo Mein recipes

I've recently tried a couple of delicious Lo Mein recipes and thought I would share the links. The first one, Ground Beef Lo Mein, I made several weeks ago and it was delicious. Super easy, too.

Then last night, I made this yummy Pineapple Chicken Lo Mein. It was not quite as easy, but still simple and very delicious. I have made this recipe before just as written, and it was wonderful. But this time I substituted a package of frozen stir-fry vegetable blend (just the Walmart store brand) for the green peppers and carrots called for in the recipe. We liked the flavor even better this way and it was easier than taking the time to cut up peppers and carrots.

If you're looking for something simple and a little bit different for a weeknight supper, give one of these great recipes a try!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Last of the harvest

Yesterday, I pulled the carrots. They were the only things remaining in our little vegetable garden. We had harvested everything else before our vacation, fearing frost would come while we were away (which it did). A couple of nights ago the temperature went down to 20º, so I decided it was time to get the carrots out of the ground too.

We had planted a kaleidoscope mixture of carrots. I think they are so pretty, even though some are small and others quite misshapen. A couple of the purply-red carrots actually look like beets! (But one of them is cracked, so you can see the orange insides.)

This morning I gave all the carrots a good scrubbing. They look good enough to eat, and no doubt we will be enjoying them very soon!

I apologize for the blurry photos, but I sort of like this soft misty effect.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Back home again!

Yes, we're home from our 2-week trip to the West. What a wonderful trip it was! As time permits, I will share more of where we went and some of the sights that we saw and things that we did. But for now, I will just say that it's good to be home. And there's still some pretty foliage here!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On Vacation!

As I write, Mr. T and I are out West enjoying some special time with our youngest daughter, her hubby and their three adorable children. We arrived here late yesterday afternoon, having left New Hampshire at 6 a.m. Talk about jet lag! I think it hit me about halfway through our third (and last) flight. We went to bed early last night and got up after seven, which is late for us. I'm feeling better now.

I don't expect to have much blogging time while here, but one never knows! I will check in when I can...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Results of zucchini bread recipe testing

As I mentioned in my last post, I was trying out a couple of different zucchini bread recipes to see which one I might like to make in tiny loaves to go in gift baskets at Christmas. Both of these recipes contain chocolate and pecans and (of course) zucchini, but there the similarities end.

Both recipes are deliciously different from other zucchini bread recipes I have tried. The Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread may be a tad bit healthier, since it calls for white whole wheat flour and dark brown sugar. It is not overly sweet, either. It does have a somewhat denser texture, but this is not a bad thing.

The Paula Deen's Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread is probably the recipe I will go with for the Christmas breads. It has a festive flavor with cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange in addition to the chocolate chips. This recipe calls for grated orange rind, but I had no oranges on hand, so I substituted 1 teaspoon pure orange extract for the rind component. It worked beautifully. I thought that miniature chocolate chips might be a good idea in this recipe (especially since I want to make the loaves small) instead of the regular ones called for. I was very, very pleased with the mini chips. I did cut the sugar back to about 1 1/2 cups, and the oil back to about 7/8 cup.

If you're looking for a yummy and different zucchini bread recipe, you'll want to give one of these a try!

Friday, October 01, 2010

An afternoon in Mrs.T's test kitchen

My family likes to tease me about my habit of trying new recipes. They would all have plenty to laugh about if they had seen me today... I tried three new recipes, and plan to try a fourth one at supper!

It's been raining steadily here most of the day (and most of yesterday, too) and so it was a good time to be in the kitchen baking up some zucchini bread and banana bars. I had both zucchini and bananas to use up before they really went bad.

To use the bananas, I didn't really care what I made as long as it was not banana muffins (have some of those still in the freezer), banana bread (since I was already planning to bake 2 kinds of zucchini bread), or banana drop cookies (which would take too much time).

So I paged through cookbooks and ended up with a banana bar recipe from a best brand-name recipe cookbook I've had for years. They contain wheat germ and almonds and also call for chocolate chips. No eggs, though, which seemed a little strange. I was expecting cake-like texture and it was almost more, but not quite, like a brownie texture. I substituted butterscotch chips for the chocolate ones, since both zucchini bread recipes contained chocolate. They are good, but I doubt I'll make them again. Just an experiment.

Now, for the zucchini bread. We have a lot of zucchini to freeze and/or use fresh, and I had the idea that I could bake up some small loaves of zucchini bread and freeze them for Christmas gifts for our neighbors. But I wanted a really good recipe, one that would be a bit more festive than the usual z. bread. So a couple of weeks ago I had browsed around on line and found two that I wanted to try -- Paula Deen's chocolate chip z. bread, and a double chocolate one from another site. I decided to try them both and then decide which kind to make and freeze for gifts.

I initially thought I would just go ahead and bake these in little loaves, but quickly realized I didn't want to take time to wash all of those little loaf pans. This was a good day for taking extra time in the kitchen, as we're having leftovers for supper and I only need to make a vegetable side dish to go along with them. But my time is not unlimited and I have other things to do, so went with the regular-size pans specified in the recipes.

Both kinds of bread (4 loaves) are cooling now, so we'll see which one is the winner. I tasted the Paula Deen recipe and it is just delicious. I'll post links to the recipes (along with my comments) in the next few days if others would like to try them too.

That's all from the test kitchen for now!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall decorating

Here are a few pictures of this year's fall decorating. I neglected to get photos of the front door area, but can maybe add them later. Our camera needs to spend some time recharging before I take any more pictures.

In the front hallway, here is my ribbon board with fall-themed paper treasures.

Also in the front hallway, a harvest welcome awaits. I bought the cute metal container on a clearance sale at Jo-Ann's some years ago. Think it was less than $1!

In the living room, I took the birdhouses off the evergreen garland and added fall leaves to the fall flower lights.

Here's the kitchen island. I've had this linen runner forever and never really noticed until this year how autumnal it looks, so had not used it for decorating at all. I think the little paisley-type curlicues are oak leaves. The ironstone soup tureen is a family treasure ... you've seen it before. One of my granddaughters gussied it up with a spray of fall leaves.

Hanging from some of the knobs of the kitchen cupboards, I have these cute fall apple ornaments I made years ago. So much fun. I did them in all sorts of fall motifs. I keep thinking it would be fun to make some with Christmas motifs, but haven't done it.

I continue to find seasonal uses for this little glass cake dome. This time I've filled it with miniature (faux) gourds. Don't they look real, though?

A closer look at the gourds. The fall placemat was pieced by my friend Marilyn. Isn't it gorgeous?

My fall hutch. I never tire of trimming my hutch for the seasons.

Top 2 shelves. The cross stitch sampler is usually on the top one. 2 favorite fall mugs are there too. Next shelf down holds more ironstone, a couple of whimsical favorites, my childhood "Pumpkin Moonshine" book, more faux gourds, and a maple leaf pitcher.

A closeup of some items on this shelf.

Pumpkin Moonshine closeup.

Next shelf : Love the colors here! 2 favorite Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, some autumn advertising art, a few more gourds, Fiesta salt & pepper shakers, and what a young grandson once termed "breakable grapes". My mother gave me that dish -- suppose it's intended for jelly, but am not sure.

A closeup view of part of this shelf.

Here's the bottom shelf: fall cards, one crafted by a dear friend, a fall teapot, a family heirloom mug, a Fiesta teacup, pumpkin candleholder, and mini fall leaves which my friend made and included in her handmade card. I gave my young granddaughter carte blanche to scatter them about on this display.

Here's a closeup of the handcrafted card:

Isn't it beautiful?

Hope you have enjoyed this look at the fall decor around our home! Happy Fall, everyone!