Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stir-fried asparagus -- a simple spring side dish

(Photo from Taste of Home)
 I love asparagus!  It is one of my very favorite vegetables, especially in spring.  Recently I tried this recipe:  Stir-Fried Asparagus from an older Country Woman magazine.  We liked this side dish a lot.  It was quick and easy to make, and very flavorful.  I left out the lemon rind because I didn't want to take the time to grate it, but the flavor was still great.  I had purchased shredded parmesan to sprinkle on top, but forgot to do so and it was delicious even without that garnish.  Maybe your family would enjoy this side dish too.  It is going to become one of my go-to recipes for asparagus!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Newest addition to my strawberry collection

My new bowl and tray set in place on the hutch for now.  Notice my McCoy salt & pepper shakers behind them.
 One really fun thing about having a collection of any sort is that when people know you collect a certain thing, they will gift you with items for your collection when they run across them.  I have been given some amazing items for my strawberry collection in this way.  (If you have not seen them, click on "strawberries" or "collections" in the label cloud at right to see more.)

It was in just such a way that I acquired this most recent item -- a lovely strawberry themed tray and bowl set.  I would think that the bowls would work nicely for dips and one could spread crackers on the tray -- or use the bowls for fruit dips and surround with bite-sized fruits.  Another thought would be to use the bowls for candies or relishes.  My friend Ruth found this set on a bargain-shopping expedition with some other mutual friends and decided it had to be mine!  Isn't she a thoughtful and generous friend? 
Just the tray -- notice it has a few strawberry blossoms on it as well.

Just the bowls
Bowls and tray together -- I love them!!!
Hope this look at my colorful new strawberry set has brightened your day! One thing about collecting strawberries -- their brilliant colors light up even dreary rainy days like this one.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Weekly goals for week beginning 5/27/2012


How did Monday roll around again so soon?  Goal-setting time again!  Here are mine:

*  Add to the last part of Sunday School lesson 8 to make it useable for this Sunday.
*  Finish study of Sunday School lesson 9
*  Limit sugar
*  Keep up with crafting goals for some small gifts and some felt food
*  Exercise 5 to 6 times
*  Keep up a good water intake
*  Get to bed by 9:30 pm each night
*  Post regularly in one or both of my blogs
*  Keep up with Kelly's Missions for Zone 5, the living room/Zone 1, the porch/entry/dining area.
*  Make a daily time schedule for the things I need to do.

And here's how last week went:

*  Continue study of Sunday School lesson 9 -- worked on this but did not complete it.
*  Limit sugar -- did pretty well with this until the weekend.
*  Keep up with crafting goals for some small gifts and some felt food -- did quite well with this but didn't accomplish all I'd hoped to.
*  Exercise 5 to 6 times -- I actually managed to exercise 6 times, so DONE!
*  Keep up a good water intake  -- did well enough with this to call it DONE!
*  Get to bed by 9:30 pm each night -- nope, it was 10 pm or later each night.
*  Post regularly in one or both of my blogs -- started well, but only managed to post 3 times.
*  Keep up with Kelly's Missions for Zone 4, the master bedroom.  -- did pretty well with this, but didn't accomplish all of the missions or do all that I had hoped to.
*  Make a daily time schedule for the things I need to do -- DONE! and it is helping so much.

So all in all, it wasn't a perfect week.  But I'm thrilled with the progress, especially in the areas of planning and exercise.  Looking forward to a better week this week!

Memorial Day

Image from VintageHolidayCrafts.com
I would like to wish all of my readers a blessed Memorial Day.  For many, it is a long weekend and a time of enjoying friends, family and the outdoors.  From what I have read of history, this day got its start after the Civil War in April 1866 when a small group of young women decorated the graves of their lost loved ones at a cemetery near Columbus, Mississippi.  Both Union and Confederate soldiers who died at the Battle of Shiloh are buried here, and these young women, after tending the graves of the Confederate soldiers, walked over and scattered magnolia blossoms on the Union graves as well.  News of their compassionate act spread quickly and soon Decoration Day, as it was then called, became an important American holiday.  Today, Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday in May, is a day to honor all who have fought in America's wars.  Here in New England, we often take some time on this day to visit our cemeteries,  taking plants or silk flowers, or even a jar of lilacs. to decorate the graves of our loved ones.  Mr. T and I will probably be doing just that later on,

So enjoy the day with your family and friends, with parades, picnics, cookouts, or whatever you may be doing, but take a moment sometime today, and remember the brave men and women who gave their all so that we could be free.  And don't forget to pray for those equally brave men and women who are serving our country in difficult places right now. 



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A patriotic pie -- Red, White & Blueberry Pie

(Photo by Taste of Home)
 I have been making this pie for special summer occasions for many, many years and have posted the recipe before, but with Memorial Day coming up I thought I would share it again.  Here is the link to one of my past posts of the recipe:  Red, White, and Blueberry Pie.  I originally found the recipe in Taste of Home magazine, years and years ago.


I've tried making this with frozen berries.  The frozen raspberries work perfectly, which is great because they are much less costly than fresh ones.  But frozen blueberries don't work as well, so I prefer to use the fresh blueberries for this. Hope your family enjoys this pie if you give it a try!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A sweet treat -- Cinnamon Roll Cookie Bars

Photo by Blissful Whimsy
 Here is a delicious recipe which I recently tried for a church potluck dessert:  Cinnamon Roll Cookie Bars.  I made these with a gluten free yellow cake mix as the author suggests at the end of her post.  They came out very good!  The only thing I changed was to use only about 2 to 3 teaspoons of cinnamon rather than the 1 and 1/2 tablespoons called for.  I thought I wanted my cinnamon flavor just a bit less intense.  It was cinnamon-y enough for me with that amount. 

These bars are very easy to make and have delightful flavor for just a small amount of effort.  Hope your family enjoys these bars if you try them!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Another fabulous Gooseberry Patch giveaway at Faithfulness Farm!

(Photo by Faithfulness Farm)
Yes, Gail, over at Faithfulness Farm, is doing another fabulous giveaway of a new Gooseberry Patch book -- The Harvest Table.  Gail is one of Gooseberry Patch's early bird reviewers, so she shares recipes and reviews on this post and will be sharing a few more on an upcoming post.  Gail is actually giving away 2 copies of The Harvest Table -- which looks fantastic!  -- and each book will be accompanied by a beautiful Faithfulness Farm apron and tea towel set.  You will want to check out this giveaway, so head over there right away -- Harvest Table Giveaway!

Goals for week beginning 5/20/2012


Here are my major goals for this week:

*  Continue study of Sunday School lesson 9
*  Limit sugar
*  Keep up with crafting goals for some small gifts and some felt food
*  Exercise 5 to 6 times
*  Keep up a good water intake
*  Get to bed by 9:30 pm each night
*  Post regularly in one or both of my blogs
*  Keep up with Kelly's Missions for Zone 4, the master bedroom.
*  Make a daily time schedule for the things I need to do.

And here's how things went with last week's goals:

*  Continue study of Sunday School lesson 9 -- made progress on this but didn't complete it.
*  Limit sugar -- did okay, but could do much better.
*  Keep up with crafting goals for some small gifts and some felt food -- completed some felt food, but didn't accomplish all I would have liked to.
*  Exercise 5 to 6 times -- exercised 5 times, so DONE! 
*  Keep up a good water intake -- DONE!
*  Get to bed by 9:30 pm each night -- accomplished this probably more than half of the time.
*  Post regularly in one or both of my blogs -- DONE!
*  Keep up with Kelly's Missions for Zone 3, the bathroom -- I managed these nearly every day, so I am calling this  DONE!  (Plus Kelly also assigned guest room missions, and I got some of those done too.)
*  Make a daily time schedule for the things I need to do -- DONE!

The time schedule is really helping me to accomplish more of my goals.  I am so thankful for the Lord bringing this to my mind and helping to live each day more effectively for His glory.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Our April getaway

I have procrastinated about this post long enough.  I am just going to put up pictures with captions and hope that you enjoy seeing some scenes from our getaway up north near the end of April.  It rained some of the time, but we really didn't mind that; we had brought a jigsaw puzzle, some movies and plenty of reading material, so we enjoyed listening to the rain as we remained cozily indoors.  On the last full day it rained until midafternoon (the prediction was for all day), but then there was some partial clearing so we went down on the dock and sat in a patch of sun which was coming through a break in the clouds.  We were able to sit there for a couple of hours until things completely clouded in and the rain began again.  Our own little miracle!  We also went out to breakfast two different mornings and enjoyed that so much.  The rest of the time, we cooked our meals in the cabin.  It was a very relaxing, refreshing time and  we are thankful for it!
The reflections in the lake were amazing!

As the day drew to a close, the reflections were still there.

Reflections of clouds.  Yes, this picture is right side up!

Mr. T got a little carried away taking reflection pictures...

Some of the docks -- our favorite sitting spot.

One of the best loon pictures we got.

A pair of loons right outside our window on a rainy day.

The cabin we stayed in.  We ate some of our meals on the porch.

The best sunset we had; not the best picture, but the best we could do.

We enjoy walking up the road to this beach area.

Our cozy fireplace
Hope you have enjoyed this little look at our April getaway!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brazilian Cheese Buns

(Photo from King Arthur Flour)
I have been wanting to post this link for awhile now: Brazilian Cheese Buns.  Since beginning to avoid wheat about five months ago, I am always on the lookout for a good wheat-free recipe.  This one is gluten-free; it is made from tapioca flour and is absolutely delicious.

I tried this recipe because it looked easy and I have had good results from most gluten-free recipes I've tried from the King Arthur Flour site.  It has very good reviews.  I have never visited a Brazilian steakhouse, but these buns are said to taste very similar to the ones served in those restaurants.  These buns have a fantastic aroma as they bake and are quite addictive when served warm alongside soup, salad, or pasta.

The recipe said nothing about using these for sandwiches (they are on the small side for that) but I tried it anyway because one thing I really do miss is a good sandwich now and then.  I've used these for sandwiches using fillings such as ham and cheese, turkey, and chicken salad and they were all really good.  It would just need to be a filling that goes well with garlic and cheese flavors.  The buns are a bit chewy for sandwiches but really not bad at all.  I enjoy them.

I should add that the cheese buns freeze very well.  The recipe does make quite a few, so it's good to know they will freeze.

Don't reserve this recipe just to use for your friends and family who may be avoiding wheat or gluten; anyone who enjoys garlic and cheese and ethnic flavors would probably like these.  Hope your family enjoys the Brazilian cheese buns if you try them. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Easiest homemade ice cream!

(Photo by Taste of Home)
Some years ago I clipped this recipe from a Country Woman magazine:  Rocky Road Freeze.  The recipe is for an easy homemade ice cream which requires no ice cream freezer or other special equipment -- just your regular home freezer.  It also doesn't involve beating the partially frozen mixture as some no-machine ice creams do.  You just mix up a few ingredients, whip some cream and fold it in, and add some mix-ins like mini chocolate chips, nuts, and mini marshmallows.  Then you pile the mixture into a plastic container, cover it and freeze for 6 hours or so until it is firm.  The recipe says to allow the ice cream to set at room temperature for 10 minutes before scooping, but I haven't found that necessary.

I finally got around to trying this last week.  The only changes I made were to use my own homemade chocolate syrup rather than buying it; and to use toasted pecans rather than peanuts.  It came out very good, and everyone who has tried it has enjoyed it ... well, except for one six-year-old whose missing front teeth make it hard to chew chocolate chips and pecans.  Maybe your family would like to try this easy ice cream, too!  I think it would be an ideal recipe for kids to help with.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Weekly goals for week beginning 5/13/2012

Photo by Photos Public Domain
Here are my goals for the week:

*  Continue study of Sunday School lesson 9
*  Limit sugar
*  Keep up with crafting goals for some small gifts and some felt food
*  Exercise 5 to 6 times
*  Keep up a good water intake
*  Get to bed by 9:30 pm each night
*  Post regularly in one or both of my blogs
*  Keep up with Kelly's Missions for Zone 3, the bathroom.
*  Make a daily time schedule for the things I need to do.


And here's how things went with last week's goals:
 
*  Begin study of Sunday School lesson 9 -- DONE!
*  Limit sugar (I'm off to a bad start with this one already) -- did well some days, not so well on others.
*  Keep up with crafting goals (which I have yet to set) -- aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time; I did.
*  Exercise 4 to 5 times -- Nope, not even once.
*  Keep up a good water intake  -- did well most days.
*  Get to bed by 10 pm each night -- think I managed this every night but two.
*  Post regularly in one or both of my blogs -- DONE!
*  Keep up with Kelly's Missions for Zone 2, the kitchen  -- DONE! 


As you no doubt saw in my previous post, I've figured out what some of my problem was.  I was setting good goals, yes, but failing to schedule them.  I've made a schedule for this week and am working off a time schedule for today and it is already making a huge difference!

Thinking about goals and accomplishing more of them


In the past couple of days I have been taking a closer look at my goals and thinking about why I don't get more done each week.  A couple of incidents have given me a clue. 

First of all, I have a scrapbook type journal which I've been trying to get back to writing in regularly. 
One of my scrapbook  journals (I'm on my second book by now.)

Many months tend to go by between my times of journaling there.  (I have another journal which I use during my quiet time.) This scrapbook journal is where I am apt to jot down menus, lists, incidents from my day, special events, etc.  And lately I just haven't had time to do it.  But I've recently picked it up again, and as I did so I've noticed how much I used to get accomplished in a day.   It made me wonder what changed in my life in the past couple of years, because actually I was much busier (and far more stressed) back then than I am now, and I still got quite a bit done. 

Secondly, I was saying to Mr. T just yesterday how upset I was with myself for not getting certain things done (exercise was the specific issue right then, but there are others) day after day.   I reminded him that when I was the busiest with eldercare responsibilities, I refused to miss a day of exercise no matter what because I knew I needed to take care of myself first in order to be a help to others.  But yet now that the eldercare load has lightened, I will get in my own way of taking proper care of myself.  His common-sense reply was that if I wanted to exercise daily, I needed to schedule in a time for it and follow through.

And with those two occurrences, after some hours of all this percolating around in my brain, the light bulb went on.  Scheduling.  That's the answer. 

Back in those ultra-busy, exceedingly stressful days, I kept a weekly calendar of all that I needed to do in a given week.
(An older weekly schedule; I have revamped it a good deal.)
And I would make a to-do list each day, scheduling the events of the day in half-hour increments into the most likely time slot for each one.  In one of Elizabeth George's books, she compares this to flower arranging.  You can just cram flowers into a vase every which way, and they will look okay.  Or you can carefully arrange them flower by flower, and they can potentially (in any hands but mine) look stunning.  In the same way, you can just cram events into your schedule as they occur to you, in no particular order, and it may work okay.  Or, you can carefully place the events into your schedule where they will fit most effectively, and your day will be much more productive and fulfilling.  This is a brilliant thought, and I know it works!

But for some reason, I got away from it.  I don't know why, but I do know this:  I'm getting back to it.  And yes, I've exercised today, as well as accomplishing a lot of other things!  I am so thankful that the Lord showed me where my problem was and has helped me begin to solve it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

A card from one of my daughters, some years ago
I hope that all of you who are mothers are having a very special Mother's Day!  I'm thankful for my own mother, now with the Lord, for my mother-in-law, and for the mothers of my grandchildren, especially my two daughters who are such amazing and godly mothers.  I hope that each of you will have a relaxing and enjoyable day and that your family makes you feel as special as you are.  I've had a lovely day so far myself and I trust that you other mothers are, as well.  Mr. T and my dad took me out for a special brunch after church, which was relaxing and fun as well as being delicious.  Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A fun fruit salad

(Photo by Taste of Home)
Last week I was glancing through an older issue of Country Woman magazine and came upon this recipe: Easter Fruit Salad.  I was drawn to the sweet pastel look of this salad, with its abundance of fruit, mini pastel marshmallows, and old-fashioned cooked dressing with whipped cream folded in.  I was to attend a ladies' brunch last Saturday and thought this salad might make a nice item to share.  I had everything I needed except for the mini marshmallows and the cherries, so I picked up those items and made the salad for the brunch.

This recipe makes a nice large salad and I actually brought some home, but Mr. T and my dad enjoyed the leftovers very much, so it is not for ladies only.

I found this salad delicious and very easy to make.  It is best prepared the night before, so that makes it convenient too.  The only change I would make another time would be to cut way down on the amount of maraschino cherries.  I would use just a few of the chopped cherries for color and would add a second can of drained mandarin oranges to make up for leaving out the larger amount of cherries.  I think this would make a very nice traditional salad for Easter dinner or any springtime or summer occasion!

Easy Cheese Logs

(Photo of a similar cheese log from Taste of Home)
I wanted to link up an appetizer recipe for Gooseberry Patch's recipe round-up this week, but it seems that most of my favorite appetizers came from Gooseberry Patch in the first place.  This one is a little different.  I found it in one of my other cookbooks years ago and have modified it somewhat.  The little bit of jalapeno flavor is very nice, but the jalapenos can be omitted if you don't have them or don't care for them.  This takes a bit of time to put together, since you need to take time to toast the nuts, but I still consider it easy and quick.  And there is nothing like the convenience of making an appetizer ahead to pull out of the fridge when needed.  Here's the recipe:

FESTIVE CHEESE LOGS

2 cups pecan or walnut pieces
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or use a couple tablespoons of dried parsley flakes if you must)
2 tablespoons finely minced onions (the dried will work; use 2 tsp.)
1 or 2 minced garlic cloves (optional)
1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeño peppers (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Toast the nuts: Spread them on an ungreased baking sheet and place them in a 350º oven for 7 to 10 minutes until nicely toasted. Watch them carefully. When they’re done, transfer them onto a large plate and let them cool.

Put the three cheeses in a large mixing bowl and work them with the back of a wooden spoon until blended. Add the remaining ingredients (except the nuts), and mix them with a spoon or your hands until everything is evenly blended.

Chop the nuts with a hand chopper and work 1 cup of them into the cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

When the 15 minutes are up, put a large piece of wax paper on your work counter. Spread the nuts on the wax paper.  (If you happen to have more fresh parsley, that also looks pretty mixed in with the nuts, so you might like to chop a bit more and add to the chopped nuts.) Divide the cheese mixture into two portions and place one portion on top of the nut-covered wax paper. Using your hands, shape the cheese mixture into a log, rolling and pressing it into the nuts as you shape. Wrap it in plastic wrap and follow the same procedure to make a second cheese log from the remaining cheese mixture. (If you prefer to make a cheese ball, scoop the entire cheese mixture onto the nut-covered wax paper and shape it into a large ball, again rolling and pressing it into the chopped nuts as you shape. ) Wrap the cheese ball or logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 cheese logs.

This recipe has been a family favorite for years, and it always goes over well at events I take it to. It's nice because you can make it well ahead of time and keep in the fridge until you're almost ready to use it. Just pick up a box or two of crackers and you're all set. I took this to a gathering in early December and took along the snowflake-shaped Ritz® crackers to accompany it. I like to make the logs rather than a cheese ball because they stay neater looking -- just slice and serve.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Two more superhero capes!

Now that the two grandchildren who requested these have had their birthdays, I can share pictures!  As usual, I used the pattern found here: Clever Little Cape, varying the size according to the wearer.
Josiah's cape; I used the same lining for him and for his siblings.
Julia's cape all ready to wrap

She just wanted a J for Julia

Having the same lining (explained their mom) means they "are all on the same superhero team"!

Her emblem is actually a very dark purple background with pink letter and trim.

Josiah's blue cape with pattern of white stars

SJ for Super Josiah; blue and green are his favorite colors
If you would like to look back at the other 4 capes I have made, check these links out:  Sam's cape ;
Two superhero capes (these are the first ones I made); and
Elliott's cape .
Hope you have enjoyed this look at the latest in superhero attire!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Apple blossom time

I know I've mentioned before that we have a smallish apple tree in our backyard.  Even more fun is the fact that it wasn't there when we built our house; neither did we intentionally plant this tree.  No -- there was an embankment at the edge of our yard where I would often toss fruit and vegetable scraps with a vague hope of enriching our soil.  One year I made a lot of apple pies and tossed the scraps there; I'm assuming that this tree took root from one of those long-ago apple seeds. 

In more recent years we've had apple blossoms in the spring -- just a few at first, and now a whole tree full.  We have apples in the fall, too.  Not perfect, as befits wild apples from a tree that has never been pruned, sprayed, or anything else, but they are actually quite tasty.

The blossoms are beautiful this year, and Mr. T took a number of photos this weekend.  I thought others would enjoy them, too.
One can just glimpse the road through the blossoms.


A closer look

Even closer

A single blossom surrounded by pink buds

More of the same

I think this is especially beautiful with the bright pink buds.  The essence of spring!

Hope you have enjoyed this look at our backyard apple tree!

This week's goals ... and a sigh of relief

Photo Source
Last week I met my two biggest goals, to finish Sunday School Lesson 8 and to finish proofreading the summer devotional book I produce each year for our church's children's ministry.  I also kept up with my water intake pretty well, but my other goals fell pretty much by the wayside.

For this week, here are my goals:

*  Begin study of Sunday School lesson 9
*  Limit sugar (I'm off to a bad start with this one already)
*  Keep up with crafting goals (which I have yet to set)
*  Exercise 4 to 5 times
*  Keep up a good water intake
*  Get to bed by 10 pm each night
*  Post regularly in one or both of my blogs
*  Keep up with Kelly's Missions for Zone 2, the kitchen.

And that should be plenty to keep me out of trouble!

The sigh of relief involves this year's kids' summer devotional book.  This year I was reusing the one I wrote in 2004.  It is called Camp Evergreen and has a summer camp theme.  There were some pages I needed to update, and I had an extra page that I needed to write, so those obviously had to be retyped.  I got those done in a fairly timely fashion and then set about moving them into my folder of originals in the appropriate places.  That's when I discovered that my originals -- the hard copies from 2004 -- were in a different font and size!  And that's when I remembered that I had done that book on a different computer and had gotten it onto this one via the expedient of emailing it to myself.  After which I reformatted everything because I needed to send it out to some people in pdf files.  So the new hard copies didn't match the old ones.  Suffice it to say that I had to reprint all of the pages, not just the ones I had updated.

It all took time, but now, praise God, the book is at the printer!  And I'm breathing a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Soap Making Giveaway from Lather & Lotions at Everything Etsy!

Have you ever wanted to make your own soap?  I know I have, but just haven't gotten around to trying it.  With this Soap Making Giveaway at Everything Etsy, some fortunate person will win a $50 gift certificate to use at Lather & Lotions or its sister site, Soap Mold Works!  There are some fantastic items in these shops, so head on over and get in on this wonderfully generous giveaway!  It ends on May 7 at midnight.