Friday, May 29, 2015

A morning in the kitchen

It's been very hot and humid for May in northern New England.  This morning was the first cool, breezy one in days, so I took the opportunity to bake some cookies for our pastor's retirement service this weekend.  I have several varieties already in the freezer, but needed to bake a few more.  I hit upon the idea of making these Fruity Pastel Cookies that I usually bake at Christmas time.

I had been talking with a friend about some strawberry cookies I'd made with a strawberry cake mix.  We were saying that it might be fun, for summer, to make them with orange cake mix for a Creamsicle® effect.  And so that's what got me thinking about these fruit-flavored cookies, colored and flavored with a package of Jell-o®.  They are a cookie press cookie -- spritz -- as I usually make them.

And that's why I chose them for this occasion -- cookie press cookies are fast and easy and the recipes usually make quite a few.

However.  One attempt with the orange dough made me toss the cookie press aside.  I've worn out several cookie presses over the years, and the one I have now is a lovely KitchenAid model.  It looks beautiful and works fairly well, but it produces cookies that are just too big.  To my mind,  pressed cookies should be daintier looking so they stay crisp.  If the cookies are too large they just taste sort of doughy and just not as good as they should.  You can see in the photo above how big the cookies came out.  If I had pressed all of the orange dough, I would have ended up with about a dozen cookies!  Clearly, this was not the best idea.

So I resorted to rolling the dough into balls, dipping the tops in sugar and then flattening them with a glass.  I tried using a cookie stamp but that didn't work very well either.

I went on to make lime cookies and cherry lemonade ones.  I hadn't intended to make any pink cookies, but when I found the cherry lemonade Jell-o® in the pantry, it just seemed meant to be.  I began by topping these with white sugar, but it sort of disappeared into the cookies so I switched to red.

So a couple of hours later, I ended up with this:

I've been cooling the cookies on the dining room table because of the possibility of ants on the kitchen counters.  I haven't seen any today, but you never know.  It's hot weather and it's New England.  The ants are about!

So I put down newspaper under the cooling racks so I could just leave place mats, runner, etc. right in place and not get crumbs all over them.  Works pretty well.

My morning in the kitchen was not yet complete, however.  I needed to cut up and cook some rhubarb for my dad.  I pulled the rhubarb at his place a few days ago and brought it home to prepare it when I had more time. 

He likes it simply stewed with some strawberry gelatin powder mixed in to give it a strawberry rhubarb flavor.  Makes it a little prettier, too, since his rhubarb is not all that red.

(The rhubarb has now been cooled, packaged, and delivered to the recipient.)
And that was my morning in the kitchen.  Busy, but productive.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Just busy

This gorgeous graphic is by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
One day another lady asked me, "What do you do with yourself all day?".  She knows that I don't have a job outside the home, and it seems most people assume those in that situation are bored and have trouble filling up the hours.  (Excuse me while I laugh uncontrollably.)

Lately I just haven't found the time I would like to, to post in either of my blogs.  In a perfect world I would be here every day, sharing something to hopefully encourage or at least entertain those who read here. But real life looks quite different, at least the season I am in right now.  So I figured I would take a few minutes and just share some of what I'm doing.  I will not put these in any particular order because -- you guessed it! -- I don't have time.   They're not even going to be categorized.
I make things for handmade gifts.  One of these pillow fight shields is on my list for a June birthday.
I do laundry.
 I hang the laundry  outside when I can.  Thankfully the snow is now gone!
I cook.  We eat homemade meals (or homemade leftovers) pretty much all of the time.  Some days, I am cooking for two households.
I clean.  And I like to make my own cleaning products like this Tub & Shower Magic.

I decorate.  I like to decorate my hutch for the seasons.

I bake.  This photo is from Taste of Home and shows a typical dessert I might bring to a church potluck.  We don't eat dessert at home on a regular basis.

I like to journal what I'm learning from Scripture.

I do grocery shopping for two households.  That includes making two grocery lists.

I read and study the Bible.  This graphic is from Little Birdie Blessings also.

I plan.  This weekly calendar page helps me stay on track.  Right now I am planning also for a visit from our daughter and her hubby and five children, coming up in June.

I take an hour or two each morning to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer.

Right now I am also baking for an event coming up this weekend.
I write.  These are a couple of the kids' devotional books I have written.

I make gifts for grandkids.  Felt food is a favorite.
Felt marshmallows and roasting sticks
I crochet.  I keep a small project like a dishcloth handy for car rides, waiting anywhere, or long phone conversations.

I love to observe what God is doing in creation.  These bloodroot were some of the first wildflowers to appear this spring.
I sew.  All kinds of sewing.  This lovely image is from The Graphics Fairy.

A recent sewing project became necessary when someone outgrew his superhero cape.

This trash bag for the car has been on my list for months.  Finally got it done.
I memorize Scripture.  I try to memorize a verse or two a week.
I look after an old person.
I submit recipes and crafts for publication.
I  work on unfinished projects like this "Snow Angels" cross stitch.
I add to my prayer journal regularly,  and use it every day.
I like to embroider when I can find time.
I spend a good bit of time studying for my Sunday School class.
  Well, that is a peek into my life at this season.  What about you?  What do you do with yourself all day?

Monday, May 25, 2015

A lovely spring poem

A painted trillium from our woods
 Earlier this month, I shared the pretty cover from the May 1950 New Hampshire Troubadour.  Today I thought I would share the poem from the back cover.  It is a short poem titled "Voyager Returned" and the poet is Barbara Terry Grimes.

Voyager Returned

The stillness of Spring Twilight in New Hampshire
awakes emotion deep within my heart.
Though other Springs in other lands held beauty,
still here I have my roots and knew my start.

The stillness of Spring Twilight in New Hampshire
awakes remembrance known and loved before.
My travels never could too firmly hold me; 
This is my home, my own familiar shore.
 ~ Barbara Terry Grimes

I thought this was such a lovely poem, though realistically, twilight in spring here is not particularly still.  One may hear the whining of mosquitoes and black flies along with the peeping and croaking of frogs.  However, the poem and the thought behind it are both beautiful!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A completed project

As many of my regular readers know, I take on a writing project every spring.  Sometimes I start it in late winter, but it always needs to be finished around the end of May.  The project is a summer devotional book for the sailors in our church's Patch the Pirate Club.  It has a daily devotional page for each day of the summer, plus coloring pages, word searches, recipes, crafts, and sometimes even a science experiment or two.  Oh, and a memory verse for each month.

This all came about because the club material provides daily devotionals -- "Sailor's Logs" -- for the school year when the club is in session, but nothing for the summer.  Long ago our club leaders at the time decided that if daily devotions are important for kids during the school year, they are important in the summer too.  I agreed to try my hand at writing a devotional book -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

I've written enough of these by now that I can just re-use some of my older manuscripts.  (This one, with an Adirondacks/outdoor theme, is from 2008, so you see the kids who will be using it will find it all new material.)  However, sometimes -- like this year -- the way the dates fall for the ending of Patch the Pirate Club for the summer, and the starting up of the club again in September, I find myself adding a few pages.  This year I added eleven pages: ten daily devotional pages, plus an additional craft.  It's always a challenge to come up with material that's interesting and fresh and will hopefully be applicable to the kids' lives.  Always a blessing, too, though!

And what a great feeling of accomplishment to have finished the writing, to pick up the books from the print shop, and then eventually see them in the hands of the children.  I'm so thankful for the strength and encouragement God gave me all along the way.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Identity of the mystery flower

If you haven't happened to read the comments on my "Mysterious Flower" post, you won't know that a positive identification has been made.  A reader, Susan, identified the pretty blue flower as Siberian Squill.  Thank you, Susan!!

I wanted to know more, so I did an online search to see what I could find out.  Scilla Siberica is absolutely beautiful, but some say it is invasive ... others, only that it naturalizes easily and is very hardy.  This post -- Be Careful What You Wish For at Garden Sense gives both sides of the story.  There are many folks out there who have been trying to eradicate this plant from their gardens for years, and it just won't die but keeps on spreading!

I do think it is pretty, and as you can see it's in a pretty inhospitable spot.  Rocky, leaf-covered, and not really in our yard at all, but down below it.  If it spreads in the woods down there it can do no harm.  Still, I can't help but be reminded of two other pests -- periwinkle, which I may finally be rid of, and jewelweed, which I may never be rid of.  I must say this is prettier than both of them, though!

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Mystery flower

Yesterday I was hanging clothes from our balcony and saw a flash of brilliant blue, I thought, far below me on a leaf-covered slope.  Many times things are deceiving from up there and I have been tricked by sunlight and shadows into seeing colors that really aren't there.  So later in the day when I had a few minutes, I went out to investigate, taking the camera along.

There were actually two plants that I saw.  This small one is the second:

Later, I had my hubby take a couple more pictures.  His photography skills are much more advanced than mine, but neither of us is used to the new camera yet.  It's one we had bought on a Black Friday deal just because it was a really excellent price.  We had barely used it.  But last fall, our other camera died suddenly and we had to start using this one.

The pictures don't do the color of the flowers justice.  It is much deeper and brighter than forget-me-nots.  I have no idea what this plant is.  I do know it's not anything that I ever planted.  Could it be a wildflower?  It seems more as if it's from a bulb, but we have no close neighbors that a bulb could have migrated here from.

What do you think?  Can you identify my mystery flowers?

Monday, May 04, 2015

A delicious gluten free coffeecake!

Photo from Taste of Home
A few weeks ago, long-time friends of ours were in New England for a quick visit.  Although they had very little time to visit anyone other than family, they wanted to get together with us before returning to Florida, where they now live.  We decided to get together for breakfast, either at our home or at a restaurant.  As it worked out, due to time and energy constraints on their part, we ended up meeting at a restaurant closer to where they were staying, which was just fine.

But the day before, still unsure where we would be eating, I planned a brunch menu just in case.  I took some time to hunt for a good coffeecake recipe that would incorporate some fresh blackberries we had been given.  When I saw this coffeecake recipe I'd clipped from a Country magazine years ago, I decided to try it using blackberries instead of blueberries.  And I went ahead and made the coffee cake, thinking to have that much done ahead.  Here is the link:
New England Blueberry Coffee Cake.

The recipe went together very quickly.  I try to avoid wheat, so I made this using Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour.
Photo from Bob's Red Mill
This is a terrific flour from Bob's Red Mill which is formulated so you can just use it cup for cup in baking recipes that call for regular flour.  The xanthan gum is already included in the blend.  I have tried it in cookies, brownies, bars, muffins, and coffeecake and have been very pleased with the results.  I'm so glad that I didn't throw away all of my old, wonderful recipes, because this means I can still use them!

The coffeecake turned out absolutely delicious.  It was a little on the moist/damp side, but I think that had to do with using the blackberries.  Another time I would use blueberries as the recipe specifies.  Even though our friends ended up not coming for brunch, we greatly enjoyed our time with them at Cracker Barrel -- and we enjoyed this coffeecake at home for several days!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

May 1953

Each month, I'm going to try and share the calendar page from the Woman's Day 1953 calendar.  Here is the one for May.  A mountain trail meanders by a rustic bridge.  Reminds me of the little bridge where my daughters and their friends liked to play Poohsticks!

The Scripture verse is lovely too.  Such a good reminder of the importance of well-chosen words!

Friday, May 01, 2015

May goals

Graphic (minus lettering) is a wonderful free art print from Free Pretty Things for You, an absolutely fantastic resource for anyone who loves pretty vintage things.
 Wow, a new month, and time to set some new goals:
* Follow Bible reading plan each day.
* Finish questions for You Are Loved summer Bible study  (just a few questions to go now)
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones.
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook
* Continue study for Sunday School -- Following God With All Your Heart
* Continue to re-read Say Goodbye to Survival Mode; continue to journal and implement what I learn
* Exercise or walk at least 20 times.
* Get to bed by 9:45 pm each night.
* Limit sugar.
* Drink enough water each day.
* Organize kids' summer devotional and get it printed
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week.
* Post in both of my blogs as often as possible
* Continue writing blog posts for Christmas in July
* Finish last handmade gift for April birthday
* Make a larger superhero cape for one or two grandkids
* Make some handmade gifts for May/June birthdays
* Celebrate April/May birthdays
* Continue working on several UFO craft projects
* Decide on wall decals for our freshly painted bathroom wall
* Continue planning for visit from our Nevada family
* Do some baking for events in May
* Reduce grocery bill by $5 per week consistently
* Spend several hours updating my A-store.
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal
*  Continue trying to help and encourage my elderly dad
* Sort out and declutter my dad's attic
* Transfer important items to new computer
* Finish typing some family history for my mother-in-law
* Celebrate our pastor's retirement with our church family
* Plan meals with a greater emphasis on healthy eating

MAY'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Nurture creativity/drink enough water/exercise


And here's how April went:
* Follow Bible reading plan each day -- DONE!
* Finish questions for You Are Loved summer Bible study -- missed a couple of weeks on these
* Memorize at least 4 Bible verses and review some older ones -- DONE!
* Add 4 pages to my "What Do I Know About My God?" Scripture notebook -- DONE!
* Continue study for Sunday School -- Following God With All Your Heart  -- DONE!
* Continue to re-read Say Goodbye to Survival Mode; continue to journal and implement what I learn -- haven't done much with this in April
* Exercise or walk at least 20 times -- maybe managed 8-10 times
* Get to bed by 9:45 pm each night -- not done consistently
* Limit sugar -- not done consistently
* Drink enough water each day -- DONE!
* Write 8 pages for kids' summer devotional -- DONE!
* Have a getaway with my hubby -- DONE!
* Keep up with Kelly's missions in homemaking zones of the week -- not done
* Post in both of my blogs as often as possible -- DONE!
* Continue writing blog posts for Christmas in July -- not done
* Create several handmade gifts for April birthdays -- DONE!
* Celebrate April birthdays -- still have one to go
* Continue working on several UFO craft projects -- DONE!
* Continue planning for visit from our Nevada family -- DONE!
* Reduce grocery bill by $5 per week consistently -- not done consistently
* Spend several hours updating my A-store -- -- DONE!
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family -- DONE!
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able -- not as much as I'd have liked to
* Clean church and set up for potluck meal -- DONE!
*  Continue trying to help and encourage my elderly dad -- DONE!
* Sort out and declutter my dad's attic -- not done
* Transfer important items to new computer -- not done
* Finish typing some family history for my mother-in-law -- not done
* Celebrate Easter with our church family -- DONE!

MAY'S HEALTHY HABITS:  Nurture creativity/healthy eating/exercise