Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday five for November 30

Friday is fast slipping away -- just like November -- but I will persevere and post my Friday five.  This has been one of those days when I feel as if I am literally running in circles around my house trying to accomplish several different, important tasks.  This blog post is one of them, though not the top priority.  So here goes.  The adorable image above, by the way, is from The Graphics Fairy.

1.  Lunch with good friends after church on Sunday.  So good to catch up with them over a meal at our table!  As mentioned and linked in Monday's post, this is what we ate:

2.  Electricity restored on Tuesday after a 13-hour outage.  In light of all the hurricane damage (not to mention normal living conditions in much of the world), I know I sound like a wimp (and I feel like one, too), but there is only so much of what's on my plate right now that can be done without lights, electricity, water, and internet.  Working on my Etsy shop, A New Hampshire Attic, is part of that.  The image below is a recently listed vintage Christmas card in my shop.

3.  Having time to go through my Christmas fabric stash and wash the new fabrics in it, in preparation for sewing, perhaps, a few more simple gifts.  We will see, but it made me happy to see what I had, prepare it for use,  and think about ways in which to use it.
Photo for illustration purposes only -- I don't own these, but I wish I did!
4.  The simple joy I find in creating.  I had sewed several easy projects as gifts for my faraway grandchildren. For the last one, I had my doubts about the fabrics I had chosen.  I was so thrilled, as I sewed this project on Wednesday afternoon, to see it come together beautifully.  Far better than I expected.  I just felt so contented and joyful as I sewed on this simple gift.  I need to find time to sew more often.
These are some handmade gifts from a previous Christmas.
5.  Figuring out a simple way to have December Daily here on my blog this year.  Come on back tomorrow for a visit!  For more fun, click "December Daily" in the label cloud at right to see more December posts from the archives.

Speaking of which, if you have never visited my Christmas blog, Mrs. T’s Christmas Kitchen, do come over and visit tomorrow. 

I love spending time in my Christmas kitchen, and Lord willing, I plan to be there every day in December.  Come on over!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wednesday Medley for November 28

Time for the Wednesday Medley hosted by Terri at Your Friend from Florida!   Terri asks the questions and bloggers come up with their own answers.

 Wouldn't you like to join in also?  Just head over to Terri's blog, get the questions, then copy, paste, and answer them on your own blog.  Then you can go back to Terri's and link up!

Here are this week's questions:
1.  On November 28th, 1995, President Bill Clinton ended the 55 MPH nationwide speed limit that began in 1974 as an energy saving measure during the Mid-East oil embargo.  If you are old enough to remember this (I sure am) did it make you happy?  Do you have a heavy foot when driving or does 55 MPH sound good to you?
Currently the speed limit on the interstate here in NH is 70 mph.  That's just a little faster than I like to go.  I do not have a heavy foot, but  I do remember being relieved when the 55 mph limit was ended.  It shortened the 2-hour trip to our kids' boarding school by a few minutes.
What Christmas tree cutting looks like out west
2.  You are home alone on a rainy/snowy Sunday afternoon.  What Christmas movie will you watch?
Probably It's a Wonderful Life, or possibly White Christmas.

3.  What is something you have tried that you will never try again?
A recipe for tofu stir-fry ... the worst fail of my cooking life, and one that my family has never let me forget.  But kitchen gifts, like those below, are always well received.

4.  Today is National French Toast Day!!  Will you have some?  Do you like French Toast?

No, I don't have enough eggs in the fridge to make French Toast.  Otherwise, I might consider it.  (I'm writing this on Tuesday, and it's been that kind of a day.)  I do like French toast, but seldom make it at home.  One of my favorite places to order French toast for breakfast is a place called Happy Corner Cafe.  They have a huge variety, including French toast made with banana bread!  Scrumptious!

5.  The Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center will be lighted today, as will the one at the White House in Washington, D.C.  Do you have your tree up and is it lighted?  Have you ever been in New York City or Washington, D.C. to see the trees all lit up during the holidays?

Our tree is not up, but hopefully it will be before too long.  No, I have never been in NYC or DC to see the trees all lit up during the holidays.  I have been in a couple different cities at Christmas time (Boston and Denver) and they are pretty, but I much prefer a country Christmas!

Below you see one of my favorite childhood Christmas books:
6.  Tell us something random about this week of yours.
The weather (sigh).  Three or four snowstorms already and we are still in November!  Monday night the heavy wet snow brought down lots of trees and limbs.  Our power went out just after 10 pm and did not come back until 3 pm Tuesday afternoon.  What an unproductive day I had!

And there you have this week's Wednesday Medley!  Have a great rest of the week, everyone!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Time to fire up those slow cookers!

Yes, and not just because it's winter!  I rely on my slow cooker so much during any busy season, but I find it invaluable in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  I can put supper in the cooker on any busy day, even if I plan to be home all day.  I can then spend my day crafting, cleaning, decorating, or whatever happens to be on my agenda, while supper cooks all by itself.

If sides are needed, I might -- depending upon what the main course is -- bake a loaf of bread in the bread machine,  use a bagged salad mix, scrub and pierce a few potatoes or sweet potatoes and bake them,  or quickly cook a bag of frozen vegetables in the microwave.

Yesterday we had company for Sunday lunch and I left this favorite in the slow cooker: Rosemary Chicken with White Beans. The recipe, and the photo above, are from Taste of Home, a valuable resource for all cooks.

  I change this recipe up slightly in that I use less rosemary than called for, less Italian dressing (I used about 1/3 cup of homemade Italian dressing), and I use more carrots and celery than called for -- probably at least twice as much.  I don't usually brown the chicken, but I did this time since it was for company and I wanted it to look as appetizing as possible.

We found that all we needed for a side was the cornbread I had baked early that morning.  Speaking of cornbread,  when I serve it for Sunday lunch, I have recently taken to sifting together all the dry ingredients the night before and transferring to a quart size zip top bag.  Then in the morning, all I need to do is grease a square pan or a muffin tin, whisk together the wet ingredients in a bowl, whisk in the combined dry ingredients, and transfer to the prepared pan or tin, then bake.  It makes the process so quick and easy.

If you need inspiration for slow cooker recipes, please do click the "Slow cooker recipes" link in the label cloud at right.  You will find pages of good ideas!

I hope that you seriously will get out your slow cooker and put it to work for you in this busy, festive season.  It really will make life easier!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday five for November 23

(The above graphic is another wonderful freebie from Baptist Bible Hour.)

 Yes, somehow it's Friday again -- even though, after having yesterday off for Thanksgiving,  today feels like Monday to me!  Time for Friday five for this week!

1.  A wonderful praise and Thanksgiving service on Wednesday evening at church.  Our numbers may be small, but along with college students and visitors we were blessed with great music and meaningful testimonies.  To God be the glory!  We also enjoyed a fantastic harvest dinner together as a church last Sunday.  When you are a small church, without a pastor, and with some folks away for the holiday, it can be very tempting to just skip special occasions like this.  But we persevered and are so thankful that we did.

2.  A lovely Thanksgiving dinner with our daughter and family.  Carrie and I cleaned up the kitchen and chatted while the men and kids enjoyed a relaxing time playing games.  Afterward we all enjoyed pie -- four kinds! -- and several episodes of I Love Lucy.   I neglected to take photos so I borrowed this from Carrie's Instagram.

3.  My wonderful husband, who so willingly helped with kitchen prep as I put together the dishes I was bringing to Thanksgiving dinner.  He tried a recipe for Jellied Cranberry Sauce -- and oh, my,  did that ever turn out well.  He got rave reviews from the kids!
Photo from Chowhound
4. Breakfast out last Saturday with good friends.  We love going out to breakfast -- and if we can enjoy sweet Christian fellowship at the same time, it is even nicer!

5.  Getting out for a walk even on some chilly days this past week.  I have noticed that I have so much more energy and get so much more accomplished on days when I walk.  It's going to be challenging this winter, but we plan to go out whenever possible.
Winterberries -- photo taken on our walking route last November
And there's my Friday five for this Thanksgiving week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving with the Wednesday Medley

Again this week,  I'm joining in with the Wednesday Medley hosted by Terri at Your Friend from Florida.  This week's Medley has an unmistakable Thanksgiving theme, so it will be even more fun than usual. 

Would you like to join in also?  Just head over to Terri's blog, get the questions, then copy, paste, and answer them on your own blog.  Then you can go back to Terri's and link up!

Here are this week's questions:

1. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving food?

Oh, that is a tough question! Turkey and gravy may be my favorite -- especially if the turkey is nice, moist white meat.  Stuffing is a favorite also, but it depends on how it is made.  Pie ... I never really cared for pumpkin pie growing up, but now I love it.  You can find three fabulous Thanksgiving pie recipes here, or check out the pie recipe in the sidebar -- a true taste of Thanksgiving!
2. What's the happiest Thanksgiving memory of your childhood?

You can read about my childhood Thanksgivings at my grandmother's farmhouse here: A Thanksgiving Memory. I also have great memories of the occasional times we hosted Thanksgiving at my parents' home, but the very best were at the farmhouse. I will never forget my first taste of sage cheese!  (For those who don't know what that is, it's a sharp Cheddar with sage marbled through it.)   My grandmother had it available at holiday meals because one of my uncles absolutely loved it.  And once I tasted it, so did I!

That's my grandmother below, in the early 1950s. I barely remember that kitchen, as she had it all redone when I was a youngster. The Thanksgiving memories I recall all center around her dining room and the new kitchen.

3. Who is the most consistently grateful person you know?

Hmmm ....  that's a tough one, but as I've thought about it,  I'd have to say it's a young man in our church, a close friend of ours.  Nearly every time I see him, I hear Noah say something like this: "God's been so good to me."

Gorgeous graphic by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
4. If you could thank one person today—near or far, living or dead—for their influence on your life, who would that person be?

I would have to thank God (and, of course I do) for my salvation, for completely turning my life around, many decades ago.   His goodness to me, the transformation He wrought in my life, His faithfulness day by day -- well, I can -- and should -- go on and on.

Also by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
5. Who’s one person you’ve never thanked for their contribution to your life, but would like to?

Good question.   I think, actually,  the person I would like to thank is one I won't see again in this life.  Mrs. Plummer, director of the junior choir I sang in at the Methodist church, really laid the groundwork for God to work in my life.  She was a born-again Christian who attended a Baptist church, but for whatever reason served as a choir director at a local Methodist church.  One thing Mrs. Plummer had us do was memorize books of the Bible and do "sword drills" where one looks up Scriptures in the Bible (the sword of the Spirit) and sees who can find it first.  First one to find the verse jumps up and reads it.  Those exercises gave me an interest in God's Word and a hunger to know what it meant, even though it would be many years later that I actually came to salvation.  I am looking forward to seeing this dear lady in heaven.  I am sure she will be quite surprised to see me there!

Another from Little Birdie Blessings
6. Tell us something random about your Thanksgiving week.

The weather. This is the snowiest November I ever recall.   It snowed all day Tuesday, and we had a couple of storms last week too.  There's been a lot of cold and wind also, though yesterday was above freezing and there was no wind to speak of.

 And this week's Wednesday Medley is a wrap!  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2018

My nearly-annual Thanksgiving Dinner recipes post

Nearly every year I try to post a few recipes and helps for Thanksgiving dinner.  This is pretty much a repost of last year's, with a few additions, but I imagine that some of my newer readers have missed the ones I've done previously.  So, if you need a little help with the Thanksgiving feast, you are invited to borrow whatever you may need from these tried-and-true ideas and recipes.

Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday -- so if you still have some planning to do, grab a pen and paper and make some lists.  Then head to the grocery store -- today, or maybe tonight -- and avoid the rush as much as possible.  (I did my Thanksgiving shopping last Thursday.

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

For today's post, I'll start with some ideas for pies, which one might be baking a day or two ahead of time.  Pies are the most intimidating part of the meal for many people, so I offer you these Helpful Tips for Thanksgiving Pies.  If pie crust intimidates you (as it does many others), then don't stress about it.  I give you a recipe for an easy oil pastry, but if you don't want to go that route, then the sheets of refrigerated pie crust one can buy (I've even seen them in store brands!) work very well.  You can even buy frozen pie shells that aren't half bad.  Or if you just don't want to make pies, you can buy some very nice pies from bakeries that specialize in them.

Some of our Favorite Thanksgiving Pie Recipes are included in this post.  Maybe you will find a new family favorite!

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

Probably the next most intimidating part of the meal is the turkey itself.  

Photo from Pixabay
If you have, or are buying,  a frozen turkey, the rule of thumb for thawing it is to allow 24 hours in the fridge for each 5 pounds of the turkey's weight.  I find this not quite enough, so allowing an extra day would be my advice.  Invariably if I follow that rule of thumb, the giblets are still frozen in place.  Last year I bought my frozen turkey (21 pounds) on the Thursday before Thanksgiving and put it right into the fridge to start thawing.  So if you have a large turkey like that one and it's frozen -- well, I hope that you don't, because it's pretty much too late to thaw it.  You can put it in the fridge now if you like, but you will probably have to go the thawing in cold water route to finish the job.  That's something I prefer to avoid.

Thus, if you need a large turkey and the one you bought is still frozen, my advice is to leave it in the freezer -- it was cheap, right? -- and buy a fresh turkey in the size you need.  You can cook the other one later, maybe at Christmas time or anytime you're in the mood for turkey.

Cooking it in an oven bag is my best advice on roasting a turkey.  It shortens the time considerably and produces tender, juicy meat.

From my Autumn in the Air booklet (Cracker Barrel, 2001)
Then there is gravy, which can also be intimidating and which I stressed about for many years.  People love it and expect it, but making it at the last minute can be very stressful.  Usually there are other people in the kitchen, helping out with other things, and that complicates matters (even though they are truly trying to help when they watch over your shoulder and give advice).  So for a few years I then turned to canned or jarred gravy, transferring it to a saucepan and removing the evidence of the cans and jars well ahead of the guests' arrival.

That was great, but I found that the gravy packets one can buy actually made even better gravy.

And then finally, I found this recipe:  Easy Turkey Gravy.  It truly is easy and it makes lots and lots of gravy.  If you are feeding people who think there is never enough gravy, try this.  For once they will be satisfied and there may even be some gravy left to serve with the leftovers or to make hot turkey sandwiches.

 So there are a number of good options for gravy: jars, packets, or the above great recipe.

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

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

Sweet Potato Casserole is our family's festive sweet potato recipe.  I've made it with canned sweet potatoes and it comes out just fine.  I don't make it every year because personally, my husband and I prefer buttercup squash.  But if we are having a lot of people, I'll usually do the sweet potatoes as well.  (For sweet potatoes as a general rule, we prefer them roasted.)

Broccoli Casserole is another great side dish that always goes over well.  This is a recipe from my sister-in-law Dawn.

I tend to skip serving rolls when there is so much other good food on the table, but if your family won't let you, then try these: Homemade Dinner Rolls.  They're a homemade crescent roll and are really delicious.  My daughter Carrie has a recipe for Honey Rolls that her family loves at Thanksgiving.  You can find that recipe here: Carrie’s Honey Rolls.  They are a pan type roll and a must-have for her family's Thanksgiving dinner.

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

Cranberry sauce or relish can be purchased and is just fine.  If you want to make your own, try the Taste of Home site for some good recipes, or you may be able to find one here.  Cran-Apple Sauce is one delicious option.  Some of the bags of fresh cranberries also feature a cranberry sauce recipe, and I have made those, often substituting brown sugar for white, which gives a nicer flavor in my opinion.

For a memory of my childhood Thanksgivings at my grandmother's farmhouse,  you might like to read A Thanksgiving Memory for a little nostalgia.

By the way, that's my grandmother in the photo above, and the recipe is for my great-grandmother's Date Cake, which was somewhat of a tradition at our holiday dinners.  It was served thickly frosted with white frosting and with walnut or pecan halves pressed into the frosting.  It was never a favorite of mine and I haven't made it since, but every year I think I may make one for either Thanksgiving or Christmas -- just for old time's sake!

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

 Setting the Thanksgiving table is always an enjoyable task, and I like to get it taken care of well ahead of time.  I've made a few Thanksgiving table toppers, hot mats, and so on over the years.  These Thanksgiving Candle Mats always make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table!
Some years I bring out the cornucopia!
  I have very few photos that show our actual Thanksgiving table; in fact, I could only find this one below, from 2010.  That one was more of a "Friendsgiving", as most of our guests were friends rather than family.  That cloth looks like a peach color, but it's a faded orange.  I put one of my simple homemade table runners on it and you can easily see that I mixed patterns of dishes and glassware since we don't own a full set of anything (other than Christmas dishes).  Just proof that you can have a lovely and festive table just using what you have!

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

Lastly, I want to mention my my Thanksgiving Pinterest Board.

If you could use some new recipes, printables, or other Thanksgiving ideas, you will want to visit this board for inspiration.  I plan to revisit it myself soon!
I hope that this oft-repeated advice is helpful to someone this holiday and that it might make your celebration a little more delicious.  Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday five for November 16

Another Friday, and let's see if I can find five things to share about my week!  I recently came upon and scanned the vintage syrup advertisement above, and thought I would share.  This image reminds me so much of winter days in my childhood!  It looks like winter here today, so it seems appropriate.  (Feel free to snag this image if you can use it for something.)

But on to the Friday five.

1.  Attending our oldest granddaughter's high school musical on Saturday night.  It made for a later night than usual for us, but we were glad to take the time.  The kids did an amazing job in both acting and singing.

That's Sarah at left below with another granddaughter, Emily.  This was taken in Salt Lake City in summer 2017.

2.  Managing to accomplish a lot of housework between Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon.  It felt good to have both time and energy to do several household tasks.   Scrubbing the tub was one of them.

3.  Having beautiful weather here on Monday.  Someone said it felt like spring, and I guess it sort of did.  It wasn't warm enough to be what we think of as true Indian summer, but it was a really nice day to get out and walk.  I was invigorated enough to tackle more housework when I got back.
Berries along our walking route
4.  Saving over $26 on groceries yesterday between regular coupons, digital coupons, and a $15 discount from our supermarket's rewards program!

This was a good week for this to happen, since I was buying snacks for the coffee time at church this week, a few extras for Christmas and Thanksgiving baking, and some items for the food pantry.
5.  God's grace to have a good attitude about snowstorms -- two in one week, and it's not even Thanksgiving yet.  The challenging thought is that this snow may not melt as many early snowstorms do ... it may be with us for the winter!  But I do have to admit it's pretty.  Photo below is from a November snowstorm last year, along our walking route.  We have more than that, currently -- several inches of the white stuff.
And that's Friday Five for this week!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Wednesday Medley for November 14

Church at Lamoille, Nevada
Again this week,  I'm joining in with the Wednesday Medley hosted by Terri at Your Friend from Florida.  Would you like to join in also?  Just head over to Terri's blog, get the questions, then copy, paste, and answer them on your own blog.  Then you can go back to Terri's and link up!

Here are this week's questions:

1.  With the holidays coming, what is your most essential appliance to help you prepare for the celebrations?
Oh, good question.  I think maybe just my regular workhorse kitchen stove -- roasting a turkey, baking pies and cookies, cooking vegetables like mashed potatoes and squash, sauteing onions and celery for stuffing, and much more.  The refrigerator would be a close second!

2.  What is your favorite (clean) word?

I have no idea.  Clean words are the only kind I use, though.
3.  Are you a good judge of character?

I like to think so.
Sunrise photo taken last week by grandson Sam
4. What is the last thing you took a picture of? Can you share it with us?

Yesterday's snow as seen out a dormer window.
Had to snag this off my Instagram
5. Tomorrow, November 15, is Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day.  How do you intend to celebrate?

Actually, our downstairs refrigerator temporarily stopped working a few weeks ago -- so I cleaned out the regular kitchen fridge to make room for some of the contents.  It's still in pretty good shape.  However, I do have some veggies -- peppers, mushrooms, part of an onion, and some brussels sprouts -- that I want to roast tomorrow, so one could say I'm celebrating this "holiday" in that way.
Isn't this little grandchef too cute for words?  I made the hat for her birthday last week.
6. Tell us something random about your week!

The weather has been extremely random this week! Monday was sunny and somewhat warm.  Tuesday we woke up to three inches of snow; then the snow eventually turned to rain, and it's been very windy.  Today is very cold and windy.  My friend and I did get out for our walk in spite of the wind chill which made it feel like 10 degrees!

And there you have it!  That wraps up Wednesday's medley fun for this week!