Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year of Skies

The last skies of 2011. It's December in the Midwest, typically a time for sweaters and caps, boot and gloves; however, we've been given a reprieve, a day or two where we can get by with a sweatshirt or light jacket.

The sun peeks out from behind the clouds highlighting tree tops amid a darkened sky. It's a good day for stray cats who will relax on front porch chairs waiting for someone to give their chins a scratch. Like us, do they remember the warm days of summer?

Perhaps floating the river on cloudless summer days?

Or the stormy spring clouds ushering in lightening and strong winds.

Perhaps the dark green tumbling clouds disguising rain encased tornados- Robertsville one year ago- New Year's Eve 2010.

December 30: The sun sets, silhouetting the trees that overlook the valley

and rises on the last day of 2011.

May 2012 be happy and prosperous for you and yours.

Friday, December 30, 2011

About the Hand Washer Plunger

I received a comment asking about the hand washer plunger I received for Christmas from my daughter. I had directed her to a fellow blogger's site Live Ready Now where they discussed the benefits of the washer. Please follow the link to see the article. There is a hyperlink in her blog that will take you to the Amazon site where you can purchase them. That site will link you to the product information (return to product information) it will then direct you to the Emergency Essentials website.

I know that seems like a lot of links but while the blogger does not directly sell the product, I believe they receive some sort of credit for it coming through their blog. I'm a great believer of helping each other so please take the time to view this. If they really don't receive anything from it then you receive the benefit of being introduced to a nice blog and can follow this family through their transition to a tiny, off grid home.

Although we are not off grid and have a nice washing machine in the basement, this will be a wonderful tool for those things you might not want to put in your washer (think of muddy jeans or animal blankets). Maybe you would take it camping or to use during a power outage. I can't wait for Taylor to try it out, the kids will think it's quite a game! I'll actually post some photos when we can try it out after company leaves.

Please take a look around her blog and check out the plunger and other products they have purchased to be more self sufficient.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Purchases- Quilt Stuff

I had a big decision yesterday, what should I do? I had a coupon for 10 fat quarters for $15 but it was good only for a couple of days, and my quilt shop is open late only on Wednesdays. I can't get there before they close on any other day, even if I go directly there without passing Go and collecting $200. Now, my son just arrived in town and I hadn't seen him yet. He's waiting at our house.

Do I take 10 minutes to stop or go home? Which one? Will I miss the sale? But I haven't seen my son . . .

I am pleased to tell you that, being a loving mother. . . I drove directly to the quilt shop. Yes, I did. I had pre-selected my fat quarters so I was able to park immediately in front of the door, ran in, picked my fabric and had to wait for her to cut someone's fabric. But just one, so only an extra five minutes - max. Then I drove home and left the package in the car so he didn't notice I made a stop along the way.

Here is a photo of my purchases for the last two days using the cash I received for Christmas. You will see 10 fat quarters that will join the other 1930s fabric in my stash. A Twelve Days of Christmas panel, three yards of brown fabric for all my cream, tan and brown patterned fabric and a set of quick quilt patterns.

I guess I won't win Mom of the Year, but I am really developing a nice fabric stash. That must count for something! At least I had homemade cookies all ready for him and they are disappearing fast so they must be yummy.

The Pie Recipes - Mom's Traditional Pumpkin and Pecan Fillings

Here they are, the Christmas pies that Mom makes every year. There is nothing unusual about them, they are just very good traditional pies that never fail. I will say that she makes her own crust but you can use the Pillsbury ready made crusts if you don't have a good crust recipe. She makes hers from memory so I don't have it.


Pumpkin Pie – Bake 450 degrees for 10 minutes then turn down the heat to 350 degrees for 30 minutes

1 15 oz can pumpkin (not pie mix)
1 TBS flour
2 eggs beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
1 2/3 cup milk (part evaporated)
Mix pumpkin and dry ingredients, add eggs and milk, mix well and add to unbaked crust

Lots of pecans floating in a sea of sugary goodness, unfortunately one I can no longer eat since I suffer from diverticulitis. It is heavenly. I'll admit that I sometimes take a small slice and pick out the nuts. I think you might be able to make it and leave the nuts out- sort of like chess pie but better.

Pecan Pie – Bake 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes

3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup karo – light or dark
1 cup sugar
2 TBS melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all and add 1 ½ cup pecan halves and pour
into unbaked pie shell

Bake until center almost set

I am so sorry for the photos but we just couldn't keep ourselves from digging into the pies.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Day After Christmas

It's the day after Christmas in our ridge top home,
and for a couple of hours we're all alone.
There is ribbon and wrapping floating around,
A broom and a mop will have to be found.

Mom's gone to meet someone in the Valley below,
And chat over lunch about old friends they know.
We'll be off in search of a heated water dish,
the strays are not pleased, a drink is their wish.

We went to church Christmas Day morn,
then back to the house to cook up a storm,
I then covered up, since I was wearing white,
Before making the dinner we'd all eat that night.

I had opened my gift as Pops tended the bird.
I was still in my duster, no one spoke-not a word!
But washing I'll do when all else fails,
As longs as I save up the buckets and pails.

We had pretty girls: little T and her mom,
Bangles and baubles,toys and Pops Tom.
There were cookies and candies, all so sweet,
It's all Taylor could do to not eat every treat.

We had Christmas Eve next door at my husband's parents' house, a wonderful brisket, rosemary potatoes, appetizers and pies for dessert. The next day was celebrated at our home with the traditional turkey dinner and pies by my mom. The day was a little odd since Becky had to take Taylor around to her Dad's side of the family in the morning but in the afternoon she made her way back here to open gifts, and gifts there were! Santa left her a sled filled with small packages, each one holding her explorer gear. She and Pops are going to work on how to use a compass, how to find your direction in the woods (our back yard) so she can follow the directions to find something he has hidden away.

I completely forgot that I threw a duster over my white sweater while I helped my husband load the turkey into the oven and here I am with it on in the Christmas photos. My daughter got me the hand washing tool that was recommended by our fellow blogger. I'm not sure Mom understood why I wanted it, but it will surely come in very handy.

Taylor; however, was more on the fashionable side with her new pink feather from Great Grandma Ann and sparkly hat from Linda, a friend from work. All in all it was a busy day and we were totally exhausted by the time the sun set.

Mom is here for a couple more days and Wednesday our son arrives to visit. We'll be busy for the next few days so posting will be minimal. I can't wait to see how others spent their holiday. Take care- I'll be reading when I can.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas All

We're on the right track for a very merry Christmas! Posting might be limited for a few days as relatives visit so stay tuned. I'll be reading as I can.

Taylor is playing with her train, a blending of hers and my husband's old train set. Notice she is in a coat but bare footed! Funny girl. Mom is in for a visit and my daughter is expected later this evening. She is local but we have little T for the day. My son is arriving from Seattle next week so the party continues through the new year.

I made Mom stop by the quilt shop today, just because I can't have a day off without stopping by there. It was lunch at St Louis Bread Co (Panera Bread for some of you). Their french onion soup bowl is awfully good.

Tomorrow we bake the pies and prep anything else we can do in advance. We'll join family for a Christmas Eve celebration and then have a more traditional meal on Christmas Day. I hope everyone will have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Decking the Halls

I'm a big fan of Christmas decorations, especially when they are from family and the older the better. I have many from my grandmother's home, some that the kids made when they were in school and even one that I made as a child.

Flanked by angels, my manger scene is displayed in the entryway to the great room. I received it from my grandmother many years ago even before the children were born. It's a music box that doesn't play anymore. The donkey is propped up after losing all its legs and whatever was once on the front is no longer there so years ago I attached a little angel. Regardless, it's beautiful to me.

Sometimes it sits on the mantle but this year it's on the old dresser we brought home from my grandmother's home after she passed away. It sits in the living room and holds handheld games and throws. Perhaps the manger feels it's back home.

Silver plastic camels carry three wise men with robes of red and blue. A terrible accident last year ended with one of the camels losing a leg when it hit the hard wood floor. Amazingly I never did find it. They pass the old plastic manger with the Christmas bulb hole in back in the event you would prefer to illuminate it.

A pair of old reindeer sprinkled with gold and donning bells prance across the festive mantle. I believe they may have been a part of a team at one time but that was long ago. I rescued these from my parent's ornament box so they wouldn't be boxed away with the other mismatched items. They too show their age with a missing antler.

I believe I need to start a hospital for broken ornaments. This little soldier still has a prime spot on the tree despite his missing arm. I did find it so I'll be doing a little surgery this week. He visits with the clothes pin reindeer and pony.

The little golden bird with always sits at the top of the tree near our angel. She has company with a more modern, soft tail bird from a local business run by three nice ladies. (disregard the light plug, I have to tuck that in but need a step stool to do so).

Now onto the ones made by us. The first one is pretty scary. I made this so long ago I can't remember. Kindergarten? First grade? It's all squished and terrible but it gets top billing on the back of the tree. Mom wasn't going to keep it! Poor thing.

My son's gingerbread man- he also made a ghost (a ghost??). I don't have one that my daughter made. She may have it with her tree.

A woman I interviewed for my college town paper made this ornament for me, in addition to sharing cookie recipes and her dandelion wine! Yes, we were under age but it was just one sip or two, for research purposes! She and her husband built their log home, chopping down their own trees and constructing it themselves. Very quaint and very not at all level which added to the charm.

This little guy has been a child's favorite for a couple of generations. My kids loved it and so does little Taylor. It's fun to open him up and see what has been hidden inside- but don't take it!

I can't forget Santa:

Santa has been my very favorite forever. I saw him in old home movies not too long ago when he was new and had clothes. He's not like a stuffed animal, all squishy and fluffy. He's very solid and can sort of stand up.

I have other very pretty vintage ornaments, the glass ones with glitter on them; however, I don't put them out anymore after losing a few to our hardwood floors. I don't have carpet anywhere except for a couple of bath mats. Someday I will figure out a secure way to display them and bring them all back out.

There is so much more up in the attic: A white tree with red and gold ornaments, two small trees, my woodland tree that I still have to bring down and dress up with the lodge type ornaments, Santa figurines, a ceramic village that belongs under the tree, etc. I've lost the top of the old entertainment center (that was really big) so I'm at a loss. Next year I need shelves.

Tomorrow is the first day guests begin to arrive so I need to get the finishing touches on everything and fix the lasagna-a good thing to have when you're not exactly sure what time anyone is arriving, besides, the rest of the week will be dominated by hams or turkey!

Thanks for taking a peek at some of the older ornaments. Maybe I'll show you some newer ones next post!

Linking to Jenny Matlock and My Simple Country Living

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Pieced! Flurry Quilt Top

What a week! I have been finishing up my shopping and giving the house a super cleanings in preparation for holiday guests which will be arriving in a few days. We had friends over for a Christmas food party--everyone bringing their favorite snacks to accompany my husband's homemade pizza. In between I've been trying to finish up my projects and I'm pleased to say I completed the pieced top today!

I used Moda's Flurry charms (see previous post) using a disappearing nine patch pattern. Then I selected a border, the backing and red for the eventual binding.

Here's the full view.

A little closer view.

Cutting the nine patch in half both ways, turning opposite corners and sewing them together makes it seem like there is much more piecing than there really is. The only thing I can caution you on is to experiment with the direction you press the seams. Swiveling them and then arranging each new square can cause some pattern conflicts. You'll have to move them around until you find the proper placing, but that might mean the seams are pressed the same way. You can repress or just work through it. It's not bulky enough to worry about.

The baking is also Moda Flurry yardage. I thought it would be nice for the entire back since there was so much going on within the pattern.

I selected a nice red for the binding.

I had some help selecting the border. There is so many patterns that I wanted to pick up on the blue so it wouldn't limit it to only Christmas; but rather, winter.

I also got the binding on Mom's table runner which will match the kitchen gifts I purchased.

I still have to figure out something for my son who I just found out is flying in from Seattle but after Christmas due to a conflict with the kennel. It didn't leave me enough time to select and ship anything in advance. He's a guy and hates to check luggage so he will be bringing a carry on which means he won't be carrying anything back with him that's large. If worse comes to worse, I'm sure gift cards will fit!

(please disregard any overlooked strings. It's funny how you look something over and over but find out you missed something when the photo is enlarged!)

Friday, December 16, 2011

FORE! . . . . Plop. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.

FORE! . . . . Plop. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.

Yep, that's the sound the golf simulator made each time I hit the ball yesterday at Tee's Golf Grill where we had our department Christmas party. We thought we were playing random selections of par three courses but there were so many water hazards I think we were playing The Links of Atlantis! At least I wasn't the only one. My foursome was made up of gals that really own their own clubs. They actually play the game on real grass and know which club does what. None of us could manage to get past the water hazards.

When the attendant asked which course we would like to play I mentioned something about windmills and clown mouths but they didn't have that one so she thought she was selecting something easy. Wow, are the simulators ever difficult. I'll explain how the process went for me. You hit a real ball with special marking that the computers pick up. If you actually make contact with the ball it might fly into the air and hit the screen (or it may roll slowly across the floor or perhaps even backwards, depending on who was doing the hitting). The computer gives you distance and the lay of the land, wind speed and all the stuff real golfers might need to know. It then calculates how well you performed and throws your ball right into the water. After a few hits you concede the hole. All I can say is that I got the maximum amount of hits possible for our money- full advantage of the game (LOL).

Actually, while we were having lunch we could view the other simulators where groups of men that probably did this a lot were having some holiday fun. They were pretty good and seemed to find the green better than we did. By the time our two hours were up and with a change of courses to--get this---a desert course (no water to be found anywhere) we were doing much better. I wasn't sure if this was going to be something I would enjoy but it was fun, even if I didn't do very well.

We had to sign a waiver of responsibility should we get hurt. I suppose you could walk in the way of a drive and get a pretty good wack but it did mention death! Death? Well, they had a point. If I would have sunk a putt I definitely would have dropped dead!

simulator credit, not from Tee's

Monday, December 12, 2011

Popcorn Cookies?

Popcorn cookies? Yes, can you believe it, there are cookie recipes which use popcorn, so I had to try it. Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea that I tried it for the first time when baking for a cookie exchange, but I did. Then, as if I knew what I was doing, I substituted more oatmeal for the wheat germ. I don't even know if you can do that, but I did. Guess what happened?

They came out of the oven all puffy and filled with delicious raisins, coconut, oats and dried cranberries but there was one problem.

They fell flat. Really, super flat. They had holes in them. My husband held one up and thought it was a wonderful cookie because not only could he eat a few but he could also watch TV right through the middle of them! Bad husband.

Now I'm not certain if it was my substitution. Maybe flour would have been better than oatmeal. Also, it could have been my baking soda. Or maybe when doubling the recipe I forgot to double something. Or maybe all the above. I know the recipe must be good. It's from the Jolly Time popcorn people (see below) and they probably test them several times before publishing.

This is what they are supposed to look like:

They taste really good, sort of like chewy granola. But they are flat and holey. I had come up with a packaging idea too so I was sort of stuck with them. I couldn't find six of the same container that would hold a dozen cookies but I did find these popcorn tubs (above). I lined them with glittery tissue paper, placed a popcorn bag in the corner, a couple of napkins, a package of popcorn and the cookies on the bottom wrapped in cellophane. I had sprinkled some of the red ribbony filling- that paper that is festive and you put in gift bags.

Then I felt badly. Everyone else would have fine cookies, Christmas standards, not flat popcorn cookies. After church I whipped up some toll house with chocolate and butterscotch chips and everyone got 16 rather than 12. I didn't have any more nice bags but ziplocks would do.

I will share the popcorn cookie recipe- but don't substitute anything, unless you want flat, chewy granola cookies. They really do taste great.

• ¼ cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
• 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup toasted wheat germ
• ½ cup oatmeal
• ½ cup flaked coconut
• 3 cups popped popcorn
• 1 cup raisins, dried cranberries or other dried fruit, chopped
• ½ cup sunflower seeds or chopped nuts, optional

Here's How:
Preheat oven to 350º F
Lightly spray baking sheets with cooking spray and set aside. (I used parchment instead)
In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, soda and salt; set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together and add egg and vanilla; mix well.
Stir in flour mixture and wheat germ and oatmeal until well blended.
Add coconut, popcorn, raisins and sunflower seeds, if desired, and mix until well blended.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheet, allowing 2 inches between cookies to allow for spreading.

Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
Allow cookies to cool on pan 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.
Yield: 4 dozen cookies

Jolly Time Popcorn Cookies

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Santa Rides Again - Christmas on a Harley

We made our annual visit to Santa at our local Harley dealer, something we started years ago when a freak snow storm interrupted our mall visit. See previous post. Now it's a tradition, every year, and I don't care how old she gets. We'll be standing in that line when she's 27!

Santa had a line a mile long, or perhaps it just seemed that way. The children were very well behaved. Maybe it had something to do with the bake sale table being next to the line! They are always collecting for one good cause or another.

They display the traditional orange tree decked out with Harley ornaments aplenty. Every year she gets to pick out a stuffed animal- not your typical bears or bunnies- but skunks, chipmunks, opossum, squirrels, moles and armadillos. Believe it or not, they are adorable.

Pretty elves helped to guide the kids and point out some fine apparel.

Of course there is a sea of bikes and trikes, leather purses, shirts, pants, belts and caps.

Afterwards we took a trip to Wimpy's (as in Popeye), a restaurant that has been going strong since the 1930s. There are three booths with table tops covered in Popeye cartoons and a J shaped counter with those round stools that have swivel tops. You sit at the counter and watch them open the refrigerator, take out your burger and fry it on the tiny flat grill. They plop it down on a sheet of waxed paper with a basket of fries plus a cola on the side. You are within arms reach of the two or three workers who will discuss anything from women's ailments to local gossip. The topic of the day revolved around the T-shirt order where the "g" in Washington, MO was omitted in error. Now Wimpy's resides in Washinton, MO! It's great and it's local, no big chain with who knows what in the beef.

There is a message in the previous post, one we all need to remember. It hit home for me at that "biker" place. If you can, take a minute to read it, if not just know: "So the magic of Christmas didn’t stop at a child’s wonder but also transformed the preconceived ideas of a grandma. Peace on earth and goodwill to all. Merry Christmas."