December 30, 2010

Merry Christmas and Christmas Goals

I love Christmas...  I love the true meaning of Christmas, God's immeasurable love coming to earth for us! We assigned the date of December 25th to the Lord's birth but, I have a feeling that the date really doesn't matter to Him. What does matter is that we take at least a day to truly remember His great sacrifice of being born into the human race, after all, He is God!

With that being said, I am trying to take the consumerism out of my Christmas. Yes, I will purchase some gifts, but I love home made things. I love to make gifts and find special ways to wrap and decorate.

I am starting NOW! :) I'd like to be able to be all finished with buying & making at least by the beginning of December so that all I have to do is look forward to baking, decorating, relaxing, enjoy reading the true account of the birth of Jesus, and listen to Christmas music while I put the finishing touches on our packages! Well, a girl can dream or a girl can make a plan!

Being a practical one...  I need to figure out how to make this happen! So, here's the start of my plan!! If I put aside one day or at least a portion of a day each month and buy supplies, make my tags, decorate gift bags, make Christmas cards, start my gift giving & making lists, start adding to a box for stocking stuffers, menu plan & list ingredients etc...

Won't that make life the week before Christmas

I think this is VERY achievable don't you?

December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas....

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Just a little bit of
hot chocolate, but I would
prefer tea!

2. Turkey or Ham?

Baked turkey for dinner with all the
fixin's of course!

3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?

Definitely a REAL tree!
(The last few years they have been pre-cut ones.)

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?

Only the God given snow...
with an occassional snowman!

5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?

When I was a kid it was sledding!

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?

Not so much... I like making & baking!

7. Favorite Christmas song?

I love all the traditional songs...
Silent Night &
O Holy Night
Joy to the World

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?

I enjoy the older ones and some
of the new ones too!

9. When is it time to start listening to Christmas music?

Right after Thanksgiving!

10. White lights or colored lights on the tree?

We have decorated both ways, but I
like the colored ones best!
(and, not blinking ones this year)

11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?

In the morning we travel and then we come
 home to stay from mid-afternoon on!!
But, I sense change is
in the air....

12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?

Luke chapter 2:1-20
Usually on Christmas Eve

13. What do you do after presents and dinner?

Clean up and relax... bask in the joy of
gifts opened & received, chat...

14. What is your favorite holiday smell?

The real pine scent of the tree.
The turkey roasting...
Home baked bread...

15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?

NEITHER...  How about curled up with a good book,
playing cards or a game with the family,
or watching a new movie!

16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?

Both! Christmas Eve after church we opened gifts
from the kids to each other and us, then on Christmas day
we open the gifts from us to the kids!

17. Favorite Christmas memory?

As a child,  being all together with my
parents, grandparents and cousins!

As an adult, seeing the wonder
in my children's eyes and listening
to them play Christmas music;
piano, bell choir or singing on
Christmas Eve!

18. Favorite Part about winter?

Being warm inside and admiring the beauty outside!!
Seeing the snow cling to the trees... it is so pretty!
And, counting down the days
until springtime!

19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?


Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

(back row: Austin, Darlene, Audrey, Ethan, Pete, Travis)
(front row: Melanie, Mom, Dad, Marc)

December 21, 2010

Fun Day With A Special Friend....

Gary came over today! We had alot of fun making "Puppy Chow"
which is a variation of chex mix! We started out with a good
sized bowl (or so I thought) but then switched to a bigger
roasting pan to add the chocolate mixture!

Gary is pouring the wheat chex in with the other
ingredients! (Rice chex, wheat chex, peanuts)
After we had all the dry ingredients mixed, I poured
a combination of melted chocolate chips,
peanut butter & a little butter on it. He
stirred it around a little with a wooden spoon
but then we poured it all into a HUGE
2 1/2 gallon zipper bag. He zipped it shut and
stirred it by tipping the bag over & over.
After the chocolate was distributed he unzipped it and
we added about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's
sugar. And the process of tipping it over again and again
was repeated!!  Gary had fun making the Puppy Chow, but
the best part was.....

He likes it!!
Here's a close up of the Puppy Chow. We also
added a bag of  'Pretzel M&Ms' after everything
was mixed up. Very yummy and very pretty!
Awesome job Gary! We had so much fun...
he is a true blessing to us!

December 18, 2010

EASY Christmas Crockpot Treats!!

You can't get much easier then this! Christmas gifts or family treats... either way, I bet that these recipes will make the list again next year! I've been looking at recipes over the past few weeks, I'm not sure where I found these, either All Recipes or A Year of Slow Cooking or Mennonite Girls Can Cook . These are some of my favorite places to go looking for recipes!
Crockpot Rocky Road Treats

You'll Need:
24 oz. bag of chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)
mini marshmellows  (1/2 of a 10.5 oz. bag)
chopped walnuts  (or any nuts you prefer... approx. 8 oz)
waxed paper
cooking spray

Spray the inside of the crock with cooking spray. Pour the whole bag of chocolate chips into the crockpot. Turn on high and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Stir and then cook another 15-30 minutes until the chocolate is all melted and mixes smoothly. Remove the crock from the pot (heating elements). Pour in the nuts and mix well then add the marshmellows and stir. I did it the other way around adding the marshmellows first and they all melted into the chocolate... so, be sure to add the nuts and stir it ... it will kinda cool the chocolate a little then add the marshmellows! Using spoons, drop in serving sizes onto waxed paper or release foil lined cookie sheets. Place them in the refrigerator to cool and harden! Package them up to give away or store in a lidded container for your family! Now, wasn't that EASY!!

Crockpot Peanut Clusters  (Makes approx. 150 clusters)

You'll Need:
48 oz.  lightly salted roasted peanuts
8 oz.  box German Baker's Chocolate (I bought two 4oz.)
8 oz. box UNsweetened Baker's Chocolate
24 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
Large Crockpot
Baking spray
waxed paper

Spray the inside of the large crock with cooking spray. Unwrap and place all of the baker's chocolate on the bottom of the crock. Add all of the peanuts next and then pour the bag of chocolate chips on top. Measure out and add the vanilla... (you can see the dark spot in the middle of the picture!). Put the lid on and cook on low for 3 hours or on high for 1 1/2 hours. When the time has past, stir the mixture well and determine if it needs a little more time to melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and drop by spoonfuls (in serving size quantities) onto waxed paper lined cookie sheets to cool. You may place them in the refrigerator to cool faster! BE CAREFUL IF YOU TASTE TEST... these will be hot for a while!  When cooled ... package up to store or give away! ANOTHER EASY, EASY recipe!!  (PS. This recipe would be very easy to cut in half so you don't end up with soooo many of them!)


December 5, 2010

December Can Jam.... Blueberry Maple Syrup (dried fruit)

We have arrived at our 12th Can Jam challenge... DRIED FRUIT! At first my heart lurched, what the heck would one make to can with dried fruit?? But then immediately an idea popped into my head! We've always thought it would be fun to try to add a fruit flavor (using REAL fruit of course!) to our maple syrup!! So, this is my attempt at doing just that... I added dried blueberries to maple syrup, brought it back to temp. and then re-bottled it!!  To check out our family fun of making maple syrup click here, here here or here! This has been a learning process over the past 6-7 years!

                 From the tree....

        ... to the bottles!!

Now, from the bottle to the canning jars!

First lesson for me today? READ!! When I bought the 'dried blueberries' I was sooo excited! I checked out Ocean Spray and saw the display... my how they've expanded. I found blueberries & pomegranate... BIG SCORE, or so I thought!! I discovered the day before Thanksgiving ,when I read a little closer, that the package I bought was CRANBERRIES INFUSED WITH THE JUICE FROM POMEGRANATES!!  RRRRGHHH...  Oh well, still used them in the stuffing, not bad at all! THEN TODAY, I discovered that these 'blueberries' that I was so proud to have found are really the same thing... cranberries INFUSED with REAL BLUEBERRY JUICE!!

Since this is a total experiment on my part...  the only recipe is the one I've just made up!

1 pint of PURE maple syrup
1/2 cup of Ocean Spray BLUEBERRY infused cranberries (any type of dried fruit would work)

Pour the maple syrup into a small saucepan and add the dried berries. You could add a bit more if you'd like, and definitely more if you are using more then a pint of syrup!

Bring the maple syrup to a slow boil. Using a thermometer, be sure that you reach 219*. This shouldn't take too long. It is at this point that sap becomes syrup, so since it is syrup already... it really boils pretty quickly.

I let the syrup & berries kinda meld & rest for a short time (15-30 minutes) and then brought it back to 219* and poured it into my jelly jars!

Water bath for 15 minutes and now I can't wait to use it on home made pancakes with fresh home made sausage!! YUMMY!

(AFTER I was all finished, I decided to look up online to see if there were any recipes posted... sure enough, there is. AND... much to my delight, I did it similarly to those recipes! The ones I read used fresh or frozen fruits and had to cook the water content out of it... so, there is one very good reason to use dried fruit!)

Pete's 89 year old aunt has had fun with the challenges too! Each month I'd share with her the topic to be canned and she'd come up with her ideas a few recipes too give me... it's been fun! Her ideas was to use dried apricots with the syrup. I plan to try that next! I will add a picture and update when I get it done!

This has been a wonderful year long challenge! It has been a project that the whole family has been involved in... from brainstorming to sampling! THANKS TIGRESS for coming up with such an awesome project and for all the hours of work you did each month reading the blogs and posting the round ups! God Bless!

November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

  We had a wonderful day!
My mom & dad joined us
in celebrating
Thanksgiving this year.

Following in my grandfather's tradition...
I pulled out my camera
and took table shots!
I miss him...
and I still laugh
when I think of his antics 
over taking pictures!

Thankfully, cameras have
come along way!
We watched them change over the years...
from the old Polaroids, 110, 124,
the ones with the flash bulb that had to be
changed with each picture, the flash cubes,
flip flash, 35 mm and now finally
the digital cameras! He would
have LOVED the digital camera for sure!!

I hope you made some fond
memories during your


Mom's Breakfast Sausage Recipe!! DELICIOUS!

We got the unsmoked portion of our pork back
from the  butcher last week!
                                So far, we've tried the pork chops & ground pork!                                
  Here's my mom's recipe for breakfast sausage!
It is beyond wonderful!
Using 1 pound of ground pork add:
1 tsp. salt
2/3 tsp. ground sage (I add a little more)
dash of thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper  (I omit this and add at the table)
dash savory   (summer savory)
(did you know there is both summer & winter savory?)
Mix by hand or spoon then form patties and cook!
I add a little water to the pan so it won't stick
and to cook out some of the extra fat.

You can also use this recipe with ground turkey
or chicken and probably with any ground meat!


I won't be buying sweet sausage all prepared anymore!
I'll share that next time I make it.
It was VERY good as a pizza topping!

November 24, 2010

Prepping For Gravy!!

I've decided to re post this one!! This method makes an incredible gravy!! I looked it up to re-read myself and thought that if you read my blog, perhaps you'd like to read it again too! :) I'm preparing for my Thanksgiving meal today and have decided to make up some browned flour to have on hand in a canning jar! Sounded like a great idea to me! Have a blessed day everyone!

One thing that I'm really excited about.....
is that I've FINALLY learned how to make an AWESOME gravy after all these years! :) I hope that wasn't a huge let down and I know some of you are laughing at me right now, that's ok! You won't be laughing after I explain how I did it!! :)
First I've been having fun looking through a few 'recipe' websites and I happened to stumble onto this gravy recipe. The blog owner (Food In Jars) explained that her father liked to make sure he had enough gravy to last through the ENTIRE turkey leftovers. Well, that intrigued me right away so I watched their video... and viola!

I actually made it this way tonight for a pot roast! Pete was wondering what I was doing.... cooking flour in a pan all by itself! Hmmmm, I told him I was trying an experiment and if it worked, he'd LOVE IT! :) Well it did... and he did... we ALL did... (do you know how hard that feat is in a family of 6!) OK, here goes.....

Start with a cup or two of white flour in a dry pan over medium heat. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon while the heat is on medium.... it doesn't take too long!!
In a short time it is nice and browned! It does have a funny smell while it's cooking, so be sure to continue stirring so it doesn't burn! The shades of flour turn from white to light tan to a darker tan. It is recommended that you let the flour cool, then sift out the larger chunks of flour so the gravy won't be lumpy.
Now is the time to add the juices from your meat! Heat and stir with a whisk until it thickens! (You can also use a canned broth with great results.)

A perfect gravy!! Try it... I bet you'll love it too!

November 18, 2010

Christmas List Planner

My friend Anne told me of a great idea she was working on and
shared a website that hosted the "how to's" of this
creative little idea!  I took the main concept
and switched it up (or down) just a bit
to fit my own needs and style!

 Here is my completed project, complete with a
ribbon to hold it together!
I tri-folded a piece of cardstock paper and
stamped the outside cover.
Inside: I cut some designed paper to use as dividers
as well as some notebook paper.
Behind the first divider I have 8-9 pieces of paper
to use for notes of who I need to buy or make
gifts for... 
I'll also list ideas and the stores to
visit to make purchases!
I decorated & tucked in the envelope flap and
will use this to hold receipts (all in one place!).
Behind the other divider is note paper for lists of
"Christmas Ingredients",
the food that we have during the Christmas holiday season
and what I'll need to buy to prepare it.
And another envelope for coupons!
I'm sure there are LOTS of things that you can add
to make this work for you. You can decorate
with stickers instead of stamps. You can
change colors, add doilies 
or even buttons to decorate.
Next time, I think I'll adhere a page with
the calender on it to the inside cover!
Bottom line... it was fun
and I only used what I had in the house already!
NOW...  it is in my handbag ready to be used!

Check out Simple Lives Thursday hosted
at Sustainable Eats for more ideas to
simplify your life!

What are you using to keep yourself organized for
the wonders of the Christmas season?

November 16, 2010

I Tried a New Cornbread Recipe....

I tried a new cornbread recipe last night...  it came out very moist and tasty! I went online to find a different recipe then the one I've used over and over to see if I could make any improvements! This one had lots of rave reviews so I gave it a try! Pete LOVED it ... it was moist, it held together and it was tasty!!

West Tennessee Corn Bread

1 Egg
1/4 Cup mayonnaise
1/4 Cup buttermilk
1 TBsp. vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 Cup cornmeal
1/4 Cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Mix the wet ingredients until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Grease (or spray) a 6" skillet or round baking dish, dust with cornmeal. Add batter and bake at 425* for 18-20 minutes. 

NOTE: I doubled the recipe and baked in a 9X9 baking dish... I often use a cast iron skillet though!

November 15, 2010

November Can Jam.... Apple Cider Jelly

Apples, pears, quince oh my! These are the choices for November's can jam...  and lovely they are! Years back I would go apple picking, make up a dozen pies for the freezer (keeping the peelings & cores of course), make a bunch of applesauce and then use all the peelings & cores to make my apple jelly! This process sure did produce some amazing jellies and crab apples make even yummier jelly... if that is possible!

A few years ago a friend gave me her recipe for apple cider jelly. I tried it and I have NEVER looked back! This recipe is scrumptious! I've tried it as written and also without the cinnamon candies! Either way, this jelly is a hit! AND BELIEVE ME... this 'short cut' from peeling, boiling down, and hanging the apple peels to get the juice... before I even got started making jelly was very welcomed!! THANKS NADINE! :)

Apple Cider Jelly

1 quart Apple Cider
1/3 cup cinnamon candies (2 oz. container cake decorating candies)
1 Box Sure-Jell pectin
4 1/2 cups sugar

Bring the cider, pectin & candies to a full boil, melting the candies.
Add the sugar and stir well. Bring back to a full boil for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Carefully put into jelly jars and seal with lids & rings. Waterbath for 10 minutes.

Two separate batches... one with the cinnamon candies and one without!

Approximately 8 jars per batch!

November 12, 2010


Kale is a new to me vegetable over the past couple of years! I had a kale soup at a friend's house and REALLY liked it! After coming home I came up with my own version of Kale Soup and posted it here. I have done some research on the nutrients found in kale... VERY IMPRESSIVE INDEED!

Now, I'm working on my kale patch from the garden... YIKES it just grows and grows and GROWS!!

I've frozen some and now I'm working on dehydrating some too!! A friend of mine told me that she does this, so I thought I'd try it too! IT IS SUPER EASY!!

Pick, rinse well, tear or cut the leaves off the spine and put them on the dehydrator racks...  turn the machine on and roughly 4 hours later...   we have dried leaves!!

I took one batch, put them into a zip lock bag and crunched the leaves down to more of a powder. I think this will be a fun way of adding kale to spaghetti sauces and other soups etc. for a little bit more of a nutritious boost or if I ever get around to figuring out how to make my own pasta... I can see adding some kale powder to that too! :)

The rest of the dried kale leaves I've put into a large plastic container for storage! This will be used for kale soup or other soups where I want to have the leafy textures added in!! I've also read that you can bake the leaves spread out on a baking sheet sprinkled with a little olive oil and seasoned salt for kale chips!
I've shared this on Simple Lives Thursday hosted by Sustainable Eats! Check out this site for more recipes, tips and ways others have found to make their lives simpler! There are some very creative people out there!