Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crazy January Challenge 2011

This is just crazy enough to work - Ristipistoni has set a Crazy challenge for stitchers.  The idea is to start one new project every day for the first 15 days of January, and then get them finished before the end of the year.

At first this sounded just backwards...shouldn't you resist the urge to start anything new until you finish what you're doing?? Well...yesss... if you want to suck all the fun out of stitching!  Sometimes you get to a point in a project where it's your half-millionth of the same color all in a line and you just have to stop or scream.  Or you run out of thread, putting the whole thing to a halt until you buy more.   So - if you refuse to move onto something else for awhile, it doesn't lead to getting things done.  It leads to taking up other hobbies until you force yourself to carry on, muttering the whole while.

So this sounds crazy but right - set your intentions right off the bat, commit to them by beginning - and then you've got a buffet of projects to work on.  I like it.

Still focusing on Christmas, but I'm also happy to start going through my graphs and pick out some semi-large projects to work on through the year.  I wonder if I can cheat and include one or two started-but-never-finished projects, too?

Still Stitching

I'm going to have to deal with a lot of unpleasantness today due to what I spoke on yesterday, but meanwhile - Christmas is still coming, and I still have ornaments to finish.

My eldest daughter's family received theirs at Thanksgiving, and liked them very much!

Over the next couple days  I want to do the finishing on second daughter's family (4 total, the parent's ornament is done) and get them into the mail on Thursday.

I've also finished up the stitching and need to finish the two that are going to Jackie and Danny, and to their daughter Hailey.  Moving out into their own place was a momentous turning point for them this year, so I made an ornament to reflect that - a nice gingerbread house with "Our New Home" stitched. (the placement of the year on this one is bothering me... I may pick that out and reset it before I put a back on this one.

The fabric on both this one and Hailey's is a 14ct Aida with gold threads running through it that I've had in my fabric stash for years.

For Hailey, I wanted one to match her parents' ornament, and chose a gingerbread cookie (both of these patterns come from the Oct/Nov 2010 issue of Cross Stitch Card Shop, as does the penguin below).  The 'num! num! was added because it's one of her favorite things to say - not so much to mean 'this tastes good' but more like 'feed me now!!'

They live locally, so I don't have to worry about mailing them, but I do want to get them to them sooner rather than later.

Finally, I'm almost finished stitching Deanna's ornament - a penguin.  By the time she moves out she's going to have an entire tree's worth of penguin ornaments, mixed in with Barbie ornaments.  And as silly as that sounds, that will be totally reflective of her.

In addition to ornament finishing and phonecalls to lawyers and needing to beg my landlord for time (the thought makes me want to throw up), I need to clean out my fridge and give the kitchen a good scrub today, and if I can, take down the fall decor to make way for Christmas decorating.  I'm going to need to get my son in law to come over and drag up my tree and Christmas ornaments sometime this week.  I'd like to have it up this weekend.   Of course, if the landlord says no, that may not be a good idea.

Grr. Positive! Positive!  Off to face the day.

(shared with Amaze Me Monday, Craftastic Monday, Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Monday Blog Hop, Making Monday Marvelous, DIY Project Parade, Homemaker Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Just Something I Whipped Up, You're So Very Creative, Made With Love Monday, Take a Look Tuesday, Get Your Craft On, and Lucky Linky Tuesday)

Monday, November 29, 2010


I am not having a good day - after a whole month and a half (woo hoo!) of paying support on time and in full, the Ex has once again shorted me by nearly half - his reason?  Because he managed to overdraft himself by nearly $500!

This is something I never have to worry about - because I don't have enough money to ever lose track of that amount!  And yet... I remember when this used to happen a lot.  I also remember being blamed for it - funny how that stopped being a problem I have as soon as he left, but one that I apparently managed to still force him into by the power of my evil brain.

As of today he is over $8000.00 in arrears with me - and has the nerve to still sound like an arrogant jerk whenever he talks to me.  I look forward to the day when he is no longer a factor in my life, but I'm not sure when that will be.  The 30 year old daughter is still so angry when she speaks of him that she shakes when he comes up.  The younger ones are damaged - still trying to win his acceptance and being beat down every time it's not offered. And the youngest.. is living a life of poverty thanks to her father (who owes much more money to credit cards than we'll see from him in a year).  She isn't even trying to have a 'relationship' after watching what happens to her siblings when they try.

He called her on Thanksgiving (first time he's reached out to talk to her since this summer).   I don't know what he said and she won't tell me.  But two minutes after he called she came out in tears, refusing to discussing it and just muttering, "I don't like him! I'm sorry but I don't like him!!"

And while I still want to hope he'll step up and be a father... I am at the point where I don't like him either and it'd just be better if he stop stirring the emotional pot.  Do his legal duty, and decide - all in or all out when it comes to parenting them - because turning up 3 or 4 times a year and then making them feel bad for having negative feelings about him, while he can't be bothered to even care for them in the most basic way possible just sucks.

Weirdly, sometimes this feels like an attempt to make me forget what all he did to ME by burying me under things I need to protect our children from.  I just don't understand how people like this continue to walk around without crumbling under the weight of their own shame.

I try very very hard to live my life in a positive manner - but having someone repeatedly and actively hurt my children - when that someone is the only other person in the world who can call them 'my children'... is just beyond me to deal with in a positive way.

So today, I'm not finding a path to focus on other things - I'm desperately trying to figure out how to cover rent.

What's Cookin' This Week - 11/29 - 12/5

Time to move back into normal life for awhile - our Thanksgiving visit over, and it's a few weeks away Christmas.  Money is tight enough to pinch like new shoes, so again, my menu plan has to use as much as possible what's in the pantry.  The bit of grocery budget I had for this week all had to go to household items - dish detergent, freezer bags and the like. 

The weather's turned as well - regularly starting the morning with frosty ground and breezy below-freezing temperatures.  It's still moderate in the afternoon but chilly enough that cold weather meals are in order.

This week I have my granddaughter Hailey twice during dinner (babysitting) - so I tried to keep that into account as well, not preparing anything that requires intensive time in the kitchen on her days.  As a toddler, she needs to be attended to constantly.

Monday November 29 (Babysitting)
Early in day: prepare bread dough for the week.

Breaded Chicken Cutlets

Homemade Rolls

Tuesday November 30 (Meatless)
Spinach and Feta Pie with Filo Crust (from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman)
Greek Style Potatoes

(did not make this - daughter came over and brought Chipotle Chicken Burritos, so I didn't cook.  Will add this back into next week's menu)

Wednesday December 1 (Fend for Selves)

Thursday December 2 (Babysitting) (Slow Cooker)
Crockpot Chicken Dinner
Homemade Rolls

(flaked on getting this into the slow cooker - wound up just making Chicken and gravy with stuffing along with the rolls and salad)

Friday December 3
Curry Beef and Rice
Steamed Broccoli
Homemade Flatbread

(didn't make the samosas - will do those next week)

Saturday December 4 (LEFTOVERS)
 Leftovers for Dinner

Sunday December 5 (Soup, Salad or Sandwich)
Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Dessert:  Riccota Crepes with Cherries
Shared with Menu Plan Monday

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Free 2011 Owl Calendar

Owl Lover 2011 CalendarI just have to share this because it is too cute!  My Owl Barn has teamed up with 30 different graphic artists to create a choose-your-own-image 2011 calendar.  You get to pick which pictures go with which month (no easy task - the pictures are really fun!), and then print out a .pdf file - four months to a page.  And if you just can't resist... make another one with different images!

These could make really cute stocking stuffers, or just to enjoy yourself.  I love it!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Sometime later this morning, we'll be heading back across the mountains for home.  It's been such a good visit - Deanna got to spend lots of time with her sister as well as local area friends she's not seen since Middle School.  My granddaughters are a joy to spend time with and my brand new grandson has a hilariously expressive face already.

In addition to all the visiting (and eating!), I got some more stitching done - I'll post some pictures of all that tomorrow.  Today, though - since I never did get this up in advance, I thought I'd share the other contribution I made to the Thanksgiving feast, along with the Sweet Potato Casserole:  Orange Cranberry Sauce.

If you're at all a fan of cranberries, you'll love this - it also seems to be popular with people I know who think they don't like cranberry sauce - the flavor of citrus and cranberries just burst in your mouth with every bite.  I'll be making it again for Christmas - and I'm thinking I may make another batch this next week to keep on hand in the fridge.

I made this up a couple days before Thanksgiving, so I could show Tanya how it was done, and to let the flavors have some time to combine.

Orange Cranberry Sauce

1 12-ounce bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
zest of one orange
1 medium seedless orange, all peel and pith cut away, fruit diced
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Look through the bag of cranberries, removing any debris or bad berries.  Place into a medium saucepan.

Mince celery stalk and set aside.  Prepare orange by zesting the outside, and then peeling and chopping the fruit inside.  Set the fruit aside, and put the zest into the saucepan, along with cranberries.

Add sugar, juice, celery and spices to the saucepan and stir. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook until cranberries are tender and mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Remove from heat. Mix in orange pieces and walnuts. Transfer to bowl. Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours - better if you can let it set for a day or two.

Shared with Flaunt It Friday, Categorically Crafting Friday, Frugal Friday, Friday Link Party, Friday Favorites, Sweets This Week, and Weekend Wander, Check Me Out Saturday, Just Something I Whipped Up, and Sunday Showcase Party.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's hoping your day is full of good food, pleasant company, and peace.  My visit with my eldest daughter and her children has been lovely - yesterday we made up the cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole and today I'm going to sit back and enjoy her handling the rest (one of the nice parts of your kids growing up is passing the mantle of Holiday Chef over to them).

Wonderful Michael got me my Christmas present early - a cell phone (I've been without for the last few months because D. lost hers and I passed her mine - no budget to replace it just then), and in testing it out, I snapped a picture of the sweet potatoes.  Try them for Christmas dinner! Yum!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Momentarily Up for Air

Things really went into overdrive this week preparing for our trip out to my oldest daughter's home for Thanksgiving, and when something had to give, it turned out to be this blog.  But oh my, I check back in and I'm over 50 followers, and have a lot of comments to check out and respond to - and I will, I promise, but not until later in the week - we are leaving at 9am tomorrow, and it's nearly midnight, and I've still got packing to finish.

But! I did get their ornaments done, so here's one last look at these before I give them to them tomorrow (no picture of the parent's ornament - I've shown it enough, and it's finished up the same ways as these):

I'm very happy with how they turned out - I'm always a bit intimidated by finishing needlework - how to go about it, and what if I mess it up??  There were done simply - laced over a rectangle of foam board that was covered with a layer of thick white felt - and then backed with some brown felt.  No cording around the edges, as I couldn't find what I wanted to use, and then they just seemed to be done to me without any additional embellishment.

Daughter #2 and her four children are up next - I did the ornament for her and her husband a bit ago, and wanted to stitch the kid's ornaments to go with it, loosely - they each had something special to incorporate - the oldest boy has a favorite blue and white stuffed dog, the girl was on her first soccer team this year (named the Bunnies... so a bunny and  soccer ball for her), the third child is in love with dinosaurs, and the baby is nicknamed 'bear'.  The stitching is done, and I'll finish them when I return home next weekend:

That's it for now - off to finish packing!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ornament Exchange goodies

Look what came in the mail yesterday?  I assure you, my poor photography doesn't do these justice at all - this is the ornament for me created for the ornament exchange, sent by Melissa from NY.  It looks absolutely marvelous (the way these things are aged is a mystery to me I might solve some day), and in her generosity, she tucked in a trio of primmie candy canes and a little LED tea light that had been roughed up to look like a small chunk of tree branch.

I haven't been in any hurry to jump forward into Yuletide decorating until right now - I can't wait to see these peeping out from the branches of my tree.  Thank you Melissa!  If you have a blog, please share. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sweet Potato and Peach Cashew Casserole

There are no pictures (because I've not made it yet this year), but I wanted to put up a couple Thanksgiving recipes early enough for someone to filter them into their Thanksgiving menu, should they decide to do so.  I am not a fan of the marshmallow topped sweet potatoes - in my opinion, the marshmallow just doesn't play well with the other food on the plate (I don't want marshmallow on my turkey or stuffing!).  So the very first Thanksgiving that I got to choose the menu for, I went looking for an alternative I'd enjoy more.

I don't lay any claim to this recipe other than that I've been making it for the past 26 years - I originally found a version of it in BH&G's Treasury of Christmas Crafts and Foods  (1980) and I'm pretty sure it was there because it's traditional comfort food.

I notice it's now all over the Internet - both in its original form (using canned sweet potatoes and canned peaches), and with healthier mods like I've done.  Other than the brown sugar, this is really a very healthy offering, and while I'm not going to mess with the altering the recipe this Thanksgiving, next year I'm going to try switching it out for maple syrup (not that it's healthier, I just think it might be an interesting taste switch). The butter, of course, can be switched out for margarine or butter spread or whatever works for you. 

Sweet Potato and Peach Cashew Casserole

Serves 6-8

6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
16 oz frozen peach slices, thawed
1/4 c. Brown sugar, packed
1/2 t. Ground ginger
1/2 t. Ginger nibs (if you have them - if not, increase ground ginger slightly)
2 T. Butter
1/2 c. Cashews (whole or chopped, as desired)

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, ground ginger, ginger nibs and cashews.

Using a 9x11" glass baking dish, layer half the sweet potatoes, and then half the peach slices.  Top wih half the cashew-brown sugar mix.  Repeat layers and dot with butter.

Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, covered, then uncover and cook for another 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.

Gently stir to spoon sauce over the potatoes and peaches and serve.

Variation - if desired, a few dried or fresh cranberries can be layered in with the rest of the casserole for additional color and flavor.

Shared with Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Lucky Linky Tuesday

What I Believe... Sort of.

There is something about this time of year that makes a person turn inward and look at their spiritual and religious points of view - or it does if you don't let the cacophony of "Buy! Buy!" drown out the sound of your own thoughts. I think it is natural to turn inward as the days grow darker and shorter - it is unfortunate that our winter holidays have been overtaken by consumerism and the frantic compulsion to outdo the neighbors, and it's probably a very good thing to remember that this sort of holiday keeping is new in the grand scheme of things and not anything that is inherently natural.

In fact, in the Christian calendar, we are about to begin the season of Advent, which is absolutely NOT about running and chasing down bargains and keeping a hectic pace of doing and buying and having and getting in preparation for Christmas.  It's about slowing down, remembering the why of the celebration instead of piling on glitz and glamour.

Christian or not, Advent ... a slowing down, listening to the silence as darkness falls, anticipating the coming light... makes sense to me.

For those of us who see this as a seasonal turning point, this sort of advent observation is only natural - the earth lies fallow after the last harvest, and everything seems to have gone barren and still... but beneath the increasingly cold dirt, out of our view, life is sleeping and resting in preparation to rise and live anew.   This time of year is when we most need faith, to trust that what we cannot see is still there.. that plants will raise shoots where they appear to be dead, that trees that are naked but for a few clinging dead leaves with again burst forth in bud and flower, the the light that grows dimmer with every day will again return to us.

With all that in mind, even though I am not Christian, I want to keep an Advent of sorts.  I've mentioned before that I am pagan by faith - I get my spiritual wisdom and sense of joy from the natural world. I do not follow any particular religious branch that identifies as pagan - to me, spirituality and religion are not the same thing, and I find that I am no better at fitting into earth-based religious molds than I ever was at my occasional attempts to fit into Christian religious molds.  

I've also mentioned before that I am Universal Unitarian by religion, and that seems to be a good starting point, because this is a new thing for me - I began attending a UU congregation just about a year ago with Michael (in fact, this weekend to come will be my 'year and a day').  I've not yet joined - which means simply that I've not signed the registry book - I'll be doing that once I move there this summer.  But even so, I am able to say that I am UU - even just a few months ago, I'd have merely said I attend a UU congregation.

Over the next few weeks, my advent meditation will be looking over what makes me UU - as a religious body, both the Unitarian and Universalist roots are liberal Christian - when the two combined a few decades ago, it began to widen its scope, and today there are many UUs who are Buddhist, pagan of various stripes, Jewish, Humanist, even atheist, and this is what I find most attractive about it, and most mysterious - -

Being UU has very little to do with what you believe, and everything to do with how you conduct your life.  And it does it without a single, solitary mandate about what you MUST do, because the bottom line is that UU is about personal choice and responsibility.

Instead, it is united by 7 principles... guidelines mainly for how we will respect one another and ourselves, and 6 sources we draw upon for wisdom.  These are the things I'm going to look at here over the next few weeks - to meditate on what these mean for me... the what do *I* believe in regards to how I express myself from a religious perspective.

I'm excited to start this - and more than a bit intimidated, as there are very many well spoken UUs who have puzzled this out better than I ever could.  But it seems important to me to be able to find a way to express what all this means to me  before I officially declare myself, so that maybe I will have an answer to give when I'm asked 'UU? pagan? but what do you believe?"

I believe I'll head to bed for now. ;)  Beyond that, I guess we'll figure that out along the way.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's Cookin' This Week - 11/14 - 11/21

Back to eating normally again - finally!  Every time I opened my freezer and found it stuffed full of things I couldn't eat, it made me sad.  There will be no grocery shopping this week - I'm working with what I have on hand.

- make bread dough for the week. (white, at Deanna's pleading)

Yellow Lentil Dal, Rice, Homemade Naan (using artisan bread dough)

Leftovers - dal and rice, sticky chicken from Sunday, etc.

Wednesday (EASY)
Babysitting tonight - keep things simple.
Chili (from freezer), cornbread

Cheese Omelets, Home Fried Potatoes, Bacon

Simple Onion Soup (from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups), Hamburgers, Sweet Potato Fries

Saturday (SLOW COOKER)
Teriyaki Chicken Thighs (from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook), Rice, Veggies

Sunday (TRAVEL)
Eat out along the way

We're spending Thanksgiving week in Maryland to spend some time with my eldest daughter and her family, so I won't be cooking all of Thanksgiving dinner.  I am, however, making a couple of family favorites while I'm there, and posting those recipes this week here.

(shared with Meal Plan Monday - head on over for lots more wonderful ideas!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ornament Progress - 4 down

I got the first four ornaments I'm doing finished this morning (the stitching, that is - I'll be doing the finishes together all at the same time sometime this coming week).  I am so pleased with how they came out!  I wanted them to look like a set and tying in the border from the first one I did for my daughter did the trick.

I used a variety of sources for the three animal silhouettes (and will get those credits posted when I show the finished ornaments - I don't have them at hand right now).  The green used in the border is DMC 320, but most of the other threads used are variagated floss, which let me play with some interesting shapes within the silhouettes to give them a more three dimensional feel.

This is the first ornament I did - I got a better picture of it, so I wanted to share it one more time.  You can see better how the red variegated floss created a nice brick texture, as well as shadows under the eaves.  My eldest daughter, Tanya and her husband Bruce were married this year, and I wanted their ornament to reflect that milestone.

Elizabeth is Tanya's oldest daughter and my first grandchild.  For her ornament, I used the same border as in the first ornament but changing the colors to yellows and oranges and golden browns, for a very warm and sunny motif that reminds me of her sunny personality.

Emily is a few years younger than Elizabeth, and very much about the pink and girly - so for hers I used shades of pink, purple and blue.  I also modified the lower part of the border to extend it out a bit to account for her shorter name.

Derek is my newest grandchild, born just a couple weeks ago.  For him, I used a stag instead of a bunny, and made the surrounding colors shades of blue.   I had to shorten up the sides of the border a bit to make room for "1st Christmas" without changing the finished size of the stitchery - that way, each ornament will be able to be finished the same.

I had so much fun doing these - I'm really jazzed to begin work on Daughter #2 and her family - those will be in a very different style, as I've gotten requests for specific motifs from them.  I am mulling how to tie together what will be very different images, either by using a common border, or a finishing technique that pulls them all together.

Shared with Craft-O-Maniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Tackle It Tuesday, Get Your Craft On Tuesday , Lucky Linky Tuesday and

Homemade Butterfingers

Wow, am I ever glad I bought a few bags of candy corn before they got put away for the year because these are going to be a part of my Christmas goody basket gifts.  Today, I made up the homemade Butterfingers recipe I saw on Confessions of a Cookbook Queen - she did hers all fancy-like in owl molds.  I kept mine simple, spreading it out in a 9x13" baking pan, and I think it came out just right.

The recipe is so simple, it's ridiculous:

Homemade Butterfingers

Melt 16 oz of candy corn in the microwave, stirring every minute or so until completely melted.  Mix in 16 oz of peanut butter (creamy or chunky as you like).  After it's completely blended, spread out into a 9x13" baking pan (or a smaller pan, if you'd like these to be thicker).

Notice that that's equal parts candy corn and peanut butter - this recipe is going to be very easy to double or halve or make whatever amount you want to.

Set the pan into the refrigerator to cool.  It will firm up as it cools.  Once it's completely set and firm enough to handle, cut as desired.  I chose bite sized pieces, but I would think you could do candy bar sized if you wanted to.

Melt chocolate candy coating in a double boiler (or a pot of water with a small bowl resting on the rim of the pot, which is what I did), and dip the peanut butter portions in the chocolate, coating thoroughly.  I used a pair of forks for this part, which worked both to coat the pieces and to easily lift them out of the hot melted chocolate.  Place the coated candies on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

Place the cookie sheet into the refrigerator to set - this takes all of 15 minutes at most.  Once chilled and solid, these can be stored in a container kept in the refrigerator.

If you're smart, that container will be opaque and labeled 'chicken guts' or they'll be gone before you've had time to do up the dishes.  The taste is perfect.  The texture is almost perfect (I think the peanut butter mixture would need to be pulled like taffy to get the exact texture of a commercial butterfinger - and I am not even going to get into that kind of craziness... this recipe is easy, and I'm keeping it that way)

My son in law declared it to be 'the bombdiggidy'.  I have to agree!

shared with Holiday Treat Hookup, Cooking Thursday, GCC Recipe SwapCrafty Friday, Family Friendly Fridays, Feature Yourself Friday, Finer Things Friday, Foodie Friday, Friday Favorites, Friday Potluck, Hodgepodge Friday, Weekend Wrap UpWeekend Wander, Check Me Out Saturday, Recipes of a Cheapskate Saturday Party, Craft O-Maniac Monday ,Motivate Me Monday, Mommy Made Monday, Pantry Recipe Swap, Lucky Linky Tuesday

Today's Intentions

Today's going to be (pleasurably) busy - my daughter and granddaughter are coming over for the day to hang out and do laundry.   Since they're here, I'm going to be making an early dinner/lunch timed to her husband's lunch hour (he works right up the road).  When he gets off at 6, there will be no time for supper, because we're all going up to the high school to watch my youngest perform in The Wizard of Oz (she's a Winkie!  and also head of stage crew).

My other plans for the day involve trying out a recipe for homemade Butterfingers (!!!) and finishing up the stitchery for eldest daughter's family ornaments.

I'll try to get pictures of the Butterfingers and stitching taken and posted (with the recipe for the first), if not today, then tomorrow.  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pumpkin Puff Pancakes with Choice of Syrups

Last night, we had a Breakfast Dinner (don't you love those?) that generated lots of delicious leftovers for Breakfast Breakfast today, some to freeze, and some more batter I'll be making up today.  I doubled the recipe I'm about to share, because once again, I forgot I no longer cook for a herd - not necessary unless you're really wanting a whole lot of pancakes. 

That said, these are good enough, that you just might!  I try to make this recipe sometime in the fall every year - I no longer know where I got the recipe, it's one I hand scribed into a blank recipe book back in the early 80s (that's what we did before computers, kiddos), so it may have come from a magazine, or a cookbook I checked out of the library.  And like an idiot, failed to note the source.  Also no pictures, because the lighting was irreparably wrong on the one I took.

I love pancakes but usually they feel so heavy to me that I can't eat very much - these are different.  The folded in egg whites give these lift and a creamy, melt in your mouth texture that make it hard not to have 'just one more'.

You can certainly enjoy these pumpkin pancakes without either of the syrups, but they are delicious and add an extra special touch - I love the cranberry syrup, Deanna preferred the orange syrup.  I say, have seconds so you can try both! 

Pumpkin Puff Pancakes
Makes approx. 16

2 c all-purpose flour
2 T. Sugar
1 t. Salt
4 t. Baking powder
1 t. Cinnamon
2 c. Milk
1/4 c butter, melted
1 c. Canned pumpkin
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
4 egg whites, beaten until stiff

Prepare your eggs - separate them, putting the yolks into a large bowl, and the whites into a separate mixing bowl.  Beat the whites until stiff.

In another large bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.

In the bowl with the yolks, add milk, pumpkin and melted butter and mix thoroughly.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened (don't overmix).  Fold in the egg whites.

To make the pancakes, use about 1/3 cup of batter and cook on a hot, greased griddle until bubbles start to form, then flip and cook about another minute.

Serve with choice of syrups, and enjoy!

Maple-Cranberry Syrup
Makes 1 3/4 cups

3/4 c. Packed brown sugar
3/4 c. Water
1/4 c maple pancake syrup
2 c cranberries
2 T. Butter

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, and syrup, stir to dissolve sugar.  Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add cranberries and cook until skins pop (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat and press through a sieve or food mill, discarding cranberry remains.  (I mashed mine through a mesh sieve) Serve warm.

Maple-Orange Syrup
Makes 1 3/4 cups

6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate
2/3 c. maple pancake syrup
1/3 c. Packed brown sugar
1/3 c. Water
2 T. Butter

Combine all in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm.

(shared with Made By You Monday, Tuesdays at the TableMake it Yours, Whatever Goes Wednesday, I Heart Cooking Club: Kid at Heart 



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Autumn Decor

Before the month gets away from, I thought I'd share a couple pictures of my Thanksgiving decor - by and large, there's just a subtle shift from Halloween to Thanksgiving.. a witchy item or two put away, a turkey and some fruit to signify abundance put up.

My year 'round tree is full of ornaments shaped like grapes, pears, acorns and apples, along with other signs of autumn... colored leaves, autumn flowers, a couple stags... I've not done so this year, but  last year, we used the tree as a place to hand little scrolls with messages of what we were thankful for.  In many ways this tree is my altar - it not only is meant to symbolize the turn of the year, but to bring meaning to each month.

 At the heart of the tree is a very special angel from Hawaii made out of some sort of plant pods.

My mother sent her to me twenty-five years ago and she is very fragile and brittle to the touch, but I try to find a place for her - for me, she is a symbol of my mom and my connection with the past.

One thing that annoys me about where I live now is that there is no room for my cornucopia - the mantel is too narrow and the only possible spot is my very small kitchen table, and that doesn't work because our cat insists of regarding anything left there as her personal toys.

Even so, I do have the mantel, and I really like the way it looks right now.  The broom is a hold over from Halloween.... Halloween 2009, that is - I liked it so much I just left it up.  It's a cinnamon broom from the grocery store that I wrapped with strips of cloth from a worn out beige plaid cloth napkin, and then hung a set of tin stars on it that spell out "Welcome" (I think I got those stars from Oriental Trading Company).

The mantel, like the tree, is covered in seasonal flowers and leaves and various odds and ends - autumn stitchery, fruits and vegetables, a couple corn dollies, a scarecrow and a turkey.

This trio makes me laugh, because there is such a range of source material for my decor.  This corn dolly came from Prickett's Fort a few miles up the road - they do a lot of historical recreations there, including craftspeople that work according to authentic Colonial techniques for such things as making soap, candles, apple butter and these homespun figures.  Out of sight of this picture is one I made.

The turkey was admittedly probably overpriced, but I fell in love with it - made of metal, it's all very springy and silly and makes me smile.

And the scarecrow.. cost $.99 at the dollar store a few years ago, but he looks very dashing up there in all the autumn finery.

(shared with All Thingz Related Thanksgiving Party)

Christmas Ornament Progress

Here's what I'm currently working on...

The LOVE ornament is a color variation of The Floss Box's Love 2010 freebie. The red is variagated floss, and I did some random stitches in pairs to give a vaguely brick effect, to more closely match my daughter's home, and added the year.  This one is for my daughter Tanya and her husband Bruce.

I wasted a couple days working on the first ornament for their children, didn't like it.... so added a bit more, liked it less.. tried to fix the embellishment and finally tossed it aside in disgust.

So my second idea is to create matching ornaments using the foral border from the first one, and adding the kid's names underneath - I'm working on the first one now, and I really like the way it looks.  There will be smaller motifs inside that I'll either pull from other graphs or design... still musing on that part, but I'm going to get all the frames done first... I'm really liking this idea much better.  I'll finish them all at the same time once the stitching is done.

(shared with Made By You MondayMad Skills Monday, Get Your Craft On, Lucky Linky Tuesday, and Take a Look Tuesday)

Stash to Stitch

Before I do another thing, I want to make sure to note this - over a week ago now, I received my package - a giveaway from Sharon's Cross Stitch Obsession with 3, count 'em, THREE Halloween projects.  Each of these have some sort of interesting technique I've not tried.... unique finishing, or touches of bead work to keep things exciting. The Pretty Wicked witch comes with a fun frame. "Count LeScarrot" comes with charms and frizzled green hair.  And the beaded "Trick or Treat" ornament is just so pretty I was tempted to do it now anyway - and might have if I didn't have so much Christmas stitching to do. I'm not likely to actually dive into any of these until late next summer - but I'm so excited to know that I'll have at least three fun new Halloween pretties next year - these are really adorable additions to my stash.   Thanks, again, Sharon!

Monday, November 8, 2010

What's Cookin' This Week - 11/7 - 11/13

I've got some catch up posting to do, but I did want to get this up at least.  I just got back from the dentist, and I'm either going to be all fixed up by Thursday... or it will need to be shoved back until next week. Which is discouraging, because I've got some public events planned for this coming weekend I may need to rethink.

In terms of menu planning, it means I'm still not sure whether or not I can eat normally - but I'm going to go ahead and plan as if that were the case, and rethink it later if it turns out otherwise.

Here's the plan:

Bread-and-Herb Stuffed Cabbage with Hard Boiled Eggs

this will be my dinner - I promised Deanna hot wings last night and something came up, so she didn't get them... so it's a Meatless Monday for me only - she'll be having her hot wings and french fries.  Just as well, I don't think she'd eat this.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Cranberry Sauce

Wednesday (FEND FOR SELF)
Cooks Day Off

Thursday (EASY)
Macaroni and Cheese
Hot Dogs


Sweet Sticky Spiced Chicken
Roasted Garlicky Sweet Potatoes

Saturday (FEND FOR SELF)

No one will be here for dinner, so everyone's on their own.

Black Bean Soup

(shared with Meal Plan Monday)

Friday, November 5, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude - Day 5

Today I'm grateful for Autumn.

For the last few years, I've been frustrated at the way the weather seems to go from hot, hot, hot to snow with barely any transitional weather at all in between.

But this year, there have been lots of days when I could throw open the doors and windows and let the moderately cool air in.  The leaves have been slow to turn, and in no great rush to entirely abandon their branches.  There have been rainy days in reasonable supply... and windy gusts in normal amounts.

It is now November, and the news announces the season's first chance of snow in the higher elevations... and sunny days in the 70s next week.

I love Autumn, and I'm so happy it is sticking around for awhile this year.

Frugal Liquid Soap

About a day after I'd done my grocery shopping for this two week period, I realized I was about to be out of liquid soap in the kitchen, and had just a bit in the bathroom.

That may sound like a small thing, but I'd already worked out my budget, so even the few dollars to buy more right now would have pinched.   I do have a stash of bar soap I hardly ever use... I really hate the way it goops up, hate how it feels as the bar starts to get old. 

But - that made this not a crisis, but an irritation.  It wasn't like we were doomed to a life without the ability to wash our hands.

I thought about it a bit, and realized that the quality I dislike (the way it melts into a gross mess when it gets wet) should allow me to turn it into liquid soap.  And hey... if it didn't work, I wasn't any worse off than I was.

I looked over my stash of bar soap... plenty of Ivory soap, and various mini facial soaps from hotels.  I had no idea how much I might need to fill my now-empty pump bottle of Soft Soap, but I guessed, and took one bar of Ivory, and 2 travel facial soaps.  I took out a mixing bowl, tossed the smaller bars into the bowl, and started to shave the bar of Ivory into the bowl with the small bars.

And then I got bored, and just dumped the rest of the bar of Ivory into the bowl without breaking it up. (don't do that unless you've got lots of time).  I added hot water to cover the soap, and left the bowl be for about a day, stirring and mashing with a whisk whenever I came into the kitchen.

After 24 hours, I had a large amount of creamy liquid soap with some large chunks from the bars still hanging out, so I got a strainer and poured the liquid through the strainer - the resulting soap feels like silk.  I used a rolled up silicon hot pad to create a funnel, and poured the strained soap into the bottle - about a cup of soap was left over, so back into the bowl with the soap chunks it went.

I covered the remaining chunks again with hot water to cover, and then put that into a leftover spaghetti sauce jar to finish melting - when I use up the soap in my dispenser, I'll use this to replace it, straining again if need be.  After three days, I can still see some Ivory floating at the top, and shake up the jar whenever it occurs to me.

This was a frugal SCORE - cost was nothing, it gets rid of soap bars that just take up space, recycles two containers that would otherwise be trash, and will allow me not to have to add soft soap to my budget for...well, forever.

Go me!

shared with Simple Lives Thursday Strut Your Stuff Thursday, Flaunt It Friday, Frugal Friday, Simply Designing Link Party, Frugalicious Friday, Friday Favorites, Check Me Out Saturday


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Christmas Stitching

This year I'm going to try to make Christmas ornaments for the family - this means a whole lot of stitching between now and Christmas... 15 ornaments unless I decide to make one for myself as well!

Before getting started with these, I wanted to make sure and get mine out for Ravenwood Whimzies ornament exchange - and look!  Mine went to Rene of Sew Many Raggedies and she's received it now.  (If I'd figured out who it was meant for, I'd have gone for a raggedy doll design, but hopefully the checkboard will fit into her great primitive decor.)

I don't think I've completely decided on what I'm stitching for each person, but here's the plan as it exists now:

Daughter Tanya and her husband:
Love 2010 from The Floss Box (in progress, with color changes)

Granddaughter Elizabeth: Deck the Halls (from Nov/Dec 2010 Cross Stitch Card Shop)
Granddaughter Emily: Jingle All the Way (from " )
Grandson Derek (First Christmas): Joy to the World (from ")

(these should be done by Thanksgiving - I'll be visiting them then)

Daughter Bethany and husband:
Quilted Star (completed) (from For the Love of Cross Stitch, Nov 2001)
Grandson Anthony - quilt motif
Granddaughter Anastacia - quilt motif... find something with bunnies
Grandson David - quilt motif
Grandson Charlie (First Christmas) - quilt motif
(not yet decided.  Need to have these complete by the end of the 1st week of December, to get them mailed)

Daughter Jackie and husband: (have complete week before Christmas)
Gingerbread House (from Nov/Dec 2010 Cross Stitch Card Shop) - add "Our New Home" to motif
Granddaughter Hailey (from Nov/Dec 2010 Cross Stitch Card Shop)

Daughter Deanna: (have complete by Christmas Eve)
Penguin with Tree Lights (from Nov/Dec 2010 Cross Stitch Card Shop)

 Now if I can just keep the flaring to a minimum so my hands work, this will be doable!

30 Days of Gratitude - Day 4

Short and sweet -

I am grateful I am no longer a teenager.

Oh sure, parts of that era were excellent - but for the most part, it was pure hell.  Periods of the sort of tedium that comes from not being free to live life on one's own terms mixed with insane levels of drama, intense spasms of uncertainty, periodic episodes of sadistic bullying, and ten tons of pressure to figure out what you're going to Do With Your Life who you're Going To Be, and What It All  Means.

With hormones.

I've earned every wrinkle and grey hair I have - and nearly all of them stem from parenting someone else through their own roller coaster ride called adolescence.  It's tough being a parent of a teen!  The only thing harder is being the teen.

30 Days of Gratitude - Day 3

(a little late)

My daughter Jackie and her daughter Hailey came over yesterday so that she could use my washing machine, so the day was spent having fun with Hailey, watching movies and happily letting Jackie fix dinner as an exchange for laundry room privileges.

It was a nice visit, but tiring - I am now thoroughly in the midst of a good arthritic flare, complete with bottoming out levels of exhaustion (so to be fair, the day would have been tiring with or without company).

But as far as gratitude goes...

I am grateful for opportunities to help.

There are some things I can't give - specifically regarding my daughter's family (who moved out about 2 1/2 months ago now)... I can't give my babysitting time to them, for a lot of reasons mostly having to do with it being very hard work for me and time spent doing that means I'm not doing anything else.  And my energy is my rarest and most valued commodity, since I have to live life between flares. (this is something that may not make any sense at all to anyone not experiencing it but that's ok) 

I actively seek ways to allow them to barter for the time, rather then exchanging money for it - but I have some pretty strong opinions on valuing those who are looking over your kids enough to pay for it, and if I'm budgeting and making choices to limit activities based on affordability..well... I did my time doing that with small children, and now it's their turn.   (There is a bit of tough love in play here - the transition from 'oh mom will take care of this' to full self sufficiency has been a bit slow going where they're concerned - free babysitting was my personal line in the sand and one I'm getting subtle pressure to erase... 'his mom will watch her free... except she's busy....')

But I do give where I can, of what I can.  Doing their laundry here while they save up for their own machines is something I can offer, and I'm glad to do so.  In an odd way I think my standing firm on my own boundaries - on the line that lets me enjoy giving instead of resenting being taken from - is also helpful, to them as well as to me.  She commented yesterday that she is actively trying to wean themselves from leaning too hard on me, because I'm leaving next summer, and that's a good outlook to have.

 That fine line between being helpful and keeping them overlong in the nest is a tough one for me - but I always know when I've hit the right balance, because (like yesterday), I can feel good about what I'm offering.  And I am finding that 'help' is more helpful when the other person has the opportunity to give back.

Dinner last night was nice - she brought over fixings to make croissant sandwich roll ups (ham or turkey slices and cheese, rolled up in a croissant and baked - yum!)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude - Day 2

This one is easy.

I am thankful for my right to vote.

The ability to transition government without violence or forceful suppression is a beautiful thing, and one that is not currently a universal right.   The ability to take part in that choice by voting - without coercion, without having to state what my vote is - is even rarer and as a woman, this right is one I wouldn't have had a hundred years ago.

While the right to vote exists in this country, there are those who will be experiencing intimidation as they go to exercise that right today... there will be people trying to discourage voting by targeting minorities or gays or other groups in neighborhoods unlikely to vote their way by selectively 'investigating' the validity of their registrations.   That isn't to say that I don't favor valid voters... it is saying that such efforts aren't about weeding out invalid voters.. it's about making so hard to vote that some won't bother.

And there's a good reason to be opposed to that - because any tactic a group is willing to use to win can and will be used to ensure they lose at some other point.

I'm very thankful that we can vote - and I stand by that right for those who will vote my way, vote in opposition to my way, vote in ways I love or hate - because beyond all the issues of the day, our ability to take part in the process should make each one of us stand a little stronger in our own understanding of our responsibilities to our community, our country, and our world.

(That said... I must 'fess up and say that I am also very grateful that this is the last day I'll have to hear 'rubber-stamp-for-Obama' in the DUMBEST series of campaign ads I've ever seen.)

HOO Are YOU? Nov 2


1. What is the most physically painful thing that has ever happened to you?
I live with chronic pain, so I have to specify here that there is a difference between chronic pain (which can be very intense but for me tends to feel 'muddy' and thick) and pain that springs up when something happens TO you.. so I'm going to talk about the second.  The most painful thing that has ever happened to me is when my artificial hip dislocated after a fall.  And that means it was more painful than the original break that eventually led to the replacement.  With a dislocation, this very large, hard object is in the wrong place, and any movement at all feels like a pair of giant vice grips trying to cut you in half.  And - here's the kicker - there is no wait to undislocate it without being lifted onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital while being bumped over every pothole in the known universe.  I can't even begin to describe the pain... I've forgotten the pain of childbirth, of having my hip shatter, of having my hand slammed into a car door when I was ten... but I can't even think about the day I dislocated without feeling shaky.  My biggest fear is falling and doing it again. shudder.

2. What would you name your next child or if you don't have any your first child?
I had four girl and like the names I picked for them... I'd have liked to have been able to use the name Rhiannon, but I think they're grateful I didn't.  As to boy's names, if I'd had one, he would have been Anthony Nathanial...  which is now the name of my first grandson, for that very reason.  Anthony was the name I would have had if I'd been a boy.

3. If you could add one feature to your car, what would you choose?
Having it run would be a good start.  Pretending it did... a navigation system would be nice.

4. If you named your house (or car or computer) what would you name it?
I sometimes call this house "Old Girl" - it is a red brick house that dates back to about the 1920s, with a few creaks and aches, including a cracked foundation that makes me glad I don't own it.  In spite of it's aging nature, she's got a good heart.  
I haven't named my car anything repeatable (heh), but my computer is named Juno (the one before that was Hera).

5. What is your dream occupation?
Dream occupation...as in money is no object, and market worries are not an issue, I'd like to have a gathering place... a coffee shop/book store/craft shop/pagan shop...  Somewhere where artistic and thoughtful types would be drawn to come together to share their inspirations with each other.  I'd like to provide the space for them to display their work, hold classes, meet up formally or otherwise.  What would be the name for that? A facilitator...with coffee.

Monday, November 1, 2010

30 Days of Gratitude - Day 1

This is a personal challenge I'm setting myself - though I expect there are others out there doing similar.  I want to note something every day that I am grateful for.

Today's actually a good time to begin this - I've had an arthritis flare coming on for the last couple days (yes! messing up my Samhaim/Halloween intentions) that has me tired and down, money is so past tight that it squeaks, and I'm just having an all round hard time staying motivated.   So deliberately committing to finding the good in every day is not only something I 'should' do - it's what may help me from sliding into an RA-induced depressive bit of apathy.

I am thankful for my family.

For Day One, I have to say I am so grateful for each one of my daughters, my sons in law, and my wonderful grandchildren.  The growing tribe composed of those in the generation that follows mine is now bigger than my entire family of my generation and that of my parent's era.

Each one of my daughters is growing into their own unique spirits, and as they are now nearly all adults, I breathe so much easier than I did when it was wall to wall teenagers.  They turned out fine.  They didn't 'ruin their lives'.  They are good and kind and thoughtful, and not a one of them is easily pushed around.

They absolutely do NOT agree with me about everything - and that is exactly what I want for them.. their own minds and hearts and the courage to live as the people they are.

I am grateful for my grandchildren who are happy and energetic and will provide me with a million smiles as they grow (and yes, more than a few giggles as their parents experience the 'mother's curse' of getting to parent kids just like them).

No matter what - good times or bad - my family reminds me that life is very, very good.

What's Cookin' This Week - 11/1 - 11/6

After two trips to the dentist, it's going to be another week and a half (at least - if nothing goes wrong) before I can eat normally again, and I really need to make some adjustments to what I'm doing, because I feel weary, very run down and I know I'm not getting enough calories.  I'm hungry, but with no real appetite for anything I can eat (but oh, the longing I have for everything I can't!)

It's also some bad parenting to have Deanna fending for herself because I'm just not cooking much.  She's got drama rehearsals all week, and coming home to grab something fast isn't really doing much for her well-being either.

So here's a stab at a bit more of a real menu... I chose things that seemed appealing, and that could be mashed or pureed without forcing Deanna to eat the way I need to.  It's not perfect, but hopefully it will be better than I've done last week.

Adding to the challenge, I have to pretty much entirely confine this week to what's in the house - after paying the blls that come due over this next couple of weeks, I'm down to vapor financial. It's a good news/bad news thing - I'd stocked my larders well before my dental mishap happened, but unfortunately, most of it is not anything I can eat right now.

Ah well, it's the challenges that keep life interesting, right?

Here is the plan:

Monday - Meatless
Mark Bittman's Winter Squash Curry (use acorn squash, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower)

(we had vegetable curry, but I couldn't use this recipe as I was lacking coconut milk - so instead I used a Golden Curry brick.  Deanna loves that stuff, so she was happy that I wasn't about to mess with her beloved curry.  I'll try Bittman's version another time.  I'm happy too, right now - it felt like a meal even without rice or flatbread.)

Chorizo, Egg and Potato Hash with Cheese

Wednesday - Cook's Night Off
fend for selves

Lentil Soup (from freezer)

Friday - Slow Cooker
Slow Cooker Enchiladas

Saturday - Leftovers

Sunday - Soup and Sandwich
Tomato Soup
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Also have on hand:

Fresh fruit (to eat out of hand for Deanna, for smoothies for me)
Salad bar fixings in fridge for Deanna
Grits and cheese
Cream of wheat
Canned soups
Cottage Cheese

(find more menu plans at Menu Plan Monday)