Monday, November 29, 2010

My Favorite Things

This week I am participating in the My Favorite Things Challenge over at The High-Heeled Housewife. Here is this week's challenge : "This week, instead of dreading your household chores, focus on your favorite chore. Enjoy doing it!"

I have to say, this one is a no brainer for me. Those of you who have read here a while can probably guess what it is. I **love** to cook for my family! I enjoy the whole process. From planning recipes I want to try to making my list and shopping for ingredients as frugally as I can to the actual cooking process and serving it up to my loved ones.

(This is from our latest trip to Sam's. We try to purchase as much as we can in bulk.)

I enjoy cooking all types of food. During some tight financial times, I have even been known to make our dog's food homemade!

I cook not only for my family, but extend my skills to feeding large crowds at my church and preparing food for wedding and baby showers and funerals. Every year at Christmas, I make a huge homemade Christmas goodie spread for my husband to take to work. Some years I have made individual baskets for each person at his work. Other years, I make several platters full of goodies that can then be placed in a break room for everyone to munch on.

During this time of year, more goodies and treats are made than at any other time. My children enjoy that (of course!) but I also enjoy passing down "food traditions" to them. Special recipes reserved for just the months of October through December. As a mom, I am in the business of making memories for my family and this is one way I do it. :-)

I also try to make Sunday dinners special. We pull out special dishes, cover the tablecloth with lace, and make a proper meal out of the whole experience.
These are memories my mother gave me and now I try to pass it along to the next generation.
Now, let me share a recipe with you that is going to be made in my home today.
Creamy Hot Cocoa
1/3 C. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 C. (or a little less) sugar

1 pinch of salt

1/3 C. boiling water

3 1/2 C. milk

3/4 tsp. vanilla

1/2 C. half and half cream

Combine cocoa, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Blend in boiling water. Bring to an easy boil while stirring. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes ~ don't let it scorch! Stir in milk and heat until very hot but do not boil. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Divide between 4 mugs. Add the creamer to the mugs to cool it down to drinking temperature.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A very full Thanksgiving day

Good evening everyone. I hope everyone had a wonderful day and I hope it was filled with the blessings of family and friends. For myself, I tried to do as much prep work as I could yesterday but I still had quite a bit to do today. We were taking all of our food over to my friend's home where several others would be. Once we got there and got all the food set out, the host asked us all to sit down. Then each of their three teenage children recited a Thanksgiving poem. After that, the father read a short history of the Thanksgiving Day tradition and then went straight into prayer.
We had a wonderful meal (we all ate too much) and everyone came away very satisfied. We packed up all of our dishes and leftovers and came back home. Then my husband helped me finish the dishes and clean the kitchen (wonderful!) Now all is quiet, everyone is tired, and we are going to relax.
Goodnight all ~ may God bless you as you attend to the quiet pleasures of your household.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I love this time of year!

Hello my sweet readers!
I'm here today to simply chat and gush a little bit. :-) Nothing in particular going on ~ and quite frankly ~ more than my share of challenges these days with my daughter's health. However, I am determined and am working to renew myself in such a way that I do not let it get me down and am upping my efforts to make sweet memories in my home and tie heart strings to the little things.
Now, please don't anyone throw tomatoes at me because I am going to talk a little bit about Christmas. I can assure you, that I am *not* forgetting Thanksgiving! I have always been a proponent of not doing anything for the Christmas holiday until after Thanksgiving dinner. ;-) However, a couple of years ago I decided to divert from that a little bit. The reason being a completely practical one. It is not the easiest thing for me to do all the climbing up and down the attic ladder to retrieve all the decorations, etc. And since it is so much work, I decided I would like to reap the benefits of it for more than one month. :-) So Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations share the space, but Thanksgiving most definitely gets it's due respect.
Now that that is out of the way ~ we are listening to Christmas music! Yes, it's true! We have certain channels on our tv that play only music 24/7. I don't watch much tv at all, but I love these music channels. During this time of year they dedicate several of them to different types of Christmas music. Right now we are listening to "Holiday Traditions" and it is all very old fashioned and reminds me of my childhood. My parents were older when they had me and they were both born in the 1930's. So my childhood home was always filled with music from the 1930's - 1950's. There was always a radio playing soft background music 24 hours a day during my entire childhood. It's a sweet memory. So, especially at this time of year, I try to make sure some of these classic tunes fill my home so I can pass it along to my children.
I have found something soooooo sweet and fun! I am going to order it this week. Remember a couple of posts back when I spoke about Victoria magazine? Well, one of my favorite things to do is to take a magazine like that and really take some time picking out the small details and/or advertisements that may be easily overlooked if one were just flipping through it. So, while I was perusing my magazine, I found this: (click on it for link)
Just scroll down past the "Pride and Prejudice" board game (Emily ~ this made me think of you!!) and you will find the Christmas Carol game. How precious is that?!? I must admit I am rather excited and have visions of evenings spent watching the movie and then making hot chocolate and sitting around the kitchen table playing this game. I can't wait to get it!
Now, I have a few plans for some King Arthur products as well. They have precious gingerbread house kits. They also have some decorations for the "candy houses" I know I couldn't find anywhere else. Here are the ones I have my eyes on: (click on them for link)
The rest of our decorations I know I can get at the local market ~ candy canes, old fashioned ribbon candy, the possibilities are endless! (See, I informed you at the beginning of this post I would gush, lol.)
Now, let me tell you why I call them "candy houses" instead of the traditional term "gingerbread houses." When I was growing up we made what we called a candy house every year for Christmas. My father would make the structure and sometimes he would even make it look like our house! Then my mom would slather the whole entire thing in frosting and I would go to town covering the whole affair in every kind of candy you can imagine. It was allowed to stay intact until Christmas Eve and then everyone would grab a butter knife to start prying candy off and over the next few days it would be slowly devoured. I can't wait to do this with my own children this year.
Well, I must go for now. But please do try to remember to take some time to slow and and really savor the moments of your life. I know all too well exactly how easy it is to get into "survival mode" and before you know it you are spending your every waking moment taking care of "business" and the small beautiful things of life get pushed away. We really shouldn't allow it to be that way! Wonderful memories and a sweet life are made up of the small and beautiful things! May God bless you as you attend to the quiet pleasures of your home!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A recipe to share ~~

Vanilla Caramels
(I make these during the holiday season to use in recipes instead of buying those hard little caramels sold this time of year.)

2 C. sugar
2 C. half and half
1 3/4 C. light syrup
1/2 C. butter
pinch salt
2 Tlbs. vanilla

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Combine first 5 ingredients in a *large* saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and starts to boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until candy thermometer reads 244*. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Immediately pour into prepared pan. Allow to sit at room temperature for one hour until firm. Chill for 1 hour. Cut with an oiled chef's knife into small squares.

*I don't have a candy thermometer so I just do the "soft ball" candy test and it works out for me every time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

An exceptionally busy day

It is 11:15pm and I am just now stopping with all of my chores for the day done. It has not been a day full of extraordinary things, but a day extraordinarily full of the dailies that must be attended to. I knew when this day started that it would be a very full one ~ but in a good way. I was right. :-)

First thing this morning...I overslept. My eyes popped open at 7:45, I realized the time and the first words out of my mouth were, "Oh my poor chickens." Lol. They are used to being let out of the coop around 5:00 or 6:30 at the very latest. I quickly went outside and opened their door. They were not very happy. In addition to them, I was given a very small and extremely odd looking chicken by a neighbor last night. I had her under a heat lamp apart from the others (who look like giants compared to her) so I had to see that she was alright.

I came inside and did a few things online and it did not take long for my family to start to stir. Now here we must side track a bit for me to tell you that my daughter was started on a new medication last week to help with her insomnia. Last night was the first night in *weeks* that she was able to sleep all night and then get up at a normal hour in the morning! I was so happy! I knew we would be able to get a full day's worth of schooling for her ~ that is not always possible for her so simply sleeping and waking like everyone else is such an incredible blessing! ~~And~~ she was sleepy and in bed by 10:25 tonight! I know gushing over this may seem odd to some or you may think we should just force her to bed but if you have never dealt with true insomnia before please don't judge because it is as real a medical condition as diabetes or migraines. I actually have it myself so I understand what it is like.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, my day...

I received several phone calls and finally at one point I just had to say that I would not answer the phone anymore! Have you ever had a day like that? When it seems people are calling you all day one after the other? I knew I couldn't stop our schooling progress, so I just let that phone ring.

Other than schooling, my day was very full with cooking and keeping the kitchen tidy. My husband and I went out and ran some errands together this evening. I finished cleaning the kitchen from supper, tidied up my wash room a bit, and ironed my husband's clothes for tomorrow. And now I rest!

While we were out this evening I purchased a Victoria magazine and I am enjoying it so much. As a matter of fact, after I'm done blogging I'm going to look up some of the places in the magazine. I'm so glad they brought this magazine back! Alright my friends ~ it is time for me to go. May God bless you as you attend to the quiet pleasures of your home!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Cookery

It is that time of year where most homemakers are turning their minds towards their holiday tables. My mother gifted me with a love of cooking and making special meals. I enjoy it at any time of year, but I have to say that it excites me most during the months of November and December.
Let me tell you a little bit about our Thanksgiving meals. On Thanksgiving day, we venture out of our house and spend the day with another family. Since my husband and I do not have any other family, it is nice to be able to spend the day with friends. She and I split the menu with each of us providing both meat and our "specialties." This year, a third family will be joining in so we will split the menu three ways. :-)
For this get-together I usually provide:
* Turkey (of course) :-)
* Enough dressing for the whole crowd. I make it from scratch using cornbread. It's one of my favorite things to make.
* Cracker Barrell hashbrown casserole
* Cranberry Sauce (jelly style, our hostess provides the whole berry kind)
* Little Smoky cocktail sausages in jelly sauce ~ from what I gather this a Southern/Regional dish
* A large, homemade cheese cake that I prepare in a 13x9 pan.
I will usually take about two or three other items that change from year to year. Perhaps an appetizer or something chocolate...just whatever seems like a good idea at the time. This year I'm thinking about making some Red Lobster garlic cheddar biscuits and a rustic apple tart.
We spend Thanksgiving Day with our friends, but I still like to make sure my family has a special holiday meal at our home as well. That is important to me. So, usually about one week before Thanksgiving my husband and I will look at the calendar and pick the day that our family meal will be. It's best for us to schedule it because I like to have it all planned out and he is busy hunting during this time.
Once we have the day settled upon, I start making up my menu. I try to make the foods special but not the traditional Thanksgiving fare since we will be having that the very next week. Last year I made a gourmet recipe for butterflied Cornish Hens. My husband and I *love* Cornish Hens and usually try to fix them only on special occasions so they don't lose their appeal. That was the first time I ever "butterflied" a whole bird, so it was nice to learn a new skill. :-) I'm not sure what I will make this year. I need to go through my recipes and find something new and exciting.
I'm also thinking about my table setting. Our cottage is small which means that our furniture is small to accommodate the available space. Our kitchen table seats four comfortably but because it only seats four, there is not a lot of excess space for elaborate table settings that pull out all the stops. I am thinking I can keep it simple while still making it festive. I have a special tablecloth (handed down from my mother) with turkeys and cornucopias on it. Dishes will be white plates with a gold rim and smaller (dessert size) plates placed on them that have a beautiful, old fashioned Thanksgiving print on them. I want to use a pumpkin in the middle of the table as a centerpiece and perhaps a tiny gourd-type of pumpkin in each plate. If I'm feeling especially industrious I may make little name tags to tie onto each one. Our glasses will be brown carnival glasses. Perhaps some Fall leaves tucked in here and there. Of course, a majority of that will have to be removed from the table once it is time to sit down to eat, but it is the mood that it sets that is the point.
So, all in all, I am looking forward to my holiday cooking! I hope that everyone else is enjoying this season as well. Blessings ~**~**~**~**~