Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Crock-pot Comes Through Again

Today was a busy day for me, and on busy days I often pull out my old reliable friend...the crock-pot. I have tried many different uses and recipes to be used with my crock-pot, but the one I used today, was a first for me. I had some potatoes that I needed to use. About 12 medium sized potatoes. I was in the mood for mashed potatoes, which remains one of my favorite ways to eat potatoes. I wondered what would happen if I peeled them, cut them in chunks, put them in my Pam sprayed crock-pot, added 2 cups of water, a pad of butter, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Would they be tender enough to mash by late afternoon.? Never hurts to try. Quite honestly, my crock-pot rarely disappoints me in how it prepares my food. Today was no exception. I put it on "High" for 5 hours, and when the time was up...

...the chunks were so tender. I drained the water, whipped the potatoes the way I always do. I am sure you all have your special way of doing that. For me, I add 3/4 cup of hot milk, 2 tsp. soft butter, 1 tsp. garlic powder, a pinch of salt and pepper, whipping with my hand held electric mixer until very smooth. They were so white and fluffy, just as I like them. At this point, I resprayed the crock-pot and put the whipped potatoes back in it, turned it to low, and just let it set until the dinner hour. My friend taught me a few years ago, that the crock-pot on low, is a good way to keep mashed potatoes hot and moist until you are ready to eat them, since I do not like last minute food preparations at my dinners.

So you can see how nicely this whole process worked, creating very little work and prep time for a delicious portion of mashed potatoes. The black specks on the potatoes on this picture are from the black pepper I sprinkled on them. This did make a large portion, so I will use the remaining mashed potatoes to make a potato recipe to give to my daughter and her husband. Her twins are due soon and cooking just seems easier for me than for her, right now.

My dinner centerpiece...the last of the brilliantly colored zinnias from her flower garden. For some reason, zinnias always make me smile. Another reason to smile, is that I now know that my crock-pot will be used often for all of the steps in creating delicious, fluffy mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Packaging Ideas

Yesterday I had a few extra minutes to visit the Dollar Tree close to my home. In the gift bag section, I discovered these adorable gift bag purses. Since they were only 1.oo each, I bought three of them in different designs. I also purchased one pack of multi colored foil paper. I liked the chains on each one. On the ones accented in silver I added the silver foil, and the one with the gold chain, I added the gold foil.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to ways of using these purses, although I pictured them filled with a plactic bag of homemade cookies, muffins or even a small loaf of homemade bread and a box of tea bags. It would have to be on the lighter side with the weight of the contents, but I think it would make an attractive presentation for any gift.

I liked the tapestry design on this one. Simple, inexpensive, and yet, an extraordinary way to share a small gift with someone you care about.

I also wanted to share this clear rubbermaid container with the black plastic lid that I purchased at Walmart. I took the sunflower tea towel from K-Mart and wrapped the folded tea towel around the container, tied with a cordinating ribbon tied with a faux sunflower. I purchased a bunch of faux sunflowers at the Dollar Tree, cut one from the bunch, added a sprig of ivy, and it was finished. Another way to give a gift from your kitchen...cookies, candy, mini muffins, or whatever. Simply dressing up the rubbermaid.

I must tell you that I am so excited about the new line that the KMart stores are now carrying. It is a line of housewares by "Country Living". I was very impressed yesterday when I stopped into the store. Of course, I have always liked "Country Living" magazine, so the idea of them designing dishes, glassware, bedding and other items interested me. It is very beautifully done. I only purchased this small glass cannister with the tight fitting red lid from this line. I needed a coffee gift for someone, so I filled it with coffee, took a coffee tea towel from Walmart, wrapped the folded tea towel around the coffee jar, stretched a thick rubber band around it to hold it, tied a red ribbon around it, added a small coffee scoop, and a tag. Another simple, fun gift to give to a "coffee lover friend".
I share these ideas with you, only because I enjoy when others share ideas with me. I have learned many new ideas from all of you in blogland, and I think that is one of my favorite aspects of blogging.

Monday, September 28, 2009

An Apple A Day

My mother reads this Country Magazine, and then gives it to me. I found this "Apple Oatmeal Cookie Recipe" in the latest issue that she gave to me. Since I had an abundance of apples, I decided to make them. Now, even though I am not a big fan of cookies, my husband really enjoys having one in the evening, with a cold glass of milk. He rated these high on his taste scale, so I thought I would share the recipe with all of you.

Last year, on one of my fun visits to the Marshall's Homegoods Store, I bought some apple plates on the clearance shelf. Little things excite me, like having an apple plate for my apple cookies...imagine that.

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup finely chopped peeled apple
1/2 cup raisins(optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts(optional)
In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir in the applesauce, apple, raisins and walnuts. Drop by heaping teaspoonsful 2 in. apart ont baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 - 14 mins. or until golden brown. Let stand 2 mins. before removing to wire racks to cool.
Yields may vary according to the size of the cookie.

Easy recipe...good taste!

"Fresh apples are rich in immune boosting vitamin C, while the juice can help fight heart disease."
"Have an apple a keep the doctor away. Research really seems to back this old saying."
Picture and info from a past issue of Country Living, British Edition.

For many years, my mother made these sauteed apples to serve with her amazing breakfasts. She knew how to cook and produce mouthwatering breakfast creations, that she served on many special occasions. I can't begin to count the times throughout the years, that my parents would host overnight guests, and my mother would serve them one of her delicious breakfasts. No wonder they would keep coming back. I remember my dad remarking about these apples, everytime she would serve them.


"Old-Fashioned Spiced Apples"

6 tart apples, cored peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 t. cinnamon

1/4 cup butter

(my mother added a drizzle of maple syrup to the apples at this point)

Toss apples with brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add apples. Cover and cook until tender, 15 - 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve warm. Makes 6 servings.

I also remember her serving these over vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Early Morning Excursion

Early this morning we left our house,and were greeted with an amazing sunrise. Like often the case, it is impossible to capture nature's real beauty.

With my brother and sister-in-law we paid a visit to see some friends on a farm. The hour and a half drive was so enjoyable, through the mountains, by the streams, and to the farm to see their friends. This little kitten was one of the first to greet us.

We hiked some trails...

We visited some neighbors and friends...

We talked to the cows...

We enjoyed seeing the last of the Summer's beautiful flowers...

We paused by the mountain streams...

We stood at the top of the rolling hill and were captivated by the scenery...

We stood still as we watched the deer on the field right beside us...

Only an hour and a half away from home, but a totally different lifestyle then we are used to. We were all thankful for the refreshing break in the daily routine of life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Not My Mother's Beef Stew

This time of the year, when the days start to turn cooler, and the leaves start to turn their many colors, often reminds me of the time of year when my mother would make her special recipe of "Beef Stew." The one where she would actually stew the boneless chuck roasts of beef until it was fork tender, then add the vegtables and her many" chosen" ingredients. She still does this once in a while and freezes containers of soup to give as gifts. I have never been able to duplicate her "recipe"...probably because she does not use a recipe. You all know her type...that adds a little of this and a little of you can never really figure out how to do it yourself. She is a very good cook though, so as long as I can figure out ways to be a recipient of her containers of soup, I am happy. But, as for me, my time is so limited right now, that I am content with some of my own concoctions, that taste good and do not take much time to cook. Since I do know a few of her secret ingredients to the beef stew, my version does taste somewhat similar to hers. So...if you are pressed for time, or if you just don't feel like taking the time to make beef stew the "wonderful" way, you can try this way. My husband and my daughter both asked me to share this version, because they like it.

You take a pot, add all the above ingredients, plus 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, pinch of salt, and pepper. Stir it all together, cook until starts to bubble, and then turn to low and simmer so the flavors blend, for 15 to 20 minutes. Now it is ready to serve. The V-8 juice and brown sugar are two of the ingredients she uses for her soup.

To compliment this soup, here is another one of our favorites..."mini cheese biscuits." These ingredients can be put together early in the day, scooped into greased muffin tins, topped with extra shredded cheese, covered and put into the refrigerator until time to bake right before serving. These biscuits are best served warm from the oven.

Recipe is from the "Fast Fixes With Mixes, Taste of Home Cookbook." The recipe was shared by Chris Rentmeister.
2 cups of biscuit/baking mix
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded parmesean(I add this)
2 cloves of minced garlic(I use 1 teaspoon of garlic powder)
2/3 cup of milk
2 Tablespoons melted butter

In a bowl, combine biscuit mix, cheese and garlic. With a fork, stir in milk just until moistened. Use a sprayed ice cream scoop to put in muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Enjoy!!!

Using this recipe will give you some extra time to spend outdoors in this beautiful time of the year.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Pumpkin Farm

On a beautiful, cool Saturday morning, we paid a visit to the local pumpkin farm. As always, the children were excited and ready for adventure, although they had no idea what a "pumpkin farm" was all about. This colorful display greeted us at the entrance.

As we walked through the greenhouse leading to the pumpkins, one wonders what was going through their little minds as they anticipated what was ahead for them.

Can you believe it? " Five little monkeys" on a bed. The story their mother has been reading to them, and here were the monkeys and their mother. When the twins are born, this mother will have five little ones. Do you think there will be any times that she thinks of her children as the "five little monkeys"?

This must be one of the monkeys that fell off the bed. He looks quite sad.

The "three little kittens" was another display. Beside it was a small wash line filled with mittens. On this pumpkin farm was a playground, a wooden train to sit in, a hay area to jump in, and lots more nursery rhyme pumpkin displays. Even though we discovered that it does not officially open until October, the children seemed thrilled to spend the morning down on the farm.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Birthday Celebration on the Porch

Recently I was invited to a special birthday luncheon on my sister's porch. This luncheon was to celebrate a special friend's birthday, who also happens to be our aunt. I looked forward to the luncheon, as I do every opportunity to be in my sister's home. Her porch has been one of my favorite places to visit, with it's relaxing and inviting decor.

The color combinations that she used were so festive, and the flowers added a lovely touch.

She purchased a bouquet of flowers at Costco, and her daughter artistically arranged them in separate containers down the center of her table. What a creatively done way to divide a bouquet into many bouquets, using a cluster of her clear and royal blue small vases.

Small bags of her special chocolate clusters were the favors and placecards combined. Everyone was happy to be able to take this package along home. Her colorful china she used seem to fit her personality perfectly.

I thought about a quote I had remember reading, that said "To invite a person into your house is to take charge of his happiness for as long as he is under your roof." ~(Brillat-Savarin). What a privilege it is to be invited into anyone's home, whether for a meal, or a cup of coffee, or just to sit and talk together on comfy chairs. My sister certainly posesses the gift of hospitality. I am sure my aunt and her family and good friends would agree, that we had a good time together.

Wishing this beautiful lady many more years of adding joy to people's lives, as she does so gracefully, in her quiet, sincere and creative way.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Adding A Fall Touch

Last October we had a church retreat one Friday and Saturday. I volunteered to do the centerpieces for the tables, wanting to add a Fall festive feel to each of the round tables in the banquet room where the retreat was being held. Since it was an extra, the budget was limited. What could I do to create a Fall look and add ambience to this room?

I paid a visit to the local Salvation Army store and the Goodwill store, where I found all of these glass containers for one or two dollars. I brought them home and soaked all of them in a sink of very warm water and some" Efferdent Plus" denture cleaning tablets. I had read before that, this these tablets were great to use for getting glass to sparkle. It really does work. Try it and see what you think. I picked up a few bunches of faux Fall flowers and used the orange berries that I had on had, then wired them in clusters.

I put one small cluster onto the stem of each container, then tied it tight with Fall colored sheer ribbon. If needed I added a dab of hot glue to keep it from slipping. The small pillar candles were on a clearance shelf at my local Kmart store. With the lights in the banquet room dimmed, the candlelight added a nice touch.

With the vast amount of creativity flowing through the blogworld, I know I could pick up lots of ideas for this type of event. But, just incase you ever need to help out with centerpieces for an informal event...try finding glass containers at your local thrift shop. It is amazing how inexpensively one can add a touch of beauty to tables. We gave the centerpieces away at each table. The Fall colored napkins added color to the tables, with one under each centerpiece and one at each place setting.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Happy Saturday Afternoon

A happy Saturday afternoon for the grandpa and his little side kick. Someone to help him clean the bike. After the joy of fathering three daughters in his lifetime...this is a whole new thrilling experience.

This little guy could not have been happier. In fact, he did not want to remove the hat or the gloves.

I picked up a little book recently titled "Everything I Learned From My Grandpa" by Jack Sorenson. Each painting in it is done by Jack. It is a beautifully done book. In it I saw this quote that seems to fit perfectly this Saturday afternoon happening..."The greatest gift we can give one another is rapt attention to one another's existence." ~Sue Aichley Ebaugh. That is what these two gave to each other in the afternoon hours.

A smile for your Monday.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Heart Treasures

"A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away." ~Arabian proverb
Thanking God today for treasured friendships.
~heart photo compliments of my uncle.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Summer's Last Saturday

Thought for the day..."Disregarding another person's faults preserves love; tellling about them separates close friends." Prov. 17:9

Something that I read this morning that I consider a good reminder to me, and for sure I do need reminders in this life.
Clay figurines from my daughter's small collection, by Coyne's and Company. Love the detail and the personality that is involved in each one.
Hopefully, you will enjoy your last Saturday of the summer!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Surprise Unexpected Blessings

Two adorable little girls, many years ago. Cousins and great friends throughout their lives...

...growing up they spent hours together at family events and vacations. As time continued, they both got married, and the youngest one of them, the blond, had twin daughters almost one year ago.

Two weeks ago this picture was taken of her and her one twin daughter...

...while across the table sat this one on her grandma's lap. I was disappointed that I did not have a recent one of her holding both twins. That does not seem to happen often because everyone of us is anxious for our chance to hold one of them. Two precious twin daughters from this cousin, while...

...her older cousin is counting down the days until her twins are born almost one year later. What a surprise this is to all the rest of the extended family, that these two would both be mothers to twins. Now, we will continue to wait... Yes, the two on her lap are hers also. Even busier days ahead.


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