Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Love Songs to Melt your Butter

Everyone has a love song that makes their toes curl.

Actually, I have a few:

Amazed by Lonestar

I Will Be Here by Steven Curtis Chapman

I Don't Want To Live Without Your Love by Chicago

OK, OK, my itunes playlist for favorite love songs is 72 songs long, starting at Unchained Melody and ending with Marvin Gaye.

So what's the deal with love songs?
The lyrics to Chicago's "I Don't Want to Live Without Your Love" explode with the feelings I had when I became starkly aware of my walk without God:
Thought it wouldn't matter
If we didn't stay together
And if it was over,
Baby, it was for the better
I was thinking I'd be all right
'Til I thought it all through
Now I know that I ain't really living
If I have to live without you
I don't wanna live without your love
I don't wanna face the night alone
I could never make it through my life
If I had to make it on my own
I don't wanna love nobody else
I don't wanna find somebody new
I don't wanna live without your love
I just wanna live my life with you
Guess I had to go away
So much I had to go through
Guess I had to lose you
To realize how much I love you
Can we make the fires burn again?
Burn a little stronger
'Cause I've been alone, and baby I can't be alone any longer

I challenge you...google the lyrics to some of your favorite love songs. Yes, they do bring up warm feelings of your husband, first kiss, etc.

But really READ them.

There is almost always a deep longing, an ache for unconditional love.

If you know my story, you are also aware of the crazy paths I took, the promises made, covenants crushed. At the end of the day (not the end of the story), I ran back to the arms of my Heavenly Father.

What are you longing for?

Who are you running to? Who are you running from?

Who are you living for?

Recently, my friend Jeanine forwarded a song to our Bible study. It paints a sweet picture of the greatest love story ever...and I am the Beloved to whom the song is referring. Yes, me!

Best part is that you can claim that for yourself. You! It's His love song for you, for me.

Here it is.

Enjoy, Beloved.

One of my favorite websites is raisinghomemakers.com. They sometimes run great giveaways, but (in my opinion) today's was exceptionally good!

Check out the link & sign yourself up- you may score the "prize"!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blessed by Friends

Our friend, DS, came over today to bless us with his handiwork. My husband & I agree that DS is a master perfectionist with drywall....our basement is coming together! I almost cried when I stepped downstairs tonight. We haven't had official walls up for 2 years (since the flooding).

After a great dinner out with great friends, we are relaxing at home. Tomorrow's dinner is in the crockpot & I am getting ready to cut a pattern for some pajamas for C. Tomorrow morning I need to be at O'Hare to pick up Tman-yay!! We have missed him so much.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Our Menu

We are stuffed.
That's all I have to say about that.
Here is the run down of our menu:

Roast Turkey
Pernil (Puerto Rican pork dish)
Puerto Rican rice
Savory stuffing
Stuffing with apples
Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Cranberry Relish
Sweet Potato Casserole
Corn Souffle
Green Salad with Apples, Nuts & Poppyseed Dressing
Crescent Rolls
Baked Yams

German Chocolate Cake
Red Velvet Cake
Pumpkin Pie
Mint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake
Berry & Cream Trifle
Cherry Salad
Caramel Pecan Pie
Mexican Sweet Rolls

What a spread!

One of the best parts of the evening was when Tom said the blessing. It was wonderful to be surrounded by family & friends who love the Lord and recognize that He is our Saviour & Provider.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Brine the Bird

Following is an easy recipe for brining your Thanksgiving turkey. The salt solution effectively breaks down the proteins, resulting in tender, moist meat. Science aside, a brined turkey is amazingly delicious.
Here is the recipe I used for my (almost) 22 lb. bird, with photos:
2-32oz. catons vegetable or chicken stock
1.5 gallons cold water
1 can apple juice concentrate
2 cups sea salt
coarse ground pepper
2 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp. savory (optional)
In very large stockpot, combine salt, juice concentrate and 4 cups water. Bring to boil & cook until salt is dissloved. Add rest of ingredients and let cool to room temperature.
Now comes the (sometimes) messy part. I would recommend clearing everything out of your sink. Use a food grade plastic bag, like the Reynold's turkey bag here. Place bag in a container that is sufficient to hold your turkey. (I used a large plastic dish tub; sometimes a canning pot works well). Rinse your thawed turkey and remove everything from cavity. Place turkey, breast side down into your plastic bag. Slowly pour cooled brine over turkey.

You want to be sure that the entire turkey is sumerged in the brine. Tightly tie your bag closed. I then placed the white plastic tub in the garage so the brine could work its magic overnight!

Make SURE that you have no holes in your bag. Yours truly did not do that & I am sparing everyone from the pictures of that mess.

My 22 lb turkey will cook in about 2 hours. After rinsing the bird, I will give him a massage with a bit of butter and place him in a roasting bag and my big roaster. The brine greatly reduces cooking time, so watch your bird. In addition, rinse carefully before cooking so that your drippings will not be salty.

Here is the carmel-pecan pie I made while the brine was cooling. My pumpkin pie is cooking now. It is very chilly out today, but it's toasty in the kitchen & our home smells like Thanksgiving!

Caramel Pecan Pie recipe link from Southern Living. (I did sub dark brown sugar for white).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Two Favorite Sweet Recipes

With good reason, Clone of a Cinnabon is one of the most popular recipes on allrecipes.com. I have halved the recipe with excellent results. They are sooooooo yummy. When we had a crew in our basement digging a sump pump, I made a batch. The guys practically inhaled them and pronounced them the best ever. This recipe is foolproof and I always have consistent results.
They would make a wonderful breakfast surprise for Thanksgiving guests.
Here is the link:

Following is my sugar cookie recipe that many request from me. I am always happy to pass it along as I think it makes the most delicious sugar cookies that hold their shape.

Susan's Sugar Cookies
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 generous tsp. vanilla
6 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well. Add dry ingredients slowly, mixing until dough forms ball. Do not over beat. Separate into 3 disks and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Let chill in fridge for about an hour. You want firm dough, but not rock hard.
Flour work surface and roll out dough. Cut with cutters and place shapes on parchment lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in fridge about 15 minutes. (Chilled, cut shapes will hold their shape much better than room temp. dough).

Bake about 10 minutes in 325 oven.

Frost with royal icing (if desired) and let dry about 6-8 hours. Enjoy!

Right now I am waiting on a cookie order to bake. I have 6 trays chilled that I am baking in shifts. A repeat order of Irish dancing shoe cookies. My head is throbbing and the boys are sleeping on the couch (snoring, actually) and I will admit that I am a wee bit jealous.

However, I was excited when I discovered that I could download the Beatles on itunes. I am listening to my 2 favorite old school Beatles songs: If I Fell and And I Love Her. My parents can verify that I loved listening to my dad's old Beatles vinyl when I was growing up. Wish I could scan in a picture of my old royal blue record player...good memories.
Happy Sunday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Countdown to Thanksgiving

That's right. This time next week we will be in a food coma from all the delicious food. We are fortunate to spend the day at Claudia & Richie's home.

There will be food galore and not just "I'll-have-a-helping-just-to-be-polite" food, but REALLY amazing dishes. My brother-in-law is Puerto Rican and we will be having turkey and lechon (roasted pork) for the main course. Marisa, my sister-in-law, makes my favorite side: her special cranberry sauce. She has a unique recipe that is loaded with cranberries, apricots, nuts and heavy on the clove flavor...soooo good. Enrique's mom is a wonderful cook and she is making stuffing!!
Our family is contributing turkey, corn souffle and a dessert. A giant 20+ pound turkey is waiting quietly in our deep freeze. Of course, I will be brining it-not sure if I will try a new brine recipe...any suggestions? As for dessert...hmm...so much fun to thumb through my stacks of cookbooks. Everyone likes pumpkin roll. Maybe a twist on pecan pie??
Claudia & Richie are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. Not only do they open their home to family, but they have offered their home as a safe haven for friends that need a place during transitions. Extremely gracious, fun and warm. They are a living example of the verse 1 Peter 4:9.

Thanksgiving does have one downside for me. It is the holiday that T always spends with his father in DC & we miss him terribly. I am thankful, however, that he has a father who loves him & looks forward to spending time with him.

Monday, November 15, 2010


"May your unfailing love be my comfort..."
Psalm 119:76

Have you ever experienced something that made you smile?

Smile at the fierce way that God shows His love to us?

Tonight was one of those moments.

My dad has not been feeling very well and suffering from a kidney stone. Tonight he was admitted to the hospital so that he could receive antibiotics & fluids. My mom is visiting my Grandma in Indiana, so I drove my dad to the hospital.

It's been a frustrating month of health issues for him. We sat in the waiting room while they prepared a bed and I asked my dad if I could pray for him. I prayed specifically:
"Lord, just surround my dad with comfort. Put a hedge of comfort and peace around him".

In a few minutes, we were getting him settled into his room and a smiling, tiny nurse came in. She said, "I will be taking care of you tonight. My name is Comfort".

Say what!?

So I actually asked her (because I didn't believe my own ears)...."Did you say your name was Comfort?"

And she just smiled and said, "Yes, Comfort".

My dad & I shared a smile. There is no coincidence here. Not sure about you, but I have never heard the name Comfort before tonight. We even told the nurse about what I just prayed and she had a little twinkle in her eye.

Thank you, God, for comfort and Comfort. May she take excellent care of my dad tonight.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Homemade Lofthouse Cookies

Allrecipes.com (best recipe website ever!!) recently had a post with a recipe for lofthouse cookies. The writer did an excellent comprehensive "test" of several different baking mixes as the base for lofthouse cookies. Although not one of my favorites, my boys really enjoy these cookies. My sister in Dubai also has 3 boys (and a husband) who really like these, so I am hoping she can find the mix and it doesn't cost $25!
I only had Bisquick Heart Healthy baking mix on hand and did not have Crisco (trying to eliminate from pantry). So I subbed softened butter for the Crisco.

Here is the recipe:

2 cups Jiffy baking mix (I used Bisquick Heart Healthy)
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup milk
5 tbsp Crisco Shortening (I used softened butter)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees...Grease baking sheet. Mix all ingredients and spoon onto pans. Bake for 8-10 minutes and remove to cool.

The writer suggested piping the batter in circles onto parchment-lines baking sheets. Great advice as they came out in pretty smooth-edged circles. I used a box of Jiffy white icing mix to frost and sprinkled on rainbow jimmies.

Enjoy! If your sweet tooth is needing more sugar, check out this blog:

Friday, November 12, 2010

New Boots

Breaking in, breaking down, softening, molding....

New cowboy boots are stiff.




After taking my new boots from the box and appreciating their rich leather smell, I excitedly went to slip my foot into the left boot. "Slipping" into the boot soon turned into coaxing and pulling and tugging. Once I finally walked around in both boots, they fit well, so I knew that much "breaking in" was in store. (Yee-haw...that is for my sister, Lisa).

Not being the most patient person, I felt exasperated that I had to wait (and work!) to transform these boots into soft, supple leather. And that I was the only one who could do the job since I am the bearer of Susan's feet.

These boots have reminded me of a friend of mine...let's call this friend D. If D were a boot, she would be a steel-toed combat boot, constructed from the thickest hide known to man. D would resist any foot that dared to even think to try her on for size.

D wasn't always a tough boot. Once upon a time, she was something else. Not sure what, but certainly not a tough boot.

Just like my new boots, D is softening. By the grace of God, she is seeing that maybe her leather isn't impenetrable. It has been fun to see transformation, melting of fear and pain. Pure joy wells up in me when she calls to ask for prayer or sends a card telling me "thank you".

Tonight I have been thinking about starting a neighborhood book club. The fear of the unknown is just as palpable as the excitement of meeting new friends, having thought-provoking discussions, etc. Looking forward to breaking in some new friendships, opening my home and heart to the people that God has graciously brought into my life and my neighborhood.

2 Timothy 1:7 says:

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.

Praying that I will step forward in courage and forge new relationships through this book club. Gos is really showing me how I am much like those new boots, that he has so much molding and shaping to do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Homemade Marinara

Making your own marinara sauce is worth the effort & saves money when you keep some of the staples in your pantry. It's quite simple, the most important thing to remember is taste, taste, taste. There is a lot of variance when it comes to tomatoes, garlic, onions and their acidity.

Here are the ingredients:
Olive Oil
2 medium or 3 smallish onions (sweet onions are great in season)
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbs. tomato paste
About 1/2 cup Red wine (I like a good Chianti)
2-28oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes
Salt, sugar, Italian seasonings to suit your taste

Heat about 2-3 Tbs. olive oil in heavy Dutch oven. While oil is heating, chop onions and then add to hot pan.

Cook onions down until soft and translucent, as you would for risotto. Don't allow them to scorch. While onions are cooking merrily, mince your garlic and have your tomato paste at the ready.

In addition, place canned tomatoes in colander, catching the juices. Remove any fibrous parts and set tomatoes & juice aside.

Add garlic to cooked onions and stir until fragrant, then add tomato paste. You will have a pinkish mixture that smells amazing. Here is where I add a splash of the red wine. After adding some of the wine, use your wooden spoon to work all the caramelized onion from the bottom & sides of pan.

Here are the tomatoes I used-my favorite is Liguria but this is what I had on hand. A good Italian market will offer several varieties. Add drained tomatoes to pan as well as remainder of wine. Now, we wait....letting tomatoes cook and stirring pot occasionally.

Once sauce has cooked down, I use an immersion blender to smooth it out. I have had mine since college (early 90s!) and it is a terrific tool.

Now, the tasting begins. We added fresh Italian sausage last night, so that added a lot of flavor to my batch. But if you are having straight up marinara, you need to sample and adjust.

A bit of sugar helps balance the acidity.

A bit of salt cuts jammy, too sweet flavor.

Extra virgin olive oil drizzled in helps meld the flavors.

The boys wanted to take a picture with the Italian sausage. I used half of it & froze the other half. For locals: Amici is our hands-down favorite homemade sausage. If you like pungent fennel, Westbrook is your market.

Remove the casing & cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon. It adds great depth to your homemade sauce.

Here's the finished product with freshly grated Parmegiano Reggiano. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


The total of the craft fair and a few pre-sales of mittens was a nice chunk of change. (There was very little investment on my part as I had purchased the bulk of the sweaters during springtime when they were generally around $1 each). Those who know me, know that I enjoy budgeting...so some of it will be going into the bank.


I have been wanting to replace my Uggs. This is year 4 and they have served me well; they are so well made and very warm. Unfortunately, I do think some of the issues with plantar fascitis (swelling and irritation of tissue on bottom of foot) have not been helped by wearing the Uggs from October to March.

So, I found another pair of boots on Zappos that I fell in love with. Can't wait until they arrive. They are made by Frye and have been rumored to last upwards of 20+ years as well as improve with age. Here's a picture:

We spent the day relaxing. I scrubbed down the kitchen, even the refrigerator. E & T raked all the leaves from the huge magnolia tree. C lived up to his nickname of "Hurricane" by dumping a box of Blueberry mini-wheats onto Josie (whom I had just meticulously groomed). An improvement from his earlier escapade of emptying an entire tube of Vaseline on his hair and in his ear.

Off to bed with tea and a good book. Reading Under a Thousand Splendid Suns. Great book, hard to put down!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Craft Fair Set Up

I finished setting up early so the tables around me are still bare, but I am sooooo glad to be DONE!
A woman walked by and asked if I was a supplier for Jolie Boutique. She has seen wool roses there and thought I must have made them. It made me feel good to hear her kind words & even better that my goods were much better priced.
Come by and shop at the DGCS 21st Annual Craft Fair:
9am-8pm Friday and 9am-3pm on Saturday
Corner of Maple & Washington in downtown Downers Grove

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Peppermint Meringues...So Easy & Refreshing

Tonight I made a batch of peppermint meringues. For several years I have followed allrecipes.com's French Meringue recipe and it is really foolproof. The only addition was a few drops of peppermint oil. I placed some in cello bags and then clear boxes for cute packaging:

Here is a batch that I made last Christmas. For softer peaks, more "button-like" meringues, beat only about 6-8 minutes. And if you like a striped meringue, paint the inside of your pastry bag with food color paste.

My husband & son really enjoy lemon meringues and I found that if I added about half a box of powdered lemon gelatin, it made for delicious lemon meringues. (The addition of the gelatin also makes stiff peaks quickly). The lemon meringues look great with sanding sugar or nonpareils sprinkled on the top.

Here is a link to the recipe:


I never ate many meringues when I was in France at the Universite de Grenoble, but I did eat my fair share of pain au chocolat...mmm....

Soon I will be making peppermint marshmallows!! Great for cocoa on a snowy Chicago day. Here is our cocoa from last winter.