Thursday, December 30, 2010

Curbside Treasure

Simply driving home from the fabric store, I noticed what appeared to be a shiny new crock pot. The box was packed flat next to it, so I tossed it in the van and decided to inspect it at home.
Turns out that I now am the proud owner of a Williams-Sonoma All Clad Deluxe stainless programmable slow cooker with cast iron insert! And it works! After a thorough scrubbing in hot, soapy water, it is now cooking white turkey chili for our dinner.
Check out Williams-Sonoma website; it retails for $400. Never would I have paid that-my $30 crockpot works great. But if someone wants to leave it out for me, gladly will I receive such generous offerings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ratcheting Wanted! Needed!

Definition of Ratchet:
A device that allows continual linear or rotary motion in only one direction while preventing motion in the opposite direction.

Sometimes I can clearly see areas of my life desperately in need of a good old ratchet!

Just this morning, C & I were driving to the city to pick up Tman from his after Christmas celebration with his father. The radio was on WMBI (of course) and I was listening to the hosts as they discussed their hopes and desires for 2011. One of them mentioned that she wished that "she would not wear her heart on her sleeve" and waste so much time dwelling on her own hurt feelings. Her sentiments really resonated with much time I waste focused on self or worrying if I have disappointed others.

With the wheels spinning, literally & figuratively, I made my way around the loop, killing time until we picked up Tman. This is where the ratchet part comes in.

Where and how had I been stretched spiritually in 2010? Where did I need to be pruned, "ratcheted", watered and encouraged in the coming year?

Pruning needs to be done on the impatient branches in my life. Unfortunately, these branches most brush up on those that I fiercely love. My husband is an excellent example to me of gentleness & patience and it is a blessing to have him set the bar so high.

Ratchet my tongue, God! 2010 marked the year that I sought to eliminate gossip from my mouth. Oh, the verses I have memorized! Psalm 141:3 is my favorite when I am overwhelmed with the urge to say something that is not edifying...or listen to something not meant for my ears. The standard to which I have tried to adhere is: "If I am not part of the solution or the problem, then I don't need to say it or hear it". (Thanks, Chip Ingram). This area of my life has improved, but some tightening up is needed. James 1:26

I have been reading "Who You Are When No One's Looking" by Bill Hybels. Such a great read. The chapter on Discipline is excellent and this is a character trait that I long to have. He describes discipline as "delayed gratification". I have more to say on this but am really exhausted. We have had incessant house, car & pet issues as well as a very "busy" 2 year old. One of the few things that I am disciplined about is adhering to my quiet time so I will close in order to curl up with peppermint tea and my Bible.

What are your hopes for 2011?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Our Indiana Visit

What a trip!
Here is a photo of Chuckles all decked out for his nursing home trip. We stayed at my Grandma's house for two nights. It was the oddest thing when we pulled up to a dark house. Never has there been a time that my Grandma (and Grandpa when he was alive) has not been waiting for us, flicking on the porch light and greeting us with cookies and hugs.
My cousin Jeff drove down with my us. Since he is serving in missions in Costa Rica, we do not get to visit with him often. My mom & I both agreed that it was wonderful to talk with him about his life, reminisce about old times and enjoy each other's company. We also discovered the Donut long john I have ever eaten, scary delicious, actually.
It is probable that the next time I see my Grandma will be in heaven. She has lived a long life, served her family and loved her Savior well. I hope and pray that I can say the same when I am called home.
Lots of prep work accomplished today, more to tackle tomorrow.
Merry Eve of Christmas Eve!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Saint Nick is Heading the the Nursing Home

Struggling seamstress? Yes.
Future Taxidermist? No.

On Monday, my mom & I will be heading to southern Indiana to visit my Grandma as well as take Josie in for her surgery. My Grandma has been recently placed in a nursing home as she recovers from a broken pelvis. She is very homesick and understandably sad.
C is coming with us & his 2 year old exuberance lights up a room. Today I decided that it would be fun to dress him up like a little St. Nick...he already has the round, rosy cheeks nailed. An old pair of red sweat pants served as trousers & I added a little white tail. I trimmed a little red sweatshirt with scraps from a stuffed animal that I cut up. (It was a pristine white poodle of T's that had been in storage for years). T helped me choose buttons and a scrap of rayon for a belt.
Seriously, it is the most ghetto outfit ever, but I don't think the residents will mind.
He will wear it with his favorite cowboy boots & a red Santa hat. I am going to bring a sack that we will fill with Clementines so he can hand an orange to everyone he sees.
Here is the head of the poodle that we sacrificed for the sake of all things kitschy. Josie is not to thrilled with her new couture.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Glass Half Full

I am choosing to praise God for all the wonderful family & friends we have been blessed with. The past two weeks have been rough and many little things have snowballed:

C's fall & head staples

T getting very sick & being home from school last week

Me being very sick with cough

Flat tire

Subsequent series of repairs on wheel

Dog having accident on carpet

Dog diagnosed with bladder stones

Expensive surgery required for dog

Having no vehicle while van is repaired
Pipe under utility tub came loose while clothes were in wash; lots of water...

When I type it all out, it starts to engulf & overwhelm me. BUT, when I look at it with the glass half full, it starts to look pretty sweet and our blessings in difficult circumstances shine.

Here's the crazy ways that God has shown Himself faithful in each situation:

C's head: Staples removed today, no concussion at time of incident

T's sickness: he recovered quickly & we had fun hanging out at the house

My cough: Almost all better; taught me to slow down and take care of myself

Flat tire: My dad & E came out on a bitterly cold day to change

Tire repairs: Our friend J (aka Master Mechanic) has been an invaluable help

Dog: The vet in Indiana will be $500 less for the surgery that Josie is required to have. In addition, I will get to visit my 93 year old grandma who is now in a nursing home.

Utility Sink "mini-flood": Fortunately, there was a massive pile of dirty clothes next to tub that effectively absorbed all the leaking water. Brownie points for dirty laundry.

"Do not be anxious about anything..."

There are so many families in dire medical, financial & emotional turmoil. How can I let these small things (and yes, they are small) rob me of joy and close my eyes to the huge blessings that have been graciously poured out on us?

Here's a great quote to close:

The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cookie du Jour- Kolachky

Kolachky are so delicious. Rich, flaky, buttery dough with sweet filling. What's not to love?

This afternoon I tried a new recipe from allrecipes, but halved the quantities and modified a bit. It still yielded about 50 generously-sized treats. The deep freeze still had many jars of apricot jam that I made this summer, so that was our filling of choice.

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour

Mix butter & cream cheese until combined. Add flour a little at a time until all is incorporated. This is a very, very sticky dough. Flour your work surface well and take out a third of the dough. Roll out, flouring and turning often, until pie crust thickness. Using sharp knife, cut 3 inch squares. Dollop a bit of jam onto square and fold opposite edges together. Pinch to seal.

Bake at 350 degrees on parchment for 15 minutes. Cool & dust with confectioner's sugar. Try not to eat entire batch in one day.
I've linked this post to a great blog about all things sweet. Read & be inspired!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookie du Jour- Buttery Spritz

Spritz cookies always feel so Christmas-y to me. Growing up, my mom & Aunt Betty dedicated an entire day to baking an overwhelming assortment of Christmas cookies: toffee bars, sugar cookies, Aunt Sue's butter cookies, peanut butter bars, chocolate chip bars, fruitcake bars (Uncle Charlie loved these), peanut blossoms and spritz cookies. Their spritz cookies were usually in the shape of a tree, tinted green and almond flavored. They would also make the swirled spritz variety with a cherry in the center.

Spritz were never my first choice; the peanut butter bars were (and still are) my favorite Christmas cookie. However, I have come to really love making and eating spritz cookies. I use a different recipe that is much shorter (higher butter ratio) and rich with vanilla flavor.

Today we made bright green Christmas trees after T came home from school. By the time I left to do the soccer carpool, they were all mixed, pressed & baked (less than an hour). Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do. Uncle Charlie may have been partial to fruitcake bars, but my little Charlie (his namesake) loves Spritz cookies.

1 cup salted butter, softened

3 egg yolks, room temp is best

2 1/2 cups flour

2/3 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. salt

Cream butter & sugar. Add yolks & vanilla. Mix and add dry ingredients. When does comes together, put into cookie press. Do not chill. Do NOT use parchment or they will not release from cookie press. Bake at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes. I err on the side of removing at 7 minutes and letting them continue baking on hot cookie sheet. But that's me:)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Virtue Candle

A couple of months ago, I was reading a post about beautifying your home for fall. The poster suggested adding elements of soft music, candles, lovely smells to your home to create a peaceful oasis for your family. This clever poster also challenged to say a quick prayer of thanks or your heart's desire every time you saw your brightly burning candle.

Always one for a challenge, I bought a pretty candle with a mild apple cider fragrance. Although I sometimes forgot, when I saw the candle I would ask God to help me with patience, a virtue I am sorely lacking.

Colossians 3: 12-14 says:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

This is a verse that I have memorized and am acutely aware that patience is the virtue that most resists being "bound" in my like. My family could offer a laundry list of examples here...

My little apple cider candle has become a sweet little reminder, my virtue candle. When he burns out, I will purchase another. Realizing that there are always fresh ways to be challenged and convicted to grow and be pruned.

E & I had a weekend sans enfants and it was fabulous. We chose to stay home because I have been very sick with a chronic cough. It was so relaxing to sleep in, eat out, order Giordanos and eat it in front of the TV together-no kids!! Although we don't have cable, we watched Life is Beautiful. It is blustery outside and I am planning a week of soups & comfort meals. The house is sparkly clean and smells like peppermint (thank you, Scentsy). And yes, my candle is burning.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

There are 2 different gingerbread cookie recipes that I bake during the Christmas season. One is mild and sweet and the other is crispy and very spicy. Tonight T & I made the spicy variety. He chose the cutters: classic gingerbread men, holly leaves, trees, vintage ponies, and houses. (My cabinet holds around 100 custom copper & several vintage cookie cutters).

Here is the recipe, basically a double version of Eileen's Spicy Gingerbread from allrecipes with a bit more spices:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1-2 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 tsp. cloves
2-3 tsp. ginger

Cream butter & sugar. Add yolks & mix. Add molasses & mix. Sift together all dry ingredients and add slowly to creamed mixture. Mix until dough is formed and holds together well. Separate into two disks and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in fridge and chill for about an hour, until firm but not rock hard.

Roll out on floured surface to desired thickness (we like them THIN!). Bake on parchment lined sheets at 350 for about 8 minutes. They will seem soft but crisp up after 5-8 minutes out of the oven.

Enjoy! We plan to decorate with royal icing tomorrow.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hurricane C

Mr. C, our 2 year old, lived up to his nickname of "Hurricane" today.

Too tired to post much, but he ended up with 3 staples in his head.

Fell off the chaise lounge into the coffee table.

Aside from the scary aspect of seeing your child hurt, I am grateful for many things:

1) That my Dad was there with a cool head and fatherly-grandfatherly wisdom.

2) That it was just a gash on his noggin and not a concussion, broken bone, etc.

3) Modern medicine! Thankful for kind nurses & doctors.

4) That I didn't hit my head when I almost passed out (embarrassing).

5) That C is sleeping soundly and was up to his usual tricks tonight...he was playing with the Nativity scene & moving the people around, later sliding them down his play slide. We are now minus Joseph and one of the Magi.

6) Thankful that T came in from school and said that we should pray that C feels better; he loves his brother & has such a tender heart of mercy.

Good night, all. Lunches made, crock pot set. The cookies can wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Decking the Halls

Our humble little home is all dressed for Christmas.

The tree is rather sparse on the bottom in hopes that C will not create a repeat of last year's
debacle. On Christmas Eve, while we were busy prepping dinner, the entire tree was toppled by a curious little boy. Smashed ornaments, broken lights...good times...

The huge white iron chandelier was a new addition this year and I decorated it with ropes of faux gumdrops. Kitschy & cute!

Later, I will post photos of the kitchen. I draped my vintage copper cookie cutters across a garland of cinnamon sticks. Something fun to look at while I do the dishes.

Happy decorating, everyone!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let it Snow!!

Snow Lovers, Unite!
The view from our window, slightly marred by anxious sheltie footprints.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Elegant, Simple Salad

We are anxiously awaiting Enrique to come home from work. C "helped" me in the kitchen today: stirring the lasagna filling, taste-testing cookies and mixing dressing for our salad.

My favorite salads always have sweet & savory components as well as a few different textures. I really enjoy a creamy cheese, crisp greens, crunchy nutmeats. We created this salad tonight because I had apples, goat cheese & pecans on hand. Costco had a huge container of spring mix for $3.99 so we have been enjoying greens with every meal this week.

Dressing (I never measure; this is a guess-sorry precise friends!)
3 Tbs. good quality balsamic (I used Pomegranate from Olive Tap-my favorite)
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. toasted walnut oil
1 tsp. Dijon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Few grinds of pepper

Whisk all together & adjust to suit your tastes. This is a sweet, rich dressing. A little goes a long way.

For the salad:
Toss dry greens with dressing, using your clean hands. (You'll be able to tell when the greens are perfectly coated. Thinly slice apples and lay on bed of greens. Toss on your cheese. I used Chevre with fine herbes. Feta or Gorgonzola would be great, too. Something salty. Toast nuts lightly, cool and throw on salad. Voila. Tastes great, looks pretty. Your husband will feel blessed by your handiwork.

*Sesame oil & rice wine vinegar make wonderful dressings for salads. Add some thinly sliced almond & cilantro to your salad-yum.