Thursday, December 31, 2009

To Give Or Not To Give

I'm going to a baby shower this coming Sunday. In with the invitation was a short list of suggested items needed and/or wanted by the new mama. One item was a sweater.

Perfect! My fingers have been itching to knit for a while now so I jumped on this idea immediately. I knew the pattern I would use, and I had yarn for it. Well, turns out the yarn wasn't exactly the same as that called for, but I thought it would work.

The sweater is nearly finished, but I'm just not sure if I'll wrap it up as my gift for the shower . . . or not. You see, the measurements of the sweater are a little bigger than the pattern indicated (did I mention my yarn wasn't exactly the same as that called for?). Truth to tell, it looks like it might fit a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Okay, it's not THAT big and the little Bundle of Joy could probably wear it next winter, but it is gonna look SO BIG for her right now.

I could give her these two little hats I have made up. And maybe a receiving blanket I could put together with some soft flannel I have.

When Bundle of Joy was born two weeks ago, I was honored to be invited to the hospital to meet her when she was just hours old. At that time I took the baby quilt I had made for her. (Even that looked big enough to cover about eight babies her size!)

But I know newborns grow faster than weeds . . . so maybe she would grow into the sweater before she's sixteen.

Back to my needles and yarn. I'll stop trying to make a decision right now and wait to see what it looks like when I'm all done.


P.S. I'm having trouble with my e-mail so if you've sent me a message and haven't heard back from me, don't think I'm ignoring you. I'm just having trouble accessing messages and sending new ones out. My computer tech (daughter) is coming later today to troubleshoot.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We're Gonna Be Cookin'

Okay, troops, we're gonna be posting some recipes frequently here now. Because I'm so totally over-done on sweets (double YU-uck!) and need some REAL food. And because it's the part of the year when I'm inside more than outside and actually have time to cook. (But, wait . . . cooking? Quilting? Cooking? Quilting? Hmmm, should I rethink what I just said?)

Oh, let's just get on with it.

I made a pot of yummy soup this morning. Great Green Soup with Vegetables is the name. It's a hearty soup with lots of eye appeal and flavor. Here are the ingredients:

Great Green Soup with Vegetables

1 cup green split peas
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium chopped onion
4 ribs chopped celery
3 sliced carrots
1 medium cubed potato

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf

3 cups broth or water

Chunks of meat (optional)

Wash the split peas, put into a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for one hour. Drain, discarding the water.

In a soup pot, saute the onion in the butter for a few minutes. Add the celery, carrots and potato. (The potato looks like chunks of apple, doesn't it?) Continue sauteing until veggies are lightly browned.

Add the drained peas and seasonings; mix well. Add the broth, cover the pan and bring soup to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer about one hour, testing to see that the peas are soft. Stir occasionally during simmering and add more broth or water if soup becomes thicker than you want. When peas are done, check the seasonings, and add more if you wish. Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Makes about 6 cups.

NOTES: Because I have our own organically grown potatoes to use, I prefer not to peel the potato . . . adds color and a little texture.

For the broth, I use my homemade broth . . . either chicken or turkey or beef . . . whatever I have on hand. I almost always have to add more salt because my broth isn't as salty as the commercial kind.

I think I've mentioned before that I'm a carbohydrate type and Roy is a protein type. That means, especially in the winter time, he's always looking for more M-E-A-T than I have a hankering for. So to keep him happy, I sliced up some pre-cooked pork sausage and added it to this batch of soup. The soup truly doesn't need it for flavor, but I have to make sure the main snow shoveling person has plenty of energy these days. (The package of sausage is pictured above with the herbs and seasonings.) It's Organic Prairie Italian Pork Sausage (fully cooked), and I do admit it's delicious.

Chunks of cooked chicken or ham are good in it, too.

This soup could be turned into a thick, creamy soup (minus the meat) by putting it in the blender after cooking. (Just be sure to remove the bay leaf first!) But I think I prefer it with the interesting texture of the veggies and split peas in the broth.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Learning To Live With The Seasons

Recently I came across the following that I had written a couple of years ago in the month of August:

A Thought To Remember in December

It is August 8th, 85° and humid. It's 4:30 in the afternoon, I'm cranky, hot, bug-bitten and totally exhausted from working outside on a million different projects since early this morning . . . AND there are still a couple hours to work before dinner (which will be smoothies 'cause I don't have time or energy for anything else). Then we have to go back outside after dinner to finish a time-sensitive project --- grass seeding, this time.

So in December, savor 4:30 in the afternoon (dark yet?), savor the day spent indoors, savor the good dinner, savor the long evening ahead spent reading, quilting, knitting, or relaxing.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas On Swamp River Ridge

When we heard from our daughter yesterday shortly before noon, she reported that Chainsaw Tommy had plowed halfway out their 4-mile long winter driveway to pleasantly find that the loggers who are working off the same road had come in and plowed the two miles in to their site. So between him and the loggers, the four miles was plowed and open.

The fourteen miles of the county road from the main road to their "driveway" had not been plowed yesterday but we decided to go for it anyway.

And wouldn't ya know it, before we left it started snowing here harder than we had seen it during the storm. Oh well, we wanted to have Christmas and Chicken Mama had been holding Christmas dinner for a day already. We had plenty of emergency gear in our truck and the temperature was staying in the mild 20s. So off we went.

There was one set of tire tracks which made our journey easier on the unplowed county road. Roy had the truck in 4-wheel high and we were able to go along steadily with no trouble.

This was taken on daughter and son-in-law's winter driveway. The scenery all the way was gorgeous. Everything was heavily coated with heavy, pristine white snow.

The view of their house upon our arrival. The snow stopped just about then, but yes indeed, they do have an accumulation of snow! Close to two feet of the stuff.

What a pretty tree they had. Cut from their woods and decorated beautifully.

We had a wonderful Christmas celebration. Lots of nice gifts . . . many of them homemade which are the very best!

Chicken Mama has been designing cabinets for her kitchen and was absolutely thrilled with this one for storing plates that Chainsaw Tommy surprised her with.

Daughter made a batch of root beer for Christmas and here I am nonchalantly pouring out a glassful and slopping foam (whadda head!) all over the counter.

Son-in-law has been doing so much snow removal and shoveling in the past couple of days that by 8 p.m. he was nodding off in a comfy chair. We took that as our signal to load up and head off for home. It was a bright, moonlit night and the scenery was almost more awesome than in the daylight.

When we got to the county road, it had been plowed (hooray!) so it was an easy fourteen miles to the main road. I thought for sure we were going to see a moose because there were tracks all over the road. It looked as if 50 or so of them had been traveling to a moose convention somewhere in the woods. But the trip produced no wildlife . . . and only three vehicles in the whole forty miles. Two regular cars and one police car.

It may have been a day late, but it was truly a lovely Christmas!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's Still Christmas For Us

Most of you celebrated Christmas yesterday but we're having ours today. Let's see if I can explain this convoluted reshuffling of days.

Christmas Eve night we made the decision to postpone our Christmas Day at our daughter and son-in-law's until today, the 26th. They live an hour's drive from us, waaaay back in uncharted territory. (Well, okay, it is charted, but very, very remote.) On Christmas Eve, the county pulled the snowplows off the roads at about 7 p.m. Snow conditions were bad with more snow forecast for Christmas Day. So the four of us decided to give the storm an extra day to blow itself out before trying to make it to their house.

We didn't get much snow yesterday, because it rained (yes, RAINED) for a few hours which pummeled our snow here into about 4" of slush. What a mess! Because Swamp River Ridge (our daughter and son-in-law's homestead) normally has colder temperatures than we do, they did get snow all day and as of last night, were up to their . . . well, they had a lot. (Close to a foot and a half, as far as they could tell.)

By plowing a couple of times during the day, they were able to keep their 4-mile long winter driveway open, but this morning we're waiting to hear if the 14-miles of county road from the main road to their spur road has been plowed. That could be our stumbling block.

We had rain all night. If they had snow, we might not be able to make it. Our huge county is well known for having several micro-climates and this divergence of temperature and weather is not unusual.

We've loaded up the truck and are hoping the plows have been out so we can make it. Our temperature is still warm (34° with rain) so it's not as if we have to worry about dangerously cold conditions. Now we're just waiting to hear from our daughter to decide whether or not to head out. Wish us a little bit of Christmas luck!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blizzard Report

The forecasters said we would get several inches of snow this morning and then a lull before the heaviest snow started up again in late afternoon.

The snow that fell this morning was super wet and heavy. Matter of fact, our temperature has been hanging right around 31° and I've been afraid it would start to rain. THAT we don't need! I don't think we're getting an accurate measurement of just how many inches have fallen so far because it's so wet it's compacting as soon as it hits.

I went out to shovel off the deck this morning and could hardly stay on my feet because the surface was so slippery. Roy moved vehicles around in preparation for plowing at some point, and I saw him spinning his wheels more than once. We haven't ventured out to the main road so I don't know what conditions there are.

The snow did stop at about 2 p.m. and the lull is . . . still lulling now at 3:45. The snow that has fallen is indeed beautiful but it's unfortunate this particular storm had to arrive right over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Several churches here have already cancelled their services for this evening, and I can't imagine that lots of folks aren't having difficulties traveling.

It's ten minutes to 4 as I write this and it's dark enough to be difficult to see out the window over my desk. It was about the same amount of light at 8 this morning. As my better half said then, we're just past the shortest day of the year, and it's winter time in the north land. So what else should we expect?

Ooops, big, fat, white flakes have just now started coming down out there. Is this the start of the heaviest snow of the storm? I'll keep you updated.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bring On The Snow . . . And Christmas!

During a pleasant, relaxing dinner with friends last night, we were discussing the up-coming big snow that has been forecast for us within the next few days. J and L are heading out today at noon to drive about six hours to her hometown for the holidays and figured they'd be ahead of the predicted storm. Not a very convenient time for 10-12" of snow since I'm sure many people will be loading their cars and hitting the highways today or tomorrow. I'm very happy we're going to be snuggled home except for a day trip to daughter and son-in-law's for Christmas Day. Of course, that in itself could be interesting since they have a four-mile long winter driveway they have to keep plowed themselves.

Tonight will be our Christmas Eve celebration here with Chicken Mama and Chainsaw Tommy. Yes, we have our Christmas Eve on Christmas Eve eve. (Confused yet?) We traditionally have a simple soup dinner . . .

. . . Cheddar Cauliflower this time. I made it yesterday because it always tastes better the second day.

We'll have individual loaves of garlic cheese bread with it. Baked yesterday so I just have to slice, butter and add the cheese before popping it in the oven tonight.

I was going to make Kringler for dessert but I am so done with baking right now . . .

. . . that I'm just going to put out a plate of the assorted goodies I've already made. (This picture is for you, K-Poo. Flashback?)

Let's see, what else is happening on ye ol' homestead?

We've had an ugly, huge burn pile in our open field since the windstorm that took down so many trees this past fall. We've been waiting for snow cover before burning it. So, day before yesterday, we called the Forest Service to make sure it was okay to burn now that we'd received the 4" of snow. They said it would be fine but to notify DNR and Law Enforcement which we did before putting the torch to it. Above Roy is adding old motor oil and gasoline to the pile hoping that would help get the damp debris burning.

Success? Well, we've got a good start!

There she goes! The majority burned but there was enough left that Roy pulled the remnants together yesterday and had another much smaller blaze to get rid of the last of it.

Methinks our Christmas tree this year is going to be coming down right around New Year's Day. It's a spruce (which is notorious for NOT holding its needles) and I've had to sweep up this many dropped needles almost every day from Day One. It's still been a lovely, full, purdy little tree though.

Finally, finally, FINALLY! Our hens are coming out of their molt and we've now getting at least three eggs a day. Enough to keep us supplied. Now that the Christmas baking is over anyway. It was a loooong, (eggless) dry spell and we really missed having our own eggs.

We have nothing on the schedule out of the ordinary for the week between Christmas and New Year's so I'm looking forward to sleeping in these gray, cold mornings, doing some reading, and spending lots of time in my quilt studio. Last night at dinner with our friends, we were reminiscing about when Roy and I owned and operated the restaurant. The week between Christmas and New Year's was always busy, busy, busy. For us in our personal lives, it detracted from the holidays and certainly wasn't a restful time of year. But it went with the territory and we were grateful for the business . . . but I'm sure glad I can say today, "Been there, done that . . . no more!" Yup. I'm sleeping in all next week. And enjoying the snow we'll have gotten by then . . . maybe. If the "weatherdorks" (as friend J calls weather forecasters) get it right this time.

Monday, December 21, 2009

We've Got Snow!

Yippee-skippy! We woke this morning to about 4" of snow. Enough to provide insulation for outdoor plantings and water lines, and we're pretty much assured of a White Christmas now.

We took a walk out the driveway this morning to put something in the mailbox before our mail lady came by.

Zoey, the Wonder Dog, says, "Could somebody carry me? I've got ice balls stuck between my toes."

A view of part of the snow-covered driveway.

Roy coming back from the mailbox.

Mother Nature has finally pulled up the blanket and tucked the gardens in for the winter.

Four more days until Christmas! I have all my goodies made . . . except for Caramel Corn. I'm tempted to skip it this year. I wonder if my favorite son-in-law would cry if there wasn't a big bag of it in his stocking? Although I don't usually eat much Caramel Corn myself, for some reason I have a taste for it this year. Oh heck, I'll just go do it and be done with it. As so often happens, thinking about doing it or not doing it has taken more time than the actual task!

Hope the next four days aren't too hectic for you. Enjoy the season! (A couple of glasses of cheer probably wouldn't hurt either.)

P.S. If any of you are interested in quilts or quilting, I've got a new "Featured Quilt of the Week" post over on my quilting blog today.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Does Half An Inch of Snow Count?

Yay! We got some snow yesterday. Okay, so it was only about half an inch but it did help a bit to make things look all white again . . . sort of.

There were little footie prints all over this morning inside the fenced in poultry yard. We think it was a pine marten looking for a chicken dinner, or maybe breakfast. Fortunately, all the birds were locked up safely last night and Mr. or Ms. P. Marten left hungry. The only other critter it might have been would be a small fox but we don't think a fox could have gotten in between the openings in the fence. (I can just hear some of you that are knowledgeable regarding animal tracks snickering at us for not knowing the difference between a pine marten and a fox print. Sorry, but I am ignorant on this count. Very ignorant!) I feel bad to know that there are hungry animals out there but pine martens can do terrible damage to domestic birds. We know that from experience.

Our weather has warmed up in the last couple of days. The thermometer went up to the high 20s today, but it was very damp so that you got chilled even though it should have felt warm after our well below zero weather.

I'm making a conscientious effort to notice and enjoy the holiday decorations around the house this year. I have so much to be thankful for and I want to try to actively appreciate it more.

This is one of my favorite Christmas decorations. It's a counted cross-stitched sampler our daughter made for me several years ago. (Silly goose stayed up until the wee hours of Christmas morning finishing it that year.)

It pictures five Santas wearing different traditional costumes and is quite detailed. I think it's done on 20-ct. cloth (which is very small) and although I've done a little counted cross-stitch, don't think I could have soldiered on through to finish something like this. At any rate, I really treasure this piece and will enjoy it forever.

I've had a batch of fudge cooling on the back porch for a couple of hours now. I think I'll go see if it's set up enough to cut. It's a new recipe and I sure hope it's good because I think I've got about a hundred dollars worth of ingredients in it! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December Should Have Sixty Days - At Least

Up here in northeastern Minnesota, this is the month when winter truly sets in. We have to spend extra hours of a day moving snow with plows and shoveling by hand. Even though this year we haven't yet had a shoveling/plowing type snowfall (very unusual), cold, really cold weather has arrived and we can no longer dash out to do jobs around the homestead or make sojourns anywhere without taking the added time to stuff our bodies into layers of down and polar fleece, a warm hat, gloves and even insulated boots so our tootsies don't freeze.

Vehicles require extra attention. They are not eager to start and run without first being plugged in. (Even with that little boost to my vehicle, I had to make a quick switch when I tried to venture out for a 10 o'clock appointment this morning. I was forced to take the big truck with no running boards. Do you know how hard that honkin' big thing is for me to get in and out of with my short, stumpy legs? It's not pretty to watch either. Picture the Pillsbury Dough Boy in a light blue, super-puffy, down-filled jacket.)

It's also the month for all the extra special things to be attended to relating to the holidays. (But you already knew that, didn't you?) In recent years I've found myself cutting back on one thing and then another thinking that would give me time to truly enjoy the month between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Either somebody is conspiring against me or I'm just not doing it right, because I haven't reached that much desired, blissful state of organization, preparedness and feeling that I have time to sit down, put my feet up and stare at the Christmas tree lights with a wee cup of cheer by my side.

When, oh when, has the month of December ever seemed long? By gum, I can remember when it did! I think I was about seven years old, I was standing with my aunt and cousin in my grandma's kitchen and I asked Aunt Sally how long it was until Christmas. My aunt replied, "Only one month now." And I recall thinking, "Only!" A month was an EON long. My, my, how times have changed.

I made a post over on my quilting blog recently including pictures of my messy, messy quilt studio (no time to spend in there quilting let alone cleaning it!) and a shot of the calendar on the wall . . . still showing the month of November. (Anybody wanna bet the page for December will never see the light of day this year?)

Well, I'm not really complaining. Just using this blog entry to vent a little frustration over the fact that time goes by too darn quickly especially this time of the year. However, I'm a big girl and can make my own decisions as to how I structure my days, what I choose to do or not to do. Problem is my desires are still bigger than my abilities when it comes to fitting everything into the month of December.

What I wanna do right now is get into my jammies, grab my very interesting reading book, pour myself a glug of Bailey's Irish Cream over ice, open the door of the wood stove and fit the protective screen in place to have an open fire, turn off all the lights except the tree lights and my reading light, and relax for a couple hours of leisurely reading.

What's wrong with the above scenario? 1) I would fall asleep within ten minutes of sitting down (and waste all that Bailey's), 2) there will be a 5 AM alarm in our house in the morning, so 3) I need to get organized tonight in preparation of being gone all day tomorrow. Sigh.

Oh well, January will be a long, slow month, right? Right? (Anybody still out there . . . . . . . . ?)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Still At It

Made a little more progress today on the baking front. Got Sugar Cookies baked but not frosted. I like to wait until the last minute to do that.

Got these made, baked and stored away. Chocolate Snowballs . . . or as my husband likes to call them, Moose Droppings in the Snow. Not that that deters him from eating them. I have to hide these so I have some to include on the platters I give.

That's what I do with 90% of the Christmas goodies I make. I put together a nice assortment to give to special people. Our UPS man (who's also our neighbor on one side), our wonderful neighbors on the other side, our mail delivery lady who goes way beyond her duty in giving us excellent service. We have a great library in our little town that we both use a lot all through the year so I take a big box full to the staff there. A couple other people who are alone and don't do any baking for themselves. The people who have the farm where we get our milk. And so on. (And you had a picture of Roy and me sitting eating all this sugar-laden stuff ourselves!)

I have a bowl of Almond Spritz dough all ready and sitting on the kitchen counter but I don't know if I want to tackle that yet tonight. Maybe I'll put it in the refrig until sometime tomorrow.

Still have fudge, Honey Caramels and Caramel Corn on the To Do list. (I may also have to make another batch of Toffee Bars with the regular milk chocolate topping. I took another sample today of the ones I made with Roy's dark chocolate and it's so strong it 'bout curled my teeth.) The Caramel Corn doesn't have to be done to include with the goodies to distribute though. That's for Daughter and Son-in-Law's stockings (yes, they both still get a stocking from Santa) and a big tin for us to snack on.

I'm going to a quilting get together in the morning and then plan to work on laundry and ironing in the afternoon so don't know how much baking will get done tomorrow. But I'd better push along on it 'cause I'd like to deliver everything on Wednesday of this week.

Never a lack of things to do these couple of weeks before Christmas, is there?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sharing The Bounty

Erin of Garden Now - Think Later has been sharing her holiday decorating (beautiful!) and baking the last couple of days. Her picture this afternoon of goodies she got baked today encouraged me to chronicle what I've gotten done so far. (Plus, hers gave me some ideas of different things to try so maybe mine will do the same for someone else?)

In the middle are Almond Strips, a new recipe this year. One I'm going to keep! Really like them. They remind me of a cookie from my childhood, but I can't quite put my finger on what it might have been.

Upper left is a candy, Peppermint Ice. Crushed peppermint in almond bark and my mom used to make this. I can remember a time about 25 years ago when I stashed leftovers of it in a kitchen drawer and almost made myself sick one day with just one more piece. Just one more piece. Just one more piece. Since then, you can believe, I go easy on it.

Traveling clockwise to the right is a big tin of Peanut Clusters, then Toffee Bars which my dear dark-chocolate-lovin' husband talked me into making with bittersweet chocolate instead of milk chocolate this year. He's happy . . . but I think it changes the taste of them too radically and I don't care for them at all. (Do we see another batch made with milk chocolate coming?)

Next in line, bottom left, is another new recipe. Rum Balls. The jury is still out on these. I'm hoping they will change a little (mellow?) with age. Right now the rum flavor doesn't come through very well and they are a little too-too sweet for my taste.

I baked only the Almond Strips and made the Rum Balls today. (The Rum Balls were very putzy-putzy.) Yesterday I made the other three. I had plans for getting a lot more done today but we had drop-in company this morning which changed my schedule a little. That's okay . . . tomorrow is another day, and I'll do more then.

Right now, I think I've been absorbing sugar through my fingertips while making these goodies because I feel like I'm on a sugar overload (downer) as opposed to a sugar high (upper) and don't want to even look at them anymore tonight.

So what are you making in the way of Christmas goodies this year? Pictures, please!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Frigid Day and Outside Tour

First of all, what the heck was I doing outside walking around taking pictures today? We have next to no snow cover, our high temp of the day was 9° and there were occasional gusts of wind. It really felt COLD.

The loop trail we have in our "backyard" that goes up to the ridge at the top of our property suffered a huge amount of blow down this past fall. One day this week Roy took the chain saw and hiked it cutting up all the bigger trees that had fallen blocking the path.

Today he started the job of wheelbarrowing the cut wood down to our wood pile.

We . . . ah . . . have a little bit of wood waiting to be cut and split. Yes, we ordered yet another 12 cords of wood in 8' lengths. And since our horrendous windstorm several weeks ago, Roy has been adding lots and lots of cut wood from our property to the pile. Now that he's retired and has lots of time (ha!), he's determined to get waaay ahead on our firewood supply. (At the first sign of decent weather this spring, you'll know where to find us!)

I left him at his little task this afternoon and went to check on the pond for ice skating. As you can see, we've definitely got ice and because we haven't had any appreciable amount of snow yet, conditions are looking pretty good for skating. No one has ventured out there to see just how thick the ice is yet though. Volunteers? Anybody?

Because of a couple of glitches and hang-ups, construction on my pantry room hasn't progressed as quickly/smoothly as we had hoped. But my husband (the one who has all kinds of time on his hands . . . ahem) isn't ready to close down the project yet. Stay tuned for further progress.

Our two granddogs have been visiting the last half of this day. Here they're checking out the garden beds . . . the garden beds with the barest covering of insulating snow thus far. (Our own wimpy dog chose to stay inside close to the stove. Wimpy perhaps, but smart.)

I told them both to sit and pose for a picture . . . and they did. Until Tucker saw a chickadee land on the feeder to his right. (No, he's not sitting in the picture. That's as high as his little 4" long legs take him.)

I know I shouldn't complain because the roads are free of ice and snow and it's easy getting around, but gosh, I really think it would feel warmer (that being a relative term, of course) out there if we had a nice, white layer of snow. Besides, we want a white Christmas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I'm happy to report that my website designer/administrator daughter's computer system is back up and running (keep your fingers crossed) and my Featured Quilt of the Week post is now on my quilting blog.

Now if I could just talk her into coming here and dealing with my Christmas cookie baking situation . . .

Not As Planned

Not much happened yesterday that I thought would happen. We all have days like that and we can choose to either beat our heads on the proverbial brick wall or go with the flow and decide to be happy and enjoy the day anyway. Really. We get to choose. We can choose frustration, self-blame, and anger or we can choose appreciation, laughter, and the realization that an alteration in our plans isn't that big a deal.

I was going to have a big cookie baking day. Had the butter out on the counter softening first thing. Then before eight o'clock, I got an e-mail from my baby quilt website designer (aka my daughter) reminding me that it was Tuesday and we had neglected to post the Monday Featured Quilt of the Week on my quilting blog. (We've set up a link on the website that takes you to Monday's blog post and the featured quilt of the week.) Oh . . . heck. What was I thinking? Obviously, I had NOT been thinking.

I told her I'd get the post written as soon as I could and put it in Draft where she could access it and add the required pictures which she had to take off the website. (I don't have access to them . . . nor the technical expertise to do that operation.)

As soon as I had written the post, I notified her via e-mail that all was in readiness for her and could now be completed.

Then I realized I had to go to town to mail a package that needed to go out pronto. Rats. So I made a list of other stops to make as long as I was in town, bundled up, started the car, scraped the ice off the windows (it was only 10°) and headed into town with nine (yes, 9!) stops on my list.

Arrived back home shortly before lunch time to discover that the blog post wasn't up yet. Hmmm. That was strange.

Put the butter back in the refrig and made us a little lunch. The mail I picked up on my way home contained the last of the Christmas presents I was waiting for so decided to get them wrapped which I did in the afternoon. Also put tags on all of the gifts which I hadn't been able to do before because I couldn't find the leftover tags from last year for love nor money. (Bought new ones in town.) So all of the ones I had previously wrapped got pulled out from under the tree and proper tags added. But the unbelievable thing is I now have all presents wrapped. December 9th and the task is done. Complete. Finished. Can't believe it. That's the earliest I've ever had that job finished.

Well, okay, the above is a teeny white lie. There are three presents for me from my dear husband that still haven't arrived. You see, I have a terrible time spending money on myself and Roy has a terrible time picking out something I will like . . . especially clothing which is what I really needed and decided I wanted for Christmas. So I stalled and diddled around for ages but finally picked out two shirts and a scarf from a catalog and ordered them. And when they do arrive, I will be wrapping them myself. It's not that he isn't willing to do it but it's such a painful operation to subject him to. And a great waste of wrapping paper because he uses so much! No need for him to do it when I know what the presents are. So I'll wrap those last three myself when they show up.

Our first big snow of the season that we prepared for and were told to expect yesterday and today . . . hasn't appeared yet. We didn't see a flake all day yesterday. Sounds like it may stay south of us now. Less to shovel and move around but the temperatures are getting low enough that we need the insulation on septic tanks and drain fields.

What happened to my quilting blog post that Chicken Mama was going to get up? Turns out that shortly after she e-mailed me in the morning, she lost satellite reception and has been without a working computer since then. (Her day did not go as planned either, I'm sure she would tell you!) Sigh. Oh well.

So not a Christmas cookie in sight yet but the day certainly wasn't a wasted day. Just different than what I had planned. Dare I say I'm going to bake today? Maybe I won't announce that's my plan and I'll just try to sneak it in when Fate isn't looking.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Good Day

I feel better now. The house is decorated for Christmas AND the tree is up. I feel better now.

This year I've really been looking forward to turning on the tree lights when we get up in the dark and then again in the late afternoon. Near total darkness is upon us at 5 PM now.

I guess I've been a bit lazy because as of yesterday morning, the Thanksgiving decorations were still out and about . . . and it's unusual for me not to put them away the weekend right after Turkey Day. But I did get a lot of things done last week that had been "hangin' fire" for too long. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

But now throughout the house the oranges and browns of the Thanksgiving/fall decorations have given way to the reds and greens of Christmas. And I must admit tonight I'm feeling a lot more in the holiday mood since the house is decorated for Christmas.

We have another half size tree again this year. No choice but to have a small one because of our small living space. But if all goes as planned and we get our remodeling done this coming summer, a year from now we just might have room for a bigger tree . . . one that actually can stand on the floor instead of on top of a cabinet.

The light snow covering we got last week is still on the ground. The forecasters are saying our first real snow of the season will be arriving tomorrow and Wednesday with perhaps 6-8" accumulation. The second week in December? I guess it's time.

Lots of cookie baking on the agenda for this week. And present wrapping. No excuse now that I have a tree to set the presents under. I did all my shopping via phone or Internet this year and I'm still waiting for a few things to arrive. Only ran into one back order that won't make it for Christmas. Not a bad average.

Gotta go warm some soup for dinner now. Wild Rice with Turkey for Roy and lentil for me. Maybe a little dish of homemade applesauce for dessert . . . since no Christmas cookies have made an appearance yet.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

C's Quasi-Cabbage Rolls

A couple of months ago, a good friend and I were reminiscing about food our mothers used to make. I was salivating over memories of my mom's cabbage rolls . . . which she didn't have a recipe for, nor did I ever watch her closely enough when she prepared them to replicate the procedure. My loss. Sigh.

Anyway, C said that she frequently makes a dish that reminds her a lot of cabbage rolls but is much simpler and can easily be whipped up for a quick dinner provided you have leftover spaghetti sauce to use.

Set your spaghetti sauce heating over a low flame while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. I suppose you could use a marinara sauce or vegetarian sauce but I'm sure the flavor is more like cabbage rolls if you have some form of meat in the sauce.

Finely shred as much cabbage as you'll need to feed those gathered around your table.

Saute the cabbage in a nice amount of butter. I like to add a sprinkling of fennel seeds (I love fennel) but caraway seeds would be good, too. Salt and pepper the cabbage when it's cooked.

Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese for use as a top garnish. (Fresh really is better!)

Put cooked cabbage on plate, ladle on some sauce, and top with a nice garnish of Parmesan.

It really does remind one of authentic cabbage rolls. And so much easier! Mmmm, wouldn't some garlic cheese bread and a glass of Chianti go well with this?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Did It Seem Like Saturday Today?

Boy, is my time clock whacko. For some reason, all day today I've been feeling like it's Saturday. Don't know what to attribute that to but maybe it will make it seem like I've got extra time this week?

Our temp was only 14° when I got up this morning. And even though we actually had sunshine (hooray!) for most of the day, the thermometer didn't go above 20°. The wind didn't help things feel much warmer either. Each time either of us went outside, we came in with much the same sentiments. "Gosh, it's cold out there!" You can tell our blood isn't quite thickened up enough for winter yet.

First thing this morning I got the season's second batch of fruitcake in the oven. For a special holiday twist, I added dried apricots and cherries this time around. (I hadn't purchased dried cherries before and received a jolt of sticker shock when I did.) But, hey, it's Christmas! (Hope they taste good in the fruitcake.)

My freezer's supply of soups has sunk to a new low lately so I've been feeling some pressure to rectify that situation. Yesterday I got a double recipe of Wild Rice with Turkey stored away and this morning I made some Beef Barley which is now in the freezer. After lunch I started a huge pot of Bean Soup and will add some leftover ham for flavoring. (I looove Bean Soup!)

Started another couple gallons of kombucha. (I'm still going to do a post on kombucha, MaineCelt. I promise it WILL get done eventually.)

This year I've vowed to wrap Christmas presents as they arrive in the mail. How's that workin'? Well, let's say I'm a wee bit behind already. Maybe tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow. I'll definitely get on it tomorrow. (Somebody hold a big club over my head, please.)

I'm having to BUY eggs for my holiday baking, and it's just killing me. Our chickens are still on strike. We're getting an egg or two a day but not nearly enough for our own needs. That's what we get for not ordering new chicks early this past spring. They would already be laying by now and the "old girls" would be in the freezer. The two or three batches of chicks that our good mama hens hatched this summer won't be ready to start laying for another month or so.

Earlier today I did a post over on my quilting blog showing a really cute apron I made. If you're interested, take a little side trip over there and have a peek.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thank You, Good Turkey

I always make my own broth from a cooked chicken or turkey, and I had a whoppin', big ol' turkey carcass to work with after Thanksgiving.

First I sit at the table with a nice glass of wine and spend some quality time with what's left of Tom (Tomasina?) Turkey picking the bones and getting off all the meat I can. This meat gets wrapped and goes in the freezer for future meals. (My mom used to LOVE the job of picking a bird carcass. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit this trait from her so whenever I have to do the job, I can't help thinking of her and sending a plea skyward, "Mother, where are you when I need you?")

Meanwhile, back at the carcass . . . and wine. I put everything in the soup pot: gristle, bones, skin, yucky looking stuff I have no desire to eat. After all, that's where so many of the nutrients are, and I don't want to waste one bit of it.

All goes into my biggest stock pot. I asked for (and got) this pot for Christmas last year from my husband. I think it cost about $700 (that might be a slight exaggeration). When it's full of bones and water, I can't lift it. (Don't laugh at the picture. It's one of the better ones I've ever had taken.)

I fill the pot to within a couple/few inches of the top with cold water. Then I throw in some chunked up veggies to flavor the broth. For this big batch, I used three big onions, six stalks of celery and five carrots. I also sprinkle in (no measuring involved) any herb or spice that goes with fowl. Parsley, tarragon, sage, marjoram, rosemary, thyme . . . whatever strikes your fancy. Also salt and pepper, of course.

Two or three days of slow cooking (covered) . . . all day . . . simmers all the goodness out of the bones and into the broth.

Finally, I let the whole kit and kaboodle cool and strain it before putting into quart containers for the freezer.

What a haul! I got two and three-quarters gallons from this batch. That will make many pots of flavorful, nutritious soup for us. And it really does taste sooo much better than anything you can buy in a can or mix up from granules and water. Trust me. It does.

(Notice the candles in the above picture? Leftover from Thanksgiving Dinner. I never did get all five candles to stand up straight in the holder. Ah, yes, total class and ambience.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hello, Winter!

I've been waiting this morning for some sun to peek through so I could get better pictures . . . but I'm thinking it ain't gonna happen as the forecast is for 3-5" of more snow today.

Yesterday afternoon we got our first snowfall that truly covered the ground, and it seems it has decided to stay.

These pictures were all taken from upstairs in Roy's office. Yesterday the pond was snow-covered, but this morning all we can see is skim ice. And no ducks. Our wild mallards have finally packed up their bags and headed southward. Guess it was time. High time actually.

The garden beds and part of the field garden shown here are definitely settled into a winter resting time. (I could have taken these pics in black and white, couldn't I, for all the color we see right now.)

Some of the fruit trees with raspberry and blueberry patches in the middle background.

There's a particular "different" feel now that we have a little snow cover. Very appropriate for December, I would say. Uh-oh, I still have the Thanksgiving decorations out. And it's only a mere three and a half weeks until Christmas. (Sorry, did you not want to hear that?) We got our little Christmas tree this past weekend so I don't have many excuses for not getting on with yuletide decorating. Blast out some bouncy Christmas CDs, and let's get on with it!

Happy December!