Friday, December 4, 2009

Reading intentions

In perusing the internet yesterday, I found the Women of Faith book club! Because of the time involved I don't think I can join, but I am adding their book list to my book list! Right now I'm still working on my Fall into Reading Challenge of which I only have 1 book on my list done. I was wholly unimpressed with the touted Ayn Rand and gave up on Atlas Shrugged after 200 pages. I HATE giving up on books and may go back to it after I finish my current read - Jane Eyre. I enjoy it but only have a few minutes before bed to devote to it. I'm excited to embark on a genre that I haven't spent much time in, but is close to my heart!

Here is the link to the WOF Book Club page:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

I've been watching 3 of these guys for a couple of weeks now. This pumpkin was whole and unblemished (and looked pretty nice as part of my display!) before these guys started in on it. As destructive as they are.....they sure are cute!! And my cats are very entertained watching them.

Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her
He put her in a pumpkin shell...

And there he kept her very well.

Who knew that nursery rhyme was about squirrels! I couldn't get outside to catch him/her 'at home', so I had to take this through the window. Which doesn't make for the clearest, sharpest photos. And then I had to hurry to keep my little kitties head out of the way!

I'm linking to Outdoor Wednesday and hope you get a chance to get over there and see all the wonder that is shared!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Keep the change

During the sermon this morning the pastor was talking on materialism and stinginess. He used the analogy of Scrooge, and how no one would want to be known as a Scrooge. Heads nodded. Afterall, here is a man we all know was an atrocious slave to the almighty dollar...

But wait, didn't anyone but me watch (or read) this story of the man named Scrooge all the way to the end? And I got to thinking...this is what's hard about our world. Once we've been judged one way, no one seems to want us to change, although they seem pretty up front about telling us how we 'ought' to change...

Back to Scrooge...he was brought to his senses, he saw the error of his ways. (dare I say he repented?). He became a benefactor to the Cratchit family, helped them raise their children and even saved the life of Tiny Tim...He SAVED A LIFE! Yup, that's Scrooge....

It was said of Scrooge that he knew how to keep Christmas better than anyone...think of what that means...does that mean his own house looked better? His Christmas Eve suit was the newest? Doubt it! He kept Christmas. You Go Scrooge!...

He became generous and loving, fun and amiable, but no one wants to remember THAT, they only remember the BAHUMBUG. A Bahumbug attitude that Scrooge had wholly (or Holy) left behind. Why should we keep sticking the "I'm a humbug" sign back on his back?

If we need to change wouldn't we want the old signs on our backs to fall away? To be seen for our progress? If we can't allow other people to change, how are we ever going to reach (by our words, works, or as an example) those whose wrongs are so severe, addictions that are ingrained and even embraced? If those who've never had the opportunity to see what relationship with God can do in a life only know about Church God through the words, works, and example of those who won't remember change, how will they ever know the other life and the JOY of it?

So I say:
YES, I am a Scrooge!! And proud of it. I have left bad ways and wrong living, I am trying to grow and change still! Let me!! And hey...COME WITH me!

You can be a Scrooge too!! leave that Bahumbug sign behind!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It's a Bumn, a but, a bump...It's a CAKE! - (from scratch even)

In my last post I had made Cage Bars for the drama club's concession stand during intermission of the fall production. They turned out pretty good. I expected the filling to be a little cheesecakier? maybe, but still they were tasty! (I only swiped a little bitty bar).

And I couldn't remeber what C.A.G.E. actually stood for. Cardinals Acting Guild Entourage. Cardinals being the school mascot obviously. Yay me! :)

I also had a list of places I need to provide treats besides the CAGE event, and the next one is tomorrow night at Beth Moore Bible Study (Ester if anyone has ever done Beth Moore's and is curoius).

I had found a recipe for pumpkin spice cake on Pinch My Salt (here).

I gathered the ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  And I notice how much I shop at Wal-Mart! I run out and get All-spice, fresh Vanilla, and nutmeg while the eggs and sour cream are coming to room temperature.

Then I follow the directions to a T. At which point I forgot to take pictures.
     1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a Bundt pan (or even better, use Baker’s Joy spray).
     2. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; set  aside.
     3. In a large bowl combine eggs, sour cream, pumpkin, and oil. Beat well with a hand mixer (or use a stand mixer), scraping down sides with a spatula, until everything is well blended. Add flour mixture a little at a time, beating well after each addition, until everything is well combined. Scrape down sides, then blend in the vanilla extract.
     4. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan and bake in the center of a 350 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack for ten minutes, then invert cake onto wire rack and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar immediately before serving if desired.
     Yield: 10-12 servings
     Recipe Notes: *Pumpkin pie spice can be substituted with 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or make your own combination). Make sure to butter your Bundt pan really well and get into all the crevices. I like to use a spray like Baker’s Joy because I’ve never had a problem with cakes sticking to the pan when I use it.

I waited patiently and crossed my fingers.

I have never made a bundt cake

I have never ever made a cake from scratch.

It came out and smelled terrific! I got nervous on the inversion but....

Here's how it turned out...again, I have no idea about how it tastes! I hope it's as moist and yummy looking as the one over on Pinch My Salt. I'll know tomorrow night...if it's not there's always the cheese tray to snack on. :)

I took the cake to Bible study...and low and behold through the miracle of hectic schedules...I had my date written down wrong. It wasn't my night. So I apologized and asked everyone to be my guinne pig anyway :) Plus I will find another recipe to try for when it IS my night!

It was a very good cake! I think for my oven I'd reduce cooking time by at least 5 minutes. Mine wasn't as pretty and moist as the one shown over on Pinch My Salt, but still nicely moist! My mom makes a similar cake with the addition of walnuts and chocolate chips. I'd call my first attempt at a scratch cake a sucess!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall ambition - Crock pot chicken and Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars

If my kids weren't teenagers, I'd swear I was nesting again! I was so very domestic today! And It was such a perfect fall day!

First I threw together an experiment (albeit pretty common) in the crock pot for supper. I knew I'd need it since in the next 3 days I have to have 2 dozen 'treat's to the school to sell at a bake sale at intermission of the Maquoketa High School Drama production of Tucker's Ridge and Surviving Lunch - 2 short plays that take on issues of today, especially bullying. The Drama club calls it'self C.A.G.E. (although I can not for the life of me remember the acronym).

In addition I have treats for my women's Beth Moore bible study on Sunday and may as well make my treats for our service circle on Tuesday that I co-hostess...which means I bring treats.

Hectic baking coming up and plan on doing the 2 dozen tonight. So into the crock pot I threw some boneless skinless chicken breast I had thawed out. But looking at it I thought it didn't look like that much chicken, so I got out 2 frozen chicken thighs. I put them on the bottom and layered the chicken breast on top.

Then I mixed together 3 cans of 'cream of' soup. 2 chick 1 mushroom, 1/2 a package of beef onion soup mix, lemon pepper and Lawrey's -both lightly since the soup mix is usually very salty. Poured that over, put it on low and off to work.

Here's what I came home to:

 I had to put it on high for just a few minutes with the lid off to get it to thicken up, but then it was terrific. I had it over regular wide egg noodles. It was filling and satisfying and took no time to put together.
It does need a vegetable. Any suggestions? I plan next time to add onion and mushroom and also some red wine. What about large chopped cauliflower?

While that was thickening I threw a pan of cookies in the oven

Don't think me too ambitious. These are from a roll :)

Then I did undertake to actually try a recipe. It's from the Pillsbury website and it's called Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars. YUMMY sounding! So I thought, why not. 44 is not to old to start baking!

So I put them together. I had to modify the recipe only in that I used a roll and a half of cookie dough. (ooops, I guess that's not baking)

You crumble and press the dough down for the crust, in a small bowl mix together 1 pkg of cream cheese, 1 egg and 1/2 cup sugar for the filling then spread over the 'crust' dough (you can also add 1/2 cup coconut, but i"m not a fan), then crumble and sprinkle more dough for the top crust. I had read some reviews that suggested plenty of dough for the top especially.

It went together just perfectly!
And came out just beautifully!

They have to cool for 30 minutes and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours before I can cut a tiny piece to see how they turned out. The review said they can be hard to get out. I hope not too hard. I need to cut a dozen but since they are bound to be rich, I can make them smaller.

I got a kick out of the fact that I was making these for the drama club - CAGE....get it bars for CAGE....CAGE Bars! teeheehee
Well it tickled me. ;)

Next up - tomorrow night maybe? If not Saturday. Pecan Pie bars and then Pumpkin Spice Cake.

Oh heck ok... the Pecan Pie Bars are a mix but the cake...totally from scratch!

I'm linking to the always inspiring, always mouth watering Foodie Friday over at Gollum's

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

Adjust, Adapt, and Overcome...Right.

My 2 teenagers, known here as Angel 1 and Angel 2, are off to the church lock-in tonight! We are handing the reigns of the youth to a new youth director at midnight and they are having a coronation ;) plus!! It's the old Youth directors birthday! (Happy B-day Karen!!). She's not leaving the church though, just stepping out of that uber responsible position now that she's a (drumroll please) GRAMA :) So it is going to be a terrific Halloween night and one I was supposed to help and be a part of except.......

H1N1 has had me down for over a week now. Everytime I think I'm better and try to start doing things again it kicks back in, fever comes back...blech...Hopefully I'm about through it now. It's be about 10 days maybe 12?

And during that time I got word that my house buyer did indeed back out and my listing is about to expire. I'm taking it as a sign to stay where I am. Which is ok by me, afterall, I love my neighborhood! I'm less than a block from my mother's house. And what I was looking for in another home, I can add to this one.

Actually seeing all the creative blogs and finding new ones everyday gives me the certainty that it can be done, and actually, I'm betting you guys would be glad to help...with ideas and opinions and such :)

So here's the home. It's small (tiny!!) but workable.

And here's why I thought selling would be the better idea: 3 women, 1 bathroom...the square footage of the house is only 876.

but I have 240 on my sun porch out back

and 1/2 the basement is finished.


2 bedrooms up and one (non-conforming) down.

Only have a shower in the bathroom because the previous owners put a stack washer/dryer in there..which I have to admit is handy.

So those are the things that I thought would be easier to sell this and find somewhere else. But alas, the market isn't yet strong enough for me to be able to get out and break even on the improvements I have done (even including some 'depreciation').

Project #1

This is in the basement and is about 15 by 8. This was where the washer and dryer were before they moved upstairs. Say hello to the home of my new lower level bathroom.  About where that board is is where there will be a wall to keep the electrical away from the water/humidity of the bathroom area.

Project #2
An Addition

Bye bye sunporch. I didn't use you that much anyway, like the light though!
Mud room/laundry out here, another bedroom of it 12 by 25 total to add on and viola 1100 sq ft 3 bedroom house. Plus...put a BATHTUB back in the mainfloor bathroom!

Expensive, yes. But it's my home and some of that has to be weighed in too.

 Project #3

Siding and windows

Here's where you get to help...what colors???? I'm going for cottage-ish without storybook colors (ie: green and pink)

Can't wait to hear what you think

Friday, October 23, 2009

Time Traveler's and Stuck in Time

I just finished the Time Traveler's Wife. Unfortunately I got to finish it today because I'm home sick, me and over 80 kids in our High School alone with 'the flu'.

I'll be honest. I had a devil of a time getting into this book. It wasn't the writing, there were some passages in this novel that just blew my socks off and made me never want to plink out a scene on my computer or scrawl dialog on my yellow legal pad  again! It was the people. I just had a hard time caring. I think it was when I found out that Clare came from a wealthy family. I'm tired of that. Too Gilmore for me. By 3/4 through though, I loved them and was wrapped in this tale. And still felt the prose was incredible! Delectible - writing you don't plow through to up page count totals for 'challenges'. But like gourmet writing, to savor and experience. That's why I stuck with it and that's what gratified the whole process of  The Time Traveler's Wife. I gave it 4 stars. Highly recommend it, and yes, stick with it!!

Besides wishing I wasn't sick and knowing how slow time goes when I am, my realtor called and said that the buyer wants out of our sale contract. I knew it!! grrrr.  Oh well...C'est la vie. Another showing Sunday. It's just a situation where I need to re-set my sails (pun?) since I can not control the wind.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Stew time. Beef definately not Rabbit

I've been making this stew for awhile now. I'm about due for a new recipe to try.

Boneless beef ribs were on sale so I cubed them to start.

Roll in some flour and brown up in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil with a large onion, 3 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, 2 bay leaves, 3 tablespoons of Worchestershire sauce. Then add 3 cups of water or beef broth (I used beef broth this time) and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until meat is tender.

Add carrots and Potatoes and continue simmering for about another 30 minutes (mine would have taken less time this time, but I only checked it at the 30 minute mark and my potatoes were falling apart done. Too done.) Thicken at the end of time with flour and cold water wisked together.


Snacking while waiting is allowed if your good friend comes over and provides Hidden Valley Ranch Mix Pretzels

Some whole wheat bread and I'm ready for some comfort.

Tastes better than it looks. But as I say, I'm ready for a new recipe. My mom has a family favorite for Burgandy Beef Stew. Always delicious. 

I'm also going to keep at this until my photography skills increase! Hard to believe I won a photography award once upon a time. (back in the days of 35mm slr and film).

I'm linking to the Party at Southern Hospitality for my first time. As always, I'm sure I'll come away with more than I took :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pico de gallo and summer memories

What do you do on a dark, soggy fall night when the weather folks keep saying snow flurries...again...already. You remember  sumptious summer fare. Pico de gallo as developed, arranged, and composed by Oldest Angel. Cooking is her hobby and I think she did a lovely job!

She had an idea to go with the memory of flavors from a restaurant and she went from there. I took her to the grocery since O.A. can't drive yet, and we assembled what she deemed the ingredients.

Home grown roma tomatos, purple onion, fresh garlic, lemon juice, and lime juice, with fresh cilantro.

And chop.

And chop

She's very good at chopping and there is no one I'd trust faster with my Wuesthoff than her.

Squeeze lime and/or lemon juice over to taste.

The finished product ready to go into the fridge for some flavor melding and aging. Then on to some good chips!

It was delicious and I can't wait to start thinking about a little garden next year so most of the ingredients can be our own.

Since it was a success, next time we'll step up the presentation and plating points. I could probably find a more coordinating serving piece!

A+ kiddo. A great summer memory and a great mother/daughter memory for me and I hope for her too :)

I'm linking to Gollum and Foodie Friday

Not your typical recipe I know but..."It's not about's about having fun in the kitchen." to quote Gollum...and we sure did!

I think I can still catch a waft of onion and garlic :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What they say about news

Well they say "No news is good news" but in this case no news is just no news. I haven't heard back on weather my buyers have their financing secured yet and am in limbo until I do. I can not really make an offer on another house, can't start packing because if it falls through then we're back to having showings. So it's frustrating. But I'll get by. After all its candy corn season. Who invented that triangular crack anyway!! I don't even like candy!

My book challenge is going oh so slow. It occurred to me yesterday that I can't remember the names of the protagonists. I'm thinking I'm not that into this book. (sorry to those of you who really connected with it.) It's just not my time for it apparently.

I did however get the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice from Netflix last week. My oldest angel had never seen it...she claims she doesn't like movies...we must have watched it 10 times since then and yesterday when I sealed it up to send it back. She deemed this movie an exception and is ruined in comparing all her suitors to Mr. Darcy and lapsing into old english speaking patterns, accent, and vocabulary at random times. And dream of visiting Chatsworth (Pemberly in Derbyshire in the movie).

I also can not start any projects. Or any I'd hoped to start: my little drawer hanging thingy and my first chalkboard make-over. So I may take back up the crochet hook. Or the embroidery needle.

In the meantime, I'll try to stay focused (or focus on the other things going on with us) until I can put my efforts into either moving (which seems inevitable) or settling in to make my tiny home sufficient for us. Which is possible.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sale Pending

My little house has been on the market since August and I just went down to my realtor's office yesterday to sign papers on a counter offer. And they took it.

Now I am excited and petrified at the same time.

It is pending financing, but when that goes through, I will have 30 days from the time of official financing commitment to find and close on another home.

And one I like.
And one I can afford
And one that is a fair deal
And one that is in the right neighborhood

I bit off all my fingernails and am twirling my hair incessantly.

My mantra now is 'this will be for the better'! Which is why I started this in the first place. For the better. One more bedroom, one more bathroom, that's the quest!

There are exactly 3 homes in my small town that fit my criteria. I looked at 2 and have my fingers crossed for the 3rd. Or that the good Lord sees fit to have some perfect home come on the market today, or tomorrow.

Sub-Quest: find boxes
Sub-Sub-Quest: evaluate sanity!!

I'll post pictures of my little house and my hopefuls when I can.

OOOH I found one:

Very modest, cute little home. I'll miss it soooo much!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

So glad I'm not a teenager anymore...sort of

It's homecoming in the little hamlet of Maquoketa. 2 girls in high school this year was twice the fun getting ready.

Which do you think is more stressful, getting ready, or getting them ready. Everything is a crisis!! Don't ya love drama.

My oldest angel is in the blue...with the boyfriend in the sports car. A red Celica. (it's his Mom's! lucky her!!)
My youngest is a freshman this year and changed her hair 3 times before she was happy. Her guy was pretty nervous but what a sweetie!

They are my beauties and I hope they have fun, but I sure am glad it's over!
The next manicure around here is MINE :)


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm excited to start the Fall Reading Challenge at Callapidder Days! I love to read, love books, and love to hear what everyone else is reading and how they like it!

Here is my list
  • The Time Travelers Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
  • Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand
  • Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  • Lisey's Story - Stephen King
Maybe a little ambitious with the Ayn Rand thousand pager on there, but I'll get to them sooner or later!!

Some more weekend finds and projects to ready

Went over and got reconnected with my next door neighbor. She's an older lady and years ago I had helped her with some computer tutoring. She never put it together that I was the one who had moved in next door 5 years ago. So now she's all happy about neighboring again and said for me to come over just ANY time :) I picked up this cute little juice size pitcher. Eyed some other things that I later went back to get. and hopefully will post about later. This guy has some fleabites on the ice lip. still very cute funky little piece. for $2.00

Funny kitchy little tree frog hooks. too cute! for a buck I couldn't resist.

Project number 1. Maybe Ivory paint for this guy? Got him for a Dollar. Bathroom perhaps?

Project first chalkboard project.

This is my favorite piece. I got the tile for $1.00 and the easle (silver with a bamboo look if it doesnt show up that well) for a dime. I love the colors of teal and chocolate in the tile. It makes me happy.

Here's what I went back to neighbor Helen's for. The cornucopia, well everyone should have one for fall, there were about 3 others over there and I should have grabbed them all (since I think the leftovers may have gone to the dump...sad day) and the flowers and leaves in it and the flowers in my urn in the backgroud, plus flowers for my door basket. I was very happy to so simply add a season to my home.

Of course I did have an approval committee inspecting the purchases.

He seems rather disinterested.