Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stick 'em up...

Happy Birthday to the man who stole my heart.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I'm reading Wednesday...

Just What I Always Wanted by Nancy Roman

I'm not sure where I came across Nancy Roman's blog, Not Quite Old.  You can find it in my blog list.  I enjoy reading it, she has great humor, and so when I saw that she was publishing her first book a couple of weeks ago, and the Kindle version is very reasonable, I bought it.  I did not set my expectations very high, just because it was a first novel, and sometimes the firsts I have read lately haven't been very good.  So I have been very pleasantly surprised.  I'm about three-quarters of the way through, and I am enjoying it.  I think I will finish it tonight.

A World Elsewhere by Sigrid MacRae

Just minutes ago this book arrived via UPS.  About a week or so ago, I noticed that Goodreads has a giveaway section for new books.  The deadline to enter for this book was just hours away when I entered my name, and within a day or so I received an email that I had won one of the copies.  I will be reading it next, so that I can leave a review on the site.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Substitute for Cream of Anything Soup...

I've been cooking a long time....a L...O...N...G time.  And I think I do okay.  I have one friend who used to be a caterer, and she says I'm her only friend who is a good cook.  Of course, she is now vegetarian, so it's kind of hard to screw up salads when I feed her.  :)

A common ingredient you will frequently find in some of my family's favorite old-timey retro home-cooking casseroles are either Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Chicken, or Cream of Celery soups.  Those three used to be staples in my pantry, but I don't find myself buying them often anymore.  So tonight when I wanted to make an easy enchilada casserole, I had everything except the cream of mushroom soup.  (I know, I know.  Cream of Mushroom soup in an enchilada casserole sounds gross, but you will just have to trust me on this.)

Yoo-hoo...Google.  A search for "substitute for cream of mushroom soup"  landed me at Center Cut Cook.

And then I had this DUH moment.  Of course!  So simple.  Why did I never think of this on my own?  The simple recipe is made from ingredients that I ALWAYS have in my pantry and fridge.  It took way less time than a run to the store or even a neighbor's, no gasoline or money spent, and this recipe doesn't have any weird flavorings or stabilizers.

It's basically just a white sauce that can be adapted by differing the type of broth or seasonings that you choose to add.  I used beef broth tonight since I was making a beef casserole.  You could also saute a little mushroom for Cream of Mushroom, or celery for Cream of Celery.  (Who am I kidding, I would SO just use celery salt.)

Cream Soup Substitute from Center Cut Cook
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly stir in chicken broth, then milk. Whisk until it begins to thicken. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


And because I hate dirtying up an extra pan, I just mixed it all in the pan I was already using, then put the rest of my casserole recipe together.  It turned out great.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Blog Hop...creativity...

Julie McDonald at Simply Joolz invited me to participate in the Blog Hop Around the World.  The subject of the hop is very close to my heart:  creativity.  It is what takes up residence at the center of my being and endures as my life's goal.  Okay, maybe that's a little dramatic, but it IS really important to me.

(I am one person short of the two I was supposed to invite to participate in the blog hop, and here it is already time for me to post, so please if you would like to participate in the blog hop, let me know and I will email you the details.  Your post would not be due up till next Monday, September 1.)

My mother was a very creative person.  Even though she worked an inordinate number of hours outside the home, she also made our clothes, knit our sweaters, formed my sisters and I into assembly-line workers to make handmade goods for the annual church bazaar, she crocheted beads, and she needlepointed purses.  And I cannot even begin to talk about all the wonderful creations that came out of her kitchen!  My creative soul thrived under her tutelage.  And since I was the tag-a-long baby of the family with two working parents, I had a lot of time at home alone that needed to be filled.

So with that as my background, I will go on to answer the blog hop questions with photos of some of my cards inserted.

A lot of cards I make these days use paper only or have only limited stamping (candle flames above are stamped with a stamp I made from a pencil eraser).

 1.  Why do I create what I do?
      I think of myself as a Jill of all trades (crafts).  I believe when you see something that you want, you can buy it and get a momentary high.  Or you can figure out the process, assemble the necessary parts, and invest time and energy and heart and soul in its creation.  That is WAY better than a momentary high...that is a prolonged level of bliss!  Granted there are sometimes frustrations along the way, but they only increase the satisfaction at the end.  Or sometimes they make you throw the whole thing away and go in another direction entirely, but those times have been few and far between.
      One thing that I do consistently is make cards.  In 1998 I was invited to a Close To My Heart party.  The consultant showed us techniques for making cards.  It was like being hooked on a drug after using just once...I just had to have it!  I spent several years as a consultant myself, but when I went back to work full time something had to go.  I gave up the business, but never the art.
      Card making is the instant gratification of my crafting world.  I used to have a hard time actually getting them in the mail.  Then in 2011 I came across a challenge to send 52 letters in 52 weeks.  That really took seed.  I completed the challenge that year, and I loved it so much, I have repeated it each year since. 

Sometimes I feature my photographs on the cards I make.  Sometimes I 'artistically' alter them in Photoshop before printing.

2.  How does my creative process work?
      The short answer is, I don't know.  Sometimes I know right what I am going for...other times I have to ruminate on it for awhile...lay my supplies in front of me and see what calls out to me.

I loved making these two cards.  The top one uses origami to make a habit for a friend of mine who is a Dominican nun.  The bottom one was a work of Zentangling...oh how I love to doodle!

3.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?
      Well, that is the amazing part of creativity isn't it.  A room full of people can all be provided the same raw materials, and at the end of the day you will find yourself with a roomful of different creations!  I think creativity is DNA based...we all have different strands, and they are what make us different from every other person!

These two cards demonstrate what I love about stamping...the same stamp, but really different results.

4.  What am I presently working on?
      I don't have a handcraft project going at the moment.  I DO however have my crafting mojo in overdrive on the house.  The guest room and bath is being painted, and I am pulling currently owned furnishings and accessories together from hither and yon to reuse in a new combination.
5.  Who inspires me to create?
     I don't think it's so much 'who' as 'Who.'  I think the gift of creativity is God given, and using that gift brings me great joy! 

And the relevant (to me) quote I choose to share is:
      That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.       Chinese Proverb

I tell my husband that craft supplies are cheaper than professional therapy.  (Not sure that's completely  I do know that crafting keeps me sane (relatively).  Instead of focusing on those worrisome birds circling overhead, I put on my thinking cap and MAKE something!

My mother used to say that she was going to be a happy old lady, because there were so many things she loved to do that kept her busy.  She did stay pretty happy.  And she taught me how to stay happy too.

Polly at Small Wonders Daily Paintings by Polly Jones will be posting next Monday.  Check in with her, because I LOVE her paintings and am lucky enough to own a few.  I can't wait to see her take on the questions!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

At long last...

This post is composed of terrible photos and embarrassing admissions.  My apologies.

One wall of our home office is wall-to-wall shelves...actually they go around the corners too.  The ceilings and window on that wall are really high, so I added the height extensions to make it look more proportional.  However, for some reason the extensions for the right side of the window didn't get done when the others did, and they got shuffled about.

They have been missing in action (or more accurately in inaction) for a loooooong time.  I had looked everywhere for the darn things.  I was at the point of going and buying more.

Embarrassing confession: this is how it has looked for the past three and a half years!  Lopsided.  

Then the other day three boxes on a top shelf in the garage caught my eye, and it clicked! The missing extensions were found.  A couple of nights ago I assembled them.

Today I got out the ladder and attached them.  Ahhh.  That feels better.

Now I need to declutter them!  I'll take better photos when that's done.  And maybe we will all be able to see the floor by then too.

No promises as to when that may be.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I'm reading Wednesday...

The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

This is another one that has been languishing on my Kindle for awhile.  Since Dawn listed her top 5 Cecelia Ahern books yesterday, and I had just finished my previous read, I thought I would pull this one up for a read.

I'm not very far into it, so I don't have a feel for it yet.  The main character seems to get easily distracted and sidetracked.  In fact last night as I was reading about HER being distracted, I found MYSELF simultaneously distracted by my own runaway train of thoughts.  I'm not sure that's a good sign.  :)

Friday, August 8, 2014

I'm a little grouchy...

had ph ooto of Oscar uGroch, 
but changed my mind...and removed
it made it seem like g my 
I was calling husband and others names.
for explanation of unreadable text hre,e
read (or try to)

This may be a very short post.  My laptop's keyboard is going nuts...and taking me along for the ride.  The cursor hops around on its own volition.  That has been ongoing and I have grown accustomed to working around it.  Now, if I type faster than twenty words per minute, it really is just awful.

Completely separate from that, I have been pretty grumpy.

example 1...last night we went out ...

      >>>now the cursor is moving AND letters are jumping out of order...onto other lines...into the post title...time to call my computer guy<<<

example 1 (continued)...for dinner.  Husband starts off ordering a half-portion appetizer.  Waiter lets him know there is a special that is the same, but $2 cheaper.  Husband basically says no, thanks, just give me the same thing for $2 more please.  ????

example 2...I made a batch of homemade laundry detergent awhile back.  It does not make the laundry smell very clean.  

example 3...I went to Pinterest to look at other recipes for laundry detergent.  So many commenters say how nice it is to be able to make their own with no chemicals.  ???? Seriously?  Did these people take ANY science classes?

okay.  i can't take the typinsg frustration any longer.  i m going to ta ke a bath witha book.  if yoilu don't hear from me for awh ile, computer is in for repairs.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What I'm reading Wednesday...

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

I was browsing through my Kindle, looking for something I might want to start reading.  I couldn't decide on anything.  Then I found this one.  I read it decades ago, and loved suspenseful.  It was my introduction to Ken Follett, and I've been a fan ever since.   I bought it for my Kindle last year...just to have available for sometime.  When re-reading something after a long time, I always wonder if I will like it as much on the second go round.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Baking bread...

This recipe binder was a wedding gift.  I quit hand writing recipes in it a long time ago.  I'm sure I wrote this bread recipe at least twenty-five or thirty years ago, while talking to my mother on the phone.  I can tell because of the incomplete ingredient list and brief instructions. 

Mom was the best baker ever, and she baked so much bread over the years, that she didn't need to look at the recipe to tell me what went in it.  Luckily I remember it well enough to fill in the blanks I left in the recipe.

Bobby was my able assistant today.  He helped me measure ingredients, mix, and knead.  He now knows about rising and punching down.  We divided the dough, and we each formed a loaf and put it in a pan.  The photo above is after its final rising and it was ready to go in the oven.

And after a half hour or so, we had two beautiful golden loaves.  We took one immediately to Kasey's house, so they could enjoy it warm.

 Then he came back home with me (he's staying over) and sliced the remaining loaf.  It would've been nice if I had remembered to set the butter out earlier, but...  It was yummy, and turned out perfectly.

And you can see we are already down one jar of fig was only a partial jar...the last of the pot.

I am a regular Suzi Homemaker lately.  I think I should be wearing pearls.

I'll put the recipe over at What's Cookin' 4 Miles North of Nowhere.

A Bobby kind of day...

Wasn't this just yesterday?  Oh, he was the cutest baby ever.

Now he's FIFTEEN!  And still a cutie.

Bobby's birthday was in July.  For the past few years, I've been taking him out to lunch and shopping for a birthday present, but we hadn't had a chance to do that yet this year.  So today was the day.  He chose P.F. Chang' was really good.

And since it's right across the street from Trader Joe's, I wanted to run in and grab some Sparkling French Berry that stuff.

While there I made the most AMAZING find!  They have a new Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate!!!  I love cold-brewed coffee.  I used to make my own, but got out of the habit.  This is so cool.  Since my little Bobster loves iced coffee like I do, I made us each an iced coffee as soon as we got back home.  I just happened to have a bag of 'magic' Sonic ice in the freezer, and a can of whipped cream and a bottle of caramel sauce in the fridge.  

Lounging on the sofa with a cold glass of coffee makes a nice respite in the middle of the day.

In a few minutes we are going to dust off my old recipe binder, and bake a couple of loaves of my mother's bread recipe.  Nothing like warm, fresh homemade bread with real butter and homemade fig preserves!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday afternoon at home with the girls...

Kasey took the boys to the city to finish up back-to-school shopping, so the girls came over to spend the afternoon with me.  I asked if they wanted to try knitting, and they both did.  They were very patient while I cast on and knit a couple of rows for each of them to make the grip and stitching comfortable for them.

They both paid very close attention, and really did well at remembering the process of making a stitch.  Mastering the tension wrap and moving the stitches up and down the needles was challenging.  They stuck it out for a respectable length of time for a first lesson.  I didn't want them to get frustrated.

Watching them sit cross legged on the sofa with their faces deep in concentration made for a pleasurable afternoon for me.  

I'm just glad neither of them were lefties.  :)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fig season...

You wouldn't know by looking at it that this little fruit is SO delicious.  We completely lucked out when my sister-in-law asked us to come stay at their house with my was during the peak of fig season!  There are three fig trees in their yard, and Carey was diligent about harvesting.  I don't think I have ever in my life eaten so many raw figs.  Each time I walked through the kitchen, I popped three (or maybe six) in my very happy mouth.  

Coincidentally while we were there, Joolz mentioned in a post that her new cookbook had a fig jam recipe that she would like to try.  I left a comment that I was happily overdosing on figs at the moment, and she emailed me the recipe.  I had my doubts about it when I saw that it called for candied ginger.  I'm not a fan of ginger.  But the recipe did sound interesting, so today I made it almost as printed (except that I decreased the ginger just a little, and I added some very thin slices of lemon...because my mother always did).

Joolz, I owe you a BIG thank you!  And I happily recommend that you give it a try when you have figs ripening in Australia...which would be January maybe?  It was pretty easy, and it didn't need to be watched every minute.  The only downside was that the recipe only made three half pints!  :(  

I probably have enough figs left to make two more recipes worth.  Though I had looked up a couple of other recipes in case this one didn't hit the mark, this one turned out SO delicious that I am discarding the other recipes and using this one for the remainder of my figs.  I think I will try doubling it, though that's not always recommended.  (edit:  The second doubled batch tastes okay, but it did not set up the same and is a little cloudy...I wish I had not been in a hurry to get it done and had done individual recipe batches.)

Dear Laurie Beth,  my lovely and generous fig-preserving friend and sharer of your bounty, I want you to know that I won't come simpering and whining begging your hard work...this year.  :)

from The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Liz Harfull

1 kg figs (2.2 pounds)
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp sweet sherry
2 cups white sugar
125 g crystallized ginger, finely chopped (4.4 oz)

Wash figs and dice into small pieces, about 1 cm square.  Place them in a large saucepan with the orange and lemon juices and sherry.

Bring to boil over a medium heat.  Continue to boil gently, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for about 50 minutes, or until the figs are soft and the liquid is reduced.

Add the sugar and ginger to the pan, stirring continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Boil gently for about another 30 minutes, or until the jam sets.
Pour into hot sterilized jars, and seal while hot.

Makes 3 to 4 cups.

The only changes I made were: I quartered the figs instead of cutting any smaller, I decreased the ginger by about half, and I added about half of a lemon VERY thinly sliced.

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