Saturday, December 1, 2007

Make Your House Smell Like Christmas



It’s easy to make your house smell like Christmas if you buy a real Christmas tree and greenery. That can be very messy and expensive. You can also buy some of the hundred kinds of air fresheners. They work but are usually ugly and artificial smelling not to mention that they are extremely expensive.

It is cold outside and the air inside your house may be stuffy and stale. There are many natural things you can do to make your house smell yummy!!!

Buy holiday scented candles and burn for an hour or two everyday. The scent will linger long after the flame is extinguished. Set out bowls of cinnamon sticks, scented pine cones (from the craft store), or holiday potpourri.

Make pomanders from clove studded fruits such as oranges and apples and arrange in a bowl or platter or tie a ribbon around and hang in a closet or on your tree. For a long lasting pomander, you can follow these instructions that I found at Pioneer Thinking.com.

Pomanders
Supplies needed:
small or medium size unblemished fruit. (Oranges, Apples or Lemons)
masking tape or elastic bands
paper bag
20-25 grams large headed cloves
spice mixture: 1 tablespoon each: cinnamon, nutmeg,and ground cloves
Knitting needle or fork or toothpick
thimble or masking tape to cover fingers
4 drops sandalwood oil (a natural preservative)
ribbons for hanging pomanders
To begin, select fruit that is blemish free. Oranges are very suitable for this project.

Mix the spices with the Sandalwood oil in a bowl or bag and set aside. Cover fingers with masking tape or thimbles when making the holes for the cloves, otherwise it can be painful after awhile. At this point, if you want to decorate the pomander with ribbons, using masking tape, make a crisscross design on the fruit.

This will be the marked off area when the ribbons will be. Using the knitting needles or something similar, poke holes starting from the top of the orange straight down to the bottom, inserting cloves as you go along.

Continue this all around the fruit until it is completely covered in cloves. Make sure the hole is about double the size of the clove stem, since the orange will shrink to about half its original size. Maximum spacing between cloves should be no more than 1/4 inch, the closer together the better. Once the orange is clove studded, place the spices in a paper bag. (Do not use plastic bags as it will prevent the pomander from curing properly). Roll the orange in the spices until it is completely and evenly coated. Next leave the orange in the bag and place in a cool, dry area for approximately 4-6 weeks to dry the pomander out. Roll the orange in the spices daily. Note: If you notice any mold or the orange decomposing then throw it out. Curing time varies anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months. On average it's about 3 1/2 weeks. To check if your pomander is dried, it should sound hollow when tapped with your knuckle, and feel light in weight. Once dried, shake off any excess spices. You pomander is now ready to fill your house with a sweet spicy scent.

Decorating the pomander: Place ribbons in a criss-cross fashion where the tape was placed or elastic bands. Sew the ends together and make a loop for hanging.

Pomanders look beautiful when several of them are placed in a bowl together. In this case ribbons are not necessary.

Pomanders last many many years. When the scent starts to fade, add a few drops of clove oil to your spice mixture and reroll in the spices.


Make Cinnamon scented ornaments to hang on your tree or in your closets using this recipe:


Cinnamon Ornaments



1 cup cinnamon
1 tbsp. cloves
1 tbsp. Nutmeg
3/4 cup applesauce (Let drain in a strainer for several hours)
2 tbsps. white glue

Mix cinnamon, cloves & nutmeg add applesauce & glue. You can also add glitter for a sparkly effect. Work mixture with hands until smooth and well mixed. Divide into 4 portions roll out to 1/4 inch thickness cut with cookies cutters. Use straw to make hole for hanging (if needed). Put on wire rack to dry at room temp for several days. Turn twice daily so they don't curl. Use ribbon to hang if needed.


These are very pretty and smell delicious. They can be hung on a tree, glued to a wreath, or placed in a basket. I like to hang them in my kitchen window.

Make a house fragrence to simmer on your stove. I use this recipe but you can experiment with these ingredients to find a mixture you like:

House Fragrance

2 cups pineapple juice, cider, or water
½ cup orange peel (from 3 oranges and let dry overnight)
1 ½ sticks cinnamon
2 or 3 bay leaves)
½ cup lemon peel (from 3 lemons and let dry overnight)
½ cup whole cloves
Combine and bring to a boil. Simmer on stove adding water as needed. Can be refrigerated and reused.

Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to Simplify Christmas


Christmas is just a few weeks away. Preparing for Christmas may seem like a mountainous task – decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, and baking!!!!! It can be an endless list of chores that can steal away your Christmas spirit if you let it. The two main culprits are time and money – you never have enough of these two things!

You need a Christmas Notebook! A Christmas Notebook will save you time and money by organizing your Christmas preparations. Buy a spiral notebook or a binder and some notebook paper. Print out the month of December and glue or tape on the first page. Fill in special dates, parties, and obligations as you receive them. You will use the next few pages of your notebook to make shopping lists.

1. Gift list. List the person’s name, gift ideas, and a price range. Leave a few spaces for revisions and fill in the final gift. Don’t forget the newspaper boy, garbage men, etc.

2. Decorations. Do you need to buy a Christmas tree, new lights, a wreath, extension cords, wrapping paper? Add to this list as you set up your decorations.

3. Food. What cookies, candies, and breads are you going to bake? Are you going to have a party or a special meal? Write out a preliminary menu. Pull out the recipes for these foods and store them in your notebook – you can make a copy or just tape them in. Make another list of special ingredients or staples you need to buy.

4. Entertainment. Are you having a party? What party supplies do you need to buy? Will you be attending a holiday show? Do you need to pay for tickets or meals out?

5. Cards and postage. Do you need to buy holiday cards and stamps? Do you need to mail packages?

6. Reservations. Are you traveling? Do you need to make plane reservation? Hotel reservations? Do you need to buy things for your trip?

7. Charities. What charities do you want to donate to this year?

After you have made these lists, you can budget your Christmas. Decide how much money you can spend on Christmas. The best way is to set aside some money for Christmas every month or an extra paycheck or two during the year. If you have not already done this you need to figure out how much money you can come up with using what you have, spare savings, credit cards, maybe even a part time job. On a new page, list the major categories of gifts, decorations, food, entertainment, cards and postage, charities, and travel expenses. Estimate your expenses for each category using your lists and adjust according to the total amount you want to spend. You may have to eliminate some items to make your budget work. Maybe you can make some gifts or reduce your gift or party list.
You can add chores, party and dinner plans, menus, phone lists, addresses, and just about anything else you need to remember. Everything you need to remember will be in one place.

This notebook can be used for several years by adding on more pages. Add recipes, Christmas ideas, crafts, and cutouts from magazines to your notebook. Take pictures of your decorations if you want to repeat them next year and might not be able to remember. Keep a record of the gifts you give so you don’t repeat them the next year. Make one page a list of gifts and decorations that you buy in the after Christmas sales so you know what you have already bought for the coming year.

Once you have something written down and a semi- plan in place you can forget about the hassles of Christmas and relax and enjoy the season!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fast and Easy Pumpkin Recipes


Thanksgiving is almost here and it is time to enjoy some pumpkin pie with whipped cream topping and a delicious cup of rich, fragrant coffee. What a way to end a meal!!! I have several fast and easy pumpkin recipes which are also low in fat. Here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin Pie Dip
1 (15 ounce) canned pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh pureed)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 cups 10x confectioners sugar
4 ounces cool whip

Using an electric mixer on low speed, blend the pumpkin and cream cheese until smooth.
Add pumpkin pie spice and confectioners sugar and blend with mixer until smooth and creamy.
Fold in the cool whip and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Serve with ginger snaps or cinnamon graham crackers.
(My daughter’s special recipe!!! Use low fat or fat free cream cheese for a low fat version.)

New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
(from Pillsbury’s Healthy Baking)

Pastry for one-crust pie
Filling:
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
1 - 16 ounce cans pumpkin (2cups)
1 – 12 ounce can evaporated skimmed milk (1 ½ cups)
½ cup frozen fat-free egg whites, slightly beaten
Topping:
1 cup frozen light whipped topping

Prepare piecrust or use frozen one for 9 inch pie.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, combine all filling ingredients and blend well. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan and carefully transfer to oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40 – 50 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Cool and refrigerate until serving time. Serve with whipped topping. Serves 8 -10.
This pie is low fat and healthy, easy to make, and tastes delicious!!!!


Pumpkin Bread

Sift together and set aside:
2 1/3 cups flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves

Mix together:
2 cups sugar
¼ cup oil
8 egg whites
½ cup water
1 cup pumpkin

Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend. Pour into w greased loaf pan and bake for 45 – 55 minutes at 350 degrees.
This is a very simple, low fat bread recipe. They make great gifts, especially if you coat the pan with a sugar and cinnamon mixture after greasing. Just wrap in saran warp and tie a pretty bow around them.

Upside Down Pumpkin Pie

Layer 1 (Mix and pour into 9X13 cake pan)
1 - 29 ounce can pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
14 ounces condensed milk
3 eggs

Layer 2 (sprinkle over layer 1)
1 cup chopped pecans

Layer 3
Cover layer 2 with 1 box dry yellow cake mix

Layer 4
Drizzle ¾ cup melted oleo over cake mix.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool, serve with whipped cream.
(Much easier than pumpkin pie and tastes great! Comes out of the oven a little liquidy but gets more solid as it cools!! This is not a low fat recipe!)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Easy Fall Centerpiece



A cool, sunny fall afternoon is the perfect time to take a long, leisurely walk with your family. Appreciate nature by observing colorful leaves, watching squirrels gather nuts, and the bounty of pinecones, seed pods, and acorns. Collect pretty leaves, acorns, pinecones, nuts, seeds, twigs, and berries to bring inside and decorate your home for Thanksgiving.

Every fall I gather items from my walks and my yard and make a fall centerpiece for my dining room table. I change it every year. My kids love to help. They like to see something they have created decorating their home.


Here are the instructions for making an easy fall centerpiece of your own:

Easy Fall Centerpiece

Materials:
Glass cake stand or plate
Colorful fall leaves (Be sure to choose leaves that have not dried out yet.)
Nuts, pine cones, twigs, berries, acorns, buckeyes, dried seed pods or corn, cranberries,
Jar candle or votive candle in a glass jar

Instructions:
Line plate with leaves - stem side facing in. Fan out around edge of plate.
Place candle in center of plate.
Scatter a variety of nuts, pine cones, twigs, acorns, buckeyes, around candle.

Add cinnamon sticks, coffee beans, or dried apples if you want your centerpiece to have a lovely fall scent. I added cinnamon stick pieces, coffee beans, and a pumpkin scented candle. It smells like Thanksgiving dinner has already been cooked!!!.

Most of these items can be bought at a craft shop if you are unable to collect your own. It is fun to make your own arrangement.

Variations:
Center: Mini pumpkin, acorn squash, candles set in hole carved in mini pumpkin or squash, decorative candle
Outer: Substitute potpourri mixture for nut mixture.
You could also arrange an assortment of gourds on a bed of leaves.

Fall leaves are great decorations for your home. Fan some out around and under your dinner plates. Cut some branches of fall colored leaves and put in a vase. Hollow out a butternut squash or pumpkin and arrange some small branches of fall leaves or fall flowers for a small centerpiece. Fruit and vegetables are very good decorations. Make candle holders from hollowed out pumpkins, gourds, squash, and even apples. Fill mason jars with cranberries and set a candle in the center. Use washed and hollowed out peppers, squash, and pumpkins to hold dips.

Some of these items are flammable so be careful when burning candles.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Halloween Hangover or what do you do with all that letover Halloween candy?


Too much candy!!! What can you do with all that leftover Halloween candy? Here are 10 ideas:
1. Chop up chocolate candy bars and add to cookie, brownie, or cake batter.

2. Use leftovers to decorate a gingerbread house. An easy gingerbread house can be made from graham crackers and glue.

3. Make a Snack Mix such as 1. Gorp : Mix equal amounts of M&Ms, peanuts, and raisins or 2. equal amounts of candy corn and peanuts ( tastes like a payday).

4. Chop up and garnish pudding, ice cream, or frosted desserts.

5. Having a party in the near future? Save leftovers and use in a piƱata or treat bags.

6. Make a brownie pizza and decorate with candy leftovers.

7. Donate to a homeless shelter or nursing home.

8. Hang it on your Christmas tree or use it to make Christmas Tree Ornaments. You can make a train ornament by gluing a pack of lifesaver to the flat side of a pack of gun or a candy bar. Glue on peppermint or butterscotch candy for wheels. Glue a caramel on top of lifesavers for a cabin, a Hershey Kiss for a spout arranging paper streamer to look like steam and a Rolo for the engine front. Glue a ribbon to the top middle for hanging.

9. Make an Oreo cookie turkey for Thanksgiving:
Ingredients:

24 Oreo Double Stuff cookies
12 miniature peanut butter cups
12 malted milk balls
1 cup candy corn
4 ounces chocolate frosting
4 ounces white frosting
red food coloring

Assemble:
1.Place one Oreo cookie as the base. Put one teaspoon of chocolate frosting on top.
2. Place one small peanut butter cup on it's side so that the top and bottom are perpendicular to the base -- and stuck in the frosting. Place a teaspoon of chocolate frosting on the top(widest part) of the p-butter cup.
3. For the second cookie. Stick some candy corn into the oreo 'stuff' along one edge for the feathers -- pointy side down. They should fan out around the edge. If you have trouble doing this, you can help them stick with some white frosting.
4. Place this second oreo cookie (the tail) on it's edge and sticking to a dab of brown frosting on the back of the peanut butter cup.
5. Place a dab of chocolate frosting on top of the peanut butter up (for the head). Place a malted milk ball on top for the head.
6. Take a small amount of the white frosting in a separate dish. Mix in red food coloring.
7. Use a toothpick with the white and red colors to place eyes, and wattle. You can pinch off the small pointy top of a candy corn and dip it in brown frosting for the beak. This recipe and picture comes from Recipezaar.com.

10. Decorate a plain Christmas wreath by gluing on assorted candy and a pretty bow and hang on your front door.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Easy Baked Chicken Recipe

My husband hates cheese. This is a problem for me when I am trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Most of the time, he can sniff it out if I try to hide it. He gets mad if I try to hide cheese in his food. Last night I was in the mood for Parmesan Chicken. I knew he wouldn’t like it so I looked for a substitute recipe without the cheese. I found a really good recipe for Baked Chicken that I want to share.
Oven Fried Chicken Breasts
Ingredients:
6 pieces boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 egg
¼ cup skim milk
1 cup dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon paprika

Beat with a fork in a small bowl: 1 egg and ¼ cup skim milk.
Shake in large bag: bread crumbs, pepper, salt, garlic powder, thyme, and paprika.
Dip chicken in egg mixture, and then drop into bag of coating. Shake gently. Place well coated chicken on greased cookie sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Smells and tastes delicious.
While my chicken was baking I made quick and easy baked potatoes. I washed the potatoes, poked them with a fork and cooked them individually in the microwave for 4 minutes. I wrapped them in foil and put them in the oven to finish cooking along with the chicken. I think they taste better that way. Then I steamed green beans. We all agreed it was a really good meal, one that I will repeat often. I found this recipe at Allrecipes.com and changed it a little.

Easy Baked Chicken Recipe

My husband hates cheese. This is a problem for me when I am trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Most of the time, he can sniff it out if I try to hide it. He gets mad it I try to hide cheese in his food. Last night I was in the mood for Parmesan Chicken. I knew he wouldn’t like it so I looked for a substitute recipe without the cheese. I found a really good recipe for Baked Chicken that I want to share. I found it at Allrecipes.com and altered it.

Oven Fried Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
6 pieces boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
Beat with a fork in a small bowl: 1 egg and ¼ cup skim milk.
Shake in large bag: 1 cup dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon paprika
Dip chicken in egg mixture, and then drop into bag of coating. Shake gently. Place well coated chicken on greased cookie sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Smells and tastes delicious.
While my chicken was baking I made quick and easy baked potatoes. I washed the potatoes, poked them with a fork and cooked them individually in the microwave for 4 minutes. I wrapped them in foil and put them in the oven to finish cooking along with the chicken. I think they taste better that way. Then I steamed green beans. We all agreed it was a really good meal, one that I will repeat often.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Free Candy Corn Crocheted Coaster Pattern


I found some chocolate candy corn earlier this week at Target. They are made by Hershey’s in the shape of a kiss. They look like candy corn shaped like a Hershey’s kiss and taste like white chocolate. There is a recipe for Autumn Cookies on the package which looks delicious!!! Candy Corn Kisses are addicting!!!

I have been making many Candy Corn Crocheted Coasters. I made up this pattern myself and would like to share it with other crocheters:

Candy Corn Crocheted Coasters

Materials:
G crochet hook, small amounts of white, orange, and yellow Lily Sugar and Cream yarn

Instructions:
Row 1: With white, ch 2, 2 sc in second ch from hook: ch 1, turn
Row 2: 2 sc in each sc across: Ch 1, turn.(4 sc)
Row 3: Sc in each chain across. Ch 1, turn.
Row 4: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 2 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(6 sc)
Row 5: Sc in each sc across. Drop white and weave in orange. Ch 1, turn.
Row 6: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 4 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(8 sc)
Row 7: Sc in each sc across. Ch 1, turn.
Row 8: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 6 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(10 sc)
Row 9: Sc in each sc across. Ch 1, turn.
Row 10: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 8 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(12 sc)
Row 11: Sc in each sc across. Ch 1, turn.
Row 12: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 10 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(14 sc)
Row 13: Sc in each sc across. Ch 1, turn
Row 14: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 12 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(16 sc)
Row 15: Sc in each sc across. Drop orange and weave in yellow. Ch 1, turn.
Row 16: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 14 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(18 sc)
Row 17: Sc in each sc across. Ch 1, turn.
Row 18: 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 16 sc, 2 sc in last sc, ch 1, turn.(20 sc)
Row 19: Sc in each sc across. Ch 1, turn.
End yellow and weave in ends. Lightly press to flatten. Each coaster measures 5 inches tall and 6 inches long at the base.

This is the first time I have ever written a pattern so please be forgiving if you find any mistakes and let me know if I need to make corrections. Thanks!

Happy Halloween!!!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Easy Fall Recipes for Halloween


Fall is the perfect time for a wiener roast. Start a bonfire or light up your grill and roast some hot dogs or even a brat or sausage. Put some baked beans in the crock-pot for a side dish. Cut up some carrots and celery. Nothing is as satisfying as cooking your own meal over a fire with the people you love. For dessert, roast some marshmallows or make s’mores by putting a roasted marshmallow on a piece of graham cracker with a chunk of Hershey’s chocolate bar and smashing another graham cracker on top. Delicious!!!

Kids are not too hungry Halloween night when they are preparing to go trick or treating. They just might eat some Vampire Soup and Frankenstein Fingers! Make a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and some hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls. To make Frankenstein Fingers: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place wiener on shortest side of crescent roll triangle and roll up. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. You can even insert a strip of sharp cheddar cheese into a slit cut into the wieners.

After you make your jack-o-lanterns, you will have lots of pumpkin seeds. To make a tasty, nutritious snack: wash seeds and discard pulp. Place seeds on an oiled cookie sheet and mix to coat seeds or spray with Pam. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees until just toasted or about 25 minutes. Be sure to stir after 10 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container. Toasted pumpkins seeds are great as a snack. Try spicing them up with garlic salt and Worcestershire sauce or sweeten them with cinnamon and sugar for a different taste.

Cupcakes or cookies are great for school treats or parties. Make, frost, and decorate with Halloween sprinkles or candy corn and pumpkins and also those Halloween Peeps. Ghost Cupcakes can be made by sticking a Nutter Butter Cookie into a chocolate frosted cupcake. Frost the cookie with white icing and put a ghost face on it with chocolate icing, gumdrops, or chocolate chips. Pumpkin Cupcakes can be made by frosting a cupcake with orange frosting and arranging chocolate chips into eyes and a mouth. Spider Cupcakes can be made by bending 8 black licorice sticks into legs and inserting them into opposite sides of the cupcake. Add two red M&Ms for the eyes and two candy corn fangs. Black Cat Cupcakes can be made with half an Oreo cookie to which you attach chocolate chips for the ears, jelly bean halves for the eyes, and pieces of black string licorice for the whiskers using chocolate frosting. Let dry for 30 minutes. Stand on chocolate frosted cupcake and attach a black licorice piece for the tail. Creepy Dirt Cupcakes can be made from chocolate frosted cupcakes scattered with crushed Oreo cookies decorated with gummy worms. Be sure to stick the end of some of the worms into the cupcake so they look like they are climbing out.

There are many kinds of punch. Green Slime Punch is from equals amounts of green HiC and Sprite. Black Witch’s Brew can be made from 1 (.13 ounce) envelope unsweetened grape soft drink mix, 1 (.13 ounce) envelope unsweetened orange soft drink mix, 2 cups white sugar, 3 quarts cold water, and 1 liter ginger ale. Wormy Punch is made by combing 1 gallon orange sherbet (softened) and 1 quart chilled pineapple juice. Stir in 1 liter of lemon-lime soda. Decorate the bowl with gummy worms. Make Vampire Punch with a large bottle red grape juice chilled to slush, large bottle of Hawaiian Punch chilled to slush, a large bottle of chilled ginger ale, and a large bag of frozen strawberries. Combine all ingredients in a large punch bowl. For fun, you can put a frozen hand in the punch by freezing water in a plastic glove (Make sure they do not have powder in them) or add some dry ice for a foggy effect (add dry ice to a larger bowl sitting under punch bowl and touch the dry ice only with some tongs. You might also try putting the punch in a clean, hollowed out, chilled pumpkin. For an adult punch, just add vodka to the recipes listed above.
Popcorn Balls are a treat this time of year. I have used this recipe for years. Make 3 quarts of popcorn and place in large bowl. Stir 1 Cup Karo Light Syrup, 1 cup sugar, and ½ tsp. salt in pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Cook without stirring for 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla. (I also add even drops of yellow and red food coloring to tint them orange). Slowly pour over corn, mixing well. Cool enough to handle and shape into balls. Wrap in wax paper.
Caramel Apples are delicious. If you buy a 14 ounce bag of caramels, you will usually get a recipe on the back and some sticks. For six apples: Remove the stem from each apple and press a craft stick into the top. Butter a baking sheet. Place caramels and 2 tbsp. of milk in a microwave safe bowl (a 4 cup Pyrex bowl works great) and microwave for 2 minutes, stirring once. Allow to cool briefly. Roll each apple quickly in caramel sauce until well coated. Place on baking sheet to set. You can decorate them before they set with sprinkles, peanuts, candy corn, or anything else you can imagine. I also like this Caramel Apple Salad: In a bowl, whisk 1 cup cold fat-free milk and sugar free butterscotch pudding mix for 1 minute (mixture will be thick). Whisk in 1 cup whipped topping. Fold in 3 ½ cups chopped apples. Refrigerate until serving. Top with 1 cup of whipped topping and sprinkle with 12 cup chopped peanuts.
Last is Hot Apple Cider, a warm and soothing drink. Pour ½ gallon of apple cider in a pan and simmer on the stove. While it simmers combine 3 sticks or cinnamon or 2-3 tsp. ground cinnamon, 2 tbsp. whole cloves, or 2 tsp. ground cloves, and one tsp. ground nutmeg. Add to cider, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes more. You can add orange slices or brown sugar for a slightly different taste. Adults can add a cup of rum or ½ cup of brandy. Smells and tastes great on those cold rainy evenings!!!
Enjoy the season.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Pleasures of Fall


Brrrr!!!! It’s cold outside today. After a long period of unseasonably warm weather, it has finally turned cold outside. Days are getting shorter and shorter. It’s dark in the morning and dark early at night. This is lovely sleeping weather – these cool dark nights!

The cold crisp air is energizing. This morning I went for a long walk. It seems that the leaves have changed color overnight. They are beautiful: yellows, reds, browns, rust. It’s a feast for your eyes! Everyone in my neighborhood has decorated for fall. I saw scarecrows, ghosts, cornstalks, and pumpkins of all sizes and shapes.

It is windy out. I was pelted with a blast of acorns being blown out of an oak tree. I watched two squirrels scampering around picking them up. Leaves are blowing around. Somewhere, someone is burning leaves. I can smell them. I love that smell.

I like this poem about fall:

The harvest moon hangs round and high
It dodges clouds high in the sky,
The stars wink down their love and mirth
The Autumn season is giving birth.
Oh, it must be October
The leaves of red bright gold and brown,
To Mother Earth come tumbling down,
The breezy nights the ghostly sights,
The eerie spooky far off sounds
Are signs that it's October.
The pumpkins yellow,. big and round
Are carried by costumed clumsy clowns
It's Halloween - let's celebrate.
- Pearl N. Sorrels, It Must be October

Take a few minutes to enjoy a beautiful fall day!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Candy Corn


Candy corn. You either love or you hate it! I love it. It’s so sweet and sugary you can only eat a few at a time. Ten minutes later you want more! My sister says: I hate it. It makes me sick. I only use it to decorate with.

What’s in it? I just happen to have a bag of Blueberry Hill Brand. Sugar, corn syrup, egg whites, honey, soy protein, salt, artificial flavors, confectioner’s glaze, carnauba wax, and artificial colors. 150 calories per 16 pieces. No fats. Lots of sugar.

Where did it come from and how is it made? It was originally invented by George Renninger in the 1880s and produced by the Wunderle Candy Company. Sugar, corn syrup, and water are combined and cooked into a slurry. Fondant is added for texture and marshmallows for softness. The final mixture is then heated and colored and poured into shaped molds. (Wikipedia).

I prefer Indian Candy Corn. It has brown chocolate at the top instead of orange. There are other variations including: "Reindeer Corn" which is produced during Christmas season where the yellow is replaced with red and the orange is replaced with green. "Cupid Corn" is produced during Valentines season, in which the yellow and orange are replaced with red and pink, and "Bunny Corn" which is produced during Easter, in which many colors are made for each kernel such as yellow, pink, green, blue, purple and white.
It is estimated that 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold each year. (Wikipedia).

Candy Corn is a popular decorating theme for fall and Halloween. Candy Corn Halloween decorations are currently selling in stores like WalMart, Target, Walgreens, Kohls, etc. There are candy corn candy dishes, candles, kitchen items, cards, tshirts, and more. I am making candy corn potholders and bags. I'm working on a candy corn coaster pattern. I also have glass pumpkin jars filled with candy corn pieces in my living room.

Here is my favorite candy corn potholder pattern: http://www.crochetmemories.com/archive/october9.html

You can also make an awesome snack mix by combining candy corn and peanuts – tastes just like a Payday. Delicious! Candy corn is a wonderful decoration on brownies, cakes, rice krispy treats, and cookies. Tastes wonderful too! Betty Crocker has a recipe for Candy Corn Sugar Cookies http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/recipe.aspx?recipeId=42399 and there is another at cookingvilliage .com http://www.cookingvillage.com/cv/recipe/art/0,1684,sLang=us&iObj=9812,00.html

Candy corn. Do you love it or do you hate it?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chilli and Hot Dogs


A busy Saturday and I need to make a quick meal. I have spent the morning at garage sales and the afternoon doing yard work. My family is starving and so am I. What do I do? I make Chili and hotdogs. Fast and easy and everybody likes it.

I have used this chili recipe for over 25 years. It is fast and easy and has many variations. It takes about 45 minutes starting with thawed hamburger. Brown 1 pound of hamburger in a large skillet. Season with 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. chili powder, and 1 tsp. onion powder (can sub ½ chopped onions). Add 1 can red beans, 1 can tomato juice, ½ can water, and 1 tbsp. sugar. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add more seasonings if you wish. While chili simmers, cook hot dogs or you will even have time to bake a batch of Jiffy or Martha White cornbread. Mix up a green salad. Pull out some crackers or corn chips to garnish. Done in 45 minutes from start to finish.

You can start this chili in advance the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator. You can simmer it on your stove or in your crock-pot for hours. It can be doubled or tripled. If you have time, you can add fresh, canned, or frozen chopped onions and tomatoes and peppers. You can make it thicker by not adding the water and thinner by adding more water. You can make it even faster if you brown the hamburger, which can be frozen and re-thawed, ahead of time. Hot dogs can be simmered in water and served on a bun or baked in a crescent roll. Delicous!!!

I like to make this salad to go with it or even for dessert: Caramel Apple Salad. You need:
• 1 cup cold fat free milk
• 1 (1 ounce) package instant sugar-free butterscotch pudding mix
• 2 cups reduced-fat whipped topping, divided
• 3 1/2 cups chopped unpeeled apples
• 1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
Whisk milk and pudding mix for 1 minute (mixture will be thick). Whisk in 1 cup whipped topping. Fold in apples. Refrigerate until serving. Garnish with the rest of the whipped cream and peanuts.
Quick and easy. Good and good for you. Very pretty with a combination of red and green apples!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Black Cat Craft Day


Today I made black cat crafts to sell on EBay. I bought a cat crochet pattern this summer and it makes really cute black cat magnets. I thought they would look really cute on a potholder and they sure do! I made a black cat with green eyes and an orange bow and sewed it to a cream potholder with black trim! So cute! They would also look good on sweaters, shirts, bags, towels – just about anything!!!

I also made felt black cats. You just cut 2 cat shapes out of black felt, sew a green or yellow French knot eye, and white whiskers. Tie a small orange bow and sew it to the neck. Sew both cats together – right sides out and you have a cute black cat to attach to potholders, towel, shirts, whatever.

The last black cat I made was a set of 3 small stuffed cats from a book called Holiday Touches for the Country Home. It is a Leisure Arts book that has tons of easy projects to make to decorate your home. You use a small amount of fabric, 2 buttons, stuffing, and some embroidery thread to make each cat. It is a fast and easy project. These stuffed cats would look good in a basket, sitting on a shelf, in a wreath, or sitting on a witches lap. I may make them in a Christmas pattern for tree ornaments.

I’m making penne pasta for dinner and thought some chocolate cupcakes would be great for dessert. I can’t get enough chocolate these days. I found several different recipes on the web for black cat cupcakes and finally settled on this one : http://www.kraftfoods.com/recipes/CakesPiesCheesecakes/Cupcakes/BlackCatCupcakes.html. I made Duncan Hinds Devil’s Food cupcakes and frosted them, then decorated with Oreo Cookies (a staple at my house!) and black licorice and jelly beans. The kids ate several after school and loved them!!!

I don’t always craft in themes but today was a Monday and I needed some inspiration! It made my day a little more interesting!!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Garage Sale Saturday


It was another crisp, cool, sunny day. I love this weather. It is so comfortable after days of sweltering heat. The day is so beautiful it makes you happy to be alive. It was a Saturday so I was pretty much free to do whatever I wanted. I chose to go to garage sales. I love to shop at garage sales.

I enjoy browsing though other people’s junk. I like talking to people who are having garage sales because they are so pleasant and helpful and so friendly. I like to make observations about them based on the things they are selling and how they price their items. People get emotionally attached to their things. Things bring back memories of other times that you may have forgotten.

Most of the things you find at garage sales are just other people’s junk. You have to go to a lot of garage sales to find things you really want and need. Just like you have to kiss a lot of toads to find a prince!!!!!

During this particular garage sale season, I have found a coffee maker for $2.00, new bedroom curtains for $3.00, end tables for my bedroom for $3.00 each, a living room lamp for $5.00 and many books and craft supplies . All were fantastic bargains and I am extremely happy with them. I bought a few lemons too! Sometimes you just buy things on an impulse and hate them when you get them home. You can’t return them. You have to give them away to Goodwill or a friend or save them up for your own garage sale!

Today I bought a lot of craft books to sell on ebay and also to use to keep me out of trouble all winter. If I’m busy doing crafts, I stay out of trouble and I find it very relaxing. Try it. Take up a new hobby today!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fall Decorating


It is a crisp, cool, sunny day here in Springfield. It put me in the mood to decorate my house for fall. I decided upon a scarecrow theme. I made a scarecrow wreath from grapevine wreath to which I added a scarecrow pick surrounded by fall flower and leaf picks. I simply arranged them and stuck them in the wreath - no gluing! Couldn't be easier and I bought everything from the dollar store so it cost me about $8.00. It looks colorful and fall-like hanging on my front door. I hung small scarecrows (also from the dollar store) on my outside lights and put up a sheath of cornstalks from my garden with a large scarecrow next to a corner drainpipe.

Inside my house I decorated my fireplace mantle with a fall leaf swag, fall candles, and more scarecrows (also from the dollar store). I put a basket of fabric pumpkins on a fall runner on foyer table and scattered more pumpkins, candles, and scarecrows throughout the house. I love it and I love the way the house smells with the pumpkin candles scattered around!