Sunday, December 13, 2009

Easy Crochet Potholder Pattern


Crocheted potholders can be a quick and easy gift to make for Christmas gifts. Here is a basic potholder pattern that I use for many of my potholders:

Basic Potholder Pattern

Materials:
2 balls cotton yarn in two different colors- one for main body and one for border
Size H hook

Chain 17.

Row 1: Using two strands of yarn in the same color or two different colors, single crochet in second chain and in each chain across. Chain 1 and turn.

Rows 2-16: Single crochet in each stitch across, Chain one and turn.

Single crochet around outer edges of potholder counting out 14 single crochets per side and 3 in each corner. Finish off and weave in ends.

Border: Attach two stands of contrasting yarn with slip stitch, chain 3 and single crochet into every other stitch. Sew a plastic ring into back if you want a hanging ring.

These potholders can be decorated with buttons, ribbons, or appliqués. You can make stripes by alternating two colors every two rows. It takes me about 30 minutes to make one potholder.
This strawberry potholder is a little more difficult but very pretty.

Strawberry Potholder
Follow instructions for basic potholder beginning with sage green yarn for two rows and then changing to white for two rows. Repeat for 16 rows and crochet around edges using sage green. Attach red with a slip stitch at the first of the 3 corner stitches at the top left corner. Chain 3 and double crochet in same stitch. Chain 6 . Turn. Slip stitch into last double crochet made. Make 10 single crochet in ch-6 space, slip stitch in same double crochet stitch as last slip stitch(hanging ring made). Make 3 double crochet in last of corner’s 3 single crochet stitches. Repeat the following pattern around rest of border: Skip next single crochet and sc in next sc. Make 5 double crochet in next sc and skip next sc but make 7 double crochets at each corner. (Hint: You may have to eliminate a skip stitch to get your 7 dc in the middle of the 3 single crochet corners.)
Join with slip stitch to beginning chain three, finish off.

Strawberry:
Row 1: With red, chain w, 2 sc in second ch from hook.
Row 2: Ch1, turn, w sc in each sc across: 4 sc.
Row 3 and 4: Ch1, turn, sc in each sc across.
Row 5: Ch 1, turn, 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 2 sc. 2 sc in last stitch: 6 sc.
Row 6: Ch1, turn, sc in each sc across.
Row 7: Ch1, turn. 2 sc in first sc, sc in next 4 sc., 2 sc. In last sc: 8 sc.
Rows 8 and 9: Ch 1, turn, sc across.
Row 10: Ch 1, turn; pull up a loop in first 2 sc. YO and draw through all 3 loops on hook, sc in next 4 sc, pull up a loop in last 2 sc, YO and draw through all 3 loops on hook: 6 sc.
Trim: Chain 1, turn; sc in each stitch across to last stitch, 2 sc in last stitch, sc in end of each row across, 4 sc in free loop of beginning chain, sc in end of each row across and in same st as first sc; join with slip stitch to first sc, finish off leaving a long end for sewing.

Leaf:
With green, chain 4; join with slip stitch to form ring. *Chain 4, sc in second ch from hook and in next 2 chs; slip stitch in ring; repeat from * 4 times, finish off leaving a long strand for sewing.
Sew leaf to top of strawberry. Arrange strawberry on potholder and sew.
I have a few of these left in my store if you would rather buy them already made :http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=350195218345 .

Friday, December 4, 2009

Putting up the Tree


The countdown begins – just 3 weeks until Christmas. I’m thinking a lot about getting a tree. We’ve had a lot of different trees in the last 29 years. Artificial trees are very beautiful but lack the fresh smell of a real tree. You can get the freshest tree by cutting one down at a Christmas tree farm but that takes a lot of time and effort. I like to choose one on a lot although it can be a challenge choosing a fresh tree that hasn’t been artifically colored.

We usually put our tree up about now and take it down sometime after Christmas. It usually doesn’t make it until New Year’s Eve. We cut off at least an inch of tree at the bottom and soak it in a bucket of water overnight. Then we wrap it in an old sheet and bring it inside and place it in a stand. The sheet keeps most of the needles from being shed all over the place on the way inside! I save the cut off branches and make them into a centerpiece. I use an initial mixture of 1 tsp bleach, ½ cup corn syrup, and 1 quart of water to help keep my tree fresh and then keep the reservoir filled with fresh water. They soak up a lot of water the first few days and more if the air in your house is dry.

I start decorating by placing the angel at the top of the tree. The angel needs to be attached to the lights so I get it arranged first. Then I put on the lights. The secret to a pretty tree is putting lots and lots of lights on it. I put them on vertically starting at the top if I have a full tree and I want to make it look taller or horizontally if I have a skinny tree that needs to be filled out. I like to mix in a strand or two blinking lights. Next I put on a few garlands. My husband and I usually put the lights and garlands on together but we decorate the rest as a family.

We like to make a party of finishing the decorations. We have 29 years of child made ornaments and other nostalgic ornaments to put on. We get out some cookies and hot chocolate, put on some Christmas music, and let the memories begin. It’s an awesome tradition and our children always love this part of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Time to Make Fudge

It’s time to start thinking about making fudge for Christmas! I love fudge. Well wrapped fudge stored in an airtight container will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator and for up to a year in the freezer. Creamy, melt in your mouth, fudge is wonderful to have on hand to serve visitors or to give as gifts. I have several varieties that I make every year and I have also been collecting recipes all year to experiment with.

The easiest recipe I have is Microwave Fudge. It is very easy to make and cooks up quickly in the microwave. It is delicious!

Microwave Fudge
Ingredients:
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup cocoa
½ cup milk
½ cup margarine
1 Tbsp vanilla
½ cup nuts, optional

Blend sugar and cocoa in a microwave safe 8x8x2 inch dish. Pour in milk and place butter on top. Cook 2 minutes. Remove and stir. Add vanilla and nuts. Stir until well blended. place in the freezer for 20 minutes or refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into squares. This fudge looks really pretty when sprinkled with colored non pareils. Be sure to sift the sugar or you will have lumpy fudge. This fudge has a tendency to be soft so it should be refrigerated when not being served
.
My favorite fudge is the one my mother always made. It has a really good flavor and I could eat tons of it.

Fudge
Ingredients:
2/3 cup Carnation Evaporated Milk
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups mini marshmallow
1 2/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup nuts, optional

Mix milk, sugar, and salt in saucepan over medium heat. Heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla, and nuts. Stir until melted. Pour into buttered 9 inch square pan. Cool. Cut into pieces.

My mother-in-law’s awesome Peanut Butter Fudge:

Peanut Butter Fudge
Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
½ evaporated milk
½ cup margarine
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups miniature marshmallows

Cook sugar, milk, margarine, peanut butter, and vanilla over medium heat until mixture boils. Boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add marshmallows and oatmeal. Mix until well blended and pour onto butter 13x9 inch cookie sheet. Cool and cut into squares. You can sprinkle chocolate chip on top right before cooling and spread to make a chocolate frosting. You can also add ½ cup nuts or coconut with the oatmeal for a different flavor.

Eggnog Chocolate Fudge has 2 layers of chocolate. I love eggnog so I can’t wait to try this recipe that I found in a Woman’s World magazine.

Eggnog Chocolate Fudge

Ingredients:
2 – 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
1 – 11.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (you can substitute semi sweet if you can’t find bittersweet)
3 cups white chocolate chips
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp rum extract
1 ½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp salt
Chocolate shavings, optional
1. Line 8 inch square pan with waxed paper and overhang by 2 inches and coast with cooking spray. Pour 1 can milk into large microwave safe bowl and bittersweet chocolate chips. Microwave on high for 30 seconds intervals, stirring between intervals until smooth. Spread in pan.
2. Pour remaining 1 can of milk into clean microwave safe bowl and add white chips. Microwave on high for in 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth and stir in extracts, nutmeg, and salt. Gently spread over mixture in pan.
3. Refrigerate until set for about 6 hours or overnight. Cut into squares and decorate with chocolate shavings and dragees.


Cherry Swirl Fudge looks really pretty. I found the recipe in an old Crafting Traditions magazine.

Cherry Swirl Fudge

Ingredients:
1 ½ tsp butter – no substitutions
1 pkg. vanilla chips (10 -12 oz.)
1 can vanilla frosting or 2 cups
1 tsp cherry or almond extract
4 drops red liquid food coloring

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and butter. In a heavy saucepan, melt chips over very low heat, stirring frequently or microwave at 70% for 10 -20 second intervals until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the frosting and extract until blended. Pour into prepared pan. Randomly place food coloring drops on top of fudge and cut through with a knife to swirl. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hour or firm and cut into square.

My friend cannot get fudge recipes to work and swears this is the only recipe that turns out good every time. It looks pretty easy so I’d like to try it.

Jell-O Fudge

Ingredients
1 package pudding mix (chocolate but not instant)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
(confectioners), sifted
1/4 cup nuts, Chopped
Directions:
Combine pudding, butter and milk. Bring to a full boil. Boil gently for 1 minute; stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Quickly blend in sugar; add nuts. Pour into greased 8x4 inch pan. Cool; cut into squares. Makes 1 lb.

Now for the bad news. That last fudge recipe has 1516 calories per serving. The eggnog fudge has 109 if you cut it into 64 servings. I would probably cut it into 16 squares which would be 436 calories. The microwave fudge has 77 calories per piece if cut into 36 pieces. The carnation milk fudge has 76 calories per square if cut into 36 pieces. Ouch! No diets allowed!
Here are a few diet fudge recipes although they are more sugarless than low calorie:

DIET FUDGE (Cooks.com)

Ingredients:
1 can (16 oz.) evaporated milk
3 tbsp. cocoa
1/4 c. butter
2 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs, finely crushed
1 tsp. vanilla
4 packets Equal
1/4 c. pecans, finely chopped

Set aside 1/4 cup of the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl. Combine evaporated milk, cocoa and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove the saucepan from heat. Stir in graham cracker crumbs, vanilla, Equal and nuts. Mix well. Set aside until cool enough to handle. When mixture cools, shape into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls in the reserved graham cracker crumbs. Store in refrigerator until ready to eat.
Makes 36 servings.

Can’t Resist Diet Fudge (Diets in Review)
Ingredients
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup Splenda, or to taste
4 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients in pan over low heat
2. Stir and until melted
3. Pour into greased pan & chill

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Free Snowman Coasters


I had a lovely Thanksgiving! I was a little worried because my turkey burned a little and was done way too early. It was still very moist and delicious. An electric roaster seems to be the best way to cook a turkey. It steams the turkey and keeps it moist. I turned the temperature down to 200 degrees and that helped to hold it for a couple of hours until the rest of the dinner was ready and our company arrived!


The best thing I made this year were mashed sweet potatoes. It was so easy. I washed 4 large sweet potatoes, pricked them with a fork, and baked them on a foil line cookie sheet for 2 hours. I let them cool for about 15 minutes, sliced them open, and scooped out the pulp. I mashed them with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. They were awesome!


I was too tired to hit the stores on Black Friday and didn't have enough patience to face the crowds. There were plenty of bargains to be found online at Amazon.com and JC Penny. I spent the morning resting up and helped put up the Christmas lights in the fternooon. They are beautiful! I'm decorating the rest of the house today and then will get back to crafting!


I am making some really cute snowman coasters. They are very easy to make and can be used for package decorations. Here is the pattern:


Snowman Coaster


Materials:
small amount of black and white acrylic yarn
Orange felt
G hook
F hook
White and orange thread
Needle and scissors

Head:


( Use g hook and white yarn)
Round 1: Chain 4; 11 dc in 4th ch from hook (first 3 chs skipped count as first dc); join with a sl st to 4th ch of beg ch 4. (12 dc. )
Round 2: Chain 3 (counts as first dc), dc in joining; * (2 dc) in next dc; rep from * around; join with a sl st to first dc: (24 dc.)
Round 3: Chain 3 (counts as first dc), dc in joining, dc in next dc; *(2dc in next dc, dc in next dc; rep from * around; join with a sl st to first dc. (36 dc.) Break off yarn and weave in ends.


Hat


(Use g hook and black yarn)
Row 1: Chain 14. Hdc in 3rd chain from hook and across.
Row 2: Slip stitch in first 3 Hdc. Chain 2 and hdc in same stitch and across leaving last two Hdc from row 1 unworked. Chain 2. Turn.
Row 3: Hdc across. Chain 2. Turn.
Row 4: Hdc across. Break off yarn and weave in ends. Sew to top of head using white thread.


Eyes:


(Use f hook and black yarn – make two.)
Chain 2. Make 6 sc in 1st chain. Break off yarn and weave in ends or pull to back, tie in a knot, and cut off ends. Arrange eyes on snowman’s head and sew with white thread.


Mouth:


(Use g hook and black yarn)
Chain 14. Arrange on snowman’s head and pull ends through to the back and weave in. Sew with white thread.


Nose:


Cut a long triangle from the orange felt, arrange on snowman’s head, and sew with orange thread.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have been so cranky this week. I can’t sleep more than 4-5 hours a night. I am irritable. I am having hot flashes. I am in a panic about preparing Thanksgiving Dinner. I was worried I wouldn’t get the turkey done on time. I was worried I wouldn’t have time to clean up the house. I was worried I would forget to buy something crucial to the meal like sweet potatoes or rolls. I am a nervous wreck.


I was complaining about all this to my husband last night (Thanksgiving Eve) and he had a different view. He said that one of his friends had just lost his 3 year old son to brain cancer. “What do you think their Thanksgiving is going to be like, two days after losing their child?” he asked me. That really made me stop and think. How sad! That poor family!


Needless to say, I got up this morning, after 4 hours of sleep and started our turkey. This time when I started to panic because the turkey was still a little frozen, I cut it short. I told my husband I was going to be pleasant and optimistic today. The turkey will have plenty of time to cook or we will eat it a little later!


I am so blessed. I have a healthy, happy family to spend the holidays with. I have a warm and comfortable home. I have plenty of good food to eat. No more complaining!


The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don’t have – Woody Allen.


May God Bless You All! Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Turkey Decorations


I have a large collection of turkeys in my house and I have been making a lot of turkeys this week. I have crocheted turkeys for potholders, coasters, fridgies, bibs, and appliques. I use the same basic pattern and just tweak it a little. The pattern came from Bev's Country Cottage (http://www.bevscountrycottage.com/turkey.html). I've sewn turkey baby bibs. I have made a couple of stuffed turkeys. I really like turkeys.


I think the stuffed turkeys are adorable. You can see a picture of the one I have sitting on my mantle in the upper right corner of this post. They are so simple and so inexpensive to make. You can make one in a couple of hours from felt, buttons, floss, and stuffing. You can download the pattern and instructions for free at (http://www.sewing.org/html/grand_gobbler.html). I have several for sale in my store and one is decorating my fireplace mantle.


Crochet Pattern Central.com has a lot of cute Thanksgiving patterns to crochet.
This month's Family Fun magazine has a lot of Thanksgiving crafts for kids or adults to make. They have some really cute things like Pilgrim napkin rings with your picture for the face, turkey luminarias, a turkey pinata, and all kinds of turkeys to craft. There are directions and patterns on line at (http://familyfun.go.com/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-craft-decorations/). Most kids like to contribute to family celebrations and this is a good way to do so.
Check out my Thanksgiving Crafts for sale at ( http://familyfun.go.com/thanksgiving/thanksgiving-craft-decorations/) for some cute and inexpensive decorations!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Amish Starter Chocolate Muffins




Amish Starter Bread Chocolate Muffins



2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 heaping tbsp. cocoa
1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
1 cup applesauce
½ cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup semi sweet chocolate chips



Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chocolate pudding and cocoa. Make a well in the center of this mixture. Add Amish friendship bread starter, applesauce, milk, eggs and vanilla extract; mix well. Fill muffins cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top of muffin.
3. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool.



(Can also be baked in two greased muffin pans for 60 minutes for delicious, moist bread.)




I found this recipe this morning from Allrecipes.com as I was loooking for a recipe for pumpkin bread using the Amish starter. I still haven't found a pumpkin bread recipe but I will probably experiment with it next week. I have also learned that you can freeze the starter bread mix if you can't find any friends who want it.




Here is the recipe for the Amish Friendship Bread that I posted last month:




Amish Friendship BreadStarter:


Ingredients


1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeasy


1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)


3 cups all-purpose flour, divided


3 cups white sugar, divided


3 cups milk




In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.


Days 1-4: Stir.


Day5: Add 1 cup each: flour, sugar, milk.


Day 6: Stir.


Day 7-8 Do nothing.


Day 9: Stir.


Day 10: Add 1 cup each: flour, sugar, milk. Stir and separate into 4 cups and give 3 away.


The remaining cup can be used to make the bread recipe below or it can be refrigerated, frozen, or used to start the cycle again.




Ingredients:


2/3 cup oil


2 cups flour


1 cup sugar


3 eggs


2 tsp cinnamon


½ tsp. baking soda


¼ tsp satl


1 ½ tsp. baking powder




Grease and sugar (as if flouring) two bread pans. Pour batter evenly into pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not over bake. Add fruit or nuts if desired.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jamaica Vacation


Jamaica was lovely! We had a wonderful time. The beach was beautiful and the weather warm and sunny every day. It wasn’t as hot as it usually is. The food was delicious and the entertainment was awesome! It is hard to have a bad time in Jamaica

.
I have to say it. Our resort wasn’t as nice as it usually is. We stayed at the RiU in Ocho Rios. It was our third visit. We were not able to get an upgrade and our room wasn’t as comfortable as the junior suite that we usually have. The bed was hard as a rock! What is the deal with these tiny flat pillows that hotels are using? I wish I could bring my pillows. There is just not enough room in my suitcase!


We had a lot of disappointments in the resort this trip. A good part of the resort was closed for remodeling which is probably why we couldn’t get an upgrade. The smell of paint and caulking was ever present and noxious. Our favorite Steak House restaurant closed after our second day of vacation. The air conditioning was broken in the Sports Bar. We encountered a few rude bartenders and front desk attendants. We both got sick a couple of days – not sure if it was the food or the drinks as we were careful about drinking and using bottled water.


Our flight home left at 9:30 PM on the last day so we requested a late checkout and were grudging given an extra hour. While we were getting ready to leave we had one rude phone call from the front desk telling us to get out of the room even though we still had 30 minutes left. Fifteen minutes later, a security guard knocked on the door wanting us to vacate the room. It was this last incident which has caused our decision to never return to the RiU at Ocho Rios and to seriously think about trying a different resort next year. We are planning to take our whole family next year so the RiU will be losing out!


We really enjoyed the Halloween Party at the RiU. There was a beach party followed with a costume party in the disco. There were some awesome costumes!


The night before we left for Jamaica, we went to a Bruce Springsteen concert in St. Louis. He was unbelievable! He rocked for 3 hours. We had such a good time! Bruce really interacts with his fans during his concerts!


We had a great time but are so happy to be home and back in our own big, soft, and comfy, bed!!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin Recipes


I love pumpkins! I love spicy pumpkin pies, cookies, cakes, muffins, anything pumpkin! Pumpkin Spice coffee is especially delicious this time of year. I have pumpkin spice candles everywhere and I burn them for a little while every day. I have found some new recipes this fall and I am going to share them with you.

It’s easy to cook fresh pumpkin. Cut a large circle out at the top and remove all the seeds and stringy stuff. You can sort out the seeds, wash them, spread over a baking sheet, season with salt or other spices, bake at 325 degrees for about 7 minutes, and then flip over and bake for another 7 minutes or until lightly browned for a tasty snack. Cut the whole pumpkin into several large pieces and place in a roasting pan, skin side up. Fill pan with 1 inch of water, cover and bake for 30 minutes or until pumpkin feels soft when pierced with a fork. Place pumpkin pieces on plate to cool. Remove cooled skin with a knife. Cut remaining pumpkin into small pieces and mash with a fork or potato masher or puree in a blender.


Weight Watchers Pumpkin Pudding

1 can (15 oz) Libby pumpkin (not the pie mix)
2 boxes sugar-free, fat-free Jell-o instant vanilla pudding
3 cups skim milk
nutmeg, cinnamon, or pumpkin pie spice to taste


Whip, mix, or user a blender to combine all ingredients. Either put entire batch in one bowl and chill or set up individual bowls and chill before serving.


Pumpkin Lush
Ingredients:

2 graham cracker pie crusts
1 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese
9 ounces Cool Whip whipped topping
2 packages instant vanilla pudding
15 ounces pumpkin
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Makes two pies or 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix together pudding with milk until thick. Stir in pumpkin. Spread over graham crust. Beat powdered sugar and cream cheese together until fluffy. Fold in 1 cup Cool Whip. Spread overpumpkin mixture Top with remaining whipped topping. Garnish with choppednuts. Refrigerate.

Three Ingredient Pumpkin Cake
Ingredients:

1 (18.25 ounce) package spice cake mix
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
3 eggs


DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan or bundt pan.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the spice cake mix and canned pumpkin until well blended. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool and serve, or store in the refrigerator. This tastes even better the next day.
Cream cheese frosting optional.
Note: This recipe originally was the spice cake mix and pumpkin only but I found it to be a little dry and the batter hard to spread. Adding two to three eggs or even the rest of the ingredients in the cake mix makes a better cake. You can also use a yellow cake mix and a tsp of pumpkin pie spice if you prefer.


Pumpkin Pancakes

Ingredients:

2 cups buttermilk pancake mix
1 1/3 cups cold water
2/3 cups canned pumpkin – not pumpkin pie mix
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger

Whisk all ingredients together but don’t over mix – batter should be lumpy. Cook on griddle. Serve with holiday syrup. Makes 8 pancakes.


Holiday Syrup
(Rachael Ray)

Ingredients:

2 cups maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 large piece orange rind
3 whole cloves

Pour syrup into small sauce pan. Add cinnamon stick. Stud the orange rind with clove. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove spice and serve warm. Makes 2 cups.


I even found a recipe for Pumpkin Margaritas although I haven’t tried it yet! Sounds delicious!

Pumpkin Margarita by Bols

2 oz. Tequila
1 ½ oz. Bols Pumpkin Smash
½ oz. Bols Triple Sec
2 cups ice

Blend all together until smooth, pour into a 16 ounce (pint) glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich Review



I just finished reading number 15 of the Stephanie Plum series, Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich. I have read all 15 books and have enjoyed them all. Janet Evanovich makes me laugh out loud when I am reading her books. I love her sense of humor.


This time around, Stephanie’s friend Lula witnesses the murder of celebrity chef Stanley Chipotle who is decapitated with a meat cleaver. She escapes but is pursued by the murderers through the rest of the story. Chipotle’s sponsor is offering a huge reward for the capture of his killers and Lula recruits Stephanie to help her catch the murderers. Meanwhile, Stephanie has her hands full. She has to bring in some very weird bond skippers during the day while helping her sexy friend Ranger solve a mystery at his security company in the evenings. She has just broken up with her hunky boyfriend Joe Morelli and has sworn off men forever. Ranger is very tempting. Lula enters the BBQ Cook-Off with the help of Grandma Mazur and a cross dresser named Larry who has an awesome recipe for BBQ. Cars are blown up, shots are fired, bombs explode as the finale approaches.

I like Stephanie. She lives in the present and doesn’t think too much about tomorrow. She has good intentions but always gets involved in perilous situations. She is very easy going and friendly. She likes to eat horrifyingly unwholesome food like donuts and pizza. Her dysfunctional family is familiar and adorable!


Finger Licking Fifteen has a great story line and fascinating characters. There’s a little romance and a lot of action. If you have read her previous books, you might get a little bored with the same old car blow ups and her on/off again romances. Or, it could be like visiting some old friends that you haven’t seen for awhile and missed terribly. I can’t wait for # sixteen!!! Plus, Tri Star is working on a script for the movie of book number one - One For the Money!
Check out this cool website: http://www.fingerlickinfifteen.com/ for an interactive view of the "Burg". You can get an inside look at Stephanie's life and excerpts from the books.

Friday, October 23, 2009

World Series Thoughts


The World Series begins October 28th. Isn’t that late in the year? There might be some really cold games as we head into November. Especially if the Angels lose.


I hate to see baseball end for the year. Our Chicago Cubs didn’t even make it into the playoffs so I’ll be putting our gear away for the year. “Next year will be our year!” I hope! Miracles happen! We have a new hitting coach and we will be under new ownership! Maybe our luck will change.


It’s hard for me to get interested in baseball right now. It’s too cold!!! If I have to pick a team to root for it, will be the Phillies. They won last year! Can you believe they’re up two years in a row? They have won the World Series twice already: last year against Tampa Bay and in 1980 against Kansas City. I am rooting for them because Jason Werth is from our hometown. Two of our children went to school with his sisters so we know his family a little. This will be very exciting for them!


The Phillies are interesting. They have a mascot called the Phillie Phanatic. He is known as baseball’s best mascot. He is a fat, green furry fellow who resembles a bird with a big round beak and a tongue that sticks out – he looks like a Sesame Street muppet. There is a character in The Simpsons show called the Capitol City Goofball who looks a lot like him. He was in the closing credits of Rocky Balboa. He is a well loved character.


I will miss the first few games because I will be nice and warm on vacation in Jamaica. I’ll be rooting for the Phillies when I get back!


I have a wide variety of baseball and football bracelets in my eBay store: http://stores.shop.ebay.com/The-Crafty-Cupboard_Bracelets_W0QQ_fsubZ511447015QQ_sidZ228930235QQ_trksidZp4634Q2ec0Q2em322.

Go Phillies!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sugar Cravings

I don’t know why I crave sugar. It is an addiction that I constantly fight. Whenever I am upset or depressed I grab some chocolate. The more I eat the more I want.

I seriously try to eat well but this summer I got into trouble with chocolate. My husband hated his job and my youngest son was getting ready to go off to college. Every time my husband said he hated his job or there was a problem with my son, I would grab some chocolate. First it was chocolate chip cookies and brownies that I always have on hand for desserts and snacks for the two of them. I stopped buying and making them when I realized I was losing control. Then I became hooked on semisweet chocolate chips which are really not that good to eat alone. I would grab a handful or put some on a graham cracker with a marshmallow and melt them in the microwave. Well, it turns out that I can’t have any chocolate in the house because I will lose control and eat it all if I am under any stress.

I weaned myself off by drinking fat free chocolate milk and hot chocolate and eating low fat granola bars with mini chocolate chips. Now when I get sugar cravings I eat a couple of large marshmallows and I have dessert once in awhile. But the damage is done. I had my yearly blood tests at the end of August and my triglycerides were sky high! My doctor said I had to lose weight and exercise more and take 2 fish oil capsules a day and lay off the sugar. Yuck!

My doctor suggested the South Beach Diet but I couldn’t do it. I don’t like fish very much and I can’t limit fruits and milk. I tried the Mediterranean Diet because I liked all the foods on it but I didn’t lose a pound. Finally, at the beginning of the month I got desperate to lose weight because I really wasn’t feeling very good either. I developed a diet where I drink Chocolate Royale Slim Fast twice a day with two snacks and a regular dinner every other day. The other two days of the week, I have a small bagel or cereal for breakfast, tuna and crackers, small garden salad and an apple, milk and a chocolate granola bar for a snack, and a regular dinner. The weekends I eat whatever I want. The Slim Fast really satisfies me and causes me to eat less all week. I think that I get used to eating less. If I am really, really hungry, I munch on carrots or air popped pop corn. I have lost 5 pounds this month. I wish it was more. I hope I can go back on it when I get back from vacation.

Anyway, I have to fast tonight for my triglyceride recheck in the morning. I hate doing that. I need my coffee with cram and sweetener in the morning to wake up!

If you like frozen fish, Gorton’s has a free $1.00 coupon if you buy 3 products and then you can mail in proof of purchase and get a free calendar with more coupons( http://www.gortons.com/coupons_promotions.htm ). They also have a free electronic Sudoku Game if you buy 3 products. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pet Costumes


I made my cat a witch costume for Halloween. I bought a black bandana, a piece of black felt, and a spool of black ribbon. I folded the bandana into a triangle and tied it around her neck. I cut a circle using a margarine tub for a template from the felt. I made a cone from the rest of the felt and sewed it closed. Then I sewed the cone to the middle of the circle and added 2 ten inch pieces of ribbon so I can tie it under her chin. She likes it except she wants to eat the ribbon. It was very easy and cheap.

Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels all have a variety of bandanas. They have lots of colors and patterns and I even saw some Halloween ones. It would cute and festive just to tie a holiday bandana around the neck of your pet. You could make some pretty cool and creative costumes using bandanas as the base. I also made my cat a Snoopy Fall Scrunchie for her neck. She likes it because it is warm and it buffers her neck from her collar when she lies down. I will probably make some and sell them in my store in a few weeks.

I got the idea for the witch costume from a library book titled: Pet Crafts by Heidi Boyd. There are 28 projects you can make for your pets including a cowboy costume. If you want something more complicated, there is a book called Doggy Fashion by Alison Jenkins you can buy or check out from your local library. It has instructions for making 12 costumes. I have one copy left in my store: http://cgi.ebay.com/Doggy-Fashion-by-Alison-Jenkins-2003_W0QQitemZ350267253270QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUS_Nonfiction_Book?hash=item518d8e2216.

If you can crochet, Crochet Central has cheerleader, devil, diva, bumble bee, and witch costume for dogs and candy corn and Santa sweaters for cats. They are so cute!

There are many cute pet costumes in the stores too.

Pets shouldn’t eat candy especially chocolate but here a few treats you can make for your pet:

Peanut Butter Dog Treats:
(They can be cut out into Halloween shapes like ghosts and pumpkin shapes.)
Ingredients
· 1/2 cups water (add more water later if required)
· 1/2 Cup oil
· 2 eggs
· 3 tablespoons peanut butter
· 2 teaspoons vanilla
· 2 cups flour
· 1/2 Cup cornmeal
· 1/2 Cup oats
Steps
· Blend wet ingredients together. Whisk dry ingredients together and mix into wet mixture to form a ball of dough. Roll out and shape.
· Put onto a non-stick cookie tray or lightly greased one. Cook 20 minutes at 400 F. Turn off oven and allow the biscuits to cool in oven until crisp and hard. Store in airtight container.
(Recipe is from Bullwrinkle.com)
And for cats:

Savory Cheese Treats

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup cornmeal
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine cheeses and yogurt. Add flour and cornmeal. If needed, add a small amount of water to create a nice dough. Knead dough into a ball and roll to 1/4 inch. Cut into one inch sized pieces and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Makes 2 dozen. These can also be cut out into Halloween shapes.
(Recipe is from PetPlace.com)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halloween is Coming!


Halloween is coming quicker than you think! Just 10 more days! The stores are full of costumes, decorations and candy!

I am spending my Halloween in Jamaica this year. I have heard that they do not celebrate the Halloween holiday but I am hoping our resort does something. I would hate to miss celebrating Halloween. I’ve been trying to think of some quick and easy costumes that I could make up at the last minute and what materials to pack. We don’t have a lot of room left in our suitcases. I will probably buy some ghoul makeup. We could paint our faces white and ring our eyes in black and go as any kind of ghost. Michael Jackson would be easy – black pants, white socks, white t shirt, a glove, and hat. I’m taking most of those things. A toga is always easy and you could use the hotel’s bed sheet. My husband could be a mummy. I could wrap him up in a roll of toilet paper. I could be a hula dancer and wear my swimsuit with a belt and draped in toilet paper strips. I’ve got a few ideas if I need them. I’ll have to let you know what happens in Jamaica on Halloween!

About.com has some great ideas for costumes you can make out of the things you already have. They are very creative costumes. The link for this site is: http://familycrafts.about.com/od/costumeideas/tp/fastcostume.htm. There are pictures too.

I put out my Halloween decorations on October 1st this year. I like to use things that will be appropriate for Thanksgiving also like pumpkins and scarecrows. It makes it easier to decorate for Thanksgiving. Things start to get really busy then. I have a wreath and some autumn decorations on my door and a large scarecrow in my flower box. I have a large pumpkin on my front step which has not been decorated yet.

There is still plenty of time to carve a pumpkin. I saw a really cute one in my neighborhood. It was a witch. The pumpkin was lying on its side and the stem was the witch’s nose. It had a nice long curvy stem. It had carved eyes and a scary mouth and it was wearing a black witch hat with some old shoe laces hanging down for hair. You would need to find a pumpkin with a flat side and a long curvy stem and then hollow it out from the bottom and cover that with some kind of hair. Be careful, the hat and hair might be flammable. It makes an awesome jack-o-lantern. If you don’t want to carve your pumpkin, you can decorate it in any old leftover costume parts you have – just treat it like a head! You can also stack up a few pumpkins and decorate them as a whole person or as totem poles. They could be scarecrows, witches, snowmen, ghosts --- anything you think can think up. Some people in my neighborhood have used a row of pumpkins to carve out a spooky sentence: Eat, Drink, and be Scary!

I found an awesome animated Halloween cake at instructibles.com. I had to research instructibles.com for a class I am taking and I found it to be an amazing web site. It was created by the MIT media lab and is a place where anyone can share their coolest projects. You have to see this cake – it is unbelievable. The link to it is http://www.instructables.com/id/Animated-Halloween-Cake/. You can watch a video of the final project and read how to do it yourself. It must have taken a long time to construct it but it is truly amazing. There is also a section of Halloween foods like eyeballs on a fork, kat litter cake, mummy dogs, and ghastly grins. You can find DIY decorations and costumes and fun too!

Martha Stewart has some great recipes for Halloween treats at http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/creepy-treats. She also has costumes and decorations.

Here is very impressive cocktail for Halloween:

Jack O' Tini
2 oz. Vodka - chilled
1/4 oz. Bols Pumpkin Smash Liqueur
1 candy corn

Place a single candy corn at the bottom of chilled cocktail glass. Combine vodka and liqueur a shaker with ice, shake well and strain into the glass.
I know we will have some good pumpkin dishes in Jamaica – they grow a lot of pumpkins there. Maybe I will be able to get a Pumpkin Margarita!!!

Happy Halloween!!!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oktoberfest Party


We went to an Oktoberfest Party last night. It was a small outdoor party. It was given by our friend Doug. Doug’s grandfather came over to America from Germany in the early 1900’s. It was a great idea for a party!


Doug bought decorations, party supplies, and costumes from http://www.partycheap.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=octoberfest. You can buy $50.00 worth of stuff and get free shipping. PartyCheap has good quality party supplies at good prices and there is a huge selection. It is very convenient to get all your party supplies at the same place and time. They have party supplies for any occasion. I am planning a 50th birthday party for my husband next month and they have a lot of things I can use.


We had 3 small kegs of German beers to try but I could not tell you what they were. I had a fruity tasting beer that was really tasty. We also had hot apple cider and coffee with Kahlua. We had German brats, grilled chicken breasts marinated in a dark beer, olive oil, and herbs mixture, German potatoes and bacon, a noodles and cabbage dish, sauerkraut, and raw veggie platter. I brought German Chocolate cupcakes. Everything was delicious!


It was an abnormally cold night for October. We dressed warmly and there was a nice bonfire in the backyard. I love sitting around a fire with friends – it is so intimate and cozy. Doug played polka music all evening although no one felt like dancing. We were having too much fun talking and laughing.


Those Germans know how to throw a party! We had a blast!

Here is the recipe I used to make the cupcakes:


Creamy German Chocolate Cupcakes


Ingredients:
1pkg Duncan Hines® Moist Deluxe® German Chocolate Cake Mix
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 tub Duncan Hines® Creamy Home-Style Cream Cheese Frosting


Baking instructions:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.
Prepare cupcakes according to package directions. Spoon batter into lined muffin cups.
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and egg; mix until smooth. Stir in chips and coconut. Spoon about 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture onto batter of each cupcake.
Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes following package directions.
Spread cupcakes with frosting. Garnish with toasted coconut and mini-chocolate chips if desired.


This is a recipe from Duncan Hinds. I used vanilla frosting and I mixed coconut, mini chocolate chips, and pecans together in a small bowl and dipped each cupcake in the mixture after I frosted it. They are very moist and delicious!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Twenties Girl By Sophie Kinsella Review


I just finished reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella. I wasn’t expecting it to be very good but I was pleasantly surprised. It was very engaging. I liked it and I read it in just a few days. Kinsella is the author of the Shopaholic series that I love!

The main character is a ditsy, funny, hysterical girl named Lara Lington whose life is in the toilet. Her headhunter business is struggling and she has just been dumped by her boyfriend. Her worried parents drag her off to the funeral of her great aunt Sadie. Lara has never even met Aunt Sadie who was 105 when she died and had been in a nursing home since the 1980s. As Lara zones out during the funeral ceremony, the young ghost of Aunt Sadie appears and demands that Lara find her missing dragonfly necklace. Lara seems to be the only one that can see and hear her. Aunt Sadie appears as a girl of the “roaring twenties” and demands that Lara stop the funeral so they can find the missing necklace. Lara insists that her aunt has been murdered so the funeral is stopped for the murder investigation.

Sadie is free spirited and adventurous and she pushes Lara around by yelling incessantly in her ear. Lara fumbles into one situation after another, trying to find the necklace, save her job, and get her boyfriend back. The relationship between Lara and Sadie is very stormy at first but they eventually become fast friends as their escapades cause each to find the meaning of life.

This book is very funny and touching and it includes a mystery to solve as well!

My favorite Halloween costume has always been a “flapper girl”. Straight hair with a narrow headband wrapped horizontally around the head. Short, straight waited dress preferably with fringe. Lots of bead necklaces. Lots of makeup emphasizing kohl rimmed eyes and bee stung lips.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Friendship Bread

These cool October days and evenings are putting me in the mood to bake. My husband and I are dieting so we don’t need to eat a lot of baked goods so I like to share with my friends and family and coworkers. Amish Friendship Bread is a perfect recipe for sharing. You make up a starter and for ten days you stir or add flour, sugar, or milk to it. After 10 days, you separate it into 4 portions and give 3 portions away with a delicious bread recipe. Here is the recipe:

Amish Friendship Bread

Starter:

Ingredients
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 cups white sugar, divided
3 cups milk

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave loosely covered at room temperature.

Days 1-4: Stir.
Day5: Add 1 cup each: flour, sugar, milk.
Day 6: Stir.
Day 7-8 Do nothing.
Day 9: Stir.
Day 10: Add 1 cup each: flour, sugar, milk. Stir and separate into 4 cups and give 3 away.

Refrigerate or add remaining cup to:

Ingredients:
2/3 cup oil
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp. baking powder

Grease and sugar (as if flouring) two bread pans. Pour batter evening into pans. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not over bake. Add fruit or nuts if desired.

Or you can start the 10 day cycle over again.

This would be a good way to make some new friends. Give some to your neighbors too.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Christmas is Coming!


Christmas is just under 3 months away! The cold weather we have been having the last few days make this seem even more true. I went to some garage sales last weekend and someone was selling only Christmas decorations. Most stores have their Christmas items out also. It is time to start thinking and planning this year's Christmas.


I wanted to really enjoy Christmas last year. I didn't enjoy it very much. I had to have a root canal a few days before and it went bad so I was in a lot of pain. My husband was working 16 hour days that month due to the mortgage refinance craze and was not in a good mood or particularly very helpful. My mother-in-law came to visist from Iowa and she was sick with a cold and very cranky. The only thing that saved us was all the planning and pre shopping I did the months before. It just proves that you never know what will happen and it is a very good idea to plan ahead. You can always make new plans.


I started a few lists this morning. I have a gift list and a "to do" list. My Halloween decorations are up and my Thanksgiving ones are in the garage and ready to go up next. I am going to get my Christmas outdoor decorations and wrapping paper down from the attic this afternoon and see if I need to replace anything. I bought a little black dress to wear to all my parties for the season. Christmas preparation is in progress!!!


I have been making Christmas potholders the last two weeks. I have been working on Santa Claus Potholders this week. I am crocheting bunches of little Santa heads from peach, white, and red yarn. Then I add 2 French knot blue eyes and sew a white pom pom to the top of his hat. I sew the appliqué to a black crocheted potholder with red and white ruffly border. They look like Old World Santas. They are very cute. You can see more pictures of them at http://picasaweb.google.com/jewellgirl22000/SantaClausCrochetedPotholderPair?feat=directlink.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Football Sunday


The Chicago Bears are playing this afternoon at Seattle. I am expecting the Bears to win. The Bears are looking really good today and the starting quarterback of the Seahawks is out. I’ve invited a few friends over to watch the game. We have Miller Lite and Diet Pepsi on ice. We have chips and salsa, peanuts, homemade chili in the crock pot, and brownies for dessert. I’ll make some cornbread just before halftime. We are keeping it simple so we can enjoy a laid back, relaxing, Sunday afternoon. Go Bears!

Here is the cornbread recipe I have used for years:

Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup melted margarine or butter
1 cup flour
¾ cup corn meal
1 tsp. salt
2 ½ tsp. baking soda
¼ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease an 8X8 inch baking pan. Blend flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside. Beat egg, milk, and melted butter in a smaller bowl until well mixed and add to dry ingredients in other bowl. Stir until just blended. Batter should be lumpy. Pour into pan and let sit for a few minutes. You can sprinkle a little sugar on top for a sweeter cornbread. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Spread a little margarine or butter on top and let it melt before cutting into slices.

This is an old 4-H recipe and is easy to prepare and delicious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting Old With Bruce

Bruce Springsteen is turning 60 today!!! OMG!!!! He looks good!!!! My husband, daughter and her friends, and I are going to see him in St. Louis on October 25th. It will be our first time to see him in concert and we are so excited. Isn’t it marvelous that our 27 year old daughter loves him too? I think we love him because he is just a regular working guy! He sympathizes with the working class and pushes for hope in times of turmoil. His music is awesome! His concerts are amazing!

I hope I look as good as Bruce when I turn 60. I’m a few years away from the senior citizen discount but I still feel about 29 although I probably look my age. Darn!

Most of our favorite bands are in their fifties, sixties, seventies…. Mick Jagger is 66. Marshall Tucker’s Doug Gray is 61. Jimmy Buffett is 63. Paul McCartney is 67. Jerry Lee Lewis is 74. Recently, we were talking with our friends about how we can still go to concerts and see the performers we listened to in our teens and twenties. This year we saw Jimmy Buffet, Styx, REO Speedwagon, and 38 Special and they gave wonderful concerts. These concerts are especially precious because each one might be the last time we will ever see them. “We will never pass this way again” is a song by Seals and Crofts about how quickly life passes. Think about the loss of Michael Jackson, Jerry Garcia, John Lennon, etc.

Some people say that sixty is the new forty. I like that. It gives me something to look forward to and more time to accomplish everything on my bucket list

Happy Birthday Bruce! Rock on!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy 29th Anniversary


My husband and I celebrated our 29th anniversary last Sunday. We had an absolutely perfect day! It was raining when we got up and we were worried because we were planning to go to a baseball game in St. Louis. We reminisced about the day we got married - it was a hot, sunny September afternoon. There were two funny incidents at our wedding. The time of our wedding was left off the invitations and there was not enough time to reprint them so we had
to put a small card into the invitations with the time. I don't remember anyone being late so it must have worked. The second thing was that the pastor forgot to tell everyone to sit down after I walked down the aisle and the whole group stood for the whole ceremony.

We had lunch with our son who is a freshman in college at SIUE. It was a different world there, full of young adults. We ate lunch at Red Robin. It was our first trip to Red Robin and it was fun. They have a lot of different stuff to eat and the portions are huge! We had a good talk with our son and were reassured that he is happy to be there and doing well.

We went on to St. Louis and checked into the hotel at Harrah’s casino. We had a complimentary hotel room for the night. It was a pretty good room. We went down to the casino and I played slots for awhile and he played poker and watched the Bear game. We lost a few dollars but the Bears won! Can you believe it?

Then we went to the Cubs/Cardinals baseball game with our daughter and her husband. We had the best time and the weather was perfect and the Cubs won!! Two victories in one day! Awesome!!!

We went back to the casino and played slots and blackjack and this time we won enough money to cover most of our expenses for the weekend. What an anniversary gift! We were so lucky!

It was one of our better anniversaries! There is no traditional gift for the 29th anniversary but the modern gift is furniture. We stopped giving each other gifts for our anniversary several years ago and like to go out for a nice dinner instead. I can’t believe 29 years have passed since our wedding. It went so fast. Next year is the big 30. We have huge plans for that. We are taking our 3 children and son-in-law to Jamaica!!!

Meanwhile I am back home, cleaning the house and getting out my Halloween decorations. I am surprised to find that I need to buy a new tablecloth and some candles and maybe some ghost figures. I am decorating with fall leaves, pumpkins, and ghosts this year and a scarecrow here and there.

Today is the first day of fall! Night and day hours with be the same today. Celebrate fall with a late afternoon walk and see if the leaves in your area are changing yet. Make an apple or pumpkin pie. Have a hot cup of apple cider or hot chocolate with marshmallows after dinner. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's a Busy, Busy, Week



It is a busy, busy week for me, filled with a dentist appointment, vet appointment, a haircut, shopping, cleaning, laundry, and cooking. The usual chores plus much more. There are not enough hours in the day! I am dieting too which is making me a little crabby. All in all it is a difficult week.
I did terrible on my football picks for last week. The Bears are letting me down. We lost our star player Brian Urlacher who sprained his wrist and Jay Cutler’s performance was very disappointing. This Sunday we are playing the Steelers so I’m a little worried.
I finished making some really cute Owl Potholders for fall and am working on some really cute Witch Potholders for Halloween. They are crocheted from Lily Cream and Sugar 100% cotton yarn. I am making the witch appliqué with a lime green face with a black hat with an orange bow. She has a 3-d green nose, purple crinkly hair, a black embroidered mouth, and black bead eyes. Very cute. I have several in my stores.
Here is an easy Fall Apple Pork Chop Recipe for those busy, busy days!!!
Brown Sugar Pork Chops
(from the Gooseberry Patch Taste of Autumn Cookbook)

4 pork chops, browned
4 potatoes, cubed
3 apples, cored and cubed
½ onion, chopped
1 t. cinnamon
2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed

Arrange pork chops in an 8X8 baking dish. Top with potatoes, apples, and onion; sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until tender. Serves 4. Yummy!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Celebration of Fall

It is the weekend after Labor Day and although the temperatures here have been in the eighties, it is starting to feel and look a little like fall. I have started taking walks in the late afternoon or early evening and have noticed that the leaves are turning colors already. Also, it is cooler and darker in the morning and early evening. The busy Christmas season and winter are not too far away!
Last night my husband made a nice fire in our outdoor fire it. We sat outside around it and read until dark. He was reading a biography of David Carradine and I was reading this month’s Glamour magazine. Our dog Arthur sat nearby on guard duty. It was very relaxing. We could be companionable yet do our own thing. I brought a basket of hotdogs and buns, condiments, a pot of baked beans, chips, drinks, and the makings for s’mores. We talked and laughed and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and ate. It was so much fun and so simple and inexpensive! It was a celebration of the beginning of the fall season.
Celebrating the holidays and seasons makes me happy. I love to decorate for the holidays and cook and bake seasonal foods. I also think it is very important to have something to look forward to. I try to have one thing to look forward to everyday. For instance, today I am looking forward to going to the movies with my husband this afternoon. I should be working outside because I have a lot to do and it is a beautiful Sunday afternoon. But work can wait. I love sitting in a dark theatre, eating a huge bucket of buttery popcorn, and watching the latest movie with my husband. When we finish the popcorn we will hold hands. It is truly the little things that make you happy. It could be a good book to read before bed, a good meal, a good dessert, a phone call with a friend or family member, a crossword puzzle, a warm, soothing bath, a cup of tea, a glass of wine - there are many things you can look forward to that will give you a little happiness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Easy Pot Roast Dinner


This Easy Pot Roast Dinner is a great meal to make on a busy day when you don't have a lot of time and you want a home cooked meal for dinner. It can be cooked all day in a crockpot or simmered on the stove or in the oven as long as you are available to check on it every couple of hours to make sure that it doesn't run out of liquid.

Ingredients:
3-5 lb. beef roast
onion powder
garlic powder
pepper
salt
4 cups beef broth or 4 cups water and 4 tsp instant beef bouillon
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
Optional ingredients:
assorted vegetables
dried noodles

Brown a fat trimmed roast in a heavy dutch oven sprayed with Pam. Sprinkle liberally with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add 4 cups beef broth and 1 tbsp. vinegar. (It is the vinegar that makes this dish so tender!) Simmer for about 4-6 hours on low heat on your stovetop or at 350 degrees in your oven. You may have to add water so don’t leave roast unattended for more than a couple of hours. You can also simmer it in a Crockpot for about 8 hours. An hour before serving you can add potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. to round out your meal. Remove roast and vegetables before serving and you will have a rich broth to cook a batch of noodles or make gravy. The longer you cook the roast the better it will taste.

Here is an easy dessert that goes well with this meal:

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients:
Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
2 cups cold milk
1 cup cool whip

Beat pudding mix and milk in a medium bowl for about 2 minutes. Mix in 1 cup cool whip and blend. Spoon into 6 individual dessert cups. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Top each dessert with leftover cool and add some sprinkles or min chocolate chips if desired. Work well with sugar-free or fat-free pudding and cool whip.

I made this yesterday for dinner. It is a meal that can be started in the morning or even the night before and will cook all day without much attention. It is also a very attractive meal to serve to guests if you arrange the meat and vegetables on a pretty platter and serve the dessert in pretty glasses.

If you like chocolate be sure to check out this website before the end of September 2009: www.RealChocolate.com. Mars is giving away free candy bars! Hurry! September 25th is the last day!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clean House


A clean house is a sign of a misspent life. Nevertheless, after a 3 day rainy holiday weekend, I am spending most of the day cleaning my house. My husband, 2 boys, and cat have made a shambles of the place. It takes me about 3 hours. I have a system that I go through each time I clean. I go through and put everything away. Then I clean the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room first because they all have tile floors and I can mop them all with the same bucket of water. Then I clean the bedrooms, living room, and family room. This is a pretty thorough cleaning. Sometimes I just wipe off the surfaces of the baths and kitchen, dust, shake out the rugs, plug my vacuum into an extension cord and vacuum the whole house, and swifter mop the floors. I just read about a 10 minute clean up in a Good Housekeeping magazine and I may try it next week. Some people have a system where they do a little cleaning everyday for 10 minutes but I like to have all of my house clean at once.

Countdown for the finale of True Blood: 6 days!!!! Season 2 has been really good! HBO has the best series. True Blood is loosely based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries written by Charlaine Harris. The show is based upon the premise that vampires and humans can live together based upon the invention and manufacture of a substance called True Blood. The show is full of vampires, shape shifters, and all kinds of stuff! Sometimes I think this is so silly, but I love it anyway!!! What is it with vampires now?

I am almost done with my candy corn items. I’m going to make a few hats for gifts. Here is a link to the pattern I use to make candy corn baby hats http://peanutzmomspatternplace.blogspot.com/2009/01/newborn-candy-corn-witch-and-ghost-hats.html.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Illinois/Missouri Football Game




We went to the University of Illinois football game against the Missouri Tigers Saturday with my daughter Emily and her husband Mike. It was awesome!

We attended a tailgate party on top of the Missouri Club parking ramp first. It was so much fun. We had drinks, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hotdogs, chips, chocolate chip cookies, and snacks. We talked and laughed and watched the variety of people celebrating the first football game of the season. It was a perfect day. It had started out rainy but the sun came out and it was the perfect temperature.
At about 2 PM, we headed over to the Edward Jones Stadium to get seated for the game. The stadium was so crowded we could barely move through it. It was a mass of orange and yellow. Everyone was so excited! There was a lot of good natured teasing between rivals. Finally we found our seats. We were right in front of the 40 yard line about 12 rows up from the field line. They were the best seats I have ever had for a sporting event.
It was a fun game but our Illinois team lost 37 to 9.

We consoled ourselves with a trip to the Lumiere Casino and a dinner at Applebees.

I can’t wait to go again!!!

NFL football offically starts this week. My favorite team is the Bears and they're looking good this year! Join a pool or fantasy league and get your picks in soon. I joined a fantasy football league called Yahoo Pro Pick'em at Yahoo Fantasy Sprots. It is sponsered by Southwest Airlines and they give a way 2 free tickets a week. I also have pro football bracelets for sale in my store: the Crafty Cupboard.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Best Friends Forever


I just finished reading Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner. I liked it. I have liked all of her books. My favorite is In Her shoes. Most of her books center around the transformation of the central character from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. This always gives me hope.


Best Friends Forever is the story of two oddball best friends. Addie Downs is a shy insecure nine year old girl with an unusual but very loving family. Her father is a slightly damaged Vietnam War vet who cannot hold down a job. Her mother is an enormously fat woman who writes greeting cards from home. Her brother is the only normal one in the family. He is handsome, athletic, and popular but very embarrassed to be a member of the family.


Addie is friendless until Valerie Adler moves into the neighborhood. Valerie is homely and lives with her unconventional, irresponsible, divorced mother. They become the best of friends until high school. Valerie blooms into a pretty teenager and is swept into popularity while Addie becomes a fat, sullen teenager who is the joke of the school.


Fifteen years later, both women have become successful, pretty women. Valerie shows up at Addie's house after attending their high school reunion and she is in serious trouble and needs Addie's help. Hoping to escape the police, they are off on a funny, intense, breathtaking adventure!!!!


This is aheart warming story about loyalty and betrayal, small town secrets, dysfunctional families, and the value of friendship.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Summer's End




The End of A Great Summer


Just four more days until Labor Day. It has been a cool, wet summer which passed quickly. I spent my summer getting my last child ready for college and making projects for our local fair and trying to keep up with the weeds in my yard. We did a lot of fun things. We went to Pella, Iowa for an old fashioned 4th of July celebration and to a Styx, REO Speedwagon, and 38 Special Concert in St. Louis. We saw Jimmy Buffett in Chicago. We went to a lot of baseball games here in town and in St. Louis. We went to the county and state fairs. All in all it was a good summer!




My son and I took our dog to the vet yesterday. He had a very painful ingrown toenail. The nail technician clipped all his nails and luckily the ingrown one fell right out. Arthur is 13 years old and suffers from arthritis in his back legs. He also has a terrible rash under his armpits and chest. He is going back to the vet in a couple of weeks to have these things looked at again. I have been treating his rash with benadryl tablets and Sulfadene lotion and the arthritis with Glucosamine tablets and buffered aspirin. There is a little improvement but maybe the vet can help him feel a little better.




I am busy making candy corn appliques for potholders and bags in my store for Halloween. They are very cute. Last fall I published a free pattern for my Candy Corn Coasters in this blog and I believe it is still available. I will be making more coasters and selling them as well as potholders and bags and other holiday items in my store.




My other son is coming home from college to visit and do his laundry today. I can't wait to see him. I will probably see a lot of changes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Favorite Easter Jello Salads

These are just a few of my favorite salads to make for Easter, Christmas, or any holiday. Most of them have Jell-O and Cool Whip in the ingredients and serve better after being refrigerated overnight.

Orange Gelatin Salad

Ingredients:
1 - 3 oz. Pkg. Orange Jell-O
2 – 3 oz. pkg. Vanilla Tapioca Pudding
3 cups water
6 oz. Cool Whip
3 small cans Mandarin Oranges

Cook jello, pudding, and water in large saucepan until mixture boils and thickens. Add Cool Whip and oranges and mix well. Refrigerate.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups crushed pretzels
½ cup sugar
½ cup melted margarine
8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. Cool Whip
½ cup powdered sugar
2 – 3oz. pkgs. Strawberry Jell-O
2 cups hot water
16 oz. frozen strawberries

Mix together: crushed pretzels, sugar, and melted margarine in greased 13 X 9 inch baking pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool. Cream Cool Whip, cream cheese, and sugar until well blended and spread evenly on top of pretzel layer. Stir boiling water into jello until well mixed. Blend in frozen strawberries. Let sit in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until partially set. Spread strawberry mixture on top of cream cheese mixture and refrigerate.


Green Salad

Ingredients:
15 ½ oz. can crushed Pineapple
1 pkg. instant pistachio pudding
8 oz. cool Whip
1 cup colored mini marshmallows

Mix pineapple and pudding until dissolved. Stir in Cool Whip and marshmallows. Refrigerate.


Fruit Salad

Ingredients:
1– 20 oz. can of pineapple chunks with natural juice
1 -20 oz. can of peaches or pears or mixed fruit
2 sliced bananas
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1 small jar of maraschino cherries, drained
1 – 30z pkg. lemon instant pudding

Mix fruit together and fold in pudding.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Free Bunny Crocheted Coaster Pattern


Free Bunny Crocheted Coaster Pattern
I think bunnies are the cutest Easter decoration. I have them everywhere in my house. My kitchen tablecloth and towels have bunny motifs. I have made bunny potholders and coasters. I have bunnies sitting on my bathroom sink and tabletops. I have a row of bunnies sitting on my fireplace mantle with some very pretty, very good smelling pink and lavender candles.
I have been crocheting bunny coasters this week and I would like to share the pattern I have been using. I haven't written down very many patterns but I think I have everything written as I do it.
Easter Bunny Coaster
Materials:
For each bunny you will need:
Small amount worsted weight yarn, ( White)
Small amount worsted weight yarn, (Pink)
Small amount worsted weight yarn, (blue)
2 - 8 mm. black beads
1 – 5 mm. pink pom pom
white quilting thread and needle
Stitch mark or safety pin
Crochet hook, size F
Finished size: approximately 4 X 6 inches.

Head (using white)
Rnd 1: Ch 4; 11 dc in 4th ch from hook (first 3 chs skipped count as first dc); join with a sl st to 4th ch of beg ch 4. (12 dc. )
Rnd 2: Ch 3 (counts as first dc), dc in joining; * (2 dc) in next dc; rep from * around; join with a sl st to first dc: (24 dc.)
Rnd 3: Ch3 (counts as first dc), dc in joining, dc in next dc; *(2dc in next dc, dc in next dc; rep from * around; join with a sl st to first dc. (36 dc.) Place a maker in last stitch.

Ears: (Using pink)
Row 1: Join yarn with a sl st in the 2nd dc after the marker on the head.; ch 1, sc in joining, sc in next 2 dc (3 sc).
Row 2: Ch 1, turn work; (2 sc) in first st, sc in next sc, (2 sc) in last sc: (5 sc).
Row 3: Ch 1, turn work; sc dec in first 2 sc, sc, sc dec in last 2 sc. (3 sc).
Row 4-6 : Ch 1, turn work; sc in each sc. (3sc.).
Row 7: Ch 1, turn work; sc dec over first 2 sc, sc in last sc. (2 sc).
Row 8: Ch 1, turn work; sc dec over last 2 sc: 1 sc. Fasten off, secure ends.

Opposite Ear: (Using pink)
Row 1: Skip the next 2 dc on bunny head from last ear and join yarn to next dc with a sl st; ch 1, sc in joining, sc in next 2 dc: (3 sc).
Rows 2-8: Rep rows 2-8 for first ear.

Edging: (Using white)
Rnd 1: Pick up marked stitch and evenly sc around bunny ear, placing 3 sc in tip of ear, sc in next 2 dc (between ears), sc evenly around next ear, placing 3 sc in tip of next ear, *(sc in next 2 dc; 2sc in next dc), repeat from*around head.; join with a sl st in first sc. Fasten off, secure ends.

Finishing:
Sew a pink pompom in the center of the head for a nose. Sew on two black beads for eyes. With blue yarn, ch 45 and tie into a bow. Sew bow about an inch under the nose.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Easter Egg Tree




Spring is finally here!!! March 20th is the first day of spring this year. Although it has arrived on the calendar, it really doesn’t look like spring outside. Everything looks drab and bare even though the trees and shrubs look like they could burst out with leaves any minute.



I just made an Easter Egg Tree outside and it looks so pretty. I love it. It is the one bright spot in my seriously dreary and boring yard. I used my Pink Almond Shrub which is totally bare now. It is about 3 feet tall and sits in front of the backyard fence. I bought 2 bags of 18 plastic colored eggs from the dollar store and looped kite string around the egg putting both ends inside the egg. Then, I hung then on my shrub. It is very colorful. In a few weeks my shrub will bloom with tiny pink flowers and tulips will come up around the shrub and it will be really beautiful.



There are many different sizes and kinds of plastic eggs you can buy. You can also tie on ornaments and decorate with ribbons and bows. A large blow up or plastic bunny sitting on the ground would be cute too. You can use your imagination to decorate it any way you wish but your decorations need to be weatherproof and securely attached. Fishing line is very strong and nearly invisible. Kite string works well also.



An Easter Egg Tree also looks pretty inside the house as a decoration or center piece. You can use a plant you already have - a fichus tree is perfect for an Easter Egg Tree or you can put some cut branches from a tree or shrub in an ice bucket, large vase, or painted coffee can. They can be spray painted white or another pastel color. Secure the branches with floral foam or a mixture of rocks and water or sand or even plaster of Paris. Water and rocks are good if you want to use branches from a shrub that is about to bloom such as a forsythia or quince. You can make a tree skirt out of a decorative napkin, a kitchen towel or plastic grass. Decorate with plastic eggs, ribbons, bunnies, ornaments, and bows. For a more delicate tree: blow the contents out of a few dozen eggs and dye. Add silk flowers, ribbon and ornaments. I have some cute crocheted bunnies in my store which would look cute on a tree. http://cgi.ebay.com/Easter-Bunny-Cotton-Crochet-Appliques-Bakers-Dozen_W0QQitemZ350181292217QQcmdZViewItemQQptZLH_DefaultDomain_0?hash=item350181292217&_trksid=p4634.c0.m14.l1262. You could also hang your Easter candy on the tree.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shoe Addicts Anonymous Review


I just finished reading a really good book: Shoe Addicts Anonymous by Beth Harbison. If you liked the Shopoholic series by Sophie Kinsella or In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner you will love this book. It can really create an emotional response to those of us who are struggling to pay off credit cards and stay out of debt.


Shoe Addicts Anonymous is a fictional story set in Washington D.C. about 3 lonely women who are brought together by their lust for fabulous footwear. Helen Zaharis is tightly controlled by her politician husband who is threatening to cancel her credit cards if she keeps refusing to get pregnant. Her husband is cheating on her and her life is a bore so she rewards and comforts herself with expensive shoes. Lorna Rafferty is a financial disaster - her electricity was just turned off for nonpaymnent and she has an Ebay addiction. She buys shoes believing that if she has the right shoe she will find the Prince charming that goes with the shoe. Sandra Vanderslice can afford to buy any shoe she wants and she wants a lot of shoes. Sandra has issues. She's an agoraphobic who cant leave her apartment and has a job as a phone sex operator. In a moment of desperation, Lorna puts an invitation in Craigslist for a shoe addicts anonymous meeting. You must wear a size 7 1/2 shoe, love shoes but can't buy them any more, and be interested in swapping shoes. On Tuesday nights the three women plus Joss, a nanny who doesn't care about shoes but will do anything to get out of the house, meet to trade shoes and talk. They form lasting friendships that will solve all their problems: bankruptcy, blackmail, relationships, etc.


You will sympathize with these characters and you will laugh and be entertained by their views on life. What a good idea - having a weekly meeting to swap shoes or clothes. I could certainly enjoy something like that. I absolutely love shoes!!!


At the end of the the book there is an exerpt from a sequel which is called : Secrets of a Shoe Addict which looks really good. It is also about debt and four different women who are trying to figure out a way to pay off debt. One of them "accidentally" hires a male prostitute using a PTA credit card while chaperoning a school band trip to Las Vegas. I think this book will be even funnier than the first and I am in the process of searching for it.


I have Shoe Addicts Anonymous up for auction this week on EBay but there are a lot of copies available on the site. I strongly recommend reading this book for enjoyment, escape fiction, and for commiseration!!!