Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year....

Photo by S.

In the morning
I will kindle up a fresh fire
With the dying embers
That warmed us
Through the night.
Glowing coals
Ignite a new fire
A new year
A new beginning.

A New Year's Resolution:
To be content
To give thanks in all things
To take joy
To give grace
To receive peace

For from Him
And through Him
And to Him
Are all things.
To Him be the glory
~Romans 11:36

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Home, home on the winter range....

The cows are out on the winter range now. Thankfully, the grass is not buried in snow but the snow that is there is good for the grass because it softens it up a little, and with each bite of grass the cows take, there's a little drink of "snow water" that goes down with it. Each day from now until they calve, we go out to them, honking the horn and calling for them to gather them up for feeding, and they come on the run for they know the hands that feed them! We feed them alfalfa cake, which is alfalfa (type of hay) that is compressed into a 1x4" cylinder which is easy for them to eat and easy for us to store. The cake is high in protien which provides that extra boost of nutrition for the calf growing inside each cow.

I wish you could hear my husband call the cows. We each do it in our own way, but it goes something like this: "WOOOooooo cows, WOOOOooooo cows, Calvies (lilting), Calvies (lilting), WOOOooooo cows." A good rattling of the buckets or a slamming down of the end gate is another good "cattle call." They know the sounds of unloading cake.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

I was recently cooking with my cast iron skillet -- my workhorse in the kitchen -- and realized that much of the "seasoning" was gone (that's the non-stick finish that comes from oils). So I decided to get it back into good working condition by seasoning it. I have had this 12" cast iron skillet since I was married, some 26 years ago and it's never been replaced. I did buy another smaller size that has also been a true-blue kitchen friend.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet
~taken from Hearty Home Cookin' by the Homemaker's Heritage Exention Club
Ridgeway, Montana (I received this as a wedding gift)

Wash with soap and water, rinse and dry. Then rub generous coating of suet over entire untensil (inside and out). (Suet is available at any meat market, usually without charge, if you don't have your own.) Place in 425' oven for 15 minutes. Apply second coat inside; return to oven for another 15 minutes. Apply a third coat inside and heat 15 minutes. Just smear it on real heavy and don't worry about it as it will smooth out by itself. If more coats are wanted, repeat the procedure.

After apply final coat, bake for 2 more hours. Turn off oven and leave pan in oven to cool gradually. Do not put lid on Dutch oven while treating as it will seal and you will need a crowbar to pry it open. That's all there is to it. No rust and no wiping and oiling. First coat may be spotty and have bare spots. Don't worry, just apply second and third coats and it will turn out. ~Mrs. Major
My Additions:
Seasoning at this high heat really can be smelly. Make sure you are able to open the windows and ventilate your kitchen while doing this. You may also season cast iron at lower heats. For that last 2 hours mentioned in the instructions above, I would turn my oven down to 350' or so. Remember to allow the pans to cool down slowly in the oven.

Before you say, "What is suet?" I'll tell you. It's basically pork fat. You could use the trimmings off any pork cut for this. I don't always have suet available, but you can use just about any neutral oil for seasoning. I prefer lard (which contains suet) but you can use Crisco or food grade coconut oil or just about any oil you like. I like to keep my skillet tipped upright in the oven for the first one or two coatings, and then tip it upside down so that the extra oil drips out. Be sure to put a piece of foil underneath it to catch any drippings. This process of seasoning will give your cast iron pots and pans a non-stick finish that you will love appreciate. If the seasoning wears off, you can re-season again.

After you cook with your cast iron, always wash with dish soap and water and then promptly dry it by putting it on the stove on low heat until all the moisture is evaporated out of the pan. To keep the finish non-stick, you may then add a little oil to the pan and allow it to remain on the stove another minute or two. Don't run off and leave it though, keep watch over it. Many times I've set my cast iron skillet on the stove to dry and left it for another urgent errand and soon wondered what that smoky smell was coming from the kitchen -- the forgotten skillet!

Did you know?
Did you know that cooking with cast iron will increase the iron content of the food that is cooked in it? When you cook foods that are especially high in acid, like tomatoes or apples, the iron content of the food jumps dramatically. Other foods will also pick up additional iron which is all "good for you."

For more information on cooking with cast iron, you'll enjoy this link. You will even find an article that lists the 20 foods tested for additional iron content after cooking them in cast iron. This study was done by the Journal of American Dietetic Assoc.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Were you prepared for Christmas?

Were you prepared for Christmas this year?
Did you get every gift ordered on time for Christmas delivery?
Was every craft and sewing project complete?
Did you bake every cookie on your list?
Did you remember to get the front window washed before the company came to call?
Did you get the family picture into the Christmas cards this year?
Did you remember to buy Christmas postage stamps
or did you have to make do with U.S. flags?
Did you forget a stocking stuffer for Little John?
Did all the kids come home for Christmas as promised?
Did you get the Christmas Flu?
How did the ham turn out? Dry again this year?

I was just recently thinking about how many, many preparations we make for Christmas. We have lists and lists and lists, and obligations to fulfill and all the while Christmas Day continually inches in on us and we wonder, "How will I ever be ready for Christmas?"

As I pondered that question, I began to understand that the Christ Child came to a world totally unprepared for Him. His mother and father were not prepared to be parents. (How many of us really are?) There was no room for Him in the Inn. (Didn't Joseph realize he needed a reservation?) There was no one of importance who would herald His birth except for some dirty shepherds staying out in the fields with their flocks. (Have you ever smelled a sheep?)

And yet, Jesus came.
He came to a world that was unprepared for Christmas Day.

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, God with us."
~Matthew 1:23
"Let every heart, prepare Him room....."
~Joy to the World!

Guessing Game

I thought it would be fun to play a guessing game.
Can you guess what these are and what they are used for?
No clues....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Art ~Arthur Hughes

"The Nativity"
Carefully and thoughtfully, Mary is wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes.

"A Christmas Carol at Bracken Dene"
Wouldn't you just love to be sitting across from these merry children, listening to them chatter and coo and play and sing? I sure Mr. Hughes must have enjoyed painting them; the picture surely reflects it.

If you've enjoyed this little sampling of Arthur Hughes, English pre-Raphaelite painter, you might take a look at an online gallery here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cookies Eye Spy

Jolly Sugar Cookies, all frosted and sugared just right! Doesn't this clutter of cookies look like a page from Eye Spy? Eye spy with my little eye a bright red Santa with blue sparkle boots.
(click pic for a good look)

German cookies, Pfeffernuse, powdered and spicy-hot inside.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

12 Facts of Christmas

I have been tagged by Clarice to share My Own 12 Random Facts About Christmas.

Here goes.....

1. Jesus is the Reason.
2. We are celebrating Advent in our home, using Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader, which is really a wonderful devotional. One of our family's favorites!
3. St. Nick's Day brings chocolate initials for each family member (and incoming members).
4. We always cut a fresh Christmas Tree in the forest. Imperfect as it may be, it always looks beautiful after we've adorned it with our box of ornaments collected through the years.
5. I never put up the Christmas tree until December-something (15th or so). I hate to be tired of the holiday before it even gets here.
6. A new tree ornament is given to our children each year.
7. Traditional goodies: My mom's sugar cookie cut-outs, molasses cookies, snowballs, pfeffernuse, fudge, divinity (made by my sons), chocolate dipped pretzels, peppermint bark.
8. We draw names for a Secret Santa gift.
9. When the children were little, I bought them a special Christmas book each year and we read them all during the month of December. I have quite a collection now and still like to buy one for myself. I hope to continue this tradition for my grandchildren someday.
10. We always go to Christmas Eve Candlelight Services at our church and then open one gift. Afterwards, we have a special meal together. This year we'll enjoy hores de'oeuvres. Everyone who comes, brings!
11. We read the Christmas story from Luke 2 on Christmas morning before opening gifts.
12. If we still have fireworks left from Independence Day, we shoot some off Christmas Day night.

I tag Diana at Knit This Too and Leslie at Abiding.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Miss Potter (the movie)

If you're interested in a real story, a story about a real woman who lived 100 years ago in London and in the Lake District of England, and turned her love of nature and art into a livelihood, then you just may like the movie I just recently watched tonight, snuggled up next to Hubs. It's called Miss Potter, and it is a movie about her early years, both as a girl and as a young woman finding her way in life. At age 30 she was still unwed -- a disgrace -- and yet she was happily going about doing the things she loved -- sketching, drawing, painting and writing children's stories about the animals she loved. There comes a day when she tries to get one of her stories published and the story goes ever forward and upward from there.

The original Rabbit Family as illustrated by Beatrix Potter.

I have always been a big fan of Beatrix Potter. I've read her stories to my own children as they've grown up. They are no stranger to Peter Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter, nor are they estranged to Squirrel Nutkin, Tom Kitten or Jemima Puddle Duck. If you have Little People in your life, I encourage you to buy them the real Beatrix Potter books, and then read them aloud to them, over and over again. (they will ask you to!) They will love and adore you for it. The books are written in proper English prose that trickles like a happy brook over the tongue. It is not twaddle. The young child will eagerly understand what the friendly sparrows meant when they "implored him (Peter) to exert himself," when he was caught in a gooseberry net by the buttons of his coat in Mr. McGregors garden. Whatever you do, whether you are young or old, do not miss Beatrix Potter's dear stories, and I also encourage you to rent the movie, Miss Potter and learn a snippet about her own life. There is a Christmas scene in the movie that made my heart skip and although it is not a Christmas Movie, it adds a little sparkle, charm and blessing to the season.

If the boxed set of 23 Beatrix Potter books is FAR to expensive for your budget, you can also buy the Complete Tales all in one book for a more modest price. Just don't miss them!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Calling all Knitters & Crocheters!

Sweet, thoughtful, merciful Junie Moon is calling all knitters and crocheters to her Bandage Brigade. She is declaring the month of January 2008, a month to knit or crochet bandages for the lepers in hospitals in Vietnam and Africa. Missionaries and U.S. military veterans organizations hand-deliver these bandages to leprosy patients in the hospitals by carrying them in their luggage. June has agreed to collect any bandages you make and send them off to those who need them.
Would you like to join the Bandage Brigade? Even if you don't knit or crochet, you can help June by spreading the word. June will supply you with patterns and sizes for knitted and crocheted bandages. Please click here to find out more about how you can help.
Another helpful site: Leprosy Bandages where you will find patterns for the bandages and helpful tips and suggestions.

"Love one another, just as I have loved you."
~Jesus (John 15:12)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Hot Toddy for the Wintertime Sniffles

5:35 a.m.

Sniffly, cold, runny nose, and sneezy.

I get up and use the bathroom and climb back into bed only to realize that my runny nose carries on and I must keep the Kleenex beside me. Oh bother, why try to sleep? I get out of bed and dress to keep warm since the house has grown cold overnight. The furnace is turned way down, the floors are cold and the fire is out so I go set my home into motion for a new day by clicking up the furnace, putting the kettle on to boil and getting my coffee measured out.

As my day carries on, I have a good morning and a jolly afternoon cutting the Christmas Tree in the Hills with my two sons and daughter-in-love. It's a family tradition, you know. By the time we get home and put the groceries away and get the sandwiches made and devoured, I feel the ache come over me, my ears begin to plug up, and my nose goes from runny to stuffy. Time for a toddy.

My Old Stand-by Toddy consists of:
Equal parts honey, whiskey, and lemon juice.
Put some of this mix in a mug and add piping hot water.
Stir and enjoy before bedtime or whenever you feel you need your cold symptoms eased a bit.

My New Favorite Toddy (which I only discovered tonight):
In a mug add:
A spoonful of honey, 2 or 3 tablespoons of cherry brandy (see recipe here) and the juice of a few slices of lemon and throw in the lemon slices themselves.
Pour piping hot water over this and sip.

This is so delicious and a perfect remedy for an on-coming cold.
(Tastes like yummy punch!)

My wholehearted thanks to Natalie who shared her cherry brandy with me this past summer. If you didn't make any when the cherries were bountiful, you'll just have to go to purchase some pre-made cherry brandy. I guarantee you it won't be nearly as nice as mine because my brandy has saturated cherries that will be dipped out and onto a small dish of vanilla ice cream for a throat soother! Think of it as cool and soothing as well as antiseptic.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Happy St. Nick's Day

December 6th is celebrated as St. Nick's Day at our house. St. Nicholas has been one of the most popular saints of the Christian Church since the Middle Ages. He was a real person, born in the third century in Patara in what is now southern Turkey. He was raised by wealthy Christian parents who taught him to live his life to honor Christ. With his inherited wealth, Nicholas gave it all to help the needy, poor and destitute, obeying the words of Jesus when He spoke to a rich, young ruler to "sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me." (Matt 21:21) Nicholas's life was devoted to serving people -- the poor, the sick, sailors, and he especially loved children. If you would like to know more about St. Nicholas and the traditions that have been built around him, click here.
At our house, we always celebrate St. Nick's Day by reading a story about his life. A favorite story which we have read to our children through the years is "St. Nicholas and the Golden Bars" as told in the Book of Virtues, page 763 (yes, I have my book open to it). We also enjoy chocolate letters (initials of each family member) and chocolate coins. I think the Dutch first started this tradition, but every culture and nation has celebrated St. Nicholas (aka: Sinterklaas, Sancte Claus, Sankt Niklaus) in its own unique way. I hope you'll find a way to spread the cheer of the Real St. Nicholas this season.
1881 by Thomas Nast

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Red & White

I'm playing in paint again. This time it's red puff paint. I saw the idea for this project at Posie Gets Cozy, and I knew I just had to try my hand at it too. I tried to paint freehand on some smaller votive candles, but I realized quite quickly that I was going to have more mess than art so I abandoned that idea and found some Transylvanian embroidery patterns that I printed off on my computer and then traced with pencil onto ($2.99) white pillar candles. It was much, much easier to paint with a line to follow. At first I tried to paint with the paint tube itself, but that was not so easy -- for me at least. So I squirted a glob of paint onto a sour cream lid and used a small, stiff brush to paint with. I put on a first coat that was rather thin, let it dry several hours and then painted over it thickly a second time to get an embossed look on the candle. I also found that creating little dots (blobs) on the candle was an effective, attractive idea that didn't take a lot of talent. All in all, I'm pretty pleased although I know that someone with a steadier hand and more artsy-ness could do a finer job.
However, these Red & White Candles will suit our purposes at home --
candles for burning during Dark December. Doesn't a candle just
add the perfect warm glow in the evening? Actually, we tend to burn candles all throughout the day in winter months. As you can see, one of the candles has been burned (enjoyed) already.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Take Joy!

Picture by S.

I salute you!
There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

~Fra Giovanni
A.D. 1513

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." ~John 1:4,5
Wishing you joyful and blessed Advent.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Chicken Fried Steak

BEEF, it's what's for dinner!
It's a regular thing at our ranch house anyway.

My kids are always bugging me for a "real recipe" for the foods I make at home. I usually pull them out of my hat -- add a little of this and a smidge of that which is a recipe that is sometimes hard to follow for the inexperienced. So today I found a "real recipe" that is right in line with my own. We had it for supper tonight along with baked potatoes and corn (sounds really down-home, doesn't it?). I hope you'll enjoy it. And don't forget the gravy -- it's delish!

Chicken Fried Steak
~Alton Brown

2 pounds beef bottom round, trimmed of excess fat
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or dried)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices. Season each piece on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the flour into a pie pan. Place the eggs into a separate pie pan. Dredge the meat on both sides in the flour. Tenderize the meat, using a needling device, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick. (I just pound it with the rolling pin or have your butcher tenderize it. ~J)

Once tenderized, dredge the meat again in the flour, followed by the egg and finally in the flour again. Repeat with all the pieces of meat. Place the meat onto a plate and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

Place enough of the vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a 12-inch slope-sided skillet and set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each piece on both sides until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a wire rack set in a half sheet pan and place into the oven. Repeat until all of the meat is browned.

Add the remaining vegetable oil, or at least 1 tablespoon, to the pan. (I like a little butter. ~J) Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the flour left over from the dredging. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan. Whisk until the gravy comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Add the milk and thyme and whisk until the gravy coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste, with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve the gravy over the steaks.
Recipe courtesy of Food Network.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Glitzy Glitter Stars

What you will need:

Star pattern
Card stock
exacto-knife or paring knife
adhesive spray
clear crystal glitter

What to do:

You will want to begin this project by finding a good five-point star
pattern to print and trace. I found three sizes here. Just print stars onto card stock and cut them out or you can cut them out and trace several on a sheet of card stock. As you can see, I have drawn pink lines on the star above to show you where you will score the stars.

Lay your star onto a cutting board. Take a heavy ruler and lay it across the star at each point and angle. Gently score with an exacto-knife or sharp paring knife, making nice,
straight lines through the middle each time. Next, you will gently fold the star on each line and then lay it on the table to squinch up the star so that each point is folded upward and each angle is folded downward. You'll see what I mean when you start to play with your stars.

Now the fun begins! Take your folded stars, newspaper, adhesive spray, and glitter and go to the garage. The smell of the spray is a little strong so you want to do this in a well-ventilated area. Spray a light coat of adhesive onto each star and quickly sprinkle clear crystal glitter over each one. Shake them off and turn them over onto a dry sheet of newspaper to glitter the backside. I like to do each side on a separate piece of newspaper because the glitter won't stick down as much and I like to reuse as much glitter as I can. Allow your stars to dry indoors. Pour your excess glitter back into the bottle.

You can set up your stars on a mantel, or hang them by punching one tip of your star with a needle and thread. Hang in windows at varying lengths for a pretty effect. I have also hung stars on the Christmas tree. I think they'd make a cute gift tag as well. These are every bit as attractive as the tin stars that I have seen in gift shops.

(you may click up images to get a closer look)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making Napkins

I just thought I'd share another little project I have going -- napkins!

A friend shared these online instructions with me and I'm having a ball sewing these up! So far, I've made plain single-sided, mitered corner napkins and these (pictured) double-sided, mitered napkins. I really love the look of them, don't you? I know they're a little bit LoUd, but the Special Someone I made them for likes bright, bold colors.

Here are a couple other napkin tutorials you may enjoy.
The Purl Bee (scroll down a ways)

Are you handi-crafting Christmas gifts?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day of Preparation

Tie on your aprons girls!
The Day of Preparation is upon us!

The day before any major holiday has been dubbed by Hubs: "The Day Of Preparation." This is the day that we Daughters of Man work in the kitchen and all around the house to prepare for a smooth holiday where the turkey, potatoes, gravy and the cranberries go forth from the kitchen to a beautifully set table all at the same time...... with grace and charm.

In the home surfaces are dusted, guest beds are freshly washed, bathrooms shine and floors are scrubbed while the rugs are shaken and aired outdoors.

It's business time in the kitchen -- a variety of pies are whacked up and breads are baked while salads are whipped and cranberries are jelled. Oh what a day! It's hard work, it's fun, it smells good, and I can't wait to serve it all up to my loved ones. The college boy arrived this afternoon, and more are to come home tomorrow.

Now.....what shall I make for supper?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First snow!

SNow !

It is SnowINg!

it snoWEd !

It WiLL Snow aGAiN...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Aprons in the Making

I found The Cutest Apron Pattern at Susan Branch's website. I've made two now, and I hope to do a few more for gifts. The only tricky part is making sure that the bias tape (which joins each piece) is sewn down on both sides. Click here for the FREE printable pattern.

Happy Sewing!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Invisible Woman

If your empty sock drawer is miraculously full when you wake up the next morning......
you might have an Invisible Woman in the house.

If you've put the last 4 ice cubes into your glass and slammed the freezer door shut and opened it again a day later to find a full box of ice.....
you might have an Invisible Woman in the house.

If you have living, thriving geraniums on the front porch.....
you might have an Invisible Woman around the house.

If the dog is always fed.....
you might have an Invisible Woman in the house.

If the sinkful of dirty dishes disappears into thin air.....
you might have an Invisible Woman in the house.

If there's always soap in the soap dish, shampoo and conditioner in the shower, clean towels in the closet, tooth paste and floss in the drawer.....
you might have an Invisible Woman in the house.

If you always find milk in your frig, Cherios in the pantry, and cookies in the jar.....
you might have an Invisible Woman living in your midst.
I just finished reading a thoughtful little book for mothers. If you're a mom like me, I know you've felt unappreciated, walked on, invisible. But fear not! Your Heavenly Father sees every deed you do -- every diaper folded, every toilet scrubbed, every button sewed back on, every nose wiped, every dish washed, every sock picked up -- even if the Dear Ones you live with never ever notice. Author of The Invisible Woman: A Special Story for Mothers, Nicole Johnson, reminds us of the builders of the great cathedrals worked by faith, knowing that they would never see the completed project. They believed in the work that they were doing, and they believed that it was all for God. They carved ornate figures that would be tucked behind walls, never to be seen by a human soul, but knowing that their Heavenly Father could see it was reason enough to do it, and do it well.

May the tasks and chores that you set your hands to be lifted up as an offering of prayer and service to God, knowing that if a sparrow falls to the ground with His notice, surely He sees you. (Matt 10:20)

"To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization."
~Harriet Beecher Stowe

Friday, November 02, 2007

Write it down

Have you ever heard a little child say something so funny or so darn cute and said to the mother, "Now you be sure to write that down"? Well, just yesterday I was cleaning out an old file cabinet and came across three notebooks. I didn't know what they might be so I looked a little bit closer and found that they were notebooks that I had journaled in from the 1990's. This was the time in my life when I had five children spaced two years apart -- all of them under 9 years of age. And can you believe it? I actually wrote something down on paper! We've all been having such fun reading through these notebooks and sharing stories and remembering when. Two of the boys found the entries about the day they were born. I thought you might like to hear a few sweet things my dear children spoke in my hearing back then.


I asked J. to put his shoes on. He didn't want to so I asked, "Are you big or little?" He replied, "Mom, I'm a little big!"

All the children were in trouble today. At prayers this evening J. prayed, "God, please put away our bad day."

"I wish there were lots of moms so each of us could have one."

Hubby was preparing to cut the brownies for dessert and decided to tip the whole pan out first. I yelled at him to put them back into the pan and cut them, but Hubs just smiled and cut a big hunk off and served them as he pleased. The childrens' eyes were big as they watched Dad do it his way. One of them, mezmorized by what he had just witnessed said in awe, "I believe in Dad," as if he were saying, "I believe in Peter Pan."

Before dinner G. and I had a visit. She was telling me, "Mom, when I get big like you, you and Dad will be the Grandma and Grandpa and A. will be my husband. "No," I said, "A. is your brother. You'll have to find a man you love and marry him." "And he can play with the babies!" she exclaimed. "And then when I'm big like you, I'll have a knife and know how to butter my own toast, and I'll wash the dishes and cook the food."

G. told her grandma, "You can keep all my brothers except J., but when he grows up, you can take him too."

Picture: "Bottoms Up" by Michael Coleman at

Marshmallow--M&M Popcorn Balls

These are so good and so easy and so beautiful that they'll think you really fussed! I made them last weekend for a family night with friends.

Marshmallow--M&M Popcorn Balls
3 qts. popped popcorn (plain)
1/4 c. butter
10 oz. bag of marshmallows
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup M&M's (mini's are fun)
extra butter for hands

Put popcorn in a very large roaster or dish pan (leave out old maids).
Melt butter, sugar and marshmallows over low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted and blended. Pour over popcorn and gently, but quickly stir. Just before you begin to shape the balls, add the M&M's. You'll want to wait a few minutes so that the candies don't melt when added to a "too hot" mixture. Stir them in gently. Butter your hands and shape into balls. Place on waxed paper and allow to finish cooling. Makes about 20 nice sized popcorn balls.

*To make a healthier popcorn ball, you may add raisins, craisins, or chopped nuts.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Today I'm giving Michelle, a friend of mine, the Blog Floor. She's a newly published author and a regular wife and mom like you and me. Here's her story.

For thirty years, I was a fiction writer who avoided writing. I read about writing, wrote in a journal, shared family stories in scrapbooks, and blogged. Deep inside, though, I knew I was a writer, and I almost didn’t give that part of myself a chance to be heard.

That changed in 2005 when I read a little book called No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty.

Mr. Baty is a man who came up with the crazy notion that all it takes to write a novel is to write it. The catch is that you write it in 30 days. His reasoning is that if you write it that fast, you have to turn off your internal critic and just write. Of course, writing it that fast means that you have to lower your expectations from “this will be the next bestseller” to “this will not make someone throw up.” On the other hand, if you don’t write anything, you’ll end up being the “one day novelist” – as in “I’ll write a novel one day.”

In October 2005, I visited Mr. Baty’s website and read about his contest, known as National Novel Writing Month. The thought of writing 50,000 words in 30 days was staggering, but I decided to sign up for NaNoWriMo anyway, just to see if I could do it. I could have done it any month, but November is the official month of NaNoWriMo, and there was something exhilarating knowing that I would be furiously typing 1700 words a day with thousands of other people around the world.

As I subjected myself to neck cramps, bleary eyes, and possible carpal tunnel, I learned that the story in my head was frantic to get out (I guess it had been in my head for too long). By day three, I had 9,000 words. By day 17 I had 53,000 words, and the story was only half-finished. I stopped and realized that I had not written the story that I really wanted to tell. But I had written something, and I had proved to myself that I had a story in me.

To pursue my dream, I had to give up time with my children, time with my husband, and time with friends. I put aside nagging household projects, and did only the minimum to keep my house running.

Would I do it again? Yes, because it was the best thing I ever did for myself. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve signed up to go through the 50,000 word frenzy again this year. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo is a great way to discover the writer who may be hiding inside. You could join me and find out if there’s a writer inside of you.

Michelle Gregory and her husband of twenty-one years reside in Mesa, Arizona. Amidst the craziness of homeschooling three children and taking care of four dogs and fluctuating numbers of fish, she finished her NaNo novel – Eldala. It is now available at When she isn’t writing, she also enjoys blogging, playing with her kids, watching chick movies, working on her scrapbooks, and reading a good book. You can visit her blog at Life in the Midst of Writing.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2007 Photo Journal -- Ranching

We've been busy around here and I've had very little time to blog or do much on the computer except keeping up with the emails and phone calls (along with 3 meals a day and clean laundry). We're gearing up for our Annual Bull Sale and so life's all a-flutter at home--visitors and customers coming and going along with regular day-to-day chores. If you need a good Hereford bull or know of someone who does, just give us a shout!

I thought I'd share this photo journal that S. and I did together. One day I decided to plunk around on the movie maker thing-a-ma-bob on my computer and I came up with this after a few edits. It's a pretty good picture of life on the ranch. I hope you enjoy it. The only thing missing from it is a picture of a country church. Maybe next year!

You may want to turn off the background music before you start this video.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fancy-frosted sugar cookies

These are the rolled sugar cookies that I always make for holidays -- especially Christmas and Valentine's Day, but I also like to surprise my family and friends with sugar cookies at the not-so-obvious seasons. I just bought a few new cookie cutters and had to try them out. I frosted these with yellow and orange powdered sugar glaze (milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar) and let the frosting dry. For a special touch, I swirled some melted dipping chocolate over the cookies to create the illusion of veins on the leaves and dots on butterflies. After the chocolate was mostly dry, I layered my cookies in a cookie sheet and added waxed paper between layers and put them in my freezer. I wanted the chocolate to really harden and not become smeared.

I had a blast playing the the frosting and the chocolate!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Woolen shirts turned pillows....

I did this little project on a whim. I had seen some homey-looking plaid pillows in the latest Country Home magazine (Nov. 2007 issue) and I thought how perfect they'd be for fall and winter. I remembered that I had saved some of Hubs' plaid shirts and so I decided to cut them up. As I was cutting off the collars and sleeves and laying out the shirts, I had a brilliant idea to leave the shirt front all buttoned up and use the snap-placket as my closure for the pillow. This way I could remove the pillow and wash the shirt-covering when needed. I used a soft fleece for the backside of my pillows just in case the woolen side was too itchy for the dear head which laid upon it. Here are the results!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Just a quarter cup!

Wedding gowns are such fun to talk about, but now it's time to move on to things practical and everyday-ish, things like: how much detergent to measure into the washing machine.

I was refilling my old 2-gallon crock with my favorite laundry detergent -- powdered Arm & Hammer -- as I do regularly. You know how the green scoop is always stuck into the box? Well, for some reason I looked at it and noticed, as I have a couple times before, that there are lines way down at the bottom of the scoop. I thought, "Gee, maybe I should read the directions on the box. (what a clever idea that is) Perhaps I'm not measuring out the right amout into my washloads." As I read, I realized that I was probably measuring double the amount called for in the instructions. "But," thought I, "why the big scoop if I need so little?" I determined then and there that I was NOT going to use that dumb green scoop any longer, and I certainly didn't want my sons to get the idea that they needed to pour an entire green cupful of soap into the washer for every load so I took the cup up to the kitchen and filled it with water to the proper measuring line as directed on the big yellow box. Then I poured that amount into a kitchen measuring cup and it measured a meager 1/4 cup! Did you know that's approximately 3 tablespoons? Ack!! I have been pouring needless amounts of Arm & Hammer through my washer for nothing! Now I ask you, how many of you are reading your laundry detergent box or bottle? How many of you are measuring out exactly the amount for a "normal" washload? Or am I the only one measuring out double the amount because it "just looks about right?" Sometimes I wonder if these concentrated soaps and detergents are meant to confuse and confound the simple, unassuming homemaker and swindle her out of her hard-earned cash? Do you remember the days when we really did use a full cup of Tide in the laundry tub? Those days are gone, my friends. Just read the instructions.

Now for your assignment.........

Go to your laundry detergent box or bottle and find the proper measurement for an average washload, then do what I did, and buy a new set of stainless steel measuring cups and put the 1/4 cup measuring cup right into the detergent or into the cupboard and use it! Instruct your children in the way they should measure as well.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Zipped but snug...

G. tried the dress this week. We wrestled her into it, tugging here and there, and got it zipped, but it was a tight sqeeze -- nothing a young lady would like to wear all day on her wedding day. Still, it was fun to pull out the aged lace and see it one more time. So this means that.......
we're going shopping next Saturday!
We're so excited to begin the hunt for the perfect wedding gown!
All of you have been married 25+ years--
do you recognize this style?*

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wedding Gown -- Found!

What was stashed.... now is found!

The wedding gown -- sweetheart neckline, white lace, pearl buttons, and chiffon ruffles -- the one I wore back in 1981 when I married my Best Friend was put away in a pretty white box somewhere in my mom-in-law's house. Who knows where? At the time, we lived in a 14x70 foot mobile home with no room for big, white boxes stuffed with lace. Only the necessities could stay. So somewhere -- who knows where? -- the wedding dress was stored with care. And then another wedding was to be, and the white lace was brought out for another airing, another wearing, another nuptial before God and man in 1987. My sister-in-law borrowed it to wear on her wedding day. I was so delighted and honored that she would want to wear it. It was lovely for me to see it once again in all of it's elegance and grace, lovingly walked down the isle with a beautiful bride, carrying red roses, all buttoned into it.

Again, the wedding gown was carefully stowed away somewhere -- who knows where? -- in my mom-in-law's house. Years and years passed and I never really thought about its whereabouts. What did I need with a pretty box stuffed with white lace and ruffles while raising five children -- 4 boys and a girl -- who mainly needed all my attention and feeding and wiping? The only thing white I had in my house was diapers, and they weren't even very white.

All through the years the wedding gown remained dutifully in it's box stashed away somewhere -- who knows where? -- collecting dust, yellowing, silently waiting for another airing, possibly another wearing.

My daughter, now engaged to be married, asked where it might be. "Well, I'm sure it's in Grandpa's house, but who knows where? Gramma isn't here to tell us where she stashed it, so we'll have to think about this. Where would she have put it?"

My daughter-in-love and I looked under beds, in closets, around boxes and in boxes that *could* be big enough to fit a wedding dress in, but it was nowhere. And then we went upstairs to the attic room. We opened the door and found spider webs and dust and cardboard -- lots of it. We searched old suitcases and more boxes and moved a black trunk and looked inside it. Not there either. A little more moving of this record player, a high chair and a baby crib, and those record albums and another empty cardboard box and then behind a rack of old letterman's jackets and worn-out coats, we found a box. A long, white box with lettering that read "My Wedding." Ah ha! We had found it! It was all wrapped in plastic, sealed on the edges with mailing tape and so I thought it was fairly well preserved. We grabbed a few other things as well before turning out the light -- an ornate, gold mirror, a 1957 calendar with horse and rider, the creche I had made back in 1981 -- and we left the attic behind, closed the door on the dust and carried our treasures home to my house.

The plastic was removed, the tape was slit open with Hubs' pocket knife and the box was opened to reveal the wedding gown. Beautifully packed with stuffing in the sleeves and bodice so it looked just like someone was proudly wearing it. Yes, it was yellowed. Yes, it was stained here and there, but it was still beautiful. Also in the box was a veil and gloves, not mine. They had a 1950's look about them and so I figured that they might have been my mom-in-love's. I was so glad she tucked them in. These might be worthy of another wearing too! Now to show my daughter and see if the gown might fit and find out whether or not she will like the style. I'm not harboring any preconceived notions that she will want to wear it. After all, it is old. I mean, old in the sense that it's 1980's old. It's old enough to be out-of-date, but not old enough to be vintage-chic. There is a difference, you know!

Picture: The Wedding Trousseau Artist: Harrison Fisher at

Friday, October 05, 2007

Rockin' with The Beatles!

I'm not quite old enough to remember the British Invasion in 1963 -- I was only one year old at the time, but I am a HUGE Beatles fan. You know you're a Beatles Fan when you can remember performing "Yesterday" on the picnic table "stage" in front of all the neighbor kids while they threw crab apples in protest. (Really, I thought I was pretty good!) I spent a little time You-Tubin' today and found a few clips that were so much fun that I just had to share with you. Note the girls sobbing in the audience. I always wondered if I would have been one of those bawling beauties had I the chance to see them?
Are you ready to Twist & Shout?
(you might want to turn off the background hymn first)

She LOVES YOU! Yeah Yeah Yeah!!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Autumnal Toast

It's time to taste the Cherry Brandy!
Here's a Autumn.

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I'll put a trinket on.

~Emily Dickinson
Here's the recipe for the cherry brandy
that Isabella in the 21st Century
kindly shared with her readers back in July --
Cherry Picking Time.
This recipe is in her own words. It's best this way.
If you're out there "Isabella," thank you,
and please know how much you are missed.
My grandparents used to make something similar to this,
but they called theirs "Boozy Fruit."
They used combinations
of fruit in their concoction. The jar
was left on the counter and the
multi-colored fruits were very pretty to see.
The fruit was wonderful over ice cream --
so the adults said.
Cherry Brandy
By: Isabella in the 21st Century (Natalie)

This would be a useful addition to any lady's
medicine cabinet so I thought I'd share the recipe.

You Will Need:
Enough good (washed) cherries to fill a jar,
2 oz sugar to every lb. of cherries.
Brandy to cover...supermarket brand,
not really good stuff or bath tub hooch.
A largish jar, well cleaned.

Prick your cherries and put them into the jar. Sprinkle sugar over them and cover with brandy, you want to completely cover them! Put the lid on the jar and fancy it up a little (cherry brandy deserves fancy) do not open for at least 2 months, you want the brandy to taste like cherries and the cherries to taste like brandy. Remember not to faint until the brandy is ready! There are culinary uses for cherry brandy, or so I'm told. I imagine they would be Black Forest Gateaux (who buys kirsch??) and trifle. Cherry brandy makes a nice people with nervous dispositions who often need reviving of course!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where there's smoke......

....there's fire.
If you look closely on the left-hand side, you can see
Hubby turning out of our drive to go to the fire.

The wind is really stoking it.

We just stepped out onto the front porch after lunch
and saw what looked like smoke
mingling amongst the clouds.
Sure enough, after one phone call to a neighbor,
we found the source of the fire
which appears to be hay bales burning in a field.
Hubby was out the door and in the fire truck in minutes.
The fire, as of now, is about 10-12 miles away,
but there's a strong wind picking up.
Fall is a season that often brings grass fires to the prairie.
Prayers are going up like smoke to God.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A proposal....

Somewhere in this beautiful canyon
on a September day
a godly, young man
asked our only daughter
to be his wife.
And she said, "Yes."

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Foundations is an old fashioned word for "underthings."
I know that this may not be a topic that many of you wish to read about or talk about, but if you're at all like me, you can be excited over finding a bra that fits perfectly, feels good on, and looks terrific under your t-shirt. So thrilled, that you want to tell the world! I'm here to tell you that I found (after trying on at least a dozen) a bra that I like. It's called Ambrielle™ Smooth Revolution™ Full-Coverage Bra. I found mine at JC Penney's. If you're out shopping for "foundations" this fall, you might want to give this one a try!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fresh From God.....

Welcome to my niece,
Savannah Ray
And nephew,
Mason Benjamin
Both September babies!
Congratulations Moms and Dads!

I love these little people;
and it is not a slight thing when they,
who are so fresh from God,
love us.
~Charles Dickens
The Old Curiosity Shop (1812 - 1870)
Picture by Niccolo Berrettoni at

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday is Wash Day

The clothesline was busy today since today is Wash Day. I'm not legalistic about it, but I almost always wash the sheets on Monday. It's a routine that I learned when I lived at home as a girl, and I have instituted this simple practice in my own home. Everyone knows that Monday is the day to strip their beds and carry sheets down to the laundry room.

We had a gentle breeze today, perfect for hanging out the clothes, which is not always the case here on the prairie. Most often the wind is strong and persistant and would prefer to tear the clothes from the line and tumble them across the plains into South Dakota. The temperature went up into the 80's today so drying time was short and thorough, and yet........ gentle.

This set of sheets belongs in our bedroom, as you can see by the embroidered pillowslips -- "Mom, Dad." They were embroidered by one of our sons (yes, I said sons) as a Christmas gift to us a few years ago.

Lest you think that Hanging Out the Clothes is a romantical kind of thing, let me assure you, it isn't always. I do enjoy this simple chore although sometimes the clothesline has to be cleared in a hurry as it was today when my eldest son decided it was time to haul gravel in the Big Truck, to and fro, on the loose-gravel road next to our house. The dust cloud he creates driving by is enough to make me a sprinter!

Also, when you bring in laundry on a fall day like this, you must shake everything out carefully to "set free" the wasps that like to hover in and out of pants legs and arm holes. It's a nasty thing to put on a pair of clean jeans and get stung by a wasp who was neatly folded and stored in a dresser drawer.

Do you have weekly or daily routines that you keep?

I wanted to give you a glimpse of what my backyard looks like now that it's September. It's dried up, tired, and ready to lay its seeds down to rest. Such is fall.

While pulling up some weeds in the yard, I spied this furry little creature. As I looked around me, I noticed they were everywhere. When I went back inside for a drink of water, I took out my trusty field guide to see if I could find him, and I'd say he's an Acraea Moth (well, not just yet). He's a fuzzy caterpillar just now.


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