Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A few of my favorite things....

It's about time we get shopping for those thoughtful, delightful Christmas gifts and so I want to give you some ideas.  We ALL have our most favorite things, don't we?  If you could give everybody on your list your favorite things, wouldn't gift giving be easy?  Unless, of course, your favorite thing was your car or your 5 carat diamond ring!  Nester is having a Linky Party with Favorite Things under $30.  Let's see how many fun favorites we can come up with.  Wanna play?

One of my ultra-favorite things is my electric kettle.  I don't have this exact model, but I have recommended it to friends and family.  Nothing better than a fast-boiling kettle of hot water for tea, coffee, cocoa, for quick-boiling pasta water, and the list goes on.  It's pretty too!
Who doesn't need a good pen?  A pen that writes like a dream and doesn't smudge?  A pen that feels right in your hand?  You want this pen!  It's a delight to write!

We must keep our lips nice and soft and chap-free this winter so I'll share my favorite lip balm --  Burts Bees Beeswax Lip Balm in the tin.     (comes in a stick too) I love this stuff for my lips, but also for my oftentimes-chapped-nose and for cracked finger tips.  The light peppermint smell gives me a lift and a slight zing on the lips.
  If you like a little color and shine in your lip balm, grab Burts Bees Lip Shimmer, but don't go putting it on your nose unless you are starring as Rudolph in the School Christmas Play.  I like the raisin color.
Now for those of you who sew, quilt, embroider or clip threads of any kind, the EZ Snip from Famore is my favorite tool!  I don't stitch without it.  A sewist-friend of mine gave me my snipper for Christmas one year and I adore it.  
It comes with a nice little rubber cap with a heart charm hanging from it so you can keep your snipper from poking things when it's not in use.  (It's VERY sharp)  I'm supposing you can find these at fine fabric shops or quilt stores.

Everybody needs some jingle bells about now so getchya some!  Pier 1 is selling a Jingle Bell Wreath holder for the front door.  I love to hear that jingling when someone enters the front door this time of year. Or how about a jingle bell cuff for the wee Littles in your life?
I made this one last year with heavy wool felt, but you could make one with cotton fabrics or you could knit or crochet a jingle bracelet.  Pier 1 sells them too, but I like the homemade version better.  Or find a Red jingle bell stick from Pier 1.  I love this!

I wish you happy gift-giving!  It doesn't have to be expensive.  Let it be a favorite thing!

Jingle bells....

(our front door) 

A child's first and favorite Christmas carol...
Jingle Bells.
I remembered the words this way.
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse soap 'n' sleigh
Or the fields we go
Laughing all the way...

(Why "soap?"   I don't know, but that's what I thought the words were.  I did that a lot with songs.  Make up words, that is.  )

Bells on bobtails ring
(what's a bobtail?)
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh, hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bell, jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh.
My kids loved Jingle Bells and I always have too.  
We'd sing it practically every night of December and on into January and even in the summer time.  Jingle Bells was always the song of choice for any reason or season.
I remember singing Christmas carols with  the kids at the Old Folks' Home one time and a toothless, white-haired  lady hollered, "Sing Jingle Bells," and so we did.  Everyone was smiling.

It can't be a Childlike Christmas without Jingle Bells.
Hang 'em on your door so when someone enters, there's a jingle.

Sing it loudly, sing it softly, sing it with laughter, sing it with cheer, 
sing it with snow, sing it without, sing it, sing it any time of year!
 Jingle Bells!

It's time for A Childlike Christmas hosted by Pom Pom.
Will you join us?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bearing in our hearts, the light...

"As the darkness deepens and winter comes, each week we light one more candle to speak of our hope for the Coming Light. Much has been made of the symbolism of the Advent wreath, each candle given a particular meaning. Actually, it is the action of lighting one more candle in the darkness that bears its deepest meaning. In the face of growing darkness, the church brings more light. Since our sanctuary gathers us in a circle, we imagine ourselves as the wreath, bearing in our hearts the light of Christ."
~from A Wee Blether

As I look at the moon and Venus together, I am reminded that a sliver of a moon and a planet far light years away can light the darkest night here on earth.  Can my little light take away the darkness in my corner of the world?  This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.

"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you."
~Isaiah 60:1

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shopping anyone?

Kenneth Hayes Miller (American artist, 1876–1952) Bargain Hunters 1940
Kenneth Hayes Miller (American artist, 1876–1952) The Fitting Room 1931

Edgar Degas (1834–1917) At the Milliners 1882
Joachim Beuckelaer (Flemish painter c 1534-c 1574) 
Market Woman with Fruits, Vegetables, and Poultry

Spiced nuts....

I tried out a new-to-me recipe from the Susan Branch book, Autumn From the Heart of the Home; they are spiced pecans.  The nuts are easy to make and so delicious, you'll never stop eating them.  I haven't yet!

Spiced Pecans

pan spray
2 c. pecan halves (or other raw nut of choice)
1/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 c. melted butter
4 tsp. Mexican hot pepper sauce (Cholula)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350*.  Lightly spray the cookie sheet with pan spray.  Mix all other ingredients together and spread on pan in one layer.  Bake 10 minutes until lightly toasted, stirring once.  Cool completely.

I made the recipe with pecans AND almonds and I think I like the almonds best.  I like the pecans too, but especially the almonds.  Any nuts would probably be delicious in this recipe.  You get a sweet-spicy-salty crunch with every bite.  Makes 2 cups.

One note:  When I made these, I tried to cool the nuts fast and so I slipped them into the freezer.  Don't do it!  They got rather gooey.  Still good, but not what you want.  I saved them by putting them back into the oven for another 5 minutes or so and then let them cool down at room temperature in the pan. 

I think spiced nuts would make an excellent gift for a nut-lover. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving...

"Evening Meal"  Carl Larsson

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was,
"thank you," that would suffice.  
~Meister Eckhart

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thawing the Bird....

My Thanksgiving Preparation wish for you....
May your turkey be slip-free and fully thawed, may your cranberries gel, may your buns be light and golden,  may your mashed potatoes be fluffy and your gravy without lumps, and may your pumpkin pies have flaky crusts and firm centers.  And above all, I wish you a little time for a cup of tea or mug of coffee and a moment to breathe deeply and give thanks.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day....
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
~John Greenleaf Whittier

Sunday, November 20, 2011


This is one of the most unusual gingerbread recipes I have ever made and one of the tastiest too.  I don't remember where I found the recipe, but it is copied in my handwriting on a slip of paper, and I suspect I saw it in a magazine or in the newspaper once upon a time.  Who knows?  I hope you'll give it a try.


1/2 c. butter
3 T. fresh grated ginger (I use my microplane zester)
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/2 c. dark brown sugar (I've used regular)
1 c. dark molasses
1 t. spicy brown mustard
2 eggs
2 t. baking soda
2 1/4 c. flour
1 c. hot strong-brewed coffee
powdered sugar

Grease a 9x9" pan.
Combine butter and fresh ginger in a saucepan.  Cook on medium-low heat until aromatic 3-5 minutes.  Stir in salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, pepper and simmer another 30 seconds.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sugar, molasses and mustard until smooth.  

In a bowl add eggs and soda and beat, then add the spice/sugar mixture.  Beat until it foams.  Stir in flour and beat well.  Lastly, mix in coffee until smooth.  Batter will be thin.  Pour into greased pan and bake at 375* for 40-45 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes and remove (if you want to).  Dust with powdered sugar and/or with a dollop of whipped cream.  I especially like it warm with a mug of hot, black coffee.  DELISH!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First snow....

The morning before the first snow, we moved the sheep in closer.  
Of course, they are on the run to the feedwagon truck.

 The calvies are happy to belly up to the feed bunks for their morning breakfast.

 Fluffy doesn't mind the snow too much.
He's been well-fed since he's come home to us.  
It's always time for a leg nuzzle.

 There are still a few robins hanging around the trees.  
They were all fluffed-up today, trying to keep themselves warm.

 About 4 inches of snow fell and gave us a nice blanket of snow.
Thankfully it came straight down and no wind with it.

Just had to throw in another tea towel!
I like this pattern.
I wish you joyful preparations to your Thanksgiving Celebrations!
All that we behold is full of blessings.  ~William Wordsworth

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A walk to the chicken coop...

On my way to the chicken coop to shut the door, the sunset changed from moment to moment.  
I love where I live.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Around home....

 Lots of little things to share with you like this great big, brown egg that one of my Red Star hens laid.  It did not fit into my jumbo egg carton so I just had to put it into a dish and wait to use it.  I was quite sure it was a double-yolker, and yes, it was, as you can see by the picture. A two-fer!

I counted it as two full eggs in my recipe.  Hubby said, "If we had just 6 of these hens laying double-yolkers, we'd have plenty of chickens."  He is right on that, but we don't get to pick and choose our hens.  I have found that when a hen starts laying doubles, she continues doing it for the majority of her egg-laying life.

There was a birthday in the family this week.  My Second Daughter (she's my son's wife) had her 26th birthday so I had to make her a little somethin' somethin' for the occasion --an embroidered tea towel.  I had some of the flower applique pieces from Cuppycake's quilt so I used them and stitched around them with the blanket stitch.  Easy-peasy and fun.

Only Daughter (G) and her baby, Cuppycake, came for the week to visit.  Daddy is gone away on business for several days so the girls came out to stay with Papa and me.  We're very glad about that.  Tomorrow we are going to make baby-feet Christmas card prints and have them photo copied.  Aren't these super-cute?

The temperature is really dipping now.  I woke up this morning to 16 degrees and now tonight as I type, we are at the same temperature.  Tomorrow is supposed to be our last *nice* day before the deep chill hits us with lows down to 0 degrees.  I took a quick walk-about today -- no 2 mile walk to the mailbox for me.  It was so cold I felt like I was walking in the arctic with the wind blowing like it was.  I even had my hat tied snug around my chin so my ears didn't freeze.  I am going to have to exchange my fall gloves for winter mittens right away.  The water on the pond near the house is frozen over now and we must take care to check the water tanks in the feed lots lest they freeze up and the calves can't drink.

We've been seeing six to seven turkeys around the shelter belts lately so Miss Lonely Turkey now has some friends to pal around with.  I haven't seen her around the barnyard lately so I'm guessing she flew up to join the others.  I'm happy for her.

Thank you for your kind prayers and wishes for my injured rib.  It's getting much, much better, but I still feel the ol' wooden spoon-in-the-side feeling and sneezing is difficult.  I suspect it'll take a little more time to get over it.  Ah well.
I found this really cute sign on Pinterest that I loved and just had to share it with you.  You can print it for free here.  I found another printable sign that you may like to frame for the Thanksgiving Holiday here.  Give Thanks!  I think that's a good note to end on.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weaning days....

A couple of days ago, we went after another bunch of cows and calves in the South Pasture.  I drove the truck in front, coaxing the cows to follow me with  alfalfa cake.  I was able to snap a few pictures as we slowly chugged home.   It was chilly, but I enjoyed having the window rolled down and breathing in the pungent aroma from the sage brush. 
 Today we weaned the calves from the cows.  We vaccinated about 200 head and treated them with insecticide.  It was difficult pushing them up the alley.  It seemed as though we dragged each one to the chute, one at a time.  I lost my footing while pushing up a calf and banged my ribs into a post.  I wanted to bawl, but I held off and toughed it out.  Tonight, I'm feeling much better, but it still feels like I have a wooden spoon poking me in the side through to my back.  Sneezing is painful, but for the most part, I'm just a bit sore and nothing else.
There is a lot of bawling in the corrals tonight.  It is kind of sad, but one of those things that must happen year after year. I'm sure we get the term "bawl baby" from weaning calves.  At least I think so.  In a day or so, they'll stop their bawling and settle into their new spot and learn to take their feed in a bunk.

 The sheep were just across the fence as I drove by.  I wish I could have given them some cake, but I had to keep rolling along. 

 It's very dry out in the pasture now.  It's dry everywhere.  I really wanted to burn the trash, but I don't dare until we get some moisture.  The weather man says we should expect some rain and snow in the next few days.  It will freshen up the grass for the livestock and give me a chance to burn.  We may even get to light a fire in the wood stove.

I went for a little stroll late in the afternoon as the sun was setting.  Peach and I went to shut the chicken coop and then after I delivered her at her house, I went walking through The Woods, as I call it, because I heard the hoot, hoot of a couple of owls calling to one another.  I really hoped to snap a picture, but it was a little dark for that.  I thought I saw one of the owls in the picture below, but it was not.  It was just a straggly, old, broken tree that only looked like an owl perching there.  I did find one of the owls, but he flew away before I could get a picture.  I do better at taking pictures of owls in the daytime.  They don't see me very well, and I see them perfectly well. 

Monday, November 07, 2011


I've been out on my daily walks and my goodness, but they are chilly!  If I don't take a stocking cap with me, I must pull up my hood at some point during the jaunt.  Today it was sunny and we had very little wind, but the brisk temperature of 45 degrees made me realize it is definitely November.  I always think about how *nice* this type of day would seem in the dead of winter.  I'd be out washing the car in my sweatshirt on a 45 degree day in January.  But it's November.

I've noticed how very silent it is when I'm out walking now -- no meadowlark songs, no lark bunting twitters, no buzzing grasshoppers.  The summer songbirds are gone, but  I'm still seeing a few migrating robins.  The blackbirds are still with us, but they are flocked up into large, black clouds that swoop down and float back up, drifting with the winds.  I know their time here is very short now.  I did spy a Sharp-tailed Grouse along the road today.  We both surprised each other.  She flew up out of the tall grass and startled me as much as I must have startled her quiet grazing.  When the Sharptails move in to the home place, it signals winter.  I told Hubs about my Sharptail sighting and he shook his head.  I wish we didn't feel this way about the Sharptails' arrival because really, I so do enjoy them during the winter.  I love seeing their footprints and tail tracks in the snow where I walk; I adore their chicken-like chuckling, their stout bodies perched in the treetops, and their feathery feet remind me that they are well-equipped for cold, winter weather.  They are fine companions to a snow walker like me.

The leaves are all gone from the trees now.  Even the fallen leaves have been blown away by the wind.  The exceptions, however, are the Russian Olive trees.  They always keep their leaves well into the winter months.  They have set on lots and lots of greeny-gray olives this year.  Some folks say it means we are in for a long, cold winter.  I think it means we've had a good, wet spring and summer, but what do I know?  What I do know is that the Sharp-tailed Grouse will have a bountiful supply of fat-rich olives to eat.  I've tried them.  They are bitter but have a nice tang to them at the end like a glass of dry wine.  The olives are mostly seed, and very little flesh, but I suppose the birds like the seed-part too.

All of these things remind me of the Thomas Hood poem quoted in the Tasha Tudor book which I own and love called A Time to Keep.  Within the pages, every month has its words, its preparations, its celebrations, its poetry and its worth in Tasha Tudor's home.  I think Thomas Hood gives November a bad rap, but it is really quite truthful when you think about it. Poor November must usher us into Winter after all.  Tasha prefers to look on the brighter side of the month -- sketching in the corgis, a warm fire, the bounty of the year and turkey roasting on the spit.

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! - November!
~Thomas Hood,  1844

What do you think?  Does Thomas Hood give us a dose of reality with his November poem?  Does Tasha choose to see the bright side and ignore the rest?  I happen to like them both.  I think we need both reality and imagination, and I for one, need to see the good that comes from darkness, cold, and short days.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Give us this day our daily bread.....

Do you eat bread every day?  I think I do most days.  This is a sample of our daily bread, fresh baked.  Saturday was bread-baking day and Peach and I played Betty Crocker and Suzie Homemaker together while Toodles took her morning nap.  It was so much fun (for me) to have another baking helper at the counter as I did years ago when my children rolled and patted and formed their own little bread loaves and put them into child-sized pans while I made the big loaves.

I've been making our daily bread for three decades now and I have a hard time bringing myself to buy bread from the store.  For me, it's more about being able to make different kinds of bread, it's about freshness and the smell of homemade bread in the oven.  Since I can make bread and I know how cost efficient and healthy it is to make homemade, I just do it.  I like to do it, and that makes a big difference too.  

Quite some time ago, I did the math on the cost of making bread at home, and I came up with 30 cents a loaf.  It could be a little more these days, but not much more. Ah ha!  I found one baker here that says she makes her bread for 75 cents per loaf, but if you buy your supplies in bulk like I do, I think you can further reduce that price. My kids used to beg for "town bread" back when they were littles and now they prefer homemade breads.  Third-Born son even started baking his own bread after he left home when his sister-in-law gave him her bread machine.  I was so proud of him!  Only Daughter bakes bread now and then for her family and so does my daughter-in-law.  I think it's a good skill to have and to practice because we all know.... practice makes perfect loaves.

I love to eat just plain old bread & butter, especially when it's warm from the oven, but I go in spurts with my choice of  spreads.  Most mornings I have a stack piece of toast with my eggs or yogurt or oatmeal, and I love to make what I call a "dessert toast" at the end of breakfast.  Right now Honey and I are in a grape jelly trend.  A hunter gave us several jars of his own homemade this fall and I'm telling you, it's the best grape jelly I've ever had!  Before the grape jelly came to us, we were on a raw honey kick, and I'm figuring we will be going back to that soon since the jelly is nearly all ate up.  I love raw honey on bread or toast or straight off the spoon.  When I was growing up at home, we had toast with peanut butter nearly every single morning with breakfast.  I still love it -- the toast almost burnt  (but not entirely) with a thick spread of creamy Jif Peanut Butter melting on top.  I craved peanut butter toast when I was pregnant.  Sometimes I get hooked on cinnamon and sugar toast.  I have a glass cheese shaker with cinnamon & sugar all mixed up so it's handy for sprinkling on toast.  All I know is that I love it all.  Love toast!  Do you?

Your First Loaf at the Fresh Loaf 
Pauline's Wheat Bread (very similar to my everyday loaf)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Blue jeans quilt .....finished!

 It is finished!  I have been shoving this project to the sidelines for several months and at last I was able to get back to it and devote a good day to it.  It is far from perfect.  My excuse -- jeans are hard to work with.  The stretch, the weight, the variation of denim all contribute to its imperfection and to its individuality and character.  The denim that was contributed to this project came from my stash of family jeans that have been collected down through the years so there is a little bit of each of us sewn into this quilt. I used my quilt-as-you-go method here.

I hope our Fifth-Born enjoys his quilt.  He has been waiting long enough for it.  Oops-- do you see the other imperfections here on the back?  I honestly didn't until I took the photo.  Ah well, my boy will see far beyond the imperfect and believe it is perfectly good for him! 


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