Saturday, December 31, 2005

A New Cooking Blog!!!

Come on over and check out my sister and I's new cooking blog- Two Many Cooks In The Kitchen.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Currently Reading: The Art of Romantic Living

The new book I am reading this week is The Art of Romantic Living: Simple Touches to Enhance Everyday Life by Susan Wales. The author has also coauthored at least one book on entertaining as well.

While I have no immediate plans to install a chandelier over my bathtub or go on a hot-air balloon ride with my husband, I am very inspired by the many simple and inexpensive ways to add beauty to my life and home. She includes a lot of verses and inspirational quotes that remind me of Alexandra Stoddard's books, but this one is written from a Christian perspective.

I picked up this book for only several dollars at a Christian book outlet this week and have found it to be well worth the money spent. It's one of those books that you can pick up and read a couple of pages at a time. I highly recommend this book!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Recap

I hope everyone has had as wonderful of a Christmas as we had this year. We were down at my sister's house over Christmas. It was very nice having the whole family together. My parents and brother are here from Oregon and this is the first Christmas to have a baby in the family since me.:-) Needless to say, the Knoxster received special treatment for Christmas this year, but fortunately he is a very charming and sociable child who does quite well with all the extra attention.

My sister cooked a delicious Christmas dinner of Pork Tenderloin with Tarragon Mustard Sauce which was wonderful and had sides of Parmesan Potatoes, Spinach Artichoke Casserole, Asparagus, Wheat Bread, Fruit Salad and Green Salad. In the evening, we had snacks and desserts that we all helped prepare. My contributions to the day were a Mango Cheeseball, Green Salad, Christmas cookies, and a Chocolate Cake with a creamy peppermint icing. My mom made a delicious sugar-free pumpkin pie for my dad, who is diabetic, and we all enjoyed it.

It seemed as though we had a larger pile of presents than usual this year. Maybe the new baby is the reason for that? But this is the first Christmas we have all been together since Kathryn and I have been married, so there were 3 more people in the family. I know that presents are not the real reason for Christmas, but it is such a fun tradition to give and receive. I was feeling pretty good about all the bargains that I had gotten on Christmas gifts this year. But come to find out, everyone did that! My husband thinks it is hilarious how we(Mom, Kathryn and I) get such pleasure out of telling where we got our presents. We are all great clearance and yard sale shoppers, as well as the occasional re-gifters. Among my pile of gifts were a set of sheets,a sweatshirt,some books, cherry kitchen towels, cherry serving plates, cherry spreaders, a cherry spoonrest and trivet, some Christmas ornaments and decorations and a vintage apron embroidery kit. Maybe our families wish for me to decorate my kitchen with cherries?!?! I sort of got that idea!;-)

We did some shopping on our way home. My sweet husband agreed to let me stop at my favorite store- the April Cornell outlet store in Greenville. The cashier who was also the manager gave me a $20 dollar coupon for shopping that day so I spent very little on two items. I pretty much got one dress($19) for free. I returned the favor by letting him stop at his favorite music store in Gaffney.

Now we are home and I am still digging myself out from under a very generous Christmas. I am leaving my tree and decorations up until after New Years. My family is still around and for me the holidays will not truly be over until the last guest leaves. I always look so forward to this time of year and while I am anxious about life getting back to normal, something in me wants to prolong the Christmas season just a few more days!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Memorable Christmas Gifts

As one grows older, it is often rather interesting to note which childhood gifts are remembered. In my case, it is not so much the item itself or the price and popularity, as the events surrounding it. Here are some gifts that I remember quite clearly. They may not have been my most favorite over the years, but definitely the most memorable.

1. In third grade, I received a brand-new winter jacket. Not only was it the first brand-new coat this little girl had ever owned, it was reversible and had those popular zip-off sleeves. I wore that new jacket proudly to a restaurant for Christmas dinner.Oh, did I mention that I was also sick with the flu that day? I threw up all over the floor and my lovely coat on the way out of the restaurant. Although I was quite sick, I was not so sick not too worry about whether or not I had ruined my jacket. Mom washed it promptly upon returning home, because I would not rest until I was assured that there were no lasting stains.

2. I think I was nine when my brother and I both received Slinkys from our teacher. What fun we had! We also had unexpected company that weekend that included some teenagers who thought it great fun to torment a little girl by grabbing her slinky when she least expected it. The result? A Slinky with a hump-back. It's wires were so bent, I couldn't repair it. Believe me, I tried.:-)

3. I went through an anti-hairwashing phase during my adolescent years. During this time, I refused to wash my hair very often. Don't ask me why... I think I didn't care to get my head wet, although swimming under water never seemed to bother me. Anyways, the logical gift during this period was shampoo. Even though the Strawberry Shortcake shampoo didn't work(the bottle was so cute and it smelled so nice that I just couldn't bring myself to waste it), a well-meaning family member was sure that a shampoo with a name like European Mystique would do the trick! FYI, I religiously wash my hair very day now and can't imagine whatever got into me then.

4. My mom believed that her children were much more appreciative of items when they were wrapped up and received as gifts.This explained the many piles of underwear that were received over the years. We got other small things too. I was in seventh grade when my heart's desire was an ever-sharp pencil. I was thrilled to get one for Christmas that year. I used it carefully for quite a few years, too.

5. My brother gave me a white teddy bear that sang Christmas carols when I was about thirteen or so. I was quite concerned that the battery would go dead because it was not one to be replaced. I shouldn't have worrried. That bear sang for years,in the middle of the night, and there was no way to turn it off.

I'm sure there were many other gifts through out my childhood, but I just can't think of all of them now. So as you give and receive gifts this Christmas, keep in mind that although the gifts themselves may not be that flashy, there will still be plenty of memories to last a lifetime!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's A Girl!

You may remember a little over a month ago when I posted about my cousin who was critically injured in a tragic accident that killed his five children. His wife was pregnant with their sixth child at the time.

The baby, a sweet little girl, was born Wednesday. They are all doing well. What a special little one!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Baking

In an attempt to start a new Christmas tradition, my husband and I decided to make Christmas goodies together this year. Actually, we decided on the tradition two years ago, but this is the first year that I scheduled the event so that it actually took place.

We decided on 5 different varieties of cookies/candy to prepare in small batches. Since there are only two of us and we weren't planning to give a lot of cookies away as gifts, we didn't see any reason to get carried away and bake enough treats to last until spring or beyond.

We made Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes, Frosted Cut-Out Cookies, Peanut Butter Ritz Cracker Sandwiches dipped in chocolate, and Chocolate Peanut Squares. They are all delicious, now that we can stand to look at sweets again! (I knew it was bad when two hours into the baking, my sugar-loving husband declared that he may not want sweets again.)

It was a different experience for us. I love to cook and bake so I tend to view the kitchen as my personal domain. That day I had to share.:-) But with two people, it went more quickly and was so much more fun than doing it all by myself. We worked together and found out which tasks were better for who.

I wasn't sure if this would become a tradition after all. It was rather hectic, you know. But this week we have had two opportunities to share small cookie platters with friends in our small group and at my husband's worship team practice. And guess whose idea it was to take treats to share? Not mine, but my husband, who is very proud of his/our accomplishments in the kitchen. He loved the fact that I actually let him be actively involved.

Note to self- cookie baking will be a Christmas tradition for us, after all.

This is a new recipe that we tried this year. It is from the Dec/Jan "05 issue of Taste of Home. This is a no-bake recipe and very easy to make. It is our new favorite Christmas recipe.

Chocolate Peanut Squares
2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 1/2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon butter

Lina a 9-inch square pan with foil and butter the foil; set aside. In a large bowl,combine powdered sugar, peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs and butter. Spread into prepared pan.

Combine topping ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl; heat until melted. Spread over peanut butter layer. Refrigerate until cool. Using foil, lift out of pan. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 1/2 pounds.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Israeli Spice Chicken & Two-Tomato Salad

These recipes are from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals 2 cookbook. We love this chicken. You can make extra of the spice rub and keep it on hand to season any kind of meat.

Israeli Spice Chicken
Serves 4
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts(1 1/2 to 2 pounds) split to make 8 pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
4 Tablespoons Israeli Spice Rub

Israeli Spice Rub
1& 1 1/2 Tablespoons paprika
1& 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1 Teaspoon oregano
1 Teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 to 1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1& 1/2 Teaspoons coarse Kosher salt

Warm pita or flat bread, for passing
Place chicken in a shallow dish. Drizzle with olive oil to barely coat the meat. Rub chicken liberally with spice blend. Let stand 10 minutes.
Preheat grill pan or large nonstick skillet to medium-high. Grill chicken 6 or 7 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Serve with tomato salad and green vegetable. Piling the salad and the chicken in a warm pita is a fun way to combine the flavors and textures of the two recipes.

Two-Tomato Salad
Serves 4
3 vine-ripe or Israeli red tomatoes
2 tomatoes, either yellow or orange
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 ripe lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, to taste

Seed and chop the tomatoes and combine with onion and parsley in a shallow bowl. Combine oil, lemon juice and spices in a small plastic container with a lid. Shake dressing to combine and pour over salad. Season with salt and toss to combine well. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Christmas...From The Mouth of a Two Year Old

We have most of our few Christmas decorations up now- just in time for our 2 year old friend to come visit. First he was totally mesmerized by the tree and requested for several "trips around the tree" where I told him what every ornament was. Until this, I hadn't realized how many toy ornaments we have on our tree-guess we do have a theme.:-) I also have quite a few red and white candy canes hanging on the tree as fillers. I love the old-fashioned charm they bring as well as being inexpensive and practical.(We can eat them after they serve their time on the tree.) Our little friend, who I must tell you, loves to eat, liked the candy canes too. "These look just like candy!", he exclaimed. To which I replied, "They sure do, don't they?"

Then he noticed our stockings hanging from the fireplace. He shouts, "I love your socks!" I explained that they are called stockings and I told him what most people do with them at Christmas. He was quite intrigued and over the next several hours talked several times about the stockings. Then out of the blue, he announces, while pointing at the stockings, "Hey Mary Ann, I like your flip-flops!"

Monday, December 05, 2005

My Husband's Blog

While I am still in link-sharing mode, I will take this opportunity to share my husband's blog. He has been on Blogger for as long as I have, but I have just never thought to share the link!

He is not likely to share recipes and frugal household tips, but rather general thoughts and opinions on life and the world's happenings, all from a conservative Christian perspective. He has a real gift for writing and is able to convey his thoughts in a clear manner that is still very interesting to the reader.

So go on over and check Andy's Treasures out!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Mary Ann's House This Week

It has been a busy and productive week! I think it is safe to say that we have recovered from Thanksgiving and are getting on with life.

The major accomplishment for the week has been that I cleaned my oven. It has needed cleaning for some time, but after a banana bread spill on Tuesday, it really needed it! So Wednesday morning, I got it started. My goodness! Even with all the doors wide-open and the kitchen fan running, the smoke alarm was still beeping constantly. I finally took it off the wall until we were done. But it was worth it- the oven interior which I thought was naturally black is now a shiny gray.:-)

I have wrapped most of our Christmas gifts this week. We don't usually go all out with big gifts, but give fairly small gifts to each person. My family has always done Christmas more simply and I would like to keep it that way! My husband and I love doing stockings for each other, but if we are not careful, we can easily spend more on stocking stuffers than big gifts!

We got our Christmas tree last night. We were going to wait until tomorrow, but ended up stopping at a little "Amish" country store on our way home from town last night. They not only gave us a fairly good deal on a cute, short and round tree, but I might be able to bake some breads and cookies for them to sell through the holiday season. I am going to take him some samples tomorrow.

I finally used a spa gift certificate that we won through a radio contest last Christmas. I got a spa manicure which is very special. It was a very nice salon, but a little more pricey than I could pay on a regular basis. What a treat it was, though, to have a few minutes of pampering.:-)

I made my bi-monthly trip to Sam's Club and the health food store and stocked up on the essentials. We should be pretty well set on the basics at least through Christmas, with extra baking and company coming. We are trying our best to stay out of the stores on weekends all this month.

I am now babysitting here at my house 4 days a week. It is a great combination of what I love most- kids and staying at home.:-) However, it is a challenge to fit housework and everything in with a baby and 2 toddlers in the house. ( I haven't ever had all 3 at the same time, only 2.)I am definitely getting better at balancing baby schedules and still getting my work done, as well as playing and doing fun activities with the kids.

For tonight's dinner we are having Israeli Spice Chicken, a salad, pita bread and hummus. The chicken is one of our very favorites and is great for clearing out your sinuses while cooking. :-) We are planning to decorate the tree and house tonight, too!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hillbilly Housewife

I do seem to be on a link-sharing kick. But we can all use some new places to visit, right?

Hillbilly Housewifeis another informative homemaking site. I love to cook and gather lots of yummy, relatively healthy and cheap recipes and this site is full of them. Miss Maggie, the owner, also writes some great articles and she has a very humorous way of going about it. I found her article about Convenience Foods to be a great source of information. I recently came across her article Apron Evangelism and loved it.

Here is a phrase from her Convenience Foods article that my husband and I found amusing. Speaking about canned chicken broth- "It tastes like the shadow of a chicken was waved over a gallon of water and canned in a factory to sell to foolish women who don't know any better." When I expressed my plans to make turkey broth and soup from our leftover Thanksgiving bird, my husband asked if I was going to wave its shadow over a pot. Very funny indeed.:-)

If you've never visited Hillbilly Housewife, you need to go on over and check it out!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Handmade Cards

Monica from The Homespun Heart shared a wonderful idea for making her own cards and envelopes out of magazine pictures. It is her post for November 16, 2005 and is titled Christmas Crafting.

I decided to make some since I didn't have quite enough of my thrift store bargain Christmas cards left for this year.:-) Instead of magazine pictures, I used some heavier weight non-glossy wrapping paper that was given to me. For the cards, I used a half-sheet of cardstock folded, then traced an old envelope that will fit that size card. I am enjoying embellishing these with stickers and rubber stamps. Buttons and other trinkets would be cute if you are not mailing them. They turned out really cute.
Then I ran out of glue stick.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Free Movie Tickets

We went to see the movie Chicken Little this morning. We had movie gift certificates to use so this little outing didn't cost us anything. It is a very cute and extremely funny film. During the first part of the movie, the sound was horrible and wasn't working right at all. They finally paused the movie to get it working properly. The little movie attendant came out and told us what was going on and then promised everyone a free movie pass at the end of the show.

Well, the rest of the movie ran smoothly and at the end, we collected our free movie tickets. While some people may have been disgruntled, we were tickled pink. I will add these tickets to my stash. We hardly ever go to movies and by the looks of things, now we won't be paying to see a movie in a while!

Thanksgiving Dinner Recap

Well, my husband and I survived hosting our first holiday gathering in our home. It was a very enjoyable and worthwhile experience. But I now know why my mom warned me against trying to host family holiday events the first year we were married. It can be somewhat stressful.

We had invited quite a number of friends and family to our house for dinner and most everyone already had plans. I was feeling quite funny about a gathering so small-only nine adults and a baby.(Sounds like a movie title!:-)) My husband thought it was quite a lot of people but I am used to large family gatherings.

Well, my mind changed quite rapidly when we had to practically move out of our house to find room for tables in our living room. Finding room for the tables was not really the problem,but rather making room for the chairs with adults in them around the tables. We finally figured out that if we push the loveseat into the fireplace and the TV is pushed into the corner,( facing the corner too, which in this day and age is probably not such a bad place for a TV), we would have room for two tables butted up against each other. This provided minimal space for squeezing through in order to find one's way back to the buffet table set up in the dining room. It actually looked very nice once I set the tables and I thanked God for only allowing nine adults and a baby to come to our little house for Thanksgiving dinner. If I would have had my way, there would have been about thirteen guests. But we would have found room for extras, somehow.:-) (Actually, my suggestion, which my husband quickly vetoed was to reennact the first Thanksgiving and move everything outside.)

The dinner itself flew off without a hitch, really. I had made quite a plan for the week and then let myself work the plan. To account for my little kitchen space, I prepared everything that I could in advance and then baked it after the turkey came out of the oven. This worked extremely well. Even the mashed potatoes were reheated in the crockpot. (Personally, I think they are better fresh, but they were still quite tasty this way and eliminated a time-consuming process that morning.) Before and right after our guests arrived, I was able to sit and relax and visit. I really reminded myself of my mother and the phrase, "Mirror, mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all!" (Sooner or later, it happens, even to the best of us.:-) She has the reputation of being a very organized hostess.

Then the turkey came out of the oven and the side dishes went in and then I made the gravy and oversaw the arranging of dishes on the serving table and directed the drink pouring(water and tea for your general information.) My mother-in-law did an awesome job of carving the turkey and discovering the little bag of stuff I had left inside. OOPS!!:-) I had taken the neck and such out and thought I had gotten it all. We had a good giggle over that and I figured if that's the worst thing to happen, I am doing pretty good!

Soon everything was ready and we all dug in. All the food was delicious, even though the gravy had a slight resemblance to something on Fear Factor. (It tasted great, though.) It was a wonderful dinner and a great time of being together with friends and family, sharing our home, lots of food and great stories! And that's what it's all about.

Then everyone left just as quickly as they came. And what do we have to show for their visit? An empty house...and a very full refrigerator.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving Dinner

I am quite excited about hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner in our home. There will be nine people; well, ten if you count my 3 month old nephew.:-)My husband's parents and great aunt, my sister, brother-in-law and baby Knox, and some friends of ours. Ten seems small when compared to the giant family gatherings growing up. We also invited several other people but they already had plans. Ten people will fill this little cottage right up!!

So my turkey is marinating nicely in the refrigerator and most of the side dishes are made and waiting to be baked after the turkey comes out of the oven tomorrow. I have a carrot cake ready and pies will be arriving with our guests tomorrow(as well as a few other treats.)

Now I need to finish cleaning the house.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Outlet

We had some friends over for dinner the other night. As we were cleaning up in the kitchen the wife couldn't get over the fact that I had such strong water pressure. She obviously lives or has lived in a house with weaker water pressure. This comment led to a discussion on how doing without one convenience in our home can make the next minor improvement seem anything but minor.

I recalled back to the first apartment that my sister and I rented when we moved to South Carolina. It was a small three room apartment over our land lady's garage. I say three rooms because the kitchen, dining room and living room were all open together, then there was a bedroom and a bathroom. While nothing fancy, it did have new Berber carpet, a good amount of storage space in the kitchen and the rent was $240 per month. We were totally enamored with our little home. However, there were some major drawbacks. We soon learned that the oil heat would only stop working on the coldest days of winter, on the weekend when repair men were few and far between. The hot water heater required a minimum of about an hour between dishwashing and showering. The water pressure was not the best either. But all of these issues paled when one stepped into the bathroom. First of all,it was a very small room. The flooring was coming up, the toilet, sink and tub were very old and incredibly stained, making the whole room very difficult to clean. But we continued on, rarely even talking about it. Until the day we found another house...

We knew it was the right house. Yes, it had 3 bedrooms, a laundry room inside the house instead of going outside and downstairs, and a circle driveway. But the real selling point was when we caught a glimpse of the inner throne room. It glistened, it shone! New flooring(securely fastened to the floor, I might add), great lighting, modern fixtures, and even a sliding shower door. It was not only a pleasure to visit the room, it was also a joy to clean! We were thrilled! It mattered not that the house was in dire need of a paint job, there were no carpets, and the closets were very small. We told everyone about our "modern bathroom."

So when my husband and I were looking for our first little home, we were quite impressed when we found it. Even though it is older as every house I have lived in has been, this one was preserved quite nicely. We loved it right away. The laundry room is bigger than the kitchen, there is a dishwasher, and it is the first house I have ever lived in with central heat and air. I felt like a princess in a castle. Wow! What a nice house! But as always, after time, one will start to notice things.

And for us, that thing was THE OUTLET. Other than places to plug the refrigerator and stove in, my kitchen has one outlet. THE OUTLET is positioned on the wall at the back of my main counterspace between the sink and stove. Now this is not a normal outlet with space to plug in two appliances at the same time. No, the top half of THE OUTLET is a light switch for the light above the sink. Don't ask me why. Am I the only one who likes to plug in two appliances at the same time? As with other small inconveniences, one learns to simply deal with the issue at hand, until it is hardly noticeable. I don't have to time the dishwashing and showering so I have enough hot water. My bathroom is relatively easy to clean. But THE OUTLET has a lot of powers as to what I do when.

THE OUTLET determines whether or not we have toast for breakfast. If the crockpot is already loaded and started, then the answer is 'no'. THE OUTLET streamlines and schedules the use of my electric knife, mixers, toaster and crockpot. THE OUTLET evens kicks the crockpot out of the kitchen at times, into the Land of Plentiful Outlets, otherwise known as the dining room. THE OUTLET is quite the converstion piece.

Small things can mean big thrills. We notice small improvements and they are so exciting to us. Water pressure, decent hot water heaters, modern bathrooms... sometimes we are so easy to please! And I am content too. I am very blessed.

Our next home will be determined by the amount of outlets in the kitchen.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Holidays Are Coming!

November seems to have been proclaimed as home-improvement month at our house. Much cleaning, rearranging, painting, decorating, yard work and car-cleaning abound. The things that I have started and just haven't had time to finish are finally getting done. The upcoming holidays are having that effect on me. Probably because we are having Thanksgiving dinner at our house this year and then a month later my family will be arriving for Christmas from the Great Northwest.

Now I know that one's house must not be in tip-top shape in order to welcome guests and believe me, I have had a lot of people over when my house wasn't clean(or even unpacked when we first moved in). But I also know that I work better with a deadline of sorts. And I would like to get my several pieces of furniture completely repainted, so I can eliminate the boxes of dishes and piles of stuff that have begun to line the walls of my home. Somehow, deck the halls with boxes of stuff just doesn't have a ring to it.

Anyways, on a whim I rearranged my living room last week. I was only going to move the couches, but one thing led to another. You move the couches and you have to vaccuum under where they were. While the couches are out, you are closer to the windows and they really do look dirty now that you are up close and personal with them. So you wash them and you dust the windowsills and clean cobwebs out of corners while you are at it. And you can't help but notice how dirty the curtains are so they get a bath as well. And before you know it, you are on your way to Lowe's to look for another extension cord because the new arrangement of furniture calls for it. While you are there, you notice a display of 3-way light bulbs and you remember that your floor lamp has never been treated to the light bulb it was designed for. So you buy it and you go home and replace the bulb, and then you sit in your rocker which has been moved to a more prominent position in the room. And as you peruse the room, the corner that has been vacated by the rocker calls to you. It says, "Don't you remember what you were going to put here?" And you recall the dresser which is going to be there, but it needs to be painted a nice shade of red in order to coordinate. So you make painting plans. And several days later, the painting is done. The dresser is moved to its spot. Now that it is there, you can hang the mirror that has been waiting for the dresser.... And on it goes...

By the time the holidays arrive, I may need a nap.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sleeping Late

My alarm went off at 6 o'clock this morning. I woke up and decided to lie there for a moment and "collect my thoughts" which is always a bad idea for me. Next thing I knew I was waking up in the midst of a disturbing dream and seeing that it was 20 minutes after 7. Yikes!!

Fortunately, I did not need to be anywhere early today and I am not babysitting today, so I quickly made egg sandwiches for breakfast while my husband rushed through the shower. The idea was that he could eat it on the go if he needed to.:-) I was glad that I had chicken and rice from last night's dinner already packed for his lunch.

He got out the door on time, barely, but on time, and now I need to go shower and get on with my day!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Things I Love

In the last week or so, my sister Kathryn from Kathryn's Reliquary and Emma from Diary of a Young Wife have posted lists of things they love and enjoy. They have inspired me to form my own list. Like my sister, I love lists!

Things I Love:
-my quiet time with God every morning
-praise and worship music
-my sweet and loving husband
-productive early mornings
-playing in the dirt(gardening)
-the accomplishment of finishing a sewing project
-fabric stores
-yard sales and thrift stores
-classic children's books
-spending time with small children
-a clean house
-going on walks
-picnics(especially with my husband)
-scented candles
-the quilts my grandmas made for me
-the smell of clothes hung out to dry
-trying new recipes
-cooking a yummy meal using leftovers and bits of what I have on hand
-the smell of my house when I bake a special treat
-my Bosch mixer
-April Cornell stores
-trips to the library
-using pretty stationary and cards
-Mary Engelbreit's artwork
-inviting people over for a meal
-our cozy little cottage
-a well-stocked pantry and freezer
-old linens
-wearing clogs
-vintage items and decor
-Bath and Body Works sun-ripened raspberry scented products
-fun ceramic and pottery serving dishes and tableware
-drinking tea
-my church family

I don't know if this is a complete work or not. I'm sure something is missing.:-) What are your favorite things?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mom Will Be Proud

I have finally updated my profile. My mom will especially be proud of me, as she has given several subtle hints as to my previous skeleton of a profile. So feel free to take a look. Who knows? You might find something out about me that you didn't know before!:-)

Savory Apple Roast

This is an interesting side dish. I made it one day last week and we loved it. I was very surprised how the flavors really complimented each other. It made a great fall meal with Honey Mustard Pork.
So here's the recipe:
Savory Apple Roast

2 baking apples
2 sweet potatoes
2 Vidalia onions
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease roasting pan or line pan with aluminum foil. Core and cut apples into quarters. Cut sweet potatoes into 6 to 8 large pieces. Cut onions into small wedges. Combine apples, veggies, olive oil and garlic in pan. Roast in prepared pan for 40 to 45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar before serving. Serve hot or cold.

Recipe from the Dec.2004/Jan. 2005 issue of Easy Home Cooking magazine.

Note: The apples do turn rather mushy or almost applesauce-like. If you are one who has a problem with textures or mushy foods, you might want to adjust the baking time for apples so they are firmer.

I haven't tried it but thought a variation of this recipe would be delicious baked with a pork roast.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Great Yard Sale Day

My husband and I were up bright and early this morning to go yard saling at a prominent and well-to-do neighborhood in a nearby town. They were having their annual neighborhood sales today. It ended up being fairly profitable. We enjoyed looking at the quaint houses and beautiful flowerbeds even more than the yard sales. It was a great cool morning for walking too!

I did find some very nice books and small toys for the babies that I keep here at my house each week. Also found a nice highchair for my little nephew. He had asked for one. LOL Actually, his mommy asked me to be on the lookout for one as they had not gotten one for him yet and many highchairs are quite expensive brand-new. I didn't find any clothing for me today, although many sales had very nice clothing items with almost all of them being very good brand names, such as J.Jill, Land's End, Hanna Anderson(for small girls), etc. Some still had tags attached, but unfortunately I don't fit into a size zero or a two.:-)I found a set of three cute planters for $1. We also found a lot of things we didn't need, so we didn't buy them. It is a wonderful thing to be discerning while yard saling.:-)

It was a nice fall morning spent with my husband and didn't involve much spending with money!

The Year Of The Pecan

The pecan tree in our backyard is full of nuts this year. Our landlord told us last year that pecan trees bear every other year, so obviously this is the year of the pecan. The ground is literally covered with nuts. We got a 5 gallon bucket full in just a few minutes of gathering this afternoon. There are still lots on the tree and I'm sure there are more on the ground. They have a way of hiding and then showing up in groups of twelve or more.:-) We need to stay ahead of the squirrels though!

This experience brings me back to my childhood in Oregon, when we would spend an afternoon or two after school picking up walnuts. Then there would be the many fall and winter evenings spent cracking nuts around the table and seeing who could eat the fewest.

From the research I have done, I believe that I need to lay them out to dry before storing. I am very excited about these free nuts for baking! There will be a lot of cracking for these two nuts.:-)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Little Things

Why is it that most of the things that I put off doing are little things that could be done in a few minutes or less? Instead, I procrastinate and spend a lot more time dreading doing these chores than the time spent actually doing them.

I came up with a small list of chores I always put off doing and am trying to do them as soon as they come up. Most of them are so simple, too!(Note: I don't dread all these things, but some of them really bother me when they are not done!)

-making the bed as soon as we get up in the morning
-filling the water bottles and putting them in the fridge as soon as they are cleaned instead of leaving them on the counter to roll around, get knocked over and annoy me
-putting clothes away right after they are folded or hung on hangers
-put dishes in dishwasher as soon as they are dirty instead of having the dirty dishes take over the kitchen
-clip coupons right away and throw away the rest of the sales papers
-empty trashcans as soon as they start filling up
-putting clean pots, pans and cookie sheets away in the cabinet instead of leaving them on top of the stove
-putting my shoes away at night versus leaving them strewn throughout the house to trip over and hunt for the next day
-separate large packages of meat into meal-size portions for the freezer when I first come home from the grocery store
-do extra food prep when preparing a meal, such as shredding extra cheese, browning extra ground beef, cutting up extra veggies. Some of these can be frozen for later use or keep in fridge if you know you need it for the next day or so.

Flylady has deemed one day a week as Anti-Procrastination Day.( For more info on Flylady, you can visit I have also heard of the one-minute rule. If it can be done in a minute or less-do it right away! I am attempting to make every day anti-procrastination day in keeping up with these little things!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Apple Butter

I made apple butter yesterday. I am very pleased with myself as this was my first attempt at canning completely by myself. When my sister and I lived together, we would can tomatoes, beans, pickles, peaches,applesauce, salsa and jams. I might add that this was much to our married friends' amusement. While we both have always enjoyed cooking and engaging ourselves in "domestic" tasks, it seems a lot of them had the idea that single women would live on cold cereal alone!

Anyways, to come back to the subject at hand. I made 10 pints of apple butter and it seemed to come out fairly well. My house smells wonderful. It's even better than burning apple-cinnamon candles which I love.

We drove out to a local orchard a couple of weeks ago and bought a bushel of Mutzus. They are a cross between a Granny Smith and a Golden Delicious. We have really enjoyed eating them in their natural state-simply delicious! I still have enough apples left to maybe make a pie or two.

Now that my canning is done I need to go deep-clean my kitchen. There are splatters everywhere and the floor is sticky.:-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

66 Days Until Christmas!

I know some of you are thinking, "How can she even think about Christmas before Halloween or Thanksgiving?" But after several years of rushing around a day or two before Christmas, trying to find great gifts and spending way too much money in the process, fighting the crowds of not-so-merry Christmas shoppers, and being exhausted and not even doing half of the fun holiday stuff that I would like, I determined in my heart that I was going to get my shopping done early this year. I tend to procrastinate especially where shopping is concerned-its not my favorite task- so my deadline for shopping this year was August 31. OOPS!!! I kept putting it off, so now I hope to have it all done by October 31. That still is far enough in advance to enjoy the Christmas holidays!

I made a general list early in the year and added a few things to my Christmas box from clearance racks, dollar stores and yard sales. (If it looks really good, kids especially will not care if it is used!) But yesterday afternoon, I finally had some spare time and decided to be productive and go Christmas shopping. Two hours later, I had bags of cool gifts to show off to my husband when I got home. I still have a few items to get yet, but the bulk of shopping is done.

My first stop was at the good old Dollar Tree and they had many great items to choose from. I have found that when I wait until later in the season, the selection is very limited. I really racked up at the dollar store yesterday. I try to give non-clutter or consumable gifts. In other words, I try to give gifts that will be used instead of something to set around and dust. I often give food gifts(fresh-baked, homemade jams, or even homemade cooking mixes) and I also like making theme baskets. The dollar store is wonderful for finding little items to coordinate with these kinds of gifts!

My imagination is running more freely now than it will be the week before Christmas. I can also plan ahead for any gifts I want to make. This helps me to save money as well as enjoy the season! I even wrapped a few gifts last night while I was still in the mood!:-)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bread Baking

I baked several batches of bread this morning. I made 4 loaves whole wheat and 2 loaves of French bread. I love baking bread. I think it can be sort of a stress reliever or therapeutic, even though I don't feel stressed or in need of therapy at the moment. (Thought I would clarify that.:-) It also makes the house smell wonderful. That is probably a big reason why I like to bake- the house smells so homey and seems so cozy with the yummy smells wafting out of the kitchen. Anyways, the bread is now in the freezer waiting to be eaten. :-) That much bread should last us several weeks.
I do have a question for all of you bread bakers out there. Where do you get bread bags that are big enough for large homemade loaves? The gallon ziploc bags are too small and I would rather have plain bags that twist-tie. I know some Winn-Dixie stores used to carry them but mine here didn't have them and now they have gone out of business anyways. I did try to plastic wrap the loaves but found the wrap would still come loose and the bread would get all nasty. So for now I have resorted to reusing bread bags from the store. I don't normally wash and re-use bags; that is not one of my favorite frugal tips, but it does work for this until I can find something that works better. I also think that for giving bread away, the brand-new clear bread bags look much nicer.("What? You don't think the bread looks like hot dog buns? Can't imagine why it wouldn't!") :-)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rainy Day

This is a dreary rainy day. But we really needed the rain. It has been so dry. And I am glad I don't need to go anywhere today. It's a perfect day to stay inside and clean my house. Oh joy!
I have had a fairly productive week even though I've had children here most of the time.(I know- good practice for me.:-) My husband and I worked in the yard yesterday. He trimmed hedges and I picked up the loose branches and added them to Mount Brushmore beside the road. We still need to mow the grass by the road as it is quite tall. But that will have to wait for another dry day. I also got a good start on cleaning the cars out. I stopped when our car vac didn't seem to be doing too well suction-wise and I thought I could assist my husband with the hedges. I do have some spring bulbs I want to plant very soon too. The mums I planted a year ago are quite pretty now!
I finished sewing two skirts for me this week. Both were yard sale fabrics so I was able to make them for about $1 each. One is a nice denim with a bit of stretch and the other is a navy blue rayon floral print. I used a super easy pattern that I like. It's Simplicity's New Look #6953. On the denim skirt I added a flowered fabric border and some ribbon. I have been in a sewing mood lately and I always feel accomplished once I complete a project.
Tomorrow is my grocery shopping day so I have been running low on most of my staples this week. We have been eating lots of rice, since I have plenty of that! For dinner tonight is pizza burgers(using bits of leftovers) and chocolate cake. I think I will scrounge up some carrot sticks and pickles to go with it. I am out of eggs so I made an egg-less chocolate cake today. I know it as Crazy Cake and in my opinion it is one of the best chocolate cakes ever.
I need to get back to my house-cleaning now!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Things I Have Learned In One Year of Marriage

I was planning to post this list last week before we left for the mountains. But I ran out of time between running errands, getting ready to go and taking care of my little charges that come several days a week.
So here it is... a rambling list of my personal thoughts about what I have learned in our first year.(It is not generally listed in the order of importance.)

In our first year I have learned...
...that marriage gets you right in the heart and is a very bonding and personal experience.
...that I have a big mouth that says anything that pops into my brain.
...that it will not kill me to say "I'm sorry", but that those two little words will actually help to restore health to our relationship.
...that husbands have sensitive feelings too.
...that even though women can skip meals, husbands rarely want to skip eating.
...that a meal of Ramen noodles is much better than going out for a meal we can't afford.
...that making do or doing without is better than buying on credit.
...that a 50 cent Uno game and sharing the last can of orange soda makes for a memorable date night.
...the wedding lasted for one day; the marriage for a lifetime.
...that being a wife is a noble calling.
...that comparing my marriage to someone else's marriage can contribute greatly to discontent and disillusionment.
...that it is ok to do something different than our parents would do.
...that honest and loving communication in the proper timing has more positive effects than clamming up and refusing to speak.
...that regardless of my husband's IQ, he does not and probably will never be able to read my mind.
...that I am generally a stubborn and inflexible person. (Ok, I was aware of this before, but marriage has definitely helped to show it up!)
...that praying for my husband and marriage does wonders for my attitude.
...that after God, my husband needs to be my first priority.
...that differences in our personalities can give numerous opportunities for personal growth and character building.
...that the healthiest and most productive marriage is one where Jesus Christ is at the center.

Our First Anniversary

We spent the weekend in Boone, NC up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Some friend's parents have a mountain cabin up there and they let us use it for the weekend. It is beautiful and the view is outstanding. We were a couple of weeks ahead of major leaf peeping, but we did manage to spot a few colors here and there. The weather was sunny but cool and fall-like. We picnicked on the Parkway and took a short hike down to the falls there. I thought it was a short hike, husband thought it was longer.:-) We spent Saturday poking around in little shops down in Boone. That was fun. I only bought a few small harder-to-find kitchen tools at Mast General Store. It was actually the first time since our honeymoon to Williamsburg a year ago that we went somewhere by ourselves and not to visit family and friends. The weekend was very relaxing with time to reflect on the past year and go ahead and sign up for another year.:-) Who knows what this year will hold for us?
I was very excited that my husband decided to sing me the original song that he wrote for me and sang to me when he proposed and also at our wedding.To me that is more precious than flowers or an expensive gift. We watched our wedding video again and felt all cozy and sweet. And come to think of it- I just remembered the top of our wedding cake! It is still bundled away in the freezer. Do people really eat them? I wonder if it is still good.:-)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

And Two Bank Accounts Shall Become One

No, our pastor did not say that when he married us.:-) But like most everything else in our lives that became "ours" instead of "his" and "hers", so did our finances.
Out of all of our differences, it seems that the one that has the most potential to cause conflict is our finances. We simply do not manage money the same way! I like to save and see how far I can make the money reach. My husband appreciates this but has a more relaxed approach. "What good is saving money if we never get to do anything fun with it?", he asks.
We started out knowing that our finances could be a great source of conflict in our marriage. We talked about it at length and came up with a reasonable spending plan (budget) together. Then we got married.
Even though we were realistic in our dreams and goals, we still had a few suprises to deal with after the wedding. My first and major suprise came when I went to balance the checkbook and realized that my husband didn't make a habit of recording purchases in the checkbook register. I guess I thought that if I did that then most everybody else did too. He was disappointed to find that I didn't feel Hot Pockets were a necessity.
Well, we got over that one and decided that I would take care of the finances for the most part. We decide together how we are going to spend the money and then I pay the bills each month. We are both committed to tithing, so we do that first. We use mostly cash because it is easier for us to keep track of what we are spending. The envelope system works extremely well for us. If you are not familiar with this- you have an envelope for every category, such as groceries, eating out, personal allowances,gas money, hair cuts, etc. Into each envelope put the amount of cash you have specified for that category. Paying cash is a great help in not overspending. I think it is harder to spend cash because I can see it going. (We do use a debit card for certain things and we pay most of our bills with checks.)
Our different spending styles do help to balance us out. While my husband benefits from my planning and saving, he helps me to be more relaxed and not take it quite so seriously. He is very generous and I can learn a lot from that.:-) We each have our personal money each month. Some books refer to it as MIP(Marriage Insurance Premium) or personal allowances. We call it our play money. This is money that we each can spend however we choose. Even though it is only a small amount of cash each month, it is still very helpful.
We are still learning in the area of finances.(Dave Ramsey, Larry Burkett and Mary Hunt are full of good advice!) We know things will change as we go along. My husband helps me alot more with the bills now than he used to.He has become very good about recording purchases in the checkbook. I try not to stress out over every penny! And every once in a while, I reward him with a box of Hot Pockets.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


My husband and I are very different. And I don't just mean because he is a man and I am a woman. Of course, that IS very different. But personality speaking, we come from completely opposite ends of the spectrum. He is an extrovert;I have introverted tendencies. He is spontaneous; I like to make concrete plans in advance. (We joke that I have to plan to be spontaneous.:-) I like to keep things organized; organizing things is not his strong point.When I think the house is cluttered and messy; he feels he is living in wide, open spaces. I am an early bird; he is more of a night owl.I analyze everything to death; he says I think too much. :-) I am structured and plan my days in advance; he takes life as it comes. After all, you can't really plan life-it just happens. And of course there is money. We are very different in that too! I am very frugal, a tightwad at times; he is more of a spender. (More on finances later!)
So we are not alike at all. Our differences can help us to grow individually and as a couple. But, only if we let that happen. In one year, some of those changes have already taken place. Not big ones yet, but we are starting to rub off on each other.:-)
My parents prayed for and told me for years that I needed to find someone who is outgoing and spontaneous to marry and spend the rest of my life with. They were highly concerned that otherwise I would become a hermit.(Funny, but not too far from the truth.:-) On the other side, his parents prayed that he would find someone that was organized, structured and a decent housekeeper. I guess all the prayers were answered!!!:-)
So opposites attract. God knows what He is doing when it comes to match-making. He definitely had a plan when He allowed for our paths to cross.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Year Ago

On this day a year ago, I was one week away from getting married. I was stressed with the wedding and every little detail you can imagine. I was more than ready to just go to the justice of the peace and forget having a wedding. I thought that weddings were basically a waste of money even though our wedding and honeymoon were paid for with cash before the event arrived. I am forever grateful that we did not come back from our honeymoon to credit card bills to pay for everything that had already taken place. Because of this, we did have to decide what was important and what wasn't which is good for every bride and groom and to do many things ourselves in order to stay within our very small wedding budget. I used white candles and greenery and borrowed ficus trees instead of flowers for church decorations. My sister offered the ivy plants for table decorations at the reception that were used at her wedding several months before mine. I made my own dress not so much for financial reasons but for modesty even though I did save some money that way.I used my mother-in-law's headpiece and my sister-in-law's veil-they just happened to really match the trim on my dress.:-) I made my flower girl's dress out of white fabric I had on hand. We made our own invitations and a lot of the reception food.(We had a dessert reception.) But most of all, I couldn't have done it without all the great friends and family who offered their services and help. We didn't need to hire anyone for anything, except for the few bouquets of flowers and boutonnieres and for someone to run sound at the wedding(required by the church we rented).
The week leading up to our wedding was very stressful for both me and my husband. I think we argued more that week than the whole year we have been married even though we do have our little disagreements now and then. A friend told me later that she had come to the conclusion that if I didn't kill my husband (then fiance) before the wedding, he had the potential of living a long and happy life!!! I didn't think it was that bad, but I do know that my mom and others wondered seriously if the wedding would ever happen. I had a major case of cold feet and nerves.
But amazingly enough, by the day of our wedding, I was extremely calm and sure of myself. I had come to the conclusion that by that stage, whatever that was going to happen would happen. I won't ever regret having a wedding even though I don't think I would be up to planning another one. :-) Everything went smoothly. The wedding was beautiful, original, and meaningful, just like we wanted.
In this week leading up to our very first anniversary, I certainly don't feel the stress that I felt a year ago.Life has settled down to a steady, busy pace. We have grown a lot as a couple in 12 months. Without giving it much thought, we have created our own daily schedule and routines. It is funny how easily we have fallen into our respective roles- he just does certain things and I automatically do other things. Over and over we have been thankful that even in the busyness of wedding planning, we took time to plan for our marriage. We read books together, got some great pre-marital counselling, and took time to learn what God's plan was for our marriage and home. Our wedding lasted for one day and its details that caused such stress were soon forgotten. Our marriage is meant to last a lifetime. We have certainly not arrived yet; we still have a lot to learn and issues to work on. Stay tuned as I share thoughts on marriage this week!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Spanish Rice and Corn Bread

For dinner tonight we are having spanish rice, fresh corn bread and a big salad. I will share the recipes here.(Although I think most of you can figure out the salad part.:-) We ate lots of this Spanish Rice growing up. My mom really liked making this recipe and we liked eating it! This is my mom's recipe, however, as she will be quick to inform me, it is not exactly like hers. This is because I don't have her recipe,(I keep forgetting to copy it) so I make it from memory and add my own touches as I go. It is basically the same. So here goes-

Spanish Rice Casserole
1 pound ground beef
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cans(14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can(6 oz.) tomato paste
1 or 2 bay leaves
Chili powder (to taste)
Salt and Pepper(to taste)
1 or 1 1/2 cups long grain rice, uncooked
Approx. 3 cups water
In skillet, crumble and brown ground beef. Drain. Add garlic, onion, celery and pepper. Cook together for a minute or two. Put all in a large pot and add the rest of ingredients. Stir all together and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
* This is good with shredded cheddar cheese on top. Leftovers are good in flour tortillas.
* If you are like me and are only serving a couple of people, go ahead and freeze half of it. When ready to serve, thaw and bake in greased casserole dish at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Here is the recipe that I use for corn bread. It is from the cookbook Mad About Muffins by Dot Vartan.

Sweet Corn Muffins
1 1/4 cups all- purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 rounded teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup corn oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a large bowl. Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl. Add milk and oil to the egg and stir well. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and blend the ingredients. Fill greased muffin tins. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes one dozen muffins.
* I make this recipe in a greased 9 inch square pan.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Saturday Morning Pizza

Well, I actually slept in this morning, which is in and of itself a small miracle. I always feel somewhat guilty when I sleep in because it seems like my best hours of the day are gone. Yes, I am a morning person. It has taken my husband almost a year to get used to someone being so coherent upon opening her eyes at the break of dawn.
Because we get up early during the week we are to the point now where if we sleep until seven a.m. it is the end of the world. Very rarely are we even able to sleep late on a Saturday. But today was an exception.
My husband needed to run some errands and asked very sweetly if I would like him to bring us some biscuits from a local fast food joint. I scoured all of our coupons and we decided on a "buy one, get one free" deal. The only problem was discovered just as my sweet husband was heading out the door- we had missed the breakfast hours. I immediately jumped to plan B. We could eat breakfast at home as usual. When you hardly ever go out, cooking and eating at home often ends up being less of a hassle!:-) He thought it would be nice to take me out for an early lunch. He asked me what I was in the mood for. After some deliberation, I decided on pizza. Not just any pizza either. Oh no... none of the pizza coupons would work, because I (the overly frugal one) wanted Pizza Hut's new Cheesy Bites Pizza. I had seen all the commercials for it and it just looked so great! In other words, I was sucked in to the grand marketing scheme. I saw it, they made it look good and I wanted it! An easy sale. We did get the pizza and yes, it was as tasty as it looked on TV. But I hadn't totally thrown my frugal nature to the wind... I looked the pizza over carefully and now I am pretty sure how I can make my own version of the Cheesy Bites Pizza, not only in the comfort of my own home but for a fraction of the price!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I have been getting a lot of spam in my comments here on the blog, so I have added the word verification. I'm sorry if it is an inconvenience, but it will help to take care of the problem. Thanks for understanding!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Organized Home has lots of free printable planner forms. In fact, there is almost every form available to use for your own household notebook or control journal or whatever you want to call it. I have used the weekly menu and shopping list forms for several months now and just this week started using the weekly to-do list. It is just easier for me to be more productive and organized when I have things written down where I can see it.I post my menus and lists on my refrigerator then move them to my very unorganized notebookwhen the week is over.(See? There are areas of my life that are still very unorganized.:-) I am still trying to get on a schedule, or rather to stick to one. It is difficult for me to stay focused and disciplined. But I am making progress!:-)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Stir Fry with Peanut Sauce

We have been eating alot of stir fry lately and this peanut sauce tastes very similar to one we had at a local Thai restaurant. This recipe is from the cookbook Not Just Beans by Tawra Kellam. I use whatever veggies I have on hand for stir fry(the more colorful the better!), but I will share the recipe exactly as it is printed, then you can adjust it however you like.

Stir Fry
Sauce Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
3 Tablespoons peanut butter
1 Tablespoon cornstarch or 2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup water

Stir Fry Ingredients:
3-4 slices ginger root, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, mashed or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon oil
2 Tablespoons water
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 onions,sliced
2 green peppers, sliced
2 cups cabbage,shredded
1/2-1 cup leftover cooked beef, turkey or chicken

In a bowl, mix peanut butter, soy sauce, and hot sauce. Stir cornstarch in 1 cup water. Add to bowl. In a deep skillet, simmer the oil with ginger and garlic over medium heat. Add vegetables, starting with the firmest as you dice the others. Stir after each addition and sprinkle on water as needed. Make sure you do not overcook the vegetables. Add cooked meat last. Push vegetables to the side and add sauce to the pot while stirring. Add additional water if needed. As the sauce clears, mix in vegetables. Serve over rice. Serves 4.

*I liked cooking the sauce separately in a small sauce pan and then mixing it with veggies right before eating. We think this would be a great sauce for dipping chunks of chicken in. I like to make sure it has a good kick to it to offset the strong peanut flavor.

* A stir fry tip I read a long time ago from the book The 15 Minute Meal Planner/ A Realistic Approach to a Healthy Lifestyle by Emilie Barnes and Sue Gregg : When cutting up veggies for stir fry, layer veggies on a plate or in a shallow dish according to cooking time required. Start with veggies that cook only a short time such as onions at the bottom of the plate. Next, add those that are semi-firm such as squash, green peppers, etc and end with very firm veggies on top such as carrots that take longer to cook. When it is time to cook, start by putting the top veggies inthe skillet first and work your way to the bottom of the plate. This helps to prevent some mushy veggies and others hardly cooked!I have found that this is also an easy way to chop everything up ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Too Busy?

I tend to be a very busy person rushing around and doing all sorts of things and activities. They are good things to do like taking care of my house, cooking and baking for my husband, church activities, sewing, etc. My husband laughs and asks if I ever take a break just to chill out . He says that he is tired just watching me! Sometimes I think he isn't busy enough while he thinks I'm the other extreme.
Well, we just returned from a trip to visit my family. He met some of my family for the first time and spent alot more time with those he had only met briefly before. He soon came to the conclusion that I come by this "busy-ness" honestly! While sitting and visiting, my mom, grandma and aunt all had crocheting in their hands. When going about the house, they are scheduled, efficient and purposeful. He understands now why, even when I sit down, I like to have something to do in my hands- a book to read, recipes to copy, hand sewing to do, lists to make, fingernails to file- something!
It is good to be busy. After all, "Idleness is the devil's workshop." But, I wonder... can I be too busy? Am I able to quiet my mind and focus on what is truly important? Do I turn off the radio and the TV so I can be alone with my thoughts and think about God and hear what He is saying? Today I want to make an effort to, at least for a few moments, do what God says in Psalms 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God..."

Frosted Banana Bars

I have been making these bars a lot lately. They are delicious and have become a favorite among our family and friends. As well as being an excellent way to use over ripe bananas, it is even better when made a day or two ahead of when you plan to serve it.
Frosted Banana Bars
Ingredients for bars:
1/2 cup softened margarine
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup softened margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 3/4 to 4 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Combine flour. baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in bananas. Spread batter into a greased 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool.
For frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in enough powdered sugar to achieve desired consistency. Frost bars. Store in refrigerator.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Birthday Memories

Today is my birthday. 29 sounds old-not that it is old, it just sounds so mature, so grown up. I'm not sure I have arrived there yet. But regardless of my age or stage of maturity, I have been rather nostalgic today-remembering my childhood birthdays.
I have always loved birthdays. I think my family thought I might eventually outgrow this childish eagerness. I was always glad that I had a summer birthday and even more glad when that day was finally here! It was pure torture to wait as all the family birthdays came and went from March, April, May and June and then finally... it was my turn!
A number of my birthdays were spent cruising across the country in our station wagon on our summer vacations. I especially remember my 7th birthday- posing for the camera while proudly holding a waxy, store-bought , smiley-face cake. Never mind that I was in Nebraska in 100 degree temperatures. Or that I was camping in a frog-infested campground . Or that my brother was making crazy faces behind me because he couldn't stand the thought of not being in the picture!
Then the birthdays at home- the coconut-covered rabbit cake one year and my Strawberry Shortcake themed party another year.
But most of all, I remember homemade peach ice cream. Every year, Mom would get some of the first Oregon peaches so she could make the ice cream for my birthday. Most years, I would have that instead of a cake. ( The year of Strawberry Shortcake, we had strawberry fruit pops instead. I was 10 and well, peach ice cream is not pink or red.) Mom would make the ice cream in the morning so it could freeze until after supper when we could celebrate. Well, our family's share would freeze, but we would always take some to my dad's work and share with his co-workers. They loved it and would talk about it year after year. Our neighbors also got in on my birthday. Mom would scoop up ice cream in styrofoam dishes to share. It became so popular that even a couple of birthdays in my teen years, when I had developed a serious milk allergy, Mom would still whip up a batch of peach ice cream while I would either eat some made with soy milk or eat another treat. "We all just enjoy it so much!" was her way of explaining that one.
When we were in Oregon recently, we went to visit our old neighbor who is much like a Grandma to me. While sharing memories, she related one of the things she enjoyed most while we kids were growing up was getting to sample the birthday treats, especially the homemade peach ice cream.
So today as I ate a special birthday dinner and shared non-homemade vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce with my husband, I was reminded that even as we get older, birthdays and special days are meant to share.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Our sunflowers and zinnias are finally in full bloom. They look so pretty and are probably the most successful part of my gardening experience this year. The sunflowers are a smaller red variety and not quite as tall as their giant yellow relatives. (One stalk is six feet tall when the seed packet said only four to five feet.) The bees have appeared with the blooming of the flowers, which is fine as long as I am not there at the same time.:-)
I found a sweet little poem that I want to share with you. I don't know who wrote it. It reminds me of the simple joys of nature.

The wind whispering through the trees,
The soft and peaceful buzz of bees,
The scent of flowers on the breeze,
All that I ask please, is these.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Tomato Basil Bread

This bread is delicious and makes a nice, crusty, round loaf that is a great compliment to soups and salads as well as any Italian dish.
Tomato Basil Bread
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 4 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3-3 1/2 cups flour

In mixer bowl, dissolve yeast, tomato paste and sugar in warm water. Stir basil, oil and salt into yeast mixture. Gradually beat in flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a stiff dough forms. Place dough in large greased bowl, turning to coat. Let rise until doulbled in size , about 1 1/2 hours. Grease a baking sheet. Punch down dough. on oiled surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic. Shape dough into round loaf and place on prepared baking sheet. Let rise until doubled, about 1- 1 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut a large "X" in top of loaf. Bake loaf for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
* For variety, add 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese to dough.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Welcome to Mary Ann's house!

Welcome to my little home on the web. Thanks for joining me on this adventure. I have always enjoyed writing(except when I had to do it for an assignment:-) and this blog will provide an outlet for any thoughts I just have to share.
I have been married to my sweet husband almost one year now.So, yes, we are still honeymoooners.:-) We don't have any children at present, although 2 weeks ago we had 2 adorable little kittens. We were starting to get used to "being parents" when they decided to leave home and find their own way in life. So we are now bereaved parents.:-)
I can't guarantee anything in the way of blog topics....who knows what I'll be thinking of next? But you can expect recipes, links to my favorite sites, general musings about life in general, and inspiration from God's Word.
Again... welcome to my house. I am so excited you are here!