Monday, December 26, 2011

A Very Nice Christmas, 2011

We're finally back at home after spending the last four days up in Asheville, North Carolina for Christmas with our family. It was a nice visit and no matter how many years it's been since we lived there, it still feels like home and we do miss the mountains. The weather was nice, especially for this time of the year, but I think the kids would have been thrilled had it snowed. 
My brother-in-law Brian, his wife Linda, and their daughter Laura, drove down from Wisconsin and it was really nice seeing them again because it's been quite a few years since their last visit. We all live in different states, so we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like to, so this was especially nice.
We did get a little crazy on Thursday when we decided to do some cleaning at my in-laws', including re-painting the upstairs ceiling, and we cooked dinner for them as well---it was our gift to them and of course my father-in-law was overwhelmed by it all. The look on his face when we were finished said it all. My mother-in-law is confined to her bed and even though she wasn't able to see what we did, she was just as thrilled.
Dinner was something everyone pitched in on. My sister-in-law Sue and her family did a bunch of baking and cooking at their house and brought everything with them, so we had quite a full table by the time we got it all set out.

Brian carving the turkey (you can see my father-in-law's reflection in the sliding glass window!)

Just a few of the home baked desserts!

Laura, Brian, and Linda

Our daughter Courtney, and husband Eric

Our 19 year old son Alex, hamming it up for the usual!

Bill in the middle of the kids' group hug!

Megan, Laura, and RJ

Linda and daughter, Laura, goofing for the camera!

Unfortunately I didn't take as many pictures as I wanted because my batteries ran down and I couldn't find the ones I brought.......figures, right? Anyhow, I apologize for not getting everyone in here and will try to be more organized next time! We had a great time but it all went by so fast and then it was time for everyone to leave and make the journey home. But a lot of nice memories were made and I can't wait until we're all able to get together again.   :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

Lots going on here for the next few days---baking, packing for our trip to the mountains to be with our family, and getting the house cleaned before we leave, so this will be my last entry until next week.

I just wanted to thank you all for stopping by from time to time and leaving such wonderful comments. It really does mean a lot to me, and I hope you'll keep coming back as I try to find interesting and helpful things to talk about---and share a few recipes along the way! I've so enjoyed visiting your blogs, seeing what you've been up to and enjoying pictures of your families, your farms, and things that mean the most to you.

Well, I need to jump off of here and get busy with my chores again, so I'll stop here for now.
I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and should you be traveling, I wish you a safe journey.......that's my wish from my family to your's.
Take care and God bless.   :)


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chocolate Delight!

I really have to brag on my husband (hope you don't mind) and thought I would share this. Earlier today, Bill made an 11 layer cake with each layer brushed with a simple syrup, then with a layer of chocolate mousse. The outside has milk chocolate frosting and the sides covered with cake crumbles. I gained 20 pounds just looking at it!

OH MY.........!!!

This cake was kind of inspired by a show on the Food Network called, "The Best Thing I Ever Ate", and one of the features was a chef who made a 27-layer cake with a chocolate ganache and it was incredible. Of course we don't have the fancy pans and equipment that guy did, but I figure this will be a HUGE hit at my husband's job. They're having a cooking contest later this month and even if this cake wins, Bill said he would defer the prize to someone else since he's the boss. He just wanted to enter it to see how it would do.
Bill's a fabulous cook to begin with, and this time he's hit a home run!  

Another Family Favorite.......Goulash

I don't remember exactly how I came up with this recipe, but I've been making it for years and everyone loves it. It's not really a traditional goulash as you might be used to, but I suppose it's close enough! I will warn you though, this makes a BIG batch of goulash. Even when I was feeding 7 of us we still had a lot leftover but it does freeze well, so you can get more than one meal from it.
I like this recipe because it's inexpensive and quick to make. You can serve it with crackers, corn bread, a loaf or garlic bread, or just as is. I will apologize for some of the measurements because this is one of those things where I add spices to my taste, but when I made this last night I tried to pay attention to how much of each I was adding. Taste this as you go and make this how you like it.


3 lbs. ground beef, or you can also use ground venison, elk, etc.
1 large can crushed tomatoes, or if you like the diced variety you can use them instead
2 cans green beans (I use the french cut)
2 cans dark red kidney beans
2 cans corn
2 packages of brown gravy mix
1/2-1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
sea salt, to taste or optional
2 heaping tablespoons dried parsley
1 small box elbow macaroni noodles

In a large stock pot, start browning the meat. When done, drain and return to the pot on medium heat. In another pot, get your water boiling for the macaroni noodles. Cook those, drain and set aside.

Begin adding (including all the liquids) the crushed tomatoes, green beans, kidney beans, and the corn.

Stir well.

Next, add your seasonings, making sure you stir these in well, tasting as you go. Add the 2 packages of brown gravy mix and stir in. As I said earlier, I tried to pay attention to the amounts of the seasonings so start out with a little and as the goulash cooks, give it a stir and taste again. When you get it to your liking, turn the heat down to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.
Next, add the macaroni noodles and stir them in. Turn off the heat and let the goulash sit for 10-15 minutes.

 It's ready to serve!

That's it! A nice, hearty meal that's easy on the budget and wonderfully warming on those cold winter evenings.

This post is part of the "On My Mind" feature at Down To Earth 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Early Start!

I can't remember the last time I actually slept through the night and got some honest, restful sleep and this morning was no exception. I woke up because my left knee hurt like I had hyper-extended it or maybe I was just sleeping in an awkward position, so I got up. I suffer from Fibromyalgia, so I often wake up a number of times through the night due to pain, and usually it's a matter of rolling over in bed and then it's off to sleep again. Generally if I actually get up, it's to get something to drink and then I climb back in bed, but once in a great while I may get up around 3am and I'm UP. This morning I woke up at 12:30!
Anyhow, I've done a bit of cleaning up in the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, have more laundry going, bread dough rising, and now I'm here. My husband, Bill, got up briefly and came out of the bedroom looking at me rather confused, asking how long I'd been up and chuckled slightly when I told him and what I've been doing. Bless his heart, I know he worries about me, but he's used to all of this and knows when I get tired enough later in the day I'll lay down.
I had posted a while back about making your own laundry powder, and I've been very pleased with it. It's not hard to make, it's quite inexpensive, and it doesn't take much time to put together. But I've been curious about the liquid version and think I might make a batch either later today or tomorrow and see how I like it. Another reason I want to do this is to try it as a stain remover for laundry, and as a base for a household cleaner I read that Rhonda posted over at her blog, Down To Earth. If you're interested, the recipe for her liquid laundry soap is here. Just remember that if you try any of her recipes and like them, please let her know, and if you mention or post them on your blog please let folks know where you got it from. I know.......there are so many cleaning recipes out there on the internet but I'm a firm believer in giving credit where credit's due. Thanks.
Time for me to jump off of here for now, but I promise I will revisit the liquid laundry in another post and try to include some pictures to go along with it as well.
Have a great day!  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Busy Day!

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone and life has gotten back to normal, this has been a week of catching up and running errands. Today has been a busy day doing laundry and cleaning house, two things I got behind on after the holiday weekend because I was just worn out and honestly didn't feel like dealing with it. But I got busy first thing this morning and by lunch time got a lot done. It was nice to be able to sit down and not feel guilty!
The weather has definitely gotten cooler here. Monday it rained all day and was chilly, Tuesday it was overcast, misty, breezy and chilly. We've been so spoiled with the warm, sunny days and mild morning temperatures, but it sure is a shock when you wake up and it's in the 20's! Today has been a nice day though. In the low 60's and the sun is out. No complaints for such a pretty December day.
I got my bird feeders up last week and the birds have finally started coming to them. I've seen some Black-capped Chickadees and several Tufted Titmice, and it's funny to watch them taking turns grabbing what they can and then flying off.

So far, the squirrels haven't found them, but if I don't get the squirrel guards up they'll empty the feeders in no time. Last spring I had a raccoon that would actually pull the bird feeder out of the tree and in the morning I would find it halfway across the yard, emptied. I haven't seen any raccoons in a while, so maybe they've moved on!
When we rented this house last March, one of the things I loved was the woods behind the house. Most of the trees I recognized, but there was one I didn't. A couple weeks ago my husband and I noticed some squirrels in the top of the tree eating something and as we started looking closer at the tree, it had acorns in it, but didn't have the typical, lobed oak leaves I was used to seeing. So I took a small branch inside with me and got on the internet. It only took a few minutes, but I found it and my 'mystery' tree is a Southern Live Oak, very common in this part of the South and the acorns much loved by our resident squirrels!

I like to know all the trees around me, so I don't mind doing a bit of sleuthing to identify them and see if they were used for medicinal purposes in any way, or maybe they were used in other ways. I do have one Eastern Redbud tree just over the fence in the back yard and I'm really looking forward to seeing it bloom in the spring. The blossoms are a beautiful pinkish-red, some are even lavender in color, and come out on the bark first, followed by heart-shaped leaves. This tree was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson, who had many planted at his home and Native Americans ate the Redbud blossoms both raw and boiled, and ate roasted seeds. I do know one thing, if I had my own yard, there would be quite a few of these trees planted because they're so gorgeous!

Eastern Redbud Tree
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Well, that's about all I have for now. The dryer just went off so I need to go fold some clothes and get started on some bread. 
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and thanks for stopping by!

This post is part of the "On My Mind" feature at Down To Earth.