Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cranberry Orange Cobbler

Made this for Thanksgiving this year, it's supremely yummy and really easy to make. It's also another way to use fresh cranberries, which I think are one of the unofficial fruits of Christmas. Want the recipe? Here it is!

Cranberry Orange Cobbler
12 oz bag fresh cranberries
3/4 C rough chopped walnuts
3/4 C packed brown sugar
zest from one medium orange
juice from half of a medium orange
1/3 C sour cream
1 C flour
1 t cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
3T white sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 t vanilla or almond extract

Combine cranberries, walnuts, brown sugar and zest in a bowl. Spread over bottom of greased 10" pie plate. Combine eggs, orange juice, sour cream, extract and melted butter, mixing well. Add flour, white sugar and cinnamon, mix to incorporate evenly. Batter will be thick and slightly lumpy. Pour over berry mixture, spreading with spatula to cover top. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 50-55 minutes. Tastes best served warm. Cover and store in fridge.

Please click on "Linky Parties I Love" to see where I'll be sharing the recipe, thanks!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas-y Cypress Swag

We visited my parents this past weekend for Thanksgiving. I wanted to make my Momma something frugal and festive for the front door. I scrounged around for some ribbon and pretties and then hit the backyard to take a few cuttings from the cypress tree. This is what I came up with.

I bunched all the cuttings together with rubber bands and then covered with various ribbons. They were all different lengths, odds and ends mostly. She also had some red apple picks that I used. I wanted something a bit more "Christmas-y" but this was what I came up with. Using what was available.

I made sure to arrange the branches so that the little yellow clusters were facing forward for additional color. I took the white ribbon which I had the most of to hang it. I also had it hang the longest, to help draw your eye all the way down the arrangement.

Looks good to me, and best of all free! Please click on "Linky Parties I Love" to see where I'll be sharing this week. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankful Thoughts

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I know that most of us are in busy mode right now. Lots of cleaning, shopping, planning, and cooking going on.

However, I hope that we are taking the time while busily preparing for Thanksgiving to remember to thank God for our blessings. Not just a quick "Thanks" while we pray before eating our feasts, but a true thankful spirit.

As we all know, the degree of thankfulness that inhabits our hearts is in direct correlation to our mindset. You can find a way to be thankful about pretty much anything, if you go about it from the right direction.

Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Thank you Lord for the ability to procure all the groceries that we'll need to feed our family this Thanksgiving, even though it means busy stores and long lines.
2. Thank you Lord for our family. For all the disagreements, advice and rudeness that sometimes comes with them. For it means we are surrounded by our lineage and we're not spending the day alone.
3. Thank you Lord for our messes. For the dust, the dishes, the dirty bathrooms that we'll be cleaning. For we have a roof over our heads and shelter to protect us from the elements. You've blessed us with a place to call home.
4. Thank you Lord for your word. For all the analogies and hidden meaning. For it means we must earnestly seek to understand and hide it in our hearts, not just read and memorize.
5. Thank you Lord for our testimonies. For the bumpy roads and really hard trials. For all the suffering and hurting, for it makes us long to be with you in our eternal home.
6. Thank you Lord for our salvation. For the grace you extend to us and the way you court our hearts. How you allow us the decision to follow you and how you place situations in our lives to make us accept you over and over again. You make your path clear and straight, even though each of us travel a different road to get to you.
May you all have a blessed and peaceful thanksgiving.
"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."
Colossians 4:2
Sharing my thoughts today at Blessed Little Nest:


Saturday, November 20, 2010

FunnyKid Moment

Hubby found a station last night that is playing Chirstmas music...yipee!!! The kids are listening to it in their room right now, and "Little Drummer Boy" is playing. That is oldest's favorite, but instead of singing the chourus, "Pa rum pa pum pum" he sings, "Barack Obama". Love this kid.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Clipboard Photo Holder

A cousin of my Hubby recently had her first baby, a girl. Baby's bedroom has lots of pastel accents and butterflies. I wanted to make something that could be used to display pictures in her daughters room. Since his cousin is a professional photographer, I figured there'd be lots of pictures. Just to be clear the photo I used below is of my daughter, just wanted to give an example of what it would like like with a picture displayed.

This is what I came up with. I started with a pressboard sign from the dollar store as my base, and worked from there. Truth be told, the sign was in the giveaway box but I pulled it out and reused it to make this sign so I didn't end up buying a thing to make this but used what I had on hand. My kind of gift!!

Here is what it looks like w/o a photo displayed. I spray painted the sides a light yellow and then mod podged two coordinating scrapbook papers as the base. I sealed it with gloss finish mod podge.

I decided to use a mini clip to mount the pictures so it would be easy to change them out. The mini-clip is another scrapbooking embellishment, from a package picked up at the dollar spot. The ribbon is wired for extra reinforcement and I already had it on hand, love how it compliments the colors so well.

The butterfly embellishment was originally for another project, but I repurposed it here instead. The flowers used to make the body were added on, they originally were scrapbook embellishments.

I layered three different silk flowers to make the large flower above. I like the rhinestone center and the glitter, adds just a touch of sparkle and compliments nicely with the iridescent beads from the butterfly on the opposite side.

The "F" is is just scrapbooking chipboard, stacked and hot glued together. I used foam dots to float mount and reinforced with a bit of hot glue.

Happy with the end result and I'm pretty sure the recipient will love it too. Perfect gift for a new Mom. Please click on "Linky Parties I Love" on the upper right to see where I'll be sharing this week.

Indoor Fall Folliage

It seems this time of year is a favorite for many, myself included. I love fall and I believe a lot of that is due to the fact that our trees turn spectacular colors as the season progresses.

I know that many people like to bring the outdoors in this time of year and you see lots of bare twigs and branches coming inside. Just wanted to remind you that actual cuttings are beautiful and you literally see the leaves change before your eyes!

The above photo was taken a few days ago. Since then almost every leaf on these cuttings are a spectacular shade of red.

The above leaves are just starting to turn, as you can see. They turn a lovely subdued shade of orange and take more time than the other cuttings to change over.

So make sure to also include some tree cuttings in your home, you'll love to watch them transform before you eyes. Just make to put lots of fresh water in whatever container you'll be using, and if the leaves are going to turn gradually like the ones above change out the water once a week.

Stay tuned to see what I'll be doing with some cuttings from my Agapanthus bushes!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's Your Motivation?

Initially I was going to write a lengthy, wordy post about getting ready for Christmas and what it means. Similar to what you've probably read in the past. Remembering the real "reason for the season" and stuff like that. However, I think that I'm preaching to the choir somewhat as most of us do understand (at least intellectually) what that means.

I was sitting down the other day mentally going through my list of stuff I needed to do, preparing to make my annual preparation "list". I'm sure you all make a similar one too. Who to buy for, what your buying, the cost, etc.

Also thinking about the crafting to do, gifts to make. Looking in my "stash" boxes to see what I have squirreled away for gifting this year. Lamenting on my lack of items and thinking about how I was going to compensate for it.

Thinking about the traditions that we do as a family. The ones that we truly enjoy and are fun for us. Remembering what I needed to buy in order to do these things that we look forward to.

Looking at my boxes of holiday decorations and thinking about how I'll be pulling them out soon. Starting to make room in the house, paring down existing decor to make room for the onslaught that will soon be coming.

Thinking about wrapping and presenting gifts, one of my favorite things to do at Christmastime. I'm a gift wrap/ribbon/presentation junkie and I always get extreme joy out of having perfectly presented presents.

As I was sitting down thinking of these things I felt a slight stirring in me. A question quietly emerged as I was mentally making lists and plotting plans. Why do you do what you do? What is your motivation? Is it for others, or yourself? Think about that for a bit.

All the planning, shopping, procuring, presenting, wrapping, cooking, preparations that you do annually...is it for yourself to show what you can do, or for the recipients that receive? Is is for the kudos you'll receive for a job well done or is it for the joy and benefit of others? Do you do it because of the sacrifice or so you can say, "I did it faster/better/cuter/cheaper/smarter..."?

Think about it, honestly for a bit. Then think about why we celebrate Christmas. What was our Father's motivation for sending His gift to us? So we could tell Him "Good work, looks great!" or was it for our benefit of salvation?

I personally knew the answer for myself, and it's causing a shift in my perception of what needs to be accomplished. I found a bible verse that I personally know that I will be focusing on this year, as I make that mental shift.

‎"... I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind." Ecclesiastes 4:4.

A great verse to store away as we prepare for the upcoming Christmas season. What is your motivation for what you do, and what are you striving to accomplish as you prepare for Christmastime?

Thrifty Treasures

I was able to visit my favorite thrift store this past weekend while visiting my parents. I have found some wonderful things there in the years I've been shopping. You have to be patient with this store though, sometimes you'll walk out with lots and other times very little. This past weekend was a good run for me. Let me show you what I found!

First off, I paid a grand total of $14 and some odd cents for all of it. I bought 8 cafeteria trays (vintage), a pewter candlestick, a bookend, two sunhats, a boutique child's top and four woven decorative balls in all. Not bad I say!

These two sunhats were just too cute. The denim one is from Gymboree, it'll be a perfect little something for a friend of mine that's expecting her first baby. I love the details, especially the trim. The other floral hat is a bucket style hat for my daughter, Gap brand.

These decorative balls are huge, the pictures don't do them justice. Three are identical, I'd say they are 12" or so in diameter. The fourth one is even larger, I'd say 16" or so in diameter. The kids have already asked me if they can play soccer with them...so needless to say these will be up out of reach. I'm debating on wether to paint them or leave them as is, what do you think?

This bookend I'm definitely painting, I'm thinking my favorite ORB will look nice. I'm super excited on this find as I've been keeping my eyes open for a bookend or two for awhile now.

This candlestick is just too neat. I love the details along the base and the fluting on top. This thing is HeAvY too, and can you believe I only paid $2 for it?!? I don't own anything pewter and am excited that this is my first item I've found. BTW, does anyone have any good quick tips on how to tell if something is pewter? I always have trouble with that.

Thanks for listing to me brag describe all of my finds. Just wanted to show you that you can find nice things at thrift stores if you are patient and persistent. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tips for Easier Batch Cooking

This past weekend I did some serious batch cooking. It was rainy and cold, perfect for staying inside and keeping the house warm by keeping the stove/oven in use. Kill two birds with one stone, kinda...

Anyway, I don't batch cook as much as I should. However the more I do it, the more I tend to pick up tricks that make it easier for me. And I figured if they worked for me, then maybe they'll work for you too. So here are some ideas for you to try, and a few recipes are included in case you want to try it out yourself.

First off, pull out everything that you'll need bEfOrEhAnD. This makes things so much easier. You won't be stopping every five minutes looking for something. And keep everything out until you are done, that way you put it all up at one time. I recommend using your kitchen table as your "prep" area.

**DISCLAIMER** Most of these pictures aren't good, in fact they mostly stink. My kitchen has lousy lighting, and since I abhor the flash feature on my camera you'll notice most of these pictures have bad lighting. However I think you'll still get the idea.

First off, baking. I made several things, all of which will freeze beautifully. Above are some "breakfast bars" as we call them. I got the original recipe from Quaker Oat's website awhile back but have tweaked it several times to what we now use. These are seriously yummy and very inexpensive and quick to make. You'll find the recipe at the bottom of the post. A tip on these, use nasty looking bananas. The blacker the better. I usually will buy those "day old" bananas and stick them in the freezer, completely whole and then thaw them when ready to make these. Try them, you'll not be disappointed.

This is a chocolate chip shortbread. I recently started making this, and it's seriously yummy. It uses a ToN of butter, as does any shortbread. However it's so delish it's worth the calories. Very easy as well, just a handful of ingredients. I'll include the recipe for this as well, check the bottom of my post.

A quick tip on the shortbread. You need to sift the flour bEfOrE measuring, which is unusual by today's standards. Use a sieve and shake your flour over waxed paper and then spoon it into your dry measure. Don't skip this step, it will effect your end result if you do.

GFCF chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. These are for my oldest that has to eat a special diet. I cheated and doctored up a plain GFCF cookie mix with oats and chocolate he can eat. These turned out great, he was a happy camper.

Cheddar cheese baking powder biscuits, very yummy and easy to make. I just took a standard baking powder biscuit recipe and added cheddar cheese, some italian seasoning and garlic powder. These will make AnY soup taste better.

Speaking of soup, I made a big pot of veggie soup. Very yummy and cheap. Use random left over bits of this and that to make this soup filling and varied. There is corn, cauliflower, green beans, kidney beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and alphabet pasta swimming around in there. Also another tip, used boxed stock. Easy and tastes just as good, I usually use a low sodium brand and bump it up (try Pacific or Imagine brand).

A tip on using garlic. First off, use a LOT of it. You can't go wrong with garlic. Secondly DO NOT buy chopped garlic, it's nasty. Just buy a whole head and stick it in your cabinet. Peel several cloves at a time (I use the tried and true smashing it with a chefs knife trick) and then here's the awesome part. Don't mince it, but grate it! Easier and faster, I'll never mince garlic again. I have a microplane grater and it's lickity split fast, and no risk of boo boo fingers either.

I cooked up some white rice, and added a few cans of black beans and some frozen corn. I then seasoned with salt/pepper and some sauteed onions and garlic. Froze in quart size bags, perfect for taco/burrito filling or as a filler in a casserole.

A tip on sauteing onions. Chop up more than you think you'll need and then saute them in olive oil. The secret to good looking onions is almost overcooking them. You want lots of brown onions and lots of brown coating the bottom of your pan. That brown coating on the bottom of your pan is called "fond", it's a french term. That stuff is brown gold, it's not a burned on mess.
Deglaze your pan with stock or a bit of white wine and use it! I usually will saute my onions and then remove from the pan and deglaze it, then add the onions back and cook until the liquid is dissolved. I guarantee it'll take your onions to a whole new level. It's all about building layers of flavor, and this will definitely do that for you.

When I was finished I had quite a bit in the freezer. Three bags of "three cheese shells", four bags of the rice/bean mix, a bag of chicken sausage marinara and some cauliflower florets are all shown above. I also had a double batch of veggie soup, a double batch of cheese biscuits, a double batch chocolate chip shortbread, a batch of the breakfast bars and a batch of GFCF cookies. Not bad for half a days work I say!! Below are the recipes I promised. If you try something, let me know what you think.

Chocolate Scotch Shortbread

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 t salt (use 1/4 t if using salted butter)
2/3 C unsalted butter
1/2 C confectioners sugar
bag of chocolate chips (10-16 oz)

Melt butter in microwave, then add confectioners sugar and combine well. Add flour and salt, mix completely. Fold in chocolate chips and press into an ungreased 9" glass pie plate. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Sides will be browned well. Let cool completely before cutting, or it'll crumble on you.

Breakfast Bars

3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C butter or margarine
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 2/3 C flour
1/2 C ground flax seed
2 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 C quick or rolled dry oats
5 large bananas, mashed
1/2 C raisins (if desired)

Cream butter/margarine, brown sugar and vanilla. Add egg and mashed bananas, combine well. Add remaining dry ingredients (except oats) and mix completely. Fold in the oats and raisins last. Drop by large spoonful onto greased cookie sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Bottoms will be browned well when finished. Cool completely and store covered. Add some peanut butter on top for extra protein if desired.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

For His Purposes

‎"We are such a throw-away society, but God is in the recycling business. He finds a use for all our broken pieces, shattered promises and crumbled relationships".

Such a true statement. How has God taken the hurt, the disapointment, the lies you've been told and used them to fulfill His will in your life?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Glimpses from a Tuesday

Cheesing on the couch.

Split Pea soup for dinner.

Late afternoon glow.

My favorite tree in the neighborhood.

View from my living room window.

Another living room view. Lately I have found much peace in staring at trees. Is that weird?

Yet another costume change. This kid is obsessed with this orange dishtowel. This is his take on Zurg. Notice the missing shirt, for some reason he decided Zurg didn't wear clothes.

Just another day of being a Mommy.