Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Showers and Turtles

Today brought unexpected rain showers.

The rain started as I left the office for lunch and kept up for much of the afternoon.  It was mostly a nice, soaking type rain - much needed after a couple of weeks with no moisture from the heavens.  I was most thankful.  It means no dragging the hose and sprinkler around for a few days!  That's always a blessing in my book. 

Our office sits very near a creek and one of the little critters that lives down there found its way up from the banks and across our side yard this afternoon.  Let's just call him "Little Zippy".


He seemed pretty intent on getting across that gravel pathway.  But, the steel landscape edging was creating a bit of a problem.  


Unfortunately, I didn't get the opportunity to see how he fared or where his journey landed him as we were having a pretty busy afternoon.  I am still playing a serious game of "catch up" after having last week off for vacation.  

I certainly hope Little Zippy found his way back to the creek!  

Hope your Tuesday was great, friends!!!

Jane


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Super Simple Dessert - Buttermilk Pie



Warning:  This post will most likely appeal to baby boomers and people who like to eat...so, read on!

Remember when Sunday dinners were special?  Maybe a nice pot roast with carrots and potatoes waiting in the crock pot after church.  Or, perhaps a late lunch, smelling that chicken frying in the kitchen and hearing your tummy growl. And, of course, there was dessert!!!  Even if it was just a Jello mold topped with whipped cream, there had to be dessert to finish off the meal and push us into the stupor resulting in that other tradition known as the Sunday afternoon nap!

Did we, as youth, even realize how hard our mothers or grandmothers worked to pull off a big meal like that?  Did we truly appreciate their efforts?!?!?!  Knowing what is involved in such a cooking endeavor, I am more than a little daunted by the traditional Sunday Dinner.

Now, I have to brag and say that we do cook and eat homemade at our house quite a bit.  We like to watch what we eat and keep the amount of highly processed and unhealthy foods down to a minimum.  We might have one meal out each week - more like a "date" than anything.  So, there is quite a bit of cooking that goes on at our casa, most of it pretty simple in nature.  Eddie Dale is way more creative and adventurous in the kitchen, whereas I am definitely one of those "the fewer the ingredients, the better" cooks.

With that in mind, let me just say that this pie recipe is the epitome of EASY and can make any simple meal special.  And, on top of being EASY, it is DELICIOUS!!!  Does it get any better?!?!?  (I know, I know...if someone else would just cook it for you......)

Buttermilk Pie 

8 Tbsp. butter, melted - do NOT use margarine, NEVER EVER! 
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 eggs, at room temperature 
1/4 cup flour 
1-1/2 cup sugar
1/2-1 tsp. vanilla extract
9-inch unbaked pie shell - doesn't require a deep dish, although I have used one with no problem

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Mix first six ingredients together in large mixing bowl; whisk until well blended.  Pour into the  uncooked pie shell.  Bake 38 - 45 minutes.  Top will brown nicely and the center will be just about "set" somewhere after the 38 minute mark - so keep an eye on it. As long as the middle isn't jiggling when you slide it out, you should be good.  

Helpful Hints - 

I use a store bought crust - either frozen, or refrigerated.  I have to admit that the Pillsbury refrigerated crust looks more like I made it from scratch, though; especially when I bake it in my Pyrex pie plate!

I have this terrific pie crust cover that I can put over the pie plate to to keep the edges of the crust from getting overcooked.  If you don't have one, you can easily rig some foil around the edges to protect the crusts during cooking.

Since we don't guzzle buttermilk around our place, I buy the smallest container of buttermilk I can find.  Typically this is a pint "chub" for less than $1; if I don't use it all, I don't feel guilty about washing it down the drain. 

We prefer salted butter for this recipe; I lean heavy on the vanilla extract, using a full teaspoon; 
and, I haven't experienced any difference in the results if I don't let the eggs come completely to room temperature.  Just sayin'....

My pie didn't turn out particularly pretty - mostly because I was using such a deep dish, so it sort of collapsed into itself.  But, gosh dang, it was delicious!!!



Oh, and by the way, why don't we have Jello molds anymore?  Those were pretty cool.....especially if there was fruit cocktail mixed in!  When was the last time you had that?!?!?  If you were a child of the 60's, even the 70's, you know exactly what I'm talking about.....


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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Food, Fiction & Fellowship - Don't Get No Better!

Life just gets so dang busy!  Often, it is difficult to find the time for something I really want to do!!!  (Imagine just a bit of foot stomping as I type that....)

If you know me, then you know reading is a passion for me!  It's definitely one of those things I really WANT to do!  Even as a child, one of my favorite outings was a trip to the library.  I could have spent hours upon hours there, browsing the shelves and making my selections.  I would read any chance I got, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning.  To this day, I love to get lost in the pages of a good read!  So, making the time to just curl up with a book is a priority for me.  

Last night brought a meeting of a very small book club, which I have participated in for the last several years.  There are only five of us - and one doesn't even live in town full-time anymore.  So, we don't make it together once a month.  These days it is more like once a calendar quarter.  We have read a variety of books through the years - fiction, non-fiction, inspirational Christian works, you name it.  

Our current selection was "Hold Me Close - Revolutionary Faith Book One"
by local author Marguerite Martin Gray. 

You can order this book HERE
Marguerite teaches French at one of the high schools AND I have discovered she writes beautiful books.  (One of our members used to teach with her and knows her quite well.)  This series is historical fiction, set in pre-revolution Charles Town, with Christian themes and light romance.  (You know, it's hard to "categorize" a book at times - I hate just classifying it as one genre when it's really more complex than that!)  I was pleasantly surprised as I read this book and look forward to the next in the series this Fall.  

Now, as for this book club, one of the things we enjoy most about our little get-togethers is the fellowship and food.  We spend as much time selecting the restaurant as the book!  We dined at Miguel's MexTex Cafe last night and I am sorry to tell you, friends, but this is a LOCAL restaurant. Too bad for those of you who don't live in Abilene!  I totally over-indulged on puffy beef tacos - they were amazing!!!  And I got in two full tumblers of water with my meal - which sorta offsets the dessert of bread pudding with bourbon sauce and vanilla bean ice cream I ended up devouring......

I was home well before 8:00 pm - just before the heavens opened and poured some more blessed rain upon our town.  With the sound of rain and thunder just outside the windows, I slipped into some comfy flannel pj's and curled up with a book.  What a way to end the evening!

By the way, our next selection is "The Husband's Secret" by Liane Moriarty. 

For sale at Amazon - HERE

I can't wait to get started on this one!  But, I will probably wait until closer to the time of our next meeting in May  - so, it is still fresh in my mind.  (Can you relate???)  

I have not read anything by this author before - have you?  Would love to hear about it in the comments below, if you have - but, hey!  No spoilers on this one!!!  In fact, our group is always looking for new authors and writings to explore - so, we welcome suggestions. 

What are you reading right now???



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Thanks!!!





Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Our Special Weekend Visitor

This past weekend was pretty special - and not just because Sunday was Valentine's Day.

It was a busy weekend, to be sure.  My sister was in town, so there was a large family lunch out on Saturday; and yet another dinner that evening.  In the midst of it all, our precious little princess of a granddaughter, Autumn, came to our house for a sleepover!  Her mommy and daddy needed a night out, just the two of them, so Mimi and Papa Ed came to the rescue.  

The weather was beautiful and warm on Saturday.  When Autumn arrived at our house before dinner, it was still warm; so, her mommy forgot to pack a jacket.  Sensing it would be much cooler when we left the restaurant after the sun set, we had to go into my closet and make do.  Here's what we came up with - I'm sure it will be all the fashion rage next season!


Since this was a sleepover, Autumn and I bunked down in the guest bedroom.  I had forgotten how it is to sleep with a 2-year old!  Heavy on elbows and knees....and light on the sleep.  But, it was all worth it to wake before dawn to the sound of little girl giggles.  And have breakfast of pancakes and bacon while watching the Disney channel.  And wash her hair and let her splash in the tub and blow dry those beautiful curls.  It was a wonderful time with this little cutie and I relished every moment!  


The rest of Valentine's Day was devoted to taking care of the regular weekend routine - housecleaning, laundry, preparing for the week.  After a quick exchange of simple and useful gifts and cards with Eddie Dale (a cookbook for him, some warm knitted scarves for me, which he found end-of-season at the store), he was off to work - not a single chocolate or flower in sight.  

Still, it was a fabulous day - because it doesn't take chocolate, flowers or expensive gifts to make a day special.  Family, being with the ones we love, the opportunity to make our little home a more comfortable place - these are the blessings.  For these things, I am grateful!

I hope you had a special day.  But, more than anything, I hope you were able to look around and recognize the blessings in your life.  

Hugs, 

Jane 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Oh, Christmas Tree - 2015 Version

The Christmas tree - centerpiece of almost everyone's holiday decorating.  And it's no different at our house.  I start thinking about the year's "theme" just about the time I finish putting out our Fall decor in September!

I wanted to do something a little different this year.  So, I started pulling together the elements from scratch, using the vision in my head as my shopping guide.....

I started with ribbons, three different styles and colors, and made bows which I scattered around the tree first.
Wide green fabric ribbon with fun glittery polka dots

Elegant wide white ribbon with silver edging and glittery blue snowflakes
This plaid ribbon brought all the color elements together

Next came a variety of different ornaments, most of them shiny or glittery, to better reflect the light....
Blue pine cone orbs, with a frosting of snow
Swirly green orbs with a matte finish
Glittery blue ornaments for lots of sparkle
Oversized beaded ornaments in various shades of green
Gold and silver ornaments for a different shape and simple crystal drops for their prism reflections
 
Large frosted snowflakes for their magic




 A lighted star for the topper this year, surrounded by gold beaded stems.  Before I added them, the tree had a sort of flat appearance on top....just looked funny to me.  But, this turned out to be a good addition - they reflect the light beautifully and round out the top nicely!
And notice the gold icicles dangling from the branches - I end up using these every year, no matter what the theme!

I love the way these beaded stems glisten - it's almost like a crown for the tree!
The view from a vertically challenged person's my point of view...
I love the way this year's tree turned out!  Eddie Dale says he thinks it's one of the prettiest yet!  And we have it in a new spot this year, so we can enjoy it while we are sitting and watching tv - it's front and center - and I don't know why we've never put it here before....
The skirt is just an old sheer gold curtain panel wrapped around the base of the tree - but, it works!
 

So, there you have our tree for Christmas 2015.  I've been tweaking and working on photos of the rest of the decor - I don't just decorate the living room, you know!  Hopefully, I will have a tour of the rest of our cozy little cottage posted over the next few days.  By the way, I'm always posting over on Janie's Porch Facebook page, so hop on board and follow over there for daily updates.  

Back soon, sweet Friends!

Jane


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Blessed Mom of Goofy Boys....


It was wonderful to have all three of my children in one place for Thanksgiving!  I was one happy momma and couldn't seem to get enough hugs.  

We had a delicious feast featuring the traditional turkey and dressing.  And we shared lots of laughs - especially when I tried to herd Bonnie, Ben and Sam together for a new "Mom & Kids" photo.....  

Take #1 - Bonnie had the yawns
Almost, except Bonnie had the giggles
So, Ben kicked in with the faces...and Sam started with the bunny ears....
Which had us all laughing
And laughing some more...
And laughing (sensing a pattern here yet???)
I don't know....it just sort of went south at some point

I blame it mostly on the boys, though
Ben had this weird thing going on with his eyes....deliberately!  Bonnie and I got the giggles.  Sam kept moving out of the frame....it was just feeling futile....and so I finally said "Goofy Picture!"

And Ansleigh photobombed us!!!
But, I did manage to settle on one this one shot as the most acceptable.  


However, all the rest are just as precious to me!  Each time I look through them, I am reminded of what a fun evening it was....and how much my stomach hurt from laughing with my kids.  Now, how blessed is that?!?!?  

I hope your Thanksgiving was as relaxed and enjoyable as mine.  Let us keep that spirit of thankfulness in our hearts as we move into this holiday season!

Blessings, 


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Homemade Oatmeal Cookies - For Real!!!

Lately, I have gotten into the habit of baking up a batch of cookies on Sunday afternoon or evening.  (Don't know what has gotten into me.....especially since I didn't get around to this batch until Tuesday evening!)

My reasoning is that anything I make will undoubtedly be healthier and more enjoyable than anything I can buy at the market. 

Having said that, the amount of time and effort I put into baking is minimal - because, face it, by the time I get around to this part of the day, I am usually ready for some "down time" before the week starts.  When one works full time during the week, the weekends are usually spent catching up on the homefront - cleaning, laundry, shopping.  Baking gets allotted a pretty meager amount of time.....and I am willing to bet that most of you can relate!

To keep it simple, I generally start with a pre-packaged cookie mix.  (Yep, I am all over that whole semi-homemade thing!)  Our favorite is the Betty Crocker bag of Oatmeal cookie mix.  Super easy, super inexpensive, super quick - not 3 strikes there, but a total Home Run!!!  And I figure that since these are oatmeal based cookies, they have to be at least a little bit healthy....right?

Just melt a stick of butter (real butter - margarine does not enter this house!) in your large mixing bowl.  Add in one egg and 1 tablespoon of water; then stir in the bag of cookie mix.  To change it up and add a little texture, I generally add in about 1/2 of chopped walnuts (no exact measuring - I just grab a big handful out of the jar of chopped walnuts I keep around).  If I want the cookies to be really special, I add a handful of chopped dried cranberries!   

Now, the secret to keeping it easy peasy is to use parchment paper on your cookie sheet.  Do not skip this step!!!  (Have I mentioned that discovering parchment paper has changed my life?!?!?!?)  Bake in a 350 degree oven until they are just beginning to turn golden. Then remove from the oven, let sit a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then move them to paper towels to completely cool.  (Trust me, they stay a little softer and chewier than they will if you let them cool on a wire rack!) 

Parchment paper and paper towels - essentials in this baking venture!
This yields about 3-1/2 dozen cookies, which are just the right size for snagging for snacks.  In fact, you can eat 2, or even 3, without feeling too guilty!

So, next time you're in a hurry for a semi-healthy snack that tastes like you baked it from scratch (or, in my case, better than scratch), try these cookie mix cookies.  Your family will love you!!!


Stay well and be blessed, Friends!

Jane
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