Wednesday, December 31, 2008

resolutions of joy and wonder

I’ve never been one given to making New Years resolutions. However the idea came to me today to make a few resolutions based on pleasure. Maybe the snow and cold have me thinking of things I regret not doing more of in the past couple of years, things that I truly enjoy that bring me a sense of beauty and wonder. Whatever the case may be, here are a few of my New Year’s resolutions for 2009.

my joy & wonder resolutions for 2009:


plant more flowers


flowers Pictures, Images and Photos


grow more love

Dance, Love, Sing, Live Pictures, Images and Photos


listen to music more often and dance and sing along!


spend more time on a blanket under the stars


Under The Stars Pictures, Images and Photos


smile more, laugh more


smiles Pictures, Images and Photos

So, I bet you can think of a thing or two that brings you joy and wonder or are just plain fun. Things you’d like to do more of just for the sheer pleasure of it. Do tell!

Happy New Year




Wishing you and yours a blessed & fulfilling New Year.

May your light shine brightly.
May peace abound.
May your dreams be realized.
May you embrace the challenges that come your way and in all things
May you be grateful & blessed.




Monday, December 29, 2008

what nourishes your spirit?

For a lot of years my life was hustle bustle. I was either busy raising my children or working outside the home or both. I seldom did anything for myself; my life was so busy doing for others. Besides, I thought putting myself first was selfish…my family, job and home came first. There was seldom time or energy for me. A friend told me that she had to put her own needs first. I admitted to her that this (at that time) seemed selfish to me and I felt that one should be selfless in what they did. She proceeded to tell me her reasoning. She said that if she didn’t take care of herself first, how could she be effective in taking care of her family or anything else? It took me a long time to get that. I mean really get it. The only thing I did for myself was to drop into bed at night, exhausted from the day’s challenges. I began to resent all the demands on my time and energy.


It took awhile, but finally I got it. I realized that it was necessary to allow myself some personal time outs to be better; calmer, more patient, healthier, and more effective as a parent, a wife and an employee. You could say I finally recognized the value of my own well being and how that affected everything else. I decided (yes, it was a choice) to start being a little kinder and gentler with myself. I started taking time off from my job. Eventually I developed a meditation practice. I began journaling to find out who I was and what really mattered to me. I guess you can say that is when things began to change. I began seriously realizing my own value as a person and the value of time alone.

I’ve learned not to feel guilty when I take time for myself. Often in the middle a days worth of chores I will rest because that is what my body is telling me to do. I have learned to listen. Some days it’s a 20 minute catnap or a half hour on the sofa with my crocheting or a cup of coffee and a book. Some days just a little time in the fresh air connecting with nature or time spent here, connecting with all of you is just what I need. We all need to nurture and renew our spirit. When we neglect to do so, we can find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and/or resentful, stressed out, anxious, angry, tired, depressed and/or physically ill.

Managing your time is important if not crucial to establishing guilt free time for yourself as well as staying on top of responsibilities. For me, this is where list making is important. Either before I go to bed or when I get up in the morning and am having my first cup of coffee, I sit down at the table with pen and paper and make a “to do” list for that day or the next.

Knowing how I am about making extended lists, I will either make two columns; one for the “must do” priorities and another for the other things I hope to accomplish that day but aren’t as important. Or I will make one long list and put a little star beside the priorities. I do the best I can and most days accomplish more than I expected to. Other days I may not do as much, but I don’t lose any sleep over that fact. I just add those things to the next day or another. Sometimes I get caught up enough that I can take an unplanned day just for doing what I like; sewing, puttering, writing or spending time with friends. But again, managing your time is what gets you there.

Later in the week I hope to talk about why simple living is smarter living and how it frees up more of your time and energy. In the meantime, think about what nourishes and renews your spirit. If you’re not sure then be direct and ask yourself. Try to discover those things that bring you joy, relaxation and other positive feelings. It could be a craft or hobby, journaling, reading, walking, relaxing to music or any number of things. Add one or two of them to your daily list as a reminder that they are just as important as anything else you do and then do them. Practice doing not doing…you’ll thank yourself. : )

Thursday, December 25, 2008

and now we return to your normally scheduled broadcast

No matter how you celebrated, I hope your holiday was/is filled with love.

Our Solstice Eve was shared with my niece and her husband as well as our daughter, son in law and grandaughter. Later in the evening after coming home from my niece's, my twin sis, her husband and our friend Bill came out and spent the evening with us, rounding out the day.

On Tuesday following Solstice we met our daughter in law half way between our homes and brought the two older (5 and 7 years) grandsons home with us, after a nice lunch with all three and their mom. Tuesday consisted of playing games, making chocolate dipped pretzels and having pizza for supper, followed by ice cream!

On Christmas Eve, with boys in tow, we drove to our daughters to house to spend the afternoon and evening with our family and to return the boys to their parents as well as bring our grandaughter home with us in order to get her to her biological dad's this morning for his holiday visitation. It was late when we got back home last night, about 10:30. When I let the dog out I found a note stuck in our front door. It read, "Don't Delay" on the front. I thought, what the heck? It was from our Amish friend Sam letting us know they had butchered a hog and no matter how late, we should get over there and get what we wanted because tomorrow may be too late, it was first come, first serve. We had told them we'd take some of the pork when they butchered, but thought we might get more notice than that!

So, with the car still warm and the money in his pocket, Coop headed the mile or two to Sam's to see what he could get. He came home with a bag containing over 20 pounds of casing sausage, a couple of pounds of bulk sausage, plus loins and a bone-in slab. Oh yeah and a slab of pork belly to make into bacon. We stored it all in the garage overnight to stay cool and this morning I got to work. First cutting appropriate sized links of sausage for freezing...


then taking these loin pieces and slicing some thick chops as well as a roast. The bony piece was cut in half for roasts...I'm thinking pork and kraut here. I made a dry cure of salt, brown sugar and freshly ground black pepper for the bacon. I've never cured bacon before, so hopefully this will turn out well. Once cured we'll smoke it on the grill or dry it in the oven.


I had planned a more productive day, but after lunch a nap was just too irresistible. After the busyness of the past week, I guess there's nothing wrong with that and finding myself happy to be here at home where it is just the two of us with our dog and cats and the peace and quiet and nothing needing my immediate attention. I admit, no matter how I miss them and how happy I am to spend time with my family, I am always happy to return home as well. Tonight there are dishes to be done and a floor to be swept among other things, but these things will still be here tomorrow. For tonight, I think I hear the sofa calling me back, along with a good read and a cup of tea. A peaceful night awaits. I wish you the same as well.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

welcome winter!


For the first time in many days we awakened to sunshine streaming in the windows. There was the illusion of warmth outside all morning and afternoon, despite increasing wind and cold. The last time we checked the temperature (about 7:30 PM) it was 0, so far the coldest night we've seen. Welcome Winter and the longest night!

Happy Solstice to all and to all a goodnight!
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Friday, December 19, 2008

the shortest day

Around the homestead this week I have been preparing for the Solstice weekend and Christmas Eve. The last of the cookies have been baked and frosted and all goodies divvied up to take to this house and that. Gifts have been wrapped as well. Today I made my standard cheese spread (recipe below), as well as spinach dip and baked a big round loaf of pumpernickel bread to serve with the spinach dip. These will be my contribution to the Solstice Eve gathering we will attend Saturday, as well as an assortment of cookies and candy.



The week has been busy, despite my overall preparedness. Last minute details require attention even with the best laid plans. :) I'll likely be away from my computer for the most part of the next week to spend time with family and friends. In the meantime I leave you with this recipe...

Easy Cheese Spread

8 oz. cram cheese softened
1 small jar green olives (4-6 ounces) chopped fine
6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp. Hot Sauce such as Frank's or Tobasco. More to taste if preferred.

Mix all together and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with a variety of crackers.


...and some poetic thoughts on this festive occasion and the season of winter.


"So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!"
- Susan Cooper, The Shortest Day

***

"Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
where the wild creatures ranged
while the moon rose and shone.

why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow."
- May Sarton, December Moon


***

"It is the middle of December.
The nights are longer, the weather is colder, winter comes.

Celebration is at hand.
Renewing bonds of friendship.
Visiting with family and friends.
Exchanging gifts with loved ones.
Candles, Dolls, Cookies, Sweets, Holly, Wreaths of Green.
Surprises.

Courts close. Battles stop.
Time off from school and work.
Holiday Break.

Singing, Dancing, Games, Merry-Making.
Food ... Lots of Food and Drink.
Great Feasts and Parties.

To celebrate the Sun, the Land, the Ancient Ones, the great Circle of Nature.
To welcome in the Winter and the New Year.
To bring forth renewal, peace, and joy.

Solstice Present .... Solstice Past.
This is the legacy of Saturnalia,
weeklong Pagan Winter Solstice Festival of Ancient Rome.

Saturnalia, your spirit and these traditions live on
in the world today
in Christmas feasts and New Year's parties,
in our Winter Solstice celebration tonight.

Bless our connection with the ancients.
Bless our connection with each other.
Bless our connection with future generations.

We rejoice.
Io, Saturnalia!
Io, Saturnalia!
Io, Saturnalia!"
- Selena Fox, Saturnalia

Sunday, December 14, 2008

and so this is Christmas



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The full Solstice Moon has been shining its magic on us the past few nights, reflecting off the snow covered ground and lighting the woods behind our home. How magnificent it has been to see deer grazing and sauntering though the woods at midnight or to see them nibbling berries from the fire bush and frolicking outside our front door. This is one of the gifts of the season and the full moon.

We celebrate the season in various ways and for various reasons. No matter how or why, we can agree that this is a most sacred time of the year. As we make celebratory preparations I thought it would be interesting to share the history of how this special holiday season came to be and how it has evolved over the years.

From The History Channel...

An Ancient Holiday

The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.

Saturnalia

In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra's birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today's Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the "lord of misrule" and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined "debt" to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.

An Outlaw Christmas

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America's new constitution. Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Irving Reinvents Christmas

It wasn't until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city's first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.

In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving's mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving's fictitious celebrants enjoyed "ancient customs," including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving's book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended – in fact, many historians say that Irving's account actually "invented" tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.

A Christmas Carol

Also around this time, English author Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story's message-the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind-struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.

The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to "spoil" them.

As Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.

Although most families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas how it had been done for centuries, Americans had really re-invented a holiday to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

sweet things

It used to be that every year beginning in October I would begin baking and candy making for the holidays. By the time the festive days arrived I would have a freezer full of sweet delights to fill baskets for family, friends and neighbors. Over the years life got so busy that I no longer was devoted to this yearly tradition. This year I decided to rekindle that creative spark. Not to the point of starting in October, but I have done more baking and candy making this year than for many a year. I guess it's taken me this long to settle into the fact that I now have the time, therefor the inclination to do this.

Aside from the double batch of mints I shared with you the other day, yesterday morning I was busy working on these....


white chocolate wafers made with crushed peppermint candy canes.

and a few peppermint turtles for the little ones.

Plain milk chocolate wafers

and some peanut raisin clusters.

Can't forget the dark chocolate and coconut haystacks.

And today I made chewy oatmeal cookies. Actually I used spelt flakes in place of the oatmeal and cranberries in place of raisins. Oooh, they are so good!

My recipe is almost identical to the one Juli posted over at Barefoot Gypsy blog if you'd like to check it out. Here's mine:


Chewy Spelt (or Oatmeal) Cookies


Cream together:
1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar (packed)

Mix in:
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

In a separate bowl mix:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt


Add the dry mixture a bit at a time to the wet mix.

When well blended add:
3 cups oats or spelt flakes
1 1/2 - 2 cups raisins or dried cranberries. (I use one 6 ounce package of dried cranberries.)

Drop by well rounded teaspoonful onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes at 375.

These cookies were just what I needed to satisfy my craving for soft oatmeal cookies, oh yeah.


Monday, December 8, 2008

I want candy!

This is what I was making earlier today...


mints.

and then, more mints.


So, I'm making candy and singing tunes to all these old songs that reference candy (in one way or another). I thought of (bear with me, I'm older than some of you):

Candy Man by Roy Orbison
The Candy Man by Sammy Davies Jr.
Candy Girl by The Four Seasons- heh heh, I had the DJ play this at my daughter Kandice's wedding, lol!
I Want Candy by Aaron Carter

I got stumped, ok? :) So, in good faith I will exchange my mint candy recipe for any "candy" songs you might think of. And well, if you can't think of any, shucks, you can still have the recipe, ok?

*************

My dear MIL taught me a lot about candy making. Mostly that much of it is pretty simple. I have been thinking of her a lot and missing her as well. The winter holidays were what she lived for I think. She was seldom if ever idle, always cooking, baking or making candy. She was quite the lady who taught me a lot and continues to inspire me. This is one of her most used recipes and one we have kept somewhat traditional. The woman was always making candy and made tens of thousands of these mints over the years for weddings and showers and the holidays.


Cream Cheese Mints

very, very tasty.

Blend 3 ounces of softened cream cheese with 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Add 8 drops mint oil of your choosing. We love wintergreen. Add food coloring if desired. Mix it all up. I use my hands. Really mix it up and if it's too sticky add more powdered sugar. You want it like playdough consistency. Pinch off pieces and roll granulated sugar and mold in rubber molds. If you don't have or can't find rubber molds, you can just roll into balls, roll in granulated sugar and flatten or pat out and cut with mini cookie cutters. I would dip the cutter in powdered sugar before cutting to prevent any sticking.

Once shaped let air dry until a bit crusty on top, about 2 hours. These can be frozen up to 6 months. Just layer between sheets of wax paper. Don't use foil or saran wrap. When thawing, open box and remove layers of mints and let air dry for about an hour.

Friday, December 5, 2008

a little catching up

Thank goodness I didn’t make plans for having a big family dinner on Thanksgiving because I started to come down with a flu bug precisely on Thanksgiving. I am much improved now, with the exception of some lingering congestion that’s keeping the Kleenex makers in business.

I am so far behind on blog reading that I may never catch up. But I have been catching up around the house and finishing hand made gifts. This week I’ve been cooking quite a lot, also, trying to make up for the past week when I did very little. Since we went out for Thanksgiving I didn’t have leftovers to feed DH while I was sick. This week the guy has been well fed. Today pork ribs and kraut in the crock pot.

Aside from baking cookies and making popcorn balls and some candy, the holiday gifts are just about ready to be wrapped up. I’ll be heading over to the nearby bulk food store this morning to get a few supplies for candy making. Next week I’ll begin baking and candy making. The popcorn balls will be made just before Solstice.

My son called the other night and they will be postponing their visit until next weekend, which actually works better for us as well. Our landlord/neighbors have left to spend the remainder of winter in their Florida home so now we have the farm completely to ourselves until about March. Hunters have been around more now that gun season is open. I always wonder what it is about “NO HUNTING or TRESPASSING” that they don’t understand. There doesn’t seem to be as many deer this year as the past two since we’ve been back here.

There’s really not much going on here in our neck of the woods. I just wanted to let you all know I was alive and well and hoping soon to get back into the swing of things here in blogland. : )

Have a great weekend dear friends! And now, for your viewing pleasure…








Thursday, December 4, 2008

a gift for a day

Brighter Planet has allocated 25 One Day gifts for me to divvy out, allowing you to be carbon neutral for a day. Just click on the link below. First come, first serve!

One Day from Brighter Planet

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

simple woman’s daybook

Outside my window a mix of clouds and sun and still some white remains from last night’s snowfall. Gray-blue titmice with their buff colored chubby bellies flutter in and out of my front porch, snatching bits of food from the cat’s bowl.

I am thinking of the rest of the week ahead and hoping my energy and ambition increases.


I am thankful that the holiday weekend is now over and routines can be re-established..


From the kitchen sausage stuffed peppers and tomatoes are thawing for some crockpot cooking.


I am wearing a red knit Henley and gray sweatpants.


I am reading the latest Mother Earth News as well as several books I have been jumping between for the past month or more. I think I will dedicate myself to finishing at least one before the end of the month.

I am hoping I start feeling even better now that the worst of the flu has past.


I am creating a mini pillow pal stuffed toy for my great niece.


I am hearing Oden (aka Detroit…will elaborate on that a little later) making tribble like sounds as he scampers through the house looking for trouble. Or rather, stirring up trouble.


Around the house... catching up on routine chores and puttering. Organized the freezer shelves, packaged soaps for gift giving and various small jobs.


One of my favorite things is being caught up on household tasks and as the sun goes down lighting some candles and having nothing better to do than snuggle down on the couch with a book or a crochet project, content with my world.

I am looking forward to a visit from my son, daughter in law and grandsons this weekend.


A few plans for the weekend…see above. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

let us be grateful

Thanksgiving 1 Pictures, Images and Photos

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
~ Marcel Proust ~


"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
~ Melody Beattie ~


"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."
~ Epictetus ~


"Gratitude is something of which none of us can give too much. For on the smiles, the thanks we give, our little gestures of appreciation, our neighbors build their philosophy of life."
~ A. J. Cronin ~


thanksgiving Pictures, Images and Photos

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Our Favorite Molasses Cookies

vegan chewy ginger molasses cookies Pictures, Images and Photos

My mother was a most excellent baker. I remember my very favorite cookie as a kid was her molasses cut outs. I was never able to duplicate her recipe to make them quite as perfect as hers. Finally, I tried a recipe from an old church recipe book I purchased in the late 70's. It has now become a favorite with my family. The recipe is easy and one you can mix ahead and refrigerate. I hope you'll enjoy these cookies as much as we do! Psst...the original recipe didn't call for black strap and you can use whatever you have, but I think the secret to their true molasses goodness is in using dark, rich black strap molasses.

Molasses Cookies


3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses - preferably black strap
1 egg
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

Melt shortening in a 3 or 4 quart saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and let cool. Add sugar, molasses and egg; beat well. Sift together flour, soda, salt and spices. Add to first mixture. Mix well, then chill. Form into 1" balls, roll in granulated sugar and place on greased cookie sheet two inches apart. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. (Check at 8 minutes as that is how long I usually bake these.)

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

Xylitol dangerous for dogs

A sugar substitute found in a variety of sugar-free and dietetic cookies, mints and chewing gum is proving highly toxic, even fatal, to snack-snatching dogs.

Xylitol, popular in Europe for decades but a relative newcomer to the U.S. alternative-sweeteners market, can be "very, very serious" to dogs when ingested, says Dana Farbman, spokeswoman for the Animal Poison Control Center of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"It doesn't take a whole lot (of xylitol), and the effects are so rapid that the window of opportunity to treat the dog is extremely small," Farbman says.

The ASPCA sent an advisory to veterinarians last August warning them about the potential for serious harm or death. Veterinarians have used a variety of means to get the word out, including posting signs in their offices and making copies of the bulletin for clients to augment the caution the ASPCA has posted on its website.

Concerned that millions of people are still unaware of the risk, veterinarians with forums for widespread public announcements are spreading the word that way as well. Among them: Miami veterinarian Patty Khuly wrote about the problem on her doolittler.com blog, and Colorado Springs veterinarian Anne Pierce devoted her entire weekly newspaper column a week ago to xylitol.

Within 30 minutes of consuming a small amount of a xylitol-sweetened product, the ASPCA says, dogs can experience a dramatic drop in blood sugar, and they usually begin vomiting, become lethargic and can have difficulty standing or walking. Some have seizures, develop internal hemorrhaging and lesions and suffer liver failure. As few as two or three sticks of xylitol gum could be toxic to a 20-pound dog, the ASPCA says.

Immediate and aggressive veterinary treatment, which includes glucose drips and IV fluids, has proved effective in many cases.

The ASPCA's poison control unit is aware of 10 dog deaths from xylitol since 2002, and it has received scores of reports of dogs becoming gravely ill. But only a fraction of veterinarians and consumers alert the ASPCA when a dog becomes ill or dies from toxins, and there is no national clearinghouse tracking xylitol-suspected toxic reactions.

Moreover, it's not always entirely clear what caused the problem when a dog arrives at a veterinarian's office with seizures or liver failure. "I suspect that there are more cases than we know about because they come in with liver failure, and the owner is not aware of what has been ingested," Pierce says.

She believes that xylitol ingestion is "an emerging problem" and that the number of cases probably will increase with time, "depending on how widespread xylitol as a sweetener becomes."

Xylitol is an all-natural sugar substitute derived from beets, birch tree bark, corncobs and other natural sources. It's as sweet as sugar but has 40% fewer calories. Unlike sugar, xylitol does not require insulin to be metabolized.

Right now, xylitol is used mostly in cookies, candies, cupcakes and other sweets developed for people who have diabetes. It's also sold in bags of crystals for baking. Because of its bacteria-killing properties, it is put into some oral care products, including Tom's All Natural and Biotene toothpastes.

It also is beginning to be used in a broad assortment of products intended for the general public. Among them: Jello sugar-free puddings and a wide variety of sugar-free gums, including Trident, Orbit, Stride, Icebreakers and Altoids.

Makers of products with xylitol say their products are designed for people, including diabetes patients, who are seeking an alternative to sugar; they were never recommended for dogs and were never intended to be ingested by dogs. Owners should be careful because some dogs, Khuly says, "get into just about everything and eat everything they find."

There is no indication that any of the other sweeteners on the market adversely affect dogs. And there is no evidence so far that xylitol is toxic to pets other than dogs. But cats, for example, don't scavenge for sweets as dogs do, so it's possible there are risks that have not yet been discovered. For now, veterinarians advise pet owners to keep xylitol away from all animals.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

this place has gone to the dogs!

Timmy (my dog), Kandice with Cubby Bear on her lap and Stetson.

Well the place had gone to the dogs, but now the grandogs have headed home with their people and the house is quiet again. The dishes are caught up, the house straightened up, Coop is watching tv and the animals are all napping. Kandice is improved as for the pluerisy, but on medication to ease the symptoms. I'm hoping she shows much more improvement over the coming week.

This is Stetson, the rescue dog the kids adopted at the same time they found Timmy for us. He's half German shepherd, half Shar-Pei and one big baby. But when he barks it rattles the nerves because he's loud and sounds so fierce. Helluva watch dog. Then there's little Cubby Bear (below), a rescue dog as well. He's small but with a ton of personality. He's a chair thief, too, at least when it comes to my chair.

I got to spend all day yesterday with my daughter and grandaughter (and grandogs) while Tom went in to the hospital to spend the day with his mom. Good news, his mom is ok and did not have a stroke. My understanding is that it was an erratic heart rhythm and blood pressure drop (not sure about what brought it on). She is on medication now that seems to be working.

More good news! My sister got her results this morning and there were no signs of cancer or abnormal cell change. Reason to celebrate! I'm so thankful for the good news and also want to thank those of you who sent good thoughts and prayers regarding the family's well being. You know who you are. :)

Tomorrow we'll be attending the memorial for Coop's dear brother in law. I imagine it will be a time of catching up with family as well as a time of mourning. It's a shame that so often it takes a death to gather the family together. That is something Coop and I have talked about recently ...taking the time to stop in and visit sisters and brothers more often, an early New Year's resolution I guess.

This white tail was just outside the kitchen window this afternoon. A site we're seeing more regularly now that the view through the woods is clear. We saw three beautiful buck just beyond the creek the other day. Just one of the gifts winter brings. I love this country life.

brought to you by the Letter "H"

I know, I know, what the blogging community needs is another meme. : ) This one is voluntary. I picked it up over at A Cowboy’s Wife. She gave me the letter “H”.

The rules if you want to play along: Leave me a comment so I can assign you a letter. Then list on your blog ten things you love that begin with that letter.
It’s just for fun and no one is obligated.

“H”

1. Husband – he is probably the one and only man that could have put up with me through the past 29 years. (and vice versa, lol) We have been through it all and then some.

2. Hugs – everybody wants them and needs them, too. When I was younger I was never much of a hugger, growing up in a home where affections were not outwardly shown. It took a lot of years for me to become a hugger and now I try to make up for it.

3. Home – it’s where my heart is and always has been. Throughout the years I worked outside the home, all I ever wanted was to be home. Now home is where I am and that makes me very happy. I have been accused of being reclusive. What’s wrong with that I ask?

4. Harvest – growing and gathering and experiencing the result of all our homesteading efforts.

5. Herbs – I love all aspects of herbs, from growing, gathering and drying to using them to enhance cooking, to aid healing, …I just love herbs!

6. Homosapiens – some better than others, but for the most part I love us!

7. Heartland of Ohio – truly, I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be. Yes, we get the cold in the winter and have occasional tornados, but we get to experience all four seasons in dramatic ways plus, we don’t get killer earthquakes, hurricanes, (well, not until recently), mudslides, large forest fires, tsunamis, monsoons, etc. We don’t have too many poisonous snakes or bugs, either. Plus we have fireflies and glow worms!

8. Hearing – knowing what I would miss, I would not want to never hear music, the sound of a baby laugh, the song of a bird or the rustle of leaves.

9. Honesty – I place a higher value on this than most morals. You can hurt me in a lot of ways and I can forgive, but I find dishonesty a hard one to let go of.

10. Heroes – not the glorified super star kind but the everyday kind; firefighters, stewards of the land, moms who struggle against the odds, REAL heroes.

I really liked this meme. It certainly gave me a moment to reflect and consider some of the things that truly matter. Thanks Barb!

Friday, November 21, 2008

simple woman’s daybook

For Today...

Outside my window
the sun is shining and a heavy blanket of snow has softened the landscape. It’s beautiful.

I am thinking of family and hoping all are holding up; my husband’s brother in law passed away this week, my daughter was in the ER the other night suffering from a bad case of pleurisy, her mother in law is in ICU this morning with a presumed stroke and my twin sister is awaiting results to confirm she doesn’t have cancer.


I am thankful for everything that makes life what it is, because without darkness, we would not know or appreciate the light.


From the kitchen I smell the spiciness of apple pie filling just made.


I am wearing my blue thermal nightgown and an apron, lol!


I am reading my “to do” list

I am hoping the weather warms up a bit and the roads stay clear.


I am creating pies; Dutch apple and apple cranberry.


I am hearing the refrigerator humming and the dog snoring.


Around the house... I am waiting for my daughter, her DH and my grandaughter to arrive with dogs in tow for the weekend.


One of my favorite things is not thinking too hard.

I am looking forward to a nice warm shower and a piece of pie and seeing my family.


A few plans for the weekend…attending BIL’s memorial service, feeding and housing the kids.

Hope your weekend is filled with love and light.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

a little craftiness

I've opened new etsy shop by the name of Homestead Hippie. Well, to be honest there's nothing there just yet, but these are some of the things I've been working on.

This bag is completely lined with off white canvas and amply sized. The handle and side gussets are one piece and made from macrame' cord so it's sturdy, strong and won't stretch out.

The poncho is a one size fits most. The colors are not true in the photo. It's actually turquoise, coral and sand and much prettier in person. Very southwestern.

This is my favorite bag, made from bits and pieces of yarn in a classic granny style. The handle is 4 crocheted chains woven together to make two, then the two are bound into one with hemp cord for strength and a rustic look. I added a flap pocket to the inside. I love the big, vintage button closure.

The tie died look of this cotton bag is quite hippie dippy and the cool things is...


you can use it as a shoulder bag or a hand held bag with dual straps.
Again, the colors aren't quite true, it's not as bright as picture shows.
The bag is actually bigger than it appears.
I love the way it forms a natural gusset affect when closed.


That's all. Just wanted to share. :) Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Odin finds a home

When the man saw me curled up on the road in the snow, I got scared and ran from the big sound. But he stopped and got out of the car and he knew the secret words, "kitty kitty." That's when I knew he was my savior, so I ran right to him. He took me to his house and this nice lady fed me and bathed me and now I am happy to be safe, full and warm and have a lap to curl up on. Heck, they even gave me my own potty because I couldn't get into the big one. But even with all the good, I sure do miss the familiarity of other cats like myself.

These people are real nice but their other animals don't seem too sure about me. I feel happy but still kind of alone so I cry a lot. All I want is to be friends and play and curl up together. See what I mean? Arther (that's what these folks call this big guy) won't even look at me.

I just couldn't take it anymore, I had to try and in doing so face the possibility of complete rejection. Arther wasn't too sure about it when I nuzzled up next to him...I thought he might take a hike...

and he was kind of taken aback, but I didn't give up...nope, not me...

and pretty soon the big guy gave in and said it was ok if I slept there with him.
I guess he just couldn't resist me. I notice I have that affect on others.
Now I am feeling real comfortable here, real comfotable.

p.s. They named me Odin.

it's all about meme

First Tracy over at Is It A Full Moon or What? presented me with the Kreativ Blogger award and tagged me to reveal 6 things about myself. Thank you Tracy! I am honored. And I must apologize for being so lax in responding.

Then both Granny Sue from Granny Sue's News & Reviews and Country Wife over at Country Life with Country Wife tagged me to post 6 things. So does that mean I have to think of 18 things about myself??? :) I'll do my best to comply.

If you're reading this, consider yourself awarded and tagged if you haven't been already. I just can't pick a handful of ya when you're all so creative, talented and interesting. Just post a comment and let me know so I can read your 6 things. Go ahead, pick up that award for yourself, ok?

Here are the rules that I'm bending:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

And here are my revelations. By golly I actually thought of 18!

1. I've never owned a dishwasher in my life.
2. I only wear a bra when the occasion demands and that's not often.
3. I lust in my heart for Johnny Depp.
4. I have a thing about pink...just in case you didn't know.
5. I kicked the Pepsi habit twice, the second time for good.
6. I'm a compulsive list maker.
7. I absolutely love fresh pineapple.
8. I love words, books and writing for the sheer pleasure of expressing myself.
9. My first job was as an apple picker at the age of 14.
10. I don't do seafood except for the occasional fish sandwich.
11. I loathed being a teenager.
12. Before my children were born (and prior to the days of ultrasound) I knew (without a doubt) whether they were a boy or girl. In fact I dreamed about my son before his birth and knew exactly what he would look like and he was identical in every way.
13. Both times I gave birth it was in the spring and on a Thursday.
14. I have always had a desire to sky dive, but...
15. I'm also afraid of heights, go figure!
16. I had my picture in an automotive industry magazine back in the early 90's. Yeah, all suited up like a Hazmat official and painting a door panel.
17. I suck at the drums when playing Rock Band.
18. I have a guitar but have never learned to play it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hand Made Soap the easy way

This is a small batch "blender recipe" that will give you 5-6 bars of castile soap. I have made this several times and it has never failed me. Credit for this recipe must be given to Phill at city mouse country house. The directions are copied and pasted from the original from Phill who says this is a recipe he developed by learning from friends like Peggy at Hidden Haven Homestead.


Lye is the active ingredient in home made soap making unless you are using the melt and pour recipes or kits. Lye is a caustic chemical so it must be properly handled. Don't be afraid, but be safe and take precautions such as wearing latex gloves and avoiding the fumes.

Castile soap is Olive Oil soap. Some say the blender and the containers that you use to make the soap should not ever be used for anything else. I tend to disagree here as it’s just soap. Safety goggles are a good idea too. Do not allow lye to come into contact with anything because it corrodes. DO NOT use metal measurers or containers for the very same reason.


Soap always contains three things - a fat (olive oil, in this case), a liquid (water, milk, tea), and lye (sodium hydroxide). Lye is available from online suppliers. It is usually very difficult to find locally. Believe me I have tried. Where it once used to be a common hardware or grocery store item, it has been removed from the local markets because of its use in illegal drug making. This is the same reason crystal drain opener is not made with lye anymore. I was fortunate enough to have an Amish neighbor provide me with lye for my soap making.


my latest batch...lavender with oatmeal


Basic All-Natural Castile Oatmeal Soap, Blender Batch

3/4 Cup Water (put it in the freezer until almost frozen)
4 1/2 tablespoons Lye Crystals (I measure ahead and place into a small glass ramekin until ready to use)
2 Cups Olive Oil (not evoo, just cheap olive oil. Again, measure and have at hand)
1/2 Cup Ground Oatmeal (I use closer to a cup)
1/2 Ounce of Essential Oil Scent (optional)
Some sort of mold


1. Grind your oatmeal in the blender beforehand. You can decide how chunky or powdery you would like it.

2. Put your 3/4 cup water in a heat-safe container (I use pyrex so it's an automatic measure). Place this in the freezer until the water just begins to freeze around the edges.
Add in your 4 1/2 tablespoons lye crystals slowly and carefully. No splashing. Best to do this in a well ventilated area or perhaps outside - there are fumes. Stir well, very gently for a few minutes. The liquid will seriously heat up. Let is sit, well ventilated until it cools down a little. I insert a glass thermometer but a good indicator is waiting until the liquid is clear and the cloudiness disappears. You want to let the lye mixture cool down to around 100 to 120 degrees. Again, wear gloves, and do not touch it.

3. While the lye/water mixture is cooling, pour your 2 cups of Olive Oil into the blender. When cool enough, carefully pour the cooled lye/water mixture into the blender and put the top on. I cover the top with a towel for extra safety. On low, start blending the mixture together. It will reach "trace" in a minute or two. "Trace" is when it starts to thicken, the consistency of thick cream. Wait ten seconds before you take the top off - you know how a blender sometimes "burps" after it stops. Take the top off and add your ground oatmeal and essential oil "at trace." Put the top (and towel) back on, and blend for a few seconds to mix in the scent and oats. Don't go nuts and don't blend it too much - Once you reach trace, this stuff will thicken quickly, and you need to be able to pour it. Ideally, it's thin enough to pour, but not too thin. The consistency of a cake batter would be good.

4. Have your mold(s) ready beforehand. You can use anything flexible. They sell soap molds in craft stores; you can line a cardboard box with piece of a tough trash bag, or use old yogurt or sour cream containers. Could be anything as long as it is plastic and you could pour roughly the size of a bar of soap into it. If you used small plastic yogurt cups, pouring about an inch of liquid in each would make about six or seven. Or you could pour it all into one larger plastic thing (like one of those glad containers) and cut it into bars later.

5. Again, wait a few seconds before taking the towel and top off in case the liquid "burps." Carefully take the top off of the blender and pour about an inch into each mold.

6. Soap has to cure. Put it up out of the way and let it sit for three weeks. Most folks say the longer it sits the better it gets. Do not use the soap before it has properly aged. If you used one big mold and need to cut it into pieces, pop it out after a few days and cut it up, then put it away to cure. If you used smaller molds, pop it out after a few days and put it away to cure. Place the bars on something that will allow them to breathe, or at least stand them on end with a little space in between - they need air.

7. Keep the gloves on and carefully wash everything up.

This whole process takes about ten/fifteen minutes per batch. I've found the natural soap is wonderful and has been a miracle for dry skin. I find that rose essential oil goes well with thus oatmeal recipe, although most often I make it without scent.

Additional notes from city mouse- I've found really inexpensive olive oil/soy mixes in the dollar store. They work fine. Don't go for expensive olive oil - It doesn't matter. Also, you can mix oils. I've melted cocoa butter and subbed that for part of the olive oil (cocoa butter makes an extremely hard bar). You can melt down shortening and use that. Old timers used lard. Each oil has a different property, and you can combine the properties by combining oils. I've tried different combinations, but I honestly prefer the plain old olive oil. It seems to be the best for moisturizing. If you use a different oil, use an online lye calculator to check the amount of lye - different oils require different amounts of lye.
Here's a description of what each oil does - http://www.colebrothers.com/soap/oils.html
Here's an online lye calculator- http://www.the-sage.com/calcs/lyecalc2.php

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