Friday, November 30, 2012

Thank You!

I just want to say a sincere thank you for each of you who has stopped by to take a peek, lingered to check out the variety of topics covered here, tried one of my recipes, left me a comment, emailed me with feedback/tips/compliments, invited me to your blog or link party, come back day after day to see what's new.  Thank you to those of you who I have met through the other various platforms I link this blog up to - Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, TumblrBlogFrog, etc.  In all, there are nearly 500 of you who are "regulars" and that truly humbles me.  Thank you to those who have featured my posts on your blogs - I am in awe of you and so honored that you found my post or blog worthy a feature!

I soooo look forward to each interaction and you have all been so welcoming and friendly.  I started this journey to share pieces of me that I feel compelled to write about and to find others who enjoy the same things I do and feel as I do about this adventure of life.  I am so glad that you have found me and I have found you - there are days we all feel like no one understands no matter how wonderful the people in our daily lives are and those days are often the days when you have reached out and let me know that there are others who have been there too.  

Please continue with the comments and feedback as you have helped me to grow.  If you have tried one of my recipes, please come back and share how it turned out and what tweaks you made - so many of my recipes are meant to be easy to put your own personal touch on and twist to the taste buds of your family.  If you want to hear more about something, please ask away.  I am curious to know what types of post you all like the most.

Again, thank you so much for sharing your time with me!

Childhood Scars

Almost every kid has a collection of scars from their childhood.  What kind of scars will your children have?

I have a little round scar on my knee where I fell riding my bike in the driveway when I was about 7 years old.  I'm sure my brother and I were building ramps or jumping potholes - rarely were we just sedately cruising around...  
I have scars on my wrist and little stitch scars near my elbow from the time I crashed through the glass door at my grandparents' house.  I don't remember how old I was at the time (I think about 9) but certainly old enough to have known better.  My aunt and I were running through the house and she had become tired of my pestering and threatened to hit me with the phone book.  I ran toward the door to go out and when the heel of my hand hit the latch it slid off through the glass and my momentum carried me in a spectacular movie-worthy leap through flying glass shards onto the porch.  (Its a good story to scare the kids when they start tearing around too much in the house...)
I have a scar on my chin from when I was 17 and literally got kicked in the face by my joke...  We had been hauling our horses out west for a couple of days and when we got to our campsite in North Dakota when let them out in a paddock to play.  They were still playing when I went in the pen to lounge my old boy and he tossed up his heels in play right about the same time I took a step forward.  I thought for a minute my nose was broke.  I had a three-inch hole all the way through the skin between my lower lip and chin and my jaw was compressed (couple of teeth chipped too).  Some stitches and a few more adventures but in the end all was good.  I had my senior pictures three weeks later when I got home - thankfully they air brushed the scar out but my mom has the proofs that show the scar.  Another good story for scaring the kids into listening and being careful around the critters.
Then there are the internal scars.  Those are the ones that are the hardest to explain.  And the hardest to forget.  They are buried in there with the good memories and the values and other things we learn as kids.  They rear their ugly forms at the most stressful moments.  Sometimes they can be held back and other times they cause me to react in ways that only make sense if you know my history.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Floral Arrangement

My mom and my great-grandparents always made arranging flowers look easy.  A handmade arrangement can be so special and meaningful to the receiver.  And it allows you to add a person touch for special occasions.  My sister-in-law lost her second grandma in the past year this week.  For the first funeral, I made this heart-shaped rose arrangement.  I had asked about her favorite color before I made it.  
But I wanted to do something for this grandma that I had spent much more time with that reflected what I knew of her.  Her grandma was such a sweet lady.  She was petite and delicate and warm.  She had suffered a stroke before I met her that had left her with partial facial paralysis and made her speech difficult to understand.  That would have been difficult for many people to deal with in social settings but she was strong and was always there for all the important things in her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids lives.  She always came in with a smile and a hug and looked each person directly in the eyes when she talked to you.  She was always well put together as she had been a salon owner for many years.  She loved to wear sweaters with delicate trails of flowers on them and a beautiful piece of jewelry.  With that in mind, I thought of the beautiful, dainty spray roses that are always available at our local farm market.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Humbly Featured Today! And Some Pics

New House
I honored to have my Eggnog Cheesecake recipe featured today by Heather at New House, New Home, New Life!  If you are in to old home renovations (and I know many of you are!) check out the beautiful transformation in progress on Heather's kitchen and eating area.  Plus lots of great holiday ideas for gifts, food and decorating.  The block party always has lots of fun things!

We had a lot of fun over the Thanksgiving long weekend - its not often I get 4 days off work in a row to spend around home and I feel like I took full advantage.  While the turkey was roasting and the Mr. was watching football, I took a little stroll around the yard and did some tidying while the animals basked in the sun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bacon Herb Stuffed Turkey

Thanksgiving Day this year was one of those rare but special holidays that we actually got to spend at home just enjoying each other.  In celebration of the big day, I decided to do things up big and make a full meal all from scratch.  My husband went hunting first thing in the morning as he usually does on Thanksgiving Day.  This actually is nice because the kids and I tend to get extra snuggles and a little extra snoozing those mornings - somehow we are just busier when daddy is home.  Plus he generally stays out until 10:30 a.m. or later so the kids and I grab a light and easy breakfast and then I make some hearty snacks and nibbles to hold us until the main meal.
Preparation actually started with the turkey the night before.  I removed the neck, giblets, heart, liver and gravy packet from the inside and thoroughly rinsed the whole bird.  I placed it breast side up in a 13x9x2 glass baking dish and tucked the wing tips under the fat flap.  I seasoned well with a combination of cumin, paprika, garlic salt, pepper, and oregano.  (I like to do this by sight and sprinkling on what looks good rather than measuring into a bowl and mixing ahead.)  I also took a few sprigs each from my frozen herb collection and finely chopped them and added them to the top of the bird.  Then I covered the whole thing tightly with foil and refrigerated it overnight.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Casserole

Still have a few leftovers hanging around from Thanksgiving and wondering what to do with them?  Today is about the last day to use most of them so why not throw them together in this tasty casserole for dinner.  Start with your mashed potatoes on the bottom, then top with a thick layer of chopped or shredded turkey.  Dress it with a heavy dose of gravy (this will soak into your turkey & revive the juices).  Then top with leftover cooked veggies and leftover stuffing.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.  The stuffing will crisp as this bakes so even those who don't like a soggy stuffing will be happy.  My kids wolfed this down even though they wouldn't touch the stuffing separately.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Model Train Fun

I forgot to share with you the other fun little thing we did last weekend when we stopped at the cider mill.  Only a couple times a year, the mill opens their model train set for public viewing.  
This train started out as a hobby for the mill owners years ago in the loft of their main building.  I have been visiting since I was a small child and its a great tradition for us to go see.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

#GivingTuesday - Supporting Food Banks

World Homeless Day
Today is Thanksgiving and many of us will be joined with family around a table piled high with food - gluttonous amounts of food.  What if you didn't have the means to put that food on the table?  What if it was a choice between feeding your children or keeping the heat going to keep them from freezing?  For a growing number of families right here, its a huge problem.  
How many frustrated moms and dads have told their picky eaters that there are starving children in Africa who would love to have that broccoli for dinner?  

Have you ever told them there are children at their school, in their class, who go home every night and count the hours until they get the school-provided breakfast and lunch because it is all they get to eat for the day?  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No-Bake Eggnog Cheesecake

Looking for a last-minute easy dessert recipe to impress your guests?  This no-bake eggnog cheesecake is what we'll be digging into tomorrow.  I whipped this up last night and barely got the beaters out of the bowl before the kids were all over them so now its in hiding in the back of the fridge.
For your crust, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave.  Put 1/4 cup of walnuts and 1 package of cinnamon sugar graham cracker sheets in your food processor and blend until it is fine crumbs.  Add to the melted butter and stir until well combined.  Press into the bottom of an ungreased pie pan and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up & Kids Cook!

What a busy weekend!  So we started with Friday night and a phone call as I was leaving work that a routine out-patient surgery for my uncle had wound up with major complications after his lung collapsed!  By the time I got the call he was stabilized and in ICU and they were not allowing visitors so we all gathered at my brother's hockey game instead.  Thankfully, my uncle is now back home and feeling much better.  Now we await test results to find out the why.  And my brother's team won in overtime.
On Saturday, the kids and I covered a lot of ground.  They had their hockey lesson in the morning (the Princess has officially switched from learning basic skating to deciding she likes hockey too).  Then we headed to town for groceries and a load of pumpkins from the cider mill.  At the end of the season, the mill has started selling leftover pumpkins as livestock feed for $10 for one of those giant shipping crates full.  I had decided to try these as a cheap feed addition for the horses and goat after doing a little research and testing their interest with the few uncarved pumpkins we had left from Halloween that were still good.  Topper doesn't seem to know what to do with them but the goat and pony seem to like them well enough.  So the kids helped me unload the trailer full of pumpkins - hauling the rotted ones to the pasture and stacking the good ones in the barn.
They decided pumpkin chuckin' was pretty fun even though we don't have one of these launchers like the cider mill does.  
My husband came home just in time for everyone to snuggle in for the night.  He was successful in his hunting trip and we pulled out the first log of venison sausage of the season in time to take it to his parents' house for Thanksgiving.  We get most of our deer processed by Specialized Deer Processing in Dewitt.  They make the best Pepper Jack cheese venison sausage ever.  Paired with Michigan's own Williams Pinconning cheese out of Linwood, Michigan, and some tasty crackers - this platter disappeared fast.
And one last thing to share, those of you on Twitter may have seen my tweet about the kids cooking dinner one night last week.  Well, how does that gooey pizza pocket look for a great dinner!?  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rustic Applesauce

One of my favorite things in the fall is to make a big batch of homemade applesauce.  I have found over the years that my family prefers it on the chunky side and heavily spiced.
I have found that the tastiest applesauce comes from a mix of apple varieties.  Different apples have different textures and natural sugar levels so they break down differently and lend different characteristics to the applesauce.  With a mix, I have been able to drastically cut the amount of sugar in my applesauce.  And if there is a large number of Fuji or other very sweet varieties in the mix, I sometimes don't even need to add sugar at all because the level of natural sugar of the fruit is high enough.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

25 Small Christmas Gifts for Kids, Co-Workers or Friends

There are a lot of people who you might want to give holiday gifts but can't afford to spend a lot on.  We have such a large family that I have to be careful about budgeting for Christmas and all the birthday that happen around Christmas time.  I also need gifts for co-workers, Secret Santa's, and stockings and I find that I really enjoy the hunt for great $1 gifts that are useful or unique.  

The trick is to think outside the box here and keep your eyes open everywhere you go.  I once found a little birds nest and tiny eggs and fun little birds that were beautifully crafted but ran less than $5 for a full set that was beautiful to display on a tree or mantle.  I found it at a little out-of-the-way gift I broke up the set into tiny gift bags and gave my friend one each day so that at the end of the week, her set was complete.

So here are 25 ideas for small gifts that are very low cost for children, co-workers, neighbors, friends or family - start looking now and squirrel them away in a rubbermaid tub to dish out all month!
  1. baked goods (jumbo brownies and no-bake cookies)
  2. lip gloss/chapstick
  3. sample size perfumes (check end caps and travel supplies)
  4. stationary sets (yes, you can find these at dollar stores or craft stores for very cheap)
  5. coffee mugs (check clearance aisles and dollar stores)

Friday, November 9, 2012

#GivingTuesday - Why March of Dimes Means So Much to Me

World Homeless Day
I told you I was going to start a new series of posts as part of #GivingTuesday and while it is Friday, I want to start with a cause that is very important to me which is the March of Dimes.
March of Dimes was started nearly 75 years ago by President Franklin Roosevelt to help in the fight against polio.  When that mission was accomplished, the foundation turned to dealing with infant mortality and birth defects.  Research, fundraising, donating, advocacy and volunteering are all components of the March of Dimes today.  November is being recognized as Prematurity Awareness Month  and March of Dimes has set the goal of getting 25,000 signatures on a petition to turn the White House purple on January 3rd to celebrate its 75th anniversary and give hope to families of premature babies.  To help turn the White House purple and raise awareness, please visit before November 18.  More importantly, to donate to the March of Dimes and provide needed research, education, equipment and help for premature babies, visit the March of Dimes.

My personal journey with the March of Dimes began before my own children were born.  My family has that sort of overlap in generations that happens when there are multiple generations of an oldest who is 18 years older than the youngest sibling.  So I was 22 years old when my aunt had her second child at age 42.  It was a high-risk pregnancy from the beginning.  In fact, she was never supposed to be able to conceive in the first place following a traumatic bus accident at age 8, let alone conceive 3 times.  The first ended in an early miscarriage.  The second was within months of the first and was a totally healthy pregnancy from beginning to end.  Although her first son was born 5 weeks early, he was perfectly healthy.  The third pregnancy ended with severe pre-eclampsia at week 26 and they had to take the baby when she began to have a series of mini-strokes.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Some cute little fall finds...

One good thing about the retail push for the next big holiday shopping season is that you can find steals that are already on clearance during the season.  Take this cute little plate for instance.  Better Homes & Gardens  at Walmart on clearance for $2.
And this sweet fall tree on a plastic placemat for $1 - good for background but I know the kids will be stealing it for their playdough sessions in no time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Nice Steaming Mug of Mulled Wine, Anyone?

Whether you wish to celebrate or kill the pain tonight, here is a recipe for a wonderful mulled wine that will leave you warm and satisfied!  I don't remember where I first saw this recipe but I have been making it for years from back when we started hosting a holiday open house and it was an instant smash hit.  Even my friends and family who don't normally drink love to come over and sit by the fireplace sipping on a fragrant mug full.  The guys who are normally more prone to beer or liquor all eventually cave and once they try this and feel its potency (and believe me it is potent) they are hooked too.  It makes the house smell wonderful and is a great accompaniment to all those sweet cookies and goodies when you are having a baking day too - a sample of this, sip of wine, little music...  Makes for a "relaxing" day of baking, hahaha!  Plus - its really easy and inexpensive too!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote! Its Your American Responsibility

I was excited to get up this morning and go do my duty to my country by voting.  I had discussed voting with my kids (see my previous post).  I had researched the candidates and issues and knew what I was going to do.  The sun was shining bright on the hard frost covering the ground.  The kids got up eagerly with my 3 year old son asking endless questions about voting and eager to get his "I Voted" sticker.
We drove to our little township hall which is our only polling location.  We got there about 7:20 a.m. and I stopped to take a couple of pictures outside to savor the feeling of the morning (I feel this eager every time I get the privilege of voting).  As we came to the door to enter, a woman came out the exit door frowning and shaking her head.  "20 minute wait time!" she grumbled.  "That's not bad at all." was my reply.  She frowned at me and grumbled again "Huh, its 20 minutes!" as she hurried away.  I was stunned at her anger over 20 minutes but didn't really think too much - until later.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Football Party & Homemade Egg Rolls

Are you ready for some football?  One Sundays from October through February you will usually find a crowd at my house around the TV yelling and cheering (mostly for the Dallas Cowboys).  We all wear jerseys and there is usually a Nerf football getting passed around.  During commercials the big guys get down on the floor with the little guys and run some plays.  I float back and forth between the kitchen and the game and doing all my normal things to get ready for the upcoming week.  I love this time.  Often there are little conversations about the greater things in life but there is just this feeling of togetherness.  The guys also love this time because I love to spend Sundays baking and using up whatever leftovers are in the fridge to create new things.  Its usually the only day of the week I am actually home all day so I can make those recipes that I avoid the rest of the week because they take extra time to bake or put together.  Always good smells wafting out of the kitchen and lots of yells from the living room asking what I am making now.  :)
I usually start by putting out an easy spread of munchies that everyone can help themselves to throughout the day.  Here I've got Chex Mix, some little meringue cookies, chips and dip, pickles and some warmed french bread with an olive oil dipping mix from my local farm market.
I also had some green tomato salsa from the farm market with nacho chips.  These football dishes, plates and napkins I find at the dollar store or on clearance throughout the year and friends and family who know of our Sunday routine have started gifting them to me when they find neat ones too.  They add a lot to the fun.

One of the "most requested" recipes I make for Sunday football is my homemade egg rolls.  They seem intimidating but actually are very easy - they just take time.  They are also pretty inexpensive to make for a crowd.  I sometimes make big batches and freeze the extras to send with my hubby to deer camp.  They reheat well on a baking sheet in the oven.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Venison Stir Fry

One of my favorite uses of venison steaks is to make a quick weeknight stir fry.  Because I know my family eats a ton of this healthy dinner, I use two 2 lb. packages of frozen venison steaks.  I only partially defrost the steak (this makes it easier to slice thinly) in the microwave (usually 3 minutes per package).  Then I remove it from the package and rinse.  On my cutting board, I slice the steaks thinly across the grain.  While I am slicing, I put a large skillet on medium-high heat with a good splash of extra-virgin olive oil (venison has no fat of its own so you have to use a little fat or it will be too dry).