Sunday, November 22, 2015

Being Thankful

For a long time, I kept a gratitude journal. Every night before I went to bed, I wrote down five things I was grateful for. Just a simple list of five things. Of course, I'm always thankful for God's love, family, friends, food and shelter, good health, etc. Writing those in my journal was easy.

But after a few days, I had written the obvious things. It got harder to find things to write down. It was my goal not repeat items on my list. How on earth could I find five different things every day for months and months? Then I started looking at my day differently. I began seeing the small things—things that were part of my daily existence, things that didn't always register in my brain.

I learned I was very thankful for the colors in the morning sky. For the smell of bacon frying. For warm socks. I was more than grateful for a refrigerator. And books. And the sound of leaves crunching under my feet. 

Pretty soon I was going through my day with more awareness, loving the hunt for something to add to my list. I would make a mental note of the "thankful things" all day long—a cup of hot tea, clean towels, silence—and I looked forward to those few minutes at bedtime when I could write them in my book. The smell of lemons and limes. A wild turkey walking across the road. Swinging.

On hard days, I would go back and look over my lists. New windshield wipers. Sharp scissors. Candlelight. There were pages and pages of my "five things." Southern voices. A thank you note in the mail. The person who picks up our trash every week. What a reminder of my many blessings. Crisp apples. Light that comes on with the flip of a switch. Purple yarn.

When you've lived long enough to reach the grandmother stage, you know that there are some days when it is not easy to be thankful. That is part of life. On those days, it is more important than ever to to find those "five things." Five small things. And to give thanks. Always give thanks.


I am taking a Thanksgiving blog break. Family arrives tonight and my focus will be on keeping everyone fed, reading bedtimes stories, listening to grandchildren and keeping things out of Baby Girl's reach. I'll be back in about a week.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick

Pattern:  Sunny Baby Blanket
Yarn:  Berroco Comfort, Turquoise
Needles:  size 8

The two knits I've finished this week are both for new babies named Jack. What are the odds? Baby gifts comprise a sizable amount of my knitting. Sometimes the babies are new additions to our family. Sometimes the parents are dear friends. And sometimes I don't know the recipient at all. I've done many baby hats for Jessica's co-workers and for son-in-law's work mates and Mommy's friends. I have the cutest collection of baby photos from those office babies wearing hats I've knitted. So much fun!

The first baby Jack came a little early and was born on my birthday last week! (Remember? I gave his mom two-thirds of this blanket at her baby shower a few weeks ago.) His mother was at my house so much during her growing up years. She's like part of the family, so sharing a birthday with her baby Jack means a lot to me.

Pattern:  Kid's Fruit Hat by Ann Norling
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, Silver
Needles:  size 6

The second baby Jack is one of the babies I don't know. But when the text came, "Will you make another hat? And put it in the mail for us?" I picked up the needles and cast on a little hat and just after lunch the following day, that hat was on its way to Florida.

I love making these baby things. But please, family and more babies until after Christmas!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Deep South November

Thanksgiving is next week. And there is green grass in the pastures.

The azaleas are still in bloom.

There are a few daisies left in our front yard.

The roses have put on a few buds in the last several days.

The leaves have turned brown, but the cherry blossoms are hanging on.

Summer just doesn't want to give up. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Make Mine Meatballs


I couldn't do it—I couldn't post a new recipe here before I had fully tested it. Or, at least one of my daughters had made it. Or, I had eaten the finished product. Last night I pulled a few meatballs from the freezer and made supper. I browned the frozen meatballs in the skillet. They stuck a little. Poured a partial jar of spaghetti sauce over it to finish cooking. Didn't watch that close enough and nearly burned it all. Moved it all to a non-stick skillet and added in some canned diced tomatoes w/garlic, basil, oregano and let this simmer, covered, until the meatballs were done. I checked them with a thermometer. Next time I'll start with a non-stick skillet.

I am going out on a limb here. I have made these meatballs and they are in the freezer. But I have not cooked them yet. I am trusting the many reviewers who have said they are very good. I am really trying to get a jump on my cooking—especially things that my non-red-meat-eating daughter can have. We will have the family here for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas. And I want to play with grandchildren then, not spend all my time in the kitchen.


This recipe came from Martha Stewart. If you check the recipe here, there are links to several ways to use these meatballs. One recipe calls for the meatballs to be cooked from the frozen state in a skillet. Another one cooks them under the broiler and doesn't mention being frozen. One reviewer said that they held together better after they had been frozen. I'm sure I will be using this recipe as a freezer recipe.

My own changes and hints? I doubled the recipe. If I was going to squish my hands in raw ground turkey, I might as well make enough at one time.  I used a little less pepper than the original recipe because the suggested amount just looked like a lot to me. Make that suit your family. I used green onions instead of scallions. That's what my store sells.

I think my meatballs might be a little bigger than they should be. I actually measured out the first one and tried to make the rest of them match. But I didn't get quite the yield that the recipe states. My double batch gave me 56 meatballs. (According to Martha's recipe, I should have had 70.)  Should you decide to triple this recipe like some of the reviewers did, you'll need a HUGE mixing bowl. The doubled recipe filled my biggest bowl.

From the lesson-learned-the-hard-way department (years ago—not this time,) use a pot holder to remove the baking sheets from your freezer. A frozen pan hurts your fingers almost as much as an oven burn.

This is a good recipe. But you need to remember that these meatballs are made with turkey and not ground beef. The texture is a little different. But I will make these again.

    adapted from Martha Stewart

3 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread
1/4 cup whole milk
1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey (lean, dark meat)
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced (I used 2 tsp. from a jar)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 large egg
coarse salt and pepper to taste

Place bread in food processor; pulse until fine crumbs form. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with milk; set aside at least 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, green onions, garlic, parsley, egg, salt (1-1/2 tsp) and pepper (1/4 tsp) and breadcrumb mixture. Mix gently with a fork.

With your hands, form into meatballs (1 meatball = 2 level tablespoons). Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.

To freeze: place meatballs on baking sheet in freezer for 1 hour. Move meatballs to a ziplock freezer bag. Lable and date. Store frozen up to 3 months.

Makes about 30 meatballs.

I forget how old I am most of the time. But when I pulled out the food processor for this recipe, I saw that it didn't have a polarized plug—that's the kind with one prong wider than the other. You know, it only goes into the outlet in one direction. Bet some of you have never seen an appliance without one of those.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Soup In Seconds--900 Seconds To Be Exact

Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

You are going to need this recipe between now and Christmas. And then you'll need it after Christmas when you've used up all of your cooking mojo. Wish I had thought this recipe up, but I'll take credit for ripping a page out of Southern Living magazine—the page with this recipe.

When you can make two boo-boos in a super simple recipe and decide it's STILL very good, it's got to be a recipe worth keeping. I didn't realize I had left things out until after we had eaten it for supper. And it's done in 15 minutes. That is 900 seconds. Pretty speedy for homemade soup. Another reason to hang on to the recipe.

I saw this recipe, tore the page out and added it to my stack. I was saving it for a night when I needed a 'mergency meal. Little Sister knows about 'mergencies. I like the way she says it. Tonight wasn't an emergency, but I didn't feel like cooking a big supper. Sometimes we (honestly it's mostly me) like a soup and sandwich supper if we've had a bigger lunch.

When I typed the recipe here, I realized that I forgot to add the garlic. I did this in a big hurry. And then I saw that I didn't add the water. It was listed in the directions but not in the ingredient list. All that my mind absorbed was "process all ingredients." I wrote it into the recipe for next time. No more mistakes is the goal.

Well, you know what? It was delicious! Maybe I'll add garlic next time. Maybe not. It was pretty good like it was. And the water was only a quarter cup. Left as it was, it was a thick, creamy soup, much like you get in restaurants. I think restaurant soups are always on the thick side. You can add a little water to make the consistency suit you. Because of the roasted peppers, the soup has a more complex, mellow flavor than plain ol' tomato soup.

Homemade soup in 15 minutes. For real. I made grilled cheese sandwiches while the soup heated. Here's something I learned at the knitting retreat last week—brush the bread with olive oil instead of butter before grilling. That eliminates the need to soften the butter. Tastes really good, too.


1 (28-oz) can peeled, whole tomatoes with the juice
1 (12-oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained (my jar was 16-oz, so I used 3/4 of it)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or, to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or, to taste)
2 garlic cloves (which I totally forgot to add)

Process all ingredients in food processor or blender until smooth.
Pour into medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring often, until hot. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Monday, November 16, 2015

Back Down The Mountain

I had the opportunity and the privilege this past weekend to spend three days in the North Carolina mountains with women from across the South at the Carolina Fiber Frolic. It is a weekend retreat—a retreat from everyday cares and responsibilities. This particular retreat offered no classes. But I still learned much, coming home with many notes jotted down in my small notebook.

There were accomplished knitters and spinners of yarn. There were discussions of sheep breeds and knitting patterns. "What did you say the name of that pattern was?" "And there is a difference between UK fleeces and American fleeces?" There was laughter and conversation. "Oh, you don't live very far from me!" "OH NO!!! That really didn't happen, did it?!?"

There was lots of knitting—there was always knitting—on socks, sweaters, shawls and blankets. But the goal was not to come home with a finished project but to come home with new friends. And to come home rested and relaxed.

There were old friends I had met at other knitting retreats. And new friends waiting to be made. How wonderful to spend time together. Thanks to Instagram and text messages and email and Ravelry, it is easy to stay in touch.

Our meals were provided and so many times I heard someone say, "Isn't it wonderful to have a little time away from cooking, from laundry, from all the chores we'd be doing if we were at home?" There was plenty of time to sit by a fire (there was more than one fireplace) and just BE.

This morning, I AM back at home—with the laundry and cleaning and cooking all waiting for me. But I am back, refreshed in body and refreshed in spirit.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Cook It Easy, Cook It Slow

For the next couple of weeks I am trying to cook things for the freezer. Things so that we can have quick and easy meals when it gets hectic during the holiday weeks. I know there will be extra activities and maybe a trip or two to see the grandchildren perform in their Christmas concerts.

I have made this barbecue before. It's one of the easiest recipes ever. Just put everything into the slow cooker and turn it on. When I saw boneless pork butt roasts were on sale this week, I decided it was time to make this again. This time I used a jar of Bone Suckin' Sauce. That's a barbecue sauce. I know I bought it for a specific recipe—but I couldn't for the life of me remember what that recipe was. So I used the sauce here. It was great.

We had sandwiches for supper last night. I left enough out for Daddy-O to eat again while I'm away. And I put a couple of bags in the freezer for later. Did you see the "Holiday Freezer List" on the sidebar? I'm using it to keep track of what I put in the freezer in the coming weeks. Do you have an freezer favorites that you'd share? I'm always on the lookout for good new freezer recipes.


3-4 lb pork roast
2 large onions
1 cup ginger ale
1 (18-oz) bottle BBQ sauce
extra barbecue sauce for serving 

Slice one onion and place in crockpot. Remove the strings or net from roast and trim fat if necessarly.  Place roast on onion layer. Top with the other sliced onion. Pour the ginger ale and barbecue sauce over. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.

Remove meat and onions from pot to a large pan*. With two forks, shred the meat, discarding any remaining fat.  Discard excess cooking liquid.

Serve with extra sauce.

*This time I just dipped out most of the cooking liquid and shredded the meat right in the crockpot. One less pan to wash.