Saturday, December 31, 2011

Moving Into The New

Leaving 2011 behind...


a year with many wonderful memories-- 
trying new things, learning new things, 
visiting new places, making new friends,
spending time with old friends,
exciting times watching Baby Sister grow,
and spending treasured time with family.


Goodbye 2011!
We will meet you in 2012.

Happy New Year from Mimi, 
Baby Sister, Big Sister and the rest of our family!

Tradition

Of all the traditions we observe, maybe the one that is strongest and the one that pretty much remains unchanged is the traditional southern New Year's Day dinner. There is no way that our family would not eat peas, collards and pork on that day. We've been told since childhood that eating peas and collards guarantees wealth for the coming year. (Peas represent coins and the collards represent folding money.) 

I don't know for sure if that is true but there is no way that any of us are chancing it. However much you have, it could be less! Even just a bite counts. The non-collards-lover can hold their breath and swallow one bite. This meal also needs cornbread.

Now, I have cooked the pork in assorted ways over the years--pork chops and brown rice, pork loin in the crockpot, and BBQ. But for the last few years, this recipe has been our favorite.

Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin

2-1/2 lb. pork tenderloins (usually one package contains 2 tenderloins and is about this weight)

3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

Rinse tenderloins and pat dry.
Combine soy sauce and next 9 ingredients in a large zip-loc plastic freezer bag or shallow dish. Add tenderloins. Seal bag or cover dish and chill 4-12 hours. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade. Sprinkle tenderloins evenly with salt.

Grill, covered with grill lid, over high heat (400 to 500 degrees) for 30 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat reads 155 degrees, turning occasionally. Remove from heat; cover with aluminum foil and let stand 10 minutes or until thermometer reads 160 degrees.

OR it can be cooked in the oven.
Put tenderloins in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until thermometer reaches 160 degrees. Let rest before serving.

If we only eat one of the tenderloins, I will freeze the other. It makes a really good quick meal for a busy day. Just pull it out in the morning and thaw in the refrigerator until dinner time.

And here is my favorite way to cook collard greens. It's so much easier to start with the frozen chopped greens than to do the fresh ones. And we think they are just as good. I will tell you that I cook them in a Nesco cooker set up on our screened porch. Keeps the "aroma" out of the house. I usually cook them a day or two before New Year's and just reheat them.

Collard Greens

1/2 lb. smoked meat (ham hocks, smoked turkey wings or smoked neck bones--I use turkey wings)
2-3 teaspoons House Seasoning*
1-2 teaspoons Lawrys' Seasoning Salt
2 bags frozen chopped collards (or 1 large bunch of fresh collards, cleaned and sliced)
1 tablespoon butter

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add smoked meat, house seasoning and seasoned salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour.
Add frozen greens and butter. Cook for 1 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning to taste.

*House Seasoning: 1 cup salt, 1/4  cup black pepper, 1/4 cup garlic powder. Mix together and store in airtight container.


I won't promise you'll be rich in 2012, but I'll promise you will have a good meal to start the year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Baby In Charge


I've spent this week as the baby chaser. Actually, let me correct that. WE--Granddaddy and Jessica, too-- have chased her. We've played with her, walked her, fed her, changed her, read to her, bathed her and rocked her. It's been a busy week. How can one tiny person keep three adults teetering on the brink of exhaustion? (Well, me anyway. Maybe the others weren't so tired.)

She is perpetual motion.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Christmas has come and gone. It was a wonderful time with family.   


From the candlelight service on Christmas Eve 
and the unexpected McDonald's supper after church (long story)...


...to the midnight cinnamon roll making...



...to the Christmas breakfast...


...and opening gifts...


... like a new camera and a first piano.

Christmas has come and gone for another year. 
Merry Christmas to all...


...and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift


I was rummaging through a drawer last week looking for something and I found this little stocking at the bottom of the drawer. It's a reminder of what wonderful children I have.

Many Christmases ago, just as we were leaving for the Christmas Eve service at church, Jessica asked us to wait just a minute. She wasn't quite finished. I knew she was making something but we were busy and I didn't exactly know what she was doing. In a couple of minutes she was ready and had this little stocking in her hand. You can see that the tag says "To Needing." 

When we went up for communion that night, she placed this little stocking on the altar rail. I didn't know what was in it but thought that it was nice that she wanted to leave something. The adults often left a dollar or two there. That money was used for people who came to the church needing help with things like paying the heating bill, or getting their car repaired. The money was always collected after the service and given to the pastor. That little stocking was gathered up along with the dollar bills and that's the last we saw of it.

Weeks later I got a phone call from the pastor telling me that the that little stocking been lying on his office desk since Christmas. The top was stapled together (with lots of staples.) It was stuffed full and it had the tag written in a small child's writing. One day his wife was in the office and picked the stocking up. She asked what it was. He told her that Jessica had left it on the altar Christmas Eve, that it was probably filled with candy and she could throw it away. She weighed it in her hand and said she thought it was awfully heavy for candy. She undid the staples and poured out lots of coins and some rolled up bills. The pastor was astounded. They counted the money and said it held just over $17. 

Jessica had emptied her bank and given it all to the "needing." He was moved by her generosity.  He said he had learned a lesson, too. He had learned not to judge what was on the inside by how the outside looked. When you make up your mind before looking further, it's easy to miss something special. The other bills left on the altar that night were all ones and fives. This little second grader had given more than anyone. She gave all she had. And he had almost thrown the stocking away.

This little stocking is one of my Christmas treasures. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Eve Supper


I'm trying to get a plan made for the Christmas weekend meals. One thing that is definite is that we will have oyster stew on Christmas Eve. It's so quick to make after we get home from church. And it's delicious. (I'll confess...I don't eat the oysters--just the stew. And I love it.)

We've done this for several years now. The photo above was from an earlier Christmas Eve. That year after we made it, Jessica asked for the recipe to post on her blog. She also asked that I write something about this recipe. Here is what I wrote for her blog that year:

When I was growing up, we had oyster stew for supper on Christmas Eve. My mother wrote her recipe down many years ago.  But when I made it after she died, it surely didn't taste like hers. So I never made it again. Saw this recipe in an email this week from Paula Deen--Food Network star. It came from a southern cookbook. Sounded like what mother did--even though it wasn't exactly what she wrote. We made it tonight after the Christmas Eve service at our church. And it tasted exactly like it should. Catapulted me back to being 12 years old!  
Growing up, we ate ours with ketchup (made the stew the nicest shade of pale pink) and saltine crackers (although we called them soda crackers back then).  Your dad said his family used Texas Pete (a hot sauce) and crackers. We only made a half recipe tonight. Just right for the three of us. (And yes, that means we had the small container of oysters--about 1 cup--for this small batch.)
It made the loveliest supper tonight.  Merry Christmas!
Oyster Stew
1-2 pints shucked oysters
4 cups whole milk
1 pint evaporated milk
4 to 6 tablespoons butter
Salt and whole black pepper in a pepper mill
Drain the oysters in a sieve set over a bowl, saving the liquor, and pick over them for any lingering bits of shell. Put the reserved strained liquor, milk, and evaporated milk in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and add the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let simmer 5 minutes.
Add the oysters and simmer until they’re plump and firm and their gills curl, about 5 minutes, taking care not to overcook them. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper and serve at once, making sure that a goodly portion of oysters and butter makes it into each bowl.  Serves 6-8.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Memory Making


"They knew that everyone's activities would have to revolve around my naps and my meal times, so they just gave me the schedule of events and put me in charge. Hmmmmm.....wonder what Mommy would like to do first? Thinking Jessica might like a yoga class."

This was Baby Sister's second trip to the Grove Park Inn. Last year she was so very tiny that we barely knew she was there. This year was a different story. Immediately after we checked in, Big Sister and I took the baby and headed to find our rooms while Granddaddy, Mommy and Jessica went to park the cars. 

As soon as we rounded the corner from the front desk, Baby Sister spied the giant Christmas tree in the lobby that must have a million lights on it. She absolutely squealed with glee when she saw it. She pointed up and down as she laughed out loud. Guests in the lobby got tickled as they watched her. Pure baby joy. So sad that the rest of them missed that moment.


Our weekend was filled with assorted activities but everyone was free to do whatever they chose---as long as we met for dinner. Jessica did go to a yoga class. Mommy went to the spa. Daddy took Big Sister to a movie. Granddaddy and I enjoyed some time together, minus all the others. (We love you all, but that was nice.)


We were entertained the first night as we watched Jessica have her caricature done. Good thing it was entertaining to watch because there is no way we would have known the picture was of her!


Also located on the property is a antique car museum and the Grovewood Gallery that sells beautifully handcrafted items. Everything from furniture to jewelry to musical instruments. Priced from about $15 to $1500. Something for everyone. We only looked this time.


And everywhere we walked there were gingerbread houses. And gingerbread vehicles and barns and people. And gingerbread creations of every sort.The National Gingerbread House Competition is held each year here. 


Big Sister asked if we could take our knitting to the Great Hall early in the morning before the rest of the family got up. It was the only time of day that we didn't have to look for an empty table. We had cocoa, coffee and conversation both mornings. How nice to have a little special time for just us two.


Both bands in the Great Hall at night were great. The decorations were elaborate and gorgeous. We had dinner one night in the Great Hall--kind of like a fancy picnic. Seats are are hard to come by but we claimed two sofas and a huge coffee table. Just what we needed. The following night we enjoyed the buffet that is always good. I was hoping no one was counting how many times we went back. 


Another chapter in our book of memories. 


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Together

We just got back from this year's trip to one of the most magical places anywhere. For 25 years we have taken a couple of days out of the busy holiday season to spend some time together at the Grove Park Inn. What wonderful memories we have from all those trips up the mountain. Our own little girls are all grown up now. But we are blessed to still have children with us--Baby Sister and Big Sister. Our weekends now include the entire family.


I made this photo as we drove up to the inn on Friday. It just feels like Christmas from the moment you catch the first glimpse.

So many good memories have been made here. Please let me tell you about the very first one...
One of the most special memories of these weekends are from that very first trip with two little girls, ages 2 and 4. The afternoon we arrived, we stood in line for a long, long time to see Santa Claus. We waited with so many other excited children who all sat for a moment in Santa's lap. We delighted in seeing our two daughters each take their turn, looking up at his with their big eyes as he asked what their name. They answered and then shyly told him what they wanted on Christmas morning.
Hours later we happened upon Santa again as he walked across the Great Hall (on his way back to the North Pole, I suppose.) When he came to us, he stopped for a moment and and greeted each little girl by name. Hundreds of children had talked to Santa that day. Hundreds. Yet he remembered our childrens' names! That really had to be Santa, didn't it?
Every year is different. Every year, special. We were happy to add another chapter to our memory book this weekend.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In The Early Morning

It's 5:30 in the morning and there are three loaves of bread in the oven. Yes, it's that time of year when I have to stretch my days by getting up a little early. All of these loaves will be gifts later today. And let's be honest...about half the time I'm up this early anyway, so it's not so bad.


Yarn:  Berroco Comfort
Needles:  Size 8, 29-inch circular

On Sunday we had a chance to visit with family for a Christmas party. The newest baby in the family got a new blanket for her gift. I made a summer weight blanket for her when she was born. But she needed a warmer one for winter. 


Let's hope Baby Cousin enjoys the blanket as much as Baby Sister has enjoyed her bright green one--same pattern, same yarn, just a different shade of green. This yarn has washed and dried like a dream--a necessity for baby items.


It looks like Mommy and Daddy will get a "walking baby" for Christmas. These steps on Saturday still require a little holding on, but yesterday Mommy said Baby Sister took one step all by herself. We can't wait to see for ourselves. 


I had predicted she would be walking by Christmas. Looks like my prediction is going to be very close. Watch out, world.

The little tool bar that runs across the bottom of my computer screen has a calendar on it. I'm sitting here looking at a big number 14. Surely that doesn't mean I only have ten days to get everything done! So it's nice to have these minutes of quiet in the early morning. A moment to  calm my thoughts, to gather the stillness about me. While the bread bakes and I am enjoying the aroma, I get to read my Advent devotion. Today's devotion talked about "preparing the way for the Lord" and didn't say a word about preparing cookies, decorations or shopping and wrapping gifts. How easy it is to get that all turned around.  





Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ahhhh.....


This weekend we managed a school pick-up, baby naps, wall-to-wall toys, multiple viewings of E.T., putting both girls to bed for two nights, baking and delivering bread to the church bake sale, French braiding hair, party clothes, a wedding and the wedding reception/dance (with baby and sister), the Christmas concert at church and a family Christmas party. 

Now, I grabbed the wrong jar of food and fed the baby prunes at the wedding reception (sorry, Mommy) and Baby Sister's socks didn't match at the wedding. (They were both white, so it wasn't too bad.) Big Sister was wrapping gifts in the back seat of the car as we rode to the party. And I forgot to put tags on the gifts, so I think I still owe someone a gift because someone else got two.

But it isn't bedtime yet. The floor is picked up. The sink is clean. The dishwasher is running. And we are still speaking. It was a really good weekend. Really. It was fun to have everyone here for almost three days. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Weekend Challenge


I just put Baby Sister to bed. She looks like a little sausage stuffed in a pair of size 6-9 months PJ's. Bedtime got here before Mommy got here with the suitcases. So those small pair of pajamas was the best I find. Big Sister is sound asleep across the hall. She found some of Jessica's pajamas to wear. They are too way too big for Big Sister. And she thinks it's great fun.

They are here for the weekend. Big Sister took off with Granddaddy on the tractor this afternoon to help feed the cows. Baby Sister spent her afternoon trying so hard to take that first step--stand up, lunge forward, fall down. They were both ready for bed. That went easier than I expected. Much easier.

It's a crazy weekend here. Enjoyed lunch with a friend today--it was our annual Christmas visit. Baked the last loaves of bread in the oven this afternoon for the bake sale at our church in the morning. And there is a wedding tomorrow afternoon for a dear friend. (Not going to think about Sunday's schedule yet.) I won't be able to help with the bake sale at church, so Big Sister and I delivered our bread tonight. Eight loaves made from my sourdough recipe. And since I won't be able to help with the sale, I decided to add a little something extra to my contribution. This morning before I left the house to meet  my friend for lunch, I made cinnamon honey butter and packed it in small containers. Everyone who buys a loaf of my bread tomorrow also gets honey butter.


Jessica found the recipe online and tweaked it. I used her version today. And I made it today with four sticks of butter. It's easy to make a big batch.

Cinnamon Honey Butter

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
1/2 cup honey
1/4 confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and beat with a mixer until fluffy.


Now since Mommy is in the wedding and will be gone all day, we will find out if Granddaddy and I still have any parent skills left as we try to get everyone ready to go to the wedding in the afternoon. It's been a long time since I've tried to get everyone dressed at one time, and all into the car, hopefully without tears, knowing we have to be at church on time. Keep your fingers crossed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Is Coming


Christmas is a time for tradition. A time for doing things we've done for years. First on our list is finding the perfect (or sometimes, not so perfect) tree. For a few years, it was a cedar tree cut on the farm. Then good trees became hard to find. For a lot of years after that, the family went to a tree farm and cut a tree (Leyland cypress.) Then the tree farmer retired. Now it's just the two of us, choosing a tree (Frasier fir) from the only tree lot in town. The species of tree has changed. The place we get a tree has changed. It's different--but still the same.


Tonight we decorated the tree. Some of the ornaments are older than our marriage. These little eggs have lasted nearly forever. They are a reminder of days when I was single and had more time than I knew what to do with. Except for the proof of these egg ornaments, I don't think I would believe too much spare time was possible. (I'll take the family and the time crunch now, thank you very much.)


I spent many evenings after work, emptying egg shells and working with glue, glitter, tweezers and other fun stuff. I made dozens. We still have a couple of dozen left. 


Tonight as we hung them on the tree, we talked again about how long ago I made them and how many years we have hung them on the tree. And we marvel that they have survived all these years. How many times have we packed and unpacked these fragile ornaments?

We are probably the only people in the world who hang a wishbone on our tree. A real one. Before I was married, I had a Christmas dinner for my parents, my grandmother and my boyfriend (to whom I have been married to for 32 years now.) I made Cornish hens. My grandmother had never had Cornish hen. She kept talking about how no one would believe she ate a "whole bird!" We saved a wishbone and painted it gold. This little decoration is a reminder of a wonderful evening    a long time ago. 


Our tree isn't going to win any prizes for best theme or most co-ordinated, but it's what we think a Christmas tree should be--just filled with things we like. Old and new. We don't discriminate.

Here is the recipe for the Cornish hens we had all those years ago. I think it's time to make it again. Now that I AM the grandmother. 

STUFFED CORNISH HEN

1.  Salt & pepper 4 Cornish hens. Set aside.

2.  In a saucepan, put:
          3 tablespoon butter
          2 tablespoons slivered almonds
          2 tablespoons chopped onion
          1/3 cup uncooked rice

Cook until rice is light brown.

Add:  1 cup hot water
          1 chicken bouillon cube
          1 teaspoon lemon juice
          1/2 teaspoon salt

Cover and cook 20 minutes or until rice is light and fluffy. 

Stir in:
          1/2 cup sliced & drained canned mushrooms

3.  Stuff hens with rice mixture. Tie legs.
     Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. 
     Cover and bake another hour or until tender.

Serve with cranberry sauce.



Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent--Baby Style

Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christmas--a celebration of the birth of Jesus. From the time our girls were babies, we had an advent calendar to count down the days. Ours were the paper kind with little windows to open--one window each day. It was special family time to open that window each day and see what was behind it. Our grown-up girls still get an advent calendar each year.

Mommy found a very special Advent calendar for Baby Sister. One she can play with to her heart's content. I was the baby sitter last night while Mommy and Big Sister had an evening out.


We talked about all of the people and animals attached to the calendar. I answered the endless, "What is that? Who is that?" questions. By next year she will know who the shepherds and angels and wise men and Baby Jesus are.


This year she just loves playing with them all.


Her favorite (at least for last night) was the little black sheep.


Christmas is coming.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Mimi" Bread


It's easier to buy a loaf of bread at the store but it can't compare with the aroma of freshly baked bread made in your own oven. It makes the house smell divine. Years ago I taught a bread baking class and I discovered that many people were afraid of recipes involving yeast. So here is a recipe that doesn't involve yeast except for making the starter. It's the easiest bread recipe that I know. It's the one I use most. I have been taking this bread to our Thanksgiving family dinners for years and years.

Big Sister calls it "Mimi bread." I consider that a compliment of the highest order. (Who do you think often gets the first loaf?) If you want to bake some for the holidays, make your starter now since it takes 5 days to get it ready.

SOURDOUGH BREAD

1 cup starter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups warm water
6 or more cups bread flour (use the extra to flour the surface for kneading)

Mix bread ingredients. (I use a wire whisk to mix in the first 3 cups, and then use a spoon for the last three cups.) Place in large bowl sprayed with PAM.  Lightly spray dough with PAM.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let stand and rise at least 8 hours.
Punch down dough and knead on floured board about 10 times.  Divide into 3 parts.
Spray three 8-inch loaf pans with PAM.  Shape dough and place in pans.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap. 
Let stand and rise until pans are full, about 5 to 6 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Whole wheat bread:  Use 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4 cups bread flour.

To feed starter:  Remove 1 cup for baking (or discard) and feed with 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tbsp. instant potatoes and 1 cup warm water.  Mix well and let stand 8-12 hours.  Then refrigerate.  Store in plastic container with slits cut in lid. Feed every 3-7 days. (My favorite container for storage is a large Cool Whip container. Cut an "X" in the lid to let the starter breath.)

To make starter:  Double the feeding recipe.  Put in a glass or plastic container, loosely covered.  Let set out for 4 days.  Then add one pack dry yeast.  Let stand another 24 hours.  Use 1 cup for the first batch or store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.

This bread freezes beautifully. It makes a great gift. 


When our daughters were younger and I had more people to feed every day, I baked a lot of bread. I kept a batch of starter going for five years then. Now, I usually bake just around the holidays and through the winter months. So I make my starter just before Thanksgiving and will keep it going until spring. Or until I get tired of baking it. We never get tired of eating it.

You really do have to feed the starter every few days. If you are not baking, discard a cup of starter and then feed it and let it stand for 8-12 hours. Last year I sent starter back with Jessica when she was home at Thanksgiving. We made up batches of sugar and potato flakes measured into plastic snack-size bags, ready to feed the starter. Drop all those little bags into a larger ziploc bag. That makes it really convenient.

I'll be baking a double batch for the bake sale at our church next weekend. If you don't want to bake it yourself, stop in and buy a loaf!