Thursday, December 14, 2017

Indigo Frost

Pattern:  Indigo Frost by Isabell Kraemer
Yarn:  Cascade 220
Needles:  sizes 7 & 8, each in two lengths

I've had a rotten cold for days and not done a thing. The cold is better and I leave today to babysit this weekend. Thankfully this post was written earlier so I have something to share here this week.  This poncho was finished a few weeks ago, in time to take to the knitting retreat in the mountains. It's a great pattern.

I had the good fortune to try this poncho on last year at a spring knitting retreat. And it was instant love! I finished this one in time to wear to a fall knitting retreat this year. It only took a year and a half for me to get around to knitting it. Now I wish I hadn't waited so long.

It's a perfect choice for those knitters with sweater fitting phobia. (That would be me.) I've never started a sweater because I'm afraid it won't fit. But now I've made a turtleneck. I had to choose a size. And it almost has shoulders. I even made a gauge swatch and changed needles sizes from what the pattern recommended. This is a baby step in the direction of knitting a sweater. One day I'll take a deep breath and cast on a sweater. Really.

I hand wound the yarn this time. Just for fun. Hand winding can be relaxing. Daddy-O was my willing helper, holding the yarn over his wrists while I wound the yarn. It was nice to have him included in my knitting activity.

It was a fairly quick knit, but I still was pushed for time when it came time to block it. Blocking means a good soak for a gentle cleaning and it also evens out the stitches and can smooth out the garment. It's an important finishing step. I tell Daddy-O it's like ironing for hand knits. When I moaned that it might not be dry in time to pack for the retreat in the mountains, a friend said she sets her things up with a fan blowing on it to speed the process. It's so nice to have knitting friends who know more than I do. That worked like a charm.

Here is a close up of the color detail. I thought it was fair isle knitting when I saw the pattern, but it's much simpler than that. The pattern detail is created by just slipping some stitches from one needle to the other instead of knitting them. That stretches that loop of yarn out to be a little longer than ones beside it. And poof! You get a design. Those longest stitches are slipped twice, so they are stretched out even longer for a more distinctive pattern.

Again, it's good to have knitting friends. I had never heard of slipping a stitch twice without knitting it. So I checked with a friend who has made this poncho twice. She assured me that I was doing this correctly. I thanked her for her help. And she said she was happy to help "while she was on a trip to Peru." I am doubly thankful that she responded so quickly while she was traveling on what must have been a fabulous trip. Knitters are the best. If you don't have your own knitting group, join Ravelry if you aren't already on there.You can find plenty of knitters willing to help when you need it. And we all need help from time to time.

Now I'm off to babysit. Bonus is that I will be there for Baby Girl's preschool Christmas program and I'll also get to see Big Sister sing with her church choir on Sunday when they present their fabulous Christmas concert. Little Sister isn't left out—I saw her Christmas piano recital a couple of weeks ago. I wish they lived closer so I could see all of their extra activities and at the same time I'm SO glad they don't live further away. We did the 14.5 hour drive to visit for years. Three hours away is a definite improvement. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Soup's Good For You

There is a little snow falling outside. (Very little, but it doesn't take much to get us excited.) The Christmas tree is lit. Flames are flickering in the fireplace. Bread is rising on the kitchen counter. There is a Hallmark movie on TV. (The Christmas Train—recorded so I can fast forward through the commercials.) And my nose is itchy and tingly and my throat is raw. Bummer.

So as soon as the movies is over, I'm making chicken noodle soup for lunch. I heard a doctor on the morning news today explain why chicken soup really is good for a cold. And I have a rotisserie chicken in the refrigerator waiting for a recipe. The doctor also said that parsley is a good cold fighter and I have some of that on hand, too, so I'll chop a little up and toss it in the pot.

This soup is nearly as easy as heating up canned soup. But it is oh so much better. Hang on to this recipe. Winter isn't even here yet but cold season is. You might need this recipe before winter is over.

1 (32-oz.) box of chicken broth (I use low-sodium broth)
1 carrot, peeled and sliced (I like to quarter the carrot lengthwise first)
1 stalk celery, diced
½ cup uncooked medium egg noodles
1 cup cubed cooked chicken
pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Mix broth, carrot, celery, and pepper in saucepan.  Heat to a boil.  Stir in noodles and chicken.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until noodles are done. Stir in fresh parsley at the end. 

Serves 4

This soup might not cure anything but it surely won't hurt. And it tastes good. It only takes a few minutes to make. Depends on how quickly you can slice and dice the vegetables. But, goodness—it's only one carrot and one celery stalk!  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

But It's SO Easy

Today is Daddy-O's birthday. I wrote this post yesterday as the cheesecake was cooking. But I waited until today to post so that I could get permission from Lynn to share her recipe with you.

So many times I've said, "But it's so easy!" I totally apologize if I've ever said that when you found a recipe here harder than I did. I never meant to make anyone feel lesser. Most of the recipes on this blog really would be found in the easy section of a cookbook. But after my time in the kitchen today, I am fully aware that MY easy might not be YOUR easy.

I have a cheesecake in the oven as I am typing away here. It stays in the oven a long time, so I should be good to sit still long enough to write this. I got the cheesecake recipe from a cousin who says, "It's so easy." And I've even made it before. But that was about 15 years ago. Today it doesn't feel quite so easy. I'm tired. It's been ages since I've done this. And there are a zillion other things going on.

It really is a fairly straight forward recipe....assuming you have some basic cooking knowledge. I knew that before I started this process, I should have brushed up on how to beat eggs whites. It's been ages and ages since I needed to do this. I did remember that glass bowls are better than plastic for beating egg whites.
For best results, beat egg whites in a clean glass bowl. Plastic bowls can retain a slight film of grease, even with careful washing, that can hinder volume development.
I was very careful when separating the yolks and the whites. I knew it was crucial to not to get any yolk into the bowl with the whites.
Separate each egg white into a small bowl and then pour it into the mixing bowl. Do this for each egg. That way if you have a yolk to break when you crack the egg, you haven't ruined the entire bowl of whites.
But it was the part that said, "beat whites until stiff (but not dry)" that should have sent me running to my trusty Joy Of Cooking book to brush up on my egg beating skills. I'm pretty sure I beat mine too long this time.
Beat the whites without stopping (oops!) until the whites are airy and moist and glossy and the peaks stand up straight when beaters are removed from bowl. (Soft peaks will flop over at the tips.)
And then there was the mountain of dirty dishes that filled the sink by the time I slid the springform pan into the oven. That made me feel like this recipe must have been hard. But it shouldn't make this much mess. When I mixed the cream cheese, sour cream and egg yolks, I realized that my bowl wasn't going to be big enough to fold in the egg whites. So I had to scrape this mixture into a much bigger bowl before I added the egg whites. Next time I'll know. Because I'm going to make a note in this recipe.
Always fold in whites by hand. Work quickly and gently. Add the heavier mixture to the lighter one to start. (Ugh. I did it the other way around.) Then mix it all together with a cutting and lifting motion.
Would I rate the recipe "easy" like my cousin Lynn does? Well, yes, it IS pretty easy. (Especially now that I know to use the big blue bowl for mixing.) But it's still easier for her than for me. She has been making this recipe for years. I've made it three times.

That's the difference. You become more proficient by doing an activity—be it playing piano, golf, or making cheesecake—over and over and over again. Not three times. Not five times. But many times. Give yourself a chance to learn.

I just peeked at the cheesecake that's baking away in the oven.
It's all puffed up, so maybe my less than skillful egg beating
hasn't caused too much of a problem.

Okay, so I know I'll never make as many cheesecakes as Lynn has. But if I don't wait another 15 years to make the next cheesecake, the next one will be easier than it was today.

Lynn has brought this to our big family Thanksgiving for about as many years as I've brought home baked bread. We missed her cheesecake so much this year when we had to skip the gathering. So today I'm making her wonderful dessert for Daddy-O's birthday tomorrow.

Fingers crossed that the things I didn't do "by the book" won't make much difference...because this is the only gift I'll have for him. Much of cooking isn't that exacting. I'll let you know how it goes with this cheesecake!


1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter

Mix together and press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. DO NOT BAKE.

4 eggs, separated
2 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
16-oz sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg whites until still (not dry) and set aside.

Mix yolks, cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl. Add sugar, flour, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix until blended. Gently fold in egg whites.

Pour filling over crust and bake at 350 ยบ (preheated) for 1 hour. Turn oven off and leave door closed for 45 minutes. Then let stand in oven with oven door open for another 45 minutes.

Refrigerate. May top with pie filling. (Although we like it best plain.)

The cheesecake puffs up as it bakes, then sinks as it cools. Don't worry. That's what it is supposed to do.

UPDATE: The cheesecake is delicious. We actually had cheesecake for breakfast. You only get to do that on your birthday!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Morning Glory

The view from my kitchen when I poured my coffee today. I love morning.

It's that time of year—for me, at least—when thinking about my ever growing to-do list makes me feel slightly nauseous. So it's even more important for me to take a little morning time to be quiet and still.

Time to put things in perspective. Time to say a prayer for the family who will lay their precious mother to rest today. And another for the family who said goodbye to a dear husband and dad last week. Time to say a prayer for a friend's granddaughter who is in the hospital having tests. Time to give thanks for another busy day.

If I get everything crossed off my list, that's great. If I don't, that's fine, too. I have learned that it's okay to make the list shorter. Lots shorter, if necessary. It might be time to embrace the "less is more" philosophy.

And in that spirit, this is all I'm writing today.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fried Cabbage with Smoked Sausage

Fried Cabbage with Smoked Sausage

After a holiday weekend that included coconut cake and a splendid pumpkin pie where all the leftovers stayed at my house, we were in need of food that's more basic. And I needed quick. And easy. I have handbell practice tonight and won't get home until about 7:30.

This morning I remembered this recipe, but I had trouble finding it here. On my own blog. It's now listed in two places in the index—under MAIN DISHES, listed under both beef and turkey. Depends on which sausage you use. Remember, you can always use the search box at the top left. That's what I did. Searched for "cabbage" and this recipe was way down in the posts that came up. But I did find it.

So here is the recipe again. It might be new to you. Or, maybe like me, you had forgotten this one. It's delicious. And in my way of thinking, it's a one dish meal. It has three vegetables...cabbage, onion, and tomatoes. And the smoked sausage. Tonight that's the whole meal for us. If Daddy-O is lucky, he might get a slice of garlic bread with it.

We have figured out that we liked it better left over. So it was perfect for me to make this afternoon after errands so that dinner will be ready to heat when I get home tonight. You can make it in the morning. You can make it the night before. I love a flexible recipe.


3-4 tablespoons butter
1 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 package smoked sausage, sliced in rounds (my turkey sausage was 13 oz.)
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes (or Rotel if you like spicy)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add cabbage and onion. Cook on medium-high for about 5 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Cover. Lower heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Serves about 6

Blog posts between now and Christmas will be done as I can find a few spare minutes. Not promising any kind of regularity. But don't give up on me! 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

In All Things Give Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

    My greeting is a day early because I'm closing the computer for the next few days.
    Know that all of you who visit here are on my "thankful" list. 
    Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

    Tuesday, November 21, 2017

    Last Minute Recipes

    I'm sitting here in my pajamas, before the sun comes up, making my final shopping list. It's grown since that one I started last week. I realized that my pumpkin pie recipe has never been posted here. And then while looking for that one, I came across the baked fruit recipe. Same thing for the cake recipe. I'm posting them here today to make them easier for me to find. This blog has become my own "recipe box." You might find these easy recipes useful, too.

    There was a time when everyone was happy to get a new recipe without a photo. So I'm going old school and sharing them without a picture. There were no pictures when I originally put them into the family cookbook. But I've made them all. And they are good.

    Now, back to my Thanksgiving preparations. Good luck with yours.


    Before Mommy could cook much, she could make this fruit dish. I think even in college she would take this to covered dish dinners. I've made it, too, several times. Don't turn your nose up at canned fruit—because that means no peeling! How easy is this? That makes it a good last minute choice. Perfect for times when you need just one more dish.


    1 (17-oz.) can apricot halves
    1 (16-oz.) can peach halves
    2 (8 ½ oz.) cans pear halves
    1 (15 ¼ oz.) can pineapple chunks
    1 (6 oz.) jar maraschino cherries 
    1 cup orange juice
    1/3 cup packed brown sugar
    1 tbsp. lemon juice
    1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
    4 whole cloves
    1/8 tsp. mace

    Drain all fruits.  Cut apricot, peach, and pear halves into half length-wise.  Combine fruit in a 8x12-in baking dish (2 qt.)
    Combine orange juice and remaining ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
    Pour over fruit and bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool.  

    Can serve warm or cold.  Can refrigerate covered for up to 2 days.

    This baked fruit dish is delicious and it's pretty on the table. If you are carrying it to another house for dinner, wrap it carefully. There is a lot of liquid that can slosh out.


    What's a Thanksgiving with pumpkin pie? Here is the recipe I've used many times. It's not fancy. Just good. I use a refrigerated pie crust put into my own pie plate.


    2 eggs, slightly beaten
    1 can (16 oz.) solid pack pumpkin
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 tablespoon flour
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    ½ teaspoon ground ginger
    ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk, undiluted

    9-inch deep dish pie shell

    Preheat oven to 425°.  Mix filling ingredients in order given.  Pour into pie shell.
    Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350° and continue baking for 45 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.

    This is one of my favorite desserts.  I played around with the recipe on the label of a can of Libby’s pumpkin.  The spices now suit my tastes and this pie is a little firmer than the original, so it cuts better. (I’ve used this recipe a long time---just realized that pumpkin now comes in 15 oz. cans.  It still works.)


    While not a last-minute recipe, it's one that can be made the day last thing to make the "day of." Son-in-law said the first time he tasted this that it came pretty close to his grandmother's homemade version.  I can only handle this cake mix version on this busy weekend.


    1 pkg. Duncan Hines Deluxe II yellow cake mix

      Bake according to directions in a 13x9x2-inch pan.

    2 cups sugar
    1 cup milk
    1 (6-oz.) pkg. frozen coconut

    Bring to boil.  When cake comes from oven, spoon mixture over cake.  Insert knife in 6 or 8 places (or more) to allow mixture to penetrate.  Cover with foil and cool.

    9 oz. Cool Whip
    1 (6 oz.) pkg. frozen coconut

    Spread 9 oz. Cool Whip over cooled cake and sprinkle with this 2nd package of frozen coconut.  Replace foil and leave in refrigerator about overnight before serving.

    I got this recipe from cousin Audrey so long ago. Putting here so that all of the family can find it now.

    Monday, November 20, 2017

    Maybe Only The Knitters Will Understand

    Purl 1, knit 2...
    "Mimi, I need help to tie my shoe."

    Knit 2, yarn over, slip 1, knit 3...
    "I wasn't doing anything! Don't look at me!!!"

    Slip 1 knitwise, knit 2, purl 4...
    "I spilled my milk. Can I have some more?"

    Knit 2, purl 2, slip 1, knit 5...
    "Yes, Daddy-O. I'm still alive."

    Knit 4, purl 2, yarn over, knit 6...
    "Mimi! Make her give it back. She took my stick!"

    Slip slip knit, purl 1, knit 7...
    "A whole night's sleep would feel like heaven."

    Knit front & back, knit 2, purl 8...
    "Hurry, girls! We're running late!!!"

    Knit 2, purl 2, yarn over, knit 9...
    "I promise, Daddy-O. We're doing fine."

    Knit 3, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 10...
    "Hallelujah! Mommy's home again!!!"

    I always pack some knitting when I leave home. This time I had several very simple projects tucked in my bag because it was a longer stay. Why would I even bother when I knew how busy I was going to be? Because knitting makes me feel normal. I found time for a little knitting in the early, early morning, waiting in car line, and right after dinner. Even a few stitches a day is better than no knitting. 

    Okay. The knitting "directions" here are pure nonsense. All of my knitting during my visit was plain, plain, plain. But the sentiment is pretty accurate. Come to think of it, maybe the grandmothers will understand, too.

    Bonus:  Here is the recipe I'll use for our "emergency" turkey on Thursday. Son-in-law is frying a turkey for the first time on Thanksgiving. Prudence calls for a backup. This slow cooker turkey breast will do just fine.

    Saturday, November 18, 2017

    First Grader Hospitality

    Parents and grandparents everywhere wonder what a child might be when he/she grows up. It's a natural thought. (Personally, I am mostly hoping for "be kind.") Doctor? Farmer? Judge? Auto mechanic? Teacher? Salesman? And the list goes on and on.

    Well, after the greeting I got when I arrived here for several days of "Mimi duty" while the parents are away, I'm thinking that Little Sister might have a future in the Air B&B industry. She helped take my things upstairs. And when we walked into my room, she gave me the tour.

    "Mimi, I put these animals (see the penguin and cat above) in your bed 
    so you won't be lonely."

    "And I thought you might want something to read at bedtime, 
    so here are some books for you."

    "If you need something to do, (while I am the sole adult in the house this weekend) 
    I left you some activities."

    "And there are TWO bottles of water for you this time. 
    I don't want you to get thirsty."

    And I found these little notes stuck all around the room. There is no doubt that I am loved. Let's hope that by the time the weekend is over, she still thinks I'm fun.

    Thursday, November 16, 2017

    Thinking About Thanksgiving

    I know holidays are about tradition. And I know that traditions change. That's the nature of...well, nature. Things change. Circumstances change. People change. This is our year of change. Thanksgiving is about being grateful. And I am MORE than grateful for years and years of eating Thanksgiving turkey at one of many tables fitted into every possible space of a house, where my metal folding chair would bang into the folding chair behind me. There were that many of us. And it was always fun.

    These were Thanksgivings where the number of cousins in line for turkey ranged from 25 to 45, depending on the year. It has been the gathering where boyfriends—who later became husbands—were introduced to the family. (Daddy-O was one of those.) And sometimes boyfriends were just boyfriends. But this year it will be just my family at our house. And it's finally time for me to act like a grownup and place an entire Thanksgiving dinner on the table.

    Yes, the focus of Thanksgiving should be gratitude and thankfulness and not food. And this year we are truly thankful. But let's be honest. Food does play a big role in the day. As I am making my list and checking it twice, I'm looking for recipes I can use this Thanksgiving. Maybe I can save you a little searching if you are also on the recipe hunt.

    In no particular order, these are recipes we have used for years. No, not every recipe every year, but all (but one) of these have made it to a Thanksgiving table at one time or another. Click on the title to find the recipe.
    Macaroni & Cheese. If you are from another part of the country, maybe even another part of our state, this might not be the kind you make. But this is the recipe we that expect on every big dinner table. When I was growing up, we called it "macaroni pie." 
    Cranberry Apple Crunch. Jessica has been making this for years to add to the table. It falls somewhere between side dish and dessert. (It's delish with a scoop of ice cream.) And we have been known to have leftovers for breakfast. 
    Sweet Potato Souffle. Many years ago, my mother moved on past sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top to this nutty topping. This is her recipe—except I use less butter in the topping than she did. We like it fine this way.'s really not a souffle but that's what we've always called it. 
    Caramelized Brussel Sprouts. Mommy found this recipe ages ago. Even the non-Brussel sprouts folks usually like this dish. Maybe because the sprouts are shredded and don't look like Brussel sprouts. 
    Baked Pineapple. Another easy side dish with a sweet taste. (Hey, don't judge. We're in the South.) 
    Company Carrots. These carrots are not the typical glazed sweet ones. They are savory. And they easily can slip into the oven along side other dishes. You can even bake them at several oven temps to make it work with the rest of your menu. 
    Cranberry Sauce. This is the recipe Mommy made the year they were far away from home and she made the entire dinner. Now it's a regular recipe for her. 
    Cornbread Dressing. Not my mother's recipe and I haven't made or tasted this one. But both daughters have made it and served it and say it's delicious. 
    Pumpkin Pie Spectacular. I make the most basic of pumpkin pies. But Mommy makes this one and her family loves it. I think their words were, "It's a show stopper!" They are begging for it again this year. 
    Pumpkin Angel Food Cake. Any folks are your table who are health conscious? This might be the dessert for them. If you're an angel food cake fan, this is a perfect fall version. It's easy, too 
    Sweet Potato Biscuits. These are SO good. Even work for the non-biscuit baker (like me) AND they can be made ahead of time and frozen until the day you need them. For Thanksgiving, we just serve them with butter. 
    Blushing Apple Julep. Okay. I've never had this for Thanksgiving, but it would be so good if your day calls for a beverage and a munchie while folks wait for the big dinner.
    Can you tell I'm a whiz at side dishes? And desserts are pretty easy. It's the turkey and dressing and gravy that I've never had to do. Son-in-law has offered to fry our turkey this year. We decided that the cooking process will be our Thanksgiving "activity"—which, if we're lucky, might also produce an entree. (He suggested having a backup turkey in the oven might be wise.) This turkey frying thing might become our new tradition.

    So here's to tradition, both old ones and new ones! That house where we gathered might not be as full of people this Thanksgiving, but it will be just as full of love as ever. It's just that the love is coming from a little further down the road. And I have no doubt that they will feel it.

    These recipes are posted here just as a quick reference if you need ideas for the holiday. And don't forget there are more salads, desserts, appetizers, etc. listed in the Recipe Index at the top of the post. Click on that tab to reach the index. 

    Don't overlook the little search box at the top left of the blog. I use that as often as the index. When I discovered this week that Sweet Potato Souffle was not in the index, and I was positive that I had blogged that recipe, the search box led me straight to the recipe. And it's now safely listed in the index along with its brother and sister side dishes.

    Monday, November 13, 2017


    It wasn't an intentional deception. You just need to understand that I live in a part of the country where a dozen snow flakes falling out of the sky will cause the local TV stations to break out the special weather alert team. And even though those intrepid meteorologists use words like "maybe" and "slight probability" and "conditions could be right", that is enough to send people rushing to the store where the milk case and bread shelves are empty within minutes. Just in case. Because once every few years, there really might be several inches on the ground. So now you know. When I see snow, it is a BIG deal.

    While in the mountains this weekend for the loveliest knitting retreat, we arrived at the building where the knitters gathered each morning and I saw snow. I dropped my knitting gear on a table, grabbed my phone and headed out the back door to make a picture. Then I posted it on Instagram with a one word caption. "Snow!"

    I went back in to find my comfy seat by the fireplace and thought not much more about it. But much later when I checked my phone (cell reception was somewhere between slim and none) I saw messages and comments like, "Are you snowed in?" "Are the roads okay for driving home?" "Oh, how perfect for knitting!" "Isn't this great?" "Lucky've got snow!"

    And I realized people had misunderstood. I posted the part of the photo that was the most fun for me. THIS was the whole photograph...

    The resort was testing their snow making equipment. This is all the snow there was. And it is entirely possible this is all the snow I'll see this winter. So, please forgive my excitement.

    Warning:  When you see a magazine picture, or a post on social media that makes you a little envious of the kitchen/furniture/house/dinner you're admiring, keep this in mind. You are only seeing the part someone wants you to see. Who knows what the whole setting looks like? That gorgeous kitchen may be neat because the junky stuff is behind the camera. The burned rolls are not in the picture. The green grass may have been cropped out of the snow photo. Just remember that. Even if, like me, it wasn't an intentional attempt to distort reality, that is how photo editing works. Have fun admiring, but keep your expectations real.

    The knitting weekend was wonderful. There really wasn't snow on the ground but it was cold enough for rocking chairs by the fire. The quiet whirr of a spinning wheel was our background music. One man who was helping out with the retreat popped in and stood still for a minute. He said "Wow. I can feel the peace in this room." And that's exactly how a retreat should feel.

    Thursday, November 9, 2017

    Winter At Last

    I am almost packed. Leaving shortly for a knitting retreat in the mountains. And just on time, the weather has decided to give us cold temps. We have had a nearly endless summer. There are sunflowers still blooming in our back yard. I can see them as I write this.

    The zinnias were gorgeous right up until Halloween. Then we had our first frost that took care of them. The sunflowers actually bloomed AFTER that frost. Crazy, isn't it.

    But the point is, it has been so long since we've had a winter kind of day that I can't really remember how to pack for cold weather. So I'm taking everything. Besides my suitcase, I have a bag loaded with warm knitted things. Morning temperatures are predicted to be in the 20s. Finally! I get to wear some of what I have knitted. Knowing how fickle Mother Nature has been this year, I put an assortment of shirts in my suitcase. Warm snuggly pullovers. A long sleeve T-shirt. We just never know. At the rate we're going, we may be picking tomatoes when I get home. (Just kidding. That WOULD be crazy!)

    No blog posts for a while. See you soon!

    Monday, November 6, 2017

    Life In Black And White

    Day 1

    I am the last person to jump into any kind of challenge or quiz or game on Facebook or other social media outlets. But when I was tagged last week to participate in this Instagram photo challenge, I started that day. Maybe it was the challenge of making a good black and white photo. It's harder when there are no colors to work with. I had to think about lighting and composition, but without arranging things. I could only change the angle of the photograph. Maybe it was working within the limitations that was the tease. I was instructed to photograph "everyday life"—but without any explanations and without including any people

    It was good fun and I encourage you to make a few black and white photos yourself. (Consider yourself tagged!) If you use Instagram, there are three black & white filters that easily change your normal smart phone photos to black and white. If you are not on Instagram, you'll likely find some B&W options in the photo edit function on your phone. (Still lost? Ask your grandchild for help.) It's a good way to find out more about using your phone as a camera.

    This challenge forces you see your world through "new" eyes. It makes you search for beauty in everyday items or in your everyday life. There are plenty of days when we think nothing special happened. We moan about our dreary days. But there is always something worthy, something beautiful right in front of us. We just have to train ourselves to recognize it. 

    Here are the photos from my "Seven day black & white photos of everyday life challenge. No explanation. No people."  

    Day 2

    Day 3

    Day 4

    Day 5

    Day 6

    Day 7

    If you take this challenge, consider it a way to stretch your brain and stimulate your artistic senses. Make up your own version. A three day challenge works. Or, black & white photos only of people. Share your photos with others. Or not. This is mostly an exercise in creativity. And one simple enough for anyone to do.

    It reminded me of keeping a gratitude journal several years ago. When I was doing that, I started to become more aware of what was around me as I searched for five things to list each day. It is so easy to fall into a rut of the routine. It is easy to give in to the awful things this we see each day on the news. But our world is too full of wonder for us to let that happen. Sometimes we just need a reminder to look for the good, for the beauty in the ordinary.

    I have no words left for addressing another national tragedy. The only words that come to mind come from the Romantic poet William Wordsworth—"The world is too much with us." Today give an extra smile, an extra hug be kind. And take care of yourself.

    Thursday, November 2, 2017

    Be Ye Kind

    Yesterday I made a trip to the brand spanking new grocery story in the town just up the interstate. It's a bigger, fancier replacement store for the one where I often did my weekly grocery shopping. I picked up the three items I needed. Tossed a few BOGO (buy one, get one free) deals into the cart. Then I backtracked to get a pack of slider rolls in the bakery/deli section.

    The grand opening was only a few days ago, so they still had several food sampling stations set up. I bypassed a couple of them but then I saw one that was too good to skip. The plate of samples looked like a plate you might have at a party. It was loaded with goodies. I walked on to find the rolls for dinner and came back to get a plate of the party foods.

    When I came back the lady was preparing a plate for another customer. I wasn't in a hurry so I stood a few steps away and waited. She was carefully telling him about each item as she placed it on the small white plate. Another man stopped and realized this was going to take too long and moved on. I waited. And watched. "Sir, have you ever had brie?" He shook his head no.

    She told him about that cheese and how it was prepared with the apricot topping. She explained how you pronounce muenster cheese and told him that her son called it "monster cheese" when he was little.  She added the several meats and said that one was a new turkey item, flavored slightly with curry. And finally she dipped a fresh strawberry dipped into chocolate dessert hummus. Yes, this was quite the sample plate!

    When the plate was full, she handed it to him and he thanked her politely. Then he shuffled down the next aisle. He was in his mid-40s, wearing a jacket a size or two too large for him. His frayed jeans were not a fashion choice. They were just that worn. He didn't look like this store's typical customers.

    As the man walked away, the food demonstrator, who was wearing the required apron and hairnet, watched him for a couple of seconds and said quietly, "That was a child of God." Then she turned to me and apologized that I had to wait. And she repeated, "That was a child of God."

    I told her that I was in no hurry and that I had appreciated watching her work with such patience.  Another lady who had walked up midway through echoed my reply. The food demonstrator went right back to work making plates for us. Before she started telling us about the meats and cheeses she said, "I am a woman of faith and I know I am here to do this." 

    She didn't mean she was there to hand out plates of deli meat samples to folks who probably buy that brand anyway. She was there to be kind. She was there to recognize the dignity in each shopper. She was there to treat everyone who passed her way with the same respect. This was such a sermon. More powerful than many I've listened to from a pew. She simply lived her faith.

    When I was about three, same age that Baby Girl is now, the very first Bible verse I learned in Sunday school was "be ye kind." We would put our little hands together, then open them like a book and say, "I open my Bible book and ye kind." A year or so later, we added a few more words. "Be ye kind one to another."

    And this store employee did exactly that. Goodness knows this world could use more kindness.

    Ephesians 4:32

    “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.”
    King James Version (KJV)

    Tuesday, October 31, 2017

    Feed Your Children Well

    Grilled Chicken w/Roasted Tomatoes & Onion

    It was a win/win kind of evening. On our weekend visit, Daddy-O and I sat in the floor and played a board game with the granddaughters while Mommy cooked supper. I didn't lift a finger in the kitchen and Mommy got to cook without interruptions for once. A treat for all of us.

    This family tries really hard to eat whole, healthy foods. They do their best to skip over things like box mac and cheese and frozen tater tots. Instead of those refrigerated "meals" labeled in yellow and aimed at kids, they get mom-made lunches, still in a box with compartments, but filled with fresh fruit, finger-sized vegetables and whole grain breads or crackers and maybe homemade chicken strips. Meals with prizes that come in bags are just an occasional treat. At home they aim for real foods. The kind that requires peeling and chopping. And they read labels carefully to choose "packaged" foods, like breads, yogurts and cereals, with the shortest list of ingredients.

    When she started out in the kitchen as a new bride, about all Mommy could make quesadillas. But over the years she's developed solid cooking skills. She still needs easy recipes now—not because she lacks the skills, but she often lacks time. Like all mommies, there are a zillion things that need to be done and a half-zillion places to go every day. Thankfully she has found many delicious, easy to prepare recipes. Recipes that her family likes. It doesn't matter how "healthy" it is if they won't eat it.

    Little kitchen helper.

    Even with the best intentions, these little folks live in the real world, so they will encounter those "other" foods at school and birthday parties and field trips and such. They just know that those foods aren't everyday foods for them. And there are even days at home when just getting any food on the table is a miracle.

    A realistic goal is the 80/20 rule. It's one I've seen others use. Aim for 80% good whole food. The other 20% you don't worry about so much. Notice I said "AIM." We all do the best we can. And like my own mother would say, "You can't do better than your best." If a box of mac and cheese is the best you can do, then go with it. I used to serve that with a hot dog cut up in it. We all have those kind of days.

    Mommy called us to the table just as our board game was over. (Baby Girl won!) Supper smelled good cook as it was cooking, so we were ready to eat. This recipe is one of Mommy's best. Easy to prepare. Beautiful when it comes to the table. And totally delicious.


    2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
    1 medium onion, sliced (red or white onion works equally well)
    4 large garlic cloves
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
    salt & pepper, to taste
    olive oil for coating pan
    4 or 5 thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken cutlets 
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

    Combine tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, herbs de Provence and salt & pepper in a medium bowl. Stir to coat veggies. Spread onto a lightly oiled sheet pan. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until tomatoes have softened and onion is a little brown.

    Meanwhile, season both sides of chicken with salt & pepper. Cook in oiled grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat until done. 

    To serve, spoon vegetables over cooked chicken. Garnish with fresh basil.

    Just a note about how this approach to foods can influence a child. When Little Sister (she's now in first grade) was here this summer for Mimi Camp, we were out taking flowers to friends and I asked if she would like to have lunch out. She said to me, "I'd really like a salad. Is there a place we could get salads? I'd like one with olives and chick peas." So we stopped by the large grocery store with a good salad bar and make salads to take home. Not what I had in mind, but it was a perfect choice. Mommy, you are doing a good job!

    Happy Halloween!