Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Our Thankful Tree

One of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions is our Thankful Tree.  We started this a few years back with the kids and it is always a lot of fun.  We just used colored paper, scissors and tape.  We cut the trunk in sections and taped it together on the hall closet door. Then we cut out lots of curvy branches and taped them on wherever we felt like it. This year we printed out leaves onto the colored paper using this template.  It turned out to be a little tricky cutting all the points and curves, but we managed.  We made a little woven basket out of leftover paper strips and put the leaves, a marker and some tape in it and hung it on the door knob.  As we think of things we are thankful for, we write them on the leaves and tape them to the tree.  It's not the most perfect looking craft, but that's ok.  It was made with lots of loving, thankful little hands and to me it's the most beautiful tree in the world.

Friday, November 16, 2012


photo from

 I have always been bothered by the fact that everyone seems to skip straight from Halloween to Christmas.  This year, the Christmas stuff was in the stores even before Halloween!  Ridiculous.  I never understood why.  Then it struck me... a holiday that focuses on being thankful for what one has just doesn't fit into the modern excessive consumer mentality.  There is nothing for the companies to market.  No costumes, candy, lights, trees, presents, etc.  It is the one holiday that doesn't revolve around spending a lot of money.  It's about good, home cooked food, not buckets of candy.  It's about spending time with your friends and family, not spending tons of money on gifts for everyone and their brother.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas... the real Christmas.  Not the capitalistic, commercialized, consumer driven version it has evolved into.  But Thanksgiving is simply this... giving thanks.  So simple, so beautiful.  In this country we live in where we are constantly being bombarded with messages that what we have is not good enough, big enough, or new enough, how important is it to have that one day to reflect.  To choose to disregard all those lies and focus on what really matters.  To realize how truly blessed we are.  To realize we have all that we need and more.  I hope that maybe some of us will slow down and really think about Thanksgiving this year.  Maybe choose to have a different perspective of the coming Christmas season.  And most of all, remember to be thankful.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sweet-n-Spicy Popcorn

Popcorn and movies are some of those things that were just meant to be together.  But I've been getting tired of the plain old butter and salt version.  I recently saw a cooking show with a girl making unusual flavored popcorn and it inspired me to create my own.  I wanted something sweet with just a hint of spice.  I came up with this, and it was just the twist the popcorn needed.

Sweet-n-Spicy Popcorn

 What You Need:

1/4 c. unpopped kernels
2 T. butter
2 T. honey
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/16 tsp. cayenne powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt

What You Do:

Pop your popcorn, using either the kettle or air pop method.  
Please don't use microwave popcorn, you will make me cry. 

We got this cool popcorn maker for Christmas last year, so that is what I use.

While your corn is popcorn, melt the butter and honey.
Ok, so I did cheat here and melt it in the microwave in a Pyrex measuring cup.
Hey, I'm not perfect.

Stir in the cinnamon and cayenne until completely mixed.
Trust me, you don't want to bite into any cayenne clumps.
I only used a pinch of cayenne, 
but of course you can increase it if you like it hotter.

Now put your popcorn in your serving bowl and drizzle the 
sweet and spicy mixture all over the popcorn and toss to coat. 
Sprinkle with the sea salt and toss again.

That's it! So simple and really tasty.
It serves up to 4, if you're being reasonable. 
Of course I'm never reasonable with popcorn and could easily eat it all myself  :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cat in the Box

 Our darling girl, Pepper

So stinking cute!

Crocheted Owl Hand Bag

Well, I was trying to use up some leftover yarn I had in cream, brown and blue.  I decided to make a handbag.  Then I thought how cute it would be to make an owl.  Then, alas, too late I realized that the owl belonged on a green and cream handbag.  So away to the store I went to buy some green yarn. *sigh*  I think it's super cute, even if I did defeat the purpose of using up my yarn.  Oh well, I will find a project for the blue, I'm sure...

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I have been trying to exercise (bleck!) so I've been walking to pick up the kids this week.  Boy, is it hot out there!  When we got home today, I decided to make some smoothies to cool us down.  Smoothies are super simple to make, and very healthy if you don't add a lot of sugar, or even ice cream (that's a milkshake, IMO) like some recipes say.  Now I would like to give you measurements on this, but I don't ever measure it.  But it always turns out right in the end!

What You Need

a couple cups of frozen fruit-
strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, etc.
Today I had strawberries and peaches.

1 or 2 bananas-
depending on how much you like bananas...

1/2 cup or so of yogurt- 
I just put a big blop of it in.
Pretty much any kind will do.  
I like plain greek yogurt as it doesn't have any sweeteners or artificial nastiness.

orange juice or milk-
I just add a hefty splash to it, and if it's looking too thick while blending, I add a little more.
I prefer OJ in my smoothies because you're already getting a dose of dairy form the yogurt, 
but today I didn't have any, so milk it was.

honey (optional)-
I find if you use a pre-sweetened yogurt you don't need to add any sweetener.  Today I used plain yogurt and it was a little tart so I added some honey

What You Do

Here's the super hard part- put it all in the blender and press the button!
I have to stir it around a bit to help the blender out, but it only takes a minute or two for it to all come together.

Delicious refreshing smoothies!

And BTW, are these mugs not the cutest things ever?

Friday, August 17, 2012


 After years of tomato failures we finally have success!  Beautiful, luscious, juicy tomatoes!  Okay, heirloom tomatoes never really look beautiful, but they taste it.  I planted 6 Brandywines, thinking that was a modest amount.  Well we now have 6 tomato "trees" with hundreds of fruits.  Salsas and sauces and soups, oh my!  At this point were just eating them straight off the vine for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Yay for homegrown tomatoes!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mac & Cheese & Peas

Mac & Cheese is a favorite here for Meatless Mondays.  And of course it has to be homemade!  I have experimented for years to get a good cheese sauce and by golly I think I've finally found it.  Mmm, Cheese Sauce.  Liquid gold, it's been called, and I must agree.  Add pasta of any kind and it's called foodie heaven.

Mac & Cheese & Peas

What you Need:

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
2 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 lb. elbow pasta
1/2 lb. frozen peas

What You Do:

Fill large pot with water and a handful of salt.
Cover and bring to boil.
While water is coming to a boil-
In medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat.
Whisk in flour and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly.
Add milk slowly, whisking to combine.
Add salt and pepper.
Cook over medium-high heat until thick and creamy, stirring frequently.
 While sauce is thickening-
Add pasta to boiling water and cook for one minute less than package directions.
When sauce has thickened, remove saucepan from heat and add cream cheese.
Stir until cream cheese has melted, then add cheddar cheese in 4 batches.
Stir until cheese has completely melted between each addition.
When pasta timer goes off, add frozen peas to pasta and water and boil for one more minute.
Drain and dump back in pot.
Add all that glorious cheese sauce and stir until well combined.

If it's not Meatless Monday, add cooked crumbled bacon...
Or add cubed ham and substitute broccoli for the peas...

With cheese and pasta, the possibilities are endless...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Easy Homemade Guacamole

I've never understood people who don't like avocados.  Who could resist such cool creamy deliciousness?  And of course, you can't talk about avocados without mentioning guacamole.  Yum.  I have to admit, it's my favorite part of eating Mexican food.  Before I got into cooking from scratch, I always made guacamole with the packet of seasoning you get in the produce section right next to the avocados.  That was homemade, right?  I never even knew there was any other option.  But real homemade guacamole is so easy and SO much tastier.  Once you learn how to make it, you will never touch those packets again!


What You Need:

2 medium ripe avocados
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. lime or lemon juice

What You Do:

Put all ingredients in a bowl.
Mash them up thoroughly with a fork.
Cover and chill for 30 min.
Enjoy with homemade tortilla chips!

It's really that simple. And so delicious!  The recipe can easily be doubled for more people. If you prefer a smoother texture, a stick blender works very well.  Most of the time I'm too lazy to pull it out, so I just use a fork.  Besides, the little chunks of avocado make it more rustic :)

This recipe freezes well, so when all those really ripe avocados go on sale, you can whip up a giant batch and freeze it in individual portions.  I use the 8 oz. wide mouth mason jars.  Just defrost in the fridge the day before you need it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Night Cookies

I just made these tonight and they are so good I had to share!

Apricot Spice Cookies


1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. rolled oats
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 c. butter
1/2 c. organic cane sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. honey
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. finely chopped dried apricots


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine flours, oats, spices, salt, baking soda and powder. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
  • Beat in vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture and beat until well combined.
  • Stir in apricots.
  • Scoop spoonfuls of dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.
  • Let set on baking sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack 
Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on how much dough you eat ;)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Endings and Beginnings

It's funny how life can totally change.  You think you know the future for miles ahead.  Then suddenly everything's different.  Last fall, due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to abandon our home of 9 years and move across town to a rental home.  I admit, the extra space has been nice (900 sq ft to 2100 sq ft), but the cost- financially  (the high rent), of losing property therefore garden space (1/3 acre to a postage size lot) and moving from county to city ( losing my chickens) has been very hard on me.  Add in the stress of going to school full-time while managing the move and being mama to 3 boys, and I have pretty much been depleted, exhausted, depressed, stressed, etc. for the last 5-6 months.  There were way too many days of unnecessary shopping, eating fast food, using paper plates and paper towels, and pretty much living and doing everything I stand against.  It felt horrible and I knew I had to pull myself together.  While coming to grips with my new living situation I've realized that I am going to have to master that old adage of being happy regardless of circumstances.  I've figured that I can squeeze in some herbs here and there amongst the flower beds and maybe even try growing some veggies in pots on the deck.  Meanwhile I can support my local farmers by shopping at the Farmer's Market and the Saturday Grower's Market when the season starts.  I have scrounged together all the canvas bags I could find in a determination to stop using paper and plastic bags from the store.  I'm getting back into shopping the sales and cooking from scratch as much as possible.  Another blessing has been having the space to create my own sewing/craft room.  I am hoping that I will be able to make many homemade projects and gifts when time allows.  And hopefully I will have more time as well.  After much consideration, I have dropped some of my classes and decided to spread my program out over 2 years instead of 1.  While this will cost more, I think that I need to be able to focus more of my time and energy at home and on my kids.  So, all in all, while this has been a very difficult season in my life, I think it will all work out for good.  Though the growing and stretching may not always be pleasant, I trust that I will find many surprising moments of happiness and new opportunities along the way of this new journey.