Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Aunt Faye and Menu Monday (Tuesday?)

My sisters and I went to visit our Aunt Faye today. She is 89. She and Aunt Betty are the only remaining members in that generation of my mom's family. They were married to two of my mom's brothers.

She is such a fun lady. She gets forgetful which is to be expected since there is no one around her regularly to talk about the family. She kept thinking my older sister was my mom, then would correct herself and asked if mom was still living. When we would say no she would say "I thought she had died". One time she said she knew that, she had been at her funeral.

We took her a quilt from Quilts for Seniors, an online charity group that I belong to. They make quilts for senior citizens. The quilts are made with cross-stitch squares and all but 2 of the stitched squares on Faye's quilt were done by family members. She was so happy to get it and we went over each square and who stitched it. I left her a list of the stitchers and how they were related so she could 'digest' it (as she said). Here is Aunt Faye with her beautiful quilt.

The square I stitched is near the lower right corner of the photo. It is a teddy bear made to look like a hairdresser with a blow dryer in one hand and a comb in the other. Aunt Faye was a hairdresser. She would often bring along her scissors and cut Mom's hair when they came to visit.

The top row of the quilt is photo squares that Aunt Faye's granddaughter made for the quilt. One photo is of Aunt Faye's only child, my cousin Dean, who died several years ago. The other two pictures are of Aunt Faye's great-grandson, Ryan, who turned one earlier this month. He was born about 3 months premature (less than 3 pounds) and was in the neonatal intensive care for a couple months but was able to go home to mom and dad close to the original due date.

Well, I did not post a Monday Menu - so here is a Tuesday menu. This week will be a little different with all the leftovers from our family get-together and the holiday mid-week. I need to get back to cooking regular meals but at least I have not gained a lot of weight over the holidays. I had even lost 0.5 pounds when I weighed this morning. Of course, with going to Bandanas for lunch today (delicious Granny Smith apple pie!) and then having guests on New Year's Eve I may not be able to say the same thing next week.

Monday - leftovers

Tuesday - Potato pancakes ( I make these like my mom used to with leftover mashed potatoes. The recipe is below)

Wednesday - Sandwiches and party food

Thursday - Crock pot chicken (So you forgot to defrost!)
Honey grain rolls
Pasta House salad

Friday - Salad
Ham and asparagus lasagne - ( I use a 9 x 13 inch pan with 9 lasagne noodles and double the rest of the ingredients. I make 2 layers of everything starting with the noodles and ending with the mozzarella cheese. I also put just a tablespoon or so of the sauce in the bottom of the pan before placing the first layer of noodles. I cut mine into 12 servings. I like this when I have leftover ham. I have made it with only ham and no asparagus and with only asparagus when I did not have the ham and they are all good.)

Saturday - Philly Steak Pizza
Carrots and celery

Sunday - Italian beef on roll (I have some in the freezer)
Ramen cole slaw

Potato Pancakes - the amounts of the ingredients will depend on how many
leftover mashed potatoes you have to work with. The amounts listed below are approximately what I used tonight.
2 cups mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour (more or less - see directions below)
1/2 cup leftover corn, drained (optional)
Leftover ham or pork sausage link (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the potatoes, egg and flour until well blended. Use enough flour to make a thick batter, similar to muffin batter. Stir in corn and/or meats if available. Most times we had these without the corn and meat. They are good either way.
Spray large skillet liberally with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat until hot. Spoon a couple tablespoons of potato batter in circular mounds in the skillet. Let brown (edges will appear dry) and then flip and brown the other side. Serve warm - my family likes ketchup on them but I like them just as they are.

Since I added the corn and sausage tonight this was a meal-in-one. Usually these are served as a side dish.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Here are just some random comments and photos -

We re-decorated the hall bathroom which the girls and our guests use. It was a creamy yellow and the previous owners had gotten paint on the ceiling and trim when painting so we have been wanting to repaint anyway. One weekend in November DD17 was away at a youth retreat and since DD19 was at college I suggested we work on the bathroom since they would not have to share our master bath.

I 'sort of' knew what I wanted so went to the local Walmart and looked at shower curtains. I found one I liked and went from there. I matched the paint (Gray Lilac) to a flower in the curtain. I purchased towels and rugs to match the stems in the curtain.
We added the cabinet above the toilet, a towel bar near the tub and the knobs on the vanity - plus replaced the plain flat panel mirror with a framed mirror.
The weekend project took a week but we love it and got lots of compliments from the family yesterday. DD17 did not like it (she doesn't like unexpected changes) but DD19 loves it.

Here are a few pictures from Christmas morning. DH is trying to decide what he will do with an air compressor- I have a few ideas for him.

Buddy is calmly watching while DD17 opens a present.

DD19 opens her camera.

DD19 and boyfriend display their new hoodies (presents to each other).

We had a great time yesterday- 37 people and 3 were under 2 years old. We had LOTS of food and especially LOTS of desserts. After the meal we played games and just visited, getting caught up on family members and getting to know some of the recent additions. We sure have a good time joking around and teasing each other.
Eight of the family members spent the night so they could play games until after midnight. There were several new games received as Christmas presents so we had to try them out and there were some old standbys. One that I like is "What If" ( it is easy to play with any number of people - plus you only need paper and pencils)

"WHAT IF" directions.

Each person takes a small square of paper and writes a "What if" statement. Then fold the paper twice and hand them to the player who is designated as the leader. The leader passes the folder paper back to the player. If a player gets her own paper, she should hand it back to the leader and get another. The players now write a response to the "What if" question. Once again the paper is folded and handed to the leader. The leader hands a paper to each player. This time it doesn't matter if a player gets a paper on which she has written a question or answer. Player One reads the "What If" question from the paper, Player Two reads the answer (which most likely does not match up with the question but can be very funny. Play continues around the table with one player reading the "What If" question and the next player reading the response for a different question.
Some times the answers actually make sense - but usually they are just silly.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Family Get-together

Today is our family Christmas gathering. This is for my siblings, their children and grand-children - and tag-alongs like DD19's boyfriend. I am one of 7 children (6 are living).

A tradition that started in 1977 is to make ornaments for everyone in the family and any 'guests' that celebrate with us. This year we made ceramic stars, stamped with the City of David Stampin' Up stamp using Staz-on ink. Here is a picture of the whole group or 40. Potentially 39 of the 40 recipients could be here today.

Here is a closer shot showing all the colors. We had blue, green, orange, sepia and blazing red (which was more hot pink when we used it on the ornaments.

I chose to not hang them on the mantel or tree since we have marble tiles in that area and one little slip would mean a broken ornament. This was one of the easiest projects we have done. Our previous ornaments can be viewed at Webshots. The three sisters are 'in charge' of this and usually do the work. Several years other family members have helped out with their individual talents. Everyone looks forward to this little 'surprise' when we gather together.

My sisters and I made this over a "Sisters' Weekend" in Chicago. Here are my sisters working hard. One is stamping the ornaments and the other is inspecting them to make sure there are not smudges or blurry spots. Some of the ornaments had little dimples in the glaze which made the stamping a little more challenging.

This shows the ornaments drying before we packed them away.

These were by far one of the simplest ornament projects. This only took a couple hours so we had plenty of time to play games and watch movies.

Some years we spend the whole 12 months stitching in order to complete the ornaments in time. The only 'easier' years were when someone else took a turn. We already have plans for the next 2 years and both will be something we can do on a "Sisters' Weekend" (But I can't post anything here as some family members might read it and that would spoil the surprise)


What a fun day! We 'girls' met at my niece's apartment and my sister, Jane, taught us some new tricks using the scallop punch and the Sizzix. She is a Stampin' Up 'enabler' and I sure want to buy a Sizzix. Of course, being a non-conformist and also getting ahead of myself I usually come away with different cards than anyone else. I don't always take my time and miss a step so then I have to improvise :-)

Here are photos of the prototype and my 'variations' on each one. The protoypes are on the right in the photos.
Actually, the 'prototype' for this one was made by DD17. I didn't even make one like it.
On the center top card, I used the new punch/embosser that I got at Michael's with a 50% off coupon (of course, I spent much more than I saved on the punch :-)

On this one I just used a different color on the love birds- this is a valentine.

I love the heart stamps and coordinating punch. I stamped the word LOVE inside my variation.

I kept forgetting to add the ribbon before taping the card front to the card- so had to pull it off - on the second one I just improvised instead of trying to pull it off. I like it too.

We also made little boxes using an envelope Sizzix die-cut that has a pretty scalloped edge. I wanted to use some of my own ribbons for 2 of them so they are not completed.

I can't wait to get busy making some more cards of my own now :-)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

We had a good day - the girls loved all their gifts, even the 'surprise' ones that were not on their lists. DH likes the air compressor - just a little uncertain about what all he can do with it. I'm sure he will find all sorts of uses for it once he learns the ropes.

We went to DH's parents and had a good time. I took the bread pudding - quite a story there. I doubled the recipe and after I got it all mixed up in the crock pot was jotting down the recipe so I could post it here. I realized I did not double the milk - so stirred in 2 more cups. Then noticed the melted margarine was still sitting on the stove - so had to add that also. I turned on the crockpot and after about 1 1/2 hours checked it (was to cook on high for 1 hour then on low for 3-4 hours). I had turned it on Warm instead of High originally - so now what??? I turned it up to High and left it there for at least an hour. The recipe said to let it cook until it reached 160 degrees. So I kept checking that. I turned it down to Low after about 2 hours as the edges were getting too dark. When we had to leave it was around 150 degrees but after it sat in the trunk on the hour long ride it was close to 160 so we called it done. Everyone liked it - especially DH's brother who had never had it before and wanted to try it - that was the whole reason I made it today. Oh- and while making the syrup for it I couldn't remember if I put all the water into the pan either. It looked like I did (1 cup versus 2 cups) so DD19 and I figured I must have. Must have had way too much on my mind this morning - it certainly was not on cooking :-)

Here is the recipe:

8 slices bread (raisin bread works well)
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup raisins (1/4 cup if you use raisin bread)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Spray the crockpot with vegetable oil spray. Cut bread into cubes or tear into small pieces and place in crockpot. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over bread. Stir to mix. Cook on High for 1 hour and then on Low for 3-4 hours until thermometer placed in center reads 160 degrees.

2 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Melt margaring in saucepan. Stir in flour until smooth. Gradually add water, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 2 minutes). Serve over warm bread pudding.

I had to leave the in-laws early to run back home then to the airport to pick up my sister who is visiting for a few days. I stopped at home and threw together some soups from mixes- Tortilla Soup and Creamy Wild Rice Soup for a light supper tonight. My sister's plane was actually early so I parked, walked into the terminal, walked right back out with her and then took off again. We had soup and salad for supper- which was just right after the big meal earlier.

DD19's boyfriend and 2 sisters are here playing Sing-It which was a gift for DD17. It sounds like a fun game - I'll have to try it when they are not around. You sing along to a song and it 'scores' you based on whether you are on key or not. Sounds like a good way to train your ear and voice. Of course, I don't want an audience when I try it. :-)

Snow Village and Christmas Tree

Here are some pictures of my snow village and our Christmas tree.
Hope you enjoy looking at them.

Christmas morning - the stockings were stuffed!
Our ornaments are a group of handmade ones from the girls school and Girl Scout days, dated Hallmark collections and the family ornament tradition (I'll post about that after the 28th as I don't want to spoil the surprise for any family members who read the blog) DD17 put the ornaments on this year. I tried to leave some room for DD19 to add some of hers but she thought it was already full. I did manage to squeeze a few of hers on the tree too. I may have to put up a second tree somewhere else in the house just to be able to use more of our ornaments. At least when the girls move out and take their ornaments we will have plenty of our own to use. I'll have to post about our dated Hallmark ornaments too - another day!

My snow village is an eclectic set of houses. Three are from It's A Wonderful Life, one is a hand finished piece that my mom purchased from a friend of hers as Christmas presents for all the children one year, and one is just a cute pastry shop I found at Walmart many years ago. The figurines are mostly Department 56 Snow Village. Some are gypsum figurines that I painted long before marriage and kids. I got most of the Department 56 items on E-Bay. This year I am adding 2 pieces - one has not arrived yet as I just found it a couple days ago.

Above is the pastry shop (Maria's) and the Christmas pageant figurine.

Next down the street is a lady and 3 girls going to ballet class. Behind them are 2 boys - the older is pulling the younger on a sled. And we continue down the street to Gower's Drugstore.

In front of Gower's we have a little boy and his mother taking his piggy bank for his first deposit (some day maybe I will have the Bailey Savings and Loan building to go with this figurine). There is also a child in a sleigh yelling "Skate faster, Mommy!" The man on the park bench in front of Gower's is a new piece this year. He is actually from the Heritage Village and is a little smaller than the others but I fell in love with him - it is called "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman".

And on down the street is 320 Sycamore - the home of George and Mary Bailey. The huge snowman is actually a Christmas ornament that I added to the snow village before I had so many figurines and now he just stays there. To the right is a man and child snow-blowing - I chose that figurine because my dad's business which is now owned by a brother sells snow-blowers and lawn mowers.

Here we have the Hatch home from It's A Wonderful Life. The couple kissing is also one that I painted. Maybe it is George and Mary ? The paper route figurines ( 2 boys and the dalmation) were a must-have since we all grew up delivering papers. We would deliver the Globe in the morning before school and the Post in the afternoon. We either rode our bikes or Dad took us and we stood on the running boards of the truck (you don't see those any more). Later he drove the car and one of us (usually the girl) would sit between him and the driver's door and the other child would sit in the passenger seat. The person sitting on the side of the car where the paper was being delivered would get out and toss the paper on the porch - except weekend papers were too thick to be folded so we had to walk up to the porch with those.

And this is the church that started the whole village. The fugurines to the left are "Here We Come A-Caroling" The tree is part of a set of three (the other two are by the Hatch home and Gower's drug store) that I painted. So is the snowman and tree on the end.

I hope you liked your walk through my village. It changes every year!

Christmas Morn

Instead of A Christmas Carol we wound up watching A Christmas Story last night and I dozed on and off throughout so went to bed at 10:30. Woke up at 3 a.m. and was still awake at 4 a.m. (thinking about how we are going to arrange all the card tables and chairs on Sunday to seat 30+ people - it always works out so why do I fret :-) - so I got up. I cleaned out the freezer in the kitchen to make room for the slush (recipe below) that the nieces are all wanting me to make for our gathering on Sunday. Now I have room for that AND the peppermint ice cream for sister Carol.

I filled the stockings, took some pictures (which I will post later) and put on my Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD's. (I got one in my stocking - Morning Frost) I am just sitting here in the light of the Christmas tree listening to their beautiful music. How peaceful!
Buddy (our beagle) is curled up on the couch asleep. He is usually gated in the kitchen so it is a real treat for him to be out. Louie (our cat) is in the basement and must be sound asleep. Usually as soon as he hears someone up and about he is meowing at the basement door wanting his food. If you saw him you would see how much food means to him. He weighs 22 pounds! He was up to 25 and the vet put him on a diet. He doesn't like that - he really likes his food.

I have 2 Butter Braids thawing for breakfast. If you have never had Butter Braids you should try them. They are wonderful pastries that are sold as fundraisers. They come frozen - hard as a brick- and you thaw them overnight then just pop in the oven. There is a small packet of icing that you drizzle over the top. We love the cream cheese one but DD19's boyfriend doesn't care for cream cheese and prefers the cinnamon one so we had to try it last year. So now we have one of each :-) On the website they show a bavarian cream with chocolate icing that looks wonderful! I may have to order one of those the next time someone is selling them. Usually someone at work brings in an order form for their child's fundraiser. I don't buy many things that way but never pass up the butter braids - yum yum!

I will make a fresh fruit salad (well fresh for the most part) using a can or two of mandarin oranges and adding bananas and apples. I strated making that when the girls were little. They loved mandarin oranges and if we had some apples and/or bananas that had been around a while I would mix them in. It is still a favorite for the whole family. I'll fry up some turkey bacon and I found some frozen sausage patties in the freezer when I cleaned it. Some time in the past, I had a pound of pork sausage and went ahead and made it all into patties and cooked them all at once - freezing what I did not need - thinking I would grab one every now and then for a quick breakfast sandwich on a slice of bread. But they were under other things in the freezer so forgot they were there.

1 large can pineapple juice
2 cups Tang instant drink powder
3 quarts water

Mix all together in a 5 - 6 quart container (the large plastic ice cream buckets work well - I don't think a gallon would be large enough though). Place in freezer. Take out and stir well every hour or so. When slushy serve in cups - kids love it!
If left in the freezer too long it will freeze into a huge popsicle. You can still serve it but scraping - but I hate that so I make the kids (most are in their 20's now) scrap it themselves.
If you have an ice shaver you could also freeze some in the smaller containers and shave it to make a flavored snow cone.

We first had this slush at sister Jane's wedding (1980). It was so popular that Mom made it for many family gatherings. Whenever we gather for some event at our house the nieces and nephews (mostly nieces) beg me to make it. One year we took a picture of all the kids with their orange tongues and lips - a side effect of eating the slush.

You can also make it using kool-aid in place of the Tang. Use a 2 quart size packet of sweetened Kool-Aid in place of the Tang. We made seafoam green one year for VBS - the stories were based on Jonah and we used an ocean theme. By substituting Blueberry Kool-Aid for the Tang it made a nice bluish-green color.

Now I am getting sleepy again - but it is time to get started on the bread pudding! The girls plan on getting up at 8 a.m. to open presents - but I know one will be up long before that :-) I'm surprised DD17 has not ventured down yet. She usually is not a sound sleeper and wakes if anyone else is up. She gets so excited about checking her stocking and opening the presents. I love her child-like joy!

Joy to the World - the Lord has come! May you have a blessed Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ready for Christmas

Well, I'm ready for Christmas! I finished the gingerbread garlands on Monday evening and if I do say so myself they look pretty neat. I worked today but as the 'boss' was leaving at 10 am he told everyone to try to get out of there early - so I left at 11:30. It was really slow and I had been there since 6:30 so I put in a good day. I stopped at Walmart to pick up a few things - didn't seem that crowded unless you were near the kids clothes or toys. The parking lot was horrible - there were plenty of parking spaces but the lines of cars leaving the parking lot were blocking all the lanes. Fortunately a nice young girl was letting a lot of people in front of her so I got out fairly quickly. I bet the people behind her were getting frustrated!

When I got home I wrapped a couple presents so I could finally put away all the wrapping paper and supplies. Then I baked sugar cookies - I cheated this year and bought the dough because I knew I would not get them mixed up myself. DH17 and I frosted them just a little while ago (Rhonda- I used your frosting recipe - that's my favorite!) We did about 2 dozen of them to take to DH's parents' house tomorrow. They are all in white frosting with red and green sugars and sprinkles. The rest of the cookies (I baked 6 dozen total) are packed in a tin and the frosting is in the frig. I can decorate a couple dozen as needed over the next week and they will look 'fresh'.

We will go to the Christmas Eve candlelight service tonight at 6 pm and then back home to open one present each - PJ's of course. My DH's family always gave new PJ's on Christmas Eve so we have carried on that tradition. I think that way they knew the boys would all have matching PJ's for the Christmas morning pictures. This year I got fleece ones for the girls and I. Snoopy for DH19, Tinker Bell for DH17 and Frosty the Snowman for me. DH would love something like that but I couldn't find them in adult male sizes. Last year I got him Simpsons sleep pants and he loved them.

After that we will all put on our new PJ's and watch A Christmas Carol. We always did that when the girls were little and they would camp out on our bedroom floor. That way I would know when they had fallen asleep and it was safe to put out their presents. Now I just get up early to let the dog out (5-6 am) and they are both still asleep. Have to fill their stockings but the presents are all out around the tree.

Tomorrow we will go to DH's parents house. His dad has been in the hospital but was to get home today. I am taking bread pudding (crockpot recipe) , a lettuce salad and the cookies. I had some brown sugar and cinnamon bread in the freezer that I am using for the bread pudding. After eating and presents, I will leave to pick up my sister at the airport. She will be here until 12/30 - our family Christmas get-together will be Sunday 12/28.

Time to get ready for church -- how appropriate to start our festivities with the church service - after all Jesus is the real reason for the season :-)
Joy and Blessings to All - Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Menu Monday

Well, it is Monday so time to post the menus for the week. I did not keep to the menus a lot last week but still did okay - held my own weight-wise even though I actually dipped down and was back up a little this morning. At least I am not gaining with all the parties and goodies at work and church.
Monday - homemade pizza (froze some crusts from a couple weeks ago so this will be a breeze)

Tuesday - Cheeseburger Casserole
Green beans

Wednesday - Easy Rosemary Shrimp
Baked Potato
Mandarin Oranges

Thursday - Salad
Bread pudding

Friday - Pork sausage
Mashed potatoes and gravy
Green Beans

Saturday - General Tsao's Chicken (WW recipe)
Stir fried vegetables

Sunday - Family Get-together - ham

On Christmas Day we will go to DH's parents. DH's youngest brother mentioned a couple weeks ago that he had never had bread pudding so I offered to make him some for Christmas. He thought that sounded like a good idea. I have a good crock pot recipe for it and the lemon sauce.
On Friday we will have our traditional pork sausage and gravy dinner for my older sister. Every time she comes to visit us in the Midwest we have pork sausage and gravy so we can eat gravy bread.
Sunday will be my family's Christmas get-together at our house this year. I will cook the ham and make some dinner rolls and everyone else will bring the side dishes. That evening we will have sandwiches and chips - and leftovers from lunch. Several family members are planning to spend the night so I plan to make waffles and breakfast sausage the next morning. I doubt I will keep my weight where it is now but I know I can make up for that after the new year. My mini-goal was to not gain any weight over the holidays and I have actually lost a couple pounds so I figure I can gain a couple and still achieve my goal :-)

I'll leave you with a picture of tree #3 in our home. This is in DD#2's bedroom.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ornaments for Charity

I am a moderator for the Yahoo group CSFC (Cross-stitching for Charity). We do counted fross stitch items for many charities. One of our recent projects was stitching ornaments for The Busy Needle cross stitch shop's Diabetes Tree. They set up a tree in their shop to display donated ornaments and all money from the sale of the ornaments goes to local groups to help purchase diabetic supplies.
We sent over 45 ornaments. Some of the CSFC members finished the ornaments themselves while others sent me the cross-stitch square and I finished the ornament. I put music buttons in some of them.

These are the ones I stitched. I used a couple Frosty the Snowmen buttons, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Joy to the World and Jingle Bells music buttons.

You can see more ornaments and all ofour projects at CSFC Webshots

Gingerbread Kitchen

I have finished one of the gingerbread garlands for the kitchen windows so have taken some photos of my gingerbread kitchen. I have the 'men' finished for all 3 garlands so should be able to get them done by Christmas.

Here are closeups of portions of the garland. The only part I had to purchase were the buttons. I had the felt from some washable felt vests that I made several years ago and the ribbon is some I have had for years. I think a red ribbon would look nice so only pinned the gingerbread men to the gold ribbon for now. I may change it next year.

This is the tree I have decorated with gingerbread type ornaments. Above the pantry is an open ledge that is pretty well useless except to store large items (if you don't mind them sitting in view of everyone). There are no power outlets near there - so no lights on this tree (I guess I could buy a strand of battery lights but I like it the way it is for now.
The larger gingerbread men are wooden candle holders. The white and brown striped one is a gingerbread man shaped jar filled with the ingredients for ginger cookies. I got it several years ago from a friend and have never baked them. I don't have the recipe that was attached so will probably never make them. Some day I plan to put a string of lights in the jar or just crumpled brown paper.

This is a closer view of the tree. The wooden
gingerbread candle holders are a set that
I painted over 20 years ago (pre-marriage) .
The ornaments have been collected over the
years. Some are from my collection of dated
Hallmark ornaments , some are from our
family ornaments and some are just ones
I had. I did not set out to collect them but
had quite a few when I decided to do the
gingerbread tree the first year we were in
this house.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Presents under the tree

Well, I got the first present wrapped and under the tree. DD#2 is anxiously waiting for more to appear. She says it doesn't look Christmasy without presents - but she just wants to see how many she has. The one that is there is for her dad and it is too big to go under the tree so it is sitting beside the tree.
DD#1 turned 19 today. She is busy taking her semester finals at college and will head home tomorrow. I had purchased a DVD set she wanted when it was on sale at Target and tonight when I went to wrap it I couldn't find it. I was sure I had it hidden in my closet - among the Christmas presents - but could not find it. I had to take everything off the shelf, pulled out all my shoes and there it was. It had fallen on the floor and was shoved back behind my shoes. I was beginning to worry that I had hidden it somewhere else and had no idea where.
Oh, and since DD1 is coming home tomorrow I will make her cake this weekend. I made DH's birthday cake last weekend - American Beauty with the vanilla frosting. It is his favorite and over the years I have had some failures and some successes making them. He said this one was the best - that I should make them to sell. I said "No way!"
The bowties with spinach and mushrooms was a great supper. It is a modified Weight Watchers recipe:

Bowties with Spinach and Mushrooms - 4 servings 5 points each

8 oz bowtie pasta, cook this while you prepare the rest

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp corn starch
5 cups fresh spinach
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Put the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and mushrooms (I cut the larger mushrooms in quarters and the others in half). Pour 1 cup beef or chicken broth over the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms about 5 minutes.
Add the cornstarch to the water and mix well. Pour into the skillet and stir until thickens - about 5 minutes.
When bowties are done, drain and put in skillet with mushrooms. Add spinach and stir until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Top each serving with 1/2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese.
Have to go wrap some presents now that DD2 is asleep.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wintry mix

Well, another wintry mix hit us. We had freezing rain during the night and now we are getting snow flurries. I hope we get more snow as that will make it easier to drive. School is cancelled. DH17 came into our bedroom at 4:40 to announce there was no school (Thank you very much!) I really need to be physically at work today so am glad DH will be driving.
Since it is Monday -here are the menus for the week.

Monday - has to be quick as I have a meeting at church and we'll probably get home late
Bacon and Ranch Flatbreads (Schwan's)
Salad with lots of veggies

Tuesday -
Bowties with mushrooms and spinach
Rainbow sherbet

Baja Taco Blitz
Guacamole (recipe from Reynosa missionaries)
Refried Beans

Cajun Crab Cakes
Cranberry Sauce
Rice pilaf

Buffalo Chicken Fingers
Tater Tots
Green Beans

Homemade Pizza

Sunday -
French Onion Soup (for lunch)

I made a huge shopping trip yesterday and have all the non-perishables for the next two weeks so our pantry is loaded. It is a blessing to have the availability of so many varieties of foods - and the means to purchase them (Thank You God for our jobs!) We are truly blessed!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Birthday cakes and gingerbread men

This is a week for birthday cakes. DH's birthday was near Thanksgiving so he opted to wait for his red velvet cake. The next weekend we attended a Christmas Open House with all sorts of treats so that wasn't a good time to have cake either. So yesterday I baked the cake and now I am in the process of frosting it. It is not a red velvet cake without the frosting - flour and milk are heated until thickened and cooled - cream margarine (or shortening) and sugar, gradually add the cooled milk mixture and some vanilla. It is really good frosting -- I had to do some grocery shopping after church to be prepared for the winter storm coming our way so got a late start on the frosting. I have the milk mixture cooling now but need to leave in about 15 minutes for Care Group so I'll have to finish it up when I get back home.

Then Tuesday is DD#1's 19th birthday. She will not be home from college until Wednesday but I will be making her a cherry chip cake. That is her favorite and we could not find the cake mix for a long time. Then last spring someone at work made some cupcakes for a bake sale and I bought them (not knowing what flavor) I brought them home and DD#1 got all excited when she realized they were cherry chip. So I had to call the co-worker and find out where she got the mix. For DD#1's graduation party we had one small cake made of cherry chip and decorated with a stethoscope and nurse's hat (she plans to go into nursing). I bought 4 boxes of the cake mix and have yet to use any of them - so will at least use one this week.

I have a small tree in my kitchen/breakfast nook and have placed some of our ornaments that are 'gingerbread'- related on that one. It is really the top section of our old tree. I added a few bead necklaces we had in red and green. I also have a wooden cutout gingerbread family that I painted over 20 years ago that are on the ledge by the tree. I have some ornaments that look like cookies hanging from ribbon in the windows and a couple other gingerbread figurines scattered around. Last night I decided I needed gingerbread garlands on each window. So today I dug out some brown (cashmere tan) felt and used the smallest of my wooden figurines to make a pattern. I am going to stuff them and do a blanket stitch in white around the edges. I picked up some ivory sheer ribbon to connect them and also some little buttons for eyes, mouth and nose - and some heart buttons to sew on the chest. I am going to put hearts on some and colored buttons down the front on the others. I think they will be so cute! DH thinks I am crazy and wanted to know when I planned to get that done. It really won't be that hard - most is handsewing so it is easy to take it along and work on the drive to work or at lunch. I guess I need to look through my tealight candles and see if I still have some gingerbread ones so I can burn one when my family gathers here for Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Decorating and Christmas cards

I have all but a few of my mailed Christmas cards in the mail. Now I just have to get all the 'postcards' for church family finished. DH17 helped me tonight for quite a while. We ran out of double stick tape so I had to make a run to Michael's (only 3 miles away). I needed to pick up a gift card for someone anyway. I got a lot more than tape and a gift card. I needed some burgundy paper for some Christmas thank yous I decided to make (glutton for punishment?) and they had some cute alphabet sets for $1 - individual letter stamps in several different fonts. I got 2 - one reminds me of Mary Engelbreit. I also got some gift wrap (50% off) and some fabric ribbon (70% off) which I think my sisters and I will use for some ornaments next year. After getting home I decided I should have gotten at least 2 rolls of the ribbon and I should have gotten a set or two of the alphabet stamps for gifts. So I will probably stop by there again tomorrow.
I got the snow village, nativity set and my Christmas mugs all out and set up. I still need to put all my snowman dishes and other decorations in the dining room but can't do that until I get all the card making stuff off the dining room table. Then I need to get all the boxes etc out of the living room. Probably won't get all that done tomorrow morning but should be able to get most of the boxes put back in the basement and just leave the snowman boxes in the corner of the dining room.
We finally had out lasagne tonight. Had planned it for last night but we ordered pizza instead. Between the pizza, lasagne and the Christmas buffet at work - I don't think I will lose any weight this week. I keep reminding myself that I will be happy if I make it through the holidays without gaining anything. Of course, that might not be so easy since I still 'owe' DH a red velvet cake for his birthday and DH18 will come home from college on Tuesday which is also her 19th birthday and I promised her a cherry chip cake. Of course, DH will eat almost all of his cake and cherry chip is not a favorite of mine - so maybe I won't do so bad after all.
Well, back to those Christmas post cards. I designed my regular cards and then use that card front on a single piece of cardstock like a postcard for the mailboxes at church. That uses less supplies and no envelopes :-) - have to cut back somewhere with 120+ mailboxes at church.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas party and house tour

My DH had his 'office' Christmas party last evening. Usually he doesn't want to go to these but he has been working in a new area for almost 6 months and he enjoys the staff a lot - so we thought what the heck! We had a good time. They met at O'Charley's and had a section off to the side just for the party. One of the ladies organized an ornament exchange. DH received some ceramic bells shaped like Santa and a snowman. They are really cute and a great addition to the tree.

Of course, I ate too much. I had to get back on my WW menu plan today.
DD17 ate dinner at the church before working in the nursery for the mid-week activities. The dinners on Wednesday nights are planned by one of the ladies and many pitch in to help with the preparation, serving and clean up. It is really nice as it gives people a chance to fellowship and makes it easier for families to attend the activities without worrying about getting dinner before coming to the church.

So since DD17 was not home and DH had to work late (so I did too) I just made big salads when we got home. I wasn't hungry at the time so I put mine in the refrigerator and didn't eat until about 9 pm. I was busy working on Christmas cards and before you knew it, several hours had passed.

This is my favorite time of the day - everyone else is asleep and I am just relaxing in the easy chair next to the Christmas tree. I really have to get the rest of the decorations up. I need to get my cards done so I can put all my card making supplies away and put out my snowman dishes and other snowman collection in the dining room. And the snow village this year will be on top of the entertainment center. It is kind of high for young people to see but with the split level it will look nice from the dining room - looking down on the scene. I will have to post some photos when I am done decorating. I will have to be done by Saturday as some ladies from church are meeting here to go to a friend's house tour about an hour away. It is a beautiful Victorian home that she decorates to the max! It will be a fun drive to the tour just getting to know each other better- then on the way home the talk will probably be about all the Christmas trees and wonderful decorations. Our family attended an open house there last weekend and as usual it was amazing!

I had such a busy day at work that it was good therapy to come home and work on our Christmas cards. We mail out about 60 and also distribute about 120 at church. We have mail bins for each family that attends regularly. That makes it so easy to drop give cards to everyone. I started making cards last year - but then I used purchased cards to mail and made a postcard type for the church mail bins. This year I am making cards to mail and a similar post card for the mail bins at church. After Christmas I have to get busy on a scrapbook for DD17. I made one for DD18 last year for high school graduation so while doing hers I gathered photos for DD17 as well - so hopefully this one will go a little faster. I love going through the photos and seeing what sorts of groups I can put together.

Well - I think I am ready for bed. Should have gone earlier as I was awake at 4:15 this morning. It is now 11 pm. DD17 reminded us tonight that tomorrow she will be 17 1/2 years old. Hard to believe she will be 18 soon. DD18 will be 19 next week - she has finals all day long on her birthday -what a bummer! But then she will be coming home for almost a month. She is ready for a break.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sewing, weight loss and winter

Well, after browsing through a friend's blog I have decided to try this again. :-)

I'm trying to get the Christmas decorations up - but have been spending evenings helping a friend learn to sew so she can make aprons for her 6 children for Christmas. It has been fun and she is doing well. The aprons are reversible with grosgrain ribbon ties. They have a heart shaped pocket on one side and a similar pocket on the other with a flap that is accented with a button. My favorite is a blue and yellow print with a blue polka dot piece at the bottom since there was not enough fabric to make a full length apron. Then we put a piece of yellow grosgrain along that seam and a big bow with a button in the center. The reverse will be a burgundy and cream of the same print. It will have a burgundy heart shaped pocket. I hope to get a picture of all the kids (and my friend) in their aprons.

I did get the tree up in the living room (7 foot) and have most of the ornaments on. Am waiting for DD18 to come home from college next week and she can put some of her ornaments on to finish it up. Stockings are hung but mantle needs some greenery and candles. I also have a small tree (about 2 feet - the top portion of an old tree) in the kitchen with all the gingerbread type ornaments on it. Still have the nativity, snow village, and all my snowmen to set out.

For years I have planned out menus for 2 week intervals (every payday) and do my shopping from that - just picking up things like milk, bread and fresh produce as needed. I have sort of gotten away from that this past year but am getting back into the routine. Since vacation (July) I have been doing weight watchers online and that makes it easy to plan out menus - actually I plan out my whole day's eating (I currently have it planned through mid-January 2009). My friend posts her menu for the week which I think is neat so I am going to try to do that as well. Menu Monday - is what she calls it. Then I can put links to recipes etc to share as well.
So here goes:

Monday -
Chicken Paella (WW)
Refried Beans

Tuesday -
Eating out - DH's work Christmas party

Chicken Teriyaki with Broccoli (WW)
Stir Fried Vegetables (WW)

Lasagne (DD17's request - our friends were having lasagne last evening when we had our sewing class - I'll probably put it together on Wed evening and have DH17 put it in the oven so it is ready to eat when we get home. She has Youth Group and I have Bible Study that evening so we have to eat quickly)

Pan fried flounder (WW)
Cooked apples

Philly Steak Pizza (easy using crescent rolls)

Sunday - (On Sundays I try to have the big meal at noon and often have something that I can make in the crock pot or oven so we don't have to wait. We get home from church and that gives us a chance to discuss the sermon and share out thoughts.)
Baked Potato Soup (WW)
Fresh veggie tray (carrots, celery, radishes, cucumber, peppers - whatever we have on hand)

I have lost 22 pounds on Weight Watchers - using the points system. I plan out my whole day and take my lunch to work so I am not tempted by the cheeseburgers in the coffee shop. If I am too lazy to get my lunch together I try to have a bowl of soup and some fruit (usually grapes) at work. My goal is to lose about 10-15 more pounds- but for the holidays I will just be content to maintainmy current weight. Over Thanksgiving week I actually was able to lose 0.5 pounds - every little bit helps! I use a lot of the recipes that weight watchers has online in my menus - it is easy to edit the menu to fit our tastes- and can add my own menus and the points are automatically calculated. I have added a few from my favorite cookbooks- one is a slow cooker cookbook and the other is 30 minute meals. I also purchased books that have the points values for restaurants and common food items - but haven't used them much since I use the online points tracker. Maybe when I get to my goal and discontinue my online membership, I can use the books to get back on track if I start creeping up again.

Winter - just had to post about yesterday. We woke up to freezing rain - everything was coated with ice. DD17 has not had a lot of winter driving experience so I decided to stay home (I can work from home occasionally) and drive her to school. They did not cancel school - probably since the temp was to get to 40+ by noon. I'm glad I did - getting her to school was not too bad but when I got back into the subdivision I had to take it really slow coming down the hill toward our cul-de-sac then did not have enough momentum to get up our driveway which is also a hill. I slid down the driveway sideways stopping at the island in the cul-de-sac. So I tried to go around and try again. I could not even get around the cul-de-sac since it inclines - so I parked along the side of the street and got out to walk to the house. I slipped before I could get off into the grass and fell, landing on my knee. At least I was halfway in the grass or I don't think I would have been able to stand up again. I walked through the grass most of the way to the house. By 10 it was all melted - Thank God I had the option to work from home and was not hurt when I fell. My knee did get a 'goose egg' on it and is a little sore this morning but not bad.

Well, hubby is eating breakfast so it is time for me to get ready for work. We started driving together when the gas prices got out of sight. It works well for us and gives us at least an hour a day that we can talk. I often take along some handiwork (knitting or cross-stitch) or a book as he always drives (I'm not aggressive enough to suit him).