Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sleddin' Snow

We've started out the winter season a little slack on the snowfall in our area. Predictions have ran high for the past two weekends, but alas, it always seems to go around us. We've really had nothing so far but some icing, which is never good to have or fun to get around in. I always dread the forecasts of ice, but snow? Oh yeah, I'm as bad as my grandchildren waiting with anticipation for a "good one"!!

As a kid growing up here on the 40, ice skating on the pond and sled riding on the hill was just a no brainer for entertainment. You didn't set inside in front of a tv or computer whiling away the hours being bored...ohhhhh no!!! You strapped on every article of warm clothing you owned and headed outside...and depending on the temperatures, sometimes for hours at a time (or at least until your gloves were frozen solid!!).

"The Hill" was the place to go for sledding! Back in my day we were the only ones who lived here at the end of the road so there was no need to worry about cars running in and just got on the sled and took off! Also back in the day the Hill was not quite as "gentle" as it is now either...this was before the county decided that curve at the bottom was dangerous and needed to be smoothed out! The Hill used to be one looong straight stretch with a "dead man" curve at the bottom which shot you across the creek if you were lucky enough to make the curve! The creek also had no fancy concrete slab to cross...strictly gravel and water, so you always hoped (if the temps were up!) you could stop before hitting the creek and that ice cold water! Of course, if it was frozen, the goal was to make the curve AND see how far across the creek you could get!

We didn't own those plastic saucer things, or those bright yellow toboggans they now try to pass off for was Radio Flyers all the way! With a hill like ours you had to be able to steer, whether by feet or by hands, steering was an option you didn't want to be without! You also didn't want to be without lard...yes, I said LARD!! A good slathering on the bottoms of your sled rungs made those things just fly down the hill, plus it also kept the steering mechanism in good working condition. Since early winter was butchering season, you always had a good supply of lard (at winters end they received another good greasing of lard to keep the rust off!).

After the niece and nephew moved down here from the city sledding became even more fun. They'd tromp the half mile down the road to my house with their sleds in tow and back to the hill we'd go. Sometimes we'd double up on the sleds...the more weight, the faster you went! That was usually me and Bub, we were always trying to come up with some great feat of dare devil-ness to beat the Hill! Sissy would ride double, but only if we sat upright and she rode behind. After losing her once at the curve, that pretty much decided her on riding single from then on and she normally didn't start until halfway down! Bub and I always started at the top and sometimes with a running jump as well!

Not much sledding gets done on the Hill nowadays...not for lack of wanting to, but because of the almost instant removal of any and all snow by the county road graders! My grandchildren know if they have any hopes of sledding they have to get out early for a couple of runs, otherwise by day's end it will be gone. They always hope if it snows it will happen on a Friday night, because then they have the chance of an entire day without fear of the grader taking it off before late afternoon! As a kid, I never had to worry about the road grader, they rarely made it down our portion of the road...sometimes I think they forgot we even lived down in here! I don't recall many snow days from school either...buses drove the roads no matter what, so I was always assured of many days of sledding. Of course, I was also assured of many days of complaining since sledding made the Hill even slicker!!

I also don't do any sledding myself these days, I leave that up to the younger generation, mainly because of a not so pleasant sledding accident several years ago that left me slightly banged up for a few days (but that's another story!!). But that doesn't keep me from looking forward to a good "sledding snow"...the kind that falls softly, with huge flakes...the kind that piles up quickly and is perfect for building snowmen as well. The kind that blankets everything in pure, clean white...mounding around and over any obstacles that gets in it's way and adding such an abundance of sparkle that you could believe you are walking on diamonds with every step you take! It's that kind of snow that seems to soften the world and covers the harshness that surrounds us...for me, it's calming and peaceful...and beautiful!

We're still early yet into our winter season, so I still have hopes of a "sledding snow" and I for one, along with my grandchildren, will continue to wait in anticipation through every forecast we hear. I'll turn on the porch light in the early hours of the morning in hopes of it's arrival and if it comes? I'll pull back the curtains, pour me some coffee and set back and smile!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas memories...

The hubs and I have been up in the "maker" room the last few days...I'm working on gifts, he's working on all our old photos. He came across some old cassette tapes and decided to plug them in to see what was on there. One of the tapes contains all my kid's at a much earlier age singing Christmas was something we always did this time of year, they'd gather around the piano while I played and they'd sing their hearts out.

This particular recording was without the piano however, and I think they were "practicing" before walking over to Grandma's to sing for her out in the yard! It brought to mind the last year we did this, it was the first Christmas after my brother Steve had passed away from a motorcycle accident...Mom was standing at her back door listening when we decided to sing "I'll be Home for Christmas"...tears began to form in her eyes as she recalled to us a phone call from Steve years ago when he was stationed in Greece. He'd called to tell her he'd been listening to the song and wishing he was "home". I think Mom had already been revisiting her memories, both happy and sad, before we had arrived, because she also said Steve had been on her mind for some reason that evening.

My kids were concerned they'd upset their Grandma and commented on the walk home "we'd better leave that one out next year"! I recall telling them no...that such is the way of grow up (as they had done), move on and life changes. I was already feeling the changes within our own family and knew there would come a time when all those things we had once done would be no more. My children now all have children of their own and they're making their own memories....some are reminiscent of their Christmas's past and some of them are new ones they are now adding.

Does it make me sad? In some ways it does...I couldn't help but tear up myself listening to their voices on that tape and the memories that came flooding back of the many past Christmas's. I could see my youngest daughter breaking into a jig dance in the middle of the living room to a bluegrass style Christmas tune...once again I see the oldest daughter in her bathrobe and "high kicking" across the kitchen to the tune of "Mandy" from White Christmas, and there was our son, with a rubber band around his forehead attempting to do some kind of Chinese kung fu face and hollering because the rubber band got caught in his hair!!

Perhaps it makes me sentimental and sappy, but I love Christmas! It's always been my favorite time of year because it seems to always be a time of "revisiting" memories, but that is the part I love the most, even with the sadness thrown in. I decorate my tree to the sound of old CD's where a particular song brings to mind my dad and those things that might have been or even could have been, the year I was ice skating on the pond and just "knew" my grandmother had passed away, or one that reminds me of the year we lost my nephew Bub at such a young age. I see my mother decorating our Christmas tree, and  I can hear another brother pointing out to me a red light making it's way across the sky one Christmas Eve was in fact Rudolph pulling Santa's sleigh! Some are sad, some are happy, but they are all a part of me and I love to bring them out this time of year, dust them off and recall them all.

We'll never tromp up the driveway to sing Christmas songs again, but who day it may be me standing at the back door listening to my grandchildren as they sing Christmas carols and more than likely, I will still be recalling our Christmas's past...both happy and sad. What would sadden me more would be if we cease to make memories at all.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sweet Potatoes and Thanksgiving

It's been awhile since I've been here...lots of things occupying my time right now, but as I'm standing in my kitchen, my Mom's kitchen, I can't help but think back on past Thanksgivings. Yes, I live now in the house where I grew up, but to me this will always be Mom's kitchen and I think of her every time I fix a big dinner, bake a batch of cookies, or bake a cake. My mother was a very good cook and I like to think she passed some of those skills on to me.

As I worked on the sweet potatoes this morning I (once again!) realize that we're possibly the only people on the earth who eat sweet potatoes the way we do! None of that dried out marshmallow stuff for our family, ours are maple glazed and syrupy...ummm! I honestly never knew there was any other way to eat a sweet potato but that way...seriously! It wasn't until I met my husband and spent my first Thanksgiving at his family's that I was introduced to the "marshmallow" kind and to be honest with you...I was APPALLED!! Now I'm not bashing all you marshmallow sweet potato fans out there, it's just that it's not something that has ever appealed to me. As a kid growing up anything sweet was first on my menu and Mom's sweet potatoes were just that....mash them just a tad with a fork, slap a pat of butter on there, and then drizzle that wonderful syrup on finer eating than that right there!

For years Mom was always our sweet potato cooker, even when Thanksgiving dinners began being held at my house and for years I never asked her exactly HOW to make them, they were Mom's specialty and there wasn't a one of us who didn't like them that way and looked forward to them at Thanksgiving. A few years ago Mom began to decline in health and memory and was no longer able to make the sweet potatoes and so, the job fell to me. I asked Mom at that time if she could tell me how to make them and she gave me her typical "non-measurement" variety recipe (most of Mom's cooking was done this way!). The first year I attempted them I was informed by my daughter that something wasn't right because they DID NOT taste like Grandma's!! And she was right, but in the few years since I have managed to play and test to come up with what I feel is as close as I'll ever get to the traditional, or possibly we've just gotten used to eating them this way and so they seem to taste like traditional! ;)

Either way, I think Mom would be proud of my sweet potatoes this morning. I remembered to allow them to finish cooking in that wonderful syrup so the flavor is shot through each one without them falling apart at the touch of a fork. The syrup is just the right thickness, perfect to spoon over the top once they're on the plate and they look...well, like how I always remembered them!

After my introduction to the marshmallow variety I asked my mother why she made hers the way she did and she told me that was how my Grandma Stevenson made them and being a young bride and a young cook, my Grandma took Mom under her wing and showed her how to fix many of the traditional things that wound up on our table year after year. So not only am I thankful this time of year for a mother who could cook up a storm and make it taste great, but also a grandmother who passed along her ways of doing things. You can bet we'll all be enjoying those sweet potatoes about noon and I'll be hoping that someone will say, "tastes just like Grandma's!"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and's not just about how you eat your sweet potatoes, but the memories that go along with the eating!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Black Walnut Memories

A few weeks ago the hubs and I started gathering black walnuts and while it would have been easier to sack them up and take them to the hulling spot, I have a tendency to still do things the "old" way. We gathered walnuts until our backs hurt and then.....dumped them in the driveway to be ran over and hulled! And yeah, my once pretty white gravel drive is not so pretty anymore (I'd forgotten the mess the hulls make!), but you can get a lot of thinking done while hulling them out of those ran over shells.

As I sat down on my board with my bucket beside me my mind just naturally went back in time to previous walnut gatherings. I can remember when I was a kid a walnut huller was brought up to the town square...right up on the courthouse lawn! A particular Saturday that came to mind there in the driveway was during the walnut season. It must of been a good year for them because I remember the square just being packed with folks dragging their buckets and bags of walnuts to wait in line for their turn at the huller. That year my parents also took their walnuts to town and while they waited their turn they visited with everyone else up there. My dad was a trader by nature, so he was always "working the scene" to see what was available that he could trade for...whether it be work or livestock. And of course, all this took place on a Saturday morning!

Yes, I'm old enough to remember a time when going to town on Saturdays was a big deal. It's when you done the weekly shopping, trading, or just visiting on the streets. You didn't jump in the car and run to town just because you needed something, you planned out those weekly (and more often in my family, monthly!) trips to cover all you needed...which usually meant the grocery store, the mercantile, and the feed store.

I enjoyed the trips because that's when I got to see and play with other kids and we'd run all around the square and the upper streets close to it. If you were lucky you'd get a quarter to take across the street to the Ben Franklin store where you could buy penny and nickel candy....ohhhhh heaven!!! They had rows and rows of all kinds and flavors and it became a tough decision as to which one you would pick for that week. For me, usually it was the Milk Duds or Sugar Daddy suckers that always won out! I never really understood though, why they carried so much candy because the proprietress at the time never seemed enthused to see us kids walk through the door! I mean, they had to of known where there was candy there would be children! ;) We were watched like hawks until we had made our choice and placed our grubby little coins on the counter, grabbed our bags, and were back out the door to run some more. Back then you needed all that sugar to keep up with the pack!

I always made sure before I left town to head down one of the side streets just off the square. That's where I'd find my Grandpa Ellis setting in the sun with a couple of other elderly gentlemen. He always had his pipe lit and he was always whittling on a stick! I don't know that anything ever became of those sticks, it was just something he did to pass the time. If I was lucky, Grandpa would give me nickel, and sometimes a dime, which I always saved for my next trip to town. You never asked though, that would have been rude and impolite and Mom always insisted that I attempt to turn down the offer, but Grandpa also insisted I take it. Sometimes he'd have a bag of those big orange peanut looking candies and I'd be given one of those rather than a coin. I never told Grandpa, but I hated those things! LOL! Again, Mom always insisted you take whatever you were given, do it politely and thankfully whether you liked it or not...she never insisted I had to eat it though! Every now and then he'd swap out those nasty peanuts for lemon drops or horehound candy. I didn't much care for the horehound either, but I sure loved those lemon drops!

You won't find any benches around the square these's all fancy street lights and sign posts. You sure won't find people milling around the courthouse on a Saturday morning either, unless of course it's Apple Festival weekend and then you can't hardly get to the square period. With Walmart open 24 hours a day you can run to town whenever you want to get whatever you want. You have to go out of town to get your walnuts hulled and most folks just buy them prepackaged now rather than doing their own.

I think that's why I try to cling to some of the old ways, because like everyone else I find I'm just always "busy" doing something with very little time to really enjoy things anymore. There's one thing about hulling your own walnuts...sitting in the driveway pulling off those hulls just naturally slows you down a tad. It's an ongoing process, from the picking up, to the hulling, to the stirring them as they air dry, to the final packing them away for winter. You're not going to rush the process or you'll lose the nutmeats you've worked so hard to acquire. I went modern one year and took my walnuts to a huller, however, I didn't air dry them long enough and lost almost the whole batch. I don't recall my folks taking ours to the huller other than that one time dad didn't much care for those "new fangled inventions", but I would imagine it was really because they lost their crop from lack of drying too!

There is much to be said about all of our latest technology, although I've yet to understand why it is with more conveniences that free up our time we seem to have less and less of that time. For as long as I'm able I'll still be doing walnuts the "old fashioned" way....and I'll be thankful for the time and place I was raised in... where things ran a little slower and progress was measured by the arrival of a walnut huller!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuscan Spinach and Garlic Chicken Bread

I like to cook and I like to shop cheap (don't we all!). I have three favorite stores I visit when I intend to load up on groceries for extended cooking: Aldi's, Dollar Tree, and The Dutch Country (better known in my area as the Scratch and Dent!). A few weeks ago while food shopping I ran across a pre-made pizza at Aldi's called Tuscan Chicken Flatbread Pizza...I loved it!! It was a mixture of spinach, white sauce, chicken, and garlic and it was DELISH!

I have a tendency to try and copy something I run across that I really like, sometimes because all of the above stores aren't close enough to just hop in the car and go pick something up and sometimes...well, just because I want to! So after trying this pizza and wishing I had bought more than one, I decided I would create my own. Because I do cook quite a bit I had a lot of the items already on hand so it was worth my effort to give it a try.

I can tell you my first attempt did involve a flatbread crust and it was okay, but there just wasn't enough seasoning to suit needed more garlic, so when I ran across these split garlic loaves at Walmart on the markdown rack I immediately thought "Tuscan"! I tend to be a "this and that" kind of cook..I don't always follow a recipe and when I'm creating I rarely write something down, I just store it away in the 'ol memory bank for further use (one of these days I'll have to quit that!). But this particular creation is one that I think is pretty much open..if you don't like tuscan, do pepperoni, or vegetarian, or just whatever!

Here's my version of a Tuscan Bread Pizza:

1 pkg. split loaf garic bread
1 chicken breast cubed (or use canned chicken)   
1 bottle of Classic Alfredo Sauce
1/2 pkg. frozen chopped spinach well drained
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 of a small red onion chopped
1/2 green bell pepper chopped
3-4 baby portabella mushrooms sliced
1/2 teaspon classic pesto
1/2 cup white cracked pepper cheese crumbled (I found mine at the Dollar Tree)
1/2- 1 cp shredded pizza cheese
Dried Italian herbs or parsley to sprinkle
2 tbls. olive oil or butter

These measurements aren't precise, you can use as much or as little as you want, or leave out what you don't like and go from there. Heat the olive oil/butter and add cubed chicken and minced garlic; saute for a few minutes and then add the onions, and pepper and continue until chicken is fully cooked. Remove from heat and stir in the pesto sauce and spinach...let set while you prepare your loaves. I layered my ingredients like this: alfredo sauce (as much as you'd like), the sauteed mix, sliced mushrooms, seasonings, and cheeses, . Bake on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees until well heated and cheese is melted.

It smells sooo good when it comes out of the oven and tastes even better! Because the hubs was not impressed with my first attempt on the flatbread, I took my second half loaf and used pepperoni with my homemade pizza sauce and all the other ingredients rather than alfredo and was also very good. You can also add a second breast to the mix and up your veggies to make both one and wrap the second one for the freezer to have later. They do make a good size serving, enough that hubs and I ate til we were full and then I sent the rest home with the daughter for lunch the next day!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

If at first you don't succeed....

Many years ago my sister-in-law taught me how to crochet and I loved it! Now mind you I still only do simple things, doilies, hats, ect. but it's something I like to do. Around that same time frame I came to know another gal who not only crocheted, but also knitted. She made beautiful things and she tried her best to teach me, but I just never could get the hang of it. I kept my knitting needles for years thinking maybe one day I'd try it again, but then eventually donated it all to our thrift store.

Yesterday one of the gals I work with came in to show me her latest scarf...OMG!! It was gorgeous! She is also a knitter and can whip out those twirly scarves like nobody's business. I love her twirly scarves, but not enough to try knitting all over again, however, when I seen that one yesterday I was determined to give it one more go!! It was made with the Red Heart ribbon yarn and as it's knitted it falls in layers up and around the scarf...I had to try it, so I ran to our Walmart on my lunch and grabbed some knitting needles and a skein of the Sashay since our store doesn't carry the ribbon of course...arrrgh!! Pat had assured me time and time again I could do the twirlies so figured I might as well start there and see what happens.

I took my needles and yarn down to her classroom during our planning period yesterday to have her show me how to begin, but alas, she was out to another class. Thank goodness though, the other gal was in the room and knew how to get me started (she's also a crafter of many trades!)...thanks Deb!!

I'd like to be able to tell you that I just took off like a wild fire and have that scarf all whipped up and ready to wear...NOPE!! I've had to restart three times!! Mainly because my hands are just down right clumsy working these needles and I'm dropping stitches, adding stitches, and well...just plain losing the things right off the needles! BUT!! I intend to persevere!!

I've managed to make it several rounds now without losing, dropping, or otherwise messing the thing up and I'm learning as I go (like not to get too tight!). It may not turn out to be the prettiest scarf around, but hopefully it will BE a scarf in some sense of the word!! It may take me a month to get through the skein, but I will get there! It's been 30 years since I made my first attempt at knitting, but I am bound and determined I will make at least one of those scarves and who knows...I may get the hang of this enough that I can also whip out several varieties! So, "if at first you don't succeed" go back and try it again, even if it is 30 years later!!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

ESH Hill Farm

Now I know I'm probably a little more weird than most when it comes to "signs and portents", but I'm always amazed at times when certain things seem to just go together when it was never really planned that way. (Okay, so I don't REALLY believe in signs and portents, but sometimes odd things just amaze me!)

Back some time ago you'll remember me talking about the daughter wanting a sign to put at the front of her drive. Well, the hubs and I were talking about her sign and got to throwing things around about how we ought to name our home and make our own sign. Because this is a third generation property it holds a special meaning for me...this was my home, where I grew up, and where I hope to grow old.

Anyway, the hubs was saying how we ought to give the place a name that harkened back to my Ellis grandparents. I brought it to his attention that while my Ellis grandparents did indeed buy the farm, it was never actually in their name because they titled it to my mother. Of course it was always known as the "Ellis place" because my other grandparents lived about 3 or 4 miles through the woods and theirs was known as the "Stevenson place"; years later my mom and dad did in fact move here.

We tossed around several names, mainly just throwing things around, but nothing really seriously considered. Hubs said it should be something like "Ellis Valley Farm"...well, until I also brought it to his attention that we don't live in a valley, we live on a hill that's sets in amongst other hills. Actually, we live on a ridge if you want to get technical about it! As we're debating whether we are on a ridge or hill I told him we should just call it ESH Hill Farm. The E, S, and H being an acronym for Ellis, Stevenson, Haggerman (I thought it was kind of catchy!).  It represented all the families and in ascending order of ownership.

Now, you're probably wondering, "okay, so where's the whole signs and portents thing"? Again, weirdo that I am, I decided to Google ESH know, because I don't want my place having the same name as several other places. In the process of my Googling I come across some very interesting things about the word ESH...for one there is a parish located on a hill in northern England named Esh Parish. For another, in Sanskrit the word esh means "blessed", although in Armenian the same word means "donkey"! There's also a very popular place known as Esh Aerial Arts where you can receive training in circus performance. What took my eye though was the pronunciation of Aislinn in's sounded as Esh leen. The name appears to be Gaelic and refers to "a dream or vision".

Those of you who know me, know I'm proud of my Irish roots. Those same Irish roots are the ones that brought my great grandmother over here from Ireland where she met and married my Cherokee great grandfather and produced the grandmother who would eventually become the Ellis to which my home is attached. It's those same Irish roots that causes me to go looking for meaning in things that aren't really there and then ramble on about those meanings!! I do believe though the name ESH may be just what we're looking for because only an Irish descendent could take all of this to mean that, while we are not a parish we do set on a hill, we did indeed have a vision for this place, and while we may not yet own a donkey, most of the time the comings and goings are very much like a three ring circus around here! But really? Through it all...we have been very blessed!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cheesy Potato Fries

Okay, so I'm going a little crazy with the recipes and cooking right now, but it happens to me every time the weather changes! I happened on this recipe on Pinterest and it looked so good I had to try! The fact that I was starving at the time could of clouded my judgement, but I am glad I came home and tried these because I'm sure I've a found a new favorite side dish. I didn't have green onion, which no doubt would make them even better (if you like onion), and like they suggested, I kind of used my own favorite seasoning, and cheese, but I tried hard to follow everything else. I had enough of the ranch mixture leftover to save for another batch this weekend, but that's probably because I didn't make as many wedges as I could have. With just the hubs and I we don't need a lot of "extras", but that extra ranch will just entice me to make them again!

Cheesy Potato Fries

4-6 potatoes cut in wedges
1/4 cp. olive oil
Sea Salt, Seasoning Salt, or just salt and pepper

Sour Cream Ranch Sauce:
1 cp sour cream
1/2 cp ranch dressing
14 cp milk

1 cp (or more if you like!) shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 mozzarella
1/2 cp real bacon bits
1/4 cp green onions

Place potato wedges on foiled lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat well. Sprinkle your seasonings and bake at 400 degrees for about 40 mins. until fork tender. In a separate bowl mix together the sour cream, ranch dressing, and milk. Using another baking dish, spread about half the dressing mix on the bottom of the pan. Lay your baked wedges on top, drizzle with the rest of the ranch mix, sprinkle with cheese, bacon bits, and green onion. Put back in the oven long enough to melt the cheese!

You will find the original recipe here. I didn't line my baking pan with the foil. I did put the olive oil on the baking sheet first and then rolled the wedges around in it. I also used a shredded cheese mix of cheddar and colby jack, it's what I had on hand, and I also made my own bacon bits. I used Jack Stack's Seasoning which was given to me by a friend, otherwise I would have used my normal Seasoned Salt. Original or not, these were really good and I will definitely be making them again...thanks girls!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sometimes you get lucky without a recipe...

Several weeks ago my youngest daughter shared a recipe on her Facebook page and I've been waiting for cooler temps to try it out. Those temps showed up over this past weekend and I searched and searched trying to find that recipe but no such luck! I knew it contained store bought cookie dough, but that was all I could remember about it. I had taken some cherries out of the freezer to use some of the juice to make jelly and I wanted to make a pie filling to try with that darn recipe! Drawing on the resources in my brain (which is not always a good thing!) I thought back to another danish type recipe I had made in the past and decided to just combine what I knew of the two. I put it together and threw it in the oven after I got home from church yesterday and I have to say, it was just pretty darn decided I'd share it! I gave it the name because I didn't know what else to call it! :) I'm also putting in the canned pie filling since not everyone makes their own.

Cherry Danish Cookie Bars:                                     

1 regular size roll of sugar cookie dough
1 can cherry pie filling
1 pkg. cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
8x8 square baking dish
Wax or parchment paper for rolling the dough

Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature, then mix in the powdered sugar stirring well. Cut the roll of chilled cookie dough in half. Using one half at a time, roll out cookie dough between 2 pieces of lightly floured wax paper or parchment paper. Try to roll it as a square in order to fit your dish. Place the square of dough into the bottom of your baking dish. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly on top. Then spread your cherry pie filling on top of that. (I always add a little sugar to canned pie filling as I don't think it's sweet enough). Roll out the other half of the cookie dough and place on top of the pie filling. Tuck it in lightly around the edges and then place in the oven on 375 degrees for about 25-30 mins. or until your crust is lightly golden brown. You could also use a pastry brush and lightly coat with milk, then sprinkle colored sugar or any sprinkles on top before baking to "pretty" it up. When I make my next one I'm going to try a vanilla icing drizzle on top after baking.

I bought two rolls of cookie dough while at the store and I have plans to try this next time with blueberry pie filling, but apple, peach, or any type of fruit filling would be good in these.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Does it really matter?

I work in a high school... and yeah, it's gets a little crazy sometimes! Take today for instance, it just seemed like all the kids were in a foul mood; grumpy, touchy, and just their not usual norm. Now part of that could be because I didn't feel very good myself. The Fall allergies are kicking in, and even though I'm taking medicine for it, they've still managed to come in and ruin my day. And I know when I don't feel good then it just seems like everything that can go wrong will!

I don't often have days like that, I really DO like my job and I truly enjoy all the kids that have passed through our doors over the years and some of them I  have gotten really close to. Working in the kind of program I do, you're not often exposed to the mainstream kids so much as you are those who are struggling for various reasons and some of those reasons would make anybody grumpy and cranky. But once in awhile you have one of those days where you just want to throw your hands up and say "forget it!". It doesn't seem to matter how much you talk, coddle, pacify, pat on the back, or otherwise use every ounce of mental capacity you have, NOTHING seems to help or work. There are just those days now and then where it seems like all you really do is take one step forward and a whole lot of steps backwards and it can get....well, a little disheartening at times.

You go home at the end of the day and ask yourself why you're even doing this and who really cares whether you do or not! I mean, seriously, does it really matter if you go that umpteenth time to the same behavior and try to explain why it's just not going to benefit them? Does it really matter whether or not you put in the extra time and use that last ounce of patience when the next day everything just gets thrown out the window and you have to start all over again? Does it really matter if you set that math assignment aside and listen while a student tells you about the problems from the night before? Does it make a difference at all to just set back and say, "so what's up?" even though you'll be wishing afterwards you hadn't asked such a loaded question?

I have come to the conclusion that the answer to all of the above questions is this.....YES! Yes it does! Not every kid is going to come up to you and thank you for that few extra minutes of patience you gave them, or tell you that what you said that day during their Junior year stayed with them the rest of their life, but just because they don't tell you doesn't mean it isn't true and that it won't have an impact somewhere later on!

That has been brought home to me on more than one occasion and really so last night. I also do what is referred to as Homebound...when a student is unable to come to the classroom we take the classroom to them. Last year I got the privilege of being asked to do some homebound with a female student in our district. Illness has been a major player in her life, not just in the classroom, but in her whole lifestyle as well. Politcally correct or not, I've become a little attached to her and have really enjoyed our few hours a week when I take her assignments to her. 

We began getting to know each other about the middle of the last semester last year and not long after of course, was summer break. While I have seen her a couple of days at school this year, last night was our first night of the homebound session for this new school year. Before I barely had time to set my book bag down she was insisting she had something for me. She's at the computer making a few clicks when I hear a song start to play. I'll admit it took me a minute for it to sink in, but then it dawned on me what the words to the song were saying: "Reunited and it feels so good"!! And again, politically correct or not...I hugged her...a really big hug!! LOL! 

Now granted this girl is not my typical student, her battles are more from the physical aspect not the emotional ones, but at the same time I see in her the same potential as I see in my other students; so much that still needs to bloom and go forth, and yet I wonder, will she get that chance? She's smart, witty, and very talented artistically and, like most kids her age, she doesn't see herself in the same light as I do. She under estimates herself all the time and has a hard time accepting what she's capable of doing. I know she doesn't see herself as a fighter, yet she does it every day in some form or other with her illness. She doesn't see herself as "all that smart", yet she spends very little time in a classroom where she would get the instruction and still maintains a high grade point average. Her fine motor skills are somewhat different to most kids, yet she can take a computer mouse and a basic paint application and draw some of the darnedest pictures you've ever seen!

But her greatest talent is her ability to make you smile, oh heck! what am I saying? The girl can have me 'bust up" laughing at least once during every session and more often than not it's several times! Does it really matter? Yes it does! All I have to do on those days when I think I've had enough is think of her and then I realize that no matter how long our journey together might be, though she'll one day graduate and head on with her life like all the rest I hope will do...all of this (I hope!) has made ME a better person. I may be teaching them from a curriculum, but they are teaching me from life. Every day I'm learning to have empathy, sympathy, resilience, endurance, and yes, even patience...a LOT of patience!! :)  

I've always believed God puts a person where they need to's up to us what we do with it when we get there. This job I hold today is not at all where I had plans of being 10 years ago and yet, at the same time, it's exactly what I had hoped to be doing...helping our young people. It may be from a different perspective than what I had in mind, but...on most days...I think it's where I'm supposed to be! And when it's all said and done...I also hope it will matter that I was there!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Trifle

My family will tell you that my favorite cake to make is a trifle. I fell in love with trifles several years ago when I tried one for the first time at a church dinner, since then a trifle is my "go to" cake for all occasions and my kids swear up and down that each one is the best one yet! I can't really attest to that, because like many of the sweets I make, I rarely eat any of it, so I just go on what the kids tell me. But I just don't think you can go wrong with a trifle....they go well with just about any type of filling, their easy to make, and look impressive in the bowl. And if my kids can be believed I've not come up with a bad combination yet!

This past week was the oldest granddaughter's birthday and her mom wanted me to make a trifle for her "cake". She found a recipe for a Peanut Butter Buckeye Cake in my Midwest Living magazine and ask me if I could convert it to a trifle instead....sure, why not?! I mean, peanut butter just goes really well with chocolate right? So the daughter picked up some peanut butter cups and away I went! I've only changed a couple of things from their recipe, but I think you'll like this version just as well. One thing you will notice is that none of my ingredients are name brands, so feel free to buy your own store version or the more costly kind! ;)

 Chocolate Peanut Butter Trifle

 1 pkg. milk chocolate cake mix
 1 large tub of whip cream
 1 can sweetened condensed milk
 1 jar of CRUNCHY peanut butter
 1 pkg. cream cheese
 1 jar hot fudge sauce
 12-15 peanut butter cups chopped
 1/4 cp. toffee bits (optional)

Prepare the cake mix according to directions and bake in 11x9 pan. Allow to cool and then let set overnight covered (this helps to firm up the cake a bit). When your ready to prepare the trifle, beat cream cheese and peanut butter together in large bowl, add sweetened condensed milk and mix well. Fold in all of the whip cream but one cup (set this aside for the top), again mixing well. Microwave the hot fudge sauce just long enough to be able to pour it and then get ready to set up your trifle. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake in small cubes (I run my knife lengthwise down the cake about 1/2" apart, then cross cut the same way). Place about a 1/3 to 1/2 of the cake cubes in the bottom of your trifle bowl, tucking in extra cubes to close any spaces you may have. Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese/peanut butter mixture over the cubes carefully spreading it out to the edges. Drizzle hot fudge sauce over the top. Add another layer of cake cubes, once again tucking in any where you have spaces; press down lightly. Add the rest of your cream cheese mixture and spread again. In the center of the mixture add your reserved whip cream, spreading out lightly, but not enough to cover your cream cheese/peanut butter completely. Drizzle with more hot fudge sauce and then sprinkle the top with the chopped peanut butter cups. I like to toss on a handful of the toffee bits with any of my chocolate trifles, but I like toffee bits!! Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and set in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

This trifle is VERY rich so spoon out small servings when you're ready to enjoy! Depending on the size of your trifle bowl you may end up with some cake cubes leftover. I always do and I like to freeze mine for use later in a "mix and match" trifle! The possibilities with these things are endless.

Oh, and the granddaughter? She had some trifle, but Ga surprised her with some stiletto cupcakes for her actual "cake" instead and for once THEY were the bigger hit!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Super Ga to the rescue!

When I got home from work this afternoon my phone rang about 15 mins. into my set down was our oldest grandson and he had a problem! The next day at school was Superhero Day (yep! he goes to the same school as the granddaughter!) and he didn't have anything to wear..."Ga could you make me something?" Once again, what's a Ga to do? Well, first you kick his mother for not having him call you sooner, but only gently because she is your daughter-in-law after all! Then you hang up the phone, race up the stairs and start going through the material tote to see if there is ANYTHING even remotely close in that pile that will work for a superhero! As you're wracking your brain to even think of who or what a superhero looks like you come across a piece of ugly green "stuff" that you bought umpteen years ago on clearance and never tossed out because you told yourself one day you just might use it!!  Then it's back down the stairs and onto Google for a mask template (at this point you're not even going to try and draw one out yourself), and on the first click you find just what you're looking for. Back up those stairs (talk about a cardio workout!) and tossing felt pieces right and left to find two colors that go together and match that horrid green material! 15 mins. later (no kidding!!) that puppy is cut out and stitched! It's about this time you see the grandkids pull up and head for the house.

As they tromp up the stairs you're standing there patting yourself on the back for this impromptu arrangement you've got going and then you hear it..."we can't wear a mask". WHAT? Who has superhero day and not allow masks, or makeup, or hardly anything that would make you LOOK like a superhero?!! Okay, okay, so no mask, but the grandson liked it and wanted to keep it so his mom says maybe he could just wear it while he's on the bus. Then the grandson pipes up that maybe he could just wear it on the front of his cape. Light bulb moment! I'll use the mask as the "clasp" to hold the cape on!

So off they all head to soccer practice and Ga heads back to the material, scissors, and machines. I cut out a front and back, serged the three edges, and turn it right side out. Now mind you I'm working for speed here not perfection, so after I turn it all right side out and go to whip stitch the opening closed I realise I've got a leeettle bit more material on one side than on the other...can we tucks?!!

The rest of my time went fairly smooth, I gathered the neck edge and then stitched it down to hold the gathers, put some velcro on the mask and the cape edges to hold it closed and then remembered every superhero has a big letter on the back. Well, not really knowing whether this was to be the Green Lantern or the Green Hornet I decided to go with an "H"...after all the grandson's last name starts with an "H" so Hornet, Haggerman, it all works.

 I'm happy to report the cape was finished by the time they got back from practice to pick it up. The grandson was happy, the daughter-in-law was happy, and if I held my head just slightly to one side I never noticed that the "H" wasn't perfectly straight and centered, or that the cape tends to hang a little to the left, so I was happy too!

I know a day is coming when Ga's super powers of "all knowing- all doing" will come to an end, but right now I'll bask in the glory that my grandkids know they can still call their Ga to make things happen. That cape is nowhere near perfect and neither is their Ga, but for now, both are close enough to being for the grandson!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Headbands and Tutus

I have a granddaughter...well, actually I have three, but the youngest one is all about tutus and headbands! Last night while browsing through Pinterest I seen a really cute superhero outfit link that I followed to a site that not only offers crocheted headbands, but a tute on how to make a tutu USING the said headbands. Well, what's a Ga to do but order some of those headbands! Right now they are running a sale so I loaded up with visions in my head of making one little girl very happy with a couple of new tutu dresses! 

This week she'll be having super hero day at school and how I wish I would have found this site ahead of time because the first link was all about making a super hero costume and it was adorable made from the large crocheted headband and tulle. Alas, the poor granddaughter will be wearing a pre-made costume ordered from Amazon, but it is pink so she'll be happy! 

If you have a little girl, a lot of little girls, or just know one that loves tutus and/or headbands I think you need to check out The Hair Bow Company at this link here! If you've bought any of these style headbands at Walmart you know they're $1.97 each...theirs are on sale for .49!! Shipping was only $5 for my area.

And if you want to see the pic on the super hero outfit made from one of these head bands you can find it through this link. There's a multitude of places to order the tulle spools in various colors and prices. I have not placed an order through here, but browsing did bring me to this Etsy shop, Bailey's Blossoms that I will be checking out further because of her low prices. It's time to start creating!!

P.S  I'll be posting a pic of my own creations after my headbands arrive! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath...a tale of the vine!

There's a story behind this picture...and you know me and stories!
 Once upon a time a man planted a grape vine. He actually planted several, but alas, only one survived. In the back of his mind he had hopes to produce wine, however his wife had hopes of grape jelly! The vine grew and eventually produced some clusters, but only on occasion did it produce anything worth using or that the wild critters didn't eat. Since it's production wasn't worthwhile it was forgotten by the man, but every few years the vine would produce just enough grapes for the wife to make jelly...and she was happy! Many years passed and time allowed weeds and grasses to grow up around the vine until one day another man noticed it hidden while weed-eating the fence row. He grabbed his clippers and cut back all the dead vines and duct taped (yes, it was duct was all he had!!) the trunk where it had broken and split. Once again the vine was forgotten until this man and his wife moved into the house where it was planted. The weeds and grass were kept cut around the vine, the ground was loosened and fertilized too, and to their amazement, as the Spring progressed, the vine produced a few clusters! The new man didn't care about wine, but the new wife had visions of jelly and she waited with patience for the grapes to turn....and they did!

The moral of this story is that it is true! The grapevine was planted over 40 years ago by my dad and it has managed to survive with very little care all these years to got it...the grapes in the picture! I cooked up those grapes along with some apples, and turned the juice into jelly! My dad had plans for an orchard here years ago, so along with the grapes he planted fruit trees, however over the years the trees also died out, all but one and they never produced much of anything. This year the apple tree was loaded, but only a few of the fruits survived on the branch for me to make juice from. And while it never really became an orchard, the area was always referred to by both of my parents as just that. 

There were many dreams and ideas my dad had hopes for and talked about for this home I now live in. Many things stood in his way, but a lot of those things were of his own making...the dream was there, the will to see them through unfortunately was not always there. As I walked the area this past Spring it seemed I could see and hear him talk about "the orchard" he had planned and I've decided to try and fulfill his dream. We've began by planting some peach trees and blueberry bushes. We have more grape clippings coming and next year I hope to add another apple tree and maybe a pear. I don't know that my efforts will ever come to pass any more than his did, but I'd like to think he's somewhere smiling down on my determination to try. 


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ode to a season...

It's that time of year that I'm always ready for and yet saddens me at the same time...the end of my garden. I've been involved in gardening in some form or other for about as long as I can remember. My mom and dad always had a garden when I was growing up and after I married, Mom would pass along any excess she had. A couple of our previous homes never really had a good place to have our own, so when I decided I wanted to do my own canning and freezing, we increased the size of the folk's and then we'd drive out here to help plant, till, water, and pick.

With just the hubs and I now, and our kids doing their own gardening, there's just no need for me to mass produce anymore and the old garden spot was way too large, so this year I downsized and decided to put a small spot out behind the barn. Having come through last year's severe drought in this area I wasn't sure what to expect for this growing season, but when the days begin to warm and the peepers begin to holler I just can't help but find myself some dirt to dig in, "weather or not" I have cooperation from Mother Nature! 

This year drought was not a problem...oh no! This year we didn't have to worry about precipitation....we got lots of it! First was the snow that continued right on through to the end of April. It didn't stay long, but there is nothing more depressing than having several days of warm spring weather, putting in your young plants and then waking up to find snow on your garden a week and a half later! Those plants hung in there though and made it to our Spring rains, however it rained and rained, and then rained some more. My poor little plants not only got their feet wet, they were in it up past their ankle bones! I just knew I'd have to replant once everything dried out, but those little guys pulled through once again and produced better than anything I've had in many a year.

We've not only ate fresh all through this growing season, but had enough to can and give away as well. The heat and dry weather made a come back a couple weeks ago, so needless to say the garden has just about give up the ghost. Yesterday was the finale...the daughter-in-law and I canned the last batch of salsa for the year and sometime over this Labor Day weekend I will go out and put an end to the suffering of my trusty plants. I'll take the largest of any green tomatoes that might still be there and ready them for the freezer and fried green tomatoes during the winter, but I know as soon as those plants are removed I'll be longing for a fresh sliced tomato, or a stew pan full of fresh green beans.

Still, I always look forward to the cooler weather and the Fall season so it will only be a passing sadness to the garden's end. Come January I'll be looking forward to a new year and a new garden and you can bet once those peepers start in March or April I'll be making garden plans once again!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

To blog or not to blog...THAT is the question!

I've tried to advance a little farther into this world of blogging and all I can say is...OH MY!! When I told you in my first post I really didn't know what all this stuff was about, I meant that, and after perusing several Google searches these last few evenings I'm wondering what I've gotten myself into! I've read until my eyeballs hurt...literally! I'm still trying to decipher linking, gadgets, widgets, and buttons. Cyber etiquette (to which I'm not really sure such a thing exists!), followers and circles, to plus or not to plus, use emails or feeds. As I'm reading I'm realizing, it takes a strong constitution to blab...uhhh, I mean blog. Add to that is the idea there are people out there who actually make a living from doing!

No doubt my amazement comes mostly from the fact that I live in an area that seems more removed from the high tech world that exists out there, or maybe I'm the one who is more removed, but down here on the forty we're more into figuring out where to find those morels come spring, growing a garden and canning the excess, or just enjoying a day out in the yard, so when I venture out into the real world I sometimes get hit with culture shock. Oh sure, we have our Facebooks, My Space, and occasional Tweets; cell phones and WiFi, and we can Pinterest with the best of them, but a great deal of our time is just spent trying to raise the kids, get to our jobs, and surviving the economy.

I don't plan to make it big blogging, I have no desire to become "famous" through the internet, nor do I have plans to give up my day job anytime soon, but neither would I be adverse to trying out various products to know, like a new BMW let's say! I don't really expect to find too many takers on that idea though, which is probably just as well. That new BMW probably couldn't pull a camper nor would it look good setting next to the 8N Ford!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Here's your sign!!

Our youngest daughter lives down the drive and across the road from our place and for some reason everyone who gets lost on this road ends up at her house. She doesn't like it! Both of us actually live at the end of two miles of gravel road and back in the day, when my grandparents lived here, they were the ONLY ones for this last mile. When my parents moved here in the early '60's they had roughly 340 acres that began at the dead end to their house. Unfortunately progress, the sale of land, and those escaping the city has opened up the area to all types and kinds of traffic.

The county road still dead ends at our house, but between our drive and the daughter's drive is another private drive that leads back to a couple other homes and it's always their traffic that seemed to get lost. Why that is we're not really sure because directions should be pretty straightforward..."when you get to the top of the hill turn left and go through the gate"'s not hard to explain and shouldn't be hard to follow because you can see the gate plain as day, but they will turn down the daughter's drive every time and rather than pull up to her house and ask, they make the circle and then proceed to follow the drive back to her barn....and then...they set there!

Now I don't mean to sound un-neighborly, but one particular family, that everyone always seems to be looking for, has kind of become the bane to our existence, to us and everyone else along this two mile stretch. The "need for speed and in-attention" seems to be their call words and have on many occasions brought out the in-grained redneck-ness those of us who live in the country possess!! And it's not that we haven't tried to call attention to the problem in a more friendly and pleasant manner, they've just chosen to ignore those previous encounters.

But rather than paint the visitors with the same brush the daughter has decided she wants to paint a sign and put it at the beginning of her drive that plainly states who lives there, in the hopes that those who are visiting and somehow miss the gate, will see the sign and have the ability to read!! I don't know that it will help and I shudder at the thought of the outcome once the sign is in place and they are STILL driving back to her barn, but a sign she wants and a sign we are attempting to make. If it turns out good I'll post a picture...if it turns out bad? Well, perhaps I'll post a link to one that does look good!  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sally's tomatoes and cukes

If by chance you're like me and ended up with plenty of tomatoes this year it may be that right about now you're getting a little tired of all those red orbs that seem to be stacking up all over the house....and the back porch! Hubs and I have been eating tomatoes at just about every meal. I've also canned tomatoes...and salsa...and pizza sauce. Yeah, it was a good year for tomatoes here on the 40! I've given to my daughter, the daughter-in-law, the sister-in-law, and a couple nieces and I'm sure I'll be picking again tomorrow evening. 
During a chat with the sister-in-law last night we were talking about tomatoes and how we eat them...well, naturally that triggered a memory for me and a "sort of kind of" recipe that I got from my good friend Sally Wood.

Sally and I met at college, which was not so very long ago. She and I were "late lifers"...we raised our kids and done all the other stuff BEFORE we went to college. While we weren't the oldest ones in class, we were both certainly more "seasoned" than most of them! We wound up one session in the same Psychology class and it wasn't long before we became fast friends. During one of our all night study sessions at Sally's house (that truly was ALL night), she fixed up this bowl of tomatoes and cucumbers. Maybe I was just starving from all that Algebra and Behavioral Statistics, but these were really good and now I make a bowl every chance I get. Just about everyone in my family loves them and they make a great side for church dinners too.

It's simple, easy, and quick:

1 bottle of Kraft Zesty Italian dressing
1-2 cucumbers (depending on size)
6-8 firm tomatoes 

Slice the cucumbers and cut the tomatoes into small wedges. Cover with Italian dressing;stir, then allow to marinate, covered, in the fridge for a few hours. That's it! 

I've only made one change to Sally's recipe...if memory serves correctly she always used House Italian, which is very good, but I soon discovered Zesty Italian and really like the extra "punch" it gives, but if all you have is regular Italian, they're just as good that way as well. As with anything, the longer it marinates the better it is!

(and yes! that's a pic of my own tomatoes and cukes!!lol

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Looking forward to Fall cooking

When the weather changes, so do I! I don't know about you, but when it's hot outside my ideas for cooking become pretty slim and it's not until the weather changes to cooler temps that I get in the mood to whip out a few things. The weather in my neck of the woods has been very un-seasonable this year...we've actually came through a pretty cool July and start to August, however this week, we're back to summertime temps again...not to my liking! Unfortunately the hubs still likes to eat, so I have to come up with something for after work.

I recently inherited my mother-in-law's electric skillet and decided to put it to good use by making a recipe long known to me as "Iowa Pork Steak". The original recipe called to make this in the oven, but with working I found it was just as easy to throw it all in a crock pot to be ready when we get home. Last night I decided to try it out in my "new" electric skillet and it works just as well in there too...just be sure to turn your temperature setting down to just above warm when finishing or you'll cook up all that wonderful gravy!

~photo courtesy of

Iowa Pork Steak

3-4 pork steaks, mixed chops, or loin chops
1 envelope of dry onion soup mix
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
2 cps. water
Flour for dredging to which you've added salt and pepper (optional)
2-3 tbl. of oil or bacon grease
1 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet* (optional)

Preheat the skillet with the oil at about 350 degrees. While heating, dredge the pork in flour, salt, and pepper mix. Lightly brown the pork in preheated skillet. While browning the meat, stir together water, soup, kitchen bouquet, and dry soup mix; mix well. Turn down the heat on electric skillet to about 200 and pour soup mix over the pork. Allow it to slow simmer, covered, about 45 mins. and it's done!

This is a pretty versatile meal, and one for all seasons, but in our house mashed potatoes are always on the sidelines to compliment that wonderful gravy! Enjoy!

*Kitchen Bouquet is a browning liquid used in soups and gravies.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

First time for everything...right?

Sooo...some friends of mine have suggested I needed to start a blog. I follow a few blogs when time permits, but really never quite understood what the idea behind a blog was. But, there's a first time for everything...right? And here I am starting out a new adventure without a clue to what I'm really supposed to be doing.

If you come to follow my blogs, you'll know that I'm a genetic rambler...I blame it on the Irish great grandparents, this ability to "talk" when there may not always be a reason to do so, although it was not my mother (whose side the Irish comes from) that did the talking in our family, it was my dad! There were five of us kids and short of my older sister, we all seemed to be blessed with the gift to gab!

I will warn you in advance though...if you're looking for something specific or something dolled up and fashionable, you won't find it here. This is just a place I intend to go when I have something to share, be it a recipe, a grandchild's accomplishment, or just my own walk down memory lane. I've been known to be opinionated, and not afraid to say so....there's a good chance you may find a few of those here as well! For the most part I'll be just another blogger out in here cyber space that thinks you might want to hear what I have to say and if you do, that's GREAT! You might even come to like what I share!

Here's to happy blogging,