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.