Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ends and Beginnings

So another year ends and a new one begins at the stroke of midnight!  Last year at this time we were in New Orleans watching our favorite football team play (and lose).  I enjoy New Orleans, but I am not a huge fan of very crowded areas so by the time the ball dropped I was back in our hotel, enjoying the countdown in a more controlled place than standing rear end to belly button in the middle of Jackson Square. (I have been there before and am just too old to have champagne sprayed all over me followed by confetti which sticks to the sprayed champagne.)

This year our favorite football team is playing once again, but we are not headed to Dallas to watch them.  Instead I have my most comfortable lounge pants (flannel pj bottoms) and a sweat shirt clean and ready for some tv game watching.  We will actually start our NYE celebrations at 3 pm watching Clemson and Oklahoma, then eat some pizza between games, and hope to be celebrating after our beloved team plays.  To be honest, win lose or draw we will still be fans, but we had rather they win.

So, before the game begins I have to get the den cleaned and vacuumed and get Christmas out of the room. I like to start the new year with a clean undecorated space, and I know there will be no un-decorating during game time, which leaves me about 3 hours to get everything knocked out.

 I also have to run by Papa Murphy's and pick up a couple of pizzas to bake tonight and I know they will be slammed by game time, so I will go right away. (And yes, I know I could cook them from scratch cheaper but this is a planned expense/convenience so I feel no guilt about doing it) Then there is a quick stop by the grocery store to snag some dried black eyed peas to soak for our traditional peas, greens and pork New Year's Day lunch. Though I understand what I eat on New Year's Day has little to no impact on the coming year, I will continue to eat the Southern "Lucky Meal". We do every year, so why change now?

Everyone driving and partying have a wonderful time and safe NYE!  I will be thinking of all of you as we veg out in front of the tv, yelling and acting like idiots while 11 young men run up and down a field.

Happy New Year Everyone!
here is a little Ella for your NYE enjoyment

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Outside the House

Probably the only thing is dislike more than housework is gardening.  Here when most of it has to be done the heat is stifling, the mosquitos are out in full force along with noseeums, and poison ivy is sprouting everywhere.  But other than that it is just delightful.

Side yard  outside fence 1. Set railroad ties and fill in with dirt to level area by the fence for future                                                  green beans
                                       2. Plant 2 more knock-out roses
                                       3. Plant marigolds in the barrel planter
                                       4. Plant a couple of blueberry bushes
                                       5. Plant green beans to climb fence

Side yard inside fence   1. Plant okra, zinnias in front of okra, marigolds edging zinnias
Back inside fence          1 Plant morning glories and moon flowers on fence
                                       2. Plant impatens in the shade
                                       3. Plant hostas, petunias and cockscomb in pots

Right side yard               1. Plant various planters tbd later
                                        2. Create lettuce garden
                                        3. Rearrange furniture on upper patio
                                        4. Get raised bed garden ready for planting
                                        5. Fix step
                                        6. Repair outdoor shower
                                        7. Paint any pots that need painting

Below the deck               1. Trim rosemary
                                        2.  Trim lavender
                                        3. Replant any herbs that didn't survive weather
                                        4. Plant annual herbs
Front yard                       1. Trim shrubs
                                        2. Replace dead azalea
                                        3. Shape crepe myrtles
                                        4. Paint front door
                                        5. Adirondack chairs for the front yard?
                                        6. Trim lantana
                                        7. Plant hanging basket for the front door shepherds hook
                                        8. Repaint birdbath in azalea bed
                                        9. Pay special attention to hydrangeas (Need a little babying)

flower duet

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ugh! Upstairs

So much for thinking the upstairs needed little more than a thorough scrubbing.  Last night instead of sleeping I mentally went through each room making notes of everything I need to do.  It is so much more than I originally thought. Yuck!

Guest Room      1. Move queen bed out and replace with king (gotta buy king first though)
                          2. New knobs on dresser
                          3. Bedside table (look on facebook trading sites for this)
                          4. Touch up paint
                          5.  Rearrange furniture
Guest Bath        1. Repair closet door knob
                          2. Art work?
                          3. Make new window treatment

Bedroom 1        1. Deep clean
                          2. Move queen bed into room

Bedroom 2        1. Deep clean
                          2. Move foosball table to lake place
                          3. Move full bed into room
                          4. Get rid of computer desk
                          5. Cull grandmother toys

Office                1. Deep clean
                          2. Get rid of computer desk
                          3. Cull everything
                          4. Set up as bedroom for granddaughter
                          5. Paint room

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Home Goals for 2016

I have been seeing a lot of people post specific goals for their homes, so I thought this might be a great time to list mine room by room.  Maybe, just maybe I will feel obligated to get more done if I feel some sort of responsibility to someone other than myself.

Foyer             1. Paint
                       2. Touch up ding to woodwork
                       3. New table or chest (Look on fb sale pages)

Living Room 1. General cleaning
                       2. Wash windows
                       3. Clean piano soundboard
                       4. Vacuum upholstery
                       5. Clean baseboards
                       6. Wipe down walls

Dining Room 1. General cleaning
                       2. Wash windows
                       3. Paint corner cabinets
                       4. Refinish buffet top
                       5. Refinish table top
                       6. Replace pulls on buffet drawers
                       7. Wipe down walls
                       8. Clean baseboards
                       9. Repair window sill
          Kitchen 1. Deep Clean Everything!

                Den 1. Clean carpet
                        2. Wash Windows
                        3. Deep clean wood furniture
                        4. Wax furniture
                        5. Try and kill some of the brassiness of the ceiling fan.
                        6. Rearrange furniture (Tired of it being the same)
                        7. Set up stereo system and new speakers throughout the house
                        8. Make new throw pillows for loveseat and couch

Powder Room 1. Different art for walls
                        2. Quick shine floor
                        3. New hand towels

Master B'room1. Paint
                        2. New flooring (Hardwoods?)
                        3. Refinish bedroom furniture (Sand, stain and finish)
                        4. Finish repairing quilt
                        5. Make new bed skirt
                        6. Wash pillows seasonally
                        7. Wash blinds and curtains
                        8. Make a few new throw pillows for bed.
                        9. Paint vanity table
                       10. Reupholster vanity chair

Master Bath     1. Paint vanity
                         2. Create faux legs for the vanity
                         3. Create faux frame to cover the beveled edge of the mirror (goodbye 80's)
                         4. Tear out shower, tub, toilet and redo all (probably will not happen this year)
                         5. Re-frost window

Laundry Room 1. Clean deeply
                          2. Find a better arrangement for shelves
                          3. Create a functional sewing area
                          4. Carve out space for a small exercise area

This is pretty much it for the main level, but I am sure I have left out some key things I want/need to do.  In addition to this I plan on getting rid of 10 things per week.  I can either sell it, donate it, or give it to someone else, but I need to minimize our possessions.  I guess I will see how well this works.  I will follow up with monthly results throughout the year

I will post on the upper level later.  I am either hopelessly blind or I just don't want to think about it right now, because in my mind it is ok.

 For your musical entertainment
Our House

Saturday, December 26, 2015

And Now THE DAY Is One For The Books

Well now the big day is over and the digging out from Christmas process has begun. We are hung over from too much food and sugar so I just handed Sons 2 and 3 a little cash to buy cukes, cauliflower and carrots since they were headed out anyway.  My body is craving veggies right now!

We had a wonderful day yesterday filled with family, laughter and most of all the wonder of seeing it through a child's eyes.  Our 2 year old granddaughter has been here and it has been magical. I have no idea what I will do to fill the void when she leaves, but I will cross that bridge on the 29th and not a minute before!

I am sharing a recipe that has been in my family for as long as I can remember.  Usually my mother makes this for the holidays, but  after Dad's death this summer her normal forever changed so this year I made them. (Then forgot about them and left them in the refrigerator during brunch!  So much for picking up the slack, huh?)

Mom's Chocolate Covered Cherries

3 tablespoons softened butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
milk added drops at a time
maraschino cherries with stems (small jar)
4 squares UNsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon shortening

Put the cherries in a colander and drain well
Mix butter and confectioners sugar until it is very well blended.  The mixture should be very thick and dry.  Add milk a few drops at a time mixing well after each addition until it feels very much like play dough.
Pinch off a small amount (shooter marble size) of the sugar "dough" and make a ball, then flatten it slightly.  Put the cherry, stem side up in the center of the flat piece and wrap the cherry with the sugar fondant leaving only the stem showing.  Continue until the cherries are all covered.  Put on a waxed paper covered plate and stick in the refrigerator until they are very cold.

Set a heat proof coffee mug in a small boiler of simmering water.  Add the chocolate and shortening into the mug and let it melt.  Remove the mug and set it on a heat proof surface. Stir to blend the chocolate and shortening well (I use a toothpick for this) then hold each cherry by the stem and dip in the chocolate filled mug.  Cover the fondant completely with the chocolate and set on a waxed paper covered cake rack.  Generally I have to tilt the mug to cover the last few cherries, even so you should have some unused chocolate in the mug after they are all dunked. When all the cherries are covered set the rack in the refrigerator for a few minutes until the chocolate hardens and is set. Then store them in an airtight bag or container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. And don't do like I did and forget about them because now someone will have to eat them all and I fear know it will be me.

These are really tasty and very sweet in spite of using unsweetened chocolate to coat them.  I have friends who hate regular chocolate covered cherries who love these.  Give them a try and you might become a convert also.  Who knows, this might become a tradition for a family other than mine.

And now the defrocking begins! So long Christmas tree 

This is the living room tree just before the unwrapping began.  Hopefully tomorrow I will begin the taking down process and life will return to normal for the next 11 months!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Heating Up Christmas

This is a quick shot of the den tree.  We had a brief moment of daylight yesterday before the clouds and oppressive air rolled in. I managed to snap this before the day became dark, but by the time I moved to the living room to take a picture of that tree, conditions worsened substantially. This has been the weirdest weather I can remember. We are having record warmth and insane humidity this Christmas, so I might as well go with the hot theme for some snacks as well.

We love this slightly different take on the traditional Chex Mix, but then we like spicy things.  If you don't like a little heat in your food you might as well quit reading this right now.  There are several
recipes on the internet for this but I have tweaked it to our liking, so this recipe reflects my family's preferences.

Siricha Chex Mix

8 cups chex cereal
1 cup small cheese crackers
1 cup small pretzels
1 cup skinless cocktail peanuts
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup siracha
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

In a gigantic bowl put the chex, crackers, pretzels, and peanuts and stir gently to mix well but keep the crackers and chex intact.  In a small boiler melt the butter, add the siracha, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt.  Stir to blend well then gently stir into the dry mixture coating each piece.   Spread onto baking pans in an even layer (This take 2 large jelly roll pans) and bake at 350 until it is crisp. Stir occasionally while baking to ensure even cooking.  In my oven this is about a 12 minute process. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pans, then store in an airtight container.  This stuff gets devoured here so I am off to the store for more Chex!  Have a Merry Christmas, Y'all!

Thanks Harry Connick, Jr!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Highly Addictive Christmas Sweetness

I took this shot of the fabric mache Santa collection.  They belong to Son1 and are still living here, but I am hopeful that they will go live in Oregon next year. For the time being they hang out on the buffet in the dining room. Son1 started collecting them when he was about 10  and they have grown into a decent sized community of Santas that need a new home!

I am sure most of you have heard about the sweet/salty confection referred to as Christmas Crack and for those who have not, well, I am here to enlighten you.  Though I would never put limiting the amount of this you ingest in the same category as abstaining from an opiate based product, this stuff is hard to quit eating once you start.

Sweet and Saltine Toffee

1 cup butter
1 packed cup brown sugar
1 sleeve saltines
1 cup milk chocolate bits
1/4 cup pecan pieces, optional

Line a medium jelly roll pan or sided baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the saltines side by side to cover the entire pan bottom. For my pan I can get 4 square crackers across but I still have about an inch of space before the side of the pan is touched so I have to break several in half to fill the bottom. The object is to have the entire bottom covered with crackers, however you have to do it.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the brown sugar. They, whoever "they" are, say to cook it over medium heat stirring until it boils and then continue cooking for 3 minutes without stirring.  I say good luck removing the sugar char from the bottom of your pan if you do.  I stand there and give it quick stirs throughout the boiling process.  After 3 minutes remove it from the heat and pour it as evenly as possible over the crackers.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to smooth it over the cracker surface.  Immediately sprinkle the milk chocolate chips over the hot toffee mixture. Let it stand for a couple or three minutes, then spread it with an offset spatula evenly over the caramel.  If necessary stick it back in the oven for 30 or so seconds to help melt the bits.  As soon as you have spread the chocolate sprinkle with nuts if you are using them.  Let it cool well (Stick it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes) then either cut it into very neat squares or let it break in pieces more like brittle would.

 Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

I never made it to the grocery store today, so instead of a tasty meal we had another peasant dinner. Tonight we had frozen leftover minestrone soup ladled over cornbread. Yeah it was delicious and just what we wanted__not!  Actually it was fine but nothing to write home or a blog about.  Fortunately I had a pantry full of baking supplies and an intense desire for something that tasted good.

I have been reading about these cookies for a while, but have never tried them before, so tonight I gave them a go.  Again, did I bookmark the recipe or have any idea where to find it? Nope, but I remembered the cookie part being a very basic cookie dough.  This is my attempt at copying it. If it is yours and I copied you, I am sorry for not linking to you.  Please let me know what I did correctly and what was wrong.  Officially and for the record these are really tasty cookies even if I screwed up the original recipe.

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 generous tablespoon triple sec
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
3/4 cup white chocolate bits
1 cup dried cranberries

Mix the sugars and butter in a medium bowl until it is light and creamy.  Add the egg and triple sec and blend well.  Make a well in the butter mix and dump all the dry ingredients into the well.  Stir slowly to incorporate the flour mixture, then beat until it is lump free.  Stir in the white chocolate bits and cranberries.  Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto a greased baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until the cookies are light brown.  Let them cool on the pan for 1 minute before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.  Serve and enjoy.

I had just taken these out of the oven and TheHub was salivating from the smell alone.  He had no idea what I was baking other than the generic term cookies.  I ate one for a taste test, then started writing this post. When I glanced at the rack where they were cooling I noticed less than half of them remained.  I guess he approved of them. 

I thought the one I ate was quite good and figured I would enjoy some more with a cup of coffee later.  I am not sure there will be any left since he just made a return trip to the rack while holding an empty plate in his hand.  I don't think I could find a more ringing endorsement.  So much for freezing these for Christmas Day. Guess I will be baking more while he is at work tomorrow.

And speaking of cookies:

Monday, December 14, 2015

I've Been Lax

I have been lax lately , and I am not talking about jetting off to Los Angeles type of LAX. Forgive me people of blogland.  I started December with the best of intentions and have seriously failed.  I am back today but I have to admit I am feeling a little weak in the resolve department.  Life has been slapping me around a little lately (like it does everyone at this time of the year) and like everyone else, I am just trying to keep my head above the water most days.

Today's post is a sad tale of the sad decline of someone who really loves fantastic food.  I am trying to stay away from the grocery store a bit longer this month and except to buy salad stuff and fruits I have not been shopping all of December.  I think that is going to change that tomorrow since I really do need to hit Aldi's for mushrooms and butter, but thus far we have been eating from the pantry and freezer. Needless to say, our pickings are getting seriously slim.  And what a better segue to tonights sad little meal than to mention our lack of choices.  I am sure you have all had variations of this meal and tonights is one of the least extravagant I have ever made. Still, it tasted very good, and even warranted seconds.

Tater Tot Casserole
1 1/4 lbs. ground beef, browned
1 large onion, chopped
2 quick shakes garlic powder
2 stalks celery (just because I had 2 that were about to ruin)
1 small tomato, diced (ditto)
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup or the equivalent amount of thickened white sauce with mushrooms
2 tablespoons steak sauce (I make my own but it is similar to Heinz 57)
salt and pepper to taste
enough tater tots to cover a 9x9 inch pan
1/2 cup cheese

Brown the ground beef and when the meat looses its color add the onions.  Cook until they are wilted and add the remaining vegetables, garlic powder and parsley.  Cook until they are softened, add the mushroom soup, steak sauce and salt and pepper.  Stir well and pour into a 9x9 oven safe dish. Cover the top of the meat mixture with tots. If you are a tad OCD line 'em up, and if you're not put them in whatever random pattern you would like.  Just make sure they are in a single layer.  Bake at 415 for about 20 minutes until the tater tots are nice and crunchy.  Set the casserole on a heat proof surface (hot pad?) and sprinkle evenly with the cheese.  Serve with a large salad and call it done.  This tastes very good, it's easy, and yes we ate it sans kids and lived to tell about it.

Forgive me again for not thinking to take a picture of the Christmasy thing in the daylight. My intentions and actions have not been coinciding much lately.  I am not sure what happened with all these nutcrackers.  I started buying them for Son2 when he was a little fellow. I think during storage from Christmas to Christmas some kind of hi-jinx has gone on and there has been a population explosion in the Sterlite container.  If I remember to take a picture tomorrow I will replace it with a daytime shot and if I forget, well, I will be shooting par for the course.

 These guys are living this Christmas on a marble table behind the love seat in the den.  They tend to fall over a lot, because the love seat butts right up against the edge of the table and we accidentally hit them often.  The 4th from the left on the 1st row is our kamikaze nutcracker.  He loses various body parts on a regular basis and has to undergo surgery every year.  He was one of the first ever purchased and has been "loved" quite a bit over the years.

As an aside, it is a little known historical fact that the nutcrackers visited the Baby Jesus.  When the kids were young they would put them by the creche hanging with the wise men.  I guess our visitors to the manger brought gifts of gold, frankincense, myrrh and pecans

Saturday night we were lucky enough to hear Joey Alexander, a 13 year old true jazz phenom from Indonesia.  He has a natural musical ability, skill and touch on the piano that lies far beyond his years.

Though "My Favorite Things" is not a traditional Christmas song it has morphed into one in the recent past.  I could find no traditional holiday song but really did want to share his incredible talent. If you ever get a chance to hear him do yourself a favor and go.  He is truly amazing.
My Favorite Things, by Joey Alexander

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmastime Emergency Meal

I am one of those weirdo people who buy things when they are cheap and I buy it in bulk.  A couple of months ago chicken quarters were 39 cents per pound in 10 pound packages, so I bought 70 pounds of chicken.  Some of it was cut into thighs and legs and frozen individually to be packed in large freezer bags , but most of it was cooked, removed from the bone and sealed in meal sized vacuum bags and then frozen.

On nights like tonight when I have been out and about during the day, it is so simple to grab a pack of the cooked chicken and have the beginnings of a meal. Since I also had a ton of broccoli florets frozen from an earlier sale I had the beginnings of chicken divan.  I do not keep condensed soups on hand and instead make this sauce from Soup or Sauce mix using the amount in the recipe to equal 1 can of soup, but I am posting the recipe as it is in the original recipe from a cookbook. I got the book before we were married. (No idea what it was since the cover has been gone forever, but it is one of those spiral bound organization cookbooks)

Chicken Divan
2 cups cooked diced chicken
2 cups broccoli florets
1 can condensed cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter

Put the chicken and broccoli in an oven safe casserole dish and toss to mix.  Mix the soup, lemon juice, sherry, Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise together in a small bowl.  Pour over the chicken and broccoli mix and stir thoroughly.  Put the grated cheese over the mixture then top with the cracker crumbs. Dot with the butter and place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until everything is hot and bubbly.

To be honest, I use about 2 times the broccoli called for because when we have this and have nothing else with it I add extra veggies to it.  I also use only about 1/2 cup of cheese and forgo the cracker crumb topping simply because we find it unnecessary for us.  Everyone has their personal preferences and I would always tell anyone to do what works for their family.  You might need additional salt and also need pepper.  Sometimes I throw in a dash of cayenne because we like heat, but not everyone does.  I also have friends who add curry powder to theirs.  I think if I added curry I would add red curry paste rather than curry powder, but again that is personal taste.

This makes a very filling comfort meal, like grandma used to make (except neither of my grandmothers ever made main dish casseroles).  This is a great "throw together and go wrap presents while it bakes dish".  Which is exactly what I am going to do as soon as I finish this post.

Give it a try and you might like it.  Add or subtract things to make it your own and have a meal baking while you get some Christmas done.

And just in case you use the Soup or Sauce mix and make it a little too watery like I did, it tastes really good served on toast.  All the excess goo soaked into the bread and the toast gave it a bit of needed heft.

Years ago I made a Christmas mix of odd Christmas songs.  This one is one of my favorites from the mix, and yes it is odd.

There is no decoration because I didn't take a picture before dark and the house is just too dark at night to photograph well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Once a Foodie...

For those of you like me who enjoy a really good article about various foods, kitchen gadgets, and over the top kitchenware, nothing is more fun than relaxing with the Williams Sonoma Holiday catalog.  Well, nothing is as good as that except for the annual post ABOUT the truly absurd items in the Williams Sonoma catalog.  For your viewing pleasure I offer the 2015 Hater's Guide to Williams Sonoma (Offensive Language Warning) Don't say I didn't warn you

Thank you to my friend Jill for posting the link on Facebook.  I look for this yearly, but you made it easy for me to find!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sweet Hot Peanuts and Vomiting Unicorns

I was going to post a picture of a little vignette in my den today, but ran upon this sweater and could
not help but snag the picture and of course provide the link should any of you need to present a loved one with a sweater featuring a glitter vomiting Unicorn. Ahhhh! Christmas as its finest!

Today's recipe is a simple something to nosh on when you want something sweet and hot.

Glazed Spiced Peanuts

I cup raw peanuts (I would prefer these skinless but didn't want to take the time to rub them between 2 clean dishtowels to get the skins off. So obviously it really did not matter to me at all!)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
salt to taste

In a nonstick pan toast the peanuts for 3 or 4 minutes until parched but not burned ( through trial and error there is a fine line between the two).

Put the peanuts in a small bowl or pot ( DO NOT USE PLASTIC...another trial and error)

In the same hot pan add the sugar and stirring constantly over a medium high heat melt the sugar and let it come to a light caramel. Stir in the spices and salt , then pour over the peanuts. ( See now why plastic is a bad idea?) Stir like mad to coat the entire cup of peanuts and pour on a plate to cool. Break into small bits when completely cool. These things disappear about as quickly as I make them. 

And just in case you are like me and floundering with what to wear because it is too bloomin hot for December here is a little video for your listening/watching entertainment. Mr Heat Miser

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Yesterday I mentioned I am up to my neck in Santa letters.  A friend and I started this as a fundraiser for our local high school band and now, even though our kids are upperclassmen in college we are continuing it.  I think this is our 6th year to do it, and now I am noticing a new trend.  I know I live in the south and I know double names for females have always existed here, but now we have entered into a whole new  realm of double names.  Now there are tons of little boys with double names and some of the girls even have cleverly disguised triple names.
Add all of the new subdivision names which also have gotten more and more complex and I am spending an incredible amount of time on each envelope. (Plus we all know Santa doesn't address sloppily nor does he use abbreviations.  I am seriously thinking we need to start charging by the number of letters in the address.)

Instead of a decoration photo today, I am sharing a picture of one of the envelopes from Santa
The photo is a mock up using similar names and addresses just so y'all can experience this new trend. I see a future of adults called A.J. or E.B. or J.J.C. or similar initial names.  No one is going to want to carry all these names their entire lives.
Notice the skillfully designed double name masquerading as a single name followed by a surname for a middle name and then a hyphenated last name.  Also notice the street name which is not real, but it is very much like the streets in some of the subdivisions around me.  Where is Main Street , or Oak or Elm?  Give a sister a break how about it.

And now with no segue is the recipe of the day.This recipe is not something I generally make for Christmas, in fact I have never made it before but I have 6 overly ripe bananas and man can only bake and freeze X loaves of banana bread. I tried these cookies on a lark simple because I found a recipe  (very old cookbook with no cover, so sorry for not crediting someone somewhere with it) using mashed very ripe bananas.  Well, it used overripe bananas and I had all the other ingredients on hand, plus it required just one bowl and a wooden spoon to whip it together, so it met my criteria. As an additional benefit, the entire recipe whipped up in less than 5 minutes.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup softened salted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mashed banana
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If you have a convection setting use it!

Mix the butter with the sugars until it is creamy, add the banana and egg and blend well.  Pour the flour on top of the sugar mixture and add the rest of the ingredients except for the oats, then stir until all the flour mixture is well blended.  Stir the oats through.  Grease 3 large cookie sheets and drop the cookie mix by tablespoons onto the sheets.  Lightly tap with your fingers to flatten a bit.  Bake for about 10 minutes, but check them often.  They really do want to burn around the edges.  I made the mistake of stacking 3 trays in the oven at the same time and the one on the bottom burned badly, even though it stayed in the oven much less time than the other pans.  Cook them on the center or top rack, in the middle of the oven and keep you eye on them. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely on cookie racks. They are a very rustic looking cookie, not something you would want to serve the Queen should she drop by for cookies, but still a decent looking cookie.

I ate one when it was still warm because I love warm,fresh from the oven cookies.  If I had written the review then I would have told you not to bother, that they tasted like nothing. They were soft and mushy and pretty flavorless. Then they cooled down and crisped up.  Suddenly you could taste the banana flavor and the oatmeal, brown sugar and butter.

As it turns out it is a pretty tasty cookie, but it is something I will make only when I have bananas that are too ripe.  As tasty as they are I am not a big enough of a fan of banana flavor to actively plan on baking them. As I say that though, I am wondering how it would taste with a drizzle of melted chocolate, or melted peanut butter chips.  There are many left and I might have to give that a try tomorrow, so the jury is potentially still out on the final verdict. Hmmmmmm

And once again no segue to the song of the day

Friday, December 4, 2015

Redneck Christmas

Today I am up to my eyeballs addressing Santa letters, so this is going to be short and sweet. I am paying homage to my redneck southern roots. Sometimes it is just better to go ahead and poke fun at ourselves rather than wait for someone else to do it.

 This is a house I see regularly when I am out and about.  Each year they have inflatables all over their yard.  This year they are down to 7, but they live on a corner lot and to get them all in the same shot you have to be too far away to even begin to be able to see what they are. So this is just a shot of the 3 in the right corner of the front lawn.  Sorry I couldn't get the gigantic dead Santa in the picture also.   I call this "Daylight Inflatable Homicide" and I giggle each time I see it.  I don't understand the fascination with inflatables and I sure as heck don't understand killing them every morning!

Thanks to Son2 whipping up some of these last night, my redneck Christmas recipe is Dookie Cookies.  You may know them by the name no bake cookies, or boiled cookies, or chocolate fudge cookies, but I raised a house of males and after hearing them called this one time, the name stuck.  When you look at the photo without using a whole lot of imagination you can see why 10 year old males would latch on to a name like that.

Son3 is away at school in Manhattan and this is his signature recipe.  He has friends with no Southern roots at all who will call him and ask him to make them a batch of Dookie Cookies. (And yes they are all now calling them that also. It seems redneck is contagious.) He even has a couple of paying customers who place orders for them, probably because they have no idea how simple they are to make.

If you want to make these and feel the need to call them something a bit more refined, feel free to re-name them. (And to be honest anything you name them will be much more refined.)

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt (we never add this)
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups uncooked oatmeal (any kind but steel cut works)
Cover a large cookie sheet with either parchment or aluminum foil. Set aside.
Mix the sugar and cocoa in a medium saucepan.  Add the butter and the milk and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 2 minutes stirring continuously.  Remove from the heat and add the peanut butter and oatmeal, stirring just long enough to blend well.  Drop the chocolate onto the covered cookie sheet and let it set until the cookie is hardened.  This usually takes 15 or so minutes.  Any uneaten cookies can be stored in a ziploc bag in the fridge for a few days, but none ever last longer than 2 days here so I can't give an experienced true timeline. Enjoy and enjoy the freedom from baking!  These actually taste and have the consistency of fudge more than a cookie, but it is still pretty darn good.

Because I am from the South I can freely post this, after all I think the web site The People of Walmart originated  down here  White Trash Christmas

Sluggy from Don't read this:it's boring posted This link in her comment.  I had to put it here so everyone can see it a little easier.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The 3rd Day

I was going to take a picture of one of my favorite houses in the neighborhood, but as I was driving home after a Christmas luncheon things changed and I was forced to take the quickest route home. Tomorrow will be the photo op day now, so you are stuck with another decoration photo from my house.
I always loved music boxes when I was a kid. I had several and even had the innards from a couple of broken ones I inherited from a teenage neighbor who had over wound hers. I was never above dismantling them to retrieve the cylinder and the little toothed comb that created the music. Even though they would no longer wind I could coax music if I maneuvered it manually.  Childhood left and I grew up, but my fondness for the sound of music boxes never did.

Years ago I started collecting Christmas music boxes.  I wanted only whimsical ones and my only stipulation was they must be porcelain or ceramic (no metal, plastic, or resin for me) and they had to play different tunes. After accumulating 9 variations on a theme of Santa, 2 angels and 1 creche I decided enough was enough. I place the Santas on the den mantle which acts as a nice sounding board and increases the volume of the music. When I am here alone I wind them up, let them go and enjoy the sweet sounds.

 I have yet to search the yard for pinecones and I haven't yet cut greenery to go between the music boxes.  It was entirely too early when I set this up. Now I can cut some pine and maybe it will last until Christmas.  This might happen tomorrow or maybe it won't but hope springs eternal right. (After seeing how dark this picture is I realize the importance of daylight when taking a photo. Edit: Daytime  and a little pine made a world of difference!)

I also have not put the lights in the fake greenery yet, mainly because I can't find my command adhesive strips. I know where the actual hooks are, just not the sticky stuff and I refuse to buy something I know I have here__somewhere.

The Santa picture in the middle was once a painted canvas I bought at a garage sale for 50 cents.  I can't buy canvases nearly that cheap, so with a little gesso, a little paint and a little effort I had a Santa picture. Since I already had the gesso and paint I was only out half a buck and an hour or so of time.

The recipe for tonight is an emergency meal thrown together with pre-browned, frozen ground beef, canned veggies, an onion and a cornbread mix.  It is a tasty fast meal for the busy holiday times but does not really taste what I consider Christmasy.

2 cups browned ground beef, drained well
1 onion diced
1 can seasoned pinto beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can hominy or whole kernel corn, drained (yes I used hominy because I had no corn.  No clue why I had hominy though)
1 medium can whole chilis, cut in slices
1 tablespoon chili powder (I used half regular and 1/2 chipotle because we like heat)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 package corn bread mix, prepared according to package directions.
Grated Cheese for the topping (I used about 2 ounces because that is all I had in an opened package)

In a large oven safe bowl mix all the ingredients except for the cornbread mixture and the cheese.  Blend it well then smooth the top to make a relatively even surface.  Spread the cornbread mix over the top of the beef/vegetable mixture and smooth with a knife so it is a uniform thickness.  Pop in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 minutes, until the inside is bubbling and the cornbread is fully cooked.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the cheese on top of the cornbread.  Serve it piping hot.  It would have been great with a salad, but I have not been to the grocery store since we returned from Oregon, so the cupboard is kind of bare.

This is tasty, filling and best of all it can be thrown together in 5 minutes  and bakes unattended while you finish wrapping presents, decorating, or just sitting and listening to music boxes.

Only Eartha can do justice to this song  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December, Day 2

This little choral singing vignette lives on the table in the foyer.  I used to have a small Christmas tree there also, but I found this really cool lit bare limbed tree this year, so I replaced the older tree with it.
I have had this group of carolers since the mid 80's.  At that time we were a young family of four, TheHub, me, Son1 and Son2.  Many years later after Son3 came along there was so much difference in his age and his brothers ages that he became the baby in the green snowsuit holding the teddy bear. Now that little fellow is 22 and our family has grown to include Mama K and little Pip.  If I were going to truly represent the family now I would really need to buy two older gray haired carolers, add 2 adult bald males, keep the blond adult male, kick out the blond female and replace her with an adult female with dark hair and keep the baby girl. But who wants to be accurate?  I had much rather imagine myself still as a true blonde instead of a blonde covered gray lady. Sigh!

The recipe for today is a cookie I make each year.  They are in high demand here and eaten about as soon as I make them. Luckily I have learned to bake when no one is at home and freeze it in containers labeled squash. Hee hee!

Nutmeg Noels

1 tablespoon red sprinkles, 1 tablespoon green sprinkles
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract

350  10-12 minutes

Put each tablespoon of colored sugar in a small shallow bowl.  Stir 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg into each and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside

Cream the butter until it is light and fluffy, add the sugar and continue beating until it is very fluffy.  Add the egg and mix well, then stir in the extracts.  With the mixer set on low, add the flour mixture until it is all combined well, but do not over beat

Set the bowl with the dough in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  Roll the dough into balls about the size of large marbles.  Dip one side into the colored sugar using half the balls for the red sugar and the other half for the green sugar.

Place on a very lightly greased baking sheet ( or use parchment ) and bake for about 10-12 minutes 

until the edges of the bottom are light brown.  Do not over bake!  These taste similar to egg nog in cookie form. 
They will keep about a week in an air tight room temp container, or freeze easily for a month. And if you put them in a container labeled squash or eggplant or something similar they will stay intact in the freezer!

Today's Musical Interlude:Joni Mitchell "River" just because I love this song and her voice.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Happy December!

As we start this month I decided I would try and have a daily post with one seasonal recipe or food how to, a youtube link to holiday music and a picture of either some Christmas decoration in my house or something really cool I see when I am out and about.

Today was still warm here but dreary and I decided I wanted to have a cup of hot chocolate, but I did not want to go to the store.  (I was busy washing all the clothes from our trip to the Northwest. Did I mention I hate flying through Dallas and cancelled flights and getting home well after midnight instead of the early evening?)
 My dad taught me to make hot chocolate this way when I was a kid. I imagine it was some WW2 way to stretch ingredients. It makes a very tasty hot drink that is neither too sweet nor too rich.  Since I am not a marshmallow person I don't add them but I understand from people who really like them that it makes the flavor much richer.

Easy Peasy Hot Chocolate for 1

1 1/4 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional (I don't use it)
1/2 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons warm cream

Stir the cocoa and sugar in the bottom of a medium size mug.  Pour the boiling water in the mug and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the vanilla if using then stir in the milk and cream.  Top with marshmallows or whipped cream if desired, or be like me and just drink it as is.  It is very tasty and no shopping is required.  Plus I know every ingredient and can not only pronounce the names but I can spell them all.

This is what you see when you walk in the front door of my house.  I want everyone who enters to know immediately that we are sincerely hoping they have a glorious holiday season.  I found this old frame with a picture in it many years ago for 1 dollar. Then I gessoed the original art and  painted 3 very abstract Christmas trees on it.  We placed it on the mantle each year at Christmas but over the years it had taken a beating and needed refreshing.  At first I was just going to touch up the background, but instead I covered the entire painting with gesso and just decided to paint an simple Christmas wish on the canvas.  I was in a hurry to get the foyer decorated, and most likely I will add something else to it, but for now this is what is happening. I also found some gold paint to use on the frame.  It now leans against the wall on a small stool and has some greenery with pinecones and holly berries on the stool seat in front of it.

And to begin December

December List/November Summary

Last months joy list was mostly successful, but there were still some joyous things I did not finish.

1. Reflect each day on 3 specific good things that happened the day before
2.Volunteer with special needs adults
3. Visit the most beautiful girl in the world (granddaughter)
4. Enjoy traveling with Mom (no matter what, enjoy it!)
5. Begin decorating for Christmas (Remember it will already be December when I return from the trip) Den tree completely done, another partially done, one sill in the box.  Dining room chandelier done, dining room corner cabinets done, dining room buffet done, den mantle done, sofa table done, coffee table partially done.  Still much more to do but making serious progress.
6. Have a joyful Thanksgiving day! At a restaurant in Oregon, no work for anyone!
7. Work on the family recipe book
8. Take food to someone having a bad time
9. Once weekly take Mom to a Christmas Shop or gift store.  Let her look as long as she wants. Practice patience. 1. The Place in Bucksville (Don't remember the name) 2.Joyce Ann's Holiday Shop. I tried to get her to go to another one but she was having a bad day.
10. Find and enjoy some free live music I was able to hear the closest thing to an angel singing as I will ever be able to hear while living on this plane. I went to Independence Place to volunteer and got to hear one of their participants play and sing. I was honored and humbled.
11. Go to a Christmas market (Lots of churches around here have them in November) Found a great one in Trussville
12. Dinner with Mom 1 time at my house and 1 time at hers
13. Read at least 3 books One and 3/4 read.  Oh well
14. Dig up bulbs at the lake place and transplant them
15. Make some new recipe completely out of my comfort zone. Peruvian food maybe? Indian curry dish
16. Begin addressing Christmas cards
17. Make My Beloved Sister a Christmas Gift Shhhh!  Will talk of this later!
18. Wrap all presents that are bought (leave off the ribbons)
19. Attend  a seminar or lesson to learn something new
20.  Go to a museum by myself
21. Refashion at least one item of clothing I don't like anymore into something wearable and moderately fashionable Old boxy boucle jacket now is fitted
22. Try my hand at knitting, again. (this may be an effort in futility, again) Tried and determined I am just not a knitter.
23. Have a small dinner party  Party of 5 for wine, food, and conversation.  It was supposed to be a book club meeting but we didn't read a book this month.
24. Sit and listen to a complete symphony (can be live or a recording, just do it) Shastokovich's Gadfly Suite
25. Listen (really listen) to a remembrance someone older has then write it down for posterity. Thanks Uncle Bob!
26. Do the silly pay it forward thing in a fast food line
27. Finish a painting for the lake place Changed to something Christmasy for the foyer
28. Splurge and buy a different fair trade coffee
29. Make some paleo "ice cream" (try and keep an open mind about how it tastes)
30. Eat some type of salad every Monday-Friday I think I missed one day, but having this written made me very conscious of eating raw vegetables.
31. Learn some Christmas jazz for the piano Need a lot more practice, so this will continue in December
32. bonus: Make and take some cookies and peanut butter fudge on trip
33.bonus:  Go to the nursing home with Mom to visit her longtime friend or go visit Uncle Bob at his house Visited UB at Mom's house
e.  A relative died and he spent the night at Mom's before they went to the funeral
34. daily: practice patience trying, some days succeeding and some days failing.

December's Joy List
1.Think of the best thing that happened each day with gratitude.
2. Make slice and bake cookies for the freezer to use throughout the holidays
3. Go to a Nutcracker performance
4. Listen to live Christmas music
5. Finish all decorating by December 7th.
6. Address and mail all the Santa Letter
7. Make a gift for my Beloved Sister
8. Make a gift for my granddaughter (the most beautiful girl in the world)
9. Sing Christmas Carols each day
10. Bake Shelby, the dog, fresh doggie treats
11. Make 5 meals for the freezer to have when company comes
12. Try 3 new candy recipes
13. Celebrate the advent season with a weekly devotion and lighting of the advent candles.
14. Take Mom to see Christmas sights
15. Take the granddaughter to see Christmas lights, ride the reindeer carousel and see Santa
16. Volunteer with special needs adults
17. Finish addressing Christmas cards and mail by Dec 8th.
18. Have friends in for beverages and cookies
19. Take Mom to visit some friends
20. Help Mom with a small luncheon. She decided not to have one and took them out instead
21. Take blankets and old coats to one of the local homeless shelters.  It has been hot here and they are not needed/wanted yet, but I have them ready when the weather turns.
22. Take food to someone having a difficult time.
23. Send a celebration card or note to someone with exceptionally good news
24. Pick a random family to help with Christmas. (Try and remember it is a blessing to be a blessing)
25. Toys for Tots
26. Special food pantry donation
27. Sit by the fire alone (if the temp will drop below 45) with just candles, tree lights, christmas music and hot buttered rum to reflect on what Christmas really means  In reality is was sit by the fireplace with no fire, wearing shorts and the ac running, drinking iced tea to reflect on what the season really means.
28. Try to be particularly nice to every one in retail.  It is not their fault if I shop too late!
29. Make a list of everyone who does services for me, to remember them at Christmas
30. Pray for peace daily, hope for peace and practice peace in my daily life. (Even toward the people who pull out in front of me then drive 20)
31. Remember that sometimes the most unloveable needs the most love.
32. Read 2 and 1/4 books  I didn't even finish the 1/4th book
34. Try out a new look
35.  Serve something ordinary by candlelight in the dining room. Use china, crystal and the good linens.