Thursday, December 29, 2011


Have you ever heard of Hootycreeks? I hadn't until a White Elephant gift exchange this holiday season when Rylan received two pretty mixes for cookies in a jar. One was for a cookie called Cranberry Hootycreeks. What an unusual name! Does anyone have an idea where this creative cookie and unusual name came from? I looked it up online to see if I could find more information and found the recipe on the Christmas Organized website and at All Recipes. It appears that the name Hooty Creek comes from the business name chosen by the couple who developed this tasty cookie. They made "cookie in a jar" mixes that they sold at bazaars and craft fairs. The Hooty Creek mixes became popular and this recipe, which combines dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, and nuts became an instant hit. They've been called Cranberry Hootycreeks ever since. And now we know. It's fun to learn something new every day, isn't it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2: 6 - 20

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Most Cherished Christmas Gift

Christmas stories are a tradition in our family. Stories of times past are especially enjoyed and appreciated. Recently I found this story, typed and photocopied, in my mother's files. It was the prefect story to share with you! I think I especially appreciate this story because it reminds me of my own childhood days. The author, Dorthy Ross, was a contemporary of my mother. Like Dorothy, my mother's sewing machine (a wedding gift from her father) was an important piece of furniture in our family and one that stitched the family garments and home decor routinely through all my years at home. Here it is, shared thoughtfully and expressed to help you realize that dreams really can come true.

It began with a small strip of cloth, approximately two by eight inches, on which someone had stitched lines of bright thread in hither and thither design. The stitches were all equal in size and tension --- the product of a well-operating sewing machine.

It was 1953, a time of magic, for love turns everything to magic and we were in love. It was also my first time to share Christmas with the family of the man who was to become my husband the following Valentine's Day.

When I opened the small box (I expected it to contain a bracelet or necklace), I stared at it in amazement and a bit of disappointment, wondering about that tiny bit of cloth.

"There's more!" he told me, the now-familiar gleam in his chocolate brown eyes. "In the basement!"

"The basement?" More amazement.

So we all trooped down to the old basement beneath the warm brick house and there, standing shiny bright on clean newspapers, was a sewing machine.

It was not a new sewing machine. New sewing machines were things dreams were made of, and much too expensive for new brides. It was a sewing machine, nevertheless, stripped of its old scratches and varnish and treadle. It gleamed in oaken splendor as a result of loving labor in sanding and polishing. The old machine was even revitalized with a new electric motor, straight from the pages of a mail order catalog.

We came from families where it was taken for granted that you canned and preserved most of the food which went on the family table, just as you cut and sewed almost every item of clothing which went on the family's individual backs. His gift to me was a way of sustaining a tradition, and our first piece of furniture.

With it I sewed the curtains and cushions which first graced our humble four rooms. I stitched away many a long night as he slept in the next room, exhausted from his long day in the fields. There were dresses for me to wear to the office and new sports shirts for him. And soon, I was planning tiny things, piecing them together on that sturdy old machine, adding teddy bears and flowers with hand embroidery. Twice the small gowns and sacques and blankets were tucked away in a bottom drawer with the pastel shades of pink and blue dampened by tears of broken dreams. All that changed one bright February morn, and the sun shone so brightly at our home we hardly needed to turn on the lights. Our daughter was born and two years later, a son helped brighten our home. To our surprise (somewhat), five years later another beautiful daughter was born.

The old sewing machine kept me busy. We spent many intimate hours together; stitching ruffled dresses in progressive sizes, struggling with the corded seams of pint-sized cowboy shirts, fitting pattern pieces very carefully onto remnants, and turning all the leftover scraps into minute doll dresses and shirts for teddy bears.

Later, there were Halloween costumes: a comic book hero, a witch, a leopard, a toreador, and even a perky black and white skunk with a (thanks to Daddy) wired tail which made it every bit as handsome as any of Disney's creations!

Like my mother before me, I became a 4-H leader, and little girls from fancier homes than ours learned to sew on that kindly old machine. It insisted on straight seams, though, and did cause a few tears. Later, those same little girls entrusted me with making their prom dresses and wedding gowns, knowing the seams would be as straight as only that old machine could do.

Paper patterns grew tattered and torn as we used them over and over with variations and adjustments. The spool box became cluttered with tangles of every conceivable color. Buttons found their separate ways into a tin fruitcake box which rattled delightfully when shaken. Its contents were used not only to march proudly down the front or back of a sewing project, but also as farm produce carried to market in small metal trucks and as delectable morsels served up on tin tea sets. Rows of buttons on the rug were carefully counted, one, two, three. . .and colors were learned, blue, yellow, green, red.

Pants knees were patched and patched again. Hems were let down and trim stitched over the white lines to cover the fade marks. Collars on work shirts were turned (oh, how we hated that chore). And pockets, which had been made untrustworthy by more important things than coins (such as nuts, bolts, and colored pebbles), were reinforced.

Yes, we spent many hours together, that sewing machine and I. As the needle plunged up and down, thread paying out from the wooden spool, I planned menus and surprises and wrote invisible poems in my mind. I worried over finances and stewed over the United Nations veto powers and my choices in the next election. Some hours were delightful and fun-filled, and some were just plain work.

But that old machine never let me down. All it asked was an occasional squirt of oil and once in a while, a new light bulb or belt. Seldom does a woman find as true a friend. That old machine was there when we became one. It helped turn a house into a home and it dressed our babes far beyond what our meager financial means would have permitted if we had purchased "ready-mades".

Years later, I received another sewing machine --- the very best, top of the line model. Its cabinet had never been kicked or scratched, and it purred every stitch in quiet splendor.

By now, however, we could afford to buy draperies and slipcovers, and teenagers don't always appreciate Mother's choice of pattern and fabric. The promised magic wasn't to be found in those fancy zigzag stitches; not for those who had known and lived by the purity of the straightforward. That beautiful, fancy new machine, though no longer new, still has very low mileage.

My old sewing machine wasn't fancy, but it was special. It wasn't just a Christmas gift of which dreams were made. It did much, much more. It made dreams come true!

Monday, December 19, 2011


by L.A. Copp

Snowflakes spill from heaven's hand
Lovely and chaste like smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light
Falling Gently on a winters night.
Graceful beauty raining down
Giving magic to the lifeless ground.
Each snowflake like a falling star
Smiling beauty that's spun afar.
Till earth is dressed in a robe of white
Unspoken poem the hush of night.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Quilt of Life

When sorting through a box of my mother's quilt patterns, I found some newsletters from a quilting guild that she belonged to years ago. One had a story that should be shared. It is called "The Quilt of Life" by Doyle Loving. Parts are poignant and sad, but hope shines through on life's stage. It appears that he wrote this at a time when his wife was facing difficulty in life.

It's the oddest looking quilt you have ever seen, unfinished and worn, there are even some places where the blocks have been torn. The lack of design will make your eyebrows raise in surprise, and some of the colors used will assault your eyes. I will raise no excuse for the look of my quilt; much of it was constructed in pain and great guilt. I am the author of the blocks both the big and the small, and they reflect life lived both the short and the tall.

The block in the center is all yellow with age, and is where the quilt started, it's like the first page. The block seems so odd with the pink of new life, but quickly turns red with the skilled surgeons knife. It took me twelve years to finish this part; it's surrounded with the dark colors of a not so good start. The work of a child is the obvious conclusion, stitched together while shivering in fear and confusion.

The blocks surrounding the center are wild indeed, the color of anger and overwhelming need. There is the maroon block, for innocence lost, and the color of betrayal covers it all like a frost. The colors that are missing leap out from this section, where are the bright colors of education? The bright colors of childhood are yet to be seen, for the colors of work have a more ominous sheen.

I surveyed the quilt after sixteen years of labor, I wanted to stop quilting for life had no savor. It was there I met a companion that refused to depart, my nemesis depression moved into my heart. You see that black swatch that's biggest of all, it almost took over my quilt and predestined my fall.

In a flash of wonder the colors turn brighter! I met the light of my life and she made me a fighter. She told me although our quilts had no brightness so far, if we quilted together our quilt would be bright as the stars. So we both joined our quilts with a very strong thread, and vowed that our future would be filled with laughter in steed. Our quilt became one and it was almost all dark, most everyone though our future as quilters was stark. But the thread that joined our quilts was strong and bright and the most beautiful quilt was begun on that night.

Now our quilt has yellows and blues, look there are our children's blocks with their wonderful hues. The pinks are surrounded by bright colors all round, and dark colors on their blocks are not to be found.

We started to sash the quilt when we met, the bright red of commitment now looks like a net. There were many colors we didn't even know existed, we stitched those in and the dark we resisted. Oh there are a few spots on our quilt that are dark, but the colors around them make them look no so stark. And as for our kids, they have quilt of their own, and the center of their quilts have a much brighter tone. Our quilt has grown large, making the center look smaller, and quilting together makes our blocks a lot taller.

Each block tells its story of sunshine and rain, and somehow the laughter has taken over the pain. The quilt is so odd with its color and design, it is the quilt of our life and the story of our time. The quilt keeps us warm when the storms outside rage, and keep us reminded of the plays on life's stage. We wouldn't trade our quilt, though many others are so nice, our quilt has come to us at a very high price. It is dark in the middle and still unfinished, but our love for the quilters is still undiminished.

If your quilt has some dark, and I know all quilts do, then let me express this hope for you. May the bright colors of life overtake your quilt, and may not a block you sew be done with guilt. May it keep you warm when the rain should appear, and give you direction when toward the good times you steer. These quilts we all sew some with dark, some with bright, and they keep us warm when we just don't want to fight. So fight on, my dear wife, and remember this too: nobody can make a quilt like you!

~ If you were to write a story about the quilt of your life, what would it look like?

Friday, November 18, 2011

To Have a Friend

A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend; one human soul whom we can trust utterly; who knows the best and the worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults; who will speak the honest truth to us, while the world flatters us to our face, and laughs at us behind our back.
Charles Kingsley

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crunchy Brown Rice and Garbanzo Salad

Winter months call for hearty salads. I love rice salads that contain legumes, something crunchy like nuts and seeds, and fresh, flavorful herbs. Flavor, crunch, and color work together in this salad to make a delicious dish for the holiday season.

1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice
15 oz. can garbanzos, with broth
1/4 cup chopped parsley, fresh 
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 tsp. all-purpose seasoning
1/4 tsp. sweet basil
1/4 tsp. oregano

Simmer celery and onion in garbanzo broth, until tender. Combine with remaining ingredients and mix together well. Press into prepared, two quart casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 35 - 45 minutes, uncovered.

Serves: 5

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crockpot Squash

Each season presents its own delicious foods. Autumn is no exception. I'm sure you've been enjoying squash, new potatoes, kale, and other delicious vegetables. I know I have! Today I tried a new method of cooking squash, and it was so easy and so delicious that I just have to share with you. This is the easiest way to prepare squash ever! I tried this with butternut squash, but it works just as well with acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and more.
1. Wash the squash very well. Leave on the skin, but break off the stem if you need space in your crockpot.
2. Place whole, cleaned squash in crockpot.  Do not add water. Do not poke with fork or knife.
3. Place lid on crockpot. If the lid does not fit, fashion one out of foil to use instead.
4. Place temperature setting on "high".
5. Go do something fun! Or laundry or housework, if you must. 
6. After 4 - 6 hours, check squash for doneness.  Should be tender and easy to slip a knife into.
7. Remove from crockpot and place on cutting board or platter. Slice in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Spoon squash out of skin and place in bowl. Or cut into serving-size pieces.

8. Serve and enjoy! SO delicious!
If you have a squash with a very tough skin, you may want to add 1/4 cup water to the crockpot. For most squash, additional water is not necessary, as there is enough moisture in the squash.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taking Two Cups of Tea


"And quite a family it is to make tea for, 
and wot a happiness to do it! 
The privileges of the side-table included the small
prerogatives of siting next to the toast, 

and taking two cups of tea
to other people's one."

Charles Dickens

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tea at Five O'Clock

When the tea is brought at five o'clock and all the neat curtains are drawn with care, the little black cat with bright green eyes is suddenly purring there.

- - - -Harold Monro "Milk for the Cat"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fizzy Fizzy Bath Balls

Fuzzy bath balls are so much fun! They can be purchased in large or small sizes in the toiletries section of your local drug store, but they are so simple to make. Imagine a fragrant fizz-fizz as you prepare a steaming hot bath. . .pure luxury! Great for YOU, but fun for kids and to be used as gifts as well.

Fizzy Fizzy Bath Balls

4 Tbsp. citric acid
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 tsp. essential oil (fragrance of choice)
6 - 12 drops of food color
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Stir the citric acid, cornstarch, and baking soda together in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the vegetable oil, essential oils, and food coloring. Then, slowly add the oil mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing well. Place 1 - 2 Tbsp. of mixture into hand and form into a small ball. Continue, placing balls on a sheet of waxed paper. Allow to dry for 2 - 3 hours for semi-hard stage. They will need to dry for 2 - 4 days to be fully dry and suitable for storage in a clear glass canister or large Mason canning jar (seal to keep from moisture). To use, fill a bath tub with hot water and add 2 or 3 fizzy bath bombs right before getting into tub.

These make great gifts too! Package them in a pretty jar or place in individual candy cups and box (like chocolates!).

*Regular vegetable oils will work, but for more luxury, use coconut oil, avocado oil, apricot kernel oil, or sweet almond oil.

** Instead of balls, children might enjoy forming into different shapes: hearts, animals, crescent moons, etc.

*** Be sure to use pure, essential oils (food grade). Fragrance oils available for home decor may not be pure and are harmful to skin.

****Choose from a wide variety of essential oils: lavender, jasmine, chamomile, geranium, rose, ylang-ylang, clary sage, rosemary, pine, eucalyptus, sandalwood, cedarwood, angelica, etc.

Posted at 11:11 AM on 11/11/11

Bath Salts

Salts added to baths have therapeutic benefits.  Salts help to mineralize the water and to add buoyancy.   Recently Kelly Rippa shared her simple recipe for a therapeutic bath that she claims helps eliminate symptoms of a cold.  She fills a tub with hot water and adds 2 cups of Epsom salts and 1 bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Although she didn't mention it, adding 8 - 10 drops of eucalyptus oil would make it even better! Having a cupboard filled with these raw ingredients makes taking a mineral salt bath simple, but sometimes it's nice to have a pre-measured container of salts in a pretty container nearby. Here's a simple recipe for homemade bath salts:

4 cups of sea salt
2 tsp. vegetable oil
10 - 14 drops of essential oil of your choice
food coloring (I prefer to use dry, powdered food coloring because it doesn't add moisture)

Place all the ingredients in a gallon zip-lock bag and shake well. Then pour into a pretty glass jar and lid. Add a scoop and enjoy in a hot bath!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Free Pattern

If you have a moment or two to spare, please stop by Fay's blog today. She's designed a beautiful autumn-themed pattern for embroidery or paint that she's giving away for free. All you have to do is download. And while you're there, leave her a comment and tell her I sent you.

Happy Thankfulness Month!

Selecting Herbs for Tea

Herbs for bath TEA can be found in many places. Check your kitchen cupboard, your garden, or the shelf at your local health food store. Here are some examples of herbs that can be added to your bath TEA.

Basil, Chamomile, Lavender, Peppermint, Strawberry Leaves, Sage, Catnip, Comfrey, Spearmint, Chervil, Rose, Rosemary, Calendula, Savory, Horsetail, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Parsley, Marjoram, Jasmine, Orange Peel, Lemon Verbena, Eucalyptus, Violets, Bay Leaf, Hops, Valerian Root

If you don't have time to make an infusion or decoction, simple place your choice of herbs into a heat-sealable tea bag or a draw-string muslin bag and float in a tub of hot water.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bath Tea

With cooler temperatures, soaking in a hot bath can be warming and relaxing. Make it into a bath TEA and the essence of luxury is achieved! Not only are they therapeutic for the skin, but they are soothing for the soul. Add a pot filled with hot tea beside your favorite teacup at tubs edge, and you'll feel like you are living in the lap of luxury!

The first ingredient for a bath TEA is water. Just as water for tea (the beverage) is to be treated just so (pure and heated to exactly 212 degrees F), water for a bath TEA is just as particular. It should be at 97 - 98 degrees F., a temperature that closely matches that of the human body. This allows for a bath that promotes circulation and healthy detoxification.

Once the water has been drawn and is at the proper temperature, it is time to add the TEA herbs. There are two methods by which to do this. They are infusion and decoction.

To make an infusion bath TEA:  boil a teakettle of water, then pour over selected herbs.  Steep for 10 - 15 minutes, then strain through a cheesecloth. Gently pour the infused tea into hot bath water. Infusions work very well for herbal leaves, flowers, and buds.

To make a decoction bath TEA:  fill a saucepan with water and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes. Then, strain thorugh a cheesecloth. Gently pour the infused tea into hot bath water.  Decoctions work especially well for roots and bark.

All parts of herbal plants can be used to create a bath TEA. Try making a decoction of roots and bark, then pour the decoction over a selection of fragrant leaves and flowers. Let this steep for 15 minutes and then pour into a hot bath. 

Immerse yourself in luxury! Allow the herbal essences to ease away aches and pains, to moisturize your skin, aid your circulation, and renew your spirit.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ginger Honey

Home baked bread tastes SO good with a sweet topping like jam or honey. Adding a warming spice to jam or honey is welcome during the cold winter months. While summer's speak to cooling minty flavors, warming spices like ginger and cinnamon warm you from the inside out during the winter months. Here's a recipe for a warming winter honey that you might enjoy with toast and tea.

Ginger Honey

2 cups local honey
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped

Place the honey in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it has warmed through, stir in the ginger chunks. Then pour into a pint jar. Cover and let mixture cool to room temperature. Serve and enjoy!

*Candied ginger can also be added to a cup of hot tea to spice it up as well!

Spices and Herbs

Spices and herbs add wonderful flavor to the food we eat.  Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the two? How would you describe the difference between an herb and a spice?  It's really quite simple once you figure it out. Herbs are the leaf of a plant that is used in cooking. Cooks refer to them as culinary herbs. Spice also comes from plants, but they come from other the other parts of the plant. A spice can come from the plant buds (cloves), bark (as in cinnamon), roots (like ginger), berries (as in peppercorns), aromatic seeds (cumin) or a flower stigma (saffron). Holiday cooking and baking nears with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up in the next few weeks. How many of these different plant parts will you use in your holiday meal preparation? A bit of trivia, perhaps, but interesting, don't you think?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Feasting on Focaccia

Here's another easy recipe for holiday gatherings. Although simple and delicious, your guests will think you've been working for hours to prepare this tasty treat.

Olive Focaccia

1 package bread-stick dough
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed, drained, and chopped
4 Tbsp. sliced calamata olives (or your favorite)
1 Tbsp. rosemary, fresh
1/2 tsp. salt
Olive oil
1/4 cup green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Divide the bread-dough stick into 8 sections. Place each section, flattened, onto a baking stone. Brush each section with olive oil. Then sprinkle with sun-dried tomatoes and olive slices. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, top with green onions, and serve.

*If packaged bread-stick dough is not available, use premade frozen bread loaf instead (or make your own).

Holiday Finger-Foods

Have you checked your calendar recently? The holidays are near!  They are a time when families or friends gather to celebrate and share quality time together. From family dinners to holiday events, food usually takes center stage. Although some enjoy spending time preparing complicated recipes, it's helpful to have a stash of quick and easy recipes at your fingertips for informal gatherings with loved ones. A finger-food feast can be just as rewarding as a full-course dinner. . .and a little less stressful on the host! Here are some ideas for such a feast.

Start with a supply of bruschetta toasts, pita bread, chips, crackers, tea sandwich breads, or fresh, raw veggies. These serve as a good base for the topping recipes that follow:

White Bean Spread

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic,  minced
1 pinch red peppers, crushed
1 - 15 oz. can white beans, drained (save liquid)
1/2 tsp. rosemary, fresh and chopped
2 Tbsp. parsley, fresh and chopped
Salt to taste

Place olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a medium skillet. Saute' for one minute. Then, stir in the white beans and 5 Tbsp. of the reserved liquid. While heating, mash beans with a wooden spoon against the sides of the pan until a chunky puree forms.  Stir in the rosemary, parsley, and salt. If needed, add more bean liquid. 

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast, chips, or veggie bites.  Makes 12.

Artichoke Topping

1 - 14 oz. can artichokes, water-packed
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. green-olive tapenade
1 tsp. light brown sugar
Salt to taste

Drain the artichokes and place them in a food processor. Add olive oil, lemon juice, tapenade, brown sugar, and salt. Blend until mixture is smooth.  

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast or veggie bites.  Makes 12.

Red Pepper Topping

1 jar roasted red peppers, water-packed and drained
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. bread crumbs, fresh
3 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes
Salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. If needed, add a small amount of the oil that the sun-dried tomatoes were packed in. 

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast, chips, or veggie bites.  Makes 12.

Pinto Bean Hummus

1 - 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1/2 cup cilantro, fresh
Avocado slices (optional)

Place beans, salsa, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and cumin in food processor. Blend until smooth. Place mixture into a bowl and stir in cilantro. Use immediately or refrigerate and chill.

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast, chips, or veggie bites. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Verses for Autumn

 Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.
Stanley Horowitz

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.  

P.D. James

A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.  

Hal Borland

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!  

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Autumn's Joy

I wish I were a poet, because verse and rhyme seems the most apt way to express pieces of autumn's beauty and the joy it brings. Since I am not, I will try to capture bits of autumn through the camera's eye.

Sunshine, clouds, and a balmy day in autumn worked together to create beauty in such simple ways.  A large and mighty river winding through the shrub-steppe landscape seems even mightier from a bluff above it.

Beautiful sunflowers and bachelor buttons refuse to give up their bloom just because summer is past. Although the landscape around them is dry and beige, their vibrant faces smile upwards and speak to my heart.

Little bits of trivia add a dash of romance to the day. An island on the river contains a cabin and a boat landing. The only privately owned island on the river seems so appealing from afar.

Oak trees in all stages of colorful change dot the volcanic ridden soil, mixing black with copper for a pretty effect.

Autumn is passing quickly. Snow is predicted for this week-end. Winter approaches and autumn's colorful glory will be missed. I'm enjoying it while I can. I hope you are too!

Fabric of Friendship

Constant use will not wear ragged the fabric of friendship.

Dorothy Parker 

*If you like buttons, check out the book called "Button Ware" by Amy Barickman on Amazon. It is filled with great ideas for making things with buttons!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Golden Cashew Gravy

Here's another autumnal recipe that I love! This gravy is easy to make and has such a rich depth of flavor. It is perfect to go with comfort foods of autumn. . .mashed potatoes, lentil patties, loaves, and toast. Enjoy!

Golden Cashew Gravy

1/4 c. cashews (well rinsed, raw cashews are dirty)
3 T. cornstarch
1 t. onion granules
1/4 t. garlic granules
1/2 t. salt
3 c. water
1 T. nutritional yeast, optional
1 or 2 T. chicken-style seasoning or to taste*

Whiz in blender. Start with all the ingredients except for part of the water so that the nuts can get creamy. Then add the rest of the water and continue to blend. Place in saucepan. Cook over low hit stirring constantly with a wire whisk until gravy thickens.

Use over patties, potatoes, anywhere that you like gravy!! Super delicious!

*I prefer Bill's Best Chicknish' as a chicken-style seasoning, but McKay's Chicken-style seasoning is delicious as well. Both are available at your local whole foods market or health food store.

Vineyard Treat

The vineyard down the road has a fragrance that cannot be ignored. When walking past it on a "walk around the block" its sweet fragrance fills the air and a sweet grape or two just has to be sampled. Sweet grapes on vine and autumn go hand in hand. They are delicious out of hand or made into a recipe that you enjoy. Dried grapes last year around and go by the name "raisins". The sweetness lasts and lasts when grapes are preserved in this simple way. Have you ever had raisin pie? Here's a recipe that's full of wonderful nutrition and natural sweeteners. The essence of 'all things grape' shines through in this delicious dish! Enjoy!

Autumnal Raisin Pie

1 1/2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups grape juice
sprinkle of salt

2/3 cup grape juice
2/3 cup raisins
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

In a saucepan, cook the raisins, grape juice and salt until the raisins are plump. In a blender, blend the additional raisins, grape and lemon juices. Add mixtures together, add cornstarch and continue stirring until thickened. Cool and add to cooled baked pie crusts. Keep in refrigerator until served.

Note: Instead of grape juice, you can use apple juice.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pleasant an Effect

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."

Nathaniel Hawthorne
Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA

Saturday, October 29, 2011

October Eves

"Listen! the wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings; now for October eves!"  

Humbert Wolfe

Friday, October 28, 2011

Preserving Lavender

Although the first frost has arrived, there are still remnants of protected lavender blossoms in the garden. Although the shrubs are not as prolific as they are in the spring and summer, the second round of blossoms can be appealing and are as fragrant as the first. If you'd like a gentle reminder of this lovely flower during the winter months, you might wish to preserve some of the buds by crystalizing them. They are great to use for decorating a cake, as a swizzle for tea, or for garnish on a fruit salad. Here's how:

Mix equal parts of water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. After five minutes, remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Hold a lavender stem securily in your hand and dip the bud into the syrupy mixture. Then place on parchament or wax paper to dry. Repeat process with additional lavender stems and bud.

Store in a cool, dry place. Be sure it is out of direct sonlight.

Then. . .enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

T . E . A

"If you are cold, tea will warm you; 
If you are heated, it will cool you; 
If you are depressed, it will cheer you; 
If you are excited, it will calm you."

William Gladstone
British Prime Minister 1868 - 1894

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Bouquets

It is that time of year again.  Autumn!  And time to make pumpkin bouquets.  Do you remember how from last year's post on this subject?  Here is a review:

Start by raiding your flower garden of any flowers you could find.  It's getting late in the season, but you should be able to find asters, mums, baby roses, and lavender.  You can also add amaranth seed stems and rose hips.  You can use small sugar pumpkins or the tiny decorative pumpkins that are available in the supermarket this time of year. Gourds also work well if you don't mind the asymmetrical shape.

Clippers, a drill, and some florist picks are helpful tools for this project. Start by drilling small holes into the top of the pumpkin. Stems or floral picks with stems wired on go into the holes which provide the base for this arrangement. Drill as you go, as you'll find that design happens as your project progresses. A ribbon or raffia bow adds an accent when all the flowers are in place.

Another method of making a pumpkin bouquet is to cut off the top of the pumpkin and hollow out all the seeds.  Then, place a small piece of Oasis (a floral foam that soaks up water) to fit inside the pumpkin. After it soaks awhile, start arranging. Stems from a boxwood shrub create a nice triangular-shaped framework for the arrangement. You can choose any shape you like best; circular, oval, rectangular, or square. Fill in with two or three main types of flowers (mums, roses, etc.) and then fill in with small flowers or accents like asters, rose hips, or sprigs of wheat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Live in the Season

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air; drink the drink; taste the fruit."

Henry David Thoreau

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Pumpkin

"Through orange-leaves shining
the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his
home in the North.
On the fields of his harvest the
Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling
and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun. . .melts
down on the vines."

John Greenleaf Whittier
"The Pumpkin"

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Delicious Autumn

"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

George Eliot

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Leaves Fall

"The leaves fall, the wind blows, and the farm country slowly changes from the summer cottons into its winter wools."

Henry Beston

Friday, October 21, 2011

Breaking Bread

"When we break bread together, we share good times, indulgence, friendship --- the important things in life."

Lucy Nicholson

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Autumn's Face

"No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace, as I have seen in one autumnal face."

John Donne

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Blue Firmament

"To one who has been long in city pent,
'Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven - to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament."

~ John Keats ~

*The view from Rocky Point*

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's that time of year again! Pumpkins are ready for harvest and on such crisp autumn days, there is nothing like the fragrance and flavor of a delicious seasonal cookie!  

It's recommended that we have a good source of Vitamin A every other day. It's best utilized by our bodies if the resource is cooked and served with some type of fat. Do you cook carrots or orange squash every other day? I don't, but resolve to do better. I'm quite sure my university sons aren't eating dark orange veggies every other day either. So, this evening I baked cookies to send to them. Vegan and filled with Vitamin A, I think they'll enjoy them. Here's the recipe if you'd like a sweet and tasty way to get your vitamins!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

A delicious, moist cookie that freezes very well.

2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can solid pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
12 ounces vegan semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Cream the sugar, shortening, pumpkin and vanilla together. Mix until well blended. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. Stir gently until combined. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts. Mix together. Drop by teaspoonsful onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 12 - 15 minutes.

These cookies are delicious; cake-like and the type that melt in your mouth. I think their flavor would be enhanced by a pinch of salt in the recipe. Although this is not a gluten-free recipe, I think it would be very easily converted by the use of a gluten-free flour blend in place of the all-purpose flour. The walnuts in this recipe add Omega-3's to the diet, and of course we all know that the chocolate is very good for us and high in anti-oxidants

Note:  Carob chips work well in this recipe as a substitute for chocolate chips.

Turning Leaves

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."

Elizabeth Lawrence

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nature's Gifts

"If we can teach our children to honor nature's gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.

Jimmy Carter

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Fay's Embroidery Pattern Give-Away

My friend, Fay, from Sketched... Stitched... Painted... Hand-made... Lived... has designed a new series of embroidery designs for spring and is featuring a give-away on her blog. She's giving away a delightful spring pattern ~ that can be stitched during the long, cold winter evenings ahead. Here's what she says about her give-away:

Its time to give away one of my new Spring patterns.
Just leave a comment after this post. Include your email address,
which will not be posted. (all posts are moderated)
I'd love to know what you look forward
to most about Spring.
My personal favorite is seeing the Balsamroot
that cover the hillsides with gold.
Or maybe it is the return of the swallows....
The winner of this pattern will get
to dream of Spring as they stitch their way through winter!
This giveaway will end on
Sunday, October 9, 2011, at 5pm PST.
The winner will be announced the following Monday morning.
See you there!

To enter, please leave your comment here.
While you are there, take a look at Fay's other designs on the right side-bar. She has beautiful designs! I am currently stitching her "love is not rude" tea party design. And isn't that "Thrive" pillow divine?

Monday, October 03, 2011

Time to Relax

The time to relax is when you don't have the time for it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


"Home! That was
what they meant,
those caressing
appeals, those
soft touches
wafted through
the air, those
invisible little
hands pulling
and tugging,
all one way!"

Kenneth Grahame

Friday, September 16, 2011

Only This Moment

Begin doing what you want to do now.
We are not living in eternity; we have only this moment,
sparkling like a star in our hand --- and melting like a snowflake.

MB Ray