11/30/09

The Seriously Belated Thanksgiving Post

thanksgiving pillow

Wow I just sort of disappeared there for a while. Went to Vespers and poof! Gonzo.

We visited my parents in Cincinnati for the week. Mom and I needed one whole day devoted to pie baking.

Pumpkin, Raisin Cream, Lemon Meringue, and Sour Cherry.


Sour Cherry Pie


Grandma baked sugar cookies with the boys - pilgrim and turkey-shaped.

Shark's Turkey Cookie

And then the kids found the bag of cookie cutters and we ended up with a platter of Christmas trees, pumpkins, carrots, and hearts. But SUGAR COOKIES. With ICING. So WHO CARES.

Grandma and Bear make cookies

Grandma helping Bear make a Christmas tree.

Bear makes turkey cookies
"I'm mainly here to eat dough. "

We also had Fluff, which is a Campbell family tradition.

Fluff

So, we're back and pretty well stuffed.

And I will be posting about Sloths. Like, the animal. Which isn't very seasonal but it's cuter than you might think.

11/24/09

Vespers

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Lights from the bell tower shine into the inky blue night, a beacon.

Long pews slowly fill with needful souls, their silence instinctive and total.

The cathedral is vast yet intimate. It is both gloriously ornate and a comfortable, well worn home.

The air swells with the first notes of sacred song. Saint Cecilia, patroness of music, smiles from a gold sun monstrance, an antediluvian relic, as the chanters sing Magnificat!

A copper vessel smokes on the altar. I kneel there, the smell of the incense slowly curling its fingers into my nose. I breathe deep the fragrance of ancient spiced wood. It moves through me and the thoughts on my heart swirl gratefully into it, like leaves swept aloft on an earth-scented wind. I exhale a prayer.

I open my eyes to see the purls of smoke rising from the altar. The prayers float gracefully, lingeringly. They are sheer, visible, rising.

The choir is singing like angels as the massive organ exhales in timbral, triumphant psalmody.

Luke I - The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Indeed I give thanks...

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Americans - Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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11/22/09

Harvard Beets

I found a recipe in one of my Junior League cookbooks years ago for Harvard Beets. I remember calling my mom to tell her how yummy they were, and she said my grandma Charlotte always used to make Harvard Beets. And my father-in-law went to Harvard Medical School, so I always think of both him and grandma when I make this recipe.


Harvard Beets

This is a simple way to make a canned vegetable into a real side dish, and the beautiful red color looks very pretty on a holiday table.

1 can sliced beets (save liquid)
1 T cornstarch
1/2 t salt
1/4 C vinegar
1 T sugar

Drain beets, reserving juice. Add water to beet juice to make 2/3 cup.

Combine cornstarch and salt in a saucepan. Add the beet liquid and vinegar, and stir until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.

It's like making pudding. You keep stirring and stirring and right when you think it will never get thick, it does. This mixture will turn from cloudy to clear when it thickens.

Add sliced beets and sugar, heat through.

This makes a sweet and sour beet that is delicious! I wonder why it's called Harvard Beets? Anyone know?

For yummy recipes links, visit Rachel in the Land of Monkeys and Princesses.
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11/19/09

My Martha Stewart Moment

Want a pretty (and easy and inexpensive) centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table?


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Easy Centerpiece

I've added pics to this post since I found photos of two versions. I usually make three of these and place them down the center of the table. (Pic below)

I bought the small white dishes at TJ Maxx for a couple dollars each. To make the centerpieces, cut squares of florist foam (buy at any craft store) to fit in the dishes, soak them in water and place them in the bottom of each one. Push a candle into the center of each piece of foam.

Take fresh flowers (I bought two bunches at the grocery store) and snip the stems to 3 - 4 inches long (vary the stem length so you have more flexibility in arranging them). Push the stems into the wet foam, spacing them around and filling in until you have used all your blooms. The fuller it is the prettier it looks.

Then, I go out front and snip clippings from my bushes and fill in any holes with greenery.

Voila! This seriously takes 15 minutes to put together once you have all the items. You can easily adjust the size and color of the arrangement by using different containers and different flowers.

Holiday Table Setting

So who else has a simple holiday decorating tip? If you've done a post about it, link it in the comments!

11/16/09

The Master List

I like lists. Really, I can't make things happen without them. Well, I'd make something happen but it would be the wrong thing or in the wrong order or with a giant part of it missing completely. I have a lot of lists. Lists for: Errands (divided by "in" (color roots, return emails (I'm so behind), set out dry cleaning, etc...) and "out" (buy more anti-wrinkle cream, take clothes to cleaners, return pile of stuff that didn't work, etc...) Work (divided by job category and short and long term and somewhat prioritized based on like/dislike particular task) House (divided by "clean," "repair," and "must purchase") (little of which is likely to actually happen) Subcategory under "House" - "Desired kitchen items" (including a garlic press, new every day dishes, and another whisk) (Don't ask) Calendar (divided roughly by "me" and "the kids" - dentist appointments, hair cut appointments, "no school" days (cause of all the things to lose track of!), pencil in maybe a Christmas concert, AND OH YES CHRISTMAS. Christmas LORD HELP THOSE OF US WHO HAVE EVERYTHING (divided by "must clean," "must find," "must cook," "must buy," "must decorate," "must wrap," and "must sleep sometime in 2010." And let's not forget "must binge and purge the toy room to make room for all the new toys." I also have a list of books I want to read. This list wins out. Often. I am thinking I just made a list of my lists. I've officially gone round the bend. I'm off my nut. Out of my gourd. I'm listing all the ways to describe my crazy. Someone stop me. I forgot! My weekly menu plan (a list of what we will eat each day) and it's associated grocery list! And the list of places I want to see and things I want to do before I'm too much older! (send help) Do you make lists? (tell me I'm not alone)

11/15/09

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Happy Monday!

This is an easy, tangy BBQ sauce for baking or basting. You may as well make a double or triple recipe, since it'll keep in the fridge.

BBQ Chicken

Combine in a saucepan:
1/2 C catsup
1/4 C water
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced (or a couple teaspoons of dried minced onion)
1 T brown sugar
1 T cider vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t pepper

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. (It smells wonderful.)

Baste generously!

For amazing recipes links, visit Rachel in the Land of Monkeys and Princesses.
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11/14/09

Weekly Winners - Autumn

November 8 -14


For weeks now the trees have been blushing furiously in anticipation of standing naked for a season.

Fall backyard

When all of us animals pack on extra - fur, fat, sweaters, hats - the trees alone brave the cold bare.

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Against an impossible turquoise sky, their leaves are a bursting, delicious spectrum of cinnamon, maple, crimson, and, butter.

Light in fall trees

The light is lovely as it weakens and filters...

Swan at Ellington Ag Center

...and we slowly spin away and away from the sun.

Autumn, 2009

Visit Lotus to see more Weekly Winners.

11/11/09

Re-Direct Wednesday

I have a few things to share, including an important birthday wish.

My Candied Sweet Potatoes looked so yummy that Blissfully Domestic asked to publish them in their Food Section. Whoot! (Thanks Rachel!)

I have two blogs to recommend to you. I know I know! You need more blogs in your Reader, like I do. heh.

But look, The Parsonage Family is written by a very classy lady with a personal style I admire. She's a talented, thoughtful writer, and posts pictures of one sweet little baby girl named Kate. What more could you ask for?

And Rebecca! Rebecca posts lovely photographs, some yummy recipes, and delightful reflections on being a mom to her adorable kiddos and other "mom thoughts." Worth a look, I tell ya.

This post over at Burgh Baby is definitely worth a read (bring tissues). And consider a donation - I made this one of my Christmas Angel donations for this year - it'll make you feel good!



And finally, happy birthday sweet girl.

Pop over and leave an encouraging word for Heather and Mike. Today is Maddie's second birthday. If I can't type that without crying, I cannot imagine how they feel. Prayers for them, for Maddie, and for their new baby girl, would be the best thing we can do. The next best thing is a donation (It'll make you feel good!) to Friends of Maddie & the March of Dimes. (You can also click my little button over there any time.)

Happy Birthday Madeline.

11/8/09

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Welcome to Mouthwatering Monday.

Today's feature is Candied Sweet Potatoes. These are a terrific alternative to the standard mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecan topping. Not that I've ever turned down mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecan topping. I'm just saying...variety is the sweet potato of life.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

6 large sweet potatoes (about 4 lbs)
1 lemon
1 orange
3/4 C butter, melted
2 C sugar
1/2 C orange juice
2 t ground cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t cloves

Peel potatoes; cut potatoes, lemon, and orange into 1/4-inch slices.



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Place potato slices in a lightly greased 11x7 baking dish; arrange lemon and orange slices over potato.




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I use the tip of a knife to pop the seeds out of the lemon slices.

Combine melted butter, sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pour mixture over potato mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 1 hour.



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Oh yeah, now we're starting to look sweet and candied.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 1 1/2 hours, basting often with pan juices.


Candied Sweet Potatoes

This dish makes people go, "Ohhhhh!" when you place it on the table. It's very pretty.

I've never been able to decide if you are supposed to eat the lemon and orange or not. I usually shove them aside and go for the tender sweet potatoes. What do you think?

Serves 8-10.

For amazing recipes links, visit Rachel in the Land of Monkeys and Princesses.
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11/7/09

Weekly Winners - Canine Edition

November 1 -7
Visit Lotus to see more Weekly Winners.


Sam.

Sam 1

Sammy. Sam-bo. Samuel. Sammy Dog. Sam Golden.

Sam 2

Whatever we call him, he is extremely sweet.

Sam 5

And dignified in his old age.

Sam 3

He has wise old eyes now.

Sam 4

But his nose still works like a young pup's.

Sam 9

Sometimes we call him St. Francis, because he is patient and kind to other animals, even cats.

St. Francis

No actual physical resemblence though.

Sam 6

He's quite the photogenic chap isn't he?

11/5/09

The Honey Bear Sings

Happy Friday! I have nothing written! And pretty much nothing to say right now! So LOOK! A music video!

(Note: Chewing juicy candy makes singing difficult and slobbery.)

(Also, note after "one sell off and bumped his head," the seamless transition to "tinkle tinkle." I see a music scholarship in our future.)



Honey Bear's singing tickles me pink. And orange and purple and blue and green too. I could eat him with a spoon he's so sweet.

It's Friday! Have a good one! Tinkle Tinkle!

11/2/09

Brothers

I went to get Bear when he woke up from his nap, and happened to have my camera with me.


Bear in crib

He was happy to see me coming. But I wasn't alone.


Bear in crib tent

Having an older brother means really weird things sometimes happen.

Shark in fins


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Here comes Swamp Thing, formerly known as Someone Has Been Into The Closet Containing Daddy's Scuba Gear.

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Bear, having recovered from his first look at Shark's Halloween costume (he cried), was unfazed by Scuba Shark.

Having an older brother prepares a little brother in ways I never suspected.

11/1/09

Shepherd's Pie and More

I have a special installment of Mouthwatering Monday this week. Three excellent recipes!

Carnation Evaporated Milk sponsored these recipes, providing me with free milk and a little grocery budget to whip up something good.

I made two recipes from their holiday guide, which you can find on the web site The Cooking Milk.com. Then I made my Shepherd's Pie, using Carnation Milk instead of regular milk (it's a one-for-one substitution). That recipe is below, but first look at this:

Pear Flan

The Carnation recipe guide calls this a Pear Oven Pancake, but it's a flan people, a flan. It is more of a custard than a cake, with pear slices, cinnamon, and sugar on top, and everyone loved it. I served it for brunch after church, warm with maple syrup on top. Really easy, elegant looking, and delicious!

I also made these:

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Mini Party Quiches, which are perfect for a holiday brunch buffet for a crowd. I like this recipe because it's easy to do your own variation. It calls for red pepper, broccoli, and cheddar, but you could use ham and swiss cheese for example, or spinach and mushrooms. Nice recipe to have handy.

Now -- here is my version of Shepherd's Pie, a hearty dish for colder days.

1 pound ground beef
1 onion
4-5 large carrots
1 bag of frozen peas
2 C beef broth
Salt & pepper to taste
3 T cornstarch
Worchesteshire sauce to taste
Mashed potatoes
Cheddar cheese (slices or shredded)

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My potato peeler hard at work.

The Mashed Potatoes: You peel 'em, you boil 'em in water, you cook 'em for 30 minutes, you mash 'em with a potato masher, you add lots of butter, salt, pepper, and maybe some sour cream or cream cheese, and milk. I substituted Carnation Evaporated Milk this time.

Preheat oven to 350. Brown the ground beef and pour off fat. Add chopped onion and diced carrots, broth, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes until carrots are tender. Add peas.

Dissolve 3 tablespoons of cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water, whisking in a small bowl. Stir into beef mixture and keep stirring until it is bubbling and has thickened. Add worchesteshire sauce to taste. (I add about 1/2 teaspoon.)

Pour into a deep baking dish. Like this:

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Top with cheese. Ummmm...cheese...



Shepherd's Pie

Then top with mashed potatoes, mound it up a bit and spread it to touch the sides of the baking dish. Dot with butter.

Shepherd's Pie 2

Bake for 15 minutes or until top of potatoes is golden brown. This is wrapped up in the fridge waiting to be baked for Tuesday night's dinner, so I don't have a "plated picture."

(You can also add more cheese on top of the potatoes before baking it. More cheese is always a good idea.)

Sugarplum and Bear

Thanks to my other helper who arrived when I was in the middle of 4 different recipes and her baby brother had just awakened from his nap and started to fuss. She retrieved him and changed his diaper and allowed him to hang from her like this for half and hour while I got a few more things done.

I sent her home with food. It worked out well for everyone.

Thanks also to Carnation and One2One Network for this fun opportunity! Check out more of their holiday recipes here.

And visit darling Rachel for all the other Mouthwatering Monday recipes.

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