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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rediscovering an old friend…


My mother taught me how to clean the house. She did a very good job teaching, I just usually wasn’t in the mood to learn. I always hated cleaning until Mr. U and I married and I wanted to take the best possible care of him and our home. Aaaaah, love!!!!

My mother always taught me to clean using a washcloths. Cleaning kitchen or bathroom counters, cleaning the toilet, dusting shelves, nightstands, side tables, etc. She taught me to use a washcloth and to simply launder them when I was finished. No waste. I, of course, thought I new better. I would go through tons of paper towels simply so that I wouldn’t have to rinse out washcloths or bother laundering them. I wonder just how many paper towels I’ve wasted over the course of all these years?

Recently, I discovered my old friend- the washcloth. I’ve realized what a waste it is to use paper towels and how much BETTER washcloths clean!! I clean the counters, hand mop the bathroom floor, scrub shower walls, clean the toilets and sinks- all with a washcloth!!!! When finished with my cleaning, I simply rinse it out and throw it in the washing machine!!

Also, I’ve recently had problems with my hands getting exceptionally dry in some areas. I decided to stop using harsh cleansers and now I clean with a bucket full of hot water and add some liquid hand soap to the water. Not only does this clean well and smell good, too, but it also is less harsh on my hands. When I rinse out the washcloths once I’m finished cleaning, I don’t have to worry about making sure all those harsh chemicals are out because I’m just using hand soap, water and good, old-fashioned elbow grease!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

What Christmas is Really About


This post was shared this week by my pastor (see "about me" in side bar). Thank you, Pastor U!!!



What Christmas is Really About

Isaiah 9.6- For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Those of us that are Christians spend a lot of our time telling our children and families that Christmas is about giving instead of receiving. But according to the Scripture above that is not what Christmas is all about.

Giving is much better than receiving. It teaches us not to be so hedonistic, materialistic and selfish. Giving is a good character trait. Giving is a worthy goal to teach our families. Giving is a good thing but it is not what Christmas is about.

John 1.29- The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

The people of Israel were familiar with lambs for the sacrifices. At Passover, each family had to have a lamb; and during the year, two lambs a day were sacrificed at the temple altar, plus all the other lambs brought for personal sacrifices. Those lambs were brought by men to men, but here is God's Lamb, given by God to men! Those lambs could not take away sin, but the Lamb of God (Jesus Christ) can take away sin.

We all are born separated from God. We do not get to God by good works, stopping a bad habit or cleaning our life up. The only way that our hearts will find forgiveness, peace, and contentment is to acknowledge that we are sinners and we need forgiveness.

God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be born of a virgin, live as He was born (in perfection), die upon a cross and three days later conquer the grave. We as sinners are to acknowledge that:

We are sinners and need forgiveness
Call out to Jesus Christ for that forgiveness
Commit yourself to following Him as your Lord and King

Christmas is about God sending His Son so that our salvation would be possible.

That is God’s gift to us. He is the giver. We just need to receive Jesus as the Gift that has been given.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Caroling...


On Tuesday night, a big group from our church went Christmas caroling!! We've been doing it for several years now and it is just so much fun!! We all bundle up, squish into vans and off we go!! We sing at several different homes and share about 5 Christmas hymns at each home.

When we are done, we return to our church for homemade cookies and hot cider!! I made Gingerbread Men Cookies, Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Cranberry Orange Cookies. To drink, I served Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider. Yum! Two sweet young ladies in our church volunteered to make cookies, too!! They showed up with chocolate peanut butter cookies, brownies, German shortbread and MORE!! We had a feast of cookies!! Wish all of y'all could have been here for the fun evening.


Gingerbread Men
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
Royal Icing (optional)

In a mixing bowl, beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed 30 seconds. Add next 6 ingredients and beat till combined, scraping bowl. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar till combined. Carefully beat in most of the flour with the mixer. By hand, stir in the rest of the flour. When mixed thoroughly, cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough mixture until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes and place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Baked at 375 degrees for about 5 minutes or until the edges of the cookie turn golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute and then transfer to wire cooling rack.

Cool completely before decorating.

This is the recipe for royal icing, but PLEASE decorate however your family wants!! Any kind of icing is good as long as you and your family like it!!


Royal Icing
3 eggs whites
1 pound powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add in powdered sugar. Beat 5 to 7 minutes.

Put icing mixture into a piping bag and decorate your cookies!!!

This dries VERY fast!!! Work quickly.




Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

3 eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup PLUS 4 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
Sifted powdered sugar

Stir all the ingredients together (except for powdered sugar) and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Shape into 1 inch balls and roll into powdered sugar. Place balls 1 inch apart on cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or till the edges are set and tops are crackled.

Also, I stuck Hershey's Kisses in the middle of each cookie just as they came out of the oven. I LOVE chocoalte, but these Kisses are FILLED WITH CARAMEL!! I LOVE caramel!!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Quiet Bag

Don't you just LOVE finding wonderful new blogs? Heaven only knows just how many blogs are out there, but I love finding encouraging blogs as well as blogs that will help me grow!!!

You know recently I've mentioned Mrs. B's Cottage and I always find challenging articles The Dead Theologian. But just the other day, I came across A Place of Quiet Rest. The blog as a whole is absolutely wonderful!!!! The article that stood out the most to me (probably because we are expecting to find out about our little Elizabeth any day now!!) is the article entitled The Quiet Bag. Just grab yourself a cup of tea and read what Heather has to share with us!! What a blessing!!!

Every so often I have an inspiration that proves to be very helpful to my family. One of my inspirations has been 'The Quiet Bag' and over the years it has been a wonderful blessing and 'mother's helper'! I have shared this idea with other moms of young children, and I wondered if it might be something helpful to some of you as well - or even a gift idea for some young family.

Last night we had two functions in a row where the children were required to sit quietly for long periods of time, our Dreamer's piano recital and the children's Christmas Program at church. It was definately a night to grab 'The Quiet Bag'. Not only was it helpful for our family, but several children in the pew with us enjoyed the contents of the bag - we were the quietest row in the church, I think!

Our bag is an old used leather 'one shoulder' backpack style bag which we used to use as a diaper bag, but anything durable and 'husband friendly' will do. The contents vary occasionally as I 'trade out' less popular items and try to keep a rotation of fresh things to do.

The rules are simple, everything in the bag must be 'quiet', not too heavy, and requires no parental instruction. There is no playing with the contents of the bag at home or even in the car, unless we are on a long trip. It is reserved for special occasions like sermon time, funerals, the Doctor's waiting room, a fancy restaurant, or an 'adult' function where they need to be seen, but not heard. At 9, The Dreamer is expected to listen to the sermon and take brief notes, follow in the Scripture reading and sing in church, but there are still times when it is too much to expect her to be still for the length of time needed, so she enjoys "The Quiet Bag' too.

Now for the contents! We have a variety of things, but these are our favorites. Many have been purchased at the gift shop in Cracker Barrel's Old Country Store, at Wal*Mart, the Dollar Store and in educational type toy stores. There are no batteries or sound producing toys, nothing sticky, messy or glittery. Most of what we have was inexpensive, and of course has changed to be 'age appropriate' as the children have grown.

*Wikki Stix (these are so fun, but get sticky in warm weather, so they only get added to the bag in cooler months)

*Mini Etch-A-Sketch

* Mini Magna-Doodle

*Silly Putty

*Felt Story People, Fuzzy Felts or Felt Kids (a small felt board)

*Magnetic books (Construction set, Thomas the Tank Engine, Horses etc.)

*Sticker books (we like the little Dover books)

*Magnet face 'Willy' - where you use a 'wand' to put 'hair' on Willy

* 1/2 sheets of cardstock paper and mini paint sets (for in restaurants)

*Fun Pad, mini coloring books, maze books

*Fabric Activity Books

*Flip-A-Fish and The Peanut Game ( they are pretty quiet ;0)

*Magnetic Car Bingo

*Brain Quest games

*A mini photo album of family and friends

* Hand sanitizer, a small first aid kit, kleen-x, and dried fruit snacks complete the bag

We have had hours of quiet fun with this bag. When I was describing our use of 'The Quiet Bag' to the young mom beside us last evening, she was very positive and encouraging. I think she was planning to put together a bag for her own young boys. I decided that since she thought it was such a great idea, you might find it useful information too!


Click here to go visit Heather!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Cooking essentials- the can opener



Yes, I use a hand crank can opener. Call me old-fashioned, I don't mind. I just simply CANNOT get any other can opener to work!! And I am not kidding!! My mother has some fancy kind that you just hold the can up to it and it's supposed to automatically "catch" and take over. Not for me! No sir!! Either my mom or my sister has to come to my rescue every time.

However, I DO love my can opener. It opens quickly every time. I've had this one for 8 years now and have only had 1 problem. I used to wash it after each use, but it started getting rusty and eventually didn't want to turn as easily. A friend told me that it was rusting because I washed it too much. Too much?? What??? She said that unless I was going to dry it off completely right after each washing, then I shouldn't wash it every time. She said this is what caused it to rust.

I have since stopped washing it after each use and there is no rusting going on at all!! Yippee!!!

What did we do about the part that WAS rusting? A little elbow grease and some olive oil took it off and lubed it up!! I'm sure I'll get years more use out of this!

What kind of can opener do you use??

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dirty Toilets and Drop In Visitors

Mrs. B has written a marvelous post entitled "Dirty Toilets and Drop in Visitors". I had to chuckle when I first read it because I have been there!!!!

Mrs. B offers some great ideas about doing little things each day to keep the house tidy and ready for visitors at a moments notice. Thank you Mrs. B!!

Here is the article, but be sure and stop by her blog to pay her a visit!!

Once, many years ago, some friends of ours stopped by to say goodbye on their way to a vacation out of state. Before they left, my friend's husband asked to use our bathroom. Those were the days before I had any daily cleaning routines set up for myself, and I cleaned whenever I felt like it-or not. Well, this happened to be one of the "or not" days, and my bathroom was rather a wreck. I *had planned to* clean the bathroom, but hadn't gotten around to it yet when my friend needed to use it. Needless to say, I was mortified, and to this day, I still remember the embarassment of that moment.

Last night after supper our pastor called to see if he might drop by for a spur of the moment visit with us. Of course we told him to come on over.

I was so glad then that, over the years, I have learned to keep to some basic daily cleaning routines. I am no longer embarassed when someone asks to use our bathroom, and I don't find myself scurrying around, a stress-filled mess, when someone drops by unexpectedly.

Last night all I had to do to get ready for the pastor's visit was finish washing the supper dishes and put on a pot of coffee. We had a very enjoyable visit with him, very relaxed because I wasn't worrying about the state of my house.

Here are some of the absolute basics that I try to do every day in order to keep our home presentable:

*make beds
*do dishes, clean counters
*make sure bathroom is presentable (swish toilet and wipe counters daily or every other day)
*sweep floors
*put anything away that has been left out in kitchen or living room

After these things are done, I can go on to other projects, resting assured that I could welcome someone in to our home that day with no need to be embarassed. You don't have to strive for PERFECT; you just want to have it comfortably neat, clean, and attractive.

What things do you do in your own home to be ready for drop in visitors?

Have a wonderful day, friends!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gingersnaps- YUM!!!


On Monday night, at our monthly ladies fellowship at church, we had a cookie exchange!!! We all showed up with at least 6 dozen cookies and we went home with lots and lots of different cookies to share with family and friends over the Christmas holidays. What fun!!! I took gingersnaps and here's the recipe...

Gingersnaps

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup shortening
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground white pepper
1/3 cup granulated sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine ½ of the flour plus the brown sugar, shortening, molasses, egg, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and white pepper. Mix well until combined. Stir in remaining flour.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the extra sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are set and the tops are crackled. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet and then move to wire rack to cool.

Makes about 48 cookies.

*These aren't very "snappy". I always thought that gingersnaps were to be thin and hard. These are a little puffy and soft. But they are sooo YUMMMMYYY!!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

SLOW COOKING THURSDAY!!!


Every year at Christmastime, I make Crock-pot Chicken with Cranberries-but only on one certain day. It's a family tradition!! The day we go out to buy our Christmas tree, we fill up with this warm and delicious meal and then head out into the cold to pick out just the right tree.

Crock-pot Chicken with Cranberries

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
1 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons flour mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water

Place all ingredients (except the flour/water mixture) in the crock-pot. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours, until chicken is tender. Add flour mixture in the last 15 minutes before serving and cook until the sauce has thickened. Serve over rice, pasta or (my family's preference) couscous.

Don't be scared when you peek in your crock-pot after it's been cooking a bit and the cranberries are still staring back at you. The longer this cooks, the cranberries will heat up and start to "pop". By the time I serve this, I cannot tell that cranberries were ever in this. They simply melt into the sauce and become yummy and delicious!! Mr. U who, does not like cranberries at all, LOVES this dish!!!

You can find more mouth-watering recipes over at Sandra's blog.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Carmelitas


Oh boy!! Did I ever find a GREAT recipe in my new Christmas Cookie cookbook that I won from Susan P.!!!! Mr. U chose a recipe called Carmelitas. It is really, REALLY good. Whatever diet you are on, throw it out the window when you eat these!!! My, oh my!!!!

Carmelitas

18 ounce tube refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
6 counes semi-sweet chocolate chips
32 vanilla caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup half and half

Slice cookie dough 1/4 inch thick; place slices in the bottom of an ungreased 9x9 baking pan. Pat to make an even crust; bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly; sprinkle with chocolate chips and set aside. Melt caramels and half and half together in a double boiler over hot water. Spread caramel mixture on top of chocolate chips. Refrigerate for one to two hours; cut into squares. Makes 3 dozen.

Okay... now here's the truth... I did not follow this recipe exactly. tee hee (anyone who knows me is not surprised by this fact). I just HATE to buy pre-made cookie dough. So, I made half a batch (and used only 1/2 a bag of chocolate chips) of the Nestle Toll House cooke recipe that I have here. I pressed that into the bottom of a pie plate (didn't have a 9x9 available) and you can see that in the picture. I baked it at 375 for 25 minutes and then sprinkled the other half of the chocolate chips on top. Then I put the caramels and the half and half in a microwave safe bowl and microwaved on high for 2 minutes- stopping every 30 seconds to stir. At the end of two minutes, it had turned to a creamy caramel sauce. I then poured it all ove the pie. I let it come to room temperature and then put it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. I cut them into little bitty triangles (think tiny pie piece) and ate them. They are TO DIE FOR.

If y'all make this, be sure and let me know!! And if I gain weight at my Weight Watchers meeting on Monday, I figure I can just blame Susan P.!!!!! :) HAHAHA!!! Just kidding, Susan!!!!

Note: I was SUPPOSED to share a picture with y'all of what a piece of the carmelitas looked like when it was cut. But... well... they just disappeared too fast!! Oops!!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Happy Anniversary, Mr. U!!!


I LOVE MR. U!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eight years ago today, December 12, 1998, Mr. U and I were married. I am so blessed to be married to such a wonderful, loving, godly man.

We met December 9, 1997 and we both quickly knew that the Lord was leading us to marriage. Truly the Lord has spoiled me with such a fantastic husband.

Happy 8th anniversary, sweetie! I love you soooo very much and am sooo very honored to be called Mrs. U!!!!

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine..." Song of Solomon 6:3

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cooking essentials- hand mixer



The hand mixer is an absolute necessity in my kitchen. Our kitchen is very small and I don't have room for one of those big leave-on-your-counter stand mixers. They are QUITE nice, though, so please don't think I don't like them. I really would love to have one someday, but it's just not practical in this home.

This hand mixer is my favorite!! Why? Because I burned out the motor in two previous hand mixers and this guy is the only one that's been able to keep up with me!!!

Hand mixers are great for mixing up cookies, quick breads, muffins, brownies, cake batter, icing. The list goes on and on. I just pull mine out (another benefit- I can just store it in a cabinet!!!), pop in the beaters and away we go!! I don't have to practically break my arm to make chocolate chip cookies for Mr. U, I just plug this in, mix up the cookies and presto!! Mr. U's got a plateful of warm cookies!!!

Do you have a hand mixer? If so, do you use yours often?

Friday, December 08, 2006

A sweet surprise...


Some of y'all will remember my post the other day about handkerchiefs. Do you know what sweet Kelli over at There is No Place Like Home did? She sent me a handkerchief!! Is she kind or what??

Kelli, it is a LOVELY handkerchief and I am oh-so-thankful for such a thoughtful gesture.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Here is it!!!


Susan P. over at A Place Called Home had a contest a few weeks ago and I WON!!! I won a Gooseberry Christmas cookie cookbook!! YUMMMM!!! When the package arrived in the mail, not only was I ecstatic to find the cookbook, but she also included a Yankee Candle tartlet for the tart warmer in Mistletoe and a tooo cute gingerbread man cookie cutter!!! Adorable!! She tied it all up with a beautiful christmasy (can I say that?) bow. What a wonderful gift to receive in the mail!!

Thank you for the fun contest, Susan!!! And thank you for the lovely prize!! :)

Now... off to baking some of those cookies!! :)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New blog worth noting...

The author of this new blog, The Isle Of Hope, is really wanting to focus on the Lord and serving Him. He had another blog, but this one really seems to show his heart more. I appreciate people sharing what the Lord is doing in their life- the good and the hard.

I have much to learn in my walk with the Lord and sooo appreciate the encouragement of fellow Christians like this man.

Peanut Butter Pie


What is wrong with this picture? Look closely. Got it yet? It has no PIE in it!!!! We've GOT to do something about that!!!

My sister and I were discussing yummy recipes yesterday and this one came up. Boy, is it DELICIOUS!! So, I figured if we loved it so much, y'all might, too!!


Peanut Butter Pie

1 (3 oz) pack cream cheese, softened
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
¼ cup milk
1 carton (8 ounces) frozen Cool Whip, thawed
1 graham cracker pie crust(9 oz)

In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Mix in peanut butter and sugar. Gradually add milk; mix well. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon into pie crust. Refrigerate overnight.

I think this is supposed to be 8 servings, but when it's THIS good... good luck making the slices that small and not hearing complaints!!! :)

Enjoy!!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cooking essentials- the garlic press



Okay, I promise this is not another lecture from me about the health benefits of garlic.

This IS a post about how wonderful garlic presses are!!! What IS a garlic press? It's a gadget that's used to press garlic cloves through a perforated grid to extract the pulp and juice from the garlic.

Look at the picture...



See those little holes? The garlic clove gets pushed through there and out it comes all mashed up and ready to use!!

I will often use my knife to chop my garlic, but sometimes I don't feel like chopping and pull out my garlic press. I just LOVE it!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Get out in the sunshine



When the days get shorter and the nights get longer, the absence of the sun makes me sad. No, I don't deal "officially" with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but I do get tired. I asked my doctor about it and he said that the sun has a huge part to play in the function of our bodies. His perscription to me? Get out in the sun about 10 minutes each day!! Hey, that's easy!!!

I found this article online and found it very interesting. I figured y'all might find it interesting as well.

Happy sunning!! :)

Get out in the sunshine

The importance of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for good health that comes in its largest quantities from the sun. Some foods have been fortified with the vitamin, such as milk, but a US study proved that only 30 per cent of the samples tested contained a sufficient recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D.

Diseases such as rickets, osteoporosis and osteomalacia are kept at bay with a healthy dose of sunshine-induced vitamin D. However, with a lifespan of only one week, vitamin D must be topped up regularly. But even when using sunscreen has been found to hinder vitamin D production, it must still be safely maintained.

The low light levels of winter can cause seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a prolonged psychological state much like depression. Symptoms are often a poor appetite, considerable weight loss or vice versa, insomnia, agitation or inertia or feelings of worthlessness, guilt and indecisiveness.

SAD can only be relieved by sunlight (via vitamin D) as the sun can raise serotonin levels– the body’s natural happiness chemical. Regular indoor light does not produce the same effect as it does not supply vitamin D.

Vitamin D from the sun’s rays is also essential in building strong bones and teeth. Research also suggests that low vitamin D levels could potentially increase type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain.

Women may find that sunshine can relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which include stomach bloating and cramping, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, mood swings and appetite shifts.

Read the entire article here...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

SLOW COOKING THURSDAY!!!


For my entry today in the Slow Cooking Thursday extravaganza (can I call it that??), I've got our family's FAVORITE Christmas cider!!

I make this every year for our church when we go Christmas caroling (yes, people still do that). We go out singing Christmas songs and return to the church to enjoy cookies and Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider! YUM!! I'm sooo looking forward to it! Wish y'all could join us.

Hot Spiced Cranberry Cider
2 quarts apple cider
6 cups cranberry juice
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Combine all in the crockpot. Cook on "high" for about 30 minutes. I then turn the setting to "keep warm" until we return to the church. Be sure and remove the cloves and cinnamon sticks before serving.

For more ideas for your crock pot, visit here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!!


My mother is the dearest person I know. She has set a godly example for me to follow in all areas of my life- in following my husband, in being a mother, in being a lady, in following the Lord in all areas.

Mom, I am so incredibly blessed to have you as a mother!! Thank the Lord for His wonderful plans!!!

A Mother Like I Want to Be

Each year I’m extra happy on your birthday;
Your day reminds me of God’s gift to me--
A mom who gave her all to raise me right,
A mother like the one I want to be.
J.F.

*Note: November's flower is the Chrysanthemum!!

Whatever happened to the handkerchief?


Does anyone know whatever happened to the handkerchief? I love watching old movies and seeing ladies remove a beautiful handkerchief from their purse to dab their eyes or even wipe a little dirt off of a child's face. I remember watching You've Got Mail and the character Meg Ryan played was astonished that a young girl had no idea what a handkerchief was!

I have never carried a handkerchief. I know that my dad keeps one (or used to) in his suit pocket, but that's a manly handkerchief and they usually are just plain white. A handkerchief for a lady is flowery or embroidered or lace-edged. You know, lovely.

I did a little online research and found this site about the history of the handkerchief:

A handkerchief is a small, square, thin cloth used for wiping.

The pocket handkerchief is in fact only 400 years old. It was the idea of a Venetian lady to cut a square out of pure flax and then decorate it with lace. She showed it to the people in a public garden, where the delicate handkerchief excited the general curiosity of the onlookers.

From Italy, the handkerchief soon crossed the Alps and spread through France where it was found to be a great success with the Lords and Ladies in the court of Henry II. The handkerchief of this period was made with the most expensive fabrics, adorned with embroidery and were objects of great luxury.

In 1850, Germany adopted the handkerchief ,but it was only used by royalty and the aristocrats.

Until 18th century, the handkerchief came in many forms. One day at Versailles, Marie-Antoinette made the observation that the square form would be more convenient and pleasing. Louis XVI published a decree ordering the length of handkerchiefs produced in the kingdom would be equal to their width. Now 150 years later the handkerchiefs are being replaced by tissue ones.


I'll let you know that the quote is from India's national newspaper site. Are they the only country to care about handkerchiefs? Does no one else use them anymore??

I also did some checking into the history of Kleenex. Very interesting.

In 1924, the Kleenex brand of facial tissue was first introduced. Kleenex tissue was invented as a means to remove cold cream. Early advertisements linked Kleenex to Hollywood makeup departments and sometimes included endorsements from movie stars (Helen Hayes and Jean Harlow) who used Kleenex to remove their theatrical make-up with cold cream.

Kleenex and Noses
By 1926, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the manufacturer of Kleenex, became intrigued by the number of letters from customers stating that they used their product as a disposable handkerchief.

A test was conducted in the Peoria, Illinois newspaper. Ads were run depicting the two main uses of Kleenex; either as a means to remove cold cream or as disposable handkerchief for blowing noses. The readers were asked to respond. Results showed that 60% used Kleenex tissue for blowing their nose. By 1930, Kimberly-Clark had changed the way they advertised Kleenex and sales doubled proving that the customer is always right.

Kleenex Trivia
In 1928, the familiar pop-up tissue cartons with a perforated opening was introduced. In 1929, colored Kleenex tissue was introduced and a year later printed tissues. In 1932, pocket packs of Kleenex were introduced.


So it appears that people started using Kleenex because they preferred to use them to blow their noses. Kleenexes can be thrown away and you don't have to worry about washing them. But there is no beauty, no femininity in a box of Kleenex, is there? Truly, taking care of handkerchiefs in this day and age is quite simple- just launder them! At least 7 handkerchiefs should suffice to see you through the week and you will launder the used ones as you go. Much more beautiful, wouldn't you say?

So what about you? Do you use handkerchiefs? To be honest with you, I do not. I have been looking for some, but I am not aware of any stores from which to purchase them. Please, if you know where I may attain some, let me know. I think this is just a small way that I can add a touch of femininity to my life.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cooking essentials- microplane zester/grater



I LOVE my Microplane!!!!! I use it for everything from fresh ginger, to hard cheese like Parmesan, to zesting an orange, lemon or lime!!!



According to the Microplane website, "originally a woodworking tool, this best seller grates even the hardest Parmesan Reggiano as well as other hard cheeses into fine lacy wisps. Ideal for topping your favorite spaghetti and meatballs or a Caesar salad. It’s also wonderful for effortless citrus zesting to add natural flavors to a lemon crème brulee or a basic vinaigrette."

I used to attempt to use my box grater on the "small" holes to zest citrus fruit, but the zest would always come out too large. This microplane does the job quickly and creates a small, fine zest!! Also, it is much quicker to pull this out when a recipe calls for fresh ginger then to chop it by hand. I LOVE my microplane and cannot recommend it enough to others!!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Birthday to my sister!!!!



This photo is of my sister and me when she is only 10 days old. Even then, I was proud as a peacock of her!!!

Today as she turns _____ (haha!! Now y'all don't think I want to get in TROUBLE do you??) I want to tell her HAPPY BIRTHDAY and let her know that she is the BEST sister in all the world!!! Thank you for showing me an awesome example of what walking with Jesus Christ is all about.

I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Love,
Your big sister :)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Be Thou My Vision



In this age of materialism (and yes, I can easily get as caught up in it as you), I don't want my focus to be on myself or on the stuff I think can make me happy. I want my focus to be on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfector of our faith.

May this sweet hymn swirl around and around in your head all season long.

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle-shield, sword for my fight,
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight.
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tower.
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise,
Thou mine inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven's joys, O bright heav'ns Son!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O ruler of all.

Ancient Irish hymn, possibly from the 8th Century, tr. by Mary E. Byrne

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!!!!




I hope everyone has a blessed Thanksgiving this year! I've so much to be thankful for- but most of all I am thankful that the Lord chose to save me and make me His own.

Now for something we should all read each year...

The Thanksgiving Story

The Pilgrims who sailed to this country aboard the Mayflower were originally members of the English Separatist Church (a Puritan sect). They had earlier fled their home in England and sailed to Holland (The Netherlands) to escape religious persecution. There, they enjoyed more religious tolerance, but they eventually became disenchanted with the Dutch way of life, thinking it ungodly. Seeking a better life, the Separatists negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Most of those making the trip aboard the Mayflower were non-Separatists, but were hired to protect the company's interests. Only about one-third of the original colonists were Separatists...(to continue)...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cooking essentials- the vegetable peeler


According to Epicurious.com, a vegetable peeler is "a kitchen utensil designed to peel away the outer skin of vegetables. Vegetable peelers come in many designs and are made from a variety of materials. The better ones have a swivel-action blade that conforms to the contour of the vegetable being peeled, thereby cutting away a minimum of skin."

This is what my vegetable peeler looks like...


I remember when my mom was teaching me to peel potatoes. She gave me a small paring knife and, as hard as I tried, I kept taking off too much of the potato!! I tried and tried to just take off the peeling, but my hands weren't doing it properly. Then my mom gave me her vegetable peeler to use!! WOOHOO!! What a world of difference that was!! It took off just the potato skin and left the flesh intact. THANK YOU whoever invented this cooking essential!!!

What I use a vegetable peeler for:
-peeling potatoes of all kinds
-peeling carrots
-peeling parsnips
-peeling the skin off of fresh ginger
-getting "shavings" off of chocolate to make desserts more lovely

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Christmas Cookies!!!!!


Woohoooo for Christmas cookies!!! Susan P. over at A Place Called Home is having a Christmas Cookie Cookbook Contest! Be sure and head over there and tell her you want to enter and be sure and share your favorite Christmas cookie recipe!!!!

My favorite? My 1A favorite are these Cranberry Orange cookies!! They smell and taste just like Christmas! Why 1A? Because my 1B favorite are gingerbread men and I can never make a final decision between the two. HAHA!! I'll be sure and share that recipe later on and I'll even take a picture of them to share!

Cranberry Orange Cookies
6 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 egg
2 t grated fresh orange peel
3 T thawed frozen orange juice concentrate
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
½ t baking powder
½ t ground cloves
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
1 cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Orange icing:
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
3 T unsalted butter, melted
2 T thawed frozen orange juice concentrate

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets or use nonstick or parchment lined cookie sheets.
2) In large bow, with mixer at medium speed, cream together butter and both sugars until light. Add egg, orange peel, and orange juice concentrate, and beat until blended. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cloves, baking soda, and salt. At low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.
3) Baked cookies 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.
4) Prepare Orange icing: In bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar, butter and orange juice concentrate until smooth; spread on cooked, cooled cookies. Store cookies, with waxed paper between layers, in tightly covered container.

PS- In case you are wondering about the picture, that is a photo of cranberries being harvested.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My Favorite Cleaning Supplies...


On Susan Godfrey's blog a while back, she asked us to post about our favorite cleaning supplies. I didn't give it much thought because I couldn't think of anything that I really love that I clean with. I wanted to share something that I just can't live without.

Well, last night I cleaned out the kitchen sink. It's stainless steel and gets stained (especially from tea!!!). I poured some baking soda in there, scrubbed around and SHAZAM it's sparkling!!!! Then I was heading to bed and decided to brush my teeth with baking soda to give them an "extra" clean.

Then it hit me... BAKING SODA!!!!!!

Baking soda is a product I use pretty much daily. I HAVE to have a box around to use in cleaning, in removing product build-up in my hair, to keep in the fridge to keep it smelling like a fridge and not all the food in the fridge. I use it in my laundry, I use it in my ICED TEA (a little pinch- not even an 1/8 of a tsp.-takes away that "bitter" aftertaste that some tea can leave). If you haven't used baking soda for more than just baking, check out this and this and see how it can be used more frequently in your home. It's very economical and VERY handy!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

SLOW COOKING THURSDAY!!!


This recipe is DELICIOUS!!! A friend at our church makes it and was gracious enough to share it with me. Our family LOVES this stuff! Serve it as an appetizer at your next get-together and you will be a big hit!

Crock Pot Mexican Dip
1 pound lean ground beef
1 large Velveeta Cheese, cubed
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 jar of Pace Picante Sauce

Brown your ground beef in a saute pan on the stove. Drain any grease off, if needed. Put the cooked ground beef in your crock pot (that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) along with all the other ingredients. Cook on low for about 1 hour and stir occasionally. The crock pot does an EXCELLENT job of keeping this dip nice and warm for your guests.

Serve with tortilla chips, Frito scoop chips or plain flour tortillas.

To get more slow cooker ideas, visit here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Homemaking books...


As you can tell from the title of this blog, I LOVE keeping my home and taking care of my family. My mother is incredibly good at this and I've always wanted to be just like her.

I read a book a few years ago called Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson and learned a great deal from her. I just found out today that Martha Stewart has a new book out called Homekeeping Handbook that sounds like it will be a great teaching tool as well.

I love to read old homemaking books, too. Do you have any favorites that you recommend?

I don't think I can ever learn enough about running our home more efficiently. I want this to be a place that my family wants to be- a place that they just can't wait to be at the end of long day. A place just like my mother created.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cooking essentials- the flour sifter


This is a flour sifter. Do you have one? Do you use it? I use mine all the time. Sometimes when I am getting flour out to use, it looks a little lumpy. Putting the flour through the sifter aerates the flour and gets any lumps out, making it more fluffy.





According to WhatsCookingInAmerica.net, a sifter is ...



a sieve that is especially adapted for use with flour. It is commonly built
in the form of a metal cup with a screen bottom and contains a mechanism (wires
that either revolve or rub against the screen being operated by a crank or a
lever) to force the flour through the mesh.


Oh, and you should know that there is no need to wash your sifter each time you use it. Just tap it gently over the sink or trash can and shake out any extra flour. I used to wash my first sifter after every use. What happened to it? It rusted. A sweet friend informed me that it was, after all, only flour that I used each time I sifted and there was no reason to wash it all the time.

Happy sifting!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Freezing Carrots and Celery...


Today Mr. U and I went grocery shopping. We grocery shop on or around the 10th of the month because that is when he gets paid. I like to buy the majority of my groceries for the month on that one day. I do go back later during the month to buy more fresh veggies (such as lettuce or raw spinach) or if I need something to make a special dish if we have friends coming over or an event at church.

One thing that I’ve had a problem with is carrots and celery. I’ll buy huge bags of them on our monthly trip and then I forget about them!! There is no way I’ll use that huge thing of celery or a two pound bag of carrots in a month. I’ve lost PLENTY of these great tasting veggies to forgetfulness on my part. I’ll open the drawer to use them and voila! They are soggy and brown. Sigh.

So, I’ve decided that as soon as I buy them, I’ll immediately chop them up and freeze them!! This has worked WONDERFULLY well!! Whenever I need them for recipes, I just pull out a handful or two and toss it in the pan!! While it does take some time to chop them all, it is great to have them all ready to use at a moments notice!!

What about you? Have you ever lost veggies to spoilage/ forgetfulness?

Note: While this does work well for using in all forms of cooking, if you are going to eat carrots or celery raw, freezing is not the best thing to do with them. When they thaw, they are not the same texture as they are raw- they get kind of mushy. You are better off buying fresh if you are eating them raw.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

One of "those" days...

Do y’all ever have one of “those” days? I woke up feeling great, but as the day progressed, I just grew more and more, well, kind of depressed. It’s been bright and sunny today and usually I get kind of down on cloudy days. Maybe I’m starting to come down with something? Hmmmm….

Whenever I have a day like this, there are some things I know to do:
1) Drink more water!!! If I’m coming down with something, water is the key ingredient needed to hydrate my body and help fight off any germs that may be in my system.
2) Go to bed at a decent hour!!! I am VERY guilty of staying up too late. Sigh. Mr. U can stay up pretty late but that doesn’t mean that I have to stay up with him. I need to head to bed but ESPECIALLY when I’m not feeling quite like myself. It is VERY important to get AT LEAST 8 hours of sleep each night and also to go to bed at a decent hour.
3) Eat raw garlic!!! Yes, I am bringing that up again. Raw garlic is a wonderful “medicine” that the Lord created for helping to fight off germs. (Thank you, Lord, for making it taste good, too!!!)
4) Get in The Word!!!! OH YES!!! This is most important of all!!! Time with the Lord can lift your weary soul and get your eyes off yourself and onto Him! Read! Read! Read!!! Hide His Word in your heart. Drink deeply of His Truth. Jesus is the Living Water, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World. All things were created by Him and through Him. Why NOT go to Him? He made us for His glory and His purposes and He can most certainly make one of “those” days into a glorious day when our hearts and minds are set on Him!!!

So… how have YOU been feeling today?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cooking essentials- pastry blender


I LOVE LOVE LOVE my pastry blender!!!! When Mr. U and I first married, I tried and tried to make biscuits like my mother does (she can do EVERYTHING!!!!), but I kept failing. I just cannot cut the butter into the flour with two knives like she does. Sigh.



Enter the pastry blender! My life saver!! No more chunks of butter or shortening in the biscuits! Now, it's all perfectly blended together! Hoorah!!

What IS a pastry blender exactly? It is a tool that helps cut the fat (in my case it was butter or shortening) into the flour when making dough (biscuit dough or pie crust, usually for me). It should have a sturdy handle which anchors several rows of steel wires formed into a U-shape.

While it does work marvelously, it is kind of a pain to clean. The mixture will get in between the wires and it makes it a smidge difficult to clean BUT it is WELL worth it- just ask Mr. U.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Did you know...?




Did you know that China, as large as it is, has only ONE time zone? No joke. Go here to read more.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

SLOW COOKING THURSDAY!!!


Yep, it's that time again!! Slow Cooking Thursday!! I always look forward to it. For more slow cooker ideas, visit this blog.

Chicken and Pasta
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 16 ounce container of sour cream
1 package of Lipton Onion Soup mix
1 can of water (use the can from the mushroom soup)
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Mix first four ingredients together until blended. Pour 1/2 of the mixture into the crock pot and then add the chicken breasts. Top with the remaining mixture. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve over your favorite pasta.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One busy family and some really, really good brownies!!!

Our family has been very busy lately! Phew!! Not even enough time to blog!! HORRORS!!!

Monday I had Weight Watchers and, to my astonishment, I lost 4.2 pounds! WOOHOO!! Needless to say, I made some brownies to take to our church’s fall festival last night and, well, I ate three. So, I’m quite sure those pounds have made their way back to me. LOL!

Today we had to go be RE-fingerprinted for our adoption. This adoption is taking SOOOOO long that we have to redo some of our paperwork. Paperwork, sure, I understand. But FINGERPRINTS? How in the world do FINGERPRINTS expire? So today, we spent a good chunk of our time driving to get that done.

But… I HAVE to tell y’all about the brownies…. Oh the brownies!!! They are absolutely DELICIOUS!!! They are, however, INCREDIBLY FATTENING. I only make them one time a year- for our church’s fall festival. Seriously, once you see the recipe, you’ll know why.

I use our family’s favorite brownie recipe that’s right here. They are great just like they are, but each year I add extra toppings to the brownies. Are you ready?

Nutty Chocolate Caramel Brownies
1 package of Kraft caramels, unwrapped (about 50 individual pieces)
1 stick butter
2 T milk
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
Mrs. U’s BEST Brownies, prepared

In a microwave safe bowl, place all the unwrapped caramels, the butter and the milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute and then stir. Microwave on high another 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until the caramels are completely melted and the caramel sauce comes together easily when stirred.

As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, pour the caramel sauce over the brownies. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the caramel sauce and then sprinkle the pecans on top of that. Let it cool completely and then eat! YUM!!!

Tip: I make these the day before I am taking them somewhere so that the caramel can “set” and won’t run off the brownies.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cooking essentials- knife and cutting board


My favorite two things in my kitchen are my knife and my cutting board. In my opinion, have a good quality knife and a sturdy, non-slip cutting board are absolutely essential to any kitchen.

The basic types of knives are:
-chef's knife- broad, stiff, slightly curved blade around 5-9 inches long. Used for chopping as well as slicing, dicing, mincing.
-paring knife- looks like a small chef's knife with a tapered blade and about 3-4 inches long. Used for peeling and slicing fruits and veggies.
-bread knife- has a straight, serrated blade at least 8 inches long and is used to cut through breads, cakes or baked goods.
-carving (or slicing) knife- long, slender blades that are used to carve or slice meats and large vegetables.
-utility knife- like a paring knife, but usually with a slightly curved blade. It can be used for carving small cuts of meat.
-boning knife- has a narrow, slightly flexible curved blade 5-7 inches long and is excellent for separating cooked or uncooked meat from the bone, carving a roast, or peeling fruits and veggies.

I personally prefer a chef's knife. I use it in all my cooking preparations. My favorite? A Wusthof Santoku 7 inch knife. You can see it here.




Why is a cutting board so important? Well, because you cut all of your fruits, veggies and meats on them. On it, you can prep all your ingredients for your meals. According to Southern Living's Secrets from the Southern Living Test Kitchen, a cutting board is "a flat surface of either wood or plastic polyethylene on which food is sliced or chopped. Some cutting boards have a carved edge to catch meat drippings. Always wash plastic boards in hot, soapy water, or run dishwasher-safe ones through the dishwasher to disinfect. Clean wooden boards with a mixture of 1 part bleach to 8 parts water, then rinse. We suggest using two boards: one just for meats and one for everything else. Or, if you have only one board, mark a side of the board exclusively for meat."

My personal choice for a cutting board? Well, the one I use for raw meat is just a regular plastic board I bought at Bed, Bath & Beyond. But my FAVORITE one that I use for everything else (including COOKED meats)is a Boos board.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

DON'T FORGET!!!




It's time to "fall back" already!! Before you head to bed tonight, be sure and turn your clocks back one hour!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Where have all the ladies gone?



Mr. U and I were in town today running errands. You know, the usual- post office, bank, Wal-Mart. I sat waiting in the car while Mr. U went into the post office to mail off a package and some letters. As I sat there, I started noticing all the ladies that were walking in and out of the post office. It was 12:30 in the afternoon and about 90% of these ladies looked as if they had just gotten out of bed!!! Why would any lady want to leave the house looking like that? Where have all the ladies gone?

It doesn’t take very much time or effort to make sure that you are well-groomed before leaving your home. Here are three short and easy ideas to get you started:

Press your clothes. Yes, I am serious. Get out your iron and actually iron your clothes. Walking around with wrinkled clothing is so unbecoming on a lady. This is something I expect to get onto my teenage son about, not adults. It only takes a few minutes to heat up the iron and press your clothes. No experience ironing? Well, like my mother always says “Practice makes perfect”.

Fix your hair. You would think that a lady would want to brush her hair, wouldn’t you? Men make fun of us all the time for taking hours on our hair, but you would not believe how many ladies I’ve noticed with unkempt hair! Yes, WOMEN!! I’m not talking about children here, but grown adult ladies. Please, comb your hair. It only takes a few minutes.

Put a smile on your face. Why would you want to walk around looking like you are mad at the world? Smile. It’s free and takes no time to do and preparation. Simply smile. Not only will it brighten you up, it’ll brighten up all the people whose path you will cross, too!

Ladies, it only takes a few minutes to do these. Why not start TODAY!!! Don’t leave the house looking unkempt. Take a moment to ready yourself for the day. I’m not asking you to spend hours getting ready nor am I asking you to go out and buy designer clothing, but I am asking you to look a little more ladylike. Not only will you look better, but you will feel better as well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

October 31- What to do??


Calling all Christian families!!!!!!

I just read an excellent article on Halloween on this blog. What do you think? Does your family "celebrate" this day? If so, why? Before you say "we did when I was growing up", read the article.

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