Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bountiful Gifts

I love my Mr. B tremendously. Prior to getting married, Mr. B found creative ways to bless me. One time he blessed me with a nice pair of Montana Silversmith earrings and another time with a new washing machine. However, after marriage he sort of ... well, lost his creativity but not his generosity. Prior to marriage there were many things I and the older boys were in need of and all sorts of wants we'd enjoy, so finding ways to bless us was a pretty easy task. After I roped Mr. B into marrying me (inside joke among our family & friends, Mr. B used to be a rodeo cowboy, specifically a calf and team roper), finding ways to bless me became more of a challenge. Since Mr. B. is very generous, if there is ANYTHING I or the children need or want, within reason, Mr. B instructs me to purchase it immediately. Because of this generous quality, I am never without any necessity and most of my wants are taken care of as well. Thus, after years of marriage and proving that I very effectively handle gift giving on our family's behalf, Mr. B has also given me the task of selecting, purchasing, making, crafting, etc. my own gifts. He is delighted that I always get exactly what I want and he doesn't have to be bothered with the task of shopping. If there is one person on this earth who dislikes shopping more than I, it is my Mr. B.

I LOVE homemade and handcrafted items and products. For some time now, I have been wanting to try Ms. Kay's, The Rustic Cottage, (http://therusticcottage.blogspot.com/) handcrafted soaps and room sprays. This year I decided that one of my Christmas gifts from Mr. B would include some of her products. My order of soaps and room spray arrived today!! I am absolutely thrilled with the quality and speed of service. The scents are as heavenly as I had hoped they would be. My favorite is the Country Clothesline, as I suspected it would be. You all can be assured that I will most definitely order from Ms. Kay's Esty Shop (http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=16118) again. Now, I've gotta go get my gift wrapped. I think Mr. B will be very pleased with his gift selections this year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

~Christmas Blessings Abound~

I am a rare sort of lady. I despise shopping. Shhhhh!, don't tell your husband's because he'll want me to become your new best friend. It's not necessarily the purchasing of goods I dislike, it's the traffic, the crowds, the "where's a sales associate when you need one?". As the years have passed, I've found myself completing most of my shopping through co-ops, mail order, and on-line. Even with all these convenient "shop from home" avenues, I still have a need to occasionally venture into the grocery stores, malls and shopping centers.

Yesterday was our BIG adventure day to the mall and a couple shopping centers to finish up the Christmas shopping I couldn't/didn't finish through mail order or on-line. We left early afternoon before our mail was delivered. Imagine my delight when returning home to a mailbox containing a large envelope from my dear sweet pen pal. Excitement bubbled inside me as I opened it wondering what would need to sent in a padded envelope. To my absolute delight I found the following handmade nativity set, homemade lip balm and "so me" stationary. I had spent my entire day shopping for and thinking of others then came home and found that someone had been thinking of me. What a blessing!!!

I find it amazing that the Lord cares so much for me as to put such wonderful and generous folks in my life. I am surrounded with a fabulous family and the best of friends. James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

Handmade Nativity Scene
Stationary and homemade peppermint lip balm (creamiest & smoothest I've ever tried)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Banana Butter

My dear sweet friend over at Heart for My Home, (http://heart4myhome.blogspot.com/), noticed that on the shipping box I used to mail pumpkin pies to the older children I had written "banana butter". She's inquired about the recipe. Believe it or not, banana butter tastes very similar to baby food bananas when consumed by itself. However, spread it on a warm homemade biscuit and you'll suddenly think your eating a slice of warm banana bread. Of all the jams, jellies and fruit butters I make, banana butter is KM's favorite. Here's my very simple recipe:

3 1/2 lbs. bananas

3 c. sugar

1/2 c. lemon juice

1 teaspoon butter

Thoroughly mash bananas; measure 4 cups into a 4-6 quart kettle or dutch oven. Add sugar, lemon juice and butter; mix well. Bring to a hard rolling boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer gently, uncovered, 20 minutes, stirring often. Pour into hot jars leaving 1/2 headspace. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath (half pints) 10 minutes. Makes 6 half-pints.

Samson Update

Although JP does not like to have his picture taken nor likes for me to blog about him, he has asked me several times lately if I've posted any updates regarding his little Samson. Well, this post is for JP ... as you can see his little "girl" is rapidly growing up. She has learned to play fetch and obeys the commands "sit", "outside", "come", "find your toy", "let's take a bath" and "let's go bye-bye".
It is really cute to watch JP interact with his baby. He is so affectionate and patient with her. Each time she masters something new, his face beams with pride. If his interaction with Samson is any indication of how he'll interact with his own children, when he has them, I think he'll be a wonderful father.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Musings

We enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving. (by the way, the photo on the left is not a photo of our Thanksgiving table, I down loaded it from the internet ... I forgot to take a photo of our table setting ... a blogger & scrapbooker who forgets to take photos ... go figure) In years past we often journeyed to Mr. B's grandmother's home for Thanksgiving. On the years we elected to enjoy a quiet intimate gathering with only our immediate family in our home, it has been a tradition to prepare roasted chicken, a delight for a very worried turkey somewhere out in this world. However, since Mr. B's grandmother passed on earlier this year (http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2008/05/reflections.html ), I thought I'd break our immediate family tradition and prepare a turkey instead of a chicken - sort of in remembrance of Granny. Well after many years of marriage, my dear Mr. B informed me that he actually prefers roasted chicken over turkey! Here I was feebly attempting to re-create his grandmother's Thanksgiving dinner and he surprises me by letting me know he's always preferred our smaller intimate family gatherings with roasted chicken. Not only was that a huge blessing, but I was also gently reminded that it is always best to just be one's self. Imitating others may be a form of great compliment, but most folks, especially the one's who love you most, prefer you just as you are, uniquely and wonderfully made.

Since I had planned ahead with regard to our celebration of abundant blessings, I was able to enjoy the day with my family. Aside from roasting the turkey, my entire Thanksgiving Day preparations took less than 2 hours in the kitchen. Later in the evening, I spent about an hour with clean-up ... Not bad when you've served enough food to feed a 3rd world country. One of the things I love most about having Thanksgiving dinner at home is the leftovers. I absolutely LOVE Thanksgiving leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving our family enjoyed a three day hunting trip. Upon our arrival home, I was so glad I had not taken any leftovers with us. We savored a second round of turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie. Waiting a few days only made it all the more tasty.

Our older children live out of state and thus we normally do not get to spend Thanksgiving with them, but I do send them homemade pumpkin pies (see "how to ship perfect pies and cakes", http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2008/11/how-to-ship-perfect-pies-cakes.html). I miss them so much, especially during holidays. However, this year the "missing the babies blues" were not quite so bad because it is our turn to have them for Christmas!!!! We alternate Christmas celebrations with the in-laws. We get the even years & the in-laws get the odd years. So far, this plan is working out great. It saves a whole bunch of hurry, hurry, rush, rush for our children and each side of their family gets to enjoy a relaxed gathering. Also, by making only one holiday trip each year, it is much more cost effective for the children. How much celebrating can one REALLY enjoy when you have the knowledge of the arrival of a large credit card bill looming in your mail box because you felt obliged to travel to several locations all over the country to spend a holiday with your and your spouse's families? No, I'd rather be able to FULLY enjoy my children, knowing that they had plenty of time to save up air fare and that they don't have to go into debt to come see us.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that we went hunting for a few days. A couple funny things, as usual, happened during our time in the woods. The best one being our little EJ and OG crashing the four-wheeler into a tree. Of course, at the time of the crash I was not laughing. I was actually fussing at Mr. B, "I told you they were not old enough to drive that thing ... what were you thinking?" Mr. B's reply, "Well, I didn't think they'd wreck the thing." My response, "Yeah that is what caused the crash ... you didn't think ..." (my older kids know exactly how this conversation played out and yes, in my mind, it's all Mr. B's fault even though he wasn't driving). The crash wasn't a serious one, they weren't even driving fast enough to get thrown off the thing when it crashed or even make a mark on the tree - (Thank you Lord). But they were frightened and worried. The entire time I was carrying EJ back to the camper to give him a good "look over" asking, "Where does it hurt, Where does it hurt?" (Mr. B was carrying OG), he was crying, "Daddy's going to be mad at me, Daddy's going to be mad at me. WHAAAAA! Daddy's going to be mad at me. WHAAAA! " They weren't hurt, not a scratch on either of my little chicks. BUT, they were worried that they wouldn't get to ride the four-wheeler anymore. Turns out this was a perfect opportunity for Mr. B to, again, discuss four-wheeler safety with the little ones. Well, it's taken a few days, but I have have finally begun to see the humor in this little drama. By the way, it only took Mr. B, OG and EJ about 5 minutes to find the humor in all this and practically laugh their heads off their necks - I guess I am way too serious. My brothers and cousins were allowed and did FAR more dangerous things than this. But when it comes to my little chicks, this mother hen doesn't want them out from under her wing - EVER!

Last night, I "made-over" our Thanksgiving leftovers. Here are a couple of my "make-over" recipes.

Turkey Florentine Casserole

2-4 c. cooked, cubed turkey
1-2 c. cooked, drained spinach OR 1 pkg. frozen, spinach, thawed and drained OR 3 c. fresh chopped spinach
3 c. prepared cream of mushroom soup (see cream of anything soup mix recipe: http://herpeculiarlife.blogspot.com/2008/11/simplified-sundays.html )
3-4 c. dressing, add enough water to make it into a spreading consistency

Grease 8" x 11" casserole pan. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine turkey, spinach and cream soup. Pour into casserole. Spread dressing over top of turkey mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 -40 minutes until top begins to brown and casserole is bubbly. 10 servings

Sweet Potato Cakes

3-4 cups Twice Baked Sweet Potato Casserole (see recipe below)
3 bunches green onion, chopped
1 c. frozen corn OR 1 can, drained
2-4 tbs. oil

Combine twice baked sweet potato casserole, green onions, corn and enough flour to make a soft dough. With floured hands form into approximately 8 patties. Fry in oil until browned, flip and brown other side. 8 servings

Twice Baked Sweet Potato Casserole
(recipe adapted from Taste of Home magazine)

4 sweet potatoes
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. melted butter

Wash sweet potatoes, prick with a fork, wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until tender. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skins. In a medium bowl, mash sweet potatoes. Add cheese, bacon and butter. Pour into a greased casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until top begins to brown. 8-10 servings