Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy 15th Birthday, Alex

On a cold winter day, fifteen years ago, our youngest child was born, our seventh son and eleventh child.  He was brought home in a snow storm on slippery roads and a prayer on our lips.  He was welcomed, adored and quickly spoiled. With ten older siblings there was always someone to hold him and to get attention from.
 Alex was a happy child, but with a serious nature.  He was the only sibling to win the "don't smile" contest his dad would play with them. Chuck would say, "I'll give you a dollar if you don't smile."  The brothers and sisters couldn't do it and would break into smiles no matter how hard they tried, but not Alex!
His favorite toys as a small child and to this day are anything electronic.  He learned to love the computer at the age of three or four and amused us with his new "computer language."  "Don't touch the computer, I'm downloading."  We barely knew at that point, as computers were so new to us, what downloading was.  He would go from the computer to the nintendo and on to videos and I would have to remind him to go outside and play.
Alex has homeschooled all of his school years except for the year he went to public school when he was eleven.  He learned from that year that homeschooling gives him the freedom to learn at his own pace and choices in books and subjects.  He is doing well and if we have a question we need answered, he  usually has the answer.
He keeps busy in church activities and is on the dance team and helps teach the younger children.  I often see him reading his Bible and know he has the desire to do what's right.
Alex has started driver's training this month.  I know he'll learn quickly and will be a concientious driver.  But, I just got through his sister learning and am still recovering.  Bright side is he's the last one!!
Alex,  Dad and I are very proud of you and know you'll make good decisions as you grow. 
Love, Mom

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Letter To Kevin

Dear Kevin,

Today, is the one year anniversary of your accident.  As I reflect back to that traumatic day, I recall all the emotions and tears that all the family and friends were feeling.  It was so hard to see you just laying there with no response for over two weeks.  You had so many people praying for you and showing love and support to the family that it just had to have a good ending.  You have come so far this year in your progress.  You're back at school, have a job, even a girlfriend!  But, best of all is your desire to grow in the Lord and your love for Him.  I see such a change, a wonderful change. When I think of you I have such a joyful feeling and I just have to say a quick thank-you prayer. 
Today is a day to reflect and be thankful and then to have faith in the good future that God has planned for you.  It's a great one, Kevin.
Aunt Kathy

Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Biscotti With Amy

My daughter, Amy and I got together and made biscotti last week. She's a great cook and has enjoyed cooking since she was a girl of 10. We work well in the kitchen together as she likes to create and I like to cleanup.We made two kinds of biscotti, Almond Cherry, and Nutty Chocolate Chip. Here are the ingredients for the Almond Cherry Biscotti: 1 roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough (8 oz.), 1/2 cup toasted almonds, 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1 (11-ounce) bag white chocolate chips, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoons of rum extract. For the Nutty Chocolate Chip Biscotti: 1 roll refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough(16.5 oz.), 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon rum extract, 1 1/2 cups of chopped almonds, lightly toasted, 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips. The demonstration pictures are of the Almond Cherry recipe.

Get a little helper to chop the almonds.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts in one layer on ungreased shallow baking pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden.

I recommend parchment paper, easy cleanup! So, line two cookie sheets with the paper.

Open sugar cookie log and put into large bowl, then add toasted almonds and cherries, vanilla and rum extract. Press into dough with hands, mixing in well.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. We doubled the recipe, otherwise you would only have two balls.

Take each ball and shape into 8x1 inch log. On cookie sheet, place logs 3 inches apart: flatten each log until about 1 1/2
inches wide.

Now, they're ready for the oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool 15 minutes. While they are cooling reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees because they will be going back in.

After they have cooled, with a serrated knife, on a slant carefully cut log in half as it makes it easier to work with.

Take each half and still cutting on a slant, cut 3/4 inch slices. Each log makes 8 to 10 slices.

On same cookie sheet, place slices, cut side down. Return to oven; bake 1 hour. Remove cookies from cookie sheet to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 20 minutes.

In small microwavable bowl. place chocolate chips. Microwave on High 1 minute. Stir; microwave 1 minute longer, stirring every 15 seconds. Dip 1/4 of each cookie into melted chocolate; or, like we did, use a baggie filled with the melted chocolate, corner cut with scissors and drizzle on.

Here's a picture of the Nutty Chocolate Chip Biscotti. The same directions for the Almond Cherry can be used for these using the ingredients I listed.

These will make nice gifts for neighbors, family, friends. Wrapped in cellophane tied with a ribbon and placed in a basket with some coffee beans and a mug would make a great gift.

Friday, November 27, 2009


It's Black Friday and guess who didn't go shopping? Sleeping in was more important than the bargains. After all the cooking and serving I was like my cat here on the fireplace hearth. But, congratulations on the bargains for you who did!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Counting My Blessings

Since it's Thanksgiving I counted my blessings and they were so numerous, but at the top
are this couple, my mom and step-dad, Lois and Larry.

Larry is my mom's soul mate, a perfect match. He has been a wonderful and caring husband to her for 40 years, now. When he married my mom he took on 3 kids and all the joys and troubles that come with the job of "step-dad." Poor guy, I'm sure there were many moments of him thinking, "Why me God?" We were not the easiest of children to parent, but he pressed on and I knew I was loved. Describing him is to say he's one of the nicest men I know, always ready to help someone and who is called upon, alot, by many people at their worst moments. I know as I've had those moments like mice, fire, floods, etc. and he was there!! I'll always be thankful that he was there for our big move, 21 years, ago. He traveled 1,000 miles with us, driving one of the vehicles and after arriving at our new home, helping us get it ready to live in. It sure was hard to say goodbye to him at the airport.

My mom is like him, she is always willing to help whoever needs her, family, neighbors, friends, strangers. I have appreciated all the help she has given me over the years, especially when I would have my babies. I kept her pretty busy with the birth of 11 children. But, she always came and fed us and cleaned my house and took care of my kids. If I was sick she would drive 60 miles to come and help as we lived in different cities at that time.

In describing her I would say she is a very "fun loving person" with a positive attitude. I know she will laugh if I share something I think is funny as we have that same sense of humor. I think my mom wakes up every morning with the thought of "what fun can I have today?" She also has the knack of getting herself in the oddest predicaments because of her giving nature and then we laugh about them.

Every seven years my mom's birthday falls on Thanksgiving and today is one of them. Happy 74th birthday, Mom. I love you.

"God gave us memories so we could have roses in winter and Mothers forever."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Monopoly Aggression

Son, Alex, loves, loves, Monopoly! I remember playing it as a child and enjoying it alot, also. The challenge of buying as many pieces of property as possible, especially trying to own the same colored property so you can buy hotels and charge high rent bankrupting your teammates. My goal was always to own Broadway and Parkplace.
We played the game Friday night along with husband, Chuck. Those two were so aggressive and competitive leaving me with little money and no chance to buy hotels, and I kept landing on the "go to jail' space, losing my turn with little to do but watch and munch on popcorn! And to my chagrin Alex bought Broadway and Parkplace.
Just wait until next time, they'll be sorry!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Simple Toothpaste Recipe

I've been using this recipe for homemade toothpaste for quite awhile and love how clean my mouth and teeth feel after using it. I always have these ingredients on hand and it's quick and simple to make, also cheap.

In a bowl I measure out 1/2 cup of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 teaspoon of tea tree oil, 10 to 12 drops of peppermint oil, and 12 drops of liquid stevia. It makes a drier paste than regular toothpaste. I really enjoy making my own products when possible.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Easy Hem On Jeans

I'm now in love with Gap jeans. Over the weekend I was given a pair in my size and am very happy with the comfort and fit. So, I decided to purchase another pair at the store and when I saw the price on the tag, $50, I went on a hunt to the second hand stores in my area. Several stores later I found them, $15, but this pair needed to be hemmed. I hate to hem jeans! But, being on the "somewhat short" side I've had to hem many a pair. But, I didn't like cutting off the original hem as it was hard to duplicate it to the original look. This time I googled "how to hem jeans," and found a youtube video telling me how. I tried it and it worked great, no cutting and trying to match the top stitch thread, keeping the original hem.

Here's what you do. Put on the shoes you would normally wear with your jeans and turn a cuff on the outside of the jean at the desired length, then pin in place. It's nice to have someone pin in place for you. Remove jeans and then measure cuff including the original hem. Let's say it measures 2 inches, divide that in half and repin it, but don't include the original hem in the measurement. So, you would be turning up the cuff 1 inch. Since my sewing machine was at my daughters, I stitched by hand right below the ledge of the original hem where my red pin is, using a dark blue thread. Make sure you don't stitch on the original hem, but as close to it as you can. Then turn it right side out and iron it flat. With a machine it could be done very quickly, but by hand it took me about 20 minutes per leg. I was careful to make small stitches. I am very pleased with the results and you can't tell they were hemmed.

This new method takes the pain out of hemming!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What's For Breakfast?

Like my rooster? He gives the family daily encouragement!
Well, I thought I'd share this new granola recipe that I found in a magazine. It's a keeper as it turned out delicious! Over the years I've tried many a granola recipe and never found one I liked. Once in a while I'd buy it and then would cringe at the price. Also, when looking at the calorie count on the package I was surprised it being so high and the serving size 1/4 cup! I assume it is the oil content that racks up those calories. So, when I made this batch I controlled the oil and used about 1/2 what the recipe called for.

At our house granola is used for cereal, smoothie topper, mixed in with yogurt, and for snacking. I buy my oatmeal in 25lb. bags for $10.00 so making it is definitely a frugal endeavor.

This recipe makes 4 cups.

2-1/2 cups of old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup sunflower kernels

2 Tbsp. of flax seeds

1/4 tsp. of salt

1/3 cup water

1/6 cup of canola oil

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. honey

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients; set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the water, oil, brown sugar, and honey. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Pour over oat mixture and toss to coat.

Transfer to a greased 15-in. x 10in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Small Bathroom Project

Seems like we're always working on a home improvement project. We've lived in our current home for almost 21 years, now, and I don't think we'll ever be done! But, I enjoy the planning and doing, love making my home a place my family likes to be.

This is a recent "low budget" one, the boy's bathroom.

The room had been painted not too long ago, so my focus was on replacing the mirror, which was too small, choosing "something" for under the mirror, new curtains, and wall decor. Also, new rug and towels.
I went to TJ Maxx and found the mirror for $80. A good price considering the size and decorative frame. On to Home Depot where I found the stone tile that I'm so happy with as it really enhances the mirror and is such a focal point of the wall. Chuck took maybe an hour to put it up on the wall and then the next day he grouted it taking another hour. About another $80.
The valance is actually two valances. I put the blue valance up first on a rod and then I cheated with the brown valance by just draping it over the blue and then pinning it in place. I didn't feel like sewing it and you'd never know! I had a gift card for $25 and I had to add another $5.
Wall decor was inexpensive as I found a wooden box at a yard sale, and a trivet, costing under $5 for both. Chuck painted the box brown along with a little shelf I already had with some spray paint, a wonderful invention. Fast and easy and it dries quickly.
I chose a brown rug and towel after trying other colors, I don't remember now what I payed for them, but the whole project was about $200.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Making Tortillas

On a recent Saturday, I was out shopping in a Mexican grocery store when I came across this tortilla press priced at around $12.00. I asked some "how to use" questions of the clerk and he took me back to the kitchen part of the store and had one of the cooks show me how to use it. It looked easy, so I bought one. Purchased a 4lb. bag of masa for $1.99 and tonight I made a batch of corn tortillas for a dinner of tostadas.
It's so easy to use. I didn't even measure the masa, just scooped some in a bowl and added enough water to make a ball and then separated the dough as I went into smaller balls. Taking a small ball I opened the press, layed down a piece of plastic wrap, put the ball on top, covered it with another piece of plastic and then closed and pressed. With the plastic on top and bottom the tortilla is sandwiched between. This way it doesn't stick to the press and then you just peel the top plastic off and place the tortilla in an oiled skillet, cooking both sides until done.
The 4lb. bag of masa will last me a long time and I like the idea of being able to make my own.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Try It, You'll Like It

With little room left in my freezer, I realized it was time to use up some of the bags of grated zucchini I had stored away from the abundance of my garden.
So, I decided to make some zucchini bread. Most of the recipes call for alot of oil which means higher calories and I wanted us to enjoy it without so much added fat.
I found a recipe and then instead of a cup of oil it called for I replaced it with a cup of applesauce instead. Then for a different twist, I added some chocolate chips, not too many, though, because I still wanted it to be low in fat.
The recipe made two delicious loaves of the moistest bread! With the addition of the chocolate chips, it's over the top. A success here at home.

3 eggs
1 cup of applesauce
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of grated zucchini
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 cups of flour
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 to 3/4 cup of chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy. Mix in applesauce and sugar. Stir in zucchini and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, soda, baking powder, salt and nuts, chocolate chips, stir into the egg mixture. Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until done.

A tip my oldest daughter recommended was to prepare the loaf pans, using parchment paper instead of oiling and flouring them. You cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to fit into the loaf pans covering the bottom and sides then filling the pans with the mixture. When the loaves are done and cooled you then lift the bread out by the top of the paper. Clean up is then so easy!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nice Find

I found this gadget at a yard sale and love it! It's called a Le Presse, and I paid an amazing price of only $5.00!
It comes with many attachments, but I am stuck on just one of them. One of these days I'll try the other ones, but for now I'm enjoying the attachment that makes french fries.
Today, 14 year old Alex pressed 15 unpeeled potatoes through this in 10 minutes, brushed olive oil on, sprinkled with seasoning salt and put them in the oven for about an hour. Sooo easy!! I love easy and kids that can cook.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October Garden Update

The garden has wound down to a stop. Today, I picked the last of the tomatoes, alot of them were still green. Last year I wrapped them individually in tissue and they ripened nicely. So, I will be doing the same with these. I sliced the red ones and put them in the dehydrator to dry over night. I will use them this winter for my stews and soups. So convenient.

I also picked the rest of the peppers and the few onions that were left. I cut up the peppers and froze them for omelettes and set the onions in the sun to dry out for a few days. Also went out to the herb garden and cut basil, mint and oregano. I froze the mint leaves in water in ice cube trays for winter tea. I have discovered hot mint tea with stevia, so good on a cold night. Did the same thing with the oregano, but with the basil I used my food saver and sealed in bags and refrigerated. I need to do some researching and find out how long it will last this way. I'm new to growing my own herbs and still have alot to learn.

Chuck turned the compost pile for the last time before winter and rototilled the garden beds. I had the boys clean out the garden beds and it was put into the compost. I'm still in awe how plant matter is recycled back into rich soil. All year I've added our fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. and I'm amazed how much waste goes into the compost bin instead of the trash can!

I've enjoyed my gardening season, but am ready for a winter's rest. Like all she bears, I'm tired and need to hibernate.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Some Yard Sale Finds

I just love decorating with my yard sale finds. It's amazing what I find for such a small price. Found this picture at a yard sale and loved the colors and flowers in it. I thought the frame was very pretty, also. I decided it would look good on one of my dining room walls. I chose one of the colors that were in the picture and then matched it to a paint color. This was last years find so it's hard to remember exactly what I paid, but it was under $10.00 because I'm cheap. This lamp was a recent find, I payed $7.00 for the base as it didn't come with the shade. I like the shape and bronzed color, and it's a good reading lamp.

The wall decor on the burgundy wall was one I found a few weeks ago. It was $7.00 and gives this wall so much character. At first my husband thought it was ugly, but once we got it up on the wall he likes it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall, My Favorite Season

I enjoy all the seasons, but fall is my favorite. I love the colors, the smells, cooler temperatures, and routines after the long, lazy days of summer. I also look forward to wearing my jeans and long sleeves, not running the air conditioner and opening the windows and doors and enjoying the crisper air.

I'm noticing the leaves on some of the trees are beginning to change to the orangy-red color that I so admire. Soon, I'll be getting out my candles and enjoying the spicy pumpkin smells and making more soups and stews. Plus, reading those books I've set aside for when it is more relaxed with longer evenings.

I like to keep it simple when it comes to seasonal decoration, so here is my simple table decor to celebrate and welcome Fall.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More on Dehydrating

Chuck and I spent the day together on Monday doing business and then went looking for good prices on fruit. We went out to the farm areas and found some fruit orchards. We spent about $25.00 on all this fruit you see in my pictures. The large box of plums were only $4.00, The larger box of peaches were $5.00, and the smaller box was $4.00. The biggest expense was the gala apples at $12.00 a box.

Took it all home and have spent the last two days processing it. The small box of peaches I froze for smoothies, the apples I've been dehydrating, along with the other larger box of peaches. It is almost done and then I'll start dehydrating the plums.

This summer I found this apple tool that cores, peels and makes the apple into rings and then all I have to do is spray them with lemon juice and place on the dehydrator racks. I found it yard sailing for only $2.00. It was on my list of items I wanted to find, in fact my daughter, Christy, found another one for me, too, so now I have two of them. She also paid $2.00. Now I can get one of the kids to help me and get the job done faster.

We are enjoying the dried fruit and it's so good in oatmeal and snacking. I'm so glad I found the website Her videos have helped me learn how to dehydrate and are so worth watching. You can take advantage of fruit in it's season and the prices at the orchards.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy 40th Lynette

Today, my youngest sibling and only sister is forty!!

She was born when I was fifteen and she became my guinea pig getting me ready for motherhood four short years later. I changed many of her diapers, became one of the few who could get her to eat her Gerber strained baby food, and endured her getting into my makeup. I was so proud of her that I took her to my high school childhood development class to show her off. I can still see her with her blond hair and little red poncho being cute for my classmates. I even took her on some of my dates with my then boyfriend, Chuck, who is now my husband. This was before carseats were mandatory, we would put her in the back of Chuck's corvette and off we would go.

After I married she would come and stay with us and at the age of four became an aunt to our newborn, Amy. She enjoyed playing with my kids and seemed more like my own child than a sister. It wasn't until she married and began having her own family that we became adult sisters on common ground.

I've been very happy that she is living close by and that I get to enjoy being a part of her life, the phone conversations, meeting for lunch, getting together to talk.

She is now the wonderful mother of four great kids, Kevin, Kelly, Krystin and Cortney and a loving supportive wife to her husband, Wade.

Lynette, I'm so thankful that God has blessed me with you. I see His hand on your life, especially this past year and how he has brought you through. I'm so proud of you and how you handled the emotional upheavel and so immensely grateful that Kevin is here with us and doing so well. What a story, huh?

Have a memorable birthday, 40 is a big one!!