Martina McBride, Happy Girl
May 29, 2009
May 28, 2009
Piles of papers
Stacks of empty boxes
Items for Goodwill
Items for eBay
Books to be read
Photos to be filed
Unopened packages from my book club
The list goes on and on...
I thought I did some good spring cleaning a few weeks ago, but apparently I just managed to push my little collections of clutter into every nook and cranny of my house. This morning I realized that all this "stuff" is cluttering up my thoughts and really distracting me. Seriously, there are so many empty boxes in my office, that you would think I'm preparing to move!!
Here's just one picture that will give you an idea of what I'm talking about (don't say I didn't warn you)...
I'm embarrassed to show you this -- and even more embarrassed that it isn't "staged" for this posting...but that's the real deal. No wonder I can't think -- this junk is really robbing my mojo.
So...I'm off on an organizing spree and hopefully over the course of the next few days I can restore the positive energy in my house and office.
What's robbing your mojo? And what are you doing to make it better?
May 27, 2009
From start to finish, college was a time of learning and personal growth. An unforgettable chapter of my life where I was pushed to learn more, be more, do more than I ever imagined. I made lifelong friends (the kind that are more like family than friends), and I have journals and photo albums overflowing with stories from "the good old days."
The most treasured memories, however, aren't the ones that you have to read in a diary -- they are the ones that stay with you every day. They are the memories that define you. The life lessons that make you who you are. I am blessed to have such memories as a result of being a part of a sorority.
Over the years, there were many "rah-rah" good times with an amazing group of women -- but those are not the memories that shaped me. My everyday blessing comes from the beautiful words that are:
It's been 20+ years since college, and in many ways the idea of sorority life is completely incomprehensible to me now, yet these words still linger in my mind. Beautiful words to live by. Beautiful words that inspire me. An internal compass that always points me in the right direction.
The Symphony of Alpha Chi Omega
To see beauty
even in the common things of life,
to shed the light of love and friendship
to keep my life in tune with the world
that I shall make no
in the harmony of life;
to strike on the lyre of the universe
only the notes of happiness,
of joy, of peace;
to appreciate every
little service rendered;
to see and appreciate all that is noble in another,
be her badge what it may;
and to let my lyre send forth the chords
of love, unselfishness, sincerity.
This is to be my symphony.
I have no idea what every day blessings will come from the next chapter of my daughter's life. I can only hope that the chapter is defined by limitless opportunity, challenges to grow both personally and intellectually, abundant happiness -- and her own internal compass that will always steer her home.
I love you Amy! Every day you give me a million reasons to be incredibly proud.
May 26, 2009
We knew we were going to a friend's house for a Memorial Day BBQ on Sunday -- but the weather was so nice on Sunday that we spent the bulk of the morning working in the garden and completely lost track of time. Needless to say, when we checked our watches and saw it was 1:00, and we were supposed to be at the party at 3:00, I went into scramble mode to pull together a dessert to contribute to the celebration.
A quick run to the store for the ingredients and I was ready for action.
I really wanted to do something festive (aka red, white and blue). Since time was not on my side, I almost cheated and bought cupcakes from the bakery, but then I saw how beautiful the strawberries and blueberries looked and I decided to make a Festive Fruit Pizza.
1 tube of ready to bake sugar cookie dough
1 container of blueberries
1 quart strawberries
1 container of ready-made cream cheese icing
- Remove from oven and let cool completely
- Use large knife to loosen cookie from pizza stone for easy serving
- Spread icing in thin layer on cookie
- Rinse and drain fruit
- Slice strawberries lengthwise, arrange on iced cookie
- Add blueberries in the center and to fill in gaps
- Sprinkle with confectioners sugar
NOTE: To avoid the cookie getting soggy, be sure it is fully cooled before icing, and be sure fruit is well drained.
Substitute (or add) kiwi, banana, raspberries and blackberries for variety.
May 23, 2009
On most every day, I look out my window and see a beautiful community park, with large fields for playing, an amazing variety of trees that celebrate the seasons (at the moment they are incredibly lush green), and birds galore. In the colder months when the trees are bare, beyond the park I see a beautiful stone farmhouse and a horse farm where the horses are often let out to run and feed. Beyond the farm is a gorgeous expanse of mountains -- then nothing but clear blue skies. It's truly one of the most beautiful views that I could imagine (short of a waterfront or mountaintop view) -- and every day I thank God that I get to enjoy it.
Today, however, when I look out my window I see something different. Today is May 23, 2009 -- the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend -- and I've been reflecting upon the significance of this holiday. I know my eyes are playing tricks on me, but today out of my window the large fields are lined with headstones, each decorated with an American flag. From the farmhouse, I can hear the cry of a mother who just learned she lost her child to the war; and high atop the mountain I can see a flag being lifted to celebrate our freedom -- a freedom that came at a price for countless soldiers and their families over hundreds of years.
This morning as I enjoy my coffee and my view, I am remembering those fallen soldiers and their families. Praying with a grateful heart for the heroes that have given us the greatest gift - freedom.
God Bless America
May 22, 2009
When I was trying to figure out what was going wrong, I deleted one of my favorite photos just to make sure that wasn't the problem. So in celebration of the techno-angels working their magic, I'm re-posting just because it makes me smile!
|From 'Round the Kitchen Table|
You may have experienced the problem yourself. Apparently there is a "scripting error" going on behind the scenes on my site, and it won't allow the blog to load in Internet Explorer. Fortunately it looks like other browsers aren't experiencing the same problem, so I figured I would send out a quick post to let you know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth!
I've spent the last couple hours systematically dismantling the site, only to rebuild it -- but unfortunately I haven't had any luck so far. Thanks for bearing with me as this non-techno girl tries to figure out what's going wrong. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't have to totally re-create the layout because that wouldn't be a very nice way to spend Memorial Day Weekend. :(
On the upside, my other blog is working just fine, so if you'd like, swing over to http://today-i-pray.blogspot.com for a dose of "hope and inspiration." Tomorrow I will undoubtedly be praying that the techno-angels swoop down and help me get back on track so that we can have a good visit 'Round the Kitchen Table very soon!!
Thanks for bearing with me.
P.S. Even though the site is glitchy, I couldn't stop smiling today. I'm so happy for our new American Idol -- Kris Allen!!
May 14, 2009
Next time this happens to you, before you run to the neighbor with measuring cup in hand or dash off to the grocery store, take a deep breath and check to see if there's a quick fix substitution.
I found this great list of substitutions in the back of a cookbook published by Good Shepherd Parish of Martha's Vineyard. My aunt, who spends a good portion of the year on the Vineyard, gave me this book last year, and it has already saved me several unnecessary jaunts to the grocery store. Thanks AB!!
FOR ................... YOU CAN USE
1 T. cornstarch -- 2 T. flour OR 1 ½ T quick cooking tapioca
1 C. cake flour -- 1 C. less 2 T. all-purpose flour
1 C. all purpose flour -- 1 C. plus 2 T. cake flour
1 square unsweetened chocolate -- 3 T. cocoa and 1 T. shortening
1 C. melted shortening -- 1 C. salad oil (may not be substituted for solid shortening)
1 C. milk -- ½ C. evaporated milk and ½ C water
1 C. Sour milk or buttermilk -- 1 T lemon juice or vinegar and enough fresh milk to measure 1 C. (let stand 5 minutes before using)
1 C. heavy cream -- 2/3 C. milk and 1/3 C. butter
1 C. heavy cream, whipped -- 2/3 C. well-chilled evaporated milk, whipped
1 tsp. baking powder -- 1/4 tsp. baking soda plus 1 tsp. cream of tartar
Sugar -- Equal amount of brown sugar (it will result in a slight molasses flavor)
Superfine sugar -- Process regular granulated sugar in your blender
1 C. Honey -- 1 ¼ C. sugar and ¼ C. water
Catsup -- 1 C. tomato sauce, plus 1 ¼ C. brown sugar, 2 T. vinegar, ¼ tsp cinnamon and a dash of ground cloves and allspice
Bread Crumbs -- Use crushed corn or wheat flakes, or other dry cereal
1 C. butter -- 7/8 C. solid shortening plus ½ tsp. salt
1 C. corn syrup -- ¼ C. of water plus 1 C. sugar
One egg shy in a recipe that calls for many? Use 1 tsp. cornstarch for the last egg
No fresh herbs or spices? Use 1/3 the amount of dried herbs or spices
It's pretty easy to see how a substitution list like this could come in handy. The good news is, as of today, there are still copies available of the Favorite Recipes of Good Shepherd Parish of Martha's Vineyard Cookbook. For $15 plus shipping, it's a great buy -- jam packed with recipes as well as a ton of helpful household hints like these substitutions, tips for staying organized, food fun kid's crafts and more. You can secure your copy by calling the parish center at 508.693.0342.
Now if only I had checked this out before the great Whipped Cream Form Cake blunder!
May 12, 2009
Mrs. Boehler's Whipped Cream Form Cake
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cup cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon flavoring (lemon, almond, vanilla)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Grease and lightly flour tube pan.
- Whip cream.
- Beat eggs separately, add sugar and flavoring
- Fold into whipped cream
- Add flour, and blend gently until well mixed.
- Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake 45 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.
Believe it or not, as homemade cakes go, this one was mighty easy! Just don't make the same mistake I did, and you'll be good to go. Even with my cake flour hiccup, this cake still didn't last a day in my kitchen!
May 11, 2009
My contribution to our Mother's Day dinner was to be dessert, and I thought it would be nice to make something special from my Gram's Recipe Box. Only problem was, I really hadn't tried very many of her cake recipes to know what would be good, nor did I have a ton of time to start experimenting. I needed to make something relatively quickly with the ingredients I had on hand.
Mrs. Boehler's Whipped Cream Form Cake caught my eye. It was a pretty basic recipe, dated May 1924 -- and as I read it, I had images of a light, airy white cake that would be nice served with whipped cream and berries. I had all the ingredients on hand (or so I thought), so I proceeded with great optimism. After all, a recipe from 1924 that's still around in 2009 had to be pretty good, right?
I whipped the cream, beat the eggs, added the sugar and vanilla -- and then paused when I got to the line that said add 1 and 3/4 cup cake flour. What follows is the stream of thoughts that went through my mind over the course of the next hour.
While Preparing the Batter
Hmmm....cake flour? ....Is that different than all-purpose flour? ...No, cake flour is just what they called it back in 1924.....right?...Why would they call it 'All-purpose' flour if it couldn't be used for all-purposes?....it will be fine.
After Putting into Tube Pan
....Yeah...it looks fine....batter tastes good....hmmm....batter doesn't really fill the tube pan. ...no worries, it will rise when it bakes.
30 Minutes Later
Why isn't this cake rising at all? ....hmmmm, maybe cake flour has some kind of leavening agent in it?
As the Oven Timer Was Buzzing
Interesting...it didn't rise very much...Cake tester comes out clean so I guess it baked ok....Good Lord this cake weighs a ton. I think I better stop at the grocery store and pick up an Angel Food cake....arghhh...that's what I get for trying something new.
Well, I did stop at the store to pick up an Angel Food cake, but Mrs. Boehler's recipe wasn't a complete failure. Everyone who tried it agreed that the flavor was good -- some even liked the consistency that was like an extra-dense pound cake or slightly under-baked shortbread.
1. In retrospect I probably should have realized that a recipe that called for 1 cup of heavy cream would be a heavy cake -- whether that cream is whipped or not.
2. I also should have taken 2 minutes to slow down and investigate the difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour. It turns out that there is a difference (although I'm still not sure what it is) --but it turns out, the fix is a breeze. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of cake flour and you only have all-purpose -- you just need to reduce the amount used to 7/8 cup. How easy is that?
3. Even when your recipe is botched you can never go wrong when whipped cream and mixed berries are a part of your dessert!
Stay tuned tomorrow for the actual recipe -- and later in the week for other great "in the kitchen" substitutions.
May 9, 2009
I have countless memories of visiting and staying with my mother’s parents. Some are so vivid it is as if it happened yesterday. I remember being terrified to go down into her basement alone, but loving sliding down the “firemen’s pole” to get there when Gram was down there. I remember going up into her attic and admiring my mother’s wedding dress – and occasionally being allowed to try it on. I remember walking with her down the big hill on her street to go to the post office, and then to Garden State Farms to get the freshest, coldest milk I’d ever tasted.
I remember staying up on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop and listen to Guy Lombardo sing Auld Lang Syn. Just before midnight Gram would fill a plate with her amazing Christmas cookies and make huge ice cream floats with cream soda and vanilla ice cream, and at midnight we’d dance around the sun parlor and sing. I’d go to bed shortly after midnight and sleep until noon the next day, and when I’d wake up, Gram would let me have “coffee” (half coffee, half milk with about 3 spoonfuls of sugar) out of the demitasse cup of my choice. She’d make French toast covered with cinnamon and sugar and drenched with warm maple syrup. (Thinking back on that I have to laugh -- Gram was just pumping me up with sugar before returning me to my parents after they’d been out celebrating on New Year’s Eve. Maybe that was her way of making sure they didn’t celebrate too much! )
I could write a book about my Gram – but I think you get the point. In my eyes, she was just a phenomenal woman, who brought joy to every life she touched. When she died during my junior year of college, it was the first time I really felt the sorrow that comes from losing someone you love and truly adore.
Gram & me
I’ve spent the past 20+ years of my life trying to be someone my Gram would be proud of. I try (albeit I’m not always successful) to keep my attitude aligned with how I remember hers to be – ever-positive, ever-generous, ever-loving. I am so far from “there” – but I keep trying just the same. At times when I’m feeling confused about something, I look up to the heavens and I ask my Gram how she would handle it -- and do you know what? She usually finds a way to send me an answer. I guess she just can’t stop helping.
So, I’ve told you an awful lot about my very special grandmother, but that is hardly a story that warrants the title of From Generation to Generation. So what’s missing?
What’s missing, is a glimpse at two other phenomenal females in my life -- my mother and my daughter.
I’ve already introduced you to my Mom in my Patchwork Pillows post a few weeks ago. The thing I really didn’t realize growing up, is that my Mom is an awful lot like my Gram. She spends every day of her life just giving. Giving. Giving. Giving. She gives hugs, praise, gifts, love, and she always – always – has time for her family and friends.
Growing up, she sacrificed so much for my siblings and me. She was always there – for every sporting event, every play, every recital – every day, she was there. She helped me with every assignment that I successfully put off until the eleventh hour, and unlike me with my own kids, she never complained and never lost her patience (at least not that I knew).
As a mother of three teenagers myself, I now see my Mom in a completely different light. The truth is, I could sit here all day and never find the right words to describe just how good a person my Mom is. She is gentle, kind, loving, optimistic, upbeat, generous, nurturing….the list could go on and on all day.
My daughter, Amy, a “next-generation” gentle soul, really summed it up the best. After celebrating Easter at my parents’ house a few weeks ago, we were in the car together and she turned to me and said, “Do you know what I realized last week on Easter? Mom-Mom is just the cutest little woman in the whole world. I was watching her on Easter, and while everyone was busy doing their thing – there was Mom-Mom, just puttering around, smiling, and making sure that everyone was happy and comfortable. I just love her.”
Amy's recognition and appreciation of my mother warmed my soul, and was very reminiscent of my feelings of admiration towards my Gram. It made me very proud to know that my sweet daughter was attuned to that kindness. What followed later that week, however, left me speechless.
Amy made another comment following a get-together with some friends. She said, “You know what I realized, Mom? Someday I’m going to be the cutest woman in the world.”
“Oh really?” I said, “How’s that?”
“Well, you know how they say that as we get older, we become a lot like our mothers? Well, I was watching you last night, and you reminded me of Mom-Mom – just staying positive and smiling, and making sure everyone was happy and comfortable. It’s happening to you, and it’s going to happen to me. Someday, because of Mom-Mom, I’ll be the cutest little woman in the world.”
Talk about a great gift from your daughter.
Who knows exactly how far back we can trace the line of kind-hearted, smiling women in our family? All I know is that whether I’m looking back and remembering my Gram, or trying to find the words to describe my mother – or even looking to the future and the amazing young woman my daughter has become, I can’t feel anything but honored and humbled to be a part of this family.
Happy Mother’s Day!
May 7, 2009
#4. The SUN came out today!!!
If you live in the northeast, I know you know what I'm talking about. There has been so much rain and so many clouds lately that I think the whole family was starting to suffer from mold allergies.
The point is, you always know with dogs --they're just really good at showing their emotions.
I have two dogs -- Bear and Champ -- they are brothers (litter mates believe it or not), supposedly Shepherd/Lab mixes but I would say that is questionable. What do you think?
We got these two as puppies a few years ago. I would not recommend getting 2 dogs at the same time if you're not a pro-dog trainer. Two dogs can definitely outsmart the average adult -- each one blaming the other for whatever bad behavior is going on. Anyhow, I gave up pretty early on "training" these dogs. Thankfully, they're good-natured, mild-mannered mutts, who like playing with each other and, believe it or not don't get into a huge amount of trouble.
Anyhow, the only thing that I insisted on training them was meal-time manners. Before they are fed: 1) they have to compose themselves (something that isn't always easy when they see that "yummy brown stuff" being scooped from the food bin); 2) they have to sit and stay while I put their bowls down; and 3) they have to shake my hand and give me a kiss on the cheek. Once they've done that, I say "you're welcome" and then give them the okay to eat. I know, it's silly -- but I like our little meal-time ritual if for no other reason than I hate to be barrelled over by pouncing dogs who want their food.
There's a point to me telling you all this -- just stick with me a minute longer.
So yesterday morning it was - I don't know - maybe day five or six of rain here in eastern PA. The dogs were hungry and yipping outside the kitchen window (did I tell you that both these dogs love to be outside in the rain?).
The morning feeding ritual started -- I grabbed their bowls and headed to the mudroom for food. They could see through the kitchen window that I was headed in the direction of food, so off they ran to the backdoor -- each one taking a turn at jumping up to peak in the window. I opened the back door and held their bowls of food above their heads -- this is their sign to settle down and sit.
Me: "Good morning friends. Are you ready for breakfast."
Them: drool, tails wagging against the macadam, bodies shaking with excitement
I put their bowls down quickly and turned to go back to the house to get out of the rain (seriously, I'm not an ogre - the dogs love the rain and would NOT come inside even for food). I closed the door behind me and looked out the window of the door. To my surprise, there they both sat, looking at me (still drooling), then looking back at the bowls with longing, hungry eyes, then back at me.
In my rush to get out of the rain, I had neglected our routine.
I opened the door and went back outside. Leaning over, Bear gave me his paw, and a kiss on the cheek, then watched and waited as Champ did the same.
Me: "You're welcome boys. Now go ahead, eat!"
And eat they did.
I went back inside and closed the door behind me, and as stupid as it sounds, my eyes welled up with tears. My dogs just reminded me of the importance of gratitude --and letting people know how much we love and appreciate them.
We should never be too busy, or too anything to not take the time to say thank you, or good job, or most importantly, I love you. Those are words that fuel the spirit, they keep us going through the day-to-day called life.
So to my family and friends who are reading this -- I love you, and I'm so grateful for your love and support.
For anyone else reading this --I'm truly humbled that you stopped by and read all the way to the end of this unusually long post (for me). I hope you'll come back again -- real soon.
And to my dogs...thanks for being such good teachers. You guys just get it.
May 5, 2009
That said, I would be lying if I told you it was the health benefits that first drew me to Wildtree. The truth is I saw a ground floor opportunity with a great company, and I jumped at it. The health benefits were/are an unexpected happy by-product of this business venture.
For those readers who know me personally, you probably know that it doesn't sit well with me to be proclaiming I understand the health benefits of Wildtree, when in fact, I don't (hence the reason I talk mostly about the convenience and taste of the foods!!). But the health benefits are real and very significant, which is why I've been devouring as much information as I can about the food choices we make and their impact on our health. In my research I stumbled upon this resource -- Your Plate, Your Fate -- that appears to be a virtual "encyclopedia" for understanding everything from health conditions, organic eating/cooking, eating right for healthy aging, antioxidants and more.
I'm going to dig a little deeper into their offerings -- but in the meantime, I wanted to pass the site along to you in case you, too, are interested in having this health-related information at your fingertips.
Can you help me learn more about the benefits of healthy eating? Share your best reference for health and nutrition information.
If you're planning on making breakfast for your mom this Mother's Day, why not give them a try?
- 2 loaves frozen white bread dough
- 1 stick butter
- 1 large pack vanilla pudding (NOT INSTANT)
- 2 Tbs. milk
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans/walnuts/raisins (optional)
- Let bread dough thaw and begin to rise in refrigerator. (I usually take it out of the freezer in the afternoon on the day before I want to serve the sticky buns).
- Grease 13 x 9 pan
- Sprinkle bottom of the pan with nuts and/or raisins
- Pull bread dough into walnut-sized pieces and arrange in single layer in pan.
- Melt butter, add pudding mix, brown sugar and milk, stirring over low heat until well mixed
- Pour mixture evenly over bread dough
- Let rise overnight on countertop or in refrigerator (I typically let it rise in the oven and set the delayed start/timer for a half hour before I expect we'll get up).
- Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
- Let stand for 5 minutes in pan, invert onto a serving platter to serve.
May 1, 2009
Cilantro-Lime Grilled Chicken -topped with Fiesta Salsa (newly released seasoning blend)
Rice with Cilantro-Lime Seasoning (another new release)
Tossed Salad (I used the Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette Dressing to keep "in theme")
For dessert -- Wildtree O' So Fudge Brownies with Vanilla Bean ice cream.
Everything was prepared as directed by Wildtree -- so I won't go into the How To's -- I'll just give you basic preparation tips, feedback on ease of preparation and overall "family reaction."
Chicken -- I marinated boneless chicken breast in the Wildtree's Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette dressing for about 3 hours, and continued to brush with marinade while grilling. The flavor was very good although mild. I'd recommend marinating for a longer period of time to really capture the flavor.
Cilantro-Lime Rice -- This gave off the most heavenly aroma throughout the house. Extremely easy to make and complimented the meal perfectly. I could eat rice every day of the week (which makes it hard for me to be unbiased about this one), however my family doesn't have that same affinity. There weren't any comments either for or against it -- although the fact that it didn't get scraped off the plates into the garbage speaks volumes.
Fiesta Salsa -- Another embarrassingly easy-to-make item from Wildtree. (Just mix the seasoning with diced tomatoes and chill). Extremely flavorful -- almost more flavor than we're used to with salsa -- and was a superb topper for the chicken. I will definitely be playing around with this one because I think it's an outstanding flavor that could be mixed with tomatoes and just about anything to make a great salsa that's all your own. I'm thinking about adding fresh peppers, pineapples, peaches, mangoes, kiwis -- the possibilities are endless. (I see a future blog posting devoted solely to salsa varieties made with this seasoning!!).
O'So Fudge Brownies -- as easy to make as any boxed brownie mix. We're used to super ooey-gooey fudgy brownies and these didn't fall into that category, although I wouldn't say they were cake-like either. They were a actually a very happy medium between the two. Flavor-wise they were great and I'd bring them to any picnic or party in a heartbeat (especially when you do the side-by-side label comparison and realize that Wildtree's brownies have less fat, much less sodium (15g vs. 105g in Betty Crocker) and double the protein --oh, and none of those preservatives that so many of us would like to eliminate in our diet.
Comments Heard Around the Table
"I feel like I'm eating in a fancy restaurant."
"I don't usually like grilled chicken because it's too dry. This is really good."
"Is there more?"
"You can make this meal anytime."
Overall Family Satisfaction Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Cost of all Wildtree Products Used:
Dinner Only - $6.00 / $4.80 for Culinary Club Members
Dinner & Dessert $13.50 / $10.80