Morning, shoppers

 We are definitely morning shoppers.  We went out Saturday morning at about 10:30.  We hit a couple of favorite stores and had lunch.  There were more people in the stores than usual, but not so many that we couldn't maneuver around them, and almost everyone was in the same joyful mood, so lots of smiling and 'excuse me.'  After lunch, we wanted to shop more but the traffic was sooooo bad that we came home.  I could feel the stress rolling off my driver, Rob and knew that as soon as I got in the crowded stores, I'd be feeling the same.  And, there just wasn't anything out there that either of us needed or wanted or wanted anyone else to have bad enough.  

I got distracted in the kitchen and ended up spending 4 hours organizing the spice cabinet and then the pantry.  I threw so much away and combined so many open packages into one.  Where the Asian food, Italian food and bread had become one thing and you had to take out pasta sauce to get an English muffin, now they each have their own sections.  Now, we just need to eat all that food instead of just collecting it.  

Only a couple more pictures of holiday decorations.  The last bit is outside the house.  Rob always strings lights while I cook Thanksgiving dinner.  They change from year to year and we've had all white, all blue, and now, multi-color.  

And, the wreath I made last January from half price off season greenery...I do love a good bargain.  

Yesterday, I made fudge for Syd's boyfriend (except what I sneak for myself) and oatmeal raisin cookies and a double batch of orange curd from the oranges I picked from my tree.  I also made a batch of sugar cookies that aren't very sweet and will need frosting because of it.  Haven't decided whether to frost them or abandon them and make a different recipe that is sweeter.  It would take less time to start over.  

We're still enjoying The French Chef series.  The other day, she made a Buche de Noel and it has inspired me to try.  I could use her recipe, or I could use the one a co-worker recommended to me that she made last year.  Anyway, I hope to make that decision and make mine later this week.  

The baby quilt was late.  I asked the Mom for her mailing address on Monday.  We shipped the box on Tuesday.  The baby was born on Tuesday.  And, the quilt isn't supposed to get there until tomorrow.  Oh, well...

The box we sent my Dad has been delivered, so I can talk about the divinity saga.  He turns 90 this year and I decided to make him divinity candy.  Some of my best childhood memories are of my Mom and Aunts getting together to make candy.  My Dad loves divinity like the father on A Christmas Story loved turkey, so he'd often volunteer to be around on divinity day to sneak an early piece and to do the manly manual stirring at the end when it was too much for the mixer, but not quite cool enough to scoop.  

I made 5 batches and never quite got it right.  On the first batch, I burned the syrup in the pan, so it never got poured into the candy.  Second batch, I overcooked the syrup and it got so thick, I nearly burned out the mixer (yes, the new extra powerful new one).  I turned it off when we started to smell smoke.  It's fine.    I scooped it into candies, but it was very grainy.  It tasted great, so I put it in tins in case I couldn't do any better and cleared the table to try again.  I did some serious research.  Third batch, I got the syrup right, but I didn't beat it long enough before scooping, so it turned into thin round disks, only some of which were salvageable.  I tinned them too.  More research.  Fourth batch was grainy again, but edible.  Unfortunately, I followed some bad advice about which mixer attachment to use and in trying to change beaters, a good chunk of that one was lost to human error.  Batch five was still a little grainy, but definitely the right taste.  And, then there was a Christmas miracle when I opened the tin with batch 2 in it and the humidity, which is usually the bain of divinity had turned that grainy mess into something smoother and that wasn't so crumbly.  In case you missed it, that meant I had hundreds of pieces of candy to give away.  My dad got a nice big tin and a box of the best pieces.  Some went to Rob's work and some is going to my book club, who claimed a share of it before it was even made.  So, if anybody needs any divinity advice, I can tell you 5 ways not to make it.  

Hubblebird introduced me to Jamie, the anti-chef.  He is doing a 'Jamie and Julia' series where he's making her recipes.  He's very funny and I can't wait to see if he learns to cook.  He's very inexperienced in the kitchen and more than once I've caught myself shouting 'no, don't do that!'  It's going to be fun watching him figure it out.  

Everybody have a great Monday!  Next week is Christmas, so no post that day.  I'll try to post later in the week.  And, the Monday after is New Years, so I'll likely do the same.  

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!!!  And, a happy calm and quiet day to all who don't!!!  I still say Happy Holidays because I can't tell who does and who doesn't, but it's a holiday of one kind or another for everyone.  There's so much hate in the world, most of it put out there by people who get pissed off if you don't say Christmas but who have lost the actual spirit of love that Christmas should bring and show it by acting pissed off.  If you're one of those, enjoy the day spent celebrating the birth of a brown immigrant.  Who knows where the next one might be born.  Are you ready?

Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night...or day...I really stretched for that one, so credit for trying.  Take care of yourself, whether you spend the day with friend or foe and find the spark of kindness in your heart that you can keep alight all year long.  We're gonna need it!



Halfway there

We are halfway to Christmas and the pressure is on.  Yesterday, Rob wanted to watch another Christmas movie and I was like, can we just watch something where somebody blows up?  Not that there aren't plenty of Christmas movies where somebody blows up, but he got the idea and found us other stuff to watch.  

This week, I want to show off Rob's villages.  He built this stand last year and it has worked out really well.  After it was built, we watched something on TV and saw one very similar that was being used to stack kids toys.  I thought "climbing risk, I hope theirs is as sturdy as Rob's."  

Rob's villages offer something for everyone and yes, he still moves the people around as things happen in the village.  My husband is crazy for a good diorama.  

And, there's Retroville.  Set in the 50's, this one is a favorite.  We can pretend it was a simpler time.  And, yes, the people go places and go shopping and have dinner and/or a movie.  

I am about 2' of hand sewn binding from being done with the baby quilt.  I am looking forward to having that finished and shipped this week.  Yesterday, I took time to make a big batch of tomato jam.  I started with 5# of Roma tomatoes and ended up with 13 quarter-pint jars of jam.  The rest was water that boiled away.  When I made the first batch, we decided this was what we wanted to use as our 'friends and neighbors' gift this year instead of cookies.  Yes, it took 5 hours to cook this down, but now I'm done and am not spending two additional weekends with a frosting bag in my hand.  

I also used the lemons I harvested last week to make lemon curd and start a batch of limoncello by soaking the peels in vodka.  

I harvested the oranges yesterday and hope to make orange curd out of them.  I've been saving my egg yolks.  

And, we filled the greenhouses yesterday so we'd be ready for the first freeze.  It's a good thing it didn't freeze last night tho, because I was too tired to finish, so there are still a couple pots out in the yard.  

Okay, that's it for me.  You're probably tired of looking at pictures anyway.  But, I saw this and it gave me a chuckle, so I thought I'd share.  

Everybody have a great week!  Right now, I'm enjoying cooking.  We're watching the series Julia and at the same time, I'm watching The French Chef from the beginning.  What a delight Julia Child was.  She makes mistakes and laughs like a kid about them.  She stuck a spatula into the beaters of a mixer the other day and the mixer head jumped up and the bowl shifted and there was some splatter and the spatula was jerked out of her hand and she turned it all off and looked at the camera and said something like "don't do that."  I also got to see her 1962 version of a Kitchenaid mixer.  If you're cooking now, I hope you're able to set aside time to enjoy it.  Cooking should be fun and not drudgery.

Be well and hug someone you love just because you want to.



It's beginning to look...

...so much like Christmas that I was in the mood to start shopping this weekend.  Just a few hours.  We didn't buy a lot.  We don't need anything, we don't have space for anything and we don't seem to want anything.  I bought more groceries my grocer doesn't carry at the various stores we went into than anything else.   

Last week, I showed the decorations I put up.  Here are some of the ones Rob put up.  He put up so many that I'll save the villages until next week.  

We only burn fires when the power goes out because of the way they heat the living room and the rest of the house gets really cold, so this is a great way to use that space.  The quilt is from a kit I bought at a quilt show and while the lights look old, they're new.  Rob found a company manufacturing the old fashioned lights.  They even have the red and green cords twined together like the ones my Dad put on our house when I was a kid.  

Above the mantle is the Santa collection.  At some point, we had to stop buying Santas for this display.

The ceramic tree that he overpaid for...I don't mean he paid more than it was worth.  The seller didn't know how much it was worth so he paid her more than she was asking.  Not as much as it was worth, but enough to delight her.

This is a new display this year.  He wanted to display some of the vintage items we have, including some really old ornaments.  

And, the nativity.  

I got the new temporary greenhouse assembled this weekend.  It's great!  I am two queen sized quilts from being able to completely cover it when the temps get ridiculously low.  We looked at goodwill, but nothing there.  Well, there was a hand made double wedding ring that I almost bought, but not to put on the greenhouse.  It's 8'x6', almost double the size of the ones I've used before.  

I harvested the lemons and cut back the lemon tree and moved it in already.  I'll get the other trees in soon.  They're not really liking the cold temps we've been having.  

On the quilting front, this baby quilt refuses to be finished.  We're at the point I worry the baby will be finished before the quilt is.  I probably have 2 more hours of quilting and then binding it.  Mornings and lunch hours will be spent at the machine 

Someone posted this on social media the other day and I loved it and thought you might too.

Everybody have a great week!  It's not the gifts you buy, it's the good cheer that makes Christmas such a great holiday.  Every smile counts.  Every donation counts.  I found myself smiling and some pretty haggard people yesterday.  People that were already over the hunt and the crowds.  Most of them smiled back and I hope that for that moment, they felt a bit of joy in the season.  I know I did.



Holiday traditions

We've got more holiday traditions than squirrel's got nuts stored in my flowerpots for winter.  What we do, when we do it, what we watch on TV, all of that is steeped in traditions.  It started the day before Thanksgiving, when I took the day off and cooked all day, then the big meal, and soon as the dishes are all put away, the Christmas decorations come out and we're off and running for three days of Christmas magic everywhere.  

Thanksgiving was nice.  It's always best when everything comes out hot at the same time.  Syd and her bf got here early enough for a good visit and a walk around the yard.  There was a good spread with stuffing, roasted potatoes, green bean casserole, salad, corn casserole, turkey, carrots, homemade rolls and there was a pumpkin pie for dessert with coffee.  We laughed and ate and laughed some more and when they left, Rob and I both took naps.  

On Friday, after I'd finished putting everything away, we started on the LiBien tree.  The ornaments are in order, oldest to newest, starting at the top.  We have a lot of these ornaments.  So many that Rob had to use electrical tape to create additional hanging places in the middle of the tree.  We must learn restraint!  (hahahahahahahaha!!)

On Saturday, it was the swag.  Every year, I say I'm not doing it again until I work up the courage to say it to Rob.  He gives me puppy dog eyes and reminds me how much he loves it...'but we don't have to do it if it's too much trouble' and up that ladder I go.  He definitely has my number.  While I did this, he assembled the tree.  

And, yesterday, I decorated the tree.  We own too many ornaments.  I should have counted as I put them on.  There are ornaments my parents gave me, vintage ornaments we've collected, and ornaments we got from Linda.  There's everything and the kitchen sink.  

And, that's just the things I did.  I'll show the decorations Rob put up next week.  

We bought Bella a bed a couple weeks ago.  She's never had a bed before and has slept on the furniture, climbing to the highest level she could hoist herself to.  She's gotten older, and climbing on things has become more problematic.  She comes in and sleeps in her bed in the night and she goes there during the day when she's bored by whatever we're doing.  She looks so sweet in it, but I confess that I miss having her with me all the time.  I think we're going to get her another one for our bedroom so she can sleep nearer us.  

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving, surrounded by plenty of love and abundance because that's what it's really all about.  Being with true friends and family and being happy.  Celebrating who we all are, together.  Finding people we can be ourselves with and celebrating the things we have in common.  Building one another up and celebrating the lives we've created for ourselves.  I hope your holidays bring you all of that and more.  




I got the biggest surprise yesterday at the grocery store when I realized the turkeys weren't on sale and I had to pay full price.  I've gotten so used to them being really cheap with a good sized grocery order that I didn't even look for a sign.  Shoulda got the hen.  Anyway, it's thawing in the fridge along with millions of other turkeys.  I'm so thankful that we enjoy a food abundance in this country.  For the most part, we can walk into any grocery and get anything we want, in season or out.  So much so that I can assume it will be inexpensive.

Every year, I have Thanksgiving on a page.  I plan out the menu and figure out the groceries.  Later, I'll schedule when each item starts and goes in the oven.  And, on Wednesday, I'll start to cook. 

Yesterday, I made a mandarn orange cake.  The things I bake rarely come out looking so much like the picture in the magazine.  The recipe is here.  https://www.hy-vee.com/recipes-ideas/recipes/mandarin-holiday-cake.  I saw the picture and read the description and thought 'I want to make that cake'.  And, then I kept coming back to it until  committed to bake that cake.  And, it is as good as it looks.  Not too sweet and very moist.  I love to bake, especially when I get to try new things, like candying the very thin orange slices.  

This large perennial is almond verbena.  This year, it's at least 15' tall and 6' in diameter.  Every year, it dies to the ground in a hard freeze and starts over the next spring.  It has a sweet almond smell and draws the bees and hummingbirds for most of the summer.  The rain last week has it in full bloom.  It takes a lot of garden space, but it's been so worth it.  

On the theme of something in bloom 11 months of the year, the Gerber daisies are sending up a few flowers.  

After all the rain of last weekend, I went out to check the tomatoes and I found a few little ones.  We'll see if this works out.  I've struggled with tomatoes a long time and fall tomatoes are especially difficult, but we'll see how it goes.  I also have onions and cabbages.  I've never grown either of those, so we'll see how all this works.  

Quick pic of the greenhouse.  I'd been out there for hours, cleaning and moving plants around.  Some of the plants I was nursing were ready for more light and I needed to start making space in prep for the first freeze.    

I was devastated when I saw the news of Rosalynn Carter's passing.  She and President Carter have been part of "the best of us" for most of my life, setting an example of how to live with kindness and the peace that comes from true faith, and living that faith every day.  I respect those that practice what they preach.  May she rest in peace.  

Everybody have a great week!  Find something to feel thankful for and surround yourself with loved ones.  It's really all we can do.  The world is getting so ugly, so those of us that are not insane need to give ourselves space to rest in, and things to look forward to as we continue to fight the good fight.  



Fresh paint

 There is nothing like a fresh coat of paint to refresh a room.  And the bathroom Syd had been using needed a refresh really bad.  The paint was chipped and the paper was peeling in a couple spots.  The faucet was out of date and and the towel bars too.  She'd pulled a towel bar out of the sheetrock and then glued it back to the wall.  The wallpaper is original to the house from 1978.  Not Sure who hung it, but after removing the paper in the master bath and having to basically plaster over the walls to cover the mess left behind (we tried every idea I could find on the internet and none was effective), we are not planning to remove this paper until we hire someone to remodel, which I don't think we'll ever do.  

Just after Syd moved in, we replaced the counter and sink and tiled them in blue to pull the small amount of blue in the wallpaper and it works still, but Syd wasn't a fan of olive green, so that's really the only thing that coordinated with the paper.  I've been able to go wild on olive and forest green and the paint is almost exactly the shade of the wallpaper background.  

Honestly, the hole in the wall was the hardest thing to deal with.  Because she'd glued the towel bar over it, I didn't know how big it was.  It was a place where the original towel bar had been pulled out of the wall, a new bar installed over it and that one pulled out of the wall.  The backer boards for the towel bars were the only way we could think to deal with it.  I screwed a small piece of wood behind it and then screwed the backer board into that.  The rest are in some very secure anchors.  Unless someone comes along and tries to hang from those towel rods, they're not coming down again. 

Rob was out of town this weekend.  This project kept me busy and out of trouble...not that I could have gotten in much trouble.  It's drippy rainy here.  Not raining, not drizzling, more like occasional rain drops.  The good thing is there's no runoff and all that water is staying here on the property.  If we have another round of sunny days, the whole garden should really perk up.  I have several plants I'd like to move before winter sets in to make the garden even better next year.  I got to spend a little bit of time in the greenhouse, but that was really about it.  I bought a Wardian case in goodwill a couple weeks ago.  We thought it was really rusty and I planned to clean and paint it, but that turned out to be the finish...except I didn't know that til I started to paint it.  Anyway, it's lovely and I have the plants to go in it.  Soon as I get them planted, I'll share.  

For some reason, there's always a theme to food when Rob isn't here.  This weekend, it's been Italian.  Friday evening, I made baked ziti.  I ate it until I was tired of it and there's still plenty to have for dinner tomorrow night when Rob gets home.  Last night, I made tortellini with 'chicken sausage with feta and spinachs', fresh basil, and Kalamata olivrd.  That was delicious.  I love how well Italian food pairs with a good fresh salad.  

That's it for me today.  Have a great week!  After I finished in the bathroom, I did all of Rob's weekend chores so I feel qualified to say 'find something you enjoy doing to break up the routine of all the things you have to do.'





We said goodbye to Mable last week.  She took a turn last week and we knew it was time.  It was all very peaceful and she seemed ready.  The vet's office was great.  They had soft lighting and.a scented candle and when it was over, they wrapped her in a blanket and we left.  

She was a really good dog and had the best life a dog could ask for.  

Rob was, of course, bereft.  I knew that he would have a hard time and there was no joy in being proven right.  He's better now and spent the weekend puttering and relaxing and taking care of things that had gotten behind.  

I kept busy and out of his way, popping in to check on him but otherwise letting him get on with it.  I rewired my Grandmother's floor lamp and replaced the faucet in the bathroom.  I think I surprised Rob that not only did I want to start using that bathroom, but I wanted to start making improvements to it.  New towels and shower curtains, bath mats, jars and plants and new art.  Next weekend, I hope to paint the cabinets.  Re-claim that space.  

Yesterday was Syd's 26th birthday.  We had lunch with her and heard all about the new apartment and what living in close quarters with someone is like and what she still needs and what she still needs to do.  It was fun and there was lots of laughter.  Just the way it's supposed to be.  I shared a couple of experiences from moving into my first apartment and wanting everything all at once.  She's head strong and strong willed and the older she gets, the more in touch with herself.  

Life has a way of moving forward, then standing still.  After a death, things always seem to stop for us.  A pause while we wrap our heads around a new way, a new set of circumstances.  New habits.  And, then it starts to move forward again, slowly at first, then catching up to the speed of our surroundings.  

"The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you think you can only do a little" - Zig Ziegler

Everybody have a great week!  Lane