Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Break Sweetness....

For our kids, spring break comes the last week of March, first week of April, which gives us a chance to hopefully enjoy a break that feels more like spring than winter!  And thankfully, this year has been a remarkable year because spring started back in January, and while winter has had its days here and there... spring really is prevailing!

This week has been exciting for us with the arrival of well digging equipment on our property! We have been waiting for many months for a well driller to come drill our well.  Finally, after waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more - we called another well driller who was able to come out and begin digging for a well within a few weeks of us talking to him.

The reason we did not call him first was because he is a "one man show", and does not advertise his business.  After waiting and waiting for the "other" well driller to arrive, I happened to meet this man at the bank, after seeing his logo on his truck.

He uses older equipment, has no employees, and has no dollars for advertising, but has been in business for 30 years.  He has no need to advertise, he says, because of word of mouth.  This is one case where I wish the "word of mouth" had gotten to us sooner!

He is a one-man show, but the show also includes his trusty companion, Scooby.  Scooby is the perfect companion for well drilling, as he shows me just how well he digs for rocks! He is a well rock digger, lol... (how's that for a nonintended pun!)

This little guy could dig a hole quicker than you can blink, and come up with a rock - apparently the rock he was looking for... and then he throws the rock around, and chases after it and barks... so funny!

He reminded me a lot of our dog Roger with the same excited bark, and crazy habit of digging! Needless to say, we are very excited to finally be getting water at the property where we intend to build eventually.  So far, we have not hit water.  He is using a cable pounder, which actually pounds its way down into the ground.  So far we are at 80 feet, and still no water.  Our neighbors' wells are typically around 180 feet to 400 feet, so it could be a while yet before we get to the water, although we are hoping that we find water sooner than later!

Changing topics a bit ... since we will have water at our property - I plan to plant a huge garden there this summer.  I planted some seeds a couple of weeks ago, and soon they began popping their heads up, and begging for a bigger home.  So yesterday I transplanted all the little seedlings into bigger containers. This mini-greenhouse was a Christmas gift from my husband, and it is really coming in handy this time of year with all my little seedlings.

I am able to contain all my seedlings in one warm sunny place.  In time, this greenhouse could even be placed outside when my plants get big enough to get sun during the day, and then protection at night.  I am really loving having such a convenient way this year to start my seeds!

And another lovely spot of beauty showed up in the last couple of days!  My amaryllis has bloomed! Last year it only had two blooms, and this year it will have four - wow!

I love the beautiful happy red of this amaryllis!

The bright beautiful colors add such a spark of beauty to my window.

Unlike the rest of this mess... lol!  I have a bit too much green ... doncha think? LOL!

And... finally... since strawberries are in abundance now in the grocery stores, I made my husband his favorite treat - homemade strawberry ice cream.  It is a very simple recipe, that makes a whole gallon of ice cream - and making it is far cheaper - and better - than any you can buy in the store (except maybe for Blue Bell ice cream!)... lol!  (those of you from Texas will know what Blue Bell ice cream is... the rest of you, if you don't know, need to find out... heehee!)

Homemade Ice Cream

6 whole eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 gallon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Beat eggs in ice cream freezer container.  Stir in sugar, whipping cream, and vanilla.  Pour in milk and freeze according to your ice cream freezer directions.  I like to make mine a few hours ahead so that I can go ahead and stick it in the freezer after it has thickened before serving.

Note: You can add whatever flavors you like to this basic recipe.  My husband's favorite is strawberries, so I cut up about 1 cup of strawberries and added these to the milk mixture before freezing.

When I eat homemade strawberry ice cream, I like to serve fresh cut up strawberries sweetened with a bit of sugar topped with a scoop of the homemade ice cream ... homemade sweetness just can't get any better than this!!

And so that is a bit of this and that from our "spring break week" so far...  we are enjoying the lovely sunny days and warm weather, and sleeping in.  We don't have plans to go far and spend big on our spring break, but we are just enjoying being with our kids, doing some family projects, and well.... eating homemade strawberry ice cream...!

Until next time, may the Lord bless you richly with an abundance of His presence!

Friday, March 27, 2015

A SPLASH of Color... Simple Things

I've got something simple to share .... 

it's just a splash of color ...

A simple bouquet of carnations called my name ...

... and I just couldn't pass them by! 

I had to stop, and look 
and by then it was too late!

Those lovely carnations are now mine! 

Something little and simple, yet a treasure find.... 

I found this quaint poem in a collection I have 
that poetically says it all: 

Simple Things

by Beverly Anderson 

The fragrance of the early morn
The sunlight on the sill
The smell of coffee perking, and 
Outside, the robin's trill.

A friend's voice on the telephone
A child with smiling face
A letter from a loved one dear
Some flowers in a vase. 

Just little things, these treasures mine,
And yet somehow I find
They brighten my entire day
With cheer and peace of mind. 

May your day be blessed with a treasure find 
that brings "cheer and peace of mind" to you today!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

7-Layer Ham Dinner

A dear friend of mine has a blog where she posts about frugal living.  I absolutely love all her tips, and I like to call her the Frugal Queen... because she really knows how to get the deals!  She can take amazing vacations for pennies on the dollar, and she shares tips about how to save money in everyday little things.  I am always finding new ways to save money through her frugal ideas and tips.

Take a minute and stop over to her site (she is just new to blogging, and would welcome your visit!) Her blog address is: http://simplyfrugalynne.blogspot.com/

One of my favorites of her recent posts was on how to take a vacation with just a few dollars!  Check out her post here to see how she and her husband flew to South Padre Island for four nights for $550.00.  Frugal... yeah she does it with style!

So, a week or so ago, she wrote a post on how to save money with meat here.  It was a great post but the part of her post that stuck out to me was the casserole that she made with her leftover ham.  I had been "hoarding" a pound or so of ham left over from Christmas in my freezer, and had been completely uninspired to use it.  In fact, I had pulled it out to the front of my freezer, hoping that by seeing it every time I opened the freezer, that I would be inclined to use it.  When I saw what she did with her leftover ham... it was like the lights went on in my head, and I knew I had just found a use for that leftover ham in my freezer.

Now I altered her recipe just a bit - but the foundation for this recipe was inspired by her original post. That is the fun of baking... things can be altered, changed and suited to meet the needs of your family. Since my family loves cheese... just about any casserole I pull out of the oven has to be covered ... or maybe even swimming... in cheese, lol!

What she did, and what I did was simple.  I peeled about 8 medium sized potatoes, and cubed them, and placed them in the bottom of my Pampered Chef stoneware baker.  Then I covered the potatoes with a layer of one diced onion.  Over the onion I placed 4-5 diced fresh mushrooms, and then the cubed ham (about 1 pound) over that.  Finally, I poured about 2 cups of milk into the casserole pan, and topped the casserole with about 3 tablespoons of butter, cubed.  I did not stir the mixture.  I did not add any salt (I figured I could add salt later if the ham wasn't salty enough, but with the ham and butter being on the top layer, the salt from the ham and butter would season the rest of the veggies).  I placed the lid on my stoneware baker, and placed it in a slow oven (300 F) and left it there for 3-4 hours.  (I had to run to town for a bit, and didn't want it to cook too fast.).  It would also cook very well at 350 for an hour or so.  After cooking for your preferred time, you can remove the casserole from the oven and stir it, taste it and add salt if necessary.  Now it is was time to smother the casserole in cheese - ooh yum!  I used a mixture of Cheddar and Monterey Jack shredded cheese.

Served with a salad, this made a meal that would make your momma proud, cause it is the "stick to your ribs" good kind of supper!

The flavor of the potatoes, onions, ham, mushrooms, milk and cheese make a simply divine connection!

I almost wanted to lick my plate clean... it was that good!

And the salad was a perfect accompaniment with the casserole, although any vegetable side would be wonderful.

Thanks Lynne for your inspiration on how to use up leftover ham, and for helping me to find a new recipe that my family says is "lick your chops good"!


8 potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 onion, diced
4-5 fresh mushrooms, diced
1 pound ham, cubed
2 cups milk
2 Tbsp butter, cubed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Place ingredients in layer given in large casserole pan (I used a 9 x 4" pan), except for cheese.  Cover tightly either with tin foil or casserole lid.  Cook slow at 300 for 3-4 hours, or more quickly at 350 for 1-1/2 hours.  Check potatoes for tenderness.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese over top and let stand for 5 minutes with lid on for cheese to melt.  Serve with a salad or vegetable side.  Don't be afraid to go back for seconds... if there are any left!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The PERFECT Rainbow in the Midst of a Storm

Today has been a rainy day of sorts, with overcast gray skies that occasionally would just open up and pour water out like there was a never-ending supply, and then at a moment's notice, close back up... and out would come the sun.

Spring weather... such as it is... finicky, and as double minded as it can be...

While I was in the kitchen preparing dinner, I just happened to look out the window as the skies had opened up and a downpour was in progress... and this is what I saw...

An absolutely PERFECT bright rainbow just outside my window.

I ran for my camera, because I know how flaky rainbows are, and in just an instant they can be gone!

Trying to adjust my settings on the camera quickly to capture a picture of the scene unfolding before me.

Called my daughter who grabbed her point and shoot camera and ran outside (in the rain!) to get her pictures.

My camera and I stood just inside the doorway though, and were still able to partake of the glorious sight without getting wet!

How often do you get to see a PERFECT rainbow just outside your window?  Not often.  We have seen many rainbows here, but most of the time, I can never fit them in the viewfinder of the camera.

The second rainbow, while not as visible or as beautiful as the first rainbow, still its faint touches of light graced the sky.

I felt breathless as the beauty of the moment washed over my heart and filled my heart with peace and joy.

The amazing brilliance of the rainbows was nothing short of amazing.  The timing of this rainbow held great significance for me.

I felt as though I'd already had dessert at this point, even though I was still cooking dinner... the loveliness of it all in the stealth of the moment was pure delight.  And as the light began to fade, and within a minute or two, the brilliance of it all erased from the skies.... I knew I would savor the beauty of this delightful spring rainbow in my heart for much longer than it graced the skies...

You see... the rainbow was given as a sign many many years ago after a great storm... and today when we see the rainbow, it is a sign in the sky that the Lord is with us through whatever storm we are in.
This afternoon, a friend of mine had called to ask for prayer shortly before I began dinner.  Shortly after we spoke, my sister called asking for urgent prayer for her little 2-month old infant, who this afternoon was diagnosed with RSV (a very serious viral respiratory disease especially for babies)..... Several storms on the horizon... and while I was praying for these needs, and cooking dinner... see what the Lord prepared - a beautiful rainbow in the midst of the storm.  It let me know that while my friend and my sister are facing a storm in their lives... that even while the storm is happening, the sign of the rainbow in the middle of the storm is the sign of hope that all is well.

Yes .... in the midst of the storm... the Lord can prepare a feast for us - a banquet table of peace and beauty - to carry us through the difficult moments we face.

I am thankful for the PERFECT rainbows that come in the midst of the storm, and for the sign of the rainbow that the Lord gave me to assure me that ALL IS WELL.

Blessings and hugs to all of you today!  :)

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Mom's Morning Coffee

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy First Day of Spring!

I was hoping that on the FIRST Day of spring that I would have some happy spring flowers to show you, but... sadly... all I've got yet are little green leaves poking out of the ground, 
with no happy faces yet... 


All is not lost... 

I do have some happy faces to show you!

A sweet happy face surrounded with pink... thanks to a trip to the dog groomer! 

Another happy face... surrounded with blue... 

The dog groomer sent them home with a big treat each, since they were so good for her... 

And oh the delight on their faces when they got their special treat!  

We were worried how Roger would do getting a bath for the first time (with us anyway)... 
and the dog groomer was happy to report 
that he was just the perfect little guy the whole time, 
and she was amazed at how well he did.  

After the treat had been devoured, Annie found the closest soft rug to lie on... 

And Roger decided he wanted to share it with her... and they sacked out! 

And I could not let the day pass without showing the sweet face of Mr. Simba... 
he would have been quite offended had I left him out!  

While these may not be the happy faces of spring 
with cheery yellow, purple or white faces... 

I hope that you enjoyed the pink, blue, and orange happy faces today!  

Happy First Day of Spring Y'all!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mary Ellen's BEST Helpful Hints

Stopped at a thrift store in town earlier this week to poke around and see what they had going on.  Lucky me - they were having a book sale - 3 for a $1.00!  So, I found quite a few books for that price!  One of the books I found did not catch my eye immediately, but since the books were such a bargain, I picked it up.  When I got home, I realized what a treasure it really was!

As I turned the pages of the book I found quite a few "gems" of hints for situations that I have encountered, and did not know how to fix.

For example - have you ever tried to get candle wax out of the carpet, material, or even a glass measuring cup when you are making your own homemade hand cream?  Oh yes, I've been there, frustration and all... see this post to read about it!

Here are the tips for candles:
"If your candle holders are coated with wax, place in the freezer for an hour or so.  The wax will peel off in a jiffy with absolutely no injury to the silver."

"Or, run under very hot water and dry with a paper towel".  ... which in my desperation to get beeswax off the measuring cup, and mason jar, I did, and it worked!

But I did not know about the freezer tip - which I will have to give a try the next time I am working with beeswax!

And then there are hints for beauty - I suppose we could all find a hint or two here to help... (smile)...

"Teach your skin not to be taut - Pour some apple cider vinegar into a basin of warm water and splash your face thoroughly. Let dry without using a towel.  If used once a day, this will restore the natural ph-balance or acid mantle to y our skin.  Acne sufferers should try this also, but be sure to start with a perfectly clean face."

Some other hints that I found interesting throughout the book:

  • Soggy mashed potatoes: Overcooked potatoes can become soggy when the milk is added.  Sprinkle with dry powdered milk for the fluffiest mashed potatoes ever.  
  • Measuring sticky liquids: Before measuring honey or other syrup, oil the cup with cooking oil and rinse in hot water.  
  • Glassware: Never put a delicate glass in hot water bottom side first; it will crack from sudden expansion.  The most delicate glassware will be safe if it is slipped in edgewise.  
  • Grater: For a fast and simple cleanup, rub oil on the grater before using. 
  • Bacon: To prevent bacon from curling, dip the strips in cold water before frying. 
  • Garlic: Garlic cloves will never dry out if you store them in a bottle of oil.  After the garlic is used up, you can use the garlic flavored oil for salad dressing.  
  • Ice cream: Ice cream that has been opened and returned to the freezer sometimes forms a wax-like film on the top.  To prevent this, after part of the ice cream has been removed, press a piece of waxed paper against the surface and reseal the carton.  
  • Lemon: Submerging a lemon in hot water for 15 minutes before squeezing will yield almost twice the amount of juice. 
  • Onion: Once an onion has been cut in half, rub the leftover side with butter, and it will keep fresh longer. 
  • Chicken: After flouring chicken, chill for 1 hour.  The coating adheres better during frying. 
  • Salt: When to add salt: Soups and stews - add early.  Meats - sprinkle just before taking off stove.  Vegetables - cook in salted water.  
There are a lot more wonderful tips scattered throughout the book!  I won't try to post them all today, and will continue to read through the book, and have a "part 2" post to share sometime soon.  

Do you have a favorite handy tip to share?  If you do, I'd love to hear it!  Have a blessed day! 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Sweetest Birthday Cake

Yesterday was our daughter's 19th birthday, and being as it was in the middle of the week, and she also was at college all day, we did not have big plans to celebrate her birthday today.  However, I didn't want the day to pass without some kind of little celebration.

So, I baked a white cake using a recipe that had been sitting in my recipe collection for months.

The cake turned out lovely.  It was so simple and easy to whip up.  I kept the decor simple on the cake. I cut out the number 19 after printing and then cutting it out, and attaching the numbers to toothpicks.  Not too fancy, but it worked!

The cake turned out marvelous, and had almost a pound cake kind of texture, but it was perfect for our little celebration.

Here is the recipe for this wonderful birthday cake!

White Birthday Cake 

2-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix the flour, sugar, and baking powder together in your mixing bowl.  Pour in softened butter and combine on lowest speed.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Gently stir in sour cream, water, and extracts, beating until fluffy.

Grease and flour pans of choice - I used a bundt pan, but cake pans, 9x13 pan, or even 24 cupcake pans can be used.  Adjust cooking time for the pan you used.  For the bundt pan, I cooked the cake for 40 minutes, and it was perfect.  9x13 cook for 30 minutes, and cupcakes, and cake pans cook for 18-20 minutes.  Cook until wooden toothpick comes out clean.

Buttercream Icing

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp milk

Beat butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract together.  Add in milk carefully to get the consistency you desire.  More milk can be added if you want the icing to pour over the cake.  Recipe can be easily doubled or tripled, depending on how much icing you need.

This Saturday, to continue the birthday fun, my daughter and I will have a "girl's day out" in a local town.  All the thrift stores in town have teamed up to create a perfect thrift shopping day excursion.  Each one of the thrift stores (I think there are 9) are having sales and are giving away prizes throughout the day.  Since my daughter and I both enjoy thrift store shopping, it will be a fun day for us.  So, we will continue the birthday celebration for a few days - and that is part of the fun of birthdays... don't you think?  :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pinch Me! Where has time flown?

For those of you who celebrate St. Patrick's Day - a Happy St. Paddy's Day to you!  For our family, we celebrate today, but for a different reason - it is our daughter's birthday!  She was born in the wee hours of the morning 19 years ago - and even though I'm wearing green today - PINCH ME!  Where has time gone... I just can't believe it has been 19 years since her birth!

In honor of our sweet daughter today, I want to share a music video with you of her playing.  She fills our home with beautiful music, for which we are so very thankful for!  I hope that you will enjoy this beautiful song called "Scarborough Fair".   :) Have a blessed day today!

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Homemade DIY Endeavors This Week

Earlier in the week, my "happy" box arrived!   I subscribe to the Homegrown Collective service who send out a box of DIY projects once a month. There are generally 3-4 DIY projects with all materials included, and they are seasonally chosen, so the projects are beneficial to the current season each month.

This month the theme was "honey"... it doesn't get much sweeter than this! :)

The box is a delight to open as you have to pull all the items out from under the brown crimped paper to see what came this month.

There was a jar of beeswax pastilles, a jar of raw honey, a bottle of grapeseed oil, two essential oils - peppermint and sweet mandarin, organic chili peppers, as well as the tools for making the DIY projects including a wood buffer sheet, sandpaper, 3 wooden utensils, a wooden honey dipper, 2 lip balm tubes, 2 salve containers, and one mason jar.

I started out with the wood butter project first.

It went very well.  You mix beeswax and grapeseed oil together until they are melted, and then pour into container to harden.

The directions called to melt the beeswax first, and then add the warmed grapeseed oil.

Took just a few minutes to make!

Next, I sanded down the wooden utensils included in the kit with the sandpaper provided.

And then rubbed on the wood butter - wow!  What a transformation!  This wood butter can be used on any wood to buff and restore the natural color.  I have a lot of wood butter left over - it goes a LONG way! - and I will be using it around the house to buff up my wood furniture.

The next project was honey lip balm. I gathered all the supplies...

... melted the beeswax, added the honey, and a few drops of peppermint essential oil ...

... and poured the mixture into the two lip balm tubes provided - it went easier than I thought it would... the mixture poured easily.  Since it was my first attempt, I didn't fill the tubes up all the way because I didn't know how much the liquid would expand when cooling.

And there was enough left over for two "salve" containers full of the lip balm as well.

I apologize for the poor pictures, as we had very little natural light when I was making the balms (it rained all day), and I had to use the flash... which gives poor results... but hopefully you get the idea.

Overall, I was very pleased with those two projects!  One thing that is a problem when working with beeswax is the fact that when it hardens, it is hard to get clean.  I think the cleanup was the worst part of the whole project!

I learned that when working with beeswax, using a wooden popsicle stick to stir the mixture really is best, because it can be thrown away.  The mason jars also work well, but you want to use a wide mouth mason jar so you can stick your hand inside to wipe it clean.  I soaked the mason jar with hot water for a few minutes, dumped the water out, and then wiped the wax off with a clean cloth.

I probably won't make the last project they sent directions for, which is a honey body scrub, as I already have some different scrubs and it is not something I would use.  However, it is great to have the directions for future reference.

This was a fun group of DIY projects, and best of all, I have lots of ingredients left over to play with some other recipes I have in mind! I hope to share those with you soon.  :)

 Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

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