Saturday, December 29, 2012

Getting Through the Winter

This time of year I get antsy.  It's the lull after the holidays and before we can get back outside in the spring.  I sit around a lot more and see all the things I would like done.  It happens every year.  Some people get Seasonal Affect Disorder, (SAD) I get Seasonal Let's Remodel Disorder (SLRD).  My husband always knows it's coming.  When our children were little, if we couldn't remodel, we would switch bedrooms or trade furniture with my parents.  We would knock out walls, repaint, refinish  pieces of furniture, anything to get through the winter.  This year is no exception.  In fact, it started a little early this year.  We have four bedrooms.  My dad took one when he came to live with us, we have one, there is one with bunk beds for the grandchildren (which they never want to sleep in, by the way) and our fourth bedroom which is UGLY.  It is in our lower level and still had a dropped ceiling and two walls of white paneling.  I never even went in there.  So, I had my husband gut it down to bare bones.  He raised the ceiling eight inches, insulated and put on all new drywall on both the walls and ceiling.  That was fun to see him and I carry those heavy 12 foot sheets of drywall across the lawn and into the house.  I am not as strong as I once was, but he thinks I am.  Fun wasn't exactly the right word, comical is more like it.  This time we rented a contraption to hold the long pieces of drywall on the ceiling so they could be attached.  In the past, I had to hold them up but I just can't do that anymore.  After many days of taping all the seams, the room is almost ready to prime and paint.  I will post the finished room when it is ready, which should be soon.  There is a lot of winter left.  I wonder what other project I can come up with before spring. We bought several chairs at garage sales this past year that needed caning.  We had big plans to recane the chairs and sell them.  Maybe that will be the next project.  Here are only two samples.  We have many more.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Treasured Piece of Family History

Both of my great grandmothers came from Germany.  Each came at a separate time and from a different area.  They both came to this country with whatever valuables they were able to bring.  My mother's grandma brought bedsheets that she had made.  They were of linen which she had made from flax spun into thread and woven into pieces of fabric.  These pieces were hemmed by hand and monogrammed with her initials.  Since she was married after she came to America, the initials are of her maiden name.  My father's grandma and grandpa were married in Germany and came to America soon after they were married.  She brought a few things as well, including all the important documents including their birth certificates and marriage certificate.  She also brought a lot of gumption and the ability to sew.  Back then you had to make whatever was needed.  You couldn't just go to a store and purchase things.  She had seven children very close in age and then her husband died.  He was only 38 years old.  She had to survive and keep her family together.  One day I was going through some boxes at my parents house.  I discovered pieces of the linen my one great grandmother had made and also quilt pieces made by my other great grandmother.  You could tell the quilt pieces were made out of old dresses and aprons.  I wanted to do something with these so I sewed the quilt piece on a square of linen and had my husband make a frame.  I treasure it and posted the story on the back of the frame so it will not be forgotten.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Love My Vidalia Chop Wizard

I don't have much to say today.  It was a day of rest and recovery from the busy last few days.  I do have guests coming tomorrow for a brief visit.  I made an overnight lasagna but otherwise I will serve lots of leftovers.  I still have Christmas cookies, chips and dip and various other things that I either have left over or forgot to put on the table.  This meal will be a little disjointed, but we won't be wasting food.

I have mentioned in the past one of my favorite non-electric gadgets.  It is the Vidalia Chop Wizard.  I have cubed up pounds and pounds of fruits and vegetables with this thing.  They cost $19.99 as seen on TV, but thrift stores have them.  I can't understand why people give them away.  I never pay more than $1.00 to $2.50 at the most.  I have two.  I need one for a spare, but I haven't had a problem with my original so I haven't needed my spare.   If I had to, I like it so much I would pay the $19.99.  The only downside is you have to use the special tool to clean it.  As soon as you're done, use the tool and run it under running water.  It cleans very easily.  I'm not getting paid by the company, I just like it and use it several times a week.  Others may not.

Soon I will talk about my favorite electric appliances.  The top five that I can't live without.  I bet you can't wait.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day 2012

Starting to hand out the gifts.

We love a big mess on Christmas Day!

Ewan and his dad Bret heading out to snowshoe.

 Dylan, Heather and Sarah getting their snowshoes on.  Nice cooler in the background, but I needed some place to store all that soup.

There they are, way out by the river. I'm glad I have a zoom lens.

 Checking the depth of the ice.
Ewan is now on his dad's shoulders.  That's a long walk for a little guy.
I finally have some time to sit down while my second load of dishes wash.   I still have four crockpots to wash which you will later understand why.  The last two days have been very busy.  Christmas Eve I spent preparing for Christmas Day.  We are the last stop for the family.  My daughters and their families spend Christmas Eve with their husbands' family, then Christmas morning at their own homes.  Santa comes and on Christmas morning they have their family Christmas.  By the time they get here they are usually tired and full of traditional food, so I make a simple breakfast.  We always have little smokies, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs, fruit, juice and homemade bread toast.  After that we open presents.  I always wonder why I clean my house because it gets trashed in a few minutes.  It's fun seeing the excitement and mountains of wrapping paper.  This year with the snow my two daughters, a son in law and my two year old grandson went snowshoeing.  They had so much fun.  We have a pretty big area to snowshoe in and because we live in Wisconsin, we love to take advantage of the snow.  Then later in the afternoon we have soup and sandwiches.  This year I made four different kinds of soup.  I know, that was ridiculous.  I didn't mean to make that much, but I just started peeling carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic and green pepper.  One of my favorite non-electric gadgets is the Vidalia.  It makes cutting up vegetables so easy and quick.  Pretty soon I had piles of vegetables.  So first I made Stuffed Pepper Soup,  then I had some chicken legs in the freezer so I thought Chicken Soup would be good too.  I had an awesome ham that we received as a special gift from our nephew.  It was a huge ham, so I cut off some of the ham and made a Cabbage and Ham Soup.  Finally I still had cubed carrots and potatoes left so I cut off some more ham and made Split Pea Soup.  I had crockpots all over the place.  Then I figured we needed more than just ham so I roasted a turkey breast, made another two loaves of bread and some yeast rolls.  At this point I had enough food to feed our whole neighborhood and lots of dirty dishes.  It is amazing what twelve people can eat and there isn't that much left.  The girls took some food home and we will have soup for the rest of the week.  I also forgot to put out the jello and relishes that I made, so we will eat that this week also.  I am tired and my feet hurt, but all and all it was a wonderful Christmas. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Family Favorite Christmas Cookies

Now that the recent snowstorm is history, I can share some of my families favorite Christmas cookies.  I make the usual cut out cookies that everyone makes.  The only thing I don't do is ice them all at once.  I frost and decorate as we use them or we eat them plain.  If you frost the cookies too early they get soft and I like them crispier.

The first family tradition cookie was started in 1977.  Near the holidays, a Madison Wisconsin newspaper (Wisconsin State Journal) would put out a holiday cookbook in the Sunday edition.  In 1977, I saw an easy recipe that I thought I would try.  It was an instant favorite and every year my family requests it.  Now I see the recipe all over and on many websites, but back then it was unique.

Quick, Easy Bars

1 sleeve of soda crackers
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 package (12 oz.) chocolate chips
Chopped nuts as desired

Line a 12 by15 inch cookie sheet with foil.  Grease the foil with butter or oil.
Layer whole soda crackers on of the foil.

Then in a saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.
Pour the sugar-butter mixture over the soda crackers and bake in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.
Cool for a few minutes and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.  In a couple minutes they will start to get soft.  At that point frost the top by spreading out the chocolate.  Sprinkle with nuts and cool completely.  Peel off the foil and break into pieces.

The next recipe also came out of the holiday cookbook put out by Madison Newspapers.  This was from the 1981 edition.  I make this one every year also.

Peanut Butter Temptations

First make any peanut butter cookie recipe or buy the premade dough.  Enough for about 40 cookies.  Roll dough into balls and place each ball into mini muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  

In the meantime, unwrap the small Reeses peanut butter cups (about 40).  When the cookies come out of the oven, press one peanut butter cup in the center.  Let them set for a little while before removing from the tin.  

The last cookie recipe I want to share is my husbands favorite.  His mother made them and he asks for them every year.   

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Cream butter adding sugar gradually
Blend in salt, vanilla and flour
Take small pieces of dough, roll into a small ball and place on ungreased cookie sheet
Bake 12 minutes and
While still hot, roll cookies in powdered sugar

I usually try to make a couple new recipes every year, but these are the favorites.   They are quick and easy.