saturday afternoon

We have the grands this weekend and that is always fun! DH took the twins to the park to play on the new playground equipment. When they got home, they wanted to play on our devices, so it turned into some impromtu quiet time.

Rose Red and Pa’s tablet…

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Snow White and Ma’s phone…

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After a while, they drifted to the bed, occasionally switching devices.

Quiet time

When they were done with that, Snow White wrote a letter to her friend Forist. I helped her put it in an envelope. She wrote out her return address, with some prompting, and then wrote Forist’s name. I added his address. She stamped it and put a leaf sticker on the back, then Pa walked her across the street to mail the letter. She missed playing with her friend today, though she said she was glad to be here, “Because,” she said, “I haven’t been here for a long time.” “A long time” would be one week ago.

Tomorrow, after church and after lunch, their prarents will pick them up and things will go back to normal here. Hopefully, it won’t be “a long time” before they come back. :)

~~Rhonda

apple sauce, apple slices, apple jam

Our house smells like apple pie. I can smell it in every room. What a wonderful candle scent it would be, though I’m not sure a candle company could really do justice to the spicy undertones in the air. If only we had smell-a-vision… It smells like apple pie around here because we canned about two bushels of apples.

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The apples were from a tree planted by DH’s father years ago. As the story goes, he ate a Red Delicious apple, kept a seed from said apple and planted it just across the driveway outside the kitchen door. The tree produces beautiful, big, red, juicy-crisp apples that are good for eating out of hand, for baking into pies and crisps, and for canning. How can a tree that has never been sprayed or treated produce such beautiful apples?

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Wednesday DH and I canned fourteen pints of applesauce (seven plain and seven spiced) and fourteen jars of spiced apple slices. DH also canned five quarts of chicken stock, but that’s another story.

applesauce

To make the spiced apple slices, we cooked the peeled, cored apple slices in a large stock pan with about an inch of water in the bottom. We put cinnamon, cloves and allspice (but no sugar) on the apples as they cooked for five minutes with the lid on the pan.

cooking the apples

The slices were then loaded into quart jars and water from the cooking pot was ladeled over the sliced apples, giving them half an inch of headspace.

spiced apple slices

Jar rims were wiped clean, flats and rings were placed on the jars and they were processed in a hot water bath for twenty minutes.

spiced apple slices

For the spiced applesauce, I added ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground allspice, and freshly grated nutmeg. I didn’t measure. Just used mostly cinnamon and a little of each of the others.

spiced applesauce

Thursday I canned apple jelly. We filled two crockpots with peelings and cores, covered them with water and let them simmer for a few hours. Thursday morning, DH ran it all through our handy-dandy food mill and we had “apple jelly juice and sauce.” He put the applesauce in one crock pot and the apple juice in the other, and left them on low so they’d be ready for me to can. He left for work. I stayed to can jelly.

food mill

I canned 27 8-ounce jars of apple jam. I saw a recipe for “Apple Pie Jam” on the site recipesfoodandcooking.com/. That made me think it would be fine to make my apple jam with the leftover applesauce and apple juice we got from the simmered peelings. Following is what I ended up using as my recipe.

  • 7 cups of applesauce / apple juice (about half sauce, half juice)
  • 1/2 c. sugar mixed with the following pectin and spices
  • 3 T. Low Sugar or No Sugar Ball Pectin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 c. additional sugar

I used about half applesauce and half juice for each batch until there was room to pour both together in one crock pot. The resulting jam is delicious and has far less sugar in it than the recipe using regular pectin would call for.

apple jam

I would like to try the Apple Pie Jam recipe sometime, though. It looks so pretty with the junks of apple in the jam. It would be pretty with chopped cranberries in it…I am going to have to try that!

I must say that the spiced apple slices and the applesauce we made from the whole apples did not seem to need any added sugar.

spiced apple slices

But the applesauce and juice made from the peelings and leftover bits for the spiced apple slices did need some sugar. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of the peelings to show you what we were using as the base for our jam. Just all the good peelings, cores and bits from preparing the apple slices. When making the applesauce that we canned on Wednesday, we didn’t peel the apples. The food mill did an excellent job of separating all that from the applesauce. Those peelings were put through the food mill a seond time and then dumped on the compost pile.

On Wednesday, we put the leftover applesauce in a slow, low temp, uncovered crock pot and made apple butter. Enough to fill five jars. I added one and a half cups of sugar to the apple butter before canning it.

applebutter

And in the midst of canning jars and jars of apples, when DH got hungry, what did we have? Apple Crisp, of course. And it was delicious.

apple crisp

Just a tip regarding the apple crisp. I sprayed a Corelle serving bowl with Pam, sliced apples into it and then sprinkled about half a recipe of the topping from the above Apple Crisp recipe link over the apples. I didn’t put extra sugar and cinnamon on the apples, but if tart ones were used, I would. Then I microwaved it uncovered for six minutes. So good with vanilla ice cream! And an easy, quick recipe to make when done in the microwave. The topping could be made ahead, stored in a jar in the fridge and used for a very fast apple crisp (as large or as small as you choose to make it) any time the urge for this delicious fall dessert hit you.

~~Rhonda

a few autumn pics

Last Sunday, DH and I took an afternoon drive through the country. The first time I’ve been outside in a little while. I love the change fall brings to the woods, the leaves, the roadside grasses and plants, even the smell of the air.

The trees at the country cemetery were beautiful. Hickories and oaks. The hickories were a blaze of yellow. The oaks more subdued but beautiful.

cemetery in autumn

The ground was covered in large hickory nuts. I didn’t get a picture Sunday, but it looked just like this picture from two years ago.

hickory nuts

We stopped at the family farm and picked up apples. The tree was planted years ago by DH’s father from the seed of a Red Delicious apple. The tree has never been sprayed or treated, or even pruned on a regular basis, and it still produces large, crisp and juicy apples. They are great for eating fresh, baking into pies, or making applesauce for canning.

picking apples

DH started to pick up apples and friends from across the street brought us some they had just picked up, as well. They’ve been harvesting the apples for a few weeks and were happy to give some of the surplus to us. It was nice to take time for a chat on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We brought home about two bushels.

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We immediately made apple crisp. SO good!

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I can’t believe how big these apples are. Tomorrow we plan to can spiced applesauce and spiced apple slices.

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In our own back yard, autumn is settling in with beautiful color.

autumn

autumn

The garlic chives are going to seed. All over the yard…once you have a clump, you’ll never want for this plant. I would like to be rid of it, but that seems like an impossible project. It does look pretty in the autumn light, though.

garlic chives

As the sun fell toward the horizon, it spotlighted the Virginia Creeper growing on the garage. A pretty contrast. Autumn is such a beautiful time of year.

autumn

I hope you take some time to get out-of-doors before it gets too cold to enjoy.

~~Rhonda

menu plan monday ~ october 20, 2014

I am not sure how it got to be October 20, already. Where has the time flown to? Yesterday, DH took me for a drive in the country. The leaves are turning, though not at peak yet. We drove out to an old country cemetery where the hickory trees are already a beautiful yellow gold.

autumn

In the back yard, the dogwood is turning its usual beautiful red and green autumn color, mixed with yellow and orange. The berries from this year’s bloom and the buds for next year’s bloom are showing together.

autumn

The weather is supposed to give us a high of 73 tomorrow, then in the mid 60s for the rest of the week. A good week for some soup.

Monday
Fridge Food (We have hamburgers, bean soup, and cheesy potato/sausage soup in the fridge…needs to be eaten.)
Toasted Homemade Bread
Garden Salad
Apple Crisp with a dollap of vanilla ice cream

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Tuesday
Quick Chicken Corn Chowder
Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Wednesday
Baked Chicken with Penne
Garlic Bread
Italian Chopped Salad / Delicious. I leave out the turkey and add gorganzola cheese instead of mozzarella. I also add about a teaspoon more sugar to the dressing recipe.

All those crispy bits on top the Baked Chicken with Penne are delicious!

Penne with Chicken

Thursday
Broccoli Cheese Soup

Friday
Chicken Spinach Quesadillas
Avocado Sour Cream

chicken quesadillas

Saturday
Pork Shank and Beans
Cornbread

Wampanoag Cornbread

Sunday
Lasagna
Homemade Rolls
Garden Salad

You’ll find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

~~Rhonda

67 days till Christmas

How do you feel about that?? Only 67 days till Christmas…doesn’t seem so far away, does it? Especially when one thinks about what has to be done between now and then. Time to get your Christmas Notebooks out and get started!

planning for Christmas

At our house, we start early. We have an annual Open House on the first Sunday in December each year. We put up a lot of decorations and a lot of trees. So, yes, we usually start decorating in October. My sister Genny comes down and gives us a tremendous amount of help each year. I always look forward to getting started!

Last weekend, Genny came and we officially began in the smaller guest room upstairs. This room has a white iron bed, a white country-style armoire and a clean lined, antique, walnut dresser from DH’s side of the family. Though I would prefer to give this room a more relaxed, woodsy, traditional theme, the room has a Victorian style tree. Maybe next year, we’ll switch it up. Right now, we’re on the “get it done” schedule, so the tree we have is the tree we will use. The room used to have a large four poster bed and an ornate antique wardrobe. The Victorian theme was a better fit then. But furniture tends to play musical chairs in our house. During the past few years, our three girls have switched rooms, left home for their own apartments, etc. Now that we seem more settled upstairs, I can decide on better themes for each room. Something to work on during the year, though, not during decorating season.

I had hoped to get the kitty border taken down last summer and the room repainted, but it didn’t get done. Perhaps next summer. The walls are a pale blue and the ceiling a soft yellow. The quilt hanging behind the bed is one I made years ago. It has twenty blocks with a different red Christmas print in each block. I searched quilt stores in three states to get enough different prints. It seems there is more variety available now. Or perhaps it’s just easier to find with the internet available.

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As a side note…the iron bed and the other one we have, came from my husband’s family farm. He said they had been stored in the barn for forty or more years. They had been moved to the machine shed for a number of years when we decided to bring them home. I sent them to an auto body repair shop and they sandblasted the beds, then painted them white. The simple designs were beautifully outlined with the white. Here is a picture from 2009 of the other bed.

Christmas open house

The smaller bedroom contains the staircase to the attic, so we gave the banister a little garland treatment. The white ball on the newel post is a light. There’s a little chain pull on the side of it. When kids discover that, they get so excited! On, off, on, off, on, off!

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The Victorian tree is a seven foot, slender tree. We place it on a round table to give it height. The room has a twelve foot ceiling.

Victorian tree

I used gauzy ribbon to tie the bead garland loops to the branches. Those beads are never coming off. They make it to the attic and back down again year after year without having to be redone.

Victorian Tree

Last weekend, after Genny left, my middle daughter and I decorated this tree in the upstairs hall. It holds pictures of our children and grandchildren from Christmases past. The beads for this tree are necklaces the girls have collected at parades in the area. We drape them on the tree, from limb to limb. They make a colorful addition to the tree.

Upstairs hall tree

This weekend, we worked in the downstairs bedroom. This room is in the 1960 addition to the house, so the ceilings are eight feet here. The tree features silver and blue ornaments, some Putz houses, and a sprinkle of icicles. The topper is a variety of picks that are poked into the top of the tree. The silver bead garland and the LED lights stay on the tree during storage. To keep the beads on the tree, I turn the tip of the branch back over the garland and that holds it in place. We are blessed with a third floor attic with plenty of room to store our trees upright. DH puts a large plastic tree bag over them to keep the dust off while they are in the attic. This tree was highlighted with silver spray paint. More about that at this link: Thanks, HGTV!

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We need to decide what we’re going to do on the top of the bookcase behind the tree. On the top shelf of the bookcase, our Heartwood Creek nativity is displayed. It went on top the book case last year, but we might do something different this year, leaving the nativity where it is.

To the left of the blue and silver tree, we placed the two pieces I have of a Christmas village that was going to be produced for the town I grew up in. Only these two pieces were made, the county courthouse and the county jail, then the idea was scrapped for some reason. This picture is from last year. Looks just the same this year. :)

bedroom dresser

The white Putz tree is also in this bedroom. I confess I left it up all year because I liked it so much. It just needs a little tweaking. Read more about this tree and the little Putz houses at this link: The Putz Tree.

To the left of the Putz tree is a lowboy dresser on which I display some vintage Putz buildings. The houses were given to me by my daughter-in-law.

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Above the lowboy hangs an antique post office mailbox cubbyhole shelf. My older daughter brought me a box of vintage bubble lights a year ago and I display them on top the cubby.

vintage bubble lights

DH brought down all the Christmas storage boxes for the addition, which includes the bedroom, the hall, the laundry room and the bathroom. Genny and I decorated the garden tree in the bathroom, and the rest of the addition is waiting to be done. There are a couple of cardinals to add to the garden tree, but we haven’t put them on yet. Again, a picture from a previous year, but looks the same this year. We may forego the poinsettias this year, though.

garden tree in the downstairs bath

That’s what we’ve accomplished so far! I’ll keep you posted. There may be 67 days until Christmas Day, but we have only 48 days left to prepare for the Open House!

~~Rhonda

the grands came by

What a beautiful fall day we had this Friday. After several days of rain and cold winds, we enjoyed a perfect autumn day. The windows were open, the breeze was rustling through the big oak tree, and the sunlight poured from a blue blue sky and danced off the red-crowned dogwood at the kitchen door.

I was happy to see the twins come by with their mom this afternoon. They came over to cheer me up as I’m still feeling sad about losing my kitty Zak. We had a good time visiting. The first thing they did was construct a pirate ship using cardboard boxes and tubes, duct tape and paper. They used two boxes so there was room for them both. I wish I had taken a picture of the finished product with the girls in it. Lots of “Argh!” and “Hoist the mailsail!”

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My daughter-in-law, bless her, volunteered to straighten the pantry for me. We have a large pantry, by the way. A big job. While she did that, the twins and I dipped marshmallows in candy coating to make “candy corn” marshmallows. Then they moved on to making marshmallow ghosts. A couple of candy coating dots made eyes. Before the coating dried, they stuck heart-shaped cookie decorations on the dots, declaring, “the ghosts are in love!” After the eyes and the candy coating mouth dried, they spread candy coating hair over the tops.

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The girls also dipped big marshmallows in orange to make pumpkins. They put green heart-shaped sprinkles on top for leaves.

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The smaller marshmallow below is a regular sized one. The “candy corn” ones turned out very cute. The girls left this one for Pa. And the large marshmallow was one they started for their sister and then the orange candy coating was put away before it got dipped, so they left that one here. Didn’t want an unfinished one! Hopefully, they shared one of the candies they took home with Sissy.

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All in all, a fun afternoon. I’m so glad they came.

Genny came down this evening. We will be decorating the blue and silver Christmas tree tomorrow. Pictures when we’re done!

~~Rhonda

memories of Zak

My cat Zak passed away yesterday. He was a sweet cat, gentle and loving. I am going to miss him a great deal. A friend suggested I share some memories, so I thought I’d write a blog post about Zak. He was a people cat. He was always happy to meet new people and would ask to sit on anyone’s lap. But he loved me best and would abandon everyone else if I called his name or talked to him. Zak was a chatty cat. You could carry on an entire conversation with him, if you wanted to. He’d “talk” back as long as you wanted to talk to him.

Zak

Zak came to us in 2006. He was just a kitten.

Zak

We got two cats from the same litter. Zak and his sister Zilli.

Zak and Zilli

He was very loving and extremely patient with children. I always thought he would have been a perfect nursing home cat. He loved being with people and was so easy-going. Ready to be friends with anyone who happened by.

autumn afternoon

grooming Zak

Zak loved being outside. In any season.

Zak, catching the last rays of sunshine

He was a great moler. Our yard was practically mole free when Zak had access to the outdoors.

Zak in the garden

I love this picture, taken by our middle daughter, of Zak enjoying the winter snow.

Zak chasing shadows

When we worked in the garden or walked the yard, Zak would follow us, watching what we were doing, waiting for us to move on…

Zak in the hosta garden

Zak

Zak preferred his food from the stash rather than the bowl, if the lid was left open.

can't wait his turn

Last fall, Zak developed an infection in a toe on his right rear leg. The vet thought he had been bit by a poisonous spider. The infection could not be cured. After almost two months of fighting it, then removing two toes, with no resolution, Zak’s leg had to be removed. After that, he had to stay indoors. I feared for his safety outdoors when he wasn’t able to run as fast as he used to. We have resident foxes and I was concerned about them chasing Zak.

three legged Zak

Being slower on his feet didn’t slow him down when playing, though. He was always ready to chase a string or catch the “fishing” line.

Losing a leg didn't slow Zak pdown when it came time to play.

Zak had a second bout of kidney issues this past weekend. Monday we took him to the vet. Yesterday we were informed that Zak had passed away while under anesthia while a procedure was being performed. DH brought Zak home, wrapped him in his favorite fuzzy blanket and buried him under the birdbath in my fenced garden. It was a favorite vantage point of his.

Zak in the fenced garden birdbath

Pets are a gift from God. They teach us love, patience and the value of companionship. I’m thankful Zak was a part of our family.

I will always miss you, Zackers.

peeking

~~Rhonda

Christmas shadow box…embellishments start to finish

This box was one I liked a lot. It had two large white trees, one on each side, framing the mill pond and the skaters. I glittered the box with silver glitter glue inside and out (one side at a time) and let that dry. Then I covered the trees with a larger white glitter so they would stand out.

Christmas shadow box

I used a small hole punch to punch holes on the top of the box to pull the hanging cord through. I began embellishing the box by adding white branches to the sides to bring out the snow theme.

Christmas shadow box

Layering the embellishments gives the box more depth.

Christmas shadow box

After I hot glued the cording, I wanted to cover the glue on the inside of the top of the box, so I added some branches there.

Christmas shadow box

Silver branches added more sparkle. Then I hot glued a pretty trim around the edge of the box.

Christmas shadow box

I added silver branches to the top of the box and had them hang over the edge just a bit. A little dab of hot glue held them in place. A few white branches tied in the other embellishments and a bit of silver and white in the center finished it off.

By the time I finished the embellishments, the white trees on the card didn’t show up as much as I had hoped, but I do like the way the box turned out.

Skate date

Follow this link for a tutorial on making Christmas card shadow boxes.

~~Rhonda

menu plan monday ~ october 13, 2014

I’m sitting in the craft room (second floor) looking over the back yard as it rains, rains, rains. There have been several tornado and severe thunderstorms watches. Also, a tornado warning about an hour north of us. We’re staying tuned to our alert apps. So thankful for the ease of keeping up with the weather.

Our middle daughter is sewing her first quilt top. Her kitty Zilli is supervising.

quilting

I am just across the counter, doing some computer work, including this Menu Plan Monday post. I was just able to squeeze my computer between craft projects. Time to clear the counter again!

Time to clear the counter again.

The rainy weather puts me in the mood for soup. The chicken is in the crockpot for tonight’s meal. Smells good already!

Monday
Chicken and Noodles
Cornbread

Wampanoag Cornbread

Tuesday
Tacos

Wednesday
Pan Seared Tilapia
Baby Baked Potatoes
Steamed Sugar Snap Peas

baby baked potatoes

Thursday
Cheesy Potato Sausage Soup

cheesy potato sausage soup

Friday
Baked Penne with Chicken
Garden Salad
Roasted Asparagus

Penne with Chicken

Saturday
Fridge Food

Sunday
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Homemade Sauce
Garden Salad
Garlic Bread with Cheese
Peas and Corn

You’ll find more menu and recipe ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

~~Rhonda

decoupaged Christmas card ornaments

I’ve been crafting my way through a lot of old Christmas cards lately. I am grateful to all who have donated used cards for my crafts. I’m always looking for more. If you have some you want to be rid of, send them over!

The Christmas card shadow boxes have been a lot of fun. I have at least twenty more cards made into boxes, glittered and ready to embellish. After this weekend, I will get back into the craft room and make more boxes. I’ll post some later this week.

My sister came down this weekend to help us with the official start of Christmas decorating. We finished the Victoria tree and most of the decorating in the smaller guest room where the Victorian tree is placed. The upstairs hall tree and boxes came down from the attic, also. But, of course!, the hall tree needs a string of lights replaced. We’ll do that this next week and get that tree decorated, too. Pictures soon!

Another project I am using the old cards for are decoupaged ornaments. I peel the front of the card and use that to decorate a glass ball. Here are a few examples:

Snowbear
Front:

Christmas card ornaments

Back:

Christmas card ornaments

Christmas Angel
Front:

Christmas card ornaments

Back:

Christmas card ornaments

Chickadee Greetings
Front:

Christmas card ornaments

Back:

Christmas card ornaments

I have started a tutorial to show how to make the round ornaments. It will take a while to finish the post, but stay tuned. I hope to have it up in the next week or so. Much to do between now and then!

~~Rhonda