A walk back in time to the birthday cake celebration for my brother and his (then) girlfriend, now his wife of over 30 years.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
We stopped at a farmer’s stand, perched atop an old hay wagon, filled with an incredible fresh garden selection, at the end of his driveway. I'd been keeping my eyes open since the weekend for discounted pumpkins, as I wanted to buy a few to cook and freeze for future usage, and also for making fresh pumpkin pies.
Washing up the new pumpkins for outdoor decor,
then soon to be steaming and fully cooked to freeze.
Currently they are all lined up looking quite festive for the October harvest time of year, and this is what everyone seems to be doing around here in the country, so we too, have a pumpkin walkway to brighten and shine up some happy hearts with the obvious sunny thoughts they produce, as folks either walk, ride their horse, or drive by. We’ve caught many smiles this way which is very nice. A blessing to see happy faces.
Pumpkins all in a row!
Three good sports gathered around to make Jack and Jackie feel at home today, preparing them to use candles inside of to illuminate their sweet and happy faces all week long. There seemed to be less mess this year with older children working hard at their creations. One more will pop in later to carve his, so for now, here’s a peak into the “crafty” moments, as you can just imagine too, the icks and the loudly expressed yucks,doing this produced.
Oh Mom, do I have to do this?
To be placed in the oven for a yummy snack
I like my happy Jack, just like in the book
called "Mousekins golden house" read to me this week.
We were informed at this time of year, there are many events taking place around almost every community corner on family farms offering their homesteads for family gatherings, with hay wagon rides, games, costume judging, fireworks and simple harvest celebrations to participate in, therefore our All Hallows Eve tonight is a mere precursor for us today, as we will happily venture out the “Feast of All Saints Day” tomorrow, a day most children in the area have off of school because it’s a feast da with huge events where the children arrive dressed as their favorite Saint for the guessing game giggles as requested. There are prizes offered to motivate the imaginations for children to gather in delightful showy outfits, a potluck lunch to begin with for all to feast on, and so many other activities, candy (ugh) and much to do. This activity is a lovely old fashioned habit amongst small town farming communities and it's sure beginning to grow on us to hear of them, observe them and take part in them.
More to come…
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Fast forward to this week, where I began making yet another vat of perfect autumn time soup for my family, an ordinary procedure to either eat for snacks, meals or freeze as normal, and it was then that I actually experienced a personal ah-ha moment of my own.
After posting photos several blogs ago featuring our kitchen teamwork and that of the beginnings of my cauliflower and leek soup chopping, the glowing light bulb flicker zapping occurred, hitting me like a thunderbolt with the idea to use this writing blog for a “Homemade soup 101 Tutorial”. This way I can seize the day to both teach and share how I do this, with a show and tell by using real photos taken step by step throughout the preparation process, from the very beginning to the ultimate serving ending.
Thoughts of a hot bowl of homemade soup are always a pleasant welcome, certainly as autumn and winter are upon us; our tummies yearn for warmer foods. And with cold and flu season circulating, nothing is as terrific as the slurping of mouths around a spoon over a bowl of homemade chicken soup to nurse any illness away, or chase the nasty bugs into oblivion.
There’s been one fault I have, that of always making too much! It’s not all that horrible though, as the freezer usually has a stash to select from, or I’ve been able to bless others with a corning ware casserole dish filled with the homemade gift to save them a cooking night. I only have one large crock-pot, so anything over that is not a waste, rather a blessing in the end.
May I offer a word of caution though, freely sharing with you the sheer privilege of my very best secret of all, a perfect heavenly homemade soup is the most scrumptious when left for a day or two before serving. Like a fine wine, soup is also better with age. The flavors blend, the consistency becomes exactly just right, and always it’s always most hearty then. Therefore having the aging process in mind, I find it best to make a pot of soup ahead of time, transfer it to the crock-pot to complete the simmering process for as long as I feel it takes until perfect, store the cooled off crock-pot ceramic liner with its contents it in the fridge overnight, then the mealtime fare is amazingly as simple as heating the contents slowly again using the same pot.
In lieu of the particular recipe I’m offering below, I’ll also share a fact about me with you that I absolutely loathe those little green leafy brussel sprout cabbages, but my hubby seems to think they are an absolute must for Thanksgiving and Christmas traditional menus, insisting on them year after year. Because of my own and other family’s strong battle of detesting of those green blobs, as you might imagine there are many leftover sprouts afterwards, and me wondering what on earth to do with them all! Usually they were chopped fine and tossed into the turkey soup or other flavorful soups or (gulp) thrown away. Thus the recipe below appealed to me very much after we were given an invitation to dinner, where we were served “Brussel sprout soup” with a beautiful smile plastered on the hostess face, proudly serving the steamy dinner with her fresh homemade buns to everyone at the table. “Just a little”; I announced trying not to seem rude. Admittedly I was aghast at how I was ever going to manage, but I’m pleased years later (with a lot of laughs in between) to announce that I never gagged, choked, or threw up afterwards! The secret seemed to be having all ingredients blenderized and mashed well into a pulp with just a bit of cream added to it. Being a real sporty trooper like me, please don’t allow the title of this recipe I’m sharing today turn you off. You will thank me for it someday….smile.
Below then is my “secret family recipe” I lovingly begged my friends for after surviving the brussel sprout soup introduction served all those years ago. I initially used this recipe as a guide with brussel sprouts, but through sordid trial and error, I have successfully substituted any one or a mix of the following vegetables for the brussel sprouts; Carrots, Cauliflower, Cauliflower/Leeks, Celery, Celery/Cauliflower, kelp, corn, spinach, green beans, broccoli (stems only little florets added to simmer later), pumpkin, squashes, and the sky is the limit beyond that.
Then lastly, you’ll be shocked to know that I never use the recipe at all anymore, haven’t for years as I won the award for being the queen of adding whatever suits my fancy and whatever might be stored in the pantry in need of using before an expiry date.
I also love to make other soups, generally using anything in the house, any soup base for soups as lentil, beef and barley, minestrone, clam chowder and the like, however for “SOUP 101”, here’s a basic beginning to see you onward ho for making your own yummy and most soothing hot soups in your own kitchen.
The start of another cold weather soup
Brussel Sprout Soup (Or Cream of ….)
- 2 cups of fresh (or thawed frozen) brussel sprouts
- Parsley (dry tsp.)
- 1 small white onion chopped
- 1 large white potato chopped
- 2 tbsps of butter melted
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups of water with chicken bouillon cube, or chicken broth
- Cream or milk to make it “cream of…” after complete and cooling down.
Chop the brussel sprouts up after a good washing
Peel and dice the onion
Peel the potato and dice, then add all three items into a pan.
Using 2 tbsp of butter melted in the pan first, toss the contents around and sauté on medium heating until a little softer.
Add 2 tbsp.of white flour then toss with all contents until well blended. (I never do this anymore, rather use a bit of corn starch or flour diluted in a bit of water at the end to thicken later)
Add salt and pepper to taste, parsley and bayleaf
Add the chicken broth and turn heat to high bringing all to a full boil (I find this recipe does not have enough liquid, therefore I add enough liquid until it is over all the contents by about ½ inch).
When all items are tender and soft, remove the bayleafs (here’s the dreaded confession of sometimes not being able to find them and crunch, crunch, crunch for the family chewing occurs)
Using a ladle, pour cooled contents into a blender, and pulverize the contents into a nice smooth “mush”.
Add all back into the pan; blend in ½ cup of cream or milk to make a smooth creamy soup consistency.
Here’s how I changed it….to make it my own.
Add all the vegetables I either need to get rid of in the fridge, or want to include in the pan to make a fully loaded pot, approximately yielding 8 cups of produce.
- 4-5 peeled white potatoes, diced
- 1-2 white onions or 2-3 medium sized leeks (green and white portions sliced and diced) or; a white onion and a leek together.
- At least ½ cup of fresh parsley chopped or several teaspoons of dry if you don’t have fresh
- 2-3 large bayleafs
- No butter cut the fat. Instead I add a bit of water in the bottom of the contents and “steam” everything and stir often so nothing dissipates so it burns. And, I’ve found this step isn’t even necessary if you prefer to make a faster batch of soup.
- Salt and pepper to taste and sometimes I add a hint of curry (you’d be so surprised how much the flavor is enhanced by adding a pinch of this) or a clove or two of minced garlic.
If I haven't any homemade broth, these are my preference.
Shop at MTF for half price or less.
- Estimate and add (MATH!) enough chicken broth to fill the pot up so it’s over the vegetables by at least 1 inch or more so while the boiling is bubbling, the liquid won't dissipate so rapidly. Also, if I choose to use the liter size of organic broth, I always use half that of additional water to dilute it a bit more, not missing it once the flavors blend, blend, blend with age right? If you haven’t any broth itself, cubes to make some, frozen to grab from the freezer, how about a container of your favorite vegetable juice? I use tomato, veggie or v-8 juice a lot as my main broths or with beef or chicken all the time. Yummy yum!
- Use this recipe and pulverize it, then dilute enough to use as a soup base for the addition of diced leftover meats and other veggies, then "age" it all after a heating first.
- Add a cup of whip cream, half and half, milk or leave it as it is. It all tastes great!
Today I'm using 1% milk to make it a bit creamier.
- I no longer use a blender as it takes far too much time with such a large pot full of soup, so instead I use my hand held Braun mixer, which is just perfect unless you pick it up and it sprays all over the kitchen (I've done this too)
Using the hand "Braun" mixer to mush to a pulp texture.
- Add a splash of plain yogurt to serve, soy sauce, or Maggi or Bragg’s sauce (“put put” sauce as my husband’s family called it)
Helpful hint; Sometimes once I’ve blended the basic recipe items altogether, I’ve added a bit of cooked macaroni noodles, or leftover cooked rice, chopped up any sort of pasta, added chopped tomatoes or other complimentary softer vegetable, and the best one; if you have any leftover mashed potatoes or gravy, add them in and omit the potatoes in the recipe as needed.
A green salad and fresh bread/buns or garlic bread add to the meal, however there have been many times we’ve served this cold as a slurpy drink instead, on its own in a mug.
I’ve frozen bits in ice cube trays to use for my baby food (heat and serve), and your youngsters will absolutely love their veggies for all time this way. I promise!
Over time too as it sits to “age”, you may find a wee bit of water or milk must be added before heating again as it becomes very thick over time.
The worst thing you can possibly do is not attempt to perfect your own kitchen cooking learning curve and shove this lesson aside, not even giving this a try, because, I also promise once you get the hang of it all, it will be so natural and everyone will love coming to your place for hot soup.
Next time I'll feature a tutorial for making my famous homemade Caesar salad dressing recipe, just for you girls.... I've almost got all the photos for the show and tell ready.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Yes folks, the box of Kraft dinner was the beginning of this meal, then he produced some incredible improvisation by adding something from the freezer to add a splash of color (frozen peas), some protein from the pantry (a can of tuna), then when the moment was just right, the pasta nice and soft from the fork sample, he stirred all ingredients together in a casserole dish, with the cheesy sauce included in the mix included in the Kraft dinner box ingredients.
Ingredients to make that great impression
but try two cans of tuna instead of one. It's so much better.
Don't laugh! This very recipe soon became his very own signature meal, reliving this most impressive chef’s cooking moments throughout the last thirty plus years! Each time I delivered a new babe and arrived home, I knew within a few days, I would be presented with this very meal at least once. *giggle* His cooking abilities improved significantly and I have to admit, I can relax and entrust him to offer a decent and hearty meal any time of day now.
Tonight this exact same very meal became our "Fish Friday" night meal, which (luckily!) the children still love! Instead of orange cheesy sauce and macaroni though, we opt at times for the shell pasta with white cheddar sauce instead. Add a green salad with colorful additives, then a loaf of fresh warm bread, and surely all will marvel at the talent this family has by slaving over the kitchen stove to present a stunning and nutritional meal on the table for all to dine on.
Pierrot the Clown
They were happy shoppers at our local thrift shop,
chosing fun additions to our tickle trunk.
Mr. Dressup was airing daily when I was a youngster, and years later, a show my own children have enjoyed over the years as well, that is when we had cable television (there is none here in our location),watching the ever popular puppets, "Casey and Finnigan" with their brilliantly imagined adventures.
Mr. Dressup's tickle trunk
Never mind the children, I loved watching Mr. Dressup draw on his art easel, tell stories, make believe in the garden with the puppets and (my favorite part) search inside the trickle trunk for perfect dress up costumes. I am so excited to recently find out about Mr. Dressup's timeless classic children's broadcasts beginning to trickle in on offered DVDs, shown below. What a hoot! And, aside from other legends such as "Mr. Rogers" and "Fred Penner", we still prefer Mr. Dressup hands down to this day! A trivia item for you to end this blurb: Mr. Dressup was the best man at Mr. Roger's real-life wedding.
Mr. Dressup DVDs now available
WE have our own version of a tickle trunk, a trunk my mother and husband secretly sanded, painted and fully restored for me long, long ago now (I was 17 years old then), and one that initially stored hopechest items (quilts and matching pillows my mother made, and engagement gifts), clothes for our children to grow into, and then followed by clothes they grew out of awaiting the next child to use. Then, it became the tickle trunk! It has within it a built in removable drawer sitting on the top of the actual inside trunk, so we can store the smaller hard to find items in it, like gloves and accessories. But, deep inside the antique restored treasure itself, there are glorious playtime outfits, old dance costumes and enough hats to become whoever the children desire to be. They love to pick and choose clothing to represent historical figures (like the playmobil I wrote about before doubling as live renditions instead of toys), interesting characters from their assigned living literature stories, Bible or Saint heroes we read about and celebrate feast days with, all th while, loving every moment of the dress up challenge. The children and the grandchildren often make us guess who they are, but there is never a shortage around here of make believe, historical re-enactments, and the like.
Earlier this month we visited several small local thrift stores (we loathe places like
After a fluffy washing and dry, here are two of the new outfits for inclusion into our "trickle trunk" fun.
She just had to have this costume,
a true bunny lover now and forever!
See my tail?
The moral of the story for them is; the good guy always outweighs and beats the bad guy, saving the day. A good versus evil story ending for all to ponder.
Ah, one thing is certain. Whether on Mr. Dressup, or within the privacy of our own residences, our children will naturally dream of things to play, become inspired by people they will choose to mimic and we must allow for that imagination to overtake our homes when the moment occurs, transforming it into a wonderland for them to remember these times in the future.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Those who possess the skill of choosing just the right scents to enhance their sense of smell, seem to carry a certain flair for “scent loveliness” by their personal chosen selections with regards to perfumes and body lotions, or specialty items for use in and around their home environments, which others are either ultimately drawn to, or completely turned off by. In the end, it’s purely a discreet and individual preference, a highly personal one at best to select lovely smelly and odorous items to either bless others with, or just to satisfy self pleasures in the privacy of their own space.
We are also easily drawn to the smells around us which offer emotional or physical well being, with special remembrance to often correlate specific smells to the inside rooms of people’s homes or personhoods.
With so many scents, sometimes there are also allergy sensitivities, becoming a factor in the work place, or public places, with establishments such as hospitals and churches requesting visitors or parishioners (please) not wear any scent inside for the sole benefit of others around who cannot handle odors of any kind. In our home, we have some family members who have experienced many episodes of allergy induced medical issues over the years, simply by having the wrong type of scent floating around in the air, resulting in immediate reactions to fling open all windows and doors hoping to rid the scent away, never to be welcomed again because of the reactions.
Oh how we love our sense of smell though! Our daily rituals for smells enter every facet of our movement, from showering with specially selected shampoo and soaps, ladies and their makeup or men and their toiletries, interior scents of our homes, and even sniffing natural outdoor wonders environmentally or in the garden. We continue to be ever drawn with our sense of smell, seeking out those perfume counters, bath and kitchen shops, aromatherapy, candle or smelly gift stores, happily being led around by our noses, appreciating and seeking something special for use as a gift or for our own homes.
And while on the topic, let us not forget our vehicles too. I love to place a drop or two of some scented finery on a cotton ball, then jam it in between two of the air vents, switching on the fan to blow it's scent all around the inside of the vehicle filling the air with its aroma. Even the children love it when I do this, or hubby does it in his vehicle, as it is a delightful sense of smell, and so very welcoming and soothing!
Like you, I'm sure I can think of many items offering a blessing to my sense of smell. Off the top of my head, the loveliness of aromas I love pointing my nose heavenward are selections below;
- The blissful smell that a mere drop or two of lavender essential oil provides the bed linens swishing around in the washing machine with, then heated in the dryer cycle afterwards, filling the air with its incredible aroma. Oh so lovely!
- Fresh lemon or white vinegar scent floating in the air after a good house cleaning work bee.
A squirt of lemon
- Adoring and sniffing a brand new baby! Nuzzle, nuzzle...
- The most delicious and mouth watering scent offered by our daughter’s homemade hot and fresh buns just removed from the oven, or her signature cinnamon buns made fresh for breakfast.
- A seafood platter with large plump shrimp and cocktail sauce at the forefront.
- Hot spicy sushi rolls freshly delivered with shaved ginger piles at the edge of the presented glass tray.
- A hot stew bubbling in the crock-pot, or a fresh batch of homemade soup simmering on the stove for dinner.
- Cinnamon and apples cooking on the stove.
- A scented candle burning or an essential oil diffusing through the air.
Diffuser of scent
- Hot apple cider or wassail punch heated in the crock-pot at Christmas time.
- A brand new Christmas tree brought in from outdoors and decorated providing not only a lovely aroma but a real ambiance with its twinkling lights turned on.
- My hubby’s after shave lotion and cologne. *smile*
Adoring the rose
- Fresh florals gracing the table as a mealtime centerpiece, especially a single lovely rose or beautiful tropical orchid permeating their scent through the house (if it doesn’t bother anyone’s allergies).
- A spritzer splash or a misty spray of essential oil to freshen up stale odors. Name your scent, I know I have many here myself. How about a burst or orange peel scent?
- Peppermint essential oil freshly applied to someone’s neck and/or forehead to offer relief from a headache.
- And of course…. The personalized smell of my culinary creation for making my fresh Caesar salad dressing, chopping up many garlic cloves with freshly squeezed lemon juice blending their flavors together. The long lingering smell last for hours, and sometimes creeps up the next day, both with smell in the air and on the breath of those eating the salad. *snicker*
Garlic the bulb
- And, need I mention a freshly sliced onion, or a steeping pot of green tea?
A slice of sweet onion anyone?
Using scented embellishments around our homes offers a contented ritual of home life for settling us down within our cozy dens, creating a special homey environment. The good old simplistic trick of boiling up a saucepan of water, adding a wee tiny pinch of cinnamon into it, so its spicy scent drifts around each room, either allowing others to think there is something special cooking in the oven, or dinner is just about ready to be served. I used to laugh at women who did this little sneaky pre-mealtime trick, also having the dinner table all set, so when their husbands returned home from a long day at work, they would think their tummies would be filled very soon with the swell home cooked meal scent floating in the air, allowing for relaxation and unwinding before it was truly fully prepared.
Fresh buns from the oven
Before purchasing our home here in the east when previewing it or photos were taken to send to us via emails, the previous owner always had an immaculate kitchen, with either fresh pies from the oven out on hot pads, or a large pot of something simmering on the stove to ensure that homey feeling and lived in look for potential viewers. One of our morning visits offered the scent of fresh cornmeal muffins fresh from the oven. Ooh la la!
A huge plethora of perfumed scents exist on the consumer market today providing bewildered customers too many selections for searching or successfully finding just the right signature scent to purchase at their counters and call their own. As consumers, we can’t help but enter a large department store and discover the lingering scents, many times becoming attracted to the lovely aroma all around. I love spraying a sample card to take home and slip into a drawer someone after I’ve had time to enjoy the scent once it wears off a bit, but at the store itself, my nose bother me after too many sniffs and whiffs.
Bottles and scents
Some aromas assist us with bringing memories of days gone back to the heart of the moment, evoking sudden thoughts of yearly special occasions or feast days. Last month, I read an article about candles with the promise of providing an autumn scent to linger in the air, by use of a “pumpkin spice” aroma candle. It sounded so wonderful to me along with my savoring taste bud these days for a pumpkin spice latte, so I wondered where one could find such specific item. Lo and behold, I recently visited a unique gift store locally when I saw the sign outside its establishment announcing it was open.
My new scents for fall
This little shop has no set hours for customers to stop and browse through, rather when the open sign is out, it’s open, and otherwise it’s obviously closed. A hit and miss type of seasonal business, crazy to me for thinking of some financial gain, though making perfect sense within smaller communities such as the ones surrounding our new home. Thus is the reason why I mention “explore” often in my writings, though it is utterly undeniable that it’s a bit charming when able to get through the front door to settle personal curiosities for the question of the day; What is so intriguing and unique about this little place, and why is so popular with the locals only opening up on a whim when suddenly available to the public?
So folks, here are my special new “scents of loveliness” for our home during this season of autumn; pumpkin spiced candles! I got a bit carried away and also purchased cranberry smelling candles for Advent fast approaching.
Let’s welcome autumn into our lives by getting the apple cider warming up on the stove, light our candles on a blustery cool day, have the warmth of the fireplace glowing in our favorite room, then settle in with a great read in hand to relax and recover from life's busyness. This is what I love to do, making sense of those scents around our homes to provide immediate benefits for my family, and create a memory making moment.
Pumpkin spice and Cranberry scented candles ready to burn
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Classic Photo Booth Known Facts;
- I admit to being a keeper of many of these crazy black and white beauties.
- Many of my own grown children have many of these crazy photos too.
- You see booths such as the one in the photo above in almost every shopping mall.
- Folks of all ages are forever scowling at those dreaded booths for their outrageous pricing.
- Parents sneak in when their kids aren't with them.
- Sisterchicks get them right away and when the friendship blossoms, they bring them out again over a cup of hot tea to giggle at.
- It's a known fact that surely all photos taken in such a photo booth, never turn out without looking like hearty mug shots.
- All agony aside, these booth pictures are classics, sure to be saved and laughed at over and over again throughout the years.
I dare you!
Sneak into a booth today with your spouse or buddy friend.
Be assured no one sees you behind that hanging black curtain, so go for it, act as crazy as the moment offers, for at least one minute or more, and know you aren't the only one who ever did this silly thing. And if you stand at just the right angle, leaning against the booth inconspicuously in front of the alcove deposit area the final photos fall in to, no one else will see the true daring you - but yourself, that is, unless of course you might wish to share it with another.
If you're shy, keep your silly secret, file them away in a time capsule, an archival unit to blow everyone away in later years with your daring and bold initiative. Likely while you're sharing, others will confess to having some hidden away too, stories of the classic photo booth everyone complains about with thier high prices for instant satisfaction....that is....if you dare....