Tuesday, February 23, 2010


There once were two little girls who met each other at a picnic. Their families became friends and they spent many hours at each other's homes, playing "sardines", sewing, watching movies, building princess villages in what turned out to be a drainage ditch but they thought was a river, and many other things that imaginative girls like to do together. As happens so often in these stories, one girl had to move far far away from her sweet friend and after many years they started to write letters. For almost ten years letters passed between the two girls. However, much more passed between them than hundreds of letters. Recipes, gifts and most importantly, the joy of true friendship was shared one piece of stationary at a time.
One girl has gone on to become a professor, helping students learn to speak English. She has travelled all over the world, studied at Oxford, and finished many years of education. She is much loved by her friends, family and students. The other finished several years of education, married and is raising a houseful of lovely children. In her recipe box, she has many recipes shared with her friend. Recipes from tea parties and a cookie business. The other friend has recipes from traditional french picnics and another cookie business. So when one friend picked up the scallop-edged note card and set out to make cookies, it almost felt like they were in the kitchen together again. Almost but not quite. And here is the recipe she made.

Once-Around-The-Kitchen Cookies
1 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Beat in eggs. Stir in next five ingredients. Add flour and baking soda and mix thoroughly. Scoop with a tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. A note on the bottom of the note card says that they are very good if you omit the raisins and coconut and add wheat flour instead of white.

The only change I noticed was that the recipe says it makes 2 1/2 dozen and for me it made 5 dozen. I guess it depends on how big you make the cookies. If you don't need 5 dozen at once just scoop the extra dough in cookies sized portions onto a waxed paper lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. They can be stored in a plastic bag in the freezer until you want to bake them. Frozen cookies will take a minute or two longer to bake than fresh but you can bake them straight from the freezer.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Creamy Cauliflower Soup

The weather here is cloudy again. This month has been full of cloudy days with a sunny day thrown in every now and then just to keep me hopeful that spring will come someday. Meanwhile, I am cold. Almost all the time. And when I am cold, I make soup. My husband isn't quite the soup fan that I am (a common condition among men I am told) so I try to feature soup for lunch since it's usually just me and the horde, the kids I mean. Soups are filling, nutritious, inexpensive and easy, but most importantly, they are delicious.
Last week, at the store where I buy most of our produce they had a sale on cauliflower so I picked up an extra one and the inspiration for this soup was born. Also, I had part of a loaf of homemade bread going stale so croutons were in order. Croutons are perfect served with a cream soup. They are so delicious and easy to make it's a shame to only eat store-bought ones. Cube your bread, whether homemade or bought, and toss with oil, salt and pepper, and toast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. That's it! I make them sometimes for a snack and the kids love them.
Now the soup!

Creamy Cauliflower Soup
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons of butter
1 head of cauliflower, cut into chunks
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper

Saute the onion in the 2 tablespoons of butter until translucent. Add all the vegetables and pour in water just to the top of the vegetables. Simmer until the carrots are soft. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. If you use a blender be sure to cool the soup some before pureeing or your blender top with blow off and hot soup will fly everywhere. Not too fun. I saw The Martha blow the top off her blender on TV with hot soup and she said a naughty word. If you do this with your blender, you will be tempted to say a naughty word too. If you are using a food processor, you don't have to cool the soup but do be careful. Pour all the lovely pureed soup back into your soup pot and stir in the cream. If the soup seems thin to you, blend the softened butter and flour in a small bowl and stir this into the soup. This is a great way to thicken any soup or sauce quickly and easily. Season with salt and pepper. These vegetables are pretty bland so you may have to add a good amount of salt. Don't be afraid! Salt is good, bland soup is not. Heat the soup thoroughly but don't let it boil after you add the cream, boiling and dairy products aren't good companions. Ladle up the soup into pretty bowls and garnish with croutons if you like. Be warm!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Baby's Book

I must confess, my inspiration for craft projects for the kids leaves something to be desired. Our art usually consists of coloring books for the little ones and sketch books for the older two. They have plenty of creative license (translation: their mom can't think of any good ideas) to draw whatever strikes their fancy. Creative bursts may result in a little painting or the occasional modeling clay frenzy, but day to day we don't get too crafty. Lately we have been making some simple sewing projects for gifts and that is what you see happening here. Please note the "happy mushroom" on the left hand side of his page.

My middle son made a cloth book for Baby's first birthday a few weeks ago. He loves to draw and so we set out with some fabric squares, markers and prayers for patience. That would be me praying for patience. He illustrated each page with drawings of the two of them doing various boy things, fishing, camping, hunting, driving race cars and monster trucks. My part was to write the story on each page and sew it all together.

I must say, it was a hit. Baby carried it around with him and looked at all the pages over and over. The best part was seeing Big Brother's delight in giving the gift. When it comes to gifts and giving, I want each of my kids to know that feeling of giving something you made with your own hands. There's nothing like it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tea and Scones

One of our current popular breakfasts consists of hot tea and current scones. Above you can see the birthday breakfast we enjoyed earlier this month to celebrate Baby's first birthday. Each of us chose a special cup and saucer from my collection instead of our usual selection of mugs, this is Big Brother's choice. They are always so excited to sip (gulp is more like it) their hot tea from a delicate china cup. I love using them too. Nothing like fine china to elevate a regular breakfast to something memorable.
Now, you can't be afraid of scones. They sound fancy but are really just sweet biscuits cut into wedges instead of circles. This makes them easier than biscuits because you can shape and cut them on the baking sheet and save the mess of rolling out dough and cutting it. I like to add currents solely for tradition, very English. Also, I picked up two boxes of them oddly enough at a rinky-dink little grocery store in my hometown. Seriously, you would be hard pressed to find brown eggs at this store but they do carry currents. It never ceases to amaze me. Whenever I am shopping there with my mom, I nab several boxes of currents to keep in my pantry to add to scones. If you don't have currents just substitute raisins, dried cranberries or leave them out. Plain scones are divine too. Get out your apron, fill the tea kettle and polish your china. Let's make some scones!

Current Scones
1 3/4 cup flour (part whole wheat if your into that)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup currents
3/4 cup milk
Raw sugar (optional)

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in butter (Come on and use your hands, it's therapeutic!) until the texture is like crumbly meal. Stir in the currents. Stir in all but 1 tablespoon of milk to make a soft dough. Knead together lightly and gently to smooth out the dough. Don't go crazy, just get it mixed. Divide the dough in half and scoop each portion onto a large buttered baking sheet. Pat each ball of dough into a disk about 3/4 of an inch thick. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Brush each part of dough with the reserved milk and sprinkle with raw sugar. Use regular sugar if that's all you have, you just need to have that delightful crunchy sugar top on your scones. It will make you happy, I promise. Cut each circle of dough into 8 wedges with a knife. You don't have to separate the wedges, basically you are scoring them into serving pieces. Put the scones into a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until they are golden and brown. Serve with a pot of hot tea and enjoy!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Little Bit of Pampering!

Recently, as I was perusing my favorite creative blogs I follow I came across a post about pampering yourself. Unfortunately I can't remember which blog it was, blame it on lack of sleep lately or what, but I can't for the life of me pinpoint who wrote about taking a little extra care of yourself during these long winter months. One of her ideas I already loved was homemade herbal bath salts. I've given this a Christmas gifts in the past, paired with a small cotton bag to fill and drop in the hot bath. I was right at the tail end of my last batch so it was time to replenish the supply.
It's so simple and pretty in a big jar. All you need is a box of rock salt from the grocery store and some dried herbs you like. The batch combines lavender, milk seed thistle and crushed juniper berries. Just mix it all together and store by your tub waiting for the stars to align so you can actually have a long soak in a hot bath. I have a small cotton bag I sewed to fill for my baths but you can pick up little muslin bags in the craft section, they are in the tea supply section of our natural food store where I stock up on herbs. You really have to try this, it is so lovely in jar, that's half the treat of it.

And as you can see, it's irresistible to anyone, no matter their age!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tea and Tea Cups

Curling up under a quilt with a steaming cup of hot tea and a book has been my antidote to the endless gray skies and cold weather that have inhabited the world outside my windows. In this picture you can see one of my favorite tea cups and also one of the first I had in my collection. When I open my cupboard there are multiple kinds of cups and mugs to choose from, depending on my mood. There are thick old diner mugs, one that is tiny, perfect for enjoying a "half a cup" of coffee. Several are hand thrown pottery mugs including one made by a wonderful friend in her pottery studio. I have a pair of tea cups with matching lids I use for herbal teas. The most special part of my collection though is the set of mismatched tea cups I inherited from my grandmother. She ran the china and bridal registry part of their jewelry shop and at her house she used the extra pieces from the store for her everyday dishes. When I was preparing to set up my own house, she and I went through her "extra", extra pieces and I chose twelve settings of china for my future home. Now that she is gone I love to look at all the beautiful patterns and remember my Mamaw who used fine china to serve every meal because that's what she had. Whoever thought making do could be so elegant? So when I am feeling elegant or missing my grandma I get down the stacks of miss-matched tea cups and saucers and search through them for the perfect one for that day and brew myself a cup of tea. Comfort in a cup!

Friday, February 5, 2010

February Cheer

Not really too much cheer happens for me in February. Gray cloudy skies for days on end, kids trapped inside for days on end, all the Christmas chocolate is long since gone. I have found that any cheer has to be intentionally searched out and celebrated. One thing that I love to do is iron my growing collection of hand embroidered linens. They are pieces that I have picked up at garage sales or flea markets, a few have been gifts from my mom. So I get them out, spray on some heavy starch and iron away. After they are folded in a neat stack, I display them in their chosen place.

I love this one on my bedroom dresser. It covers the whole top and looks lovely against the light colored wood. Entirely hand embroidered, I am amazed by the delicate work of this cloth. That some homemaker took what she had, fabric, thread and a needle, and made this beautiful work of art that has probably outlasted herself is thrilling to me.

My sideboard is where this scarf resides. The creamy linen is a perfect contrast to the warm colors of the cedar. I picked it up the same day I found the sideboard at a little shop down the road from my house and it is a rare find in that is in pristine condition. Seeing these lovely things, nicely ironed, as I move through the general chaos of my day makes such a difference in my outlook. If you are feeling a bit blue lately, try finding something you can do or change in your home and see if that helps you a bit. Or do what my mom always recommends and make yourself a big plate of pasta. Or do both, I think I just might!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Frosty the Snowcone

This is what we have been up to in our world. Last week we were snowed in with my parents for 3 days and as soon as the layer of ice under the snow melted enough, we headed home. When we pulled in the driveway, the kids and their dad piled out of the car and immediately started to work on two charming snowmen. After they were duly adorned with carrots and coal, I was summoned (from the warm house) to snap some photographs. Of course, it was only a matter of time before someone started licking the poor little snowguy on his head. Two siblings followed suit and now I have one of my favorite photographs of this winter. I hope you are enjoying whatever winter is bringing you at your home!