New Favorite

As holidays go, Christmas has always been high on my list of favorites. However, this year, I made a discovery. I discovered that Christmas Eve is my new favorite.

I have finally realized that I like the waiting. I like the build up, the hype, the anticipation that occurs on the day before Christmas. I love the last minute shopping, wrapping, cooking and running around that Christmas Eve inevitably brings with it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still love the magic of Christmas morning: getting up way too early because three boys can’t wait another minute to open their presents, listening to the crackle of the Christmas morning fire and smelling the much needed coffee brewing in the kitchen. Being surrounded by my family and feeling the strong sense of contentment that loving them brings me.

All that being said; I still like Christmas Eve more.

I look forward to taking care of last minute details; tracking the progress of Santa and his reindeer so that little boys know when they need to go to bed. I love Christmas Eve church services with flickering candlelight and “Silent Night” being sung by voices young and old.

I treasure the late night gift wrapping sessions with my Hubby and trying to sneak through the house without waking anyone. Finally laying my head down on my pillow, thankful for another year of God’s blessings, and realizing that I am wide awake, can’t sleep and in less than five hours, three boys will be bouncing on our bed in an attempt to wake us up.

I imagine the expectation that Mary must have experienced as she waited to hear the cries of her baby boy; the way she must have felt as she prepared to give birth to the Savior of the world. I think about the anticipation that generations have felt as they wait for HIS return.

Waiting for something that is worth more than any other gift you can receive.

I ponder the vastness of an eternity spent with no more waiting.

But for now, I wait. And I like the waiting.

Yes, Christmas Eve is officially my new favorite.

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Filed under All About Me, Random Ramblings, You Gotta Have Faith

Intentional Southern Girl Meets Accidental Country Girl

When I started blogging a few years ago, I had a few “must read” blogs that I visited and read with regularity. One of those blogs belonged to a fellow redhead who calls herself The Pioneer Woman. Little did I know where reading a few posts from her site each week would lead.

I started with the chapter by chapter story of how she met the man of her dreams and it was’t long before I was hooked by the daily pictures and updates of her rural existence.

Somewhere along the way she and I took very different paths with our blogs. I flew below the radar, choosing to avoid the limelight, while she grew her readership with witty writing, breathtaking photography and recipes that would make you slap your mama. I’m still trying to figure out where I went wrong.

Pioneer Woman, or PW as all her close friends call her, has taken her blogging success to the next level. She took some of her most popular recipes, photos and stories and married them all together into a best selling cookbook called “The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl.”

She has been on a self-proclaimed Griswold Family book signing tour over the past few weeks and as luck would have it, she visited a city close to me last night. And I got to meet her. And she signed my book. And more importantly, she told me I didn’t look as old as I actually am. I’ve decided she can be my friend.

Well, right back at you PW! In fact, maybe your next book should be one that shares your country girl beauty secrets. Until then, I’ll keep reading your blog, trying out your recipes and following your life (in a totally non-stalkerish kind of way) through the fantastic photos and stories you share with us.

And just to think – if I had tried harder, I might be the one autographing a bestseller and enjoying and all that fame and fortune.

Nah!

Congratulations on your success, PW, and thanks for coming to town.

I forgot my camera (gasp!) so the only pictures I have of last night’s event are from  the thoughtful gals in line behind us. The cute, little blonde with me is my friend, Andi, who is just as big a stalker fan of Pioneer Woman as I am. We had an awesome time!

Meeting Pioneer Woman - she's very friendly!

"Ok girls, chins out and shoulders back." We had a good laugh over that.

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Filed under All About Me, BlogStuff, Cool Stuff & Beyond

The Baker’s Chain Letter

The other day a friend gave me a zip lock bag with the starter mixture for Amish Friendship Bread. Now, I have to admit, I’ve received these bags of slime before and I’ve never used them. I did, in fact, throw them away.

GASP!

I know! I sort of take the friend out of the friendship-bread-starter-mix-chain-letter. And I’ll  probably have 1,000 years of bad luck or get hit by a train on my way home, even though I don’t cross any train tracks on my commute. I just have a feeling that’s the intense kind of bad luck that probably befalls someone who hasn’t completed her friendship bread duties.

Well, I promise this time things will be different. I’ve decided that I’m actually going to see this friendship bread thing through to its completion. I have kneaded the mixture in the bag, like the directions say, and I have added the required sugar, flour and milk. I promise to watch it and lovingly care for it as it sits and does whatever it is this stuff is supposed to do.

One reason I’ve always thrown it away is because the thought of milk hanging out in a zip lock bag on my counter for a few days kind of grosses me out. Just sayin’.

But I will give it a try this time. I will follow the instructions to a T and I will even pass along the starter mixture to other friends as directed. And I will encourage them to keep the Friendship Bread tradition alive, because I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to have bad luck involving trains as a result of breaking the baker’s chain letter.

(UPDATE: I did not complete the task at hand and I did not make, bake or share friendship bread. I also did not get hit by a train.)

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Filed under All About Me, Something's Cookin'

We Don’t Need No Butterball Hotline

Since Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, I thought I would share my turkey secrets with you.

I was “really” nervous the first time a cooked my own turkey. I think I must have called my mother at least a half dozen times to ask her questions about the process. And yes, I did remember to remove the bag of giblets from inside the turkey prior to cooking it. I wasn’t one of “those” cooks. And it turned out ok. But it was just ok.

I love turkey. And I love the outside pieces because that’s where all the flavor is. I wanted the entire turkey to have the same flavor as those few precious outside pieces had. That’s when I started doing my research and looking for the holy grail of perfect turkeys.

And a few years ago, I found it. Turkey Brine. It will change your world. I promise – or at least it will change your turkey. Try it this year. You won’t be disappointed!

Here’s my recipe for turkey brine:

Turkey Brine

1 cup sea salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black pepper corns
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Dissolve brine in 2 quarts of boiling water. Once it is dissolved, add in 1-2 quarts more water (depending on the size of your bird). Place your turkey in a large Ziploc storage bag (one of the big ones designed for holding sweaters). When the brine is cool, pour over bird (you can add a bunch of ice cubes to speed this process).

Let bird sit in brine for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator. If your bird won’t fit in your refrigerator, put it in a cooler and cover with ice.

When are ready to cook your turkey, remove it, rinse and roast as you normally would.

My other secret is that I use Reynolds Oven Bags to cook my turkey in. It cuts down on the cook time and makes for one juicy bird!

So what’s your secret for making the perfect turkey? We all want to know!

 

 

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Crazy About Cranberry Bread

I twittered about making some homemade orange-cranberry bread the other day and I had several people ask me for the recipe, so I decided to share it here on my blog so everyone could have the chance to make this cranberrylishious bread.

I know most folks like their pumpkin flavored breads, muffins, etc. this time of year, but I have always been an orange-cranberry lover. While I like to eat this stuff anytime, fall just seems like the perfect time of year for this particular bread. It’s just the right blend of sweetness and tartness. Kind of like me. 😉

Anyway, here’s the recipe. I hope you enjoy.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 1 tsp finely shredded orange peel
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 ½ cups cranberries (thawed if frozen) cut in half
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts (optional)
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl combine egg, orange peel and orange juice. Add to flour mixture; stir until just moistened. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Spoon into loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of bread comes out clean.
  5. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap. If you don’t let it cool completely, it will sweat in the plastic wrap and the bread will become soggy.

You can always just skip the cooling and wrapping step, like I often do, and eat the warm bread with some butter on it. It’s like a little slice of heaven. Or a big slice depending on how you cut it.

Happy Baking!

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Filed under Around the House, Something's Cookin'

At Least It Smells Like Fall

Just because the calendar says it’s fall doesn’t mean the weather is in a cooperative mood. We’ve had highs in the 80s this past week and it definitely isn’t sweater weather yet.

I did, however, make some purchases to help move the autumn process along. Febreze has these wonderful fall scents and are, of course, “available for a limited time only.” I found mine at Wally World and bought the two pack. I “really” want my house to smell like fall. Besides I have all these smelly boys running around so I can use all the help I can get. I also picked up some fall inspired candles.

Thankfully football is in full swing and even though the temps outside don’t tell me it’s fall, Saturday College Football and lazy Sunday afternoons with the NFL tell me it is. And football means fall cooking, you know: chili, cornbread, homemade apple sauce, pies – well, you get the picture.

With that in mind, I’m excited that Pioneer Woman has finally finished writing her cookbook and it is now available. In fact she’ll be hitting the road for a (cook) book signing tour and Sis and I are already making our plans to attend when she hits our town.

I love taking pictures in the fall and even though the leaves haven’t started changing color in full force yet, my backyard has a good head start on collecting them. Soon I’ll be forcing asking my boys to pose with pumpkins and scarecrows in order to get that perfect scrapbook page photo. I remember the year I saw this great photo idea where the kids were laying in the leaves and the mom took  their picture from overhead. It was a really cute shot, and even though I tried for about 20 minutes, I just couldn’t duplicate the look. It didn’t help that J, who was about 3 at the time, did not want to lay on the ground in leaves and even though I kept pushing him down patiently trying to convince him, he just wouldn’t cooperate. Maybe this year.

But if you need to catch up on scrapbooking those fall (and if you are like me, every other season) pictures, check out this web site. I haven’t tried them myself yet, but I have great intentions. 

So, while I’m not breaking out the flannel jammy pants and sweatshirts yet, I am enjoying college football, chicken nachos and the sweet smell of cinnamon flavored pumpkin spice air freshener.

Now where are those boys of mine? I’m in the mood to take some pictures.

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Filed under Around the House, Cool Stuff & Beyond, The Boys Are Back

To My Baby

I’ve always loved you best because you were the third miracle. You were the last and it made you such a joy. You accepted the stained bibs, old bed, the “third-hand” toys and the baby book that was never quite up-to-date. You are the one I held onto so tightly. There were times when I wanted to stop the hands on the clock; if only for a few hours. You challenged my patience, gave me humility and you made me laugh. You were spoiled beyond belief and you were positive the world revolved around you. Even when you’re old and gray, you will still be the baby of the family. That’s why I’ve always loved you best.

My youngest isn’t my only favorite. I have two others. You can read why they are my favorites here and here.

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Filed under The Boys Are Back