Saturday 31 January 2009

Saturday This and That

Food For Thought:
  1. Most important six words: I admit I made a mistake.
  2. Most important five words: I am proud of you.
  3. Most important four words: What is your opinion?
  4. Most important three words: I love you.
  5. Most important two words: Thank you.
  6. Most important word: We
  7. Least important word: I

I found the above this morning in a book that I have. It's just chocker block full of little quotes and poems. I thought this one was pretty good! I changed the fourth one. It was supposed to read, "if you please", but I thought "I love you" was way more important. We should still say please though, even if it isn't on the list!

The other day I was thinking . . . I do that a lot. Every day I get at least three e-mails asking me for help from these rich people in Africa that have millions of dollars in the bank that they have not been able to access. All they need is my help to get it. Just yesterday I got a request from a woman who has been recently widowed, has no children and has no need of her husband's millions for herself, because . . . alas . . . she has terminal cancer herself. What she needs though, is the help of a good Christian, such as myself, that she can transfer this money to, so that I can start up an orphanage or some other charity in the name of God. All she wants, poor dear, is my bank details so that she can transfer this money into my account. Other days, I get notification that I have just won the Spanish Lottery, amounting to millions of pounds, or even the Euro Lottery. I have to ask myself the question . . . how can I win something I have never even entered? Luck must indeed be my middle name!!

I wonder though, how many people actually get taken in by these scams? It beggars belief that anyone would . . . but, then again, they must or these people wouldn't be taking the time to invent them and spend so much time e-mailing people all over the place. One of these days I just may e-mail one of them back and offer them something in return . . .

We have a busy day planned here today. I am off to the shops early this morning and then I have promised Todd that I will clean out the larder . . . *grumble *grumble. I don't know how it always gets in such a mess. I think it's caused by someone moving things around in there to find stuff and then taking things out and not putting them back in the right place. I guess that someone must actually be me, so . . . *sigh* . . . it's only right that I put it straight. Todd is definitely a place for everything and everything in it's place kind of a guy.

I did some really nice sketches yesterday, actually I've done a few nice ones over a few days, but I only have one piece of water colour paper left so I better get me some more. I do hope to have the chance to do a painting this weekend though, and some baking and cooking. A girl at work wanted a card this week for a little boy's Birthday party so I did her up this and called it Snaps and Snails.

Todd is always telling me I need to do more little boys, instead of just little girls all the time. I did a sketch of a little boy with his dog this week as well, so maybe I should, do more boy pictures that is.

I was ever so pleased to get that news from my son last evening. God is indeed good, and prayers do get answered. I have experienced answers in my life over and over again. Sometimes I like the answers, sometimes I don't . . . but they are always the right answers for me, even if they are hard answers to cope with . . . well I am prattling on now so I will leave you with a quote I received the other day that I thought was amazing.

"I can't believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary." ~ Lou Holtz

You know what Lou? I can't believe it either!

I mde up the most amazing recipe for Brisket the other day. We had it for supper along with some colcannon and steamed carrots. It really was delicious.

*Marie's Casseroled Brisket*

Serves 4

Brisket is one of the cheaper cuts of meat that truly benefits from a slow braising in the oven. It turns out meltingly delicious this way, with a wonderful gravy that goes really well over potatoes or rice.

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 4-pound piece of rolled beef brisket

2 TBS beef gravy mix

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 (10 3/4 ounce) tin of condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 1/2 cups water

Pre-heat your oven to 160*C/325*F. Place the beef gravy mix, garlic powder and black pepper in a little bowl and mix it well together. Rub this mixture into your beef all over. Place the sliced onions into a small roaster with a lid. Put the seasoned beef on top of the onions. Mix the soup and the water together in a jug and then pour it around the brisket in the roaster. Put the lid on and then bake in the heated oven for about an hour and a half to two hours, until the meat is really tender and the gravy is nice and thick. (Check it occasionally to make sure that it is not cooking dry. Mine didn't and I didn't need to add any more water, but better to be safe than sorry.)

Remove from the oven and remove the meat from the roaster to a platter to let rest. Let stand for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve thickly sliced, along with some of the gravy from the roaster spooned over top. Delicious!

Friday 30 January 2009

Many Thanks!

Just popping in to say thank you very much for all your heartfelt prayers and positive thoughts. My son just called to say that the infection is 98% cleared up and that he is not going blind. What a relief! He thanks you all too. Doing the Happy Dance now and toddling off to bed! Good Night all, and once again Thanks!

Come what may . . .

"Today upon a bus, I saw
a lovely maid with golden hair;
I envied her - she seemed so gay -
and wished that I were as fair,
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle;
She had one foot and wore a crutch,
but as she passed, a smile;
Oh God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two feet . . . the world is mine.

And then I stopped to buy some sweets.
I talked with him - he said to me:
"It's nice to talk with folks like you."
"You see," he said, "I'm blind."
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two eyes . . . the world is mine.

Then walking down the street, I saw
a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play;
it seemed he knew
not what to do.
I stopped for a moment, then I said:
"Why don't you join the others dear?"
He looked at me without a word,
and then I knew - he could not hear.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine;
I have two ears . . . the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go,
With eyes to see the sunset's glow,
With ears to hear what I would know,
Oh God, forgive me when I whine.
I'm blessed indeed; the world is mine."

Life, it seems, is full of little dramas . . . highs and lows . . . the good and the bad. I thank God for the lows, for without them I would never see and appreciate the highs. I also thank him for the bad because it helps me to appreciate the good.

Oh yes , it is sometimes hard to do so, and it may not be until afterwards that the real appreciation comes, and I am oftimes tempted to say . . . why me Lord? But then again . . . I stop and think, why not me? Who am I to think that I should be immune to all the rocks that life would sling? The Lord trys those whom he loves.

My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. ~Proverbs 3: 11-13

Something to think about the next time troubles knock on your door. An exercise to strengthen your faith and to grow in an unimaginable way can truly be a gift from above . . . if we but choose to see it as such. My mother always said, that, "God never closes a doorway, without opening a window first."

I had an e-mail from my oldest son yesterday. I had not heard from him in a while and had mailed him to see if all was ok. It appears my fears were not unfounded, for indeed he is in a spot of trouble. I knew he had had a sore eye a few weeks back, and had joked with us about needing to wear a Pirates patch. He had blood tests this past Tuesday as his Doctor was afraid that he might have uveitis, which is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, and is the leading cause of blindness in 10% of the population. He was not supposed to go back for an appointment until next Friday, but they have called him back today. I would ask for some prayers for him, if possible . . . his name is Anthony. Please pray that if it is the worst, that they will have caught it soon enough so as not to have caused too much damage, and that my son will be able to cope with whatever the outcome should be. Thanks so very much.

Life is filled with ups and downs . . . highs and lows . . . good and bad . . . I am ever thankful of a Saviour who has entreated me to rest my cares upon His shoulders. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and I have enough faith to know that He can carry me wherever I may need to go.

I made these lovely brown bread muffins the other night to go along with some homebaked beans. Oh my but they were good.

*Brown Bread Muffins*
Makes 18

These delightful muffins contain a combination of cornmeal, two kinds of flours and delightfully sticky raisins. Moist, flavourful and very nutritious, they go wonderfuly with all sorts . . . Baked Beans, Ham and Pea Soup . . . hearty Pot Roast, macaroni and cheese . . . (No, I did not leave out the egg. There is no egg required in this tasty recipe!)

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup dark molasses
(If you cannot get molasses, you may use
a combination of equal parts of golden syrup
and dark treacle)
4 TBS cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups milk
2 TBS butter, melted
1 cup raisins

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Grease 18 muffin tins and set aside.

Whisk the flours, cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Stir the molasses, vinegar, milk and butter together in a large beaker. Add all at once to the dry ingredients and stir briskly to blend. Stir in the raisins. Spoon into the muffin tins, filling them 3/4 full.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and serve warm with butter.

*Note* These freeze really well, so no worries about there being so many.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Marie's Thrifty Thursdays

Welcome to my Thrifty Thursday post for this week, January 29th, 2009. We've almost finished the first month of a new year. I am sure that there are not too many of us that are not feeling the pinch of the credit crunch, as they are calling it. I know that groceries seem to have gone up radically over what they were costing me only a year ago at this time. For myself, I have been trying to shop for bargains wherever possible, and cheaper cuts of meat when ever I can. Today I want to talk about the thrift of buying a larger piece of meat or poultry and getting as much as you can from it.

Sometimes it is very tempting to balk at the price of say, a large chicken, or roast, or even turkey. For instance, earlier this week I purchased a large organic roast chicken, for which I paid almost £12. (I am sure I could have gotten a cheaper one had I gone for the every day battery chicken, but I made a decision quite some time ago to each chicken less often and only buy free range.) This was quite a hefty chicken and weighed in about 4 pounds, with a nice plump breast and meaty looking legs and thighs.

We had it the first day, roasted and stuffed, the recipe of which you can find here. My goodness, but it was delicious. You just can't beat a tasty roast chicken for a meal that will please everyone in the family. After we had eaten it that one time as a roast, I picked off all the meat from the bones and then froze the bones in a zip lock bag. I then divided the meat into amounts for two other meals. Because there are only two of us, the leftover meat will go a lot further than it would were there a passel of children to feed as well. But even with a houseful of children, you will find that a large roast chicken will yield at least two meals for the family, counting the roast day as the first, which really makes sense economically.

The second day we had it as a lovely Chicken and Dumpling Casserole.

*Crazy Chicken Dumplings*
Serves 4 to 6

This tasty casserole is baked in a 9 by 13 inch casserole. The dumplings kind of make themselves, with very little or no effort from you.

2 cups cooked chicken, cut into dice
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup milk
1 cup self rising flour
1 (10 1/2 ounce) tin of cream of chicken soup
salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp summer savoury (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Pour the melted butter into the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Cover with the chicken meat.

Whisk together the flour and the milk until smooth and pour this mixture over top of the chicken. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Stir together the summer savoury, chicken stock, chopped onion, cream of chicken soup and the mixed vegetables. Pour this mixture over top of the batter mixture. DO NOT STIR.

Place onto a baking sheet and slide the whole thing into your heated oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is browned and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before spooning out to serve.

The next meal we had was a delicious one called Chicken Hash. You can make hash out of just about anything. Hash is pretty much a combination of cooked potato, onion and meat, all browned up together in a skillet. This is the way I like to make my chicken hash.

*Chicken Hash a la Marie*
Serves 4

Tasty chicken and caramelized onions and potatoes make for a delicious leftover meal. You could use leftover turkey for this as well if you liked.

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced or crushed
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
3 TBS olive oil

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and once it begins to shimmer, add the potato, onions and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook and stir until the potatoes are done, about 15 minutes in time. I cover it with a lid and then stir it every five minutes.

Once the potatoes are tender, stir in the red pepper, thyme, paprika and chicken. Cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the potatoes begin to brown and the peppers caramelize a bit, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

My final meal was a delicious homemade chicken soup made with the bones, which I had frozen. My mother was always making soup. She really didn't have a recipe for it. It was just something she did. If you have a roast, you have a delicious soup waiting to be made, be it ham, beef, pork or chicken. Here's my chicken version.

*Chicken Soup*
Serves 4

Got a chicken carcass? You have the makings of a delicious soup. They don't call this Jewish penicillin for nothing! I swear it has healing properties! Mostly for the soul, but shh . . . don't tell anyone!

the bones leftover from a roasted chicken
(Preferably with some meat clinging to them)
1 small onion, peeled and cut in half
the middle part of a stalk of celery, with the leaves
1 medium carrot, broken in half (no need to peel)
1 tsp peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp mixed herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram)
1 TBS salt
To finish:
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
(if you want a chicken with rice soup, add a handful of rice instead of the potato,
likewise noodles if you want a chicken noodle soup)
1 small onion, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste

Place the chicken carcass into a large pot. Cover with boiling water and add the middle stalk of celery, carrot, halved onion, peppercorns, mixed herbs and salt. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer away for an hour to an hour and a half. The longer that you simmer it, the more flavourful your broth will be.

At the end of that time strain the broth into a clean pot. Do not discard the bones. Allow them to cool and then strip off any meat that you can find on it and add that to the broth in the pot.

Bring to the boil and then add the celery, carrots, onion and potato. Cook and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Add the chicken meat and taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Sometimes it may be necessary to add a couple of chicken bullion cubes if your broth is not very flavourful.

Serve hot and ladled into heated bowls with crusty bread or crackers. Enjoy!

So there you have it. A small investment, a very delicious chicken, four tasty meals. Every body's happy.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

A Humble Existance is a Happy One

One of my favourite books to read when I was a girl, was a book called “The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.” It was written by a woman named Margaret Sidney in 1880. It was about a family of five children who lived in very humble circumstances with their widowed mother, whom they called Mamsie. Oh, how I loved to read about their adventures in their little brown house. They were quite poor, and the oldest two children, Ben and Polly, and their dear mother, worked constantly to help keep the wolf at bay from the door, but they did it with a wonderful air of gaiety and strength of spirit that seemed to be so very marvellous to me. They had lovely names like Polly and Ben, Phronsie, Joel and Davie, and I have only now just realized that the book I had was only the first of a whole series of books. Oh, how I would love to read the rest of them and I think that I will, if I can find them.

I remember reading about them baking a cake for their mother one day. She worked so very hard doing mending and ironing for others and they wanted to do something special for her. They made a simple cake of brown flour with cinnamon for it’s flavouring, with a few sticky raisins tucked inside, the “receet” for it written out on a scrap of brown paper. It sounded so good to me. I wanted to bake a cake for my mother too, but, alas, my mother didn’t allow us in the kitchen to bake with her. I was allowed to sit and watch, but she was not one who wanted anyone messing about with her cooking or getting in her way.

They had a provision room (doesn’t that sound nice) that was not much more than a tiny shed tacked on to the side of their house and was more often empty than full, but oh how lovely it seemed to me to have a whole room dedicated to nothing more than holding all the provisions they would need for cooking their meals in the little brown house. I expect that is why I love my larder so much now and I like to keep it full up, much to Todd’s consternation! It makes me feel good and secure to see all the packets, tins and glass jars all lined up on it’s shelves, and the potato bin below full up with potatoes, both white and sweet, and onions and squash. When you have a full larder, a delicious and decent meal is never very far away from the ends of your fingertips, and it is never much bother to whip something up to eat when unexpected company drops by.

Each chapter in the book began with a scripture taken from the Bible. That only added to the magic of the words written on it’s pages. I had been taught that the scriptures were valuable beyond measure and if the book was good enough to contain snippets of this gold, then it was valuable too. I truly did cherish it.

I suppose in reading it I learned some very valuable lessons. The lessons of thrift and making do, and finding joy in simple things and pleasures.

“Oh, I do wish," said Joel a few mornings after, pushing back his chair and looking discontentedly at his bowl of mush and molasses, "that we could ever have some - thing new besides this everlasting old breakfast! Why can't we, mammy?""Better be glad you've got that, Joe," said Mrs. Pepper, taking another cold potato, and sprinkling on a little salt. "Folks shouldn't complain so long as they've anything to eat."

Nothing ever sounded more delicious to me than mush and molasses or cold potatoes with salt, as I read these delightful stories filled with hope and dreams of ships coming in and better tomorrow’s ahead.

I wanted to be Polly . . . with her younger brothers and sister looking up to her in abject admiration . . . her very capable hands taking such very good care of them and of the house, in their mother‘s absence. She had such a good and cheerful heart, despite anything that life threw at them. She never got discouraged, and if she did, it was never for very long, as her gentle and strong spirit was always able to life her above her meagre circumstances. She was indeed the hub of that family wheel and it’s strength, the glue that helped to hold them all together.
I always wanted to be that glue, that strength. I suppose I was always a nurturer and a carer, and I still am. It really gives me such great joy to be doing for others and so I think I have ended up being a bit like Polly after all. I wait for my ship to come in as well, but in the meantime, I make the best with what I have been given and I am truly able to find joy in most circumstances. Perhaps that is the real treasure to be found in a happy life, being able to pluck joy from the ashes life deals you.

I had managed to keep this book right up until about 15 years ago. My ex husband was having a clear out one day and decided to give it away to a friend of his for her grand-daughters along with some other much loved books of mine. I was so dissappointed as I had been saving them so that I could one day give them to my own grand-daughters. Oh well, I shall just have to buy them new ones now! (That's if and when I ever have any grand-daughters!)

"They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasures."~ Psalms 36:8

I love eggy bread, and I love chocolate. It seems only natural to combine the two. Todd doesn't mind chocolate this way as it is not cake. I'm afraid I'm a total North American when I eat this as I have to have syrup on top, but Todd . . . he eats his plain.

*Chocolate Filled Eggy Bread*
Serves 4

Is this a pudding or is this breakfast? You decide . . . this is very, very good . . .

3 large eggs
¾ cup milk (6 ounces)
1 TBS white caster sugar
A pinch of salt
1 TBS unsalted butter
8 slices of white bread
100g of good milk or dark chocolate, chopped
(I like Green and Black’s organic milk chocolate myself)
Icing sugar

Whisk the egg, milk, caster sugar and salt together very well in a shallow pie dish. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter and allow to melt until it is foaming. (don’t have your pan too hot so that the butter burns)

Sprinkle each of four slices of the bread with the chopped chocolate and then cover them each with another slice of bread, pressing it down slightly. Carefully dip them, one sandwich at a time, into the egg mixture first on one side and then on the other. Once dipped place them into the melted butter and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each.

Remove from the skillet, and place on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm, and repeat with the others. You may need to use more butter. Serve warm and dusted with icing sugar.

I may be very late posting tommorrow as I have to work quite late tonight. But never fear, I'll be around at some point!

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Run, Run as fast as you can . . .

You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread . . . Girl!!!

Welcome to Tuesdays With Dorie, that delicious baking group that bakes once a week together, a delicious recipe from that splendiferous baking book, Baking, from my home to yours, by the equally as splendiferous cookbook author, Ms Dorie Greenspan! Yes, each week, we all bake the same recipe and then report our delicious results here on the web for people to oggle and drool over. I can hold this baking group singularly responsible for at least two inches of my double axe handle wide hips, but that's ok, tis a delicious way to go . . .

This week's recipe was Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread on page 212, as chosen by Heather of Sherry Trifle. Oh Heather, Heather . . . Heather . . . I was thrilled with your choice. I am a Gingerbread Nut!! I love gingerbread. I could eat gingerbread until it comes out of my ears, and still go back for more! I have a house full of Gingerbread dolls . . . big and small, not to mention gingerbread candles, gingerbread fairies, gingerbread cookie cutters . . . well . . . I am sure you all get the picture. It has always been my dream to have a gingerbread cottage, and if I ever have enough money to . . . I shall! (And y'all can come and nibble on my door anytime!)

This gingerbread was a bit unusual as it had melted chocolate stirred into the batter along with chunks of chocolate and a chocolate icing on the top. What's that you say??? It's quite right, you are not imagining things. That is not chocolate icing on top of my cake. It's a vanilla butter cream. My todd is not fond of chocolate cakes and such and so I thought . . . . hmmm . . . . mustn't overdo the chocolate, and so whilst I did use the chocolate in the batter, I chose not to use a chocolate icing and well . . . mostly because this is a large cake and I didn't want to have to eat it all by myself. Not that I couldn't manage that, but because my hips darest not get any larger!

The batter for this cake not only holds powdered ginger, cinnamon and cloves, but also a glorious mixture of sugared grated ginger and chopped oriental preserved ginger. This is something that I always have in my cupboard. I love the stuff, no surprise there! The syrup in the jar of preserved ginger is sooo lovely. I added a teaspoon of it to the cake batter as well. You should try a teaspoon of it stirred into your hot chocolate or tea next time you have a cuppa. It's delicious! But . . . I digress . . . as I often do.

This cake smelled heavenly from the get-go. When I was stirring it up, when it was baking, when it was cooling . . . it's just wonderful! I reckon every house should smell like gingerbread! It has to be the most homey, comforting smell around!

The only problem I had with this cake was that the chocolate chunks sunk to the bottom. I'm not sure if that's the way it's supposed to happen, but never mind, it is delicious anyways, chocolate chunks on the bottom or not! Every bite brings you a glorious taste sensation of gingery spice, sweet ginger chunks and chocolate chunks. Can you say M-O-R-E-I-S-H???? This gingerbread is wonderfully to die for and if anything it seems to taste better and better as the days pass!

Run, run as fast as you can to bake this!!! You can find the recipe on Heather's page here, where it will be posted at some point today. In the meantime why not check out the Dorie Blog Roll, where you can see what all the other ladies have created.

Next week's recipe will be World Peace Cookies, page 138-139 as chosen by Jessica of Cookbook Habit. Yummo!! I'm all for world peace and I'm all for cookies, this is bound to be great! I can't wait . . . but in the meantime . . . there's a lovely gingerbread on the counter to keep me company!

Monday 26 January 2009

The Simple Woman's Day Book . . .

FOR TODAY, January 26th, 2009 ...

Outside My Window...

All is calm and the stars are twinkling. The whole weekend was full of windy and blustery weather, lots of rain. I love to lay in bed and listen to the rain pitter pat against the windows. It's a very cosy sound. Funny how that goes. It can be as blustery as all get out and if you are indoors and wrapped up, you feel somehow comforted by it . . .

I am thinking...
I am thinking about all the wonderful things that have transpired this past week. I am still pinching myself. It turns out that I am also going to get to meet Lura from Grammy's News and her family, Lynell from An Ordinary Miracle and Erin from The McGibbon Family . They have so generously offered to pick me up at the airport and Lura is going to go with me up to Sun Valley and stay with me the whole time, and help me to get around. I think it's all so very wonderful, and I hope they don't mind me mentioning their names here this morning. It is going to be so special to finally get to meet Lura. We have felt a strong connection to each other for months and months now and had hoped that one day we could meet in person and now we are going to. I hate to repeat myself, but God IS good!

I am thankful for...
I have many things to be thankful for. It would be easy to take things like a roof over my head, employment, etc. for granted, but I try hard not to. I suppose that is perhaps easier when you have lost everything and been as low as you can possibly be, well at least in a Western nation, and then you've worked your way back up to the top again. When I think about it just 9 years ago I was living alone in a rented room in someone else's house, and look at me now. It's pretty amazing isn't it! My cup truly does runneth over.

From the kitchen...
I have my Tuesday's With Dorie gingerbread waiting to be iced on my kitchen counter and there's some blueberry cake leftover from Saturday night. I roasted a chicken for Sunday dinner yesterday and I have leftovers waiting for me to decide what to do with them . . . Chicken Pot Pie Bubble Bake??? Chicken and Dumplings??? It's so hard to make up my mind!

I am wearing...
Pajamas and my robe. I was so lazy yesterday. I put my pajamas on right when we got home from church! I knew nobody would be coming over and I just felt like cocooning. Todd just shakes his head. He never puts his pajamas on until he is ready to hop into bed. Me, I could live in them, but then . . . you already knew that!

I am creating...
I am busy making cards. I sold ten of them last week and got another order for ten more this week, then I also got an order for a print. Life is indeed good. The lady from the village post office wants some after their audit next week. I will be away (Pinch me!) and so Todd will have to take them down for me. When I get back from the US (Pinch me again!) I will have to get started on one of my sock monkey's if I can as my eldest grandson's birthday is in March.

I am going...
Oh, I don't want to bore you . . . you are probably tired of hearing about it . . . oh what the heck . . . I'm going to Idaho!! There are still a few bugs to work out. Apparently family of the athletes was supposed to have registered by the 30th of November. I have written umpteen bazillion e-mails this weekend and made umpteen bazillion phone calls, and hopefully we will be able to sort it out. Security is very tight for the athletes, as you can imagine. I do hope that I am able to talk to my daughter and not just have to wave to her from afar . . .

I am reading...
I'm still reading Ink Heart. It does take me a long time to read a book. I rarely get any reading done during the day. I mostly do it at night when I get into bed, and by then I am quite tired so I usually fall asleep reading. I get maybe 4 or 5 pages read a night, unless I am having a bad night and then I might get more done. Most nights I end up reading the same page 3 or 4 times!! haha, I know!! What am I like!!!

I am hoping...
that I will be able to see the McDonald's when I am in Utah. In case you don't remember, they are the missionary couple that were here last year. Todd and I got really close to them. I just loved them so much and it would be lovely to see them again. I'd also love to be able to see my little friend Poppins, who was over here working as a nanny last year, and oh so many others. Time will be quite limited in Utah though, because we are really on our way to Idaho, but we shall see . . . I hope I will be warm enough!! I have gotten quite spoilt over here where it never gets much colder than 3 or 4 below zero Celsius!! I don't even have a pair of mittens! Lynell has promised to fix us up though, so we should be ok. Does adrenaline keep you warm, if so . . . then I should be ok!!

I am hearing...
the fire is blowing warm air around my legs and the clock is ticking on the wall . . . I can hear my playlist playing quietly in the background and Jess is off on her dreamy adventures next to my feet. The cuckoo clock just clicked upstairs so I know that it is 6 o'clock. We turn the cuckoo off at night so it doesn't wake us up. It's really quite delightful and plays music and everything. In truth we only ever turn it on now if someone is coming over. I'm sad to say that the novelty of a cuckoo clock wears off rather quickly . . . it is still lovely to look at though, all carved out of wood with all the little dancers and the pendulum . . .

Around the house...
Todd said to me yesterday . . . I hope you are going to tidy up your art stuff and books before you go away . . . so I guess I better had do!!!

One of my favorite things...
is daydreaming. I've always been a dreamer. I spend hours off in lala land as I putter away in the kitchen at work or even here at home. Todd often is talking to me and I am off somewhere in outer space. I don't mean to be, my mind just can't help itself. It likes to take me off on adventures into the unknown. When I was a child I would make up whole stories in my head and I LOVE LOVE LOVE to sit in a train station or terminal and people watch. I always make up stories in my head about them and what they are doing, the lives they are living. It helps to while away the time waiting . . . I know . . . Me<===Weird.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
I have my seminary lesson to prepare for Thursday evening, and then at Young Women's afterwards we are having a combine mutual activity with the Young Men. We are doing record breakers. We do it once a year, and try to break out record that we have set from the year previously. The kids have a lot of fun and I have to confess that I do too! When I first got called to be a leader of the Young Women I thought to myself, no . . . it can't be! I don't know how to be a Young Women's leader, but in truth I have loved every moment of it. I do miss being in Relief Society from time to time, but I do love our young women, which is an answer to prayer, because when I was called I asked Heavenly Father to help me do that. There were a few girls that I didn't know that well and was a bit uncomfortable with. I do love them now and enjoy my calling so very much!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

I thought it would be fun to share a picture of me as a baby with you all this morning. I was probably about ten months old in this picture. You can't see it but I am wearing the little silver cross my French Grandmaman gave me for my first Easter. Oh, I wish I hadn't thought of that . . . it disappeared in the divorce and I don't know where it is now . . . makes me sad. Scratch that thought! I think it's a lot of fun to see pictures of people when they were small, and wonder about how far they have come in life from that little pile of innocence so fresh from heaven to the people that they have become. It's pretty amazing isn't it!

I did a tasty Roast Chicken for us for our dinner yesterday along with a Lemon and Parsley Breadcrumb stuffing. I like to throw some peeled potatoes into the roasting pan about an hour before the chicken is done. They get all sticky and yummy from the chicken juices and are incredibly tasty!

*Lemon and Parsley Stuffed Roast Chicken*
Serves 4 to 6

1 large free range roasting chicken
(about 3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
a small knob of softened butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock for the gravy
For the Stuffing:
1 ounce butter
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 TBS chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
the juice of half a lemon
4 ounces of fresh white bread crumbs

Mmm . . . just look at those sticky roasties!

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Take out your roasting pan. Set it aside. Wash your chicken and dry it well. Place it into the roasting pan.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Cook, and stir over low heat for about 8 to 10 minutes until soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice and the bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the stuffing into the chicken cavity. Smear the knob of butter all over the surface of the chicken and season with some more salt and pepper. Roast for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours until the chicken is cooked. The leg should feel quite loose in the bird and the juices should run clear and have no pink in them. I usually cover my chicken with a foil or a lid halfway through the cooking time, which is about the time I add the peeled potatoes as well. (Just roll them around a bit in the chicken juices and place them around the bird in the pan)

Remove the chicken and the potatoes to a platter, and cover with some foil to keep warm while you make the gravy. Put the roasting tray directly on a burner over medium heat. Add half the stock and bring it to the boil, stirring and whisking to release any sticky and browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat and skim off any fat. Shake the remaining stock with a bit of flour and then whisk it into the pan and cook and stir until thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

Serve the chicken sliced with some of the stuffing and some gravy spooned over and don't forget those lovely sticky roasted potatoes!

Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries!

Sunday 25 January 2009

Marie's Sunday Six Smile Makers

Happy Sunday people. I just love Sundays! It's the day of the week when I get to go to church and honour my Saviour, see my friends and share with you all the things in this past week that have brought joy into my life. It's hard to believe that this is the last Sunday of January. Hasn't the month flown by quickly??? Because it's the last Sunday of the month, I thought I would share with you six things that blessed my month this week, instead of just the past seven days.

No surprise here! The major highlight of the month and thing that gave me the most joy was this lovely surprise of me being able to go to Idaho. I am still pinching myself. I can't believe it is happening! God is good. My daughter is so very excited that I am going to be able to be there for her. She never got involved with the Special Olympics until after I moved over here to England, and so I have never ever been able to see her compete in anything. When her dad moved to the Philippines, she moved in with a couple from her church, Dale and Brenda. They are the ones who got her involved in the Special Olympics and helped to support her in this way. Not too long after she moved in with them, Dale found out he had cancer. Unfortunately Dale did not survive, and he passed away three Christmas's ago now. Dale loved Eileen. Eileen loved Dale. I just know he would be so proud of her, as are we all. I am so very grateful for this couple's love for my daughter, and the way that they have cared for and nurtured her, and helped her to grow even more.

Special Friends. I am especially grateful for special friends this month. To my most generous benefactor, you know who you are . . . I can never thank you enough for what you have done for me. I want you to know that I am so very grateful for your love and your support and that I won't let you down, ever. To all my friends on here and in real life who pray for me and who support me and care about me, I am ever grateful for the love and understanding that you share with me every single day of my life. I will try hard to never let any of you down either. You all just mean the world to me and you bless my life in so very many ways.

My Todd. Todd has been one of my greatest blessings in life. I waited a lifetime to find him. He may not be Adonis, and, come to think of it, I may not be Venus! We are not perfect people, but we are perfect for each other. It is a great blessing to be able to share your life with a person that not only fills your heart with love, but who also fills your life with abundant joy. We do everything together, and have done so since the day we got married, and we have loved every minute of it. We even used to work together in the same Service Station and on the same shifts!! It was great!! Not everyone could do that with their partner, but it was very easy for us. We work great together as a team. He is my joy, my love, my help meet, my friend. When we got married we did not get married until Death do us Part, we got married in our Temple for Time and All Eternity, which is an additional blessing. I am so happy that I will be able to be with him forever and ever. Having found him so late in my life I never want to be without him again . . .

Welcoming the newest member of our family here on earth! Joshua Caleb Alexander made his arrival here on the 9th of January. I hope it will not be too long before I will be able to hold this wee one in my arms. I have held him in my heart since I knew he was on the way. I just know that Jonathan is going to be a wonderful big brother to him and that they will be close. Kayla and Doug are wonderful parents. It's a special feeling to be able to witness your own children loving and nurturing their own children and doing such a great job of it. It lets you know that you must have done something right somewhere along the way! Our Doug is such a tender hearted man, a gentle giant with a heart of Gold. I am so very proud of him, as I am all of my children.

I'm a praying person and I am thankful for that. I'm grateful that I have a loving Heavenly Father that I am able to communicate with every minute of every day, no matter where I am, or what I am doing. I know that I can always talk to Him and I know that He always listens. I know that He always answers too, even if I am not always happy with the answers I get. I always know that He does His very best for me and that it is always for my own good, and I trust in that. I know that He would never give me a bum steer or lead me astray or into danger. I trust in His infinite goodness and I am so grateful to have a seeking heart, a loving heart and a listening heart.

This is my newest creation that I did yesterday afternoon. I call it "Be Still And Know". That is one of my favourite verses in the bible.

"Be still and know that I am God" Psalm 46:10

It is a verse that has helped to carry me throughout all the turbulent times in my life, and trust me when I say, things don't always run smoothly. It is during those moments when I need Him the most that that still quiet voice in my heart whispers to me . . . be still, let the clamour of your worries and problems cease . . . know that I am always with you, that I care, that I will not let you down, that I love you, that I will carry you through any turbulent waters you have to pass through and any bumps in the road that you will have to cross over. I am here. I care, and even if I don't always remove the stumbling blocks in your path . . . I will always walk by your side as you walk over them and through them and around them . . .

Be still and know . . .

I had some blueberries that I needed to use up yesterday, leftover from my Dorie creation of Tuesday, so I made a delicious blueberry cake with them. This is one of our favourite cakes. It's always moist and delicious. We sat here together last evening after our dinner munching on it and watching a movie on our telly, and all was right with the world . . .

*Blueberry Muffin Cake*
Makes one 9 inch cake

This cake is very similar to a nice big muffin. It goes together like a cross between a muffin and a scone. We just love the crunchy sweet topping. The buttermilk helps to make it very moist and delicious!

2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
2 TBS butter, melted
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon extract
the grated zest of one lemon
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
1 1/2 cups blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Lightly grease a nine inch square baking pan and dust it with flour, tapping out the excess. Set aside.

Make the topping by stirring together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla and lemon essence into a small bowl and blend all together well. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the cold butter bits, and rub them in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture all at once and stir just to blend. Do NOT overmix. Fold in the blueberries.

Spread the batter into your prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over all. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, just until the top springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack. Serve warm with some creme fraiche or softly whipped cream if desired.

Saturday 24 January 2009

God Works In Mysterious Ways . . .

"God answers prayers;
sometimes, when hearts are weak,
He gives the very gifts believers seek.
But often faith must learn and deeper rest,
And trust God's silence when He does not speak;
For He whose name is Love will send the best.
Stars may burn out, nor mountain walls endure,
But God is true, His promises are sure
For those who seek."
~author unknown

That's a picture of my oldest daughter up there, Eileen, when she was about 3 years old. We were living in Suffield, Alberta at the time and she was taking her doll for a walk in our garden. She was such a wee little dear and loved her dolly so . . . I smile when I see this picture and my heart yearns to be able to hold her in my arms once again like I could then, but alas . . . we all grow older . . . and time does pass by.

This is a picture cut from a newspaper of my Eileen from last winter. She's holding the Gold Medals she won in the Canadian Winter Special Olympics Games! What a proud day that was for her and for our family. I was not able to attend, unfortunately and it broke my heart a bit not to be able to do so, but we can't always do what we would like to be able to do . . .

What we didn't know at the time was that by virtue of her having won these Gold medals, she would then be chosen to represent her country, Canada, in the 2009 World Winter Games being held in Boise, Idaho, this February. When we found this out we were amazed and once again so very proud of this daughter of mine! At the time I can remember thinking to myself, how wonderful it would be if I were able to go and watch her compete in Boise and I said a little prayer, that someway, somehow, this might be accomplished . . . and I continued to pray throughout this whole past year . . . a silent secret prayer, known only to myself and to the One who knows and cares about each of us in a very special way.

Prayers are funny things. God always answers our prayers, and quite often in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times. We may not always get the answers we want, but we always get answers . . .

This past week my heart had been a bit heavy because the dates for her competition were looming and I had not sold enough cards or artwork to pay for a ticket to be able to go and see her. Nobody in the family was able to go either, so she would be all alone in Boise, except for her coach . . . quite an adventure for her!!

Last weekend they had a special send off for her in our hometown, and my heart was heavy because I wasn't able to go to that either, but my mom went and she wrote to me how lovely it was. As I read the words in her letter to me, I experienced a whole mixture of feelings, mostly pride, and also a bit of boo hoo as well. These are the times when it's really hard living so far away from my family. These special moments that happen in all of our lives . . .

Imagine then . . . how I felt when just two days ago, completely out of the blue I was given the special opportunity to go see my daughter compete. I cannot tell you how or who my special benefactor is, but I can say that, amazingly enough, my secret prayer was answered in a most unexpected way and at a time when I had given up all hope that I would be able to go.

At first all I could think of was the reasons why I couldn't go . . . I was too fat, I couldn't get the time off work, I didn't want this person to spend this money on unworthy me, etc. you know . . . a myriad of excuses. That evening at work I was listening to my ipod as I puttered away. My heart was heavy and then once again the song played in my ears . . . Steven Curtis Chapman singing . . . "Be still and know that I am God" . . . the words touched my very core. I realized that I was being a little bit like the drowning man in the ocean who prays for God to save him and then refuses help from three boats that pass by, telling them that God is going to save him. He ends up drowning, and when he gets to heaven he questions God on why He (God) didn't save him. God's answer . . . I sent you three ships, but you turned them away. I decided then that I was not going to turn away this saving ship and that someway all the obstacles would be taken care of. Well, all except for the fat one that is. Me somehow morphing into a skinny person overnight is a task that really would take a major miracle!! I was able to find someone to step into the breach for me at work, and I was able to get permission to be away from work for that week . . . one by one all the obstacles I had set up for myself fell away and within a very short span of time.

The past two days have been a minor miracle in the making and I am still pinching myself to see if I am dreaming. It is hard for me to believe that in just a little over two weeks time I will be sitting in Sun Valley Idaho watching my daughter do her best, and cheering her on in a way only a mother can, and my heart is filled with deep gratitude. Gratitude for my mysterious benefactor and the way they were able to become an instrument in God's hands to answer prayers . . . Gratitude for my co-workers and their being able to step into the breach and do my job for me . . . Gratitude for my employers being so understanding and encouraging . . . and Gratitude for my Heavenly Father who listens to and answers prayers, sometimes in the most mysterious and magical ways . . . Boise, Idaho . . . Here I come!!

This is kind of anti-climatic, but I always like to leave you with a recipe and I can't do anything less today. This is one of my favourite ways to prepare chicken when time is short and I want something quick, tasty and just for two.

*Lemony Chicken Escalopes*
Serves 2

Quick, easy and oh so very tasty!

2 TBS flour
salt and black pepper
2 chicken breasts, sliced into
4 thin escalopes each
2 tsp olive oil
1 ounce butter
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and squashed slightly
2 tsp finely chopped sage leaves
the juice of one lemon

Dust each chicken escalope lightly with some salt and pepper and then dredge each in the flour, shaking off any excess. Set aside on a plate.

Heat the oil, along with half of the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the butter begins to foam, add the chicken pieces. Cook until the underside begins to turn golden and then flip them over. Add the squashed clove of garlic, the sage, and one half of the remaining butter. Brown the chicken slightly on the other side and then add the lemon juice and the remaining butter, giving the pan a good shake. Let it bubble up for about a minute or so and then serve immediately, divided amongst two heated plates and with some of the sauce spooned over each serving. Delicious!