Sunday 28 February 2010

Marie's Sunday Six Smilemakers

Do not let the unknown future
fill you with dismay.
It is in the hands of God,
so go upon your way.
Trust in Him and have no fear.
You do not walk alone.
He leads the faithful
in the dark,
and careth for His own.
~Patience Strong

I found this little verse in one of my books and it was so fitting that I wanted to share it with you. Godd is indeed faithful and caring and while this past week has been a weekus horribilus (Not to quote the Queen or anything) it has also been a week filled with many blessings and things that brought a smile to my face and a song to my heart.

After posting my Digital Stamps on my Blossomtimes page, I have sold no less than 8 of them already. I have 3 more ready to go and will be posting them later on today. Eventually I will have converted all my images to this medium and have created some brand new ones as well. This has been so very encouraging to me. I love the thought that something I have worked so painstakingly on and created with my very own mind and hands can now be something that will give other's something to be able to create their own possibilities with. That brings me real joy!

I often go to Mormon Messages to see the films that are posted there. They are always uplifting and inspirational. I was in extra need of that this week and on one particular morning I clicked on this one that I have posted above. (I hope you will click on it as well so that you can see it too.) Entitled the Infinite Power of Hope, I found it touched my very core and gave me some much needed strength and inspiration. It made me cry, and then it made me smile. There is always hope, even in the darkest of hours. I am so grateful for a heart that believes, and a heart that hopes.

The love, prayers and emotional support I have received from all of my friends, both invisible and real, over this past few days. It is tangible and it is real and I have felt it so very keenly. It has helped to get me through those few days when I was feeling lost and it has upheld me, and strengthened me. I am so very grateful for all of it. That is what friends are for isn't it . . . it is just not for the good times, although very nice as it is then too, but it is for the bad times also . . . that is when we need our friends most of all, and I want you all to know I thank you for every scrap of it that has come and continues to come my way. I feel your love and it brings me joy.

We have decided that we are not going to pursue this same type of employment, where the job and our home are connected, again. This situation that we have found ourselves in is so very hard and difficult. We are not getting any younger and if we did take another job like this, we quite possibly would find ourselves in this same position again in another few years time and be that much older and that much more devastated and find it that much harder to begin all over again. We have really prayed about this and feel the Lord's direction. We are going to move back to Chester where we lived before we came down here. Within hours of having made that decision we had a phone call from a good friend there who has a positive line on a house for us to rent. We do not have jobs as of yet, and probably won't do, until after we have moved up there, a transition that may take several months, but we feel a peace in our hearts about this decision. It will be hard to leave our friends and church family down here, but we are going back to another church family and our old friends and we feel it is the right thing to do. We will be ok. The assurance of prayer makes me smile.

Remember the Canadian Geese Goslings that I showed you last spring that had been born at our local duck pond??? Well, they are back and they are adults now. I was so excited to see them all earlier this week! My, how they have grown. You might be saying . . . how could I possibly know it is the same ones??? Well, I don't know for sure . . . but I like to think that it is them . . . and that makes me smile!

Having this special man in my life makes me smile. Oh sure . . . there are times I find him a bit annoying, I am only human after all, as is he, but I do love him so very much and he is my everything. As long as we have each other and we have our faith, then we have all that really matters in this life. I am so very grateful for that, and for him. We are blessed beyond measure and that makes me smile. Life is filled with goodness, even when it's hard to see it through the tears.

And there you have it, my Sunday Six Smilemakers for this week. I hope that you have each found something to smile about as well!

This is my recipe for Tartar Sauce that we often have when I cook fish. It's so much better than anything you could ever buy in the shops and is very easy to make. I hope you will give it a try!

*Marie's Tartar Sauce*
Makes about 1 cup
Printable Recipe

This is an excellent sauce to be served with fish of all types. It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. You can increase the amount of horseradish uses if you want to make it a bit snappier. I don't know why anyone would ever buy this in a jar when making it is so easy and so much tastier!

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
2 TBS finely chopped cornichons (or sour pickles)
1 TBS prepared horseradish
2 TBS finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
6 TBS good quality mayonnaise (I use Hellman's or homemade)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together well. Cover and chill for about an hour before serving with the fish of your choice. Delicious!

I made Todd a real treat yesterday. A delicious lemon flavoured steamed pudding called, "Sussex Pond Pudding." Hop on over to the English Kitchen to take a gander. It was fabulous!

I wish you all a very blessed Sunday!

Saturday 27 February 2010

One day nearer . . .

The Winter is a stillness and a darkness and a sleep
But not a death, for in the earth, the roots of life go deep.
A rest . . . then re-creation, and a glad new burgeoning.
Every day in Wintertime is one day nearer Spring.
~Patience Strong

As I look out my back door I can see all along the wall of the house amongst the stones of the garden, the snowdrops are blooming profusely, their little white heads dancing in the breezes that blow along the drive . . . and scattered here and there amongst them, are the colours of yellow and purple crocus that are also making their presence known. They are so very beautiful . . . and seeing them paints my mind with tinges of sadness because I know that this is the last late winter/early spring I shall be here in this little cottage to look upon them.

I want to gather up the memory of them and store it in my heart to take out and treasure in the years to come, along with all the other memories I have built here . . .

The sound of the birds awakening early in the morning, and the little flutters of their wings against the eves in our bedroom of an evening as they bed down for the long night ahead . . .

The pattern and smell of the honeysuckle that grows up the chimney on the far East Side of the cottage . . . on a warm summer's evening it is gloriously fragrant and so very beautiful . . .

The bleeding hearts that lay in the far corner of the garden . . . their beautiful red blooms, touching my heart with wonder that something could be so very beautiful. They are always so very lovely.

The climbing yellow roses that we planted next to the shed. It was only a tiny plant, but now it covers the whole side of the wall and the blooms are many and so very pretty for most of the year.

The way the climbing red and white roses hang down over the side of the house . . . such a cheery welcome when we have been away and are returning home . . . our long walks with Jess through the orchards in every season . . .

We have built some beautiful memories here over these past 7 years, of which these that I share this morning, are only a few. It will be so very hard to leave. It will be difficult to leave our friends behind as well. They are all a part of the beauty we have experienced over these past years.

We have a plan formulated in our minds and are now working on how to execute it. We are not sure if we want to do this same type of work again. I am getting older, and Todd is in his 70's . . . do we want to face the uncertainty of this same thing happening again in a few years time? We are not all that sure that we do. We crave stability and sureity at this stage in our lives. We may be away for several days over the next week so that we can explore the possibilities that are available to us. If you could keep us in your happy thoughts we would so very much appreciate it! We thank you all for the love and support you have given us thus far. We feel covered in it and it's a truly wonderful feeling. We will be ok. I have faith that we will be. We have each other and that is what counts.

In the meantime I have decided to go digital with my drawings. I am busy converting them all to Digital Images that I can sell as digital stamps. That way people can use them to create their own cards and scrapbooks etc. Take a gander over at Blossom Time Creations to see what I have done. There are four available already, and I am working on more and also some new ones.

*Oven Baked Breaded Pork Chops*
These directions are for one chop, but can be multiplied
to as many as you want to serve.
Printable Recipe

This is more of a method than a recipe. It is the way I have been doing my breaded pork chops for years and years. They always end up tender and moist. The crumbs on the bottom don't alway stick, but they do meld into the juices to make a lucious sauce and the crumbs on the top always stay put. All in all they are truly delicious.

1 bone in pork chop per person
salt, pepper, dried sage and garlic powder
2 TBS of fine dry bread crumbs per chop
apple juice

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Line a large shallow baking tray with foil and lightly grease the foil. Onto the baking sheet place as many chops are you are wanting to serve. Obviously if you are only cooking one or two you will want a smaller baking tray. Dust the top surface of each chop with some salt, pepper, sage (rubbed between your fingertips) and garlic powder to taste. Then sprinkle a tablespoon of bread crumbs evenly over top of each one. Pour apple juice into the baking tray evenly around the chops, trying not to disturb the crumbs on top. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, checking to make sure the apple juice does not boil dry in the pan. Once the crumbs have begun to brown on top, remove the pan from the oven. Carefully turn each chop over without disturbing the crumb topping and repeat the process for seasoning and crumbing on the underside. If you need more juice in the pan, once again pour it around the chops. Return the pan to the oven and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned on top and the juices have thickened into a bit of a sauce. Check every 10 minutes or so to make sure the pan is not going dry and top up with more juice if need be. Serve hot with some of the pan juices spooned over top. Fabulous!

I've gone all Mexican over on The English Kitchen this morning with some delicious Chicken Chimies!!! A truly delicious way to enjoy using up your leftovers.

Friday 26 February 2010

New Beginnings . . .

Life is a mixture of sunshine and rain,
Laughter and teardrops, pleasure and pain,
Low tides and high tides, mountains and plains,
Triumphs, defeats, and losses and gains,
But always in ways or some dread affliction,
Be assured that it comes with
God's kind benediction,
And if we accept it as a gift of His love,
We'll be showered with blessings
from our Father above.
~Helen Steiner Rice

Change can be a very good thing. It often rides in on a tide of pain and uncertainty, and it can be quite frightening, but . . . if there is one thing that life has taught me . . . it's that God is faithful and true, and that if we hold to the rod and trust in Him, He'll help to see us through just about anything life can, and does, and will throw at us.

I stand on the precipace of a new adventure! When I look back at where my life has taken me thus far, I can see many dips and hollows, but I can also see a great many peaks and glorious mountains climbed. All will be well. We will be well. I can't wait to see where this newest journey takes us.

Sorry for my absence yesterday. I needed to think some things over and take a deep breath, and I don't think that anything I wrote would have been of any benefit to anyone, least of all myself. I'm sorted now. I have a plan. God has a plan. I suppose it could be seen as rather exciting. This could be our opportunity to take a whole new direction, and as my sister has said . . . every new beginning comes from another beginning's ending. (Thanks sis!) And as my brother so wisely said, I am now free to take whichever opportunity that presents itself. (Thanks bro!)

Thanks for all your kind words and prayers. I hope you'll be coming along on this newest adventure of mine. I wonder where it will take us! When one door closes, another one always opens.

This is not the end . . . but a new beginning. ☺

"The Lord has given us a reassuring message of hope: “Fear not, little flock.” God will wait with “open arms to receive”those who give away their sins and continue in faith, hope, and charity. And to all who suffer—to all who feel discouraged, worried, or lonely—I say with love and deep concern for you, never give in.

Never surrender.

Never allow despair to overcome your spirit.

Embrace and rely upon the Hope of Israel, for the love of the Son of God pierces all darkness, softens all sorrow, and gladdens every heart."

~President Dieter F Uchtdorf

I am having to use up all my perishables and so I made us a delicious Sausage Hash for out tea the other day. It was really delicious! Todd had two helpings! What a guy! And he still stays as thin as a rail. I don't know how he does it!!

*Sausage Hash*
Serves 4 to 6
Printable Recipe

This is a quick, economical and different way to use sausage meat. It's also, quite, quite delicious!

1 package of good quality meaty thick sausages
(I use porkinsons)
1 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
6 medium potatoes, boiled, cooled, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Removed the sausage meat from the skins, and discard the skins. Crumble the meat into the hot oil. Cook, breaking it up and mashing it with a fork until it is no longer pink and has begun to brown in places. Add the onions, carrots and green peppers. Cook and stir until softened. Add the potatoes, salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are lightly browned and the mixture is heated through. Serve immediately.

Over on The English Kitchen today, a delicious Sticky Toffee Cake!! Scrummy!

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Be it ever so humble . . . and a new Giveaway!

Home . . . home . . . we've all read the old quips about it, probably even used them from time to time . . . you know the ones . . . like

home is a place you hang your hat, or the place you sign up for the family car, or wait for the allowance dole . . . grab a snack.

We all have a tendancy to take our old abode for granted sometimes. It's there, it's familiar . . . it's just home, that's all.

But is that all it really is?

Have you ever been away somewhere and been struck with a devouring longing for that place you call "Home?" It is then that you truly begin to realize that a home is much more than a roof over your head . . . and that it quite honestly takes a whole heap of living to make a house a home for you or for anyone else.

Home is where you can loll about on the floor and read the newspaper or your comics . . . where the smell of fresh bread baking or a tempting stew bubbling on top of the stove tantalizes your tastebuds, promising pleasures to come . . . where your grade school masterpiece still resides and the scratches of your first puppies claws still mark the back door.

It's after-school-snacks of your own choosing and where your horde of childhood books, snapshots, report cards and all those other important momentos of your youth are still stashed . . . it's birthday cakes and family reunions . . . it's the remembrances of leaf raking in the autumn and digging in the garden in the spring.

It's praying together and singing together . . . and sometimes even arguing together . . . but you can do it and not be afraid of judgement, or ridicule, or the fear of people abandoning you . . . because you know that everyone there loves you . . . even when you don't love yourself.

It's agreeing to disagree with your mom on your form of dress . . . and the tender, loving care when you're sick . . . the heap of understanding when you're blue . . . it's the place where you are loved most by those who know you best and where you've been.

Home is the welcome mat you put out for your friends . . . where you can pay back all their kindnesses to you . . . where you can share . . . where you can give . . . where you can care . . .

It's not unlike anyone else's home, and yet . . . it's different than all the others, because your things, your loves, your happy memories reside there. Home is really where you hang your heart

It's a lot of things . . . that's what a home is . . . and it's pretty special don't you think?

A friend of mine in church told me about this fabulous Muffin Cookbook. I looked it up on the internet and it did indeed sound wonderful and so I just had to have one for myself, only to discover after it arrived . . . doh!! I already had it. I didn't want to go to the trouble of sending it back so I thought to myself, this would make the perfect giveaway gift! So that is what I am doing in honor of passing the 200 mark on my followers list I am giving every follower of mine an opportunity to win this lovely Cookbook, "Mad About Muffins, by Dianna Bonaparte. Not only that, I am also throwing in a small set of kitchen scales as the recipes are all in British Measurements and I know you North Americans sometimes struggle with those! To be in on the fun you only have to sign up as one of my followers and leave a comment telling me you have done so, or that you are already on the list. I'll be picking a winner on March 1st. Good Luck Everyone!

Just to show you how very tasty the recipes are in this book, I baked the White Chocolate and Lavender Muffins from it's pages last night. Oh my, but they are very good! I was a bit afraid that the lavender would be somewhat overpowering, but it isn't. It's quite pleasant and so are the white chocolate chunks!!

*White chocolate and Lavender Muffins*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

Deliciously different! The Lavender gives a subtle pleasant taste to these sweet muffins and goes so very well with the white chocolate.

For the batter
13 ounces flour
6 ounces caster sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried lavender (or 1 TBS fresh lavender florets)
6 3/4 ounces milk
3 1/2 ounces sunflower oil
2 eggs
7 ounces white chocolate, chopped
to top:
1 1/2 ounces demerara sugar or lavender sugar if you have it

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Grease and flour 12 medium muffin cups or line with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lavender together in a large bowl. Whisk together the milk, oil and eggs in a beaker. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once. Fold in with a large metal spoon, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the chocolate chunks to evenly disperse.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it equally amongst them. Sprinkle the tops with the demerara sugar. (or lavender sugar if using)

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until well risen and golden brown and the tops spring back when gently touched.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool a bit before eating.

If you like apples and blackberries, you'll love this delicious Apple and Blackberry Cobbler that I have posted today over on The English Kitchen.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Thoughts on hands . . .

I have a sturdy pair of hands, and although they are something that I taken for granted on a daily basis throughout my life, they have served me rather well. They are starting to look a bit older now . . . I can't really put my finger on what has changed, but they just don't seem to look as youthful as they once did. The skin now seems somehow less taut, and perhaps they are a bit more wrinkled looking. No age spots yet, but I know they can't be too far in coming for, afterall, I am almost into my mid 50's! They have been a great help to me in my life . . . having seen me through many times, both good and bad.

I've used these precious tools of mine to reach out and grab hold of life. As a wee baby, my hands helped me to reach out beyond my little sphere of existance and to explore and learn about the magical world around me. My fingers were one of the first things I learned to put into my mouth, soon followed by my hand . . . As I got a bit older my hands helped to prevent me from getting really hurt when I was first learning how to walk and would fall upon the floor. They were important tools in helping me to learn how to feed myself and to become independant . . . and they were often found touching things I had been told not to touch!

When I was very young, my mother taught me how to put my hands together, bow my head and pray . . . so they have been great instruments in helping me to commune with the Lord, and even now when I listen to a spiritual and inspirational piece of music which touches my heart, I like to raise them into the air and somehow I feel as if I am able to touch the hem of His garment. They have helped me throughout my life to feel closer to God . . .

With them, I have learned how to tug on my clothes, do up my buttons and tie my shoes all by myself for the very first time. (A proud moment if I can recall correctly!)

With a pencil or a crayon or a needle and thread, I have learned to create and make tangible the songs of my heart and the inspirations of my soul. My nimble fingers have produced many a thing of beauty . . . be it a story to tell my children, or a cake, or a meal to celebrate a special day or occasion . . .

I've used my hands to stroke the cheek of my loved ones face and to hold him close to me. Decorated with my wedding rings, they show the world that I love and am loved. As I got older . . . they helped me to comfort and hold my newborn children and then to teach and guide my toddlers and then teens . . . however clumsy and inept my hands may have seemd at the time. These hands have been tender and firm, strong . . . and sometimes . . . weak.

These hands have written countless letters and e-mails to family, neighbours and friends . . . stories for my children, and now my grandchildren. With these hands I write to you each morning and share with you the secret ponderings of my mind and my heart.

I've used these hands to wave goodbye a thousand times . . . never knowing each time if I would ever again see the person I was waving goodbye to . . . I have held them up in joyous greetings after long separations and in warm reunions.

My hands have held lovers and children and now grandchildren. They've wiped tears from tiny faces and hearts and consoled those in pain and in grief. They've shaken with anger and with fear and have covered my face . . . in sorrow and despair.

These hands have been dirty, and cut . . . scraped and swollen . . . tender and sore . . . yet still . . . they serve me.

They have a good many years left in them still. They have many miles left to go, many tails to follow, may experiences and trials left to help and guide me through. They were with me in the beginning of my life, helping to lead the way and they will be with me at the end of my life . . .still helping to lead the way. They are the mark of where I've been . . . and the signpost of where I am going and God willing . . . they will be what I reach out with to touch the hands of the Saviour when He finally leads me home . . .

Just my thoughts on this cold dark winter's morning . . .

One thing my hands are pretty good for is creating wonderful things to eat. This is a delicious dessert that I have been making for years. It is one of the lovely recipes in my big blue binder and can also be found in my cookbook, Recipes From The Big Blue Binder.

*As Good As Apple Pie Dessert*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

This delicious dessert is a real old family favourite. With it's buttery base and topping, and it's scrummy apple filling, it's a real winner. We like to have it with cream or custard, but ice cream is also very good!

Crumble base and topping:
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt

5 cups peeled and sliced apples
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 TBS flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch salt
the freshly grated zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)

Preheat the oven to `80*C.350*F. Lightly butter an 8 inch square baking pan or glass casserole dish. Set aside.

Measure the flour, salt and sugar for the base into a bowl. Whisk together to combine. Drop in the bits of butter and then rub the butter into the flour mixture, until it resembles fine crumbs. Divide the mixture in half. Press one half into the bottom of the buttered baking pan. Reserve the other half.

Slice the apples into a large bowl. Stir the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together. Stir this into the apples along with the grated lemon zest, if using. Pour this mixture over the crumb base and press it down a bit with the back of a spoon.

Sprinkle the remaining half of the crumb mixture evenly over top. Pat lightly into place.

Bake in the heated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until bubbling and nicely coloured on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving. Serve cut into squares with some pouring cream, custard or ice cream to top. Delicious!!

If you like Cauliflower Cheese, you'll love what I have posted today over on The English Kitchen. It is a Cauliflower Gratin with a Horseradish Crust!