Yes, I am struggling with the winter "BLAHS" and You?

My winter garden! 
Gosh today I dawned my hooded coat, gloves, and heavy socks and shoes to head out to the mailbox at the end of the drive.  Not so far at all.......But, after carefully picking my way over the ice covered snow, grabbing onto Brian's truck just to be sure not to fall!  I turned around and came back at the edge of the lawn as I could see the street (on a good sized long hill) was a shining sheet of ice!  NO WAY am I stepping out there to gather our arm full of junk mail and catalogs! 

Especially after the horrors we have faced since the week before Thanksgiving!  Our beloved brother-in-law passed after a 4 month unexpected illness, Grandma fell and is now in the nursing home, and Mother fell and is still in a cast with a broken wrist.  Eek!

Now with long, cold, dreary days I find myself working hard, hard, hard not to fall into the trap of negative thinking.  It is a well laid trap meant to snare each and everyone of us.

My mind does not naturally find the gratitude in my attitude.  Rather it is a discipline I have been working on for at least the last 30 years! Yes, indeed a discipline I have found, learned, and endeavor to practice every day of my life.  Admittedly some periods are much more difficult than others!

When spring arrives it is oh so easy to be positive and grateful with the blossoming of the world!

But now, just before spring arrives the days seem such a struggle!  But then.....I look around and see I am so very blessed by God with home, family, friends, and country.  And I am jerked back to the awareness of the depth of the debt I owe for all I am and all I have.

I remember each morning with the reading of my devotions, and I remember each day as I see the depth of the strength of my sisters and brother, the kindness of my dearest friend, the love of my family and I remember each day the words of Psalm 37:8  Do not fret, it leads only to evil.

Then I start anew with a better out look.  I start the day with a renewed attitude of gratitude.


Sewing a Gentleman's Eye Compress and Eliminating My Pile of Mending

Gentleman's Eye Compress
I have been given a project by our middle son Mike.  He has asked me to make an eye compress for a friend.  The description was much too colorful to elaborate on here but suffice to say he needed two pouches to hold rice connected in the center.  You see his friend's eye doctor described this to be microwaved a few minutes and used warm across both eyes as a remedy for tired dry eyes.  I am happy to give this a whirl!

The top one is more practical as the larger amount of rice will hold the warmth longer.
First I selected a soft cotton flannel fabric and laundered and dried it.  Next I traced two sizes using tailor's chalk, a wide mouth jar lid, and a small saucer as patterns.  I was uncertain what size I would end up with after sewing and filling the pouches with rice.  As it turned out the larger is more practical as the larger amount of rice holds the warmth longer.

I will leave the opening to turn the compress right side out LARGER the next time.
Next I double stitched around the edge with the right sides facing each other 1/4" from the raw edge.  I left an opening not stitched at the bridge large enough to turn the compress right side out.  The next time I will leave the opening larger for ease of turning. 

A quick trip to the kitchen for a funnel and a bag of rice and I was near to completion.  After filling the two sides with a comfortable amount of rice I hand stitched a double row across the opening to close and for added strength.  The bridge width can be adjusted by lightly twisting to shorten the length of the connecting strip as needed. 

Just microwave a couple of minutes to warm and you are all set to relax! 

My stack of mending projects was 5 deep!
Mother always had a stack of mending to do.  Much more than I do as many items nowadays don't hold up long enough to mend.  I wonder does anyone else out there mend?  It Is not a phrase I have heard anyone use in years.

Possibles Bag
After making the compress I thought I would clean up my stack so I repaired a friend of my husband's "possibles" bag.  (A utility type bag men use/carry when shooting cap and ball type firearms as a hobby.)  The strap was loose so I stitched it back!

Next I cut off a pair of our grandson's PJ's with the knee out and hemmed them.  Good as new!  Now I am in the backstretch...with only my husband's long underwear to mend and a button to match and sew onto a pair of slacks.  And now he mending is done until the next time.


Chocolate Chocolate Heart Cookies for Valentines

Chocolate Heart Cookie Dipped in Melted Semi-Sweet Chocolate and Sprinkled with Pink Peppermint Chips.
I always bake cookies for holidays and judging from the number of heart cookie cutters I have collected over the years Valentine's Day has never been taken lightly!  The chocolate batter comes from an episode of Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman.  I love sprinkling in new recipes with my old tried and trues.  Last Sunday I mixed the cookie dough up as I made the pastry for a blueberry pie with intentions of getting them together way before now.  It has chilled in my refrigerator in a zipper bag for days now but rolled out just fine after letting it warm a bit.

Ingredients for Chocolate Message Cookies or as I call them Chocolate Chocolate Hearts:

2 1/4 C. flour
1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder + more for dusting and rolling
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 C. (2 sticks) room temperature butter
1 C. brown sugar packed firmly
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 lg. egg
chocolate chips (any color or flavor desired)  to melt for drizzling and heavy cream to dilute if needed (just a droplet or so), optional
powdered sugar and stencils, optional
buttercream frosting for frosting or pipping, optional
Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and whisk.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of the electric mixer.  Add vanilla and egg beating well.  Add the flour mixture a third at a time blending after each addition.

Place the dough in a plastic bag or wrap well forming into a disk.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

When you are ready to bake off the cookies pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare the baking sheets with parchment paper or sil-pat baking mats and set aside.  Dust your work surface and rolling pin with unsweetened cocoa powder.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit on the cocoa powder for 10-15 minutes or so until it softens enough to roll 1/4" think.  Dust the heat shaped cutters with cocoa powder before cutting into shapes.  Place on baking sheets.  Consolidate the dough left and re roll until all of the dough is used.

Bake cookies for 11-12 minutes until set but not browned.  Allow to cook in pans before removing then cool completely before decorations begin!

To decorate with stencils place them on cookie and cover the rest of the cookie with bits of wax paper and sift powdered sugar onto the decoration.  Carefully remove stencil and wax paper and dust any stray bits of sugar off with a small brush.

To drizzle melt chocolate chips a few seconds at a time in the microwave stirring until smooth.  If needed thin slightly with a drop or two of cream.  Drizzle as desired!  Mine are dunked!  While the chocolate was warm I sprinkled pink peppermint chips on some of the cookies.

To frost with buttercream for each cup of powdered sugar use 1 T. room temperature butter and 1/2 t. vanilla.  Add heavy cream stirring until you reach the desired consistency.  Tint as desired using food colors.

Do NOT stack these cookies!  Instead display on a large platter or under domes.  Present to your Valentine with a smile!