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!


Prayers for Healing, a Surprise Box, and an Unplanned Trip Started this Week!

There are more than a dozen, some quite old and dogeared cookbooks in this unforeseen gift box.
Brian came home Monday evening with his arms full carrying a big box and another bag along side!  He had stopped on the way home from work to speak with a fellow craftsman, John Wirthwein, whose specialty is wood and the refinishing of gun stocks.  Barb, John's wife sent me an unanticipated surprise, a box brimming over with old cookbooks.  Plus a big bag of apples and navel oranges their daughter had sent that was more than they could use.  What a thoughtful and appreciated surprise.  I hurried to the phone to call and thank her.

It will be great fun to thumb through these books and find their treasures to share.  Today is the last day with a forecast of warm (45 degree F) weather.  The days that follow are to be much colder with the promise of snow so I look foreword to "cozying" up with a "new" book!  Of course we will enjoy the fresh fruit too!

Grandma Powell
After we settled back down our middle son Mike called and invited me to join him on a road trip to visit his 94 year old Grandmother who is ailing and in recovery south of Indianapolis.  So next morning at 7:30 AM he dropped by for me and we were off!

It turned out to be a sunny and crisp day and not all that chilly.  We found her very happy to see us and enjoyed a visit of several hours.

She said she was just thinking how she wished she could speak with us and in we both walked.  She had the letter I had written her last week and was delighted I had written.  I promised to continue writing although I am not sure I carry much in the way of news!  Our oldest son also visits her weekly as do cousins who live in close proximity.

I always enjoy watching for hawks on the drive north and we spotted several both coming and going.
We arrived home before supper time and had a really nice day!

My 86 year old Mother is ailing too with a broken wrist she got when she fell on the ice three weeks ago Monday.   I got to see her the first weekend of this month.  My blessed sisters and brother are looking after her as she heals.  She has visiting nurses, therapy, and several more watching over her as she told me today and is doing well.  One of my sisters is taking her to a doctor appointment today.  She is blessed and fortunate so many live so close! They remain in my prayers.


We know that You, the God of hope, have filled us with all joy and peace in believing, so our families abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.  You are our God through all of our lifetime, yes, even when our hair is white with age.  You made us and you are taking care of us.  You carry us along and are our Savior. You have given us added years of life, as rich and full as those of many generations, all packed into one.  We have asked for healing for our beloved family members, so we believe we have received it and the healing is now ours. Holy, Holy, Holy are You Lord of hosts:  the whole earth is full of Your Glory.  Thy will be done in Jesus Holy name. A-men


NEW At Home Meat Slicer Makes Quick Work Slicing Meats, Cheese, and Bread Today

Browning Electric Slicer
My husband bought me a meat slicer a few weeks ago and today I planned to give it a real work out although I have used it a couple of times already with great satisfaction!  "The Academy" is a new sporting goods store that recently opened in Evansville and Brian being a guy was there straight away to check it out.  To my good fortune he happened to be thinking of the beef jerky I made him when he spied several home meat slicing machines.  He took a fancy to this BROWNING 7 1/2" 180 amp. electric slicer and purchased it for me.

Slicing beef using the safety guard.
Yesterday I placed a 4 1/2 pound rump roast in a covered cast iron dutch oven and roasted it to medium, then just left it to cool in the covered pan.  Next I wrapped and stored it in the refrigerator over night knowing it would be easy to slice cold.  After setting up the slicer It did a beautiful and quick job of slicing it to just the thickness I wanted.

Thin sliced rump roast make great French Dip sandwiches!
I like to slice it ahead and heat it back up in a covered casserole at serving time for French Dip sandwiches for tonight's dinner.  I cover it with the Au Jus then serve the seasoned cooking juices along side to dip the sandwiches into at the table.

Next I sliced the remaining half loaf of rye bread from earlier in the week.

Then I sliced Smoked Pepper Jack cheese and Colby Jack cheese making a platter to serve along side the French Dips!

Clean up was easy using a dry pastry brush to brush away the crumbs and a quick dishpan of hot sudsy water to wash the cutting blade, safety guard, and the slicing tray.  All in all it worked out great and as quick and easy! 

Blueberry Pie is a family favorite!
The menu for tonight's dinner is:  French Dip sandwiches on French rolls Au Jus, roasted potatoes, peas, and blueberry pie with cream.


Dill & Onion Rye Bread Made on the Dough Cycle of My Bread Machine.

It has probably been three months now that I have had a yearning to make rye bread but have resisted because I have tried to avoid bread in general on my diet.  But Sunday is around the corner (My free day.) and I am thinking of amending my diet a bit to the Alton Brown diet just because I love variety and I think I can keep going with a bit of diversity.  I will talk more about this soon.  But for today I made the bread and it smells like heaven in this house!  This is a hearty, rustic loaf with crisp crust and yet a little chewy and, the onions add to the delightful texture with a slight almost pop and you enjoy the pungent flavors!

I used the bread machine set on the dough cycle and then baked it on a pizza stone in my oven as I have many times.  I always get a good result using this method.  I just am feeling a little lazy and this worked for me today!

Ingredients for Dill & Onion Rye Bread on the Dough Cycle of the Bread Machine:

2 room temperature eggs added to warm water (80 degrees) to equal 1 1/3 C. + 1 1/2 T. liquid*
2 T. olive oil
1/4 C. honey
3 T. dry milk powder
2 t. kosher salt
2 1/4 C. bread flour
1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. rye flour
4 T. rye bread improver, optional (available through King Arthur Flour)*
3 T. caraway seeds
1/4 C. dried onion flake
1 T. dry dill weed
1 T. active instant yeast
* If you do not use the bread improver do not use the additional 1 1/2 T. water.

Place these ingredients in the order listed in the bucket of your bread machine.   BEFORE YOU ADD THE YEAST USE A CLEAN TABLESPOON AND RAKE IT END TO END LIGHTLY THROUGH THE DRY INGREDIENTS TO FORM A SHALLOW FURROW.  Then sprinkle the yeast evenly end to end in the furrow.

Close the bread machine and set on the dough cycle.  

Sprinkle a large pizza stone or baking pan with 3-4 T. cornmeal.   After the dough cycle is finished shape the dough into a somewhat flattened ball and place it on the prepared pan.  Cover with a clean tea towel and set in a warm place to raise until doubled in volume.  About 2-3 hours.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  After if has risen slash the top with a serrated knife.  Bake 30-35 minutes until done.    Yield 2 pound loaf.


Catfish Supper, After the Holiday's, It's Time to Use Up the Freezer and Pantry Items.

Pan Fried Catfish with Seasoned Green Beans and Cole Slaw.
After the winter rush to the Christmas and New Year's Holidays there is a big sigh at my house!  The rush is over and the long cold winter days stretch out ahead.  I don't even want to get out in the cold and damp unless the sun is out!  If I see the sun life seems much less daunting to me.

During this time I rumble through cabinets and the freezers to see what I can fix to keep from having to go out!  Many times this serves a dual purpose inasmuch as I forget what I do have as it gets pushed to the back or under something else. It needs to be found, it it needs to be used! Plus it is quite often a treat!

Yesterday morning I was rumbling through frozen packages in the upright freezer and found a bag of beautiful catfish fillets my brother Gary had caught and given us.  This made a real treat of a dinner as Brian is a great lover of fish and sea food.

I pulled out 2 pints of green beans I canned from the summer and found a half a head of cabbage in the refrigerator for Cole slaw and it became a feast!

Ingredients for Fried Catfish:

1-2 pounds fish filet's
1 C. flour
1 C. corn meal
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 t. Paprika
Oil for frying

Rinse and dry the fish.  Combine the dry ingredients in a shallow dish and dredge the fish.  Heat about 3/4" of oil in a frying pan to 350 degrees F.  Fry the fish until golden brown on both sides and drain on paper towels.  Yield 4-6 servings.  Serve with seasoned green beans and slaw.

Ingredients for Seasoned Green Beans:

1 quart canned green beans
6 slices bacon
1 onion, diced
1 C. fingerling carrots, optional

Dice the bacon into a heavy bottomed pan and fry until crisp.  Add the onions and saute about 2 minutes.  Add the green beans with their juice and season to taste.  Bring to a boil then simmer 20-30 minutes.  Serve hot and taste again to correct the seasoning.  Yield 4-6 servings.

Ingredients for Cole Slaw:

1/2 head green cabbage shredded fine
1/2 onion diced fine
1-2 carrots shredded


3/4 C. Miracle Whip salad dressing
1/4 C. sugar
2 1/2 T. cider vinegar
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Prepare the vegetables and set aside.

Use a large mug to prepare the dressing.  Add the dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth with a fork or small whisk.  Pour over the vegetables and toss until all coated.  Serve chilled.  Yield 4-6 servings