Friday, December 13, 2013

Tips For The Christmas Season!!!

Here are a few tips that were passed on to me from a friend, that I would like to pass on to my friends and family.

1.  Avoid carrot sticks!!!  Anyone who puts carrots on a Christmas buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit.  In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately... don't walk, but RUN to the neighbors, where they are serving RUM BALLS.

2.  Drink as much eggnog as you can, and's RARE.  You can't find it any other time of the year but now.  So drink up!!!  Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip?  It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something.  It's a treat, so enjoy it.  Have one for me... hell, have two!  It's later than you think.... It's Christmas!

3.  If something comes with gravy, use it.  That's the whole point of gravy.  Gravy does not stand alone.  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes and fill it up with gravy.  Eat the volcano.  Repeat step #3.  

4.  As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk.  If it's skim, pass them up.  Why bother?  It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission... it's just not right!

5.  DO NOT have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free.  Lots of it...HELLO!!!

6.  Under NO circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's.  You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.  This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10 pound plate of food, and that vat of eggnog.

7.  If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge for anyone.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention.  They're like a beautiful pair of shoes.  If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8.  Same goes for pies... apple... pumpkin...mincemeat.  Have a slice of each.  Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin.  Always have three.  When else do you get to have more than one dessert?  Labor Day???

9.  Did someone mention fruitcake?  Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost.  I mean jeez, you have to have some standards!

10.  One final tip:  If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention.  Reread tips; start over, but hurry... January is just around the corner.

And most of all, have a splendid Christmas Season!

Until next time...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Easy Chocolate Cream Cheese Danish Dessert

What do you do when you have crescent rolls sitting in the fridge and you don't want just the same 'ol thing?  You make Cream Cheese Danish!  They taste sooo much better than what they look, and seriously, how can you go wrong with cream cheese and crescent rolls????  I altered the recipe that I found online by adding cocoa powder to give it a chocolatey taste, but I'm sure the original recipe would have been just as good.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Danish

2 pks of crescent rolls
2 pks of cream cheese - softened
2/3 c sugar
2-3 TBSP cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 9"x13" pan with cooking spray.  Roll one package of crescent rolls out in the bottom of the pan and press the seams together to form the bottom crust.  In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and cinnamon, mix until smooth.  Pour over the bottom crust and spread evenly.  Take the second package of crescent rolls and roll them out on a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan and transfer on top of the cream cheese mixture.  I sprinkled the top with additional sugar and cinnamon and baked for 25 min. or until golden and bubbly.  Let cool and enjoy.  Refrigerate the left overs.

Dear Hubby is not big on sweets, but he gobbled this one right up.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sunday's Storms!

I'm sure everyone out there who watches the news has seen or heard about the major storms that came through the Midwest Sunday.  I didn't really realize until last night's news broadcast, just how close to home one of the many tornadoes were to home.  There were 3 different confirmed tornadoes that passed through Northern Indiana on Sunday, the largest being an EF-2, which was right straight east of me about 5-8 miles away... that explains why it sounded like a freight train coming through with all the wind and rain.  Our weather radio never sounded, the town's sirens never went off and it was announced on the news last night that no one even reported it until after it was all done.  They said it was so rain wrapped that the actual funnel was never sighted, but after reviewing the amount of damage done and the trajectory of it, it was a confirmed tornado.  Here is a picture I took last night of the news broadcast, showing the route of the tornado.  In the bottom left corner, is the town where I live (Akron) and Hwy 15 is only 8 miles down the road.

The other 2 confirmed tornadoes were not too far off either.  One was about 30 min West of us and the other about 45 min North.  Yesterday dear Hubby went into work early to be greeted at the door and sent home until his normal hours (2nd shift) because the power had been off all night and had just come back on only minutes earlier.  He said the boss met the 3rd shift crew in the parking lot the night before and sent everyone home and did the same with 1st shift.  There are still thousands of people without power, and it was reported that they could be without power up until about Thursday or Friday.  Thankfully our power only flickered a few times and only went out for a few seconds before coming right back on again.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the families that had damage done and are without power, and I thank the Good Lord for watching over everyone and keeping them safe.

Until next time...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

What Do You Want For Supper?

What Do You Want For Supper?  The age old question in our house.  It comes at different times every day, but there is a guarantee that at some point during the day it will be asked by one of us.  Yesterday afternoon, I decided that it was going to be bear steaks with mushroom gravy over herb crusted oven roasted potatoes... yummm!  The other day while digging to the BOTTOM of the freezer (a place rarely seen,)  I came across a couple packages of bear steaks that I forgot we had.  The steaks are from a bear I harvested a couple years ago.  After waiting 8 years to draw a tag to hunt it, I was tickled pink that I succeeded on getting my first bear.  I will share a pic of the mount with you, as I was too hungry last night to take a pic of the yummy meal.

This is a recipe that was passed down to me from Bob, and has been shared in Bear Camp by him many, many times.  Bob usually serves it over noodles, as it's faster to cook a huge kettle of noodles than potatoes when you have a camp full of hungry hunters coming out of the woods.

Bear Steaks with Mushroom Gravy over Herb Crusted Oven Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs of bear steaks sliced 1/4" thick
1 large onion, diced large
1 sm pk of baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 envelope of onion soup mix
2 envelopes of mushroom gravy mix
4 cups of water
salt & pepper to taste

6-8 small red potatoes, bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dry thyme
1/2 tsp dry rosemary
2-3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Place half of the diced up onion, mushrooms and peppers in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Place your bear steaks on top and sprinkle the onion soup mix and gravy packets over the top of the meat.  Put the rest of the veggies in on top of that and add your salt and pepper.  Slowly pour the water in and let simmer on low for 6 hrs.  Stir occasionally to make sure your steaks don't stick together and to get the gravy between each piece to absorb as much flavor as possible.  The steaks will be fall apart tender when done.  If your gravy is too thick add more water. 
Mix potatoes, herbs and olive oil together in a bowl and spread out on a baking sheet.  The last half hour of the bear cooking, I put my herb crusted potatoes in the oven for 30 min at 350 degrees, stirring once to get a crust on all sides.  Slightly mashed them with a fork on my plate and served them with the gravy over the top.

This meal can easily be made with venison steaks or beef, and goes great with glazed baby carrots on the side.  I think my Momma would have even liked this meal, and she's not a big fan of bear meat!

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pistachio Pudding Dessert

 Pistachio Pudding Dessert

Pie crust:
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Layer 1:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 (8oz) cream cheese
1 cup cool whip

Layer 2:
2 regular sized pkgs instant pistachio pudding mix
3 cups milk

cool whip
chopped almonds

Mix butter, flour, nuts; press into 9x13 inch pan. Bake 350 for 20 min. Cool. Mix powdered sugar, cream cheese and cool whip; spread on cooled crust. Beat together pudding mix and milk until thick. Spread on cream cheese layer and top with a layer of cool whip and chopped nuts. Refrigerate.
This is a recipe that was shared by a family friend and can be made with any of your favorite puddings.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Until next time...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mother Nature Showing Her Splendid Colors

I  know I haven't posted much lately, but I haven't been around much either.  My Mother-in-law has been dealing with some major health issues, so a lot of our free time has been spent bouncing between the hospital and nursing home with her.  Somewhere in the middle of it all I realized that Mother Nature has been creeping up on us down here, showing her splendid colors of fall.  Being from Northern Wisconsin, I am not use to having fall so late in the year.  It's the first of November and our leaves down here in Indiana are just starting to show their true colors.  Back home, fall has come and gone and snow has threatened a few times already.  I was talking with Mom the other day on the phone and I told her that if she came for a visit she could enjoy fall all over again!  Here are a few shots from outside my front door...

The house sparrows are still here in mass numbers and have picked up a few buddies along the way also.  When we first moved here we had 2 cardinals hanging around.  They had 2 babies over the summer and their babies now have 2 new friends for a total of 6 different cardinals.  I don't know if they think they are part sparrow or what, but they are always with the house sparrows wherever they go.  If you see one, the others are close behind.  Here is a pick of the buddies sitting in the top of my tree in the front yard.

Here is another one of the sparrow buddies... kind of hard to pick them out with all the colors going on, but they are on top of the red bush.

I did notice the other day that there were some different birds hanging out with the sparrows, but of course I didn't have my camera handy at the time so no pictures of them ...yet.  They were more finch size with rosy pink chest feathers and brown backs.  

Here are a few more pics from the front door...

I hope you are enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer as much as I do.  

Until next time...

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

This is a recipe that was passed down to me from one of my former co-workers back in Wisconsin.  She use to make this in the fall whenever we would have potlucks at work, and it was always a hit.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

1 c. flour
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. soft butter

1 can pumpkin
1 pk cream cheese - softened
2 eggs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp ginger

Start off by mixing the ingredients for the crust and putting it in a 9"x13" pan, lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 min.

While the crust is baking, mix together the filling ingredients.  Set aside until crust is baked.

Remove crust from oven and pour the filling mixture over the top while it is still hot and return it to the oven for an additional 30 min.

Let cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hrs before serving.  Keep chilled.

This recipe can easily be doubled or even be topped with cream cheese frosting and chopped nuts, or a little dollop of whipped cream.  I actually cheated slightly on the crust and used a shortbread cookie package from Betty Crocker and then doubled the filling because I had 2 cans of pumpkin that HAD to be used soon.  If you double the recipe it will require a little longer baking time.  It was roughly about 10-15 min longer.  It still turned out amazing!  I hope you enjoy!

Until next time ...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Thick & Hearty Chili

I know you might be thinking that I fell off of the blogging world, but I haven't!  I talked to Mom yesterday and she said "How am I suppose to know what you are up to if you aren't doing your blog?"  So, Mom this is for you!!!

I have been in the kitchen most of the day today, making bread, pumpkin cheesecake bars and chili for supper.  I would like to share my recipe for my chili with you.

I start off with hamburger in a soup kettle over med/high heat and brown that until the pink is almost gone.  Drain whatever grease you might have from the hamburger and return it to the heat.  I then add diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, diced onion and bell pepper along with chili powder, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning and fresh cracked black pepper.

I let the above mixture simmer for about 5 min to absorb the seasonings and to soften the onion and peppers.  Then I add a can of kidney beans and a can of Bush's Country Style baked beans.  I know, I know, baked beans are not a normal ingredient for chili but I think it's what MAKES the chili, giving it a slightly sweet taste along with the spice of the chili.

After adding the bean mixture, I start adding the sauce.  I use tomato sauce and tomato puree and a little water swirled in the bottom to get the remainder of the sauce out of each can. 

I then let it simmer for about 20-30 min, letting the flavors all meld together.  In the meantime I boil a couple handfuls of whatever kind of noodles I have in the cupboard, until they are al dente.  Drain and add to the chili.  Like I said earlier, this is a thick and hearty chili, so you should be able to stand a spoon up in it.

That is what is still left over after eating supper, so I guess I know what is for lunch tomorrow.  Yummm!  I made this chili for Dad once and he said "This ain't chili, this is stew!"  But that is also coming from the guy who thinks that chili is hamburger with a homemade tomato sauce that is like water.  His is still good, but I like mine better. 

Here is a basic look at the recipe and measurements are estimated because I usually don't measure anything.  I take after my Mother when it comes to measuring... a pinch of this and a dash of that... if it don't taste right start experimenting with whats in your cabinet.

Thick and Hearty Chili

1 1/2-2 lbs hamburger
medium onion - diced
bell pepper - diced
2 sm cans of diced mushrooms
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
1 can of tomato puree
1 can of dark red kidney beans
1 family size can of Bush's Country Style baked beans
1-2 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp cajun seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
 1-1 1/2 c noodles - cooked al dente

Brown hamburger in soup kettle over med/high heat, until slightly pink, drain and return to heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, diced tomatoes and all of the seasonings.  Simmer for 5-10 min.  Add both beans and tomato sauce and puree.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 min. stirring frequently so your beans don't stick to the bottom of the kettle.  Add boiled noodles and simmer for an additional 10 min.  Remove from heat and enjoy. 

I hope you enjoy the recipe and hopefully tomorrow I can get the recipe for the pumpkin cheesecake bars on here for ya!

Until next time ...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

House Sparrow Overload

Last night we finally got some much needed rain and relief from the 100+ degree weather.  The birds have been laying low and haven't seen much of them for a few days.  The few times that we would see them, they would be trying to find some shade and sitting with their mouths open to get relief from the heat.  This morning though, it's like a sparrow overload!!!  As I mentioned in a previous post, they are flocking by the hundreds and I mean that literally!  With this fresh rain, they are on a feeding frenzy in my yard.  This isn't even half of them in this picture.  The bushes in front of the house are just a flutter and there was another flock just out of sight behind the bushes.  (click on any pic to enlarge it)

It's hard to get a good close up of them because they are so flighty, but I did manage to capture this fella sitting in the bush, over looking his flock.

Here are a few more group pics ...

Until next time ...

The Pedestal

When you were a little kid, did you put your parents on a pedestal?  I think I did because I had such wonderful parents!  They stood tall, were well known, made the most out of everything.  They were Untouchable and the Warriors of the Universe, the Soldiers that guarded you and would never let harm come your way.  The sun radiated around them and they brought a smile to everyone's face.  As a little kid you think that nothing could ever happen to them because you raised that pedestal so high and cast it in gold.

But somewhere over the years, you become too busy and move on with things in life.  You might even start families of your own, start new careers, move out of the state or even the country.  You take things into your own hands and don't realize that some where along the line that you have grown up.  You realize that the things that mattered the most as a child, don't even exist anymore.  Then the day comes, the one that you never expect could ever happen, and you get that one phone call...

Now this call can be anything - sickness, disease, accident, cancer, death!  No matter what IT is, it's the call that flips your whole world upside down and sends you into a whirlwind of emotions.  The shock that THIS has happened, the anger that nothing was done sooner to prevent it from happening, the helplessness that you feel because there is nothing you can do or you're so far away.  In the mix of all these emotions you realize that the pedestal is no longer there!  What happened to the pedestal?  You realize that the pedestal has fallen and turned into the stones beneath your feet!

You would give anything to collect the stones and build that pedestal back up.  Even if it meant just one more moment of life, or no sickness, no diseases, and no accidents!  You wonder if you had payed more attention, that it wouldn't have happened.  You might even feel like you have let them down!  They did everything in life to keep you safe and there comes a time when the rolls reverse, and it is now your turn to become the Warriors and Soldiers and take care of them.  You wish you could scoop them up and tell them everything is going to be ok and no harm will ever come their way.  You want to put them back on top of that pedestal and hope that they will once again radiate the sunshine, and nothing will ever happen to them.  Most of all, that no matter what happens, you will always LOVE them and cherish them.  You will hold on to the memories, and promise to keep the pedestal standing for as long as they may need it.

I don't even know if this makes sense anymore, or if it's just rambling... the lack of sleep and whirlwind of emotions are taking their toll on me.  I guess I should just call it a night, seeing how it's almost 4am here. 

Until next time ...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

House Sparrows & Black Squirrel

Looking out my window this morning, I couldn't help but notice all the house sparrows in the bushes.  The last few days there have been hundreds of them flocking up and taking up residence in my bushes in front of the house.  Here are a few random pics of them and their young.

While taking the pics of the sparrows I saw the resident black squirrel running across the yard with an apple in his mouth from the neighbors tree.  He ran to the front yard and started digging a hole to bury it.

I love his big black fluffy tail.  Usually we see him over in the neighbors yard, I think he has a nest with his mate in their tree. 

Here's a few more pics of the sparrows.

The auto focus kept zooming in on the branches in front while trying to get some pics of the male.

Sorry for the few blurry pics, but birds are hard to capture sometimes! 

Until next time ...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Up, Up & Away!!!

This morning Dear Hubby and I decided to wake up early and head over to Plymouth, IN to the blueberry festival.  The main thing we wanted to see was the launch of the hot air balloons.  They were scheduled to meet at the high school at 6:30 am for set up.  We left the house while it was still pretty dark out to make sure that we would get there on time and wouldn't miss it.  After stopping for gas and a cup of coffee and waiting on a train and the long way around town to get to the school, it was a little after 7am by time we got there.  I was surprised to see that there was nothing even set up yet.  All the trucks and their trailers hauling their balloons were still sitting all closed up and a bunch of people standing around looking at the skies.  I heard people talking, saying "This isn't going to happen today!"  "The ceiling is too low for flying."  "I'm not going up in this!"  All I could think was I hope this isn't a bust, it's not too often that I am up before the sun, let alone half functional that early. 

A guy walking towards the parking lot saw me standing there with my camera in my hand and stopped to talk.  He told us that the guys were all talking about not going up, but that there was one guy who HAS to go, because of his sponsors.  He said that he was just going to keep it low and fly across to the other side of town.  Dear Hubby and I decided to stick around for a little bit to see if he was really going to go.  They set up the balloon out in the field and started pumping some air in.

It didn't take them long to fill it up and get ready for lift off.

You can see in these pics the low clouds and why everyone was concerned about flying today.

Close up of the people in the basket

One last pic before we left.

Over all I was happy that we decided to take the little trip up to Plymouth this morning, just wish all the balloons would have gone up instead of just the one.  At least it wasn't a bust!  It was actually a bonus because on the way home we found a produce stand and I was able to get some peppers finally to put into the freezer for this winter.  Maybe I should get up before the sun more often??? .... Nahhh!!!

Until next time ...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's A Plane!!!

All day I could hear a plane looping back and forth all around town.  First I heard it to the West, then North, then South, back in the West, now its in the East.  After listening to it all day, thoughts start rolling through your mind.... what in the world is he doing all day?  Is he giving rides? Are they looking for someone who is lost? Are they dusting fields?  It is now later in the evening about an hour of daylight left and I noticed him off to the East again and fairly close.  I grabbed the camera and told Dear Hubby "Lets go for a ride!" 

So off we go in the direction that I saw the plane last and turn down some back country roads and all of a sudden over the tree tops.... there he is!

We drive down the road a little further to see if we can get a bit closer.

He was lining up for another round, but still I WANT TO GET CLOSER!!!

We saw him circling back around and realized he was heading for the field right beside us... we had front row seats!

He was so close that you could see the pilot in the plane, feel the rush of air as he passed over head, and hear the spray of rye seeds that he was planting.  While we were watching the plane, a neighbor pulled up and we were talking to him.  He said that they plant rye in the corn fields to help break up the soil after the crops are done?!?!?  At least that's what I got out of the conversation... I have a real problem with listening to people talking when I have my camera in my hand.  I'm always looking for that perfect shot.  I know its a bad habit, especially when my Dear Hubby has a bad memory and when I go to ask him what something was about he looks at me all dumbfounded  like I was the one that was suppose to be paying attention lol.

Anyways, back to the plane, he kept looping around and with every pass he would move over a little bit, covering the entire field.  He was flying a little too low and had to pull up for the tree a little bit, then dropped back down again.

After this pic he changed directions so he could hit the end of the rows and he had to pull up quick for the power line on the opposite side of the road.

He finished up this field and off to the next.  We parted ways with the neighbor guy and off down the road again.  We saw a cute little baby bunny sitting on the side of the road, too afraid to run away.

We turn around the corner and there was the plane again.

I got a couple pics of the sunset ...

... and one last pic of the plane as the sun was going behind the trees.

I'm glad that Dear Hubby and I took that ride and that we went around one last corner before heading home.  I never expected to get such great seats to a rare event that's usually seen from a distance.

Until next time ...