Sunday, February 15, 2015

Homemade Pot Pie - Warms the Soul and the House

As I child, I hated pot pie.  My granny made pot pie with fatty meat and very little flavor.  It was bland, and I gagged on the meat.

Then after Rod and I were married, my mother-in-law made wonderful pot pie.  I don't know if she made it the way the way I do, but what I make is "cheater pot pie".  Here's what I do. I buy a packet of McCormick's beef stew mix.  It uses 3 cups of water, and 1 pound of meat.  I use leftover roast beef, or today I'm using leftover prime rib.  Then I add the 5 cups of veggies that the stew mix calls for.  We use potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, peas, and a can of mushrooms (drained and chopped a little).  I put it all in a pot and cook it until the potatoes and carrots are tender.  Then I turn it off and let it cool.  I make this in the early afternoon and let it sit until an hour before dinner.  When I've tried to put it into the pie shell when the stew is hot, it has melted the pie shell and was a disaster.  And to make it simpler, I use refrigerator pie crusts.  Put the first pie crust onto the pie pan and then add the stew.  Put the second crust on top, crimp it, and cut a few slits in the top to let the steam escape.  One important detail - make sure that you put the pie on a sheet pan before baking it.  It will keep the pie from boiling over.  No, really.  If you put it into the oven without the sheet pan it will surely boil over.  But when I use the sheet pan, no spillage.  Better safe than sorry!

We woke up this morning to minus temperatures.  I had leftover meat and peas, and pie crust in the refrigerator and it just seemed like a pot pie was in order.  The stew is done, and the house smells wonderful.  Can't wait for dinner.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Happy Birthday to My Miracles

Flashback 35 years - my twins, Pam and Pat, are delivered 11 weeks premature.  The doctors all look very serious.  It's a very crowded delivery room - I have 4 or 5 doctors of my own and their staff of nurses, there's a neonatologist and his own crew of nurses, pulmonary technicians, and others for each baby.  And of course, Rod is there. They expected that the babies would weigh about 1-1/2 pounds each, but because of my gestational diabetes, they were a little over 3 pounds each.  But they are still severely premature and the doctors give them a 10% chance of survival.  I am devastated, Rod is strong.

Flash forward 8 weeks.  My babies are ready to come home 3 weeks earlier than expected, even though those 8 weeks haven't been easy.  Pam has done very well.  Pat has had so many setbacks.  One of her lungs have collapsed, her heart has stopped.  But she is a fighter, and nothing could keep her down. They weigh a little over 4 pounds each. They are on a three hour feeding schedule, and it seems like all I do is feed babies.  Oh, and change diapers.

And now today.  They are beautiful, confident, and loving women.  They have no children of their own, but do so much for their nieces and nephews.  You can always count on them when you need them.  They have taken Bubby for casting on his feet, they take Krissy to softball or band when needed, they take Izzy to Girl Scouts and choir practice when asked.  And I can't tell you how much they do for Rod and I.  They are a blessing for sure, and I thank God every day that they beat the odds.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Project Gone Bad

The new project that I've been working on has become a pain in the neck.  After fighting with the embroidery designs and then the embroidery machine, I finally managed to get four of the new Busy Buddies put together.  It's a little item that will be good to keep kids busy in church, in a restaurant, on a plane, in a car, or just waiting in a doctor's office.  The front cover is machine embroidered.

The back cover and the pockets inside are from a themed fabric.  And the Busy Buddy comes with a small notebook, a click pencil, and an 8 count box of crayola crayons.

The tutorial on which I based mine, called for fusible batting.  I chose to use fusible interfacing, which left them flimsy and the pockets over sized.  I finished 4 practice Buddies, all but the buttons.  Today, my job is to tear out the stitching on those so that I can try again tomorrow - this time with the fusible batting.  Then I will rest and try to beat this head cold that I'm fighting.  But like any busy bee, I will not give up, I will persevere, and I will win.  

Stay warm!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Starting Something New

It's always so much fun to start a new project.  I've been wanting to start this project since before Christmas, but the holidays interfered.  Then I had orders coming in and had to finish them.  But Monday I was finally able to get it started and it made me happy.

 It has been a frustrating experience to be sure.  It's a sort of kit for kids, and I wanted to use some of the licensed fabrics that I've accumulated.  And I wanted to incorporate embroidery designs for the cover.  I've done more internet surfing than ever before and have found most of the designs I was looking for.  But some of them show up on the computer and not on the zip drive.  Some of them have stated that were for a 4x4 hoop, but when I load them into the embroidery machine, it tells me that the design "exceeds the embroidery area".  Most of the people from whom I purchased have been patient, and so helpful.  They have either sent me the size I needed, or refunded my purchase price.  One has yet to be resolved.

So this week I've been working with the embroidery machine.  I figure I'll stitch our 20 or so covers, and then this weekend I can get started on the kits.  I'll post photos once they're finished.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year, Steps to a New Me.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, because I have a history of breaking them within the first week or two.  This year I've decided to work on "goals" instead.  Over the last few years as my physical condition deteriorated (too much sugar and too little movement), I have relinquished control of my household to others.  My main goal for this year is to take it back.  I know it won't be easy, but hopefully by achieving other small goals along the way, I can do it.

Over the past two weeks, Rod has helped to clean my sewing room.  To say it was a disaster is an understatement.  I have a horrible habit of taking boxes that arrive and just tossing them into that room.  I don't put things away when I should, and the task of cleaning it up was just too overwhelming to think about.  Rod came up with a plan.  He took a large box into that room and began picking things up off the floor.  He brought it to the living room, and we began to sort it out.  We folded the fabric, sorted through all of it and threw out small scraps and ugly pieces that I knew I would never use,   It wasn't easy - I am a fabric hoarder.  It took two or three days, and we managed to clean out two large boxes and four garbage bags of trash.  I still have all the "stuff" we saved to put away, but it doesn't seem like such a daunting task now.

It has instilled in me a need to "de-clutter" other parts of the house.  The first area that I'm going to tackle is the kitchen.  I have more cookbooks than any one women should ever need, and I rarely ever use them.  Most of the cookbooks are going to be donated to Goodwill.  I have a baker's rack that is just loaded with junk and it's time to get rid of all that and put the rack to good use.  Today I started a new Weight Watchers journey, and I need to clear off that rack and make room for all my Weight Watcher's cookbooks and the new one that I got from Skinnytaste for my birthday.  I think that having all my weight-friendly recipes at my fingertips will be a big plus.

I want to try to find healthy snacks that will make me feel like I'm getting sweets.  Last night daughter Kristin brought a peanut butter dip made with Greek yogurt, peanut butter and honey.  It was very healthy, but tasted delicious.  She brought apples to eat with it, but I think it would also be good with pretzels or celery.  It's a keeper.  She also brought a pear-pomegranate salsa that tasted amazing on baked tortilla chips.  I need to get that recipe from her.  Another delightful discovery that I made last night was that I love snow peas raw. I have always loved shelling and eating raw peas from the garden, but never was brave enough to eat the pea pods.  With a light ranch dip, they were so good, and I can see myself having them for a snack.

And that's how it starts.  Eating more healthy will be a plus, and hopefully moving a little will lead to moving more.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Yesterday, we put up our Christmas tree.  It's always a bittersweet experience for me.  After using many of the ornaments that we have acquired over the years, I open the box of "treasures".  These are ornaments that have a special meaning for me.  In the past, I taught ceramic classes in my basement. I am a certified ceramic teacher, and we had a small shop set up there.  One year, I had a large basket of Christmas ornaments ready to paint, and asked each of my students to pick one out and paint it for me.  They were to sign and date it.  Last night, I pulled out the the nurse that Pap had painted, the Humpty Dumpty that Dee had painted, ornaments painted by my Aunt Sis and Aunt Eileen, and all the others.  There was the feathered snow owl given to us by Rod's brother, Brian just a few years before he chose to leave this earth.  There were other feathered birds so loved by my mom, and a trumpet for my dad.

The twins had made wedding soup for dinner, helped with the tree, and then baked chocolate chip cookies. But after they left and the house was quiet again, I started to think about holidays past.  When I was a child, my Aunt Betty lived next door.  She had no children, and was sort of a stern woman.  But when the family played pinochle, we saw a different side of her.  It was always the men against the women, and usually the men were victorious.  After losing a few games, Aunt Betty would get up and walk around her chair several times while shouting, "Wahoo!"  I'm not sure if it changed her luck, but it sure tickled us kids.  My Aunt Ethel would always accuse my Uncle Virg of cheating. As I got older, and was able to join the game as a "man", I realized that he didn't cheat, but talked little during the game, and concentrated on the cards that had been played.  We kids were given potato chips and pretzels to munch on while we watched TV, but were never permitted to have the Planter's mixed nuts that the grown-ups got.

I don't remember my Aunt Kit and Uncle Ray playing much pinochle.  My Uncle Ray was a wonderful wood worker, and introduced the family to "Marbles".  It was played on a board much like this one.   One year for Christmas, Uncle Ray made a marble board for each family, and I still have one of the boards that he made.   It was played much like the board game Parcheesi, but each player had 4 marbles in their color.  It was so much fun, and a game that we kids could play also. Each family had their own special bag containing their marbles and dice.  I still have my red leather pouch  which holds my marbles and dice. Aunt Betty's sun porch was quite large, and there would be several card tables set up in that room where there were marble games in progress,    After each game, people would switch tables to go another round.  If I close my eyes, I can still hear the laughter.
One of my favorite things about Christmas at Aunt Betty's was that she had a tree with bubble lights on it.  They fascinated me and I could sit for hours just watching those lights. Soon after we were married, I had a few strings of bubble lights, but they have all passed away. At this point in my life when so many family members have passed on, the memories of those Christmases past can still bring a smile.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fa-La-La-La-La . . .

Oh yes, I'm thinking about decking the halls. I am definitely ready for Christmas decorating!   Rod finished the outside decorating yesterday, with the final lights on the front deck.

Normally, I sew up to Christmas Eve making last minute gifts for the family.  But not this year! Yesterday, I finished my last custom order for the store, packed it up, and shipped it this morning.  So, today my sewing machine gets put to bed until after the first of the New Year.  I have been loading free books onto my Kindle, and hope to do some serious reading over the next few weeks.

We had purchased Disney gift cards for our trip and somehow managed to return home with $500 of the cards.  We decided to use these for Christmas shopping.  I sold a $100 card to a family member, and used that money for some good deals on Amazon.  With the other $400, I bought gifts from the Disney store.  A few more purchases from J.C. Penney, Kohl's and Toys R Us, and my shopping is finished.  And, you can be sure, I did most of my shopping through Ebates.  I've earned nearly $1000 in rebates since I joined.  If you aren't a member of Ebates and would like to be, please use this link and I earn a little for referring you.

I still have to decide what food item I'm going to make to give to my neighbors.  In the past, I've done different quick breads, swedish tea rings, stollen, and carmel popcorn.  Do you do anything special food items for gifts?  Ideas would be appreciated.  Have a good week.