A January To Do List

If you live in the wintry Northeast of the United States, you know that many January activities involve the cold, snow or inside venues. I compiled a little to do list for you New Englanders to try this month. If you live elsewhere ask yourself if any of these ideas would work for you.

Credits to Janet Lee Logan & Princess Sassy Pants & Co. Thank you.
  • Go sledding with your family and friends! We have a long Tobaggon that I won at work many years ago. It can hold two or three bodies and goes like the wind!
  • Host a Saturday lunch for friends. I’m hosting my two friends Laurie and Michelle in a couple of weeks. Serve hot or cold sandwiches or homemade soup. Have tea, coffee or hot beverages available.
  • Organize desk drawers or cluttered countertops. It’s easier now while the weather is colder outside. Once spring comes, you’re going to want to be outside instead.
  • Organize your printed photographs or digital thumbprints. Label folders such as Christmas 2018 or Summer 2018.
  • Take an afternoon hike in the woods. Tom and I hiked about a mile to check on his game camera and feed the local deer. It was simply magical with snow falling while we were in the midst of the stand of trees. Animal tracks spiraled throughout the woods like a crazy maze.

  • Build a cozy fire in the stove or fireplace and cuddle up nearby. Watch a good movie, Mr. Church on Netflix. It’s a heartwarming story of a mother and daughter who have a cook who becomes part of the family. Read a good book! Right now I’m reading The Divide by Nicholas Evans about a family facing a tragic loss of their daughter and the search to find out what happened to her.

I hope you all enjoy the month of January and everything that comes with it!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

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Kitchen Baking/ Cooking Tips

My kitchen has turned into my sweet little refuge lately. It is huge now with plenty of space to cook or bake. Since I have ample room, I have decorated it with inviting elements that speak to me. As I cook or bake, the winter light seeps into my tall windows. My twinkly lights play their magic as I enjoy the calm space. Glorious heat from the oven makes the kitchen toasty, especially welcoming in chilly January! Being in my kitchen brings me tremendous joy!

In our last house our kitchen was a tight galley space, one that I adapted to, but never really loved. That lack of space, especially counter space, made any cooking or baking task a huge challenge. Now I have a 26 x 14 sized room, enough room to host a family cooking and talking. I have plenty of counter space as well as a bar top, where sometimes I cool baked goods on.

If you feel like your kitchen space isn’t welcoming or peaceful you may want to change that. There are simple things you can do to create a kitchen that you love. I’m working on another post focusing on kitchen ambience so be on the lookout.

Lately I’ve noticed some quick and easy baking and cooking tips that I’ve started using and have aided me as I work.

Try covering top of mixer with a dish towel, when adding puffy flour, otherwise flour will sift all over counter.

Store all your Kitchen Aid attachments in the bowl where they are easy to access. I have my bowl lined with a dish cloth as well.

Place spoon rest next to work area and have paper towels handy.

Cool cookies on racks. I have one with legs and one flat one, a double decker.

The m & m cookies I made for work and the school kids

Place in airtight plastic containers instead of cookie jars. That keeps them fresh. Instead stash packaged candy in the jar or your cookie cutter collection.

Place a fresh piece of bread with cookies to maintain moisture and soften cookies. This works great for me!

Place brown sugar in air tight container. It’s so annoying to try to soften it while you are immersed in a recipe!

Have soapy dishwater ready for cooking and baking dishes, pots and pans.

For a busy family holiday meal, call upon the guys to help with heavy pots and lifting. Tom and my brother-in-law Chris were a great help to Bev and I at Thanksgiving. They helped lift the big pot of gravy.

The guys helping with the gravy and soon after we had a sink of dishes.

I found that having the oven on to help dough rise helps. Place on top of stove with damp kitchen cloth.

Plan your baking times, if needed, bake on different days so items don’t rest too long waiting for the oven. On Christmas Eve my cinnamon rolls rose too big ( they still came out delicious but they rose out of the baking pan) while I was baking the chocolate cake. It would have been handy to have two oven chambers!

I am curious what valuable kitchen tips you practice often. Please share with me, for I’m always looking for cheats to make cooking and baking easier.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😀

Netflix Suggestions Part II

We are fortunate to spend under $50 a month on television entertainment. Years ago we were fortunate enough to have our employer pay for our satellite tv. Back then cable wasn’t available in our neck of the woods and that was the best you had. Now many tv watchers are rethinking the high cost of cable and satellite services and are resorting to downstreaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime to name a few. We have those three services as well as YouTube available on our PlayStation console. I’m happy to report my avid tv watching husband is completely satisfied with all the shows, something that worried me in the beginning.

Here are a few Netflix suggestions that are downstreaming currently.

Wonder ( this is on the dvd plan but also available on Amazon’s Prime)

A sentimental family film featuring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. It’s about fifth grade Auggie who has facial deformities and his loving family who supports him throughout. It’s based on the book and years ago I read it in school with fourth graders.

The Holiday Calendar

This movie is about a motivated photographer who is gifted a magical advent calendar. The calendar could lead her right to love. It’s a sweet holiday story with that Hallmark feel.

El Camino Christmas

This movie drew me in and I don’t usually like robberies or violent movies. I’m not sure if it was the acting and their interesting characters or bonds that are formed…all I know is that it was a good movie and very entertaining!

Julie & Julia

An oldie from 2009 but a great movie. It is about a woman who cooks up all of Julia Child’s recipes. Meryl Streep is fabulous in this! I would recommend this to you if you love to cook!

Big Miracle 

This flick is also an oldie from 2010 starring Drew Barrymore. She is a reporter who writes about stranded whales in the Article Circle. Based on true events, the US and USSR work on rescuing the whales. A good family movie!

This time of year I get my Christmas movies out to compliment Netflix. Every weekend and some week nights I choose one to watch in front of our Christmas tree. Yesterday I chose A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. I remember long ago as a teenager watching it and loving his acting. It’s a calming way to indulge in a hot cup of coffee in my comfy armchair. Within the next few weeks I’ll view It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone and I’ll Be Home for Christmas. 

What movies do you watch this time of year?Are you also bypassing cable tv and opting for downstreaming apps? 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

On the last snow day from school, I  decided to bake this delicious looking version of pumpkin bars from Together as a family site and will post the link to the recipe. I apologize for not having a picture of these but take my word, THEY ARE DELICIOUS! Check out the original recipe at https://togetherasfamily.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-bars/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=433083832_14813236_267507.

Who doesn’t love pumpkin, especially in late fall? Chocolate is a huge favorite of mine too. A short time ago I  discovered both together in a recipe on Pinterest. The pumpkin has a bold taste and sweet and creamy chocolate compliments it, much like with peanut butter.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

adapted from Together as Family Blog, Jessica is the author.

My version is going to host semi- sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate chips. I used One- Pie pumpkin filling.

The ingredients
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce ( I used a packaged applesauce cup which was just under a half cup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree ( I used One- Pie)
2 cups milk chocolate chips ( I used semi- sweet chips and it was delicious)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
In a mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients, flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Beat the butter, applesauce, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. I used my Kitchen- aid mixer on low. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
Gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients until combined. Add chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The edges will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and will be golden brown and the center will look “puffy” and done. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with moist/dry crumbs.
Cool bars before cutting out of pan. Store in closed container. These are simply delicious and so moist! I made them last week for Tom and the girls at school and I think everyone enjoyed them!
Check out Togetherasfamily.com to see the original recipe!

T is for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving thoughts and plans

are underway!

I’m thinking of roasted succulent

turkey and pumpkin pie

which I’ll indulge in on Thursday.

The cherry and pumpkin pies

will be  made in my kitchen.

One of the boys’ favorites,

apple crisp and my daughter in

law’s vegan cheesecake

is also on the dessert menu.

My heart is thankful                                             

while I’m praising God

for all my blessings.

Thank goodness

for my two sons

whom mean so very much to me,

my loving husband Tom 

and his thoughtful act of brewing my coffee every morn!

Thank the good Lord for bringing us

our new daughter in law Alexis

to share her life with Dylan!

As I pen these words,

thoughtless wild turkeys

traipse in mounds of snow

across the way…

little do they know Thanksgiving

is almost here!

This day will be extraordinary

in every way.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. Wherever you may be or whatever you celebrate I wish you peace and love this day and every day! 

Love,

Mary 🦃❤️

Being Grateful Every day

This month of November it’s common to hear in podcasts and other media the theme of gratefulness. Thanksgiving reminds us all of what we have that we cherish…our family and friends, our health, a roof over our heads and food for meals. Although being thankful is truly what this holiday is about, I’d like to think that being grateful is my mantra every day of the year and not just the third Thursday in November! 

 

 

 

 

I used to have a practice of listing five things I was grateful for. Sometimes I listed Tom and the boys. Others my job and friends were included. I listed my health more than once, for despite a few health scares I’ve always managed to stay strong and healthy. Most times I thanked God for having Tom and the boys healthy too. 

 

 

 

 

I learned this habit from Oprah and did it religiously for a few years in my journals. Slowly it faded away yet I mentally go over my grateful list most days and continue to thank God for all the good in my life as well as the difficult challenges. It’s plowing steadily through those barriers that has built my character and fortitude. It comes full circle and after experiencing the rough bumps on this road of life, I am aware that the hurdles have strengthened me. I am extremely thankful for the gifts hidden along the way, for they have made me the person I am today! 

 

 

 

Now that I’m approaching 50 this coming year and my family is raised, I have ample time to reflect. Being grateful every day doesn’t mean a joy ride or perfect circumstances  but to me, it is finding special and maybe little things that can brighten my day. A kind smile or phone call from a friend or family member, feeling the rich soil of the garden and planting seeds for future days, being able to walk on both legs and cherishing serenity in nature are all things I’m thankful for. 

 

 

 

 

 

The more I think about this the more I realize that being grateful in some way every day is the key to happiness. If you notice what you have( such as being healthy or having a beautiful family) and not dwell on what you don’t have, you’ll truly appreciate what God has gifted you. I believe everyone has something to be grateful for and if you ponder over this you can generate quite a list.

 

What are you grateful for? Do you reflect on this just in November or everyday of the year? The more we notice all the good things in our lives, the richer your experience will become. 

 

 

I’m busy getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. Today I’m vacuuming and shampooing my rugs, generating a last minute grocery list and planning my table setting. I’m grateful that I’m able to do this at home and Tom’s sister Bev and her husband Chris are coming, as well as my youngest son Branden. Dylan and his wife Lexy will come later for dessert , so both my sons will be here together. Excitement  is in the air as the big day approaches! 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🦃

 

 

Bob B’s Homemade Pizza

 

 

My father in-law left us many special memories, too many to tell in one sitting. From all these remembrances, his fun dinner parties stand out in my mind. When Bob retired, he started cooking. I have his beef stew, taco pie and pizza recipes in my collection. It’s the pizza recipe that remains dear to me as it reminds me of fun times at the Blowey house.

 

 

I fondly remember one evening standing in my in-law’s kitchen, while Bob made homemade pizza with my mother- in -law Theo. She helped arrange the sliced peppers and onions. He was so funny that he would watch her working to make sure she did it the way he wanted. You see, Bobs pizzas were homemade and crafted with love, the very same as Theo’s homemade crafted pies.

 

 

 

Bob made magnificent trays of pepperoni, cheese and even shrimp pizza! When Tom’s siblings visited on weekends, they would have a grand spread of pizza, Bob’s speciality!  Don’t I miss those days and the mouth-watering pies!

 

 

So Bob’s recipes for pizza sauce and the crust have lived in my scrapbook cookbook but I have to confess…I’ve never made them! Maybe I thought that I’d never come close to his creations and the yeast factor scared the heck out of me! ( Yeast and I have never gotten along but lately I’m daring to try it and it’s working well!)

 

 

Here I’ll share his recipe for homemade sauce and crust. You need a full day of cooking the sauce, on and off for several hours for a rich flavor. I made my pizza on a weekend when I had plenty of time.

Pizza Sauce

1/4 c olive oil

1 garlic clove

2 cans tomato paste ( I used the medium size)

1- 15 oz stewed tomatoes, peeled & cut fine

1- 28 oz  diced or puréed tomatoes

1/2 green pepper chopped

1- onion chopped or grated

1 tsp salt

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp Italian seasoning

In a large skillet cook garlic in oil until soft. Add onion and green pepper and cook until translucent. ( just a couple of minutes) Next add tomato paste, stewed tomatoes and diced or puréed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer. Add seasonings and stir well. Cook sauce for 20 minutes and then shut off. Keep covered. Do this routine three times throughout the day, 20 minutes and then shut off each time. After sitting and simmering all day on and off, it’s ready to top your pizza!

 

Pizza Crust

3/4 c warm water

1 pkg dry yeast

1/8 tsp sugar or honey ( I used honey)

4 c flour

1 tsp salt

1/4 c olive oil

In a small bowl put warm water with yeast and honey, stir. Let stand in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. It will get bubbly. In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour and salt. Add oil to yeast mix. Pour into the large bowl of flour and mix together. Gradually add second cup of flour. Stir  with a wooden spoon. When dough is mixed, add third cup of flour. At this point you may need to add a small amount of water. When it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, turn it onto a floured board. Gradually knead the remaining cup of flour into the dough. It should become smooth and elastic and no longer sticky. The amount of flour will vary depending on how moist the dough is and the weather. Coat a bowl with olive oil and place the dough ball in it, rolling it to coat it on all sides. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place, until it has doubled in size. This takes about 1 1/2 hours. ( I put my oven on and placed the dough on the warmest place on the stove top. )You will know when the dough is ready by pressing your finger in it, it will leave an impression. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll out dough on a floured surface. This makes a 20 inch round pan or a 12 x 18 baking pan. Brush oil in pan, place rolled dough and brush oil on dough. Place pizza sauce 1/4 inch thick. Next place sliced green pepper and onions. If you wish to add pepperoni, do it after the veggies. Top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Italian seasoning or oregano on top. Cook 15-18 minutes till brown and cheese is bubbly.

 

So as I crafted my first pizza Bob’s way, I felt that he would have approved. He was so proud of his pizzas and that rubbed off on me, so many years later. I wish to dedicate this post to my father-in-law on the day he was born on. Here are some photos of him fishing and on a camping trip with Tom.

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul