Top Shelf

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My dad enjoying a nice Easter last year

 

 

It’s the tough moments that make you resilient, when you want to cry in agony but instead you stand strong and tall. You hold back tears and swallow hard when faced with a loved one’s sickness. It’s this way because there’s nothing you can do but be there. When darkness shades the good of your day, we must remember who really is in charge of our fragile lives. You can’t control the situation and you must kneel and pray and give it to God.

 

 

 

That’s what I did this week when my dad went through surgery and complications. In one afternoon I heard terrible news about a sick co- worker and then received an emergency phone call from my sister, about my dad. After finishing work we raced an hour and twenty minutes north to see our dad in the hospital.

 

 

 

Although he had a tough painful day, my dad was lying in a hospital bed and when the nurse asked how he was, his answer was, “Top Shelf ” with a smile on his face. This is the ultimate strength, perseverance and a positive uplifting attitude. It’s this man who I look up to and proudly say, he’s my dad.

 

 

 

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Just one of his amazing wood projects, dad has such a talent!

 

I  am relieved to share that dad is home and resting. Hopefully he is on the mend and better days are ahead! It’s this scare that solidifies how much I love him and value him in my life.

 

 

 

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Another hobby of dad’s, gardening. This is something that I love too.

Two little reminders slapped me in the face boldly…first trust God and give your problems to him and notice how he pulls you through every time. Second, when down and out there’s always some light of good to be optimistic about. Even if you are in a dark place, find the positive face and you may end up on the “ top shelf”.

 

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

 

 

 

Scrapbook Cookbook

 

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About ten years ago I revamped my recipe collection in a big way. First I threw out my dilapidated recipe box and hauled out recipes that I never used. Second, I found a cute whimsical Susan Branch cookbook kit with scrap booking pages and stickers. The book was cheap enough but cheaply made too, as I found out this year.

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Like many housewives who cook everyday, my recipe book started to show wear and tear. Then one day after making a delicious meal for my family, the books’ binding fell apart.  I busily shoved it on my little shelf in the kitchen and soon forget it’s desecration. Every time I reached for my recipe collection, the broken book with pages falling out reminded me that I had been doing this awhile and my book couldn’t keep up.

 

Last week, on an energetic whim, I set my mind to repairing and giving new life to my book. I searched our file cabinet and found a 1 ½ inch binder that one of the boys had used for school. I recycled it at the end of that year and put it in my stash of “ maybe I’ll use that someday.” I’m grateful for that because sometimes I throw things out in an organization fit.

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Next I found plastic page protectors to slip all the handwritten and computer copied recipes in. I highly recommend this step because we all know cooking can be messy and can stain and alter our nice cards.

 

What I especially love about the Susan Branch cookbook kit was that it supplied folders with heading for extra recipes. What I’ve always done is displayed my favorites, family favorites,my mom’s recipes,  Tom’s mom and dad’s and meme’s staunch winners on the pages and others can rest in the folders.

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I bought the cookbook scrapbooking kit on Amazon but you could do it yourself, if you have the supplies needed. You would need a 1 ½ inch binder, scrapbook pages, stickers, recipe cards, pouches for the miscellaneous recipes and page protectors. If you do buy the scrapbook kit, try to find one with a sturdy binder or buy the binder separately.

 

Now I can’t wait to cook and use my cookbook, that I gave new life to. It’s the little things that make me happy in the kitchen.

 

Good luck scrapbooking and happy cooking!

 

All My Best,

 

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking Tips

 

 

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I have never been formerly taught the art of cooking and baking. As a young woman, it never interested me and I only associated it with tireless house wives who considered it a chore. In seventh and eighth grade I had Home Economics classes and that was my first true introduction to it all. We made simple dishes, no bake cookies and rice krispies bars and I have a fleeting memory of cooking pudding on the stove.

 

 

 

 

My present baking knowledge is from observation of others and from trial and error by myself. I guess it’s true what some people say, that no matter how old you are, life is full of learning opportunities. Recently I wrote a post highlighting my friend Michelle’s exciting career as a baking instructor at King Arthur Flour. I asked her to share some useful baking tips for others and I ended up thoroughly surprised that I didn’t know some of the tricks.

 

 

 

Michelle informed me that most people’s mistakes with baking is using too much flour. People are always asking her why their bread comes out like bricks and pizzas like hard frisbees.  The key is using less flour. While many experts will tell you to measure in cups, King Arthur Flour encourages bakers to weigh the flour. A cup of King Arthur Flour weighs 4- 4 ¼  ounces.  By weighing flour and not using volume, you’ll be accurate with the amounts.

 

 

 

Another tip Michelle shares is when measuring flour, don’t pack it in the cup. ( if you are still using cups and not weighing) Instead, sprinkle the flour in loosely and level with a knife at the top. When I think of this, I think of the act of packing brown sugar in a cup. You want to do just the opposite because if you pack it, you have too much flour.

 

 

 

I have the King Arthur Baking cookbook and I noticed when browsing recipes, a commonality is the note of avoiding over mixing. I already knew this tip from blueberry muffin recipes. Michelle says to be careful not to overmix cookies, cakes, and muffins. If you mix the batter too much, there will be too much gluten. If you want tender baked goods, DO NOT OVERMIX!

 

 

 

 

A hint for amateur pie crust bakers, keep your butter cold when adding to your flour mixture. Also Michelle reminds us that using melted butter instead of softened makes a negative difference. For example,  when baking cookies make sure you leave out the butter overnight so it softens. Melting the butter will change the consistency. When you cream the butter and sugar you are supposed to put air bubbles in. If you use melted butter instead, it’s very hard to get the air in it. I didn’t know this, amazing fact!

 

 

 

 


Now that we learned some valuable baking tips…let’s get out there and bake! Use these techniques and see how much better your cakes, cookies and breads are! Share these tips with your family and friends and always have fun in your kitchen!

 

 

This weekend I’m baking a chocolate cheesecake for my son’s girlfriend’s birthday and old fashioned whoopie pies shaped like footballs for the Super Bowl. Go New England Patriots!

 

 

 

This is a heartfelt thank you to Michelle for her gift of time for the interview and her kindness.

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

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My Vanilla Twinkie cake with marshmallow fluff inside

King Arthur Flour Baking Classes

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Meet my friend, Michelle Kupiec. I first met her a few years ago through my good friend, Laurie Burridge. Ever since we get together a few times a year for lunch. We used to go Black Friday shopping together at Wal-Mart but have graduated to a shopping day.  I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter what we do, it’s always great conversation and really fun! We are just busy working moms and wives with no airs about us, just working hard and loving our families.

 

 

Michelle has a pretty cool job at King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich, Vermont. She’s a baking instructor/ purchaser, which means that she instructs cooking classes and purchases all the supplies for the class. Michelle’s one of about a dozen instructors. If you love baking, then doesn’t it sound like your dream job?

 

 

Michelle started at the company working on the baking hotline and did this line of work for a year. Did you know that King Arthur Flour hosts a hotline? People call with their baking questions to converse with an employee, who can help them figure out what went wrong with their project. Michelle says that she enjoyed it because it was detective work to figure out what went wrong with peoples’ baking projects. One common mishap is using too much flour. Adding too much changes the consistency of cakes,cookies and breads.

 

 

 

We were all laughing hysterically when Michelle shared her favorite caller stories. One outrageous baker called with a bread emergency! Her loaf of bread was exploding and popping out of the oven! Laurie kept us in stitches, reminding us of the bread scene in the Lucy show. The woman told Michelle that she used a pound of yeast, when an average recipe calls for a teaspoon. Another caller asked where you can buy scalded milk for a recipe. This sounds like an entertaining job!

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I just watched this clip on YouTube and can’t stop laughing! Welcome to my world, yeast and I do not get along!

Presently Michelle teaches different classes from making pizzas ( one of her favorites) to breads. Baguette classes and Bread101 are popular choices and because of that, Michelle suggests to sign up early. She also instructs a Pizza From the Hearth class, where you can learn how to bake a pizza in a wood fired oven.

 

 

 

Classes consist of 12 to 16 people with one instructor and assistant. King Arthur hosts children classes, children and adult classes ( for instance a mom, dad or grandparent could bring a child) and adult children and parents are welcome to sign up as well. This sounds like a good Mother’s Day experience or just a special day with someone close to you.

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Michelle reminisces of her favorite classes, the ones with kids because they’re funny and cute. Many times the little ones wear their apron from home, such a great idea for fun and learning! Holiday classes are also popular and fun. My friend’s favorite aspect of the job is making people happy while finishing the class. It’s rewarding to her and I can see how this would be!

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour classes range from 3-4 hours for a day event. Some are long class workshops, some four and five days a week, 9 am to 5 pm. Classes on cookies, cakes, breads, pizzas and pastries all tempt the baker inside you. If you’re interested, you can sign up online at Kingarthurflour.com under the learn tab. A monthly calendar shows the class variety and times and if any there are any openings.

 

 

 

The classes start with all the participants in front, watching the instructor demonstrate. Then each person bakes the piece with guidance from the teacher and assistant. Not only do they learn a new baking skill or hone on one, they get to go home with your creation.

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour originated in 1790, the days of George Washington. The company started out near Boston Harbor, importing the product from England. Soon after, colonist farmers started growing wheat in the colonies and the flour was made here. Eventually the company made its home in Norwich, Vermont ( just a hop from Hanover, NH). The company is completely owned by its employees!

 

 

In the last 20 years or so, the flour has been available in all 50 states. Michelle says a new classroom facility is open in Burlington, Washington. This is a sure sign of progress and popularity.

 

 

 

King Arthur Flour’s facility hosts a store, cafe, classrooms for the classes and kitchen area. I visited the store last year with my mom. It’s fun to browse at different kitchen tools while instructors are creating goodies before your eyes. Within the facility is a cafe as well, where you can buy a coffee and danish or sandwich for lunch. From the tables in the cafe, sprawling windows invite you into the kitchen where the bakers are baking bread.

 

 

 

If you wish to call King Arthur’s baker’s hotline, call 855-371-2253. Monday-Friday: 7am-9pm Saturday & Sunday: 8am-5pm. You can also email them with questions by visiting the website, kingarthurflour.com and click on the contact us tab. For delicious recipes and baking help, see their blog at blog.kingarthurflour.com.

 


I have the cookbook as well, that’s jam packed with delicious and unique recipes.
Thank you ever so much for your time and great ideas, Michelle!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

A Christmas Village

 

 

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My Christmas village nestled in a glittery cover of snow

Has a life of its own and a precious fancy glow

It’s the perfect snow globe all dressed in light

A moment of silence and bids a magical night

Scurrying villagers wander about the streets

Wishing a Merry Christmas to whomever they meet

Soft lights wink with a peace only small towns fare

An unspoken presence of goodwill and generosity hung everywhere

eager children fashion their snowman , their personal best

A Jolly old soul with nothing to do but to freeze and to rest

Church bells ring solemnly all around

Hollering it’s message from the sky to the ground

Before I scuffle off to bed and lie my head down to rest

I snap off the lights and admire my little village , feeling  so blessed!

 

This is a simple, small collection I started when I was first married. A general store, toy shop, fire station, church in the center of town and a post office complete the collection. There are just  a few villagers, church goers, store clerks and groups of children. I used to have a big hockey rink but many pieces broke off it and after gluing and re-gluing I discarded it. It rests upon my antique bureau in my dining room.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

An Autumn Tradition in a Country Kitchen💗

This is dedicated to all the bakers out there ,who put their heart and soul in their labor of love, especially my Aunt Sandy who passed away a few years ago.  When I think of my Aunt Sandy, baking with love comes to mind. Her cookies were delicious! She had a special way with baking and gave so much of herself to others. I miss her dearly and know that I’ll see her again someday.

 

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I love aprons and how when I tie one on, I become a baker of yesterday, representing years of aproned mamas baking their hearts out in their comfy warm kitchens.

 

 

 

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One of my favorite things in my kitchen is my antique pot rack. I consider it a country kitchen must.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Overlooking my work area with bar and all. Dont mind the dirty dishes. That’s a part of baking and will soon be scrubbed.

Traditions of Autumn and Pumpkin Pie

 

 

 

 

Not long ago in the midst of our fall setting I wished to bake a pumpkin pie. Every year when autumn arrives and our world wears its vivacious colors among the crooked branches,  I cook and bake comfort foods. Like many cooks, it’s a celebratory way to accept a new season and welcome frosty winter coming soon. It was to celebrate fall’s gifts to our family.

 

 

 

 

It was a quiet and tranquil Saturday. With my music filling my kitchen and inspiring my soul, I got to work. Twinkling kitchen lights winked at me as I gathered my ingredients. With a hasty snap, on went the the red and white striped apron , that’s when I mean business!

 

 

 

 

 

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This year my pie was very different as I experimented a bit with recipes and substitutions. A few months ago, I learned that I’m lactose intolerant and can’t digest milk and it’s products well. I found a good recipe on Pinterest using brown sugar instead of granulated and was up for a change. Next instead of using evaporated milk, I substituted half milk and half almond milk. I know what you are going to ask, did the almond milk make it watery? Believe it or not, it turned out terrific and I decided not to tell my husband about the changes. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t taste anything wrong until you mention the secret ingredients. So I played the hush game and Tom said it was the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever made! Then I enlightened him and he was fine about it.
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Being an old soul and belonging in an old fashioned kitchen, I love the idea of making and rolling out your own pie crust. With that said, can I make a huge confession? I stink at making good pie crust and I’ve discussed this with my mother -in-law many times. It always comes out crumbly and hard to manage, let alone cover a pie plate with. This time I cheated with a Pillsbury pie crust and it was great! There are occasions I try making my own. Thanksgiving is coming up and I’ll make the monumental effort to achieve a good pie crust all by myself!

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t the beaming light rays transform my pie into something majestic and angelic? He hee, I love this photograph as it depicts my magical feelings for baking in my kitchen, in my home. Baking for me is more than the mixing and molding your goodies to a delicious product. It’s being made in my country kitchen in the peaceful light of my surroundings with my oven and spatial counter space. It’s the heavenly scents wafting in the room and reaching our living area, enough for our cats to wake up and investigate. When I bake I’m transformed to the olden days where mamas spent days by the crackling stoves and hungry husbands came in from the barns with a smile and loving wink. It’s almost like I go inside a farmhouse from long ago and live that simple life for a bit.

 

Happy baking to all mamas and papas out there! This is a simple reminder to live in the joyful moments of your loving labors, whatever they made be.😉

 

 

 

 

From my country kitchen to yours!

All My Best,
Heart and Soul ❤️

Taking Care of Yourself

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This was shot on our mini get away in Maine. I really took care of myself that weekend.

Good Morning! This post is dedicated to women everywhere who tend to get wrapped up in taking care of their house and family, but who don’t find the valuable time for themselves. We all practice this, maybe you aren’t aware of it or you just settle because you have no idea how to start taking the time for yourself.

 

 

 

I got the idea for today’s post by events that are really happening to me, which led me to believe there may be many other women in my shoes. Perhaps if we ponder over this dilemma, we all can help each other overcome this problem of finding time for yourself and your needs as a woman.  You see, my kids are living their life on their own,one in college and one living in his own apartment with his lovely girlfriend. My husband and I are the only ones at home,yet I still have a hard time finding the precious time to devote to myself and my physical and emotional well being!

 

 

I believe this distraction of being drawn to housework and chores is just a way of life. For twenty years I’ve been a busy mom and wife, always doing something for the family and house. Once a woman has established this routine, it’s awfully difficult to break the cycle, even if self growth is at hand.

 

 

 

Guilty feelings have always plagued me when I took time for myself. When I paused for a break when the boys were little, something at home always waited for me. Maybe it was a mess with my name on it or a sink full of dishes, yet when I left it had been empty. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not blaming my husband or kids, but that’s what my brief time off handed me, more work. At some point I started ignoring the mess and realizing that didn’t matter and it could always wait until the next day.

 

One of my summer- to – do wishes was to go to a yoga class. A few women at school go once or twice a week. I’ve always yearned to go and better myself, get in shape physically and align my heart, mind and body. Summer came and went and so did my dreams of yoga. Every week I intended on going ( and even placed my clothes and water bottle in a strategic place in the kitchen), I chickened out and opted for the familiar, house duties. One week the flimsy excuse was the garden( as if a mass amount of weeds would grow while I was away for two hours), another one was vacuuming that had to be done. My point is I couldn’t and wouldn’t walk away from my old routine.

 

 

Now I’ve actually joined yoga and went to my third class yesterday. Even just yesterday I almost ditched it because we need groceries. But instead I told myself I could shop today after school and that yoga was important. It’s vital for me right now  to find myself, to explore this new idea of being me…not a wife or mom but me. I think somewhere along this journey of marriage and raising boys, I lost or truly never learned who I was.  I wanted to invest in my children and husband and make their life wonderful without remembering to invest in myself. Yet, If I could go back in the past, I wouldn’t change a thing!

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Who am I behind this mask of mom and wife?

 

 

 

 

This is a woman’s plight…when you find yourself in an empty nest you are faced to really peer in the mirror and see yourself. You try to learn who you are, for along the way you took care of your family as your first priority and forgot about you. It’s an Earth shattering lightbulb moment when you stop and realize that you lost yourself over time. That’s when you pick yourself up and vow to learn. What makes me happy? What can I do to find myself and invest in my being? How can I continue to give to others but also give to myself?

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As I start this self discovery journey, I invite you to ponder over your situation! Have you lost yourself along the way? Are you experiencing the same procrastination I practiced with taking care of yourself? For now I’m loving my new journey, writing in blogs and going to yoga. I’m excited what other new activities or hobbies I’ll explore and how I grow as myself during the process.

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️