Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Starting To Feel A Lot Like Christmas ....

Yes, I'm finally getting in the Christmas spirit.  I still have a hint of Thanksgiving in my house with some decorations that I've yet to remove.  Time hasn't been on my side, so this weekend is set aside to do nothing but get those decorations up.  I've got parties and gathering starting next week, and I sure don't want someone showing up, looking around my house and thinking it's still Thanksgiving!

Yesterday I received my Secret Santa Swap Package from Connie in Wisconsin.  She sent me a fab package .. beautiful handmade basket, homemade goodies to eat, kitchen towels, and most of all .. a chicken magazine!  I loved it.  The goodies were Tiger Butter .. which taste like some kind of fudge maybe with peanut butter.  I've put in a request for the recipe .. but I can say this .. they are totally addicting!  lol  And .. look at the pic .. she painted the bread tie to look like a snowman.  Some people are just too talented for words!

Went to Fredericksburg, Texas recently with the other half of me .. my ying .. or is she my yang?  Either .. she's my bestest friend in the entire world.  We just chilled, shopped, sampled lots of wine and enjoyed the holiday spirit, holiday decorations and of course each other's company. No, she's not hiding out from anyone .. I have no idea why she kept her sunglasses on for the pic!  But .. I love her anyone!  lol  Fredericksburg is an awesome little town built on German heritage.  My dad is 1/2 german, so seeing some of the traditions and experiencing it thrills me.  It's very "touristry" there with shops and B & B's.  Nice place to visit.  I go there several times a year.  I snapped a few pics to the entrance of a small cottage.  It was just so beautiful with the brick path and vintage items and holiday decorations.  I just wanted to grab me a glass of hot german wine and "sit-a-spell" as the country folk say!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Secret Santa Swap 2012 - Flirty Apron Swap

I've been absent from blogging and swapping for awhile. I've been working way too much. Well, I guess you could say it caught up with me.  Started feeling bad, went to the dr, then the emerg room and ended up having a double by-pass surgery at the end of Sept.  with that scare, I decided since it was eligible to retire I decided to take advantage of it and retire at the end of this school year.

So, this means I will have more free time to do the things I enjoy.

I've signed up for the secret Santa swap ... And here's the answers to the questions for my partner.

1.  Hobbies:  sewing, cooking and crafting.  I plan on raising chickens next spring so I'm gathering info on that.  I just love chickens!
2. Favorite color:  PINK. But I'm redecorating my sewing room in red.
3.  Collect anything?  Fabric
4.  Allergies?  None
5.  Pets?  I have a chihuahua (Chloe) who is my baby.  My hubby has a big yellow lab (jake). And hopefully a few chickens in the spring
6.  Coffee and chocolate. Only ice tea in the south. And of course it must be sweet!
7.  I read very little (on my iPad) but I adore magazines about sewing, crafting and quilting
8.  Cookies or candies. Either is great!
9.  Favorite holiday treat?  Can't think of one
10.  Favorite holiday tradition:  I love cooking and having my family stop by for the holidays.
11.  I still believe in Santa!
12.  Presents are opened Christmas Day after Santa comes!
13.  We have a tree decorated in ornament my kids made when they were small. I love reliving those memories each year. Plus my kids still enjoy seeing all their crafts
14. My dining room is decorated in gingerbread men and I also collect snowmen
15.  I have gotten fabulous gifts with my swaps. I love homemade items and hand written letters.

Ok, hopefully this will help my partner!  Most important have fun. I will love whatever you choose.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Making South Texas Wild Mustang Grape Jelly

Here in south Texas, mustang grapes grow wild!  And I mean WILD!  My property is covered with them.  The fences lining the roads between my place and town are also covered with these grapes.  It amazes me I always see people picking blackberries, but never the grapes!  They are so beautiful it's hard to resist!

I remember as a young girl, my parents bought a weekend farm not far from where I live in Waller.  On the 36 acres, these grapes were everywhere.  One year, my dad and uncle decided they were going to make wine.  Well, it meant we were all out there picking these grapes.  Granted, I was about 8 years old but my cousin Harvey and I also were expected to pick.  It wasn't my idea of fun ...  picking grapes in 100+ degree weather.  Back then there was NO central air and at our country place we had no window ac unit.  The juice always made our hands itch and I can still remember going back to his house and him and I standing in front of their window ac unit cooling off.  Some of my fondest memories now.
The year we bought our place I lost my dad.  He passed away just months after us buying our home.  He was in the hospital but still talked about getting out and making wine again with those grapes.  After I lost him, I didn't have the desire to go back to our barn and pick.  It's such a waste to let them go, so this year, in my dad's memory I decided to gather the grapes and make some jelly.
The grapes usually ripe the first part of June.  It's usually hot here starting early in the year, so you have to be quick to pick them once they ripe.  The critters will eat them and the Hot Texas Sun will dry them quickly.  The best ones are usually the ones hidden behind the leaves and vines.
Last week I went back there and saw they were ready.  I went just past my back yard to where our well house is and behind it is covered in vines.  I had on flip flops and stood in one spot and picked a 5 gallon bucket full in less than an hour.  No ladder .. standing right on the grass picking!

I came in to work the next day and told a friend about them.  She was so excited she wanted to come out and pick and bring her kids.  We picked and picked and had tons of grapes.
The recipe I used I found on the internet.  I followed it to a "t" but my jelly was not firm, so I googled what to do.  You can pour the juice/jelly back in the pot and add more pectin and cook longer.  I did, and of course had to reseal the jars, but it was worth it.  The jelly was perfect!

Here's my recipe for those wanting to try ...

I picked in "clusters" then came inside where it was cooler and I could watch tv and pull all the grapes off the stems. 

Now, let me say this part .. very important.  Of all the articles I've search on the internet for making Jelly, NO ONE talked about the juice and staining!  I'm a "cooker" and sometimes I tend to make a mess, so I HIGHLY recommend covering your counters with old towels etc to protect it from the juice.  I worn a full apron too.  It helps to have a few old wet rags close by to wipe up juices and it's spills.

Using a quart jar, measure out 3 quarts of grapes.
 Place those in a pan with 3 cups of tap water .

Bring this to a boil.  You will see the skin crack open and the grapes are becoming mushy.
Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 - 10 minutes.
The next step involves getting all the juice you can from the grapes/pulp.  The recipe I used called for a juicer, but I didn't have one so I had to improvise.  When you live out in the country, Wal Mart isn't just around the corner.  Maybe a juicer would have made it quicker and easier, but my method worked just fine.
I used a small holed colander, a large bowl, and a pastry cutter.
Placing 3 ladels full of the cooked grapes in the colander, I mashed it with the pastry cutter, getting as much juice out as I could. 
Discard the pulp/skin mixture.
I would pour the juice in a jug and continue until I had separated the juice from all of the cooked grapes. 

Place the juice in the fridge and chill overnight.
The next day is "jelly making day" with the chilled juice!
I took a large pot (dutch oven) and placed a piece of cheese cloth over the top (double thickness) and I placed a rubber band over the pot to hold the cheese cloth in place.
Pour a small amount of the chilled juice on the top of the cheese cloth.
You can hear some of the juice dripping through the cheese cloth but there still lots of juice left in this pulp mixture. You want to remove all the pulp you possibly can.  You want your jelly clear.  (I later read you can save this pulp mixture for making jam.  Maybe next year. This year I concentrated on the jelly)
I took a spatula and moved the mixture back and forth over the cheese cloth, separating the juice from the pulp and any seeds that slipped thru the colander.  The cheese cloth would loosen so I would pull it to tighten it around the rubberband.
Some of the juice dripped on the stove (the reason for the wet rags handy!).  I was constantly cleaning up!
After you have strained the all the juice from the container through the cheese cloth, gently remove the rubberband and cheese cloth from the pot.  Yes, I made another mess and splattered juice on the brick by my stove and counter.  Again .. wet rags are handy!
Discard the cheese cloth and the pulp. 
Bring the juice mixture to boil and slowly add 6 cups of sugar and 2 packages of pectin.  I use the dry pectin.  I originally only used 1 pectin but it didn't jell, so I cooked again and added another.  Using 2 packages works great.
You will be stirring the mixture constantly until it boils.  Continue to stir until it comes to a hard boil.  Be careful to watch your heat.  One batch I got distracted and it boiled over on me!  What a mess on the stove!
After the mixture has reached a hard boil, remove from heat.
Take a metal spoon and gently skim the residue on top of your mixture off and discard.  Remember, you want CLEAR jelly! Now ..  It's ready to be put in jars!
I sterilized 8 pint jars and had them ready for the mixture.  Ladle the mixture in the jars leaving about 1/4" remaining at the top.
My friend Amanda came by to pick and helped me finished this batch I was working on.
Place a small pan on the stove with about 1" of water in it.  Bring to a boil and place lids in the water to soften the rubber ring so the jars will seal.  I don't put the lids in the water until I'm positive how many I will need for that batch.  Once you have softened the rubber on the ring, you can't use them again.
Once the jars are filled (and the lids are boiling), take a damp cloth and clean the tops of the jars to remove any debris left from filling.  This will cause the jar not to seal.  Any NONsealed jars cannot be stored on a shelf.  They must go in the fridge and be used within a couple of weeks. (No preservatives!)
Once you have boiled the lids (about 10 minutes), I use my canning magnet to remove the lids.  If you don't have one, just toss the water and put the lids on the counter.  Warning:  They are very hot so be careful.
Place one lid on each jar, tighten a ring on the jar and flip them over.  The heat from the jar will cause the lid to seal.  No "bathe" is necessary.  As they are cooling you can hear the lids POP. 
If you have any jars that do not POP, then you can place them in boiling water (covering the top of the jar) for about 8 minutes (a water bathe). 
TEST THE JARS TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE SEALED before storing on a shelf.  If you press the middle of the lid on top, it will not give.  This means it's sealed.  If it pops back and forth, the jar is not sealed.
The jelly is a bit tart, but oh so good!
I also made a few jars adding jalapeno peppers!  After all, this is Texas and we like things HOT!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Super Big Thanks To My Soldier. Major L.

I'm dedicating this post to my very first soldier I adopted. I found the "Tell Them Thanks" website ( and signed up to adopt a soldier. The requirements were to send alittle something each month .. just a small token to say thank you for what they are doing for all of us and our country.

I do not come from a military family so this was a bit new for me. My dad was in WWII and had a military burial, but I never really lived the "military" style life. I wasn't sure what to expect.

I tried to send alittle something each month .. and with a few family emergencies, I think I missed a month or two. I got to thinking about how much these young men sacrifice and "they never miss .. not even a day" so I wanted to do something extra special for Major Little.

After my second small package to him, he emailed me some pictures of himself and some of the other guys with him. I don't know the lingo .. platoon, squad .. whatever they are called. I just felt the guys were his family away from home. I really enjoyed his email. He told me about himself and where he's been and what he's done, where he's from (Montana .. I'd love to go there) and he wants to setting in Texas when he's done. How cool is that! Texas is an awesome place!

I'm always working on a quilt and always searching for fabric. Anyone who sews knows buying fabric is a never ending joy and you are always on the hunt for something special. I had found some military fabric months ago. I bought it never knowing if I would need it. Voila .. I did! So, in going through my stash, I found coordinating pieces .. enough to make him a quilt.

The quilt is pieced by hand, but I did quilt it on my machine. I guess this was my small contribution to my country. I thought of how safe and warm I was while I was working on this. And how our guys and gals feel who are over in another country fight for us .... Never really knowing what they will encounter each day. With every stitch I made, I was thankful to have them there to protect us and keep us all safe.

So, Thank You Again, Major L. No words can ever express our gratitude to you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Comfort Food for a Cold Rainy Day

The weather here in Texas lately has been cold and rainy. Emphasis on the "rainy". My front yard looks like a lake!

This past weekend was a "stay in" weekend for me. I've been putting in such long hours at work each week and have been away from my house so I decided to take stay tucked inside all weekend. It was so relaxing to cook, bake (wear my aprons of course), clean my house and finally end the day's by doing some sewing. What a super relaxing weekend I had.
Yesterday hubby was gone most of the day so I had the house to myself. I wanted to try something different for a meal so I pulled out one of my deep big cast iron skillets and decided to make a homemade chicken pot pie (my first). Needless to say .. it was so yummy! I added a batch of cheesy garlic biscuits and homemade cherry yum-yum for dessert!

When I pulled the pot pie from the oven I was so delighted to see how pretty it turned out. But the best part of all .. it was scrumptious!

Here's the recipe for those needing some comfort food too!

2 large chicken breasts
2 large potatoes cut in bite size cubes
1/2 cup of carrots (bite size pieces)
1/2 cup of celery (chopped)
1/4 cup of onion (chopped)
1/4 cup of corn (I added this because I had some left over from the nite before)
2 pie crusts (I used the already prepared ones!) -- Room Temp
1 egg (beaten)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup of the broth from boiling the chicken
2 tsp butter
Salt and pepper

Boil the chicken breasts. After done, remove the skin and chicken from the bone in bite size pieces. I toss the skin and bones but saved the broth!
In a separate pot, boil the potatoes but not until mushy! In another pot saute the carrots, celery, onion and corn in the butter. Cook until tender but not mushy!
Remove potatoes and rinse. Set aside.
In a large pot, mix the can of cream of chicken soup with 1 cup of the chicken broth and cook until blended and warm. Add the potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and chicken. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently. I'm very careful when stirring. I don't want my veggies to be mushy.
In a large cast iron skillet, place one of the crusts on the bottom. I roll out my crusts just a bit before putting it in the skillet. I don't like the thickness they are when you remove them from the wrapper. I like my crusts a bit more flakey. The crust will be large enough to cover up the sides of the skillet. Take a fork and place a few small holes in the bottom.
Pour the chicken/veggie mixture in the skillet. Top with another crust (rolled out just a bit like the first one). Crimp the edges like you would a pie to seal it. Be sure and made a few small slits in the top.
Place in a 350 degree (pre-heated) oven and cook for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove from oven and brush with one egg beaten. This will give the top a beautiful brown color.
Place back in oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Note: I don't like to waste .. so, I used the remaining broth to cook some rice. After I used the beaten egg to brush the top of the pie, I cooked what was left and added it to the rice mixture for our doggies. They loved it!

Tip  Junkie handmade projects

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Photo Time

I was so bizzy last year making EIGHT .. count them .. E I G H T quilts for our kids for christmas presents I was forgetting anything else was going on in my life. Last year I bought a new camera, a nice zoom lens and barely had time to play with it. This year I vowed to play with my camera, and venture in to some different crafts. Ok, and yes, there's a quilt in the making too. lol

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

Wow .. December came and went without a single post from me!
I had my husbands family over for their Christmas on Dec 17. I cooked and baked for days to prepare. It was a great day, filled with laughter, togetherness and most of all ... love.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was all my family. Again, I'm cooking and baking for days to prepare. My kids worked their time to overlap so I could be with them all at the same time. I was so thankful for that.
My husband had a pacemaker/defib put in sometime in Nov. Can't remember the date. They went back in before Christmas and moved it. He's back to work on Wed of this week. He's doing great and I'm so thankful he's thru this and on the road to recovery!
My son popped the question to his girlfriend a few days before Christmas. She's been in our family for 5 years already .. now it's official. No wedding date yet, but I'm glad for this step in that direction. I love Kendall and she will make a wonderful wife for my son.
Yesterday we spent the day relaxed and took a drive to a small neighboring town (Belleville) close to ours. I took my camera hoping to catch something unusual. It always seems when I'm out without it, I see something and wish I had it. We toured some old abandoned restaurants and a feed store. Went to an old cemetary, had some lunch then came on home. I'll share some of my photo's with you. Some are from Belleville, Texas and some from Waller, Texas (where we live). Oh, two are of my front porch .. a sign my brother had made for me. My mom says I live in the "boonies" and the other of the plants on my porch.
The weather was cool and windy but the sun was shining making it so beautiful out.
Back to work today .. I've been gone for 3 weeks. Lots to catch up on.
Hope everyone is having a great start to a brand new year.