Sunday, December 22, 2013

3-layer bars

These are from the Frank family and are my hubby's favorites. These are time consuming, only because you have to keep waiting for things to chill. This is a good one to do in steps and make other simple cookies in between steps.

Mix together in a bowl:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup finely chopped coconut ( Bakers flaked coconut works well)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Mix together in a double boiler:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter (don't substitute)
1 egg, slightly beaten
Cream butter, sugar and egg.  Cook in double boiler until egg is cooked and slightly thick (5-6 minutes).  Pour over crumb mixture.  Mix well and press into a greased 9"X 13" pan to form first layer.  Chill for an hour or so.
Mix together:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter softened (don't substitute)
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Spread on crumb layer.  Chill again until powdered sugar layer is firm.
7  Hershey bars (I usually use milk chocolate chips) (original recipe called for 5 cent Hershey bars) and spread over powdered sugar layer.  Chill and cut into squares.  Store in refrigerator.


This is a Carson family recipe and is a favorite of just about EVERYONE that ever tries them. Basically it is a homemade version of Reese's  PB cups. And really - can that ever be bad?

Warning, the original recipe makes a TON. I always half this recipe.

2 lb Peanut Butter
1 lb Butter
3 lb Powdered Sugar

2 bags semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
1 stick paraffin

1. Line cookie sheets with wax paper. I like to use 2-3 smaller sheets instead of one large. Comes in handy when dipping.
2. Melt butter. Mix with Peanut Butter and Powdered Sugar. Form into balls. Place on cookie sheets. Refrigerate overnight (or 2 hours).
3. Use a double boiler and melt chips and paraffin.  Dip each ball into chocolate mixture (I use a spoon as my candy dipper broke and I have yet to replace it)- covering 3/4 of each ball. (you can also just cover the whole ball, it just won't look like a buckeye.) Return to wax paper. Refrigerate. I take one sheet out at a time to keep balls chilled as long as possible.

The amount of chocolate always seems to be too much for just this recipe, but works great if you are combining with the Coconut Indulgences and 3-layer bars.

If you are wondering why these are called buckeyes - it is because they look like the nut from a buckeye tree. But really, most regions have no idea what a buckeye tree looks like. Here is a little info. See, you do learn new things every day. :)

And, if you missed it, I have also used this recipe at Halloween time to make eyeballs. Always a big hit.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Coconut Indulgences

This recipe if from the Frank family - but has become one of MY favorites. No one else really likes coconut like I do - so I must be REALLY careful when making these. I try to give a lot of them away - although at times it feels like I am giving away a child. Ok, maybe not the separation is not THAT bad, but I really do love these.

5 ounces condensed milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (14-ounce) package sweetened flaked coconut
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk, powdered sugar and vanilla extract.  Stir well until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.  add the coconut and stir well to combine.
With a tablespoon, scoop out portions of the candy mixture onto a a baking sheet.  With wet hands, roll the candies into rounds.  Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
In the top of a double boiler or metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate chips.  Dip the coconut balls into the chocolate and roll to coat completely.  Shake off the excess chocolate and place on a rack set over a baking sheet lined with waxed paper.  Let air dry or refrigerate to harden.  store in a cool place.
Note:  You can add a 1/4 to 1/2 bar of paraffin wax to the chocolate to make the dipping easier and the candies shiny. 

I make all the buckeyes and these beauties and just do one round of dipping. This year, once I was done dipping, I added a bag of milk chips to the left over chocolate and used that on top of the 3-layer bars. Yes, I am all about conserving energy and supplies - but it is more about doing fewer dishes.

Christmas Baking

The holiday season, aka the season of eating LOTS of junk food and gaining LOTS of weight. We don't have any family close by, sometimes we are with family for Christmas (which requires a lot of travel for at least one family) and sometimes we are on our own. Either way, I always bake all of our favorite cookies, candies, bars, etc since there is no one else really to do it.

How to STOP eating everything?

Well, I don't really know. BUT, I do have a few strategies that at least help.
1. Give half of everything to other friends or the teachers at school. If my butt is going to get bigger, everyone else's will as well. :)
2. I then freeze half of what is left to save for Christmas. The remainder can be eaten immediately.
3. Don't keep everything out in plain sight - use containers. I tend to eat less if it is out of sight.

I will be making posts of all the treats I have been making - so I don't have to search for my recipes anymore. Since we moved (in January) I have yet to find my recipe box. So, I will be cataloging all of our family favorites here.  If you are trying to avoid sugar - you may want to skip the next several posts.

I tried a new cut out cookie and ginger cookie recipe. Both turned out fine, but I will cut back a little on the flour next time, I like mine a little softer. But, I measure flour all wrong, so the amount may be accurate. I need to cut back on the scoop, shack, and dump method - it's just soooo much easier (as long as I adjust accordingly, things usually turn out just fine).

You will notice a few themes emerge.
1. I like chocolate.
2. The majority of my Christmas baking, doesn't actually involve baking.
3. I am all about minimizing effort and mess and therefore combine efforts whenever possible. I do all dipping at one time. Any leftovers are used to coat or top other bars.
4. On the lines of minimizing the mess, I always line my 9x13 pans with foil. Seriously makes cutting MUCH easier and leaves the pans easy to wash. YEAH!

And, once done with all these goodies, I will have some major exercising to do.

How do you manage all the holiday goodies?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thread Sketching Love

I am totally in love with thread sketching. I guess I am a few years behind the times, but I don't really care. I saw this tutorial on Pinterest and thought - I MUST try this! So I did. These are the 3 pillows I have made to date, with several more planned. I have also done a few kitchen towels and napkins. Ohhh the possibilities. I have started a Pinterest board for thread sketching ideas. There will be MANY more pins over the next few months.

Most of my sketching is simply done with straight forward stitching and a TON of fabric turning. I have JUST started to try true free motion for this technique. Let's just say it is a learning process. I think it works well for some designs and not so well for others. But really, free motion has a large learning curve, so I won't know until I have a LOT more practice.

For me, this has been a great way to express my artistic side through sewing. It may really just show I am not that artistic. :) Oh well, I don't care. I like it and I plan to continue doing it. So, if you happen to receive one of these projects as a gift, please humor me and tell me you like it.

Have you ever tried thread sketching? What do you think?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


I LOVE peaches! This summer I did a bit of canning and have a few jars of peaches just waiting to be used. Most will be used right out of the jar - because really, there just isn't much better than a simple peach. When canning, I used very little sugar so they taste pretty fresh. And, they will have fewer calories. YEAH!

I love having a little bit of summer in the winter - don't you?

Peach jam was also made - low sugar of course. Peaches are sweat enough on their own, my jam didn't need much sugar. It tastes more like fresh peaches. Add it to some toast or biscuits - YUM!
I simply used the Ball website and followed their recipes/directions using their low-sugar pectin. I used about 1/4c sugar in my version.

I have found that I like peach crisp. I never really did, as I haven't like the taste of cooked peaches. Apparently my tastes have changed, because I like them now. One great use for those canned peaches. For the crisp topping, I use oatmeal and whole wheat flour to help offset the butter and sugar. I consider this one of my semi-healthy desserts. I simply took my favorite crisp recipe and substituted the oatmeal and whole wheat flour in place of the white flour. The amounts of each don't really matter (mine varies based on what I have on hand) - so long as the overall amount is the same as the original recipe.

I added a LITTLE ice cream here, but you can skip that. Portion control is key here - make sure to share with lots of friends so you don't eat it all.

So there you have it. A little summer brightness in the middle of a gloomy winter. Do you love a little of summer freshness during the winter as much as I do?

Later gators...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Crochet projects 2013

It is getting cold again - a time I usually start turning to my yarn for projects. There is not much better than curling up on the couch with some yarn, hot chocolate, a fire burning, and the TV on chick flicks!! Seriously, one of my favorite ways to spend an evening. Now, if we could just get our fireplace converted back to wood burning, I would be set!

Last night, I was able to whip up this hat and scarf for my youngest. She picked out the hot pink at one of the big box stores. I usually don't buy that kind of yarn - it is rough and hard on the hands. But that is what she really wanted. I combined it with a lovely grey SOFT fuzzy yarn I picked up on sale at Twisted Knitter - the local yarn shop. The button was also from Twisted Knitter. Seriously, they have some AMAZING buttons. Again - the 4 year old picked this one out. It doesn't exactly match, but she loves it so we are all happy - even if she likes to show off her pouty face.

We took a few pics this morning - and yes those are her pajama pants. I at least was able to convince her the jean jacket would work better than her red sweatshirt. Your eyes can thank me now. :)

I hope to get through several more projects over Thanksgiving.

Happy yarning!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Name is Paul - red carpet premier

One of the very fun projects I have been working on lately - a red carpet dress! I had so much fun working on this dress. Yes, a few moments of wanting to tear my hair out too. But that is usually true when working on a larger project.

Our dear friend Abigail Cornell was in the movie My Name is Paul. She and I designed the dress together - and in 3 weeks, we had the final product. I used a turquoise crepe backed satin with matching lining from Hancock Fabrics and found the lace overlay at MaryJo's (in Charlotte).

Thank you Jennifer Robertson Photography for the photo. 

It is hard to tell from the photos, but the bottom turquoise is a fitted mermaid style. I love the way it moved under the lace. A little surprise when she is moving.

I am super happy with how it turned out - although it wasn't exactly what I had in my head. I am still fairly new to dress design/making. And I RARELY do things so formal. Typically sun dresses and work clothes are what I tackle. I am super happy I did this and look forward to more opportunities to work on formal clothes.

Congratulations Abbey on another movie premier! Can't wait to see the movie.

Later Gators...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Welcome Cupcake!

Meet the latest addition to our family, Cupcake. For some reason, I keep calling her Penelope. I chalk it up to mommy mush brain. She has the annoying habit of waking up between 3 and 4 to go out and play. I would say to use the 'facilities' but usually she has already done that inside. :( Needless to say, with shortened sleep and messes in the kitchen - I am not the easiest person to be around in the morning. For all of my local friends - consider yourself warned. At least we are able to use a baby gate and keep her in the kitchen where messes are easier to clean.

Cupcake is an energetic 8 month old, semi house trained, mostly obedient, and only mildly irritating to Boomer. Boomer has finally decided to let her know when she goes to far. It has been interesting to see both dogs interact. Both are somewhat submissive, so it is interesting watching their relationship develop.

We had started looking at some other Treeing Walker Coonhounds (just like Boomer) that are available around the area. Of course - aren't they all cute?!?!? We has JUST started talking about getting a second dog. Silly me, I'm thinking (hoping) we will get another dog just a sweet and calm as Boomer. Of course, I forgot he was a bit of work at first to. Then just 3 days later, poof - we have a new dog.

Lucy has discovered a love for training Cupcake. Getting Cup to sit and giving her a treat puts a huge smile on Lucy's face. She walks around with quit the strut. Since Lucy is smaller than Cupcake, I can see how empowered she feels. And, isn't it nice to get a dog to sit still instead of tackling you? Who wouldn't like that?!

So, we all continue to adjust and try to spread the love.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Upcycle Projects

Yes, we have been really busy outside lately, but I have still found some time to sew. Here are some pics of a few of the projects I have been working on. These projects are focused on finding new uses for old items.

Up first: coffee sack tote bags. This is the front and back of one bag. I have several more in the works. I love the look of these - but really, working with burlap is not my favorite. It is SOOOO messy. Luckily, I have a serger which makes the job a little less messy.

Fun, right?

Next up: summer dresses made from men's shirts. Fun sun dresses that just slip on. The elasticized area sits above the waist, just below the bust to flatter most body types. Every dress is unique. Cool and stylish or just off?

 I have a new respect for picking fabrics and envisioning the final product. Some items are easier than others.

Until later...


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Peaches and Blackberries

We love peaches around here. Sadly, we don't get good peaches very often. I was fortunate enough to find a road side stand this year that is selling peaches from South Caroline. They have been sooooo good!!! I have gone back to buy more, twice. I hope to go back and buy a whole case to can, but we shall see how much time I have on my hands.

I have made a low sugar peach jam. Yum.

Peach crisp. Put over ice cream, extra yum.

And my first attempt at canning peaches: let's just say, my mother-in-law and I decided to quit while we were behind. I think the end result was good, but the process did not go overly well. I was so glad to have her by my side - otherwise I really would have thought I was crazy and completely inept. Turns out, it was the peaches, not me. Phew. I hope to try again next week.

And yes, I have made some blackberry jelly too. I love to have a bit of jelly with some of my homemade peanut butter.

The first berries of the season were really pretty. The last week, not so much. I am not sure what has gone wrong, but I assume all the rain has something to do with it. The jelly still tastes good, but is a little more cloudy. Oh well, I will still enjoy the jelly come this winter!

Have you been preserving any of this summer's bounty? What are your favorite methods?

Until later...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

7-up biscuits

Yep, I've made them too. YUM!

There are a ton of recipes out there, all a little different. Of course, all have Bisquick. I had no Bisquick in the house. Bummer. So, to Google I went to find a way to make my own Bisquick from scratch. Yes, I wanted the biscuits that bad. Again, there are a million recipes out there, all a little different. So, I decided to just wing it and see what happened.

Homemade Bisquick:

I also added 2 TBSP sugar, as most of the other recipes used sugar. Although, not sure it matters. I will probably omit it the 'next' time I make this - assuming there is a next time. Yes, it's good, but it takes time. Just depends on how desperate I am.

I used my food processor to cut the shortening into the flour. You have to do this in stages, unless you have a massive sized machine. Then I just kind of mixed it all together.

4 cups Bisquick
1 cup 7-Up
1 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Put butter in a 9x13" pan. Put pan in oven to melt butter. Don't over cook this, burned butter is no good. :)

Mix everything else together. The dough will be wet. Put some flour on the counter. WARNING: the next part is messy. Grab about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of dough (I just guessed here). Roll dough in flour lightly and form it into a ball. Place in the pan. Repeat to make 12 biscuits.

Bake until golden brown approximately 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven.

And when they come out, you really should wait a FEW minutes so you don't burn your mouth. But, if you are anything like me, have a glass of water on hand and just bite and swig at the same time. Yeah, I am not very patient.

I will be working on a slightly healthier version - to see if I can keep the same great taste and texture but reduce the calories and fat while increasing the good stuff.

Until next time, increase your exercise to help counteract these little lovelies.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Plant Progress

It has been quite a unique experience living on a farm for the first time. We have lots of existing plants - many of which we don't really know what we have. There are always new surprises. I have greatly enjoyed taking this very unique opportunity to go out and take pictures every now and again as things change. So, tonight, you will get to see some of the plants currently growing.

We have also decided to plant a ton of pumpkins this year. My dear hubby and I have a crazy notion that maybe we want to run a pumpkin patch. Yeah - because we need more things to do. Halloween is one of our favorite holidays (even if it is not very big here in the south). We love the fall and just about everything surrounding that time of year. So, this year we are experimenting to see if we can grow pumpkins - kind of important if you want to run a pumpkin patch. ;)

Are you ready for some pictures??
Our blackberries are starting to ripen! I hope to pick my first bunch tomorrow morning. Hopefully the birds and coons don't get to them tonight.

Our chickens are growing nicely. I expect our first eggs to come in August/September. Luckily, they have lots of space to roam, so they are not eating much feed.

The pumpkins are in the ground! Most of them anyways. We are using drip irrigation and black plastic mulch. This is all new to us, so we have no idea if we will succeed or not. So far so good.

We decided to just plant 3 rows - there are about 10 watermelon plants in there too just for fun. If we are successful, we will hire out a tractor to deal with the rest of the garden space. Each row is about 175' long and 4' wide. I am guessing we have about 3-4 feet between rows for walking space. This is a lot of work! 

Look at these little lovelies. I don't know what they are, but I thought they were pretty.

This is a shot from the middle field overlooking the largest field we have. The trees basically mark the end of our property. That far field is about 6-7 acres. Wouldn't it be fun to have a corn maze out there??

We have some trumpet vine! I always love to see a little pop of orange in crazy places. 

That's all for tonight. Hope you enjoyed the tour. I will be posting plenty more pics as things around the farm continue to change.

'Till next time...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homemade Laundry Soap

I don't know about you, but man - my laundry mountain is getting crazy big by this point in the week. So, I thought this might be a good day to share with you my homemade laundry soap. Yeah, I am getting a little crazy with all this homemade stuff. I doubt it will last - or be consistent. Just something that is fun to do from time to time. If I can save money and have time to do it - of course I will.

There are tons of recipes out there, again I tweaked mine a bit - more with a method than ingredients.

What is needed:
2 bars FelsNaptha laundry soap
1 box washing baking soda
1 box borax
1/2 container scent crystals (optional)
1 container to hold finished soap (I have used my empty Tide box for most of the soap and the empty scent crystal container works well for what sits next to my machine.)
1 kitchen garbage bag - to mix everything

I have a family of 5 and average 7 loads of laundry a week. This recipe lasts us 4-5 months. 

What to do:
Cut the bars of soap into thirds.
  1. Microwave each piece separately on a piece of parchment or wax paper for about 45 seconds.  It will expand and form 'clouds'. Once it is done expanding, you can stop the microwave. NOTE: You may want to set your microwave for something like 2 minutes and just wait to see how long it takes to stop expanding. That will give you a better estimate of how long it will take with your microwave. 

(soap bits pre and post microwave) 
  1. Put each piece into a large mixing bowl to cool. Do this for all the bar soap. Let it all sit for about 30 minutes - or until it is COMPLETELY cooled. Seriously - wait.
  2. Mash the soap with your hands. It will turn into a powder.
  3. Add all ingredients to the trash bag and mix. I just tied it closed and moved the whole thing around for a few minutes.
  4. Pour into your storage container.

And that is it! You only need to use 1-2 TBSP per load - but I pretty much always use 2 TBSP. And yes, I use this in my HE front load washer. It does not sud, so it works great.

There are also recipes for liquid versions. I haven't tried those yet as I tend to like powder soaps better.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Semi-Healthy Banana Bread

I LOVE banana bread. Like most of my baked goods, I always strive to make them at least a little bit healthier than the original recipe. Every little bit helps. I have seen recipes that say you can use all whole wheat flour and it is yummy. Well, I disagree. The texture and flavor are all wrong - when what you are expecting is a fully loaded piece of banana bread.

I have a standard recipe I have used for years. It came from a school fundraiser recipe cook book (Brown School Sampler - 1995). The recipe I really like is called Grandmother's Banana Nut Bread. I have made several tweaks to increase the whole grains and of course have omitted the nuts as my kids don't like nuts in things. I have also played around with the fat content in this recipe. Since there is only 1/4 cup to begin with, I usually don't bother. You can substitute up to half of the fat with a non-fat yogurt and still have a decent texture.

So, when I have bananas that look like this:

I know it is time to make some bread!

1/4 c shortening (or 2 TBSP shortening plus 2 TBSP yogurt)
3/4 c sugar
1 egg
2.5 TBSP milk
1/2 TBSP cider vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 SMALL bananas
(a total of 2 cups 'flour' is needed. The exact combination is not as important as the ratio of white flour to everything else. I would not use any less than 3/4 c white all purpose flour. The rest just depends on what I have on hand.)
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 c wheat germ
1/4 c quick oats
optional: you can add nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, etc

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
Mix everything together. If you don't have a mixer, you can certainly mix everything by hand, but you will want to mash the bananas first.

Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake for about 45 minutes or until toothpick test comes out clean. Sometimes I run into the problem of the top getting dark before the loaf is done. I check at the 30 minute mark and if it looks like it is getting dark, place foil loosely over the top of the bread. 

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Until Later...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Back Yard Wonders

Ok, so we live on a small farm with no real front yard or back yard distinctions. But I was out and about the other morning taking some photos of some of the lovely items I came across. We have really enjoyed watching the yard develop over the past few months. There are surprises every month. Things that have blossomed that we had no idea were there. Today, I am sharing lots of photos of some of the wonders we have experienced lately.

We have TONS of blackberries that are forming! Should be ready to pick in a few more weeks. Do you see the spider hiding?

I don't know what this is, but i like the texture.

There are 3 kinds of Lilies that have popped up that were a complete surprise! LOVE them.

The grapes have begun to form!

I love dew drops.

The last of the Honey Suckle. I was planning on picking a bunch and try to make some oil/scent. Yeah, that didn't happen. Most of it is gone now. :(

Bugs, Bugs, everywhere are bugs.

Do you see the bugs?

Hope everyone is enjoying the summer.

Until Later...