Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sara makes Snickerdoodles


First of all, is this not the cutest thing ever???  It is one of Ellen's new litters and has become a family favorite.  Her name is "Tannenbaum" which means Christmas tree in German.  Ellen has a rule with her bunny business....you can't name the bunnies or they have to kept.  She has done very well with this rule until this little cutie pie came along....she is the offspring of a special breed of rabbits called "Lion head". They grow a tuft of hair around their head that looks like a "mane".  In preparation for the Christmas season this year, Ellen has had thirty baby bunnies this month, but this one just worked her way into the family, was named and will probably stay!  The girls have been making jewelry for presents this year so Ellen created this headpiece for her little friend

  
Like I said, Tannenbaum has worked her magic on everyone!  You can see the
whiskers already beginning to form the mane.


So, back to making Snickerdoodles ~ Sara learned how to make these from a friend and they are so super duper easy that everyone needs to know this recipe!  First start with regular boxed cake mix.


Mix 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, and two eggs into the cake mix.  


Form balls from the dough and coat with cinnamon sugar mixture ~ flatten balls
and place on baking pan.



Let little sister eat the left over batter


Bake at 350 degrees, bring to school for Christmas parties! 


Told you this was an easy one! Enjoy!!!!!!




Monday, December 13, 2010

Maisy is gonna be a Mama!

Elizabeth and Maisy

Elizabeth is going to be a grandmother ~ her baby is having puppies!

Maisy
You might remember one of my earlier posts....one of frustration when I endured three dogs in heat at one time!  Click on the following link to see the post - "What a Week, and it is only Monday"


In a series of coincidences, life is so strange ~ you will be amazed at who the father is!

Maisy and Scout

This will take a little explanation, so bear with me.  When Elizabeth was 10, she asked, begged, pleaded (you get the point) for a Golden Retriever.  Not just any Golden; a straight haired, broad head, AKC registered dog. We had always had labs so this was a foreign concept to me!   She was respectful but determined in her request.  Every day brought a new fun fact about Golden Retreivers.  Her backpack always held "dog" books and she literally read every book on training Goldens and also studied dog breed books from cover to cover.  She knows every single dog breed and can recognize any breed of dog and name it on sight.  She can even name what breeds are "mixed" in dogs and often proves this by telling what breed a dog is and then confirming it with the owner!  Anyway, I was extremely busy running a new business at the time and the last thing I needed to worry with was  a new puppy.  However, after a year of hearing how wonderful "Golden Retrievers" were, combined with the Christmas holidays,  I began to relent.  It was about two weeks before Christmas when I opened the paper to review the classified ads for puppies ~ and there it was...
A perfectly cute little family with no children who owned the father and mother and had a litter of Golden Retrievers for sale.  Holding my breath, I called and they still had one left!I rushed over and this adorable couple had dedicated a bedroom for the "Puppy Palace" and it was full of cute golden balls of fluff marked with Christmas ribbons as collars.....needless to say, it was a done deal.  I had to take pictures of her puppy-to-be as they were too young to take home, but I knew that would not matter to her ~ she would be thrilled and after a year of wanting a pup....her dream would come true. I bought a beautiful coffee table book with pictures of all dog breeds in it and on the Golden Retriever page,  we placed the picture of "Rascal"(Rascal was named by Elizabeth long before she got her!)

 On Christmas morning, it was all I could do to contain myself....secretly, she had also hoped to see a little puppy under the tree and rushed out with high hopes that morning.  However, with the suspense killing both Gary and myself, we waited until all the presents were open to give her the "book" with the note in the front to turn to page 64.  Resigned to fact that there was no puppy under the tree,  she suspected nothing as she opened the book.....only when she read the note and saw the picture, did she become the happiest girl I think I have ever seen in the world!
 Tears are coming to my eyes just thinking of it.


Never in your life have you seen a happier little girl with only a piece of paper to hold!


Two weeks later, (after many visits to hold and play with her puppy) she was able to bring
the real thing  home.

Rascal as a puppy


True to her word, she did EVERYTHING for that dog....waking in the middle of the night every four hours to take it out, training, and attending to her every need.  Rascal became Elizabeth's best friend and if you have ever read "Where the Red Fern Grows", you will understand the bond that grew between Rascal and Elizabeth.

Rascal and Abby 

Four years later, a terrible tragedy occurred that forever changed the innocence of my little girl.  Our two dogs escaped from their kennel while we were on vacation, and somehow, someway ~ someone
who must be a monster of a person, hit our TWO dogs, and left them on the side of the road to die.  One of our friends found them and called us while we were on the way home from what was a great vacation.  Gary told me the news and we told the girls ....it was a heartbreaking ride home.  Something inside of Elizabeth died that day......it affected her in so many ways and was her first real glimpse of how life can turn 180 degrees in an instant.  Her world was rocked......it took a long time to grieve and for all of us to get used to life without our dogs (our other dog had been with us twelve years).  In fact, Elizabeth's college essay is about her life lessons she learned with her time with Rascal.  So far, she has been accepted into every college she has applied to!  It took some time, but eventually we found another life partner (Maisy) for Elizabeth, but like your first love - it is not quite the same even though she loves her just as much. Anyway, back to the subject of my post ....I needed to share this in order to understand the importance of "Maisy's husband"!

Cooper and Maisy
When we discovered Maisy was in heat, our first thought was to track down the father of Rascal and breed Maisy to him.  It took some doing, but we found that cute family (who now has triplets) but discovered that Rascal's father had died, however.....they kept a litter mate from Rasacal's litter and it was a male.  They agreed to let us breed Maisy and now we will see a bit of Rascal in our puppies!

Maisy and Cooper (Rascal's brother)

Isn't this this the cutest thing ever.....dog flirtation!


Maisy
So.....puppies are coming and we are thrilled that the father is Rascal's brother.  Told you it was coincidental!




Our beautiful dog is going to be a Mama and we are going to have lots of cute little puppies to blog about at the first of the new year!


And this little girl of mine ~ well, she is going to college; where all these hard life lessons 
that have formed the core of a beautiful person ~ inside and out ~ will accompany her on
her journey through the adventures we call LIFE!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This aint no Charlie Brown Christmas tree!


This year we were on the ball and the day after Thanksgiving had this monster of a tree on our trailer!  It was spotted by none other than my husband on one of his "honey do" shopping trips.  He texted a photo of it to me and said, this is the one!  Wow, modern day Christmas tree shopping! We all went to pick it up and make sure that there wasn't one that trumped it, but there wasn't, so this was the tree that was to be ours.





Now, I am 5 foot, 5 inches, so this tree must be pushing ten to twelve feet.
 How did the Rockefeller Center miss this one?


Getting it through the door was no easy task and took all five us!


In order to made it stand up,  we had to tie it with a wire to the wooden beam, and
this was done with Gary balancing precariously on a two foot cylinder that goes under 
Ellen's Indo board, placed on a stool, held with a death grip
 as he stood on this contraption.


There were many instructions and words of advice flying from all directions.


It was touch and go for a while


But after lots of hard work on everyone's part...


Especially Gary....


The task of decorating this monster began.


This ladder got a workout for the rest of the day.


Favorite ornaments were hung


We have so many wonderful ornaments....many of them are hand blown glass ornaments that my sister made - she is a expert in the glass blowing industry.   The pine cone reminds me of one of my 
first Christmases, when we had no ornaments.  I gathered pinecones and leaves, spray painted them gold, tied a Christmas ribbon around the top and decorated my entire tree with them. We still have many of them and I still think they are beautiful! 


I treasure my hand blown glass ornaments...


A masterpiece of giant proportions........
Merry Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding Rainbows in thin air....


Blogging is an interesting thing....that must be why I continually come back to do it!  This week, has been an extremely difficult one for me, and I have wanted to write about it, but wasn't quite sure how to approach the subject, and today.....my Ellen,  brought it full circle for me; literally, 
with a circle of rainbow colors



This weekend, a close family friend's child and distant cousin of ours was killed in a freak 
four wheeler accident ~ she was 11 years old, same age my Ellen.... was full of life, loved animals, loved the outdoors, hunting, cross -country, soccer,  and always had a smile on her face.



Tuesday was spent attending the funeral, graveside service and reception at the families's house afterward....we were in the company of around 1000 plus people who wanted to pay their respects for this awesome little girl.


Usually a church is a place of comfort, familiarity and solace, but on Tuesday, it was one of heartache, sadness and disbelief.  Disbelief at how quickly the life we take for granted can change in an instant.  Disbelief that a precious little person was there one minute and the next minute she was gone.  It was a place of thoughts....thoughts that were thankful....thankful that my three girls were still here, with us; thoughts that I need to be a better mother, a better wife and a better person.


If any sense could come of this tragedy, it would be that every person who attended would have the  same thoughts I did.....to be the best you can be....all the time, because you never know 
when that will be taken from you and you can't go back and fix it. It was a sadness that
was felt so deep, so gut wrenching, it was hard to breathe.  And I am not even the parent.


How does one go on after such a devestating tragedy.....time will tell.  I do tell my girls that it is not what happens to you in life, but how you handle it.  Life throws you curve balls and you need to know how to catch them and throw them back.



 Today, as I was contemplating the loss my friends are dealing with, my Ellen, an angel on this earth, said (as we were standing in the kitchen) "hey Mom, can you come closer to me"....confused I looked at her for clarification.  "Yes, take a few steps towards me" she said.  I obliged, still not understanding....."one more step...now stop and look at your shirt." You have a rainbow on you."  Sure enough, I looked down and there it was ~ a perfect circle with all the colors of the rainbow.  "Take a picture of this" she said.  So of course....I did!


Why do we love our children so....because they help us to see things that we adults tend to ignore....the sweet, beautiful things in life....like this rainbow.  I have been in the this house for ten years, and today is the first day I discovered there was a rainbow ~  in my kitchen ~ every day.


Ellen spotted it on my sweater and took the time to point it out and admire the simple beauty of every day ordianry life. 


I am sure it has been here all along, the light shines through this peep hole everyday
but today was the day it was was discovered.  Today, when I needed reassurance that 
life was good ~ and beautiful. 


Monday, November 29, 2010

The Tail of the Turkey Gumbo


 It is pretty much an unwritten rule that "gumbo" is made with your leftover turkey and carcass in Louisiana.  The cookbook above was a wedding gift to Gary and I (22 years ago) and it is a small cookbook that has the recipe just about every type of gumbo you can possibly imagine.  As you can see, it has gotten quite a bit of use...particularly this recipe!


Every gumbo starts with a roux....this is the french 
name for equal parts of flour and oil, butter or bacon drippings that are 
stirred together over slow steady heat.  It takes about 
thirty minutes, but the flour turns a dark golden brown and 
the bonus is the great smell you get from making roux.
I don't know of a person who hasn't "burned the roux", even
I, maker of a thousand rouxs am constantly on guard as you must 
continually stir or your beautiful, golden brown, bubbly mixture
becomes a blackened mess. This usually happens about twenty
minutes into the process when you are starting to relax and 
think you've got this in the bag, and you are 
left to start over again for another
round of stirring and fretting! 


In addition to the roux, the next step to a really good gumbo
is......the stock.
Here is where you put anything and everything that is about to 
go bad in your refrigerator.  All veggies (the required
ones are garlic, celery, onion, and bell pepper) the leftover carcass,
leftover gravies, whole sprigs of herbs, and of course
Tony Chacheres and seasonings of your choice.


Once you have simmered this until the meat is falling off the
bone, then you drain it.  If you don't have enough
leftover turkey, throw some chicken breast or in
our case, since we are big duck hunters, whole ducks.
Let the meat cool and now is the part I detest..
which is picking the meat off the bone for the gumbo.  
I don't know why I don't like it, but I think it 
is because, I am always in a hurry and can't wait for it 
to properly cool, so I often burn my fingers.  


After you drain your stock, you have a beautiful, rich
thick broth that taste devine.


Now for the fun part.....mixing your vegetables into the roux!
I love this because a) I am getting closer to eating a bowl of gumbo
and b) it smells even better then making the roux.  Here, I have
a mixture of  ham, sausage, onions, celery, garlic, bell pepper, okra, turnips, and
a package of crawfish that I stirred into the roux.  You can just do the Cajun Holy Trinity
(bell pepper, onion and celery) here or you can check out your refrigerator
and throw in the Kitchen Sink as I did.  You will want to stir over low heat
until the veggies are slightly cooked....THEN

It is time to put it all together, simmer about another half hour to an hour,
cook some rice and serve.  Gumbo is served over rice and 
true cajuns must have file (cajun spice) sprinkled over it. 

Now I have been making gumbo for two decades so the recipe above 
is how I have adapted many recipes and rolled them into one.....
I do use butter for my roux where as most folks 
use oil or bacon grease. 


 I read John Folse's "After the Hunt" cookbook 
(an unbelievably beautifully illustrated, wonderful cookbook)
and he said the traditional cajuns used butter and after testing it out,
I think it makes the gumbo much better. (although probably not healthier)

For those that don't want to wing it with Gumbo, I am going to include this recipe that I refer to 
when making turkey gumbo as it has proportions and actual measurements!  Once you have made a few gumbos, you become more confident about "mixing it up"
Ingredients:
Turkey bones (with 1-2 pounds of meat let on)
Water to cover (about two quarts) if you have leftover white wine or some beer ~ add that too
2 teaspoons of spice (Tonys, or another type of all spice) or salt and pepper
Two onions chopped, 1 bell pepper chopped, 3 stalks celery chopped, 1 1/2 teaspoon of garlic chopped
1 (1 pound) can tomatoes chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 pound of ham 
1 pound of sausage

To make stock, do as I said above (Cook about 1 1/2 hours) Drain and reserve broth
Make your roux
Add vegetables and meats to cooked roux
Stir until vegetables are wilted - they don't have to be completely done
Mix reserved meat, broth and roux/veggie mix together and simmer at least 1/2 hour

TIP:  They now make Gumbo seasoning that you can buy at most any grocery store,  I do all the above and when I am letting the gumbo mixture simmer at the end, I add about 1/2 pack and find it gives my gumbo a really good flavor.  You do have to look for one that doesn't have the rice in the mixture.  I just started doing this and it really pushed it "over the top" and when you are in a pinch, you don't have to simmer quite as long to get a good flavor.  

Don't kid yourself ~ Gumbo is about a three hour process if you do it right....but it is sooo good and it freezes well too!  You can make this recipe with any meat....chicken, fish, shrimp....it really doesn't matter; it is all good! When I make it, I do two huge pots and have lots for the freezer......we like to have those freezers good and full before hurricane season!!!!! For those of you that don't live in LA (that is a JOKE....but unfortunately is true and we are left powerless for days, trying to eat everything in the freezer before it goes bad!




Now ~ go make it a great day, clean out your Thanksgiving leftovers and 
MAKE SOME GUMBO!
Let me know how it turns out!