Monday, December 31, 2012

Cinnamon Roll Casserole

I hope everyone had as great a Christmas as we did.  We spent some much needed family time talking, laughing, and playing games.  I love the holidays! 
Christmas morning doesn't have the same excitment as it used to when the boys were younger.  Teenagers just aren't eager to get out of bed at the crack of dawn, even for the promise of gifts.  We finally roused them out of their Christmas sleep at about 9 a.m.  They look excited don't they?

They did perk up after the gift opening began.  After we opened gifts at home, we headed to my mother-in-law's for a late breakfast with my husband's family.  I made the Breakfast Omelette Muffins that I blogged about last June.  This time I made them with ham instead of sausage.  I have to say that I like them much better with sausage and fresh mushrooms.  The ham settles on the bottom and it just isn't as flavorful.  Lesson learned.  I also made a new dish that I found on Pinterest.  Cinnamon Roll Casserole.  Anything with cinnamon rolls can't be too bad, right?  It was delicious!  I got the original recipe from The Dishy Decorator.  I followed the recipe exactly.  It's definitely not low cal, but it was very easy and a delicious spin on traditional cinnamon rolls.
Cinnamon Roll Casserole
2 tablespoons of melted butter or baking spray
2 cans (12.4 oz each) Pillsbury® refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2  teaspoons ground cinnamon
2  teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped Pecans (optional)
1/4 cup maple syrup
Heat oven to 375°F. Pour melted butter into ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish.
Separate both cans of dough into 16 rolls; set icing aside. Cut each roll into 8 pieces; place pieces over butter in dish. 
In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Beat in cream, cinnamon and vanilla until well blended; gently pour over roll pieces. Sprinkle with pecans; drizzle with 1/4 cup syrup. 
Bake 20 to 28 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove covers from icing; microwave on Medium (50%) 10 to 15 seconds or until thin enough to drizzle. 
Drizzle icing over top.  If desired, spoon syrup over individual servings.
I left the pecans out because I hate nuts in baked goods!  I don't mind them in candy or eaten alone, but not in baked goods.  This recipe makes a 9x13 pan, but you could easily cut it in half for a smaller 8x8 I'm sure. 
Cut up rolls into 8 pieces and spread in bottom of dish.
Pour egg and cream mixture over rolls.

After baking, heat icing so it's thin enough to pour over rolls.  Mmmmmmmm!  What's not to love?


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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Tis the season to be busy!  I've been absent from blogland for so long, you've probably forgotten all about me.  :(  I thought I better check in and show you what I've been busy doing these last few weeks. 
Since the week after Thanksgiving, I've been busy with Christmas preparations.  Shopping, baking cookies, shopping, wrapping presents, shopping, and spending quality time with my family.  Did I mention shopping?  I must admit though that as much as I love shopping, I'm not dealing as well with the crowds as I used to.  Either I'm getting crankier, or people are ruder (more rude?) than they used to be.  Probably the former. LOL!  I always have the majority of my Christmas shopping done by the first week in December and this year was no exception. It just seems that I've had an endless amount of little things I need to pick up here and there and that seemed to drag out my shopping a little longer. 
So, here's a glimpse at what's kept me busy the last few weeks:

I had dinner with my girls at one of our favorite restaurants, The Landmark.    Seriously, if you are ever in the Galesburg, Illinois area, you have to eat here.  Go to the website and check out their menu. Everything is delicious!  Crepes, quiche, spinach bisque.  OMG!  I'm getting hungry now! 
Anyway, it ended up being a good bye dinner for one of us. :(  Anita was moving about an hour and a half away.  We will miss seeing her every month, but now we have a great excuse for a road trip!!!!!

Next on my list was to get the house and tree decorated for Christmas.  This picture makes it look like I don't have many ornaments on my tree.  Many of them are white or silver though and don't show up well in the picture. I don't over stuff the tree with ornaments though either.

This ornament was one of my Grandma's.  We used to have a large family gathering every Christmas Eve at her and Grandpa's.  Every time I look at this ornament I think about all the great memories we made there!  Oh how I miss those days!

This ornament always makes it onto the tree.  It's a reminder of our much missed Molly.  She's been gone several years now, but we still miss her very much.  

 The next two ornaments are older than I am.  They are ornaments that we put on our tree when I was a little girl.  They're actually bells and have a ringer inside of them.  There's a whole set with different shapes and styles, but these are two of my favorites.

Of course we have a bird nest in the tree.  No it's not real.  It's a clip on.  However, having a bird nest in the tree is good luck and I certainly don't need any bad luck so it's tucked away inside the tree each year.  

After I got the halls decked, I baked some cookies.  I had a little help from Kenny and Demi one night, and my mom and I got together, as we do each year, and decorated sugar cookies.

Aren't they cute?

I think we decorated about 5 or 6 dozen cookies!

I am never dipping pretzels in almond bark again!  I saw this idea on Pinterest.  It is so much easier and not as messy as dipping the pretzels.  This is where I got the original directions.  It calls for plain chocolate kisses.  I thought these striped peppermint flavored kisses would be more festive.  I bought one bag each of Hershey's kisses, red and green M&Ms, and round pretzels.  I was able to make about 4 trays full like this one (and have some M&Ms left over!).  All you do is put a kiss in each pretzel, pop them in a 225 degree oven for just a few minutes, and top each one with an M&M, pushing the chocolate down to fill out the pretzel.  Easy peasy!

I have something I made that I just can't wait to post about, but I have to wait until after the holidays now.  I made a great gift for my book club girls but we had to cancel our December party. :(  Due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to reschedule it from our first date.  Then, on the rescheduled date, the midwest was hit with a blizzard.  If you live in the midwest, you know the one I mean.  I have never seen white outs as bad as I experienced on Thursday, December 20th!  I will always remember that date because it just so happened that it was also my birthday.  I was supposed to attend my faculty Christmas party and book club that night but both had to be cancelled.  Instead, I spent my birthday snowed in at home with my 3 handsome men playing board games and watching Christmas movies.  It turned out to be a wonderful birthday after all!

I always get very interesting, and huge, drifts on my patio.  This one is probably 6-7 feet tall.

Kenny had to get up and help me dig out so I could go to work the next morning.  The 4x4 truck couldn't even get out the drifts were so bad.  Yes, we have 2 snow plows.  Don't ask why we weren't able to plow out the driveway!  No time and poor planning are to blame.  

Last, but certainly not least, we have begun our family Christmas gatherings.  We spent yesterday at my brother's house for our first celebration.  We had a great food, exchanged gifts, and laughed until we cried!  That is what family time is all about!

It was so fun watching my niece open her gifts this year!

My two handsome sons and their cousin.  

And this is the type of game my family plays at Christmas! LOL!  It's actually pretty fun!  And guess who was the Smart Ass winner?  :)

Well, that's it.  It's been a pretty full season, but I've loved every minute of it!  I can't wait until Christmas and to spend more time with family.  I'm also looking forward to my 2 week vacation from work.  I have a list  a mile long of all the things I want to get done.  Cleaning, reading, scrapbooking, crafting, blogging, after Christmas shopping....  Merry Christmas to you all!


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Monday, December 3, 2012

Baked Red Potatoes

It's December in the midwest.  That should make you think of chilly weather and Christmas preparations.  Not this past weekend!  We had a bit of a warm snap and it prompted us to get out the grill!  Each winter, we buy a side of beef and a side of pork to stock the freezer.  We picked up the meat on Saturday and couldn't wait to throw some steaks on the grill!  One of my favorite side dishes for grilled meat is Baked Red Potatoes (for lack of a better name).  I've been making these for years and they're a family favorite.  They are so easy to make and delicious!  I don't really have an  exact recipe.  This is one of those that you just toss some ingredients into a pan and go.  Here's the basics:

Spray a 9 x 13 pan (I used foil ones for easier clean up!) with Pam.  Clean and quarter a 3lb. bag of small, red potatoes and add to greased pan. 
Toss in a 1/2 cup or so each of chopped onion and chopped green pepper.  I do use frozen onion and pepper which makes for quick preparation.  However, fresh onion and pepper are delicious if you have it and have time. 
Add 4 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix (more if you want to really taste the ranch).  Mix well.
Bake uncovered in a 400 degree oven for about 45-60 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Stir occasionally during baking. Sometimes I add some shredded cheese to the top at the end of baking for a little extra flavor.  I just forgot this time. 

Ready for the oven:
Ready for eatin':

I ate it this on December 1st.  Nothing like a delicious summer meal at the end of  fall.  The corn was some of the fresh summer corn on the cob that I had frozen and the steak was grilled to perfection.  I love these potatoes!  They're so easy to prepare!  Don't like green peppers?  Leave them out.  Try adding other vegetables.  You could even cook corn or green beans right in the pan with the potatoes.  You can really adjust this recipe anyway you like.  

I think today was our last warm day.  I actually opened my windows for a little bit this afternoon!  Enjoying the fresh air while I can because I'm sure it will be cold soon enough. :)


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Friday, November 23, 2012

Pumpkin Fudge

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving filled with family, food, and much needed relaxing.  We had one family dinner yesterday and I am hosting another one at my house tomorrow.  I even managed to do a little Christmas shopping in between.  One of the best parts of the Thanksgiving holiday is the food, of course.  I made scalloped corn and pumpkin fudge for yesterday's dinner.  I'll post the corn recipe at a later time.  Today I want to share the pumpkin fudge recipe.  This is a recipe I just stumbled across a couple of years ago while browsing at Every Creative Endeavor.  I LOVE this fudge!  I'm a huge pumpkin fan and can hardly make myself stop eating this!  It's not an overpowering pumpkin flavor - just enough that you know what it is.  It's pretty simple to make and I do not change the recipe one bit.

Pumpkin Fudge

1/2 cup sugar 
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 12 oz package vanilla baking chips
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla  

Line an 8x8 inch pan with foil, with the foil longer than the pan, spray the foil with non stick spray. In a heavy pan, combine the sugar, pumpkin, salt, milk, butter, and pumpkin pie spice.  Stirring constantly over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla, marshmallows, and vanilla chips, until smooth. Pour into the foil lined pan. Cover and refrigerate until set. Dump set up candy onto cutting board. Lift foil off, and cut and enjoy!!
I didn't take any pictures of the fudge. :(  However, the picture on the website is pretty much what mine looks like, too (maybe not cut quite as perfect!).  If you love fudge and pumpkin, then this is definitely a recipe you want to try!
Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Cake with Apple Cider Glaze

I am always on the look out for easy to make desserts that taste delicious.  Seriously, isn't everyone though?  I rarely bake from scratch (because I just stink at it!) so when I saw this recipe for a 2 ingredient cake, I thought "I can do that!"  :)  This is definitley one of the easiest desserts I've made and it tastes delicious!  I got the original recipe here.

Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Cake with Apple Cider Glaze


For Cake -
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (15oz) can pumpkin

For Glaze -
1 1/2 Cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons apple cider
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Empty the contents of the boxed cake mix and pumpkin into a large bowl.  Using a hand-mixer or stand mixer beat until well incorporated.  The batter will be very thick, but will come together nicely.
Pour batter into a greased  7 x 11 X 2 pan.  
Bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Do not overbake. Let cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, then flip onto a platter.
Make the glaze while you're waiting.
Combine powdered sugar, apple cider and pumpkin pie spice.  Glaze should be thick but pourable.  Add more sugar or cider if needed.  Pour over the cake while still warm.  Reserve some to pour over each slice when served.
Serve warm or room temperature.
That's it!  Now I know this cake isn't low cal, but at least it's not using the extra eggs and oil that it usually would.  After I baked the cake, I didn't really want to put it on a platter just for us (why dirty another dish???) so I just left it in the pan.  I poked a few holes on top with a meat fork so the glaze would soak in a little.  The recipe recommends reserving some of the glaze to pour over each serving, but I just dumped it all on the cake.  It worked out fine that way, but I think I actually would've liked it better if I had some of the glaze to pour on my piece. Next time, I'll do it that way. 
Speaking of the glaze, it seems like a waste to buy an entire container of cider just for 3 tablespoons.  It's ok if you like apple cider, and I do, but I'm the only one in my house who drinks it.  So now I have this large container of cider and I can't drink it all.  I think next time I'll just use milk instead of cider to make the glaze.  I don't think the cider changed the taste that much.  Most of the glaze taste came from the pumpkin pie spice.  Using milk will make the glaze more white than brown, but that's ok.  I think it will be good either way!
It's not the prettiest dessert, but it tastes good!  And what could be easier????

It tastes good with vanilla ice cream or I'm sure with Cool Whip as well.  It's wonderfully easy fall dessert that I'm sure I will make again!

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crazy Squirrels!

I know I've mentioned my backyard squirrels many times.  So many in fact, that I feel I'm running the risk of being labeled the "Crazy Squirrel Lady."  I can't help it though.  They're fun to watch... until they start chewing on my $200 patio cushions.  Then it's time to consider squirrel meat for dinner!  Last year they chewed up an old cushion I had on my yard swing, which I really didn't care much about anyway.  Then I caught them trying to chew my expensive cushions so I had to put those away in the garage.  I know they're just looking for things to stuff their nest with for winter, but seriously, find something cheaper to chew on!  This year, I was prepared.  I put an old, cheap cushion out by a tree the squirrels frequent.  Sure enough, I caught one out there chewing a hole in it and pulling out piles of stuffing to take back to his (or her!) nest.  You gotta see this!

The little sucker just kept packing in more and more stuffing until his mouth was so full he couldn't add anymore.  I think he finally saw me because I was laughing so hard I couldn't keep quiet.  I've decided that next year, I'm just going to put a tomato cage at the base of that tree and buy a bag of cotton fiber fill to put in it.  Then the squirrels can have all the stuffing they need for their nest and keep toasty warm in the winter. They really do live the good life in my backyard!
I also took a couple of neat pictures of the moon not too long after the squirrel shenanigans and thought I'd post them, too.  The second one is pretty good for a basic zoom lens and no tripod. 

Happy Fall!
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Bacon Tater Bake

So you've been looking for an easy side dish to go with your pork chops (or any meat for that matter)?  Bacon Tater Bake certainly fits that description.  It is so easy to make and tastes pretty darn good, too!  I cut this recipe out of a magazine a few years ago.  I have no idea which one (maybe Taste of Home), but Nita Cinquina of Surprise, Arizona, if you're reading this, this is your recipe!

Bacon Tater Bake


2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 package (32 oz.) frozen tater tots


In a large bowl, combine soup, sour cream and onion.  Add the bacon and tater tots.  Stir until combined. 
Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  Uncover and bake 8-10 minutes longer or until golden brown.

That's it!  It couldn't be any easier.  I make it as directed except I used frozen, chopped onion and add a couple of handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese. 

That's a lot of creamy, cheesy, goodness right there!

It's not the best picture, but I still think they look pretty tasty!  I served these with grilled pork chops smothered in BBQ sauce and green beans.  The leftovers are just as good the next day, too!


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Club

I think I've mentioned that I'm in a book club.  However, I've don't think I've really talked about it much, which is crazy because it's one my two favorite days of every month!  My other favorite day is my dinner club.  Mostly it's the same girls that go out for dinner that are in my book club.  There's one in book club who doesn't go to dinner and vice versa.  Anyway, I love my book club and dinner girls and it's time to pay homage to one of the most important groups of people in my life.  I love our time spent talking, eating, and even discussing books. :)  We will be celebrating our 10th anniversay next month as we had our first meeting in November 2002.  That also means that we've now read 120 books!  WOW!  It also means that we've eaten 120 desserts! :) 

Here's my girls...  Our group has changed over the years.  We started with 8 of us.  Since 2002, we have added a couple more, a few have stopped coming due to work and family matters. We also lost our dear Sherry to cancer 2 1/2 years ago.  This picture was taken in 2005:

And here we are last year at Christmas... There are 6 of us now.  Our group may be smaller, but it's still a great group of women who have been through thick and thin together.  We've been through in vitro, adoption, divorce, cancer,  and the loss of close family members through tragic accidents and illnesses.  We have also had our share of happy times, too!  We've welcomed 3 babies during our ten years, and 5 of us (including dinner girls, too!) will have our youngest children graduating from high school next spring.  We've laughed, we've cried, and even argued, but through all of it, we've remained great friends who will always be there for each other when we're needed. 

This is some of us at a fundraiser we hosted to raise money for our book club sister, Sherry, who was fighting cancer. 

We've thought about naming our group, but can never think of a good one, so we're just "Book Club."  If you're ever interested in starting a book club, but not sure how to go about it, just let me know.  I'd be happy to offer suggestions.  We have a pretty good sytem that works well for us.  We all take turns hosting book club at our house each month.  The previous month's hostess takes dessert to the next month's meeting.  Doing it this way really helps to divide up the work it takes to host a gathering.  No one has to get their house ready and make dessert at the same time.  If you are the hostess, you also get to choose what book the group reads.

When we started book club, one of the goals was to broaden our reading horizons.   We have read books from genres ranging from romance to horror/thriller to biography and everything in between.  Now, make no mistake that we are not an intellectual book discussion group.  Our goal is to read a book and discuss it, but a big part of our meetings are also talking. :)  We do not dissect each book and discuss it's themes, foreshadowing, protagonists, or any other of those literary words.  We talk about the plot, characters, what we loved and what we hated.  Sometimes we talk about the book for half an hour, sometimes 5 minutes.  It completely depends on the book and whether or not we just have other things on our minds that we need to talk about.  However, I will say that it is frustrating when you show up to discuss a book and half the group hasn't finished reading it! (You know who you are if you're reading this!)  Yes it drives me crazy, and they know it. :)

As I mentioned, we've read books across all genres.  Our first book was The Divine Secrets of the
Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  We sometimes read mainstream authors like James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, and Jodi Picoult.  Jodi Picoult holds our record for the most titles we've read by any one author.  I think we've read 5 or 6 of her books.  We've read 3 Stephen King books.  Occasionally we'll read a classic like To Kill a Mockingbird or Pride and Prejudice.  Each December we read a Christmas themed book and all bring delicious appetizers and soups for dinner.  Once we read a book called 16 Pleasures and the author (who is a professor at our local college) came to discuss it with us.  We also took a field trip to see the stage production of Vagina Monologues after we read the book.  Yes, we've read Fifty Shades of Grey. :)  But we've also read lesser known titles such as Me and Emma and Last Days of Summer.  We have no rules for what the hostess can choose for a book.  It's completely her choice.  Sometimes we love it, sometimes we don't.  I think we can all honestly say that we've read books we would've never have picked up on our own.

So last month I just wanted to do something special for my book club girls (you didn't think I was skipping out on giving you a recipe did you???)  so I made these jars of fall snack mix:

You can see basically everything I added into the mix, but here's a list:

Honey Nut Cheerios
regular M&Ms in fall colors
peanut M&Ms in fall colors
candy corn
candy corn pumpkins
Cheez Its

I used one regular sized package of each of these items.  This makes a HUGE batch!  You either need one extra extra large bowl to mix it in, or you need to mix it in two batches, which is what I did.  I filled 8 of these Kerr canning jars.  Then I tied some rafia on top and there you go.  You could use any combination of snacks you might like in your mix such as raisins, nuts, or other cereals.  My family loved it and I think my book club girls did too. 

I hope everyone is lucky enough to have such a great group of women in their life! I don't know what I would do without my monthly book club gatherings!  I love you all! :)


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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Spinach Bisque

I've been trying to think of a good intro to this post, but nothing is coming to mind.  I think my brain has hit overload after spending two days at a state library conference.  So much great information to take in!  Or, it could be that the bump I now have on my head from an altercation with my trunk lid this morning has affected my ability to think straight.  Either way, I think I better just jump right into the recipe...

Spinach Bisque

2 (15 oz.) cans chicken broth
3 (10 oz.) pkgs frozen chopped spinach
4 Tbl butter or margarine
2 Tbl onion
4 Tbl cornstarch
Large jar Cheese Whiz
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
1 pint half and half

Bring broth to boil.  Add spinach and cook until it all separates (10-15 min).  Saute onion in 4 Tbl. butter until tender.  Add cornstartch and stir until blended, then add to spinach and broth.  Add 1/2 or more of the jar of Cheese Whiz, cheddar cheese, and parmesan.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Add half and half.  Continue cooking until heated through on low.  The longer it cooks, the better it is.  Do not boil.  Serves 12.

I got this recipe from Lance's Aunt Marian about 18 years ago.  She has since passed away, but I never make this soup without thinking of her!  She was a wonderful woman and is dearly missed by our family.  I follow the recipe with one minor change...when I get ready to add the cornstarch to the melted butter, I add some of the half and half first.  If I don't do that, the butter and cornstarch get too thick and leave lumps in the soup.  Sometimes I also add a little Velveeta to the soup to make cheesier. 

Makes me hungry just looking at this picture!  My whole family loves this soup!  Kenny even postponed going back to college the weekend I made this so he could have some. :)  I know there are many variations of this recipe out there, but this is the best one I've tried so far. 


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Monday, October 15, 2012

Spooky Ghosts

I'll be the first to admit that even though I absolutely love fall, Halloween is not my favorite holiday.  I guess I'm not a fan of all the horror movies and the macabre that gets so much attention this time of year.  But, I am a huge Stephen King fan.  Go figure.  My kids haven't trick-or-treated for years and I just got out of the habit of doing much Halloween decorating except for the occasional jack-o-lantern.  Anyway, I have tried to get into a more festive spirit this year thanks to Pinterest.  I saw these cute little ghosts and thought I just had to try making them!  I couldn't find the actual website they came from, but this is the picture:

I can make those.  Right?  Let's get started...
First, I had to buy a sheet.  I got lucky and found a set of twin white sheets on clearance at Target for about $12.  That's the only item I had to purchase for this project so that makes each ghost cost $6.  Then I found 2 tomato cages and 2 sets of icicle lights we already had on hand.  I used the icicle lights because 1.  they were easier to get to in the garage than the regular Christmas lights in the attic and 2. They have white cords so I thought they would blend in better with the sheet. 
I washed and dried the flat sheet to get out the wrinkles and then cut it in half to make two squares.  I debated about hemming the cut edges on my sewing machine, but I just wasn't in the mood to drag all that out.  Someday I'll have a permanent place for my sewing machine!
The next step was to wrap the lights around the cage.  There's no rhyme or reason to this.  I just wrapped the cord around the cage leaving the plug end hanging out on the bottom. 
I did decide that I should hand sew some tie downs on the corners to keep the sheet in place. I live in the country and it gets windy sometimes.  All I did was cut one of the hemmed edges off of the sheet and tacked it down with some needle and white thread.  I sewed one tie down on each corner of the sheet.  

Then I just draped the sheet over the cage, tied down the corners to the bottom of the cage and placed them outside.  Aren't they just adorable?!!!!  I drew faces on them with a black Sharpie after I put the sheet on.  I totally free-handed the faces, but I think they came out ok.  

There was a pretty good breeze blowing when I set them up as you can see the sheet blowing below.  

I decided I had better pin them to the ground so they didn't blow over.  I found some metal stakes we had from something else and they worked well.  If you look closely, you can see the wire stake here:

Well, all was well and I went to work the next day.  Unfortunately, it got extremely windy before I got home.  I found my cute ghosts in a pile of sheets, lights, and flowers when I got home.  The cage had also poked through the sheet. :(

I was pretty bummed.  I brought the ghosts in to try to do some minor surgery and repair the damage.  Then I had to figure out how to fix it so the cage didn't poke through again.  Not my best idea here, but his is all I had on hand...

Yep, I taped cotton batting on top of each cage leg.  It's working for a quick fix.  My ghosts are happy to be haunting my front yard again.

You can see the batting in these pictures, but it doesn't really show up when you're just looking at them.  I still think they're cute!  They aren't too bad for no more time and money than I have invested in them.  It probably took me an hour to put them together and another half an hour to fix them after the wind took over. 

A couple of days later I found this GENIUS idea for the top:


Why didn't I think of this?????  Placing a Styrofoam ball on top would give it a better shape and keep the metal from poking through the sheet!  Oh well.  Maybe I'll try this next year.  Until then, I'm happy with my ghosts. :)
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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Fall Fun and Corn Chowder

Fall is in full force here in the Midwest and nothing says fall in my neck of the woods more than Knox County Scenic Drive.  I think the original intention of the scenic drive was to promote the area by having stops along a scenic route through the countryside.  It has really turned into "drive from place to place to visit craft/flea markets."  Unfortunately, I do feel the quality of the stops has dropped off in recent years.  Nonetheless, I braved the chilly temps (high of barely 50 I think!) and had a great day with my oldest son!  Kenny is the only one in my family who has the patience for something like the Scenic Drive.  A lot of driving around to crowded craft fairs.  Not the ideal day for Lance and Kelin. :)

Here's my partner for the day:

As we drove around the Knox County countryside, we were able to take time to enjoy some of the fall scenery.  I got a few miles down the road and realized that I forgot my camera!  All of these photos were taken with my phone.  They actually turned out pretty good.

Of course one of the best parts of going on the Scenic Drive is the food!  Mmmmm. Pork chop sandwich and apple dumplings!

We were also treated to some live music while we ate.  This girl was rockin' some Adele!
At the end of this long, cool, fall day, I decided that a hot bowl of Gilson Corn Chowder would be the perfect supper.  Gilson used to be a stop on the Scenic Drive tour and years ago I would go there just for a bowl of the this corn chowder.  The last year I was there, you could purchase a copy of the recipe for 25 cents.  What a bargain!  That was the best 25 cents I've ever spent!  This soup quickly became a family favorite and I make it quite often. 
Gilson Corn Chowder
4 slices raw bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 C. peeled, diced potatoes
3 C. water
3 Tbl. butter or margarine
1/4 C. flour
2 C. milk
2 C. diced ham
2 - 12oz cans whole kernel corn, undrained
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 Tbl. dried parsley flakes
In a large soup pot, over moderately high heat, cook bacon until it is almost crisp.  Add onion and cook until soft.  Add potatoes and water, cover and cook over moderate heat until potatoes are fork tender.  Melt butter in saucepan over low heat.  Blend in flour.  Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture thickens.  Add white sauce to potatoe mixture.  Add diced ham, corn, salt, pepper and parsley.  Bring just to a boil, but do not let it boil.  Serve.  This may be kept frozen for several months.  Makes 3 quarts of 8 1 1/2 C. servings. 
I follow this recipe pretty closely with a few shortcuts.  When making the white sauce, I melt the butter then add in a little milk, then some of the flour.  If I don't do it this way, the butter and flour just seem to clump up.  I then continue to just gradually add milk and flour, stirring until it thickens.  I also add about 1 C of shredded parmesan cheese at the end and stir until it melts.  I just like the little bit of added flavor it gives.  I also used frozen hashbrowns instead of chopping up potatoes.  It's much easier and still tastes good.  I do defrost the potatoes in the microwave before I cook them though.  One other shortcut I use is frozen onion as well.  I generally only use about 1/2 cup because we don't like it too much onion.  I know that fresh ingredients would be better, but seriously, I'm a busy person just like you are and I'd rather spend time with my family eating the meal than in the kitchen preparing the meal. 
 What bacon shortage?  Mmmmmmmm bacon!

OMG!  Did you know that you can buy cubed ham?  Cutting up the ham was my least favorite part of this recipe.  Yesterday, I found this already cubed ham on sale and it was cheaper than buying it whole and the package contained the perfect amount!  My life has changed forever!  I have yet another shortcut for my meals.

Looks good, huh?  It's a very hearty soup for a chilly fall day.  You really have to try it!
~ Dawn
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