A Spoon full of sugar

Dear Friends,

One of the benefits of my dietary restrictions, that I protest against all the time, is that I am back to making many food items from scratch. I feel like I’ve gone back to my “Granola Mama” roots! And actually I’m enjoying it. Of course, I realize it is much easier in my later years with no career-family juggling act going on.

Some of you have asked for recipes, so here goes. Today I’ll share the latest baked goods. I have to eat gluten-free, so I use Bob’s Red Mill Grain One to One gluten-free flour. One of my best finds ever! I never did like having to mix flours and add xanthum (is that spelled right?) gum myself.So here we go:

Easy Pizza Crust
1 package (0.25 oz) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
Mix sugar with yeast and warm water. Let is sit for 10 minutes. It should look creamy. Stir in the flour, olive oil, and sat. Stir until smooth. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Pat into a pizza pan that has been prepared with cooking spray and a sprinkling of corn meal. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Place the toppings of your choice on the pizza and bake 15 to 20 minutes more.

Basic Muffins
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (use a mild flavored one such as Canola)
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease to bottom of muffin cups (I use cupcake papers and spray them with cooking spray). Blend dry ingredients together then stir in wet ingredients until just blended. Do not overmix. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Muffins should have gently rounded tops. Makes 12 muffins.
For variety:
For sweeter muffins decrease milk to 1/2 cup, decrease flour to 1 1/2 cups and increase sugar to 1/2 cup.

Surprise muffin! Fill muffin cups 1/2 full then add the surprise of your choice. We like blackberries! You can also use a spoonful of jelly or jam or a spoonful of peanut butter. Fill the cups to 2/3 full and bake as usual.

Ginger pear muffins: add 1/2 teaspoon EACH of cinnamon, allspice, and ginger. You may want to substitute brown sugar for white sugar in the recipe. Add two jars of baby food pears or 1/2 cup of canned pears that you have puree’d in a food processor.

Sweet potato muffins: Substitute brown sugar for white sugar. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and two jars of baby food sweet potatoes or mashed sweet potato that has been thin to pourable consistency with milk, to equal 1/2 cup.

Apple muffins: add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 cup of grated tart apple.

Blueberry muffins: add 1 cup of well drained fresh or canned blueberries.

You decide what varieties you might like, and share them here.

Dumplings
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup of milk
Blend dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Blend in milk. Drop by spoonfuls into boiling meat stock (not water or broth). Cook at a pretty good boil for 10 minutes uncovered then place a domed lid on the pan and cook for 10 more minutes. I cook the meat in the slow cooker and then pour in to a pot and bring to a boil when I’m ready to add the dumplings.

Pancakes (the best I’ve ever made!)
1 egg
1 cup butter milk (if you don’t have butter milk add a teaspoon of lemon juice to regular milk)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend the dry ingredients then add the wet ingredients. Mix together and make sure the batter is not too thick. Sometimes, I have to add a little milk. Pour in 4 inch pools on a very hot greased griddle or skillet. When the tops are covered with bubbles turn the pancakes over to cook on the second side. This recipe makes 10 to 12 pancakes. It works well for dollar size pancakes too.

Well that seems to be about enough for today. I hope you enjoy my new found cooking gems. Let me know if you have questions, and please share your faves with us here.

Until next time,
Helen

Day of Rest

Dear Friends,
I’m in my usual spot to write; with a cup of coffee close at hand. Won’t you join me? It’s cold and windy outside, but I’m happy to say I was able to work out in the gardens earlier in the week. Delightful!

Some of you already know that I have a day of rest each week; a “Sabbath” if you will. It has changed my life! Mine happens to be on Saturday, but I recently heard of another writer who has hers on Wednesday—the kids are in school. People have asked me what I do on this day. It’s more about what I don’t do.

1. I don’t do housework. Anything that is undone will have to stay that way. That being said, I do try to get as much done as I possibly can by Friday night. It makes things much easier to ignore.

2. I do not cook until the evening meal. There are usually leftovers from the week in the refrigerator. Mr M eats those, and I usually semi-fast. I don’t order take out or eat out, because I prefer not to make others work so that I can have rest.

3. The only TV I watch is the occasional movie. I absolutely fast from the news from Friday night until Sunday morning. It helps that Mr. M does too. That is probably the single thing that has helped me most in maintaining rest.

4.I do not go on the internet (except for the occasional Google search connected to something I’m reading). I don’t usually even go on Facebook. It is impossible to avoid the news unless you are willing to do this. I’ve never felt like I missed anything by taking that time off.

Now for what I do:

1. I have a prolonged quiet time in the morning. I read more scripture than I usually am able to make time for. I read, pray, and listen to uplifting podcasts, such as sermons, poetry, and personal stories. I also keep a classic book on my phone for times such as this.

2. I spend some time on personal care. Not just soul care, but physical care. I do my nails, do a pedicure, trim my hair, do a facial; whatever most needs to be done and makes me feel good about myself.

3. I reach out to others. Not to get embroiled in problem solving, but just to let someone know I care. Because I am basically an introvert,it is easy for me to shut people out. On my sabbath, I try to spend a little time making a call, texting, or writing a note to someone that I want to encourage. As I said, this can be a balancing act. I don’t want my sabbath to be a day I get bogged down in being needed. There is plenty of week for that.

4. I rest! Rest is a spiritual discipline. If I need to, that might be the thing I do most with my sabbath day. I have been known to sleep late and still take a couple of naps.

I realize that I am older and retired, so I have a lot of freedom to do this. I do, however, know what it is like to be home with preschoolers, lots of preschoolers! My best advice is to use nap time, or the time after they go to bed for some “you” time. Don’t try to get just one more thing done. If you take care of you, the family will be better for it. If you ask my kids, they will be happy to tell you, I was a tyrant about bed time! Try to have a mini sabbath every day if you can’t take a whole day.

If you work full-time, I understand. I haven’t forgotten what it is like to try to cram a week’s worth of work into two days on the weekend. I have some ideas that might lighten the burden, but I will save those for another time. I do recommend that you stop everything at least an hour before bed time. We used to stop about 9 o’clock, have a glass of wine, listen to music, and talk for about an hour. It was good for our marriage, and good for us as individuals. Sleep came much more easily. We both had busy, high pressure jobs, and it was a good way to decompress and reconnect.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. What are your ideas on this subject? We are all in this journey together.

Until next time,
Helen

Spring!!!

Dear Friends,

The first of the seed catalogs has arrived;reminding me that despite my fatigue with winter spring will arrive. It’s a little hard to believe, at 31 degrees with snow on the ground. I can hardly wait to dig in the soil.

In the meantime, there are still plenty of indoor projects to be completed. This includes (but is not limited to) a project room. There are always a lot of projects going on at our house, and this will, hopefully, keep them contained. I’ll tell you more about it as I get it up and running.

It’s time to be looking at spring cleaning. Do people still do that? I find that spring, while I’m waiting to be able to garden, and fall, after it is too cool to be outside, are the perfect times to get those every once in a while tasks done.

I’m always on the look out for better, easier, and greener ways to keep things clean. I try lots of new things; I’ve had some hits, and some terrible misses. Here’s the best of what I have found lately:
I keep a spray bottle with 1/2 strength vinegar; it’s great for cleaning chrome in the bathroom and kitchen, as well as mirrors. Every once in a while I put vinegar in a plastic bag and put it over the shower head and secure it with a rubber band. Let it soak over night and it will get rid of all the lime build up from hard water.
My shower tends to get mildew on the ceiling. After years of trial and error, I discovered that my Swiffer wet mop was perfect for the job. I can reach the ceiling; nothing drips; and it cleans it away beautifully and it will stay gone for some time.
Keeping the microwave clean if a never ending job and can be a real challenge. The best hint I’ve had in a long time, is to place a small dish of lemon juice in the microwave and run it on high for a minute. The microwave will fill with lemon vapor and the food (even baked on) will wipe right off. An added bonus is, no chemical smell.
You have probably figured out by now that vinegar is my new best friend. I use it in the dishwasher in a last rinse instead of costlier products that don’t really do the job. A 1/2 cup or so and then the rinse only cycle will do it. No more spots!
In the winter I have dark brown rugs in my bathroom. It goes without saying, they show everything! A sticky lint brush is the perfect way to keep them looking fresh between washings. The same lint brush works well for getting cat hair off the furniture. It’s much easier than trying to keep the cat off the furniture!

I was raised with the idea that doing things the hard way, was the only way to do them right. That included cleaning the house. Ugh! That is not for me. If I can find an easier way to do things, I am all for it. Do you have any hints to share? If so, please do. My dilemmas include windows, floors, blinds, and woodwork. Any ideas? I hope so and I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time,
Helen

The Best of 2017

I know we already said, “good-by” to 2017, but before we let it go completely; I want to share some of the best of the best that I found in 2017:

Phone Apps–
Calm- a meditation site. You can use this app free or pay a modest fee for an upgrade. Whichever you choose, it is a wonderful site to use to take a deep breath and be calm.
Charity Miles- donates to whatever charity you choose, whenever you exercise. You can turn on the app, choose your exercise and put you phone in pouch or pocket. I donated one and a half miles just with a shopping day. Warning! They will nag you to keep exercising.
Wish- a shopping app that was introduced to me by my daughter. I call it “stocking stuffer central”. I got part of the gifts and almost all of the stocking stuffers for Christmas on the site. Allow plenty of time, sometimes delivery takes a while, depending on where it comes from.
Groupon- most of you are probably already familiar with the app, but I just discovered it in 2017. I immediately got an oil change at Jiffy Lube for $22.

Kitchen Gadgets–
Spiral Cutter- I got one of these for Christmas and I use it almost every day. Mine has five different blades, but there are simpler ones out there.
It is perfect for cutting vegetables for stir-fry or roasting.
Silicone egg molds- another gadget I use several times a week. Perfect for breakfast sandwiches. By the time it is time to turn the eggs over, it can already hold its shape. No more eggs spilling out of the sandwiches.

Here are some other great finds of the year. I discovered two new thrift shops that are close to home. My favorite is next door to one of my favorite coffee shops. Who could ask for more? It has very high end clothing for great prices. My best deals of 2017? A faux leather jacket with the tags still on for $5. It is quite stylish and I have seen it on at least two Hollywood types.The last time I was in, I got a sweater, a purse, and two books for $9. The second shop is an outlet for a consignment store. Everything in the store is $3.

When attending a wedding shower last fall, someone advised the bride to buy two twin size comforters for her bed. I immediately went out and did that very thing. I could not be happier with the results. Mr M is always hot and I am always cold. This way we can have the comforter on or off without disturbing each other.

We are gluten-free at our house, and I had almost given up baking because it is so complicated. Bob’s Red Mill Grains came out with One2One flour. The xantham gum is already mixed in and it can be substituted for regular flour in baking. I am back to baking once again.

I hope you picked up some ideas here. I also look forward to hearing about your great finds.

Until next time,
Helen

New Year’s Resolutions

Welcome! Grab a cup o’ (mine is coffee) and let’s chat.
Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are you able to keep them? Do you get frustrated and swear you are never going to do it again?

My experience with New Year’s Resolutions has been mostly negative. Failing to carry out something I resolve to do leads to feelings of failure. This year my attitude is different; but before I get into that, here are some fun facts:

New Year’s resolution is mostly a western hemisphere tradition. That may explain why 80% of resolutions have something to do with body image.

Each year the Babylonians resolved (promised) their gods that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.

The Romans began each year making promises to the god Janus (thus January).

In the middle ages Knights took a Peacock Vow at the end of the Christmas season to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

Many Christians participate in watch night services on New Year’s Eve. A time of prayer, repentance and resolution.

In the Jewish New Year holidays of Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, participants are to reflect on their wrongdoings, and to both seek and offer forgiveness.

Back to my change in attitude! I recently heard a new take on resolution. Take a look at this! Forget resolve, think RE-SOLUTION! A new approach for an old situation. I’m loving it.

Let me hear your thoughts.

Until next time,
Helen

Goodby 2017

Welcome! Let’s chat a while. I’m having tea; what will you have? I know it’s been a while, but I really do plan to be more faithful with this blog in the future. I’ve missed our little chats. Mostly I miss hearing from all of you!

Our holidays were good, although we always miss the family members who can’t come home. Even though I was only responsible for hosting and the sidedishes for Thanksgiving (Brian did a turkey and a ham), I discovered it was a bit much for me and I was exhausted. Time to pass the baton to the next generation. Then I have to deal with the guilt of, “why can’t I do this?” My 83 year old sister still does it.

With that lesson in mind, I only did Christmas Eve this year. We had so much fun! Mr M made chilli, which is all of the kids favorite. We had stockings, and presents, food, conversation, games. It was so much simpler and more enjoyable. On Christmas Day, we had our own little Christmas; just the two of us. It was a good time for contemplation, special prayers for special people and the kids all went off to the other side of the family. Everyone was happy.

As is my custom, I started my shopping for Christmas 2018 right after Christmas. I can’t resist a bargain; so when everything is 50 to 70% off, why would I wait and pay full price next year? Just some examples, I got tins for Christmas cookies for 89 cents each, lots of stocking stuffers, jar candles for $1.79, gift card holders for 30 cents each. And on and on. One of the most fun shopping days of the year.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday too. You know, all my “plan ahead” and “down-sizing” are about spending the actual holiday paying attention to what it is really all about.

Check out my Facebook page Helen’s World, it’s all about the second half of life and what I’m learning along the way in this journey.

Looking forward to hearing from YOU!

Until next time,

Helen

 

Soup’s On

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and pull up a chair to the table.

Once again, there has been a gap in my posts. This time my excuse is vacation. We had a lovely time in Texas with relatives in October.We had a lovely trip in the warm fall weather, with the trees in the north turning to wonderful fall colors. In Texas the trees had not begun to turn, but in the early mornings the air was a bit nippy, so it won’t be long. Someone told me that the turning leaves move south at a rate of 9 miles a day. I wonder if that’s true.

We did manage to come home to cold and a little snow. I’m not ready for that yet. However, if you promise not to tell anyone, I will admit that I enjoy chilly fall days. Fall food is probably my favorite. It’s warm and cozy.

This week we had, what my family calls “Clean Out the Refrigerator Soup”. It seems to be a favorite. We don’t waste food at our house, and if there is meat or vegetables leftover from dinner, it becomes lunch later in the week. If there is not enough leftover to make another meal, it goes into the freezer. I keep quart size plastic containers that I fill with the leftovers. No one seems to care if there is more than one kind of meat in there or pasta as well as rice.

When I have about 2 quarts full, I have enough for soup. I usually get them out to thaw the night before. In the morning, I dump them in the crock pot along with a can or two of chicken broth (depending on the consistency of the leftovers and how thick or thin you like your soup). The secret to good soup is in the seasoning. We are fond of basil at our house, so I use it generously. You may prefer other herbs and spices. Experiment! Turn on the crock pot and forget it!

Towards the end of cooking time add a can of whatever tomato product you have on hand. I have even used pasta sauce. I like to stir this frequently but it’s probably not necessary. Serve the soup with a salad and bread or crackers, if you like, and you have a hearty meal.

We like other soups too (I make soup about once a week through the fall and winter). But this is a favorite. The kids love Mr M’s chillie which he makes two or three times a winter, and always on Christmas Eve. We also like Chowders of all kinds and my really simple Two Can Chicken Tortilla Soup. I’ll share that recipe at a later date.

In the meantime, here’s to a warm cozy fall!

Until next time,

Helen