Friday, November 30, 2012

Farewell November.

This month passed entirely too quickly for me. I love October, November, and December...and wish that I could somehow stretch this time of year out just a bit longer. 

I love the coziness of the fall season...the gathering of friends and family with grateful hearts...and the  season of advent, anticipating our Savior.

I think I am the most organized about family activities and meals and crafts during the month of December. This year my friend Missy suggested another photo a day challenge...and since I'm continuing with my scrapbooking tradition of the December Daily project, I figured this would tie in nicely!

I'll be using these photo prompts from I'm not sure if I'll share daily this month on the blog or every few days...we will see!

But I'm looking forward to sharing some favorite December traditions...some new projects...and some delicious recipes in this space this month!

What are you looking forward to in December?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thankful & a Recipe

I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

Ours was lovely.

We were home in Asheville for Thanksgiving for the first time since we moved to Texas back in 2004. 

Pictured above are: my Mom's beautifully set favorite plate of the year (and this year with deviled eggs and brussell delicious, thanks to my sweet sister-in-law!)...gorgeous pumpkins...vintage (maybe even antique!) place settings...a phenomenal pumpkin cake, if I do say so myself...a crystal jar full of years of counted blessings...loved how the kids table was also part of the adult table...the whole group together...and in the middle, the ladies in the kitchen. Loved getting to cook with my Mom and sisters! 

What a blessing it was to be with all of my family and Brent's parents this Thanksgiving...we were just missing Brent's brother and his family...California seems desperately far away this time of year.

I'm slowly easing back into routine after weeks of colds and the flu followed by thanks for being patient here on the blog! 

So how about a recipe?

In my opinion, there is still plenty of time to enjoy pumpkin deliciousness here's a copy of the recipe I used to make the cake pictured below (and above!) It's not too pumpkin-y. Brent and my Dad don't care too much for anything pumpkin...but they both loved this cake. So I think it could definitely still work leading up to Christmas time. 

To break up the prep time, make the crunch topping and cakes one day and then leave the frosting and assembly for the next. Allow time to chill the cake to aid in easy slicing. And invite as many people as you can to share it, or you will be tempted to devour the entire thing yourself.

Layered Pumpkin Cake

Crunch Topping
3 cups walnuts, finely chopped
3 cups vanilla wafers (about 75 cookies)
3 cups brown sugar
3 sticks butter
1.  Melt butter.
2. In a food processor, pulse cookies to a fine crumb. Also pulse walnuts until finely chopped. Add in brown sugar and mix well. Add melted butter and blend together.
3. Divide mixture into 3 greased cake pans, pressing into bottom and spreading it evenly into the cake pans. Reserve about 2 cups of the mixture which will be baked to use on the sides of the cake. Set pans aside and begin cake.
4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pumpkin Crunch Cake
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks of softened butter
1 16 oz can solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup greek yogurt
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1. In mixer, beat sugar and butter for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl frequently. Add in pumpkin and all the rest of the ingredients, except the eggs. Mix just until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, just until blended.
2. Divide batter equally into 3 prepared cake pans, smooth it out and make it as even as possible in the pan.
3. Place remaining crunch mixture in another cake pan or pie dish and allow to bake for the same amount of time as the cakes. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  
4. Allow pans to cool about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire racks and allow to completely cool.
8. When the extra crunch topping has cooled, use the food processor to make medium-sized want them to be consistent. Reserve until assembly.
Cream Cheese Frosting
3 8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
16 oz  mascarpone
2 sticks softened butter, softened
1 lb  powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1.Whip the cream cheese, mascarpone, and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar while mixer is on a low setting. Add vanilla and mix well.  Set aside until needed.
After your cake is completely cooled, place one cake layer on a cake pedestal, crunch topping facing up. Add frosting and spread a thick layer over cake. Repeat with remaining cake layers. Frost the top and sides of cake generously. Sprinkle the crunch topping evenly over the top of the cake and carefully on the sides. You can do this lightly (which is pretty) or more heavily, as I did above (which is extra yummy!)

Monday, November 19, 2012


Doing...laundry (2 down. 2 in process. 1 to go.)

Drinking...Earl Grey

Dreaming...about a piano.

Smelling...these freshly made brownies

Thinking...about Thanksgiving crafts for the kiddos

Noticing...that those two leaves pictured above have now fallen

Reading...A Wind in the Door. (Finished A Wrinkle in Time two nights ago and couldn't wait to read the second title in the series.)

Relishing...these final colors of autumn.

Preparing...for a meeting tomorrow with our local elementary school. We're still homeschooling but needing some help to identify some challenges. the hum of the dryer and the noise of an old Thomas the Train "computer".

Pondering...some big decisions.

Wondering...where we will be at this time next year.

Feeling...blessed and thankful and a tiny bit overwhelmed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Feast

Over the last eight years, I have hosted Thanksgiving all but twice, if I remember correctly. I thought I would share some recipes that have come to be staples around our Thanksgiving table.

Let's start with the star of the show...the turkey. :) My Mom's turkey recipe is's always beautiful and delicious.

Mom's Paper Bag Turkey

1 12-15 lb turkey
1-2 sticks butter, melted
2-3 tsp. salt
1 1/3 tsp. pepper 
1 medium onion, quartered
1 carrot, chopped in inch size pieces
1 celery rib, chopped in inch size pieces
1 orange, halved
5 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 brown grocery bag

1. Rinse turkey in water and pat dry. Remove the innards. Season the inside with salt and pepper and butter. Place onion, carrot, celery, orange, thyme, and bay leaf inside in the cavity.
2. Rub the outside of the turkey with salt and pepper. Rub butter evenly over the outside of turkey. Carefully slide fingers between the skin and meat to rub some additional butter over the meat, being careful not to tear the skin.
3. Place the turkey in the paper bag and place in a roasting pan. Rub butter over the outside of the paper bag and close paper bag. (I find the paper bags with paper handles to work well to help keep the bag closed.) See the picture below.

4. Cook the turkey according to directions on your turkey, based on the weight of your turkey.  When finished, tear the paper bag to remove the turkey. Place on serving platter or carve to serve. Use the juices for gravy when finished cooking.

I love these green beans...and I especially love them as leftovers...when the blue cheese melts. :) If you have guest (ahem, my children) who do not care for blue cheese, you could serve it on the side or substitute with goat cheese.

 Green Beans with Cranberries, Blue Cheese & Walnuts

3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
16 oz. package frozen green beans
4 oz blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Bring the first 3 ingredients to a boil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add green beans. Cook 5-7 minutes.
2. Spoon beans into serving dish. Sprinkle evenly with cheese, walnuts, and cranberries. Serve.

As a child, I loved the jellied cranberry sauce that slid out of the can and perfectly retained it's shape. I must confess, I probably would still enjoy it...but I've fallen in love for this delicious, fresh, and not too labor intensive version. It's yummy!

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 navel orange
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
4 cups cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pecans

1. Grate orange peel and add to a medium saucepan with sugar and grated ginger. Squeeze the juice from orange and add to the sugar. Simmer over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
2. Add cranberries and cook until berries pop. (You will hear this and the berries will give to pressure with a spoon.) Remove from heat. Add the pecans and allow sauce to cool.
3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Not pictured above but always ALWAYS always at our table are these delicious sweet potatoes. I don't care for marshmallow-topped ones...but this is almost dessert. Which is why I always save it for last. And I usually double the recipe to ensure there are enough leftovers. This recipe was originally posted here, and it's worth taking a look to see my sweet-as-can-be pilgrims from days gone by. :)

Sweet Potato Casserole

1 large can sweet potatoes, juice reserved
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine potato, 1/2 stick butter, egg, vanilla, and sugar with mixer. Add enough of the juice from the can of potatoes to make the mixture creamy. Spread into casserole dish.
2. In a small bowl, combine pecans, brown sugar, butter, and flour. Spoon over potato mixture.
3. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Now, the one thing that changes at my table year-to-year is desserts. And that is because it is my favorite think about, to make, to eat. And there are too many possibilities to stick to the same routine every year. So I like to switch it up.

Last year, I made an absolutely amazing Pecan Pie, which is pictured above.  (The leftovers were loved so much by a friend that I made her one for her birthday as well.) It's really good. (Two other great pies I've shared in the past are Sour Cream Apple Pie and Chocolate Fudge Pie.)

Deep Dish Pecan Pie
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 (16-ounce) bottle light corn syrup (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups pecan pieces or halves
1. Beat 1 cup butter and cream cheese at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add flour and 1/4 cup sugar, beating well. Shape the dough into a flat disc; cover and chill 15 minutes. 
2. Roll chilled dough to a 13" circle; carefully transfer to an ungreased 9" springform pan. (We recommend covering the outside of your springform pan with aluminum foil before filling and baking this pie to prevent leaks.) Press dough up sides of pan. Cover and chill.                                                 
3. Combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl; stir well with a wire whisk. Add eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and salt; stir well. Stir in pecans. Pour filling into unbaked pastry-lined pan.                                                                                                                              
4. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°: bake 2 hours and 15 minutes, shielding pie with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning, if necessary. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill, if desired. (It will make it easier to serve.) Remove sides of springform pan to serve.
What are some of your tried and true recipes? I'd love to know what you look forward to the most!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Simply Lovely, No. 16

These three simply melt my heart.
Their precious expressions and conversations
on a lovely autumn day.

Monday, November 12, 2012

12 on the Twelfth

  1. Hand-painted Football Field
  2. Laundry day
  3. Building the pages for this year's December Daily
  4. Christmas crafting
  5. Notes on scratch papers
  6. Hello Kitty crafts
  7. Finally. Moving announcements complete.
  8. Making some of these soon.
  9. Madeleine's first little croc. I can't part with it.
10. Special time with this guy tonight.
11. Earl Grey this evening.
12. Coffee for the morning.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election memories

Today, I've enjoyed seeing the variety of voting booth stickers pop up on my instagram feed.

I took our children this past Friday and voted early.

Many years ago, I remember going with my Mom to vote. I remember going into the lobby of our high school's gymnasium and seeing these huge blue metal voting booths. I remember the curtain that you pulled close and watching to see if Mom pulled the lever for a straight ticket or voted individually for each elected position. I remember thinking when I grew up, I would vote individually so that I could push each individual button. :) Kind of like wanting to be a teacher to write on the chalkboard every day.

And I grew up.

2000. I remember the first time I voted. It was by North Carolina absentee ballot when George W. Bush won against Gore. I was a senior at Baylor in Waco, Texas. My roommates and I stayed up so late waiting to see the late that, exhausted, we set alarms and fell asleep on the couch, waking up every few hours to see if a decision had been made.

This time 2004, again in Texas, going with Brent to vote. I'm pretty sure we voted at Lowes (?!?!?) and I thought to myself as I slipped my paper ballot in a huge metal drum "Only in Texas."

And then in 2008, Texas absentee ballot while in Oklahoma. I remember being surprised and happy to find a lady from our old church on the ballot for a local office.

2012. So this year, I took our three to the local courthouse for early voting. I think they were most excited about the tootsie roll and the voting sticker they received. But they asked lots of questions and wanted to see Romney and Obama's names on the ballot. There were no big blue voting levers. Just a paper ballot...with plastic divided partitions that were more reminiscent of standing 3-ring binders between students for taking a test than that curtain I remember as a child. I slid my ballot into the machine that pulled it from me much like the Redbox receptacles...and I was thankful.

Thankful that Virginia gets my vote this year.

Thankful to live in this country where we are each free to elect our leaders by ballot.

And thankful to know that regardless of the outcome, as Haley from The Tiny Twig noted so well via instagram this morning: "God is bigger." Indeed.

Did you vote today?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Hello November.

November, to me, is at once a slowing down and a building up.

The brilliant autumn colors which crept upon us quickly have faded but not gone completely. I'm treasuring the faded colors of the end of this season just as much as I did the beginning...maybe more.

The busyness of birthday month is behind us, yet the passing days bring us closer and closer to the holiday season.

This month, I'm striving to remember to give thanks in all things...during the busy moments and the still ones.

I love this printable from Ann Voskamp:

It's never too late to begin to cultivate gratitude.

Today I'm thankful for:
coffee beans.
tiny drawings scattered around my house.
this space in which to write.

What are you thankful for today?

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