Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winter Views on Dec 30, 2017

I took a few photos of the snow and ice in our territory
The trees along the river are white with ice.  Our daytime temps haven't been up high enough to melt any of it that arrived a couple days ago.

This is our normally seven-foot tall Pampas grass laid low by the weight of the ice that covered it the last several days.

The reservoir in the background is only iced on the edges.  Large areas of icy snow have flowed thru already.

This is an unusual scene here in southwestern Maine this time of year.  Usually we are hoping for some snow on Christmas for the kids to use their new toboggans and sleds, but we got more than we bargained for this year.   Our cold came earlier.  Its usually in January that we are muffled to the teeth to fight the cold.

I am happy to report that the 8 degrees above zeroF that it was when I took these photos, really felt pretty darn good after our below zero nites when I walk my dog.  And the sunshine really helps during times like this.  I didn't even have to wear my mittens this noon and I was comfy.

Have a good day.

African Violets Amid the Bitter Cold of Dec 2017

Its been unusually cold here in southwestern Maine the last week.  Days in the single digits Fahrenheit and nites below zero.  Penny and I took our morning walk at 7:30 to 12 below zero.  We didn't waste our time.  Thank goodness Penny is trained to 'go' pretty much when she hears the magic words so it only took us 5 mins. out in that blast freezer this morning.
Here is some pretty color among the cold of the month.  My African Violets are beginning to bloom again.  On the far right is my wonderful good luck gargoyle I named Gamma Ramma, because he is the goat.   I think he is doing a good job of keeping me safe from the hobgoblins thru the nights.
The plants are blooming just in time.  I took down all the Christmas decorations so color is needed in my home to make me smile.
I have beef stew in the crock pot which will warm up this old body later and enough for my son to take some home with him today.
I know the rest of the country is suffering with the cold and snow as well.  I wish you all a good day.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Italian Wine Cookies

We love these soft cookies in my family.  They are usually made at Christmas time but are excellent any time during the year.
In years past, they were shaped like little Italian cigarellos, long and thin.  Days for tempting your kids with cigarettes or cigars are long past so shaping them in circles is the norm these days.

2 1/2 to 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
6 oz. Red Wine.   Note: If you like the taste of the wine, they are fine for cookies.
6 oz. White Granulated Sugar
6 oz. Vegetable Oil
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup of Walnuts, Crushed after measuring.

Start with 2 1/2 Cups Flour in a large bowl.  I use a wooden spoon for my mixing process.
Add the Wine, Sugar, Oil, Baking Powder, Vanilla, and Salt.
Mix this all up thoroughly with your wooden spoon til it looks like wet and combined.
As you can see the mixture looks wet as its being stirred together.  You may want to add up to another half cup of flour to the mixture so it stirs together well.  You want it wet, but not too wet.  The right feel comes with practice.

When all the wet and dry ingredients are together, add the crushed walnuts and again, stir the mixture together with the wooden spoon.

When its mixed, I take my hands and push it altogether.   It will look as it does above.  A wet lump.

You can make your own cinnamon sugar mix, but I prefer to buy it already mixed from McCormick.  These containers are just under 4 oz. in weight.  I will use about 2/3 to 3/4 of one container for this recipe.

Pour some cinnamon sugar in a small bowl.

Take some mixture and roll it in your palms into a small ball.  It looks and feels wet and it should.

Roll the balls thoroughly in the cinnamon sugar mixture in the bowl.  You want them completely covered in cinnamon sugar.

Lay parchment paper on your baking sheets.  I'm using small baking sheets that only measure 9.5 by 13 inches.  I can put 2 of these side by side in the center of my oven.  I only bake two sheets at a time to keep the heat even all around.

Use the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten your balls to a nice, round circle about a quarter inch thick.

Cooking on parchment, I bake mine in a preheated 350*F oven for 12 mins., no longer.  You want soft cookies, not hard ones.  They should look like this when done.
Mine measure around 3 to 3 1/2 inches across.  

If you forget to flatten out your balls like I did for these last 4 small ones above, its fine.  They will cook, but in a puffed shape instead of flattened, as you can see.

I managed to get 3 dozen cookies today.  Depending on the size you make them, you can have more by making the balls smaller.
These cookies are soft in the middle and just have a bit of crispness on the outside, just enough not to fall apart.

My kids and grandkids are coming over Christmas Eve and will take home with them Christmas goodies that are so familiar to our family which include these Italian Wine Cookies and Homemade Old-fashioned Hershey cocoa chocolate fudge among them.  I also made peanut butter fudge with and without nuts, and peanut butter balls, sometimes called Buckeyes in the Midwest.   The piece de resistance will be my Lithuanian Bundies (meat filled hand-sized pastry).

I am trying to be good and not over indulge.  I don't want to gain too much weight over the Holidays so I won't have as much to lose afterwards.  There's always a price to pay for eating well.  Thankfully these days only come once a year and gaining pounds from Thanksgiving to Christmas is normal in my family.

Have a good Day.

Our Resident Xmas Party on Dec 21 2017

We had a pot luck Xmas Party on Dec. 21st this year and it was fun, fun, fun.
Lots of good food and nice gifts abounded.
One of the main dishes included Kentucky Fried Chicken which I love so I was happy.  There was also a nicely sliced ham and sides galore.  Being a plain meat and potatoes kind of person, I limited my choices.

My plate is full with just my favorites, so definitely no room to try other dishes.

I just had to post this photo of artwork done by one of our residents which was adorable.  She does fantastic work.  This was in the Yankee Swap and so loved by the recipient, no one swapped it away from her because, being number one, she would just swap it back to herself at the end of the swapping.  That's the ideal about choosing the slip marked number one in this Swap.

Our dessert table held enough to add hundreds of calories to everyone's waistline this Xmas, including my peanut butter fudge.

These are some of my favorite residents here, and I include them among my friends.  I don't want to reveal their names because being online, their privacy is paramount with me and them.

Folks were dressed in their Christmas finery, blouses and tops that are relegated to the back of the closet most of the year but are happily worn for the last days til Christmas.

We even had a Christmas Punch, but not like some with alcohol, but this one pretty tame with ginger ale, some frozen juice concentrates, and many scoops of sherbet ice cream.  I enjoyed it as did everyone else.

I saved a bit of my meat portions for Penny, who enjoyed them thoroughly when I got back to our apt.  There was our usual Yankee Gift Swap.  Unfortunately the gift I chose from under the tree and loved, was swapped out by another.  It happens in a Yankee Swap and happened at our last party as well.  After a few party extras and little gifts along with a 50/50 (in which 2 folks split the money collected in the drawing), we all went home with filled tummies.

It was a wonderful Christmas Party.   I wish you a wonderful day.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Xmas Wall Hanging, "Its Mine! Its Mine!" is finished.

I finally finished my Christmas Mouse wall hanging.  I named it, "Its Mine! Its Mine!" since the little bugger has grabbed onto a Christmas tree ornament and made off with it.
Its 13" Wide by 15" Long and finished just in time to hang on my door before Christmas.
Here he is above, my little Christmas critter.

Here's a little closer view.  Doesn't he look pleased with himself.
The rest of the day will be taken up with making candy and resting in between batches.  Maybe even some prepping of microwave bowl cozies will be managed today.

Its snowing out.  They tell us only about an inch accumulation in total.  We shall see.

Have a good day.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Visitors and Sewing Today

I had two visitors today.  One of them requested a batch of my peanut butter fudge which I made for her last nite.    She picked it up this morning.
The other my best friend who came over with my Christmas gifts today and I gave her hers.  We like to get together for our Game Days (cards, dominoes, checkers, cribbage, etc) and good food for lunch, sometimes homemade, sometimes great take out from our favorite places.
We are exact opposites.......She's short and I'm tall, she is an Energizer Bunny and I'm not, I am creative with sewing, crocheting, knitting and she's not.  She loves to cook and clean and I cook and clean because I HAVE to in order to live, I love Britcoms and reading, and she doesn't.....but we both adore our families, our friends, and animals, wild and domestic.
Today we were both busy with the coming events in our particular lives and didn't chat for long.  I will see more of her after the Holidays.

I also got back to Christmas Mouse today and have the satin-stitching completed.
I'm thinking a bright red border for this wall hanging.  The eyes are not yet added.  There is the quilting and the backing and labeling before I'm finished but that will be tomorrow, I'm sure.  I need to get him hung on my door so I really need to make time tomorrow to finish him.

I also made inroads on little gifts for the residents here.  I made 2 more microwave bowl cozies and there are many more to go but I have a few more days to finish those.
These are the two made today.  I made myself one exactly like the one on the left because my favorite color is turquoise and this has a pretty turquoise print.  Another resident here also loves turquoise, so you know she will get the one on the left.

My back is aching.  It doesn't take much, just a couple hours at my sewing machine and I'm pretty well racked up for the day.  Maybe I can get more sewing in a little later.

Have a good day.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Microwave Bowl Cozy Tutorial

Do you have one?  I made myself one a couple years ago and can't find it since I moved here.  I thought I needed one.  I was tired of burning my fingers taking a hot bowl out of the microwave.
Place your bowl of soup, chili or whatever leftovers in the microwave on the bowl cozy.  Its made all in cotton so won't catch fire.

Removing the hot bowl isn't a problem.  Its not too hot to handle with a cozy.

2 Cotton fabric pieces cut 10 inches square
2 Cotton Batting pieces cut 9 3/4" square (or the heat-proof batting that is microwave safe)
Cotton coordinating thread

Be sure its all Cotton.  Polyester will flame out in the microwave.  Be safe, use Cotton only.

Lay a batting piece on the wrong side of each fabric square.  Center it as much as possible.

Pin the batting to the fabric.
Draw lines from corner to corner to form an "X" in the middle.

Sew a straight stitch from corner to corner.  You can use a decorative stitch if you like.  Just sew from one fabric point to the other fabric point.
Do this in both directions.


Now you need to make your darts....... 

Fold your piece in half evenly like shown above, to mark your darts.

Place a pencil mark 1 inch down from the fold on your right.  Another pencil mark 2 inches in along the top of the fold as shown above. 

Draw a line from fold mark to edge mark.

Sew your seam line along the drawn line.

Cut away the excess fabric and batting close inside the "V" to complete your dart.  

Your dart will look like this when trimmed.
Repeat with the other 3 darts.

The Batting side should look like this when darts are done.

The Fabric side will look like this above when darts are sewn.  It will have a hollow for the shape of the bowls for which its made.

Repeat the actions above for the other piece of fabric and batting.  You need a pair to make your cozy. When both parts are finished, you are ready to put it together......

Holding both pieces, right sides together, pin them evenly across corner to corner.  Be sure to push the dart seams in opposite directions so you don't get a large bump in the middle.  

Sew a 3/8" seam from the fabric edge all around all 4 sides, leaving about a 3" to 4" opening for turning.
Trim the excess at your 4 points if you like.  Some say it makes a smoother finished point.  

Turn your cozy right-side out.  Smooth it out.  It will have a hollow shape for the bowl.   Use a point turner or sharp object to get the corners pushed out neatly.

At the opening, tuck the fabric inside evenly and smooth it out.  Pin into place.

Top stitch all around all 4 sides, being sure your turning area is neatly tucked inside and pinned in place.
I like to use my Walking Foot for this whole project.  The foot is the perfect width for sewing a 3/8" seam.  It rides smoothly over the thick fabric.  You can use a decorative stitch with a Walking Foot, if desired.

Here is the finished article shown above.  

Note:  You can use two coordinating fabrics if you like.  Both being the same fabric is not mandatory.  

To make a larger cozy for wider bowls and plates:
2 Fabric pieces 14 inches square
2 Batting pieces 13 3/4" square
Dart distance will remain the same at 1 inch from center line, BUT
mark the length of darts at 2 1/2" from the outer edge.

I hope you enjoy this pattern.  They are very useful and easy gifts to make.

Have a good day.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

I Got a Free Wine Carryall

I had to buy a few last minute gifts of wine today.  I brought along my own tote plus 3 towels to wrap the bottles in so they would not break so I mentioned to the cashier I would like her to wrap the bottles in the towels.  Imagine my surprise when the cashier offered me a 6-bottle carryall, for FREE, with my purchase so the wine would stay safe in their travels home.

Its made from a good quality dense fabric that will last years and I can shop for my soda bottles with this in future.  I love it.  Thank you dear grocery chain, Hannaford's.

When giving wine I like to have a wine gift bag and the store had them for 99 cents each which is cheaper than the Dollar Tree or Dollar Stores around here which charge a dollar.  I like them.  So I think I did good with my shopping today.  Thank you Hannaford's once again.

My list is all checked off and complete.  Now I can just think about making sweets; peanut butter balls a.k.a. Buckeyes, fudge, fudgy wreaths, Italian wine cookies, and maybe some walnut clusters.  I, alas, am not a pie nor a cake maker so I resort to the candy making for my good things for the Holidays.

Merry Christmas my friends.  Happy New Year.  Hugs, S

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"Christmas Mouse" Wall Hanging is started.

I began the steps to making my Christmas Mouse wall hanging today.   I have so been looking forward to getting him done.
For this one I will be adding a border to give it a bit more pizzazz.    There's still the satin-stitching to do around all the objects and the eyes I will add at the very end.    I am undecided on what fabric to use as my border but I think I can make that decision this time without too much trouble.

Its snowing out today.  They say to expect an inch but there's more of it on the ground than that already.

I was going to grocery shop Wednesday as usual but they moved our catered Christmas Party originally scheduled Tuesday,  to Wednesday due to the snow today  That meant no party for me.  I wouldn't be back in time.  But I went to Coffee Morning today and when they talked about the party I mentioned I would have to miss it and why.
A few minutes ago one of the residents here, Bob, came to tell me he would take me and another gal who I go with on Wednesdays, but on Thursday.  He did not want us to miss the party and the choir singing Christmas Carols afterwards.  I think that was very nice of him.  This is the 2nd time he has volunteered to take us two gals without cars to shop.  We use the local Parks and Rec bus once a week instead and have to go when they are scheduled.

So everything is in train.  Things are scheduled to happen and party this month and I plan to enjoy myself.

Have a Nice Day.