Monday, May 27, 2013

Mary, Mary How Does Your Garden Grow?

It is that time of year when the weather flip flops and Mother Nature gives you just enough hope that it's going to stay warm. Yesterday was like that. I wore shorts out for the first time in months! No jacket was required and the sun was pleasantly warm on my face. I noticed the family of robins are back and preparing their nest in the hole near the gutter. 

For months, I have been receiving my garden seed catalogs and I have looked through each of them several times. Always planning a garden with new and exciting plants and already thinking of the recipes I would use.  Last year didn't go so well, my cucumbers didn't do a thing, they didn't even grow into vines. My bean plants while beautiful produced a mere handful of bean pods. My tomatoes, beets and turnips made a good showing and even the onion bulbs I planted did okay.  I planted a lot more in that garden, and was sorely disappointed by the lack of variety that grew.  This year we are going to really step up and fertilize the soil. 

We expanded the garden to the back fence and it is now 33x13ft.  We found a small garden center that had extremely good prices and bought all the plants for the garden. We still have to sow the beet and turnip seeds.  I am so excited about the variety we chose this year. We are doing the old standby veggies. Tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, and green beans. I bought a few varieties that we have never tried. Cantaloupe,  zucchini, eggplant, and strawberries. We also have yellow onions and garlic.  I got chives, basil and rosemary. I have successfully already murdered the rosemary. I've no idea what happened.

This year was so much easier! We found about a community center that has a tool loan program and we were able to get a tiller. Man that saved some time and a lot of back pain! I've got to get one of those!!  I can't believe we have ever  prepared a plot without one. All these years just accepting the pain. That explains how so many older people are able to garden in their back yards.

Once I get a few pictures taken I will post them. Now come's the hard part.. waiting!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chicken Breasts with Swiss Cheese Casserole

 Last week one of the ladies at the church brought in a casserole.  Now, understand I am not a casserole type of person. Growing up my family never really made casseroles and I don't really give casseroles much thought. I really liked the casserole and asked for the recipe!  This is the recipe.  My husband who also did not grow up eating casseroles was skeptical. All I can say is that it did go over pretty well.  My daughter liked it, and even though my husband said it was "just okay" the entire baking dish was empty by the end of the night. I think they both went back for seconds and thirds.  i should I have taken a picture but I didn't have time! 

Chicken Breasts With Swiss Cheese
8 pieces skinless, boneless chicken breasts
8 pieces Swiss cheese
I can ( regular size) cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1/4 lb. fresh mushrooms (optional)
2 cups Pepperidge Farm Herb seasoned stuffing mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)
1.  Place chicken k  13’x9”x2” pan.
2.  Place cheese on top of chicken.
3.  Spoon undiluted soup over all.
4.  Melt butter and mix with stuffing mix.
5.  Sprinkle above mixture on top.
6.  Bake, uncovered in 350 degree oven for 40- 45 minutes.
Serves eight.

I only had 3 large chicken breasts so I cut them up into chunks, but other than that I made the recipe as written. I'll admit I liked it better with the chicken cut up, made it easier to serve.  The only real complaint that I had was it came out a little salty. I used a store brand stuffing and I don't know if that affected the salt content and I will try different brand next time.

I made a romaine and cabbage salad with cukes, carrots and tomato. Very satisfying meal.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Polymer Clay Roses

I am pretty new to working with polymer clay. I've made a few little figurines and some beads for jewelry.  Tonight I was looking through youtube tutorials and found one on making roses.  I watched it and then pulled out the poly clay.   It looked pretty easy and I will say it really is.

  Here is the first rose I made.

 Very pretty lavender color that doesn't really show up all that well in the picture. I thought this looked awesome!   So I start fooling around some more.

Two colors. I flattened the petals a little too much I think.

This is actually quite small. About the size of a dime.

I made a couple extremely tiny ones. I guess I will need to add a picture of those later. (der)

I made a beautiful rose out of a very pretty red color I had. The picture of course does not do the color justice, funky phone. The pictures look perfect on the phone. But always so dark when uploaded. Sigh.

I LOVE this! 

I really wish the pictures could show the true color and how pretty this really is.


I am going to look for other types of flowers to make. I am really digging the idea of making more. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vinegar! 17 Amazing uses you can't live without!

About a year ago I was frustrated and looking for a way to get my plastic storage containers clean. I noticed they had a greasy slimy feel to them, and no matter how many times I washed them, it would not go away. I set out on a mission to save myself some money since these are not cheap to replace, especially all at the same time.  

I searched ways to get plastic containers clean, and found many websites that suggested using white distilled vinegar. I followed the directions on one site that said wash the container and then wipe down with rag and undiluted white vinegar. It worked!  I have since taken to just adding the vinegar to a sink load of dishes and find that it works just as well.

Who would have thought that there was more to vinegar than using it in salads and dying Easter eggs!  Here are just a few of the ways I have used vinegar around my house.  Do a search for uses of vinegar you may be surprised too!

  1. Add 1/2 c white distilled vinegar to a sink load of dirty dishes and fill with sink with hot water. It really helps to get that oily, greasy film feeling off your dishes and plastic.
  2. Clean counter tops with straight vinegar. I've left a rag soaked with vinegar sitting atop a kool-aid stain and it helped to lighten it. It did not completely get rid of the stain, but it is so light you can barely see it. I have to really look for it.
  3. I add water and vinegar in equal parts to clean the inside of my fridge. Helps with spills, just leave the rag laying on the spill. It also helps freshen the fridge and get rid of some funky smells!
  4. Full strength undiluted vinegar  and a sponge with a scrubber helps clean the stove hood and fan. This may take a little time, work in small areas. Mine was quite grubby.
  5. A cup of undiluted vinegar in a load of laundry that was forgotten in washing machine gets rid of the damp and mildew smell.
  6. I put a cup of vinegar in the pot from the coffee maker and fill the rest of the way up with hot water and let it sit at least a half hour. Empty it, and wipe inside with a cloth and then rinse. This loosens up and helps remove the coffee stains and deposits.
  7. I also add 1 cup of vinegar to the water reservoir and run it through to help with deposits and freshen the machine.
  8. when you have stickers or labels that won't come off from non porous surfaces you can soak a rag in vinegar and leave it laying on the area if possible. It should come off pretty easily. * This really helps get glue residue off glass and mirrors.
  9. Use a solution of equal parts water and vinegar to wipe down your shower curtain liner. I usually just drop it into the tub with vinegar and hot water, come back, wipe it down and rinse. 
  10. Wipe down shower walls and tub with undiluted vinegar to  help removed grime and scum. Rinse and repeat if necessary.
  11. I used diluted vinegar to wipe down the faucets in the bathroom and kitchen. It cleans off soap and toothpaste residue, and helps keep them smelling fresh.
  12. To get rid of mildewy or stale odors wipe down walls and doors with undiluted vinegar and a rag.
  13. Use full strength vinegar to wipe down doorknobs to kill germs.
  14. Add a cup of vinegar to a tub of hot water and add plastic baby toys to disinfect. 
  15. You can add vinegar to boiling water and add baby bottles to disinfect.
  16. If your scissors have become sticky or gunky you can wipe them down with a rag dipped in vinegar. This is one of my favorites!
  17. Use vinegar on a rag to clean the inside of the windshield in your automobile. 
There are literally hundreds of ways to use vinegar. These are the ones I have tried and  can verify work.  I am sure there are some that I have forgotten and if I remember them I will add them to this post. 

I encourage you to check out websites and books that offer the many uses for vinegar. I buy a gallon jug of vinegar when I go shopping and it usually last a month and half. I use it anytime I need to clean grimy, slimy, sticky or smelly things around the house. I tell anyone and every one I can about vinegar as often as I get a chance! Try it and you will too!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Children's Party and Crafts at Simpson United Methodist Church

In a short 2 and half weeks I planned a Christmas party for church members and neighborhood kids. It was quite an endeavor to take on myself. I've never planned or had a Christmas party before, and honestly I've never even been to one. I was handed the reins and allowed to design what I thought would be an awesome party if I were a kid again. I was fortunate to have a ton of  donated toys, gloves, hats, and scarves. There was 2 huge boxes from Toys from Tots, a huge donation from the local firefighters and another church was extremely generous and donated hundreds of pairs of gloves, hats and toys! It was overwhelming. I spent many countless hours wrapping presents and making lists.

I made a list and checked it twice!

Many of the presents already wrapped


Toys for Tots.. so generous!

Stored and waiting for the party

Over the span of 3 separate days I wrapped over 300 toys, hats, gloves and scarves. All together it totaled 23 hours.  I enjoyed every minute of it. There was such a peaceful quiet that I do not get at home. My family calls me the present Nazi because I am a little OCD about how the presents are wrapped.  Which is ironic since I spent the first half of my despising wrapping presents and was infamous in my family for handing someone a gift still in the bag I brought it home in. 

Friday before the party I set up the tables and decorated the fellowship hall. I separated everything by age and sex and labeled everything.


Nice view of all of the tables


I had this set up so it would be quick and easy to get the kids through. The table in back is all hats and gloves.

These are goody bags I put together. They had candy canes, lollipops, pencil, eraser, and a notepad.  Yes, I drew and colored each and every one of these! 

Decorated and ready to party!

Somehow I misplaced all the other pictures of the decorations I had. 

I came up with a couple crafts for the kids to do.

Angels made from coffee filter, metallic pipe cleaners, ribbon and lollipops. 

Star Ornaments. Beads, pipe cleaners. Has to be one of the easiest ornaments to make.

I made this one with the metallic pipe cleaner for my Christmas tree.

Reindeer "hat"  I spent 3 hours cutting all these antlers out. The kids loved this!

Elf Ears "hat". Much easier to cut out, only took about an hour. LOL

Foam bookmarks, and foam stickers. Easy. The parents hung around this table and did this while the kids were running around doing other crafts.

Every one loves guessing games! How many do you think are there? We had only one kid who was close. There were 61 peppermints. 

We had 5 kids come close, but no one got the right count! Luckily had extra prizes. There were 28 candy canes. 

Birthday Card for Jesus. Everyone signed it! The kids and parents loved the idea.

Lunch line

First lucky few to get their lunch

Love the antlers!

Nom Nom

I unfortunately forgot to take pictures while the party was happening. I was busy making sure the crafts were going well, the kids were being fair with the guessing games and generally doing the meet and greet. I had a wonderful time and the kids loved every thing! 

I hope to help with parties at the church in the future. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's all for the kids

     I have wanted to do something with the kids at the church I am attending. I wanted to a craft or something interesting for them to take home for Christmas.  I was told they were not going to do anything for the kids; I figured I could make a craft with them and have a little party at the same time. The very next week I go to church to find they have changed the date I was supposed to do the craft to an earlier date and now they are having a party for a the kids the Saturday before Christmas. Darn it, I just wrote out the invitations the night before. So, I go ahead and do the crafts with the kids ( which they loved!). 

     That night we have our monthly community meal and some members from another church are there and I am introduced to them. (I’ll call my church lady J) J introduces me and is telling them about the craft I did with the kids. The ladies from the other church offer to come and help with the party (which at this point I am still sulking and silently decided I want nothing to do with it). So J is gushing about how fabulous it is going to be and how I have come up with 5-6 crafts for the kids for the party. WHAT? Where the heck did that come from?

     There is nothing I hate more than being volunteered to do something without being told, asked or at least being warned. I was sitting there with the look of a deer in headlights, what could I say? I didn’t want to embarrass J, so I’m like, yeah... 5 or 6.  The other church lady I’ll call G is so excited, she offers to bring some other members of her church over to help. Oh my God!! Feeling trapped, I’m looking for any exit to get away from this table. How did I get roped into 5-6 games for a party I wasn’t planning on going to because my feelings were hurt.  I’ve always had a problem saying no.  Since I wanted to do something with the kids I guess I’m okay with it.

     Last Sunday I had a meeting with J about the party. The pastor was supposed to be there, but he doesn’t show up for anything but Sunday service, then he is out! Part time employee, I guess that’s how he looks at it.. nothing extra.  So, anyhow she and I are discussing plans for the party, the presents, games, and crafts.  She then tells me she is having surgery the next day and will be out of commission for about a week or more.  She is looking to me to pretty much plan and pull this thing off.  I’ll get to the kicker and best part in a minute.

      We received 2 huge boxes of toys from the Toys for Tots program.  We also received donations for G’s church of toys and 15 huge bags of clothes, socks, underwear, gloves etc.  Unfortunately there are no clothes for girls, toddlers or infants. There are also only about 20 toys for girls, again nothing for toddler or infants.  J has asked the other church if they can maybe help out with balancing things out.  I will say it’s a little weird to be in a church that is a charity for another church.  It is a very small church in a very poor neighborhood and more than half the members are 75+ years old and have been going to this church 50+years. There is no choir, no Sunday school, no youth activites. I am trying to do something to help the kids who attend as well as reach out to the kids in the neighborhood generally.

Be the change you want to see. In this neighborhood, these kids have absentee parents, drug and alcohol dependant parents, grandmothers who are tired and worn out raising them. These kids see everyday what the weight of being poor does to a person. They see no way out, they have no one to show them there is good, and there is a way.  I am one person, but I firmly believe that if you lead, they will follow the example set before them.  There is one particular girl who is right up on me, every time I turn around she is there. She just wants to talk, she is thirsty for attention. She is 11. As my grandmother would say, she is on me like white on rice!

     On Monday I spent the whole day at the church alone wrapping presents.  I accidently set off the alarm, how embarrassing! I spent 8 hours and wrapped a total of 127 presents.  I assigned each one a number, description, age and whether boy or girl. On Wednesday I went back and catalogued all the clothes and wrapped more toys. I spent a few hours wrapping socks, underwear, hats and gloves. So as right now there is a total of 142 toys and 47 of the socks etc.

     I now have to come up with not only crafts, but also games for the kids to play. J said 10 and younger, although I don’t know how that will work since most of the kids who come to church are between 11 and 17.  She told me to expect 50+ kids. Wowser!  Games and crafts for 50+ kids. I am not Annie Sullivan!! I am no miracle worker.  I personally had planned to give the kids little gift bags.. when I thought it was going to be 15-20 kids. Nothing special really a brown lunch sack I decorated, a small trinket like an eraser, pencils or small toy, and some homemade cookies and perhaps an apple or orange.  Now I have made approx 70 bags and I don’t think I will be able to afford the apples or oranges.  That’s a lotta cookies! I started making them yesterday. I have 10 days to make umpty dump dozen cookies, finish with the presents and clothes, figure out crafts, games and decorations! All while still attending to my family, cooking meals, baking cookies for home and crocheting scarves for the homeless shelter.  Ugh, and helping out at the food pantry at the church.  On top of it all, I am still foster a mother cat and her 3 kittens who are needy and need to be fed every 4 hours or so. I am tired!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

C is for Cookie

This month is all about the cookies. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar.. the list is endless. I am not a baker.  My cookies have a tendency to come out flat, dry and flavorless. I admit I can make a good zucchini bread, but for cookies the only cookie I make good is Kolacky cookies. It's a simple recipe and one my grandmother made every year for the fall and winter holidays. They are time consuming only because the dough makes so many of them. We love them and they don't last long. They are delicious!

For the Allrecipe Allstar program our tasks this months is to make cookies using Toll House baking chips. I've already made one of the recipes.

They came out looking pretty decent.. not a lot of flavor. I followed the recipe exact! It did have a nice light flavor of orange. Everyone else liked them. So I guess it was successful!

If you read my previous post you know I am struggling right now. Luckily I have been gathering ingredients for the last 2 months so I could make cookies and bake other goodies this month. I have enough to make all the cookies I can and still have enough ingredients to make bread and dough etc.

I really liked this, but thought they didn't come out all that pretty. It tastes just like fruitcake. LOL who would have thought? My husband complained they didn't taste right. I made some miniatures in the mini muffin tin. He loved it. I also just took the rest of the dough and just went ahead and made a loaf. 

 When I was helping decorate the inside of the church I was given 3 pie pumpkins and I offered to make some pumpkin pies for a potluck. I have to do that today. I found the best crust recipe on Allrecipes. 

I could swear I have a picture of the crust before the filling, knowing me, I didn't download the picture yet.  Delicious looking? Yes!


Some how my cookie sheet became warped. It is not flat anymore. It looks like someone tried to twist it! So I am off to buy another one. Once I get home and make more cookies, I will post more.

These are my daughter's favorite cookie! These came out a little more firm and cake like than in the past. There were still delicious! 

These were part of the December activities. These were really good, I did not use the mini marshmallows, but we did add chocolate chips.  I took these to the community meal at the church and they were one of the first desserts to go!

I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and I am not compensated for my work with Products received from advertisers are only used for experienced-based reviews on Bundts n' Bowls. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of    T. Graham.

Thanks for reading!