Friday, January 30, 2009

Show and Tell Friday.....So Simple, So Useful

As my title suggests, today on "Show and Tell" I want to show three very simple, but oh so useful tips that have made my life easier. And who doesn't like easy?
This first tip is so easy I can guarantee just about everybody has heard it before......but how many people actually do this? I know I went years without hanging up a simple keyholder even though I knew it was probably a good idea. Believe me, it's not only a good idea, it's a great idea. I use this particular holder for our "everyday" keys only.....we have three drivers in the family right now. I suggest you keep other spare keys in a more secure location. I like this particular one because I think its kind of cute, but you can use just about any kind as long as you put it in a handy location. Mine hangs on a wall right beside my kitchen cabinets.....a prime location in our house. Until you've tried this you really have no idea how much time and hassle it will save you. This one is a real stress buster!
We've always been breakfast eaters at our house so for quite a few years now I've kept a shelf set aside especially for breakfast items. As of this morning, this is how mine looks. It just makes it so easy to quickly grab what you need without rummaging through other pantry items. If you're anything like our family it's a rare morning when we have lots of time to spare. This makes it so much easier, and so much more pleasant to get everyone started on their day.....whether you're down to three like we are, already an empty-nester, or still have a house full. Do yourself a favor and give this one a try.
Finally this last thing I want to share is simply a basket. Maybe I need a pretty name for it but basically it is just my "stuff basket". In it I keep my Bible, a study notebook, a devotional book,
and a highlighter and pen for my prayer and study time......if I don't keep them in one place half my time is spent getting it all together. In it I also keep a current catalog or two....anything I'm trying to get a chance to look through. Right now I have my "Garden Guy" guide to desert gardening in it because we're coming up on prime planting time here. There's my Household Notebook in there for planning purposes, a small timer to keep me from losing track of time, and an older book that I have been enjoying reading again. If you look closely you see there's an extra pair of reading glasses and a pair of sunglasses for reading outdoors. When it's warm enough you'll find me outside on my backyard swing. On chilly mornings I'll be indoors sitting by the fireplace. In the evening it just may be sitting by the bedside for a quick look before I go to sleep. No matter what time of day, it's so handy to just pick up my basket of stuff and take it wherever I want. It looks pretty tidy in the photo, but believe me I'm constantly having to clear it out so that it has only the things I need for the present in it. I try to keep it from becoming just another book or magazine holder. If you're anything like me and have a dozen or so things going at once you might find this is one way to keep it all sorted out and going in the right direction. To check out more "Show and Tell" posts be sure to go on over to Kelli's. Oh and have a great weekend everyone! It's hard to believe tomorrow is the last day of January.....the second month of the year is already here. Life does come at us fast doesn't it? Give these tips a try in the coming month, or go ahead and try some of your own that you just haven't got around to doing. Try some "So Simple, So Useful" things in February and see what a big difference it will make.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gotta Love Those Cookbooks

Today I thought I'd share a few of my favorite cookbooks. Needless to say I am a cookbook junkie! For those of you who can relate to me on this, you will have to admit that there is no way that you will ever be able to try even a fraction of the recipes in all the cookbooks you own. But then again.....that's not really the point, is it? We just love cookbooks, plain and simple. Right?

 I'm not a person who likes to live with a lot of clutter, but cookbooks don't count, do they? Even with the plethora of recipes online today ( I love these too..... I even have a recipe index on my computer letting me know where my favorites are located and I have my share of printed recipes in binders too)......but like I said, even with all of these things... I just can't get rid of my cookbooks!

 These are just a handful that I'm particularly fond of . Some I have used consistently over the years, some are just plain fun to read, and some have sentimental memories attached to them. For instance, Betty Crocker's New Good and Easy Cookbook, the one shown above, was given to me by my Mom for Christmas when I was 17 years old. I have used recipes from this book for so many years now.......I can remember making some of these things for my parents and sisters before I even married.

This one, Betty Crocker's New Dinner for Two was a gift at my bridal shower. This one not only has delicious recipes, but entire menus in it with lots of handy kitchen tips. I made full use of this one when I was a starry-eyed bride cooking for her brand new husband! Sometimes now when I am feeling sentimental and romantic I will recreate one of these menus for the two of us.

Now this well-worn goody of a cookbook holds a lot of cooking memories for me too. To this day my husband declares that the prize-winning "Souper Beef Supper" by Mrs. Karen Fulk of Terre Haute, Indiana, is one of his all time favorite dishes. Mrs Fulk, are you still out there somewhere? If you are, thanks for the recipe. Now that I think about it....I haven't made this for Jim in a long time. Probably should do something about that.

This one is barely a cookbook at all, but an instruction manual/mini-recipe book for the Montgomery Ward food mixer. (Anyone remember Montgomery Ward?) Anyway I love this little booklet because it's from the mixer my Mom always used when I was a kid growing up. The mixer itself is long gone but now I have the book. On the front cover my Mom had written that this was a gift from James in 1952. Though I had memories of the mixer itself I did not know until recently, when my Mom gave me this book, that it had been a gift from my Dad when they were practically newlyweds themselves. Thanks Mom; this one's special.....and I'm gonna try a few recipes from it even if I have to use my Kitchen Aid.

Now this one, Modern Meal Maker by Martha Mead, is special to me because it was given to me by my late mother-in-law. She was a fabulous cook herself and this cookbook, copyright 1935, had belonged to the precious aunt who raised her. Think of Carey Grant's sweet little old aunts in the movie "Arsenic and Old Lace" and you can picture her Aunt Nettie ( minus the arsenic in the elderberry wine of This one has meal plans and recipes for an entire year! It's an ingenious little design that allows you to stand it up to read your recipes as you cook. One half of the book is January through June, then flip it over and you find July through December. There are some surprisingly up-to-date features in this book such as the fact that throughout the book they use only menus and recipes for seasonal produce. Back then I know that this was a necessity because certain foods were not available year round. It's interesting to note now though because so many of us are trying to eat organically and more naturally by cooking with the seasons. Still, you can get such a feel for the times by perusing through this cookbook. A particular  helpful little note: "Sunday Night Suppers.....Since the Sunday night supper is one of the more popular ways of entertaining informally, a buffet supper menu is offered on the first Sunday of each month. " So vintage. Don't you just love it?

Every home with kids should have a Disney Cookbook of some sort. My middle son, a very good cook himself, was just this past Christmas day showing his wife the different recipes he made out of this book when he was a kid. I fixed many lunches and after-school snacks from this one.......things with names like "Robin Hood's Sherwood Forest Sandwich", "Bambi's Garden Salad"," Mickey's Beanie Weanie Soup", and "Jiminy Cricket's Cherry Vanilla Freeze". Enough said.

Betty Crocker's 40th Anniversary Cookbook is a favorite of mine for one reason: I use so many recipes from it. I have several earlier editions of the same book, but I like this one since it gives complete nutritional information for each recipe.

As you can see, this Children's Choice Cookbook has been used quite a bit. My January 5th post featured the unique little Over the Rainbow Cookies from this book.


I don't think that you can get recipes that are any more delicious than those that are from ordinary home cooks. That's one reason why it is so much fun to read blogs
can run across so many lovely recipes. Before blogs, however, one way women shared their recipes with one another was with the cookbooks their groups and organizations put together. This one is from the Woman's Auxiliary of the South Carolina Conference of our church.....published about 1961. I love the fact that my Mom was on the publishing committee and that I recognize so many of the names and recipes of her friends......lots of fun to reminisce with this one.

Another classic cookbook that I use to this day. This one has the best Hungarian Chicken that you'll ever taste.

Finally, I've got to tell you, this cookbook is just plain fun. For anyone who loves to read about the history of food and homemaking I would highly recommend Fashionable Foods, Seven Decades of Food Fads. Beginning with the 20's and going all the way to the 90's this is a very enjoyable trip through time. Did you know that #1 Caesar Salad was invented during the 1920's by a chef named Caesar Cardini from Tijuana, Mexico? It became an immediate hit in that daring decade. #2 Many of our "comfort foods" originated in the 1930's during the depression and because sugar was one of the things that was still relatively inexpensive, people in the U.S. consumed more sugar per capita than they have done before or since. Each decade had it's own fashionable foods as well as fashionable clothing. #3 Anyone remember the granola craze of the 1970's? Believe me, if you like this kind of thing, you'll love this book.

Now I know not everyone will agree with me, but when we get into our "decluttering mode" this time of advice is to think twice before you throw away your just might regret it. Smile.

Oh and please don't forget..... be sure to go on over to Kelli's place to see other "Show and Tells" for this week. Enjoy.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Finally Finished !

The last day or so I have felt like I might be the last person in town to have put away her Christmas decorations. Logically, I know that's not true......but I was feeling that way anyway! Like a lot of us, I'm hard on myself that way sometime. But now I'm happy to report that I am finally and completely finished! I'd love to say that I do this good a job every year, but the truth is I don't. For instance due to a certain set of circumstances last year I rather haphazardly stored my things and was done with it in quick order........and this year I was very frustrated when I started to plan the holidays. You see, I like to do something a little different every year, and I never use all of my decorations at the same time, so I really like to know exactly what I have from year to year, and where everything is! And much to my poor husbands bewilderment I buy a little something new every year! I determined that this year was going to be a "good packing away" year. I even got rid of 2 huge boxes of decorations that I know I will never use again. That's a biggie for me! I hate to get rid of holiday decorations and books, and so I felt very liberated taking those discard boxes to Goodwill. Still, even after that I had a lot of things to store. It's taken me several days because I started from the inside out and re-organized everything!

This is a snowman that my oldest son picked out for me this year......his tummy lights up when you put in a little tea light candle. Love it.

Here he is wrapped in his bubble-wrap cocoon.

Here's what probably takes the most time. I write down every single thing that is in the boxes. Actually I create a Database Sheet on my computer and list each item, what box # it is in, and where it is located ( I keep most of the boxes in the attic except for my Keepsake Ornaments and a few very special things that I want immediate access to in an emergency). Finally, on my database sheet I have a column for "Comments" where I write anything special I want to remember about that item. For instance the sizes of my 3 tartan plaid tablecloths, or who gave me the china candy dish for my December birthday in 1998, or the fact that the puppy chewed the foot of a particular wooden gingerbread boy in 2008.......all of these things are recorded there. For years I just kept a record of these things in a notebook, but using the data base feature in Microsoft makes it possible for me to search for an item easily and quickly. A search for tablecloths will bring up every holiday tablecloth I have and which boxes they are located in. It's just a little feature that I like, but whether you record what you have on your computer or use plain old pencil and paper it will make decorating for the holidays next year so much easier! It is well worth the extra time it takes on this end. You can start your planning whenever you want without having to dig through a multitude of boxes trying to see what you have! If you have a decorations collection of any size at all it is almost impossible to remember exactly what you have from year to year. You think you'll rememeber now, but you won't. This makes it so much easier.

I try to carefully pack the boxes, with associated things in them if possible. This box, CM#1, has gingerbread things and everything Snowmen.(Except my Snowmen Stemware and Snowmen Mugs are in a regular dishpak box for safekeeping CM# 7)

Finally, by 4 o'clock this afternoon, everything was put away......ten boxes and three trees safely packed away in the attic until next year!
And the nice thing sweetheart of a husband is making dinner for me tonight....doesn't get any better than that. Thanks, honey.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Over the Rainbow Cookies

Yesterday was one of our rare rainy days in Phoenix. While much of the time I enjoy our mild winters and sunny days, I have to admit I love to wake up to the sound of rain. I'm always torn between wanting to snuggle up by the fire with a good book and enjoy a cozy day inside, or on the other hand wanting to get outside and enjoy it. I know some of you may not understand that, but around here a nice rain is something to get excited about. Yesterday being Sunday, I was able to do both. In the afternoon Jim built a fire for me in the fireplace and among other projects (like continuing to put away Christmas decorations), I got out a favorite old cookbook and made some Over the Rainbow Cookies. Actually we usually just call them "rainy day cookies". It was always fun to do this when my kids were little, and you know what? It's still fun.
These are super quick and easy because you use the prepared roll of cookie dough. The recipe comes from a small paperback cookbook from Pillsbury called "Children's Choice Cookbook". I think it cost me all of $1.98 back in 1982, but I have gotten as much , if not more, use from it than many of my other more expensive ones. These are lovely cookies to make on a rainy day. You can store them in an airtight container and they keep very well, but let me warn you....they won't last long. If you have a favorite sugar cookie recipe you can use it and add different flavorings to it such as almond or orange or even lemon......they're really tasty that way.
Actually, did you know it is so simple to make your own cookie dough rolls and freeze them? Then you can have them on hand whenever you decide to do quick baking like this. I plan to do a post in the near future on some of my favorite homemade mixes and I'll include one for the sugar cookie rolls.
In any case these are particularly fun and easy to make. Today I woke up to a bright, sunny Phoenix morning. It was lovely.....temps in the sixties.......I got some work done out on the patio that I have been planning to do. I've got to say though.....I certainly enjoyed having a couple of "rainy day cookies" for lunch to remind me of yesterday.
Over the Rainbow Cookies
17 ounce roll Pillsbury Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow Food Coloring
Small amount of Sugar
Allow dough to soften at room temperature. Divide dough into four equal parts. To first portion of dough, add 2 drops blue food coloring; to second portion add 2 drops of green coloring;
to third portion, add 2 drops red coloring; and to fourth portion, add 2 drops of the yellow coloring. On a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper, shape green dough into an 8-inch log. Press dough slightly to flatten one side. Cover roll carefully with blue dough, keeping semi-circular shape. Continue layering yellow and red doughs in same manner, gently pressing layers of dough together. Wrap; chill until firm, about 3 hours.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, slice roll into 1/8 inch slices. Place cookies, 1 inch apart, on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned; sprinkle lightly with sugar. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Show and Tell

Today is "Show and Tell Friday" hosted by Kelli at . I thought it would be fun to join in this week. Here are a few favorites that I received this Christmas. It really is the thought that is put into the gift that makes it special, so while these might not mean much to anyone else, they mean the world to me. From now on whenever I give a gift to someone I want to try to remember to make them feel as special as I did when I opened these on Christmas morning.

This is my Dad's Bible that he preached many sermons from when I was a little girl growing up. My Mom saved it for me all these years and gave it to me this Christmas.

Here I am opening it up. Believe me there were totally took me by surprise!

Here my sister Jane put together a scrapbook of memories from my family's time spent in Cuba. There were many letters and travel documents in here that I had forgotten even existed. It really is a treasure and I can keep adding things to it that I have accumulated over the years. She also made one for my sister Joan so we can all now really get all the memories together. You an imagine how much fun this is for me to look through.

Now this really isn't even a present.....its just two Pepsi's in new advertising promotional bottles. But my nineteen year old son Christopher saw them and bought them for us to drink on Christmas morning. He just knows how much his Mom loves Pepsi.

...........and yes I can drink Pepsi even in the morning. After all , it was Christmas! Turns out even though he bought me other very nice gifts, I liked these these best. Go figure.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Life on Purpose

Many people die with their music still in them.
Why is this so?
Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live.
Before they know it, time runs out.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
This year let us make the quality decision to "live our lives on purpose".
Happy New Year!