Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nummie!! Chocolate Covered Cherries

Magic Man loves chocolate covered cherries.  The last couple of boxes we bought were disappointing... fewer candies and chunks of - not whole cherries, all that for mooooore money.  What?

It was time to surf for an alternative.

I can't remember where we found this recipe, but it's used as a guide line.  This recipe makes tasty cherry confections with the runny, red tinted, cherry-flavored filling.  We can give four gift boxes for the cost of one box of today's chocolate covered cherries.

Drain the maraschino cherries on paper toweling.   They look festive already, don't they?

Wrap the filling around each cherry.  Cut the filling and flatten between two pieces of plastic wrap.  This makes the wrapping around the cherry task so much easier.  Also, keep the filling in the freezer, using 5-6 at a time.  Once the filling gets warm, it's not so easy to shape.

Dip and leave alone!!  One week, no cheating.
(Make extras to sample before anyone notices missing product.  Who wants to serve "raw" chocolate covered cherries?)
Here are a few tips:

  • Chill the filling overnight.
  • Cut the filling into 54 pieces, freeze immediately.  Start wrapping in about 15 minutes.
  • 54?  This this makes 48.  The chef needs to random sample the product to ensure it is ready.  Making 54 gives you a cushion to serve 48.  The worst possible case is you will be burnt out on chocolate covered cherries and won't eat any at your party.  The guests will be envious of your holiday will-power.
  • Press the filling between two pieces of plastic wrap.  Using the bottom of a juice glass keeps warm fingers off and the filling cold, making wrapping an easier task.
  • Remember to chill the cherries again at least one hour.  The chocolate sticks better.
  • Make 48 (54) 1/2" dots of chocolate on waxed paper.  Place each dipped cherry on a dot.  This ensures the bottom of the candy will be sealed, eliminating messy leaks.
  • Survey the dipped cherries for holes.  Patch with a spot of melted chocolate.
  • Visit The Chocolate Addict for valuable chocolate advise:  She has great instructional videos on YouTube.


48 (54) maraschino cherries, you can use the cherries with stems
3 T butter, softened - gotta be butter!
3 T corn syrup
2 c sifted confectioners' sugar
1 lb chocolate confectioners' coating (we prefer real chocolate)

Drain cherries and set on paper towels to dry.
In a medium bowl, combine butter and corn syrup until smooth. Stir in confectioners' sugar and knead to form a dough. Wrap in plastic.  Chill to stiffen.  (This is when I cut the filling into 48 (54) pieces and freeze.  Wrap each cherry in about 1 teaspoon of dough.  Chill cherries until firm.
Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.  Melt confectioners' coating in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Dip each cherry in chocolate coating and place on waxed paper.  Chill until completely set, about 10 minutes.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place for the filling to melt.  Best after 1 week.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Handmade Gifts - for the Women

These are the gifts I made for the women in my family.

A Section of my Mother-in-Law's Afghan

A Scarf to Match the Rag Quilt and Bag for L
A Bag for the Rag Quilt for L.

My Daughter, my niece and I received our Indian names over the summer.  I thought it would be fun to have something special like these reversible tote bags to commemorate the event.  It was a wonderful moment to share with these two ladies.

Front of Niece's Bag
Back of Niece's Bag 
Inside of Niece's Bag

Front of the Daughter's Bag

Back of the Daughter's Bag

Inside the Daughter's Bag.
(Check the name on the back and the fabric inside)

Mom didn't go to the dance, nor does she get an Indian name.  But we saw that she got a bag.
Front of Mom's Bag

Back of Mom's Bag

Inside of Mom's Bag

Handmade Christmas - for the Men

This year, I thought it would be nice to make gifts rather than buy.  The lovely ladies at McDougals showed me how to make the rag edged strip quilts.  I had more fun finding the perfect fabric. 

One for a friend from Puerto Rico.  He's just like a brother, only better.

One for my Son-in-law, oh the offensive fabric! <wink>

And one for my Baby Bother.
I wonder what would have happened had I switched the name tags before they opened their gifts?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter Food

We're back home after visiting with my daughter and her husband for Christmas.  This was her first time as a hostess for a holiday meal.  It was wonderful and the portions were perfect.  She had enough leftovers for a meal for she and her husband.

Ready to relax, I thought it would be fun to share a holiday story about my family...  Dad and Mom were trying to decide what to eat for dinner later in the week.

Dad:  "I hate winter.  Everything we eat is served in a bowl."
Mom:  "Well?  What do you want to eat?"
Dad:  "Ooh, chili sounds good!"

If it were me, I would be dumping his chili on a plate.

Happy recovery!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours, to all our friends...  Have a merry Christmas. 

Treasure each moment with the ones you love.

Pinches, Scraps, and Magic Crafts

Friday, December 23, 2011

In Honor of Donner

This is one of my favorite Christmas memories...

Back in the day, my job transferred me four states from home.  In my mid 20's, that was a big deal.  It didn't take long to miss Mom's cooking, even though the local food was great.

I asked family for recipes.  They requested copies of the other recipes in exchange.  The final result was a family cookbook, "In Honor of Donner," after Mom's hometown.  Not only recipes arrived in my mailbox, but relatives sent snippets of memories and photos.  This project rapidly became more than a collection of cards originally envisioned.

My copy is worn, the binding disintegrated years ago.  What is left of the pages hides in a 3-ring binder in sheet protectors.  My working version resides on the web.

Most of my aunts are now gone.  My daughter, nieces, nephews and numbered cousins have a direct link to these relatives they never knew. 

Merry Christmas and many blessings for 2012.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Duck, Duck, Sock Monkey

Sonia Maria is my crochet idol.  I love her work and I love that Brazilians in my office translate better than Google Translator.

I saw this little fella on Scotty's Place and had to make it.  The graphic instructions are incredible and translating the pattern myself was a snap.

I made the Duck for a coworker and his expecting wife.

I made the Sheep for another coworker and his expecting wife.  This one is so soft.

I made the Sock Monkey for my soon-to-be granddaughter.
I need some lessons for yarn eyes.
There are a lot of Sock Monkeys in the granddaughter's room.

Spicy Cracker Mix

My older brother is a great cook.   He has a knack for spying a good recipe, much like the ladies in the family.  To that, he can modify a recipe that makes it even more exciting.  We make this treat a Christmas time only. 

The cracker ensemble.  I found some Texas shaped crackers, aren't they adorable?

The mixed crackers.  The tomatoes are for bowl size reference only.

Mmmmm, doesn't this look good?  But wait, there's more.

The seasonings

Baking away in the oven.


12-14 cups of mixed crackers
1 cup of oil (I only use 1/2 cup and it works perfectly fine, less greasy mess)
1 package of Ranch DIP mix
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 F.

Open the assortment of crackers (we use Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, Ritz, Sociables, pretzel bows, potato strings, 2 packages of oyster crackers, and a local grocery's butter crackers - this doubles the seasonings and oil amounts).  Place them in a huge metal bowl and toss to combine.

Add the seasonings to the oil and whisk well.  Pour over the crackers and toss to coat.  Put the bowl in the oven and bake for 1 hour, turning the crackers every 15 minutes.  Remove, let the mixture cool, and package.

IF, and we do mean if, you are fortunate enough to have leftovers, they freeze well.  I've been known to package them in snack portions and hide through the deep freezer.

Merry Christmas!

Panic Attack

It's a bitter sweet morning that turned for the best.

We had RAIN last night, not just rain but RAAAIIINNNN!!!  Glorious, precious rain.  And she brought her friend Lightening.  I woke up this morning, stepped into my home office and froze.  My computer was dead.

Don't panic (too late)...  check everything.  I moved the computer plug from the UPS to the wall.  Whew, I'm back online.  I guess with a strike last night the UPS made the ultimate sacrifice.

Time to unplug and head to the office.  Boss is taking us out for a Christmas lunch today.  It's going to be a blessed day after all.

Update:  Today was different for me.  I spent the morning operating a forklift.  Yes, I am certified to operate this machine.  I rarely have the opportunity to take advantage of my training.  The new task was a very welcomed change.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Four Basic Food Groups & Food Pyramid

The Christmas countdown is clocking away too quickly and my Christmas gifts are not completed.  Who had the bright idea to MAKE all our gifts this year?  Oh yeah, that was me.  Today's post is quick and dirty.

Magic Man claims to be a second generation vegetarian.  He eats animals which eat grass, hay, etc.

Magic Man said he was late for his last performance with PETA, he was detained at an animal rights BBQ.

Magic Man has declared his four food groups:  Ham, Bacon, Sausage, and Pork Chops.  When I reminded him the Four Basic Food Groups are replaced with the Food Pyramid, he thought and carefully chose his words:

Pork Chops

I can't win.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Framing My First Blogger Follower

This is an exciting day for me.  In my new blogger world, I received my first comment AND my first follower, The Garden Bell.  It's like getting my first dollar after opening a business.

Thank you.  You brightened my day.  Happy, happy, joy, joy!!

Turnover Pickles

We have friends.  That may come as a surprise, but we do.  I've known M for many, many years from work, and L is his wife.  They live in a different city, Big City North.

M and L are a great couple, a unique couple and we love them.  It's approaching Christmas and it's time to restock L's pickle stash.  She calls these Turnover Pickles.  M and L had them at our house once.  She really liked 'em - a lot.  M came to the Big City and we were judges at a Robot Competition.  We sent M home with a jar of just-brined pickles and instructions to turn the jar twice a day - bottom to lid, lid to bottom.  This was to be done for two weeks before opening the jar and indulging.  L renamed the "Hot, Sweet Dill Pickles" to "Turnover Pickles" because of the labor involved.

Here's how they're made. 
The Ingredients
Slice the Cucumbers about 1/2" thick

Add them back to the jar from whence the came

Add the remaining ingredients
Twist on the lid and shake well
Turn upside down for the first half of the day.

JB's Sweet Hot Dills

1 gallon jar of large dill pickles
4 oz Tabasco Sauce
4 1/2 cups sugar

Drain the pickles.  If your family likes the juice, keep it.
Slice the pickles into large chunks, we like them about 1/2" thick.  Put the pickles back in the jar.
Add the sugar, then Tabasco sauce.
Clean the jar rim and the cover.  Just to be safe, I put a double thickness of plastic wrap over the mouth.  Screw the lid on securely and shake well.  Not well enough to mash the pickles, but well enough to fix up the mixture or is that mix up the fixture?
Set the jar upside down (I put mine in a pie plate lined with an old cloth - to avoid potential messes).
"Turnover" the jar twice a day.
They're ready to eat in about two weeks.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pray for Healing

She's only six years old.  She was diagnosed with lymphoma a week ago.  I work with her parents' friend.  They live across The Pond.  Her story touched my heart, because of her age, because the friend is a good friend of mine, and because I hate the disease.  I am thankful for the gifts given to doctors, nurses, and all other people in the medical industry to fight for the lives of patients.  That is not my gift, nor my calling.

My friend "A" was crushed by the news.  I could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he told me.  Three days before this announcement, Magic Man and I took rag edge quilts to the US Marines and as our admission to the Customer Appreciation and Toys For Tots feast which Avnet hosted.  The quilts were so well received, we offered to make one for "A" to take to "K."  "A" accepted.

me:  "What does she like?"
A:  "She likes PINK!"
me:  "Well, PINK it is.  Let's make the blanket out of flannel to keep her warm and keep it from slipping as easily from her lap."
<pause for about an hour>
A:  "Oh, her mom says that "K" like pirates, castles, and monsters now."
me:  "We'll see what we can do."  But my mind is screaming YIKES.  I've been to the fabric stores and I can say with a high degree of certainty pirates, castles and monsters are not going to be in this project.

In good faith, I headed to Joann's.  There's a little inset in this store with my favorite sewing ladies.  Laden with bolts of pink flannel in my cart, I stopped to say hello (which is code for fishing for information).  They had nothing to offer regarding pirates, castles and monsters, but did have recommendations for shop downtown in the Big City for the sparkly fabric for Magic Man, another project in planning stages.

Day 2.  We headed to downtown Big City for Magic Man's fabric.  A shop?  This place was an entire city block, a mecca.  And there's an extension across the street.  This shop closes in one hour.  OK, not a problem.  Magic Man and I knew our mission; we were focused.  After questioning a clerk, we rushed to the far room, which by chance, took us right past the youth fabric.  It caught my eye... MONSTER fabric.  The decision was tough.  Complete his mission or finish my quest.  Magic Man made the decision for me.  He went his direction and I grabbed the bolt.  Time was ticking away.  Then a few bolts down... PIRATES!  I was in tears.  Oh, the joy.  Two bolts cradled in my arms, I raced to the cutting table and asked if there was more.

"No," Kim said politely, "But we have some wonderful coordinating fabric.  What are you making?"
me:  "I don't know, but it has to have pirates, castles and monsters.  I'm working on a pink blanket, but "K's" tastes changed.  I don't know what to do, but it has to be pirates, castles and monsters."
Kim smiled sweetly.  She's done this before.  "What about a tote bag?  She can keep her things in it and she will know it's hers."

15 minutes until the closing bell.  Magic Man is flagging me for a decision.  Giving him the wait one minute signal, Kim quickly pointed me toward coordinating fabric.  Snatching four more bolts, she was left with cutting instructions.

Magic Man and I made the decision to take all three pieces.  All were appropriate for his project.  Keep one and sell the others in his shop.  Kim cut the last three bolts tossed on her table just as the last call for check out was announced.

We celebrated our good fortune with a late night dinner back in The Suburb.  It was well deserved, we justified.  Besides I could finish the blanket and two tote bags in one evening.  Right?  OK, so it was two very early mornings and one very late night, but the gifts are on their way to "K."

Keep her in your prayers.

The Pink Flannel Quilt/Blanket
 The Monster Tote, perfectly sized (pure, dumb luck) for the blanket
 The Monster Tote (peek-a-boo, opening the pleat)
 The Pirate Tote

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Baby's Birthday

Today is baby girl's birthday.  Yes, she's 26.  Yes, she's carrying her first child (due in a month), but she's still my baby.

Unfortunately, I have not digitized many pictures of her the early years.

 Grandpa and the train ride
 Holding her puppy
 Baby with Baby in Costume
 Beating up the military personnel
 With Granny, laughing at Grandpa
With Loved ones at Mom's wedding reception

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Johnny and Friends

I adore Johnny.  Thanks to him, it's easier to tolerate living in the city.  Johnny works in my building but on the far end.  Johnny has chickens at home and he shares with his coworkers.  I'm one of the fortunate to enjoy fresh eggs in the Big City.  Growing up in the "Thicket" as my cousin claimed, we were accustomed to fresh, well, almost everything on the table.   I miss those days and Johnny revives them back to reality for a meal or two each week.

Let's back up in time a bit.  I seriously wanted to build a small smoke house.  Smokers are not an acceptable appliance here in the Big City, but Mom lives out in the "Thicket", albeit somewhat barren.  I could build it there.  I struck paydirt from my search, much richer than I ever dreamed at a blog named Cowgirl's Country Life found here:  Reading through her pages, I longed even more to return to life on the dirt road.  But Magic Man and I remain in the Big City.

After a while, other blogs caught my attention reminding me of a simpler life so long ago.  The blog Slow Living Essentials inspired me to bring my crochet hooks out of retirement, dust them off, add a little bit of TLC, oil and lubrication, and these bad boys were ready to start work again.  SLE had a crochet pattern for chickens, for Johnny! They are so cute, I had to make them for the family as a thank you (along with brownies and cakes each month at the office)

Back to my story.  Between Johnny's kids, then adding his nieces and nephews, there are six tykes. I love this project and am primed for more.

Here are the girls who now live in new homes.

Mary Gold
The feet are egg cups with chicken feet, my after Easter clearance treasure from Kroger.  Inside the cup is egg shaped sidewalk chalk (Hobby Lobby). 

One word of caution.  The instructions are Austrailian/UK.  DC is SC.  Once I figured that part, completing the girls was an easy task.