Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Halloween!

Jack-o-lantern, Jack-o-lantern,
You are such a funny sight.
As you sit there by the window,
Looking out into the night.
You were once a sturdy pumpkin,
growing on a curly vine.
Now you are a Jack-o-lantern,
See your night lights shine.

Ohhh, today is Halloween, the spookiest day of the year. The one day of the year when we give children, who have been told the other 364 days to not take candy from strangers, or even talk to strangers . . . the licence to go knock on strange people's doors and beg candy off of them!

I loved Halloween as a girl. I never had a store bought costume, always homemade, but my they were grand! When I was really small, my mother sewed them, perhaps a little red riding hood cape or a ballerina skirt . . . but as I got older I thought those things a bit too corny and I wanted to be famous people like Lily Munster. I remember in Grade Five my best friend dressed as Herman Munster and I was Lily. It was just perfect because I had the long dark hair and she had short blond hair. I wish I had a photo to show you, but my parents were not people to take photos very often in those days. (Now my mother has a whole album of photos just of her cat!)

The whole of Halloween afternoon at school was given over to a Halloween Party and we would rush home at lunch time to bolt down some lunch and change into our costumes. Back at school there would be the Halloween Parade. We'd march, accompanied by music into each other's classrooms and do a tour around the perimeter of the room showing off our costumes. Every class visited every other class. It was great fun and I can remember always feeling very proud of my costume. Then there would be party food and games and lots of fun to be had! Oh, it was magical!

The air would be so full of excitement that you could cut it with a knife! Stuffing our faces with fairy cakes, sausage rolls and soda, not to mention as much candy as we could eat and then back home at the end to await for trick or treating, which was the highlight of the day.

My mother always had a really hard time getting us to eat any supper at all on Halloween. Mind you we were probably stuffed still from all our treats at school and filled to the brim with the excitement and prospect of going out trick or treating. She would never let us go until it turned completely dark . . . and I can remember worrying as I saw the children beginning to go around door to door and me still not being allowed to start, worrying that by the time my mother let us out . . . there'd be nothing left! Inevitably . . . there would be houses that ran out of candy rather early on, but in truth, we always got more than we really needed.

Oh the smells of Halloween . . . burning wax and pumpkin . . . rotting leaves . . . the air crisp and cool and full of the sounds of excited children's voices ringing out the words . . . "Trick or Treat!" . . . not to mention the sound of a myriad of small feet scuffling through the grass as we moved from house to house, the rustling of bags and the odd spooky scream and creepy Halloween Music ringing through the air.

Some people went all out and had their yards all decked out in spooky attire, with spider's webs hanging from the trees and chairs filled with Jack-O-Lantern people here and there scattered across the yard . . . doorways all darkened and spooky music emanating from within . . . their own faces painted and decked out scarily in full Halloween make up as they handed out the treats to our excited little hands.

From house to house we'd race, arriving on the doorsteps breathless and full of excitement . . . we'd check our bags in between houses to see what we'd been given . . . was it the prize of all prizes . . . a miniature chocolate bar, or perhaps a packet of crisps . . . or was it the dreaded apple or molasses kiss . . . We'd race about until we were exhausted and our feet could not carry us another mile and then back home we'd trot, heavy bags filled with treats making our arms ache and dragging us down.

We always had to go through the whole lot before we were allowed to eat any of it with my mother . . . just in case there was anything in the bag that was poisoned or dangerous. I cannot remember ever finding anything suspicious, although we had all heard the tales of people putting razor blades in apples and pins in candy . . . We'd count up all the candy bars we had or packets of crisps and then my mother would allow us to have a few of the treats, but not many lest we be too hyper to fall asleep at the end of the evening.

As I got older of course, trick or treating lost it's appeal and there were neighbourhood bonfires to attend and just hanging out with my friends getting up to mischief of one sort or another . . . nothing more serious than soaping a few windows or spreading toilet paper about. One year we went mummering, which was really cool. We dressed up in costume and heavy masks . . . so that nobody could identify us and we went around to people's homes that we knew just to visit . . . and they tried to guess who we were and to trick us into revealing ourselves. That was so much fun. We wouldn't speak, all communication was done in signs and hand movements.

As an adult I loved taking my own children around trick or treating and feeling of their excitement, re-living the joys of my own childhood through them. Occasionally when they got older we would have a Halloween party at the house with apple bobbing and other fun games. The last time I went Trick or Treating was 9 years ago with my youngest son who was only 10 at the time. His father and I were newly separated and I remember it being an evening tinged with sadness and melancholy. . . the very next Halloween saw me alighting on Britain's green and verdant shores to take up permanent residency here . . . just goes to show you how much your life can change in a single year.

I got boo-ed yesterday by one of my favourite people, Holly of My Kids Say I'm Silly! Thanks so much Holly, what a cute and novel idea!!! I get to pass the boo along now, so watch your comments as I may be along to boo you in turn! Here's how it works:

Go to as many friends as you want and tell them they've been "B00-ed". Have them link back to your blog to pick up their Halloween Treat (picture) and tell them to Boo their friends. (Then put the pic in your side bar so everyone knows that you've already been boo-ed and to send the pic to someone else.) So be watching your comments to see if you get boo-ed!

I thought I'd share a little Halloween goodness with you today with a recipe that I used to make for my kids when they were growing up on Halloween night. It was always so very hard to get them interested in eating any supper they were so full of excitement so I had to be really creative! I found this recipe years ago in one of those little magazines that you can pick up at the grocery store tills and it was a real winner! They used to love this!

*Spooky Shepherd's Pie*
Serves 6

This tasty recipe is a real winner to make for the kids on Halloween. It looks Spooktacular and is very easy to put together. If your children are like mine were, it was a nightmare getting them to eat any supper at all that night. This should help!

1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 (14 1/2 ounce) tin of Italian Style chopped tomatoes, undrained
1 (12 ounce) jar of beef gravy
3 cups mashed potatoes
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg slightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Spray a large skillet with some cooking spray and brown the ground beef and onions over medium high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened and the beef is no longer pink.

Set aside 12 of the peas from the mixed vegetables for a garnish.

Add the remaining frozen vegetables , tomatoes and gravy to the ground beef. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are crispy tender, stirring occasionally. Season with some salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the hot ground beef mixture into an ungreased 8 inch square baking dish.

Put the mashed potatoes into a bowl and beat them together with the Parmesan Cheese and the egg. Spoon this mixture onto the hot beef mixture in upright mounds to resemble ghosts. Place two reserved peas on each mound to resemble eyes.

Bake in the heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are set and the mixture is heated through and bubbly. Enjoy!!

Here's a few Halloween Photos of my own children and grandchildren that I wanted to share with you. Hope you don't mind!

Click to play Happy Halloween Memories
Make your own slide shows and scrapbooks

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Are You Curious?

"Develop some intellectual curiosity. If you have it, you will never be bored. if you haven't, cultivate it, hold fast to it. Never let it go. To the intellectually curious, the world will always be full of magic, full of wonder. You will be interesting to your friends, to your spouse, and a joy to your children. You will be alive to all of the possibilities of this world."
~Marjorie Pay Hinckley

I came across these words this morning and they made me think. Do I have any intellectual curiosity? What is intellectual curiosity?

1.appealing to or engaging the intellect: intellectual pursuits.

–noun, plural -ties.
1.the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.

I've always been that type of person I am happy to say! I have always been the kind of person who wanted to know what made things tick or why certain things or people did and do the things they do. I like to take things apart and see what's inside. I don't always know how to put them back together . . . which an entirely different story (for some odd reason I always end up with extra parts!) . . . but I have always gained a deep satisfaction in knowing what's inside and how it works. When the hoover stops working, I relish turning it upside down and tinkering to find out why and see if I can fix it. I want to know why some cakes rise and other's don't . . . what makes a gravy thick and what you can do to cook a tender piece of meat and how to make a tough piece of meat tender . . .

I love to stand outside and drink in my surroundings. I close my eyes and breathe in the air . . . every day has a different smell, quite unlike the day before and I love to stand still and identify it as being unique and mine to enjoy. Every sound a curiosity and a gift . . . if you are quiet enough you can hear the leaves singing as they fall to the ground, that soft quiet rustle in the undergrowth that tells you . . . you are not alone. I have tasted rain and I have tasted snow and I have felt the difference on my face between a sunny day in July and a sunny day in February . . . and I have been thankful for them both.

I have been a mother to the small and helpless, and reveled in their pure and loving embraces . . . those tiny arms winding themselves about you . . . that soft small head nestling in your neck . . . that love which is without guile and artifice. How very wonderful it is. How wonderful it is too, to be a mother to the teen with all of their angst and emotion, and to an adult and see them finding their way in the world in the best possible way . . . and to feel that you had a part in that wonderful journey and you have given the wings they need to fly . . . safe, strong, secure and loved.

I have made mistakes . . . and journeys of my own, both long and hard. I trust that in all my mistakes I have been able to take some lesson, some little gem of wisdom to help me in the future . . . or to help someone else and possibly prevent them from making the same mistakes . . .

The water bug, the bumbling bee, the dragon fly . . . I have been able to drink in their magic and wonder and see the world around me as something beautiful and treasured and a wonderful creation that is ours to enjoy.

I have felt the sorrow of despair and loss . . . and the joy of true importance, the wealth of all in this life that truly counts and all that is eternal.

I have been loved and I have loved and I love . . .

I am so blessed that I am the type of person that can be happy in almost every circumstance. I have started from nothing several times, and I know who it is that has helped to lift me up from every low place and who has helped to set my feet on higher ground . . . and I am prayerfully grateful for that help. May I ever be so . . .

I don't think being intellectually curious means that you read only intellectual books and papers, or that you watch only educational television and movies . . . I think it means that you take the time to explore all the things around you . . . the tastes . . . the smells . . . the sounds . . . the experiences . . . the feelings . . . and you embrace them for what they are, and make them your own, make them a part of who you are, and why you are, and how you are . . . and then you learn to share it with those around you, so that they can enjoy it all too . . . expanding this box we call life and filling it up with as much as we can . . . so that at the end of the day we can say we are satisfied and that we can hear those words . . . well done my child . . . well done.

Just my thoughts this morning . . .

OH, but it was cold here yesterday. You would have thought that winter had well and truly arrived!!! I know that quite a few places got snow, which is most unusual for this time of year over here. We were not so blessed, we only got the cold. It was soup weather and so I made a nice pot of French Onion soup to warm up our insides. Whenever I made onion soup I think of an old friend from my Uni days named Julia. She loved to cook and she introduced me to French Onion Soup . . . prior to Julia's tutelage, it had only ever been a picture in a magazine . . . she helped me to turn it into reality! Thanks Julia!

*French Onion Soup*
Serves 4 - 6

It's amazing what you can do with a few onions, a couple tins of broth and some cheese. What a magnificent dish to come from such humble beginnings . . . what a joy on a cold autumnal day.

50g butter
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1.3 kg)
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 TBS flour
1 litre of beef or chicken stock
600ml dry white wine or cider
1 fresh bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
1 french baguette (or other white bread) sliced
200 g freshly grated Gruyere cheese
4 TBS freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once it begins to sizzle turn the heat down and add the onions. Cook the onions over very low heat, with out colouring, until soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about a minute, then stir in the flour. Cook and stir for a minute longer. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then bring to the boil. Boil for one minute, then reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. This is the type of soup that gets even better upon standing, so if you can wait . . . allow it to stand for about 30 minutes, then gently re-heat.

Just before serving, heat up the grill of your oven. (the broiler). Place the baguette slices on a large baking tray and brown them under the grill until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle half of the gruyere cheese evenly over all. Bang back under the grill just to melt. Remove from the grill and set aside.

Place half of the soup into heated soup bowls. Add the toasts and then ladle on the other half of the soup. Sprinkle the remainder of the grated gruyere evenly over each along with a TBS of grated parmesan cheese. If you like you can place this under the grill again to melt a bit more, but it's not necessary. The heat of the soup will melt the cheese if it's good and hot as it should be. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

I'm Not a Tosser!

Welcome to the October, 2008 Edition of the Daring Baker's Challenge of the month. It should come as no surprise to you that as well as being a "Dorie-ite," I am a "Daring Baker." A great many of us are one and the same. As a Daring Baker I am challenged each month to bake a glorious creation and stretch and hone my skills as a baker. It's a group that I love belonging to and have been able to bake thus far, several things I had not attempted before in my lifetime . . . luscious Yule Logs, Monster looking Potato Bread, Chocolate Coated Eclairs to name but a few.

This month's Daring Baker challenge comes to us today, via Rosa of Rosa's Yum Yum's. For this challenge she chose an easy to follow recipe for “Pizza Napoletana” from Peter Reinhart's “The Bread Baker's Apprentice” which yields a beautifully tasty, thin, crispy, yet chewy pizza crust.

One of the things she most wanted us to do was to learn how to toss a pizza. Oh, how I have always loved the sight of those wonderful Italian Pizza Chef's tossing their pizza's up into the air, and catching them . . . each toss of the dough yielding a larger, silkier creation, resulting in a perfectly round and flat piece of dough, just waiting to be baked into a delicious pizza, all stogged full of wonderful toppings and tasty Italian delights . . .

I am so not a Tosser, but I did try, I promise. No picture of me tossing I'm afraid. It was not a pretty sight! But there is a lovely picture of what I ended up with . . . it was not round . . . it was not flat . . . it was dough.

I ended up rolling it out in my normal way, with a rolling pin. It was a lovely dough though and went together quite well following the instructions for the recipe which may be found on Rosa's PAGE. Be warned though, you have to start the dough the day before you want the pizza.

I decided at the outset that I was going to make something quite different with my dough. I wanted something that would wow me and also my Todd.

Now, my Todd . . . he's got odd tastes, and he is soooo very British. He does not like foreign food and he's absolutely not a fan of anything Italian, and most especially not Pizza. (I know!!! He's nuts, hates chocolate and Italian food! Saints preserve us!!!)

Mine I decided was going to be a *Pierogi Pizza.* I first got turned on to Pierogi's when I moved out to Winnipeg as a young Bride in the mid 1970's. Tasty little noodle like dumplings filled with a variety of fillings, but usually cheese and potato. Once boiled and drained, they are then fried . . . either deep fried in hot fat, or crisply browned in a pan full of melted and sizzling butter(my preference) and served up hot and garnished with lovely buttery fried onions and oodles sour cream. Diet food, NOT . . . Delicious . . . YES!

I spread out my dough and then pre-baked it for about 10 minutes. I always pre-bake my pizza doughs. I think it makes the bottoms crisper.

After the initial baking I topped the first one with 1/2 cup of well drained sauerkraut, and then about 2 cups of cheesy mashed potatoes. (Mashed potatoes that I had stirred a cup of grated strong cheddar cheese in until it melted and highly seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper) I patted the potatoes well down onto the sauerkraut to make sure it would all adhere. I then topped it with a mixture of mozzarella and gruyere cheeses, some crisply fried bacon bits and one whole onion that had been thinly sliced and fried in butter.

Ohh, can't you just feel the pounds piling on!!! This was soooo not diet food. This went into the oven and was baked for a further 20 minutes until the crust was golden brown and nicely crisp on the bottom.

Todd's was an *All Day Breakfast Pizza.* I made his in a smaller pan so that I could make a nice deep edge on it to hold in all the filling. I also pre-baked it for several minutes. I then topped it with some grated cheddar cheese and grilled tomatoes, one for each corner. Then I added several rashers of cooked bacon, a couple of grilled sausages, some hash brown patties and two eggs, cracked in between all of that, with a final dusting of some gruyere cheese and some salt and cracked black pepper. I would have tried to get some baked beans in there, but there just wasn't any room!!!

This I baked for about 15 minutes or so until the crust was also nicely browned at the edges and the eggs were set. The eggs were actually a bit more done than I had anticipated so if I did it again I would bake it with everything else on it for a time, and only then crack on the eggs and bake it for only about 10 minutes to set them.

The verdict??? I thought my pizza was delicious, if rather heavy, and could only manage one tasty piece. Todd rather liked his, tucking in with great relish and eating the whole thing!

Would I make it again? Well, I think I'd rather stick to real pierogi's myself and leave Pizza to the Italians, topping it with loads of cheese, tomato sauce and pepperoni. As for Todd . . . well, he'd just rather leave pizza altogether . . . and does prefer his breakfast in the normal way, on a plate, not a disk of dough, although he said it wasn't bad as far as pizza's go . . .

I did however redeem myself by cooking him a lovely Treacle Sponge, which you can find on my other Page, Marie Cooks Britain. (I know! I don't update that page near often enough!!!) Hop on over there for the recipe and another tale.

In the meantime, don't forget if you want to see the recipe for the pizza dough, to check out Rosa's page and if you want to check out what some of the other Daring Baker's have produced you can check out the Daring Baker's Blog Roll. I bet there are some really delicious creations to drool over!

Hmmm . . . I wonder what we'll be baking next month . . .

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

One of Your Daily Five

Did you know that Chocolate is a vegetable? It's derived from cocoa beans, and beans are vegetables, so eating chocolate must count as one of your daily five, doncha think? Well, it sounds good anyways!

Welcome to Tuesdays with Dorie, the Tuesday Baking club in which fans of Dorie Greenspan's lovely baking book, Baking . . . from my home to yours, all get together once a week and all bake the same recipe, revealing it in unison on the same day . . . Tuesday! (which would be today . . .whew!) The only pre-requisites for belong to the group are, one . . . you actually have the book, and two . . . you ask. You have to ask pretty soon though, because on October 31st they are putting a capper on the group. We have grown to become a very large group, so you only have a couple of days left to join. After that, unfortunately, you'll have to wait until there's an opening. I know, I try to get around each week and comment on as many entries as I can, but there's just so many participants now that is a formidable task! I have to say though, that it is a lovely group and everyone does a cracker jack job at completing and presenting the challenges!

You would be right in guessing that this week's challenge involved chocolate! This week Clara of I Heart Food4Thought has chosen, Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes* on pages 215-217.

I have to admit that I toyed with the idea of not making these cupcakes. Todd hates chocolate, as you know, and I am trying to cut back on eating stuff that's bad for me, and with so many chocolate cupcakes hanging around and me being the only one who might indulge . . . well, it just didn't sound like a very good idea. Then I found some space in my freezer, so I thought, what the heck and plunged right in.


These are wonderful cupcakes. Thanks so much Clara for picking this recipe!!! I ended up with a dozen of the loveliest, most tastiest, moistest cupcakes ever!!!

Once they were cooled I popped half a dozen of them into a freezer bag and bundled them away for safe-keeping and a future binge . . . I mean date. What to do with the six I had though . . . hmmmm . . . Dorie mentioned filling them with marshmallow cream. So . . . I thought that's what I would do!

A lot easier said than done though. I managed to get two done that way, and not very successfully, but what the hey, I tried.

I also decided that I was going to top them all with my own Chocolate Buttercream icing though, coz, A. I like it and 2. It's my favourite.

These are really, really, really good cupcakes. Mine were nice and moist. I didn't leave them in the oven quite as long as Dorie suggested as some people were complaining that theirs were dry. Mine rose quite a lot and came out beautifully dark and moist. I did use Dutch process cocoa and Belgian dark chocolate. Not sure if that makes a difference or not.

Once I got them all frosted and decorated (don't you like all my different chocolate sprinkle thingies!!!) I couldn't remember which two I had filled with marshmallow cream!!! DUH!! I should have put them aside right off the bat! I cut one open to see if it was one of them . . . nope! I cut another one open and checked that one too, NOPE! Then I thought I better wait until the next day. You have to eat cupcakes you have cut open you know, and I thought three cupcakes in one day was far too many . . . even for me.

The next morning I decided that a chocolate cupcake would make the perfect breakfast, especially where they are a vegetable and all . . . cut one open (I was trying to get a picture of the marshmallow insides you know) . . . I never did find the marshmallow but I did notice that two of these cupcakes were extremely moist and yummy on the insides and I figure those were the ones with the marshmallow cream. It must have been absorbed into all that chocolate goodness!

All in all, I give these cupcakes two thumbs up!! They were gorgeous in my opinion and I would make them again. If you would like the recipe please hop on over to Clara's page where it will be posted at some point today. In the meantime I shall give you my recipe for the butter cream.

Don't forget to tune in next Tuesday when the group will all be baking Rugelach from pages 150-152, as chosen by Piggy of Piggy’s Cooking Journal . Mmmm . . . I love Rugelach!!! Yummo! You know something??? This is a most delicious group to belong to! (And it has the best members too!)

*Marie's Chocolate Buttercream Icing*
Makes about 4 ounces

2 ounces of softened sweet butter (unsalted)
3 1/4 ounces of sifted icing sugar
2 TBS sifted cocoa powder

Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat together with an electric whisk until well mixed and fluffy. Use as required.

PS - Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do for today!!! That way, at least you'll get one thing done.

PPS - Be sure to hop on over to the blog roll to see some of the other glorious creations. I am sure there will be some lovely Halloween versions, and be sure to check out Clara's page for the recipe!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Simple Woman's Day Book . . .

FOR TODAY, OCTOBER 27, 2008 ...

Outside My Window...

All is quiet and still. The sky is clear and dark and little stars twinkle off in the distance. It is a little past 5 am and so this is as one would expect. Not long now though the sun will begin to make it's appearance on the Eastern Horizon and my favourite part of the day will start . . . the sunrise. Oh how beautiful it is and how very much I enjoy witnessing this most wonderful gift from above . . .

I am thinking...
About all the talks that were given in conference yesterday. I took notes this time. Usually I forget my paper and pen, and wish that I hadn't. This time I was prepared! The theme centred around the Atonement of Christ yesterday, and all the talks were wonderfully prepared and presented and I was able to take several gems out of each one. Even the hymns chosen for us to sing were particularly touching. But then when the Holy Spirit is present . . . and you are open to it . . . the heart listens in a special kind of a way . . .

I am thankful for...
I would write forever of my blessings and things that I am thankful for, but this morning I am particularly thankful for our Home Teachers. As you probably know each family in the church, be it consisting of one person or of ten people, is assigned a pair of home teachers. Each month is it there duty to visit or contact all the families on their list and bring them spiritual food and much needed support and love from the church itself. Who on this earth does not need these things? I dare say they are a comfort to us all. They came to us late yesterday afternoon and spent an hour with us and I am so very appreciative of the time they take to do this each month. They have families of their own and things I am sure they would could rather do on a Sunday and yet they give of their time and come to serve us and probably a few other families as well. They bless our lives with their testimonies and examples. I am always touched by their love.

From the kitchen...
Ohh, lots of goodies sitting on the counter this morning to share with you this week. I won't tell you them all as I don't want to spoil the surprises! But I will tell you about today's. A lovely Lemon Drizzle Cake, probably one of the easiest versions you will ever make! I also have a pizza to make at some point this week and am trying to decide on which version I will do to surprise you with! You just know . . . it will be good!

I am wearing...
Brightly coloured pink pajamas that make me feel like Auntie Mame when I wear them. With a softly ruffled neckline and little pale pink heart all over the bottoms I feel positively outrageously sensational!!! I also found an old pair of slippers in my closet that were in pretty good shape. Todd had put them into a plastic bag with a few other pairs of shoes and so I hadn't realized they were there! I saw them in a photograph the other day, on my feet of course, and wondered where they had gone. Thankfully I was able to find them and now am wearing them! Yayy!! They're quite comfy and yielding, not hard like the crocs . . . but then again, I had taken to walking around in my bare feet this past week.

I am creating...
Cards, cards and more . . . cards! I am really enjoying this. I did another really cute sketch at the weekend and can't wait to turn her into a reality. You will love this one I hope, I already do! It's of little Emmeline holding a larger than life candy cane and teasing her kitten with a length of Christmas ribbon. It's quite cute if I don't say so myself!

I am going...
To work this week and of course lots to do there, including shopping etc. I shop three times a week. That way I can get in fresher ingredients for them. Back home I used to shop once every two weeks and things seemed to stay fresher. For some reason they don't over here. I wonder why that is. It's weird. On Saturday night we are having our monthly scripture study group and I am looking forward to that as well. It's lovely when you can get together with like minded people, as we do, and share your most intimate thoughts about your faith and understanding of the scriptures. I always come away having learned something new and with a deeper understanding and perception. It's a pretty special time spent with friends!

I am reading...
I am still working on the same books as last week, except with a new one added, called The Obama Nation, by Jerome R Corsi, PhD. It's very interesting and full of great insight. This is a very frightening election that is coming up in America this next time. I know I am not American, AND I do not have a voice, but I am concerned over this one like never before. As it is one of the most powerful and influential nations in the world, we should all be concerned about American politics and pay attention . . .

I am hoping...
Now . . . that would be telling! haha Actually, all joking aside I have been thinking of my father this morning. He is going in for a small operation tomorrow morning to remove a growth from his tongue. I hope that it is nothing to be concerned over, but I would appreciate a few kind thoughts and prayers from you if possible. My dad is quite obviously very special to me and I was happy to have been able to speak with him for a short time yesterday afternoon. I miss my family every day, and at sometimes, more so than others, I feel this loss very keenly. It is at times like this that I wish I was close enough to be able to hold a hand or lend a shoulder . . . all I can do is pray, and united prayers are even better . . . thanks so much! His name is Anthony.

I am hearing...
The tick tock of the clock down here in the kitchen as it's "tea cup" pendulum swings back and forth. I love my little tea pot clock. I actually love clocks altogether! I gave my mother one for her birthday a few years back that has Victorian Angel Teddy Bears all over it and the pendulum is a swinging Victorian Angel Bear as well. It's so beautiful and cute. I would have loved to have it myself, but bought it for her. I think you just can't go wrong when you buy someone a gift that is something you would have loved to have for yourself!! I had so much fun picking it out for her and I know she loves it too. We have clocks in every room here at Oak Cottage. Here in the kitchen it is the teapot, upstairs in the lounge it is our cuckoo clock from the Black Forest and a beautiful reminder of the times we have spent there together, in the library another small clock from the Black forest, with a little girl in German dress on a swing as the pendulum, and in the two bedrooms, alarm clocks reside . . . I would love to have a grandfather clock one day, that is my dream . . . with a Westminster Chime . . .

Around the house...
there is a feeling of peace and loving companionship. I made Todd some bananas and custard last night for a treat and he set them down on the floor next to his chair to go upstairs for something and darned if Jess didn't think that they were for her and while he was gone she ate them. Oh, but he was a bit cross with her . . . but . . . as I told him, he never told her that they weren't and so one cannot really blame her for thinking that they were, as he always puts her little tidbits down in the same place. My goodness, but she must have thought this was a great bonanza!!! He just never thought she would take them as she is always so very good at not touching things she is not supposed to! He didn't stay cross with her for long. She is laying here next to my feet softly snoring and probably dreaming of bananas and custard!

One of my favorite things...
Is listening to music. I have always loved music. I think I get this great love from my father. He loves music too. He always played in the armed forces band when we were growing up, and still plays the clarinet today. I learned to play the clarinet at school and we used to enjoy playing duets together at home, my father and I, on the weekends sometime. We'd play separate parts and some of my fondest memories of my father are of these times. He loved me to sing to him as well. It is in these later years that I have come to appreciate and love my parents even more than ever, and to really cherish the memories of these special times spent together . . .

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
I am hoping to get some more painting in and cards done. I have my seminary study and lessons to do as well. I am really enjoying digging in to the scriptures as never before. It is an awesome responsibility to be able to teach this to the teens, and, to hopefully inspire them to love reading and learning from the scriptures as well! It's Halloween on Thursday and I hope to bake up some spooky Halloween Treats for then. We don't get many Trick or Treaters where we live . . . in fact we don't get any! We are so very rural and secluded here, but I know the young people at Mutual would enjoy a special treat on Thursday evening!!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

It's a picture of Todd in a "Rocking Boat" outside the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia that I took the last time we were back to my homeland for a visit. I just adore this man I am married to! He has such a gentle and giving nature and spirit. He brings so much joy into my life, and I am so very blessed to have found him. Yes . . . he is my everything. I just have to remember to remind myself of that the next time he annoys me!!

I baked a Lemon Drizzle Cake yesterday afternoon before the Home Teachers came. It smelled so good when it was baking in the oven. I think the smell of something baking, or having just been baked, makes a home smell so welcoming and cosy, don't you?

*Lemon Drizzle Cake*
Makes one loaf

I think this is one of the easiest and tastiest cakes in the world to make! You just bang everything into the food processor and blitz it for two minutes and then pour it into your pan. Half an hour later you have a delicious cake sitting on the counter to cool! Moist and lemony, this is a real winner!

5 ounces self raising flour
4 ounces softened butter
4 ounces white sugar
2 heaping dessertspoons of lemon curd
2 large eggs
the grated zest of one lemon
the juice of 1/2 lemon
the juice of 1/2 lemon
2 TBS of sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 175*C/about 34o*F. Lightly butter a loaf tin and line it with parchment paper. Butter the paper and set it aside.

Put all the cake ingredients into the food processor and blitz for 2 minutes. Scrape the batter into your prepared loaf tin.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until well risen, nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven. Leave in the tin and place on a wire rack to cool. Mix the other 1/2 lemon juice and 2 TBS of sugar together, stirring to blend well. Drizzle over top of the still very warm cake, and let set for a few minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely. (I make sure that I leave a bit of overhang with the parchment paper when I put it into the pan so that I can use it like handles and just lift the cake out when done!)

Mmmm . . . this is so good dusted with some icing sugar and then sliced and spread with some more lemon curd for eating. Delicious!!

PSSST!! Don't forget to hop on over to The Simple Woman to see all the other day book entries for today!

Life . . . the Great Adventure

I lay in bed last night thinking about Christopher Columbus. Don't ask me why. My mind just thinks about odd things from time to time. As I lay there I thought about what a brave man he must have been to set out on his voyage of discovery at a time when most of the world was thinking that the earth was flat and that they would sail right off of the edge.

He didn't know where he was going when he set off, he didn't even know where he was when he got there. When he'd been there, he couldn't even tell you where he'd been. He only knew that he'd discovered a whole new world in the process.

I guess we should be a little more like Christopher Columbus when things perplex and bother us, at those times when we don't know which direction in life to take. If we are brave and just plunge forward in faith, we may discover a whole new world as well, and wouldn't that be great!

The wind is howling away out here this morning. It sounds quite blustery and stormy. I wonder if that's why I dreamt of tornadoes all night? Perhaps I could hear the wind and it was interfering with my sleep. Who knows??? I looked up dreaming about Tornadoes on google, but none of the suggestions seemed to apply! They were quite frightening dreams though and the sky was just full of dark funnel clouds almost touching the ground and coming my way. There were hundreds of them! I can remember feeling like the whole world was being destroyed! there was a baby in the dream as well, or a toddler, and I was trying to protect them. Sounds quite ominous doesn't it!

We are off to our Stake Conference later this morning. I can't wait!! The talks are always very good and it's always so nice to see people that I haven't seen in months. All the members of our church from the whole stake, which reaches up almost to London and all the way down to Hastings will be there. It's quite exciting really! We didn't go to the Adult session last night, but Todd did go to the Priesthood session and when he got home I had his tea all ready and waiting for him.

I made these wonderful potatoes for him. I have heard them called many different things, roadkill potatoes, accident potatoes, smashed potatoes . . . no matter what you call them, they are delicious potatoes!

*Smashed Potatoes*
Serves 4

It doesn't really matter what you call these tasty potatoes, they are always a delight. Crunchy and spicy and oh so good. It's more of a technique than a recipe. You can choose your own seasonings to put on them rather than the ones I've chosen here. I also like to serve them with a bit of sour cream for dipping, garnished with some chopped chives.

16 small potatoes, washed (I used small Maris Piper potatoes)
1 TBS of extra virgin olive oil (Or more if desired)
freshly ground sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly ground garlic flakes to taste
a dusting of sweet paprika
1 TBS chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano)
2 TBS seeds (caraway, fennel or cumin for example)
Sour cream (I used half fat)
2 TBS chopped fresh chives

Pre-heat the oven to 250*C/450*F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet and put it aside.

Place the unpeeled potatoes into a large saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender. Drain carefully and transfer them to the greased baking sheet.

Using a potato masher, carefully squash each potato flat, until it is twice the size that it was. It doesn't matter if it crumbles a bit as these will give you nice and crunchy edges.

Drizzle the olive oil over top evenly. Scatter on the herbs, seeds and seasonings.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until crisp and golden.

Serve with little bowls of sour cream, garnished with chopped chives for dipping.

PS - Thanks for all your lovely comments re my cards. If you would like to purchase some please feel free to e-mail me and we can talk about it!