Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Blessed Mess


Hi friends. As I sit writing this post, the temps here in the Panhandle have plummeted. We have a wind chill of 1*. The heater seems like it's kicking on constantly, and I'm really debating if I should even venture outside to the store.
You may have noticed my absence over these past 9 months, and I feel like I need to share with you my crazy, busy, good year. Hence the title, 'A Blessed Mess.'

My intention back in March was to take a week off at Easter and then be back into my blogging. Well, things didn't work out the way I inteded. During that week I took off, my mother had a serious fall and broke her shoulder. That first week I moved in with my parents in order to help out. And after a few weeks had past, I was able to just come over to their house in the mornings and evenings, as well as provide meals for them.

After that crisis  past, we had a joyous occasion. A wedding celebration. Our daughter got married in May. It was a beautiful ceremony, but as you can imagine it required a tremendous amount of preperation.

Over the summer our oldest child flew in for a visit. As well as did my two sisters and my Aunt. My Aunt lives in California and I hadn't seen her in 20 plus years. It was a wonderful time to reconnect and we shared our stories of faith, and how we have lead others to know Christ. She speaks to everyone about her faith and I love that about her. She lives with a physical disablity that she has had since childhood, but I've never known a more cheerful, thankful person. It definitely was God orchestrated because my spirit was renewed.

Then our youngest daughter married in August, so we had another wedding celebration. I must add, we couldn't be more pleased with our two son-in-laws. They both take very good care of our girls.

And last but certainly by no means least, another of our daughters is pregnant and her due date is late February! So we will become grandparents for the very first time. This year has brought us into peaks and valleys. But, it has been a wonderful journey.

I think I finally have my home ready for Christmas. I didn't decorate as much as I have in past years. I can't believe it's just a week away. I had so many ideas and thoughts I wanted to share with you this year. But you know what? I'll just have to do it in 2017.

Stay warm, and I will talk with you soon.

All my love,

Anna


Friday, March 11, 2016

Coloring Eggs for Easter Using Kool-Aid


Lent is nearing a close. Next week is our spring break, then following that is Palm Sunday. This year has really flown by. Where is that darn pause button?

I remember coloring eggs with the kiddos the week leading up to Easter. They loved the time with me, as much as I loved spending time with them. And after the annual egg hunt and Easter service on Sunday morning, I made deviled eggs to serve with Easter dinner.

In the past I always purchased the store bought egg coloring kits. It seemed to me like you were just paying for packaging, really. And no matter how long I left the eggs soaking in the vinegar, they just wouldn't get any darker.

Well today I'm going to show you how to color eggs at home with kool-aid! It's super easy to do, and there are such a unique assortment of colors. And besides it takes very little time and if I say so myself, smells pretty amazing, too.

So let's get started. Here's how.

You will need to start with hard boiled eggs. See my post in the link below for an easy way to hard boil eggs that won't leave the center yolk a yucky green-ish color.
How To Make Hard Boiled Eggs

Secondly, you want to choose what colors you want. I chose an assortment of colors. I used grape, peach mango, cherry, watermelon, tropical punch, orange, green apple, lemonade, and blue raspberry lemonade. I guarantee not many other moms will have eggs these colors. :)


Once you've chosen your color of kool-aid packets, pour 2/3 cup cool water into each mug or glass.

Add one packet of color per mug/glass.

Stir each cup well.


Next, (when the eggs have cooled) place an egg in each mug/cup and leave for 15 minutes. They are actually colored after 10 minutes, but I wanted mine the darkest they could be.

Once the time is up, carefully remove each egg from the mug/glass and place on a plate lined with a paper towel. They will need to dry fully. This will take between 15 and 30 minutes. And then voila', beautiful colors of eggs.


Two things you need remember...
First, if your counter top is an ivory color like mine, take precautions as not to spill the kool-aid on the counter. Since it's concentrated it could stain.

Secondly, don't "check" your eggs as they dye because this will chip the color off in the process.

Thirdly, have fun!

I will be taking a little time for some R &R next week, but will be back the following week with new posts and recipes.

Have a wonderful week, friends!



Sunday, March 6, 2016

World's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake


If your from Texas, there's no doubt you're familiar with sheet cake. You grew up getting to partake of it after church for potluck. You looked forward to it in Summer on picnics. Heck, your grandma probably had a recipe for it. Food historians aren't quite sure where the original recipe came from, or how it originated. But none the less, our hats go off to whomever was responsible for this brilliance.

This chocolate sheet cake will soon be your only "go-to" recipe. It's ultra moist, and packed with chocolaty goodness. The icing when cooled has a slight crispness to it. And if you serve it warm, I promise you your taste buds will dance.

So let's dive right in!

Cake:

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
4 heaping Tablespoons cocoa
2 sticks butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Icing:

1 3/4 stick butter
4 heaping Tablespoons cocoa
6 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

*Here's a kitchen tip of mine to ensure you won't have any lumps in your icing.
Sifting powdered sugar the easy way

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt.

In a medium sized saucepan melt the butter. Add cocoa, stir together.

Add boiling water and allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds. Then turn off the heat, and pour over the flour mixture and stir lightly.

Add the buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda and vanilla. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the butter/chocolate mixture.

Pour into a greased 18x13" sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the icing.

In a medium sized sauce pan melt the butter. Add the cocoa and stir until combined, then turn off the heat.

Remove the cake from the oven. While the cake "rests", add the milk, vanilla and powdered sugar to the cocoa/butter mixture. Stir well and pour over the warm cake.

Next, sprinkle chopped pecans over the icing.

Serve warm.

Enjoy!

*On a side note: During Christmas time, you could add crushed peppermint to the icing, and substitute peppermint extract in place of vanilla extract to give this cake a holiday flare.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Slowing Down - Conquering Clutter and Reclaiming Simplicity


The weather here in the Texas Panhandle is definitely unpredictable to say the least. Last Monday we had highs in the mid 80's. Then, snow on the next day. Wednesday was sunny and beautiful, although the wind had a little bite to it. I have been experiencing spring fever because of this warm weather. Spring is my favorite time of the year. Nature is starting to bloom and the days are beginning to lengthen.

So, I spent the better part of the morning putting together my windowsill herb garden. This was something I'd been wanting to do for quite a long time, and just the act of creating this visual herb garden brought me joy. As evening fell, I stood back and soaked it in; the view, the feeling of accomplishment, and peace.

I have begun slowing down and just breathing. Life didn't give me much of an opportunity to do this before. We had children at home. Homework right after school. Activities to attend. Dinner to prepare. Evenings spent in preparation for school the next day. Bedtime routines for four children. At that time, there was no time (or even the thought of setting aside time) just to focus on the simpler things. To just be in the moment.

One morning recently I was watching Good Morning America and there was a segment on de-cluttering your life. This segment jump started me in wanting to make a change. Click the link below for a video clip of the segment.
The secret to de-cluttering your life

I began my journey six months ago when I saw the video (in the link above) on Good Morning America. I thought that is what I need to do. The children have all moved out, and it's just my husband and I. So, I've begun the process of purging things from around the house that I don't need. Or even want for that matter. Clothing, books, papers, kitchen items, bedroom items and so on. I'm using the KonMari method by Marie Kondo. This method incorporates visually looking at a item, and the act of touching the item. I suggest you examine this method more in depth if your interested, because it's a personal journey for each individual.

Everything is divided into categories, such as clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous and so on. To begin, place the items you want to consider purging onto the floor. Pick up each item one at a time. Ask yourself, does this item bring me joy? Does this item represent something significant to me? Are you inspired by this item? If the answer is yes, then you keep the item. What I love about this method, is that not only do you keep the item, you incorporate it into your everyday life/routine. I've starting using my good china (that I saved only for special occasions). Using beautiful tea towels which sat  neatly tucked away in my drawer. And that's just the beginning of this method. This technique also includes folding clothing, towels. etc. In other words, ways to help you enjoy the things of the present. To bring joy back into everyday.

There are two words to describe this transformation.
Life Changing.

You may purchase a copy of Marie Kondo's book from Amazon at the link below.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I've also taken up Yoga and meditation which have been a huge boost to calming my mind.

If you would like to simplify your life starting today, click the link below for wonderful useful tips.
Simple Living Manifesto - 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life

Slow down and enjoy your life, don't be a slave to it.

All my love to you in your journey to simplicity.

Anna

Friday, February 26, 2016

How To Sift Powdered Sugar - The Easy Way


I love to bake, but anytime a recipe called for powdered sugar to be sifted, I used to think nooooo! I've always found it too time consuming and frustrating in that I make a huge mess in the process.
And I mean who wants lumpy icing, right?
So I've found an easier way to sift powdered sugar, and I want to share it with you. All you need to do is use a whisk with it to break up any lumps. It's as easy as that.

And please keep checking back as I am sharing my sheet cake recipe in the near future.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Homemade Turtle Candies


These turtle candies are super easy to make, and taste so good. They're downright delicate and oh so gooey.

They're perfect for holiday gift giving, or just hoard them all for yourself.

So let's get started, shall we? Here's how:

Ingredients:
1 cup pecan halves
24 caramels (I use Kraft)
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 block Paraffin Wax

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper. Add pecans in a single layer onto cookie sheet.
  3. Place pecans in the oven for 10 minutes. (Roasting releases the oil in the pecans and gives them a nice added flavor, but this step may be omitted).
  4. Remove pecans from oven.
  5. Once cool, stack 5-6 pecan halves in each grouping.
  6. Place caramels and heavy cream together in microwave safe bowl, (or you may melt them in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously).
  7. Microwave until melted, stopping to stir every 30 seconds.
  8. Once melted, drizzle the caramel over each group of pecans.
  9. Using a double-broiler, melt paraffin wax and chocolate chips on low heat, stirring continuously.
  10. Once melted, drizzle chocolate over the pecan-caramel clusters. (The chocolate cools quickly and I had a little remaining chocolate, so I drizzled it over them for the added decorative effect).
  11. Let the candies sit to firm up. (I found putting them (cookie sheet and all) in the freezer for 10-15 minutes helps speed up the process tremendously).
Once removed from the freezer, I place each piece of candy in a cupcake liner.


Store in an airtight container, or freeze.



I enjoyed dressing these lil' candies up and giving them away for Random Acts of Kindness day last Wednesday!

Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Deviled Eggs Recipe/Kitchen Tip: Perfectly Peeled Eggs, Every Time.



I've always loved deviled eggs. And bonus, they're packed with protein and all of the essential amino acids, too. So today, I'm going to share with you my recipe, plus a little kitchen tip.
These are by far the best tasting deviled eggs, bar none.

This recipe calls for 6 eggs, so it may be doubled. These eggs are always a hit at potlucks.

Recipe:

6 eggs
1/4 cup mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
1/2 teaspoon Mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon Pimento
1 1/2 Tablespoon Wickles Pickle Relish (You may substitute regular pickle relish if you wish, but I like the lil' kick this relish gives).
Salt and Pepper to taste
Paprika

Place eggs in saucepan. Cover with cool water. Instead of immediately boiling, I gradually turn up the heat, because otherwise your shells will crack, and this can invite bacteria if you choose to save the eggs for later use.

Kitchen Tip: Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to the water.

Bring water to a rolling boil, then cover pan with lid and remove from heat.

Let stand 15 minutes.

Pour off water and add cool water. Repeat this process two to three times until cooled. Ideally, you want the eggs room temperature. (I often add ice cubes to the cool water to speed up this process).

When eggs have cooled, gently tap eggs on the counter to initially break the shell. Peel eggs.

Slice and place cooked egg yolks in a bowl. Mash yolks with a fork. Gradually add remaining ingredients, stirring well.

Place egg mixture into the yolks. I use a Wilton tool (tip 4B) to do this.

Sprinkle each egg with a small amount of Paprika.

Place a sprig of dill on each egg yolk (if desired).

Enjoy!