Garden Veggies

Garden Veggies
Made into tile for my stove backsplash

Portland Rose Garden

Portland Rose Garden
Mike and my 2 youngest sons Ian and Leif

Grandson Michael's Birthday 2014 throwing water balloons

Grandson Michael's Birthday 2014 throwing water balloons
With son Beau, Grandson Luke and his mom Jennifer

Maren

Maren
I cut this out of a wedding line. I must take more pictures of her.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

HUGO - Movie Review




Hugo is a feast for the eyes, ears and imagination.  It has an old time feel with warm muted colors, but light with glowing magical images.  You instantly fall in love with the orphan boy Hugo, living in Paris, continuing to wind a city clock after his drunken uncle dies.  The movie takes place on one charming street filled with reoccurring characters you want to follow.  There is mystery in Hugo's life that draws you in, bringing along the other characters as the resolution unfolds.

My 10 year. old grandson thought it was a little boring, but I was glad he was there.  Children need more subtle magic, real people, nostalgia and dreamy longing moods in the movies they watch.  There are too many fireworks in their movie diets.

Don't wast your money on the 3-D.  Our 7 family members went together and we all wished we hadn't indulged in the 3D.  One of our group got dizzy with it and left for awhile.

This is a lovely movie.  3 1/2 *

In Depth Hugo Review

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

MANSFIELD PARK - Book Review


Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

I have always loved Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, so much that I have read it several times.  So why haven’t I read any of her other novels?  I am not a prolific reader and since I have seen all the stories numerous times in movie production I didn’t think I needed to.  But there are times when you just need a little fix of Austen writing and instead of rereading P&P I decided to delve into Mansfield Park.
 
Mansfield Park is the story of Fanny Price, the poor niece of the Baronet wife of Sir Thomas Bertram.   Mansfield Park is the home and setting of the family adventures and misadventures.   Fanny is brought to live with the Bertrams when she is 10 years old.  The Bertrams have two sons and two daughters.  The girls and their Aunt Norris never cease to remind Fanny that she is not of their class.  Fanny manages to endure the ongoing  mental abuse and it doesn’t canker her.    Lady Bertram is not well, whether in body or spirit we are not quite sure why.  Fanny forms an alliance with Edward Bertram, the younger son of the Family.  He treats her kindly and with compassion.  The hopeless unrequited love that Fanny has for Edmund dominates the story.  The family dynamics form the contrasts that are usually part of Austin’s stories; the rich and the poor, the nice and the mean, the powerful and the weak, the righteous and the depraved.  Fanny’s sweet nature keeps her balanced.  She is mostly content to be near Edmund and makes herself an asset to the weak and needy Mrs. Bertram.  She blossoms in the eyes of many as her good nature becomes a leveling force. 

There are lots of interesting characters and twists and turns in the story.  Fanny sees it all play out almost from the sidelines.  She forms negative opinions from her perceptions that keep her from accepting a happy situation.   She has strength of character, even as those around her judge her as weak and vulnerable.  I admired her ability to stand firm on her values.  I saw her as a Christian ideal; one who is a friend even to those who abuse her, one who is firm in her convictions even under pressure, one who finds contentment in solitude, one who has a sense of peace in the turmoil of those around her.  

I enjoyed this book as much as P&P.   I definitely plan to read other Austen Novels.

Masterpiece Theatre’s recent production of Mansfield Park (2007) with Billie Piper, was very disappointing.   The one from 1999 with Frances O'Connor may have been in movie theaters.  It is much better but has a very disturbing element that I can’t figure out why they would put in.  The older son spent time in Antigua with his father and in the movie came home with drawings he made of sexual encounters with black women, which Fanny sees (and we do too).  It was not in the book.  Was it all about getting a PG rating?  And there was another little overt sexual encounter that would have made Jane Austen very sad.  Austen could insinuate immorality without it being in your face.   Why can’t we stick with the story?  Mostly this stuff ruined a lovely movie. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

FRESH HERB CHEX MIX


I always make a batch of these at Christmas so we have something besides sugar to snack on.

3 cups each of Wheat, Corn, and Rice Chex
1 1/2 cups small pretzels
1 1/2 cups sesame sticks, (you will find these yummy things where they have bulk foods.  Smiths and Walmart carry them)
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese crackers
½ tsp. Garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, no substitutes
1/4 cup fresh oregano, no substitutes (If you have fresh dry Oregano leaves they work fine use 2 generous T.)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste ¼ tsp. minimum
1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup butter  (can use all of one if desired.
1 lb. mixed nuts, preferably roasted


In a small chopper or by hand, chop the herbs until fine.  Melt the butter and oil together in a saucepan and add the herbs, garlic and onion powder with 2 tsp. water to soften the dry stuff.  Stir and cook for 1 minute to infuse the fat with the herbs.  Let sit to blend the flavors while you mix together Chex and crackers. Pour the herb mixture over the Chex mixture and toss until well combined.  Split chex mix up between two large cookie sheets and bake at 250 degrees for 40 minutes. Stir chex mix every 10 minutes and rotate on the oven shelves.  Add nuts the last 10 minutes.

Use your leftover Chex for a batch of Muddy Buddies

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

TOFFEE - SMALLER BATCH

For Years I have made my mother's large batch toffee recipe that would often seize up somewhere in the cooking process.  I think it would suddenly go to sugar.  I made this recipe that I found on Pinterest  and I am beginning to think the smaller batch might be more manageable and more to the size I really want and need, so here is my version. Toffee recipe I found.

Melt 1 Cup butter and add 1 Cup sugar and 3 T. water  in a 2 quart saucepan.   Boil with the lid on for one minute to dissolve the crystals on the side and then wipe down the sides with a wet paper towel.   Cook stirring constantly until it turns the color of a paper sack.  You will need to stir a little harder at the end as it will begin to brown quite quickly.  

Pour into a well buttered cookie sheet or onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Spread out to the desired thickness.  Let it set for about 1 minute and sprinkle on 6 oz.  good Milk Chocolate Chips.  When melted from the toffee heat spread around.  At this point I cut it in two because I have anti nut kids.  It might break up a little but cutting with a utility knife helps.  I like toasted chopped almonds but you can use chopped pecans or walnuts.   When cool turn over and add 6 more ounces of melted chocolate chips.  Use a double boiler with hot not boiling water or a bowl over a bigger bowl of hot water.  Melting in the microwave ruins real chocolate.  Sprinkle with nuts or not on the second side.  


When the chocolate is set up score with a sharp utility knife and break carefully.  The second side tends to lose some of its chocolate because it doesn't adhere as well.  Melt a little chocolate to glue these pieces back on.  

 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

PUMPKIN HOT CHOCOLATE LATTE



The Quick Version:
Heat 2 T pumpkin puree and 1 T whipping cream in a mug (Microwave 20 sec.) or if you are making a bunch warm it on the stove in a pan.  Mix together 1/3 C. cocoa mix (I like Stevens Dark Chocolate for this but a milk chocolate would surely be good) and 1 rounded T. Ultra gel for thickening if using. (see below*)  Add: ¼ tsp. Cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. Nutmeg and Allspice for each cup.  Stir everything together in the cup or pan and top with whipped cream or marshmallows in the mug.

I froze 2 T clumps of pumpkin so I can get one or two out when I want to make this and not open a can of pumpkin every time.  (see photo)

If you want to make your own Cocoa Mix here is a recipe:

SPICED HOT COCOA MIX
Mix together in a large bowl:
6 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 ½ C Non Dairy Creamer
1 ½ C Instant nonfat milk
1 1/4 C. Cocoa powder
Scant 3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Nutmeg
1 tsp Allspice

For every one cup of boiling water add:
2 T. pumpkin puree
1/3 C of the dry cocoa mix
1 T. whipping cream  (optional but it makes it more creamy.  Or you can use 1 T. more of the nondairy creamer if desired.)

I traveled in Europe last year and died for the thick hot chocolate we had everywhere.  I have discovered that a product called * Ultra Gel works good for thickening hot chocolate. I add 1 slightly rounded T. per cup.     I also use Ultra Gel for making frozen jams thicker and to stabilize whipped cream.  It thickens like instant pudding thickeners.  I buy it locally at Kitchen Kneads in Ogden. (If you go there make sure you get the one that can be used in hot or cold liquids)  Here is a place you can order it.


Because I usually only make a cup or two of this hot chocolate and don’t want to open a can of pumpkin every time I froze a cookie sheet filled with 2 T. plops of pumpkin and then put them in a plastic bag to drop in the hot chocolate when I want it.  Heat the pumpkin a little longer in your cup before adding the other ingredients.





Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MARY DANCES - A Christmas Memory

Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of Mary on that eventful night but this is her playing Mary again, in our kitchen, with some friends (Ian is Joseph with the beard) a couple of years later. 


But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)  And I have too.  I can play a sweet little movie in my heart about that Christmas in 1978 when we were a family of Mother, Father, two year old, four year old and seven year old.  But I was harried at the time and it didn’t seem so sweet.  We were going to the Ward Christmas party and I had spent the day making a Mary costume for my four year old daughter Maren.  She and her seven year old brother Beau were going to play the Holy family, acting out their part of the nativity.  It was an honor indeed.  My little Mary was perfect with her dark hair and bright eyes.  My handsome Joseph would stand beside her in the belted bathrobe and head scarf I had scrounged up that day.   Getting us all ready and in the car on time for the dinner didn’t happen and we were late when we arrived at the church.  The ham and funeral potato dinner was already underway, with not enough food left for the latecomers.  They were even setting up more tables for the bulging group.     We managed to scrape up some ham and rolls.  The kids were more interested in finding friends than eating anyway and this isn’t my favorite meal, so all is well at this point.   In the end there was plenty of frosted sugar cookies, what more could you want.

The call came for the Nativity and all the cute little shepherds straggled onto the stage for the performance.  Mary clutched her favorite doll, wrapped in a soft flannel blanket that I had stitched together to match the blue scarf draped across her head.  She and Joseph sat at the front of the stage as the story went on and on and on.  Who wrote this script?  Didn’t they realize that little children would be doing this?  Four year old Mary got tired.  I could see her eyes glaze over and before long she had let go of the baby Jesus and it rolled out of the little blanket and hung on her knees.  I sat in motherly horror, wondering what I would do if the baby fell off her lap and on to the floor.   I was finally able to breath when the story ended, in time to rescue the baby.   But Mary’s best performance was yet to come. 

The nativity children didn’t return to our table.  I wasn’t worried.  We were a new Ward with a huge group of children.  The cultural hall was in barely controlled noisy confusion, with children bouncing here there and everywhere.   I was tired and sat back to enjoy the next part of the program, a holiday variety show.   There were some enjoyable musical numbers but their effect was lost in the hall buzz.  Again I wondered if this wasn’t a little too much.  Then a teenage girl walked to the stage and proceeded to play a classical piece on the piano.  Ho Hum.  But then it got very exciting.  My lovely Mary with her blue head scarf clutched in her little fingers twirled on to the stage, swooping and pirouetting to the music.  We gasped.  What should we do?  She was upstaging the piano solo.  Perhaps we should have let her finish her adlib performance but embarrassment took over and Mike crouched through the crowd and onto the stage to remove the dancer.  She came willingly, thank goodness.  

We lived in that Ward for 29 years and never again did they have a family party (not that anyone remembered the craziness after all those years.)  In the name of Peace on Earth the adults began a tradition of a nice progressive dinner every year after that and the children had their own party sans the entire family. 

As Mary of old pondered her experiences I imagine her feelings changed in perspective as time moved on and so have mine.  I would gladly go back and relive that evening with a new appreciation of what it means to be a harried mother with sweet little, free spirited children.






Monday, December 12, 2011

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE SWIRL BARK

If you want a fast treat and peanut butter is your thing this is for you.   Get one pound of vanilla  or Almond Bark or vanilla drops.  I don't know if white chocolate chips would work but I suspect they might.  Melt in the microwave in a glass bowl on medium heat stir until smooth.  Add 2/3 C. peanut butter.  I used creamy but crunchy is probably good.  Stir until well blended and pour into a square sided 9x13 pan lined with parchment paper or wax paper.  Tap a little on the counter to even out.  Melt 6 oz. chocolate with 1 tsp. oil (this is a bag of chocolate chips- 1 cup)  use milk or semisweet as desired.  Drizzle across the top in large drizzles and gently swirl with a knife.  Let set up. Cut with an exacto  knife to make squares or break into irregular pieces.  They cut better if they are barely set up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Anderson Gang


Merry Christmas from Mike, Charmaine, Beau, Michael and Luke

Saturday, December 3, 2011

ROLO PRETZEL TURTLES

This Recipe was on the Rollo bag.  I always like those salty pretzels dipped in caramel and chocolate but they always looked too hard to make.  These are very easy and I am looking forward to doing them with my grandson.  I didn't think he would like the pecans so I tried half with M&M peanut. They are good. 

Buy a bag of small waffle pretzels.  They come in square or round.  Lay the amount you want to make on a cookie sheet lined with foil, wax paper or parchment.  Top each with a Rolo.  Put into a 350 degree oven for 3-4 minutes, until soft.  Remove from oven and carefully press a pecan or an M&M in the middle.  They are especially good warm.  The salty pretzel with the sweet is yummy.  Store in an airtight container.