It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Happy Sinterklaas Day!!

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My Sinterklaas gift! – Beekman 1802 Snow Globe String Lights (sold out in stores)

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Welcome December and busy schedule. Time is moving quickly as it usually does this time of year. Between trying to catch holiday lights and holiday movies, and Hallmark’s Christmas shows there is work, baking, entertaining and of course our volunteer schedule to keep up on. I’ve baked peanut butter cookies with chocolate stars, lefse, sugar cookies and rosettes thus far. More to come before Christmas I am sure. Here in Wisconsin the snow has finally arrived a long with the bitterly cold temperatures of this time of year. I hope this December day finds you happy, healthy, and full of the spirit of Christmas!

Homemade Turkey Gravy

Over the years I have perfected two things Thanksgiving dinner related- the turkey and the turkey gravy. The only thing about my thanksgiving meal that never turns out is the stuffing. I’m not one to stuff my bird– I’ve tried bread crumbs and day old dried bread but it never tastes as good as store bought. But store bought has so many ingredients in it. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for Stove Top stuffing? We cannot eat it. So no stuffing this year, but of course there will be a well made Turkey and lump free gravy.  And lots more, but this post is about turkey gravy (ahem).

My tried and true recipe is here . Where it says gravy or cornstarch, I always use cornstarch. You are to dissolve the cornstarch in water ( as little as needed to make a thin paste) and while it is dissolving I take a clean finger and stir it around until fully dissolved and then add to the drippings in the pan. When I used to use a spoon to help dissolve it, the cornstarch (clumps of it) would stick to my spoon. Make sure your paste of cornstarch is thin. Besides being a simple recipe, it is simply delicious and your people will thank you.

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Here’s wishing all who are following my blog, or who just stop to read a post or two, a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Crafts and the fall garden

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The fall temps of late have been just wonderful. Fall color came and went so quick that we really didn’t get a good fix from it this year. Everywhere we traveled the predominant color was rust, though we did see some beautiful red maples too.

Our container garden has been put to bed and our trees have been mulched. We grow trees year round on our deck and given them away as gifts. A tree my friends is a gift for a lifetime. We have two junipers and one pine. We had two pines but one died and we actually thought the other one would too. I took special care of it this past spring and though it still looks rough in the places it dropped needles, I think it will survive. My mum has lasted longer than any mum I’ve ever bought, it was grown locally near La Crosse WI and purchased at our coop. I think I paid $12.00 for it the first weekend in September. It’s made it through three light frosts-no problem.

We’ve made a few more changes this past summer and into the fall here in our home. The first one is once we were done with the margarine we’ve been buying nearly 20 years, out it went and in came butter. We had been using butter sparingly on sandwiches and sweet corn. But I hadn’t been cooking with butter for probably 30 years or more. Now after using it for cooking these past few weeks I never want to be without it again. We use Organic Valley butter- because well we love Organic Valley products. The one thing that has always turned my husband off from eating butter is the after taste or salty sour cream taste he claims he’s had upon trying it. Whatever that is? Organic Valley butter doesn’t have it. We’re loving the switch. The second change we made, that probably should have been made a long time ago, is we threw out the last four frozen french fries and have replaced them with homemade home fries. Every week I go and buy 8-12 organic russets to make home fries from. To make these fries you wash the potatoes well, cut into wedges and place on a greased cookie sheet- I put foil down first on mine. Then drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle a bit of salt and make sure all wedges are well coated. I put them into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes until the edges are crisp but the inside is tender. I serve with a dollop of organic sour cream and voila!- no more GMO french fries ever again!
The third change I’ve made is that after 35+ years of saying no to coffee I’ve learned to enjoy a cup of French pressed coffee every now and then. I’ve never liked coffee. I don’t like the taste. I don’t like the after taste. We have bought really expensive grinders, presses and coffee pots and oh boy have we bought some expensive whole beans to grind. Nothing ever changed my mind. I’ve even owned and resold two very expensive, before they were trendy, French presses.

A year or so ago I began drinking tea, something else I said I would never do. But I don’t drink just any tea I drink therapeutic teas-Marshmallow tea is my favorite. It’s not what you think- Marshmallow tea is tea made from the Marshmallow Root, it’s an herbal tea that has mucilaginous properties. What’s that? Marshmallow tea produces, once it is digested, a silky smooth mucous-like liquid. A liquid that coats your membranes all the way down to your intestines and possibly further. You have membranes all over your body- it coats them and soothes them and calms inflammation in them. It is used by people with IBS, digestive disorders, bowel/intestinal issues even some urinary and bladder issues. It’s an anti-inflammatory herbal tea. I’ve never read about anyone getting sick from it and you cannot drink too much of it. Although I limit myself to one cup a day.

Even after starting to drink tea coffee was still out. I love hot cocoa in the winter when I want to warm up. I don’t like homemade hot cocoa instead I’ve always opted for store bought -Swiss Miss. However a couple of winters ago I experienced some issues after drinking some and discovered all of the scary ingredients in it. Which one made me sick? Well I continued to try and drink it and continued to get sick -mainly diarrhea and dizziness. I am guessing the dried milk whey and the carrageenan and the mysterious artificial flavor added. Every other kind of boxed hot cocoa mix is the same so I needed to find something else to drink in cold weather. Ahem. All that was left for me was to try coffee…again.

A friend bought me a French press for my birthday, and my husband went out and bought a breakfast blend- mild and coarsely ground and I tried it and I liked it. No plans to drink it every day, but I would have a cup socially or as a means to warm up on a cold Winter’s day. Which at some point will be upon us here in Wisconsin.

The wreath in my post is one that I am making. I bought the green part of the wreath believe it or not for $6.00 at Menard’s. I’ve added mini lights and a poinsettia that clips on and may add something else ? Maybe a bulb or two just not sure at this point. I am not a crafter, but making your own and having it around year after year makes much more sense to me than buying fresh and having it last a month and then throwing it away. In our case living in town it means city dump and I’m just not going to do that to something so beautiful that belongs out in nature. We haven’t had live trees or pine boughs and wreaths in the house for over 20 years- cats, yes cats. Though Gabe has never messed with our faux tree and ornaments he would eat a real tree- bark, sap and all. Last year we bought a new 8ft faux from Target and then this year way back in September, when Walmart was just starting to think about Christmas, my husband spotted a skinny tree. I’ve wanted a skinny tree so bad the past three years. In fact that is what led us to Target last year – they had skinny trees in their ads. But to my dismay, by the time we got there, they were all gone. So we bought a beautiful almost real looking 8 ft. tree instead. The skinny tree at Walmart was really cute and under $60.00 so we bought it. And yes you guessed it, it is this year’s Christmas tree.

The painted frame is my attempt at painting. I don’t like to paint, but I found this antique frame at a barn sale this past summer and I wanted to spruce it up. Sage is an old color, an old primitive color. I’ve got a few things in sage throughout my home so sage it is. It looks nice and will go well in our kitchen. I guess painting isn’t so bad after all.

That’s it for now. I hope you can all get out and enjoy the weather if it’s good in your area and have a great weekend!

Fall Feast Plans

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Fall is my favorite time of the year, with springtime a close second. One is a time of new and the other the time before everything rests and is renewed. Fall is also a very busy time for my husband and I as a couple, for myself as a volunteer and for tasks that at times seem never ending.  Fall cleaning is one of the first things I do on my to do list. I thoroughly dust everything, shampoo carpets throughout our home, haul our winter coats and stuff to the cleaners (though I usually do this in the spring) and decorate for fall and then the holidays. I decorate our home for Halloween, Thanksgiving and for Christmas and I go big. All of it is time consuming, but totally worth it when it is done.

A couple of weekends ago we traveled into Madison for one of the last Farmer’s Markets outside of the year.

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I found time to upload a couple pictures of our fall decor~

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freshly cleaned carpet

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cozy new pom pom throw

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My birthday is near the end of the month and all I want to do is catch up on all my reading. I have two cookbooks to peruse, and I’d love to get through my stack of magazines. Instead we will go to our favorite restaurant and let someone else cook for the night. Less than a month later I will be preparing a big Thanksgiving meal for family and friends here in Wisconsin. This year’s menu is: Turkey, apple walnut stuffing, green bean casserole with fried shallots, pickled peach and cranberry salsa, roasted sweet potatoes and salted caramel peanut butter fudge pie.

I was inspired by these menus at Country Living.

That’s all for now. Later in the week I will be back to share more fall cooking inspiration!