I’m Singin’ In the Rain…

Making your home sing Mondays

Have you ever tried to actually Sing in the Rain?  Usually I’m a bit “froggier” during wet weather so I don’t sing with as much gusto, but I’m usually singing in my head at least…

I’ve found that doing my “chores” around the house is SOOOOOOO much better if I am listening to praise & worship music – or tappin’ your foot contemporary Christian music.  I get in a “groove” and if I’m singing while I work, the work seems to go by much faster.  I’m amazed at what I can accomplish in a short amount of time, if I’m thinking about what I’m singing rather than how many times I have to wash dishes every day…

I’ve also learned, that scent has an effect on my cleaning power, too.  Since I’ve been using more naturally derived – homemade cleaners, I enjoy cleaning more.  Much of my cleaning creations include a peppermint scent – which is just happy and bright – and doesn’t give me a headache!  Peppermint gives me a real boost – it’s energizing – and very pleasant.  There are other essential oils – like grapefruit, lavendar, eucalyptus – that will also leave a fresh scent that offers a bit of aromatherapy…

On a day when I’m down in the dumps or feeling depressed – honestly, if I will myself to get up and grab my homemade cleaner – not only do I accomplish something, but I actually feel brighter in spirit…

You can find more information about aromatherapy and essential oils here:

Mountain Rose Herbs

Aura Cacia

(But while we’re talking about peppermint – if you’re a big fan – check out this Holiday Peppermint Cake recipe!!!  Mmmmmmm)

Interview with Queen Martha – Tips, Suggestions and More Recipes!

Due to a variety of schedule changes at home (including an unexpected but necessary 3 hour nap) yesterday, I was not able to get to the computer and post my interview with Queen Martha. So, today, I will share with you the ideas, tips, & suggestions she has for helping you keep your holiday preparations from taking over your life!

**Update 12/18:  Postings through the end of the year may be sporadic.  If we don’t touch base sooner – may you and your loved ones enjoy a SAFE, HEALTHY, and HOLY Merry Christmas!!!**

Q: How do you prepare for your holiday activities (calendar, lists, etc.)?

I make notes on a desk calendar for any activities going on from day to day, including cookie baking, cookie exchanges, Christmas concerts, etc.
I keep a pocket file folder in my recipe drawer – I have many – but one I have marked “Holidays”.  I keep my favorite recipes there so I don’t have to dig through all my recipes to try to find a holiday favorite.  I also use small photo albums (you know – the inexpensive ones from my local dollar store or walmart) and place recipes from newspaper/magazines in them, and mark each of them with the kind of recipes they contain.  I have one marked “Cookies” that I refer to often. Others are ‘desserts’  ‘9″ X 13″ pan desserts’   ‘snacks and appetizers’, etc. etc. I stand these little albums on end so I can easily see the one I’m looking for.

I keep a Christmas Card record book from year to year – that way I can make changes in addresses when needed ( I include the year of change also), and I keep track of to whom I send to, and receive from.  Most record books are good for 5-8 years. I keep a list of gifts I give to friends and customers from year to year so I will vary the kitchen ‘goodies’ I share with them and don’t repeat – unless it’s one of their favorites, which I record, also.

Q: What shortcuts and time savers do you rely on during your holiday preparations?

As I mentioned previously, I keep a list of recipes written out for review & reference.  I try to make every minute count – get up and do something while a commercial comes on TV, and I always make myself lists so I can think of what I need to do next.

One thing I do to keep things moving along in the kitchen, is to keep hot sudsy water in the sink all the time I’m working there, and wash dishes when I have a minute in between things.  It helps keep the counter cleared and dishes can dry (use HOT water to rinse) and you can put them away when you have another few minutes.

Sometimes, we just have to prioritize.  I do that often during this very busy month.  And I have to consider what REALLY needs to be done first – usually, according to the day of the week it needs to be ready. We gotta ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’….I always record comments on new recipes – ‘excellent’….’rubbery’ (just did that today with a sugar free cookie I tried =)  If the recipe isn’t in a book, and I’m not wild about it, I usually throw it away and keep trying new ones.


Q: What homemade gifts do you like to give? How do you package them?

White Christmas Mix is a really yummy, easy, pretty holiday gift to give. Giving it in the holiday printed zipper-seal bags is nice because you can see how pretty the mix is. Even plain ziploc bags, decorated with curly ribbons is ‘fun.’

Pretzel Pretties are fun to make with kids, and make a LOT so giving them away by themselves or along with other goodies is nice. If you can keep from eating them all…

Fruited Oatmeal Mix is a nice gift to give – it’s warm and filling and is a healthier option, too! It can be bagged and tucked into a pretty tin or given in a pretty gift jar.

(Recipes listed below and added to the **Holiday Recipes** page…)

Q: How do you prepare for last minute party invitations or gift ideas?

I buy things (on sale) throughout the year – candles, books, calendars, Avon, Melaleuca products, and have two file drawers in my desk with gifts in them, so I can look through and see if I can find anything ‘fitting’ for the person I desire it for.  And I always have something edible made up – even if it’s in the freezer.

**RECIPES**

WHITE CHRISTMAS MIX

1 lb. white chocolate (or vanilla almond bark)

Melt in double boiler or microwave according to directions

Mix together:

3 cups Rice Chex

3 cups Corn Chex

(or combined – 6 cups crispix)

3 cups Cheerios

2 cups mini pretzels

2 cups peanuts

1 lg. bag of M & M’s – plain or peanut (optional)

(We love using the holiday mix)

Pour white chocolate over everything and mix well. Let dry and place into gift containers.

PRETZEL PRETTIES

13 oz bag Rolos  (or 6-7 rolls)
1 bag tiny twists pretzels
1 bag peanut M & M’s – we like to use holiday colored ones

Line cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lay out pretzels, place one unwrapped rolo on top of Pretzel. Bake at 300 for 5 -6 minutes or until chocolate becomes shiny.
Take out of oven, place M&M on each one, smashing down rolo. Let
cool for 10 minutes, then place entire sheet in fridge or cold room to set for at least 1 hour.  This is so great because you can make few or many at a time.  A cookie sheetful

will make 70-90 treats.  May also top with pecan halves instead of M & M’s.

FRUITED OATMEAL MIX

6 cups quick cooking oats

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried apples or dried banana chips or

any dried diced fruit

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 tsps. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

(Yield: 7 cups of mix/two batches – each

makes 7 servings of oatmeal)

Directions to include with gift:

For each serving:

1/2 cup fruited oatmeal mix

3/4 cup water

In a deep microwave-safe bowl, combine mix and water.

Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds; stir. Cook 20-30 seconds longer or until bubbly.  let stand for 1 – 2 minutes.

A healthy gift – I used splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt….Delicious!




My Favorite Christmas Recipes from Gooseberry Patch

gooseberry-patch-logo1I recently raved about Gooseberry Patch cookbooks.  I only have a small collection, and most of them are Christmas themed – but I really hope if you can’t find them locally, you’ll take a peek at their website!  They have some of the CUTEST things – not just cookbooks – which often contain craft ideas – but they sell gorgeous household organizers, cute recipe cards, linens, gifts, etc.  And this company was started by 2 friends who wanted to be able to take care of their families!  I am not affiliated with GP in any way – I’m just a huge fan of their great stuff!

The Fireside coffee mix is really yummy – I like having a bit of spice in my coffee, and this is a really nice blend!  You will find this recipe in this cookbook.

Fireside Coffee Mix

2 cups dry cocoa mix

2 cups non-dairy coffee creamer

1 cup instant coffee granules

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

Blend together all ingredients and place in airtight container.

A really terrific way to customize this and make it special is to use flavored coffee creamer or even flavored instant coffee!  French vanilla is FAN-TASTIC with the spices.  And you can even play with the spices – substitute pumpkin pie spice for nutmeg; if you don’t like cinnamon, leave it out – feel free to personalize this a little by putting a spin on one of the ingredients!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I was invited to a dear friend’s house to celebrate Christmas with her family several years ago.  Her sister raved over this, and I don’t think there were any leftovers!

Orange Salad

5 cups red leaf lettuce, torn

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained

1/4 cup slivered almonds

**Dressing**

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup peanut oil

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon salt.

Toss lettuce, onion, celery, oranges and almonds together in a large serving bowl.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, sugar, mustard, and salt.  Pour over lettuce mixture.  Makes 6-8 servings.

I changed the recipe because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand.  I added 1/2 cup Craisins to the salad mix and used Kraft’s Light Done Right Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing – and it POPPED!!!  I never made the dressing suggested because I couldn’t get past the combination of flavors with the raspberry dressing. =)


Introduction to Queen Martha

As promised (although much later in the day than intended), this post begins a weekly series of interviews with my mom, Queen Martha.  Growing up in our house, the holidays came and went with only an occasional mess or even disturbance.  Picture Ralphie & A Christmas Story – and that’s how I remember most Christmases growing up.  How my mom pulled it all off was always a mystery to me – and to others.Martha is well-known for her cooking & baking skills.  She has a way with food – and there are only a handful of dishes -ever-that failed to turn out right.  She would claim otherwise I’m sure, but she managed to keep us all heartily fed and was always creative in the kitchen.

Now, with her kids grown and having their own families – she has more time to pursue broader interests.  She has found her recipes in published cookbooks, articles included in Christian stories, and is becoming a popular speaker at ladies events in her area.

1)      I’d like to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, Queen Martha.

I wear a lot of ‘hats’ in my world, but my favorites are wearing my wife, mom & nana hats.  What a privilege to be given those special places of honor.  When I was a kid, my mom spent much time at the sewing machine, so I would work in the kitchen.  I developed a love for making dishes then, and even more, after marrying a man who is willing to try anything, and then enjoying hosting company, who enjoyed the recipes I shared.  It’s just kinda snowballed since then.

God has given me the gift of encouragement, and so I spend a few hours a day at the computer, along with several hours a week, at the dining room table, where I enjoy writing out cards to mail to help brighten days for dear ones in my life.

I had a story published in Christian MiraclesAmazing stories of God’s Helping Hand in Our Everyday Lives in 2005. I won $100 for a recipe contest in American Profile – a paper magazine distributed in newspapers nationally – for butternut squash bake in 2006.  That, plus 4 other recipes of mine were included in their Holiday Cookbook in 2007.  I’ve publicly shared our life’s ‘God-story’ a few times, and have spoken for Mother’s Day dinners and also shared encouragement ministry ideas./span>

I love to say “I’m not a professional speaker, but I AM a professional talker”.

2)  What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories?  What are your favorite Christmas memories as a mom?

I do think my most favorite Christmas memory as a child is the year I realized there wasn’t a Santa.  My mom had made my older foster sister and me matching plaid nighties, and it dawned on me (though I hadn’t had a glimpse of her making them, that SHE made them.  I was probably 10 or 11.)  Holidays celebrated with the aunts and uncles on both/either sides of the families are special memories also. I’ve always been so saddened that my own children missed out on those growing up times with family that I so enjoyed…since we were military and lived far from home.  We rarely had $funds$ to make it home for the holidays very often.

My favorite Christmas as a mom is tough – I loved them all.  Having my children help as we ‘worked’ together doing the decorating was always so much fun.   The music going, the candles burning, as we sampled goodies we’d already made….those are all my favorites.

3) What are your favorite things to do during the holiday season?  How do you prepare for them?  What tips & tricks can you share about making your preparations simple and time-saving?

I LOVE baking – trying new recipes, a few times a week, and sharing the goods.  I begin stocking up on baking items – chocolate chips, nuts, brown and powdered sugars, etc. when they’re on sale – probably beginning in October. I usually have an extra 5# bag of flour in the freezer, so I don’t run short at the last minute.  Shopping with coupons, especially with store sales, and shopping at discount stores like Aldi’s, Big Lots, or Sam’s Club can really help me get stocked up.

I keep a few lists going at once….I have a running grocery list…I taught my kids when they were younger, to add to the list when they used the last of something, and that really helped keep on top of things.

Now, that I no longer have those ready and helping hands, every day at least, I keep a list handy where I can write things down when I realize I’m almost out.  I like to have the salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, out on the counter ready to be measured. After I’ve used it, I set it on a different place in the counter, so I know it’s already been used…just in case I get interrupted in the middle of what I’m doing.

Because I have many cookbooks, and love to sit and read them, I keep a running list of recipes I want to try, with cookbook name, and page number handy, so when the mood strikes, I can review my list and decide which one would work best for my time frame.

I do have a kitchen drawer full of recipe files and collected recipe cards that I use most frequently.  It’s where I also keep my most recent cookbook magazines.  And I normally have a pile of recipes on the countertop…sometimes I need to see the recipe to be reminded of it, and that seems to work for me, since I do have enough countertop to do that.

Queen Martha, thanks for taking the time to answer my intro questions.  Next week we will get more detailed about how you manage your goody-making or baking times in preparation for the holidays, what are your favorite gift-giving ideas to make, and any shorcuts, tips, and tricks you’ve learned throughout the years.  Maybe you’ll even share some of your favorite recipes with us!!!

In the weeks to follow, we will be sharing favorite holiday recipes, simple gift-giving ideas, and more as we all prepare for the holiday season and celebrating the Birth of Christ with our family and friends!  Feel free to post questions or comments as we go along!

Falling into Fall!!!

So things have been hectic this week.  Georgie was sick Wednesday – and yesterday I was sick – even Roy wasn’t 100%, so you can imagine the piles of dishes waiting to be washed today…  Some kind of stomach bug – YUK!  But today, for the most part, everyone seems to feel better so we are just taking things one at a time today.

As much as I love the changing seasons, they absolutely wreak HAVOC on both mine & Roys’ allergies/sinus, and I’m pretty sure both girls have the same problem.  But that didn’t keep us from playing several times in the piles of leaves in the yard.  We have a very large oak tree in our back yard (it’s the one that we PRAY will fall onto our house when we’re all gone sometime – but THAT Money Pit story is too long to post here…) so we have an overabundance of leaves.  Curly is always very excited to see the leaves, and Georgie has no problem jumping right in, either.

Roy’s Mom & I are planning to do some work in the house tomorrow, so Roy is taking Curly and “The Cuzzins” to the zoo for a few hours!  I’m very excited to tackle some things with most of the kids out of the house.  Georgie will stay with us and probably get a nap!  I’ve got a LOT of projects around the house that I’m trying to tackle.  Not just tackling the pile of books – but WHY the pile of books ends up there in the first place.  This is a STRUGGLE for a Messie like me, but I am getting there.  I’m no white-glove cleaner, but being at home – trying to work from home – has given me a lot more motivation to get our clutter and chaos under control!

Being that it’s Fall – I’m also getting motivated to cook a bit more – and I LOVE making soups & stews – with biscuits & muffins in the fall.  Slow-cooker and simple ingredients fit our lifestyle pretty well.  I’d LOVE to get everyone’s recipes for their favorite soup or stew – just add your comments below!  I’ll post my Loaded Baked Potato Soup recipe later…

While I dread the cold of winter, I love the colors – the cooler mornings – even the frostiness of Fall!  I don’t mind playing outside in the cooler weather, knowing I can warm up with hot cocoa, cider or coffee…  How fun to get the rosy cheeks & noses, and to pile back into the house to cuddle under a warm blanket with something hot to drink…  My favorite shows are on:  “The Wizard of Oz,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and before long, it’ll be “A Christmas Story” and “Elf.”  It’s the best time to cozy up with a good book and take a long soak in the tub – one of my favorite past times!

Don’t forget to post your favorite soup/stew recipe below!

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