Pinterest Envy

Here is a fullhearted confession – I am severely addicted to Pinterest. If by some chance something catches my eye over there at 6 o’clock in the morning,,,,,you will find me still wandering around over there at 10 o’clock at night. And I’m doing it with a big, gob-smackin’ smile on my kisser too!!

No, I don’t know who started the dang-gummed thing and I’m afraid to find out. Afraid because they might have something else up their sleeve to capture my imagination as well as my time. I LOVE that site!!!!!!!

I imagine they’re making some money over there and I truly wish them well. Pinterest is worth millions to me and my time! Thanks!!

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YAY WALMART

I don’t work for Walmart or support them (except as a customer) but I gotta tell you, that when you need something they don’t have on hand at the store, purchasing from them online and letting them deliver it to your local Walmart store for pickup is TERRIFIC!!!
The store had a little gas grill (I have a tiny patio) on sale for only $68.00!!!! A great price, but I had to give myself a couple of days to consider it. Of course, they sold out – BOOOOOO! So I went online at their site and found the EXACT SAME grill on special there, for only $49.00. OMG!!!!!!!!! I ordered and paid for it – they delivered it to the store and I picked it up. With NO shipping charges!! A total win-win situation! Am I a happy camper? You Betcha!
It didn’t take long at all to put the grill together so last night a pal and I “christened” .the grill with a couple of boneless sirloins and some grilled veggies from my teeny-weeny garden. YUMMY!
Thank You Walmart!

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Case of the Lazies

Has there EVER been a lazier Blogger than me? I greatly doubt it! But I swore, way back in the beginning, I would write whenever the mood struck me. So……here I am again. I’ve found so many wonderful places to visit on the internet, it’s hard coming back here and really “working”. If I want to do anything with this, I’d better get busy. Otherwise the Mayan end of the world thingy will eat us all up and whatever, whatever, whatever. Personally, I think they’ve got it all wrong – but come mid December, we’ll all see!! Working on some changes for this Ramblin’ of mine and I’ll keep you posted as things continue to percolate.

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“It’s Fruitcake Weather, Buddy!”

That is a line from one of my favorite Holiday stories, “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote. No, not the drunken, stumbling Truman Capote from the old Dick Cavett Show. The REAL Truman Capote – young, full of promise and an absolute genius with words. Sad what happened to his life, isn’t it? On to better things!!

The season is starting to remind me of cookies and hot cocoa – so I guess it will be time to start baking soon. Maybe I should change the title to “It’s Cookie Weather”. Cookies seem to speak an international language and I’m enjoying the trip. Every year Ann and I try harder and harder to please everyone with the cookie trays but a few of our favorites keep showing up no matter what we plan in advance. So many web sites have so many cookie recipes – Ann and I will be experimenting with new things for the next 500 years or so. Sure, it sounds like a big task, but the fun we have makes it all worthwhile. The people over at Challenge Butter have a great website with some really terrific recipes. If you want to make some outstanding cookies, go over there to http://www.challengebutter.com
and take a look around. You KNOW I have to like it there, because I’m plugging it and they’re not paying me for it. They probably don’t even know I exist – but I sure know how wonderful THEY are! I already gave you one of my favorite recipes from their site; but here’s another one I think you will enjoy:

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars
Buttery caramel sandwiched between cookie base and chocolate topping
Ingredients:
Cookie layer:

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) Danish Creamery Butter, cold and cut into ½-inch pieces

Caramel Layer:

½ cup (1 stick) Danish Creamery Butter
1½ cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Topping:

5-6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions
Cookie layer:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch pan by lightly buttering the sides. Combine flour, sugar, and butter pieces in food processor bowl with knife blade attachment; pulse 8-10 times. Particles should resemble coarse crumbs. (To mix by hand – combine dry ingredients then cut butter in with a pastry blender or rub butter in with fingers until no large pieces remain.) Pour mixture into prepared pan, shake pan to distribute the crumbs evenly. Bake 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Caramel Layer & Topping:

In heavy 2 to 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. Mixture will caramelize to a golden brown and come to a boil. Continue to cook over medium heat stirring frequently to prevent scorching until the temperature of the mixture reaches 248°F (firm ball stage). Pour mixture evenly onto baked cookie layer in pan.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips, wait 2 minutes; then spread chocolate evenly over candy. Then sprinkle nuts over the warm chocolate. Allow the candy to thoroughly cool so the chocolate is firm. Cut into approximately 1-inch bars. Store in an airtight container with waxed paper between candy layers.

Yield: 117 bars

Source: Challenge Package recipe developed by challenge Home Economist.

Happy Baking!

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AHHHH – SPRING

Finally – the days are starting to catch up to the nights out here in sunny So. Cal. As you already know, I could easily live without losing Daylight Savings Time and be a really Happy Camper!
This is the year I decided that gardening was no longer going to be the chore of the century! My back has decided to go out without me, so I’m not bending like I used to.
A couple of months ago I saw a picture on the internet of a “wall garden” and it got me thinking. So I had my Son, Kyle, haul me over to Home Depot in his pick-up. (the better to load up, my dear!) and bought some lengths of vinyl rain gutters and some 2/4’s. I attached the 2/4’s to the back fence and then attached the rain gutters at my waist height. Drilled holes in the bottom of the gutters, every 6 inches or so and lined the bottom with narrow strips of window screening. Then I filled the gutters with lots of high quality potting soil and planted onions, spinach, chives, radishes and lettuce. Then I planted a couple of types of tomato plants in big containers, fertilized everything and watered almost daily.

A little sweat, and not done yet!


My salad planting seems to be going well so far – I’ll keep you posted!

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Stale Cookies and Twice Warmed Punch

Well, another one has been and gone and already I’m wishing Christmas was here again! With the exception of listening endlessly to Bing Crosby whining about a Christmas guaranteed to bring on frostbite, I love everything about this Holiday Season.
My friend, Ann, and I made our annual pilgrimage to a Wholesale Groceries-R-Us type of place to buy copious amounts of flour, sugar and anything else we think might be tasty inside of a Christmas Cookie. We have been making and selling Christmas Cookie Platters for about 6 years now. It’s totally exhausting fun – and every year we SWEAR to each other it will be our last. But about the middle of October we start batting new cookie ideas back and forth – both of us smiling, knowing that the previous year certainly was NOT our last.
I scour the Internet casually during the summer for new recipes to try out to see if these new ones will be able to stand up to our fierce (HA!) standards of cookie excellence. OK, let’s face it – they’re cookies and someone is bound to love ‘em, no matter what!
The Holiday is spent – the cookies have been delivered and eaten and the punch has gone cold for yet another year. Is it time to start baking again? Ann has threatened to shoot me if I mention cookies to her again before Easter. Ah! Easter baskets full of cookies! I can hardly wait!

Here’s one of our favorite drop cookies of all time: (with FULL credit to the wonderful people at CHALLENGE BUTTER!!!)

COCONUT CRANBERRY CHEWS
Ingredients

* About 1½ cups (¾ lb.) Challenge Butter, at room temperature
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1 large egg
* 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* ¼ teaspoon salt
* 1½ cups dried cranberries
* 1½ cups sweetened flaked dried coconut

Directions

1. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat 1½ cups Challenge Butter, sugar, orange peel, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in egg, until well blended.
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture, stir to mix, then beat on low-speed until dough comes together, about 5 minutes (see notes). Mix in cranberries and coconut.
3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on buttered 12″ x 15″ baking sheets.
4. Bake in a 350°F regular or convection oven until cookie edges just begin to brown, 11 to 15 minutes (shorter baking time will yield a chewier cookie; longer baking time will yield a crispier cookie). If baking two sheets at once in one oven, switch their positions halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then use a wide spatula to transfer to racks to cool completely.

Yield: About 6 dozen cookies PREP AND COOK TIME: About 1 hour NOTES: The mixture may look dry until it comes together as a dough. If it’s too crumbly to form into balls, the dough need to be mixed longer; it should be a smooth homogeneous mass.Per cookie: 92 cal., 45% (41 cal.) from fat; 0.7 g protein; 4.5 g fat (2.8 g sat); 12 g carbo (0.4 g fiber); 58 mg sodium; 13 mg chol.Source: Recipe developed by Sunset Magazine Test Kitchens for Baking with Challenge Butter.

These are the tastiest little darlings on the planet and all of our “Cookie Clients” love them! I have doubled and tripled this recipe and still get perfect results. Enjoy, Dear Reader, enjoy!!

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Miss USA the Easy Way

Long ago, and far away, when the world was still young and so was I………………..

I had hit one of those periods in my life where I was broke, and the bottom of the barrel was beginning to look edible. My neighbor hooked me up with a contractor pal of his, so I could get paid for helping him out doing some indoor house painting. We went into La Jolla – an area in San Diego known for rich, upper crust type of homes – and this one fit the bill perfectly. A truly gorgeous house -with the ugliest walls ever seen anywhere.

The owner of the house was living alone (divorced) in an enormous 5 bedroom extravaganza of a home; and every room was in desperate need of paint. So – there I was for days on end, painting everything in sight. The very last day I was there, the home owner took me to her Daughter’s bedroom.

Before I go too far let me try to tell you about this home owner. She was a very nice, pleasant lady – on first meeting. My second day though, dear home owner started to show her true colors……cuckoo grey! Whatever room I was working in, there she was with her harp. Yes, you read that correctly – her harp. She played while I painted. The gal also was “sprirtually led” (her words) to ramble on about all the good times and famous people that were in those good times with her. Now, back to our story…..

As I said, on the very last day, she told me I was going to paint her Daughters’ bedroom, so I followed her up the stairs. Thankfully, her harp was too doggone heavy to haul up the stairs. I think I forgot to tell you that she never played anything all the way through, and even worse – she was never really on key! Her Daughter hadn’t lived there with her for quite a few years. She opened the door and told me I was on my own in there. In I went. Straight into what looked like a shrine about her Daughter. No – she hadn’t died…..just didn’t like coming home. And nothing in the room had been touched or moved in many, many years.

Anyway….in that girls’ bedroom was a beautiful bleached oak bedroom set and a big, lovely vanity table to match. And there on the vanity was an enormous, sparkling, rhinestone tiara at least 9 – 10 inches high! Spread out on the vanity table there was also quite a bit of bling-bling type jewelry and snap shots of a lovely young woman, who was always dressed beautifully. It wasn’t too big a stretch to understand that this lovely gal in the photos was the Daughter. I didn’t have anything to throw over the dresser so I called down the stairs to tell the home owner. She came back up with an armload of old bed sheets.

I asked her about the tiara because I was really curious. OK, I admit it, I was nosey! Her Daughter had been the California entrant in a Miss USA contest and she had won. Then the kid did her one year Grand Tour and started to drink like a fish – quickly becoming the booze hound of the century. Now you know why she didn’t come home! The home owner/harpist handed me the sheets and went back downstairs.

Now imagine me – sweaty, dirty, paint spattered all over my clothes, hair and nose (of all places) For what seemed like an eternity I stood there staring at the tiara – knowing in the depths of my soul that it wanted me to look. Finally, I went over to the vanity table, sat down, looked into the mirror and ever so gently lifted the tiara from the vanity table…..and I placed it on my head. For one tiny, fleeting, beautiful moment in time, as I sat there wearing that enormous, sparkling tiara, I WAS Miss USA. And it felt wonderful!

And that, dear reader, is my Miss USA story!

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