Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow, Sunshine and a Bit of Sparkle

For some reason this year I wasn't quite ready to put away all of the Christmas decorations when the holiday was over.  Perhaps it was because it was so warm on Christmas Day and the snow scenes didn't quite look right as the air conditioning was blaring away.
Whatever the reason, I'm now glad I decided to keep a few of the snowflakes and snowmen out for awhile. 

 Our recent snow event didn't yield near the quantity that many of you are dealing with, but it was just enough to make those Christmas holdouts look right at home.

When I opened the blinds this morning the sun was shining brightly causing the fallen snow and waterfall to sparkle.

 Indoors the sun was creating pretty sparkles and shadows along the mantle.

Since Christmas the mantle has been totally bare.
As the snowflakes were falling I rummaged through my cupboards and attic for a few things to add a snowy/sparkly touch. 

Another spot that had been bare since Christmas was the kitchen table.  Each day I would think I really need to find something for the center of the table, yet motivation seemed to be lagging.
Apparently the clear blue skies and the white sparkly snow were all the motivation I needed to rummage together a wintry centerpiece.

I've probably had these snowmen candles for close to 20 years.  I just can't bring myself to burn them.  It would be like torching a dear friend.  Ha!!
The sun hitting the glass candlestick reminds me of frosty icicles.
 A bit more sparkle on the glittered pine cones.
Nice in sunlight and candlelight too.

I'm thinking of all of you who are dealing with huge amounts of snow now and hoping that you are staying safe and warm.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Roll Making and Reading

 I'm currently testing out dinner roll recipes.
This came as a result of the heavy rocks I tried to pass off as whole wheat cloverleaf rolls at Christmas dinner.
It was a new recipe I tried.  I was a bit concerned when they hadn't risen much at all after the required rising time.  I went ahead and baked them anyway.  Big mistake!  What emerged from the oven were small, heavy sad looking cloverleafs.  With no back-up plan in place I put them in the bread basket and hoped for the best.
It came as no real surprise when partial rolls were left on plates.

I have made homemade rolls in the past with good success.
For whatever reason this batch was a major dud.
The ingredients were all fresh, so I think it had to do with the rising not happening properly.  To be truthful that is always the thing that scares me away from bread making.  It often doesn't seem to rise like it should for me.
Yesterday, I found this recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs and thought it would become my first test subject.
As you can see in the first photo the dough looked very nice coming out of the bread machine.
I shaped them, covered them with a tea towel and set them in the oven to rise.  The oven was off, but I put a small pan of hot water on the bottom shelf.
Once the rising time was up they were looking good.  Doubled in size and nicely shaped.
I didn't use this method for the Christmas rolls.  They just sat on the counter.  Maybe this had something to do with the major flop??

 After baking, they looked that nice golden brown color I was hoping for.

The true test, of course, took place at the dinner table.
They were a nice soft texture with a slightly sweet taste.
Best of all, they were light as a feather.  So unlike those Christmas rocks.
They made a batch of 15.  We kept six out and put the rest in the freezer.    I'm hoping to find a few foolproof and delicious recipes before Easter rolls around.   That way there will be no surprises at the dinner table.
This recipe is a definite keeper in the soft, slightly sweet category.
Next up I'd like to try some crusty types and then maybe some with herbs.  I used to have a good recipe for one with potatoes and rosemary.  Can't seem to find that recipe, however.
If you have any good candidates, feel free to let me know about them.  I'll keep you posted if I come across any more good ones.
Also, if you have good tips for getting bread dough to rise properly, I'm curious to know your secrets. 

In other exciting news, I've decided to start keeping track of how many books I read this year.  I know, riveting isn't it?  
 Without trying to meet any goals or challenges, I'm just curious to know how many books I read in a year and figured this might be the best place to keep track of it all.
The first one for this year is Duskin by Grace Livingston Hill.  I had never heard of this author until I began blogging and now find it fun to find her books at the thrift shops.  This was an enjoyable read, although I wouldn't say it was one of my favorites.

The White Gate by Mary Ellen Chase was another thrift shop find.
Written in 1954 it was this description that caught my interest:

"The white gate around which she centers its chapters is the symbol to a child of all which life holds of excitement and wonder.  Within the gate are its certainties:  an old house in Maine, a country family, a great warm kitchen with red geraniums in its windows; books; a flock of pigeons in the barn loft."

Sounded like the perfect cozy wintertime read to me and it was.
I read this in a few short sittings and am now onto book 3.  This one is also from the thrift shop, but an entirely different type of book than these first two.

Looks like we're in for some wintery weather in the next few days.
Should be nice for more reading time.  Are you reading anything good right now?


Monday, January 18, 2016

A Happy, Happy Day

Do you know what's even nicer than a cookie jar with a little birdie family on it?

That would be one that is filled to the brim with homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Do you know what's even nicer than that?

 Well, that would be when those homemade cookies were baked and placed into that cute cookie jar by a dear blog friend.  A dear blog friend who, until now, was only known through our blog communications.

That all changed when Happy One (aka:  Karen) contacted Happy@Home (aka:  me) to see if we could meet for lunch last week.  Seems Karen and her husband, Ken, were going to be passing through our area on their way to South Carolina.  
I couldn't say "yes" fast enough.
Karen was one of the first people I met when I began blogging.  She has been inspiring me with her daily walks and happy outlook on life for all of these years.  It was a dream of mine to think that we would meet (in real life) someday.   
When that day arrived, the conversation flowed and (much too) soon it was time for us to go our separate ways.
Through my years of blogging, I've read the stories of so many of you who have met one another in real life.
I must admit, after all these years, this is my first time.
I feel like a real blogger now :D.
Along with that cookie jar filled with Karen's famous "chocolate chippers", she gifted me with these adorable salt & pepper shakers. 
They are going to fit in so nicely around here.

Especially after our first 20 minute long snow event.
Glad I happened to be looking out the window when it happened.
I'm also glad we were able to meet Karen & Ken for lunch. 
It was a Happy, Happy day and one I won't soon forget.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Puttering with Plants

Wednesday is plant watering day around here.
I find a weekly visit with the watering can seems to do the trick with my houseplants.  I chose Wednesday as it starts with W ... just like water.  Makes it easy to remember which day I did this task last week.  Kind of like how I give Peanut her heartworm pill on the 10th of the month because that is the day of the month that my sons and grandson were born on.  At this stage of life, it helps to do these little association tricks.  At least for me it does.  How about you?

Normally by this time of year my one and only geranium would be taking up residence in the garage or be relegated to the compost heap.  This year it was so mild right through Christmastime, that I left it on the front porch where it continued to put out smallish red blooms.   Now that we are getting some colder weather I decided to bring it in and since it was loaded with buds it bypassed the garage and is being moved into my bedroom where we can enjoy watching those buds open.

It should feel right at home in there near my Meyer Lemon Tree which is also hanging out indoors next to the window.  This is the second year I've moved the lemon tree inside.  It dropped about half of it's leaves last month, which is normal.  Now it seems to have leveled off and is doing quite well.  I try to remember to mist it with water periodically too.

I noticed today that it is putting out some buds.
I look forward to seeing whether they will eventually turn into lemons.
I have yet to grow a lemon on this tree and I'm not quite sure why.
In the spring I move it back to the patio where I make sure it receives adequate water and fertilizer throughout the spring and summer.  Last spring it was covered in blossoms and I was envisioning a large lemon crop.  Before the lemons formed a storm blew all the blossoms off and that was the end of that.  My next plan is to look for fertilizer specifically for citrus trees.
Have any of you had any success with the potted lemon trees? 

The sun shines nicely in our bedroom which makes me and the plants happy.
The amaryllis bulb my sister sent for Christmas has doubled in size since I moved it from the mantle to the bedroom table.

 The plump bud is just popping out of the "earth".
The landscape outside may be a bit dormant, but in here signs of life are popping out all over.  A hopeful sign as I sit here in my sweater sipping a warming cup of tea. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Fresh Start

After that last somewhat smelly post, I thought it was time to freshen things up around here.

  So, today I offer a few photos from our pre-Christmas getaway to  Lake Junaluska.  More specifically our four mile walk around the lake.
The swans, ducks and geese were in abundance that day.
The thing I love about this walk is that the lake is in view the entire time.  There's also interesting houses to check out along the way.
Like this one up on a hill.  I imagine they have some awesome lake views from their vantage point.

 This one was also pretty high up there.
I couldn't resist a photo of a yellow house with blue shutters, even though much of it is obscured by the embankment.
Brett kept telling me to move to the right where I'd likely get a better shot.  I was trying not to be too obvious in case the homeowners were currently enjoying their lovely views.

~ Gliding into the new year ~

Thank you all for your input on my smelly kitchen mystery.
Seems I'm not the only one who has dealt with this problem.
Since that post I tried several things I learned from Bob Vila online.  I ran ice cubes and kosher salt through the disposal, scrubbed the rubber gasket inside and out with a toothbrush and ran the disposal with lemon peels in it.  In the morning it seemed somewhat fresher in the kitchen.  Today Brett disconnected the various connections under the sink and drained and cleaned them.  Now we are hoping the odor will be totally gone.  Time will tell.
Because we have had this problem at times in the past, I don't think it is a mouse.  Also, we have a yearly contract with a pest control company which includes mouse traps in the attics.  If, however, the problem persists or gets worse I will look into that possibility. 
 Keeping my fingers crossed that that won't be the case :).

Hope your New Year is off to a fresh start.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My Kitchen Sink is Making Me Crazy

For the past few weeks we've been trying to solve a little mystery around here.  The Mystery of the Smelly Kitchen Sink.
It made it's grand entrance just before Christmas.  Lovely!
With no obvious signs presenting themselves, we tried a search which led us to a You Tube video of a lady cleaning the gunk from her drains using baking soda and vinegar.  With plenty of both ingredients on hand, it seemed a good place to start.
Following along I poured both ingredients down the drains and went to bed with high hopes of a fresher smelling kitchen in the morning.

After the final step of pouring boiling water down the drains in the morning, we thought just maybe the air was clear.  
As the days went by the stench returned.
So, tonight I've taken every single thing out from under the sink sniffing as I go.  Nothing offensive there.

 Next up will be scrubbing the living daylights out of everything under there. 
Another search suggested dumping lots of ice and water down the garbage disposal and running it.  Did that.
They also suggested tightening various connections on all of those pipes.  They all seem tight to me.
But that smell is still lingering and making me crazy!!
As I sit here at the kitchen desk trying to quietly read blogs it is wafting around me.  So, you'll have to excuse me while I go do battle with the whole mess.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

The next bit of advice I read online dealt with unscrewing pipes and cleaning out gunk.  Ugh!!  Sounds like a job better suited for Brett.

Just keeping it real here tonight ;D.