Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Being present . . .




"Do not delay; the golden moments fly!"
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We were watching an episode of The Golden Girls last night via DVD. It began with them cleaning up after a party. Sophia (Dorothy's mother) was picking away at all the food which was leftover on the tables. She had prepared it all, and it had been a wonderful repast. Everyone was going on about just how delicious it had all been as they cleaned up and about how much work she had put into all the preparations. Soon Sophia was sitting down and complaining of having a bubble in her chest that wouldn't budge. Next thing you know, the girls were all thinking she was having a heart attack and she was made to lie down while they waited for the Paramedics and Doctor to arrive. Sophia lay there, thinking she was going to die and all the things she hadn't said to her daughter that she wanted to say, and she said them . . . and the other's were nostalgic as well . . . it was very touching. Turned out at the end though, that all Sophia had was . . . indigestion.

It got me to thinking though . . . last autumn, when I thought I might have cancer, I thought about all the things I still wanted to do . . . the words I still wanted to say . . . the places I wanted to go . . . the hearts I wanted to heal. I started a journal, where I began to write my life story in it . . . to leave for my children, so to speak. I sat down and wrote letters to all of my children, with special messages in them, just for them and tucked them away for the right time . . . I did a whole host of other things. It took the threat of leaving, of me losing all that I held so precious . . . for me to sit down and communicate all the things that I wanted to say . . . to think about the things I still wanted to do, etc.



"Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day away from being realized."
~Leo Buscaglia

It shouldn't be that way really. We should say and do and experience all that we want to do, say and experience right in the here and the now. We should not need the threat of our impending doom to bring it about . . . or the threat of loss. None of us knows for sure when our lives will end. Some will have a pretty good idea if they contract a terminal illness, but others will pass on suddenly, with no warning . . . and if they haven't done so already . . . leaving their songs unsung . . .



When I thought that I might not have a lot of time left on this earth, everything became so much sweeter, as if that were possible. I am a person that tries to find all the joy in most things anyways . . . but I can remember just standing in the front garden and closing my eyes one day . . . and smelling the sweetness in the air, feeling the wind brush across my cheeks and drinking it all in. The thought of me passing without the people who mean the most to me in this life knowing how I felt about them was unimaginable . . . and I wanted to tell them all how I felt . . . and now, not tomorrow . . . or in some unimaginable time in the future. Life became more precious to me than it had ever been . . . and I learned a huge lesson.

Each moment is a golden moment to me now. I take nothing for granted . . . not my feelings, not my experiences, not my family, nor my friends, nor any of the other blessings I so enjoy in my life . . . NOW.

Life is far too short not to be P-R-E-S-E-N-T!!



"The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is . . . a miracle and unrepeatable."
~Margaret Storm Jameson

Follow the promptings of your heart now. Say all the things you want to say now. Do and experience all that you want to experience now. Reach out now. Forgive now. Live life not in fear, but in expectancy. In short . . . LIVE . . . now, and take each moment for the gift that they are.



Oh, but we did enjoy the film yesterday! (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, for the aging and the beautiful) It was just fabulous! We laughed, we cried and we felt everything in between. It was just wonderful. I don't think Todd was so sure when we went that it was going to be a film for him . . . but he thoroughly enjoyed it as did I. I hope you'll go and see it if you can.

Happy Wednesday everyone. Hope your day is as special as you are. Remember . . . you are loved beyond measure.



Cooking in The English Kitchen today, Cherry Bakewell Breakfast Oats.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Simple Woman's Day book . . .




FOR TODAY, February 28th, 2012...

Outside My Window...

It is cool and the sky is just beginning to turn light. A few birds are singing. It's hard to believe that here we are already at the last couple of days of February. This month has flown by like the wind.

I am thinking...
I was greatly relieved to get the all clear for cancer last Friday. Although I had not felt that there was anything wrong . . . until they told me that I was ok and discharged, the possibility existed much more than not, if that makes any sense. None of us knows of course . . . it can show up in any one of us at any time, but for now, my mind is at ease.

I am thankful for...
Prayers and the answers they bring, always . . . even if I don't always like the answers I get. More often than not I do, and the other ones, well Heavenly Father always knows best!

From the kitchen...
There is leftover cake from the other day that I am trying to ignore.

I am wearing...
White and black jim jam bottoms, a turquoise nightie, my robe and slippers. Again layering for warmth.

I am creating...

I have a few ideas running around my head at the moment, but that's all they are now . . . just ideas. My days have been so very busy of late, I just have not had the time to sit down and play like I want to!!

I am going...
I have the daily reading lessons of course, and then Todd and I are going to go out to a film today, Tuesday being cheap day. I think we are going to go see The Exotic Marigold Hotel.



It looks really good and my friend Jo went the other day and she really liked it. Then tonight we are going out teaching with the missionaries. Tomorrrow night we have our auxiliary meetings, then Thursday night Missionary Correlation meeting. I'm going to try to get onto the Step weight loss program again, so I may have one of those meetings Friday morning and beyond that, I have no idea, but I am sure we will fill our week up somehow! Whew!!

I am reading...




Dragonfly in Amber, by Diana Gabaldon

Dragonfly in Amber is the second novel in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. While the novel itself was engaging like the first one, full of rich characters, scenery, and plot, it did seem to serve as merely a bridge from the first novel, Outlander, to the third, Voyager. Dragonfly in Amber starts with our heroine, Claire, back in her modern day in the 1960s, with her grown daughter, searching for the history of Jamie's clan after she left the eighteenth century some twenty years earlier. We soon learn what she thought happened to Jamie did not actually happen at all. Thus, we know how Voyager will start before she launches into her story of what happened before she left him. The end of the novel, a page turner indeed, confirms it.

Still, despite the novel coming off as a bridge, I found it even more enjoyable than the first in the series and I'm looking forward to reading on. I love the characters in these books. There are a few smutty parts, but I just skim over them. I have never liked that sort of detail in a book. I find it somewhat embarassing. Thankfully there is enough substance in this book that it doesn't matter if I skim over them or not!


I am hoping...
Our Eileen and her fiancee Tim are in St Albert, Alberta right now, competing in the National Special Olympic Winter Games. You can read more about them here. They will be updating the site as the week continues and they compete. I just know they are having a lovely time there together with the rest of the competitors. I hope that they do well, but in any case, win or lose . . . I know they will enjoy having this experience together and that's what counts!

I am hearing...
Nothing much. Mitzie is snoring away on the sofa. The keys are tapping. All is quiet outside . . . the birds are waking up so a bit of chirping and the odd car that drives by. A very normal, ordinary, everyday start to the day.

Around the house...



I have a particular fondness for red and white being used together. I just love the cosy comfort of this room with the red and white plaid chairs, the painted white trunk and fireplace surround . . . the welcoming window seat, with it's red and white gingham cushion and the scatter pillows. I love the warmth of that wood floor. Oh, if one only had the money to do these sorts of things. In the meantime I must make do with yukky old carpeting and someone else's colour scheme. Nevermind . . . it's home and I have made do with what I have to work with and that's all anyone can do really. It is nice to dream though!

If I could change one thing it would be...
That someone, anyone, with influence and finances would see my artwork and promote it so that I would finally be able to make somewhat of a living with it. People say it's good . . . but words don't put the bacon on the table. I am grateful that they like it, don't get me wrong. I appreciate that very much. I would just like to be more monetarily successful with it. I think my mother was right . . . most artists starve. lol

I am looking forward to ...
Some sunny and warm weather. About this time of year the damp and cold starts to get really old!

One of my favourite things...
Is reading the scriptures and I try to read some every day. It always amazes me that you can read the same passage a hundred times and on the hundred and oneth time it will reach out and slap you in the face, so to speak! That the first hundred times it will be just words . . . but that hundred and oneth time . . . it just grabs your heart and runs with it. It's like magic!

A few plans for the rest of the week...
A bit of work . . . a bit of play . . . and everything in between!! Not a heck of a lot really.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...





That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.
~Emily Dickenson

We must grab all the joy that we can while we are here, experience all the nows and the gifts that each day brings us. Each day spent is another day gone and another day we will never get back. We must not waste them in what might have beens and regret.

As a closing thought I would like to leave you with this:


"The test of thankfulness is not what you have to be thankful for, but whether anyone else has reason to be thankful that you are here."
~author unknown

I just love this . . . it is so true.

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!




In The English Kitchen today, Five Spice Vanilla Milk.


Monday, 27 February 2012

Thoughts on hope . . .

Source: flickr.com via Marie on Pinterest



"Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul.
and sings the tune
without the words,
and never stops at all."
~Emily Dickinson

I sit here at my desk this morning . . . and my ears are full of the beautiful melody of the song thrush which sits on the roof of the house across the way. The car is covered with an early morning dew and I can still see the moon hanging in the early dawn sky. It is fairly cold . . . but the song thrush doesn't care . . . he has a song to sing, and sing it he must.

It is so lovely. I sit here and let the melody wash over me and allow it's beauty to brush across my soul. It's as if even he knows the import of this day, and a little dew on his toes along with the cold of an early morning is not going to keep him from telling the world!



There is something special about watching the sun rise in the morning. As you sit there and watch it slowly creep over the horizon, bathing the earth in it's early morning glow . . . something special happens. Your heart begins to fill with feelings that are almost impossible to describe. The increasing light of the sun which surrounds me, whispers to my soul, and my heart fills with hope. It is a joyous feeling.

Who knows what this day will bring?? Nobody knows for sure . . . but I can hope that it will be something good . . . some treasure . . . some blessing unique to this day. Of course it could also bring tumult and grief . . . but that is where faith comes in doesn't it? We hope for a bright and beautiful day . . . we accept what we are given . . . we make the most of it and try to drag something good out of whatever it is . . . and if it turns out to be a bad day, we move forward in faith that tomorrow is a new day and hope that it will be better.

But in the meantime, I am thinking today will be a glorious day. Reading lessons this morning, then we are off to pick up a new sister whom we are going to bring back here to teach. She has just moved into a new apartment and has no furniture as of yet, just a futon on the floor . . . but she is hopeful of a council grant to help her get some. There have been quite a few offers from the church, but she wants to wait for the council first. One can't blame her I guess. Then we have another service to do a bit later on and then tonight is Family Home Evening.



I love Family Home Evenings. I always have done. When I was investigating the church back in the early 90's I was having FHE with my own children in our home. My ex was away at the time. In any case, the children really did enjoy and so did I. You don't have to be LDS to enjoy evenings dedicated to just family and wholesome activity. It's truly a good thing to do and you can build some very special memories together as a family. We always had a special treat and then played a few games together had a special thought or whatnot. Now, with just Todd and I, we read the scriptures together and share our thoughts on them, watch a good and decent film . . . it could be a church film, or simply a quality wholesome one, without blood and gore, violence, swearing or gratuitious sex. They are out there and not totally impossible to find or lame to watch!!!

Here is a delicious muffin that you can whip up in no time during this coming Easter season. It comes from a recipe I clipped out of a Chatelaine magazine many, many years ago, and stored in my Big Blue Binder.. Chatelaine is a very popular ladies's magazine in Canada and always has delicious recipes in it, so you just know, these are very, very good.



*Hot Cross Muffins*
Makes 12
Printable Recipe

It doesn't have to be Easter for you to enjoy these lovely muffins, but they are an especially tasty addition to your Easter morning menu. Moist and spicy and chock full of plump raisins, chunks of dried apricot and candied peel, these delicious little babies give you all the pleasure of a hot cross bun without any of the pain. You may also bake the mixture as a loaf, but they do look really cute sitting in the bread basket with those lovely little white icing crosses on top.

1/2 cup of sultanas
2 TBS orange juice
1 3/4 cups plain flour
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped candied peel
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 TBS butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

For the Glaze:
1 1/4 cups sifted icing sugar
4 tsp orange juice

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Placed the raisins in a small bowl. Pour the orange juice over top, cover, and place in the microwave. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Set aside.

Lightly butter a 12 cup muffin tin or a 9 X 5 inch loaf tin. Set aside.

Sift the flour together with the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the candied peel and apricots. Fold in the plumped raisins along with any remaining juice.

Whisk together the egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the wet mixture. Stir together just until mixed and the dry ingredients are uniformly moistened.

Divide the batter equally amongst the prepared muffin cups. (If making a loaf, scrape the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth the top)

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes for the muffins, or 1 hour for the loaf, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. They should be well risen and lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and let cool for five minutes before removing from the pan. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

When you are ready to serve them, stir together the icing sugar and orange juice until well mixed and smooth. Place the mixture into a zip lock baggie. Snip a tiny bit off of one corner of the bag and use it to pipe the glaze in the shape of a cross over the top of each cooled muffin. If you have made a fruited loaf, just pipe and drizzle the glaze over the top haphazardly. Let set before serving.



Over in The English Kitchen this morning, delicious Crusty Chicken Pot Pie Buns!


Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday morning thoughts . . . soul food



“You are the guardians of the hearth,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) as he introduced “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in the general Relief Society meeting in 1995. “You are the bearers of the children. You are they who nurture them and establish within them the habits of their lives. No other work reaches so close to divinity as does the nurturing of the sons and daughters of God.”

One thing that each of us has here on earth, is a family. It may be a large one, or a small one. It might be just yourself and a much beloved pet, or friend. (Friends are family we get to choose for ourselves, after all.) They might be close to hand, or they live thousands of miles away. Family are those people, friends, pets that we love on this earth more than anything, and who we would do anything for . . . the ones that we just cannot imagine living our lives without them playing some part in it, however small or large . . .



I have a really large family composed of the Toddster, Mitzie, and family I have made for myself over here in the UK, my family back in Canada, and of course, friends that I cherish dearly.

"Heaven is a place, but it is also a condition; it is home and family. It is understanding and kindness. It is interdependance and it is selfless activity. It is quiet, sane living; personal sacrifice, and it is genuine hospitality, wholesome concern for others. It is living the commandments of God without ostentation or hypocrisy. It is a sweet glimpse of heaven, or a little bit of heaven on earth." ~Spencer W Kimball

Home is where you hang your heart and where reside the things which matter most to you. For me, my home is where Todd is. He is the love of my life, that special person which I waited a whole lifetime to find and share my life with. I like to think of our home as that little piece of heaven here on earth. I know that behind our front door, and within these walls there resides a special peace . . . love lives here . . . and I hope that anyone who walks through our front door is able to feel it too.



But, I also have another home. It is thousands of miles away and scattered into many pieces . . . just like that part of my heart which belongs to my children and grandchildren . . . there are pieces in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Ontario. It is a journey that began almost 37 years ago when I held my first and oldest son in my arms and became a mother for the first time. All my growing up years I wanted nothing more than to be a mother. I was not a perfect mom . . . Lord knows I have made my mistakes through the years . . . but I have loved my children with all that I am and all that I have . . . and I feel the same way about my grandchildren. They are the apples of my eye.

"Children being pure and holy, teach us something of our heavenly home. No gift bestowed upon us is as precious as children. They are proof that God still loves us. They are the hope of the future!" ~David O McKay



Pieces of my heart also reside with my mother in Nova Scotia, my father in Quebec, and my sister and brother in Ontario. They are my family too, and they share something with me that nobody else does . . . they share a history with me that nobody else does . . . and roots that go deep down into the Canadian soil, that cannot be altered or budged. They are so wonderful to me and I treasure all that we have shared or ever will share, with all of my heart.

Family is eternal, and a part of our Heavenly Father's great plan for us . Within the walls of family . . . we should be able to find strength, love, understanding, hope . . . joy. It does not have to be perfect. None of us are. I find comfort in that truth, in knowing that however far we may move away from each other here on earth . . . we will come together again one day, and we can be together eternally, in a most beautiful place.



I do not understand people who have no belief or faith . . . where is the hope in that . . . the promise. How much more wonderful to believe that we were sent here to earth by a loving and caring being, with a wondrous and marvelous purpose for being here . . . and that when we leave this place, we can return again to that beautiful and divine place, to live with our family's and our Heavenly Father again, for eternity.

I know I am just rambling now . . . but these are my thoughts as I sit here this morning. I am filled with love for my family, both the near and the far . . . both the given and the chosen. They . . . you . . . are a blessing to me in a myriad of ways . . .

“...love...it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our church callings, and our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities and nations. love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf




Baking in The English Kitchen today, a delicious "Eccles Cake." Oh so scrummy.

A happy and blessed Sunday to each of you. Smile. Find joy in the small and the simple. Be at peace.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Poetry Saturday . . . I remember, I remember



I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!



I remember, I remember
The roses, red and white,
The violets, and the lily cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday . . .
The tree is living yet!



I remember, I remember,
Where I used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!



I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high,
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from heaven
Than when I was a boy.
~Thomas Hood

Thomas Hood was a British Poet and humourest, born in London in 1799. "Next to being a citizen of the world," writes Thomas Hood in his Literary Reminiscences, "it must be the best thing to be born a citizen of the world's greatest city." Hood’s most widely known work during his lifetime was a poem titled "The Song of the Shirt", which was a lament for a poor London seamstress who had been compelled to sell shirts that she had made, the proceeds of which lawfully belonged to her employer, in order to feed her malnourished and ailing child. Hood also wrote humorously on many contemporary issues.

As I was reading through this poem, I was reminded of the way I saw the world when I was a child, how everything seemed so magical and how all things were possible . . . our spirits gliding through life as if on light. That is, as long as we are lucky enough to have been born into happy circumstances. I am sure that there are children in this world that have a completely different reality than this, and my heart aches for them . . . I wish truly that every child in this world could live a life free from care and woe . . .



I got the all clear from the hospital yesterday and was discharged from being a Gynological Patient, so that was great news. I had another scan and it was good, as were the blood tests. I was quite relieved. Although the biopsy before Christmas had come back negative, the fear was always there in the back of my mind, that perhaps on this three month check up things would not be as they should. I was greatly relieved to know that all was well.

I'm finding it really difficult coming up with recipes for both this blog and my food blog each day. I have decided that I will only on occasion show a recipe on here. I really want this page to be mostly food for the spirit. I know that I will lose readers because of that . . . but c'est la vie. There will be the occasional recipe, but food for the most part will be in The English Kitchen. I am happy with my decision, and I hope you all will understand. I may show you the odd craft and painting on here, but food will definitely be taking a back seat.

No plans for today. A bit of work, a bit of fun and everything in between. Life is good. Have a wonderful Saturday everyone and don't forget . . .

“What we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are — and who we will become.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf



There's a pretty amazing Banana, Cranberry and Walnut Loaf baking in The English Kitchen today. Seriously, this is the best Banana Loaf I have ever baked or tasted!


Friday, 24 February 2012

Friday morning happenings . . . it's all go, go, go!!



I've not a lot of time this morning as I have a hospital appointment to go to and I need to be there at 9:30, which is a bit early for us to be out and about. When we went the other morning for the blood test the traffic was horrendous! Morning rush hour traffic and the cars pouring into the hospital were just unreal. Everyone going in to work I suppose! You should see the bruise I still have on my arm. The plebotonist was in a bit of a hurry that morning, and I don't know why. There was nobody waiting behind me. In any case when I got home I noticed a large red lump next to the plaster and when I took the plaster off, it spread into a large bruised area about 4 inches in diameter. It still looks really bad, some five days later. That is the first time this has happened to me, although I have known it to happen to other people at different times. I have had to defend Todd's honour all week!! No, he didn't beat me! haha.

I was able to get a piece of work finished yesterday that I have been working at over a space of time. I wanted to present it in two ways.



This is the first way. (I don't know why the shading on her dress isn't showing. It's very faint in the pictures, but I can assure you it's there in real life!) This is the non-LDS version. Of course it's available as a print or a card. Then there is the LDS verson:



This version had the image of the temple on it. One of the things our church believes in is called the law of chastity. This means keeping yourselves pure in thought, word and deed, dressing modestly, and in keeping those intimate things between a man and a woman exclusively for marriage . . . keeping ourselves worthy to go to the Temple and to be sealed together with our mates for Time and all Eternity. This is something that is very sacred and very important to us and a great blessing in our lives. In any case this is a young woman looking towards the Temple where she hopes one day to make sacred covenants with her Heavenly Father and to be sealed together with her husband for Time and all Eternity. I think it would be lovely framed and hung on the bedroom wall of that special young woman in your life, so if you are interested, just let me know and I'll tell you how you can have it! (Either version! We all need to keep our standards high, whether we are LDS or not!)

Sorry for the brevity of my post today but duty calls. (It's nothing to worry about, just a follow up appointment from the problems I had last autumn. I am not concerned in any way.)

The recipe today is for a really delicious lasagne which has all the flavours of a delicious pepperoni pizza, except it's not pizza . . . it's lasagne! The recipe comes from one of those grocery store leaflets I think. It is copied into my Big Blue Binder and it is something that my kids always enjoyed. Todd's not overly fond of it . . . it's the pizza and pasta thing . . . he just doesn't care for either one, but he does eat it when I make it for the missionaries. I usually make it in two dishes so that I can freeze one if it doesn't get cut into.



*Pizza Lasagne*
Serves 8
Printable Recipe

If you like pizza, you are going to love this!

9 uncooked lasagne noodles
1 can (15 ounce) pizza sauce
1 can (14.5 ounce) tin of diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion, undrained
1 (15 ounce) container of ricotta cheese
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
7 ounces sliced pepperoni
1 tin of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 (2 1/4 ounce) tin of sliced ripe olives, drained
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the lasagne noodles as directed on the package. Drain, rinse and then drain again. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Have ready a 12 by 9 inch baking dish which you have sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the pizza sauce and tomatoes together in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring often, until heated through. Mix the ricotta cheese and Italian Seasoning together in a bowl.

Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange 3 cooked noodles over the sauce. Spoon and spread half of the ricotta mixture over top of the noodles. Top with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1 cup of the sauce, 1/3 each of the pepperoni slices, mushrooms, olives and green pepper. Repeat layers once.

Top with the remaining three noodles, sauce mixture, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni slices, mushrooms, olives and bell pepper. Sprinkle the Parmesan Cheese evenly over all.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly and golden. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve. I would serve this with hot buttered toast and a salad on the side.



There are Baked Potatoes Stuffed with Leeks and Cheese on offer over in The English Kitchen today along with a few other bits and pieces and some seriously fantastic cookbooks! Do hop over and take a look!


Thursday, 23 February 2012

Getting from here to there . . .




A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
~Lao Tzu


Back in the early 1990's, when I was married to my ex, we built our own house from scratch. It was a ginormous project, and something that the whole family participated in, right from the oldest down to our three year old at the time, Bruce. We contracted out the big stuff, like digging the foundation and the pouring of it . . . and the things that had to be done by professionals such as the electrics and the plumbing, but everything else was done by us. It had been my ex's life long dream and it really was a once in a lifetime project.

The idea of building your own home might seem impossible to some . . . but it wasn't impossible to us. We started with what we knew, and then went from there. My ex had taken a carpentry course in Vocational School before he had gone into the army, and so he began with the knowledge that he had been given during that time . . . I began with a willingness to do whatever it was that was required of me. It would never have gotten done otherwise . . . we didn't allow our fears of what we may not have known, or lack of knowledge hold us back and we learnt as we went along. We ended up with a beautiful house that was the envy of many, and the best part was that it was truly a family home in every sense of the word . . . as we had all played a part in building it.



You will never get anywhere in life unless you start. Every journey begins with just one step forward. If you begin with the urge to do something you've never done before and have the confidence and freedom to believe it can be done, then somehow . . . along the way . . . any difficulties that may be attached to it will begin to lose their scary power of intimidation. We can trust in our Heavenly Father who has promised us that He will give us the power and the skill to overcome any obstacles in our way. I truly believe this to be so. We can climb mountains and accomplish many things if only we will have the courage to start . . . with what we DO know and have a willingness to learn along the way. With faith . . . all things are possible.

Just my thoughts this morning.

I am becoming a little braver in my breadmaking. For years I told myself I just couldn't make a decent loaf of bread, but I've been practicing and yesterday I made some lovely bread. I surprised even myself! This bread is lovely with a sweetness from the honey and a wholesome nuttiness from the wheatgerm and the toasted walnuts. I think toasting nuts before using them brings out their lovely flavour to the n'th degree!




*Nutty Wheat Bread*
Makes 2 loaves
Printable Recipe

A delicious light textured bread with the nuttiness of wheat germ and toasted walnuts added.

3 1/2 to 4 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 pkg of rapid rise dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup runny honey
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/4 cup wheat germ

Butter two 8 by 4 inch loaf pans. Set aside.

Measure 2 cups of the plain flour into a large bowl, combine with the salt and yeast, mixing together well. Combine the milk, water, honey and butter in a saucepan. Warm to melt the butter and melt the honey. (120 -130*F) Add the warm liquid to the flour mixture. Blend at low speed with an electric hand whisk until moistened, then at .medium speed for two minutes. Add the whole wheat flour, another 1 cup of plain flour, the walnuts and wheat germ by hand.

Tip out onto a floured surface and knead in the remaining 1/2 to 1 cup of flour until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place dough into a greased bowl, turning to grease the top, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour, until light and doubled in size.

Punch down the dough several times to remove all air bubbles. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half out on a lightly floured surface to a 10 by 8 inch rectangle. Starting with the shorter side, roll up tightly, pinch edges and ends firmly to seal. Place seam side down into the greased pans. Cover and let rise i a warm place until the dough fills the pans and the tops are about 1 inch above the edge of the pans, 35 to 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Bake the bread for 30 to 40 minutes or until the loaves sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottoms. Remove from the pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.



Over in The English Kitchen today, Banana Banoffee Muffins.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Wednesday ponderings . . .




"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, desparingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."
~Agatha Christie

I found this quote by Agatha Christie the other day and for some reason found great comfort in it. Here she was a famous mystery writer . . . a woman who wove many human stories into the tapestry of her novels, and enjoying a long and successful career until her death in 1976. As famous and as wealthy as she may have been . . . she still had the same doubts and frailties that affect the rest of us from time to time. Having success and money do not necessarily mean you will live happily ever after. Bad times come to us all . . . despite them, life is still a beautiful gift, and there is joy to be found in every day.



I think one of the unhappiest and most miserable women I have ever known was my last employer. Here was a woman who had everything that money could possibly buy, a beautiful home, designer clothing, expensive jewels . . . a handsome husband, lovely children, people at her beck and call 24 hours a day . . . and yet . . . I have never known an unhappier person in my life. She had no joy in her life . . . or at least none that really mattered, or that was lasting. If you have ever seen the film, "The Devil Wears Prada," then you have seen her . . . because the character that Meryl Streep played in it is almost identical in personality to my ex boss.

It was quite sad really. There was not a charitable bone in her body . . . all her feelings, thoughts, desires etc. were centred only on one being . . . herself . . . and that is all she cared for or about. In fact she made the statement to me on one occasion that, anyone who knew her would know that she never did anything for anyone without expecting something in return . . . She was the most selfish creature I ever came across and I doubt that I will ever meet anyone quite like that ever again. She was the perfect example to me of exactly what money can never buy . . . class, character, humility, respect, love and most important of all . . . happiness.




We're invited out to lunch today. We are going over to some good friends for lunch and I'm really looking forward to it. I love spending time with friends. I love spending time with the Toddster too . . . but friends are nice as well. I am sure that Todd must get tired of my chatter from time to time. It's always nice to have times spent with other people and to enjoy all that they bring to the table. Variety is the spice of life!

Here's a quick skillet meal that is perfect for those weeknights when you are in a real hurry and starving. It can be put together in literally minutes and within half an hour you can be sitting down to a nice meal that is not only delicious, but very healthy as well. All you need serve on the side is perhaps a nice tossed salad, and perhaps some crusty rolls. If I'm serving pasta to Todd . . . he better have a crusty roll to make up for it! ☺




*Skillet Turkey Primavera*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

You can use chicken breast for this if you wish. Make sure that if your asparagus spears are thick and woody, you peel the lower half of each stalk to get rid of the woody bits. Quick, easy and delicious!

1 1/2 cups uncooked bow tie pasta
1/2 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (2 cups)
1 1/3 cup fresh baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 cup chicken broth
4 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 pound fresh turkey breast slices, cut into thin bite sized strips
1 cup fresh whole mushrooms, quartered
1 (14 oz) tin of whole baby corn, drained and rinsed
1 tsp grated lemon zest.

Cook the pasta to desired doneness using the package directions, adding the aspagarus and carrots during the last 2 to 4 minutes of cooking time. Cook until the asparagus is just crispy tender. Drain.

In a small bowl, combine the broth, cornstarch, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Blend well and set aside.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with low fat cooking spray. Heat over medium high heat. Add the turkey and mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the turkey is lightly browned and no longer pink. Add the broth mixture, cooking and stirring until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the cooked pasta and vegetables, along with the corn and lemon zest. Cook and stir until thoroughly heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve hot.



There are some tasty Ciabatta Pizzas cooking in The English Kitchen today.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Simple Woman's Day book . . .




FOR TODAY, February 21st, 2012...

Outside My Window...

It is cool and the sky is just beginning to turn light. I'm not sure what the day will bring. It is still a surprise . . . just like a gift to be opened!

I am thinking...
These last few weeks have been a bit of a mess emotionally although I have kept it together fairly well. Hopefully I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now. There's always a light at the end of every tunnel. We just have to be patient.

I am thankful for...
Tunnels which teach me lessons and lights at the end of them.

From the kitchen...
Not a lot really, but I do have some bananas that I will need to use up pronto! I see a Banana Loaf of some sort in our future!

I am wearing...
Pink and grey jim jams and my robe and slippers.

I am creating...

I ran out of art paper and so I had to go buy some. Haven't had a chance to create anything since then. I did sell those cookie decals though, so that's good, and who knows . . . it may lead to other work in that direction.

I am going...
I have the daily reading lessons of course, and then Todd and I are going out to lunch with some friends tomorrow. Tomorrow night I have a meeting with my Additional Meeting committee. I have invited them over for a light supper and then the meeting. I still have to decide what I am going to cook. Something tasty for sure. Friday morning I have my hospital appointment. Nothing to worry about, just a check up after all that went on last autumn. I had the blood tests yesterday. You should see the nice BIG bruise she left on my arm. It's enormous and very nasty looking. I've never had that happen before. When I first got home it was like a lump, but it has now spread out.

I am reading...



Say When, by Elizabeth Berg

'He felt his stomach tighten, his heart begin to race. The coffeemaker beeped, signalling its readiness, and Ellen got up and poured two mugs. She set one in front of Griffin, one in front of herself. Griffin watched the steam rise up and curl back on itself, then dissipate. He said quietly, "I'm not going anywhere." "Pardon?" "I said, I'm not going anywhere. I'm not moving." She nodded. "I see. Well, I can't. I have to be here to take care of Zoe." Griffin pictured his daughter, a redheaded beauty who would knock the stuffing out of any man who crossed her. "All right, you can stay, too," he told Ellen. "Griffin. One of us has to go."

In Say When, Elizabeth Berg negotiates perfectly the fine balance between humour and poignancy as she charts the days and nights of a family whose normal life has been shattered. Told from the point of view of a man who goes overnight from being a husband to becoming his wife's roommate, this is a gripping and heartfelt story. I have only just begun to read it over the past few nights and I am really enjoying it. But then . . . I love everything Elizabeth Berg writes! The language that the husband leaves a bit much to be desired at times . . . which is sort of disappointing, but then I guess she is writing it from a man's perspective and also a worldly one. Just coz I don't swear doesn't mean nobody else does! I just skip over those words.


I am hoping...
That everything goes well on Friday.

I am hearing...
Nothing much. Mitzie is snoring away on the sofa. The keys are tapping. All is quiet outside . . . the birds are waking up so a bit of chirping and the odd car that drives by. A very normal, ordinary, everyday start to the day.

Around the house...



I have a particular fondness for blue and white china . . . especially this pattern that I found on Berry Red. I have been able to collect a few bits and pieces. It's a part of the Green Gate Collection, Faye White. I just love it. I have two egg cups and spoons and a couple of the tea towels as well. I also have some of the red and white in the same collection, two big cups, which are just the perfect size for soup and Todd loves his hot chocolate in them.


I don't know why I love blue and white china so much . . . I just do. When I was married before I collected a whole service for 12 of the Blue Willow dishes. They were selling it at the grocery store back home, a different piece each week, at a discount if you spent over a certain amount on groceries. With such a large family, that was never a problem for me. I had 12 plates, 12 bowls, 12 sandwich plates and was beginning to work on the extra bits . . . then we split up . . . and the rest is history.

If I could change one thing it would be...
I really would have loved to have been able to have a family with Todd. Sometimes I sit at church and I see all the happy families and think that could have been mine if I had made better choices in my younger years. I didn't though, for whatever reasons and my life is what it is, and I am happy with it. It would have been nice to have a family together though . . . that is something we missed out on.

I am looking forward to ...
Spring, spring, spring!!! Who isn't??? Tis that time of year when we all get a bit weary of winter isn't it? We can't really complain though . . . winter hasn't been all that bad this year, at least not where I live at any rate!!

One of my favourite things...
Is writing this day book each week. I just adore doing it. It's so nice to focus my thoughts in this way. I wish I could do it every day, but then again . . . it probably wouldn't be as special then would it? Oh, another thing I love is Historical Dramas. Have any of you started watching the New Upstairs Downstairs, series 2? It started on Sunday evening on the BBC and it's a cracker!!

A few plans for the rest of the week...
A bit of work . . . a bit of play . . . and everything in between!! Not a heck of a lot really.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...






The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attritube of the strong.
~Mahatma Gandhi

Sometimes it's really difficult to forgive people we think have done us wrong. The Saviour told us that we must forgive and not just forgive, but forgive 70 times 70, which means an awful lot! Not always easy to do, but we must . . . one thing that I have learned in my life is that holding onto ill feelings and bearing grudges does not hurt anyone but myself. It steals my own light . . . forgiveness helps us to more forward and brings the light back into our lives. It really is the bestest and strongest way to live.

As a closing thought I would like to leave you with this:


"By your thoughts you are daily, even hourly, building your life; you are carving your destiny."
~Ruth Barrick Golden

I just love this . . . it is so true.

And there you have it . . . my day book for this week. Don't forget to hop on over to the Simple Woman to check out the other day book entries! (Or better yet, do a simple day book entry yourself! It's not that hard and I am betting you would enjoy it!


One of the things I always loved ordering in a restaurant back home was the club sandwich. We used to go to a diner in Houlton, Maine called the Elm Tree Diner and they had fab food. I loved their club sandwiches and they always came with a lovely side order of delicious coleslaw. I don't think I could eat a whole club sandwich nowadays. It's funny how your appetite changes through the years. This delicious salad is a way of enjoying all the flavours of a club sandwich, except in smaller quantities! I love this.

*Turkey Club Salad*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

Your favourite sandwich flavours in a salad! Beautifully tasty!

For the Salad:
2 cups uncooked radiatore pasta
6 slices streaky bacon
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 1/2 cups of cubed turkey breast meat
1/2 cup of cubed Monterey Jack cheese
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed

For the Dressing:
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 TBS milk
2 TBS white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a glass jar. Screw on the lid and give them a good old shake to combine. Place in the refrigerator to chill while you are making the salad.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool, then drain again. While the pasta is cooking fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble into bits.

Combine the cooked and drained pasta in a large bowl along with the bacon and all of the remaining salad ingredients. Just before serving, pour the dressing over top and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.



Cooking in The English Kitchen today in honor of Pancake Day, some delicious Honey and Raspberry Pancakes!

PSSTT!! The Sun is up now and SHINING! Looks like a fine day!