Sunday, December 27, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook - December 27

For Today... December 27, 2009

Outside my window... Overcast with snow showers

I am thinking... about my son turning FIFTEEN this week. FIFTEEN!!! How is that possible?

From the learning rooms... This week we are not having lessons.

I am thankful for... so many Christmas blessings!

From the kitchen... a LOT of cookies and fudge - hanging on to it until New Year's.... Leftovers from Christmas Day are gone already. Will be making potato soup with the hambone this week. Tomorrow?

I am wearing... Favorite jeans, long sleeved black shirt, pink fuzzy hoodie, pink socks, slippers, hair in barrette, no makeup.

I am reading... U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton (I've read, and enjoyed, the entire Kinsey series - 21 books now!)

I've been watching... Babes in Toyland, The Polar Express, It's a Wonderful Life, SpongeBob SquarePants, City of Ember, 17 Again

I am hoping... the weather co-operates for two or three outdoor runs this week.

I am creating... GOTTA get some work done on that Egypt novel! TODAY it must happen!

I am hearing... happy sounds from upstairs

Around the house... I have a desk now! In my bedroom! And I can close (and lock!) the door!

One of my favorite things... Michael W. Smith's Christmastime album

A few plans for the rest of the week... Writing, celebrating my son's birthday, maybe getting together with friends?

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you.
Christmas morning - my husband and my almost-15yo son
From 2009-12-25

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Baking Day and TIME TO EAT!

Made two more recipes yesterday (Dec 23) - Toffee-Pecan Bars and Nanaimo Cookie Bars. Those recipes are below. That was the end of the baking! LOL

Tonight (Christmas Eve), I served a platter of the goodies to my family. Pictured are (starting at 12:00 and going clockwise): Chocolate Mint Thumbprints, Orange Cream Cookies, Fudge-Mint Brownies, Toffee-Pecan Bars, Candy Bar Fudge, Nanaimo Cookie Bars, and in the center - Buckeye Delights. YUM! First gone, surprisingly, were the Orange Cream Cookies.

Toffee-Pecan Bars
A buttery crust holds a rich topping enhanced with pecans and chocolate-caramel chips.

3/4cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3cup packed brown sugar
2cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour

1cup butter or margarine
3/4cup packed brown sugar
1/4cup light corn syrup
2cups coarsely chopped pecans
1cup swirled milk chocolate and caramel chips (from 10-oz bag) I could not find these swirled chips, so I used partly semi-sweet chocolate and partly butterscotch chips.

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease bottom and sides of 15x10x1-inch pan with shortening or cooking spray (do not use dark pan).
2.In large bowl, beat 3/4 cup butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until well blended. On low speed, beat in flour until dough begins to form. Press dough in pan.
3.Bake 12 to 17 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Meanwhile, in 2-quart saucepan, heat 1 cup butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and the corn syrup to boiling over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 2 minutes without stirring.
4.Quickly stir pecans into corn syrup mixture; spread over partially baked crust. Bake 20 to 23 minutes or until filling is golden brown and bubbly.
5.Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over hot bars. Let stand 5 minutes to soften. With rubber spatula, gently swirl melted chips over bars. Cool completely, about 1 hour. For bars, cut into 24 squares (6 rows by 4 rows), then cut each square in half to make triangles. Store in refrigerator.

Nanaimo Cookie Bars
Prize-Winning Recipe 2009! Try this easier cookie-mix take on a classic layered chocolate and vanilla bar.
Cookie Base
1pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® double chocolate chunk cookie mix
1cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2cup chopped nut topping or chopped walnuts
1/2cup coconut (I left out the coconut)
1cup butter or margarine, melted

4cups powdered sugar
4tablespoons vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
1/3cup butter or margarine, softened
1/4cup milk

1bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/4cup butter or margarine
1.Heat oven to 350°F. Line bottom and sides of 13x9-inch pan with foil, leaving foil overhanging at 2 opposite sides of pan. In large bowl, stir cookie base ingredients until well mixed. Spread into pan; press lightly. Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
2.In another large bowl, stir together powdered sugar and pudding mix. Add 1/3 cup butter and the milk; beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth (filling will be very thick). Spoon over cookie base; press evenly to cover. Refrigerate while making topping.
3.In small microwaveable bowl, microwave topping ingredients uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds until melted and smooth. Spread over filling. Refrigerate uncovered until set, about 30 minutes.
4.Use foil to lift bars from pan; pull foil from sides of bars. Cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Caramel Macciato Thumbprints

Made one more batch of fudge tonight! It's so easy! This one was White Chocolate/Chocolate Mint. Yummy! I used that same Carnation recipe I blogged about yesterday.

I also made Caramel Macciato Thumbprints. I ate one and wasn't bowled over by the taste, but I couldn't locate espresso powder in the store. So, I had to go with the alternative - instant coffee granules. Try harder than I did to find the espresso if you decide to make these.

I do have a pic of my own cookies, but it's languishing on the camera card.

Caramel Macchiato Thumbprints
Prize-Winning Recipe 2009! Create a coffee shop favorite flavor in a delicious cookie. These cookies can be habit-forming—smile, smile.
Prep Time: 55 min
Total Time: 1 hour 25 min
Makes: 3 dozen cookies
full spoonfull spoonfull spoonfull spoonempty spoon
61 Ratings
7 Reviews
2teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder or granules
1tablespoon hot water
1pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/4cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1/2cup butter or margarine, melted
2teaspoons vanilla
18caramels (from 14-oz bag), unwrapped
2tablespoons milk
1/2cup semisweet chocolate chips
1teaspoon shortening
1.Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, dissolve coffee powder in hot water. Stir in cookie mix, flour, butter, vanilla and egg until very soft dough forms.
2.Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. On ungreased cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart. Using thumb or handle of wooden spoon, make indentation in center of each cookie.
3.Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks.
4.In small microwavable bowl, microwave caramels and milk uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, stirring once, until caramels are melted. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon caramel into indentation in each cookie. Cool 15 minutes.
5.In another small microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips and shortening uncovered on High 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds or until chips can be stirred smooth. Drizzle chocolate over cookies. Let stand about 30 minutes or until chocolate is set.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oh Fudge!

From 2009-12-17
We were given this fudge kit. I usually make the Marshmallow Creme Fantasy Fudge. I don't remember trying this Carnation recipe before. The recipes aren't too dissimilar, actually, but I am far more likely to have marshmallows in the house than marshmallow creme.

It turned out really well! Pretty easy recipe too! You don't need the kit. The recipe is below and the ingredients are nothing fancy.

I made five kinds of fudge this year - four from this recipe. I made plain chocolate (chocolate chips), chocolate walnut (chopped walnuts added to the plain chocolate recipe), Cherry White Chocolate (1 cup cherry baking morsels and 1 cup white chocolate baking morsels), and Butterscotch (substituted butterscotch morsels for the chocolate chips). I bought the cherry morsels at Walmart, I think.

Here it is.
Carnation Famous Fudge



LINE 8-inch-square baking pan with foil.

COMBINE sugar, evaporated milk, butter and salt in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

STIR in marshmallows, morsels, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until marshmallows are melted. Pour into prepared baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into 48 pieces.

1 3/4 cups (11.5-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Milk Chocolate Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels.

1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Morsels for Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts for pecans or walnuts.

Pretty easy! I divided up the results for gift-giving to my family and reports are favorable!

I forgot to take pictures of the fudge before I packaged it up, but I did save some for my family so I will try to remember to photograph it before it is consumed.
From 2009-12-17

The other fudge I made is Candy Bar fudge.
6 (2.07 ounce) bars Snickers ® candy
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter (no substitutes)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Line a 9-in. square pan with foil. Butter the foil and set pan aside. Cut candy bars into 1/2-in. slices; set aside.
2. In a heavy saucepan, bring sugar, butter and milk to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 234 degrees F (soft-ball stage), about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in chocolate chips, marshmallow creme and vanilla until smooth. Pour half into prepared pan. Sprinkle with candy bar slices. Top with remaining chocolate mixture and spread evenly. Let stand at room temperature to cool. Lift out of pan and remove foil. Cut into squares.
Next time I make this, I think I'll try a bigger pan. Not sure if 9x13 would be too big, but this filled the 8x8 pan really full and made the fudge pieces rather thick. Of course, that's not necessarily a BAD thing. lol

Go make some fudge! It's easy and yummy and festive. And if you need a gift idea, this is a good one!

Gingerbread Street

Here are our gingerbread houses. From left to right, they were created by Emily, Suzy, David and James. For more pictures, check out the slideshow. You can click on it and it will take you to Picasa to view them.
From 2009-12-16

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook - December 20

For Today... December 20, 2009

Outside my window... Cold and grey, but dry.

I am thinking... about the Midwinter Homeschool Conference (Steve Demme and Sally Clarkson are the speakers!)

From the learning rooms... Continuing with Math, Literature, and Christmas "School"

I am thankful for... a wonderful family celebration this past weekend.

From the kitchen... The last few Christmas cookie recipes will be made this week and I have a ham for Christmas Day.

I am wearing... PJ's, robe, wool socks, and slippers. And a fluffy blanket on my lap.

I am reading... The Rough Guide to Running and Colonel Brandon's Diary by Amanda Grange

I've been watching... The Princess and the Frog, Encino Man, Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, Scrooged, The Best of Mr. Bean, G.I. Joe, White Christmas

I am hoping... more of my stuff on sells.

I am creating... fiction

I am hearing... G.I. Joe on TV (OK that was two hours of my life I can't get back. Do not bother watching GI Joe!)

Around the house... Going to be doing some cleaning this week so we can enjoy our holiday

One of my favorite things... Spending time with family.

A few plans for the rest of the week... Lessons, writing, errands, cleaning, and then..... Christmas!

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What Does a Ten-Year-Old Boy Pack.??

What does a ten-year-old pack to spend the night at his cousin's house?

Let's see, shall we?

A Transformer
A toy train
A notebook
A belt, neatly rolled
1 pair dirty underpants
1 pair clean underpants
1 wadded-up dirty sweatshirt
1 wadded-up dirty t-shirt
1 wadded-up pair of twice-worn PJ pants
1 pair neatly rolled socks

I think that's it. I was speechless. And then I was NOT speechless.

"I can't find anything clean to pack!"

So, what? You just were going to go with NO CLEAN CLOTHES? And somehow you missed the instructions Thursday night to bring down any laundry you needed me to do???

Needless to say, there is laundry being done now.

And let's not even talk about the toothbrush that apparently has been missing for two days.

Well, OK, let's!

"So, what have you been USING to brush your teeth for the last two days?"

He raises one finger and moves it back and forth in front of his teeth.

Yeah. OK.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Microscope Intro

From Microscope Intro
David got his Biology slides on Friday. Finally. And he was excited to explore all of them! The others were also excited!
From Microscope Intro
He even offered Emily the chance to peer through the viewfinder.
From Microscope Intro

From Microscope Intro

Now he wants to make his own slides, so we need to get some blank slides. Anyone have any lying around gathering dust?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook - December 13

For Today... December 13, 2009

Outside my window... Overcast and drippy. There was freezing rain during the night.

I am thinking... about working on my Egyptian romance novella and expanding it to full-length

From the learning rooms... Lots of cookies

I am thankful for... for a great 5K race yesterday, even in the freezing temps!

From the kitchen... we had a premade sub sandwich for lunch which is always a big hit! lol

I am wearing... my 5K shirt from the Santa Shuffle yesterday, a tank top, a sweatshirt, black lounge pants, white shoes (since my slippers died.... pouting.....)

I am reading...Still plugging away slowly at unChristian (a book best digested in bits) and just starting The Rough Guide to Running. Have a couple Christmas novels to choose from too and a few other things including Ted Dekker's Green which I am going to read aloud to David

I've been watching... A Midsummer Night's Dream (LOVED IT!), Galaxy Quest, Elf

I am hoping... that there are actually people reading this. Sometimes it feels like no one is reading because so few people comment. (Yes, that's a shameless plea for comment love...)

I am creating... a Christmas letter

I am hearing... James practicing multiplication facts, the laptop fan humming, and the girls doing dishes (for the moment, they are happily working together)

Around the house... Bob is working slowly at getting the "new" larger fridge into the kitchen (since the old fridge seems to have gone off to Appliance Heaven)

One of my favorite things... borrowing magazines from the library. Currently I have copies of Health (Dec 09), Consumer Reports (Jan 2010), Ladies Home Journal (Dec 09/Jan 10), Redbook (Nov 09), Natural Solutions (Dec 09), Mother Earth News (Oct/Nov 09), and Martha Stewart Living (Dec 09).

A few plans for the rest of the week... Scrapping with friends on Monday, Christmas lessons all week, Christmas party with homeschool group, and family get-together over the weekend

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Cookies Again

From Christmas Cookies
Friday was the traditional sugar cookie decorating. I bought refrigerated cooky dough instead of making my own. A little easier and not really any more expensive.

The girls did most of it. James helped a little and David not at all.
From Christmas Cookies

I've added a couple photos to the blog, but watch the slideshow for pix and comments. If you can't see it, try clicking HERE to go to Picasa to see the photos.

And I don't know how many of these cookies will last until Christmas. I let them eat some for dessert.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas School

For "Christmas School" this year, we are doing hymn study, a Jesse Tree, and Christmas baking. We are also focusing on ways to give gifts to each other without spending money (since we don't have any money).

The hymn-of-the-month is "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and we take turns choosing another Christmas carol to sing together.

Our Advent study this year comes from Teaching Mom. We are doing the daily Bible readings and the Jesse Tree study. Anything else that looks interesting and do-able may make it onto our daily schedule as well.

A Jesse tree is a way to celebrate Advent using ornaments to explore different parts of the heritage of Jesus Christ. This website has a nice explanation. Our Jesse tree ornaments are found HERE. I printed them out and the kids are taking turns coloring them each day. We will be putting them up on a tree just as soon as I can persuade one of the kids to make a tree. lol I like the one pictured here, but I'm sure ours won't look as nice.

Here are some good ideas for making a Jesse tree and doing the devotions. We've used those devotions on occasion.

I found some printable Christmas gift coupons at this site and printed them out for the kids, encouraging them to think of gifts of their time and labor for one another. If those don't fit your needs, try an internet search for "printable Christmas coupons" or something similar.

I've been blogging about the baking we've been doing, so check my other posts for information on that.

We have been continuing with our math, literature, phonics, and science, albeit somewhat half-heartedly. :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Second Baking Day

These were Wednesday's cookies:

Buckeye Delights (from Betty Crocker)

Cookie Base (I used premade sugar cooky dough and added cocoa)
1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker® sugar cookie mix
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon peanut butter

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 36 mini muffin cups with mini foil candy cups (about 1 1/4 inch). In large bowl, stir cookie base ingredients until dough forms. Press about 1 tablespoon dough into each foil cup. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until puffy and set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove from pan.
2. In small bowl, mix filling ingredients until well blended. Press about 1 teaspoon mixture on top of each cooled cookie.
3. In 1-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream just to boiling over low heat, stirring occasionally; remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until cooled. Spread about 2 teaspoons chocolate mixture over each cookie cup.
4. Place remaining 2 tablespoons chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon peanut butter in resealable food-storage plastic bag; seal bag. Microwave on High 30 to 60 seconds or until softened; knead to mix. Cut off small tip from one corner of bag. Squeeze bag to drizzle chocolate mixture over each cookie cup. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until set. Store covered in refrigerator.

Chocolate Mint Thumbprints
(from the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookie magazine)

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

2 egg yolks

16 drops green food color

2 1/4 cups Gold Medal all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

3 tbsp. whipping cream

3 tbsp. butter

18 thin rectangular creme de menthe chocolate candies, unwrapped, cut in half diagonally (I used mint chocolate chips - green striped)

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat 1 cup butter and the powdered sugar with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy. Beat in peppermint extract, egg yolks and food color until blended. On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Using end of handle of wooden spoon, press a deep well in center of each cookie.

4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Reshape wells with end of handle of wooden spoon. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool competely, about 15 minutes.

5. In a microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, cream and 3 tbsp. butter on high 1 minute, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Fill each well with about 1 tbsp. chocolate mixture; garnish with candy piece. Let stand about 1 hour until chocolate is set.

~ ~ ~ ~

Gotta run! The timer is dinging!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Going Coco-nuts!

Suzy wanted to see what was inside a coconut.

So we bought one and there it sat in the fridge for weeks.

She kept asking, "When can we open it?"

I kept putting her off.

But yesterday, we finally went for broke.

I found a good website with pictures (and a creative name, lol).

They got out their supplies. Do you know what you need to open a coconut?

Hammer, nail, towel, bowl, knives.

James read the instructions aloud to Suzy and they did it all themselves. At least until it came time for the tedious cutting and peeling.

They didn't find it especially tasty.

Enjoy our adventure to the tropics!

Check the SLIDESHOW for even more pix!