Sunday, November 28, 2010

A cozy project

Before Thanksgiving, I worked several late nights traveling to meetings across the state.  (Can you tell by how sleepy I look in this picture?)  I knew I had a crazy couple weeks ahead of me, so I spent my weekends trying to do as little as possible so I would be rested and ready for my travels.

To force myself to sit still, I decided to crochet a scarf.  I taught myself to crochet a couple winters ago, although so far, I haven't finished many big projects. 

I was determined to finish this scarf in one weekend.  Well, I didn't meet my own deadline, but I did finish this project in a week.  I'm happy with the results.

I followed the boyfriend scarf pattern in the Nov./Dec. issue of Crochet Today magazine.  I loved working with the chunky, colorful yarn.

This scarf isn't mistake-free.  I had trouble making the single crochets into the initial chain stitch because I was working with a larger hook and wider yarn than I'm used to.  Somehow, I doubled up on some of the single crochets, and the scarf was 20 stitches longer than the pattern called for.

So the scarf ended up really, really long.  But my hubby told me to tie it around a couple times and no one will notice. 

My sister has already asked me to make one for her.  I'm waiting for a blizzard to get started on another project.  But let's hope there aren't any blizzards this year :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble! Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  I hope you are enjoying the day with family and friends.  I'm winding down after a marathon in the kitchen, preparing a Thanksgiving meal for my hubby and me.  I can't imagine what it's like preparing a holiday dinner for a huge family.  I'm exhausted just from cooking for two.

To be honest, I'm not much of a cook.  But I live to bake.  So while the turkey was only so-so, I made a pretty good pumpkin pie.

And my husband's favorite, pecan pie.

Thought I'd share one of my new favorite Thanksgiving-time recipes: cranberry banana bread.  I can't resist the bags of cranberries on sale this time of year.  I decided to use them in a quick bread, and after a quick Internet search, I found this cranberry banana bread recipe on the Ocean Spray website.  There are so many excellent recipes from Ocean Spray.  There are a few more I'd like to try while cranberries are still in season.

I've been having fun baking with my grandma's old bread pans.  I think it's funny to see all the indentations on the bottom of the pan from her attempts to "pound" the stuck bread out from the bottom of the pan.

Now I'm off to take a nap, maybe go for a chilly bike ride and eat another piece of pie.  Enjoy your day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'll take seconds

One of my favorite local orchards, Center Grove Orchard near Cambridge, sends out and weekly e-newsletter, which recently announced that the orchard store was going to stay open this year until Christmas.  I love snacking on the dried apple chips we've made thanks to our handy-dandy food dehydrator.  So I decided to drive over to the orchard to see what apples they still have for sale.

I told the orchard staff that I wanted apples for drying, and they offered to find some apple "seconds" in their back room for me.  I only recently learned that "seconds" are bruised or otherwise unattractive apples, which I discovered from a recent post on one of my favorite blogs, Home Joys.

So I agreed to buy a few bags of seconds, although right now, I can't quite remember what variety of apple they were.  I think it was a Mutsu apple, which looks a bit like a Golden Delicious.

To my surprise, the clerk returned from the backroom with four 10-pound bags of apples for me to take home.  She offered to give me two bags for free.  So the next thing I knew, I was navigating a wheelbarrow-full of apples out to my truck.

My husband, who was happy to have an indoor project now that fishing season is over, immediately got to work sorting through the bags, looking for any, ahem, "bad apples." 

Yes, we use our microwave as a TV stand.  Leaves us with more counterspace :)

All the apples were in pretty good shape, except for a few soft and sunburned spots.

He cut them up, sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar, and stacked them in our food dehydrator.  (Note: This is an old picture from last year, just to give you an idea of how we use the dehydrator.)

I fed a few dried apples to my sister last time she stopped for a visit.  She replied, "I want these for Christmas!"  So I've saved a gallon-size bag of dried apples just for her Christmas stocking.  But I had to hide the bag, because I've been eating the apple chips faster than we can make them!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Horsin' around

A few weeks back, I was looking for something fun and relaxing to do after a stressful week.  I heard that the Iowa State Fairgrounds was hosting the World Percheron Congress.  I've been fascinated with draft horses ever since I met a couple of Clydesdale owners from north Iowa a couple years ago.  They told me how much time, money and work goes into raising giant draft horses.  Now I have a newfound respect for these amazing animals and their dedicated owners.

Percherons are such graceful giants.  And so stylish in black :)

Love the little details of getting a horse ready for show.  It's like they are dressing for prom.

The wagons are also kept in prestine condition for the show ring.  Great to see a pink ribbon on the back of this ride.

Young contestants were preparing for the junior exhibit when I arrived.

The event took place in the beautiful new Jacobsen Exhibit Hall at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.  The hall was built specifically to bring world-class horse shows to central Iowa.

I stood outside on the sidewalk to watch the blue-ribbon winners take their victory lap.

I watched some of the judging during the junior show.  Unfortunately, I had to leave earlier than I wanted because of an unexpected allergy attack.  (Somehow, I always forget that I'm allergic to hay.) 

I'm looking forward to seeing more horse shows at the fairgrounds in the future.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kringla cravings

Well, it seems that there are quite a few Norwegian kringla fans out there.  In the past couple weeks, I've seen a spike in blog readers looking for a good ol' Iowa kringla bakery (preferrably one that ships).  I suspect it has something to do with the upcoming holiday season.  I know whenever I see kringla in the grocery store, I think of my grandmother.  How I miss our Christmas dinners, with the lefse and lutefisk she lovingly served to our family as our connection to our Norwegian heritage.

For those of you who happen to stumble upon this blog looking for authentic Norwegian kringla, I highly recommend that you visit the website of Lori's Kringla & More bakery in Rockwell City.  They ship anywhere, and their kringla is unbelieveable good and true to the family recipe passed on from Norway. 

And if you're lucky enough to visit Rockwell City, be sure to stop by the bakery for some of the "More" of Lori's Kringla & More.  Lori sent me home with a cheesecake cupcake to share with my hubby.  He loves cheesecake!

By the way, sorry if there are any typos in this post.  I've been on the road for 8 hours today, and I didn't get back home from my long trip to Sioux City until after 12 a.m.  I'm so looking forward to getting some sleep!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cookie Friday: Raisin Cake Cookies

Happy Cookie Friday, everyone!  Today I'm sharing another super easy cookie recipe, which I found in a recent issue of Simple and Delicious magazine.

My hubby prefers raisin cookies to chocolate chip (strange I know), so I try to save a new raisin cookie recipe whenever I see one.  This one captured my attention because it isn't an oatmeal raisin cookie.  It's a soft, chewy raisin cookie with cinnamon and nuts, but no oats.  You can find the recipe on the Taste of Home website.

Mmm...cookie dough.

To be honest, my husband didn't like these as much as traditional oatmeal raisin cookies.  But that didn't stop him from eating almost the entire batch himself.  Personally, I love the soft, puffy texture of these cookies.  I'm keeping this recipe in my clipping files to save for a rainy day (like today) when I need a little "baking therapy."

Enjoy, my blog friends!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What I'm thankful for

I'm thankful for my health, my family and a 70-degree day in November.

That's right.

It's Nov. 9.

It's northern Iowa.

The temperature is 70 degrees.

And I visited a Christmas tree farm today.

Who needs a "White Christmas"?  All I want for Christmas is an unseasonably warm day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Taste of Fall

I have a serious apple addiction.  I can't stop eating apples in any form -- fresh sliced, apple crisp, applesauce, dried apple chips.  My favorite apples are the oh so sweet honey crisps, which were on sale at the local grocery store a couple weeks ago for $1.88 per pound.  So I snagged a couple bags to stock up, since my husband adores these apples, too.

I also love caramel apples, but my husband doesn't.  I always feel goofy making a batch of caramel apples just for me.  So I thought I'd try out an easy caramel apple dip recipe I found a few years back in Progressive Farming magazine.

The homemade caramel dip turned out just like the store-bought kind, except it was a little runny at first.  But it solidified after an overnight stay in the refrigerator.  This dip took less than 5 minutes to make, seriously.  And I didn't have to break out the candy thermometer, which always intimidates me.

Here's the recipe, if you want to try it for yourself.  Enjoy!


Best Ever Caramel Sauce
Adapted from Progressive Farmer
  • 1/2 C. butter or margarine
  • 1 C. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 C. whipping cream
  • 1 Tbl. vanilla extract
  • Apple slices
Cook butter and brown sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts.  Stir in 1/2 C. whipping cream, stirring occasionally.  Bring to a boil, stirring occassionally.  Remove from heat.  Sitr in vanilla.  Serve with apple slices.  Yield: Makes 1-1/4 cups.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Farewell, Grandpa

My grandpa passed away last week after a brief struggle with cancer.  He was 90.  My grandpa was a true-blue farmer.  He loved farming.  Up until the end, he still wanted my mom and uncle to take him on Sunday drives just so he could see the corn harvest.  We placed a model of his first tractor - a Farmall H -- in the flower arrangement at his funeral.

To be honest, I agonized over whether I should write about my grandfather.  Even though he is no longer in any pain and now he can join my grandmother up in Heaven, I miss him. And it's hard for me to think that I won't be able to visit with him again soon.

But I also feel the need to write down a few of things that I loved about my grandpa, just so I can look back on the good times we had together.

So here's a list of what I'll always remember about my grandpa:

  • He lived in the same small Iowa town his whole life.  He graduated from the same school as I did.  He even played basketball in the same gymnasium that I did.
  • He liked to brag that he bought every car he ever owned, including his first car in high school, with cash -- never credit.  He earned all his money by working hard in the fields and taking care of livestock.
  • He was always a good provider.  Whatever my grandmother wanted, he gave her.  They would take trips to Florida and Arizona every winter with the money he earned selling a few hogs in the fall.
  • He was a super competitive card player.  He and my grandmother got together with friends to play card games several times a week.  And my grandpa had the amazing ability to win almost every game.  But when he lost, even to his grandkids, boy, would he pout :)
  • He was an extremely smart businessman.  He grew his farm to 600 acres over the course of several decades.  He never used a calculator when balancing the farm books; he did all the math in his head.  He was very good at math.
  • He gave me the opportunity to grow up on the farm.  When I was a baby, he invited my dad and mom to come back home and join my uncle in the farming operation.  My grandparents were my next door neighbors, and my cousins lived just down the road.  It was a very peaceful place to grow up.
  • He traveled to all 50 states and to several places overseas, including Europe and Australia.
  • He loved watching Minnesota Twins games, reading history books and watching Fox News.  He especially enjoyed watching Bill O'Reily.
  • In one of the last conversations I had with my grandpa, he asked me why I wear my hair so short.  He noted that the women on Fox News wear their hair so long that they can tie it in a ponytail under their chins.  He said he like that my grandma wore her hair short.
  • He told the Hospice nurse that my grandmother was the most beautiful woman in the world, even up until the day she died from cancer four years ago.
  • He used to take me on golf-cart rides around the trailer park he lived at in Arizona.
  • He used to get bored in the middle of the church service and ask me to play Tic Tac To with him on the back of the offering envelope.
  • He loved pancakes, pickled herring, liver & onions, 100,000 Grand candy bars and KFC chicken.
  • He used to call me Cucumber.  To this day, I don't know why he gave me that nickname.
  • He planted a little evergreen tree that I brought home from school on Arbor Day.  Now that evergreen stands well over 8 feet tall.  He used to give me updates on the tree when I came home to visit from college.

As you can see, there was a lot to love about my grandfather.  I'll always be your Cucumber, Grandpa.  I miss you and hope to see you again someday.
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