Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Progressive Supper -- Inspired by Pioneer Woman Cooks

After getting my new Pioneer Woman cookbook, I decided to use her recipes for a Christmas progressive supper.   Four families (we had 17 people) gathered on a December Sunday evening for appetizers, salad, main course, and dessert.  An evening of fellowship with friends over a delicious meal is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  Traveling to three other homes and enjoying their Christmas decorations and warm hospitality made it even more fun.

We started with appetizers at the Leland's. They made onion strings, and everyone ate them up before I got a picture--they were delicious.

Next, we went to Wheeler's for salad.  Ree doesn't include much for salad in the cookbook.  I'm pretty sure it's because salad and butter don't go that well together.  PW REALLY likes butter...a lot.   Roger and Lisa made a Ceasar and a garden salad, and they were both yummy.

The main course was at my house.  I made her meatballs, plus corn casserole and glazed carrots (which are not in the cookbook).  I had such a difficult time choosing the main course, because her recipes are all so appealing.

By the time we left my house it was snowing! We went to Zimmerman's for red velvet cake.  It was so beautiful for Christmas. It was the perfect finish for our evening.

We had a great time traveling around town to each other's houses.  Thanks to my friends for joining the fun.

And about the cookbook--
I can't recommend it highly enough!  It is so much more than a cookbook.  It's almost like a scrapbook, with tons of photography (by Pioneer Woman and Marlboro Man) and stories from the ranch.
Go buy one right now!  

 (You won't regret it.  Buy two... because you are going to want to give one to someone as a Christmas gift.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Road Trip to See "Wicked" in Kansas City

I had the pleasure of traveling to Kansas City in early December to take my daughters to see "Wicked" the musical.  It was a great time, but seemed like a really long day.  We left Saturday morning by 10:00 and got back late the same night.  After watching the show in the afternoon, we drove to Kansas City's Country Club Plaza and looked at all the beautiful lights and horse-drawn carriages, and then had supper.  My son's friend, Jourdan and her mom joined us for the trip, which made for great company as we drove 3.5 hours each direction.  If you ever get a chance to see "Wicked", I highly recommend it.  Just make sure to watch "The Wizard of Oz" before you go, and maybe again afterward!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Road Trip to See The Pioneer Woman

If you haven't heard of The Pioneer Woman, please check out her blog You will likely never be the same after reading about her life of photography, homeschooling, cooking, and cowboys.  In October, her brand spankin' new cookbook was released, and she began a book signing tour around the country.  I discovered that she would be in Minneapolis at 1:00 on a Saturday in November and decided that I must go on an adventure.  I asked a friend to come along, and we each brought our teenage daughters.  None of the other three had much interest in PW, but the Mall of America and Ikea were enough of a draw for them to agree to join me. Lisa agreed to take the girls shopping while I waited in line to get my cookbook signed.

We drove to Minneapolis on Friday night and stayed in a hotel very near the mall (thanks to my hubby for setting that up).  The next morning we decided to have some fun.  Because our daughters are near look-a-likes with their mothers, we brought along matching clothes and went to breakfast dressed alike.  We felt like total losers, but had a blast watching people look at us.

What were they thinking when they saw this ...?

Dressing alike for breakfast was about all the dorkiness we could take, so we changed into our normal clothes and headed to the mall.

and now back to PW...
When we arrived at the Mall of America at 10:00 (for the 1:00 book signing), I was number 50 in line. I was elated that I would likely get my cookbook signed.  You see...even though I had come to Minneapolis for this purpose, I was missing out on hanging with the gals.  I needed to resume my normal life at 3:00, so that I could continue bonding with my daughter and our friends...  with or without my cookbook signed. (sigh)
The Nordstrom court filled with hundreds of women as the day progressed (we estimated that there were at least 500 people waiting).  We enjoyed visiting with others standing in line around us, since we all had Pioneer Woman in common.

After four hours, it was my turn!  My cookbook was signed at 2:00 pm. After all that waiting, I had approximately 60 seconds to bond with Ree.  I wish I could say we had a deep conversation about all the things we have in common--like homeschooling, photography, cooking, skin cancer, beautiful horses, etc.  Instead, I pretty much blurted out the things that I had rehearsed (so I wouldn't freeze up as my traveling companions predicted), and they sounded ridiculous.  She was ever so gracious, and smiled as she signed my book, and then... it was time for me to go.  Fortunately, we can all get our Pioneer Woman fix by going to her blog at any hour of the day or night.  And if we want to feel particularly close to her, we can just get out the cookbook and head to the kitchen.  I will post more about the cookbook later...

Friday, November 20, 2009

For the Love of Pumpkin

Last week, our family enjoyed pumpkin muffins for breakfast.  It is one of my favorite recipes, especially this time of year.  I usually make a triple batch (then it uses the whole can of pumpkin), and we eat them as snacks or freeze some.  Last week's batch turned out perfectly.  I decided to take a picture and post the recipe for you to enjoy.  I had three pans of muffins, and placed one on the table for the perfect muffin photo shoot.  Things went downhill from there...
It seems that our very tall, usually well-behaved,yellow lab Mandie loves pumpkin.  While I was in the shower, she ate all but two of the remaining muffins.  SHE ATE 13 MUFFINS!  She got all of the muffins on the table and then went to the kitchen counter for the rest.  It is ironic that the only other "Mandie ate our food off the counter" story involved two pumpkin pies last year in December.  This dog apparently LOVES pumpkin.  Regardless of the disaster, I decided to share the recipe and a picture. 

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins

(makes 1 dozen med. sized muffins)

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 c. raisins (opt.)
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. canned pumpkin (or triple the recipe and use the whole can of pumpkin)
1/4 c. oil

2 1/2 t. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.  Beat egg, milk, pumpkin and oil in smaller bowl.  Pour pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.  Sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon mixture and bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees until nicely browned.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October Roundup

Yesterday I saw Katie the Scrapbook Lady's idea to "roundup" each month's memories on the last day of the month.  I loved how easy it would be to keep track of the year in a month-by-month system.  The timing seemed good, so here is my October Roundup.

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
I am reading the book "Becoming a Woman of Influence: Making a Lasting Impact on Others" by Carol Kent, with my Bible study goup.
I enjoy a subscription to Creating Keepsakes magazine and read it the day it arrives.
I also love life:beautiful, a newer magazine for Christian women, which is published by a friend of mine from college.

What movies, television shows, plays, etc. did I watch this month?
The most memorable of this catagory--Byron and I went to see the musical "Wicked" at the Des Moines Civic Center on the 15th.  I loved it so much, but I regretted that my 15-year-old-drama-and-music-loving-daughter didn't get to see it.  In fact, I regretted it so much that I bought tickets to go see it with my two girls in Kansas City in December.
Also saw the musical show SIX in Branson--a family of brothers who sing a cappella in 6 part harmony. 

What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?
Byron and I went on our first trip to Branson, MO this month.  We are natives of Missouri, but our good Iowa friends had to get us there for the first time.  We had a great time!  Thank you, friends, for inviting us!

Our family spent a lot of time at high school football games.  My oldest son is a running back and oldest daughter is a manager for the team.  Monday and Friday nights were booked with football.  It's a fun time, because you get to squeeze into the bleachers with all your neighbors and friends!  Our team has enjoyed it's best record ever this season (9-1), so we aren't done playing yet. 
Go Ballard!

My oldest daughter and a friend had a joint birthday party last weekend.  We rented out a rollerskating rink for 2 hours and had a blast. Definitely need to do it again, it was so much fun!

We added another pet to our household.  My youngest daughter's turtle came to live inside in a tank.  He is fun to watch and a great conversation piece.  We made a great memory by driving halfway to Missouri to meet grandpa, who had the turtle in a box marked "Iowa or bust".  (Turtle is adopted from the Missouri cousins...more about that story in a later post.)

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
October is a big birthday month for my family--2 of my kids have October birthdays, as well as myself.  We gave P90x to my son who turned 11 (he is obsessed with fitness right now).  I received some nice gifts from my family for my birthday, including some new cds I'd been wanting and the 70th anniversary dvd of "The Wizard of Oz."  We gave our oldest daughter a pair of rainboots and a sweater, plus some cash for an upcoming shopping trip to Mall of America. 

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
October was a GREAT month for special purchases:  vintage red gumball machine, antique BINGO game, and a pair of polkadot rainboots top my list.  They might be my favorite purchases of the year!

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
The first thing that comes to mind is how to prevent my family members from getting H1N1.
Also, because it's my birthday month--yearly exam/mammogram.  We've got to take care of ourselves, gals!

What were my accomplishments this month?
Starting this blog is my favorite accomplishment of the month.
I painted a door in my mudroom with chalkboard paint--love it!

What were my disappointments this month?
The weather has prevented us from having any bonfires this month.  October is usually a month with several gatherings around a fire. It went on record as the third coldest and fourth wettest October. I have a supply of hotdogs, buns, and goodies for s'mores waiting for a nice weekend--I hope November comes through for me!

Anything else noteworthy to include?
A highlight of October was gathering in our church's new addition for the first time.  It was amazing to join approx. 1200 others in worship and song. (That was for the 9:00 service.  The 11:00 had almost as many people.) My life is richly blessed because of Cornerstone Church and it's people, but especially because of the God we serve who makes it all possible.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Too Late for Freedom

If you have been to my house in the summer, you have likely seen monarchs on my kitchen counter in one or more stages of the life cycle.  We have hatched many monarchs in our kitchen for the past 10 years.  We've witnessed the caterpillar hatching from the tiny egg, the making of the bright green chrysalis, and the hatching of the beautiful butterfly many times; but we have never ceased to be amazed by God's creativity with this creature.
Each time we've hatched a butterfly, we have released it outside the same day.  This year has been different.  In early October our weather turned cold--too cold for butterflies to survive.  We had four caterpillars left to hatch and weren't sure what we should do with them.  The butterfly specialist at Iowa State University's Rieman Gardens encouraged us to keep them in our home to enjoy for their short life, rather than send them outside to certain death.  We were able to release two of the monarchs during a stretch of warm days in mid-October.  We are hoping that they made tracks to Mexico and made it far enough south to escape the cold temperatures that came within a few days. The butterfly pictured here is the last one of the four.  He will likely die on our kitchen table.  He spends all day on the window screen, apparently longing to do what God intended him to do.  We would love to see him fly away, but he was born too late for freedom.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


If you live in Huxley and happened to put this lovely treasure out with your trash this morning, then you have brought me much delight

I have been on the lookout for a vintage bicycle for several years.  How wonderful that one turned up a few blocks from my house at the curb with someone's trash.  A BIG thank you to my friend, Lisa, who gave me the head's up!  She told me where she saw it, and I left my lunch on the counter, grabbed my keys, and jumped in the van.  Let me tell ya...she didn't have to say it twice!  I was already at the end of my driveway when she said that I should go look at it soon, before the trash truck picked it up.  I snagged this beauty and had it loaded in my van within minutes of her phone call.
I plan to plant flowers in the basket next spring and find THE PERFECT SPOT in my yard for it.  Just think...I can move it around whenever I want--its a portable garden sculpture!  Oh happy day!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Goals and Birthdays

Today is my birthday. One of my goals for 2009 was to start my own blog. Since 2009 is almost over, I decided that today would be a good day to begin this new endeavor. Beginning a blog on my birthday will make it memorable and give me a sense of accomplishment. I look forward to the new things I'll be required to learn, the preserving of memories it will allow, and the outlet for writing that it will provide. However, since it's past my bedtime...(yawn)...I'm going to go to bed. And what a sense of satisfaction I'll feel as my head hits the pillow. : )