Hopeful Thoughts

Christmas Decorations!

This is our first year of marriage to live in a house. Our apartment was so small that we could only put up a little 4 foot tree, and it was always in some awkward place and in the way. Not to mention, no one could enjoy it but us. We hardly ever had people over simply because our space was so cramped.

This year we have room for a full size tree! I went to Target and bought a 7 foot artificial Cashmere Pine. It’s placed right in front of the window so, not only us and our guests can enjoy it, but also those driving by can see the glow in our window!I picked our ornaments to match our pretty new curtains, and Ryan helped me pick out the tree skirt to coordinate as well. We spent a lot of time searching for the perfect topper. I wanted silver wire and lights. We found lights, and we found silver wire, but we couldn’t find the two together, so I settled for just silver and we moved on to search for the perfect wreath to hang over our fireplace. We found it at Michael’s, who also turned out to have our perfect tree topper! Now I have to return one, but our tree is perfect!

It was a special treat this year to have Ryan’s Mom and Grandmother join us for Thanksgiving dinner. They hung around on Friday long enough to help us string the lights and hang the ornaments. Thanks!



Oh, and did I mention we were distracted on our shopping trip by a little something to use year round?


A Recent Right of Passage: Brunswick Stew

This post goes out to all the young women who loved her mother’s and grandmother’s cooking, but was always frustrated when no one could pass down an actual recipe. I’m here to encourage you that you CAN recreate your favorite dishes with just a list of ingredients. It takes time, planning, patience, and lots of taste testing, but it can be done.

Here’s the list my mom gave me:

  • One 3 lb whole chicken (pre-cooked either in a crock pot or pressure cooker, then freeze with its stock)
  • 2-2.5 lbs chuck roast (also pre-cooked and frozen in it’s own stock)
  • “Maybe” 2 gallons worth of canned whole tomatoes (this goes in pot first with the frozen meat)
  • ketchup
  • sugar
  • water
  • red and black pepper
  • potatoes (also cooked, but not frozen)
  • frozen butter beans
  • frozen corn


Here’s what I did:

I started by pre-cooking my meats in the crock pot early in the week. I only used about a pound of beef roast and a small fryer chicken. I began putting the soup together at about 9:30 AM. The frozen meat went into the stock pot with 3 24 ounce cans of tomatoes. I couldn’t find whole tomatoes at my store, so I bought some diced and some crushed. While the stock melted away in the big pot, I boiled my potatoes (about 3 pounds).


At this point, I began adding seasonings. I added salt, black pepper, red pepper, and 4 tablespoons of sugar. I don’t actually know how much salt and pepper I added. Once it was hot, I started tasting it, and I added more of whatever was needed. My mom always used dried whole hot red peppers. She would add them whole and just make sure not to eat them later! I didn’t have any whole one, but I did have some that used to be whole. Years in my pantry left them in pretty rough shape, so I sent them through the food processor and whirled them to fine bits and mixed in the whole bit. It was probably 2-3 teaspoons. But, once again, taste. My pepper was old, so I’m sure it had lost a lot of spice. Cayenne would have worked fine as well, but since I had this, I used it!


About this time, my potatoes were done, so I drained and peeled them and added them to the pot. I wasn’t worried about chunks, because this soup cooks so long that they completely break done anyway.

The soup was getting pretty hot at this point, so, while the butter beans cooked, I started tasting it. Since it wasn’t acidic enough, I added the last can of tomatoes and started adding catsup. I wound up using an entire medium size bottle by the time all was said and done. It still wasn’t quite right, so I went through my pantry and fridge for any other tomato products I might have. I found an 8 ounce can of tomato sauce and some tomato paste. I added the sauce and about 3 tablespoons of the paste. I also ended up added another 2 TBs of sugar.

At some point I decided I didn’t have enough potatoes, so I cooked and added 2 more large ones. Since I added these late in cooking, I ended up with a few more chunks. I like this effect, so it was a good thing.

I cooked two bags of frozen butter beans (on the stove top) and two of frozen corn (in the microwave). I didn’t realize how long the butter beans would take, or I would have cooked them a lot sooner. When they were done, I mashed them in the cooking liquid and added the whole thing to the pot. The corn can be added at any time, but I added it at the very end because I was sharing stew with a friend who is allergic to corn. So, I got the flavor I wanted, scooped out her portion, and then added the corn. I cooked it for another 30 minutes or so after adding the corn so the cooking liquid cook cook off a bit. It’s important to use the cooking liquids so you don’t lose all that flavor!


You may notice that, even though it’s in the list, I never actually added any clean water. Water added has to cook out, so I only added cooking liquid from the veggies. This saves some time. I finally had everything off the stove and into freezer containers by 2:30. Total time: 5 hours (not including the pre-cooking).


If I was going to do it again, I would have added one more bag of butter beans, but leave them whole for a bit more texture.

All in all, this stew was a success.

Good luck turning your lists into dishes!!

Breaking the Silence

I know, I know! I haven’t posted in WEEKS! Sorry for those of you that were worried I had completely forgotten about blog land. I’ve been busy! I’m subbing 2-3 days per week, working hard on Christmas presents, spending lots of time in the kitchen, and continuing to finish up details on the decor in the house.

Here’s a sneak peek of all the craft projects that I have been doing. Better pictures will have to wait until after Christmas when the gifts have been given!


I’ve also been working on a pair of socks for myself. I have one down and one to go!