Wednesday, December 31, 2014

God Grant Me The Serenity....

It has been a hell of a year.  It started out great, finished up mediocre, with the middle being a bit to be desired.  Is that vague or cryptic enough for you??? Lol!

To put it in a nutshell, I am not going to miss 2014.  There was family drama, health scares, continued health concerns, and a heaping amount of stress.

Throughout all the ups and downs, I learned a lot about people in my life.  I also learned I am stronger than I ever thought.  The strength I relied a lot upon is my faith.  My spiritual life is very important to me.  My favorite prayer is the Serenity Prayer.  I have always loved it and I repeated it over and over this year.

I was also reminded that during the darkest moments there is always light.  It may be a bit dim at times, but it is there.  With light comes hope, and with hope the difficult becomes tolerable.

My wish for 2015 is happiness, health and hope for good things to come!  I leave you with these words to find peace or comfort:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Happy New Year !

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Learning Scarf

I have been knitting for about two years now.  My very first project was the ruffle scarf with the Sashay yarn from Red Heart.  Now technically it wasn't true knitting, but it enabled me to get comfortable with working two needles and binding off.

Then I moved on to a wash cloth.  I have made a ton of these.  While making this cute little project, I discovered I am a very tight tense knitter.  Knitting is supposed to be relaxing, but I would get so nervous about making a mistake that I was too tense. 

After wash cloth number ten, I think I loosened up a bit ;)  My most current project was a scarf for my youngest. He was with me at JoAnn Fabrics and picked out a blue variegated yarn in a bulky weight.  If you asked me two years ago what bulky weight meant, I would have told you a few pounds around my  After a phone call with a friend, I started to understand the different weights of yarn and what they would be used for.

I originally set out to make him a ribbed scarf.  Unfortunately, I can not knit and purl in the same row.  I get so mixed up and the yarn winds up looking very very strange.  So I went back to my old basic knit stitch and completed the project.

So why was this a learning scarf?  Well, I learned to join two balls of yarn, and I learned to weave in my tails.  It doesn't sound like much, but it was.  I feel very accomplished and proud. 

My next learning scarf will be for my older son.  He picked out a black and red striped yarn, which I will practice my purling on.  (I really don't like to purl!)  I will do a basic stockinette stitch and see how it turns out.

I hope you take this little bit of inspiration and apply it to your life.  Teach yourself something new, try something out of your comfort zone, and enjoy it!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cookie Decorating Time!

Do you like to frost cut-outs?  Do you not have time for royal icing and flooding??  Want a great tip?  Let the kids do it!

If I am making cookies for a gift or to take to a party, I spend the time to make royal icing and flood the cookies.  This is time consuming and can be a process, depending on how elaborate the decorations get.  However for sugar cookies for family, I let the kids help.  They are so excited to unleash their creativity, and it's one less task for me.

Here's how I set it up.  I take a can of vanilla frosting, add 1/8 tsp. of an extract (I used Almond but cinnamon, anise, vanilla, lemon are all yummy), divide it up, and color with food dye.  Then I get out all my sprinkles, sugars, little candies, chocolate chips, etc.  I set it up on the table and let them loose.

Have fun, let the kids have fun, and enjoy the time together! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gingerbread Men Cookie Recipe

Christmas is a week away!  Are you ready?  I finished my cookies today, shopping is done, so I could say I am.  Well except for last minute things, of course.

I spent yesterday making dough and today baking it off.  I like to do my cut-outs this way.  The dough has ample time to refrigerate, and I don't stress trying to carve out three hours to make cookies.  I can prep the dough in about 20 minutes or so, and spend 30 minutes the next day to bake.

Onto the cookies.  I don't like a crispy cookie.  I like my chocolate chip cookies ooey and gooey.  I like my cut-outs tender, and I definitely like my gingerbread with a soft texture.  The tricky part about this is a getting a dough firm enough to hold up to cutting out and decorating without falling apart, yet maintaining a soft texture.

This recipe is perfect!  It is a softer dough, so the refrigeration part of the dough is key. I keep refrigerating my scraps in between baking as well.  The colder the dough the easier it is to roll and cut.  Also keeping the dough cold will help the cookies to maintain their shape when baking.

I cut out my gingerbread into little men.  These will be going to school with Adam along with sugar cookies for decorating on Monday with his class.  However, feel free to cut your dough into other shapes like trees, stars, stockings, etc.

Once the cookies are cooled completely, decorate any which way you desire.  Grab a can of frosting, candies, sprinkles, and let the kids go crazy. 

I used a 4 inch cutter for the first batch and it yielded about 20 cookies.  The second batch I used a 3 inch cutter and it yielded 3 dozen.

recipe (Adapted from Taste of Home)

1/2 c. softened butter
3/4 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. molasses
1 egg
2 tbsp. water or milk
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add molasses, water or milk, and egg.  Mix until combined.

In a large bowl, sift together all your dry ingredients and spices.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture.  Once combined, form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  On a well floured surface roll the dough to about 1/4 " thick.  Cut in desired shape(s).  Place onto a greased cookie sheet or parchment lined sheet about 2 inches apart.  Reroll scraps and repeat.

 Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.  Allow to cool on pan for two minutes, and finish cooling on a rack.

Freeze undecorated for 3 months.  Decorate as desired and store in an airtight container for a week or so.