Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween with a Special Cake

We had a great Halloween and for our Halloween party today, we made a special treat--A Kitty Litter Cake!!
My friend, Connie, sent me an email with pictures of gross cakes for Halloween and my husband and I laughed over this idea! We looked up how to make it online. I made a cake for his work potluck/Halloween party and then made another one for our family party.


The cake is delicious and looks super-realistic, don't you think? Although some people were a little afraid to try it. Others liked it so much they asked for the recipe!
If you'd like to make one, click here for the details.
I should mention that you can really use just about any kind of cake mix you want as long as you cover the top with the vanilla cookie crumbs. I like yellow cake, so I made our family one with yellow cake and spice cake.

Hope you had a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The House Where Nancy Lived


On Labor Day this year, we had the privilege of visiting the 100 year old home where my mother-in-law, Nancy Christensen lived in during her teen years.


I have always wanted to go inside this house and the owners gave tours on Labor Day. I took a bunch of pictures and videos of Nancy telling us stories about the house.


It was a special opportunity and the whole Christensen clan went over together to travel back in time to when their mother was a teenager, then falling in love (still a teenager--19!) getting married and having a magical reception at this house.
Nancy said they used to slide down this banister or walk down the stairs like they were in a wedding.

The house was full of antiques and wonderful old-time decorations. There were so many fine details like this fireplace.
And check out this awesome lamp built into the stair railing.


My girls loved looking around and listening to Grandma tell stories.

Can I have this bathtub please?They even had the original deed to the house from when Nancy's family sold it.

Check out that price--house, 80 acres, $29,075.00. Of course that was about 45 years ago but that's pretty amazing!

And here's a pic of two sisters who are still best friends. Nancy and Georgia said they used to sit just like this and talk on summer days.



I love anything that adds nostalgia to my sentimental life so this was a treat to see. Thank you to the Laney family for opening their doors and thanks to Nancy for sharing her memories.

Here's a little more history about this incredible house.
Built in 1909, the two-storey Greek Revival farm house was the showpiece of its day. Located
across the street from the old West Mountain LDS chapel, it currently sits on 80 acres of
farmland, including a 6-acre pond. James McBeth, a native of Iowa, came west as a teamster
bringing supplies on his wagons for the construction of the Trans Continental Railway “with a
rifle in one hand and the reins in the other.” He settled in the Payson area because the winters
were “mild” and feed was plentiful for his stock. He later ran 5,000 sheep and pastured them on
land from West Mountain to Utah Lake. He originally settled on the site in 1876 in a small
home of sand struck brick. He built on the “big house” using the older home at the back as a
kitchen and hired hand quarters. In the 1960's the older home was removed and a kitchen and
family room rebuilt on the back of the home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Over the Top Blog Award

My friend Nichole gave me this award and really made my day. It's so nice when someone gives you a pat on the back. Thanks Nichole, you've been such a great friend to me and an important influence on my writing success. I place high value on your opinion and abilities as spectacular critique member. Everything you juggle in life and the word count you still put out is pretty darn impressive!

I get to answer some fun questions and give you a little peek into my life:

1. Where is your cell phone? On the kitchen counter

2. Your hair? Pulled back away from my face, blonde, just past my shoulder.


3. My mother? Is the most amazing woman I know. I love you Mom!


4. Your father? A cowboy, get back on the horse when you get bucked off, persistent kind of guy that really rubbed off on me. I love you too Dad!


5. Favorite food? Italian preferably from The Brick Oven. Does Dove Dark Chocolate count as a food?


6. Your dream last night? Yikes, I've been having some really weird dreams lately! Last night I dreamed I was in some kind of apartment and there were tons and tons of windows and people were trying to get in and I couldn't get them locked fast enough. Someone was helping me, but I don't know who it was and boy was I glad to wake up! See, told you it was weird!

7. Favorite drink? H2O


8. Your dream/goal? this is definitely the same as Nichole--New York Times Bestseller for sure!


9. What room are you in? The living room


10. Your hobby? Wow, I like to do to many things and want to do lots more--is that good enough. :) Okay, okay--WRITING, READING, crocheting, making cards, sewing, running, singing, writing music, playing with felt, daydreaming, yoga.


11. Your fear?That I won't have enough time on this earth to do everything I want to do


12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? New house on at least 2 1/2 acres of land.


13. Where were you last night? In my bed.


14. Something you aren't. Fake, timid, unsure


15. Muffins? Yeah, but how about a cinnamon roll.


16. Wish list item? Land. Trip to Europe and Hawaii. New windows, more books, bigger garden.


17. Where did you grow up? Rupert, Idaho and loved every minute of it.


18. Last thing you did? Sang to my kids and put them to bed.

19. What are you wearing? Pajamas.


20. Your TV? Downstairs. Off.


21. Your pet? Tigger, our yellow male cat.


22. Your friends? Love 'em!


23. Your life? Is in a good place right now.


24. Your mood? Happy, optimistic.

25. Missing someone? My mom and dad and Sarah.


26. Vehicle? Toyota Sienna minivan

27. Something you're not wearing? socks

28. Your favorite store? the internet so I don't have to go to the store. But if I have too JCPenney.

29. Your favorite color? Purple.


30. When was the last time you laughed? A few minutes ago.

31. Last time you cried? Hmm, about three weeks ago.


32. Your best friend? Sarah


33. One place that I go over and over? downstairs to get something, forget what it was, upstairs, remember, go back downstairs again.


34. One person who e-mails me regularly? My mom, Steve, my writing groups—AuthorsIncognito and NovelThoughts.

35. Favorite place to eat? The Brick Oven or Red Robin--yes, their A-1 Peppercorn burger is the best!


Now for the five I've tagged to receive this award:

Some of my best blogger buddies have already been tagged, but I wanted to tell NovelThoughts how much I appreciate you guys. You are my lifeline in the writing world, when things get shaky I know I can grab on and you'll pull me to safety.

Sarah-- my sister, best friend I can tell anything and she won't get mad (most of the time) and even if she does we're fine 10 seconds later. She gets me and puts up with me and I love her for it.

Stacie--I got to know Stacie at a recent RWA conference and it was so fun to walk into a room and not feel like I was all alone--I had a friend! Thanks for letting me be your buddy.

Priscilla--I worked with Priscilla on the huge Scrapbox giveaway we did and she was so kind and gracious--as well as prompt and efficient! Thanks for making my job easier and for having such a fantastic blog. You rock!

Jenn--My sister-in-law, she's awesome, I love her and I admire her courage in the face of trials, her sweet smile no matter what's going on inside, her sincerity and kindness.

LDS Humor--this blog brightens my day every time I visit it. Go check it out for a smile!

How to Patch Pants Tutorial

If you have children, then chances are you've seen some holes like those pictured below. I think they should put steel in the knees of kids pants so they won't wear out, but since that isn't going to happen anytime soon, I thought I would share some cute ways to patch up those knee-holes.

First you need to trim any loose strings or ragged pieces of material from around the hole.
Prepare your patch. You can use matching fabric, but I decided to do something fun and let my girls pick a cute piece of sturdy cotton to cover the hole in the knee. I cut the material in the shape of a heart.

For boys, you could cut 2 different colors in squares and overlap them on the hole.
* If the hole is really big, I use a square of fabric inside the pants and then a patch on the outside, so when they are sewn together I have a double layer of material to protect those knobby knees!

Next, pin your piece of material or patch over the hole and guide the pantleg onto the sewing machine. Some people actually cut apart the pant to patch it or use iron-on patches. Those methods work great, but this is how I do it.

I used a fun hot pink thread on my daughter's jeans and zigzagged over the patch several times.


It's tricky to be able to sew all the way around the edge of the patch when the pant leg is over the sewing machine. Just go backwards and then as you go forwards again with the sewing machine, angle the material slightly and pull the material in the direction you need to stitch next.

By sewing back and forth several times, I'm able to turn the pantleg enough to stitch all around the patch.

I think these patches turned out really cute and are a lot more fun than the traditional square piece of denim. My girls were so excited to wear their patched pants, because it wasn't really patched to them. It was "decorated!"

As the pioneer motto says, "Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thought for the Day

Our ReMax realtor, Brad Iverson, sold us our home 3 years ago. He keeps in touch by sending us a newsletter filled with stories and great thoughts. I wanted to share one of them with you today.

"This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind...let it be something good."
~ Author Unknown

May you make this day count!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Little Writing Motivation

I attended the Romance Writers of America, Heart of the West Conference in Park City, Utah this past weekend and had a blast.
First of all the drive through Provo Canyon was gorgeous--especially those vivid colors around Bridal Veil Falls

Second, it was a much needed break from my three darling children!
And while I was at the conference I got a great shot of writing motivation in the arm when my work-in-progress won second place in the Inspirational romance category at the conference!


I knew that Wind Song had been selected as a finalist and so I was thrilled to receive that second place certificate.

I gained many great writing tips, met several fabulous authors, agents, an editor, and made new friends.
I'm excited to continue working on this story and I'll let you know when I'm ready to start submitting it so you can cross your fingers for me!
Maybe I'll have to write a little teaser of what my book is about, but right now I've got to put some curlers in my girl's hair!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Winner of the Grand Prize Giveaway-- The Workbox from The Original Scrapbox


Thanks to everyone who entered this fabulous giveaway. Isn't The Original Scrapbox company amazing?!

We had 10 finalists selected from 10 different blogs. Each of those finalists won their choice of either The Ribbon Box or The ScrapMaBob.

Make It and Love It

Vanilla Joy

Auntie Thesis

The Mommy Files

My Organized Chaos

Life As Lou

PriscillaStyles

Cricut Christmas

Capadia Designs

Here are the names of the 10 finalists:

Heidi
Lori
Doreen
Helene
Anita
Meghann
Clare
Becky
Kitty
Juliet

This is so exciting!
The winner of her choice of one--any style or color of The Workbox, thanks to Random.org
is....

True Random Number Generator


5
Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Anita
Congratulations!

Please email me at RachellethewriterATgmail.com with your name, address, and phone number and the color/style of Workbox you would like.
Boy, I bet you're gonna get a whole bunch of new scrapbookin'/craftin' friends over to check this baby out!! Enjoy!

Remember, if you didn't win this incredible prize, you can always visit The Original Scrapbox and order several of their fabulous items and enter the code 100Writes to get $100 off your shipping!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Winner of Rachel Rager's book, By Love or By Sea

I recently participated in another fun book review, this time with new author, Rachel Rager. Click here to see my review.
Everyone who left comments on any of the bloggers reviewing the book were entered to win their very own copy!
Rachel announced the winner on her blog today

The winner of an autographed copy of By Love or By Sea is...

Wendy Richards!

Enjoy!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

And the Winner of a Ribbon Box or ScrapMaBob Is...


Wow! What an amazing contest! I've never seen so many entries. You all did great!
After slogging through and double-checking over 1,000 entries, I went to Random.org and let them be choosy!

The winner is now a finalist in the Grand Prize Drawing of a Workbox from The Original Scrapbox!
Each of the 10 blogs involved with this contest picked a winner/finalist.

On October 12, 2009, I will hold a drawing using Random.org to select one winner from the 10 entries to win The Workbox!

Okay, okay, I'll tell you the winner now....

Juliet! She said:
"I love this. It's almost like a dream come true. I want this badly.I love the EZ view, the design is really nice and modern."


I didn't hear back from Juliet, so I had to pick a new winner--

lucky you--Deanna Poulsen!
She said "I LOVED the big box...black beadboard...I think I'd actually use it for sewing...I have such a gigantic stash of fabric and notions and buttons coming out my ears!!! Awesome opportunity...thanks!"

If I don't hear back from Deanna by Friday, October 16, 2009 a new winner will be selected.

Congratulations! You get to choose either The Ribbon Box or The ScrapMaBob as your prize and you are now entered into the Workbox Giveaway Final!


Please email me at RachellethewriterAT gmail.com with your full name, address, phone number and your choice of ONE prize by Wednesday, October 14, 2009 to claim your prize.

Thanks to everyone who entered! I'm excited to see you around--that's a hint--visit again because there are more incredible contests, announcements, and all kinds of wonderful things in the works here at Rachelle's Writing Spot!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Last Day to Enter to Win a Workbox from The Original Scrapbox

This Contest is Closed

Click HERE to find out how to enter and your entry comments need to be on the September 28th post (click link above). Don't enter on this post--it is just a reminder. Thanks!

Remember to stop by the other 9 blogs participating in this huge giveaway!

Make It and Love It


Vanilla Joy


Auntie Thesis


The Mommy Files


My Organized Chaos

Life As Lou


PriscillaStyles


Cricut Christmas


Capadia Designs

By Love or By Sea Book Review

I'm excited to add another book review to Rachelle's Book Club!
By Love or By Sea written by Rachel Rager

Back Cover Blurb:
ALice Lind Frank never forgot the boy she loved when she was just six years old, even after he was lost at sea. Now a young woman, Alice has found happiness in living and working with her grandparents, and in the affection of Clarence Hielott, the wealthy shipyard owner who intends to make Alice his bride.

When a ragged sailor appears in town, Alice is reminded of the young boy who once held her heart. Upon learning that the sailor is in fact her childhood love, Caleb, she finds herself falling for him again ....

Action, adventure, and most of all, romance, make By Love or By Sea a thrilling and emotional love story you won't soon forget.

Rachelle's Review:
Isn't the cover beautiful? I love it when the cover lends to the imagination factor. I also am happy when I find a clean romance. Rachel infuses passion into her story, but leaves it clean so you can read it without blushing. If you like to read romances, you'll enjoy By Love or By Sea with its charming story.

My Nitpicks: Dialogue is a tricky part of writing. A general rule of thumb is to never attach an adverb (most words ending in -ly) to a dialogue tag. The main reason for this, is it's redundant. Stick to "said" as your main dialogue tag and show me the rest.

Rachel's done a great job of crafting a story with good romantic arc, intrigue, and some nice kissing scenes, too!

Would you like to win a free copy of this book? Leave a comment on my review, or become a follower of Rachel's blog, you'll be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of the book. See my sidebar for a list of other reviewers. You can comment on more than one review and become a follower and be entered multiple times.

Rachel agreed to give me an author interview--thanks Rachel!

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m the mother of three beautiful young girls. My husband and I have been married for eight and half years. I love to sing and have a degree in vocal performance for opera. I published By Love or By Sea in April 2009 but have seven stories that are complete and five works in progress! I love to read any good, clean romance book, ride my bike, go on picnics with my family, write, sing and bake! (Not usually at the same time, of course!)

Tell us how you came up with the idea for this book?
I was writing my second story and was in the shower one day when I came up with the idea for By Love or By Sea. (By Love or By Sea is the third story I wrote. The first and second are prequels to By Love or By Sea.)I wrote down some notes and when I was done with the one I was working on, I began By Love or By Sea. It wasn’t until I was partway done that I decided to use piracy. Of course, then I sat in front of the computer every day for an entire month trying to figure out a way to solve the problem I’d created! All lot of research came into play!

I guess I should fess up to one little secret. Caleb Newman was inspired by my little brother. Though my brother is quite different than Caleb, he has a similar build and attitude. My brother once dropped a plant in his bedroom, spilling soil all over the carpet while he was talking on the phone to a girl he didn’t particularly care for. And, not wanting my mother to hang him for making a mess on the carpet, but not knowing how to get off the phone with the girl, he decided to vacuum up the mess while on the phone! That made me laugh so hard and it just felt like something Caleb would do (if he lived in today’s world!) So, there you have it!


Any hints as to what you're working on next?
I’m polishing up one with a working title of A Dress to the Heart. Ivy Lewis is both provider and nurturer for her seven younger siblings. Plain and poor, she works as an apprentice to a seamstress, yearning for scholastic knowledge and finding her true love. Her social standing places her as an outcast among many, namely the arrogant Eleanora Key, who can’t seem to torture Ivy enough. And like Miss Key, Ivy has her eye set on Lord Sterling Bennett; the contrast lying in that she can never hope to capture his attention, let alone aspire to gain his admiration.

When Ivy meets a mysterious man on the road, Mr. Alan, her entire world shifts. She is no longer invisible to the world. Amid trying to care for her ill mother and her siblings, she finds herself kidnapped, courted by two wealthy men, and demoralized by Eleanora Key. Through it all, she learns her worth as a woman and the importance of maintaining the values she’s always believed in. But she must discover the secrets of Mr. Alan before it is too late.

I’m also doing some rewrites on The Tiger, Unleashed, and A Cold Heart which is a historical romance based at Platte Bridge Station just outside of Casper, Wyoming. I’m also considering writing a book about Betsy Winter’s journey. I have heard so many things about her. Everyone just loves her! So, I’m thinking about that. I have probably a dozen stories in my head and no time to put them on paper. So I hope that you will see many more books from me in the future!


What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! This is not an easy thing to do. If you truly want to be an author, keep at it. Read all that you can and learn from it. If you write in a certain genre, read all about that genre and lots of stories that are in that genre. Then use what you learn in your writing. Talk with other authors. Get a support system and don’t give up! Don’t let rejection get you down. And make sure you make it fun!

Any other fun tidbits?
I LOVE office supplies! I don’t really have any need for most of them, but I love new office supplies! I think paper clips and staples are fascinating and I love new notebooks and note pads!

I also like to eat cake straight out of the pan with a fork. It just tastes better!


*Rachel, thanks so much! It was fun to hear more about you. I love office supplies,too! You can never have too many colorful and cute notebooks, right?


Rachel's website

Rachel's blog

This book can be purchased at Amazon.com or Cedar Fort, Inc.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Love ArtsCow!

ArtsCow? What is this? When I first heard the name I laughed and then I found out about this cool company and cheered!

I have been behind on my scrapbooking for years and have been so discouraged that I just make cards instead of scrapbook! Now, thanks to ArtsCow, I'm a new woman free from the shackles of scrapbooking-to-do lists (sort of!)

ARTSCOW has a wonderful program for making hardbound photo books. I've completed three and helped my mom make another and we have received all of them and loved them!

I'm telling you about this because if you click on my referral link here then ArtsCow thanks me with referral awards--you can do the same upon signing up.

When you sign up, you'll enjoy 1200 free prints credits & 3 8"x8" photo books & other great photo gifts credits *. The little * is because you have to pay shipping.

This company is based in Hong Kong and they ship via airmail. At first this worried me, but I can say now that I am completely satisfied with my purchases.
I got my first book for free and only paid $7.99 shipping. Can you believe a 20 page, full color, hardbound photo book for only $7.99?
I also just finished a 60 page photo book for my baby and ordered it with a coupon special for only $18.99 total!

They have different coupons and offers going on all the time so that I'm planning on never having to pay full price for any photo book. The next project I'm going to start is a 12X12 photo book for our family.

I'm also very pleased with their customer service.

When you get emails and notifications from them, you'll notice some funny phrasing/wording, I read some reviews that people were turned off because of this. This occurs because the people typing up the notes are using English as a second language. Remember they are in Hong Kong. I've sent two emails with questions and received my answer within 48 hours. I am very pleased with their prompt customer service.

I haven't ordered any prints yet, but as soon as I do I'll let you know. My sister-in-law has ordered from them and says they are great quality. A lot of people order prints to do their scrapbook with and I've seen good reviews on those.

ArtsCow also just got a brand new huge printer so that everything they print is super quality.
So check out ArtsCow, you can make photo books, print pictures--even awesome canvas prints, even make a deck of cards, purse, blanket, or umbrella with your picture on it!

Hope you enjoy this!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me for Women by Richard Paul Evans

Have you heard of this book? Heard of Richard Paul Evans--author of The Christmas Box? Okay, I hear those bells ringing now, you've heard of this mega-author of inspirational fiction, but did you know he wrote nonfiction as well?


This is an incredible book that I'd like to recommend to everyone. If you're not a woman, you can read the same 5 lessons in this book:Here's the blurb from Amazon.com
Product Description
Easy to understand and simple to apply, The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me for Women is one of the most powerful books ever written about money and essential reading for any woman today.

When Richard Paul Evans was twelve years old, his father fell and broke both of his legs. With no income and no insurance, the Evans family was destitute. At this time a multimillionaire taught young Evans the five secrets to wealth. Evans used those five secrets not only to change his life but that of thousands of others when he wrote The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth. An international bestseller, this essential book interweaves those influential lessons with personal stories from everyday people. Evans explains that money should not be the preoccupation of our lives, but instead our focus should be on the principles that free us to concentrate on God, family, and relationships -- life's true riches.

Now Evans has taken years of personal research and coaching to create the perfect money book for women who want a better life. With his classic, motivational voice, Evans offers lessons that are easy to understand and simple to follow. Powerful, proven, and life changing, The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me for Women may be one of the most important books you will ever read.

Rachelle's Review:

This book is a quick read and that's a big plus since I've slogged through quite a few finance type books (and some I didn't finish). Richard outlines the steps to financial freedom in easy to understand terms with plenty of interesting examples.

He writes in such a way that I felt like I was listening to a motivational speaker (which he is) while reading. I felt so encouraged about the things that my husband and I are trying to do right with our finances and supported on those things that we can improve on.


My nitpicks: I would’ve liked to see more new information in this book, instead of mostly a repeat of the first book, The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me about Life and Wealth, (which I also own) but this is a minor nitpick since repetition is the greatest teacher.


My Favorites: My favorite lesson is Winning in the Margins, where Richard teaches you how to look for new ways to increase your income by thinking outside of the box and looking for opportunities instead of getting stuck in a rut. I love the stories he shares in the book of people who applied Winning in the Margins to add to their wealth.


*Richard encourages his readers to share the 5 Lessons with someone else within 48 hours of reading the book. Okay, I'm a few hours late, but I hope this review will encourage you to pick up the 5 Lessons and revolutionize your financial life!


I was thrilled to be able to meet Richard at the League of Utah Writer's Conference in Midway, Utah a couple weeks ago. Here's a picture of me with this incredible author! Richard is such an inspiring person, so willing to share his knowledge and support others in their quest to realize their own dreams. Thanks Richard!

Visit The5lessons.com to learn more about this book and get on the pathway to building your own wealth.


About the Author
RICHARD PAUL EVANS is the #1 best-selling author of The Christmas Box. His thirteen novels have each appeared on the New York Times bestseller list; there are more than thirteen million copies of his books in print. His books have been translated into more than 22 languages and several have been international best sellers. He is the winner of the 1998 American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards for his children's books, and the 2005 Romantic Times Best Women Novel of the Year Award. Evans received the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award for his work helping abused children. He is the founder and CEO of BookWise, an international direct sales business. Evans lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children.


Friday, October 2, 2009

2 Reasons to Mop the Floor

I think that something in the universe knows that my floor doesn't get mopped nearly enough, so I had a little extra motivation to get it done. The fates in charge of floor-mopping thought it would be fun to play a few tricks on me.

It's okay you can laugh.

My little sister blamed it on my hair color. I'm sure you know how the first picture happened, but it really wasn't a blonde moment. We ran out of dishwasher detergent and this has happened before. I just use a couple tablespoons of baking soda and a squirt of dish soap. Only this time, I was on the phone and trying to keep Dawson out of the dishwasher and basically doing too many things at once....and well I squirted the dish soap a little too much and I looked at it and thought, "Hmmm, it will probably be okay."

As you can see by the picture, it was a little too much soap, but my floor is really clean now!

I just got out the mop and used all the soap suds to my advantage.

This second picture did not create such happy feelings. I was doing the laundry and of course carrying my baby in one arm and the laundry basket in the other. I'm still not sure how I did this, but as I walked toward my washer, the basket bumped into my shelf of neatly stacked rows of canned goods.

I heard a loud noise like breaking glass as I walked past and turned around slowly. It was a jar of Elderberry syrup--do you think I could have picked anything stickier?

The moral of this post is, Go mop your floor before the floor-mopping fates strike again!
I hope you don't think this means I'm messy--I mean my floors are always clean enough to eat off of--at least that's what 11 month old Dawson thinks!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I have a new Blog Button

Yahoo!
Did you see my cute button on my sidebar? Yes! Rachelle's Writing Spot now has a darling button that you can take with you wherever you'd like (hint, hint!)Thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law, Necia, for helping me to create it. Go visit my brother's blog, Jolley Trails, and tell them how cool they are, from me.

Over the past couple years of blogging, I've learned that there is a lot to learn!! Google is my best friend which then sends me to new best friends--bloggers like you who put up great tutorials of how to do stuff on your blog.

I've been wanting a blogger button for some time and after much trial and error figured it all out, complete with the lovely scrollbox below which you can copy and paste the text inside--use Ctrl C to copy and Ctrl V to paste it into your sidebar.

I couldn't have done this without the help of Jenieshell's Design Challenge she has step by step instructions on how to install a blog button here and how to make a scroll box here.
One note that I'd add is if you use her text converter linked to another website for the scroll box, you can't convert your whole text.

If you'd like to grab my button to add to your sidebar, but you're not sure how. My friend, Ashley at Make It And Love It has a great tutorial to help.

For a list of other great tutorials from Jenieshell, click here.

Thanks everyone for your help!! Now, go grab my button.

Delicious Sweet Meat Squash Soup

This is a Sweet Meat Squash that I grew in my garden this summer. It's about the same diameter of a basketball--quite a bit of squash in there! There's about 4 more that size still in my garden.
I tasted a delicious squash soup last year made with butternut and so I googled it and found the following recipe and since sweet meat can be substituted, (a lot of fleshy orange squashes can be interchanged in recipes) I used the recipe below. Click here to visit the web page where I found it.

The flavors of this soup were divine! I love the extra creamy texture that you get by blending the ingredients. I think it might've tasted better the second day--or else I was really hungry! My one year old baby gobbled up his first bowl and wanted more.

*A bit of advice from my kitchen--I didn't have some of the uncommon ingredients listed below, (coriander, cheese, pumpkin seeds, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes,) and so I left them out and the soup was still delicious.

Don't get frightened off by the length of the recipe, this soup is really easy to make! I froze my leftover roasted squash and I'm going to either make the soup again or try it in another recipe.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diced onion
  • 1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced celery
  • 1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced carrot
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted coriander, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash recipe
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, optional

To serve:

  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, optional
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds, optional

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and cinnamon stick and saute until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and the coriander, if using, and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)

Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the half-and-half, if using. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm until service.

To serve:

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish evenly, with the cheese and pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Roasted Winter Squash:

  • About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
  • Gray salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses
  • 2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter ceases to foam and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, sugar, vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered), molasses and toasted spice rub. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny.

Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until smooth. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Serving suggestions: Serve the puree on its own as a side dish for roast chicken, turkey, or pork; stir into polenta just before the end of cooking; use as a stuffing for ravioli; make into a soup; or use to flavor pastina. Or omit the sage, season with ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg to taste, and use as a substitute for canned pumpkin in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe.

Variation for Smoky Butternut Squash: Cook the prepared squash on a baking sheet in a covered grill with soaked chips to give a slightly smoky taste. Substitute in any of the recipes that call for roasted squash. If cooking kabocha, acorn, or other difficult-to-peel squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and rub the insides and cut edges with the vinegar/molasses mixture. Place on a baking sheet, cut sides up, and roast at 400 degrees F until tender. Scoop out and puree.

Yield: about 2 cups puree

I didn't do the spice rub, except for pull out a few ingredients I already had and added it to the mixture I drizzled over the squash.

Toasted Spice Rub:

  • 1/4 cup fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup (1-ounce) pure California chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes, and toss, toss, toss, always under the fan. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool.

Put mixture into a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, pepper, and chili flakes. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.

Chef's notes: Toasting freshens spices, releases their oils, and makes them more fragrant, as well as adding a new dimension of flavor.

Taste your chili powder before adding and, if spicy and hot, cut back the amount. California chilies are almost sweet, not hot.

Yield: about 1 cup

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