We had a wonderfully busy summer!

Here is a little run down of our summer. I’m sure you were all equally as busy!

*Family reunion

*Childhood church reunion

*Vacation Bible School

*Minor home repairs-required a little painting

*Teenager working

*Teenager volunteering

*Teenager getting braces

*Teenager taking and passing driver’s test

*Quick Vacation to New Orleans

*Theater camp + performances

*Birthday celebrations

*Regular church activities + a few extras while our pastor was on sabbatical  (mostly my husband’s duties)

*Regular chorus activities

*Back to school shopping in town and out of town

*Band camp

*Garage sale x 2

*A couple of fun activities thrown in there when possible-lunches, pool days, etc.

The biggest activity of our summer, however, was painting our kitchen-walls and cabinets! Since our summer was so crazy busy, we decided to tackle the painting in stages. We thought having several different small messes would be better than having one gigantic mess! I am so glad we did it this way! You will have to forgive me-I failed to take “before” pictures. I’m really kicking myself over it, too. I kinda thought…I take pictures all the time in the kitchen. Surely I can use some of those. Well, mostly I had pictures of food in the kitchen. These photos from Thanksgiving a couple of years ago were the best I could find. You can read about the Thanksgiving experience here. (Scroll to the bottom of that link for all the other links.)

Our kitchen was red with brown cabinets.

chef

We had a few red and green accents around the room.

sharpening the knife

Cream colored counter tops…

birdbath

trim…

tackling the bird

and floor

crumble the cornbread

all had to stay. There was just not the money to do a big overhaul.

iphone hazard

Several years ago there was a program on HGTV called Decorating Cents where they did room makeovers for $500. I loved that show! Anyway, our budget was not even $500! There was money for paint and that was about it!

I was so excited to get started, I only took one picture during the project.

kilz

At least there was one!

The red walls got a coat of Kilz. That stuff is messy and stinky!

After the primer dried we put the cream-colored paint on the walls. At first, I had my doubts. I thought maybe after a second coat I would love it. I wanted to cry after the second coat. It was supposed to match the trim but it didn’t. My sweet hubby, knowing I would not be happy the way it was, took me to get paint that matched. Then he helped me repaint the walls. (We also painted the back hallway.) We only had to give it one coat but barely had enough of the color-matched paint. Lesson learned! Get a sample!

The cabinets got sanded, painted with Kilz, then two coats of paint. After all the cabinets were painted, we drilled holes for new pulls and knobs. The pulls came black. The knobs were 87¢ wooden knobs I spray painted black. I also spray painted and reused the hinges.

Without further ado…our gray kitchen!

gray and red kitchen

I love it!

I think my fancy red gel pro mats I got for Mother’s Day look great with the gray cabinets!

When choosing the cabinet color, I thought about the cream on the cabinets for a while. With the cream floor and cream counters, that just didn’t seem like the way to go.

Since we were on a shoestring budget, and I had already taken a chunk out of it for the extra wall paint, I had to use what I had on hand for the “updates”.

Fortunately, I come from a long line of pack rats!

vintage kitchen canisters

These black cabinets were original to the house (1954). They were removed when the pipes froze and the kitchen flooded (1991). The cabinets were not ruined, so they were kept in the garage–for years! They were full of random stuff that had belonged to my grandparents. The stuff found new homes, and the cabinets got a facelift. They were just plain, old wood-no stain, no paint. I gave them a GOOD scrub and some black paint. These cabinets look so much better than the mismatched drawers and file cabinet that were stacked high with papers and random stuff.

coffee station

I love having my vintage picnic tins where I can see them more often.

I really like our little coffee station now. I especially like the coffee cup shelves my husband cut for me.

coffee cup storage

It’s not anything fancy. It’s just a 2×4 from the garage cut to fit. I used two pieces for the back row and one for the middle row. We no longer have to be careful opening the cabinet, hoping the cups don’t fall out on us!

vintage canisters

I picked up this canister set at a garage sale when we lived in Indiana.

vintage spice rack

Years later, I couldn’t resist the spice set when I saw it at a garage sale in Arkansas!

vintage folgers can

We continued to use some of the splashes of red and green we had used previously.

rolling pins

More red and green with the new gray!

vintage scale

A new little display with old items fills this corner of the counter now. I did purchase the tray. It was on the clearance aisle at Walmart. Everything else I already had.

black kitchen handles

I started to clear the papers and pictures off of the refrigerator. Then I figured I would try to “keep it real” here on my little corner of the world-wide web! (I did move the bright pink lunch box!)

vintage perrier bottles

I have used these little green bottles to decorate several times.

cookbooks

Another shoestring purchase was this lampshade. It was all of $5 at Walmart! The lamp has been with me since my sophomore year in college! It seemed a little low on the counter, so I pulled a couple of color coordinating cookbooks from my collection.

paper towel holder

This little shelf was necessary-I guess. I wanted some way to hang my ice-tong paper towel holder. I thought we could figure out a way to hang them from a little shelf. Well, as you see, they are just hanging from the wall. Oh, well! I like having the little decorative shelf anyway! (and my new $5 Walmart clock)

buffalo check plate

My friend, Danielle, gave me a mixed set of these adorable plates last year. I’m kinda in love with black and white check right now! The tiny little pail was Megan’s. When she was little, she would put three buttons in it and pretend she was Sal from Blueberries for Sal.

recycled apple can

I saved the Fried Apples can a long time ago because I liked the way it looked. I have probably had the artificial hydrangea for 20 years.

vintage baking pans

One thing that was exciting about the whole kitchen makeover was the cleaning! ALL of the cabinets got cleaned out! I even cleaned the top of the refrigerator!

cake plate

I got this great cake stand on our trip to New Orleans this summer. We drove through Lake Village, AR so we HAD to stop at the Paul Michael Company! They had a great sale going while we were there. I had to maintain my composure because there was only so much room in the car!

vintage tins

My grandmother’s old baking tins are now on display. I actually tried baking in them once. They did okay but needed lots of non-stick spray. It was kind of a pain to scrub all those little grooves.

utensil caddy

This utensil caddy was at one time a planter. It was given to us with a plant in it after my husband’s grandfather’s funeral. I had an artificial plant in it in another room. I like that there is more room for my utensils. They were cramped in their old container. I did have to put a little filler down in the bottom of the planter. It was just a little too deep for my spatulas and such.

extra storage

This skinny set of drawers had been in our garage. It was unpainted and filled with some of my grandmother’s piano music. Since we eliminated the mess that was in this corner, the drawers were perfect!

kitchen artwork

I love that I live with talented people! Katie made this portrait of me for Christmas last year. I just have not had anywhere to hang it until now. I asked Megan to paint the pictures of the poppies. She painted from a picture we took while in France last summer. I just LOVE my new pieces of artwork!

I made the cork board when I was waiting tables at the Olive Garden while in college. The bartenders saved the corks for me that summer. Once I had the board all finished I had them all sign the back for me. Fun times.

gray kitchen cabinets

Well, there you have it, our updated kitchen on a shoestring! I hope you enjoyed the tour!

I guess you could say I am sentimental. Ha! Understatement of the year!

We lost our microwave this past February.

vintage microwave

It was good to us.

(Sorry about the messy kitchen in the reflection. Yikes! I guess I was too grief-stricken to notice at the time.)

This Hotpoint had been my mother’s first microwave.

hotpoint

It was passed on to me and my husband as we started our home as newlyweds in 1992.

This baby was with us and as our babies grew into teenagers, residing in three different states!

The microwave was always an unexpected conversation piece.

controls

The analog dial charmed all of our friends.

The size was much larger than modern microwaves.

inside microwave

Of course, by the looks of it, I am surprised we don’t glow from excess microwaves!

But, alas, life goes on, and microwaves must be replaced.

new microwave

The new one is sleek and fancy.

The buttons aren’t nearly as charming as the dial. The beeping, that never stops when your food is finished cooking, is annoying. Our old microwave had a lovely, one time “ding”.  You could forget your reheated coffee for hours.

replacement

My chorus, Top of the Rock, recently had our 4th Spring Tea. Mom and I once again co-chaired the event. This year the Tea was at the historic Albert Pike Masonic Center in downtown Little Rock on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon right before Mothers’ Day.

We had 120 guests–the biggest crowd yet! We will plan for even more next year!

Tables were decorated by members of the chorus. We gave the ladies free-range as far as decorating goes. You’ll see a variety of themes–from Christmas to farm to jewelry. Mine is the one with the yellow tulips!

Click on each gallery below to see the pictures better.

You must have some fancy food to go on those fancy plates!

Here is the menu we served:

Tea Menu2016

I had fabulous help in the kitchen, as always!

Some of the men from Accapella Rising, the Little Rock men’s barbershop chorus, helped us with the serving.

We had a FABULOUS vintage fashion show. A friend of Mom’s from high school, Wanda Cook (aka The Coca Cola Lady, be sure to check out this article from a few years ago) provided the fashions. Top of the Rock provided the models! Wanda has displayed her collection at Red Hat conventions, women’s luncheons and other events. She was so generous to loan her collection to us for the day! The fashion show was a HUGE hit! The models really got into character and made the clothing come alive.

Of course there had to be some singing!!

It looked like everyone had a good time!

A big thanks to my husband, Chip, for taking all the photos! He took over 500 pictures and walked over 11,000 steps that day!

 

Well, hello there! Long time no see! Last fall I tried to jump back in to blogging. I was finally getting back in the swing of things. I had seven posts in three months! That was news! Then, as I was ready to post about some delicious Christmas cookies, I ran out of storage on my free WordPress account.  At the time, I just was not ready to commit to paying money for my blog. Today I bit the bullet and signed up for the premium plan. I’m sure there will be new things to learn, but I now have extra storage for my blog. Hooray!!!

You’ll have to excuse my Christmas decorations. Maybe you’ll have a Christmas in July party?! Actually, these cookies are so yummy, you will want to keep them in the freezer year round.

Cranberry Walnut Swirl Cookies

Now that I’m seeing my pictures again, I’m excited. I love Christmas decorations~and Christmas cookies!

chopped cranberries

Can you even find cranberries this time of year?

chopped walnuts

I used my food processor to chop up the cranberries and walnuts.

orange zest

Do NOT leave out the orange zest! It makes the recipe!

butter and sugar

marked parchment paper

I got a little technical with my parchment paper. I did use edible markers! (If you want to mark up your parchment paper, you can also just turn it over if you use regular pens.) The recipe says to roll the dough into a 10 inch square. When adding the filling, you are to leave a 1/2 inch border on two sides. I left a little too much.

cranberry mixture

The filling smells so good! It must be the orange zest.

rolled cookies

pretty swirled cookies

swirled cookies

swirled cookie

I do feel I should warn you about these cookies. You will need to plan your baking time. Chilling and freezing time are a factor.

Cranberry Walnut Swirl Cookies

  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh cranberries, packed full
  • ⅔ cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon grated orange rind

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the sour cream, egg and vanilla, combining well between each addition.

Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until well combined. (Do not overbeat)

Cover the cookie dough and chill for one hour.

Combine cranberries, walnuts and orange rind.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface or parchment paper and roll into a 10-inch square. (About ¼ inch thick.)

Sprinkle with the cranberry mixture, leaving a ½-inch border on 2 opposite sides.

Roll up dough, jelly roll fashion, beginning at a bordered side. Cover and freeze 6 hours or up to 1 month. (Do not skip the freezing part! The cookies are too soft to cut otherwise!)

Cut roll into ¼-inch thick slices. Place slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake on top oven rack at 375˚F for 14 to 15 minutes or until lightly golden browned at the edges.

Cool completely on wire racks.

 

Christmas cookies

Merry Christmas!  I mean…Happy, uh, School’s Out!? I’m glad to actually have a new post on my blog. Hopefully there will be more soon!

When I was a kid, I would spend HOURS outside–riding my bike, building a clubhouse, just wandering around the yard. I still enjoy my outdoor wanderings. It gives me a minute or two to “unplug” from the world. I guess that is why I enjoy setting Christmas decorations out our porch so much.

Of course I made my favorite Christmas Wreaths again this year. They are a little different each year! The porch is just a little different each year, too. See last year’s here.

Christmas Berries

Christmas Wreath

One new thing I used this year was absolutely free!

When we got our tree and free greenery this year, I noticed several slices of tree around the greenery bin. You know, they always make a fresh cut for you when you get your tree? Those kind of slices. So, I grabbed them and shoved them in one of my greenery bags.

Christmas peace and hope

I simply wrote on the slices with a Sharpie! Of course you can get all fancy and use a wood-burning tool if you like. (Warning: I did wear gloves to keep the sap from getting all over my hands.) I was happy with them the easy way.

Christmas Peace and Pinecones

Christmas Love

Christmas Meaning

Luke 2

Christmas Joy 2

Christmas Joy

Another easy project was these pillows.

Christmas Pillows 2

I just used my regular porch pillows and wrapped Christmas fabric around them. I was not ready to commit to actually cutting my precious Christmas fabric! The pillow in the middle is a sweater from Goodwill that I sewed up rather quickly. I didn’t even close the bottom-shhh. The red ties are rescued from some old kitchen chair cushions. Save! Save!

Christmas Pillows

A few vintage items and things were starting to look pretty good!

Christmas Vintage 2

Christmas vintage

A little more…then use the broom and all done!

Christmas Pinecones

Christmas Window

Christmas Ice Skates

All ready for the coffee drinkers.

Christmas Coffee Table

Christmas Coffee

If you have followed this blog for a while, you may have discovered a pattern. I tend to have good ideas that take a while to get accomplished! Well, this post is one of those I’ve-been-planning-to-do-it posts.

Meet Claudia…

Claudia

Claudia and I have been friends for several years. We sang together in Top of the Rock Chorus. Our kids are close in age, so we always had plenty of chatting material.

I love just listening to Claudia speak. Claudia is from Germany. I don’t know if it is a German thing or a Claudia thing, but she seems to use words so eloquently. There are not a lot of “you knows” or “ums” in Claudia’s conversation. It’s not that she over-uses big words or anything like that. She just chooses much more descriptive words. I’m sure I’m not explaining this well–not like Claudia would!

For years Claudia and I have talked about getting together for her to teach me how to make some German cookies. Well, life got busy, as it always does, and we never got together–until now!

We finally got together last weekend! Claudia taught me how to make Moklaplätzchen and Weihnachtsschikoli.

We started with the Weihnachtsschokoli since it needed some time in the fridge.

Weihnachtsschokoli

This is a recipe Claudia found when she was a teenager and has been making it since then!

Claudia asked that I bring a pound of butter for our cookie baking. Oh! You know it is going to be something yummy when you need a pound of butter!

As you can see above, all the measurements are in metric proportions. Many cooking show hosts suggest measuring your ingredients by weight. Most recipes, however, only give you the standard measurement. Luckily, Claudia weighed the ingredients then figured out the approximate measurement for me!

Weihnachtsschokoli

made 46 cookies

250 grams unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks + 2 Tablespoons)

100 grams powdered sugar (a scant cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or 1 German packet of vanilla sugar [approx. 1 Tablespoon]

250 grams cornstarch (2 cups loose)

25 grams flour (1/4 cup)

30 grams dark cocoa powder (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon cinnamon

I don’t know that I had ever had cardamom before having it in these cookies. I suppose a little goes a long way. I could definitely taste it in the cookies. They were amazing!

•Cream the softened butter

•Blend the rest of the ingredients together. Add to the butter. The mixture will be very dry and crumbly!

•Add 50 grams more of flour (1/2 cup). I know! It seems crazy! It is so dry and you want me to add MORE flour? Yes.

•Use a dough hook or knead by hand until the dough comes together. Claudia turned the dough out on a kitchen towel. She used the towel to smash the dough together.

ingredients on a towel

working the ingredients

If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I don’t think I would have believed the ingredients would actually come together to form a dough!

work dough into a ball

•Roll the dough into logs that are approximately 1 1/4 inch in diameter. Seems like Claudia had three logs.

roll dough into logs

•Place the logs on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. This will give the butter plenty of time to chill.

At this point, Claudia and I switched to the other cookie recipe. Makes sense-huh? No need to sit around watching the first batch chill in the refrigerator! To avoid confusion, I will continue with the Weihnachtsschokoli recipe.

•Remove the dough logs from the refrigerator. Slice into 3/4 inch slices.

half-inch slices

slice and bake cookies

•Place a whole hazelnut on top of each slice.

top with hazelnut

•Work the dough around each hazelnut.

working in hazelnuts

surround hazelnut with dough

Claudia said that Trader Joe’s has the best price on hazelnuts. If only Trader Joe’s would put a store in central Arkansas!!!

Trader Joe's hazelnuts

•Once you have all your dough and hazelnuts rolled up, bake at 375˚ for 20 minutes. Cool completely–Claudia recommended cooling on a paper sack or cardboard box.

all rolled up

•While you are waiting for the cookies to cool, melt some chocolate bark–about 4 squares–in the microwave according to the package directions.

chopping almond bark

•Once cooled, use a pastry brush or BBQ brush to paint the chocolate on top of the cookie. I asked Claudia if she had ever tried dipping the tops in the chocolate bowl. The cookies are quite fragile. Remember how crumbly the dough was? Painting was the way to go!

painting with chocolate

cool on a paper sack

•Let the chocolate cool–if you can stand it!

Click here for cookie pronunciation.

Click here for cookie pronunciation.

Next up…Mokkaplätzchen! You can tell by the paper that this is a well-loved recipe by Claudia’s family.

Mokkaplätzchen

 

Mokkaplätzchen

made 56 cookies

120 grams (1 cup) unsalted hazelnuts-measured whole then ground finely. You can roast the hazelnuts for a bit for more flavor. [1 1/2 cups ground]

cup of hazelnuts

2 sticks + 2 Tablespoons  softened, unsalted butter

180 grams (1 heaped cup) sugar

2 eggs

220 grams flour (approx. 2 1/4 cups)

2 Tablespoons instant coffee dissolved in approximately 1/2 Tablespoon hot water

measuring ingredients

•Beat the butter

•Blend in sugar

•Add eggs one at a time-blending after each addition

•Add flour and dissolved coffee–blend

•Add the ground nuts. Mix well.

•Scoop onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. The recipe says 200˚C. That translates to 392˚F.

scoops of cookie dough

We decided after the first batch got a little dark around the edges that parchment might help.

oops! a little burned

•Cool the cookies completely. Top with Coffee Icing

Coffee Icing

2 Tablespoons instant coffee dissolved in approximately 1/2 Tablespoon hot water

1 cup powdered sugar

•Mix together. Should look like tempered chocolate.

cookie drizzle

•Paint the icing on the cookies using a pastry brush.

painting cookies

•Immediately top with a Mocha Bean

cookie with mocha bean

mocha beans

or dark chocolate chips.

substitute with chocolate chips

Click here for pronunciation

Click here for pronunciation

Thank you, Claudia! I had a fabulous time catching up on chit-chat and baking cookies with you! I’m so glad it finally happened!

by the steps

I made ornaments for my girls again this year. They even got them hung on the tree before the tree crashed! Yes, we did have a crash. There was really no reason for it either. Sadly, one ornament was broken, but only one!  Tiny ornaments are the BEST!

Tiny ornaments with tiny red jingle bells and tiny silver stars are even BETTER!

Update: A friend of mine sent me some questions about making this ornament. When I posted, I didn’t really have time to go into detail. I will now though!

The tiny bottles and stars came from the Argenta Bead Company in North Little Rock, AR. I have also seen similar items at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. I had the little bells leftover from a project years ago. Sorry, I couldn’t tell you where I got them–most likely a craft store.

I used red scrapbook paper on the inside. You could, however, print your own personal message. I did have to roll up the tiny piece of paper pretty tightly.

You could even just fill the jar half-way with glitter! You are only limited by your imagination. Happy crafting!