Friday, December 31, 2010

London in the Evening

Ah yes, it's so fun to remember London this time of year, so I thought I'd post just a few pics of London at night. This has got to be one of my favorites. With the camera resting on the wall along the east bank of the Thames, Kevin snapped this pic of the Palace of Westminster. We had just walked across Westminster Bridge. As a matter of fact, I think we were on the Westminster By Gaslight walking tour from London Walks. So much fun!

Coming out of the Westminster Tube Station at night, you look up to see this.

The handsome face of Big Ben

I know that there are people who think the Eye is an Eyesore, but I'm not one of them. Built for the millennium celebration, it now seems like a fitting part of the landscape, somehow. I realize that this is spoken by an American looking in. But it does offer the most amazing views of the city from its many pods.

From Westminster Pier, a view of the London Eye and County Hall across the river. I love the glow of the city at night!

Looking down river toward Charing Cross Station (about in the center of the photo). I think this was taken the night Kevin and I got lost when we walked out of St. Martin's toward Charing Cross. It's easy to make a wrong turn there, because, unlike Wisconsin, streets are not laid out on a square grid. We just kept walking until something looked familiar. :-)

It doesn't matter how many times one goes to London. There's just so much to see, so much history, so much to learn, that you never run out of more London to explore. I think it was Samuel Johnson who once said, '...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.'

P.S. I've got it down to $2,800 for eight nights in London for two, including r.t. airfare, 7-day Visitor Travelcard (for the Tube) food, and lodging. But that doesn't include entry fees. Then again, most of the museums are taxpayer funded, and I've got a good Rick Steves guide book.

This post is linked to New Friend Friday
and Friendly Friday Follow

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Sausage Pillow Miracle

My first three pillowcase fabrics

The other day I was at Walmart, looking for some piping cord to use in making pillowcases. I had chosen my fabrics and took them to the cutting table. When I asked the clerk where the piping was, she said, 'You don't want to put piping in those.' I laughed and said, 'Well, yes, actually I do.' She said, 'No, you don't, and I'll show you why. There's a really easy way to make pillowcases.'

She went to the shelf and pulled out a pillowcase kit, opened it, and proceeded to try to explain the new, easy method of making pillowcases, except she couldn't find what she was looking for, and couldn't remember the 'easy way.' A customer behind her said, 'Oh yeah, there is a really easy way.' Since neither of them could remember what it was, I told them I'd go home and look it up on YouTube. After all, isn't everything on YouTube??

So, I did. And I found the most amazing video, making pillowcases a snap! It's called the Sausage Pillowcase. See YouTube video below. Which just proves that the customer isn't always right.

After pinning the cuff and trim, here's 'rolling the sausage'...

I should mention that I bought 3/4 yard for the body, 1/4 yard for the cuff, and used a 2" strip for the narrow trim. All fabrics were 45 inches wide. I pre-shrunk the fabric before sewing it.

... and sewing the sausage

After that, all you need to do is pull the pillowcase through and sew up the end and side seams. All the seams are finished on the inside, with no rough edges. It's amazing, and so simple! I wish I'd known this years ago!

My first three pillowcases, finished!
Notice that 'Fabric' and my name are both printed in Sharpie on my scissors! 

I made 15 pillowcases! (all but two are shown)

What was especially fun was that I was able to find fabrics specific to each person's interests. And now, here's the video I promised. (A different Judy, but I wish I'd been clever enough to have thought this up!)

This post is linked to Making the World Cuter Monday
and Just Something I Whipped up Monday
and Motivate Me Monday
and Making Monday Marvelous
and Thrilling Thursdays

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

St. Paul's Cathedral - December 29, 1940

The first link is to a short video presented by BBC World News tonight. Please, just bear with the 25 second ad that precedes the video.

December 29, 1940, St. Paul's Cathedral

I'm Leaving the TODAY Show


Is there anyone out there who doesn't already know that it snowed on the east coast?

I had a long-standing habit of getting up, grabbing my cup of coffee, and turning on the TV so I could watch the first 15 minutes of the TODAY Show to get the news. What was I thinking? Over the past few years the TODAY Show has morphed into The National Enquirer or some other equally unsavory tabloid found at every grocery checkout.

Today, the top story, I kid you not, was about a ski lift that crashed (on the east coast, of course). No one was killed; no one was seriously injured. I couldn't believe that there was nothing more noteworthy in the entire world than Chatty Kathy standing next to her silent boyfriend telling us in that 'oh my gosh' tone of voice about their close shave with death as they hovered 6 feet above the ground. (This is while other people around the globe are struggling to survive poverty and disease, earthquakes and floods.)

After the ski lift story we were back in Brooklyn, where streets still aren't cleared from the greatest snowfall they've had in years, maybe ever, so people were angry at the government (the same government to which they earlier had sold their souls because they didn't want to do anything for themselves, including think!) for not having the streets plowed - like NOW.

People have become so unreasonable. Ridiculously unreasonable.

I'm tired of the TODAY Show never giving us real news anymore. All I had wanted was the first 15 minutes devoted to real news. Was that too much to ask??

So I'm taking the little TV out of the kitchen cupboard to make room for my mom's Christmas dishes.

So long, TODAY Show. Do you wonder why your viewership has plummeted??

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New England Clam Chowder

Clam chowder on Christmas Eve has been a tradition at our home for many years. This year was no exception. Although it had been a strange week because of my dad's funeral, it was nice to have some things the same, like this great clam chowder. This recipe is one I made from guessing at the ingredients in a clam chowder I enjoyed years ago in Massachusetts.

It seems that this recipe used to require many more steps, but now I've got it fine tuned and pretty easy to make. It's not just for Christmas Eve, so it would make a great New Year's Eve meal also. The Christmas dishes had belonged to my mom.

Don't blame me for the knife and spoon placement.

Judy's Clam Chowder:

10 slices of hickory-smoked bacon, fried crisp, broken into tiny pieces

Hormel® Natural Choice® ham can be substituted for the bacon. It has no preservatives and is 100 percent natural with no artificial colors or flavors, and no added nitrites or nitrates and is gluten free.

4 small potatoes, skin on, diced
3 small carrots, diced

4 ribs of celery, minced
1 med. onion, minced
1 Carmen red pepper or red bell pepper (sweet), diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced

3-4 cans of clams. Do not drain. If minced, use as is. If chopt, run through food processor first. This is simply a preference. I don't like big, rubbery hunks of clam. Also, I prefer Gorton's brand.

2 quarts of whole milk
3/4 c. flour

1 bay leaf, broken in pieces
1-2 t. thyme (I used 2 t.)
black pepper
sea salt to taste

Open 3-4 cans of clams, pour all (incl. juice) into saucepan. Add potatoes and carrots and cook til they are just tender, not mushy.

In a skillet, saute celery, onion, peppers in a couple T. butter until tender.

In a separate bowl, whisk flour into a couple cups of the milk. Add remaining milk little by little, whisking as you add so there are no lumps.

Pour all (including the liquid from the potato/carrots/clams) into my large Martha Stewart stainless steel pot which doesn't let anything stick on the bottom. Heat on Low, stirring. Add seasonings.

Bring to near boil, but DON'T BOIL. At this point, you can then cool the chowder and keep refrigerated overnight OR (if you're going to eat in a couple hours,) let sit covered, then bring back to temperature and serve.

A great accompaniment to my clam chowder: popovers

Chowder recipe serves 8.

This post is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
and Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods
and Tuesdays at the Table
and Home and Family Friday

Monday, December 27, 2010

Family Time

A special thank you to my blogging friends for your kind words and prayers for our family during the time of my dad's funeral. I appreciate your support so much.

Because it was also Christmas time, we have had the blessing of family around us. I decided to post just pics of the grandkids, taken in the past week. (Yes, those old people in the collage are my husband and me.)

In spite of the fact that we buried my dad, it was wonderful to see the extended family, who came from as far away as Dallas, TX; Seattle, WA; Costa Rica; Denver, CO; Plymouth, IN; Walker, MN. We have a great family if I do say so myself so even in the sad circumstances of our gathering, we enjoyed our time together.

And now, after having totally neglected all of you during the past week, I'm looking forward to reading your blogs!!


Friday, December 24, 2010

Amazing Grace

'She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' Matthew 1:21

'But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'  Luke 2:10-11 

'Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Lord.'  Titus 3:5-6

'Remember, Christ is your righteousness. Christ is your righteousness. Your righteousness is in heaven. It's the same yesterday today and forever. It doesn't get better when your faith is strong. It doesn't get worse when your faith is weak. It is perfect. It is Christ. Look away from yourself. Rest in him. Lean on him.'  - John Piper

What amazing grace!

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spritz and Russian Teacakes

These melt-in-your-mouth Spritz are my favorite Christmas cookie. What's not to like about butter, sugar, and almond extract?? (See recipe below, along with the note about making this a gluten-free cookie.*)

Sunday evening, 8 PM: With my dad's funeral coming up on Thursday, I am scheduling this to post on Tuesday. (See Sunday's post) I wanted to make sure you got it in time to finish up your Christmas baking.

Russian Teacakes go by other names also, e.g. Pecan Balls, Swedish Wedding Cakes, Oh I Love Those Things, etc. I think these are Gus's favorite, so I made a double batch. The dough is so tender you have to get that cookie to your mouth fast before it falls apart! Boy is it worth it!

Spritz, Recipe:

1 c. Real Wisconsin Butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 t. almond extract
2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour*
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. salt

Cream butter and sugar; blend in egg and flavoring. Combine dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture. Mix well. Do not chill the dough. Pack dough into cookie press. Press into desired shapes on UNgreased cookie sheet. If desired, sprinkle with colored sugar crystals or trim with pieces of red and green candied cherries, pressing cherries lightly into dough. Bake at 365 for 8-10 minutes. Cookies should be thinking about turning golden, but only thinking about it... Cool on pans. Makes about 6 dozen.

Russian Teacakes, Recipe:

1 c. Real Wisconsin Butter
1 t. vanilla
6 T. powdered sugar
2 c. all-purpose flour*
dash salt
1 c. finely chopped pecans

Blend butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Mix in flour and nuts. Roll into balls, about the size of a shooter marble. (It's an antique; Google it)   Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. After they're slightly cool, roll in powdered sugar. Just before serving, roll in powdered sugar again.

*To make either of these recipes gluten-free, substitute 1 c. white rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca flour, and 2 t. xanthan gum for the 2 c. of all-purpose flour. For the Spritz, I'd add an additional 1/3 c. tapioca flour.

This post is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
and Tasty Tuesdays
and Tasty  Tuesday Parade of foods
and Tuesdays at the Table

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard...'

 Lloyd, at 10 years

 High School Graduation

Wedding Day (a 67-year marriage)

 Working on the Alaskan Highway

 On the John Deere he'd owned years before

Looking pleasant, as always

With great grandkids

The last photo taken, at Thanksgiving 2010

My dad went to be with his Lord at 2:30 AM, Sunday, December 19. He was a man not afraid to die, for he wasn't worried whether or not he'd be found 'good enough' to get to Heaven. He trusted in Christ's righteousness alone, our only hope of salvation. And he knew that on the other side was his Savior Jesus Christ and life unbelievable.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  I Corinthians 2:9

About 3:30 this morning I turned to my husband and said, 'I wonder what it's like for Dad right now.' He responded, 'Way different than he ever expected.'

from Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis:

'...our notion of Heaven involves perpetual negations: no food, no drink, no sex, no movement, no mirth, no events, no time, no art...We must believe - and therefore in some degree imagine - that every negation will be only the reverse side of a fulfilling...How far the life of the risen man will be sensory, we do not know. But I surmise that it will differ from the sensory life we know here, not as emptiness differs from water or water from wine but as a flower differs from a bulb or a cathedral from an architect's drawing.'

I will miss this wonderful man who was such a great dad and a true example to me of God's love.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

The Boys of King's College Choir

From the UK Telegraph:

"It is precisely 10 seconds to air for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge. The college’s director of music, Stephen Cleobury, looks one boy chorister directly in the eye and gestures for him to step forward. Only then does the soloist learn that he has the honour of singing, unaccompanied, the opening verse of Once in Royal David’s City.

“The boys might speculate on which one of them I’ll pick, but not actually telling them until seconds beforehand is the only way to avoid nerves,” says Cleobury. “This way the boy performs in the heat of the moment. I always have three or four candidates in mind, but if I revealed their identity even a day before, the pressure would be far too great.”

Since becoming director – and therefore musical mastermind – of the choir in 1982, Cleobury has had no refusals or disasters. “I am incredibly precise in indicating who I want,” he says. “One of my predecessors once beckoned to a boy and two stepped forward simultaneously.” 

I'm going to be listening to the live Christmas Eve service, The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast from King's College Chapel in Cambridge, England. It will be presented at 3 PM at Cambridge, which is 9 AM in Wisconsin. Listen to Minnesota Public Radio, KSJN, 99.5 FM or BBC Radio 4.

You can view the complete program at King's College websiteA .pdf of the service booklet can be found in the middle column.

Mark your calendars. That's a week from today, Friday the 24th of December. Don't miss it! I wouldn't be surprised if you decide to make it a Christmas Eve Day tradition too! :-)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Landmark Destroyed by Fire

 New Scandinavia Lutheran

Last Friday, the day before the huge snowstorm, our neighborhood lost a beloved landmark. Many lost their home church, the one from which generations had been baptized, confirmed, married, and buried. Beginning mid morning of December 10, and continuing all day, water tanker trucks went past our house, sirens blaring (and my dog howling along with every single one).

How I loved this steeple, with its cross glowing in the night sky. So many times as I drove past the church at night, I thought how precious is our freedom of worship. The glowing cross was a constant testimony to God's grace.

Firefighters fought the blaze all day Friday. The building has been declared a total loss. I took these photos late Sunday afternoon. It was so sad to see the church building destroyed, and to learn that it's considered a suspicious fire.

 The steeple

Late Sunday afternoon
New Scandinavia in autumn

Every time I returned from Rice Lake, this would be my first glimpse of the church, along with that nice feeling of being almost home. We are sad that the congregation of New Scandinavia Lutheran has lost their beloved country church.  It will be missed greatly by many of us.

We pray for God's blessing on His people at New Scandinavia as they go through this difficult time, dealing with the circumstances of the fire and making plans for the future.

For any who may be interested, our local television news has a video clip of this story on their website.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good News

Sometimes it seems as though Christmas has been hijacked by commercialism to be nothing more than too many gifts, too much money spent on useless items, too much food, too much of everything. The other day I heard just the first four notes of 'Santa Baby' and the stupid thing wouldn't stop running through my head! Is this what Christmas is all about??

It's not that I don't put up a Christmas tree or a wreath or my darling little snowmen from Bobby, but if that's what Christmas is all about, then it's just another holiday that leaves us frazzled and unfulfilled. So although I'm making Christmas cookies and candy and wrapping presents, the real meaning of what we are celebrating here, the Good News, is what truly gives me peace and joy.

Christ left the glories of Heaven to take on

Human form, to die, to

Rescue us from sin and death. He is not an

Infant any longer. He will be either your

Savior or your Judge.

Turn to Him and find

Mercy. He

Always welcomes the penitent and gives

Salvation and life abundant to those who trust in Him.

'Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.' - Romans 8:1-2

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Angie's Favorite Toffee Bars

Toffee Bars, still in jellyroll pan

I actually made a quadruple batch of these toffee bars, for almost everyone loves them!  This is one of my favorite bars to serve at Christmas time. I cut them into diamond shapes by first cutting them into large squares, then each square is cut diagonally, forming the diamond shape. These are a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread type of bar with dark chocolate and chopped walnuts. YUM.

I was going to get a photo of these bars on a plate, but they are in the deep freeze right now (see pic below) in a container under about a foot of snow in the sub-zero temperatures outdoors. It's -20 degrees F. right now (-28.8 Celsius) and I'm not venturing out there for a photo.

Toffee Bars under one of those piles of snow on the picnic table

Recipe for Toffee Bars:

Double batch makes one jellyroll pan
Spray jellyroll pan with non-stick cooking spray

Mix the following ingredients until well blended.

1 c. softened butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt

Pat evenly into jellyroll pan.

Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Immediately, sprinkle 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips over the top and return to the oven for a minute or two until the chocolate chips are melted enough to spread easily over the entire surface. Immediately, sprinkle with a c. chopped walnuts.

Cut immediately. Once they set up, you may have to break, rather than cut these bars. So do it now.
Chill for a few minutes to set the chocolate.

I make two jellyroll pans, for these go fast.  Enjoy!  :-)

This post is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
and Tasty Tuesdays
and Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods
and Tuesdays at the table

Monday, December 13, 2010

Handcrafted Christmas Gifts!

Christmas is fast upon us, so I thought I'd share another idea for a handcrafted Christmas gift or stocking stuffer.

Lemon Verbena is a perpetual favorite among handcrafted soap connoisseurs. This soap has a hint of lemon fragrance, not overpowering, that you will enjoy in the shower or bath. Made with all-natural base oils and quality fragrance oil.

Unlike many soaps, all my handcrafted soaps are free of any harsh chemicals, so they are soothing and moisturizing. Gentle enough even for Baby's skin! Lemon Verbena, as well as all the soaps in my collection, makes a great choice for a gift everyone will love!

Lemon Verbena, 'hot off the press'

These are just some of the many handcrafted soaps in my store!  Each luscious bar has its own pretty label and is wrapped in a cello bag, ready for gift-giving. Who on your Christmas list wouldn't love a bar of handcrafted soap!

P.S. Be kind to your holiday budget and check out this amazing offer for my soap assortment:  Six for the Price of Five.  If you hurry, there's still time to order for Christmas. I ship USPS Priority, so your package should arrive in 2-4 days.

This post is linked to Making the World Cuter Mondays

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coping with the 'Near Blizzard'

So I guess it's not a blizzard, cuz technically a blizzard has to have sustained winds over 30 MPH. We only have winds at 25 MPH. But right now it's pretty wild out there! It's snowed all day and this afternoon the wind really picked up.

 Early Breakfast Crew

 The second or third shoveling of the walk - this morning

 Picnic anyone?

 View from the deck today

 Slightly different view in July

 Stocking up

 Bridger, probably the only one really enjoying this

Tuppence and Lionel, staying warm

Taken at 6:30 PM
outside our back door
I am so thankful for our wood-burning stove, a huge stack of wood, for a one-ton truck with a snowplow on the front, and a husband who is willing to push snow around. 

I have a feeling that tomorrow's church services will be canceled. The forecast? 5 degrees F. with a 25 MPH wind. Monday morning we're expecting -20 degrees F.(that's minus 20) and for Tuesday, -22 to -25 degrees F.

We're being advised to stay off the roads. I think we'll have church at home tomorrow and maybe watch 'North and South'  with Richard Armitage and Daniela Danby-Ashe in the afternoon. I suppose I'll never persuade Kevin to watch it with me, cuz he thinks it's a chick flick. Is it?? I really didn't think so. 

But until they come out with 'Drudge, the Movie'...



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