Monday, January 31, 2011

The Gingerbread House

Before our son and two little grandsons came to visit, I set the month-old gingerbread house on the dresser in the Yorkshire Room where they would be staying, and fully intended to tell the little boys that they could have it if they wanted it. (Yes, I realize that it's not exactly fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies!)

But I forgot to tell them about it.

They arrived Friday night.

On Sunday evening, I was engaged in a conversation with my sister-in-law when I realized that it was pretty quiet, unusually quiet, probably too quiet, kinda ominously quiet, and wondered where the boys were.  I did have a fleeting vision of my handcrafted soaps being unwrapped and floated in the bathtub...

But I decided to just let it go.

A while later, both boys were downstairs with hunks of gingerbread house (rock hard, for it was made by John before Christmas) in their hands. I said, 'Oh I'm so glad you found it. I had meant to tell you that you could have the gingerbread house if you wanted it. It was there for you.'

Relieved, the little partners in crime rushed over to me. Very excited, the older brother said, 'Yeah, we couldn't break it, but then we found a cellphone and smashed the roof with it.'

With a very serious face and a half whisper, the 3 year old added, 'But Gamma, we cubbered it wiff a bwankie so no one wiw know.' 

 I'm not sure who he thinks we're hiding it from. :-)

 This is a pic from last summer. I tried getting a couple photos this weekend, but honestly, they need to come up with a faster shutter speed to keep up with these kids!

It was wonderful having the boys and their dad here. I loved every minute of it. We'll get to see them next weekend too, for the older will turn 7 and we'll be attending a birthday party!

Unfortunately, they did not take the gingerbread house home with them, but I think I'll leave it on the dresser for a few more days to see if the cats want to gnaw on it a while.

Be sure to enter my Very First Giveaway. Entries close Wednesday night, with winner announced on Thursday.

This post is linked to:  Making the World Cuter Mondays
and Motivate me Monday
and Making Monday Marvelous


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Knowing God ?

The other day, I was visiting my brother's website, Sound Living, and the article entitled Knowing God caught my eye. It begins,

'Do you know God?  What a question!
If your concept of God has any largeness to it at all you recognize that even asking the question borders on hubris, an exaggerated self-confidence.

How can a mere human being know God.
If God is and is at all knowable, he would have to make himself known.

The Bible declares that is exactly what God has done...

How can a man be God and how can God be a man?

And yet that is exactly what John says he has set out to prove.
John 20: 31 “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
And he will use the rest of the book to prove it to us by the use of places, dates, people and events.
He wants to convince the skeptic and confirm the believer.

And yet it is regarding the identity of Jesus that true Christianity clashes with the secular world and with secular Christianity.'

You can read Knowing God, get the PDF, print it out, e-mail it, or simply listen online:  Knowing God.

You won't be sorry.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Knitting a Quick Scarf

 Okay, I played around a bit with photo editing on this one.

This is a pattern I found when the amazing Judy of Stitch Along With Me directed me to Yarn Harlot for this scarf pattern. It is simple! (You should see the gorgeous yarn she spins. I cheated - I purchased my yarn.) And be sure to visit Judy's website to see the many beautiful items she has knitted!

For the red scarf, I used a chunky yarn and size 11 needles.
For the blue scarf, I used a medium weight yarn and again used the size 11 needles. It gave it a more open, lacy look.

I made it just long enough to wrap around my neck and tuck into my coat. It's nice to have that little bit of extra protection against the wild winter winds of Wisconsin - to go with my down-filled coat, my insulated boots, snowpants, polar fleece hat, and gloves. ( Oh, must not forget the ear muffs!)

Re. Knitting: Am I the only one who doesn't seem to get the ends woven in until weeks after a project is made??

Be sure to enter my handcrafted soaps GIVEAWAY.  Deadline for entry is February 2 at midnight. The winner will be announced here on my blog on February 3 :-) 

This post is linked to:
We Did It Wednesday
and Wandering Wednesday
and Thrifty Thursday
and Thrilling Thursday
and Making the World Cuter Mondays
and Motivate me Monday
and Making Monday Marvelous

Friday, January 28, 2011

Shrewsbury, Shropshire UK

First of all, thank you to all of you who have already entered my 1st Anniversary Giveaway!  If you haven't, be sure to check it out. :-)

Now, on to the matter at hand:

Fans of Brother Cadfael may remember Shrewsbury, home to the fictional medieval monk. It was because of the Brother Cadfael TV series that I wanted to see Shrewsbury. I was not disappointed. Although Derek Jacobi had resigned his monkhood to become Queen's Council to a young Sihk boy* in London, I decided to visit the medieval town anyway. *reference to the movie The Jury. Worth renting!!

County: Shropshire, nestled against Wales on its western border

Shrewsbury Abbey seen from the Abbey gardens
Yes, I could imagine Brother Cadfael tending his many healing herbs.

It was a bleak March day along the River Severn, which wends its way through Shrewsbury, making for one-way streets and confusing driving for the uninitiated. The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, and its source is in Powys (which rhymes with 'cow hiss,' I am told)* in the Cambrian Mountains of mid-Wales. It eventually empties into the Bristol Channel which empties into the Celtic Sea.

Massive columns of Shrewsbury Abbey Nave
Kevin at the tomb of Roger de Montgomerie, first Earl of Shrewsbury

Another tomb in Shrewsbury Abbey
A Mr. and Mrs. Jones (at least that's the name they gave!) 

Shrewsbury Abbey was founded by Roger de Montgomerie, one of William the Conqueror's main advisors, in AD 1074.

Lady Chapel
Look at that gorgeous ceiling!

Shrewsbury Castle

Things would be much more beautiful in June or July, but in March the price is right.

And this beautiful, massive structure, the train station

Shrewsbury on a cloudy day

There is so much more of the countryside surrounding Shrewsbury that I would like to see. And I would love to go into Wales next time. The Welsh language is so intriguing with all its double consonants and long, unpronounceable words - like


*And just in case anyone was wondering, I wish life came with a pronunciation guide. It's one of my pet peeves: finding a name on a map or in a book - and not knowing how to pronounce it. Fortunately, it became less of a problem with the advent of Google. :-)

Have a great weekend!  And BE SURE TO ENTER MY GIVEAWAY!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Yes, you read that right...I'm hosting a GIVEAWAY!  And best of all, it's a giveaway of my handmade soaps. Awww, and you thought it was going to be the sheep! 

It's hard to believe that as of today, it's been a whole year (a whole year???) since I sat down at the computer to write out my first blog post, 'Tiptoeing Into the Blogosphere.'

Yep, that's me

I've enjoyed getting to meet so many new people, fun fellow bloggers, and of course I've loved your support with your comments on my ramblings. So, to celebrate you, my dear Cranberry Morning readers, I am hosting my very first giveway - five bars of my handcrafted soap.  You may have noticed this button (below) on my sidebar?  Click on it to view all my luscious soaps. Yeah, I suppose that does sound like bragging, doesn't it. But seriously, they're amazing!!

So what do you have to do to enter?? It's really quite easy.

1. Check out my handcrafted soaps on SoapnSuch. (That's where you'll be directed when you click on that pic link above. If for some reason it doesn't work, just go to

2. Leave a comment on my Cranberry Morning blog, telling me which soap you think would be your Number 1 favorite. (Although I'll be sending the winner a surprise assortment.)

This giveaway ends at midnight February 2, and the winner will be chosen by  I will announce the winner on this blog, Cranberry Morning, on February 3.

Be sure to let all your friends know about this great giveaway! :-)
Sorry, Giveaway open to U.S. residents, only.

P.S. The winner will have three days after the announcement to notify me by e-mail with their mailing address.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chocolate-Almond Biscotti

Making this gluten-free biscotti was a bit of a challenge, mostly in getting it to hold together. It never was as dry as the biscotti you might find at a coffee shop, and not as light and airy. It was more like the stuff that paperweights are made of. It was tasty, that's for sure, but one definitely needed a cup of coffee for dunking the biscotti (preferably coffee with Half n Half). I suppose I could have cut the slices a bit thinner.

Try this recipe on your gluten intolerant friends. or just your intolerant friends. I think that either would enjoy it, although your intolerant friends may not admit it. Make sure to accompany it with that cup of coffee I mentioned.

Chocolate-Almond Biscotti, Gluten-free
(If you do not want to make this gluten-free, just use all purpose flour in the place of the flours listed, and omit the xanthan gum.)

1 1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. potato starch
1/4 c. tapioca flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. xanthan gum
1/4 t. salt
4 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. cocoa
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)
2 T. butter
1/4 c. instant coffee
1-2 c. slivered almonds

Lay a piece of parchment paper on a heavy jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. I like to use parchment because then the biscotti doesn't stick.

Mix the ingredients and roll into a ball, then flatten it out into an oblong shape (see above).
Bake at 370 degrees for 20 minutes, then allow to cool for 5 minutes
Cut the biscotti into half inch slices (this is where I went wrong) at a diagonal and lay cut side down.

Reduce heat to 275 degrees and bake another 15 minutes.
Turn biscotti to other side and bake another 15 minutes.
Repeat this until the biscotti is as dry as you like it.

It takes at least a couple pieces to really test it. :-)

There you are! Now go get that cup of coffee. :-)

...and more! Check out all my soaps at

This post is linked to: Making the World Cuter Mondays and Something I Whipped Up Monday and  Motivate Me Monday and Making Monday Marvelous and Made from Scratch Tuesday and Made by You Mondays and Delectable Tuesday and Anything Related Tuesday and Take a Look Tuesday and Tasty Tuesday  and Tasty Tuesday and Tasty Tuesday and  Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays  and Two Maids a Baking and  What's Cookin' Wednesday and Cast Party Wednesday and  It's a Party at Creative Princess and Lisa's Gluten-Free Blog and Foodie Friday and  I'm Lovin' it Friday

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Robert Duncan Paintings...

We received a real e-mail treat this weekend. Friends from England sent us a slideshow of the amazing artistry of Robert Duncan. I was able to find it on YouTube. You do know that everything is on YouTube! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Thank you, Penny and John!

P.S. Except for the mountains, the location could be Wisconsin. Remember, these are NOT photographs, but paintings. Spectacular!

My favorite? Farms are for Kids - Perhaps because it reminds me of growing up on a farm - or perhaps because it makes me think of the DNR...and a smile, involuntarily, comes to my face. :-)

You can purchase Robert Duncan's work at Robert Duncan Studios.

Friday, January 21, 2011

InterRoom Travel

My 'travel post' today is going to be a bit different, since I will be focusing on traveling between rooms in the house, keeping the fires going. (Sorry, they're in stoves, Calvin). We woke up to MINUS 32 degrees F. today, and that does not include any wind chill. Fortunately, there is hardly a breeze out there.  I made sure to get the bird feeders filled, first thing.

 Our trusty outdoor thermometer

 The good news...

We don't usually fire up the cookstove, but if it dips to minus 20 or below, that's the time to get this thing going again. It's a great old Home Comfort range, built in 1915. That extra stove helps keep the house nice and toasty in this kind of weather. We bought the stove many years ago and have moved it three times - once when we bought it, to our house in the valley, and then to our current house on the hilltop. After we bought it, Kevin said we were never moving that thing again! But when it came time to move, I told him that's the only thing I cared about keeping, and that he could throw out everything else, (that did not include books, of course, but that's a given...) if we could just take the cookstove with us. I think he's glad he did, but I won't ask him to confirm that. :-)

 Peanuts warming by the Quadrafire
(Conjures up a tune, doesn't it!)

Since there's nothing to lure me away from the house today, I thought it might be a good day to finish the lamb that I'm knitting and perhaps clean off my desk. Think that might be a good idea?

My Tube Map buried under the stuff on my desk should motivate me to keep it clean, but this just seems to happen overnight! You'll be happy to know that I always keep the kitchen countertop clean and free of clutter. 98% of the time, anyway.

Hope you all have a good day, and if you're living in the Northwoods, as we are, keep those fires going!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Standing in Awe...

Neighbor Bill's barn on a late winter afternoon

I was thinking about the birds at our feeder and the wood for our stove. I just can't get over it: Here we are, a sinful, rebellious people on this earth, who ignore our Creator after all He's given us, and even  though we've contaminated His Creation, even though we try to stuff our lives with every possible thing to take His place, He still allows us not only to 'live on His earth and breathe His air,' but leaves us among so much residual beauty!

 Nuthatch and Downy at their 8 AM breakfast

 Bluejays on the basswood

 Finches at the north feeder

I am in awe every time I see the cardinals, bluejays, flickers, downies, sparrows, finches, and other winter birds at the feeder. They are perfect. They are beautiful. They are amazing creatures that do exactly what God wants them to do. And as much as I enjoy these creatures, it is God who is the source of all creation, God of whom we should be in awe.

 My Snowdog

My littlest Snowdog

And then I was thinking about the dogs and cats who live in our house. How strange it is that creatures completely different from us can live among us, communicate their desires, and enjoy our company.

A snuggly afternoon

Enjoying a snack together under the birdfeeder

Eating the leftovers, early evening

And then I was thinking about wood...what an amazing thing that is! It shades us, it works for building our homes, and when we're cold, we cut the tree down because it will combust (spell check is telling me that this isn't a word) ... and in doing so, it will give off heat to protect us against sub-zero outdoor temperatures (not to mention all the other uses there are for wood.) Yet another of God's many gracious provisions for us.

Wheelbarrow of wood brought into the house.

There is so much to think about...

There are so many reasons to bow before the Creator and give Him praise.

And so much for which to be thankful...on a cold January night.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sirloin with Broccoli and Carrots

You're probably starting to think that all my dinner meals look alike. I'll have to admit that very often I start with a piece of steak or chicken and add various combinations of vegetables. For example, I like to buy sirloin and package it in roughly 1.5 pound packages, then freeze it for later use.

This Sirloin with Broccoli and Carrots dinner is so delicious and so easy to make. The key is to think ahead in the morning, so you can move the frozen sirloin from the freezer to the refrigerator, then it will be just right for slicing very thin just before dinnertime. That way I never have to slice squishy meat, for who likes to do that!


1.5 pounds of beef sirloin, sliced in very thin strips
Fresh broccoli, cut into chunks
Fresh carrots, cut into  1/8 inch slices
Olive oil
Celery, cut in 1/3 inch chunks
Fresh mushrooms, sliced
Garlic, 1 clove, minced
Onion, 1, sliced
Red peppers (bell), diced
Sea salt
Coarse-ground black pepper
Lightly salted Planters Peanuts (other brands have so many additives and preservatives!)

Sauce: (Stir ingredients together)
1/2 c. Kitchen Basics (GF) Beef Broth
1 t. honey
1/4 c. burgandy
1+ T. corn starch

Steam sliced carrots and broccoli for a few minutes until the color is darker. You don't want them overcooked and squishy. Set aside.

Stirfry beef and garlic in olive oil until only slightly pink in the center. Remove to a plate.

In same skillet, stirfry celery, onion, and red peppers.

Add beef and garlic, carrots and broccoli back into the skillet. Add mushrooms.

Mix sauce and pour over contents of skillet. Cook on low until sauce is translucent.

Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, cayenne to taste. We like ours kinda hot.

Serve peanuts in a dish separately. You don't want to eat leftovers containing soggy peanuts!

Serve with brown or basmati rice. I'm trying to learn to simply sprinkle a little rice on top, rather than serving this stirfry over a bed or rice OR, better yet, to avoid the rice altogether. It's not like the vegetables don't have enough carbs.  You can see I didn't manage to do that this time, however. :-(

Planters - lightly salted, dry roasted...YUM

And here's the final product:

It's delicious. Then all you need is a little piece of 88% dark chocolate for dessert (like Endangered Species' Black Panther!)

This post is linked to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
and Tasty Tuesdays
and Tasty Tuesday Parade of Foods
and Tuesdays at the Table 
and What's Cooking Wednesday
and Lisa's Gluten Free Food and Health Blog
and Fun with Food Friday
and Fat Camp Friday

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cleaning Out

Well, here it is, mid-January, and I think my Seasonal Affective Disorder has kicked in. 

 Yes, I do think this is beautiful in its own very white, very cold way.

 Just four months ago this was my lush, green garden...

Our green has been replaced with lots of these...

And although I do love this snow-covered cranberry bush just outside my office window...

I needed to have a cheerier header for my blog and a fresh, clean look. SO, what you see below (and above) is the same cranberry bush, winter and summer. It felt good to get rid of my drab, gray blog background and open up the blog with more white space. It was terrifying to actually push the buttons that accomplished the change in template, but with copious reassurances from my daughters that all would not be lost, I finally did it!

I'm hoping it will inspire me to apply the same to our house. It could use a fresh, clean look with more open space. It's not the throwing away things that's difficult for me; it's determining which things I might need in the future. And that's the problem...

I think I need to go visit Fly Lady.

P.S. Check out my new blog button on my sidebar and our latest family pic.:-)


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