Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Best Sweet Potatoes Ever

Our family loves sweet potatoes - baked with butter; in wedges; plain; or in souffle. But at Thanksgiving, we make them the way Don's Grandma Nelly cooked them . . . in a casserole with lots of brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows. That is until this year. Diana sent me a recipe for some sweet potatoes that sounded delicious - so I decided to forego Grandma Nelly potatoes for these. The recipe is officially called Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan and Marshmallow Streusel. It is from Tyler Florence from the show Food 911. Good stuff!

In a 400 oven, prick the sweet potatoes, put on a cookie sheet and bake them until soft. (The recipe said 45 minutes, but I still had to put mine in the microwave . . . with a turkey and everything else in the oven, they didn't cook in 45 minutes - of course they were huge, so maybe that's why!) Once they are cooked, let them cool a bit, then slit and push the ends together so they open up - much like a twice-baked potato.

Using the following:

3/4 c. unsalted butter - room temperature
3/4 c. light brown sugar
3/4 c. flour (because of a review on the recipe, I decreased the flour to 1/2 cup . . . but I don't think the extra 1/4 c. would have made a difference.)
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1 c. toasted pecan pieces (make sure to toast them - makes a big difference)
1 c. miniature marshmallows

In a large bowl, mix butter, brown sugar, and flour until it is crumbly looking. Add remaining ingredients and fold together to combine.

Stuff the potatoes with the streusel topping and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Man, oh man. Good, good, good! So good that we are saying good-bye to Grandma Nelly's sweet potatoes. These are definitely on our permanent Thanksgiving dinner list!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

More Thanksgiving

So here is what the table looked like just before we ate. On the buffet were two of the dishes . . . the pumpkin au gratin (that I reheated in the microwave and then forgot to serve . . . ) and to its left persimmon pudding. The persimmon pudding is more like a cake served with a decadent lemon sauce (lots of butter and sugar with lemon - yum). It is a family recipe from my dad's side of the family . . . I don't know the history, but I have always imagined that it was an English recipe.

Tomorrow I will put up the recipe for the sweet potatoes. Diana had sent it to me from an internet website . . . and I will never have any other kind of sweet potatoes again. They were fabulous!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Decor

I don't consider myself artistic, especially when it comes to decorating. Although I can set nice tables, they never have that "wow" look. So that's why I am so pleased with what I did for Thanksgiving this year. Unfortunately, neither of my kids were here to see it. So I will let pictures tell the story!

I used branches from some pear trees for the centerpiece - they are unusually red this year with big berries on them. A few mums from the garden added some yellow and white color. Then some leaves from the tree strewn on the table with votive candles and the place mats that Diana and Don picked out two years ago completed the look.

Last year Kenneth and Melinda gave us the beautiful glass cylinder with the candle. So I cut some Nandina berries and put them in the bottom. Cutting some branches from the sugar maple in the backyard and putting them in a glass jar balanced out the Nandinas.

Although it may not seem fancy to you, it is a miracle for me! More pictures tomorrow!

An Attitude of Gratitude

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, there was an article about the health advantages of having an attitude of gratitude. They are significant.

When I started at the School, Mrs. Garvey subtly talked about gratefulness and enjoying the gifts we have, no matter what they are. She modeled having an attitude of gratitude, and eventually I got it. I am not as good at it as she is, but I try very hard.

God has greatly blessed Don and me - we both had wonderful parents, we both have worked in good jobs, we have great friends, we have terrific children. I continue to marvel at God's greatness and am grateful for all that He has given to us.

I hope for all of my family and friends a most blessed Thanksgiving! I am grateful you are a part of my life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Done, Done, Done!

290 pages. 103,500 words.

My book is done. Well, sort of done. There's still a lot of work to do. And I still think of things that I left out. But it has been delivered to two people to read, edit, and critique.

Now I just have to find pictures, read and make corrections myself, and decide if I have left anything out!

Looking forward to getting this one published. A School Like No Other. Be looking for it in the spring.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fall, Not So Frondly Speaking

The weather has been spectacular this year, but that didn't keep the leaves from covering our lawn the last few weeks. We have some huge trees, and I love them . . . except for now.

We have a particularly big tree in the backyard . . . a bald cypress. It is a lovely tree except this time of year. That's when its fronds fall and cover the yard. They aren't too hard to pick up - they stick together pretty well . . . except only about 80% of them can be raked. The rest stick to the grass and won't be picked up. Or worse yet, they stick to Babs or Sepia and end up on the family room or bedroom carpet. Sometimes our house looks just like the yard outside!

Today we made our second pass over the backyard. We filled three large bags with nothing but cypress fronds. Then I looked up to the top of the tree . . . and there are still many more to fall. So I guess I better get used to having fronds follow the dogs into the house, because they are going to be with us for awhile.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Six years ago late tonight my mom passed away. In what was the most surreal time of my life, I watched my mom leave this world. The experience still haunts me.

What I have learned since then is that death comes in many ways, and no one has the same experience. Since Mom was lucid until the end, we didn't see it coming. A nurse's aid who came to the house that day said it would happen within 12 hours . . . but I am not sure any of us believed her. The aide was very young . . . and Mom certainly seemed all right. But she was right - Mom was gone within about 11 hours.

One thing about mothers . . . they worry. After Kenneth was born, Mom told me, "Once a mother, always a worry." And she worried about us until she passed. At 4 a.m., six years ago this morning, Mom needed something, and we were out of it. I suggested that Isabel, the home health nurse, and I go to Wal Mart. The only way Mom would let us go was if we would take a ball bat with us in case we were attacked. So Isabel, the ball bat, and I got into the car and headed to Wal Mart. We were fine, of course, but that's not the point. Mom was worried about us . . . until she died.

Mom loved her family. She loved her husband, she loved her kids and she loved her grandkids. I have missed her every day she has been gone. Thanks, Mom, for all you did for me and for my family. And thanks for worrying about me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autumn is Falling

I love certain aspects of autumn. Usually we don't have a lot of wind. The weather is cool in the mornings, warming up through the day. The mums bloom spectacularly. The leaves on the trees turn all sorts of colors, shining brightly in the sunlight.

But those leaves . . . they surely make a mess on my lawn. Raking leaves is just not my favorite activity. We have a beautiful maple tree in the front yard that I love . . . except for the first few weeks in November. Then all those gorgeous leaves that keep us cool in the summer have to be bagged or composted in the garden. Since most of the leaves don't fall until after daylight savings time has gone away, Don doesn't get home before dark to take care of them. So guess who gets to?

Today, the neighbors had mown their lawns so my leaf-infested yard really stood out. Since it was going to rain, I went out to pull as many of the leaves as I could onto the driveway so that Don and I could bag them tonight. Amazingly, that was pretty easy to do. One more good wind, and the leaves will be off the trees, and the leaf raking will be done for the year!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hunger Games

The November book assigned by my book club is The Hunger Games. I wasn't looking forward to reading it, as I am not a science fiction lover. As I started to read it, I thought I couldn't get through it. The premise was too awful; the action was too intense for this Pollyanna.

I found that I would read a few pages in a chapter, and then I would have to put it down. But I couldn't put it down for long, because I had to find out what happened. Finally, in order to make sure I could finish it, I read the last two pages, just to see if anyone I cared about survived. Either way, it would help me be ready to accept whatever happened.

So I finished the book Sunday morning. And now I can't quit thinking about it. I don't know whether I want to get the second book or not. I am almost afraid to . . . but I am afraid not to. I suspect that I will get both the second and third books and read them the same way . . . and if it is too intense read the last few pages to give me a hint as to what will happen.

Of course, the last two pages in The Hunger Games were not what I thought they were, and it ended much differently than I had thought. So it is no guarantee . . . but it made it possible for me to finish it.

I can't wait for book club tonight. Should be a very interesting discussion!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Don and I are enamored of Alaska. The scenery, the snow, the changing weather, the wildlife. What is there not to love? I am glad I don't have to endure the darkness of the winter, but it intrigues me, and I wouldn't mind spending a month or two there just to experience it.

Every day, we check several Alaskan webcams, just to see what is going on up there. Earlier this month I went to the TAT cam in Talkeetna and saw this:

I had been watching this webcam for the fall colors and always missed them. Somehow, on this day though, the sun was perfectly placed. It's a good thing I caught the picture, because the next day, this is what it looked like:

Isn't it true what they say about timing?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


When our children were babies, one of the first things we wanted to do was to get them baptized. In order to do so, we had to meet with the priest about the ceremony. During the meeting, the priest emphasized that a child's baptism birthday is as important as their regular birthday, as the baptism marks the person as "Christ's own forever." We received a candle to light every year, and thanks to our children's godparents, Kristen and Greg Hart and Kathy Gunter Davis, that day was always remembered as important to our family.

On November 2, 1986, Diana was baptized by our new Deacon, Hal Dick, who at 80- years old decided to pursue the deaconate. I will never forget as he was pouring the water on her head, he began to laugh. Afterwards I asked him why, and he said that Diana was looking up at him and smiling. He thought she was so cute, he had to laugh. She wore my sister Katie's baptismal gown, and at all of six weeks, she was as happy as could be. Diana was the only baby Hal ever baptized, and we have always been grateful that she was the one child who was able to be baptized by him.

Today is also Eric Hart's baptism birthday. We won't be lighting a candle for Eric or Diana today, but I hope they remember this day as an important one in their life - one that reminds them that no matter what, God will not abandon them and will watch over them always. Happy Baptism Birthday!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Halloween Recipe

Last year, Don heard about a pumpkin souffle that sounded good. So I made it. It was really good, but very fattening - we ate way too much of it last year and decided that it should be a side dish rather than a main dish.

I took it to our church's tailgate potluck this noon and it was quite the hit! With 2.5 cups of Gruyere and 2.5 cups of Emmental cheeses, cream and French bread, how could it miss! All of that goes into a pumpkin and cooks for 1.5 hours. When it is done, it makes a very fun presentation and a delicious side to another entree.

I think it tastes like a very fancy grilled cheese sandwich, unless too much pumpkin gets into a bite. The cheese is somewhat stringy, but with the pumpkin mixed in with it, it tends not to be as gooey. It's hard to scrape the sides of the pumpkin without putting a hole in it (through which all the liquid would then leak), so we probably left a lot of good meat inside . . . but by the time we were done, there's wasn't much cheese left to mix with the pumpkin.

I can provide the recipe, if anyone is interested . . . it would make a very good side at Thanksgiving.