Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Recipe: Not-So-Amish Friendship Bread

Who says you need the Amish to make friendship bread? Not me! This bread is easy, fail-proof and will go so fast it'll make your head spin! This bread makes an excellent gift so get started now for Christmas.

Friendship bread is a ten-day process so make sure you allot yourself enough time if you're planning on taking it somewhere. It will also result in three starters to give away (if you decide to keep one) so make sure you have friends who want their own starters. Each starter recipe makes two loaves. You can either bake them both at the same time or freeze one once you add all the ingredients. I like to bake one for myself and give the other away.

Not-So-Amish Friendship Bread Starter

1 pkg Active Dry Yeast
1/4 C Warm Water
1 Cup Sugar (white or brown)
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Flour

In a small, non-metal bowl mix water and yeast until dissolved. In a separate bowl stir together flour and sugar. Slowly stir in milk and yeast mixture. Pour into a plastic bag.This is day one.  Follow these instructions:

Day 1: Mash the Bag
Day 2: Mash the Bag
Day 3: Mash the Bag 
Day 4: Mash the Bag
Day 5: Mash the Bag
Day 6: Add  1 C Sugar, 1 C Milk, 1 C Flour. Mash the bag
Day 7: Mash the Bag
Day 8: Mash the Bag 
Day 9: Mash the Bag
Day 10: Follow directions below

Pour contents into a non-metal bowl. Add 1 1/2 C Flour, 1 1/2 C Milk, 1 1/2 C Sugar. Label 4 bags with "Friendship Bread" and the date.  Measure out 1 cup of starter into each bag. Give away 3 bags and keep 1 for yourself. With the remaining starter in the bowl you will make the bread.

Cinnamon Friendship Bread

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit.
To the starter add:

3 eggs
1 C oil
1/2 C milk
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 C flour
1-2 boxes instant pudding (vanilla)
1 C nuts and 1 C raisins (optional)

Grease 2 large loaf pans.
In a separate bowl mix together 1/2 C sugar and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Dust the greased pans with half the cinnamon sugar.
Pour batter evenly into the pans and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake for one hour or until the bread loosens from the sides of the pan and a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This bread is a big hit at my house and I'll definitely be making it to give away for Christmas gifts. You can also freeze the batter once you've added the additional ingredients and use it later. Good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Recipe: Broccoli Casserole

I love broccoli casserole and this is the best broccoli casserole I've ever had. I tried this recipe for Thanksgiving and it was simply amazing. I think the eggs really made it better. They made it stick together without making it too dry or too runny. If you like broccoli casserole you MUST try this recipe:

Broccoli Casserole

2 Bags Frozen Broccoli
1 Small onion, diced
3/4 Stick butter
1/2 C Water
1 16 oz Jar Cheese Whiz
3 eggs, beaten
Ritz Crackers, crushed
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cook Broccoli, drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 425. Melt 1/2 stick of butter and saute onion. Add flour and water, stir. Reduce heat to low, add Cheese Whiz and broccoli, stir until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, stir in eggs. Pour into 8x8 or 9x9 pan. Sprinkle cracker crumbs on top and dot with remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes until hot and bubbly and crackers are browned.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sleeping Under the Christmas Tree

This year we bought our Christmas tree from one of the local high school baseball teams.  We paid $25 less than we paid last year, got a bigger tree than we did last year, and they even delivered it to our front porch! So we got a bigger, better tree for less money and the money went to a good cause. Too say the least, I'm extremely pleased with our decision. The tree is currently standing bare in our living room and we are waiting for it to stretch out all it's arms and fall open before we cover it with lights and ornaments. It's absolutely HUGE. It's far taller and fuller than I expected it to be and it smells heavenly.

Last night as we were setting it up and listening to Christmas music and drinking eggnog I was reminded of a tradition from my childhood. 

We never had a regular spot for the tree. It was placed in a different spot almost every year. I remember it in the front of the living room in front of the big double window. I remember it being in the back of the room, right by the door leading to the backyard. I remember picking out the branches by color (I don't ever remember having a real tree) and running them across the room so my dad could put them in the stand. I remember waiting patiently impatiently as my dad strung on the lights and always begging to help (it's probably better that I wasn't allowed...) I remember the lights that blinked along to the Christmas tunes that came out of the little box at the bottom of the tree. Eventually those lights broke and we had to settle for regular lights - but my dad did get the box working so we could still hear the music.  I remember hanging hundreds of ornaments. There were ornaments that my grandfather bought us with our names on them and ornaments my dad made in grade school that hung at the very top of the tree.

And every year, when the tree was finally decked out in enough ornaments to weigh down an elephant it was time for my favorite tradition. Every year we would beg and plead with our parents to let us sleep on the floor under the tree. My father always said no, sure that at some point in the night we would roll over and pull the tree down on us, killing us all. (We never did.) And every year my mother would convince him to let us sleep on the floor. So we all dragged our sleeping bags, pillows and stuffed animals down the stairs and picked out our spot on the floor. We would put our heads under the tree and turn on the box and listen to pingy Christmas tunes until we fell asleep. And one of my parents (probably my father) would come down after we were all asleep and turn off the lights and the music. I think of all our Christmas traditions, that was my favorite. There's something so peaceful about the soft glow of a Christmas tree.

 I don't work tomorrow so I might stay up late and enjoy the Christmas tree - but I think I'll probably sleep in my bed - I'm a little too old to be sleeping on a hardwood floor.  But perhaps when I have children I'll let them sleep under the tree and maybe they will love it as much as I did.
For now I just have to keep two kitties and a puppy away from the shiny ornaments... Only five more days until Judah gets here....

What are your Christmas traditions?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Terrific Tuesday: Piccadilly Heart

In my living are two bookshelves that sit on either side of my television. During Halloween season I hung a large decoration of suspended wooden letters that spelled "BOO." I absolutely adored it.

I'm getting tired of seeing my fall decorations because I've officially been bitten by the holiday bug and my Christmas decorations are going up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. (Which, by the way, is my favorite holiday.)  I thought for Christmas I could get a one that said something festive like "Fa La La" or "Merry Christmas."

So today's Terrific Tuesday features an artist who has as much holiday cheer as I do. PiccadillyHeart's etsy shop is chock full of cute holiday banners and place cards and ornaments.

Piccadilly Heart is new to Etsy, having just joined in September of this year. I just happened to stumble upon this shop looking for holiday decorations.

Let's check out some of Piccadilly Heart's creations, shall we?

We will start with Thanksgiving, since it is November and it's the turkey's month. Here's a set of Pilgrim Hat Place Cards that I thought were super precious.

Each one is made out of cardstock and you can even have the names written on before they are mailed. Too Adorable. Gotta love these. They come in a set of five and can be made to order and they sell for $4. Very nicely priced if you ask me!

Next we have the Let is Snow Banner. It's made of blue and white snowflake paper and strung from a silver ribbon.

It's my favorite banner in the shop and though it's a little long for my living room, I think I could probably make or order one that was shorter or just said "Snow." I think this is super charming and very well made. It costs $10, which is about what you'd pay for something of the same quality at Hobby Lobby or Michaels.

Check out these Santa Cupcake Wrappers. They are made of red cardstock with a black belt and a yellow buckle. They are super adorable and my mother in law would flip over these! I may get a set before Christmas to bring over for Christmas Eve. At $5 for a set of 12, I can definitely afford them!

If you're on a tight budget like me and have some crafting skills and a cricut machine bring it out and try your hand at making some of these. Or if you're not good with crafts just hop on over to Piccadilly Heart's etsy page and order something!

Thanks for reading! Have a good one!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meet Judah!

Meet Judah everyone!

Judah is a Canaan Dog. His breed is native to Israel and the Negev Desert.  He will be joining our family next month, just before Christmas.

A little about Canaan Dogs:
Canaan dogs have been around for centuries. The ancient Israelites used these dogs for herding livestock. Paintings of dogs believed to be Canaan Dogs have been found that date back as far as 400 BC.
Scientists began domesticating Canaan Dogs in the 1930's. They captured the wild dogs and found them to be easily trainable and highly adaptable. They were used in WWII to detect land mines and proved more effective than mechanical devices.

Canaan Dogs were introduced in the United States in the 1960's and accepted into the AKC in the herding group in 1997.

Why a Canaan dog?
When we started thinking about getting a dog we started taking tests online to see which breed was best for us. We both kept having the Canaan dog show up in our top three. We had never heard of the Canaan before so we started looking into the breed. Upon studying this unique dog we decided a Canaan was the perfect breed for us. Canaans are exceedingly intelligent and can learn up to 200 individual commands. They make excellent family dogs and are very protective of their family.

Why Judah?
A strong Israeli dog needs a strong Israeli name. Judah is one of the twelve tribes of Israel as described in Genesis. He was the fourth son of Jacob and Leah and his name meant “Praise.” King David was decended from Judah and so was Jesus. We threw around about 100 names and researched the peoples of the Negev and finally we settled on Judah.  

About our Judah:
Judah is three months old a weighs 15 pounds. Full grown he will stand about 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh 50 pounds (Almost as large as, and similar in appearance to a white German shepherd.) We are expecting him to arrive about a week before Christmas and we can’t wait!

Can’t wait for you to meet our Judah!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Don the Turkey Head

This is my friend, Don, with a turkey hat on his head singing about Thanksgiving. Do me a favor and watch his video. I'm sure he'll be tickled.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Money money money!

A few days ago I was in Walmart and handed the cashier a gold dollar. She looked at it for a second and asked "Maybe this is a dumb question, but what is this?" If I were not an honest person I would have answered "A five dollar coin" just to see what she would have said. I guess since I work in a bank and see strange money every day I forget that most people don't. I decided to write a blog post about coins, so the first thing I did was research each coin and I actually learned quite a bit. So if you're like me and you like coins, this blog post is for you.

(Disclaimer: Please know these are not the only coins ever minted in these denominations. I'm not going very far back, only to about the beginning of the last century. So if you are still curious after you read this post, do a little research on your own. Some of the old coins are beautiful.)

First, a little vocabulary: "Obverse" is the term used to refer to the front or "head" of the coin. "Reverse" is the term used for the "tail." Alright! On to the skinny on U.S. coin money (with photos of course!)

Here we have the penny - the least of all American coins - only worth one cent. The obverse shows Abraham Lincoln. You can find them with various reverses: the Lincoln memorial, a shield, wheat stalks or pictures of Abraham Lincoln.

Here is a Nickel - worth five cents. The current US nickel sports Thomas Jefferson's face in three poses.  Here you can see the nickels obverses:

The reverse of the nickel sports several designs including Jefferson's home of Monticello, a buffalo, a sail boat signifying Lewis and Clark's travels, two hands joined to signify the Louisiana purchase, and a view of the Pacific ocean with the words "Ocean in view! Oh the Joy!" Here's a photo of the all of the nickel reverses: (can't tell you how long it took the find all these!)

If you are lucky you may find one with an Indian head on the obverse and buffalo on the reverse like this one:

Next we have the dime - worth ten cents. The face on the dime is that of Franklin D. Roosevelt. On the reverse are a torch, an olive branch and an oak branch with the words "E Pluribus Unum" (Latin for "out of many, one") The torch represents liberty. The oak branch stands for victory. The olive branch stands for peace. The dime as we know it was released at the end of WWII. Before that time you would have seen Liberty on the front of the dime and, on the reverse, a fasces (a bundle of sticks with an axe blade) juxtaposed with an olive branch to symbolize our readiness for war but our desire for peace. This is the  most current dime:

The Quarter is worth twenty-five cents. On it's obverse is the bust of George Washington. On it's reverse may be one of many images. You may find an eagle, a minute-man soldier (signifying our bicentennial anniversary), an image representing one of the fifty states, or an image representing a national park. Here are three quarters: (L to R: state quarter reverse, George Washington obverse, Eagle reverse.)

Next we have the half dollar. It worth, well, half a dollar. The half is a pretty rare coin, we don't see them at the bank often and when we have one it's usually snatched up pretty quickly. On the obverse is John F. Kennedy. On the reverse is either an image of Independence Hall or the presidential seal - an eagle holding a shield, an olive branch, and thirteen arrows and surrounded by fifty stars. Previously they have sported Benjamin Franklin with the Liberty Bell on reverse and "Walking Liberty" with an eagle on the reverse. I have a Walking Liberty in my personal collection, but I've only seen one in my lifetime. Here are photos of the "Kennedy half"

Next we have the dollar coin (silver.) On the obverse you may see the face Dwight D. Eisenhower or of Susan B. Anthony (woman's suffrage activist) or (if you find a really old one) the face of Liberty wearing a crown. Eisenhower dollars are fairly rare, and I gave my only one away recently to a friend who is a Marine for a tradition they have in the Marine Corps regarding silver dollars. (Ask a marine about it!)
Here we have a photo of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, the most common silver dollar:

There is another variety of dollar coins and these are the gold. On the obverse you will see the face of a U.S. president with the Statue of Liberty on the reverse, or of Sacajawea (a Native American woman who led Lewis and Clark through the Louisiana Purchase with a baby on her back) with one of several images on the reverse including an eagle, a native American woman gathering corn, or the Hiawatha belt surrounding five arrows. Here is an image of the Sacajawea dollar coin with the eagle reverse:

And several U.S. President gold dollars with the Liberty reverse shown at the bottom:

And there's your lesson for the day. Hope you learned something that you didn't already know about U.S. coins. Have an awesome day!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Mighty Mouse Mechanic

I have, on occasion, been referred to as "Mighty Mouse." This week my mighty mouse skills got put to the test.

My car has been shuddering and dying at stoplights. Not exactly safe, mind you - especially when it breaks down in a busy intersection in Lexington. So on my day off I headed to an auto parts store we'll just call "Patricks."

Now, my husband loves "Patricks", but it's really not my cup of tea. I normally try not to speak ill of any business, but I've never had good service from the guys there. I don't know why, but they are always rude to me. Tuesday was no exception. I won't go into the details but let's just say the fellow behind the counter wasn't very helpful and as soon as he gave me the replacement hose I was on my own. (Of course, whenever I go in there with my husband they always offer to help him.)

So I stood bent over my car engine for twenty minutes trying to detach the old hose and patch job my husband and brother in law put on a few months ago. And despite the cold snap we've been suffering, standing in the sun over that hot car engine, it might as well have been July.

And to top it off, I was working with a Swiss army knife - you know, the tiny pocket size ones - as the only other tool in my car was a hammer.

After about 20 minutes of tugging and pulling and fighting with the old hose, a fellow came outside and informed me they had tools I could borrow. Gosh! You couldn't have mentioned that earlier? By that time I was practically done! So he unclasped the hose clamp for me and replaced it after I fitted the hose.

I have to admit I'm frustrated with the customer service at "Patricks." I've been in there enough times to see how they treat other customers but I've never been on the receiving end of that friendliness and customer service. I think I'll switch my loyalty over to another auto parts store where I've had better customer service.

I'm proud that I was able to repair my car on my own. It's definitely a first for me. I'm also thankful for a husband who's taught me so much about cars. If not for him I never would have made it home on Tuesday.

You learn something new every day.

Here's a photo of the product my hard work:

(Not bad, right?)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Recipe: Farrotto

My adventure in cooking continues with the ancient-grain-recipe. Farro is an ancient grain that recently came into the food world spotlight. It's a whole grain that's nutty, sweet and healthy. My husband's aunt served it to us at her house a few weeks ago and I fell in love with it. She found it at Good Foods Co-Op in Lexington, but you can probably find it at the local Italian grocery or organic market.

This recipe is made just like Risotto, but with Farro instead. It takes about 45 minutes to make and serves 4. It makes an great comfort food and can be eaten cold or warm.


1 1/2 C Uncooked Farro
1 Medium Onion, diced
5 Portabella Mushrooms, sliced
5 C Chicken Broth
3 T Olive Oil
1/4 Parmesan cheese
Garlic Powder to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste


In a large skillet, saute onions and mushroom in 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium high until soft. Meanwhile, heat broth in a sauce pan.
Add farro to skillet. Stir a few times more to coat with oil. Reduce heat to Medium low.
Add one large ladel of hot broth. Stir until almost dry and repeat.
When farro is soft enough to eat but still al dente ("firm to the bite") add parmesan cheese and remaining olive oil, stir.
Let simmer 10 minutes until flavors meld. Serve hot with bread.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Terrific Tuesday: Whee

I have official found a website I love. It's called Whee and they print images on t-shirts, bags, phone cases, baby onesies and just about anything else you can think of. I was searching for Romanian flag images and instantly fell in love with their apparel. I'll show you a few things I'm totally crazy about.

Romanian Flag Circle Charm:
I seriously love this necklace. I would probably wear it constantly for a month, regardless if it matched or not. I'm totally in love with this necklace. It's the perfect reminder of the place my heart longs to be.

Romania Greeting Cards:

I completely intend to buy several (read 100) packs of these before we head off to Romania. They make the perfect correspondence and thank you cards for our time in Romania. I'm in love.

Romania Journal

I intend to journal every day regularly while in Romania and this will let me know which journals I used during our time in Romania. No more digging through sixty journals to figure out which time period matches up to which event.

Romania Women's Performance Jacket

I love jackets like this. I love the positioning of the flag and the quality of the patch. I'd much rather have that on my jacket than a brand name. It's also a great conversation starter.

Romania Women's Fitted T-shirt

Love this t-shirt. It comes in five colors and I'm especially fond of the black and the orange. This would be a great Christmas present (hint hint) from anyone who loves me and wants to buy me something that I would really really love. 

In case you can't tell, I'm really in love with Romania and so very ready to hear God say "Go." Until then I'll keep thinking about and praying about Romania.  Check out this page to see more of Whee's cool Romanian flag merchandise.