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We’ve had a busy week

It's been a while since I have posted, but hopefully I will get my act together and be more faithful now that the school year has ended.

We have been keeping busy around here the last week or so. Last Saturday we participated in our subdivision's yard sale. Rob and I are not very good merchandisers - we never make much money from our yard sales, but we do clear out a lot of stuff that we no longer need or want. I took the leftovers out to Miracle Hill thrift store after the sale.

We also participated in some end of the school year activities and have been cleaning up and preparing the house for an upcoming visit by our DD and our grandson. Can you tell I am excited?

I had a wonderful mother's day yesterday with our local family members and I'm thankful that we could spend part of the day together. We had a nice dinner together and I received some very thoughtful gifts.

This week I made a dress for a little friend at church who will be celebrating her second birthday soon. The pattern is from a site called The Handmade Dress. You can either download the pattern or have it mailed to you. The designer has several cute patterns available and she is selling the patterns to help finance a foreign adoption. Here is a picture of the version I made:

picture of Miss Mary

I hope all of you who are mothers had a wonderful Mother's Day!


For the Birds

picture of Bird House

We've been having some bird activity around here this week. A couple of house wrens have been building a nest in our birdhouse. We read that they sing the most when they are nesting and we enjoy hearing them sing first thing in the morning and throughout the day.

Here's a picture of a house wren:

picture of House Wren

picture of Wren Nest

We have also had a very distinguished bird visitor at our feeder for the last several days; a Rose Breasted Grosbeak. He is very beautiful and we have really enjoyed seeing him.

Here's a picture of a Rose Breasted Grosbeak:

picture of Grosbeak

Last week when I stopped by Walgreens to pick up a few things I found that they had the Easter Peeps on sale for 18 cents a box. I bought a few boxes and used them to make this sunflower cake:

picture of Sunflower Cake

If you are interested in making it some time you can find the recipe here.

I don't think I will make the cake again, but I will post the recipe for the chocolate frosting that I used, as it's a good one:

Good Chocolate Frosting

1 stick margarine or butter
1/2 cup cocoa, sifted
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup milk (may not need all)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Melt the margarine and then stir in the cocoa. Pour into a mixing bowl. Add the powdered sugar alternately with the milk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Frost cake immediately as this hardens as the butter cools. This is enough for a layer cake or two dozen cupcakes.


Clone of a Cinnabon

Do you own a bread machine? If the answer is yes, do you use yours? I kind of go through fits and spurts. My bread machine is a vertical one (the bread rises upwards), so I tend to use it for making the dough and then baking it in the oven. I do have a couple of recipes that I make in the bread machine that turn out really well. This is one of them.

picture of Cinnabon Dough

I ran across this recipe a couple of years ago, and it has become a family favorite. I don't make these very often since they are quite rich, but if you want a really good cinnamon roll try this recipe.

I pretty much follow the recipe the way it is listed on All Recipes except that I do not use bread machine yeast--I just use the rapid rise yeast and sometimes I make them a bit smaller than the recipe directs. I made some of these this week for my friend Kathy's birthday and took some pictures to document the process. I made the dough in the evening, covered it with plastic wrap, and then baked and frosted them in the morning.

Here is the dough rolled out and spread with the butter and brown sugar/cinnamon mixture:

picture of Rolled Cinnabon

Here the dough is being cut into pieces with a bench knife/scraper:

picture of Cut Cinnabon

Here they are panned up and ready to go in the oven:

picture of Panned Cinnabon

And here they are ready to eat:

picture of Baked Cinnabon


Saucepan Brownies

picture of Plated Congos

Have you ever heard of saucepan brownies? I had never heard the term before I read it in a little booklet many years ago, although I had made brownies using this method before I knew of the term. They are sometimes also called one bowl brownies. The idea is that you melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan (or in the microwave) and then combine with the other ingredients. I have found that brownies or bars prepared by this method are usually very moist, dense, and chewy rather than cake-like.

These Congo Bars are an example of saucepan brownies. I was given this recipe by a student many years ago and we have enjoyed Congo Bars ever since. They are very rich and delicious, so cut them small and plan on sharing a plate of them with friends.

Congo Bars

2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup butter or margarine (approximately 10 Tbsps.)
3 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Melt butter or margarine. Add brown sugar and slightly beaten eggs. In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to first mixture and stir to blend and then stir in the chocolate chips. Spread in a 9" x 13" pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 mins. or until the bars test clean. Cool and cut into bars.

Here are the ingredients:

picture of Brownie Ingredients

Here's everything mixed together:

picture of Mixing Brownies

Here they are ready to pop into the oven:

picture of Brownie Dough

Since I was planning to give most of these bars away I lined the pan with non-stick foil instead of greasing and flouring it so I could remove the bars from the pan to make them easier to cut.

picture of Congo Bars

Give these a try if you need a quick, delicious bar recipe.


Weekend update

DH was at a conference at church Friday night and nearly all day and evening on Saturday, so I puttered around the house. Here are a few things I worked on:

I made another batch of granola. This time I tried a tropical blend with chopped dried pineapple, coconut, banana chips, and chopped cashews. I didn't know if we would like this combination, but we've found it to be quite tasty.

picture of Tropical Granola

picture of Thomas Quilt

I worked on quilting another baby quilt. This one is made from a remnant of Thomas the train fabric and an old curtain from DS Mark's bedroom. I just need to add the borders and it will be finished. I adapted an idea from this book:

picture of Quilts for Baby

I had read about the book on a sewing blog and checked it out of the library. It was still in print and DH got it for me for Valentine's Day. All the quilts are simple without a lot of fussy piecing and are planned to go together quickly and easily.

I made a Ham Loaf for our Sunday dinner using some of the leftover Easter ham that I had ground up and frozen. My Aunt Nana used to make Ham Loaf and it had been years since I had eaten any. I made the loaf on Saturday and cooked it in the Crock Pot on Sunday.

picture of Raw Ham Loaf

DH got up at 5:30 AM to turn it on. 🙂 It was perfectly cooked by lunch time. I had read this tip about putting the strips of foil in the crock pot in one of those little Pillsbury cookbooklets.

picture of Foil Crockpot

This is all that was left when I remembered to take a picture!

picture of Cooked Ham Loaf

Here's the Ham Loaf recipe:

Ham Loaf

1 1/2 lbs. ground ham (about 3 cups) (I chopped it in the food processor)
1 lb. ground fresh pork
1 cup dry bread crumbs or cracker crumbs (can use graham cracker crumbs)
1 cup milk
2 eggs
dash pepper
1 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

Topping Sauce
1/4 cup catsup
2 Tbsps. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. dry mustard

Mix all ingredients well and form into a loaf. Top with some of the sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours or in crock pot for about 7 hours on low. (I added another portion of the sauce about 1/2 hour before the cooking time was up.)

I served the Ham Loaf with these green beans, which are also very tasty:
(note, I hadn't added the bacon in at this point.)

picture of Green Beans Tomatoes

Skillet Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Bacon

6 slices bacon
1 large onion, sliced or diced
1 bag frozen green beans or about 1 lb. fresh, cleaned and snipped
1/2 cup chicken broth
dash pepper
1 large tomato, chopped (in the winter I use about 3/4 cup drained, diced canned tomatoes)

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble. Set aside. Sauté onions until slightly browned. Add beans, broth, and pepper. Cook until beans are tender, about 10-15 mins. Add tomatoes and cook briefly. Add bacon and serve. These are very tasty and attractive.

I hope your weekend was equally full and blessed.