Elsa isn't Frozen at Grandma's House!

I've seen lots of Elsa costumes online this summer ... and my Miss Phoebe is just like all the other seven year olds!  She wants to be Elsa, too!

After looking at lots of pictures ... and lots of costumes that other moms and grandmas had made ... I decided I'd make one, too!  So, I started talking to Phoebe about Elsa, secretly borrowed her movie so I could watch it at home ... and told her I thought I would have a "Frozen" party ... You know we have lots of themed parties at my house.  The first thing she said was that she would be Elsa, but she needed a dress.  I told her I'd make a dress the weekend she and her mom and dad went on a little trip.  Good thing I did ... because as soon as they got back home, she asked her mom to find out if I had made it!

Went to the fabric store ... and bought a couple yards of 4 different fabrics ... the darkest one on the left is polyester ... but looks like Shantung!  The other sheers had sparkles built in ... which helps when you need to create snowflakes!  Yes ... thank you Disney for putting snowflakes on Elsa's train!

Some of the costumes had been made by attaching skirts to tee shirts.  I pondered that ... didn't like the idea ... and then remembered that I had this ...

I'd bought this flower girl dress at a thrift shop a couple years ago ... when Phoebe wanted to be a bride.  It was too big and other Grandma found a smaller one, so we put this away.  This is a Cinderella dress ... and the features included covered buttons down the back, a row of satin roses along the bodice and beautiful beads, pearls and satin embroidery work.

I removed the roses and separated the skirt from the bodice.  Fortunately, the zipper was only sewn into the lining ... so leaving all that intact, meant I didn't have to rework the zipper!  I made a new skirt from the Shantung and an over-layer of sheer fabric.  I trimmed the neckline with teal lace and sewed some snowflake shaped buttons on the bodice!

The most important part of the dress is the train ... and the train must have snowflakes on it ... or it wouldn't be real!  I layered two sheer fabrics and gathered them ... attached them to a band ... and then tacked the bow from the original dress to the top of the train.  I used sew on velcro to attach the train to the dress.

The most important part of all ... the snowflakes.  I pondered embroidery ... hand and machine ... and finally decided fabric paints were the answer.  Because the fabric is sheer, I knew the paint would seep through ... so I placed the fabric over waxed paper ... painted the snowflakes and let them dry ... then the waxed paper peeled right off the back.  Now ... I'm no artist ... but Miss Phoebe loved those snowflakes ... That is all that matters!

It was hard to get Elsa to stand still long enough ... to take pictures ... but I know she loves her dress ... She wanted to wear it to bed the night I gave it to her ... and she wanted to wear it to daycare the next day!

Of course ... I made a crown ... and glued some old pieces of jewelry to it for added sparkle ... and gave her pair of clip rhinestone earrings that I probably paid too much money for ... 30 years ago ... but who cares?!  All that matters is that Miss Phoebe ... gets to be Princess Elsa ... whenever she wants!

I'll be sharing this post with some of the following parties.  Make sure you click through to see the other posts ... but first, visit my home page to see my other posts!

Creatively Living for Monday  Funday Party 
The Dedicated House for Make It Pretty Monday 
The DIY Dreamer for From Dream To Reality Tues  
Our Home Away From Home for Tuesdays @ Our Home 
We Call it Junkin! 
Knick of Time for Knick of Time Tues  Inspire Me Tuesday  
Creative Muster

Christmas in July!

I am always in the mood for Christmas!  It started at a very young age ... and yes this cute little girl with panties showing ... is me!  My parents hosted a Christmas Eve gift exchange for our family and neighbors ... and somebody always played Santa Claus!  My brother David and I were the youngest of 5 kids ... and in this picture ... David probably still 'believed', and I certainly did!  I still do.

Here's a close friend, 'Santa George' ... with Phoebe when she was much younger!  That looks like a sad Phoebe face ... but it is a tired Phoebe face!  She loves Santa George ... and we fear this might be our last year of Santa times ... as she turns 8 right before Christmas!

I enjoy using pink at Christmastime!  This tree is in my sewing room ... decorated with small pink rose china demitasse cups and silk roses.

Here is more pink!  This is my Princess House Fantasia dinnerware in the poinsettia pattern ... which I actually use year round!  You really cannot tell what the flowers are!  The bread 
and butter plate is a pretty Christmas amaryllis.

Here's a beautiful table set with burgundy.  Yes, it is on the front porch ... we actually set this table as part of a photo shoot for a holiday publication!  I'm good with Christmas tablescapes all year long, though!

Here are snowmen in the sunroom ... I love the red and white color scheme for at least one of my holiday rooms!  Sometimes I use a white tree in that room and cover it with red ornaments and lights!

Here's a guest bathroom with poinsettias and snow ladies!  This bathroom is permanently an autumn space because of the wallpaper ... so pinecones and poinsettias work well at Christmastime.

Don't you love this big Santa boot?  It made a perfect centerpiece for a hot chocolate tablescape!  Cute snowmen ... and a big red boot!

Here's a collage of photographs that are in the Christmas cookbook I wrote a few years ago.  "Santa Suppers Revisited" featured the themed menus and holiday tablescapes from a series of dinner parties I hosted for girlfriends who had helped with volunteer projects during the course of the year.  The 'Santa Suppers' have gone on for years!

I posted these past Christmas photo collages so I could party with 

Make sure you click through to get a little Christmas inspiration!  It is never too early to start planning ... and we really should celebrate all year long!

Is it Wintertime in Southern Illinois?

It is July!  I'm pretty sure that Mother Nature is a little confused because the midnight temperatures are dropping into the 50s! I cook on the outdoor gas grill all year long ... there isn't enough snow to keep me from lighting the grill!  It is unusual, however, for me to stir up a comfort food casserole in July!  It is always too hot to use the oven ... but today was an exception!  I had ground beef thawed for grilled burgers, but it turned into sloppy cheeseburger casserole!

This casserole couldn't be easier ... but I want to encourage you to put things in it that you like. After cooking for the same man for 35 years, I always knew exactly what he liked!  Joe's hamburger casserole had to have onions, sweet bell pepper and corn in it ... and the cheeseburger version required good old Velveeta cheese!

To make this ... brown a pound of good ground beef with half a big sweet onion ... chopped and half a green or red bell pepper ... also chopped.   Add a big handful of sliced fresh mushrooms when the meat is almost done ... and throw in a cup of fresh corn kernels ... I cook my ears of corn in the microwave first.  All you have to do is put them in ... leave the husks and silks on them.  Two ears require about 7 minutes to get done.  The husks and silks will slide right off.

After the meat is done ... stir in 1/4 cup of katsup and a packet of brown gravy mix (the kind that requires a cup of water) ... and the cup of water.  Pour all these ingredients in a casserole dish ... drop in a few little chunks of Velveeta cheese and cover the casserole with a can of refrigerator biscuits.  Bake in the oven at 375 degrees ... until the biscuits are done.  That will probably take 12 - 15 minutes.  The juices will thicken ... the cheese will melt ... and the crispy top of the biscuits makes this a really good comfort food meal!

I normally make it October ... but why not make it in July?  Sure was good!

I might share this post with a few of the following parties ... but before you click through to the party ... check out my home page to see my other posts!

Creatively Living for Monday  Funday Party 
The Dedicated House for Make It Pretty Monday 
The DIY Dreamer for From Dream To Reality Tues  
Our Home Away From Home for Tuesdays @ Our Home 
We Call it Junkin! 
Knick of Time for Knick of Time Tues  Inspire Me Tuesday  
Creative Muster

Shrimp Scampi with a Secret Ingredient!

My husband and I owned an Italian restaurant 30 years ago and I'm still stopped in the grocery story ... by friends who want the recipes we used.  That's been so long ago ... and I cooked from scratch and trained a couple good chefs ... so I don't remember all of those recipes. There are two, however, that I'll never forget because we made boatloads of Fettuccini Alfredo ... and Shrimp Scampi!

My secret ingredient in the shrimp scampi is celery seed ... you probably won't find that in your recipe!

Lots of things have changed in 30 years!  We had a supplier that drove fresh shrimp and oysters from the Gulf Shores ... into Southern Illinois once a week. So, we served seafood ... just a couple nights, while it was fresh.  No frozen seafood in my restaurant!  I always used 16 count shrimp ... and people loved it.
I used to make my own lemon infused olive oil ... couldn't buy it back then.  I'd peel the zest from the lemon in long strips and drop it in my olive oil.  After a couple weeks, the lemon flavor is fantastic!  Fresh herbs were hard to come by 30 years ago, too ... so I'd grow my own.  I constantly ran out of basil!

Scampi is an easy thing to prepare.  Peel, devein and wash your shrimp.  Pat it dry with a paper towel.  Sprinkle it with your favorite Italian herbs.  I use roasted garlic paste, dry thyme, chopped fresh basil, chopped fresh Rosemary ... and a sprinkle of celery seed and another sprinkle of red pepper flakes.  Pat the spices/herbs into the shrimp.  You can put this on both sides, but chances are ... you'll lose one side of the spices because they will fall off.

For 10 - 12 big shrimp, I slowly melt 2 Tablespoons of butter.  After the butter has melted, add a Tablespoon of lemon infused olive oil and turn the heat up to high. Add the shrimp ... the seasoned side down and let them sizzle.  Turn them over when you see that the shrimp is cooking about half way up the flesh.  You'll see it turn colors and firm up.  Turn the shrimp over ... turn off the burner and move the pan to a cold burner.  It will be hot enough to finish cooking your shrimp without getting it over-done.

Drizzle fresh lemon juice over the shrimp while they are still in the pan ... let the juice sizzle in the hot oil/butter.   Serve the shrimp over your favorite pasta ... and I always pour the pan juices right over the shrimp.  We like ours served with grated Parmesan ... the dry kind!

Shrimp Scampi is easy ... fast food!  If you use fresh pasta that cooks in a couple minutes ... you have a meal in less than ten minutes!

I'll share this recipe with some of the following parties ... Make sure you click through to see the other entries.  First ... check out my home page to see all my other posts!

Creatively Living for Monday  Funday Party 
The Dedicated House for Make It Pretty Monday 
The DIY Dreamer for From Dream To Reality Tues  
Our Home Away From Home for Tuesdays @ Our Home 
We Call it Junkin! 
Knick of Time for Knick of Time Tues  Inspire Me Tuesday  
Creative Muster

Ugly Ornies!

I don't have much time to spend making ornaments for my empty baskets or bowls, but I sure like the way those cute little ornies look in everybody's posts! What I do have plenty of ... are empty baskets hanging around the house, and even though I try to avoid buying more ... sometimes I just can't help myself!  In a recent junkin' adventure, I found this cute flat basket with a handle ... and I was taken by the woven pattern at the base of the handle.  I was also taken by the price of just one dollar!

Since I wanted the basket to be the main feature in this little vignette, I didn't want it to overflow! In the same jaunt, I found a glass-topped Ball canning jar ... and it seemed appropriate to add it.  I filled it with some fall votive candles, so I would remember to use them! (Yes, I'm the worst about buying and hiding things from myself!)   I added a wooden spool of burlap ribbon ...

A few months ago, I found this old wine jug at an antique mall and it just jumped into my arms.  My German grandfather used to make his own wine and he had lots of these lined up in the basement!  I'm filling it with wine corks.  I put it on the coffee table with the new ugly ornies!  The ornies are simple little no-sew pumpkins.  Just cut your fabric into squares and sinch up the top.  I stuffed mine with polyfill, but I've been know to fill pumpkins with styrofoam popcorn.  Pull the 4 corners together to make the stem. I wrapped the stems with jute twine and used burlap ribbon to make one of the stems.  I did sew the burlap ribbon, but you could easily glue it.

I'm always glad that I have stashes of fabric scraps and craft supplies, when I get in the mood to make something!  My drawers are overflowing ... even though my little basket isn't!

I might share this post with some of these parties, so make sure you click through to see the other posts.  First ... visit my home page to see what else I've been doing.  I'm going to post a couple more craft projects this week, so come back and see me!

Creatively Living for Monday  Funday Party 
The Dedicated House for Make It Pretty Monday 
The DIY Dreamer for From Dream To Reality Tues  
Our Home Away From Home for Tuesdays @ Our Home 
We Call it Junkin! 
Knick of Time for Knick of Time Tues  Inspire Me Tuesday  
Creative Muster

Daylily Day!

I've been in the mood to set a really bright sunshiny table ... and wanted something similar in a wreath for my front door!  So ... since I still have daylilies growing ... which is a little unusual in Southern Illinois ... I decided they should be the theme.  I love the combination of pink and orange ... In fact, pink might  be my new white!  I think it goes with everything!

I've fallen in love with the geo mesh product that everybody is using for wreaths, and lately I've been catching it on sale.  I had a few rolls of this two-tone orange/yellow mesh, so I was all set to begin creating!

First step was to design the wreath.  That was simple enough, and I had a bush of silk daylilies ... so all done!

Then I created another smaller version to use as a centerpiece.  I had flameless candles that matched perfectly ... and enough silk flowers to add to it and add to the center in a small vase.

It sure didn't take much time to set the table on the front deck!  

Pink dinner plates with pink flatware.  Orange Viking Georgian stemmed glassware shines in the sunlight!

This napkin ring is like a cluster of gem stones!  I found a bunch of them at 
Pier 1 ... really on sale ... at the end of last summer!

I added a peach luster Anchor Hocking shell dish to 
use for a fresh vegetable salad.

Dinner on the sunshine daylily table was easy!  I made a salad of strips of cucumber, red bell pepper and chunks of celery.  I added my favorite vinaigrette with lots of feta cheese.  So good ... and so easy!   I keep ice cube portions of fruit juices that I have left over when I make jelly.  I still had some of my tart cherry juice from last summer ... so I added a cube to my favorite bottled BBQ sauce.  It enhances the flavor considerably.  
I grilled thin pork chops and added a handful of frozen cherries to the finished plate.  It takes them about a minute to thaw.  

Hope you enjoyed my Daylily Day with a sunshine tablescape, front door wreath and easy bbq meal!  I'll be sharing with some of the following parties, so make sure you click through to see the other posts.  First ... be sure to visit my home page to see my other recent posts!  Thanks for visiting!

Creatively Living for Monday  Funday Party 
The Dedicated House for Make It Pretty Monday 
The DIY Dreamer for From Dream To Reality Tues  
Our Home Away From Home for Tuesdays @ Our Home 
We Call it Junkin! 
Knick of Time for Knick of Time Tues  Inspire Me Tuesday  
Creative Muster

What to do with Herbs!

I'm posting a portion of a newspaper cooking column I wrote last year ... during the time that I was teaching over 1,000 students how to cook using locally grown produce.  Our youngest students were 3 year old preschoolers and our oldest student was 87.  She probably taught me more than I taught her!  We also had several International students ... so we were teaching folks what to do with fruits and vegetables ... with which they were unfamiliar!


People frequently ask me what I do with the herbs I grow.   I like to joke about my little pot garden in the backyard.  Of course, I’m talking about my collection of little red flower pots that hold a wide variety of herbs!  I have my favorites.  rosemary and basil are at the top of that list, but I always grow sage so I can freeze whole leaves to use under the skin of my Thanksgiving turkey and I grow plenty of mint to use in baking and beverages.   This year I planted chocolate mint and it adds an incredible flavor to cakes, cookies and beverages.  It tastes just like a chocolate mint candy.  I also grow plenty of dill for pickling, chives for seasoning potatoes and salads and the standard herbs use in cooking Italian, including thyme and oregano.  Pineapple sage is another favorite and I use it in fruit salads and I add it to meat marinades.  It is especially good to flavor chicken and pork. I freeze lots of herbs, so I have them in the wintertime because my green thumb abilities are limited and I can never keep them growing in the house!  I make jams and jellies using herbs.  Thyme adds a unique flavor to apple jelly; mint will hold its own in, so I just steep it in hot water and make mint jelly; and basil, especially the dark purple basil, adds a wonderful spike of flavor to grape wine jelly.  

Cooking with herbs is all about being creative and adding flavor to your food.  Don’t expect to get any significant dose of nutrition from herbs.  They contain a little bit of Vitamins A and C and some contain iron … but none in enough quantities to make much difference.  So, depend on herbs to help you create enhanced flavors that will entice your family to enjoy eating.   Herbs are fun to grow and children enjoy watching the plants get big and they enjoy the harvest, so use them to encourage the little ones in your life to take interest in preparing foods.  Sometimes the fact that they help grow and prepare foods, will encourage them to eat! 

Today, I’m sharing a full menu of recipes prepared with fresh herbs … from an appetizer to dessert!   Every course infuses a different flavor, so you’ll enjoy the variety.  I’ve spent the summer enjoying plain old water, infused with fruits and herbs, so we’ll start with that.  Then we’ll enjoy flavorful roasted hickory nuts, and I’m the very lucky recipient of local hickory nuts that a friend picked out for me.  I used part of them last fall and saved some for a special occasion.  I think this must be the occasion.  I’ll never tell where he finds them for fear of never getting anymore!  We’ll have a savory salad dressing to top your favorite lettuce or just to drizzle over cucumbers or tomatoes.  I’ve included a succulent Asian chicken recipe that is great served over rice or noodles.  I encourage you to use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts because they are so flavorful and tender.  We’ll end with a calorie rich pound cake flavored with pineapple and pineapple sage.  You can top a piece with vanilla bean ice cream, dip chunks of the cake in your favorite chocolate fondue or just enjoy it plain with a good cup of coffee!  Plain with coffee is my favorite way to enjoy it!
I hope you’ll try these recipes.  If you don’t grow your own herbs, you can find fresh herbs at our farmers’ markets or our orchard retail stands.  Use fresh; buy local and enjoy really good food!

Plain Old Water

I’m not a soda drinker, but I like the fizz of carbonation, so I bought one of those soda maker machines.  I tossed all the syrups that came with it because they are nothing but sugar, but I love to add fizz to my plain old water!  If you don’t have one of those, not to worry.  This recipe works without the fizz!
Muddle a cup of mixed berries, fresh or frozen and put them in the bottom of a quart jar.  Add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme and press the herbs against the fruit.  Fill the jar with water and put a lid on it.  Refrigerate it overnight for the best flavors.  Drink it iced cold and don’t waste the fruit.  I usually fill that jar three times before I eat the fruit!  You can use almost any fruit with exception of bananas.  Save those for your smoothies!   Lemons, limes, peaches, apricots, plums, strawberries, oranges and apples … all work well!

Chocolate Mint Hickory Nuts

Pecans, walnuts or almonds work just as well as hickory nuts.   Combine ¼ cup of Southern Illinois honey with ½ stick of melted butter.  Place 2 cups of nuts on a baking sheet and drizzle the honey/butter over them.   Chop chocolate mint leaves (or plain mint) until you have ½ cup and sprinkle these over the nuts.  Toss the nuts to coat them well.  Bake them for 8 – 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Watch them carefully, so they don’t scorch because the size of the nut pieces impacts the length of time it takes for them to roast.  They will be sticky when they are done.  Let them cool on the baking sheet, then toss them in ½ cup of cocoa power mixed with ½ teaspoon of sea salt.  The salt brings out the flavors of the honey and the chocolate.

Creamy Tarragon Salad Dressing

In a blender, combine ¼ cup of olive oil with 2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard and 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar.  Add 2 Tablespoons of fresh tarragon leaves and blend until smooth.  Add a dash of salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, a pinch of sugar and ¼ cup of your favorite mayonnaise.  Blend again and serve with salad ingredients.  This is also good over cooked root vegetables like carrots, turnips, parsnips and little potatoes.

Spicy Basil Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons chili pepper paste
2 teaspoons garlic paste
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Up to 1 cup of fresh basil leaves

Cut the chicken thighs into bite size pieces.  In about 2 Tablespoons of canola oil, brown the chicken until the flesh begins to caramelize.  Add the onion, chili pepper paste, garlic paste, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Continue to cook the meat over a low heat until it is done.    Just before serving, add the fresh basil leaves and stir the chicken, so the leaves adhere to the pieces.  Serve with rice or noodles. 

Pineapple Sage Pound Cake

1 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
5 eggs
3 Tablespoons pineapple sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 8-ounce can of crushed pineapple
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour

Use your electric mixer and cream the butter, honey and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition.  Beat in the crushed pineapple and the juice, the sage leaves and lemon extract.  Mix the baking powder and the flour together, then add to the batter about a third at a time.  Whip until creamy.   Pour the batter into greased and floured miniature loaf pans or small Bundt cake pans.   Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 45 – 50 minutes.  Check the cakes with a toothpick before removing them from the oven.  When they are done, let them cool for 10 minutes before inverting them.

I might be sharing my post with some of these parties!   Click through to visit the other posts ... but visit my home page, first, so you can see my other posts.

Creatively Living for Monday  Funday Party 
The Dedicated House for Make It Pretty Monday 
The DIY Dreamer for From Dream To Reality Tues  
Our Home Away From Home for Tuesdays @ Our Home 
We Call it Junkin! 
Knick of Time for Knick of Time Tues  Inspire Me Tuesday  
Creative Muster

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