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Monday, December 27, 2010

Back To The Grind

I just ate my morning bowl of oatmeal. It is slow moving this morning, I need to wake up and get to work!

I started working on my February article for Two-Lane Livin', it is due on Saturday. My article in December was titled  "Collecting Memories."  You can go here and check out all of my past articles.

I need to sharpen my pencils and get back to my writing.

I have many stories, but they are not going to get published sitting inside my hard drive. I am going to get serious and send out my Middle Grade story, The Family Secret to publishers. . . again. I need to get out my Picture Book manuscripts and send a few out. And while I am waiting the loooong wait to hear back about them, I need to start a few new stories. I have been very lazy with my writing lately and someone needs to slap me on my hand with a ruler. That's what the teachers used to do when I was in grade school. They held out your palm and slapped you with a ruler. Now a days, teachers would get in trouble for doing that. It never hurt me, though, it only took one time and I learned my lesson. I never did anything else to get the ruler slap again!

So, I think I am going to spray on some of my Infini perfume my husband gave me for Christmas, look  at my pretty Fenton vase and bird my boys gave me and try to wake up and get to work.

I hope all of you had a nice Christmas. 

Is it hard for you to get back to work, too?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Recipes and Crafts

It has been a busy month. We have celebrated two birthdays in our family. My sons Andrew and David were born on Dec 11th and Dec 13th (different years, of course). We usually celebrate on the 12th with one cake shared by both boys.

I brought our duck in out of the cold and dressed her for the holidays.

We have had a lot of snow and we have been feeding the birds.

I am almost ready for Christmas. How about you.

I have posted recipes before that are very good to make around the holidays.

Hard rock candy. I make this every year and it is very easy to do and makes great gifts, too. I make mine in the microwave. Go here to see my recipe.

Pecan Pie Muffins and Nuts and Bolts. The muffins are delicious and the Nuts and Bolts are a great snack.

Fudge. Everyone loves fudge. I like the old fashioned hard kind. The kind we grew up with. Go here to see this easy and delicious recipe. If you have harvested any black walnuts or hickory nuts this year, they are very good to add to fudge.

Party Cheese Ball. My family loves cheese balls, especially my husband. I used to make these only on the holidays, but now I make them all the time.

Pumpkin Muffins.

I have also posted a lot of Christmas crafts.

Click on the ones below that you are interested in and take a look. My scrabble ornaments are very popular, I used to make them and sell them at craft shows, I would personalize them with their name or whatever else they would want on them. They are good to put on the outside of presents as name tags. The gumdrops are also very pretty! I love them and they are very easy to make.

First Christmas Ornament, Natural Christmas Ornaments, Birdhouse ornaments,
Christmas Ornaments, Cinnamon Dough Ornaments,Gumdrop Ornaments, Scrabble Ornaments

 Have a very Merry Christmas and I hope you give some of my crafts and recipes a try.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Frogs

I have a friend who loves frogs. She has frogs all over her house. But I don't think she has a Christmas frog, so I decided to make her one. I came up with the idea for the Christmas frog, but I got the template for it here.

I made the template bigger. I did it small first, 
but found it very hard to turn and get the frog's legs pushed out and filled. 
Making it larger made it much easier to do.
I like easy!

I used a Christmas pattern material for the top of the frog 
and used green felt for the bottom.

Pin right sides together and sew around the edges, leaving it open between the hind legs. 
Be sure and stitch backwards to reinforce the starting and ending stitches. Turn. 
I used a writing pen and pushed out the form of the frog.

I stuffed mine with fiberfill, you could make it into a beanie frog by filling with rice or plastic beanie pellets. Hand stitch together the opening.

I cut out small circles from the green felt and glued them onto the frogs face. 
I then glued google eyes in the middle of the felt circles.
You could do your eyes differently, if you wish.

I wanted mine to be a girl Christmas frog, so I tied a small bow with thin red ribbon and glued and stitched it on her head. I think she turned out cute.

You can use your imagination and make yours a little different. I did mine different than the other website did theirs. That is what I like about crafting, every item is unique. 

If you make these for a small child, I would leave out the eyes and ribbon. They would be cute plain. Experiment and use different patterns of material. If you like frogs give it a try, it was quick and easy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Getting Out The Decorations

I have slowly been decorating my house for the Christmas season. I got down my box of tree ornaments from the closet shelf this morning.

I found out that I like angels. . .

snowmen. . . 

and birds.

Did I mention that I liked snowmen?

I think  I  like snowmen. . .

The little vintage houses were sold with a string of lights. There is a hole in the back of them where the light was inserted and they were strung on a tree. I found these in a ziploc bag at a yard sale. I know they were a light set, because a few years back I found another set of these at a thrift store in the box they were sold in. Its like a little lighted Christmas village. I think  they are very neat.

Can you tell that I recycled a lot of items in making the ornaments and decorations? Some of the things I used were old vinyl records, cds, plastic film boxes, pencils, Styrofoam cups, old quilts,  pine cones, juice lids, different sizes of light bulbs, spoons, blocks, golf balls, pages from a songbook and clothes pins.

I love re using items.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Labor of Love

We decided to put up our Nativity this year. 

The wooden pieces for the manger, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus,
a cow, a donkey, a camel and a shepherd and three sheep came out of our building.

It was a cold blustery day. 
Charley scratched his head while he tried to remember how it went together.

After a few false starts, we finally figured it out.

We brought down the figurines from the rafters of our building. We will remember this year to put them in trash bags before they go up in the rafters again. There was quite an accumulation of dirt and saw dust on them.

But, everything came out in the wash. Charley did most of the work. He washed all of them. Even though he is in short sleeves, it was very cold outside. He said he didn't want to get the sleeves of his coat wet.

Baby Jesus' cradle had broken, so my son made a new and sturdier one. The one that came with the figures was a flimsy plastic one. Andrew made this one out of some cedar he had in the building (another name for his workshop).

Our neighbor gave us some hay. We finished putting it together just before the rains came. I think it looks real nice. We hadn't put it up in quite a few years. We bought Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in 1991. In 1992 we bought the donkey and cow. In 1993 we got a lamb. In 1994 we bought the shepherd and two sheep and a camel. So you see, we have accumulated our Nativity piece by piece over the years. I guess we now need to get the wise men. I haven't seen these in the stores lately, though, I don't know if they still sell them or not.

The rains turned to a dusting of snow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving traditions in our area include deer hunting and, of course, turkey and dressing.

Deer season started this week. Schools and colleges are on their week long fall break. If school wasn't out this week there would be a lot of empty seats in the classrooms, including teacher's chairs.

I remember when I was a child, Daddy and his friends used to drive into the mountains of West Virginia and go deer hunting. It was a big 'to do'. We were just transferring some of our home videos a few nights ago onto DVDs. This particular one was filmed in 1995 on the day after Thanksgiving at our house. It was our son Andrew's first deer hunting trip. My husband doesn't hunt, so Dad came out and took him hunting across the creek and up on the hill from our house. I think Andrew was maybe 12 or 13 years old and they were all decked out in their orange vests. Andrew kept telling my husband not to record them, but I'm sure glad Charley didn't listen to him.

We used to go to Mom's on Thanksgiving. She made the best dressing you ever put in your mouth! Mom passed away in 1996 and now my sister makes the best dressing you ever put in your mouth. I'm hoping some day that my dressing will be as good as Mom's was. I'll keep trying.

Whenever we went to my mother in laws on Thanksgiving and Christmas, she always made punch. I never made punch and my kids thought it was a real treat. My son Andrew uses her recipe and makes the punch all the time now. He makes it when we have our Church dinners and on holidays here at the house.

This is the recipe in case you would  like  to try it some day:

1 Large punch  bowl
1 quart triple treat sherbet
1 two liter ginger ale
2 quart container of pineapple/orange juice
1 pkg cherry Kool-Aid

Empty the ginger ale, pineapple/orange juice, and spoonfuls of sherbet into the punch bowl a little at a time. Tear open the pkg. of Kool-Aid and sprinkle on top. Stir it up a  little.

We are going to my son and daughter in law's house for Thanksgiving this year. We are having turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean  casserole, rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and Andrew's punch . . . and who knows what else will show up on the table.

What will you be having for dinner this year?

I hope all of you have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oh, Nuts!

Hickory nuts and black walnuts, that is.

How do you get this bag of black walnuts. . .

and, this box of hickory nuts. . .

to turn into this?

and this?

All you need are the nuts gathered from out in the woods, a hammer, a hard surface and nut picks. I always crack my walnuts out on our driveway.I put a clean rag underneath, for easier clean up. You will find that black walnut shells sometimes have a tendency to fly in all directions when you hit them with a hammer. You will  be picking up pieces of shell from here, there and everywhere when you are finished.

I have been sitting out on the concrete steps of our front porch and cracking the hickory nuts.

I have found that if you hold the hickory nut on it's side this way, you will get the best chance of getting the big butterfly pieces of the nuts. Don't hit it on the fat, flat side, but on the skinny side, if you know what I mean.

This is what you like to end up with. The big butterfly shaped pieces.

I have already cracked a quart of the hickory nuts. There are still lots left to crack, I should end up with at least another quart or more when I am finished. My son has been helping me with the hickory nuts.

I still have a lot of black walnuts to crack. I'm going to have to start cracking them in the garage, since our weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse.

I posted here on how to hull the black walnuts.

You can use these nuts in just about all your baking projects. They are delicious in your fudge, cookies, banana breads and cakes. I haven't did it yet, but they say you can use hickory nuts in place of pecans in your favorite pecan pie recipe. I think I am going to try that. My neighbor says her mom used to make the best hickory nut pie! She told me she thought she made it  like pecan pie and just used the hickory nuts instead.

Have any of you every made hickory nut pie? If so, tell us your recipe.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting Ready For Winter

It's getting cold here in the hills of West Virginia. And if this year is anything like last year, it will not be long before the snow starts to fly.

If you have been visiting my blog for a while, you know we like to feed the birds in the winter. I love taking their pictures outside my kitchen window. The cardinals, the tufted titmouses (they just love peanuts), the  woodpeckers, the finches, the doves and hopefully the blue jays flock to our feeders. We spend many hours watching them eat from inside our kitchen.

We are now ready for winter. We bought a . . .

 50 lb bag of sunflower seeds and. . .

two 35 lb bags of mixed seeds.

 Charley went out on the deck today and put up two new feeders.

I think the birds will  be happy and plump this winter.

These aren't our only feeders. We also have a big wooden one on a pole in the front yard and a couple more hanging from our apple trees. We also hang suet in the trees.

I am not putting the seeds in them yet, I'm waiting for the first flakes of snow to fall.

If you want, you can go here, and look at some of the pictures we took last year.
Do you feed birds in the winter?

Monday, November 15, 2010


I love books! All kinds of books. Even though my children are not small any more, I have lots of children's books. I write children's stories, so I like to read what I write.

I buy books at yard sales, thrift stores and bargain bins. Our local grocery store, Krogers, has a nice book section and I love to browse through it. They have a bin now that is filled with books that are 75% off.! So I have to look through them when I'm there.

The Frame Your Memories book was taken from the Kroger discount bin 
and I paid less than $2 for it. I love to craft and it is full of good ideas.
The Heavenly Handmade BAGS and Martha Stewart Book were from the thrift store for 25 cents!

Venola the Vegetarian was from a thrift store. 
It is autographed and by a West Virginia author. Yea, for WV authors!
Snail's Good Night was a cute kid's book for $1 from the Kroger's discount bin.

 I love historical fiction and Defending Hillsborough (even though it is an older book written in the late 90s) was a very good read and it was also signed by the author. American Lives is a college textbook.  
It is filled with 20 biographies of different people in American history.
These were also thrift store finds for only 25 cents each.

These are some of the latest additions to my collection of books. Do you like books?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Tribute To The Veterans

 The Vietnam Veteran's Wall came to Ripley in 2007.

I wrote the following poem and left it at The Wall. I placed it on the ground, in the midst of the other many items, all left by the visitors who came to the Ripley Court House Lawn that April in 2007.

The Wall That Heals
She brings a flower
Full of life,
Fresh and fragrant.
The mirrored surface
Reflects her tears.
Her fingers flow across
Unending names.
The names of many
Now gone or missing.
She stops and stares
In a trance.
She stares at one name,
Now just a memory.
A husband,
A father, a son,
Now just a memory.
The granite panels
Stand, strong and silent.
Honor to those
That were strong,
But now silent.
The wall that heals
captures her tears
In its reflection.
The wall that heals
Those men and women.
The flower now faded,
Withered, and worn
Lays in its reflection,
Catching the tears
Of other loved ones
In procession.
J Smart
© 2007

I pay tribute to the veterans still living today and to the ones who have sacrificed their lives for our country.
My family members have served our country since the Revolutionary War. We have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. 

Dad still talks of his time in the Army.
He still speaks a little Japanese and he still pronounces the Japanese names and places with fluency.

This picture of Dad is dated July 6, 1946 Fukuoka, Japan

My husband was in the Navy during the Vietnam Conflict. He was stationed at the naval base in Puerto Rico and for 2 years was on the guided missile destroyer USS Leahy DLG-16.

Charley at Kanawha Airport going back after being home on leave.

I pay tribute to all veterans today, in your family and mine. God Bless the USA.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Recording Our Past IV

This is my third article about recording our past. I am slowly putting together our family history. If you are fairly new to my blog you can go here for my post about keeping track of family heirlooms and here to see my post about old family photos.

Today I am posting about food customs and traditions. Every family has their own memories about their food customs and traditions. Below are my memories and, I bet, you probably have some of the same memories as I have.

There were no fast food places in the old days. Our families never ate out as they do today. Women cooked three meals a day. Baked bread of some sort had a place on the table at every meal. The rolling pin was a much used utensil in the kitchen and my grandma always wore an apron.

The red handled rolling pin was my Aunt Irma's. She had it since she was married in the late 1940s.
The old hand carved one was my moms. She gave it to me when I married.

Flour was bought in 25 lb. bags. Recipes were not always written down and ingredients were put in by the handfuls, instead of careful measuring.

Potatoes, pinto beans and bread were staples at the kitchen table. A huge pot of cooked beans lasted for several days. Neighborhood kids were often sent home with a buttered piece of cornbread in their hands. Fried apples and biscuits were a favorite and leftovers were eaten for breakfast the next day.

I remember visiting relative's homes for Sunday dinners. Colorful tablecloths were spread over the food after eating a meal. It kept flies off and enabled you to come back for leftovers later.

At Christmas, there were not always lots of presents to open up, but there were usually oranges, mixed nuts, chocolate balls, hard candy and lots of pies. Thin pies were stacked on top of each other and baked.

On New Years Day, everyone in our area of Appalachia cooked cabbage with a silver coin placed in it. The person who ended up with the silver in their serving, had luck in money the following year, or so they said. I believe it was also a way to get children to eat their cabbage.

On Easter, eating salty fish and eggs for breakfast was a tradition where I grew up. Mr. Walker's store had kegs of fish in salty brine. You would take them home, scale and bone them, and soak them overnight to get the salty taste out of them.

The applesauce stack cake was a favorite of our family. Layers upon thin layers were baked and stacked on top of each other with applesauce spread in between. If you did not have applesauce, apple butter or even jelly was spread in its place. Grandma made 'sweet cakes' out of any left over dough and put them in Grandpa's and Uncle Doc's lunch the next day. Grandma was not the only one who made them, so did my Aunts. Below is the OLD TIME STACK CAKE recipe that my Aunt Goldie put in the Walker Chapel Church cookbook in the early 1970s. Of course, you roll out many layers, and when stacking you spread applesauce between the layers. It is best if it sits covered for a day or two in the refrigerator before eating.

This cookbook is a treasure in itself. 
It is filled with recipes from my family members.

Grandma made these stack cakes all  the time. They were delicious. I remember coming in the back kitchen door and she would have the cake sitting on the table. She would cut me a piece and I gobbled it down.

Everyone canned, and they canned everything imaginable. I remember washing the canning jars outside in a large galvanized tub filled with hot sudsy water. Sausage was cooked, usually in round balls,  put in canning jars and hot grease was poured over them. They would then turn the jars upside down until the grease became cold and solid. They put away green beans, corn, tomatoes, chow chow, pickles and peaches for the winter. Grandma won ribbons for her blackberries,cherries, tomato preserves,  watermelon and blackberry preserves and blackberry jelly at school fairs in the 1930s. She was also hired by the state to go to people and teach them how to can.

The canned food was stored on shelves in cellars along with the baskets of potatoes and apples.

People lived off the land. Blackberry vines abounded on Grandma's land and they were picked and canned as is or made into jam and jelly. Cobblers were a favorite dessert during the summer.

Apples were made into apple butter. The family gathered in the cool fall air and cooked it in a large kettle over an open fire. It was a big undertaking and took all day. Grandma wrapped her 1891 silver dollar in a hanky and it was thrown into the kettle to keep the apple butter from sticking.
If you beat the squirrels to them, hickory nuts and black walnuts were harvested from the woods.

We raised our own chickens and pigs. Pig slaughtering day was a big event in the fall. They used everything from the pig except the 'squeal.' Ham, sausage, bacon, brains, lard rendered from the fat, feet and cracklins.

Chickens provided people with eggs and they were also the main dish for Sunday dinner!

Cows provided us with butter and milk. A churn and butter mold was a staple in the country kitchen.

One way to preserve your food history is to put together a family cookbook. I have gathered recipes from family members twice and put together a cookbook. The books are filled with pictures, recipes from the past and present and food memories that were shared to me by my cousins. It is a labor of love and worth the time spent in putting it together. It doesn't have to be bound professionally, a spiral notebook works very well, and it also makes it easy to add new recipes.

I have put the recipes from my first family cookbook here on my genealogy site.

Do you share some of the same food memories as I have? Have you ever put together a family cookbook?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Surprise Watermelon Update

Remember our surprise watermelon I posted about in September?

It was the one that came to life from spitting seeds off the front porch.
It grew and grew and became a large watermelon.
We cut it off a few days ago.

We held our breath as my husband cut into it. Would it be any good?

What do your think?

Not bad . Not bad at all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Old Homesteads

Don't you just love driving through the country and seeing old homesteads dotting the landscape. We went for a drive way out in the country the other day and stopped by this old homestead.

The house had been added onto many times.
The last little addition attached to the back
was a bathroom.

It looks as though birds were the last residents of the bathroom.
I took a picture of this bird nest in the medicine cabinet.

The main part of the house was made of hand hewn logs.
I'm thinking this was once an opening to the upstairs.

I took a peek of the upstairs wall.

There is an old barn type building outside that is covered with these berries.

Here is a close up. I'm not familiar with these.
They are beautiful, who can tell me what they are.

A very stout ladder led to the upper level of the barn.

And I thought this was a very ingenious way to hang items.
Forked sticks were nailed against the wall.

Here is another ladder on the outside of the old barn.

Isn't this a beautiful view from the yard.

In case you are wondering, we weren't trespassing. We know the people who own this place.

I love the large logs and the craftsmanship of these places. As I walked about the buildings, I wondered what life was like for the people who lived here long ago.