Friday, April 18, 2014

Handcrafted Easter Cards

Easter or Spring Greeting Cards, Crafting with Kids

Here’s a fun and easy Easter or Spring greeting card to make with the kids.
But I must confess.  I made these myself (my kids are grown) and sent these out as my Easter cards.
Hint: saving the larger pieces of scrapbooking paper left over from other projects allows you to make these cards with little out of pocket expense.
I also reuse scrapbooking paper for other crafts such as Homemade Gift Tags.

What you’ll need:
Crafting or scrapbooking paper
Heavy card stock paper
Yellow and orange pencils
Black ink pen
Glue stick
Scissors or paper cutter
Printer (or hand write the Easter greetings)

Card stock paper is thicker and heavier than regular scrapbooking paper.
Also, use scraping booking paper that has spring colors or an Easter theme for the background. 

To begin, fold one sheet of 8 ½ by 11 inch white card stock paper in half. 
Cut on fold line.
(Or purchase a quarter fold greeting card packet which comes with envelopes from Staples or Office Depot).
Fold each cut half in half again to create a card.  You now have 2 cards. 
Each card will measure approximately 5 ½ by 4 ¼ inches when complete.  Repeat these steps for desired amount of cards.

Next using the paper cutter (or scissors) cut out a piece of spring or Easter themed scrapbooking paper approximately 2 inches by 4 inches. 
Glue this evenly lined up onto the center of the card.
Now it’s time to make the chicks.  Practice makes perfect, so on an extra piece of white paper practice drawing chicks. 

First, draw an oval circle with a yellow pencil.
Next, using a black ink pen practice drawing wings, legs, a tail and eyes.
Last, add a little beak with an orange pencil.
Come up with your own style of chicks, or draw three tulips, three bunnies with a pink pencil, three Easter eggs, be creative!
When you are ready, cut out a 1 ¼ by 2 ½ inch piece of regular white paper.
Glue this onto the center of the 2 by 4 piece of spring themed paper already glued on the card.
Draw three baby chicks onto this white paper.  Don’t forget the wings, legs, tail and beak.
Use the practice for reference. 

Now you’re ready for the greeting on the inside the card.
Using Microsoft Word Doc (or your preferred program) type an Easter greeting, poem or salutation.  Add a border around the greetings to match the outside color on the card.

To do this, highlight the paragraph you want to have a border around, click on Format in Word Doc, then click on Borders and Shading.  Under borders heading, click “box” on the left hand side, click the desired width and color, click paragraph on the drop down menu on the bottom right, then click OK.

 Use Google to look up ideas for the greeting or make one up yourself. 

My Easter greeting reads:

Easter brings the best surprises,
Baby Chicks and buds in bloom.
It’s Easter time once again and
This hand-made card is to say,
Have a basketful of Springtime Smiles
And a Happy Easter Day!

Have the happiest of Easters,
And the Springiest of Springs

Don't forget to print or sign your name at the bottom before mailing the cards
My hand writing is atrocious, so I added my signature in the word doc.
Print one greeting for each card, then cut out and glue onto the inside of the card. 
To add a special touch, draw an additional little chick on the inside of the card.

Don’t forget to hand sign the card if you chose not to print your signature.

Now your Easter Cards are complete!

Don’t you agree the chicks are cute as a button?

Happy Easter and oh I'm so thankful it's finally Spring,

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Italian Meatballs

Delicious Homemade Meatballs
When you need to serve dinner to a crowd, spaghetti and meatballs is one of the easiest dishes that come to mind.  Why?  Because except for cooking the pasta, it’s a meal that can be made ahead or whipped up on short notice.
Add a tossed salad, bottle of wine and garlic bread and you have an Italian Dinner Party!
I have been making homemade meatballs for some time, well since discovering that commercially made are either bland or have a “frozen” taste, are really small and usually full of preservatives.    I wanted a hearty, tender, flavorful more natural meatball!
I have tried many recipes, all making the “typical” meatball and have also been experimenting by adding different spices, using bread crumb or crackers, with milk and without. 
I learned that for a really good meatball, you need a mixture of meats:  beef for meatiness and chew, sausage for flavor and texture and veal for tenderness.
A mixture of veal, sausage and beef is the key to a great meatball
 Adding bread crumbs seems to make the meatball blander in my opinion but without filler the meatballs are a little too dense and tough.  Saltine crackers make the meatballs tender and enhance the flavor with out losing the meaty taste.

One of the best meatball epiphanies I've had was during one of our trips through Chicago a few years back.  We like to stop at small family owned diners or restaurants and on that trip we stopped for Italian. 
I needed to go to the ladies room, but to get there it involved walking through the restaurant kitchen! There I saw a white haired older Italian man hand rolling meatballs.  I stopped to talk to him and question him on his meatball recipe.  He answered my questions but wouldn't divulge any recipe secrets. Drat! 
But as he finished rolling the meatballs he placed them on large stainless steel baking sheets, which he placed directly into the oven!  Let me tell you, I have spent long laborious hours over my stove slowing rolling and browning meatballs in skillets.  This meatball baking discovery was like the heavens opening up to me!  I have baked my meatballs ever since.

This recipe will make approximately 60 to 70 meatballs depending on size.  I use a ¼ cup of meat for each large meatball.

Homemade Italian Meatballs


3 lbs Ground Chuck
3 lbs Sausage
2 lbs ground Veal
4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons pepper
2 ½ Tablespoons oregano
¼ cup basil
2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/3 cup parsley
1 ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
42 saltine crackers (1 sleeve)
1 small can tomato paste (around 2 ½ Tablespoons)
½ cup water
5 – 6 eggs, slightly beaten


Crush crackers into small pieces.  Set aside.
Crush crackers

Mix all meat together in a large bowl. 
Add all the dry spices and seasonings together into the meat, mixing well. 
Mix in spices
If desired, use your fingers to mix thoroughly. 
Add Parmesan cheese and chopped garlic to meat mixture and mix well. 
Chop garlic

Add crushed crackers, mixing into meat mixture.
In a small bowl slightly beat eggs.  Add water and tomato paste to eggs and mix together.  

Mix eggs, tomato paste and water together

Add egg mixture to meat mixture.
Mix egg mixture into meat mixture
Roll meat mixture into desired size meatballs. Try to make meatballs all the same size.  Use about 3 tablespoons or a small measuring cup of meat for a large meatball.

Place meatballs on baking sheets as you roll them into a ball. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.  Dab meatballs on paper towels to remove excess grease then place meatballs on clean baking sheets or trays and place in the freezer, flash freezing them.  Once frozen, place meatballs in storage bags and store in freezer until ready to use.

Allow desired amount of meatballs to thaw before adding to heated sauce.

Makes about 5 dozen large meatballs.


Bon appétit,


Growing your own garlic
Recipe for my Scrapbook Cookbook and the original  recipe with corrections

A tavola non si invecchia 
(You don’t age while seated for a meal.)

Uno non può pensare bene, amare bene, dormire bene, se non ha mangiato bene.
(Virginia Wolf:  One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one hasn’t eaten well.)

Detesto l’uomo che manda giù il suo cibo non sapendo che cosa mangia.
Dubito del suo gusto in cose più importanti.
(Charles Lamb:  I hate the man who eats without knowing what he’s eating,
I doubt his taste in more important things.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Growing Your Own Garlic

Growing, Harvesting and Storing Garlic
It’s the end of March and I have the worst case of cabin fever I have ever experienced. We've had an unusually hard long winter here in Ohio, and all across the Midwest, with temperatures remaining well below freezing and even well below zero for long extended periods of time, ugh.  Usually our snow melts after a few days, but not this year. 
Gardening and seed catalogs are arriving in my mailbox nearly every week.  But most days, it’s almost too cold to walk down the lane to the mail box!
I am already planning the lay out of the vegetable garden and what I need to plant, one of which is garlic. We love garlic and I use it in many recipes and dishes.

About Garlic:
Garlic is in the onion genus, Allium.  Its relatives include onion, shallots, leeks, chives and rakkyo, all of which I like.  Humans have been using garlic for over 7,000 years.  Garlic is native to Asia, but it was also known to the Ancient Egyptians.  Garlic has been used for 1000’s of years for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Choosing Garlic:
It is best to not plant cloves of garlic from the grocery store. They may be unsuited varieties for your area, and most are treated to make their shelf life longer, making them harder to grow. Instead, get cloves from an organic mail order seed company or a local organic nursery.
Hardnecks type garlic do best where winters are cold, spring is damp and cool, and summer is dry and warm.
Wherever winters are moderate, softnecks are the easiest to grow.

Planting Garlic:
Nearly all garlic is grown by planting individual cloves in the ground.  In areas that get a hard frost or in colder climates, (I’m in Ohio) garlic cloves should be planted in the fall, usually in late September or October or about six weeks before the soil freezes. 
In southern warmer climates, February or March is a better time to plant garlic.
But if you missed the fall planting, (which I have done a time or two, including last fall), Garlic can also be planted in the Spring as soon as the soil can be worked.  Yes, planting in the fall will produce larger more flavorful bulbs, but spring planting is perfectly good too!
Soil should have lots of organic matter and drainage
Your soil should have lots of organic matter and good drainage.  Plant garlic in a sunny spot.  Make sure to pick the largest heads to divide and plant.
Plant cloves about 4 inches apart, 2 inches deep and in an upright position with root end facing down.
In spring as temps begin to warm up, shoots will emerge through the soil.
Water every 3 to 5 days during bulbing or between May and June.
Garlic can easily be grown in a patio container as long as it has sufficient depth and drainage.
In colder northern areas make sure to mulch garlic with straw over the winter months, and then remove the mulch in the spring.

Garlic is usually very hardy and is not attacked by many pests or diseases and is said to repel rabbits and moles in your garden. 
It’s a natural pest repellent!

Garlic bloom
Harvest time depends on when you plant, but generally harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over and before they are completely dry.
In Northern climates, harvesting will probably be in July or August. I harvest my garlic in late July to August here in Ohio
In Southern climates, it will depend on your planting date.
Check the bulb size and wrapper quality; you don't want the wrapper to disintegrate. Dig too early and the bulb will be immature.
To harvest, carefully dig a little around the bulb with a spade or garden fork. Gently pull up on the plants and carefully brush off any dirt. 
Tie garlic in a bunch to dry
First clean the garlic by removing the dirty outer garlic wrapper and trim the plant leaves, being careful not to cut too much of the skin off protecting the cloves.   The papery outer layer protects the garlic and keeps it fresh and moist.

You can spread garlic bulbs out on a sheet or tray to dry.  Drying needs to be done in a cool, dry space with good ventilation.
Hanging garlic in an open shed with good air flow works great too.  I use the same method to dry my herbs and flowers.
Let the garlic dry for a few weeks, then once dried trim off the roots to about a half inch from the bulb.  The garlic can be left hanging to store it or can be cleaned and stored in mesh bags.
Bulbs should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, and can be kept for several months. Do Not store in a damp basement!

Remember, ventilation is most important. 
The flavor of the garlic will increase as the bulbs are dried.

Don’t forget while harvesting, set aside the larger, nicer garlic bulbs to replant for next year’s crop. 

Benefits of Garlic

Cancer Prevention
Preliminary studies suggest that garlic consumption may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.  Most of the studies evaluated different types of garlic preparations and used them in varying amounts. 

Vitamins & Nutrients
Garlic is packed with vitamins and nutrients.  Some of these are protein, potassium, vitamin A, B, B2, C, Calcium and Zinc.

Blood Pressure
Garlic helps regulate the body's blood pressure.  Garlic also lowers block cholesterol levels.

Immune Booster
In a 12 week study, allicin powder was found to reduce the incidence of the common cold by over 50%

Heart Disease
Garlic protects the heart and is also known to thin the blood.  The amount of garlic you need to get the heart healthy benefit is about a clove a day.

Natural Antibiotic
Garlic is a natural antibiotic.  the active component in garlic is allicin.  Allicin is quite powerful as an antibiotic, it's said that 1 milligram of allicin has a potency of 15 standard units of penicillin.

Mosquito Repellent
In a field study in India, a repellent made of 1% garlic oil, petroleum jelly and beeswax prevented mosquito bites for up to eight hours.

Let the planting begin!

"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. 
Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. 
Soy sauce makes it Chinese; but garlic makes it good." 
- Alice May Brock

"Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery. 
The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, 
the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist." 
- Mrs. W. G. Waters

Thursday, March 20, 2014

St. Augustine, Florida

What To See And Do In St. Augustine, Florida

We have taken a few trips to this beautiful little city.  I hope this blog post might help if you were thinking about St. Augustine as a vacation destination.  There is something for everyone in St. Augustine including beaches, historical sites, dining, lighthouses, parks, fishing charters, beautiful sunsets, alligators and shopping to name a few. 
The best way to see the downtown area is on foot but the kids really enjoyed renting bikes for the day and exploring all the back alleys, narrow roads and waterfronts.
We’re from the north so the best time for us to visit is anytime from Christmas until Spring Break, when in Ohio there is snow on the ground and howling winds.  It makes the sunny 80 degree days in Florida seem like heaven.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Irish Colcannon

My Twist On An Old Favorite
It’s March and nearly St. Patrick’s Day.  For our March book club we're reading Angela’s Ashes, which discusses food a lot, including cabbage and potatoes.  (Or more, the lack of them).

Although my family enjoys this dish throughout the year, its most commonly associated with St. Patrick’s Day.  Colcannon is a unique and simple potato dish and is unmistakably an Irish comfort food.
It traditionally includes green cabbage mixed with hot, floury mashed potatoes and butter. Let’s not forget the butter.  Potatoes came to Ireland from South America, and by 1688, they had become a staple of the Irish diet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Goat Birthing

Our First Goat Birth At The Farm:
We have 2 Saanen does and one Alpine buck to use for personal small scale milk production.  One of my Saanens, Miss Claudia Milkmouth was pregnant and nearly due so I was keeping a closer eye on her than normal.
Her udder had swollen in the last few days and she appeared thinner as her flanks had become sunken. Just as in humans, this happens due to the relaxation of the pelvic muscles in order to facilitate birth.

This morning was typical, with me making the normal rounds, doing the farm chores.  Usually the goats rush the door in anticipation of feeding times but this morning Claudia held back.  She seemed a little lethargic and did not attempt to eat.

I continued with the chores, periodically checking on Claudia and noticed a little while later her standing under a pine tree in a slightly squatting position.  I have had children, and distinctly remember the pressure and urge to push, which seemed to be what she was doing.

Pretty sure she was in labor; I called my husband Bill down to the barn to help me get her into a prepared birthing stall.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cherry Brandy (Visinata)

Bottled and ready to serve
Easy Homemade Cherry Brandy (Visinata)

Vişinată is a Romanian homemade alcoholic beverage made from sour cherries, and since it is homemade, there really is no official recipe for it.
This sipping drink is traditionally drank on Christmas morning.

This is a drink I share with friends and family during the fall and winter holidays.  It has a very smooth pleasant taste equally enjoyed by people who enjoy dry wine or people who enjoy sweet wine.

Just a word of caution:  This is a very smooth drink and sometimes is mistakenly thought to have a low alcohol content.  The women at our Crafting Circle Christmas Party got a “snoot full”, as my mother used to say.  There was much singing, gaiety and shenanigans needless to say.