Category Archives: Holiday Memories

Come to a Garden Party

Come to a Garden Party

When I lived in the Rockies I used to spend pretty much every weekend in April and May (and even some years in June) sipping my morning coffee by my front windows and gazing outside at the dead, gray landscape, wishing (oh so desperately wishing) for spring, as winter relentlessly lingered.  All I could think about was busting outside to push the lawnmower around in my yard, dig out the rotting leaves that had blown in around my porch, plant and fertilize my spring bulbs, and tidy up my dormant yard.  I could almost hear thunder and lightning in my mind, and with feverish delirium I built castles in the clouds for the return of the robins and squirrels games, and the mommy & daddy birds fluffing their feathers, gathering twigs, and chirping their springtime songs.  I swooned over what to grow in my gardens, my mouth still salivating at the evaporating memory of last year’s harvest.

Being in south Texas, I now whence at how overwrought I was for the scent of fresh washed anything to be hanging on my clotheslines.  I haven’t forgotten though how badly I wanted to crank those frozen windowsills open, throw back the curtains, air out the dust and cobwebs, and let a little sunshine in.  If only by my shear will I could have held back winter and coaxed those leaves to bud out on the trees, or tantalized my daffodils to bloom, or tempted the grass to creep up out of the earth, lush and green.

Almost anything was better than shoveling snow AGAIN, or sloshing in slush, or looking out at barren trees, or being cooped up inside torturing myself with the fallen mercury on the outdoor thermometer.  “Oh hurry up spring,” was my daily mantra.

And then finally it was here.

Well, my dear, north-country friends, I know you are suffering now, but come sit on my south Texas porch swing (I wish this was my porch and my porch swing) for a bit, kick your sandals off, and have a slushy lemonade with me?  I’m just reminiscing over my garden parties of yesterday and would love your company!


It’s a funny thing, but as soon as the words “garden party” roll off my tongue I am humming the song by Ricky Nelson…“Come to a Garden Party; reminisce with my old friends….” Hee hee, I can see you do too! Shall we hold hands and sway and sing it together?

I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends A chance to share old memories and play our songs again When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same

CHORUS: But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well. You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

People came from miles around, everyone was there Yoko brought her walrus, there was magic in the air ‘n’ over in the corner, much to my surprise
Mr. Hughes hid in Dylan’s shoes wearing his disguise


lot-in-dah-dah-dah, lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Played them all the old songs, thought that’s why they came No one heard the music, we didn’t look the same I said hello to “Mary Lou”, she belongs to me When I sang a song about a honky-tonk, it was time to leave


lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah) lot-in-dah-dah-dah

Someone opened up a closet door and out stepped Johnny B. Goode Playing guitar like a-ringin’ a bell and lookin’ like he should If you got’ta play at garden parties, I wish you a lot’ta luck But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck


lot-dah-dah-dah (lot-dah-dah-dah) lot-in-dah-dah-dah

‘n’ it’s all right now, learned my lesson well You see, ya can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself

Wow…I didn’t mean to sing the whole dang song…. Sorry.  The lyrics are kind of odd, aren’t they?  Hee hee!  🙂


I recently finished a Bible study of the book of Esther, written by Beth Moore and since it is so fresh in my mind I thought to share with you a garden party on steroids:


“…The king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan…in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.” — Esther 1:5

A seven-day feast.  Holy cow!  (…Possible pun intended).  My, oh my, he sure knows how to arrange things! This is how King Ahashuras decorated for his party: “There were white and blue linen curtains fastened with cords of fine linen and purple on silver rods and marble pillars; and the couches were of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of alabaster, turquoise, and white and black marble. And they served drinks in golden vessels, each vessel being different from the other, with royal wine in abundance, according to the generosity of the king.” (Esther 1:6-7). The drinking was not compulsory, but according to each man’s pleasure…soooooo, I’m guessing, since the booze was free, that it was each man’s pleasure TO DRINK!

After the king’s “garden party” came another feast.  It was for his officials and servants – the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles, and the princes of the 127 provinces over which he now ruled. This feast lasted 180 days, (holy smokes – did you catch that?  180 DAYS!!!).  I can’t even imagine how much food and wine he dished out for a 180-day party!  My goodness, that’s almost six months.  How does one entertain guests for that long?  What do you suppose they talked about?  How many bedrooms do you imagine he must have had in his house to make the princes and nobles of 127 provinces comfortable, not to mention the sheer volume of bath towels they must have gone through!

Being a hot-shot, he entertained by giving his guests the grand tour of his sprawling estate, showing off his riches, splendor, and majesty, as if the food, booze, and decorations weren’t enough of a brag.

It all reminds me a little of Oprah’s Garden Party, which you perhaps caught on television some years back? The Queen of daytime talk TV wanted to pay homage to some special ladies in her life whom she admired, but in the process couldn’t help showing off a little of her great wealth, lavishing them with an exquisite menu, costly gifts, and luxuriant preparations.  You can read all about it at


The term “garden party” does tend to stir up in my head notions of big Queen Mumm hats, lush flower gardens, and dainty little porcelain teacups brimming with exotic teas, accompanied with a myriad of condiments to add to them, like pure white, sparkling sugar cubes, dew covered mint leaves, juicy lemon slices, and fresh, succulent raspberries.

In my dreams my tables are covered with layers of lace and floral patterned tablecloths. Bouquets of flowers, topiaries and ivy centerpieces. The chairs all around are covered in cloth and ribbon. And there are twinkling lights and lanterns hanging from the trees.

Marlene Allan – Garden Party Online  has some fun ideas too. I really liked the idea of spreading picnic blankets on the lawn and resting a large umbrella at each. The edges of the umbrellas are also decked out with flowers.

I found these garden party themes and ideas at

Garden of Eden—It doesn’t have to be clothing optional to evoke the spirit of Adam and Eve’s home. Serve a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and decorate with snakes and apples.

Plant Swap—Celebrate your garden by asking guests to bring a flower arrangement or potted plant to swap with another guest. Guests can either fight over the foliage or pick names out of a hat to see who gets what.

Flower Arranging—Ask guests to bring blooms and vases, and invite a floral expert or a friend with very green thumbs to show you different ways of putting them together.

“Seeds of Kindness” Garden Party – was another terrific discovery. Visit this website for all the details:
This is a garden theme that revolves around our planting seeds of kindness. Her emphasis is on being kinder and more caring Christian women. I won’t spill the beans, but hope you will check out all her swell ideas.

Unlike the garden parties of the rich and famous, mine have all been either merriments of Mother’s Day, or low-budget baby/wedding showers, so don’t be intimidated.  You can afford this!

Baby Shower 1


Garden Party 2007

Decorations: I hung plastic/silk flower strands that I found at the dollar store in swags along the patio eves.  I did the same along the edges of the patio umbrella and table. I set out a few flower arrangements in baskets. I spent a decent block of time mowing and trimming and grooming my back yard so it would resemble the ritzy landscapes in the rich parts of town. There is no way it could possibly compare, but it looked its personal best anyway. I pulled all the weeds and watered until the grass was green green green. I planted the flower boxes with colorful blooms and foliage and piled them up with mulch just like the gardeners on TV. I wished I’d had a pretty gazebo that I could have lavished with tulle and silk flowers, or a lovely little pond and waterfall that would have drawn our eyes and trickled in our ears. Even a heavy cast bird bath would have been great. But I had to be content with such things as I had.

Ciabata bread, drizzled with olive oil and lightly toasted
Portobello Mushroom caps, grilled and placed on top of the bread
Red onion slices, grilled and placed on top of the portobello
Fontina cheese, melted on top of the onion in the broiler
Fresh Basil leaves, arranged on top of the cheese
Tomato slices, drizzled with a balsamic/garlic/olive oil/black pepper dressing

Red, Yellow, and Green Bell Peppers sliced into wedges
Radish halves
Ranch dip


Cut fruit into wedges and skewer on wooden spears. Arrange kabobs on a pretty platter


Iced Tea

SUGAR COOKIES cut and frosted to look like pansies, arranged on a pretty doily covered platter. OR…those flowerpot cakes that are made with Oreo crumbs and the gummy worms on top would also have made a clever dessert for this soirée.  (Click here for a how-to video for Pansy Sugar Cookies)

MUSIC: I ended up being a little too pinched for time to give the music selection a proper scavenge. So we started with a peaceful classical guitar CD and ended up with golden oldies music on satellite radio. I’ve since had a little more time to look and here’s the thoughtful lineup I found:

At a Garden Party, Ed Bickert
Garden Party, Rick Nelson
The Last Dance, Music for a Vanishing Era
Radiance, Music for a Garden Party (Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Dvorak, etc.)
And Dan Gibson’s Solitudes Classical Garden, featuring the sounds of nature with music

Or… we could make a homemade CD or create an i-tunes playlist to play at the party.  If the garden party is to celebrate Mother’s Day, you could give the music mix to Mom afterward. Buy MP3 singles from and burn them onto one CD. Here are a few suggestions:

Anita Renfroe, The Mom Song (Momisms)
Boyz II Men, a Song for Mama
Chris Young , Voices
Carry Underwood, Mama’s Song
Brad Paisley, She’s Everything
Carry Underwood, Don’t Forget to Remember Me
Dolly Pardon, Coat of Many Colors
Jamie O’Neal, Somebody’s Hero
LeAnn Womack, I Hope You Dance
Rascal Flats, My Wish
Martina McBride, In My Daughter’s Eyes
Merle Haggard, Mama Tried
Taylor Swift, The Best Day
Trace Adkins, One Hot Mama
Trace Adkins, You’re Gonna Miss This
Trace Adkins, She Thinks We’re Just Fishin’
Beyonce, Halo
Celine Dion, A New Day Has Come
Loudon Wainwright III, Daughter
Lonestar, Mr. Mom
Martina McBride, Blessed
Edwin McCain, I Could Not Ask for More Sara Evans, Always Be My Baby LeAnn Rimes, How Do I Live Carrie Underwood (feat. Randy Travis), I Told You So Guns n Roses, Sweet Child of Mine
Alicia Keys, Superwoman
Aerosmith, Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

CRAFT:  After our luncheon I gathered the girls up and moved our party to the far side of the yard where I had a craft project set up – making garden stepping-stones. I laid out all the decorations (small stones, marbles, jewels, beads, mosaic tiles, sea shells, tools, etc.) and the cement forms, one for each person. I mixed up cement in a wheelbarrow with water and mixed in a little cement dye to give our stones a kind of adobe look.


Beautiful stepping stones idea from

After I poured the cement into each form (pizza boxes) we got busy decorating. We started with pressing our handprints (footprints) into the center, and then we started arranging little decorations around it and carving designs into the wet concrete.

We all pitched in to make a stone for my sister who died the April before. We also made one for my other sister who lives far far away. With hers I asked if she could send a paper tracing of her hand that we could use to press into the cement, and also if she could send some decorations for us to use in her stone, and if possible draw us a pattern of how she would like us to decorate it. The finished products needed to set-up and then dry without being moved for at least 24 hours, so my guests left their creations with me for delivery on another day. I later delivered all of them to my mom’s yard and we set them along a lazy path in her beautiful gardens.

Click here for lots of other garden stone ideas!!!


GIFTS:  I paired a devotional book with a little watering can and filled it with garden tools, gloves, and seeds, for a hip little gift set. I found my small inexpensive watering cans at Big Lots, along with the low-cost garden utensils, gloves, and packets of seeds. I put the tools down into the watering cans, squeezed in the pair of gloves, and tucked two seed packets in the top. I tied a THANK YOU card to the handles with macramé twine. Then I gave them to my mom and sister. I also placed one on my neighbor’s door step, and made another for a girlfriend. And while I was at it, I thought they would make nice end-of-the-year gifts for each of the teachers I worked with in an elementary school, so I made three more.

The devotional books I purchased several years ago were from Crossings and are unfortunately no longer in print, but they can be found used sometimes on eBay or, or other out-of-print, or used book stores. They paired really well with the watering cans to make a thoughtful gift.

Bible Seeds, A Simple Study-Devotional for Growing in God’s Word
From the Creators of the God’s Word for the Biblically-Inept ™ Series
Starburst Publishers, ISBN 0-7394-2142-5

Bible Seeds for Enriching Your Character,
A Simple Study-Devotional for Growing in God’s Word
From the Creators of the God’s Word for the Biblically-Inept ™ Series
Starburst Publishers, ISBN 0-7394-3048-3


Isn’t this a neat idea?  A Fruit Pizza Bar!!!!  Love it!


Garden Party 2008

This Mother’s Day I invited my mom, sister, her daughter, my other three nieces, my grand-niece, my sister’s mother-in-law, and my nephew’s wife. It was a full house.

kiddie_poolAnd for this year’s garden party I planned a “kiddie pool pedicure party” where all my guests would sit in lawn chairs in a circle outside around our kiddie pool filled with hot sudsy water and perfumed bath salts and floating flower pedals. The sun would be shining and the birds would be chirping. We’d be wearing our capris and peddle-pushers. We would take off our shoes and soak our footies in the warm water while we nibbled on a modest buffet of brunch items. I thought it would bring back memories of when my sisters and I were young.  In the summers our Grandma Gen’s would fill tubs with water and we’d all sit around in her yard and dangle our feet in the tubs. It is one of my fondest childhood memories.nail-polish

Once our feet had soaked we would give ourselves PEDICURES and paint our toenails with our choice of nail polish, all the while chit-chatting about this and that. Afterwards, since our d269e6bd7a5e004af89c6e61046bc82dfeet would be so pretty we would need some way to show them off, so I planned a CRAFT of decorating flip-flops. Our local Hobby Lobby store had everything I needed from the glue to the flip-flops and all the cutsie adornments to decorate them.

Well, you know how plans go sometimes – right out the window!  That Saturday morning we had cold drizzle, and I mean blue-lips, can’t-feel-my-fingers, it’s-raining-it’s-pouring-the-old-man-is-snoring, COLD drizzle. Ugh. So we had to move our little soirée indoors to my cramped man-cave.

8 Unless I WashI phoned last-minute and begged everyone to bring a foot tub.  I had also asked in the invitations for everyone to bring their own pedicure kits, and a few bottles of nail polish to share.

We didn’t let the inclement weather, or all the other little mishaps dampen our spirits. My guests seemed to have a blast and thankfully found humor in my severe lack of hostess skills that day.

Karen was my first guest to arrive and helped me put together the mimosas.  While she poured orange juice I finished assembling the breakfast pizzas and that’s when the smoke alarm went off. Oh dear, someone – I’m not mentioning any names, but her initials are Lindee (sorry Sis) – placed a stack of paper plates out-of-the-way and over on the stove… on a lit burner that she didn’t realize was lit (whoops)! Thanks to Karen’s keen sniffer and quick reflexes, she grabbed and tossed the stack in the sink and ran water to put the flames out. Woo hoo… disaster averted! It all just added to our zany fun that day.

I don’t know whether the weather put me off or what, but I just didn’t have my feet under me with this get-together. Have you ever had a party like that? I felt scattered and rushed, and just helter-skelter, all over the place with my mood and my time management – just everything. In spite of that though we spent a sweet morning together listening to silly music, eating, being crafty and otherwise enjoying each other’s company. I ended up with enough stuff for everyone to make two pairs of flip-flops each, and I had gathered enough decorations and idea sheets to give us all plenty of inspiration.

1 tube Pillsbury Pizza dough (refrigerated) (or you could use a Boboli ready-made crust)
2 Ripe Avacados, mashed (or a ready-made spicy guacamole)
6 strips of crispy fried bacon, crumbled
Grape tomatoes sliced in half
Handful of Arugula (or spinach) leaves
Dash of Tabasco

Pop the dough out of the tube and press out onto a large greased pizza pan. Bake until just turning golden, or use a Boboli crust. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Mix a few drops of Tabasco in with the mashed avocados and spread onto pizza crust. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon, arugula leaves, and grape tomato halves. Cut into wedges and serve. I tripled this recipe because of our number of guests and we had left-overs.

2 (1-lb) bags frozen peaches
1 tsp. lemon juice
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp. Mace (or nutmeg)
1 Tbsp Vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 stick of butter, melted
Cinnamon and sugar

Toss 1 bag of peaches with next 5 ingredients and then layer in bottom of a buttered casserole dish. If you want to be fancy you can split it among ramekins (one for each guest).

Place sugar, flour, and milk in a bowl and whisk until blended. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the batter over the peaches. Sprinkle with Cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 1 hour, or until the peaches are bubbling and the crust is golden. Check a little earlier if doing ramekins.

½ gallon organic orange juice with pulp
2 small cans of peach nectar
1 small bottle of champagne (or sparkling cider, or ginger ale)

Mix all together in a large pitcher and pour into wine or champagne flutes. Decorate with orange slices dropped into the glass and a sprig of mint on top.

Flip-Flops Craft
For this craft you need at least one pair of flip-flops per guest. Hobby Lobby had a whole section dedicated to this craft. I picked up all the supplies there. At home I had material scraps that could be torn into strips and tied onto the straps of the flip-flops. I also had double-sided tape to adhere bead strips and fur strips and other decorations to the top of the sandals. If you can’t find craft flip-flops, just have each of your guests bring a pair from home to bling out.

Other Craft Ideas from Parties Past (pictured below):

Broken dish mosaic picture frames. Mosaic pieces can be glued to picture frames or clay pots and finished with grout to make a very nice looking product.  Look at yard sales and second-hand stores for pretty dishes that are inexpensive; or use one of the dishes from your own cupboard. If you have a child who has gotten engaged, this would make a neat “break the dish” (Jewish engagement custom) activity for a mother to do with the fiancé’s mother, and would make a neat wedding gift for the couple to place their wedding photo in. Wrap the dishes in several sheets of newspaper and whack them several times with a hammer until there are just quarter-sized pieces.  Use a fast drying mosaic glue (available at hobby stores) to adhere the pieces to the picture frame or clay pot.  Keep the pieces fairly close together. Let the glue dry.

Follow package directions and mix up a batch of grout. Purchase any color sanded grout powder (available from Home Depot) that will compliment your china. Smooth it in between the tiles being sure to fill all the gaps and air spaces.  Let it dry for as long as is recommended on the package, and then use a damp sponge to gently wipe the grout off the tiles. Keep rinsing the sponge and squeezing the water out of it in between wipes.
Once all the tiles are clean, let the project sit and dry for a day or two.

Paint Clay pots with acrylic paint. My family and I have done this at Christmas time and then planted narcissus bulbs in the pots after they were decorated. We’ve also done them for Mother’s day with summertime themes. Dani did hers with sunflowers. I did mine with dragonflies and other bugs. Gracee painted hers with stripes, and our other guests did designs that unfortunately escape my memory. Buy whatever size terra-cotta pots suit your fancy and some containers of water-based acrylic paint. You’ll also need an assortment of different sized and shaped paintbrushes. Remember to get the little plates that go underneath the pots and paint them too.

Paint and decorate birdhouses. A few years back I found some little wooden birdhouses at the craft store. I drug them out on Mother’s Day and we painted and decorated them. I glued rocks and sticks to mine after painting the little roof. My mom and daughters just painted theirs with pretty designs.

Rock Bugs: Hunt for rocks that are all different shapes and sizes. Glue small round ones together to make caterpillars or ants. Use small round ones and paint to look like ladybugs, bees, spiders, or beetles. Use long skinny ones and paint them to look like grasshoppers or hornets, or lizards. Use your imagination and have fun. These look especially cute when placed in the soil of a potted plant or scattered around on a window ledge with potted plants.



Craft Party 2011

My first year in Texas I decided to celebrate mother’s day with all my girlfriends and their daughters/grand-daughters.  They all came over for a craft party. I served food and had music playing, of course. JoAnn’s Fabrics and Crafts had little wooden birdhouses on sale for $1 each so I picked up about $30 worth. I also picked up some cheap wind chimes to attach to the bottoms of the birdhouses, and hardware to put some heavy string through to hang them on our porches. I asked my friends to bring paints, brushes, glue guns, and whatever other things they might want to use to decorate a bird house with. They all did and we had hours of fun with each other.

Craft Party

COWBOY CAVIAR (and tortilla chips)cowboy caviar
1 can Black Eyed Peas, drained
1 can White Shoe peg Corn, drained
4 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 ripe Avocados. Diced
2 fresh Jalapeños, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
¼ cup Olive Oil
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Cumin
¾ tsp each Salt & Pepper
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
Family Size Package of Tortilla Chips, Scoops

Mix all ingredients, except for chips, in a bowl. Toss well to distribute flavors. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until party time. Serve with tortilla chips, like you would salsa and chips or guacamole and chips.

1 dozen hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 small white onion minced
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
½ cup Mayo
1 Tablespoon Spicy Brown Mustard
Dash Cayenne powder
¼ tsp Salt & Pepper
5 leaves of Romaine Lettuce, shredded
2 Loaves of White Bread from the Bakery, sliced thin, crusts removed

Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl, cover and chill overnight. The day of the party, lay out the bottom slices of white bread on a flat surface and spread egg salad over them in a thin layer. Layer several shreds of lettuce over, and then cover with the other slices of white bread. Cut each in half from corner to corner and then in quarters from the other corners. Arrange on a platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until party time.

2 lb frozen cooked shrimp, tail off, thawed, rinsed and patted dry
3 Large Ripe Avocados, cut into small chunks
6 Large Jalapeños, stems removed, chopped with seeds
1 Small White Onion, chopped
Half a bunch of Cilantro torn apart and chopped
2 12-oz bottles Louisiana brand Seafood Sauce, Spicy
3 Lemons cut into wedges
Clear plastic tumblers

In a large bowl combine shrimp, avocado, jalapenos, onion, cilantro, and sauce. Toss to combine. Spoon into clear plastic tumblers, top with a lemon wedge and sprig of parsley if desired, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

2 gallons drinking water, reserve 3 cups
10 Lemons, sliced
1 can frozen concentrate lemonade
4 cups sugar
2 gallon container with lid

Place 2 gallons of fresh cold drinking water in a 2 gallon glass container, reserving 3 cups to be used in a moment. Add lemons and frozen concentrate. Stir well. Place the 3 cups of reserved water in a bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes until boiling. Add the 4 cups of sugar to the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool, and then add to the lemonade. Stir well, chill until ready to serve.

Variation: Add a variety of chopped up chilled fruits (e.g. thin watermelon wedges with rind on, strawberries halved, green melon chunks, raspberries, blueberries, red grapes, orange slices, lime slices, and maraschino cherries) to the lemonade just before serving, or place fruits in large beverage glasses and fill each with lemonade.  Serve with a straw.


Graham Cracker Crust:

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

In a small bowl, combine the crumbs and sugar; add butter and blend well. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased 9-in. pie plate. Bake at 375 degrees *F for 8-10 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling.

1 pkg of cream cheese, warmed to room temp
1 small container of marshmallow cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 small container cool whip
1 package fresh or frozen raspberries
Mint leaves and lemon slices for garnish

Mix cream cheese, marshmallow cream, lemon juice, and cool whip in a bowl. Carefully fold in half the raspberries. Spread over cooled graham cracker crust. Place the other half of the raspberries on top and garnish with mint leaves and lemon slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.


And here’s a menu I put together for a Baby Shower garden  party for my daughter:

Baby Shower scrapbook

“And when these days were completed, the king made a feast…for all the people…great to small, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace.”

Esther 1:5

Mrs H’s Christmas Dinner Cookbook

Mrs H’s Christmas Dinner Cookbook

DSCN8512 (2)

Welcome to my table.  We’re just having a small family affair this year, but we’re happy to share it with you?  And yes, those ARE paper plates.  I don’t consider that low class, I say it’s showing love to my guests.  First of all, paper doesn’t break, so everyone can relax and just enjoy the food and the company and not worry about knocking a glass over, dropping a plate, or banging a treasured platter against the ceramic sink and chipping it.  Want seconds?  Just help yourself to a new, clean plate.  And when dinner has been served, enjoyed, relished, savored, and devoured, nobody (not one of the men – ha! right, women, or children – or more importantly ME, who hates to do dishes) has to gather up and scrape the food, fill the sinks with hot suds, don a dish towel, or ask where the dessert plates go.  It all goes into the waste pale and out to the curb.  Only the food has to be dealt with, and in a few minutes we can all scoot off into the living room and gather around the television for a movie, drag out a fun board game, gather around the stereo and sing Christmas carols, or grab our jackets and pile in the car for a trip around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights.  Paper is pretty, and blessedly low maintenance.

On the Menu:

Prime Rib (served with horseradish sauce and au jus)

Steamed Artichokes (which aren’t usually in season until March, so they may not be available – in which case I substitute a yummy Brussels Sprouts dish)

Potato Casserole

Creamed Spinach with sliced baby portabella mushrooms

Yorkshire Pudding

Fruit Salad (ambrosia)

Deviled Eggs


a Relish Platter to nibble on until the roast is perfect

and finally…

a warm, fruit cocktail sour dough Friendship Cake for dessert (because it is the only fruitcake I figure I can get them to eat),

or… (if I’ve forgotten to get my starter stared back around Halloween)…

warm Gingerbread with whipped cream on top

or… A wonderful Pumpkin Roll (homemade of course)

* * *



A Prime Rib Roast can be a scary endeavor, but be brave.  Don’t let it intimidate you.  It’s scary for all of us the first time, because it is sooooo expensive, Meat Thermometerand overcooking it will totally ruin it, but there are some tricks to the trade that make it a cinch.  And truly anyone can do it!

The first trick is to cook it “low and slow,” and the second is to use a meat thermometer, preferably one of the professional expensive ones with a wireless digital read out – totally worth the expense!

You’ll need a roast with half as many ribs as you have guests…so 8 guests equals a 4-rib roast.  Most butchers prefer you to place your prime rib order with them a week or two in advance.

Choose well marbled meat from a reputable butcher.

If possible (or affordable) have it professionally dry aged.

Pick the roast up from the butcher at least a day or two before your meal.  Salt the roast liberally on all sides with kosher salt the day before, rewrap loosely and keep in the fridge.  (NOTE: some folks say this dries out the meat, but the first Prime I made wasn’t dry at all.  As a test I skipped it the next year and really didn’t notice a difference. However, I did notice the butter sticks to the surface better if it has been salted, and the salted roast also seemed to end up with that wonderful crust at the end, better than the unsalted roast.)

Bring your roast out of the fridge a couple hours ahead of baking to allow it to come to room temperature.

In the meantime preheat your oven (or roaster) to 220 degrees, and make the following:

Prime Rib

Seasoned Butter Rub

Combine 1/4 cup butter

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon Thyme

and 4 garlic cloves minced in a bowl.  Mix well.

Spread this butter mixture evenly over entire roast and then place several Bay Leaves around on top.

Place roast, ribs down on a rack and into a roasting pan with tall sides, like you would use to roast a turkey.  Insert meat thermometer so the tip is in the thickest part of the beef, not resting in fat or touching bone, and somewhere in the center half way between the ends.  Place roast in oven (or roaster), uncovered.  (Note:  Some roasters, mine in particular, run hot, so I put an oven thermometer in mine where I can see it from the little window, and I check it often to make sure the temperature inside is what I want it to be).

Slow-roast the prime rib for about 4 to 5 hours (for a 3 rib roast), until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F (for medium rare) and 135 (for medium/medium well). After the first hour in the oven turn the oven temp down to 200 degrees.  After another hour in the oven, turn the temp down to 170 degrees.  My 4 rib roast took about 5 hours to bake.  Go by temp not by time.  If you have the time, you can roast at 170 degrees for the whole time.  Use a digital or remote read thermometer to monitor the temp.  Begin closely monitoring the internal temperature about an hour before the estimated end of the roasting time and check back often, like every 10 to 15 minutes.

Once temp is reached, remove roast from oven, and increase oven temp to 500 degrees.  Once the oven is heated, return the roast, uncovered, to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to produce that nice crust on the outside.  Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes .

Remove Ribs and string, and carve slices of prime rib for guests.  Serve with horseradish sauce and au jus.



Place pan on stove on medium heat. Place 2 tablespoons of beef roast drippings (if there are any, if not use butter or bacon fat melted) plus 1 to 2 tablespoons flour to the pan. Stir with a wire whisk until the flour has thickened and is smooth. Continue to cook slowly and stir constantly so that the flour taste cooks out, but don’t let it burn. Slowly add 3 cups of beef broth, or 2 cups broth and 1 cup cream, or beer, or wine to the gravy. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and herbs d province if desired.


1 to 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish (or more to taste)

1/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tbsp chopped chives or the greens of a green table onion

Mix ingredients together.  Place a tablespoon or two each into small bowls and serve to guests with their roast.

Makes about 1/2 a cup.

* * *



1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
8 ounces (1 container) sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
1 bag (32 ounces) frozen hash brown potatoes (about 7 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups crushed corn flakes mixed with 1/4 cup melted butter

Stir the soup, sour cream, butter, onion and cheese in a 3-quart shallow baking dish and then add the potatoes and toss until mixed well. Season with the black pepper. Spread in a 9 x 13″ pan.  Sprinkle the potato mixture evenly with the crushed corn flakes and butter.  Bake at 350°F. for 45 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.

NOTE:  Sometimes I like to add 1/2 block of softened cream cheese and a minced clove of garlic to the sour cream and soup mixture, and about a teaspoon of salt.

* * *



Cut off stems and trim the thorny tips from artichoke leaves.  Rub cut ends with lemon juice (to help prevent discoloring).  Place chokes stem end down in a large Dutch oven sized sauce pot and fill about 2 inches deep with boiling water.  Turn heat on medium high.  Place lid on pot and steam artichokes for about an hour, replacing water as it evaporates. Check often.

To test for doneness, lift the lid (don’t burn yourself) and try to pry a leaf from the side of one of the chokes.  If it lifts out easily, they are done.  If there is resistance, continue to steam and check again in five minutes.

While chokes steam, make the following dipping sauce in a small bowl.

Artichoke Dipping Sauce

1½  cups mayo

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp minced cilantro

1 tsp lemon pepper.

Serve an artichoke to each guest with about 1/3 cup of sauce to dip the leaves into.

* * *



2 packages of fresh Brussels sprouts, quartered or sliced

1/2 bunch of Asparagus, touch ends removed, chopped into 1″ pieces (optional)

½ lb thin sliced bacon

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

Parmesan cheese

Place bacon on cookie sheet in 400 degree oven and cook until crispy.  Break into pieces.  Add onion and garlic to the bacon fat and sauté in oven until translucent.  Toss in Brussels sprouts and stir to mingle all ingredients well.  Let roast in oven for about 8 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are brighter colored.  Turn oven down to 350 and add asparagus.  Roast until brussels sprouts are desired tender, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and toss in almonds.  Shave some parmesan cheese on top for garnish.

(*Sweet golden raisins counteract the bitter taste of the Brussels sprouts and really add a neat balance to the dish, but picky eaters may not like raisins, so if you use them, make sure you chop them up really small so no one can’t tell that they are in there – ha!).

* * *



Acorn Squashes, cut in half, seeds and membranes scoooped out (you’ll need half as many squashes as you have guests)

acorn squash

2 Tablespoons butter per squash half

2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar per squash

pinch of salt per squash

Bake in 350*F oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until squash is completely tender.  If your squashes won’t sit level you can make a ring out of a rope of tin foil and then use them as stands to set your squashes on to hold them level while they bake.


BUTTERNUT SQUASH:  Cut in half, remove seeds, place cut side down on baking sheet and then into a 350 degrees oven.  Add about a cup of water to the pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven, cut off the tough outer skin, slice into pieces and then drizzle with caramel sauce.  Return to oven and broil for a minute or two to caramelize slightly before serving.  I make my caramel sauce with 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 stick of butter, either heated in a pan or in the microwave until sugar melts into butter.  I add a splash of Half and Half and stir until creamy, then drizzle over squash.  Finally give it all a little sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper.

* * *



1 ½ cups heavy cream

½ cup finally chopped yellow onion

3 pounds baby spinach, freshly washed

1 carton baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into quarters

3 Tbsp butter

Kosher salt

Cayenne pepper

Combine the cream and onion in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Let cook until the cream has thickened and reduced by half, and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add about a quarter of the spinach to the dry pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Add more spinach to the pot and repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.

Set a strainer in the sink and transfer the spinach to the strainer. Drain off the excess liquid.  In the meantime sauté mushrooms in butter until tender.  Return the spinach to the pot with the mushrooms. Add the reduced cream mixture, season well with salt and cayenne pepper, and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

* * *

Yorkshire Pudding


Traditional Yorkshire pudding cooked with roast drippings. 

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

2 Tbsp melted butter

2 eggs, beaten*

2-4 Tbsp of roast drippings

* If you double the recipe, add an extra egg to the batter.

Sift together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Form a well in the center. Add the milk, melted butter, and eggs and beat until the batter is completely smooth (no lumps), the consistency of whipping cream. Let sit for an hour.

Heat oven to 450°F. Add roast drippings to a 9×12-inch Pyrex or ceramic casserole dish, coating the bottom of the dish. Heat the dish in the oven for 10 minutes.

For a popover version you can use a popover pan or a muffin pan, putting at least a teaspoon of drippings in the bottom of each well, and place in oven for just a couple minutes.

Carefully pour the batter into the pan (or the wells of muffin/popover pans, filling just 1/3 full), once the pan is hot. Cook for 15 minutes at 450°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and cook for 15 to 20 more minutes, until puffy and golden brown.

Cut into squares to serve.

(Recipe courtesy of

* * *

Christmas Dinner1

Gracee’s Christmas Dinner Table


One of my Christmas Dinner Tables

The next recipe for Amish Friendship Cake, makes a nice Christmas gift for your neighbors, coworkers, the mailman, hairdresser, etc.  You give them a small loaf of the bread and a small container of the starter, along with the instructions for how to keep the starter going, and also the recipe for the bread.  You just have to remember to start it around Halloween!

I’ve included both the pink liquid recipe and the sour dough recipe.

AMISH  FRIENDSHIP  CAKE      (The Pink Liquid Stuff)

There are 3 steps to this Amish Friendship Cake.  First you have to make the initial Starter.  This process takes 30 days to make.  The whole process, if starting here takes 60 days.  The third step is to make the Amish Friendship Cake.


1 cup pineapple chunk, drained

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons brandy

Combine ingredients in a glass gallon jar.  Cover loosely with 3 layers of paper towels rubber banded to the opening of the jar, and with a wooden spoon inserted through the cover to stir contents daily – DO NOT REMOVE PAPER TOWELS OR SPOON TO STIR!  Note: leave jar on the counter & DO NOT REFRIGERATE!

Stir daily for 14 days.

Day 15


1 cup maraschino cherry, including the juice

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons brandy

Replace with new paper towel cover and stir daily as above.

Day 30

Strain the fruit from the juice using a plastic strainer (DO NOT USE A METAL STRAINER).

The resulting “juice” is the “starter” for the Secondary Starter.  Divide fruit in thirds and freeze the fruit for another use.  You can use this fruit to add to the other Amish Friendship Bread that is made with a sour dough starter.

Secondary Starter

1 1/2 cups Amish starter (from above)

1 (20 ounce) cans sliced peaches in juice

2 1/2 cups sugar

Put first three ingredients in a gallon jar, covered loosely with spoon inserted as above. Stir once a day for 10 days.

On the 10th day, add:

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 (20 ounce) cans pineapple chunks in juice

Stir every day for 10 days.

On the 20th Day, add:

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 (10 ounce) jars maraschino cherries, and juice

1 (20 ounce) cans fruit cocktail, and juice

Stir every day for 10 days.

On the 30th Day, strain the fruit from the juice using a plastic strainer (DO NOT USE A METAL STRAINER).  Divide fruit in thirds. Freeze 2/3 of the fruit for another use.  Use the remaining fruit for the following cake. Divide the liquid into 5-6 jars, each containing 1 1/2 cups of juice.  Give jars of starter to friends, along with the recipe for the secondary starter and the Amish Friendship Cake listed below.

Amish Friendship Cake

1 yellow cake mix

2/3 cup oil

4 eggs

1/3 of the fruit (prepared with the starter above)

1 cup nuts, chopped

1 (3 1/2 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding

Mix all ingredients together, and bake in a greased Bundt pan at 350 degrees, for 50 minutes or until done.  Serve warm with whipped cream, or cool and frost with a cream cheese frosting.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.


3 cups sugar

3 cups flour

3 cups milk

Day One:  In a large clean glass bowl or gallon sized wide mouth jar combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup milk.  Stir with a wooden spoon.  Cover loosely with a clean cloth dish towel or paper towel or paper plate.  Keep at room temperature.  DO NOT USE ANYTHING METAL TO CONTAIN, COVER, OR STIR, DO NOT REFRIGERATE, AND DO NOT COVER TIGHTLY.

Day Two: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Three: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Four:  Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Five: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup milk.  Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Six: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Seven: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Eight: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Nine: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  Replace cover.  Keep at room temperature.

Day Ten: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup milk.  Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon.  At this point you can remove 3 cups of mixture and place 1 cup into each of 3 plastic containers to give to three friends, along with the following instructions for keeping the starter going, and the recipe for Friendship Bread.  They, and you, will keep the starter going with the following instructions:

Day 11: Place starter in large clean glass bowl or gallon sized wide-mouth jar. Cover loosely with cloth or paper towel or paper plate and set on counter at room temperature.

Day 12 through 15:  Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon once every day and replace cover loosely.

Day 16: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup flour.  Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.

Day 17 through 21: Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.

Day 22: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup flour.  Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.

Day 23 through 26: Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.

Day 27: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup flour.  Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon.

You are now ready to bake the bread.

Give away two cups of the starter to two friends, along with a small loaf of the bread you bake with your starter, plus instructions for keeping the starter going (day 11-27), and the recipe for the bread.  Reserve a cup of the starter for yourself and keep it alive for another batch.

This is a great “sour dough” for many baked things (breads, cakes, pancakes, etc.), so even if you don’t want to keep making this bread, you can keep it going for making lots of other things.

Amish Friendship Bread (with fruit)

1 cup oil

½ cup milk

3 whole eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour (an extra Tablespoon if using drained fruit)

1 cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ tsp salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 (5-oz) box instant vanilla pudding

1 (12-oz) can fruit cocktail (for fermented fruit from the first Amish Friendship Cake recipe), well drained and patted dry with paper toweling

1 cup chopped nuts

Cinnamon and Sugar mixture

Mix oil and eggs, add vanilla, and stir into the 1 cup of remaining STARTER.  In a separate bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, pudding mix, and nuts.  Stir in oil and egg mixture, and add fruit.  Stir to mix thoroughly.

Pour into two large, well greased 9 X 5 loaf pans, or 4 to 6 mini loaf pans, or one Bundt pan that has been well greased and sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and a dusting of flour.  Sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar on the tops of the loaves.

Place in preheated 325 degree F oven for one hour or until bread springs back with touched and toothpick inserted comes out clean.

* * *

COLONIAL GINGERBREAD with whipped cream on top

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup dark molasses

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground fresh ginger root

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325*F.  Grease and flour a 9 x 9″ pan.  Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a mixer until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times during blending.  Pour batter into greased bundt pan (or 9 x 13″ pan) and bake for about 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, but don’t let it over bake or it will be dry.

*If you like your gingerbread a little more moist and sticky you can make the following glaze and pour over the warm bread, even poking a few holes into the bread with a kabob skewer.

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1 cup boiling water

pinch of salt

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp pure Vanilla extract

Place cornstarch and molasses in a small heavy sauce pot over medium high heat.  Add boiling water and salt to the mixture and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and cook another 20 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla, stir and then pour over warm gingerbread.  The gingerbread can be enjoyed just like this, or you can sprinkle chopped nuts on top.  I like mine with a heaping dallop of whipped cream.

Whipped Cream Topping

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

dash of salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl with the mixer on medium speed.  Beat until soft peaks form and keep their shape.  Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve, or frost cooled cake and then keep cake in refrigerator until ready to serve.  I used Red Hots candies and mint leaves to decorate my cake, and then dusted it with a little nutmeg.


PUMPKIN ROLL:  I used the recipe on the label of Libby’s solid pack pumpkin.

Christmas Dinner table


Besides the obvious and most centerpiece activity – shopping for, giving, opening ,and playing with presents, there are several other activities that are traditional in our Christmas season:  the Shoebox, the angel-tree, making cookies, writing a Christmas letter and mailing out with Christmas cards, doing crafts, attending school parties, programs and functions, going to all the community events like the parade, the college festival of lights, the downtown square event in our town and in the nearby towns, the festival of lights at the 501 Ranch, and whatever else we find out about.

On Christmas Eve it is a tradition to eat 3 types of chili and tamales, open one present (from the same Aunt year after year – and she always sends pajamas), driving around to look at Christmas lights, and watching Christmas movies (A Christmas Story) until, according to the NORAD website, Santa is in the USA and getting close!

Aunt Dani's gifts

There’s also the Advent Calendar that is a yearly custom for the kids:

The Advent Wreath is always part of the season:

After Christmas dinner there is always a puzzle:


And this year we added a hay ride, and made a fire outside to sit around before it got dark, then making a fire in the fireplace inside and sitting around it playing with our toys and watching Christmas movies (National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and others) and snacking on Christmas goodies:

Hay Ride


“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

1 Peter 4:8-10

Mrs H’s Thanksgiving Dinner Cookbook

Mrs H’s Thanksgiving Dinner Cookbook
Fam & Friends Thanksgiving


 “Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife.” 

Proverbs 16:33 


Is Thanksgiving a blessing or a stressful event at your house? Do you love or dread the gathering of family around your table?

I guess I am blessed that I rather savor, as much the smorgasbord of foods that everyone has pitched in to bring, as the colorful personalities in my family.  I appreciate the ones that do all the talking, because even though I can’t get a word in edgewise, and have forgotten what I was going to say 20 minutes ago  (trying to be polite and not interrupt until there was finally a lull), must confess that at least it’s never boring.  And when they all go home, the house seems sooooo quiet – sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a sad way, but most always in an entertaining way that lingers in my thoughts.

I am thankful for the scholarly brainiacs who bring up politics, money, and religion and have intelligent things to say.  Even though I have a hard time keeping up sometimes and my meager contributions aren’t well respected, they keep me abreast with what’s going on in the world, and entice me to later investigate some things I wasn’t aware of.  Plus they help me to form more solid opinions and develop my anger management and diplomacy skills, which are always good skills to hone. 

I could not be more grateful for the hovering ladies who congregate underfoot in my cramped kitchen as I’m trying to put the finishing touches on my dishes, for even though there are too many cooks in my kitchen, they are usually the ones who also help clean everything up after, and cheerfully put it all away. 

I tolerate the booming television and adore the maniac sports fans watching it, for they are usually fun loving and playful – the ones that grab me and put me in a headlock for no particular reason while I’m pulling a pan of cookies from the oven and being waaaaay too serious about things.  They help me keep my sense of humor. 

And the kids, while scurrying dangerously underfoot and needy of a million things when I’m a little bit stressed over the chaos already, are fun to interview over dinner and are always up for crafting and games.  They say the dangdest things that stay with me for years.  And as long as they realize they MUST use the coozies (with their names on them) that I gave to them, to identify their beverages, so that I don’t find a landfill of opened and half drank sodas all over my house later, we’ll be good to go.  Having a big garage with games and toys, and several things for them to do – where they can be a little loud without being disruptive, and are basically unable to really break anything, is also a sanity saver.

Unlike Christmas, and even Easter, which have evolved over the years from a blessed religious observance to a major shopping ordeal, Thanksgiving seems to have remained untainted from the time of John Smith & the Pilgrims, Honest Abe’s proclamation, and to our modern day.  I guess that is what I love most about it.  Gratefulness to God and eating with people are my most favorite things in the world.  I adore the simplicity of the holiday!  Especially when everyone shares the cooking and I’ve pretty much done all mine the day before and have only to reheat or drag out from the ice box.

Isn’t it funny how sooooo many hours of grocery shopping, cooking, scrubbing dishes, and decorating culminate in about 30 minutes of actual eating enjoyment, and then we’re right back in the kitchen washing dishes for an eternity and rearranging our refrigerators so all the leftovers will fit. And when we’ve finally finished with that, invariably somebody says they are ready to eat again, so we’re dragging it all back out for round two.

Honestly, November in our house is also anything but simple.  It is our family’s month of birthday and anniversary madness — at least two birthdays a week starting the last week of October and stretching into December, with anniversaries peppered in here and there.  The last Thursday in November is particularly crazy because my husband and I decided to be married on November 24th. We share our day with the birthdays of both my mom and his sister.  And then about every 4 years Thanksgiving lands on us too.  We must have been out of our minds.  Who gets married at Thanksgiving?  Two people, I guess, who desperately wanted to get out of Wyoming when the snow flies.  Consequently, between the grocery list and gift list, by the time Christmas has arrived we’re just flat, stinkin’ broke and feel like we’ve run a marathon!

This is where my sister comes in.  The coupon queen.  The bargain goddess.  The gal that can be counted upon to find a way (if there is one) to kill a dozen birds with one stone.  I’m not being sarcastic.  I marvel at her… even if I sometimes feel a little like an item on her to-do list.  She’s got this holiday figured out, for sure.  She and her husband tried for years to house hop and eat all day long to make everyone happy, but for a couple with ALL of their family in town it only took a couple of years to realize a person can’t eat that much food, or be in so many places at the same time.  So she decided to host the shindig at her house and invite all of us there.  She and hubbie provided the turkey and we all brought our favorite dishes.  It all worked out magnificently for us.  We each got to play chef but none of us were overloading our ovens.  It was very budget friendly.  And we all got to see each other.

My sister usually lays out snacks for all of us to nibble on until the meal is ready, and all the guests have arrived.  Then we form a buffet line around her kitchen counter, after first gathering to ask God’s blessing on our meal.  She clears her living room of furniture and sets up tables and chairs in the space, and we all sit together and stuff ourselves until we all look like a clan of Jabba-the-Huts or Fat B@$+@>)$ from Austin Powers – “Get in my belly!”  Karen and Steve always make some sort of bread to die for, and desserts that made your tongue want to divorce your mouth and just live with the pie forever.  I usually make a potato casserole and an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink stuffing.  Someone in our clan always brings mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and yams.  We always have turkey and gravy, fresh made cranberry relish, and a Watergate Salad.

After supper the men sneak off to watch the football game, while the women clean the kitchen and make TV dinners of all the left-overs, which we divvy up among ourselves. They all fit nicely stacked in my sister’s otherwise barren fridge.  I always bring a craft for us all to do – usually something that we can use at Christmas, like one year we made wreaths out of green-painted clothespins and red beads and wire clothes hangers bent into hoops and then adorned with a big fancy bow, to hang on the wall and pin our Christmas cards on – I still use mine to this day.  And one day I’ll tell you the story about how I hot-glued my finger to my bottom lip. I do not recomment hair removal by this method, by the way.


Another year we made peanut butter and birdseed ornaments with rice cakes and string, to hang in the trees outside, kind of like these: (We pressed a popsicle stick into our rice cakes and tied a string to the popsicle stick, then painted the ricecake with peanut butter, and rolled it in a cookie sheet that was filled with birdseed.  When we were done, we went and hung our birdseed ornaments in the trees outside.  


Another year we painted pots and planted narcissus bulbs in them that bloomed at Christmas.   I still have my pot, but have planted a different houseplant in it since.


Another year my daughter, grand-daughters, and I made picture ornaments of each of our family members to hang on their tree.  Their tree is entirely decorated with special ornaments that were given to them throughout their lives.  Each ornament has special meaning and each has a great story to go with it.  What a neat neat way to decorate a tree, eh?

Bulbs in hand

By the time we’ve finished with crafts the men are usually done with the TV football game and we all gather back around the tables to play party games.  It has become a hobby of mine to look for games at second hand stores and yard sales, and consequently I’ve amassed quite a collection.  We always spend a little bit of time muddling our way through the rules of our new games, and then after playing them we pull out favorites from past years.  People are always welcome to bring a favorite game for us to try.  In between games we eat dessert, or drag out leftovers to snack on.  My sister always keeps the veggie tray loaded, and the chip bowls full. 

Game Recommendations: Two years ago the hit game of the party was Education Outdoors Snipe Hunt Hide and Seek Game.  The kids had an abosolute blast trying to find the hidden snipes in the house, and also outside. The game went on for hours. We also played Hopla, Kings in the Corners, and Scene-It.  Farkel is also a good game to play with all ages. The cell phone app Heads Up game is a favorite also – especially around a backyard bonfire when the sun goes down!

When we’ve eaten everything, played everything, watched all the games on TV, and crafted till our fingers are tired, and we can’t keep our eyes open for another minute, that’s when we pack it up. We gather up our own leftovers from the fridge, if there were any left after round two and three, along with our crafts that we made, and games that we brought, and carefully head for home on usually not so nice roads, feeling very filled and fulfilled. 

And just when our tradition had become very predictable and comfortable, the Hoffman’s moved to Texas.  Bye-bye old traditions and crowded house.  Bye-bye pot luck.  Bye-bye craft party and family games.  Bye-bye cold and snow.  Bye-bye noisy, bustling house.  <sigh>

Our first Thanksgiving in Texas we went out for dinner, because we just closed on our house and all our stuff was still in storage.  We made reservations at Neals in Concan.  That’s not a bad tradition to have – except we decided that if we ever do it again we’ll order one dinner to eat there and one dinner to take home, so we can have leftovers.  The next year we were loath to have a *quiet house* Thanksgiving, so husband invited some of the orphans from his work whose families were still back in whatever state, who had to work the holiday and didn’t have any other place to eat when they got off.  We actually did that for the next several years, and a couple of the years the orphans were also Marines; and it felt really good to get to do something nice for them.

This was the first Texas Thanksgiving craft we did. I had planted an overabundance of cayenne and anahiem chilies in my garden and decided to make wreaths and ristras out of them. 

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

One of the first years in Texas, the growing-like-weeds, but still very young grandkids colored and made finger puppets of the Peanuts gang, and learned to play Yatzee with their granny, just like their grandpa used to play with his grandma every Thanksgiving!  And we snacked on popcorn, jelly beans, and pretzels while we watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on DVD.

As the kids grew our Thanksgiving crafts and games got more mature. We started playing games, like Apples to Apples, or Mexican Train dominoes, or we got a big jigsaw puzzle started that we could work on through the month of December.

Thanksgiving Recipes

There’s always a Veggie Platter on our table: (also showing in this photo, clockwise from top left: bottle of Pinio Noir wine, Pumpkin Pie, Pecan Cobbler, Salted Carmel Apples, Salted Caramels, Watergate Salad, Cranberry Relish, Ambrosia, and a Turkey veggie platter with individual cups of veggie dip).

Veggie Platter

And always deviled eggs:


We ALWAYS have TURKEY at Thanksgiving…but because the hubbie has never been a big fan of turkey, I change up how I make it every year.  My personal favorite is just the good old fashioned roasted buttery Butterball, golden on the outside and juicy on the inside, served on a platter surrounded with herbs and fruits, just like the Norman Rockwell painting, with a boat full of smooth and silky turkey gravy.  MMM…mmm…mmm.  While I die and drool, this is NOT husband’s favorite, sooooo…after burning him out on baked Turkey for several years, I decided one year to try stuffing the bird with fresh Herbs de Provence, garlic and onions, and an orange and apple (halved), and then I grilled it out on the BBQ grill, and you know what?  It was really a nice change of pace.  And I decided I liked change.  So, the next year after that we got a smoked turkey (ordered it from a local guy that did them), and honestly, who doesn’t love smoked turkey?  Another year we did a Cajun, deep-fried turkey. OMGoodness – YUM!  Who doesn’t love fried turkey?  After that, I brined the turkey, using Pioneer Woman’s recipe, and baked it in the oven as per her meticulously photographed instructions.  I even went so far as to order an organic turkey from the butcher at the grocery store, just to see it if made any difference – and yes, it was expensive, but holy cow was that fantastic.  We’ve done a Turducken, and another year sticky-smoky glazed turkey drumsticks – just the drumsticks; and another year I rubbed the whole giant bird down with a spicy dry rub, poked a few jalapeno slices up under the skin, covered it in a bacon lattice, and then roasted it in the roaster!  OMG, it was amazing.  And most recently we did “baby turkeys” (aka cornish game hens). That was a huge hit! And with that I may have exhausted all possibilities so we might have to just go back to the beginning and take a trip down memory lane.

Now I was not a big fan of the turkey drumsticks. They might have be better if they had cooked longer to be more tender.  They had a wonderful flavor and looked really pretty on a platter, but had a lot of cartilage and gristle that make them kind of difficult to eat.  I don’t think I will do that again.  BUT the SPICY DRY RUB JALAPENO STUFFED BIRD!  OMG!  Best Turkey I’ve ever made.  Super juicy.  Super Yummy.  Definitely have to do that again. And the little Rock Cornish Game Hens too. So I will share both of those recipes with you…

Mrs H’s Best Turkey Ever

First things first – When to buy the turkey

One week prior to Thanksgiving I purchased my 12 lb bird to feed the six of us.  It was a “Riverside” no frills, no big deal, store bought frozen turkey.  I put it in the fridge (Friday afternoon), and by Wednesday morning of the following week (5 days later) it was still sort of frozen in places.  I removed it from the fridge, cut the wrapping off, ran it under cool water in the sink for a minute or two, and was able to remove the neck and giblets package, so it was thawed enough.  I let it sit in the sink while I prepared the brine.


Warm 2 quarts of water in a large pot on the stove and stir in 1 cup of coarse ground Kosher salt.  Stir until salt is dissolved.  Add to this about 6 fresh Bay Leaves, 1 Tbsp coarse ground peppercorn, a few Chile Pequine, and the peels of about 4 large mandarin oranges.  Stir and remove from heat.  Let cool and then add 2 more quarts of fresh cool water.  Stir.

Brining Bag

Place turkey in a brining bag (a good, LARGE, heavy duty zipper bag).  Pour the brine solution into the bag and squeeze out all of the air, zipping, and then twisting the top so that the brine solution completely covers the turkey.  I taped mine and held it with a chip clip.  Place the bag into a roasting pan, and then place it on a shelf in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours.


At this point I Clorox everything in my kitchen where raw turkey juices might have gotten splashed (sink, faucet handles, countertops, floor, cupboard knobs, my hands, etc.).


Wednesday is when I like to prepare most of my sides (Stuffing, Potato casserole, cranberry sauce, desserts, relish trays, beverages, etc. – recipes below).  I won’t bake the sides until Thanksgiving Day, but I like to have them made and ready the day before.  It sure saves my sanity on Thanksgiving morning.  If I’m hosting at my house I also like to set my table, do some decorating, set up the buffet with beverage serving pieces, set out the craft that we’ll be doing, plus a few family games to play (this year 2017 I chose the games Hopla, Snipe Hunt game, Scene It, and Kings in the Corner, and the movies I picked for the kids to watch this year were two PBS Rabbit Ears selections: William Bradford and the First Thanksgiving, and Squanto).

 TURKEY continued…

Considering the baking time (13 minutes per pound) and the hour I planned for dinner to be served (noon), I figured my 12 lb. bird needed to be in the oven by 9:15 AM.  So, at a little before 9 AM I set my oven to preheat (450*F) and retrieved the turkey from the fridge, pulled it out of the brine, discarded the brine solution, and tossed the bag in the trash.

Brined Turkey

I rinsed my turkey and patted it dry with paper towels, and then set it on the rack in my roasting pan.  After sterilizing everything with Clorox once again, I sliced 2 large jalapenos (stems and seeds discarded) into slivers, half of a small yellow onion into thin slices, plus a stick of cold butter cut into 1 Tbsp pieces, and also opened my package of bacon (I always use a quality, hardwood smoked, medium sliced bacon).

Turkey companions

I pressed my hand up under the skin on the breast of the turkey and dislodged it from the meat as far back and down as I could.  I then began to stuff it full with the jalapeno slices, and then the onion slices, and finished with several tablespoons of butter.

Under the skin

Once that was done I scrubbed my hands again, and then sprinkled my spicy dry rub all over the bird.  It is basically just equal parts cayenne powder and ground black pepper.

Dry Rubbed

After that I began laying on my strips of bacon, in a lattice pattern, completely covering the breast, and also the tops of the drumsticks.


Washed up again, and as a last touch, sprinkled the bacon with coarse ground pepper and pushed in my pop-up thermometer (as directed on the package).

By 9:15 AM it was all dolled up and ready to go into my preheated (450*) oven.  I layed a piece of foil over the top (not totally covering and not sealed) and added 4 cups of water to the roasting pan, closed the oven door, and then turned the temp down to 350*F and set my timer for two hours, so I could start peeking in on my pop-up thermometer frequently at that point.  (It actually took my bird almost 3 hours to cook).

Now a person with two ovens is really blessed at this point, because that second oven can be used to bake the sides, and the whole shebang can then come out piping hot at the same time.  Imagine that!  I’m not so fortunate, so I either have to bake my turkey in an electric roaster, or bake my sides in the electric roaster, or send the sides to my daughter’s house to bake in her double ovens.  Hey, good idea!  And that’s just what I did!

And this was what the turkey looked like fresh out of the oven:


I pulled it out of the pan, wrapped it in foil tightly and let it sit for 15 minutes before I began carving.  (And those drippings in the pan made a magnificent gravy!!!!  Only the gravy I made with them I made the next day because there was no time at this point to fiddle with it.  I did make a turkey gravy a day ahead (see it in the mason jar in the background) using turkey wings cooked for several hours in a pot of water to make a nice turkey broth.  I left my actual turkey drippings in the pan, covered it with foil, and popped it in the refrigerator.  The next day the fat was easy to scoop off of the top.  I added to it an equal part flour and made a lovely roux.  To the roux I added the “jello” part of the drippings that remained in the pan and whisked it all smooth, and brought it to a bubble.  It was wonderful on our leftovers (stuffing and turkey)!


NOTE:  Brined turkey drippings do NOT need any extra salt, but you might like to add some ground black pepper.  I did.

Rock Cornish Game Hens


1/2 cup kosher salt

1/3 cup sugar

8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 Tablespoon Peppercorns Melange

2 teaspoons ground mustard

2 teaspoons onion powder

5 quarts warm water

Mix all ingredients and then chill.

Pour brine over six hens in a large brining bag and chill in refrigerator overnight – 12 hours. Remove hens from brine and discard the brine. Pat hens dry with paper towels. Stuff the cavity of each with a lemon and orange wedge, a sprig of rosemary, and a clove of garlic. Tuck a pat of butter up under the skin on each breast. Also tuck a leaf of sage with the butter. Rub the outside of the bird with olive oil and ground black pepper. Truss the little feet together on each bird and arrange them on a baking sheet. Place in a preheated oven (400 degrees) for 25 minutes, then turn oven down to 300 and continue baking until a thermometer inserted reads 165 degrees F. Baste with the juices in the pan. Cover with foil if the birds seem to be browning too quickly.

Oh, and did you happen to notice the little pumpkin in the photo? I purchased these little pie pumpkins at the garden store and all you have to do to roast them is cut the top off and poke it with a knife a few times, scoop out all the seeds and membranes, replace the top and bake in the oven in a glass dish for about the same length of time as the birds. It is ready when the pumpkin looks like it has a nice tan and a fork inserted into the side meets with very little resistence. I put a stick of butter, a cup of brown sugar, and a teaspoon of pumpkin spice inside the pumpkin and let my guests scoop out their own portions. I also cooked a couple more of these pumpkins (without any butter, sugar, or spices) and scooped out the pulp into freezer bags and froze it to make pumpkin bread out of for Christmas. The seeds were also deliscious washed, salted, and roasted in the oven.

Thanksgivig Buffet2


Hashbrown Potato Casserole

2 lb pkg frozen hash browns

1 stick butter, melted

1 cup chopped onion

1 can cream of chicken soup

8 oz. carton sour cream

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Garlic Salt to taste

2 cups corn flakes, (plus ½ stick butter, melted)

In a large bowl mix hash browns, 1 stick butter, onion, soup, sour cream, and cheddar cheese, and garlic salt.  Toss until combined.  Spoon into large, buttered, oblong baking pan.  In a large Ziploc bag crush cornflakes and toss with melted ½ stick of butter.  Sprinkle over potatoes in an even layer.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. 

Loaded Potato Casserole

Some years I make a loaded potato casserole which is skin-on mashed red or yukon gold potatoes with a little chicken broth, salt, pepper, garlic powder, butter, and sour cream or ranch dressing stirred in. Sprinkled on top with cheese, bacon crumbles, and chopped green onion, and then baked in a 350 degree F oven until hot and bubbly.

Mom’s Texas Style Dressing

2 6 X 6 pans of sweet jalapeno cornbread (from the bakery), broken up into tiny pieces and dried on foil in a 170 degree F oven until totally and completely dried.

4 cups store bought stuffing cubes (plus the seasoning packet)

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped parsely

1 teaspoon pepper

1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 large can Cream of Chicken soup

4 cups, or so, chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients together, including the stuffing seasoning packet contents, in a giant bowl. Mixture should be extra moist, just this side of soupy. If bacon fat is available, use it to grease a large oblong baking pan. Carefully spoon dressing on top of bacon fat. Bake uncovered about an hour. Check for doneness – shake the pan to see if the center is set. If not, keep baking and checking, up to a total of 1 1/2 hours baking time. It may even need a little more.

Thanksgiving Buffet


Green Bean Casserole

1 large bag frozen green beans

2 Tbsp butter

½ cup chopped onion

2 cups sliced portabella mushrooms

1 can cream of mushroom soup, (I like Amy’s Mushroom Bisque)

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded

½ lb crispy fried bacon, crumbled

¼ cup toasted sliced almonds

1 can Durkee French fried onions

Sauté onions and mushrooms in butter until mushrooms are tender and butter is absorbed.  Stir in soup, cream, and cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in green beans and toss to coat.  Transfer to a buttered casserole dish.  Mix bacon almonds and French fried onions in a bag and sprinkle over green beans.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until green beans are tender and bubbling.


Sweet Potato Bake

4 sweet potatoes baked until tender and scooped out of the skins

1/2 cup sugar (may substitute honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup)

1/3 cup butter, melted

½ cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp Vanilla extract

 Topping ingredients:

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix sweet potatoes with remaining 5 ingredients.  Transfer to casserole dish.  In Ziploc bag mix topping ingredients and sprinkle over sweet potatoes.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Turkey Gravy

4 Turkey Wings

2 medium onions, quartered

8 cups Turkey broth

¾ cup chopped carrot and celery

½ tsp Thyme

½ cup flour

4 Tbsp butter

Pepper to taste

Bake wings in oven (400 degrees) for 1 ¼ hours.  Put wings, onions, carrots, celery, and thyme into the turkey broth in a large pot on stove.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 1 ½ hours.  Remove wings and take meat off the bone, discarding skin and bones.  Set meat aside.  Strain broth and set aside.  Melt butter in a large sauce pan and as soon as it is foamy whisk in flour.   Cook stirring continuously until flour begins to turn golden, then whisk in the hot broth.  Stir continuously over high heat until thickened.  Taste, add salt and pepper, taste again, add shredded turkey wing meat, then remove from burner, cover it, and place where it will stay warm until ready to serve.

Jalapeno Poppers

1 dozen small to medium jalapenos

1 block cream cheese, softened

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 lb. crispy crumbled bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut jalapenos in half lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scoop out seeds and membranes.  Set aside.  In a small bowl mix cream cheese and shredded cheese together.  Spoon this mixture into jalapeno halves.  Sprinkle bacon crumbles on top of each jalapeno half.  Place on cookie sheet and bake in oven just until cheese becomes melty, about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve. 

Cranberry Relish Mold

1 bag fresh Ocean Spray cranberries

½ cup chopped celery

1 orange w/ peel left on, cut into quarters

1 apple, seeded but not peeled, and cut into quarters

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup sugar (or more to taste)

1 large package cranberry Jell-O

Whirl first 6 ingredients in a food processor until minced into small pieces.  In separate bowl add hot water to Jell-O as directed on package and stir until dissolved.  Add cranberry mixture from food processor and stir to combine.  Place in a bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  If you desire to mold the relish, drain cranberry mixture in strainer or squeeze through paper towels before adding to Jell-O.  Spoon into a donut shaped Jell-O mold and chill for several hours until ready to serve.

Watergate Salad

2 small cans crushed pineapple with juice

2 small boxes Pistachio Pudding mix

1  9-oz carton Cool Whip

2 cups miniature marshmallows

2/3 cup chopped walnuts

Combine pineapple with pudding in medium bowl; add whipped cream, marshmallows and nuts.  Fold until combined.  Chill several hours or overnight before serving.

Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie

1 deep dish pie crust (homemade or store bought – I usually always cheated)

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s 100 percent pure pumpkin

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk, preferably Nestle Carnation

Whipped cream, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fit dough into a 9-inch deep-dish glass pie plate, pressing it into the edges. Trim to a 1-inch overhang all around. Crimp edge as desired. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork; set aside.  (*I like to crush some pecans and scatter them on the pie crust, and then press them down in.)  

In a small bowl, mix together, sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cloves. Beat eggs together in a large bowl. Add sugar mixture and pumpkin; stir to combine. Stir in evaporated milk until well combined.  (*I add a TBSP of Vanilla!!!)

Pour mixture into pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake until filling is set, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream, if desired, or place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Mrs-H’s Bourbon Pecan Cobbler

Cobbler Crust:

1 cup oat flour (1 cup regular oatmeal processed to a fine powder)

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1/2 stick butter, softened

2 cups Buttermilk

2 eggs

Cobbler sauce:

2 cups light corn syrup

2 cups packed brown sugar

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

¼ teaspoon of salt

1 eggs, slightly beaten

¼ cup half and half

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons of Bourbon

3 cups pecans, coarsely chopped


Pre-heat oven to 375ºF.  Generously butter a 13 X 9 inch pan. 

In a large bowl mix together all cobbler CRUST ingredients, and then spoon into buttered pan.  Set aside.

To prepare sauce, combine corn syrup, sugar, butter, and dash of salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until sugar melts; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until amber colored; remove from heat. Break the egg into the half-and-half and beat until mixed. Slowly drizzle egg mixture into sauce, stirring constantly with a whisk until fully incorporated. Add vanilla and bourbon; whisk until smooth.  Add pecans.  Pour over the crust.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until edges look crispy.  Allow the cobbler to cool for 20-25 minutes before serving.

Our Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, complete with popcorn, jelly beans, and pretzel bites


Abe Lincoln

I love the tradition that so many have of spending all of November proclaiming the things they are thankful for.  What if we only got to keep the specific things that we thanked God for? That’s something to think about for sure.  And on that note, I am soooo thankful for God’s extravagant generosity and love towards me in spite of my often ingratitude, and I pray that I be more aware of the things He does for me every moment of the day and night.  May I always thank Him for all the prayers He’s answered, and thank Him for all the plans He has for me, and all the plans He has for my family.  I thank Him too for the brave men and women who made the treacherous trip to this country on the Mayflower, many giving their lives in the hopes for a new opportunity here, and religious freedom.  I am thankful for the presidents we’ve had in this country that have loved and served and feared God, and led us with integrity and grit. I hope and pray that you, my dear reader (and new friend), have a big wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by friends and family who love you and are dearly loved in return, and that you will know the depth and width and breadth of God’s love for you.  IJN

Linus’ Thanksgiving Prayer

P.S. Got leftover ham?

Here are my two favorite things to do with it…


Ham & Potato Casserole

6 potatoes cut into slices or cubes as you prefer (or a bag of frozen hash browns)

2 cups diced ham leftovers

2 cups shedded cheese

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 stick of butter, melted

2/3  pint carton heavy cream

3 Tbls flour

1 jalapeno, diced

A sprinkle or two of spicy dry rub seasoning (basically just cayenne powder and ground black pepper)

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl and pour out into a large greased casserole dish.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.  Remove foil, give the dish a good stir, return to oven and bake an additional 1/2 hour uncovered.  If it appears to be getting too golden on top, it is probably done.  My oven seems to take a little longer than other peoples.  This dish is a great way to get rid of several things you might have left in your fridge.  🙂

Deviled Ham (for sandwiches) 

These are my husband’s favorite!!!!  He will flat out gorge on them for two solid days in a row.  So I usually make all the deviled ham into sandwiches, lay them in a casserole dish, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and store it in his “mancave” fridge where he can just help himself until he is sick.  LOL!  P.S. I rarely measure my ingredients for this (although I did for you this time to make sure it would turn out), but I never have the exact same amount of leftover ham, so I’m going to say we start with 2 cups of ground ham and you can double or half the other ingredients in porportion to what you have, okay?


I grind my leftover ham in a hand-crank grinder (old school), and then to approximately 2 cups of ground ham I add:

1/2 tsp. ground pumpkin pie spice

1/4  tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

1/3 cup minced onion (about a quarter of a large onion)

1/3 cup minced celery (about 1 rib of celery)

4 Tbsps sweet pickle relish

1 Tbsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard

Moisten with mayonaise until misture holds together and is slightly creamy.  I start with a good heaping serving spoon of Mayo, and then maybe a little more than that.

Mix together by tossing and stirring until everything is mixed well.  Cut the crusts off of your favorite white sandwich bread.  Spread slices with the deviled ham and cover with another slice of bread.  Cut sandwiches into quarters and poke a decorative toothpick through to hold them together.  Serve with whatever was leftover on the relish tray (carrot sticks, cream cheese stuffed celery sticks, green and black olives, deviled eggs, spicy pickled okra, spicy pickled jardinière mix, pickled asparagus, dilled green beans, little dill and sweet pickles, etc.), chips, or whatever you have.  These go great with cheddar cheese soup.  Check out my recipe in my blog post “Soups On.”



Got leftover Turkey?

We usually only have enough leftover turkey to make sandwiches the next that, and that is our favorite thing to do with it.  But I also love Chicken Spaghetti and turkey is a wonderful substitute for the chicken.  Here’s my recipe:

Turkey Spaghetti

6 cups left over turkey, diced

1/2 lb. Spaghetti noodles, cooked

3/4 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced

3 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp flour

1 1/2 cups turkey broth (chicken broth will do)

1 cup heavy cream

1 scant tsp. dry mustard

4 oz. shredded Mexican cheese

1 lb. Ham, cut into small pieces

2 small pkgs slivered Almonds

3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (the fresh, deli kind)


Preheat oven to 350*F.  Melt butter in a sauce pan and add the sliced mushrooms.  Saute mushrooms until tender.  Add the flour to the mushrooms and butter and let cook for a few minutes, stirring to fully incorporate it.  Add the broth slowly and cook until it thickens.  Add the heavy cream, dry mustard, shredded cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until smooth.  Place speghetti, ham, and turkey in a large buttered casserole dish.  Toss to incorporate them.  Pour the sauce over the spaghetti and stir it around a little to make sure it gets all over.  Sprinkle with parmesan and the almonds, and a little dusting of paprika.  Bake in a 350*F oven, UNCOVERED, for about 45 to 60 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

“Let us enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and his truth endures to all generations.”  Psalm 100:4-5

Halloween House Hop…for Grown-ups!

Halloween House Hop…for Grown-ups!

There are two parts to this blog post.  First a story and after that the plans for an Adult Halloween Party, complete with recipes.  


All Hallows Eve

How do you feel about Halloween?  To tell you the truth, it was a cherished part of my childhood memories.  When I was a kid growing up in our small town, it was a BIG affair.  Every kid in our town participated.  The morning before, our mom would drag down her big box of costumes from the attic and always let my sisters and me pick which ones we wanted to wear from it.  Some Halloweens were very cold and snowy and our costumes would have to fit over our snow boots and heavy winter coats, lots of them were windy – not that a kid ever really notices such things, and a good handful of them were completely pleasant nights, semi warm, lit up with a big full moon that sometimes hid behind a dark, ominous cloud, and a sky dazzling with glittery stars.

Of course the first houses we headed to were the ones with the really awesome treats, like big, soft popcorn balls and glorious caramel apples. 

carmeled apples

Those were the good old days of home-made Halloween treats, usually made by the older church ladies.  A few of the more affluent families handed out regular size candy bars, and we always made a bee-line to their houses next.  And then we spent the remainder of the night collecting pillowcase-fulls of the little stuff.  We always made a stop at our grandparents’ house, although they weren’t big on Halloween and usually had the lights off.  But they’d answer the door for us, and ALWAYS gave out the same awful orange and black wrapped candy that was sort of like some kind of peanut butter taffy — yuck!  Not my favorite.  But we were privileged because they only answered the door for us.

When all the porch lights started going out, it was time to call it a night.  My sisters and I would shuffle on home, shuck our duds at the back door (poor mom sifted the piles and washed off the mud), and then dash for the living room where we’d dump out our buckets and sacks and compare booty.  Sometimes we’d trade if we had something we didn’t like and another sister was willing to deal.  Mom would let us eat some of it before it was time to brush our teeth and get ready for bed.

“Well, the fun’s over and she’s gone to church!”

I grew up.  Got married.  Got saved.  Had kids, and found myself wedged inextricably in a sticky little quandary between learning the origins of Halloween and those fond memories of my childhood.  The church we belonged to when my kids were little was understandably very much against the whole idea of Halloween. I felt like I might be excommunicated if I turned maverick and rode the fence on this one?  So I reached down deep in my soul to find an acceptable, fun, non-observing observance of the holiday that would satisfy all the little guilt-trips I had going on in my psyche.  Desperately seeking to come up with something that would get both a stamp of approval from my church, and Jesus, but also my excited, bright-eyed, beaming blonde baby girl with trick-or-treating friends as well.

Halloween Alternatives

I prayed and asked God what He wanted us to do, as salt and light, not to cast judgement on anyone, but to be all things to all people that we might by some miracle save some. God led me with various verses of scripture to go ahead and take my darling little baby girl door to door, but as an angel of light instead of darkness.

I dressed her cute little self in a ghost outfit, but with a halo on her head, and a big round button on her chest that said “HOLY GHOST.”   I came up with a little ditty that she dutifully memorized, and then that night we tricky-trotted from door to door in our little neighborhood doing what I felt lead of God to do.  Each door that answered her little knock-knock-knock was met NOT with “trick or treat,” but with our little poem that went something like this:  “On this night when the spirits are about, we pray that the Holy Spirit dwells with you!”  

It was our goal to bring blessings to our neighbors. We handed out tracts to every home and said a prayer over every house and every person we encountered. Basically prayer-walked our neighborhood, singing worship songs quietly to ourselves as we went.

They were all a little puzzled that a kid was there to give THEM something, and of course they offered her candy in return, which she happily accepted (although in retrospect I guess that could have been possibly construed as food offered to idols, eeeks.  Oh well, we’ll just have to ask forgiveness for that one).  It seemed the perfect solution.  My little girl had a great time, and we didn’t hide from the holiday or let it have our neighborhood all to itself.

The next year, and for several years after that, we went to the church’s Fall Festival, held at the Fairgrounds Industrial Bldg, where the kids were not allowed to dress up, but they did get to play a plethora of carnival games that paid out in little dollar-store prizes and bite-sized candies.  We ate sloppy joes and hot dogs which the church provided, and sampled all the side dishes that had been carried in.  And the adults visited and fellowshipped at the tables in the center of the room until the whole thing drew to a close.

When the kids got older and didn’t want to play the kiddie games any more, they would help me pass out candy to the trick-or-treaters who came to our door.  We always gave a Halloween Bible tract to each kid with a handful of whatever the coolest candy was at the time, sometimes we dressed up and played organ music in the CD player, and always blessed them as they went off into that dark night, saying a little prayer for each of their souls.

And then my kids grew up.  And it wasn’t long before there came grandkids…


…and the whole thing came full circle again.  

The first year the darling little ones came knocking at our door and we lavished them with buckets of healthy snacks – because their mom would have our heads if we gave them candy.  The next year we sat up lawn chairs in their yard in town and handed out treats to trick-or-treaters while they took their girls door-to-door.  And the next couple years after that we went with them to the church’s Fall Festival, which is remarkably like the Fall Festivals my kids went to — only in Texas it gets to be outdoors because the weather is spectacular!!!!  

And so, like sands in the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.  I suppose it will go on the same until we’re too old and feeble to participate any more.  Maybe they’ll do something fun for us at the nursing home; let us bang our canes on our rockers while the staff bobs for apples or some such nonsense?  And then I guess the door of life will just creak to a close, and Saint Peter will pop out from behind the pearly gates and shout “Boo!!!” at us as we are approaching.  (I’m kidding of course).

But wait.  We’re not dead yet.  Stop it.  Why should the kids have all the fun?  I’ve got an idea.  But before I get to that I want to be clear that this is only intended as something fun to do on a night when everybody else is out celebrating a pagan holiday.  I don’t observe Halloween, and I am not teaching anyone else to either.  

Adult Non-Halloween Party

I’m not always the best at facilitating these things – hence the “reluctant hostess” tag I’ve given to myself, but I’m never lacking in ideas.  Maybe you’ve got all the charisma in the world and are just always drawing a blank?  We would make SUCH a great team! 

Are you an “empty nester,” baby-boomer who wishes she/he had something fun to do on Halloween night?  Are you living in an all-adults-neighborhood and want to get to know your neighbors?  Even if you live in the same old neighborhood going on decades this party will still be a howling fun thing to do.



A FEW WEEKS AHEAD:  Have a meeting with all your neighbors to decide who will be House #1, 2, 3, etc., so that everyone can prepare their part, plus have time to decorate if they want to, and know who else is participating.  Each neighbor can totally plan their own part of the meal, or y’all can use this one I am suggesting below. 

You can be kids again and wear crazy hats or silly masks, or fully dress up, and after trapsing hither and yawn over rocks and fences, and around bushes, by the light of the moon (and a few trusty flashlights) to get to each other’s house for the courses of your supper, your group could crown the evening with a game of cards, dice, or dominoes, or have a couples pumpkin carving contest, or pop some popcorn ( if you can fit any more into your swollen bellies) and watch a movie on somebody’s big screen TV.  Outside. Under the stars.  What a scream!



House #1        

Everyone meets at the first house at dusk.  (Remember to bring flashlights and cameras to take lots of pictures – you’ll treasure them later. )  

I saw the cutest idea on Pinterest for serving Halloween party appetizers buffet style.  Lay out your table with a pair of pants and a flannel shirt as if a person was laying on your table.  Tuck the shirt into the pants.  You could also tuck some straw into the arm holes and leg holes, or put skeleton hands and feet there instead.  Unbutton the shirt and set a tray of goodies in the chest part.  Cut the pant legs with a slit up the middle of each leg and place trays of goodies inside.   

Menu Suggestion: 

Chorizo-Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon  (


1 small Portugese (hard) chorizo sausage (about 2 ounces), casing removed

24 large, meaty dates, pitted

12 slices of Applewood smoked, thin sliced bacon, halved crosswise


Slice the chorizo crosswise in thirds. Halve each piece lengthwise, then cut each half into 4 lengthwise strips to make a total of 24 small sticks.

Tuck a chorizo stick into each date and pinch the dates closed. Wrap a strip of bacon around each date and secure with a toothpick.

Place the wrapped dates in a large skillet, seam sides down, and sauté, turning, until the bacon is browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Especially good served with very thin sliced pieces of blue cheese.

Black Sangria  (

1 bottle Apothic Dark

2 cups organic blackberries, washed

4 black plums, washed and sliced

1/4 cup brandy (optional)

2 cups black grapes, washed

1 cup sparkling water if you desire, but you don’t have to if you want a strong wine taste.


Add everything into a pitcher and mix with a large spoon.

Let it sit in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. The longer it sits the darker the plums become. Best to keep sangria in the fridge. Enjoy!!!


House #2 

Salad and spicy Bloody Marys. (Remember to take pictures!)  

Menu Suggestion: 

Classic Nicoise Salad*

INGREDIENTS (4 large or 8 small servings)

1 pound red-skinned potatoes, sliced 1/3 inch thick

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons dry white wine

10 ounces haricots verts or thin green beans, trimmed

4 large eggs

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/2 shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 cherry tomatoes or small cocktail tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

6 radishes, trimmed and quartered

2 5 1/2 -ounce cans Italian or Spanish tuna packed in olive oil, drained

1/2 cup nicoise olives


Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan; cover with cold water and season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl; drizzle with the wine and let cool. Reserve the saucepan.

Meanwhile, bring a separate saucepan of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with salted ice water. Add the haricots verts to the boiling water; cook until crisp-tender and bright green, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into the ice water to cool; drain and pat dry.

Place the eggs in the reserved saucepan and cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover, remove from the heat and let stand, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, then run under cold water to cool. Peel under cold running water.

Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, shallot, mustard, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until emulsified.

Toss the tomatoes in a small bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1/4 cup dressing to the potatoes and toss. Quarter the hard-cooked eggs.

Divide the lettuce among 4 plates. Arrange the potatoes, haricots verts, radishes, hard-cooked eggs and tuna on top. Pour any juices from the tomatoes into the dressing, then add the tomatoes to the plates. Drizzle with the dressing and top with the olives.

*Recipe courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Salad could be served with spicy Bloody Marys, decorated for the occasion, or a nice Cotes du Rhône rosé (as suggested by with a small stemmed rose (or any crazy party favor) laying across each glass.


House #3 

How about a warm dip with bread sticks, a veggie nibble, and a nice white wine? 

Menu Suggestion:   

Crudité Platter

(Photos from

Hot Crab Dip (


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 medium shallots, minced

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

3/4 cup half-and-half

8 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces

4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 3/4 cups)

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

10 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over for cartilage

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Toast points or bread sticks, for serving


Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon water and simmer for 30 seconds. Stir in the cayenne, Old Bay, and dry mustard until well combined. Pour half-and-half into saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the cream cheese, a few pieces at a time. When the cream cheese is fully incorporated, whisk in the cheddar cheese, a handful at a time. Stir the mixture for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce; stir to combine. Stir in crabmeat and half of the parsley.

Transfer mixture to an ovenproof baking dish and sprinkle with bread pieces. Dot top of bread pieces with remaining tablespoons butter; sprinkle with paprika. Bake until bread pieces are golden and dip is hot, 18 to 22 minutes. Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup parsley and serve with toast points or bread sticks.

*** suggests a light Sauvignon Blanc, specifically Golden Kaan Sauvignon Blanc.   (Or you could go with a green “Witch’s Brew” smoothie which you will find recipes in abundance on Pinterest)


House #4 

…has the main dish (a meat dish, and small side) and of course a special drink to go with it.  And of course more photography. 

Menu Suggestion: 

Chimichurri Grilled Beef Skewers (with Fruit and Nut Farofa)


1 pound flank steak, trimmed

20 wooden skewers

Soak skewers in warm water, at least 20 minutes. Slice the flank steak against the grain into 20 strips, about 1/8 inch thick. Thread the meat accordion-style onto the skewers and set aside until ready to grill.


1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 small bunch fresh oregano (about half the quantity to parsley)

1 small onion, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon Red (Cayenne) Pepper flakes

1 tsp. Spanish Pimenton (smoked Paprika)

3/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons wine vinegar


Puree all ingredients for chimichurri in a blender until just blended. Season the steak with salt and pepper. Brush chimichurri sauce on each side of meat before grilling. Brush the grill with olive oil, then grill the skewers until marked, about 1 minute per side.  Serve more chimichurri on the side as a condiment.

Fruit and Nut Farofa

This is a perfect accompaniment to any roasted meat, but especially Brazilian Chimichurri steak!  Farofa is made of course ground manioc flour (which can be found in most Latin/South American markets), like farina cereal.  If you cannot find it, or don’t want to bother looking, you can go with Quinoa instead, prepared according to package directions.  (Also, some yummy looking Quinoa recipes can be found here.

1/3 cup water

2 Manioc Flour

1 Tablespoon butter

1 Tablespoon oil

1 large chopped onion

2 large chopped tomatoes

1 hardboiled egg, chopped

¼ cup golden raisins or currants

¼ cup chopped prunes

¼ cup chopped walnuts

2 Tablespoons of chopped parsley.


Place manioc flour in a medium glass bowl.  Stir water into manioc flour to moisten and then set aside.

Heat butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add chopped onion and tomatoes.  Saute until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the moistened manioc that you set aside earlier, stir and cook for about 5 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and add 1 hardboiled egg, raisins or currants, chopped prunes, chopped walnuts, and chopped parsley.  Serve.

White Wine Smoothie (Palate cleanser)

20 ice cubes

1 cup very cold fruity white wine (unoaked Chardonnay, Moscato)

1 chilled orange, cut into 4 pieces

1 chilled lemon, cut into 4 pieces

2 cups lemon sorbet

½ cup heavy whipping cream or plain Greek Yogurt

1 to 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

Place ice, wine, and fruit in a blender. Blend until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse until combined.  Pour into tall skinny glasses (flower vases work great) with a sprig of mint and a fancy striped straw.  Serves 4


House #5 

…hosts dessert and a game of dice or cards, or pumpkin carving contest. 

Menu Suggestion:  Coffee and Cake


After-dinner game suggestions:

Spinner or Chicken-Foot Dominoes, Rollin’ Bones Pirate Dice game, Liar’s Dice, Pinochle, or dealer’s choice Stud Poker. When’s the last time you played CLUE?  Or Monopoly?  Or Spoons?  As long as we’re reliving our childhood we could even play a game of hide-and-go-seek!!!  OR, if you and your pals want to walk off some of that wonderful dinner, y’all could do what my little snookums and I did all those many years ago – dress up like little Holy Ghosts, take encouraging Bible messages to your neighbors, prayer walk your neighborhood, sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs, and bless everyone that passes by.


I hope you’ll give this party a whirl.  And please, tell me how it turns out!!!!


“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15



Mrs H’s Easter Dinner Cookbook

Mrs H’s Easter Dinner Cookbook

Easter Egg

Easter Traditions

After a busy morning of egg hunts and hide-and-seek baskets, our little brood (hubbie, kids, and me) would nab a quick breakfast and get ready for church. The first few years of our young Christian lives we just went to our church like normal, but somewhere along the way we decided to visit different churches for Easter. I guess just because Easter service is a show anyway and we already knew what our own church was doing, so why not explore. It’s been a neat tradition with many interesting experiences.

Our family has always leaned more toward the contemporary type churches with a little tradition mingled in, maybe wading toward the charismatic side but not off the deep end. One year we decided to try the Methodist church downtown, the big brick building with the gorgeous stained glass windows. The congregation, when we arrived, seemed mostly older. I recognized a few of the faces as high society movers and shakers in the community. We chose to sit in the balcony, since there wasn’t such a thing in our church, and marveled at the three-story high pipe organ that the organist played masterfully. I’ll admit I was distracted from the words in the hymnal for watching how much effort it was for her to play that immense thing. Her legs were jumping, her hands were all over the cascading terraces of keys, and she kept pushing and pulling levers while still working away at the melody. She coaxed amazing sound out of that gargantuan brass piped spectacle.

The church itself was so formal and so fancy with tall ceilings and carved walls, the balcony, and a pastor who stood at a podium at one side of the stage and wore a robe and a colored sash. It wasn’t anything like our casual, modern, smaller-budget church.

As incredible as the ambiance was, it wasn’t the most memorable part of our experience that day. That part was coming up. There was a darling family sitting right behind us who had a little girl about our Gracee’s age who had sneaked in some candy. Gracee had too. It kept them both occupied for most of the service. But as soon as the music stopped and it got quiet, and the pastor began his rehearsed and monotone sermon, alas, that’s when Gobstoppers exploded without warning and spilled like a sack of marbles onto the polished wooden floor beneath, making us all jump.

The million little balls rolled for what seemed like an eternity down the floor between everyone’s feet, hollering and screaming as they went, echoing into the rafters with deafening clarity. I wondered what it sounded like to the people in the pews below as it was ringing literally in our ears. With a hundred or more eyes all glaring in our direction, we lowered our eyes down to our Gracee fearing it was her doing, not daring to move our heads or move the expression on our faces at all, and she, with huge wide eyes herself, moved backward in the pew, cupped her left hand over her pointer finger, and pointed with desperate innocence behind us. We smiled in relief but didn’t dare look back that way to add more shame to their humiliation. We all just sat like stones and waited for the commotion to end. It finally did thank goodness and our attention turned once again back to the drone of the pastor’s eulogy.

Note to self: If we should ever come back to this church, never let the kid bring jawbreakers and sit in the balcony. Then again, it might have been God’s sense of humor to liven things up a little. Whew, it was stuffy in there.

Another year we visited the Assembly of God church at the foot of the mountain. The pastor there had invited his Christian motorcycle group to come and give the sermon. As the congregation sat quietly waiting, a man in leathers turned the key on his Harley, parked outside the sanctuary in the lobby, and then drove his super shiny rumbling machine into our midst and up the center aisle, with exhaust fumes trailing in his wake. He parked it sideways at the base of the pastor’s podium, turned off the engine, and began his sermon from the mount of his studded leather seat. The other tatted and muscle-bound members of the group, also decked in their riveted and logoed black leather jackets, hats, and chaps, sat in chairs flanking the preacher on either side. It was AWESOME! His sermon was good too. And looking around, I also noticed that I knew quite a few of the members who went to that church too, and they all came over and greeted us after.

Another year we attended the huge Highland Park service held at the Event’s Center, with its thousands in attendance, which is a lot for this community. It had that mega-church feel, like maybe a church in a big city would have. It was an amazing worship service put on by very talented musicians and extremely gifted singers, and projected like a concert from the stage out to us in the stadium, showcasing the enormous talents of its members. Their pastor preached a beautiful sermon and it was all just a gorgeous display. It was neat to see that I knew quite a few of those people as well… many were coworkers.

And one year we attended a smaller, more intimate church, where the worship and sermon was lively and interactive. The pastor was very engaging and authoritative. At one point in his preaching he wanted us all to raise our hands and worship the Lord in our spirits. We did. It was fairly easy as he was very charismatic and the congregation was all eager. When our collective response didn’t quite seem aggressive enough for his liking, he told us to stand to our feet and worship our Savior with cheers and shouting. He begged us to let go our inhibitions and give Jesus the kind of accolades we would dispense at a sporting event. We did, and it was loud and joyful. When that just still wasn’t quite corresponding to his yearning, he shouted to us to get up on our chairs and reach our arms to the ceiling and give the Lord a shout of glory. We did, we did, we did. And some jumped and bounced. And hallelujah we did! And even though it was just a tad outside of our comfort zone, and we felt a little silly, when in Rome, we did! And it was kind of amazing. And none of us got hurt!

Some Easter’s we’ve come home to a homemade feast and other times we’ve gone out. One year we had Easter dinner at Denny’s. Our waitress asked for our drink orders and then gave each of the girls a plastic Easter egg. She said there were little prizes inside. The girls opened their eggs and each had a slip of paper in it. The waitress took the papers and disappeared returning moments later with Dani’s prize, a nice little Easter basket with a few goodies in it. She was thrilled and began to rummage through it, Gracee looked on in wonder. The waitress disappeared and returned a few seconds later with the news that Gracee had won the grand prize, and then presented her with a huge white stuffed bunny rabbit with long dangling ears and a big blue bow tied around its neck. Gracee was surprised and her dad and I were thrilled for her. As he and I returned to our mugs of hot coffee we caught the look on Dani’s face. She was frozen with one hand still in her tiny basket, jaw dropped, eyes fixated on this giant furry outrage…

Oh dear, I better stop there. Long story short, this was the Easter that went down in the annals of our family history as the Easter of the loathsome big blue bunny. And with that I wish you all a happy Easter filled with special moments that make you smile, beam with precious memories, and love and laughter, and years and years of great traditions. God bless.

1. Easter Egg Hunt

EASTER EGG HUNT FOR KIDS: When my kids were little and the few years of their age made a big difference in their abilities, I assigned one or two colors of eggs to each child and they were only allowed to “find” their own colors. This was the only way I figured would make the hunt fair for the younger one, and challenging for the older one. At the end of the egg hunt the kids then went on a scavenger hunt to find their Easter Baskets. This was one of the scripture scavenger hunts I put together for my kids when they were about 4 and 9. Their dad helped them with this because he was usually ready for church and I still needed to be. This gave me time to get dressed and my hair done. Then we got them dressed and our family headed off to worship our risen Lord.

Easter Egg Hunt for kids

Easter Egg Hunt for kids2

SPECIAL NOTE: Since this blog post was originally written I have come up with another pretty dang fun and awesome, kid-approved (actually, “whole family approved”) all-day Easter activity that I’m pretty excited to share with you. Follow this link to more Easter Fun & Games!

Easter Chatterbox

Your kids can use this little “cootie catcher” as a way to share their faith and the Easter story with their friends and classmates:

Easter Cootie Catcher

M&M Easter Story





Our Easter Dinner is usually pretty simple. Who has time to fuss in the kitchen when we’re going to be dolling up for and going to church all morning?  I like to have it ready when we get home, so we can enjoy the after dinner egg hunts and games and crafts and whatever.

Easter Dinner collage2


fruity ham


For my Glazed Ham

I start with a nice hickory smoked (if you know somebody that does them locally – mmmmm those are the best), spiral sliced ham that only basically needs to be heated because it is already cooked. Just wrap the ham in foil and heat as instructed on the package directions (mine, as you can see, got a little over heated waiting for us to return from church – I would recommend a little lower temperature on that oven if you are doing what I did and are trying to have dinner ready to serve as you walk in the door from church). I whipped up a batch of Jezebel Sauce a day or two before so I would have it to glaze the ham with, and then to plate it I covered mine with whatever fruits I had on hand, fresh or canned. On this day I covered mine with a large can of Fruit Cocktail and some sliced oranges. You could go with peaches, pineapple, pears, plums, cherries, mango, apples, appricots, or whatever!

Jezebel Sauce

1 (18 ounce) jar peach preserves

1 (18 ounce) jar orange marmalade

1 (18 ounce) jar apple preserves

1 (18 ounce) jar pineapple preserves

5/8 cup ground dry mustard

1 (4 ounce) jar prepared horseradish

In a bowl thoroughly mix all ingredients. May be stored in sterile containers in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Great as a glaze or served poured over cream cheese and served with wheat thins crackers.

Plate your hot ham, decorate it with the fruit, and pour the glaze over. Return it to the oven to warm the glaze and fruits, approximately 15 minutes. Serve.

scallop potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes

I’m rather fond of Martha Stewart’s recipe, although I left the skins on my taters, added some red onion, a sprinkle of pepper, and also some rosemary for garnish after it had baked. And because I had covered mine with foil it didn’t have her lovely golden top on it.




pea salad


And I’m completely nuts for this cold, crunchy Pea Salad!

This is the dressing. Mix it up in a large bowl.

1/3 cup sour cream

1 T. Mayo

1 T. vinegar

Salt and Pepper

This is the salad:

4 cups. frozen peas

1/2 small red onion, chopped

6 oz. cheddar cheese cut into small cubes

3 T. chopped fresh parsley

Add the salad ingredients to the dressing in the large bowl. Cover with plastic and keep in fridge for 2 to 4 hours before serving.

When ready to serve…

Crumble 8 slices of crispy cooked bacon. Transfer the pea salad to a serving dish and garnish with the bacon, or you can add the bacon to the salad before transferring to your serving dish, whichever you prefer.

And for dessert…

Strawberry Napoleons



  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cold whole milk
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups whipped topping
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 400°. Unfold thawed puff pastry on cutting board.

With a sharp knife, cut pastry into nine squares. Place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool completely.

In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar and vanilla; set aside. In another bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for two minutes.

Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft set. Stir in whipped topping and until thoroughly blended. Cover and refrigerate.

To assemble, split puff pastry squares horizontally for a total of 18 squares. Set aside six tops. Place six of the remaining puff pastry pieces on individual serving plates. Spread about 1/4 cup pudding mixture over each pastry square. Top with a spoonful of strawberries and another piece of puff pastry. Spread remaining pudding mixture over pastry pieces. Top with remaining strawberries and reserved pastry tops.

In a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Transfer chocolate to a small, heavy-duty plastic bag. Cut a tiny corner from bag; squeeze chocolate over napoleons. Yield: 6 servings.

© Taste of Home 2012

Visit my Pinterest Easter Feast page for more recipes!

P.S. Got leftover ham?

Here are my two favorite things to do with it…


Ham & Potato Casserole

6 potatoes cut into slices or cubes as you prefer (or a bag of frozen hash browns)

2 cups diced ham leftovers

2 cups shedded cheese

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 stick of butter, melted

2/3 pint carton heavy cream

3 Tbls flour

1 jalapeno, diced

A sprinkle or two of spicy dry rub seasoning (basically just cayenne powder and ground black pepper)

Preheat oven to 350*F. Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl and pour out into a large greased casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove foil, give the dish a good stir, return to oven and bake an additional 1/2 hour uncovered. If it appears to be getting too golden on top, it is probably done. My oven seems to take a little longer than other peoples. This dish is a great way to get rid of several things you might have left in your fridge. 🙂

Deviled Ham (for sandwiches)

These are my husband’s favorite!!!! He will flat out gorge on them for two solid days in a row. So I usually make all the deviled ham into sandwiches, lay them in a casserole dish, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap, and store it in his “mancave” fridge where he can just help himself until he is sick. LOL! P.S. I rarely measure my ingredients for this (although I did for you this time to make sure it would turn out), but I never have the exact same amount of leftover ham, so I’m going to say we start with 2 cups of ground ham and you can double or half the other ingredients in porportion to what you have, okay?


I grind my leftover ham in a hand-crank grinder (old school), and then to approximately 2 cups of ground ham I add:

1/2 tsp. ground pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

1/3 cup minced onion (about a quarter of a large onion)

1/3 cup minced celery (about 1 rib of celery)

4 Tbsps sweet pickle relish

1 Tbsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard

Moisten with mayonaise until misture holds together and is slightly creamy. I start with a good heaping serving spoon of Mayo, and then maybe a little more than that.

Mix together by tossing and stirring until everything is mixed well. Cut the crusts off of your favorite white sandwich bread. Spread slices with the deviled ham and cover with another slice of bread. Cut sandwiches into quarters and poke a decorative toothpick through to hold them together. Serve with whatever was leftover on the relish tray (carrot sticks, cream cheese stuffed celery sticks, green and black olives, deviled eggs, spicy pickled okra, spicy pickled jardinière mix, pickled asparagus, dilled green beans, little dill and sweet pickles, etc.), chips, or whatever you have. These go great with cheddar cheese soup. Check out my recipe in my blog post “Soups On.” (<<< click link)



“And when [Herod] had apprehended [Peter], he put him in prison…intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.” Acts 12:4 (KJV)