Simple Jelly/Jam Jar Design

Some scrapbook paper and a creatively hand-printed label. Really, how much simpler could it get?

I was thinking all week, how could I very simply decorate my jars? I was stuck on the typical fabric lids that one usually sees everywhere.

But I wanted something VERY simple. Easy. Quick.

I saw an idea to cut a circle from felt and embroider a small design such as a cherry, strawberry or apple. Very cute, but still too time consuming for me.

Then hubby suggested "construction paper, draw something on it"... and that's when it hit me, just use some of my scrapbook paper! And voila, there I had my finished jam jars!

Side Note:
The jam has officially been declared a success... hubby wondered
why I left one half of his english muffin un-jammed...
I told him it was for mopping up his egg...
he wanted jam on it!

Puerto Rico!

Congrats to Terri B who correctly guessed my fav vacation spot!

Puerto Rico is definitely one of my favorite spots* to vacation - but it's got to be at this resort and this resort only! They know how to pamper their guests, and how to help them relax and enjoy everything their exclusive location has to offer.

We stayed
at a villa in
Las Casitas Village, which is part of the El Conquistador resort. Actually, it is a bit more wallet-friendly to stay at the hotel as opposed to the villas (and the hotel has undergone a huge renovation since we were there). But I was lucky to get a price break at the villas in 2006 when I booked one for my mother and I... maybe it was a temporary price reduction, or perhaps just a boo-boo with their online prices. In any event, we got a villa for $169/night, AND they didn't charge us for a 3rd person when we added my sister at the last minute. That $169 split 3 ways was mucho reasonable!

Click through the links
I provided, and check them both out - it's gorgeous there! The hotel is offering rates as low as $149/night and a special fall package with a 4th night free.

Thank you
to everyone who commented and guessed. My brain is conjuring up future giveaways, so stay tuned for more opportunities to win goodies that'll put a cheery spin on dreary winter days!

*Puerto Rico is not my ONLY favorite vacation spot
I have others, such as Hawaii and Mexico.
Actually, the more I think about it, my favorite list could be pretty long...

Where is My Favorite Vacation Place?

Do you know where my favorite vacation spot is located?
Ok, this is only ONE of my fav vacation spots... I have many favs.

The infinity pool - this is one luxury item my toes could get used to everyday!

How cool is this - in the infinity pool while a storm brews over the ocean.
(This is my sis here, not me.)

Our accommodations, top floor. A villa.

A private island retreat. Bliss.

Lunch guests, and my sis's arm.

Yep, my sis again.
(a clue... architecture)

A small jar
of home-made strawberry jam will go out to whoever guesses this vacation place first... since family knows where this vacation spot is, I'm afraid family* is disallowed from this lil giveaway!

Once someone has guessed this place, I will follow-up with more detailed information. You know, just in case one of my readers really wants to GO there.

*Family will get a small jar of strawberry jam whether they want it or not.

Life is Always an Adventure!

... even when you do something as simple
as make strawberry jam for the first time!

What fun! I only had two quarts of strawberries and decided on the spur of the moment to make jam, going the whole route and canning it too. I can't begin to describe the self-satisfaction when I heard the first jar pop and seal as it sat on the kitchen counter.

I stopped and stared at the jars, marvelling that I,
a canning newbie, had succeeded!

As a side note, I researched pectin quite extensively before I began canning my strawberries. Here's a web page that has tons of info on pectin. I found it to be quite interesting and even reassuring - pectin is a natural occurring substance found in many fruits. The prepared pectin that we buy comes from apples and just helps our jam to thicken quickly, so we don't cook all the vitamins right out of them. This page also helps you troubleshoot if your jam turns out too stiff, lumpy or runny. AND it tells you how to make your own pectin, if you so desire. Check it out, it's quite interesting.

I think next year when we get that garden put in I will just HAVE to buy a proper canning pot. I made do with something I found in our kitchen that was just barely deep enough to allow the water to cover the jar tops - the water splashed out as it boiled and I went through 10 tea towels, mopping up the top of the stove as they processed. But it worked, and I have 6 finished jars of strawberry jam.

Y'all stay tuned now...
I'm hoping to have a country giveaway very soon. It's been way too long since I've hosted a fun giveaway and I miss it!

Wishing everyone a well and happy week!

The Best Cut-Out Cookies Ever

Look good? Well, they are, trust me. These are the best buttercream frosted cut-out cookies, hands down, except for my home-made version. And I'm going to give you the recipe right now!

Oz Girl's
Cut-Out Cookies

In large bowl, sift together 3 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 cup sugar.

Cut in 1 cup butter til mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Use real butter, not margarine. *blech*

Blend in 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons milk and 2 tsp vanilla.

I do the above by hand. I don't have a KitchenAid mixer. If you do, I hate you.

Chill dough. This step is important, or you will have sticky dough. So, do like Oz Girl tells ya, and chill the dough.

Roll on floured counter, and cut shapes. Get creative. Hobby Lobby has a kazillion different cookie cutter shapes. Be careful not to roll your dough too thin or you will have crispy cookies. *blech*

Bake at 400 for 6-8 mins. I use airbake cookie sheets, and they turn out perfect every time!

Perfect Buttercream Frosting
Slightly beat 1 egg white. Add 1 tsp vanilla, dash salt, and 1/2 stick melted butter. Add 1 box powdered sugar, then add up to 3 tablespoons milk til right consistency. You can separate into bowls, and add different food colorings for variety. If frosting gets dry before you are finished frosting cookies, add just a tad of milk.

I usually decorate each cookie immediately after frosting with colored sugars and other decorations. The quicker you decorate the better - the frosting will set up within 30 minutes!

If you're really lazy and not up to all this effort crazy busy, then just buy them from Cheryl and Co. You'll pay through the nose, but OMG are they yummy. The above pic are the cookies that I bought for hubby. Never mind that he is in Washington state for the whole month....

Whether I make them myself, or have Cheryl and Co. in-house, when I wake up in the middle of the night, it is an absolute trip to the kitchen for a cookie and milk!

Crisp Autumn Morning

Colors aren't as vibrant in Kansas as they are in New England,
but we're getting there.

Fluff loves the cool mornings!

On Making Your Own Butter

I think all of us bloggers, at one time or another, re-assess our blogs - what was the original intention, and where am I going with my blog? My original intention was to keep family and friends "in the know" after I moved from Ohio to Kansas.

Now that it has been over a year since my move to OzLand, OzVille, or Kansas, whatever you want to call it, I need a new purpose for my blog. Since I have always had oodles of admiration for those who choose to homestead, and since my husband and I live on 26 acres, this is the direction I will take with my blog. No, no, not full-blown homesteading advice (I am sadly uninformed when it comes to homesteading and how to fend for myself!), BUT I will try to give everyone more country advice, more country content, and more country snapshots. And I will endeavor to be more self-sufficient, if that's even possible for this bumbling midlife gal.

So without further ado, I'll show you how to make your own butter. There are various methods - do you want sweet cream butter, or cultured butter? Personally, I am trying the sweet cream method first, because it is easy-peasy! Anyone can do this. And I have the guarantees from other bloggers, MaryJane's Farm, and Mother Earth News magazine!

Once you start using homemade butter,
you won't look back.

~Mother Earth News

The easiest way to make your own butter can be found here at the Cold Antler Farm blog (scroll down to her August 9 post), or here at Proud to Be the Keeper of Our Home. Both blogs have instructions that vary slightly.

On a side note, check out the rest of the Cold Antler Farm blog -
she's a very inspiring 20-something, homesteading, writing gal
who lives in Vermont, with her very own book too!

Tammy at Flat Creek Farm made her own butter - she inspired me to do all this research. (The link to her blog will take you straight to her adventures in butter-making.) In her butter-making post, Tammy also has a link to Farmgirl Susan's Almost Too Easy Whole Wheat Beer Bread - I'm going to be trying that recipe once the hubby is home from Washington ~ if I make it before he gets home, yours truly will eat it ALL ~ and we all know that a whole loaf of bread is not good for our midlife bulge. Let me know if any of you beat me to it and try it.

If you want even more detail on butter making, please go to the article that was in the June/July issue of Mother Earth News, Homemade Butter - The Best You'll Ever Have. I just re-read this article in my back issue, and it's chock-full of fantastic information. It will explain the difference between sweet cream butter (what we're making here) and cultured butter, which you also have the ability to make. I'd like to try making a cultured butter someday.

And here's your country photo today.... my heavy cream just waiting to be shaken up into a delectable, home-made, sweet cream butter. I will update y'all once I have shaken this jar until my arm falls off - I am sure it will be worth the yummy butter I will have.


Here's my first batch of butter, 10: p.m. Thursday, October 7th.
I added the barest amount of salt to the butter, just grains really.
And it made between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of buttermilk,
which I will use to make buttermilk pancakes.

It absolutely tastes better than store-bought butter. Fresh!

Weekend Recipe: Golden Oatmeal Breakfast Slices

My blog is not a cooking or baking blog, but every now and then I post a recipe that I feel has some merit. This is one of them. I rediscovered this breakfast treat in my ole recipe box. My mom used to fix this for us kids, I have no doubt because it was economical! But it was good too, and so I made some oatmeal "loaf" last night and fried it up this morning. Hubby is not a fan of oatmeal, so although he tasted this, he still is not fond of oatmeal....

Golden Oatmeal Slices
3 c. quick cooking oats
2-1/2 tsp salt (you can cut back on the salt if you want)
4-1/2 c. water
margarine or butter
maple syrup

Stir oats and salt into boiling water. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Turn into greased loaf pan; I used a stick of butter to grease the pan (not the whole stick, c'mon, you know what I mean!) Cool, and then chill overnite. Turn out and cut into 1/2" thick slices. Brown in butter over medium heat. Serve with syrup.

Here's your oatmeal loaf after you turn it out of the pan.
I realize it has the appearance of brain matter gone missing
from the coroner's lab, but TRUST ME,
this stuff is delicious once you fry it up!

Easy-peasy, huh? I mean, if you can make oatmeal, you can make this! A quick and delicious weekend treat. And even if you use real butter to fry it up, you're still getting the benefits of the oatmeal, RIGHT????!!!! C'mon agree with me here.... YES! :)

As Jim Carrey said in Bruce Almighty.... "Its good! It's guuud!!"

Your golden oatmeal breakfast, frying up in my cast iron skillet.

Meet Your Blog Sisters When You Have the Chance!

I finally had the opportunity to meet, in person, one of the wonderful women I've met through blogging. Linda of Crone and Bear It was on my route to Ohio on September 11, so we decided to meet at a local Panera for a cup of coffee. What a fun couple of hours we spent chatting it up and laughing! She is the most awesome person - as funny and warm in person as she is on her blog! We lost track of time, and several hours later I had to tear myself away, as I still had 3 hours of driving time left.

It would have been so easy for me to breeze on past where she lives, in my hurry to get to Akron and family. But I've really been trying to rethink this bad habit of "hurrying" -- I mean WHY? Why are we always in a hurry? Why do we never slow down and appreciate everything around us, including the people who are in our lives? I find that it becomes this nasty habit. We are always in a hurry, and if we stop and ask ourselves why, sometimes we will find there truly is no reason to be in this hurry.

And so I've been trying to catch myself every time I find I'm in a hurry - to get to my destination, or to get home, or to get through the checkout line at the store. When there's a long line at the store, I ask myself "am I in a hurry?" Usually, I'm not, and then to take it one step further, I've even been letting the person behind me in line go first. That makes me feel good, esp if it's an older person who maybe can't stand as long, or someone with about a thousand items less than me.

My new philosophy is working quite well - I've also met a new friend here in KS, only because I took the time to stop by her house one night after work a few weeks ago. I stopped by again on Tuesday, and we went to lunch on Weds with several of her other friends, so now I've met even more great people!

So, 10 pictures later, this was the result after propping my camera on my car. The first few were of our smiling middles. No faces. We laughed some more. My camera didn't seem to be connecting with the remote (see goofy pic below, of me being annoyed with the camera). We finally got it right though!

Linda, I am SO glad we took the time to meet, it was so wonderful to chat with you. If I hadn't needed to get to Akron, I'm sure they would have found us eating dinner at Panera!