Oz Girl's Favorite Chocolate Martini

I think it's hard to classify this deelish drink... I mean,
does it fall under alcoholic beverages, or desserts?!

In either case, here's the recipe to make
just enough for one person to savor:
One jigger* Godiva dark chocolate liqueur
One jigger vanilla vodka
One jigger half and half

Rim your martini glass with vanilla flavored cocktail sugar.  {I found mine at a Williams & Sonoma store quite a few years ago.  It's pricey, but it lasts a long time!} If you don't have any decadent vanilla sugar, you can use regular ole sugar.  Drizzle some chocolate syrup around the inside of your martini glass.

Mix the above liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice, shaking hard so some of the ice breaks up into lil teeny bits.  Strain the drink into your martini glass, letting some of the teeny ice shreds through to keep your drink chilled. Alternately, you could just drink it fast and not worry about your martini losing its chill.... I mean, dessert is meant to be inhaled, right?

There are several Godiva chocolate liqueurs on the market ~ milk chocolate, white chocolate and a dark chocolate (the original), plus mocha and their newest concoction, a caramel milk chocolate liqueur.  I haven't tried this last one yet, but it sure sounds yummy. Or if you don't want to spend all your hard earned dough on a Godiva liqueur, try using some creme de cacao, either the dark or light. For variety, you could add some Bailey's, or Kahlua for an espresso flavored martini. 

This is the perfect drink if you want to feel like you've just left that big snow pile you call home and pretend you're sitting at the cutest lil island bar somewhere on St. Thomas!  {wink}

Click on the above beach badge to head on over
to Dave's Beachwarming Party!
  • A jigger is larger than a shot, 1.5 oz to be precise.  What the hay, throw in 2 oz of each ingredient and make yourself a bigger martini.

Fun Spring Giveaways!

I'm going to get the word out about several great giveaways at some of my bloggy friends sites, so listen up y'all!

First up is a beautiful hooked rug by Jane Augenstein, My World in Pictures. Jane has crafted some amazing hooked rugs, and they are all her own original designs. Now she is offering her Golden Pony design (retail value $115.00) in a giveaway! How cool is that. Go directly to her blog post with the hooked rug here, but be sure to enter before March 1st. She has also set up a new website to showcase and sell her rugs at Liberty Homestead Rugs. Check them out sometime, leave her a comment or just go ahead and buy one!

Second, Misha at From My Front Porch in the Mountains is having an awesome spring giveaway with all kinds of goodies ~ you have until Tuesday, March 2, at 7:00 pm (Eastern time) to enter her contest.  Run over there and check it out, she's got a ton of goodies in this giveaway. 

Third is a new blogger I found tonight through Misha's blog... Simply Stated Aesthestics and Simply Stated Antiques.  Rebecca is having a wonderful giveaway, a "package overflowing with all sorts of goodies" that will include your choice of tea or coffee from Heavenly Cup, but you have to enter before March 1st, so get on over there right now and enter!  You can enter her contest on either one of her blogs, but click here if you want to get there fast.

Last (but not least!) is another new blogger I found via Simply Stated Aesthetics.  Coastal Charm is giving away two (2) fresh, crisp $20 bills to two lucky winners.  Enter before March 10 to have a chance to add a 20-spot to your billfold.  Click here to go right to Linda's giveaway.

These are all fun giveaways, but bottom line, all of these women are fantastic bloggers, and you would love to add them to your following list.  I know I enjoy reading Misha's and Jane's blogs, and I'm looking forward to following Rebecca and Linda too, now that I've found them.

A Little of This, and a Little of That

It's a beautiful sunny day today... isn't it amazing what the sun can do for a person's outlook?  You can't help but feel more cheerful and have an agreeable disposition and outlook on life.  Perhaps I'll take the furkids on a walk around the property later this afternoon...

As promised in my last post, I've put up a dog book giveaway at my Lazy G Ranch website.  So hop on over and make a comment to enter... you have until Sunday the 28th.  Earn extra points if you tweet, facebook or post on your blog about my book giveaway ~ just let me know in your comment if you do so.  Subscribe to the Lazy G blog and earn an extra 5 points!

Since several of my readers have asked about my grandmother, I want to let y'all know that upon my departure from Ohio she was doing exceptionally well.  No longer at death's door, she was not only eating and taking her meds voluntarily, but she was up and about, going to eat in the nursing home dining room and meeting other ladies.  So I think she's got quite a bit more time here on this lovely planet, contrary to the doctor's prognosis.  Thank you to everyone who asked about her, and for all your good wishes and prayers.

While in Ohio, I found several old photo albums at her house.  If only I had drove to Ohio, then I would have brought those home with me and reorganized them (many are falling out of the binders) and then scanned several to add to my post here.  I should have selected a few photos to bring back home with me, but alas, I did not.  There's a wealth of old, old family photos there.  Our great-aunts were fascinated with the family genealogy, and so I did manage to snag many of their written research materials.  I've started a family tree on  Ancestry.com {just another of my many projects that I don't seem to have the appropriate amount of time to devote} but as soon as I can get back to it, it promises to provide an additional wealth of information.  In the materials that my great-aunts put together, I have family names dating back to 1769; Leonard Barnes, who was born that year, would be my great-great-great-great-great grandfather!!  Five generations ago, how cool is that?


The above photo sits right here by my computer; I've had it a long time. This is my great-great grandfather Joshua (also my son's name) and his wife Sarah, married Christmas eve 1885.  Joshua was 24, Sarah was only 17.   Joshua passed away in August 1936, Sarah in January 1942.

When I get those photo albums back home, I'll have lots more really cool old pics to post.  I'd like to put up some pics of my gramma, both in her younger days and more recent photos too.

Now I did say "a little of this and a little of that" in my post... here's something else on my agenda these days...

This is a baby quilt I started for my son and his wife, oh, about 3 years ago?  Some of you may know that they had a miscarriage in 2006, and then another in 2007, and possibly a few more before they even knew they were pregnant.  It's been a rocky road for them, but this time it appears we're going to have a new family member by June...I'm going to be a grammy!  Soooo, upon my return from Ohio last week, I removed the above quilt from my living room chest because now I need to finish this bugger.  I am hand quilting inside each heart and around each heart, then I need to get some yarn to do some random hand tying in the border.  Wish me luck... this is my first official quilt project!!

 close-up of the heart detail
This is the book, below, that I adapted my heart quilt from... I know this isn't the best picture, but you can kinda see the heart quilt on the cover of the book here.  I like the country look of their quilt (it's a button quilt) and maybe I'll even do a second one like it... I modified mine for a baby with the soft, muted natural tones.  If you're interested in this book, it can be purchased at Gooseberry Patch.  It's a wonderful book with really cool country designs and recipes too!
I think that's enough of "this and that" for this post... stay tuned for my next post, as we discuss a unique and adorable alternative to staying at hotels which may have bedbugs!!  

And for your reading pleasure, here's a recent news article in the Wichita Eagle ...  I think if you are travelling through our wonderful state, you may want to think twice about staying in ANY of our hotels.  Seriously.  Any of my readers are more than welcome to stay at our place.  We would love to have y'all!

Why I Love Rural Life and a Snickerdoodle Failure

How in the world can I have a blog post with both an uplifting subject matter and a pessimistic one? Well, carry on and read through, and ye shall find out!

Let's start with a beautiful photo that says quite clearly, without any words, why I love the country.  Well, at least ONE reason.  Can you just "hear" the quiet in this early morning sunrise scene?

Daily scenes such as this, right outside my back door, often get me motivated for the day ahead.  And so, today I decided to try a variation on my Snickerdoodle cookie recipe.

My March/April issue of Grit magazine had arrived last week, and lo and behold, they had an article on "Old-Fashioned Cookies for the 21st Century".  They had created healthier versions of traditional cookie recipes, and along with chocolate chip, gingersnaps, peanut butter and oatmeal raisin, they had included the good ole snickerdoodle.  

The differences between their snickerdoodle cookie recipe and the traditional recipe I posted a few weeks back were...  no shortening just butter, wholewheat flour in place of white flour, no cream of tartar, brown sugar in place of white sugar, and they also added flaxseed.  So obviously, it's a healthier cookie for you, right?

Here's how mine turned out...  try not to laugh out loud, or blow whatever you're drinking out your nose...

Hmm... flatter than a cow patty!

Sooooo, my mistake lies in omitting the flaxseed, since I didn't have any in the pantry.  (Seriously, does anyone keep flaxseed in the pantry?!)  BUT in its absence, I should have bumped up my wholewheat flour.  Which.I.Did.Not.Do.  Can I say "duh"??!

Guess what though?  They are actually GOOD, very chewy and delicious.  Just. Flat.

The next time I make them, I will be sure to substitute more wholewheat flour for the missing flaxseed.

If you'd like to try Grit magazine's recipe, I've included it below.

Healthy{ier} Snickerdoodles
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup wholewheat flour
1/4 cup flaxseed (or substitute with wholewheat flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 375.  Mix together brown sugar, softened butter and egg.  Add wholewheat flour, flaxseed, baking powder and baking soda, and salt (I sifted these ingredients together prior to adding to butter mixture).

Shape into 1-inch balls; mix in plastic bag with sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes or until set.

Makes about 2 dozen (recipe can be doubled).

And Our Cookie Winner is...

The #13 comment was selected by Randomizer.org... that would be Miss Misha of From My Front Porch in the Mountains!

Thanks again to everyone who entered... Misha, you've got one hour to send me your address - email me at suzgarten(at)yahoo.com.  I've got your package all ready to send out.  :-)

Congrats Misha, and I hope you enjoy the cookies, and the dog treat samples! 

Let's Pick Another Cookie Winner!!

Yeppers, that's right... I'm baking up some fresh I Heart You cookies today, and I thought, hey, why not have a SECOND winner of my spring giveaway?

 My newest batch of I Heart You cookies will
include a pastel spring assortment of rounds.

Soooo, leave a comment here, and I'll pick a winner tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Central time. Be ready to send me your address right quick if you're the winner, because I'll be packing up your cookies and mailing them tomorrow afternoon! I'll need your address within one hour of my announcement, or I'll pick another winner. So pay attention! :-)

The winner will receive a half dozen of the I Heart You cookies, plus samples of some of my dog treats. If you're not the happy owner of a dog, I'm sure you know a dog owner who would love some free, all-natural, homemade dog treats. And of course, that will endear any pup to you for life. Right?

I'll also be having another dog book giveaway on my Lazy G Ranch blog sometime this week, so keep an eye out and be sure to enter for your chance to win.

Weather forecast in south central Kansas today: Cloudy and windy, temps steady in the low 30's. Winds N at 15 to 20 mph.  

Sky color = gray.

Yep.  Sounds like the perfect day to bake some cookies.

"There's No Place Like Home"

I must say I definitely felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz today ... first as the jet circled over the flat but beautiful-to-me Kansas plains, and then again as I drove down our gravel lane with my car windows down, a gentle afternoon breeze blowing across the prairie grass.

It's always nice to go home and visit family, but these days, it's even better to come back home to the quiet of the countryscape around me... and the momentary pandemonium of 3 dogs who are ecstatic to see me!


Brrr, It's Cold Here in Ohio!

Yes, I'm in Ohio right now. A last minute, unexpected trip as my grandmother's condition worsened last week. My mother and sister flew in on Thursday, and I flew here on Friday. My grandmother has rallied round for the moment, but she is very weak and frail and on oxygen. She turned 93 last Wednesday.

I have limited internet access while I'm here, but I did want to announce the winner of the cookie and dog treat giveaway... Kim from House of Spots. {I know it's hard to see above in my randomizer, #4 is the selected number.} Kim is the proud mama of three very beautiful dalmatians. Jump on over to her blog and take a peek... all my dog lovin' friends will just adore her pups and her gorgeous photography! Every time I visit her blog, her photos severely test my self-control... I long for another dalmatian some days as I miss my spotty boy so much!

Kim, send me an email (suzgarten@yahoo.com) with your address and I'll get your treats out to you early next week.  I won't be home until late Thursday, so I'll whip up some fresh cookies and dog treats this coming weekend.

I want to thank EVERYONE for commenting and entering my giveaway... I'll try to have another cookie and dog treat giveaway during March.  I know I've said it before, but I truly, truly wish I could just send cookies and dog treats to everyone.  It's so much fun to get surprises like that in the mail, isn't it?!  :-)

Here's wishing all my readers a fantastic week, wherever you might be and however much snow you may have!

The Sweet Snickerdoodle Story

Don't forget to enter my spring giveaway!
You still have until Sunday, February 14th,
at 10:00 p.m. Central time to enter.

The snickerdoodle cookie has been around a long time and the basic recipe varies little. However, there are some definite tips and tricks to making the perfect snickerdoodle with crispy edges and a soft middle.

I've varied my snickerdoodle cookie recipe many times in an attempt to bake the perfect cookie. But in many ways, the basic recipe IS the best cookie, with some minor variations that involve tricks more than ingredients.

“The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word Schneckennudeln, which means “snail dumpling.” A different author suggests that the word “snicker” comes from the Dutch word snekrad, or the German word Schnecke, which both describe a snail-like shape. Yet another theory suggests that the name comes from a New England tradition of fanciful, whimsical cookie names. There is also a series of tall tales about a hero named “Snickerdoodle” from the early 1900s which may be related to the name of the cookie.” ~ Source Wikipedia

Tip No. 1: The texture of your cookies will benefit greatly from hand mixing the dough, as opposed to beating with a mixer. I don't know the technicalities behind this, but I know I've seen this advice several times and I've tried it myself, and it DOES seem to make a difference. Try your snickerdoodles both ways, and see what you think. 

Tip No. 2: Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature. The obvious? Not only is it easier to mix the butter by hand when it's soft, but having these ingredients at room temperature also benefits the final cookie texture.

Tip No. 3: Be sure your baking soda and cream of tartar are fresh. Outdated ingredients will compromise the final cookie.

The Recipe
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs (use large, not extra-large)
2 tsp vanilla
2-3/4 cups flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbls sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 400. Mix the butter and shortening thoroughly (by hand!)… yes, it is a strange feeling to cream by hand. But hey, the pioneers must have done it, right? I doubt they had any electric hand mixers in the 1800s. 

After you've mixed the shortening and butter, add the sugar and cream further.  Add eggs and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.  Add to creamed mixture.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small plastic bag.  Shape dough into rounded teaspoons - I make mine a little bit larger because we like big cookies - and shake balls gently in plastic bag with sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  I use parchment paper and airbake cookie sheets for the most even baking.

Bake 6-10 minutes, depending on your preference.  If you prefer a crispier cookie, then bake for 8 mins or more.  I baked mine 6-1/2 minutes for a soft middle; be sure this timeframe suits your oven temperature.  When the cookies look like they are beginning to crack on the top and they look moist between the cracks, it's time to take them out.  Let sit on the cookie sheets for a minute or two while they finish baking, then remove from sheets.  Makes about 6 dozen.

Be adventurous and experiment with your sugar coating.  I've added nutmeg, allspice, ginger, etc.  It all depends on your taste preference!

Snickerdoodles store well in airtight containers at room temperature.  I don't know if they freeze well, because they don't last more than 3-4 days around here.

Happy Snickerdoodling!

Winter Doldrums Demands A Spring Giveaway

 Snowy Autumn Sedum

It certainly is that time of year...
cabin fever is weighing heavily on this lil Kansas gal.
This morning it snowed a very wet snow, on top of the mud already here.  

View of outhouse ~ pre-snow

We were forecast to get anywhere from 3" up to a foot of snow today.
In actuality, we were barely sneezed upon, and it has already melted away.  

View of outhouse ~ apres snow

Now a very cold north wind is blowing, bringing in some frigid temps for the next few days.  The silver lining here is that the mud will disappear for a few days!  Woo-hoo!
Now, in the spirit of spring daydreams, it's time for a giveaway!
Your spring package will include:

[valued at $17]

A full-size bag of Trixie Lou's Cheesers, all-natural dog treats
[valued at $6.75]
(If you don't have a fur-kid, I'm sure you know someone who does!)

To round out this giveaway, how about a $10 Starbucks gift card so you can get a cup of java to go with your I Heart You cookies?  (All this talk of cookies... sheesh, I'm wishing I had some on hand right now!!)

The giveaway is open to any U.S. residents who read my blog ~ simply be one of my followers (or become one!) and leave a comment on this post.  If you want to promote my giveaway on your blog, simply tell me you are doing so and you'll get TWO entries into the giveaway.

{I wish I could include my international followers, but I simply cannot afford the shipping costs!}  

This giveaway is open until Sunday, February 14th at 10:00 p.m. Central time.  Multiple comments by the same reader will only be counted as one comment.  I will use Randomizer.org to pick the winner on Monday, February 15th.

Good luck and happy snow week, unless you live in Florida.  Or Arizona.  You know who you are!

Coexisting {Peacefully} With Mud

This is what my feet have looked like
when I've fed the horses this week.
Special, ain't it?

It's a good thing I bought Muck brand boots a few months ago for the hubster and I. They're awesome boots, the absolute best for these kind of muddy conditions around the ranch! These are the "Jobber" Muck boots (below) and what I'm wearing in the photo above, although it's hard to tell with all the mud schmoozing around my feet. I REALLY LOVE MY MUCK BOOTS!!

These are the "Chore" Muck boots (below) that I bought for hubby... he loves his boots too, and really appreciates them during these muddy days!
I really feel bad for the horses... their paddock areas are just an absolute mess right now. They all have access to pasture area, which is not as muddy as their paddocks, but of course they rarely go out to the pastures since there's nothing but brown grass out there right now.

Paint horse, ever inquisitive about my camera!

Poor ole Murphy, always being sassed by Paint - we rope him off separately these days to ensure he gets all his Purina Equine Senior feed. Goodness knows that fat ole Paint doesn't need it!

Miss Stormy's legs, hoof-deep in mud

The sheer ugliness of our roads is
mirrored by our truck's appearance.

Thank gawd we have a redneck car wash on the side of our road. Never heard of that? Look closely at the photo above, and you can see the tire tracks where hubby zoomed the truck as far to the left of the road as he could, and as fast as he could, to wash some of the mud off the truck. Yeppers, men and 4-wheel drive trucks and muddy roads -- it's a testosterone laden combination!

Quite frankly, the mud has beat me. Yes, this city gal has reluctantly given in to the mud ~ what else could I do? I sadly clean it, day after day, from our laundry room aka mud room.

Now I know why they are called "mud rooms".

But would I ever reconsider living in the country, and move back to the city?!


I will plant my feet firmly on this country soil {mud}, and try to coexist peacefully with this time of year that I call the "season of mud". It may have beat me in a realistic, physical kind of way, but it will never rob me of all the myriad pleasures of country living.

And of course, my Muck boots will keep the mud
from sucking me into it's squishy depths.

Compliments ~ Free & Painless

Whining, complaining humans are all around us, every day. Heck, our kids and hubbies aren't the only ones guilty of being negative... we are too {sometimes}! It takes a different brain set to wake up every day and determine to find the good, the positive instead of the negative, in everything around us.

In this same vein, we often find things that merit a complaint to a company, e.g., my bedbug horror story at the Comfort Inn. I find the best way to balance these serious and real complaints is to find something to praise, something to be happy about, and someone who deserves a true compliment!

When I left the Comfort Inn that fateful night around 12:30 a.m., I went across the street to the Baymont but was not satisfied that it would be any better than the Comfort Inn. I drove back across the street to check out a few other hotels... and finally decided to stay at the Homewood Suites by Hilton.

Homewood Suites by Hilton, Plainfield, IN

The young man at the front desk was very presentable - a white shirt, tie, respectable hair, no tattoos or visible piercings. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against tattoos or piercings (I have both!) but I think the facial variety has a time and place, and it's not when you're greeting guests to your establishment! Not only was he presentable, he was affable, smiling, even laughing and joking around with me. The first room he gave me, a king suite, was alas, locked from the inside. Me, being the tired puppy I was at 1:00 a.m., left my luggage at the door of the suite and went back downstairs to tell him I could not get in... he was very apologetic and gave me a queen suite right around the corner from the first room, at a discounted rate.

Homewood Suites lobby, Plainfield, IN

When I returned home from my trip, not only did Choice Hotels get my complaint letter about the bedbugs, but I also went to Homewood Suites website and submitted a very nice compliment for this young man. The proof is in the puddin', as I received a lovely email from him this morning:

Dear Ms. Garten

I just wanted to thank you for the message you sent to the Homewood Suites in Plainfield Indiana regarding your experience at check-in on the night of 1-5-10, or around that time. Working the shift that I do I rarely see comments that praise me as you did. It really made my day.

Thank you!

Matthew Wheeler

Note ~ it really made his day. And guess what? It was free, and it only took me a few minutes to wing that compliment to corporate on his behalf. AND it made me feel as good as he did!

Try it sometime... it could be the gal around the corner at the convenience store that's always smiling and helpful. Maybe it's a retail clerk at your favorite store at the mall. Perhaps it's a waiter or waitress at your favorite restaurant. Whoever that always cheerful, ever-helpful person might be, let the-powers-that-be know what a great employee they have! It won't cost you a cent, just a few minutes of your time, whether you comment on the company website or type out a letter and mail it to them. And it will, in all likelihood, make that person's day!

Think how much happier this world would be if everyone tried to send a big compliment to someone who deserves it, at least once a week! :-)

P.S. The bedbug saga ended quickly. Choice Hotels sent me a form letter, yep, I kid you not. Here's an excerpt:

Your feedback is important to us and has been noted by our office. We are also forwarding your concerns to the hotel's management. Each Choice Hotel property is independently owned and operated, and due to the issues you have raised we must defer to the hotel and request that they respond to you directly. ... We hope you will view this matter as an isolated incident, an exception to the high standards of service and hospitality that our hotels are known to offer.

When I read that letter, all I thought was "WHA??????!" I think it's quite obvious that my feedback is NOT important to them. I have reviewed the Plainfield Comfort Inn on Travel Advisor and at the same time, I also left a great review for the Homewood Suites.

And I will never stay at a Choice Hotel brand.EVER.AGAIN.

In fact, I'm going to donate my Choice points to the Haiti help effort.

Freezing Fog, Ariat Boot Giveaway and Haiti Donations

Our tree break, encased in thick snow/frost

Well, if that ain't everything all in one kaboodle ... freezing fog, Ariat boot giveaway and Haiti donations!!

First, a reminder: If you haven't entered Misha's Ariat boot giveaway at her blog, From My Front Porch in the Mountains, you need to get on over there and do so! She extended the giveaway until tonight at 7 p.m. since her comment button was playing wonky yesterday!

Our entire tree break view - see the gate in the middle?

Secondly, another blogger friend of mine, Cindy of Write Up My Alley, is donating $1.00 to the Haiti cause (up to $200) for every comment that's made on this particular blog article. You have until February 5th to head on over there and make a comment. Let's put her $200 to good use ~ skedaddle on over there right now and leave a comment!

The dirt road to nowhere... disappearing into fog

Our weather is playing with us since last week... first, our big snowstorm on Friday, and now MORE freezing fog. We had almost a full week of fog the 3rd week of January, and now it's back, only this time it's freezing! What fun!! Oh well, it made for some nice photos. And it's a good opportunity to get caught up on indoor things, isn't it?

Spring will be here soon enough and the outdoors will call my name... hence I've been trying to plan our gardens this last week ~flowers, vegetables and herbs. I still have a ton of planning to do, and I better get it all figured out soon... it'll be seed starting time in just a few weeks!

Through the country gate