Monthly Archives: December 2010

We Have Learned a New Tradition

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Yesterday I braved a food item I have avoided making for twenty years. I hail from El Paso, Texas where this is a common staple. Granted, I never learned how to fix these the eleven years I lived there. Who needed to learn how to make them when they were sold every two blocks throughout the city.

The scrumptious, yummy tidbits I’m talking about are TAMALES.

Tamales are awesome. Corn masa wrapped around seasoned meat. Mexican heaven.

They are not easily obtained here in Central Arkansas so I finally broke down and made some of my own. I have to admit, my daughter spurred me on. We picked up a package of corn husks and that was all she wrote.

I discovered tamale making is not a secret science and it is possible for a novice to make edible food.

Here is our little journey.

First, you have to soak those corn husks. It doesn’t take long, but they must be wet to wrap properly.

While these are soaking, I cooked three chicken breasts with some green chilies. Sorry no picture of the chicken breast. Picture fail.

And the masa must be mixed with some oil and salt and water, or in this case, chicken broth from the meat.

Then you mix it until it is the consistency of peanut butter.

The mixture is then spread on 2/3s of the corn husk as demonstrated by my very capable daughter.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the meat mixture on the masa.

Then roll it into a nice slender cigar shaped tube and tuck the bottom tip over the outside.

We stacked these neatly in a strainer and steamed them in a large pot for two hours. Yes it takes two hours to cook, but they are great when cooked properly.

The finished product was as yummy as the tamales we bought in El Paso.

These passed the taste test of all the family members.

Mexican heaven.

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Happy Birthday at 100

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Today I want to give tribute a wonderful lady in my life.

Today this amazing lady is 100 years old.

Grandma is my mother’s mother. She is wise and vivacious and strong and such a wonderful role model for young women. She grew up in an era when women were considered weak. But not my grandmother. She looked adversity in the eye and dared it to try to kick her in the ass. She took every lemon that rolled into her path and made lemonade out of it and dressed it up with some other garnish to prove it could be done.

I love her. I will never forget the summers we spent at her lake cottage on Lake Huron as a kid. Those were fabulous family times. The cold water, the sand in our suits, walks along the shore and tons of play for all six of us kids. And not to forget Hot Tin Roofs. It was a blast.

She told us stories of her youth and of family members I never met. She transported me into a living history. It was awesome and love her for that.

She was the daughter of a Michigan lumberman, wealthy and influential. She married my grandfather, who came from another financial class. Together they made it work, despite the worst depression the country had ever seen. Grandma is the stuff fabulous heroines are made of.

I rarely see her, but she is often in my thoughts and a part of my life.

Today she stays the winters in warm Alabama and summers in her home in Michigan.

Happy Birthday Grandma. I love you.

My little piece of heaven is my Grandma.

Love,
Jeannene

The Making of Mice and …..

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Today we undertake a seasoned tradition in our little household. Today we make chocolate mice.

We started this fun endeavor about ten years ago when my husband came home with these delicious little chocolate mice that someone from his work had made. I took one apart and decided it wouldn’t be that hard to put more of them together. So here I am, at the bequest of my daughter, putting pieces of chocolate together to resemble little mice.

These are the players in our game.

When they are undressed, they look like this…

First, we have to melt the chocolate into dipping chocolate.

Then you take a cherry with a nice stem on it, and dip it in the chocolate.

They if you lay the chocolate covered cherry on the pan first, it is easy to attach a plain Hershey’s kiss to the front.

Tuck a chocolate chip behind the kiss for each ear to make a perfect face.

We have a little army going on here.

These are my little helpers today.

After all the pieces cease their slippage, paint eyes on with a dab of frosting. My daughter seems to think we need noses on them as well.

This is the finished product. Little mice staring back at you.

The most effective method of eating a chocolate mouse. My daughter demonstrates.

We are the end of making mice. By the time we were through, my girl was tired of dipping and dabbing. But we have enough for friends and family.

This is one of our holiday traditions. Tell me about one of yours it you have the itch.

Happy Holidays.

Mice can be a little piece of heaven.

Love,
Jeannene

Visitors

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We live on little piece of land in the country and on this piece of land is a small pond. It is smaller since the dirth of rain we’ve experienced this year, but small non-the-less.

Of late we have been visited by an unusual creature. Unusual for me being I have never seen one up close until my enlightening Arkansas experience.

A crane swoops down into our pond. A very large gray bird. He loves to stalk fish in our pond.

He is quite a stunning specimen if you ask me.

And big. He hunts for fish in those waters and they should be easy pickens since the water level is at half what it usually is. All the fish are collected in a small area at the bottom of that pond.

His legs are really long so he must be sanding in a couple feet of water.

See how he moves. I wish I understood how they see fish beneath that murky surface.

Ah ha! Caught something.

I am amazed at the creatures that flock to our little piece of heaven.

Love,
Jeannene

Still Cool

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I have reached the pinnacle of motherhood.

I have four great kids. The oldest is 29 and the youngest is 14. That is quite a span so I have been at this for quite some time without any interruptions or breaks. I have no regrets about having my kids, except that I would have had a couple more had I been given the choice earlier on. Twisted, I know.

Yesterday my youngest paid me the highest complement a mom could be given. Keep in mind this is from a fourteen year old girl. She is very fashion conscious and music plays a huge large role in her life. My daughter told me quite simply I was not boring.

Mom is not boring. The age difference between us is considerable and she thinks I am stimulating and interesting. The accomplishment of a life time, as a mom, is too remain an interesting character in the lives of our children. I think I might very well have made it.

This is my little piece of heaven today.

Love,
Jeannene

Sad To See It End

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Today concludes the festive season of the Feast of Dedication, otherwise known as Channukah.

We lit the last candles last night with regret. I love the brilliant flare of their joyous glow. When that many slender sticks of fire are lit in one area, the amount of light they produce is astounding. And of course I took pictures of most of those Channukiahs over the past few days.

In light of the waning lights of Channukah, it submit these reflections of holiday cheer.

Please note how the increase in radiance as we progress.

Not to mention the decreasing amount of daylight as we move through the week.

And please disregard the warped candles. These came through the mail from Israel and encountered some unusual heat on their journey.

The glow is growing.

Just love how they radiate a soft light and all. The entire kitchen is illuminated. Ahhhhh.

And of course, we have the last night.

Again, the wonky candles, but that’s what makes it our own. Just love the uniqueness of it all. We used to have three of these going at once when the older son lived at home. Every child had to light their own candles. That was half the fun of Channukah.

Today, the last day of the festival, I remember all the incredible victories in my life that occurred during this season. They are so life changing and character building that I stand amazed in their wake.

My first marriage came to an end at this time. Though that might be a terrible tragedy at the time, in the broad scheme of my life, it was a Godsend and set me free.

My second marriage began to bloom at this time fifteen years ago.

I started writing two years ago.

Just a couple bigger than life highlights. Many smaller miracles and accomplishments fall in between those.

I’d love to hear of the wonderful happenings in your life, if you’d like to share.

This is my little piece of heaven.

Love,
Jeannene

Oy Channukah, Oy Channukah….mmmm

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Tonight I wish to feature, center stage, the heart of a Channukah meal.

The Latke.

This is a delectable morsel of food fashioned from shredded potatoes, diced onions, some eggs and bit of flour, sprinkled with salt and pepper. Variations of this basic holiday fare abound. My favorite creation involves green chiles, but I leave that for another occasion. Today we visit the plain variety.

Latkes are significant because they are fried in oil. The oil is a reminder of the eight days the Menorah burned in the temple on only one days worth of oil. And we all know that fried potatoes are the bomb.

First thing, we shred a pile of potatoes. I use about four pounds.

Be sure you put them in large bowl.

Dice up two small onions and add to the potatoes.

Add three eggs. These come from my chickens.

Then pour a half cup of flour over the potatoes, sprinkle with seasoning – salt and pepper (I add garlic powder too) and mix everything up in the bowl.

Spoon the mixture in a pan containing a thin layer of oil. Oil is the operative word.

Fry those babies until they are crispy then flip them over for the same treatment.

Crispy on both sides means they are cooked all the way through. Place on a plate.

These are served with sour cream and applesauce. Slightly sour and the sweet combine to lavish the palate with a delicious contradiction supported by a culinary staple – the potato.

Enjoy today’s little piece of heaven, we certainly will.

Love,
Jeannene

The First Night of Channukah

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Greetings from this little piece of heaven. Yes, it does still exist and I am alive and kicking.

Today is the first day after the end of the Nanwrimo challenge and my head is reeling from not writing. I was 3500 words short of the 50K. I could not get those last words in, but it didn’t matter. I learned a ton about writing this month and lot about myself. The adventure was so worth the effort. Today I took care of family business and I baked and cooked. Therapy from the onslaught of plot bunnies and words.

There is nothing more cathartic than spending time creating things you can stuff into your mouth. Very satisfying.

In honor of Channukah tonight, I made some of my kids favorite cookies. They are your run of the mill Spritz cookies. Spritz is a basic butter cookie.

These are the players…. Oh.. that egg is out of one of my chickens.

Just the basics as you can see.

Mix the 1c butter with a half cup sugar.

Add 1 tsp vanilla and the egg.

Mix it all together.

Add a cup of flour.

And mix it up. Dough will be firm.

For the next step you will need a cookie press, hence the name Spritz (German for press).

Select one of those discs and surprise yourself with the pattern. The shape morphs into an uncommonly good looking cookie.

Now it is time to decorate the bland dough with bright granules of sugar or other intriguing pieces of candy.

Put them in the oven at 400 degrees for 9 minutes and voila!!

And then we have the final result. Tasty and satisfying.

Happy Channukah from my little piece of heaven.

Love,
Jeannene