That time of year again…

Thanksgiving!

One of my favorite holidays. We celebrate a very untraditional Thanksgiving which started in 1986.  Not that I don’t love spending holidays with family-don’t get me wrong-it was just that  things changed in my life around that time. I am like most people who don’t like change but decided to make this a positive experience…

…so…

Thommmee and I decided to go camping. We packed up our little car (a Volkswagen Golf) gathered together our meager camping supplies,  popped a turkey roll into the ice chest (with a few other essentials of course), and set our sights on Death Valley, California.

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We began our journey-just the two of us-thinking we were probably crazy and that no one else could possibly have the same idea. We took in all of the sights along the way, stopped at Badwater (the lowest point in North America),

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and enjoyed the magnificent views. We saw a few people here and there but figured we would pretty much have the place to ourselves.

Wrong!

We arrived at the campground (that did not take reservations) and found the place completely full! As we aimlessly wandered around trying to decide what to do, a nice couple offered us a small corner of their campsite to share (after looking us over to make sure we did not have any kids or pets in tow-which we didn’t). We made a makeshift campfire, warmed up our little turkey roll, unsuccessfully tried to light our propane lantern, and hunkered down in our little tent for the night. This was only a humble beginning of many wonderful trips to come!

Come to find out, Thanksgiving weekend is the busiest time of the year for desert camping and for Death Valley. We spent most of the next 27 years camping in Death Valley during the Thanksgiving weekend. Some years we explored, sometimes kids came with us, sometime we went alone. Occasionally we talked people into driving out for a full turkey dinner and once we ate at the small restaurant in Furnace Creek.

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We got much better at this and Thommmee learned to smoke an entire turkey. We have stuffing, mashed potatoes and the entire meal with all of the fixings! Some of the kids learned to love it as much as we do and continued coming with their families and some of them have never again set foot there. We have listened to a multitude of ranger programs, hiked many trails, explored back roads, and appreciated a quietness that is hard to explain. We have had magnificent sunsets, wind, rain, and cold but have loved almost every minute of it. Well, maybe not the wind. Something about sleeping in a tent during a windstorm is just not fun. The wind is pretty much the only thing that will keep us from heading out there. A few years the Santa Ana winds have kicked up pretty bad so we have endured, left early, or not gone at all. Many people think we are a little nuts and are always asking us what is the attraction!

Ahhh…

This year we are doing something different. We are driving a little closer to home-to Anza Borrego State Park .

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This is largest state park in California and, the second largest in the continental US. It is located in Northern San Diego County and will be about a two hours drive and not the five hours it takes us to get to Death Valley. Our oldest daughter and her family will be going too. They love this about as much as we do. We are all feeling a little sad to miss our usual place but are anxious to see if this will work equally well.

The turkey is defrosting, Thommmee has started packing the car, dusted off our bicycles, pulled out the tent, and I am packing up the food. We leave in the morning for three nights and four glorious days.

This time in the desert allows me time to reflect on the year, count my blessing, commune with God, prepare my heart for Christmas, and spend time around a very unconventional Thanksgiving table. Except for the beauty of the desert in winter, there are few distractions.  I have so much to be thankful for and look forward to this time. It helps me prepare for the Christmas hustle bustle and is the calm I need to face the next few weeks.

Wishing you all a very

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

We love zucchini at our house and we love good ‘ol white rice. I know… they say white rice is not really that good for you… so I guess you could adapt this recipe to brown rice…but white rice is my absolute favorite! Growing up our large family was divided into two camps-the rice lovers and the potato lovers. Since Dad was a rice lover we ate it more often than potatoes.  I was in the rice camp. Old habits die hard, I guess.

While exploring the internet only an hour before dinner, I found a recipe using three basic ingredients-rice, zucchini, and cheese. We had everything on hand so no trip to the store required. Whew! I decided to make this delicious looking side combo to enhance our baked chicken dinner. Be sure to use sharp cheddar cheese for the extra wallop of flavor. I used a Mexican blend of cheese which was good but I am sure the cheddar would have been great! Next time…and there will be a next time. This was super easy and quick.

Cheesy Zucchini Rice-adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Café

…but taken from…

The Baker Upstairs (wow, this recipe gets around!) http://www.thebakerupstairs.com/2013/10/cheesy-zucchini-rice.html

Ingredients

1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 medium or 2 small zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt + pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons milk (if needed)

wpid-20141119_165131.jpg In a medium sauce pan, combine rice and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

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Remove from heat and stir in zucchini, cheese, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Stir in milk if needed to thin out the sauce. I placed covered pan back on the stove for a few minutes because I like my food really hot! The shredded zucchini cooked in the hot rice and the cheese melted nicely. I did not need to add the  milk.

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Delicious!

Another keeper.

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HERSHEY’S Brownies

I love brownies-but who doesn’t? Whenever I need a quick and easy dessert I use this go to recipe from the HERSHERY website. I almost always have the ingredients on hand and they are always a hit.
This past weekend I offered to bring a dessert to the cousin’s house. Since they were nice enough to put us up and set up the craft fair, this was my little contribution.  I needed something that was easy to transport and something that everyone would enjoy.  I also took a pumpkin chocolate chip loaf and a banana loaf that I baked as a little thank you gift and for her to put away for another day.
All packed up, we headed out. Needless to say the brownies were a hit so I decided to share this easy recipe. It may not replace your favorite brownie recipe but it is nice to have on hand.
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 Ingredients

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  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips (optional)
  • CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING (recipe follows)

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl.

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Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended.

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Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. I don’t have a square pan at the moment so used a cake pan. It worked just fine.

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I decided to top with mini chocolate chips before baking and skip the frosting.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Prepare CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING if desired; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. Makes 16 brownies.

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(They were gone before I could get a picture of the chewy goodness on the inside!)

CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING

(optional)

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

3 tablespoons HERSHEY’S Cocoa

1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar and milk;Beat to spreading consistency. About 1 cup frosting.

Enjoy!

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http://www.hersheys.com/pure-recipes/details.aspx?id=5008&name=Best+Brownies

Return from Quartzite

We got back from Quartzite last night. It was a whirlwind trip. We had a great time visiting the cousins and participating in the craft fair. It was a beautiful day, full of sun and the promised mid 70’s temperatures.

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(yep, pardner, it was a western theme)

 We enjoyed the beautiful sunrise,

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visiting with family, and eating (way too much)! The only thing missing was…well..customers!

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(cousins holding down the fort!)

That’s right. Not much in the way of buyers and only a few lookers (unless you count the other lonely venders). We had plenty of time to check out the other interesting, creative, beautiful, and some a little weird items other sellers had displayed. I had to resist becoming a buyer of a beer can wind whirly thingee…

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as well as a beautifuly stitched quilt.  I had plenty of time to compare prices and exchange ideas with other sewers and crafters.

With that in mind and the time spent with my cousins-chatting away and enjoying the sunshine-although disappointed-I had a great time! Thommmee had fun too. We always love a good road trip so the 3 hour drive coming and going was also fun.

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Quartzite has much to offer if you are just passing through or looking for a place to park your RV. Get out and explore or just enjoy the beauty of the desert. There is a bunch of that!

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Head on down on your next visit to Arizona and enjoy the wide open spaces!

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Quartzite here we come!

I have sewed and stitched, and crafted in anticipation of the upcoming craft fair this weekend in Quartzite. AZ.

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If you have never been to Quartzite, it is really a wide spot in the road in the summer (and a very hot place) in the middle of the Arizona desert.

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In the winter, however, this place comes alive!  Snowbirds and RVer’s from all over head to this little town to enjoy beautiful weather and wide open spaces. While most of the country is  fighting the cold, they are expecting  mid 70’s degree temperatures this weekend.  My cousins recently retired in this winter paradise so we are headed out this weekend to visit and participate in a local craft fair with them.

Since this is my first real try at a real craft fair, I am nervous about what the outcome might be. I stitched up some origami bags…

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…gathered together some of my banners

Banner kit

Banner kit

Banner/swag

Banner/swag

…an assortment of zippered bags in different designs, colors, and sizes…

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(shhh…can’t show some as they are also Christmas gifts!)

…and aprons.

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Oh- and some doll clothes!

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I know, I am all over the place!

Whatever happens it will be a new adventure and a nice visit. I plan to enjoy the experience and the sunshine!

Wish me luck!

One year later…

I cannot believe that it has been one year since I started my blog!

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I am so excited!

When I started my blog I thought it would focus on crafting with a few thoughts on parenting thrown in. Maybe I would share my retirement journey. Yes, it has turned out to be these things and much more than I ever expected! I never thought I would be cooking and sharing my successes and failures in the kitchen. I never knew that I would retire so soon after beginning this blog or that retirement would be so much fun! I had no idea what was waiting behind the next corner. I am even learning from my mistakes.

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As I look over a year of blogging, I am astonished how much time I spent sharing my experiences. I am thrilled to have met so many interesting bloggers from all over the world and touched by the support I have received from the blogging community. I am thrilled to read about places I will probably never see.  I am smiling when I see how many of my family and friends have supported my blog both publicly and privately.

I think what I was most surprised to find out is how much I have learned from other bloggers.  There have been wonderful crafting projects, some fabulous recipes, new ideas, places, cultures, and opinions-the list is endless!

I have some big plans this next year.  Sewing projects  is actually where I spend most of my time. I am busy making curtains, refashioning some clothing, stitching up bags, pillows, and other things that interest me.

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In a recent conversation with my sister, I mentioned that retirement (and age, I guess) have allowed me the freedom to spend time on things that interest me and doing things that I  enjoy. I don’t want to waste a moment.  Funny how that works!

You may have noticed that I recently changed the format of my blog. Technical difficulties caused this change. I was thinking about a new look anyway so it all worked out.  I guess my biggest challenge has been the technical aspects of the blog itself. I have anguished over how to do simple things like show the like buttons or add another page. I still struggle but somehow I even enjoy this aspect of blogging.

Most of all this blog is something I enjoy. Thank you for joining me-both new friends and old friends-on this excursion. I look forward to this next year with excited anticipation of my continued journey.

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Baked Tortellini Casserole

Trying new recipes and exploring the web for ideas has become a passion for me. I was having a friend over for lunch and needed and menu. It had to be easy and I needed to make it ahead of time so I wouldn’t be bogged down in the kitchen with last minute preparations. Oh-and it could not be expensive.  Well of course I started browsing and came up with a wonderful idea from  no .2 pencil. She has some great recipes-you should check out her out!

http://www.number-2-pencil.com/2013/10/18/baked-tortellini-casserole/

I made a few variations to this recipe and it was a big hit! My friend (and Thommmee)  loved it and thought it tasted a lot like lasagna. This recipe, however, was much easier and quicker than lasagna! Of course I adapted it and I am showing the version I used. For the original recipe, please refer to her blog.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 good-sized zucchini chopped using grater or food processor.

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About 1/2 cup chopped onion

some minced garlic

1  can/jar of prepared spaghetti sauce

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1 24 oz package of fresh or frozen cheese (or your favorite) tortellini

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2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil, until soft.  Add finely chopped zucchini.

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Cook together for a few minutes until zucchini is softened.

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Add spaghetti sauce and cook for about 10 minutes allowing all the flavors to come together.

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Stir in uncooked tortellini and about  1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese.

 

wpid-20141106_103156.jpgTransfer to casserole dish

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Cover tightly with foil. This will cook the pasta so don’t skip this step.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Extra time may be needed for frozen tortellini.

Remove foil.

Add remainder of cheese cooking until melted.

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 Delicious!

I added a salad and bread for a perfect meal!

Another keeper for my recipe box.

Next time I will add mushrooms!

Thanks, no .2 pencil

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