Saturday, November 22, 2008

Layered Mocha Cheesecake

DD likes to bake. That does not bode well for me since I worked really hard to lose 30 pounds this summer. Alas, DH and the kids love their sweets. I'm generally able to abstain from joining them, but yesterday she decided to try a new recipe that I had marked in a magazine. She did a great job. She wanted me to note that she should have split the layers more evenly, but I certainly didn't hear anyone complaining!
Katie bar the door - this stuff is sinful! Thank goodness all you need is a teenie tiny sliver to satisfy. Rich and decadent does not begin to describe it! In fact, I am not a fan of Mocha (Love the aroma of coffee, but can't stand to drink the stuff!), but this stuff is wonderful! So if you like Mocha at all, this is your dessert!

Layered Mocha Cheesecake

1 1/2 C Oreo cookie crumbs
1/4 C butter, melted

2 Tbsp plus 1-1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
1 Tbsp boiling water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese softened (yes, 4!)
1-1/2 C sugar
1/4 C flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
Chocolate covered coffee beans, optional

1/2 C semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp butter

*Combine cookie crumbs and butter. Press into bottom of a greased 9-in springform pan. In a small bowl, combine the coffee granules, water, and cinnamon, set aside.

*In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and flour until smooth. Add eggs. Beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in vanilla. Divide batter in half. Stir melted chocolate into one half; pour over crust. Stir coffee mixture into the remaining batter; spoon over cheesecake layer.

*Place pan on a double thickness of heavy duty foil (about 16" square). Securely wrap foil around pan.Place in a large baking pan, add 1" of hot water into larger pan.

*Bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen, cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.

*In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and butter, stir until smooth. Spread over cheesecake. Remove sides of pan. Garnish with chocolate covered coffee beans if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.

The only problem I found was that the top chocolate layer was firmly set and it made it difficult to cut a pretty slice. Next time I plan to omit the top layer and just sprinkle it with lots of chocolate curls and you can bet there will BE a next time!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flat Stanley Visits the End of the Dirt Road

Last week we had company. Flat Stanley came for a visit. A friend's son sent him and we were glad to find he made the trip safely. We sent him back today, but we wanted to share some of his adventures with y'all. Thought this would be the easiest way for our friends in Iowa to peek in on his adventures. So in the words of Flat Stanley:

Dear A,
Thanks for sending me on this trip! I had a really good time – just wish your family could have come too. The week went by way too fast. Mrs H. said that I could share these pictures and my story with you on her blog.

As soon as I arrived, I wanted to go out into the pens to meet the horses. They were all pretty friendly and they spent most of their time trying to take a nibble out of me.
It felt good to ride after being smashed into that envelope!
Mrs. H cooks a lot and I got to eat a lot of good food! The other morning we had biscuits and gravy – yum! A hot breakfast before heading out into the cold sure hit the spot.
We spent one morning bringing in some cattle to sort and send off to the ranch in Texas. I did my best to stay out of the way - didn't want to get stomped on!

I sure thought it would be warmer down here! It was below 30 degrees in the morning!

It was awfully cold, but Mrs. H made us some hot chocolate when we got back to the house and it didn’t take us long to warm up. She also made me a wildrag and gave me a hat. Later that day we had to work on some school – ick! I thought I wouldn’t have to do any school while I was away, but we had to work on it in the afternoons since we were planning the trip to Amarillo and we'd miss a few days of school. Then it was back out into the arena to work with the horses. Mr. H is always working on horsemanship. He's a natural.
Evening chores take a while when you've got cattle in the pens. They go through lots of hay!
We packed on Wednesday evening

and left for Texas at 6 the next morning. I was really excited to go to the Working Ranch Cowboy Association Ranch Rodeo World Championships! There were SO many people! We checked into the hotel where we found a gift basket from the WRCA – that was really nice of them!

On Thursday and Friday, we went to all the 4th grade classes in all the schools in Amarillo where the girl I’m staying with performed her cowboy poetry. She writes her own poems which I thought was really cool! Her brother, Tyler played his guitar and another family (The Milners) played as well. Then they answered questions about ranch life.

After the schools, we drove back to the Civic Center and walked around for hours at the trade show. They had lots of booths with everything from saddles to jewelry to boots and hats. Sure am glad they carried me because that was A LOT of walking! I thought this chuck wagon was really cool and a good place to sit back for a spell.
Mr. and Mrs. H bought some great leather to make chaps and some cow hides to put under their dining room table.

I felt right at home when Mrs. H took me to a couple of quilt shops on Friday afternoon- she likes to sew like your Mom. We also ducked into a music store where Tyler bought a neat guitar. He sure can play!

We were up early every morning. On Friday I stayed with Mr. and Mrs. H so that I could watch the Ranch Horse Competition. It started at 7 so we sat in a freezing cold arena for 5 hours and watched the contestants and their horses. A couple of times we got up to stretch our legs, but we didn’t want to miss anything – some of those horses were amazing!

In the evenings we attended the Ranch Rodeo. I’m sending lots of fun pictures from that! Here’s one from the bronc riding: The wild cow milking (this was funny to watch – those cows were ornery)
The stray gathering was a new event:
The team penning:
Hmmm…don’t think we got any pictures of the branding. But there was this guy named Brice who did some really cool rope tricks with his dog and horse. Mrs. H said that I was supposed to tell you: Do not try this at home!
The Budweiser Horses were there as well and they were really impressive! It was neat to watch the whole team of horses work together.

It was late by the time we got back to the hotel every night. I didn’t get much sleep while we were there so I hope I can catch up when I get home. I’m ready to come home, but I wish I could stay longer too. They just weaned the colts and are getting ready to start halter breaking them this week. This year they have 10 colts to work with. Of course, that means more early mornings! Tomorrow they are processing bulls. Sigh! These people never sleep in! Please tell me I'll get to snooze past 5 when I get home!

See you soon!
Flat Stanley

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Step Away From the Quilt!

No, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. I have simply been sucked into a quilt. I don't know what on earth possessed me to hand quilt the very first quilt I ever made! Most likely a case of insanity. Makes me feel like I've been sucked into a time warp. Once I sit down to work on it, the day simply evaporates into yesterday...or last week.

I am only forced to look up when various members of my family shuffle into view and beg and plead their case -they are hungry. To hear them tell the tale, they are near starvation and growing weaker by the moment. Oh where is the mother who once so lovingly prepared delicious feasts accompanied with homemade bread and always a dessert? Alas, she is only a memory. Sigh. This new mother quilts until she is cross-eyed, irons until the seams are flat, and sews until the cows come home. The oven has grown cold. The cupboards are bare.

Finally the pitiful cries are heard, "I want Mama back!" "We're hungry" "What's for dinner?" "Are you STILL quilting?" "Honey, aren't you tired?" "Just how many hours does it take to quilt that thing?!"

She looks up. She blinks. She moves to jump up. Alas, those old bones no longer have the ability to jump. She is growing old and her bones creak in disagreement. She has been in this spot for far too long.

The quilt must wait. She is needed. She turns on the oven. She is wanted. She mixes the bread dough. She is missed. She places the pie on the cooling rack.

Her family is ecstatic - she is back! And she tunes out the voice of the unfinished quilt that lies abandoned, sprawled upon the vacated ottoman as she settles at the table surrounded by her family.

Her daughter turns to her as she passes the bread basket, "Hey Mama, is my quilt almost finished?"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dear Senator McCain

Dear Senator McCain,

These past few days I have felt compelled to write down these thoughts that have been rushing about in my head so here I sit. First and foremost, I must thank you. Thank you for being a hero during a time when heros are few and far between. Thank you for your service to our country, past, present and future. The sacrifice's you have made are greatly appreciated. Thank you for standing up for all that is right and good for so many years when so many only follow the crowd. Thank you for choosing a side and not sitting on the fence. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in, for believing in the America that our forefathers fought to bring to life and for fighting to preserve it and the freedoms and values that America was built upon. Thank you for your selflessness when so many today only think of themselves. Thank you for your faith -"In God we trust" is always worth fighting for.

One of my favorite books is Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation - thank you for giving me the opportunity of discussing this with my children and then pointing to you as a highly regarded member of this very special group. We have had many fabulous conversations around the dinner table this past year and you have been in the center of so many of them. My husband and I have enjoyed the discussions about economics, government, history and the election process with our 2 teenage children. I'm proud that our son wishes to serve his country through the military.

And thank you for taking the time to make a stop in the little town of Roswell, New Mexico. I can't begin to tell you how very honored I was to have been a part of that! We were thrilled to take part in both rallys and it's an experience I will never forget. As a new American citizen, this was my first year to vote and I was honored to cast that all important vote for you and Governor Palin. This was my son's first year to vote as well and it was exciting to see his enthusiasm in the election process. He jumped at the opportunity to volunteer at the Republican Headquarters when he was in town and came home excited and passionate about your campaign and the vision you had for this country each time.

I must also thank your family for the sacrifices they have made along the way. The long, crazy hours; the intense schedule, the endless miles, the probing media coverage - it must be brutile. They handled it all with amazing grace.

On the subject of your choice for a vice presidential running mate: Sarah Palin was a brilliant choice!

I truly believe our country is a better place because of you. It's comforting to know that there are still people, although admittedly too few, out there who are willing to put their country first. I'm proud to be an American for numerous reasons, one of them being that America is still the land of heros and one of those heros just happens to be named John McCain. May the Lord continue to bless you and your family sir. Thank you and may God continue to bless America - he has done so in you.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Productive Weekend

The best part of this past weekend is that I never left the dirt road. It was an absolutely glorious fall weekend! I should have spent more time outside, but although I did enjoy a few hours basking (well, weeding actually) in the autumn sun each afternoon and walking, the majority of my weekend was spent in front of the sewing machine and at the ironing board. Why is is that I detest ironing, yet I thoroughly enjoyed ironing fabric for about 4 hours this weekend?

But before I could dig into my sewing projects, I had a huge pile of green tomatoes that were begging to be made into chow chow.

DH loves this stuff and we always had a ready supply from the neighbor in Texas. Since our move, DH has been without, so as soon as Ranch Wife blessed us with a plethora of green tomatoes (thank you!), I called our friend and begged and pleaded for his recipe. It's a good thing I love DH, because only love could make me withstand the nasty smell that this concoction emits! It may taste fabulous, but you would never know it from the aroma it produces while brewing on the stove! Oh my! The cider vinegar mixed with the jalapenos and peppers and cabbage and tomatoes was enough to send everyone running for the hills and that's exactly what everyone did on Saturday morning. Well, everyone except me, who had to stay and keep watch over the bubbling brew.

The things you do for love!

Then DH and I proceeded to process the deer he brought home earlier in the week. Yum! Nothing quite as tasty as fresh tenderloin and homegrown tomatoes for dinner! Our dehydrator has been working at full speed. After drying loads of apples dusted in cinnamon and sugar, it has now been commissioned to produce this years stash of deer jerky and it is running 24-7.

I then made a good dent in some of my projects once the chow chow was safely confined to the canning jars.

The fall table runner has now been pieced and is only awaiting a trip into town for batting in order to begin the quilting. I'll post pictures once it's completed.

DD's quilt is in the process of being quilted as well so now I am officially a quilter and that makes me happy! There is something very comforting about curling up in our big leather chair with a big quilt, a spool of quilting thread, a hoop, and a good movie on a cold evening, with my family, that just seems to soothes the soul.

I cut out and completely pieced a baby blanket for Clint and Tiffany's baby. It's 41x46 and so cute that I'm not sure I can part with it! I'll have to scrounge around and see if I can make another one to keep! They are using reds and blues for her colors and I was unsure of which direction to go until I stumbled across the inspiration fabric. I'm very uncertain of my fabric coordinating abilities, but I was somehow able to successfully pull together 10 various fabrics into this adorable quilt! Don't mean to toot my own horn, but I am just tickled pink about it! Now, it too, awaits batting. I'll be putting that 40% off coupon for Hobby Lobby to good use this week! I'll use the deep blue fabric for the binding. I also cut out and sewed the fall apron I have been planning to make. The table runner uses this fabric too. The apron's finished so here's a photo: As well as cut out the pattern for the apron I'm making for my mom. She is so hard to buy for, but she likes to cook and she wears the half aprons so I found some classy material that I think she will love. It's on the bottom of this pile that Zoe chose as her afternoon throne. There's a coordinating stripe in there as well.
And I made a couple of potholders. The ones I have bought just seem so flimsy so I went in search of something more suited to what I want. I found some cute ones online with ragged edges that I thought looked kind of rustic so I proceeded to make up a couple.

Then I cut out material for a Christmas table runner. I have recently been blessed with a new friendship, another fellow Christian, quilter, scrapbooker who directed me to a beautiful free pattern online. I decided to search through my stash to see what I might have on hand and came across the perfect pieces. The funny thing is, it was purchased 14 years ago for a skirt! LOL! DO you remember those silly looking tiered skirts with the ruffles on the outside using 4 different fabrics?

When I showed it to DD and told her what I had originally planned to use it for, she laughed, "Gosh Mom! Aren't you embarrassed?!" If she only knew that one day she too will look back at the fashions of yesteryear and cringe! Although, in all reality, her entire wardrobe consists of Wranglers and boots and western shirts and that never goes out of style. Thus, I feel good about repurposing this fabric. I still love the fabric and it really will make a much prettier table runner than skirt and not a ruffle in site!

Then I ironed 20 yards of fabric in preparation of my next projects, plus 80 8x8 pieces from a layer cake package from a line called Portobello Market. I just fell in love with these prints and with Ranch Wife's urging, I took the plunge. Many of the prints are reminiscent of western paisleys in the wildrags that the cowboys wear. So, I have now selected a pattern and the fabric to finally make a quilt for our bed. I have been searching for something for years but the ones I found and fell in love with were just crazy expensive! I could buy a ton of quilting fabric for what they cost and apparently, that's what I'm in the process of doing! Grin!

I'm well on my way to being known as the crazy old quilt lady. That's fine - I'm just following in Ranch Wife's footsteps and blaming her as well as thanking her although I think she's created a monster! I'll tell you one thing, I do believe that I've gotten my money's worth out of the little $120 Kenmore sewing machine I've had for 20 years!

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