Saturday, December 21, 2013

Red Velvet Brownies and a 50th Birthday!

Yesterday my little sister turned 50!  Shocking, but true.  Like many siblings, we would fight over insignificant matters.  Who gets the odd Ravioli from a can we were splitting?  This was decided diplomatically. . . if you were the dividing the Ravioli, you got the odd one.  Why does my chore list seem harder than hers?  Why does she always cross the imaginary line down the back seat of the car as we traveled?  Why did she get to shave her legs years before I did?  Please keep in mind that this was a total insult to me.  I had dark hair and she had blonde!  Those of you with dark hair know why I was insulted by the fact that she had permission  to shave her "no color" hair while I had to have dark, hairy legs!  I could go on and on, but instead, will tell you that we are best of friends, even though we still argue on family trips!

Each year, we celebrate her birthday by having a "A Christmas Story" birthday party.  We have a blast eating Chinese takeout and dressing up as scenes from the movie. The best dressed group wins a prize.  Last year, we dressed as the "soap poisoning" scene.  When she answered the door we were ready with our lines.  Needless to say, we won the prize!  Usually, the Christmas Story party is delayed until my oldest son flies in for Christmas.  So on my sister's real birthday, we celebrate by going out to eat, but save the real party for later.  Last night, we went to her favorite local restaurant, Aunt Jenny's.  After dinner I invited everyone back to our home for a small dessert party.  My sister loves red velvet cake and my mother makes a special, scrumptious red velvet cake each year for the "A Christmas Party" birthday celebration.  Last night, I thought I would make a batch of red velvet brownies.  Not too much after a heavy meal and very different from my mother's delicious cake.
Let's take a look at this easy recipe:

Red Velvet Brownie Layer:
1 stick butter
1 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of red food coloring
1 teaspoon of vinegar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour

Cream Cheese Layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan, and set aside.

Brownie layer: In a saucepan on medium heat melt the butter. Remove the butter to a large bowl and add the sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar, in that order, mixing between additions. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl and stir it into the cocoa mix. Fold in the flour until lightly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, saving 1/4 cup of the batter for the top.

Cream cheese layer: Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Gently spread the cream cheese layer on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Dollop the remaining brownie batter over the cream cheese layer. Using a skewer, drag the tip through the cream cheese mixture to create a swirl pattern. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before cutting.

Our dinner table overlooked the sparking, moonlit waters of the bayou. . . the red velvet brownies were a hit and the evening was filled with laughter and wonderful conversation.   A truly special night.

"A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life" - Isadora James
Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let's Do A Little Vintage Christmas Shopping!

Last year, I wrote a blog post about vintage Christmas ads...Vintage Christmas Shopping  I love the color and detail in vintage ads.  I saved a few from last year to share with you this year.  Let's have a Girls' Night Out and do a little vintage shopping!

This has to be one of my favorites.  Any soldier coming home for Christmas is a special gift.  The ad from Greyhound Bus Lines captures the excitement of the moment. 
Vintage Coke ads always feature a jolly St. Nick with rosy cheeks. This ad caught my eye.  My husband is an avid train collector.
Plymouth's 1950's ad looks just like a Norman Rockwell painting!  He must have been a Plymouth fan!  We had a Plymouth when I was in junior high.  It was the size of a boat! 
Mom, this ad is for you!  For years, I gave my mother Evening in Paris.  I loved the beautiful color of the bottles.  My mother would wear it proudly.  I found out many years later that she hated the scent!  If you have the time, head over to my blog post on Evening in Paris.
Now this is an old one from 1920.  Tinker Toys certainly have been around a long time. My boys loved their sets of Tinker Toys. 
I know some of my Still Woods Farmhouse friends remember days of stockings with the black seam down the back.  It must have been hard to keep them straight!  Do you think they will ever come back in style?
Someone is up to a little mischief in this 1953 David Lockhart drawing!
This 1948 Maxwell House coffee ad is delightful! My dad has always said that the best coffee is made in a stove top peculator. Can't you smell the coffee?  It's good to the last drop!
Who wants a 1956 Cadillac for Christmas?!   Doesn't this handsome gentleman look like Carey Grant?
"You'll shoot your eye out" comes to mind with this ad!

Dubble Bubble still makes a great stocking gift!
This ad by the Tire A Rubber Company promotes the purchase of war bonds as a Christmas gift.  Obviously a wonderfully, patriotic company.
A 1949 television or radio makes a terrific gift.  "They'll fondly remember for years..." Do you remember when a television was a piece of furniture as well as entertainment?
Look at all the color and details in this 7 Up ad.  Just beautiful!
Guaranteed to give you a "lovelier leg complexion" at only $1.30 a pair!  I bet this ad caught the eye of a few men! If you search for vintage ads, you will find quite a few for stockings. 

Lastly, I'll leave you with one of my favorite ads.  This one is from 1948.  Love that lipstick!

Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse!
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Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Time to Support the Ronald McDonald House Charities!

It's the time of year again when Dillards, Southern Living, and the McDonalds team up to create a lovely cookbook to support Ronald McDonald Houses.   I have often stated that McDonald's does three things really fries...and most importantly, their development and support of Ronald McDonald Houses around the world.  Ronald McDonald House charities offer families a home away from home while the family is dealing with a sick child.  RMH believes that families should not worry about where they will lay their heads at night or where their next meal will come from while taking care of a sick child, often far from home.  They have helped families with ill children for the past 38 years.  What a blessing for families dealing with a child's medical crisis. Our youngest child was born two months premature and was in a hospital about an hours drive from our home.  We were offered the assistance of the Ronald McDonald House for the duration of his stay in the hospital.  We were able to make the daily drives back and forth, but it was comforting knowing that if needed, they were there. I was at Dillards a few weeks ago and purchased the annual cookbook for only $10.00.  I not only picked up a terrific cookbook at a bargain price, but also helped to support this wonderful organization.

So let's peruse the pages of this years mouth watering addition!  How about starting with appetizers?  This bacon-cheese dip looks scrumpcious!
(Southern Living)
I love brie, so this one appealed to me.  It received 5 stars on the Southern Living website. This version is topped with ginger preserves, honey, and orange zest. 
(Southern Living)
We all know that life becomes a little hectic during December.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to come home and find the bases for this dinner waiting for you?
(Southern Living)
I make a version of this recipe.  Many of you know it as King Ranch Chicken.  Southern Living lightened it up a bit in this newest cookbook.  Looks delicious!
(Southern Living)
Brussels sprout lovers unite for Bacon-Brown Sugar Brussels Sprouts!  I could probably eat the entire dish.  This earned another 5 star review!
(Southern Living)
I must admit that I have not tried mashed cauliflower.  This recipe was another 5 star recipe and looks quite good.  I might have to try it!
(Southern Living)
I wish I worked in the Southern Living test kitchen.  Who wouldn't want to try shrimp and grits dressing?  Looks like it was a hit!  I love shrimp and grits, but a shrimp and grits dressing is a new one for me. 
(Southern Living)
There is a section of the cookbook called the 'Bread Basket" and is full of delicious recipes ranging from buttermilk biscuits to butternut squash spoon bread.  A recipe for pimento cheese rolls caught my eye. 
(Southern Living)
Or how about praline apple bread?  It would make a wonderful gift.
(Southern Living)

All great meals end with a fabulous dessert.   A layered peppermint cheesecake would make a beautiful presentation at your dinner.  The cheesecake layers are flavored with peppermint, while the cake is composed of sour cream and uses a base of a white cake mix.  Top it with a delightful layer of white chocolate mousse and a garnish of assorted peppermints and you are on your way to "cake master" status!
While you are out Christmas shopping, stop by Dillards and purchase a book or two.  You will not only have a wonderful cookbook full of eye candy, but will also help the important work of the Ronald McDonald House Charities. 
Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Welcoming Entryway for Your Thanksgiving Guests

There is an old English proverb based on Matthew 6:22 which states the "eyes are the window to the soul".  I think it can also be said that the front door of a home is the window to the soul of the home.  The front door and surrounding outer entryway is the first impression for our guests.  Fall entryway decor can be a fabulous way to make that first impression a lasting one.  With the abundance of mums, pumpkins, gourds, and other fall flowers available this time of year, you too can welcome your Thanksgiving guests with a festive atmosphere.   I thought I would put together a few fantastic examples for you to peruse, maybe with a cup of hot cider by your side.

This lovely entryway is compliments of the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina.  I love the corn stalks attached to the posts.  The scarecrows can be stored away until next October and this entry would be a delightful way to welcome guests for Thanksgiving dinner.

Notice the carved street number in one of the pumpkins pictured below from Cornerstone Homes.  Pumpkins and gourds can be used throughout fall; however, many stores begin to sell their pumpkins for a reduced rate after Halloween.  A teacher friend of mine purchased three buggies full of pumpkins from a local super store for all of 23 cents!  Not 23 cents each, three buggies full for 23 cents!  If you want to jazz up your entryway for Thanksgiving, check out the sales.
Here is another example with mums, pumpkins, and stalks.The golden light glowing from the door and windows gives this home a warm and inviting look.Another beautiful entryway!  This one is from Dysfunctional Design blog.  Okay, I would have to sweep up the leaves, but they look great here!
This entryway from Something to Some People is understated, yet lovely.  I think the pea gravel walkway lends a rustic look along with the stone dwelling.  I bet the owner of this home has afternoon tea.
Southern Living is known for beautiful photography and classic designs.  The addition of the lanterns adds a special touch to this welcoming front porch.
I hope I have inspired you with some last minute decorating ideas.  Head outside and make your front door and entryway a place where the eye lingers, the heart stills, and a smile crosses the face of your Thanksgiving guests.
Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse
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Monday, October 21, 2013

It's Faux Caramel Apple Time Again!

For me, Halloween brings to mind chili dogs, bags of candy, and caramel apples. We always had chili dogs before heading out to a church fall festival or trick or treating in the neighborhood.   It was a quick meal and one of our favorites as kids. Of course later in the evening, we ended up with a bag full of candy and one special treat made by a sweet neighbor.  She always made caramel apples for the children she knew the best.  It was better than any candy in our bags!

My first real memory of caramel apples brings me back to an excursion with my parents and little sister to Apple Valley in California.  The tree branches were heavily laden with crisp, luscious apples.  Various vendors dotted the roadside selling their baked good ranging from apple pies, breads, dried apples, caramel apples, and my favorite candy apples!  As our day ended and we drove back home, my sister and I sat in the back seat happily eating our apple treats.

Caramel apples are perfect for your fall decor.  Don't these look delicious with the puddle of caramel at the bottom of each perfectly dipped apple?  What's even better is that they are faux caramel apples!  Let's get started on this fun project.
You will need a few items for this project:
Artificial Apples-  I purchased mine at Michaels Craft Store
Dowel Rods
Mod Podge-  Be sure to buy the glossy version
1-2 Containers of Acrylic Paint-  I used Folk Art Coffee Latte and only needed one container
Sand Paper-  I buy an extra pedicure file and use it only used for craft projects. 
Philips Screw Driver
Hot Glue Gun- Not Pictured
Hammer- Not Pictured
Raffia-  Not Pictured
First things first.  Pull the stem from each apple.  Use the Phillips screw driver to bore a hole in the apples.  I had to use a hammer to help with this process.  I think my apples were filled with concrete!  I purchased a long dowel rod at Lowes and cut it into approximately 5 and 1/2 inch pieces.  Sand the end which will show with a piece of sandpaper or do like I do.  I have a pedicure file that is used only for craft projects.  It comes in quite handy!  Hot glue the dowel rod to the apple and let dry.  Now for the fun part!

Pour the Mod Podge into a container.  Make sure your apple can fit in the container.
Begin pouring one of the acrylic paint containers into the Mod Podge and stir with an extra dowel stick.  I was not quite happy with the color I selected and ended up adding a squirt of brown and a squirt of yellow to get a more "caramely" color.  I also used only one of the 2 oz paints from the project list.  Take an apple and dip it into the container, swirling around to cover the apple.  Make sure you leave enough of the apple to show at the top!
Once they dry, tie a piece of raffia on top and show them off on a pretty cake plate.  I just love my non-edible caramel apples. Notice that the color darkened as they dried.  They even have the "pooled" look of caramel at the bottom of each apple.  This was a fun and fairly quick project.  More importantly, this project brings back wonderful memories of spending time with my family.  Now to figure out how to make a faux candy apple!
Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse
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Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Still Woods Scarecrow Story!

It's the perfect time of year for a scarecrow story! Pour a cup of warm apple cider, sit back, and enjoy a Still Woods Scarecrow Story.  It's not scary, I promise!
The first Sunday morning after we moved into our home, we left for church only to return to find that our riding lawn mower has been stolen.  Naturally, we were upset and quite worried.  My husband called the county sheriff's office and reported the theft.  A deputy was dispatched and after visiting with us for awhile, the deputy said that they would do routine patrols of our property.  I must remind you that there is only one way in and one way out of our property.  A gravel road meanders happily through the woods to our home and loops back out again.  Beginning that very night, our family soon became familiar with the sounds of a sheriff's car patrolling our home and land.  We were thankful and appreciated their efforts to make us feel safe and secure.  I am a light sleeper and I do not say this lightly!  In the wee hours of the morning, I would  awaken to hear the tell tale sign of a car slowly traversing the windy, gravel road to our home.  My routine was to look at the clock, check the time, and be comforted in knowing this was our friendly law enforcement on their routine run.  I think my bladder became synchronized to the 2:00 am patrol and I would often get up, get a drink of water and well, you know.  I would also watch the lights of the car twinkling through the trees as the deputy for the night drove down our road. 

One night, I watched from our bedroom window as the sheriff's car slowed to a stop at the front of the house.  Then before I knew it, the car immediately sped away.  Curious as that was, I thought maybe the sheriff's deputy had been dispatched to an urgent call.  I got back into bed and before sleep overcame me, I heard the sound of several cars speeding down our lane.  I jumped up and went to the window, not even bothering to wake my husband, wondering what in the world was going on!  Three police cars were coming around the bend and slowed to a stop.  One of the police cars shined a huge beam of light onto our porch.  The beam floated along and then landed directly onto one of my scarecrows which I had laid on the front porch to dry out from a day of heavy rain.  The cars sat for a moment and then took off.  I got back into bed and at that point I realized that the first officer must have seen a "body like" form lying on the porch and had called for back up!!  The poor thing did not realize that it was indeed a scarecrow and not a human until a beam of light dispelled the mystery!  I wonder how much ribbing that deputy received that night from the scarecrow incident?

Each year when I see scarecrows smiling merrily from posts and fences, this scarecrow story comes to mind! Do you have a scarecrow story of your own? Please share it with us!

Blessings as Always from Still Woods Farmhouse
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mrs. Alice's Apple Muffins

Mrs. Alice stopped by our district office a few weeks ago and dropped off delicious apple muffins.  I admit that I didn't know Mrs. Alice prior to indulging in her famous muffins, but I am now a fan!  I discovered that  Mrs. Alice is not only a fabulous cook, but she is also the mother of one of our principals.  When I think of fall, I think of the many scrumptious recipes using apples, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins.  This recipe has become a new addition to my fall favorites. Visit this link for another fall muffin favorite: Mississippi Spice Muffins.
So let's put on a pretty apron and get started!  These are my favorite red aprons.  The striped one was made by my grandmother and my mom made the red with white lace apron.  I just love aprons!  If they could talk, what tales would they tell?

Here is what you will need . . .
The Starting Line-Up:
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Four                                            1/4 Cup of Shortening
1 3/4 Teaspoons Baking Powder                                      1/2 Cup of Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar                                                                  1/2 Cup Grated Raw Apple                     
1 Egg, Beaten    
1/2 Stick of Butter                                                            1/2 Cup of Sugar
1-2 Teaspoons of Sugar                                                        

Sift flour with baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Using a fork, cut in shortening until the mixture resembles cornmeal. 
Mix beaten egg with milk.  Add milk/egg mixture and grated apple all at once to the four mixture.
Mix quickly and thoroughly.  Mixture will be thick.  Fill a greased muffin pan or muffin cups to half full.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  Don't over bake.  When muffin tops are firm to the touch, they are done.  For the topping:  Make a mixture with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Melt 1/2 stick of butter.  Remove muffins from pan and dip top in butter.  Notice the cute muffin cups!
 Now lets dip the top into the yummy sugar and cinnamon mixture.
I can't wait to serve these sweet, little treats as our dessert tonight.  Better yet, I can't wait to eat one or maybe two for breakfast.  Add a cup of coffee and my day will start off in a happy way!
I did tweak Mrs. Alice's recipe a tad.  The original topping portion of the recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar and 2-3 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Mrs. Alice melts 1 cup of butter and rolls the entire muffin in butter and then coats the entire muffin in the sugar/cinnamon mixture.  If your family has a sweet tooth, you may want to dip the entire muffin.  Either way, they are delicious!  Let me know what you think!
Blessings from Still Woods Farmhouse
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