Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas on a Peppermint Striped Shoestring

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
~Oren Arnold

I like the way you think, Oren. But you know what? My friends and family are going to be looking for something wrapped up under the Christmas tree.

And I am on a budget. I mean, seriously. Those days of reckless spending and paying off the Christmas bills around the fourth of July are over. If there isn't cash to pay for it, I'm not buying it. And there is powerful little cash left over after expenses. So what is a gal who loves absolutely everything about Christmas supposed to do?

I recommend handmade gifts. Whether you cook or bake, sew or craft, work with wood or provide useful services, you can come up with something to satisfy just about everyone on your list. If you're feeling short on inspiration, click HERE for some great ideas. I'm gonna try my hand at those chocolate spoons this week!

And if you're short on time, I would like to suggest that you visit and support small local craftsmen. To get started, I invite you to browse my selection of handmade jewelry at The Wishing Box (click HERE). And if you need a few stocking stuffers, please consider buying a handful of beaded bracelets to support Asberry School of Music's efforts to help Beading To Beat Autism raise $300 million to build an autism research and treatment center in Louisville, Kentucky.


Bracelets come packaged in a ziplock baggie containing a color insert describing the project.

The suggested donation is only $3 per bracelet. 6", 6 1/2" 7", and 8" lengths available; we will do our best to honor your color preferences or, better yet, let us choose for you! These make great party favors, stocking stuffers, and holiday gifts for teens and teachers. Checks should be made payable to Beading To Beat Autism; all proceeds will go directly to the organization. Please leave a comment if you would like to place an order and I will get back to you with the details. Thank you in advance for your support!

What are your favorite low cost Christmas gift ideas?

Author: Pam Asberry

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Show and Tell

Pam Asberry * Dacula, GA

Florida, here I come!

All my bags are packed; I'm ready to go. As soon as the school bell rings this afternoon, I will pick up my 15 year old son and we will make a beeline for Tampa, Florida where we have a reservation for one night in a hotel. Then tomorrow we will take a shuttle to the cruise port where we will board the Carnival Inspiration for a five-day cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, returning Thanksgiving Day. It won't be a traditional holiday, to be sure, but I am looking forward to a break in my routine, fun in the sun, gourmet meals every night, and doing the electric slide while the steel drum band plays. 

* * * * *

Lindy Chaffin Start * Decatur, GA


You don't think about how fragile life is until you pass by something this deadly. Can you imagine walking your dog and having this impale you instead of the ground? I guess that's why they call them widow-makers. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Healthful Twist on Thanksgiving Favorites!

My Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Okay, so not really, but
Thanksgiving food was the hot topic this afternoon as I spoke with my Aunt Gwyne about our plans surrounding next week’s BIG day. It’s not unlike any of us to focus our utmost attention on a meal we get to eat once a year. I, for one, relish a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and ham as the centerpieces surrounded by warm goodness rivaled only by what the ladies in our church might offer as a buffet feast on Wednesday nights.

While on the phone with Auntie, she mentioned she had been for her quarterly check up today. When asked how everything turned out, she said in her always calm, positive manner, “Everything’s fine.” Though she did say her doctor had reminded her of the upcoming holidays and offered fair warning. Now mind you my aunt is the survivor of the century. It started with a broken ankle that led to a heart attack which lended itself to the discovery of diabetes then breast cancer. Heck, that’s just been in the last six years. Apparently her doctor shook a firm finger in her direction and reminded her she could only cheat on two days – Thanksgiving and Christmas. Otherwise, she had to mind her diet. We giggled a little as we both know Auntie cheats a bit whenever she feels like it. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Then, we talked about the meal. She will have the cherished turkey and ham, green beans and corn. I don’t know what everyone else is planning to contribute. All in all we will have about 25 for dinner at my aunt’s. Here is what I am planning to take:

Broccoli and Cauliflower Casserole

2 bags frozen broccoli
2 bags frozen cauliflower
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 sleeve Town House Crackers
1 stick butter

Method: Cook the broccoli and cauliflower according to package directions pulling from the stove a couple of minutes early so as to finish in the sauce in the actual casserole. In a large bowl mix soup, sour cream, mayonnaise and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the broccoli and cauliflower. Pour mixture into a large casserole dish (9x13) sprayed with cooking spray. Top with crushed crackers. Drizzle butter over the top to finish. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Get ready to taste heaven (yes, that was a casserole-eatin’ choir of angels you just heard).

My Better than Soufflé Sweet Potatoes

3 pounds sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed)
Salt and pepper

Method: Nothing is easier. Boil sweet potatoes until they are tender. Remove from stove and drain. Return to pot. Mash potatoes the best way you know how – potato masher, mixer, whisk – they all work fine. Add a few tablespoons of butter while they are hot. Mix well and check consistency. Add honey; about half a bear. Then salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and serve. Simple, pantry-friendly.

Sugared Pecans

1 pound pecans
1 cup sugar

Method: Another, oh so simple recipe. Put pecans in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover with water. Add sugar. Bring to a boil and continue to boil until the water begins to thicken slightly and turn a nice dark caramel brown. Drain. Toss boiled pecans onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spread them evenly so they don’t stick together. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 200 degrees until the pecans and the sugar dry out a bit and form a nice crust. Depending on your oven, 30 minutes to an hour. Let the pecans cool in the pan. Transfer to a bowl and serve. This will be the happiest crowd of people you have ever seen.

Enjoy all of the kudos on your contributions. Don’t over indulge. Celebrate you and your family. Be thankful for all that you have, even the fleas. And, have a Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Family's Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving 2010
l-r: Casey, Nathan, Eric & SeDonna
This week's blog topic is Thanksgiving recipes made healthy. But I cannot tell a lie.

I don't do Thanksgiving healthy. Every year, I make Thanksgiving dinner the way I always have, fat and calories be damned. Then everyone at my table eats himself or herself into a stupor and enjoys every delicious minute. I know I do. It's just one day out of 365. Geez.

I usually do both ham and turkey with bread dressing like my mom's, cranberry sauce, homemade rolls and pumpkin pie, with green beans and corn as a nod to balance. My brother and his wife usually join my two sons and me for dinner, and each of them has another favorite side dish/dessert to go along. Here the recipes.

* * *

1 bunch broccoli, chopped small
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup red onion, chopped small
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine salad ingredients in a bowl, then stir together dressing ingredients and pour over, stirring to combine. This is good topped with crumbled bacon, but I serve that on the side since Casey is a vegetarian.

* * *

1 bag frozen hash browns
1/2 stick butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Arrange hash browns in a greased 13 X 9 inch baking pan. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat until melted. Pour over hash browns. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown.

* * *

3 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flaked coconut
1/ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup margarine, melted
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup margarine, vanilla and eggs; set aside. Thoroughly combine coconut, brown sugar, flour, 1/3 cup margarine and pecans in another bowl. Spoon 1/2 sweet potato mixture into a lightly greased 8-inch square pan; sprinkle with half the coconut-pecan topping. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

* * *

3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pecans, halves or pieces

Beat eggs slightly with fork. Stir in syrup, sugar and vanilla until blended. Add chocolate pieces and pecans. Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell (I use Pillsbury!) and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

And there you have it: instructions for a feast fit for royalty. Regardless of which way you go - healthy or not so much - I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Author: Pam Asberry

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Show and Tell

Pam Asberry * Dacula, GA

The view from my bedroom window.
 I'm going to miss those leaves when they're gone.

* * * * *

Lindy Chaffin Start * Decatur, GA

My neighbor's treasured Japanese Maple
It's funny how Pam and I think alike most Fridays. Every year this tree puts on a brilliant display of crimson and gold. It's my signal for the fall of my life to begin. Time for rest and rejuvenation, not only for Mother Nature, but for me as well. I'll miss the leaves, but when the first snow falls, I'll have a much better view of the field below. Happy Fall Y'all!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pretty Awesome New Stuff – Bad and Good

My friend, Pam Asberry is all too inspiring and her post on Monday about awesome new things she has tried brought me to shameful tears. You see, this year hasn’t been about trying new things for me; it has been more about shedding the old:
  • Cleaning out closets
  • Hosting a yard sale
  • Taking a break from everything I aspire to be to search for a job
  • Letting go of a relationship I thought was forever
And what awesome new thing did I get? A little piece of paper, signed by a judge, that states I am once again…single.

But wait! I don’t want to weigh you down with a bunch of poor, pitiful me sob story stuff. If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written you know that’s not at all what I’m about. Let’s take another look at the bullet points above:
  • Yes, I cleaned out my closets. I discovered half of my clothes were either too small or too big so guess what I did. I bought new ones. One of my favorite new outfits I found at Macy’s. Hot, right?
  • Okay, so what. I hosted a yard sale. Big deal! I made enough money to re-do my little girl’s room. It’s very pretty and purple now. She no longer resides in a guest room disguised as a kid’s room. She now has her very own space complete with a newly painted night stand and stars and “jewels” on the walls.
    Red's New Room
  • Yeah, yeah. This is where it gets hard. I took a break from everything I aspire to be to look for a job. Listen, it only sounds bad. My passions (writing, cooking, painting) got put on the back burner one more time in my life but in their place I got to take classes on InDesign and Illustrator and learned some cool new tricks of a new awesome trade. I’ve been doing freelance graphic design ever since. So there is still the ginormous void of an actual job but I know its coming. Living in faith, I know, like I know, like I know. So, now is the time for me to reconnect with my passions while I still have some free time and let God take care of the rest.
  • Letting go of that relationship was probably the most devastating, but in the process I connected with old friends and new, especially the girls, like Karen, Zoe, Pam, Megan, Marjorie and a list of others who must forgive me as I only have so much space in one blog post, BUT you know who you are and you know I love each of you so much it hurts.  And lest we not forget the boys like Mark, Bryan and Michael who have been like little beacons of hope for me that good, honest men do still exist.
You see, my pretty awesome new things are the things I had been lacking all along. The gumption to get rid of the old and start looking for the new. The knowledge that space is very personal. The ability to learn and grow. And, the courage to admit when something just wasn’t working.  

Yes, in 2011, I shed the old but look at all the awesome new things, and people, I discovered in the process.

Life in Penned Perspective by Lindy Chaffin Start

Monday, November 7, 2011

Seven New Favorite Things

I gave myself an unusual birthday present this year.
I started a new blog back in August, on my fifty-second birthday. Inspired by Julie Powell of Julie and Julia and Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, I vowed to try something new every day for a year and blog about it. Over the course of the eighty-four days that have passed since then, I have had some wonderful experiences that I undoubtedly wouldn't have had if not for my resolution. I have experimented with new recipes, visited unfamiliar places, even learned a thing or two. Some have become a part of my daily life. Since my budget is tight, most are low-cost or no-cost. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Godiva Dark Chocolate.

2. Pillsbury Mocha Fudge Brownies.

3. Once Upon A Time.

4. 100 Push-Ups/200 Sit-Ups.

5. Pumpkin Spice K-Cups.

6. PaperBack Swap.

7. Pinterest.

Click on the pink links to find out more. Then I hope you will go back and visit my blog Between Birthdays often!

What are one of your favorite new things?

Author: Pam Asberry

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Show and Tell

Lindy Chaffin Start - Decatur, GA

This little piggy's pic was taken at Southern Belle Farm in McDonough, GA
Yep, that's me, the pig in blue. Okay, so I'm not really a pig - physically, spiritually, emotionally - but showing you a picture of this little guy trucking it around the track to the finish line sets up the holidays for me. Halloween is over and here we are into the first of November - already. 

Time to get your calls on kids. Let the fun begin! Soo-ee! Sorry, I mean Happy Holidays!

* * *

Pam Asberry - Dacula, GA

Legacy Hall, River Center for the Performing Arts, Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University

It's all a matter of perspective.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Classics Do It For Me

Make me giggle to no end, that is. Like this one...

Lucille Ball is an all time favorite of mine, well her and my mother and my aunt when they get started laughing at something and just can't stop.

Cheers to the girls today!