I Got Skills!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Got Skills.”

The question was asked, “If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick?” 

Gosh, there are so many skills that I would like to master! Do I have to pick just one? The art and skill of bread making and pastry are definitely high up on my long list. Archery, spinning wool, canning, soap making, sewing, silk painting, and quilting are also skills I would love to have.

If I can only, truly choose to master just one skill, I would pick the art of pastry. For me, there is nothing finer in the world than the sweet aromas of chocolate, spices, freshly baked bread, and sweet pastries wafting through my home. There’s also no better pleasure than seeing your sweet boys and husband bite into something you have put your heart and love into making and exclaiming, “This is the best dessert ever!”

There’s many that have mastered this fine art and I hope to one day join them. Would you like to help me reach my goal of mastering this skill? Leave me a comment on your pastry tips and don’t forget to include your favorite recipe too!

~ Veronica

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Here in the Carolinas we are experiencing some abnormally COLD weather! Brrrr! I decided tonight would be a good night to try out a homemade hot cocoa recipe. I’ve tried many in the past, but none were to my liking. That is, until I found the following recipe from New Life on a Homestead:(http://newlifeonahomestead.com/2014/12/the-best-homemade-hot-cocoa/)

Hot Cocoa (Makes 1 cup)

1 TBSP Cocoa Powder
2 TBSP Sugar
2 TBSP Water
1 Cup Milk
Dash of Pure Vanilla Extract

Put the cocoa powder,  sugar, and water in a small saucepan.  Heat over low until melted, stirring constantly.  Add milk and vanilla. Stir until heated through to your desired temperature.  Enjoy!

*Note: I doubled this recipe and added a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. It was just a tad too chocolate-ty for me, so I added an additional 1/4 cup of milk too.

This is so much better than the pre-packaged cocoa mixes! You’ll never buy those little packets again after trying this! Go mix yourself up a cup of this hot cocoa, grab your warmest blanket, a good book to read (or blog!), and drift off into relaxation. You deserve it!

Stay warm, everyone!

Chocolate Crazy Cake (No eggs, milk, butter, or bowls!)

In case you are wondering what that delicious recipe is from my first blog post, here it is:

1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour

3 TBSP cocoa

1 Cup granulated, pure cane sugar

1 TSP baking soda

1/2 TSP salt

1 TSP White vinegar

1 TSP Pure vanilla extract

5 TBSP Vegetable oil

1 Cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the first 5 ingredients in a greased 8″ square baking pan. Make 3 depressions in the dry ingredients – two small, and one large. Pour vinegar into one of the small depressions, and vanilla in the other. Pour the oil in the large depression. Pour water over all and mix until smooth.

Bake on middle rack of oven for 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool. Top with your favorite frosting. Enjoy!

*Note: I doubled the ingredients in this recipe and made in a 9×13 pan. I mixed everything in the pan with a wire whisk. I substituted light olive oil for the vegetable oil. You could probably use applesauce or a combination of half applesauce and half oil. Instead of frosting, I dusted with powdered sugar.

You can also find the recipe by visiting: www.sweetlittlebluebird.com/2013/03/tried-true-tuesday-crazy-cake-no-eggs.html?m=1

Finding Contentment

“Woof””Woof””Woof”, I rollover and look at the bright green numbers on the clock sitting on the nightstand, 5:45 a.m. Way too early – especially when your bedtime is usually after midnight! The sounds of dogs with irresponsible owners has awaken me, yet again. I have forgotten what it was like to sleep through a whole night and not be awaken multiple times. I live in a county where there is no leash law. Having no leash laws is a wonderful thing, if everyone was a responsible pet owner. Unfortunately, many are not. When we moved here almost 4 years ago, there were 2 white dogs that would run loose. They would tear through people’s trash, terrorize walkers and joggers as they traveled down our private, dead end road, and of course, do their business anywhere they pleased – for you to clean up in your own yard.

We moved here to get out of the small, crowded apartment we were living in and to enjoy some solitude out here in the country. We figured having our own home on its own land, just outside the city would bring us some peace. Some of the experiences have been quite funny.

Around Thanksgiving time in 2011, I was awakened to a ‘gobbling’. I opened my front door to find an enormous turkey staring right at me! I had never been that close to a live turkey in my life! It was a rather startling, but funny, moment. Luckily, for me, he (or she) left on its own accord and probably became someone’s dinner. Then there was the time a sheep wandered into our backyard for a leisurely stroll. I had the fleeting thought of shearing the sheep and sending him on its way. Perhaps, this would teach the owners a lesson? But, I don’t know the first thing about shearing a sheep, nor what to do with the wool, and I certainly wouldn’t want to waste good wool, so I left him alone. After the sheep had its full of some grass and tree leaves, it went on to greener pastures and I never saw him again. Oh, and then there was the peacock! The peacock deserves his very own blog post. Remind me to tell you about the peacock.

So, you see, there has been some memorable experiences, but there’s also been quite a few not-so-good ones. The 2 white dogs have now multiplied to 8 dogs. At first I thought they may be breeding and selling the dogs for profit, but the dogs never leave. Throughout the years, I’ve watched these dogs huddle underneath vehicles to stay warm in the winter, bite unaware passerby’s, chase vehicles down our dirt road, and scrounge through people’s trash for scraps of food. They are dirty and matted. They are mean, but yet need someone to show them what love is. Many have called animal control throughout the years, yet the dogs still remain and increase in numbers. It’s a very sad situation. One I wish that I didn’t have knowledge of. A situation I wish there were a positive solution for.

The dogs, or rather their owners, are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. They cause me to be cautious walking out in my yard and deprive me of much needed sleep, but my surrounding neighbors do this and much more. At one point, we were so frustrated that we decided to put our house up for sale. We had decided that this area was just not for our family. We didn’t have our house on the market for very long before realizing that we needed to do some repairs before we could sell. Another roadblock. Both my husband and I were becoming very restless, and very discontent with our entire situation.

It was so easy to let being discontent rule over us. Afterall, we had terrible neighbors all around us, a job with no benefits and no paid time off, we hadn’t been able to see our family members in years, and our ‘friends’ kept disappearing from our lives. We had all the reason in the world not to be content. Or did we? With our eyes and mind open a bit wider, we came to the conclusion that there was more reason for us to be content then there had been in years. After switching several jobs, my husband had finally found a job that not only pays the bills, but gives us a little spending money too, we have a nice home that even allows us to raise some of our own food, we are in a state that allows us to homeschool more freely, and we are all healthy.

Now when asked if we are going to be moving, my reply is, “Maybe one day.” We still think there may be a different area or a state better suited for our outdoorsy type of lifestyle and we still dream of one day owning a small farm. We do miss our families and hope one day we will be able to visit them more, but thankfully we have technology to keep us in touch with one another. My reply now might appear the same to some, but it carries a different meaning. My husband or I no longer feel “stuck”. We’ve agreed to explore all opportunities that come our way and to view life with eyes and minds wide open. We’ve discovered by not doing so, you end up missing so much. We’ve agreed to be content, even if it means those opportunities lead us back right to where we are through to the end of our lives. We’ve agreed to be content in the life that we are given, here and now. We don’t know what tomorrow will hold, but we have today. We have today to be happy, to love, and to enjoy.

Viventem in momentos!

~ Veronica

Finding Your Happy Moment

Do you ever wake up grouchy for no reason? That was me today! I just oh-so-slightly resembled Oscar the Grouch, except I’m not green and don’t live in an aluminum trash can. Now that I think about it….maybe Oscar had a reason to be a little grouchy? Hmmm. Anyway, I decided to bake a cake. Baking usually cheers me up. I fumbled around through some notebooks for a recipe that I had written down. I recently discovered it on http://www.pinterest.com . It is very similar to a Depression Era (I LOVE old recipes!) cake recipe that I was looking at from another recipe site. I was intrigued by it because it called for no butter or eggs. It was so simple to make and baked in just 35 minutes. Soon the house filled with the aroma of chocolate. That sure was mood uplifting! Even better was that moist, dark chocolate-ty, sweet first bite, which was soon followed by a cool sip of fresh milk. I was not going to be rushed eating my piece of cake. I wanted to savor every single bite. By the time the last bite was finished and the last bit of powdered sugar had fallen on my plate, the days worries had disappeared and I was ready for whatever busyness and adventures my new day would hold.

Food is such a wonderful thing. It can lift moods, bring back fond memories of loved ones, educate us on ways of life, give comfort, express our emotions to friends or family, and bring people together.

I am so thankful for all the recipes that have been passed down throughout the years, and I’m especially thankful for the easy access we have here in the United States to such wonderful recipes. Do you have a favorite recipe? What are some things that you do that you know will bring you a happy moment (or two, or three…)?

I encourage you all to find those happy moments in life. Some days it’s harder to find them than other days, but they are always there. If you don’t know what your happy moment is, find it! If you do, find a little time in your day to enjoy it.

Viventem in Momento!

~ Veronica