Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Party

We recently invited my husband's office staff to an Appetizers and Desserts Buffet at our house. This was great incentive to decorate and clean the house and get set for the season!

We strung lights above the front porch, and even our cooktop was decorated with salt & pepper Santas. We hadn't decorated this much in years, and once it was done, I was caught up in the holiday spirit.

While iPhone photos are not the best quality, especially at night, I tried to capture the essence of the party tables. I set up the dining room and the kitchen with an assortment of desserts and appetizers. Where did the guests congregate? In the kitchen of course, but I failed to get a photo of the goodies in there.I used a combination of red paper plates and my Pfaltzgraff Winterberry pottery; but best of all was having an excuse to use the Christmas crystal platters and bowls that I have accumulated and especially those given to me by my Mother in years past. Each cherished item that I took from the china cabinet was greeted with delight. Mom gave me the red tablecloth and teal runner that adorned the dining room table, and I carried that color theme throughout the house.

I had fun making way too much food and have already started notes for next year. I based my menu on these adapted recipes:

Cranberry Manchego Cheese Pinwheels
Mini Ham & Cheese on Hawaiian Rolls
Swedish Meatballs
Jalapeno Popper Spread with bagel crisps
Ranch dip with baby carrots
Salsa with tortilla chips
Hot Crab Dip
Maple Glazed Apple Chicken Sausage Bites

Fantasy Chocolate Pie
Fudge Truffle Cheesecake
Pretzel Turtles
Drop Sugar Cookies with Candy Cane Kisses
Gingerbread Truffles

I served fruit punch in this dispenser from World Market.

I hope everyone had a very happy Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

OU Alumni

Our little girl graduated from the University of Oklahoma on Saturday with a degree (and a 3.5+ GPA) in Criminal Justice. Way to go, Jenni!

It was a proud moment for all of her family, as her dream of a college degree was finally realized.

Convocation was in the stunning Catlett Music Center on OU's beautiful campus in Soonerland--Norman, Oklahoma.

A quick handshake and photo with Dr. James Pappas, Dean of the College of Liberal Studies, and the diploma!

Congratulations to the new Oklahoma University Alumni!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Magnitude 4.3 OKLAHOMA
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 14:06:29 UTC

At 9:06 AM CDT this morning, I experienced my first earthquake. Yes, here in central Oklahoma! At first I thought something huge had hit our roof, and it felt like the house moved sideways. My second thought was that it was an earthquake, because it felt different than anything I had ever felt. I immediately sent this message to my husband "Wow I think I might have just felt an earthquake or blast of some kind--it shook the house!!! I accessed the USGS (US Geological Survey), but there was no information there or on local news for about 20 minutes.

The earthquake was either 4.3, according to the USGS, or 5.1, according to the Oklahoma GS.

If you visit the website of the Oklahoma Geological Survey and click on "Earthquakes", you are directed to the Leonard Geophysical Observatory, which is located near my hometown. According to the Preliminary Earthquake Report on that website,
This earthquake was located 5 miles ENE of Noble, OK and 8 miles SE of Norman, OK at latitude 35.164 N and longitude 97.316 W. The best estimate of the earthquakes depth is 13 km (8 miles). Felt reports have ranged from Dallas, TX to Wichita, KS and as far east as Arkansas. No aftershocks have been observed as of 5 PM on Oct. 13, but aftershocks are quite likely and some may be felt by local residents. This earthquake did not occur on a known fault, but there are more faults in the rocks in the subsurface of Oklahoma than we could possibly count.

The USGS reported a moment magnitude (Mw) 4.3 and the Oklahoma Geological Survey reported a magnitude (mbLg) of 5.1. So which one is right? They both are, these are two different estimates of an earthquake’s size. They are two common seismological methods for determining the size, or magnitude, of an earthquake, which cannot be measured directly. They often have discrepancies similar to those that we are seeing for this earthquake. It is entirely possible that the magnitude estimates will change over time as further work is done to measure the size of the earthquake. Whether it is a magnitude 4.3, magnitude 5.1, or something in between, it is still a small to moderate sized earthquake. This also makes this earthquake the second or third largest instrumentally recorded earthquake in Oklahoma. Earthquakes of this size have the potential of occurring almost anywhere in Oklahoma at any time.
How ironic that in spite of several trips to California in my lifetime, my first earthquake experience was in Oklahoma.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Beautiful Mother - 1912 - 2010

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.
~Abraham Lincoln

Ruby Maude Mitchell Lawhorn Hopkins
July 31, 1912 - September 19, 2010

This older post is a reminder to me of my Mother's kitchen--the wonderful kitchen of my childhood.
~ What a brave soul she was, still trying to make each day count in the face of a debilitating illness.
~ What a magnificent life she led.
~ What a great amount of love she bestowed.
~ What a privilege to be loved by her.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Desperate Yard Crashers Update

On the last update, our flagstone had been laid, new furniture put into place, and lovely plants strategically placed. The plants have long since burned up, thanks to a long hot Oklahoma summer that has put just a few kinks in the backyard project. Although we did get a beautiful pergola finished, it has been like an oven outside, even in the evenings, so we have not had enough opportunity to enjoy it to the fullest.

However, we did get our first break in the plus 100 temperatures yesterday, and last night it actually rained! Here are some photos of our latest addition.

Just for fun, I'll start with the photo from last year of the "blank slate".

Here is the finished flagstone last November.

And here is the new pergola, partially built by our lawn guys and finished by my talented hubby.

We removed the railing from our existing deck and added a step-down deck. The railing was recycled by installing it for privacy on the back side of the pergola.

I planted wisteria at the far corners of the pergola and hope it will eventually cover it with gorgeous spring blooms!

Hubby dug out and mulched an area for me to have a patio garden. We had a puny Rose of Sharon already in place that has flourished with the company of caladiums, lantana, and mandevilla.

A couple of patio plants are also flourishing. I think the pergola allows the perfect amount of sun and shade.

Hubby's vision of grass between the flagstone is coming along nicely; the fescue has suffered somewhat from the heat, but when cooler temps are finally here to stay, this area should be lush. Hibiscus in a pot has bloomed all summer. Next to the fence, an area of fescue that has not fared well.

The firepit has not been used this summer, but I am anticipating fall evenings with a toasty fire and s'mores!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Better Than Sausage Balls

This is one of those twists to an old recipe that happened to turn out better than the original. I had the ingredients for one of our old favorite snacks, Sausage Balls--the one that has Bisquick as a main ingredient. In light of my daughter's recent post on eating more cleanly, I decided to use more natural ingredients--at least for the biscuit part! I used the sausage I had on hand, which happened to be Jimmy Dean, and it does have a couple of suspect ingredients. I have tried to make my own sausage, but I have not found the perfect recipe.

I combined parts of my old recipe for Sausage Balls from 1972 (which is when I first started making sausage balls) and Homesick Texan's flaky and delicious biscuit recipe. My most esteemed sausage ball critic, my hubby, declared these better than the original and told me I could make them for him any time! I liked them better too, especially the crunch of the little browned bits of cheese and the tenderness of the biscuit.

Sausage Balls
2 or 3 cups cubed cheese (the original recipe calls for Coon's Brand Cheese, which I cannot find anymore. I used a combination of cheddar, Manchego, and Pepper Jack)
8 oz sausage (the original recipe calls for 1 pound)
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed

Place flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in bowl of a food processor; add butter and process until the size of small peas; set aside. Melt cheese, either in microwave or over low heat in pan on stove; remove from heat add sausage, and mix thoroughly. Add flour mixture and mix with hands until mixture holds together. Form into 1 inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 oven about 20 minutes or until golden brown. These flatten out slightly and look more like a puffy cookie, instead of the typical ball. I sprinkled a tiny bit of sea salt of the tops after they baked.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mother's Day Goodies

I had a wonderful Mother's Day. My 2 year old peony bush finally decided to bloom, and the fragrance and color were amazing--nature's Mother's Day gift to me. My grown children make every single day Mother's Day for me. My daughter surprised me by showing up to help me clean up after a morning cater and also brought me her addictive Ritz Blitz Cracker Cookies. My son sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers and called to wish me a happy day.

I ate way too many of these. The chocolate/peanut butter/crunchy combo is just irresistible.

Hoops & YoYo--my favorite cards! My daughter knows that they make me laugh out loud.

Not only were the flowers gorgeous, but I love the etched purple vase in which they arrived.

Now the vase contains silk lavendar and resides in my foyer.

And of course my youngest "child", Buddy, thinks he is the greatest gift of all.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp

If a ferocious hail storm, dozens of state-wide tornadoes, funnel clouds and sirens weren't convincing, the fresh vegetables and fruits available this month at the Oklahoma Food Coop made it clear that spring has come to Oklahoma. Peach Crest Farm, a certified organic farm, offered rhubarb and strawberries. Having little experience with rhubarb, I was curious to see what all the fuss is about. Using a recipe from my trusty old Betty Crocker cookbook as a guide, I combined it with the strawberries, which were red and juicy and magnificent.

As I diced the rhubarb, I tasted a bite of it--it was crisp and mouth-puckeringly tart. I was surprised at how tender it became when baked. The fusion of sweet strawberries with tart rhubarb and cinnamon streusel topping was luscious. I loved the combination so much that I would like to grow rhubarb and strawberries in my garden next year!

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp
adapted from an old Betty Crocker recipe

1 cup chopped fresh rhubarb
2 cups halved fresh strawberries
(or use any combination to make 3-4 cups of fruit)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Toss fruit and vanilla and place in 8 X 8 inch or 11 X 7 inch baking pan sprayed with baking spray.

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) salted butter

Place flour, sugars, cinnamon, and butter in food processor and process until mixture starts to clump together. Sprinkle mixture evenly over fruit.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until top is browned and fruit is bubbling up through the topping.

My 97 year-old Mom told me that Granny used to grow rhubarb and mix it with apples from her Missouri orchard to make a delicious pie or cobbler. I would love to try that combination next time.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Handmade Glycerin Soaps and a Necklace

I just love these fragrant, jewel-tone soaps handmade by my beautiful daughter, who surprised me with them on Valentine's Day. She crafted them from items purchased at Hobby Lobby including molds, glycerin, fragrance, and dye.

It will be difficult for me to actually use these translucent soaps, which I prefer to show off in a clear irridescent carnival glass dish.

She also fashioned a necklace for me with a bead of my favorite color and a lovely silver chain. I believe the style is called "pandora", but I know very little about beads. I just know I love it!

Thank you Little Girl!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow and Chocolate

Yesterday most of Oklahoma was blanketed with at least 6 inches of snow on top of an inch of ice that covered surfaces the day before. Along with the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 2009, there has been a bumper crop of snow and ice this winter.

There is something about cold weather and being snowed in that creates within me a craving for chocolate. An online search for a chocolate cake yielded Tish Boyle's Diner Desserts and a recipe for Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake. This recipe, with the addition of brown sugar, cocoa, sour cream, and ice water, is nicely crumbed and moist and has that perfect balance of sweet and chocolate that appeased my craving for chocolate but brought a new addiction of its own.
The. best. chocolate. cake. I. have. ever. baked.

Now I am on the hunt for a copy of Diner Desserts, which is out of print. I did make minor modifications to the recipe, which I have noted below, and I made a scaled-down version of this cocoa-based frosting from instead of the Fudge Frosting listed with the original recipe.

Chocolate Fudge Layer Cake
modified from the original by Tish Boyle

2-2/3 cups unbleached flour
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream, room temperature (I used yogurt from a local dairy
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1/2 cup corn oil (I used canola oil)
1-1/4 cups ice water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter bottom and sides of two 8-inch round cake pans. Dust pans with flour and tap out excess.

In medium bowl, sift together and then whisk flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, use paddle attachment (or beaters) on low speed to beat melted butter and oil till blended. Beat in water. Add dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed about 1 minute, till blended. Scrape down sides of bowl and add egg mixture; mix about 1 minute, till blended. Scrape batter into pans.

Bake about 50-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes, then invert onto racks and cool completely.

Frost cake with your favorite chocolate frosting.