Tag Archives: food

Farmhouse Christmases Past

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Several years ago, we stopped celebrating Christmas at Grandpa and Grandma’s farmhouse because they moved “to town” where they could have more help. The memories thirty Christmases before that are etched deeply in my memories. (OK, to be honest, I probably don’t actually remember the first two.)
When we drove through their tiny town and followed the curving highway out the other side, we would look across the empty fields to see the white barn. As kids, we always tried to be the first to shout, “I see the barn!” We would drive down the long gravel drive to park near the end of the sidewalk that led to the back door. As we unloaded food and gifts to carry them up the sidewalk, Grandpa would come out the door wearing his puffy warm vest over his work overalls and greet us with a loud “Merry Christmas!” and hugs at the top of the stairs. Sometimes we arrived and stayed several days before Christmas and some years we went only for the day, but the greeting was always the same.

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Things I Do When My Husband is Out of Town

"Hobbit" succulent

Last week, Brian went to a work-related conference for four days, so our dog, Cola, and I were home alone. I observed that my behavior and habits shift a bit when he is not around for several days. According to my observations, I am very productive when trying not to miss someone and I do not care about having a lot of variety in my meals. What do you do when your spouse (or roommate) is away?

  • Keep the doors locked unless I’m using them. Just in case a burglar knows I’m alone and tries to walk in.
  • Stick extra pillows on his side of the bed. The pillows are basically insulation because our bedroom is chilly at night.

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What I’m Into: December 2015

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This was the first Christmas that I was teaching college instead of working at the high school, so it was nice to have the longest break I have had since I graduated from college. As I told Brian, this was the best Christmas I have had since we got married. The first Christmas, I had a cold and then threw my back out by coughing too hard. The second Christmas, I had a cold that turned into a sinus infection and sent me to urgent care two days before Christmas (my mom also got the flu that year, so she and dad both missed out on our family celebration). This year, none of us were sick so everyone made it and seemed to enjoy our time together.

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Candy Cane Coffee Syrup Recipe

Homemade Coffee Flavoring Syrup Gift Set

I like my coffee dark and sweet, preferably with a flavor. As I have written before, I like to experiment with making my own flavoring syrups. Since I have accumulated several favorite recipes, I suggested to Brian that we make our own gift sets for family members we would see for Christmas. Although many of them do not drink coffee, the syrups are also good in tea, hot chocolate, cider, and steamers (hot milk with a flavor add-in).

Holiday Flavors

I posted the recipe for Cinnamon Stick Syrup a while ago and found the Gingerbread Syrup recipe on AllRecipes. I invented the Candy Cane Syrup recipe, which uses actual candy canes. I much prefer this recipe to peppermint syrups I tried using peppermint oil or peppermint leaves.

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What I’m Into: July 2015

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Travel 

We made a short trip to Wyoming at the beginning of July.

Products

Method Pink Grapefruit All Purpose Cleaner is marvelous for getting grease and gunk off my microwave, stove, and counters.

Harvey Prince Ageless Perfume smells like summer and grapefruit and is my new favorite scent. As I am writing this, I just realized I must be in some sort of grapefruit-scented phase… There are definitely worse phases, though!

Around the House

I was out of my usual powdered buttermilk when making waffles, so I turned to these buttermilk substitutes.

As a kid, I always made tartar sauce out of mayo, ketchup, and relish. This month, I decided to broaden my horizons and made “fancy” tartar sauce, using Ina Garten’s recipe. Brian and I both decided that it is worth keeping in on hand to garnish the various fish entrees we have once or twice a week.

This week, I learned that grease-cutting dish soap plus hot water can unclog a toilet that has a fat- or protein-based clog. I’m not sure that it would work on paper-based clogs.

Watching

On my DVR: Rizzoli & Isles, Stitchers, Girl Meets World, selections from a Harry Potter marathon, Descendants (haven’t watched that last one yet).

On Netflix: Trying Army Wives for the first time, re-enjoying NCIS Season 1.

Listening

Brian says I soundtrack my life and I tend to agree. Highlights from my current playlist of favorites are:
The Likes of Us, self-titled album
Tyrone Wells, Best Of Sampler (especially Sea Breeze!)
Dave Barnes, Hymns for Her

Favorite Reads from around the Web

According to the NYTimes quiz, I am a Thinking/Social introvert.

How many English words do you know? This quiz estimates my vocabulary to be around 29,400, which I think is a bit low.

Exercise

Our local dog park has become a favorite evening hangout spot for us. We first took Cola when she was a timid four-month-old and she hid under a picnic table most of the time. This summer she is a slightly bolder, fun-loving one-year-old who tries to befriend all the other dogs and convince them to run with her. Two of her favorite running buddies are a wiry Italian greyhound and a peppy terrier. The dog park has not only been good for Cola learning how to socialize with other dogs but also for interacting with humans.

In recent months, she has been scared of many strangers and some of our friends whether we meet them on walks or whether they come to our house.  Since the dog park is so very fun and distracting for her, she does not mind the people there and even seems to like our fellow regulars. Next, we will try to get her un-terrified of children! (She had a bad experience with a “scary” four-year-old boy.) Video of Cola playing at the park.

Dog Park Rules Dog Park

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Some affiliate links included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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What I’m Into: March 2015

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Techie
OverDrive was one of my new iOS apps this month. It was my first audiobook app and I am loving it. With OverDrive, I can check out free audiobooks and ebooks from my local library with my library card. When I check out an ebook, I can select the Kindle format and download the library book right from the Amazon website. I really, really like libraries and technology so this has been a highlight of my month!

Travel
During the second half of spring break, Brian and I traveled to visit his parents and mine for a couple days each. While we were in his hometown, we caught up with his sister and two cousins over delicious homemade tacos. In my hometown, we joined my parents’ Friday night college study and helped out with behind-the-scenes work for the wedding of a couple former students. It was a busy end to the week, but lots of fun!

Products
I tried Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice Tea from my mom’s collection while we were visiting and it is delightfully cinnamon-y and very sweet. To my surprise, some of our college students tried and raved about it, too!

Since I caught a rare sale on Tazo teas at my grocery store, I tried Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea. It tastes like an herbal version of Tang when it is hot, but I have enjoyed it most when I make it iced. (1 tea bag + 2 cups hot water for 10-15 minutes, then remove tea bag and pour over ice. Delicious!)

Entertainment
On Netflix: On the one-year anniversary of the series finale of Psych, I rewatched the last two episodes. That finale is one of my favorite series finales ever!

Around the House
Over spring break, Brian and I built Cola a sandbox. I jokingly called it “a life-sized Zen garden” because the more she digs there, the more “Zen” the rest of our yard will be.
 Our Life-sized Zen Garden

Reading 
I liked The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith because it supports and expands on the homemaking philosophy I try to cultivate: I am a perfectionist and my home is never perfect and I am not a perfect hostess. I have to make a conscious effort to not strive for perfection in my home or my “entertaining” because “perfect” does not feel welcoming or comfortable. Trying for “perfect” also really stresses me out.

I know, I know, how have I never read The Giver (Lois Lowry) before this month? I have known about it for decades and always intended to read it someday. When I first began trying out Overdrive, I saw the audiobook available for check-out and jumped at the chance. I liked the imaginative, detailed story of an unusual boy growing up in a dystopian, homogeneous society. My favorite part was the way the story unfolds primarily from the boy’s point of view, even though an adult reader can read between the lines and guess what may be coming.

I also used Overdrive to check out the eBook of Nowhere to Hide by Sigmund Brouwer. This is an engaging young adult mystery starring three teenaged boys whose cleverness gets them into and out of crisis after crisis. A prevailing question from the main character, King, “When is it okay to lie?” is also the theme of the plot. If you read it, keep in mind that almost every character lies at some point in the story.

Blog
I posted my opinion of Trello Gold after using it for almost a month.

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post. If you click through, any purchase you make supports this site.

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Lows & Highs: A Cold & A Christmas List

Welcome to Lows & Highs, a Stories from the Stairs weekly-ish feature! Feel free to join in by posting your lows and highs from the week in the comments or by posting a link to your own lows and highs blog post.


Lows & Highs: A Cold & A Christmas List

Low: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

I have had a cold with major congestion for the past six days. It has reminded me how much I enjoy being able to taste my food, breathe easily, and hear clearly.

High: My Grown-Up Christmas List

I am not stressed out about my “To-Do Before Christmas” list. Even though I have had less time and less energy (because of work and my cold, respectively), Brian has been working hard to help with tasks that I do not have to do myself. He has been grocery shopping, wrapping presents, helping with meals, and much more while I bake cookies and make other seasonal preparations.

What are a low and a high from your week?

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What I’m Into: November 2014

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Techie

The #FireworkPeople community has brought an uplifting, supportive tone to my Facebook and Twitter feeds. I have enjoyed meeting the other ladies as we participate in Twitter parties where we share how we would answer various discussion questions. Not one to miss out on an opportunity to encourage others, my mom has joined the group, too. I think this is more activity than her Twitter account has ever seen!

I know I have mentioned DesignLoveFest’s free wallpapers before, but these are new ones and I am into them this month! Naturally, my favorite is “But First, Coffee.” Which ones do you like?

Food

If you have not noticed, I am very much a hot drinks kind of girl! In November, I have been sipping almond milk hot chocolate with homemade chocolate syrup and sometimes candy cane syrup, too. I still make powdered hot chocolate for everyone else, so this dairy-free version is just for me.

Random Fun

Idina Menzel and Michael Buble’s duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” made much less creepy by changing the lyrics and having two adorable child actors lip sync them.

Entertainment

On Netflix: I got hooked on Bletchley Circle and then found out the show ended after only seven episodes! It is a smart mystery drama about four women who worked in code-breaking during WWII and, in post-war Britain, they stumble into solving mysteries that stump law enforcement.

Speaking of Idina, her Christmas album Holiday Wishes has been a fun treat, but I have only been listening for the past few days!

Reading

I finished the predictable but sweet Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay. Now I am reading Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and Along Came a Wolf (The Yellow Hoods, #1) by Adam Dreece.

What are you into this month?

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

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What I’m Into: October 2014

Techie

I finally got around to setting up custom typing shortcuts on my iPhone. They are marvelous for reducing the amount of typing I have to do!


DesignLoveFest has had some creatively artistic wallpapers lately that I’ve downloaded to use on my phone and computers.


I started a series this month, Abby’s Apps, about my favorite apps as part of 31 Days but did not post every day because things got hectic.
Reviews of iOS Apps | Abby's Apps at StairStories.com #31Days

Clothes

I made a purse! Okay, it is really more like I re-made a purse but I am very happy with the finished result. It originally weighed over two pounds – when it was completely empty! The new purse weighs a bit less than one pound. Now that is a healthy “diet.”

Purse Re-fashion | StairStories.comPurse Re-fashion | StairStories.com Purse Re-fashion | StairStories.com

I also made my costume for Halloween, which did not take any sewing, but involved lots of cutting and painting. We ordered Brian’s online because making it would have been outside the realm of my limited sewing skills. When it arrived, though, the costume fit uncomfortably and I spent an evening altering it anyway. Still, it was much easier than making the whole thing from scratch! If you are curious about our costumes, I will post photos on Twitter and Instagram tonight (Halloween night). We will be handing out popcorn at the college’s costume dance party and have refused to tell our students until then.

Food

We tried a frittata for the first time and it was a delicious way to use up some leftovers. with whole wheat spaghetti, ground turkey, baby ‘bella mushrooms, broccoli, and scallions.


Big batches of cinnamon syrup and gingerbread syrup always make coffee taste like fall to me!


I have been making apple chips for my snacks… and Cola’s. I read that dried apples make nice, healthy dog treats and store-bought treats concern me with what seems like a lack of quality control. Brian refuses to share my apple chip snacks because he thinks it is weird and gross that I make the same exact snack food for myself and our dog. What do you think?


Semi-homemade apple-cinnamon crescent rolls (of my own invented recipe) are a fast fall side dish or dessert.
Apple-Cinnamon Crescent Roll | StairStories.com

Watching

On TV: NCIS: LA has certainly had some fun twists this month! I will not give anything away but have enjoyed seeing more of Nell and Hetty’s character development. I am also enjoying Scorpion, about a team of almost antisocial geniuses who form a tight-knit group and end up working as government problem-solvers.

On Youtube: Consumer Reports channel, especially their “What to Get… & Forget” series. I also loved this sweet story that happens to be a scotch ad.


Friends

We held our Second Annual Classic Mystery Movie Night at Howe House this month. The Campus Christian Fellowship students come and bring friends for snacks and a movie that was probably made before I was born. The movie selection for the evening is never announced ahead of time because whoever is there at the beginning of the party gets to choose by consensus from the movies we provide. (This gets quite a few of them there “on time!”) This year, the three people who were at the previous Classic Mystery Movie Night wanted to watch Charade again and none of the others had seen it or had objections. Our CMMN may turn into an annual showing of Charade at this rate!
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Two of our college students decided to be baptized this month!
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We had twelve people eating pasta around our table for Sunday lunch last weekend but it was so crazy that I forgot to take a photo.


Around the House

Our adorable and [sometimes annoyingly] energetic pup is five months old now and has developed a bolder demeanor we are trying to train. We encourage chasing squirrels and rabbits out of the yard and discourage eating the tomatoes, tomato vines, and various other “people possessions.” We encourage making new friends and discourage jumping on people or furniture.
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Brian and I replaced the gutters along the front of our house so now there will not be a waterfall directly over the front door every time it rains. I really liked getting to climb up the ladder and use the drill to mount brackets while Brian handed me supplies. Even before our wedding, we agreed that I would get to do most ladder-climbing tasks because I enjoy it and Brian does not.

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What have you been into lately?


I am linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into lately.

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Science Mom’s Hot Chocolate Mix

If you have been reading Stories on the Stairs for long, you know I grew up with a Science Mom who loves to experiment and try new things. When she decided to make her own hot chocolate mix, she researched by reading various recipes. Next, she set up a double-blind taste test where the rest of the family tasted, evaluated, and rated samples of different recipes. Imagine kids describing flavors:

“I like this one because it’s more chocolaty.”

“This one is creamy and vanilla-y.”

I still use the recipe that won our family taste test. Last Sunday, some of “our” college students came for lunch and had hot chocolate for dessert… but then we ran out of hot chocolate mix! Conveniently, I had enough ingredients to make more mix. The girls watched, asked questions, and even helped add ingredients. They were so impressed that they asked me to share the recipe on my blog.

Hot Chocolate

Science Mom’s Hot Chocolate Mix

(This recipe too big for my largest mixing bowl, so I make half at a time)

Enough powdered milk to make 8 qt.
30 oz Nestlé’s Quik
16 oz. powdered sugar
18 oz. extra rich powdered coffee creamer
8 oz. French vanilla powdered creamer
3/4 cup cocoa

Mix the all ingredients and store in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Use 1/3 cup mix in a cup of hot water. Use more for a larger cup. Top with whipped cream or marshmallows. Enjoy!

If you have requests for anything (not just recipes) you would like me to share, let me know and I will consider them.

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