Free Knitting Pattern Suede Poncho!

Happy Beautiful Winter Day!

I have been asked to share one of my favorite knitting patters — I made it with brown suede yarn and after about 8 years — I am still wearing and loving it!

Enjoy!

 

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Sharing Best Cinnamon Rolls Recipe and other favorite recipes

I am feeling especially blessed this Christmas…

my daughter is home safely from a semester in Paris,

my oldest son will be staying with us Christmas Eve

and my second son is home from his Senior year in college;

I am also grateful to the wonderful couple who responded to my plea on Facebook’s Duxbury Helping Duxbury

for alternate accommodations as our home renovation project is far from finished and offered their small cottage which is just a mile from our home. So this will be a happy, cozy cottage Christmas for us.

I am so grateful for my large extended family and a recent wedding in Woodstock, Vermont that brought us all together!  And I am grateful for friends both near and far, and the support and encouragement and love extended to me to continue with Andi’s People — who are a big part of my life!  Thank you all!

I have recently returned to writing for our local paper, the Duxbury Clipper and thought I’d share a collection of my recently published favorite Christmas recipes — including the Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls — once you’ve tried these, there will be no need to sample other recipes!  As I write, the dough is rising!

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Christmas Recipes

Contributed by Anne Dargin Schroeder

Feta & Lemon Dip

(from Sweet Paul Eat and Make Cookbook)

This is the simplest, most delicious quick and easy appetizer, and the most commonly requested! I discovered Sweet Paul’s blog a few years ago and love his creative style

and good healthy recipes.

7 oz. feta cheese (about 1 cup) crumbled

1 tbsp grated lemon zest (I skip this!)

1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (I use an old-fashioned glass lemon press)

1 garlic clove, minced

6 tbsp olive oil

pinch of red pepper flakes

The simplest way to make this is to put the feta, garlic clove,

and lemon juice in a food processor; while pureeing, add olive oil

to desired creamy consistency.

To serve, put in small bowl, drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle

with pinch of red pepper flakes.

Serve with whole wheat crackers and/or veggies. You WILL love this!

Bootlegger’s Beef

Bon Appetit February 1996

Beef Tenderloin was a Christmas Eve tradition in my husband’s family. A long-time devotee of Bon Appetit, I found this recipe in 1996 and have made it several times for both Christmas and New Year’s…it is divine! One note I wrote was to make more gravy.

  • 1 2-pound butt-end beef tenderloin roast, well trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup canned beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Canadian whisky
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely crushed black peppercorns

Preheat oven to 400°F. Pat beef tenderloin dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add beef to skillet and cook until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Add chopped onions, carrots and thyme to skillet.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast beef until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 120°F for rare, stirring vegetables occasionally, about 30 minutes. Transfer beef to platter. Tent with foil to keep warm.

Place skillet with vegetables over medium-high heat. Add canned beef broth and whisky and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until liquid is reduced to 2/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Strain sauce and return to skillet.

Mix flour and butter in small bowl until smooth paste forms. Add to sauce in skillet and whisk until well blended. Add whipping cream, crushed black peppercorns and any accumulated juices from beef. Simmer over medium heat until sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt.

Cut beef into thick slices and arrange on platter. Spoon sauce over.

Cinnamon Rolls

The Pioneer Woman Blog

My husband’s loves cinnamon rolls so I have made cinnamon rolls for years for occasional Father’s Day and Christmas, experimenting with different recipes. Once I tried this recipe, I never tried another! They are decadent and amazing! The recipe makes enough to fill several round aluminum foil containers for Christmas gifts as well! Cinnamon rolls can be refrigerated for a week or frozen before baking…just bring to room temperature and allow to rise and follow directions for baking.

ROLLS:

1 quart (4 cups) whole milk, warmed

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast (a total of 4 and 1/2 teaspoons of yeast)

8 cups (plus 1 cup extra, separated) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder

1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda

1 tablespoon (heaping) salt

plenty of melted butter (2 to 3 sticks…at least)

2 cups sugar

generous sprinkling of cinnamon (nearly an entire 2.37 oz. container)

FROSTING:

1 bag powdered sugar

2 teaspoons maple flavoring

½ cup milk

¼ cup melted butter

¼ cup brewed coffee

⅛ teaspoon salt

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan (LARGE POT). Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.

Shortbread Stars with Chocolate Glaze

(from Duxbury Clipper December 16, 1996)

This recipe is from the ‘favorite recipe’ section of my Christmas binder — I love this recipe —

and my children helped make them as far back as pre-school for teachers! And what a coincidence that this recipe is originally from the Clipper!

1 1/2 c. butter, softened

1 c. powdered sugar

1 tbsp vanilla

3 c. all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using an electric mixer at medium speed blend butter

until smooth in a large mixing bowl. Slowly blend in powdered sugar. Scrape down

sides of bowl and add vanilla; combine thoroughly.

Add flour and combine at slow

speed until well-blended. Divide dough into two equal portions. Flatten into discs

and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

On a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll each disc to 1/8 “ inch thickness.

Turn dough if necessary to prevent sticking.

Cut cookies with a 2-inch star cookie cutter. Bake on un-greased cookie sheet (parchment

is best) for 15 to 18 minutes; do not let cookies brown. Transfer cookies immediately

to cooling rack.

Chocolate Glaze:

1/4 c. heavy cream

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

2 tsp. light corn syrup

Heat cream in small saucepan until scalded, then remove from heat. Stir in chocolate

chips and corn syrup, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Stir gently with wire whisk.

Frost cookies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Gingerbread Advent Garland!

I wish I had taken a photo all those years of the cut-out gingerbread men garland I had strung across the bay windows of not one house, but I think the past three!  When we moved (for the last time) almost six years ago,  I passed the carefully

packaged gingerbread men with the ribbon on to my niece with young children.  Here is the story recently published in the Duxbury Clipper.  Easy to make.  DIY!

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Gingerbread Men 25 Days ‘til Christmas Garland

by Anne Dargin Schroeder

It was always one of the first three Christmas decorations to bring down from the attic…

the carefully packaged Gingerbread Men Christmas Garland, the wooden nativity set crafted by my husband’s brother, David, and the hanging sleighbells original to a sleigh somewhere in Minnesota, one of my Texas finds.

The Gingerbread Man Christmas Garland is a simple home-made Advent Calendar.  This simple family tradition of counting the days ‘til Christmas provided joy-filled and memorable activities written on the inside of each day’s paper cut-out – 25 of which were hung playfully across a narrow red ribbon that extended from the outer edges of our wide kitchen window.

Each day in December one paper gingerbread man is removed from the ribboned garland and carefully set aside until next year.

My children still remember their delight in coming down to the kitchen each morning in December and gazing up at the numbered gingerbread men – until being reminded whose turn it was to open the one for that day.  I’m not sure when I first started the tradition, but I learned a few lessons along the way which I will share.

The gingerbread men are simply made out of folded brown grocery bags.  Use your own template/cookie cutter or the one provided.  Using the fold of a brown grocery bag, trace the gingerbread man shape so that the front and back will be connected at the top of the head.  It is helpful to ensure that all sides of the brown paper are blank.  Make 25.  On the front of each, number from 1 – 25.  Hang a narrow festive-colored ribbon across preferably two or three joined windows.  Next, work on listing each day’s special event (keep a reminder!) and when ready, print the activity on the inside and hang up evenly spaced across the ribbon.

Christmas activities can be as simple as ‘eat a candy cane.’  It took me one Christmas season to realize that it is helpful to coordinate with the busy holiday calendar when choosing activities.  In other words, it’s probably not a good idea for the day’s activity to be ‘make hand-stamped wrapping paper’ or ‘make Christmas cookies’ when the afternoon is packed and there’s a Holiday Concert in the evening.  We incorporated our special-planned-ahead family events such as ‘go to Christmas Pops with Grammy & Grampy and Grandma and Grandpa, and kept some days simple with ‘go for a drive to see Christmas lights’ and ‘watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  When all 25 activites are written on the inside, fold each gingerbread man over the ribbon and dab a bit of glue on the bottom to secure each closed.

Some years, we were able to repeat events without making many changes to the inside.

Other years, I would simple cut out a square piece of brown grocery bag, write the new activity, and glue down to the inside on top of the previous activity.

We all had our favorites.  Mine was ‘sleep under the Christmas tree’.  I still think of that sweet tradition when we bundled up in our sleeping bags under the illuminated tree…when magic was more important than comfort.

 

DIY Gingerbread Man Christmas Garland

It was always one of the first three Christmas decorations to bring down from the attic…

the carefully packaged Gingerbread Men Christmas Garland, the wooden nativity set crafted by my husband’s brother, David, and the hanging sleighbells original to a sleigh somewhere in Minnesota, one of my Texas finds.

The Gingerbread Man Christmas Garland is a simple home-made Advent Calendar. 

I loved the simplicity of it and it was one way to keep my children excited about the Christmas season knowing that each day they would open the folded over gingerbread man to find a surprise activity written on the inside of each day’s paper cut-out – 25 of which were hung playfully across a narrow red ribbon that extended from the outer edges of our wide kitchen window.

Each day in December one paper gingerbread man is removed from the ribboned garland and carefully set aside until next year.

My children still remember their delight in coming down to the kitchen each morning in December and gazing up at the numbered gingerbread men – until being reminded whose turn it was to open the one for that day.  I’m not sure when I first started the tradition, but I learned a few lessons along the way which I will share.

The gingerbread men are simply made out of folded brown grocery bags.  Using the fold of a brown grocery bag, trace a gingerbread man cookie cutter so that the front and back will be connected at the top of the head.  It is helpful to ensure that all sides of the brown paper are blank.  Make 25.  On the front of each, number from 1 – 25.  Hang a narrow festive-colored ribbon across preferably two or three joined windows.  Next, work on listing each day’s special event (keep a reminder!) and when ready, print the activity on the inside and hang up evenly spaced across the ribbon. 

Christmas activities can be as simple as ‘eat a candy cane.’  It took me one Christmas season to realize that it is helpful to coordinate with the busy holiday calendar when choosing activities.  In other words, it’s probably not a good idea for the day’s activity to be ‘make hand-stamped wrapping paper’ or ‘make Christmas cookies’ when the afternoon is packed and there’s a Holiday Concert in the evening.  We incorporated our special-planned-ahead family events such as ‘go to Christmas Pops with Grammy & Grampy and Grandma and Grandpa, and kept some days simple with ‘go for a drive to see Christmas lights’ and ‘watch “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  When all 25 activites are written on the inside, fold each gingerbread man over the ribbon and dab a bit of glue on the bottom to secure each closed.

Some years, we were able to repeat events without making many changes to the inside.

Other years, I would simple cut out a square piece of brown grocery bag, and glue downto the inside on top of the previous activity.

We all had our favorites.  Mine was ‘sleep under the Christmas tree’.  I still think of that sweet tradition when we bundled up in our sleeping bags under the illuminated tree…when magic was more important than comfort.

Best Summer Books I’ve Read Lately

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio is still one of my favorite books — I read it last summer and want to read it again!  And I hardly ever read a book twice…except for classic favorites like

Jane Eyre, The Awakening, and Little Women.  Comfort books.

MorningGlory

Morning Glory takes me back to the early 90’s when newly married and working in Sales for Hilton Hotel in Arlington, TX.

I attended a meeting in Seattle, WA, but instead of staying at the designated hotel, my friend Andrea suggested that I stay at her houseboat on Lake Union.  I will never forget waking to the seagulls, the cozy flannel sheets, the warm terry cloth bathrobe and the stack of books Andrea had left for me.  I want to go back.

Morning Glory is a story about a houseboat community on Lake Union and a romance mystery masterfully told.

I have also rediscovered Jeffrey Archer this past year.  In the 80’s one of the widely read books was Archer’s Kane and Abel.

Last summer I read three books in the Clifton Chronicle Series and waited until February Screen shot 2015-07-30 at 9.26.48 AMwhen the fourth and final novel in the series was published.  Archer weaves a multi-generational saga that follows the Clifton and Barrington families from 1920 to the present and takes place in Bristol, England.  Archer’s signature style is to end with a ‘cliff-hanger’ — so it was quite a wait for the final novel in the series!

Two more must-reads by Archer are A Prisoner of  Birth and Paths of Glory.  A Prisoner of Birth is an unforgettable page-turner about an unfortunate event that forever changes the life of aScreen shot 2015-07-30 at 9.46.41 AMScreen shot 2015-07-30 at 9.45.27 AM young, newly engaged man — with endearing characters and powerfully written.

When the body of George Mallory was found near the top of Mount Everest in 1999, having been last seen 600 feet from the top, the question arose as to whether he had been the first to reach the summit.  Paths of Glory is George Mallory’s story.

Another great summer novel is The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  With humor, romance and suspense, this novel follows the life of a quiet bookstore owner experiencing lower than normal book sales and his life changes suddenly and significantly when an unexpected ‘package’ appears.Screen shot 2015-07-30 at 9.33.37 AM

Currently, I am reading Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers.  Powerful and unforgettable;

and The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (author of The Red Tent).  Fascinating story about a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston’s North End in the 1920’s.

Added bonus:  Anita Diamant will be appearing at Duxbury Free Library next Wednesday, August 5 at 7pm!

booksx3Next book for me?  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, another author who doesn’t disappoint.  I have read most of her books — perfect for the beach!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Five Questions

1.  What makes you happy?

Sunshine, the beach, jogging 3 miles, a bike ride, a fun

knitting project, cooking healthy meals, and Andi’s People, still, after all these years!

2  Which talent would you most like to have?

Discipline to write more and not worry so much about

perfection.

3.  Which words or phrases do you overuse most?

very cool.

4.  What is your favorite movie, book or both?

Baby Boomer (movie), The Awakening (book), Jayne Eire (both), Cinderella with Leslie Ann Warren (movie).

5.  If you could go anywhere in the world for a creative retreat where might it be?

Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Lanai or Hana, Maui —

I would also love to go back to Lake Union in Seattle

and stay on a houseboat again!

The Christmas Hamster

meChristmas

It was such a simple request. A simple gift. It was the gift that saved Christmas….

My son Ryan wanted a hamster. The idea had made me cringe. I imagined the creepy-crawly mice that my childhood cat, Tracy, smuggled into our house when I was young … the captured victims that he would delight in pawing up to the highest point on the slanted dining room table leg and watch slide down. Over and over. Until the body lay limp from fright, exhaustion, or lack of gentle handling.

But Ryan wanted a hamster. And when your sweet 8-year-old gives you that dreamy-blue-eyed and long-lashed-mommy-can-I-please-have-a-hamster look that reminds you of the day he was born, what can you do?

We had tickets to see “The Nutcracker” in Boston on Christmas Eve. Ryan, Ben, Emma and I picked up Grampy. My husband was away and would be home late Christmas Day. Creating the magic of Christmas for our children was mine alone.

Anticipation was also weighted with exhaustion. This particular Christmas I had knitted an it-took-me-a-year-but-I-did-it-XL Irish-knit cardigan for my father, a green-and-white-reindeer sweater for my niece Sarah, my husband, Jim’s Norwegian sweater and wrapped the various gifts for my extended family.

Prior to meeting my sister and her family at the theatre, I called my neighbors. Ever the c’mon-over-for-dinner-kind of neighbors, Raymond said, “Of course I’ll pick up Ryan’s hamster!”

As I drove back to the suburbs from Boston, the chills began. I fought the body aches while putting Ryan, 6-year-old Ben, and 4-year-old Emma to bed after reading one of their favorites, “The Texas Night Before Christmas”. Then I collapsed on the couch downstairs in the living room and thought about the presents hidden in the basement. Many still unwrapped. Separated by child into sacks. I couldn’t imagine how I would find the strength to go down to the basement and retrieve the gifts. And wrap them, too. Maybe a bow would suffice for Emma’s used skis we had gotten at Sportsworks..

I heard a quiet knock. Dragging myself to the kitchen door, I opened it to find Raymond toting Ryan’s caged snowball-white hamster looking questioningly with pink beady eyes. I remember mumbling my sincere appreciation and something about feeling feverish, with presents yet to wrap.   Thoughts ran through my mind…who do you call on Christmas Eve…everyone I knew including my sisters were busy with their own families….

I must have looked especially pallid and pasty-white because not long after that, I awoke to see Lisa standing in front of me with her mother. “You need to go to bed”, Lisa had said so kindly. ‘Go upstairs and take a warm bath. We will take care of everything.’

Tears began to stream down my expressionless face, and still do even now as I recall the Christmas I realized there is a Santa and the spirit of Christmas is real. I stared in disbelief. ‘There really is a Santa,’ was all I remember saying to Lisa and her mother before I climbed the stairs.

The next morning, I shared in my children’s experience of Christmas magic and ‘Santa’s visit’, silently nodding next door with so much love and thanks in my heart.

Which didn’t end there. Still unwell, at lunchtime, dinner arrived.

Two weeks later, my sweet Ryan turned nine. He said, ‘Mommy, for my birthday will you hold Snowball?’ What could I say? From that night on, I never went to bed before cradling sweet-Christmas-saving Snowball in my cupped hands and whispering good night.

 

Happy Birthday Poems…When did it start?

I don’t remember how old my children were when I wrote the first ”birthday poem”. I do remember that they were young enough that they danced excitedly around me as a birthday approached and asked, ”Mommy, are you going to write the birthday letter?”

The “letter” was the birthday poem that I wrote, sometimes as a weary, blurry-eyed mom at about midnight, using every last second to compose a poem recalling the birthday child”s year, and hang it from dangling ribbon fastened to the ceiling above the birthday child”s bed.

Just this morning, my oldest son, Ryan, asked me to find and email to him a photo of him and his brother, Ben, whose birthday is today.

So I ventured up to the attic and pulled out Ben’s blue accordian file folder and began the melancholy path down the proverbial memory lane. I say that because now that my children are in college (and one a graduate), I”m still getting used to my empty house.

BenMothersDayPoem325-copy-761x1024I found a couple of photos for Ryan — and I found a couple of ”gifts” as well.

It seems our stories and actions do get noticed and heard by young eyes and ears.

I found the poem Ben wrote to me Mother’s Day 2005.

And, tearily, I found the essay he wrote the same year about my deceased brother Paul, entitled “My Hero”.

Both of these, penned by Ben nine years ago, I share here, as well as his newest poem/collage (the collage first) — which had to be emailed to my study-abroad-son in Vietnam.

Happy 21st Birthday, Ben! You make my heart smile.

You’re like a like a lion and like a lamb

My son my child you have become a man 

Heart of passion, heart of gold

Playful spirit, strong and bold 

Adventures call and you respond —

Pack your bag and take challenges on 

Saigon streets I walked with you

Your confident spirit shining through 

We look with awe at what you’ve done —

Another man, another student would turn and run! 

You’ve made us so proud and continue each day

So grateful we feel and for your safety we pray 

On this your birthday — twenty-one!

Be joyful, be proud — you are one of ONE! 

We love you so much our hearts do swell

With so much pride I think you can tell!

My Ben, be safe in all that you do

Know that God is always watching over you

I count the days til December twenty

–On that day celebration will be plenty!

When you, our second son returns to us

–Our Christmas gift — we’ll be so joyous! 

So spread your wings, this adventure devour–

Enjoy each second, each minute, each hour!

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Scituate Memories

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Remembering…

Painted wooden rockers

Soldiered on the wrap-around porch

Glider round the corner,

Relief found from the summer scorch!

Wide-leafed, bold-striped hostas

Climbing purple wisps

Summer breezes set them dancing

Dandelions blown from curled up lips

Passing cars in colored hues

A rainy day summer game

One against each other’s color

In the swishing sound of rain

Grammy dining at the table

Predictable, it came to be

“Don’t slam the screen door”

She’d say between Welch’s and her tea

Barefoot and sundresses

Climbing high in the apple tree

Shinnying up the grape arbor

In the garage ‘Henrietta’ we’d see

Harbor walking, swimming, splashing

Painted beach-found rocks

Rainbow colors, summer wonders

Bold-colored stripes and dotted dots

Labor Day, it came too soon

The parade at the Lighthouse, all

Costumes, hair like Peanuts’ kids

Charlie Brown was brother Paul

A thousand summer evenings

and a thousand summer morns

Never will the memories fade

Of days so long ago gone.

-ADS

10/24/12