Archive | December 2011

Good-Bye 2011, Hello 2012!

Today is the last day of December and it just doesn’t seem possible that we are about to ring in another year. In just a few short hours, 2011 will be just a memory. And for some, the fresh start in 2012 will be a welcome relief!

DSC_0009 (2)For me and my husband, we are looking forward to the new year and are already making plans for a much needed vacation!  And I’m dreaming up how my garden is going to look this year. We’ve even picked out a paint color and the type of new flooring for the basement!

How about you? Have you thought about the possibilities for this next year? As the old saying goes, the sky is the limit! May the New Year bring to your home the joy and love found in family and friends, a steady source of income, continued good health, and much more.

Make 2012 the best year yet!

Happy New Year!

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Frosty’s Cades Cove Christmas

Christmas Day Frosty came to visit and we decided to take our friend back to a place that is very special to all of us. If you’re looking for a great day trip for the family or a great place to take visiting friends and family, Cades Cove, in Smoky Mountain National Park, is one of the best places to go. Once Frosty heard about the idea, he was excited to go and couldn’t wait for us to get there.

Frosty Going to the Cove 12-15-11

Cades Cove is a short drive from Sevierville and Pigeon Forge and there are a couple of ways to get there. But we feel that going up over the mountain through Wears Valley into Townsend is the quickest way from Morristown.

Just 7 miles from the fork in the road near Townsend, the winding road takes you up over the ridge into Cades Cove. It’s a beautiful drive no matter what time of year you go. Frosty reminds us to remember our camera so that we can catch the wildlife up close and personal.

There is a fabulous picnic area set under the trees. You can bring your portable tents to create extra shade in the summer or simply picnic under the trees.  There are outside grills available for your convenience and public restrooms close by. Before heading around the Loop, we always stop by the campground store. There is a really nice camp store that sells the most fabulous soft serve cones for just a couple bucks. You can also get drinks and quick snacks as well as souvenirs. There are vending machines but they don’t always work. We find that we end up donating to the Park more often than getting a drink out of the machine!  Frosty Adventurer at Cove Campground

There is plenty of parking by the camp store so if you have a group of friends who want to all ride in the same truck or van, this is a great place to meet and leave their cars while you all go around the Loop together!

Next to this parking lot is the campground itself. There are sections for RVs, tents and group camping. Right now parts of the campground is closed for the season, but during the summer the drifting scent of burning fires lifts through the air. There are trails all around both for hiking and biking or even just a casual stroll. If your family enjoys the outdoors, this is the place to be.

You may be lucky enough to see a black bear or two, young bucks, fawns and does and possibly a turkey or two! On several occasions we have seen coyote, foxes and hawks as well. On a hike you may see a beaver or an otter. You just never know. It was really cold the day we went, which is how Frosty likes it, so we didn’t see a lot of wild life like we usually do. It was actually a deer kind of day.

Frost & Deer 12-25-11

There were bucks of several different ages and many does that would come right up to your car. We were excited to see them so close and when three of them decided to walk across the Loop Road in front of us, they each gracefully stooped to crawl under the fence instead of jumping! We were all so disappointed at their laziness! Later on we were lucky enough to see a couple of does leap over the fence in front of us. What a beautiful sight that was!

 

Frosty Shaken at the Water 12-25-11

A favorite place for many is the creek that runs right over part of Sparks Lane. The water is so cool and refreshing in the summer. When there has been a lot of rain, you’ll have to be careful because the water tends to rush through and have a bit of a current. It seemed a little unsettling to Frosty as he looked out the window at it. The water was high enough to reach the bottom of the car and you could feel it sloshing under the floorboards! Dad was our driver and was careful to get us to the other side without the car slipping once. I think we all let out a quiet collective sigh of relief once we were on the other side.

Frosty Loves View 12-25-11

I think we can all agree that the views around Cades Cove are breathtaking. Years ago, a group of families settled here and were, for the most part, self-sufficient. There are churches and graveyards tucked away all over the area. There is a watermill at the halfway point as well as various cabins (many are reconstructed) on the very spot where families once lived. You will find that this valley is rich with heritage and history that is worth checking out. And it is a wonderful place for shutter bugs with an itch for building their portfolios. We have had many wonderful moments catching black bears, coyotes, deer and the stable horses on camera. The Park Rangers are willing to share the history of this magical place with you and a Tour Book is available at the beginning of the Loop for a small donation.

Frosty at Primitive Baptist 12-25-11

We love going to this little spot of Heaven in the Smokies and hope that you will fall in love with it as well.  It is so peaceful here no matter what time of year you come. In the fall, the valley is a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows and in winter, the white blanket glistens like jewels in the sun. During the spring and summer the blackberry bushes are in abundance and the birds sing their hearts out. What a magical place this is!

Take the time from your busy schedule and take in the view. Cades Cove is an excellent day trip and well worth the drive.

It may become one of your most favorite places to visit.

Frosty on the Fence 12-25-11

A Few of My Favorite Things

DSC_0043Christmas has always been my most favorite holiday.  There’s just something about the glittering ornaments, the sparkling lights and all the festive holiday music and movies that just make me smile. While we are not getting a white Christmas this year, at our house it is still quite festive!

Collecting ornaments has become something of an adventure for me. I love to collect ornaments that are a little different, some are from Hallmark and others I find in unusual places. But when I see one that I love, well, I usually just get a collection of them. The wooden drums were found in an art store years ago. I was rummaging around for art supplies and came across them. They just screamed my name and I couldn’t resist!

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Ahh, my Christmas goose! Goose has followed me around for nearly 25 years. She’s been a mainstay on every tree I’ve had as an adult. She’s so simple but I think that makes her even more adorable!

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What is Christmas without a Nutcracker? I’ve always loved The Nutcracker Suite Ballet. Some day I want to see it performed live!

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As we close out this holiday season, I wish for you all the best in the coming year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New year!

Clafoutis aux Cerises

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Yes, clafoutis aux cerises….you read right! I decided to try and make it after a co-worker made it for us the other day. To say the least, it is a delightful French cherry “cake” that just melts  in your mouth. The tartness of the cherries mix wonderfully with the slightly sweet custard.

It’s very simple to make and only takes about 15-20 minutes of time to prepare then about an hour to bake. Serve it warm, just like they traditionally do in France. You’ll love to wow your friends and family the next time you have a dinner party!

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. (I am in the mountains, so if you are at a lower elevation, you may want to watch your custard closely and lower your oven temperature to 300-325F.)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 whole eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

1-1/4 cup milk (whole is best, but low fat works well, too)

Mix the flour, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and milk together until a custard batter is formed. It will be smooth.

Pour enough to cover the bottom of your greased pie plate and bake at 350F for about 7-10 minutes, just until the custard is set.

Place 2 cups pitted cherries in the pre-baked custard and sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar. Pour the remaining batter over the top covering the cherries and sugar completely.

Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes or until the edges of the custard begin to brown.

Let cool 10-minutes, dust with powdered sugar and serve while warm.

Optional: trade out the cherries for berries that are in season or mix berries with the cherries, also good are apricots, pears, and peaches. Adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of the fruit.

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Also, no worries if the clafoutis aux cerises fluffs up in the oven. As it cools a little, it will settle down. Mine poofed up really high and I got worried, I thought cherries would be all over the oven, but they settled down as you can see in the photo.

Your guests will love it and beg for more!

Cyn’s Homemade Marinara

In recent years I have become more particular about what I eat and wanting more and more to have my own garden like my parents did when I was growing up. Every trip to the grocery store took me longer as I began to read the labels and scrutinize the ingredients more carefully.

This past summer, we had a bumper crop of tomatoes. From 6 starter plants and 3 volunteers, we ended up with a boat load of tomatoes. We had Big Boys, Cherry, and Roma tomatoes galore! It was wild! And something about our soil just makes them taste so wonderful that they melt in your mouth.

               Tomato Heaven 2011  

 

             Tomato Heaven2 2011

 

After a friend of mine decided to make marinara from some of the tomatoes I gave her, I thought I could do the same. So here is a recipe that I made up. All in all, I cooked it for 20 hours and it made about 3-1/2 gallons of marinara!

Wash, dry and core your tomatoes, the chop into large chunks – do not peel

Place in food process and pulse just until broken up

Pour into large slow cooker

Add 2 handfuls of Cyn’s Herb Mix (sweet basil, Greek oregano, German thyme)

In the food processor add 4 red and 3 yellow shallots, peeled and 6 peeled cloves garlic, 1 coarsely chopped Vidalia onion, 1 can black olives, drained and 1 can green olives, also drained (the non-pimento variety).

Add this to the tomato mixture already in the slow cooker. I set my timer for the maximum – 10 hours. Every hour or so, stir with a wooden spoon. Add more pureed tomatoes if desired. I did not add any sugar to this, however, if you wish I would not add more than a tablespoon of any sweetener or no more than 1/4 tsp. of Stevia extract powder.

When the 2nd 10-hour session starts I add large pinch of kosher salt and stir to blend.

Let cool and then place in jars or bags for freezing.

We’ve used this sauce on several occasions. Just remove from the freezer and thaw slightly and warm in pan. Add to your favorite meat or eat as is. It’s a very hearty sauce that we really love!

Marinara 2011

Enjoy!