Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easy Lime Jello Cake and Corned Beef hash

Happy Spring!  In true Oregon fashion, spring has arrived along with a rain storm. Today the sun has been trying to peek out in between downpours, hail, and a few thunder claps.  I have been getting a jump start on my spring cleaning by reorganizing my baking supplies cupboard, and thought I would take a break to share a couple of yummy recipes we enjoyed this week.

We had a very nice St. Patrick's meal on Sunday, with lots of corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, soda bread, and Irish butter.

Here's our Soda Bread, I use the same easy recipe every year and it always turns out nice.

For dessert I made a Lime Jello Loaf cake, I have often added a packet of Jello to flavor a cake mix, but this time I wanted to make the cake a little richer.  Here's my recipe.

Easy Lime Jello Cake

1 White cake mix
1 large box lime Jello (6 oz.)
1/2 cup oil
4-5 eggs
1 large tub of cool whip- thawed
2 cups warm water

I mixed a large box (6 oz.) of Lime Jello with two cups of warm water, and mixed until Jello was dissolved, and set it aside.  Then I mixed a box of white cake mix with 1/2 cup of oil, and 5 eggs (next time I might only use four eggs), then 1 1/4 cup of the dissolved lime Jello (set aside the rest).  Mix until blended, and pour evenly into two greased loaf pans, bake according to package directions.  I love the green color of this cake, perfect for spring and St. Patrick's day!

After you get the cake in the oven, put the remaining lime jello in the fridge for about 10 minutes, just long enough to firm it up a bit, but still soft enough that it can be mixed into cool whip.  After it has cooled a bit, stir the rest of the lime Jello into a large tub of cool whip.  I let my Jello set up a bit too long, but still caught it before it was completely set up, so I had some bits of set up jello in the cool whip, which actually looked nice, but there has to be enough unset Jello left so that it blends with the cool whip and helps to thicken it.  When you have thoroughly mixed the jello and cool whip, return it to the fridge to chill until cake is cool and ready to be frosted.

Here is what the cake looks like sliced, the lime cool whip frosting is a refreshing topping for this moist cake. I plan on trying this recipe out for Easter with Cherry or Raspberry, I imagine just about any flavor would work.  The cake was a perfect way to finish our St. Patrick's meal.

This year I made two corned beef briskets, one in the crock pot and one in a covered roaster in the oven, so we had plenty of left-overs.  I decided to use some of the left-overs to make a delicious corned beef hash for Gary and my lunch yesterday. This was a very rustic, hearty dish, that I imagine would be a perfect part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  I sauteed a chopped onion in a little butter and olive oil until the onions were softened, then I added diced cooked red potatoes with their skins still on, and diced corned beef along with plenty of fresh cracked black pepper, I sauteed the mixture until everything was heated through, and the potatoes were lightly browned.

We both really enjoyed this, and I will definitely be making this more often!

I hope everyone is having a good start to spring, I am looking forward to the new season!

Thanks for reading. :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Back to the Garden

Spring was definitely in the air today!  We have had a few sunny days throughout last week, the daffodils are blooming, as well as the crocus, and grape hyacinth.

Hubby and I were hanging out today, running errands, and we stopped in at the farm supply store.  The baby chicks were making their presence known, so we went back to check them out, they are all so cute!  The Cuckoo Marans breed really caught my eye, they are the hens that lay the dark chocolate brown eggs, I may just have to consider adding a few hens to the garden. :)

I couldn't resist bringing home this pretty pink Heather.

I also found just what I stopped in for- seed potatoes to plant on St. Patty's Day.  I picked up a large bag of classic Red Pontiac, as well as a fun purple variety that I have been wanting to try.  I am trying out growing potatoes in Potato Planter bags, I look forward to seeing how they work out.

When we got back home, the sun was still out, so I decided to do a little weeding, we have had a pretty mild winter so the weeds are everywhere, this weed below, with it's pretty white flowers, is all through my garden beds.  Luckily they are pulling out easily, but I definitely will need to enlist the whole family in an afternoon of weeding.

As I was walking through the garden I noticed the blueberries starting to grow their leaves, which was nice to see.

The kale I planted during the late summer made it through the winter, and is really taking off, I am hoping for a nice spring crop.  I also noticed a nice little patch of garlic getting going, as well as some spring onions that over-wintered.

I was super excited to find this in the store today, bundles of lumber pre-cut to make 3' x 6' gardens beds, the lumber was from right here in Oregon, and at a terrific price, I have wanted to add new beds for the last couple of years but it wasn't in the garden budget.  We decided to buy two kits, it will be so nice to have two more garden beds added this year, I look forward to modifying my garden plan. :)

The sunshine was so nice to be out in today, the decorative plum tree in our front yard is starting to put on a show with its beautiful pink blossoms.

Plum and Cherry blossoms are so pretty, and such a sign that spring is on the way.

Perfect time of year to try out the Cherry Blossom Straw Painting Craft.

I was reminded today of one of my favorite Frog and Toad Stories that I often read as a child.  A story in Frog and Toad All Year called The Corner by Arnold Lobel.  The story begins with Frog and Toad caught in the rain, and Frog tells Toad a story about a time his father, on a rainy day, told him spring was just around the corner.  Frog had wanted to find spring so the story tells of him going around corners to look for spring, and after quite a day of looking for spring, heads home, and rounds the corner to his backyard and sees his mother and father gardening, hears birds chirping, and the sun came out, spring really was around the corner.  This is definitely how it felt outside today!  Spring is around the corner, and I am looking forward to getting back into my garden!

Here is a picture from my Frog and Toad Treasury, one of my all time favorite children's stories!

Here are my Amazon links to the Frog and Toad books, perfect for story time and early readers!

What are your spring plans for the garden?

Friday, March 8, 2013

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales #47 - Green Snake

As St. Patrick's Day draws near, I decided to go with another story featuring a green creature, I really enjoyed crafting last week's little green needle felted turtle, for the story Urashima and The Turtle , this week I enjoyed making a green snake for a fairy tale called Green Snake.  This Story, like last week's, is included in The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, and this was a story I had never read.

The story is based on a French fairy tale written by Marie Catherine d'Aulnoy in 1698 called The Green Serpent, in the original version the Green Snake is a dragon.  This is a very long fairy tale, with many twists and turns, but it was intriguing and memorable.  Instructions for making your own Green Snake are at the end of the post. :)

Green Snake

The tale begins with a Queen who is hosting a banquet for a dozen fairies, so that they can bestow gifts upon her little twin baby girls.  As the banquet was about to begin, Old Mag, the meanest fairy, who was not invited to the banquet, appeared.  The Queen became very nervous, she knew that Old Mag could be trouble, the Queen offered Old Mag a chair and brought her gifts of jewels but Mag was furious over not having been invited.  Old Mag slammed her wand down on the table, and the other fairies were very frightened, and started to run away.  Then Old Mag went to the first baby's crib and gave her a curse of being hideously ugly, she started for the second crib, but the other fairies were able to hold her back, Old Mag flew out the window, furious in a bolt of lightening.

The fairies tried to help the first baby by giving her the best gifts they could, but the baby grew uglier by the minute.  The fairies promised the Queen that one day the girl would be happy.  The Queen thanked the fairies and sent them on there way with many gifts.  The Queen named her two baby girls, the first one who was cursed was called Dorugly who did indeed grow up ugly, and the second one Dorabelle who was a beautiful girl.

When Dorugly was twelve years old, she wanted to leave the palace, and go an live unseen in an abandoned castle that her father owned.   Her parents agreed, and sent her to live in the abandoned ancient castle by the sea, with woods on both sides, along with her old nurse.  She lived there for two years, practicing her music, drawing and writing poetry.  She became lonely and went to visit her family just in time to see Dorabelle's wedding to a neighboring King, but her family was embarrassed by her, and told her she should have kept herself hidden to avoid bothering the guests.  Dorugly was angry, it wasn't her fault that she was ugly, but becasue she was wise, she hid her anger, and went back to her home.

One day while Dorugly was out walking in the forest, she came upon a great green snake.  The snake said hello to Dorugly, and told her not to be sad, that he too was ugly and had once been handsome.  But Dorugly was terribly frightened by the snake, and ran home.  A few days later she decided to go out again, and went down to the water, were she saw a beautiful little boat, she climbed in to explore, but soon the boat began to drift out to sea.  Dorugly tried to grab the oars, but the wind brought her too far out to sea.  Dorugly was beside herself, she bagan to cry, and also started crying about how her family didn't even care about her because she was ugly, and how the only one who would speak to her was an awful snake.  Just then the green snake swam up next to the boat, and offered to help her.  She was too frightened, and so the green snake disappeared.  She did begin to wonder how it was that the snake could talk, but she was just to frightened by him.

Then, on the wind Dorugly heard a voice, and it told her to be kinder to the green snake, and that he could help her.  Then a big gust of wind drove the boat against a rock, and it broke apart, luckily Dorugly was able to grab onto a floating board, and make her way to a rock.  She climbed onto the rock, but almost fainted when she realized it was not a piece of wood she held onto, but the snake.  The snake saw she was frightened and swam away.  She was trapped on the rock, and decided to climb as high as she could, and, because night had come, she used her apron as a pillow and fell asleep.  As she slept she heard beautiful music, and she thought she was dreaming, but when she woke up, she was no longer on a rock, but in a beautiful room, on a golden couch.  She wondered if it was the snake who had saved her.  She heard a knock at the door, and opened it to find fifty small Chinese dolls come to life, they could speak and walk around, and took Dorugly on a tour of the castle.  The dolls told her that their master, the king, was away, and that he wanted them to take care of her.  The Castle and its grounds were beautiful, and Dorugly enjoyed the company of all the dolls, and became a much happier person.

One night, while Dorugly was wondering why although she felt much happier with her new friends, her heart still felt empty, a voice told Dorugly that she would be happier if she learned to love.  Dorugly asked which doll was speaking, but the voice said that is was no doll but the king of the castle.  Then the King told Dorugly that he loved her, Dorugly could not believe anyone could love her, especially a King.  Dorugly and the King spoke on many more occasions, and The King revealed that he is under a curse, and that he must not be seen for seven years if he was seen the curse would start over, five years have already passed, but that he is in love with Dorugly and wished to marry her.  They had become such good friends so, sight unseen, Dorugly agreed to marry the king.

One day she decided it is time to bring her family to the palace, although the king didn't like the idea.  When her family arrived Dorugly enjoyed showing them her home.  Dorugly's mother and sister were eager to meet her husband, but Dorugly made excuses why he was not there.  They think she was just making up her husband and began to tease her, Dorugly finally admits she has never seen her husband, and only spoken to him.  Her sister and mother convince her he must be some kind of monster who has tricked her, and that she should try to get a look.  After her family left, Dorugly became very curious, and lit a lamp so she could get a glimpse of her husband one evening when he was talking with her.  When she brought the light up to the king, she was horrified to see that her husband was the green snake, and she fainted!  Her husband was heartbroken and disappeared.

Dorugly's doll friends tried to calm her down, but before they could, Old Mag and her army of marionettes made war with the dolls.  Although the dolls fought bravely, Old Mag won, and captured Dorugly.  Old Mag gave Dorugly a series of impossible tasks, such as weaving spider wed into a strong fishing net.  Dorugly heard the voice of green snake, and and he told her he still loved her, and would send her a fairy to help her. The fairy helped complete some of the tasks.  When Old Mag found out Dorugly had help, she sent Green Snake to a deep hole to wait out his seven more years of the curse since he had been seen, and chained Dorugly to a mill stone. Old Mag gave her a pitcher full of holes, and told her she had three years to climb the hill to the Well of Discretion and bring her a pitcher full of the water, and if she disobeyed, Old Mag would make Green Snake suffer.  Dorugly was so worried about Green Snake she tried to pull the heavy millstone to get up the hill, although the task was impossible, she kept trying so green snake would not be harmed.

The Fairy Protectress rewarded Dorugly for her unselfishness, and helped her fly up the hill to the well, the fairy told Dorugly to wash her face in the well, and she would be beautiful again.  Then the fairy agreed to hide Dorugly for the duration of the seven year curse in the woods away from Mag.  Dorugly thought about the magical well water, and decided that it was more important for her to be wise than beautiful, and that if she had been wiser, she wouldn't have been foolish enough to have looked at he king, and cause him seven more years of the curse.  So she drank the water, and washed her face, and she became beautiful and wise, the fairy was also pleased that Dorugly knew it was more important to be wise, so she rewarded Dorugly by shortening her curse to three years.  Dorugly told the fairy that she didn't deserve it, and that instead the fairy should help Green Snake.  The fairy said she would try, and then told Dorugly that since she was so beautiful, she should now be known as Queen Discreet.  She lived hidden in the woods, among her animal friends for three years, in three years the fairy came back to help her deliver the well water to Old Mag.  Old Mag was surprised to see that Dorugly completed the task, but was angry that she had washed in the water and become beautiful.

So Old Mag gave her another difficult task, she told Queen Discreet to bring her a bottle of the Essence of Long Life from a dark hole at the world's end.  Again, Fairy Protectress helped Queen Discreet by giving her a magical leafy branch, that when struck on the ground, opened a path to the hole at world's end, the same hole where Green Snake was held prisoner.  The hole was frightening, but Queen Discreet was brave, she soon came upon a very handsome young man, she knew it must be Green Snake.  He was very impressed by her new beauty, and so glad to see her that he was speechless.  They were both so happy to be together.  They asked a witch, who had been guarding Green Snake, for the Essence of Long Life.  The witch gave them a bottle, the cork was slightly loose, to try and tempt their curiosity, but Queen discreet had learned her lesson, and would never again let curiosity make her do wrong.

The King and Queen made there way back to Old Mag, and she immediately gulped the bottle of Essence of Long Life.  The essence did Old Mag so much good that she forgave all of her enemies, with the wave of her wand she restored Green Snake's Kingdom, as well as all the dolls.  Green Snake and the beautiful Queen returned home, and lived very happily, twenty times longer than their miseries had lasted.

This was an interesting tale, Old Mag reminds me of the fairy who cursed Sleeping Beauty, I thought it was sad that Dorugly's family treated her so poorly, but in the end I was glad that Dorugly became truly happy by finding love, and learning some important lessons, such as wisdom being more important than beauty, and, to be cautious with curiosity.  I thought the ending with Old Mag was a little funny, maybe it is because I am nearing fourty this year, and have had fancy wrinkle creams on my mind, Old Mag's little bottle of Essense of Long Life made her a much happier woman, a great add campaign idea for Anti-Aging creams. :)

For my craft, I thought I would try out DAS air drying clay, one of the first art projects I did back in high school art class, was making a clay snake, and painting it, I remember it being a pretty fun project.  The Das clay did a great job, and I look forward to working with it a lot more, it hardened very well, it did take a couple of days, and I kept flipping it so it would dry all the way through.  The DAS clay does have a strange chemical smell, but it wasn't too bad, and it is nice to be able to make clay projects without having to bake it, or without a kiln.  

First I rolled out and shaped the snake how I wanted it.  Then let it harden for a couple of days, flipping it every so often so it would dry all the way through.  Then I painted it with basic acrylic craft paint.  

After the paint dried, I painted a layer of Mod Podge on to seal it, then gave it a very light dusting of very fine green glitter (it is an enchanted snake after all), then another coating of Mod Podge to seal in the glitter. When it was dry, I took it out to the garden for pictures, we are having such a beautiful sunshiny day that I couldn't resist.  Here's how green snake turned out.

He reminds me of the little garter snakes that visit our garden in the spring and summer.  I am really looking forward to spring, and getting back out to my garden, I love it when the crocus flowers blossom!

The story of the Green Snake can be found in The Golden Book of Fairy Tales.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 1, 2013

52 Weeks of Fairy tales #46 - Urashima and the Turtle

It has been a very busy couple of weeks around here, lots of school activities and end of term projects.  I was very happy this week to find some time to get out my needle felting and work on a fairy tale post.  This week's tale is a new one to me, I read it in my copy of The Golden Book of Fairy tales.  The tale is based on a Japanese legend and is called Urashima and the Turtle.

The tale of Urashima and the Turtle begins with a young fisherman named Urashima.  Urashima enjoyed everything about the sea, and spent nights and days watching the waves and the tides through all the seasons, and in all types of weather.  He loved the creatures of the sea as well, and thought they were all beautiful.  One day while Urashima was fishing, he felt a tug and reeled in his line, but instead of a fish, he saw a young turtle.  Urashima knew that turtles lived long lives and that this one was young, he smiled at the turtle and threw it back into the sea.

The turtle hit the water and it made a large splash, from the spray of water appeared a very beautiful girl, she came and sat by Urashima.  The girl told Urashima that she was the Sea King's daughter, and that they lived at the bottom of the sea.  The girl's father had let her turn into a turtle to test Urashima's heart.  Because he had freed the turtle, the girl knew he was a kind and good person.  She asked Urashima if he would come and share her dragon palace in the kingdom of the green waves.  Urashima was so taken in by her beauty he was glad to join her in her undersea palace.  So they rowed his boat together beneath the waves to the bottom of the sea.

The palace was made of beautiful coral and pearl, there were crystal colored fish and little finned dragons, it was beautiful.  Urashima and his princess lived there very happily for four years.  One day Urashima saw a small turtle, and it reminded him of the day he met his princess and went to live under the sea, it also made him think of his old village and he began to miss his family.  The princess saw right away that Urashima missed his home, so she gave him a magical pearl box tied with green ribbon  and told him to keep the box very safe, and that it would help to bring him back to the undersea palace when he was ready, but that he must keep the ribbon tied, if the ribbon came undone he would never be able to return.  Urashima got into his boat and made his way to the top of the water and sailed for home.

When he got to shore, he recognized the cherry trees, and the hill he lived near, and he made his way up a familiar path.  At first everything seemed the same, but when he came to where his house had been, his house was gone.  All the houses in the village were different.  He wondered what had happened in the four years that he had been gone.  He went to an old man who was sitting under a tree and asked if he knew where Urashima's home was.  The old man said he had only heard the name Urashima once, long ago in a story his great grandfather had told him, about a boy named Urashima who had been lost at sea, four hundred years ago, his family had looked for him, but not even a stick from his boat remained, and they all thought the sea had swallowed him.  Urashima's family had lived nearby including his brother's and their sons, but eventually his whole family died out.  Urashima realized he no longer had any family.  The old man pointed toward the cemetery and said he could find the tombstone of Urashima there.

Urashima walked to the cemetery  and next to his parent's tombstones, and his brother's was a tombstone with his own name.  Urashima realized that there was nothing left on earth for him, and that he had been gone for four hundred years.  He decided to return to his princess at once.  Carefully holding his pearl box he made his way back to the beach.  He sat down in the sand and wondered how he could return, not sure how the box would work.  While he was thinking, without realizing it, he began to untie the ribbon from around the box, and without thinking he opened the box!  A white mist drifted up into the air, in the shape of his princess, Urashima tried to reach the mist but it drifted out to sea, he ran after it but it disappeared.  Suddenly Urashima began to grow old, his hair became white, his back became bent, and he fell over, then withered away.


This version of the story in this book ends rather sadly with Urashima's skeleton left upon the beach, and the moon shining above onto the pearl box, and the green ribbon fluttering in the wind.  You can read this version in The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, which has a very interesting assortment of different fairy tales, along with beautiful illustrations.

                                          The Golden Book of Fairy Tales (Golden Classics)

When reading about this tale online, which is also known as Urashima Taro, there are some variations in which he doesn't die, he just turns very old, which is still sad because he can't get back to his princess, and his life has passed by him, but not as sad as ending with him dying.  You can read more about this tale at the Wikipedia Urashima Taro link.  Although this tale was sad, it was interesting, and I enjoyed reading a tale from the Japanese culture, most of the tales I have read and are familiar with, are from western culture, so it was nice to learn a new tale.

For my craft, I wanted to needle felt a little turtle.

As I was part way through my project I decided to take a picture, so you could see a little of the process, I start my needle felting by making the basic shape of whatever I am felting out of undyed wool roving.  When I have the core shape done, I take thinner strips of dyed wool and needle felt it onto the figure.

Here is how my little turtle turned out.

As always, I really enjoy my needle felting projects, and had fun making this little turtle.

Have you ever heard the story of Urashima and the Turtle?

Thanks for reading! :)