Thursday, December 15, 2011

All in One Christmas Post - Recipes, Scrapbooking Ideas, Fun Links, Tips......

Well, my friends, the countdown is on and there's lots for all the Mrs. Claus' to do.  In the spirit of gettin' it done and keepin' it real, this is an all in one Christmas-palooza post.  So, here goes....

Recipe:  Raisin Clusters

1 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups raisins

Line baking sheet with buttered wax paper.  Set aside.  Melt chocolate with milk and vanilla in heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat when melted.  Stir in raisins.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet.  Refrigerate until firm.  Store in fridge in container between layers of wax paper.  Makes 30 clusters.  This is my dad's very favorite Christmas treat.

Tip of the Week:

If you're making chocolate cakes or cup cakes this season, try dusting the greased cake pans with cocoa instead of flour.  No white flour marks on the cake - yay!

Family Activity:  Christmas ABC Scrapbook

  This is one I'm going to start in the New Year, it's an old idea I've had in my Christmas File for over a decade.  Basically, all the Christmas cards that you've kept through the years can be added to an ABC scrapbook.  Get a nice big scrapbook and make sure it has at least 26 pages in it.  Label each page A-Z with the following verses:

A is for angels, with halos so bright, whose carols were heard on that first Christmas Night.
B is for baby, that Christ child so dear, We celebrate Christmas, His Birthday, each year.
C is for Candles that so brightly shine, To give a warm welcome to your friends and mine.
D is for doorway with garlands of green, To make Christmas merry for as far as they're seen.
E is for evergreen garlands galore, We hang at our window, fireplace and door.
F is for fun the whole season long, From trimming the tree, to singing a song.
G is for greetings, a merry hello- With a heart full of love for people we know.
H is for holly with berries so red, To make into wreaths to hang overhead.
I is for ice on white covered hills, Where sledding is fun along with the spills.
J is for jingle bells merrily ringing To the whole world, joy they are bringing.
K is for Kris Kringle, so merrily he stands.  He is who they call Santa, in ours and many lands.
L is for lantern, I'm sure that their light Helped Mary and Joseph, on that first Christmas night.
M is for Mary, her heart full of love For her little son Jesus who came from above.
N is for Noel the angels did sing To herald the birth of Jesus, our King.
O is for ornaments, so shiny and bright, With lights on the tree, they sparkle at night.
P is for packages, presents so gay, All around the tree for our Christmas Day.
Q is for quiet Christmas Eve night, With snow covered hills glistening so bright.
R is for red, the color so gay, That makes all things bright on that one special day!
S is for shepherds who first saw the star Over Behtlehem's manger and followed it far.
T is for trees we decorate so gay, They wait for old Santa to hurry our way.
U is for universe, the whole wide world, Where Christmas means joy to each boy and girl.
V is for Vixen, the lively reindeer.  He always helps Santa deliver toys each year.
W is for wisemen who brought gifts so rare, and fell down and worshipped the Christ child there.
X is for excitement, the best day of the year, We can all hardly wait until it is here.
Y is for young children who love Christmas so, Who teach its true meaning by the love that they show.
Z is for Zeal, real excitement and fun.  May this book help to bring a "Merry Christmas" to everyone!

This is a project to be brought out every Christmas season.  Keep the Christmas cards you receive every year alongside the scrapbook, so whenever little people get restless, you can get them to look through the cards and find new pictures to add to each scrapbook page.  Warning:  this scrapbook is not for moms to obsess over, it is a yearly activity for the kids, so please put your perfectionism aside!  (Unless you want to do one for yourself, of course.  Kind of like how dads should have their own kub kar/pinewood derby car all for themselves.)

Home and Garden:  It's Yarn Season for me.  I can't go outside and dig in the dirt, so I play with yarn and drool over seed catalogues.  Here's a link to one of my favorite crochet pattern websites, it's pretty comprehensive:  Crochet Pattern Central .  I've made two cute hats already and am working on a Mobius Granny Scarf right now.  Confession:  I drooled over yarn at Michael's yesterday, then reminded myself of the pact I have made to abstain from buying yarn until I have used up my current stock, which is shocking.  I think I have enough yarn to cover a bus.  Did you know there are yarn ninjas out there who do yarn grafitti?  Maybe Beaumont will discover a yarn activist when I run out of people to cover in granny squares........

Review:  The Graphics Fairy

This isn't so much a review as a big thank you to The Graphics Fairy.  Her site is amazing, and filled with free vintage clip art and absolutely cute craft projects.  I am in awe.....

Family Inspiration: 

This was written by Toni Young of Calgary many many years ago:


What children really want for Christmas is a warm and close family celebration and a few carefully chosen gifts from people who care about them.

Build up to Christmas has been lengthened, but its ending has been cut short.  When the gifts have been unwrapped, Christmas is over and children are left dazed and bewildered. 

When parents have family celebrations, kids learn there's more fun to Christmas than just unwrapping gifts.  When children have exciting family activities to look forward to, before and after the present-opening, gifts start taking their rightrful place in the festivities."


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let It Snow

                              It doesn't take much snow for a little flake to have fun!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Scrooge - 1970 (Albert Finney)

This is my husband's favorite Christmas movie of all time.  Albert Finney plays the title role in Scrooge.  It's a musical version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, so you all know the story.  What makes this movie special is the music, one great show tune after another.  And the best ghost of Christmas present ever!  Plus, Alec Guinness is really funny as Jacob Marley. Our favorite song is "Thank You Very Much", and I tried to link it here from Youtube, but I'm having technical problems with that site, so go check it out if you have the chance. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Red Berries Covered in Snow

Just as I am decorating for Christmas inside our cozy little house, Mother Nature is also getting festive outside.  Here's a picture I took with my phone a few days ago.  Hope you're all enjoying getting ready for Christmas as well!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Candy Cane Cookies

The other night we were having a vote to see which cookies I would make for Christmas this year, and hands down this is the winner.  Our children absolutely love these cookies.  My mother made these when I was a child, and we always left one of these on the plate for the guy in the red suit, and my children do as well.

Candy Cane Cookies

375 degrees F.
8-10 minutes

Sift together three cups of flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Cream together 1/2 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, to the creamed mixture.  Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/4 cup milk.  Stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.  Divide the dough in half, and to one half mix in 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring.  Mix well.  Shape into candy canes by pinching off a 1" ball of both white and red dough.  Roll each piece of dough out into a snake, take the ends of the dough, and twist together into the shape of a candy cane.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet, bake for 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees F.  Let cool a bit first, and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Be careful taking them off the sheet, they'll snap.  If the dough seems a little dry, add a tablespoon more of milk if necessary.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How do you keep from chasing that ball of yarn?

Since snow is on the ground, my interest has turned to the huge collection of yarn I have.  My project is to work my way through it as fast as possible, as I have taken a solemn vow to abstain from buying yarn until I have used up what I have.  Other people have a thing for buying fabric, for me it's yarn.  There you go.

I work with seniors during the week, and one very aged Ukrainian lady named Mary D. loved to knit, but due to lack of agility had given up on chasing balls of yarn around.  Her solution was to get a small mixing bowl and put the ball of yarn in the bowl at her feet.  The yarn was free to turn around as she yanked on it, but never left the bowl.  Voila! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Love Notes"

Christmas is all about traditions, and here's a nice simple one that our family loves.  We don't always wait for Christmas to do this activity, because it's always nice to hear kind things.

All you need is an envelope for each family member with their name written on it, and slips of paper for each member of the family (for example, there are seven of us, so each individual would need six slips of paper).  Pass the papers and a pencil or pen around, and have each member of the family write down something they love about everyone in the family.  When you're finished, put the correct slips of paper (labelled with the individual's names) in their envelope, and set it aside until Christmas Eve.  Then everyone can get their envelope and read how much they are loved!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gingerbread Pudding Cake

I made this dessert Sunday evening, after digging through my old recipe box for something winter-y.  It was very satisfying, and filled my need for gingerbread and caramel sauce all at once.  I can't give credit for this one, as it is one of those old cards that's been in the box for over a decade.

Gingerbread Pudding Cake:

Mix together:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream together:
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar

In a mixing cup mix together:
1 cup molasses
1 cup water.

Alternately mix the creamed butter and the molasses water into the dry mixture.  Spread in 13x9 inch pan.  Sprinkle with 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Pour 1 1/2 cup hot water mixed with 1/3 cup melted butter over batter.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-55 minutes or until tests done.  Serve warm.  Cake will rise to the top and sauce will be on the bottom.

I like it with good vanilla ice cream.  Yum!

12 Days of Christmas Ring and Run

It's that time of year again, time to plan the annual Christmas Ring and Run.  We've done this for the last two years in a row, and it's lots of fun to ding dong ditch and run like the wind!  Here's the list that our family uses, there's lots of variations out there on the wide world of web.

ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…a partridge in a pear tree. Sorry, but we can’t find the partridge, so we are giving you some pears from the tree the partridge flew away from. (attach to a can of pears)
ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…two turtle doves…but don’t’ have any…will candy turtles with a bar of Dove soap do? (attach note to a box or plate of caramel turtles w/ a boxed bar of Dove soap.)
ON THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…three French hens…well, we don’t have any French hens, so we’re giving you some chicken noodle soup, compliments of the three French hens. (attach to can of chicken noodle soup).
ON THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…four calling birds…we can’t find those calling birds though! Here are 4 messages they left for you before they flew off! (attach to 4 messages describing what a wonderful person they are)
ON THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…five golden rings, but sorry, we’re too poor for golden rings, but will some golden pineapple rings do? (attach to can of pineapple rings)
ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…six geese a laying, but we know you don’t really want the mess of six geese all over your house, do you? How about some eggs that they left behind! (attach to a half dozen eggs)
ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…seven swans a swimming! OK, we looked for the swans, but couldn’t find them, but we did find some bubble bath they used while they were swimming! (attach to bottle of bubble bath)
ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…eight maids a-milking. Here is some milk we got from the eight maids — we think they must have been milking some brown cows! (attach to a container of chocolate milk)
ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…nine ladies dancing…Here are some canes used by the nine ladies who were out dancing all night! (attach to a nine candy canes)
ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS: your true love gave to you…ten lords-a-leapin’ – here is some “Ben Gay”, which is highly recommended by the ten Lords we saw out jumping around. (attach to a package of Ben Gay rubbing lotion)
ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…eleven pipers piping, so here is a pipe of your own, have fun with it, but don’t “blow” the whole day! (attach to a bubble pipe and bubble solution)
ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, your true love gave to you…twelve drummers drumming, but we figured twelve drummers drumming would take up way too much room, so we drummed up some cookies for you…hope they keep this from being just another hum-”drum” day for you! (attach to a plate of cookies)

We have adapted this list a bit.  For example, on the first day, I always start scouting for a little inexpensive bird ornament and buy some nice real pears instead of canned ones.  On day two I send along chocolate Dove candy and chocolate Turtles.  For the five golden rings, we like to use the big candy Ring Pops.  For day ten, really, who wants to get Ben Gay?  I can't remember what I substituted last year, but I know I didn't send along any Ben Gay or Rub-A535.  Anyway, this is lots of fun, it's a challenge to not get caught twelve days in a row.  Remember to start on December 13th!

Tips - Grandma's Apron

I am wearing an apron right now.  Are you?  I wear aprons every day, because I have learned the hard way the importance of protecting my clothes.  A girl I work with knows this about me, and she brought in a copy of this little story about Grandma's Apron that I thought I'd share with you today.

Grandma's Apron
I don't think our kids know what an apron is.
The principal use of Grandma's apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.
It was wonderful for drying children's tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears…
From the chicken coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.
When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.
And when the weather was cold grandma wrapped it around her arms.
Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.
Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.
From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.
After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.
In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.
When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.
When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch, waved her apron, and the men-folk knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.
It will be a long time before someone invents something that will replace that 'old-time apron' that served so many purposes.
Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool.
Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.
They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.
I never caught anything from an apron…But Love. (Author Unknown)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In the spirit of 'Keepin' It Real'

In the spirit of 'Keepin' It Real", here's a little confession.  Last time (ok, the last two times) we had a big Cub ceremony where the boys had to wear their sashes, I stapled Josh's badges on to his sash.  *Blush* 

I'd do it again, too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Carving Angels - Review

My friend, Diane, wrote this wonderful book.  I have been looking forward to reading it for quite a while, and it's turn finally came.  (Sometime I'll take a picture of the 'to be read' pile that's often on my bedside table.)

Carving Angels is a sweet Christmas tale about a retired elf named Papa Adam.  Papa Adam was once the chief woodcarver at Santa's workshop, but lost his vision, retired, and has been living a quiet life.  His little granddaughter brings him a piece of wood one day, and challenges him to pick up his tools once again, despite his handicap.  The two embark on a wonderful journey of discovery that leads them to save Christmas.

This is a lovely story, and Papa Adam's tale of rediscovering his talents and finding out that he still has something to contribute was very inspiring.  I work with senior citizens, and so I recognized the sadness and frustration that Papa Adam felt at feeling like he no longer had a purpose.  Everyone needs to have something to work at, and a reason to get up in the morning. 

Diane, thanks for writing this beautiful story of faith and courage in overcoming obstacles!

Check out Diane's delightful blog at On The Border.

The Backyard Visitors

Now that winter has truly set in, it's time to focus on the visitors that come to our back yard when it's cold and snowy.  Here's a sweet little chickadee hanging out in the birdfeeder.

Another visit this week was a sassy bluejay who was enjoying the suet hanger.  I made my own suet bird concoction this weekend.  We had houseguests and I cooked a shocking amount of bacon.  I won't tell you how much, it's just wrong.  As my friend Stacey and I were staring at the prodigious amount of bacon grease waiting to be disposed of, I remembered something I had read in one of the boys Cub books recently.  Little birds need the fat from suet or bacon grease in our cold Canadian winters.  I grabbed a bowl, the grease and a big bag of birdseed, and added enough birdseed to the bacon fat to make something that looked like a seed muffin mix.  I spooned the mix into four muffin tin papers, and popped them in the fridge to cool.  Voila, little chilled suet balls, waiting to be used.  I put one on the birdfeeder a couple of days ago, and yesterday I saw a little chickadee picking away at it, so it was successful!  I hope he has a good cardiologist.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Hiatus

I know, I know, this is turning out to be like how I used to write in my diary every so often, "Dear Diary, sorry I haven't written in a while, I promise to......."  Then six months later, "Dear Diary, see previous entry...."

Things have been wild around here lately, partly due to some stupid overscheduling on my part.  Family comes first, so my number one concern has been hot meals on the table and clean socks and underwear in people's dresser drawers.  And towels and toilet paper in the bathrooms. 

Another concern for me lately has been a blogging identity crisis, which culminated while reading a post on Middle-Aged Mormon Man last night about special blogging awards. Read it if you dare. Scott has been expressing concern that I am presenting an image of our family that is unrealistic and misleading.  We also have had a couple of special lessons in Relief Society (that even spilled over to EQ and HPG!) on perfectionism and depression in women.  Plus as I was laying in bed this morning fretting over writing Christmas cards, I kept thinking over the dreaded Christmas newsletters I will start receiving in the mail soon.  You know the ones, with the perfect family picture and the perfect list of things the perfect family has done throughout the perfect year they've had.  (Not that I'm not happy for my friends and pleased for their accomplishments, I am.)

As I do every year, I contemplated what would happen if people sent out a brutally honest Christmas newsletter.  "Mommy gained another ten pounds this year after spending $500 dollars in January on a gym membership and only going once.  She's decided to cut back on her chocolate consumption, and will eat only one family sized dairy milk bar a day instead of two.  Billy will be starting kindergarten in September, and everyone has their fingers crossed he will be potty trained by then.  Jane has brought her marks up considerably this year, and teacher says she may make it to the sixth grade after all.  Baby has taken up biting other children now that she has teeth.  And Alice has a new piercing and tattoo as you can see from the picture above....."

My point is, I know that one of the dangers of blogging and following other people's blogs is that terrible thing that happens with women.  We compare ourselves at our worst to other people at their best.  And we only present our best on our blogs.  It's like when I sit in RS on Sundays and look at my rough, work worn hands and look down the aisle at the other sisters with their beautiful manicures.  Instead of listening to the lesson, I might add.  The same thing happens when I view others blogs and see the amazing things people do with their talents.  (Another reason I've been avoiding Pinterest, actually.)

This does not mean that I am going to post about indiscretions or show pictures of how bad a certain someone's bedroom really gets, if I could only open the door in the first place.  I don't believe in airing dirty laundry, literally and figuratively.  I'm just going to try to figure out a way to blog in a realistic manner that is more reflective of what really goes on in the four walls of our house.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FYI - Badge Placement on new Scouts Canada Cub Uniforms

While checking stats on my two blogs, I noticed a lot of people are looking for information on where to put the badges on the new Scouts Canada uniforms.  I for one am thrilled with my new red Leaders uniform, I love it!  And Josh is so pleased with the comfort of his new grey Cub shirt.  Our Akela, Carole Hudson, has a great website for our pack, and you can find all the information about badge placement right there at your fingertips, along with lots of other cool Scouting stuff.  Here's the link:  Carole's Cub Page.  Happy Hunting!

Dusting the computer/tv screen

About two years ago while I was at work at the senior's centre, one of the administrators, Cecile, passed on this handy tip for repelling dust from computer screens and televisions.  She said that she dusts her screens with dryer sheets, like Bounce, and that the fabric softener actually keeps dust from landing on the screens.  Nothing gets dustier faster than those electronic devices, so this is indeed a handy tip.  Thanks, Cecile!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Date Night for Parents with Small Children

Many years ago when our children were very small, I remember hearing the counsel to have a weekly date with my sweetheart, and thinking, 'Right, get a babysitter once a week, that's not going to happen!'  We occasionally did get a sitter for a rare night out, but mostly Friday night was a stay at home affair, especially if it was a year when there was a new baby in the family.  Nowadays things are different, and Scott and I do go out on a date once a week, but our children are much older now and we have built in babysitters.  In fact, our youngest is not far away from being able to babysit other people's children. 

While we were not always inclined or able to get a babysitter when our children were younger, we did try and have a date together one night a week.  Because our children went to bed very early, we took advantage of that evening time and planned a little activity for ourselves.  Whether it was renting a movie and getting a treat, or having a picnic in front of the fireplace, we still tried to make time for ourselves as a couple.  I'm afraid I was usually too tired to be very creative, hopefully all the young mothers out there can be more imaginative than I was! 

After twenty years of marriage, I am very glad that we have made the time over the years to date each other.  It certainly helps in strengthening a marriage, and it's important for children to see that their parents are in love. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Musings

                             A neighbor hood ghost swinging between two trees. 

          A bunch of trick or treaters waiting to hit the streets and fill their bags with treats.

This year we had a great Halloween, mainly because it was above zero and there was no snow!  My two boys and their friends spent the evening collecting candy, and then came back to our place for some hot chocolate.  Some even went out for a second go round.  Two smart ones looked at their haul and felt they had more than enough to last for a long time, and stayed back to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors.

We don't get a lot of trick or treaters at our house, people seem to go to the newer subdivisions.  The houses are closer together and make for faster candy collection, I guess.  I still like to carve pumpkins with the children and put up some not so scary decorations.  We even play a little Halloween music for the ones that do come to our door. 

I know there's always a big debate about Halloween.  In our ward the discussion often centres on whether or not to hold a trunk or treat party.  (Let me 'splain.  No, there is no time.  Let me sum up.)  Basically a church party held in the chapel parking lot on activity night.  Kids dress up in their costumes, adults decorate the trunk of their car, and then hand out candy to the kids as they make the loop of the parking lot.  Traditionally this is held on years when Halloween falls on a Sunday, like last year.  This year it was decided to hold it again, which meant two rounds of trick or treating for all the children in our ward.  I participated with my family, especially since my two teenagers were helping to plan some indoor activities for the younger children.  However, I have reservations.  Mainly, if we have two trick or treat events a Halloween, then the kids will feel gypped on a year when it falls on Sunday.  Also, nobody needs that much candy.  And finally, two big batches of Halloween candy are not cheap, and ward events should never make it financially stressful on families that might be struggling.  So there, I have weighed in on the issue of the Annual Trunk or Treat.

My next problem with Halloween is this:  Halloween seems to have crossed the line from slightly spooky to genuinely disturbing.  I went into a local store called the Spirit of Halloween, and I was not impressed with the display of zombie babies, squishy baby heads, corpses and other really gross things.  I think that Halloween was for kids when I was a little girl, and seems to have ventured into the adult zone in later years.  Plus, the costumes for women and girls are really demeaning.  There was a line of costumes for girls 4-8 in another store marketed as Little Divas, and they were very suggestive.  Not to mention what is available for teenagers and grown women.  My daughter had a really hard time finding an appropriate costume, and ended up going as a rag doll.  She was very cute, and covered up.  Not to mention the fact that we live in Northern Canada, so why would you wear a costume that is appropriate for Miami Beach. 

That`s it.  That`s all I have to say on Halloween.  It`s gone from a night where you carved a pumpkin and raided your mother`s closet for a costume, to a major commercial enterprise that seems to rival Christmas for outdoor decorations, while pushing the boundaries of good taste. ( Plus I miss the days when you`d get homemade fudge, caramel apples and popcorn balls.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Whoopie Pies

My mother used to make this special lunch box treat when I was a little girl.  Whenever I'd open my orange Scooby-Doo lunch box and see this little treasure inside I'd give a big 'Woohoo!'.  My sister used them as a serious barter item, and traded her way to some store bought treats that we'd never see otherwise.  I've noticed that whoopie pies seem to be having some sort of comeback lately, so I thought I'd dig out this oldy but goody.

Whoopie PIes

1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and mix well.  Add milk and vanilla and mix well.  Combine remaining dry ingredients, add.  Drop from tablespoon on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 9 minutes.  Cool and frost.

My mum used to just frost the top.  You can take two whoopie pies and sandwich them together with frosting, which would be yummy as well.  These are very dark chocolate, and can be a little dry.  If your batter seems too dry add a little more milk.  Don't overbake them!  If your oven is hot bake at a slightly lower temperature.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How cheap can she get? Re-using Vacuum Cleaner Bags

A very sad event happened this Saturday afternoon.  After a busy week, Hurricane Jen was flying through the house cleaning everything I could get my hands on.  After vacuuming the upstairs, I dragged my faithful old vacuum cleaner to take care of the back step and stairs.  I plugged in the vacuum cleaner, and nothing happened.  Wiggling the cord caused occasional bursts of engine activity, but after quite a while I came to the conclusion that there was no hope, it had finally bit the dust.  Just so you know, it's several years old, getting very temperamental, and yes, duct tape is involved.  In other words, there is no shame for this machine finally giving up the ghost.  Which meant date night involved shopping for a replacement.  Sigh. 

This led me to reflect on how cheap I really am.  Actually, I prefer the word frugal.  Did you know that you can re-use vacuum cleaner bags?  My friend Laurel told me about this many years ago.  All you have to do is take the vacuum cleaner bag out, have a garbage bag of some sort nearby, and be prepared to sneeze.  Place the bag inside the garbage bag, and start shaking and grabbing and pulling all the blech out of the bag.  It's dusty, it's nasty, and I hate doing it, but it works.  Soon you will have an empty bag, ready to be re-used.  There are limitations to how often you can re-use a vacuum cleaner bag.  They will eventually start to tear or come apart.  Then it's time to break out a new bag.  There, true confessions is now over.  My name is Jen, and I re-use vacuum cleaner bags......

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Phantom Ghost #2

Last week for family night we played the Phantom Ghost, which I posted about already.  What I forgot to do was to hang a ghost on our own window, to keep people from spooking us!  So one day I found this note and a Halloween treat on our doorstep.  It's different from the poem I use, so I thought it would be fun to share it with you all. 

Since this is the time for goblins and bats
Halloween spirits and ghosts and cats..
Weird happenings and witches brew...
These are the things I wish for you.
May the only spirit you chance to meet be the spirit of love and warm friends sweet
May the only goblin that comes your way
Be the neighborhood phantom, whom you'll want to give away
So by tomorrow, pick three friends sweet
And give them all a Halloween treat.
You only have one day so hurry!
Leave the treat on the doorstep then flee in a flurry!

(p.s., put the ghost in your window so people know you have been spooked.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mummy Dogs Recipe

Halloween is a really fun time of the year, but it doesn't really have a meal that is associated with it.  I've tried over the years to pick a Halloween-y meal that the kids can look forward to.  For a long while it was a chili night for a chilly night.  However, we have one person in our family that thinks chili is the most disgusting thing ever, so that meal idea went out the window.  About three or four years ago I stumbled upon a recipe for Mummy Dogs.  So our Halloween-y meal became a Hallo-weenie meal! 

Take a package of hot dogs and one recipe for biscuit dough.  You can use packaged biscuit dough (the kind that comes in the can) or your own recipe, or the biscuit mix.  I like my own recipe, which can be found in the recipe section here.  Take one hot dog, and wrap it in a long strand of biscuit dough, leaving a little face area clear at the top of the dog.  Bake it in the oven according to your biscuit recipe.  Remove from oven and put two little mustard dots on the face for eyes.  My kids, young and old, love this meal.  We serve it with rootbeer floats.  You could use vegan hot dogs, of course, or pre-cooked sausage links.  I like this recipe because it is really quick on a busy night, and lots of fun. 

The Phantom Ghost

I wrote this post last year on our family blog:  The MacIntyre Family.  It is my most popular post by far on that blog!  So I thought I'd share it with all of you today.  This is a really fun activity for Halloween, kids love to ding dong ditch or ring and run, whatever you call it in your neck of the woods.

Saturday night we were all watching a movie when the doorbell rang. It was quite late for a visitor, and Justin ran up the stairs to see who it was. No one was there, but there was a gift bag on our doorstep full of goodies, with a poster of a ghost that said "We've Been Spooked", and a set of instructions. The Phantom Ghost had struck!! We were instructed to do the same to two other families. So this evening for family night we got two gift bags ready with treats, made our ghost posters and got ready to strike! It was hard to decide which families to target, but we managed to narrow it down. Josh and Scott hit the first victim's house. Their black sweatshirts helped them blend into the night. Sarah and Jeff were the next phantoms, and ran like the wind (or a gentle breeze...) We were playing some Halloween tunes in the van to make it seem more festive. Is Kung-Fu Fighting a Halloween song? Scott and I were debating this. He said it's not spooky, and that I just like the song. I said some people dress up like ninjas so it's appropriate. He's right, though. I do like the song. We also listened to Ghostbusters and Thriller. It was lots of fun. After a few minutes we decided to see if our packages had been picked up, and they had been! In fact, one house had their phantom already hanging in their window. Here's the poem we attached to our treat bags:

The Phantom Ghost

The Phantom Ghost has come to town,

To leave some goodies as I see you've found.

If you do not wish a curse to fall,

Continue this greeting, this phantom call.

First, place this Phantom where it can be seen,

And leave it there 'til Halloween.

This will scare other Phantoms who may try to call,

Be sure to participate - you'll have a ball!

Second, make 2 treats, 2 Phantoms, and 2 notes like this,

Deliver them to 2 neighbors who might have been missed.

Don't let them see you, be sneaky and quick,

The hardest part is deciding whose house to pick.

Third, leave at the door where there is no light,

Ring the doorbell, run, stay out of sight.

Be happy, have fun and come join the season,

The best kind of tricks are the ones that are pleasin'.

And remember this one very important fact,


Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Stump Farm

There was a display of the books by Robert J. Adams at our local library.  He is a local author, raised in Edson, Alberta.  I picked up a copy of his first book, The Stump Farm.  I am so glad I did, what a wonderful story of growing up in Northern Alberta!  It takes place when he is a very little boy, about six or seven, around the time the soldiers are returning home from WW2.  His dad is a cat skinner (operates heavy machinery), and they live out in the middle of nowhere, on a farm where their most prolific crop is the stumps of the trees they cut down for firewood.  It's a collection of the various scrapes and mischief a little boy can get into, from losing his rubber boots in the ruts of a logging road, to being chased by a neighbors dogs, to surviving the rules of the playground at school.  I have to say I enjoyed a few belly laughs while reading this, and I think his mother was a saint!  If you're interested in a glimpse of life in rural Alberta in the 1940's, this book is for you. 

Parable of the Apple Tree

There once was a wise man who had four sons.  He greatly desired for them to learn wisdom, so over the course of a year he sent each son on a quest.  They each travelled to see an apple tree, one in the winter, one in the spring, one in the summer, and the last in the fall.  At the end of the year the wise man gathered his sons together and asked them to describe to him what they had seen.  The first son said, "I saw an old apple tree, ugly, gnarled and bare."

The second son said, "I saw an apple tree as well, but it was not ugly and old.  It was young and beautiful, covered in pale green leaves and delicate blossoms."

The third son exclaimed, "No, the tree was mature and laden down with an abundant harvest.  It was wonderful to behold."

The fourth son said, "The tree I saw was awash in the most beautiful colors, with its leaves spangled like gold on the ground."

The wise father explained to his sons that they had each visited the same tree, and viewed it in different seasons.  They learned to not judge a tree by one season, but as a whole.

I am thankful for the seasons of my life, and look forward to viewing the whole.

(I have searched several times for the general conference talk this came from.  I just had to go from memory.  If anyone can remember the speaker, please let me know so I can add the link!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pride O' Scotland Shortbread Wedges

My mother has been making these delicious treats as far back as I can remember.  I usually save these for the holiday season.  There was a Recipe Exchange being hosted at our church this evening, but because of a school concert conflict, I won't be there.  So I thought I'd share the recipe I would have brought anyway!

Pride O' Scotland Shortbread Wedges

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.  In a large bowl, put 1 1/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup white sugar aind 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Mix well.  Add 1 cup softened butter, 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Mix well with hands, until dough is smooth.  Divide into two equal balls.  With floured hands, using palm of hand, press each ball into a pie plate.  Use tines of fork to crimp around edges, and prick entire surface with fork as well.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees Farenheit, or until light golden brown around edges.  Sprinkle with powdered icing sugar and let cool.  When cool, cut into wedges.

These are one of my most favorite treats, I hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pie Crust Tip

Here's a handy tip for all the pie makers out there, especially as the holiday season (in Canada) has started already.  In order to keep the edges of your pie crust from browning way too much, buy a stack of inexpensive foil pie tins, and cut off the rim.  Place the rim over the edge of the pie crust while baking, taking it off the last 20 minutes or so to let the crust brown a little.  You can throw away the foil rim, or wash and re-use it.  This is easier than trying to form a ring from aluminum foil.  Happy pie making!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Princess Bride - 24th Birthday!!!

I was flicking through the channels this morning, when who should appear on a morning news broadcast but a reunion of some of the cast of The Princess Bride !!  I stopped, of course, to watch Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carole Kane, and Cary Elwes reminiscing about what it was like to be part of a movie that has ended up being an absolute classic.  It was charming, I grinned from ear to ear, and vowed to re-watch the movie this weekend. 

This film came out in 1987, and was directed by Rob Reiner.  It was not a big hit in the theatres.  However, it grew into a cult classic, with devoted fans, and then fandom spread until it became an actual bonafide classic in its own right, even making it onto top 100 movies of all time lists!  The movie is based on a book, written by William Goldman, and if you get your hands on the book it's an even bigger treat.  I have owned three copies of the book over the years.  One was lent to a friend, never to be seen again.  I hold no grudges, I wouldn't give it back either.  One was read over and over again until the covers fell off and it accidentally drowned in the bathtub.  I'm on my third copy, and make no promises. 

Why do I love this story/movie so much?  Number one, Rob Reiner is a genius, and made a practically perfect movie.  Number two, the cast is a-ma-zing!  Number three, William Goldman is a great screenwriter as well as author, and wrote some of the most quotable lines in moviedom.  Number four, true love, duelling, swords, giants, pirates.....need I say more?  For a girl addicted to fairy tales this movie has it all. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie:

We are men of action, lies do not become us. (Wesley)
As You Wish (Wesley)
Anybody want a peanut? (Fezzik)
He's still following us?  Inconceivable! (Vizzini)
You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means. (Inigo)
Have fun storming the castle! (Miracle Max and Valerie)
I'm not a witch, I'm your wife! (Valerie)
Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line! (Vizzini)
Let me 'splain.  No, there is too much, let me sum up. (Inigo)

And of course, the Impressive Clergyman is priceless in everything he says!

This movie makes it onto my desert island pile of books and movies, definitely.  It's a keeper, and stands the test of time.  It's hard to believe it's been almost a quarter of a century since I've first seen it.  Forever a classic in my heart, I highly recommend The Princess Bride. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts on the Garden at Thanksgiving

As Canadian Thanksgiving is this coming weekend, I have been thinking (and thanking) about my dear little garden and all the pleasure it gave me this year.  Right from the first sight of crocuses and rhubarb pushing their way up through the snow, to the petunias, sunflowers and tomatoes (yes, tomatoes!) still clinging to life this fall.  Some things went along wonderfully, like the rhubarb, raspberries, apples, potatoes and tomatoes.  Some of my flowers were just divine, like the roses and sunflowers.  Other things didn't go quite as planned, like my dismal carrots, the sweet peas that never really managed to do anything, and the beets that just languished.  Every day was an adventure, as I weeded and planned, pruned and picked in my little Eden.  I'm so thankful for the good earth and all that grows in it.  Every seed contains a miracle that will always amaze me.  We will give thanks this Monday for all our many blessings, with hearts full of gratitude.

graphics courtesy of

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Peek-a-boo Cherry Cake #1

My friend Colleen makes this amazing cherry sheetcake that my children absolutely love!  When I was digging through my recipe box the other day, I found this recipe for Peek-a-boo Cherry Cake that reminded me of Colleen's cake, so I decided to give it a try.  (Do you have recipes like this, that you copied down twenty years ago and are just now trying out?  Please say you're more up to date than I am!)  While I was rifling through some very old recipe magazines at work I found another cherry cake that has the same effect, which I will post after I have tested it, and will let you know which one I like best.  Then, maybe Colleen will share her original recipe with me and it'll just be a cherry cake-a-polooza!

This is a very pretty cake, and perfect for the holiday season.

I don't know who gave me this recipe, so no credit can be given.  Thank you, whoever you are!

Peek-a-boo Cherry Cake

350 degrees Farenheit
45 minutes
12 servings

1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 can cherry fruit filling
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Combine all ingredients (except cherry filling, 2 T. sugar and 1/4 c. almonds) in large bowl.  Blend, then beat for three minutes at medium speed.  Spread 3/4 of dough evenly in greased 9x13 pan.  Spoon fruit filling on top and spread gently to cover surface.  Drop remaining dough by small spoonfuls over cherry layer.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar and almonds over top.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool, and cut into squares.  Yum!

graphics courtesy of

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Missing Sock Box

Here's my frugal tip for the day!  Keep those old mismatched socks in your rag bag.  Worn like a glove, they are great for dusting.  This is a good duster to give to children as well.  This is great in particular for woodwork and wooden spindles, the back of the piano or refrigerator, or ceiling fans. 

"The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed." - Mahatma Gandhi.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Conference Weekend Traditions

This weekend has been a wonderful General Conference for our Church.  We live in an area where the conference sessions (two sessions on Saturday and another two on Sunday) are broadcast on our local cable network, so we get to watch in the comfort of our own home!  This is a blessing, but also poses some hidden challenges, like how to establish a reverent atmosphere in our family room, which is not usually a reverent place!

The first Saturday session was at ten a.m., but Scott and I were in charge of chapel cleaning this Saturday.  We scheduled the cleaning to start early, so people could get back home in time for the first session, and we almost made it in time!  We sat around the kitchen table with the laptop, drinking hot chocolate and eating Timbits while we watched conference.  The children did a pretty good job of paying attention.  We didn't expect them to watch the second session, we don't usually require more than one session a day from the younger set.  Two hours is a long time to pay attention, and we don't want them to hate conference weekend, but look forward to it.  I did catch most of the second session, inbetween picking up and dropping off people at work and other regular Saturday stuff.  Saturday is more difficult because it is still a work day and activity day in lots of ways, so although we do our best to clear that day, stuff still happens. 

Saturday evening Scott, Jason and Justin went to the stake centre to watch the priesthood session of conference.  Afterwards, they went out for a hamburger.  This is a night Scott really looks forward to, he loves to go to conference with his boys!  Jeffrey can't wait to turn twelve so he can go too!  I made a fun dinner for the rest of us, and when the big guys came home, everyone camped out in the family room to watch a movie.  (Except me, I just can't bear Transformers!)

Sunday is the day we focus on the most, since it is the Sabbath.  I made a big breakfast to start off our conference morning.  We have the same thing every General Conference - english muffin sandwiches with cheese, fried egg, and bacon (or sausage).  Yum!  The second session Scott and I both watched, while the younger kids amused themselves quietly (I wish!)  Afterwards, we had a nice Sunday dinner of lasagna, garlic bread and hot fudge pudding cake. 

Here are some ideas for making conference more fun at home.  Some people still get dressed up for Sunday and sit on straight backed chairs, they find this helps with reverence.  We are more the grab-your-favorite-blanket-and-cuddle-up types.  Another idea is to get a previous conference issue and pull out the insert with all the general authorities pictures, and mark off the ones that speak that session.  Jeff and Josh like to play a jelly bean game, where I make a list of gospel-type words (faith, testimony, chapel, commandments, etc.,) and assign a colored jelly bean to each word.  Whenever they hear a word spoken in a talk, they put a colored jelly bean in their bowl that corresponds with the word.  Then they tally the beans at the end to see which word wins.  Older kids can learn to take notes for the different speakers, using their journal as a notebook.  I know one grandma in Calgary that invited all her children and their spouses and children over for a huge conference waffle breakfast.  It's nice to think of ways to make conference more meaningful by building special traditions that fit your family.  The goal is to get everyone to look forward to General Conference, and get something personal out of it. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The black screen of death.... dun dun dunnnnnnn......

I booted up my computer on Monday, ready to hit the blogosphere, bloggernacle, or whatever you call it when we blog.  I was half way through a post when....everything went black!  I gasped, rebooted the computer, and was relieved that most of the post had been autosaved.  Back to work, click click click went my fingers on the keys, then - blackness again!  Gasp!  This happened a few more times before I came to the bleak conclusion that something was seriously wrong. 

Even worse, tech support (Scott) was in Montreal on business for the next few days.  When tech support (Scott) finally came back home, he came to the conclusion that my computer is broken. That's why he's paid the big bucks. 

This is my sad story of why I have been absent from the bloggernacle all week.  I'm borrowing Scott's laptop right now while he's at the priesthood session of conference this evening.  Thanks honey!  Hopefully I"ll be able to get caught up this coming week, until then - happy blogging everyone!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Every Child......

"Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man." - Rabindranath Tagore.

photo credit:  Jeff taken by Kerri MacIntyre, June 12, 2005

Cold Comfort Farm - Review

Since I reviewed the gothic tale of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall last week, I thought I'd review one of my favorite satires this week.  Cold Comfort Farm is a 1995 British miniseries starring Kate Beckinsale.  It's based on a novel written by Stella Gibbons.

The movie is set in the 1930's.  Kate Beckinsale is Flora Poste, a recently orphaned 20 year old girl, who has been left only 100 pounds a year to live on.  Flora is a Modern Woman, who fancies herself a writer.  She wants to write a novel equal to Jane Austen's Persuasion when she is 53, and plans to observe people until then, as fodder for her book.  Flora is trying to find a relative to take her in, but she has 'only 100 pounds and doesn't play bridge', so none of her London relatives will do.  She sends out letters around the country to all her other relatives, and finds a promising answer from her family at Cold Comfort Farm.  Apparently, according to her Aunt Judith Starkadder, a wrong was done to Flora's father by Judith's husband, and the family owes her a great debt, so they will take her in.

Flora moves in with the Starkadders, who live at Cold Comfort Farm, which is an extremely grim, gothic, run down old place.  The family is run by the matriarch, Ada Doom, who saw 'something nasty in the woodshed' many years ago, and has ruled the family by fear ever since.  She rarely leaves her bedroom, but her word is law.  The rest of the family is equally crazy, with Ian McKellan putting in a great turn as the fire and brimstone preacher of the family, who warns all that there is 'no butter in hell to sooth your burns'.  Rufus Sewell is equally wonderful as the dumb, handsome cousin who works on the farm, but secretly wants to be a film star.  Flora marches in to the family and takes over, much like Jane Austen's Emma.  By the end of the movie she has turned everything and everyone upside down, fixing things just to her liking.

Be warned, this film is very quotable!  If you're addicted to great movie quotes you'll find yourself talking about woodsheds, and how there've 'always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm', while everyone else looks at you like you're crazy.  This film is very tongue in cheek, making fun of those grim, dark English dramas.  You can watch it episode style on youtube. It has such a great cast, including Stephen Fry, who never disappoints. If you're addicted to period drama, and feel like a good laugh, this is the film for you!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Changing Seasons

"Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons." - Jim Bishop, writer

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


My life has been very pie-centric lately.  Strawberry-rhubarb (pictured above), apple, blueberry, you name it, I've made it. 

A result of making so many pies is lots and lots of scraps of pastry left over, once the pie is trimmed and crimped.  I don't like to waste things, so I try to use up those little bits of pie pastry when possible.  One thing my mother-in-law makes is something called Commodores.  I have no idea why she calls them Commodores, neither does Scott.  All I know is my husband loves these, and I like to make him happy! 

It's pretty easy, you just smoosh together the leftover scraps of pastry, and re-roll them out.  I know this is technically a no-no, but please remember we're being thrifty here!  Once the dough is rolled out again, I use a big round cookie cutter and cut out lots of circles.  Try and roll the pastry as thin as possible, it tastes better.  Once they're cut out place a spoonful of your favorite preserves in the centre of the pastry.  Either top them with another circle or fold over to make a semi circle.  Then pinch the edges closed, brush with a little egg white and sprinkle with sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet, and pop in the oven while the pie is baking.  Keep an eye on them, it only takes five or ten minutes until they're done.  These are yummy little things!

Another use for leftover pastry scraps is to gather them all together, smoosh them up and roll them out into a rectangle.  Spread some softened butter on the pastry, and then sprinkle generously with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  Roll up like a skinny jelly roll, cut into little circles, and bake as above.  These are yummy, tiny little cinnamon buns.

This is a fun job to give to your children.  Let them have a whack at rolling out the dough, and making little treats.  They can be very creative! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tip Tuesday - The Tooth Brush - not just for hygiene!

  I have old toothbrushes hidden under every sink in the house.  These are one of my favorite cleaning tools!  They are great for getting around the taps and faucets in the sinks, and any other grungy, hard to reach spot that needs some heavy duty cleaning.  They're good on grout as well.  I also use them on my diamond ring, which I never, ever take off, and therefore gets totally gross with bread dough and other mixtures when I'm cooking or baking.  The soft bristles of a toothbrush get right in there and clean out all the gunk.  I keep them hidden because I don't want anyone to think, 'hey, there's my old toothbrush', and then put it in their mouth, unaware of where that toothbrush has been since it was retired from active duty.  Blech!  So that's my tip, save your old toothbrushes for hard to get at cleaning jobs, and keep them hidden!

Teaching Pre-schoolers How To Pour

When I was a young(er) mother with small children, I wanted to help them be more independent.  Things like washing their hands, eating with good manners, clearing their plates from the dinner table.  Little children love to do things for themselves, also known as "Me do it!!"

A neat way to help children learn how to pour a drink for themselves is to get a tray, a small pitcher, a cup, and some rice.  Fill the pitcher with rice, place it on the tray with the cup, and let the children practice pouring the rice in the cup.  There's a little more control with the rice and the tray, nobody gets wet, and it's easy to vacuum or sweep up the rice if it spills.  Plus, they can do this activity over and over (and over) again.  This builds those important neural pathways.  Practice makes perfect!

Birthday Boy

Jason turned nineteen this Saturday, and I'm finding this birthday hard.  Some people find turning forty difficult, I find it more difficult facing my children's birthdays and other milestones.  Such as, my baby turned ten this summer.  Not a baby anymore.  My first baby is now nineteen, even worse!  It helps that he's turned into a fine young man, responsible, hard working, kind and intelligent.  Happy Birthday Jason!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Review

The other day, while I was canning apples and making apple pies, and peeling pounds and pounds of apples, I grabbed Scott's ipad and set it up in the kitchen, right within range of getting splashed with flour and apple spatters.  Don't tell my husband.  My friend, Stacey, had told me about a great miniseries she watched on Youtube, called The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  This is a joint CBC/BBC production, starring Toby Stephens, Tara Fitzgerald and Rupert Graves.  It's based on the book by Anne Bronte. 

Well, I spent a great couple of hours pulled into this wonderful movie.  It's a beautiful story about a mysterious widow who comes to Cumbria and takes up residence in the remote, forbidding house called Wildfell Hall, with her young son and faithful retainer.  She keeps to herself, and seems cold and unfriendly to her community, with rather strict beliefs as well.  She is befriended by one of her neighbors, a handsome young farmer.  There is a scandal brewing, as the neighbors starts to speculate about her relationship with the farmer and also with another young gentleman of the neighborhood. I don't want to spoil too much, but the young widow has quite the back story, very tragic, and all is revealed in the end.  I even gasped a few times!  It was very gothic. 

The scenery was breathtaking, the costumes were all you could ask from a period drama, and the young farmer was suitably handsome, noble and constant in his affections.  The young widow was very dramatic and tragic as well.  I really got pulled into the story, and was sorry when it ended.

Here's my confession:  I'm not usually a Bronte fan.  I find their stories, in general, very gothic and sometimes violent, both in emotion and actions.  Heathcliffe, Mr. Rochester - no thanks!  Not my kind of hero.  Despite my basic distrust of total drama island, I have to say I really loved this story by Anne Bronte.  If you are in the mood for brooding period drama, give this film a whirl!