Friday, December 8, 2017

Sites and Sounds of the Season

Missy Tippens

I've been trying to decorate for Christmas. I had to jump in earlier than usual because I hosted a party here this past Sunday. So, fast motion prep! (I don't usually get decorated until about mid-December.)

First, the ever-important tree. We've always had live Frasier Firs. But this year I decided to buy an nice artificial one so we don't have to fight over who has to put on (and remove!) the lights. :) I really l like it!

You can see up close that it has a bit of sparkle that makes it look like snow.

I didn't get ornaments on it before the party, but with the lights and pinecones and "snow," it didn't look bad.

I actually spent more time on the mantel than I planned. I usually have the bottom tree branches that we cut off our trees. I totally forgot I wouldn't have that this year! So I got the berries out of the attic and went to do the mantel, and went, "Well, duh!" But I had bought a live wreath while at Home Depot, which didn't work out in the spot I had planned. So in a pinch, I ended up taking that wreath apart and used it!

I usually also have white lights through the greenery but ran out of time. I had to cook!

I made beef chili and vegetable posole soup. I tried this new recipe that turned out good (except I didn't like the smell! I think maybe it was the hominy that smelled bad to me.) It was so strange how it affected my nose. Tasted really good, though, with all the toppings.

Toppings for chili and soup included black beans, chopped black olives, green onions, avocado chunks, cilantro (I left it as a topping because I know how many people--around the cafe, too!--don't like it), sour cream, and cheddar cheese.

Oops. Took the photo after dinner.

I also made a spinach salad with chopped pistachios.

And one of my friends offered to bring something. She's an excellent baker, so I asked her to bring dessert. She brought my favorite...

Caramel cake!

Poor thing said she had to make two batches of icing. Said she burned the first one.

I enjoyed a nice, fat piece!

We had a great time at our annual ornament exchange! I still haven't finished decorating but at least got enough of a start to have a Christmas party. Once my daughter gets home after finals, I'll have some help finishing. :)

Oh! The sounds of Christmas...

I wanted to share this video. It's a piece our church choir will be singing for our Christmas music. It's become one of my very favorites! It'll give you chill bumps--the good kind. I just hope I can sing it without getting choked up. Enjoy! I hope it brightens your holiday prep.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Idaho Potato Chowder!


This soup came out so very, very good. I could live on this soup. I had some leftover ham and a fresh 15 lb. bag of Idaho potatoes and a hankering for soup....

So I checked online and saw some recipes and realized that all chowders are not created equal. I checked the ingredients and gosh... you can add a lot of things to chowders!

This is a delicious one with basic stuff that's probably in your fridge and cupboard right now:

1 stick butter
1/3-1/2 cup chopped onions
2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 Tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
7 cups milk
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 12-16 oz bag frozen corn
3 or 4 slices of thick ham, chopped
If you've got some bacon, throw it on and cook it somewhat crispy... for crumbling!

(Cheese can be added to this soup. I've made it with 2 cups of extra sharp shredded cheese, but simple sharp is fine, too.)

Melt butter in large Dutch oven style pan. Add in onions and celery, cook lightly until not quite transparent. Add garlic. Stir. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Stir in milk, whisking until all is blended.

Heat to boiling, whisking. Add in chopped potato, chopped ham and corn. Continue cooking at high simmer/low boil until potatoes are done, about fifteen minutes or so.

Cheese can be stirred into soup last five minutes OR you can garnish bowls of soup with shredded cheese and it will melt into the soup. Can be garnished with bacon, but I mixed a half-dozen slices of crispy, chopped/broken bacon right into the soup.

This was one of the best soups I've ever made... and it made so many people happy.

We like happy people because Farmer Dave and Lacey caught that bug that's had them coughing for weeks... :(  So they were liking soup!!!!

And here is our pretty moon... what a gorgeous sight this was!

And with Christmas approaching, Logan (almost 9 years old) and I have been stringing lights and hanging ornaments in window panes and setting up the life-sized Santa and his 9 reindeer made by Great-Great-Grandma Blodgett.... and her son, Uncle Chuck.

This is one of our favorite things, to have inherited this monster-sized set. Oddly enough I was the only one who spoke up when they asked who wanted it???

I was gobsmacked! And happy!!!!!

Each deer has to be staked into the ground with heavy duty stakes on both sides... And then I run twinkle lights as "tracers"... and two spotlights so that folks driving by can see Santa and his crew!

The whole thing was hand-made and hand-painted. Uncle Chuck did most of the cutting and fastening, but Grandma did the painting in her 80's and 90's.

She was a game one, that Grandma!!!!

Santa and friends at night:

And over by the house, tucked above one of my little ponds....

Oh come! All ye faithful... joyful and triumphant!

I burned my first batch of sponge candy today. You'd think I'd learn, but no...

We'll try again tomorrow!

But for now, Merry Christmas from Ruthy... and Blodgett Family Farm in Western New York!

Multi-published inspirational author Ruthy Logan Herne loves writing heartfelt stories of faith, hope and love. You can find her huddled in her old farmhouse all winter long, typing away, making things up, the very thing she would have gotten into trouble for as a kid. But not anymore! Friend her on facebook or follow her on Twitter or stop by her website  She loves chatting with folks and sometimes bossing them around. Nicely. Of course.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cooking a sandwich

Okay, that was a totally lame blog title, but I had no ideas. If you think you can do better, please post your suggestions in the comments, and I may even change it.

But back to the cooked sandwich....

Really it's about having a nasty cold and needing to eat something, but having no appetite.

I had no appetite, but I did have a jar of honey mustard, so in the hopes that the bite of the mustard would do something to clear the sinuses, I did a riff on a summer favorite.

I had some cooked chicken breast, so I slathered it with honey mustard and then heaped lettuce on top. I put that in the oven for about ten minutes sealed up in it's foil packet.

The lettuce wilts a bit as it cooks.

The first time I made this was on a baguette and it was definitely better. The second time was on low salt mini-pitas. Still good, but lacking that satisfying crunch.

The first time, I sliced oranges on top of the chicken and lettuce on the baguette. That remains my favorite way to enjoy this. However, I was experimenting the second time around, so I tried adding butternut squash and some pomegranate arils. They made a nice variation.

 So, what do you think? Is there a better name for this blog post?

And now to the happy part - my favorite part of decorating for the holidays is greens with little white lights. Is anyone surprised that my fireplace is filled with books??  Hubby's idea.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Nothing But a Big Ol' Smile

This year, I'm celebrating the release of my first holiday book.
So it only seemed right to share it with my new church family.
After the Christmas cantata Sunday night, at the annual church-wide Christmas party, they allowed me the privilege of doing a benefit book signing. 
And get a load of this.
The men...
Were just as excited as the women.

It was so cute.
Strapping ranchers buying books for their wives. Okay, so some of the wives came up later to get another book or two, but still. I thought it was so precious. I mean, these are the kind of guys we write about in our books. The heroes who long to make their lady happy.

You gotta love it.

Kind of like this little guy.
Who scampered off soon after I took this pic.
I love how the calves get so furry for the winter. 

Oh, and then there was the "super" moon.
A glorious display of God's glory.

You know, by now my house usually looks like the North Pole threw up.
But things are different this year. Yet despite the frustrations, I choose to find joy in the simple things. Because joy is everywhere. 

Joy isn't about things or feelings. It's not about the twinkling lights or the music.
Even in the worst of times, joy a choice. 
A choice to celebrate being alive, knowing God has a plan for you. 
It's the peace of knowing a Baby came into this world for the sole purpose of saving you.
Looking at life through the lens of joy gives you a different perspective. 
One I know I could stand to look through the whole year through.

How about you?
This holiday season, will you choose joy?


Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at  

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Great Christmas Tree Hunt and Chili Supper 2017

This weekend was the long-awaited Christmas Tree Hunt!

Jan here, sharing one of our favorite Black Hills traditions - our church's annual Tree Hunt and Chili Supper.

We rarely need an excuse to head up into the Hills on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, especially when we get to do it with a few of our closest friends!

I think I've mentioned how our church is growing...sixty-one folks from our church gathered for this year's hunt.

photo by Janet Sartorius :-)

The weather was a lovely 55°, even though it was a bit overcast due to an approaching storm front. This lovely spot in the middle of the Hills is expecting 4"-6" of snow overnight Sunday and into Monday, our first real snow of the season.

But we found our tree, and then we all headed back to the church for the chili supper.

I made one of our favorite chili recipes this year - Chili Verde - which is really more white than green. :-) But it's tasty, not too spicy, and super easy to throw together.

Chili Verde


2 quarts chicken broth
2 cups cooked, diced chicken (I often use canned chicken)
3 cans Great Northern Beans, or another large white bean
2 small cans diced green chilies
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used chipotle chili powder)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt to taste

Combine the ingredients in your slow cooker, large pot, or pressure cooker.

In the slow cooker, cook on high for 4 - 6 hours.

In a large pot (stove-top), simmer on medium heat for about an hour.

In a counter-top pressure cooker (aka Instant Pot), cook for 10 minutes on high pressure and use the natural pressure release (about 30 minutes total time.)

That's it! Super simple, and delicious on a snowy, stormy day.

And this is a perfect dish to make when you want or need to use your pantry. I always keep a stock of these ingredients on hand, so this is a dish I can make even if we haven't made a trip to the store in a few weeks...or months. 

So, where is your favorite spot to find your Christmas tree?

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cheese Grits Casserole

I wanted to re-share this post because it's a typical casserole in our household at holidays. Enjoy!

Missy Tippens

I've got a good southern recipe for you today! For those of you who've said in the past that you can't even buy grits at your grocery store (and I'm sad about that!)...well, you need to order some online! You need to try this. I served it for Easter lunch.

I based my recipe on one from Trisha Yearwood. Click here for the original, which is a video of her making Garlic Grits Casserole. I watched it and jotted all the ingredients. :) Then I modified it because I wanted to double the recipe--and while I was making my decision about how much cheese to buy, someone grabbed the last two packages!! (I think it was a woman I had just been talking to who probably overheard me tell my husband that the cheese was buy one get one free!) If she hadn't already disappeared, I might have begged. LOL Instead, I came up with Plan B.

This is the doubled recipe, so it's enough to feed a crowd (probably 15-20).

9 cups salted water
2 cups Quick Grits
2 5-ounce packages of garlic herb cheese (I used Boursin)
8-ounce package extra-sharp cheddar, grated
1 stick butter + 2 TBS butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups cornflakes cereal, crushed

Boil the water. Stir in the grits and cook until thickened. Here's the garlic herb cheese I used.

Once the grits are thickening, crumble in the cheese. Next add in the 1 stick of butter (reserve the 2 TBS for the topping).

Then add in the grated cheddar. (Trisha's recipe only called for the garlic cheese, but the casserole I grew up eating also had extra-sharp cheddar, so I chose that for doubling my recipe.)

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.

Scoop out a ladle full of the hot grits and mix with the eggs/milk to temper it. I actually tempered with 3 or 4 ladles full. Then I stirred this tempered mixture into the pot of cheese grits.

Next, pour this into a large casserole dish. Mine nearly overflowed, so I ended up pouring this into a large, greased cake pan.

Crush the cornflakes (my daughter did it in a ziplock bag). Melt the 2 TBS butter and mix into the cereal. Sprinkle this topping onto the casserole.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or so, until bubbly throughout.

Enjoy a bit of southern tradition!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Trying New Cookie Ideas and Would Love Your Help!

Hi, it's Ruthy here, The Yank, and I love Christmas cookies. I love cookies 24/7/365 so I'm confessing that I won't just use these ideas at Christmas, but all year round!

We make cookie Whoopie Pies on the farm and they sell like crazy.... and in "Magnolia" Journal, there's a picture of spiced Whoopie Pies in the beautiful setting!

I knew I loved that Joanna Gaines! :)

So here are our classics....

Double Chocolate Chip (which is often triple chocolate chip depending on what morsels I have in the house...)

Mary's or Deluxe Sugar Cookies (which we frost with a decadent butter icing flavored with almond and vanilla)

Snickerdoodles (Love 'em!!!)

Fudge (any kind, I am an equal opportunity fudge lover!)

Meringue kisses, tinted in pastels because my son Luke loves them!!!

Those are the basics. I make some bars, too, but I'm a big fan of cookies and Whoopie Pies so this week I'm playing with cranberry cookies. Not everyone will love them, but they're in keeping with the season so I'm playing.

And I forgot Thumbprints. Oh, how I love Thumbprints with our new Very Berry Cherry jam!!!

But what are your favorites? You can post a link to the recipe or just name the favorite and tell me where you got the recipe... I'll do the leg work!

We used to make mincemeat cookies and bourbon balls (my father's and sister's favorites) but I don't like either so I don't do those anymore.

What about you? Are there cookies that have fallen out of favor?

Here's a new one I'm playing with, a cranberry/orange/white chocolate cookie and we're so pleased with the results I had to share it! This is homemade cranberry/orange relish, a simple recipe... 

One bag of cranberries
One large orange
1 cup sugar

Grind cranberries and orange together with grinder or food processor. Add sugar. Chill! 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees...


16 oz. soft butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons sour cream 
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups cranberry orange relish
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 12 oz. bag Ghirardelli white chocolate chips
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (if desired)

Cream butter and sugars together with mixer. 

Add vanilla, sour cream, and egg. 

Mix and cream again. 
Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and mix in thoroughly. Blend in the cranberry orange relish. Mix thoroughly. Add in the white chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop by tablespoonfuls (or fun cookie scoop!) onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for between 12-15 minutes. 

Cool on cookie sheet until you can move them to cooling rack. Cool thoroughly, then dip 1/2 cookie into white chocolate and cool again. I expect dipping in dark chocolate would be just as amazing!

These are a cranberry cookie that you then dip in chocolate. HOW CAN THAT BE BAD????

It can't be, right?

We did some straight (without chips or nuts) some with white chocolate chips and some with both... and dipped some of each. That way we can properly taste-test them! :) All in the name of science, of course.

And I love homemade things. I've had to sit on my hands not to order from catalogs because I love ordering things.... (sick, sick woman!) but I know we can make them even better.... so I've taken my discipline pills and instead I'm sending that money to Heifer International to help sustain farming because I'll bake cookies... and they can have milk for their children. That makes sense!!!!

And I'm making almond bark this week with roasted almonds and dark and white chocolate. I love almond bark with roasted almonds. I could possibly be addicted, but I don't need a medical intervention. Just hugs!

Our goals for Christmas have changed over the years... I used to get caught up in the splash and dash and shopping and having to create an amazing experience of presents and perfection.... and then I grew up and realized that Jesus, born in the manger, IS perfection. :)

So I stay with the decorating because it's fun for me and the grandkids... and I love baking and cooking....

But instead of shopping we find people to help.

It is like the best thing ever, and the whole family works together on it, not because we've got oh-so-much....

But because we've certainly got enough!

And now, Advent.... with sweet whispers of a blooming hope with one of my favorite Christmas hymn medleys....

Silent Night/Night of Silence

I sang alto on this for years with the St. Lawrence Song Prayers and it's still one of my favorite hymns to hear......

And here is a farm surprise!!!! Look what Logan discovered peeping and mewing beneath a monster-high pile of wood...

Four sweet babies! Mama sneaked away and hid these darlings well, but Detective Logan was on the job! When not detecting small, helpless critters beneath mammoth logs, Logan is a born inventor.... Like this cool flying creature he created with no directions at all.

I'd love to hear your cookie thoughts below! Let us know what cookies you love... or don't love... because this is the time of year we can all talk cookies and everyone understands it! 

Multi-published inspirational author Ruthy Logan Herne loves to write beautiful stories with unforgettable characters because it makes her happy to do it! Married for a very long time, she lives on a pumpkin farm in Western New York with her husband and two dogs, several cats, two flocks of chickens, three miniature donkeys and a host of wonderful people in and out of her doors daily.... She loves to chat with folks on facebook (so friend her there...) and loves to hear from folks at  Or run by her website