Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Was Good To Me

Wow, I really hate to see 2016 come to an end.  To me, it was one of my best years and I turned 50 (smile).   

Seriously though, I had made a promise to myself early on in 2016 that I would be open to new ideas and plans.  In doing so, I have had my most successful selling year.  

I also made a list of "50 things to do before I'm 50" and am happy to say I crossed off 35 before my birthday and only have a few more to do "while I'm 50."

Personal and spiritual growth, self improvement and reflection; inspired, pushed and changed me - for the better.  Some of the lessons were hard, it would have been easier for me to "give in" to an old response or reaction.  However, to the best of my ability....(smile)...I tried to stop, think and reflect on what my action, reaction would be.  It was hard as this was a polarizing political year.  I said I wouldn't let it get to me and affect my relationships with those I love - and I didn't!

I traveled this year:

Wisconsin to Waco - Magnolia Farms - with 2 of my friends.

Scotland and Ireland with my daughters.   

 We ran our first 5K

All where wonderful - however, Dicky Bird's Nest - my blog - is something I have poured myself into this year.  As I always say, I write this blog for me - however, I do like watching my stats.  I have gained some new followers and friends through my writing this year.  I have no idea if I can keep the viewer momentum going - but, I can say my page views have tripled monthly.  Most of that is due to some success I have had with reaching to a state, national and global community.  One of my posts was read live on air to a state wide audience, one of my posts was "liked" by Richard Fowler a national radio host and FOX news regular and my post about the review of The Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, Scotland was shared on 2 websites.  That post: was my most popular one read for 2016.  It really pushed my view numbers to totals I could only dream of.  I also was contacted by author Joey Green to have a photo off my blog featured in his upcoming book:  Vacation on Location, Exploring the Towns Where Your Favorite Movies Were Filmed.  I can't wait for my autographed copy.  

So in looking over my 2016 year in review - I have been so blessed!  Thank you for following along!  Look for my "word of the year" post - it's a good one!  

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.   

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Card Exchange

Amy from Love Made My Home hosted a Christmas Card Exchange.  It is a fun way to link up with fellow bloggers and meet new ones.  I actually had a mix up with my card exchange so Amy was kind enough to exchange with me.  She lives in England.  

Merry Christmas to my fellow bloggers and as always....Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Cookie of the Week 35 - Sugar Cut Outs

Sugar Cut Outs

2 C butter
2 C sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 t almond extract
1 1/2 T baking powder
5 C flour

Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Add the egg, vanilla and almond extract.  Mix well - add the baking powder.  Beat four in 1 cup at a time.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  Roll 1/4" on lightly floured surface.  Cut in desired shapes.  Bake 350 for 8-10 min.  

I use meringue powder to make royal icing.

Merry Christmas - Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Cookie of the Week 34 - Gingerbread Bears

Gingerbread Bears 

1 C butter
1 C brown sugar
1 C molasses
2 eggs
1 1/2 t salt
4 t cinnamon
4 t ginger
1 t allspice
1 1/2 t ground cloves
1/2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
5 C flour

Cream the butter and brown sugar together, add the molasses and eggs, mix well.  Add the spices, baking powder and soda.  Add the flour 1 cup at a time until well blended.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Roll 1/4" on lightly floured board, cut out in desired shapes - I did bears.   Bake 350 for 8-10 min.

I use meringue powder to make royal icing for decorating.

Very gingery, dark cookies - Al loves them!

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cookie of the Week 33 - Snow Globe Cookies

I have had the idea to make cookies like this for several years.  I finally got around to doing it.  I LOVE how they look!  

I started out with a traditional shortbread cookie recipe for the base of the snow globe.

Shortbread Cookie

1 1/2 C soft butter
1 C confectioner's powdered sugar
2 C flour

Whip the butter and sugar till light and creamy; add the flour 1 cup at a time until well blended.  Lightly flour your surface and roll 1/4" thick.  Cut into a shape large enough for your plastic ornament.  This will depend on the size of your ornament.  Bake 350 till golden 8-10 min.   

How you turn these shortbread bases into a snow globe will require your having plastic ornaments.  I found these plastic ornaments at Michael's Crafts several years ago.  They open so you can put different pictures and such in the inside.  The tag says:  Crystal Keepsakes, Westrim Crafts, Van Nuys, CA.  I also looked through a box of vintage items I had for cake decorating, tiny Christmas tree ornaments and other miniature items.  Mine happen to be mostly vintage - you can still buy some new items.  Or, even use candy, gummy or graham bears - ideas are endless.  

I always use royal icing made from meringue powder.  Frost your cookie, add your miniature item, add decorating sprinkles and pipe a line of frosting around the edge to hold the "globe" on top.  That's it - super easy and super cute!  

The snowman is my favorite.  Here are a few of the other ones I made.

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Skellig Islands, County Kerry, Ireland

There are 2 islands; the smaller one is Little Skellig and the larger one is Skellig Michael aka Great Skellig.   The larger island was inhabited by Christian Monks in the 6th century.  The museum, The Skellig Experience, had a presentation on how it was built, by hand, incredible!   Tours to this island are available, but not during October.  After the ferry ride across the North Channel, I'm pretty sure I won't be going on any more boats like that.  I don't have "sea legs."  

The museum is becoming quite popular to Star War enthusiasts as the last scene in The Force Awakens has Luke Skywalker on this island.  The museum did tell us that more filming has been done on the island, so I'm sure future Star Wars films will have more views from here.

We had a wonderful lunch at the Skellig Experience Visitor Center
The colorful houses were our view during lunch.

Just beautiful! 

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle

Peanut brittle was one of my mom's specialties.   This is how she taught me to make it.  Spray or butter a pan and have it ready.

Peanut Brittle

2 C Sugar
1 C Karo Corn Syrup
1/2 C Water

Bring this to a boil in a heavy bottom kettle.  Attach your candy thermometer to the side, but make sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the kettle.  While this is working up to boil, get all your other ingredients ready and set to the side.  You want to have this handy as once your brittle hits hard crack you want to be able to dump them in without stopping to measure.

3 C Peanuts
2 T Butter
1 t. Vanilla
2 t.  Baking Soda

Add peanuts to boiling syrup and cook until hard crack stage.  Stir continuously.

Once this reaches hard crack stage, remove from heat and dump in the butter, soda and vanilla.  Stir vigorously, this will foam up, pour it into your pan.

Wait for it to cool - or, if you live in Wisconsin, take it outside and let it sit on your snow covered bench.  

Once cool and hard, break into pieces.  

Every time I make this, I think of my mom and the batches upon batches she would make.  It is so good and easy too.

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Killarney, Ireland - Ring of Kerry

The drive to Killarney reminded me of Wisconsin with it's rural setting, green rolling hills and pastures full of dairy cows.  One of the gentlemen on our tour was from Oklahoma.  His brother lives in Neillsville, Wisconsin (less than an hour from us) he said "I bet this reminds you of home."  This part of Ireland I would love to come back to and stay longer.  

Our day began with a jaunting car ride.  I loved it.  I jumped on my own cart so I could sit in front.  The ride took us through Killarney National Park.  Our driver was a hoot!  One of my favorite things we did!

The park is beautiful.  This land was donated to Ireland by the Muckross family.  In the days when having a son was everything to land ownership - the Muckross family only had a daughter.  To keep their family name "alive" they donated their entire estate (25,500 acres) in 1932.  Here is a picture of their estate home.

The Ross Castle is in the park.  Built in the 15th century.  Like all other estates, a long history of ownership.  Now it is maintained and open for tours.  

After the tour, we were off around the Ring of Kerry.  We stopped here for a photo...the dog stole the show! 

Dean bought me one of those stars this gentleman was making.  Thanks again Dean.  Now we are off to The Skellig Experience.  

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.