Monday, November 29, 2010

TOGETHER IN MAKING MEMORIES-- Christmas Magic Thanks to Mom

I absolutely love the holidays. Despite the hectic schedule, the overwhelming shopping to-do list, and the crowded stores, I still look forward to this special time of the year. I owe my love of all-things-Christmas to my mom. She took extra time and care to make sure the holidays were a special time for my five siblings and me. Mom would start right after the Thanksgiving festivities ended, and the transformation of our somewhat shabby 1909 Victorian house would begin in earnest.

First, my older brother and I would be sent out on a quest for the perfect tree. Our old Victorian had very tall ceilings, so Mom insisted we find a tree at least 12 feet tall. So off my brother and I would go, to our favorite place in the woods a few miles from our home. Looking back, I think we must have been tromping around on some one's private property, (and chopping down their trees), but I was just a kid at the time, and so I always told myself my brother had probably asked permission least I hoped he had!

One year we had an early and heavy snowfall which left nearly four feet of snow on the ground, and the hike through the woods was especially difficult. Finally, frozen to the bone and exhausted, we found the perfect tree! My brother chopped it down and we hauled it through the snow back to my brother's truck, which was no small feat. A 12 foot tree is heavy! We were so excited to show it to Mom. We set it up in the tree stand, expecting a gasp of joy from Mom, but the look on her face said it all. It just wasn't quite right. We turned it, trimmed the branches, put the bare spot in the back, but to no avail. We had learned all too well early on in our job as official "Christmas Tree Hunters", Mom had a penchant for being a bit picky about her tree. So, off we went, back out in the cold and snow to find another one. We finally did find the perfect tree, Mom was thrilled and soon the decorating began!

The decorating always started with Mom bringing out her Santa collection and her antique ornaments from their secret hiding place. I looked forward each year to the same, familiar ornaments being unwrapped. It was comforting to me to unwrap each one of those precious symbols of my family's shared Christmas past. As I unwrapped and hung up each one, I would call to mom, "Oh Momma, here's your favorite Santa!" or, "Here's the one I made for you in second grade!" Each one had a story, a warm feeling, a good memory attached.  As I carefully unwrapped each one I'd think, "..some good things never change."

Our family traditions were like a life preserver for me during confusing and chaotic times throughout my childhood.. After twenty years in a difficult marriage, my mother finally divorced my father, who was an abusive alcoholic.  Then about a year later, remarried a sweet and gentle bachelor, who loved her so much he was willing to take on a ready-made family with six children ranging in ages from 2 to 19. Despite his love, looking back, I realize it must have been incredibly difficult at times for my mother. She was in her 40's, a working mother of six, divorced, remarried and drained emotionally from all she had been through. But yet, she wanted us to have wonderful memories of Christmas. She probably didn't feel much like celebrating at times, but she never let on. She just smiled, portrayed a happy attitude and tried to give us the best Christmas she could. Despite being a "working mom" outside the home, she decorated our house, hosted and cooked the Christmas dinner for all of our extended family and more than a few friends, (sometimes up to 30 people in all) and gave us six kids as many of the gifts on our wish list as she could. It was only later as an adult,  I found out my mother didn't really like to cook, money was terribly tight and she was exhausted most of the time during those years. But, my mother sacrificed to create Christmas magic for us. She transformed our "broken home" into a warm and beautiful place. It was happy. It was filled with joy. It was filled with laughter. It was filled with love. It was, in a word..... magical.

As I grew older, learned Santa wasn't real, and the wonder of childhood was replaced with the wisdom of age, the magic dimmed a little, but it never completely faded. When I'd return home from college and see those familiar decorations and unwrap those special ornaments, I would once again feel the the magic envelope me. My love of Christmas and so much more, I owe to my mom. She taught me the value of creating memories for my children. She showed me the real magic of Christmas is in giving, not in receiving. Because of her, I know no matter what our family may be going through, I want my children to share the laughter, feel the love, and experience the magic of Christmas. I want them to know in their hearts, some good things never change.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TOGETHER IN THE KITCHEN-- Step-By-Step to a Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

It's the star of the show on Thanksgiving, and for most of us we can't imagine a Thanksgiving dinner without it. But, many of us are intimidated by that big bird, and think bringing a beautifully brown, moist turkey to the table is only for the experienced cook. Not so! Roasting the perfect Thanksgiving turkey is actually really simple! I've been using the following recipe for years, and my turkey comes out golden brown, moist and delicious every time!

1 turkey (12-14 pounds gross weight)
2 cups kosher salt or 1 1/2 cups table salt
1/2 stick of butter

Large pot or bucket
Roasting pan with rack
Meat thermometer

1) Empty cavity of turkey, removing neck and giblets.
2) Place your (completely defrosted) turkey in a large pot or clean bucket large enough to hold it. Add salt and 2 gallons of cold water to cover the turkey completely, rubbing salt into bird and stirring water until salt dissolves. Set in the refrigerator, (temperature should be no higher than 40 degrees) for 10-12 hours.

3) Prepare the stuffing of your choice. Allow stuffing to cool completely.
4) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5) Remove turkey from salt water and rinse cavity and skin under cool running water for several minutes until all traces of salt are gone. (Make sure you carefully dispose of the salt water to keep bacteria from spreading).
6) After rinsing turkey thoroughly, pat dry with a paper towel.
7) Stuff turkey. Bring turkey legs together and truss. (Any extra stuffing place in casserole dish, cover with foil and refrigerate to cook during the last 45 minutes of cooking time of turkey).
8) Rub entire turkey with butter. Bend wings, tucking them under neck cavity. 
9)  Place turkey (breast side up) in roasting pan with rack in the bottom to keep bird from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. Put foil over the breast to keep from breast from over browning. Remove foil from breast half way through cooking time to allow for browning. 
10) Cook until meat thermometer stuck in leg pit registers 180-185 degrees and internal temperature of stuffing registers no lower than 165 degrees, for a 12-14 pound turkey approx. 3 1/2 to 4 hours. (For a larger bird, you'll have to adjust the cooking time. Click on the USDA link below for cooking times).
11) When turkey is done, transfer to a platter and allow to rest (under foil to keep warm) for 20 minutes. While the turkey rests, make your gravy.


For more information, here are some helpful links and phone numbers:

Butterball Turkey Hotline:

Monday, November 22, 2010

AND THE WINNERS ARE..........Jeanna, Leanne and Sharon!


The winners are: Jeanna, Leanne and Sharon!

Your beautiful fabric is on it's way!

Thank you for participating!

STAY TUNED FOR THE GIVEAWAY FOR DECEMBER........ (hint, it's a $25.00 gift card!)

TOGETHER IN SHARING- Thank you NW Momma Followers!

Thank you to all my friends, family and "followers" for your support of NW Momma! In this first week, NW Momma has been viewed over 250 times and already has 11 "Followers", all thanks to you! I cannot express how much your support, encouraging comments and emails have meant to me! My mission in creating NW Momma was to give women a place to come to get creative ideas to promote family fun and togetherness.  I wanted to create a place where women would feel encouraged and uplifted. I also wanted to support working moms, SAHM's (stay at home moms) and WAHM's (work from home moms), because I believe EVERY MOM IS A WORKING MOM and needs our support!

I want NW Momma to not just be "my" place to share ideas, but YOUR place as well. Do you know of a great business you'd like to see highlighted? Do have a super yummy recipe you'd like to share? Do you have a topic you like to write about as a "Guest Blogger"? Do you own a business yourself you'd like to advertise on NW Momma? Do you have a product you'd like me to try and review? Just let me know and I'm more than happy to share this blog, this community, with you!

Stay connected to NW Momma for more easy and delicious recipes, fun day trips, simple arts and crafts and fun FREEBIES and GIVEAWAYS. And even better, stay connected to get your daily dose of NW Momma support and encouragement!


P.S. Contact me with your ideas at  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NW MOMMA GIVEAWAY! Win a FREE "Fat Quarter" of fabric!

Okay friends, this is the first ever FREEBIE GIVEAWAY on NW Momma! It's a great FREEBIE GIVEAWAY because (if you follow the rules), EVERYONE WHO ENTERS IS A WINNER!
Here's the scoop:
THE PRIZE: A free "fat quarter" of beautiful fabric courtesy of Karen's Quilt Loft,

 If you're already a quilter you know and love "fat quarters" for a variety of projects such as scrappy quilts, purses, etc. If you new to quilting, you'll love winning a free "fat quarter" because it's a FREE, beautiful piece of fabric and can be the start of a new adventure into quilting (or used for whatever you want!)
1) You must become an official "Follower" of NW Momma. See the lower right side of this page to become a 'Follower". (If you're already a Follower, proceed to rule #2).
2) You must post a positive comment about NW Momma on your facebook account with a link to NW Momma,
3) You must leave a comment after the article below about Karen's Quilt Loft, telling me you did indeed post a positive comment to your FB page.
4) You must email me your contact information (Full name and mailing address). THIS IS HOW WE WILL MAIL YOU YOUR FABRIC. If you don't email me with your mailing address, we won't be able to get your prize to you! (I will only share it with Karen's Quilt Loft, since she will be the one actually mailing it to you). My email address is:
5) That's it....Follow these rules are you will WIN!
6) If you live within a 35 mile radius of Kalama, WA. you will need to visit Karen's Quilt Shop to claim your prize. Those living outside a 35 mile radius of Kalama, WA, your prize will be mailed to you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


If you love quilts, fabric, fresh coffee, homemade cookies and a cozy atmosphere, you'll love Karen's Quilt Loft, located at 124 N. 1st Street -Upper Suites, Kalama, WA. Karen Eastwood opened her quilt shop in July 2010, and says her main focus is "customer service". She said she enjoys helping quilters of all skill levels from beginners to the experienced. "I'm willing to help anybody," Karen said. "If I have a copy of a pattern and you'd like it... you've got it!"

Despite the economy, Karen decided now was the time to open her shop in the upstairs of what used to be a Pilate's studio her husband owned. When he moved across the street to open a gym, the space became available. "I saw the opportunity and decided to make the big leap and open my own business, " she said.  When another local quilt shop closed it's doors, she saw there was still an interest and a need for a quilt shop in town. She sells fabric, patterns, notions and some finished items. She also teaches quilting classes, for those who want a hands-on learning experience.

Like most entrepreneurs, Karen faced some challenges in the beginning. About 15 years ago, she opened a sewing and notions shop, but it "didn't take off," Karen said. But, being an avid quilter, when the opportunity arose this time around, she decided to "....jump in and try my hand at opening my own shop....again!" When asked what advice she'd give other women thinking of opening their own business in the current economy, she had some sage advice. "You need to know your market," she said. "Also, you need financial backing. I don't think you can open a new business in this economy on a shoe-string budget. You also have to be willing to try new things to market your business."

One new concept she's doing currently, is hosting a group on Tuesday mornings starting at 10:00 A.M., where people can work on any project they want and get help with their project, too. "It's an open forum where you can bring in any project you're working on... it doesn't even have to be quilting," she said. Most recently the group worked together to make lap size quilts for the "Helping Hands" charity. The ability to blend the love of quilting with helping others in the her community is important to Karen. Both she and her husband have been long-time educators in the Kalama School District and she continues to work with students by occasionally substitute teaching.

If you love quilts and always wanted to learn to make one, or if you're an experienced quilter looking for new ideas, you'll want to visit Karen's Quilt Loft. Stop by and have a cup of coffee while you browse. Karen will be happy to help you! Store hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Don't miss the upcoming "BLACK FRIDAY SALE", the day after Thanksgiving. The shop will open an hour earlier at 9:00 am. There will be "staggered" discounts throughout the day. From 9:00 am to Noon, there will the following discounts: 40% off Fall and Halloween prints and 30% off Christmas prints. After Noon: 20% off everything else (except previously marked sales items).

Interested in taking a quilting class? The next class will be making Christmas potholders. The cost is $30.00 which includes the pattern and full instruction. Contact Karen to sign up, (360) 957-5485 or

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

TOGETHER IN THE KITCHEN- Laura's Hot & Cheesy Artichoke Dip

We all want to make a dish that leaves our family and friends wanting more and this is it!  My niece Laura brought this super yummy dish to Thanksgiving a few years ago and it became and instant family favorite. It looks and tastes like it should be a complicated recipe, but it's very easy!

1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (use a good quality mayo, such as Best Foods)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 oz.)
1 clove of garlic finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a 1 quart casserole dish, combine all ingredients.
Bake for 25 minutes or until heated through and serve with your favorite dippers ( for example: crackers, Melba rounds, pita chips).

Monday, November 15, 2010

TOGETHER IN THANKSGIVING- Finding Meaning Amid The Chaos

As Thanksgiving approaches each year, I try to focus my family's attention on all the things we should be thankful for. I know it's important to be thankful all year long, not just around the holidays, but if I can get us all in the proper mindset (an attitude of gratitude) before we are bombarded by non-stop holiday advertising and the ensuing shopping chaos, then maybe I can head off a complete hedonistic melt-down by December 25th. Now don't get me wrong, I believe kids should receive gifts at Christmas and a certain amount of spoiling is down-right American, but I refuse to let it become solely about the presents. It's a lofty goal, I admit, but one I believe can be achieved. Let me share with you the story of one NW Momma, my friend Jill, who is succeeding in helping her family keep their focus on the real "reason for the season".

When her children were still quite young, Jill made a very wise decision. In agreement with her husband, Jill decided to limit the number of Christmas gift to three gifts per child. She is a Christian and each year on Christmas recounts to her children the story of the three wise men and the three gifts they gave to the new-born King, before each child receives their three gifts. This has been their family tradition for years and she told me it has been the best thing she and her husband have ever done as parents. As she shared her unique tradition with me, I have to be honest, I couldn't hide my shock! Our conversation went something like this:

Me (with a shocked look on my face):
"Only three gifts each? Isn't that a little harsh and..... amazingly...affordable?" I stammered.

Jill (looking calm):
"If three gifts were enough for JESUS, then three gifts are certainly enough for my kids too."

Me (with a disbelieving look still on my face):
"But, what about the whining?" I inquired, "What about the weeping and gnashing of teeth? Don't you fear a Christmas Day mutiny?"

Jill (Still calm):
"Nope. They don't whine. It's all they know. They only expect three gifts, so they're happy with three."

Me (looking like I just a light bulb moment, because I did):

I was stunned and impressed! I told you she was wise! Jill went on to explain that since she and her husband only buy three gifts for each child, they slow down, take their time and really think about what would make each child most happy. It was all about the quality, not the quantity. She also explained that with the money they saved by not overspending on gifts for the kids, they had enough in their budget for each child to purchase a gift for a needy child in their community. Each child chooses a tag off the Giving Tree at their church and then shops for the gift the needy child requests. The gift requests are often very basic items, such as pajamas and socks, which teaches her children that even some of the most basic things they take for granted are a gift to a child who has nothing. By incorporating their faith into the act of giving and receiving gifts, she has given her children maybe the best gift of all: meaning. Her children understand the true meaning of the season and the traditions that go along with it.

Now for some of us, (me included)  it's probably too late to start this only-three-gifts practice, but it's never too late to teach our children the real meaning of the holidays. I'm thinking this year our family can save up to donate to a charity, volunteer together at a local food bank or buy a gift for a needy child. With so much to be thankful for, and with so many people in our own neighborhoods and around the world struggling, now is the perfect time to start a tradition of giving of our own and find some real meaning amid the chaos.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

TOGETHER IN THE KITCHEN-- Easiest Oatmeal Cookies Ever!

This is a great kid-friendly recipe because it's easy to follow and you mix the cookie dough with your HANDS! (What kid wouldn't love that?)

I love this recipe because it's so easy you can whip it together on a Sunday night for cookies for lunches throughout the week and it's not so long and involved that you'll spend hours in the kitchen. It's quick and easy and an older child (say ages 10 and up) could do it by themselves (use your best judgment). It really is that easy! And the best part is, the cookies come out fluffy and not rock hard like some oatmeal cookies you may have made in the past.

1 c. sugar
1 c. butter
1 1/2 c. flour
2 c. Quick Oats
1 tsp. soda (sifted with flour)
2 eggs
Mix with hands -- form small balls and flatten on ungreased pan. Bake 350 degrees for approx. 10-12 minutes.
For a variation on this recipe you can add chocolate chips or craisins. Yum!

Kids love mixing the dough with their hands!


TOGETHER ON THE ROAD-- Day Trip to Kalama, WA

What do Edward and Bella (Twilight), Jack Benny and Elvis have in common? They all visited Kalama, Washington! This quaint little town is located just north of Vancouver, WA and just south of Longview, WA. It's a great day trip destination as it's easy to get to, located right off I-5. Plus, there's plenty of FREE activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Claim to fame: Twilight fans have already discovered it. It's where some of the most exciting scenes from the movie Twilight were filmed. Die hard fans of Twilight and New Moon, ("Twihards" as the locals call them), have been flocking to this small town to see Kalama High School, middle school and the now famous "lower parking lot" where Edward saved Bella from the runaway van. But this recent brush with Hollywood isn't the only ties to tinsel town for Kalama; the local Columbia Inn restaurant claims "Jack Benny and Elvis ate here".
Where is it?
From Seattle: Take I-5 South- 2 hours and 19 minutes (136.02 miles).
From Portland:  Take I-5 North-42 minutes (37.53 miles).
History: The city of Kalama was named for the river located 2 miles north. The Kalama River was named after John Kalama, a native Hawaiian who was born on the Hawaiian island in 1814. He came to the Northwest in the early 1830's and traveled to the area for fishing with the Nisqually Indians. He eventually made it his permanent home, and the town was named after him.
Cool things to see: The tallest totem pole carved from a single tree in the Pacific Northwest is located at the Marine Park, within walking distance from downtown Kalama.
Fun for the kids: The Marine Park is a 5 acre day use park situated along the Columbia River. It features a playground, covered picnic shelters, paved walking and bike path along the Columbia River. The adjoining Louis Rasmussen day park has tennis courts, basketball hoops, volleyball area and horseshoe pits.You'll enjoy the beautiful view of the Columbia River and the kids will love watching the huge ships pass by as they navigate the river.
Fun for the grown ups: Downtown Kalama features several antique stores within walking distance of each other, creating an "antique district". It's a great rainy day activity, as the shops are close enough together for quick dash from one to another. Don't miss Rivertown Antiques Market, which is one block off the main street, but worth the short walk (155 Elm St., 360-673-2263). You'll find all the shops are warm and cozy with friendly shopkeepers ready to brew you up a hot latte while you browse (Antique Deli and Pastry Shoppe, 413 N. 1st Street, Kalama 360-673-3310).
Local favorite: The Lucky Dragon Chinese Restaurant is located on the main street of town. It was given a "Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the U.S" rating, and locals will tell you the honor is well earned.(274  NE Frontage Rd., Kalama 360-673-1818)
More info:

Affordability break-down:
Marina and Louis Rasmussen Day Park- FREE
Tallest Totem Pole in the Pacific Northwest- FREE
Browsing local antique stores- FREE
Lucky Dragon Chinese Restaurant-  Lunch special (11am-3pm) $5.95-$7.25