Sunday, April 13, 2014

From Ashes to Ashes...

Ecclesiastes 12:7: "then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."

This weekend, I had the house to myself.  With her handsome hubby out of town for a guy's weekend, what's a girl to do on a beautiful spring day?  Well, I decided to take a little road trip of sorts that I've been wanting to do for quite a while--go to a graveyard.

Wait, what?

Okay, a little background: My grandmother was kind enough to write down her and my grandfather's ancestry going back a few generations in my baby book when I was born, which was my first exposure to genealogy.  I became hooked on tracking my ancestry, and I was on a roll several years back with the website.  In digging up my family dirt, I discovered that I lived only about an hour away from the graves of some direct descendants on my grandmother's side!  What are the odds, considering I grew up in another state?  When I discovered this, I made a vow that I would someday get to the cemetery and "visit" my great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Whew, that's a lot of "greats"!

According to Google maps, the cemetery was only about an hour away, an easy drive through the Ohio countryside.  The weather was a balmy 68 degrees and breezy.  The sun was shining occasionally, and the only thing missing were leaves on the trees.
I didn't have a hard time finding the actual headstones.  I later discovered, after doing some web research, that many of the other names in the cemetery were also distant relatives.  I had hoped to find four specific headstones, although I only knew of two that were confirmed to be there.  Two is better than none, though, and so, without further ado, please allow me to introduce you to my 4th great-grandfather and grandmother, George and Jemima Lighthill!
(The curtains or drapes are typically a symbol of continuous mourning.)
(The book is typically a symbol of either the Bible, indicating faith, or a person who could read, a scholar.)

I hope you'll forgive them for not exchanging pleasantries.

Here are a few other pictures that I found interesting:
Not a direct relative, but the inscription made me curious: "S. H. Lighthill, Co. I, 100 O.V.I. (Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Civil War), Man of Mystery", and faintly below, "Faith, Hope and Charity".  I kept hearing the Johnny Rivers hit "Secret Agent Man" in my head after seeing this.  The 100 O.V.I. spent time in the Richmond prison camp, and then joined with Sherman's troops in his march on Atlanta.
Several of these marked the graves of Civil War vets.
I don't know who this person was, but I guessed that he was not only a sea captain sailor, but an avid arborist as well.  Certainly unique, as far as grave markers go.
It got me thinking.  I love the history of human life--the way that people used to live before modern technology.  As a living history interpreter, I have gained a general sense of what life was like when these ancestors lived.  But what was it really like?  I began to wonder about these ancestors: What did they do for fun?  Did they travel much?  Where did they live in the town?  What made them travel so far away from their family?  And, what did they look like?

(Supposedly my great-great-great-great-great grandfather [father of George Lighthill, above].  According to records, he lived to be 105, was 9 years old in Pennsylvania at the onset of the American Revolution, and at some point made his way to Iowa at 80 years old to live out the rest of his very long days.  This looks like a tinted Daguerreotype image, probably 1840s or 1850s.  It's obvious that at the time this was taken, he had no teeth!  Photo found on
Well, maybe it's okay to not know what they looked like.  He looks pretty hangry!

(Page from the 1790 census, supposedly taken in Pennsylvania, for another ancestor.  The 1790 census was the first census ever taken in the newly-formed United States of America, and my ancestors were here for it!  From left to right at the top, they recorded the names of the head of the household, free white males of sixteen years and upward including heads of families, free white males under sixteen years, free white females including heads of families, other free persons, and slaves.  I absolutely love the handwriting.  Saved from
I really love digging up my ancestry.  It can be time-consuming, but I've learned so much, and there is so much free information online nowadays. is pretty stingy with their information, but I was able to get the information I have without a subscription.  There are also free websites that you can try too, such as FamilySearchGenWeb, and GenealogyBank.  Sometimes just doing a name search on a search engine brings up entire pages of information that other genealogists have created.  Many records are public information, if you're willing to do some digging.  However you might find your family history, you'll find that it's a lot of fun to do!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cast Iron Skillet Recipes

I recently purchased a 10" deep dish cast iron enamel skillet.  Since then, I've discovered what a pleasure it is to cook with!  I don't know how I've lived without all these years. 

Along with using the skillet for regular cooking, I've also been busy scouring the internet for all sorts of recipes to test.  I decided to take one for the team and try this awesome-looking skillet cookie:
The recipe can be found on The Cutting Edge of Ordinary.  I will say that the cookie itself was delicious, but I baked it according to the instructions and it ended up too done.  For me, I will bake it for probably 30-35 minutes instead of the suggested 45 minutes according to the recipe, but I WILL be making this again.  Oh yes.  I highly recommend this cookie for you and 11 of your closest friends--it does make a very large cookie!

The next recipe was from The Pioneer Woman.  I really do love her recipes, and was very eager to try these when I saw it: Buttered Rosemary Rolls.
I used regular-sized Rhode's frozen dinner rolls, and in this 10" skillet, I managed to fit 9 rolls in the pan easily.  I also used oregano and Parmesan instead of rosemary, but don't tell Ree.  Everything else was the same, I promise!
I baked these at 350 degrees for 14 minutes, and these were fantastic!  They were light and fluffy, with just the perfect amount of color all around the bottom and sides.  My hubby raved about these.

I'm also eager to try making a skillet pizza, I just haven't had time yet.  I've fallen in love with using the cast-iron skillet for everything!

I think this is why I've gained a pound and a half since I got this pan.  Sooooo worth it!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Basket/Easter Basket Craft

In honor of March being National Craft Month, I have a craft to share!

I have a thing for glitter.  I love it.  You might have guessed that from the numerous craft posts that I've done with glitter as a main "ingredient".  I think that glitter makes everything better and more beautiful.  Have an old pair of shoes that just don't look good?  Put glitter on them!  Suddenly you're Dorothy and have just landed in Oz.  Did you get an F on your most recent school assignment?  Cover it with glitter and stick it proudly on the fridge!  Everyone will be so impressed.
My hubby, however, does not like glitter.  Whenever he sees my glitter box or glitter containers out, a look of fear washes over his face, and the utterance of "oh, no" may escape from his lips.  He knows that when I get the glitter out, he will find it EVERYWHERE.  Despite my best attempts to contain the bio-hazardous material, he will eventually find a fleck or two smack-dab in the center of his forehead, but only after he has had a super-important meeting with someone at work. 

What has this to do with a project?  Well, in an attempt to get myself out of the winter doldrums and into the spring spirit, I bought some supplies to make a spring-themed basket: a pretty blue wire basket, some green moss, some wide ribbon, and two packages of wooden eggs.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  You got it--a sparkly springtime egg basket!

Since we don't do Easter bunny stuff (because 1: we don't have kids, and 2: even if we did, we probably wouldn't do Easter bunny stuff), I'm calling this a spring egg basket, which can sit out as a decoration until the temps outside finally warm up--which might not be until July, so I figure that I'll get plenty of use out of this cute little basket.

First, gather your supplies:

  • Wooden Eggs (Hobby Lobby, $4/pk of 4, or less if they're on sale or you have a coupon)--these should be in the woodworking aisle/section
  • Basket of your choice
  • Moss (I found mine in the floral section)
  • Decorative ribbon of your choice
  • All-purpose glue
  • Glitter colors of your choice (spring colors are nice!)
  • Paint brush
  • Acrylic sealer (always a good idea to help with glitter flaking, although some glitter will come off regardless)
  • Paper plate, newspaper, etc. to protect your surfaces and collect extra glitter

Next, prepare your basket:

I laced my ribbon through the openings on the side of the basket.  If you can't do that, you can opt to either just tie it around the bottom, wind it around the handle, make a big bow, etc.  Do what looks good to you!
I only laced the ribbon through two spokes in the back of the basket to keep it in place.
Tie a big pretty bow and trim the ribbon to your desired length.

Fill the basket with moss:

Then, the glitter!
Paint the eggs with the all-purpose glue and sprinkle on the glitter, making sure to not leave any bare spots.  It might take a few applications.  Allow to dry.

I held the eggs with my finger at the top and thumb on the bottom, and turned it as I painted on the glue.  I let them dry and then went back and painted the egg's top and bottom, holding it gently in the middle.

If it's warm enough, take the eggs outside and spray them with the acrylic sealer.  Allow the sealer to dry overnight in a well-ventilated area.  If it's not warm enough where you live yet, just wait until it is.  The glitter will be fine until then, as long as the eggs are not handled much.


Because I had some of the supplies for this, like the glitter, glue, and acrylic sealer, this project cost me well under $25 for the remaining supplies.  This is a pretty family/kid-friendly project, and you can keep the eggs forever as keepsakes, as opposed to real eggs that get peeled and eaten.  If you don't want the mess of glitter, though, just use regular acrylic paints and let the kids decorate them that way!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Homemade Tagalongs--Better Than The Real Thing!

Girl Scout cookie season is always a highlight of the winter.  What a better way to drown your sorrows as you look out the window at yet another winter storm?  So when I came across this recipe on Pinterest, I knew I was bound to try them someday...soon.

When I got up this morning, the first official full day of spring, snow was falling again and covering the ground.  I thought to myself, "self, let's do some fun stuff today!"  Hence, homemade Tagalongs!

The ingredients and instructions are easy enough--chances are you already have everything you need to make them.  Get a box of Nilla wafers, your favorite kind of peanut butter, chocolate of your choice (I used both semi-sweet and milk chocolate), and some shortening.
I finally broke open my brother-in-law's Christmas gift to me--a 5 lb. bar of Hershey's chocolate. 

Lay out your wafer cookies on a cookie sheet or cooling rack lined with parchment paper.  Spread about 1 tsp, give or take, of peanut butter on top of each cookie.  If you like peanut butter, use a little more!  Then, in a microwaveable bowl, put chocolate along with a small amount of shortening (about half a teaspoon) and microwave at 20 second intervals until everything is smooth and melted.  Let it cool down a bit so that you don't melt the peanut butter.  Get a fork and spoon.

Set your cookie in the chocolate, and with the spoon, coat the cookie with chocolate, making sure not to miss any spots.  Now, with your fork, carefully lift the cookie out and tap the fork on the side of the bowl to help the excess chocolate drip off.  Set the coated cookie back on the parchment-lined tray.  Continue in this fashion until all cookies are coated, then move the tray to the fridge to allow the chocolate to harden and cool the rest of the way.  Leave them in for at least a half an hour.  I know, it's hard to wait that long, but it's worth it!

In my opinion, these are even better than the Tagalongs from the Girl Scouts (sorry, girls).  They're also quite a bit cheaper!  Boxes of GS cookies are selling around here for $4/box, and I bought a whole box of Nilla wafers for something like $1.50 (sale and coupon), and I already had peanut butter and chocolate.  Just think of how much you've saved your family by making these, instead of buying them! :)

To see the original post and recipe for these, please click here: Back for Seconds blog

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oh, Deer...!

We've been busy lately.  The hubs has been very busy at work, and the stress was starting to catch up with him, and I've been feeling like all I do is play catch-up.  We had another snowstorm last week, which did little to lift our spirits.  So on Saturday, with sunshine and warmer temps, we decided to have a fun day.

We had a visit from five does in the church yard behind our house, which was very neat and unexpected; I can't remember ever seeing deer behind our current house.  We stood in the house and watched them as they nervously looked up and down the road, and I was even able to step out on our back stoop and take a few pictures before they decided to clear out.  That was a great way to start the day!  I love nature (well, except for the bugs).

We decided to head up to Toledo to do some shopping.  We had both been thinking, without telling the other, that we'd wanted to go up there, specifically to the Williams-Sonoma store, so when I mentioned that I'd like to go, we had a laugh about that.  We really do think alike after nearly ten years of marriage!

We spent a pleasant day shopping, and found some great buys: candles on sale from Yankee Candle, a half-priced scarf for the hubs from Dick's, a bottle of butter-infused olive oil from a new olive oil company Bumble, and a new utensil crock that was almost half off at Pottery Barn. 

But my most prized purchase from our trip was my first piece of Le Creuset--a small grill for our stove.  It's in the color Ocean, and I absolutely love it (it's much more blue-green than the color sample in the link above).  We have a ceramic/glass cooktop stove, and I was always under the impression that cast iron could not be used on its surface, but the enamel-coated cast iron is just fine to use, it turns out!  We fixed a delicious sirloin steak on it Sunday night, and were even more pleased with our purchase.  I'd love to get more pieces for baking and cooking.
We had such a fun time just being out in the sunshine and warmer weather, and being able to spend the day together doing things that we enjoyed.  We realized that we were just worn down and needed a day to have fun and decompress, and it was a welcome opportunity to get out of the house and have fun.  And I love my new piece of cookware!  It does a great job for indoor grilling; my only complaint is that grease splatters everywhere.  But the food tastes great!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cheesy Tostada Recipe--A Simple Dinner

One of the recipes we really enjoyed on the 21-Day Tummy diet was the simple cheesy tostadas.  They went together so quickly and easily that I wondered if I could just eat these every night during our final week!  But we didn't.  Since they were so tasty and simple, though, I thought I'd share the recipe!

Cheesy Tostadas, makes 5 (adapted from the Reader's Digest 21-DayTummy)
1 lb lean ground hamburger (you can also use ground chicken)
5 6" soft corn tortillas (you can use gluten-free corn tortillas)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, drained of juice
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1-2 tbsp olive oil (for brushing)
Chili powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly brush both sides of the tortillas with olive oil.  Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then flip and bake for another 4-5 minutes, watching closely to make sure they don't burn.  Remove from the oven.

While the tortillas are baking, brown the hamburger, draining off any excess fat.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the tomatoes in a colander.  Add the tomatoes to the hamburger and heat everything through.  Add chili powder and cumin to taste.

Scoop the hamburger & tomatoes onto the tortillas.  Top with cheese.  Serve immediately.

A tip: In the picture above, I tried crisping the tortillas, then adding the hamburger and tomatoes and popping them back in the oven to melt the cheese, but it made the tortillas soggy and stale.  I don't recommend putting them back in the oven after you've already baked the tortillas.  Your hamburger and tomatoes should be hot enough to melt (or partially melt) the cheese when you add it to the top.