Category Archives: Tales from the Prairie State

New Year’s Eve Appetizers


I love New Year’s Eve! All we do is snack! NumNum. Here’s our 2010-2011 NYE Menu. This post is really for my Lil Ditter, so reader beware.

And Lil Ditter, I have some of Dad’s old appetizer favorites, that I set forth below for your convenience.

Shrimp Dip. I learned about this in a wonderful entertaining/recipe book my friend Carol gave me and love it!

8 oz cream cheese

5 oz can evaporated  milk

1 can deveined bay shrimp

Dash of garlic powder

Dash onion salt

Warm Cream cheese and add shrimp. Stir in evaporated milk and season with onion salt and garlic powder. Serve with Ruffles or your favorite vegetable. Guess which one I use…

From The Gathering of Friends, Volume 1, p. 82.

Gouda Puff and Crackers. DEE.LISH.US! My friends Laura and Holly gave it to me years ago. Always a holiday favorite. The measurements are approximate because Holly never measures and I lost the note I wrote when Laura told me the recipe! Ladies, feel free to make corrections in the comment section! 🙂

Thaw Puff Pastry sheet according to directions.

Warm ½ cup of Butter, ¾ cup of brown sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon.

Remove wax from Gouda. Place pastry on the dish (Must bake and serve in same dish). Place Gouda in the middle of puff pastry. Put some of the sweet butter mixture over the top of Gouda, and then wrap it up like a cute little present (I think those were Laura’s instructions? 🙂 ). Pour the remaining sweet stuff on top and bake. Baking temperature and time have been debated. I am convinced it has to be at a high temperature for a relatively short amount of time to melt the cheese satisfactorily. I say 400 degrees for 16-18, or maybe even up to 25 minutes, depending on your oven. My oven runs hot. Watch the puff pastry for color. I am thinking of putting parchment paper at the bottom of the dish to help on cleanup and to help get to all of that caramelized yumminess – even though it’s not as cute….Suggestions welcome.

Hummus and Pita Bread (Or flatbread in a pinch) and Carrots. We buy it. I would make it, but I don’t have a blender or food processor. And I don’t want to buy one. Or store one in my cozy (i.e., tiny) kitchen. Hummus is awesome.

Mini Corndogs. Something hot for the kids, that gives the appearance of protein.

Spinach Dip with Tostitos. We bought it. It was fresh. It was on sale. And I am all for shortcuts this week.

Warm Salsa and Tostitos. A staple for the Hubby. Homemade Salsa recipes welcome!

Rice Krispie Treats. Again, a favorite for the Hubby.

Banana Muffins. Because our bananas were overly ripe.

Panettone and Mascarpone. Heavenly. At least I think so.

Lemon Pudding Cake. Another recipe from Holly that Jacqueline and I are making because she wanted to make a cake like the cake our wonderful neighbor brought to us On Christmas Eve Eve. Yummy.

1 yellow cake mix

1 package instant lemon pudding

4 eggs

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 1/3 cup whole milk

2/3 cup vegetable oil

Bake in Bundt pan at 350 degrees for approximately 35-45 minutes or until done.

Glaze: Mix 2 cups powdered sugar and juice of 2 lemons

Cookies. As many as we can make today, starting with Chocolate Chip (Nestle Toll House Recipe) , then Peanut Butter, Snickerdoodles and Chocolate Cookies (all recipes from The Gathering of Friends, Volume 1.  Let me know if you want any recipes.

Here’s some that my family loved growing up (or at least the adults did…)


2 pounds ground beef

2 packages taco seasoning

2 cans chili with no beans

1 large package Velveeta Cheese

Brown and drain beef. Add taco seasoning and cook as directed. Add chili with no beans and Velveeta Cheese in Crock-Pot. Add hamburger mixture into Crock-Pot. Cook ½ hour on low. Serve with tortilla chips.



1 jar Kraft Old English Cheese

1 jar Kraft Roka Blue Cheese

1 dash of garlic powder

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

1 8-ounce package Philadelphia cream cheese

Mix; shape into a ball.  Roll ball in parsley flakes.  Refrigerate.


1 8-ounce Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

1 package chipped beef, chopped into small pieces

2 green onions, diced

Mix. Refrigerate. Serve in Bowl.



1          Refried Beans

2          Avocado dip mixed with taco seasoning

3          Chili

4          Sour cream mixed with taco seasoning

5          Grated cheddar cheese

6          Minced onions

7          Tomatoes or salsa (right before you serve)

VARIOUS APPETIZERS (ideas other have given to me):

Mix salsa and cream cheese and serve with tortilla chips.

Mix salsa and bean dip over low heat, and serve with tortilla chips.


You may call me AUNT Debby


My Lil Ditter is now a mommy; therefore, I am now an aunt! And, as Sissy says: “Baby Jasson” is soooooooooo toot!!!

I am a bit overpowered by the flood of emotions pouring over me at the news of this event – not that I didn’t have 9 months to prepare!

I was 10 years old when my sister was born. I remember running as fast as I could all the way home after school the day she and Mom came home from the hospital. I loved her so dearly. I was thrilled at the fact she would take a bottle from me. I was thrilled at the fact she would let me hold her for a whole hour. I loved dressing her up all the time: adding ears and a cotton tail to her feet pajamas; dressing her in my 3-foot Holly Hobbie doll’s dress, bloomers and bonnet; dressing her in a red turtle-neck, to match mine, then hugging her and hugging her and asking Mom whether she could tell whose arm was whose; dressing her in a sweatband and legwarmers and other various 80’s “fashion” to be “Libby John,” i.e. Olivia Newton John; and the list could go on. And this little baby, my Lil Ditter, is now a mommy with her own little baby.

And hearing her wonderful stories, descriptions, feelings . . . as a mom, I understand. I remember the births of Sissy and Baby Boy, the nursing and embracing of these tightly swaddled babes, the early months when they accomplish so much and reveal their personality. I remember the exceeding joy that a new babe inspires by his mere existence. And Baby (as we called Sissy) is now doing most things for herself, and is also folding my washcloths, helping me sweep and mop, telling stories, singing songs (mostly Holy, Holy, Holy, Psalm 4 and Tinkle Tinkle Little Star (not a typo)), sounding out words, “reading” her books by herself, expressing her preferences, answering her catechism questions, etc. And Baby Boy (who has not yet outgrown his “baby” name!) is exploring the WHOLE house via the commando crawl, eating everything he can find on the floor, chasing Sissy, trying to pull himself up – and falling down, feeding himself cereal, saying “mama” and “dada” (not necessarily in that order, unfortunately), leaning into Sissy’s line of vision and babbling to her to get her attention, understanding the meaning of “no,” “singing” at church during the hymns and psalms, etc. These babes are no longer babes.

It makes me sad . . . and happy.

I need a quick fix. HUBBY, I NEED ME A BABY!!!

Could someone get the smelling salts for the grandparents?!?

Happy Birthday Bubba


*singing loudly and out of key* Happy Birfday to you! Happy Birfday to you! Happy Birfday, Dear Bubba! Happy Birfday to you! And many more!!! *end bad singing*

On my brother’s 22nd birthday, I particularly thank God for him. He has been a cherished part of my life. On this day, it is especially fun to share a few memories of him.

A couple of Classic Bubba Moments. A little background may be necessary. First, he was “the baby.” Second, he was the only boy. Okay, enough background. One day he crawled up into my mom’s lap, much to her delight, and lovingly looked into her eyes, with his little head cocked, and gently said “Mom, I wish everyday was Mother’s Day!” Okay, now at the time I thought, “Brown-Noser!” but now I really hope my chil’ren do that! Then, let’s see, one evening during supper, when Bubba had been excused from the table, he came back into the dining room to do his nightly stand-up routine (he was always performing for us). Dad told him he may not come in while we were eating. Well, evidently this displeased Bubba because before any of us knew what was going on, the little tot had come up quietly behind Dad’s chair, raised his He-Man sword high above his head, proclaimed “I have the P O W E R! ” and with all his might, swiftly swung that sword square into the back of my dad’s neck. It was just so shocking that even my dad was laughing (though hopelessly trying to hide it).

Fond Bubba and Sissy (Yep! I was “Sissy” in my family!!!) Moments. He was my 12th birthday present (that’s right, I, too, have a birthday coming up!) – he and Mom came home from the hospital on my birthday – with a birthday cake in hand! Then, moving forward quite a bit, when I was a little younger than he is now, and in college, I would come home for the summer. During this break, we would go for “walks” together almost everyday. My stride was so much bigger than his, that he would ride his bike beside me as I walked along the bike path. He would just talk and talk and talk, telling stories and jokes, singing songs, sharing ideas and observations and asking questions. It was a most precious time for me to spend with just him.

Regrettable Bubba and Sissy Moments. I was so mean to him! My “lil ditter,” being almost 2 years old when Bubba was born, was my perfect little minion. From holding him upside down over the toilet for a swirly while my minion flushed, to putting him in the garbage can and hauling him to the curb; from threatening to throw him in the dog pen (and pretending to do so regularly), to holding him down, with my minion pinning his arms to the floor, and torturing him by pretending to tickle him while not actually touching him (he was so ticklish) – I was the wicked big sister! But, with God’s grace, I repented and he forgave me!

I love that young man and again say “Thanks be to God!”

So raise your glasses and toast the birth of my dear brother, Bubba!

Go Speed Racer


My mom, age 54, got her first speeding ticket. Actually, it is her first moving violation ever. That’s right, folks, no accidents, no tickets, no nothin’! (I can’t imagine!)

It is really an abuse of justice, though. After all she was in her grandma car (Pontiac Grand-Am, 4-door (her first 4-door ever), with 6 cylinders). And she (alleges she) was going 35 in a 30 (the cop clocked her at 45 mph as she was leaving town, but she is sure that the grandma car just does not have that kind of pick up!).

Some mitigating factors: Mom was in her grandma car. It doesn’t have good pick up. In Illinois, the small towns/counties make a small fortune by sitting near the edge of town where the speed limit suddenly changes from 30 mph to 60 mph, or vice versa, at the proverbial city limits. She thought she was outside city limits. She was in a county that is more than an hour away from home or work (who’s gonna challenge a ticket when you have to take off from work and travel 2-4 hours — not including the time spent in traffic court?!?).

Some aggravating factors: She is usually driving one of her corvettes. It is likely she has actually broken the speed limit before (this is just my surmising! But she has never had a 4-door ‘cause they are not sporty enough, and she has 2 corvettes — I mean, c’mon!). As soon as she hits the city limit (or where she thinks it is), she is going the speed limit (Similarly, she doesn’t speed, but as soon as the light changes from red to green, she’s going the speed limit. I also learned this practice as a pizza deliverer for a company that is no longer allowed, by law, to guarantee when I’ll get my pizza or that I’ll get $3.00 off if it’s late (I hate that!).).

In any event, she has a really good attitude about the whole thing (despite the fact that she had to post bond, in cash, right then and there, or forfeit her license (have you ever heard of such a thing?!?)). I guess she figures she probably (although no admissions were forthcoming) deserved a ticket sometime in her life. Ya think?!?

12 Things I miss about Christmastime in Illinois


12 Things I miss about Christmastime in Illinois, in no particular order:

1. Roasting marshmallows in the wood burning stove that warmed our home;

2. Keeping beer ice cold by putting it on the back porch;

3. Making snow angels;

4. Snow drifts taller than a van;

5. Really needing a sweater or sweatshirt and a blanket to get all warm and cozy;

6. A white Christmas;

7. Snowball fights;

8. Eating icicles;

9. Relative to my Dad’s big ole 1979 Dodge Powerwagon:
a. Being pulled down old country roads on a sled behind the Powerwagon;
b. Dad doing “donuts” in parking lots (much to the dismay of my mom); and
c. Driving around our little town in the Powerwagon checking for cars that needed to be pulled out of ditches, snow drifts, etc.;

10. Having to wake my “Lil’ Ditter,” 10 years my junior, and Bubba, 12 years my junior, every Christmas morning to open presents, from the time they were born until I was married.

11. Christmas lunch of eggs, sunny-side up, crispy bacon and buttered toast; and

12. Relative to Bailey’s Irish Cream:
a. Drinking it in coffee in the morning with my mom while we talked; and
b. Drinking it on the rocks at night with my dad as he drank his Scotch on the rocks while we talked – or while we didn’t.