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Friday Favorites: What’s Behind The Front Cover

IMG_7639_ffWelcome to Friday Favorites!

Mary Janes Farm –

Do you have a favorite catalog or magazine?  I DO!  My most favorite magazine is MaryJanesFarm.  Next in line are the Pottery Barn and William Sonoma catalogs.  Although the latter two are much too expensive to order from, they provide hours of day dreaming.  Allow me to take you on a tour.

MaryJanesFarm is by far the most heartwarming magazine I have ever read.  The publication is released every other month.  Not wanting to miss a single issue I of course have a subscription.

Having the word farm in the title might cause some of you to turn up your nose.  Don’t let that throw you off.  There is a farm-type theme woven throughout its pages but inside there’s more than meets the eye.  I am by no means a farmer yet I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of the magazine.  It provides me with an opportunity to drift away with the stories, to marvel at the suggestions for a simpler life, to glean inspiration for my home decor and motivation for new recipes.

MaryJane has been an organic farmer for twenty-four years.  Aside from this magazine she is also the author of several books.  Along with a magazine and books MaryJane sells products for almost every room in your home.  Her website includes links to MaryJanesFarm TV, MaryJanesFarm Merchandise as well as an on-line chat room.

Each time I receive the magazine I feel like I have before me a beautifully wrapped gift secured with a luxurious bow.  If it were not for the burning desire to tear into it and discover every detail, I would leave my special package in tact and on display in my home.  But what a tragedy that would be, I would miss out on the adventure waiting inside.

Before opening the front cover I always pause to take in the images and tidbits of information, the teasers as we would say.  As I read each of the words my excitement accelerates and my imagination engages.  I begin to get lost in the wonderment of the magical journey before me.  Let me share a few teasers from one of their issues:

  • Journal your dream farm
  • milk paint revival
  • Decor from Discards
  • Cupcakes go organic
  • Indoor Apartment Gardens
  • follow your art
  • build a barn from pallets

I dare you to say that not one of those teasers tempts your curiosity.  How could you possibly not be interested in at least one of the articles?  Sure, some of them might totally bore you or be way out of your field of interest but I bet even those would surprise you.  Enough with the pep talk, let’s look inside.

Slowly I open the front cover, as if waiting for the articles and pictures to jump out and come to life.  My first stop is the table of contents.  Rarely do I examine a magazines table of contents.  In this case I like to muse at the impending offerings awaiting my eye.

Each issue contains articles on

  • farm life with MaryJane – a place where MaryJane shares ideas
  • simple solutions
  • organic food
  • gardening
  • make it easy
  • quilting & stitching/crafting
  • MaryJane’s musings
  • green household tips
  • readers write – a comment section for readers
  • news room – NEWS FOR WOMEN WHO CARE
  • every woman has a story
  • grandma’s wisdom
  • here’s the thing – musings from the currently featured farmgirl

One by one I turn each page lingering to absorb every word and picture.  At times I’ve been known to start at the back and move forward.  Sometimes I think I notice more detail when I look at a periodical from that direction.  No matter which direction I take there’s always a wealth of information contained in the elegant, cleverly illustrated pages.

One issue of her magazine taught me-

  • the truth about “baby carrots” – did you know that they actually start out as full-grown carrots, are rejected for various reasons, cut down to size, soaked in a chlorine solution to kill bacteria and help preserve them
  • how to make Rose and Geranium Bath Bombs – “These fizzy creations will leave your skin feeling soft and smooth, while the aroma of roses soothes and relaxes.”  (see below for recipe)
  • read short stories from three different authors
  • learned how to make Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Espresso Cream (see below for recipe)
  • how to turn and old ladder into a vertical indoor garden
  • how to utilize willow branches to create a root tea to encourage root growth on a plant cutting

I’ve only included a small fraction of the knowledge you could gather from reading this magazine.  Through my offerings perhaps I’ve peaked your curiosity and perhaps I’ve totally lost you.  Whatever the situation I hope you have enjoyed learning about my favorite magazine.  If you are at all interested, why not check your newsstand for an issue.  Who knows, you just might fall in love with MaryJanesFarm.  At the very least, click on one of the links I have included.  Beware though, you just might get caught in the magic.

Rose & Geranium Bath Bombs

From Irene Wolansky, Mountain Rose Herbs

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup Epsom salts
  • 1 teaspoon organic olive oil
  • 20 drops organic geranium essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon rose hydrosol or water
  • dried organic rose petals

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil and essential oil while stirring to prevent fizzing.  Slowly spritz with hydrosol, while stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to clump together.  The blend should be just moist enough to hold when pressed together with your hands (be careful not to add too much moisture).  Add rose petals, press into molds, and allow to dry 2-3 hours before unmolding.  (You can shape your bath bombs by using a melon baller, ice, candy or soap molds, clear plastic two-sided Christmas ornaments, egg cartons, or anything else you have on hand.)  Let bath bombs cure for one week before using them, then store in airtight containers or package in glass jars and decorate with ribbon, twine, labels, or anything else you desire.  Enjoy!

Find more recipes and ingredients on our website,

Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Espresso Cream

Prep Time:  20 minutes

Cook Time:  25-30 minutes

Makes:  18 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups extra-dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups spicy dark chocolate, chopped (i.e., MaryJane’s Organic Flamin’Mocha Zest)
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Heat 1″ water in the bottom of a double boiler over medium-high heat.  Place chocolate chips and cream in the top of the double boiler.  Heat until chocolate melts, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.  Stir in vanilla.
  4. Add the melted chocolate mixture; mix well.
  5. In a small bowl, mix flour and baking soda.  Add to batter and mix well.  Add chopped spicy chocolate.
  6. Pour batter into lined muffin tins, about 2/3 full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

So what’s your favorite magazine? Add a comment and let me know.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate your loyalty.

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Friday Favorites: Quilter’s General Store

IMG_7639_ffWelcome to Friday Favorites!

There are so many wonderful fabric stores to tantalize a quilter.  Each one has a flavor of its own.  Quilter’s General Store is no exception.  Located at 6903 Harrison Avenue in Rockford, Illinois Quilter’s General Store is sure to have something just for you.  Quilter’s General Store is contained within a two-story restored farm-house.  Each room, of their shop, is filled with loads of fabric and inspiration.  It’s from this establishment that the fabric and pattern were chosen for my youngest daughter’s wedding quilt.  Quilter’s General Store is known for their many educational opportunities as well as their bus tours.  Seldom does a month go by that they don’t have planned activities.  Add Quilter’s General Store to your next outing.  You definitely will not be disappointed.

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Friday Favorites: Oh the Aroma of Fresh Baked Cookies!


It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .

Welcome to Friday Favorites!

Twenty-Four Ingredients

For as long as I can remember Christmas has always meant baking, baking, baking.  I have vivid memories of assembling piles and piles of flour, butter, chocolate of all shapes and sizes, vanilla, eggs and of course sugar (powdered, granular and brown).  According to a copy of 1989’s holiday cookie ingredient list there were no less than 24 ingredients to shop for.  Now that’s one huge list.


If you asked me what cookie or sweet was my favorite I don’t think I could instantly provide you with an answer.  We made so many varieties and they all had their delicious qualities.  There were Chocolate Crinkles (two kinds), Nut Wafers, Holly Wreaths, Surprise Tea Cakes, Regular Tea Cakes, Rocky Road, Fudge, Fried Oysters (no seafood used here), Bon Bons and Chocolate Covered Peanuts to name a few.

Assembling just the ingredients was a project all in itself.  A hand-written list sorted by recipe and ingredient was the first and most important step.  I just happen to have copies of two of those lists.  One is dated 1989 and the other was from 1992.  I recently compared the lists side-by-side to see what, if any, changes were made over the four-year period.  The obvious difference was the number of holiday treats slated for construction.  Apparently by 1992 our enthusiasm for baking had drifted slightly.  Our list of prepared cookies and treats had shrunk to six.

Of all the cookies we’ve made throughout the years my all-time favorite is Chocolate Pillows.  Here’s the recipe as it appeared in Pillsbury’s 15th Grand National Edition of 100 New Bake Off Recipes.  The paperback cookbook originally cost 35 cents.  Copyright = unknown since none was provided.

Chocolate Pillows

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

3/4 cup white sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

10 regular sized Nestle Milk Chocolate candy bars, cut into 1″ pieces

Sift together all-purpose flour and salt.

Place butter in separate bowl.  Gradually beat in sugar, creaming well.

To the butter and sugar mixture add unbeaten egg and vanilla.  Beat well.

Stir in dry ingredients.

Load cookie press with jagged toothed die.  Press dough through cookie press onto cookie sheet, making sure dough with jagged edge is against cookie sheet.


Place 1″ pieces of chocolate, end-to-end lengthwise, 1/4″ apart on top of dough strips.

Press another strip of dough over the candy, covering row entirely.  Make sure jagged edge of dough is facing up.

Fill cookie sheet with rows of dough.  Leave small space between rows.

Using a sharp knife lightly cut between candy bars to pre-form rectangular cookies.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.

Cut strips of dough into pieces immediately.

Note:  We usually use red and green food coloring to dye our dough.  One half of the dough is dyed red and the remaining half is dyed green.  After removing the cookies from the oven and cutting them into individual pieces, we also add colorful sprinkles on top.  Typically we make a double batch.  We store the cookies in the freezer and remove desired portions as needed.  Any brand of chocolate will work just fine.


Well, there you have it.  My all-time favorite Christmas cookie.  What’s yours?

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Friday Favorites: My Quilt Teacher

IMG_7639_ffWelcome to Friday Favorites.  This week’s focus is my very first quilt teacher.

Are you up for a short quiz?  If the answer’s yes then lets proceed.  Thinking about your current craft, hobby, passion or occupation answer the following questions:

1.  What was the spark that kindled the flame?

2.  Was it a person, place or thing?

3.  Does that catalyst still influence your direction?

4.  If it was a person have you ever shared their impact?

If you’re like me, then your passion was influenced by a person.  Back in 1992 I signed up for my very first quilting class.  The instructor was Ruth Dietzman.  Ruth was a very kind and patient person.  Two project choices were offered for our selection.  The class project I chose was the Strip Bow Quilt found in “Template Free Quiltmaking” by Trudy Hughes.  According to Trudy’s website the book is no longer in print.  I however still have my copy along with my class enrollment form and a letter from Ruth Dietzman.  See the pictures below.

My quilt hangs on a wall in my sewing room.

The planting of that seedling in 1992 brought forth years and years of quilting enjoyment.  Thank you Ruth Dietzman for your time, patience and inspiration.  The rest is history.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Friday Favorites.  Come on back next Friday for another installment.

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Friday Favorites: Chicken Parisienne

IMG_7639_ffWelcome to Friday Favorites!

Chicken Parisienne is one of our all-time favorite comfort dishes.  The recipe was added to my library back in the early 1990’s.  It is one of many I have received from my mother.  She’s not the author however.

Here’s what I know about it’s history.

  • It was published in a spiral bound cookbook similar to those used by church groups.  I know this because my copy of the recipe was not written on a typical recipe card.  I’m often too lazy to do that.  The recipe was photocopied and because anything that is placed on the photocopier along with the document will also become a permanent part of the image.  So how do I know it was spiral bound . . . you’ve guess it . . . my photocopied recipe includes the image of spiral binding.
  • The recipe was found in the “Meats & Main Dishes” section of the cookbook according to the wording in the top right corner.
  • Along the right side of the page one can see images of tabs marking additional sections in the cookbook.  There are tabs labeled
  • Breads, Rolls and Pastries
  • Cakes, Cookies & Desserts
  • Beverages, Microwave & Misc
  • Vegetables
  • The recipe was printed on page 51.
  • The author of the recipe is Connie Fenske.  I have no idea who Ms. Fenske is nor does my mother.
  • The other important information one would like to know about a recipe’s origin such as the name of the book, when and where it was published shall remain a mystery.  Unless of course one of my readers is privy to the information.  I welcome any details you might be able to shed light on.

Internet Search

I’ve searched the internet hoping to find more information about this recipe but have been unsuccessful.  So I offer this recipe to my readers as one that most certainly must be tried and will undoubtedly be added to your stack of favorite comfort foods.  Without further ado I now present to you Connie Fenske’s recipe for Chicken Parisienne.

Chicken Parisienne

By Connie Fenske


10 pieces skinless, boneless chicken breasts (5 whole), split

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of celery soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1/2 c. sherry wine

1/2 c. milk

1/4 c. melted butter

1 1/2 c. wild rice (can use 1/2 wild and 1/2 white)

3 oz. Parmesan cheese

1 pkg. slivered almonds

Combine soups, wine, milk and butter.  Stir.  Set aside.  Place rice (uncooked) in a well-greased 9 x 12-inch pan.  Spread 1/2 liquid mixture over rice.  Lay breasts on top and pour remaining liquid on top of breasts.  Cover with grated Parmesan cheese and slivered almonds.  Bake at 275 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.  Do not cover.  Do not disturb while baking.  Serve with tossed salad and rolls.

So What Do You Think?

Now that you’ve read the recipe, of one thing I am certain, you’ve come to the conclusion that this definitely does not fall into the lo-cal category.  On this little detail I will concur.  However, since when do comfort foods fall into the lo-cal arena anyway?

I’ve Done A Little Tweaking

As with all cooks and their favorite recipes, I have my own adaptations I have made.  You have the option to first try the recipe, as it was originally intended, and then on your second attempt implement my adjustments.  Or, if you are inclined, skip the original directions and follow mine instead.  Which ever route you choose I have no doubt you will be well-pleased.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Rice  Definitely mix the wild rice with another option.  Long-grain, short-grain, white or brown rice are all suitable candidates.  If you are not a fan of wild rice then feel free to omit it.  Just make sure what ever combination you choose adds up to 1 1/2 cups of rice.
  • Soup  There are already three cans of soup listed in the ingredients.  This may sound like a large quantity of soup, but trust me, every ounce of liquid will be absorbed by the rice.  I’ve often toyed with the idea of either increasing the amount of milk or adding a fourth can of soup.  I tend to like my hot-dishes a little creamier than this one often is.  I’ve also thought of soaking my rice overnight hoping that would result in a creamier texture.
  • Mixing  Although the recipe does not tell you to mix the liquids and rice together, I do.  I think the rice cooks up much nicer when they have been combined together before layering in the pan.  I follow the directions for stirring together the liquids then add in the rice.  I pour 1/2 of my liquid and rice mixture into the bottom of the pan.  Then I put in the chicken and pour the left-over rice mixture on top.

With all of the adaptations I have made one might wonder why we are so fond of this dish.  We are unique individuals with different taste buds.  These minor changes just happen to make our experience much more to our liking.  I’m sure when you try the recipe you will do a bit of tweaking as well.

I hope that you will at least try the original version.  When you do I expect you will send me a message telling me all about your experience.  I am confident you will fall in love with this Chicken Parisienne recipe just like we have.  Enjoy!  Bon Appetite!