Sunday, November 25, 2012

I am Thankful for...A History Lesson!

My American family tree is pretty tiny.  I am only a third-generation American on my mother's side.  My father's side goes back farther, but only about a hundred years or so.  I have some neat family stories.  I'm just not sharing them right now.

My children, however, have a LONG and STORIED genealogical history in America.  My mother-in-law is a member of the DAR and other historical societies.  Yeah, there is some serious history there!  For instance,  do you know what this ship (The Mayflower):


This country (Bermuda):

and This playwright (William Shakespeare):


Have in common?  You don't?  Hmmm...  Well, I'll tell you!  It's him:

This is Stephen Hopkins.  He joined the passengers of the Mayflower with his family.  My children are related to him as well as his daughter, Constance, who was 14 at the time of her first and only trans-Atlantic crossing.  I mention that it was her first crossing because it was her father's third.  Steven Hopkins originally traveled across the Atlantic to settle  in the Jamestown colony.  However, that is where the country of Bermuda comes into the story.  Back in 1609 Steven Hopkins boarded a ship, the Sea Venture, headed for the Jamestown colony and bound to the Virginia Company for a period of time in exchange for his passage and land in the New World.

Bermuda's 1987 commemorative $5 coin shows wreck of the Sea Venture Source
Here is a brief history of the ill-fated voyage of the Sea Venture...

The Sea Venture was one of a group of nine ships that departed in June of 1609.  The voyage passed uneventfully until the flotilla was about one week away from their destination.  At this time a vicious hurricane struck the group of sailing ships.  Eventually all but two of the nine boats reached Jamestown.  One of the two boats was lost at sea and the Sea Venture which was shipwrecked.  Where was it shipwrecked, you ask?  Bermuda, of course.

At this time in history Bermuda was uninhabited because it is surrounded by shallow water that made travel to the island extremely difficult in the large sailing ships of the day.  Colonizing nations hadn't bothered with Bermuda because it wasn't easily accessed from any point.  While this is a good defensive position to have, it is highly inconvenient in all other aspects of colonization (particularly trade).  Bermuda was also viewed as a highly supernatural place.  For the superstitious sailors living four hundred years ago, that was a deal breaker.  They just gave Bermuda a wide berth on their way back and forth across the Atlantic. 

The former passengers of the Sea Venture had no choice but to make their way ashore on Bermuda.  That is where their captain aimed their battered and broken ship.  Once there, they found plentiful food, mild weather, and abundant resources.  They set to work immediately building two new pinnacles to carry them to Jamestown. Stephen Hopkins was a bit of a revolutionary thinker at this time, but he was able to talk his way out of serious trouble (i.e. a death sentence). 

The passengers' time in Bermuda was not without perils, souls were lost, hardships abounded, but overall, those Bermuda castaways lived an easy and worry-free existence when compared with the trans-Atlantic crossers from the other ships that actually arrived at their destination.  The Jamestown settlers were suffering through the "Starving Time" while the two small ships were being readied and stocked in Bermuda. 

When the pinnacles Deliverance and Patience arrived in Jamestown in May of 1610, laden with food and supplies they had gathered from Bermuda, their arrival was viewed as a miracle.  The souls on board the Sea Venture were thought to have been lost so to have them arrive bearing desperately needed food was a remarkable sight indeed. The experiences of the Sea Venture's crew were sent in reports to England and were distributed widely in London.  One person who was very interested in the account of the Sea Venture was William Shakespeare who, it is believed, utilized many of these real-life experiences as a foundation for his fictional play The Tempest.

You can read about the whole adventure in Hobson Woodward's book:  A Brave Vessel: The true tale of the castaways who rescued Jamestown and inspired Shadespeare's THE TEMPEST.

I read this book with my book club.  We enjoyed it very much.  The best parts are surely the adventurous parts surrounding the hurricane and life in Bermuda! 

Less than two years after his arrival at Jamestown, Stephen Hopkins returned to England because his wife had died and he was needed to care for his young children.  His previous experience in America was most likely the reason he joined (or was recruited to join) the passengers on the Mayflower a few years later. He was not traveling to America with his family to find religious freedom as the Pilgrims were.  The knowledge Steven Hopkins gained while in Bermuda and Jamestown was seen as a great asset to a group of religious separatists who had never been outside of Europe.  Steven Hopkins saw it as an opportunity for a better life for both himself and his family.  With that hope, Steven, his second wife and their family became passengers of the Mayflower.

Upon his arrival in Plymouth, Stephen Hopkins was chosen as the first mayor and also an ambassador to Indian relations.  One of his house guests you might recall - Squanto.   Yes, that Squanto!

For more information about Stephen Hopkins, you can read:   Here Shall I Die Ashore: STEPHEN HOPKINS: Bermuda Castaway, Jamestown Survivor, and Mayflower Pilgrim

It is a great read about an interesting, important man in American history!  I am so excited that my children are related to him!  His life is a great example of perseverance in the face of adversity!  

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Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, November 17, 2012


One of my husband's favorite holiday books as a child was Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Henry Devlin.  He's been searching for it online since our son was born because it has been out of print for over 15 years.  We could buy it, but it was being sold for over $100.00 as a collector's item on Ebay.  YIKES!  That's a lot of money for a children's book.  He has renewed his search time and again until this year when we found it!  The Purple House Press is a company that reprints popular classic children's books.  Hooray!  They have all kinds of fun titles, but Cranberry Thanksgiving is their most recent release.  Click HERE to get your own copy!

What a fun book!

The story revolves around four characters: Grandma, Maggie, Mr. Horace, and Uriah Peabody aka Mr. Whiskers and a sinister plot to steal Grandma's Famous Cranberry Bread recipe.

My son was so excited to see the recipe on the back.  He wanted to make it right away.  That was not possible because I didn't have the ingredients on hand.  I headed to the store and gathered everything to make my own batch of Grandma's Famous Cranberry Bread!

Let's go!


I made this recipe years ago when my husband and I were first married.  It was a colossal flop!  What I ended up with was a dense brick more suitable for building than eating.  YUCK!

I have learned a lot about baking since then.  I'll show you some of my tricks!

First, you need to prep the pans beforehand with cooking spray and parchment paper.  The parchment paper is a MUST!  This batter is sticky and it will cling to the pan like glue.

Spray the pan with cooking spray. 

Line the pan(s) with parchment paper.  The cooking spray will glue it to the sides of the pan. 

Next,  Baked goods will become dense if too much flour is put into your batter.  The recipe calls for sifted flour.  You don't really need to sift your flour.  You definitely don't need to look for pre-sifted flour at the grocery store. I NEVER use a measuring cup to measure flour.  I only weigh it.  That is the most accurate method for measuring flour.  A cup of flour weighs 5 ounces.  For this recipe we need 2 cups of flour so - 10 ounces.  Use a food scale.  Mine was about $20.00 and I have been using it for years.  My son loves to weigh various things on it.  You can also get an ultra fancy one HERE.  I would suggest a simpler one more like THIS

Keep your butter COLD before you cut it into the dry ingredients.  This will keep the consistency correct.  My daughter had a great time helping me with this.

COLD butter and a pastry cutter

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is evenly incorporated. 

Little helping hands! 

I added the orange zest next and whisked it into the dry ingredients.  I did this even though the recipe says to add it with the wet ingredients.  This was another place in the recipe that I recieved help.

She was having F-U-N!

I got 1 teaspoon of zest from one medium-sized orange. 
I was tempted to use mandarin oranges, but I decided to follow the recipe and not deviate from it - yet!  Now that I know that it is possible to make a yummy treat and not just a door stop, I might do a little experimenting!  *Just don't tell my husband.  I have ruined many a great recipe with my experimentation.*  :)

For the first loaf I used whole cranberries.  I added them with the wet ingredients and folded everything together at the same time.  I love how bold the red of the cranberries are!  PRETTY!
I popped a cranberry into my mouth just to try it out.  Yikes!  That was TART!  

The recipe calls for the wet ingredients to be added before the cranberries and raisins. 

The recipe called for "Chopped" cranberries.
 I could not wrap my mind around chopping cranberries with a knife, using a potato masher wouldn't work, and I didn't want to drag out my food processor.  Instead, I put the cranberries in a bag and crushed them with a measuring cup.  (It was available since I didn't use it to measure the flour!)  Cranberries are not tender.  I put some muscle into crushing them - hence the baking mitt to protect my hand.  I guess I should get a meat tenderizer.  :)

Crushed Cranberries - MMMMMM!
Finished batter with whole berries.
 You may have noticed that the recipe calls for raisins.  You also may have noticed that I have not added any - anywhere.  I really HATE raisins.  This saying pretty much sums it up:

Found on Pinterest
I also didn't add double cranberries.  I just didn't think that the bread needed to be stuffed with berries.  That is just my opinion though. 

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 70 minutes.  I rotated the pans halfway through baking to even the browning.

350 degrees for 70 minutes rotate after 35

Here is a little side note to entertain you whole your loaves of cranberry bread are baking....The fresh cranberries you buy in the store are harvested first using a rake.  The cranberries that are harvested after the bogs are flooded are used for juice and cranberry preserves.  


Two loaves!

Let the loaves cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans to continue cooling.  

Run a butter knife around the ends of the loaf or THIS will happen. 

The parchment paper will help the loaves to lift out easily.  However, the ends will stick even after the cooking spray.  You must run a butter knife around the ends to loosen them because they will stick to the pan. 

I used a butter knife on the loaf on the left and not on the loaf on the right.  Notice the stickage!
Once the loves are cool you can enjoy your creation!  Delicious!

What's not to love?

The crust of this bread is thick and crispy - not at all like the moist crust of banana bread.  (It will soften up after you seal it in an airtight container to keep it fresh.)  It is sweet and delicious.  Orange is the perfect counterpoint to the tartness of the cranberries.  This is definitely a recipe that would become famous.  Try it for your Thanksgiving feast!

I would love it if you became a follower of Greetings From the Asylum!  You can also find me on Pinterest and Facebook.  Remember to add my page to your news feed so you get all of the fun updates from the Asylum.  Add all of your favorite pages to your newsfeed - you'll see all of the  updates you've been missing since Facebook changes its algorithm!

Thanks for visiting and enjoy your CRANBERRY BREAD!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let Us All Give Thanks!

Halloween didn't turn out so well here at the Greetings From the Asylum.  It involved some gastrointestinal distress followed by a garbage bag full of bathroom mats.  (In my defense, they were really old and beginning to fray before the "incident."  I put "incident" in quotation marks because that is the word my seven-year-old used when asking if it would keep him from trick-or-treating.  Yes, unfortunately, it did.

Instead, we carved our jack-o-lantern on November 4th.  It was a wonderful Sunday afternoon activity.  Roasted pumpkin seeds were followed by fresh banana bread with chocolate chips.  MMMMM!  I don't have a photo (sorry) we ate it too fast.  Stay tuned for the recipe...

Here is our delightfully happy jack-o-lantern.  It made me smile for days!

I dare you to look at this photo and NOT smile!  You can't do it!
I just love the freckles!  In my humble opinion, all jack-o-lanterns should sport freckles!

Then it was time for Thanksgiving decor:

One Thanksgiving display

I have this strange space-sucking shelf in a long hallway in my house.  I usually use this space as a catch-all of junk.  (You know you have one in your house, we all do!)  For the holidays I try to keep it clean-er.

Here are some close-up shots of the fun:

Do you see my "junk" in the background?

A close-up of some of my junk. 

Funny (now) story:  All of my smoke detectors went off at 3:20 in the morning a few nights ago.  Can you say adrenaline rush?  Whew!  The batteries are out because they continued to scream even after they had been forcibly ripped from the ceiling.  They each gave a final plaintive cry as the last of their power drained away.  SIGH!  It took my husband and me over an hour to go back to sleep after that, but our children slept right through it all!

It turns out that smoke detectors are only good for about 7 years.  (We got 5 extra years out of ours.)  SO, if yours are  older than that you need to replace them!  (If only to avoid a late-night non-emergency wake-up call.)  The electrician came today and fitted us with a big batch of brand spankin' new smoke detectors.  My son wanted to know if the new detectors will be able to tell when I am cooking.  That gave the electrician a good laugh, but I swear, I have never set off the smoke detectors while cooking!  ;)

Alrighty then...back to the decor...

My cousin made these glittered pressed leaves and sent them to me.  They look great scattered around with the other holiday stuff!

We won this centerpiece at a company picnic several years ago for my husband's previous employer.  It still looks great!

I have had these little metal pumpkins for YEARS!  I love putting electric tea lights in them and watching the shadows dance on the walls. 

This is my FAVORITE thing!

I made this write-on thankful plaque two years ago when I got the inspiration HERE from Bev at Flamingo Toes.  It has been a big hit ever since!  My kids love to write what they are thankful for! 

UPDATE:  I used embroidery to make the words after choosing a cute font on my computer to use as a pattern. 

Use colored Dry Erase markers.  I like the fine point!

You can write on your favorite thankful thing and wipe it off tomorrow and write something new!

AND speaking  of Bev.....I got to meet her!  You heard that right.  I met the world-famous Bev from Flamingo Toes!!!

Yes, I know I have a big, cheesy grin, but I am meeting one of my bloggy heroes after all!  :)
Bev was a few miles down the road so I simply had to go and say hello.  She is super nice and has  a great smile!  Seriously, check out her blog.  She has TONS of fun ideas especially if you like jewelry or sewing or home decor or whatever!  Highlight of my November!

Here are some more shots of my other Thanksgiving decorations...

I made these Pilgrims several years ago.  My kids just love them.

See, they love them.  They did  question the pumpkin and the pie though.  I don't know why, they make sense to me.
I made this Mod Podge masterpiece about four years ago. 
Here are some close-ups of my favorite letters.  The letter and background are smooth, but the flower, button, and cord are 3D.  

I love the sparkly leaf stickers and the square brads. 

When I made these I had to put everything away before I could finish.  I had all of the letters laid out just right.  Unfortunately, I needed the stove to cook dinner.  I took pictures of each letter before cleaning up my supplies.  It made it so easy to come back and remember what I had designed in my mind.  Also,  I used sticky back felt on the bottoms of all of the letters.  This keeps the letter blocks from sliding around on the shelf and also keeps any of the paint from coming off on the counter.  It is a win-win!

Well, there is the sum total of my Thanksgiving decor.  I am open to any ideas you have to make my house a little more festive!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome to the Whole NEW Asylum!

We have been very busy here at the Asylum lately:  cooking, crafting, cleaning... You know, the usual crazy stuff.  At the same time I have been helping out a lot at my husband's wildly successful law firm.  We have spent many a Friday evening followed by Saturday mornings getting legal stuff done.  All that business has kept me away from my blog for too long!  I have folders full of photos on my computer that are full of fun projects and adventures to share with you! 

I am so excited to reveal the new look here at Greetings From the Asylum!  I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!  Everything you see here was designed by the completely talented designer who designed my husband's website HERE.  She did some AMAZING work on the straight jacket don't you agree?  :)  Email me if you would like her contact information!  You too could have a stunning new look!  I cannot decide which I like better:

With a fancy frame

Simple clean lines
What do you think?

Here are some random shots from my life the last few weeks:

This pumpkin makes me SOOO happy!

Here is a peek at my Thanksgiving decor!

A pomegranate from Besh ba Gowah

You are getting sleeeeeepy............Happy Birthday to my guy!

Our office..

I met Bev from Flamingo Toes!!!  HOORAY!  I'll tell you all about this in a few days!
This little guy lives outside of our office!  CUUUUTE!

I have so much to say about a plethora of topics.  I just have to find the time to sit down and start saying them.

I would love it if you would become a follower of this blog.  Just click the sidebar!  Also, you can follow me HERE on Pinterest, or HERE on Facebook.  Make sure you add Greetings From the Asylum to your news feed so you see all of the latest news and updates from the Asylum!

Thanks for visiting!