Wednesday, October 22, 2014


We have lovely neighbors. The kind of folks who are good to our children, keep an eye on our home while we are away, and even shovel our driveway in the winter.  We live on a street that is brimming with outstanding people.  I know we are beyond blessed to live in such a wonderfully friendly and "old-fashioned" neighborhood; the kind of neighborhood where everyone waves hello and still stops to chat when they's a simple pleasure that makes home --extra special.
At the beginning of October, a knock at the door brought us a unique opportunity.  Our neighbor Jane had been collecting Monarch caterpillars from her garden and she brought us two!  Jane stood on our doorstep with two jars of chubby and very hungry caterpillars in hand.  The caterpillars were busy crawling about and eating everything in sight.  Jane also brought along a hand full of milkweed leaves and a book all about what we could expect to happen over the next two weeks.  The kiddos were overjoyed.

It wasn't too long before the caterpillars made their cocoons.  It was magnificent to watch.  I loved keeping an eye on them probably even more than the kids.  In just about two weeks our chubby caterpillars had turned into gorgeous Monarch butterflies.

It was so thoughtful of Jane to share her caterpillars and ultimately the experience of watching a caterpillar become a butterfly... it was something that I hope everyone gets to do at least once in their life... It was that amazing --absolutely stunning.  We plan to grow milkweed in our garden next spring. We understand the Monarch butterflies are dwindling in numbers...and milkweed is what they milkweed we will grow!
Simply beautiful.
One last time to hold hands before they fly away.
Ready for take-off!!
As a thank-you we made a batch of ginger cookies, the fancy kind--first place, blue ribbon ginger cookies. Making cookies was a great way the kids could participate in making something special to give to Jane as a thank-you.

1st Place Sparkling Chewy Ginger Cookies
Karri Perry, Blue Ribbon Kitchen
½ cup shortening
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened (1/2 stick)
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground ginger 
¾  tsp ground cloves
4 Tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/4 cup medium and large crystal sanding sugar (for coating cookies)

Combine the dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside
Cream shortening, butter, brown sugars, molasses and egg in a large bowl.

TIP: Creaming can take 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy

Gradually add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture; mixing until dough begins to come together.
Stir in the chopped crystallized ginger.
Shape the dough into balls (about 1 inch in diameter).

TIP: Use a small ice cream scoop to keep cookies uniform in size.

Roll cookie dough balls in granulated sugar. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake 9-11 minutes at 375 degrees on the middle oven rack.
Let hot cookies rest on baking sheet for one minute before transferring to a cooling rack.
Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

Tip: Using 2 sizes of sanding sugar, large and medium, gives each cookie an amazing sparkle and crunch on the outside of the cookie.

Chopped crystalized ginger

I love to use a small ice cream scoop --all the cookies are uniform in size and therefore bake evenly.
Roll cookie dough in sugar before placing on parchment lined cookie sheet.
Space about 2 inches apart.
Cookies cooling and the paper trays that I love so much.
We wrapped the cookies up with cellophane, twine  and a thank you clip.  The paper tray we used for the cookies is one of my favorites.  The trays can be baked in, but they are also perfect for delivering sweets and baked goods --because the tray is lined with a wax coating --there are never any oil spots. Most craft and cooking stores carry them, I picked mine up at Michael's.
A proper thank-you
The twine, wooden clip and other goodies came from the Target $1 spot.  Target really had a fabulous selection of Halloween odds and ends... I snapped a photo of some of the great things I picked up.
To accompany the delicious cookies, a hand written, heart-felt "thank-you"-- the best kind of thank-you in my humble opinion.
The best kind of thank-you.
For Jane.
 We hope Jane liked the cookies, because we certainly liked the Monarch butterflies!!

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