Monthly Archives: December 2014

Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Sarah Hall!!!

Sarah Hall (#5223) has received a certificate of achievement in Make it Easy for earning a Beginner Level Let’s Get Physical Merit Badge!

“I started a new exercise regimen one month ago. I am training to run at least one 5K per month and have already completed two. I have another one scheduled for next weekend. I am not yet able to run the entire thing, but I am getting closer each time I get out there and run. I have also been doing strength training every other day to supplement my running training. So far, I haven’t missed any training days—I even ran two miles on Thanksgiving.

So far, it is going great! I haven’t done a lot of running since my high school and college days, so getting back into it has been painful and, at times, frustrating, but I have discovered a love for the sport and hope to be able to run an entire 5K by summer and then plan to start training to run 10Ks. Maybe someday, I will run a marathon! I am also hoping that my doctor visits will be a lot prettier now that I have added this sport into my life.”









Greatest Generation Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,129 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,751 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Each Other/Greatest Generation Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I was off to visit Gramma Barbie at the Sunny Oaks Retirement Home in Florida. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t just going to earn a new merit badge, I also love me some Gramma time. She’s a hoot. She promised to teach her secret family recipe for Green Bean Casserole, so I set off for Florida, my mouth watering all the way.

The drive gave me plenty of opportunities to think up new life questions for Gramma. Sometimes you know someone so well, you don’t realize what you don’t know. You know? Last time I spent time with her, she almost gave me TMI, if you know what I mean. So this time, I planned to keep her on the straight and narrow,  conversationally speaking.

Turns out, my little plan was derailed by plans of her own. The sneaky woman put me to work organizing old photographs while she gallivanted off with her friends to play bingo. Well, I admit grudgingly, this works too …


Photo by Ricardo Peralta Solis via Wikimedia Commons

By the time Gramma got back (three hours and 20 bucks richer), I had several photo albums filled with old—er, I mean to say vintage—photos, and my tummy was rumbling for some casserole. I let her thumb through my masterpiece while she talked me through her secret recipe:

Green Bean Casserole

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup Concentrate:
3 T unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
½ cup minced crimini mushrooms
2½ T all-purpose flour
½ cup vegetable broth
½ cup whole milk
1 pinch kosher salt
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper

Start by melting the butter in a pan. Add your shallots and sauté till soft. You can add some garlic here too, if you’re feeling wild and crazy and want to stay vampire free. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk. Pour in broth and milk. Let bubble and simmer for about 5 minutes. Season.

Now it’s time to use this baby for some casserole!

Green Bean Casserole:
2 lbs haricot verts (green beans)
1 recipe Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup Concentrate (above)
½ t kosher salt
¼ t coarse black pepper
¼ cup half-and-half
4 T unsalted butter
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Season a pot of boiling water with a few pinches of salt. Drop in the beans and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove and immediately plunge the beans into icy water for a minute or two. Remove to a colander and pat dry.


Photo by Warden via Wikimedia Commons

Add the blanched beans to a large bowl. Pour the homemade cream of mushroom soup over top. Season with kosher salt and black pepper and pour in the half-and-half.

Toss the beans around until coated and place them into a 1½ to 2-qt baking dish. Pop into your preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the beans are fork tender. Toss the green beans once halfway through baking.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet. Add the sliced shallots and stir every so often until they start crisping up. Once they’ve reached a golden color {but not too deep} remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined dish, where they will continue to crisp as they cool.

With 10 minutes remaining on the clock, remove the casserole and top with the shallots. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the shallots turn a deep golden. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.




arm yourself

My book designer, Karina, discovered a new way of knitting at her last craft party. If you haven’t heard of this latest craze, it’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s fast … necessarily so, since you’re all tied up … literally … in yarn, using your arms instead of needles. And as you can imagine, there are a number of reasons why you can’t be tied up for too long.



Because of the size of the stitches your “needles” produce, you can make an infinity scarf in about a half hour, even if you’re a beginner.

Find a step-by-step written tutorial with photos for the scarf pictured above at a wonderful blog called Flax & Twine: A Happy Handmade Life.

Or knit a blanket in just 45 minutes with a great video tutorial from

An added bonus? It’s a workout for your arms … we’re talking toning, big time.

Note: For 20% off Lion Brand Quickie Arm Knitting Yarn, enter MARYJANES20 in the coupon code box during checkout for yarns at:




You may find yourself overcome by nostomania this time of year.


Photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos via Wikimedia Commons

No, no—nostomania is not the sort of mania that causes you to become wild-eyed and rip up the house in a frenzy.


Photo by Torbak Hopper via Wikimedia Commons

Nor does it make you scale tall trees to escape the madness.


Photo by Quickndirty via Wikimedia Commons

That is an entirely different holiday issue. I’m talking about missing your one and only, Jasper Tomkins.

Jasper Tomkins

Nostomania is more this kind of mania:


Photo by Doryana02 via Wikimedia Commons

You know the feeling. You don the cozy crimson hat your sister knitted for you last year and stare into space while absentmindedly humming “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” because you are beset by a certain melancholy that can only be called nostomania (nos-tuh-MAY-nee-uh): an irresistible compulsion to return home; intense homesickness.