American Gemstones: Oregon has Opal, Sunstone, and More

On this blog, birthstones and astrological stones have been featured. I thought it might be interesting to think about birthplace stones of the USA for those who would like jewelry from the state they were born in or currently live in.  I could have started with any of the 50 states, I chose Oregon because a new gemstone was found there in the last year.

OPAL - Most of us think of Australian, Ethiopian, or Mexican when we hear someone say opal because we think or color-play or fire opals.  However, there are common opals (aka potch) found in Peru and the USA.  Recently a new color of common opal was found in Oregon, where other colors exist.  This new peach color was bought by and featured on ShopLC. Below is part 2 of ShopLC approximate 3-4 minutes each 3-video series on peach opal, as it is mostly about the stone.  If desired, you can also watch part 1 about the mining family and part 3 the after-mining processes.  The above mine find also produces a variety of pink opal.  Some Oregon mines produce common blue and blue jelly opals as well.

SUNSTONE - Another gem of Oregon is the feldspar called Sunstone.  This is typically a transparent to translucent stone that ranges from clear to yellow to orange background with goldish glitter inside. Thus the name sunstone because the colors and glow of the sun. Sunstone is sometimes confused with peach moonstone or goldstone.   The easiest way to tell the difference from its sister stone of moonstone is that glitter will be in sunstone whereas moonstone has more of a schiller.  The difference in sunstone and goldstone is the latter is opaque (more of a solid background color but with glitter).  Other Oregon gemstones that range from transparent to translucent include varieties of amethyst and garnet.

MORE - Besides opal, opaque stones also used in jewelry from Oregon include agate, jade, jasper, obsidian, and rhyolite. These are typically set as large cabochons or made into beads. Other collector stones not often used in jewelry include fossilized/petrified wood and geodes referred to as Thunder Eggs or thunderstones.  Find out more about collecting OR stones at Gold Rush Nuggets or go to for some great photos.

If you are a rock hound and interested in finding out about mining your own stones, check out Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.  If you are more into rock collecting than gemstones, check out pictures from the Minerals from OR Museum.  Find more on rock-hounding and the OR state rock (thunderstone) and gemstone (sunstone) on Gator Girl Rocks.

Memories and Recipes: Strawberry Jello Cake Two Ways

The last time I made this cake, it was for a 50th birthday party.  The birthday boy had requested this particular cake for his birthday, so I said “Sure, I will make the sheet cake version.”  I suggested this way as we had several people coming over after a “Surprise!” birthday dinner for him his sister and aunt planned.  Every one of his siblings and their families were going to be at the restaurant and come back to my house afterwards for desert.

To my suggestion, he replied “No, I want the layered version and I want you to put fresh sliced strawberries between each layer.”  Ok, he wanted a blend of my different methods for this cake.  Now I was not sure how I would make the cake stretch.  I made the cake in the morning and refrigerated it.  Then made two small pies of my Quick Key Lime recipe and froze them that same afternoon, knowing they would be well set by the time we finished dinner. 

The extra strawberries between the layers was a big hit! However I had to warn everyone to eat slowly since I had to use lots of toothpicks to keep the layers from slipping apart.  Below is my original Strawberry Jello Cake recipe, as well as the refrigerated sheet cake version.

Strawberry Jello Cake – 3 Layer Recipe
1 package white cake mix
1 small package strawberry jello
4 eggs
¾ cup cooking oil
1 cup well-drained strawberries
1.      Line three 8-inch cake pans with wax paper, greased under wax paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.     Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and mix thoroughly, beating for 2 minutes.
3.     Pour cake batter equally into the 3 prepared pans.
4.     Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
5.     Allow to cool, and then frost with strawberry cream frosting.

Strawberry Cream Frosting Recipe
½ cup butter
1 box powdered sugar
½ cup drained strawberries
Mix ingredients together until smooth.

Strawberry Jello Cake – Cold Sheet Version
1.     Make cake per directions above, except pour batter into one 9x13 pan without wax paper.  Bake time will change to 30 – 35 minutes since pan is larger to insure center cooks.
2.     Frosting the cake – either use the frosting above OR instead top the cake with a layer of fresh sliced strawberries and then cover the berries with cool whip. 
3.     Refrigerate cake until ready to slice and serve.

Memories and Parties: Cream Cheese Mints and Sweetheart Punch

Wedding Cake and Couple Photo
Cutting the Wedding Cake
I got married before the trend of destination weddings.  This was back when having people celebrate the union was more important than expecting parents to spend a lot of money on venues (near home or out-of-town) and big meals to feed every guest.  Not to mention expecting the guests to buy both wedding gifts and pay for travel/lodging – thus limiting who can afford to attend.  (Rant over now…)

My wedding was held in the hometown church where my husband and I met.  My reception was held in my parents’ home.  I bought my own dress and borrowed my aunt’s veil and my cousin’s wedding garter plus I wore a necklace mom had given me years before (something borrowed, new, old, and blue).  My future spouse rented his tux.  Mom and I went to florist and bakery.  However, as a couple we paid for all the flowers at the ceremony.  My parents purchased the cake from a local bakery and prepared most of the other items for the reception, including coffee and the punch listed below.  For the punch, we purchased triple ingredients to make three ice rings the day before so we could keep filling the punch bowl as necessary.  I remember my mom was later arriving to pre-wedding stuff at church than she wanted because she had to wait for cake delivery.  The cake was not exactly what we ordered because baker had a family emergency the day before and so threw together something that afternoon.  Oh well…  sad but no reason to go ”Bridezilla.”

I had these delicious mints at my bridal shower and loved them.  My wedding colors were pale blue fabrics with pink roses and white daisies as the flowers.  So the friend at my church who made the mints volunteered to make two batches of the recipe below in green leaves and pink roses for my wedding reception.  The mints were in white trays on each side of the table holding the wedding cake and we also had the traditional pastel Jordan Almonds in crystal bowls.

Cream Cheese Mint Candies Recipe
Depending on mold size makes less than 3 dozen candies
1 (8 Oz) cream cheese
½ teaspoon mint flavoring
6 ¾ cup confectioners’ powdered sugar
Food coloring to get desired color
Mix ingredients thoroughly and from into shapes using candy molds.

NOTE:  Method for  Cream Cheese Mints that makes 30 by rolling balls instead of using molds.   You can roll the mints in granulated sugar (recipe says powdered) if you want them to have a glittery look.

Sweetheart Punch with Strawberry Ring
Serves 20-25 people
Ring Ingredients:
2 (6-ounce) cans frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2 (6-ounce) cans frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 (16 oz) package frozen sliced strawberries
Ring Directions:
1. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a heavy saucepan, boiling until sugar is dissolved for about 5 minutes to make syrup. Let cool.
2. Mix the syrup with the orange juices and lemonades.
4. Place the strawberries into a ring mold. Pour in juice mixture to fill the mold above fruit. Freeze to make ice ring. If any juice mixture left, refrigerate it to add to punch with soda.
Punch Add-Ins:
1 (2-liter) bottle lemon-lime soda
1 (48-ounce) can pineapple juice
Punch Directions:
1. Refrigerate the pineapple juice in advance.
2. When ready to serve, pour half the cold pineapple juice and half of the soda into a punch bowl. Float the ice ring in the punch. When liquid portion gets low, add in remaining juice and soda.

Proud Texan, United American

I was proud to see so many Texas residents helping out their neighbors during Hurricane Harvey floods.  When asked why they did it, many said “It was the way I was raised” or “We help each other out around here when we see a need.”  I was raised that helping out one’s neighbor was just the “southern” way.  I am proud to also say this is the American way.

How do I know all Americans want to help their neighbors and will unite when faced with natural or terrorist plights?  I saw what “northerners” and other did during 9/11.  The devastation was different, the loss of innocent life greater, yes.  Yet – we united, we cried, we helped, we rebuilt.  We will do it again.

In every bad situation, our first responders, our everyday heroes, and our citizens do not give excuses “It’s the government’s job, so we should stay out of the way.” Or “Let the Bible-thumpers do the helping out because that is what God told them to do.”  Instead everyone pitches in where they can. Real Americans give physical help, donate supplies, provide food, offer shelter, and give money when and where we can.  North, south, east, west, democrat, or republican – stand united as Americans.  Natural or others enemies without or within can only defeat when we are divided by civil unrest.

So how can you help now? If you are physically willing, find a local volunteer group or church sending people to help in the crisis and offer you strength and skills.  If you can provide supplies, again find a local organization, who is providing a gathering and distribution service, and ask to be a volunteer or to be a mini-collection point for bringing in supplies to donation stations.  If you can’t do that, then donate a few of the needed supplies via one of the collection points.  If these ideas are not you, then money is always needed to provide the above plus food and shelter, give to a verified purpose-driven charity or through a local church designating funds, supplies, or volunteer labor for aid.

P.S.  Shame on those who posted fake stories and photos to exploit political agenda, anti-Christian rhetoric, or poking fun at bad situations - just for more hits or views!  Shame on those of us who did not read or look closely for the truth before passing these on via social media.  Shame on those who will further exploit these poor victims via looting, gas hording, fake work orders, and fund stealing scams. 

Choker Necklaces are Back in Style

Layered Choker Necklaces
Choker necklaces are back in style! They were big in the 1940's, 1970's, and again in the 1990's.  Some were bold looks with leather and metal; others were more romantic with lace and flowers. (History of Choker with Recent Celebrity Photos ) Now the choker necklaces are back in fashion for the 21st century fashionista.

When this was in fashion during my youth, those of us who were crafty often made our own chokers.  We made chokers similar to the ones in the video links below.  However, we made the lace ones by adding 1/2 inch to each end and folding over those ends to sew on the snap rather than glue it on. We did the same thing with embroidered wide ribbons we turned into choker.   Sewing the edges reinforced the ends and the choker lasted a lot longer, even past the trend.  If you do not want to sew, then use extra glue, clear nail polish, or Fray Check to keep the choker from unraveling at end if you do not do the sewing.  Another way we made closures was to sew ribbon onto the ends of the hemmed edges of the lace and then tie a bow in back to make it as tight as we wanted.  We also bought lace with large holes in the center that we could thread thin ribbon through for a dressier look.  We bought ribbon was about 8 inches longer than the lace piece so we could have the extra a back to tie in on.   Another romantic look we did was hot-gluing a silk flower (instead of some the items shown in videos) in the middle of wide thick ribbon as a spring/summer style.

If you make your own jewelry, you probably know you can buy leather or suede cord to make a choker at most craft stores.  You may be able to get ready-made 14” or 16” leather cords or silk cords in a variety of colors too.  So you can do all the work in the part two of video below or buy one of these, add your pendant/charm and you are all ready to go!

For lots more ideas on creating different chokers, visit Cut Out and Keep website.  Please note, they just show photos, they do not give how to project instructions. 

Grandma Parrish’s Pickle Recipes: Dill or Bread & Butter Versions

Homemade Pickles Packed Various Ways
In the back of the children’s book Mr. Pickle Goes to Pickle Island, I note learning activities that parents may want to do with their children after reading the book together.  One such activity is to make pickles from fresh cucumbers themselves.  I am creating this post to provide two of my grandmother’s pickle recipes so the pickle lovers out there can re-create these delectable food items during the summer produce season.  These recipes appeared in the 1979 edition of “A Book of Favorite Recipes” by ladies of Coppell First Assembly of God Church.

Fresh Pack Dill Pickles Recipe
7 quarts whole cucumbers, 3-5 inches long (approximately 17-18 pounds)
2 gallons of 5% Brine (see recipe below)
6 cups vinegar
¼ cup sugar
9 cups water
2 Tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice, tied into small cheesecloth bag.
Add-ins Per Jar:
Mustard seed
1.    Wash cucumbers thoroughly.  Cover with 5% Brine and let stand overnight in ice box (aka refrigerator).
2.    Next day, drain cucumbers. 
3.    Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, water, and pickling spice bag in pot.  Heat to boiling and let stand while packing cucumbers into quart jars.
4.    After packing in cucumbers, add 2 teaspoons mustard seed, 1 glove garlic, and 3 heads dill to each jar
5.    Cover with boiling spice liquid to about ¼ inch of top of jar.
6.    Wipe tops and seal jars.
7.    Process in boiling water 20 minutes.

View Canning Homemade No Fail Dill Pickles video on packing and boiling jars, which starts at step 3 above.  This video contains another grandmother’s recipe, so you can use the above or use that one. You can tell by the look of the cucumbers he already did the overnight soak and drain in steps 1-2.

Five Percent Brine Recipe
2 gallons of water
1 ½ cups pickling salt
1.    Heat water to boil.  Dissolve salt in water. 
2.    Cool brine mixture to room temperature before using.

Some pickle recipes call for vinegar instead, check Vinegar-Brine Pickling Method if you have a recipe that calls for that.

Bread and Butter Pickles Recipe
25-30 medium cucumbers, sliced thin  
     (NOTE:  Grandma said zucchini squash may be used instead of cucumbers if you like.)
8 large onions
2 large bell peppers
½ cup pickling salt (for soaking in water)
5 cups cider vinegar
5 cups sugar (approximately 2 ½ pounds)
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cloves
1.    Wash cucumbers and slice thin.
2.    Chop all remaining vegetables into cucumbers and add salt with enough cold water to cover.
3.    Let stand for 3 hours and then drain well.
4.    Combine vinegar, sugar, and spices in large kettle (aka pot). 
5.    Bring to a boil, then add the drained vegetables and heat thoroughly.  Do not boil again.
6.    Pack into hot sterilized jars.
7.    Seal and place in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
8.    Remove jars and cool.

View Depression Style Bread and Butter Pickles video on slicing and prepping the pickles a little differently from above recipe.  This video uses hot peppers and garlic to make them spicier but it does not include measurements, however it is very entertaining

A Life Lesson from the American Bald Eagle?

An email with images of eagles and a story regarding them has been going around.  Below is a video that contains most of those images and the associated story.  After you watch the video, you may want to check out some of the Biblical opinions on eagles and the data shared in video.

America’s Patriotic Music to Celebrate U.S. Independence

In Church yesterday, instead of the usual choruses or hymns, we sang songs of America.  Since I posted on the Pledge of Allegiance, I thought it would be a good idea to do a post on some of the most popular patriotic songs.  When I began my research, I found other bloggers had the same great idea.

I liked the Top 100 Songs of American Patriotism since it included tunes from multiple genres, besides traditional marches and anthems, there are country and rock options.  You will have to scroll down past ads and links to other posts before the song list starts, but it is worth a look.  The songs are listed starting with #100 and going to #1, which is the national anthem.   Within the song description you may find some historical information and occasional rants about political correctness – I’m ok with it since I sometimes get into rants too.  Some of the songs listed reference 9/11 as their inspiration.

If you like the songs and want to check out some American history as well see this short list of books and websites.  If you agree that America needs to continue using songs that mention our Christian heritage and keep “In God We Trust” in the hearts of citizens, you may want to check out how the USA has its foundation in the Bible.

Since I know some people do not know the words to many of the United States older songs or choose not to sing them since they often mention God, I also include Patriotic Song Lyrics from the USA Flag Site here, so you may print any that you wish to sing during your Independence Day celebrations.

If you want to hear any of the 100 songs mentioned above, the blogger does include links to some videos on YouTube.  If a link is not included, you may want to do your own search on YouTube or Amazon to listen.  To do so, use the song title and artist from the blogger’s list.  Below is one if the many videos on YouTube with American Patriotic Songs and Marches (this 1 is over 35 minutes).  If you want to play traditional music at your celebration, then consider this one or look at the many longer versions that you can run on a loop during your picnic or party.  Check this older July 4th post for a slide show to use or search for your own on YouTube.

Bring Back One Nation under One Flag

Flag of the United States of America
It is almost Independence Day for the USA.  With all the different flags people display and all the different sides of causes citizens jump on, is America becoming a people divided?  Do not get me wrong, I have no problem with people displaying other flags, as long as they also show their allegiance to the country that gave them the freedom to do so.  In other words, so we do not forget where our freedoms come from, we should display the USA flag along with any other we choose.  Let us show American unity once again. 

Because children have grown up who did not know or  understand the magnitude of historical events and so many others have chosen to forget the terrorist attacks on 9-11-01, I think we need to recognize that disharmony is another way in for those that wish to undermine America to use for its destruction.  For that reason, I feel everyone should pause once in a while and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag lest we forget the words, the history, and our true hope for the uniting of the nation’s citizens.  We need to remember the word and teach them to our children.  In case someone does not remember the pledge, the 31 words are provided below.

*** USA - The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag ***
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We give our heads and our hearts to god and our country. One country, one language, one flag.” - George Balch

Red, White, and Blue Summer Desserts

I'm on the Imperial Sugar mailing list so once a month, I get an email of dessert recipes.  This time the email had some cute ideas for July 4th patriotic desserts in colors of red, white, and blue.  Below is a video of how to make Red White and Blue Cupcakes.  I'd use a cake mix to speed up the preparation.  If cupcakes are not your thing or you do not want to go to that much trouble, then try their Patriotic Poke Cake for your picnic.  If you are planning party inside or have a refrigerator nearby, you might want to try the Stars and Berries Cheesecake instead.