Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Resolutions

~ Make a complete, detailed (legible) garden plan by the end of January.

~ Keep tucked away this year's good memories, toss into the fire this year's bad memories.

~ Bring new life (please!) into my cooking repertoire.

~ Go through old papers and destroy the evidence most of them.

~ Redecorate Decorate our bedroom.

~ Lose the extra weight that has taken up residence on my hips and tummy.

~ Step out of the box, get out of my rut and be spontaneous.

~ Take downhill ski lessons.  (How's our medical insurance?)

~ Ban potato chips from my life.

~ Stop procrastinating on jobs I don't want to do.

~ Do stretching exercises regularly so I can pick something up off the floor without looking like a 95 year old crone.

~ Start wearing nail polish again.  And shaving my legs more often.


That was last year's list!  Oh well, maybe I'll be more effective at carrying it out this year.  After all, if every day is a new beginning, certainly a new year is all the moreso.

Best wishes to all you wonderful people for a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious New Year!  Let's do it!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Saturday Between Two Wednesdays

Does anyone else think a Wednesday is the worst day of the week on which Christmas or New Year's Day can fall?

In one of his columns many years ago, Andy Rooney said he thought a Tuesday is the ideal day for Christmas.  That would give you Sunday to sit back and think about what last minute things you still needed to do on Monday.

I don't know if I can agree with the good man.  Maybe it's just me, but falling on a week day (especially smack-dab in the middle of the week as it did this year) made Christmas much less festive than it would have been on a Saturday or Sunday.  Or even a Friday.

* * * * * * * *

We're looking to get some more snow this afternoon and tomorrow.  Continually getting snow when it's so cold is really confusing me.  The good thing is that when it snows at low temperatures, it's always light and fluffy and MUCH easier to shovel.  (Hum along now . . . "Look for the silver lining . . . ")  I'm not real fond of the temperatures forecast:  -28° tonight and a high of -11° tomorrow.  All winter, so far, here on ye ol' homestead we've not been experiencing temperatures as low as they warn of.  Hope that rings true this time!

* * * * * * * *

In our efforts to get some real down time this winter, we decided to skip any more wood working until spring.  Turns out it's a good thing we made that decision.  Can you see us trying to safely cut and split in this much snow?

* * * * * * * *

We spent part of this morning getting wood in and stockpiled for the two house stoves and the wood stove in the workshop part of the garage.   Also picked up and moved (and restacked) the wood that took a header out of the big woodshed into the snow.  

I ran errands in town and spent a leisurely hour in the library scouring the stacks and picking out random books that looked interesting.  One book I'm eager to get into shows how to knit two socks at once, on a circular needle, from the toe up.  I've heard friends talk of trying this method and for the most part, they say it's not real easy to master.  Eeeep.  (You may hear screams of frustration after dinner time tonight when I set myself up in my nest on the couch and give it a go.)

* * * * * * * *

I'm taking quite a bit of time for myself this week between the two holidays and, to my surprise, haven't spent much time quilting.  For some reason, I've been doing a lot of reading as that's what seems to feel good right now.

I did make one small quilted piece recently.  It's just 7" square, made specifically for a small space when I put up my January decorations.  I like to use blue and white for that time of year (blue sky, snow covered ground . . . get it?) so used only blue and white fabrics for the piece.

* * * * * * * *

Well, we'll face the same thing with New Year's Day falling on a Wednesday this coming week.  And does anyone want to celebrate New Year's Eve on a . . . Tuesday night?  Geesh.

We're planning a quiet evening at home (as usual) then.  When I read statistics of all the legally inebriated people on the road behind the wheel on New Year's Eve, I figure that greatly increases MY chances of being involved in an accident which scares me enough to say, thanks but I'll be very happy at home.  There are plenty of other nights of the year to be out "croggling" about, as my Scottish grandmother used to say.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays!

My very best wishes to all of you for a holiday season filled with light and love and all those you hold dear.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nearing Hibernation Mode

What with all the cold weather and snow our area has been having so far this winter, Papa Pea and I are very, very thankful we are spending the holidays here at home without having to drive any long distances.

Summer before this last one, I made lots of juice concentrate from our blueberries and raspberries.  The plan was to mix the concentrated stuff with water to have our own juice to drink.  It's worked out well although certainly the juice is not as sweet as commercially prepared juices.  But that's okay as it's the nutrients from the fruit we want rather than added sugar, right?  This morning I found another use for the pint jars of concentrate I still have left.

A while back I bought a case of organic frozen orange juice concentrate.  But drat and dang, the juice had a sour twang to it and because of that wasn't being consumed with any regularity.

This morning I mixed one jar of my blueberry concentrate into the jar of mixed up orange juice.  Wow!  Don't know what magic happened, but we now have an extremely tasty fruit drink which will encourage us to drink not only the orange juice but the homemade concentrate left.  As Kristina has on her blog header,

Eat it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or go without.

Such a good feeling to be able to resurrect that sour orange juice by making it into a very desirable drink using my homemade concentrate.

This is my nest these days.  I park my bottom on the chaise lounge part of the couch and cover up with my Christmas quilt.  I have books to read, paper and pencil for making notes, knitting needles, yarn and patterns and should the desire hit, remote controls for the TV and DVDs on my right side.  Last night I toppled over onto the pillow against the couch arm and was sound asleep when Papa Pea came out of the bathroom after getting ready for bed.  Awake or dozing, it's a mighty comfortable spot when it's time for some relaxing.

It's another day when it's too cold to snow (9°), but it currently is snowing and blowing out there.  The above is a shot of one of our window boxes outside the kitchen window.  One would expect there to be green boughs and red berries underneath the little drifts, but instead there are branches of fall leaves and miniature pumpkins and gourds.  Weeks ago, we had our first wet, freezing snow before I could get the fall decorations pulled and the winter ones in the boxes.

Yessir, if you want to experience real winter time this year, come to northern Minnesota! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Snow Report

Nope, not a report of any new snow (well, not more than an inch or so), but rather of the snow we have on the ground.

This morning we bundled up like Antarctic explorers and hiked out our driveway to get the mail.

This shot is of our mail box and Papa Pea returning from it coming toward our driveway.  An impressive bunch of snow by the mailboxes, don't ya think?

Back at the house, we did some moving of wood that had fallen out of the wood shed.  It was half a tier at the front that for some reason decided to leave the comfy confines of the shed and hurl itself out into the snow.

Then we filled the wood box on our enclosed porch.  Yep, a mite on the excessive side, but it may save us from having to haul any wood tomorrow.

Next my energetic husband wanted to go for a snowshoe hike back up on the ridge behind us.  I used my quick wit (cough, cough) to come up with a good excuse as to why I couldn't go.  

~  The skin on my face was approaching the frost bitten stage.  (No joke.)

~  I needed to finish hemming a pair of slacks I just got.

~  Dinner would be better if I started it now and let it simmer all afternoon.

~  The toilet needed cleaning.

~  I had a real desire to spend a couple of hours paying bills.

He got the drift right quick (!) and headed out by himself.

When he returned, I was oh-so-glad I hadn't gone.  Because our temperatures have been so low, the bulk of the snow we've gotten is very soft and has no crust on top.  He said even with the snowshoes, he sank down about 12" with each step.  Do you know how much effort is required to tromp along under those conditions?  I do.  I was very glad I hadn't gone on that little outing!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unrelated Thoughts Bouncing Around In My Head

I still haven't managed to take a picture of all our snow.  That may have something to do with the fact that it's been so darn cold outside that I go out, do what needs to be done and get back inside where I can breathe without my lungs wanting to close up and go south for the winter.

However, hubby just looked at the thermometer and announced the temp has zoomed up to 20°.  Um, what's with that at 7 p.m. when it should normally start dropping down, down, down?  What's going on here?  Dum-da-dum-dum!  Another big snow coming?  Twenty degrees is supposed to be the perfect snowing termperature, right?

Papa Pea was amazed that he was standing only fifteen to twenty feet from an attack in the chicken yard when a HUGE bird swooped down and just missed nailing one of our hens.  (The hen reports that anytime you lose that many feathers, the event was plenty close enough for her.)  Hubby didn't have a lot of time to study the characteristics of the bird for identification, but after coming in and consulting our bird books, he's pretty sure it was a Northern Hawk Owl.  They are basically nonmigratory, but do come slightly south (which would possible put them in our area) during the winter.  They also hunt in daylight as well as at night.  He saw the owl's attempt at a chicken dinner in the mid-afternoon.

I know there are those of you who cannot wait for the days to start getting longer.  Personally, I like the short days.  (Ducking from barrage of snowballs aimed at my head.)  I really enjoy the time around 4:30 in the afternoon when darkness descends outside, I'm in my cozy kitchen leisurely starting to pull dinner together while sipping a glass of wine.  Except I'm in a bamboozling period (get out the violins) when I. cannot. drink. alcohol.  One sip of anything (and I've been trying everything) and wham, I get an extremely uncomfortable feeling from the top of my head to the nether regions of my stomach.  What's going on?  Anyone who knows me can tell you I am not a person who has ever over-indulged, but heck, 'tis the season to be jolly and I'm expected to do it without tippling any spirits?  Oh, well.  Makes me a cheap date.

I also truly like the longer nights this time of year.  I will admit I do not have to gird my loins and traverse the roads to go to a job in the dark in the morning and come home in the dark at night.  (That scenario would cast a whole different glow on my rose-colored glasses.)  Being able to be home as much as I choose, I love the dark early morning hours with the Christmas lights and music on which seems to create a slower, easier start to the day.

Typically, the evening hours are our "time off" from the daily hafta-do tasks so when it's pitch black outside from 4:30 p.m. on, evening starts pretty early and we feel we have longer "time off" hours each day.

I've asked Papa Pea (my personal Mr. Claus) for a couple/three books for Christmas and I've been waiting impatiently for them to arrive so I can take a quick peek at them before wrapping and putting them under the tree.  (Yes, I have to wrap my own presents [are the violins still handy?] because I learned long ago that seeing how much of an onerous chore [and how much paper he used] wrapping was for my husband, I couldn't in good conscience inflict that task on him anymore.  Actually, for years he gave my presents to our daughter to wrap for him, but I didn't feel that was fair either.)  After Christmas, I'm looking forward to some very enjoyable hours on the couch, devouring my new books.

Speaking of the couch, I'm going to get my pj's and robe on right now and go snuggle on the couch for a long evening of snoozing relaxation.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It Is Winter

Papa Pea and I have been lamenting that we just don't get the snow in the winter time like we used to.  After what we've experienced already this season, I think we may be changing our tune.

Not only have we been getting (what we consider) nice amounts of snow, but Mother Nature has chosen to stuff us into the deep freeze about six weeks earlier than usual this year.  The highest temp I can recall seeing in the last week or so is a balmy 14° above zero.

About 9" of snow fell yesterday afternoon and into the evening.  Then we were awake in bed for what seemed like a good portion of the night listening to the high winds.  (Why can't we just ignore that sound and sleep peacefully snug, warm and cozied up under our blankets?  Are we concerned the house will blow away?  No, but one of our wood stove chimneys did come crashing down last year.  You can bet that noise made us sit up and take notice.  And there was that outside combination storm/screen door that got ripped off year before last.  I suppose we lie awake wondering what it will be next.)

We're in now after a morning of plowing (mostly by Chicken Mama and her big, ol' work horse truck and plow rig) and shoveling.  At these frigid temperatures (a sizzling 3° above now at midday) all the snow blown into drifts and needing to be moved is as light as could be.  (If only there wasn't so much of it!)

A small assortment of Christmas cookies is baked and ready to be shared with others.  The bulk of the presents are wrapped.  I've thrown in the towel (and knitting needles) and given up hope that I'm going to get all of those crafty little gifties made for the holidays as I planned.  As the saying goes, I may be dumb, but I'm not stupid.  (No comments from the Peanut Gallery, please.)  I've decided a nervous breakdown just isn't worth the stress of trying to get it all done.

I love the way the house looks with its festive decorations.  Unfortunately, our tree is a sad looking little bush this year.  It was a nice tree to start with; that isn't the problem.  It's the lights.  Or lack thereof.  One of the strings we were planning on using would light up for only half the length.  Okay, we'll make do without using that string.  After testing the others, we got three other strings on the tree.  And then another bunch of the lights went out and refuses to come back on.  So we have a tree with a well-lit top and a well-lit bottom.  The middle section is dark.  And it irritates the heck out of me.  Bummer, since I think we enjoy the lights on the tree even more than the decorations.

I shouldn't complain because we've certainly gotten our money's worth out of the lights.  I'm sure they're at least twenty-five years old (yes, they are) and possibly even more than that.  Folks have been talking about how much brighter the new LED lights are so you know what sales I'll be looking for after Christmas.

Jiminy Crickets, moving snow out in the brisk, fresh air sure does give you an appetite.  Papa Pea just said his cup of peppermint tea isn't doing it and he's contemplating snarfing every Christmas cookie he can get his hands on.  Me?  I think I'll just go drink about a gallon of spiked egg nog in celebration of this gorgeous, snow-filled winter we've got going here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Three Cheers for Me

I finally finished my new quilted holiday shower curtain.  It took me until nearly 4 this afternoon (working most of the day) to do it, but it's done and actually in the bathroom before Christmas.

Here it is before I put it up in the bathroom.  All of my pictures today, I'm sorry to say, are off color-wise.  All the background fabrics are shades of beige rather than the gray/white that shows in the photos.  It was just one of those days where I couldn't get a good picture for beans.  On the flannel wall above in my quilt room, there's too much glare from the fluorescent lights on the ceiling.  In this room there is only one window and it's on the north side.  On a gray day as we're having today, trying to get a picture with the ceiling lights off was a no-go.

A closer look at some of the parts of the quilt . . . this is the fabric I used in one row of the trees.

And another tree fabric.  I machine quilted the whole piece and was happy with the end product.

I did cross-hatching through these border sections.

Installed in the bathroom!  As you can see, our bathroom is on the narrow side so this is the best full length shot I could get.

I tried another angle by smooshing myself against the wall opposite the shower and next to the toilet but couldn't begin to get all of the curtain in the frame.

Whew.  This project has been a long time in the making.  I'm glad I finally pushed and got it up for the holidays.  Besides that, it was great spending the majority of the day in my quilt room . . . my definition of a super-duper day.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Where the Sun Don't Shine

That would be on our solar panels since the heavy, wet snow we had last week plastered about 4" of ice and snow on them.

Remarkably, in the more than 15 years we've had the solar panels, there has never been a situation when the snow and/or ice didn't melt or slide off the panels within a day of being covered.  The panels are on a tracker that follows the light (and whatever sun there may be) from dawn until dusk so full advantage is taken of any solar energy available.

But in this particular circumstance, the layer of snow stuck like glue for days.  And days.  Which basically eliminated any solar energy coming into our alternative energy system and battery bank.

Yesterday hubby decided to take steps to rectify our lack of solar power.

Out he went lugging the long extension ladder and a broom.  'Twas a cold, cold day for such a chore, but he wasn't waiting any longer for Mother Nature to bounce warm enough rays off the panels to melt the snow.  (Heck, we might have had to wait until May for that.)

Job accomplished to the best of his reaching abilities, he made the trek back to a warmer environment.

Okay, ol' Sol, time to do your thing.  Our batteries are starving for a burst of energy.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Warming the Kitchen

When we first moved up here to Minnesota, we lived in a nearly twenty year old (circa 1959) house trailer that had no insulation.  Okay, it must have had some insulation, but it couldn't have been much.  We had frost climbing up the inside walls most of the winter.

I made it a habit in the winter time to make breakfasts that were baked in our wood cookstove oven so that at least the kitchen was a halfway comfortable area in which to be.

One dish that I made quite a bit was Fruit Cobbler.  Most of the time I used apples, but the recipe is adaptable to using other fruits.

Last night while I was dangling upside down in our big freezer looking for some bread, I noticed the bags of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries harvested from our garden this past summer.  Dang, I haven't been using them as much as I should so decided to make Fruit Cobbler for breakfast this morning using some of our blueberries.

It's nothing spectacular to look at straight out of the oven . . . 

. . . but, oh my, did it taste good.  Our blueberries this year have a particularly "wine-y" flavor that is outstandingly delicious.

You can see the two of us managed to make a respectable dent in the cobbler at breakfast.  A serving each after dinner tonight as dessert, then Chicken Mama snarfed the portion we had saved for her (this was while she was helping her dad with some computer diffoogulties he was having) and the empty pan is now soaking in the sink.

Want a look at the recipe?  Here it is.

* * * * * * * *

Fruit Cobbler

4 cups fruit (peaches, apples, berries)

3/4 cups sugar (+/- depending on your fruit)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (with apples)

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

Place the fruit in a buttered baking dish (I used a 9" x 9") and sprinkle sugar (and any spices/seasonings you like) over fruit.  (For the blueberries this morning I used 1/2 cup sugar and a couple dashes of lemon juice.)

Sift together the flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt.

Blend the egg, milk and melted butter.  Add to the dry ingredients.  Beat to a smooth batter and pour over fruit.  (I sprinkled a sugar/cinnamon mix on top of the batter.)  Bake at 350° for 60 minutes.  Serve warm.  Or at room temp.  (If there's any left when it reaches room temperature.)

* * * * * * * *

I'm thankful that old house trailer is now long gone from our lives and that we live in a snug house with no trace of frost on the inside walls anymore.  Although our temperature first thing this morning was a couple of chilly degrees below zero, Papa Pea's good job of banking the wood stoves last night kept us very comfortable.  However, it didn't hurt a bit to have that little extra heat from the oven while the cobbler was baking this morning.

Friday, December 6, 2013

When Did She Find Time to Write a Book?

Yes, I'm speaking of our very own Leigh over at 5 Acres and A Dream.  How she ever found time to do the thousand and one time-consuming tasks necessary for this book project of hers to become a reality is a mystery to me.

Talk about a busy lady.  Leigh and her husband have spent the last several years building their homestead, and it's been an intense period for them.  They've tackled so much . . . from completely renovating their home and related energy-efficient, self-sufficient systems to delving into homestead animals and their care to maintaining a huge garden and preserving much of their own food supply to conscientiously improving their previously neglected fields and pastures.  All this while maintaining their zest for life and dreams of things yet to be done.

Knowing her as I do from her blogging, this book was written with the thought that it will offer practical help and insight to everyone who reads it.  She's a generous person always willing to share.

Although I've not gotten a copy of Leigh's book in my hands, I'm sure it will be chock full of informative materials for homesteading wanna-bes and seasoned back-to-the-landers alike.  I've always greatly admired Leigh because of her finely honed researching abilities and careful record keeping.  Knowing the way Leigh writes on her blog, I'm certain it will be an enjoyable read, too.

She's presently offering a giveaway drawing on her blog for a copy of this hot-off-the-presses book.  You couldn't go wrong by entering your name for a chance to win.  Just click HERE to see how to sign up.

This lady knocks my socks off with all she accomplishes.  Now all of us interested in the self-sufficient, homesteading/farming type of life can benefit from her disciplined efforts in creating this book.

I still don't know where she found the time to do it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

More Snow

We received about 12" of snow overnight last night and the first half of today.  Reports say we're to expect somewhere around another 12" starting later tonight and into tomorrow.

It's been a heavy, wet snow that gives the old shovel-wielding muscles a real workout.  But a sub-zero (as in possibly 20 below) cold front is moving into our area scheduled to arrive tomorrow night so it's suggested we get all our snow moving and plowing done before the Arctic air turns the while stuff into immovable cement.

The garden beds really do look kinda like beds, don't they?  (Yikes, I'm glad I don't have people to occupy that many beds in my household.  Think of the grocery bill.)

Every branch is coated with inches of pure, white snow which makes it a true winter wonderland out there.

We're grateful for all the ground insulation with the expected cold front moving in.

And we're as ready as we can be for more snow! 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Notta Lotta . . .

Not a lot going on around here in the past week that has been noteworthy, but I thought I'd better get a post up so you know I am still functioning.

Although my Thanksgiving decorations are lovely and we've enjoyed them for about a month now, since today is the first day of December and it's only a little over three weeks until Christmas (Eeeep, how did that happen?), they must go.  I contemplated doing the switcheroo from Thanksgiving to Christmas decorations today but couldn't get enthused about the project so managed to successfully ignore it.  Tomorrow?  Well, gosh, what with Monday being laundry day and all . . .  Can I manage to put it off for one more day?

We woke up Thanksgiving morning to a lovely 4" of snow covering the ground.  Our first snow of the season.  I can't remember the last time we had a decent amount of snow on the ground before Christmas or New Year's.  Just thirty miles south of us they got eighteen inches.

Right now as we speak (or type or read or whatever), we have heavy snow coming down.  We've gotten about 3" in the last 90 minutes.  ("It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . ")

I've been sleeping much better at night lately. (I'm sure you're all thrilled to get that bulletin.)  I haven't been waking up in the middle of the night and staying that way for 2-3 hours.  Only one problem to solve so that I don't have to get up earlier in the morning than I want to.  Said solution would involve a catheter, and I really don't want to go that route.  TMI?

This year I've been wrapping Christmas presents as they arrive.  And, boy, does that feel good.  I used to really enjoy wrapping presents and went overboard to make each and every one look special.  Hunh.  Not anymore.  When did wrapping presents become a chore for me?  Dunno, but the last several years I've found myself putting off the task until the last minute and then, let me tell you, it's no fun at all.  But this year, I'm staying ahead of the game.  Yep, I am.  (Feel free to check up on me in a week or so to see if I still have the right to be so boastful.)

Something that works well that I have been doing for the past couple of years is making my Christmas cookie doughs early and stashing them in the freezer.  Making as many cookies as I always think I have to want to then isn't such a chore.  I can pull out a blob of frozen dough and bake up a batch of cookies whenever the desire hits me.  So how many different varieties do I have made up ahead and in the freezer right now?  Ummm, none.  But I'm gonna get started on it really soon.  (You would have to ask, wouldn't you?)

I'm signing off now so I can go back into my quilt room where I put in a couple of hours this afternoon.  I have a new Christmas motif shower curtain I'm bound and determined to get done and up this year.  I shouldn't admit it, but all but the quilting has been done on it for a couple of years.  I just haven't, for a multitude of lame excuses reasons, finished it until now.  Keep poking me until I post a picture of the finished project hanging in the bathroom, okay?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is It The Lack Of Daylight?

It's darn near scary the way I've been feeling and thinking I need more sleep lately.  Today around 2:30-3:00, I felt like I really, really needed a nap.  Now, I am NOT a napper.  You could most likely count the times I've taken a snooze of any kind in the middle of the day in the last umpteen years on one hand . . . without using the thumb.

So did I listen to my body this afternoon?  Of course not.  I didn't take a nap or even plop in a comfy chair or stretch out on the couch.  I had laundry to finish folding and putting away and a small basket of ironing to do.  I kept moving and must admit I felt a little revived.  Then around 4:30 I sat down in my quilt room to do some hand quilting until time to trundle on into the kitchen to rustle up some dinner.  Thirty minutes later, as soon as I got in the kitchen, I felt so tired again that it bordered on feeling uncomfortable/sickish.  I had very little appetite for dinner.  (What?!  NO APPETITE?  Call 911, she must be on her way out!)

Sitting at the table (trying to summon up enough energy to rise and do the dishes) after eating, I told hubby I didn't think I was going to be able to accomplish anything tonight except getting into my jammies and collapsing on the couch.

So what's wrong with this picture?  If it were summer time at 5:45 of an early evening, we'd still have four hours of daylight and I could/would accomplish a lot in that time.  Heck, this evening I could do lots of neat things before bedtime:

*  Bake an experimental recipe of new Christmas cookies
*  Make the batch of caramel corn I've been wanting to make since before Halloween
*  Clean, sort and rearrange my pantry (I love doing that!)
*  Order the gifts I've picked out for myself for Christmas from Papa Pea
*  Go play in my quilt room
*  Plan my garden for 2014

But let's face it.  This is the time of year for all of us to kick back and stop thinking about everything we could/should be doing.  When darkness falls at 4:30 in the afternoon, not only does my body register a signal that it's time to call it a day, but I need to learn to allow my mind to do the same thing.  We push enough in the spring, summer and fall.

Yep, gotta learn to live more with the seasons and go with the natural cycle of the year.

That settles it.  I don't care if it is only 6:31 p.m.  I'm going to bed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lonely Whipped Cream Seeks Pudding

I had some whipped cream left in the refrigerator this morning (we ran out of pumpkin pie before we ran out of the whipped cream) so I decided to make some chocolate pudding for dessert tonight.  (Why did I make a pumpkin pie less than a week before Thanksgiving?  I have no explanation, but it was really good!)

Top each dish of pudding with a dollop of the leftover whipped cream, and it was a nice finish to tonight's dinner of fresh fish.  (Thanks to Chicken Mama for providing the fresh fish!)

The pudding recipe I made this morning is straight out of my More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre, published in 1976.  It's unique in that it calls for no eggs.  I've found this a go-to dessert when our chickens are molting around the first of the year and I ration every egg I get from them.

Here's the recipe:

Quick Chocolate Pudding
1/3 cup sugar or honey
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups milk

Combine above ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (8-10 minutes) stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon butter.

Serve warm (yuck) or cold (yum).  Makes 4-6 servings.  Very smooth and very good!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Quilting Day

In celebration of our first really cold, winter day, I stayed inside and quilted for the better part of the day.  (My kinda day!)

What did I work on?  The appliqued wall hanging that I'd like to have ready to hang for the Christmas season right after Thanksgiving.

It was way back in the first week of October that I started this project thinking I'd have plenty of time to get it done for this holiday season.  


Isn't it funny (so who's laughing?) how the seemingly little, everyday occurrences of life (some planned for, some not) eat up the hours each day so you never seem to end up with that smidge bit of free time you thought you would?

Bottom line, I just haven't had as much time to work on this quilt as I thought I would.  But today I did finally get the pieces for the top completed and put together.  It measures about 32" square.

Next I'll sandwich it with batting and backing and start the quilting.  I really want to hand quilt it which will take much longer than machine quilting but after putting in all the time for the hand work on the applique, hand quilting seems the way to go.

Will I have it done by the deadline I set for myself?  Most likely not.  But that's the way the cookie crumbles.  Life is still good . . . and I'm enjoying the creative process.  It'll get done when it gets done.

Maybe if we have more frigid days soon that are conducive to forgetting that old bugaboo of a To Do List and spending more days in my quilt room . . . 

P.S.  So how cold was it here today?  'Twas 4° when I padded out of the bedroom this morning a little after 5 a.m.  Our high of the day was 14° and now at 7:30 p.m. it's back down to 4° and dropping.  Gonna be a cold one tonight!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New Blog Header Photo

Have you noticed my new blog header photo?  It's another picture taken by my talented daughter.  She labeled it "November's Tears" and although it's a very appropriate title, I don't think there is anything teary or sad about it.

I understand one could look at it as a damp and dreary depiction of the boreal forest in which we live, but to me it has a quiet, enveloping, soothing feeling . . . almost as if the woods is settling into itself in preparation for a long, restful, comfortable winter.  Come to think of it, maybe this annual period (what I tend to think of as "drab November") prepares us for our most closed-in, restful season.

As a present a couple of years ago, I asked for a framed reproduction of "November's Tears" and since then always hang it as part of my house decorations at this particular time of year.

Chicken Mama's portfolio contains many photographs that are outstanding, and though it's hard to choose, I do have to say this is my personal favorite.  It simply speaks to me.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Amazing Display

The past two days have been gray, wet and foggy which has done nothing to enhance our colorless November scenery.

Hubby and I were sitting at the kitchen table having brunch this morning and looking out at the stark and bare trees at the edge of the woods to our south.

We commented that this time of year between the brilliant colors of autumn and the sparkling blanket of winter's snow is certainly dreary and drab.

Our Sunday was winding down toward dusk when Papa Pea called to me, "You've got to come see this sunset!"

I grabbed my camera and . . . WOW!

This is what we saw, straight out of the camera.  Not much drab and dingy in that scene, is there?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thinking About Thanksgivings Past

Last night while doing dishes, I started thinking about Thanksgiving and how we will spend it this year.  That led me to thinking about the Thanksgivings of my childhood.

When I was growing up, my folks frequently hosted Thanksgiving Day at their house and a large turkey was the centerpiece of the meal.  (Do you always have turkey on Thanksgiving?  Or was/is your family brave enough to have something different such as . . . oh, say, ham?)

My parent's modest house did have a separate dining room with a table that had leaves which could be added to seat quite a few people.  Most often our guests were my mom's sisters, their spouses and kids that gathered for the feast.

We had a large archway from the dining room to the living room, and I took it upon myself to cut construction paper letters spelling out "Happy Thanksgiving," attach them to a string and fasten it from side to side of the archway.  (Such creative talent, huh?)  I did the same thing, with the proper greeting, of course, for Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter, birthdays, etc.  (There was no stopping me if I could get hold of colored paper, glue and scissors.)

Back in that day in Illinois, we would sometimes have snow on the ground around Thanksgiving time.  (Yes, Virginia, we are experiencing global warming.  These days we're lucky if we get snow up here in northern Minnesota for Thanksgiving.)  That meant that after the big meal which was usually in early afternoon, we kids would bundle up and go outside to play in the snow.  Someone always got hit in the face with a snowball or got snow in their boots and ended up crying.  We all ended up soaked and cherry-cheeked.  Back inside and dried off, we played endless games frequently dividing up into small groups according to our ages and/or game playing abilities.  I can remember some of the games getting so wild that the adults put an end to our fun by separating us and insisting we take a rest period.

My dad was the one who always ate too much at our bountiful table and complained mightily about it.  However, relaxing in front of the TV with a football game and the rest of the male relatives soon relieved his discomfort.

I had one uncle who was apt to imbibe in too much of the start-of-the-holiday-season alcoholic spirits.  Being a naturally shy, kind person, the only effect upon him of his over indulgence was that he got very jovial and forgot his normally quiet nature for a couple of hours.

Back then there was still the clear delineation between male and female behavior and duties at such events.  The women left the table to clear things away and do the dishes in the kitchen.  I remember trying to eavesdrop on the women's sometimes "confidential" and hushed-toned conversations while the mountains of dishes were being washed . . . by hand, of course, as there were no automatic dishwashers then.  The aforementioned football watching males would have moved to the living room to . . . relax.  And perhaps stir themselves enough to put another log or two in the fireplace which in our house went virtually unused except at holiday time.

Speaking of that fireplace, I enjoyed my very first taste of liquor in front of it.  I don't know exactly how old I was although I'm guessing I was in my early teens.  My dad was a lover of Mogen David Concord Grape wine, and I constantly pestered him for a taste of it.  One year he gave me a shot glass full of the wine and told me to go sit in the living room and sip it slowly.  This was at Christmas time, and there was a fire crackling in the fireplace.  I sat down with my wine in front of the warm fire and felt quite grown up and special as I slowly consumed it.  It was a family joke for a long time (brought up frequently to my embarrassment) that I was found stretched out on the rug in front of the fire, sound asleep with the empty shot glass by my side.  (Truth be told, alcohol still affects me the same way.)

My one regret of moving up here to Minnesota so far away from my large extended family is that . . . we found ourselves so far away from  family.  In the past many years, we've gone "back home" for a couple of Thanksgivings, family has come here, we've had friends to our house and we've gone to celebrate the holiday at friends' homes.  Some Thanksgivings have been a pleasant, quiet day with just Papa Pea, our daughter and me.

Not to say that I haven't spent many enjoyable Thanksgiving Days as an adult, but I think there's a special quality about the day (perhaps all holidays) that we remember from when we were children.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mother Nature Can Be Cranky

Our early morning temperature was a mere 9°.  That's our coldest so far of the season.  But we had lovely sunshine so it didn't feel too bad.

Then about mid-morning, the wind started blowing.  And, boy howdy, did it blow!

When we were eating lunch, we heard a "noise" out somewhere around the east side of the garage and wondered what had blown off, down, or away.  Upon investigation, we found the insulator on the electric pole where our grid power comes into the house was twisted off its moorings and hanging halfway down the pole.  We also found our phone lines (yes, we still have a land line phone, dinosaurs that we are) had been ripped out of the box attached to the house.  Peering through the woods, we could see electrical lines some of which were drooping in an unusual formation and some were lying on the ground.

About that time our neighbor on the east came hustling over through the road we keep open between our two places.  "I knew I should have taken down that big spruce!  I just KNEW I should have taken it down!" were the self-chastising words coming out of his mouth.  He was in the middle of a machinery crisis which frustrated him even more since he couldn't stop everything and help.

The wind had blown the tree over onto the lines coming from his property to ours and created the tangle of electrical wires and phone lines.

Being Veteran's Day, we couldn't rouse anyone at our public utilities office or our phone provider.  Long story short, we called one of the linemen who lives within a couple miles of us, told him the situation and asked who we should call to report the problem since everyone seemed to be unavailable on this holiday.  Good guy that he is, he said he'd be over as soon as he could to check out the situation.

This is the trunk of the toppled tree left after Kind-Hearted Lineman and Papa Pea got it cut up enough for repair of the damage.

It's hard to get the perspective of how big this lovely old spruce was, but it was a big 'un.

The surprising thing was that neither we nor our neighbors lost grid power during this little incident.  (We were operating on solar energy when it happened, but tested grid power and were happy to find it still working.)  

Papa Pea finally was able to get a live body (albeit one in India) to talk to about the sad state of our phone lines and the phone being inoperable. We were told a repairman would be out to look at it "sometime" tomorrow.  Never one to be stymied by a situation, my dear hubby fiddled with the wires until he got them jury-rigged so that we now have phone service again.  (We're still hoping the phone repairman makes an appearance tomorrow though.)

A beautiful, sunny, clear day and then Mother Nature decides to add high winds to the mix . . . and the picture changes.  You certainly can't be prepared well enough for any and all kinds of weather nature throws at you, although good neighbor D really wishes he had taken that big spruce tree down before Mother Nature did.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More Great Blogs, Not Enough Time

I have been finding more great blogs lately.  And it's frustrating the heck out of me.

I try to keep current with my core group of favorite blogs and even manage to comment on them often.  There are others that I read and really want to comment on, but time constraints keep me from doing so.

Just recently I've stumbled onto even MORE good writers penning (key punching?) educational, inspiring, uplifting, funny posts and I want to follow them, too.

Could I spend all day sitting here at the computer enjoying the blogs I currently follow, adding more to my Favorites listing and searching out even more than that?  You bet.

However, my life would quickly become severely unbalanced, and my derriere would spread in direct proportion to time spent on my little, (nearly) antique secretary's chair with wheels on which I am perched.

Time, time, I need more time!  But if I had it, I'd only use it and then complain about wanting to gain more.  Back into frustration mode.  Silly girl.

Friday, November 8, 2013

And the Winner Is . . .

Written in my less than steady hand this Friday morning . . . 

Little Homestead in Boise, please go over to my Contact Me box on the right hand side bar and send me your mailing address so I can get the little Thanksgiving wall hanging off to you asap.

Methinks there will be more giveaways coming up of quilted pieces I made for my husband's elementary school classroom.  No sense in keeping most of them, and I'd like for someone else to enjoy them a bit.

Thanks to all of you who entered your name in this drawing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Anyone Want This?

It's a small Thanksgiving themed wall hanging I made for Papa Pea's 3rd grade classroom many years ago.

It measures 10" across by 25-1/2" long . . .

. . .  and the three framed squares depict teddy bears dressed in pilgrim garb.  

I machine quilted it and it has a hanging dowel attached. 

'Tis no great shakes as a quilted masterpiece(!), but would look cute and colorful in a child's room.

If you'd like to be included in a drawing for this giveaway, just say so in the comment section.  Maybe also include what you plan on doing for Thanksgiving Day this year.  We haven't decided what our plans will be yet, but I had to laugh when I came across a note I wrote to myself after Thanksgiving last year.  

It said, "If I decide to host Thanksgiving dinner here next year, I'm too dumb to survive.  Plan to go out for dinner and spend the day in total relaxation!"

If any of you (please . . . somebody!) are interested in this little wall hanging, I'll draw a name this coming Thursday night and announce it Friday morning, November 8th.

Any takers??  Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Monday, November 4, 2013

It Doesn't Have To Be Sunny . . .

It's gray.  It's dismal.  It's been raining steadily all day.

Now at only four o'clock, it's looking like dusk is approaching quickly.  Inside the house it could hardly be more comfortable and cozy.  It's a great day.

Lucky, lucky us to be able to enjoy a day like this so close to home and hearth.  I must admit I've been thinking of curling up on the couch and watching a DVD (or three) ever since finishing breakfast this morning.  (What weather could be more conducive to that than this which we're currently having?)  But I haven't quite made it yet.

I baked a batch of blueberry/raspberry muffins before breakfast this morning, then got the laundry started.  Made a big pot of potato soup for lunch.  Lots left over for a couple more meals this week. 

Got thawed venison from the freezer browned and then simmering on the stove with seasonings for Swiss Steak for dinner.  Combined with mashed potatoes, gravy and Brussels sprouts, we will have a tasty meal tonight.  (The slow cooking meat is making the house smell pretty darn good all afternoon, too.)

Both hubby and I have gotten a little damp when going outside to do what needed to be done at one time or another today, but fortunately we've dried out quickly and it hasn't kept us from enjoying this lovely November day.  It doesn't have to be sunny to be a good day.

Now.  Wonder if I can get in half a movie before dinner time?  The couch and quilt are calling me . . . 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bring On November!

I did it.  I worked like a demon in October to get as many outside tasks done in readiness for winter as I could.  Big cleaning jobs inside the house were crossed off my list day by day.  It was all worth the push, 'cause I am really, really going to take some down time in the month of November.  And I started today.

Although the day was gray and damp, hubby and I took a short hike outside for some fresh air and exercise, but otherwise I spent most of the day inside doing just what I wanted to do.

First thing this morning, I curled up on the couch with my latte in front of an open fire and got into the new Rita Mae Brown book I picked up at the library.  Actually, that little adventure wasn't very successful and had to be aborted, because it wasn't long before the words started getting blurry, and I was feeling v-e-r-y sleepy.

So enough of that.  Into my quilt room I went.  Shortly thereafter, I heard Papa Pea in the kitchen cutting up one of our recently harvested apples for a snack.  I trundled out there to have a sample.  Verdict?  Still no taste.  Sigh.  There may or may not have been some cajoling involved, but I volunteered to bake an apple pie to see if the apples were passable to be consumed that way.

I made a Dutch Apple Pie, and at least the appearance was pretty good.  Chicken Mama stopped by to pick up Tucker on her way home just as we were finishing dinner so she joined us for a sample piece.  Both she and her dad thought the pie was quite good.  Me?  Meh.  All I could taste was the crust, cinnamon seasoning in the apples, and the crumb topping.  Oh, well.  Maybe the flavor of the rest of the apples will improve as they  age.  Or  not.

But I did get more time back in my quilt room this afternoon.  Made more progress on the appliqued Christmas wall hanging I started way back . . . when?  The first part of October, I think it was.  I haven't had but a little time to work on it since then, but I made a lot of progress today.

I finished up the second of the four 12" squares that make up the center of the wall hanging.

And I have a good start on prepping the pieces to be appliqued on the third square.  (Ugh, blurry-bad pictures.  I'll try to do a better job next time around.)  So much fun watching the blocks take shape.  I'm really enjoying the whole process.

Okay, back into my quilt room now for another hour before trying to read some more tonight.  This taking time off is really nice, and I could get used to it!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Apple Harvest

We held off harvesting our apples as long as possible so they had a chance to ripen as much as possible.  But today was now or never as the forecast is for a temperature in the low 20s overnight tonight.

It was a gray, chilly day so we bundled up for the work.  At least until we got going and warmed up a bit.

Chicken Mama offered to help and her assistance was much appreciated.

Tucker did what he could to help, too.


1)  We got only about two bushels total from our seven semi-dwarf trees.  This wasn't totally unexpected as the blossoms on the trees this spring were very, very sparse.  It's not that the blossoms froze . . . they just. never. appeared.  Few blossoms = few apples.

2)  None of the apples got a chance to mature enough to have good flavor.  Even though we had a long, warm fall which we were hoping would do the trick, all of the varieties were either tasteless . . . or sour and tasteless.  That blasted cold spring and early summer we had did a number on the apples.

I'm planning to make applesauce with most of the apples since they're not much good for eating out-of-hand.  If there's a chance they will make passable applesauce, and maybe be good in apple-ish desserts, I'll be happy.  Can't have a fantastic apple year every year, I guess.

And wouldn't ya know, most of the apples were beautiful in appearance this year.  Unblemished and lookin' good.  No, we don't spray; Mother Nature made these beauties.  

She just forgot to put the flavor in them.