Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blast and Dang

We had rain all last night. Hard rain. Pelting rain. Snow-washing-away-rain.

This weather is the kind of weather we get in March. The kind that washes away all the old snow. Did they get rain south of us? Noooooo. They got snow south of us. What the heck is wrong with this picture?

This is our pond covered with inches of water on top of rotting ice. Rotting ice with holes in it. Blast.

This is the back side of our house. The north side where we pile snow up against the foundation for insulation. Blast.

This is part of our driveway. Slippery, slidey, muddy driveway. Blast.

These are my garden beds which had been all snuggled down for the winter underneath a heavy snow blanket. Now they are hanging out in the cold, damp air shivering. Blast.

These are my blueberry bushes that were juuuust about totally covered with snow to protect them for the winter. They are no longer protected. Dang.

So, like, is this spring already? Did we miss winter? Why is it raining when it's supposed to be snowing?? Huh? HUH?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rackin' 'Em Up

There's been a bit of discussion floating from blog to blog lately about ways to dry laundry in the winter time without using a gas or electric dryer.

Thought I'd share a little piece of hardware (can something made of wood be called hardware?) I have in my house and wouldn't let go of for anything.

This is a little shelf and pull-out rack thingamabob that is mounted on the wall in our bathroom high over the toilet. I paid just under $50 dollars (including shipping) for it about thirteen years ago and at the time wondered if I would get that much use out of it. Well, I have. Many times over. Constantly. All the time.

My hubby wears wool socks because his feet sweat . . . and cotton socks get damp and clammy and ishy on him. He also has BIG feet. Which means the biggest socks we can find for him tend to shrink and not fit his BIG feet after washing and drying. Putting his socks in the automatic dryer is definitely a no-no.

So after washing they get stretched out by my little hands and put on this drying rack where they air dry . . . and don't shrink.

I also use the rack many times during the week for various other wet items. It's so handy being permanently mounted on the wall and folds into a very compact, unobtrusive size when not in use. It won't hold a week's worth of laundry (for sure) but holds a week's number of socks with no problem.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Not Your Normal Thanksgiving Leftovers

Nary a bit of turkey nor green bean casserole could you find lurking in my refrigerator after Thanksgiving. But, boy howdy, did I ever make too many snicky-snackies for three people to eat. (Or as my husband said when he saw everything I made for us to munch on Thanksgiving Day, "So who are the other ten people you've invited?")

First of all, we didn't have a full day to spend relaxing, eating, visiting, eating, and sitting in front of the fire as we had planned. The unexpectedly high amount of snowfall kept our daughter from arriving at our house until a little after 3 in the afternoon.

Secondly, I just plain made too much. So last Friday with a very large container of cauliflower and broccoli flowerettes left over from the raw veggie tray, I decided to make a Broccoli/Cauliflower Cream Soup.

With the vegetables already prepped, it was an easy soup to throw together.


4 cups of mixed broccoli and cauliflower flowerettes
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large covered saucepan, heat the 4 cups veggies, chopped onion and chicken broth until veggies are tender.

Meanwhile, make a roux by melting the butter and mixing in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Slowly add the 2 cups of milk and cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Then mix in the cheese until it's melted.

Next stir the milk mixture into the saucepan of veggies and broth. Heat to serving temperature being careful not to boil. Even better the second day!

(You'll note by the above picture that I went wild and crazy and threw in some chunked up sweet red pepper that was also left on the veggie tray. The color value really added something to the soup if nothing else.)

Sadly, I still have some broccoli and cauliflower left in the refrig. And pickled herring, smoked fish, onion dip, Dill Pickle Roll-Ups, Smoked Turkey Canapes, and what does one do with about half a gallon (slight exaggeration) of spinach dip? There's an assortment of beer, wine and egg nog. (Oh, never mind, we can take care of that.) I also have a chunk of pricey specialty horseradish and garlic cheese that I'm afraid the chickens are going to get. Why did it taste so good this summer when I first bought some of it, yet nothing much but bitter when purchased for Thanksgiving? Hubby doesn't care for crackers so I don't normally buy many of them. (He doesn't even like my homemade ones! He must have been badly frightened by a cracker when very small.) Now I have three different varieties in boxes that have been opened and will probably go stale. (Crackers, anyone?)

Totally my error in making too much. I like variety so fixed quite an assortment. Just too much for three people. I've made my notes to myself so if we do this again next year, I'll be smarter about it.

At least we got a big pot of really good soup out of the leftovers. Would have been nice to have had a turkey sandwich to go with a bowl of the soup . . . but we won't go there.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bye Bye Birdie

We had too many chickens to carry over winter and too many birds that were not earning their keep anymore. Old age had finally caught up with a few of them so they needed to be culled.

Because our daughter, Chicken Mama, lost every last one of her chickens to that marauding fisher wreaking havoc on her homestead in the last few months, she was feeling unhappy being chickenless . . . and eggless, too.

Although she knew our culled birds probably wouldn't be producing great amounts of eggs, they might lay one now and then so she said she would take them if we didn't want them for stewing hens.

Our freezers are stuffed to over flowing right now so we gladly told her she could take them. Her chicken house, also known as the Taj Ma Coop, will be such a culture shock to our hens after their little ramshackled quarters here that they'll think they've died and gone to chicken heaven.

Five hens and one splendid rooster ready to go for a ride.

Comfortably ensconced in the back seat of Chicken Mama's truck and ready for the hour ride to their new home.

Bon Voyage, Chickies (and Big Rooster). Make us proud and lay an egg now and then.

What's A Person Have To Do . . .

. . . to get a decent night's sleep around here? Last night it was the wind. Again. We keep having these "once in a hundred years" wind storms . . . about every three weeks.

Our house is well-insulated. Almost too much so sound-wise. If we are in side, even in summer with doors and windows open, we can't hear a car pull up into our back yard. So it's very infrequently that we can hear rain or wind or other noisy weather going on outside.

We knew the wind was strong when we could hear it howling last night before bedtime as we were sitting reading by the fire. Good grief, we thought, what kind of a weather front is this blowing in?

I went to bed about 9:30 and zonked right out before hubby got out of the shower and joined me. He said he laid there until 12:30 listening to the wind and wondering what damage it was doing.

Our new, just installed, screen/storm door on the deck had been ripped off its hinges in the last wind storm so he got up to check if that was locked. It was. Then he went out to check the two doors on our someday-maybe-to-be greenhouse. He had neglected to go out to set our tracking solar panels parallel to the ground (the position for the best wind resistance) so he suited up in full outdoor gear and trudged out into the field to do that.

Back in bed, he laid there imagining poultry pens and shelters blown off their foundations again. Poor guy. He had a terrible night's (non)sleep while his uncaring wife was oblivious to it all.

The good news is that after a hike around to check everything this morning, we were glad to see damage was very minimal. No trees down like last time. Only a scattering of branches here, there and everywhere. A snow shovel by the back shed and one by the back door ended up several feet away from their usual spot. All animals safe and accounted for.

Solar panels put back on automatic operating mode to catch the bright sunlight today.

We didn't have loose snow on the ground to blow around but I'm wondering if
Chicken Mama's 4-mile winter driveway, with her copious amounts of snow, got solidly drifted over. However, with our widely differing weather conditions, it's entirely possible she didn't even have the winds.

My sleep-deprived husband is on his third cup of coffee this morning (very unusual for him) trying to become alive and alert enough to function today. Something tells me he'll be in bed early tonight.

Friday, November 26, 2010

End of Holiday, End of Big Snow

It had been forecast that a snow storm would hit late Wednesday afternoon and last through Thursday morning. Terrible timing for those people traveling to be with loved ones on Thanksgiving.

Our snow started around dinner time Wednesday night, and we had an accumulation of three inches in one hour.

Oh boy! We were sure we were in for it. Then . . . the snow turned to rain. Ish. Talk about a wet, slushy mess. The temperature was just on the verge of freezing and we heard the roads were terrible.

That was the end of the snow in our part of our spread out county. Chicken Mama had all snow where we had mostly rain. She ended up with another 12" of snow added on to the 14" she had gotten recently. If my math is correct (which it usually isn't), she must have about 2+ feet of snow on the ground now.

Our neighbors are out of town for eight days but left their plow truck with us to use in case of snow. Early yesterday morning hubby went to plow out their long driveway and enough of their yard so it was easy to get to their back door entry. Then he did our yard area and driveway. It took him more than three hours of laboriously moving very heavy, wet snow/slush. Last night the temperature dropped to 4 degrees so he's very glad he did the work before the snow froze into a concrete-like mass.

The above picture and those below were taken in mid-afternoon yesterday after the rain had pelted the snow.

The yard and some of our apple trees.

Can you see by this picture that the pond was covered with a layer of slush? Inches of slush on top of very thin ice. So much for ice skating.

Our Thanksgiving Day didn't turn out quite as we had expected. The snow altered our plans because our daughter had those 12" of new snow to deal with before she could head in to our place. She cleaned her yard and house area and then called to say she was leaving with the plow truck and would plow a single lane down her four mile winter driveway on her way out. (No easy task when you're plowing 12" of wet snow.) Then when she headed home after a much shortened Thanksgiving Day here, she plowed her way back in widening the road.

She didn't arrive here until after three o'clock on Thanksgiving so we didn't have the long, leisurely day we had all looked forward to. It was still nice, although short. Very short. We were glad to get the call she arrived home safely last night.

So ended Thanksgiving Day for 2010. All in all, we've got a lot to be thankful for. Especially enough snow cover for insulation so that we don't have to worry about water lines coming into the house from the well freezing or bad things happening to septic lines going out!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Burrito In The Snow

The first year we moved up here to Minnesota we met a family that was to become best friends of ours. A couple of years previously, this family had sold their home in a suburb of Minneapolis to build a cabin in the wilderness and live there for one year in near isolation while homeschooling their five-year old twins, a boy and a girl.

When we first met them, their year in the wilderness was over, money had run low and they had moved into town where the dad, D, was working to establish his law practice and the mom, B, was setting up a Montessori School.

Because they all missed their cabin where they had had such a wonderful adventure, they frequently spent weekends at the cabin whenever possible.

That first Thanksgiving after we had made their acquaintance, they invited us to come to their cabin for the holiday. We readily accepted the invitation and looked forward to seeing their land and cabin we had heard so much about.

It was located on an inland lake about 40 miles from town and had no road access. In the summer they canoed across, in the winter they used their cross country skis. Each spring and fall, when the ice was not safe to go across on foot but while there was still too much ice for a boat to get through, they had a long, long walk on a trail they had made around the perimeter of the lake.

It was in the mid-1970s that we made our first trek to their cabin. It was a time in Minnesota weather history when winter came early with lots of snow and very low temperatures. By mid-November that year, we had a substantial amount of snow on the ground and on that Thanksgiving Day, the temperature was well below zero.

Hubby and I had not yet learned how to cross country ski nor did we have any equipment for skiing that first year. So we planned on snowshoeing across the lake pulling our two-year old daughter on a sled.We had made prior arrangements with our friends to meet us at a certain time by the landing where we would leave our truck on Thanksgiving morning. They would meet us there and take us across the lake to their cabin as we had no idea how to find it.

The morning dawned bright and sunny, but cold. Very cold, with no hope of the temperature even reaching up to zero that day. But we didn't want to miss the occasion so off we went.

D and the kids were waiting for us when we arrived. They had skied over but it was so cold that they couldn't stand still for long. They had been chasing each other in circles to stay warm while waiting the short time before we arrived. Even though the twins were only seven years old then, they were both proficient skiers.

We unloaded all of our paraphernalia from our truck and packed it in one of the two sleds. We wrapped our two-year old in extra blankets and propped her up in the other sled. She looked like a big, soft, colorful mound with only two little eyes peeking out.

The wind was blowing across the lake with what seemed like gale force which only made the air feel colder. D was concerned with our daughter staying warm enough on the way across the lake because she wouldn't be moving or creating any body heat with exercise like the rest of us. He suggested he take off with her in the sled and ski as fast as he could hoping she would stay warm. The twins would go slower so we could follow them while plodding along on our snowshoes.

We lost sight of D quickly as he took off at racing speed for the other side of the lake and the cabin. And it wasn't too long before we couldn't see the twins ahead of us either. It was probably hard for them to ski slowly enough for us to keep up with them, and I'm sure they were cold, too. Well, no matter. We had their ski tracks to follow.

We went on following their tracks for what seemed like . . . days! Okay, so it was only about 45 minutes of snowshoeing as fast as we could. The wind was brutal and we were very glad D had had the idea to take our daughter ahead with him.

Finally, we reached the cabin and as soon as we entered the door, the twins pounced on us talking excitedly at the same time. It was clear they had a story to tell and each one wanted to get it out first.

It seems that when they were about three-quarters of the way across the lake they saw something unusual in the snow ahead of them. When they got close enough they saw it was our daughter still completely wrapped tightly in quilts lying on her side to the left of the ski tracks. She had fallen out of the sled but D was so intent on going fast to get her into the warm cabin he hadn't realized he'd lost his cargo. L stayed with our daughter, who miraculously was laughing when she set her upright in the snow and brushed her off, while B took off after his dad yelling and screaming until D heard him and turned around, saw the empty sled and realized what had happened.

You can bet this incident has been fondly remembered by both families over the years, and it sure makes for a great Thanksgiving story.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL! No matter how you choose to spend the day, I hope you enjoy it to the utmost.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Radical Thanksgiving (Oh, Yeah!)

Our Thanksgiving this year is going to be structured differently than all others we've had. This change from the usual was probably easier to implement because there are just the three of us celebrating the day this year.

In late October, I got up enough personal gumption to present my plan to my husband and daughter explaining that the last several years I've come to dread Thanksgiving. (Seriously, I really have.) Simply put, it's all the work involved. Usually the first of Thanksgiving week I spend buying/gathering together food and drinks for the day. Then on Wednesday I do as much advance prep work as I can, and the day of Thanksgiving I spend the whole day making the meal, going through the (admittedly) stressful coordination that is required for all parts of the meal to be ready at once (hot dishes hot, cold dishes cold) as it hits the table. Then there's the clean-up afterwards. Unbelievably, it takes me very close to one whole hour to get everything cleaned up and in storage containers and stashed away in the refrigerator. The last few years, my dear hubby (bless his heart) has been doing all the dishes (we have no automatic dishwasher) which has been, needless to say, much appreciated by me.

I've been finding that I don't even enjoy eating the meal after all the work put into it and the days spent handling it. I've gotten grumpier and grumpier the last couple of years and have decided that the situation is not working for me, and it's stupid not to try something else that feels better.

So I presented a plan for a different Thanksgiving to my two favorite people.

What I'm going to do this year is to still have it be a "holiday" day, we won't forget about Thanksgiving and treat it as just another day of the year. I've even gotten my husband to agree to take the WHOLE day off, no desk work or any other type of "work" he would normally do.

I'm taking the time and effort to make the house all spiffy and holiday festive.

We won't starve because of lack of food. I'll have a cheese plate with crackers, Dill Pickle Roll Ups, Smoked Turkey Canapes, smoked fish, a veggie plate with dip, pickled herring, egg nog, wine, beer, tea, coffee, plenty of yummy stuff. I'll probably even bake a pumpkin pie because that sounds good to me. But no set dinner time or sit down at the table. Just munching as one feels like it.

I'm planning on spending the day lounging, sitting in front of the fire, reading, doing handwork, visiting, going for a leisurely hike . . . whatever feels good to me.

It might not be anybody else's idea of how Thanksgiving should be, but lately Thanksgiving hasn't been for me how I think it should be either. Happily, hubby and daughter have both agreed (willingly, too, I might say) to go along with my plan. I'm not saying this arrangement will be forever or even for more than this one year. But for the first time in YEARS, since I made this decision in late October, I have been looking forward to the day more than I can explain. Best of all, I can't help but congratulate myself for being brave enough to break tradition, step out from under a huge load that didn't feel good and implement something that feels better (oh, so MUCH better) to me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A White Thanksgiving

Call it global warming, call it merely a historically repetitive cycle we're going through once again, but we've not had a Thanksgiving with snow on the ground for many years in these parts. It looks as if all that is going to be changed this year.

On top of the three or so inches on the ground, we've had snow falling since noon today and although there has been no great accumulation, the ground is definitely white, the temperature is great for snowing at 27 degrees and the forecast is for a few more inches by midnight.

This snow on top of soft ice will not make for good ice skating on our pond for our Thanksgiving Day fresh air and exercise so we're thinking of hiking the loop up through our woods in back instead. That is if anyone can be roused from chairs in front of the fire. Not that there will be anything wrong with enjoying that either. A day of total lounging around sounds pretty good.

This Week's Agenda

Yesterday Erin at Garden Now - Think Later! listed her week's agenda for this short week leading up to Thanksgiving. She also asked us readers how we all are dealing with holiday deadlines. (Denial seems like a good option to me right now.) I'm putting my head in the sand and refusing to even think about Christmas yet, but I'm afraid there's no avoiding Thanksgiving at this late date.

So here's my list, Erin, of what needs to get accomplished around here this (short -- eeek!) week.

This is the present status of the wall hanging I'm making for my daughter's office door. Long way to go. It needs an appliqued Christmas tree with presents in the center and a "Welcome" panel made and added to the bottom. Fortunately for me, it does not have to be done before Thanksgiving. But it does have a December 4th deadline so the more I can work on it now, the less frantic I'll be later.

I've jumped into some heavy duty housecleaning that's been put off for too long. This does have to be done (because I say so, that's why) by Thanksgiving.

I want to spend Wednesday prepping all the food for Thursday just so I can spend the time Thanksgiving enjoying the holiday.

The usual weekly laundry and ironing need to be done. That should get taken care of today.

I need to make more pie crusts for the freezer. (Pumpkin Pie on Turkey Day!) The above cherry pie was made this past weekend with the very last crusts I had on hand.

I'm overdue to sort through our apples we have in storage. As I've been grabbing ones to use, I've spotted some that are . . . um, spotted. They need to either be used up by the cook around here (!), or tossed to the poultry.

A run to the dairy farm is in order (definitely today) to resupply our dairy products.

As part of my cleaning frenzy, I took down and washed all the valances above the windows. Since they are all long skinny pieces (the valances) they always come out of the washer looking like this. How DOES this happen??

So they are now washed and dried but need to be ironed and put back up on the nekked windows.

I still have one of my Pay It Forward gifts to get sent off in the mail before December. Can't show what this hand made item is (it's a secret for the recipient), but I will say it involves some time spent in front of an open fire knitting and sipping. A couple of hours (spent knitting, not sipping) should be enough to finish it up. That will be enjoyable (both the knitting and a limited amount of sipping) and a fun thing to do.

That's my week's agenda. Now I'll repeat Erin's question and ask: How are you all dealing with holiday deadlines?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Oven Cookin'

The potato gods really smiled on us this past summer and gave us some wonderfully flavorful potatoes. I'm not sure how long the supply will last but we sure are enjoying the potatoes while we have them.

This potato dish is pretty basic and easy to put together while at the same time being more than just plain old potatoes. Next time you have the oven going, you might want to give it a try. The aroma while it's baking will make stomachs growl!


4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
1-1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup grated cheddar or Colby cheese (more if desired)
Salt and pepper

Layer the potatoes and onions in a greased 8" or 9" square baking dish. Generously sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper. Pour melted butter over the top.

Here the casserole is ready to go into the oven.

Bake covered in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle grated cheese over top and return to oven until cheese is melted and/or browned to your liking. You can leave the cheese off entirely, if you wish. Return the uncovered casserole to the oven until the top layer of potatoes is browned and slightly crispy.

This is the dish when I pulled it out of the oven last night. I usually like the top to be a little more browned and crispy, but the rest of the meal was ready to go on the table so I didn't want to wait for this to brown more. (Coordination of a meal is hard, isn't it? Someday I'm gonna get the hang of it. ;o])

If you're serving a big group, double all the ingredients and bake in a 9" x 13" pan. (It's a good dish to take to a potluck because, if wrapped for the trip, it holds the heat well.)

Leftovers are great for breakfast. I warm the potatoes in a skillet, crack an egg for each serving on top of the potatoes, cover and cook over a low heat until the eggs are done.

I make these potatoes often just so we can have the leftovers for breakfast for a couple of mornings. And that's just what I'm going to go make right now. A super breakfast for this wintry-looking morning. We got about an inch of new snow overnight but, drat and blast, the temp is back up into the low thirties which will make the roads bad again today.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who Wants To Test The Ice?

We always shoot for skating on the pond on Thanksgiving Day but the last few years, the ice either hasn't been thick enough or the pond hasn't been frozen at all.

Last night the temperature finally dropped down into the teens which had been predicted for over a week but hadn't yet come to pass. This morning when we got up it was 12 degrees.

Does that ice look nice for skating or what? I tried to get hubby to venture out on it to test it out, but he wouldn't do it. (Sometimes I get no cooperation whatsoever.) We think the ice is 1/2" to 1" thick so if this weather continues. we just might be able to ice skate on Thanksgiving this year.

This shot of Zoey was taken this morning. She's about as close to under the wood stove as she could get without getting singed. Notice her front feet on the stove board that protects the floor? That stove board gets HOT, but it must have felt good to her cold tootsies.

Yessiree, folks, looks like we're moving into real winter time. Now, please bring on the snow!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baby, It's Cold . . . Inside

These mornings when we force ourselves to leave the warm, cozy cocoon of our bed, we're finding the temperature of the house is a mite on the chilly side. Usually in the low 60s which means it doesn't take us long to get dressed swathing ourselves in several layers of warm clothing.

I couldn't resist taking this picture of hubby at the breakfast table one morning this week. In defense of his outfit, he had just come down from his office which is the coldest room in the house.

The little bit uncomfortable hour or two in the morning before we get things warmed up is nobody's fault but our own. We haven't transitioned into full winter heating mode yet. We're still burning soft wood and choosing not to bank the wood stove to hold a fire overnight. We both prefer sleeping in a cooler temp, but maybe not so much functioning in that same cooler temp first thing in the morning!

Today was a perfect day to be at home. We had a little over 1/2" of new snow over night but the temperature was already 33 degrees when we got up. Then it went up to 34 degrees and starting raining. Ugh. Lots of warnings that the roads were slippery. Hubby had planned on working on the siding on the garage again today but with the rain and very stiff wind that came up, he quickly decided he could find something else profitable to do . . . inside.

We're having a very quiet Friday night with Christmas carols on the stereo (it just seems right), the wood stove crackling and Zoey the Wonder Dog snoring on her bed. I had a beer with our dinner pizza tonight and it just about put me under the teeble . . . tubble . . . I mean table. Hic. Gotta go to bed now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Keeping Peace

Yes, I did go to great time and trouble to make a batch of Molasses Apple Cookies to send home with Chicken Mama tonight. (Molasses Apple? Apple Molasses? I keep switching the name around. What the heck ARE they called? Well, I just checked and the original recipe which I clipped out of a newspaper years and years ago labels them as Molasses Apple Cookies so I'd better start getting that right.)

I do have to admit that the two cookies look a lot alike.

These are the Walnut Clusters.

And these are the Molasses Apple Cookies.

In checking back, I find that I have posted the recipes for both these cookies previously. Therefore, if you're so inclined, you can click here to find the Walnut Cluster recipe, and here to find the one for Molasses Apple Cookies.

I'll close this post tonight with love and a wish for happy cookie baking from . . .

. . . me and that demanding little daughter o' mine, Chicken Mama.

Cookie Outrage

"I can't believe you made Dad ANOTHER batch of those yucky cookies . . . a double batch no less . . . before making me some of MY favorite cookies! How long has it been since I've gotten ANY of my Molasses Apple Cookies anyway? Huh? HUH?"

No matter how old you are there are times when you just have to let it all go and revert back to being a little kid when the universe revolved around you and only you. You have to stomp your foot and throw a small hissy-fit.

This was the scene that took place in my kitchen yesterday when my daughter popped in on her way to her office in town.

A little background material. This child (I say "child" even though she's well into her fourth decade of life) dislikes walnuts. A lot. Her father's favorite cookie at the moment is Walnut Clusters which are chock full of walnuts and a picture of which appeared in my blog post yesterday. It so happens that at first glance Walnut Clusters look very much like Apple Molasses Cookies which are my daughter's favorite. (A cookie, by the way, that I don't think she has EVER made herself. I know, I know, Mom's always taste better.) Glancing at that picture in my yesterday's post, she thought I had made Apple Molasses Cookies . . . her desire for which she has been hinting strongly recently. Then imagine her plummeting hopes (not to mention primed taste buds) when she realized they were NOT her beloved Apple Molasses Cookies but, yet again (!), those yucky Walnut Clusters.

Well, I guess I know what I'll have to squeeze into my schedule today. 'Sokay, it's a cold day, a good day for baking cookies. What kind? Oh, I don't know. Maybe I'll make some Molasses Apple Cookies for a change.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I am one tired gal this morning. I went to bed last night early eager for a good night's sleep. I'm sure I was asleep by 9:30. At 3 a.m. this morning my eyes popped open and I was awake. Wide awake. But still feeling very tired. How could that be? It was so warm, so snuggly, so comfortable in bed, why-oh-why couldn't I fall back asleep?

Finally got up at 3:30. Poured myself a big glass of o.j. (I've always preferred cold beverages over hot), and made out my shopping list for supplies for Thanksgiving . (Which will be very different this year, but more about that in an upcoming post.) Then I sat on the couch and propped my feet up before an open fire and read from cover to cover my first issue of MaryJanes Farm. (Thanks again to my sweet niece, C, who started a subscription for me.)

Before I knew it, the clock said 5:15 and, of course, I was falling asleep. I didn't want to go back into bed because I knew the alarm was going to go off in 45 minutes. So I laid down on the couch and immediately fell into a deep, deep sleep. When hubby came out of our bedroom a few minutes before 6, I woke up but couldn't get off the couch because of the semi-truck parked on top of me. Ugh.

But enough whining. A new day has started. Ready or not, here I go.

I read Jo's blog post this morning over at 14 Acres about her putzy (but very productive) day yesterday. She and I must have been on the same putzy wave length because my day was much like hers except she still had a few things to pull from the garden.

I made a double batch of Walnut Clusters because hubby seems to be on a Walnut Cluster kick and had requested same.

Seems as though I couldn't find the time all summer to replenish our granola supply so I made a batch of that.

You know I get panicky when I don't have a back-up supply of frozen soups in the freezer so after making some Bean Soup with a saved ham bone on Monday, I stirred up this vat of Minestrone yesterday morning.

I even managed to get into my quilt studio (whoopee!) and start on the Christmas water color wall hanging for my daughter's office. Considering this represents about two hours of work, it doesn't look like much, does it? I've got to have this done by her Christmas Open House and Sale on December 4th. Yikes.

I had no part in this chore (except documenting it). Hubby decided to get up on the roof before it got a heavy snow cover to clean our two chimneys. Nothing in there but a bit of soot, but it's always good to know there's no build-up of dangerous creosote.

Okay, hubby requested breakfast at 7:15 this morning (he wants to be out and going on finishing putting up the siding on the north side of the garage by 8 a.m.) and I'm already behind. Gotta run.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Muffin Monster Made Me Do It

For me to enjoy muffins, they have to be moist and heavy. (Remember my aversion to most cakes? Blech, too dry!) Well, here's a muffin recipe that fits my criteria to a "T."

I made these a week ago and then forgot to blog about them. Took a plateful to a get together where they were gobbled up by all attendees including one person who walked by the meeting room, ventured in and readily accepted a muffin. I love it when I bake and people enjoy the product!

The recipe started out as a darn good one for blueberry muffins. Then one day I was trying to think of a way to use up some of the frozen raspberries I had in the freezer and decided to substitute raspberries for half of the blueberries. The combo proved to be so outstanding that now I can't remember the last time I made them with all blueberries.


1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
1-1/4 cups frozen blueberries
1-1/4 cups frozen raspberries

In medium mixing bowl, combine the softened butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and milk. Add the salt, baking powder and flour. When making muffins, it's important not to over-mix so using a good old-fashioned wooden spoon will give you better results than using a mixer.

Then fold in the berries.

One of the reasons I like making these muffins with my frozen berries is that the berries don't smoosh when you fold them in as they would if they were fresh. When you have that cache of frozen berries in the freezer in the winter, this is a perfect way to use some of them. Plus, with their bursting fruit flavor they taste like summer sunshine during a time of year when we all need a little infusion of that.

Line 18 muffin cups with paper inserts and fill evenly. Sprinkle some sugar over the top of each muffin. (I usually use a sugar-cinnamon mixture.)

Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes.

These freeze very well. At least they would if I ever had any left over to freeze.

P.S. If you haven't already seen the blog post my daughter put up today, you might want to go over there (The Tales of Chicken Mama, Lady Homesteader) and check it out. If she comes across as completely crazy to you, you may assume she takes after her father. If you think she's a super-competent, intelligent, strong, self-sufficient woman, well, she gets that from me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Again?

We had a great phone conversation with hubby's niece way out in California land yesterday. Our 6-year old grandniece also got on the phone to tell us the news that her two backyard hens are molding. We can sympathize with her because our chickens are "molding," too.

This is the sum total of eggs our twelve hens have squeezed out in the last five days. It's funny that all summer we got maybe a half dozen eggs total from our three little bantam hens. I guess they were saving them for now when the bigger girls are on strike. Bless their little fluffy butts. We'll take every pee-wee egg they have to offer.

Our wonderful neighbors to the east stopped over yesterday morning to bring us some venison. This past weekend was the second of a two week/three weekend deer season up here and D and his two boys who came home to hunt were all successful. They brought us beautiful steaks and chops. I made some of the chops, mashed potatoes, pickled beets and green beans for our big meal of the day Sunday. Venison from right in back of our property and the rest from the garden. We're blessed with great neighbors and a bountiful harvest.

The downside of the venison/deer kill was that while hubby was working outside yesterday afternoon, Zoey the Wonder Dog disappeared. She's trained to return to a whistle but after fifteen minutes of blowing so much he almost hyperventilated, a thought occurred to hubby. He hiked over to our neighbors and asked if D had dumped any deer guts in the woods. He said he had put just a small amount up in the woods for the scavengers. Hubby asked where and D told him. So sure enough, when hubby got there, guess who was there gobbling up the delectable tidbits? She is now grounded and known as Zoey the Bad Dog for not coming when called. I was glad she at least didn't roll in it. I suspect it wasn't ripe enough to tempt her to do that.

I thought the perfect mirror image in the pond today was cool. Our temps rose into the upper 30s today and I expected more of our snow would melt but it seems to be hanging in there. The prediction is for night time temps in the teens starting Wednesday night so maybe we won't see bare ground again until April.

My computer monitor has been dying a slow death for about a month now and today I finally couldn't stand it anymore. You know how if you rub your eyeballs really hard and then you stop, your vision is momentarily weird with swirly patches of red dots? That's what my monitor looked like. Luckily, we had a spare one to hook up for me until we can get some other arrangements made. I tell ya, when it comes to computers it seems if it ain't one thing, it's another. (Could be worse, eh? Ya sure, you betcha.)

As you can readily tell, I have nothing of importance to impart here so I'll sign off and go get my ironing done.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Snow Cover

We have a different look to our world outside this morning.

Getting the deck furniture put away yesterday was on our list, but . . . um, it didn't get done. The above picture was taken at 6 a.m. this morning. Looks as though we got 2-3" of very wet, heavy snow.

The garden beds had their winter blanket pulled up and tucked in.

No ice on the pond at this temperature. Can you see the two geese and one wild duck foraging for food? They're waddling around saying, "Well, hrumpf! I know there was green grass here yesterday."

I don't know if this first snow cover will stay or not. The forecast is for our temperatures to plummet this coming week, but the thermometer presently reads 32.6° and is creeping upwards. Time will tell.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Peek Inside Our Exciting Life

We do, indeed, lead such an exciting life that I thought I'd tell you a little about today's high points.

For our social outing of the weekend, we went to the dump this morning. Here the flatbed trailer is loaded with a bunch of "stuff" that has been accumulating behind our garage all summer. It wants a new home. Away from our home.

We used to have a huge county landfill several miles out of town secluded waaay back in the woods where you could take trash and dump it for a small fee.

I've mentioned before that we have a very efficient, large Recycling Center in town that we use regularly. I don't know what the residents of the county would do without it. You don't have to pay to use the facility (well, except for those tax dollars) and it is a godsend.

But there are those certain materials such as wood that has been treated which we don't wish to burn on our property, bits and pieces of cement board siding that won't burn, scraps of metal, rusted out stovepipe, an old TV antennae, etc. that we just can't get rid of except to take to the dump.

A couple of years ago because of who know what . . . I think EPA, state or federal regulations . . . our landfill area was closed. Now items that we would have taken there are hauled to _________'s Disposal right outside of town. We do pay a fee but it is reasonable. The dumped materials are stored there and eventually trucked somewhere else (if my information is correct it's to a spot some 300+ miles away) for disposal probably in another landfill operated under the mandated laws. (Is this environmentally efficient?)

Anyway, off we went in the steady rainfall this morning to get rid of this load. We were prompted to get it gathered together yesterday afternoon because of the forecast of a few inches of snow today. We did have rain all day until late this afternoon when the temp finally dropped low enough for the rain to change to snow. Nothing significant to report as of yet as the temperature is still 33° as I'm writing.

I'll just bet all of you wish you had been here to participate in that road trip this morning and to have the thrill of climbing up on the trailer and helping to unload the debris which was by that time quite wet and slippery. And so were we when we finished. Add cold into the mix, too.

Now the other sensational happening of the day that I'm going to share is something for which I take no responsibility. The sharing of, that is. Our daughter said, "Oh, take a picture of that and blog about it!" I looked at her wondering if she'd finally snapped.

"No, I'm not going to write a blog about that."

"Fine. Give me your camera. I'll take a picture and blog about it."

So here, only to keep Chicken Mama happy, is something that she seems to find fascinating for some perverse reason.

I baked an apple pie today. I always mound sliced apples up in the pie plate and cover with the top crust which makes a nice, high-domed pie.

Chicken Mama seems to think that when the apples cook down, but the top crust remains up in the air, this creates a situation which really tickles her funny bone and amazes her. Looks like the inside of a giant apple pie cave to me. The stuff nightmares are made of after you ate that second piece of pie you shouldn't have.

Oh well. Whatever turns your crank. Happy now, Sweetie? I took and posted pictures of the inside of my apple pie.

Fits right in with our exciting life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Painting A Picture

A while back I read a short, succinct statement that has had me doing more than a little bit of thinking. The statement was, "How you do your work is a portrait of yourself."

How I do my work . . . h-m-m-m.

If I'm honest, I have to admit that s-o-m-e-t-i-m-e-s (I'm pleading for leniency and understanding here) I go about my work in a less than joyful frame of mine. I do a task with my monkey mind constantly playing bad tapes.

"I wish I didn't have to do this time-consuming, unpleasant job that keeps me from having time for something I really want to do."

"Spending most of my day doing all these blasted things that HAVE to be done doesn't leave me enough time to do things that give me pleasure and feed my soul."

"Why do I spend so much time dealing with the 'must-dos' day after day after day?"

Geesh, if this is truly how I go about my work, I'm not at all sure I like the portrait of myself. Looks like I'm needing to make some conscious changes unless I want to be painted looking like the Wicked Witch of the West.

How 'bout you? When you think about the statement, "How you do your work is a portrait of yourself," are you okay with the picture you're painting?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hearty Soup for Winter

For lunch yesterday I made a pot of my Winter Barley Soup. Almost wish it had been cold and snowy outside as would befit a soup like this. However, had you been here you might have thought it was April 10th rather than November 10th. This weather we're having in our neck of the woods is just plain crazy. The outside temperature at 9 p.m. last night was 50°. What is going on here? We could/should be having temperatures thirty degrees colder . . . or more . . . by now.

Well, Mother Nature is going to do just as she pleases whether we choose to adjust to her whims or not. I'll still pass this recipe on to you so you can make it sometime in December or January when it truly is a cold, blustery day and you need solid sustenance for your tummy.

I used to make this soup at the restaurant so it's stood the test of time and many palates.


5 cups homemade beef broth (You could use 3 cans of canned beef broth instead of the homemade broth if you don't have it. No problem. I won't send the Homemade-Only Police to your house. Promise.)

1/2 cup barley (Add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup if you want your soup more the consistency of a stew.)

5 whole peppercorns
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup sliced carrots
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (About 1 tablespoon dried parsley if you don't have fresh.)

1 cup (or more) chopped cooked beef (Leftover pot roast is perfect.)

2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup wine (I prefer a good white, but nuthin' wrong with using red in this recipe.)

Bring broth to a simmer in soup pot. Add barley and peppercorns. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

In large skillet, saute onion and celery in butter for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and carrots and cook about 5 minutes more.

Add the veggie mixture, parsley and cooked meat to the broth after it has been simmering for the half hour. Cover and simmer 30 minutes more.

Open bottle of wine. Drink at least half of it to make sure it has a good flavor. Wouldn't want to chance ruining the soup at this point. ;o)

In a small bowl, stir wine into flour until smooth. Then stir into the soup. Cook, uncovered, about 15 minutes longer until soup thickens. Season with salt to taste. (Canned soup will be salty already so taste to check before adding more.)

This soup is just fine without the beef added because it's so hearty and flavorful the meat is hardly missed. Serve with cheese bread for the protein, and you'll be good to go.