Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Is Going, Going . . .

As the last few hours of 2010 wind down, we're preparing to spend New Year's Eve with Chicken Mama and Erin (Garden Now - Think Later) and her family who are spending time in our area from their home state of Virgina. This week between Christmas and New Year's has gone by so quickly. But if memory serves, it is a week that traditionally flies by.

Some year I think I'd like to go on my own private retreat for the week right after Christmas. It would be an appropriate time to decompress from the build-up to the holidays, reflect over the year just past (perhaps even spend some time thinking of how I've spent my whole life up til now), and make plans for some goals and changes for the New Year.

But that's something to look forward to perhaps next year at this time. Right now, we're going to gather and ring in the New Year with friends and loved ones, enjoying good food, drink and conviviality.

Tomorrow I start the New Year by . . . get ready for this, it's really exciting . . . sleeping in as late as I want. Yeah, I know. Really shocking and earth shattering, isn't it? But I can't remember the last time I did that. I haven't written any New Year's resolutions (or whatever you want to call them) on paper yet but one of the things I'm going to try very hard to do in this coming year is to listen to my body and get back in tune with it. Mainly resting when I need it rather than simply "pushing on." (That will be a big thing for me.)

I want to send best wishes to all of you I've gotten to know in the couple of years I've been blogging, and to all of you I've met just in this past year. You are my friends, you are smart, caring and giving, and I'm a better person for knowing you.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Afternoon Wood's Trek

Yesterday after we made the guys work in the morning clearing the trail, we all suited up, including snowshoes, for a hike.

I've mentioned before the first half of our loop is all uphill with very little flat hiking, let alone no downward slope at all.

Hooray, we all made it to the top! Here are Chicken Mama and son #2 (and the back end of Maisy) on the ridge behind our house.

I corralled Erin's whole family on the ridge for this group portrait.

Instead of just hiking along the ridge and then turning down on the return leg of the loop, we decided to be adventuresome and head off to the north of our property and onto State land.

We came to a small stream that is usually frozen solid in winter but the water was flowing yesterday. Above #2 son is helped over by his dad while Maisy, Zoey, Tucker and #1 son await their turn.

#1 son insisted he could make it over under his own steam and he did . . . with his mom keeping watch.

Me, Chicken Mama, and Erin posing (and pausing) on the hike for a picture taken a little too far away to make out our faces but trust me, it was us.

Erin's hubby and my hubby at another spot on the trail.

#1 and #2 son had the sharp eyes to spot some blood splattered feathers in the snow. #2 son is checking out the spot above. It was a fairly fresh kill which was decided by #1 son to be the remains of a woodpecker killed by a hawk.

The view from the ridge on the return trip. We hiked somewhere around four miles total and there was nary one word from the seven or five year old about being tired or wanting to go back. (We had taken sleds with us thinking we might have to pull them part of the way.) But they tromped on and on, intrepid, game little guys that they were.

On the leg of the loop coming down off the ridge, there is a bit of an open area that is a downhill. Chicken Mama took advantage of it by hopping into one of the sleds and taking the fast track.

Once back at the house, we dispersed to clean up and then meet a couple of hours later at a casual restaurant in town. There were big appetites all around and the meal and conversation were a perfect end to the day.

I Was Kidding!

Ya know how you try to be funny . . . and sometimes it just doesn't work?

In my previous post of the guys clearing the trail, the last picture was of Erin's #1 son posed holding a chainsaw. I kidded about the big guys saying he only used it for a little while.

That was meant to be funny, folks! They would never, ever, EVER let him get near a chainsaw if it was running. A chainsaw is a wonderful piece of equipment, but also very dangerous and must be handled with the utmost care and responsibility . . . by big people! Even at that, I think nearly everyone up here knows or at least has heard of someone being injured while working with a chainsaw.

So please understand, the big guys were extremely careful yesterday and would never put a running chainsaw even close to a little guy.

Now I need to go learn how to "write funny" so everyone knows I'm not being serious!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't We Have Child Labor Laws?

So this morning I had an appointment in town. Chicken Mama was doing some work at her home. Erin (Garden Now - Think Later) and #2 son were occupied in town. The "boys" (Erin's hubby with his #1 son, and Papa Pea) set off to clear our hiking loop behind the house of blow downs that had accumulated this past summer.

#1 son is seven years old. He worked like a seventeen year old.

I would have trouble picking up that log!

Word has it that he never stopped the whole two hours they worked. And he did it in snowshoes which he had never worn before.

Erin's hubby was more than happy to jump in and do the chainsaw work. (I wonder what Papa Pea was doing? Oh right, taking the pictures.)

They had to shed layers because they all got a little warm.

Now there's a happy boy . . . but do you see what he has in his hands?! That's right. It's a chainsaw. I asked if they actually let him use it. They said only for a little while. I mean, he is only seven years old.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Afternoon Sledding

What's more fun than watching kids have a blast on a sledding hill?

Dad and #2 son at the end of a fast run.

#1 son at bottom of hill . . .

. . . and back up again immediately for another run.

Erin and Papa Pea watching the action.

Are we having fun yet? You betcha!

Action shot of Erin and #2 son about to go airborne.

"Let's do it again, Mom!"

Rosy cheeked and soaked to the skin, neither boy wanted to quit. But as they were being loaded into the car, #1 son said, "I think I'd like to go home and take a nap or something."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Just a short post tonight before I croggle on off to bed.

We have visitors from Virginia Beach, Virginia! That crazy, lovable Erin from Garden Now - Think Later and her family came nort' to see the other part of Erin's home state of Minnie-soda.

Perhaps a little unfair of me to ask them to pose for a family picture at the very end of the evening after they had driven over 300 miles from Erin's folks' to get here. They all put in a long day.

Chicken Mama, ever the efficient nanny, brought videos to entertain the boys in the bedroom while we grown ups drank wine and talked, talked, talked in the living room. (Gotta say if you want to see a couple of well-behaved, polite boys, Erin and her hubby know how to do it. Gooood kids!)

What's up for the rest of the week? Papa Pea would like to have a "guy" adventure out on our ski/snowshoe loop up in back to help clear all the multitudinous blow downs. I suspect the rest of us will be put on the "pick up and clearing" crew. It will be fun but I'd better go get my rest so I'm big and strong.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Christmas Day 2010

A different kind of Christmas Day this year for a few reasons. Not to say it wasn't a totally enjoyable one, because it was. Just different. (Nothing stays the same except for change!)

Hubby, Zoey the Wonder Dog and I headed out to Chicken Mama's early yesterday morning. The day was perfect with temps in the low 20s, intermittent sunshine, and lots of snow on the ground as we got closer and closer to Swamp River Ridge.

Once we left the main highway, this is the road heading north for about 12 miles before our daughter's 4-mile winter driveway. (Sorry about the tinted windshield I didn't manage to avoid in the picture.)

Then on to her 4-mile winter driveway that she plows to keep open. One vehicle wide and that's it. Usually she manages to keep it plowed wider but snow and time restraints this year haven't allowed her to do that.

Here we're turning on to the driveway into her property. Beautiful, beautiful.

We opened our Christmas stockings first. Yes, we still get stockings just like little kids. (It was such a relaxing day, that once we got there I went into complete jello-like mode and forgot I had a camera with me for the most part. A shot of the bulging stockings would have been nice here.)

Then the Christmas presents were gleefully torn into with everyone present (including dogs and cats) being pleased with our goodies.

One of the presents dear daughter got was a panini pan. Sandwich lover that I am, I requested we christen this new kitchen tool for our laid-back meal. Chicken Mama made some yummy appetizers (again, where was I with my camera?) and then set to work on our panini sandwiches.

Mmmm, looks like they're gonna be good.

Tasty sandwiches and baked squash served on fresh spinach leaves.

Liquid libations flowed, the whole day was a very enjoyable day, and we arrived back here at home a bit after 8 in the evening having seen a total of 6 other vehicles on our nearly forty-mile trip home. We were hope, hope, hoping to see a moose or two before we got to the highway, but no such luck. Still and all, Christmas in the North Woods at its finest! It was a sweet, memorable Christmas Day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings

May your home be filled with Christmas cheer and joy that lasts throughout the year.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's Holiday Time!

I may be wrong but I have a feeling there won't be much time for blogging in the next few days. All those things I was sure I would have done about a week ago and all those things I couldn't really do until the last minute are coming crashing down upon my head.

But it's all good. That long, slow winter is coming, right?

The house looks as festive and colorful as it ever does and there is one good smell or another coming from the kitchen most days.

We're coming up on dinner time right now and Papa Pea up in his office just hollered down that the Caramel Corn I'm making (yes, still) smells pretty darn good. He worked up an appetite by snow shoveling and plowing (thank you, dear daughter, for the use of your truck and plow) all day. We all know snow shoveling is hard work but unless you've spent time plowing with a truck and blade you might not know how physically taxing that is!

All in all, I'm guessing we got between 6-8" of snowfall yesterday. Thankfully the temp hasn't gone higher than about 27 degrees today so none of it is melting. Sure is purdy out there as it was a wet snow and most all branches and bushes are still sporting a heavy layer of snow. The only bad (read: treacherous to life and limb -- mostly limb) thing is that we have that blasted layer of heavy ice underneath everything. It's even made it difficult for the plow trucks to get adequate traction when pushing snow. Just gotta be cautious out there.

Hoping your last few days before Christmas are going smoothly. It's sometimes hard, but try to take care of yourself so you can enjoy the Big Day.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We're Getting Snow!

The snow didn't start until early this morning (despite me checking a couple of times during the night to encourage it), but when it started it came down at a pretty good clip.

Wreath on our back door.

Path into the woods.

Me on the driveway.

I love the woods when it is coated in new snow.

Wood stack in the back yard.

Shot off the front deck. Do you see the fencing at the far back of the picture? That's our 7 ft. high "invisible" fencing that protects our orchard and gardens from the deer. You truly cannot see it . . . except when every little wire is coated with snow as it is today!

Zoey says, "I want to go IN. I WANT TO GO IN NOW?"

It's currently 1 p.m. and the snow is still coming down although very lightly. We have about 6" which is on the low end of what was forecast. But we'll take it! My only fear is that the temperature is at 31.5 degrees. I'm trying not to even think about . . . you know . . . r-a-i-n. Ugh.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Hodge-Podge of a Day

Even though we went to bed early (9:30) last night, when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. I needed a crane to help me out of bed. Then I stumbled around for a half hour before I felt halfway human. Too much sleep? No such thing. Just winter time. Dark. Want to hibernate.

Our lady carpenter friend, B, arrived at 8 a.m. to help hubby on some work inside the garage. She is such a sweetheart that it's more of a fun, laughing day to have her here than anything else. Besides, she brought presents. Christmas presents. A colorful bookmark she wove for me and some special thingie-bops for hubby. I still don't understand what they are . . . a tool/garage related thing. Plus a plateful of homemade cookies. Yum. She ran into the post office in town at noon because she was expecting a box of citrus fruit from a client that winters in the south. One-third of the box was pink grapefruit which she doesn't care for so she left them with us. Can't beat "help" like that.

We've had a very scroungy-looking timber wolf lurking around the property for a couple of months now. I hate to see an animal that doesn't look like it's in the best of health. B said she saw it on the first part of the driveway as she drove in this morning. Guess it can't be too sickly 'cause it's still around and can move quickly when it wants to. I've been trying to get a picture, but no success so far.

I had coffee with a good friend that is leaving Thursday for a six-week or so driving trip to three of her kids and their families scattered across the country. Her husband passed away ten years ago, but she doesn't hesitate to pack the car and head out on her own.
I admire her wonderful, upbeat personality and zest for life. She says she may be home earlier than six weeks because maybe the kids will get tired of her and boot her out. I cannot imagine that. She would be about the easiest house guest to have.

Got a few more presents wrapped today. I don't understand it. We don't exchange that many gifts. Why does it seem like there are so many when it comes time to wrap them?

The ashes in the Jotul were starting to choke the very life out of the wood stove so I had to let the fire die out today so I could shovel them out. I've decided we could save a lot of wood if we didn't feed the stove during the day. Even on this gray, damp day with no sun the house didn't get cooler than 64 degrees by the time I cleaned out the stove at 4:30. 'Course, my nose is more than a little cold as I'm typing this but it will warm up soon.

I'm wondering if hubby and I don't change clothes often enough. I had only two loads of laundry today; one light and one dark. Seems to me when you wear more layers in the winter time as opposed to just shorts and tank tops in the summer, there would be more laundry in the winter. But it doesn't seem to work that way for us. I think it must be because in the summer we sweat so much (well, glisten in my case) and there's no choice of whether to wear an outfit more than one day. And let's face it. I'm not crawling around in the garden in the winter and hubby has insulated coveralls on whenever he's outside these days. So I guess we really don't get dirty. Or smell. Umm, do we??

We are forecast to get 6-10" of snow tonight through tomorrow noon. If only. Sure would be nice to see. I even did some town errands this afternoon so I could stay home and enjoy the new snow tomorrow. I'll be happy to be out shoveling if we do get any appreciable amount.

Okay, gonna go do my snow dance now while scaring up something for dinner. Snow report tomorrow morning.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Have A Feeling Nobody Is Having A Restful Sunday

Today I'm making Caramel Corn.

Multiple batches.

And sampling Caramel Corn.

I'm also wrapping Christmas presents.

And sampling Caramel Corn.

And trying to finish up a couple of things in the quilt studio I'd like to mail tomorrow.

And sampling Caramel Corn.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sorting Apples, Using Apples

I sorted through our stored apples again today. Most are still looking really good. Some are usable with the bad spots cut out. Some are going into the chicken house. A few are going directly to the compost bin. That's all good. If the apples don't feed us, they feed the poultry or they feed the soil.

What to do with the bowl of those usable but with the bad spots? Make APPLE CRUNCH!

Butter a good sized pie plate. Peel, core and slice as many apples as you want. Prefer more crunch topping and fewer apples? Get wild and crazy and go that way.

Then make the crunch topping for the apples by mixing in a bowl:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut in 1/2 cup butter with a pastry blender.

Evenly spread the topping over the apples in the pie plate.

Put in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

Top should be brown and crunchy when it's done.

Serve with a little (or big) dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

A good, simple dessert that's fairly quick to make. Plus, you can make the whole recipe and freeze it before baking. Then when you need a dessert, let it defrost on the counter and bake as suggested.

P.S. Forgot to say earlier: New blog header photo by Chicken Mama Designs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dear Mama Pea . . .

I write notes to myself. (And it's a good thing, too, because otherwise I would forget a lot of stuff.)

Each year I write on a 4" x 6" index card the specific Christmas cookies and candies I made for that year. I also note how many boxes/plates of goodies I gave away that year. When I pulled out the card from last year, down on the bottom below the list of cookies and candies I made last holiday season was a notation written in bright green ink. It said:

NOTE: NEVER AGAIN! I think I baked for two whole weeks --- and did NOT enjoy it. Need new plan for next year.

Here I am, one week before Christmas, and I have not baked one single goodie for the holiday season. (I think I done burned myself out last year.)

Instead of my usual cookie/candy assortment, this year I'm giving jars of strawberry jam I made this summer. (Heaven knows, I had enough strawberries to produce some extra jam!)

I got some of them ready this morning. The jars might not look as spectacular as a colorful assortment of goodies, but I hope people will appreciate and savor the homemade jam while spreading some of it on a slice of toast some cold, snowy morning.

I'm also going to make big bunches of Caramel Corn to fill these tins to give with the jam. A bit of work, yes, but not nearly as much as making thirty-six (I'm kidding) different kinds of cookies.

Note to Myself: Good job, Mama Pea. It feels better already!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Whadda Guy!

Hubby and I have our "holiday" mugs that I bring out during the holiday season for us to have our morning coffee in. They are kind of special mugs that I've purchased. They match and there are just the two of them for the two of us. We've gone through several sets over the many years.

BUT for a couple of years now I've been looking for new ones because . . . our matching holiday mugs . . . no longer match.

Nor are they very special. Nor attractive.

First, one of the last matching holiday set got broken with the other following not too long after. So we've been using this pair of mismatched mugs. I think they came from when hubby was teaching and, as everyone knows, a coffee cup or mug is always a good Christmas present for your third grade teacher.

About a week ago, I was paging through a catalog and saw some mugs I really liked. I pointed them out to dear husband and then continued on through the catalog.

Today I heard the UPS truck pull into the yard and saw hubby go to meet the driver. Shortly thereafter I came into the kitchen and saw a package on the kitchen table.

I asked if that was what had come via UPS. Hubby said it was and it was for me.

"Me?" I asked. What could it be? The box was definitely too big to be the inserts I had recently ordered for my defective feet.

"Yup, he said. "It's for you."

"To open right now? It's not for Christmas?"


Look what that sweetie had ordered for me. Well, for us I guess as they're the mugs I had seen in the catalog and are now our MATCHING pair of holiday mugs.

I can hardly wait for tomorrow morning's coffee time to test drive them!

Actually, I like them so much I'm wondering what I'd have to do to get Santa's Big Elf to order six more so we have enough of them to use for company, too. :o)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Belly Up To The Bar

We've all heard that expression, right? Well, I seem to belly up to the kitchen counter. With gusto.

In the winter time, I frequently wear a cozy, comfy flannel shirt over a turtleneck. And this is what eventually happens to the front of all of them.

Notice the white spots down near the bottom button? The flannel is 'bout worn clear through here. And there's really no way to mend it so it looks good again.

Here's a closer look for you. It took me a while (never claimed my elevator went all the way to the top) to figure out why that was happening.

It's because when I work in the kitchen, either at a counter or at the sink, that part of my shirt rubs up against the edge of the counter. Why?

1) I'm too tired to stand up straight so I have to prop myself up on the counter to keep from keeling over.

2) My belly is so fat that it comes into contact with anything I get close to. (Be very careful with your comments on this one.)

3) I spend waaay too much time in the kitchen.

Seriously, does this happen to anyone else or is it just a weird thing that happens to me . . . and my flannel shirts?