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One of the benefits of being Mama Pea's daughter is that I know how to hack into her computer system. I'm taking advantage of that now to tell you that TODAY IS MAMA PEA'S BIRTHDAY! Wander over to my blog, won't you, and take a peek at the Mama Pea montage I've put together. :)I love you, Mama!!!!
Land o' Goshen, we had a day today that would almost make one think spring had, at long last, arrived in the North Woods. A temp of 52 in the shade and 72 (wow!) out on the south side of the house where it was super sunny. Now if only the forecast didn't look so unpleasant. Rain tonight with rain all day tomorrow, turning to a rain/snow mix in the evening. The same rain/snow mix for Sunday and Sunday night. Ugh.
But we enjoyed the great weather today and took advantage of it. We spent the last half of the afternoon pruning the fruit trees.
You can see we've got a few patches of green grass showing although most of the yard area is still brown. (But at least it's not covered with snow!) The trees are just barely starting to bud out. Last year, the apple trees were in full blossom four weeks from today. But we had an early spring last year . . . a whole lot different than this year.
In this shot you can see the barren raised beds in the background. Past my left shoulder is the strawberry patch still wearing its winter blanket of evergreen boughs. Because we're still getting freezing temps at night, I'm hesitant to uncover them yet. It's the warm temps during the day followed by freezing at night that can harm them.
My husband was being recalcitrant and wouldn't let me take pictures of him today to illustrate our method for pruning. I loped off branches half way up the trees and he took care of the upper portion. It worked pretty well and we got the trees done lickety-split. Only thing is we were slovenly and didn't pick up the pruned branches but just let them fall where they may. That's a job for another day. When it's not raining. Or snowing.
Fiona of Rowangarth Farm gave me a very unexpected (and undeserved, I may add) award. She bestowed upon me The Versatile Blogger award, most likely because I ramble on (and on) all over the place thereby making me seem . . . uh, versatile? That's the only reason I can come up with for her choosing me. Thank you, Fiona, I do appreciate your kind words and thoughtfulness.
Now I'm to follow three rules:
Rule #1: Link back to the person who gave you the award. (That would be Fiona. If you haven't already, check out her blog. She's got lots going on in her busy, homestead/farm life, and she's a professional writer-person so her posts are always extremely well done.)
Rule #2: Share seven things that folks may not know about you. (I think I've blabbered everything there is to know already, but see below. I'll make something up.)
Rule #3: Name other bloggers you would like to see receive this award.
Seven things folks may not know about me:
1 - I hate my legs. When my daughter got married, she specifically requested I pick out a dress with a short skirt to show off my legs. (How weird is that?)
2 - When my husband and I met, we were both involved with someone else. But we knew within a week of meeting that we were going to be married. And we were, less than a year later.
3 - I was standing within five feet of a man when he committed suicide. I didn't know him so it wasn't as traumatic as it might sound. (But scary enough.)
4 - Getting pregnant was hard, but I felt absolutely wonderful every single day I was expecting. (I may not have phrased that just right. I had a hard time getting pregnant. Is that better?)
5 - I fantasize about living alone with my hubby in an inaccessible lighthouse for one whole year. (But I'm not sure there is such a thing as an inaccessible lighthouse anymore.)
6 - When we owned and operated a restaurant, we employed as many as twenty-three people during the tourist season. Many of them referred to me as "The Dragon Lady".
7 - If I had money to burn and accessibility to a really good plastic surgeon, I would get a face lift. (And maybe a couple of other things lifted at the same time.)
I don't think I can adequately explain how very much those of you I've met through blogging mean to me. So many of you are funny, interesting, knowledgeable, informative, kind and so supportive. And you all deserve bunches of awards. However, there is one person I admire for her grit, compassion, hard work ethic, loving nature, down-to-earth advice, wisdom and ability to keep going when the going gets tough. She's a single who's doing the homesteading thing a heckuva lot better than I ever could by myself. She's got a quirky sense of humor that always makes me smile and wonder, "Now why can't I write like that?"
So here's The Versatile Blogger award passed on to you, Susan. Go over to her blog, e-i-e-i-omg!, and you'll see what I mean.
I am standing on the crumbling precipice of going over the edge. You know we are snow lovers, but enough is truly enough.
We got about 2" overnight and it's still coming down.
My poor raised beds. Covered with snow once again. How tough is rhubarb that is about 3" high? Sweet Pea seeds? Hahahaha!
I'm sure Chicken Mama got snow all day yesterday when our precipitation was rain. Not a good thing for her road conditions which were already very BAD.
Well, this is mid-week . . . hump day, right? The rest of the week will be easy. Right? RIGHT?
Our temperature has been steadily falling all day today. It currently reads 36 and it's raining. Except the rain drops are white and shaped like snowflakes. At least they're melting as they hit the ground. At least for now.
They say computers have made our lives easier and save us time. Yep, until you have an unexplainable problem with the functioning of your computer. Until your band width is being eaten up at a rate faster than the speed of sound and you keep getting "timed out" because you've used the allotted time your "package" provides and your service is cut off for a 24-hour go-sit-in-the-corner-for-bad-behavior period. After spending 2-3 hour periods each day about six different times over the last two months talking with the experts (in India), your Internet provider acknowledges that, yes, there is a problem, but cannot identify what the problem is and therefore it has not been rectified. "But call us," they say, "when it happens again." Two to three more hours wasted that day in unproductive communication.
We're facing a summer of such magnitude of work and complexity that we're finding ourselves crushed by the weight of it and we haven't even started on it full-on yet.
I can't handle the garden and the job of wearing the second tool belt in the family both so the majority of the garden will go into rest and relaxation mode (lucky garden) for this year. With the price of purchasing food escalating as I type, this scares me to death.
Both hubby and I are experiencing difficulties sleeping. Sleep is the time you heal, rejuvenate, re-energize. It ain't happenin' much in our house lately. And our emotional and physical states are showing signs of wear and tear.
Hubby, aka Financial Manager of our household, is spending more time than usual (time that obviously takes him away from doing other things) managing our finances in these turbulent economic times. Are we going to wind up being another "retired" couple who has to seek outside employment at this stage of our lives to bring in that extra bit of cash needed? (Cringe-shudder-cringe.)
Instead of jumping into our huge remodeling project, would time be better spent re-doing our front deck that is rotting away before our very eyes? What about the roof on a main storage structure that is self-destructing? What about the one remaining building on the property that still has those four or six huge trees too close to it which are going to create a large amount of damage and expense (when they blow over in one of our seemingly frequent once-in-a-century horrendous wind storms) if we don't get around to removing them first?
We've been going to build a new chicken/goose house for several years now. One huge branch landed pointy end down and went right through the roof of the old hen house. We patched it so that it doesn't leak. Too much. At the moment.
Our pond needs to be completely drained and the holes those ratty little muskrats made located and repaired so it stops leaking to the point of morphing into a large mud puddle by the end of summer.
It's unbelievable how many times we've needed to use our high-sided trailer in the past year and a half since it was smooshed by a falling tree. And, obviously, wasn't available at the time of need. We have the framing rebuilt on it but the flooring and sides still need to be done.
Oh gosh, the list goes on and one and on. Things that need to be done, should be done to ensure our safe little haven stays our safe little haven in the midst of an insane world.
I keep reminding myself we have no real problems. I really do. I keep chanting the Minnesotan mantra, "It could be worse!" And I know it could. And I know I shouldn't be so down and draggin' and bellyachin'. We have a lot to be thankful for and I'm definitely being a real pain in the patoot lately.
Here's hoping my cranky mood disappears with the snowflakes that aren't really snowflakes. They just look that way.
Yvette of On Ponderosa Lane asked me what was in the Easter basket that I was lucky enough to get yesterday.
Well, here's my stash. Starting on the left we have seven fabric fat quarters (love 'em all), a package of colored index cards and narrow sticky notes for marking pages in books or magazines. (I go through those like crazy-fast.) In the center is an individual ceramic (oven safe) baking dish that I'll probably use for decoration in the kitchen, too. To the right below that are some very festive cupcake papers. Up and to the right are three darling little baskets. I love baskets. Big baskets, small baskets, I love baskets!
My daughter has a real knack for finding little gifty-things that I really like. We're both desk accessory nuts so anything like the narrow strip sticky notes or colored index cards are always a hit. (In the past she's found me the most decorative and unusual paper clips you'll ever see!) I don't know where she comes up with some of the stuff. I'll ask her where she found a certain thing and her smug reply is always a mysterious, "I have my sources."
The Easter holiday has definitely come and gone, and it's time to put away the decorations. Generic "spring" decorations go up next and the way our weather is today, I'm feeling like we may have finally turned the corner from cold and wet into something more fitting for April-almost-May. It's a gorgeous day and if I had been home this morning I definitely would have hung the wash out on the line. As it was, I got a couple of loads washed and in the dryer before I left and finished up a couple more when I got home.
I go now to package up the bulk of Papa Pea's homemade better-than-Mounds Bars for hiding in the freezer. No, I'm not making it hard for him to access them; he asked me to leave a couple/few out and freeze the rest so he could portion them out as special treats. (Or maybe he was afraid of gobbling them all up in the next two days and getting an awful bellyache.)
Here we are at the end of Easter Day, 2011. It was a relaxing day with friends and family. A small group we were for dinner: Papa Pea, Chicken Mama and me. Our good friends, M and D, stopped over for a visit. We're so fortunate to have them as friends and nearest neighbors.
Papa Pea met Chicken Mama at the door when she arrived and she handed him one basket while she went back to the car to get more.
Why look! It's an Easter Wabbit and she's bearing gifts!
My basket on the left, Chicken Mama's in the middle, and Papa Pea's on the right.
Here's Papa Pea opening a box of very special goodies that the Easter Wabbit made especially for him.
Chicken Mama makes an unbelievably, scrumptious confection that tastes like a Mounds Bar (which used to be her papa's favorite candy bar in his misspent youth) except her concoction is a trillion times better . . . to. die. for!
Chicken Mama was pretty happy that a copy of Catherine Friend's new book, "Sheepish - Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet" was in her Easter basket.
The Easter Bunny also wrote Chicken Mama a letter which she seemed to find pretty funny.
Hope you all had a really nice Easter Day and that you enjoy your Easter goodies and all the egg salad, deviled eggs, and hard boiled eggs that will be your lunch tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that.
Like many of you, we've had damp, gray, cold air for too long a stretch. Sunshine, we need sunshine! We need our batteries recharged!
About 3 o'clock this afternoon, lo and behold, the sun peeked out. I yelled to my hubby, "The tour bus is leaving at 4 p.m. sharp. Be ready!"
He asked, "Where are we going?"
I replied, "It's a surprise, but dress warmly. We're hiking and it's gonna be windy and cool."
I hurried-scurried around getting dinner started so we wouldn't be so late eating when we got home.
The I stripped off my jeans so I could put on long johns. Even if the sunshine held out, I knew it would be cool. Next I added two layers of polar fleece on top and my ugly-bugly (but warm) black stocking hat on my head.
A few minutes after 4 we were in the car headed for town and a hike on the rocks by the lake.
Was it cold? Oh, ya.
But the sun stayed out which made our hike totally tolerable. We had the whole area to ourselves which was nice because no one saw me grunting and groaning trying to make my short legs span cracks and crevices we had to navigate.
In many spots we couldn't go the usual way because of chunks of ice and snow that we didn't want to step on/in for fear of slipping and because of terrible tangles of blown down trees from the winter storms. My tall husband who is mostly legs commented that a couple of the spots I had trouble navigating were even a stretch for him.
But, wow, did it feel good to get lots of clean, fresh (really fresh!) air in our lungs. Just what we needed for a bit of a re-energizing pick-up today. Now it's after eight o'clock and I would be happy crawling into bed earlier than usual. Between the fresh air and exercise and the glass of wine I drank while getting dinner on the table, I'm ready.
I made this muffin for the first time about a week ago. As one of the best of the best, it's a keeper, and would be a great addition to an Easter Brunch menu.
The recipe is taken from a cook book I've had since the 1980's entitled, "The Breakfast Book," written by Marion Cunningham. It's unusual for me to thrilled with a cook book that doesn't have lots of colorful picture illustrations (call me shallow) but this book is a favorite of mine and I often pull it off the shelf. (No photographs, but there are some lovely line drawings in it.)
I'll admit I usually like my muffins to be moist and heavy. These aren't. They're more cake-like and light (but not dry) and the flavor is so fantastic (just ask Chicken Mama who really, really wanted another one yesterday morning but, alas and alack, they were long gone) that they are definitely now one of my favorite muffins.
Here's the recipe:
LEMON YOGURT MUFFINS
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1-1/4 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
For the muffins, in a medium bowl, combine the sugar, honey, eggs, yogurt, melted butter and grated lemon peel. Mix thoroughly.
To above mixture add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat until just blended.
Spoon the batter evenly into 12 greased muffin cups filling each about two-thirds full.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
While the muffins are baking, prepare the syrup by combining the lemon juice, sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, boil for one minute and then set aside.
When the muffins are baked, remove the muffin pan from the oven and set it on a cooling rack. Gently poke the top of each muffin 3 or 4 times with a fork. Then drizzle about 2-3 teaspoons of the syrup over each hot muffin letting it run over the top and around the edges.
Let muffins cool in the pans for a few minutes. Then remove and serve.
I have to repeat myself. These are very, very good.
The day I made them someone in my household grabbed one for a mid-afternoon snack. He (not mentioning any names) thought a little strawberry jam would compliment the lemon flavor. Although I didn't try it myself, I'll hazard a guess that it was okay.
I haf a few qvestions I vould like to ask you.
(It's kinda funny because I've been thinking of writing this post about sleep for a couple of days now. Then on Thursday Linda over at Multilocus blogged about the very same subject. So although it may seem as if I'm copying her, it's really just a coincidence that we were both working on this same train of thought.)
Okay, back to the couch now. I'll ask some questions and take notes while you give me your answers. Relax, take a deep breath . . . and ve vill pro-ceed.
How many hours of sleep do you normally get each night?
How many hours of sleep do you need to get each night to feel your best?
At what time do you go to bed?
When do you get up in the morning?
Do you wake with an alarm or on your own?
Do you feel you get enough sleep?
Do you sleep more on the weekends in order to "catch up" or just because it feels good?
Do you ever take naps during the day?
Do you sleep straight through every night or do you wake to make a pit stop? (Hope I'm not getting too personal here.)
Do you ever have trouble falling asleep? Or staying asleep?
Are you a morning person or a night person?
If you could arrange your life so that you could choose, when would you go to bed and when would you arise in the morning?
I'll share some of my answers so you won't be shy of sharing yours.
I usually get between 7-8 hours sleep each night, but feel I really need 9-10 to feel my best. I know that may seem like a lot but this has been the case for me since I was in junior high school. If I went on a sleep-over (we used to call them slumber parties) on a Friday or Saturday night, my mom said I would sleep the rest of the weekend to recuperate.
It's rare that I make it to sleep before 10 o'clock. Usually more like 10:30 or 10:45. Okay, lately it's been closer to 11:00.
Normally we don't set an alarm which means I don't wake until around 7-ish.
Most of the time I feel I'm short on sleep but guilt pulls me out of bed in the morning.
My weekend sleep schedule is the same as the other five days of the week.
I never nap during the day.
I get up once almost every night to croggle on into the bathroom. (I think my bladder has shrunk to the size of a thimble.)
I rarely have trouble falling asleep. Sometimes I barely make it into bed before doing so. But I do go through "spells" when I wake at 2-2:30 in the morning and can't fall back asleep until 4:30-5. Arrrgh, I hate that!
I'm definitely a morning person. (So why can't I cut it off and get in bed earlier at night?)
Ideally, I should be in bed at night at 8:30, read until 9 and then get up at 5 a.m. But wait, that gives me only 8 hours of sleep. Do I truly need more than that? It sure seems so. But I do know that even if I get only 8 hours of sleep, the more of those hours that I get BEFORE midnight, the better I feel. For instance, yesterday morning I got up at 7 but I didn't get to bed until 11 the night before. So that should have been close to a good 8 hours of sleep, right? Then why did it take me until after noon (literally) before I felt and looked like I was awake? Makes me think there is something to a natural rhythm (for me, anyway) of waking with the sun, and probably going to sleep with with sun, that is more normal and physiologically healthy for human beings.
If I could arrange my life so that my sleep patterns were ideal, I would require less than 8 hours of sleep each night to feel good, I would go to sleep no later than 9 p.m. and arise by 5 a.m. or even earlier. I love, love, love those early morning hours. It gives me a feeling of being on top of (and ahead of?) things for the whole day.
Now get up off my couch. It's currently 9:14 p.m. as I write this and I need to go to sleep.
Actually, I had two roosters in my pot all day yesterday and today.
I've been plumb out of homemade chicken broth for about two weeks now. What is it they say about never missing something until you don't have it? The recipes for the soups I've wanted to make and dishes I've wanted to concoct keep getting shoved back into my recipe box because one of the main ingredients is chicken broth. And there has been none in my freezer to use.
So this last Tuesday night, I went to the freezer and pulled out two young, healthy (extra and not needed) roosters (sorry, guys) that we had processed and stored there for future use.
First thing yesterday morning, I put them in my biggest pot, added onions, celery and carrots along with a sprinkling of herbs and lots of water and let it simmer all day. Out to the cold back porch the roosters and pot went over night to be brought in this morning for several more hours of slow cooking.
Over two gallons of rich, flavorful, nutrition-packed chicken broth came from my gigantic stewing pot.
I also had a good amount of meat that needed to be separated from skin and bone.
This was a job my mother loved to do. She's sit happily picking every piece of delectable, tender meat from this pile of cooked meat and bones.
Unfortunately, this isn't a trait that she passed on down to me. It's one of the putzy tasks that I'd just as soon not have to do. But no sense whining and wasting all that really good meat, so I do it. With a smile on my face. Thinking of all the good meals I'll be able to make with the delicious, homegrown meat. Still, I can't help but raise my eyes to the heavens and mutter, "Okay, Mom, where are you when I need you?"
We've had a lot of deer on our property lately. They like to come and graze on the new shoots that are just coming up in our little hay field. We regularly see groups of 5-7 of them chomping away like cows on pasture.
A few have even been jumping the fence surrounding the pond and poultry yard. They come right up to the front of the chicken house where they snarf up any leftover grain on the ground.
We had been casually glancing out at the deer off and on yesterday when about 3 o'clock I looked out to discover the whole section of fence along the west side of the pond missing. Well, it wasn't missing but rather lying flat on the ground.
One of the deer must have jumped the fence going out of the poultry pasture, misjudged its height and got tangled in it. I don't think the webbed fencing could have hurt the deer at all (it's very soft and pliable and not electrified) but it probably gave him a little scare when he went splat down on his chin and had a couple of feet/legs tangled up.
Hubby went out and didn't have much trouble at all (ground wasn't frozen) putting the fencing back up.
I wanted to get a shot of the fencing lying down but the Homestead Handyman was too fast for me and had just about finished the repair job by the time I got situated with my camera.
So far today, no deer have been spotted in the poultry yard. Do ya think the one who had the fight with the fence told all of his friends and family of his hair-raising, awful, terrible, very bad experience?
. . . get through the whole day ignoring:
- all the dust bunnies and other unidentified creatures cavorting on the floor of every room in the house.
- the need to sit down and figure out the design for the new cabinets for our remodeled kitchen.
- the kindling bin which is fast approaching . . . empty.
- the fact that I really, really must make an appointment for a hair trim.
- my husband wisely suggesting I should take advantage of these last cold, wet, ishy days to stock the freezer with soups, ready-made meals and cookies for our upcoming super-busy summer.
- all my houseplants that are drooping from lack of water.
- my messy, messy desktop.
- hubby's very favorite everyday pants that need to be mended before he can wear them again.
- the last of last year's onions that are sprouting and molding and need to go to the compost heap.
- how many calories I've shoved into my mouth.
With the help of my dear husband, I drew the winning name out of my hat. Worn, torn and still woven strong(!), you will be receiving a copy of the first book in The Mitford Series.
Since we again have a snow cover on the ground, and by the forecast it looks as if it will be around a while, I thought it only fitting to use my warmest ear-flop hat to hold all the names.
Hubby scuffled the slips of paper around (all very scientific) and pulled out the winner.
Congratulations worn, torn and still woven strong. If you will send me your mailing address, I'll get the book off to you this week. (You can send me an e-mail by going over to the Contact Me button on my right hand sidebar.)
Have a good, good Monday, Everyone. And thanks to so many of you for participating in the give-a-way. It was fun.
Back in March I blogged about the two grain roller/flakers we ordered and received. The electric one came first (see post of March 24th) and we were super-pleased with it.
It's the Messerschmidt Flaker Mill Attachment for the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and works slick as can be. I've been very happy with it and would recommend it.
In my post the day after the one on the Messerschmidt, I said the manual hand-crank roller/flaker had arrived but was not the one we had ordered!
According to the research we'd done, the best hand-crank model is the "Marga Mulino" made in Italy. The website from which we ordered gave quite a bit of information on other manual flakers including that on the Norpro (sometimes called Shule) which is made in China and is a less desirable copy of the Marga Mulino.
Although we thought we were ordering the Marga Mulino, the manual flaker we received was the Norpro or Shule (Shule being the name embossed on the tool). We went back and read the information on the website and did find that the wording left something to be desired (not good for a website); it was confusing and could have been misinterpreted which evidently we did because we thought we were ordering the Marga Mulino but received the Shule.
We contacted the company and although they were not happy to have us return the Shule roller/flaker for a refund (we had not used it), they finally agreed to allow us to do so. We sent it back and anxiously waited for the refund to appear on our credit card which it eventually did. Whew!
Now I'm hesitating attempting to order a Marga Mulino again . . . from a different source, needless to say. Why? Well, the electric roller/flaker works so quickly and effortlessly. The flaked grain comes out just about as fast as you pour the berries in. The amount of energy used is minimal. Should grid power ever be out for any period of time, we do have our solar back-up system which we use for about 50% of our power anyway.
So at this point, the money that would go for a manual roller/flaker has been transferred to another envelope to be used to purchase something that currently ranks a little higher on the list.
I sure would be interested in hearing from any of you who have used any brand of manual roller/flaker. Good, first-hand experience is always the best to have.
Sweet Peas are one of my very favorite flowers and I always plant some on a trellis somewhere in my garden each year. The package says you should plant the seeds outdoors six weeks before the last expected frost date for your area.
But I have a terrible time burying those lovely little seeds in soil that is so cold and/or muddy . . . which is the usual state of our soil six weeks before the last expected frost date. That is if the soil has the good fortunate of not being still frozen solid six weeks before the last expected frost date.
That's why my Sweet Peas don't bloom until after mid-summer. I don't plant them early enough.
This year the soil in the raised bed chosen for the Sweet Peas was dry and workable last week. I turned the soil over with my spading fork, smoothed it out with a rake and deemed it suitable for planting. Hooray!
I pulled out the Sweet Pea seeds and soaked them in a dish on the counter for 24 hours to help with germination.
Yesterday I went out and planted them all along either side of the trellis you see in the above picture. This was when there was no snow to be seen in the whole garden area. This was before we got almost three inches of snow last night.
Surely if you do plant Sweet Peas a whole six weeks before your estimated last frost date, they are bound to find themselves in some frosty, inclement (possibly even snowy) weather. Right? So these seeds should be just fine. Right? So I shouldn't worry about them currently being frozen solid and not germinating. Right?
Time will tell. Oi vey.
We got only 2-3" of snow . . . which is a lot less than the 6 or 9" predicted, so we're counting ourselves lucky. Mother Nature was kind to us. Nary a flake in the past two hours so maybe the storm has gone elsewhere?
You can see my raised beds that were totally uncovered with no snow in sight . . . until they received this overnight blanket. But sure coulda' been worse!
Nope, I just can't see it happening. Not when nearly all of our snow has melted and disappeared. Even though our temps are back in the deep freeze and we're back to wearing winter chore clothes.
Our area has been issued a Winter Storm Warning starting at midnight tonight and going to 3 p.m. tomorrow. Strong winds, blowing snow with an accumulation of . . . are you ready for this? Six to nine inches of snow. Arrrrgghh!
Do you think this could actually happen in the middle of April? Oh ya, sure, you betcha. It wouldn't really surprise anyone the way winter tries to hang on around here. But I really, really hope it doesn't.
This is probably not the best time of year to be offering a book as a give-a-way on my blog. I mean who is going to have time to read anything until late next fall sometime when the weather turns nasty and we come in from the out-of-doors to rest and recuperate from the work-filled, fun-filled summer?
Well, Horse Feathers I say! Even though it's not the most appropriate time for acquiring new reading material, this book is a great, easy read. Plus, it's a duplicate I have on my bookshelves and knowing many of our numerous books are going to have to be packed away for a short time during our remodeling this summer, one less to deal with sounds good to me.
Are any of you familiar with The Mitford Series written by Jan Karon? Delightful, thought-provoking, stress-relieving, heart-warming, funny and tender. This author's particular style of writing is what kept me interested and reading my way through all nine books in The Mitford Series.
"At Home in Mitford" is the first book in the series. In it you'll meet Father Tim, a bachelor Episcopalian priest who lives in a small town in the South. Jan Karon is an author who, in my mind, has the ability to introduce characters and then make them so real you feel you know them personally.
After Ms. Karon ended The Mitford Series with the ninth book, she started writing The Father Tim Novels which give a more intimate look into Father Tim via detailed stories of his childhood growing up in Mississippi. I'm currently listening to the audio tape of "Home to Holly Springs" which is the first in this new series.
The book I have to offer is a paperback and shows a little bit of wear on the cover, but is otherwise in good condition. If you're interested in entering the drawing for this book, leave a comment saying you'd like me to put your name in the hat. I'll draw out the winner this coming Monday morning at 8 a.m. If you're the lucky draw, you can squirrel the book away to read as a special treat next winter.
If I had all the time in the world, I'd sit down and start rereading every one of The Mitford Series books from the beginning. They are that good.
There was a time when I kept two cookie jars on my kitchen counter. And they were almost always full. (Well, at least half full.) The jars were clear glass so you could see the cookies inside and they both sat in a special rack made especially to hold them. (I still have the set packed away somewhere. Uh . . . wonder where?) The jars and wooden holder sat on a counter right inside the back door and I swear they were like magnets that drew hungry hands to them as soon as anyone stepped in the door. Hubby and daughter both took cookies in their packed lunches everyday, and we had a lot of people in and out of the house who knew they could always help themselves to a cookie or two. Or three.
Because I wanted to make sure there was always a kind of cookie available that everyone liked, I usually had one jar filled with a non-nut cookie (I've never understood people not liking nuts in their cookies but each to his own, I guess) and almost always a cookie containing chocolate.
When looking for a cookie recipe to bake recently so I'd have some on hand in the freezer, I pulled out this recipe for Orange Oatmeals that I haven't made in an age. I've gotta be truthful here and admit I sampled one before packing them away. Oh gosh, they were sooo good! Then something bad happened. On two different occasions, I've also taken a couple out of the freezer that have found their way straight into my mouth without even having time to thaw.
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange peel (or more)
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Cream butter and sugar.
Add the grated orange peel. (Before I've never measured this ingredient because I just grate the whole orange and add whatever I get. I did measure this time so I could tell you it was a bit over 2 tablespoons. I threw it all in.)
Add two eggs and beat well. Next add the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until smooth.
Then mix in the oats, raisins and nuts, if desired. (I always soak my raisins in boiling water to cover and then drain thoroughly before adding to cookies.)
Drop onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
Remove to cooling racks. Makes about 40 cookies.
The cookies are yummy to serve just as they are above but I like to spread a little orange juice/powdered sugar frosting on each one to make them special.
I mixed about 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar with the juice from the orange I grated and that frosted all 40 cookies with just a smidge left over.
These cookies are much like a good oatmeal cookie but the added orange flavoring is wonderful. Trust me. Try 'em.
With the terrible state of our country's economy and all of us pinching pennies and finagling to figure out how and where we can possibly find a few more dollars for the budget these days, I recently started wondering just what my present job skills are. This led me back to thinking of the jobs I had when I first entered the job market to start earning some money of "my own."
Can you remember your very first job that you got paid for? Other than doing chores around the house to earn allowance from your parents, I mean. Like so many others, I babysat for neighbors, family and family friends. But I don't really count that as it wasn't like getting a steady salary check.
When I was growing up, in our town we couldn't be legally employed until the age of sixteen. However, you could work on a corn detasseling crew when you were a year younger. So that's what I did the summer I was fifteen. Talk about hard, hot, exhausting work! The comraderie with other girls from all over the various parts of our town of 60,000 was a fun experience, but we did work for our pay.
When I was sixteen I got a job working in a two-story department store. I worked after school a couple nights a week and Saturdays during the school year. My assigned area was in women's casual clothing but we all had to take turns running the rickety, very old elevator when the regular operator was sick or on break. (This was obviously pre-self operated elevators.) The darn thing scared the bejeezus out of me as it wouldn't always stop when you wanted it to and trying to line it up level with the floor you stopped at was always a challenge. Once when I was coming from the second floor down to the main floor, the elevator wouldn't stop until it reached the bottom of its cable system in the basement. It was a dungeon of a basement and not where any customer (or I!) wanted to go. On this job I earned sixty-five cents an hour and a 10% discount on any clothes I bought.
During my second year of working retail, I was offered a job in a small manufacturing company. A distant relative worked there and suggested I apply. I did and was offered the job. When I told my boss at the department store I was leaving for a better job, he asked how much more I would be making and I told him the salary was one dollar an hour. The dear man offered to up my wage to a dollar an hour if I would stay but not tell any of the other girls I was making more than them!
Whatever my reasoning, I decided to move on to the new job. You'll never in a million years guess what the company where I went to work manufactured. Freckle cream. Yup. It was a white cream in a little glass jar that supposedly would remove freckles from anywhere on your body. The fragrance was lovely. Did it actually remove freckles? Not having any of my own (freckles, that is), I couldn't try it out. My guess now is that it had some kind of a bleaching agent in it and would no doubt be outlawed these days by the Food and Drug Administration.
There were only five other employees in the building plus the boss who had inherited the business from his father. The boss was a kind man who drank his lunch every day and spent most afternoons with his head on his desk sleeping it off.
During the couple of years I worked there full-time during the summers, the boss's daughter came in to help out a few times. She was two years younger than me, a delightful person, and fun for me because the other five employees were four old women and the chemist, an old man. Really, really old. (Read: Younger at the time than I am now!)
The other person hired my last summer there was a boy my own age who was a nephew of the boss. He was a total dork, well over six feet tall weighing about 110 pounds. He developed a crush on me and continually asked to go out with him. I mean continually as in being extremely obnoxious. The day he chased me around a work table (yes, he did) trying to grab me and kiss me was the day I went to the boss and said, "One of us has to go. Either him or me." He went.
What did I do at the freckle cream factory. Hand-folded little boxes (thousands and thousands of boxes) and slid the jars of cream in. Then I packed the little boxes into cases.
I filled in as the boss's secretary on her days off or on sick days. That drove me bonkers because there just wasn't that much to do. Especially in the afternoon when my boss was . . . ah . . . resting. I was always happy to get back to folding boxes.
Okay, those were a couple/few of my first jobs. Now it's your turn. Care to share about your first experience(s) out there in the working world?
No, really. I mean hanging with Chicken Mama. She and I spent the afternoon today hanging some of her photographic prints.
A good friend of Chicken Mama's owns a business in town and after some recent remodeling found himself with an attractive entry foyer . . . and a couple of blank walls. He asked Chicken Mama if she would like to do a little decorating for him by hanging some of her photographs along with prices on them so they would be available for sale.
So that's where we were on a gray, very quiet afternoon in our sleepy, non-populated, nearly deserted (it's April, you know) town.
Okay, we had to start somewhere. This is the wall to the left as you walk in the entry door. (The door you see directly to my left is to the owner's office.) Does this blank wall make my butt look big?
The wall available for display directly across from the door is waaayyy up there. I was going to say that Chicken Mama did all the work on the top of our eight foot ladder, but I think I got to climb up there a time or two also.
Hey, Chickie Mama, I think you're about half a bubble off. ( I shouldn't have said that when she had a weapon in her hand.)
Moving right along. We're making progress.
"Measure twice, drill once." We put many screws in the dry wall for hanging the pictures and we only messed up on one.
This upper area is probably what will catch people's eye when they first step into the foyer.
And this is the wall to the left. Chicken Mama will add a narrow table under the pictures on the left with a display of some of her photographic note cards which will also be available for sale.
Both of us were a little surprised at how exhausted we felt when we finished. I think it was all the measuring and figuring in fractions that hurt our brains along with a lot of stretching with arms over our heads to drill a hole or hold a picture in place for approval. Climbing up and down the ladder 346 times might have had something to do with it, too.
But it was a fun time together getting a bunch done and I think we did a fine job of decorating the business foyer and getting a few of Chicken Mama's beautiful photographs out for the public to enjoy. And purchase. Yeah, purchase! That would be really nice.
I am very lucky to have a skill that I value very much. It's one that I frequently take for granted because I use it so often. When I was young, I was given excellent instruction in the art of learning how to sew.
When I was in seventh grade, all the girls were required to take a sewing class. In that class I made an apron complete with a pocket and rickrack trim, and really enjoyed the experience. My recollection of that long-ago first sewing teacher is that she was tall, thin, blonde, 50-something and seemed very tired. (Whether the cause of that was too many classrooms of silly, giggling girls over the years or something else in her life, I don't know.) I can't recall her name. Mrs. L-something. Livingston? Langley? Nope, I just can't bring it back to mind. But her class was my introduction to sewing and I liked it from the get-go.
My mom did a certain amount of sewing, but more alterations for herself than projects from scratch. She had a totally Rubenesque figure, large bust and hips but small waist which made it difficult to purchase clothes that fit. She didn't have much to do with my sewing education but there was a sewing machine at home and it was always available to me.
In eighth grade, I once again found myself in a sewing class. This time I had an excellent teacher. Not all the girls liked Miss Brown as I did probably because she was extremely fussy and if one stitch was out of place, you had to rip it out and do it over. If you think of the fact that not every girl in the class even liked sewing, it's no wonder Miss Brown's way of teaching wasn't well received by all.
Miss Verla Brown was what would probably have been labeled an "old maid" way back in the late 1950s. Her dress was very professional (as was that of all teachers then), her make-up applied perfectly and her long nails always painted with dark polish. She must have colored her hair at home because it was dark chocolate brown. Solid dark chocolate brown. No highlights or a hint of a gray hair anywhere. She was a stoutly built woman and I can still picture her standing during the first part of each class giving an overview of what we would be working on that day and the techniques involved. Then we would all disperse to our machines and she would settle herself in a chair at one of the long tables in the sewing classroom and rarely move from that spot for the rest of the period. We were each required to bring finished steps in our sewing to her to be checked before we were allowed to proceed.
Her teaching method was demanding but, boy-howdy, did I ever learn the "correct" way to do all the basics! From eighth grade on for about the next seventeen years I made all my own clothes except for jeans and sweaters.
I even made dress shirts for my husband for a while. What a lot of work when at that time I probably could have purchased them ready-made for about the same amount of money. (And just think of all the time required to hand sew on just the buttons! Button-down collar, cuffs and all the way down the front.) I made all of our daughter's clothes until she reached an age when she wanted "store bought" clothes like her friends.
At certain times, I've done alterations for some extra money, but that wasn't my wisest job choice as I'm such a perfectionist that I spent way too much time on a job compared to what I charged.
I made a beautiful polar fleece parka for one of my daughter's ex-boyfriends. (How did I get talked into that? And should he have returned the parka when they broke up??)
Just having a general knowledge of sewing how-to has come in so handy over the years with countless mending jobs. I've worked on everything from tents to patching jeans (LOTS of patching on jeans) to mosquito netting for over beds to putting zippers in hand-knit sweaters. My dear daughter has fallen into the habit of bringing me a sewing job and saying, "I think I could do this, Mom, but I know it would be so much faster and easier for you to do it." That's okay; makes me feel needed.
Learning to quilt was simple for me because of my strong sewing background. I so well remember a gal in the first quilt group I joined. She truly wanted to learn how to quilt but had never sewn before, not even to take needle and thread and sew on a button. Needless to say, she quickly became very discouraged and dropped out of the group even though we all encouraged and tried to help her. I think that was when I first realized that knowing how to sew was a skill I was grateful to have.
Knowing how to sew. A basic life skill? It sure qualifies as that in my book. If you know how to sew, be open and willing to teach your children, or anyone who expresses an interest, the basics. If they become hooked, support them as much as you can. I did my very first sewing on my grandma's old treadle machine. If you have access to one for someone to learn on, there's hardly anything that would be better.
Yup, I was very lucky to have had a couple of good sewing teachers that came along at just the right time in my life, and I can't imagine not having the knowledge I gained from them. Thanks especially to Miss Brown who was such an exacting, ol' fuss-budget. I got a solid foundation from her that has stood me well.
If I had had any idea I could write about a dull, need-to-do project and it would create such an air of tantalizing mystery, I might have tried to do so much earlier just to drum up interest in my blog.
The job/task/project/whatever you want to call it I was going to tackle this afternoon has, once again, been put on hold.
Okay, I have to tell you that you all got your knickers in a knot for naught (pretty good example of alliteration!) because all I was going to do was make some plastic "liners" for shelving units we have in the basement.
These units are for storage of "stuff" but the size of the grating on the shelves is so widely spaced (Who knew to check this before purchase? Was that why they were a good deal?) that when I try to stack cans or bottles on the shelves, the can or bottle tends to tip over with the slightest nudge.
Solution for the problem? A year or so ago, hubby went to a fella's house to purchase some used poultry equipment. The man was some sort of a contractor and had a storage building full of miscellaneous odds and ends, one item being 4' x 8' semi-rigid sheets of plastic. He gave them to Papa Pea free of charge who then brought them home and stored them in a back building that is not exactly dust/dirt/wind/rain/snow-proof. The sheets were a little dirty to begin with and have since become more coated with grit and grime. Basically, they are in need of a good washing before I can cut them to size to use as a solid covering for the shelves on our storage units.
Hubby and I went back there to retrieve the sheets after lunch but as so often happens, when you get to the nitty-gritty of just how a project is going to go, we realized the easiest way to clean the sheets and then cut them to size would be to have the flat bed trailer up by the house to use as a work table.
Problem #1 - The flat bed trailer is still quite "snowed in" and would require a lot of shoveling on our part to free it.
Problem #2 - It's been too cold yet to hook up the outside hose which would be super-handy to use in the washing process.
So we decided to (once again) put off the project for probably another week. Our area is warming up quickly and the snow is melting by several inches each day.
There now. I wasn't trying to be secretive or evasive but thought it was all so mundane and uninteresting that I didn't think it would even be worth writing about in my previous post. I hope you aren't too deflated to hear the boring details of my mystery project that is pretty boring . . . and didn't even get off the ground today.
Oh, my. I just read my daughter's latest blog post in which she listed the things she wants to get done today to make herself feel good. Hahaha! I just DON'T know from where she gets her totally unrealistic sense of what can humanly be accomplished in one day's time!
I, too, (if you can believe such a thing -- sigh) made a list for today that looks a lot like hers. It's just after lunch time now and what headway have I made on said list? Not much. But it's not my fault. (Never is. Chuckle-chuckle.)
Zoey the Wonder Dog had her first "accident" on one of her beds over night. (That's why I'm thankful we've never let a dog sleep in our bed.) I'm sure hoping the poor ol' gal isn't moving into the stage where she'll need Doggie Depends. So even though it wasn't on my list for the day, I stripped her bed in the bedroom that got christened and her other two and washed all of the covers along with some rugs that were waiting for attention.
On another topic, Papa Pea and I have both been d-y-i-n-g for a sweet treat (I guess neither one of us exudes enough sweetness on our own) so I found a recipe for Butterscotch Pudding that I thought I'd give a try. It took me exactly one hour and just about every dish, bowl, pan, whisk and rubber spatula in the kitchen, plus the electric beater, to try to resurrect this recipe that seemed to go askew in every single step of the process. Amazingly enough the pudding now looks like pudding and is in eight dessert cups in the refrig. How does it taste? Pan lickings weren't bad, but we'll see tonight. It's not too often that you find a recipe that just does not work like you would expect it to, but I sure had trouble with this one. I checked the directions and ingredients six-times-to-Sunday and am sure it wasn't operator error.
So after that fiasco (even IF the pudding should be a winner, I'll never attempt it again), it was lunch time. Fine, I thought, I'll hit my list with gusto right after we eat.
Hubby and I were discussing one thing and another over our bowls of yogurt (me) and kefir (he) with blueberries and we decided that this afternoon I should tackle a big job that we have been talking about for a long time (read: all dingity-dong winter) but have been avoiding because it would be so much easier (and less painful) to do it if I could do part of it outside. In decent weather. So as not to freeze to death in the process. Since it's a sunny day and 45 degrees in the shade . . . well, looks as though the list I had for the day will be ready and waiting for me tomorrow morning.
Bye. Gotta go put on my new mud boots . . .
. . . and slosh back to a storage building for some materials for my project this afternoon.
We did a supply run to the big city yesterday. Mainly for electrical supplies, but since we were there we had to take full advantage of the trip and fill the back of the Suburban to the tippy-top.
First stop was Menard's. Hubby was pushing the cart and I was walking beside him but kept getting distracted by one thing and then another (you know the ploy of putting all that interesting stuff on the end of the aisles) as he trotted along on his quest. Each time I tore myself away from some item I had to check out, there he was half the store away searching behind him to find his missing partner. I'd race walk to catch up as he stood shaking his head. "Hey, I don't get out much. You have to be patient with me," I told him.
But don't get me wrong; I am not a shopper and don't do shopping well. By the end of our day, my lower back was so stiff I could hardly climb in and out of the truck.
It's just that when I'm there, my brain goes on overload because of all the sensory stimulation. I have my cast-in-iron list to which I adhere, but all the same I'm forced to make all those decisions . . . NOW. I can't think about it and come back tomorrow.
More often than not, this gets me into trouble. Today I feel so stoopid for not buying that package of gold wire I finally located (it's been on my list all winter) just because it was priced at about $2 more than I thought it should be. And those everyday cotton socks I like and purchased, why the heck didn't I get two packages of them so I wouldn't have to make the agonizing search for "just the right kind and color" again so soon?
Now that we have our booty home and into the house, I need to spend today putting it all away. Should be a simple task, right? Well, for some reason I feel energized to not only squirrel the new inventory away, but to take the time to clean and reorganize the storage areas the supplies go in to. (Must be spring fever.)
So I will now rise off my sedentary duff and get on with the day. I think it may have already started without me.
I'm not going to be gardening this year. WAAAAH! Now that I've gotten that over with I'll explain why.
We've got one heckuva huge remodeling/finishing the house project we're trying to get done. Once and for all. Finally. At long last. Completed.
Most of you know I grow a huge amount of our food, usually enough to last year 'round. That requires a lot of time all the way from starting a gazillion seedlings inside to the last of the harvesting and preserving in the fall. Guess what? I can't be in two places at once. There was a time when I was convinced I could be, but I hopefully I'm wiser now. (Can we say total burn-out?) This coming spring, summer and fall I'm going to be involved in the remodeling pretty much from dawn until dusk once our weather turns good enough to tear into things the way we want to.
The thing that will save us from starvation is that I can order organically grown frozen and canned provisions from our co-op with which to stock our freezers and pantry. We've got good sources where other supplies can be obtained, too. Sure it will cost money, but my time is worth a lot whether it's spent in the garden or up on a ladder. The downside (which I'm trying not to think about) is that the food simply won't be as high a quality or taste as good as that which I can grow right here on our own land. (Does that make me a food snob?)
I knew this was coming up this year and did my durndest last season to grow and put by more than a year's supply of many veggies. I know I have an ample supply of some of them to take us at least into this coming early winter. I made enough pickles, relishes, pickled beets, jams and syrups for two years.
I'll still get my fingers in the dirt. There is no way I can keep from putting in one or two raised beds of salad greens, scallions and spinach for our usual one big salad a day all summer. (I'll consider planting more if I can figure out a way to keep them hidden from hubby. I may be gardening by the light of the moon if I can steal out of bed at 2 a.m. without him knowing it.)
The majority of the raised beds will either be used for composting or planted with a cover crop we'll turn under before it goes to seed. The same with the field garden and pumpkin patch. All will get two or three plantings of green manure crops that will give the soil a rest while at the same time improving it.
I will still have to take care of the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries from prepping them this spring through harvesting the berries as they mature. We had such good berry production last year that I have lots of fresh frozen berries still in the freezers. We're very fond of eating the berries fresh until they come out our ears, but I'm thinking we will still have extras this year to sell to a restaurant in town. We've found berries are the one thing we can raise that bring in a decent amount of financial return for effort expended.
You have no idea how strange it feels to me not to be starting seeds or sitting at the kitchen table plotting out my gardens this year. I am going to miss gardening soooo much, but I also want very much to get the house finished. So for this one year, if it means having a finished house to decorate, live in and enjoy, I'll handle not gardening and be a happy camper.
I will be living vicariously through all of YOUR gardens so please plan on taking and posting lots of pictures all summer long!