Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Resolutions

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

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

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

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

~ Redecorate Decorate our bedroom.

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

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

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

~ Ban potato chips from my life.

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Saturday Between Two Wednesdays

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * *

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

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

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays!

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


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nearing Hibernation Mode

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Snow Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~  The toilet needed cleaning.

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Unrelated Thoughts Bouncing Around In My Head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 15, 2013

It Is Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Three Cheers for Me

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

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

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

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

I did cross-hatching through these border sections.

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

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

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


Monday, December 9, 2013

Where the Sun Don't Shine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Warming the Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want a look at the recipe?  Here it is.

* * * * * * * *

Fruit Cobbler

4 cups fruit (peaches, apples, berries)

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

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

1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

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

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

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

* * * * * * * *

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

When Did She Find Time to Write a Book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

More Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Notta Lotta . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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