Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Being An Elf

I've been working like an elf this week, making some presents and things. It may seem that I'm leaving it to the last moment, but this time, I'm not going to own up to my procrastination.

See, I wasn't going to make anything for Ben this year, because I thought he had all the warm things and pajama pants he could need (because he says so all the time). He was saying the other day, though, that he'd like a new hat and mittens that would match his coat, for wearing in to work, since last year's hat and mittens are older and being used for working outside and such. Well, call me a knitter, but I jumped at the chance.

I picked some nice tan wool yarn with a dark brown accent color to go with his dark brown coat, and took the opportunity to practice knitting colorwork with a color in each hand. The hat is almost finished, I'm going to finish it and wrap it up today.

Our present exchange is on Friday, since we're headed to MI to spend Christmas with family, so I probably won't have the mittens finished by then, but I'll just wrap them up with the needles and the yarn too, and finish them while we travel. The mittens are going to be flip tops, and I can't decide if the colorwork pattern should be on the flip top part or the lower hand part, or both... Maybe I'll just take the easy way out and do stripes.

Other elf-ly things I've been up to include planning baked good presents for the neighbors, and hanging stockings with care. All the wrapping and carols and candy canes and Christmas movies are really making my December lots of fun. Relaxing too!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Fried "Chicken"

Yesterday was the Christmas lunch for the Homemakers' club. It was a lot of fun, and I won a prize because I dominated at Christmas carol trivia.

The party was held at a little restaurant in town, that had "chicken" listed on the menu. Yes, I actually asked why it was in quotes, because I wanted to order it for lunch, and I had to make sure that it really was chicken and not some kind of "chicken" made of tofu or something. It actually was chicken, and it was pretty delicious too.

So, other than that, I've been up to a few different things this week. Not all of them constructive, but the cold weather does slow me down. I finished a few books that I've been wanting to read. Oh, I have to say, if anyone else is reading the Diana Gabaldon Outlander series and hasn't read Echo in the Bone yet, don't bother until the next one comes out. It's honest just a giant cliffhanger book to set up the next one.

I think the pullets have been making progress. The brown one is fitting in better and is eating among the older flock now, even if she does get scolded now and then. The white one is having a harder time of it, but I can't tell if it's because they're harder on her, or if it's because she seems to be too afraid. They do scold her and peck her, but not hard, and not really ganging up anymore, but she runs to the corner and hides at the first sign of any of the other ones pecking her, and won't come back out for a while. I'm concerned that if she doesn't start trying harder, she won't fit in at all.

I haven't made any concrete plans for today yet, just my regular Friday chores of washing the sheets and sweeping the floors. I do need some new lounge-y type pants, since I only have two pair of long ones, and one has a hole in them now. I still resist wearing work-out / lounge pants all day, because it seems just a step away from the slippery slope of a homemaker in her sweats or pajamas all day, but my jeans that I like to wear are so expensive, and not wearing them everyday around the house really drastically extends the life on them. So I at least want to make sure that my work out clothes (which I wear for working out, and for my regular work, and for relaxing in) aren't ratty or unattractive looking.

Wait, what was my point? Wow, I'm rambly today. Oh, so I should make myself some more pants. I have fabric, some nice cozy knit that I bought a while back when we lived in AZ, and I do have a couple of patterns to try out. But I just don't know if I'm ambitious enough for sewing today. I'm sure if I go work out, then I'll feel a lot more energetic and ready to get some stuff done!

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Smart or Pathetic?

Let's play a little game. Is it smart or pathetic that I...

...wait until afternoon to take my "morning" shower so that I can get right in the warmth after coming in from feeding the chickens and collecting eggs?

...keep blankets spread on the couch at all times, and sit down under them automatically?

...hand wash more dishes than usual to enjoy the hot water?

...have started exercising twice a day, just so I can get hot?

Is it me, or is this winter starting to seem like a hard one already? And this coming from someone who prefers the cold!

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Monday, December 07, 2009

I'm going to write this post with bullet points, since I have a few things to jot down and mention, and they're all unrelated and don't really fit together.

  • Columbo passed his test at the vet. He doesn't have rabies, we get to keep him, and I think that's the end of it. Right now he's drunk from the sedative we gave him beforehand, because when we take him to the vet, it's like Taz and a wolverine had a cat baby and we put him in a box. He still tried to kill them, but he was much slower and the tech was much braver than they usually are and held him firm. He kept trying to walk around and jump on things, but missed and fell, so we shut him back in his travel box for a while to keep him safe.
  • I'm making boiled dinner for dinner tonight, and I can't wait to eat it! I couldn't find any pork hocks, so I got some pork riblet things... rib trimmings, I think. I think they'll work just as well. And won't be all gross to look at, like neck bones are.
  • I've been practicing driving, getting on the highway and stuff like that. I don't really enjoy it, but I no longer shake or panic, so I'm getting much better. I have to take the neighbor to an eye appt on Wed, but I told her when I agreed to do it, we'd be taking the rural highways, not the expressway, so it's cool.
  • The feast of the Immaculate Conception is tomorrow, so we're going to the vigil mass this evening. Last year on the same day, there was a big ice storm. That was the morning I fell down the porch steps, we were on our way to church. They're calling for a big rain/snow/ice storm tomorrow too. Must just be something about Dec 8.
  • I have a Apple Crisp in the oven. I'm looking forward to it, because it's so cold and gray today. It's the perfect kind of day to come home to boiled dinner and warm apple crisp.
  • The chicken integration is still going along. The brown pullet seems to be fitting in pretty well now, but the white araucana is very ostrasized. I've been fencing them off for at least a couple hours every day to make sure that she is getting the chance to eat and drink without the others giving her trouble. I hope that they'll at least accept her enough to start letting her eat at her own feeder and waterer soon.
  • I've been loving my Wii Fit. I really want to try some of the other balance board workout games, but they're all expensive, so I can't decide which one to try. I don't want to end up wasting money on one that isn't as fun as the other ones. I've been looking at Biggest Loser, Dance Dance Revolution 3, EA Sports, All Star Cheer Squad 2, Gold's Gym, and Jillian Michaels 2010. I'm interested in My Fitness Coach too, but that one doesn't use the balance board. It does use a regular aerobics step, which would be a lot of fun to try. Anyone ever play any of these? I'm considering getting a Gamefly account, just to get to try all of these out, so I can decide which one I want to buy.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

One Day at a Time Holiday

I'm very much enjoying the method of doing one Christmas-y thing every day this month. Yesterday I finished my knitted hat for the charity drive, while I listened to Christmas music. The day before, it was a very small thing... just Christmas socks. But still very fun!

Today I think I'll get some food packed up for the post office food drive and bring some molasses cookies to my neighbor.

This weekend, we might do some gift shopping/crafting, put up the tree, make a gingerbread house kit, or watch Die Hard. Yes, Die Hard is a Christmas movie. One of the best. ;)

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Oh My Gosh!

Our Thanksgiving dinner went really well, and it was super fun to have so much company, my parents-in-law and my sister and her husband and their two kids.

BUT, on Friday, Columbo bit me, because he was all stressed out from the kids running around. It took him by surprise to get picked up, and I got chomped on my index finger. Generally no big deal, but it ended up hugely infected. So, I had to go to ExpressCare on Saturday and get a penicillan injection and a tetanus shot and an antibiotic prescription. Yesterday was the first day that I didn't have a low fever for a lot of the day, but I'm very much on the mend now.

Besides all that trouble, they made us fill out a form for Animal Control, and now they're making us take Columbo to the vet and get him cleared and send them paperwork saying he doesn't have rabies.

Makes me wish I hadn't grabbed the cat to put him in the bedroom. Oh well...

So, I'm wanting to get into a Christmas mood. I've decided that every day from now till the 25th, I'll do at least one Christmas sort of thing everyday. Anything from crafting a little or watching a Christmas movie or baking cookies or just eating a candy cane, lol. Yesterday, I started knitting a pretty bright red hat to give to the coat drive at the local food pantry. I'm thinking that today I might start putting out some of the Christmas decorations here and there.

It's a very cold and grey day, with rain and snow flurries. I spent some of the morning setting up a wind break of straw bales around the chicken coop, to help the pullets stay warmer. The original flock still won't let them into the coop during the day. I think they might be getting a little more settled in though, since sometimes the pullets even grab treats and run away and eat them now, instead of just lying in the corners of the coop when the others are eating.

For now, I separate them with a gate in the middle of the run for most of the day to make sure that the younger ones are getting a chance to eat and drink without worry, and then let them all mingle again just before dark, so that they can all get into the coop for the night. I think it's working fairly well, and it eases my mind that the pullets won't starve during this transition thing. I'm hoping to just start keeping them all combined for longer periods at a time as the weeks go. The plan is that by the time we're away for Christmas, they should be able to spend all day without being gated off. But with multiple feeders and waterers to make sure they have a fair shot.

I hope that'll work, anyway, since the neighbors are watching them for us, and they seem to forget the basics like cleaning the waterers, let alone, messing with a gate and checking on them all multiple times a day. Maybe if I were to put all the instructions in writing, they'd be more likely to be more diligent about things? I miss their exchange student, he was awesome at chicken duty...

We shook up some cream and made homemade butter for our big dinner, and there's still some left in the fridge... I can't wait to have it, so I think I might make some biscuits. Seems like the perfect butter enjoyment vehicle! If I cut the biscuits with Christmas cutters, that would be my holiday themed thing too! :)

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chicken Integration Day

Well, the pullets started laying their eggs last week, so we figured it's time to put them in the main coop with the older chickens. We waited until they were all asleep last night, then slipped the two new ones into the coop. Unfortunately, they woke up this morning all aflutter and ready to fight. It's proving to be very stressful for me so far, since the older ones don't seem to want to let the pullets even stand up and walk around, let alone eat. I'm hoping that if I just give it a day or two, they'll get themselves back in line again and have everything worked out. In the meantime, I'm closely montoring them to make sure no one gets injured or starts to bleed. This adding new chickens to old thing is harder than I'd thought it would be. I sure hope I don't have to separate them again.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

What's What Around Here

I've got yogurt incubating in the dining room and dough for crackers rising in the kitchen. I'm feeling pretty good today, it's one of those everything is nice and going right kind of days.

Have I mentioned how much I love Wii Fit? We got the Wii Fit Plus when it came out last month, and I just love it! It makes exercising so much more fun and easier to accomplish than just the treadmill does. The perfect solution for keeping moving over the winter when the garden and yard work won't need doing. And today, I beat Ben's high score on the Advanced Step game! Woo-hoo!! Of course I do it like five times to his every one and still can't ever top his scores, and he'll just come home and set a new high score his first try. But for today I wear the crown and am the queen!

It's all about rhythm, you see. And Ben has a natural God-given musician's sort of rhythm. And I don't have any. Nope, no rhythm at all. I have to think through and use my eyes and spatial abilities in order to clap in time with anything.

My elderly neighbor is back home from the assisted living home where she needed to stay for a month or so, and is doing much better. I'm planning to go visit with her for a while after I finish this post. I'm not sure if that'll mean I don't actually get around to baking the crackers today or not, but the dough will keep in the fridge till tomorrow easily enough.

Tonight is pizza night! Let the angels sing! ;)

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Mom,

Please don't be mad that I posted this picture. It's just too cute!
I realized that I'd never posted pics of the awesome t-shirts that Ma and Angie and I made for the Stitch n Pitch game in September. They say, "Knit One, Purl Two, Strike Three!" and have really cute little baseball badges with our initials and stuff.

That was a super fun night!!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ain't No Challah Back Girl

This is actually Thanksgiving prep, if you can believe I'm getting started this early! I told Ben I'd make stuffing this year, and the recipe from America's Test Kitchen that I want to use calls for a loaf of Challah bread. I figured I'd get a jump on things and make it up this week, cube it and put it in the freezer till Thanksgiving, which should help dry it out for making the stuffing.
I used the recipe for challah from Tammy's Recipes, which, as you can see, makes a massive amount of bread. I actually really enjoyed doing some bread by hand, since our every day eating bread is always made in the bread maker. My tendonitis didn't love it though, hence the bread maker for our every day bread.

Braiding the loaves was super fun as well. This dough is a real pleasure to work with, and was simple to stretch and braid.

The recipe makes two very large loaves of bread. It's a finely textured sort of bread with a yeasty slight sweet taste. Very good! Ben absolutely loved it, and is very glad that there was an extra loaf. I'm planning french toast for dinner with some of this, and the whole loaf is going to get cubed up and frozen this afternoon. The rest? I don't think it'll be a problem to find volunteers to eat it.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Dehydrating Winter Squash and Pumpkins

This year, since I have no freezer space ever, I dehydrated our pie pumpkins and butternut squash puree. This makes storage a lot easier, since it can them be kept on a shelf. It's also better than canning, because squash and pumpkin can only be canned in chunks, since the puree is much too thick for safe canning.
As always, I started by halving the squashes, scooping out the seeds and strings, and placing them cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. These roast at 350 for about an hour or so, until they're mushy when poked at... yes, that's a technical designation. :)

I scooped out all the soft roasted flesh and pureed it with the stick blender until nice and smooth. This could be done in a food processor or blender or even with a potato masher, of course.
I measured two cups of puree per tray and spread it evenly on parchment paper. I tried to keep a consistent thickness of about a 1/4 of an inch, so that it would dry evenly.
After dehydrating for about 10 hours, the puree was stiff and completely dry to the touch. It peeled off of the parchment paper very easily.

I tore the pumpkin "roll-up" into small pieces and was able to pack the two cups of puree into half-pint jars. To use this, I'll soak it in about 1 1/2 cups of warm water, until it's re-hydrated and stir it back into puree, and use it for any recipe calling for a can of pumpkin.

I thought maybe I should have added pumpkin pie spices to the puree before drying it, since that would have made the spices permeate the puree and blend together better, but this way it'll be able to be used for any pumpkin recipe, not just a pie. Maybe I'll try it that way next year too, and see which I like better.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Beppy Appleseed

I still haven't finished those apples! Last week, I had a relapse of flu or whatever it was and lost my voice, so I commited myself to spending as much time sleeping as possible. And when I wasn't sleeping, I was aimlessly watching tv. Just one of those weeks, I guess. But it worked, and I'm feeling a lot better. And my voice was back by Friday.

We spent the weekend in Fort Wayne, visiting my oldest friend to whom I am not related, Julie, and her husband, Brian. We had an awesome time, and it was just absolutely wonderful to wake up on Saturday facing a day that did not contain a single chore. Not one little dish to wash, or any animal whatsoever needing me to feed or manage it, or even a single bite of food I was responsible for planning or preparing. I just need that sometimes, and it was great.

Back to reality yesterday though. I cleaned out and scrubbed down and aired out the chicken coop and the dog house the pullets have been living in. I think the pullets will be ready to join the flock in a week or two, which will be good, because then I won't have to keep taking care of two coops and all. Moving them all around lately has been a sloppy miserable job, since it's been raining for a month. I was thrilled to have some sunshine yesterday and today. Maybe it'll help control the mudslick situations in the yard.

We have mice moving into the attic and the ceiling something awful. Neither one of us want to use poison on them for a number of different reasons, so last night at Rural King, we picked up one of the repeller things that's supposed to emit a sound only the mice can hear and drive them away. I hope it works.

So, back to the apples. This morning I went through them all and sorted them, and only found a couple really soft ones that had to get thrown out, so they're keeping really well. Ben and I are planning to make another batch of juice this weekend, and use it to start a gallon of apple wine going. I also have about 10 or 15 pounds left for dehydrating as well. Any that are left after the apple juice, I'll use to make applesauce, as well as the leftover pulp, after draining the apple juice. And I think that will be the end of the apple madness!

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Easy Homemade Applesauce

Homemade applesauce is a really easy project to do in a crock pot. I use three big slowcookers to help make it worthwhile to do a bunch at once when canning, but it could just as easily be made in a medium crock pot, for a small amount for immediate eating.

First wash the apples really well, rinsing them thoroughly. I like to use a combination of different kinds of apples, some tart and some sweet, to have a good layered flavor in the finished sauce.
Quarter them, removing stems and trimming away any bruises or worm spots or icky blossom ends, and pile them into the slowcooker.
I start them on low and turn them to high after an hour or so, so that they'll release some juice before they get too hot and won't burn. They take about five hours to cook up until they're completely softened and mushy.

I use my victorio strainer to smash them into sauce and separate the skins and seeds from the rest of the sauce. A food mill will work for this too, but I really recommend one of these if you plan to do much canning at all, since it's great for all sorts of things, and only costs about twenty or thirty dollars more than one of those food mills does, and is so much easier to use.
This is the waste that comes out of the end, made up of the tough core parts, skins and seeds. The chickens cannot get enough of this. This slimy mush is honestly, like, delicacies for chickens.
I put the sauce back into the crock pot on high, to keep it very hot for the canning. Follow the instructions in the Ball book for canning applesauce. Quarts are processed in a hot water bath for twenty minutes.
I also add a tablespoon of lemon juice to each quart, since the applesauce recipe from the Ball book calls for that when making applesauce in a pot. I don't know if that's to prevent browning or to make it more acid, so as to make it keep better. It doesn't make it taste any different, so I just put a tablespoon in each quart before I fill it with sauce, just to better safe than sorry.

My three crockpots make 8-9 quarts of sauce, and they don't have to be babysat the way that a pot on the stove does, so I'm pretty happy with this method.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

God Bless the Ball Blue Book

I may have made a tactical error. Six bushels of apples is not really too much for us and all our friends and family that we share canned good. Six bushels of apples all the same week, on the other hand... that might have been a bit much.

I like to make applesauce in the slowcooker, since it's easier for me, and I'm much much less likely to burn it. This method does limit my output to about seven quarts a day, though. So I can't really go through the apples very quickly.

I'll have plenty of sauce canned by the end of the week, and I've been drying two or three dehydrator loads every day as well, so I went browsing in the Ball Book to find another apple product or two that we might want to have.

Juice, I think, will be the perfect thing. It will be a treat to have our own natural homemade apple juice around, it'll be just what we need for making a batch of wine, since that usually calls for a press or for un-pastuerized/preservative-free juice, AND it'll take care of one of these bushels of apples in one fell swoop! (well, two swoops, since one batch is 1/2 a bushel, but we're planning two batches.)

Yay, Ball Blue Book!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

An Overwhelming Sort of Day

Today I had to go to the dr twice, once in the morning for a blood draw, and then in the afternoon for my regular appt. Don't worry, the cold/flu is completely gone, this was my regularly scheduled appt. I also have seven bushel boxes of apples sitting in my dining room, being all neverending and sisyphian. :D

I just wanted to post quickly to say I'm still here, and still getting things done, just not finding the time to blog about it. I'm squeezing this in while the noodles boil for dinner (pasta with fresh tomato sauce and herbs and veggies).

Tomorrow, I'll share my apple-craziness.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Drying Apples



Last year, I froze 19 quarts of apple pie filling, and we used all of it and would have used more, but this year lack of freezer space and ease of turning dehydrated apples into pie and crisp have convinced me that I should dry most of the apples I'm planning to use for pies and such. Ben seems to really want some frozen pie filling as well, so I might do a few bags of it, but mainly, I'm hoping to dehydrate at least two or three bushels of apples this fall. I'm planning to use another couple of bushels to make into apple sauce as well.

I'm loving my Excalibur dehydrator! It can hold about four times as many apples as the one I used last year, and it gets them all the way dry in only 4-6 hours. I'm so glad I bought it!

>Now I just have to find a good source. The apple farm down the road won't sell seconds, because they're also a cider mill, makes sense, but that leaves only the apples that they sell for a dollar a pound no matter the volume. Which would make $40-$50 bushels. The guys at the farmer's market have all raised their prices considerably, from $12 up to $20. I've been calling around to see if anyone can cut me a deal, but no luck so far.

The apples in the pictures came from the neighbor who has a few trees and sells the extras a couple of pounds at a time. A good price, and a fairly nice apple, but I need quantity! :)

I've been super sick all week. I finally don't have a fever today, but I'm not feeling precisely awesome. I was wanting to make tomato sauce, but I'm still not feeling well enough for that, so I'm going to settle for finishing all the laundry and making dinner. I think Ben will appreciate that, since he's been having to do some of my chores all week, since I couldn't go outside. It's been so wet and cold out all week, it's like a cold swamp out there. I'm feeling sorry for the poor chickies, since we can't seem to find a dry spot to put them. I hate to say it, but I guess it's time to get settled for winter soon. Seems very early, and I'd really like some sunny fall days, but I suppose it's better to be ready for the cold, and then not get it, rather than have the cold and wish we were ready for it.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Odd Combination

The traveling we've been doing lately has resulted in a bit too much fast food, which is not too good for our health or our pocketbook. So, no more eating out. But also, no money or time for the grocery store this week.

My solution on Tuesday, since I didn't have time to thaw anything out after we got home on Monday evening, was to put together what I was afraid would be a fairly odd dinner: Oatmeal, Baked Apples, and a bit of Polish Sausage. It turned out to be one of the best dinners I've made in a really long time. I was very glad with the way everything tasted together, and it was warm and very filling.

My oven was still broken then, so I decided to bake the apples in a slowcooker. It worked so well! I used the recipe here, but used oats instead of dried fruit and didn't thicken the sauce. Also, my apples were on the small side, and about only a third of the filling was used. And 2 tbs of butter seemed a bit on the oily side. I think one would probably do it just fine.

(Ben says this picture is like one from a soap opera, where they obscure the love scenes with steam.... see the hot apple love?)

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I was so cute...

Graduation Day with Cousin Greg
(Yes, that's a picture of a picture. I was too impatient to dig out the scanner, hook it up, and scan things.)
I'm glad I'm not 17 anymore, but it would be nice to have that skin back! (And my figure, lol). But I still have the cousin, and the eagerness, at least. ;)

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig


We had a nice time on our trip to MI. It was good to visit family and see every one of our nephews and neices, from brand-new little Lily to suddenly hugely tall fifteen year old Garrett. They're all so great.

I didn't get a better picture of the favors I made for the shower, but here is the one I did remember to take. They were little trees from the Arbor Day Foundation, and I made pretty little baby themed folders out of scrapbooking paper to hold them. I think everyone liked them, through there were so many leftover, since we had way more than we needed. Ben and I are certainly going to be planting trees this week around the yard.

I've been spending my morning getting all unpacked and sorted. Since we drove, we brought back quite alot of stuff with us. I have some goodies of which to take pictures and share here in the coming weeks. Of course, we brought home canning jars too. Woo, canning jars! And it never fails that I forget things, no matter how well I plan, or how much room I pack. My brother was going to share his tomatoes with me, but I forgot to bring them back home with me. Darn it!!

My oven is still broken. The repair guy came today and says that he has to order the part and will be here Thursday morning to fix it. I figure that just as long as pizza night continues as planned on Friday, I'm okay with that. I planned stove top and slow cooker meals for this week just in case anyway, so I don't really mind. With the bread maker, we can even still have fresh bread.

I'd better keep moving with my day. I to list is almost all checked off, and I think I might have a nap to sleep off this vacation this afternoon!

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Friday, October 02, 2009

All My Bags Are Packed...

...I'm ready to go.

I've been doing last minute packing sorts of things today. I can't decide what knitting projects to take with me. That's a ridiculous sort of problem, but it's true. I'm thinking the pink toe up sock will be the winner. It's time to turn the heel, so that'll keep me occupied in the car, and then, after that, it's just mindless ribbing for the cuff, which will be good for visiting.

I made a skirt for myself to wear to the shower this morning. I wanted something kinda casual, but not jeans casual, so I settled on a denim skirt. I made it by cutting the bottom off of a huge jumper that I had gotten at the Goodwill with such an alteration in mind. After I cut the bottom off, it was practically instant skirt, since all I had to do was make the cut edge into a casing, thread the elastic through, and sew it up. I also sewed the slit in the back closed some, because the skirt originally had been ankle length, but raising the hem to knee length made a slit of the original length pretty much indecent.

So, I'm just waiting for Ben to get home from work so we can take off! We're only going to be gone for the weekend, and I'm looking forward to catching up with all my blogging friends when we get back on Tuesday!

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Yesterday and Today

So, my oven's broken.
I have a pork loin roast in the fridge that I was planning to roast for dinner last night. Our friend Ken came over last night to learn about taking care of the chickens, since he's staying at our house this weekend while we're away. Which is totally awesome of him. So I wanted to make a nice dinner for us all, but then the oven wouldn't light up. Ugh. But, we went to Pizza Hut instead, so that was yummy.

Anyway, I guess I'll just take the loin and cut it into chunks or strips and cook them on the stove top, so that it won't go to waste.

I'm also working on finishing up some cleaning and packing today. We leave tomorrow afternoon, and I want to be ready to leave as soon as Ben comes home from work.

Ken's birthday is on Friday too, so I had been planning to bake him brownies or something to leave for him with a card, but I guess maybe now I could do something like fudge or no-bake cookies instead.

Other the annoying broken oven thing, and being pretty busy, I'm feeling fine. No more headache, so I guess if I did have a concussion, it was a very mild one. I'm definately going to be more careful about hitting my head! Mostly because Ben threatened to buy me a helmet.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday

I started my day yesterday like I start every other day. I walked out to the chicken coops, opened the doors, swished out the waterers, and changed the mason jar feeder for the pullets. I was carrying the empty jar back to the house and trying to pull my sleeves down, because, seriously, it is cold in the mornings now! On my way up the deck steps, I didn't pick one of my feet up high enough, caught my toe on the step, and fell right down onto the deck. I twisted so I wouldn't land right on the mason jar, and fell on my stomach and arms.

I don't remember hitting my head, but the splitting headache and the nausea later on suggested that I might have. But even if I didn't hit it on my way down to the deck, I certainly wacked it a good one on the pullet cage later on in the morning when I went out to refill waterers, collect eggs, and give treats.

My pupils stayed the right size, though the headache still hasn't really gone away. So if there is a concussion, it's not a very serious one at all.

Other things I did yesterday include making a batch of yogurt, a loaf of bread, and a ton of favors for a baby shower that's happening this weekend. I'd post pictures of the shower favors, but then they wouldn't really be a surprise. I'll be sure to take pictures when they're all put together at the party, and post them when we get back next week.

I finished up the favor making this morning, so now I can put all the scrapbooking stuff back away, and get the folding table out of the living room.

Seems like this week is just flying by.

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Monday

Wow, it's been a strange week. And since I'm kind of OCD and like to post on my blog everyday, even when I don't post everyday, I'm just going to post three times today and tell you all about it.

On Monday, I had to drive my elderly neighbor to the dr, in order for her to get her last round of some shots. Now, I've written before about how driving pretty much scares the pants off me, and I know I've documented numerous attempts at learning to be a better driver and be less scared and more confident.

Recently, I've noticed an odd change. I'm still pretty intimidated by driving, but I'm not downright/panic attack/terrified to do it. I think part of that change may have come from the fact that I've spent so many hours this summer driving the lawn mower around and around the yard. Don't laugh! I think it really helped me be more confident in the basic operation of a vehicle.

Anyway, I drive more often and practice with more confidence, but it's still not at all something I'd say I enjoy, or one of the skills that I'd list high on my resume. But I know that when the neighbor, who is generally kind and who takes care of our chickens for us everytime we're away, calls to ask if I could please take her mother, who is such a special woman and who really likes me, to the dr for a last round of shots so she'll be able to travel to Ohio to visit the grave of her son, who was a Green Beret and died in Viet Nam, without as much pain next week.... well, I know what God wants me to say and do in that situation.

So, I did it. We got loaded into her car and took off for the hospital, which is about twenty miles away. I which I could say that I drove along the highway with the utmost confidence and calm. I did do fine on the way there, but once I was in the waiting room (for 3 hours!) I started to panic about driving back home. See, the exit with the hospital is also a very busy one with a couple of big truck stops, so there seem to be semitrucks everywhere and all around. It's very intimidating, having all those big trucks racing by and trying to find a space among them.

In the end, I chickened out a bit and ended up taking the country roads home instead of getting on the highway with all the trucks. It was a much more peaceful and beautiful drive, and it was very good to learn a different route, since my doctor's office is in the same town.

I know that avoiding the highway all the time isn't really the best way to become a confident driver, but until I have more confidence with it, I'll stick to the less busy, less truck stop-y, exits.

So, Monday was an exhausting day of triumph, that I'm so glad to have gotten over with!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Homemade Crunchy Granola for Yogurt Topping


I've recently been very into fruit and yogurt and granola parfaits. I wanted a homemade version of granola to sprinkle on top, though my first instinct was to crumble up nature valley oats n honey bars. But no! I'm frugal and natural, so homemade it was.

I used this recipe from Tammy's Recipes.

It turned out really well, and made the house smell wonderful, but I think it definately needs some nuts, maybe almonds, and some pumpkin or sunflower seeds as well.

This recipe makes a complete crapload of granola as well. In a good way.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Now my hands just smell like balloons...


I was planning to roast and then dehydrate these habaneros and hot portugal peppers today, but I guess I'm just too wimpy. I got as far as slicing them in half before my throat started burning. I suppose I'll have to leave it up to Ben, if he'd like them preserved. That's fair though, because I wouldn't eat any of them anyway, lol.
I was wearing latex gloves, to protect my skin, and now the smell won't come off. Not a big deal, but it's kind of giving me a headache. I was thinking to try lotion, but I thought that might make it worse, by mixing the two smells together. So maybe lemon juice would do it. That works for garlic.
The pepper plants are all doing really fantastically. I'm pretty impressed, since this small harvest is just the first, and there are many many more out on the plants waiting to ripen. They're good while they're still green too, so I'm pretty sure we'll be able to use them all. But I'm definately sticking to the bell peppers from now on, and leaving the hot peppers to Ben!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Glowing Home

Missouri Botanical Garden Sept. 2009


It's feeling good to be home and making things around here shine again. I spent this morning cleaning up and unpacking from our trip and doing laundry. Then I picked tomatoes and put them through the strainer to make sauce. Ben wanted me to use the cherry tomatoes for the sauce too, but I think in the future, I'll just use the opalka, because this batch is taking quite a bit of cooking down. The cherry tomatoes are much waterier.

I don't think I'll can this sauce, since I doubt I'll even get a full quart, so it's just going to go in the freezer. When I finish that, I'm planning to finish cleaning the living room (sweep the floors and dust), then I might sit and knit for a bit, and maybe watch Dancing with the Stars.

The neighbor dropped by and gave me some Oak saplings to plant. She's transplanting things, and has run out of room in her yard for trees, so now she's populating mine. I don't know where I'd want to have oak trees, but I wouldn't feel right letting them die, so I'll find some good place for them.

I'm off to enjoy just being in my clean house now!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blogging

I love my blog. It's absolutely one of my favorite hobbies, and definately one that touches on all my other interests and hobbies, since they're all reported and recorded here.

I find that blogging helps to keep me on track and become better at what I do. It connects me to other people and inspires me. It definately makes me feel very good about myself to help and teach other people through my blog as well.

I'm feeling a little sorry for my neglected blog lately, since I have a hard time getting to post while I travel or have visitors, which seems to have been happening a bit lately. And now I'm heading off for a wedding in GA this weekend, so I probably won't be posting again till Tuesday. Poor blog...

But I hope to have some fun new topics and lots of interesting pictures to share, once I get back into my blogging groove again.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Catching Up

Well, my mom and my sister, Angie, have been here since last Thursday. I have been having so much fun with them! But they wore me out. I don't know if I've been out and away from my house so much ever, not counting actually going somewhere on vacation.

They dragged me to the mall (I'm so not a shopper!), and even that was fun, since I got to hang out with them. And I got a bunch of much needed shirts, because I was starting to have a hard time finding clothes in my closet that were still fit for appearing in public. I seem to only have a handful of clothes in the rotation at a time, so they wear out and become pretty used looking fairly quickly. Now I have some new things for going out, and I can retire the worn looking things for everyday and working.

We visited St. Charles, which really is awesome, and I highly recommend to anyone in the area that if they get the chance, it's really worth the time to visit the adorable shops and see all the historical sites!

Last night was our big finale, StitchNPitch!!! It was so much fun, and the shirts we made were a big hit! And quick, someone write it down: I was the only person in the group who didn't want to leave a baseball game early! It was super awesome fun, and I'll definately post more about it tomorrow. We were even on the news a little, and the reporter borrowed the phrase Angie came up with for our shirts, "Knit One, Purl Two... Strike Three!" She asked her permission first, though, and Angie was flattered.

http://www.ksdk.com/video/default.aspx?aid=108955

Today, I'm hoping to rest a little. Maybe I'll take a bath, since I have the big whirlpool tub all cleaned and disinfected, because I wanted it available for our company. It's usually very dusty, and more of a chore to get it ready for a bath than the bath is worth. I am working on the sleeves for my sweater. I made good progress on them last night at the game, and of course there's plenty of work to do too. Laundry, tomato harvesting, mowing the lawn, cleaning out the chicken coop, and generally cleaning up all my clutter from a week of not cleaning up clutter and shopping.

There's lots of exciting tidbits and pictures coming up in the week, plus a trip to GA on the weekend. It's a busy fun time!

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sleepy. But good.

The house is nicely cleaned. I didn't really have to do much, but there's always getting ready when company comes. Our porch continually looks haunted, because the spiders just rebuild every day when I knock down the webs. I'm afraid I might have to start killing some of them. I don't want to, but I think they might be the dangerous kind.

The chickens are molting, I think. We haven't gotten an egg from each of them for a few weeks now (I mean to say, we get four eggs from five hens, but not five eggs, which they generally will lay), and there are feathers all over the run. They also look a little ragged. I hope that the new pullets will start laying next month, because that'll help keep the supply up for our customers while this molting thing is going on.

I didn't go to my homemaker's meeting today. I got a little sunburned yesterday and woke up with a sore throat this morning, so I decided to stay home and knit instead. I'm going to start the sleeves of my sweater, and I'm hoping to do them both at the same time, using the magic loop method. That way, I won't have to try to keep track of the first one to make sure the second one will match.

I've spent the morning doing laundry and some baking and various chores here and there, so I'm going to settle in and spend the afternoon with my sleeves. Unless I totally fall asleep while knitting and take a nap instead. I won't deny it, that is possible today. :)

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

An Eventful Weekend

I wrote this post this morning, but couldn't get it to publish. I'll try again now. I'm about at 50% on that to-do list. Oh, and:

Congratulations to my brother, Adam, on helping to lead Midland to victory as the Best Tennis Town, USA!!

Well, it was a nice weekend, but quite eventful as well. On Friday, one of the hens was limping, and looked quite droopy and panting. We decided to separate her from the rest, since we were pretty sure they weren't letting her eat or drink. We set her up in her very own cage, and she looked much better once she had food and water to herself. By yesterday morning, she was up and active, and wasn't limping anymore, so last night, we put her back into the coop with the others. I'll be keeping an eye on her, to make sure that she continues to do all right, and get plenty of food and water.



We also had some fun this weekend. We went out on Sunday with our friend Ken to the Japanese festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Such a beautiful place! And we saw a very fun cooking demonstration.



Now I've got to buckle down and get to work. My mom and oldest sister are coming to visit, and are arriving bright and early Thursday morning, so I want to be ready when they get here. I have a homemakers' club meeting tomorrow, so I want to to get as much done today as possible. I'm planning to mow the lawn, spray down the front porch, wipe down the kitchen counters, vaccum the couches and chair, sweep and mop the floors, and set up the air mattress in my sewing room/guest room. We'll see how much of that I accomplish, but I'm hoping to do it all. :) Here I go!

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Vignette

The scene:
Our storage area, where I'm proudly showing Ben that every canning jar in the house has been sorted and stacked neatly according to size, ready for the produce.

Ben: That looks good, hone... (shifting his gaze slightly behind me) Oh My God!!
Me: (frozen in place for a second) What? What is it? What?
Ben: Get away!

Upon recieving no answer about what the danger could be, I push past him, and run away, out of the room, closing the door behind me. Trapping him in, with... it.

Of course, he wasn't really trapped, there is a handle on that side of the door as well. And "it" was just a mouse that was on the shelf behind me. I wouldn't have been as scared of a mouse, they're not what frightens me. I was afraid it was a bug getting in my hair. Or a crab or lobster. Yes, I'm terrified of them. No, you may not ask how I could possibly be scared there'd be a lobster in my attic.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

whew!

I have been spending my day in dust and cobwebs.

I started with the cobwebs all over the porches. I don't like to kill the spiders that live in the siding and on the porches. I mean, they're just doing their spider thing, and maybe they'll eat some mosquitos too. But, letting them live means huge Halloween style cobwebs developing and dangling all over the porch all the time. So I went out to knock down the worst of that and sweep the porch. Just to make it look a little less like we live in a haunted house.

Then I worked on cleaning the garage a bit, and brought in a couple of boxes of canning jars that had somehow gotten stored out there. I think that bigger spiders live in the garage than one the porch. I'm not scared of them, and don't mind them, except for that I'm terrified they'll get in my hair. Things in my hair is one of my biggest fears. Anyway, so that was pretty filthy too, and messy, since the garage is the only place in the house where my (slightly anal) organization doesn't reign.

So, since I had some canning jars to put away, I decided it was high time to go through all the jars my MIL had given me when they visited. I'd had the boxes stowed away, but I hadn't unwrapped and sorted them all out. I like to keep the jars sorted according to size and ready to grabbed when they're needed, so I got that all taken care of too. That wasn't as dirty a job, but there was plenty of newsprint all over my hands, so it felt dirty enough.

My canning jar status is something along the lines of: more quarts than two people can use, enough pints, I think, and just enough half-pints, unless I find grapes somewhere.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Chicken Scandals

Wow, the mention of scandal in the coop sure does pique interest!


The other day, in an idle moment, I tweeted about putting a webcam in the chicken coop. Well, I guess the flock has been following me on twitter, and they were pretty excited about it. When I explained I was joking, they began a campaign to show me they're ready for reality TV. Their methods include flashing passing raccoons, fermenting their feed and getting very drunk on it, and arguing violently about which one stole which one's boyfriend, which hen's turn it is to clean the kitchen, and who has formed an alliance. Number 3 actually slapped number 5 the other day in an attempt to prove to me that filming her would make good television.
Okay, the actual scandals were just that they haven't been laying as many eggs, and I'm concerned about integrating the two new ones which will be happening next month... but after the curiosity you all showed yesterday, I didn't want to disappoint. ;)

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Monday, August 31, 2009

I will hopefully be returning to my regular blogging tomorrow. Coming soon: new sweater in progress, squash bugs, and chicken scandal.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Can't talk now... Pizza night! :-D

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Feeling refreshed, with a new sense of purpose. I can't wait to get home and get back to work!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If you've noticed my tweets, you'll probably have gathered I'm in Chicago. I tagged along on a business trip. Relaxing in hotel rooms!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Linky Day

If St. Paul Annoys You...
I just read a fascinating post on the nature of obedience and leadership here.

Conversion Diary is an excellent blog that's quite well written, and always gives me tons of inspiration and lots to think over.

I'm Completely on the Ree Bandwagon
Ree Drummond has a beautiful and very multifaceted blog. And the readership and advertising to back it up. My favorite parts are the recipes and food photos.

According to the Hole in my Purse
I need to make some of these. Soon.

Only 122 days till Christmas
So I may be putting this off till Christmas 2o1o

What's more ridiculous...
spending hours and hours online watching role playing games, or spending hours of you life online watch hilariously fun shows about people who spend hours playing role playing games?

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Green Smoothies Gone PURPLE!

I'll admit it. I have a hard time eating all the fruits and vegetables I should. I do serve veggies in our lunches and plan fruit for breakfasts, but I tend to forget at dinner time to make sure there's a veggie, and even if I remember, it's not nearly the amount I should be eating. I just don't enjoy them as much as other foods, and wasn't really raised to eat them. I suspect that a lot of people have the same problem when it comes to having learn healthy eating.

So, I've been counteracting that! In addition to including the veggie sides on my weekly menus, and planning vegetarian meals more often, Ben and I have been making and drinking a weekly green smoothie. Actually, they're purple colored, but green because they include veggies as well as fruit.

Here's my favorite recipe that we've developed so far:

About a 1/2 cup of orange juice
A couple of cups of spinach
1 cucumber
4 stalks of celery
1 apple
1/2 inch or so of ginger, peeled
1 other fruit (plums, grapes, strawberries, peaches... whatever we pick up that week)
1 cup or so of frozen blueberries
the juice of one lemon or lime

I use the stick blender to blend this all up together (though I'm sure a regular blender would be better, if I had one), grinding each new addition completely and then adding the next ingredient chopped into big pieces. I leave the peels on the cucumbers and the fruits.

If, like my sister, you prefer to have protein in combination with your carbs, you could also add whey protein powder or yogurt. I've never tried that, so I don't know if it would be good or not. Personally, I'd probably just have some boiled egg whites at the same time.

We split this between us, and we each get about four cups of smoothie from this recipe. I like to make it when Ben gets home, and then we drink it while I fix dinner, because that's the time of day we're both hungriest and most likely to overeat. It makes a great breakfast too.

This smoothie is really tasty, and if you don't mind drinking thick, slightly chunky things, it makes it really simple to fill right up on the good for us stuff. One drawback I can see is that it is a bit time consuming to make, especially since everything has to be cleaned up right away, to avoid the little pieces drying on and becoming impossible to remove. So, on very busy days, it's not too practical. I've been trying to think of some ways to make it more convenient, like freezing it or maybe drying it like a leather? I'd also like to solve the problem of having to buy things to make it out of season. One thought I had was to stock up on the ingredients in bulk, either locally or homegrown, as they come into season, and then freeze that puree in muffin pans to make indivual serving purees. Then these could just be thrown together and allowed to thaw and mix in the right proportions. I'll have to experiment with that part of it, I guess.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mid Season Gardening Slump

I'm feeling a little sick of my garden lately. Maybe I'm just feeling sick of summer. I get like that about summer, I have opposite-SAD. Or it could be that I've been babying and mulching and weeding since May, and I have yet to harvest much of anything. I'm not complaining about that, because it's all definately on it's way. I'm just thinking that might account for the lack of motivation. I'll be glad when there are tomatoes to can and green beans to eat. And I can only imagine that it'll be exciting to make a pie from those sunberries when they ripen!

I've got some solutions for my slump though. Next week, I'm going to be able to get away for a couple of days. Ben's driving to Chicago for a meeting, and I get to tag along (because he's a super-awesome husband) and stay at the hotel. Pretend I'm a lady of leisure and clean the dirt out from under my nails. We'll be staying by the lakefront, so I'll really be getting away from it all.

And in a few weeks, my mom and sister will be visiting, and there's really nothing like visitors who will show an interest to jumpstart my enthusiasm for my projects.

I bought some beautiful magazines last week about homemaking called Seasons at Home, and they came today. I'm excited and tempted to jump right in and read them all, but I think I'll just start with one, and save the rest for reading while I relax in the car and at the hotel next week.

I ignored the garden today, and cleaned and baked instead. Then I knit, and I un-monkeyfied the baby sweater I'm making. I just have to put on the neck ribbing, sew on the buttons and weave in the ends, and it'll be all finished. Then I might break out that beautiful new wool I got on Saturday and seen how the colors will look knit up together.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cinderella

This morning I made the mistake of asking Ben if there was anything he'd like me to take care of today. Of course, out of all the things he could have wanted, which is usually nothing, when I ask him most days, he asks me to clean the baseboards.

I hate cleaning baseboards. The only up side to it is that whenever I scrub on my hands and knees with a bucket around, I get to sing "Oh, Sing Sweet Nightingale" and pretend I'm in Cinderella. Oh sure, sometimes I mix things up a bit and sing "In My Own Little Corner".

Anyway, I got the job half done, with the other half for tomorow. That was pretty much my big accomplishment for today. I might have gotten all of them scrubbed, but I got distracted in the kitchen, and wiped down all the appliances and cupboards and cabinet fronts. I'm glad to have that done, since I'll be having company in a couple of weeks! It's time for a push in cleaning house.

Last night, I finished the baby sweater I've been working on, but it would only have worked if my in-laws were to have a monkey-baby. Much too long in the sleeves. I ripped it back, and I'm trying again with a lot fewer plain rounds between the raglan decrease rounds. When I started taking it back, Ben asked, "don't you want their monkey-baby to be warm?" He's hilarious, that Ben.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

New Yarn

On Saturday, after having new tires put on the car, Ben and I went into St. Louis to pick up tickets for the Cardinals' Stitch n Pitch game. My mom and sister are going to be in town, and we wanted to make sure we had the tickets in plenty of time. And while we were at an awesome yarn store, I could hardly resist picking out some new yarn. This wasn't really a spur of the moment purchase though, since I already knew just what I wanted.

I want to make myself a light grey sweater with a fair isle band of thistle flowers across the chest, so I went to pick out the yarn for that project. They had to order the light grey for me, but I was able to bring home the colors I want to use for the color-work. I'm really looking forward to playing around with these and coming up with the design I want to use.

This sweater project is behind a couple in line, first being the baby sweater I'm hoping to finish today. And I have a large gauge wool from the craft store I used to work for in AZ that I want to use to make a sweater for myself, as practice before I start this one, with more complicated techniques and more expensive yarn.

Here's a post from three years ago when I bought the yarn I'm going to make my first sweater from. The store was going out of business, and this wool is so soft and lovely, I'm still hyped, three years later, about that deal. Anyway, I had a sweater in progress for Ben from that yarn, but I ripped it out before we moved here, because it came out way to large, and he wouldn't have worn it. His is supposed to be black, red and white, and someday I might start again and make it. Mine will be pink, black and white. I'm hoping to start that project today, if I finish the little baby sweater that's sitting here looking forlorn because I'm planning other projects.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

State of the Homestead Address

I had a dream last night in which I was asking my Boston in-laws, who are both landscape architects, whether they think to themselves as they work, "I'll put a happy little tree right there, and a happy little shrub right there!" And that struck me as so funny that I laughed out loud in real life and woke myself up. And if my Boston in-laws happen to be reading this post, they probably don't want to read the whole thing, because there are spoilers ahead.

I completely forgot to post yesterday. I meant to, but I guess I got too wrapped up in my knitting to get around to it. Anway, I was planning a bit of a mid-week "state of things" post, so I'll just do that today.

Tomatoes are setting fruit and look like they'll do pretty well. A lot of the Opalkas are mis-shapen, cresents and bulbous tops with skinny pointy ends. We're figuring that's because of the dry spell we've been having, and I've instituted bi-weekly deep waterings. The Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes are heavy on and starting to ripen. I'm excited to get my dehydrator going on those.

The butternut squash have started to set they're squashes, and honestly is there anything cuter in the garden than a baby squash? They're just like the big ones, but, well... little.

There's six really good-sized birdhouse gourds on the vine right now, and I suppose there could still be more to come as well.

The lady godiva squash are ripening, but they seem a bit undersized, so I hope they actually have seeds inside. There are a ton of them though, so as long as they do have seeds, there should be plenty to eat.

My cucumbers that have not been eaten by weeds are starting to ripen. I think I'll be able to pick some early next week. I didn't plant too many, since this year we just want them for eating fresh, not for pickling. We have plenty of last year's pickles in store still.

The two watermelons have one baby watermelon between them. It's a little bigger than a softball right now, and I really hope that the vines don't die and nothing happens to it, because I really want to eat watermelon from my own garden. Even if it is just the one. I think it's so slow going and un-prolific because of the very wet and cool summer we had up until a few weeks ago. It wasn't till the temps went up that they started growing much.

The pepers are doing well. I learned that one of the ones I thought was a King of the North is really a Hot Portugal. So that makes five of each of those two kinds. They all have peppers on the plants, though the plants are very small still. But they are very healthy looking.

The carrots seem to be doing their thing. I'm still tempted to pull them, but it's still not time.

The contender bush beans I planted in one of the empty spots in the yard (from the chicken coop, they go back to grass pretty quickly, but I wanted to try an experiment on this one) are doing pretty well. The grass is sneaking in a bit, but not as bad as in the garden, ironically. And because the rows are only three feet long, it's easy to sit on one side and weed the whole row. The bush beans I planted by the sunflowers in the new plot on the east side of the yard are doing well too, coming back after a DamnBunny decided they were it's own salad bar. They have to get weeded though, since the grass is encroaching.

The chickens are well. I got a few very small eggs from them last week (the mature ladies, not the pullets), so I'm a little concerned that some of them might be considering retirement. I'd think it's much too soon for that, but they did lay very steadily all winter long, so maybe it's a possiblity. I might have to threaten them. The pullets are doing just fine. I'm still a little worried that they might pick on Matilda a lot when they're all together, since she'll be the only white one and the only Araucana. I'll just have to take care of that when the time comes though. For now, I'm watching them for signs of pullet eggs, but I'm thinking it'll be at least Sept. and maybe Oct. before we have to have that little talk about they're changing bodies.

My tan is ridiculous. My family would be surprised to see me tan, since I'm notoriously pale and burn-y. But even through the spf 50, I've gotten qute the farmer's tan. It's Agri-tastic.

I've been knitting baby things for my Boston in-laws new baby. I wanted to get a layette done in time for the shower that's going to be in Oct, so that means knitting in the summer, when I usually save that for the winter. But I prefer the excuse to break out my needles! The little one's due in December, so I thought warm things in newborn -3 mos sizes would actually get used, instead of grown out of. I'm using the Sweater Workshop as the instructions in order to practice for when I make my own sweater with those instructions. I'm hoping to finish the baby sweater today, and then I'm might cheat and start my own sweater. Purely becasue the method will still be fresh in my mind! Not at all because I'm sick of gardening and just want to knit all day instead.

A couple of years ago, my dad bought me a table top weaving loom at an auction sale, and I've moved it from house to house, knowing that I'd never get rid of something he'd pick out for me, knowing how much I'd like it, even if I had no idea how to use it. Well, I got it out last week, and tried threading it from my little knowledge of weaving and how it works. I broke some of the nuts that hold it together though, so I'll have to replace those before I can actually try it. In the meantime, I emailed the company, NSI, and asked them if I could somehow get the instructions. And even though they haven't made it for years and years, they dug up the instructions and are sending a copy to me. I doubt replacement nuts are possible though... I'll have to go to the hardware store instead.

I've dug some of the potatoes. I was thinking that I'd just dig them a few at a time as they were needed, but a couple of them have been gnawed and chewed, so I'm thinking my best choice may be to get them all dug as soon as I can and rescue them from the mice. I'd like to get an outside cat to take care of the mice, but Ben doesn't want another cat, and I can admit that it hardly seems fair to have three spoiled indoor cats, and then get another and make it work for a living as a mouser. Not that the three we have wouldn't be great mouse catchers, it's just that the mice know better than to come into their territory.

Our friend Ken brought us some figs from his mom in Georgia, along with lots of peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant. The figs and tomatoes I dried, and the cucumbers are a wonderful snack. They're the true English cucumber kinds and so tender and nice. The hot peppers Ben turned into a pepper sauce the other night, fumigating us from the kitchen and making my nose and eyes burn. He says it's delicious.

I'm very excited because I learned that I can buy and download recent episodes of Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs from Amazon. Now if only Food Network would do the same with all of their shows. Or better yet, put all the Food Network programming on Fancast, then all my tv withdrawl would be cured.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunberries - A week later

I wouldn't usually bother to post plant updates just a week a part, but these crazy plants grew so much since I took a picture last week, that I just had to go take another picture and show you all. The one above is the same picture I posted last Tuesday.

And here are the pictures that I just took this morning. I swear, you can practically see this thing growing. I had to hold the camera way higher in order to get all of it into the picture too.

This is just two plants, and I had them spaced two feet apart, but maybe I should have given them more room. They're starting to crowd the pepper plants in the row next to them a bit. If they keep growing so crazy, I might have to try to stake them away from the peppers or something.
Still, none have ripened, so I don't know yet if this big growth spurt is a really great thing, or if it just means more berries that we might not like.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Root Beer Tasting

Ben and I love to have taste tests. When we lived in AZ, we once had a blind taste test to decide the best root beer that our local grocery store carried. I think that one was mainly so I could prove that I could tell the difference among them by smell. I can be a know-it-all sometimes. As if you all haven't noticed! :)

Well, the farm stand down the road has about a million different kinds of root beer to choose from, so we had another root beer tasting. This time we didn't bother to set it up to be a blind test, since we didn't really have any vested interest in any of these unknown-to-us brands.

Of course, any tasting needs high class palate cleansers.

The winner! Sioux City had the most genuine "root beer" flavor. Black Cow proved to be too sweet and fake tasting for Ben's taste, and Baumeister had a licorice/anise/mace hit that was way too much for me. The Abita was a very close second, but we both agreed that it was a bit too sharp and hard flavored. We take our root beer seriously around here.
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Now that I've given a peek into the incredible weirdness of our household, here's an update on things around here:
I got a load of manure delivered yesterday. I was thrilled. I can't wait to amend things with it. Well, soil, I guess, I can't think what else I'd amend.
I'd like to do some knitting today, there's some babies on the way that need warm things. But my hands and wrists have been in an awful lot of pain lately. That's from my thyroid disorder, but I don't know how to treat it other than painkillers, which I try to avoid. It's very frustrating, because my hands will cramp and spasm, so if anyone has suggestions on that one, I'd be happy to try them.
I made cupcakes in trade for the guy who delivered my manure for me yesterday (he got paid by the place that had it to take it away, so it was a pretty good deal for him, since then he had a place to dump it), and there's a few left. I tried to get Ben to take them to work, but he didn't want to. Oh well, guess I'll just have to eat one. Too bad.
The sunberry plants have grown so much in the week since I posted the picture. I'll have to take another, I think they're half as big again in just a week. I do hope we like eating them, because we'll get plenty.
There are lots of tomatoes ready to ripen and tons of hot portugal peppers on the plants. I'm glad to see that attempt going well. And the potatoes are almost ready to dig!

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Friday, August 07, 2009

"The time has come", the Beppy said,

"to talk of many things..."


I'm really looking forward to seeing all these sunflowers bloom. They'll be so cheerful looking! There's two rows to the right in the photo as well, that I planted two weeks after these very large ones were planted. I'm hoping that some of them will be blooming in Sept for my sister's birthday when she and my mom visit.
Work is continuing on my plan to put lasagna style garden beds everywhere it's hard to get the lawn mower. I weed wacked very close to the ground, soaked lots of newspapers and cardboard, and started layering.

On top of all that, I piled on the grass clippings. That's all the layers I have so far, but someday maybe I'll get some manure. A girl can dream, can't she? Actually, a guy with a horse farm not far from here is supposed to be delivering some this weekend, so that'll be great if he follows through.

Gooseberry Tart. I've had these berries in the freezer since last summer when we house-sat for the neighbors and picked their bushes when they were gone. Ben liked it, but I didn't care for it at all. Those things are sour! It was like pickled cherries or something. I won't be planting gooseberries any time soon.

I embroidered these napkins as part of the Blue and Brown swap I was in recently. I made a set of four, and soon I'm planning a how-to post on an easy way to embroider the corners of napkins. I loved these so much, I really had to talk myself into adding them to the swap box. I'll have to make myself a set before fall, and I'm thinking that a matching table runner with squirrels would be really great. I love squirrels.
I did more work on the garden bed around the deck this morning, and I'm headed out to hang my laundry as soon as I finish this post. Other than that, the big job today is just cleaning up the livingroom a bit. It's a bit of a mess because Ben was gone all this week, and I live like a 15 year old boy when he's away. But he's home now (YAY!), so I'll get things pretty and relaxing in time for the weekend. Maybe I'll make some pasta salad as a treat for him later. There's a really yummy looking healthy recipe from Ellie Krieger in my latest Food Network Magazine.
Guess I'd better get on with my day, so I can pretend to be a lady of leisure later on and knit while Ben does pizza night! Have I mentioned before that I love Pizza Night? :D

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Extreme Sheep LED Art

Crazy! But it really made me smile.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

But it's a Self-Righteous sort of Sore

I have been exhausting myself with the yard/garden work this week. I didn't sleep very well last week, so I figured that if I worked extra hard outside, I'd be too tired to sleep poorly. It's working so far, and I'm getting quite a lot done.

Plus, I had the brillant idea to let the lawn get really long before I mowed it last time, so we'd get lots and lots of mulch to rake up. Well, it worked, but now I've got rake and pick up all that two acres worth of grass mulch! I'm grateful for all the grass clippings though, because they've really been helping me with starting the new lasagna beds.

I've pretty much decided that anywhere it's hard to mow and gets long and messy, I'm going to add a new lasagna garden bed. Eventually, that'll include all around the house, under the fences at the end of the driveway, all around the back deck, and around the clothesline. For now, I've done the one around the forsythia that I posted on Monday, and one along the back of the house/side of the deck. That one is eventually going to be very big, encompassing the brick lined herb bed and maybe stretching around the deck, in one big garden bed blob. But for now I started with the corner and worked my way out.

After raking and picking up grass clipping piles by hand, I've convinced myself that I definately need a grass catcher for the lawn mower! I hope Ben did enough raking this past weekend to come to the same conclusion. Though he did mention what a good workout it is. I can't argue, but it's so time consuming! I could be weeding or reading! hehehe.

Oh, the title of this post! Do you all ever get that glowing kind of self-righteous feeling when you work really hard? Like being prideful of the aches? I do that all the time. I have a suspicion that that's why people garden. Or workout. Or maybe I'm so adverse to physical activity that it's just me, and other people actually enjoy the activity, not the sanctimonious high afterward?

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sunberry Plants




This year we're growing a new plant for our garden. We bought these Sunberry seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. I started them inside in the spring along with the peppers and tomatoes. I had started four of them, but the were much later to germinate than the others, and since I was being impatient, I put them out at the same time. Two of the four survived, which impresses me actually, because all six of the California Wonder pepper plants died a sad and lingering death. No, I don't torture plants intentionally, it just happens.

Anyway, the sunberries are doing particularly well with the hotter temperatures, and the fact that I weeded those beds, and mulched them well. They might also be responding to the Plant-Tone organic tomato fertilizer that I put on them.

I have my doubts about fruit from an annual plant, but the verdict so far is that they do grow well, they will produce a TON of berries the same summer they're planted, and they're actually very pretty plants. As for taste, I'll be sure to post again when they ripen, so you all can see them, and I'll report on whether we actually like to eat them or not.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

I've made my bed....


Now, what will I plant in it?

I couldn't get the lawn mower betweent the forsythia bushes anymore without messing up their mulch everytime, now that we have the nice big riding mower. So I decided that instead of always having to come back and re-mulch and neaten it all back up, I'd make the entire area around and between them into a flower bed.
So this morning I put together the start of a lasagna bed in the area. I started by soaking piles of newspaper and paper bags in the wheelbarrow, then laid them all out right on the grass, in the general shape I was going for. I laid the paper about 10-20 pages thick, on average. Mostly I just used the sections, either folded or opened out and doubled.
I piled grass clippings on top of the papers, all around. I guess I'll add manure and leaves when I get some, but for now, I have so many grass clippings, I could mulch the entire front yard, so I piled them on.
I don't really know what I'll plant here. I mostly just wanted to keep it neater, and not have to try to get between with the mower anymore. I thought that some daffodils would be nice in this area, since the forsythia bloom around the same time, and it would make a pretty little spring picture, but the rest of the year should have something blooming there too, I suppose. But it's got to be something that can handle being ignored, since I'm terrible at tending flowers. And probably something short, since the bushes are still very small, and I'd like to keep this area neater looking than my jungle-y zinnias turned out. Any thoughts?

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Now I've done it...

I joined Twitter. I couldn't help it. I love texting. And I was so intrigued.
My user name is BeppyCat, if anyone wants to join me!
http://twitter.com/BeppyCat

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Congratulations Adam!


And Midland, MI!
Adam's video has helped Midland rank in the top three in the Tennis Town USA competition. Thanks to any of you who took the time to vote, as well.
I'm super proud of my little brother!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apple Cider Vinegar from Peels and Cores

It's not quite apple time, but almost, so I thought I'd send anyone who's interested over to my article on making vinegar using the scraps from apple pie filling and other apple processing.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1918744/homemade_apple_cider_vinegar_from_scraps.html?cat=22

And here's one about stocking up on meals ahead of time, since the canning should be going full swing soon. If it isn't already!
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1918736/make_meals_in_advance_to_save_time.html?cat=22

Enjoy!

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ugh...Just, Ugh...

There's some sort of hideous fungal monster incubating under the straw mulch in the garden. I found it today while I was weeding the squash hills. I'm repulsed and drawn to it at the same time. It's so... uck. I'm scared.




So, it's some sort of hard and waxy type of thing. Not that I touched it with my bare hands, but that's how it seemed through my gardening gloves. And it's it clumps and clusters that seem to be sort of rooted in the ground.
Does anyone know what this is? Should I try to get it out? Can I just cover it back up and pretend it's not there and hope it doesn't find it's way into my nightmares? It won't kill my squash, will it?
Thanks ladies, I know I can count on you for comfort when confronted with the scary underworld of gardening.

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