Thursday, December 16, 2010

Six Pack Gift Baskets

I was searching around earlier this week for something to use as a container for the goodie baskets we put together for the neighbors.  I didn't want to buy some cheap plastic thing that they'd really probably see as clutter, but the gift budget just isn't large enough for a nice $10 basket X 4 neighbors either.

Then I saw my solution!  Ben had a empty six pack holder on the cupboard and I saw how nicely that would work to hold a collection of different treats.

I painted them up, designed some new labels, an ta-daa!  Recycled gift baskets with a cute sort of look, and no extra clutter that was made in China. 

I'm feeling very accomplished today, now that I have them all put together.  Now for the fun of delivering them!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chocolate Spoons


There's been lots of food crafting going on around here for the neighbors' gift baskets.  There's actually been a lot of crafting in general going on, but much of that is Christmas surprises, so I had to really think about what photos are "blog safe" right now.

These spoons were fun and super easy to make.  It took a 11.5oz bag of milk chocolate chips to dip all 48 spoons that came in the pack.  I love it when things work out so well like that!

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas Days

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/6071898/free_embroidery_pattern_felt_applique.html?cat=24

My goodness, it's cold here!  The chickens are protesting vigorously.  I've explained to them that they have a heat lamp, which is more than I have, but then they offered to trade the heat lamp for the cozy comforter and hot chocolate they know I'm holding back from them.

I don't mind the cold as much when I remember that Christmas is coming around the corner.  It helps put the temperatures in perspective when one of the best things about winter is going on.

St. Charles, MO Nov. 2010
Don't you want to just move in there!

It's so easy for all the fun and joy of Christmas to slip right past this time of year.  It seems like time goes so quickly!

To combat this, I've challenged myself to be in the moment more, and to do at least one Christmas thing every day.  Even if I just put on a Christmas cd while I make dinner, or eat a candy cane.

I've been keeping track of my "Christmas things" by posting them everyday on my personal Facebook page.  Which I'm sure is really getting my friends and family into the holiday mood as well, lol.

St. Charles, MO Nov. 2010
I'd live right down the street in this one.  We could be neighbors!

Today, I'm going to the Christmas Luncheon for the county extension club.  We're going to the same place we went last year, the one that serves "chicken".  Misplaced quotation mark make me uneasy, but it was really good fried chicken!

I'm really hoping for Christmas Carol trivia again this year.  I dominated last year.  But in a very loving, spirit of the season, sort of way.

One of my recent AC crafting projects.  The article is here.
While you're there, feel free to head over to my profile and nominate me for a contributor award as well!  Strictly if you enjoy my articles and think I deserve the recognition, that is.

I hope your winter holiday prep is going well too!  Take some time, eat a candy cane.  Nothing can beat that bright cool rush of peppermint.  I would never bite a candy cane when I was growing up, but recently, I've discovered that I love splintering them into shards and sticking my teeth together with the candy.  Good thing for my teeth they're a once a year treat!  So, what's your favorite way to eat a candy cane?

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Big Christmas Surprise

While we were completing construction on the new chicken coop, we bought a sawzall for some certan tasks that made it so much easier.  Ben decided that that would be his Christmas present budget, and no amount of arguing would change his mind on the matter. (I like to give presents!)

So, I set to brainstorming gifts that I could give that would fit the criteria of $free$.

This is the first one I came up with.  We haven't been able to park in the garage since... well, I don't remember ever parking in the garage since we moved here.

I've been sorting and cleaning it a bit at a time, here and there, but since he had to be away last night, I decided to do a big push yesterday and today to get it all cleared and ready for the car.

I won't be able to save this surprise for Christmas, but I think he'll like all the more for being early!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rolling Along

Poor neglected blog!  I'm so sorry, dear readers, for the desert of posts my blog has become lately.  I really don't know what the problem is.

It's not a lack of interesting things going on. Just yesterday, I made Gingerbread Scones from a new recipe I saw in the Dec. issue of Scrapbooks etc.  (They turned out yummy. Sorry, I can't post the recipe, copyright and all that. It's on page 74 if you want to check it out.) And there's always the silly things the chickens and cats do, if I'm looking for blog fodder.

It's not so much that I don't have time.  My phone takes passably good photos, so it makes it pretty convienient to document the fun and post.  Even the longer mutiphoto how to posts don't take *that* much time to put together.

I haven't lost interest, I'm still very proud of my blog and think about keeping it up often.

I'm afraid that in the end, the problem might be some sort of writers' block.  I just seem to be having a pretty hard time finding my starting point. Figuring out how to make real every day life bloggable.  I've never had trouble with that before, but it just seems like lately, my activities aren't fitting my blog template.

Maybe I need a site redesign?
Or an assignment?
Or theme blogging days?
Or to just be a better enforcer of myself and to stand o5ver me till I get that blog posted upon, young lady!

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Whatever you are, be a good one.
-A. Lincoln

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Squashed!

I'm tempted to name the photo above, "Life-cycle".

We got a great deal on squash this past weekend when the feedstore was clearancing the butternuts and acorns along with the carving pumpkins and decoartive gourds.

We picked up a dozen butternuts for 50 cents each, which came out to about .23 cents a pound.  Anytime produce can be gotten for under a quarter a pound, I'm there!

I went to work roasting and pureeing them.  I like to preserve squash by dehydrating the puree on parchment paper in 2 cup increments.  That way it's all set to go and really easy to re-hydrate and use in any recipe calling for a can of pumpkin.

Of course, I can't have fresh squash puree on hand and not bake up a pie.  I'm so glad to have more squash to store again. I was saving the last of last year's for Thanksgiving, but now I'll have plenty for "just because" and even some to take home and share at Christmas.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Dead mouse in my hallway!?

Yep, that's about it. So gross.

I almost touched it, thinking it was one of those pretend mice for the cats to play with. *shudder*

I'm assuming the sonic mouse repeller things upstairs in the attic drove it down here, where the cats made short work of the poor little thing.

Go cats!

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Free Range Baby!

I've been trying to let the chickens have some free range time while there's still grass and bugs to find. Looking forward to the snowy winter days ahead has made me want to take full advantage of what sun and green growth we still have for now.

I'll be home and in and out of the house all day today, so it seemed like a great opportunity to let them have a full day of freedom.  I have to keep a close eye out when they're ranging so I'll be able to stop them from ranging too far, and keep them safe if maurading dogs lay seige to the coop.

But they love getting out of their fence.  I guess the grass just seems greener.  It makes them so happy and active, it really seems worth having to check on them thirty million times a day.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Windy, Windy, Windy Day

Like my pumpkin?  It only looked this good for about six hours.  Now the cat's all collapsed in and it's just a big open spot.  Oh well, next year I'm skipping the stencils and going with a face. Best just to keep it classic.

So, it's crazy windy today.  As in, it feels like the roof is lifting off and the windows are rattling windy.  The cats have retreated under the beds, into the closet, and into the shower.  I'm starting to wonder if they know something I don't.  Pickles likes to follow me around trying to get me to sit down so she can have a lap to glue herself onto.

Is it sad that the cats have worse anxiety than I do?

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Really?

I'm not sure if I even want to understand how something like this happens.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trick or Treat at the Homemakers' Club

Today is a meeting of the county extension club, and we're having a recipe exchange potluck lunch.  I brought brownies with fudge icing, and loved the opportunity to use my cupcake stand.  It's always fun to get the chance to use my neat serving pieces and fun decorations.

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Making Monogrammed Handkerchiefs

I wrote some articles for Associated Content using my dad's emboidered handkerchiefs as an example, so if anyone is interested in the methods I used, these links might be interesting to you.
How to Transfer Embroidery Designs to Fabric with an Ordinary Pencil

How to Embroider on the Corners of Fabric the Easy Way

My thoughts on giving handmade handkerchiefs as gifts: Crafted Gifts: Handkerchiefs

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Birthday Gift for My Dad

My dad's birthday was Monday, so last week, I put my crafting brain to work. He, of course, insists that we shouldn't buy him presents, but he can't object too much to homemade things. 

I made these monogrammed handkerchiefs from the non-worn parts of a really nice cotton sheet that I got at the Goodwill.

The edges are finished with a rolled hem on my serger, and I did the embroidery in a backstitch with three threads of embroidery floss in royal purple (his favorite color).

The gift was a success, and he tells me he'll actually be using them, not just saving them for "good".  I was happy to hear that, since he's a pretty notorious saver of things.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

October is My Favorite Month

Wow, I really stalled on the blog last week.  I don't know the last time I've gone a whole week without posting.  I don't even have any good excuses even.  I just didn't post.  Maybe I haven't been doing enough interesting things, if I don't automatically think, "I need to post this on my blog!".

I have been feeling antsy lately.  I want to run away from home and do something fun.  I think it must just be that the beautiful October weather has started, and it's my favorite kind of weather, cool, but sunny, and I just want to get out in it.  See the fall colors and find something new to experience.  Fall always seems like a time for change, so I tend to get that wanderlust sort of feeling when the days get cooler.

I've been harvesting herbs before the killing frosts come, so I'm going to be working on infused oils for lip balms and skin salves.  I'm pretty excited about some of the ideas I have.  I hope they work out, since I'm new to the herbal prepartions thing, but even a failed experiment is a learning experience, right?

The chickens have been laying pretty well.  It's been so awesome to get to eat eggs again!  And Ben's glad not to have to say no to the new customers that ask him at work if he can sell them eggs.  They have been getting out of the fence alot the last couple of days.  It's really my fault, because we didn't have the time to electrify the fence before we brought the chickens home, and we haven't done it yet, so they push against the netting and get out.  I know I should never have let them into it without it being electrified, because it'll be harder for them to learn when we do get it set up.  I'm planning to move the fence, then set up the electricity, and maybe that will help them to learn better.  I would just let them free range, but I do worry about them bothering the neighbors, or dogs coming into the yard.  The electric fence is actually more to deter pests than it is to keep the chickens inside, so I really ought to get it set up sooner than later.

The garden's just about finished, we still have "shelly" beans to harvest when they're ready, and the garlic should be coming soon, so we'll plant that and be done. I don't know if I'd call my gardening a success this year or not.  I would say that's it's been the perfect learning experience for the lesson that you only get out how much effort you're willing to put in.  As in, not too much. All summer, I'd think to myself that it was way too hot to work outside (which it was, 103, hello!), and so every day the garden didn't get weeded.  Maybe next year I'll try to get out there at 4am, and then just go back to sleep during the day or something.  But I'd say that this year, the St. Louis summer beat me.

So, here's hoping life will get bloggable again!  Or I'll at least find the inspiration needed to make decluttering and fall cleaning seem bloggable. ;)

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Straining the Tinctures

I actually should have strained them a few weeks ago, when six weeks was up, but I'm sure that a little extra time didn't hurt anything.

The lavender came out smelling so super good and sweet.  I've used it to make some room/linen spray and it's really great.  To make a tincture into a scent spray, you just mix some with distilled water in a sprayer.  Shake it up before each use.  Lavender is antiseptic and such, so I think it'd make a great natural surface spray for the bathroom too.

The other tinctures are chamomile blossom and lemongrass.  I'm going to have order some bottles before I strain the yarrow and catnip tinctures.  I haven't saved up enough used glass bottles to store it all.  Technically, tinctures should be stored in dark glass, but I'll just make sure to keep them all stored out of the light.

I'd totally link to the post where I set up all the tinctures, but I'm posting from my phone.  If you're curious, that post would be in the archives right around July 1st of this year.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Polishing Silver

My sister got me this lovely necklace for Christmas one year, and I just love how classic, yet still unusual it is.  One thing about it though, is that it is the kind of chain that twists up in my hair pretty badly if I wear it with my hair down.

I forgot about that and wore it out one night, and had to take it off, it kept tangling and pulling my hair that badly.  Well, I put it in the glove compartment for safekeeping, and promptly forgot it was there.  After it'd had spent a number of damp months in the car, I found it and thought i'd ruined it, it was so black with tarnish.

Yesterday, I cleaned and sorted all my make up and hair things and jewelry, and I decided it was about time to try to get it cleaned!

I don't have any silver polish around, so I searched for homemade silver cleaner and found this method on Good Housekeeping's site.

You line a glass or plastic container with tin foil, sprinkle in some washing soda, and pour in boiling water.  It makes a bubbly fizzy mire, and causes a chemical reaction that makes the tarnish jump from the necklace to the foil.  It was fun.  Like chemistry without grades.

After 15 minutes, you can rinse it off and dry it with a soft cloth.  And Good Housekeeping says to wear rubber gloves. So wear rubber gloves.

You can see that it's much cleaner, though there is still some tarnishing along the textured chain, but it was so heavily tarnished I'm not surprised it will need a second go round.  I'm going to gather up my other silver things and do it again.  But I might wait till Ben's home so he can join in the fun. ;)

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A few weeks ago, we got to go to a really fun family day event at Purina Farms.  They had these great dogs demonstrating herding with a cute little flock of ducks.  I was amazed at their concentration!

I'm using an older pic in today's post because nothing very fun has been going on around here.  I've been sick with a bladder infection/uti/maybe kidney stones thing, and I had to go to the dr for the 2nd time in 2 weeks yesterday. And now I'm starting my second round of antibiotics.

So, I'm stuck on the couch and there hasn't been much baking or gardening able to happen.  I have been working on my lacey raspberry colored sweater and I've made a ton of progress.  But honestly, that wouldn't make a very good photo, because they'd probably look the same as the couple I posted a couple of weeks ago.  I am ready to start the bottom ribbing today, so maybe I'll have a good progress picture to post of that tomorrow or Friday.

In the meantime, I'm drinking tons of water, getting lots of rest, and enjoying the fall premieres of my favorite shows.  I hope I get better soon, I'm so sick of fevers and backpain!

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Friday, September 17, 2010

I think I'll call him Sam.



I almost put the photo behind a link for the squeamish, but I don't actually have anywhere that I can upload photos and link to them to hide them right now.  But don't worry, it's just a picture.  It won't hurt you.

I, on the other hand, have to live with him.  This gigantic spider lives outside our back door in the living room.  He likes to place his nest so he's framed by the window pane when I look out from the couch.  Very thoughtful of him.

At first I tried to dispatch Ben to kill him.  (I wasn't about to do it, he's like 3-4 inches long.  Counting his legs.)  Ben insists it's not the kind of spider that will give me necropsy.  It's just an orb spider, he says.

Well, he's right, Sam's an orb spider.  I'm no expert, but my googling does prove that Sam is not venomous.  Also, every morning he takes down his web and builds a new one.  He caught my attention this morning while I was cleaning and he was doing just that.  I hadn't ever seen him building before.  Well, generally I try not to look at him, averting my eyes and repeatedly telling myself that I'm an eco-minded lady who sees the value and beauty in all of God's creations.  And trying to convince myself that spiders don't sneak up on people.

I was fascinated by watching him build the web.  I know how spiders do that (having read Charlotte's Web fifty million times, lol) but I've never seen them doing it in real life in real time.  Of course, I've never been near a spider on such a large scale before.  Sam is a quick, neat worker, an expert knitter.  Of course, his design is a little utilitarian, but I can appreciate that.  I love it when form follows function.

So, as he went about his business, and I went about rebuilding my little web for the day, cleaning up here and there, doing some big repair work by mopping the floors and washing the throw rugs, I actually did feel a bit of a kinship with the spider out the back door.  We were both setting our worlds to right, establishing order that would allow us to provide food and comfort, being driven by a higher power inspiring our instincts. 

Sure, Sam's the kind of spider only an 8 year old boy could love, and it really gives me an ooogie sort of feeling knowing that he's behind me right now, just outside the door.  But I think we'd get along pretty well if we could just talk yarn to each other.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Dried Pumpkin Pie

I just had to ring in September and the first heralds of fall with a pumpkin pie.  Unfortunately, I was not able to best the squash bugs this year, so I have no pumpkins or squash to roast.  I do, however, have a bit of the dried pumpkin puree from last fall to clear out of the pantry.

(Note the beautiful fancy pants pie plate that the lovely Alison sent me as my Christmas present last year.  It's so awesome.  And so is she!)

The first step is to soak the puree pieces in warm water for a while.

Even after a couple of hours of soaking, it's a little chunky.  But that's okay, because I have...

My stick blender! 

A couple of whirs with the trusty blender, and my chunky pumpkin water is once again a smooth and delicious puree.  After that I just mixed up my pie filling as I would if I were using fresh roasted pumpkin or canned pumpkin.

I think that if I were to put the puree through the blender (the regular one, not the stick one) before soaking it, I would get pumpkin powder, which probably would rehydrate smoothly without the blending.  I have one pie's worth of the dried puree left, so I might try it.

And I'm watching sales!  As soon as I find a good one, I'm stocking up and drying a bunch more squash for the coming year.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Couponing

Generally I only buy generic, bulk, or Aldi groceries and I find that I don't use coupons for food items very often.

I still love to use coupons though!  I like to watch sites such as Money Saving Mom and look for great deals on things I use, like office and medicine cabinet supplies, cleaning things, candles, and fun things like new gadgets or candies.

Because these sites list the coupons and the fliers in which they're found, I don't have cut and sort each coupon every week.  I file all the fliers (and All You magazine, which has tons of coupons) into the appropriate month in this document file box that I found on deal for a couple of dollars at Borders.

I originally bought the file box to store magazine clippings, but I've found I like my binders better for that.  This is a great system for coupons, because I don't have to deal with them until I want a specific one, and it's pretty quick to find just what I need.  I don't have to bother with culling the expired ones until I come back around to that month, and by then I know they're all expired and I can empty the folder right into the recycling. 

All in all, this system has saved me a lot of time and energy over my old way of cutting and sorting each coupon.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

My View This Morning

I mowed the lawn this morning.  And boy, did it need it! Between us being away, then me being sick for a week it was long.  Then it had to wait a whole nother week, because last week Ben was away on a work trip, and I was out of gas with no car to head to the gas station.

But I fill my can to the tippy top yesterday and this morning, I was ready to mow!  It was long, but not very wet and heavy like it is in the mid-summer, so the mower didn't clog up as badly as it might.

Now I'm baking cake to take to the county extesion meeting tomorrow.  I was going to make cupcakes, but some days filling those little paper cups is just beyond a person, you know?

I shoveled out the chicken coop and laid down fresh bedding this morning.  I love the way it smells in there when the bedding is fresh.  Just like the lumber aisle at Home Depot. Yum!

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Fall Cleaning

I was planning to do more canning yesterday, but my very slowly ripening tomatoes foiled that plan when I couldn't find enough ripe ones to make a batch of sauce.  So I started my fall cleaning instead.

It turned out to be more of a decluttering and sorting than cleaning, per se.  It turns out it's difficult to scrub corners and baseboards when there's furniture covered in books and projects in the way. Go figure.

So I definately accomplished a huge Fall Decluttering, and today I'm planning the detail work like baseboards.

I'm still working on the sweater I started last week. Not that I could have finished it by now, but it's like me to have abandoned it for another project.  Because I suffer from the sad condition known as Crafter's ADD.

One of the older hens is molting right now, and she was getting pecked, and didn't seem quite able to get up and down the step into the coop, so I separated her this morning into the infirmary cage.  She also got a treat of some cat food for the extra protein to help her grow back her feathers.  Poor molty.

I've been cat sitting for neighbor, and one of her cats is older and can only eat canned food.  I really can't stand dealing with canned food, I rarely give it to our cats.  But I feel bad for this kitty, he's like a little old man cat.  So I've been going over there twice or three times a day, just to make sure he's eating more than once.

It's a rainy rainy day here today.  I got soaked through this morning doing my chores.  I think I'll get my work done for the day and then snuggle up with a movie and my knitting.  So much more satisfying and cozy on a cloudy gray day!

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canning Blueberries

I'm finally recovered from that throat infection. I think. Yesterday I had a relapse and woke up with no voice, but today I'm feeling quite well.

I got right to canning since my poor "fresh" produce has been sitting in the fridge for a week. It didn't seem that much the worse for it, though.  Thankfully, I didn't find too many berries that I had to cull. No more than usual, I'd say.

I canned the blueberries in extra light syrup, using the instructions for "fresh berries in syrup" from my Ball book.  I wanted to do pie filling, but I couldn't find any clearjel, so I figured this would be a good compromise.  I can always thicken them for pie if I want, and they'll be great the way they are on yogurt.

I think I didn't leave enough head space though, since they seem to have lost a lot of the syrup. I hope I do better with the peaches!

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Friday, August 27, 2010

A Quick Knitting Tip

To take advantage of all the couch time I've been putting in while waiting for this throat infection to clear up, I started a new knitting project. 

This is the Cardi-Vest sweater from the latest issue of Crafts n Things.  I was intrigued by the construction, since it's knit side to side for a middle band, the the bottom ribbing and the top to the shoulders are picked up and knit from the long sides of the first piece.

Also, it's knit from Caron Simply Soft, which is a great yarn.  Yes, I just happen to have a sweater's worth of this raspberry color of Simply Soft on hand.  No, I'm not ashamed.  It took 6 years, but I've found the perfect project for it.  What can I say? I love yarn.

I don't often knit lace, and I was finding it frustrating to look back and forth between my work and the pattern.  Then I remembered a tip I'd heard in the KnitPicks podcast.

I wrote each row of the pattern repeat on one side of an index card.  That way, it's easy to know my place, and I don't look at the wrong line in the middle of knitting.  It's really made the work go much more quickly.  I like this method for lace knitting even better than following a graph.  It's a lot easier for me to keep on track with it.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Pullet Egg of the Year

We found the first egg from the new ladies last night. It's such an adorable teeny tiny thing. I doubt there's even a yolk in it, but we'll see once I collect enough pullet eggs to make us omelets for dinner.

We're both so excited to finally get to eat some of our eggs again!

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Peach Leather

I bought all those delicious Michigan peaches with dreams of canned slices in syrup, peach jam, and honey spiced peaches dancing in my head.  Instead, I ended up coming down with the same throat infection that Ben had at the beginning of last week.

I'm definately in no shape for canning.

So, I've resorted to peach leather to preserve many of my wonderful peaches.  I'm still hoping to can some, but the ones that are overripe and sliding down the slippery slope of past their prime are being dried for quick storage.

To make the dried peach leather, I start by washing the peaches well, and cutting them into quarters into the blender.  I run them through the "drink" setting twice to get a nice smooth puree, and then spread them onto parchment paper on my dehydrator tray.


About ten hours later, and I have yummy, very storable, peach roll-up.  To get them to actually roll up well, I do the rolling when the sheet is still hot and fresh from the dehydrator.  Then it will hold its shape better, and not want to unroll.  After cutting into quarters, I know that each roll up is approximately one peach worth of peachy goodness.  (Because I used 4 peaches per sheet.  Except the one pictured, that was an odd end piece of parchment, so it was only two peaches.)

Then I head back to the couch with my cough drops, ibuprofen, antibiotics and juice to watch Jaws.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

On the Way Home

We're driving home today, all vacationed out. I might actually need a vacation to recover from all this! :-)

I'm all loaded up on the best souvenier of all, produce!  We've got a few pecks of Michigan peaches, and 10 lb of blueberries.  I'm planning on some canning this week.

I'm really looking forward to getting some canned goods put up, since I haven't gotten the chance to do any canning yet this summer.

Lots of canning jar pings coming up next week!

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Vacation, all I ever wanted

So we're actually on the long awaited vacation.  We left on Tuesday night and drove until we got too tired, then finished the drive yesterday.  It took so much longer than I expected it would!

We did slow ourselves down to do a little sightseeing though.  We were going be so close, so we couldn't resist stopping off to see the old alma mater.  I expected it would seem small, as things from the past tend to do, but instead, I was shocked that I'd used to walk SO far!  I had more energy when I was younger, I suppose.

This is the bridge we were standing on when Ben proposed to me.  We had a real trip down memory lane, including sandwiches at my first Jimmy Johns! Ah, memories...

Today there's a lot planned. We might get to meet up with my parents, while at the same time checking out some awesome old timey stuff, then there's the salon w my sisters in law, a family potrait session w the James Gang, and a date w my honey at the drive in theater!

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quiet Days

Well, I can't say I'm exactly thrilled about the canceled vacation, but we had a fairly calm and quiet weekend. It's always restful to be able to just spend time together watching movies.

Ben's still feeling pretty unwell. Right now he's going on his 15th hour straight of being asleep.  I can only assume all the sleep is healing him right up.

Hopefully, he'll feel well enough that tomorrow we can head out and salvage the 2nd half of our vacation. But I want to make sure he won't end up ill again, since he's so busy with work.

So, if we don't get to go to the lake and visit family in MI, at least we've had a whole week of spending time together. Sure it was in the er and dr's waiting rooms... but we'll always have the pharmacy at midnight.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sometimes things seem hard, don't they?

I have to throw a disclaimer on this post. It's not inspiring. It's not at all crafty. The picture of the pullets on the way home is just a random pic to give the post something worthwhile. I pretty much am feeling sad, and am about to whine. Please feel free not to read it if other people whining bothers you as much as it bothers me. I'm making an exception to my zero tolerance on negativity just to vent a bit.  But who knows? Maybe by the end, I'll find my silver lining.

Well, I've been a slacker blogger this week, but I had a good reason. I was having a very busy and overwhelming week.

After we brought the new pullets home last weekend, I was working on getting all the kinks out of the new housing situation. It seemed especially important for everything to go smoothly because we were headed to MI to spend the week visiting with family and the neighbor had to be on chicken duty.

Getting ready for a week long trip added that much more busy-ness with packing and baking and cleaning and last minute things like finishing and wrapping the backlog of niece and nephew b-day presents that I always seem to accumulate.

So I thought I was having an overwhelming week.  Then Ben got sick. Well, he'd been sick but he hadn't really said much about it, so I didn't realize, but Friday night he said his throat hurt so bad he had to go to urgent care to have it seen.

At urgent care they just told him it was a sore throat and that's all and there wasn't strep, so take some ibuprofen and bye bye.  We still planned to leave on Saturday, just slightly delayed for some sleeping in, since we didn't get home that night till 12.

So yesterday morning, we got up and finished packing.  We were just about ready to head out when he started feeling dizzy and lightheaded and very ill. When he went back to bed in the middle of packing the car, I figured we'd better get a second opinion about what was wrong with him.

I drove him in to see his regular doctor, who said even though it isn't strep, it's a bacterial infection and prescribed an antibiotic.

So here we are, not going anywhere at all for a while, at least. I've got boxes and suitcases all packed for a roadtrip all around with no roadtrip to be taken.  I'll have to start again on the goal of having all laundry and dishes clean and put away at one time.  We probably won't get to see my family at all, because we'll need to head right up north to Ben's family get together. All the fun plans are either cancelled or just seem like so much less fun.

This trip was stressing me out so much to begin with, and now it's going to be abbreviated and the parts I was looking forward to the most (giving the b-day presents, cooking w my little brother, a big dinner w my whole family) are pretty much cancelled.

So I'm going to stop feeling sorry for myself now.  I've done my venting, and that actually helped a little to get it off my chest.  I suppose the trick now will be to figure out how to make the best of the situation and work on having a good week even if it's a different one from what I had planned.

I'll definately update and let you know if I figure out how to do that.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

New Pullets

Well, it was what seemed like a marathon of building and planning last week, but we were ready with a cozy coop when we brought home the next batch of pullets on Saturday.  We had a lovely drive to Augusta, MO to see our chicken supplying friends.  It's always a treat to get out to their place, because they have all the outbuildings my heart could desire, with rabbits and goats, dogs, chickens, and a garden that's so much better than my own.
It's pretty hard to get a picture of the whole coop set up right now, because there's still some construction paraphenalia in the way.  Pretty much what we did was block off one end of the shed by building a wall.  We used the chain link panel with the door from last year's pullet enclosure to make part of the wall, and the rest is nesting boxes, chicken wire, and trellis.
We divided the space for now so the pullets and older chickens will be kept separate.  I think we're going to wait till the littler ones start laying to do a complete integration.  I'm hoping it will go a little easier on them than it did for Matilda and Brunhilda last year.  First of all, because there are so many more of these, and also because they'll be living in pretty much the same space for the next couple of months.

Above is a good shot of my homemade feeder.  I have a post about that coming up, with some step by step photos.  It wasn't hard to make at all, and I got the idea from Backwoods Home Magazine, but I'm happy to show my version.  I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, and I think it's working really nicely as well.

We used a hinged gate sort of set up for the dividing wall.  That way we can swing it one way to get to the pullet side, and swing it the other to get to the older chicken side.  We made the gate from scraps of things we had in the garage, and took apart the old coop's extension pen and re-used that chicken wire to staple to the gate.

The big chickens are on the left side with the nesting boxes.  You can see Matilda there on the left of the photo.  Guess what? 
Well, you know...
Okay, I'll say it. 

Chicken Butt!

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

By Bethany James in Corel Painter Essentials with Wacom Craft Tablet 2010
We've been having lots of fun working on the new chicken housing that's going in the new shed.  We're on a bit of a deadline, because we go to pick up a dozen new hens on Saturday. I'm looking forward to having more eggs soon, but a little apprehesive about creating an uproar in the barnyard.  I get a bit stressed when it comes to animals in disharmony.

Today we only worked for about an hour or so, partly because it's so hot!  And partly because we ran out of the screws we need to finish up our nesting boxes.  It's actually nice to feel like we're playing hooky a little, since we have been working until dark on the project for the last five days or so.

When I'm not outside feathering the nest for the new chicks, so to speak, I've been having fun going through the tutorials that came with my Wacom tablet.  I drew the little chickie picture above in Corel Painter Essentials.  Which is a crazy super fun program.  I'm really pleased with the great software that came bundled with the tablet.  It really made the whole thing such a spectacular deal, considering that Adobe products are so expensive to buy separately.

Yesterday I tried a new recipe from Cook's Country magazine for Ovenbaked Crunchy Buttermilk Chicken.  Our verdict is that it was pretty good, but not that much better than regular seasoned baked chicken, and way more expensive and way way more effort.  So I'll stick with slapping the chicken quarters on a pan and sprinkling them with garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.  Much easier.

Today I baked Ben some Irish Soda Bread, since there was buttermilk left from the chicken.  Left in the carton!  I know better than to reuse anything raw chicken was soaking in, lol. 

It was a really pleasant day actually, because I didn't work outside at all until Ben came home.  Have I mentioned I don't like the hot summer weather?  I pretended it was winter out there, and stayed all day cleaning and baking.  So nice to have a break from the bugs and weeds for a bit.  It's not that I don't like to garden, it's just good to have a break from anything that you have to do a lot of once in a while, I guess.

Tomorrow, I'm planning a little dehydrating experiment with bananas.  Is the suspense killing you?

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