Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not unpacked yet!

Got home last night after the long drive...We unpacked 20 pounds of blueberries right away, as well as the cooler.  Some things will slowly be brought into the house (laundry, garbage, and a matter of other items.) I will post pictures of the holiday soon.  Right now I got to go to work since I was on the road yesterday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ties that Bind...

Its a little known fact that the City and Country factions are both intense Northern Exposure fans.  INTENSE!  City own the entire series on DVD, which Country borrowed and watched, two glorious episodes a night, last year.  It was a sad day when we finished the last episode.

Last night as we sat around and talked about yurt plans and farmland and knitting patterns and whatnot, we also hailed and reminisced the greatness of the fictitious Cicely Alaska and its interesting residents and their lives which we became intertwined in for a few years. 

It makes me laugh.  For folks that dont have TV and very little time to spare, we stretched our bedtimes each night for a little bit of easy entertainment.  For an escape to Chris in the Morning and Fleichman and Maggie and Holling.  Its weird. 

But if you happen to not find it that wierd....


Today the sun is out...the frost is hard and the critters are fed.  The cousins are still filling the house with yells and laughs and crashes that we dare not investigate.  And there is a kitchen load of dishes awaiting some sister bonding time.

Scrumptious Saturday

Well, here I am at my sister's house after a sleepover party.  What is a sleepover party at this point in our lives.  It's not like when we were little kids, sharing a room having conversations in our sleep.  Our kids now giggle and run and play together.  They are the ones cuddling and telling secrets when they are supposed to be sleeping.  We are the adults talking and sharing time together.  It is a feeding of the soul, and this is what made a scrumptious meal for the soul this week.

I have made some progress on the hat during our feeding of the soul...I ripped out the part of the hat I had started and restarted again.  I started again on different needles and kept on going; not perfect, but that's okay.  So a different type of recipe I give to you.  Spending time doing something relaxing with people who you find interesting. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Momma is busy but...

Since Momma is busy, C. will be helping out today.

Here's a list of things I'm thankful for:
Pink Princess Jammies
Stools so I can reach and "help"
Empty coffee containers
Pink Hats
Basically anything Pink

Happy Thanksgiving
Love, C.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Friends and Family: Thankfully

Yesterday was a timely and keen example of why almost everyday feels a bit like Thanksgiving... It is not just one single day that is filled with an abundance of simple wonders.  So I suppose the first thing I am thankful for is the gift of being able to see the simple things.  To live where, and how, we do;  a slow and deliberate enough life that the greatness of a small gift that flits by in a second doesn't have any less impact than the big ones.
And yesterday the gifts flowed like a river of riches, some obvious, and some hidden.  For example:

A post office trip yeilded a 5 pound box of Organic Cranberries from our dear friend's Cranberry Bog and a beautiful hand-thrown bowl from their potter neighbor!

Left on the porch of the girls' school for me.  Six enormous Long Pie Pumpkins from another great farmer friend that I can't wait to turn into a couple pies today.

I am thankful to have a full day with only the work of home to do and to focus on my family and our togetherness. 
And we can't be any more excited as we anxiously await the arrival of City Sister and family and all of visiting and playing and knitting and cooking and eating that will ensue! 
Well, I am off to turn those cranberries into some sauce...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The calm before the storm...

It is early.  Very early.  My little girl had trouble sleeping last night and needed lots of comfort.  I was unable to get back to sleep so I begin writing.  It's a busy day around here.  The day before we take off to visit with the family for Thanksgiving.  Reminders are being given left and right.
Remember to take the hay out of my car.
Remember to take my car to work.
I'll clean your car while you're at work.
Don't forget to buy chicken feed on your way home.
You're not packed yet...what do you want?

Yesterday was my work day so I was planning on it being very busy so I spent the good part of the weekend in preparations for the big trip.  I did 8 loads of laundry, folded and put them away.  I also packed the kids and myself.  Groceries were purchased for the ride.  I keep putting up mental post-its up by taking things out and putting them by the door.  Rose hips and jelly!  Caffeine!  Mint!  Pear Butter! Books to read!  Feed the Fish!  

I had some cancelled meetings yesterday when I was at work and was able to come home and get things ready for the ride as well.  The little baby chicks were moved to the new shed.  This was a long process for I had to cut tons of wire that was holding the big chicken's cage roosts.  Then I moved the cages to the revamped shed and put the little girls in.  This process took about an hour.  Upon getting home past 7:00PM, the Hubby and I went out and got the big girls and put them in the shed.  The new set up allows for them to see each other, but avoids the nasty hen pecking of the little girls.

I am also so fortunate to be having a friend and her little ones over today.  That will wear the kiddos out so that they are nice and tired tonight.  I want them to go to sleep early tonight so that the grand adventure tomorrow will be a restful one. We're going to cook something yummy!  We always appreciate little treats along the road.  

So I will get to see my family tomorrow!  Country Sis and I are going to have a little knitting lesson, cooking fun, a mad search for the turkey roaster and most likely will laugh until we cry about getting the turkey from the pan to the platter.  

Monday, November 22, 2010

Comfort in Balance

After a long Saturday of getting it all done, I found myself happily engaged in the mundane.  Everyone in the house went to bed by 830 I think, which left me alone with 5 loads of laundry, bills to organize, and a ton of great bluegrass music.  I think I fell in love with bluegrass in college, or maybe just after.  Lots of good memories tied up in it and, there's just something about it that goes right with a wood fire and a simple chore.  So, what I expected to be a slog of an evening turned into a real treat.

Sunday evening was a planned treat.  I have been waiting to fill my yarn coffers for holiday knitting.  Waiting.....somewhat patiently.  Sunday afternoon was a quick trip to the yarn mecca of Maine.  I couldnt even wait for bedtime to cast on.  The oldest pulled out the Mancala board (she's a bit of a shark) and promptly whooped her dad several times while the fish and rice cooked and I stood at the counter counting stitches.  But when they were tucked in, I made myself a nice cup of Chai and curled up on the end of the couch for a spell.  The familiar click of the needles and a little simple math for pattern modification.  Its a sure sign that cold weather is here.  As much as the cold itself really.  Meditative, consistent, and productive.  Cozy hats for my girls and some rejuvinating peace for me. 

The best weekends are the ones where we find that balance.  Where our chores get done and progress is made and we are tired at the end of the day.  But not so tired that we can't enjoy a simple board game, or a knitting project or some good music.  Even if just for a little while, before the heat of the night stoked fires lulls us to rest. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday

Does something scrumptious have to be for dinner?
I don't think so...
Here's my typical breakfast
Homemade Yogurt
Homemade Granola

For the Yogurt
I make 1/2 gallon at a time (makes 1/2 gallon yogurt.)

1/2 Gallon Whole Milk (NOT ULTRA PASTEURIZED!!!)
1/4-1/2 C. Live Culture Yogurt (I used a culture starter the first time around and now save 1/4-1/2 cup for the next recipe)

Heat milk to 185 degrees in a pot (the point at which it starts to foam a little).  Take off heat and put pot in a sink with a little cold water and ice in it so that it cools rapidly (do not put water or ice in pot!)  Cool to 115 degrees. While waiting for it to cool, put a metal cookie sheet on the counter top.  Put a dishtowel on top of the cookie sheet and then an electric heating pad on low.  Get out VERY CLEAN containers (glass works best) that will be big enough to hold the milk (I use 4 pint containers).  Once your milk has cooled to 115 degrees (finger can be put in milk for about 10 seconds) mix in the yogurt in very well with the milk.  Pour into the containers and put tops. Put the containers on top of the heating pad.  Cover the whole cookie sheet, yogurt jars contraption with a blanket.  Let sit with the heating pad on for 6-10 hours (depending on how sour tasting/ thick you want your yogurt...my family likes 7 hour yogurt.)  After incubation is over, put in the fridge overnight (as it cools it will thicken some more.) ENJOY...if you like Greek Style, line a sive with cheesecloth and place over a bowl.  Put yogurt in the sive and refrigerate for a day or two...

I sweeten my yogurt with honey right before serving.  I also top it with...
Homemade Granola
4 C. Oats
6 Tbs butter melted
1/3 C. brown sugar
1/3 C. honey
1/3 C. Wheat Germ
1 Tbs Vanilla
Anything else you like in your granola (I use pecans, but you can use nuts, cocanut, dried fruit)

Melt the butter...mix in vanilla, wheat germ, honey, and brown sugar.  Add in oats and coat well.  Put on 1-2 cookie sheets in a thin layer.  Place in oven at 325 degrees for 10 min. Stir and put any nuts (if using) in with granola...put back in oven for 10 min.  Take out and stir in anything else you want to.  Let cool on the cookie sheet.  Then put in air tight containers, it should stay fresh for about a month.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

An unexpected change...

The Dodo did not adapt
When first homeschooling, I needed to feel as if I had it all under control.  I thought it possible to be supermom, teacher mom, clean house mom, and involved in all sorts of things mom...not so much, especially when you add in that I work part time.  I quickly learned that mind frame leads to burnout and frustration on my behalf as well  as the children's.  Instead, we figured out how to work things so they work for us.

Rule 1...all work and no play makes everyone grumpy.
We set a timer for 15-20 min (My dear Charlotte Mason...I love you)
We do the work we allow for that time.
If we are done before the time is out, we can have free time until it beeps (aka mom's cleaning, prep, get stuff done...and W.'s game or play time...C. does what she wants, puzzles, play, coloring etc)
This helps eliminate what Miss. Mason called "dawdle."  I remind W. about dawdle all the time.

Rule 2...Everyone is in this boat together...we all help clean up even if we didn't make the mess.
I quickly got sick of hearing..."but she made the mess," or "I didn't do it."  We are a family and we all help each other.

Rule 3...It doesn't matter if you are right or wrong, what matters is that you do you best and try your hardest.   With W.'s fine motor issues, writing is an issue.  He becomes very frustrated very easily.  We've been doing handwriting without tears, and it is helpful, but I do not expect perfection (although legibility would be nice...W. says he's going to be a "baby in the belly" doctor, so it is fitting his handwriting is horrible.)

Rule 4...Go at your own pace.  everyone is learning here...
C. is learning to focus, W. is learning the 3 R's, I'm learning to be the best I can, and not expect perfection out of myself.

I have learned to let go.  I have learned to adapt. I have lost part of the perfectionist in me.

I slowly am learning how to live in the moment and not try to plan 23 steps down the road...did I say steps, I should say miles.
 I think I am down to about 15 miles.  

All of this in 3 months.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


A not-so-bad fever and headache germ is making its rounds here.  So we are all home today.  My self-motivated montessori 2nd grader is at the table.  She insisted that I print her out a spelling list, a geometry work, math facts, and a writing work.  Seriously. 
The pre-schooler put on music and got herself a snack. 
Its days like this that make me envious of the time that our school gets with my kids.  They get their best hours.  And I get the late afternoon to bedtime hours--which we all know are often challenging and tired times.  And I really don't like envy.  Its a rather yucky and non-thoughtful feeling.

Think about that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Homeschooling Life...3 months in...

We have been homeschooling in a structured manner (opposed to parenting with learning opportunities) for 3 months now...let me let you in on a big secret...I do not have all the answers.

We constantly revamp the plan.
On a daily basis we fine tune and tweak to see what works.
Informally we will talk and encourage each other.

We started out thinking we'd have a "school" schedule like an institutional school does: Subjects determined by time and day of the week.  Boy were we setting ourselves up with that one.  Instead, we started having W. choose from a list of things he could work on, with a few subjects/projects (math, calendar, phonics, and cleanup) required each day.  We'd go through about a weeks worth of content in a day.  Most of that is due to the curriculum being very repetitious and most of it was about sounds and letters, which we had already learned a lot about naturalistically over the years.  After W. received 5 stickers (one sticker per subject studied) he was able to "play" for the rest of  the day.  Play often was cooking, puzzles, art, shopping or outside play.  I started to think of it as we school in the morning and unschool in the afternoon.

We have almost completed our math and phonics for Kindergarten using the Saxon Curriculum.  While I think it is a great curriculum (lots of review, consistency for predictability, concrete rules for how to do things...) it lacks in imagination and creativity.  We also do not have a science or social studies curriculum...just a plan on what we want to cover this year in those subjects (aka: the curriculum map.)

So here is the newest plan.
1) Finish the Phonics and Math Curriculums
3) Incorporate #2 into the social studies and science we have been ignoring until now (except the incidental learning we encourage.)
4) Celebrate! it's the holiday season...lets make some crafts, explore the world around us, and learn all about the why of celebrations.

In other words: We will use the math and phonics we have learned so far to scaffold learning towards what we have been previously leaving out of our curriculum.

Therefore, I am proposing this above plan for the next 2 months (Mid November to Mid January)  At that time, I think we will re-assess and maybe go into building up our reading and math skills while continuing our journey of discovery.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chez Poulet Redeux

I can hear the wheels of old man winter's truck coming down the driveway.  He drives real slow.  But when he arrives, its not just a stay for dinner kinda situation.  It's a long one.  This is the time of year that I can never have enough of.  Never enough time to get the wood done.  Never enough time to get all of the animals set exactly the way we want them.  Never enough time to get all of the "stuff" cleared off the yard before it gets buried--until the unsightly spring thaw. 

Sunday, determined to have easily accessed eggs through the winter, I took matters into my own hands. You see, we have gone through many different set ups with our layers.  We have had as many as 60 hens at one time and some large portable and stationary layer housing.  But, now, with a nice homestead sized flock of 8, our ladies are a bit lost in their large range house.  It offers limited protection from the winter elements and they lack the mass population body heat to keep it cozy. 

I surveyed the yard junk (which proliferates everywhere) and turned up several lengths of re-bar, a bunch of scrap lumber, various fasteners...a plan.  I decided to build a mini 10' x 10' hoop house just outside our back door.  Right along the path to our woodpile which gets regularly shoveled!  An easy run for an extention cord for a little extended fake daylight to keep the eggs coming.  A quick slipper run for eggs in the morning.  Because last year it was a long slog out into the pasture to get to the ladies, ok, as its on the way to the pigs...but not ideal.

We laid out the location and the base.  I snagged the learning opportunity.  How do we know if this thing is square?  The two girls and I did some pythagorean theorem.  Well, the little one raked leaves.  Then we pounded holes and bent poles.  Having a 7 year old partner proved crucial.  We divided 10' into three equal sections using leaves to represent each foot and dividing 10 leaves into three equal piles.  "Three and one third!"  She proudly announced.  Then the elder took a swing break and the little took up the pencil...drew me some lines and other various artwork on lumber not related to cut lines.  The moment of truth..we lifted the endwall together.  Not bad. 

We called it a day as no one had injured themselves on the job.  A sure sign of success.  We turned in to make soup and bread for dinner.  A little more framing and a sheet of plastic and the hens will be tucked in for his arrival.  And everyone will be happy for those short egg runs when I yell that we're out of eggs in the middle of holiday baking season.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

We've gone Barefoot!!!!

Just a little note to our readers:

We've gone BAREFOOT!

What does this mean?
Click on the little sidebar picture...

 and you will be directed to a lovely site.
It is an independent book publisher that sells absolutely beautiful children's books.
or you can go straight to my link HERE

A little about Barefoot books:

"Explore. Imagine. Create. Connect. Give Back. That’s what Barefoot Books is all about. It’s exploring other cultures, our planet, ourselves. It’s making time for make-believe and letting imaginations run wild and free. Most of all, it’s about using the power of stories to nourish the creative spark in everyone and strengthen connections with family, the global community, and the earth."

I love the artwork in the books.
W. has been doing the yoga cards during Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy for about a year now.  I see great improvements in his self awareness and strength.

Also at the website is a wonderful selection of activities that go along with the books.  The activities are educational and based on the books, but can be done without the benefit of the books.

And as a special bonus:
For each order during the month of November
Barefoot Books will donate a book to First Book.

Keep posted...we may be able to have our first giveaway soon!

So go ahead, Go Barefoot!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday

Welcome to another Scrumptious Saturday!
I have begun making a conscious decision to start using what I have...not running to the store to buy one or two ingredients for a dinner...rather plan ahead, use what I have, and have wonderful simple meals.  I also invite you the reader to make your own meal, and post the recipe in the comments (or link to your own!) and maybe a picture so nobody gets bored with the same old meals.  So here's this week's Scrumptious Saturday...

One day this week we had pork chops and potatoes with veggies.
Another day we had rice and chicken with salad.
We had leftover rice and pork chops...what's a mom to do...
Not another boring meal...after all, it is Friday night!

(Everything But the ) Kitchen Sink Fried Rice with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Fried Rice
2 cups rice...must be old precooked rice...
that way the starch has had time to make it really sticky
(great use for leftovers)
3 cups raw veggies (for crispness, I use onion, carrots, celery, and then whatever is on hand.)
2 cloves garlic minced
1 egg beaten
4 oz white meat cooked and cut into small pieces (again a great use for leftovers) OPTIONAL
ginger, salt, pepper
2-4 TBS Oil of your liking (I use peanut and olive)

Sweet and Sour Sauce
2 1/2 tsp Cornstarch
4 Tbs Sugar
5 Tbs Brown Sugar
1 C. Cold Water
1/4 C. Ketchup
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Ginger
2 Tbs oil (I use peanut, but any type works)
1/4 C. Vinegar (I use white)

Chop the veggies into bite sized pieces.  Place a large skillet on the stove and put about 2-3 teaspoons of oil in it and heat it up.  Put the garlic in the pan.  Put your veggies in from firmest to ones that need to be cooked the lightest (example carrots, then celery, then onion, then spinach.)  Cook veggies lightly so they still have lots of crispness to them...it really adds to the texture of the rice. Then throw in the rice and meat.  Turn the temperature up in the pan to med-high and put in the remaining oil. After the new oil gets hot, pour the beaten egg over the mixture and stir like crazy until the rice mixture is well coated.  Then, pat the mixture down in the pan and let the oil sear the rice and make it all crispy about 3-5 min, then give it another stir and repeat the pat and sear step.  It's done depending on how much of your rice you like crispy.
Serve with the sauce...
Mix cornstarch and sugars in a small saucepan.  Whisk in COLD water.  Then add everything else in and whisk.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for about 5 min.  Let it simmer until it is reduced by half...about the same amount of time it takes to make the fried rice.

I made a double batch and then froze half of it. 

For desert we made chocolate pumpkin pie...a pumpkin pie with a chocolate cookie crust and dark chocolate chips...sounds odd, but oh so good.

What did you make this week?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Knit, knit, purl...

Granny was special.  She was one of the most special people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  Odd at times, forever forgiving, gentle and kind.  Red haired and feisty she was as well.  The type of Grandmother that would give you cookies for breakfast (If you promised you'd eat the cinnamon sugar toast with her special mixture from the yellow plastic shaker, and  laden with butter, yes always real butter, and cut into 3 vertical strips with hot chocolate.) She'd take us to the playground behind her house whenever we were with her and let us do all the wild things that would to this day make our mother cringe.

I was young...maybe six or seven...She was determined to make her little "crash bang boom" as she called me, a lady.  Yes, me, a skinned kneed bookworm, who had a talent for breaking things, a lady.  One of the refined things a lady does is knit.  One should not have to purchase a hat, scarf, or pair of mittens, for a lady is resourceful.  She stays within the household allowance her husband gave her (yes granny was also a traditionalist.) Big knitting needles and thick red heart yarn were purchased.  I have little hands, and these little hands were even littler then.  I also have fine motor problems and am very uncoordinated (hence her little nickname for me "crash bang boom")  But a lady I must be and a knitting one at that.  I tried and tried to loop my finger through the yarn while holding the needles as well.  Day after day, she instructed me in keeping my hands on the needles at all times, lacing the yarn, and using the needles to go this way and that through the yarn.

To this day, I have several times attempted to knit.  When my children were born, or when I was feeling especially sad missing her.  I did eventually get a knack for sewing, which did please her.  Maybe I would be able to be a lady and catch a husband with my womanly skills!  I would hand sew and embroider items while she'd knit.  And this is how we'd spend many evenings when I would spend the night.  I remember another thing a lady always had...beautiful nails.  I remember her lovely oval nails at the ends of her long and bony fingers as she held her yarn and needles, never letting go.  These are the things I remember about her.  Perfect nails, breakfast at her house...

Well, last weekend my family went to Gettysburg.  This requires me to spend a few hours a day in a hotel room with C. napping.  She is such a light sleeper, that I cannot do anything.  I decided I would knit her a hat.  Yes, an ambitious project for someone who cannot hold the needles and swoop yarn at the same time, But I have found my own style, my own way of getting the job done.  With my memories and help from the free videos from Kaleidoscope Yarns, I'm getting there.  C. picked out her favorite pink cotton yarn, I got a FREE pattern from Wee Folk Art (twist and tie hat) I will succeed this time...I have a little one asking for a hat and fond memories to get me through it.

I also spoke with Country Sister about our Turkey Day Plans!  Seems like we're going to have a knitting party.  Maybe this little clinic will help as well.
After all, she has knit a whole sweater!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Country Weekend....in the city

What a great weekend!  We kicked it off with a double date, sans kids, with great friends.  Walking between dinner and gelato, by a stroke of miracle, a new massage place was giving away free 10 minute massages.  Ummmm...yes!  thank you!  It was a much needed night out and we were so thankful for it!

Saturday was a home day beyond my dreams...bread baking, bean soaking, pumpkin chocolate chip cookie making, and all of those things that I love that are sometimes hard to come by for me during the week.  Topped off by watching my oldest at a riding clinic.  That really made her feel like a big girl.  And she looked like one too.  Hard to believe.

Sunday brought a trip to the tack shop for new helmets (oldest had taken a few crashes and needed replacing, youngest...well thats another story)  for my little ones and a blanket for the pony.  And in a moment that truly warmed my heart...my 7 year old BEGGED to stop at the Maine State Museum on the way home once she realized we were in the neighborhood.  Who wouldn't entertain that request!  Luckily they were open and for FREE...although normally its a dollar to get in.  If you are a parent or homeschooler in Maine and you have not yet taken advantage of the MSU I highly recommend it! 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Long weekend...

War...it's the theme of at least one (often more) weekend a year.  What one? Why the (American) Civil War.  We journey across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (not the State as many would say) to the small village of Gettysburg.
  Hubby is happier than a four year old on Christmas Eve.
For Christmas one year my in-laws gave the kids a book called "The Story of Gettysburg"  It was a board book and in the end, General Lee says, "Let's go home." 
It has become a tradition over the years that I say "Let's go home." as soon as we get there.

I usually spend the time hanging out with the kids taking various naps, walking through the town, and doing other activities while others tour the battlefields (again.)
New in town this year:
Zoltar...from the movie Big

I also enjoy looking at the various farms.  Once on a tour we found out that for very little, you can live at some of the farms on the battlefield.  
I find this intriguing.

This one is one of my favorites.  The Cordori Farm.  I took this picture from the observation platform of the Pennsylvania Monument (see after all these years I have picked something up!)

Again it makes me long for the day when we may have a larger piece of property.

Hopefully not where tourists can look in your window.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scrumptious Saturday

This started as a "EEEK what to make with the end of the month bits and pieces!" moment.

Now the cupboards are full and I am making one of Hubby's favorite meals.

Country Sister probably remembers this meal well.  It was one of the items our mom made and I got to help out often.  After getting married and realizing how much the Hubby loves cooked tomatoes, I started making it.  Now, it is one of our children's favorites as well.  W. likes asking about who taught me to make it, so I have to tell him all about Mimi letting me help when I was a little girl.  So here we go!

American Chop Suey
(not to be confused with the Chinese type)
Serves 4-6
(Leftovers make great lunches)

3/4 pound pasta (I use whole wheat, use what you like)
1-2 Tbs olive oil (depending on the fat content of the meat)
1 pound hamburger/ground turkey
1 small onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 green pepper chopped (optional)
2 cans tomato soup (Condensed works best, but you can
just reduce two ready to use cans of soup too)
salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and hot pepper flakes to taste

Cook the pasta according to directions.  While you wait for the pasta water to boil, put the oil, hamburger, onion, garlic, and pepper in a large skillet.  Cook over medium heat until the meat is cooked through.  The water should be boiling and ready for the pasta at this point.  Add the tomato soup to the hamburger mixture and cook on med-low until the pasta is ready.  Drain the pasta and pour into the hamburger mixture.  Top with Parmesan cheese if you please.  It goes great with a nice salad (or, green beans for a more retro take.)  I also added a side of frozen blackberries.  

Friday, November 5, 2010

Country Homestead Tour #5: Gus Gus

I never have to look far when my oldest is "missing".  Maybe it would panic some parents....surrounded by woods, the 7 year old not answering your calls.  But every time it ends up the same.  She's in the barn, or out in the field, with Gus Gus. 

Gus Gus is a 23 year old retired lesson pony that needed a forever home and a forever girl.  Luckily he and she found each other.   It was a fine fine day when her riding teacher's husband showed up, surprise, with a trailer and a pony and, backed that pony out of the trailer, and handed that 6 year old girl the lead line.  As he says, it was one of the best things he has ever done.  To see the look on a little girl's face as she realizes that the pony she has loved and ridden is coming home to be hers, just hers. 

So as parents we cringed a bit, when we were offered the opportunity to bring gus gus home, at the stereotype, and we, for a second, questioned, foolishly, whether owning a pony turns you into one of those snotty kids that gets waited on and pampered and whines for more.  Then we thought of our daughter, who has never been any of those things, and we certainly don't subscribe to that sort of parenting.  Its not the pony that makes those kids that way.  Duh!  So, we indulged. 

While the up front cost was zilch, maintaining a senior pony is not.  Not expensive, but not free.  I had alot to learn about farriers (trimming feet every few months) and horse dentists (treating teeth every few months) and "good" hay v.s. "bad" hay (our goats will eat whatever quality hay--the horse will not!)
Luckily my girl, who has been riding at "the barn" for 3 years, had alot of wisdom to share with me. 

She has beautifully kept up her end of the bargain for the most part.  She rides nearly daily to keep the old guy in good condition, she cleans stalls and feet and brushes and snuggles.  And although watching her canter across our field barefoot and bareback and grinning this summer may have been one of my greatest joys, its those times that I loose her.  When I know she is sad or struggling or frustrated.  But after giving her some time, I know I can walk to the barn and find her.  Snuggled up in his stall, or laying over his back, or brushing him and talking to him.  And that is the time when I have no doubt that Gus Gus was the perfect addition to our homestead.

test driving her new-to-her saddle on her 7th birthday

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Pieman...

Okay he may not be a pie man, maybe a pie boy...but boy 'o boy does he love his pie.  
So often, I find that people do not know where their food comes from...so, I am making sure the kiddos know pie doesn't come from the store, or even a can, but from real foods.  
So here is our pumpkin pie...and an art lesson, and  a math lesson...and whatever else you want to fit into this space.
First one must have the perfect pumpkin.

Then we cut it in half and removed the seeds.  The pumpkin
went in the oven at 350 degrees.

While the pumpkin was baking, we counted the seeds and
used non-standard measurement to find out how big
our paper towels are.  We did multiple trials to demonstrate how it is not the
best method to measure in (the towel was between 15 and 16 pumpkin seeds.)

W. then drew pictures of the pumpkin seeds.

When done, we scooped all the pumpkin pulp out of the shells.
I made a simple whole wheat crust (the nutty flavor really
complements the rich pumpkin flavor.)  The trick is this:
Put the crust on the rack...then fill with pumpkin (less mess.)

We then mixed up a standard fresh pumpkin recipe (more
eggs so it gels well.) baked it...and devoured it (can it count as
a veggie for dinner?)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting in rural Maine

Between Job #1 and Job #2 today, I made my way to the fire station to state my name and make little x's in boxes and then state my name to yet another fellow resident and pass the paper ballot into the old wooden box as she slides the skinny slot open and shut.  I am the only voter in the polling place.  I get a sticker and put it on my vest. 
Then I made my way down the road and stopped at our local lunch place.  Familiar faces.  "What, no kids today...they in the car?"  I sat and had the soup and sandwich lunch special for 5.95 with two acquaintances who kicked out a chair for me and invited me to join their lunch date.  I joined.  We talked breeding pigs (that's usually where we start) and farming and kids and lawyering (one a retired attorney and the other an artist) and family and how to keep busy--and they, both retired, cringed, exhausted, at my litany of things remaining to do.  And so I got a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie at the register and waved goodbye to the kitchen folks.  And headed home.  Feeling pretty fortunate. 

City Sister and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day...

I woke up realizing it was Monday...my day that I work (I love my job...it's just the being away from the family bit that I don't like...)
As I was leaving (5 min late) I realized there was a hard frost and I'd need to scrape and preheat the car.
Then, as I was coming back in to get the scraper, Hubby called me up to the bathroom...it happens that Darling C. got another tick on her...
Then when I got home after my first client, I had to do a load of laundry and found our dear little kitty in a pool of his own bodily fluids, convulsing...
(Hubby took an emergency trip to the vets...)
And then, when I went to see my next client, I remembered that I forgot to pack my library books that were due and I would need to make a separate trip to the library to return them...

And the punches kept on coming...
We ended up having to put our cat to sleep.  The kids were so brave.  So strong.
Little Mr. Jingles reached out to W. and put his paw in W.'s little hand.  
C. held it too.  
After everything had happened, we went out into the night.
One star was shining...Just one.
W. then said the most touching thing.
How is it that Mr. Jingle's body is here in your arms mommy, but he is up there watching me...that star is him you know.
W's "Lumpy" now wears Mr. Jingle's namesake bell.

"But my mom says some days are like that...even in Australia."