Friday, February 25, 2011

February Mornings

February flies by with hardly a peep from the sister on her country homestead...what is she doing?  Well for one, I am not blogging.  This is obvious.  I am, however, still quite alive and well here in the real world.  Right now my real time world is made up of:

seed ordering and garden planning
meaning to call and get our sap buckets back from our friend who used them last year
staying on top of work
nursing sick children
having lots of fun with well children
trying to ward off the winter crazies with a mix of nourishing cooking, interior de-cluttering, and outdoor excursions...

The thing I seem to enjoy the most these days, though, are the mornings.  Whether its the great breakfasts that have yielded so thankfully from our well stocked pantry and freezer--and some busy hens--or the knowing that icy grip of winter is losing its grasp on all of the living that is demanding to creep.  It creeps, presses, urges, from the colorful (or well sketched) pages of our seed catalogs, in the persistent sound of the life blood of trees dripping evenly into galvenized buckets.  It pushes its way past the woodpiles and the brown icy snowbanks.  It is apparant in the sensation of a woodstove penetrating against my back and a more gentle but growing warmness on my face through the window as the sun, coming up just a little earlier, enables my sacred sunrise coffee moment before the kids ramble downstairs and the day starts its wonderfully unpredictable unfolding.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Maple Syrup...part one

Last fall, the brilliant leaves of my neighbor's sugar maples caught my eye.  They looked like they were on fire.  To tell you the truth, these three trees drive me nuts.  
They shade one side of our house making it impossible to grow anything shy of hostas on that side.  
So when life threw lemons at me, I chose to make lemonade...

I got  the courage one day (while handing off another dozen eggs free of charge) to ask my neighbor if we could tap her sugar maples. 
 "Those are sugar maples?  They don't look too sweet to me."  
We discussed the leaf color and shape, at which point she said that it was fine by her.  

We got an email on Monday about a maple sugaring class being held at the local nature center for a local home school group.  Would we like to tag along?  But of course...

In my camera's infinite wisdom, it decided to malfunction yet again, so I only got one picture, and not of the process...
We learned all about trees, maples, and sap.
They even told a story about how the maple came to be tapped.
Tree selection (must be over 35 inches at 52 inches height and of the maple variety.)
Materials (drill, gallon milk container, nail, straw.)
When (freezing nights, warm days...before buds appear.)

So now that we have that info...just wait to see what we do.
That is, if the neighbors are still okay with it.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yarn along...

So I decided to join the yarn along since my sister is MIA
...In Ginny's words
~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs. I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? ~

We are reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder for school.  I think it will take us a few weeks to get through, but W. loves how different "real" school is vs. "long time ago" school vs. "our school."
I am reading Growing 101 Herbs That Heal by Tammi Hartung.
I'm thinking about growing some herbal tea and making some lotions for my childrens' very dry skin.
I am knitting MY SOCK!
I was at the pool last weekend for W.'s swim school knitting.  An older lady started asking me about it and told me that I look like an old pro...yikes!

Soulemama had a giveaway a few weeks ago...and guess who won...again!
When it comes to her giveaways, I win the ones I want the supplies and now beautiful yarn.  
It truly lives up to its name.
The color was inspired by the movie Titanic.
I tried to get the beautiful subtle hues in it.
It is so nice.
I am planing on making a pair of socks for each of the kiddos out of it.
It is from Katie's etsy shop
If you buy from Katie, put Citysister in the notes to seller 
I want to be able to get more from Katie's beautiful shop!
And it is also grand to be able to help a "momtrepreneur."

And just one more shot of my sock...question for you knitters...
I always knit everything inside out...
what can I do?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What I've been doing while MIA...

Well, after my last post, things kept happening...
The drain pipe for our tub burst leaving our kitchen and basement flooded.
In its wake, I ended up throwing out food and parts of the ceiling 
(and at times both in one mushy handful.)
Then I called my mom.
"At least everyone has their health."
Mom why did you have to jinx us.
W. got sick the very next day with a fever of 103.6

Well life goes on.

We've been...
Making honey wheat bagels.  
The recipe I used I decided was too sweet.  
Next time I won't use so much honey.
Maybe when I get the recipe perfected, I'll post on that.

Making popcorn.  A true comfort food.
All of our paper bags were destroyed in the flood, 
so I made in in a pot the old fashioned way.
I've always been afraid of this method ever since my cousins got really bad burns from hot oil while making popcorn this way many years ago.

Studying plants.  This is our lavender that we planted a few days ago in coconut coir.  
The onions are starting to poke their little leaves up as well.  We also started sweet potatoes, but we'll see what happens is a big experiment for us this year to attempt those.

I am thankful that we have so many opportunities.  
That our pipe burst didn't destroy too much.  
That we did not truly have a flood such as many have to endure.
Things could be much worse.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

At least I can do one thing well...

It was a bad week.

Our "new to us" van broke down after owning it for 1 week.
(thankfully still under power train warranty.)
It came home on Tuesday night.

Our old faithful car broke down...again.
(not under warranty, but we have a great mechanic who is honest and affordable.)
It went in the shop Tuesday night and has not yet returned.

Our oven broke.
The fix took 15 minutes and some know how from the repairman.
Not having an oven inspired a genius chocolate chip cookie recipe
(if I do say so myself.)

The sink faucet broke.
Luckily, I have an amazing husband who is an expert in this faucet's repair and who has a very cute assistant.

Just as everything was fixed and we started saying, at least nothing else can break...
The vacuum started smelling like fire as my very dear husband was vacuuming C's room.

That was the last straw.

I am not paying for anyone to repair this.
My diagnosis...broken belt (it has broken before and will break again most likely.)
"W. Screwdriver + sign style. Stat!"
The husband helped him get it.
I undid all the screws...there it was, the broken belt.
I need a size 5 belt for a vacuum cleaner.

Now if I just had a car to go get one...

All this prompted us to do the taxes as well...
At least that part of life is done!

They say noting in life is guaranteed except death and taxes...
I'd like to add that it is guaranteed that things will break down all at the same time if at all possible!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meanwhile back at the home school...

We've been studying...

courtesy of google images

Youtube has some wonderful slideshows set to his music.
We have a set of value books from when my husband was little.  
One of them is The Value of Giving which is all about him.
We have also been starting to look at different instruments.
A few years ago we looked through our local pennysaver and found a free piano...just haul (break your dear husband and brother in laws' backs) it yourself.
Santa also brought Harmonicas and a recorder.  
We acquired a free book of lessons for recorders as well.
(I do not expect to have them performing "Fur Elise" any time soon, just enjoying listening music and creating a joyful noise.)

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
A classic.  I think that it has a great message that even if you are the "runt" you can still do great things, make excellent friends, and have lots of fun!  
Some days we all need that little touch of encouragement.

Saxon Math level 1
Right now we are studying about 1:1 correspondence and matching numbers to the number of items.

Saxon Phonics Level 1
We are learning about short and long vowels.
Not that this is phonics, but we are also introducing dolch words in order to increase reading fluency and W.'s ability to read a little quicker.

Nature Study/Science
We have started our onions and lavender.  
Sweet potatoes are going in for slips soon.
We are making daily notes as to how they are doing.
We are also studying weather daily when we do calender time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate chip cookies...without an oven...

Those who have been reading know I love my oven.
I use it daily.
It is a trusted friend.
It runs 30 degrees hot.
I have had it's innards replaced already one time.
In the five years that we have been friends, I have never cleaned it, until now.
Yes, I did a dreaded task of cleaning the oven.
Days of preparation, soaking, and other ways to remove five years of baked on crud.
I have had this opportunity due to my oven having a fit and deciding not to work, thus I have been using it's upstairs neighbor, the stove top.
Chocolate chip cookies do not do well on the stove top.
Thus, I have decided to revamp the classic chocolate chip cookie to a rawish (not quite if you use melted chocolate, or don't make your own "chocolate" stuff) vegan style...
oh, did I mention I have also decided to truffle it...after all, it is the feast day of St. Valentine.  
My husband always asks me to make him chocolate chip cookie dough (notice...not cookies)
So here is my mad attempt to make his dreams come true.
(note, this is a first attempt at this recipe...
they taste pretty good so far, 
but any helpful suggestions are welcome)

Raw Chocolate Chip Cookies
1c. coconut oil
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
(cream together)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
(mix in)
1/3 c. almond milk (or soy)
1 tsp. vanilla
(stir in)
2.5 c. flour
(stir in)
1c. small pieces of chocolate (mini chips, chopped chocolate etc)
or you could use any other cookie mix in that you like.
or if you decide to truffle it, you may not want to add any at all.

Roll into small balls and place on a cookie sheet in the freezer for about 1 hour. Serve as is...or
Melt a bit of chocolate with a touch of coconut oil.  Dip the balls into the chocolate mix.
Place back in the freezer to help the chocolate set. with your loved ones.
P.S. My dear husband if you see this please be surprised when you come home,
the kids really want to give you a big surprise gift.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Not so Scrumptious Saturday

Broken oven...not so good.
We've been eating lots of items cooked on the stove top...pancakes, rice, chicken.
Old favorites, comfort food.
My sister in law came over for the weekly cooking lesson.  On the stove today was...
Chicken Cacciatore
1 Whole Chicken broken up into pieces
1 can tomato paste
2 onions cut in1/6ths
6 carrots
4 ribs celery
4 cloves garlic smashed.
olive oil
Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, oregano etc to taste
1 cube veggie broth bouillon

Put olive oil in pan and heat.  Break chicken into thighs, drumsticks, breasts, and back.  Dredge the chicken in flour and then brown the chicken in the pan for about 8 min on each careful not to crowd the chicken or it will not sear/brown nicely.  Take the chicken out and put the veggies in.  Let them hang out and get nice and soft.  Dissolve the bouillon  in 1 cup hot water and mix in the tomato paste (if you don't have paste, you can use canned tomatoes...just dissolve the bouillon in water.) Then pour the tomato/bouillon mixture in the pot and add the chicken.  Put a top on and cook on low or put it all in a Crockpot (vintage orange from your parents, not a dump, works best!)  I also will put it in the oven (if it's working) for a few hours while I do baking.  It's one of those recipes that are done when they are done, but just make sure the chicken is done.  The longer you cook it, the better it is!  Serve over some sort of grain or pasta, either one will soak up the yummy juices.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


A few weeks ago I noticed something growing from my poinsettia.  
I didn't have the heart to remove something green and growing this time of year.
I am glad I didn't.
Somehow a crocus bulb found it's way into my compost heap, survived, and was fine making the move.
Spring is almost here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Welcome to the family baby boy...

My husband's school is in the middle of nowhere. 
 From the parking lot, you can see horses, woods, and fields. 
 Last November, the cat who wanders around the facilities, had a littler of kittens.  
Over the last two and a half months, he has watched them playing and learning to be big cats one day.  
On Friday, the little orange kitten was motherless.  
The little orange cat followed the students to and from lunch...he wandered amongst the preschoolers...he was hungry, cold, and alone.  
He was not meant to be a "barn cat."  
My husband scooped him up and fed him some lunch leftovers.  
For the rest of the day, the kitten stayed in his office until it was time to go to his new home.  
On the ride home, the little kitten sat on his neck.  
This is where I got a phone call.  
It also was a big day at our house because we went to our first day of home school group.  
That dear hubby asked me if they were good all day and don't you know it, they had an excellent day.  
He told me that he was bringing someone home with him and I may not be too happy about it
 (I started thinking he was bringing his boss over for dinner...) 
He told me about his day.  
Then I put him on speaker phone.  
He told the children
 "Since you were so good, I'm brining home a present for you..."  
They wanted clues.  
"It's a big surprise that comes in a small package...and it's orange."  
There were several guesses... Popsicles, oranges, pumpkins... 
(do you see a theme here...maybe it was getting close to dinner time.)  
So when he came in the door with a meowing coat on, they were very excited.  
We ended up naming him Pumpkin...for the little orange surprise that he is.  
Welcome to the family little baby boy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl

It's that time of the year again.  
It's that year again.
The Steelers are in the Super Bowl.
I live near Pittsburgh.
I have never watched a whole football game.
I may get run out of town again.
Please save me from the crazy football fans.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Scrumptious Saturday

My sister and I both adore bacon...
As you may have read last week in our bean-off it is true.  
My sister even raises beautiful pigs which produce a lovely bacon.
I was even lucky enough two Christmases ago to be gifted a whole pound of it.
So I promise, cross my heart and hope to die stick a needle in my eye, promise this is the last time I will write my Scruptious Saturday about a baconed item...who knows...maybe next week I will even go vegetarian for pennance of my bacon consumption.

Any one who knows my husband knows one thing.  
He does not like veggies.
When I first met him he claimed, and I quote, "It isn't a meal unless an animal and a tree died during the process of it's making and/or consumption."
Even his school's cafeteria worker was stunned when he actually took some salad one day.
I have a recipe that will entice even my non-veggie loving husband to eat spinach.

On the other hand, I was a vegetarian when I met him.
I only began eating meat right before I got pregnant with W.
I was dreaming of hamburgers every night.

I will admit, I have weird taste in food.
Once in college, a psychology professor asked each person to write what food item they were craving at that particular moment on a card.
It was to demonstrate how culture has influenced people's taste in food.
Most people wrote:
1) Chocolate
2) Coffee
3) Pancakes
(note 8:00 am class)
I wrote spinach and butternut squash.
So here I will share one of my favorite spinach recipes.
One that will confirm my theory.
Everything is better with bacon.

Saute of Spinach
with bacon and garlic
4 thick slices of bacon
4 cloves of garlic
1 package frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
that's it!
Cut bacon into small pieces and place in a frying pan over medium heat.  Chop the garlic and add to the bacon once it starts releasing some fat.  Cook until the bacon is done and the garlic is golden brown.  Add the package of spinach and cook until the spinach is warmed through (and tastes like BACON and GARLIC.)

Even though I do firmly believe that everything is better with bacon, I will say that it is still good if you saute the garlic in olive oil and then add the spinach.  It can also be done with fresh spinach, it's just not in season right now...
And I love bacon!
(locally pasture raised and smoked...once you have it, you can't go back to the slimy grocery store stuff.)
I served it with chicken wings raised locally and some local potatoes.  Amazing what you can find in your own "backyard"
(If your backyard was 20 miles or so.)

So what's your favorite enticing scrumptious recipe?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A brewing storm.

It was an eerie morning.  The sun came out, bright and warm.  
Something didn't feel quite right about it.  
I made sure I took care of the chickens early just in case.
We had breakfast and went to playgroup.
The instant I left the warm school building, I knew that that uneasy feeling was.
The calm before the storm.
I have always been sensitive to barometric pressure.
The instant it starts to drop, I develop a migraine.
And there it was.
Leaving the building, the wind started to kick up and large clouds began to float by.
In the 3 minutes it took to get home, the wind started blowing bitterly cold air.
The large white clouds turned dark and foreboding.
The snow started.
Quickly, plans changed.

We decided to stay in and make cinnamon buns.
A rare treat.
Not an "always food." 

For Christmas W. got a box of wooden brain teasers and games.
He may not know it, but he's playing an addition game.
I love how every moment is teachable.
Every moment with my babies is special.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The story of "The Three Little Eggs."

The first eggs of the new year came in a set of 3.
The first little egg froze between laying and when I was crushed by a hen and froze in the nest.
(It looked like a fried egg over easy.)
The second little egg exploded upon being brought in from the cold into a warm house.
(While still retaining it's egg shape.)
The third little egg was a strong little egg.  Soon after this picture was taken it became food.
(Oh, how wonderful it tasted after a month of store bought eggs.)

My girls are laying again.  
We chose not to "force" eggs this winter due to many factors.
The main reason is that our hen house hasn't any electricity.
Another is that it's a hassle to go out and turn on and off the lights at appropriate times.
I also feel it is more's letting the chickens have a rest during that stressful cold and dark time of year.
In all we had about a month with no eggs.
I was amazed, I only bought 2 dozen during the month.
When they are laying well, I usually go through 1-2 dozen a week.
But when without, or when the laying is occasional like it has been these last few days, we are so careful with them.  
We don't bake as much.  
No scrambled eggs for breakfast.
No waffles.