Thursday, January 26, 2012

#2~You Should Know...

This year my Mister & I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. That in itself is quite the accomplishment, especially if you've ever had the misfortune to run into me pre-caffeinated. What's even more amazing is that we are going, kid-free, on a little get-a-way.

He had me at "kid-free".

For years we have been making plans to do something big for our silver anniversary. (It is probably no mistake that this coincides with the turning of our hair color.) Places we had pondered were; Italy, Hawaii, Canada, Costa Rica, Montana, and the Mediterranean. Once we realized that there are people at these places, and that our whole objective here is to spend some quality time alone, we nixed those ideas and decided to stay closer to home. Specifically here.

Now that we're heading to a place that requires chains and boots, I have had to expand my wardrobe a little. Here's what I think you should know...

1. If you want to find snow pants in January, you should probably have started looking in August. The pants were on clearance at Christmas, the swimsuits go on clearance on Valentine's Day. Better hurry in case you plan on swimming before winter's even over.

2. The average height of women in the U.S. is 5'foot, 4-1/2 inches. This means that there are a lot more of me (at 5'3") than there are 7 ft. tall women. That said, why in the devil would the makers of ski/snow pants make them 3 feet longer than the average-sized woman?

3. No matter what the pro-shop people tell you, you cannot tuck that extra 3 feet of snow pant into your boots...not if you plan on wearing the boots on your feet

4. And those same pro-shop employees do not have the average woman-sized bodies either. At least, not for this town. They should move to Aspen. Or Switzerland. Now.

5. Snow pants should not be low-cut, have embroidery on the backside, or a special cell-phone pocket on the hip. And they should never, ever, ever come in white.

6. Pro-shop people will tell you that white is flattering on all body types. Do not believe them. They were trained to lie.

7. White is not a color you want to be wearing in the event of an avalanche. I do not want to blend with the snow, I want to be found! That said, Safety Orange and Neon Pink are not flattering butt colors either. If I accidently scream something inappropriate while careening down the side of the  mountain, I don't want fingers pointing at the only girl in hot pink pants saying, "It was her!" I want to blend. Give me black.

8. Snow pants at the pro-shop only have a 6-inch clearance from crotch to waist. This means that either the gut or the butt is going in. One or the other, not both. And not without an additional 6 inches of material.

9. The sales person at Walmart understands this. And she saved a single pair of snow pants that would fit a 5'3" Oompah-Loompah like me, just right.

10. That same sales person is now in my will.

Just so you know.☺

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

such is life...and death

It was inevitable. She was a rebel at heart.

Never one to conform to the ways of the farm, Lucy made her own rules. You may not know this, but she was the turkey version of our own Bob Marley.

As one of our very first "girls", she quickly rose to the top of the, flock.

She was an adventurer.

And she defied the odds on more than one occasion.

Lucy reminded us that in the midst of our hard work, when nothing seems to be going according to plan, that life finds a way.

Most of the time.

After finding Lucy sitting on another clutch of eggs in the midst of the blackberry brambles, we were heartbroken to find her mauled body only a few feet away from her still (barely) warm eggs yesterday. It looked like she fought hard to protect her little clutch.

My admiration for her continues.

Some might say, "But she was only a turkey." Lucy was more than that. She was our own little mascot with an I think I can mentality.

And because of her, my vision is clear.

Hatch her babies so Lucy's legacy lives on...

... and build these...insides the coop. 

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...."

RIP Lucy. You will be missed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spicy Split Pea Coconut Curry Soup

Ever have one of these days?

Lately I've been having more and more of them. Maybe I have cabin fever. Maybe I've been spending much too much time on Pinterest and am slowly losing brain cells. Maybe this is normal for someone  who is slowly descending into madness.
For the record, I haven't arrived at that last destination yet, the bone in the pot is a ham bone. Just in case you were wondering. It is not the leg of a Hobbit.


One of our favorite frugal meals is split pea soup. I'm not talking about the yuck in a can either. That stuff can be compared to baby food; lacking flavor and texture, which makes it a little pointless to consume. Because dried peas are pretty bland by themselves, it's important to add flavor. The original recipe calls for light cream to be added at the end, but since we had no cream to add, I improvised.

 Then I improvised some more.

After I found a bigger pot.☺

~The Players~

5 cups chicken stock
5 cups water
1 lb. dried split peas
1 *meaty ham bone
4 Tb. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb. curry powder
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
sea salt & pepper, to taste
1 can coconut milk

In a large soup pot, (and by large I mean large enough for the bone), combine the stock, water and split peas. Add the ham bone and bring to boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for about an hour.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, garlic, and carrots and saute until onions are translucent. Add spices and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Remove the ham bone from the peas. When cool enough to handle, remove any meat from the bone and add back to the soup. Add vegetable mixture to the peas and stir well. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes.

Using a blender or food processor, puree half the soup, 2 cups at a time until smooth. Add back to the pot. (I use an immersion blender and eyeball it.)

Pour coconut milk in to a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add to the soup and stir to mix.

Season with salt & pepper. Add more red pepper flakes if desired.

Serve hot.


*Make it vegetarian by leaving out the Hobbit ham bone.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Making the Old New...then Old Again

I don't know if you're familiar with Pinterest, but I am seriously addicted. Pinterest is a website where you can "pin" favorite items, projects, books, recipes, places, etc. that pique your interest. You can pin your own ideas, but there are so many creative people out there, I just "repin" everyone else's awesome ideas. (So far...) I'm especially fond of the DIY projects.

Finally! Ideas for all of the junk we have lying around!!!

I now know how a seagull feels when it finds an open dumpster behind McDonald's.

For a seagull, that's a good thing.

For my Mister, this may not be good as I'll be double checking each load of stuff bound for the dump. Old doors, window frames, cupboard doors, broken chairs, and miscellaneous jars are no longer deemed junk here. In fact, some of that old stuff may even find a place of honor on my living room wall or hanging from a tree as a repurposed swing!

What Pinterest does is inspire. It inspires me with new ideas, but mostly it inspires me to finish all those projects that I've kind of lost a vision for.

My first project was an old toybox/bench that my mom-in-law gave me. First, I removed the hinges and the bench seat. The original color (when I got it) was tan. I covered it with an espresso (of course!) brown.

Once that was dry, I applied a coat of antique white.

After 24 hours, a third coat of paint, this time in a robin's egg blue, was added.

Once that was dry, it was time to make the new paint look old with a little sandpaper. The edges I took all the way down to the espresso brown.

A little clear varnish, and hinges that I spray painted "Hammered Black", and the old toybox was given new life.

"A chair for me!"

I told her it was a toybox.

Maddie's not convinced.☺

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Cure for the Wiggles

How do you convince an 11 yr. old that his history is more exciting than speeding down a hill (of very wet snow) on a sled? 

Turn off the lights and light the oil lamp.

And when he complains that he still can't see, light some candles too!

History may never be the same again.☺

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#1~You Should Know...

While in a grocery store not too long ago, I had a person approach me asking, "Do I know you?" Now if you know me at all, you would know this caused me to panic a little. Instead of my life flashing before my eyes, I was rewinding every conversation I had ever had over the last 44 years of my life.

Well, not all 44 of them since the first couple of years were kind of a blur between bottle feedings and diaper changings.

Thankfully, while I was in my memory-induced stupor, the person continued to talk. "I'm sure I know you. Do you attend ______ church?" It was Methodist to which I assured him I didn't. (Not that I have a problem with Methodist's mind you.) "Do you work at the hospital?" I replied with a "No, but I'm a frequent flyer", followed by a nervous laugh.

"Was your dad a teacher at ______ school?"

"Did you buy a car from my neighbor, Bob?"

"Do you have a twin?"

While my eyes darted around looking for Security, and my mind was busy matching every name to every face that I had ever encountered, he continued..."Oh, I know! My wife follows your blog!"


Then his eyes went to my grocery cart where he was taking a quick inventory of my goods. Part of me wanted to throw myself across the cart and hide my business, the other part of me wanted to deny it was my cart, and yet another part of me wanted to tell him to "Back off! I'm a woman on the edge!"

I am, but I didn't.

Instead, I politely listened as he explained how much he liked my salmon recipes (and they apparently work for steelhead too!), and then told him to pass along to his wife how much I appreciated her reading my blog. Really, it was very sweet. But it got me to thinking. Am I walking the walk, or am I just a judgemental wanna-be walker? So, I took a quick inventory of my cart too, and here's what I think you should know.

1. This has nothing to do with my cart, but it is becoming a regular "thing". Sometimes I go to town without makeup, my hair in a ponytail, old lady glasses perched on the end of my nose, and a flannel shirt that may or may not have the pockets flipping up. I am on a mission and don't have time for all that other stuff. Of course, this is when I run into a perfectly coiffed super-model from high school who not only managed to keep her girlish figure, but also knows how to work an iron. And of course, she always mentions how "tired" I look.

2. Later, when I run into this same girl with her basket full of Lean Cuisines (excuse me while I gag), I am now carting around a couple of gallons of chocolate ice cream. Yes, it is an organic ice cream, but since this treat doesn't come in gallon-sized containers, I have quite a few in there. (The good news, I also have a coupon, just in case anyone is concerned for my pocketbook.)

3. I steer the cart with my elbows. Don't judge, but with a Starbuck's in one hand and my cellphone in the other, this leaves me no other option. If my legs were longer, maybe I could learn to steer with my knees, but I'm not holding out much hope there.

4. I buy white vinegar by the case. No, I am not manufacturing drugs, nor am I pickling everything in sight. It's cheap, I use it, so I buy it.

5. If you look closely, you will probably find a couple of loaves of marked-down, white bread in my cart. And they are probably laying up against a jar of store-brand partially hydrogenated peanut butter.

Here's the real scoop~I'm not wearing make-up, not because I am tired, but because I am in a hurry. If I'm not properly spackled, it's because I had to make an unexpected trip to town. I am not tired, or sick, or lazy. This is how I look. If it's offensive to anyone, they can take it up with my parents. I really had no say in it.

~All those cartons of ice cream are for a birthday celebration. And since there are 11 people living in my home, and usually more coming over to help celebrate, we need lots of ice cream. This ALWAYS accompanies a made-from-scratch, baked with love cake by yours truly. And since my ice cream maker only makes a quart of the frozen stuff at a time, and I had to run to town for some last-minute ingredients, I can't afford the time it would take to make enough ice cream for a birthday party.

~Beneath my Starbuck's logo, is usually a regular cup of coffee. Sometimes it's a hot cup of mint tea. Always with half & half. Unless my cup is made of plastic and is spewing whipping cream from the top, don't assume that I am "sneaking" a forbidden beverage. Besides, my daughter works for the company, and I use it as an excuse to get to talk to her in between her other customers. If you judge anything, judge my elbow-driving abilities or the fact that my son is licking the handle of the cart...they both need work. (And my cellphone has a handy-dandy little calculator on it~and it's pink. Which somehow makes me feel a little less dowdy.)

~Sometimes I buy fabric softener or dryer sheets. Usually from the health food store, but not always. That said, 90% of the time, I use white vinegar for my fabric softener. I also use it to clean the shower, wash my windows, clean the toilets (with a little baking soda), wash the walls, clean mold...for less than a dollar, I get a gallon of the stuff. And for $5, I get the privilege of using the bottom rack of my shopping cart.

~The cheap, white bread makes great squirrel food, especially when slathered in cheap peanut butter. And speaking of the hydrogenated goo, this is the only stuff that sticks to the pinecones that will be covered in birdseed and hung around our front keep the birds from taking off with the squirrel food. It's also much cheaper than the bricks of suet that only last until the squirrels realize the birds got the better deal.

I have a terrible habit of looking into other people's carts. And sometimes I can pass judgement based on what I see there. I can also be very judgmental when I see how those goods are paid for, but the reality is, I don't know that persons story

When I was a little girl, I remember following my grandfather to the Brach's candy bins. He always bought a pound or two of different candies; hard butterscotch candies, blue mints, peppermints, neopolitans, and even Jolly Ranchers were carefully bagged and weighed. Grandpa wasn't a skinny man (nor was he fat), but he was hunched over from a stroke and had to walk with a cane. Based on what was seen, one might think that maybe the candy wasn't a good purchase for him to be making.

Based on someone else's judgement.

The truth is, my grandfather had diabetes and carried those candies in his pockets until the day he passed away. When his blood sugar started to fall, he would place a hard candy in his mouth and suck on it until he felt better. (Usually this would happen if the Sunday sermon when on a little too long!)

And the neopolitan's? Those were for his 7 grandchildren who always knew that Grandpa had candy in his pockets.

So, the next time we're in the grocery store and run into someone we know, or think we know, let's not don't judge them by what's in their cart, how they pay, or whether they are perfectly put together. We'll never know their whole story.

And we don't need to.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Word of the Week...


See the pretty snowflakes
Falling from the sky;
On the walls and housetops
Soft and thick they lie.

On the window ledges,
On the branches bare;
Now how fast they gather,
Filling all the air.

Look into the garden,
Where the grass was green;
Covered by the snowflakes,
Not a blade is seen.

Now the bare black bushes
All look soft and white,
Every twig is laden,
What a pretty sight!


I like the way "Anonymous" thinks!☺

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Snowy Day

*Looking for a meal plan? Go here to see our January menu.

This could be...

"Poppa, cawwy me!"


"I's makin' doggy pwints!"


"Oh! My bunz iz cold!"


"I gonna getchu Poppa!"


"Yook at how fast I can wun, Nana!"

Now more than ever, I am thankful for my monthly meal plan. With more snow in the forecast, not having to plan meals, or make grocery lists frees up my time to do the more important things in life.

"Is dis how you make a BIG snowball?"

Like making memories.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Waiting for the Snow...

I've been hearing reports of snowfall happening all across the United States. Snow is my favorite season. Unfortunately, it is usually not a season that we get to experience too often in my neck of the woods. When the weatherman starts to elude to the fact that a cold front is coming down out of Alaska and bringing some moisture with it, I cease to function in a normal daily routine.

My nose is too tightly pressed against the dining room window. Waiting...

...and waiting...

And since a watched window never snows (forget about the darn boiling pot of water, we're talking snow!), I needed a project to occupy my time.

Because I can only clean the greasy nose prints off the window so many times before people start accusing me of having OCD tendencies.

This is how I spent a recent afternoon.

Texting, old school...

Making labels for the gluten-free bulk flours, starches, and gums.

Organizing the pantry...

...Well, 2 shelves of it anyway.

There's always next year, right?

I also emptied bags of suspicious dried, green, leafy substances...just in case someone decided to call the DEA...

The neighbor's are a suspicious lot...

All of these jars were refilled with bulk spices, most of which I had just tossed into a cupboard.

And most of which were NOT labeled in their clear plastic bags.

I helped my Mister give the expectant mommies a little love...

And I started a not-quite-10-month-old on a lifetime addiction to chocolate gelato...

...much to her 3 yr. old sister's chagrin.

Then I watched the weather forecast where I learned that the snow isn't expected until Saturday night.

Guess I'll get to that pasta shelf after all.☺

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Crockpot Chinese Pepper Steak

During the cooler months, I turn to my trusty old friend for some much-needed comfort. No, not my uncles, Ben & Jerry, (although a visit with them is long overdue), but to my crockpot, otherwise known as Mr. Hamilton Beach.

Mr. Hamilton Beach is the Rico Suave of the kitchen appliances as he has many talents that have been known to make women swoon. Everything from bone broths to rendering lard, and apple butters to dinners that make the family think you slaved all day over the hot stove, can be found in my crockpot. Mr. H.B. is a very manly appliance too; he assumes all of the work, leaving me time to fulfill my other passions.

Okay, scrubbing toilets isn't necessarily a passion, but it does need to be done.

A lot.

One of our favorite crockpot meals is called Chinese Pepper Steak. The original recipe comes from the book, "Crockery Cookery" that I received as a bridal shower gift 25 years ago. (Gasp!!!) Over the years, I've made a few changes to the original, and depending on what's available at the time, this dish is very versatile. If it sounds familiar, I've shared this recipe before, but it was long before the invention of the camera, or at least one that I could operate, so it was picture-less until today.

I hope you like this as much as we do!

~Chinese Pepper Steak~

~The Players~

1-1/2 lbs. boneless beef round steak or venison, sliced into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. ground pepper
1/4 cup organic wheat-free tamari sauce (can use soy if gluten isn't an issue)
1 Tb. hoisin sauce (found in the Asian section of any grocery store)
1 t. sugar
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
2 *red bell peppers, cut into strips
8 oz. fresh button mushrooms, quartered
3 Tb. cornstarch
3 Tb. water
1 cup fresh bean sprouts (Do NOT use the canned sprouts~trust me on this one!)
4 green onions, finely chopped
3 cups fresh broccoli florets, steamed
cooked rice
red pepper flakes, if desired

Combine steak strips, garlic, salt, pepper, tamari sauce, hoisin sauce and sugar in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW about 4 hours. Turn control to HIGH. Add tomato, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Dissolve cornstarch in water in a small bowl; stir into steak mixture. Cover and cook on HIGH for 15-20 minutes or until thickened.

Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, steam broccoli until crisp-tender.

Add broccoli and bean sprouts to the crockpot. Sprinkle with green onions and red pepper flakes, if using. Serve with rice.

Serves 6.


*Frozen bell pepper strips can be substituted for fresh. I've also used zucchini (during the summer), and sliced water chestnuts and fresh spinach (just prior to serving).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Banana Nut Muffins~A True American Love Story

Once upon a time, I was addicted to daytime television. Blame it on the hours of breastfeeding I had to sit still for. Blame it on the discovery of John Stamos and Rick Springfield. Blame it on my mother. The point is, I kicked the habit.

Now I have a new daytime addiction.

Gluten-free Freckled Banana Nut Muffins.

Pure heaven I tell ya.

If I could have 1 thing everyday for the rest of my life, it would be these. Especially slathered with fresh yogurt cream cheese.


And way more exciting than a couple of daytime drama "has-beens" waking hours will never be the same again. Trust me.☺

~Banana Chocolate Walnut Muffins~
(from the book, "The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook")

~The Players~

2-1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sucanat
2 t. baking powder
1-1/2 t. xanthan gum (a thickener found in the health food stores)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. sea salt
4 really ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup vanilla almond milk (can use regular milk)
1/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil muffin tins (with coconut oil) or line with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, sugar, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix well.

Place the bananas into a glass measuring cup and mash with a fork or potato masher.

Add the milk to the mashed bananas and whisk together with the melted coconut oil and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently fold until mixed. Be careful not to overmix. Gently fold the walnuts and chocolate chips into the batter.

Spoon batter into the oiled or papered muffin cups. Bake for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to sit for a couple of minutes in the pan before removing and placing on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm.

Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

*These freeze well, so make a double batch for later!☺


Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Shampoo Making Adventure

So, here's the deal. A few, or 12 months ago, I was sitting standing in my bathroom, pondering the meaning of life when I noticed the massive amounts of bottles, bars, razors, and sponges that had accumulated in the shower. Since I have the luxury of having my very own shower (hubby uses the guest bathroom so he can have his own little luxurious space without the flowery scent of the reed diffuser), I found the quantity of all that was there disturbing at best.

Because I had no one but myself to blame it on.

Sad, but true.

I had Costco-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner, a large bottle of castile soap (for shaving~awesome!), face soap for everyday use, blemish soap for those embarrassing-because-I'm-in-my-mid-forties pimples, body wash that reminded me that somewhere, someone was enjoying some sunshine and it sure wasn't me, a condiment bottle of vinegar/water for clarifying (my hair, not my memory), a razor for my underarms and a razor for my legs (I may be a little OCD~jury's still out on that one), a loofah sponge, a big fluffy sponge, and a sponge for cleaning the shower, and a 7 yr. old, never-been-used bottle of bath salts, just in case I ever had time to soak in the tub. It may come as a surprise, but my mobility in the shower was limited at best.

Some might call that an "aha" moment. In actuality, it was my Mister who had been nagging encouraging me to rid myself of all the different bottles of crapola product that were slowly pushing me in the direction of his shower. Looking back, it was most likely his self-preservation mode kicking in. Too bad for him that his teenage daughters have now moved into his bathroom (while we're remodeling another one), so my bottles seem mild compared to theirs. They have different shampoos & conditioners to match whatever mood they're in! Freaks.

After I had a talking-myself-down-from-the-ledge moment (with myself), I decided which bottles I could live without. There were tears. There was gnashing of teeth. There was frantic rooting around in the garbage can moments that are better left forgotten. (Not that anyone in this house ever will.) But then I realized that I'm a lot stronger than I give myself credit for. I could do this. What, I didn't know yet, but the possibilities were endless. I would be the writer of my own shower-taking destiny.

Fast forward a few, or 12 months, and I now know what those possibilities are. I have finally realized my true potential. I was born for greater things than to be a slave to the shampoo & conditioner companies of the world.

I was born to make soap. Specifically shampoo bars of soap.

First, I gathered the supplies, which in my area wasn't easy. It seems that the soap-making craze has only hit the rural areas. Or maybe just my house.

Besides the ingredients, a digital scale is a must as everything is measured by weight.

Then I donned my rather fashion forward attire of goggles, gloves, and a face mask. Once I was properly suited up, the measuring commenced.

Pouring the lye~I had taken off the mask because it was interfering with my ability to breathe...then I realized I was just anxious about the lye, so I put it back on!

Here's where I should point out that we have really good health insurance, and my Mister, who is an emergency room nurse, was working that day. Safety first!

The lye mixture was set under the vent hood fan...the duck nostrils are courtesy of one of my boys. Nice, huh? I should also mention that under this mask, I was smiling like a Cheshire cat while saying, "Cheese". Blame it on the fumes...

The kids wanted to know how much my life insurance policy was worth. I replied, "A lot, but I'm taking you all out of the will."

That'll teach 'em.
The lye mixture gets hot so it's important to have it on a hot pad, not the counter.

After the caustic materials were mixed, I enlisted the help of my beautiful daughter, Kelsie.

She also has tremendous patience to slowly melt the oils and beeswax.

After all, she is the mother of these little cutie-patooties.

Bathtime for Emmie & Maddie.

Can't have her blowing her face off...not that I want mine blown off either, but it would save me thousands of dollars in botox treatments later...if I didn't already have an aversion to needles...or vanity.

A coconut oil greased bread pan worked great!

After achieving what is known as a "false trace" (apparently that is NOT what we were striving for!)we had to remelt it all and try to salvage our first botched shampoo making endeavor.

10 bars of homemade Coconut Lime Shampoo Bars

In a couple of weeks, when we're certain (or mostly certain) the lye is inactive, we'll be offering the kids a reward to the first one brave enough to use our homemade shampoo bars.

We're also currently taking donations for hair replacement therapy, just in case...☺

For the recipe, go here.

This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.