Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve. The youngest is teething and has croup again. The oldest cannot understand why we can't put the carrot for the reindeer on the roof. 

I am so excited. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Homemade lemonade, Christmas lies and other stuff

This afternoon the oldest and I made lemonade from scratch which we've never done before.  We used this recipe to get the job done:

1 3/4 c sugar
8 c water
1 1/2 c lemon juice

Of course we only had three lemons so I ended up squinting into the distance while trying to divide fractions in my head.

After using the hand juicer we got out the vintage Juice O Mat to get the rest of the juice.


What else is new?  Well the week before last our stove finally went kaput.  I been in the habit of using the oven lock as a safety feature so the kids couldn't get the door open.  Because ovens can be damn hot and because I personally once worked with a woman whose child died when they climbed on an open oven door in an effort to reach a cookie and the stove fell on them.  So every time the  oven was on it got locked as well as most regular times.  Then the lock started sticking but turning the stove off and unplugging it was usually enough to re-set it to get the latch back open.  Until the day when I made meatloaf for dinner, put it under the broiler to finish and threw the lock.  It stuck.  And was still stuck 24 hours later when we got out the tools and took the top off of the stove and pried the door open to rescue my mom's Dru casserole dish.  We really can't complain, the stove came with the house and didn't owe use anything.  But we had to go directly out and buy a new one that week.  Which is nice in a lot of ways but seems to take 3x as long to heat anything. Yes, the anti-tip feature was installed too.

It came packaged inside the best toy either of the kids have ever seem.  Both kids (and both cats) are in love with the box.  It's large enough that both kids and I can fit into it along with Bee and read books.

Christmas baking has been thought about but hasn't started.  The fruit for the fruitcake has been soaking in brandy for three weeks now.  It won't hurt anything and might actually make a better cake.

The oldest has been busy making this garland chain for the tree out of pipe cleaners.  The youngest has stripped all of the ornaments of the tree as high as he can reach.  So the tree is heavily decorated at the top and nearly naked for the final two feet.  It's charming, really.

Cards have been sent out and gifts mostly bought. Husband and I haven't bought anything for each other and would be fine doing without (see: stove story above).  Last year we picked one $20 gift each and he got me a yoga bag that I still use twice a week and love.  This year neither of us want for anything.  But it seems like he and I should have something under the tree to keep up the Santa story.  Initially I didn't even want to do "Santa" because it just seemed like commercialism with a weird "the big man is watching you" overtone plus flat out lying to kids but then I realized that my kids get excited over things like new socks and I lie to the oldest regularly anyway.

Yesterday I told the oldest that this is where one of the cats had made a snow angel in the driveway. 90% true. 

I have also tried to convince him that snowflakes are frozen penguin toots that have come down from the North Pole. 100% b.s.

And so on.  God knows what he tells people at pre-school.

Who's mature around here?  Certainly not me at 40.  My wonderful husband organized a birthday party for me last weekend and it was great.  A big thank you to everyone who traveled to see us and make it a special day.  I had so much fun.  Really, thank you so much.

So tonight the oldest and I are going to make egg noodle pasta for dinner with meatballs and garlic bread.  We will cook them with the new, expensive-for-us stove and then probably pop popcorn and watch a Christmas movie.  I will keep the immaturity to a minimum.  The husband and I will discuss gifts.  Tomorrow the oldest has a Christmas program at his pre-school.  Last year "Santa" made a surprise visit at the end so it will be interesting to see his reaction. Life does get more fun every year.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Best dinner

I will take medium rare venison over the best cut of steak any day. Thank you, friends. Thank you, doe.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Oh, Christmas tree..

... now shedding needles all over floor. We love it.

It's so pretty.  We are using a plaid blanket from an estate sale for the skirt, Elyse loves to sleep there. And drink tree water.

Harvesting the tree from the local TSC. The oldest picked it out. Next year we'll do a tree farm

Dehydrating the fruit.

Pondering the possibilities.

It's really pretty.

Summer flowers

It's been a doozy of a past week, nothing terrible just busy.  It was sort of a crapstorm of sickness and failed appliances (we have a new stove!).  Ugh.  It's easier to just post all of these lovely flower photos I found on my phone today.  Because winter is coming and come January I won't believe there was this much color in the world.

I also realized that I never posted the photos from a dear friends (beautiful!) wedding, our last family camping trip (fun! also epic disaster!) and some snapshots from my moms recipe box.  

It's fun to compose stuff like this thinking I might paint someday.  Still in the "hope to shower" stage of motherhood.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Milestone birthday

Because nothing says "Happy 40th Birthday, we love you" quite like a taxidermy skunk.

I am absolutely thrilled. 

Little guy needs a name. 
Best gift ever.

I was also surprised with this sweet Robert Parker print that I very much wanted when I saw it.

We're still a house of sick people here.  The oldest is feeling a bit better but the baby is absolutely miserable with coughing and sneezing and runny nose.  I woke up this morning and had totally lost my voice overnight.  But it's been a very good day.  I'm going to bundle up and go lay in the hammock soon and later on we're going out to get groceries for dinner: lobster, fresh oysters and white wine.

Edit: here is the lobster which I promptly and humanely dispached as soon as we got home:

And my dinner

And here is my card made by the oldest:

It's been a very, very blessed year.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Sickness and Christmas decorations

Both of the kiddos are sick right now with croup.  The littlest one came down with it first and is on a prescription and now the oldest has developed the barking cough and wheezing as well.  He went to bed at 5 tonight, poor guy.  He'll be going to the doctor as soon as I can get him in tomorrow.

Obviously he didn't go to pre-school today so we did some makeshift lessons of our own using the Bananagrams game.  And because he missed out on the special "lunch box day" we had one here.  I made little bento box lunches for the littles and I.  We spread a blanket on the living room floor and had an indoor picnic.

Because cold air is apparently doctor-recommended for croup, and because he was stir crazy, the oldest and I spent some time outside in the snow pulling around he sled, each of us pretending to be Max the dog that pulled the Grinch's sleigh.

I've been starting to decorate for Christmas.  We are hosting family here this year and the kids are all excited.  So I want it to look nice like Christmas exploded in every corner of the house.  We'll get a tree this weekend.


Here's the top of the pantry.

A stack of winter reading.  Who am I kidding?  I will only read Holidays on Ice  and The Shining.

Elf village is in full swing.  Antique pine cone elves and paperboard houses are decorating the bookshelves and all of the windowsills.

Bee looked on with boredom.

And objected to our attempts to decorate her.  Because: dignity and all that.

But this is how I found her this evening after both kids were in bed:

I have no idea what's going on here.  Possibly playing with a bath toy.  She's such a goof.

In other news the dishwasher got fixed.  The heating coil at the bottom was snapped in two.  It looked like it had been cut.  My husband ordered the part and we called our wonderful family repair guy at about 3:30 today.  By 5:30 he had not only come over after his day job but had installed the part and fixed the dishwasher.  Very worrisome is that he said he's never seen a heating coil snap like that and wondered if it was related to a power surge.  I do remember that around the time the dishwasher stopped working we did have a big wind storm and lost power for less than a minute.  Whether or not the dishwasher was running the drying cycle at the time I could not tell you but it seems a good possibility.  So now there's wiring to worry about but at least clean dishes! And wow, not having to hand wash three loads a day is a Christmas miracle.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Thanksgiving baking, decorating

I made the Bicardi rum cake, a chocolate fudge bundt cake,  and this pumpkin pie made with condensed milk and a homegrown pumpkin.

With a shelf added to that old picnic basket I tried to pay too much money for a pumpkin pie and 2 tiny bundt cakes all fit perfectly.

Child labor hard at work.

We had a great Thanksgiving at my in-laws on Thursday and are starting to decorate for Christmas today.  I should probably get the skulls off the porch that have been out there since Halloween.  We'll have to wait to get a tree until we can borrow my dads mini-van.  Today is the opening day of deer season and (hopefully) the van will have deer in it by the end of the day.  I did not get to go hunting again this year.  Maybe next year.  Tomorrow we are going to get together with my sister and her family.

Back to the baking.... it was so much nicer to make the small bundt cakes instead of using the full sized pan.  There were still leftovers but not so many that we'll be throwing cake out later.  I want to get some notes down on halving the full sized recipes.

For the rum cake:  
1/2 c walnuts
1 1/2 c yellow cake mix
scant 1/3 c vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1/4 c oil
1/4 c water
1/4 rum

35 minutes at 350

For the glaze:
1/4 c butter
1/8 c water
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c rum

It worked really well to pour about a 1/3 of the cooled glaze back into the pan, pop the cake back in, pour the rest of the glaze over and let it sit like that until it was absorbed.  MUCH easier than brushing the glaze on for hours.

For the chocolate cake:
1/2 c coffee
1/2 c butter
10 tbsp cocoa powder
(melt all these together)

1 c sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c sour cream
1 egg

350 for 35 minutes

For the really thick glaze:
1/3 c chocolate chips
1/8 c half & half

Pumpkin pie:
A small pie pumpkin roasted yielded almost exactly 2 cups pulp which is about 14 ounces. Is it called pulp? I have no idea. 2 cups pumpkin guts. There, that sounds better. 

I had a terrible time getting the crust done on the bottom and ended up baking it an extra 20 minutes.  But I'm not going to blame it on the ancient oven as the dishwasher is still broken and don't want to give the oven any ideas.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ebay sale

So after the crapstorm that happened this week with my first terrible Ebay interaction during my years of selling (ending in me calling seller customer service,  blocking the user and canceling a bid citing harassment) I was thrilled to death to sell (and get paid!) for this wooden fishing lure that I picked up at the thrift store for 89c.

I'm actually sad to see it go because it's so unique and awesome. It's an old Medley lure made in Ohio around 1919 and designed to look and swim like a crawfish.  The extra money comes at a fateful time as the dishwasher broke again today, just in time for Thanksgiving baking.  The heating coil on at the bottom snapped. Ironically the lure sold at almost the same price as the new dishwasher part. 

 Count our blessings,  right?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Garden planning, Thanksgiving prep, rats?

The seed catalogs have started arriving for spring already.   I went through the crisper drawer and sorted what we already have so when it's time to order hopefully the tab won't be too high.  Things have to change with the garden.   I say that every year but between the weather and neglect the garden was a disaster this year.  We really enjoy soft fruit and the kids eat them as fast as they can ripen.  Maybe 2020 will be a year of making a raspberry bed and another alpine strawberry planing.  We really loved those strawberries the years we had them.  Such a great reward for so little work. 

The asparagus bed needs to be moved along with the rhubarb.  They were fine where they were when planted years but are now mostly shaded unfortunately,

In other news, need to bake a pumpkin today and make a grocery list for Thanksgiving.  I'm making the family rum cake, a chocolate bunt cake and pumpkin pie.  Also for Sunday another two cakes and a big batch of shrimp bisque.

I am pretty sure we have rats digging under the chicken coop and will set up the game camera tonight.  How do you get rid of rats?  Probably we will just have to move.  Or dynamite.  That's an option too, 

Also that Ebay user from the other day has continued what I'm considering harassment at this point.  It's fun.  

So here are the seeds we have.  Forgive the typos, this is just for my records.  Anything in blue is something that will need to be purchased.

Lettuce: black seeded simpson, iceberg, mix of reds and speckled leaves
Kales: scarlet, dinosaur, dwarf curled, blue dwarf curled
Other greens: orach, spinach, rainbow swiss chard,
Herbs: cilantro, parsley, basil (green & purple), sage, rosemary, thyme
Summer squash: zucchini, yellow crookneck
Winter squash: butternut, long island cheese, acorn, jumbo pink banana, jarrahdale, australian butter, 2 bags of unknowns collected
Root crops: radish mix, danvers carrots, colored carrot mix, parsnip
Climbing things: shelling peas (little marvel, alaska) snow peas (oregon sugar, french snow pea), cucumber
Beans: mix of bush beans
Tomato:beefsteak, yellow brandywine, black brandywine, hillbilly potato leaf, striped roman, celebration, plum lemon, something pink, something blue
Pepper: sweet banana, thai chili, marconi red, king of the north
Other stuff: broccoli raab, groundcherries

Friday, November 22, 2019

Making the best of things

The last week has been a lesson in trying to make the best of things on all fronts.  The weather has been cold and wet but I still take the kids outside every day to shake the dust off.

Sitting on the hopscotch walk, complaining about his mittens.

Ringing bells on an empty tree.

Making a pulley out of some clothesline and a Frisbee. 

We had Jamie Oliver's Maryland chicken this week.  I didn't have enough bananas so added some apples.  We didn't have white wine so I used apple juice.  It was good.  Tonight my husband and I had the leftovers with the kids running around acting like feral animals.  The kids refused to eat it.  Bee licked the leftover salad before I could put it away. The kids are complaining now that they're hungry.

The oldest loved his Jet toy but it was lost a couple of months ago.  I've checked everywhere and asked everyone.  This week I texted my sister a picture of him and asked if she'd possibly seen it.  She had not but 2 days later the oldest received a box in the mail from Amazon; she had sent him a new Jet.  He was so excited when he opened it that I couldn't get a picture; it's just a snap shot of him screaming in excitement and waving a toy above his head.  We/I made an aircraft hanger out of the Amazon box.

Here are the 4 of us tonight eating popcorn and watching Super Wings. 

I have been selling things on Ebay for years now to bring in a little extra cash and regularly get stuff out of the house.  I pride myself on being a good and honest seller but this week I had an experience that was just so depressing.  A person gave me a very low-ball offer on an item that had been sitting for awhile so I accepted it.  Then they asked if I combined shipping.  Sure I do.  Then they wanted 4 other items but didn't want to pay anything close to my opening cost for any of them.  We negotiated and I gave them my best price with shipping.  They agreed.  Then they complained about the agreed on shipping cost because all of that "couldn't possibly cost more than $3 to ship" and "obviously I was new to this" with lots of "God bless" thrown in.  It was becoming apparent that the initial sale was designed to build trust. 

Nothing feels worse than being hustled and eventually I just shipped their initial item ($4 total, seriously) and told them, sorry, the rest was going for auction.  They then lost it claiming I was wasting their time etc and the thing they bought couldn't have cost more than a stamp to ship. And so forth. 

   That $4 total? After fees, taxes and shipping I may have cleared 50 cents.  Tops.  Of course they lodged this complaint only after I had mailed out an item with no tracking.  I guarantee that next week they'll be back complaining that the item wasn't as described or  that they never got it.  Then I'll have to refund the whole thing and they'll get to keep the item.  So after years on Ebay and literally hundreds of successful sales I know I am going to get a negative feedback from this person.  I actually blocked them from my account after receiving no less than 10 messages in 24 hours.  Among of which was one telling me not to contact them because they were busy selling the very thing I had sold them. Ending in, again, "god bless!"

 It's so stupid.

Last week I went to the post office to ship some things I had sold.  I took both kids with me. Our post office is an old beautiful thing made of marble. The acoustics are fantastic.  The oldest knows enough to behave himself but the baby spent the whole wait babbling and exclaiming as loudly as he could to hear the echos. And trying to throw himself out of the stroller. The oldest hid under a display. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around.  There was a line of 5 ladies behind me all in their 70's or later.  The tapper looked at me and said "Honey, these are the best years of your life". I must have made a face because she continued "I'm a grandma, I know". Everyone else nodded in agreement.  The kids continued yelling and being ridiculous until I was finally checked out.  When I turned around to leave I thanked them all for being so nice and patient and one of the ladies piped up "I hope you have wine at home!".

It's always something. 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The best and worst

The best and worst thing on the internet today. Be prepared for a good cry.


I want to high-five this lady. God bless her.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

New rooster, chicken dinner, cooking for cats

We got a new rooster this week. A friend of mine was getting rid of her flock and I asked for him.  He's 4 years old, a total sweetheart, has a good crow and the hennies absolutely love him.

How can I tell they love him?  Because they follow him around like a rock star.   Because that little leghorn hen likes to run over to him and throw herself on the ground in front of his feet.  It's really embarrassing.

Here they are together cleaning up spilled birdseed from under the feeders.  

I don't know his breed.  She told me that they got a batch of chicks from a local Amish feed store during their chick days and that he was a different color from the females when he was a baby.  So I'm thinking he's one of the sex-linked hybrids that are popular with hatcheries now.

This was an amazing sun-dried tomato chicken dinner we found from reading Schoonover Farm

Here are the ingredients.  Flatten the chicken breasts, I floured them like for a marsala before cooking them.  Then just make a sauce.  We'll make this regularly.

A chicken pot pie from last week. 

I've even been "cooking" for the cats for the last two weeks.  Mainly because I didn't feel like going out for their "treat" wet cat food one day.  Every day I've been soaking their grain-free dried cat food overnight in either chicken stock or the scraps of milk the kids leave around the house.  Yesterday it was in the oil from canned salmon we had.  The change in the cats in just this short amount of time has been unbelievable.  Bee has always been a skinny slip of a thing but she's put on probably a pound or more  of weight.  She looks great.  And both cats now have the softest, shiniest fur you can imagine.