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.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Making friends

I had forgotten how much joy a packet of cat treats can bring.  To both a baby and the cats.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Oh my.

The oldest was so excited to show us his creation.  
"Come look!"

It's a rocket ship. We cannot stop laughing. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The big snow, books

We had a heck of an early-season cold snap hit us.

The chickens stayed in along with the cats but the ducks and geese are loving it.  The cats and chickens were like " there is no treat on earth that will make us go out there."  We got probably 4 inches of snow and some ice.

Ducks don't care.

Here is the house yesterday.

A tree in the old orchard.

Inside we have the an orchid that I bought at Aldi in the spring that is re-blooming wonderfully and an amaryllis bought at Wal-mart that is supposed to be a double white blossom. 

Ninja kicking the icecicles of the car this morning.  They have new boots but I cannot find winter clothes anywhere.  

So last night I brought a tray of snow inside for them to play in.  I've looked everywhere.  They both have snow pants at the very least packed away but I've searched every corner of the house.

Last night I finished this book.  We had seen the movie years ago and I knew Tom killed Dickie  and took over his identity halfway through it but didn't remember anything else.  Patricia Highsmith wrote it in the 50's along with The Price of Salt (also amazing) Strangers on a Train (will order).  Like The Price of Salt this is an intoxicating book that draws you right in.  I know, I know, that Tom Ripley murders two people during the course of the pages for nothing but self-serving reasons but I couldn't help but root for him, heart in my throat, until the final page.  That's some good writing.

This is my next book.  I'm reading this with a friend and have never heard of the author or have any idea what it's about except the horror of receiving it in the mail and realizing it was nearly 500 pages. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Talking about death, Goodbye Rudolph

The oldest, at 4 years old, has been asking a lot of innocent and painfully awkward questions lately about death and my mother. She died when I was 6 months pregnant with him and we talk about her and look at pictures all the time.

Today in the middle of one of these discussions (In the McDonald's drive through of all places)  he asked "Do trees die? Why? What happened to your mom? Where is her skin? What happened to it?", I explained again what happens when people die, what a cemetery was and asked if he wanted to go see where my mom was buried.  He did.  Off we went. For the first time together.   It took a longer time than usual to get to Rocky Glen because not one but two of the roads leading to the rural cemetery were closed.  We parked,  got out and looked at her gravestone.  I answered his 4 year old questions ("where are her hands?") and we looked at other grave markers. ("Who lives there? And under there?")

This is what my father, my sister and I did that day years ago with all of the funeral arrangements; took them apart and arranged the flowers in a mile high mound on the grave of a gardener.  It was beautiful.

On the way to the cemetery we passed a 6 point buck dead along the road that someone had stopped and stuck a red plastic Rudolph nose on. The oldest didn't notice.

Later in the night I found him with this photo of my mom, slapping it against his thigh. 

 What on earth are you doing?  I asked.  He told me he was trying to "poof her back to life"  I explained again that it it didn't work that way and he immediately suggested we suggested we get out the game Bananagrams.  He said that we could spell out her name with the tiles "to make you less sad".  We did.  I was ok.

While looking for the grave photo I found this one of my mom. She's sitting on Santa's lap in 1955 at the exact age our youngest is now.

I hope I am explaining all of this the right way and not screwing it up.  The oldest has a lot of questions but he's 4 years old and trying to understand the world.  I am mostly ok but having an extra beer tonight which I think is forgivable. Sometimes these everyday moments just catch me sideways.

Why share this personal thing?  Why blog at all?  I've spent a lot of time thinking about that and what seems right to me is that I blog in order to keep a record of my life.  So that one day my children will be able to read it and remember my personality, what my voice sounded like.

Sometimes you don't mess with perfection.

No one else in the house eats cornbread but now that it's cold outside I want it all the time.  With eggs, with soup, as a snack.  I've tried a couple different recipes like the one above that while not being outright failures they were just ok. Mostly they were fed to the chickens who were overjoyed.

Then yesterday I finally hit perfection.

Sweet, chewy and light with an amazing corn flavor.  The cornbread of dreams.  How did I achieve this masterpiece?

Yep.  Jiffy corn muffin mix.  49 cents a box.  I gave in to temptation and was rewarded.

Ingredients include:


I don't know what half that crap is and I don't care.   It's absolutely delicious.  The chickens aren't getting any of this.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Shrimp bisque, Dru Holland cookware, baking with the kids

We adults were both super happy with dinner last night so I want to write down how it was made.  I had intended to just buy some lobster bisque from the store yesterday but all of it listed clam juice in the ingredients and the husband is allergic.  Walking around the store I considered just making lobster bisque.  Then thought that we probably didn't need a $20 pot of soup so downgraded it to shrimp.  It was delicious.  It's a lobster bisque recipe from Allrecipes that I tweaked.

2 tbsp butter melted in the medium Dru Holland pot. 
Added half a white onion and a paste-style tomato. 
Let this simmer in 1/4 C chicken stock for awhile.
In a separate pan melted 2 tbs butter and added 2 tbsp flour to make a roux. 
This was added to the Dru pot along with  1&1/2 C milk,  3/4 c chicken stock & 1/4 c half and half.
Added 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, pinch paprika, some pepper and a bit of siracha sauce.  
3/4 lb raw shrimp that I minced finely.

This simmered for awhile and it just was not thickening up so I pulled off a cup of it (liquid and shrimp) and put it in the Nutribullet along with some cornstarch.  That really helped.

Speaking of the Dru cookware, this came out of hiding the other week (The big pot in back) and will probably spend the cool months just sitting out on the stove.  It's too big to store anywhere convenient and I can't get over how useful it is.  Probably every other day we've used it for something or another.  I think my mom made beef stew in this pot.  

She collected the mint green color of Dru and had a good assortment of it found at flea markets and antique shops over the years.  The three pieces of hers that I picked out are all lidded casseroles of various sizes.  They are such quality pieces that it would be nice to pick up a couple more.  I don't think they made a pie pan but there is an au gratin pan that might work well for baking.

The odd-sized cast iron pot is one I found on clearance at Tractor Supply years back.  I popped popcorn in it last night and we watched The Grinch together after my husband and the oldest carved a pumpkin.

This morning we made banana bread.  We're still loving this recipe but I've cut the sugar down to half, added a extra egg and extra banana.

The oldest is a pro at this point.

And the baby has just started his training.  I think I might make them aprons for Christmas.  Oh my goodness, I forgot about this post of the oldest, at not quite 2, with his Thomas apron.

We're getting a large collection of sprinkles.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Popcorn has left in disgrace

Popcorn the rooster left in disgrace today.  He was not turned into a pot pie but rather returned to the house that we got him from.

He rode in the back of the Honda and pondered his poor choices on the drive across town.

He seemed to recognize the place immediately.  The lady that lives there takes in unwanted farm animals and keeps them happy until they die of old age.  He'll have a good life and would have at our place too if only he hadn't started charging at me and the kids. 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Halloween and .... snow

 Trick or treat was Saturday and just like last year it rained for the duration.  We still had fun.  I made wings and tails for both the little ones and they went as parrots.  My husband and I were pirates.  I was pleased with how the wings turned out but they ended up being really heavy with all of those layers of felt, something I was worried about.  The kids liked them and had a good time.  The youngest is too young to understand the whole trick or treat thing but discovered that he is deeply in love with Reese's peanut butter cup candies.

The oldest made this at pre-school.  The pumpkin's name is Minky, which is just hilarious.

He wore a Batman suit to pre-school yesterday. It was just his regular sweatshirt and pants plus a cape and a mask.  They had a little parade for the parents which was cute.

The youngest has been wearing his dinosaur sweatshirt everywhere as it's been nothing but cold and rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  

We woke up this morning to snow.  Just enough to lightly coat everything but enough to let us know the cold is coming.