Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Just Another Day

Today began with sleeping in.  Andrew and I stayed up too late watching catch-up episodes of some of our favorite shows.  Once he left for work I ran into town to drop off some donations at our towns re-sale shop.  I love taking stuff there.  The staff is kind and always has a moment to share small talk.
When I brought in my couple of boxes one of the ladies came over to take them.
"Are they heavy?"
"No, it isn't heavy," I said, as I handed the boxes to her.
"Yes they are!" I quickly helped her put them on the ground near a sorting table.
"Sorry,  I didn't think they were that heavy."
Another staff member came toward us, "Don't worry about her," she said with a smile.
"Oh, I forget that sometimes I lift more than others without thinking about it."  My family has a nickname for me, Powerful Katrina, a nickname from my grandfather.  He first called my mom Powerful Katrina, eventually I took on the moniker.
I thanked the ladies and returned home.  Here is the view I had as I drove up:Item Thumbnail 

I never seem to get tired of looking at the farm as I drive home.  My phone doesn't have the ability to take the shots my eyes see.  The sun was shining behind the barn, illuminating the snow on the tin roofs.  The red paint on the outside of the buildings stood out in sharp contrast.  I could have stayed on the side of the road for a long time looking at the property.  There is something about coming home, it settles my spirit, bringing instant contentment.

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Some of our pine trees near the house.
 For dinner tonight I made an amazing meal.  I took chicken breasts and cut them into chunks, cooking them in a bit of olive oil and butter.  I put a tablespoon of Mrs. Dash's original blend and some salt and pepper in with the chicken.  After the chicken had cooked a while I added a 1/4 cup of red wine, some caramelized onions and baby carrots from a previous meal.  I let that cook over medium heat and turned to the potatoes I was boiling.  I used The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook I just bought for the mashed potatoes.  I put in butter, salt, pepper, and about 2/3 cup of sour cream.  (I didn't have the cream cheese she had in her recipe).  I loved the heartiness and simplicity of what I made.  Sara Lee's Banana Cake was our dessert.  Sara Lee's Banana Cake is my ALL TIME favorite cake-ever!!  My grandparents' house was near Sara Lee and we could smell all of the baking goodies during the summer--yum!

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Look how creamy my potatoes are!!
I can't wait to find more goodies in my new cookbook.  In the meantime, I will enjoy my banana cake.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tom and Huck

The kitchen sink is under two windows that look toward our barn.  I love washing the dishes by hand, setting them to dry in the dish rack.  There is something simple, wholesome, and even sacred about doing dishes this way.  I remember doing dishes in my grandmother's kitchen when I visited.  She had a large dish pan, an aluminum bowl actually, that she would use and then discard the dishwater outside when she was done.  Doing dishes this way makes me smile, it is like therapy to me. 
One morning while doing the dishes I happened to see my two sons, ages 10 and 11, walking side by side, each with his BB gun slung over his shoulder, heads leaning in conspiratorially toward each other.  They were walking toward the lane that goes behind the barn and toward the fields.  I don't know what was shared, but it made my heart happy to see them this way. 
We live on 160 acres, with 40 of it wooded, complete with a pond.  My youngest son, has a bit of Arliss from Old Yeller in him.  If there is an animal to catch he will try to do it.  We seem to be over run with toads, frogs, salamanders, and the occasional garter snake.  I often have to remind him to let the animals "be" and not try to keep them all. "But Mom, I just want to hold it for awhile." I often hear as a response.
The eldest, who sometimes thinks he is 16 instead of almost 12, has been known to disappear and explore yet another place that only a boy would want to discover.  
I often think about what it would have been like to have a girl.  I am grateful for the nieces I have, but all in all, I am blessed to be the mom of boys, even if they seem to possess bits of Mark Twain's rascals....
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Arliss and Travis off to explore the woods

Our Animals

Item ThumbnailThe cattle are gone now, the family that keeps them here took them in the late fall and we won't have any again until spring.  So for now, our animals are simply dogs and a guinea pig.  Well, two guinea pigs, Arliss' class has a guinea pig and we "won" the pig for all of Christmas break.
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Rover waiting to be chased
Our dogs are 5 years old and 2 1/2 years old.  Rover, our Brittany, is 35 pounds and five years old.  He is orange and white, with greying eyebrows and an insatiable desire to chase anything that moves, even a little.  I mean even a couple of inches.  If his chew toy falls off the couch he MUST get up off the couch, pick it up, chew on it, parade around the room to make sure we all see that he has his chew toy, then maybe he will get back up on the couch and lay down again.  Or maybe he will chew on it a little, until Rufus, our black lab, comes along and steals it from him.
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Rover after a romp in our pond
Rufus is 100 pounds of puppy adolescence.  He believes he is a lap dog and cannot understand why Andrew doesn't want him to be on the couch with him.  Could it be that Rufus is big enough to take over the couch?
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Rufus in the hay field 
Rufus likes whatever chewing item is in Rover's mouth.  He doesn't think it is necessary to find his own, instead he knows he needs to have Rover's toy.  We buy two chew toys every time, but as anyone with two toddlers knows, the younger one wants whatever the older one has.
Tonight as I put the dogs' food into their dishes, the guinea pigs started to squeal.  Apparently the sound of dog food going into a dish made them think they needed some too.

Our guinea pig, Katie Bug, is a fat and sassy pig, she loves hay and carrots and will squeal when she thinks she needs more attention.  The classroom guinea pig, S'mores, is a sleek haired pig, with a lot of energy.  She is commonly found on top of her igloo house instead of inside of it.  She likes to squeal whenever she feels like it.  Arliss told me she likes to squeal during spelling tests.  She must think that she needs to make noise when the class is too quiet.

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Rufus taking his first swim in our pond
Rover and Rufus were raised in the suburbs.  Their only experience has been a fenced-in backyard.  Coming to a 160 acre farm has been quite the lesson for them.  We don't have a fence around the farmhouse (kind of hard to fence in a farm), so we tied clothesline to a tree and the dogs can be outside, but not run off.
For a time I allowed the dogs to run outside as long as I was with them, so they could get a taste of their territory.  I don't  do it often and I certainly don't do it at night.  We have coyotes around here and they aren't afraid of humans.  One afternoon I opened the door to let the dogs run and Rover went out like a streak.  I caught a glimpse of brown running near the cornstalks.  Rover was running at a deer's flank and keeping stride with it.  The deer had no idea what to do, by the time I realized what was happening Rufus was out the door as well.  I looked up and down the road to make sure no cars were coming, because Rover was still determined to catch this "thing" that was in his yard.  Across the road, into the neighboring soybean field the dogs ran, suddenly another deer started to run, now Rover and Rufus were after three deer.  There had been two in my yard and another had been waiting in the soybeans.  By the time I got the dogs back in the house, I was out of breath and didn't know whether to beat the dogs or laugh.  I could see the headlines now, "SUBURBAN DOG CATCHES DINNER."
Oh well.  I do know that between Arliss, Travis, and the dogs I will never be bored.  I just wish I could find a way to keep the red hair I have from turning totally white before I turn 42, I know the boys and dogs won't help me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Day With the Menfolk

Today my love announced that we were going shopping.  Our family has been hanging around the house for the past few days and we needed to break out.
The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl [Book]Arliss and Travis had some Christmas money to spend and we wanted to get a few things as well.   Our favorite shopping place begins with a W so we hit there first.  After-season shopping is a tradition.  We've found new dishes, candles, candy, tablecloths, you name it, in the clearance aisles.   This year we found four-wick pine candles that really smell like pine, not that fake wanna-be stuff.  My husband is originally from Colorado, he only wants "real" pine.  My big find was The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook.  The Pioneer Woman is one of my favorite websites to visit.  Her cookbook is full of real recipes; not ones full of boxes and cans, but recipes with a cup of this and a teaspoon of that.  I started to read it while we drove to the next store.

The next place we went to was Farm and Fleet; my husband had a late Christmas present in mind for me.  I love Farm and Fleet.  As we walked inside two farmers were leaning against a display catching up with each other.  " So,  did you get that land you put a bid on?"
"Well, no we didn't.  I put a bid of..."
Carhartt Denim Bib Overall / UnlinedAndrew walked straight to the jeans section and stopped in front of the overalls.  Turning he smiled, "So, what's your size in men's?"  We found a pair that works, with the kind of pockets I like.  I prefer the bib to have a large single pocket.  We walked around the store and found a few more goodies.  Andrew found a Farmer's Almanac calendar for me, as well as my favorite red-raspberry candies.  I love red raspberries, they are my favorite fruit of all time.   God could have stopped with red raspberries, oranges, and maybe blueberries.

Anyway.  After our last store it was time to eat.  We found a restaurant called The Machine Shed--think Cracker Barrel with a farming slant.  The lights hung from the ceiling by yokes that once held horses. There were blacksmithing tools hanging on the walls.
Poland-China pig Clipart  On the wall by our booth was a picture of a Poland China Sow, dated 1910.  We spent our time trying to guess just how much this "Lard Brand" sow weighed.  If you can find a Machine Shed restaurant I highly recommend it, the food was amazing.  Arliss and Travis devoured the ribs and I ate most of my chicken-fried steak.  Andrew surprised us all and ordered two 32 ounce root beer floats.  We ate as much as we could and brought home the left-overs.

After coming home I started putting away all of our new treasures and put on my new overalls.  They fit like a glove, Andrew made sure I had all of my tags removed,  I have no desire to look like Minnie Pearl.

It has been a good day.  I always enjoy doing errands with my menfolk.  It makes it even more fun when we find goodies to bring home along the way.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Quilting, Quilting, Quilting, part 2

My best friend, Dawn, has been quilting for years.  She made my wedding quilt and Arliss' and Travis' baby quilts.   About a year ago she began making a number of small hexagon pieces of fabric.  For Christmas this year she shared her treasures.  I am now addicted to English Paper Quilting.  In less than a week I have put together over 100 pieces.

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Item ThumbnailTo make the pieces is very easy if you are interested.  The hexagon is called a one inch hexagon; meaning each side of the hexagon is one inch long.   I take a piece of fabric and pin the hexagon to the back side of the fabric.   Once it is pinned I cut the fabric to a little larger than the hexagon.

Item ThumbnailItem ThumbnailI do a stitch that holds down each corner so that the fabric now fits the hexagon shape.  Once I finish I take out the pin.  After I have a number of these hexagons I whip stitch the edges together until I have a larger hexagon.
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Dawn gave me some "wild" fabric so that my pieces would pop with color.  I am not sure how large I am going to make this, but the idea that I could make it to be as big as I want or as small as I want is kind of liberating.

 I can make five a day or twenty-five a day.  It is fun and a great way to feel like I have accomplished something.
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If you are interested in starting your own Paper Piece Quilt go to Thumbnail

Monday, December 20, 2010

O Little Town of Smallville

Item ThumbnailItem ThumbnailToday I put together our goodie packages to mail to family far away.  After packing up ginger snaps, sugar cookies, cardamom coffee cake, carmel corn, peanut brittle, and caramels, into the various boxes we were off to the post office.

Item ThumbnailOur post office, as I mentioned before is a 2 person window.  My husband dropped me off at the door and circled the block for a parking place.  The line parted allowing me to come into the building.  At least 15 people were waiting patiently for their turn to drop off packages and letters.  I smiled at those in line and began listening to the conversations.

"You know, there is a post office in A-------------."
"I know, but a friend just texted me that she waited in line for 45 minutes.  So much for the larger post office being faster."
"Yeah, you won't wait 45 minutes here.  Maybe 15 at the most."

Another person came in and saw my arms full of packages, "I'm sorry, I didn't bring a table for you to put your boxes on while you wait."
"That's okay.  I don't mind holding it."  I smiled at the older woman.  She had soft blue eyes like my grandmother's.

"Mom,  are Ty and I the only two children in line," asked a precocious four year old.
"Yes, Bella."
"Ohh.  Can we go to the library when we are done?"
 "Maybe, we'll see."
"Do you have my library card with you?"
"Yes, I have your library card."
"Do you keep it with you always always?"
" Yes," the mother shifted the weight of her son's car seat from one hip to the other.
"Is it my library card or do we share it?"
"It is your own library card."
"You mean we each have our own library card, they are separate?"
"Yes, they are separate."
"So I don't have to share mine with you at all?"
"No, you don't have to share it."
The little girl smiled with empowerment.

A few minutes later the little girl turned to her mom again.  "Mom, am I being good?"
"I am?"  More empowerment.

The waiting line continued to move forward and soon I was only a few people from the counter.
"Does rocking the package help?"
I turned around, "Excuse me?"
"Does it help rocking the package," asked the same lady who apologized for not bringing a table.
"Oh, I didn't realize I was rocking.  I think it is left over from when my kids were little.  They are older, but the rocking hasn't stopped."
The lady between us smiled in agreement.
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Farm Sweet Farm
My table owner smiled,  "I had forgotten so much about when my kids were little.  That was 48 years ago."  Her memories flitted across her face.


I stepped forward, "Hi, I'd like to mail these packages and I need a roll of stamps."  A few minutes later I was on my way home.

Where else but in a small town can you get a lesson in patience and a new acquaintance as well ?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Winter has come with a vengeance to the Midwest.  Our area has been hit with snow, rain, frigid temperatures, and more snow.  Somehow, each weather pattern brings its own style of beauty.  I thought I would share some pictures of our farm.  I love the way light plays on ice crystals.  Enjoy !
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The corn field at rest
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One of many pine trees on the farm
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My lilac bush at rest