30 November 2010

I'm back!

 Our long weekend became even longer because of the snow.  I got my wish I guess, even though we weren't really snowed in.  The roads were just too nasty for us to go anywhere.  I kind of took a break from the internet while I was gone, and that was nice, although I felt like I was forgetting something and I wondered how everyone's Thanksgiving went.  I've been trying to get caught up this morning, but my house is also in dire need of help.  Our landlady had the kitchen redone while we were away, so we had moved everything out of the kitchen and into any available space, then my children sprinkled toys and books on top of all that.  They are somewhat motivated to help, since I informed them that Christmas decorations will not go up until the house is clean. 

I think my baking day will have to be postponed, although I have some recipes that I'm very excited to try.  Cookies may happen later today, but I'm really planning on making up some "fat-burning" soup, as my mom calls it.  After eating with total abandon this past week, I'm feeling the need to do something that resembles healthy eating. 

Oh what feasts we had.  There was the typical turkey, dressing, potatoes, stuffing, yams and a great big salad that I ate two helpings of simply because there were raspberries in there.  Then leftovers for a few days, with those almonds that I have fallen in love with and some stuffed mushrooms to make things fun.  Sunday, there was another gathering with family members that missed the Thanksgiving gathering and we ate an entire pan of brisket, more stuffed mushrooms, more potatoes and gravy, and then we finished off the remnants of the pies.  As if that wasn't enough, I made a pan of brownies to snack on while we played games, and that also disappeared.  I now have a miss piggy nose, I think.

I did go for walks, so that counts for something, right?  Here's some wintery pictures for your viewing pleasure...

This is how much snow we found at the ranch.

 Obviously, sledding had to happen.

 I kept sneaking out of the house to take pictures.  This is a stack-yard full of hay, with some horses begging next to it.

 Then it snowed, and snowed some more and we decided to wait for the storm to pass before driving home again.

I took more pictures, trying to catch just how red the willows turn during winter.

This is how much snow was on the swing when we left.

And then the sun came out and I tried to catch how red the rose-hips look with the white snow and aspen trees behind.   I need to learn how to take better pictures.  I'll just jot that one down for a new year's resolution.

23 November 2010

Snowbound baking day Tuesday

I was hoping to get on the road before this big storm hit so I could enjoy being snowed in at the ranch.  I love watching the snow fall, knowing that I have enough wood to keep me warm and enough food to keep me fed.  I kind of like the feeling of nobody being able to get in and out.  It kind of forces you to slow down and look around you, especially if the power goes out. 

Unfortunately, we will have to stay put in our basement until the storm passes, then we can go.  Things seemed to be coming together to get us out of here, but then some work came up for my husband, and we were delayed in getting our car window fixed.  -I didn't tell you about that did I? 

On Saturday, we were driving up a canyon when a crazy little hail storm hit, and hit hard.  We thought the car in front of us was kicking up gravel at first, but it was little, jagged, dirty hail stones.  I've never seen it like that.  I thought the windshield was going to come in on us, they were coming so fast and hard.  Instead, the back driver side window shattered.  And then the storm was gone.  Maybe 5 seconds was all.  So, we've been driving around with a duct tape window back there.  Definitely makes me the cool mom in the kindergarten carpool.

Anyway, looks like we're stuck here for the night and most of tomorrow.  I hope the power doesn't go out.  It's dark enough in this basement, and I don't know how the heat works exactly.  Pretty sure it's electric.  I am going to miss just sitting and watching the snow fall.  I love that.  Here, I have to stand next to the wall and look up to see out. 

On to the baking!  Since I didn't know exactly what our plans were, I didn't do bread.  We're still working our way through the failure from last week.  Instead, I'm working on my part of Thanksgiving dinner.  I offered to make rolls, even though I've never had any turn out pretty, and pumpkin pie. 

My daughter was given a pumpkin that she fell in love with after Halloween, so rather than let it slump into a pile on her dresser, (yes it was in her room) I decided to try some pumpkin pie with it.  I didn't think she would notice since I moved it into the kitchen and she didn't say anything, but as I was hacking it into quarters, she walked into the kitchen and screeched, "MY PUMPKIN!"  Oops.  She's a good sport about it and told me later that making a pie out of it was her plan all along.  She has helped me with every part of the pies, and after I forced her to try some of the puree, she snuck a bunch of it and asked for more for dinner.  It was good for a mystery pumpkin, my 9 month old thought so too.  I wish I had saved a few seeds before roasting them.

I used these directions from pickyourown.org.   I had more puree than the recipe calls for, so I upped the other ingredients accordingly.  Four cups of pumpkin yielded three small pies, and they were as full as they could be.  The pies just came out of the oven, so I don't know about taste yet, but they look good, not quite as orange as I'm used to.  I doubt my husband will try it, but maybe... if a certain four year old in a purple fairy dress and red apron asks him... we'll see.  She is so proud of her pumpkin.

The rolls are not what I at first envisioned.  There was a lady near my home that had an amazing roll recipe.  She was famous for them and she would bring them to every church function, every funeral, special occasion, you name it.  She would NOT share the recipe.  I don't know if she handed it down to any of her children.  I hope so.  Because of her, when I picture rolls, I picture hers.  Mine never measure up, or even come close.  I'm always disappointed in my end product.  They are perfectly edible, but they are just little chunks of bread, not the light, fluffy, buttery, who cares what else is in the pot-luck mounds of heaven that I want. 

So I didn't try.  I opted to try a recipe I found on allrecipes.com for butterhorn rolls.  They already look funny, so that's no big deal, and they are covered in butter, so they have to be good.  How can I fail?  I tried to.  I kept forgetting to spread the butter before cutting into pie shapes, and the butter should have been a bit more spreadable, but, I think they turned out pretty good.  They surprised me by raising a lot in the oven, and then smooshing down after I got them out.  Maybe should have baked a bit longer?  They are done and they are pretty good.  So let's hear it for a successful baking day!

And, if anyone has a world famous, fool-proof recipe for rolls, I'm all ears!

22 November 2010

Food Storage: How to use canned chicken

I was wary of canned chicken for a long time.  It just looks awful.  Really awful.  I didn't see the value of taking something I was perfectly comfortable with -frozen chicken- and turning it into something so scary and unusable.  Then, my freezer became full.  And I found a great deal on chicken.  A big box of chicken.  So, my mother and I pulled out the pressure canners and went to work.  When we were done, we had a bunch of nasty looking jars.  Usually, a bunch of full jars is a source of joy for me, but not this time.  I thought the money spent on that chicken was a waste.  I could never bring myself to use it and my husband would not be able to swallow it.  He's a texture guy, you know. 

Then I tried thinking of recipes that could use the chicken, since I hate to waste so much food.  I came up with chicken enchiladas.  I figured the chicken is so covered up in there, it might just work.  So, while my husband wasn't watching, I opened a can and chopped up the chicken inside, which is very similar to tuna in feel and texture.  I made the enchiladas and watched to see if he would spit it out on the first bite. 

He didn't.  He ate a few helpings and then complimented me on how good the enchiladas were that night.  Hmmm.  Not what I expected at all.  I was amazed actually at how good they were too. 

So that gave me courage to try more recipes.  Chicken chili is good, as well as a chicken tortilla soup that we like.  I'm going to try a chicken salad soon and see how that works out, but I don't often make that, so we won't have much to compare against.  Really, anything that takes cooked, cut up chicken would probably work great with canned chicken. 

I never thought I would admit that I like canned chicken, and you certainly won't see me eating it straight out of the jar. (shudder)  But, I like that it is already cooked and ready to go, and I love that it isn't taking up valuable freezer space.

Hopefully tomorrow I can type out a few of these recipes, but not tonight.  I have to go put away that chicken chili we ate for dinner.

18 November 2010

Wow, that was fast!

Those books that I've been going on and on about... that I screwed up...they arrived today!  I ordered them late Monday night, technically, I think it was Tuesday and they are here today, Wednesday.  Wow, and, the one doesn't make sense, of course, because one of the pages is all out of order.  But the one for my son turned out great.  He loves seeing pictures of himself and his reading is taking off, so I can just see him loving it.  Unfortunately, I have to wait a whole month to give it to him.  I'm so bad at waiting when I'm excited about a gift.

I planned on posting the whole thing, but I'm having fits with the photos, and I'm out of patience, so you only get two pictures.  It looks a lot shorter in this format, but when you add more pictures, it's about the perfect length for a six year old boy.

The Little Cowboys

 It’s a long day on horseback, over a hill, through sagebrush, down into a valley and then to the pasture near the corrals.

17 November 2010

Another failure and a lesson learned

After several rather rough days, I'm happy to say that today was a good day.  And I think I know why.  As I stood in the kitchen at 3:00 this morning, warming up a bottle, I had a thought.  First thought was, "why is my baby awake right now?", but my other thought was much more profound.  Because of a deadline, I was working on my projects like a mad woman.  When I'm so focused like that, I can't focus on anything else.  It does no good to have a plan, or lists, or anything else because I won't look at it.  The house was a mess, we didn't have good filling dinners, we ate fast food a few times... my entire household organization went to pot.  I became frazzled from the pressure of the deadline, but especially from the feelings of failing in everything else.  As I stood here early this morning, I realized that my priorities had gotten all out of whack.  I was allowing a project, which is important, and it will get done, take precedence over everything else. 

Have you ever seen the little object lesson where you try to fit rocks, sand and water into one jar?  The lesson being that if you put things in the jar in the right order, everything will fit, but if you start with the small things, it just won't work.

So, first things first.  Feed my spirit, feed my marriage, feed my family (physically and spiritually).  I read a post today at Give a Girl a Fig about being spiritually thirsty, and I realized that I am too.  First on my list... study scriptures and pray with more meaning.

Feeding my marriage is second on the list.  Someone gave me great advice before I married my husband.  He said to make sure my relationship with my husband is a priority, right after my relationship with God.  It is easy to allow children to take over everything and monopolize your energy and time, but if the marriage relationship is kept strong and sound, so much the better for those children. 

Third comes the children and house.  I let it fall apart and the kids were crazy as a result.  Which then made me more crazy, and the cycle continues.

Then, comes the extras, the projects for Christmas, the activities, etc.  And, as a side note, I did make the deadline for my book project (the buy one get one free sale was ending that night) BUT, as I was drifting off to sleep, I was brought straight out of bed by suddenly remembering that I had been messing with the page order and hadn't fixed it before I submitted it!  Too late to cancel the order, too late for the sale.  So much for that great idea, huh?  We'll just add that to that "failure" list.  I'm okay about it though.  I needed more time to work on it anyway and I should have been smart enough to just let it go, but I didn't because that would have been too easy and I like to do things as difficult as possible.  Or so it seems.  I am excited about that book though.  I'll post more about that soon.

16 November 2010

Baking Day Tuesday: a flop!

Strange day.  It seems the universe did not want me to bake much today.  And what I did get baked totally flopped.  I got a late start, even though I was up in good time, but I did remember to pull the yeast out of the fridge to warm up.  Finally, around lunch time I got serious about making bread.  While it was raising the first time, the dancing queen (4 year old daughter) and I mixed up some pie dough.  We did not bake pies today, but it is in the plan.  Still gotta use up those apples.  I had planned to make some cookies also, but that hasn't happened yet. 

The bread... I don't know what happened.  It raised the first time and a little bit the second time.  After waiting and waiting, I finally baked the poor pitiful things.  I see a lot of french toast and bread crumbs in our future, as well as another bread baking day.  Maybe tomorrow.

Back to the pie dough.  This is a great recipe that I got from my mom.  She makes a huge batch and then freezes it in balls so that when the pie making bug bites, she's already got dough made.  Here's the recipe:

Moist Pie Crust Mix
from some cookbook that is held together by a rubber band

10 cups flour
1 Tbs salt
4 cups shortening (or 3 1/4 cup lard)
Combine flour and salt in very large bowl.  Mix well.  With pastry  blender, cut in shortening until evenly distributed and resembles corn meal texture. 
1 1/2 cup cold water
1/8 cup flour-if needed
Add water all at once and mix lightly until the flour absorbs all the water.  If dough is too sticky, sprinkle flour over the top.  Divide dough into balls.  Makes 10 single pie crusts or 5 double pie crusts.  Freeze, or not.  My mom has been known to bake five pies in a day, but I'm aiming for just one.  :)

Hopefully the next time I bake, things will work out better!

15 November 2010


It was a rough night last night, and I found myself making a mental list of all the ways I am a failure.  Why does everything seem so crappy in the middle of the night?  So today, I'm needing to make a list of  positive things to look forward to...someday.

Someday, my kids will be grown up, and I will be able to take a step without hearing the squeak, rattle or crunch of some toy.
Someday, my little monster will sleep through the night.
Someday, I won't be living in a basement.
Someday, husband will finish school.
Someday, I won't constantly have cheerios stuck to the bottom of my socks.
Someday, I will be able to garden like I want to.
Someday, I will be able to have some chickens, and maybe a milk cow.
Someday, I will actually prepare for things instead of always flying by the seat of my pants.
Someday, the kids will be able to reach the cups and pour their own milk .
Someday, I will finish a project.
Someday, I will learn to play guitar.
Someday, I will remember what I walked into the bedroom to get.
Someday, I will remember that Friday is early release day at school.
Someday, I will remember where I put my sunglasses.
Someday, I will do all the things that I just can't get to yet.
Someday, we will make it through an entire meal without spilling something on someone.
Someday, I will reach my goals.

14 November 2010

I'm thankful for...

Continuing on my Thanksgiving train of thought...

I teach three and four year old children at church, which means there's not a lot of actual teaching going on.  We talk about something and then do an activity or song or something so that one boy doesn't feel the need to turn upside down in his chair and kick the girl next to him.  Then we talk a bit more, and the cycle continues.  (including the upside down in the chair bit)  It's interesting to say the least, and I can certainly say that kids say the darndest things.

Anyway, today, I asked the kids what holiday was coming up this month.  One girl yelled Christmas!  *sigh*  Nobody else had an answer.  So, we spent the time discussing Thanksgiving, what it means, who we are thankful to, and what we are thankful for.  We covered the basics; earth, water, sunshine, bodies.  Hopefully that will get them started thinking about all the things to be grateful for. 

I have noticed on Facebook, lots of people posting a daily gratitude statement.  I meant to do it too, but I just haven't.  I think it's a great idea, even if it's only a personal thing, maybe I should start writing thoughts on my calendar.  I know thoughts have come to me.  For example, I am so thankful that my husband found a small group of other students in his Calculus class that he can study and work on assignments with.  Before that, I was studying with him, which meant that I wasn't getting anything else done.  I mean, high school calc was over 10 years ago... I don't really remember it, and we were staying up ridiculously late at night after the kids were in bed, trying to get things done.  I was starting to get worn down, as our baby would wake up not long after we went to bed.  I could feel sickness creeping up on my tired body and I just couldn't see how we were going to make it.  And then, he found a group to study with.  It has been such a blessing all around.  I guess this is two thankful thoughts in one, because I am thankful for that group, but also that my prayer was answered. 

What are you thankful for today?

13 November 2010

My projects

It's been a busy day, but I wanted to share a little bit about what I've been working on lately.  I seem to have caught a writing bug.  Not really writing, I guess, but putting together children's books for my kids and some nephews and nieces.  Here's the last page of one of the books I'm working on.
 I'm also putting together a book about an experience of my Father's.  It's a Christmas book, and I really want it to be just right, so maybe I won't finish it this year...

12 November 2010

No T.V.

Yup,  my kids are watching the Sound of Music.
When we moved here, I insisted that we not hook up the cable, or satellite or anything like it.  My husband looked at me a little funny, but he agreed, besides, we would have to go through our landlord and it would up the rent.  So we started our life here without the television.  We do have movies, but I was a little worried how things would go, as I have been known to use the TV in the mornings to keep the kids busy while I get things done.  I would love to say it's been perfect, but I have missed the kids shows a bit.  (I am a closet backyardigans fan)  But really, it's been tough filling that time for the kids without them being right under me.  I am pondering on getting one of those digital receptors so we can get a few local channels.  I kind of miss the news now and then, but really, with the internet, there's not much I need from TV.

I'll tell you what I absolutely don't miss though.  The commercials!  It has been so nice to not constantly hear my kids telling me that they want or need the latest toy they just saw on TV.  Nice to have them actually use their imaginations, instead of repeating what the commercial said.  Marketing works.  Last summer, my son told me I should get glad force flex garbage bags.  Seriously?  A five year old cares about garbage bags?  I realized just how nice it has been to be commercial free yesterday, when one of our new movies had an advertisement for a toy before the movie started.  My kids were suddenly unhappy without that toy.  It's all they ever wanted.  How could they go on without it?

I think I'll keep on being commercial free.  I'll take the kids under my feet.

11 November 2010

Honey wheat bagel recipe

I thought I'd post this recipe too.  Around this time last year, I made bagels for the first time.  I was very pregnant, and I was nesting in a big way, cleaning out the cupboards and baking any recipe I came across.  My husband at this point was not surprised to come home to any baked good, or any mess on the kitchen floor.  He's a good sport about trying things too. 

To make bagels, you mix and proof dough, like any bread, but then you boil the bagels and then bake them.  Those bagels on my first try looked doughy still.  They were very white and un-cooked looking.  Then I found another recipe that said to add 2 tsp baking soda to each cup of water in the boiling pot.  I have heard of doing that to make pretzels, so I was worried to use that much.  I didn't want pretzels.  I made a compromise and did 1 tsp for every cup of water.  These ones look much better than my first try.  Of course, they are wheat this time, so they look different anyway.  Here's the recipe:

Honey Wheat Bagels
adapted from lilacs.in.bloom and Cooking with Food Storage
1 cup water
1 1/2 Tbs honey
1 cup bread flour
2 cups wheat flour (actually, I didn't need this much, so add a little at a time)
1 1/4 salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast
any other ingredient you want (blueberries, sunflower seeds, etc.)

Mix up the dough.  I start with the water, honey and yeast, then add flours and salt and any other ingredients you want.  Shape into ten disks and then push thumbs into middle and make a hole.  I don't think I made mine quite big enough.  I let them rest for 30 minutes, but you probably don't need to wait that long.  It was cold in my kitchen, so they didn't rise much.  Then, place into boiling water.  One recipe says for 10 seconds, the other says 20 seconds per side.  I went with the 20 on each side.  Flip and remove with a slotted spoon.  After you remove them, you can put a topping on them if you wish.  Maybe next time I'll do some sesame seeds. I put them onto corn meal to try to give them that store bought look, but it just turned into a mess of soggy corn meal.  Next time I'll just do parchment paper or a greased pan.  Bake at 450 for 8-9 minutes. 

I'm enjoying mine with nutella on top.  Yum!

10 November 2010

Baking Day Tuesday: Round two

I did not get as crazy this week like I did last week.  Thank goodness we don't have another birthday for a while.  As predicted, the cookie dough is gone and I have almost finished off the cookie crumbs.  Because we were out of town for the weekend,  we didn't use as much bread as usual, so I still have quite a bit of that.  We are still swamped by halloween candy and that sweet ice cream cake, so our need for sweets is taken care of... too much so, probably.

So for today, I pulled out some recipes that I have been wanting to make, but I just haven't had time: bagels and granola bars.  I also want to make some pretzels, but I don't have the salt that I want, so that will have to wait... until I make a run to the store... I do need socks... and parchment paper...

For the granola bars, I puffed some wheat following these directions.  I did it in two batches and I think I overdid the second batch.  I wish I had timed the first batch, but three kids suddenly needed my attention, and I was scrambling for the lid to the pot because those little wheat berries spit the oil at you.  So I don't even have a guess at how long.  Next time maybe.

I love these granola bars.  You can basically use whatever is handy.  They certainly aren't the healthiest thing to eat, but you can sneak as much healthy stuff into them as you like and the kids still love them.  I like using flax seed because you don't even realize you are eating the healthy stuff, and it otherwise tastes kind of yucky to me.   But, I didn't have any. 
Here's how I made them:

Granola Bars

Boil 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup honey
Then add 1/2 cup peanut butter
Remove from heat when all melted

In separate bowl stir together:
2 cups oats
1 cup other cereal, like rice crispies, or puffed wheat.  This is where I used the toasted wheat berries
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

You can also add 1/4 cup ground flax seed, 1/2 cup dried fruit or/and 1/2 cup coconut, or whatever else you want to have in there.

Mix sugar mixture into cereal mixture.  Add chocolate chips if desired and press mixture into wax paper lined 9 x 13 pan.  Press down on top to flatten.  Cool in fridge.  Cut into bars.

I haven't had a problem in the past with the wax paper sticking because I line the wax paper with the chocolate chips and it will come right off the chocolate.  However, if you aren't throwing in the chocolate, I would recommend putting some butter on the wax paper, because that honey/sugar mixture is really sticky.

09 November 2010

Daylight savings time ended!

...As I'm sure you all know.  We knew too, but we were still late for church, even with the extra hour to prepare.  I really don't like that they keep pushing the date back.  We used to "fall back" at the beginning of October.  Now it's the beginning of November!  I wish they would just leave it one way or the other.

We have been a bit slow getting all the clocks changed, which has caused some confusion.  It's hard to run a house when every room is running in a different time zone.  I was so impressed yesterday with how early my husband got up and ready.  He didn't know he was so early though.  He was about to walk out the door, when he looked at his phone.  Oops, it's not 8:30, it's 7:30.  Got to get the bedroom clock set right!

Hope your change has been without incident!

08 November 2010

Fall walk

I love fall.  I love the cool air, the smells, the colors, the quiet feeling.  I love running through the leaves on the ground.  I can't  help it.  Even pushing the stroller, we have to frolic through the leaves on the sidewalk... and then take off my shoes to get all the pieces out.  We went for a walk yesterday evening and we were pretty slow because I kept stopping to pick up pretty leaves.  There have been some amazing colors this fall.  Some trees have three or four different colors going on, although most leaves have already fallen.

We decided to fly kites since there was a breeze blowing, but by the time we got home to get the kites, the wind was gone.  We had a very pleasant evening.  You could see the snow up on the mountains, and today, it's here.  It's a cold, wet, snowy day today.  I'm so glad we got our walk in yesterday, and hopefully, we'll get a few more in before winter really decides to stay.

07 November 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday.  I've kind of been bitter toward Christmas for a while because it seems to overshadow this wonderful day.  The observance of Thanksgiving has become a day to eat until you are sick, watch football all day, and plan your Black Friday strategy.

My husband asked me at some point in our marriage, why I like Thanksgiving so much.  At first, I said it was the food, but as we got talking about it, I realized I don't like turkey all that much, and soggy bread is something I just can't eat, so stuffing is out.  I do like mashed potatoes and gravy, but I can get that any Sunday.  Pumpkin pie is great, but I like other pies too.  So it's not the food...  I like college football, but I don't need to watch it all day.  It certainly isn't that.  Family has a lot to do with it, but even getting together with family, I feel that something is missing.

Growing up, we had  a long-standing tradition of going to my great-aunt's house to eat a huge meal, most of it home grown by her, visit with lots of relatives, and then play and relax, and even watch some football.  The smells of her house still come to mind when I think about it.  My Aunt Allene is gone now, and we've been kind of lost on Thanksgiving ever since.  We can re-create the food, gather family, and watch football, but something has changed.

I think it's her.  My great-aunt knew probably better than anyone what it meant to starve, to have nothing.  She practically raised her children by herself.  She dug post holes for a dime a piece to make money.  Her garden wasn't a hobby, it was survival.  When she was able to put on a Thanksgiving feast, she was truly thankful just to be able to eat.  Despite her hardships, she was the happiest person I knew.  She really knew how to be thankful, and it could not be contained inside her.  Her home was warm, not just from the cook oven.  She made it that way.

Ever since I came to that realization, I've been trying to find ways to really observe Thanksgiving.  It seems to me that Thanksgiving should be tied to Christmas, but not as a shopping holiday.  Doesn't it make sense to start the advent with overwhelming gratitude?  I know I am very thankful for the birth of the Savior.  Can Thanksgiving be observed as a spiritual preparation for Christmas?

Last year, I attempted to read the old testament again.  Not just the interesting parts, all of it.  I still haven't finished, but I did get something that I had never realized before.  Thanksgiving is actually biblical.  It started way before the pilgrims.  In Exodus 23 we read about three feasts that the Israelites were to observe.  Everyone knows about the Passover in the spring, but I had not heard about the other two: the feast of the harvest, when the first fruits were harvested in summer, and then the feast of ingathering, at the end of the season when everything was harvested and tallied.  It hit me that even way back in the bible, people were inclined and even commanded to be thankful for the crops that the Lord had given them. 

So how do we show true gratitude today?  Are we content with what we have?   Is "thank you" a common phrase in our speaking?  I know I really want to teach my children to be grateful for everything in their lives, but I also need to teach myself.  I get frustrated with my son because he is never satisfied.  If you give him one candy, he wants three.  Go to the zoo today and he wants to go tomorrow too.  I am somewhat the same though, so I need to work on myself first.

Here is what I plan to do this year and I hope to include my children as well.  We are going to write down people that we are thankful for.  Try to think of someone other than close friends or family. This year, I am very thankful for a few families in the neighborhood that have been so open and kind to us as we moved here.  In past years, I have chosen people that taught my children at church, because that is a hard job sometimes.

Once we have a list, we will think of a gift to give them, but this is not about buying things.  It can be as simple as a verbal thank you, or a note.  I like to give a homemade food item, or something that is useful.  I think this year I will be making more of those cinnamon sugar almonds to give.  In years past, I have given homemade jam with fresh bread.  The point is not to be fancy or expensive, so that the "thank you" of the gift can shine through.

Hopefully, we can make this holiday what it once was for me, and maybe my kids will learn a bit about gratitude on the way. 

So, who are you thankful for?

06 November 2010

There's no place like home.

I drove to my childhood home yesterday.  My home is a constant in my life.  It's always there, mostly the same.  Something I can always fall back to and count on.

I love this time of year on the ranch.  The air is so crisp and cool, but the sun is still warm.  The leaves are mostly gone, and the grass is yellow.  The willows along the ditches have dropped their leaves and the branches have turned bright red and orange.  The animals have become fluffy looking with their winter coats growing in.  The birds are gone and it's so quiet, like nature is coasting along before dropping off to sleep.  As I drove closer to home, I knew just what I would find when I got there.

My dad would be off doing some job with cattle in preparation for winter.  My mom would be at her desk, catching up on bills and letters.  There would be a fire burning in the fireplace to "take the chill off the house" as she says, and there would be a pot of soup on the stove, ready for whenever dad finishes his project and comes in. 

The same; comfortable, safe, welcoming, constant.

05 November 2010

Ice cream cake

Yesterday was my husband's birthday.  To celebrate, he went to school.  That's what poor student families do on birthdays.  We did go out to dinner tonight and then we came home to sing to him and eat this.

That is an ice cream cake.  I did dump it out on a sheet to decorate it, but the sheet wouldn't fit back into the freezer, so back into the cake pan it went.  It is covered in caramel and chocolate sauce.  I was going for a completely homemade cake, but I didn't have enough home made ice cream left.
Here's how I made it:
Bake a cake, whatever flavor you want.  I was going to buy a rainbow chip mix because he likes that, but he opted for a caramel theme, so I made chocolate.  In the past, I have used two cake pans, one to bake the cake and one to form the ice cream, but I only have one this size... 
Smear the top of the cake with your favorite ice cream sauce.  We've done fudge before, oreo crumbs would be great in there too.  For this cake I used the caramel that was left over from our apples and caramel night and chocolate sauce that was left in the fridge from when we made the homemade ice cream.  Who knew that birthday cakes could use so many leftovers?
It's hard to see in this picture, but I have covered the cake with caramel and then chocolate on top of that.  Then fill it in with ice cream.  I did a small layer of homemade vanilla ice cream, then more caramel and chocolate, and then another layer of ice cream from the store.  You could get crazy with flavors of ice cream too, but with so much already going on with the cake, I stick with vanilla.  At this point, I stick the pan into the freezer to harden up the ice cream again.

After a while, take it back out and flip it upside down onto a sheet, or whatever you plan to serve the cake on.  Make sure you have a spot for it in the freezer before you start so you don't have to try to get it back into it's cake pan like I did.

At this point, the ice cream layers are on bottom and the cake is bottom up on top.  Spread more ice cream on the whole thing, basically frosting it with more ice cream.   Drizzle caramel and chocolate on top and stick in the freezer. 

At party time, take out of the freezer and enjoy!  This was way too sweet for me, but hubby and the kids liked it.

04 November 2010

Hamburger Pie recipe, or leftover casserole

This is a recipe that my mom received from a friend as a newlywed.    It is a great "clean out the fridge" type of dish and it tastes great.  I have memories of this casserole all through my life.  It doesn't look great, so I was always a bit reluctant to eat it, and then I would end up having seconds and thirds.  It really is good.

The recipe calls for instant potatoes, something we never have around.  My mom fixed this to use up left over mashed potatoes and whatever vegetables were in the fridge.  So, as I still had a rather large bowl of potatoes left from Sunday dinner, my instincts called for this casserole.  I didn't have green beans, but I needed to use up carrots.  I think the key to this recipe is the tomato soup.  We use homemade and it tastes wonderful in there, but my mom often would throw leftover spaghetti sauce, or any other tomato sauce in as well.

Give it a try!

03 November 2010

My first ever baking day Tuesday!

Maybe.  Tuesday might not work every week.  It felt like I was baking almost every day, and there are other things I want to do with my afternoons, so I declared yesterday baking day for the week. 

Originally, I had planned to get started immediately in the morning, but my brain doesn't kick in till about 10, so I got a late start.  My 4 year old helped, so that took a bit more time, but we made a lot!  We made bread dough and then made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies while the bread was rising.  Then we punched down the dough and made these oat muffins -still using up apples-while the bread rose again.  Then I remembered that hubby's birthday is this week and I should have made a cake instead of cookies, so after the kids were in bed, I made a little chocolate cake.

The grand tally:
3 loaves of bread
8 rolls (because I only  have 3 bread pans)
2 dozen crumbly cookies -not sure what happened
18 muffins
1 9x9 chocolate cake
1 bowl of cookie dough, because it makes me happy

I wanted to share my cookie recipe, because I love these cookies so much, and with the oatmeal, I can pretend that they are healthy.  I've honestly been making this recipe since I was a little girl.  I'm not sure why they fell apart, maybe I didn't let them sit on the pan long enough.  They still taste good though.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 Tbs milk
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips, or raisins if you really want to be healthy, or dates or nuts...

Preheat oven to 375
Sift flour with soda and salt into mixing bowl.
Add butter, sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla and milk.  Mix until smooth.
Add rolled oats and chocolate chips.
Drop by spoonful on ungreased cookie sheet about 2" apart.
Bake for 10-12 minutes

*food storage friendly changes:
add egg powder, butter powder, or milk powder with dry ingredients, then add needed water when recipe calls for milk.
I used 4 Tbs egg powder and 1/2 cup water in place of the eggs, and 8 tsp powdered milk and 1/4 cup water.

02 November 2010

A closet blogger

I used to be a "closet blogger"!  Not on purpose, it just happened that way.  I started this blog just to get my thoughts down and maybe get some new ideas.  I didn't tell hubby I was doing it, didn't seem important to.  I didn't tell him later because having someone that I know read my writing felt embarrassing.   Never mind the fact that he already knows about everything I write about, and totally supports me in all my crazy projects.  Then, I felt a little silly for not telling him, but it seemed strange to say, "I started a blog a few months ago."  Would he ask why didn't I tell him sooner?  Would he be upset that I kept something from him?  I know, I'm a dork, but I felt dumb telling him.

I'm happy to announce that I am no longer in the closet - so to speak.  I told him all about it, and of course he said, "Okay."  And then, "That's nothing to be embarrassed about."

And that's my husband.  He has learned to not be surprised at my silly little quirks, and my making simple things completely complicated.  I love him.

And now, ironically, I'm so excited to have him read my blog and give me feedback, because I realize that his input and support makes me a better person all around. 

I know, I'm a dork.  Just be glad that you don't have to live with me.

01 November 2010

Living off of food storage: One week challenge

Some scoff at the idea of storing large amounts of food, but really, having just a little extra is always a good idea.  I remember once as a younger girl, we had a huge blizzard.  The roads were closed for several days.  The grocery stores were an amazing sight to me.  Empty shelves everywhere.  In just a few days, those well stocked shelves were completely empty.  No milk, no bread.  I remember it very vividly.  Luckily, my mother has a basement full of food, so we weren't too affected, aside from the convenience factor.  But how many people weren't so prepared? 

I realize winter blizzards aren't a concern for everyone, but there are plenty of other natural disasters to pick from.  How can you know if you are really prepared?  Something kind of fun to do is to take the week-long challenge.  To do it, you pretend that you cannot get to the grocery store, or that there is nothing there.  Look in your pantry and feed your family from there for a week.  No preparing before hand.  Starting right now, could you do it?  Would it be absolutely miserable?