Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Old and New

2013, what can I say, you were such a bittersweet year.  You were filled with accomplishment, joy and great upheaval.  I suppose that is just the yin and yang of life.  The natural balance that occurs to keep us on our toes and thankful.  

The year was filled with great food * better friends * I became a godmother * a long girls weekend away * a more abbreviated yet productive garden * lots handmade * our best canning year yet * winemaking * introducing the kids to the Alisal * expanding to four hives * becoming more active in our community * running the kids around * a tractor * crazy weather * decisions made * and dreams for the future envisioned, to name a few.

Years ago, I began to pick a word, something that would be the guiding mantra of the year.  This years word was pace.  As the year began I kept my pace, what was natural for me, keeping busy, getting involved, maybe beginning to move at a faster cadence than I had originally intended.  Then on March 29th, I was reminded that I need to slow down a bit and enjoy each moment.  When you see your husbands life flash before your eyes it has a way of resetting your priorities.  My word for the remainder of the year changed to heal.  Healing of body and mind continues as perspectives and priorities ebb, flow and mold into what will be our future goals.

Earlier this week, I came across this quote.  I think instead of one word this year, maybe I will look to one phrase:

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.  I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art--write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.  And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." Neil Gaiman

A very Happy New Year to you, and may you find magic and dreams in 2014.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Random 5 Friday

Yes, yes, I know, it's Saturday. But after a 12 hour marathon car ride Thursday, we are enjoing a mini family reunion in Kansas.  It is the first time in 4 years that all of the siblings have been together.  So this last random five of 2013 is a day delayed but only due to the mass chaos that ensues when 10 people converge in one place, all talking at once and living under one roof for the first time in many moons.

1.  While perusing flipboard I came across a recommendation for paprika.  This recipe ap is the best that I have tried and I love it!  

2.  It is 50 degrees here in Kansas, which after the last six weeks in Wisconsin feels like summer break.  No jackets for us, oh no, just faces turned toward the sun basking in the light.

3.  Though we spent the better part of yesterday trying to see The Hobbit, it just was not meant to happen.  The first theatre that we walked into we were shocked by the 60" screen on what looked like painted plywood on the wall, not how we were planning to see this cinematic spectacle.  After hurriedly removing ourselves from that situation we headed 35 minutes away to a larger theatre which when we arrived, 25 minutes before show time, was completely sold out.  Sheesh talk about differing experiences!  We will re-group and try again tomorrow.   

4.  We seem to have a solid offer on the house that we have been trying to sell for six and a half years.  Please send good thoughts our way that it successfully closes at the end of January.  I can think of no better way to start 2014 than without this burden.

5.  When traveling, blogging is an adventure from my blogger for iPad ap.  I have no idea how the formatting will look, where the photos will end up, and I can not seem to hyperlink.  Do you have any tried and true methods for blogging on the fly?

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wishing you and yours a magical Christmas 
full of love, peace, family, friends, great food, flowing drink
and the ability to see the season with the wide eyed splendor of a child.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice

 The Winter Solstice is a time for....

Letting go.
Releasing old patterns.
Rekindling hope.
Welcoming the light.
Seeking new inspiration.
Beginning a new cycle.

May the Solstice bring the warmth of family and cherished friends, providing you and yours much peace and happiness.

quote credit to: *Blue Moon Shamanic Reiki

Friday, December 20, 2013

Random 5 Friday

Nothing but anticipation in the week prior to Christmas, but I've tried my best and I think been much more organized this season than last.  What does one do this final week before the kids are on Christmas break?

1.  Treat making:  We got our Christmas cookies made, 10 dozen dusted snowballs and chocolate dipped pecan shortbread.  Some for gift giving, and far too many for us!  I used some caramels that I made with a friend and melted them down to make caramel coated pears.  As a last minute thing I tried a simple recipe for Gingerbread Spiced Nuts.  They are so good, I may just have to make a batch to bring with us to KS next week (along with another batch of peppermint marshmallows as promised for my BIL Mark :)

2.  Winter White:  maybe because we will be gone through New Years, or maybe because our weather has been so very cold, but I have made real progress making seasonal decor for the house to replace the festive holiday items.  I am obsessed with the beauty of winter whites to help bring some rustic and bright cheer to the post Christmas house.  It also has such a clean feel which feeds into my annual new year deep cleaning (which I started early with our travel schedule).

3.  Poor Kiddo:  Sid came home from school on Monday with a horrible sore throat and fever.  As it turned out a first time case of strep.  Yuck, never seen a kid get so sick so fast.  I'm happy to say that with 1750 mg of Amoxicillin a day she is feeling much better!  Now I am just praying that the belligerent hand washing, laundry and dish cleaning, and vitamin taking will protect the rest of my clan before the holiday.

4.  Crazy Active Weather:  We have run the gamut of weather already this season.  Overnight we began with freezing rain that is predicted to last most of the day and then we are readying for what may be a decent winter storm for Sunday!  The bright side, the second Christmas morning in 13 years that we will be at home in Wisconsin, will prove to be white!

5.  5 Things Left To Do Before Christmas & Staying Zen:  friend visits and cheer, family games and movies, menu plans, year end wrap up at work, read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  

Linking up with Nancy at A Rural Journal, what have you been up to this week?  Please join in!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Food is Sexy

Last week a friend an I got together to do a little candy making.  Salty Bourbon Caramel to be exact.  They have tremendous flavor but just did not set to my liking.  They are a very soft caramel, and I need to keep them refrigerated or they start to melt.  A little goes a long way, and as I found, I am not a creative wrapper, but I filled a container with only half of the candy.  So what is a person to do?  I am all about re-purposing, so I turned this

Into this.  Caramel coated Harry and David (thanks dad) Pears rolled in Maldon smoked sea salt. 

Two lessons here: 
Never give up on food, 
food is sexy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Something in the Air

 I do not know what it was, but yesterday when I was driving the kids home we encountered quite an event.  It lasted for about 30 minutes and then disappeared as quickly as it had begun.  The sky filled with geese.  The pictures do not begin to do it justice. 

This was much more than the typical nightly heading into the roosting grounds.  This was my early carpool, so mid afternoon.  Hundreds upon hundreds of geese filled the entire sky overhead and were flying frantically with no organization, and in every which direction.  As they would circle in clouds, the deafening sound of their honking would fade in and out.

At the same time, when I dropped off our carpool, one of the trees in front of his house filled with robins.  Odd this late in the season and being so cold out.  There was easily two dozen of them hopping around trying to gain footing on the frozen branches. 

The sky was crystal clear and the moon was just rising in the East.  There must have been something in the air, maybe a warning of today's coming snows.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ole' Man Winter's Identity Crisis

Poor ole' man winter, I guess he was just jealous of the glorious fall and decided to start a month early.  In the almost thirteen years that we have lived here, this is the earliest winter.  We have complained in the last couple of years about the sparse snow, but it seems that the early results are in and winter may just pack us a punch this year.

The talk for the last several days, after the chaos of Sunday's light snows, has been of the cold.  In the forecasts over the past week, last night supposed to be the coldest, then moderating to more seasonal 31-32 degrees over the weekend.  That has changed just a bit.  The coldest air will actually be today.  We are waking up to a balmy 13 degrees, and should top out around noon closing in on zero.  Then the winds pick up giving us an evening and overnight of 25 below zero windchills, some forecasters have even mentioned 30 below...pishaw!  We will recover some from the desperate cold, making it back into the twenties in time for some lake effect snow Friday and Saturday.  No longer are we expecting those 'seasonal' temps.  

 But truly, what is seasonal when ole' man winter has an identity crisis and decides to take over?   Stay safe!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside

The weekend brought with it our Christmas party for work, bitter cold and snow.  With our big party over, and virtually all of the Christmas shopping complete, I feel like I can settle in and enjoy the season.

 Dangerous roads and the extreme cold on Sunday kept me indoors, and put me in the mood for baking.  I found this recipe for Spicy Ginger Twigs on pinterest and tried it out.  I was expecting a light crisp cookie and they are more like mini biscotti's.  Though I was initially disappointed in that, once I had adjusted my expectation, I really enjoyed them.  They have a touch of cayenne in addition to typical gingerbread spices, which gives them a nice heat.  A perfect little treat with a cup of coffee or tea.  It is the second dessert recipe that I have tried in the last week that called for using a pizza cutter.  I love finding new uses for things! 

We were able to try out the tractors snow blower yesterday, and what a difference!  We are so thankful that we have this in what seems to be an early and active winter season.  With light snow in the forecast most of the rest of the week, and mid-afternoon temperatures today hitting about zero, I think that I may just have to find some more tasty treats to keep me busy in the warmth of the kitchen as the week progresses.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inspiration, Motivation & Green Mossy Spheres

Is it inspiration or motivation, or maybe a little bit of both.  I pin, bookmark, and dog ear many a page of great ideas that I want to do.  Sometimes, more than others, I get a surge of energy to get it done and it is completely stress free.  Maybe because the weather is changing, and we are focusing indoors, or the fact that we had a great rejuvenating vacation or possibly because my focus is on making the house inviting for the monotone gray months.  Regardless of the motivator, I am getting stuff done. 

I loved the moss spheres that were in the most recent Martha Stewart magazine.  Not only a statement piece on the dining room table behind our Nuremberg angel, but it will be a perfect bout of winter color come January.  It is a relativity easy project, almost meditative piecing on the bits of moss, and I am going through hot glue like it is going out of style.  I think that I am going to try to pound out a handful more to give as gifts.  What types of things are inspiring you right now?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Confections

I decided to try my hand at candy making for a cookie exchange that I am going to tonight.  I know, I am a rebel, right?  I have never made bark before, so thought that I would give it a whirl.  It was surprisingly easy and there are endless goodies that you add to it.

For my first batch I used both Ghiradelli dark chocolate (2/3) and white melting chocolate(1/3).  I poured the melted dark chocolate on a parchment lined baking sheet and spread it to about 1/4".  Then I dolloped the white chocolate over top and used a wooden skewer to swirl it in.  Once done, I sprinkled crushed candy canes over the top and let it cool and harden for about 2 hours.  What next?  Just start to break it up into pieces.  My second batch I just used the dark chocolate and added chopped macadamia nuts, candied ginger and coconut.  I did three batches in all and my tasters, the family, are all big fans!  I think my next confection foray will be to make some peppermint marshmallows to package with my homemade cocoa mix.  What are your favorite Christmas confections??

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December's White Rose

A white rose

 Taken during our trip to California, it is perfect for stepping off into the giving season of December.  



 Full of promise

Several years ago I gave myself a challenge, doing an entirely handmade holiday.  This year, I am reaching back to that sentiment.  I am mostly done with Christmas shopping or at least the planning.  Most gifts this year will either be homemade, sourced from local/regional artisans, or may be tools to aide others in doing more for themselves. 

The month is off like a flash with sports, meetings, holiday events and appointments filling each day this week.  I hope to enjoy every bit of this month and head into the new year feeling that I accomplished all that I needed to this year and start again with a clean slate.  Pure, crisp, and full of promise. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

All of Our Different Families

We are very fortunate that we can spend the holidays with each of our families.  We made a very important commitment over 20 years ago, that family was an a-number one priority to us.  This became even more intensely so when the kids were born and our business moved us further from both families.  We try to alternate, and this year we are in California with my family for Thanksgiving, and we will be spending Christmas with B's.  It can be hectic, but we have never had a second thought.  This dedication to family is something we want our kids to be acutely familiar with and hopefully emulate.  A nice byproduct of this is they get concentrated spurts of quality bonding time with each family.

Beyond that we have another special family, that of our friends and support system at home.  Any other special days are always peppered with these amazing people.  We laugh, cry, cook, eat, joke, listen, wax philosophical and cook some more.  I know that our siblings also have similar support groups of family-like friends and these relationships are such a gift for all of us.

I am truly thankful for all of our different families.  Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving, full of amazing food, drink, lively conversation (possibly inspired by said drink), and most importantly family of all sorts.  xo

**A special thank you to my dedicated readers for all of your support and comments, it appears that I blew past 60,000 hits this week while taking a break.  A Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Random 5 Friday

through the car window after last Sunday's epic storms

Time has just flown the last couple of weeks and we are now headed full force into the holiday season. I feel more prepared than normal this year.  I think we have finally gotten a good timeline down for farm clean up and transitioning into in home activities.  I am ready to hunker down and simply enjoy.

1.  We are headed to CA today to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. The kids have been in full countdown mode for over a week!

2.  Trying to wrap up work, home, and school concurrently is at once overwhelming and invigorating.  It never ceases to amaze me how much can be accomplished.

3.  We are very fortunate that some wonderful work friends help us out on the farm when we are out of town.  Thanks so much to Heather and Steff, the chickens and bunnies are grateful, as are we.

4.   I hit the big 4 1 last Saturday.  It has been so heartwarming the kindness of friends near and far all week long.

5.  I always try to post when we are traveling, but much depends on how my iPad behaves.  Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving full of family, food and thankfulness.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


What should you do when you glimpse at the calendar for the week and your to do list and panic just a little?   Stop everything, glance out of the window and savor the fall light.  This can be done any time of day right now with gorgeous results, and functions as an immediate reset.

"Smile, breathe and go slowly."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Industrialization vs. Extinction

The industrialization of our food system is the topic we are tackling this week in our Blog Camp goes to MIT class on Food and Culture.  Industrialization is not all bad by any means.  Times have changed greatly from the days of the small family farm.  Though weather cannot be controlled, through trial, error, time and innovation, our food industry has slowly become more controllable.  These are natural steps in our evolution, but when have we gone too far?  At what point do we reverse progress and begin to drive ourselves slowly toward extinction?  Is it when we compromise health while striving for profit?  Is it when we become so detached from our food sources, so desensitized, that we cannot treat other animals with an ounce of dignity?  All things to think about when breaking the ice of this immense topic.

For the purposes of this discussion the assigned readings focused on Steve Striffler's book Chicken the Dangerous Transformation of America's Favorite Food, as well as a couple of other food animal related articles.   I delved in further with my research in light of a number of issues that are in the forefront right now.  Though I will mention grains sparingly, they are also an important element worthy of their own focused attention.  Let me begin with a little history from the dawn of massive production.

Hearkening back to our food and power discussion, the industrialization of chicken began during World War II.  Prior to this, it was a by-product from egg layers on family farms, and only just becoming more mainstream with some mid-size family producers.  A program was introduced during the war called the Food for Freedom program.  In this program "the government encouraged consumers to eat eggs and chicken in order to leave more 'desirable' sources of beef and pork for the troops."  Before Tyson became a household name, there were a number of sizable producers most famously Delmarva Farms. Beginning in the 1920's, they were the first farmers to raise chicken solely for meat.  There are multiple levels involved in raising poultry for market; the growers to raise them,  feed suppliers, processors, and finally refrigerated transportation.  These smaller, by today's standards, farms worked in cooperatives to try and manage growing demands.  Once Tyson, a farmer, entered the picture he took the idea of vertical integration to a new level and managed all components of the production.  As smaller farmers could no longer compete, this consolidation of the food industry ultimately turned them effectively into slave labor, at the mercy of large corporations paying little to them yet profiting handsomely themselves. "Imagine if you went to get a job in a plant and the supervisor said, 'sure, we'll give you a job cleaning up chicken guts, but first take out a loan for $200,000."?  Who would do that?  Well, that is what they say to growers.  And we do it!  We take on a big debt in order to finance the houses and equipment.  Once you have the debt, you are trapped.  The only way you can make payments is by raising more chicks.  If you complain too loud, Tyson will just stop bringing you chickens..."  This has been going on now for generations.

Though the above is one example of a system that shows us the beginnings of a growing industry, fast forward to present.  It is no longer profitable enough to do the work here, now we must outsource.  The USDA recently "gave the green-light to four chicken processing plants in China, allowing chicken raised and slaughtered in the U.S. to be exported to China for processing, and then shipped back to the U.S. and sold on grocery store shelves here."   Really???  Is that cheaper?  Not only are we shipping to a country that the FDA is concerned about its ability to make wholesome dog foods and treats, that in the recent past poisoned thousands with tainted infant formula, but also what is the environmental impact, talk about food miles.  Ridiculous. I know that the USDA assures us that these are inspected plants. These maneuvers are all for the sake of cutting costs on our already low cost food.  Maybe some of those deep pockets should be offering subsidies to offset our out of control healthcare costs.  They certainly can afford it, as much of their profit is ultimately coming at our expense.

So lets get into the real nitty gritty of this for me.  Health.  We have made amazing discoveries in medicine.  But isn't it a shame that many of these advances are to treat or reverse self-imposed problems?  Obesity, diabetes, some types of cancer, certain allergies which are all increasingly becoming a side effect of how we have industrialized our food.  It is a bit ironic that much of our industrialization comes in the guise of food safety.  Some things have changed over time as we learn more, for example arsenic is not commonly used in feed any longer as a de-wormer.  But we do use large amounts of antibiotics to prevent or manage disease in overcrowded herds, and steroids to hasten growth in order to get animals to market in record times.  They say there is no true effect to the consuming public, sound familiar?  I believe that was also once the stance of the tobacco industry.

Here is an analogy.  As a mom who breast feeds knows, you have to be careful with what you eat.  Some of those elements are passed on to your child.  So if you have a big pot of lentil soup, you may find that the baby is gassy and fussy overnight.  There is a popular adage 'pump and dump'.  If mom wants to go out with a couple of girl friends and have a drink or two, she will pump and dump later on, so she does not pass on the alcohol to the baby.  We make these conscious efforts to do what is best for our child.  So, think about it, the vast amounts of medication that our food animals receive, or how  grain crops that have been genetically modified so that they can produce a high yield and be pest resistant, over time traces of these substances will end up in our systems.  As we are exposed over years, it builds up and adds up.   The steroid Zeranol, used widely in the beef industry has been linked not only to breast cancer but also precocious puberty.  This is a real phenomena that we have created.  It was somewhat shocking to me to see a number of girls that my daughter was in school with begin menstrating in the 5th grade.  The rule of thumb is that your cycle begins two years after the first development of breast tissue.  So that would make female reproductive development beginning as early as third grade!   I was shocked when my kids had the dreaded 'family life' series in fourth grade, when I was growing up it was in sixth grade.  As I learned, there is a reason that the lessons are coming earlier and earlier.  At least based on our locale, kids are beginning to hit puberty two years sooner and in one generation.  I mentioned at the beginning that we are evolving, but I am not sure it is a direction that we want to see our evolution going in.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the steroid exposure is the overuse of antibiotics.  Martha Rosenberg's recent article quotes that "Each week the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finds dangerous antibiotic levels in animals that include penicillin, neomycin and 'sulfa' and 'cipro' drugs, many from repeat violators."   It is well known that with excessive use of antibiotics organisms will ultimately develop resistance to the medications.  This is why it is such a concern in human medicine.  Antibiotics have been life savers, what will we do when none of the medications are effective?  In September the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a threat report "We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era"  The title alone gives you the gist of what is going on.  Really scary stuff.  Mark Bittman's recent article was the most startling to me.  It discusses an outbreak this past September in Costco organic rotisserie chicken sold in San Francisco.  A number of people were sickened with a salmonella strain which was "virulent, nasty and resistant to some commonly used antibiotics."  Beyond that, "Costco cooks its chicken to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, a margin of error that the company believes renders the chicken safe."  Are we now seeing strains of salmonella that can survive even beyond our cooking standards?

Are we in effect creating our own super-bugs, and doing it ultimately in the name of food safety?  I do not claim to know the answers, or how to change anything overnight.  How to appease our need for true food safety may very well come down to breaking up the big ag monopolies, lobbies, giant feed lots and crops that yield amazing quantities per acre.  And moving ourselves back toward our roots of smaller local farmers producing high quality healthy foods.  More expensive for the consumer?  Probably.  But do the long term health implications cost us more in the long run? There are some interesting facts on where our consumer food spending has gone over the last few generations below.  Maybe a lesson in conscious more balanced eating and smaller portion sizes would be a great one to learn.  Is the answer just to stay ahead of the curve by advancing medicine quickly enough to manage all of these self-induced maladies?  That should not be what we settle for, I certainly am not for my family.

For some interesting reading, aside from the articles linked in the text check out:
How family spending has changed 
What America Spends on Groceries
Consumer Expenditure
Want a Better Food System?  Then Get Your Hands Dirty
A Cure for the Allergy Epidemic
USDA Plan to Speed up Poultry-Processing Lines Could Increase Risk of Bird Abuse
Modern Wheat is the Perfect Chronic Poison

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Fall Clean Up

Last weekend was perfect.  The weather was crisp, sunny and almost 50 degrees on Sunday.  It was our big clean up weekend.  This year we were able to tag team the clean up, with me on the new tractor, letting it do all of the work and B on the old one so it could come behind and suck up what was pre-chopped.  I can't tell you what a difference the tractor has made to getting things done efficiently around here.  We managed to get all of the leaves up and put into the compost this year, and we did it in about 6 hours, where in the past it has taken two full weekends and we still could not get it all up. 

The girls got new bedding inside and out of the hen house.  And the inside clean up was added to the towering compost pile, which was already heating up just hours after the piles started being layered on.

The dead berry canes were all pruned out and cables added for support to all of the beds.  Things just seemed to run smoothly under the crystal clear blue skies.

Even the fountain on the front walk looks picturesque when winterized!

The last thing we did was line the driveway with the winter markers, and it is a good thing too....

because twelve hours later this happened!  We only got an inch and a taste of some very cold air.  In our recollection, this is the earliest snowfall since we moved here twelve and a half years ago.  It will be interesting what this winter brings, though we will happily bask in the predicted 50 degrees again this coming weekend! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Random 5 Friday

1.  Man this time change has thrown me for a loop!  I am thrilled that we have sunrise before 7 am but dark at 4:30 has me wanting to seek my pillow by 8pm! 

2.   With lots of wind and rain this week, we are headed into a weekend of massive leaf clean up and composting.  At least it is supposed to be beautiful out this weekend....our first chance of snow is as early as Tuesday!

3.  B started a master swim class with a friend last week, it has me feeling like I need to get myself back to the gym...maybe will help with added energy during the darker days of winter.

4.  This week, also inspired by the thoughts of being indoors more, I began to do a re-arrange and re-organize.  What is old is new again as I moved around pictures and knick knacks to give the house a fresh feel.

5.  Don't you just love this fall light?  I am so taken by the sunrise warming the ice crystals from last nights frost.

Linking up with Nancy at A Rural Journal

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hello Mother

This year has been the year of ferments and cures.  We fermented pickles, squash, dilly beans, mead, wine, and now we are vinegar making.  After several weeks of feeding, B now has an established and happy vinegar mother.  Our goal is to utilize our wild grape wine, and age it into something similar to a balsamic vinegar.  The flavor of the starter is already both sweet and rich.  We may even get a small oak barrel to age it in.

I love that B is fearless and willing to try anything.  Foremost he is an information junkie, and researches thoroughly to find the best ways to tackle new adventures.  An important thing when homesteading, is trial and error.  I have to say the process is a lot of fun!

I think the vinegar might just be a great accompaniment to our home-cured meat project.  After a few days of using it, our pancetta turned out delightful.  It has a sweet, salty and peppery taste on its own, then becomes quite salty when cooked.  It is perfect for soup or pasta bases.  We are in the process of getting a whole pig for the freezer from a local farm.  B plans on expanding our charcuterie, a term he has grown quite fond of saying, into other areas; coppa, prosciutto etc :)  The more we find that we can do, and what we will utilize will aid us in decisions as to what animal expansions we may do in future.  I think that the most surprising thing that we have found out is really how easy so many of these things are.  Similar to cooking, creating anything from scratch is not necessarily hard to do, it merely takes time and patience.  A great lesson; good things come to those who wait.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

_____.....It's What's For Dinner

So, might I ask how you filled in that blank??  I know what I was thinking as I wrote it.  Did you hear a popular, ingrained slogan in your head when you read it?  I can even hear the music from the jingle.  Or how about ____...the other white meat?  These are just popular catch phrases that emerged as part of our foods industrialization, there is so much to discuss in this can of worms.  AND, this is what I am not going to talk about today.   In our Blog Camp Goes to MIT course we have been doing some heavy lifting.  The topics have been difficult, not so much things that any of us were unaware of, but more so, an in depth dissection of the topics that has left all of us feeling a bit battered.  So when Julie suggested a little lighter reading before our next topic, industrialization, which I am leading, I was able to exhale.  Just what the doctor ordered, a little reset before we move on.

So literally, what's for dinner??  It is a common question and one that we have to answer daily.  Not only is there the cultural side, what are our family rituals associated with eating, but then there is the practical side, what to cook each day while maintaining both yours and your families interest.  I can tell you that there have been a couple of very helpful things for the latter.  Both Pinterest and Facebook have helped keeping the routine cooking blues away.  I am part of two dinner groups on Facebook and daily we ask 'what's for dinner?'  Everyone posts their meal plan and then there are a vast number of oohs,  ahs, and I never thought of that's,  and recipe sharing commences.  I know there are a lot of folks out there who get tired of seeing their 'walls' or 'feeds' filled with food, consider this;

"But food is never just something to eat.  It is something to find or hunt or cultivate first of all; for most of human history we have spent a much larger portion of our lives worrying about food, and plotting, working, and fighting to obtain it, than we have in any other pursuit."


"Food--what is chosen from the possibilities and how much time is allotted to cooking and eating it--is one of the means by which society creates itself and acts out its aims and fantasies.  Changing (or unchanging) food choices and presentations are part of every society's tradition and character."

In some cases, food has simply become a means to an end.  People will hit the grocery store, purchase something that looks tasty and easy, and never give a second thought to where it came from or how it was produced.  Others take one step further and make the conscious effort to utilize the wholesome, healthy advertising on packaged goods in an attempt to make more informed decisions.  Still others are even more aware shopping local farm stands, butchers and bakeries for their foods.  The one stop shop convenience gone, but more confidence about what is going into your food is worth the extra minutes of traveling.  This multiple shop shopping also establishes a ritual to obtaining our food.  As an interesting exercise, take notice the next time you are at the grocery store at what is contained in the carts around you.  It is very eye opening to the diversity of our food culture.  

This summer we moved a huge hutch into the kitchen from our front porch.  One of the downsides to our lovely house is a huge lack of storage in the kitchen, the most frustrating being no pantry.  This piece of furniture fit perfectly and is now a bursting pantry.  With this new availability of space we ramped up our food storage over the summer.  We canned masses of produce.  What we did not grow ourselves we picked up locally to preserve the taste of summer in these approaching darker months.  I then also began to fill the shelves with necessary bulk items, so that I am less likely to run out of things and have staples on hand to make meals without an extra trip.  That said, I am not a huge planner in advance.  I like to decide what's for dinner based on how I am feeling that day.  So, many times I still end up hitting the grocery store daily.  There has been a recent study that indicated that those who shop daily tend to eat healthier, though I am not certain how in-depth the study was, it was certainly great justification for my habit.

B and I work together both on the farmstead and in our business, and we take 99% of all of our meals together.  With the kids on different school schedules, they each get their breakfast separate, but we are with them in the kitchen chatting about the day...or grunting as my pre-teen may do, she is not much of a morning person and is off to school at 6:30 am.   When I introduced our 'linner' last year, it was a big hit and something that the kids look forward to.  A good mini meal, that includes a treat.  It also aids in reducing complaints at dinner time.  Our dinners we eat as a family, we discuss the day and gather around the television to watch some recorded series that we are viewing together.  Our first foray into this was watching The Waltons series from beginning to end.  Though it may not be ideal to have a meal that is partially plugged in, it is family time that leads to lots of bonding and discussion.  Inevitably, when the meal is finished, it leads to each kids snuggling one of us on the couch, which we are enjoying so much right now as those days are surly numbered.

So what's for dinner in our house?  Fresh food, consciously prepared with a few mainstays and new ideas added in.  It is family time, companionship, learning about what foods we eat and why.  It is more than a means to an end, it is enjoying the ritual not only of eating, but gathering ingredients and preparing.  So for us--- relationships...it's what's for dinner.

**Above quotes from Much Depends on Dinner by Margaret Visser

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mother Nature Down to the Wire

This time of year is always a waiting game....a Russian roulette of sorts with our trees.  When to do the final mow and leaf composting?  When you have six acres to get cleaned up, you do not want to pull the trigger prematurely, only to have to do a repeat a short time later.  The ash trees lost their foliage a couple of weeks ago, but many of the maples are still clinging steadfastly to their brilliantly colored leaves.  With cooler temperatures and forecasts of snow North and West of us this week, I was beginning to get nervous.

I just love the wind, so when I woke up this morning to the sound of gusting I was excited.  When I ran out to take some pictures the trees were already significantly barer than they had been late last night.  As difficult as it is to capture the true beauty of the wind with my camera, it is almost impossible to adequately capture the majesty of masses of falling leaves.  Just when you are thinking that timing will come down to the wire, Mother Nature swoops in and fixes it!  I know what we are doing next weekend!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mead Bottling Saturday

The Ingredients to Mead Bottling Saturday:

*A drizzly gray day
*Luxuriously sleeping in until 7 am
*Copious amounts of coffee
*Catching up on the saved bottle sorting in the root cellar
*Listening to the Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground station on Pandora
*Steaming off old labels and sterilizing bottles
*Running to get corks...darned we're out
*Bottling and tasting mead by 11 am...hey its five 0'clock somewhere right!?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Random 5 Friday

1.  A secret:  I love the holidays.  I always go all out, and make the house feel festive and warm or spooky, whatever the case may be.  We participate fully in the event, suspending our disbelief wherever possible. But when it's over...it's over.  Halloween came down first thing this morning before work, and what remains is the harvest decor that will last through Thanksgiving. 

2.  Finally:  After two full weeks of battling the funk I finally get to meet our latest little tastebud today!

3.  Oh Poo!:  One of our tasks this weekend is to give the hen house a thorough once over and freshly bed the ladies down for the winter.  Fun stuff.  Ha!  At least the compost pile will be happy!

4.  Cured:  We cut into our homemade pancetta last night to give it a taste.  Oh my!  All I can say is there is more curing in our future!

5.   Treats:  These bar cookies are to. die. for.  I am always amazed at how some things that I imagine are difficult simply are not.  Take the ten minutes to make the homemade salted caramel for this one!  Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows' Eve

There has been a light rain all day.  The colorful leaves are falling frantically, and the balminess has made the air feel very close.  When the light recedes the night will be dotted with Jack o' Lanterns, and a heightened awareness of the ghosts around us.  The kids will eagerly go out for their tricks or treats on this all hallows eve, and we will hear their quick shuffle, wet footsteps brushing over the carpet of leaves.

 "It's said that All Hallows' Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin- and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own.  Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright"  Erin Morganstern

Happy Halloween!
It's said that All Hallows' Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin - and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/erinmorgen475837.html#ZlqVfd38TKCpxMgy.99
It's said that All Hallows' Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin - and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/erinmorgen475837.html#ZlqVfd38TKCpxMgy.99
It's said that All Hallows' Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin - and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/erinmorgen475837.html#ZlqVfd38TKCpxMgy.99

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Rose Colored Glasses

Every day should begin with a cup of coffee, and watching the sunrise through rose colored glasses.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Bones That Hold Us Together (Thanksgiving Comes First)

It is hard to believe that it is that time of year again already!  As I looked back through my posts of the previous three years, I noticed that each year, the date of this post is a little earlier.  It is no wonder that today's installment is ten days earlier.  It seems the announcements bombard us daily of retailers joining in on the Thanksgiving Day openings.   I by no means shun the excitement of the holidays.  I have even, for the sake of planning and budgeting, purchased a smattering of Christmas presents since the beginning of summer, when I had some lovely crochet work done for all of the kiddos in my family.

But seriously folks, to me the magic of the holidays really begin with the last exhale of summer and when we are well into the new school year. It is late fall, leaves changing and flying through the air, cooler temperatures, light changes, Halloween.  Each of these things build on one another. There is a general sense of hunkering down, turning inwards towards family and the wonder that comes this time of year.

However, it seems the core concept of this season of giving is all but blotted out in a retail frenzy.  A number of retailers all over the country (the most recent one announced this morning, Kohls) have made the decision that Black Friday just is not enough.  They are opening their doors on Thanksgiving, calling employees in to work, and all but obliterating the family holiday.  Why?  To entice the public out to spend more money than they probably should all so that year end consumer spending shows growth?  Maybe getting back to building strong families would do wonders for the confidence of our population and there would be less reason to fill our worlds with loads and loads of stuff.  Again, I am not anti-holiday, nor am I anti-gift giving.  I am simply anti-rush.  Why can't we take things as they come and enjoy them individually for what they are.  Maybe the lessons that we should be teaching our children involve slowing down and appreciating what is going on around us in that moment.

 I am reading a wonderful book right now called The School of Essential Ingredients.  One of the chapters that I read last night had a Thanksgiving theme.  I loved this quote:

"I believe in traditions--they hold us together, like bones--but it can be easy to forget what they are really about.  Sometimes we need to look from a different perspective to find them again."

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone took a minute to think about what bones we want to hold us together?

If you would like to take a peak of my previous Thanksgiving Comes First posts, they are here, here and here.  Thanks to Suldog for hosting this every year, and please feel free to join in!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Random 5 Friday

1.  Grey & Gold::  After months and months of very little rain to speak of, every storm coming through seeming just to skirt around our community, we had two days of grey drizzly weather.  No real volumes to speak of, but a steady drizzle that left wet heavy leaves dripping and falling.  Last night, the sun broke through the clouds just prior to sunset to give us the most dramatic light.  Perfect for taking our evening walk and planning the next steps to our fall finishing in the garden.

2.  Dehydrating::  Maybe it was all of the rain this week, but I have been on a huge dehydrating kick, as I mentioned here.  This morning I put the last of  ripe hillbilly tomatoes in.

3.  Tastebuds::  One of my nearest and dearest friends and member of our close knit tastebuds dinner club had her baby yesterday.  We are all so excited!  Maybe it is because my babies are tweens/ almost teens now, or because this group of people is our family here with ours being so far away, but it has been especially exciting waiting for this baby to come into the fold.    Welcome Charlotte Quinn and a heartfelt congratulations Daniela and Scott!! xo

4.  Sickies::  It has been one of those weeks.  Charles came home from school Monday not feeling well, a cold, no biggie, but the bigger concern the sharp right side abdominal pain and low grade fever.  The kid never complains about anything and this was a big deal for him.  By Wednesday things were subsiding, though we are still watching him closely as he had the low grade fever again last night.  This morning Sidney seems to be falling with the cold.  It has been a horrible allergy season here, yet I am afraid that what I had hoped were continued allergies for myself may be something else.  Between that and the fact that I am care-giving sickies, I am afraid that I won't be able to visit dearest Charlotte in the hospital as not to expose her to anything...this makes me very sad  :(

5.   Farm Chores::  Last Sunday after soccer we brought out the cover for the cold frame, reinforced it and reinstalled it over our budding greens.  Just in time it seems as we had our first light frost in the forecast for that night.  We are hoping for a break in the drizzly weather so things can dry out some and we can get outside and do some more winter prep this weekend.

Happy Friday!

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

That Moment..

..when after two days of overcast and rain, the sun breaks through just long enough to make the world around you glow.


“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
Henry David Thoreau,

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Apple a Day, of Sorts

I have been on a serious apple kick.  This time of year I always can apple sauce, so that is not so off of normal, but the Honey Crisps have been so phenomenal,  I have been searching for ways to extend the season.   Then over the weekend I read Return to Gap Creek, the long awaited sequel to Gap Creek.  It seems that for Sunday suppers or special occasions during the winter they would pull the dried apples off of the shelf to make apple pie.  I started to do a little research, and low and behold, this is not so uncommon a thing.  There were tons of apple recipes that begin with dried apples!

With my little man home sick the last couple of days, I resurrected the dehydrator from the basement and went to work.  I began with about eight apples that I peeled and sliced, then dried for about 10 hours.  They filled three pints perfectly and smell delicious.  Then since I was not as successful making apple chips in the oven a few weeks ago, I sliced two large apples at 1.7 mm on the mandolin, sprinkled them with a little cinnamon sugar, and dehydrated them for about two hours.  Perfection! 

Now I am so excited about drying again I have more batches running right now and I can not wait to work on more things....maybe those tomatoes that are ripening on the sill.  For the time being lets hope a dried apple a day helps to keep the doctor away!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Random 5 Friday

1.   Pests::  It is that time of year; the last of the ripening tomatoes, apple season windows wide open AND  fruit flies.  Ugh these pests are a pain.  They will make a bee line for my glass of wine in the evening just so they can take a swim, but if I leave a glass out for them they avoid it like the plague.  We have tried many home remedies, and none that we have been successful with.  Suggestions??

2.   In the mist::  The fog in the mornings this week has just been magical.  There is something about a crisp October morning blanketed in fog that gives everything a dream-like quality.  Yesterday, as I was snapping a few, our resident deer family was out.  Our bigger than life farm poodle was off like a shot after them, he fears nothing!

3.   Farm Poodle::  Speaking of farm poodles, ours has just not been quite right the last ten days or so.  He's our little problem child trooper.  He is a rescue, that B did a PDA (heart) surgery on when he was about 4 months old.  A year ago he was diagnosed with Addisons disease (adrenal),  we medicate him and keep him on an even keel.  I was concerned he was on the verge of an Addisonian crisis with his behavior, so we took him in to work to do some labs.  Now, our sassy farm poodle is having liver problems.  We have him on five different meds right now, and hopefully things will be improved in a couple of weeks, the next step will be a liver biopsy.  He is already feeling better as you can tell from the deer chasing above, a grand effort on his fifth birthday yesterday :)

4.   Literary hugs::   I just finished this book this week.  I swear, every time I sit down to a Barbara Kingsolver book, I just feel enveloped.

5.   Soccer, Soccer, Soccer (in best Jan Brady voice)::   This weekend Charles' soccer club is hosting a big tournament.  Between games and working the tournament, oh and the predicted rain, this weekend is all but accounted for!

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