Friday, December 26, 2014

2014 in 100 Words

Growth and new experiences defined our life this year.  We sold a house, grew our business, expanded the homestead and had the best farm bag year ever!  We preserved a record amount of food while still managing to travel far and wide to visit family.  Dreams were realized as I met old friends for the first time.  Most of all, the kids grew exponentially, continuing to develop into amazingly thoughtful people full of their own ideas that never cease to amaze or entertain.  This year was a time for refining vision, experiencing things old and new, and propelling ourselves forward.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


We are beginning the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve....last minute shopping, wrapping, camera repair, games, movie watching and of course the commencement of cooking!  We are thankful that our family regained the health that we were deprived of much of last week, and were able to make it to California.

From our family to yours, a magical holiday filled with warmth, laughter and light.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Strictly for Medicinal Purposes

After two days of nothing but coughs, fevers, and restless sleep, I had confirmed what I already knew, as soon as the swab hit the rapid test, Sidney immediately tested positive for influenza.  Through deduction, as they came down with the same symptoms on the same day, B too has the dreaded virus.  

I spent yesterday nesting, doing laundry, diffusing essential oils, rubbing the weary with them, and hoping to be giving some ease.  So what does one do on day two when your mind is swimming with ways to  keep half of your family comfortable,  while trying desperately to make sure that Charles or myself do not get it?

I am in need of teacher gifts as well as distraction, so what better way to spend the wee morning hours than surfing pinterest?    I found this link that lead me to the idea of making these simple and fragrant ornaments.  Why not fill the house with the smells of cinnamon and holiday, by busying my hands with cinnamon dough ornaments.

They have just two ingredients, a long time in the oven, and viola, they are done!  The above recipe worked very well, but I would suggest coating your rolling surface with more cinnamon (as you would flour typically), it will save you much aggravation!

A skewer worked perfectly well to make the hole for threading string, be sure that you move it back and forth a bit to make sure the hole goes straight through.  I used a braided thread and had a few that had closed a little in back during baking which made threading difficult on some of them.

It was a simple craft, and made the house smell wonderful!  Oh, and I also made almost 100 meatballs to freeze from the Seriously Delish cookbook.  Let me tell you, they are a family favorite, and the perfect thing to batch freeze and add to a quick weeknight meal.

As I mentioned, I am somewhat obsessed with Outlander right now, so in true Scottish fashion, I am having a sip, strictly for medicinal purposes!

Friday, December 12, 2014

It's a Wrap

It has been quite a week, full of wrapping things up.  I guess that is what happens at year end, but especially so as we are traveling for Christmas so there is a deadline looming.  Aside from final finishes around the farm and decorating the house, the shopping is done, gifts are wrapped and were shipped to various locations around the country on Monday.  It also seems that the last month of the year is the schedule that I am on for various appointments, because that makes so much sense! Then of course there are little things like completing the year end inventory at work and readying for the staff Christmas party.

What else is wrapping up?

**I am half way through book seven of the eight book Outlander Series, and have been obsessed enthralled with them!

**Speaking of reading I challenged myself to read 50 books this year and I have only completed 37 of them, however 8 of them had right at 1000 pages, so that counts for something right??

**Please tell me that you have been listening to Serial!?  The final episode is next week, and though I know we will not necessarily get the answers, it has been quite a ride.  I can not wait to see what they do for season 2!

Another wrap?  This week!  Happy Weekend!

Friday, December 5, 2014


I am in a constant state of amazement over how quickly the kids are growing up. Having a teenager and pre-teen it is so fun to listen to them communicate, and no matter how hard I try to 'keep up' or think that I do, I will get the aghast looks that say Mo-om! I watch them maneuver social and scholastic situations in both a state of amazement and pride.  Their interests are varied and unique as they strive to create individuality. As we move through this holiday season one of the many things that I am thankful for is navigation; their ability to each find their own unique paths through, with trial and error, yet confidence.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Firsts and Finishes--Thanksgiving Comes First

For the last four years I have participated in a group of posts themed Thanksgiving Comes First started by Jim Sullivan (Suldog).

As the sun begins to set on 2014 we tuck into the holiday season.  A time peppered with family, friends, community and giving, but mostly one of thanks.  As with many sunsets, I begin to review.  We have had a tremendous year full of firsts and finishes.  None of it would have felt quite so special without our family around us.  We are truly very fortunate, we have not only our tight little nuclear family and our larger family who may be far away yet always close at hand, but we also have a wonderful community of friends around us.

In today's digital world we are all susceptible to being wrapped up in the increasing speed.  Many of us recall in sheer amazement and would never have the patience today for a dial-up connection.  Now we measure acceptable speeds in terms like fractional T1 lines and Mbps.  As a result not only do we want demand our information at lightning speed, but we seem to rush through life in the same way.   We have created a digital daze in how we approach life, looking for bigger, better, faster, cheaper.  We need to recondition ourselves to appreciate the days and moments as they come, or we may just miss out on what is really important.

I am a big kid, the holidays, all of them, are magical.  I am not in any way against getting caught up in the decorating, gift giving, and overall holiday cheer.  However, if we are always looking ahead, moving at lightening speeds, the days will slip past, many unappreciated.  So today on this day of Thanksgiving, I challenge all of you to an analog day, turning back the clock ever so slightly, for those of us who remember, and teach our kids that the rewards for living each day and taking time for family outweigh the vigor of the digital and consumer age in which we now live.

Please take a look at Jim's Op-ed for this year which appeared in yesterday's Los Angeles Times.

Should you be interested, take a look at my post from last year The Bones That Hold Us Together the three posts prior to it are also linked there.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

That Time of Year

I have been a bit absent of late.  I have snippets of posts running through my head but they just have not come together for me.  Possibly it is because like many areas of the country we have been in an unseasonable deep freeze, about six weeks early!  In fact we broke a record for coldest high on Monday that was last set in 1873.  Even though we had to scramble get some outdoor and animal tasks completed with the onset of this insane weather, last weekend was relaxing and a perfect way to begin my 43rd year.  I awoke to a pair of owls hooting gently to one another across the snow, and was treated to a lilac cast to the snow at sunset.

B's Charcuterie is coming along wonderfully.  As a treat, my breakfast included duck breast bacon.  The duck cures fairly quickly and is completely done.  The pancetta takes longer to cure, but we are at the point where we can taste it along the way now.  We had our first little taste yesterday morning and it is absolutely fantastic!  This is our second year doing a pancetta.  B made some adjustments in his recipe this year and all I can say is wow!

In fact, as a result of yesterdays tasting we have ordered half of a pig for the freezer that will arrive the second week in December.  Aside from the typical cuts of meat to just have a the ready, we will have plenty to further our charcuterie adventures.

We are racing around the rest of this week, dotting i's and crossing t's both here on the homestead and at work in order to head out to Kansas for Thanksgiving week.  This time of year things do seem to come fast and furious what with holiday parties, cookie exchanges, visiting guests, band concerts and holiday travel, to name a few.  I feel like I am at the top of a hill, ready to snowball into the new year.  Anybody else ready for the snowball of cheer ahead? :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ducks Crossing Roads & Cooking With Hay

Why did the ducks cross the road?  I have no bloody idea!  That was how we began our Sunday.  A kind lady driving up our drive early in the morning to let us know that she just shooed some ducks of the highway.  Sheesh.....these three have gotten curious since the bushes in the tree-row have shed their leaves!  Thus began our final push to winter preparations.  The ducks have now taken up residence in the barn with the egg layers, and no one seems the worse for wear.

The garlic is tucked in under layers of straw to overwinter as it prepares to push shoots up when the ground warms again.  The final leaf collection is complete and we cut town a veritable forest of golden asparagus fronds.  Finally, we harvested and preserved better than 75 leeks.  Whew!

After catching Tom Kerridge's cooking show last weekend we tried his Chicken Baked in Hay and Cider.  Cooking with hay filled the air with an earthy aroma, that smelled amazing.  The flavor was light, but penetrated the meat thoroughly and almost tasted like it had been steamed in tea leaves.  Though somewhat unconventional, we will surly do it again.  I think I may just research other unique cooking methods from days gone by.  Ducks crossing roads and cooking with hay....just a typical Fall weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


For some people creating something brings a great sense of peace and fulfillment.  Slowly expanding the farm over time is that way for us, especially when B can create something in its entirety that we have grown or raised on our own.

Last year was our first foray into charcuterie.  Charcuterie, originally a form of meat preservation
prior to refrigeration, is the process of preserving meats (primarily pork) to develop rich flavors. We got ourselves a pork belly and made our first pancetta.  We loved it and B has spent endless hours researching and learning how to expand this into more and more.

Doing things the natural way, letting the curing and fermenting processes evolve as they were meant to has become a focus for us.  Last week, using a slightly different recipe, we began another pancetta using a Berkshire Pork belly (This pork is the bomb, and the breed that we are looking to raise).  

As each year we expand, this year we are also curing three duck breast pancettas, homestead raised. The meat was absolutely beautiful after its initial sodium curing and after seasoning and rolling in cheese cloth it is now hanging in a temperature controlled area, soon to be incorporated into our holiday meals and beyond.

I would not be surprised if our natural food preservation techniques become an important expansion of our little smallholding as time goes on.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Season Ending Frost

After falling back last night we awoke to our first really hard frost.  Not just the light dusting of grey over the landscape that we have seen to date.  This was the thick snow like covering that comes with a damp twenty degree morning.

The warm weather crops are long since gone, leaving us with cold tolerant flower sprouts, leeks, and kale.  Yet even those plants were heavy with the fatigue of this frost.

This will surly test the hardiness of the four different varieties of sage that we planted.  Two of which are supposed to be perennial in our environment, we. shall. see.

Our full row of lavender has turned into a beautiful hedge such as you might find in an English garden.  It was truly magical to see it encased in ice crystals this morning, just as the sun was rising to melt this early winter landscape.  Probably most striking were the trees.  I have spent hours in each of the two last Fall seasons on windy days trying to capture a leaf in flight.  It has been a very frustrating experience.  This morning I learned that after a really hard frost, those few leaves that remain simply give up their fight and rain off of the handful of trees that have held tight to them.  They do not land soundlessly as you might expect, they land on the frozen ground with a faint tap, a beautiful wake-up for all of the senses this morning.

Friday, October 31, 2014


This day of cold blustery winds will be stripping the trees bare of their remaining foliage.  The origins of our current day all hallows eve are deeply rooted in Celtic belief. Today, as we light candles in windows and in jack-o-lanterns, we mark the end of our harvest and beginning of the darker months. The sounds of  laughter and running shuffles through leaves will fill the air as children of all ages run from home to home performing in their costumes for a treat.  When we return we will warm ourselves with a shared meal, hot apple cider, spiced wine and apple cake.  As the kids settle in to count their cache, the adults will be thankful for glowing warmth in the darkness a bountiful harvest and remembering those who came before.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

#tbt First House

circa 1995, halloween right after we bought our first house in Las Vegas.  Carrying on my families tradition of carving the giant pumpkin, this beauty drove back from CA with us in the back seat of our car.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gotta Love Fall Weekends

What a difference a few days makes!  We had a beautiful weekend, temperatures reaching 70 made it perfect for being outside and working diligently on the fall cleanup.  It was a weekend of:

fallen branch collecting

pancetta starting

volleyball playing

hamburger grilling

compost moving

leaf jumping

and pudgy pie making

Thankfully we got a big chunk of the work done last weekend, as this weekends highs are predicted to be in the low 40's, and windy with the possibility of a few wet snow showers!  Gotta love these late fall weekends!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Eyeing B & W

Last week I was tagged in a black and white photography challenge on facebook.  For five days I posted a black and white photo and tagged another photography friend to do the same each day.  I really enjoyed the exercise and how my wall filled with amazing photos taken by friends.  I have always enjoyed black and white photography, but amid trying to capture all of the brilliant fall colors, I had not thought about it recently. As I have spent the last several days eyeing the world around me through a black and white lens, I was reminded of how striking the light and depth of field are in b & w.  I realized that I need a challenge once in a while, a tangible reason to get out of the daily routine and re-invigorate my eye, such fun!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Work and Relaxation

With slightly warmer temps and no rain in the forecast, our weekend is looking to be bathed in golden autumn sun.  After a hectic, unexpected, exhausting week, this weekend is welcomed with open arms.  I am hoping for a mixture of work and relaxation as we put the outdoors of the farm to bed.

We cleared the front porch this afternoon, vacuumed the runners and nestled them into the attic until next year.  It looks so bare and unexpectedly spacious, yet rather inviting in this beautiful soft light, a perfect spot to sit and read for a while.  See?  Work an relaxation.

What are your weekend plans?  Whatever they are, be sure you get out and enjoy the weather.  My mantra with the kids has been, get out there and enjoy it, there are not many more days like this left!

::check out julie's post on architecture, great minds think alike, and were obviously awed by the cityscape of our times in New York!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#tbt Football

#tbt circa 2011, papa teaching Charles the fundamentals of the game.......I think it's about time that Charles taught papa the finer details of the other football! :)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall on the Farm

A windy rainy week will be capped off tonight with a frost advisory.  It is beginning to look a lot like fall around here.  Crisp temperatures make grabbing a sweater the norm, walking across the yard is a shuffle amongst the fallen leaves and the Halloween decor made its appearance this week.  Sadly, the beautiful gourd display that I normally decorate the porch with will remain hidden this year.  I suspect a mischievous puppy and a basket full of gourds would not be a good mix!

The cool weather crops are enjoying the temperatures.  We are still pulling leaks, peppers, kale, flower sprouts and onions from the garden.  As you can see the one light frost that we had last weekend finished the winter squash plants and this weekend will see them harvested and nestled into their new root cellar home.

It looks like after this weekend we will see a string of dry days together.  With more than half of the garden beds closed down, and frost in the forecast, I suspect that the next couple of weekends will be comprised of finishing the remaining beds, topping the asparagus, pruning berry canes, planting garlic, and beginning the task of next seasons compost by way of a mass mowing and the beginning of leaf pick-up.  Just a few little tasks, mid to late fall on the farm is the last big push towards putting everything to bed before the darker and much colder months ahead.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Architecture of Life

I am bundled in a sweater this afternoon looking out onto an incredibly grey and blustery day.  Life has presented me with many opportunities and seen to it that I have lived a number of very different places.  I grew up in Long Beach, a suburb of Los Angeles, and had a wonderful neighborhood upbringing with friends walking to each others homes in a close knit, albeit large community.

I enjoyed big city living as a college student in London, a city that has my heart and if ever I were to live in a big city, that one would be it.  From there I got my first taste of the country living in a Midwestern college town called Manhattan, Kansas 'the little apple'.  This is where I met B and began to fantasize about that 'little house' life I had romanticized as a child.

As college ended a young couple looking for work and adventure ended up where else?  Las Vegas.  Here, I learned to love the outdoors in a way that I had not before.  There is something magical about sitting on your porch at midnight when it is still 100+ degrees and it feels great...remember it is a dry heat!  We had our first real garden where we learned the merits of xeroscape.  This wild west town was on the cusp of major growth and we grew with it.

Eight years later, once we were firmly ensconced in adult life, and my stomach swelled with the beginnings of a new adventure, we moved onto opportunities in the upper midwest.  Here our little abode has encompassed the best of all worlds; the rural lifestyle that we both had craved yet close to several larger cities.

Last weekend while visiting 'the big apple' I somewhat expected to have the feeling that I had living in London.  Though both large bustling cities, they felt vastly different.  I saw first hand a population density that created its own vertical architecture.  I gazed into buildings on top of buildings for miles at a time and saw floors upon floors of small homes full of vitality.  A vastly different life from the one that I know, or have experienced.   As I walked the streets I could imagine the early days of the city, almost hearing echoes of those generations past.  A very cool, yet surreal experience for this now smallish town girl.

It lead me to think about where we have come from and where we are going.  We begin as a clean slate, a foundation and our experiences create our own unique architectures. We build on our experiences to become fully constructed.  If we are lucky, we enjoy the ride, and continue to grow and maybe do a little remodeling as we go.  As I write this I think of Sid, off on her own first real travel experience alone, a school trip to DC.  I wonder what little bricks will be put into place in her foundation this week?  At least the boy is contented building his foundation out of Lego's....for the time being. :)


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