Friday, January 31, 2014

Random 5 Friday

It is hard to believe that it is already Friday again!  Though I started a number of drafts this week, ideas churning away in my head, I only managed to post one.  That is a bit off my blogging goal, but my full days are making fodder for posts to come.

1.  As you can see from the above picture, B has busted out the elderberries that we carefully prepared last fall.  The 2014 wine making has begun.  He began 4 gallons of  Elderberry Melomel and 3 gallons of Gooseberry/Rhubarb wine this week.

2.  I have re-committed to bread making this week thanks to this wonderful book.  There is something so calming filling the house with the smells of fresh baked bread.  Speaking of bread, I also began a new sourdough starter.  I did one a year ago, and though it turned out fine, I couldn't keep up with it. This new recipe, from the same book, is slightly different in its process and I must say, it is a very happy little starter only three days in!  Let's see if I can keep this baby around...maybe even pass it down!

3.  I am so excited to be going out with some dear friends this evening to see the Moth Story Slam, I just can't wait!

4.   B always snow blows our parking area against a big old maple tree.  Then the kids use it as a mini sledding hill all season.  This year with plenty of snow and the deep cold, the hill has turned to mostly ice.  Perfect for making an igloo!  I would say that it is more than half done.  Charles and a friend dug a tunnel through the side of it, so they will use those holes plugged by some colorful sledding disks to make skylights.  It is a work in progress, based on its sheer girth, and another couple of months of winter to come I would say, much of this igloo will grace our yard well into April, and we will see remnants into May!

5.  I had my first committee meeting for Charles fifth grade awards/graduation celebration yesterday.  This morning I am sifting through the last six years of photos.  Wow, they grow fast!

linking up with Nancy, won't you join in?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Garden in Winter

Today as we curl into another Cold Day from school, I will venture into the warmth of bread-making with the kids.  The bright color of the blood orange adds a glow to offset the blankets of winter white outside.  Enjoy the time indoors, for the busy warm months will arrive and leave us longing for the time we had to focus inward.  As a reminder to us all, I found a little writing about the garden, rejuvenating in winter and preparing to burst forth in spring...whenever that might be :) 

The Garden in Winter
by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Frosty-white and cold it lies
Underneath the fretful skies;
Snowflakes flutter where the red
Banners of the poppies spread,
And the drifts are wide and deep
Where the lilies fell asleep.
But the sunsets o'er it throw
Flame-like splendor, lucent glow,
And the moonshine makes it gleam
Like a wonderland of dream,
And the sharp winds all the day
Pipe and whistle shrilly gay.
Safe beneath the snowdrifts lie
Rainbow buds of by-and-by;
In the long, sweet days of spring
Music of bluebells shall ring,
And its faintly golden cup
Many a primrose will hold up.
Though the winds are keen and chill
Roses' hearts are beating still,
And the garden tranquilly
Dreams of happy hours to be
In the summer days of blue
All its dreamings will come true.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Random 5 Friday

1.  This morning's sunrise over the lake made the early morning school carpool, so worth it!

2.  We got to 17 degrees yesterday, and the weather person called it a warm up.  Yup, it has been that kind of winter.

3.  We booked a short weekend trip with a ski and splash package in a couple of weeks.  A little reward for the kids since we ignored them for their patience during the great basement clean out of '14 the last few weeks.  Everyone is excited and we are looking forward to finally teaching the kids how to snow ski, hopefully it will be slightly warmer.

4.  I am looking for a new book.  The last few that I have read have been fairly entertaining, but not great.  Any suggestions??

5.  This week I was fortunate enough to be able to register for two upcoming events that I am so excited about.  The first is a slow money event discussing how to invest and gain investors in programs revolving around promoting healthy food choices an education in our community.  Secondly, is the TedX Manhattan--"changing the way we eat"  viewing party in our area.  I am enthusiastic that the insight gained from these events will help us in our efforts locally!

participating in Random 5 Friday, won't you play along?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Battling Busyness

In today's fast paced world, do we take the time to really enjoy?  Doesn't it seem like we all are constantly moving from thing to thing?  Is this constant busyness the kind of example that we want our children to emulate as adults?  Maybe it is this unusual winter, or just a frame of mind, but our focus has turned inward.  This is not to say that we have become hermits, or that we have stopped our involvement with friends, activities or the community.  Only that we are hanging hats at the door when we get home at night and really enjoying the time together, the simple pleasures at our own pace.

If you had to put together a short list of the important things for your family, what would you choose?  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Making Lemonade

When life gives you lemons constant snow, ice, and windchill...

make lemonade a warm wool blanket.

How are you passing these cold gray days?

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Will Your Verse Be?

Finding a good movie for family movie night has become increasingly a struggle.  We have hit all of the appropriate biggies from our youth and current and are always looking to be gently reminded of what we have omitted.  Last week I saw the new iPad Air commercial.  Not only was it great, but it reminded me of a favorite movie regrettably filed so far away, almost forgotten.

Friday night we watched Dead Poet's Society together.  I must say, though our kids have really taken to our music, we must have failed some in the important actor realm.. Upon the opening credits Charles said Oh, that's the guy from "The Crazy Ones ", I've seen a commercial for that.  Face, Palm.

I am so taken with this movie and both of the kids absolutely loved it.  In fact it led to the discussion of our beloved Puck, whom we lost almost two years ago.  She was named after Puck from A Midsummer Night's dream, the name inspired not only by my love of Shakespeare, but how moved B and I were by the powerful role Puck played in this movie.

It inspired me to immediately download and read Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Reflections upon this reading are leading me on a path of further discovery where Whitman is concerned which will be a blog post in and of itself.  Watching the movie brought on a trip down memory lane with B remembering  a lengthy paper that he wrote in college trying to dissect the thought process of Whitman's multiple revisions.  A paper that his College professor asked him to present at an literary conference.

So many beautiful lessons in this movie prompting you to ask questions of yourself.  Charles' only negative critique was that he felt the title was ridiculous.  "I thought it was going to be about a bunch of dead poets and really did not want to watch it."   Yet another lesson learned.  Don't judge a book by its cover.  There are so many great quotes in this movie.  One that really resonates with me and should inspire a mantra:

"That the powerful play goes on and you will have contributed a verse."

Think about that bright and early on this Monday morning.  As the captain said:  "What will your verse be?" 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Lighter House

The day began with blowing and drifting, and quickly turned to sun and 32 degrees.  
Taking advantage of the much needed vitamin D we have spent some necessary time outside.

**The snow has been blown.
**The outside Christmas lights have been taken down.
**The porch been completely cleared and re-organized.
**The bird feeders all replenished.
**The kids have begun building a snow igloo.

It feels so good to be active outside.  Even once inside the breaks of bright sun through the windows makes my heart skip a beat.  It is hard to believe how very little sunshine we have had this winter! We are taking every advantage today since the deep freeze returns to us tomorrow.

We haven't neglected our inside tasks this weekend either.  Beginning after soccer yesterday we purged three truck loads of both ours and the previous owners junk from our basement. Some to recycle, some to trash, much to donate.  Everything remaining is now finding a new home in labeled buckets on shelves.  Old work benches and built in shelving are now emerging as our wine, honey and charcuterie supply center.  A work in progress, but oh so close.  Best of all?  We seem to have found a nice balance of work and rest with our tasks.  Work some, read or knit some, play some, then work some more.  

The house feels lighter, and is giving off a new energy.  A great start to 2014, and hopefully a force that will propel us into our ever growing farm to do list.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Random 5 Friday

1.  Last weekend, as a treat, Sidney and I had some mom and daughter time and got our nails done.  She had used some of her Christmas money to purchase nail polish.  She is wearing the lighter color with a top coat that is one of the new graffiti ones.  Have you seen these, they are pretty cool!

2.  I have a hard time starting and not finishing a book, especially when I have invested more than 400 pages.  Though The Goldfinch had sections that were very compelling, there was a great deal of drudgery in between.  In my opinion it could have been about 300 pages shorter.  

3.  Julochka introduced me to this wonderful book on making preserves and jams last year.  The recipes are great and given me the best success with jam making so it is now my go to .  Yesterday, again thanks to her suggestion, I found more wonderful books in the series that I cannot wait to receive.  Something about the long winter months have me searching for more creative yet traditional ways to sustain ourselves.  Bread, Booze, Curing and Smoking, and Veg are going to be a balm for my winter chapped spirit.

4.  Do you ever just look at your kids and see the amazing little persona that they are developing?  Hints of sarcasm, intelligence, introspection, humor, and responsibility.  Through this I catch little glimpses of the people they will be and it makes my heart swell.  

5.  It has been one of those up and down weeks.  I'm glad that I seem to be on the upswing from a nasty cold just in time for B to be starting with it.

Participating in Random 5 Friday, won't you join in?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tastebuds Junior

Yesterday afternoon was our first tastebuds dinner club of the year.  We are beginning our fifth year of adventures in food and friendship and we have lots of plans going forward.  For starters as the kids are getting older, several of them are interested in participating in the food decisions and preparation.  Since we need to plan out the logistics of two sets of cooking, we had a couple of the oldest kids get a taste of it by preparing their dessert.

Sidney and Sam agreed on brownies as the dessert but Sid did not want to use my trusted recipe.  Instead, she went on to pinterest to find the most chocolatey one that she could.  We started about an hour early so the kids could get their cooking done first.  Sidney's only concern about cooking with the kids as a group was that all of them must wash their hands.  As you can see, she enforced that with her brother when he decided to join in.

 I asked if they wanted help, but they thought they could manage without me..sniff, sniff.  As I took pictures, I did interject a few tips that were taken without preteen eye-rolling in good spirit.

They ended up not only with brownies, but a grenache topping that was to die for. A beautiful first attempt, and a great precedent for moving forward into a new era, creating the next generation of tastebuds.  What a pleasure for us parents who so love the art of slow food to have our kids wanting to be part of it!

As for the adults, we chose Alice Waters as our chef inspiration.  Her food was delightfully clean and the recipes simple using few ingredients but exacting the most flavor from them.   As always, we began our new year with Julia's cheese souffle because after all it was she who began this journey for us.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Up-Cycled Bottle

Over the last couple of weeks B has been experimenting with converting cool beer and wine bottles into drinking glasses and vases.  There are lots of tutorials on You Tube and Pinterest, but what we have found is that no one way seems to work consistently, and many of the suggested methods we could not get to work at all.  I am sure that there is much variation depending on thickness and type of bottle.  What follows here is a method that we have found works for us.

 To begin with B fashioned a homemade glass cutter.  It was really quite simple finding some scrap pieces in the barn, and then attaching a blade.  Using the vice grips to hold the blade in place allows us to adjust the width depending on the bottle size.

 Once he places the bottle on the cutter, he turns the bottle 8-10 times  in order to score the complete circumference where he wants the bottle to break.

Then comes the tricky part, and one that he tried a number of methods on, getting the bottle to break clean.  Take a lighter and gently heat the scored line in one or two areas.  You should hear a subtle pop where that glass expands and then with a gentle tap the rest should break away.  This process should not take too long, if you find that you are holding the lighter against an area for more than about 10 seconds, move it to another area.  If the glass gets too hot in one spot it tends to weaken and then crack down the bottle.

Once successfully broken, you need to do something with the sharp edge.  At this point use a super fine (400) wet or dry sandpaper.  Pour a little water on it and then buff the edge until it is smooth.  If the glass broke with  some divots it may take a little elbow grease to get all of the nooks and crannies, but it is well worth it.

What remains is a cool vase for fresh cut flowers, or a fun drinking glass and conversation piece for your next get together.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Random 5 Friday

1.  When I went out to take pictures of the ice on Lake Michigan earlier this week, I captured this little guy dancing.  It is amazing how calm and smooth the lake was that day!

2.  28 degrees has never felt so good.  Nuff said.

3.  We managed to get a big chunk of the basement cleaned out last weekend, it is amazing how much accumulates over time.  It was like a walk down a memory lane of old kids crafts and garden start remnants.

4. Our chickens are really troopers, perfectly content with their heat lamps in this weeks cold.  Interesting fact...when eggs freeze in record overnight lows, they crack and split.

5.  Speaking of eggshells, we have been saving all of our egg shells to crush and use in next years garden.  This morning I came across an interesting article on re-purposing dried crushed egg shells and using them instead of oyster shell. It is supposed to be just as good and also act as a deterrent for any egg eaters.  Have you tried this??

Happy  Weekend!

Participating in:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fast & Easy Cold Weather Comfort Food

What to do when the weather is bitter and the kids Christmas break is extended by a couple of days?  It takes a village for moms to entertain stir crazy kids who can not go out to play in the snow.  On Monday, I had a couple of friends and their kids over for lunch and more importantly mental health play time for the moms and kids alike.  As an illustration of just how cold it has been, one of my friends provided a loaf of crusty bread to go with the soup.  It sat in her car for 10 minutes and when she handed it to me it had frozen solid!  Talk about flash freezing!

Since I was working in the morning, I made creamy tomato soup on Sunday, and then just added the finishing touches when it was served on Monday afternoon.  I spent some time on pinterest and found a couple of recipes but, ultimately, this one came from what I had in hand and what sounded good.  I must say, it is a keeper!

Creamy Tomato Bisque

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Lg onion, finely diced
3 Cloves prepared garlic (if using raw, I'd use 1 Lg clove)
1 C. prosecco
1 C. water
1 Qt. canned tomatoes (I used our roasted ones, if you have time to roast them first it really adds!)
2 C. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste

 In a dutch oven heat olive oil, and saute onion until soft.  Add garlic and cook until aromatic.  Then splash in the prosecco and water and cook until reduced by 1/3 to 1/2.  Add tomatoes and heavy cream and blend with an immersion blender.  Once smooth (or desired consistency), add salt and pepper to taste and stir in honey.  Simmer until ready to eat, or refrigerate for re-heating.  When serving add a dollop of your favorite pesto to the center and serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Suspended Animation

Lake Michigan is as smooth as glass today, as calm as I have ever seen it.  The magnificence of the much frozen expanse is a sight.  The ice leaves you with a feeling that everything is in suspended animation.

Moments that show how ferociously the wind and waves could batter the shores and man made objects and then leave behind a little calling card.  A reminder maybe, that something as big as mother nature is not to be taken lightly.

And that something with such capabilities of destruction can also encapsulate the world in a veil of beauty.  That nudge reminding us of the splendor that is ours to take care of.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Bierock Bee

Years ago, my mother-in-law served sandwiches called bierocks for lunch.  I loved them so much that I got the recipe and have tried to make them a handful of times since, but with out any real instruction on volumes and technique.  Though the flavor has always been good, I never quite could get them wrapped in their dough casing quite to my satisfaction.

Last week, while in Kansas, mom had a friend and her daughter come over to give us a lesson in the bierock.  Have you ever imagined the quilting bees of old?  When friends, family, neighbors come over to complete a task as a community...well that is exactly what this felt like.  The whole family participated in the task and knocked out 87 of these wonderful sandwiches in just a couple of hours. 

The origin of the bierock goes back to a Eastern European, German or Russian, influence of the late 1800's and has so many contemporary possibilities. We did a fairly traditional beef and cabbage stuffing, but I think the sky is the limit.  I plan to have our Tastebuds group come up with creative sandwich stuffing and tackle them as a challenge.  You could go sweet or savory, and one that pops immediately to mind is a kicked up Reuben sandwich.

I learned a lot during our little lesson.  I was cutting my dough rounds too small and not using near enough stuffing.  We also found that the second baking (when reheating or coming from the freezer) makes the dough light, crisp and perfect all around.  All wonderful little tidbits of knowledge coming from a fun morning in a shared kitchen.

Here is the classic recipe and  I am looking forward to pushing the boundaries on it.

Bierocks (double recipe, we got the 87 on a triple recipe)

9 Cups flour + 1 cup (for kneading)
1/4 C. dry milk
1/4 C. instant potatoes
1/4 C. yeast
3/4 C. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
3/4 C. oleo (butter, very soft)
4 C. warm water

Put all dry ingredients into a large ziploc bag and combine (this can be done well ahead and in batches.  Place warm water and oleo in stand mixer and mix in all dry ingredients until fully combined.  Pour out onto surface floured with additional 1 Cup flour and knead dough until smooth.  Place in greased bowl, in warm place covered to rise.

4 lbs. ground sirloin, browned & drained
1 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 head cabbage, shredded
3 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. beef base
1 Tbsp. onion flakes
dash pepper
dash celery salt
worcestershire sauce
dijon mustard
(these last items are all to taste and we used generous amounts :)

Once the dough has risen (about an hour) roll out dough to 1/4 " thick (in two  or three batches is best) and use a large round to make cuts (we used the lid from a two gallon pitcher).  Using a 2" ice cream scoop, place meat in center of dough rings and fold the dough around sealing the meat in.  Place seam side down on cookie sheet.  Set aside to rise for an additional 20-30 minutes and then bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Once out of oven brush with melted butter and let cool.  You can eat when cool, freeze, or refrigerate for later.  They are really best once re-heated in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes.  The dough becomes a light, crisp casing that melts in your mouth.

**Have any extra dough?  roll it out, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake for a sweet treat for the kids.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Polar Wish

 In the pre-dawn hours of this so called arctic-vortex, the bottom has truly dropped out.  As I pour my coffee, it is -14 here on the farm with wind chills approaching -45 and continuing to drop.  It is a special kind of cold, and though there was sputter and protest, both cars just started.  For that I am grateful!  I know that I am not unique in this experience this morning so I say to all of you be safe and warm, netflix something good, make lots of hot cocoa, play a game or two, eat something tasty and enjoy the extra day of  break with the kids.  In short, my polar wish to you is, make the best of it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Just a Bit Nomadic

Over the years we have been a bit nomadic.  After studying in London, I came back to immediately meet B, and well, the rest is history.  After school, we moved to where the best job opportunities took us, and have often contemplated paying some sort of permanent homage to these meaningful times of our life.  After seeing the works of a semi-local artisan at a friends house, I decided that this was a perfect fit for us, and would make a great Christmas gift for B.

I marked the places where we were both raised, where we met, where we got our start and our baby girl was born, and finally the place we call home.  We hung the copper forms yesterday adjacent to our family portrait, then topped them off with the Tomé sculpted leaves that my uncle gave us.  

This is now our own acclectic family tree, and something for us to remember where we came from, where we have been, and what we have accomplished.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Random 5 Friday

The year is fresh and along with reflections of last year, I have been thinking about what is ahead.  I have not so much made resolutions this year, but I do have a handful of goals in mind.

1.   I lost a little of my photo mojo this last year, but with the brand new lens that I received for Christmas, I am back on task and ready to go.  I also think that I am going to begin a Instagram photo challenge.  A daily shot that is #365grateful. A little diary of a moment each day to be thankful for.

2.   I need to get better about scheduling posts, and utilizing drafts when blogging.  I have already started to put a few thoughts in draft and I must say, it is nice.  Why have I not done this before?   I am also eager to begin a new writing project with some friends.

3.   I read 36 books last year.  This year I want to up the ante and aim for 50.

4.  Nothing like the weather to drive a goal.  With high temperatures expected to below zero and waking up to -10 this morning,  our focus will easily be directed to organizing the basement.

5. Christmas has been taken down, and some simple winter white decor put up.  I love having a few days after travel, to spend with the family just hanging out and readying for whats next.

This post is part of Random 5 Friday, won't you join in?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Life According to Books I Read in 2013

Getting back in the groove after a thirteen plus hour drive yesterday led to a slow start this morning, sipping coffee in bed and catching up on blog reading.  I was intrigued by Lisa at Two Bears Farm's post, My Life According to Books I Read in 2013.  I too had a great reading year in 2013.  I completed 36 books which is pretty darned good, especially since I seem to have gravitated toward very long reads.  The task was a challenge, since many books that I read had one word titles or were food related, but it was fun and I encourage you to join in too!   My goal for 2014 is to read 50 books.  So with out further ado...

My Life According to Books I Read in 2013

Describe yourself:  
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

How do you feel:  
So Big by Edna Ferber

Describe where you currently live:
Bristol House by Beverly Swerling

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Your favorite form of transportation:
The Road From Gap Creek by Robert Morgan

Your best friend is:
Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee

You and your friends are:
Cherries in Winter by Suzan Colon

What's the weather like:
Divergent by Veronica Roth

What is life to you:
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Baumeister

Favorite time of day:
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Your Fear:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

What is the best advice you have to give:
The Bookmans Tale by Charlie Lovett

Thought for the day:
French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure by Mirelle Guilano

How I would like to die:
From the Kitchen of Half Truth by Maria Goodin

My soul's present condition:
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

My family is:
The Truest Pleasure by Robert Morgan

All of these books I enjoyed, some more than others, how did your reading go in 2013.  Please leave me a note if you too blog about it!


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