Friday, September 30, 2011

One Meal Becomes Three

It started with pot roast. Another slice of Zeke, the steer that Mother-In-Law sent to freezer camp shortly before Christmas.  I believe this particular piece was labeled "Blade Roast"; it came from the shoulder area anyway, with a big slice of shoulder bone in it.  If you don't have a blade roast at home I imagine a chuck roast would cook up the same. In fact, that's how I treated it--the same way I do a chuck roast.

So. . .here's how I cooked it:
I placed the roast into my big crock pot (Rival 6 qt), sprinkled it with salt and pepper, slathered it on top and any sides I could reach with a 6 ounce can of tomato paste.  Then I sliced a large onion and laid the slices on the top of the roast.  After that, I added about 1/2 cup water to the crock pot, put on the lid, and set it to 'low'.  It cooked for 8 hours, but hey, it's a crock pot, so if you need yours to go 9 or 10 hours it won't hurt anything. In fact, the meat should turn out so tender you barely even need to chew!

Later in the day, about an hour before the roast was to be served, I peeled several potatoes, quartered them, and set them on the stove to boil.  Then I took two acorn squash that had volunteered to grow in one of the flower beds (apparently an old squash seed was a surprise addition to the compost I dressed the flower bed with this spring!).  I washed the squash, then cut each one in half horizontally .  After scooping the seeds and 'guts' out of the seed cavity, I took a small slice off of each pointed end in order for the squash to sit flat in the dish I was going to cook them in.  Then I placed the four squash halves in a baking dish with the seed cavities facing up.  I seasoned each one with salt and pepper, dotted them with butter, put enough water in the bottom of the dish to measure about 1/4" deep, and covered the whole thing with foil. 

Now, you can cook the squash at different temperatures, depending on how long you want/need it to take.  I cooked mine at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, but you can turn the temperature down if you want, just add about 5 minutes of baking for every 25 degree decrease in temp.

Once the potatoes were almost done cooking, and it was nearly time to serve dinner, I took the lid off the crock pot and, with a baster, removed about a cup of meat drippings (aka "meat juice").  Those drippings I put into a skillet and added roughly a cup of water to.  Then I put a couple dashes of salt and pepper on the drippings, and turned the burner on high.  While the drippings mixture heated, I stirred together about 2-3 tablespoons of corn starch and enough water to make a runny paste.  Once the meat juice had reached a boil, I slowly poured the corn starch/water mixture into it, stirring all the time, until the juice, now gravy, reached the thickness my family likes.  When you're making gravy, it's important to stir, stir, stir, so you don't get lumps. 

After that, the potatoes were drained and mashed, the roast lifted out of the crock pot and put on a platter, the gravy poured into the gravy boat, the squash removed from the oven, and dinner was served!  YUM.

The next day, we had beef vegetable soup, which started with the rest of the meat juice from the crock pot --about 2 cups worth, maybe a bit less.  To that, I added 6 cups of water, about 2 cups diced pot roast that was leftover, and a whole bunch of veggies.  I cut up and threw in 2 stalks celery, 2 carrots, 2 potatoes, a couple of handfuls of green beans from the garden, roughly 1/2 cup each of peas and corn from the freezer.  You can add or subtract from that, using your favorite veggies or whatever you have on hand.  In retrospect, I should have thrown in a few tomatoes as I have quite a few sitting on the counter that are almost over ripe.

Anyway, the soup simmered for a couple of hours.  It turned out a bit bland; I forgot to add salt and pepper.  A beef bouillon cube wouldn't have hurt either.  Next time ;0)

This afternoon I followed my own advice (see my post Frugal Food #7: Pay Attention if you haven't yet) and when deciding what to eat for lunch I inventoried what was in the fridge.  Using a little bit of creativity, a sprinkle of daring (in case it didn't turn out to taste as good as I was imagining), and some leftovers, I came up with a new entree:  the squash and cheese wrap.

Here's what I used:
1/2 an acorn squash, leftover because DD2 didn't eat hers
1 large tortilla, leftover from burritos last week
some feta cheese
some Romano cheese
some Parmesan cheese

I'm on kind of a 'fancy' cheese kick lately:  I love what my kids have taken to calling "stinky cheese"--in other words, not the bland pale orange kind.    So I have 6+ flavors of cheese on hand at any one time, and I love experimenting with things to use them in or on.  I took that leftover piece of squash, heated it in the microwave, then mashed it (remove the skin) and spread it down the center of the tortilla.  To that, I added some freshly grated Romano and Parmesan, and a tablespoon (or maybe two) of feta.  Rolled it up like a wrap, and stuck it in the microwave for approx. 40 seconds until hot and the cheeses softened.

It was delicious!  Definitely different, but very good.  I think I'll serve Romano on squash a lot after this; they taste good together.

What started as just a pot roast dinner three days ago turned into two dinners for four, and a lunch for one.
Meal One: pot roast, mashed potatoes with gravy, baked acorn squash
Meal Two: beef vegetable soup
Meal Three: the new taste sensation squash and cheese wrap

Moral of the story:  Be creative, don't be afraid to try something new, and remember to use up those leftovers!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Frugal Food #7: Pay Attention!

Say what?  "Pay Attention?"  How is that a tip on making your food budget stretch?

Well, do this little test for me:
Go to your fridge.  Open the door, reach waaaaayyyy into the back (or into that veggie or fruit drawer you haven't opened recently), and tell me what you find.  Is it green and fuzzy?  Black and slimy?  Unrecognizable but definitely inedible?

Now, I only ask you to do this because I myself did it recently and yes, I found some pretty nasty looking items that used to be food.  Items that I forgot about and didn't use before they were well on their way to 'from dust to dust', as in, ready for burial.  Items that I couldn't even feed to the chickens for fear of poisoning them.  Yes, it was that bad.

I hate it when I waste perfectly good food like that.  Not only did I waste electricity keeping that mess cold, I wasted either my money when I purchased it at the store, or my time when I grew it in the garden.  I don't know about you, but money and time are two things I never seem to have enough of.  I certainly don't want to be wasting them.

Such waste can easily be avoided by simply paying attention to what's in the fridge.  It's not like I go days without opening my great electric ice chest.  On the contrary, I probably open it a minimum of five times a day (packing DH's lunch, making breakfast, getting lunch, making dinner, putting away leftovers after dinner. . .)  How much more effort would it be, once each day while I'm rummaging  in the fridge anyway, to take a quick inventory of what's heading toward expiration?  To make those shriveling apples into a nice snack of homemade chunky applesauce?  To spread that little bit of pizza sauce onto a slice of bread, add some shredded cheese and heat it up for a single slice pizza for lunch?  To thinly slice that 1.5" thick chunk of grilled venison loin and either make it into a sandwich for DH's lunch box or top my salad with it at lunch time?  To grab that 1/2 empty container of ricotta and throw it into the freezer, where it will patiently (and without growing mold) await the next time I make lasagna?

Paying attention doesn't just stop at the fridge.  Nope.  It's important when shopping too.  Do you know that certain items go on sale at certain times of the year?  If you like to eat turkey more than just at Thanksgiving time, buy several this fall and stick the extra ones in your freezer.  They'll be cheaper at holiday time than in February when perhaps you get the hankering for one.  Baking supplies are cheaper around the holidays too.  Stock up.  Eggs are always cheaper around Easter time.  Grilling and picnic supplies and foods go on sale near Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.  Get enough ketchup and mustard then to last you until the next sale.

This also works on non-food items.  I only use one particular brand of toilet paper.  And I only buy it when it's on sale.  Which seems to be about every six weeks or so.   Same with facial tissues.  Another example is school supplies.  I only buy paper, notebooks, markers, pens, pencils, glue, index cards, etc in August when every store is practically giving them away.  I buy enough to last until the next August. 

This past June my work socks (nice thick cushy soled ones I wear with my barn boots) were getting pretty threadbare.  In fact, three out of the six pair had holes worn in the heels.  But, I knew that socks are also something that go on sale at back-to-school time, so instead of picking up a package the next time I was near a store, I waited until socks went on sale around mid-July.  My kids thought it was a bit excessive, to save $1.50 or so on six pair of socks, but I knew I wasn't going to go sockless because socks would soon be on sale, so why pay more than necessary?  Now I'm good to go until next late July, when I'll buy another package even if I'm not quite in need yet.  Currently I have a package of socks set aside for DH, because his are looking like they'll need replacement sometime this winter.

Another thing to pay attention to when shopping for food is price per ounce.  Yeah, that big package of crackers is on sale for 20 cents off it's normal price. And the normal price on that package is 2 cents an ounce cheaper than the normal price on the small package of the same crackers. But look, the smaller package is on sale 2 for $4.00, and two small packages give you 10 more ounces of crackers than the big package for the same price as the sale price of the big package.  In this case, two little is way better deal than one big.

Family sized packages of meat are usually 10 cents or more cheaper per pound than the same meat in smaller packages.  If you don't need that much meat for one meal, repackage it when you get home into smaller portions and stick them in the freezer.  I never buy hamburger in one pound packages.  When we run out of homegrown beef or home-harvested venison burger, I buy freshly ground burger in a 10 pound bag from the butcher shop, take it home, wrap it in 1 pound packages, and stick it in the freezer.  It's about 30 cents a pound cheaper that way, is great quality meat, and 10 pounds for us is going to be gone within a month or so.

Sometimes buying in bulk is a good thing, like when you go through a lot of an item.  Sometimes, though, it's not so good.  Like when you buy the bulk size package and end up throwing out half of it.  Or maybe it's not even a bulk size package, just a normal size one but it's something you use very rarely, like marjoram.  If there is a 'health food' store anywhere near you, they possibly have spices they will sell in any quantity you want (priced per ounce).  Instead of buying that whole jar of marjoram at the grocery store, paying for 1 cup of spices when all you'll ever need in the next several years is 1 tsp, buy just a tsp or so from the health food store.  They will weigh it and charge you however many cents that works out to.

On the flip side, if you use a lot of a spice, buy it by the cupful or even a pound at a time instead of in tiny jars.  Same with yeast.  For years, I used those little packets of yeast.  They cost, at that time, something like $1.49 for a strip of three packets.  Then I discovered jars of yeast, about a dozen packets worth, for $5.  Obviously the jars were a better deal.  Well, a few years later I found, at the health food store, yeast for 49 cents an ounce.  Which made my $5 six-ounce jar seem like not such a great deal.  I bought yeast by the ounce then, usually 6-8 ounces at time.  Last year, I found that my local Gordon's (GFS Marketplace) sells 2- pound packages of yeast for $4.99.  That's 32 ounces of yeast!!  Since yeast keeps just about forever in the freezer and takes up very little room, I would be foolish to continue to pay 49 cents an ounce for it (49 cents x 32 ounces = $15.68).

So, I'll say it again:  Pay Attention!

Monday, September 26, 2011


I grew grapes.  :o)  I've been trying for probably three or four years now, and finally, I have grapes! 

The first year, the deer ate my grapevines to the ground during the winter.  The second year, the vines grew (a little), but the deer ate them again.  The third year the vines grew (more) and I mulched them heavily with some  musty hay that wasn't good for feeding to the horses.

When I say heavily mulched, I perhaps should clarify:  I tried to bury the grape vines so deep in hay that the deer would never find them.  Something like knee deep.

It seems to have done the trick!  The deer did not even get one nibble of my grape vines last winter.  This spring, the vines started off strong and healthy, and they actually had blossoms on them!  What joy it was to see 'grape flowers'.  I showed them off to my husband.  I showed them off to my kids.

Then, we got busy with plowing and planting and weeding and watering the garden.  And, along about the time DS2 headed for college in mid-August, the weeding fell by the wayside.  So, currently my garden looks rather like an overgrown weedy meadow with a patch of field corn sticking up above the ragweed and quack grass.  Definitely not a picture I want to post here.

Last night, however, I remembered that I had grape flowers at the beginning of the summer.  I wondered if those grape flowers ever turned into grape clusters.  So, I bravely waded into the sea of weeds (bravely because I swear the weeds are as tall as I am, and who knows what critters are lurking in the cover the weeds provide).  I aimed for the approximate last known location of my grape vines.  Had DH and I actually trellised those vines like we said we would this spring before life got crazy with graduation and DS2's open house among other things, I would have known exactly where to find my grape vines.

As it was, I had to knock weeds out of the way, and bend down to search close to the ground for grape leaves.  Finding some, I followed them back toward the stakes I could now sort of see.  And this is what I found:

Concord grapes!  Lovely fat round dark purple grapes.  With big seeds, I remembered as I bit into one.  But delicious, oh so delicious!

I searched through the weeds some more, finding my other Concord vine, and picking all the grapes I could see.  Which didn't amount to enough to make into jelly or anything, but still, it was a harvest I felt some small measure of pride in.

Scratch one more thing off the "I Want To Grow It Organically Myself" list.  Now, next year, the trellis will definitely be built so the vines can be kept off the ground and hopefully be even more fruitful. 

Homegrown/homemade grape jelly in 2012?  It's a goal!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Harvesting Hops

The hops are ready.  They are sounding dry and crinkly when you squeeze the cones between your fingers.  When you gently pry one open, the pollen inside is bright yellow, like the lines down the center of the road.  The hops oils transfer to your fingertips, smelling green and making you crave a beer.

We are novice hop gardeners.  Our first harvest was two years ago, a meager dozen cones or so.  Not enough to brew with, just enough to say "look, we actually grew these!"

Last year we got 32 ounces from our Cascade vine.  The one we planted in 2009 that actually survived (unlike the Williamette, Centennial or the fourth variety, name of which I forget). 

This year, it looks like we will easily get double that.

Here's how we harvest our hops:

On a dry day, we hand pick the hops cones into paper bags. You want to do this at a time of day when the dew has had time to evaporate; the hops need to have no moisture on them.

When we've picked all we can that day (or 2-3 bags worth), we fill a window screen with the cones.  That screen either sits outside on a dry day, or on sawhorses in the garage on wet ones, until the cones have dried completely.

Then, we weigh them out into the desired quantity (last year it was 1 ounce packages, this year it is 4 ounces), place in vacuum sealer bags, and vacuum seal them.  Then they are marked with amount and type of hops,the date of packaging, and put into the freezer.

You don't want to leave the hops piled in bags long, or they may get moldy from retained moisture.  That is why we only pick a few bags at a time, harvesting more once the first batch has been fully dried and packaged and the window screen is available for more.

It's that easy.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blowing in the Wind

The weatherman forecasted rain for yesterday.  The morning looked more like fog (which burns off), than rain clouds moving in, so I went ahead and did laundry.  Being late September, I know there won't be too many more warm dry days for line drying the clothes.  I try to take advantage of the ones we get.

I managed to get three loads of laundry washed and hung out.  It never did rain.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This is a picture I took last month, while in the Upper Peninsula helping move DS2 to college.  We had rented a cottage for the few days that we were there, and one evening while we were relaxing before making dinner, this young eagle flew into a tree in the yard.

We knew it was a juvenile, rather than mature, eagle because it's head and tail feathers had not yet turned fully white.  They were still flecked with tan and brown.

This regal young raptor brings several thoughts to mind.

The first: that it was lovingly nurtured and tended by it's parents and kept safe until it was ready to strike out on it's own, just like DS2.  It has grown enough to be able to leave the nest, feed itself, defend itself, and make it's own way.  Just like DS2.  It is, as it has always been, in God's hands.  Just like DS2.

The second: that we are all like this eagle--capable of making our own decisions and feeding ourselves.  This eagle does not sit idly waiting for it's meals, and neither should we. It is up to this eagle to work to procure it's food.  This eagle fears little, and neither should we.  We too, are in God's hands.

We should all have the poise and confidence of the eagle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Babies on the Cheap

It's been a long time since I had a baby in my house.  My 'babies' are currently 21, 18, 17 and 13.  But I know of several people who are having babies this fall and I've been invited to their baby showers.

I was amazed by the length of their gift registries!!  Way back when I had kids, in what now seems like the stone age, we didn't register for gifts for baby showers.  Everyone knew what you needed: diapers, blankets, and clothes.  If you had really generous friends and relatives, you might receive such gifts as a car seat, or a high chair.  But that was about it.  Everything else was luxuries. 

Here's a few examples of gift registry items that blew my mind:

A special gadget to pour water onto baby's head to rinse shampoo out of it's hair.  --  We used a plastic cup grabbed from the kitchen cupboard!

A shaped, cloth covered foam pad for laying baby on to change it's diaper.  --We used a towel laid down on the floor, the couch, the top of a low dresser, whatever was handy.

A 'nursing cover' for breastfeeding in front of others.  --I used a baby blanket.  They were there anyway and they were big enough to cover the essentials.

Soft tipped baby spoons in a 6-pack.  -- Six?!?  I had, at most, two.  Dishes were getting washed every day anyway, and how much soap and water does it take to quick wash one little spoon between feedings?

His and Hers diaper bags.  --Really?  You can't share a diaper bag?  It has the baby's stuff in it.  The baby needs the same stuff no matter whether it's daddy or mommy taking it out  of the house.  The bag belongs to the baby, the parents can share the dang thing.  I really have to wonder about a household in which mommy and daddy can't share.

I don't know, maybe my kids were deprived.  Maybe I was deprived.  I didn't have oodles of baby care items.    The crib and baby's dresser were hand-me-down items (but still within safety standards for the time).  The baby dresser was low enough that it doubled as a changing table.  Most of their clothes were hand-me-down, or purchased second hand at garage sales and consignment stores.  All newborn and nursery items were yellow or green since nobody knew ahead of time what the sex of the baby was going to be.  That way, those items could be reused for the next child no matter whether it was a boy or girl.

They didn't have tons of toys; they were babies!  They played with their fingers, toes, and anything else they could get into: cat food, the handle on the toilet, pots and pans from the cupboard, dirt, sticks, grass and rocks from outside. . .  They seemed to love that stuff more than the plastic specially-made-for-stimulating-baby's-mind stuff from the store bought by their loving and concerned grandparents, aunties and uncles.

They grew up anyway, healthy and happy.  Just like generations of babies for thousands of years who only had food, shelter, and clothing, not nifty little gadgets and multiples of essentials so that their parents didn't have to wash them so often.  Another item I saw on a gift registry that I couldn't comprehend: disposable sippy cups.  Disposable!!  Because washing them is apparently too much of a bother.

My second rant, if you want to call it that, is because of an article I saw in the local newspaper today.  A local woman, after seeing a young mother have to "forego essentials at the grocery store in order to afford diapers", has started a diaper drive to assist other local mothers in need and is asking for donations. 

Now, that's very nice of her to want to help others.  I want to help others too.  But when I read on in the article and it basically took the tone of 'we should supply diapers to low income people so they can afford to buy food', I got a bit annoyed.  Especially when it gave a dollar figure per month of what the average diaper cost is per child and said that amount of cash or number of disposable diapers was what needed to be donated regularly.

I wouldn't mind donating that dollar figure in diapers to someone.  However, I would not use those funds to purchase disposable diapers.  Instead, I would buy about four dozen cloth diapers, and about a dozen diaper covers.  Once.  One donation that would last until the child was potty trained.  Not expended every month for 2-3 years!

With four dozen washable diapers and a dozen or so diaper covers (covers in various sizes), a child could be diapered for years.  Mine were.  Was it convenient?  Well, no.  The diapers and covers had to be rinsed and washed and dried and folded.  I had to remember to rinse the diaper cover at each diaper change and put it somewhere it would dry by the next day to be used again.  But it wasn't impossible.  And, it was cheap.  Never once did anyone in my house go without groceries because we needed to buy diapers.  Baby number four was actually cheaper because she wore the diapers and covers that I had used for her older siblings and didn't buy any at all for her.

I am aware that modern day cares do not allow the use of cloth diapers because, supposedly, they are less sanitary than disposable.  Cared for correctly (ie, rinsed at each change, and kept separated by which child they belonged to), I just don't see the health hazard.  I had a few babysitters who cared for my children that did just that because they understood the financial need for using cloth versus disposable.  No one in their care ever became ill from a diaper waiting to be picked up at the end of the day when the baby was picked up.  In fact, it was perhaps more sanitary because at the end of the day all diapers were off the premises, instead of being wet and soiled and piled into trash containers waiting for weekly trash pick-up.

If you have to work and put your baby in day care, you can still save some money by cloth diapering at home.  If baby is home 14-16 hours a day (assuming both parents work full time necessitating baby being in day care for 8-10 hours daily), using cloth diapers during those hours means you can cut back by 57-66% on the disposable diapers needed versus saying "oh, I can't use cloth because the babysitter won't accept them".  57 to 66 percent!  How much more groceries could you buy with that money?  How about the money you save on weekends from not using disposables at all because baby doesn't go to day care on those days?

Babies don't have to be expensive.  They really need very little.  They need to be fed, dressed appropriately for the weather (note the word is weather, not fashion), and have a safe place to eat, sleep, and play. 

They don't need fancy sleeping places, just safe ones.  They don't need twenty changes of clothes in each size, just enough to get through two or three days between laundering.  They don't need three or four different bedroom ensembles, complete with matching dust ruffles for their cribs.  They need enough sheets and blankets that you don't have to do laundry in the middle of the night when the crib gets unexpectedly wet or spit up on.  And they don't even have to match.  The baby doesn't care.  They don't need brand new clothes either.  A baby changes sizes about every two months.  They aren't going to wear out their clothes in that short of time.  Shop the second hand and consignment stores for baby clothes.  For five or six dollars you can get an entire outfit instead of just one shirt.  Baby doesn't care that it didn't come from the mall.  Baby just wants something soft and comfortable to keep the chill or sun off it's skin.

If you want to save even more money, skip those bottles and cans of formula.  Breastfeed.  It's cheap, it's always 'on tap' and requires no prewarming.  Its formulated for even babies with allergies. I won't even get into the health benefits for baby and mother.

Don't tell me that you will be going back to work after baby is born and therefore can't breastfeed.  Baloney.  I did it, back in the days when I had to hand express in a bathroom stall on breaks, and store the milk in a small cooler until I could get home and put it in the fridge.  Times have changed, working mothers are much better accommodated now.  If breastfeeding worked in the stone age, it will work today, probably even better.

Baby food, at it's core, is just unsalted, unseasoned, unchemicalized food cooked and then ground until soft enough for someone with no teeth to eat.  A baby doesn't care if their carrots, peas, or applesauce came from a jar with a cute picture on the label.  If you cook a carrot and mash it up, baby will eat it just as eagerly.  Baby food was something I spent a lot of money on the first time around.  By the time my fourth child was eating solids, I'd learned to make my own baby food.  It's easy. It's cheap.  It's healthy.

I'll say it again: babies don't have to be expensive.  It's the adults that make infancy expensive.  Babies don't give a rip about style or what others think.  They just want to eat, sleep, observe and explore this world, and be loved.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Brave, or a Case of Ignorance is Bliss?

Recent sighting over in the barnyard.  Are they brave?  Or just clueless that the people are less than 40 yards away and they are in our territory?

I suspect these are the offspring of the doe we have dubbed "The People Watching Deer".  She frequently stands less than10 yards from the edge of the lawn and watches us work in the garden, mow the lawn, split wood, eat dinner on the deck or patio, have a campfire near the edge of the woodpile seen in the middle and bottom pictures.  All without fear, looking more curious about us strange creatures than anything else.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going Paperless

That's my newest "experiment" aka money-saving strategy at this little place here.  I stopped buying paper towels over the summer.  I cut up some old, stained, worn out or otherwise unwearable clothing that was in the rag box and set a small box of various sized rags in one of the kitchen cabinets.  I began to use those instead of paper towels.  Occasionally, the kids would use them too.  DH, however, loves the ease of grabbing a sheet (or two or four) off the roll of paper towel when he wants to wipe something up or off.

This weekend, the last sheet of paper towel on the last roll got used up.  I told DH I wouldn't be purchasing more.

We are now paperless.  (Well, okay, not totally as I haven't transitioned the family to cloth napkins--yet--and we still have toilet paper.)

All in due time ;0) 

I'm hoping to eventually phase out paper napkins and facial tissues too.  TP will always be a staple. 

Or will it?  (*insert evil laughter*)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Something Warm and Chocolaty From the Garden!

It's overcast, cool and windy here today.  Makes my thoughts turn toward baking something warm and gooey to snack on.

Here's a favorite recipe from this little place here that uses zucchini (or summer squash) for a chocolaty treat.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

½ cup soft butter
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups shredded zucchini
2 eggs
½ cups sour milk (use ¼ tsp vinegar to sour ½ cup milk)
2 ½ cups flour
4 Tbsp cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup chocolate chips (more if desired)

Heat oven to 350.  Grease 9x13 baking dish/cake pan.  Cream butter, vegetable oil, and sugar in a large bowl.  Add sour milk, zucchini, eggs and vanilla.  Beat well with mixer.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Pour into the greased pan.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Needs no frosting, best eaten while warm.

A Little of This, a Little of That

That's what's been going on around this little place here lately.  A bit of this: beginning the hops harvest. Some of that: watching Big Dog lose strength in his hindquarters and wondering if it's time to have him put to sleep.  A tad of the other: braving the mosquitoes to weed the garden.  A pinch of cutting shooting lanes for the tree stands we hung in preparation for deer season.  A dash of felling dead trees where the field and woods meet.  Mix it all together, shake well and you have my holiday weekend.

Okra blossom

Charleston Grey watermelon

Cascade hops ready to harvest

Friday, September 2, 2011

I've Got The Blues. . . and I'm So Happy!

It's September.  The time when I start feeling a little draggy, a little less energetic, a little more sleepy.  Sunshine does alot of for me, and, like chickens who don't produce as many eggs in the waning daylight hours of fall, I too tend to be less productive. (Yes, I honestly did just compare myself to a chicken!)

Or, at least, it's harder to get into the groove in the mornings when burrowing under the covers until the sun is a bit higher and brighter sounds much more appealing.

The blues?  Well, sorta.  Some may pooh-pooh Seasonal Affectedness Disorder--you know, that thing acronymed SAD, that is the official name for "I'm solar powered and my batteries aren't nearly as charged up in the fall and winter as they are in spring and summer".  DH is one of those naysayers.  I don't like labels, but I realized years ago (before there was a fancy sounding name and a medical 'condition') that in June I am a holy terror of energy who can go all out for 18 hours a day and be perfectly rejuvenated on 6 hours of sleep or less , but in September I start feeling sleepier and sleepier.  A 10 hour day sounds like hard work.  10 hours of sleep sounds like the answer to all life's problems.

This time of year I'm no less busy, but especially on cloudy days I consciously look for things to perk myself up.  Not talking about caffeine here!  The only form of caffeine I use is chocolate, LOL.  No coffee, no energy drinks, no mocha lattes.  Nope, I'm looking for sunshine in other forms.

And here's what I found most recently:  my morning glories are finally blooming!  The vines are abundant this year, the tallest they've ever grown. They reach about 20 feet up the front of the house. Maybe that's why I'm just now getting blooms--the plants were putting all their energy into vines and leaves and they put off making flowers until now.

I love the heavenly blue of a morning glory.  It reminds me of a cloudless summer sky.  It perks me up just to see the cerulean petals.

I've got the blues. . . and I'm so happy!