Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Photographs and Memories. . .

I wrapped up a project this past weekend.  It started last year as signing up for a quilting bee on an internet forum I frequent.  I was assigned the month of November; I could choose anything I wanted in terms of fabric and block design.  My task was to mail the fabrics and instructions for 'my' month to the 11 other participants, who would each make a block with what I sent and then mail their block back to me.  I decided, seeing as I had a 'scrap bin'--an 18 gallon Rubbermaid tote--that was overflowing with years worth of extra fabric from various sewing projects, that I wanted everyone to make a 'kaleidoscope' style block (see my post Something New from June '11), using my scrap fabrics rather than going out and purchasing anything new--frugal quilting!   

While emptying my scrap bin for this, I got lost in reverie, remembering where each piece of fabric had originated.  My oldest pieces, a solid red, were from when DS1 was not quite 3 years old and requested I make him a "red wizard" costume for Halloween.  That was 1992!  I didn't even own a sewing machine back then, the entire costume was sewn by hand.  Other scraps were from nightgowns and dresses I had made my daughters through the years, various school play costumes I made (DS2 was a monkey in 1st grade, DD1 a pig in kindergarten. . .), aprons I made the kids long ago when they still had to stand on a stool to help cut out sugar cookies (which was a very long time ago, seeing as they are all taller than I am now), dresses and jumpers and nightgowns I made for myself, and many many scraps of fabrics from about five years of another internet forum quilt block swap I have participated in three to four times a year.  Lots of memories in that box of 'extras'.

I decided, about two months after sending out my fabrics to the quilting bee participants, that I would take the resulting blocks and make a wall hanging for my mudroom with them.  Of course, twelve blocks alone wouldn't make quite the size I had in mind, so I took yet more of my scrap fabrics (some from newer projects in the last 9 months: a quilt and a bib for my niece, a wall hanging for friends of ours who had their first baby last October, the redneck baby quilt for my granddaughter) and made additional blocks to bring the finished project to the size I wanted.

My goal was to have this project finished in time for DD1's graduation open house, which will be held the second Saturday of June.

With DH's help (because I can't hang anything straight to save my  life), this past Saturday I hung what I have come to call the Memory Quilt.  It now graces the formerly empty long wall of our mudroom.  Everyone who enters the house through that room (most people) can see it.  My girls have all ready, in just two days, delighted in finding the fabrics they remember as 'theirs' and pointing them out to friends.  I imagine when my sons arrive at the end of this week, they will do the same.

The next trip down memory lane will begin in a few days (I have some major cleaning to do first!), when I go through the two bins (also 18 gallon Rubbermaid totes) of school days mementos and awards from all four kids to find those pertaining to DD1 so we can display some of them at the open house.  There are also nearly eighteen years of photos to go through in order to construct DD1's life as told through the lens of a camera: baby pictures, cute toddler days, school photos and events, sports--softball since Kindergarten!, confirmation, high school formals and prom, and of course graduation day pictures with her significant other of nearly a year . . .

I am awash in nostalgia!

Friday, May 25, 2012

One Less Family Farm

Our community is rural.  We pride ourselves on our agricultural heritage.  So much so that when the local high school seniors had their last day of school on Thursday, they ended their senior walk of the school complex by posing with more than a handful of tractors in the school parking lot. All of which had been driven to school that day by members of the senior class. We are farmers.

However, as this week draws to a close, there is one less family farm in operation.  One more small farmer gone out of business.  He was a dairy farmer, operating the same family farm his father did, and his grandfather before that.  The date on the barn says 1913.

It was a small establishment, as dairy farms go these days; only sixty cows.  Enough to employ several workers, but not enough to be able to turn a consistent profit in these times.  Sadly, the farmer decided to auction off his sixty head, and all his machinery and milking equipment: several tractors, hay balers, hay rakes, hay wagons, manure spreader, silage chopper and silage wagons. . .  He is keeping the land, the house he's lived in all his life.  A neighbor with a much larger dairy farm is renting the fields, so at least those will stay productive and available to future generations of farmers.

He is going to take a 'real' job now, in his fifties.  A job where he is no longer the boss, a job where he has to report to someone else at specific times on specific days.  One where he will get a regular paycheck, where he can count on making money if he shows up to work, unlike farming.  It is, for his family, the end of an era.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Random Evening Pictures

Days have been pretty full lately at this little place here.  It's that time of year when the sun is up for hours after dinner, and we spend most of our evenings outside.  There is so much to do, what with planting the garden, weeding the garden, watering the garden, weeding the flower beds, mowing the lawn.  And that's just the ordinary late-spring stuff; on top of that we have all the getting ready for DD1's graduation open house items to do--things like emptying the garage and giving it a good scrub/sweep in preparation for setting up the tables and chairs for her party.  Invitations have all gone out in the mail, now we need to be ready to seat 60+ people at any one time during the three hours of her open house.  But cleaning the garage is a task for next week; this week is all about getting the garden fully planted.

I've been in the garden until either sunset or until I can no longer stand being attacked by the hundreds of little vampires--aka mosquitoes--that have appeared this week; coming out right around eight p.m.  Last night I actually had the camera with me in the garden because the day before I'd spotted a new pair of birds, bobolinks, and wanted to get pictures of them should they show up again.  I did manage to get a couple pictures, mostly blurry, and then made use of the camera on my way through the evening rounds of shutting in chickens, etc, before retiring to the house for the rest of the night.

bobolink singing on a fence post

turned away from the camera, showing his markings

Bobolinks sound very similar to red winged blackbirds, and are about the same size, but as you can see, they do not have the same coloring.  I'd never seen one before, or at least, not in it's fancy mating plumage, and had to go look it up in my bird book.  Apparently they are cousins to blackbirds.

Blackberry blossoms

The blackberry canes out by the garden are all in bloom right now.  They showed up three years ago as volunteers (no doubt seeds sown by the local birds), and I now cultivate them into a fairly neat row next to part of the south end of the garden.  I haven't yet been back to the woods to see if the thousands of blackberry canes back there are blooming yet.  I'm guessing not quite, as it is cooler and shadier in the woods, usually putting the plants a week or two behind what is in the sunny fields.

white and purple mid-height iris

tall white iris

My iris are blooming right now too.  I have probably over a thousand iris, of three different varieties.  Unfortunately, I don't know what any of them are!  All were given to me free-for-the-digging; by friends, former neighbors, and by my Mom.

By this time in the evening, it was well past 9:00, and the sun was quite low in the western sky.  Time to shut the chickens in before going to the house where DD1's graduation gown awaited my iron; today is her last day of school and it is customary for seniors to wear their gowns to class on their final day.  The last half hour of their high school careers will be spent on Senior Walk, where the graduating class, in caps and gowns, parades through the high school, middle school, and elementary school--all are housed in one rambling interconnected building in our little school district.

sunset over the hayfield

sun through the trees on the west line

love the glow of the sky versus the black silhouettes of the tree branches

chickens gone to roost

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I'm back in the saddle again.  Hopefully creating a new good habit of riding regularly, instead of the willy nilly hit and miss kind of riding I've done for most of the past five years.  Yikes, five years!  But yes, when I look back at my riding log, it's really been five years since I was riding at least three times a week.  That's pretty depressing, since riding is my passion and what, aside from my husband and kids, brings me the most joy.  How much more joy could I have had in the last sixty months if I had only made riding a priority instead of letting everything else get in the way?

For the past two weeks, I've been riding two to three times a week.  It's great.  I'm happier.  Not only is it a fun form of exercise, I find that by starting my day with a ride, the rest of the day is amazingly more productive. 

The Mare and I

Can you believe she's 23 years old?

*photo credits go to DD2, who was kind enough to sit in the shade beside the riding arena and take pictures of me riding*

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cheese Ball!

While discussing what would be on the menu for DD1's graduation open house (coming up in 18 days!), she and I had an awesome idea.  We had been talking cheese and cracker tray, but lamenting how unappealing sliced cheese looks after being exposed to air for as little as half an hour (because we buy cheese in blocks, then slice, shred, or cube it ourselves, saving money and avoiding the preservatives used when you buy cheese in those altered forms).  We would still like to serve cheese, but not have it look rubbery and, well, gross, shortly after being served.  So our revelation was to serve several cheese balls instead of sliced or cubed cheeses.

And, since we are of the DIY mindset, both for saving money and for the health benefits of eating foods prepared in this manner, serving cheese balls means we must learn to make cheese balls in the next two weeks!  Then DD1 innocently asked me what type of 'finger food' she could bring to her AP English Class end-of-the-year tea party.  Seeing an opportunity for practicing my cheese ball technique, I replied "Cheese ball!"

I found a very easy, but also tasty sounding recipe in one of my most-used cookbooks, omitted the one ingredient I didn't have readily on hand, and created a one-pound ball of cheese spread rolled in freshly snipped chives (from my herb bed).  DD1 took it to school.  The AP English Class feasted, and played croquet on the school lawn.  The leftover cheese ball returned home.  This was all that was left: 

Maybe a third of what was originally sent.  Considering that there were only about a dozen people in attendance at the tea party, and it was a feast with many other edibles than just my cheese ball, I'd say this recipe was a hit.  Definitely made the cut for the open house.  :0)

Next I want to attempt one with dill.

Here is the recipe for the cheese ball pictured above:
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup shredded sharp (or extra sharp) cheddar cheese (about 4 oz block)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup fresh chives, snipped

Put your cheeses in a bowl and let sit at room temperature until soft.  Beat in onion and Worcestershire sauce on low speed of a hand mixer.  Once creamy, beat on medium speed, scraping bowl often, until fluffy.  Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

After sufficient chilling time (8 hrs minimum), shape cheese mixture into a ball.  Roll in the snipped chives.  Place on serving plate (I used the lid of a Tupperware storage bowl, then used the bowl as a cover for transport to school!).  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 more hours before serving.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Knowing Our Food

At this little place here, we know our food pretty well.  I'm not just talking about the knowledge and skills to take something from the grocery store, combine it with other items from the grocery store, apply heat, and then serve on the breakfast or dinner table.  No, I'm talking about a deeper sense of knowing.

We know the chicken that is served for dinner.  We know what it looked like when it arrived at this little place here, a peeping  little fuzzball.  We know what it looked like as it grew feathers, as it gained height and weight and breadth.  We know what it ate during the process: non-medicated feed from the local farm supply, as well as a good quantity of grass and clover from weeks it spent on pasture, any bugs or worms it caught, and table scraps or garden produce that got a bit over ripe (chickens happen to love zucchini the size of baseball bats.  Good thing.).

Currently we have twelve Freedom Ranger chicks shacked up in the dog cage in our garage.  They are two weeks old and still need the heat lamp while their feathers grow in.  In another week or so, they should be fully feathered and ready to go out on pasture for the remaining month or six weeks of their lives.

July and August's Barbecued chicken ;0)

We know the main entree to be served at DD1's graduation open house in slightly less than three weeks.  "Open House" was born at Mother-in-Law's place in January, one of sixteen piglets.  She spent the early months of her life in the barn with her mother and siblings.  Then her mother was removed, and butchered (she was an old sow).  The sow now resides in several freezers belonging to members of DH's family.  Meanwhile, "Open House" cavorts happily in the pig pen with five of her siblings, the rest having been sold off to 4-H'ers looking for their summer Fair projects.  She enjoys sunshine, fresh air, and all the slop and pig feed she can eat.  She'll be weighing in at about two hundred pounds when she is harvested for roasting and serving at DD1's party.

"Open House"

We know the vast majority of the red meat in our diet.  They live in the woods and the fields of our neighborhood.  We co-exist; they eat some of our pasture, our garden, our trees.  In the fall, we harvest a few of them, and in turn we eat them for most of the year.  Free range food at it's finest.

free range red meat

We know the turkey that will be the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal in November.  We fed him.  We talked turkey to him.  We enjoyed watching him grow and strut.  We felt a deep appreciation for his existence.  Thanksgiving is not just a day of gluttony and football.  Thanksgiving is being thankful for the things that define and sustain your life.

"Big Tom"

A lot of people ask how we can eat an animal we have raised.  An animal we have known.  An animal we have watched grow, and then watched die.

Our question to them is how can we not?  How could we possibly eat meat from an animal we didn't know--didn't know how it lived, didn't know what it ate, didn't know if it was healthy or not at the time of it's death.  Knowing our food is much better than eating blindly.  Ignorance is not always bliss.  Or should I say, bliss is not being ignorant of your food.  Bliss is knowing your food, knowing that it is safe and healthy, and that your food enjoyed the time it was alive.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It Was Worth The Wait

This is my long-awaited new couch.

"New couch" has been an item on my wish list for a few years now.  The ones we had were pretty worn out.  Okay, a lot worn out.  Most people today would have been ashamed to have such shabby looking furniture in their homes.  The arms on one had the stuffing sticking out.  The seat cushions of another sport big long tears where the fabric wore out and split.  The reclining couch no longer reclined, rather one end of it listed drunkenly to the side.  I joked about taking a sawzall to it and making it into a sectional since it didn't seem to want to be connected any more.  The rattiest looking one sported a homemade slipcover--really just a queen sized blanket draped over it just-so and tucked in at the sides and bottom.

Most people would have gone out and purchased a new couch long before now.  But I'm not most people, and neither is DH.  When you live the kind of life we live, instant gratification is somewhere between a cuss word and a pipe dream.  It's not in the realm of financial responsibility--or financial reality--to run out and spend hundreds or even a thousand dollars or more on a new piece of furniture when there are more important bills to be paid and your savings account is still struggling to rebound from years of a poor economy.  Years of no raise at work, but increased utility costs, food costs, gas costs, insurance costs (multiple teenaged drivers), taxes. . . you get the picture. 

So, we spent a good long time working our way down the list of necessary purchases before "new couch" made it to the top of the list.  During that time, and especially in the last twelve months, DH and I spent a good chunk of hours doing what we came to refer to as "sitting on couches".  Some couples go out to dinner.  Some couples go out to the movies.  Some couples take weekend getaways.  We sat on couches. 

Meaning we would go to a furniture store and test out practically every couch on the premises.  We were looking for the just-right couch, so that when the list said it was time to purchase one, we'd know exactly the one to invest in.  I'm sure we looked pretty odd, as DH would sit on a couch, and wait several minutes for the feeling of it to sink in, then slowly get up, move to the next couch, and repeat the process.  I, on the other hand, would sit down and immediately know if it was a 'good' couch or not.  Some, I nearly got whiplash from my head snapping backward when the backrest was not upright enough--I felt like I was falling backward into an abyss.  Others, I felt like my hind end was sinking in quicksand on the non-supportive and squishy overstuffed cushions.  Others, my feet didn't touch the floor while seated (and I wear pants with a 32" leg!) because the couch was too deep. 

No long sits for me.  Nope.  Most couch testing went something like this:  bend knees, prepare to make contact with the couch.  Contact made with rear, fall backwards because backrest of couch was not in preferred position (I like to sit very upright, no slouching).  Or, contact made, pop up like toast ejected from a toaster because the couch was u-n-c-o-m-f-o-r-t-a-b-l-e and I was not about to sacrifice another second to a sub par piece of furniture. I probably averaged three seconds per couch, LOL.

 I was looking for a couch that had a firm seat, cushions that didn't get squishy toward the edges--front, back,  left and right--a backrest that supported proper spinal alignment (most seemed to want to rock me back onto my tailbone), arms that were a comfortable height, and that my feet could be flat on the floor while seated.  Oh, and was comfortable too.  It couldn't feel like sitting on a hard wooden bench, yet it needed to have all those desired supportive features and no squish.

While up north for Christmas with DH's side of the family in mid-December, we happened to stop in to a store that one of his childhood friends owns.  DH was talking to his friend about getting ahold of a used refrigerator (our Beer Fridge had died and needed replacing),  and I test-sat some of the couches in the store.  To my surprise, I found The Couch!  From the very first touch of my pants to the seat cushion, it just felt right.  It welcomed me.  It supported me.  It comforted me.  I was so relieved, after months of sitting on couches, dozens and dozens of couches, to know that The Couch really did exist.  It wasn't some air castle I was hankering for; it was real, made of wood and cloth and foam.

It took four more months for "new couch" to hit the top of the requisition list at this little place here.  When it did, I called up north to DH's friend and asked him to order me The Couch.  Not only did he order me The Couch, he gave me a great discount on it.  What he charged me, including taxes, was three figures less than the price on the sale tag back at Christmas time, which itself was 70% of the regular retail price.

I'm a happy camper.  A happy couch owner.  A very long awaited, very perfect, very comfortable yet supportive couch.  It was worth the wait.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Practical Thinking

My husband isn't big into giving gifts.  Meaning he doesn't pick up a bouquet of flowers on his way home from work, or a box of chocolates for Sweetest Day, or a card for any other occasion--including birthdays and anniversaries.

That doesn't mean he doesn't give gifts at all, rather, he gives big gifts, just not little token ones, and not often.  For instance, for years I'll get a 'Happy Birthday" phone call when he's at work and suddenly remembers it's my birthday.  Then, out of the blue, on another birthday year I'll get a brand new Carhartt coat for a birthday gift because he'll have noticed my other one is completely worn out and patched over several times.  Practical.

We joke about our first Christmas together, in which he bought me a pair of earrings and a case of Twix because he couldn't think of anything else. He knew I had pierced ears and liked candy bars, hence earrings and Twix. 

But there have been other Christmases where the gift he gave me cost so much more: the year he got me a KitchenAid Professional 600 mixer because I had injured my shoulder and kneading bread dough by hand was quite painful.  The year I got a large dump-cart to tow behind the lawn tractor so I wouldn't have to tote my gardening equipment--which is a lot when you tally up stakes, hoes, rakes, my 4 lb sledge for pounding stakes, tomato cages, bean poles, etc, etc--from the barn to the garden by hand (and foot).  The years--a dozen years apart--that he bought me insulated Carhartt bibs to wear for outdoor work in the winter.  Not cheap gifts, and very practical.  Things he felt I needed to make my lifestyle (outdoorsy, but also very much in the kitchen) better.

This past Christmas he gave me what have, in recent weeks, become my most favorite gifts yet.  One was small, and very behind the times, compared to what most people have.  It is a cheapy mp3 player.  It plays music.  That's it.  But that's all it needs to do, because I love music and to be able to take it with me to the garden, to the woods, in the barn, down the road while I'm running, is something that makes me happy.

The other gift I got last Christmas was much bigger and much more expensive.  It is something that alot of women would turn up their nose at.  It is a Stihl MM55 tiller, with a wheel kit.  I love that thing.  It is so much easier to handle than a regular size rototiller, and I can churn up weeds between rows in the garden in nothing flat (and no sore shoulder afterward!).  Since the operating instructions say to always wear protective ear coverings, I have teamed it up with my mp3 player--I wear big funky looking headphones because ear buds just don't fit me right; they fall out just from breathing while I'm sitting still, no chance of moving around, let alone holding a vibrating power tool.  Yes, the two best gifts ever.  I'm out there jamming to great tunes while annihilating weeds in my garden!

I love my practical thinking man.  Who needs do-dads when a girl can have hard-core workwear, heavy-duty appliances, power tools, and music?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Simple Mother's Day

A title with a double meaning. . . unintentionally.  My plan was to do a quick post on the simple Mother's Day I had yesterday.  Because we don't do big stuff for that day (or Father's Day either); no trips to grandiose dining establishments, no extravagant gifts, no huge get-togethers.  It's more the simple ways to say "I Love You, Mom"--phone calls from my boys who live far away, blueberry pancakes made from scratch by DD2 who set her alarm for 6 a.m. so she could cook and serve me breakfast before we went to church, oven fried chicken with baked sweet potatoes for dinner cooked by DD1.  DH and I each  made phone calls to our own mothers and listened to them talk about whatever was on their minds for an hour (and neither he nor I are big into talking on the phone. . .)

But after I typed the title of this post, it struck me that the things that made my Mother's Day special, the simple joys of life, probably wouldn't be appreciated by many women in today's society.  No, only the simple women, the simple mothers, would feel that a phone call was a gift, that some slightly less than perfect pancakes and sweet potatoes that took longer to bake than planned, were special things that say "I Love You".  This simple mother saw those things for the testaments of love and appreciation they were intended to be.  My children giving of themselves, as I taught them to do, rather than impersonally throwing money at some gift of the latest fad and bestowing it on me whether it was in my tastes or not.

I'd like to share with you a poem DD2 wrote and gave to me yesterday at breakfast, along with my blueberry pancakes (and homemade maple syrup warmed up, the way I prefer to eat it).

They say a picture's worth a thousand words,
And a friend a million bucks--
But there's someone I know who's worth quite more.
Her smile brightens up the day.
Her laugh makes it all worthwhile,
Sometimes she sings off-key,
Or maybe gets it right,
Her tear means pain unspoken,
Her heart is pure gold,
She's beautiful,
She's smart,
She's kind,
Sometimes we fight,
Sometimes we argue,
Sometimes we yell,
Sometimes we scream,
But she's the best, I'll always say,
A mom's a gift, and mine's better than 'em all.

Yeah, I cried.  And in my defense, may I say she's 14 and does most of the yelling, arguing, and screaming, not me!  But she's coming along.  I see the selfish middle-school child maturing as she finishes her first year of high school; I see the indications that she's becoming a young lady who will be quite a gift to her own children some day.  And to have children like that, who will, in their turns, be good spouses and parents, is the best gift a mother can ever receive.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I think I've finally got it.  How to grow rhubarb at this little place here, that is.  I used to have tons (probably literally) of rhubarb at the place we owned before building this little place here.  At the old place, rhubarb grew like a weed.  I didn't have to do anything to it, it just grew.  And grew.  And grew.  My kids have memories of skirts made out of rhubarb leaves, just two leaves to cover an 8 year old child, the leaves were so big.  Sunhats made of rhubarb leaves.  Giant fans made of rhubarb stalks (before I cut them into pie) and rhubarb leaves.  Dresses for toddlers made of rhubarb leaves.  A small child could crawl under the rhubarb and hide quite well during a game of hide and seek, the plants were so large and abundant.  One summer I  harvested, cut, and froze fifty pounds of rhubarb.  Yes, FIFTY pounds!!  And that was for future use, that didn't count what we ate fresh that year in the form of rhubarb pie, rhubarb bread, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb bars, rhubarb muffins, strawberry-rhubarb coffee cake, rhubarb sauce. . .  My mouth waters with the memory of all the tasty ways to serve rhubarb.

Then we moved to this little place here, which before we bought it was just a worn-out farm field (clay, of course) and ten acres of cut-over trees, most of which were less than twenty years old.  Before moving that fall, I dug up some of my vigorous abundant rhubarb from the old place, and transplanted it to this little place here. 

It died.  All dozen rhubarb plants.  Three made it through the winter to send up weak little leaves in the spring, but even they died before summer arrived.  My tasty, lovely, heirloom rhubarb, gone.

Turns out rhubarb loved the sandy acidic soil of the old place.  Rhubarb did not at all like the heavy clay and farmed to non-nutrition soil of this little place here.

I bought some rhubarb roots (bought--oh, it killed me, I wanted my old fashioned rhubarb) and tried again a few years later, planting them in an area I had added composted horse manure to.  They came up, they struggled, they died.

I tried again, a few years later, buying more roots and planting them in one of the terraced beds behind the house.  Three planted, one came up.  I nursed it, feeding it compost and mulching it well over the winter.  It came up again, and got straggly little stalks skinnier than a pencil.  Not enough to make anything out of even if I did dare to harvest it, which I didn't for fear I would weaken the plant to the point of death.

I babied that plant.  I watered, I mulched, I fertilized.  It came back the third year.  Hooray, I must be on the right track!

I read about rhubarb.  The light bulb went off above my head.  Rhubarb liked loose soil, like the sand at the old place.  Okay, I would work to amend the soil even more, dumping on and working in lots of aged composted manure and sawdust bedding.  Rhubarb liked acidic soil, like what was found under the arborvitae and pines at the old place, where the rhubarb had thrived.  I told DH to stop throwing away his coffee grounds, and began feeding them to my lone rhubarb plant.  It grew better the next year.  Still not enough that I dared to harvest it, but it looked healthier.

Encouraged, last year I planted another rhubarb root.  This spring, the older one is lush, well, at least compared to what I've seen so far at this little place here.  Not yet half the size of a two-year-old rhubarb at the old place, but big enough that I was able to make this last week:

The first rhubarb pie I have made from rhubarb grown at this little place here.  It is a victory, it is symbolic (never give up!), it is historical, it was delicious!

The second rhubarb root is growing well too.  I think I've finally figured out how to grow it in less than optimal conditions.  It just takes some effort. 

Now I can't wait for the strawberries to be ripe in June so I can make a strawberry rhubarb coffee cake.  It's to die for, and I haven't had one in about nine years.

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake

3 cups rhubarb (fresh or frozen) sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 quart fresh strawberries, mashed
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or milk soured w/1 1/2 Tbsp vinegar)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar

Make the filling:  in a large saucepan, combine rhubarb, strawberries and lemon juice.  Cook, covered, over medium heat about 5 min.  Then add the sugar and cornstarch, stirring well into the fruit mixture in pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Remove from heat and set aside while making cake.

Make the cake: in a large bowl, combine dry ingredients for cake.  Cut in butter pieces until mixture is crumbly.  Beat together the buttermilk (or sour milk), eggs, and vanilla; stir into the crumb mixture. 

In a greased 9" x 13" baking dish, spread half of the cake batter.  On top of that, carefully spread the filling.  Drop remaining batter by tablespoonfuls over the filling.

Make topping: melt butter in smallish (or medium) saucepan over low heat.  Once melted, remove from heat and stir in flour and sugar until mixture forms crumbs.  Sprinkle over batter in baking dish.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.  Cool in pan, cut into squares and serve.

You may want to put a cookie sheet or some foil on bottom rack of oven to catch any juicy spills from coffee cake as it is baking.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Redneck Baby Quilt

That's what I've been working on for about two and a half weeks.  When DS1 broke the news to me about my impending grandmother hood, I asked if it was all right if I made a baby quilt.  He told me yes, but not to be too foo-foo, that his little girl was going to be a country girl. 

So, with that in mind, I made a foray to the fabric store.  I had an idea, and was looking for fabrics to match the country girl theme.  Of course, there would have to be some pink, being for a little girl and all, but it didn't have to be sickly sweet with girlishness.  I was a tomboy, my daughters were tomboys, and a tomboy granddaughter would fit right in.

I came home from my shopping trip with the components of what my daughters have come to refer as the "Redneck Baby Quilt". 

There was solid pink fabric, and a fabric with a white background and a design of pink hearts.  Because even tomboys can have a gentle, feminine side. 

But then there were the fabrics that earned the quilt it's redneck moniker:

The farm animal print for a country girl

The deer print for our future deer hunter girl

The John Deere print,for our future green tractor driving girl

The 'Jesus Fish' print, cuz every little girl needs Jesus

That eclectic mix came together into the Redneck Baby Quilt:

Friday, May 4, 2012

We Can Break It, Yes We Can

If there's one thing that bugs me, it's products that don't last during normal use.  Because I sure don't think that I'm abusing them, but the list of appliances, tools, furniture, electronics, etc, that have broken at this little place here under every day conditions--not being misused, but employed in the purpose for which they are designed and sold--just keeps getting longer.

I really think I need to advertise myself to product design companies for durability testing.  The this little place here durability test, where things get used daily.  Because who would think, that after less than 5 years a dishwasher handle would break, rendering the dishwasher unable to latch and therefore come on?  Or the display panel on a wall oven stop working?  Or the motor on a front-load washer would go kaput after slightly more than one year of use?  Or shovel handles break?  Or the head of a hoe fall off?  Or a toaster die after 5 years of use?  That a couch would last less than seven years (it's still in use in my house, but in pickier homes it would have been at the curb waiting for the trash man long ago)?  That mattresses which got flipped and turned regularly would develop hollows after 5-6 years, and the fabric cover rip out after 10?  That the ice dispenser in a side-by-side fridge/freezer would seize up in less than 9 years?   That the dishwasher (now on it's third handle) would have the control panel die after not quite eight and a half years?

Or how about this one:

That's the handle for the top oven of my double wall oven.  The one I was baking cookies in yesterday (for the high school drama group to sell at intermission of their Spring Play performances this weekend).  I put cookies in the oven, I took cookies out of the oven.  No problem.  I put cookies in the oven, 9 minutes later I went to take cookies out of the oven, and the handle popped off on one side. 

Luckily there is a vent area at the top of the door that I was able to stick my oven-mitted fingers into and pry the door open to rescue my cookies.  And thankfully, last night after the oven cooled, DH was willing to take the door apart, retrieve the screw that had worked it's way out of the door handle and fallen between the inner layer and outer layer of the door, and put the handle back on for me.

But really?!?  An oven handle that can't cope with not quite nine years of opening and closing the oven door?  I cook.  I bake.  I expect an oven to be able to do that for me several times a week for more than eight point six six six six to infinity. . .years without the handle falling off.

So where do I advertise to get my durability test products so I can start making money at breaking stuff?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I Have A Grandbaby!

Surprise, dear readers!  God has blessed DS1 and his girlfriend, with a beautiful baby girl.

This was the news I've been bursting to share, but couldn't.  I've known since Easter, and was waiting for DS1 to let other members of the family know.  It's a long story.  She's not my grandbaby biologically, but through extraordinary circumstances, she is my grandbaby by love, both my love for her, and DS1's love for her mother and his willingness to step in and be the father her bio dad is not willing to be.

The world will say what it may about the situation, but this baby is my son's dear daughter, and therefore my own beloved grandbaby.  Wish I could post pictures of her, she's a real cutie, but I'm sticking to my 'no recognizable faces' policy in regards to photos, especially in this situation.

So share in my happiness :0)  as I announce my first grandchild, who I think I'll refer to as K3 here simply because she will be the third generation of this family who's first name starts with K.  She was born yesterday afternoon, ten little fingers, ten little toes, eyes that might stay blue, and a thatch of blonde hair.  Six pounds, twelve ounces and nineteen and a half inches long.