31 October 2011

Claire and the Goats

The first thing we visited during our pumpkin patch adventure were the adorable animals penned throughout the farmyard.  Though we've got livestock of our own, we still don't have any goats.  Claire loves to stand at the gate of our Shetland sheep, rock the chain link fence and "talk" with them.  The goats were no different.  In fact, she was so overwhelmed with delight that her happy squeals almost sounded like anguished cries.  Take a look below:

video
Thank goodness my kids love animals as much as I do.  They wouldn't be too thrilled around here if they didn't!

Imposter In Disguise

My sister teasingly pointed out that my first mistake was assuming Jack had willingly cleaned up a mess without me pestering him to do it.

The night before I had whipped up a hearty meal, complete with sweet cornbread muffins.  As usual, half of Claire's food ended up as mashed crumbs on the floor.  It had been a long day and I hadn't tidied up as thoroughly as I generally do after meals.  I got the big chunks but small bits of cornbread still scattered across the subflooring.

After the girls dozed off, I plopped on the couch to "watch" some television (I almost always end up napping because I'm worn out).  Sliding in and out of consciousness, Jack startled me when he shook my leg, telling me he thought he just saw a mouse.

"I think it's kind of early for mice," I groggily answered.  We hadn't had any frost yet and our neighboring farmer hadn't harvested.  I figured he'd imagined something had been there.  It was getting late and he looked tired too.

The next morning I rose with the girls.  Jack was still curled up under the sheets so we started breakfast without him.  I scooted Claire's high chair back to the dining room table and noticed the floor was immaculate--not a morsel of food to be found.

I yelled upstairs, "Thanks for cleaning up, Jack!"  He had come upstairs a few minutes after I had.

There was a brief pause.

"I didn't!"

My heart dropped.  Jack hadn't hallucinated after all.

Before sacking out, we baited a snap trap with chunky peanut butter and laid it against the wall and under the high chair, hoping really that the culprit had their fill and had left the premises.

To my surprise the next morning, the trap had worked, but it was an imposter in disguise.

It wasn't a field mouse at all.  It was a shrew.
Source
More specifically, a Northern short-tailed shrew.  These critters are really quite interesting.  They've got tiny eyes and are semi-burrowing, have voracious appetites and as a group, have the highest brain to body mass ratio of all mammals.  Some shrew species even use echolocation or are venomous.

I had seen one other shrew in our house and he had shown up last winter.  A full grown adult, he had snuck in through an inconspicuous hole in the baseboard behind the computer.  I set up a peanut butter rigged snap trap and watched him go after the peanut butter.  Twice.  His neck was so thick it probably barely gave him a headache.  The second whack convinced him to leave and I filled in the hole with steal wool and expanding foam to discourage any other "guests."

Anyway, the poor little fellow who had cleaned up the cornbread crumbs was just a youngin' and had not survived the blow.  I always feel a smidgen of pity for the creatures but I'm not about to invite them in to stay.

It turned out I was right:  too early for field mice.  Just not too early for shrews.

30 October 2011

Blackbottom Cupcakes

I remember my sister making these for a youth activity, which she won a prize for Most Decadent.  That certainly describes these rascals.  They get their name from the chocolate chips that sink to the bottom of the cupcake and as you can guess, they're the kind of indulgence that you grant yourself just a little bit.  After all, food is meant to be enjoyed!  Also, these can be prepared  two ways, depending on how much time you've got. It makes three dozen cupcakes, so feel free to half the recipe if you're entertaining a smaller crowd.

For the batter:

3 cups flour
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 cups water.

Beat all ingredients until smooth.

-OR-

 If you're in a jiffy, substitute the batter instructions for a Devil's Food Cake mix and prepare according to box directions.

Whichever method you decide on using, fill muffin cups 1/2 to 3/4 full (too full and your cupcakes will erupt out of the pan--still edible just not very pretty).

For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1 egg
1/2 sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 oz chocolate chips

Mix well until smooth.

Place 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center of each of the batter cups.  Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the batter section comes out clean.


Steak Marinade

If you're a steak fan, this is a recipe for you!  The marinade adds a pop of flavor and really tenderizes the meat to a great texture.  Allow for plenty of time to marinate and it will drastically improve any cut of meat.

***Just a tip--if you want really juicy steak, sear both outsides on high for about 30 seconds before cooking over a medium-low heat.  It seals in moisture so it doesn't run off***
Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ingredients and marinate the meat for at least two hours (the longer the better!) and grill, pan fry or broil to your desired doneness.
 Enjoy!

A Pumpkin Patch Adventure




Last weekend, my mom and sister and her two cute daughters visited for a few days.  I'd been meaning to get away from some major home improvements and appreciate the lasting warm weather outdoors.  What a perfect chance to visit a local pumpkin patch!

The place is perfect for children.  Between swimming in a pool of corn (and wrestling babies to keep the dusty kernels out of their mouths), milking a fake cow, mini tractor rides, farm animals galore, burlap sack slides, jumping on a giant pillow, a winding corn maze and finally wandering the pumpkin fields in search of the perfect jack-o-lantern, the girls had no trouble conking out that night.

Relive our pumpkin patch adventure through photos!
































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