30 September 2013

Vixen Scream

If it weren't bad enough that the neighborhood fox obliterated (and ate) our entire chicken flock and chases the cats up trees, it also torments us on occasion with it's midnight cries.  The first time we heard it, we were sure a fox had gotten stuck in a trap.  Turns out she was only looking for a mate.  The vixen scream continued all spring and now occasionally we hear the alarm bark.
If anyone would like a haunted forest walk for Halloween, head on over to our place.

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29 September 2013

Yogurt Waffles

These are a new family favorite breakfast (and sometimes dinner!) food.  They've got the added benefit of more protein from the yogurt and uses some whole wheat.  The butter in place of oil really gives them a slight crunchy, chewy texture and helps them cook up a golden brown.  Don't worry if the batter is slightly thick--it'll cook up just fine in a waffle iron.


3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups yogurt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, melted

Sift together the flours, baking powder and soda, salt and sugar.  In a separate bowl, blend the yogurt, eggs and butter.  Combine the egg and flour mixture until well blended and thick.  Use a Tablespoon of milk at a time to thin it out slightly, if necessary.  Cook on a waffle iron and serve with syrup, peanut butter, cream cheese, fruit, whipped topping, etc.

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28 September 2013

Hippity Hop

Claire found an old peanut butter jar for our guest of honor.
Of all the creatures we've seen at our house, from deer to foxes to chipmunks and a variety of helpful and harmful insects, a lack of a few creatures has astounded me.  I thought for sure Indiana would be chalked full of snakes.  We haven't seen a single serpent yet (Evie's eager to find some more "good" snakes).  As for toads, we've only found two when we're used to seeing dozens every summer.
We're not afraid of warts.
Imagine our surprise finally finding the fat little amphibians hopping through our yard.  With the number of crickets we have, the warmer weather and the ample moisture, I'd have thought toads were an Indiana give-in too.  They've turned out to be a rarity (the tree frogs are another matter entirely--in Iowa, those were the rarity).
We'll enjoy the ones we find.  They don't care much for being shadowed but after a few minutes of playing together, we let them hippity hop along their way.
See you later, Mr. Toad!

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26 September 2013

This Is One

A year has flown by and Baby Kate is now technically Toddler Kate (especially since she's been bipedal for a few months already).  She had a wonderful birth story (the only birth induction method I think works is several hours on a riding mower) and though grandma flew out to spend a week with us, it was a fairly low key day otherwise.  We played at the museum, made a special birthday dinner and had cake and presents.  We're so blessed to have Katherine as part of our family.
Kate's first solo carousel ride.
This is one.  May you have many more, dear Kate.
Dirt cake anyone?

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23 September 2013

It Has Potential

The stairway's almost done!  After I fix a few spots I missed...
While walking through our to-be home with our realtor, she commented that there was definite potential to the house.  Undoubtedly, we agreed.  Though there was rooms full of smelly carpet, a heart-monitor bathroom, questionable decor and a few doors to nowhere, it was obvious that all the house needed was some hearty updating.
Darling Jack putting in a ceiling fan in our previously "lightless" bedroom.
Six months later, it takes all my resolve some days not to become a raving lunatic when someone callously observes, "It has potential."  Most people are innocent enough but what they're really saying is, "Your house is a dump but could be nice.  No offense."  Ouch.
Our master bath serves more as a resting place for painted doors.  I haven't gotten around to hanging towel racks since I shower in the girls' bath so Jack improvises.  At least the door's painted...
I've been drywalling, demolishing , priming, painting, cleaning, building handrails and pasture fencing and ripping out mirrors while Jack's been installing ceiling fans and garage door openers and removing bees inhabiting our walls and taking out those doors to nowhere.  That's in between child rearing and work and church and battling everything mother nature's given us from foxes to poison ivy.  Once in a while too, we even have a little bit of fun camping or riding horses or with visiting family to keep us sane.
The commencement of  a DIY stair railing.
Instead of seeing the walls of fresh paint, people look at the floor and wonder when it'll be replaced or the missing trim and ask if I'll get around to it.  My favorite of all is when curious neighbors stop by or friends come for dinner and hesitate to knock on the door, unsure if anyone could live in such a construction zone.  Well, that's been our life for about as long as we've been married: construction.
With no carpet and all the nail holes filled, the great room is a blank slate.  And a great place to play bean bag toss.
Of course, when I'm tempted to spiral into a rant, I think of our dear home we left in Iowa.  No one ever seemed to say they could see the potential.  Instead, we got comments like, "I would have knocked it down and started over," or "It looks like someone could have been murdered in your house," or out of the mouth of a babe, "Could I burn your house down for you?"
Our beautiful Iowa home when we bought it and when we left.
Then, I'm reminded It Has Potential really isn't so bad.  I can humbly learn to smile and nod graciously and though not everyone sees it, means Jack and I have the eye and patience for that potential.  Best of all, when someone can see past the rubble and dribbles of plaster and genuinely say they think my house is awesome, it feels like my heart will melt with gratitude.  After all, this place is our home.
Can you see the potential in the hallway?  Yes, new flooring is in order but fresh paint is a big start.
So I guess in a roundabout way, It Has Potential is fine with me.

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22 September 2013

(From Scratch) Apple Crisp

When I think of buying canned apple pie filling at the store, it makes me shudder.  $4 a can?  Overpriced.  An entire potful could be made for less than that.  Thankfully, we have a few apple trees in our yard that have been good producers this year.  We headed out as a family and plucked bagfuls of the perfectly ripe fruit and seeing as it's now autumn, decided to make (what else?) from scratch apple crisp.  Happy Fall!
Katherine "helping" pick apples.
Apple Pie Filling
2 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
10 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 Tablespoons lemon juice
The apples in a sea of cinnamon sauce.
Toss apples with lemon juice and set aside.  Bring the sugar, starch, cinnamon, salt and water to a boil until thick.  In a separate pot, boil apples 5 to 7 minutes until tender but not mushy (or your pie filling will turn out as applesauce).  If you're out of freezer space, half this portion of the recipe--otherwise freeze the extras for later apple crisps, pies or ice cream toppings.

Crisp Topping
2/3 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups oats
2/3 cup melted butter
Preheat the oven to 375F.  Combine flour, brown sugar and oats.  In a 9x9 pan, spoon in a generous amount of apple pie filling (put the rest in Tupperware and freeze for later).  Sprinkle the oat mixture over the apples and coat evenly with melted butter.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes and serve warm with ice cream, caramel or whipped topping if desired.
The horses cleaning up the reject apples.

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21 September 2013

Grape Gathering

Ever since spotting a growing vineyard in Iowa, Jack has wanted one of his own.  Imagine his delight when the farm in Indiana already had one.
We spent one evening flipping the makeshift cage over so the vines could soak up a little more light and transplanted more than a few wild vines, trying to tame them and convince them making grapes for us was a good idea.
The loving care we put into it seemed to pay off.  When the grapes turned into plump clusters of deep violet fruit, we went grape gathering.  Jack carefully cut the bunches off and the girls, between eating errant fruits, put them lovingly in the collection bucket.
They ate a few over the next several days but being seeded concord grapes, they were a bit tart and had thick skin and large seeds tucked in the slightly slimy fruit.  What to do with all those grapes?
Waste not, want not, right?  Getting all the extra juice from the pulp.
"Jelly?" I suggested.  "We already have plenty of plum jelly," Jack pointed out, almost like he doesn't care for jellies (What?!).  "Juice then?"  Jack approved.
Before the sugar, that juice was TART.
The girls and Jack boiled and mashed the fruit until it was a thick-as-blood drink that made everyone's mouths pucker because the only thing to it was sour.  Add a heaping spoonful of sugar and some water and ironically, it tasted a lot like frozen concentrate from the store.
Steaming hot, fresh grape juice anyone?
But, it was better.  It came from our very own soil and efforts and was au naturale.  Just the way we like it.
The side effects of sucking the juice from the pulp.

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18 September 2013

The Bearded Lady

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Sweet and Sassy Girl's Dress Tutorial

Evelyn discovered this zany fabric at a garage sale over the summer and asked that I make a dress out of it.  The print is so bold that I decided to keep the cut simple and it turned out pretty cute.  It took less than an hour to cut and sew (including a baby constantly tugging on me and the fabric).
There's the sassy...
What You'll Need:

1 yard fabric (depending on size of child)
Matching thread
Scissors, pinking shears, seam ripper, iron, etc.
This dress is quick, especially since the wide straps act as sleeves with very little sewing.
1.  Measure child from collarbone to knee and chest circumference.

2.  Cut pieces for dress adding about 1" for seam allowance at top and bottom.  The front and back should be mirror images--the top is a straight cut at the collarbone and the hem at the knee should follow a slight curve.

3.  Measure over child's shoulder from collarbone to shoulder blade.  Cut a four inch wide strip the length of their shoulder (include a 1/2" seam allowance).

4.  With right sides together, sew sides of the front and back.  Cut next to seam with pinking shears.
5.  Using a rolled hem, finish top of dress.

6.  Using a rolled hem, finish bottom of dress.
7.  Cut edges of shoulder pieces with pinking shears to prevent fraying.

8.  Fold over, press and sew both edges of the shoulders (fold over wrong side to wrong side).

9.  Starting in front, attach the outside edge of the shoulder pieces at the side seam (they should be equidistant from where the child's neck will be).  Be sure they are not angled.  Sew along the seam line of the top of the dress to attach.
10.  Attach the shoulders in back at an angle with one overlapping the other (it allows the wide straps to act as sleeves rather than only as straps).  Sew along the back seam line of the top of the dress.
Wear and look adorable. 

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17 September 2013

Homemade Snickers

Wind has been caught at Jack's work of the homemade candy bars we've made like Twix and Butterfingers.  At the request of his coworkers, we made a trio of desserts, this time including Snickers.  I've pointed out to Jack that he may climb the corporate ladder by appealing to people's sweet tooth.  One way or another I guess.  At least it's honest.  Or is it considered a bribe?
Whatever works, right?
Layer 1: Chocolate
8 oz milk chocolate
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon shortening

Melt the ingredients together until smooth.  In a 9x9 pan lined with aluminum foil, spritz with cooking spray.  Pour in the chocolate, smooth and place in fridge.

Layer 2: Nougat
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff (here's a recipe if you're out)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup salted peanuts

Melt butter in a saucepan then add the milk and sugar.  Bring to a boil and stir constantly to avoid scorching.  Boil five minutes, then add the fluff, peanut butter and vanilla until smooth.  Remove from heat and pour over set chocolate layer.  Top with peanuts and return to the refrigerator to cool.

Layer 3: Caramel
14 oz caramels
1 Tablespoon heavy cream
Homemade Caramel Recipe

Melt the caramels and cream until smooth.  Pour over the set nougat layer and let cool.

Layer 4: Chocolate
8 oz milk chocolate
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 Tablespoon shortening

Melt the ingredients together until smooth.  In a 9x9 pan lined with aluminum foil, spritz with cooking spray.  Pour in the chocolate, smooth and place in fridge.  Cut into squares and serve.

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