29 September 2015

Sweet Fire Chicken

Sweet and a little spicy? Yum!
I tried out this recipe on my family for the first time last night and it was delicious. It was a quick to assemble (and can be made in the slow cooker if you plant ahead!) and is a different twist on the typical Asian cuisine we usually prepare.

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts, cubed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 can pineapple chunks, drained

Sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup sweet and sour sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sweet red chili sauce (optional)
Sweetener, to taste (optional)

Skillet Version
In a large skillet, add chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Add the pineapple and bell pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk together sauce and pour into skillet. Toss to coat. Serve over steamed rice, if desired.

Crock Pot Version

Grease crock pot and in a large bowl, mix together ingredients for sauce, then add chicken, pineapple and bell pepper. Dump into crock pot and cook on high 2 to 3 hours or low for 4 to 5. Serve over steamed rice, if desired.
Enjoy!
Thank you to Creme de la Crumb for the recipe inspiration!

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28 September 2015

Three Years of Kate

Happy 3rd birthday, Kate!
Kate just celebrated her third birthday (which, is incidentally the same day as my baby sister) and, as always, I had a flurry of emotions. Three years really isn't all that long but at the same time, it seems like we've known her forever. Families are forever, after all.
Usually Kate's a dog person, but she doesn't discriminate if the cats are close by.
Kate was the last of our girls born in Iowa, which seems like a lifetime ago. Jack was in school, I was working and we had a small 1900's homestead to totally renovate. When we moved to Indiana, she and her sisters were just babies! No one was in school, everyone's hair was shorter and wispier, language and vocabulary was just budding and Katherine hadn't even begun to crawl.
Always helpful. Recently, she's also developed an incredibly cheesy camera-ready smile.
Now, she's blossoming into a delightful little human being with a personality all her own. Her imagination is off the charts (have you ever played with an alicorn that has rainbow, chain, ice, fire, flying, super speed and bubble powers? 'Cause I have!) and she is just as independent, adventurous, athletic and creative as her older sisters.
Cuddling one of our new chicks.
Though Kate was the baby of the family longer than her siblings, she had no trouble giving up her role as the youngest when Henry arrived. She loves her baby brother fiercely and is usually the first to run to his side when he begins to whimper. She's already mastered snuggling with him and can get him to take his pacifier like a pro. Frequently, when he's upset, she'll squat down by him and coo, "Hey, boy. What's wrong? You're okay, Henry." Trust me, it's adorable.
Long before she had a knack for babying babies, she practiced a lot on others. Raven and her are best friends...
...and she long ago gave up being squirmish around bugs and now delicately handles them right along with her sisters.
Another praying mantis!
And, of course, there's always time to practice mothering on Dad.
Jack happily puts up with a lot at our house.
Katherine's special day was a flurry of activity. When we got home from camping, we had work to do, a dirt cake to make, animals to take care of, honey to harvest, meetings to attend and certainly her fair share of presents to open.
Um, if you don't like kids licking their fingers while making dirt cake, you might not want to have a serving of Kate's...
The birthday girl declared the day a success before she went to bed, which is always a relief. We've loved all of our three years of Kate and are looking forward to celebrating many more with her!
Happy birthday! We love you, Kate!

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27 September 2015

Honey Harvesting

Sooooo much honey...
The leaves are changing, the weather is increasingly chilly, and that means it's honey harvesting time! For the first time since we moved in and gathered pounds and pounds of wild honey from a hive residing in our walls, were we able to collect an equally impressive amount from one of the hives we purchased earlier in the year.
There are now five hives total (thanks to the free swarm that randomly showed up one day) though two are a friend's. Since the swarm arrived late in the season, they'll keep whatever honey they've made to see them through the winter. The second purchased hive will keep theirs too--after a few years of experimenting with the type of hive, we've decided we don't like the design. So, next spring, the girls will be moved to a roomier place to hopefully make more honey to share.
Some of the unhappy worker bees.
As usual, Jack did most of the work. I'm admittedly still a bit apprehensive around the bees. Oh, and we only have one bee suit. So, I'm happy to stand back and supervise, making sure he doesn't get stung to death. Or drown himself in the delicious honey.
Combs FULL of honey!
I left briefly to fulfill a commitment and came home to the garage swarming with bees and Jack slicing the caps off the honeycomb to release the honey. Then, it was put in the extractor Jack commandeered from his parents, who were also once bee keepers, and with a few minutes of spinning, most of the honey was pulled out.
Here it comes!
We set the extractor on the table, filtered the honey and bottled it up for storage. So far, we've gotten about eight quarts and a gallon ice cream bucket of sweet, golden honey sitting on our kitchen counter.
Emptying honey from the extractor.
One of our favorite mottos around here is: Waste not, want not. So, in the morning, Jack drug the table we'd been collecting honey on out into the yard where the bees picked clean the leftovers.
The bees cleaning up the mess.
To take it one step further, Jack scooped up some of the dead bees who'd had a little too much of a good thing and died while gorging themselves on honey and fried them up. He said they tasted the way flowers smell. I'm just going to take his word for it.
Honey-soaked, fried bees, anyone?
Whenever we harvest the bounty of the earth, whether from our garden, raspberries, a friend's cherries, apples, or eggs to wood for heating the house, hickory nuts and asparagus, we are always so grateful for our many blessings and recognize God's hand in them.

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26 September 2015

Camping Trip #2

Spent an evening warming ourselves by the fire.
It's coming to the end of the camping season (yes, I know there are people who camp in the winter and Claire claims she wants to be one of them, but I draw the line for sleeping outside when the temperature dips below freezing) and I was admittedly a bit sad that we'd only gone one time this entire year. Yes, it was fun camping and canoeing on Sugar Creek but between being pregnant, the monsoon weather earlier in the summer and weekends taken up by meetings and other commitments, we just couldn't find time to go.
Going camping with a one month old baby isn't everyone's idea of a good time, but I decided to risk it. The weather promised to be beautiful and since Henry's a stellar sleeper already, we packed up the car and headed to Lieber State Park, the nearest campground. If it was too unbearable, I could always compel the rest of the family to pack up and head home.
Done with dinner and ready for a walk.
We arrived in time for a late dinner and while Jack kindled a fire, the girls and I unpacked and helped get camp set up. We ate, the girls ran wild (I bet it made the few people who decided to camp near us a bit uneasy, having girls shrieking all evening--I have to let them blow off steam somehow!) and then we headed to the park where Raven, Henry and I watched Jack push the girls on a tire swing, then played some sort of made up game where they tried to escape a little wooden playhouse and Jack tried to keep them in.
The moon was so eerily beautiful.
We came back for campfire cones and everyone got ready for bed. I didn't want to risk staying up late in case Henry decided he didn't care for primitive camping, so we were all in bed before ten. As I drifted off, all I could do was hope for the best...
Hardly made a peep all night!
Turns out, it was the best sleep I've gotten on a camp out yet!
Sugaring up for breakfast.
The girls all had chosen out a wormy doughnut for breakfast and after quickly packing up to avoid the possibility of rain, we drove down to the lake for a serene stroll at water's edge.
Such a beautiful morning to spend lakeside.
Maybe we'll fit in another camping trip this year if they go so well...
Even Raven enjoyed herself, though she was just as excited to get back home.

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24 September 2015

Blazing Bonfire

Autumn is finally here, and the weather's been fabulous. The days are warm and bright, the nights are cool and calm and the tips of the leaves are just changing. Jack suggested a bonfire for our family night and the girls eagerly agreed. Probably because we had marshmallows to roast. Whatever their reasons, we all went outside after a late dinner and settled in.
Getting the party started.
Jack is a master fire builder. I've had my fair share of practice after using our wood burning stove last year but I am happy to let Jack take over when he's around. The girls, my mom, Henry and I sat back in our camping chairs close by and waited for one of Jack's masterfully crafted blazing bonfires.
Henry enjoyed his first campfire.
Our fire caught quickly because I'd piled it high with the dry, otherwise unusable branches from the backyard ash Jack cut down. The flames grew, the heat intensified, and we moved back.
And back.
And back.
Then, about the time I thought the fire might melt a hole down through the earth's crust, Jack drug out the hose, watering down the edges and subduing the flames. The girls cheered excitedly for their daddy, who, on top of his many other hats, they now consider a firefighter.
Showing us The Good Samaritan video (and yes, that's Laffy Taffy in her hair).
After a lesson about The Good Samaritan from Claire, we roasted marshmallows. The coals were still broiling and more than once, the girls whined that they couldn't look at the fire because, in their words, "their faces were melting off." So, they handed the little globs of fluffy sugar over to grandma or dad and eagerly snatched them when they were done.
Everyone enjoyed their first autumn bonfire and we're all looking forward to many more this season!

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21 September 2015

U-Pick Apples

She can't help herself when it comes to fresh fruit.
It's apple season again and though we have our own apple trees out front, we were not blessed with a bumper crop this year. The trees are old (we planted replacements, but it'll be several years before they're fruit bearing) and Jack trimmed them drastically to cull the dead and dying parts. There were probably only a dozen apples hanging on the branches and Claire and Kate ate a majority of them while waiting for Evelyn to get off the bus or while I mowed.
Jack is part monkey.
Though we could have gone down the road a few miles to an extensive orchard that sells just about every apple imaginable, I have a difficult time paying for something I've received for free in exchange for some hard work. So, instead, we went down the road where we'd found black raspberries, asparagus and wildflowers and started picking some sweet but small apples in a towering and forgotten apple tree. Jack quickly scaled up to the treetop and, just in time for me to walk under, shook it like a mad ape, pelting me with a shower of fruit. Thanks, dear.
Getting ready to process apples!
Between the poison ivy, swarms of voracious mosquitoes and the tiny fruit, we were a bit discouraged with our find. So, I called up a neighbor who has a few apple trees and asked if we could come pick a few bagfuls. She was more than happy to have us come raid her fruit trees, saying she'd just mentioned to her husband that she wished someone would come and put the fruit to good use. I love when things work out for everyone!
Reach!
The girls, my mom, Jack and I all filled sacks and buckets full of apples. They weren't pretty looking due to their darkened skins--a harmless condition called cedar rust. Once peeled off, a majority of the apple flesh was perfect.
First batch of apple jelly.
The past few days have been a flurry of making apple juice, apple cider vinegar, apple jelly, apple butter, apple fruit leather, and apple pie filling. All the hard work has paid off, even if my nails and the creases of my hands are stained brown. I'm thinking of going back for another load to make some apple sauce for when Henry's ready for solids.
We're more than set with apple pie filling.
I love having (free!) U-Pick Apples in our own neighborhood! Thanks, guys!

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20 September 2015

Collection of Chicks

Playing with Claire.
Since Henry's arrival, he has enjoyed weeks and weeks of being doted on by sisters, family and neighbors,
Scooping manure is hard work!
But already (and still less than a month old), he's no longer the new kid on the farm.
Can you see what she has tucked under her feathers, right under her chin?
Remember that broody hen? She managed to hatch two eggs so far! I haven't been able to count just how many eggs she has in her clutch, since all of her fellow hens keep trying to lay more under her, but I suspect she'll have quite the collection of chicks when all is said and done.
Looks a lot like their daddy.
They're sooooo cute!

(And yay for a hen raising them instead of having to keep them inside under a heat lamp!)

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