30 November 2015

Making Soap

A basket of homemade soap!
I asked a friend of mine (who is practically my lifestyle twin) to show me how to make soap. She's one of those urban homesteaders that does everything from quilting to canning to gardening and making her own soap. It took less than an hour to cook up a whole basket full of good ol' plain soap--the kind we can wash hands or hair, turn into laundry detergent or use as dish detergent. I was really quite surprised how easy it was and after I have a few more test runs, I'll share a recipe.


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27 November 2015

Be Thankful

The fam.
I love autumn and therefore, I love Thanksgiving. Not only is the food delicious and the extra time with family appreciated, but it's a wonderful time to truly reflect on what we're grateful for and to practice being grateful.
We're grateful for the new temple that's been built close by. Not only was I able to help in the cultural celebration prior to the dedication, we were able to visit a few weeks ago and enjoy the quiet, reverent spirit within the beautiful edifice.
Stargazing and finding constellations with an app on Jack's phone.
 I'm grateful that Jack is a fun dad.
Weeee!
 I'm grateful for the penny pony at the grocery store that makes long shopping trips bearable. And I'm grateful for Claire's recently perfected cheesy camera smile.
Henry and Dancer meet for the first time.
I'm grateful that we can literally walk out our back door and be in the middle of the farm fun.
Thanks for the help, Claire!
It's a lot of work, but I'm grateful for our fixer-upper house. It keeps me busy and is certainly a creative outlet for my artistic side.
Awww...
I'm grateful Henry is a good sleeper.
Awww...
Seriously, he's a really good sleeper. He already sleeps through the night!
Awww...
Come to think of it, ALL of my kids have been good sleepers. I am grateful since I love sleeping too!
I'm grateful we're all healthy and happy.
Claire and Kate helping me during our cleaning turn at church...'cause cleaning at church is way more fun than at home.
And I'm thankful for children who want to help.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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25 November 2015

The Echo Room

Getting prepped.
Working on the great room has been a long time coming. Problem is, the giant space has always been needed for something else--a workroom for cutting tile, painting trim, running and screaming like madwomen when they've got cabin fever (the girls refer to it as the echo room) or inflating a bounce house to for a rainy birthday party...but, it's time has finally come. Now that many of the other home improvement projects are getting checked off the list, I decided to tackle the mammoth room.

(Seriously, we could probably fit a mammoth in there).
Filling in the off-centered gap. Thanks, Jack!
Rooms are always completed faster in my head than they are when I get to doing the actual work. My productivity is down because I've a newborn to tend, but I'm really in no rush. We paint a little here, caulk a little there, glue down a bit of trim or paint one accent wall...it's all starting to come together quite well since starting as a blank slate.
My life flashed before my eyes!
As with any room, painting the ceiling was the worst part. Since the previous owners were heavy smokers, the ceiling was stained with the sickly yellow color of nicotine. What made it exponentially worse was that I had to paint a ceiling while standing on scaffolding that wasn't exactly wobbly, but sure sounded like it when it rattled. I had a few heart-pounding moments when I had to stand without support but in a few hours of craning my neck backward, accidentally ingesting a few globs of paint and watching my life repeatedly flash before my eyes, the enormous ceiling was finally complete. And it looks glorious.
Evelyn's tall enough to peek over the half wall.
There were a few changes of plan too. Originally, I wanted to have a beautiful handrail running the length of the hallway and cascading down the steps. I gave it a decent attempt and learned a lot in the process but ultimately, a half wall looks better.
One of the potentially gorgeous parts of the great room are the stairs. We've been living with raw wood stairs since removing the smelly, hairy, 1970's original carpet (ewie!) but they've gotten a whole lot more character with just a few coats of paint and some trim. Once the treads are stained and a few more balusters are added, we'll have some pretty fancy steps.
Won't they be pretty??
It's amazing what some paint, fixing some drywall, cleaning up wires and eventually, new flooring, will do to a room. What was once so dark and dreary is slowly becoming almost unrecognizable.
The tangle of wires we inherited when we bought the place. The people before us loooooved watching TV.
The room really feels like it's coming alive. It's so bright and cheery and will soon be a central hub for our family to relax next to the warm wood burning stove, sit and play the piano or entertain guests. Maybe we'll still use it for the bounce house too. Whatever function if fulfills, it'll be beautiful.
Thanks for helping me clean up, Claire bear!

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24 November 2015

A Hard Knock Life

Growing up fast!
Like Henry, the chicks that our hen hatch shortly after our son's birth are growing up fast. They're now much too big to snuggled under their mother's wings for warmth (thankfully they've feathered out themselves nicely and stay warm just fine) and though the mother hen keeps an eye out for them, she's also the first to push them out of the way when it comes to eating time.
Mother watching over her chick.
Speaking of an eye out, one of the three surviving chicks was named Cyclopes. I'm not entirely sure how it happened--if it was a genetic deformity, disease, or, most likely, someone poking her eye out with a sharp peck--but, for a time, we had a Cyclopes.
Meet Cyclopes!
Of course, I speak of Cyclopes in the past tense because, well, she didn't last long (and I didn't really think she would). She was blind on her bad side and it was only a matter of time before a sneaky predator got her. It's not clear if it was a hawk, a fox, a stray dog or cat or another of the myriads of hungry animals that gets desperate as winter sets in and their food sources hibernate, but one Sunday afternoon before we headed to church, all we found of Cyclopes was a pile of meticulously plucked out feathers. Poor Cyclopes.
The chicks are quick when it comes to fetching scraps.
It's a hard knock life for chickens, especially if you're a chick. Of the eggs that were fertilized, one was cracked before it was ready to hatch, another couldn't escape her shell because she had an under bite that prevented her from being able to use her egg tooth, our cats ate one, thinking it was their very own feathered hors d'oeurve, and an unknown predator got Cyclopes. There are only two chicks left and, if they happen to be roosters, well, we know what happens to extra roosters around here.
Look how tiny they were...
Once winter is over, we'll be hatching more eggs and with a bit more diligence and luck, will make sure life isn't quite so hard knock for them.

(As long as they don't turn out to be roosters...)

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21 November 2015

Snow Day

The girls have been happily chattering for weeks what they'd do once it finally snowed. Well, surprise, surprise, they got their wish today!
First snow angels of the season!
The rain that started early in the morning slowly turned to sleet, then became big, feathery flakes that accumulated over a few hours. Everyone suited up and ran outside to have their own version of fun. Evelyn started off making snow angels, Claire threw snowballs packed with leaves and Kate ran off to climb the round bales...
Just getting warmed up!
...Raven took off and ran and ran and ran...
(Raven loves snow more than most).
...and the horses don't care what's happening outside as long as they're eating.
The first snow of the season!
Happy Snow Day!

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18 November 2015

Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

I love this soup because it's really quick to put together but still incredibly flavorful. It can be the main dish or a side--yummy either way!

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons oil
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 Tablespoon ginger, grated
3 Tablespoons Thai red curry paste
8 ounces boneless chicken, sliced
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2/3 cup coconut milk
6 ounces (or more) thin rice noodles
1/4 cup lime juice (optional)
Sliced red onion, red chilis, cilantro, diced green onions, etc for garnish (optional)
Salt to taste

In a large pot, add the oil, garlic, ginger and curry paste, frying for about five minutes or until fragrant. Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides. Add the broth, water and coconut milk. Bring to a boil. Taste and add salt if needed. Remove from heat, add rice noodles and let sit for about three to five minutes (or until noodles are desired softness). Add lime juice and garnish as desired.
Enjoy!
Thanks to The Works of Life for the recipe inspiration!

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15 November 2015

Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread

We made some homemade butter a few days ago (we're practicing for getting a cow, haha...someday) and decided to use up the buttermilk too. Delicious homemade bread seemed like a good idea! This makes two loaves that are delicious with butter and jam or for putting together sandwiches.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon salt

Combine oats into boiling water and let sit 10 minutes to soften. Set aside. Put yeast in warm water with a pinch of water until foamy. Add buttermilk, oil and sugar. Combine the flours (less one cup all-purpose flour for kneading later) and put into yeast mixture. Let rest about 20 minutes. Add salt and final cup of flour, kneading for a few more minutes. Cover bowl and let rise for an hour, or until doubled. Punch down dough and cut in half. Place one piece on lightly floured surface and press into a rectangle, folding in thirds. Pinch together seams and place in a greased loaf pan. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Let rise while covered, another 30 to 60 minutes. Brush lightly with water and sprinkle on a few more oats. Preheat oven to 375F and bake for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until bread is golden and hollow sounding when thumped (if bread is browning too quickly, cover with foil). Remove from pans when cooled slightly, and cool on a rack.
Homemade bread AND homemade butter! Yuuuuuum!

Enjoy!
Thanks to Forty Something for the recipe inspiration!

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12 November 2015

When Mother Goes Home

There's a song the girls learned through church, entitled, Daddy's Homecoming  and the first line is: I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home!. The song is self-explanatory and they sing it often, sometimes after Jack comes home from a long week away, sometimes just because he came home after work. While I love the song, I also think there should be an adult version: I'm So Sad When Mother Goes Home.
Passing off a newborn for my mother-in-law to hold so I can eat? Soooo helpful.
You see, we've never lived close by my mother, or mother-in-law when a baby has been born. It's not that I'm unable to handle a new baby in the house, but having one of the grandma's visit spoils me almost as much as it spoils the girls. With the birth of Henry, I think I was spoiled the most of all (and we live the furthest away!). Not long after his arrival, we had a steady stream of friends dropping off meals and bearing gifts and one after the other, grandmothers coming to help.
Taking the girls for a pony ride.
Though I did take my customary daily nap, watching the girls and the new baby while I snoozed was only part of what they did. They put the girls on Stoney and walked them around the pasture, took the girls to the store and church and to feed the koi so I could have some quiet time, they held Henry so I could eat without juggling a newborn and snuggled with him when he just wanted to be held.
Finishing painting the great room.
And though I always try to hold off on home improvements after a baby is born, telling myself I'll just take a break, I like to take advantage of the extra help. Shortly after Henry was born, we got the pasture fence stained and finished painting the walls and ceiling in the great room. I can't help myself!
The grandpas are a big help too!!
I am always grateful for such supportive family and friends who ease the burden of having a newborn, but in all truth, I'm particularly sad when mother goes home.
Where I get my mad multitasking skills from: my mom knitting and cuddling a baby.
Thanks for all your help, mother and mother-in-law!

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11 November 2015

Hay Ring

A win-win situation for Stoney and Kate.
It's the time of year that the pastures stop producing enough for the horses to be sustained so we've had to roll in a round bale. After watching the horses demolish round bales in a matter of days by crawling all over them, laying on them and using them as personal restrooms, we decided to invest in a hay ring.
Stoney enjoyed the personalized attention and the girls enjoyed giving it.
The horses aren't able to tear apart the hay as quickly and it's kept nicely piled inside so they eat it instead of sleep on it. Of course, the girls exploited the situation to their advantage.
I was doing a few chores and turned my back and the next thing I knew, the girls had clamored into the hay, made a little nest for their dollies and enjoyed a lengthy eye to eye petting session with Stoney.

If it isn't hay hopping or photo shoots, hay bales are ideal for, well, feeding horses.

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