31 January 2019

A Wonderful Start

Time and how fast it can go has always been incredible to me. I wake up, and the next thing I know, it's time for bed. The second I give birth, my baby is already walking, talking (and sometimes sassing...), and growing more and more independent with every blink. With 2019 already in full swing, I've already been reminiscing about 2018. It wasn't all fantastic--we had a battle with ant invasions, fleas, pinworms, a case of bursitis, stitches, and other unexpected bumps in the road (I'll let you guess who had what). But, in a lot of ways, 2018 was really awesome. We found out we'd be welcoming another boy into the family, Jack and I visited Portugal, the girls and I donated our hair, we had loads of fun with each other and extended family, and in general, life was pretty awesome. When we returned home from our annual Christmas trip to Nebraska, we had our own family Christmas celebration
Evelyn's t-rex bling.
Though Santa is much more practical when he drops off gifts here (kids literally got toothbrushes, gloves, coats, and winter boots), he did splurge on some presents that were a little more fun. Like blingy dinosaur necklaces, silly toys, and wetsuits. 
That's right. Wetsuits. Jack is so excited to go surfing, snorkeling, and maybe even scuba diving someday, that Santa brought him (and me!) our very own wetsuits. The only problem?

They cause shrinkage.
They apparently cause your hair to go blond, too...
It was okay. Jack returned to his full height after removing the wetsuit.

Since our family Christmas and New Year's Eve party, so much has happened. For one, we went roller skating for the first time, a reward for the girls being on the honor roll.
It wasn't nearly as easy as the girls envisioned it would be. They came back battered and bruised, crying a few times, but insisting they want to go again.
Down goes Kate! She took a few of her friends with her.
Since Parton's one bad day, he's returned home and is now occupying every last square inch of our deep freeze.
Claire is back at gymnastics and I can see constant improvement in her from week to week. Most of all, I love her enthusiasm for the sport and her open encouragement of her peers.
We've had a few cold, snowy days but that doesn't stop us from enjoying some outdoor cooking, thanks to Henry who manned the grill.
We celebrated twelve years of marriage by petting and feeding a zonkey. Yes. A zonkey, among other strange and fascinating animals.
Evelyn posed as Mary Todd Lincoln, because, why not?
She's got the stoic expression down pat.
We've been outside to go sledding and ice skating multiple times. It never gets old!
I've gotten back into doing a few small home improvements here and there, like the half wall in the front entry room, so the rickety banister that was there doesn't leak children down onto the steps.
Zoey and Henry helped, of course.
School is over halfway finished for the year and the girls are thriving, from mastering their testing, reading goals, and winning water conservation drawing competitions. 'Cause water conservation is critical, as is art.
We check on the animals every day to make sure they're happy, healthy, and well-fed. Some of them, like Dancer and Hercules, are a little too content with their rations and are getting a bit pudgy. Better too hefty in the winter for some insulation anyway.
We've run family basketball drills (that's one of the benefits of having so many kids, right? Your own basketball team?)...
Henry going in for a slam dunk.
...and have enjoyed a few family bike rides down the driveway when the weather is nice enough.
Zoey in awe of everyone's bike riding abilities.
And of course, there have been endless crafting sessions, where the kids literally create their own small worlds straight out of their imaginations while I try not to cringe over the mess it makes.
All in all, it has been a very busy yet typical start to the year for us, full of accomplishment, waiting for warmer weather, but enjoying the unique opportunities the season provides. So, 2019 seems to be off to a wonderful start!
Zoey is still working on the concept that food stays on the plate.

28 January 2019

Artisan Sourdough Bread

One of our 2019 goals is to make ten different types of bread. Since Jack, Claire, and Kate are such fans of sourdough, we decided we'd give that a try first. After making our own sourdough starter (something we're still learning to cultivate), we used it to make a fairly straightforward artisan bread that, once mixed and kneaded, requires little attention while it rises. It's baked in a cast iron skillet, which gives it a nice crunchy outside, and chewy inside. Served with a hunk of cheese or slathered in butter next to a hearty soup, it's yummy!
Ingredients:

3 cups flour (white, whole wheat or combo--I used half and half)
1 1/4 cups +/- water, depending on how "wet" your sourdough starter is
3/4 cup active sourdough starter
1 Tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
(***Yep, no yeast--the sourdough starter does the rising***)
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until just combined, then let stand for 15 minutes. Using a dough hook, knead for five minutes. If kneading by hand, increase time to eight to ten minutes. Transfer dough to bowl lightly coated with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise three hours, turning and folding the dough once or twice. Remove dough from the bowl, turn and fold again, and place it back in the bowl, seam-side up. Let rise another two hours. When finished rising, place the cast iron pot with lid in the oven, and preheat to 450F, and let pan heat for fifteen minutes. When ready, turn dough into cast iron pan (seam-side down), sprinkle with flour, and score three times on top with a sharp, serrated knife. Return the lid on top, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Remove to a wire rack and cool 30 minutes before slicing.
Enjoy!

27 January 2019

Farm Kids in the City

Snow angels!
Though I grew up smack dab in the middle of a large city, there is no mistaking that my kids are farm kids. They're milkmaids and cow whisperers, horse trainers, and gardeners. That means, a lot of times when they're looking for fun, they find something around the farm to keep themselves amused. Yesterday, it was sliding around on the frozen pond:

Once in a while though, it's fun to take the kids into town. After the kids did a (mostly) stellar job cleaning the house without whining, we decided to take them to the mall to spend their Christmas money.
It's kind of hilarious watching them walk through the mall because there's so much to see. Left and right, they were gasping at all the adorable toys, funny clothing styles, and the gobs and gobs of candy and delicious smelling food.
He found Iron Man! Only $11,500 retail...maybe next Christmas?
After visiting several stores and teaching the kids the value of shopping around, they couldn't handle it anymore and begged to go back to one of the stores where they found a wide assortment of big-eyed stuffed animals just pleading to be taken home. Yes, I let them spend their money on more stuffed animals. It's a good thing I love them. And that I recently cleaned out the toy closet.
Everyone had to stand in line and pay for themselves, get their change, and tell the cashier thanks.
Since their change was burning a hole in their pockets, everyone--except Claire, who had bought an extra, tiny stuffed toy to hook on her backpack--decided to splurge on a treat. Kate bought a cupful of edible cookie dough (like she doesn't get enough of that at home...)...
...and everyone else went to a frozen yogurt chain that had a flat rate, self-serve cup, which everyone filled to overflowing.
It was really nice to have everyone content, eating and sharing their treats, and excited and grateful for the new thing they had, even if it was only for an afternoon.
With the spare change they had leftover, they enjoyed a rare trip to the gumball machines and spent the very last of what they had.
A few hours after we went in, everyone was pooped and ready to go home, including me.
But, after a long day cleaning and having fun, the last thing I felt like doing was going home and cooking, so Chinese buffet it was! I guess that was my splurge for the week.
She loves fish and seafood...except one of the sushi, which she discovered had raw fish. Just ONE of them.
Now that we're back at home, we've resumed our normal entertainment, with snuggly cute stuffed toys to remind us just how much fun these farm kids had in the city.

25 January 2019

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken

I have a goal of making a new meal we've never had before at least once a month in 2019. For January, I decided to try slow cooker cilantro lime chicken and it was a hit! Not only was it SUPER simple (I put it in the crockpot in less than five minutes--even with frozen chicken) at lunchtime, and it was ready by dinner. It can be served over rice, as a burrito, on top of nachos, and fully dressed, it's a whole meal all in one. Kind of reminds me of our sweet pork and cilantro salad, except this version is tangier than it is sweet. Still delicious though!
Fully dressed or plain as-is, it's absolutely delicious!
Ingredients:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breast (mine were frozen and were still done on time)
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 bunch cilantro OR 2 Tablespoons dried
1 lime OR  1/4 cup bottled lime juice
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed.

Lightly oil crock pot. Put in chicken. Sprinkle with cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Squeeze lime over the chicken, then top all of it with tomato sauce. Cook on low 6 to 8 hours or on high 3 to 4. Shred chicken. In the final twenty minutes, dump in corn and beans to heat through. Serve hot.
Enjoy!

24 January 2019

A Long Weekend

Weekends are incredibly precious, extremely busy times for our family. Usually, they're filled with church, home improvement projects, cleaning (always cleaning...), and the day to day chores of running a farm. It's not all misery and woe though--we do find a lot of time to relax and have fun together and if we're really lucky, we might even take a weekend trip to explore somewhere new. So, when we had a long weekend, stuck at home from and ice and snowstorm, what did we do?
I love Claire's face. Tomatoes are gross but they make some delicious foods!
WORKED.

Seriously. There's nothing like being forced to stay at home to find the time to do all the stuff we've been putting off. This time: processing tomatoes. When the garden started producing tomatoes like crazy, I kept stuffing them in the freezer until I had time to turn them into something else. Several hours after we started, we ended up with eighteen quarts of canned pizza sauce. Bring on Friday pizza night!
Henry was the sauce guy.
I love when Jack is home to take over some of the domestic duties--especially cooking. He wanted lasagne but since we didn't have any noodles or marinara sauce, it turned into a very messy cooking lesson...
Making her very first noodles!
 ...that culminated in a very yummy lunch.
Yes. We might have stayed in our jammies all day.
As an unwritten rule of snow days, there has to be a treat served in there somewhere. This time, Evelyn helped me make a yummy batch of sweet orange rolls.
When everyone was tired of cooking and canning, they turned to some creative forms of entertainment. Oragami was folded like there was no tomorrow, then hung wherever they could find space.
They worked on their embroidery skills...
...so I could complete another task I've been putting off: patching pants.
Isn't that the cutest little cat patch you've ever seen??
When we finally went a little stir-crazy with cabin fever, we knew we had to take drastic measures.
Everyone bundled up, braved the biting cold, and went to the sledding hill for the second time this winter.
Back inside, we warmed up with hot chocolate, a movie, and sharing ice cream. Because you can't not share with a toddler who stands next to you, mouth open like a baby bird until something is put in it.
Since we didn't have any work or school on Monday, the kids had a sleepover downstairs, where they did more playing than sleeping. Oh, well. Naps all around!
Sometimes, I wish we had more long weekends but when they do come along, they are entirely appreciated and always memorable!

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