29 April 2019

Happy Day

Smiling for the camera!
And just like that, our spunky, sassy, blue-eyed beauty with an independent streak the size of the Milky Way is TWO!
Isn't he a gorgeous horse? I'm not saying it only out of bias, either.
Which means our handsome, geriatric-but-young-at-heart, half-blue eyed gelding is TWENTY-THREE! It's a special thing that a pair of my favorite beings in the whole world share their special day.  It's incredible to see how time has flown and how kindly the past few years has treated them both.
One thing that's been very apparent since Zoey's birth is that she loves animals. LOVES them. As I train all my children to do because, let's face it, if she didn't, life on our farm would be pretty miserable. We have animals everywhere.
Her favorite seems to be the horses because she gets to brush, ride, and feed them whenever she feels like it. More often than not, when we go outside, she puts her helmet on and waits for her turn to ride, whether we were planning on riding or not.
Of course, we can't pass up the penny pony at the grocery store ever because riding a horse in any form is her idea of a good time.
The only way we make it through grocery shopping: a cookie and the penny pony.
Zoey also loves books. Like the way people would roll in money, she rolls in books.
And anything sweet. Ice cream, candy, cake...she'll eat her weight in dessert if we let her.
Ever since she's been able to dress herself, she has very prominently displayed her very own style.
Sometimes it's a bit bizarre and haphazard but what's life without a bit of self-expression?
Among her favorite fashion accessories is shoes, hers, Jack's, mine, her sisters, her doll's...doesn't matter.
Zoey loves the outdoors...
...in any season.
Less than two years younger than Henry, they do their fair share of bickering (and Zoey can keep up just fine with Henry) but for the most part, the two of them get along splendidly.
She also is just one of the girls and is always in the thick of things, from fixing hair to painting toenails to digging in the mud to doing chores with them.
Crazy sock day!
So naturally, when we're all together, Zoey is at her most happy.
She's a good eater.
Where'd that marshmallow go? All gone!
Sad it's all gone. Being a toddler is rough.
Thankfully, folding clothes has the power to make her happy. Odd, but I'm not going to question it.
She's been ready for a new sibling for a long time. Give her all the baby dolls!
And if she has a chance to swing, she's all over it.
Just like all our children, summing up her vivacious personality, wit, spirit, and intrinsic cheerfulness feels impossible. It feels like I've known her forever though she's barely more than a babe.
The weekend of Stoney and Zoey's birthday was a lot like weekends usually are but we took the time to go out in the rain and wish Stoney a happy birthday, give him a good brushing (he always sheds like the dickens this time of year) and gave him his fill of fresh grass and carrots.
In the thick of it was, of course, Zoey. Thank goodness Stoney's such a good boy.
When we were all showered and dry, we started on her cake with Zoey, again, in the thick of things.
After church, we did the traditional celebrating with presents, phone calls to the grandmas, and cake, which initially freaked her out...
...until she figured out cake and candles is fun!
She thought the idea of blowing out her candles while people sang to her was absolutely hilarious.
Gah! She's soooo CUTE!
By the end of the day, she seemed to finally grasp the idea that it was a special day, all about her. After the number of "Happy Birthdays" she'd heard, she kept telling us it was her happy day.
I don't know what I've done to deserve such fantastic people and animals in my life, but special days like birthdays are a good reminder how lucky I am to have another day with them.
Happy birthday to our dear, sweet Zoey and her birthday buddy, Stoney!


27 April 2019

Homemade Croissants

I made these delicious, buttery rolls waaaay back when we had our annual Valentine's Day Chocolate party and they were perfect as far as I was concerned. After my first failed attempt several years back (hint: don't try to make croissants for the first time when you have a massive headache. They won't turn out very well), I had to modify my goal to make croissants correctly and I think I managed to accomplished it for real this time. This particular recipe isn't exceptionally difficult but it is time intensive but as far as I'm concerned, they were worth it. They're delicious as a dessert, for breakfast, as a snack...anytime. Definitely will be making them again!

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/3 cup milk + 1 teaspoon
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) butter
1 egg

Combine all ingredients except butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon milk in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix on low for 3 minutes until combined. Dough will be very wet. Transfer to a buttered bowl and allow to rise for an hour and a half. Meanwhile, slice each butter stick in thirds and align them on a sheet of plastic wrap to form a square. Roll into an 8x8 inch square, then refrigerate. Laminate the dough (here's a video if you're unsure how to get those flaky layers in the croissant), then refrigerate the dough overnight, or at least four hours. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and remove cold dough from refrigerator. Divide dough in half and roll out one half into a 6 1/2 by 20-inch rectangle (if your kitchen is warm, put other half in fridge to keep chilled). Cut into triangles and tightly roll up from the wide base edge. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Repeat with second half of dough. Beat milk and egg and brush lightly over the croissants. Allow to rise one to three hours or until dough is light and puffy. Preheat oven to 375 F and bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.
Enjoy!


24 April 2019

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

It's amazing how much rock weighs. Phew!
Spring cleaning and nesting is a deadly combination and something I've experienced a couple of times as I've been pregnant with children. Part of me feels like once I have a new baby, nothing will ever get done again. The other part of me is working hard and looking forward to that "break" the arrival of a newborn causes, if it can truly be dubbed a break. Over the past month, waiting for our new little guy to arrive, we have been working like c-r-a-z-y to cross some things off our list. We've cleared up the yard of the largest branches and sticks so I can mow without having to stop.
Then, we piled it all up and burned it. Parenting tip: if you want your kids to help you unload wood, tell them they'll be able to roast marshmallows if they help. Works every time.
Since we were already on a roll with fire, we also burned our back pasture to get rid of the foxtail and other weeds, then reseeded it. That's a lot of walking and admittedly, Jack did most of it. Sometimes my nesting extends to motivating others to do it for me.
One word: cleaning. While everyone else in the world seemed to be gallivanting off in Florida or Mexico for spring break, the kids and I cleaned the house from top to bottom. We're talking scrubbing behind toilets, wiping out the fridge, cleaning under the couch, washing windows...it was exhausting but so nice to have a spic 'n' span house. It lasted for all of two seconds, but it was nice.
There were plenty of rewards for their hard work, including a few April Fool's jokes to keep everyone laughing. Everyone except Henry. He was really looking forward to brownies, not brown E's. Don't worry--he was compensated with ice cream instead.
Amidst all the flurry of cleaning, burning, and farm chores, Jack had a trip to the U.K. It was kind of a blur while he was gone because that leaves me to be the fun/responsible/disciplinarian/homework helper/activity goer/etc parent all at the same time. Still, my desire for nesting and spring cleaning didn't ebb, and we added that to the list. Talk about a relief when he got back and could help share the load. I may have taken a few days off bedtime duty to recover.
He brought back dandelion soda from England. The kids were not thrilled with it and decided to pour it back.
Meanwhile, work around the home and farm continued. The chicken coop got a good cleaning (or as clean as a person can get a chicken coop), we mucked all the stalls, scrubbed water buckets, swept the aisles, and tidied the tack area.
With all the rain we've been having this spring, it really brought out the worst of qualities about the Indiana mud--sticky, sloppy, smelly, and impossible to walk without slipping. One of the grossest parts of the farm is the chicken run. To remedy their slick, muddy area, Henry, Zoey and I got a very heavy load of gravel and bucket by bucket, emptied it. Surprisingly, that did not induce labor, despite my best efforts.
With the chickens happy, we also decided to get ready for two new beehives, putting landscaping cloth underneath, weeding, and moving the pavers. We're all ready for some fresh honey!
One pressing issue that had to be tackled was repairing the fence at the back of our property. We'd given it an honest effort before when Woody escaped once but with his insatiable desire to eat everything in sight, he managed to get out again. So, we moved everyone to the front and instead of high tensile wire, we put up a mesh fencing that wouldn't let a rat through. Hopefully, that's the end to our problems with Woody escaping.
As I neared my due date, we kept working because what else is there to do? I felt I'd reached a point that I was ready (if there is such a thing) if the baby decided to show up, even though my to-do list was as long as ever. With the arrival of warmer weather, we started getting the garden ready. With our elderly tractor on the fritz and the ever-present Indiana mud, we started moving the manure pile up front to the garden, one wheelbarrow at a time. I shoveled and Jack pushed for what seems like hours and we barely made a dent. But the important thing is we tried! We'll be back at it soon enough.
With the garden plot pretty close to ready, we took a trip to our favorite nursery to get the plants and seeds for this year's garden. We probably bought twice the amount that we did last year but I'm guessing we'll still have space when all is said and done...er, planted. My ambitions for gardening seemed heightened this year and without any trips to Portugal to interrupt weeding, we'll see how on top of it all I'll be able to stay.
Our trailer has been getting all kinds of use getting ready for the upcoming growing season. I can't even remember how many loads of mulch we've gotten and there's still more we can (and let's be honest, probably will) mulch. The fruit trees in the orchard, the front landscaping, the strawberries and asparagus, under the lilac, by the crabapple, in the garden, the raspberry row...mulch for everything. Then I'll probably be getting sand for the beach, and rock for any other low, muddy spots. Can I just say how much I love having a trailer??
Flinging mulch around the trees, two fistfuls at a time.
After all the mulching, spreading manure, shopping for plants, cleaning the barn, hauling rock, still, no baby. So, we kept pressing on. We planted our blueberries, figs, hardy kiwi, and grapes around the house and in the orchard.
Then we turned to the garden. The strawberry patch and asparagus are looking good and the purple, red, and white potatoes are all in the ground. It's slow work but row by row, it'll get done. Someday. When the rain quits soaking everything.
Oh. And I finished writing, editing, formatting, and publishing another book. That might've been the most frantic task of all, since who knows how much brainpower I'll have after having a new baby and being sleep deprived. Glad to say it's finished!
Get your copy here! :)
I've officially made it past my due date, which I don't know why that surprises me. Henry was the only one earlier than his expected arrival, Katherine eventually came on her own, but everyone else was two weeks late and had to be induced anyway. I've tried it all--eating fresh pineapple, walking for miles, squatting while planting potatoes, mowing, eating spicy food, waiting for the full moon, celebrating Earth day by starting garden planting, cleaned the church, hid (and found) Easter eggs, chasing down escaped cows, and every other possible labor-inducing tactic known to science and old wives but I'm still waiting, waiting, waiting. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though and really, I don't care how my kids arrive as long as they're healthy. In the meantime, everyone will continue to be subject to my crazy nesting/spring cleaning urges and when the time comes, it'll be a well-deserved "rest."
Kate helping me get ready by painting my toenails since I can't reach them anymore.

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