Friday, October 29, 2010

Sleepless Nights

**SIGH**

Miss L was restless last night. She came to my room complaining of a cough, then tossed and turned in my bed for awhile. Back in her own bed, she cried and asked me to stay, which I did for about 20 minutes. No sooner was I drifting off to sleep in my room, then she appeared at my side, crying about "bad dreams". This time after the tossing and turning, she refused to return to her room, so she slept in a sleeping bag on my floor.

Of course, this was the morning that I needed to get up early for my first job interview in 8 years. (I was quite pregnant with J at my last one!) Quite surprisingly, I did not feel a bit nervous. (Perhaps because this interview was somewhat of a formality since the position has basically been offered to me already. ) It seemed odd that I was shaking and tearful while introducing my own daughter at her violin recital in the Spring, in front of family and friends, yet I was calm and collected in front of the Hospital CEO. Go figure.



It was probably all the Halloween excitement lately and the Flu shots we got yesterday that had L too high strung to sleep. Wednesday was her Preschool Halloween party.



On Thursday, J's school sponsored a Halloween party in Washington.



Saturday morning, we were awakened just before 8 by a rifle shot very nearby. JP and I looked at each other and said "Dad must have gotten his deer!" He did in fact shoot a large doe on this side of the garden. He said he had been watching it wander around in front of our downstairs french doors for a long time before it wandered far enough away from the house to safely shoot.


Kali and I are having problems with our morning walks. It is getting darker and darker in the mornings, making it difficult to get around, and less likely for our blaze orange gear to show up! We tried it with a flash light one morning, but I tripped and nearly fell about 5 times, so we called it quits early.



I'm thinking that this weekend will not only bring a chance for some much needed R & R, but an end to some of the recent craziness. J's last soccer game is on Sunday afternoon, and Trick-or-Treat is in the evening. Then we will have 2 extra evenings a week free, as well as Sunday afternoons!



T.G.I.F.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cages

We had our first frost of the season this morning, which heralds the coming of winter. I'm trying to prepare mentally for this to happen. It's not my favorite season of the year ever, but after a winter like last year, it's almost enough to cause anxiety!

The frost also means we are getting closer to hunting season. In fact, it has been bow season for several weeks now. Just as Kali and I were getting into our routine morning walks, we now have to limit the area in which we wander. It's hard to imagine feeling caged in on 50 acres, right? I wear my bright orange ball cap, and Kali wears a day-glo orange bandanna...no one is going to mistake us for random deer! Now instead, we are in danger of becoming fat and lazy again.


The deer have been out more than ever lately. The bucks have flattened 5 out of 8 of my ornamental pear trees.


I spent some time today trying to right them, and putting cages around them to prevent any further damage. The bark is torn off on one side of ALL the trees I planted this year, so only time will tell if they make it or not.


The garden is winding down. I picked the last of the beans last week. We still have lots of hot peppers (any takers?) and the winter squash to harvest. I love the look of the pumpkins and corn stalks...it's so...um...Autumn looking!


The birds are enjoying the sunflower seeds.


My flower garden is still going strong. In fact, the Mums are going crazy, looking like huge, fluffy pillows tossed out in the garden.


While working out there recently, I came across this rock with a fern fossil in it. Can you make it out?


Speaking of old things, the girls and I took a field trip last week to the old WV State Penitentiary in Moundsville last week. The tour guide had lots of gory stories, which were a bit overwhelming for the girls, but I found fascinating. This is a shot of the razor wire above the exercise grounds.


For now, I'm trying to make the most of the Autumn sun until we get caged in by the snow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quick Meals

I'm of the opinion that I already spend enough time in the kitchen, there is no sense in gourmet cooking every night of the week. Most of the time what we need is good, fast, home cooked food. This post is for my friends with kids...here's to less time in the kitchen for all of you! All of these recipes include veggies mixed right in, which in our house makes it less likely for complaining to happen.

Tonight I used my broccoli harvest from the garden (about 2 cups of florets) along with a frozen bag full from the grocery store to make this family standby. (You'll recognize it as classic Mennonite cooking from the use of Cream-of-Something soup, although I've made it using a white sauce instead with good results.)


EASY CHICKEN DIVAN
adapted from JP's sister's recipe
serves 6


1 large bag of frozen broccoli florets (microwave until warm)

2 c chopped, cooked chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c mayo
2 tsp lemon juice
1 T curry powder
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
2 T melted butter
2-3 slices of bread (stale is just fine)


Put broccoli in the bottom of a 9'x13' baking dish. Combine next 6 ingredients and spread over top of broccoli. Sprinkle buttered bread crumbs over the top.

Bake at 400* for approx. 20 min., until bubbling and browned. Serve over rice.

This next recipe is a new favorite, which I've made 3 or 4 times now in as many months. One of my friends commented that it is a good way to use whole wheat pasta.


BAKED FOUR-CHEESE PASTA
adapted from Cook's Country magazine
serves 4-6


4 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 c chicken broth (I use low sodium)
1 c half and half
1 lb penne pasta
1 c frozen peas
1/2 c shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c shredded Italian 4-cheese blend
salt
pepper

Heat oven to 500*. Cook bacon, onion and garlic in large skillet until onion is softened. Add broth, half and half, pasta and 1/2 tsp salt, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to med-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender (approx 15 min).align="left">

Off heat, stir in Parm and peas and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to 2 qt baking dish and sprinkle with 4-cheese blend. Bake until cheese is melted and slightly browned, about 5 min.

Finally, I will share a recipe which I recently saw on America's Test Kitchen on PBS. The topping goes together while the pasta is cooking, which makes for a super fast meal!


PASTA WITH PESTO* ALLA TRAPANESE

adapted from America's Test Kitchen

serves 4-6


1 lb pasta (spaghetti or any type)
1/4 c slivered almonds toasted (pine nuts work here too)
12 oz cherry or grape tomatoes (approx 2 1/2 c)
1/2 c packed fresh basil leaves
1 med. clove garlic, minced
1 small pickled pepperoncini, stemmed and seeded**
salt
1/3 c EVOO
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)

Bring 1 qt water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 T salt and pasta, cook until al dente (about 6 min...depends on pasta type). Reserve 1/2 c of cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.

Toss almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, pepperoncini and salt into food processor and process until smooth. With machine on, slowly drizzle in oil over 30 seconds.

Add pesto and cheese to cooked pasta and adjust the consistency of the sauce with the reserved water.


*I've been wondering if I can make the pesto ahead of time (while I've got lots of basil and tomatoes in the garden) and freeze it. I'll give it a try and report back.

**We usually have a jar of pepperoncini in the fridge due to the fact that one of the Rooster Brothers lives here. Honestly, this won't make it too spicy for the kiddos. The recipe recommends substituting with 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes if none of the Rooster Crew lives with you.



Happy meals to you!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Target Practice

It has been a crazy week. Crazy good mostly...2 field trips, tie dying jack-o-lantern t-shirts with friends, new tires on the van at 50% off. JP isn't feeling well though, and I can't help him. We have 2 soccer games tomorrow to get through, and then the week is over. There were several times that I thought my chest would explode, but it never happened. Whew!



Today, although I had lots of other things I wanted to get done, I spent a couple of hours at the shooting range with my Dad. I'm glad that I went, I really need the practice. The last time I shot my rifle, I did this to myself:



(Actually, JP made me take a couple of shots after my stitches came out, just to let myself know that I could still do it.)

Today, we were able to get it sighted pretty well, in preparation for the up-coming hunting season. I haven't been out hunting yet, even though I took the PA prerequisite Hunter Safety Course 3 years ago. This is my revenge for all of the plants the deer have eaten out of my flower beds over the years, and all the pear trees they have knocked down this fall while rubbing their antlers.

I realized how high strung I was while we were there. Even though I was wearing hearing protection, I jumped every time someone else fired. I had to make my muscles relax and keep my eyes open while firing since I was bracing for the pain in my eye like 3 years ago. I tried the mindfulness exercise, and focused on the cool breezes in the green grove we were gathered in along with 3 other hunters. I smelled the whiffs of sulphur after my father fired his rifles. I heard the pop of the rifle a boy at the end of the row was shooting, and then heard a "whoof" as it hit the target 50 feet away.

I'm not saying that shooting targets is my new favorite past time, but I actually found it enjoyable. I felt empowered at the end of the day: I shot at least 12 rounds without shooting my eye out! That's alone is enough to propel me through the first part of next week!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Critters After Dark

I went out after dark last night to empty the bucket of compost into the bin. My flashlight reflected eyes on top of the bin, which isn't unusual. Just the night before, when I took the dog out one last time before bed, the eye reflections in the yard that I assumed were from deer, were actually from horses and we narrowly escaped being trampled in the dark. Later that night I awoke to the dog growling, and scared off a raccoon by the front door, trying to get into the bucket of cat food.

This pair of eyes, however, ended up being rather different than those I've seen in the past. They belonged to a mangy looking opossum. I expected it to scamper off as I got closer with the dog, but it just hunched there, blinking in the light of my flashlight. Then I noticed it was drooling. Saliva was actually dripping down into the compost. Suddenly the 'possum, which I've always found somewhat creepy, went from being annoying to being menacing.

JP dispatched it directly, and I buried it in the woods this morning. I never know what kind of critters I'll see up here on the hill!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What Goes Around, Comes Around


Yin and Yang

I've spent more than 10 hours out of the past 72, sitting in the car. It was a bit overwhelming going from the relative solitude of our mini van to the gianormous entity that is my family. (99 total: 6 aunts or uncles with their spouses, my parents, 20 cousins - most of whom have spouses, 2 brothers, 2 sisters-in-law, 29 children of my cousins or brothers, plus my own crew.) I have hugged at least 50 people in that 72 hours, some of them more than once. I have laughed. I have cried. My head is still spinning.

Here I am back at home, trying to resume my normal routine. It feels so wonderful to be home in a different way than it feels so wonderful to be loved by 98 other people who are related to you.

Dark and light. Crowds and solitude. Conversation and silence. Spring and Fall. Life and death. They are all intertwined and vital to my existence. One would be less without the other.

And now, after a short break from reality, life goes on.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Farewell Lydie Belle



My Grandmother passed away early this mornng after an extended illness. She was 94 years old.

Although we will miss her, she has had a very full life. Even after their move to the retirement center, she continued to enjoy many adventures. This is a picture of she and my Grandfather a couple of years ago...look how hard she is laughing in the picture!



My Grandmother knew how to land an airplane, and how to cook for crowds of people. In 1991, my Senior year in college, she and Grandpa hosted 4 of my friends and I for Spring Break. Here she is untethering the plane so that I can take a ride.



Later in life, she slowed down some. This picture, from a family reunion in 2005, shows her playing quietly on the couch with little J. She made a little man fall down in to her lap by moving her leg over and over again, making J giggle.



Goodbye Grandma.