Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Day, Take...(What is it Now?)...7

Yep.  The School Super called another Snow Day today.  J was staying home anyway, since she still had a fever last night, but she is feeling MUCH better this afternoon.  Hopefully both girls are heading back to school tomorrow.

We are running out of things to do indoors.  I had to escape to the Study today while the girls were watching "Grease" for the 4th time.  (I'm ambivalent about "Grease", as I'm pretty sure it doesn't send the best message about relationships.)  I closed the doors and watched Downton Abby episodes.

One of the positive things that came out of my re-arranging the pantry this week was that I found the cupcake kit that Lauren received for her Birthday about 2 years ago.  So...today she baked and decorated cupcakes.


We played board games for awhile, until the episodes of "Sorry"-ing began getting vindictive and the fighting erupted...again.

 
We need a break in the weather.  It is wearing me quite thin.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Polar Hysteria

The girls are home for another Snow Day today.  I've lost count how many we have had lately.  Most of us are sick today with coughs and fever, and one of the girls is holding a barf bucket.

The weekend was snow filled - we got 6 or 8 inches.  The tractor wouldn't start until it warmed up to 22 degrees, and then my Dad had to make laps plowing:  down the driveway, up the road, up through our neighbor's field, and back down again.

This cold weather is taking a toll on all of us - we are finding our sanity becoming more and more of a vague and misty cloud instead of the solid rock it should be.  My friend is sorting Lego's by color and throwing boiling water outside into the below 0 air.  The dogs eat hickory nut husks every time they go outside, and lie listless indoors, or gnaw on their toenails.  I am providing small slivers of dry toast and sips of Sprite to my oldest child, and have been amused by the "sculptures" of frozen chicken poo in the chicken barge.

My Dad has been productive.  He is working on Phase 3 of the pantry re-model.  Phase 1 was where half of the things from the pantry were sitting on shelves in the dining room.  Phase 2 is mostly complete, where I re-organize everything on the newly installed built in shelving in the pantry.  In Phase 3, I will finally get a door on my pantry.

 
Thank goodness for the glimmer of hope that is the forecast for Thursday:  33 degrees by 3 PM!  If it really happens, it will be the first time the thermometer has risen above the freezing mark (during the day) since the 20th.

I'm going to go cut pictures out of Christmas cards and stick them in a book (it's only a little bit crazy), and then nap until Spring.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Big House in the Little Woods

Winter very nearly kicked my butt yesterday.  The elation that I experienced from getting out of the house the other day was short lived.  Last night I was crying.

Our wood pile has become dangerously low.  Yesterday morning, when I went out to put 4 of the last 10 pieces of wood in, what was left were the heaviest, most odd shaped pieces.  It was a struggle just to get them into the wood burner, but they didn't land in the right place.  I tried to move them with the poker and a shovel with no luck.  Finally I had to hold my breath, stick my entire upper body into the wood burner, and manually move them...3 times.  I cried then too, when I wasn't coughing, the smoke stung my eyes terribly!

We had another 2 hour delay yesterday, which has become our norm.  I managed to get Mom to the Physical Therapist, the girls to school, clean pants to JP (who noticed they got soiled only AFTER he arrived at work) AND get to work on time!

Amazingly, JP beat me home from work last night, since J had voice lessons.  We arrived home, to find the tractor stalled out in the driveway in front of the garage.  Apparently our 50 gal barrel of diesel fuel is not winter treated, and it gelled in the engine AFTER it got several hundred yards out of the barn.  I had to drive the van through the field and through the barn to get to the garage!

JP had intended to get some of the logs cut that were delivered a couple of weeks ago in the mud, however, we now did not have the tractor to use to lift them down off the 8 foot stack.  Since the remaining 6 pieces of wood were not going to last more than 12 hours, he ended up cutting the ends off of several of the logs.  I stacked them on a plastic toboggan, and we pulled them over the barn where we could stack them.

We have been reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the girls again.  I am so impressed with Pa - that he could build a house out of trees he cut (no chainsaw, mind you), including the furniture, roof shakes, and stone fireplace, then go out and cut a garden out of the prairie...and ultimately close the door and walk away from it all.  I definitely felt like we had stepped back in time (but WITH a chainsaw) to keep the homestead running last night.

The kicker was when I was doing a load of wash last night, and JP called up that the guest bathroom was full of water.  Long story short, it ends up our grey water drainage pipe on that side of the house is frozen.  So...giant mess to clean up last night, and I drove through the lawn (around the stalled tractor) to take the dirty towels and bathroom rugs to Mom and Dad's to wash...thank goodness for neighbors!

This morning I have distracted myself by baking an Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust, and emptying out half of my pantry in anticipation of Dad putting up the first half of the built-in shelving there soon.  The girls have a friend over to play.  JP went out and started the tractor and headed down the hill with the plow.  I'm happily blogging.

He just texted me that he can't get back up the driveway.  The saga continues...

The pie, however, looks lovely.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting the Heck Outa Dodge

When my friend asked what I was planning on doing today, I told her "Gettin the heck outa Dodge!"  I wasn't really sure where that quote came from, just vaguely that it means "getting as far as possible away from the present location as quickly as feasible."  Some internet research verified that was generally true, and now I also know that the quote came from old "Gunsmoke" episodes.  Hmmm.

Anyhoo, I had not been off Poplar Ridge since Friday morning when I went to work last week.  In the meantime, we had a snowy, cold weekend, a sick child on Monday, more snow, more cold, and 2 snow days.  As of now, we are looking at a 2 hour delay in the morning, and another 3-5 inches of snow tomorrow night.  (My brother in TX says that they have already called off school for tomorrow in Austin, with expected snow accumulation of .25 inches!)  I was ready to do something, ANYTHING, that was NOT HERE!

Apparently my friend felt similarly, so we joined forces and hit Sam's Club and the grocery store in the next big city.  It was nice to be out, and to be with a buddy, even though Sam's Club was the most exciting thing we could come up with!  The most stimulating part of our trip was a toss up between buying enemas and running out of windshield wiper fluid on the interstate with salty slush spraying all over the van.  Our lives are overwhelmingly interesting.

One reason that I wanted to visit Sam's Club was to buy ground turkey so that I could make Thai Basil Chicken...one of our favorite (easy) Thai dishes.  I'll share the recipe too, it takes a bucket full of basil, so you may want to grow it in your window sill all winter long, like we do.

Here are my 2 basil bushes, having already been
trimmed of 4 cups worth of leaves
(I made a double recipe!)
 
Thai Chicken with Basil
 
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
 
2 c fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
3 med garlic cloves, peeled
1 med jalapeno
3 T fish sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1 lb ground turkey
3/4 cup shallots, thinly sliced (about 3)
2 T vegetable oil
 
Process half of basil along with garlic and jalapeno in food processor until finely chopped.  Remove 1 T of mixture to a small bowl, and mix with 2 T of fish sauce, vinegar and sugar.  Scrape remaining basil mixture to a 12 inch skillet, and add vegetable oil and shallots.  Cook and stir until shallots are softened.  Add ground turkey and remaining fish sauce and cook until only traces of pink remain.  Add basil/fish sauce mixture and cook until completely browned.  Roughly chop remaining basil, and add to meat mixture, cooking until wilted.  Serve over rice, and season with Thai Dipping Sauce if desired.
 
Thai Dipping Sauce
 
Adapted from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook
 
3 T fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 T lime juice
1 tsp sugar
2 T warm water
sliced jalapeno & shallot (about 1 of each, we slice them with a mandolin)
 
Mix well and adjust ingredients to taste.

The Thai Basil was enjoyed by all.  JP and I felt warmed nose to toes with the spicy sauce.  I feel renewed from my morning out, and ready to face my one and only day of work this week!  Take that, Winter!  You can't keep us down!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hot Chocolate


Another Snow Day, only today the temperature (which was -5* F when I got up this morning) is still -3* F.  The bad news is I've got a bad case of cabin fever - haven't been off the hill since I went to work Friday morning.  The rest of the bad news is that we now have 2 more snow days to make up during our Spring Break!  The good news is that L gets one more day to recover before going back to school - no more vomiting since yesterday morning, but now she's coughing like crazy!  The other good news is that I don't have to spend my Birthday alone.

I was still pretty cranky when I got the call this morning about no school due to "blistering cold weather", I mean, what the heck?  Don't the schools have heat?  So, while I was sweating away on the elliptical, I decided to make the best of it.  After all, it's my birthday, so I'm entitled to do all kinds of things that I normally wouldn't do, right?

We started off with Double Chocolate Pancakes for breakfast...yummy!  It was like an entire plateful of warm brownies to start the day.  I'm not sure what is next, but I'm sure that chocolate will have feature appearances throughout the day. 


Double Chocolate Pancakes
 
Adapted from the Betty Crocker website
 
2 cups Bisquick
1/4 cup sugar     
2 T cocoa powder
1 cup chocolate milk
1 tsp vanilla     
2 eggs 
mini milk chocolate chips 
 
Whisk all ingredients except for chocolate chips together until well mixed.  Pour batter onto buttered griddle heated to 300*.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips while batter is still uncooked.  Flip when bubbles rise along the edges and the holes do not close.
 
 
Happy below zero snow day to everyone!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Totoro Therapy

Actually my strikethough function wasn't working for the title, the REAL title should be:

I  HEART  Snow Days
 
The phone call for a 2 hour school delay came at 5:15 this morning.  I ran downstairs and tried to remember the code to turn off the alarm on J's phone, the redundant call to my cell phone came through on my way upstairs.  A few minutes later, JP got paged.  Not long after that, a call came through changing the delay to a full on Snow Day, followed by the redundant cell phone call.  Soon after, JP's alarm and then mine went off.
 
Suffice it to say, I didn't get enough sleep last night.  Combine that with the fact that L is vomiting for the 2nd morning in a row, and it does not make me relish this (un)expected day off.
 
One way to round up the warm fuzzies on a cold and miserable day:  Watch Totoro!
 
This is one of my favorite scenes from this charming anime:  taking a family bath.  A huge tub like this is one of the things we struck from our blueprints to make our house affordable.
 
 
Then there's this one, I mean, who wouldn't want to take a nap on a giant, furry Totoro?
 
 
 
And I love this one, where they are making the acorns grow in the middle of the night...makes me long for Spring!


 
Oh my goodness, the entire film is simply delightful!  Go and get yourselves a good dose of Totoro...STAT!
 
**All Totoro photos snatched from the internet...sorry and thanks!**

We got into the Totoro mood and made Soot Sprites, too!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Passage of Time

This weekend, we stayed in most of the time due to the abundance of snow and lack of degrees of temperature on the thermometer.  We decided to finally take on the gargantuan task of converting our box of home videos to DVD.

What struck me the most while watching our wedding video, taken over 22 years ago, was not the little girl that grew up to be my niece who is teaching school in Bulgaria, or the little guy - her brother who is now a soldier helping to protect our country, but the people there who are now no longer with us.  Both of JP's parents, 3 of my grandparents, JP's best buddy from college, and one of my college friends were there to celebrate the beginning of our life together, and now are absent from our lives.

Moving on, we watched the recording of JP's commencement from Medical School, which was held outdoors in the pouring rain.  I had managed to repress that memory until watching again.  JP's 85 year old mother was thoroughly soaked and chilled to the bone.  We abandoned our plans of picnicking in the park afterwards, to breaking into the home of our friends to dry off and eat in relative warmth.  JP's diploma had to be replaced as it was completely waterlogged, etc, etc.  What a fiasco!

We re-watched the film from the week JP and I were certified in SCUBA, and went snorkeling with manatees in Florida.  J used to watch this video as a toddler, and would ask time and again to see "the Mommy-T's and the Daddy-T's too!"

Next up was video of J's birth and first year, where we caught glimpses of our beloved dog, Zach, and JP's sister's dog, DD, both of whom have succumbed to age and illness.  And that little baby...where did she go?

We are still working through these home movies, and should get to L's birth very soon.  It was much less dramatic, but just as precious.

Along the way, we found video that JP took of several houses (both in Wheeling and here) that at separate times we were considering buying.  I marvelled at my young, slim self in a mini skirt.  We chuckled at the film of JP home alone, recording extreme close ups of his ears and eyeball.  Not all of these moments will make the cut to DVD, but there are so many precious moments that we will be able to look back on with mixed emotions.

The strange thing is that I really don't feel like 22 years have passed since my wedding.  I am more achy and slow when I wake up in the morning, I am countless pounds heavier, and it involves boxes of hair color every 4 months to keep my hair that color, but in my soul, I'm still 21.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sucked

Things I've vacuumed up this week:

-Countless dried mud clods from the rugs by the door
-NO mud from the other floors (thank goodness!)
-About 3 oz. of glitter from L's new snowflake shirt
-Roughly 94 lady bugs, dead and alive
-Maybe 27 stink bugs in similar states of being
-Approximately 32 rainbow loom bands
-2 gold bangle bracelets
-1 glow in the dark ring
-1 Christmas ornament hangar
-1 Quilted coaster
-4 inch in diameter hair ball (removed from vacuum brushes)

I'm considering giving the girls and myself the same buzz hair cut that I give JP once a month.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shudder

I spent most of the day today making dog food.  This is not something that I do on a regular basis.   I just purchased a case of frozen pizza dough rounds at Sam's Club over the weekend, however, and I needed to make room in the deep freeze for it, so I decided that the random cow parts that came with the beef we bought in the past year and a half needed to go.  I'm talking heart, tongue and liver here, people.  I always intended to give it to the dogs, but it's just one of those things...

These parts have been thawing in the extra refrigerator for the past 2 days, and I figured they were thawed enough this morning to grind up.  I hooked up the meat grinder attachment on my Kitchen Aid, and got to work.  The hearts didn't bother me...I work in Surgery after all, and I actually found the valves fascinating.  Liver, eh...ate lots of it growing up, no big deal.  The tongue though, ugh, it was extremely nasty.  I've eaten tongue in the past (tasted like Mom's pot roast,) but I've never actually handled one before.  It made me shudder every time I touched it.

After this was all done, I realized that I didn't have enough canning jars to can it in, and it was time to leave to pick up the girls at school.  After about 45 minutes of internet research, I decided I would have to cook it first as well.  The girls were blessed with the tempting smells of cooking ground offal during home work time.  J told me that she was going to pass on dinner before I came clean and told her it was for the dogs.

Offal - great word, isn't it?  I now have a great, steaming bowl of ground offal ready to can tomorrow.  Meatloaf anyone?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mud on Your Face (a Big Disgrace)

We are running low on fire wood for our outdoor wood burner.  It really plows through the wood.  JP has been attempting to get a tri-axle truck load of long wood for about 6 weeks now.  They finally arrived today, after it has been 45* outside and raining for 2 days.

Yep.  Things are muddy.  I have some sort of mud sucking rugs in front of all of the doors, and they work really well.  Those, combined with the fact that we typically leave our shoes in the breezeway, and there are towels at the front and back door to wipe the dogs' feet, the house is staying fairly clean. 

The big truck made it up our hill without problems, although it left 4 or 5 inch deep ruts in places.  The driver refused to go much farther than the chicken houses, and ended up unloading in the grass near the girls' sandbox.  Now the road there is perfect for making mud pies.


It is super squishy near the chicken houses too.  I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone this morning (*no birds were actually harmed in this story*,) so I raked the Hickory nut hulls laying under the tree by the chicken run around the houses to make a little mud-free path.  I think it should work well.


I am not feeling well.  I think the stress of dealing with my youngest daughter these days is really getting to me.  I am working on getting some answers to the problems...more about that later.  I'm just trying to keep from getting sucked down in the mud...some days it's harder than others!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Togetherness

The girls and I have spent way too much together time lately, with all of the holidays and snow days and 2 hour delays.  Tonight they have completely worn me down. 

I could hardly wait to ship L off to school this morning.  Despite laying out clothes the night before in order to make the morning go more smoothly, nothing was right for her this morning.  She switched underwear 3 times, and jeans 3 or 4 times.  The socks she had picked out were "too thick," and she didn't have any other socks to wear, so I actually hand washed a pair of socks for her to wear today.  Then there was absolutely NOTHING in the house that she wanted to eat for breakfast.  After that, her shoes didn't go on right, and she didn't like the first way I fixed her hair, so she took it out.

It was a kind of a downer day at the office.  We faced insurance issues at the front desk (it is January and people have new policies and new cards, some of which don't work), our nurse has some seriously ill family members, and the surgeon is getting a bit weary from being on call 24/7 since Nov. 15th.  Top that all off with the fact that we saw some seriously sad cases today...ones that just make my heart feel heavy.

The girls rode the bus to my office after school, and started in non-stop bickering that almost had me crazy in the 45 minutes it took to get from there to J's voice lessons.  Afterward, I told L that we were going to Walmart to get more socks and jeans, because I didn't want to hear the complaining any more.  Bicker, bicker, bicker (ok, the word is starting to look a little weird now) all through Walmart and the entire drive home.

At home L "couldn't" untie her shoes by herself, so she laid on the floor and whined while the rest of us ate dinner.  After dinner both girls whined because they didn't want to check the chickens or do homework.  JP and I hid in our bedroom, but they BOTH brought their homework in there and talked over each other and needed help and silence in order to "concentrate" all at the same time. 

I'm hoping that a cuppa tea and a good night's rest will change my attitude toward my family, and also improve the way they interact.  If you hear any primal screams coming from Poplar Ridge this weekend, that would be me letting off steam.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Frozen

In keeping with the weather, I ordered the Disney "Frozen" soundtrack from Amazon this evening.  The girls have been BEGGING for it, and have been watching endless hours of "Let it Go" on YouTube.  This transaction allowed us to listen to it immediately on Amazon's Cloud Player - whoooo - we are too high tech for words!

The low on Poplar Ridge last night was -10 F.  We discovered this morning that water pipes to 2 of the lesser used bathrooms had frozen over night.  That's right...pipes IN THE HOUSE were frozen!  With judicious use of a space heater in the drop ceilings (*do not try this at home*), we were able to thaw things out.  Now I am on a 30 minute cycle of checking the heater and turning on showers for a couple of minutes.  It isn't supposed to get to zero until afternoon.

The kitties' water had a half inch of ice on top this morning.  Luckily I left the chicken waterers in the craft room last night, because it froze in the garage (where I usually keep it over night.)

I am happy to announce that all 17 hens survived the cold last night!  I was a bit nervous about what I might find when I went out first thing this morning.  Guess what happens to eggs when they freeze?  They split open - very cool to peel off the shell and see an egg shaped raw egg!

The 20 degrees in the breezeway felt balmy when I came back in from the outside this morning, and it is cozy inside.

Only 8 minutes until I have to check the showers and space heater again...maybe I can squeeze a cuppa in before then!

Stay Warm, y'all!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chilly

I just came back in from taking water to the chickens for the 3rd time today, and adding wood to the burner for the 4th time.  This time I started with warm water, so that it might take a bit longer to solidify.  It is 1 degree F out there - cold enough that even for the 3 minutes it took me to take out water and throw on a log, I bundled up in coat, scarf, hat, boots and gloves.  My nostrils froze together anyway, and the water that I spilled on the way out the door was an icy patch by the time I returned.  The kitties have a heated water bowl for winter, and there was even ice on the top of that a few minutes ago.

All of these chores haven't left me much time for blogging (for those of you who keep checking...yeah, you know who you are!) 

Today was supposed to be my first regular Monday to work.  The 5:30 AM call from the school district about inclimate weather causing a 2 hour delay woke me sufficiently so that I never returned to sleep.  By the time I came in from checking the wood burner for the first time this morning, the delay had been changed to a full on Snow Day, so the girls hung out with my parents for a few hours.

At the office, the staff frantically called patients, and changed most of the appointments to the morning, so I worked through lunch, and then came home early today.  Not so bad.  I think that everyone has already cancelled for tomorrow.

The temperatures are supposed to drop into the negatives overnight.

The wind is howling, as it always does when the weather changes so dramatically.  (When I went to bed last night, it was 50 degrees and raining!)

I have been worried about the chickens.  I put additional panels around the bottom of the Egg Cart'n this morning to block the wind and some of the cold.  They seem perky enough out there, despite the deep freeze.  I have already collected 7 very cold eggs today, which is a big improvement over numbers in November and December.  If we can keep these ladies from turning into Chick-sicles overnight, I think things might be making a turn for the better!

Poplar Ridge weather report - over and out...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Starting the New Year With Clean Ovens

Over the past couple of days, I cleaned out both of my ovens.  It's really not a big deal with the self cleaning feature and all...I just never manage to get around to it for one reason or another.  So...both ovens are sparkling and clean...all ready for me to dirty them up this year.

The girls have gone to bed a bit early tonight.  It is our feeble attempt to make up for all of the late nights over the past week and a half, especially last night, when we all stayed up to watch the ball drop.  It has been nice to be hanging out with JP and the girls again.  He has been working so much lately, that it sometimes feels like we are ships passing in the night.  That is not to say that I haven't been completely fed up with the whining and fighting at times over the past few days either!

We have eaten well this Holiday:  tamales, scallops sauteed in butter, rare beef tenderloin, home made crab cakes, as well as LOTS of Christmas sweets and tonight - champagne.  We have laid around reading and watching plenty of movies.  J spent an evening in the city with a friend to see the Nutcracker ballet.  L had a birthday.  We took the girls to Build-a-Bear. 

It hasn't been all excess and lounging, however.  The girls and I spent about 90 minutes sweating it out to Dance Wii the other day.  JP and I spent several hours over 2 days building a bin for coal out behind the barn.  We also spent most of another day cutting and stacking wood.  I raked up the hulls from beneath the 2 hickory trees out by the girls' sandbox.  And of course, I got those ovens cleaned!

The lunches are packed for JP and the girls for tomorrow.  The notes are written for busing.  All is finally quiet.  It is time to start my personal pep rally, because we are GOING to get off to a great start in 2014.  I am aiming for organized and efficient this year...OK, just being ON TIME would be great!

Farewell to 2013, year of insanity.  Welcome 2014, when it all calms down.

Happy Birthday Little LAM

L has long been waiting to have a Birthday Party sleep-over.  She has a handful of school friends that she had intended to invite this year.  She blew it, however, and lost the Birthday Party during her 3+ hour temper tantrum before Christmas.

Consequently, her party this year was small and quiet - just the family at home.  We did take the girls to Build-a-Bear earlier in the day as part of their Christmas gift, and each of them picked out a sweet animal to bring home.  I'm sad that L doesn't get that sleepover that she has been wanting for years, but I'm a bit relieved that I don't have to throw together another party in the next couple of weeks.  Is that terrible of me?

The brown puppy, "Mommy Puppy", was her Build-a-
Bear friend from age 2.  The polar bear, "Julia", just
joined the family this year!

L asked for "the kind of cake Daddy gets for his Birthday" this year...a 5 Flavor Pound Cake.  This was also pretty simple...no crazy design or fancy frosting, just an almond glaze (although I did go all out and sprinkle the top with gold sugar!)

Her favorite gift was a big box of art supplies:  crayons, colored pencils, markers, oil pastels, water colors, and acrylic paints along with sketching pencils, erasers, and paint brushes.  She has already been creating some art with all of the above!

Happy 8th Birthday, my lovely girl!  Let's aim for that BIG party next year!