Sunday, March 30, 2014

Taming the Beast

Even though we woke to another coating of snow this morning, it was all blue sky, sunshine and mild this afternoon. 

Poor Kali, who is covered with about 3 inches of thick, black wool all over, has been overheated more than not lately.  She looks more like a bear than a dog, and I've taken to calling her "Beast."  She pants and paces all day long.  Since she is not scheduled for a haircut for over a week yet, JP and I couldn't stand it any longer.  We double teamed her for over an hour this afternoon with scissors and electric clippers.

Trash bag full of hair clippings...
 
Now she looks like she lost a fight with a hedge trimmer, but her hair is significantly shorter, and we can see her eyes again.  When her hair appointment comes up in early April, the groomer can fix all the boo-boo's, and she'll look lovely and sleek again.

 
At least for now she will be ready for the 70 degree temps forecasted for tomorrow.  Just don't tease her about her bad hair-do...it's not her fault!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Follow Up...

It snowed again last night.  When that fact is paired with the one that demonstrates that it has not been above freezing up here for 72 hours now, it causes me to feel like shriveling up inside.  There has to be an end, right?  If it doesn't come soon, JP and I are going to have to cut wood again, and that isn't an attractive option at this time!

To follow up on the snacks that I prepared yesterday:  none of them received rave reviews, although J liked the Roasted Chick Peas (as did I initially...but they were mealy and less crisp just a few hours after baking...?)  L told me that she wasn't really tired of peanut butter crackers.  I guess we're back to that and the hummus then.

Peanut butter, snow, cold - repeat ad nauseum until some day...Spring arrives.  Wake me up when that happens.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Peckish

It's official.  I have completely run out of ideas for after school snacks.  There are only so many days of hummus and carrots, apples with peanut butter, cinnamon toast, ants-on-a-log or peanut butter/nutella crackers that we can tolerate.  I have recently resorted (rather guiltily) to buying snacks for after school...trying to change things up and have something that lasts until we eat dinner around 6:30 - pizza bites, mozarella cheese sticks, fried mac-and-cheese.  These things are not only unhealthy, but they are also fairly expensive!

This morning, I finally went on line and googled "after school snacks."  A wide variety of ideas came up, many of them including bananas (which I have to rule out since L cannot even be in the same room with someone eating a banana.)  Some seemed rather time consuming to prepare, or featured ingredients that are not typically staples here (asparagus?)

I settled on 2 recipes that I have already prepared this morning.  I'm hoping that the Roasted Chick Peas actually last until the girls arrive home from school!

Roasted Chick Peas

 
There are literally dozens of recipes for these on the web - this is what I did:

1 - 15.5 oz can of garbanzo beans
1 1/2 T olive oil
1/8 t cumin
1/8 t garlic powder
1/8 t black pepper
1/4 t kosher salt

Drain and rinse garbanzos in a strainer, then pour onto paper towel lined baking sheet and top with another paper towel.  Gently rub until dry and skins are loosened from beans.  Pour beans onto baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and shake to coat beans.  Bake at 400* for 30-40 minutes, shaking pan every 10 min, to desired crispiness.  Combine seasonings and sprinkle over beans after removing from oven, then shake to coat.

HINT - line your baking sheet with tin foil and you won't have to wash it afterward!

There are so many possible spice combos, so be creative.  I'm thinking Italian Seasoning-salt-pepper-Parmesan might be worth a try, or sweet/spicy with cinnamon sugar, ginger and a dash of cayenne!

Granola Balls

 
I adapted this from a recipe on Martha Stewart's web site.

1/4 c honey
1/3 c crunchy peanut butter
2 T unsalted butter
1 c cereal (the recipe called for Rice Crispies, I used Puffed Rice, I think Cheerios would work equally well)
1 c rolled oats
1/3 c dried fruit (I used apples and blueberries)

Melt honey, PB and butter in medium saucepan over med-lo heat until creamy, then stir in remaining ingredients.  Drop tablespoonfuls into paper cupcake liners and refrigerate for 15 min.  Makes 24-28.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

These are like healthy no-bake cookies.  I think the addition of a few coarsely chopped almonds would be nice, as would a smidge of salt.

I will keep you all posted on how these snacks go over with the kiddos.  Please share any snack time favorites from your kitchen!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Laws of Nature

There should be some sort of rule that there cannot be any more snow fall after March 20th.  It is officially Spring, and the weather should have the sense to follow those directives and turn a bit warmer and RAIN instead of snow!  Instead we have had flurries all day.

Oh, I know it won't stick around.  I understand the weather this time of year is temperamental at best.  This craziness just messes with my psyche, which is over tired from Winter at this point.

When I ventured outside in the mornings just a few weeks ago, it was dark, and cold, and silent.  Now there is pink in the sky, and cold, and a cacophony of bird song from every direction in the mornings.  This morning I took an extra few minutes to pet the kitties, and heard one persistent little fellow sing "My feet are cold!  My feet are cold!  My feet are cold!" over and over again. I'm sure they are!  Poor little thing! 

The chickens would be singing that tune as well...if they knew how to sing.  Instead, they explode from the chicken house every time I come outside and run along the fence, hoping for some sort of treat.  They look at me, with their little red eyes, and shiver with cold and disappointment before heading down the hill to scratch in the weeds.

Inside, although it is warm, I have felt chilled all winter.  Since Christmas, I have gone through the extra-large refill pack of my new favorite tea sachets...Harney & Son's "Paris".  That's 50 cups of tea to keep me warm, not to mention the other varieties and the morning cuppa Joe (or two!)

So, when Spring has the sense to actually keep warm, I'm going to have caffeine withdrawal.  Something else to look forward to!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's a Wrap!

Over the past 2 days, I made 34 newspaper pots, and planted them with tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkins and basil.  Some of the tomato seeds were heirloom varieties that I picked up at Monticello last summer.

 
I'm hoping that most of these little guys germinate!

I thought it was a fitting way to usher in Spring.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Countdown

The girls and I are on a full out countdown until Spring, which officially occurs in just 2 days.  To be honest, the time change just over a week ago helped immensely.  The days FEEL longer, and seeing daylight after dinner is good for all of our souls.  We have had a couple of minor setbacks in our "Welcome Spring" campaign, including 2.5 inches of snow yesterday morning, and a dusting the Monday last.  But in between we have seen sunshine, been outside without coats, and even had the windows open!

There was a period of rain last week that SMELLED like Spring.  Do you know that smell?  It is an earthy and green and hopeful smell.  It made me realize that I need to get some plants started for the garden.  (So what if the beds are not ready to plant because of my injuries last Fall - we'll have to make the best of it this Spring and forge ahead.)  I've already missed my deadline for planting Spring peas, since yesterday on St Patty's day, the beds were buried beneath snow.

I had a brief moment of panic yesterday, seeing the snow.  I was concerned that I would have to reschedule the Sears washer repairman for the 5th time, as he has been unable to get his van up our driveway the first 3 times.  He was here at 8:15 this morning (the fourth try), and has already gone.

I am contemplating another day home alone, punctuated (as usual) by Dr appointments and meetings, and trips to the auto repair shop, and wondering how I can perk myself up.  Perhaps I will make newspaper pots to plant seeds, and finally get that seed order made that has been on my "to-do" list for a few weeks.  That should be a good way to welcome Spring to Appalachia!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On Gravel, Spring and Hibernation...

I have spent the morning so far alternating between raking gravel out of the grassy areas (a necessary Spring chore in the Country) and checking in on J, who is home sick.


The gravel was inadvertently moved from the driveway into the grass with snow by the plows for the past 2 months.  Somehow, I think it arrived there in an easier manner than it will be removed. 

At times I feel like I am fighting a losing battle with the green spaces on our Ridge.  The grass I plant gets covered by gravel, or torn up by tractors, or trampled by random roving cattle (as do my flower beds.)  The trees and flowers I plant get destroyed by deer, and the mulch gets dug up by the kitties, who think it makes a lovely litter box.  I keep at it though, every Spring I rake and mulch and weed and trim.

I pondered as I worked, the post of my friend, who is not living the life she would have planned for herself.  Not many of us are, I think, including myself. 

I find myself consumed by an overwhelming restlessness lately.  My days are mostly too quiet and unstructured when they used to be filled with Home School and chores.  I had intended to work more hours when the girls went to school, but instead, I am working fewer.  I compare my situation with a bear, just coming out of hibernation after a long winter - blinking in the sunshine, and wondering for a moment "where am I?"

The answer is, truly, I am where I want to be.  Yes, I wish things were easier, and always occurred the way I'd hoped.  Yes, there are daily struggles and conflicts and sometimes pain, but they get resolved.  I honestly wouldn't want to be any other place - I wouldn't know what to do without the daily mundane and crazy chores, like raking gravel and de-lousing chickens.  I love having my family around me, and miss the girls when they are away at school, no matter how much I complain.

So, like that bear, I have arrived at near Spring a bit thinner (not much - another losing battle) and more weary, but determined to persevere.  All good things come to those who work hard.

And I have a blister on my little finger to boot.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cot or Coat?

My Dad finished installing the wainscoting in our Dining Room today.  Although I was corrected by my 8 year old, who said it was "wains-COT-ing", according to the Miriam-Webster Dictionary, "wains-COAT-ing" is also an acceptible pronunciation.  Regardless, it looks wonderful.

Here are before and after pictures:





 
In other news, I treated the hens for a second time this morning, and there was nary a louse to be seen!
 
The sun has shone all day for 3 days.
 
Hooray!


Monday, March 3, 2014

If Winter is Never Ending...

...stay in and cook!

We decided to take a break from cutting wood this weekend.  JP tied up loose ends inside, and tried a temporary fix for our ailing water pressure tank.  I did some mending and lots of laundry.  For dinner, we decided to try something new:  home made ravioli, with our *new* favorite home made sauce.

I cut the sheets of whole wheat pasta into circles, then put a dollop of ricotta cheese (mixed with mozzarella, Parmesan, fresh basil, pepperoni and egg) in the middle and pressed the edges.  They were delicious.


Here is the sauce recipe...it makes about 2 quarts - some for now, and some for later!

Pasta Sauce with Basil
 
-Giada De Laurentis
 
1/2 c EVOO
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 (32 0z) cans crushed tomatoes
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
2 dried bay leaves
4 T unsalted butter (optional)
 
Heat oil over med-hi heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 min.  Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, basil and bay leaves and simmer, covered, on lo for 1 hr or until thick.  Remove bay leaves and process until smooth with hand blender.  Add butter 1 T at a time to round out flavors if sauce tastes acidic.
 
We had my parents over for Sunday dinner, for which we cooked Atlanta Brisket, with Roasted Salt-and-Vinegar Potatoes.  And for dessert (since we were still in the filled pastry mode) apple and cherry hand pies.
 
 
After the feast, we lounged on the couch and watched "Soul Surfer" together - a movie based on the true story of a 13 year old girl in Hawaii, who had her arm bitten off by a shark while she was surfing in 2003.  It was an inspiring movie, and we had a nice, relaxing afternoon.
 
The 2 hour delay that was called last night was changed this morning to a Snow Day today, our 12th.  The girls and I decided to make Fairy Gingerbread, and have a Fairy Tea Party.  If you are not familiar with Fairy Gingerbread, as I was not until this afternoon, they are paper thin wisps of cookies that melt in your mouth.  These gingerbreads left a kick of ginger that would knock the wings right off a Fairy!
 
The Fairies who live part of the time in the girls' "Hidey Hole" under the stairs were invited, and sent back a note of acceptance.  Grandmom was also invited, although she was required to don wings when she arrived.
 
 
The girls got extremely silly, to the point of filling their tea cups with sugar and eating it with a spoon, so things disintegrated quickly once all of the tea had been sipped.  It was, however, a good way to spend a cold and snowy afternoon.
 
 
Luckily, we only got 4-6 inches of snow, instead of the 8-10 inches that were forecasted.  Here's hoping for a full day of school tomorrow!

One More For Good Measure

Stella:  "I eat chicken food and hickory nut hulls,
then puke on the carpet."
Kali:  "I steal trash while people are away and shred it."