Thursday, December 28, 2017

Birthday Snow

So we expected a little bit of snow for Christmas, and got a dusting.  It was enough for us to call it a "White Christmas!"

It was quite a surprise for us to awaken on L's birthday to 1/2-1 inch of snow!  Luckily, our friend, C, spent the night, so the girls spent a couple of hours playing out in it.





Even Stella had fun.

 
I think L had a nice birthday.  It took most of my energy to bake her this Tres Leches Cake, so JP brought home Chinese take out for dinner.  We also tried playing her new Harry Potter Clue game, which is actually quite complicated!


This is a narcissus that she planted and grew.  It is the birth flower for December.


Over all, we had another nice vacation day!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Miracle

I am home after spending 2 nights in the hospital.  I did it again - scheduled elective surgery for a few days before Christmas!  This time it was a bit more extensive - a hysterectomy.

I stressed about the worst case scenario, but everything went better than expected, and I'm actually feeling better than I anticipated after sleeping in my own bed last night, and getting a shower.  I just have a strangely poochy belly, and walk a little more slowly than I'm used to.

I stayed on the Labor & Delivery floor, so my walks every couple of hours took me past the nursery, where I could see lots of tiny toes & noses.  I'm so glad that I did not bring a baby home this time - I'm long past that point in my life!

Once again, I worked really hard to have everything done ahead of time, so I have just been sitting back, watching Christmas movies, and sipping hot tea.  Unfortunately, the dirty clothes hampers that I emptied out right before surgery, filled up again while I was away.  We are slowly working through that as well.

We are expecting snow tonight, which should make Christmas day even more perfect!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Filets de Poisson Gratines, a la Parisienne

Yes, I've been channeling Julia again.  This time I made fish fillets poached in white wine with cream and egg sauce - it was supposedly the dish that made Julia want to learn French cooking.

Some things I've learned in the past two recipes:

1)  Butter, butter, butter - I'm all out, so no more French cooking until after I go shopping!

2)  Wine - L asked why I had to cook EVERYTHING in wine these days?

3)  Channeling my inner Julia is becoming quite messy - as in "every pan in the kitchen is dirty and the floor is sticky" kind of messy.

4)  It is delicious!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Channelling My Inner Julia

Today I prepared a recipe from my "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", by Julia Child, for the first time.  I must say, this is the first time that I ever sautéed bacon in butter - a sure sign of a French recipe.  I also added cognac, which I subsequently lighted - it made an impressive flame!  The recipe that I tried was "Coq Au Vin," and it was absolutely delicious, although it wasn't much to look at.


 This weekend, we attempted to get the Christmas baking done, as it is the last weekend before my surgery.  I made "Millionaire's Shortbread," which tastes like a million dollars, and looks like at least five bucks. J made "Chocolate Mint Cookies."  L baked peanut butter biscuits for the dogs, and mixed up dough for gingerbread men, which is in the fridge.  I attempted to make sugar-free buckeyes for JP, which apparently taste better than they look.


 
L has been busy writing a Harry Potter/Crazy Cat Lady inspired Christmas story this weekend.  She looks super smart with her new haircut and glasses.

J has been working hard on making personalized gifts for her posse.  Speaking of new doo's, here is a picture of her enjoying a "Candlestick Salad" and sporting her new haircut.  This recipe can be found in one of my go-to cookbooks, "The Mennonite Community Cookbook."  It can also be found here.

 
That's about it for tonight folks, I hope you are enjoying these days before Christmas!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The End of Deer Season

Well, another hunting season has come and gone without my even seeing anything that I could shoot at, let alone shoot at something.  It seems that it has been a fairly poor season for everyone concerned...except the deer.  Our neighbors were complaining that they didn't get anything, and my dad only got one doe during the senior season in October.  Oh well, as long as I don't hit any deer with my car this winter, I'll be ok.

JP and I took advantage of a hunting-free day today, and hauled more wood to store under the barn lean-to near the wood burner.  We also cleaned out the hen house, since the hens have been treated twice with wormer and have about 4 more days until we can keep their eggs again.

In the meantime, I have collected 5 feed buckets of eggs in the garage. 


JP, the girls, and I took them down by the creek and threw them across into the field.  We didn't want to dispose of them anywhere near the house or the chickens.  The girls and I took advantage of a tree and practiced our aim.  It looked pretty gross by the end of our session!


We finally got our trees decorated.  Our main one is in the family room downstairs, and the girls have a small one in their room.  It looks so festive!

J decided to get her hair chopped off.  It looks cute.  I'll post a picture when she lets me take one.  L decided to have a couple more inches cut off her tresses once she saw her sister.

Next weekend, I am hoping to finish up Christmas shopping and bake our Christmas cookies.  I only have 11 days until my Holiday Surgery, so I need to have things done ahead of time.

This week is L's Christmas Chorus Concert, and J's is next week.  There will also be one or two Basketball practices and some voice/guitar lessons thrown in as well.

I hope that all of your Holiday preparations are going smoothly!

Friday, December 8, 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It has been longer than normal since I last posted.  That is because there has been no end to the activity going on around here.

L started Basketball practice the week of Thanksgiving.  It appears that her team is quite small, so she will have LOTS of playing time.

We had a wonderful visit with a lot of JP's family over Thanksgiving weekend.  My parents were kind enough to allow us to use their house for sleeping a couple of the families.  We had SO MUCH to eat, so my nightmares where we ran out of food were moot.

 
On Sunday, JP, the girls and I went to see the newest "Thor" movie.  It was J's request, since her birthday was the previous weekend, and we really didn't do much, and it was quite enjoyable.

The following weekend was the premier of J's first ever HS show.  She had a nice little part, and even had a song or two that she sang with just 2 other girls.  The school put on "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," and she played Alice (the Sunday School student that ALWAYS plays Mary.)

 
L and I went both nights, and both shows were equally well done and fun to watch.  J had a cast party and sleep over Saturday night, so she was a tired girl when cast and crew were called back on Sunday afternoon to strike the set!  The director is not letting any time slip by before embarking on the Spring show - auditions are December 20th.


 
On Saturday afternoon, L had a presentation of her own.  She and another girl sang a few solos of Christmas songs at our local Historical Museum during their Holiday Open House.

 
This week hasn't been a cake-walk either!  On Monday, J's soccer coach called a practice "just for fun."  It seemed a bit sadistic to me, especially since L had basketball practice at the same time, and I was stuck in a Board Meeting.  J also restarted voice/guitar lessons, L had voice, and J had an appointment.

L also picked up her new glasses this week.  The school sent a letter home before Thanksgiving that she failed her vision screen at school, so I took her in to our Optometrist for an evaluation.  L requested that I cut her hair, so on Wednesday, she went in to school, sporting her new look - glasses and hair about 6-7 inches shorter.

This afternoon is L's rescheduled voice lessons, and now J wants a haircut too.  Both girls also want to go Christmas shopping.

I managed to get the Christmas trees up (but not decorated), and most of the other decorations up this week in between activities, so that is on the docket this weekend as well.  I had time to sit out for rifle season for 2 mornings, but didn't see anything that I could have safely taken.  I plan to go out one more time tomorrow morning.

We had a bit of blowing snow yesterday, and things were almost white up here on the hill for a brief time.  They are calling for more snow tomorrow - a coating to an inch.  It's about time that it starts acting like the Holidays around here!


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Oh, the Weather Outside is...Wierd

I ran a 5K on Saturday morning to raise money for our Library.  It's been nearly 15 years since I ran a 5K!  Today is the first day since Saturday that I can walk without constant pain.  It rained for the entire race, but luckily the temps were in the high 40's, so it could have been worse.  I still had to have hot coffee and a hot shower, and snuggle up in my woolly socks and sweats before I felt warmth in my bones again afterward.  If only I would have run faster, I wouldn't have spent so much time in the cold and wet!

That evening we celebrated J's 15th birthday.  She wanted the BIG red velvet/white chocolate cheesecake cake again (which is honestly delicious, even if it does take a long time to make.)

 
On Sunday morning, JP and I got up with the birds and butchered 6 chickens in the midst of swirling snow flakes.  I think we found (and disposed of) the sick hen, but I treated the remaining 18 with wormer anyway.  I canned chicken all afternoon.

Today has been super windy.  A big pile of leaves blew up against the garage, so I gathered them up and covered my herb bed and the shade bed by the house with them.

Tomorrow JP's sister & husband from Japan will arrive at our house.  They flew into DC this afternoon, and are spending tonight trying to recover slightly from jet lag.  We are expecting JP's other 2 sisters and their husbands, as well as a nephew and his wife on Thursday afternoon.  So, we'll have a houseful for Thanksgiving, but it should be fun!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More Poultry Problems

I discovered this morning that one or more of my hens has roundworms.  I'll spare you the extremely disgusting photo, and just say that I saw multiple live worms in fresh poop.

I've done quite a bit of research today, and was reassured by the information that this is an extremely common problem, although I've NEVER, in all my years of caring for chickens, seen this issue.  Some of the biggest carriers of the roundworm eggs are earthworms, slugs, and grasshoppers - all of which my ladies have access to since we allow them to forage.  (If you are really eager to see that picture of worms in the poop, check out this link.  There is also an even more disgusting photo of worms INSIDE an egg.  Gross!)

They are easily treated too, just give them medication twice - once now to kill the adults, and again after 7-10 days to kill the ones that hatched from eggs in the intestines.  The only problem is that it is not necessarily safe to eat the eggs while they are on treatment, and for 2 weeks after treatment.  This means that we will have to throw away a LOT of eggs over the next 4-6 weeks.  (I am estimating that we will lose at least 500 eggs.)

That hurts!

It is also not safe to eat the meat during that same period, so I think I will wait until this weekend to treat the hens, AFTER we have the chance to butcher another half dozen (so that I am down to my preferred over-winter number of 18.)

In any case, I feel dirty.  I'm going to go wash my hands another 6 or 7 times, regardless of the fact that I didn't touch either hens or poop, and definitely not worms.

Monday, November 13, 2017

All Day I Dream About Soccer

J tells me that this is what the soccer team believes that "adidas" stands for.  I can tell you that it is not only the team that is sleeping-eating-breathing-dreaming soccer these days, the parents are too!  I have been frantically searching the internet for statistics regarding our standings and for predictions regarding how we would do in the State Playoffs.  This only got worse after the girls won their first round playoff game last Tuesday.

What I found was that we were in second place standings, just behind the team we were scheduled to play in the semi-finals.  We were also slated to place second overall, with that same first place team coming in third.  Based on this, I thought we had a good chance of making it all the way to the finals in Hershey next weekend!

Unfortunately, our girls lost to that 1st place team last Saturday, with a final score of 1-0.  (That team that was predicted to win the States overall also lost on Saturday!)  It was a big let down after this long, long season of wins.

We didn't have time to mourn or sulk, however, because the Cinderella Ball was scheduled to begin just 3 hours after the game ended!  We rushed J home to shower and primp, and I drove her off to the ball looking much different than she had 3 hours earlier!


Before...
...After
 
She had a nice time at the ball, and arrived home just before the Subaru turned back into a pumpkin!

So...no soccer practice tonight (J ate dinner with us!), no soccer game tomorrow, and a free weekend for her Birthday this coming weekend!

We did celebrate my mom's Birthday yesterday, by taking her out for lunch at Red Lobster, and having cake and ice cream at our house afterward.

 
The soccer dreams have ended.  In fact, I did no dreaming last night, and very little sleeping.  I seem to have caught the virus that L had a few days ago, and feel as lousy as she must have then.  Ugh.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Soccer Fall

Instead of "Soccer Sunday" like we used to have with County League ball back in the day, we now have "Soccer Fall."  It's like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going, and going, and going...

J's team won the championship title for Western PA on Saturday!  They played at the professional soccer stadium in the big city, and beat the team that had been undefeated for the past 39 games. 


It was a very nice day for a soccer game, considering that it is November and could have been REALLY COLD.


Photo by Darnell Graham
 
Instead, it still looks like Fall around here.  Lots of leaves are still on the trees.

 
The girls head to the first round playoffs for the State Championships on Tuesday evening...here we go!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Soccer Mom

Here is the headline from the front page of the sports section in our paper today:


And boy, oh boy, was that game COLD!

So  J's soccer team will play for the Western PA Championship toward the end of this week, and will automatically advance to the PA Championship playoffs, which start early next week.  This is the first time EVER that the soccer team from our school has made it this far, so we are all understandably proud of these girls.

But...the soccer season continues for another couple of weeks...AND I ended up with a giant bag of smelly soccer balls in the back of my car for the day!

By the way, this is my 1000th post.  Who knew I had this much to say?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Pumpkins

Despite all the soccer craziness that has been disrupting our lives for the past several weeks (J's team won their section, got a first round bye in the championships, won their quarterfinal game neatly, and are headed to semifinals tomorrow), we managed to fit in a few moments for carving pumpkins on Friday afternoon.  Our friend, C, came out to join us, and the girls even created a Halloween channel on Pandora, which featured "Monster Mash."

Afterwards, L went to the Halloween dance at the Middle School, and the rest of us watched "The Sixth Sense."

The Jack-O-Lanterns turned out great!


 
They look good in the dark too.

L even carved a tiny face on the back of hers - kinda like
a cheerful Voldemort!
 
Yesterday was a cold and rainy day.  I took the opportunity to roast the pumpkin seeds.  My favorite way to do them is with the classic "Chex Mix" seasonings:

 
"Chex Mix" Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- 5 T salted butter, melted
- 2 T Worcestershire sauce
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1/2 t garlic salt
- 1/2 t onion salt
- 2 cups pumpkin seeds

Dry the pumpkins seeds, spread out on a cookie sheet, in a 250* oven for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  Mix all seasonings with butter then toss well with pumpkin seeds.  Spread on cookie sheet and continue to roast for another 45-60 min, stirring every 15 min.  Cool and enjoy!

In my attempt to prove that Pumpkin Spice Lattes actually contain no pumpkin, I happened across a recipe for such that I actually really liked.  (Yes, it does contain a small amount of pumpkin!)

 
PSL - makes 2 servings
- 2 c milk
- 2 T pumpkin puree
- 2 T sugar
- 1 T vanilla
- 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 c strong black coffee

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over med heat, and whisk until hot.  Pour into mugs and top with whipped cream and a dash of pumpkin pie spice.

In the midst of all this Fall Fun, we had another tire incident on Wednesday!  One of the van tires blew on the way to school/work and looked like a splatted pumpkin.  Luckily it happened just past our driveway, so JP was able to return, reload everyone in the Subaru, and head out again.  Another lucky break came when I remembered the used van tire in the barn, so once my dad was able to help me take off the flat, I was able to drive to the tire shop on the "donut" and get it changed out.  Whew!

 
I hope you all are enjoying Halloween-ish-ness!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Taters

I dug my potatoes on Saturday, and was very pleased with the harvest this year - the best one yet!


It beats last year's harvest by a mile.  Actually, just this one spud beats last year's harvest!


I weighed them all, and got almost 48 pounds worth of really nice looking taters.

I'm pleased.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tire-d

I am SOOO thrilled that we just started a 4 day weekend, thanks to Teacher In-Service at the schools, and JP thinking ahead to take the days off work.  We all need a bit of a break - J & L, especially J, have had a lot of late nights lately.  Yesterday, J was at school from 7:30 AM to 9:30 PM due to various activities.

Yesterday I spent 7 hours standing in the gym at the middle school, shouting over a bunch of tweens about density, mass, volume, and "excited molecules."  I volunteered, with a bunch of other moms, to help out some folks from the local Science Center who brought an assembly and hands on experiments to the school.  It was fun, but it wore me out! 

Another thing that makes me tired is that even though the regular soccer season is over next week, our ladies are awesome enough to make it to the WPIAL playoffs - and I have no idea what that means, except that this 2 practice a day thing with the play and soccer is going to continue for some unknown period of time. 

I'm also tired of things that break, and I'm tired of spending time at the repair shop.  I don't think it's a good thing when the manager of Quick Lane knows me on a first name basis.

Both tires on JP's mower blew out 2 weeks ago, so I was in charge of obtaining new ones. 

Just a few days later, the low tire pressure light went on in my car, and I found this in a rear tire (new in February, and which of course couldn't be repaired):

 
Last week I took one of the trucks for inspection.  It didn't pass because they say it needs 4 new tires.  I think we've driven it less than 200 miles in the past year, and don't plan to increase use of it any time soon.  This is also the one that I just had the windshield replaced on it because it wouldn't pass due to a chip in it.  Ugh.

But, for the next few days, I plan to just put those things on the back burner and try to relax.  It looks like rain, which would be lovely as well.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Falling

Last weekend, it really began looking like Fall.  The leaves are coming down.  We've had an "Indian Summer" of sorts, with temperatures in the 80's...so really it's been warmer recently than all of August was!  Just yesterday, it dropped back into the 70's outside, and I've had the windows open to gather in all the fresh air!


 Not only leaves are falling from the trees, the nuts (black walnut, hickory & acorns) have been dropping as well.  The ones in the chicken yard are the size of lemons!  It's a wonder none of the hens have been conked on the head.

Actually, maybe they were - they were acting really goofy last week.  I washed the cover for my futon, and hung it on the highest clothes line, which comes very close to the chicken yard.  Apparently when I pulled it up there, it freaked them out - they squawked and ran and flew to the other side of the yard.  About a dozen of them must have flown out, because for the next couple of hours, we saw chickens happily grazing in our yard, and we had to flush several of them out of the woods.

I finished staining the entire tree house.  JP had to put me up in the bucket of the tractor to reach the highest parts.  That wasn't exactly fun since I'm quite afraid of heights!  It looks much better now, especially since I cleaned the inside really well too, and even scrubbed the decks, which were growing some mildew.


This week has been excessively busy.  J landed a part in the winter play, so she has had play practice AND soccer practice after school.  She also had 2 home games this week.  I estimate that I spent over 4 hours just driving to and from the HS to pick her up or take her to something.  I also spent 5 hours at soccer games, 2 hours in Library meetings, and about 8 hours cleaning.

Today the Sears repairmen were out again to look at my oven.  This was the 6th time, but they FINALLY found the problem - a short in something located in the bottom oven that actually controls the top one!  Of course they had to order another part, so they will be back in 2 weeks.  Sheesh.

After they left, I was able to sow grass seed out by the driveway where my dad cleared a bunch of brush, and also harvest my squash.  I only planted 5 plants, and this is what I got:

38 Butternut, and 12 Acorn Squashes!

This afternoon, I took a leisurely drive out in the country to the apple orchard that I like to use because they don't spray.  I bought 2 1/2 bushels of apples for my mother and I to make applesauce.  It was a lovely outing.

Now I am sitting at the computer, getting ready to pay the bills, and the only thing falling at the moment is me - falling asleep.  I am so grateful for a weekend in which there are no soccer games!

Enjoy your Fall, everyone!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mystery Poo

Every couple of days, I find a lone turd in front of my garage.

It's not the dogs or cats, or the random cattle that meander through here from time to time.

My best guess has been either a raccoon or an opossum.  According to my book, Mammal Tracks & Sign, by Mark Elbroch, opossum scat is "rarely encountered in the field," and consequently there are no accompanying pictures.  The photo of raccoon poo, however, looks similar to the mystery turd, and is within the size range listed.  The book warns, however, that "raccoon scats can carry the parasitic roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis, which can be fatal in humans."

So it would appear that we have terrorist raccoons prowling in front of our garage on a regular basis.  Wonderful.

It makes as much sense as the chip that suddenly appeared in the pickup windshield this summer.  I have confirmed this afternoon that it will NOT pass inspection without repairs/replacement, so the windshield company will be getting more of our business it seems.

By the way,  L got up early yesterday, finished her homework before school, and was even keeled and fairly polite for most of the afternoon.  It was a Wednesday Miracle!

I am off to pick up the girls from school.  J has another game tonight and needs the extra time for homework.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Gahhhhh!

So, school activities are moving along at quite a breath-taking pace.

J is becoming Miss Joiner, and so far has joined:  the Debate Club, the Green Team (school recycling), and the Spanish Club, and is planning to try out for the winter play - auditions are Monday.  In the meantime, she continues with soccer practice for 8 hours/week, and is having more and more games - 3 this week alone!

L is having a hard time adjusting to Middle School homework, which I remember being an issue with J back in the day.  She is so overly particular about her work anyway, that it takes her longer than most.  She is also frustrated that she isn't able to play soccer, but I'm not sure how she would fit it in!

Tonight I am just overwhelmed by it all.  I have used about 2/3 of a tank of gas in the past 24 hours, just picking girls up from 2 different schools, taking L to voice lessons, J to meet the soccer bus for a game, and then driving to said game, and taking her to and from practice tonight.  L had a full on melt down tonight because she didn't get her homework done before bedtime (spent the first 2 hours or so this afternoon goofing off or refusing to get serious about it) and went to bed late, kicking and screaming.  She wants us to wake her early to finish it.

I see tomorrow going down the tubes already.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Final Countdown...

This weekend was the final countdown until back to school.  We spent it fairly quietly, as we were recovering from shouldering our way through the crowds at the Outlet Mall on Friday to finish up the school shopping.

J had her 2nd HS Soccer Game on Saturday - this one at home, so we all went to watch.  L actually served as ball girl.  Our team won handily.

 
This is the first year in a LOOOOONG time that I haven't been shuttling 2 girls to and from soccer practice and games this time of year, and the first time that we haven't had Soccer Sunday in 10 years!  Unfortunately, the County Soccer League didn't have enough girls for a team for L, and we are waiting on word as to whether she can practice with the Middle School Team and serve as Team Manager for a year before she is allowed to actually participate on the team.

We spent a couple of hours relocating the chicken run to the field of clover that I sowed in the Spring.  They have much more afternoon shade in this location as well.  The hens seem to be happy, and we are getting at least 20 small eggs daily!

Yesterday, L and I finished up a couple of projects that we meant to get to all summer, and the girls got their backpacks loaded up with all of their new school supplies.  I was super impressed that J did that without being asked, and also put away all of her new clothes, packed a lunch for today, and prepped her breakfast as well!  Maybe it's true that "With great power comes great responsibility."

L complained several times last night that she was not ready to go back to school, and that the summer was WAY too short.  Both girls commented that they didn't sleep well last night.  J is super excited for HS, L is pretty anxious about Middle School.  We'll see how they feel this afternoon!

 
All I can say is that it is amazingly quiet up the hill this morning.

Happy Back-to-School to all!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Great American Eclipse 2017

We finished up our summer vacation this week, by taking a road trip down to SC.  No, we didn't go to the beach, although that would have been fun.  We went to see the solar eclipse in an area of totality, and that was awesome!

Since we left the house at 5:30 on Sunday morning, we were ready to turn in early that night.  We met up with JP's niece at our hotel, and she spent the night with us.

Around noon on Monday, we went to the local library, and sat in the air conditioning to read until around 2 PM.  Then we went outside to their good sized yard, where we found a spot near a tree so we could have a bit of shade (it's HOT in SC!)  We laid on a blanket and watched the earth's shadow slowly cover the sun.  It was amazing that we still had a decent amount of light, even though the sun was 95% or more covered.  The light was eerily flat, and the shadows were unusual.  The crickets began chirping as the darkness increased, and stopped again once the event was over.

 
JP took some really good photos...I'm just going to post them in sequential order.








After we got our fill of eclipse (although we are already planning for April, 2024), we headed north 3 hours to visit with JP's sister and family for a couple of days.  The girls got their cousin fix, and it was enjoyable to see their home and get our Carolina BBQ fix.

On the way home, we drove through Mt. Airy, and decided to stop at the Andy Griffith Museum.


 
 


We had a nice vacation, but it's good to be home.

Today we braved the crowds at the Outlets, and finished our back-to-school shopping.  J has a home soccer game tomorrow, and school starts for reals on Monday.

Whew...welcome to the real world!