welcome to our farmhouse…life is good

Friday, December 31

lauching a new year!

On New Year's Day it's our tradition to eat stuffed pork chops and sauerkraut...two foods said to bring good health and good fortune for the new year. And while some of us (who will remain nameless) can only bring themselves to eat a single strand or two of sauerkraut, the meal has most certainly become a family tradition. Rounded out with mixed vegetables, cranberry sauce, and buttery sour cream & cream cheese mashed potatoes,
it's a dinner we all look forward to.

And as we enjoy the day watching movies and playing games together, we'll also cast a thoughtful glance back at the past year, wondering what the new one will bring.

As for our thoughts today, we are sharply aware of how blessed our lives are...good health, surrounded by those we love, and in a warm and cozy home.

There's an old saying that goes, "As you begin the year, so shall you end it." May we all begin 2011 healthy and surrounded by family & friends.

Wishing you a very happy New Year filled with blessings!

Tuesday, December 28

and about that Christmas clean up...


"One of the most glorious messes in the world
is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. 

Don't clean it up too quickly." 

- Andy Rooney

Friday, December 24

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you the warmth and love of the Christmas season.
Now, more than ever, we're reminded that the finest gifts and sweetest joys come from the heart.

Enjoy every moment!

Wednesday, December 22

prime rib roast recipe...

As the kids say, "Oh my dears to chicken ears!"
Christmas is nearly here!

And with the last of the baking in the oven, the only thing left to do it decorate sugar cookies and gingerbread men for Santa. Whew!

With the baking wrapped up, it's time to think about Christmas dinner. After the flurry of cooking that happens at Thanksgiving, we keep Christmas dinner very simple. For as long as I can remember we're prepared a prime rib roast...it's so easy and
really delicious. Here's our can't-fail recipe.

Prime Rib Roast

1, 3 to 5 rib roast
all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste

Rub roast well with flour, salt and pepper. Arrange roast bone side down on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Place in a 500 degree oven and cook 15 minutes per rib. (for example: 3 ribs, 45 minutes; 4 ribs, 60 minutes.) The oven will smoke.

Turn off heat; however, do not open oven door for 2 more hours. This will give you a rare roast with a crusty outside. If you'd like a medium roast, add 15 minutes to the roasting time. Carve and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

We also make a tangy sauce to serve alongside...just blend prepared horseradish and sour cream together until you get the flavor you like.

Served with a salad, baked potatoes, and veggies, this roast makes a wonderful Christmas dinner...one that keeps us out of the kitchen and enjoying the day.

Sending you Christmas wishes with this lovely poem...


Scent of Winter

I love the smells of winter:
The pans of gingerbread,
The smells of wood and ashes,
And old quilts on the bed,
The friendly smells  of boots and skates
And the fresh smell of new snow,
The wondrous smells of Christmas pines
And holly and mistletoe.
I love the smells of winter;
And even the flowers of spring
Can't quite compare with all the joys
The smells of winter bring.

-Beverly Trickett

Saturday, December 18

Christmas cobb salad recipe...

It's cookie-baking time here and we're up to our elbows in flour, butter, and sugar! Once the counters are visible again, I'll share a few of our favorite cookie recipes.

However; as much as I love cookies, I'm also looking forward to Christmas dinner, so I thought I'd share this salad recipe. It's been a favorite for years and you really can't go wrong.

If blue cheese isn't a favorite, use feta, add grapes or cherry tomatoes instead of mandarin oranges, or sprinkle on croutons in place of almonds. It's really a simple salad using your favorite ingredients...it's the tangy flavor of the vinaigrette that we love.

Cobb Salad

6-oz. pkg. salad mix or baby spinach
2 c. roasted turkey, chicken or ham, cut into strips
6 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
15-oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4-oz. container blue cheese crumbles
3/4 c. butter toffee-glazed almond slices

Cranberry Vinaigrette
5 T. balsamic vinegar
4 T. olive oil
1 T. sugar
1 c. jellied cranberry sauce


Whisk together vinegar, oil, and sugar. Continue to whisk until sugar dissolves. Stir cranberry sauce well to break up; stir in vinegar mixture slowly until well blended.

Arrange salad mix or spinach in a large pasta bowl or on a platter; arrange ingredients across lettuce. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing. Serves 4 to 6.

Thursday, December 9

keeping it simple...

The season's joys are as plentiful as an overstuffed Christmas stocking. We've had snow here in the Midwest for several  days now. It's the kind of snow that falls gently all day long and everything is covered with a delicate powder. The pine
needles are even tipped with a bit of an icy glaze, and look like prisms on a sparkling chandelier.

As we know, December is a month of intense activity. Sweet Girl's Christmas program at school was last night, Friday is our church Christmas social, Secret Santa shopping is Friday as well, with school parties and get-togethers with friends next week.

However, with all this activity, we have a tendency to want to slow down and enjoy this quiet time of rest from the endless to-do list of warm-weather projects. This past Sunday a friend and I were talking about Christmas decorations, and we both agreed we were keeping it simple so we could really enjoy the season.

For us that means fresh greenery on the mantels & swags on the doors, sweetly scented candles, a fragrant tree covered with treasured ornaments, and a crackling fire. I want the kids to come inside after building a snowman or snow fort and find a cozy kitchen where they can sample freshly-baked cookies and warm up with mugs of chocolatey cocoa. We look forward to camping out under the Christmas tree where we giggle and talk long into the night before falling asleep under it's twinkling lights.

handmade ornaments




a centerpiece of fruit & greenery in a favorite bowl



a hand-crafted Advent calendar made by a dear friend

It really is the simple things in life that matter...and that's what we'll be trying to focus on as we celebrate this special time of year.

On the agenda for next week...cooking baking! Yay!
We are a cookie-loving family, they disappear in no time.
And because of this, I plan carefully...if I do the baking too soon, the goose won't be the only one who gets fat!

Wishing you Christmas cheer!


Wednesday, December 1

'tis the season to believe...

A dusting of snow, briskly blowing wind, and delicate patterns of frost on the windowpanes. Deer are feeding in the fields close to our home...it's now December, and soon it will be Christmas.

Although there's a bit of sleet hitting the windows, we hardly notice it as we enjoy the warmth from a crackling fire and hear a kettle singing on the stove. It's a good day to stay indoors, retrieve presents from their hiding places and begin the fun of wrapping. With Christmas music in the background,
the scent of a fresh-cut balsam tree, and wrapping paper close at hand...we're all set.

Or so I think...
no cat alive can resist chasing ribbons, ruffling tissue paper, or sneaking inside gift bags. And soon the kittens, who were earlier settled in for a morning nap, are racing around the room in a flurry of activity. I remember one year our cat, Zoey, slipped inside a bag and then decided she wanted out. As I was trying to help, she was soon out of my grasp and ran around the house in circles trying desperately to get the bag off.

It was useless...she'd put her head through the bag's handle, and the faster she ran, the more noise the bag made...causing her to run even faster! After several minutes she stopped to catch her breath, giving us just enough time to set her free. I admit, it was a bit funny to watch, but I'm sure she didn't think so.

Oh well, as they say, 'tis the season for animals, too! And in that spirit, the kids will make birdseed ornaments to hang on outside trees, plan special meals for our animals, and leave carrots and water for the reindeer.

It's a time of readying for Christmas...shopping, planning,
baking, secrets & surprises. They're all a part of the joy of the holiday season.

Yes, Christmas is coming...peace and joy to one and all.

Wednesday, November 24

sending Thanksgiving wishes...

Wishing you a day filled with family & friends, laughter,
sweet memories, and quiet moments to reflect on your
many blessings.

Saturday, November 20

the many moods of Little Man...

Little Man has a birthday today...where does the time go?

He's such fun to photograph...laughing eyes, mischievous grins, and he does a mighty good impression of his grandpa's "stink eye" as it's called. You know...it's that look that that says,
"I don't believe a word you're saying."

I love the way his expressions change during each step of a haircut, so I decided to snap some pictures on one of our
visits to the barber. 

Here's the typical scene...












Happy Birthday Little Man...we love you!

Thursday, November 11

my, oh my...mini pies!



A recent trip to Amish country found me coming home with mini pies. Just right for two, and so yummy, they gave me an idea...
this year for Thanksgiving I'll bake mini pies to share with
family & friends.

Pie making seems to be a lost art in our fast-paced world,
and really they're so simple to make. I've been using a dough recipe shared with me by a friend...I'm not sure where it originated, but I think it's the best. The secret ingredient
is the vinegar...it makes the crust tender and flaky.

Pie Dough
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1-3/4 c. chilled butter, diced
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c. ice water
1 T. white vinegar

Combine flour, sugar, and salt; cut in butter using a pastry blender or 2 forks. Whisk together remaining ingredients and add to flour mixture. Gently mix ingredients with your fingers until combined. Divide dough into quarters, shape each into a ball; wrap in plastic. Chill one hour before using. Makes 4 single crusts.

You'll find mini pie pans alongside the kitchenware in most stores. To make mini pies, simply reduce your recipe's baking time to about 35 minutes.

The pies pictured above hadn't been out of the oven long and
Little Man was pacing while I tried to take a picture.
"Can we eat them yet?!"

If you haven't done it before, give pie baking a try...
guaranteed smiles!

Wednesday, November 3

November's bounty...

The early days of November are a gift. Each day we've been blessed with a clear blue sky and warming sunshine. Our busy harvest time is over...potatoes and onions are stored in the cellar, while jams, jellies, and pickles line the pantry shelves.
We enjoy the slower pace of autumn, lingering over these
glorious days.

And while the days are warm, the mornings are quite chilly.
It was 23 degrees this morning when I bundled up the kids and took them to school, and there's a forecast of snow for Friday morning. Most likely it will only be flurries; however,
I'm planning a warming soup and homemade bread
for dinner that night.

The flannel sheets were put on beds days ago...
ahhh, how wonderful they are to climb under on a frosty night. And how hard to climb out of of on a chilly morning!

November sets aside a day to give thanks. I read somewhere,
"Be glad of life," and so I am.

Giving thanks for...

-a blue-skied day filled with warm sunshine

-a woodpile, crackling fire, and family to share it with

-cozy flannel sheets, quilts  handmade & handed down,
  and little ones who love to snuggle

-health, family & good friends

-my time here to love and laugh, learn and grow, and enjoy the
  simple pleasures to be found in the everyday days of my life.

Life has a way of making the days pass quickly...too much to do, not enough time. However; let's set aside some quiet moments and pause...let's make every day a day of thanksgivng.

Friday, October 29

merry halloween!

The richness of October is all around us. Even the strong and sudden storms that moved through the Midwest this week, quickly blew past leaving us with a truly beautiful sunset.
















My mind shifts ahead...still cleaning the barn, and like a squirrel, tallying food storage for winter. However; this week, October is filled with mystery and fun as Halloween comes closer. It's time
to fetch a big, plump pumpkin and let the fun begin!


The kids giggle with delight as they pull the seeds and "goo" from inside each pumpkin!



The seeds are saved for roasting, while the "goo" quickly finds its way to the compost pile. After a bit of plotting and planning,
the pumpkin faces are decided on, carved, and are soon glowing on our front porch.

We'll enjoy trick-or-treating in town  at my in-laws' home,
and because the weather has turned quite cool, a pot of chili along with some pumpkin soup will be simmering on the stove. I'm still a kid at heart, so we'll make Mummy Dogs and Jack-o'-Lantern Pizzas too...for the kids, of course!  (the easy recipes are below.)

On Saturday evening, when the moon hangs low in the sky,
where will you find us? Enjoying the company of pint-size imposters...cowboys and superheros, princes and princesses, ghosts and goblins as we walk door-to-door with a very muscular Iron Man and a light saber-wielding Ahsoka.
We'll take pictures, eat candy, laugh, and store up memories.

Wishing you a very merry Halloween!



Mummy Dogs
11-oz. pkg. breadstick dough
16-oz. pkg. hot dogs
Garnish: yellow mustard

Separate dough and wrap one section around each hot dog to resemble mummies. Be sure to leave an opening for the eyes. Place on an ungreased baking sheet; bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
Add 2 dots of mustard on each "face" for "eyes."

Jack-o'-Lantern Pizzas
individual-size pizzas
Garnish: black olive slices, green or red pepper strips

Bake pizzas according to package directions. Remove from oven; garnish with 2 olive slices for "eyes" and a pepper strip
for a "smile."


Monday, October 25

October 24...happy anniversary!

My, oh my...
time flies when you're having fun!

(who are those young kids?!)

It was a happy weekend...
we wore ourselves out at a waterpark on Saturday, then whipped up our favorite foods at home for Sunday dinner.

And what's one of the best things to happen to us?
These sweet faces!

How's that saying go?
"All because two people fell in love."


Tuesday, October 19

a trip to Amish country...

Saturday we made a trip to Amish country. It was one of those perfect autumn days...a bright blue sky, trees at their peak of color, and lovely farms and scenery along the way.

After a terrific lunch (food is a must!), we found a great family farm to explore. This slide into a sandbox filled with corn kernels was a sure-fire hit!

The kids had a ball...and if you're wondering, why yes, we were shaking corn out of shoes, shirts, and shorts! 

Next we were off  to explore the corn maze. What an adventure!
To give you an idea of the detail, this is a sky view.

photo courtesy of Sharp Family Farm
We bravely ran inside...it's times like this when the kids are glad Daddy is a human GPS!


There were bridges built along the way with views of the
prettiest farms.

Next was a hayride (which, to be honest, was a bit fast and furious...being bounced over the edge was a definite possibility!)

And as the sun went down, a chill began to set in, so we warmed ourselves by a cozy fire.

On the way home, the kids quickly fell asleep.
To me, that's the sign of a good day spent making memories.

Friday, October 8

October and barns...

October has arrived...sunny, with crisp mornings and skies of robin's egg blue. The afternoons and evenings are warm & breezy, but as the evening shadows fall, autumn's chill finds us scurrying to gather wood for a bonfire.

As we walk to the fields, we hear the crunch of leaves underfoot and spot plentiful acorns that have fallen from the oak trees.
The kids tell me that that acorn caps will surely be chosen by fairies and turned into bowls, and squirrels will be stocking up for the approaching winter on what the fairies leave behind.
 
For us, the warm days and gentle breezes of fall make it an ideal time to clean barns. It's time to sort out the gatherings of summertime, pack away garden tools, and prepare a warm & cozy spot for barn cats to snuggle into. The barn closest to our home is large, open, and dirt-floored...most likely a spot where farm wagons and tractors were once sheltered. It's a nice barn to putter around and explore. The discoveries have been few: a millstone, milk bottle, 1950's farm magazine, and a hand-painted sign. To me, these "treasures" tie us to all those families who have lived here before.

door hinges


pegs




chiseled beams
The inside of the western-facing corn crib has been lined by a previous owner with old doors and windows. Secured tightly,
side-by-side, they were meant to keep out the winter winds and snow. The doors are fascinating to look at...brass and ceramic knobs with rosettes, skeleton key lock-sets, and decorative hinges speak of another time. I suppose they were replaced with more "modern" doors, and while I love the old 6-panel doors with glass knobs that are in our home, these doors, relegated to the barn, are beautiful to me as well.

An enduring symbol of country life, it's a good thing to save and keep barns. It seems to me they're at their truest when filled with the activities, sights, and sounds of farm life.

Now it's time for me to live up to the old saying,
"Make hay while the sun shines."
I'd better get back to work cleaning our barn...
it was 35 degrees this morning. Something tells me that winter
will soon fly in.

Tuesday, October 5

the last county fair...

I know autumn is at our doorstep when we make plans to go to our last county fair. And although we had to run between the raindrops, we had a wonderful time!

The huge train layout is always the number one stop...



followed closely by the fair food!
 The hamster balls were a big hit...

and this little girl was adorable showing her calf.
Now, these deep-fried treats might be good...
(has anyone tried them?)
and I know that's sour cream and a cherry tomato on top...
but this fair food needs a new name!
It was a great family day out, and we came home exhausted
and happy.

And now, after seeing all the animals, I really, reallly want some pygmy goats!

Does anyone have them, or have any advice to share?
(or, maybe more importantly, how to convince my husband?!)


Friday, October 1

evening clouds...


The sky was fascinating Thursday evening as the clouds from Tropical Storm Nicole made their way to the Midwest.


I couldn't stop looking at them...they almost didn't seem real
as they crossed the farmland from horizon-to-sky.
The photos don't do them justice...they were beautiful,
but I also felt as if they were swooping in to surround us.

And yes, I was sure the Wicked Witch
was about to descend at any moment!
(am I the only one who can hear the music?!)

The wind began to switch
The house, to pitch
And suddenly the hinges started to unhitch
Just then the Witch, to satisfy an itch
Went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch!

Happy Friday!


Saturday, September 25

the Country Living Fair...


Ahhh yes, 98 degrees was registering on the truck thermometer when I dragged myself away from the Country Living Fair,
but it was worth every minute in the heat!

Filled with antiques, vintage collectibles, autumn whimsies,
and more goodies than I can possibly list...here are a few photos to give you a feel for all the fun!

noted as Indian temple doors




garden gatherings and handcrafted items





clever decorating ideas






retro kitchenware
    
two of my favorites together...
handmade quilts and oodles of watering cans!





simple, but oh-so pretty inspiration





















There was a charming farmhouse garden selling heirloom seeds, as well as demonstrations in basket weaving, broom making, painting & distressing furniture, and paper making. I would definitely recommend you make a road trip if it's anywhere
close to you.

What did I bring home? Well, an old dough board and water trough were on my wish list, but they were not to be found. However I did find a new addition to my watering can collection and a giant bag of kettle corn was a hit with the kids!

Now, if I'd have only read the back of the brochure, I'd have known there was a porter service that would gladly deliver that
50-pound grinding stone to the truck. Sadly, I passed on it thinking I could never carry it the 1/2-mile to the parking lot. (And no, rolling it the entire way was not an option!)

Oh well, there's a barn sale next weekend...
maybe I'll find one there!

Monday, September 20

herb weaving...

Harvesttime is here, and both city and country kitchens are filled with the aromas of spicy tomato sauces, pickling spices, and fruity jams & jellies. Oh how good these homegrown foods will taste when the winter winds blow!

Today; however, I'm feeling the need to be creative. So this morning I gathered and washed bunches of rosemary, basil, sage, oregano, and thyme...I love to save summer's fragrant herbs for winter's soups, stews, and roasts. And since it's both pretty and practical, I save them in an herb weaving.

This herb weaving is oh-so easy to make, and hanging from a handy spot on a kitchen cupboard, herbs are right at my fingertips whenever I need them.

 If you'd like to make one, I'm guessing you already have all that you need...herbs, empty picture frame, scissors, twine, ruler, and 2 sticks the width of your frame.

To begin, knot the end of a length of twine on a corner of the frame, then begin wrapping the twine around the front and back of the frame. You'll need at least 6 lengths on both sides...you can always add more, but the number will need to be even. Knot the end at the frame's corner and cut the twine.

Weave the ruler over & under the twine and turn it on its side. This will create an opening and will be your guide for weaving. Slip one stick through the opening, push it up against the frame. Remove the ruler and weave it again, but this time in an opposite way. For example if you began with an over/under pattern to add the stick, this time you'll begin with an under/over pattern...you'll keep this going back & forth throughout the weaving.

 Now weave in the herbs...gently, but securely, push them up so they're snug against the row above. As herbs dry, they shrink...weaving them tightly will help keep them in place. You can also weave in flowers that dry well...globe amarath and sedum are very pretty and add a bit of color.

When you're weaving is complete, turn the frame over. Cut through the center of the loose lengths of twine on the back and gently remove the frame. You'll have at least 6 pairs of twine...one on each side of the stick. Pair one up from the front and back and knot securely. Continue with the remaining pairs along the bottom; repeat with the top pairs.

Yay, you're done! And don't let the lengthy instructions scare you off...it's really easy and you'll be done in no time at all! 
 
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