Welcome to our 1864 farmhouse…life is good!

Friday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all the blessings of the season.

Day five...

...of the 5 days of cocoa

Something sweet & simple for a wonderful day.

Brown Sugar Cocoa...

3-oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/3 c. water
4 c. milk
1/4 c. brown sugar

Combine chocolate and water in a saucepan or double boiler over medium heat; stir until heated through; do not boil. Add remaining ingredients; whisk until well blended.

Thursday, December 24

day four...

...of the 5 days of cocoa!

This recipe is one my son has wanted to try since seeing the Polar Express movie, remember...

"You know, Montezuma, the king of the Aztecs would drink 50 quarts of hot chocolate every day. It was thick as mud and red. He put chili pepper in instead of sugar. Get it? Hot chocolate?"

...and so it's our cocoa for today.  The kids are still snoozing, but when they're up, this is what I'll treat them to.  Who knows if it's accurate or not, but I do know we'll be leaving out the green chile pepper!

I can't say it's "tried & true" until we actually try it...so come share our adventure for the day!

Aztec cocoa...

4 squares baker's chocolate, broken, or 2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. milk
1 t. chili powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cardamom
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. nutmeg

Add chocolate or chips to a saucepan with milk over medium heat; do not boil. Whisk until chocolate is melted and well-blended. Divide between 2 mugs; set aside.  Whisk together remaining ingredients, add 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) of spice mixture into each mug; stir to blend.

And Happy Christmas Eve! How do you spend your 24th...baking, wrapping, crafting?

Part of our day will be spent in the kitchen...time to mix up scratch for the chickens, molasses treats for the goats, and goodies for barn cats & our faithful guard-dog. Finishing touches need to be added to the gingerbread train and we'll decorate the last of the sugar cookies. The Christmas music is playing, the fire is crackling, and excitement is in the air!

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve...
may it be filled with the fun of surprises, and the spirit of the season.


day three...

...of the 5 Days of cocoa!

We're in the home stretch...today includes a bit of stocking-stuffer shopping and lunch out with the kids. There's a movie and some games on the agenda for tonight, and although the temperature is in the 50's (boo, hiss) there will be cocoa!

Tonight we're enjoying this recipe that's new to us. If you're a peanut butter cup fan, I think you'll like it!

Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa

4 squares baker's chocolate, broken, or  2/3 c. milk chocolate chips
2 c. milk
2 T. peanut butter

Add chocolate squares or chips to a saucepan with milk. Warm, but do not boil. Stir to blend; add peanut butter and whisk until smooth.  Serves 2.

Tuesday, December 22

day two...

...of The 5 Days of cocoa!

Okay, yesterday's recipe was absolutely tried & true...the cocoa we make on frosty mornings or to warm up before bedtime (houses that have been around 152 years tend to be cold in winter!) My son once called it, "Cocoa made with love." Ahhh...

The recipe for a Day Two is also tried & true...the difference? It is oh-so rich! (Don't let the fact that it has almost a cup chocolate chips in it turn you away...am I the only one who has tossed at least that many chocolate chips in my mouth "just because"?)

Go ahead and substitute milk chocolate or white chocolate if you'd like, and even try peppermint extract for a new flavor.  

If you're looking for something special, this recipe is yummy!

Rich Hot Cocoa...

2/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips (3-4 oz.)
1 t. butter
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1 c. half-and-half or cream

Combine first three ingredients in a saucepan or double boiler over medium heat; stir until melted and smooth. Stir in half-and-half or cream; blending slowly.  Do not boil. When heated through, pour into a mug and garnish with a dollop of marshmallow cream.  Serves one. 




Monday, December 21

the countdown is on!

Ahhh...how about a little Frank Sinatra to begin the week? He's right there alongside all my favorites...Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Dean Martin...and this song, Christmas Memories, is just what I'm dreaming of this week. (Oh, and skip the ad...yuck.)

Frank Sinatra...Christmas Memories

Today is the official start of Christmas break for the kids...yay! We all look forward to this time, and our routine never varies much. Generally, the "rules" are...

~ sleep in
~ stay up late
~ watch all the classic holiday movies
~ bake cookies & roast s'mores
~ enjoy fires in the fireplace
~ camp out under the Christmas tree
~ watch movie marathons (Harry Potter, LOTR, Dr. Who, Merlin)

Not a bad way to spend two weeks off!

The packages are wrapped (and hidden!) the cards are out (as of today...okay, cutting that one close) and the menu is planned...life is good.  Our son says he has a "gift for my heart"  ~ oh my, that makes me weepy and I don't even know what it is yet.

Anyway, since most of us will be busy this week, I'm keeping it simple by posting recipes for
The 5 days of Cocoa.  We have some recipes we tinker with, and some recipes I've been wanting to try...so we'll try them together!

Here's our tried & true Old-fashioned Cocoa...

3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. milk
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Combine sugar and cocoa powder; set aside.  Heat milk until scalding; stir cocoa mixture into warm milk; whisk to blend well.  Add vanilla.

(Now I tinker with this a bit...a little more cocoa, a little less sugar, just take a sip and change what you like.) And I usually pour the cocoa through a strainer then into a mug...dry cocoa never really likes to dissolve completely!

Add homemade marshmallows (oh-so easy!) or a dash of cinnamon...yum!

Wishing you all a wonderful week filled with the blessings of the season.

photo from: those fabulous folks at: http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/


Saturday, November 28

it's the big weekend!

Our family is ready for the annual Nutcracker performance and we couldn't be more excited! For us, this really kicks off the Christmas holidays.
An all-youth production finds that three months of rehearsals are coming to a close...tired dancers, aching feet, and this week...exhausting 10-hour rehearsal days.

But they wouldn't miss it for anything, and neither would we.
Can't wait to see our Sweet Girl doing what she loves!

Wishing all of you a great weekend as you too, kick off the holiday season!

Monday, September 28

enjoy the season you are in...

This is the season we are in...


and although we're setting out plump pumpkins and cheery mums, the season we find ourselves in, is Nutcracker season.

Sweet Girl finds her weekends filled with seemingly endless hours of rehearsals, aching feet and toes, along with pure exhaustion...but also, a smile so bright.
Yes...life ought to be enjoyed at every stage.

Thank you Sweet Girl for sharing this stage with us.

Friday, September 4

gussied-up clothespins!

It seems I use clothespins for more than keeping sheets on the clothesline!  They come in handy for chip-clips, bookmarks, keeping recipes together, and generally corralling any paperwork I have. Somehow all that paperwork seems a little less messy and looks just a bit better with a cute clothespin clip on it!

These are oh-so easy to make...just gather your favorite scrapbook paper, scissors, and a little decoupage glue (Mod Podge) and you're ready to begin. Simply cut paper to fit the tops of clothespins, then secure in place with a bit of Mod Podge.  Once the paper is secure, brush a thin coat of Mod Podge over the paper to give it a protective coating...just let dry.

It couldn't be easier!

So tell me; what will you use your gussied-up clothespins for?

Happy Friday...enjoy the long weekend!

Thursday, August 20

a big thanks to GRIT magazine!

A trip to the mailbox is a daily event...sometimes we find surprises, most times we find junk mail, and sometimes, well you know...bills.

Have I ever shared that our mail-lady's name is Betsy Ross...doesn't that make you smile? She's so friendly and always waves, and until just recently still drove her car, while sitting in the passenger seat, to deliver mail.

It always amazed me how she managed to drive that way with nary an accident.  Now she's sporting a new USPS mail truck...and while I'm sure it's much easier to maneuver, it's also one of those "passing of an era" events...mailmen and women using a series of tactical movements to drive with their left foot on the gas pedal!

Anyway, back to collecting the mail...this week, Betsy brought me a fun surprise from the editors at GRIT magazine...they gifted me with their Homemade Bread Special Issue...yay!  Inside are lots of yummy recipes along with tips & tricks for baking up loaves of wonderful bread, biscuits, bagels, and more. So whether you're new to bread baking, or a seasoned expert, I bet you'll find something new to try.


Soon a quick flip through the issue landed me on page 8...and what did I see?

My recipe for The Perfect Loaf...an oh-so easy recipe for bread baked in a clay pot. It's crisp on the outside, and chewy inside...mmm, perfect with dipping oils or pasta dinners (you know, for soaking up all that yummy sauce that's left on your plate!)

And so to the Editors at GRIT...

my wholehearted thanks. I'm thrilled to be included in this magazine...thanks so much for inviting me to share my recipe!

Monday, August 3

little surprises...

There's a cool breeze today, bringing welcome relief from the dog days of summer...yay!  Let's take a quick walk around the farm and I'll share some of our summertime surprises.

We had so many heavy frosts this past spring, we were certain the buds on our fruit trees wouldn't survive. But taking a tip from a friend, we kept spraying them with water...


a happy surprise..it paid off and now we have pretty Fuji apples on the trees!

My mother-in-law calls these beauties Surprise Lilies...and are they ever! They pop up in unexpected spots here and there - just when we need a bit of color.

And who doesn't love a surprise volunteer pumpkin plant...looks as if it's about to take over!

Now these aren't surprises...in May we couldn't resist adding some new chicks to our little flock! We have just successfully mixed them with our older hens (whew) and I'm happy to say there is peace in the coop...which is a surprise!

THIS is our biggest surprise...meet Bandito...

First of all YES it was a surprise the first time we heard that sound.

No, no, no...those little chicks were supposed to ALL be pullets!

I did my reading...okay, sometimes a hen will crow to show off her position as head hen. Then more time passes...

NO, NO, NO...

it kept happening, the crowing became stronger, and soon the tell-tale signs appeared. 

Saddle feathers - check
Hackle feathers - check

What's a girl to do? Sigh...

I do like the sound of a rooster crowing, and for now, while not overly friendly, he seems to be calm. Actually, one of our older hens has been seen bossing him around...that's fine with me, maybe she'll keep him in check. Crossing our fingers.

And looking for the bright side...it could have been worse, they could have ALL turned out to be roosters!

Thursday, July 23

and so it goes...

Ahhh, things to be thankful for in summer...

bees buzzing

flowers blooming...

garden-fresh produce...

and most of all...healthy goats!

You've probably seen these little faces before...Tardis, Bud, Glowbug, and G.B. They've been on our farm just about 2 years and are a fun bunch. With only a few escapes to their credit, they've been gentle and sweet, and come running when they see us. Both kids took goats as 4H projects this year and we've all learned a lot.

With that said, this is the story of Listeriosis.

As I said, each morning (noon or night!) when we visit the goats, they are eager to see us. They know a handful of grain may be coming, along with some treats or a welcome scratch on the back.  However one morning in June, Bud didn't come running...he held back from the others and wouldn't let us near him.

Everyone else eagerly ran for breakfast, but he stood apart.  Knowing this wasn't his usual personality, I watched him for a few minutes.  One eye was partially closed, his head tilted, and he was grinding his teeth...a sign he was in pain. Some quick reading told me these symptoms were probably Listeria or Goat Polio, a quick call was made to our vet and she was soon here.  She confirmed that it was Listeria.

As she took his temperature, she laughed...that temperature wasn't possible, she must have forgotten to shake it down. She took it again and it read 107 degrees.  She was stunned...telling me Bud shouldn't even be alive at this point. Immediate treatment was critical-antibiotics were given and were to be continued for 3 days. To our relief, in a couple of days he was eating and back to himself.  However 3 weeks later, we found him the same as before.  Another call to the vet...she needed me to take his temperature (remember when I said we all learned a lot?!) And so additional antibiotics were given (I now know the difference between SubQ and IM injections) and he came out of it again. It's been several weeks with no sign that Listeriosis is returning...and we're very grateful.

So, what have we learned..

-keep a close eye on hay...it must be dry to prevent the bacteria that causes Listeriosis

-keep a goat first-aid kit on hand...there was no time to waste driving to our local feed store to buy a thermometer

-stock molasses or Kool-Aid to add to water to help keep sick goats hydrated. All the medications possible won't save a goat if it dies of dehydration.

-read, read, read and have a great farm vet

And so that's been a part of our summer on the farm.  Many lessons learned and grateful hearts for a healthy little herd.

  • Tuesday, June 16

    Thanks again, Capper's Farmer!

    A heartfelt "Thanks!" to the kind folks at Capper's Farmer...
    I'm honored to have an opportunity to again be featured in their terrific magazine!

    As always, their issues are packed with clever ideas, inspiration, and how-to's anyone can use. This summer issue shows how to spin fibers into yarn and whip up a cute apron from an old pair of jeans. There are tips for building chicken coops using handy recycled materials and I've shared our family's checklist to help keep that new coop as fresh & clean as possible.

    I hope you'll take a look if you spot it at your local feed store or on a magazine shelf...there's so much to learn!

    Thanks again, Capper's!

    Monday, June 1

    It's a mad, mad month!

    May is always a madcap month! As it is for most parents, it's is filled with end-of-year concerts, recitals, parties, walking tours, and awards nights. May found me desperately trying to keep up with the usual domestic goddess chores, paired with gardening and substitute teaching - this gal is ready for a break! 

     Anyway, in the middle of all madness, can be found one of the sweetest sounds of spring... "peep, peep!" 

    Look at that little face-it's as if she has eyeliner on!

    We started calling her Cleopatra, but now I'm leaning toward Talulah...who knows what we'll decide on. One gal looks as though she's wearing a mask, and so Little Man has named her Bandito!

    In time, these 6 new chicks, Araucanas and Brahmas, will be joining our little flock. I just can't wait to see the blue-green eggs!

    Hope all is well...more to share next time. Stories of a goat the vet says is a miracle, and a baby kitten who needed a home.

    Happy June!

    Thursday, April 16

    I can feel it...spring's coming!

    3 weeks ago it snowed several inches...
    2 weeks ago it rained several inches...
    now, practically perfect in every way!

    Now, I can feel it...spring is in the air. Why yes, I am sporting my apron and spring cleaning...dust bunnies, be gone!

    Soon, this is what we'll be enjoying...

    Hold onto your hats girls...it's gonna be a great spring!

    Thursday, April 9

    barn love...

    You've heard it before...I LOVE old things!

    Old houses, quilts, books, signs, pottery, etc. The list goes on...but what's missing from that list? Old Barns!

    Love them...beautiful chippy paint, held together with pegs, oh, I wish the walls and stalls could talk - BARNS!

    So, in looking back on some old photos on my camera, I found I'd forgotten to share some snapshots of a lovely barn that was on our local barn tour...gasp!

    Last fall I had the honor of lending a hand as folks from near and far came to look this delightful barn over...every nook & cranny was filled with something that told a story.

    Come on, let's take a quick look!

    Ahhh, my idea of a perfect day!

    Saturday, March 14

    another day to celebrate - pi(e) anyone?

    Ahhh yes, we are celebrating Pi Day today...who doesn't love a reason to eat pie?

    Yesterday we toted pies to school for the kids to enjoy, and today, if you stopped by you'd find the aroma of turkey pot PIE in the air... yum, topped with a golden crust, it's bubbling away in the oven now ... while warm slices of Tollhouse PIE are eagerly anticipated for dessert.

    And so we hope you are celebrating too...after all, a little slice of pie alongside 
    all that mathematical goodness makes it even better!

    Tuesday, March 3

    Happy Pancake Day!

    Oh joy...rapture!

    if there is anything that goes with ~

    beehives surrounded by drifts of snow...

    hidden clotheslines dreaming of spring...

    and amazing sunsets over the farm...

    it's crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes! Topped with real butter and syrup..yum! I can hardly wait 'til everyone's home for dinner!

    Whatever you call 'em...flapjacks, pancakes, griddlecakes, johnnycakes...they sound like the perfect "breakfast for dinner" on this frosty, icy, wintry day.

    (And if you're the one who decides on these official holidays...thanks, this one's a winner!)

    Hope you'll all be celebrating along with us!

    Thursday, February 5

    The ancient pines creak in the cold, howling winds our friends from the north have sent to the Midwest. Looking out the beautifully frosted windows to the 50 acre field across the road, I can see the wind has created swirls of snow drifts that are easily up to my knees in places. And clustered toward the center of the field, are dozens of Canada geese. Being the strong fliers that they are, it's unusual for us to see them settling in, but today's wind and  weather has them crowding together to keep warm.

    Inside, as anyone who lives in an old house will tell you, some rooms are as cold as an igloo! Well, not really, but at times it seems that way. Still standing strong after 150 years, we often wonder how the original owners kept warm on these blustery days. Surely the 3 fireplaces were burning brightly to keep toes toasty warm, and the woodbox in the kitchen must have been kept full. Each room downstairs has a door...perhaps many of them were closed to keep heat only in the rooms that were in use.  

    Whatever they did, we are grateful they, and those who came after, kept this old house as they did. History is one of my favorite things...old houses, old barns, old ways. And even as the temperature plummets, extra wood stacked close at hand, hearty stew bubbling away on the stove, and the laughter of children keeps me warm.  I'm glad to be at home, waiting to see what the weather brings.  

    Thursday, January 22

    launching the new year...

    The kids had a 5 day weekend recently...5 days! The brilliant blue skies from earlier in the week gave way to sharp winds...soon temperatures plummeted and the snow came with an icy blast.

    Hubby and I are always up first, waiting and listening for the official word. Soon the happy dance starts and whee ha...what began as a delay turned into a day off of school, and then another, and another.

    I love snow days! Days like these mean tossing another log on the fire, making hot chocolate, popping corn, roasting marshmallows, kids in pajamas enjoying long movie marathons, and playing games. They're different than other days...true, still 24-hours long, but snow days seem to last forever, and mean more. 

    These days are so simple, and I love it that way. Listening to the crackling fire, it's easy to forget that often the world spins too fast...and that getting snowed in brings with it a slow, steady pace that helps to maintain perspective.

    January means not only looking forward, but looking back as well. If the past year has had struggles, it's good to know they are done. Looking forward, we ponder what we will do with the time given us.

    It's really up to us...

    as for me...I'm hoping for more snow days!

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