Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Surprise, surprise, surprise

(Do you hear Gomer Pyle in your head when you read that title, or is it just me?)

Our day was going along as usual.

Then Clarence came home and went out to do his chores. He got the surprise, and it wasn't a pleasant one.

He keeps a live trap set most of the time. We've had issues with raccoons, possums, woodchucks, and a mink(!) getting into his animals and the garden so he leaves a trap set up, hoping the critters will get caught before catching any of his rabbits or chickens.

This system has been known to backfire a time or two in the past. Just like it did today.

What do you do when you catch one of these in the trap?



You can't release it without getting sprayed. You can't kill it without getting sprayed. It really is a no-win situation.

Unfortunately, this one was small enough to spray from inside the trap. It got him as he walked past it. The previous ones have been larger and unable to lift their tails enough to spray him while inside the trap.

I've heard that tomato juice gets the smell out of pet's fur. I'm not thinking that will work on his jeans. Or his wallet.

Anyone know how to save his wallet, at least?
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Monday, September 29, 2008

Bulk food

This is part of what we bought at E & S (a bulk food store) last week in Shipshewana.



That big rectangular thing in the back is a block of Co-Jack cheese. It was $1.98/#, which is a price I can't seem to get close to anymore at home. It was 12.5#, quite a bit to deal with at one time but worth it for the price. I planned to shred it in my Cuisinart, bag, and freeze. Only problem was that when I shredded the first batch in the food processor, I was unhappy with how it came out. The thin shreds were fine but the way they tangled together wasn't. I reached into the bowl to get some and it came out in a ball that I couldn't easily disentangle. Time for a plan B. The hand shredder. Not my first choice, but it worked.

Then there are all the dry goods.



Kathy painted strawberries on a blue quart jar years ago as part of a birthday gift to me. It's starting to lose the design but I still love it. The rest of my collection of blue jars came from my mom or my inlaws and have mostly been taking up valuable real estate, not being used. Since they are all regular, not wide, mouth jars, I may regret using them for storage. It may be too difficult to retrieve the ingredients when I need them. We'll see. At least they are out of the plastic bags.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amish Acres

I didn't take many pictures at Amish Acres the other day but thought I'd subject you to looking at some of the ones I do have.



They have a schoolhouse set up, ready for the students. One interesting thing I didn't remember hearing before is that they don't give homework. The guide said that the Amish feel that schoolwork should be done during school hours so chores around the house can be done at home to teach responsibility. I'm thinking a lot of "English" students would like that rule.



I have an unnatural fixation with this drying house. Do I dry things in my electric dehydrator? Not often. Still, I find it so cool that they can fit 13 bushels of apple slices in the trays in this building. I don't even like dried apples. But it's still cool.



Clarence, on the other hand, has a fixation with this brick oven. He really wants to build one here. I gave him my camera and let him click to his heart's content. Consequently, none of the pictures show you the whole thing because he was focusing on details that interested him. I'll be sure to let you know when he builds one for me. ;-)



The drying house is the first small building behind those things I'm trying to ignore. Next to that is the brick oven building.

Did I mention I gave my camera to Clarence? You can kinda tell, can't you? Pictures of fowl are not something I would usually take.

Julianne and I were moving away from this scene as fast as we could because we thought the turkeys looked mean.

I think Allison was hoping to pet them.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Favorite recipe from Mom

This weekend's theme at Today's Housewife is favorite recipes from Mom or another relative.

My mom has many dietary restrictions, and has for many years, so most of the time I cook very differently than she does. Although she loves onions, she hasn't been able to eat them since sometime during my childhood. I find it hard to make any main dish without throwing an onion or three into it.

The recipe I'm sharing is something she can actually eat as well as being one I love, too. It is an easy, all-in-one casserole. The reduced fat ingredients are the way I make it, Mom always uses the regular ingredients. Yep, I even alter my mom's recipes a smidge. Hope you enjoy it.

Broccoli, Ham and Cheese Casserole


32 ounces frozen broccoli, chopped
2 cups cooked ham, chopped
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup reduced fat Bisquick®
3 cups milk, skim
4 eggs



1. Heat oven to 350 F. Cook broccoli and drain. (I actually only thaw and drain-it bakes for an hour so I don't think it needs pre-cooking.) Spread in ungreased 9"x13" baking dish. Layer ham and cheese over broccoli.
2. Beat remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour over cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shipshewana


Clarence and I celebrated our 20th anniversary on Wednesday. Tuesday, as has been our habit for most of those years, we headed down to Indiana for a few days of rest and relaxation.



There are a few places we go every year. We usually spend a little time at the flea market, although it isn't the main draw for us, E & S Sales (a bulk food store where we stock up on lots of things), Yoder's Hardware and Fabric store,



Cornucopia, to look for dish towels and check out the other cute stuff they always have.



A few years ago, an Amish man named Clarence started a kettle corn stand. It has been added to the list of places we simply must go. ;-)



Of course, we have to have a Jo-Jo's whole wheat, no butter, no salt pretzel (and no picture, either).

We visit the Bonneyville Mill to buy whole wheat flour and ooh and ahhh over the dahlia garden there.

We visited our dear friends who moved to Indiana a couple years ago and spent the first night with them. We talked and laughed and had a great time. Our friends took us to some new places for pictures of our pastor's pig puppet for the other blog. They got into helping us with ideas and we laughed some more.
We took the girls to Amish Acres, which Clarence and I had visited before kids but the girls had never seen.

We even ran into my inlaws' Amish neighbors in a restaurant where we decided to eat lunch on Thursday. It's a small, small world. [Sorry, you'll now have that song stuck in your head.] ;-)
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Coupons

I was the fortunate winner of a coupon giveaway held at Meal Planning Mommies site.



A thick envelope of coupons arrived in my mail on Monday. I'll go through them once we get back from our trip.

Thanks a bunch, Meal Planning Mommies!
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunflower cupcakes

When I buy candy corn, the girls like to make sunflower cupcakes.

We first made them a few years ago but I've forgotten where I originally got the idea.



They place the candy corn around the top of the frosted cupcake. The different types of candy corn give us a variety of sunflowers.



Some chocolate sprinkles spooned over the centers make the "seeds".



Our cupcake bouquet!
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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chicken salad sandwiches

I'm away for a few days so I've put a few random things in the lineup to post while I'm gone.

This is the oatmeal bread and chicken salad I made for the baby shower Kathy threw last month.

The bread recipe is from my best friend who got it from an old, old cookbook of her mom's, if I remember correctly.

The chicken salad is a shameless take on some Trader Joe's chicken salad I bought a couple years ago. Trader Joe's is a loooong drive for us so we don't go often, only if we are near one for other reasons. Therefore, it became necessary to make it for myself.




While I enjoyed TJ's salad, I thought tweaking it a bit was in order. That really doesn't surprise any of you who know me, does it? TJ's used currents, not craisins, and I'm pretty sure their almonds were sliced and not toasted. (I keep slivered on hand in the freezer so that's what I use.) Their almonds were kind of soggy, not crunchy.

Although I make it by sight, not a recipe, I'll tell you what I do.

Chicken Salad

Cooked chicken, diced (~2 cups)
Celery, chopped (1-1.5? cups)
Craisins-place in boiling water, let stand about 5 minutes, drain (1/2-2/3 cup, in ~1 cup H2O)
Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (no idea-til it looks good-I probably use too much)
Slivered almonds, toasted for better crunch and flavor (a small handful-I toast a bunch at one time and store in the freezer)

Chop up the chicken and celery, combine in bowl. Add mayonnaise, stir to coat. Add the craisins you have previously soaked and drained well. Toss in some slivered almonds. Mix all together. Tastes even better made ahead of time and refrigerated.

Oatmeal Bread


1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats (I've used quick and old fashioned. Both work well)
1 package yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups flour, all-purpose
1 egg, beaten


1. Pour boiling water over shortening, brown sugar, salt, and oatmeal. Meanwhile, sprinkle yeast over warm water in bowl and stir until dissolved.
2. Combine oatmeal mixture with yeast, add 2 cups flour and egg. Beat until well blended. Add remaining flour a little at a time to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl and invert dough so top is greased.
3. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down and let rise again until doubled (about 1/2 hour). Shape into loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise.
4. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 30-35 minutes.

Now that cooler weather is coming, it's a great time to bake some bread. C'mon, you can do it!

Oh, I almost forgot. I always double the bread recipe to get the four loaves you see in the picture.

I'll see you later this week, when we get back from our mini vacation.


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Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall decorating help

I'm not a decorator, I'm not particularly crazy about fall colors/decorations. I despise orange although I like pumpkins. So many blogs have really pretty pictures of their fall decor right now that I've been sucked in to trying some fall decorating. Not a lot, mind you, just a few things to add a touch of autumn here and there.



After seeing the pretty pumpkins at Eastern Market last week, Julianne and I stopped at Dollar Tree and noticed the cute little pumpkins above. I'm willing to spend a buck on a pumpkin, rather than the $$ the larger ones were in Detroit, so we picked up one in each color.

The basket came from Eastern Market.
I already had the candles and the mini-pumpkin-looking potpourri in the bag. These all smell wonderful.
I picked up the autumn mix candy this weekend. If we have time, we have some plans to use some of that in the kitchen. I'll show you when we're done if we manage to get around to it. In the meantime, it looks cute in the jar.

Here's where all of you come in. I need help.

What would you do with the above items? What would you group together, what would you keep separated? What can I do with that basket? Yes, I bought it with no idea where I would use it or what I would put in it. Help me, please?

I also wanted to mention that we are going away for a few days this week. We are leaving Tuesday morning and coming home Thursday sometime so I probably won't be back online before Friday. I'm trying to set up some things to post while I'm gone so feel free to stop by. I've got a recipe post coming on Tuesday but haven't gotten beyond that point in my planning.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do you see any tomatoes?

Our tomatoes have not been stunning performers this year. We had some early blight, Clarence cut off the affected parts, and the plants seemed to recover in time to now have a late blight.

I have very few leftover canned tomatoes so we went downtown to our farmer's market today to see if we could buy some canning tomatoes.



Clarence did find one vendor selling some blighted, unripe tomatoes. Umm, no thanks.

I found a vendor selling this eight cup muffin pan.

I think I did alright after all.

Oh, yeah, we got some tomatoes somewhere else on the way home. I better get to work on them.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Favorite Fall Food Recipe Swap

Life as Mom is hosting a recipe swap of fall foods.

Since we are now in apple cider season, I thought I'd share this syrup recipe we discovered a few years ago. Not to be confused with my unexpected invention of peach syrup, of course.

Apple Cider Syrup


2 cups apple cider
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice



Combine all ingredients together and heat until thickened.


Optional: Once thickened, add 1/4 cup butter. (I never do this)

I make a half recipe and cook it in the microwave. It mixes up and heats without overflowing in my 4-cup glass measuring cup.

I always intend to freeze some cider so we can have this more than seasonally but I've yet to actually do that. I guess that makes this a special autumn treat, which isn't all that bad an idea after all.

R. Hirt Jr.

I must admit my lack of fondness for chickens. I know, I know, I've blogged about "our" (I use that word very loosely) chickens in the past but I really don't like chickens. I actually am not an animal person at all. I do like our cat, but that's pretty much it for animals and me.



These pictures from R. Hirt Jr. were obviously taken for all of you who, like Kathy, like chickens. All the red, and the chickens, reminded me of her. She doesn't put chickens everywhere or anything like that, but she has a few chicken things in her red kitchen. And I like it-it looks good. But it isn't for me.



You see, I already have to tolerate chickens out back. I cannot allow them to take over the inside of my house as well.

Clarence had chickens years ago and had gotten rid of them. On a trip to Eastern Market one Saturday, in a moment of weakness, I told him I'd buy him a chicken from one of the vendors. He was astounded to say the least. He kept pinching himself and asking aloud who I was and what had I done with his wife?

I asked the vendor how much a chicken was. He answered that you can't just buy one chicken. They get lonely. (I wondered how Clarence had managed to signal this guy so subtly.) So, we came home with two roosters.

Explain to me how we now, years later, have 35 chickens out back. From two roosters. Obviously, chicken math is a subject I failed.



I had to include these pictures as well. I'm not a decorator by any stretch of the imagination. We put up decorations for Christmas and if the girls think of it, they make an Easter tree.

You bloggers have sucked me in.

I picked up some of these pumpkins and looked them over yesterday. Never would I have done that in the past.

I'm apparently not completely sucked in yet, though. I still have that dominant frugal/cheap gene that wouldn't allow me to pay $20-$40 for one pumpkin. But to think I actually lingered there looking at them.



This is one more shot up on the third floor. Don't you think these birch bark trees are great? I like the birdhouse, too. And the benches.

It's good for my budget that I have no idea where I could put any of this stuff.

I did buy one basket with a fall design on the side. We'll see if I can find a cute way to use it before fall has passed us by.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

A trip to Detroit

Although I love Detroit's Eastern Market, I don't make the trip very often. It's a long drive and I seldom need to go. However, Karmanos Cancer Center is only a couple blocks away, and since Mom has to go there anyhow, we sometimes stop over at the market afterward.

Today they were surprisingly quick about seeing Mom and getting us out of there. We waited over 5 hours on one particularly bad day down there, and then had to go to the infusion center as well, so getting done before noon was a pretty big deal to us today.

On to Eastern Market!



One of my favorite places in the market area is R. Hirt Jr. It's a three story shop but so old there isn't an elevator (there is one for stock, just not one for customers). This is looking down on the main floor from the stairs. They are known for their huge selection of cheeses. I love cheese but I have never purchased cheese from them. Do you think I'm allowed to talk about them, having never purchased their cheese?




These are the stairs you climb if you want to see what they have up on the third floor. This second floor doesn't have much, mostly just clearance and damaged merchandise. There isn't a lot of display room on this floor.




Although I did spy these strange potato mashers on the second floor. Anybody ever used one of these?




The third floor is completely different from the other two floors. It has gift and decorative items. And baskets. Billions of baskets. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration. More like millions of baskets. Or maybe just a few less? Lots and lots of baskets. Yeah, that's it.

Then there's the odd train just thrown in to see if you're paying attention, I guess. I thought it was cute but one of the wheels-or the axle?-was broken on the back side.

Check out this find. I'm sure the pig puppet will have lots to say about this, at least once he's done with some of his traveling.

I took some other pictures but will have to post them tomorrow.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I've been a little busy

I've been missing in action the last couple days.

Let me tell you a little story as to why I haven't been around.

Our pastor has a pig puppet. He occasionally uses it as a prop during his sermons. In the past, there has been an ongoing game when his pig shows up at church. Invariably, the pig disappears. Eventually, he is returned and the game is temporarily suspended.

Pastor brought his puppet to church a couple weeks ago. He propped him up on the music stand and talked about the pig staring at people, then proceeded with his sermon. There was never any further discussion about the pig, nor any tie-in with the sermon.

Doesn't that just scream "Hey, everybody! You need to kidnap my pig again"?

All righty, can do.



One particularly daring young person, who will remain unnamed, was gutsy enough to snatch the puppet during the closing prayer of the second service.

The pig has since been having fun and he...well, a ghost author...has been blogging about his adventures. It has been taking up my, er, the ghost author's time, I'm afraid.




He accompanied us to our homeschool co-op day where we got some great pictures of him. The pastor, of course, doesn't recognize these settings because we travel a distance to take part in our group.

So, nothing exciting is going on here at the barn but we're spending a lot of time giggling over this pig and his escapades. We'll see how long it takes for the ghost author to be revealed and the pig to be returned to his boring existence sitting on a bookshelf.



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Monday, September 15, 2008

How bad is this?

When we went to visit Mom on her birthday, I noticed a stack of old linens on her table.
This dresser scarf was in the stack. I grabbed it out to take a look.

I asked Mom what she was going to do with the stack. "Give it to Kathy" was the reply.
Aww, man, too late again.
Then Mom asked if I would like this piece. She told me that it is 50 years old-she made it between graduating from high school and getting married in 1958.
I feel kinda bad for snatching it before Kathy had a chance at it. Only a little bad.

I think it's beautiful and it will be nice to use on my island as a table runner.
I'm sorry Kathy.
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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!



Today was another reason to remember God’s goodness to our family. Today is my mom’s birthday. I don’t know that she’d mind me saying how old she is but I won’t, just in case. (She was born in 1940, so if you want to do the math, that’s up to you. But I didn’t tell you her age.)

In late spring/early summer four years ago Mom received a diagnosis of mantle cell lymphoma. She had several serious complications during her course of treatment, came close to dying more than once, and spent weeks and weeks in the hospital. Eventually, she achieved remission but it didn’t last as long as all of us hoped it would.

The doctors told her that the disease would get increasingly difficult to treat and remissions would only get shorter. They suggested a stem cell transplant. Some of Mom’s sisters were tested and my aunt was a perfect match. She enthusiastically donated her cells to give Mom a better chance at beating the cancer.

Mom received Aunt Beth’s stem cells on Valentine’s Day last year. The whole process was no walk in the park for Mom but she continued to improve and gain strength. She has remained cancer-free since that time.

So, today we are grateful. God has given us an extra measure of time with Mom here. She enjoys a quality of life that seemed almost impossible to imagine a few times during this journey. We have had the opportunity to witness many miracles and enjoy many answers to prayers.

We have indeed been blessed.
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Please pass the...

Today’s Housewife is looking for freezer meals this weekend.

This topic was a challenge for me because while I freeze many things ahead, I am not a once-a-month cook by any means. I most often freeze ingredients, rather than meals. I do things like pre-cooking chicken and ground beef so they are recipe-ready in the freezer. I keep many staples on hand along with the pre-cooked meat so dinner can go together in a hurry on busy days.

This time of year, I like to make twice-baked potatoes in large quantities and freeze them. As the weather cools and life gets hectic, they make a great side dish.

This recipe is easier than twice baked potatoes, however. If I were expecting a baby, I would not be doing twice baked potatoes-I’d be making this. In the Crockpot. Dump, stir, turn on crockpot, and walk away. Put your feet up and rest, read a book, call a friend. In a few hours, scoop it into freezer containers and, voila! side dishes for a few dinners.

Cheesy Potatoes

2 pounds hash browns, frozen, Southern style
1 cup onions, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup, condensed, undiluted
1 pound sour cream
1/2 stick margarine, melted (Optional-I leave this out)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Add salt and pepper for flavor, if desired.

2. Place in 9" x 13" pan, topping with one cup crushed potato chips. Bake in 375ยบ oven for one hour.

3. Can also be assembled and cooked in slow cooker (minus the potato chips).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Doughnut and cookie cutters

For Fat Tuesday this year, I made doughnuts (fried cakes, actually), for the girls. I suppose if I'm honest, I made them for Clarence and myself as well. Sugar, deep-frying, chocolate glaze...what's not to love? The girls immediately decided that it was a new tradition-so heaven help me if I don't remember next year.



That adventure was when I discovered that my doughnut cutter was sort of broken. It's an aluminum one with a plastic handle and a couple rivets on the inside that hold the center. The hole cutter screws in for doughnuts, comes out for cutting biscuits. Every doughnut I cut, I had to re-insert the center into the cutter.

I tried to buy a new one but couldn't find one anywhere locally. Is doughnut making a lost art? Have they all been snatched up to go in hope chests of girls who want to marry cops? Have the powers-that-be decided we don't need holes in our doughnuts?

Saturday, as we strolled around the flea market at the Octagon Barn, we happened upon a stall that had several vintage doughnut cutters. A couple of them were similar in style to the one I already had, but with red wooden handles instead of plastic. I ended up choosing this one with the fixed center because it.can't.come.loose.




On our way home, we stopped by Clarence's folks' house for a visit. While there, my mil gave us these old cookie cutters that came from Clarence's grandma. Aren't they cool?

Somehow, I've managed to avoid making doughnuts and cookies since bringing these all home Saturday.

I think the girls are secretly plotting for that to change.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More Purdy house pictures

I thought I'd add a few more pictures today of the inside of the Purdy House.




These top two pictures are both of the dining room. I really like the wallpaper and, although I am not a painted-trim-person, I like the green trim, too.

Believe it or not, we have a similar set of French doors in our house. We don't have a cool old house like this, but the previous owners salvaged the doors from the local library and installed them in our 1973ish house. Just a weird little fact I thought I'd throw in there. I'm sure you'll all sleep better tonight knowing that, right?



This is yet another bedroom (obviously-I guess you don't really need my commentary on all these, do you?). I liked the wallpaper in here, too.



Here is the "front" room. Love, love, love the fireplace wall. Love the windows. Love the glass-door bookshelves. Love the fireplace. Did I mention I love this wall?



I had to include it, even though it's a lousy photo. Sorry about that.

There was an even bigger reed organ in here and those dining room French doors lead into this room.

This was the end of the tour. As we stepped out onto the front porch, they had some ladies spinning wool into yarn. I really was surprised at the variety of things that were going on all over the grounds. I think we'll look forward to going back next year and staying longer.
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