Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter....we has it


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That photo isn't blurry, friends. Those are huge, gargantuan snowflakes pouring down. We are definitely having us some winter now.

This is the front of the barn.

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The chairs where we sit in summer to watch the chickens.

The chickens' play area is now reduced by two-thirds. The tarp collapsed from the weight of the snow and quarter-inch ice layer. I managed to prop it up so they can at least get outside the coop a little bit and scratch at some hay and cracked corn.

I can't keep up with feeding the birds. As soon as I throw down sunflower seed for the ground feeders, the snow covers it back up. I've decided to give up until it slacks up a bit. They will just have to make do with the hanging and platform feeders.

Did you think that was some yummy cookie recipe I was going to share with you? Nah, but the birds love it.

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I mix up lard, peanut butter and corn meal and put the mixture in suet feeders. I used to get fancy and put it in molds, then harden to cut into slices. Now I just cram it in the way it is. It's a lot faster and the birds don't seem to mind. It helps keep them warm in this nasty weather. I bought these feeders-inside-a-cage to keep the starlings from hogging it all up. Only the little birds can get in.

I've been getting complaints requests from some of the family to post pictures of the kiddies, which I admittedly haven't done in quite a while. So here you go, family. They're as cute as ever.



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The boys have had a great time dismantling this kiddie karaoke machine. It kept them quiet for hours.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

It must be Haiku

Mindless, boring drudgery.
Housework leaves me
But, it's clean.

That is, if you don't count the dirty windows and the dust bunnies cavorting under the bed. Amy wrote a haiku about rice pudding and when I commented that nobody informed me that it was haiku week, she challenged me to complete one by tonight. Well, there it is, such as it is. Can you tell what I've been doing today?

Hey, it's got seventeen syllables. Okay?

My new vacuum cleaner makes a big difference in the cleaning. It was the only thing I wanted for Christmas. I picked it out myself and went and bought it myself. My favorite kind of gift. That way you get exactly what you want.

This vacuum cleaner is great. Everyone supposedly in the know recommended the new rage, a Dyson. But, frankly, the thought of emptying the canister filled with dirt and pet hair and god-only-knows what else just icks me out. Plus, I don't want to see that yuck floating around in there everytime I turn on the machine. And have you seen how huge those monsters are?!

I've been researching for a couple of years and had visited a local vendor who sells this one until he probably thought I was lying about a future purchase. He is also the guy who had serviced my old Sharp vacuum cleaner several times. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the old one, but the operative word here is OLD. Like 14 years old.

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So, a Riccar it had to be. Other than Oreck (which I'm not impressed with), it is the only vacuum cleaner still made in the U.S.A. It is a very well-made cleaner and it seems to me to have been designed by a woman. I won't go into all the features here. You can check out the link yourself. But let me tell you, it could "suck the chrome off a trailer hitch". With apologies to the writers of The Electric Horseman.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An impossible dream is realized

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Until this past year, I never dreamed that in my lifetime I would see an African-American man standing at a podium bearing the presidential seal. But that day has come. A day that Martin Luther King dared to dream and laid out for us on the same spot where Barack Obama will take the oath of office of the President of the United States today. It thrills me to be able to say those words. I know I am not alone in those feelings. Even those who do not share the vision of Barack Obama surely will see hope in this historic moment and feel good about what it means.

It truly is "America the Beautiful".

Friday, January 16, 2009

Here's lookin' at you, kid

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An American tree sparrow seems to be looking right at me as I snap his picture through the window. It was -13F this morning and the birds are happily filling up on sunflower seeds to help them survive during the bitter cold.

He looks like a little round ball with his feathers puffed up in his own version of a down coat.  
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How many birdies do you see?
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Tufted titmouse
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Male cardinal
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Now that's what I call Winter!

  I've been complaining that our Winters are so dreary and gray with lots of mud and just general yuck, while watching blogger friends getting those beautiful snowfalls. Well, things have a way of changing overnight. This is what we woke to this morning. Most of the snow came down yesterday and it was all I could do to keep up with the shoveling, knocking it off the tarp over the chicken run and making sure the birds had plenty to eat. Not to mention keeping the chickens happy in their coop. It was too cold to let them outside, except for a brief hour or two in the afternoon. I don't think they went out much anyway, but at least it helped air out the coop a little.

These holly bushes are on either side of our basement stairs. They provide a great shelter for the birds in Winter. I love to stand in the bay above them and watch the cardinals, chickadees and juncos, among others, flit in and out as they travel back and forth to the feeders and the bird bath to get a snack of sunflower seeds or a much-needed drink of water.

I took all the pictures from the living room window, because, frankly, I'm not willing to freeze my keister, even for a great shot.


Japanese 'Kousa' dogwood tree just outside the bay window.
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Angel is licking her lips and wishing she could snap up a few of those birdie snacks. 
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Monday, January 12, 2009

Lazy Sunday by the fire

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I had good intentions of making a couple loaves of bread yesterday to go with the beef vegetable soup that was simmering on the stove. That went out the window as I slept for almost two hours in front of the fire wrapped up in a cozy fleece blanket in my big comfy chair.

Instead, I decided to try a recipe for gingerbread from Cooking Light magazine that looked really good. I have one in my hand-written cookbook that my mother used to make for me. She would bake it right before I was due home from school in the afternoon so it would still be warm when I walked in the door. And the aroma would greet me as I came inside. A big square of warm gingerbread with a cold glass of milk....Mom knew how to spoil a girl.

Unfortunately, Mom's recipe calls for shortening which we all know is not very healthy. I've tried a few others, but always went back because they just didn't have it. This recipe is different. It uses canola oil and less sugar and molasses, but it still has that nice crisp feel when you bite into it and the cake is moist, a little chewy but not gummy and very rich for only 1/4 cup of oil.

I didn't have the full amount of ground ginger on hand, but I had a knob of fresh ginger in the freezer. So I grated about a tablespoon into the wet ingredients in addition to the dry ginger. It was scrumptious and gave it that extra little kick that you don't feel until you've scraped the last crumb off the plate. This one is definitely a keeper, but don't worry, Mom, I'll hang on to yours as well.


OLD FASHIONED GINGERBREAD (adapted from Cooking Light )

11.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 1/2 if not using fresh ginger)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 (4-ounce) container unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (baking soda through ground cloves) in a bowl, stirring well.

3. Combine sugar, oil, and egg in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Mix in molasses, grated fresh ginger, and applesauce.

4. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

5. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Cut into squares.

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