Monday, August 31, 2015

Building a Rabbit Hutch From Pallets

Paul is pretty handy at various projects.  Over the 19 (!) years we have been married, he has built me sets of horse jumps, a dresser, a tack trunk, and a tack storage shed.  And that's just to name a few things.  In August he worked on building me a pair of rabbit hutches from pallets. 
He had to disassemble them to a certain degree first, but then he got rolling.  The first one took him a couple of weeks to make, but then the second went very quickly.

On one side he created a door to a closed area so the rabbit could in from the wind.  We put some hay in this area.
The other side is more open and the back side is open as well.  Food and water is located on the left side.  Didn't it turn out wonderfully?  Paul thinks he spent about $25 on the hinges and wiring for the two cages.  Not bad at all!  We plan to put a tray underneath to catch the droppings for the garden.
I don't know about you, but Delilah certainly seems to like the new digs! 

Friday, August 28, 2015

Guineas and Bald Chicks

We've been busy with projects around the farm lately.  In July we picked up a couple of guineas locally.  We still don't know if they are male, female, or a variety of each.  Supposedly you can tell from their squawks once they mature.
In addition to the guineas, our apples are in season.  I've blogged before about them.  They have funny black spots on them.  But they taste like a Granny Smith, only smaller.  I canned a batch for pie filling.
I was disappointed by the Pinterest recipe I chose, so if you have a good recipe for canning apple pie filling, let me know.  Otherwise, I think I'll make apple sauce or apple butter next time around.

We also ordered a batch of 15 chicks in July.  We got a variety of heavy breed chicks.  Three of them have bald necks.  I thought, at first, that something was wrong with them.
Well thank goodness for Google!  Turns out they are a historic breed called Naked Necks.  They make great foragers, layers, and meat birds.  I like that they are proficient foragers.  Sounds like what they don't have in cuteness, they make up for in personality.

I have been picking butternut squash from the garden.  I cut my first one into little cubes and sautéed it in butter with onions, until browned like hash browns.  It was fantastic.  We all devoured it.

Lastly, I also have some news about rabbits!  But I'm saving that for a separate post.  Readers, what's been keeping you busy lately?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quick Back to School Dinners with Mezzetta - Giveaway

Disclaimer:  I received an assortment of Mezzetta products to help facilitate this review.  The opinions below are my own.

One of the challenging issues of back to school is all of the constant rushing.  With homework and after school activities and the two jobs I work, I do a lot of balancing.  It's always important to me to have a family dinner on the table, but sometimes it is a scramble to find healthy and quick options.

I have been buying Mezzetta's kalamata olives for years.  They are my favorite kalamata olive, and are a staple in my kitchen.  I often toss them in wraps for lunch for a burst of flavor, and they are wonderful in salads and pastas.  The other night I made a quick and tasty pasta using Mezzetta's chopped kalamata olives and roasted red peppers.

I sautéed a few cloves of chopped garlic in 5 tbsp. butter until tender, then added a cup of sunburst tomatoes from my garden and 1/2 cup white wine.  I cooked until the tomatoes were wilted, then tossed in 12 oz. cooked shrimp, the kalamata olives, the roasted red peppers, and some chopped parsley.  Cook through, then toss with angel hair pasta and top with freshly grated parmesan.
 This meal took me about 20 minutes from start to finish.  The family loved it, and two of the boys asked for seconds (I confess, I had seconds too). 

We also loved sampling the Castelvetrano olives (which were new to us, and had amazing flavor), the Peperoncini (we put these on crackers with beer cheese), and the garlic stuffed olives (which Cort immediately confiscated as his own.  They are quite amazing - and I love that Cort enjoys them, as I know the garlic will help boost his immune system). 
You can find more fantastic, simple recipes and ideas to help you make dinner at Mezzetta.  Take pictures of your creation to share on Instagram with the hashtag #4PMFreakOut. 

Want a chance to win your own sampler from Mezzetta?  Click on the Rafflecopter below to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 24, 2015

Six Years Old

On the eight Cort and Reid turned six years old.  Hard to believe - they have grown up on the blog.  Sometimes I go back and read posts from the early days, when they were infants.  Sometimes I even have trouble telling which is which, although when they were born I had no trouble at all, because they were (and always have been) so different.

When we were at the beach the twins fell in love with a show on Nickelodeon called Teen Titans Go.  We don't have a television at home, so they had never seen it before.  They wanted a cake for their birthday.

I don't like fondant ice cream, so I always attempt to make a cake with traditional buttercream.  An added complication this year is that Cort is on a modified diet as we attempt to find ways to help his psoriasis.  But I managed to make a cake, and they were delighted.

We had a very fun day with family, and two days later the twins went off to first grade.

Readers, do you have any memories from first grade?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pierce Gets Into Patriotic Costume

Disclaimer:  I received one costume to facilitate a review.  The opinions below are my own. 

My kids love getting into costume.  Just last month, the twins went to the grocery store dressed up as ninja turtles.  Pierce tried to tell them it was illegal (he must have been embarrassed by those pesky younger brothers).  I informed him that it wasn't illegal at all, and delighted in the outing. 

Pierce may be more mature than the twins, but he isn't too old for costumes in the appropriate realm.  Recently Costume SuperCenter emailed to see if I wanted to do another review for them.  I had a few extra minutes, and began to browse their site.  We have ordered costumes from them before and they have such a wide selection.  I immediately fell in love with their Colonial Costume of Paul Revere.

  The costume comes with taupe knickers (but not tights), buckles to wear over your shoes, the vest which is attached to the blue topcoat, a white lace collar and cravat, and the black hat. 

The sizing for this costume starts at 8-10.  Pierce is still in a size 7, so the costume was just a little large on him.  Another year and it'll fit just perfect. 

One thing I love about this elegant period costume is that if we ever head to Philadelphia or Colonial Williamsburg again, Pierce could have fun wearing this to some of the attractions.  It packs up quite small (but does need a quick ironing after unpacking).  Don't be surprised to see this costume again in a future Odyssey of the Mind production or a school play.  I have a feeling it is going to get a lot of use in the future.

Readers, what was your favorite costume as a kid?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How to Make Your Own Hardtack

Previously I mostly just thought of hardtack as being something eaten by Civil War soldiers.  It actually goes back to the time of the Egyptians, used by sailors.  The good thing about hardtack (from a sailor or Civil War perspective) is that it can last for years if it stays dry and is kept away from bugs and such.  It is light and easy to transport (think backpacking) but is dense, so it holds a lot of nutrition. 

I have wanted to make some for about a year now.  I finally got around to trying it.  Turns out, it's really easy (and cheap) to make.  In fact, you only need three ingredients.

4 1/2 cups flour
2 cups water
2 1/2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients and then roll out on a floured board into a rectangle of about 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut into smaller squares and poke holes in each one with a fork on both sides.

Place on a baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes on each side at 375*.  Don't forget to flip it!

They are rather hard once they are dried, but they taste similar to a very thick saltine cracker.  They had more flavor than I expected.  I think they'd be good in soup or coffee.  We'll take some on our next backpacking trip and try just that!

Readers, would you want to try hardtack?

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Skatepark

Someone in our house is a big shot.  Someone thinks he should always be doing tricks.  Skate tricks.  Stilt tricks.  Bike tricks.

Others are not so risky.  But they still enjoy a good trip to the skatepark....with a much more stable scooter.

And then the oldest is the most responsible of all.  No ramps, no steps.  Just skating in circles.  Nothing wrong with that!

How about you, readers?  Would you be doing skate park tricks?

Friday, August 14, 2015

First Day of School

The boys headed back to school on August 10th.  Yes, it was early!  We felt like the summer went too fast.  We checked off most of the items on our summer bucket list, although not all.  But we had a few surprises built in that weren't on the list, so it all evened out.

The boys were excited that they all got the teachers they wanted.  So we are hoping for an excellent year. 

Readers, can you remember much from 1st grade?  What about 3rd?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos Recipe - Gluten Free, Nightshade Free

Cort is currently on an alternative diet as we try to control his psoriasis without medications.  It has been a little challenging to find things that he likes that are gluten free and do not involve any nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes).  I adapted this taquitos recipe for him, and he really seems to enjoy them.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 minced garlic cloves
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
small corn tortillas

Preheat the oven to 425*.  In a large bowl mix the cream cheese, lime juice, cumin, onion powder, garlic, and pepper.  Once combined, stir in the chicken and cheese. 

Working with a few tortillas at a time, microwave between two paper towels 20-30 seconds to make them soft enough to roll.  Spoon 2-3 tbsp. of chicken mixture onto lower third of a tortilla.  Roll tortilla as tightly as you can and place seam side down on baking sheet.  Spray the top lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt.  Once all tortillas are prepped, make sure none are touching each other.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until crisp and golden. 

These freeze very well, so I make a big batch and pull out a few to pack in his lunches. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Beach Time

I love being on the beach.  The ocean is so soothing.  If I ever won the lottery, a simple beach house would be on my short list (after paying off the mortgage and building a barn).
In case you are wondering, Cort has psoriasis, and brief doses of sun are healing.
These pictures were taking back in June, but I am just now getting around to posting them.

We had races on the beach.  We did leaps and twirls and cartwheels in the sand.

We hunted for shark teeth and fossils and shells. 

We rolled in the waves, but not too deep, because of the shark issue.

Some of us even tasted the water.

Not everyone was a wuss about the sharks.  But we only watched the surfers from a distance.

Cort just loved finding these fossil rocks.  He devoted large amounts of time to finding them strewn along the beach.

And we had absolutely splendid kite flying weather, every day that we were there.

The beach makes us happy.

Readers, what do you love about the beach?

Friday, August 7, 2015

How the Garden Grows

I haven't posted about my garden in a while, but it's growing.  I had to pull all my zucchini and summer squash due to vine borers, but I have other things that are doing well.

The sunflower below is pretty special.  Pierce brought it home in a tiny cup as a mother's day gift when he was in kindergarten.  I planted it in the garden, and for whatever reason it has come back bigger and better every year since.  This year it was probably 9 feet tall.

I have some other flowers around the house that are also doing well.  I thought these were really pretty.

I have had good luck with the tomatoes this year.  I have some heirlooms that are marvelous.  This batch I dehydrated with sea salt and basil (also from my garden).

These little sunburst tomatoes are my favorites!  The boys love them too - I leave them on the counter and they munch on them all day long.  Pierce will go down to the garden and just stand there, eating them right off the plant.  I don't spray them, so I guess it doesn't matter that he does this.

I also have butternut squash (pictured below) growing, as well as cushaw squash.  And I have some limas that are almost ready to harvest. 
I have replanted lettuce, spinach, beets, and peas, in hopes I will get more before the first frost.
Readers, how is garden season going for you?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Waiting for the Ice Cream Truck

While we were on vacation in Topsail Island, the ice cream truck came by our little townhouse everyday around 5:00.  As you might imagine, the ice cream truck doesn't drive by our log home.

So the boys begged to get to buy something from the ice cream truck.  They waited and waited on the designated day.

Finally!  There were so many choices.  It was tough to pick out just the right ice cream. 

Readers, do you have an ice cream truck that goes by where you live?  Which ice cream is your favorite?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cape Fear Serpentarium

I started off this post with a picture of a bird.  Because I know some of you don't want the upcoming snake pictures in your feed.  But be's all snake pictures after this, as we went to the Cape Fear Serpentarium in Wilmington on our vacation!

The serpentarium is a 10,000 square foot structure.  In addition to venomous snakes, it also has constrictors, crocodiles, and some lizards and turtles.
Each snake had a fascinating sign telling about it and rating it on a poison scale (up to five skulls for the most deadly).

The two snakes in this picture are both rattlers, but unusual ones I thought.  One of the rattlers not pictured here was angry, and spent a long time rattling, which echoed eerily through the facility.  Pierce spent a long time staring at him, almost in a trance.

 The green mamba in the upper right corner was oddly beautiful.  And incredibly venomous.  I found the story on it's sign intriguing.  The copperheads in the lower right are common in Virginia, but at only two skulls don't pack nearly the deadly venom of some of the other snakes.

I believe the one in the center is a black mamba.  The mambas look curious...almost friendly for a snake.
This is a gaboon viper.  They are pretty nasty snakes.

You can't tell, but Cort wore his gator shirt in preparation for the serpentarium.

An example of one of the serpent signs - see the venom rating on the right?  The signs were so informative I found myself pausing to read every one.
The Cape Fear Serpentarium is home to over 150 different animals and is recognized as one of the foremost reptile collections in the world.  We found it definitely worth the trip!

Readers, would you be up for a serpentarium visit?