Friday, January 29, 2016

Goofy Dog

Look at Bo!  He thinks he is human.  He thinks I bought this rocker on the porch just for him.  He naps there every day.  Here he is waking up with a big yawn.
His new habit is jumping in the neighbor's car when she goes to get her mail.  Luckily, it makes her laugh.  He couldn't be much goofier! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We Got Our Hair Done

I don't get my hair cut very often.  Like twice a year, tops.  It hadn't been cut since last May.  I was feeling really shaggy.  I started trying to get an appointment but every time the appointment rolled around something happened.  My kids got sick.  My stylist's kid got sick.  My stylist got sick.  You get the idea.  It took two months to finally get an appointment that worked.  I decided to go all out and get color done too.  I get so tired of dyeing out the gray myself.

 When Cort got of the bus, he gave me a really strange look.  I thought something was terribly wrong.  He said, "Mom?  Why is your hair black?".  It wasn't really black, but it was much darker than usual.  I said, "Well, I dyed it."  He looked at me curiously.  "Mom?  Can I dye my hair?"  I said, "Well, what color did you want to dye it?".  He surprised me by promptly saying, "Blue!"

Now it just so happened that a few years ago I found a bunch of spray in, wash out hair color on Halloween clearance for 10 cents a can.  I knew it would come in handy one day.  Cort sure was pleased to sport blue hair for an evening.
Readers, have you ever dyed your hair in crazy colors?

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Pressure Cooker

I've been water bath canning for many years, but it has a lot of limitations.  For at least a decade, I've wanted a pressure cooker.  More than anything else, I'd love to be able to pressure can green beans.

This year for Christmas, Paul and the boys gave me an All American pressure cooker.  It was my only present from them, and way over our usual budget, but I do think it will pay for itself over time. 

I confess the thing is a little intimidating, even with all the safety features.  But I was eager to try it.  I watched the intro video twice.  Then Paul butchered a couple of roosters for me. 

It seems some folks pack chicken raw, but after consulting a couple of friends and websites, I decided to cook mine first.  The added bonus to this is getting broth as well.  I packed the meat in pint jars with just a little broth. 
It was super cold outside, but Paul was nice enough to oversee the pressure canner for me while I kept an eye on the bone broth process indoors. 

We haven't tried them yet, but I'm hoping the meat will be flavorful and tender.  Roosters can be kind of tough and stringy, but pressure canning is supposed to help with that. 

Readers, have you ever used a pressure canner?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Cast Iron Cooking

Our power went out twice last week.  Once was from a wind storm.  I'm not sure what caused the second outage. 

I decided it was time to get some cast iron for cooking on the wood stove.  With temps below 20*, I haven't been too excited about the option of grilling or using the sun oven.  I had some cast iron, but it was too large to fit in our little wood stove space. 
Nice and seasoned.  Sure makes my wood stove look dusty and faded!  I also got an enamel kettle that fits in the space too.  My first thing to cook was cornbread.  I am, through and through, a little bit Southern.

Readers, do you cook anything with cast iron?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Beware of Glasses

The last day of school before the Christmas break, something terrible happened.  Poor, innocent Pierce was eating his lunch at school when his glasses just up and jumped right off his face!  They commenced the fall of death and crumbled to pieces.  Can you believe it?  Glasses are real trouble makers.  Always out to get you.  And just when you least expect it, too.  Pierce had these glasses for over a year and they'd never done anything like this before.

After much complaining over his backup glasses (which are red), a new pair finally arrived.  The inexpensive company we order from in Canada no longer carried a Harry Potter style for kids, so I had to pick something different.  Somehow I think these suit him.

Hopefully these glasses will be better behaved than the last pair.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Cooking with the Sun

Ever since the derecho storm in 2012 which caused us to lose power for 8 days, I've been a little obsessed with clever off grid living ideas.  One of those clever things I wanted was a sun oven.  They are pricy, though, so I've been biding my time.  You can bake anything in them that you would bake in a regular oven: stews, breads, cookies.  You can even dehydrate in them. 
This year I got enough Christmas money to make the purchase (thanks, family!).  It folds up for easy transportation, but you can see it here all opened up.  First I had to preheat it.  You can see the little white boxes at the bottom - these allow you to align it with the sun.  I didn't take into account the windy day (and it was only 18* that morning) so when I came out the sun oven had blown over.  After that, I stabilized it with the tent stakes it came with (duh!).  Then I put in a pot of vinegar to steam for a couple of hours, after which I cleaned it (this is a one time, initial procedure).  Then it was ready to use.

By this time it was noon.  I put in a pot of lentil soup to start.  The pots are stackable, so after an hour I added a pot of cabbage with seasoning.  Each time you open the oven, it lets out heat like a crockpot, so you have to be careful about that.  I checked it about every 40 minutes to realign with the sun.

What I didn't take into account was that this time of year, the sun sets behind our mountain at around 2:30 in the afternoon.  Yes, that's right.  2:30.

Fortunately, the sun oven did hit 300* even in that short amount of time, and everything was cooked. While it probably could have used another hour of cooking, we did enjoy the meal. It performed well considering all my first timer mistakes!  And next time will be even better I'm sure.

Readers, do you do much cooking in the yard?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Catacombs and Basement Ghosts

Over the winter break we made a couple of trips to the library.  The boys enjoy it and I can always use another stack of books to read.  I was in the children's section on the computer when Reid came up with these two books.  I don't know where he found them, but they did look rather interesting.
In fact, I wanted to read them myself.  Reid said that I could, after he read them first.  Afterwards, he started talking about ghosts all the time, and he talked his twin brother Cort into reading these.  Next thing I knew, the boys spent a whole day in the basement hunting for ghosts.

But at 4 am the next morning, Paul and I were awakened by some yelling.  Upon investigation, it was Cort.  Screaming over the ghost in his room.  The face, trying to get him.  He said it wasn't a dream, that it was real, and he was terrified. 

I told him that newer houses don't have ghosts.  Only very old houses.  That worked for a night.  Then again, two nights later, more crying at 4 am. 

Meanwhile, Reid has ordered the entire 'Scariest Places on Earth' series from the library system.  There are about eight other books.

I'm thinking Cort doesn't need to read these books when they come in.  Reid will just have to keep them to himself!

Readers, what scared you as a child?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Aversions last....forever?

When I was pregnant with Pierce, I had a couple of aversions.  The worst was salmon.  It took me several years after having Pierce to like salmon again (something I had previously loved).  Aversions are kind of interesting.  They go back to our hunter and gatherer days, and are our brains' ways of putting us off food that has made us feel sick in the past, so we will learn not to eat poisonous things. 

When I was pregnant with the twins, I had an aversion to potato soup.  I haven't quite regained that love, but I think I could eat it.  Especially if it was made by my dad.  Still, I would just prefer to eat other things.

When I was pregnant with all three boys, there was one thing I developed an aversion to that I still cannot stand to smell. I think it started with Pierce, but carried over into the pregnancy with the twins too.

Every morning, I got to work, and the first thing I smelled was my boss's coffee.  Now I love the smell of coffee.  And I enjoy drinking coffee.  Especially flavored coffees, like salted caramel or this coffee a cocoa:

But my boss always made hazelnut coffee.  Even today I can't stand the smell of hazelnut coffee.  It's been ten years next month since my pregnancy with Pierce.  Somehow, I am thinking this is one aversion that isn't ever going away.  It's a shame really.  I bet hazelnut coffee is good.

Readers, do you have any aversions?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Little Archer

Pierce got a gift card for Christmas from my aunt and uncle and used it to buy a bow and arrow set.  He has wanted to try archery for a while now.

Pierce spent all day practicing.  Well all day except for when Paul and I were borrowing his bow and arrow.  Turns out archery is really fun for kids and grown ups!
So we had one gloriously sunny day and then it rained and rained and rained.  There was one grumpy 9 year old in our house, pouting over not getting to go shoot his bow and arrows. 

Hopefully he doesn't accidentally shoot his brothers.

Readers, have you ever shot a bow and arrow?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Remembering Sun

I was a little disappointed in Bobby, who didn't climb the Christmas tree once!  He will still chew up everything in sight though.  Including the Christmas tree lights.

I took this picture of him on an unseasonably warm afternoon last month.  The sort of 'winter' day where you lay out on the grass and delight in the warmth of the sun.  Those kind of days can carry you through the cold spells in January and February. 

Bobby hasn't grown that much since he was dumped at the end of our driveway back in early September.  I'm thinking he is going to be a small cat.  We love him, even when he is chewing up our boxes/earphones/cell chargers/books....

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Running Recap 2015

Yes, I'm still running frequently.  I just don't blog about it much lately.  This year I ran more than I have ever run before.  I got a little obsessed for a while.  Then a hamstring/glute issue let me know I needed to back off towards the end of the year.  Which I did. 

I ran 5 races this year, because friends talked me into it..  Four of the races were local, but one was at the beach.  I placed in the races, and even won one of them (they were very small races though).  I entered the local ones into a regional race series, and placed in that, too.  I still don't like racing much though.  It stresses me out.

You know what I do like?  Just running.  Me and my dog.  Even though sometimes he does sneaky things like poop in the middle of my running path.  Guess what?  Dog poop sure blends in well with the leaves this time of year. 

Running total for 2015 - 1800 miles

I don't know if I'll ever run that much again in a year.  It was several hundred miles more than my previous higher year, so I kind of doubt it.  But maybe I'll sneak into a couple of races in 2016. 

Readers, do you have any fitness or health goals for 2016?

Monday, January 4, 2016

My Top 9 Books I Read in 2015

I didn't think I would be able to touch the 150+ books I read in 2014, and I was correct.  But I did manage to read 113 books in 2015.  Instead of publishing the entire list for you like I did last year, I decided to just pick my favorites.  Of course, there are many that were excellent that didn't make the list, but these are the ones that stuck in my head long after the book was finished.
The biggest difference in 2015 was that I read a lot more memoirs than usual.  I typically only read a couple, but this year I read dozens.  I also read a good bit of nonfiction reference and of course, fiction, too.

I think my top three from the year would be The Spark, $64 Tomato, and The House at Tyneford.  Three completely different books. The first two are nonfiction, but whereas The Spark is heartwarming and amazing, $64 Tomato is clever and hilarious.  The House at Tyneford is a good one if you are a Downton Abbey fan.

Readers, did you have a favorite book from 2015?  Have you read any of the ones on my list?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Christmas Jam

Happy New Year!  I have a couple of year recap posts coming up, but for now, I hope everyone is off to a great start for 2016.

This year for teacher gifts I made a Christmas Jam.  I had copied the recipe out of a cookbook I checked out of the library last spring.  It's a miracle I remembered it when it came time to make teacher gifts.  The jam has strawberries and cranberries in it.  Along with some mini loaves of homemade bread, I thought they made cute little gifts.

Readers, did you give or receive any unique homemade gifts this year?