Friday, April 29, 2016

The Problem with Nancy Drew

For the past year, I've been reading the boys some of my favorite books from my childhood.  Books like Superfudge, The Pink Motel, and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Recently I decided to read them my favorite Nancy Drew book.  As a kid, I think I read every one of them.

The Clue in the Crumbling Wall started off well enough.  By the time the boys' Spring Break rolled around, we were about halfway through the book.  We headed off one morning to run some errands.

I was unsuspectingly browsing through Dollar Tree when the boys started getting worked up.  They were certain they had seen a shoplifter.  Someone had stolen some pens!  They were quite insistent on reporting the matter to the manager.  But they didn't just report it.  They made all sorts of suggestions to the manager about how to catch the crook, including fingerprinting throughout the store and using hidden cameras.  They even suggested that the cashier had been hypnotized by the criminal, which was why she didn't see him leave.  Luckily, the manager seemed to find this amusing.

I dragged them away.  They insisted they could describe the thief for a profiler.  I decided I was going to need some coffee before we went anywhere else.  In the drive thru line, the boys saw a dad with a toddler.  The boys decided this dad was the thief!  He had magically appeared at Starbucks!  I asked where the toddler was during the theft, and they said at first that the toddler was an accomplice.  It didn't take them long to reason this out though....the dad was really a kidnapper!  I asked why there was no Amber Alert and they said that people didn't know yet.

I was pretty nervous about what might happen in the grocery store, as the whole way there the boys insisted that a black car with the thief/kidnapper was following us. 

I banned any further reporting of criminal activity before we went in to the grocery store.  But there were a lot of suspects in there.  The grocery store was just full of crooks that day.

The next week I got to go grocery shopping and errand running by myself.  It was so nice and quiet. 

Maybe next we'll read another Little House on the Prairie.  That seems a little...safer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bobby is a Weirdo

Bobby is a strange little cat.  He's nearing his first birthday this June.  You may remember he was dropped at the end of our driveway towards the end of last summer, covered in fleas, and we took him in.  He is the first manx cat we've every had.

Since then we've discovered he has many quirks.  He loves to hike up the mountain with us.  It's a steep trek, around a mile, and he happily follows along and hangs out until we hike back down.  This seems to me to be more of a dog-type behavior.

He prefers kids to adults.  Wherever my boys are, there he is.  Right in the midst of all the chaos.  Cats usually seeks out quiet areas, but not this one. 

He likes cold weather and snow.  Remember the picture I posted this past winter of him playing in 18 inches of snow?  Very suspicious behavior for a cat.  Surely he must have some collie mixed in somewhere?

And then there's this.  Apparently Bobby has decided he wants to go for rides.  I took this picture with my cell phone last week.  I suppose he feels he should go to the grocery store with me.  Maybe supervise the choosing of salmon and shrimp.
We never know how Bobby will surprise us next.  But it's always fun to watch his unusual antics.  And he's turned into a magnificent hunter.  He catches a mouse or mole almost every single day while waiting for the bus to come (yes, he always walks down to wait for the bus with us).

Readers, do you have any animals that behave strangely?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Magic Eye

When Paul and I were dating in college, a Magic Eye store popped up in the mall.  Once in a while we'd go in and stare at the pictures on the wall.  It took me a dozen trips before I figured out how to make my eyes relax enough to see the hidden pictures pop out.  I remember being irritated that Paul figured it out before I did.

At a recent yard sale I picked up several Magic Eye books for a quarter a piece for the boys.  It's been more than twenty years, but I still remember how to relax my eyes to see the pictures.  I guess it's kind of like riding a bike - once you figure it out you never forget.  Still, it was exciting when the 3D eagle popped out of the first picture I studied.

The boys desperately want to be able to see the pictures.  So they have spent a lot of time sitting on the couch trying different techniques in hopes of revealing the images hidden inside.  Pierce came the closest - and then when he started to see the picture shifting shape he got so excited he jumped off the couch, and of course, lost his concentration.

How about you, readers?  Did you ever frequent the Magic Eye stores in the mall back in the early 90s? 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Pressure Canning Chili

I got a really good deal on ground beef at the store the other day, but it had to be used up within a day.  How to use up 5 pounds of ground beef?  Well, I made beef stroganoff with a pound of it for lunch.  And then I decided to be brave and as Paul to use the pressure canner again.  So I fixed a big pot of chili.

I didn't take notes so I don't technically have a recipe, but I browned the beef with 5 cloves of garlic and drained it (I would've added onions but I was out).  Then I added one of those huge cans of tomato juice, two chopped green peppers, a bag of dry black beans, a bag of dry kidney beans, 1/2 can of chipotle pepper sauce, 1/2 cup chili powder, a couple tsp. cumin, 1 tbsp. salt, and about 5 cans of diced tomatoes.

I simmered this concoction for 20 minutes to let the flavors mix (the beans cook during the pressure canning, so no worries about that).  I got 13 pint jars filled up and Paul took them outside to supervise.  He doesn't seem to worry about blowing up the house as much as I do.

The jars were processed for 75 minutes, which is the guideline for ground beef.  I did pint jars because I thought they'd be handy to do things like chili to top baked potatoes or hot dogs.  For larger meals, we could do a couple of pints at a time (and to stretch them, add in elbow mac and a can of corn if needed). 

The next day, I made Cincinnati chili (chili over spaghetti noodles and topped with cheddar cheese).  The chili turned out so good!  It was a hit and Cort already asked when we would have it for dinner again.  And the best part?  It only took ten minutes to toss together this home cooked meal, as the chili was already made. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fiddlehead Ferns

This is the time of year when fiddlehead ferns start popping up all over our land.  You can see where they get their name.
For a plant, they're marvelously cute this time of year. 

You can eat them (but need to cook them first, and peel off the crinkly stuff).  They are supposed to taste like asparagus.  Once they unfurl, they are inedible, so there is a narrow window of time for you to be whipping up crème de fiddlehead soup. 

I'm thinking about roasting some up for dinner one night.  I bet the boys will get a kick out of it!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Maple Syrup, Part II

You may remember that during the month of February we started tapping maple trees.  We got a bit of a late start.  In all, I think we collected about six gallons or so of sap, most of which we boiled down bit by bit on the wood stove.  We finally did the final boil down a few weeks ago.  It had to reach 219*.

My brother had given Paul a couple of bottles of scotch, which we repurposed for the syrup.  Then I made a double batch of super fluffy homemade waffles.  Everyone declared them the best waffles ever (you may notice - I put peanut butter on mine with the syrup. It's just how I eat waffles).  We'll probably get about 3 more waffle dinners out of the syrup we have left.  Next year?  We're definitely getting an earlier start.  It is so worth all the effort!

Friday, April 15, 2016


1.  Every once in a while, we find some relic of days gone by on our place.  Paul found this one hiking on a steep section of our land.  Feel free to toss out ideas about it's original use.  It is all metal, and about 7 inches long, maybe 3 inches wide at the largest part.

2.  I told the boys about a historical fiction book I was reading about yellow fever.  I forgot about it.  A few weeks later they were doing worksheets I'd left for them while my mom watched them so I could work (Spring Break).  One of the worksheets the twins did asked them to write about something that made them mad.  Reid wrote that yellow fever made him mad, which no doubt surprised my mom.

3.  I think I got our rabbits to breed.  Rabbit gestation is 31 days.  Rabbits don't waste any time.

4.  It's much more difficult for me to sleep in the spring and summer.  Does anyone else notice this?  Does more light = less sleep? 

5.  I recently had a negative experience with a company, when they shipped something that wasn't adequately described online and as a result I could not use it.  They wouldn't pay return shipping, even though the error was a result of their poor description.  I'd been buying from the company since 2007.  I am not the sort to rat out a company online, but I can say I will never make a purchase from them again.  And I'm now out $14 in shipping fees.

Readers, you had any irritating company experiences lately?

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ah, Spring!

I love Spring.  Everyday something new is blooming.  First it was the crocuses.  Then the red bud trees.  Then my tulips.  And then?  This stuff.  This stuff I planted last year that I don't remember what it is.

It's pretty though.  I planted it in my partial shade perennial garden by the house.  My brother, John, thinks it is viburnum.  Anyone know?  Anyone else plant stuff around the house and then forget what it is?

Monday, April 11, 2016


A couple of weeks ago I was getting ready to start dinner when Pierce asked if I had heard the ambulance go by.  I hadn't.  Five minutes after that I saw a rescue vehicle pass by.  There are only a handful of people who live that direction, so I was wondering what was wrong.  I started dinner when my phone rang - my parents.  They saw on the news that there was a brush fire out of control on our road.  From that point, things quickly escalated.  Here is my first view of the fire, taken from my driveway, with my cell phone.  The sun had already set, so this wasn't an effect of the sunset.  Rescue vehicles and trucks were passing by our house at a rapid pace.

Next thing I knew, a helicopter was hovering in the front yard.  It seemed to want to land in our horse pasture until Francie pitched a huge fit in the pasture.  Turns out she doesn't care for giant sky monsters. Instead, it landed in the pasture next to the horses.  This picture was taken from the house.  The helicopter is on the top left.  It tried to take off with a bucket of water a number of times, but the high winds had it rocking in the sky, and it kept having to land.
 We watched the news and the smoke and the rescue vehicles rushing by anxiously that evening before going to bed.  One neighbor lost a very nice barn/cabin building to the fire.  Thankfully the winds died down that night.

The next day things were quieter, aside from all the vehicles and news crews rushing up and down the road.  Our road saw more traffic that day than it had in the past year combined.  I went out to hang some laundry and noticed the wind was picking up again and becoming gusty.  It wasn't long after that before rushing fire trucks and sirens were flying past our house again.  I walked outside to take this shot of the smoke returning.

 I took these pictures standing in my driveway, monitoring which way the wind was blowing.  Thankfully for me and my close neighbors, it was primarily blowing the opposite direction.  But the smoke was unsettling. 
Then the helicopter returned.  You can see it in the top right corner above.  This time the bucket (which is below the tree line) was working, and they found a better location for water retrieval from a neighbor's pond.

You can see the smoke starting to infiltrate the woods on our side of this mountain ridge. 

We were all so relieved when things finally got back under control.  In all, over 150 acres burned, but no one lost their home and no one was hurt.  I hope that brush fire never comes that close to my house again! 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Learning Experiences

Every single year I have gardening projects that flop.  Some years are worse than others.  I think it's because I always want to try new things.  And with new things, there always seems to be a steep learning curve.

I wanted to grow brandywine tomatoes this year after reading the memoir $64 Tomato (which is fabulous).  I started seeds indoors, but they never came up.  I have a horrible track record with starting seeds indoors.  They never seem to do that well.

My brother and his wife gave me an oyster mushroom growing kit for Christmas.  I followed the instructions, but for whatever reason the mushrooms never came (although the bag blew up and looked completely creepy). 

It's okay to have failure.  I learn along the way.  And I have plenty of other things to plant and grow that I know will likely be successful.

ETA:  my brandywine seeds did end up coming up.  The mushrooms?  Not so much... 

Readers, have you had any failures lately?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Up in the Trees

Reid decided to put his Christmas money from this year towards building a treehouse.  It's still very much a project in progress.  But on nice days, he loves to go do his reading homework up in the branches. 

It does seem like a relaxing spot to read, doesn't it?  I'll feel better once the railings are up though!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Last Days of the Shed

We are really trying to do some garden expansion this year.  Paul wanted to knock down one of our last sheds, which I have been using as a garden shed.  Originally it was a lean to type shed off a larger pole barn.  We are hoping to repurpose some of the wood for a smaller garden tool shed that we will rebuild.
Once the shed is gone, we will open that area up to new garden space.  It's right next to my perennial bed for asparagus and salsify, so I will likely plant more perennials in that area - probably Jerusalem artichokes. 

We also have been tilling some new spaces (as you can see, amongst all the mud) so that hopefully my garden size will end up about double what it has been in previous years.  We are putting down cardboard and mulch and hay.

Readers, do you have any new garden projects happening?

Friday, April 1, 2016

DIY Sewing Bag Kit Giveaway

It's been a while since I have done a giveaway, and Shine Kids Crafts recently asked for me to host one for a DIY sewing bag craft.  The kit includes everything you need to make this adorable small tote.

The winner will receive:
- Floss in different colors
- metal needle
- tote / small bag (Size: 20 x 20 x 5.5 cm)
- instructions
- an embroidery hoop

You can find the Shine Kids Crafts Store HERE on Ebay.  Right now her Jewelry Charms are 30% off and Swarovski crystal is 20% off.  If you check out her rating, you'll see that she is an established seller with tons of positive feedback!  Here is an example of a few of her charms:

This fun embroidery kit would make a great gift - and it would be an excellent project for a tween to do on a summer road trip.

Good luck!

Enter by Rafflecopter here:
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