Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The joy of Christmas Eve

I love everything about the Christmas season, the shopping, the baking, the parties and the family get togethers.  It is such fun plotting and planning all the special gifts to give to our children and family members.  I love getting them just what they always wanted or just the right gift that would show that I know just what they would like.  But nothing in the season compares to Christmas Eve at our house.  It is my favorite day of Christmas.  The preparations are mostly finished, the guests have arrived, the anticipation is building and the festivities begin.

Once again we were at Old Salem at 10 am waiting in our same pew for the  Moravian Children's Lovefeast to begin. For an hour we sat and watched the church fill up to overflowing, some of the faces familiar, most were not.  I love the service for it's simplicity.  The church is decorated simply with the traditional greens hanging from the ceiling, the paperwhites line the altar, perfuming the sanctuary with its fragrant smell.  The service is simple, straight to the point.  We sit, sing, eat together, re-commit and leave. This year the church seemed noisier, more babies and toddlers were present.  A younger generation carrying on the tradition that they grew up with, sitting with aged parents.

No where else do I have the privilege and joy to sing the old familiar carols and every verse too!  The children's choir is small and once again faintly heard.  We wonder each year if they will be miked.  But this is no performance, just a sharing of the sacred Christmas songs.  Soon we are served buns and coffee.  As we sit I think back to last year when I held a little baby in my arms, tiny Gabriella, who this year is walking and playing in Nashville.  It is a pleasant memory and her absence, as well as her parents, brings tears to my eyes. But still our pew is full and my heart warms at the sight of my grown children, son-in-law and daughter's boyfriend.  My husband may be graying, but he is still handsome in his suit and tie.  I smile as I remember the days when he dressed like that, everyday, for work.

"Silent night, holy night"...my thoughts go back to Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place to have this baby.  As we sing "Away in a manager"... I picture baby Jesus lying there, newly born, my Savior, Holy, and perfect, lying in straw, surrounded by animals and shepherds.  Amazing night.  I am so thankful.  As we sing our last hymn, "Joy to the world" once more we lift our beeswax candles high as we sing the words, "joy to the world, the Savior reigns; let men their songs employ; while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains, repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy".
Luke 19:38-40

 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the 
Lord!”“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 

Luke 19:38-40

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tomato tea

A cure for the common cold... I think I've found it. I woke up Tuesday night unable to breathe and could not go back to sleep.  Since I do not keep over-the- counter or prescription drugs in my medicine cabinet, I went downstairs to seek help from the Internet.  I found a natural remedy and amazingly enough I had all the ingredients on hand.  So at 2 in the morning I, along with my ever loving husband, made Tomato Tea.

1 cup tomato juice
1 tsp minced garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 ts hot sauce
dash of celery salt for taste
Heat and drink.

I went back to bed and immediately my sinuses cleared up and I was able to sleep. ( I will say that I brushed my teeth very well and gargled with Listerine, first)

I made more TT in the morning and again that evening and each time it helped.

PS.  Hart has discovered a really good tomato juice that he enjoys each morning.  He buys it at Save-a Lot and it is Diane's Garden Tomato Juice, all natural ingredients.  I like it as well.

Last Week

Everyone has them.  Days when nothing goes right or so it seems.  Last week I felt that way. I had a bad cold that I could not shake, it rained continuously for 4 days, a broken tooth which meant I spent the afternoon at the dentist getting a new and expensive crown,  I forgot about Nan's violin make-up lesson, I set off the burglar alarm at the office (and couldn't turn it off), my house was messy and school was difficult.  One week of up-side- down life.  The good news is that I have hope for the week ahead.

"My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken."
Psalm 62:5,6

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two chicks and a fella

Well, we expanded our chicken family. Our intention was to buy two more hens, younger in age than our Rhode Island Reds.  Early Saturday Hart, Nan and I made our way to Tractor Supply in Eden where the farmers of the area bring their small livestock to sell.  Cages of chickens, ducks, rabbits and goats were situated in the parking lot.  We went from pick-up truck to pick-up truck seeking the best additions for our small chicken venture.  The gentleman in his overalls declared to us that his Blue Cochins were just what we needed to make our coop complete.  And they were adorable, with soft bluish feathers and cute little feathers around their feet.  We agreed to buy his last two.  Yet in the cage with these ladies was a rooster, quite a beautiful guy and the old farmer talked us into getting him too.  So we will see if there is a place in the hearts of our neighbors for a early morning alarm clock--maybe not so much on Saturdays and Sundays.  Our rooster, has not crowed yet, he is still young.  Although he is quite happy to follow Adele and Astrud around, and forget all about his own girls.  Traitor!
Adele and Astrud happily eating in their lovely home.

Bea and Patsy scratching for bugs.  Blue Cochins are very friendly and I can even pet them. Their feathers are so soft. Their eggs will be
medium size.

I hope that Clark is a good boy and doesn't disturb our good neighbors.

Adele and Astrud look upon Bea and Patsy as intruders.
I hope that changes soon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Campbell Soup Jars

Friday at noon Hart and I are headed out the door for our weekly lunch date and shopping trip to our local Goodwill store.  We enjoy out time alone and have interesting discussions over a pot of tea and hibachi shrimp at the Golden Dragon in Madison.  Goodwill is conveniently located behind the restaurant.  We both look forward to Fridays.

Here are some of our Friday Finds:

We were there at the store when an employee was putting out these adorable Campbell Soup Spice jars.  I was going to get a few of my favorite but Hart insisted that I not break up the set and buy them all.  At 50 cents each, I agreed.  We learned that one jar had gotten broken in the back of the store, hence the spare lid.  When we got home I looked it up on Ebay and the set was selling for around 150.00 and we noticed the spice rack.  Hart suggested I go back to the store and hunt around for the rack, which I did and found for 5.00.  So the whole set up cost us under 20.00.  I have it listed on Craig's list.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nobody here but us chickens...

The chicken coop is finished and it is a masterpiece, built by a master craftsman, my hubbie.  I thought we'd have a simple affair but this is the Ritz of coops.  That done, we found a chicken farmer in Stokesdale and made the short trip to his place.  We got to pick out our chickens from among the 350 that he raises and sells.  He did inform us right away that he had some chickens that we could not afford, in the 70.00 range and up.  Needless to say we agreed.  We settled on two Rhode Island Reds and Farmer Mike tried to give us a free rooster, but we said we thought our neighbors might complain if he awoke them before their alarm clocks.

Here are pictures of the chicken coop in progress.

We placed it in our fenced in garden for obvious reasons but also so we can let the chickens out when we are up there working.

Bedding for their sleeping quarters.  Behind me is their nesting area and all I have to do is lift the flap and gather the eggs.

Gigi gets very excited about seeing the chickens but doesn't disturb them when they are walking around the garden. Not sure if she is jealous of the attention they get and the food, or she is just curious.

Meet our girls, Astrud and Adele.  They are 6 months old and in about 4 weeks or so we will have fresh eggs.

PS. " Nobody here but us Chickens" was a popular song from the 40's and it really is cute.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnyB0a8G71Y  this is the '56 remake.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Acorn Tree

At my house we all love September.  It is a month of winding down from the hot, unscheduled days of summer into the exciting new schedule that lies ahead. 

 My daughter Nan especially loves this month, one reason being that it is her birthday month.  She, like me, loves the change in weather and in nature.  We live close to a lake and woods.  Lots of acorns fall from the trees and are so cute with their funny little caps on their round little bodies.  This year Nan and I collected a few for a project that she wanted to create. 

She painted a few of the acorns a nice shade of blue.

I love the blue acorns.


                                Then she tied twine to the caps of the acorns.

                       I found a pretty red pitcher and my handmade pottery bowl.   


                     I filled it with  more acorns, while Nan went in search of the
   perfect tree branch. 


  The finished project.


Friday, September 2, 2011

The Impatient Tomato

There is a tomato plant growing in my impatiens in the window box outside my kitchen window.  How it got there and how it grew in the shade, I don't know.  I haven't had the heart to pull it out and it has actually grown taller.  I'm not expecting any fruit from it, but I do like it's tenacity.  It reminds me to be optimistic when I am waiting for circumstances to turn around.

Friday, August 26, 2011

No water, no internet, no freezer....

We knew it might be a tough situation to come home to, after having been away for six weeks, but we tried to look at the positive side of things.  Our daughter and son-in-law had stopped by our house to check on  it and found out that our water wasn't working.  Uh oh, what could be wrong.  We arrived home on Saturday around lunchtime and it wasn't  until Monday night that we had running water.

 I am blessed to have a husband who is a terrific handyman, willing to tackle any job, who exhibits great patience.  I am also blessed that  my two youngest girls, who are  teenagers, have really good attitudes and  servants' hearts. We decided that having no water for a few days was inconvenient, but that was it, just inconvenient.  We had had a safe 1000 mile trip, our house was in good shape, we had had a wonderful vacation so there was really no reason to complain.  We remembered all those who had suffered because of the tornado devastation  this spring.

Upon further inspection, it looked like lightening had hit our well, damaging our well pump.  That is what we had to replace.  Also the girls discovered our internet was not working, nor was our large freezer.  More inconveniences....

My husband, who was exhausted from the long drive, dug right into the work ahead of him.  Cate, Nan and I helped him pull out 265 feet of well pipe, as he strained to pull out the 40 lb pump.  We had to do this not once, but 2 1/2 times before the problem was corrected.  Through it all I was driving to Wal mart and loading up on gallons of water, I think 36 gallons in all, for drinking and flushing the toilet.  We had quickly  used up our rain water reserve for the flushings.  I bought water bottles, clorox wipes and hand sanitizer wipes.  We got Chinese take out once and ate sandwiches and cereal the rest of the time.  We made numerous trips to Lowes Hardware.  There was  a serious thunderstorm on Sunday night,  our neighbor had a big tree to fall and I prayed we wouldn't have to live without electricity too.  So glad God answered that plea.


We did have some extra help on Sunday. Gabe, a friend of the family and our daughter Claire came by to welcome us home. We promptly put them to work.

I began to think about pioneer days, when women didn't have running water and they used outhouses.  I did grow up with the outhouse in Canada, when our cottage was much more primitive.  But to have no running water.  Now that's hard work and it made me grateful for the spigot at my sink with the hot and cold valves, for a warm shower and a machine that washes my clothes.  Such convenience.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black bear and brown tomatoes

Today  after I dropped the letters from work off at the post office, I ran into Earth Fare for some apples and large baggies.  As I passed the tempting produce, my eyes taking in  the splendid colors and smells of  the fresh, organic fruits and veggies, I got the needed apples and some brown tomatoes. The first time I had seen this delicacy was at Whole Foods Market with my sister.  She had raved about how good they were, so I had become curious.

 I work on Tuesdays (and Thursdays) for a lawyer friend of mine, so dinner is usually a simple affair for Hart and me, since the girls are already at their Bible Study when I get home.

  Kumato tomatoes, I learned,  are originally from the Spanish Mediterranean 

 They are about the size of a golf ball, a brownish green and dark red color.  

Dinner tonight was pan fried flounder, oven roasted sweet potato slices and fresh brown tomato salad.  Very delicious. 

The lettuce is from my garden.  I cut herbs of parsley, rosemary and a bit of mint, chopped them finely.  Then I added a minced garlic clove and olive oil, which I drizzled on the tomatoes.  Feta cheese topped it all off. 

.And I saw a very unusual sight on my way home tonight--a black bear.  He was in a tree in someone's yard, probably very scared and thirsty.  People were on the sidewalk pointing to him and the police had already been there I heard.  Poor guy.  I guess he wished he were back at home in the forest, alway from noisy traffic, people staring and dogs chasing him.  Hope they rescue him soon.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Strawberry season

 It's always a delight to see the strawberry sign at the farmer's stand on Hwy 135.  The stand's season opens with the arrival of the juiciest, ripest and reddest berries just waiting to be popped into my mouth.  So far I've bought about three flats of berries and hope to get more next week.  The weather has been rainy and stormy so the girls and I haven't ventured to pick our own yet.  But we've enjoyed eating them just as they are. 

 I did make gluten free strawberry muffins and they turned out to be light and airy--just right for springtime.  Here's the recipe that I got from livingwithout.com 

Strawberry muffins:

½ cup coconut flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
½ cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, arrowroot powder, salt and baking soda.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, agave nectar and vanilla extract.
4. Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined. Then fold in the strawberries.
5. Scoop ¼ cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 1 hour.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Growing Shiitake mushrooms

A few years ago I became interested in growing our own mushrooms, especially shiitake.  I put it on hold and then I saw a class that was being offered at our local agricultural center.  Since I couldn't attend, I talked Hart into going.  He came home with a log inoculated with the mushroom spores.  It will take about a year before we can harvest any.

So I decided we would need more than one log of mushrooms and ordered a bag of shiitake mushroom spores online.  Hart cut down some small trees and Sunday we spent most of the afternoon inoculating the logs.

Logs waiting for the process to begin.
The first step was to brush the logs free of debris or mold and to drill holes in it.

Shiitake mushroom spores.
Hart drilled about 20 holes in each log, in a diamond pattern.

Hart filling each hole.

Hole is filled with the spores.

Pushing the spores into the hole.

Metal rod is used to push spores firmly into holes.

Melted cheese wax used to cover each hole and any sawed off area.

Brushing the holes with wax.

Wax covering the holes on log.

I'm brushing the logs with the hot wax, including the ends of the logs

Now we have about 10 logs sitting in the shady area of our garden just waiting for the mushrooms to grow.  Our job is to keep them in the shade and to be sure the logs receive enough moisture, especially during the dry summer months.  We should be able to harvest about 10lbs. per log for the next four years.  The hard part will be waiting for that first year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I milked a cow today

Our 4H club visited Wright Dairy Farm in Reidsville today.  It's been in business since the 40's and is family owned and run.  Quite an impressive and interesting operation, yet it had an air of simplicity about it.  We arrived in time for the afternoon milking, which is done by machines.  We stood in the milking room, below the cows, for they are at chest level so the one doesn't have to bend over to milk them.  The cows look huge standing above you and the smell ...Mr. Wright let us all have a turn at hand milking and it is hard work.  The cows, all 300 of them, have to be milked twice a day.  Thank goodness for machines.

After that we went into the barn where the calves were waiting to be bottle fed.  They were all eager and searching, just like an infant waiting to be nursed by her mother.  The girls petted the calves as they continuously licked their hands.  The barn smelled of hay, dirt and manure.  Young kittens watched us, hoping for a spill. Another barn held the older calves who were being weaned, one area had four pregnant cows waiting to give birth.   Always work to be done. It gave me a new appreciation for the farmer.  There used to be 60 dairy farms in Rockingahm County, now there are four.  It is a hard business, but one that our nation could not live without. A big thank you to the local farmer who works from sunrise to sunset.  I am sure it's been a long while, if ever, that the Wright family has had a vacation.

Cute little fellar waiting to be fed.

These mama cows are waiting to be milked.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Baking for a crowd

I took on the assignment of baking 125 cookies for a church conference back in February.  The weekend arrived of the meetings and it was time for me to start baking.  Fortunately my 14 year old daughter, Nan, wanted to assist me.  Cate, 16, helped with the packaging later on.  I had chosen my Chocolate Oat Crunch cookie recipe because it is one of my favorites. It  is a yummy substantial cookie, consisting of oats, coconut, chocolate chips, with a hint of cinnamon.   I decided white chocolate chips would be a nice addition.  This recipe calls for 3 cups of flour and 3 cups of oats, so it makes a large batch of cookie dough.  Three recipes would do the trick, I decided.
We began baking at 1 pm and until 6 pm the oven was in full use.  As the cookies cooled, I drizzled each one with white chocolate.  Once that had hardened, each individual cookie was place in a cellophane bag and tied with a pastel ribbon. Cate, Nan and I formed an assembly line and soon the job was finished.  I arranged them in my long wooden basket and set them on the table for a final count by my husband, eighty exactly, so I threw one more in for good measure.
The next morning he was going to the conference breakfast at the church and was able to deliver them for me.  How nice to complete the job.  I really do have a deep love for baking.  It was not a burden at all, but a joy.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Soft Pretzels

There is nothing better smelling than bread cooking in my oven and for someone who is wheat and gluten free it is a smell that I don't often get to experience .  It is tortuous anyway!  But on this Friday afternoon, Nan, my 14 year old daughter was in the mood to "cook something".  And since she and her older sister have a teen function tonight that required them to bring a snack, I told Nan she could cook something for the party, serving two functions at once.  We looked beyond the usual chips and dips, cookies and brownie recipes, especially since Nan is hypoglycemic and can't have sugar, and I found the perfect recipe for soft pretzels.
The recipe is quite simple, and she is used to making bread, having made pizza dough before.  I will say it was time consuming process because the pretzels had to rise for 45 minutes, then immersed in almost boiling water for 30 seconds and a final baking at 475 for ten minutes.  But it was well worth the wait and I am sure they will all be gobbled up quickly tonight.  Ahh, for just one taste....
The pretzels rose for 45 minutes.

The hot water bath.

The finished product with cinnamon sugar.

Closeup of pretzel with kosher salt.

Nan with her creation.

Soft Pretzels for 12

1 1/3 c hot water
2 1/2 ts dry yeast
1 1/2 ts sugar
Mix these well and let proof for 5 minutes.

4 c flour
2 TB butter
3/4 ts salt
Add ingredients to yeast mixture and mix well, I used my kitchen aid mixer for this.  Cut dough into strips and roll into ropes and shape into pretzels.  Place on greased baking sheet, cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

4 c water
1 1/2 ts baking soda
In a cast iron or other non aluminum pan, bring water and baking soda almost to a boil.  Gently lower pretzels into water for about 1 minute, turning once.  Do not let water boil.  Remove pretzels and return to greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake at 475 degrees for about 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy a hot pretzel--just like the ones in the mall!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Miracle Mixer

Last May 29th my daughter, Claire married a wonderful man, Witt Davis.  We love having another son in the family.  So about this time last year my life was full of wedding plans.  It was a lot of fun, but a great deal of work and it's nice to be able to reflect upon it all this spring.
I remembering being so excited when I found Claire the "perfect" shower gift.  But I really cannot take the credit for this find, God led me there.
Hart and I have a lunch date every Friday that we are free.  We normally go to our local Chinese restaurant.  They serve a delicious hibachi shrimp dish, my favorite.  But this was a Tuesday and I must have just gotten back from running a lot of errands, because I talked Hart into taking me to lunch that day.  As we were eating, we talked  about the shower coming up and how I wanted to get Claire something really special.  Hart , knowing what I'd really like to get her , said he wished we could afford a Kitchen Aid Mixer, but the cheapest are around $200.00  to $300.00....  When you are paying for a wedding, you count every penny and an extravagant shower gift was not in the budget.  Yet, I knew,  a Kitchen Aid Mixer would have been perfect.  You see Claire is the one who loved to cook of all of our girls.  And Hart says, even now, he can tell when Claire is home, because the mixer is running!  She was accepted into culinary school in Paris, but for various reasons, did not go.  Oh, well....so much for my dreams, I thought.
After we eat on Fridays we usually go by Goodwill for Hart likes to look for first edition books.  I usually browse the housewares.  So as I was walking through the appliances on this particular Tuesday I noticed a dirty, large mixer on the bottom shelf.  I bent down and lugged it onto the floor, frantically motioning for Hart to come over.  It was a Kitchen Aid Mixer!
I found an electrical outlet and we plugged it in, it worked!  All three beaters were there.  The bowl was in perfect shape.  And did I mention the color was almond.  That's the unusual color that Claire had chosen in her Bridal Registry.  The only problem I could see was that it had some grease on it.  Best part?  It was only $25.00.
We were so excited and couldn't wait to get home to clean it up.  And it came clean beautifully, not a scratch on it anywhere.  In fact if I had had the original box there is no way anyone would have known it was not new.  Amazing?  Yes, because I have an amazing God.  It reminds me of  Psalm 37:4,  "Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart". I told the story of the mixer at the shower and the women had tears in their eyes.  We call it the Miracle Mixer.
I still browse the appliance section on Fridays, but I've never seen another Kitchen Aid Mixer.  God surely works in mysterious ways.