Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vietnam Veteran (aka My Dad) Update

My dad finally was able to get a Prostate biopsy last Monday.  A couple of days later, he began to run a fever and feel horrible...chills, shaking, increased heart rate.  He finally went back to the VA on Friday to find out that he has a blood infection, compliments of the biopsy.  He remains in the hospital until Wednesday or Thursday.  He did get the results of biopsy and they confirmed that he does have cancer.  Please keep him in your prayers. 

Also, my grandmother, who was diagnosed with lymphoma, began her next to the last chemo treatment this week.  We are praying that when they give her the scan, the cancer will have been destroyed and she will be declared "CANCER FREE"!

Barn Raisin'

Darren has decided to take off work this week ~ no big vacation planned.  We're just going to stay around the farm and get some things done.
He's been working on the barn off and on for the last several days.  Saturday he had to take a pick axe to the rock bank behind the barn to level it off some.  Yesterday, he decided to work on putting the floor in on one side.  Sarah and I had to run a few errands and when we returned, Darren requested my help.   
Okay, just so you know...I have no carpentry, construction, hammering, etc skills.  So, he was going to hold the board tight up against the other while I hammered the nail into the floor joist.   Well, it all sounds easy enough on paper...er, in typing.  He's pulling back on his lever thingy and says "Now...hammer the nail in"...The hammer makes contact with the nail ~ Wow..I'm impressed with my skills.  However, the rebellious nail suddenly takes a quick swerve to the left.  I blush and begin tapping it back up straight...Darren is calm.  I hit again and make a good hard knock straight down.  Okay, I have it now ~ I can do this!  I hit again and the obnoxious nail once again veers the wrong way.  I duck my head against the exasperated look and tap the nail back into position.  Another knock and the nail head is now bent and going the wrong way again.  So I laugh...what else is there to do?  When face to face with your inadequacy, just try again and laugh it off....  Only I"m laughing alone...Darren is shaking his head...and still pulling on the lever,  mind you.  I finally get the nail to become flush with the board.  Victory at Last!!!  Why don't I feel triumphant??  Hmmm...
We move to the next board.  I am once again manning the hammer :)  So as to avoid holding you in suspense, I will tell you that yes, the story for this nail follows much the same outline as the last nail.  We continue on and it occurs to me that Darren has already begun hammering!! What???  Is he doing my job?   He mutters something about just getting the next couple of nails in quickly.  Wonder if that had anything to do with my hammering speed??  To make a long story short, I bent a couple more nails, and finally he grimaced and asked he if I could just go get him some water.  Well, yeah, I think I can handle that :)

And just as a follow-up, he did finish the floor and it is beautiful.  I love it!  I'd really like to put a wood stove in it and make it my Little Prairie school room but for some reason he's not going for it.....  I'll post a picture of the floor soon.  

Today you are You
that is truer than true
There is no one alive
who is youer than You!

Words of wisdom from Dr. Seuss

Friday, October 23, 2009

My 8 yr old Photographer

Jacob is developing a serious photography eye!  I love it!  On our trip to Stone Mtn, he took as many pics as I did...a lot of them were impressive.  I love how a camera makes you really look at things...makes you see the entire expanse of nature and in the next breath focuses you in on the smallest details.  Jacob is kinda like that in life too.  He likes the big picture...likes things to be fair...but he also sees others' hurts ...I have so many times seen him comfort Sarah or Isaac in their sorrow or pain.  I've also seen him talk a frustrated, perfectionist Malachi out of an emotional storm.  Jacob is like a camera lens...zooming out to see the whole picture, and zooming in to be concerned about people's feelings.  What an amazing little boy!

Into the Secret Garden....

Julian Price Park
Blue Ridge Parkway


Amazing that the plant that produces those long, spiny, green okra pods
also produces this lush flower....function AND beauty :)

My exuberant Isaac saying "YES!" 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Farm Update

Our little farm is now chugging out a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs every other day!!! Woo-hoo for some self-sufficient living!!  :D

My morning chores go pretty quickly...
I start out feeding and watering our two little bucks.  They are coming of age and starting to have the strong aroma that I am positive is only attractive to them.  They are also the loudest protestors of a hungry belly.  I had been only giving them one bucket of water every morning, but I noticed they were bickering over that one.  One would stick his head into the bucket and quench his thirst while the other stood, dry mouthed and anxious.  The second in line decided to start butting the bucket in attempts to get his brother to get a move on.  This only resulted in a tipped bucket and more work for me. So, problem solved by two buckets..no more fighting over the water. 
Next come the chickens...The first pen holds my favorite poultry.  California Whites reside together..they earn their keep...popping out fresh eggs daily.  They seem to have some measure of intelligence...well, for chickens.  They are happy to see their yellow grain and brown pellets showered into the feeding trough. 
The next pen holds my least favorite on the farm.  Chickens like these are only good for one thing...eating.  They are ultra plump, slow, and seemingly dimwitted.  When I come near with the tasty morsels, they only have one thing on their minds....feasting.  It doesn't matter if they step on each other, get their toe stuck under the door, trip over one another...it doesn't faze them...they have blinders on to all else but my bucket of glorious grain.  They've never laid the first egg....but the two we had a couple of weeks ago sure were tasty..so I continue to feed them and put up with their passive natures.  We put two California White roosters in the pen with these ladies...hehe...I get a good laugh every morning...with all those plump, hungry hens, the roosters take a backseat at the breakfast table.  Those girlies don't let anyone get between them and the vittles....  :) 
The third pen holds my arch nemeisis banty rooster (I still must share that story) and three banty hens.  These chickens are housed in a mobile pen so there's no going in to feed them...just open the top and deliver the goods. 
After getting water for the pens, the chickens are happy for the moment. 
I make my way back to the goats and I am on the home stretch.  I fill their bucket with water while enjoying my view of the early morning sun shining through the tall pines.  Annie, the milker, is so trained now that she waits at the gate and willingly walks up onto the milking stand.  Sugar, the non-milker at the moment, is content to stay inside and be allowed to eat her breakfast in peace. 
The farm kittens have a huge affinity for fresh goat milk...they follow me to the milking stand every morning...I literally have to fight them off in order to have a clean milking facility.  However, Malachi's persistent, sleek kitten - Ruth, insists on deftly leaping up onto the stand the moment I start the first warm streams of creamy milk into their bowl.  I don't want to get kitten cooties on my hand while milking..it isn't sanitary :) so, I let her stick her little feline head into her bowl and slurp away while I try to miss hitting her with milk.  By the time I have squeezed a fair amount of milk for the kittens, her black fur is matted down in little grooves and dripping white liquid. 
Once I have sat the bowl down for the kittens to have their fill, I am able to continue with the milking....Annie stands patiently, munching on her grain, and warily eyeing the kittens...they make her most anxious...those little bouncing balls of fur and motor noises...
Milking is finished!! Time to put Annie back in the fenced in area, clean up my milking location, and go check for any early eggs. 
If at this time, it is obvious that the pens/coops need some fresh hay, yours truly sees that the animals have a sanitary, clean abode.  For one, I don't like slipping and sliding in a two inch layer of ....shall we say "waste" ...especially after a good rain mucks it all up.  Two, I can't abide the thoughts of eating a chicken that looks dirty.  Based on this, I take up my rake bound by duty and desire... :)  Plus, it's really good, cheap physical exercise... LOL!  No lie...I can come in and have my cappuccino and creamer (don't laugh) and not feel guilty about all those calories. Yeah!!

I Am That Vagrant

We were on the way to church Sunday and passed a vagrant.  As we passed, I saw him through different eyes....I saw him as a mirror of myself.  How strange to realize that we all share the same base desires...it doesn't matter who we are.   
A CEO on Wall Street has the same desires that this vagrant has....the vagrant has the same desires that a Christian has.  Hmmm....isn't that an unusual thought?
We share physical desires:  food, clothing, shelter, sex, and touch.  We share emotional desires:  love, acceptance, peace, assurance, happiness, justice, and contentment.  We share spiritual desires:  a sense of purpose, meaning, connectiveness, peace, and belonging to something greater. 
I think what determines how our lives end up is the fervency in which we pursue the various desires.  Love leads us to date, seek out a mate, and eventually to marriage.  Love may also lead us on a never-ending journey for what doesn't exist.  Acceptance sometimes leads us to adopt different lifestyles or personalities.  A thirst for justice can take you many places...maybe in a job to enact justice for all - or a lifelong, detrimental hunger for revenge.  Sex can be found in the safe sanctity of marriage or in a dangerous emotional and physical need outside of marriage.  Its amazing how these desires can lead us so many places ....and it's strange to think we are all pursuing the same things, in different degrees, in various ways, to a plethora of ends.  When we pass a homeless man, we are the same.  When we watch TV and see the actors, we are the same.  When we see the addict, the drunk, the mom, the coach, the businessman, the teenager....we are looking into a mirror...Yes, the choices and pursuit may vary, but the base desires? ...we all have that in common. 
How very strange to see the vagrant through those eyes ~  To see that we are the same.  Makes me contemplate how I think about others...make me contemplate my choices and pursuits....makes me contemplate what desires lead people to their end. 

A Little Praise Goes a Long Way

Monday it was beautiful so we decided to go outside and finally make our paper mache powder horns.  I enjoyed working alongside my kids.  (I made Isaac his own powder horn...not that he particularly cares at this point, but I enjoy crafting and rarely find time lately to scrapbook....)  Anyway :)  ...  They were so funny as they laughed and cracked jokes together.  While the horns were drying, an impromptu game of football broke out.  Not the knock-you-down, tackle the breath out of you kind...just mainly kicking, throwing, and catching.  I have always LOVED playing that!!  For some reason, I totally can get into playing football...long as you don't hurt me...which has happened...being that I have two brothers and grew up in a neighborhood of boys....But I am chasing rabbits again....  For the first time in such a long time, I actually felt...FREE!!  I wasn't worried about all those things on my to-do list and I didn't feel all my projects "calling" me.  I just felt in the moment.  It was divine.  Jacob was beginning to really get the hang of kicking, and Malachi?  Well, Malachi (my 10 year old) effectively tripped me and knocked me on my backside.  He was most impressed with his skill.  :)  I commented that he was getting much stronger and he was going to have to take it easy on the girls.  He literally beamed...it was beautiful.  It has been made plain to me over and again what words of praise can do for our children.  It propels them forward like nothing else.  Praise makes them reach upward to the height of our expectations.  After I commented on his strength, I noticed he started picking up Sarah and swinging her around...making her giggle.  At one point, he caught the ball and since Sarah had not been able to catch the last several, Malachi reached over and handed her the ball...without her asking.  I commented that not only was he getting stronger but also more kind and that made for a dynamic duo!  Again, he beamed and was extra careful to be gentle with Sarah when racing her to catch the ball.  It turned out to be a wonderful afternoon...one in which I was able to observe, commend, and thank God for my blessings....

Friday, October 16, 2009

My new favorite quote:

"There are generations yet unborn, whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take".....Andy Andrews

Wow...is that sobering or what?  Our actions today not only influence us and those around us, but those yet to come...kinda makes you think...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Who Am I?

My current favorite song...the concept is amazing...it is unbelievable that He thinks of me...and loves me.


Finding God at Church...

Have you ever contemplated the purpose of church?  We've all heard the verse admonishing us to "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together"...  

My husband and I have many times been in the situation where church = busyness.   Several years ago, we were church searching.  We visited a church on a Wednesday night and only a short time later, felt we should join.  Within no time, we were stuck in all available slots...Sunday School, Children's Church, Awana on Wednesday night, the Nursery, and even the Missions Project.  I can remember going to church several times and never hearing a sermon.  Is that the purpose of church??  Do we need to be so busy with doing things that we never have a chance to "be still and know that I am God"?  

Even now, Darren has been preaching every Sunday for my dad, I am helping in Sunday School, we sing in the choir, and there is the Christmas Play starting up.  Why do I sometimes find myself resenting all these things??  And why, if you are not involved with numerous church activities, do you feel guilty and like you aren't pulling your weight?  

Where is the balance in serving and worshiping?    

And to add to that, sometimes its just the atmosphere as a whole.  Before church begins, things such as dinners, and meetings, and events are discussed.  Have you ever realized that the service has begun and you are still thinking about your calendar for the week...what night each event is taking place, what dish you need to bring to the dinner, what craft or snack items you need to remember to bring for Sunday School...and before you know it, the sermon is nearly finished and you've not taken time to listen and be fed.  It's sad.  It makes me contemplate the purpose of church.  Sometimes it makes me wonder why we bother.  Does that sound like a heathen?   Well, I am a Christian ..and I have these thoughts.

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to walk into church...straight in a one-room church...sit down and breathe...smile at a fellow parishoner..and then close your eyes...and breathe.  As you sit, you begin to hear faint strains of music...simple music...filling God's house.  There are no meetings, no events, no to-do lists...you are sitting in God's house and you are here to hear Him.  You wash your mind of trivial matters, you meditate on your heart and where it stands with Him....you maybe have a moment of prayer...fellowship with God Almighty....  A man of God stands and with all joking aside, reads to you from the Bread of Life...reads words that all eternity hinge upon...it is Holy.  You are not immersed in worldy thoughts...but concentrate on Him.  A gentle hymn is sung ...your heart soars with rapture, or quakes in conviction..but either way, it is on thoughts of Him.

Would this give us strength to go out and witness to others...to have a chance to be so filled ourselves that we have it running over to others?  In the story of  Mary and Martha, Martha was serving.  What we all think we must continually do, she was doing.  Yet, Jesus wanted Mary to stay at His feet.  He knows that we need time with Him...without always doing.......Why do we insist on feeling productive and useful only in busyness??  Why do we assemble ourselves together and forsake Him??  How can it be that some of us can go to church every week and never hear a sermon?  Are we made of such superior stuff that we can live daily in a world consumed with sin and give, and give, and serve, and do...and never need a refill of Him??

I feel the need for time with Him.  I have such a hard time finding quiet moments.  With four children, I rarely find them at home, with church stuff I rarely find it at church..where do I find it....where do I find moments with the most important aspect of my being?  I need Him...desperately.

To be continued.....

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This Is So Cool......

Imagine my exuberance when we entered the old Hutchinson homestead at Stone Mtn and my eyes lit upon their chairs!!!!  They looked like an older, more distressed version of mine!!  How cool is that??  The chairs there had a deeper shade of blue and no varnish...BUT they were blue distressed with natural looking seats!!  I am loving it!  : D

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Steps

These might look pretty
but they are punishment in disguise....  :)

Biblical Misunderstanding...

One more funny...Jacob was sitting in the den one night and with a contemplating look says, "Mom, you know those people in the Bible who had leprosy...you know, the leprechauns?"....  LOL  :D

Quick Comeback.....

I don't remember exactly what was being exchanged verbally, but I jokingly told Malachi, while ruffling his hair, that I was going to make him write a paper on how much he loved me.....

He sounded just as funny as his daddy when he immediately replied, "I'll need a short piece of paper!"  :O    ...had himself a big laugh over that one... I have to admit, I found it pretty funny as well.  

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. ~Henry David Thoreau

En route to the top of Stone Mtn
Love this picture...I could live here...

Stone Mountain State Park
The Summit

Day Trippin' .... Day Two ...A Little Hike

We decided to take one more vacation day ....sooooo, we finished up the farm chores and chose Stone Mountain State Park as our destination.  The kids were all pumped... :)  They really enjoyed the hike on the Parkway and were ready for another one.  We arrived at the Park and after studying the map, decided we would hike the stated "4.5 mile strenuous loop"....that was not an exaggeration folks.  Stone Mtn rises 600 ft from its base...you've gotta go up.  The hike up wasn't so bad...gradual incline with a nice wide path.  It was very well maintained.  We arrived at the summit and it was breathtaking.  Darren and I both expressed the desire to sit up there for a very long time and contemplate...but there wasn't a lot of contemplation to be had...with our four beautiful children walking around on a summit....that drops off abruptly into forest.  I nearly tossed my cookies every time one of them looked like they might trip and fall...and it goes without saying that Isaac could not move without my hawk eye pinning him in his tracks...I have a "slight" fear of heights....
That was only 1/4th of the loop..the easy 1/4th might I add. :)  From there, you wind around the side of the mountain and down...I mean fairly straight down...man made steps and lots of them...there were steps and steps and more steps...some were more natural looking...pretty...to distract you from the gentle, and then violent, trembling that is sneaking up your legs...
We got to the lower parking lot (the halfway point), filled the water bottles and were off again.  The kids were slightly less pumped at this stage...still going, just less pumped.  This part of the hike was pretty...no steps or very few ...  Isaac wanted to meander....every stump, log, and rock was a "seat".  He wanted to hit each tree with his "gun" (stick) ...and I like to take time to enjoy the walk as well as the next person...but...we were all getting a little tired and wondering what the rest of the trail would reveal.  Actually, inside we were trembling at the thoughts of hiking back up the mtn to the upper parking lot.  
We were able to stop by the old Hutchinson Homestead ...it was so beautiful.  I think I could live like that.  The home was nestled at the base of the mountain...surrounded by trees...Stone Mtn was the backdrop...birds flying overhead...small stream at the bottom of the hill...man...I was in love.  Wonder if I could get internet reception there???  :) 

It was time to continue hiking...Isaac was getting tired ...well, past tired...Darren was gracious enough to carry him on his back.  I didn't realize I was married to a pack mule...I will share the significance of that with you as the story unfolds.   
We hiked and hiked till we reached the few steps that led down to the falls.  They were pretty...not spectacular, but pretty.  We turned around and Malachi's fatigue was fairly obvious when he said, "What??  Is that all we can down those steps for?  Now we just have to go back up"  Part of me was much in agreement with him.  But that wasn't the worst part...we trudged up those FEW steps to discover that we had many, many, many more steps ahead of us.  Those man made steps leading to the top?  ~ Well, they were designed to punish you for every wicked deed you've ever committed ...and I must be very, very wicked because I suffered greatly.  :)  There were many casualties along the way...one little girl crying because she couldn't make it...a lady slumped over in defeat because the punishment was too great...I overhead a man exclaim that he "just wanted to be able to breathe"....it was scary stuff.  The kids did excellent...and the pack mule???  He carried Isaac up every step...God bless him.  I huffed beside Sarah and fear struck my heart when she uttered those horrendous words..."Mom, I wish I could be carried."  My heart clenched, my already labored breathing took on a more feeble beat, my palms sweated profusely...with as much of a calm demeanor as I could muster, I choked out..."It's okay sweetie...don't look at all the steps in front of you...just concentrate on the one you're on"...which is the mantra I had being screaming at myself since the billionth step.  Amazingly, we all made it to the top...and crawled to the vehicle.  Sweet, sweet vision of love...my hated van became. :)  As we were coming out of the forest, we passed the gentleman who said he "just wanted to be able to breathe" checking out the trail signs with his family...apparently they had only hiked down to the falls and back up...he was debating "The Loop"!  I nearly jogged over to tell him not to try it...but my legs would not take me and besides what's a little hike??  Oh yeah...a little hike....
Anyway, we totally enjoyed our day...my children turned out to be champion hikers...little soldiers who did not quit.  Sarah did do a face plant in the path once...she was so tired....and I carried her on my back for a while...then she carried me...just kidding.... :)
It was wonderful and I highly recommend the trip to anyone.  (Just make sure you wear your walking shoes)

Homesteading Carnival...

My "A Few Good....Chickens??" was featured in a Homesteading Carnival!  Follow this link to check it out:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Julian Price Park
Blue Ridge Parkway


"As fragrance abides in the flower
as reflection is within the mirror,
so does the Lord abide within you
Why search for Him without?"

Julian Price Park
Blue Ridge Parkway

You Never Know What's 'Round the Bend...

View of the Mountains...Absolutely Gorgeous!!

Day Trippin'

Today we decided to take a little trip up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Thought we might sniff out a trail to hike ~ get everyone away from the mini-farm for awhile and breathe.  I drove...to avoid getting carsick.  My husband, bless his heart (that's what people say when they are fixin' to gossip ya know :)  well, he was silently swearing, sweating, and shaking his head in exasperation.  Poor thing questioned my driving skills...."Stay on your side of the road"  (Don't you think it's a waste if no one is even using the other lane???) "Do you know what the speed limit is??"  (Of course I do, and we all know it's merely a suggestion.)  Well, it might not have been that bad...but I have to admit something...a confession if you will ~ The more incredulous he becomes, the more I want to "incredulate" him...I know, calm down, that's not even a word...but seriously, the more exasperated he becomes, the funnier it is...(I'm not talking about when it's something serious and he's for real upset of course)  It's a vicious cycle and I totally enjoy frustrating him....now you know how to pray for my husband....  :D
Okay, anyway.....we found a trail to hike at Julian Price Park.  It was the Boone Fork Trail....which is a 5 mile, moderate/strenuous loop.  Since Isaac's birth we have yet to complete a large loop. Problem is, we don't get started walking till after lunch...today it was 3 pm.  And walking with a two year old definitely provides the time to stop and smell the roses...and pick up rocks, and play with leaves, and trip over roots, and charge toward every hint of water, and stomp in puddles, and....well, you get the picture... :)  So, at 4:15, we notice that we have traveled approximately 1 mile.  Hmmmm....well, I started counting fingers and figured (with Darren's help) that having taken an hour to travel one mile, that would put us coming out of the woods at around 8 pm.....8 pm is dark....with four children...in the woods....hmmmm....not an ideal situation.  Not at all...   Sooooooo, we did what we've done since having babies on a loop, we turned around and went back the way we came.  But the walk was invigorating.  The kids all enjoyed themselves...as did the adults.  It was nice to walk away for a bit and have a change of scenery.  We may play hooky from church and do it again tomorrow.  I don't think God minds if His children take a break every now and then.   
Okay, on the subject of church...I just can't help myself here....seriously ...have you ever noticed the magnitude of available churches??  You drive into these little bitty communities and they have four or five churches....can you even divide up the people and still have someone attending each church??  I'd really enjoy sharing the names of some of those churches with you...I swannanoa they are amusing...I imagine after all the "regular" names have been taken, people have to get creative...like "The Glory Hallelujah Jesus Revelation Full Gospel Baptist Church of the Apostles".  LOL!!  ....I nearly miss the Little House of the Prairie days when there was one church and everybody attended.  Surely that cut out all the squabbling and trying to figure which church was "right".
But anyway, we had a wonderful day and hopefully will get one more day tomorrow to enjoy a change of pace. 

Friday, October 9, 2009

Robert Frost

Robert Frost:

two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

My Driveway :)

Life in a Picture...

This is life captured in a picture...
beauty and pain....
life and death...
joy and sorrow...


The River....

Another picture of my river....


The mind is a funny thing...

It rejects people, thoughts, places, events
   and childishly attempts to eradicate them
  it tries....
    but is never successful...

Hidden in the cavernous places
   in the dark abysses 
are those thoughts that would,
            if let loose, 
threaten our pretty world.

We pretend...
   we try to make excuses
for things we strive to imagine 
do not exist.

We paint on smiles,
   and cordial greetings,
 and happy events, and even
 times of worship...

We play a convincing role -

   we are the epitome
of emotional and
   spiritual health....

But from deep in the darkness
  those hidden things
whisper to us...
  call to us....
to say their name
  and give them life...

And we Pretend.

Time Alone...Part 3

The river called my name yesterday evening....and I answered.  I decided come .."hades or high water" I was going to have some time of solitude.  I drove to Hickory to Rotary Park.  Well, imagine my surprise when it appeared that half of Hickory was there too...it wasn't that way when I use to go there for time alone.  But that was maybe 13 years ago and things never stay the same, do they?  
As I got out of the car, everything but me, the river, and the arms of the willow vanished....I could almost swear the river was reaching out to me as I hesitantly approached.  It was such a part of my life.  It heard my fears, my sorrows, kissed away my tears, and held me in my loneliness.  It comforted me in ways others could never understand.  My river was steady, stable, neverchanging...yet always moving and breathing and caressing.  I'm not sure that the peace I found there could ever be explained.  I think sometimes that is how the soul was meant to worship. ...in silence ...where all other thoughts can be put aside and you are free to just "be".  The river makes me reflect...absorbs all those little things that distract into its depth and simply gives you a mirror image of you..  It forces you to look inside that image and dust off the places that get neglected by daily life....forces you to sift through those thoughts you've tucked away to be dealt with in a "quieter time".  I love the constancy of the river....love the way it's always flowing, yet always the same.  It is inside me. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits...

We had breakfast for supper tonight...fresh eggs, homemade strawberry and blueberry jams, bacon, livermush, and buttermilk biscuits.  I recently found an easy *successful* biscuit recipe.  Now, if you've the time, money, and desire, Sam's has an excellent butter flake biscuit mix that turns out divine biscuits.  However, on occasion you've gotta work with what you've got.  The recipe I have found that produces a pretty darn good biscuit is quite simple....

3 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, cold (as in straight from the fridge cold)  *** I know, I know...that's a hunk of butter :)
1 - 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, cut butter into flour using a pastry cutter or fork until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Pour in buttermilk gradually, stirring mixture with fork.  Add milk until the dough is not sticking to the sides of the bowl and all flour is absorbed into the dough.  

On a clean, dry, floured surface, roll dough until it is floured enough so that it doesn't stick to the surface.  Press dough out until it is about 1 - 1 1/2 inches thick.

Using a floured biscuit cutter or floured glass rim, cut biscuits.  ****Okay, I have to share a HUGE tip with you...I saw on a cooking show once that if you turn and twist the cutter it seals the edges of the biscuit preventing it from rising properly!!  Just press straight down...no twisting...I'll give you something later to twist to....H@!  Bet you're curious now...be patient...

Place on an ungreased pan; biscuits should be barely touching.

Bake (oven rack should be in middle position) for about 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.  Immediately brush with butter.

I found this recipe on Cooks.com....
A few personal tips of my own:

**If you do not have buttermilk - Use 1 tbsp of lemon juice and add enough regular milk to equal up to 1 cup.  This makes 1 cup of buttermilk.

**If you're out of self-rising flour, no worries!!  Mix together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 tsp of baking powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt ...Voila!  

But, I think they do taste a little better when you use fresh sr flour and buttermilk.

Now for the twisting part...when I was in maybe 7th or 8th grade, my neighbor introduced me to a *slightly* stupid but rather funny rap....I never fail to think about it when I make buttermilk biscuits...I'm hoping to curse you into being brainwashed as well...misery loves company, right???  :)

Copy and paste this link :
Enjoy!  H@! H@!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Time Alone...Part 2

Okay, tonight's thinking time is put off...gonna wait till Thursday when it is sunny and warm...I hope...I told you these things were delicate....

Time Alone....

I think it's going to happen...I don't want to get to excited because matters like this are delicate and things could change...but I think it may just work out...I'm excited..you'll never guess so I'm going to kill the suspense and just tell you...I think I have carved out a little, bitty niche in time tonight to go sit at the river and ....think.  Yes, think.  I'm ready for it...it has been calling to me.  Actually more like screaming, but that just doesn't sound as romantic, does it?? I mean, who wants to be screamed at??  Wait, we're getting off track...time alone is what I was talking about...I'm thinking it's going to work.  I've told my husband that I need it.  My psyche can't live without it.  It's overdue.  My whole being is craving the silence, the solitude, the sound of water lapping against the boards of the pier, the trees standing guard around me, the air wrapping around me in a tight embrace....I'm ready. 

A Few Good....Chickens??

Our chicken population is at the "we have too many" mark.  The ones that the kids hatched out from the 4-H project are different from our chickens (which are California Whites)  We've never been sure what type the others are.  There are some distinguishing qualities though...like the fact that they are very plump...to the point of not being able to walk well...I think they are bred that way. Anyway, they also do not lay eggs.  I guess you know that feeding livestock who do not in some way, shape, or form, give back is not very productive farming.  
With that in mind, we decided to make these passive chickens feel like they are giving back.  :)  On Saturday, we chose two lucky birds to be the proud initiates in the Fox Farm Hall of Fame...there's fame to be had in being first...right??  
We read online that optimum water temperature for plucking is 150 degrees...check.  
Needed a place to build a fire to boil the water....check.
Had to rig up something to hang them on to pluck....check.
And, had to have a sharp instrument to ...well, you know....check.
(I'm going to give you a warning here...if you do not want to hear about my first chicken please do not continue to read...it's quite gross ...and you may feel differently about me...and decide that farm life is not a good thing...and that I'm totally crazy....If however, you remind yourself that your female ancestors took a chicken from coop to table singlehandedly and didn't give it a second thought, you might feel comfortable reading on.... :)
We got the water boiling and chose two chickens.  I'm not sure at what point I decided I wanted to make one of the chickens meet their demise myself, but I was firm in my decision.  I guess I figured if my great grandmother could do it, so could I...and so it was decided.  We got the water boiling and Darren took care of the first one.  Then it was my turn...oh my!  But I will spare you all the gory details and just suffice it to say that it happened and we were on to plucking...  One chicken ended up on the smoker, and one went into a pot for chicken and dumplings. 
Now you may wonder if I felt bad or guilty ...but really, these chickens weren't pets.  We've had a few of those, but these weren't.  They lived well; they got to free-range; and in the end they provided meat for the table.  That's not a bad thing.  It is the natural course of farm animals.  And I can feel good in knowing that my children were eating clean chicken....no antibiotics, no hormones, not cooped up in a teeny, tiny cage.  This was purely farm raised and I'm right at proud of that :)

One Project Down...

So.....the chairs and table....what an interesting project.  It took me most of the summer.  In the beginning, I decided to only work on the chairs while Isaac napped - from about 2:00-3:30 or 4:00...just to keep him out of the paint.  Well, it occurred to me that if I was going to paint two coats of brown, two coats of blue, sand the edges, and then add two coats of varnish, it was going to take FOREVER to get it finished only working on them 1 1/2 -2 hrs a day.  On that thought, I started taking them outside on a drop cloth to paint so Isaac could amuse himself outdoors instead of continually picking up a paint brush saying, "Mom - paint!"  If you remember how much rain we've had, you'll know this didn't go as swiftly as planned either.  The chairs weren't really a problem...time consuming but not a problem.  The table on the other hand made me curse the day I was born on more than one occasion.  There were three strips on each end of the table...maybe where tape had once resided? - that would not accept stain.  My husband, after talking to a guy in the finishing department, applied some paint thinner  and roughed it up alittle....it finally got to the point where it would accept.  BUT, by this time, so much sanding had been done that the first coat of stain was uneven.  Sigh...  And the strips still weren't accepting stain like the rest of the table.  SOOOO, I thought I'd put a thick coat of stain on and see how it turned out.  Got up the next morning to check it out and OMGosh!  Not stylin'!  So...I had to sand the table down...again.   At that point, I did not realize the importance of sanding the entire top as evenly as possible...the edges were sanded more than the middle...when I restained the table, the middle was slightly darker than the heavily sanded edges!!!! Are you feeling my pain????  I sanded and stained, sanded and stained, sanded and stained.....finally I decided to put varnish on and be done.  It is never going to look perfect...that kills me like you wouldn't believe...it does not make sense that you can put your every effort into something and it not turn out exactly as planned...(control freak alert!)  Anyway, I covered the table with two coats of varnish and called it quits.  It looks okay....I mean, I can live with it ya know??  I absolutely love my chairs....they turned out just how I wanted them....nice to be pleased with the result.  :)  And I am soooo glad the job is completed.  Of course, the other day my sweet husband says, "Since the table is uneven, you could always sand the varnish down and paint it and distress it"????!!!!!!  Whaaaaaat?????  :O
(By the way, I still have two pieces of furniture to finish...a prep center and a server type thing....I'm sure you'll hear more of that story...for now, I'm pretending they don't exist)

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Wild, West Cowboy Party...

Jacob wanted a Cowboy party this year.  I think the whole idea stemmed from the Frontiersman we covered in our Revolutionary War study...he loves the wild man out in nature idea.  He was so funny planning the party.  I mentioned that we get into "themes" around here...I wasn't kidding.  He decided to go along with his party, he needed cowboy stuff...said he wanted pickles to simulate cacti, carrots (for the horses), hotdogs and marshmallows over a campfire, and....a beef jerky log cabin.  :)  He didn't really care about the cake...Jacob is not a cake eater ...I decided to make chocolate cupcakes and stick sheriff badges in them.  It turned out really well.  He wanted all surprises for his gifts...we got him a circuit board and a playstation game.  I love educational gifts...the circuit board is awesome.  You can make around 200 different projects on it.  He has always loved experiments and science stuff so he is diggin' it :)
His mawmaw got him a very cool camera.  He has "played" with that nonstop.  Nearly every picture I have of me, he has taken.  He has a good eye and does really well.  :)  I'm proud of him. 

Science Center Field Trip

Our visit with the rope maze...the kids all loved it...even Isaac...of course he was happiest when just jumping over the ropes - and in effect feeling most accomplished for not tripping.  :)  The temporary exhibit this time was "Playing with Math".  They had a nice little section set up with origami instructions and paper.  Malachi has purchased origami kits in the past, as well as paper airplane kits.  It's been awhile since he had it all out though.  It would be putting it mildly to say the exhibit revived his interest :)  He made all of the designs that they provided instructions for.  Jacob made a couple and Sarah learned how to make origami cups (and made 10-15.)  She was excited.  (Actually, as she was folding washcloths today, she made me an origami cup with a washcloth...funny...).  Anyway, Isaac even crumpled up a piece of paper..it was undefinable, but to him  it was origami.  I eventually succumbed to my inner child and made my own cup.  :)
We moved along to the permanent animal room...don't tell PETA but Sarah was stylin' in a luscious Artic Fox..hehe...We checked out the aquarium and Spin City downstairs as well.  We had a wonderful time together, took lots of pictures, and acted a little silly! 

Curious George

In keeping with Isaac climbing all over everything like a little monkey and his endless curiosity, he had a Curious George birthday party.  I had planned on making a Curious George character cake.  Normally, I go all out with the theme party thing....I get carried away.  :)  This time I decided to take it easy.  Just made a two-layer cake with plenty of child friendly sprinkles :)

After he blew his candle out, he didn't want me to move the cake...thought the whole thing was his personal little party :)  It was cute...he swiped his little finger in the icing and said "Mmmmm" 

When he first got up, Sarah had him a surprise...she had wrapped him up a book set in a little cape to give him.  He was very excited!!  (Even tho he's looked at the books several times :)  His excitement made her excited ...it was so sweet! 

Just A Country Girl....

We hardly ever go out...on a date..alone.  I had been begging, pleading, etc to get Darren to take me out.  Finally, he caved and said let's go.  So, last Thursday I got all dressed up, we dropped the kids off at my mom's and we were off.  First order of business...where to go...when you only go out like once a year, all the choices sound good...actually, they all sounded good because I didn't have to prepare the food!! Yeah!  Okay, I already knew I wanted a steak...so I was thinking Texas Roadhouse.  We get over there and the parking lot was brimming over...then comes the delimma...did I want to spend our time waiting on food and sitting in the middle of half of Hickory??  I really wanted a good steak...on the other hand, I wanted a more intimate setting.  And when Darren agreed and said we could just get curbside service at Applebees and park somewhere, I started doubting myself....***all my contemplation forces were at work***..."Did I get all dressed up for nothing??"  "Maybe he doesn't want to take me into a busy restaurant..."  "Do I not look good enough for him?"  "This is a date."  "Everybody else seems to think it's great"....good grief...my mind is a crazy place.  But when it all comes down to it, I really don't want to pay 20.00 for a plate that might be good but it's still just food.  And I'm not the kind of person that likes crowds and ...stuff... it occurred to me that "OH MY GOSH!  I am so a country farm girl"...I like to get dressed up, I like to go out...but what I love is simple and intimate.  I have to admit it irks me.  I wanted to go in somewhere and but when it came down to it, I just wanted something simple and relationship time.  But then I think "Really?"  And who else on God's green planet even has these thoughts just going out for a steak?????  But seriously, I'd take a date sitting hand in hand at the river...on a bench...on a rock....with a coke and a bag of chips any day over spending 40.00 getting a steak in a busy establishment.  I like intimate.  I like simple.  I like deep.  I like real.  Darn it, there's no hope for me...I'm just a country girl.