Thursday, May 29, 2008


and Pears!

How satisfying to walk around the yard and see all the growing goodies that we will be able to eat. Especially the ones above, where I didn't have to do anything. They just come back year after year!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Random Thoughts

A little bit grumpy here towards my computer. I had a brainstorm last night about future blog posts and filled several notebook pages with ideas and notes. My computer isn't opening up my picture program and I cannot download any photos off my camera card. argh! We had a short power blackout during dinner last night, so I suppose that has something to do with not being able to open my picture program. A storm rolled through during the night and the day is overcast and cool. The windows are open and the breeze filters through, bringing with it that heavenly scent of wet earth. Much better than yesterday, when it was hot and some nearby farmer picked that day to work the manure pile and the wind would pick up and carry over the not-so-lovely scent of cow poop through the living room windows.

"Ew! Cow poop!" Oldest would exclaim.

When Youngest was asked what cows say, she'd reply, "moo!" When asked what cows do, she'd say, "poo poo!"

I got my kitchen garden planted and I am happy with the results. 10 various tomato plants, a row of snow peas, green onions and radishes. I'll be adding 4 sweet pepper plants today and that's it. The larger garden will get the corn, squashes, melons and a few others. The herbs are in pots near the kitchen garden. I am looking forward to harvesting already! I hope that when the baby comes, I can get him to take naps in large chunks of time so I can do canning and freezing without interruptions.

We put up the first batch of strawberry wine into wine bottles yesterday. Just under 2 gallons total and it already has a heavy scent of alcohol. The new batch is in a plastic bucket this time and so far so good. 10 more days and then we can bottle that batch. It will be hard to wait a year, but I'll just tell myself that we can finally taste it on our 11th wedding anniversary and it will be that much sweeter!

Previous owners planted wisteria along the garden fence. For those of you not aware of wisteria, don't ever plant near the garden unless you are willing to devote a lot of time to control and train the vine. Lovely purple flowers but the vines are blood-sucking monsters! We didn't know about wisteria and it was already left to it's own devices by the time we bought the house. It's vines choked up the tines in our tiller and we had to stop several times to cut out the vine. We tilled about 15-20 feet away from the fence, and the vines were reaching far beyond that. We ended up walking and pulling up every vine we could find, just below the surface, recognizable by it's leaves popping up through the grass here and there.

Last week, we made the decision to chop the wisteria down and hopefully ending it's reign over the garden fence. It grows so thickly and quickly that we cannot see through the fence to the garden area. I've already spotted deer prints in the fresh tilled soil and the wisteria helps to hide the deer well. Hubby chopped and the girls and I carried the remains to the fire pit. I must have touched some poison ivy, because now I have a very itchy rash on my arm. It's been a week now and no amount of "itchy cream" or "pink stuff" helps. I even have natural goat's milk poison ivy soap that usually helps relieve the itch, but not this time. Let me repeat myself: Do not plant wisteria unless you are willing to devote much time and effort to training and staying on top of the vines.

I currently have a pink explosion on my living room floor. The girls have been keeping the play room clean and their reward was to break out the BIG BOX of BARBIES with the promise that they pick them up afterwards. So far, they have been doing that, so the dolls and their many, many, many accessories stay out. When I start stepping on Barbie shoes and brushes, they'll be banished into the box again.

The natives are getting restless and hungry. I better feed them before they turn on me!

Friday, May 23, 2008

One More Trip To The Fields!

Although money is tight with Hubby not working, I really enjoy having him home everyday. If we could afford to have him not work at all, we would do it in an instant. One of the reasons it's so nice having him home, is we can go to the strawberry fields in the middle of the week and beat out the weekend crowds. There was only one other person there with a kid yesterday, so we had two acres of strawberries all to ourselves.

The first time we went to the fields, the girls did not eat a single strawberry. They dutifully picked and picked and filled their little buckets. The second trip, they seemed to relax a little bit and it was more like 5 in the bucket, 1 in the mouth. This time, it was eat, eat, eat, nothing in the bucket!

After much encouragement and trying to get the girls to pick more berries and eat less, Hubby and I stepped up and filled the buckets ourselves. I think the awe of picking strawberries has worn off and they just want to fill their bellies instead.

We picked close to 15 pounds of berries this time, and with all the snacking they did in the field, I'm pretty sure it should have been closer to 20 pounds! We are going to try another batch of strawberry wine and make one more batch of jam and then depending on how much is left, freeze or make fruit leather with the rest.

I have a feeling we will probably make one more trip to the farm before the birthday party, so I can have some fresh strawberries for the dessert. I want to make fruit kabobs with chopped watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and grapes. After eating fresh strawberries for the past 2 weeks, I will find it hard to buy strawberries at the store that were picked green and shipped all the way from California or Florida and tastes nothing like the sweet, juicy berries we are used to.

Here's the recipe for Strawberry Jam:

5 cups crushed strawberries

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 box powdered pectin ( I use Ball brand )

7 cups sugar

Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a 6 or 8 qt stainless steel pan. Gradually add the powdered pectin and bring to a boil. When boiling, add entire amount of sugar all at once and return to a boil. This takes about 10 minutes of stirring. When boiling, let it boil hard about one minute, constantly stirring. Remove from heat and carefully ladle into hot jars. Cap and place into hot water canner. Can for 10 minutes then remove and let cool. Makes about 5 pints.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Pregnancy Update #3

It's official. I am now exactly one month away from my estimated due date. 4 weeks until my little family of 5 turns into a family of 6. Oh my.

I feel pretty good. My belly is nice and big and the baby kicks around pretty strongly, especially after I drink or eat something cold. I'm pretty sure that has something to do with my stomach resting right on his bottom. I'd kick and squirm too if someone plopped some ice cream on my bottom!

My last pregnancy, by the time I got to the end of my 8th month, I was ready to deliver the baby. I couldn't wait to shed the extra weight and get the belly part of my body back. I was aching and tired, my feet hurt and my back hurt. Thanksgiving just ended and Christmas was around the corner. The combination of being in my last month of pregnancy and the holidays did not make for a pleasant experience. I was SO sure that baby #3 was going to come around Christmas time and was half relieved and half disappointed when she didn't make her appearance by Christmas.

This time around, with no major holidays or stresses, the pregnancy is moving along nice and smoothly. The only thing I am dealing with at the moment, is getting the garden planted and planning Oldest's 6th birthday party in 2 weeks. My mom will be here for a week to help with that and we are planning to grill burgers and hotdogs so I won't have to do any cooking that day. The menu is worked out, the invites got mailed today, and all that's really left to do, is to clean the house and make the food, which I don't have to worry about until the beginning of June.

After my last bi-weekly pre-natal appointment next week, I'll have weekly appointments. I need to contact the hospital and make arrangements with the anesthesiologist in case of emergency (I plan on a natural birth with no epidural). Other than that, everything is pretty much set and ready to go.

I have everything I need, except for diapers. I still need to get Youngest out of the crib and into her new bed. We tried to get her into bed one night and after repeated escapes she pointed at the crib and we put her in there. Looks like I'll have to make the crib disappear, just like we did with Middle, to show that she has no choice in the matter and then she'll sleep in the bed. Or at least that's how it worked with Middle.

I can feel my nesting instinct kicking in, and nothing is safe. I want to scrub and clean and mop and dust and wash the windows and sort through the clutter and wipe noses and hands and ... I already told Hubby that I want to have a yard sale before the baby gets here to get rid of some excess clutter. I want to sew and make bibs and a boy-themed baby blanket. I want to pre-make some meals and freeze them so I won't have to do much cooking once the baby gets here. If I had my way, and the money, the whole house would be gutted and everything replaced with something new and fresh and clean.

Tomorrow we go strawberry picking yet again, for another round of strawberry jam and I think we will go ahead and make another batch of strawberry wine. Then we will have something to compare the other one with to see if we botched it or not. We will get a new 5 gallon bucket for the wine this time, to prevent any more strawberry explosions!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Strawberry Explosion!

Today, we had to work on the Strawberry wine that we started last week. We mashed 7 pounds of strawberries, steeped them in 2 gallons of boiling water and lemon juice, stirred daily and inhaled the lovely aroma of strawberries. We were to strain out the strawberry pulp and add 5 pounds of sugar then supposed to wait another week before we pour the wine into wine bottles.

We were using the largest container we could find, which was this 5 gallon glass jar we had. It was perfect for the job and was more than half full with all the strawberries and water in it. When we were half way done with straining out the pulp, we poured half of the liquid back into the cleaned-out jar and added the 5 pounds of sugar. I was in the kitchen working on the other half of the liquid and Hubby was stirring in the sugar. The jar broke!

I heard Hubby yell and when I looked, all I saw was red liquid all over the table and the floor! Apparently the repeated hits from the spoon we used to stir the wine caused the jar to break. Hubby managed to tilt the jar but we lost about 1 1/2 gallons of wine.

See the big hole in the jar? Boo hoo! The jar will be missed!

This is my improvised hanger for the pulp in the straining cloth to drip out the juice.

We debated throwing out the rest of the wine, but we still had over a gallon of wine that needed to be strained, still. So we decided to forge ahead, and I strained the wine in the jar for any glass pieces (there were none, it broke in 3 large bits) and we transferred the remainder of the wine to an over-turned cake cover. We estimated how much more sugar to add and hopefully, the final results will be alright. We have to wait a whole year to know if we did the right thing, but I can tell you it does smell a little wine-y now. Hopefully, we turned lemons into lemonade. Keep your fingers crossed!

We did a number of things to all the strawberries we brought home-- froze 2 gallons worth of whole berries for smoothies and add-ins; made 10 pints of strawberry jam (one is almost gone!); made fruit leather (gone already!) and the strawberry wine. Oh! and I can't forget all the snacks we had with the strawberries, too, everything from berries and real cream to berries on yogurt and ice cream and just walking by the flat of berries and grabbing a couple. I would like to make one more trip to the farm for more berries, to make more jam and freeze another gallon, because the price is right-- $1.80 a pound, and because they are so, so yummy! Wait and see how it goes, I still need to finish planting the garden and it is supposed to be nice this weekend.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

An important message for pet owners

A stray cat has been hanging around these past few days. Poor thing looks like it hasn't eaten in days and it is nothing but skin and bones. It probably smelled our cats' food bowls and came over to eat, which I don't really mind, but the cats sure didn't appreciate it!

After a little hissing and spitting and being put in it's place by some of the other cats, it cowered in the corner of the garden. It seemed friendly enough, meowing at me when I came near and let me pet it and look up it's rear end-- oh a boy cat!

I put out a separate food bowl for it and watched him eat, then by night-time, he disappeared. A sigh of relief would come over me when he was gone, because really, 5 cats is enough and I don't want any more cats hanging around, possibly passing on diseases or spraying the children's toys. The 3 cats we have outside are all "fixed" and up to date on shots and we have rescued all 5 of our cats from certain fates at one time or another. We take responsibility for our cats and wish others would do the same.

Day after day, though, the cat came back. I watched him poop where the kids play with bare feet. I watched him hide under the car and watch our other cats warily watching him. As much as I love cats, I really, really don't want another cat to care for. And this one looked unwell. Sores on it's neck, bare spots on it's back, skinny, bony thing. I feel for the guy, unwanted and scrounging around for food. It is not his fault that someone didn't spay or neuter his parents and created more kittens that no one wants.

We called an animal sanctuary down the road to see if they would take him off our hands. They would, with a donation of food. So we bought a bag of food and the next time he came around, I picked him up and put him in a carrier and Hubby took him away. Part of me feels bad, but I also know my limits. Our money is tight as it is, and with a human baby due in a month, we don't need another mouth to feed, or pay for another cat to get fixed and up to date shots.

Please, get your dogs and cats spayed or neutered. There are enough animals in the shelters without homes. If your pet has babies, find responsible homes for them or get them fixed before giving them away. There are programs you can find that will help pay for the costs of getting animals fixed. We once adopted 4 stray kittens at the same time and a program helped us to get their shots and fixed them for less than $100 for all of them. Look up the local shelters in your area for more information on those services.

Friday, May 16, 2008

10 Years!

Today is our wedding anniversary. For 10 years we have shared our lives together and I have loved every moment of it. For 10 years we have held hands, slept side-by-side, kissed, wiped away each other's tears, nursed the sick one back to health, argued, made (almost) 4 babies, and loved each other. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

10 years ago, we planned our small wedding ourselves. We got married in the same church my husband's parents and sister got married in. We had the reception in the basement of the church and ordered the food and cake from the local grocery store. We decorated the tables with green table cloth and daisies as the centerpiece, a green candle inside a small clay pot for favors. My dress was a $75 prom dress, slightly altered and his tux was free with the rental of 4 other tuxes. We paid cash for our matching wedding rings because we hated the thought of owing on something so precious as our symbol of love and commitment to each other. Our entire wedding, including the rings and the honeymoon trip, cost us less than $3000.

We honeymooned in the Great Smoky Mountains and stayed in a cabin for 5 days, exploring the flea markets, antique shops and caverns in the area. Then we stayed 2 days at my husband's grandma's house, because she couldn't come to our wedding but we wanted to see her and share the beginning of our marriage with her.

10 years with my husband has flown by and I look forward to sharing another 10, 20, 40 more years with him. I love being married. I love being married to my husband. I love the children we have created together and now raise together. I love how, after 10 years, he still looks at me with the same desire he had when we first met.

I love you my dear husband. Happy 10th Anniversary!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I am not a professional photographer. I pretend I am, but I most certainly am not. For my birthday once, I asked my dad and stepmom for a fancy camera and I got a Canon Rebel. I went all out with that camera and bought me a fancy camera bag just like the pros use. I got a longer lens that made me seem like I knew what I was doing when I went through the motions of switching the lens. I bought tinted lenses and black and white film and a cleaning cloth and... well, you get the idea. Then I proceeded to prance about the national parks in DC snapping shots of monuments and flowers and acting like I was there for a reason, as if I was a photographer for the Washington Post paper.

Now that film is on it's last legs and digital is sweeping the nation, my poor Canon just sits in a corner, weeping. My latest camera is a simple little digital one-trick pony kind of camera and here I am, pretending to be a professional photographer, again. The azaleas are blooming and I want to take our newly traditional picture of the girls in front of the lovely flowers.

I am not a professional photographer, as you can see. This is one of many I took of Oldest and look at that expression! She's actually shaking her head at my feeble attempts at being a professional photog (look- I'm even using slang talk!).

Here, Youngest can't even manage a smile for me. She just sits there looking at me disdainfully, hoping that I'll just throw in the towel and give it up.

Middle here, is such a poser. She do every unnatural pose in the book except for the one I want her to do-- sit up, look at me, smile. Her version is to sit with her back as straight as a rod, head up in the clouds and a toothy, cheesy grin.

Look! Youngest can't even look at me! I've shamed her and she can't bear to look at her poor mother sitting on the damp ground, crying for her to look at me and smile. Middle even closed her eyes, preferring to daydream she is on a tropical island, surrounded with dolls from the toy store, dancing with Woody, her main squeeze from Toy Story (move over Bo Peep! There's a new girl in town!). Even Oldest is patiently waiting for me to call it quits, refusing to open her mouth and show her teeth, for fear one of those pesky gnats swarming us will fly into her mouth. I already had a mouthful of gnats when I was making goofy faces trying to get my girls to laugh and smile and look oh so pretty for the camera.

I'm not a professional photographer. Professional photographers don't yell at their subjects and spit out gnats that fly into their mouths. They coo sweetly at the subjects and charge an extra sitting fee instead!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Do you have any wine bottles? asks the pregnant lady

We made Strawberry Wine today. I went ahead and used a recipe that I got off the internet that used only strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and water. We didn't have any wine bottles since the husband and I are not big drinkers so I hunted around on the internet for some but didn't see any that satisfied me.

We had errands to run in town, so the first place I thought to check was a store that I have gotten storage bottles from before. I had the kids stay in the car with Hubby because it was just going to be a quick in and out. I asked the clerk if they had any wine bottles and she pointed me over to some fancy ones that don't quite fit the bill, but would do as a last resort. She suggested another place and we drove over there. No luck there but the clerk suggested the store next door.

Sure enough, I scored some nice wine bottles with cork and bought 5. Hubby made me laugh though, when he said what the clerks must have been thinking when they see a large, obviously pregnant woman inquiring about wine bottles! He acted out a whole skit, pretending to be me, asking people for wine bottles and then switching roles to a clerk giving me a funny eye. After he said that, I do seem to recall getting a funny look from one of the clerks when I asked about wine bottles! The baby is supposed to be due in about 5 weeks, but the wine won't be ready for a year.

While making the mash, Hubby hulling the strawberries and me washing and mashing them, we were getting intoxicated with the lovely smell of strawberries. I am looking forward to tasting the wine next year and if it proves to be as yummy as I hope, we will be making it a yearly event! Here's to yummy, tasty strawberry wine!

**Edited to add the link to the recipe I used for the Strawberry Wine

Saturday, May 10, 2008


My mom was here for a few days, and we took her back home today. Usually the girls handle the 2 hour car ride quite well, with only a little bickering or the usual "Mom, she hit me! No, she hit me first!" Today however, was a miserable car ride and a half hour out, I was tempted to tell Hubby to turn around and drop us girls off, but I wanted to go, too!

We finally got into town and went to eat, and I hoped getting some food in their bellies would tone them down a little. We walked over to the Goodwill that conveniently sits right next door to the place we ate at and that was a bad idea. The thrift store, in the city, on a Saturday afternoon, with 3 little ones? I was ready to leave after 5 minutes. People just have no courtesy anymore and block the whole aisle with their carts or don't even move after repeatedly saying "excuse me". Plus, the prices seemed to have skyrocketed since the last time I was there (it's been a couple of months) and I saw a really neat vintage salt and pepper set except they marked them $5.99 EACH. Uh, no thank you. A lonely glass pyrex lid was marked $6.99. Hmm.. I'll have better luck at the yard sales and would probably score a bowl and a lid for a dollar.

One more stop at the used book store and then we dropped mom off, separated the girls and went on our not so merry way. Youngest has an ear-piercing scream that hurts even my deaf ears and the older girls provoke her at almost every chance they get. They dangle a doll out of her reach-- shriek! They take away her blanket-- shriek! Bop her on the head-- shriek, shriek!! Oh my bleedin' ears!! I suggested to Hubby maybe we need to take them somewhere and let them run their little legs off and then maybe they'll settle down?

After a quick search on my pager, we stopped at a local Pick-Your-Own Farm and their strawberries are now ripe for the picking! After getting each girl a basket, we went over to the strawberry fields and after a quick explanation of how strawberries are grown and which berries to pick, we got about 10 pounds of lovely, tasty strawberries. I thought for Mother's Day, the girls could help make some strawberry jam and I wanted to try my hand at homemade strawberry wine.

Here's where I could use your help-- a while back on someone's blog, they posted about making strawberry wine, an easy recipe that only used strawberries, water and sugar (and maybe lemon juice?). You put them all in a jar, mix it and let it ferment for a few months and then you have wine. I wrote down the recipe, but for the life of me, I cannot find either the paper I wrote the recipe on, or the blog I saw it on. I searched the internet in vain for several hours and no luck in finding a recipe that does not use yeast or some other wine-making contraption. All I want is a simple homemade recipe. Any of you have one or know of someone that made some and would be willing to share the recipe with me? I'd be so grateful! I would need the recipe soon, or I'll have to make several batches of jam or freeze them before they spoil. But I would also be willing to make another trip to the strawberry fields if I needed to. Thanks!

Pictures of our jam-making fun later!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sew Fun!

A few months back, I spotted these owls on Moonstitches blog. She was kind enough to post a tutowlrial and I linked it and saved it and while it was always in the back of my mind, I just didn't have the time to make any. She mentioned that you cannot stop at just one, and she was right! I've made four already and I want to make some more. These come together so quickly and then the whole family had fun picking out eyes from my vintage button stash. Even Hubby joined in on the button hunt!

I modified the pattern a little bit and made them with soft bottoms instead of cardboard bottoms. I wanted to be able to let the little ones play with it and not worry about the cardboard getting bent. These are just too cute!

While we were at the flea market last Saturday, we spotted this super cool Formica top table and chairs. I LOVE this set! If we didn't already have 4 sets at home (yes, 4 sets!), this one would have come home with us! I love that turquoise blue on the chairs and it was in really fabulous condition! Good thing there was no price on it, because if it had been the right price, I would have bought it, never mind if there was no room in the van, I would have found a way to shove it in there and stick the chairs on the roof and rope 'em down. I would have talked Hubby into coming back for it or something!

4 sets of tables you ask? Well.. we just love stuff from the 50's, and we got our first set from a consignment shop at the old place. Cute little red number with 4 matching chairs. Then a while later, I was at the thrift shop and spotted a cool grey and black set with matching chairs for a cheap $75! We hoped to sell it at our store one day, but our store never came to be and it is sitting in our basement at the moment. Then Hubby's aunt asked us if we wanted Grandma's table and we jumped at it. It's the red table you see in pictures that we use for our dining table. All the chairs were in bad shape, so we weren't able to salvage them, but we pulled chairs from the other sets we have. The fourth table we have is a pink one! How often do you see pink?? 'Nuff said! It came with 2 red chairs that obviously didn't go with it, but I plan to recover the chairs when I get the perfect material to match the table. So, that's how we ended up with 4 sets of 50's tables.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weekend Re-Cap

We have had a busy few days! First, yard sale season is in full swing around here and they start as early as Thursday! The local paper lists all the yard sales and if there are only 1 or 2, we wait until Friday when there are as many as 10-15, including the ones not advertised! Last Friday, with our route all set, we left the house early and hit the yard sales. I try to plan out a trip that will swing by the food store and then circle back to our house and uses the least amount of driving possible. In the mountains, they are far apart, but if you know your back roads, you can cut across without having to travel back the 8 miles it took to get to one place.

The very first yard sale we went to, was one of those un-advertised ones and I had to adjust the route a little, because it took us exactly 8 miles down country roads to get there. After a mile or two, you start to wonder if you missed it, or maybe it was an old sign? Then just when you think it might be time to make a U-turn, you see a little sign tacked to a tree with an arrow. For all you know, it's old or maybe it was for a party or something other than the yard sale, but it gives you hope and you go on. The last sign we saw said, "Almost there!" and I knew then, that we were on the right path. Finally a left turn down a dirt road and past homes ranging from neat and tidy cottages to trashy trailers, small pastures with cows and rocky mountainsides, we found the sale and it did not disappoint!

This lovely lady had everything from vintage tablecloths for 75 cents apiece (you bet your patootie I bought a bunch!), to vintage linen hand towels for 10 cents. She had some milk glass Fire King dishes for 25 cents each and a freebie table that was full of stuff that shouldn't have been free (not that I was complainin'!).

Everything you see in the pictures was from her sale and I paid a mere $7 for the whole lot! If I could not find any other sale after that, I would have still been happy!

In my previous post, "A Day in Pictures", we went to the flea market, had a picnic at the state park and played at the playground, came home and barbecued some pork loin while the girls did a "study" on balancing things on a board, and then when it was time for bed, there was absolutely no fussing or whining about wanting to stay up later. That was a very good day!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

I See Rhubarb!

I see several rhubarb dishes on the table in the near future! Yum!

I love how even though I have neglected the rhubarb patch and the weed blocker fabric is all askew, the rhubarb will come up year after year, regardless. I had planned to move them to a different location, but too late for that now. I'll spread some compost over it and baby it a little and see if it does better this year than the previous years. I planted them in a sunny location, and they really do better in half sun / half shade. I have had nowhere near the amount of rhubarb I used to harvest at the old house before I moved them here and last year I made only a few pies and desserts with none extra to freeze or make jam with.

Stay tuned for rhubarb recipes!