Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not For A Minute..

..can I leave this kid alone!Of all 4 of my kids, Peter is the one that gets into the most things!

He discovered the plant pot I had on the table full of dirt.

He had lots of fun flinging it all over the place!

And he thinks it's funny!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

False Advertising

There's nothing I dislike more than false advertising. When someone says they do this and then you find out they don't, it's a huge turn off. The same goes for companies that say they can do something for you, then when you find out they don't-- argh!

A few weeks ago, I was searching online for hatcheries that would let me order less than the minimum 25 chicks. I found a few for "backyard" farmers, but many would not be ready until much later than I wanted. Lo and behold, a flyer came in our local paper advertising chicks coming to their stores. The closest store is about 35 miles away-- I was willing to drive to pick up chicks. Upon checking their website, they said they would have several varieties available, in straight runs or pullets only and the minimum purchase was 6-- perfect!

I had my husband call 3 different times to verify the date when they would have the chicks-- each time was March 28th. Andrew was starting to get a little irritated with me and my obsession with the chicks (sorry, honey!). We got up early Sunday morning because I had every intention of being there when their doors opened so I could get first pick of the chicks. We walked in and I asked Andrew if he could hear peeping and we'd follow the sounds. No peeping. We asked the cashier where the chicks were and she said they'd be here tomorrow, the post office is closed on Sunday. Wtf?!?!?!? We weren't mad at her, but we were mad. I had no words to say and walked out. Andrew said a few things to the cashier about getting their information straight and walked out. What a wasted trip that was.

Monday morning, we woke up early again, but before we left, we called first to make sure the chicks were there. They were. Once we got there, I was disappointed-- there were only ducklings and two breeds of chicks: Rhode Island Reds and New Hampshire Reds, and they were straight run-- not even separated by sex. What happened to all the other breeds?? The White Rocks and the Black Australorps I had my heart set on? The girl there had no answers for me.

With a big sigh, I picked out what I think are 5 each of the Rhode Island and the New Hampshire Reds. I HOPE I'll have more pullets than roosters. I wanted 10 more hens to add to my laying flock, and now I'll probably be lucky if I have 5.

To say I am very disappointed is an understatement. I am happy to have my chicks, but they were not exactly what I wanted. When I called once myself via relay to confirm when the chicks would be there, the guy hung up on me because he thought the relay operator was selling something and he was not allowed to take "those kinds of calls". It is very frustrating as a deaf person to have to rely on someone else to make calls for them, and when there is a service I can use, like the relay service, to help me be independent, it's infuriating when people hang up, not understanding how the relay works. Add to that, incompetent people who are not informed of proper dates or because management isn't communicating the right information, it just all adds up to a very upsetting time.

I have every intention of calling the company's headquarters, but again, I have to rely on Andrew to make the call or risk getting hung up on if I use the relay services.

On the bright side of things, I do have my chicks, even if they aren't exactly what I wanted.
They sure are cute little, fluffy things, aren't they?? My current battle now is fending off 4 little ones that want nothing more but to hug 'em and squeeze 'em and kiss 'em and love 'em and hold 'em and hug 'em some more!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Use #1,876 for Duct Tape

To fix your hearing aid when it breaks!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fried Wontons:: Make Your Own!

I've said before that I love chinese food. Since we moved away from our favorite chinese restaurant 5 years ago, and discovering not a single good chinese place around here, I have been teaching myself how to cook chinese. A few weeks ago, I decided to try making my own fried wontons. They're pretty easy to make, but be sure to start a couple of hours before you want to eat these.. they take some time to put together.

I made my own wonton wrappers-- you can buy these in the store, but at the time I wanted to make these, I didn't plan ahead and I wanted them now, so I found a recipe to make my own wrappers. If you buy the wrappers, then you've cut the prep-work in half. Here's how to make your own wrappers::

Begin with 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of salt and 1 egg.

Don't forget to take your ring(s) off and then get your husband to put it back on for you later.

Using your hands, work the egg into the flour, then add up to about 3-4 tbsp of cold water.
Knead until it is smooth and holds into a ball without crumbling. You'll need to roll this out, so the texture is somewhat similar to a pie crust.

This is what it should look like when it's done.

Cover with a damp cloth then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, get your wonton filling started:
1/2 cup of ground pork (I use a little more--about 3/4 c), 1 clove of minced garlic, a pinch of pepper. You can add a tsp of cilantro, but I didn't have any on hand and it's optional.
Mix well then put in the fridge.

You can buy sweet and sour sauce for dipping, or you can make your own.
I made mine.
You'll need 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp white vinegar, 3 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp of plum sauce.
Stir to combine then cook to dissolve sugar. About a minute in the microwave, 5 minutes on the stove. I used my plum jam instead of plum sauce and it tastes just like the real thing. I think I'll add cornstarch to thicken it up a little bit, but the flavor is great. It keeps well in the fridge, the last batch I made a month ago is still good.

By now, the wonton dough has been in the fridge long enough.
My recipe says to use a rolling pin and roll until very thin, almost transparent. I have a big, bulky rolling pin, so instead, I used my pasta maker. Did the job just fine! I started at the largest thickness and worked my way to the 6th level. There is one more notch to make it thinner, but 6 was just right.

If you rolled it with a rolling pin, cut 3 inch squares, flour lightly and stack.
If you used a pasta maker, I trimmed the really wavy ends and eyeballed it.
Don't worry if your squares are not perfect, it'll still taste good.
Before there were chinese restaurants with their perfect pictures of food on the wall, chinese food was made at home, after a long day of working, so I'm pretty sure they didn't hack off someones head if their wonton wrapper wasn't perfectly square!
Anyway, keep rolling and cutting until you've used all the dough and you have a nice stack of wonton wrappers. It makes a lot!

Take a small amount of pork mixture-- like 1/2 a tsp or less; you can't use more because if there is too much, then the meat won't cook before the dough burns in the oil. Who wants blackened wontons with raw meat in the middle???
Put the meat smack dab in the middle of the wrapper...

Fold it like so...

Turn it around...

Dunk a finger or a thumb in cold water...

Wet one corner of the dough then bend it towards the other corner til they meet in the middle.
Takes practice.. after you do a couple, you'll get the hang of it.

Press the two corners together to seal it and it should look like:

Repeat, repeat, repeat, until all the meat is gone or you run out of wrappers.
If you run out of meat, you can cut the wrappers into strips and fry them for those nice crispy strips they use for toppings in chinese restaurants. The kids love them!
If you run out of wrappers, you can use the meat for something else, cook it into the meal you're making or freeze it for another time.

This is one batch of wonton dough. It makes a lot, I tell ya! I ran out of meat, so there were 4 wrappers left, which I fried up into strips.

Get your vegetable oil hot, and fry up a few of these at a time.. about 30-45 secs on each side.
Remove and drain on a paper towel or newspaper.

Ready for eatin'!

Serve with your meal and the sweet and sour sauce on the side.
I made chinese chicken and potatoes for dinner and we had the wontons as a side.
Delicious!! The kids gobble this up!

Don't forget to get your husband to put your ring back on!!
"Will you marry me?"
"Yes! Again and again!"

"Mwah! I'm so happy! C'mon, let's go on our honeymoon!"
Excuse me, gotta go folks!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Peter In The Hole!

Our sun room is our main entrance. We hardly ever use the front door, since we usually park our vehicles behind the house and use the back entrance. It's more convenient for us, since the front door is a whole level up from the driveway and the back door is right there next to the kitchen. Much easier when we are unloading groceries or sleeping children.

Anyway, because the sun room isn't used for much, it sort of has become the gathering ground for things in limbo-- a rocking chair we aren't sure about, a couch that needs reupholstering, shoes, coats, mom's washer and dryer from her sold home, gardening things, animal feed... It can get quite messy in there if I don't stay on top of it. I'd like to turn it into a laundry/mud room, but that'll have to wait until we can afford to renovate the room.

The girls were not picking up their play food and dishes from the kitchen I made. So we loaded up all the kitchen toys and put the little kitchen in the sun room, until we felt they learned their lesson and we would bring it back into the living room. Peter likes to hang out in the sun room-- there's so much interesting stuff for him to get into and look at:: potatoes to toss around; soda cans to stack on the other side of the room; kitty litter to dig into and dump on the floor; shoes to try on and clomp around the house; windows to look out and watch the chickens or cats or his sisters on the swing tree.

I can see him from the window in the kitchen (the sun room was an addition, so there is a window on the "inside" wall separating the sun room and the kitchen), and if he starts to get into something he shouldn't, I can grab him and stop him. Recently, I was on the computer, stealing a little time away from the kids, and I realized I hadn't seen Peter in a while. His sisters were outside playing, so I figured he must have been in the sun room. I check there first and this is what I see:

He climbed onto the kitchen from the couch and fell into the hole for the sink!! Quick! I grabbed the camera to take pictures!

He wasn't crying at all. Just patiently waiting for someone to come along and get him out of there. Too cute! I cannot put off gluing the bowl into the hole for the sink any more. Since this first time, he has gotten himself "stuck" 2 more times. I think he rather likes playing the "damsel in distress" (what's the boy equivalent for dame??). I decided to put the play kitchen back in the living room where there is no way for him to climb onto something to get stuck again.
Peter is going to be an interesting kid, that's for sure! :o)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring's Alter Ego

I'm sure many think of Spring as the bringer of flowers and warm weather, the beginning of gardening season and lots of shiny love and happiness and giggles and bouncy bubbles. I think like that too, sometimes. But today was, to me, the most perfect example of the beginning of Spring: overcast, rainy, cool, windy, sunny, warm, gray, cloudy... It was like Mother Nature was refereeing a squabble between Winter and Spring and the weather was the result of their bickering.

I love this shot. Straight out of the camera! You can see the raindrops on the new growth branches with the cloudy skies in the background. Spring is here alright, but Old Man Winter ain't giving up without a fight!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

random tidbits

Not much goes on around here when the family car is out of commission. I know Andrew doesn't mind, but after a while, I want to drive myself somewhere instead of asking him to take me in his truck (it's a stick and we have lots of hills-- I'm not that good of a stick driver around hills).

We have managed to make a couple of runs to the food store, but we always have to take Peter with us. He is just too rambunctious for my mom to chase and catch. Do you know how frustrating it is to get him into a car seat in an extended-cab? Not a full-size cab, an extended cab. That means the person sitting back there would sit sideways behind the front seats. Yeah, it's tight back there.

Which is why I was so thrilled when I managed to get Peter down for a nap today, and then I nearly pulled Andrew's arm off as I waved good-bye to the girls and hopped into the truck to go to the food store without having to contort myself to get Peter into the carseat! We made it back in an hour and a half and Peter had only been awake for about 15 minutes. whew!

My glasses broke about 2 weeks ago. One too many bumps from the kids and the poor things just fell apart. They were 4 years old, so I was due for a new pair anyway, I was just trying to avoid spending money. I finally got an eye exam last week and a new pair of glasses should be coming in soon. I'm wearing glasses that are 16 years old! My old pair from before I got married. Andrew fell in love with me in these glasses and putting them on now, I look goofy! Andrew wants me to take a series of pictures with the old glasses... I think I will. Fun to see how the styles have changed and what used to look good on me, now doesn't. Thank goodness my vision hasn't worsened all these years, so I am still able to wear them.

I started a batch of seeds last week. A little later than I planned, but they should be ready in time for planting in the garden. 50 seeds of various tomatoes and green peppers. We can never have too much of either!

I am trying to hatch a few eggs from my chickens. The Buff Orpingtons are broody and set on their eggs all day for a couple of days, then walk away and the eggs get cold. I decided to take matters in my own hands, and I have 6 eggs in a make-shift incubator. It's been 16 days so far, and with brown eggs, I can't really candle them and see if there is anything happening in there, so I am hoping at least 1 or 2 will hatch by the end of this week.

If those eggs fail to hatch, the local hardware/farm store will have chicks for sale at the end of the month. I would like to add 10 more hens to my flock, and many online hatcheries will not sell less than 25. I have every intention of being there before their doors are open to ensure I get a good selection of chicks to pick from. I'm hoping for 5 White Rocks and 5 Black Australorps.

The tow truck that was supposed to come and pick up our van to take to the shop last Friday broke down. The tow truck needed a tow truck! That cracked me up. We waited and waited for them to come.. sometime between 1 and 2 pm the guy said. Made a call and found out the brake line broke on the tow truck. So the guy is supposed to be here first thing Monday morning. Cross your fingers that by the time you read this, the van is on it's way to the mechanic! Hope it won't cost too much to fix, but it's got to be cheaper than buying a whole new car.

There are lots of slate rock slabs around our property. I figure the previous owner brought them in for landscaping purposes, but they no longer look good, many have sunk into the ground, and there was a pile of 'em near the woods. We made a path from the house to the chicken coop with all the snow and it's nothing but dirt now, so I dug up as many large slate slabs as I could find and followed the path we made to the chicken coop. It came in handy when we had all that rain last week and I didn't have to walk in the mud. It looks great and I can't wait to see what it looks like when the grass has fully come awake from its' long winter slumber. We're going to try and do better with the yard work this year-- cleaning up fallen sticks, maintaining the grass better, trimming back the crazy azaleas and rhododendrons, and, if it won't cost too much, putting in a brick patio by the back door. Something needs to be done with the patch of dirt back there-- the chickens are currently using it for their dust baths.

We stopped at the first yard sale of 2010 today! Didn't find anything, but it was good to see the first one of the season! I miss yard sale-ing. We have a few things we want to keep an eye out for: vintage metal bed frames for Evelyn and Peter, another dehydrator, and as always-- canning jars.

Happy Monday!

Monday, March 15, 2010


We were all feeling a little bit of cabin fever, so we loaded up the van and went for a little drive over to the next big town where there is a great indoor flea market/antique shop. It's this huge warehouse where half is cheap-priced flea market items and the other half is higher-priced antiques of all kinds.

We love going there, and almost always find something-- either for us, the home, or the kids. Most people wouldn't think of taking 4 little ones to a place filled with break-able items, but we've been taking the kids to places like this since they were babies, so they're used to it, and plus we go prepared: snacks, drinks and toys in the car so they are not so restless or complaining they're hungry or thirsty. Plus there is the chance they might find something and mama and daddy just might say "yes."

Here are a few of the things we admired and didn't take home with us:

Love, love, love this old shortening tin. It's huge! I'd display this in the kitchen if we had more room in there, but as it is, we have enough stuff cluttering up the place, so a picture will have to do.

Very Mad Hatter-ish, isn't it?

I'm sort of glad that the days of women wearing fancy hats like this are gone. I'm not a hat person, but I do like the clothing styles from the 40s, 50s and 60s.

I'd get this metal doll house in a second if we didn't already have a similar one at home. The one we have sits high on a shelf in the basement away from the rough and tumble hands of the girls. They don't exactly take the best care of their toys, so until then, it stays in the basement.

This is just the coolest hutch ever! I've seen this at another antique shop and was surprised to see it here. What are the odds of seeing the same thing at two different shops more than 100 miles apart? We admired it at the other place and still admire it now. It has a cute clock in the top center of it, and the shape is just so sweet. If we had a big old farmhouse, this would look great in there! But, alas, we'll just have to keep admiring it from afar.

We love these old soda bottles. I miss drinking out of glass bottles.
Remember in the 80s when the bottles were more rounded and stocky, and if you were really careful, you could twist/pull off the label intact and then loudly pop it back on? Did anyone ever do that or was that just me being weird?
At one time, we would have bought several of these, and we had them displayed above the cabinets in the kitchen. But the house we live in now has no space above the cabinets, and all the bottles we do have sit in a box in the basement. Might be time to let them go and sell them. Hmm.
Going to places like flea markets and antique shops are fun. We didn't find much this trip, but I got a great old glass jar. I don't know what I'll do with it just yet, but I saw it when we walked in and it was still in the back of my mind 2 hours later. If I left it behind, I knew I'd regret it, so it's mine now. I'll get a picture of it later on after I figure out what to do with it.
Looking forward to yard sale season starting up again. We need to have a yard sale of our own as soon as it warms up again and the driveway isn't a big muddy mess anymore. We didn't do much yard sale-ing last year because money was so tight, and we just couldn't afford the gas to drive around looking for sales. I'm hoping this year will be better, and it already is looking up. For one thing, no more car payments to worry about-- we paid off the car last Oct, so that's a load off our wallets. Fingers crossed things keep going well for us.
Happy Monday!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turn Your Kitchen Greek!

I haven't had a decent gyro since we moved here nearly 5 years ago. I love gyros! A friend introduced them to me way back when I was about 13 or 14 and there was a greek place in the neighborhood where we grew up. I had no idea then that I was eating lamb and what that white sauce was made of, but I know a good thing when I taste one! Ever since, I've always tried to seek out places that make gyros.

The best I ever had was a little hole-in-the-wall place in Ocean City, Md. They didn't even have a place to sit down; you ordered through a window by the sidewalk then you took your paper-wrapped gyro and sat on the beach to eat it. Heaven! My most recent, and the worst, was one of those fake-y frozen meat strips that is supposed to pass for gyro meat and bitter-tasting tzatziki sauce and stale flat bread. I was so disappointed.

I figured that I would get my gyro fix whenever I went to visit friends and family, but every time we head out that way, it's usually for dinner and we're too full to eat anything else. But when I saw my local food store with leg of lamb on sale, marked down because, I assume, lamb isn't too popular around here, I knew I just had to try and make my own gyros!

I raced home to search the handy-dandy 'net for gyro meat recipes and came upon Alton Brown's recipe for both gyro meat and the tzatziki sauce. Looked good, looked authentic, let's try it! Lucky for me, the lamb was still there the next day and I bought it. *My store would not grind it up for me, as they would have to dismantle and wash their meat grinder due to contamination of different meats, but if you try this, ask and see if your store will grind it up for you, you might get lucky.

7 pounds of bone-in, leg of lamb. I'm no butcher, but I had to cut off the layer of fat, then chop into smaller pieces so I could grind it up myself.


My nifty little vintage grinder--Rival's 'Grind-O-Mat'. Don't you just love the names they gave things back then?? I picked this up a few summers ago at the thrift shop and it looked like it was in mint condition, hardly ever used. Not so with me! I use this baby for lots of things! Even for making relish-- chops the veggies into uniform sizes!

Anyway, here's the lamb all chopped up. The bone and fatty bits I cut away was cooked in the oven then given to the dog and cats for a nice treat. I have no scale, but I think the bone and fatty pieces amounted to about 2 lbs., so this would be around 5 pounds of meat, more than enough for what I needed.
grind - grind - grind

I got side-tracked when we had unexpected visitors that came at 8 in the morning and stayed until nearly dinner-time. It was good to see them, but had I known they were coming, I would have planned this for another day. So I didn't get a chance to take pictures of the process like I planned to.
You put the ground lamb into a food processor along with the other ingredients and process until meat looks like a paste. After reading the reviews and comments for the recipe, I used only a teaspoon each of Marjoram and Rosemary instead of the tablespoon it called for.
There are two options to cook it-- meatloaf style or in a rotisserie. The rotisserie would be more authentic, but since I didn't have one, I cooked it meatloaf style. After cooking, you set a foil-wrapped brick on it to help compress the meat and squeeze any fat out.
Here's the meat after I thinly sliced it. Smells and looks and tastes just like the real thing! I am glad that I cut down the amount needed for Marjoram and Rosemary. In the comments, someone suggested broiling the slices in the oven for a little bit of crispiness like the rotisserie would give you. We did that, and I wouldn't do it again. It crisped up a little, but it also dried it out a bit.

I made the tzatziki sauce exactly as the recipe suggested and oh! SO good! I would recommend you make this the day BEFORE you make the gyros because the flavors had time to meld and this tasted so much better the next day when we ate leftovers.

I almost forgot to take a picture of the assembled gyro! We made this just like they do in the restaurants, with sliced onions, tomatoes, feta cheese and warmed flat bread. We served this with onion rings and fries and I swear, it was just like the real thing. There's nothing fake about this gyro!
The recipe calls for 2 lbs. of ground lamb and it made enough for 2 meals! We had plenty for another meal later on and I had some as a snack a few days later and the meat tasted even better! We still have enough ground lamb in the freezer for another time and I'm thinking we might just put a rotisserie on the wish list of items we want.
If you're like me, living out in the country with no decent greek place anywhere, do try this! It's the real thing and it isn't as hard as I imagined making it would be. I'll be keeping an eye out for lamb in the store from now on!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Puppy Love

A close friend of mine threw together a last-minute fajita party and invited us, the night before, to come up and join them. A mutual friend of ours was in town for the weekend and mentioned that she wanted to see the "old gang" before she left. So calls were made, emails sent, and lucky for us, Andrew didn't have to work that day.

We had a great time! It had been awhile since we saw the old gang and we used to always have fajita parties at least once a month, or at least it felt like once a month. One couple would make salsa from scratch, another would bring the chips and dips, the hostess would grill up chicken and steak. We'd have such fun. Most of us didn't have kids yet, or there were only a couple of little ones about. Then some of us moved, got different jobs, got married, had kids, had more kids, and we all just got busy. We vow to get together more often, but it doesn't happen as often as I'd like. I'm hoping 2010 will be the year we all try and see each other, if not every month, then at least every other month. That doesn't seem unreasonable.

My kids love playing with my friends' kids. When we go and visit, they always come away talking about them for days after. Eventually they start asking when we will go and see them again, and I always have to say, "wait and see". Because truthfully-- I don't know when we'll see them again. I wish we lived closer; we're the kind of friends that would see each other everyday, be at each other's house all the time, and minutes after walking out the door, we'd probably be sending text messages to each other. She has 4 kids, too, and her last 2 are the same ages as my first and youngest.

Gretchen loves her oldest boy- Joseph. When we are at home and Gretchen plays dress-up and pretends she is married, her husband is always named Jo-jo (Joseph's nickname). When she dreams of her future, Jo-jo is always a part of it. When we go and see them, Gretchen always follows him around with puppy-dog eyes and I can't help but feel a little bad for Jo-jo! How kind of him to let her hug him and listen to her chatter away. He is 11 and my Gretchen is only 6, but oh she loves him so! When I told her to let him go and leave him alone, her reply was, "But I love him!", then she hugs him tighter!

I can't foresee the future, but I know that if one of mine ever married one of hers, that'd be fine with me! :o)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hi and Bye!

Sorry for the disappearance-- life got in the way!

I have some posts piling up; just need to get the pictures uploaded and the words sorted out. I should be up and running and posting back to normal on Monday.

Have a good weekend!