Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweet and Simple


It has been a good Christmas this year.
The kids are still playing with their new things, 3 days after, so I know they are happy.
I bought presents on sale with coupons throughout the year, and that was a major help-- when Andrew lost his job, we already had more than half of our presents bought and stashed away.
There were no big ticket items, just small things for each of our children, and a few shared items.

Even the gifts they got from other family members have been toned down, something I appreciate greatly since I always feel bad that I cannot reciprocate.  I know they enjoy giving, but it doesn't make me feel any less guilty when I cannot give in the same fashion to them or their children.

Every year, I make fudge, cookies, candies and bars to give as gifts.  I didn't make very much this year, it feels like time got away from me and I chose to spend time with the kiddos or doing other things. I think it's time to accept that I'll never make over 800 cookies like I did for a few Christmases before the kids came along! I did manage to make two different ornaments to give as gifts this year and I love them!

Felt rooster and fimo clay snowflake

better shot of snowflake detail
I got the rooster idea from the Better Homes and Gardens December issue..  I just eyeballed the ornament then made my own pattern and ran with it! I can't remember where I saw the snowflake idea-- off of someones blog probably, and I went out to get me a snowflake stamp with my 40% off coupon. So simple but makes a nice ornament.  I made this after the kids went to bed and I set a little table in front of me and watched an episode of Supernatural while rolling and stamping.

I'm ready to put away the tree and decorations, to get the house back to normal again. I went out the day after Christmas to shop the clearance sales and use some of the gift cards we got. Stocked up on Christmas craft projects to put away for next year, Christmas cards, gift tags, and little bits and bobs for future stocking stuffers and party favors.  I have two January babies to shop for and I'm all done! Thanks clearance sales!

Looking forward to the new year and hope it will be a good one for us all.
Happy New Year!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Out of the Bag!!

Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love cats. And how kittens are my kryptonite.
So when I saw an ad in the local paper for two (2!!) pure white kittens, free to a good home, I just couldn't resist!  Andrew and I have always talked about getting a white cat someday, but how often does one see two white kittens at the same time?!  Not too often in my experience. So we called and the lady said she found them and brought them home but already has too many cats of her own. They're now ours.
We told the kids they are an early Christmas gift to the family and boy, they are loved.

We've had them a little more than a week now, and they are just so cute!!
Any of you seen "Despicable Me"??  You know that scene where they are at the amusement park and he wins the unicorn for the little girl?  She squeezes it and squeals, "It's so fluffy!"  That's exactly how I feel about these kittens- they're so fluffy! squeeeee!!

Meet Bones and Walter, the newest additions to the Mountain Mama Zoo!
Tag! You're IT!

I caught a mouse and it was 'this' big!

Well it ain't behind here!

I got it! No, I got it! No, I got it! No, I got it!

Whoa! You can really jump!

Look, you stay there, I'll stay here, and we'll see who catches the mouse!


Whaddaya mean my tail is showing?!

After a few days of growling and Percy giving a few sound smacks, they're all one happy family.  I've seen Percy giving the little ones a bath and he lets them sleep on top of him. Looks like the boys have a new papa!

Do you mind? These pipsqueaks kept me up all night last night, I need my sleep!
 They've been a wonderful addition to the family and a pretty good way to kick start the Holidays. 
Merry Christmas to you and yours! xoxo

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yummies for the Holidays

I make and give a lot of home made cookies and candies as gifts to family and friends.  I'm always on the lookout for something new and when I spotted a recipe that included chocolate, peanut butter and pretzels, well, need I say more?

As always, when trying out a new recipe, a sample batch must be made. I like to test out how easy or difficult it is to make, how time-consuming it may be, how much does it produce, and of course, the taste test! My favorite part!

Peanut butter mixture rolled into balls, then pressed between two mini pretzels, and dipped in melted chocolate. How could this combination fail? And it didn't.  It's oh, so good!

What is it about the salty and sweet? Peanut butter and chocolate? Crunchy and creamy?
My melted chocolate wasn't gooey enough for dipping, so I ended up spooning the chocolate onto each pretzel sandwich. I used twice as much chocolate than the recipe called for, but that's OK. It's worth the extra chocolate!

It was easy to make, the most time-consuming task was rolling the peanut butter mixture into small balls.  This could easily be a job for the little ones to do, if you don't mind ending up with half the amount-- because I'm pretty sure it would end up with one ball rolled for the pretzel and one ball rolled for the mouth!

I made this using milk chocolate and when I ran out of that, I used semi-sweet chocolate. Both are equally delicious!

Not quite bite-sized, just one or two would be enough to satisfy that sweet tooth!

These would look lovely packaged up into canning jars or small bags and wrapped with a ribbon as gifts. They'll tempt guests in pretty dishes or platters and make great hostess gifts at the holiday party you're invited to, or for the potluck at the office party.

Ready to make your own?

Chocolate-dipped Peanut Butter Pretzels

1 C creamy peanut butter
2 tbsp softened butter
1 C powdered sugar
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 pound bag of small pretzel twists (this uses nearly the whole bag)
2 bags of  semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips

Combine peanut butter, butter, and sugars and with a mixer, mix until crumbly.  Using hands, roll into small balls, teaspoon size.  Flatten balls slightly and sandwich between two pretzels.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Melt chips in microwave. Heat for one minute, stir, then heat in 10 second increments until completely melted. Dip chilled pretzel sandwiches in chocolate then place onto wax paper and refrigerate. (I couldn't dip mine very well, so I spooned chocolate onto the sandwiches instead)

Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge and enjoy or give as gifts! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Commence Christmas Music!

December 1st and we're getting into the spirit! The tree is up, the Advent Calendar is hung, cookie recipes are calling my name...  It's beginning to feel like Christmas around here! Even Andrew is getting elfish!

Even though Andrew is now working, it doesn't mean that we are spend, spend, spending.  We are still frugal with our money, and I shopped for gifts the whole year, scoring items on sale or with coupons to make it an even sweeter deal.  I'm pretty much done with gifts for the kiddos this year, but I still have a few items I need to pick up for other family members. 

Despite repeated requests not to exchange gifts, we have relatives that insist on giving the children something and I always feel bad not having anything in return. I know it's the season of giving, but I always feel like I'm taking and taking and not giving. So I am trying hard this year to come up with some simple gifts that are thoughtful and appreciated, without feeling like I've just drained the bank account.  I don't spend a whole lot on my own children, so it makes no sense to me to spend a lot on my nieces and nephews. It doesn't mean I love them any less-- on the contrary, I am putting a lot of love into what I am making/creating and hoping they'll like what I've come up with.

Andrew has an Aunt that just loooooves snickers-- I plan on making a cloth bucket and filling it with  full-size snickers candy bars for her.  Simple, yet it will be something I know she'll enjoy, and it didn't cost a lot of money, because I used coupons for the candy bars, and it was just a little bit of time at the sewing machine.  I'll be making several similar gifts like this for the Aunts and Uncles, for the ones that have a sweet tooth and put their favorite candies inside them.

For the kiddos-- I have group gifts for them to share, but I'd like to get them all something special for individual gifts.  I'm still thinking and working on that.  I can't say too much here, but I have a few ideas up my sleeve.

 I get to go out all by myself next week-- a rarity now that Andrew is working and I have to wait for a day off, and I'll be picking up items and stopping at the fabric store for a few things.  I don't want to take the kids with me-- they'll see items I want to keep a surprise.  And I must admit, Peter is not the best shopping companion. Whew! He's a handful, that one!  I don't enjoy shopping with him along, I get all flustered and frustrated and I end up forgetting items on my list, or errors are made with the coupons and I end up paying more than I should have, but I can't figure out what went wrong when I am wrestling with a squirmy, screamy toddler that just wants me to let him go and get. down. now. Just reading that last sentence makes me want to go lie down!  He's a great kid, I know he just wants to run and explore and if mama wants to shop, it's not a good combination! Better to leave him at home where he's on familiar turf and I can do my thing in peace.

I have Christmas music playing on my internal radio and I love when the kids tell me they hear certain songs on the radio. They still believe in the magic of Christmas and they were so excited when the tree went up. Now it's the battle of the wills between parents and kids at getting them to leave. the. tree. alone. I actually went so far as to take off the garland and tears were flowing, "I'll be good, I'll be good!  No, mama! Please! We won't touch the tree anymore!" I left it off a day before putting it back up and it worked for a while.  The threat has lost its' power now, so the newest warning is: Any bad behavior and you have to take an ornament off the tree!  So far so good!

I've been thumbing through recipe books, looking for new ideas for cookies and bars.  Before kids (B.K.), I used to make hundreds of cookies and give them as gifts.  After kids (A.K.), I'm lucky if I can make a couple of batches and then fend off the hungry cookie monsters. If anyone got a dozen cookies, they're the lucky ones! This year, I have a good feeling I'll be able to make more than a few batches.  I have some cookie ideas bubbling up in that brain of mine and can't wait to make a test batch.

I made eggnog spice cake the other day and man oh man! Is that ever good!!  Moist and flavorful, and I get that great eggnoggy taste I love in every bite! It's a keeper!  Anything cooked in a bundt pan looks great and we love cake that requires no frosting! The only thing is I would cook it a little longer next time, 40-45 minutes isn't long enough, I'll try 50-55 minutes next time. 

Any good cookies recipes you want to share? I'd love to try new ones!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


We have much to be thankful for:
Family, our health, our home.
We have something else to be extra thankful about:
Andrew got a job!
He is working in the automotive department at Sears.
We are happy, happy, happy!


We went to craft day at the Library on Saturday. Since it was nearing Thanksgiving, I figured it would be a pilgrim or turkey related project.  It was turkey related, alright, but this is ridiculous!

Turkey Drumstick Hats?!?
Ah well, we got a good laugh out of it.


Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Be thankful for what you do and don't have.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


It's that time of year again, when I start thinking of Christmas cards and which picture I want to use in it.  Usually I make my own card by printing a picture on card stock, then stamping or fancy-writing a holiday message. If I'm feeling particularly rushed, I'll just print a bunch of copies then slap a photo inside a store-bought card.

That means it's time for family photos!!
I wish I knew of a photographer that didn't charge an arm and leg, or friends that took great photos, but as it is, I have to make do with what I got: Using the timer on the camera and running back and forth to make it just in time before the 'click'.
I think we got some nice photos and the bloopers are just as fun to look and laugh at, too!

Lots of nail-biting, hoping mama doesn't trip running from the camera!

A candid shot of daddy telling them to "look at the camera!"

Big leafy hats modeled by Sylvia.

                                 No shortage of fishy faces, frowns, and closed eyes in this one!

Will some one please tell this kid to sit down and sit still!
I can't tell you how many photos I took with him not looking at the camera!

We took 2 days worth of photos at Ice Mountain, just down the road from us. We have passed through hundreds of times, but this was the first time we actually stopped and walked around, looking in windows of the old restored houses, church, and barns.  Beautiful place and we'll definitely return. I can see future picnics happening here!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sewing With The Kids Around

Here's why I wait for the kids to go to bed before I sew:
I made a long skinny scarf in the middle of the afternoon. I had an itch to sew. I didn't want to lose my inspiration, so I sewed with the kids underfoot.
I cut, pinned, sewed, then when I pulled the whole thing inside out, I saw this.
I pinned right side to wrong side!
Instead of cutting it all apart, I just made a little patch to cover it all up.
Good thing it was the lining and not the outside fabric.

Remind me not to sew with the kids around to distract me!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Fancy Schmancy Sammiches

Around here, we sometimes get tired of the same old-same old.
PB&Js get tired.
Plain ol' ham and cheese get old.
Even my number one fave, grilled cheese, gets boring.
Andrew has been having a hankering for a Rueben sammich lately.
I don't care for rye or sauerkraut but hey, if he likes it, by all means, eat it!
A trip to the deli counter and a lovely lady that let all 6 of us sample different cheeses and meats--
brown sugar ham? delish!
Jarlsberg cheese? yummy!
We came home with a nice selection of deli meats and cheeses to make 2 kinds of gourmet sammiches:

                                                                      The Rueben.
Rye bread with thinly sliced corned beef, swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and thousand island dressing then pressed on the grill with a side of pickle. The husband reports, "It tastes like another!" It looked good, Mom gobbled up her sammich, but just the smell of the sauerkraut after Andrew opened the can was enough to chase me out of the kitchen and keep me from trying a bite.  Glad you like it honey, more for you!

The Turkey Cubano.
A twist on the Cubano which normally pairs ham and pork, this one uses turkey and ham.
Lightly buttered kaiser roll layered with turkey, ham, jarlsberg cheese, dill pickle, and mustard then pressed on the grill. Oh man!!  SO freakin' good!  And I don't even like pickles!! Even the kids gobbled this one up.

It's nice to shake things up a little, to try something different once in awhile.
When I saw the recipe for Turkey Cubanos, I didn't know what Jarlsberg cheese was, though I had heard of it. I learned it's a swiss cheese, slightly stronger tasting than the usual plain swiss cheese. I tried a bite of Andrew's Cubano with a pickle and liked it, then tried a bite of one without pickle and found I liked the tangy taste the pickle added to it, so I made mine with the pickle, too.  It's the first time I've ever purposely eaten a pickle and enjoyed it.

Eaten anything new lately?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

The thing about living in the country is that we're so spread out from neighbors that children can't trick or treat around here. People look for other ways to go trick or treating, like the mall or other venues. A local church in town hosts a 'Trunk or Treat' in the parking lot out of the trunks of their cars. It works well, the kids yell "trick or treat" and a little something-something gets dropped in their open bags. We thought we'd try going to one of the little neighborhoods as well and I was quite surprised, though I really shouldn't have been, at how many people were parking their cars and walking around the neighborhood.  There must have been hundreds of costumed kids! I hope those houses stocked up on candies! We went to a couple of houses and then decided to head back to the car, there were just too many people and cars and I didn't think it was safe anymore. Plus, it was cold and started to mist so after a quick walk through the small shopping strip where each store was also giving out candy, we came home.

I made Peter a Transformers costume!
He loves Transformers and has several cars he goes to bed with. I found an image of Optimus Prime from the original Transformers cartoons and used that as my inspiration. I purposely made the outfit a little bigger so he could wear it longer and while I was sewing it he was so excited, trying on unfinished pants and sleeves and shouting in his little 3-year old voice: "Transformers! Transformers!" It's made from warm fleece, which could also be used as jammies or a regular outfit.  I also made a mask from the Transformers autobots logo but he refused to put it on for the picture. I could barely get him to stand still long enough for a picture.

So, time for trick or treating and what does Peter do? Absolutely will not put on the costume. Fine. He can use the Popeye shirt. Nope, won't use that either. I know! We'll put him in camo pants and he can use his camo jacket and he'll be hunter boy, except his camo pants were in the dirty clothes basket and after a sniff-test, determined to be too stinky to wear. We finally managed to get him dressed in regular clothes and after much screaming and whining, got him buckled in the car to go. He perked up once we got out of the car and went trick or treating.

Miss Gretchen as a pink princess.
Someone tell my girls to stop growing up! They were so excited for make-up! I never use make-up myself, but I had coupons to get free make-up, luckily, and bought some eye shadow, blush and lipstick just for Halloween.

Evelyn started out as Frankenstein's bride, but morphed into a black princess bride. I wasn't able to get to the store and buy hair stuff to make her hair black and add white stripes to her hair, but she was ok with that. She was just as excited to wear make-up and I tried to make hers a little more dramatic and boy, did she look like a different girl with all that make-up on! She made Piggy a costume, too!

Miss Sylvia wanted to be a princess, too, and while looking for a fancy dress to wear, she spotted this old Cinderella costume we had that was down in the basement for a couple years. It just fit her and she opted to wear this. Flimsy and poorly made, but she was happy and that's what matters.  I made her wear a shirt and tights underneath since it's see-through and it was cold.

Happy Children make for a Happy Mama.
I'm disappointed Peter didn't wear his costume, but I know he'll wear it later. I enjoyed making it anyway.
Hope Halloween was good for you, too!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Just, Wow!

What a lovely white winter wonderland it is out there right now. No matter that it is still Autumn and still October. No matter that Halloween hasn't happened yet. No matter that all the winter coats and snow pants I washed last month and hung to dry, then got played in and soiled all over again and I haven't had a chance to wash them just yet. No matter that Peter likes to wear snow boots in the house and then leaves them where he takes them off, be it under a bed, or under the stairs, or between the wall and the back of the dresser (*#$*&^!!!), and I have to hunt high and low for a matching pair of boots.

Still, it's beautiful out there.

Not so sure about my poor Mulberry tree, though. All that heavy wet snow hanging onto the leaves that have yet to fall bent the tree nearly in half before we knocked the snow off it. I hope it bounces back. Andrew said he could hear tree branches cracking in the woods. So I guess if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it does make a sound!

I'm glad we had no plans to go anywhere today. Very quickly, more than 10 inches of heavy, wet snow came down. We knew it was coming and prepared for it. Andrew gathered more logs, split and stacked the wood near the door. We pulled up posts and tomato fences in the garden, pulled up the weed covers, then tilled most of the garden. Cut the grass and mowed over the leaves. I raked leaves where the mower can't get to and raked the leaves into the chicken coop and the duck house for bedding and insulation. Closed up the window flaps on the chicken coop. Andrew took the trash out to the landfill. Cleaned up the toy vomit in the basement so we could fire up the wood stove if it got too cold. Filled up gallons of water in empty jugs in case the power went out. It did, but only for an hour.

Chickens said "Hell, no!" to the snow and stayed inside the coop all day. Ducks never saw snow before and didn't know what to make of it. They were mostly outdoors before they called it an early night and went to bed.

I finally got smart this year and put up an indoor clothes line in the sun room. Previously, I used a clothes drying rack, but it couldn't handle the weight of the wet coats and pants and the kids were, let's be honest, just too rough with it, tossing heavy wet pants in it's general direction, knocking it to the floor until Mama comes and picks everything up and rearranges it so it can air dry. I'm learning from my mistakes, indoor clothes line it is!

Also new is the coat rack. Put up in the Spring since Mama was tired of hollering at the kids to pick up their jackets and sweaters off the floor after they fell off the puny little coat rack with tiny little pegs obviously not meant to hold 341 coats/sweaters/jackets. Fashioned by yours truly out of an old fence rail and vintage clothes hooks, it works great!

Also with the snow, comes the wet, muddy floor and strewn boots kicked off, left to sit in melting puddles of snow and when Mama comes to help hang up wet snow things, guess what I step in? Brr!

We tried, we truly did. We tried so hard not to have a fire until November, but when the temps dipped into the 30s last night and we woke to all the snow, and it was oh so hard to get out of the nice warm bed, it had to be done. Maybe November will bring us some warm days to make up for winter in October, but I won't hold my breath. More likely, I'll see my breath from now on.

Working on Halloween Costumes. Cannibalized a men's XL grey fleece jacket from the thrift shop and using up what's left of my fleece scraps to make something special for Peter. Nearly done.  Any guesses?

Evelyn wants to be the Bride of Frankenstein, easy enough-- pulled together an outfit from her clothes and a bit of fancy hair styling and make-up will do the trick.

Gretchen and Sylvia both want to be princesses, so fancy party dresses and vintage tiaras borrowed from Mama, and make-up will do.

Plans are to go trick or treating at a local Church that hosts a 'Trunk or Treat' in the parking lot. We went last year and had fun, so unless we get more snow, that's what we'll be doing. And mayyyyybe a little walk around town, too, wait and see how cold it is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Have you seen a duck?"

Every morning, Andrew lets the ducks out of their hoop house and feeds the cats. Two hours later, when I wake, I let the chickens out. If he lets the chickens out at the same time as the ducks, the chickens all rush over to where the cats are and eat their food up, so this way works well and the cats get to eat in peace.

This morning went as usual, I go out to let the chickens out and behind me is a duck. Wait a minute! A duck??  Where's the other duck? That never happens, seeing one duck without the other nearby. Something had to be wrong!  I walk around looking for signs of a duck or duck feathers. I assume maybe an animal has gotten an early lunch or perhaps a car hit it? Looking up and down the road, no signs of feathers or a dreaded bloody spot. I walked all around the property and nothing. How I wished the one lone duck could talk and tell me where the other one was.

I contemplated going across the street to the neighbors but how weird would that conversation be? "Excuse me, but I've lost a duck. Have you seen it?" Besides, they have two pitbulls that bark really loudly whenever they see me walking around the front yard and I'm not willing to risk my butt being bitten. Andrew isn't home either, so I can't send him over there instead. Better his butt than mine! No, he has a nice butt, I'd have to kiss it and make it better.

Ahem!!  Anyway!

A couple hours have passed and I've pretty much accepted that Quackers is gone. (the girls have informed me that Cheese is the lone duck and Quackers is the one missing)  We're all eating lunch when there comes a knock at the front door. It's the neighbor.

"Hi! What can I do for ya?" says I.

"We found 2 ducks, are they yours?" he asks.

"I happen to be missing one!"

"I got two of them in our dog kennel right now," he says.

"Well, the other one must have gone missing too! I'll be right over!" I say.

Ain't it the darnedest thing?! The other duck crossed the road to join his buddy! Quackers is hurt-- he has a bloody wing. I don't know if one of his dogs bit him or not, I'm just glad they're OK. He mentioned the ducks charged his dogs and they ran away from them. I know for a fact that the ducks do charge and my own dog stays away from the ducks, so I believe him, but I also know two dogs can certainly tag-team a duck and it's possible one of the dogs got a bite in and he didn't see it or doesn't want to tell me. He said he had 18 chickens once and one of his dogs killed every single one of them one day, so the possibility is there.  Whatever, Cheese and Quackers are home again!

I brought them back home and tried to examine Quacker's wing, but who am I kidding? I don't know what I'm looking for under all those feathers.  All I could see was a spot of blood on his wing and when I tried to look underneath, there was a bald spot, but no wound. I let them loose in the pool and they hurriedly waddled out and into the garden area where they stayed for the rest of the day.

Now I wonder if I need to put up the fencing around the coop and duck house? We bought the materials a few months ago, even cemented in the fence posts for the gate door and pounded in a few t-bars, but that's where I stopped. I hate to fence them in, I love having them free-ranging around the yard. Have the ducks learned their lesson and will they stay in the back from now on? They say ducks are smart, have they learned anything from today's events? Maybe I'll pound in the rest of the t-bars before the ground freezes and then if something else happens that shows me they haven't learned their lesson, I'll put up the fencing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cheese and Quackers

Cheese and Quackers have adjusted really well here. They roam all around the property doing their duck thing and have hardly touched the feed I gave them. Their previous home was a small penned in area with nothing but packed dirt, the little pool, and a bowl of feed, so I imagine being set free in our yard is like the Garden of Eden to them. So much to see and do and eat!

 Their first few nights here, we kept them in a large dog carrier we had and parked it in the corner of our patio area.  We had to chase and catch them to lock them up.  After a couple nights of this, they learned to hang around the patio until we put them in the carrier.

I made a little duck house next to the chicken coop for them. I hoped they might go in and share the coop with the chickens, but it didn't happen and I don't want to force things, so a little hoop house next to the coop works just fine.

 As before, we had to train them for a couple nights before they learned to go in their house on their own. Now, they go right on in as it gets dark and all we have to do is slide the board down for the night.

All closed up for the night.

It's been a real joy to watch the ducks waddle around. They have been all the way out back in the garden and I've seen them out front near the driveway. When it rains, they hang out where the water shoots out from the gutters and really have a ball! We're glad we got them!