Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!!

A little photo montage of the day...
Bread in the oven.
Roasting squash
Note to self: remember to check them often, they're not keeping well!
But squash makes yummy bread!
A beautiful sunny day. But windy!
Pumpkin carving time.
A classic shot....
Pumpkins deployed
Boys set to go.
I12 as a doctor.
K9 as an early morning pirate.
And the scariest of all!!!

Regardless of whether you celebrate Halloween with parties or trick-or-treats or are celebrating the older festival of Samhain, have a blessed evening.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A lovely, relaxing day.

I had a fabulous day. I had a lovely, peaceful drive, a wonderful lunch with my Dad, got to see several of my relatives (Aunt, Uncle and several cousins) and my 3rd grade teacher! I had several hours to visit with my parents and got a laundry basket about half full of pears. And I get to keep the basket!
I feel refreshed, more than a good nights sleep would have given me. It's a totally different type of refreshment.
I ran a few errands on my way home, swinging through Kalona again to pick up some Lebanon Bologna from the cheese house there. Lebanon bologna is made near V's hometown in Pennsylvania and he grew up on the stuff. He was thrilled a few years ago to learn that they occasionally carry it out here. So I stopped in to pick up some for him as a surprise.
I also drove past several lovely barn quilts. These have been growing in popularity here and are quite beautiful.
This picture doesn't do it justice but at highway speeds, snapping photos one handed out the window I was lucky to get my camera out in time to snap it at all. I'll try to make a tour to get better photos of some in this area and post them. I saw some lovely ones on my way through back roads to Kalona but by that time it was SOOO windy that I didn't want to try to get any pics while driving.
The sad part of the trip was seeing all the flooding around here. We've gotten 5 inches of rain this week. The farmers have a record setting crop in the fields and can't get in to harvest it. Even though I grew up in a farming family, I'm not a huge fan of industrial agriculture. But it still almost makes me sick to my stomach to see an entire field of corn, ready to harvest, standing in several feet of water.
Another out the car window shot. Fortunately the portion of this field nearest the highway had already been harvested. This shot is taken probably 150 yards before the highway crosses the river. This is the Skunk River, well outside its banks. The other side of the road had water standing in an unharvested field but I couldn't get a good shot.
Dad thinks that this will probably be a year where the crops don't come in until the ground freezes. He says he remembers harvesting into January because of rain. I don't remember that late but I remember having them in the field on Thanksgiving Day because they could.
Here's hoping that it dries out a bit here. Five inches of rain in a week in October is a bit much.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Road Trip!

I'm off tomorrow for a day trip to my parents farm. I'm really looking forward to this! I get to pick up some wonderful pears (the trees have been huge for longer than I can remember and they are SOOO good) and I get to spend some quality time with my parents. My Mom is working to serve lunch at the community center tomorrow so I'm going to go down early enough to have lunch with Dad while Mom works. This is a fund raising event that rotates through community groups, they take turns making meals on Fridays to serve. Not quite like a senior dining center- but close. My parents live just outside a town of about 250 people so having a social event like this is a big deal for them. I'm hoping to get to see one of my uncles there as well. I'll probably be the youngest person there! But it should be fun.
I'm also looking forward to the drive- as crazy as that sounds. It takes a little less than 90 minutes to get there and for some reason, after the past few weeks, the silent drive time with only my ipod for company sounds great. I could use some decompression. And it will be nice to have some time where I don't have to think about work or house or garden or canning or.... The weather isn't supposed to be great- it's been raining all day, much to the dismay of area farmers- and is likely to continue tomorrow- but it shouldn't be too bad to drive.

Oh, and in case you didn't know- the Phillies won the first game of the World Series last night 6-1. HA!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can't do it

I'm a bit frustrated. I really wanted to watch the documentary on PBS of Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire. But I'm stuck here waiting for I12 to finish his Wednesday evening confirmation class. sigh. And then, I'm sure that the TV at home will be playing Game 1 of the World Series. But I guess that's OK. The Phillies are playing.
I'm at least glad that I've got my laptop and there is wireless service here at church (and that I know the password!) so I can at least keep up with everyone here. But then again- tonight is my 'therapy group'. It's really nice to get together with the other 'choir moms' who have all become good friends IRL through the years that our children have been singing together. It's a great time to vent about love, life and children.
Oops, gotta go- It's about time to head home.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What are you reading?

Read any good books lately? I'm looking for something new to read. I've discovered the lost time to read and that's what I'm posting about today at Homemakers Who Work .
I'll welcome reading suggestions, too. I finished a book last night so for the moment I'm 'bookless'.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Independence Days- Y2, W25?

I'm going to call it week 25, not that it really matters. I'm sure I could go back and count again if I was motivated to do that- but I'm not.
It's been a weary, weary week here. Busy and with little sleep it seems, so I'm beat. V has got the crud and has been hacking and coughing, keeping me up at night. He says he feels better so here's hoping for a better night's sleep tonight.
But it's Monday and time for my IDC update for the week, although I'm not sure what there is to report. Here goes:
1. Plant something- no, but I did gather pine needles to use as a mulch around the blueberries. I figure that they will acidify the soil while providing a mulch to keep down the weeds. We'll see how they do.
2. Harvest something- Nope, nada, zip, zilch.
3. Preserve something- my sanity, that's about it for the week.
4. Waste not- nothing extraordinary here
5. Want not- picked up a few packs of canning lids at the store. I want to try to build up a supply slowly over the course of the year to spread out the cost. Also got some more sugar for the fall baking season and some chocolate chips, walnuts and almonds for the stash.
6. Community food systems- not much here either. Supplied snacks for the Halloween party. I made eyeball cookies. They're really easy and not at all made from scratch. I dipped Nilla wafers in melted almond bark and let them set. Then I put a small dollop of blue frosting in the center, topped with a mini chocolate chip for the pupil and then painted tiny 'bloodshot' streaks with thinned food coloring. Instant hit for kids at a creepy party.
7. Eat the food- this is one category I've done well in. Spanish rice with home canned tomatoes and some frozen pepper bits, frozen sweet corn, home grown smashed potatoes, all yummy.

It's settling into be the slow part of the year, we'll see how it goes from here on out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time to recharge

It's been a crazy-busy week here. I worked 6 days straight and then ran straight to help out at the haunted house for the Halloween party yesterday afternoon. I was drafted to serve as the semi-dead alien in the haunted house since some of the high schoolers who were supposed to be there weren't able to make it (illness and SATs). That combined with all the usual business of cooking, laundry, cleaning house, etc. made me a bit cranky. So, this afternoon, since it was a gorgeous Fall day, K9 and I took a walk around the property. It was a lovely chance to recharge my mental and emotional batteries. Here are a few sights from our walk that I thought I'd share. I hope you don't mind pictures of fall colors.
Down in the valley....
K measures the depth of a pool (about a foot deep!)
Sitting on his bridge.
Yup, he built this one himself!
He calls it Toad-Oak bridge.
It's a lovely spot for listening to the running water.
The leaves are lovely!
A view from the courtyard.
Looking up the hill.
North, over the fence.
I hope you all have a peaceful week. Halloween is creeping up on us. I've got to find time sometime to make a trip to my parent's farm. Mom called and said they have pears for us. Yummy. Maybe Friday, I've got the day off since I worked yesterday- we'll see.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


It's been an interesting few days at work. Changes are in the air. I'm withholding judgement on whether they're good or not. First, one of our therapists turned in her resignation. Her last day on the job will be Nov 13. I can't say I can blame her, she was offered a position in a children's facility that is much nearer her home (10-15 minute commute vs 40) and which will allow her to be closer to her 2 school age children. That, combined with another therapist expecting to be on maternity leave in early to mid January leaves us in quite a bit of a lurch. We had a meeting with our boss today and he told us that we have been approved to hire a PRN therapist for maternity coverage, but she is only available 2 days a week. There is a woman who was offered a position in another division who really wants to work with us (she is the one we had interviewed and selected prior to having her new position eliminated in budget cuts last year) and there is a good chance that they will let her move into the open position in a few months, when they have had a chance to find someone else (their division is already down 2 therapists, we will only be down 1). At least it is generally slower than usual during the holidays. But I have this fear that, working in psychiatry, we will actually see an increase this year since more people will be more financially stressed this year. We'll see what comes.
The bigger dilemma for me, personally, is that I have a decision to make in the next few months. Our boss informed us today that our departmental restructuring plan has been approved by the Board of Regents and by the powers that be in HR. This means that a new type of position has been created and they will be looking to fill them yet this year. This will be a clinical supervisor position- 75% patient care, 25% management/supervisory. My dilemma is: should I apply?
A few years ago I would have leapt at the opportunity to advance my career and get my toehold into the management circles. But now, I'm not sure I want to take on that responsibility and the stress that would go with it. Yes, it would mean more $$ but is it worth it? I worry about several things: Changing the relationships with my co-workers since if I got it I would be the one doing their performance reviews; moving into a middle management position in a time of budget cuts may be a risky thing to do since management positions have no protection under the union and I would likely lose all my seniority; and most of all, I worry about what it would do to my ability to live out my dreams here on this little piece of land, that it may mean longer hours, biting into my already precious time. I don't know....
In some ways I feel obligated to apply. V thinks it's a no-brainer and that I should apply. I'm worried about getting pressure from my co-workers to apply. These positions will be filled internally from within the division they are supervising. Our division is Behavioral Health and is comprised of we 5 occupational therapists and 6 recreation therapists. The position is only open to full time employees which cuts the pool down to, I think 5. One is a definite NO (she can hardly organize her way out of a paper bag and would be scary to have as a supervisor), there is one who I don't think would want it, one who is quite ambitious but has never struck me as someone I would want to be my manager, one is the OT I work with who is pregnant (due in January) who confided to me this afternoon that she is considering not coming back full time after the baby is born, and then- little old me. I had the impression that Ken (my boss) was staring at me when he was talking about those positions (maybe it's just my paranoia). I've got a lot of thinking to do. But at least I have some time. The positions were just approved by HR yesterday and all the pay-grade stuff sorted out. They still have to ask for applications and do the interview process.
Actually, if we could afford it financially, I would LOVE to only work part time and have more time to spend here at home. But that's not going to happen any time soon. Oh, and speaking of finances. The rumor in the mill is that there will be mandatory 10 day furloughs for everyone before July 1. You gotta love working for the state.....

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of this and that

Ticket, the Mouse Slayer, on patrol!!
I tell you, after catching that mouse last night, he was so pleased with himself and keeps wanting to go into the garden/barn area to look for more. For a 105 lb dog he moves pretty quickly. We're not sure of his heritage but he's all ours. We're pretty sure he has some Lab in him but other than that, German Shepherd, maybe? You can't see it well in the picture but he has a very deep, keel like chest, so who knows... We got him after he was dumped near my parent's farm a few years ago. He was skinny and covered with ticks and we're pretty sure he had been abused based on his behaviors. He was making a pest of himself at my parent's farm and Dad was threatening to shoot him before started getting into the neighbor's livestock. There are roving packs of abandoned dogs down there and it always makes me really angry when people abandon their animals. But Tick has got a good home and has shaped up nicely.
J15 tries out her costume for the haunted house.
I'm just not sure angels of death wear ratty Converse.
She has been working hard on things for the haunted house this weekend. This evening she was painting tombstones. In keeping with the idea of making this fun for adults as well as children, some of the grave markers are for the following: D. Jones, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Morgan Stanley.
I've got a bonus evening tonight. I hardly know what to do with myself. Normally Wednesday evenings are crazy times at our house with V and I going opposite directions with different children. But tonight I12 came home from school not feeling well and coughing again, so I dosed him with cough syrup and kept him home from choir practice and confirmation. Which means that I have SPARE TIME!!!!! So, I did a little work around the house and now have some banana bread baking in the oven. We very rarely have bananas last long enough to get to the banana bread stage but this time I was in luck.
Except for the cornstalks, the garden is put to bed.
V mowed off part of the garden that was the worst overgrown. Not ideal but quite effective. When working out there last night I noticed that there were many mouse nests out in the garden. V knows he drove over at least one of the little buggers and hopefully more. Now they don't have as many hiding places. We've got a huge pile of weeds that have been drying out for a few weeks and we're thinking that they have become home to many little rodents. So V is considering a bit of gasoline and a match to solve that problem. I'm fine with that as long as he has the hose handy.
I've been doing measurements for raised beds. I've never done concrete block beds before but I've heard good things about them. And V and I have been talking what to plant in an orchard.
Now, to just wear him down about chickens....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I want to build an ark!

Sharon over at Casaubon's Book posted a wonderful take on the Noah story. Loved it!!! I encourage you to check it out if you haven't already read it. I want to work to build my very own ark!

Around here, I had to apologize to the dog this afternoon. I never thought he had it in him to be a great hunter but this afternoon as I was out working in the garden he went diving into the woodpile by the barn and came out with a mouse! He killed it and then spit it out, at least he didn't try to eat it! I did get part of the garden cleared and was scoping out the spots where I want to put the raised beds. I'll have to count how many cinder blocks we have since I think I'll go with them for building my beds. Around here, you can often find them free on craigslist so I'll have to keep my eyes open.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Independence Days 2

It's definitely Fall here. The trees are beautiful, we've had plenty of frosty mornings. All the tender plants have died. But today, it was a lovely day. It was sunny and mid 60's. A distinct change from the 40s and 50s we've been having. And BOY, OH, BOY, the boxelder and ladybugs were out in force. We must have vacuumed hundreds out of the kitchen window. But fortunately, while they seem to be hanging on the exterior walls and doors, that appears to be the only window they're getting into in force. But it's like running the gauntlet to get into or out of the house. I took advantage of the combination of a slow day at work and the beautiful weather today. I took an hour and a half of vacation time and managed to get some outside work done.
But it's Monday, and that means that it's time for my Independence Days Challenge report.
1. Plant something- Garlic, mint -transplanted from the old house- my other one died :( And we also planted a bunch of flower bulbs. 50 tulips, 9 daffodils and a dozen or so crocus. We were here early enough this spring to realize that there were NO flowers planted here other than hostas, a few neglected iris and the naked lady bulbs. That had to change. I also transplanted some yellow coneflowers from the old house, some siberian iris and planted a few more iris here.
2. Harvest something- nope. The freeze got everything.
3. Preserve something- Dried a few more hot peppers, canned spiced apples.
4. Waste not- The usual recycling, composting, reusing and repurposing that goes on around here. The children are going through the closets to come up with costumes for Halloween. We have such an assortment of oddments and costume bits that it's usually fun to put them together in new ways each year.
5. Want not- Made the annual fall fun to Stringtown for oatmeal, whole wheat flour, craisins and some dried beans. Purchased a bushel of apples that went into the fridge for eating apples. The ones from my parents will be canned or dried since they're not keeping. Lets see, V and I made a trip to Target to get a few plastic storage totes. We haven't seen any mice in the house since we did the big repair on the wall (knock on wood) but I'm still wanting to put some things into more secure storage than boxes.
6. Community food systems- shopped at Stringtown, the local Amish bulk store, purchased local apples. Purchased cheese from the dairy in Kalona. I made sure to get the stuff they make themselves and not the multitude of imported selections that they have- oh, and of course, I got some cheese curds.
7. Eat the food- This evening, as I was making dinner, I had this wonderful feeling as I wandered around the house, collecting food. The beef roast in the oven was from the freezer (J15 gave up on vegetarian month after 15 days) and I added in home grown potatoes and onions and some carrots. It smells fabulous and J15 is just now home from orchestra and we're ready to eat.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mmm, calzones

I spent the afternoon peeling and slicing apples for canning spiced apples. After that I wanted something good for dinner. I12 suggested calzones, or pizza sandwiches as he called them, since he couldn't remember the name. What a great idea. So I mixed up some dough, divided it into balls and let each child go to work. Here's the general recipe:

Pizza (or calzone) dough
Mix together in measuring cup 1 1/3 cup warm water and 1 1/2 tsp yeast. Let sit until it starts to get frothy. (I usually feed mine with a tsp of sugar)
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine:
3 cups unbleached flour (or regular)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 to 1 tsp Italian seasoning ( to taste- I use about 3/4 tsp)

When the yeast is frothy, add it to the dry ingredients with 2 T olive oil. Stir to combine then knead. Let rise for 20-30 minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is at the moment.

This dough will make 2 pizzas, one pizza + breadsticks, or 5-6 calzones.

For the calzones, divide the dough into balls, roll each ball into a round (about 1/4 inch thick), lay on a lightly greased baking sheet. Top half of each round with pizza sauce, cheese and your choice of fillings- leave 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the edge naked. Then fold over, pressing the edges together to seal. Poke a few holes in the top to allow steam to escape (if these are made by individuals, mark each top with identifying marks!). Bake in a 375 oven until the dough starts to brown or the cheese on top (if any) is melty and lightly browned. Let sit on the pan for a few minutes to cool, then serve and enjoy.

My children love building their own calzones, filling the middle with whatever sounds good. Tonight the filling options, besides cheese, were pepperoni, Italian sausage, black olives, red bell pepper and onion. With kids, just make sure they don't overfill, then it gets difficult to seal the edges.

Sorry, no pictures tonight- they were all devoured quickly.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fun construction

Every year the high school youth at our church put on a Halloween party with a haunted house for the younger children. This year, V volunteered to be the parent supervisor of the haunted house build. So this afternoon, J15 and several of her friends descended on our shop to construct a few props.
The beginnings of a crypt.
We still have some styrofoam panels left from insulating the basement so those are being used to build a 3D crypt for the haunted house. They used little dowel rods to peg them together.
Someday they'll learn to paint from the inside out!!
Need I say anything....
The name above the door is....?
They have to make this scary for the adults too! Their theme is something like an alien ship has crashed in a cemetery and awakened a few residents. Go figure.
In news for me, I made a trip to Kalona, a small town near here and went to Stringtown Grocery, an Amish bulk store, to stock up on a few things. I got some oatmeal, whole wheat flour, a few dried beans, craisins and some dried herbs (rosemary, oregano and an italian blend that I like). I also picked up a bushel of apples. Not organic but from a local orchard. I'm going to have to either can or dry the ones from Mom since they are already starting to go bad. Guess what tomorrow afternoon holds in store....
The kids all laughed at one of the apples...I'm not sure why....
The picture doesn't do it justice.
I also stopped in at the cheese factory next door the the grocery and picked up a few things. The cracked black pepper cheddar is fabulous!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Time off

for baseball!
Kris, aka Hickchick over at A Small Life, posted about feeling frustrated with the amount of time spent in the kitchen, feeling like it's no longer fun. I've been feeling the same way. So tonight I'm taking some time off to watch baseball.
Baseball??? Yup, it's the only professional sport I enjoy watching. I don't know why, but I do. And to top it off, the Phillies are playing in the National League Championships (against the Dodgers). Being married to a guy who grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania (and also a baseball fan) and having lived there for a few years, I have become a Phillies fan. Ok, I like the Chicago Cubs as well- but face it- they didn't have a great season.
So, it's the bottom of the 4th of game 1, the Dodgers are at bat and it's 0-1 Dodgers in the lead. sigh. But it's early days yet.
Don't worry, I haven't lost it, I did make dinner, clean up and do a load of laundry this evening so I'm not a total slacker.

Suds up

It's Global Hand Washing Day. I'm talking about common sense ways to stay healthy over at Homemakers Who Work. So scrub those fingers and head on over.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Venison on the hoof

Sorry, no pictures. He was too far away for the zoom on my little camera. V managed to snap some with our 'good' camera but hasn't downloaded them yet. I can't get them off on my computer- the camera is old and I don't have the proper software on my laptop.
Wondering what we saw? As best we could count from across the valley, we had an 8 point buck down by the creek this afternoon (well, 5:30ish). He was beautiful. But I still worry about having him grazing on my bushes this winter. Anyone with a buck license in Iowa? I'm sure he'll be back...
In other wildlife news, I spied a skunk at the compost pile as I was putting the dog out. So, poor dog had to come back in until we threw some sticks toward the skunky visitor and chased him (or her) away. Tick's tie out line goes to within about 10 feet of the compost pile and that's too close for me. I want to use my tomato sauce for us, not for de-skunking the dog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Today was a day of goodies. Some edible, some not. First the non-edible:
Stained glass by my friend Deb.
Sunday evening we had an art/talent show at our church. My children sang a 'comedic musical number'. They did a rendition of a 1950's duck and cover song, complete with 50's clothes. It was a hoot! Part of the art show was a silent auction of select pieces with all the proceeds going to our local homeless shelter. I was fortunate to win the stained glass piece pictured above, made by one of my friends. I have a thing for trees and thought she did a nice job. She has only been doing this for two years as a hobby and this was one of her first attempts at etching glass.
The other goodies of the day are edibles. My parents stopped by late this afternoon to drop off some things for us from their farm.
Winter squash for storage.
There weren't as many apples as I expected or hoped for- only about a bushel. They had a late frost that affected the size of the crop and Dad says that the apples they do have just aren't as nice (more blemishes) and aren't keeping as well as usual- maybe due to the weird weather this year. They have made trips in the past few weeks to my sisters- one in Colorado and one in Maryland- on the annual apple run. Today's trip was to my aunt and uncle who live an hour North of us and to my brother and I. This is their last delivery trip and they are glad of it. They have been storing the apples in their garage and are happy to have them gone so they can light their wood burning furnace which is also in the garage. They do have backup propane heat that they have been using but rely mainly on wood.
Oh, and I almost forgot. My sister in Maryland sent hand-me-down snow pants from her children (who are now both in college!) that are sizes for all three of my children. Woo Hoo!!! One less thing to worry about this year!! I'm glad that she is as bad as me and never gets rid of anything. My kids tend to be pretty hard on their snow pants and we generally have to replace them every year, even if they haven't grown out of them. I've never been able to hand down snow pants from one boy to the next. Which I'm okay with, really, because it means that they are outside playing rather than parked in front of a TV like so many other children their age.

Thanks for all the well wishes for our health. I12 is feeling much better this evening. Whatever this is, it seems to respond quite well to giving yourself permission to sleep for 12-16 hours straight. K9 seems to be holding his own and hasn't been complaining today so we'll see. V actually thinks he may have had it even before I did because he complained of feeling really tired and achy a while ago.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Independence Days- year 2, week ???

I've totally lost track of what week this is supposed to be on this challenge, not that it really matters, I guess.
Things are definitely winding down. During the slow, winter months I may change to posting every other week or so since there isn't as much to talk about.
1. Plant something- No, but I did package up and stash away all my saved seeds from the garden this year. We're still in the planning stage of herb garden and a few other raised beds for food production next year.
2. Harvest something- peppers, basil and the last, lone tomato- that is the last we'll be getting until spring. We had a hard freeze and then snow on Saturday so we are officially DONE for the season. We're expecting a visit from my parents this week bringing us apples and a few more winter squash.
3. Preserve something- dried a few hot peppers and made some pesto for the freezer.
4. Waste not- the usual, not much exciting here. Recycled, composted, reused and repurposed as much as possible.
5. Want not- lets see, picked up a few winter squash from the local pumpkin patch that will go into storage. Stocked up on coffee and a few pounds of cheese. We eat a lot of cheese and I'm trying to decide if I want to try freezing some or if we will eat it quickly enough. I'm leaning toward just leaving it in the fridge.
6. Community food systems- We visited a farm about 10 miles down the road. They have a pumpkin patch and the children picked out pumpkins and I picked up a few other winter squash. She had some "Cinderella" pumpkins that I would have loved to get but I refrained. I would have wanted to save the seeds and I'm sure she didn't keep them separate enough to prevent crossing with others that were there.
7. Eat the food- Lots of pesto and stuffed peppers. I had hoped to get a little chard for our lasagna last night but even it didn't make it through the freeze. J15 and I have been experimenting with a variety of vegetarian recipes. V declared that what the bean loaf needed was bacon. sigh. But it was tasty tonight as leftovers with egg noodles and mushroom sauce.

I12 is the latest at our home to succumb to illness. He came home late (his bus broke down and they had to wait for another) made some soup for himself before I even started dinner and was in bed by 630. Definitely NOT normal for him. K9 has begun to cough so he is probably next. Evidently, even though there was no testing and only a few kids showed respiratory symptoms, officials are calling the outbreak at J15's high school H1N1. Who knows.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bean Loaf

J15 and I are doing pretty well on our veggie month eating. Ok- I'll admit- she ate a chicken eggroll and I had some ham on a sandwich the other day. But all in all- we're doing well. Last night we had some roasted veggies. And with it we tried something new. The guys had some pork that I had put in the crock pot but J15 and I had some red bean loaf.
Kind of like meat loaf, only beanier....
I've been eyeing this recipe for a few years but have never made it before. It was pretty tasty and wasn't hard to make. Even V thought it was good. It can be served either hot or cold (it actually made pretty good sandwiches for lunch today sliced thin on bread with sweet pickles).
Here's the recipe:
1 lb dried red beans (I used kidney- they were what I actually had a whole pound of)
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
4 eggs, slightly beaten
salt and pepper

Soak and cook beans, then drain and mash- don't worry about lumps.
In a large bowl, combine the beans with the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Place into two 9x5 inch loaf pans (greased or oiled) and bake in a 350* oven for about an hour. Each loaf serves 4-6 depending on how it is served.

It was recommended to serve it with a sauce and I can see why. While tasty, it was a bit on the dry side which a spicy tomato sauce would cure easily. It was also suggested to serve it cold with a bit of curry mayonnaise.

Gotta go- I've got a veggie lasagna in the oven. YUM!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's SNOWING!!! (update with photo)

The weather here has been toying with frost/freeze for the past few weeks. I have noticed a few plants that have looked nipped but nothing major. Until this morning, that is. We woke up to a frosty morning with a temp of 26! And now, to top it off- it's snowing. It's a good thing I got out to the garden last night and got the last of the peppers and a bit more basil. Supposedly, we may have near record setting low temps of near 20 overnight tonight. BRRR.
We covered J15's rose bush last night but with temps like this I don't know if it will be enough to save it. She was begging this spring for a blue climbing rose that we planted on the southeast corner of the front porch. It has been growing nicely all summer but hasn't bloomed. Until now, of course, it has 2 flower buds on it. We were hoping to see it bloom this year. I know that we can always wait until next year but.... we're so close. We'll see what happens.
Of course, I pity the fools going to the football game today. It's a big game for the University- it's homecoming- we play Michigan and it's a night game on a night with predicted record lows. BRRR! I'm not a real football fan anyway (I know- sacrilege in this town!) but even if I was- I don't think you could pay me to go to this game.
I realize that it's October- it just seems too early to be this cold with snow.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Images of Fall

From our home....
Boxelder bugs and asian lady bugs gather.
Fall's bounty
The last picking before the freeze.
Black kitten and pumpkins.
How much more October can you get?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's pretty

Don't ya think?
Heirloom variety
Bloody Butcher corn
I'm drying it to grind for cornmeal. It should be fun to have pink cornbread this winter. Some wasn't as mature as I would have liked and the second (and sometimes third!) ears didn't pollinate as well but it's still gorgeous! It's kind of funny- I grew up on a farm where we planted hundreds of acres of corn but this summer was the first time I ever planted any of my own. Daddy definitely never grew corn like this!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Does she have IT?

H1N1, that is....
I got an email from the high school yesterday with an attachment from the Johnson County Department of Public Health about the symptoms of H1N1 influenza, and what to do if you think your child has it. It turns out that yesterday there were approximately 400 students absent from the high school (out of about 1200). I was a bit worried about J15 last night when she fell asleep on the couch and then went to bed before 9. She came home this afternoon feverish and achey.
I'm not sure if she picked something up at school or if she has what I had over the weekend. I would have thought it was H1N1 except I didn't have any of the respiratory symptoms. I was just incredibly tired, achey and feverish. She sounds much the same. So she'll probably get to stay home tomorrow (we'll see in the morning). I just hope no one else gets it (she says with vain hope).
I had a crazy evening. I was home from work for just over an hour then dropped I12 off at church at 6:30 and headed to our old house to work on painting the basement walls in the laundry area. I vastly underestimated both the time it would take me as well as how much paint those cinder block walls would suck up. I had to call V to pick up Ian at 8 and painted until close to 930. Then I only stopped because I was out of paint. But I have all of one wall done and the worst part of the adjoining wall behind the dryer (the damp corner). I'll need to get more paint and try to find time to finish that East wall. I've never painted with Drylok paint before. I didn't realize how thick it was until I opened the can. It was more like I was icing the wall than painting. But it really soaks into the cement and V says it does a great job of sealing out the water. I just hope it cures enough before we get rain tomorrow. That corner of the basement only leaks when the gutter overflows but, unfortunately, I think the gutter is clogged with leaves because it was pretty damp back there. I'll have to see if V can reach the gutter from the bathroom window enough to clear it out some (I'd do it myself but I'm too short to reach that far- I've tried).
I just hope all this pays off. I would really like to get that house sold so we don't have to heat it over the winter. Even though we can keep the heat at a minimal level there, I cringe at the thought of paying to heat 2 houses. That and the financial cushion that we had is slowly fading away the longer we are doing this. We were pretty confident that our house would sell quickly so we took some risks. I just hope it works out. I'm getting a bit nervous with the economy not really coming around.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oh, the trials of multiplication

K9 has homework! You would think, judging from his reaction, that it is nothing short of torture. But wait- it's multiplication! So, maybe it is torture to him. He was a bit emotionally overwrought before dinner but did much better after- maybe it was just low blood sugar addling his brain.
In other news, we met with our realtor last night and decided to drop the asking price for our old house by $5000. It's been on the market for 65 days now and while we have had lots of people look and comment on how much they love it, we've had no offers. I'm also going to go in tomorrow evening and paint the laundry room there. It's in the damp corner of the basement and the bare cinderblock walls look pretty grubby. I had mentioned painting it before, but V said it didn't matter- until our realtor mentioned it last night. So- tomorrow while I12 is at choir practice and then confirmation- I'm going to be painting. sigh- just when I thought I was done with painting for a while. But at least it isn't a huge area. But, the heat isn't on there and today when we stopped it was down to 55. We're supposed to get down into the upper 20's this weekend so I think V is planning to go on Friday to light the pilot light on the furnace. There will be an open house on Saturday afternoon and it should be comfortably warm for that, so the house seems inviting. But tomorrow night- it's me and some dry lock paint... yee haw...hear the excitement... the fun never ends.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Independence Days

It's Monday again. And that means an IDC update post. For those of you unfamiliar with this challenge. There is a link on the sidebar that should take you there. Yes, I know the image says 2008 but I never got around to updating it for the new year. This challenge is a great way to keep track of all the accomplishments towards 'independence' in a weeks time. It would be nice to have something from every category every week but in my life- that isn't possible. But here goes the update for the week.
1. Plant something- Nope. I STILL need to get my flower bulbs in the ground but just haven't had time. Well, I would have had time but both yesterday and today I've been feeling under the weather. I sent everyone off to church without me yesterday and actually called in sick to work today. Don't know what it was but I had a temp, headache and achey joints- it felt like someone had been beating me with a baseball bat around the knees and elbows. And tired! Oh my! I didn't roll out of bed until 930 this morning (after 12 hours!) I'm feeling better now- I think the sleep helped tremendously.
2. Harvest something- Let's see. Things are winding down. We had frost predicted late last week and were down to 36 this morning. I got what I could from the garden. The tomatoes are gone but I got peppers (LOTS!), eggplant and I harvested my red corn that will become cornmeal this winter. Oh, and a few cucumbers and a large amount of basil.
3. Preserve something- I froze another gallon bag of hot peppers and a quart bag of diced bell peppers. Made and froze pesto in my ice cube trays that I got specifically for that. They are smaller, round cubes (if you can have a round cube) but best of all, the bottom of the tray is flexible silicon so it's easy to pop the cubes of pesto out of the tray. Then this winter, thaw, add cheese and a bit more olive oil and presto- pesto!
4. Waste not- hmm, just the usual I think. Not much special going on this week.
5. Want not- stocked up on frozen veggies for stir fry. I really wish I had been able to have my own sugar snap peas but the bunnies made quick work of them this spring. They also had a sale on their store brand of frozen cheese tortellini which we love and make a really quick meal combined with pesto. So I stocked up on some of them as well.
6. Build community food systems- Not much. But this afternoon when I was feeling better V and I drove to Cedar Rapids (not quite 30 miles away) in search of new filters for our furnace (to no avail- the store that said online that they had them- didn't). But anyway, we took the scenic route and while on the way, discovered a family farm nearby that has a pumpkin patch and is also selling winter squash. Since we didn't have time or room to plant any of those this year, we're now plotting a trip so the kids can pick out pumpkins and I can stock up on some local winter squash. This farm is only about 15 miles away, if even that.
7. Eat the food- Veggie month is progressing. We've had pasta with pesto twice, veggie stir fry, stuffed chilis and locally farmed catfish (J15 has decided to allow seafood once a week in her veggie plan).
Well, J15 needs to use my computer to watch a youtube video for school so I've gotta go. Her computer is too slow. sigh.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blogiversary and granola?

One year ago today I started this blog. It doesn't seem like that long, but when I look back I can see that a lot has happened in the past year. We are well on our way to realizing some of our dreams and this has been a great way to share the journey- both the good and the bad. I'm forever grateful for the friends I've made here in blogland. I appreciate each and every one of you who stop by to give me encouragement or feedback.
On a different note, I've also been fortunate enough to have been asked to write with a group of wonderful women over at Homemakers Who Work. I've got a post there today about making granola. It's a wonderful way to clean up odds and ends of things in the pantry.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Going veg?

It's October. That means changes in our household. J15, while a tried and true onmivore, has always expressed interest in being a vegetarian. For lots of reasons. I don't have a problem with that. I was a very lax vegetarian while I was in college. In fact, I hadn't eaten red meat for years when I met V. (he is a fabulous cook and he won me over with a grilled steak, marinaded in red wine first) What does this have to do with it being October, you may ask? October is Vegetarian Awareness Month.
Two years ago, J15 was going to try to eat a vegetarian diet for the month of October. We were supportive until she wrecked her bike, lost a lot of blood and ended up in the hospital. She was so anemic that I gave her the option of giving up the veg for the month or eating lots of spinach (and other iron containing foods). She opted for eating some red meat.
I'm not sure what happened last year but this year, she is again hoping to take the challenge. She has one friend at school who is going to be her 'veggie buddy' and she has asked me to join her as well.
We already eat much less meat than many Americans. We already eat vegetarian meals at least once a week anyway so it isn't that much of a stretch for us. Someone once asked me (on this blog) why I thought it was important to eat vegetarian at least once a week. I've got lots of reasons.
First- health. Both of my parents have trouble with their cholesterol and Dad has had a triple bypass. They are both on medication for blood pressure. While my cholesterol has always been fabulous, I'm not taking any chances.
Second- I just don't think we need to eat that much meat. Nutrition-wise, it seems better for us to eat lots of things other than meat. I feel kind of sluggish if I eat too much protein. I'm much happier with the meat being an ingredient, not the star of the show.
Third- Even though I grew up on a farm (corn, soybeans and pigs (non-confinement!)) I have a really hard time with factory farms. We do eat meat but we're more aware of how it is produced now. Grassfed beef is much more expensive than the feedlot stuff (but more tasty) so it isn't economically feasible to eat great slabs of meat.
Fourth- I want my children to have the exposure. I feel it's important to introduce them to many different foods and ways of life. This way, if they go to a friend's house, they are less likely to be turned off by something different being served. I mean, really, my boys will actually eat tofu!
There are a few other things, but these are the most important

So, the long and short of it is that J15 and I are going to try to go veg for the month. It will mean some juggling and creativity on my part as I'm not going to expect the guys to do it. We will still eat several vegetarian family meals each week as usual, but there will be times where J15 and I will be eating a slightly different meal then everyone else.
It will be an interesting month.