Monday, June 30, 2008

Getting Ready for the 4th Of July

Today was a busy day...I went plant shopping and then did lots of planting. Then tonight Emery and I got the house decorated for the 4th. Its going to be a big day for our little town. 150 people becoming U.S. Citizens, then a parade. I have never been particularly patriotic. Not sure why, but this year I sure feel it : )
Even the farm gate has bunting on it....its not in the picture though and at the base of the mail box, there are red, white and blue flowers planted.
I have blisters on three fingers of my right hand from all the garden work we have been doing, so tomorrow will be a pampering day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Feeling A Bit Nostalgic

Not sure of the reason, but today, working around the house I have been thinking a lot about the way people used to eat, even back 50 years ago, so much less complicated. You didn't have 100 cookbooks on the shelf or 300 new diet plans introduced each year, all telling you to eat their way or you will die young. The nightly news was not telling you one thing one day about a certain food and another thing totally opposite the next day.
People ate what was simple and available due to the seasons and availability.
Emery and I used to pick blueberries every summer up in the Medford woods. Berries galore, all for the picking. Not once did we meet anyone else up there doing the same thing. It was strange to me that the berries would just go unpicked. There were no chemicals sprayed on them, they were organic and free. Just naked blueberries, sweet and juicy. That meant blueberry shakes, blueberry pies, blueberries with a bit of sugar sprinkled on them in a bowl of milk.
Thinking about the blueberries made me think about a treat I ate as a kid. Sliced bananas in a bowl, sprinkled with sugar with milk poured over it in a bowl. It was a so simple, but tasted something like banana ice cream without the frozen aspect.
I am not sure how things have become so complicated when it comes to eating. Maybe we simply have too many options. Maybe we should just rely more on common sense. More natural is best, balance is good and keep it simple.

My hibiscus in bloom

Sunday Afternoon in small town America

Music of the moment....Dervish
Food and Drink.............Hot dogs for lunch (Hebrew National) Mountain Dew for its caffeine and for a bit of a break while painting the front door, a cup of nice hot Barry's Tea .
Emery is weeding the planting bed along the driveway and I am painting the front door a nice traditional New England Black. Our town is having a big 4th of July celebration and the whole town is sprucing up for the event. There will be something like 150 people taking the oath to become American citizens here in our town on the 4th. There will be a parade and celebrating most of the day. I purchased red white and purplish blue petunias to plant and bunting to hang along our farm gate. Someone came by the house today, flag and pole in hand to give us if we didn't have one. They stopped off at every house along our road with the same offer. You see everyone out working in their yards. Everyone seems so excited about this big event.

Small town life is good.

Another Family Favorite, Simple Food

My mothers, mother was from Nova Scotia . A long line of Loyalists that left the U.S. and were awarded Kings Grants there for their loyalty to Britain. These were the very descendants of the pilgrims that arrived on the Mayflower. Our meals were greatly influenced by the simple meals eaten along the Noel Shore in N.S. I grew up loving haddock. Its one of the first meals I seek out when I head back east.
My grandmother used to make us Creamed Finnan Haddie. It seems like you either love it or hate it. No middle ground for this meal. Its a sort of creamed smoked haddock.

Ingredients for Creamed Finnan Haddie
1 pound finnan haddie
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons Argo or Kingsford's Cornstarch
1/3 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon paprika
Few drops onion juice
1 teaspoon minced parsley (optional)
1 pint milk

Pour boiling water over the finnan haddie, let stand two or three minutes, drain and flake.
Add the oil then the cornstarch, and seasonings and gradually stir in the milk.
When boiling, add the parsley or onion juice and serve on toast, split Tea Biscuit, boiled rice or with boiled or baked potatoes.
My great grandmother Harriet Amelia Densmore Hines born 1846 died 1934 mother to 9 children, she is standing outside the family home, that is still in the family !
Noel, Nova Scotia

Food With Memories

While my father was here visiting, I made him a couple recipes that are favorites of his. Food with memories. A dessert my grandmother made for him each year on his birthday and a simple supper he often asked my mother to make, it was and is still his favorite. I don't really have a recipe for either since I just learned by watching my mother and grandmother make them and they were not follow the recipe cooks.
Our family makes strawberry shortcake with biscuits, biscuits made a little sweet by adding in some sugar to the dough. Always fresh sweet strawberries cut and set out in a bowl with sugar sprinkled over them. Biscuits cut in half, topped with the strawberries, and of course fresh cream piled high on the top. Not cream from a can or some plastic container. But whipped fluffy just before serving. The bowl, the same stainless steel mixing bowl my mother and grandmother used, stashed in the freezer, chilling until I am ready to whip the cream.
My dads favorite meal...a simple one. Welsh Rarebit. We have always served it over crushed saltines. Each family member sure they had the perfect way of crushing them with their hands.
Since I don't have a recipe, I searched on line for one much like the one I make. Its a comfort type meal. A stick to your ribs supper.
My mother always made it with Velveeta cheese, it melted so easy. I make a white sauce with melted butter, flour and milk and leave out the hot sauce and beer is not always around our house so that is an ingredient that varies due to supply in the pantry. I find that cheese is salty enough for our taste, so we leave out the salt too.

Welsh Rarebit
Recipe Alton Brown 2003
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup porter beer
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (approximately 1 1/2 cups) shredded Cheddar
2 drops hot sauce
4 slices toasted rye bread
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and whisk until well combined and smooth. Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes.
Add hot sauce.
Pour over toast and serve immediately.

Early Sunday Morning

There is a heaviness to the air from last nights rain. The grass is wet and soaks the hem of my skirt as I go about my chores. Emery is tinkering in his workshop. The only sound is that of the birds chirping and singing. You feel the stillness. The skin on my face feels the exact same as it does when I am at the ocean, that cool dampness that feels so healthy. So much better than the results of any cream bought in a store. All the colors around me seem so much more intense this morning, its beautiful. I think about the fact that if I didn't have chores to do that take me to the barn, I might have just stayed inside, busy with kitchen chores or maybe just having my head stuck in some book. I would miss so much. The way the gray clouds lay in layers stacked up from the horizon...reminding me of quilt batting's stacked up on one another. I would have missed the cardinal chirping at me from the fence and the distant sound of a rather large bullfrog that visits us from time to time. I would miss the many shades of green showing forth from the different trees and the rich brown darkness of the bark. I almost expect it to smell like rich coffee beans, since the colors are just about the same.
I would have missed the drops of rain that hold stubbornly to the clothesline, looking like a giant string of precious gems strung from pole to pole.
The garden shows me what will be the evening meal. No need for stacks and stacks of cookbooks or stressing out from deciding about which eating plan to use. This time of the year, the earth gives me those answers. Eat what is to be harvested. So simple.
Pecan waffles on the breakfast table. Warm and nutritious. I am grateful for last years harvest of pecans.
The lavender and mint garden, alive with its intoxicating perfume. An old fashioned scent that draws your thoughts to days gone by. A gentler time perhaps. A time when television did not steal our conversation with loved ones from us, or keep our children plugged into computers and games, robbing them of sunshine and imagination. A time when ethical behavior was the norm and honor was understood. A time when it was not thought to be stupid to sit as a family in one room and sing and pray together.
These chores of mine, this simpler life, gives me so much more than it demands.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Storms on the way

The sky over north Texas is changing open to let in the cooler air and the wild wind that blows when summer storms arrive. The animals have all run into their barns but we are enjoying sitting on the porch watching the wild weather come in.

Colonial Times

I suspect there are several reasons why I love things relating to Colonial America/ Early America. Might be that its so much a part of my heritage, and that I grew up in the Boston area, or that my mother and fathers house was decorated in the colonial style.
For vacations as a child we visited historic sights and history was real to me. I loved old things and still do.
Today, at Goodwill, I found some wonderful treasures that fit so well with the simple Early American/Colonial theme of our home. Three pieces of copper fireplace/cooking items.
Since the children are now all on their own, I have more time and more funds to dedicate towards the goal of having things "match" in the house. I will never be the kind that spends huge amounts of money on decorating the house, but it sure is fun when I find things at thrift stores or antique shops, that do "work" in the room.
I enjoy being surrounded by old things. It just feels right to me. Appeals to that old fashioned side of me.

Amish Tomato Ketchup

With so many tomatoes ripe...this is what I will be making today
Amish Tomato Ketchup
6 celery ribs; trimmed cut in 1/4" thick slices
2 md onions peeled and diced (abt. 2 cups)
1/4 c ;Water

3 lb Tomatoes; quartered
5 tb Vinegar

1 c Dark brown sugar; packed
1/2 tb allspice berries
1/2 tb Whole cloves

1/2 tb celery seeds
1 ts Ground mace

1/2 ts salt
Instructions for Amish Tomato Ketchup

Place the celery, onions and water in a medium-size saucepan over medium high heat, cover, and bring to a boil.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are nearly soft, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook tomatoes in a large heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat,
partially covered, until they are very soft and almost a puree, about 25 minutes.
Add the cooked celery and onions; continue cooking until the vegetables are completely softened, about 15 minutes.
Strain tomato mixture in small batches through a sieve into another nonreactive saucepan, pressing down firmly to extract all of the liquid. Stir in the vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Place the pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Continue boiling, stirring often to be sure that the ketchup isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens somewhat, 15 to 20 minutes.
Allow ketchup to cool, then ladle into jars.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 months. Or ladle the boiling-hot ketchup into hot sterilized canning jars. Seal according to the lid manufacturers instructions.
Yield: 1 1/2 pints.
"This sweet ketchup comes from Mary Linebach, who owns and runs a produce auction with her Mennonite husband, Paul, in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania." Mary describes the ketchup by saying: The children love it on pancakes...Its sweeter than store-bought and not as tangy... "The ketchup is good on morning hotcakes (an Amish custom) as it is on Cheddar cheese sandwiches, as a dip for fresh vegetables or freshly baked bread, and as a condiment with roast or fried meat or poultry. And it has one distinct advantage over the most popular store-bought brand: You wont have any trouble getting it out of the bottle, because its not thick." From "Farm House Cookbook" by Susan Herrmann Loomis.
We like this kind of ketchup on fried cornmeal mush...recipe for that is found here

It's Never Easy To Say Good-bye

This morning around 6 a.m. my dad left for home. We all played a brave game of it and held our tears as we took our last hugs. But as the car pulled out of the driveway, that was a different story.
Emery went off to work and I grabbed a bit more sleep. I got up in a house felt so empty. I had breakfast alone. I do hope he thinks about moving up here with us, even if its to his own place close by. We are all keeping that as part of our prayers.

Yesterday Pepper killed and ate a chicken. I felt heartsick about it but with so much going on I didn't really have time to think about it in depth. She goes after the goats too, not just herding them but biting at them. Now, heading out to do my chores I have to face the reality that maybe she isn't a good farm dog. We will probably always have chickens and goats and we need a dog that isn't after their blood. I just don't know what we are going to do but we have to come up with a solution. Penning up Pepper is not a solution for us. She is a dog that needs running space, it would be mean to just keep her confined. This morning I plan on doing some serious study to see how a dog can be trained to leave the chickens alone !
There are always challenges in this kind of homestead life, always something to figure out.
Time for me to get busy with my chores of the day. If you think of it, say a prayer for my dad as he travels home to Florida.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A List of Gratitudes

So many things to be thankful for...
skipping, try it, its so freeing
comfortable shoes
summer fruits
washing machines
holding hands with someone you simply adore
a cool house in summer
pizza !!!!
the smell of rain in the air
clouds in all shapes and sizes
and so much more.

Where Did The Week Go ?

It's hard to believe its Friday already...the week went so fast. My dad leaves tomorrow morning and it breaks my heart to see him go. We have had such a nice visit. Although he might be anxious to eat some "normal" food. Lets just say he is not into health food : )
I have cooked some of his favorite foods that my mom used to make for him. He deserves a bit of spoiling. He told us he has slept so good while here, sleeping the whole night through, not waking up in the night. Its' comforting to sleep in a house with other people around. Plus feather beds seems to induce sleep and our guest room has a really thick feather bed !
Family is important to us in so many stages of life. As newlyweds its nice to have mom close at hand to help share the "how to's" of life. How to cook certain foods or clean certain items. And to have dad close at hand to lend a helping hand on a project around the house. When the babies start to arrive, its so good to be able to have your mom and dad handy to share wisdom on child rearing and how to handle the first fever or share the joy in so many "firsts". And now as the years have slipped by, it would be so nice to have Dad here to share in the joys of the next generation and for us to spoil him a bit, do things for him, look after some of his needs.
The rooster is waking the world around me as I write. A new day. Chores to be done. There will be hay stuck in my clothes, the smell of sweet feed on my hands. Puppy prints on my skirt and a heart full of wonder as I walk past flowers in bloom, birds in the trees and look up to a sky of morning sunshine. I will cook breakfast, do some dishes, can tomato sauce and sit a spell and visit with the children this evening. There is supper to make, laughter to share and once again chores to be done. Life is pretty good you know, but the week sure has gone by way too fast for me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday Thoughts

Last night storms rolled through our area after bedtime. Lightning flashed across the sky so often it appeared like a strobe light. The thunder rolling over and over. Angels bowling in heaven is what my mother told me as a child. There was a strange and lovely peace even amid the storm. The wind and the rain were no threat to me, I was snuggled in safely. Surrounded by strong walls and a deep faith that sometimes I don't even understand myself, faith seems to defy logic.
This week, with my dad here visiting, I am so keenly aware of how good it is to have my children close by and I know Melissa and James will once again be living in Texas, I just know that in my heart. I have listened to Melanie and Steven reminisce about their childhood, laughing and yet at the same time, so glad for that bond they share. I have listened to Melanie talking on the phone to Melissa while we were driving in the car. Sharing so close.
I have held my grand-babies and watched my father hold them and kiss them, and seen these tiny ones reach time and time again for Emery to hold them. I saw the pride on my dads face when he was talking about playing golf with his grandson.
I went over these things in my mind and heart while listening to the storm rage outside. It is the simple things in life that matter. Not the size of the house, or the make of car, not the kind of clothes we wear or the way we fix our hair that gives us the kind of peace and contentment that the love of family gives us.
It was hard work raising our children the way we did. Swimming against the current of society but it has been so worth it. Tonight I will climb the two steps up into my bed, sink into the feather bed, pull the covers over me, hold Emery's hand as we pray together and sleep sound.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Elizabeth visits Grammie and Grampie

Steven took my dad golfing tonight and Priscilla went along too which left us with the privilege of minding Miss Elizabeth for a few hours. What fun we had. Playing peek a boo, rocking her to sleep for a little nap and just having fun. Having my own children was such a blessing and now I get to enjoy their babies. I feel so blessed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Simple Floors

With so many emails asking about how the floors are done in my house and in Stevens house I thought I would share the link that tells how we have done them.
Simple Floors

More family pictures


Joy comes in many forms. Last night it came in the form of family being together once again for a meal. What a blessing it is to have love all around. I so appreciate that my children value family and time spent together. So many good memories being formed this week.
I have several more pictures to share but blogger is not letting me upload them : (

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Auntie Bonnies Wacky Cake Recipe"

Auntie Bonnie's Wacky Cake
~"How it all Vegan"~
1 1/2 cups Flour
1 cup Dry Sweetener ( I use sugar)
4 TBS Cocoa or Carob Powder
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 TBS Vinegar
1 tsp Baking Soda
5 TBS Oil
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cup Cold Water
Preheat oven to 325.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, Cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add the sweetener, vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water and mix together gently until "just mixed". Pour into a lightly oiled (8 inch round) cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes.
Test with a fork to see if done, When cooled, ice and serve.

For our family I double the recipe and bake it in a 9x13 pan. Everyone just loves this cake. I don't bother frosting it, just sprinkle some powdered sugar on top or sprinkle it with some chocolate bits just before baking. This is a great vegan cake recipe, no eggs ! Its simple to make. No having to get out the mixer. Not a lot of strange ingredients that you have to run out to the store for and its simply yummy. It's moist and not heavy.

The Simple Things

Today I have thought a lot about the simple things in life, the things that don't require lots of worry or money. The things that remain even in the difficult times.
I am so grateful and count my blessings even more so today as I watch my father with Mei-Ling as he was with my own children. Loving, playful and so full of love. Watching him, gives me a glimpse into the kind of dad he was for me when I was a baby.
I am so grateful for all the love that surrounds me. Fills me with something far beyond words.
My husband, my children, my grandchildren, my extended family and friends that have been around for decades are gifts, life's greatest gifts. We don't need fancy surroundings or fancy clothes to take in all this love. We don't need fat wallets or high powered jobs. What we do need in life is the time to sit back and soak it all in.
I need my quiet walks in the gardens or in the pasture to awaken me to the things that count. I need the silence of the morning when prayer can so easily be a conversation with my maker.
I don't need much in externals because my life is so full in other areas. I know I am blessed, no doubt about it. It is the simple things in life that give us the most, if we take the time to comprehend these gifts and appreciate them.

Papa and his wee little girl

Great Grandpa (Papa) is a big hit with a tiny little girl. Mei-Ling calls him Bapa and he loves it

The Wonders of Nature and of Living

Monday morning. A quiet morning. Breakfast with my dad. Small talk and serious talk, coffee and waffles. Running before the house had come to life, so sitting at the table was a nice rest. Chore time...amazing time. Life all around me. Bee's buzzing, gathering. Flowers exploding with color and scent. Birds darting from tree to tree, song given freely as praise for the morning.
I forget I am working....with so much beauty around me, how can you consider it anything more than sight-seeing while your hands are busy. The grass is so green right now. The sky so blue. Each flower against the perfect background. Even cob webs fill me with a deep appreciation for the delicate balance of nature.
Cats and kittens munch on breakfast...Pepper would rather tease them than eat her own breakfast. The goats much contentedly on grain and hay. I just linger...soaking up the morning. Memorizing the colors, the sounds, the scents. Pepper runs through the mint patch and comes bounding up to me...minty fresh. Her coat of black and brown, bursting with chocolate suits her.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lazy Sunday

We are all enjoying my dad's visit so much, matter of fact I am enjoying it so much that I keep forgetting to take pictures ! Thanks to everyone who prayed for his safe trip.
Last night everyone was here for supper and Papa got to see his 2 great grand-daughters for the very first time. He had presents for each of the girls, which they loved.
We sat for hours at the table talking and laughing. My dad commented so many times about how nice it was to have a table full of family. I worked hard on him this morning trying to convince him to move up here with us. It would be wonderful to have my dad live with us. Family should care for family, plain and simple. My folks took care of my grandparents so I have had a good example that way.
Tomorrow we are having supper at Steven's house...I will try to remember to bring the camera. I would love to have a few pictures of the entire family together. How I wish Melissa and James were here too.
Emery spent the afternoon building a milking stand for me. I gave the last stanchion he made for me away when we sold Annike. This new one is a dandy ! Just have to decide what color I want to paint it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"What I Call Living"

What I Call Living
~Edgar Guest~
The miser thinks he's living when he's hoarding up his gold;
The soldier calls it living when he's doing something bold;
The sailor thinks it living to be tossed upon the sea,
And upon this vital subject no two of us agree.
But I hold to the opinion, as I walk my way along,
That living's made of laughter and good-fellowship and song.
I wouldn't call it living always to be seeking gold,
To bank all the present gladness for the days when I'll be old.
I wouldn't call it living to spend all my strength for fame,
And forego the many pleasures which to-day are mine to claim.
I wouldn't for the splendor of the world set out to roam,
And forsake my laughing children and the peace I know at home.
Oh, the thing that I call living isn't gold or fame at all!
It's good-fellowship and sunshine, and it's roses by the wall;
It's evenings glad with music and a hearth fire that's ablaze,
And the joys which come to mortals in a thousand different ways.
It is laughter and contentment and the struggle for a goal;
It is everything that's needful in the shaping of a soul.
This morning's sky, just after sunrise

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Little Update

Melanie did fine today. The dentist had to pack her tooth with antibiotics or some such thing, and will complete the root canal in a couple weeks. I guess it was seriously infected.
My dad made it to Hattiesburg, MS without any problems. He hopes to arrive in Texas tomorrow. When I chatted with him he had just finished a good meal and was settled in for the night. Thanks for all the prayers and would appreciate more for his safety on the last leg of this trip.

God is good !

The photo.
Pepper chewed the seat off of my bicycle. The other side of the seat is completly gone. The bicycle blew over in the wind yesterday and somehow puppy decided that since it was on the ground, it was the perfect thing to chew to pieces. Time for a new seat and a new place to hide, oh I mean, keep the bicycle.

The Wonders of The Morning

The earth is so full of beauty, so full of color. My morning stroll was full of the wonders of the morning.

Much To Catch Up....

In mid January, we saw the passing of my father and after nearly two years of caring for him, it was so hard to see him leave u...