Tuesday, December 29, 2009

red velvet cake

Mom made James a red velvet cake with coconut and cream cheese frosting for his birthday. This cake was fantastic! When James blew out the candles, we were all eager to try a piece.

And, it tasted even better than it looked.
Lemon cake has always been my favorite, but this one is definitely nudging its way close to the top. If you want to make this yourself (like I do), I found the recipe here.

Between James' pizza and Mom's cake, I think they could start a gourmet restaurant and have it a smashing success. And, I am willing to do the very hard task of sampling!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Space Humor

The boys decided to make up jokes about outer space today. Here is what they came up with.

Why did Mercury sit in a hat? So he'd shine it up!...... See - there is the stuff called Mercury that people used to put in hats to shine them up that made them crazy - you know, like from tuna? And Mercury is a planet?!

Why did Pluto visit Disney Land? He wanted to be a movie star.

Why did Pluto go to Disney Land? Because he wanted to be a star. ............You know, like since he is so small, he could be considered a star. Cause he isn't considered a planet anymore. Did you know that, Mom?

Jamey: Why does the Sun's torso hurt so much? Because his asteroid belt didn't fit.

They had each other in stitches over the jokes, and me as well listening to them come up with them.

Arthur declared that space jokes are the funniest, followed by all other science jokes. Jamey concurred.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Arthur woke us up this morning to let us know Santa came. We all assembled in the living room to open presents. Arthur and Jamey were extra good this year and Santa spoiled the pants off of them. Here they are excitedly ready to start unwrapping.

And, here is the aftermath of their excitement!

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas full of family, love, and joy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Necklace

Although I have made a number of jewelry pieces, I found that I didn't have what I was looking for to go with my holiday outfits. I wanted a piece that was darker and more understated. So, I came up with this black and silver piece.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

fun apron

I had some great fabric that I picked up three years ago simply because it was too cute to pass up. Maybe your shocked, thinking to yourself three years?! She's had fabric laying about for three whole years?! Or maybe you are thinking who on earth picks up fabric with no project planned for it?!.

Well, while it is true that I might have some slight hoarding tendencies, anyone with a fabric fetish understands me completely. I couldn't leave such great fabric behind because I just knew that when I finally figured out what to do with it, I'd never find it again. That's right - always be prepared.

Now here I am, three years later putting this fabric to great use as an apron! So simple, so cute, so fun!!!!
Here is a closer look at the fabric. The blocks have drink recipes! How cool is that?! I love it.

Yes, it's true - I'm feeling inordinately smug right now.

Monday, December 21, 2009

sleeping attire

Everyone has a preference on how they dress for bedtime. Some like nightgowns and p.j.s. For some, it has to be cotton or fleece. Some even prefer Au natural.

Here is what Arthur chose to go to bed wearing:
1) bunny hat
2) penguin scarf
3) dragon tooth necklace
4) cow fuzz blanket
5) I didn't get it in the picture, but on his feet are super fuzzy royal blue and gold striped slippers.

He is now ready for a good nights sleep.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

giving and getting

Thursday night, James, the boys and I headed to the Kiwanis building in Battle Ground to help with the Food Bank's toy drive. The community donated toys at local businesses and they were then gathered up and brought to Kiwanis.

The goal: to match 57 needy families with children 14 and under with the donated toys. Every child was allowed one big gift, two small gifts, and a stuffed animal.

All the volunteers paired up in teams of two (Jamey G and I together, and Arthur with James) and the teams were given a sheet with the children in a family - their age, gender, favorite color, and a list of three items they would like for Christmas. Once fully equipped with a large bag, we commenced in trying to match each child with the right present.

We really enjoyed trying to get the perfect item for everyone. Arthur said it was better than playing computer games, and Jamey G was so excited picking out toys that he was emitting energy at his top level.

That night, we were able to participate in giving families a better Christmas. But, I felt we got much more out of it than we gave.

Several children were asking for shoes, coats, school supplies, etc, without even thinking of toys. This was surprising to me, as well as the boys. At our house, we are all asking for fun, nonessential stuff and seeing these wish lists of basics really got us thinking how fortunate we are.

Having the opportunity to share this experience with Jamey and Arthur was especially rewarding for us. They loved helping, and are already asking to do this again next Christmas. I loved seeing their enthusiasm and pure hearts shining through. I definitely think this will become a Christmas tradition for us!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Trees and Crumbles

Last weekend we went on our annual hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. The weather report called for freezing rain and we almost canceled our plans, but since all looked stable, we decided to scoot on out quickly and off we went to Maxine Lester's house for a tree.

The hunting was fierce, but once we spotted our prey, it was no match for the three Zimmerman men who stealthily snuck upon the tree and surrounded it before it had a chance to drop a single needle in preparation for flight.

As we left with our tree, the rain began to fall, and we made it home safe and sound before the weather turned harsh (we did end up with both freezing rain and snow this weekend).

At home the tree was decorated with enthusiasm.

And after all was said and done, we enjoyed some cherry crumble that I made from the cherries that I picked and froze this summer. Yum schmum! Below is the recipe if you would like to try it out.

Cherry Crumble:

4 cups sour pie cherries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking spice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup butter (smart balance vegan spread works great too)

1) Preheat oven to 375 F or 190 C
2) In a pot, mix cherries, 1/4 cup sugar, almond extract, and baking spice and heat until the juices thicken a bit - about 5 minutes on medium
3) Transfer cherry mixtures into a baking dish
4) Mix the flour, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and butter until nice and crumbly. Spread over the top of the cherries.
5) Dust the top with cinnamon
6) Bake 15 - 20 minutes until golden brown.

Friday, December 11, 2009

How do you like your eggs?

Do you like your eggs scrambled, fried, or poached? How about frozen?

It has been cold down here, very cold. I think the lowest temperature was Tuesday which according to my neighbor's outdoor thermometer was 7 degrees F at 7:00 am. And, it hasn't been warming up much even with beautiful sunny days.

Which leaves me with frozen eggs in the hen house. The ladies have been troopers about all this cold frozen weather and haven't slacked off in giving us plenty of eggs. The trouble is collecting these eggs before they freeze and split the shells. I have lost several eggs this week for not getting to them soon enough.

Now, we have been running watering cans down to them daily just to keep them in fresh water that they won't chip a beak on. The first one is brought down about 7:00 in the morning, and I take the second one down between 1:00 and 2:00. By this time, any stray eggs that are not laid in the main box are frozen solid. How long does it take for an egg to freeze? I'm not sure, but I upped my egg collecting from once a day to three or so times a day and I still have had anywhere from one egg up to three eggs frozen solid in a given day.

It has now become a bit of a game for me to try to time my runs down to the coop to save as many eggs as possible and not waste a trip coming up empty handed. And, I'm getting better at it!!! And yes, I realize that I must spend way too much time on the hill by myself to make egg collecting a sport of anticipation.

Friday, December 4, 2009

the 9th year has come

Yep, it is official. Jamey is now nine! We celebrated in grand style last night with one of his favorite dinners followed by cake and ice-cream. Here he is blowing out his birthday candles on an angle food cake (the one and only cake he actually likes).

Jamey anxiously observed us eating, waiting for the last bit of dessert to be consumed so gift opening time could be started.

What words of wisdom does the now older and wiser boy have to say? We found out by asking him some questions which he shared his thoughts with us. They are as follows:

What did you like about your birthday?
Everyone caring for me and treating me special.

What was hard about your birthday?
All the birthday comments. It was embarrassing - it doesn't feel right to brag about oneself. Also, I couldn't play much before the present were opened.

What was your favorite gift?
The Dr. Slump books, and the Shonen Jump magazine subscription and the Connect 4x4 game, and oh I don't know - this is all so hard. I liked it all.

What did you learn?
Having a bunch of kids at the party doesn't help because they all shout at you to open their present first and it is a lot more fun just having your birthday with your own family.

Any words of wisdom to share?
Cake can be used as a candle holder. So, it is good to have it on your birthday. I prefer just ice-cream to eat though.

Also, look both ways when crossing a street.

What are you proud of doing/learning this past year?
I felt like I was being nicer to people.

While the big day is over, the fun isn't. Last night was the family only dinner, but on Sunday Jamey gets to take two friends out for swimming and pizza as the cherry on the birthday celebrations.

And as Jamey says
"my birthday is the best - it is the start of all the holidays, and it is the start of winter, which means - SNOW!!!".

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grapefruit Curd

I tried my hand at grapefruit curd. I wanted to see what it was like. Usually Little Jamey and I love grapefruit while Arthur and Big Jamey can't stand it. I thought that since we all are nuts for lemon curd, that there is a good chance that this might be a winner.

I used this recipe which uses up a lot of eggs. I'm in luck - I just happen to have a lot of eggs! But, for the most part it only needed the yolks. What to do with all those egg whites.....how about an angel food cake to test the curd out on.

The results? Mixed. Big Jamey loved it, Arthur thought it was okay, but prefers lemon curd. Little Jamey wouldn't try it as he is an angle cake purist. And me, I didn't care for it. I guess I will stick to fresh grapefruit and leave the curd for James to devour.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pictures with Santa

This weekend we went to get pictures with Santa taken. The boys were lucky duckies in having their very own dad as the photographer. And he did a great job capturing their cuteness!

Jamey asked Santa for farm supplies and Arthur asked for more Bakugan. Mrs. Claus gave them each a candy cane after their visit to complete the event.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

living is a bit different here

Ever since the rainy weather started it has been nearly impossible to convince the boys to play outside. On Thursday, much to my surprise, they got fired-up about farming. Suddenly they yearned to become one with the land. Jamey had spent some time reading up on permaculture and visions of utopic and bountiful harmony with the land filled his head. Soon he had infected Arthur with a fever for farming. So with warm clothes donned and shovels over shoulders they sallied forth to bust some sod.

They must have been out for an hour, just getting warmed up, when I received a call. A cougar was seen ambling along Cedar Ridge Road. The neighbors are providing car-rides to every child to and from the bus stops. Everyone is keeping their children inside today.

"Boys!! Time to come in!!"

Dutiful, but sullen, their momentum interrupted, they trudged up the hill.
"Why did you make us come in? We were having so much fun!"

Such are the cruel twists of fate. Just when the boys spontaneously engage in an activity near-and-dear to my heart, it is tragically I who must call an end to it.

If we had a Great Pyrenees this would not be a problem. Hmmmm.

BTW: A big thanks to James for helping me with this post.

Friday, November 20, 2009

simple winter decoration

I absolutely love rose hips for decorating. I got a bunch of them from the Ladybug Bazaar this year and put them on our dining table. They start out fresh and plump and as the winter goes on they begin to dry and shrivel. Through this entire process they manage to still look beautiful. I find myself leaning more and more towards natural holiday decorations - a crisp evergreen wreath with holly, a bowl of pine cones, dried orange slices, colorful dried leaves, and such.

What winter decorations do you like to use?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

daffodils en mass

The annual fall sale at the grange occurred this past Saturday while James and I were away. Knowing that they always have the best prices on flowers, I asked my mom to pick me up daffodil bulbs. I have a plan on eventually looping our island with them and got started on this last year. Mom was able to get me some bulbs. Lots of bulbs, in fact! She got me 5 paper bags full of them.

I was very anxious to get these in the ground before it got even colder outside. With the enthusiastic help of the boys (bless their hearts), we cut through sod, mulched and planted every last bulb. We were wet, muddy, and very tired but also proud of our accomplishment.

With that task behind us we headed in for showers and a cup of hot tea for me and cocoa for the kids. I sit down and check my emails and find I have an email about - daffodil bulbs. Apparently there were left over bulbs from the sale and they saved them for me. A total of seven more bags.

Round two coming up!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On vacation

Tomorrow James and I head to Las Vegas to see Leonard Cohen. It is our first vacation without the kids beyond a weekend. We are excited, the kids are excited, and I think we all need this break in routine to reset ourselves.

I won't be posting until next week when we settle back into our daily schedules. See you then!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quick bird feeder

Today we made a simple bird feeder for our feathered friends. We started with a clean, empty soda bottle and then used a knife to cut holes in our bottle. We made the holes bigger where the fat end of the spoon sticks out so the bird seed can fall onto the spoon for the birds to eat.
After the spoons were in place, bird seed was poured into the bottle with the help of a funnel and an extra pair of hands.

The cap was put on and I punched a hole through a plastic plate and pulled the string through the top for hanging. The plate will act as a roof to keep rain from collecting on the spoon heads and seeping into the bottle.
Now it is ready to be hung on the tree out the living room window for easy bird watching. We can't wait for them to find their new restaurant.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

pumpkin butter

Today I tried my hand at pumpkin butter. I used the recipe from my copy of Blue Ribbon Preserves, which is a most excellent book. This butter is spicy and sweet with brown sugar goodness. I think it will be great on so many things - oatmeal, breads, ice-cream, parfaits, smoothies, etc.
Just when I think I'm done canning for the year and am safe to put my canning equipment away in the loft, recipes like this come along and must be tried.

Coming up in canning world - grapefruit curd!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

high fashion

Jamey sets the trend for fall outdoor fashion.

Friday, November 6, 2009

got eggs?

These are the eggs collected this morning and freshly washed. The ladies are starting to really produce and with 13 hens, this is about what I am getting daily. I have been serving eggs every which way I can think of and baking like a mad woman. Now, I believe it is time to start selling them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

my little quilter

Jamey decided that he wanted to learn to sew this week. You could have bowled me over when he made his announcement. After a discussion on what he wanted to sew and what are good beginner projects he chose to make a quilt for his beloved Bitum Bear.

Jamey wanted to do it all himself, and he really impressed me with actually being able to do most of it alone.

He went through my stash of fabrics and picked out the ones he wanted to use and proceeded to cut them into squares.

Somewhat randomly picking squares, Jamey began to sew them together. He really liked my 1/4 inch foot with a bar which helps keep straight and accurate lines.

Here Jamey is showing the completed top. He was so eager that he managed to get to this point in one day. I was amazed with the way he stuck to it!

Day 2:

After sandwiching the layers together, Jamey began tying the quilt. He said that he prefers the sewing parts, but he stuck it out and got the blanket all tied together.

We worked together on the binding as I felt it was too tricky to have him do by himself. And voila - the quilt is done.

The final test was how it looked on Bitum. It looked very nice and Jamey let me know how pleased Bitum was with his new quilt.

Jamey was so tickled with himself, and rightly so in my opinion. He is now asking me to take him to a fabric store so we can get more fabrics for more quilts. My son wants to go fabric shopping? Pinch me, I must be dreaming!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

log cabin squares

The quilt group is making a log cabin baby quilt together. Each of us needs to make 7 squares out of scraps and then we will assemble all of the squares together. I can't wait to see how everyone's blocks turn out. Here are the seven I made below. I used mainly reproduction prints from 1930s fabrics. They turned out so cute, that I am now thinking I might have to make myself a log cabin quilt!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Booing Update

I've been asked a few times now about how booing went so I thought I'd post an update.

The boys had the their treat bags all made up and put in the car for the great boo event. We waited until after supper when it was dark enough to not be seen easily and we were off! James drove us all around and when we got to the people's driveways, he would turn off the lights so we would not be detected as we coasted toward the house. The boys took turns hopping out of the car and running a bag of goodies to the house and then running back and off we went to the next house.

Sounds easy right? Yeah, well theory and reality are sometimes not in sync. We get to the first house and Jamey hops out to boo it. They have a nice, but loud dog that barks continuously as Jamey tries to hang the boo bag on the door. This prompted the father to come to the door followed by three kids to see what the fuss was about before Jamey can make it back to the car. We explained what we were doing and the kids were delighted and we got thanked very nicely. Not too bad - we got caught, but it was still fun.

Second house - they have a dog, but we know the dog and he is both nice and not a barker. We think Arthur will have this one in the bag. We did not account for the pet goose. Arthur runs up the porch stairs and there by the door, stands a goose. Arthur stops, thinks about it and decides to go forth anyway because it is just a goose, after all. As he tries to leave the treat bag, the goose bites him! Poor Arthur comes crying back to the car boo bag in hand. After calming him down, James gets out and hucks the boo bag past the goose onto the doorstep, and we are off.

Third house - now these people have a shepard that has bitten big Jamey before, so this led to a discussion about whether we should skip it or not. As this was Jamey's best friend and he really really wanted to boo him, we went ahead. It is decided that big Jamey will brave this one. We feel pretty confident because the dog usually goes in at night. So, James leaves the bag and as he is walking back to the car, the dog slinks out from nowhere (did I mention the dog is black?) and James barely gets into the car in time. We drive away with the dog trying to bite our tires.

After such a rocky start, the rest of the night is smooth sailing. No more dogs or geese to fend off. Arthur recovered from his trauma and ended up having as much fun as Jamey booing the other houses.

We did learn a few things:
1) skip booing people who have loud dogs, mean dogs, or geese (even if they are at your best friend's house)
2) as much as the kids liked it being a surprise, write who it is from. We ended up causing some folks to worry about the safety of the candy when they weren't sure where it came from. Of course, we also had some people eat all the candy before calling us and asking if we were the ones that booed them!

Overall, it was a great time and I'm glad we did it. The kids loved the sneaking of candy onto doorsteps and were jabbering away about it all week after doing it. They sure were proud of their hard work and they were delighted with the fact they got to surprise others and make them happy. And yep, I think we will try this out again next year.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Hope your night is filled with lots of treats!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

It's the annual carving of pumpkins and the boys had a blast with their pumpkins.

Jamey gutted his with vigor.

Arthur was off put a bit by the sliminess, but managed to quell his revulsion.

Jamey carved a very happy pumpkin.

Arthur carved his to have a very big nose.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

mini quilt fun

Here is a mini quilt that I made. I always wanted to try out a small quilt and this was a fun one to do. When I was done with it, the quilt looked so stiff that I gave it a rough wash and dry to soften and poof it out a bit. Now, it is just right and quite quilty looking.

To help give you an idea of the size I stuck our phone on it for comparison. This blanket is perfect for keeping a loved toy warm and snuggly through the winter.

But something was missing. I decided a pillow was needed to go with the blanket. Now isn't this little guy the cutest bitty pillow you ever saw? But we can't have him running around naked now can we?

So, I made the pillow a pillowcase to wear.

There, that is much more respectable and now Ms. Pillow is all dressed up in the highest of pillow fashions. She looks dynamite, but has no one to go out and show off her new look with.

So, I made her a friend that liked Ms. Pillow's style so much, that she couldn't help but copy it for herself. Don't they look ready for a party?

The pillows joined the quilt and everybody is having a great time. Slumber parties are the best!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

End of season harvests

I was lucky enough to get some wonderful treats from the granges' orchard located at Clark County Fairgrounds. Janice took me over and there were three varieties of grapes and some tiny but very delicious pears. It was so nice picking these, especially with the cold creeping steadily in. We have been munching and munching on these goodies!

I was also able to make a batch of grape jelly too. I used all the varieties together and it is tasty!