September 19, 2013

Just call me Noah {part 1}

It’s been a crazy last few months!  On April 19, 2013 a major flood hit our area.  It all started on Friday and the kids were at school.  I knew the river was higher than I’d ever seen it, but never anticipated just how it would affect our family.  While sitting in the living room, I happened to notice my neighbor talking to the mail carrier.  Then the mail truck turned around and headed back the way she came.  Odd.  So I went out to check in with my neighbor.  He said the road was flooded and asked if I needed help getting stuff out of our basement.  I told him the Hubs would be home to help me after work, but thanks.  My concern grew, though, when he insisted, telling me I wouldn’t have time.  Yikes! He and I worked quickly to pull everything from the basement floor up into the living room.  Then I grabbed my camera and assessed the situation. Here’s what I saw.


Um…yeah. I started to freak out a little bit. I called the Hubs and told him he needed to come home right away. In the meantime my sister-in-law offered to let us come spend the weekend with them until the flood waters receded, so I started throwing stuff into bags for the kids and myself.  Since I was getting more and more anxious the longer I waited, I decided to go pick A and M up early from school.  The Hubs stayed back to continue moving stuff up and out of the basement.  By the time I left to head to school, the water on the other street out of the neighborhood was up to the bottom of my van.  I kept telling the Hubs to hurry up or he’d get trapped and not be able to drive out of the neighborhood.  Finally, at about 6:00pm he left {WAY too late in my opinion} and just barely made it out!
We enjoyed our impromptu sleepover with my brother and his family – A and M loved spending time with their cousins :-)
Saturday morning we heard from one of our neighbors that the water rose a ton overnight and that our barn/garage was under a foot of water.  The roads were impassible without a boat.  The Hubs and my brother went over to the house to continue working on moving stuff and when they got there they realized that our chickens were trapped!  The water was actually waist-deep in the back yard and the door to the chicken coop was completely submerged, trapping the chickens up on their roosting bar.  Poor girls!  Fortunately the Hubs was able to save all 7 of our little ladies and canoe them to safety.
The great chicken rescue!
Sunday was the day the river crested, and our house was surrounded by water and the basement was completely full, 1 stair step away from reaching our first floor.  We never anticipated the water getting so high and we didn’t get anything off of the ledges around the basement walls, so all of my canning jars and a bunch of other stuff was floating in the nasty flood water.  Ugh!
We weren’t sure when we’d be able to get back into our house, so we packed up a bunch more stuff and headed  to the in-laws’ house.  They had just left for Florida for a week, so it was the perfect time for us to move in and settle in for a while.  Little did we know just how long that while would be…
September 21, 2012

Corny!

I love saving summer sweet corn for use in the long winter months!  Cutting corn off the cob can be tricky, messy and dangerous, but years ago my grandma gave me a genius tip that takes care of all that.  Grab yourself some blanched sweet corn {put ears of corn in boiling water for 5-6 minutes, then immediately put it into ice water to cool} and an angel food cake pan and take a look at this video!

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September 18, 2012

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’d love to show you a photo of my scrumptious zucchini chocolate chip muffins, but they never last long enough to capture on film!  But, trust me, you’re going to want to keep track of this recipe!  Every time I make them, my kids smother me with hugs and kisses and tell me I’m the best mom ever.  Not even kidding!  They love these things that much.

This year I haven’t gotten any zucchini from my garden.  Nope, not. a. single. one.  Major {un}perfect fail!  Still not sure what the problem was.  Luckily I had some generous friends who were willing to share a few of their billy club sized green monsters, which I immediately shredded and froze for future muffin-making.

When I make these, I always double the recipe so I end up with at least 4 dozen.  I freeze about half of them and *try* to forget about them so that we don’t finish all 48 within the week.  Sometimes I make the double batch with half  shredded zucchini and half mashed bananas.  SO GOOD!  And, without further ado…the recipe!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
makes 24 muffins

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup vegetable oil {or substitute unsweetened apple sauce}
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Combine dry ingredients {flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon & salt} in a medium bowl
  2. In a separate bowl mix eggs, oil, milk, lemon juice and vanilla
  3. Stir wet ingredients into dry and mix until moistened
  4. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips
  5. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 2/3 full
  6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes
  7. Try not to burn yourself sneaking a taste of these babies straight out of the oven

**You can thank me later** :-)

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May 9, 2012

Monkey M doing the Funky Chicken dance

May 9, 2012

2 + 3 = Piece of cake. 5 + 6 = Mass exodus & chaos

A few days after Max and Ruby joined our little family, we added 3 Ameraucanas.  These chickens are also sometimes called “Easter Eggers” because they lay blue, green and sometimes pinkish eggs.  I was excited to get these super-cool egg layers, but after how the first chickens went, I was SO nervous to introduce these chicks to the other two!  Pounding heart, sweating…the works.  I let the first of the three newbies out.  She took a step out…another step…and another step.  And nothing!  So I tried the other two.  Same thing!  Seriously?!  They made the adjustment perfectly – never an attempt at escape at all.  Francis, Blue and Gloria quickly became our favorites :)  Watching “Chicken TV”, as I call sitting in a lawn chair outside the pen, immediately took the place of watching actual TV.  It was amazing to see their personalities or temperaments come out and to see first hand that “pecking order” is a real phenomenon.  Max definitely wanted the three new chickens to know the she was here first. And Ruby is Max’s little sidekick.  Even though Max and Ruby are smaller than the Ameraucanas, they’re scrappy!
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Meet Francis – she’s a light orangy brown with white accents.  She is our most social hen.  I was trying to take pictures of each of the hens and each time, she’d pop into the shot!  She’s plump, friendly and lays a pale peach colored egg.

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This is Blue {I’m pretty sure M named her with another Nick Jr. cartoon in mind}.  She’s brown and has some really cool yellow and black tipped feathers around her neck.  She’s mild all the way around.  Not social, but not shy.  She doesn’t peck on anyone and doesn’t do much of anything that would elicit pecking from Max or Ruby.  She lays a mint green egg.

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This photo of Gloria doesn’t show how glorious she looks.  She’s mostly grey and greyish brown with some yellow and black feathers around her neck.  I think she’s so pretty!  She lays a pretty blue egg.

For a week we totally enjoyed spending time watching, caring for, hanging out with and giving personalized attention to our small flock of 5.  They all looked different and were very easy to tell apart.  Our chicken livin’ was just so sweet.  And then we added 6 more birds to the flock.  Yep–welcome to the crazy coop.  I immediately lost track of who was who and the new 6 chicks immediately started trying to escape.  At least the Hubs was home when all this was going on.  An extra long roll of bird netting and a hundred zip-ties later, our yard was covered and the girls were trapped {bwa-ha-ha!}.

I’m happy to report that all the girls have settled in nicely now and I’ve even learned to tell all 11 apart!  {Max, Ruby, Francis, Blue, Gloria, Daisy, Penny, Larae, Chloe, Thelma, and Lizzie} Here they are chatting around the water cooler.

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CY told me that Amish women get together to catch up on the latest gossip and that these sessions are called “Gluckins”.  I love that!

Monkey M is absolutely IN LOVE with our hens.  He has surprised me with how he has zero fear or reservations about anything as far as they’re concerned.  He loves catching them by the tail to pick them up and snuggle with them.  His faves are Francis and Daisy, but it’s his goal to snuggle each and every one of them.  He subscribes to the thought that the more he picks them up, the more they’ll get used to him.  Seems to be working!

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May 9, 2012

We’re chicken farmers!

So, I’ve been wanting to get chickens for a few years now.  I’ve been buying local fresh, free-range eggs for a while and thought it would be super cool to be able to have our own.  The Hubs wasn’t convinced, but kept an open mind.  Recently, after visiting with a client who he claims is “just like us!” {suburban young family} and keeps chickens, he decided he was ready.  All in.  So I got to checking out Craigslist {really the best resource for getting started}.  I found a cute little A-frame coop about a mile or so away from our home, and Hubs and the Monkeys drove over to pick it up.

{Coop sweet coop}

We had to wait a bit on the chickens since we were leaving for Spring Break, but once we got back it was go-time!  I made almost daily research visits to the Tractor Supply store where “Tim” {the chicken “expert” at the store} started to comment that I was there as much as he was!  Then I finally connected with a few chicken farmers who were selling their chickens and set up times to come get them.  This was really happening!  I couldn’t help but have these provincial Martha Stewart visions of sweetly clucking chickens, gathering heaps of colorful eggs in the perfect wire basket, and a sundrenched field of wildflowers in the background.  My chicken livin’ was going to be perfect!

While the Hubs was working late one evening, our friends came over and helped me set up the temporary fencing around the coop.  {I love having formerly Amish friends!}

{ready to rock and roll}

After preschool, M and I drove to pick up the first 2 – a black and a white “turken”.  Turkens are not an attractive breed.  They look like a cross between a turkey and a chicken and are also called “naked neck” chickens.  On the way home, M named the black one Max {short for Maxine because she’s a girl, of course} and the white one is Ruby.  Can you tell he watches a little Nick Jr.?   I hadn’t had time to pick up any feed yet, so I thought we’d drop the chickens off at home real quick then run to Family Farm & Home for the feed.  No big thing, right?  Wrong.

{this picture does them way more justice than they deserve}

I–very nervously–brought the tote into the chicken yard and gingerly tipped it on it’s side to let the girls out.  They took one step into their new living quarters…two steps and BAM!  Max flew the coop – literally!  Who knew they could fly over fences that high?!  Certainly not this girl.  I freaked out, of course.  I tried chasing her.  She’s fast.  I tried sneaking up on her.  She has great hearing and eyes in the back of her head {ok, actually on the side, but they may as well have been in the back}. I followed her into and through the woods.  She’s much smaller than I am and doesn’t have to duck under branches.  M suggested I lure her with string cheese, which he just happened to be eating at the moment.  It actually worked – sort of.  She ate it, but as soon as we got her close to the pen, I had to open the door and she’d run away again.  I was sweating and thinking of bad words.  I chased after and lured that dumb chicken for over an hour with no luck.  And if I’m being totally honest, I’m not exactly sure what I would’ve done if I’d actually caught up with her.  Pounce on her?  Grab her?  No idea.  Eventually she found something interesting right at the edge of the woods and stayed there for a while.   I was about to go into the woods to try to gently “guide” her out of the woods toward the pen when Monkey A and our neighbor friend, E, got off the school bus.  They were both SO excited to see the chickens that they were literally screaming down the driveway!  Oy!  I quickly ran to them and apprised them of the situation.  I tried to get them to help me trap Max so I could catch her, but somewhere between the yard and the woods {where I was crawling through prickly raspberry bushes and under low-hanging branches}, the girls lost track of Max.  I did too.  I searched and searched and finally gave up.  She was lost.  Some animal was going to have a nice chicken dinner.  In all the excitement, Ruby got flustered and flew out, too.  But at least she was sitting calmly in the corner of the garden.  I called the Hubs and left a tearful message on his voicemail about how I was a total and immediate failure.  Then I called my friend, the formerly Amish one – CY, sat down on the ground and cried while I told her what happened.  Off in the distance, mid-cry, I heard my neighbor calling my name.  Huh.  I headed across the yard and heard my neighbor call my name again, asking if I wanted him to grab my chicken.  Nearly hanging up on CY, I yelled YES!  With a net, he caught Max, brought her back, picked up Ruby and put her in the pen.  Then he helped me zip-tie the heck out of some bird netting over the top of the pen so they wouldn’t fly out anymore.   Thank GOD for great neighbors with nets!

That evening, after the kids and I–very quickly–went out to get feed and some pizza {no way was I cooking after that debacle!}, A & M wanted to eat out by the chickens, so we had a CHICK-NIC :)

{a chick-nic dinner}

All I could say after that was, these chickens had better give me an egg after that “welcome home” party.  Guess they agreed.

{our first beautiful egg!}

{so proud}

June 6, 2011

Gardening Edition: Pruning your tomato plants

At best, I’m a gardening rookie; a novice; a wanna-be.  I’m trying to always learn new stuff, but I’ve never been a great studier, so I get overwhelmed learning too much at once.  That’s why a recent “field trip” was perfect for me!  The kids and I went with my mom to her friend C.P.’s  house – she has many, many chickens and huge gardens.  That morning C.P. and her husband had planted 150 tomato plants in their garden…and still had a TON of plants {that they had grown under grow lights in their basement} that they were now selling off.  I was excited to try some of their many varieties like green sausage, black krim, black plum, 2 kinds of romas, big beef hybrid, yellow pear, large red cherry, delicious, gardener’s delight, triple crop climber {the plant can grow 10-25 FEET tall and grows tomatoes as big as your face!}, and one other that I can’t remember right now.  While picking out my tomatoes, C.P. gave me a quick lesson in pruning tomato plants.  Pruning?  Who knew??  Anyway, whenever you see a little leaf shooting out of the crook like this:

{Sucker!}

you need to pick off the “sucker branch” below it.  The sucker will not bear fruit and will essentiall suck all the nutrients from the fruit-bearing “branches”.  Don’t want that now, do we?

{pick that sucker}

I did this with all my tomato plants.  At first they looked tall, skinny, and funny. 

{A little topheavy...}

 But have no fear!  Those fruit-bearing “branches” will grow and fill out.  And the best part is, you’ll get lots of tomatoes!

{filling out nicely}

 Maybe this is all Gardening 101, but I grew several tomato plants {semi-successfully} last season without having a clue about pruning them.  Now I’m hoping for a large crop that’ll give me plenty to can and make salsa with.  I saw the first sign of produce progress with some bright yellow blossoms today – yay!

{I see lycopene in my future}

 And, just for fun, here are a few other photos from the garden…

{my newly constructed pea trellis}

{emerging fiesta - black beans!}{tiny little carrot sprouts}{doesn't look much like spinach yet, does it?}{itty bitty bells - peppers, that is}

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May 29, 2011

A lip smackin’ good time

I found a few recipes online recently for tinted lip balm/gloss.  My absolute “must have” makeup item would have to be, hands down, lip gloss/lipstick.  I’ve already mastered {ha!} chapstick, so tinted lip gloss sounded like a perfect next project!  I tried the gloss recipe first and the results were just right for this blog: {un}perfect.  Since I have a ton of empty chapstick tubes, I poured the gloss into the tubes.  While it holds up decently, as soon as the gloss hits a pair of lips, it melts into super gloss.  A little too much gloss, if you ask me.  So, I tried a tinted lip balm recipe today.  This recipe fared much better, but this time not quite enough gloss for my liking.  Maybe later I’ll try for a happy medium.  Once I get the {in my opinion} perfect recipe, I’ll post.  In the meantime, my friends’ lips will be getting all kinds of glossy, balmy spoiling going on :)

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May 28, 2011

Bedtime

I’m not sure I would’ve ever said that Spring is my favorite season.  Truthfully, I still wouldn’t say it – fall will always hold that place in my heart.  Living in the midwest we get lots of rain and can go from 80 degrees one day to 50 degrees the next.  Oh, and don’t forget that for about half of our official spring we still have the icky white stuff lingering around.  But I have recently developed a love for primavera – all the big box garden centers are open, roadside flower/vegetable stands spring up, the smell of freshly cut grass, hostas spike up out of the ground, we can finally start putting away our winter gear, porch chats with my neighbor K.N. don’t require mittens and hats, the kids start playing more outside than inside, I get to see my all neighbors again for more than a few minutes at the bus stop, we pull out the hammock, and…I can start planting my vegetable garden!  After fizzling out a bit last year {largely due to the flooding  that made overwhelming amounts of grass/weeds pop up}, I came up with a new and improved plan.  The Hubs {with the help of “A”} built me 8 raised beds and brought in soil to fill them. 

{Hubs and A making the beds. Now if I could only get them to make their real beds...}

 Another lesson I learned is that {for my situation}, buying plants works much better than starting from seed.  Last year I started seeds on my kitchen table {the only available area with enough light} and it was annoying at best.  Even worse, I ended up buying a whole bunch of plants to supplement anyway.  So yesterday I headed to a local nursery to purchase my precious veggies.  In very non-me fashion, I actually got all my plants planted the same day I bought them!  I’m usually such a procrastinator that half my plants get all wilted before I get them in the ground.  Not this time :) 

{Some of my little green babies}

 “A” was very excited to help me.  “M” started out interested in helping, but quickly moved on to his bike and the trampoline.  Oh well…at least he had fun and stayed occupied!

{One little Monkey…}

Now that everything has been planted, the waiting game begins.  Gardening is a good lesson in patience for me.  I’m a “want-what-I-want-when-I-want-it” kinda girl {case in point – Hubs and I dated 2.5 months before getting engaged and were married 6.5 months later.  When you know, you know.  You know?}, so it’s tough to wait for the beautiful, bountiful fruits {or veggies, as they may be in this case} of my labor.  But wait I will, and I’m sure I’ll again be pleasantly overwhelmed with the produce my garden produces.  Like zucchini coming out my ears – YAY!  Chocolate chip zucchini muffins anyone??

Posted in My {un}Perfect Garden | 1 Comment »

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April 29, 2011

Pucker up!

As promised, here are the pictures of my chapstick factory :)

{all my supplies}
{my new scent/flavor – tangerine!}

 
{filled tubes, waiting for caps}
{cute little teal caps}
{my helper was perfectly color-coordinated}

 
All 200 tubes have been shipped out and now I can’t wait to see them with their little labels.  Thanks, WhimWed, for the opportunity!

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