Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another First (and 200th Post)

Today we took Grant over to West Bend to have a friend give him his first haircut.  At first he wasn't too sure he liked it.

He gave Amy an odd look when she showed him the locket of hair that would be coming home with me for his baby book.

For the most part though he sat pretty still in daddy's lap and let her cut his wispy hair - until the hair clippers came out - there was to be none of that!  At the end he enjoyed his lollipop while watching his big brother get a hair cut.

Clark is an old pro at getting his hair cut now.

Thanks to Amy Classen at Classen's Clippers for giving the boys a great hair cut!  On our way out of the shop we had to stop and get a picture at the telephone booth outside.  Wow - an actual telephone booth!

On our way out of West Bend we also made a stop at Skoglund Meats and Locker.  We've had hogs processed there before when we lived in Palmer and it was so good!  Their beef sticks are amazing (which is why we had to stop).  If you're ever in the area give them a try - their meat is award winning.

Not sure this was the greatest 200th post but I am happy that I have actually accomplished documenting/journaling so many things since I started back in April.

Wishing all of you a very blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

This is what happens when . . .

. . . it's cold and you're making wreaths in a garage and your rear end gets too close to the propane tank heater.  Arghh - those were my wonderful red Carhart coveralls!  So mad at myself.  The worst part - I didn't even know I was on fire.  My husband starts yelling - Andrea - you're smoking - no, you are on fire!  Blast.

Meanwhile - 100+ wreaths on the trailer (made by me, my brother and my husband) ready to go north today.

. . . your 3 year old sees you with an odd contraption and fruit - he must also try it out.  OK - anytime I'm in the kitchen my kids think it's interesting so I love that!

. . . Grandpa Spencer delivers pears and you still have apples sitting around and SOMETHING has to be done with them before Thanksgiving!  I decided to make pear apple butter.  I love apple butter but the addition of pear adds a new layer of flavor that is quite good.  Plus, one more November addition to my 2011 entry list.

. . . you unexpectedly win a great giveaway from participating in the Friday Night Sew In (thanks Heidi and Bobbi - and their sponsor Me and My Sister Designs).  Clark is excited we're getting snowman fabric (and likes the flowers too).  And my husband wonders why I secluded myself in the sewing room last Friday.  Actually, not for the free giveaway (still can't believe random number generator picked my number - so excited) but to get things done and unwind from a busy week.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

FNSI Results

Wasn't sure if I would be able to sit down and sew last night for the November Friday Night Sew In.  However, after making 20 evergreen swags and a few small wreaths I was pretty much toast for making more wreaths.  Sewing it was!  (I must add my husband went out to the garage and clipped lots more greens for me to keep going all day today!)

I was way behind on That Girl . . . That Quilt Along so I thought I would focus on that project.  I finally sewed on all the red border!

Then squared the blocks up - wonky style.  This was VERY outside my comfort zone.  I tend toward perfectionist, like to have things straight, etc.  But this ended up being really fun and I think the quilt will turn out nice.  I am very thankful I picked up this grid to help with squaring though or I think I would have really struggled.

My blocks - all wonked up, all wonky, wonkified?  Eh - you get the picture.

This is one of the larger grouping of blocks I've done plus my floor space is at a premium these days.  My solution - I taped up an old tablecloth fuzzy side up and started laying out blocks.  I liked this solution and may work on making a more permanent fixture in this location.

Bad thing is it's not in a great location for picture taking.  It's on the wall behind the basement stairs (next to the sewing/laundry room) - so not a lot of space but enough for me to get pieces hung and rearranged.

Can't wait to sew the rows together.  Although every time I go downstairs to look at it I change things around.  At some point I'm going to just have to go with it!

Last night when I decided I could sew no more (at least at the machine) I went upstairs and worked on some hand sewing.  Unfortunately since this item is a Christmas gift I don't get to show it off - bummer.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Our New Kids

 Today we went on a little trip over to Marshalltown (general vicinity).  
Our purpose:  to pick up 3 little goats!

Clark and Grant are both very excited to have baby goats.  Two doelings and one buckling.  
They are Nigerian Dwarf goats.

They are adorable!  Even my sister (Aunt Em home for Thanksgiving) thought so.  And for those of you who know my husband (who are thinking the world is ending if he said yes to his wife on the goat issue) - yes, even he thinks they are awfully cute! 

Meet our little buck - Caramel.  
The boys had their choice between two bucklings and they both picked this one!

And our two sweet little doelings - Annabel and Clarabel.

We decided Clark is getting to the age where he can begin taking on some livestock responsibility.  So we wanted to start with something small and tame.  These little goats fit the bill.  I loved the days when I was little helping grandma feed and care for the our dairy calves so can't wait to begin teaching my little guys to care for animals (other than cats and chickens).  Tonight when I told Clark I was going to go lock the chickens in for the night he was determined to go out with me and check on the goats - this makes me smile!

This is a new learning experience for me and my husband as well.  Throughout my life I have raised dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, hogs, a horse, turkeys, ducks, geese and chickens - but never goats.  

This should be a fun experience!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Test Kitchen Thursday - Pie Crust

OK - sorry this recipe is a little late this week - kind of a crazy week around here!  I'm going to focus on the pie crust rather than the whole pie.  This past weekend I was sifting through some of my mom's Cook's Illustrated Magazines and found their Fool Proof Pie Crust.  Knew it must be tried at some point.  What better time than just before Thanksgiving.  The other reason being my sister asked for my pumpkin pie recipe this week which reminded me I needed to bake a pie for Friday's church supper!  Of course, I signed up for cherry pie so I could just dump in the Cherry Pie Filling I preserved this spring - what a time saver!

Back to the pie crust - here's the recipe (or go HERE to find it on-line)

2 1/2 Cups unbleached all purpose flour (or pastry flour blend is good too)
1 t table salt
2 T sugar
12 T cold unsalted butter (cut into 1/4" slices)
1/2 C chilled solid vegetable shortening - cut into 4 pieces (like the butter flavor shortening for buttery taste)
1/4 C vodka - cold (taste will completely bake out)
1/4 C cold water
Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses.  Add butter and shortening; process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).  Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.  Add remaining 1 cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up (4 to 6 quick pulses).  Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture.  With spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks down together.  Divide dough into 2 equal balls and flatten each into 4" disk.  Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
Remove 1 disk at a time from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12 inch circle about 1/8 inch thick.  Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1 inch overhang.  Ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with 1 hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand (do not stretch dough).  Refridgerate again until dough is firm about 45 minutes.  Flute edges.  Pour in filling and bake.

Seriously, for two people who don't drink we have a large supply of hard liquor.  I can now add vodka to the list.  Well, I could have used my husband's 20 year old vodka he brought back from the Soviet Union but decided that might not be a wise choice.  In case you're wondering our stash also includes rum (will be using that soon for stollen), cherry brandy (for the cherry pie filling), cherry liqueur (for the black forest cakes) and some Sam Adam's for when we want some yummy beer bread.  Good thing it lasts a long time since I use it in such small amounts!

Alright, back to pie crusts:

I put the vodka, water and shortening in the freezer to chill.  To chill the shortening I measured it out onto wax paper and divided it into the 4 pieces called for in the recipe.  I wrapped the wax paper up over each section and sat in freezer.  Good thing I cleaned out all my freezer's this week - I had plenty of room to set things flat today!

Of course, I had my little helpers!  Grant enjoyed watching the food processor spin!  This was the first time trying out the food processor for mixing pie crust - it worked quite well.

I should also add I did change the recipe somewhat and used whole wheat pastry flour rather than all purpose flour.  Still made a good looking crust.

After adding the liquids I ended up with two nice balls.  I forgot to weigh them to ensure they were equal but it ended up working out OK.

Here's the rolled crust.  Look at the little lumps of fat throughout!  I have to say this was the easiest crust I have ever rolled out.  Either I'm getting a lot better with my pastry (which trust me, I need all the help and practice I can get) or the recipe is really that good.  I covered it with plastic wrap and set it back in the fridge.

Here is my favorite part!  When I was a little girl I remember my mom rolling pie crusts.  It was exciting to see the rolling pin sock (is that what it's called?) and her canvas with the circle sizes marked come out of the drawer.  After she made the big pie she would re-roll the dough and fill a mini pie tin just for me.  Sometimes I was able to help roll and fill the tin.

And when the pies came out there was a perfect little pie for me.  Strange - now I'm the mom making little mini pies for my boys (ignore the singed crust).  And boy were they excited when they found out this little pie was just for them!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 Christmas Cookie Exchange

This year marks the 2nd Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange hosted by me, my good friend Beth at OurFairAdventure and my sister in law Hollie at A Day in the Life.  Our family and friends have been sent an E-vite Invitation that sends them to this post to find out all our rules (blogger friends you can join the fun too - keep reading)!

So here you go:

Take a break from the holiday rush 
and share the Christmas spirit
with friends old and new. 
Come and enjoy an appetizer buffet,
hot spiced cider and sample all those
delicious cookies!
We look forward to seeing you 
...and your cookies, of course!
DATE: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
TIME: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
by December 1
Hostesses: Beth, Hollie & Andrea
The Rules of the Cookie Exchange
1.           All cookies should be homemade, baked and main ingredient must be flour.
a.     Exception for 2010 - Candy will be allowed with the following conditions:
                                                    i.     Ideally should be something like fudge, caramels, turtles, brittle
                                                   ii.     NO covered pretzels
                                                 iii.     Must be a homemade candy
                                                 iv.     You will need to bring 12 dozen pieces (if very small candies)
2.           No plain chocolate chip cookies, cookie mixes, no-bakes, meringues or bars.
3.           Please bring 6 dozen total cookies 
(this is usually about 1 large batch or two smaller batches).
4.           The theme is "Christmas Cookies" 
5.           Arrange cookies in a basket or platter and be creative! 
(Gifts for most creative!)
6.          Bring a large container to carry away your cookies 
(plastic bags will be provided by the hostesses to keep cookies sorted so flavors don’t mix but you may want a basket or plastic container to take cookies home).
7.           Put a copy of your recipe in our Google Docs File before the party (by December 3rd) 
(hostesses will create a cookie recipe book for everyone to take home)
8.           Christmas attire is encouraged!
9.           RSVP as soon as you can (by December 1) via the E-Vite invitation and let us know what  type of cookies you are planning on baking -- no duplicate recipes are allowed so first to upload first to bring selected cookie!
                       (my Cinnamon Polar Bears are already uploaded)
10.        If you don't have time to bake, or have burnt your cookies, but still want to attend you must go to a real bakery and buy 6 dozen yummy cookies.
11.        The more the merrier – if you have a friend you would like to bring along please have them RSVP as well!

Note:  not a rule but a good guideline – cookies should be baked at least 3 days in advance of the exchange to give them time to set (fresh cookies won’t transport as well).  Or make them super early and freeze them  - just don’t forget to thaw the night before

Go HERE to share your Christmas Cookie Recipe (Google Documents).  If you have any problems just e-mail me the recipe and I can get it put in for you!

For our on-line friends (or friends who can't attend but want to share some yummy recipes) please upload your favorite Christmas Cookie (or candy) recipe (following our guidelines above).  We will put them in a nice Christmas pdf file and e-mail the document to everyone who participates.

For Iowa followers (you must be a follower of my blog) - if you'd like to meet IRL and make some new friends come join our party!  You can send me an e-mail and I'll send you the invitation information!

Monday, November 15, 2010

First Wreath Down (Only ? More to Go)!

Here's Clark holding the first wreath I made for the 2010 season.  OK - technically it is a swag not a wreath.  And Clark helped clamp a couple of the clips.   

Clark was having a good time helping with the wreath making tonight!

Grant LOVED playing out in the garage and just wanted to get back to it!

I couldn't resist snapping this picture this afternoon (must have really worn him out).  Clark told me over and over he didn't need a nap.  Normally he at least has to have quiet time in his room but since the day was so lovely and there probably won't be many more like this I decided he could stay outside and play.  He told me he needed to go potty inside -- after what seemed a pretty long time for the potty I went to check and found him fast asleep on our living room couch.  Awww - I love sleeping 3 year olds!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Snowy Weekend

This weekend the two boys and I trekked up north to my parents' house to help my dad out on the tree farm.  We were going to help him unload the extra trees and greens when he came home from Minnesota on Saturday but when we woke up Saturday this is what we saw:

OK - maybe it's hard to tell but that would be my boys looking out the window at the falling snow.  Dad started out with the trailer but turned around and came home due to bad roads and worsening conditions.
Clark played in the snow, learned to make snowballs, built a snowman with mommy and helped grandpa out in the shop.

This will teach me to NOT forget to throw in the snow pants and boots when I head for home in the winter.  Luckily I did throw in the winter coats, hats and mittens.

The boys had lots of fun - especially playing with LEGOs - even grandpa got in on the fun!

Meanwhile, I decided I'd get a head start on the Tree Farm scrapbook.  Every year we try to take a picture of each person/family with their tree(s).  As you can see we have quite a collection of photos (3 full books).

All 200+ photos from the 2009 season are now preserved in a book.  We'll set these books out on the counter for people to look through.  Families seem to enjoy trying to find their photo from the previous year (or from multiple years).  The current year's photos are hung on bulletin boards and people try to pick out friends and relatives that have already picked out their Christmas Tree.

Our albums go back to 2000 (we were selling trees before that but this is when we started with photos).  It's fun to see families come back year after year.

Back in the day (ha!) we started with Polaroids!  We've now advanced to digital technology :)

I believe the best part of working on a the tree farm are the families that come back year after year to pick out something special for their Christmas celebration.  We've gained some wonderful friends along the way!  Some of the stories we hear each year are heart warming and sometimes make you want to cry or laugh or both.   It's amazing how much something as simple as a little tree can mean so much.

I know for some it's impossible to have a real tree in the home but if you do choose a real tree (or wreath) this year please support your local Christmas Tree Growers!

A little tip - if you're looking for real greens for decorating, you can usually (depends on the farm) find them cheaper at a tree farm than at a box store (and get larger quantities).  If you don't see greens laying around for sale or on the sale list ask one of the workers - I bet they have them since there are usually always trimmings around.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Progress on That Girl . . . That Quilt Along

Not as far as I would like to be going into this next week on my That Quilt Along blocks; but, sometimes life just takes different turns.  The neutral fabric is as of this morning completed.  Sorry about the photo quality - my basement craft studio on a rainy day doesn't have the best light.

I love the way fabric looks when it piles up while chain stitching!

Here's where I had to stop earlier than I would have liked early this morning due to two little boys waking up early.  Mornings have been a bit messed up this week with the time change - oh, well.

A few toy blocks and I was able to get all the rest of the neutral sewn on and ironed!

I love this block below - mainly because it reminds me of a top my grandma made and wore all the time.  I loved that top.  As I was sewing I realized my fabric choices reminded me of denim and pearls.  It's hard to see in the photo but the blocks have a look like well worn denim and the textured Kona cotton looks like little pearls surrounding the block.  OK - maybe it's just me and working at the crack of dawn - but that's what I think of when I look at it now!

I ended up detouring my projects this week to finish up the Project Compassion (have to go to bottom of the post I linked to in order to read about the project) gifts for our church.  Then when we read our card on our Give Thanks Countdown Calendar I decided these would make great "show your teacher appreciation" gifts.

Clark had fun coloring the back with fabric markers to personalize the gift.

Grant badly wanted to help!

The boys and I are off to Grandma and Grandpa's to help with the tree farm today - so, I'd better go finish packing!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Give Thanks!

We give thanks to the Lord above for providing us such a beautiful day! Eating a picnic for lunch outside on November 11 in IOWA - so great!  To best put the day to use we spent the entire day outside (after Clark's Preschool conferences).  We re-roofed the chicken shed; dug glads, dahlias and ismeenis; cleaned up neglected areas of the yard; and clipped boughs for making Christmas wreaths.  What a wonderfully productive day!

For the freedom to do all these things and more we thank our Veterans for their service.  We thank them for their sacrifices that help provide our family these precious and very special moments.