Thursday, January 27, 2011

Warming Trend

Yesterday was so warm we had to go outside and play!  OK - warm at this point is a relative term, I consider anything above 20 degrees F lovely this time of year!

So, we went to do chores and play in the snow.  We let our darling little goats out for some much deserved play time too!  They had a blast running between their pen and the chicken pen!

Grant just wanted to stay in the barn and watch the animals.  Not that you can tell but this is Grant saying "chicky."

Really - I couldn't get him to leave.  He was very engrossed in the animals.

Clark meanwhile enjoyed playing outside on the 5 foot snowdrifts that allowed him to look down on us from outside.

He thought the hills were great!

And made for good sledding.

After finally convincing Grant we should maybe go in, Clark pulled him up to the house in the sled.

I just have to add that on Tuesday when I picked Clark up from preschool his teacher told me how proud she was of Clark.  He had gotten his snowpants, hat, coat, boots and mittens on all by himself.  All the teacher helped with was the zipper!  He's getting to be such a big boy.  Now, the pants were on backwards and the boots were on the wrong feet but hey, he did it himself and that's pretty great!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's Up

Wasn't sure where to start my post tonight.  We've been very busy!

On Sunday morning, while getting Grant dressed for church, he pointed to the cowboy boots on the top of his shelves.  He wanted to wear them in the worst way.  These were actually his daddy's boots that Grandma Spencer had saved all these years.  Grandpa Spencer brought the box of boots from size 1 all the way to about size 10 a few months ago.  These were a little big for Grant but he loved wearing them (after learning how to walk in them)!

Sunday afternoon a friend of mine had a girl's craft night!  It was fantastic!  There were only 3 of us but we accomplished so much and had just the best time.  Below are some of the cards I accomplished - which frankly wouldn't have been done without this craft day.

I even made some cute bookmarks out of the card scraps.

And - best of all, I put together all of Clark's Valentine's for his class party.  Look at this - completed over 2 weeks in advance!

Last night my husband and I had an invitation to attend the 25th Annual Taste of Elegance at the Des Moines Marriott.  We're invited every year but last year was bad weather and it had been a few years since we had gone.  We invited a couple of other friends to go with us and had a fabulous time!

There were 12 chefs that each prepared a pork dish (this is hosted by the Iowa Pork Producers).  This was a competitive event for the chefs.  The top chef goes to the National event.  The top 3 chefs were awarded cash prizes.  There is also a People's Choice award given out.  The chef who won was my People's Choice award nominee!  Not bad taste buds, huh!

It was a great evening mingling with friends and eating awesome food.  Our table ended up being a revolving group of friends and acquaintances.   I was stuffed by the end of the evening.  Twelve little samples add up pretty fast!  There were also some wonderful looking wines from Iowa wineries that were free for sampling.  Unfortunately, I had to pass that up this year.

Beth and I at the event!  The oddest part was during the tasting our husbands went to select samples while we held down the table.  At one point when they came back I think my husband almost dropped the plates when he saw we were entertaining the First Lady and the Lt. Governor (and their husbands).  Beth and I were just being nice and offered part of our table that wasn't being used for them to land for a bit.  Of course once another table opened up they moved on - but still, how often can we say we dined with the Governor, First Lady and Lt. Governor?  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday Night Sew In Results

Here are my finishes for yesterday evening:

Two Lucy Tote Bags by Ali Foster.

This one just says Spring!  I was going to give one as a gift but now I can't decide which one to gift.  A peak inside:

Couldn't resist these photos!  This week Grant has been helping me vacuum.  Hard for me to photograph when he's helping me so when daddy grabbed the vacuum this morning I grabbed the camera!

He thinks this is just the best activity!  Not sure how I ended up being so lucky surrounded by such helpful little (and big) men!  (Yes, today was laundry day so ignore the pile on the couch).

 Have a fabulous rest of your weekend!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cabin Fever Leads to . . .

well, in this family - new pets!

Meet Darth Vader (black gerbil) and Luke (brown gerbil).  Can you tell I live with a 3 year old Star Wars fan?

Today was cold and snowy again and we've spent a lot of time indoors.  It's too cold to even have Clark go out and do goat and chicken chores with me so no animal time.   Well, there's Jack the cat but if you know cats you know how hit or miss that can be.  I just wanted to see something warm and fuzzy.  So asked Clark and Grant if they wanted to go to the local pet store.  They readily agreed and ran to get coats.

This wasn't an impulse buy.  I had been giving thoughts to having a couple hamsters again.  I figured the boys would enjoy watching rodent antics.  We've never raised gerbils before but they were a lot cuter than the hamsters the store had available.  Plus, they are more active during the day than hamsters.  My husband is very lucky I decided the cats wouldn't handle guinea pigs well - boy were they CUTE!

I think this was a good decision/addition for our family.  The boys LOVED watching gerbils all day.  They checked the water about 100 times to make sure it was still full!  Let's hope the desire to do pet chores continues!  Clark is already planning a mega-pipe play space for the new gerbils.  Really - he has told me about the pipes he wants to buy to expand the play area (if you know my son at all you know that pipes have intrigued him since he was 18 months old).

Luckily we bought a cat proof cage!  While working during nap time I kept getting distracted watching Jack trying to figure out how to get those little guys.

Then Purple, our indoor/outdoor cat (mostly outdoor except when it is super cold or super hot) heard the gerbils playing.  He actually made me pause more than Jack did.  You see, Jack thinks he's a hunter but he's really just a lazy house cat.  Whereas, Purple is a hunter.  This is a cat who has taken on the bobcat that prowls our property.  One time we watched him take out a nest of baby bunnies and swallow them whole.  He's an amazing hunter which is why he spends most of his time prowling our barns.  This cat looked at our little gerbils like I had laid out a buffet of appetizers.  Luckily the cage proved it's worth.

All in all today, I'm not sure what I enjoyed more, watching the joy of the boys or the prowling of the cats.  Both were great fun!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WiP Wednesday {Works in Progress}

New Projects:
1 Corduroy purse for charity auction: COMPLETED! 
3 Purses (same pattern as cordouroy): 1 completed, 2 need finishing (will work on Friday) 
1 large Corduroy pillow (charity auction): COMPLETED
1 small Corduroy pillow (charity auction): COMPLETED

On-Going Projects:
Layer Cake Quilt Along - now 3 blocks behind
Tips and Tricks Quilt Along with Cricket Studios - Block 1 {done}
Birdie Stitches Block of the Month (BOM) at Little Miss Shabby - Block 1 {pieced, ready to embroider}

Items in Wait (Did nothing with this week):
That Girl That Quilt Along - still hanging on my design wall; hit a road block
30's Reproduction Block Quilt - ready to piece
Brown Bag Quilt - fabric selected; design drawn up (now to get brave and cut)

Completed Tops Awaiting Quilting:
Clark's Dinosaur Quilt
Grant's Cowboy Quilt

This week's stats:
New projects - 6
Completed projects - 4
Currently in progress - 10 

I'm hoping to get some of these items completed during the Friday Night Sew In this coming Friday.  I'd really like to start some Valentine projects but need some items off my workspace first.  Crossing my fingers that 1st trimester sickness will be better on Friday (really bad today - I almost lost it when I caught Grant eating ketchup straight up on his spoon at lunch - blah!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Toddler Bedtimes

Last week we hit a frustration point involving a 3 year old boy and his bedtime routine.  We have an established bedtime routine but we were finding ourselves at wits end with his putting his foot down (literally) and refusing to take baths or get ready for bed.  Deciding we weren't going to continue down this path every night I did a little research and came up with this:

A laminated pictorial version of our bedtime schedule.  We gave a set start time of 7:00 PM (this gets the little one in bed by 7:30 and the 3 year old in bed by 8:00).  We put in some items that allow Clark to feel he is part of the decision making process.  We also put warnings back in play (we had done this earlier and relaxed our standards - not good).

So, 5 minute warning that bed time routine is coming; 5 minutes to pick up toys (and beat the timer); take off clothes; bath (only 3 times a week for Clark); brush teeth; potty; put on jammies and secure teddies; then Grant gets his book time while Clark gets time for himself (could be a little extra playtime, a little TV, talking over his day, etc); prayers, hugs & kisses; reading time with Clark; bed.

I didn't think this little change would make a difference (in essence it's the same routine just put in a visual form) - but, the last 3 nights we have had NO arguments!  When things seem they might be going downhill we tell Clark to show us where we are on the bedtime chart that hangs in the hallway outside the bathroom and between the bedrooms - and then we're good to go again!  In fact, he has gone from not wanting to do bath time to jumping right in.

I think a lot of this has to do with cabin fever, too.  Not being able to exercise outside isn't doing any of us any good.

Sorry - this may seem a weird post but I wanted to document when we started this so when I have to figure out a new plan I'll know about how long we can go before we need to switch things up again :)

Ah - cute little kiddos!

I found a fun photo editing site today - Picnik - it was lots of fun working on some photos.  Suddenly, my house is very quiet so I better go check it out!  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 17, 2011

FNSI Coming Up & Some Finished Projects

This Friday, January 21st is the first Friday Night Sew In (FSNI) for 2011!  After the boys are in bed I'm heading for the sewing room.  I have a number of projects piling up.  If you want to join in click the button on the right hand side of my blog and join the fun Friday!  And FYI: it doesn't have to be sewing - if you have some beading, craft or scrap booking projects those count too!

This past Friday I finished off some projects for the Iowa FFA Alumni Conference.  They hold both a live and silent auction to generate funds for the year.  My husband so kindly asked me to make a few things I couldn't say no.  Ended up donating 2 purses, 2 large pillows, and 1 small pillow.

Purse 1:  Made out of the exact same corduroy used to make the FFA Jackets.  Yes, ordered directly from National FFA.  This is very stiff corduroy - it stands on its own (really, I'm not making that up).  Makes me very happy grandma's machine handles it with no problems.  The other key being a good sharp needle that is good for denim.

Two 16 x 16" corduroy pillows.

Purse #2 - Just a fun one - I have a second one just like it sitting in my sewing room waiting to be finished (I think it will be pretty for February).

And finally my small 8 x 8" pillow that went on the Silent Auction (the others were all on live auction).

All told my items brought over $110.00 in sales.  Not too bad.  The big pillows went for no less than $25.00 each!  I had a hard time believing that - but they are rather one of a kind.  My dad put a 30" wreath on the auction too and it brought a nice price.

We ended up bringing home a cute little rocking chair for the boys.  I've been to many auctions but never have I purchased something without intending too.  Somehow while my husband and I were talking in the back he "bought" the chair.  He knows the rules - no talking with your hands at an auction!  Oh well, it was cute and the boys love it!  Grant especially - he's fascinated with chairs his size.  And as I was in line to pay my father-in-law beat me to the table and paid for it - so many thanks to grandpa for our little chair!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Test Kitchen Thursday - A Tutorial

Today I'm bringing you a tutorial on how to prep your boards for display at the ISF.  Now I know other fairs may have different rules and requirements but this works very well for the ISF specifications (and is what the judges want to see).  If you read to the very bottom there will be a cinnamon roll prize for you!

This pertains to exhibiting breads (yeast & quick), yeast rolls and muffins.  Sorry, I meant to do this before the 2010 ISF but ran out of time so now you'll have it well in advance of the 2011 ISF.

Materials Needed:

  • Cardboard (start saving now - I like heavy corrugated cardboard or take the backs of old notepads, etc.)  If your cardboard isn't thick enough double or triple the layers.
  • OR - Foam board (I started using foam board this year - it was marvelous, but, it is more expensive).
  • Freezer Paper (not wax or parchment)
  • Tape (good old fashioned masking tape)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Pan

Using your pan as a guide mark a line on your foam core or cardboard.  If you will be using different pan sizes make some for each pan size.  It is very important that there is only 1" or less of the cardboard "plate" showing when you set your baked product on it.  So give yourself some extra space but not much.

Once the boards are cut you can wrap them with the freezer paper.  Question:  must I do this if I use white cardboard or foam core?  Answer: YES!  This provides a beautiful finishing touch.

Make sure the shiny or slippery side of the freezer paper is to the outside.  Make sure your masking tape is good and sticky since it won't like the slippery side.  No matter what type of bread/baked good you make there will be grease.  If you put the baked goods on the shiny side of the freezer paper the grease won't soak in and leave stains.  This will help your breads show much better!  Trust me - judges specifically ask for this!

See - all wrapped up nice and tight in a pretty little package.   Ready for some yummy baked goods!

And since I can't leave without letting you have a recipe how about links to the 2010 and 2009 ISF Champions Tone's Cinnamon Rolls:

2009:  Nancy Johnson of Story City, Iowa
2010:  Janice Nostrom of Humboldt, Iowa

{Hint:  when exhibiting cinnamon rolls make them large and put 4 in an 8" square pan.  Take your best pan of four.}

If you have any questions on exhibiting foods let me know - I'd love to help you find an answer and am always willing to give little tips and tricks that I have learned along the way!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

WiP Wednesday {Works in Progress}

New Projects:
Corduroy purse for charity auction: COMPLETED! (still have to iron on the emblem but I don't have them yet). 
Good thing my grandma's old Bernina is used to working on heavy denim because this commercial grade corduroy ran through the machine with no problems - hurray!  

On-Going Projects:
Layer Cake Quilt Along - now 3 blocks behind
Tips and Tricks Quilt Along with Cricket Studios - Block 1 {done}
Birdie Stitches Block of the Month (BOM) at Little Miss Shabby - Block 1 {pieced, ready to embroider}

Items in Wait (Did nothing with this week):
That Girl That Quilt Along - still hanging on my design wall; hit a road block
30's Reproduction Block Quilt - ready to piece
Brown Bag Quilt - fabric selected; design drawn up (now to get brave and cut)

Completed Tops Awaiting Quilting:
Clark's Dinosaur Quilt
Grant's Cowboy Quilt

This week's stats:
New projects - 1
Completed projects - 1
Currently in progress - 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Many thanks to Aunt Em who gifted Clark some Star Wars LEGO's for Christmas!  This yielded hours of fun this past weekend!

Look at the boys hanging on every word, patiently waiting for instructions from daddy.

What great and amazing things did I accomplish while the boys were busy with LEGO play?  Absolutely nothing :(  Unfortunately baby #3 has plans of its own and right now that is to make me sick and very tired.  How does something the size of peanut bring a full grown woman to her knees?  I never felt this horrible with the other two so I'm not sure what's in store.  Luckily it should start getting better now that I'm moving into month 3 (I hope).

Luckily the new Murray McMurray Hatchery catalog came this weekend!  I have made my spring poultry selection already.  Need to save up money to purchase my required 15 head of turkeys (aack - $10.00 a piece).  I'm looking at 2 different breeds.  Definitely the Narragansett and I think some Royal Palms (but I may change my mind for some Blue Slate).  As much as I would like more water fowl that may have to wait another year since I would like to order a new incubator this year.  One with big windows so the boys can watch the hatching.

I know there are probably cheaper hatcheries out there but I have had nothing but excellent product from Murray McMurray and they have a huge selection of rare breeds.  I believe in being a grower of rare breeds in order to help keep them from falling into non existence.  Plus, some of the older or rarer breeds are actually much better than the more commercial breeds.  My turkens (chickens with naked necks) produce even in the dead of winter and are hardy little girls as are my little barred rocks.  The best is when they cross and I have barred turkens - so cute!

Now to go through all the beautiful garden catalogs piling up in my catalog basket.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Test Kitchen Thursday - Lemon Dream Cheesecake

Lemon Dream Cheesecake

Also known as my DH's Birthday Cake!

Please don't let cheesecakes scare you - they are really quite simple (they scared me at first).  Plus, if you want a recipe that won't crack this one is it - never once had a crack on top.  

This is my husband's favorite cheesecake (sorry, but in honor of his birthday I must tell a story).  He loves this particular recipe so much he refuses to eat commercial cheesecake anymore - even really good cheesecake.  I started making cheesecakes for him when we first started dating.  I asked him what his traditional birthday cake was (thinking how easy a nice little layer cake would be).  His answer was his aunt's cheesecake.  I took this to mean a home baked over the top cheesecake (snicker).  So, scared out of my mind to make a cheesecake but completely determined to make it for my sweetie I purchased all the ingredients and made the New York style cheesecake on the graham cracker crumb box.  It was delicious and oh how my boyfriend raved about the cheesecake (he totally ignored the little crack across the top - carefully covered with cherry pie filling).  I thought he was just being nice because how could I compare to his aunt (who I was told was a tremendous cook)?  Years and a few birthday cheesecakes later I found out his aunt's cheesecake was the Jello box mix with cherry pie filling (no offense to Jello - I love Jello but really that's not a baked cheesecake).  Obviously I didn't have to try as hard to impress as I thought and he probably proposed just for my cheesecake skills :)

OK - on with the recipe (sidenote - this is an ISF 2nd Place Overall Cheesecake Division winner circa 2008 - so others think it's pretty good too):
Tips and tricks can be found below.
Makes 12 servings

1 ½ C  finely ground shortbread cookies (or vanilla wafers)
2 T       white sugar
2 T       unsalted butter, melted
¼ t       lemon extract

1 ¼ lb  cream cheese, softened
¾ C     white sugar
1 C      sour cream
3 T       all-purpose flour
3          eggs
½ C     lemon juice
1 t        vanilla extract

½ pint  heavy whipping cream
2 T       confectioner’s sugar
½ t       vanilla extract

In food processor combine cookie crumbs, sugar, butter and lemon extract.  Mix well.  Pat the mixture into the bottom and ¾ inch up the side of a buttered 9” springform pan.

Bake the crust in a 375 degree F oven for 8 minutes.

Transfer pan to a rack and cool.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth, beat in the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.  Beat in the sour cream, flour, lemon juice and vanilla.  Beat until the mixture is smooth – do not over beat.

Pour the filling over the crust.  Bake the cheesecake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 250 degrees F and bake for 50 to 55 minutes longer, or until center is barely set.  Let the cheesecake cool in the oven with door slightly cracked.  Move to a rack to cool thoroughly then cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  Remove side of pan and place in covered cake stand and return to refrigerator.  Best eaten 24 hours after baking.

Garnish with homemade whipped topping. 
Combine whipping cream and sugar in mixing bowl.  Whip to soft peak stage.  Add vanilla, then continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Do not overbeat.

When building the crust it really helps to crush and blend everything in a food processor.  Than evenly spread in your pan.

Carefully take a glass with a nice bottom rim and smooth bottom and sides.  Even out the sides and run your finger across the top to get a nice even (height) crust all the way around.

Pour the batter in.  The beating of the batter is where you will make or break the cheesecake.  At the beginning when beating sugar and cream cheese - whip it good to get it smooth.  When adding eggs beat well (until smooth) after each addition.  If you don't have the nice scraper attachment on your mixer be sure to scrape the bowl down each time.

On the final addition of ingredients - DO NOT overbeat - just beat until combined then stop!

I don't get a dime to say this but I can't stress enough good vanilla and PURE extracts of any kind are key to wonderful taste!  I'm pretty frugal but one place I splurge on my baking supplies are the extracts and flavorings.

The key to the color of this cheesecake are the eggs.  Because I use my own chicken eggs produced by my lovely girls I have a very yellow cheesecake.  If you make it with regular store bought eggs it will be almost white.  So if you like the lemon yellow color for your lemon cheesecake use eggs from your own hens or a local grower.

Couldn't resist this last photo of Grant asking where the goop went.  Poor little guy this is one product that won't be eaten for an entire day.  It is good to let a cheesecake rest - minimum of 12 hours I try to bake a day or more in advance of eating.  

Please note - this is my own original recipe so share the site with friends but please link to my blog.