Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eggactly what I wanted!

I made a new table cloth this week. If my sister is reading this, she might recognize the fabric.
Originally I was going to make a quilt, but the fabric started to fray... I serged the edges and lined with lace. It was exactly what I was looking for in a new table cloth!
Found a brown egg this morning too! Now we have 3 hens laying.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poor Chelsea

2 months old
Last night we lost one of our hens. And she was our favorite. Chelsea was the sweetest and tamest bird we've ever owned. Always glad to see us, first to approach us, and very very gentle.

I blame myself for waiting too long to trim their wings. Chelsea kept escaping the coop. Unfortunately, our dog played a bit too rough.

Thus the bittersweet experience of raising farm animals. Now we're down to 4 hens. We still have 2 egg layers, and waiting for the rest, but something's missing without Chelsea. I'm at work, so they're staying in their coop today until I can clip their wings on Monday. Better safe than sorry!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Reason for the Season

We walked around the neighborhood tonight, looking at lights and enjoying the almost 70-degree weather. Sure doesn't feel like Winter is here, nor does it feel like Christmas is 3 days away!

In fact, after walking our block, we jumped in the car with the windows down, got a Hawaiian shaved ice, and walked again through downtown. It's evenings like this that stick in our memories, those spontaneous moments spent with family...

This year, as I do every year, I reflected over the holidays. As we pulled into our driveway, we were talking about the true meaning of Christmas -- stuff like nobody knows WHAT DAY Jesus was really born, WHY we have decorated Christmas trees, Santa Clause, elves, pagan origination's of so many things...

But regardless of all these things, I do see good will happening towards one another. The full pantry at the women's shelter where I work, phone calls from strangers wanting to give, the donated gifts locked away till Christmas morning....

A lady called me last weekend on the hotline. She asked if it were possible her daughter could give a gift to a child in our shelter. She wanted her daughter to give away a toy that she wanted for herself, to experience that selfless moment when she stopped thinking about herself.

Many, many a year I've threatened my kids with promises of soup kitchens on Christmas day. Instead of emptying our bank accounts to buy more STUFF, I wanted us to roll up our sleeves...

I knew exactly why that lady called.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:8-11

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Scoot Over, My Turn!

Meet Penelope. Found her in the nest this morning laying an egg. So now we have two hens a layin (say that with the sing-song voice, six geese a layin!) As our other hen Cleopatra layed an egg this morning too!

Remember, yesterday we nearly lost her. In fact, I'm still holding my breath. It's a miracle! Seriously. I won't go into details on her injury. It's pretty bad, and I'm afraid to look again at her neck. I know... I'm being a chicken. :(

Now if only we can get the ground to dry outside! It's been raining like crazy. My daughter (who was still in bed) actually heard me scream this morning while I was tending the coop. I nearly did a back flip slipping and sliding in my nightgown, and ridiculous flip flops. Fortunately, I caught myself in mid air, but I pictured myself sprawled in mud and poop, yelling, I've fallen and I can't get up!

Pamela, wasn't so lucky. She later slipped and fell, having to change clothes. Yesterday, she almost did the splits. It's nasty outside. What a crazy week it's been! Now, we're hoping this guy follows through and shows up this Friday. He offered to adopt our rooster, Jesse!! Yay!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Dozen Smiles and a Heavy Heart

So far, we've collected our dozen and then some. 14 total.
Fresh and warm.
The fresh yoke is at the top. We scrambled 2 store bought, and 1 fresh egg to do a comparison on yoke color. The darker the yoke, the more nutritious.
Cleopatra is our productive hen. Other than skipping a day or two, she's layed every single day, and two yesterday. We're thinking how is that possible? Maybe we have another hen laying? Every time we sneak outside, it's her that's in the nest. Hmmm...

Either way, we have heavy hearts and I'm thankful I got this picture. It will be a miracle if Cleopatra survives the night. We've been having an unfortunate struggle with our rooster and dog. Both beast and fowl have been fighting, and the taunting from the rooster has caused our dog to go beserk. Somehow or another two of our hens got out of their pen and we found Cleopatra with a bloody neck. Feathers everywhere. I ever so tenderly placed her back into the pen. With an unsure smile we watched as she pecked at some corn, and took a small drink of water.

We've been having an unsuccessful time giving away our rooster, Jesse. Not sure what else to do, other than drag out the stew pot...

We're going to let nature take it's course for Cleopatra. Thus the hard lessons of caring for animals. Their lives are so short, so sweet, and ever so fragile.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Main Street Bethlehem

This past weekend we drove out to Burnet to see the annual celebration of putting the "Christ" back into Christmas. This is a gift from the First Baptist church of Burnet, that's been going on since 1993. Pictured below is how the "living history" city of Bethlehem is layed out. You could tell the church put a lot of time, money, and thought into the architecture.

It was a cold evening, with heavy mist as we headed out. Forecasts for thick fog, kept us moving fast as we drove the 45-something miles to Burnet. With long dark stretches of road, we kept our eyes peeled for deer crossing.

The fires were a welcoming sight as we approached Bethlehem. We stood in the fast growing line outside the city walls as we waited our turn. I took a few photo's, but ended up tucking my camera away. I'm sooo ready to buy a new one. Can't figure out my shutter and night pictures are the worst. Anyway, here's a few.

Click picture and you can see the nativity.

Hmmmm Camels! I'll be seeing plenty of those soon enough!
After exiting Bethlehem, we were greeted with warm smiles, hot cocoa, and lots of cookies! All free from the very generous Baptist church.
While leaving the festivities, we noticed street vendors selling their wares along downtown main street. I was sooo tempted to ask Alan to stop and buy that homemade pecan brittle. They were the size of a frying pan! We headed for the river, and walked along the lights, until the mist fell. Time to head home before the fog sets in!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

World War II Cake

Today, we experimented with a cake recipe taken from the back of an American Girl mystery book.


A super-easy World War Two recipe that uses no butter or eggs and very little sugar and chocolate. The "wacky" mixing method helps the eggless cake to rise and turn out light and tender!

You can only imagine how easy it would be to stock up on these ingredients. No refrigeration needed!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8" square baking pan with cooking spray.

Measure into the pan: 1- 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt. Use whisk to blend dry ingredients together.

Use a spoon to make 1 large crater and 2 small craters in the dry mix. Pour 5 tablespoons vegetable oil into the large crater. Pour 1 tablespoon vinegar into small crater. Pour 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into the last crater. Pour 1 cup water into the pan.
Using wooden spoon, gently mix everything together until you see only a few streaks of flour in the mixture.
Bake cake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool the cake completely, and then dust it with powdered sugar. Serve plain or with a spoonful of ice cream or whipped topping.

** Our personal opinion about the cake was positive. I tasted a hint of baking soda, but was impressed with the moistness and richness of the cake - minus the eggs and butter! This cake is a sure winner for staples. Even better, very little ingredients involved, and easy (fun) for children to make. Give it a try. History is fun!

Eggstremely Eggstatic!

Yay!! My hens are now laying!

This is our first egg! See how small it is? It fits snugly into a teaspoon. As the hens mature, so will their eggs. This egg is a wonderful white. Since we have several varieties of hens, we expect white, brown, and even blue eggs.

It is very motivating to see all our hard work pay off!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chickens Rule!

I had to capture this on video. Whenever I check on the chickens, our rooster, Jessie, will follow and challenge Sheba to show who's boss!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good morning to you too!!

Meet Jessie. We raised her (him) from a 1 day old chick. We had many hopes and dreams that someday Jessie would provide us with fresh eggs for breakfast. Now we cringe each morning at (ahem!) 5:30 A.M. sharp with a crisp and clear, COCKA-DOOODLE!!!! But no DOOOOS.... Not sure if Jessie will ever do the cocka-doodle-dooo, but whatever he dooo's, I hope my neighbor's don't want to dooo me in.
Looking again at my city ordinance rules, we can have up to 10 chickens in town. No specifications on roosters. I'm assuming (ahem) that we CAN have a rooster...

Anyway, my girls (and 1 guy) are growing fast! I built them a nice large pen last week and they seem pretty happy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Low Carb Pizza!

Here's an amazing LOW CARB - breadless pizza!

Pizza Crust
  • 2 cups Mazarella Cheese
  • 2 cups riced Cauliflour
  • 2 Eggs

The cauliflour is "riced" by using a food processor, or grater. It needs to resemble rice. Place in microwave and cook for 5 min.
I make my own pizza sauce. Just a small can of tomato paste, add water to make consistency you prefer, then a pinch of garlic salt, and your favorite Italian spices. Mix, heat, and set aside.

Mix in bowl, both cups of cauliflour, 2 cups Mazarella cheese, and 2 eggs. Pour over a greased cookie sheet/pizza pan and spread.

Cook at 400 degrees for 15-20 min till crust is browned.

Spread sauce, and sprinkle Parmesan cheese...

Pile on your favorite toppings! Set oven to broil and cook only long enough for toppings/cheese to melt.
*This is the second time I've made this and I had forgotten to precook my riced cauliflour. It still turned out!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

You're Human

We had several hundred students tour the farm yesterday. While answering their questions, one boy said, "How did those pioneers do their dishes?"

I pointed out, "THOSE pioneers were OUR ancestors. We ALL had ancestors that lived without electricity and running water."

The boy shook his head and said, "not me. MY ancestors were animals."

I thought he was joking. He repeated himself, "my ancestors weren't people, they were animals."

Another boy piped up, "They EVOLVED!"...

A look must have crossed over my face, as the teacher wrapped her arms around him protectively and explained to the boy, "not everyone shares the same beliefs..."

I looked into the boy's eyes, wondering what I saw... Sadness? Emptiness? I couldn't figure it out.

Restoring the boy's dignity, I replied, "your ancestors were HUMAN."

Ignoring the look of the teacher, I said more firmly to the boy, "YOUR ANCESTORS WERE HUMAN!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wild Watermelons

While doing our morning walks, we've noticed this watermelon patch growing wild along the creek.

Each time, I'm tempted to dig one up and take it home to replant. The last time the City came out to mow the area, I held my breath. This is what survived. I would have dug one up sooner, but I'm not sure a plant can survive a transplant that's already gone to fruit...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dreams DO Come True

It was an odd dream. I was sleeping at a strange hotel in a foreign country. Rows of bunks lined the wall.

I woke up and mentioned the dream to Alan. He said hotels existed like that. They were called HOSTELS. How strange. The first time I ever heard of one was in my dream.

As I research the itinerary on my upcoming trip -- the more I learn about hostels, the better I like the idea. A hostel can run between $6 to $20 a night.

I was very amazed at how many hostels are located throughout the Middle East. Checking locally, there's even a nice hostel in Austin. I learn something every day.

To keep up with my travel plans, I've started a new section on my blog called, TRAVEL DIARY.

This is where I'll keep updates.

Right now, I'm currently trying to decide whether I want to fly open-jaw or round trip.

An open-jaw ticket is where you fly into one city and leave by another. My family had done this once when we had flown to Los Angeles and returned home from Las Vegas. Renting a car, we drove from California to Nevada.

My plans are to fly into Cairo, and leave by Tel Aviv. This way we won't waste any time backtracking. But the catch is price. We're talking about $300-$400 difference in airline tickets. Doing the math, I'm trying to determine if I break even on that return bus ride, and possible overnight.

My other concern is returning back to Egypt. From what I've learned, flying into Cairo I can acquire our visa's from the airport. Trying to get an Egyptian visa from the Israeli border is another matter. So many details I need to look into.

Half the fun is planning though!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boots and Backpacks

My daughter and I have been reading the book, Material World, for her geography lessons. Each chapter focuses on several countries representing each continent. We've learned how much the family earns a year, where they live, and what they consider important.

It was very eye-opening to see how many families got by on very little, yet they were very happy.
It was in the midst of our geography lessons that the thought crossed my mind for the first time -- Why don't Pamela and I travel overseas to see for ourselves?

Although we had discussed travel overseas many times, we were always daunted at the high costs of packaged tours. The possibilities seemed promising to do our own research, study up on geography, languages, and history. My husband, who does a lot of travel for his job, gave his blessings, and A few weeks later, our passports arrived!
Our backpacks are purchased, but not packed yet, as we're leaving March. I've been researching for hours our itinerary. We'll be flying into Cairo, and staying a few days before catching either a bus to Eilat Israel, or finding a ride into Jordan to see the lost city of Petra. After we cross the Allenby Bridge into Israel we'll be headed for Jerusalem.

So many things to research and learn before we go, making this the ultimate lesson in geography, math, history, social studies, and languages. We need to brush up on our Hebrew, learn Arabic, locate our embassies, make copies of our passports, extra visa photo's, learn our currencies and exchange... As anxious as I am to go now, I see the wisdom in waiting a few more months. We have so much to do.

So many decisions... Should I bring my laptop? Will everything get through airport security? After all, we're boarding the plane with just our boots and backpacks.

I've had many people express an interest in going with us! We plan to stay in hostels, eat street food, and ride the bus. It's not a vacation, but a trip. I haven't made up my mind how long we'll be gone. Two weeks, three, a month? Tickets won't be purchased till after Christmas, giving me time to plan our route. If I can find cheaper fare, I'd like to fly into Cairo and leave by Tel Aviv...

More later...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hello Dolly!

Here's my newest creation - Miniature stuffed doll necklaces. Upon a search on the web, I do believe I'm the only one doing this. These are 100% hand sewn, and only 6" long.

My daughter and I are both sewing these for the Pioneer General Store at the living history museum where we volunteer.

We're having a lot of fun designing these!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Artisan Bread II

Click picture to enlarge for close-up of bread.

Just wanted to share some more about the Artisan Bread. Good to my word, I've been baking homemade bread EVERY SINGLE DAY! Not because I'm Supermom, or Suzie Homemaker, or Mrs. Cleaver... I'm far from that.

I'm able to make this bread because IT IS SO EASY!

This afternoon, I pulled apart just enough batter to bake a small loaf for my daughter and myself. Less than 5 min prep time, pop in oven, fresh bread for lunch!

After cooled, slice in half...
Create your favorite sandwich and share ---- This sandwich consisted of tuna, chopped onions, tomatoes, grated cheese, sea salt, pepper, and Mayo. Pictured above: cheddar jalapeno potato chips.

I want to stop here and say nothing compares to a FRESH gourmet sandwich!

For dinner, I tried an experiment that my mother had suggested --- rolling batter into small bread sticks. I sprinkled with minced garlic, grated cheese, and popped into the toaster oven. PRESTO, and PERFECT!

All I can say is WOW.
Due to a lot of interest/questions about this recipe, I'm going to share a few tidbits my mother and I discovered along the way.

1.) You can bake this on a cookie sheet like I do (you don't need a baking stone.)
2.) You can use bleach/unbleached flour
3.) You can substitute iodine salt for Kosher/sea salt (but I use sea salt in most foods anyway.)
4.) You CAN substitute half a cup of wheat flour, with white, or mix around. Experiment!
5.) If you fall in love with this recipe, be prepared to have extra bowls of batter fermenting in your fridge... Like me!

Here's the recipe again:

Artisan Bread

6 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3 cups tap water
1 1/2 tbs yeast
1 1/2 tbs kosher salt

Using LARGE bowl -- Pour salt and yeast into tap water, and stir in flour with wooden spoon. That's it! No knead to knead! (sorry, for the pun.)

Sit on counter for 2 hours, then transfer batter to fridge. The batter is good for up to 14 days. (the longer the batter is left in fridge/ferment, the better!) 1 batch is enough to make 4 full loaves of bread.

My largest bowl doesn't come with a lid, so I just cover with a large plate and place on bottom of my fridge. If you have a lid, don't use air tight.

When ready to bake -- pull apart the amount of batter you need and form into shape. If you need to, please view video on my first posting to see demonstration. Dust with flour if needed when batter is too sticky to handle. Also, don't knead this bread! The secret is to not handle the batter too much. You want the gas/air pockets to remain untouched.

Since I'm baking on a cookie sheet, I sprinkle a little cornmeal first. I allow the bread to sit and rise for 40 min, while oven is preheating at 450. Make a small indention across loaf before popping into oven.

Bake bread for 40 min, or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Happy homemaking!