Sunday, January 15, 2017

Projects, projects, projects...

What a crazy day.  I am exhausted.   I started the day by making these wonderful French Toast Muffins.  Then Ella and I went snowshoeing and ended up getting lost; not lost lost, but a little lost.  Upon returning to the cabin I finished my grouse tail project and made some mittens.  Then baked some biscotti and a blueberry coffee cake.  Finished up by starting another batch of wine and then sat down with a well earned glass of apple/chokecherry wine.  The plan is to finish off the day in the whirlpool tub.
I wanted something different for breakfast, so I gave this Pinterest recipe a try.

French Toast Muffins
Sift together:
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking flower
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
Stir in:
1/3 c. melted butter
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
Spray muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Topping
1/2 c. melted butter 
Dip baked and still warm muffin in butter and then roll in:
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon


Ella and I traditionally go snowshoeing on the weekends.  The weather was warm today, so we were both excited to get out.   Unfortunately, I got too adventurous.  We were cruising along following some snowmobile tracks.  When they headed in the wrong direction I figured we weren't too far from the cabin and decided to go cross country, hoping to take a ravine back up to our cabin.  Problem is the snow was too deep, now that we were weren't in packed down tracks.  I decided to head up this hill hoping it would take me to our property.  I was off by a ravine and ended up going up one of the highest mountains in the area.  Poor Ella.  She was such a trooper.  She led the way, despite being in snow up past her belly.   I just saw an article about a dog that saved its owner after the owner had fallen on ice and could get up.  The dog barked for help and laid on it's master to help keep him warm.  I was seriously wondering if Ella would do the same for me. I'm sure she wouldn't abandon me, but I did not feel like testing the theory today.
 This is the valley were went down and the view from the mountain we went up.  I don't have much in between, as the snow was over my knees. It was a tough climb.
The cabin was a welcome sight at the end of our hike.  We were exhausted.  After lunch, I finished up a few projects that I had in the works.  Back in October, I took the fan of a ruffed grouse that had hit our window and died.  I couldn't let nature's beauty go to waste, so I cut off the fan and removed the meat.  I covered it in Borax and it has been drying for months.  The aspen slices have also been drying.
 I sanded down the aspen slices.  On the small slice, I took the grinder and ground down half of the inside, thus the fan would tuck in there.  I put the fan in and tightened it with a screw from behind.  Added a hanger and voila' a work of art.  I still may wood burn some grouse tracks on the smaller slice.  I am as pleased as can be on the results.  It makes me feel good that the poor bird's death wasn't a complete waste.

 My next project was to use an old uniform sweater to make mittens.  They are lined inside with a wonderful fleece.  I like mittens better than gloves.  The pattern was loaned to me by one of the teachers.  I had a heck of a time.  I undid more than did.  I'm not the best at following sewing patterns.  Just ask my mom.  She tried to teach me for 4-H projects.  She should have received a grand champion purple for her patience. After several tries, I got it right.  I liked mine so well, I made a pair for my husband.  He's the mitten model.
After that, I grabbed a glass of Apple/Chokecherry wine and started baking.  It is impossible to find biscotti around here.  If I want it I have to make it myself.  This is one of my favorite recipes.  I don't remember where I got it.
Chocolate Cranberry Biscotti
1/2c. butter beaten
2/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa
2 t. baking powder
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1/2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. dried cranberries
Add sugar, cocoa, and baking powder to butter.  Beat in eggs and add flour.  Add chips and cranberries.  Bake 2 cakes for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, lower the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 8 minute, cut and bake another 9 minutes.

 Last but not least, I made a blueberry coffee cake for this week's dessert. 
Ga's Easy Blueberry Coffee Cake
Beat together:
1/2 c. soft butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
Add:
2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
1 pint of blue berries (I just used pie filling and spread it on top)
Mix together and spread into greased a 8x8 pan.
Topping crumble together:
1/2 c. soft butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
crumble on top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes and then lower the temperature to 325 degrees for the last 15-20 minutes.

Recipe from:  http://www.myutensilcrock.com/2015/06/16/easy-blueberry-coffee-cake/


I am happy to say everything was delicious!  I don't feel one bit guilty after slogging through the woods in snowshoes for an hour and a half.  Yes, an hour and a half.   I don't think I will do much tomorrow.    I see Pinterest has added an I Tried it button.  Since I try a lot of the things I find on Pinterest, I am excited about the addition.  Do you use Pinterest for inspiration?  What projects are you working on?  When was the last time you were lost?  Wishing you a productive week.














Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hot coffee, great company, and a simple Danish puff...

Today I enjoyed a good visit with a great friend.  She supplied a pot of coffee and a crackling fire and I brought the Danish.  I had a tough week and really needed quality time with a kindred spirit.   Thanks to her, I feel refreshed and ready to face the world again.

My amazing husband bought me a cookbook one day while getting his pickup fixed.  He does that, everytime he goes to town he gets me something; a cookbook, a scented candle, a shirt.  he is so sweet.  Anyway, I digress.   To make Danish sounds intimidating, but this recipe is simple and delicious.   The only sugar is in the frosting and jelly, so I'm sure it is good for you.  


Danish Almond Puffs
 Cut together until it resembles a coarse meal:
1/2 cup of butter 
1 c. flour
Add 2 Tbsp. cold water
Mix into a dough.  Then press into two 3x12 rectangles on an ungreased baking sheet. 
Next boil:
1 c. water 
1/2 c. butter
add 1 tsp. almond extract
Remove from heat and add:
1 c. flour
3 eggs one at a time beat them in.
Beat until smooth.  Spread over the pastry rectangles and bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes.  Combine:   2 c. powdered sugar, 4 Tbs. cream, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/8 tsp. salt.  Beat the frosting until smooth.  When the pastries are out of the oven spread jam down the middle.  I use raspberry jam and caramel apple jam.  The when cooled drizzle the frosting on.  If you remember sprinkle with ground nuts.  I always forget that part.  

My friend, Amanda, is a very talented Western photographer.  Since I grew up on a ranch, her photos bring back memories of life with cattle and horses.  If you get a moment check out her website: https://www.amandasmithwesternart.com/ We have a lot in common and clicked pretty much since the day we met.  She lives on a ranch in Wyoming,  but lucky for me she and her husband also have a cabin in the hills and are our neighbors.  With her there is always laughter.

It was a fine way to spend a day.  When was the last time you were able to sit and visit with a good friend?  If it has been a while, I hope this inspires a visit.  

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome 2017...

Goals, goals, goals.  I am not much for resolutions, but I like to set goals. I'm glad that blog tradition makes me review last year's goals and set goals for the coming year.  There is nothing wrong with accountability.   I will admit I am struggling this year when it comes to goal setting. I am glad this blog makes me sit down and focus on the upcoming year. 

~Family and friends are always at the top of my goal list.  I don't think I could beat last year with hosting.  We had a lot of company and and loads of fun.  I would like to expand our repertoire things to do while at the cabin including gifts, projects, games, and adventures.  I need more indoor games and kid friendly projects.

~Home improvements are on the list.  I need to update our guest bathroom.  It needs a fresh coat of paint, new curtains, and a new theme.  We have been in the cabin for 14 years and it is starting to look shabby.  The outside of the cabin also needs re-stained.  Thankfully, it is small and shouldn't take long.  It is just it takes some serious acrobatics to get to a few areas.

~Host a barn dance.  We have a new barn and I really want a barn dance.  Maybe we won't dance.  Food, fun, and wine is fine. 

~Landscaping.  We have the new barn and there is plenty of landscaping to do around it.  I also want to add hardscapes like trellises and more garden art.  I am satisfied with my garden plants, now I need to include some art to tie it all together.  

~Gardening goals (this is a gardening blog) are to focus on soil, fertilizer, and water.  I was negligent on my composting this year and it showed.  I need to keep my compost turned so it can enhance my beds.  The clay soil is persistent and it doesn't take long for it to overpower any improvements I make.  I started with a drip watering system in the vegetable garden and then when there were issues abandon the project.  If I don't focus on those little things, all the big things I do won't make a difference.  I also want to include hugelkulture into my beds.  This is the practice of covering wood with soil.  The wood retains water and fertilizes as it breaks down.

~Bring Hygge to my job.  It was a long stressful year at work.  Not just for me, but also for my staff.  I need to take what I learned from Hygge and incorporate it in the education building.  It is easy to get wrapped up in a job where you deal with young emotion filled adults and lots of government red tape.  We need to take a breath and slow down.  

~To use a planner at home.  I live and die by my daily planner at work.  It keeps me focused and on task.  I want to experiment and try using a planner at home for meals, cleaning, and projects.  I'll admit I think this goal will fail (great start huh?), but I will give it a try.

2016 was a busy year.  I am very proud that I met all of my goals for 2016.  That rarely happens.  Here is a recap of my goals and successful outcomes...
~As always, the goal is to make time for family and friends.  Last year we were extremely busy on the weekends and wasn't able to host guests.  Now that we have most of the big projects out of the way, I am hoping we can slow down and share our little piece of heaven with others.   We hosted many guests this year.  We took friends and family fishing and hunting.  My friend from Denmark came out and we went 4 wheeling and did some serious relaxing.  There was also brunch on the porch with Phyllis and Bob.  We even had a surprise visit from my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Nita.   Words cannot describe how fulfilling it is to have company.  Sharing our little piece of heaven with others and teaching kids to appreciate the outdoors is very gratifying.  

~Get a strawberry bed this year and focus on my fruits and berries.  An early frost caused almost no production last year.  About the only thing that produced was the apples, crabapple, and raspberries.  I have an orchard here and one out on the prairie, so I will have plenty to keep me busy.   Despite the drought this year my cherry tree, crabapple, apple, gooseberries and raspberries were fruitful.  The strawberry bed was a fail.  I am cursed in strawberries.  I did get quite a few wild strawberries.  After several years of cultivating an orchard, I am amazed how our ancestors survived when they were dependant on such a fickle food source.
~Finish a quilt that I'm currently in the middle of.  Done and by the deadline of Christmas.  My mom sent a photo and it sits on their bed nicely.

~Do more fishing with my husband.  I really enjoyed our bear hunt/fishing trip last year and now we have our own fishing hole out on the prairie.  We did a lot of fishing and caught many catfish.  It was very fun taking kids out, as it was fast paced fishing.  The smiles and shouts of excitement were worth a million dollars.  Kelly and I took several fishing trips this spring, when there was still snow in the hills,  and it was a great way to spend time together.





~On the flower front, make a few more perennial beds and get control of my slug problem.  I was also pretty successful with annual flowers I started in the greenhouse last year, so I would like to expand my use of annuals.    We had a drought this year, so slugs were not a problem.  I was pretty happy with my beds, especially since we redid the front beds.  They held tough even though we were stingy with the water.

~Always try to be creative.  Pinterest, other blogs, family, and my husband are always giving me new ideas of things to try.   I can't sit still so projects weren't a problem.  I'm pretty excited about my fishing pole holder, caramel apple jam, the quilt, my 7 minute caramels, and flower bed combos.  

~Slow down.  I'm always in a hurry or too busy to do things I enjoy.  More picnics, more yoga, more exercise, more reading, more quilting, more time on the porch. These are all things that keep me balanced and when I don't make time for them I become stressed.   Life is too short to be unhappy.  I did 3 weeklong staycations this year.  Even with guests, I found them to be very satisfying.  It is easy to get wrapped up in work and it is a good reminder that work goes on even if you are gone.   I seriously studied the Danish belief of Hygge and have worked to incorporate the belief into our life.  On the exercise front,  I had the joy of running a 5K with my niece, Taylor, for her birthday.  She was an awesome running partner and I cannot wait to do it again in 2017.  

Although 2016 was a pretty good year overall, it ended on a very sad note with the passing of Gene.  He was a wonderful father-in-law and a great man.  He will be missed.  A wise man told me to learn something from everyone.  Gene taught me a lot; to laugh, see both sides, work hard, honesty, be responsible, and don't be afraid to have a little fun.  I am thankful he was a part of my life.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Home


After a very long month, we had a quiet Christmas at home.  We just settled in and watched the blizzard.  It was nice not worrying about driving on bad roads.
 I took Ella snowshoeing, before the winds picked up.
 She was super happy to get out and run after being at the kennel.
 The blizzard started out quietly, but when the winds picked up it got pretty nasty. 
 The deer got their Christmas meal.
 The bird feeders were empty when we got home.  I filled them and within 4 minutes the birds came in droves.  
This month was difficult, but made easier by family and friends.  I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gene


He was the youngest of 11,
Also the youngest of the Greatest Generation.
Epitomizing what that generation was known for.

Growing up on a farm during the 30's.
Stories of driving teams in the fields. 
Racing them against the town upstart.
He won.  Since I am a teacher, 
he was quick to let me know,
with a twinkle in his eye,
 he was smart enough to be quite naughty in school.

He snuck off, while his mom was visiting his sister,
to sign up for the Air Force and serve like his older brothers.
He missed WW II,
but was stationed in England after the war.
He spoke of the hardships that country endured,
don't eat the meat pies,
the police carried billy clubs,
and the incessant rain.
His mom chewed him out for not writing,
so he asked his bunkmate to.
Mom knew.

He came home, settled down and married.
Fifty eight years,
through thick and thin.
Raised 4 kids.
Kids, grandkids, great grandkids.
30 years at IBM,
working overtime,
driving through the Minnesota winters.
No complaints, 
because that is what great men do.

He is held in our hearts.
Calm,
except when that gleam was in his eye,
laidback humor,
but quick to razz you,
active thoughts on life,
never ruffled, 
always a story.

I am thankful I knew you.
You taught me to look at both sides 
and to always see the humor.
You are a wonderful man.
You raised a remarkable son.
You will be missed and forever in my heart.

Gene Fuller 1929-2016




Sunday, December 11, 2016

Winter awaits...

We have been busy.  Thus, I haven't been able to take Ella for her weekend run.  We were finally able to get out on Saturday.  She was super happy to get out, as you can see.
 See Ella Run.
 Run Ella Run.
Ok, maybe we should stop running.

That's better.

 I enjoyed watching this doe and fawn today.
 I needed to slow down and enjoy what is around me.
I guess they just want to see what is around them.  It has been a chaotic last few weeks.  I hope everyone else is experiencing a more soothing season.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hygge


Hygge (pronounced Hoo-ga) is a Danish word.  It is a word that does not have an exact definition.  In fact, if you google it you will find no definition is the same.  Basically it is "the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle soothing things."  The Danes are known for routinely being considered the happiest people in the world.  It is somewhat baffling since a majority of the time in Denmark is winter or rain.  

 I've been reading a lot about hygge as winter is now upon us.  I believe life is too short to be miserable, so I am studying up on hygge.  Come to find out that we already incorporate much of this philosophy in our cabin.  Most of the articles have some basic themes. 

Fire is important.  Either candles, fireplaces, or (in our case) our little stove.  Fire creates a feeling of peace and coziness.  A feeling of relaxation is the central theme for hygge.

 Hygge embraces connecting with nature.  Getting outside to enjoy the fresh air.  The saying is "there is no bad weather, only bad clothes."  It is tradition that Ella and I get out every Saturday or Sunday to go for a run, walk, or snowshoe.  It rare we miss our weekend outings and we are aware of how to dress for cold weather.
 The articles also encourage spending time with people and do group activities.  I think we have that covered also.  My nieces know that if they come to our cabin and there is even an inch of snow on the ground we will be sledding.  
Since winter lasts forever in our neck of the woods, it is usually still winter when our nephew and his family come out to turkey hunt.  Besides hunting, we always find plenty to do, enjoy good meals, and play a mean game of Bear in the Woods.  
When the activities are over there is always a hot cup of coffee and a good book waiting.  Pair that with a cozy blanket and a roaring fire.  Then throw in a scented candle.  Don't forget the dog curled up at your feet and our cabin becomes hygge heaven.    

 I'm sure it is even cozier if the dog is on the couch and you are quilting or watching a good movie.
 Don't forget to look out the window and enjoy the beauty of winter.  It doesn't hurt if you are inside making good food.  The smell of homemade bread certainly creates a feeling of comfort.
 Of course if you are going to make good food, it is even better if you can share it with family and a stuffed penguin.  (I have no idea why my husband is holding a stuffed penguin.)

 Don't forget dessert.  A pie will help get rid of anything annoying (except dishes and the snow that needs shoveled).  I guess shoveling would fall under the winter activity category.
 Cozy blankets are another mainstay in the hygge articles I read.  I'm up for that.
 In fact, I consider our bed to be one of the coziest, most peaceful, and loving places a person could be.  My husband made the bed and I made the quilt on it.  Add that with an open window and flannel sheets and life is very good indeed.
I encourage you to read about hygge.  I can say that when I am home I am happy and it has a lot to do with the things that most hygge articles recommend.  Life is too short to be unhappy or stressed and long winters can add to that feeling.  I try to do everything possible to make our home inviting for guests and a comfort for my husband and I.  

I hope my post sparked some interest in this Danish belief and you are able to do a little reading about hygge and incorporate as much as possible into your lives.   I promise you won't be sorry.  Have you heard of hygge?