Sunday, February 19, 2017

February Thaw...


We have seen the 60's and 70's the last couple of days.  It isn't helping my desire to garden.  I have managed to keep busy.  I am currently working on the backyard bird count.  These 8 crows and 1 magpie raised a racket to make sure they were included in the count.
 I'm always looking for projects and I have seen many beneficial bug bungalows.  I have wanted to make one and yesterday while cleaning the beds I had an epiphany the garden has everything I needed to make one.  The stems of the sunflowers, daylilies, and delphiniums are all hollow.  Then in the garage were a couple of hollow birch trunks that I was making into birdhouses.  I decided to repurpose one into a bug house holder.    Then I found an old stick that I had covered in bedsprings, stuck the beneficial bug bungalow on top, then poked it in the snow for a photoshoot.  It needs some tweaking and maybe a stronger stick.  I am pretty pleased with my creation.  I will keep close tabs on it and see if it is just decoration or if it will actually provide refuge for some bugs or butterflies.  



 Keeping with my hygge traditions I made some pumpkin pie white chocolate and drank it in my Danish cup.

Pumpkin Pie White Chocolate
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg
dash of cloves
dash of ginger
dash of salt
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. white chocolate chips

Gently whisk on low heat until the white chocolate chips melt.
www.thefrugalhomemaker.com 


 My husband and I went shed hunting on the prairie property.  Our neighbor had extensive beaver damage.  Funny thing is we never saw where their dam was.  As you can see from their attempts at the giant cottonwood below, they have grandiose plans. 

 We had some results from our search.  The large jar is very interesting as it has thumb divots around the top.  The little half pint bottle will make an excellent vase.  
 It is actually melting up on the mountain also.  I finally found my little hedgehog.  He got covered by the snow, but came out of hibernation.  He is now safely on the porch.  I finally got around to wrapping my roses.  You may think it is too late, but actually winter doesn't kill them.  It is the freezing and thawing in the spring.  I put fencing around them and will stuff them with pine boughs.
 While I was out piddling around my husband has been spending his weekends completing the room above our barn.  It is looking pretty good.  I am very proud of his progress.

He has pretty much done everything on his own.  Once and a while I hold things, but that is about it.  I can't wait to show you the finished product.  It will be fabulous.

Well that is all I have.  Quite a bit actually.  It is amazing how much energy a person has when the weather is nice.  It is supposed to snow on Wednesday, so it will be back to the grind.  That doesn't mean we didn't enjoy the break.  

What is the weather where you are?  Have you been able to see your garden, much less putter around in it?  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Skillet bread and snowshoes...

For as much as I got done last weekend, this one was quite unproductive.  I did go snowshoeing, hiking, and made some easy no knead skillet bread.  

My trusty side kick was super excited to get out and enjoy the 40 degree weather.  I snowshoed on Saturday and Sunday so much had melted that I just walked.  It was great to stretch my legs.  The sun was sure shining. 

My husband grilled some chicken on Saturday and I thought this recipe looked interesting and was pretty quick to make.  I took a photo of the bread in the skillet, but the steam fogged up the camera.
This bread was super easy to make, tasted great, and convenient when you don't have all day to make bread.

Easy No Knead Skillet Bread
1 pkg yeast
2 c. warm water
1/2 Tbs. salt
4 1/3 c. flour
Add the yeast to water and let sit 5 min.  Slowly incorporate the flour 1 cup at a time.  Also adding the salt.  Cover and let rise 1 hour.  Coat the inside of a cast iron skillet with olive oil.  Slowly move the bread into the skillet without punching it down. Carefully shape it into a disk.  Cover and let rise 30 minutes.  Coat with olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt.  Cut an X in the top and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  
http://bakerbettie.com/easy-no-knead-skillet-bread/

That was it.  I had plans, but just didn't get it done.  Still, I feel much better after all of that fresh air.  I hope the weather was as pleasant where you are.  Were you able to get out?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Spa day...

I was busy this weekend working on spa day projects.  This time of the year it seems like everything is drying out.

Brown Sugar Lip Balm:
1 Tbs. Honey
1 Tbs. Coconut Oil
1 Tbs. Brown Sugar.  

Mix together and shove in some old lip gloss holders.  I stuck them in the freezer.  I used one later today and it worked great on my alligator lips.

http://www.craftinge.com/brown-sugar-lip-scrub/
Fresh Snow Detox Bath:
3 c. Epsom Salt
2 c. Baking Soda
1/4 c. Almond Oil
1/4 c. Coconut Oil

Mix together it has the consistency of fresh snow.   The post has a great template for a label.

http://brendid.com/diy-moisturizing-detox-bath/ 
Three Ingredient Lotion Bar
1/4 c. Beeswax
1 1/4 c. Coconut Oil
1/4 c. Almond Oil 

Melt in a double broiler.  I add a few drops of my favorite perfume.  I just read in Little House Living by Merissa Alink to recycle old deodorant containers for lotion bars.  What a great idea.  It works perfectly.  This recipe came from a pin originally, but I have changed it some to suit my needs.
 My next big project was to clean out a bunch of old candle containers that I would like to use for other things.  I put them in boiling water until the wax softened.  Then I poured out the wax and wiped them dry with paper towels.  
 The two enamel containers will make great planters.  The two ceramic jars with lids will be good for bath salts and soaks.  Not sure about the little pan.  It said not to be used for food, so I'm unsure of it's potential yet.   I also melted some beeswax and made a couple of small candles for our lanterns.  

Now that you have all these relaxing recipes, it is time to use them.  After you are revitalized, step outside and enjoy.  Here are a few photos from our last snowstorm. I had no idea how fun it would be to take photos of snow in the dark.



That is the my weekend in a nutshell.  I hope you get a chance to try some of these recipes.  They are tested and approved.  What is your favorite way of relaxing? Do you have any homemade spa recipes?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Blue skies...

It is a bright sunshiney day.  We went out to our property on the river.  There was quite a bit of snow, which is much needed moisture for the area.

 I tried out my new camera's zoom.  That bird was a dot, but the camera was able to capture it.  Isn't that sky grand?  I love how the light is shining through the little rabbit's ear.


 The snow has driven the antelope down to the river.  Our neighbor said he has never seen them down here before.  They are enjoying the sunshine and a field of soybeans.  It was fun to watch them.  There are even a few deer among them if you look hard in the photo below.
There wasn't much else going on.  Despite the fact the temp was only around 21 degrees, it felt warm on the sunny prairie.  Up in the hills it was a balmy 35 degrees.  It was a need break from the snow and winter winds.  

What wild life are you seeing around your place?

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.