Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 you were horrible; 2018 here I come...

Here comes 2018.  Where did time go?  Goals again for the new year.  I hope I do better than I did in 2017.  I think it was the most unfilled goals I have ever had.  Optimism.  I am sure that I have learned from past failures and will trudge ahead.  As the sun sets on this year, I am positive that 2018 will be better.

My number one priority this year is my health.  I spent way to much time visiting doctors in 2017.  I will drink more water, eat better, exercise more, and go to bed when I am sick.  

I want to spend a week off with my husband.  Normally, every year we take a week off and do projects together.  Our timing was off in 2017 and it didn't happen.  I missed it terribly.  My husband is my strength.  We have fun together and I look forward to our time with each other.  

Home improvements are again on the list.  This will be our 15th year in the cabin and it is time to spruce things up.  I am hoping to host several visitors this summer and I want them to be comfortable.  I am not going to wait until the last minute and will start in January.

To successfully implement a strawberry bed, more grapes, and add a shrub bed. I haven't had a good strawberry bed since we first moved to the cabin.  I make wine and hardly have any grapes on the property.  Doesn't make much sense.  I need to landscape a road that we took out and I want to do it with shrubs and grasses.  

Add a butterfly/hummingbird garden somewhere on the property.  Hopefully, on the slopes in front of the barn.  I had more butterflies this year than I've ever had and enjoyed them immensely.  I am hopeful my lost hummingbird found its way south before the freezing weather.  I would love to have a buffet for it this year.

Make a barn quilt for our shed.   I have been wanting to do this project for several years and maybe if I write it down I will get on it.  

I have to say that 2017 was not one of my favorite years.  Work was extremely stress filled and I spent a lot of time wishing I was healthier.  I visited the doctor more in 2017 than the last 20 years combined.  A review of my goals will show that it was a sad year for success.  

~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.  I think this was a successful endeavor.  We hosted several people this year and I can say that the card games and game room that Kelly created definitely helped alleviate any boredom.   I hosted the nieces for a week and we kept very busy the whole time.  I was extremely proud at how well the girls did on their birdhouse project.  

~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.  This was a total fail.  I didn't get the cabin stained and only 1/4 of the bathroom painted.  I thought I could still pull out painting the bathroom, but bronchitis put an end to that delusion.  

~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. The timing was bad and a barn dance wasn't to be had.

~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.  My sweet husband got me a truckload of compost and landscaping here I come.  I did numerous projects this fall and have one final big one this spring.  I added trellises and garden art.  I am extremely happy with the landscaping of our property and truly enjoyed all the work that it required.

~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.  I did much better this year at keeping my compost pile turned.  The soil my husband got me will help immensely in improving the beds.  I didn't quite incorporate hugelkulture into the red/yellow bed like I wanted, but that doesn't mean I can't still this spring.  My husband did an incredible job with a watering rotation this year.  It was one of our drier years, but his system didn't miss a beat and the beds stayed happy and healthy.  I used a lot of fish fertilizer and my roses thanked me for it.

~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.  Another epic fail.  The government is a fickle beast to work for and instead of Hygge we felt tension, frustration, failure, and worst of betrayal from our superiors.  I love my job.  I love the students whose souls we fight for daily and the staff that give everything because they know they make a difference.  I will keep the faith that what we do means something and hope somebody above realizes it.

~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.  This was a huge success.  My husband and I would plan our meals for the week on Sunday.  This gave me guidance when grocery shopping and eased the stress of a long day.  Knowing what you are going to make when you get home does a lot to make life smoother.  Even though it was mainly used for meals it did also help keep us organized when company came.  

I'm afraid that is it.  As I sit on the couch, the dog snuggled up to me, I count my blessings.  I have a great husband, wonderful family and friends, I work with amazing people, and live in a beautiful place.  2017 wasn't the best year, but I am still thankful for it. I have high hopes for 2018.  I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Great Chickadee Christmas Caper...

 I went to the doctor on Thursday and found out I have bronchitis.  Generally, I don't say it is lucky I am sick, but in the case of the great Chickadee Christmas Caper it turns out it wasn't a bad thing that I was home in bed miserable.  I had just returned from the doctor with some medicine and strong cough syrup.  I was headed to bed excited at the thought that I may get some sleep.  As I started to doze off, I heard a, "Bam, bam, bam, chick-a-dee."  Confused, I tried to figure out why a chickadee would be banging on my bedroom window.  The noise wouldn't stop, so I crawled out of bed and went to the balcony door to look out and see what the fuss was about.  A chickadee was on the upper deck.  He must have been the lookout, because he exclaimed, "Chick-a-deee."  and flew off.  His accomplice behind him.
I grumbled as I went back to bed desperate for sleep.  Again less than five minutes later, "Bam, bam, bam.  Chick-a-dee."  This time I slid out of bed and walked up to the door using a bit more caution.  Once more I was busted by the lookout.  He proclaimed my presence and the two deviants flew away.  I knew they were up to no good, but I could not figure out what was going on.  Back to bed and in less than two minutes, "Bam, bam bam.  Chick-a-dee!"  This time I crawled on the floor, slid in the tub, and peaked out the window....

 This is what I found. The other chickadee was slowly and methodically dismantling my screen.  Why?  Because there were some dead flies on the window sill.  Needless, to say I was not pleased with the results of my investigation.  I opened the screen and brushed out the flies.  Upon reflection, I probably should not have rewarded their efforts.   I did find some peace and drifted off to sleep watching the little buggers fly back and forth reveling in the feast of dead bugs.  The two chickadees did not divulge their treat to the 30 other chickadees that eat at my very full feeders.
I told the tale to my husband.  I don't know if he believed my or thought the sickness had made me delirious.  Then next day we heard, "bam, bam, bam.  Chick-a-deee." There they were again, the little upstarts.  I think they were expecting more bugs.  We had to take the screen down.   
I'm waiting to see if the devious duo tries to break in through the window.  Obviously, they feel they deserve a better standard of feed than the birdseed I dole out.   That, my friends, is the Great Chickadee Christmas Caper of 2017...  I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Twas the weekend before Christmas...

Twas the weekend before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, because they had all fled due to my incessant coughing.  I am super happy I got things done ahead of time, because I can just stay home and not spread my Christmas virus.  At least it should pass by Christmas (I hope).  I was housebound this weekend, but still able to enjoy the birds from my couch.
I hope you are all making progress on your Christmas plans.  Wishing you a happy and healthy Christmas.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Coffee and Christmas cookies it is...

Coffee and Christmas cookies it is!  For once, I am ready for Christmas.  

The cards are written and awaiting stamps.  I promise I will stamp them.  One year I was in a hurry and mixed cards with stamps with the unstamped ones.  I didn't realize my mistake until over Christmas dinner my brother-in-law asked me why I didn't like him.  I wondered why he would think that.  He replied it was because he had to pay to get my Christmas card.  I was aghast.  The next year I sent an extra stamp in every Christmas card and apologized profusely for the error of my ways.
The cookies are made, but remain unfinished, because somebody forgot to buy powdered sugar.  That is no big deal.  I will get some tomorrow and my husband and I can finish our Christmas tradition of making cookies.  To be honest they are just as fabulous without the frosting.
White Cut Out Cookies
2/3 c. soft butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs    (Cream top three ingredients)
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in the milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract
1/2 t. salt
3 1/2 c. flour
Bake 7-10 minutes at 400 degrees.  
(A book of Favorite Recipes compiled by the Happy Home Club Members, Former Members, and Friends)

 I have a simple string that I hang over the deck door for Christmas cards.  Every year I carefully put up three very important cards.  The first is the last Christmas card my Grandfather sent me.  He was an old rancher and always coming up with funny things.  Here is what the inscription says:  "My pickup has been broke down so I didn't get to town.  I had some cards left from last year.  This is one I got last year.  I thought it was such a good picture, I cut it in two and I am sending it to you.  It reminds me of the way we used to feed when I was home...."  I tear up every year when I hang it.  He was a true cowboy.  The other card was made by my brother.  He cut out the reindeer and used toothpaste to glue it to the paper.  He is as ingenious as our grandfather.  The top one is a beautiful cross stitch done by my good friend Jody.  She is one of the most thoughtful people I know.
I wasn't going to decorate the cabin, because nobody braves the snow to come see us.  The next thing I knew I put a few things here and there.  I didn't overdo it.  Just enough to make things cozy.  All of the decorations on the antler chandelier are from my friend in Denmark.  The candle votives are very pretty and well made.  This morning I truly enjoyed my coffee surrounded by the spirit of Christmas.
The presents are wrapped.  Labels for the boxes are made.  I just need to find a few more boxes to send things in.  I will have it all mailed by the end of the week.
We have had a lot of snow and some pretty nasty winds.  This weekend was a nice break.  It warmed up and the wind stopped blowing.  Our resident buck is still wandering around.  He is a handsome fellow.

We took advantage of the calm weather to burn one of our piles of cut up trees and brush.  I took advantage of the fire to roast a few marshmallows.  Yes those are pajama bottoms and a bag of marshmallows under my arm.  I love roasted marshmallows.  

What do you have left for Christmas?  What kind of cookies do you make?  Is there a special tradition or reminder of Christmas past?

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Another week gone by...

I have been busy this weekend.  A good friend and colleague retired.  He was one of the best teachers I have had the pleasure to learn from.  His wisdom, humor, and honesty will be missed.  I wish him and his wife the best of luck on their new endeavors.   While in town, I got a majority of our Christmas shopping done.  That always makes Christmas more enjoyable.

Back on the home front I bottled several wines:  Red Letter Raspberry and Golly Gee Grape.  The raspberry is my favorite.  Wine making is one of my favorite hobbies.  Anymore, people bring me berries. I make wine and give them a cut.                                                                                                                                                                                          I also experimented with pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes.  They were delicious.  I also experimented with Hershey's Cookies and Cream chocolate chips.  My sister made cookies with them over Thanksgiving and I couldn't get the taste out of my head.  Luckily, I found some and immediately made some cookies.  They were perfect.  Both recipes were a thumbs up.

Other than that and cleaning house not much has been happening on the home front.  Are you ready for Christmas?  Have you tried any experimental recipes?   How did they turn out?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

A walk in the woods...

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my sister and her crew.  The meal was great and we played a mean game of cards.  It isn't the best photo, but I have found it is difficult to get a action shot with five kids.
When we got home I needed to take a walk to wear off the turkey dinner and the five hour drive in a "breezy" forty mile an hour wind.  Have I ever mentioned Jeeps don't deal well with wind?  
The walk was very educational.  I saw plenty of deer sign.  Here is a rub.  It is where a buck marks his area and let's the does know he is around.  Someone asked if I hunt from my porch.  Actually, we have several hunting blinds and tree stands on our property.  The blinds are below.  There is nothing more enjoyable than watching the world go by from a hunting blind.  At our prairie property I have a big old cottenwood that blew down.  It is the perfect place to hunker down and watch the action. I was also asked if the turkeys in the last post were part of Thanksgiving dinner.  I promise you that they were not eaten.  Hills turkeys are very dry and stringy.

I checked out our pond on my walk with Ella.  The water level is down, but it is open and animals were definitely drinking from it.
I was quite bothered when I looked at the ice and saw a frog frozen in mid swim.  I've never seen anything like that before.  I don't know if you can see him in the photo below.  I wish I had taken my good camera.
It was a beautiful weekend.  Temps were in the 60's.  I was able to clean my greenhouse and flowerbeds.

That was my big Thanksgiving weekend.  It was great spending time with family.  I also appreciated that the weather allowed my to clean up the yard.  How was your Thanksgiving?  I hope the weather has been as forgiving for you.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fur and Feathers...

I was hunting last weekend.  I filled both my archery and rifle tags.  This weekend was spent processing my harvest.  Our freezer is stocked with 5lbs of Italian sausage, 5 lbs of summer sausage, and 5 lbs of breakfast sausage, numerous roasts, stew meat, and more unprocessed meat.  My husband made jerky on the smoker.  I still have more to jerk and grind, but I will do that later.  I wanted to taste test some new recipes before I committed all of my deer meat to a new recipe.
Nature provided plenty of entertainment while I was in the kitchen.  The turkeys are oblivious to the fact that Thanksgiving is only five days away.  If they were aware of the main entree I don't think they would be so bold.

The rut is on here and all day we watched the bucks chase does.  It began with this little nubber.
Slowly, the parade of deer produced more bucks.
This guy saw movement in the window and thought there may be a doe around.

It was hard to get anything done.  Every time we looked out the window there was a different group of deer.  This fella was a dandy.   He checked out the turkeys to make sure a doe wasn't hiding in their midst.  Then he was on his way.

My freezer is stocked and my soul is satisfied.  I am thankful that I can supply my own food and live where I can enjoy the creatures around me.  What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Something old is new again, but first a surprise...

I received a wonderful surprise from my brother.  He made me a Hobbit house for my garden.  It is perfect.  Can't you just picture it on a bed of moss?  Unfortunately, I now have to wait until June before I get to use it.

I haven't done a something old is new again post forever.  My husband traded some firewood for barn wood.  They even threw in a few old fence posts.

He was excited to start a new project.  A little cutting and sanding later a table slowly emerges.  The project was made even more special because some of the woods working tools were his father's.  Whenever we visited or they visited my husband and his father always worked on a woodworking project together.

I think my favorite part is when the old posts became table legs.  I love old posts with all of their individual characteristics.  Today's uniform posts have no history or personality.

Volia, a pile of 100 year old lumber becomes a table. My husband is full of ideas and I love that our cabin is filled with his projects.  What is a special piece of furniture in your home?