Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year....

Photo by S.

In the morning
I will kindle up a fresh fire
With the dying embers
That warmed us
Through the night.
Glowing coals
Ignite a new fire
A new year
A new beginning.

A New Year's Resolution:
To be content
To give thanks in all things
To take joy
To give grace
To receive peace

For from Him
And through Him
And to Him
Are all things.
To Him be the glory
~Romans 11:36

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Home, home on the winter range....

The cows are out on the winter range now. Thankfully, the grass is not buried in snow but the snow that is there is good for the grass because it softens it up a little, and with each bite of grass the cows take, there's a little drink of "snow water" that goes down with it. Each day from now until they calve, we go out to them, honking the horn and calling for them to gather them up for feeding, and they come on the run for they know the hands that feed them! We feed them alfalfa cake, which is alfalfa (type of hay) that is compressed into a 1x4" cylinder which is easy for them to eat and easy for us to store. The cake is high in protien which provides that extra boost of nutrition for the calf growing inside each cow.

I wish you could hear my husband call the cows. We each do it in our own way, but it goes something like this: "WOOOooooo cows, WOOOOooooo cows, Calvies (lilting), Calvies (lilting), WOOOooooo cows." A good rattling of the buckets or a slamming down of the end gate is another good "cattle call." They know the sounds of unloading cake.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Seasoning a Cast Iron Skillet

I was recently cooking with my cast iron skillet -- my workhorse in the kitchen -- and realized that much of the "seasoning" was gone (that's the non-stick finish that comes from oils). So I decided to get it back into good working condition by seasoning it. I have had this 12" cast iron skillet since I was married, some 26 years ago and it's never been replaced. I did buy another smaller size that has also been a true-blue kitchen friend.

How to Season a Cast Iron Skillet
~taken from Hearty Home Cookin' by the Homemaker's Heritage Exention Club
Ridgeway, Montana (I received this as a wedding gift)

Wash with soap and water, rinse and dry. Then rub generous coating of suet over entire untensil (inside and out). (Suet is available at any meat market, usually without charge, if you don't have your own.) Place in 425' oven for 15 minutes. Apply second coat inside; return to oven for another 15 minutes. Apply a third coat inside and heat 15 minutes. Just smear it on real heavy and don't worry about it as it will smooth out by itself. If more coats are wanted, repeat the procedure.

After apply final coat, bake for 2 more hours. Turn off oven and leave pan in oven to cool gradually. Do not put lid on Dutch oven while treating as it will seal and you will need a crowbar to pry it open. That's all there is to it. No rust and no wiping and oiling. First coat may be spotty and have bare spots. Don't worry, just apply second and third coats and it will turn out. ~Mrs. Major
My Additions:
Seasoning at this high heat really can be smelly. Make sure you are able to open the windows and ventilate your kitchen while doing this. You may also season cast iron at lower heats. For that last 2 hours mentioned in the instructions above, I would turn my oven down to 350' or so. Remember to allow the pans to cool down slowly in the oven.

Before you say, "What is suet?" I'll tell you. It's basically pork fat. You could use the trimmings off any pork cut for this. I don't always have suet available, but you can use just about any neutral oil for seasoning. I prefer lard (which contains suet) but you can use Crisco or food grade coconut oil or just about any oil you like. I like to keep my skillet tipped upright in the oven for the first one or two coatings, and then tip it upside down so that the extra oil drips out. Be sure to put a piece of foil underneath it to catch any drippings. This process of seasoning will give your cast iron pots and pans a non-stick finish that you will love appreciate. If the seasoning wears off, you can re-season again.

After you cook with your cast iron, always wash with dish soap and water and then promptly dry it by putting it on the stove on low heat until all the moisture is evaporated out of the pan. To keep the finish non-stick, you may then add a little oil to the pan and allow it to remain on the stove another minute or two. Don't run off and leave it though, keep watch over it. Many times I've set my cast iron skillet on the stove to dry and left it for another urgent errand and soon wondered what that smoky smell was coming from the kitchen -- the forgotten skillet!

Did you know?
Did you know that cooking with cast iron will increase the iron content of the food that is cooked in it? When you cook foods that are especially high in acid, like tomatoes or apples, the iron content of the food jumps dramatically. Other foods will also pick up additional iron which is all "good for you."

For more information on cooking with cast iron, you'll enjoy this link. You will even find an article that lists the 20 foods tested for additional iron content after cooking them in cast iron. This study was done by the Journal of American Dietetic Assoc.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Were you prepared for Christmas?

Were you prepared for Christmas this year?
Did you get every gift ordered on time for Christmas delivery?
Was every craft and sewing project complete?
Did you bake every cookie on your list?
Did you remember to get the front window washed before the company came to call?
Did you get the family picture into the Christmas cards this year?
Did you remember to buy Christmas postage stamps
or did you have to make do with U.S. flags?
Did you forget a stocking stuffer for Little John?
Did all the kids come home for Christmas as promised?
Did you get the Christmas Flu?
How did the ham turn out? Dry again this year?

I was just recently thinking about how many, many preparations we make for Christmas. We have lists and lists and lists, and obligations to fulfill and all the while Christmas Day continually inches in on us and we wonder, "How will I ever be ready for Christmas?"

As I pondered that question, I began to understand that the Christ Child came to a world totally unprepared for Him. His mother and father were not prepared to be parents. (How many of us really are?) There was no room for Him in the Inn. (Didn't Joseph realize he needed a reservation?) There was no one of importance who would herald His birth except for some dirty shepherds staying out in the fields with their flocks. (Have you ever smelled a sheep?)

And yet, Jesus came.
He came to a world that was unprepared for Christmas Day.

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, God with us."
~Matthew 1:23
"Let every heart, prepare Him room....."
~Joy to the World!

Guessing Game

I thought it would be fun to play a guessing game.
Can you guess what these are and what they are used for?
No clues....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Art ~Arthur Hughes

"The Nativity"
Carefully and thoughtfully, Mary is wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes.

"A Christmas Carol at Bracken Dene"
Wouldn't you just love to be sitting across from these merry children, listening to them chatter and coo and play and sing? I sure Mr. Hughes must have enjoyed painting them; the picture surely reflects it.

If you've enjoyed this little sampling of Arthur Hughes, English pre-Raphaelite painter, you might take a look at an online gallery here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cookies Eye Spy

Jolly Sugar Cookies, all frosted and sugared just right! Doesn't this clutter of cookies look like a page from Eye Spy? Eye spy with my little eye a bright red Santa with blue sparkle boots.
(click pic for a good look)

German cookies, Pfeffernuse, powdered and spicy-hot inside.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

12 Facts of Christmas

I have been tagged by Clarice to share My Own 12 Random Facts About Christmas.

Here goes.....

1. Jesus is the Reason.
2. We are celebrating Advent in our home, using Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader, which is really a wonderful devotional. One of our family's favorites!
3. St. Nick's Day brings chocolate initials for each family member (and incoming members).
4. We always cut a fresh Christmas Tree in the forest. Imperfect as it may be, it always looks beautiful after we've adorned it with our box of ornaments collected through the years.
5. I never put up the Christmas tree until December-something (15th or so). I hate to be tired of the holiday before it even gets here.
6. A new tree ornament is given to our children each year.
7. Traditional goodies: My mom's sugar cookie cut-outs, molasses cookies, snowballs, pfeffernuse, fudge, divinity (made by my sons), chocolate dipped pretzels, peppermint bark.
8. We draw names for a Secret Santa gift.
9. When the children were little, I bought them a special Christmas book each year and we read them all during the month of December. I have quite a collection now and still like to buy one for myself. I hope to continue this tradition for my grandchildren someday.
10. We always go to Christmas Eve Candlelight Services at our church and then open one gift. Afterwards, we have a special meal together. This year we'll enjoy hores de'oeuvres. Everyone who comes, brings!
11. We read the Christmas story from Luke 2 on Christmas morning before opening gifts.
12. If we still have fireworks left from Independence Day, we shoot some off Christmas Day night.

I tag Diana at Knit This Too and Leslie at Abiding.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Miss Potter (the movie)

If you're interested in a real story, a story about a real woman who lived 100 years ago in London and in the Lake District of England, and turned her love of nature and art into a livelihood, then you just may like the movie I just recently watched tonight, snuggled up next to Hubs. It's called Miss Potter, and it is a movie about her early years, both as a girl and as a young woman finding her way in life. At age 30 she was still unwed -- a disgrace -- and yet she was happily going about doing the things she loved -- sketching, drawing, painting and writing children's stories about the animals she loved. There comes a day when she tries to get one of her stories published and the story goes ever forward and upward from there.

The original Rabbit Family as illustrated by Beatrix Potter.

I have always been a big fan of Beatrix Potter. I've read her stories to my own children as they've grown up. They are no stranger to Peter Rabbit, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter, nor are they estranged to Squirrel Nutkin, Tom Kitten or Jemima Puddle Duck. If you have Little People in your life, I encourage you to buy them the real Beatrix Potter books, and then read them aloud to them, over and over again. (they will ask you to!) They will love and adore you for it. The books are written in proper English prose that trickles like a happy brook over the tongue. It is not twaddle. The young child will eagerly understand what the friendly sparrows meant when they "implored him (Peter) to exert himself," when he was caught in a gooseberry net by the buttons of his coat in Mr. McGregors garden. Whatever you do, whether you are young or old, do not miss Beatrix Potter's dear stories, and I also encourage you to rent the movie, Miss Potter and learn a snippet about her own life. There is a Christmas scene in the movie that made my heart skip and although it is not a Christmas Movie, it adds a little sparkle, charm and blessing to the season.

If the boxed set of 23 Beatrix Potter books is FAR to expensive for your budget, you can also buy the Complete Tales all in one book for a more modest price. Just don't miss them!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Calling all Knitters & Crocheters!

Sweet, thoughtful, merciful Junie Moon is calling all knitters and crocheters to her Bandage Brigade. She is declaring the month of January 2008, a month to knit or crochet bandages for the lepers in hospitals in Vietnam and Africa. Missionaries and U.S. military veterans organizations hand-deliver these bandages to leprosy patients in the hospitals by carrying them in their luggage. June has agreed to collect any bandages you make and send them off to those who need them.
Would you like to join the Bandage Brigade? Even if you don't knit or crochet, you can help June by spreading the word. June will supply you with patterns and sizes for knitted and crocheted bandages. Please click here to find out more about how you can help.
Another helpful site: Leprosy Bandages where you will find patterns for the bandages and helpful tips and suggestions.

"Love one another, just as I have loved you."
~Jesus (John 15:12)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Hot Toddy for the Wintertime Sniffles

5:35 a.m.

Sniffly, cold, runny nose, and sneezy.

I get up and use the bathroom and climb back into bed only to realize that my runny nose carries on and I must keep the Kleenex beside me. Oh bother, why try to sleep? I get out of bed and dress to keep warm since the house has grown cold overnight. The furnace is turned way down, the floors are cold and the fire is out so I go set my home into motion for a new day by clicking up the furnace, putting the kettle on to boil and getting my coffee measured out.

As my day carries on, I have a good morning and a jolly afternoon cutting the Christmas Tree in the Hills with my two sons and daughter-in-love. It's a family tradition, you know. By the time we get home and put the groceries away and get the sandwiches made and devoured, I feel the ache come over me, my ears begin to plug up, and my nose goes from runny to stuffy. Time for a toddy.

My Old Stand-by Toddy consists of:
Equal parts honey, whiskey, and lemon juice.
Put some of this mix in a mug and add piping hot water.
Stir and enjoy before bedtime or whenever you feel you need your cold symptoms eased a bit.

My New Favorite Toddy (which I only discovered tonight):
In a mug add:
A spoonful of honey, 2 or 3 tablespoons of cherry brandy (see recipe here) and the juice of a few slices of lemon and throw in the lemon slices themselves.
Pour piping hot water over this and sip.

This is so delicious and a perfect remedy for an on-coming cold.
(Tastes like yummy punch!)

My wholehearted thanks to Natalie who shared her cherry brandy with me this past summer. If you didn't make any when the cherries were bountiful, you'll just have to go to purchase some pre-made cherry brandy. I guarantee you it won't be nearly as nice as mine because my brandy has saturated cherries that will be dipped out and onto a small dish of vanilla ice cream for a throat soother! Think of it as cool and soothing as well as antiseptic.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Happy St. Nick's Day

December 6th is celebrated as St. Nick's Day at our house. St. Nicholas has been one of the most popular saints of the Christian Church since the Middle Ages. He was a real person, born in the third century in Patara in what is now southern Turkey. He was raised by wealthy Christian parents who taught him to live his life to honor Christ. With his inherited wealth, Nicholas gave it all to help the needy, poor and destitute, obeying the words of Jesus when He spoke to a rich, young ruler to "sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me." (Matt 21:21) Nicholas's life was devoted to serving people -- the poor, the sick, sailors, and he especially loved children. If you would like to know more about St. Nicholas and the traditions that have been built around him, click here.
At our house, we always celebrate St. Nick's Day by reading a story about his life. A favorite story which we have read to our children through the years is "St. Nicholas and the Golden Bars" as told in the Book of Virtues, page 763 (yes, I have my book open to it). We also enjoy chocolate letters (initials of each family member) and chocolate coins. I think the Dutch first started this tradition, but every culture and nation has celebrated St. Nicholas (aka: Sinterklaas, Sancte Claus, Sankt Niklaus) in its own unique way. I hope you'll find a way to spread the cheer of the Real St. Nicholas this season.
1881 by Thomas Nast

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Red & White

I'm playing in paint again. This time it's red puff paint. I saw the idea for this project at Posie Gets Cozy, and I knew I just had to try my hand at it too. I tried to paint freehand on some smaller votive candles, but I realized quite quickly that I was going to have more mess than art so I abandoned that idea and found some Transylvanian embroidery patterns that I printed off on my computer and then traced with pencil onto ($2.99) white pillar candles. It was much, much easier to paint with a line to follow. At first I tried to paint with the paint tube itself, but that was not so easy -- for me at least. So I squirted a glob of paint onto a sour cream lid and used a small, stiff brush to paint with. I put on a first coat that was rather thin, let it dry several hours and then painted over it thickly a second time to get an embossed look on the candle. I also found that creating little dots (blobs) on the candle was an effective, attractive idea that didn't take a lot of talent. All in all, I'm pretty pleased although I know that someone with a steadier hand and more artsy-ness could do a finer job.
However, these Red & White Candles will suit our purposes at home --
candles for burning during Dark December. Doesn't a candle just
add the perfect warm glow in the evening? Actually, we tend to burn candles all throughout the day in winter months. As you can see, one of the candles has been burned (enjoyed) already.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Take Joy!

Picture by S.

I salute you!
There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

~Fra Giovanni
A.D. 1513

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." ~John 1:4,5
Wishing you joyful and blessed Advent.


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