Saturday, January 31, 2009

Homemade beef stock...

I wish that the internet could accommodated us with the ability to smell but alas, you'll have to use your olfactory imagination to get the full effect of this homemade beef broth. I didn't really plan to make beef stock this evening, but I had four t-bone steaks out for supper. It's been a cook's dream now that a beef has been butchered! I decided to cut the meat off the bones before pan frying the steaks. Instead of tossing the bones to the dogs, I threw them into a large pot with some olive oil and several whole cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and let them roast for about a half hour or more in a 400 degree oven while my bread was baking. After roasting, I added about 5 cups of water to the pot, some fresh thyme, dried basil, 2 bay leaves, a sliced onion, 6 peppercorns or so and let the whole thing simmer gently on back burner for a couple hours. I'm letting it cool down now and will strain it off and pour it into a container to freeze for later use. After it freezes, I will skim off some of the fat from the top.

There's just nothing like homemade beef stock for soups and stews. And my personal favorite -- French Onion Soup! I mention this simple recipe because it stretches out one meal into another, and that's something we all can appreciate these days. And as for the dogs...they'll have their bones yet!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Showing off the inside today....

Most generally, I do not show off the inside of my kitchen cabinets, but since I am in cleaning and reorganizing mode, I don't mind showing the end result of that effort. In fact, Hubs thinks I've totally flipped to be taking pictures of my cupboards and drawers. I suppose it only makes sense to us homemakers who rarely have our work seen and appreciated by others. I'm not trying to gather accolades for keeping my home in order, but you know how it is. You do the laundry, fold it, and put it into the proper family members' drawers; or perhaps you're like me and put the piles on the beds for THEM to put away. Who sees the stacks of clean socks and underwear in those drawers or the freshly laundered and pressed shirts hanging behind the closet doors? Who sees the loaded pantry where you've expertly stacked canned goods and rotated the older cans to the front and the new ones to the back? Who sees the clean silverware drawer where all the forks and knives line up in their proper places? Never mind the other drawer that has the spatulas, rolling pin, potato masher and all the others -- it never has been very neat, but all the sticks & stirrers are there....somewhere.

It's this way at your house too, I'm sure. Every day you do little things that make a big difference to your family, but they aren't always visible. You might even grow weary of doing them again and again. But know this: Someone is watching. Someone does appreciate the fact that you constantly take good care of your husband and children and your home. You serve them invisibly but faithfully. This reminds me of a little book I read some time ago called The Invisible Woman by Nicole Johnson. In this book I learned of "invisible people" who carved beautiful statues that were hidden behind walls in cathedrals. Some of these medieval artists walled up their best work because "they believed God himself saw it, and they left it for God's eyes only." Their work has only been found in this last century and no one even knows the artists names.

I feel invisible sometimes too and I know that the daily work I do goes unnoticed more often than not, but I keep on doing it and so do you. Consider this a little Pat On The Back just for you! I can't see your drawers and closets and I didn't watch you scrub the toilet or vacuum under the bed, or rock a sick child to sleep, but I know you did it, and God does too.

The next time you decide to clean a drawer, go ahead and line it with pretty oilcloth. And when you decide to clean and organize your kitchen cabinets put some pretty napkins on the shelves of your cupboards with the glass doors. Make a few pretty hangers to hang up your pressed shirts and fancy underthings. Life is short and you might as well make the hidden corners of your home beautiful and cheerful, even if it's only you and God and a very few others who happen to notice.

Amighty God, who sees every sparrow, continue to teach me life's great lessons from the world's great cathedrals. Make me more invisible. Strengthen my heart to do the things that no one sees or appreciates, and to do them as unto You. Help me make personal sacrifices with no trumpet and no credit to myself. Let me be more invisible in you, so that real love may be more clearly visible. Let me allow humility to cloak my love at every opportunity. And if history never knows my name, may I have helped it know yours a little better. Allow me to be invisible, that the world might see you -- the living God who sees and loves all invisible women. Amen.
~Nicole Johnson

Friday, January 23, 2009

All the little pieces....

.....are stitched together.

I've been stitching every spare minute I get and am having such a fun time of it. I love all the vari-colored pieces and how they look together. I am still not completely done with the crib quilt because I need to order some of my favorite batting and then decide whether or not I will machine quilt, hand quilt or tie it.....

click picture to enlarge

....but I did finish this valance that includes the embroidered blocks that I had at first intended to be sprinkled in the quilt. Daughter-In-Love had the great idea of making a valance with the blocks, and together we brainstormed about how to add the bitty blocks in with them. I am thrilled with the results and I only wish I had another valance just like it to put on my own window in the Workshop.

We've had a nice 10 days worth of January Thaw here in the North. A January Thaw is exactly what it gets unseasonably warm (in January, of course) and all the snow and ice melts down until there's almost nothing left but brown dirt and brown grass and ugliness. People wash their cars and take their motorcycles out for a ride and act like it's spring when really, they know better.

But here we are today, back to Regular January when it is very cold and it snows and the mud turns into hard mud. There's thick frost on my window panes again and the temps are dipping below zero again, but hey! it is wintertime after all and so I am not complaining. I kept repeating to myself when I was taking my walks in 40-50 degree temps, "Enjoy this now, Jody, because it's not going to last." I really did enjoy those nice days, but I didn't get my car washed. Dang it!

January Thaw...I told you it wasn't pretty.

Look who's been visiting my backyard along with the Black-capped Chickadees.
A Downy Woodpecker.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The flower flourishes and fades away....

My Christmas Cactus which is blooming for the second time since November.

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes,
When the wind has passed over it,
It is no more;
And its place acknowledges it no longer.
But the lovingkindness of the Lord is
From everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children,
To those who keep His covenant,
And who remember his precepts
To do them.

~Psalm 103:17, 18

There is very little flourishing outdoors in this season of winter, but indoors, I am watching another flourish of blossoms shooting forth from my Christmas Cactus. It fully bloomed back before Thanksgiving and as the flowers dried up and fell, I noticed tiny new buds were coming on. I didn't really think that they would mature since it produced such a bountiful bust of blooms, but it did. What beauty and what joy it brings to me each time I walk into my laundry room where the south sun can still pour through my windows even at this, the darkest time of the year and see a riotous burst of color and form.

Most of the year, my Christmas Cactus stands in its clay pot, fairly obscure except for its generous size. It demands very little of me. I water it once a week or so and occasionally I give it a little fertilizer after the blooming time is past. When the flowers appear, it is hard not to stop and notice, to look deeply at the flower and see the intricacy of its form and beauty. I often wonder at it and think, "My family and I and just a few others are the only ones who will ever see these gorgeous flowers." It blooms profusely each year, and yet very few will ever appreciate it. I often think this way when I'm out walking through my pastures in the springtime when the first blooms of the prairie are springing up. Hardly a person, if any, will ever notice the low-growing buttercups or violets in my pasture, and I surely don't see every single one of them, and yet, God created them. He put them exactly in their spot to do what flowers do -- grow and bloom and then fade away where no one will acknowledge them again. So it is with man. We are put here for just a season to grow, then bloom and flourish, as the Bible says, and we are no more. In all the world, only a few people will ever know you intimately. A few will say they are acquainted with you, and others will say they've heard of you. But God placed you and me exactly where we are for His purposes which we may never fully understand. As for me, I don't need to understand, but I pray that I will flourish and grow out here in the Middle Of Nowhere, according to His purpose, where just a few will ever notice my blooming. I will fade away, but the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I've begun to begin....

Do you remember way back in October I had the brilliant idea to start a 1930's feedsack quilt for my darling dumpling Grandangel? Well, I got as far as cutting all the little squares and rectangles and left it bagged until after Christmas. I had several other handmade things to do and I figured quilting would be a nice wintertime project anyway. I inteneded to use the embroidered blocks in and amongst the quilt, but they were too large. DIL had the great idea of using them to create a valance for Grandangel's bedroom window, incorporating some of the fabrics from the quilt. I love that idea!

This week I have begun to begin! I laid out all the bitty pieces just how I wanted to sew them together and started sewing each, row by row. As you can see, the bottom half of the quilt top is sewn, but the middle is still in strips and the tops is still in itty pieces yet-to-be-sewn. I will also be adding some borders to it as shown in the quilt magazine picture above. I can't wait to show you the completed quilt (or at least the quilt top).

Blessed are the children of the piecemakers, for they shall inherit the quilts!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I love you, coffee...

In the Yahoo News today, I read this:
Drinking coffee reduces risk of Alzheimer's: study

"Middle-aged people who drank between three and five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease by between 60 and 65 percent later in life," said lead researcher on the project, Miia Kivipelto, a professor at the University of Kuopio in Finland and at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

I just knew that something so delicious, so comforting, so hot, so roasty-rich, and so invigorating couldn't be anything but good for me. And those coffee-drinking Scandinavians proved it right. So, here's to my morning and afternoon cuppa!
I love you coffee!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Simple Things....

Back in the 80's I had triple hanging baskets like this in my kitchen, and as I've been organizing, I thought of their usefulness again. Lo and behold, I found a set in Kmart for about $5. Just what I wanted to keep dry onions and garlic close by. I had been storing some of them in the back closet of the mud room which was too cold and they began to freeze and go mushy. The frig is not the best place for them since there's too much moisture, so I chose this nifty hanging basket. It holds two kinds of onions for me and I have garlic at the tippy-top. I think it will be fun to add fresh fruits and veggies to the baskets as the seasons change.

Speaking of fruits and veggies, I, as the Headmistress of Food and Nutrition in Our House, have deemed that we shall eat more fruit and veg this year. Nutritional Experts say that we ought to eat 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables (combined) a day, but what exactly is a "serving size"? This site says that approximately half a cup of sliced fruit or vegetables equals a serving size. A cup of fresh greens is a serving size, and one orange or one apple is equal to a serving size. There are more specifics at the site, so do check it out. Whatever a serving is, mind what your mother always harped on, "Dear, eat your vegetables."

I have decided to do another simple thing pertaining to my Bible reading. I will read a book from my Bible 20 times before moving on to another. It sounds somewhat tedious, doesn't it? I have chosen to begin with James since it has only five chapters. I think the idea is to "own" that book, to plant it deeply in the spirit, to make it a part of the life, and that is something I'd like to do. Island Sparrow has done it and highly recommends it, and she points us to this link for more information. Thanks Kathie!

"He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, 'God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." ~James 4:6 (a scripture that is in my mind today)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sorting things out....

What does this ranchwife do in January?
Sorts things out.

This month I'm planning to clean, weed, and sort out my kitchen cabinets and deep clean my main room which includes the kitchen, dining, living, and an office. You see, in my profession, spring cleaning is not an option because those are the months that we are busy with the baby calves and lambs. In summer we're breeding cows and making hay and other things besides cleaning. Besides, there are lots of flies and millers in the summer that don't stop making their specks all over everything just because I cleaned. So......

I save the "Spring Cleaning" for January and February. There's not much going on outdoors during these frigid winter months anyway.

I created a little spice drawer next to my baking center. It's just a block of cabinets and drawers where I've put all the things I need to bake. I have always wanted a spice drawer, but my main drawers had 25 lbs. of flour and 25 lbs. of sugar in each so there was no where to put the table linens. Well, since our family is growing smaller and I don't need quite that much flour and sugar at my fingertips, I did away with one drawer, combining the flour and sugar into one. I made one into a linen drawer and put the spices in this narrow drawer. It's not perfect, but it's good enough for me.

"Perfect is the enemy of good enough." ~General Patton

Tortellini Soup with grated mozerella

One afternoon after sorting and cleaning, I decided to make one of our favorite soups, Tortellini Soup. I like to make it with homemade beef broth, but I didn't have time for that, so I made it in a Hurry-Up Fashion instead. Here's how.

Tortellini Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 a chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 stalks chopped celery
1 chopped red pepper (or your choice)
salt & pepper

In a large pot, brown all these ingredients together.

4 t. beef bouillon (to taste)
6 c. boiled water
1 - 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes)

Bring this up to a boil and reduce heat.
1 - 8oz. package of dried cheese tortellini (may add more)

Simmer about 15 minutes until tortellini is done and floats to the top.
Serve in bowls and top with shredded mozzarella cheese or grated Parmesan (or both).
*You may use the spices as you like according to your tastes.
*Adjust measurements to your liking. This is not an exact recipe.

Serves approximately 6 large servings.

On a day of dark swift-falling rain (or snow ~J.), there are a good many things not to do. Washing windows is futile, they fog up instantly. Polishing furniture is hopeless - the damp surface seem soapy. No use to clean floors, for Teddy and Tiki and Sister will be in shortly, small earnest fountains. The best occupation, we find, is cleaning drawers. Nobody is going to wade in, so everything can be spread all over the house. And it gives me a hopeful feeling to find the long-lost key to the front door in with a box of paper clips and my membership in the Bristol Obedience Club.
~Gladys Taber

What are you sorting out?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Redneck windbreak...

You'll recall seeing the picture of my son blowing snow away from his home . Well, a day or so after that, he took that loosened snow and pushed up a windbreak around his house and his driveway to catch the snow. It looks a bit like a moat or a fortress wall to me, but I know that the west wind will crash against it and the snow will be drifted a bit further away from their house than before. There is a young shelter belt of trees lying dormant under the snow just to the back of the windbreak. One day, they'll do the job of stopping the prairie winds and sheltering this Little House, but for now, it's a redneck windbreak.

Morning sunrise and more snow....

This is the sky that greeted us yesterday. There's an old saying, "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night, sailors delight." Though we are prairie savages and not sailors, we still abide by this little saying and generally, it rings true. However, this morning was quiet and the temperatures reached freezing by mid-day and I enjoyed a nice bit of snowshoeing in the afternoon.

These are a few of the snow pictures I took while taking a little different walking route. I didn't walk the shelter belt snow drifts, but a dry creek bed on the prairie instead. The snow blows over the flat prairie but collects in the low places and creeks. I appreciated the way the wind shaped the snow into varied shapes and forms.

To me, the snow almost looks like the sea with gentle waves rolling in, or on the other hand, I can imagine wind whipping desert sands into new landscapes. But it's snow.

Today, it's lightly snowing again, although mild. It's falling straight down and so it will fill in some of the crevices and smooth the edges that were once there. Another change in the scenery.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Of snow and snow and jackrabbits...

It's been one of those winters when I'm sure I know what it must be like to live in the Arctic Circle. We're northerners who are used to tough winters, but so far, this one's been a doozy. Not only is there plenty of snow, but plenty of cold to go with it. Most nights the temperature sinks below the Zero Mark and most days do not reach 20*. Just 55 miles south of us, there is no snow and people actually know what Freezing (32* F) feels like. In the picture above, our eldest son is moving snow away from his house which is on the west side of the shelter belt from us. They've been literally buried in snow drifts. The attachment on the back of the tractor is a snow blower which uses a couple rotary gizmos to suck up the snow and then blows it out the side. It's fun to watch.

I took a good walk on my snowshoes today. The temp was just at 20 degrees and the sun was shining so I bundled up and trudged around on the snow drifts near the shelter belts, trying to keep out of the wind. By the end of my walk, I was working up a sweat. Above, do you see two ears sticking up? (click to enlarge)

The jackrabbits have moved in closer to the shelter belts and buildings for protection and food. They scamper all over the place and really give our dogs chase. Here, I've caught Peter Rabbit in mid-hop.

Here and there amongst the snowdrifts, you'll find a hole like this where jackrabbits will literally "hole up" for the night. Likely more than one will be in this deep hole.

Walking on the high drifts of snow, I feel like I'm a little closer to touching the moon! And how about that clear, blue sky?

I took this picture because I can see that there's been a rabbit slumber party going on here. See all the tracks together and all the digging? Now upon closer look..... can see where they've dug-in a little bit for shelter to keep out of the wind and cold. It doesn't take much of a hole for them to cuddle up and stay warm. The snow was much softer here and would be easier to tunnel in for the night.

After a good, hearty walk, I treated myself to Affogato. I know, I didn't know what that was either until just a few days ago when the UPS man brought my new cookbook: Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics by Ina Garten. Oh, what glorious recipes are in this book! I've never owned one of Ina Garten's books, but I'm thrilled with this one. You'll find Affogato Sundaes in the dessert section. Here's the simple *recipe* (altered to what I have on hand).

Affogato Sundae

2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
2 t. Bailey's Irish Creme (or Kahlua) - opt.
2 T. (or more) of hot espresso
Chocolate-covered espresso beans - opt.
whipped cream

Scoop ice cream into a bowl and pour over the Irish Creme, Espresso and sprinkle with chocolate-covered coffee beans. Top with whipped cream and serve with hot coffee! I made this one other night and only used espresso over the ice cream, no choco-covered beans, and no whipped cream. It was excellent that way too. Try it!

(If your making espresso with a regular electric coffee maker, use 1/3 c. ground espresso and 4 c. water)

Day is done.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2010 !

It's a brand new year!
Let the Wild RUMPUS Begin!


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