Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Snowy New Year's Eve...

A day that was only supposed to be mildy wintry has  turned into a blustery, snowy day.  The snow hasn't let up all day and so our plans to go to town to get groceries and see a movie have been put aside for another day.  Instead, we'll be curled up on the couch together watching a movie and  snarfing down a homemade pizza.  Youngest son joins us.  It'll be good.

 Wishing you a gentle New Year's Eve....

...and may 2014 be lived to the hilt!

Lord, Make Me A Regular Man 

By Edgar Guest
This I would like to be- braver and bolder,
Just a bit wiser because I am older,
Just a bit kinder to those I may meet,
Just a bit manlier taking defeat;
This for the New Year my wish and my plea-
Lord, make a regular man out of me.

This I would like to be- just a bit finer,
More of a smiler and less of a whiner,
Just a bit quicker to stretch out my hand
Helping another who's struggling to stand,
This is my prayer for the New Year to be,
Lord, make a regular man out of me. 

This I would like to be- just a bit fairer,
Just a bit better, and just a bit squarer,
Not quite so ready to censure and blame,
Quicker to help every man in the game,
Not quite so eager men's failings to see,
Lord, make a regular man out of me.

This I would like to be- just a bit truer,
Less of the wisher and more of the doer,
Broader and bigger, more willing to give,
Living and helping my neighbor to live!
This for the New Year my prayer and my plea-
Lord, make a regular man out of me.

I wrote this down in my journal today after reading from My Utmost for His Highest:
"And every virtue I possess is His alone."  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Red sky at morning...

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight.
Red sky at morning, shepherds take warning.

This is the sky we woke up to this morning.  Thankfully, we have NOAA weather service and we knew that a cold, windy front would be howling through today even before we woke up to a red sky.  It was just as predicted.  We woke up to a balmy 42* F and by late afternoon the temperature had sunk to a mere 2*.  And the wind.  Ohhh the wind!  I'm guessing windchill temps were, according to my handy-dandy windchill chart , -25 to -35* F depending on the gusts.  The coals are banked up in the stove tonight and there's a lovely red glow, just as bright as the morning sky, but warmer.  Much warmer.

Friday, December 27, 2013


 I loved this pattern for a two-layer skirt.  It is not as full as the following skirts, but is more of a "big girl skirt."  I added a little tulle on the upper layer for a bit of whimsy and also some rick rack on the underside of the bottom hem.  This is such an easy pattern.  I also like it's plain version.  The Simple Skirt pattern is a freebie over on DanaMadeIt.

 This skirt is similar to the above skirt but it has a gathered area on each layer.  It is not the same pattern and I don't like the instructions or measurements for this pattern so I won't share it.  However, I think you could make the Simple Skirt above and add a ruffle to it like I did with the tulle or with lace or more fabric.

The next two skirts are true twirly-skirts.  The pattern comes from Like Flowers and Butterflies.  They have a double-fabric width that really makes them twirly and full.  If you add tulle to the bottom layer, you really get a floofy skirt.  This one is easy to make and has instructions for several sizes.  One note:  the skirt measurements tend to be a little on the short side so if you want them longer, I suggest adding a little length to top and bottom pieces.  There is a LOT of gathering in these skirts, and I had some trouble with breaking threads as I gathered, but I fudged a little and got everything sewed together anyway.  The grandgirls really love wearing their twirly skirts.  In the chilly North, the girls wear them with heavy tights or jeans.  

All the family was home at one point or another for Christmas and we had a good time laughing, playing cards, telling stories, and eating good food.  I hope you had a good Christmas too.  Now we're moving close to a new year.  I must get my mind wrapped around writing 2014.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rancher Christmas lights....in town

One of my favorite Christmas light displays is at an implement dealership in town.  Every year the owners light up one of the tractors in their lot.  It looks even more impressive when night falls.  The display isn't fancy, a professional light tech didn't create it and it doesn't blink to music, but it makes me smile because it remind me that these are my people; this is where I'm from.  Where I come from we decorate tractors with lights at Christmastime, and many of us have a lit creche in the yard.  We're ordinary people with big hearts. 

 (creche that my parents made for each of their children and grandchildren)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas critters...

 I had a lot of fun stitching up these felt Christmas Critters for my grands.  They're all snuggled in a basket, but pretty soon they'll be hopping into the Christmas trees of wee children.

 My inspiration came from Cassie at You Go Girl.  There is one free pattern for a squirrel, and if you look a little at the link, I think you'll come across an owl pattern too.  The other animals I made using the squirrel pattern as a base and  free-handed the rest.  Choosing felt colors was fun and so was the embroidery.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

....the running of the deer

A gentle flock by the barn where the star is lit.
They remind me of the Christmas carol,
The Holly and the Ivy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Noses to the ground....

There's still some grass sticking up out of the snow so the cattle, sheep and horses still do some grazing, but with the cold days we've been having, the extra energy from hay and cake makes a big difference to everyone's bellies.  It's all noses to the ground when the feed gets spread out.


 (a few herd bulls)

 (mature cows)

 (a few young cows)

 The ewes hear me honking and come out of their hiding place.

(Noses to the ground, it's time to eat)

In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep
one must above all be a sheep oneself.
~Albert Einstein
er to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/sheep.html#LVHiZGIACItSYTZZ.99

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Cold days, warm hearts...

This past week, the cold has been so deep it hurts.  There is cold, and then there is painful cold.  Twenty-four below zero is a painful kind of cold.  It always seems to be very still when it happens, no wind, just deep, penetrating cold.  The picture was taken at sundown.  When it is cold and still like this, light tends to shoot straight up in channels.  I've seen it happen at night when lights from the ground appear to shoot up, but I've never seen the setting sun look like this.   I don't know the science behind it, I just know it happens.

 The cows are sustaining themselves just fine as long as we are diligent to get to them with hay and cake.  Hubs goes out in the tractor and I take the pick-up truck with the cake feeder.  NumberOneSon feeds the weaned calves with a bale processor contraption that works quite nicely.  The cows were huddled together in the draw out of the wind this morning.  The wind did pick up today and the temperatures rose with it -- about 4* above zero for a high.  It still felt very raw and bitter to me.

 The sheep have a deep, woolly fleece that protects them from this cold.  It doesn't seem to bother them at all, but I know their tummies get empty and they need to fuel up too.

 As I was out in choring, feeding the livestock, and chopping ice to open water tanks, I was thinking about how the cold is often used to describe a heart without love -- chilly, bitter, biting, frozen, hard, icy, arctic, lifeless, dark, empty, frigid, stiff, numb, painful, dead.   When I came into the house and took off all my frosted coat and pants and wet mittens and set my boots beside the heater, I thought of how that same cold heart feels when it comes into the warm presence of the Love of Jesus.  There can be prickly pain as the icy hardness starts to melt and soften the once stiff ,frost-bit flesh;  there is a heightened awareness of how cold the cold really was when the flesh comes back to life and begins to move and feel once more.  There is a desire not to go back to that frigid cold, but instead to sidle up to the warmth of the kindled fire burning in the stove, to get as close as possible without catching fire, to breath in the warm air and drink up a hot mug of steamy tea or coffee, to sit and soak it in until all the blood runs warm again.

Let's light a candle.  It's Advent and He is near to warm us and light the way.

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you..."  ~James 4:8

Friday, December 06, 2013

Snowflake window...

Would you like to look out my kitchen window?  Ok.  First you have to look at the pretty paper snowflakes and then you can focus past them to the bright, snowy landscape.  The snowflakes also stand out beautifully with a black night backdrop in the evening.  I cut these snowflakes from coffee filters but you can use ordinary copy paper.  Then I sewed down the middle of them leaving some space in between each by sewing and pulling the thread through and then sewing over the next snowflake.  Here's a link to Dave's Paper Snowflake Patterns to get you started.

I have a special Christmas carol to share with you, sung by the Pentatonix.  This a capella group won "The Sing Off" a year or so ago.  I loved them and continue to appreciate their music -- all voice, no instruments.  Pentatonix has a new Christmas album out called PTXmas.  I just downloaded it via mp3 this morning and I love it.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Winter has arrived....

From fall to winter in just 24 hours.  That's how we do it up North.  Yesterday I walked in The Woods (our shelter belts) with branches and dry leaves crackling underfoot, and today I plodded through over a foot of snow through the same woods.  I call it a "walk" but it is much more like a slow plod.  It's a tougher walk, but I enjoy it anyway.  Thankfully the snow was soft and fluffy.  I could have worn my snowshoes, but they aren't much good on fluffy snow.  They're better for hard wind-driven snow.

Last night Old Man Winter crawled in with a few flakes gently falling down, and this morning we woke up to his delivery of 12" of snow.  The snow continued falling for most of the day.  We spent all day tractoring-out snow from the around the barns and lots and later snow was moved away from stockades so straw bedding could be laid down for the cattle to sleep on tonight.  Our high temp for the day was 20* and that's going to be as good as it gets for the remainder of the week.  Tonight we're expecting high winds and plummeting temps down below zero.  Harsh.

 Do you see Sue way out in the middle?

 I went out to the chicken coop to check on the hens.  That snow on top is going to insulate the coop about as good as anything could.  Thankfully, Hubs threw some nice, dry straw down on the dirt floor for the girls.  They appreciated it.  I carried out hot water for their drinking bucket and fed them an extra scoop of pellet and wheat this afternoon.

Sweet Buffy (Buff Orpington)

The hens have been laying well this fall.  I'm hopeful they'll continue to produce through the deep freeze we're about to experience.  Cold often puts a damper on egg laying.  I'm sometimes less productive when the cold hits too.  I've got the wood stove burning to keep us warm inside, and for the outside, I dug out my bigger, warmer winter coat from the closet and the woolly pants I wear every winter.  Thankfully, the UPS man brought our Duluth Trading Co. order yesterday.  Our tootsies are nice and toasty now with our new work socks.  Ahhhhh, what a treat. 

How's the weather where you are?  Is the COLD on it's way to you?  Or are you in the midst of it?  Stay safe and warm, friends!

Monday, December 02, 2013

Gathering for Advent...

Downy Woodpecker (source)

I've been walking through the trees these past couple days, gathering up bits of nature for the Advent season.  I love to clip greens and berries from the junipers in our shelter belts and poke them into wreaths and vases.  I heard a Downy Woodpecker tapping on the trees and then I saw him and watched for a while.  There were a few Chickadees dipping in and out, and today I noticed a flock of Sharptail Grouse had come into the trees for shelter from the coming cold.  I think they like to feed on the Russian Olive trees.  Olives were part of my collecting this winter.

Russian Olives

I love bringing in the things that grow in my world and adding them to vases and candles.

For me, the earthy, spicy aroma of a juniper wreath is a fragrant and beautiful gift to my home.
It says, "Christmas is coming!"
Wishing you an Advent of quiet contemplation and joy.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Give thanks...

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more--a grateful heart:
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose 
Pulse may be Thy Praise.
~~George Herbert 1593-1633

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Frog Eye Salad....

The salad is a long-standing family tradition made only for holidays or big celebrations like graduations or weddings.  Why is it we don't have these family favorites more often instead of just for holidays?  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the recipe makes a gallon of salad!  Could be.  The Left-Handed Housewife (whose son makes pies) asked for the recipe so here it is.  Enjoy.

Frog Eye Salad
~ inherited from my MIL

3 cans (11 oz) mandarin oranges
1 can (20 oz) crushed pineapple
2 cans (20 oz) tidbit pineapple

Drain all fruits and reserve juice in 2 qt. pot.
1 ¾ c. (of reserved juice)
1 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 T. lemon juice
½ t. salt
Mix sugar and cornstarch together first and then combine the rest and whisk over medium heat until thickened.  Cool.

16 oz. acini di pepe  - cook according to package directions and rinse under cool water.
In a very large bowl, combine fruit, sauce mixture & pasta.  Chill.

Before serving, add the following and fold together.

8 oz. Cool Whip
2 c. mini marshmallows (more or less)
1 c. shredded coconut

Makes about 1 gallon of salad.
May halve the recipe.

Happy Day of Preparation....

Today is what we call, The Day of Preparation, the day before a big holiday like Thanksgiving.  It usually consists of baking pies and breads, making the cheese ball and cranberries, and also the frog eye salad or goodies that can be made ahead.  There are table cloths and napkins to launder and shirts to iron, the glass turkey candle holders must be found and some candles for the Thanksgiving table.  This year all of our kids are away for the Thanksgiving holiday.  The "outlaws" get them this holiday, and they'll all be home (we think) for Christmas.  It's a good plan.  Our youngest two sons are not married, but one lives far away in Tucson and the other is on-call at the campus where he works.  We figured it would be "just the two of us" this Thanksgiving, but we got a nice invite from my parents and my brother and his family will be there too.  It'll be good.

I've always dreamed about what it would be like to show up to a Thanksgiving feast with a salad in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other.  And now the dream has come true.  Actually, I will be bringing the homemade dinner rolls and a broccoli side dish, but hey, it's not an entire meal!  Oh, I decided to make some spiced nuts to share so there is still a Day of Preparation for me.  I'll call it Preppy Lite.  The real dream is to show up at my one of my children's homes for Thanksgiving dinner and bring the salad and wine.

I don't know about you, but I absolutely can't wait for the dressing and gravy -- my favorite part of  the Thanksgiving dinner.  That, and pumpkin pie with REAL whipped cream.  What do you look forward to?  Football?  A nap?  Left-overs?

Let's give a rousing cheer for all the Thanksgiving cooks out there! Wooo Hooo!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Children and sleeping and other things they do and do not....

I've been chatting with my daughter a lot lately.  Well, we honestly talk every single day on the phone and least once and usually more than once.  It might be for just a minute to clarify a recipe, or it might be five minutes to discuss the current weather, or it might be for an hour, depending on the children's decibel level.  Why is it when you're on the phone and there are children in your house, the decibel level goes up and they want to talk to you?    Anyway, much of the time my daughter talks to me about her children and the difficulty of raising them.  Sometimes she asks for advice, but much of the time, I think she just wants someone to talk to about it who can commiserate and say, " Don't worry honey, this too shall pass."  (My MIL used to say this to me.)

One days while talking to OnlyDaughter on the phone, she was telling me about how her children don't sleep which translates into -- she and her husband don't sleep.  I don't think they've slept a whole night through since 2010.

As she was dumping her no-sleep woes on me, she said curtly, "It must be nice to sleep every single night, all night long."

I truthfully yet cynically said, "Yes, it IS lovely."

To which she sheepishly replied, "Ummm, I guess you've paid your dues."

To which I replied, "Ah, yes, I have!"

I am certain that I invented the shared family bed that is touted as the new modern family norm.  It wasn't meant to happen in my world, because I intended for every family member to sleep in his or her own bed always and every night without waking up, but when the mother is a totally exhausted zombie and the baby needs to nurse and the 2-year old has been up with a cough most of the night, everyone gets to sleep in the big bed.  One of our babies slept with us so much that he thought my silky nightie was his blankie.  In fact, he dragged it around the house with him to suck his thumb.  It was fine at home, but we couldn't have that in public or when the grandparents came so I finally bought a couple silky neckerchiefs  to stuff in my purse.  (Ah-hem.)

Just this morning I got an email from OnlyDaughter with the following video.  It was so hilariously true I just had to share it with you.  She said it reminded her of her just-married-brother who wants to start a family soon.  I hope it makes you laugh-out-your- eyes like it did me. 

Friday, November 22, 2013


It was a cold day here so I've been holed up in my workshop today, busily and happily creating Christmas stockings for the newest family members and giving another stocking a much-needed facelift.  I mainly used felt for the stockings themselves, and for the cut-outs I used felt with heat-and-bond. 

I was so tickled to be able to use a sweater collar on the cuff of this stocking.  I had been saving it from when I made no-knittin' mittens last year from old sweaters.  When I cut it off, I was worried that it might begin to fray.  I put a little fabric glue around the cut edges, and it held perfectly so I sewed it on the front.  I think it gives the stocking a Scandinavian look.

This plaid wool stocking (red felt on back)  has a masculine look for the grandboy, and I just love the stag reindeer head too.  I searched and searched for the pattern and finally found a copy in drawer and then hunted it down online for you in case you'd like to use it.  There's a pretty poinsettia template too.  Find them HERE at Midwest Living.

Are you working on some Christmas Elf Projects?  Do tell!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bracing up...

We've had some pretty nice days for mid-November -- all of them used to the fullest to brace up for the coming cold days.   The propane man came to fill our tanks, the water tank heaters have been turned on for livestock, calves have been weaned, and the granaries have been filled with corn for winter feeding.  I have also been finishing chores that I needed to get done before the big chill arrived.

Yesterday, a beautiful 50 degree day, I pulled up the last of the carrots from the veggie patch.  I always try to leave them in the ground for as long as possible because they just seem to keep better in the soil than they do anywhere else.  Just a few days ago, I pulled up a two gallon bucket and yesterday another two gallon bucket was filled.  Needless to say, the two of us don't need four gallons of carrots so I've been sharing my organic treats.  They sure are sweet and crisp!

Today my folks came out to help butcher a few chickens.  The coop is now a quiet and peaceful place without the four roosters. We weeded out some of the non-laying, old hens too.  The folks took a bag full of fresh chickens with them before they went home, and eggs too --  the beginning and the end.  We didn't have chicken for supper tonight.  It's hard to eat chicken after spending the afternoon killing and cleaning them.  'Nuff said.

As the day progressed, the big chill came in.  As I type tonight, we've sunk down to 12 degrees, and the wind has whipped up to make the windchill about -9* according to my windchill table.  We're expecting a little snow to blow in tonight too.  Thankfully, everything's buttoned up for winter for the most part.

It always amazes me how quickly we brace ourselves up for the cold.  Frosty mornings force us back into the winter coats, the heavy socks, boots, gloves, caps and neck scarves -- all in full service now.  It seems we don't miss a beat adding them to the daily dressing routine now that it's cold outdoors.  We just do it.  It seems natural.  We don't even have to look for those things in the closet because they are always at the ready when you live up north.  We know it can turn from bikini weather to parka weather overnight, and that's no kidding.  All summer long the winter coat stays on the peg right next to the light sweatshirt, and gloves have a permanent place in the pockets of that winter coat 'cause you never know when you're going to need them.

The weaned calves look great.  They've got a good, thick, curly coat of hair on them, and the mother cows are fat and ready to go through the winter.  The sheep are heavy with wool.  The migrant birds are all gone, but the chickadees have arrived and spend time at the feeders along with the wood peckers and nuthatches.  The American Goldfinches have changed from their summer golden tuxedos to their winter gray tweeds.  I noticed a jackrabbit in the pasture has turned it's coat from gray-brown to winter white.  The green world has gone to sleep, the hoar frost has coated bare trees, and thankfully, winter friends remain.  Everything, every creature, and every human here has braced up. 

“October extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and driving rain and November arrived, cold as frozen iron, with hard frosts every morning and icy drafts that bit at exposed hands and faces.” 
~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dog diet experiment...

Chubby Sue and Toodles (a year ago)

I've been doing an experiment on my dog.  She was getting fat.  No.  She has been fat for a couple years.  I tried feeding her less dog food.  I tried low-fat dog food and dog food for mature dogs.  Nothing seemed to budge her pudge.  Her hair seemed dull and she seemed rather blah.  I started thinking about what dogs would eat naturally -- raw meat and maybe raw eggs.  In the spring she eats lots of afterbirth.  I did a little reading about feeding dogs raw foods and made the decision to try it on Sue.  What happened in just a few months is miraculous.  She got slim and not just that --she feels spunky and acts like a 2 year old instead of a nine year old dog.

 Healthy & fit Sue today.

All I did was to add 2 eggs a day to her regular once-a-day feeding of dry dog food.  About two times a week or so, I feed her a little raw meat and raw bones.  That's it.  I didn't take away her dry chow, but merely added the raw foods.  She is full of energy, happy, shiny and healthy.  I was telling a vet assistant about what I had been feeding her and she asked me, "How old is Sue?"  When I told her almost 9 years old, she couldn't believe it.  I'm tickled that Miss Sue is so much healthier and happier.

The Holiday Cactus (blooms Halloween through Easter)

Guess what else is happy and healthy?  The Holiday(Christmas) Cactus is joyfully blooming in my laundry room again. I love it.


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