Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine cookies, Raisinets, and Pistachios....

Soon it will be Valentine's Day.  We aren't big celebraters of the day, but we like to give a little chocolate and nuts to each other.  Today Hubby and I shopped together for groceries, and I threw in a bag of Dark Chocolate Raisinets (from him) and he chose Pistachios (from me) for Valentine's Day.  Yeah, we are weird like that.  In addition to this lavish display of love and affection, I did have a little "heart fun" by baking one of my favorite cookies -- iced sugar cookies with red hot centers.  I really like a red hot candy with every bite of cookie, so you might spot a cookie or two in the pic below that I WILL eat!  I totally made the cookies for my grandchildren and their families, but I saved a few back just for us.  (That's romantic, isn't it?)


When I was a girl we had a local bakery downtown that  made these delicious heart-shaped sugar cookies with red hot centers for Valentine's Day.  I think they were a nickle apiece back then, and I couldn't wait to walk to the bakery after school to buy myself a heart cookie.  I never forgot those hearts and when I got old enough to make my own cut-out cookies, I made sure to bake up some of those beauties to celebrate Heart Day.  The recipe is my mom's, and if I do say so myself, they are The Best Sugar Cookies Ever.  Yes, they really are.    You should try them.  Want to?  Ok.  Here ya go!



Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter
1 c. Crisco shortening
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs
4 1/2 c. flour (plus a little more for rolling out)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cream of tartar
1 t. vanilla

Cream together butter, shortening and sugars.  Add eggs.  Add dry ingredients and then vanilla.  Mix well, scraping down sides of bowl.  Chill in the frig for several hours.  If rolling out dough for cut-out cookies, you may need to add a little more flour.  You don't want dough too sticky.  

Divide the dough into four chunks and roll out on a floured cupboard for cut-out cookies or roll dough into 1 inch balls and flatten with a sugared glass bottom.  You may also like to sprinkle some extra colored sugar on these.  Bake at 350* for 8-10 minutes.  Do not over-bake.  You barely want a golden tinge on the edge.

If you like, you may frost the cookies with an icing mixing:  powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and a little almond extract.  Make as thick or thin as you want.  Add sprinkles.  This recipe makes a large batch, approximately 4 dozen cookies or more.

**Famous Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Easter cookies.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lambies!

 (a single)


(triplets)



I've been gone for five days to attend my nephew's engagement party in Kansas, and while I was away, the ewes decided to start having babies.  I don't know how they could do that without me, but they did!  I'm so thankful that we are having wonderful weather so far.  Today we reached 55 degrees with sunshine, but of course, there was only one set of twins born today -- on the best day of the year.  They tend to want to lamb at night for some reason.  Hoping for lots of good, warm days ahead.

We've had four sets of triplets so far and lots of twins.  Busy mama sheep!

The grandkids came over the day after I returned home and we had a big Valentine making event here.  We watercolor painted, cut and glued, applied stickers and doilies, and stamped with rubber stamps.  Glorious fun for little hands and big hands too.




Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Birds of Winter...










The first snapshot you see are Sharptailed Grouse in flight.  They look like the B1 Bombers of the bird kingdom.  The picture below is of a single Sharptail.  Note the feathery legs.  I wish you could see how sweet their faces are, but this picture doesn't give a very good facial shot.

You know the next bird -- the Bald Eagle.  He is very majestic looking, but some say that they will sit on a perch all day long and not hunt.  We see them a lot right now along the roadside eating dead animals.  We have a few on our place and one pair appeared to be building a nest last year.  I wonder if they will work on it again this year?  It is said that that they may build on a nest for years before ever laying eggs.  I've only seen young eagles once.

The next group of photos is of just one little Eastern Screech Owl.  He (or she) is just about 7-8" long.  As you can see, the first photos show this owl looking rather round and fat, but when I walked by it again with the cats underfoot, he skinnied-up and raised his ear tufts to look mean.  I thought it was rather funny since the cats paid him no attention whatsoever.  Earlier this winter, JLynn saw the screech and no one has seen him since.  The very last photo is one that JLynn took.  See how fluffy and full he looks?  After we saw the screech owl today, CarpenterSon told me that he had seen a small owl in the shop on top of the tractor.  Now why wouldn't he mention that to me?  Or come get me?  They know what a bird-lover I am!

I hope that we are seeing two screech owls.  The one JLynn saw looks a little different than the one I saw.  It could be the light, but it could be that one is male and one is female.  The male screech owls are smaller, so the book says.  The one I saw might be the male.  For fun, click this link, scroll down and listen to the sweet sounding call of the Eastern Screech!

What types of winter birds are you seeing?  This year we've had only sparrows at the feeder.  No chickadees, no woodpeckers, and no nuthatches. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Woolly Woolly....

 It's shearing time again!

Here's Baa Baa in her full wool.
Walking in line to be sheared.
(She doesn't know she's a famous sheep!)
(The grandkids love her.)

Sheared and coming out the chute.

Ahhh, 10 pounds lighter!

  
And here's another ewe coming down the ramp from the shearers.

 White as snow, grazing on some green hay.

A couple wool trompers!
They thought it was fun to tromp the skirted wool bits in the sacks.

A crew of helpers sitting on a wool sack.
There were 280 head of sheep sheared yesterday. 
Today we paint branded them and sorted 180 ewes that will lamb in a week.
The rest will hopefully lamb in May.
.........................

On another note:  Wool sweater pants!

 

You asked me to remember to send a pic of the wool sweater pants.
Here's one pair on wiggly Miss Lily.  
They fit her great and they are WARM!
She wore them over her leggings when we were outdoors shearing.

On about February 6-7th we should be having lambies!
Stay tuned.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rustic crackers and cheese...

Yesterday Hubs ended up on the couch feeling terrible.
Body aches, head ache, just plain yuk!
So for supper, I thought we'd have beef stock and cheese and crackers.
Simple food.
I had the bone broth in the freezer so all I did was warm that up.
I had no yummy crackers so I made this standby recipe that
is very versatile and good. 
We had Dubliner cheese and Tillamook cheddar with our crackers.

Why are crackers so expensive anyway?
Just a little flour, oil, water, seasoning.  Bake!
Homemade are better too.
Here's the recipe.


Rustic Crackers

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. cream of tartar
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 c. oil (I used olive oil)
1/2 c. water
1 medium egg
2 t. sugar
1 t. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sesame seeds
course salt for sprinkling

Any seasonings can go into the dough or on top of the crackers.
I like cracked pepper, garlic powder, and rosemary or oregano.

Preheat oven to 350* and lightly spray or wipe cookie sheet with oil.
Or bake on parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine first four ingredients and mix well. Add oil and stir until mixture resembles course meal. Add water next and stir until dough forms and sticks together.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out thin. (think pie crust) Brush generously with egg mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Sprinkle lightly with course salt. Cut, tear into strips, or use cookie cutters to make any cracker shape you want. (I bake it whole and then break after it's baked.)  Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350*. Bake time will vary with thickness/thinness of the crackers. Transfer to racks for cooling. Store crackers in an airtight container. If they ever pick up moisture and lose their crispness, just pop them into a 250* oven for a few minutes.
Enjoy!

................................................


Friday, January 22, 2016

My Own Crib Quilt...



My Own Crib Quilt 
is done.
I think every Grandma should have a quilt 
for when her grandbabies come to visit.

 It measures:  54" x 47"
I stitched-in-the-ditch around each square
and then quilted diagonal lines across each block.

The backing is Fresh Air by American Jane Patterns
Sandy Klop for Moda  
It's a teeny tiny check that's so soft.

Now I'm all about cutting wool squares.
Nothing easy about cutting up suit coats.  Blah.
BUT
I'm going to make a pair of wool baby pants out of a sweater.
Like these.
It'll be a fun experiment.
"Lily" likes to play outside with her sisters, 
but she's not walking quite yet and it's still snowy.
Her pants ride up and her poor chubby ankles get cold.
The wool pants with cuffs at the ankle would keep her warm and dry, I think.

The sun is shining and it's up above the freezing mark.
I took a walk to the mail box this afternoon.
Nice. 

I got myself a new book.  A quilting book.
by Siobhan Rogers
I bought it mainly for this quilt, 

 
but there are lots of other quilts I like too.
Fun ideas.
I'm excited about it.

Have a happy day!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sheeps, Kids, and Wools...

Do you see Baa Baa, the lone black sheep?
If you look closely, you can see blue lips on the ewe to the left of Baa Baa.
The kids noticed it right away.  They wanted to know why blue lips?
I told them it was from eating blue snow cones!
Almost!
Really, it's comes from licking cobalt salt blocks.  
Ruminant animals need salt to digest vitamins found in their feed and turn it into energy.
Pretty cute aren't they?
 Nibble, nibble.

 Making sheep scatter!
Because it's fun!

 Pushing sheep just because they are there.  
And because they are fluffy.
Would ya look at that wool?
Soon we'll be shearing.


 Nibble, nibble.
Papa helping the kids feed the sheep by hand.

..................................................


LATELY....
I've been inside working on a couple flannel quilts for the church and one for JJo's friend who will be having her first baby soon.  JJo did the quilt top and I finished it up.  Currently I'm working on "My Own Baby Quilt," -- the scrappy one.  Remember it?   I've begun the machine quilting part now and it's going pretty well.  I'm using a walking foot (on my new Bernina) and it works great. 
(Wool garments I found and a pair of baby moccasins) 

A dear friend gave me a special gift of an online class from Craftsy.  (BTW, their classes are on sale right now and so many choices!)  I'm so excited! I'm taking an embroidery and wool applique class which will surely challenge me, but before I can begin I have to find some woven wool fabrics to work with.  Today I spent a little time at the thrift store in town to see what I could find for wool garments that I can cut up and use in my projects. It's interesting to me that to buy new wool fabric by the yard or by the square, it is CRAZY expensive.  Like $24+ per yard.  But I can go to the thrift store and they do not price wool items differently than they do any other clothing items.   Besides the class project, I have an idea to make a wool blanket in "quilt fashion" kind of like this and this and this.  I'm especially fond of the first blanket with the soft pastel colors and the calico binding.  What do you think?


The weather is going to change from mild winter in the 30s
to cold, Arctic winter sinking to sub-zero temps at night and teens in the daytime.
Brrrrrrrr!  Rrrrrrr!  Rrrrrrr!
Bank up the fire and put on the kettle!
I hope you're warm wherever you are.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Views from snowshoes...

 Going uphill.
(A couple days ago I took this walk.  Mostly uphill from our main road.)


There were lots of tracks.  I think maybe coyote.
The men were chasing after one the day before.  They caught sight of him, but couldn't get him.
We're thinking about protecting our sheep and soon, baby lambs.





 At the top.
On the prairie we have bare spots on ridges and 
deep snow is drifted in the low areas and creeks.

 Looking out over the breaks.


We are headed back down over my tracks.  
Sue was glad she had my tracks to walk back in. 
 She did a lot of sinking.  So did I.
 ..............................................

Today's walk is in the photos below.
I took off from our house and walked down a dry creek all the way up
to our Springs where a small dam is.
There was lots of snow in the creek bed and it had a hard crust
which made snowshoeing easier.
Still, I anticipate every step.
Any one of them could be a "sinker."
Just when you think you have easy walking, 
the snow caves underfoot and it takes some work to get
your footing again.

 Looks a bit like the moon doesn't it?

 The wind really blew after our last snow 
and since it was so cold then, 
the snow just blew into drifts that look like sand dunes or waves to me.  
Pretty in its own way.



 Charlie found a hole.

 He got his body halfway in there!

 I think it might be a badger den.  Or a fox den.
I heard a weird kind of "wa-oomph" sound in there.
We just moved on.
No sense disturbing a badger!

 More deep drifts on the way home.
Today was a gorgeous day to be out snowshoeing.
I suppose we got up into the upper 30s with bright sunshine and no wind.
On the way home, I took off my hat, gloves, and unzipped my jacket.
Glorious!
The one thing that I noticed more than anything else was
the quiet.
There is just something special about
experiencing that kind of quiet -- silence and solitude.
I noisily crunch along like Big Foot,
but when I stop and listen, it's SO quiet.

Snowshoeing is so challenging and fun to me.  It's like walking, but with big things strapped on my feet.  It requires much balance, being centered, and requires constant adjusting.  The terrain where I walk is not level.  I break my own trails.  Snowshoeing requires you to do a kind of sidestep. Sometimes the left leg is uphill and next the right leg is.  There is always the chance of a punch through and it can be a struggle to get out.  Then there are times when you can walk leisurely like a queen on top of the hard crusty snow.  But... I'm always leery of the cave-in.  I know it can happen anytime and if you're really striding out, you could really tumble yourself or hurt a leg if you sink down pretty deep.  

I love the challenge of snowshoeing, and I am feeling stronger every day that I walk.  My breathing is easier and no so laborious as it was the first day.  My legs and hips are stronger, and I am taking longer and longer walks without tiring.  These past few warm days have been so much fun for me.  The dogs are happy to go with me to and sniff around for things.  I feel sorry for them when they are stepping through the snow without snowshoes.

There is an Arctic cold blast coming in by the weekend, so I'm hoping to trek around as much as possible before then.  I do hope that there might be some new snow on the way.  It changes the landscape and makes for new adventures, even on the same paths.  Have you ever tried snowshoeing?  If so, where do you like to walk?

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