Monday, August 31, 2009

Farm News

The garden is winding down. We still have lots of peppers and enough tomatoes to still pick and eat. Our zinnias are still beautiful. I just wish I had my house renovation finished so I could enjoy lovely bouquets throughout our house. I lose my motivation for arranging flowers when I still have kitchen cabinets sitting on my floor!

This past weekend resulted in temporary fences almost completed. It took Michael and 3 boys a lot of hard work to clear out the weeds and string up the fence for our cows. We were also able to load up the remaining meat birds and take them to a friend's house so her family can butcher them. We have enough in our freezer, and we just ran out of time and desire. This way they will still be used for their intended purpose. I now feel like I can roam around my barn without being stalked by the great meat birds!

The man who is clearing our woods stopped by yesterday. While he was here, Michael asked him to look at the Black Angus cow that we are going to use for meat. We didn't think she was big enough, but he assured us she was at least 850 pounds. He has dealt with cattle for a long time so we are taking his word for it. Michael will be loading her up to go to the butcher either today or tomorrow. I really like this cow. She is mellow and easy going. I guess the truth is I don't like to butcher any of our animals!

The other large job that was accomplished this weekend was that we brought back our Black Angus cow named Agnus. She is our breeding cow, and she has spent some time at TnFarmgirl's farm enjoying the company of Big Daddy the Black Angus bull. Agnus delivered a beautiful calf this past Wednesday. We went and loaded the both of them in the stock trailer and brought them back home. We still have two more cows to retrieve. Those are the two that wandered over to our friendly neighbor's farm several months ago. As soon as the temporary electric fence is finished, we can get those two and we will have everybody back where they belong!

I am looking so forward to fall this year and tucking our farm to bed for the winter. Once we get these chores finished, we can then get hot and heavy on the house renovations. I can't wait!!!

grace and peace,

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Scripture

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good." Romans 12:9

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Farm Fixes

We have dedicated this weekend to working on our fences in order to bring our cows back home. This will be a large job for my husband and 3 sons. My daughter and I will be at ballet! We have two cows at our neighbor's house. A tree fell on the fence between us and of course our cows went to stay with him. Have you ever heard the old saying that the grass is always greener on the other side? Enough said. We also have our Angus cow living at a friend's farm not far from here. We took her to stay and visit with our friend's bull. I am looking forward to bringing her and her calf home later today. We only have 6 cows at the moment. We no longer have sheep or horses so our fields have grown up beyond belief. My husband promises me that it is good for them to rest a while. I think they just look messy and undone. The good news is that this winter we won't be spending $4,000 on hay. It will be much cheaper than that with only the few cows that we have now. The truth is I miss my sheep terribly. I loved having sheep. Michael wants to get sheep again once our fences are completely redone. I didn't like the whole part of the sheep being eaten. I just like the sheep because they are so peaceful. Only the Lord knows what will come in the years ahead, but for now I am looking forward to seeing all 6 of our cows out in our field.
We are preparing our farm for winter. There are so many things to clean up and fix before the cold months come. We have honey to extract and some more tomatoes to be canned. I also ordered 25 more laying hens. They should arrive in the next few weeks so the farm will come to life with new baby chicks. Baby pigs will be arriving soon as well. I have enjoyed the summer, but I am ready to slow down and enjoy the fall that is just around the corner.
grace and peace,

Friday, August 28, 2009

Honey Bun Cake Recipe

It is football time once again here in East Tennessee. For our family, that means every Friday night is dedicated to go watch our son play high school football. Plus, we open up our home to any of the football players on his team to come and eat dinner with us. We are never for sure just how many will show up for supper. Tonight I am expecting anywhere between 8 to 12 football players to surround our supper table. This is one way that we can develop relationships with these young men and spend some time to get to know them. Kids will relate just about every time if you give them a meal or two. It is a great opportunity to get to know the kids that are on our son's team. I usually do not use many prepackaged ingredients when I cook. However, I do have some tried and true recipes that start with a prepackaged ingredient. This Honey Bun Cake is one of our favorites. I make it when I need a quick dessert, and I have also included it in a morning buffet menu. Hope you enjoy!

1 yellow box of cake mix
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs
8 oz Sour cream

Mix the above well with a mixer. Pour half of cake batter into a well greased and floured 9x13 cake pan. In seperate bowl, mix 1 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Sprinkle that on the cake. Pour rest of batter on top of cinnamon mixture. Bake in 350 oven for about 38 to 40 minutes.

2 cup powder sugar
4 Tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Pour over hot cake.

grace and peace,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Today I Smiled

I woke early this morning and I quickly threw together some homemade pancakes and sausage for breakfast while I was downing my first cup of morning java. After breakfast, all the kids who attend school loaded into his truck and I drove them the few minutes to school. While I was driving home, I was thinking of having another cup of coffee but at a much slower pace. I wanted to sit and enjoy it this time. I was even thinking about sitting outside and enjoying the cool of the morning before starting Seth's school with him. I was comforted by the hum of his big red truck listening to the diesel roar while I drove down the road. I smiled because I knew my dad would approve of his big red truck hauling grand kids to school and then hauling my husband to work shortly there after. Then it dawned on me what day it was, and I expected tears to stream from my eyes. Instead, I was rewarded with a smile on my face. I already knew what I wanted to do to mark this day, and I have made plans to fulfill my thoughts. I have researched and this afternoon I will be purchasing a rose bush to plant in my own yard as a token of my love for my dad. It is a silent way to honor this man who meant so very much to me, and who has been gone from my life for four years as of today. Yes, I want a red climbing rose. I want it to be a variety that smells delightful and brings a smile to my face every time I walk past it. As I look at my mountains all around me, I know he would be pleased with the place that we call home. After all, he loved Tennessee. As I look at my children, I also know he would be more than pleased. I also know that he would have enjoyed them in their teenage years, but that is something I can only imagine. I took a few minutes this morning to read some of the journal that I kept during the last year of his life. In honor of my dad, I will leave you with a few of my thoughts that I wrote four years ago...

"There are so many things I could write, but it is time to close this chapter and move forward to the next one. My father lives on in my heart and memories, but he also lives on in myself as well as my children." (August 27, 2005)

grace and peace,


You might also like to read other thoughts I have shared in the past concerning my dad. Click here and here

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Desserts are something that my family really enjoys. I usually only serve them on Sunday or whenever we have company. A dear friend of mine shared her baby cheesecake recipe with me. We love baby cheesecakes! These little jewels are easy to make and taste best if made ahead of time. To serve them, just place the little bite size cheesecakes on a pretty platter so that each guest can choose his own. How easy is that?

Her recipe is posted here

Take a few minutes and check out Concetta's Cafe after printing her Baby Cheesecake recipe. This girl knows how to cook and how to host ANY gathering. Every time I eat at her table I feel like I have just landed in a magazine with all the pretty things around me. Then reality hits me as she so graciously makes a meal into wonderful fellowship and I know that this is no magazine, but instead a time of treasured friendship.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Glimpse Into My World of Menu Planning

I love to cook which works out great for my family since they all love to eat. It is a win win situation until I get tired or burnt out of ideas. For me the hardest part of cooking is the planning of the menu. I plan my menus for two week periods. It works well with our paycheck cycle, and I have been in this habit since we were first married. I plan my menus when everybody else is still in bed. I need it to be quiet so I am not distracted! I pour myself a cup of coffee and find a comfortable seat and I start writing. My first thought is what sounds good to me. I then think about if I were to go to a restaurant what I would order. This helps get my thoughts flowing. I also keep cooking magazines and cookbooks within arms reach so I can look through them to get ideas. I always ask my family what they would like to eat over the next few weeks. Usually my kids give me at least four meals that sound good to them. I also try to include a new dish every now and again. Everybody likes to try something new every now and again. I also look at scheduling issues for the upcoming two weeks. If we have football games 3 nights out of the week at 5:00 p.m., them I don't want to be serving food that has to be made minutes before eating. Instead I look to things like casseroles, soups, or crock pot meals that can be cooked before hand so we can eat as a family after the game. Obviously money is also an issue for meal planning. If money is tight, serving steak isn't an option. I am realistic when I plan my meals. Purchasing food for two weeks seems like a lot of money, but in the long run it saves money because we aren't eating out or stopping at the store to grab just a few things that add up to over a $100. Here is another great tip for meal planning. There are many restaurants that have their menus displayed online. I get on my computer and look at different menus to give me ideas of things I would like to serve my family. This has been great for those times that I am not really in the mood to plan. I also use a copy cat web site to help me create some of our favorites from different restaurants. Several years ago, I bought a copy cat cookbook and I have enjoyed many of their recipes. One of our favorites has been a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich that is always a treat when I serve it. I know I promised a recipe for today, but instead I am going to post some links. Happy Planning!!!

(Olive Garden even shares a few of their recipes for you).

grace and peace,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Happy Days Are Here Again

Although our main computer bit the dust, my husband was able to save our two hard drives which means that all of our pictures were saved. We learned a valuable lesson from this computer crash. Now we have several different backups of our pictures as well as our finances. I will be posting regularly once again now that I have my pictures. We decided not to replace our computer for awhile, but we do have a nice laptop that we can use. I have missed the blogging world, but I have gotten quite a bit accomplished during my absence. First, I canned 45 quarts of tomatoes, and 6 more pints of sauce. We also had a wonderful visit from out of town friends. Come back tomorrow and perhaps I will post a yummy recipe. I have cooked a lot recently so I have several recipes that I would like to share. Hope you all have a great day!
grace and peace,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Computer Crashes and Other Tidbits

Our main computer has crashed. Michael has removed the hard drive and is in the process of buying a device to try and reinstall it into another machine. Our hard drive contains ALL of our pictures that have been taken over the last several years. We are hopeful that the pictures can be reloaded onto a new computer. I also lost my email again yesterday. I no longer have any email contacts or information. If you usually contact me via email, please call me if you need something from me over the next several days. Although I can post to my blog using our laptop, I am going to take a few days off from blogging in hopes of retrieving my pictures. If we can't get them back, then I will start posting again with a fresh batch of pictures. You can also be sure that over the next few days I will be in the kitchen canning tomatoes, tomato sauce, and jalapeno peppers! No computer needed for that adventure!!!

grace and peace,

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Weekends Are For Canning

There are tomatoes waiting to be turned into sauce and canned tomatoes. They bring an abundance of flavor to winter time stews, pizzas, and spaghetti sauce. Canning tomato sauce is a time consuming endeavor, but well worth the effort in the end.
The peppers are finally making their way to our table. Jalapeno peppers are also waiting their turn in the canner. We love these little gems served with our Mexican dishes or next to a nice pot of dried beans in the winter. My pantry would not be complete without our canned jalapenos.

Peach jam is also a necessity when stocking up for winter. It is a lively taste of summer during the cold winter mornings. I also cut up peaches and put sugar on them. Once the sugar has turned to syrup, I then package these treasures in ziploc freezer bags and freeze. These are the base for our Christmas morning fruit salad, peach cobblers, or as a topping for our winter time Angel Food cake.

Weekends make the best time to can green beans or tomatoes. I will be filling our last canner load of beans today. We only hit the 50 quart mark, but it should be enough if I use them carefully throughout the winter. Our plants are still producing enough to make a pot of green beans upon occasion. This will help keep us from tapping into our winter storage of beans.
This weekend has been very productive in the canning department. I went to bed last night around 11:00 p.m. exhausted with the days work, and knowing full well there was much more to can over the next few days. Happy Canning to You and Yours!
grace and peace,

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ready or Not Here Comes the Routine

In our area, school always starts back around August 10th. For me, this seems like the middle of summer. Since none of the school officials consulted me about the scheduling for the year, our children returned to school this past Monday. There have been changes in our home this year concerning school. Our oldest will be starting college soon and our youngest is starting kindergarten at home. Our other three children have all gone to our local schools. We live in a small community and our schools are also small. My kids have had a great week, but the tiredness is showing on all of our faces this morning. It is hard to end summer so abruptly and start a new school year. I like when old familiar routines return. It reminds me of slipping into comfortable old shoes! They help keep me on the right course. I have learned that a good day starts the previous evening. The kitchen must be in order so that breakfast can be prepared on time to get everybody out the door. The kids choose their clothes for the next day and take their showers. My daughter is much better about this than I am. She has always lived her life in this manner. Usually by the evening, I am finished and don't want to attend to another thing. My motto is that it can wait till morning! I am trying to break this habit in my own life.
I feel as if I am living in two separate worlds at times. One world says it is fall and it is school time. The other world daily displays the fact that summer is still very much a part of our life. The summer heat is bringing in tomatoes by the bushels. This is the time of year that canning is rampant in our home. Although I haven't canned as much as in years past, it is something that is still a part of almost everyday in our home. If I am not canning something, then my hands are busy in the garden. I think I will call the school officials and tell them this early to school schedule thing isn't working for me. I would prefer a September date to start school. Something tells me that they don't really care so I guess I will just focus on cleaning the kitchen after dinner each evening! I am sure that will be more productive!!!!
grace and peace,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Every Girl Needs Some

I left the house this morning in the care of our oldest. His plan was to spend some time with his youngest brother and do some school with him before I returned. I climbed into the car that our oldest drives and headed down the road. I turned by the school and drove until the road started to curve back and forth winding up the mountainside. As I drove, I noticed that I was no longer looking at the mountains from a distance, but I was now in the very presence of them. The road was at the base of the mountains with trees growing up on both sides of the mountains. To the right was a stream that lapped against the rocks. In places, it was peaceful and other places the water was harsh pushing all the time. Along the drive, the stream was there as a guide and its beauty beckoned me to come and drink in the view. The land was sprinkled with homes some no more than shacks. I have read about these homes in books about Appalachia. Other homes had no more money to support those living inside, but they were in better upkeep, usually with a well tended garden along the house. I love this drive. I don't get to make it often enough. As I turned right just past the school in the next state over, I know that shortly I will be to my destination. As I arrive, I am beckoned to once again come and sit; to drink in the coffee and friendship of the one who lives there. She is a sister in the Lord and there is always good conversation and laughter that comes from friendship. We spend time chatting and catching up on each other's lives sitting outside with the breeze tickling our faces. Her dog comes and nuzzles my leg; a familiar feel that I love from any animal. Too quickly the time ran through our fingers, and it was once again time to leave. Coffee mugs were gathered, hugs were exchanged with the promise of getting together again soon. I climbed back into oldest son's car and drove away back down the winding, twisting road. Fellowship is sweet, and too often we as women do not take the time to embrace it. Fellowship was much needed in my world today and I am thankful that I took the time to drink of that sweet gift. Although I lost an entire morning of working in my home, I feel much more equipped to deal with the things of the day. I have stopped and been refreshed and now I am ready to pour into others.
grace and peace,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tomatillo Salsa

I have grown tomatillos several years in a row. I am ashamed to admit I have never once tried them. I have never made any dish with them up until yesterday. I don't know what got into me, but I decided this was the year to actually eat some of the tomatillos that we planted. So I made a salsa out of them that was wonderful. I still love traditional salsa, but this dish was a great change of pace. Hope you enjoy!

Cut 10 tomatillos in half and place under broiler for about 7 minutes.
In blender, mix the following:
roasted tomatillo
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped and seeded
1 Tablespoon Lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
Pulse all the ingredients until it is the consistency you like. I like mine to have some small chunks. Let cool in the refrigerator. Serve with chips.
grace and peace,

The Wall is Coming Down

This is the wall that separates our living room from our kitchen and dining room. The structural engineer man finally came. He was only 8 days late. As soon as I saw him, I decided I couldn't be frustrated with his inept scheduling and lack of phone calls. He looked like one of my dad's old friends and my heart quickly softened. He also said things like "this will work fine", and "your house will still remain structurally sound if you follow these steps". The great part about it was that he didn't end any of his sentences with, "I think". No, he was completely positive about his recommendations unlike the nuclear engineers in my husband's office who ended every sentence with "I think". This is why it is wise to trust a structural engineer when building or tearing down walls, and a nuclear engineer when you want to make power or blow something into small bits.
Our next step will be for Michael to detail his plans on paper, and then he can order the beam that will be installed to support the load of our home. I am wanting this to be done NOW, but I know he needs a bit of time to think it all through. Michael doesn't do anything without a well thought out plan. That is good when you are removing walls. It is amazing that I can get anything done in all the kitchen mess, but these kids want to eat no matter the state of the kitchen. Come back later today and I will post a new salsa recipe that was out of this world that I made for the first time yesterday.
grace and peace,

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Sunday Thought on a Monday Evening

I found myself sitting several seats down from my beloved during our Sunday service this week. I almost always sit by him, but for some reason we got mixed up and several children ended up between us. After the last song was finished, we sat down waiting to hear the the Word for the day. I was sitting still when I realized that an arm was quietly wrapped around my shoulders and pulled me closely to his side. It was a familiar feel, but it didn't come from the strong arms that always wraps me up during Sunday service. I tilted my head up and looked into the face of my first born. He glanced down and smiled then squeezed my shoulders. He kept his arm around me until it was time for him to leave. As I listened to the sermon, I was rewarded with the smiles of a young toddler in front of us. I watched as his daddy held him lovingly and sang the words of the song into his older son's ear. I remembered those days, and they didn't seem that long ago. Now, my little man was holding me and reminding me of his love. I miss the days of holding little ones in church, but I wouldn't trade them for the days that I have now when older boys hold me. Time is never still. It is always making its mark in our lives or on our faces; changing us daily when we are not even paying attention to the fact that it is there. It changes our babies from little bundles of joy to large muscular boys. It scratches lines in our faces that were not there before, and turns our hands into that of our mother's or father's while we are busy with the cares of the world. I am not sad that my little man isn't so little anymore. On the contrary, I am enjoying watching him grow into a man much like his own daddy. I smile when I think of the days when our children were all little, but I also look forward to the days that they too will produce little bundles of joy for us all to enjoy. Until then, I will continue to enjoy each and every stage of life that we are experiencing. I spent too much of my life looking forward to the next step instead of enjoying the day that was before me. I have made enough trips around the sun to know that time goes by quickly, and I don't want to waste another minute looking to the next thing. I live my life purposefully to enjoy the journey. How about you?

grace and peace,

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Tomatoes are Coming, The Tomatoes are Coming!

I feel like Paul Revere making the midnight ride warning all of my family that the tomatoes are coming!! My older boys weren't around to hear my cries so they walked into our home with that familiar wrinkled up nose and promptly stated that they don't like it when I am canning tomatoes. It smells. It was agreed upon by all children that it is better than when I am canning dill pickles and using lots of vinegar. Apparently to my children, vinegar REALLY smells. Strange little people!!! I did start canning tomato sauce yesterday. I was down picking beans last night, and I noticed there are lots more tomatoes to be picked. Our tomatoes are not doing the best this year so I am thankful for each and everyone that have made it into our stock pot. We have had so much rain that it is causing them to rot before they are truly ready to be harvested. I have out smarted the rain. I now pick my tomatoes a little bit before they are good and ripe. I let them sit for a day or two to finish ripening, and I have nice tomatoes for the canner. I don't think we will have near the amount of tomatoes that we had last year, but it should be enough to get us almost through winter. It is hard to predict these things. I was sure I could get 70 quarts of green beans with no effort at all this year. I am up to 45 quarts, and our bean plants have all but stopped producing this past week. Go figure. It must be the weather or maybe it is the fact that the plants are tired. If you would like to read more about sauce making, click here

grace and peace,

Thursday, August 06, 2009


Thank the Lord we have outgrown these mad fits, but I sure felt like pitching one myself yesterday. First of all, the structural engineer that was suppose to come and solve all of my great room questions didn't show up at all. We still are unsure which direction to take and now I am a bit concerned about taking the advice of someone who makes an appointment with me and doesn't even bother to call when he decides not to keep the appointment. He better have a good reason for not calling! Secondly, our email crashed. If you are waiting on an email from me, you better go do something else. I no longer have my email contacts to get back with you. You are welcome to resubmit an email to me and I can now answer it, but we lost everything in our email program. It was just one of those days yesterday. I guess everybody has them from time to time.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

This and That

I spent the morning in the garden. Garden produce waits for no man or woman so you better be prepared to harvest when it is ready. I will spend the afternoon canning green beans and tomatoes. Our tomatoes have had issues all year due to the wet weather. I am hoping to get enough canned to get us through the winter, but I am not sure that this goal will be achieved. Each year it seems that one thing doesn't do well, but another crop does exceptionally well. Last year our green beans were uncooperative. This year they are great. Last year our tomatoes were the best we have ever had. This year they are poor at best. If there is a bumper crop of something one year I guess it would be best to can extra because you can't count on that crop producing next year for sure. My flowers are gorgeous this year. I could spend all of my spare time playing in the flowers if I let myself. Our fall garden plants are growing nicely. Joshua already started preparing several beds for our fall plants. It will be awhile before the plants are ready to go outside, but maybe this year we will have the beds ready and waiting.

Tomorrow will be the final call on our kitchen renovation. Everybody Michael has talked with have said it would be fine to take down the load bearing wall and each person gives a whole hearted "I think" at the end. Neither one of us feel real comfortable banking on people's "I think". Most of the people that have been asked are engineers, but nuclear engineers don't know all the ends and outs as structural engineers. We decided to bite the bullet and hire a professional to give us the truth. Michael told him his plan and the structural engineer told him that it sounded good, but he needed to see it to be 100% positive. Of course he got an invitation to our house for tomorrow. We will know without a shadow of a doubt if removing the wall will cause any damage to our home. As much as I want a great room, I would rather have a house that doesn't slant, droop, or fall down over time. I will be sure to pass the verdict on as soon as I know it myself. I sure am ready to get on with it one way or the other. He has spent the last several nights pondering and looking and calculating and looking some more. I am a doer and my nature is to tear the wall down and repair the damage later. Michael is much more methodical than I am so we work well together in the end. The saga of the wall continues until tomorrow!!!

grace and peace,

Monday, August 03, 2009

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

I miss the days of a clean kitchen. It seems like so long ago that everything was in its place. Instead now everything is one big gigantic mess while the paneling is being ripped off the walls. The hutch is sitting on the floor and dishes are now stacked on the very top of my upper cabinets to keep them out of harms way. So whenever everything is one big mess what is a family to do? Pack up and go on a weekend trip of course! Why would we want to do such a thing you ask? Well, it was time for our little ones to return home from visiting grandparents in Kentucky. We went and spent some time with our family. We returned home last night with all of our children back in their rightful place in our home. It was nice to forget about the mess for several days. I live with the motto, "Out of sight, out of mind!" So I could be away pretending all was well in our lovely clean non-remodeled home. Never mind the fact that the walls are really coming down and the dryer, weed eater, tiller and various other items are broken! On the up side of things, the English Mastiff has now returned to her content self since all of her children are back home again. She must have been bored this past week because she kept getting herself into all kinds of trouble!

grace and peace,