Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

"All gave some.  Some gave all."

Let us not forget the true meaning of Memorial Day.  We have our freedom because our soldiers have not been afraid to give all to protect this great land.  Please don't take that for granted.

Thank you to all who have served our country in the military.  Thank you to those who are still serving to protect our freedoms.  Thank you to those family members that have given the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one in the service of our country.  I cannot even imagine the price you have paid. 

grace and peace,

Friday, May 28, 2010

Working on the Logistics

I awoke this morning to a feeling of excitement.  This is something that hasn't happened much over the last few months.  The month of June will be filled with many tasks to complete to make the transition to our new home.  Part of Michael's job offer included professional movers to come pack and move our belongings.  We just don't know all of the details so we aren't counting our chickens before they hatch so to speak.  While Michael served in the military, we had professional movers come for several of our moves.  Let me just say it was glorious.  You do have to be prepared before they arrive.  For instance, I had a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen.  I was still drinking it.  I even offered the movers some.  While I was in the bathroom, they packed the coffee pot, grounds and all!  They did pour out the coffee itself, but imagine my surprise to find the old grounds still there after the move!

I am starting to feel some adventure to the thought of a new place and a new home.  Some  of you have asked about our new home.  I truly have no idea.  At this point, the only thing we think we know is that we will most likely rent to get to know the area before we buy.  On the positive side, it is summer.  If we can't find something to rent quick enough, we can always pitch a tent in a campground until we can get our ducks in a row! 

Others have asked about the selling of our farm.  We haven't sold the farm as of yet.  However, our neighbor is very interested in purchasing it.  We don't know for sure, but we are pretty certain that he will buy it. 

We are looking forward to the time when all of these unanswered questions are finally figured out.  Until then, we are working to get things in order for the move.  Farm items are being disassembled and stored.  Closets are being cleaned out and purged.  I am even working on my attitude.  This whole move wasn't at the top of my "Want To" list.  None of us wanted to move.  However, the lack of a job outweighed our wants.  Having been without a paycheck for awhile, I think we are all willing to make the sacrifice of moving in order to have the necessary money to live life. 

grace and peace,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Girl

After the excitement of yesterday's news, I felt like my old self again.  I was ready to be creative so I grabbed my camera, my daughter, and an old chair and headed to the field.  The light outside was just about perfect, and we had about 20 minutes to do a quick photo shoot before the light changed.

It was nice to spend a few minutes with Hope doing something fun.

We had a chance to laugh and talk a bit, but she was really in a hurry to get back home.  Her daddy and brothers were loading up the fishing stuff to head to the pond to catfish for the evening.  She didn't want to miss the outing.  When we got home, she quickly ripped off her dress  and replaced the beauty with an old pair of basketball shorts and a ponytail.  She was ready to fish. 

I like that about her. She isn't afraid to wear a dress and be feminine, but she is also very comfortable in old shorts and converses with her hair pulled back. She fits in well with both worlds.

She asked me what I expected since after all she did have four brothers!  I guess the young lady has a valid point there!
grace and peace,

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oh Happy Day!!!!

The call finally came this evening.  We were sitting around the dinner table enjoying homemade pizza.  The cell phone rang with an unfamiliar number.  Michael answered it with his standard business voice, "Hi, this is Mike."  He jumped up from the table quickly and his smile stretched from one end to the other.  He was trying to contain his excitement while staying professional with the person on the phone.  It was TVA with a start date for him to go to work. Let me just say this has been a long drawn out process and we are thrilled that it is almost completed. 

The next few weeks will be filled with much excitement and many things to get accomplished.  We have to find a new house that will accept all of our kids and the English Mastiff.  We have to make the deal on the sell of our  house and pack up our entire farm.  It looks like we will be renting for the first year that we move so we can get acquainted with the new area.  Did I mention that I am so thankful for this job?

grace and peace,

Just a Note

Things are plugging along around here in East Tennessee.  We are still waiting for a clearance so Michael can start work.  I am getting a bit tired of waiting, but I am trying to have a positive outlook.  The kids are all off from school for the summer.  We are spending time together enjoying each other's company.  There aren't a lot of demands on our time for now.  If there was a paycheck coming in, we could really enjoy this season.  We are doing our best to make lemon aide out of lemons...some days it is easier than others.

I did want to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my recipe organization dilemma.  I liked the ideas so much!  Tnfarmgirl will be coming over tomorrow for organization lessons and lunch.  I am looking so forward to the day. 

We are also busy eating the bounty of our spring garden.  Salads are accompanying just about every meal around here.  I have been a bit out of whack without putting out a summer garden.  It is the first year in 9 or 10 years that we haven't put out a garden.  What am I doing with all of my free time? I am studying to take the Praxis teacher exam so I can get my Tennessee Teacher's Certification.  I am busy reading classics that I read over 20 years ago when I was in college.  At least it is better than being bored!  Just so you know, I would rather be in the garden!  I have missed one of  life's simple pleasures this year.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Calling All Cooks!

I am not very good at organizing anything.  I procrastinate all chores that deal with organization.  Now that we are moving I am starting to think that a bit of organization would be a good thing.  Several weeks ago, my mom asked me for a recipe.  I made it at Christmas.  I remember writing the recipe down on an envelope or maybe it was a note card or perhaps a scrap piece of paper.  I can't really recall.  I have searched high and low for this recipe the last few weeks.  I KNOW I have it.  I just can't find it.  I use the recipe book in the above picture as my go to book.  My Dad made this book for me several years ago.  I had the best intentions of using it correctly.  I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  I place all of my favorite recipes collected from friends and family in this book.  See all the loose leaf papers.  Those are my treasures. 

The funny thing about my lack of organization in the recipe department is that for the most part I KNOW where most everything is.  If I want to make Cheri's Garlic Knots or Pan Bread, those recipes are located in the front stack of papers.  If I want to make Concetta's Baby Cheesecakes, they are in the front pocket.  The problem comes when I am making something that I don't make very often.  I have trouble finding the Peanut Clusters in the Crockpot that my mom requested over two weeks ago!

Remember confession is good for the soul so here is my confession...This is my cookbook shelf.  I use all of these cookbooks.  I use some more than others, but there is nothing here that I want to purge from my life.  See that Taste of Homes magazine?  There are about 10 of our favorite recipes in there.  Do I cut them out?  Do I keep the whole book?  Should I label the front of the book?  (Keep in mind that I KNOW where most everything is if I need it.  The problem comes when I have to give directions to someone else living in the house to find a recipe.  It goes something like this...."Go to the Taste of Home Magazine that I bought 3 summers ago. It is a thick magazine, but I don't remember what is on the cover.  Oh, I bet it is something grilled.").   Well, you get the picture.

My question to you:  How do you organize your recipes?  What about your magazines that contain recipes?  What do you do with those recipes that you use most often?  Am I the only one out there that has a problem in this area???  Do I need professional help?  I can see me now..."Hi, my name is Julie. I have a problem with recipes."

grace and peace,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bread Rounds

This is my new favorite homemade bread.  I don't say that you just have to try a recipe very often, but this recipe MUST be tried if you like bread.  I'm not even a lover of bread and I LOVED it.  I found the recipe in a Taste of Homes magazine.  These are my new favorite cookbooks.  The magazine is like going to a church potluck dinner and bringing home all your favorite recipes.  I encourage you to pick one up any chance you get!  Hope you enjoy the bread!!!

1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg, separated
2 teaspoons salt, divided
4 1/2 cups Bread flour
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon each poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and caraway seeds
1 teaspoon dried minced onion

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add milk, sugar, butter, egg yolk, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups bread flour.  Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.  Add remaining flour and knead.  Dough will be sticky.  Knead by hand for about 10 minutes.  (I use my kitchen aide mixer and let it knead for about 5 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl, turn once to coat the dough.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.

Punch dough down.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half.  Shape into 2 round loaves.  Place on a well greased cookie sheet.  Let rise until doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Combine egg white and 1 Tablespoon water.  Brush on each loaf gently.  Combine poppy seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  ( I used kosher salt for the topping). 

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until brown. 

I made this bread to serve with Italian Beef.  The next day I made it again because the kids requested it.  It would be great with just about any soup.  I might just have to go make it again today!!

grace and peace,

Friday, May 14, 2010

Do You Want to Go for a Walk With Me?

As you well know, these last few months have been stressful around here at our house.  I am thankful that we all still enjoy each others  company even during the stressful times.  We each handle these times a bit differently.  My husband may play Playstation when he needs a mental break or go shoot the bow and arrow with one of our kids.  He  also spends a lot of time with our boys working on baseball.  None of those avenues of stress relief will work for me.  They would bring on more stress in my life.  I would probably miss the bow target and shoot a cow or something!  I have found that walking is one of the best stress reliefs for me.  I put on my outside shoes and hit the pavement.  After 3 or 4 miles, my mind is more clear and I come back refreshed from being outside.  It gives me a chance to drink in the beauty of this place before we leave. 
You would think I might lose a pound or something, but that part of it hasn't kicked in just yet.  That wasn't my motivation this time around with exercise.  Nope, my motivation for sweating this time has been to keep me from exploding.

We are still very much playing the waiting game.  We are hoping that all the clearance things will be completed in time for Michael to start work by the end of May.  If not then, it should be the middle of June when he starts.  Our house is no longer on the market to be sold.  Of course there is a story there, but I am not at liberty to say at this point and time.  The good news concerning the house is that our neighbor is very interested.  If we can work out a reasonable price, we may have a deal.  Guess what, we are waiting on that too!  I think I need to go find my running shoes and head out the door for another 4 mile walk.  Want to come with me?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spring Harvest

We are starting to enjoy the fruits of our winter labor with our spring garden. We have the most beautiful Romaine lettuce that you ever did see or eat!  We have about 40 heads of these little treasures growing.  I probably won't be buying lettuce again for quite some time!

This is a sampling of our Heirloom Acres Spring Mix.  This is a much more delicate lettuce than the above Romaine.  This Spring Mix needs a light salad dressing so it doesn't weigh it down.  A nice Italian dressing is always good on this.  I also make several homemade dressings that are not heavy that make this salad divine.  Please excuse the few weeds poking up in the picture.  Don't worry, I will pick those out before serving!

We have some strawberries growing amongst the weeds.  Our little guy is enjoying this harvest each and every day. 

Of course I can't go to the garden without my handy dandy garden helper, the English Mastiff.  She doesn't like to garden in the afternoon though.  It is too hot for her, but today it was early so she was ready to work.  She found a sunflower growing in the lettuce bed.  It had reseeded itself from last year.  She knew it didn't belong there so she considered it a weed that needed to be tended.  Yep, she ate it.  I wasn't thrilled with her enthusiasm.  I like sunflowers, and I cater to them wherever they happen to pop up!  I guess I will have to do a little more explaining to her the value of flowers in my world!  I thought that making her wear a collar with flowers on it would do the trick.  My male children wanted her to wear a collar with spikes that said, "Bad to the bone."  I put my foot down and she wears flowers.  Now, if I can just teach her not to eat them we will be in business!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Country Life

Yesterday morning found us gathered together in the basement.  Michael had finished fence repairs, and he stopped in the basement to spend some time with the college student who is now enjoying summer break.  I went downstairs to work on the computer for a bit, and where ever I go the English Mastiff is usually close behind.  She was sound asleep on the floor by my feet.  Seth was also downstairs playing toys.  The rest of the kiddos were off at school.

As I was typing, I heard a man's voice in my living room.  Then I heard another man's voice talking.  It was obvious they were both standing in the house talking.  One of the men called  out, "Hello."  Since we live in the country my first thought wasn't, "Oh, my gosh there are strange men standing in my living room, I bet we are about to be robbed."  That thought didn't even cross my mind.  What I did think about was the fact that I hadn't cleaned up the living room floor and there were still some clumps of dog hair!  Then much to my horror I realized that I was also doing laundry and I always fold my laundry on the kitchen table.  "There are strangers standing in my living room and they are going to think that I am an awful house keeper!"  That was the thought that just kept floating through my head as my husband went upstairs to greet them. 

After I realized that I was a failure as a clean homemaker, I then realized that I had nothing baked to offer them.  I mean in the country this is a fatal mistake.  I usually almost always have something tasty sitting on my bread board to offer any person who drops by our house.  Our resident health nut makes fun of me about this.  He thinks I am convinced that people wait until their belly growls to show up at our house because I magically make food appear.  What the resident health nut doesn't understand is the way of a Southern woman.  It is part of our being and our fabric to feed whoever may walk into our front door! It is an unspoken rule.  The more they eat the happier we are.  That is why I like teenage boys so much. They are always willing to eat!

After we talked to the men for quite some time, they left.  Michael looked at me and smiled.  He spoke what was on my mind.  We both hope that the next place we move to and call home is as carefree as this community.  A place that an unknown neighbor can stick his head into the living room and call out hello because we left the front door standing wide open.  A place that we feel comfortable to leave the front door open to let the breeze pass through the house.  I think we are going to be okay.  After all, we will still be living in Tennessee!

grace and peace,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

I was a little concerned about Mother's Day this year.  I was afraid that I would be a bit down in the dumps.  Every year since we have lived in Tennessee, I have asked for a garden work day on Mother's Day.  As a family we spend the whole day working together in the garden.  We finish planting, tilling, and any other chores that need to be done.  I have always enjoyed the day so much!  This year we aren't planting any more garden since we are moving, and I was already feeling the sadness.  My husband and kids must have enjoyed freedom from the garden chores because they really did make a special day for me.  It started with Michael making homemade lasagna for dinner.  He is usually much more into grilling, but we had the fixings for lasagna so that is what he made.  It turned out wonderful.  Let me just say that Mr. Nuclear Engineer had a hard time not having a recipe to follow.  I told him how to make it, but he still likes written procedures to direct his every step.  He survived the whole ordeal.  He was suppose to go to the garden and cut lettuce for a salad.  He decided that the whole lasagna thing had been enough so we did without a salad!  My daughter made homemade Garlic Knots, which turned out wonderful.  I made the tea.  (I don't like my husband's sweet tea.  I may actually have to write him out a procedure for that one)!

Our oldest son had to work, but his girlfriend came out to share the afternoon with us.  She brought me this lovely vase of flowers.  She wanted to take me and Hope to the movies, but I declined.  I had other plans in mind!

We loaded everybody up in the suburban and drove a few miles to Horse Creek which is located in the Cherokee National Forest.  I wanted to spend some time outside hiking.  Matthew's girlfriend had NEVER hiked before.  The girl is almost 19 years old and she has never hiked.  I think she would have rather been at the movies, but she was a good sport about it all. 

Look Jacob was even being  helpful to her.  He did have to take a moment to tease her with some wild thing he pulled out of the creek.  He also reminded her quite often that we were in the forest with bears.  She was a little uneasy, but she came through with flying colors!
Jacob had to take some time to enjoy the beauty.  He loves being outdoors!

This is why I don't let people hold my camera!  They always take pictures of me in precarious situations!

I even took some time to partake in some photography! 

Time with my family...good food...hiking...laughing...taking pictures...laughing some more...Yes, this was a special Mother's Day indeed!  My heart needed this day so much. 

grace and peace,

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Saturday Thoughts

My whole spring is being thrown out of whack.  I don't even know what to do with myself.  I have missed the garden.  Just think last year I was wishing for some time away from gardening and canning.  The morale of the careful what you wish for, it may come true!

I am starting to feel some excitement about the thought of moving.  It is a fresh start and it does come with lots of adventure.  I have thought a lot lately about what I want in a house.  I find myself day dreaming about what it will be like to start over again.  I am ready to see where we will live.   We are all feeling this way.  We have questions that we are getting anxious to have answered.  I am looking forward to the next chapter in our life.  I wish I could just turn the page and read ahead, but I guess I better remind myself to be careful what I wish for!!! 

grace and peace,

Friday, May 07, 2010

Our Little Man and Other Life Things

Seth is missing his farm animals.  Although we still have three cows, they don't really interact with him.  What is a boy suppose to do?  Our neighbor's pasture is right next to our side and backyard.  Seth likes the miniature horses that live there, and he has spent some time getting to know them.  This sweet one is the only one that will come to Seth.  They are developing a friendship.  There may be something to this new style of keeping animals.   Let the neighbor do all the work and we get all the enjoyment!  I don't think that farm philosophy will work for us.  We already have several kids begging us to get sheep and horses and of course chickens once we get moved.  They are truly missing the farm animals just as I am.

The FedEx guy brought a package to us a few days ago.  Well, technically he didn't bring it to us.  He sat in his car refusing to get out because the last time he was at our house Missy scared him by barking at him.  I promised him she wouldn't hurt him, but he wasn't about to believe me!  I had to go to his truck and retrieve the package.  The good news is that it contained all the great benefits of Michael's new job.  We got to read about our new insurance plan, retirement plan, 401k plan, and other great things.  The bad news is that there was still no hire date.  We have been in the nuclear field long enough to know that nothing happens without a security clearance.  We also know those kind of things take time.  We are just getting tired of waiting.  Our checkbook is beyond tired so we are more than ready for Michael to go to work! 

I am amazed that the weekend is here already.  I am looking forward to it.  As always, my Friday is full of cleaning.  Don't tell anybody, but I am going to thaw out our supper from leftovers I made several weeks ago.  I am hoping nobody will notice.  This family has a freezer complex.  They think they don't like food if it has been frozen and reheated.  They NEVER complain unless they SEE that it came from our freezer.  The trick is to NOT let them see.  It works every time.  I might even bake a cake so they think that there was some activity in the kitchen for the day. 

grace and peace,

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was our first born son's birthday.  Let  me just say that I am way too young to have a 19 year old!

We call him our resident health nut because he is kind of nutty about eating and fitness.  Here he is picking up Atlas stones in a competition.  This should be proof enough of why we call him a nut!

He is always good to make us laugh!

He loves to hug and snuggle.  He would still sleep in bed with us if we would let him!

He holds a very special place in Seth's heart.  By the way, Seth also holds a very special place in Matty's heart as well. 

He also loves the girl in our family.  She made a dumb decision recently that sent him over the edge.  We didn't even have to parent her because he was so busy doing it for us.  Of course, Michael did step in and took back the father reigns, but Matthew had it just about covered.  I KNOW she won't make that same mistake again!

He has also brought this girl into our family.  She has been around for over a year and a half.  We love her dearly.

Happy Birthday Matty!  I can't wait to see what you do with this one wild and precious life!

grace and peace,