Monday, July 20, 2015

Blueberry Almond Coffeecake

I love a good blueberry coffeecake and I thought my blueberry-coffeecake-life was complete with this recipe.  But then I stumbled upon this one here and discovered that I have enough love for both.  It is moist, chock-full of blueberries and topped with a sugary crunch.  If you have blueberries about, give this one a try and join in the love.


Blueberry Almond Coffeecake (adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2001)

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups fresh blueberries, divided
1 1/3 cups whole milk (or buttermilk)
4 tbsp. butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 large eggs

heaping 1/2 cup whole almonds, chopped in food processor
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Add 2 cups of blueberries and combine gently.  Set aside.  In another bowl, whisk together milk, melted butter, almond and vanilla extracts and eggs.  Add to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined.  Pour batter evenly into a 9 x 13 inch pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of blueberries on top.

In a small bowl, combine chopped almonds, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle evenly over the batter and blueberries.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a knife in the center comes out clean.  Enjoy warm, room temperature or chilled.


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Monday, July 13, 2015

A Long, Summerly Post

I know I've been a bit quiet lately.  It's not because there hasn't been much going on...it's the opposite actually.  Below is a glimpse into our summer thus far. 

Our gardens are doing great thanks to plenty of rain and time to keep after the weeds.  I know I've said this before but if you want to maintain projects like a big garden, you have be home to care for it. This is our new side-garden.  We moved it up beside the house when the pigs needed space. Since it's up by the road and right next to our house, we keep up with it better and get to enjoy looking at it out our windows.


(back garden)

During a weekend of company, there was a cherry pie that was overlooked in the fridge.  Having been inspired by this friend, I chopped the whole pie up, gently stirred it into slightly softened vanilla ice cream and refroze it.  I might just bake pies to chop them up from now on.  Swoon.


Our zucchini plants are producing like crazy. One day, I set out to quadruple my zucchini bread recipe to make 8 loaves (the number that fit in my oven) only to discover I had calculated wrong and was in the process of mixing up enough for 16 loaves.  Suffice to say, I'm done making zucchini bread for the summer.


Speaking of zucchini, we've discovered baked zucchini fries.  Cut them into spears (slicing away the seeds), coat them in beaten egg and dredge them in seasoned bread crumbs.  Bake them on greased cookie sheets for 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees (or until they start to brown) then dip them in ketchup or tomato sauce (as you're eating them). My six year old even likes them and that's saying something.



While our blueberry bushes are producing a small handful of berries every few days, it feels like a tease so we went blueberry picking.  I am so thankful for pick your own places that don't spray.  And we lucked out- the morning we went was cool and cloudy and the patch was empty.  We were able to pick along side the owner- a sweet, sweet lady- who gave me some blueberry growing tips amid lovely conversation.


Is there anything better than getting to hang your laundry outside?  Even if your mama has the clothes pin basket at the other end of the line?  I think not.



Peaches.  Will we ever get to eat them?!  The odds seem to be against us as either we lose the blossoms to late frosts or critters climb up the trees and eat every blessed one the day before we intend to pick.  This year, the frosts didn't get them and we wanted to make sure the critters don't either because they are LOADED under all those leaves.  So.  We saved the tacking strips from our carpet runner on the stairs and lashed them to the trunks.  Try and climb up them this year, you greedy buggers!




Not only were we able to split some of our bee colonies this spring but Jamey caught his first swarm this month. If I can remember how, I'll post the video soon. I wasn't home so he kindly set up his phone to document the event so I could see.  The swarm was probably one of our own, but it gave us another split, so all our hives are now full- three top-bars and three Langstroths.  And bees are busy everywhere.
 




Do our pigs look bigger to you?  While fully pastured pigs do grow slower than pigs raised on grain, it's rewarding to see them fill out and know that they are eating excellent cuisine.  In addition to being rotated through four paddocks in their yard, our friends bring us leftover garden produce from their CSA business and farmer's market stand.  Below you can see them feasting on summer squash. When they're not eating like people, they enjoy all the weeds we can send their way.  Weeding has taken on a whole new purpose around here thanks to them.



Speaking of pigs, I only wish I had done some videoing the other night.  Spock (the largest pig) took advantage of the electric fence being off (the line had become grounded in an inconspicuous place) and lifted a large gate with his snout.  He pushed it open and waltzed his way over to the chicken yard where he lifted that gate off it's hinges.  When we saw him, he was happily slurping up the chicken scraps we had thrown in their yard. Jealous much? Jamey chased that pig all over the back yard, somehow managing to keep him out of the gardens where he surely would've discovered the corn and hunkered down.  After watching the chase for a minute, I came to my senses and grabbed the metal bowl we use to carry scraps outside.  As I approached Spock, cowering in the weeds and trying to hide from his pursuer, I said, "Spock, get in that gate!" He, along with another pig who sneaked out as well, promptly walked back in the gate.  I'd like to think he was obeying me but likely he wanted scraps and was tired of the chase.  A working electric fence is our new best friend.

When we're stuck inside, our new favorite pastime is coloring beautiful pages from this book. We make photocopies of the pages so we can enjoy the book longer.  It's calming and aids well to conversation and read-alouds.


And last, but not least, let me introduce you to our new ducks.  They are Khaki Campbell running ducks.  They flutter and fly as much as chickens or maybe even a little less so.  We started with the four you see below but we lost one the very first night, likely to a predator.  After an intense game of chase-the-untame-ducks-around-the-yard, we corralled them into the chicken duck tractor where they'll live full time for awhile until they learn to call it home.  Then we can hopefully let them out each morning after they lay and shut them in at night.

We've only collected one egg so far (they've had quite the transition) but we hear they're excellent layers.  Their conversation is as, if not more, entertaining than that of chickens.  If they prove themselves worthy, we may increase their numbers instead of the chickens next spring.



I have two recipes to share that will hopefully come soon...this post is already long enough.  I hope you are having a wonderful summer!  Here's to hoping the second half will crawl along instead of fly by like the first half has :-).

Blessings,
Jane
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weird (to us) Looking Gardens

Ever since we've lived here (ten years this January), we've used the no-till gardening method- using lots of straw, leaves and grass clippings to keep weeds down and moisture in.  We had several very successful years using this method.  Our gardens thrived and were a pleasure to walk around in since our shoes never got muddy!  But the past couple summers life has gotten busier and we slacked on making sure there was enough mulch put down.  When you don't lay a thick enough layer of mulch the weeds NOTICE and they take full advantage of your full schedule, lack of mulch, and they. take. over.

So this year, we decided to till and hoe.  Because of this we have strange-looking gardens because...well, of the tilling and hoeing.  This may not be weird to you, but it sure looks weird to us.


The gardens still aren't perfect.  There are still a few weeds and other garden-relating things hanging about but to us, they look rather neat and tidy...in a dirty sort of way.




The pros are that we don't have to go hunting for mulch and hoeing out small weeds is a breeze.  The cons are that moisture isn't readily available under the (nonexistent) mulch (although we've had a wet spring which has helped) and our shoes get muddy when we walk the rows after it rains.


sunflowers (which we never mulched)

It's been a welcome change of pace and our gardens look more "normal" to others.  We occasionally mulch with grass clippings as we have them but I'm still not used to our gardens' new look.  Don't get me wrong- I like it. I just have to remind myself that you can't judge a garden by its naked paths...or something like that.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gratitude

Every once in a while I happen upon a most overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  Sometimes it comes out of the blue and other times something happens that reminds me of all I have to be thankful for. This week I'm swimming in it.  I hope that in the midst of your life- whatever it looks like- you can feel a smidgen or an ocean of it, too.

I'm thankful for preteen boys who make chickens jump for sour cherries.



I'm thankful for little girls who love picking mulberries and...


...who take their job as cherry stoner very seriously.



I am thankful for the ridiculous amount of beauty that surrounds me and for those moments when I actually take the time to appreciate it.




I am thankful for the promise of things to come.  All I have to do is wait.




This week, I am even thankful for weeds.  {A true sign I'm drowning in it.}


But most of all, I am thankful for the gift of life and the family I'm entrusted to care for and be loved by.



It's almost too much. Pin It

Monday, June 15, 2015

Stripping Stairs

Remember when I stripped the paint off the floor in our upstairs hallway last spring (Part 1 and Part 2)?  Well, I had intended to do the stairs that summer, too.  Instead, a little boy came into our lives for a time and all my projects flew out the window. {By the way!!  His family and we are back in touch, we are spending time together and it is wonderful:-)}.

So here is what our stairs looked like.  The upstairs hallway and the steps were this light blue when we bought the house and have remained this lovely color (that I really have never liked very much) for the ten years we've been here.  We added the carpet runner after Sam fell down the stairs. Twice.


In the great scheme of things, they were fine.  We just really appreciate old wood flooring and wanted to expose it.  It was the last remaining painted wood flooring in the house.  So, how did it go? Well, the first day I bit off more than I could chew.  I painted stripper on the entire right hand side so I had to scrape, reapply stripper, and scrape some more the whole live-long day crouched or bent awkwardly over because there wasn't enough room for me to sit on the non-stripper-applied steps comfortably.  From 10:00 am until 4:30 pm (with two short ten-minute breaks to use the bathroom, drink and eat) I slaved over these silly steps.  I hated it.  It was an incredibly hot and humid day and a fan directly on me and the steps would have dried the stripper out too quickly.  By the end of the day my whole body ached- especially my hands.  Here's what it looked like (sorry the photo is rather dark- at that point I didn't care)....


The second day, I wised up and only did the top half of the other side of the stairs and then worked on the treads where they extended past the railing.  For this, I could at least stand on the floor which made the work feel practically effortless compared to working on the steps.  On the third day, I only had the remaining left side of the steps to finish.  Then, because my hands were like claws and my right arm was in a perpetual state of feeling half asleep, Jamey kindly scrubbed the steps with water to clean up any remaining residue.  And here's what they look like now....


I don't know if you care or not, but in order to record the depth of this project (for my own sanity), here are the layers of paint I encountered...

light blue,
a slightly different light blue,
white,
light brown,
dark brown,
greyish-bluish...
and, finally, bare wood.

Also, interestingly enough, all the steps are pine except for the second from the top which is oak.

I told Jamey that we can never sell this house because if someone ever paints back over these stairs, I may have to take them out.


As you can tell, I wasn't able to get entirely down to bare wood everywhere but thankfully I was really pleased with the results and so was Jamey (like he'd say otherwise, right? ;-))  They look like really old steps which is what they are! The project is now turned over to Jamey.  He's planning on applying a few coats of clear stain to protect and brighten them up a bit.  The painters tape will then come off and I'll lay down the new braided rug treads I snatched up over a year ago when I spotted them on sale.

The biggest and most dreaded summer project has now been checked off my list.  And for all sweat, aches and pains, it was totally worth it:-).

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Winner(s!) of The New Answers Book 1

Thanks to those who entered the giveaway at the end of my Creation Museum post!  I decided to pick three winners instead of just one!  If you see your comment listed below, please email me (thyhand123@gmail.com) your mailing address and I'll send you your book!

 

Love love love!!!!

What a fascinating museum, I'm sure your family had a lot of fun & gathered great knowledge. This is a point of interest I'll be sure to pass along for my grandkids, many thanks for sharing.

Ruth

What a wonderful trip! De and I are planning to visit the creation museum in the not-to-distant future. I think its about a 10 hour drive, so we'll likely make it a 2-nighter.


Have a great weekend, friends!

Blessings,
Jane Pin It
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