Monday, December 29, 2014

Game Camera--Something Besides Deer!

I've had a game camera for a year now.
For some folks, that might be a delight.
However, I see 22+ deer up close and personal every morning.
Yes, I'm one of those people.
I feed the deer.
I began feeding them 4 years ago when our drought was at its worst---no food and no water, even in early spring.
I just couldn't let them suffer, so they get one scoop of corn (about 2 pounds) every morning to share amongst themselves.
I just haven't stopped.
I enjoy watching them and their interactions.
 Last night I threw out veggie scraps like I do every night.  
I long ago gave up trying to compost it.  
The chickens and deer and raccoons and opossums and skunks think composting is just a fancy word for dinner table. 
The deer that sleep on my property are often quick to pick up whatever scraps I throw out, almost as soon as they hit the ground.
Last night was different.
Mr. Gray Fox found the scraps before the deer did. 
Mr. Fox, up near the camera.
You can see the curve of his back in the lower right corner.
 What a lovely, albeit worrisome surprise.  
This means that I will have to be extra diligent in locking up the chicken coop at night.
Once Mr. Fox discovers a chicken coop, he'll be back every chance he gets until he's killed them all.
 I know from my composting days that all manner of chicken predators exist on my property.
It's just fun to finally see one behaving how it naturally does.
My other encounters have been with me identifying scat (poo), footprints and the occasional tree'd animal (bad dogs!). 
In case anyone would be disappointed in me if I didn't include deer photos, here are several of my resident old man buck. 
 He's old enough that his face has begun to gray and his eyes aren't quite as bright as they once were.
 He still manages to chase off the younger bucks that challenge his authority among the does.
 This year, he tuckered out more quickly than in years past.  
 This year he chased does and fought bucks with a little less stamina.
 This year he was quicker to scoot under the fence than in leaping over it.
Still, he remains a fixture among the "girls".
  The rut is over for this year.
Everyone is much more peaceful in the morning and the bucks have been congregating again without fighting.
Mr. Buck has to survive until Sunday to have outwitted hunters again this year.
He never ventures far from my place, so I'd imagine he'll live to see another crop of his youngsters this spring.

Here, you see the last of the game cameras photos.
The elusive "Ladyinherjammiepantsandslippers".
She is very good at avoiding the camera, but sometimes forgets it's there.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Meeting the Neighbors


Our neighbor, Wilber the potbellied pig, came over to meet Bill and Ted in November.
It seemed like they would be fast friends, but it was not to be.
A feud developed over grazing rights.  
Ted feels it's his right to graze on both sides of the fence, and Wilber believes that the grass on his side of the fence belongs to him.
Even if he seldom gets over to that fence line to graze.

I know what the law would say.
Hopefully Wilber will be charitable and not involve the authorities. 
*********************************

video by my neighbor, Laureen
"Whistle Pig" by David Parmley

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What is a "Pretty Christmas Tree"

I'll admit, the photo below is of a "Pretty Christmas Tree".  
It looks almost like a present, all by itself.
The tree is perfect. 
Everything is evenly spaced.
There is a theme.
It compliments the surrounding space with the color choices.
It only has 4 or 5 kinds of ornaments.
Martha Stewart would be proud.
If you want this kind of tree,  there are whole websites devoted to perfect trees.
I'll admit, I would LOVE to have this kind of tree.
I'd also LOVE to have someone else put it up and take it down.
I am too much of a perfectionist for this kind of tree.
I can see myself getting all worked up with a tape measure and a ladder,
"The candy canes are too big and the owls are too far apart right here....."
photo credit: jpdesigner.com
Plus, I would miss the real joy of our Christmas tree.
The joy of memories.
The joy of tacky ornaments.
The joy of ornaments that don't match.
The joy of ornaments with a story.

 These birds were on my tree as a little girl.
So were these angels.


They were also on my mother's tree as a little girl.

Out of 11 siblings, I don't know how she got lucky enough to get them, but she did.
I have spruced them up a little bit.  One of the angels has lost what she was holding, but no matter.

It's funny, when they appear among the other ornaments in the storage bin every year, it's like opening a Christmas present early for me.
I hold them so dear and hope that my children will one day do the same.


 This ornament was likely made by Jenna.
It doesn't have her name on it, but it has all the hallmarks of her work as a little girl.
Would a tree decorator think this deserved a special place (or a place at all) on our tree?
Probably not, but it wouldn't be our tree if it, or other child works of art were missing.

 This dog was given to us by my sister, Nora.
When hanging from the tree, it looks like the dog is flying through and caught a frisbee.
It's handmade.  
It SO fits our love of dogs as family members.  She knew that when she bought it.
She could have bought us a Hallmark dog ornament, but this dog is more her style.
She buys from local artists and so do we.  
His ears and frisbee are so delicately attached--he is wrapped very carefully each January when he goes to spend another year waiting for next Christmas.

 Speaking of Hallmark--this little ornament is one of the first non-WalMart ornaments Eric and I bought together.  
It was a splurge for us.  
Spending $4.50 on one ornament was an outrageous extravagance for us at the time.  
Not sure what prompted us to do it.  Maybe it was a Christmas bonus? 
Maybe it was the cutie little woodchuck and his flickering barrel?  
If you plug the ornament into the light string, his barrel flickers like he has a fire going.  Every
year when we plug him in, I remember buying him and plugging him for the very first time on our first tree as a married couple.


 This ornament was handmade by Eric's aunt Violet, who is no longer with us.
It's all pins and beads and ribbon and plastic.
When we first received it in the mail, I thought, "Uh, wow.....pretty busy ornament".
What did I know then? 
 Obviously, nothing.
Aunt Violet made this with love.  
She took time to make it. 
She made this for us---for Eric and Carla and Preston and Jenna and Quinn Cox.
Many, many years ago, it was banished to the back of the tree.  
Now it holds a place out front for all to see and admire and wonder over.
"Who loved these people enough to make this for them?"
I'm always happy to tell them.

 If you have kids, you know that school pictures are taken every year.  
Often you put one in a frame and toss the rest in a drawer.
At least that's what we do.
Over the years, newer photos are put on top of the older photos until that kindergarten picture of your child is just a distant memory.
Thankfully, elementary school teachers help us remember our children when they were little.
Every year, we received gifts from our kids just like the one you see above of Preston.
They may not always be in a little Christmas tree frame, but there was always something with a photo of our children in it.

Often, these little gifts were a balm to my soul.
I may have taken them out of their storage bin when a particular teenage child was causing me sadness or grief or worry.  

It always helped me remember a simpler time in my life and that the child in question was a "good kid" as Eric would always remind me.
These little ornaments have brought me to tears.
Often tears of joy at what great people my kids have grown up to be.

Then there are the ornaments that bring me joy because friends and family know me SO well.
Who wants donkeys and chickens on their tree?
Well me, of course!
These quirky ornaments and others just like them are gifts from people that know and love me enough to give me bizarre items that they'd never have on their own trees.
Does Eric want a dozen different chickens on our tree?
Probably not, but he knows they bring me joy.

This little donkey is the first donkey on our tree.
He was given to me by a new friend. A dear friend.  Someone who didn't have to be my friend at all, but for our common love of donkeys.
She has a lot going on in her life.  Her husband is fighting a battle with cancer right now.  
She didn't have to buy me an ornament and bring it to my house!
She did it because it brings her joy to share her love with others.
Just for a moment, it takes her mind off the worry cancer has brought into her life.

I bought two packages of "pretty" ornaments this year.  I wanted something new and shiny and designer-like on my tree.
Eric hung most of them on the back of the tree.
He knows me too well.
Our tree is FAR from being a designer tree.  A Martha Stewart tree.
However, our tree is filled with memories of old or memories in the making.



If you see our tree, and see an interesting ornament, ask us about it.  It probably has a story.
A story that will bring us joy to remember and joy to tell.

Do you have any special ornaments on your tree?


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Do You Check In Here Every Day.....

Only to find out that I've not posted anything new?
That's got to be a big drag!
If you look in the far, upper right hand corner of this page, you'll see a little white box that says, "Get My New Post By Email".

All you do is put your email address in that  white box and any time I post a new blog entry, it will send it to you.
No more checking in to see if I've suddenly become a prolific writer. 


I don't have access to your email address, in case you're wondering.
It's just a little widget that may save you some time.

If you're like me, you can use a little extra time during this time of year.
Simply not enough daylight hours in a day anymore.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cheese Twists

 Let me preface by saying that this is an easy-peasy recipe.
My sister-in-love, Jody, taught it to me many moons ago.
It's very adaptable to your taste preferences.

You can use any herbs/spices you want--or not.

You can use just butter or just olive oil or margarine----just do NOT use the buttery stuff in a tub that's mostly water.  
They will not turn out if you do!

Also, this recipe is for 36 rolls.  You can make far more or far less, depending on your need.
**************************

Ingredients:
3 Loaves of Frozen Bread dough, completely thawed.
1 stick of Butter, room temperature
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon of Garlic Powder (not garlic salt!)
You can also use fresh garlic if you like, minced.
2 Tablespoons of Italian Seasoning


1 1/2 cups of Mozzarella Cheese per loaf
(4.5 cups TOTAL)

3 cookie sheets, well oiled.
One sharp knife and one rolling pin.

How to:

Mix butter, olive oil, garlic powder and Italian seasoning well.
Set aside.

Roll one bread dough into long, rectangular shape.
This is easiest done on a counter that has NOT been dusted with flour.

Spread 1/3 butter mixture evenly on bread dough.

Put half the cheese in the middle of the dough.

Fold right half of dough completely over the top of cheese.

Add rest of cheese on top of the folded portion.

Fold left portion over the top.
Use hands/rolling pin to gently push the layers together.
Your aim here is to the the bread to be thinner and bigger.
I can fit both of my hands, side by side and flat, on top of this when it is ready to cut.

photo credit: Oceanoasis.org


Cut along open end of bread.

You should be able to get 11 or 12 slices.

Take a slice and twist.
I do this by twisting my left hand away from me and my right hand toward me.

Pull one end over the other.
If you'd like, you can stop here and place the twist on a baking sheet.

If you'd like a knot twist, simply tuck the ends under and place the tucked ends down on the cookie sheet.

Let rise in cold oven with the oven light on.  
That way you have your counter space back and they'll stay relatively moist.
When they have doubled in size (about an hour, maybe 1.5 hours), take them out of the oven and turn it on.

I've added this picture again, because it will tell which temperature to use.
If you are using a dark pan, set the oven to 350*
Light pan, 375*

Something I learned from my years of baking-----
Just because your oven beeps and says it's 375*, does not mean it's really 375*.
I find I have much better results with baked goods if I wait 10 minutes after the "Oven is ready" beep.


Bake until golden brown on the tops.
Generally that takes about 18-20 minutes in my oven.
Set your oven timer for 15 minutes and stay nearby to watch them after that.
Once out of the oven, brush with any remaining butter mixture.
Let cool for 10 minutes on pan before serving.

This may seem very involved at first glance, but it really isn't.
It is so easy and folks LOVE these cheese twists.
They seem fancy, but they really aren't.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Asleep, Awake, Eat, Repeat

Ah, the life of a tiny baby.



Winter has come early to Central Texas.
Much snuggle-to-stay-warm time for Preston and Katie and Evie.
Quiet time.

Preston and Katie moved about 45 minutes north of us to be much closer to Preston's job with Dell.
Traffic has gotten so maddening that their move was necessary.


We don't get to see Evie (and her parents) as much as we would like.
Tomorrow, Katie is going to be at her mom's house after Evie's visit to the pediatrician.

I have been invited to crash their party and kiss those chubby cheeks.  
I might even take off a little sock and nibble tiny baby toes.

Toes are the best part of a baby in my opinion.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising is an oxymoron at best.
Recipes very often fall in this category.

This yummy little creation is what I set out to make.

It was advertised in a circular from my local grocery store.
It is actually a reprint from a recipe on the Libby's/Carnation website.
Look back up at that top picture.
100 calories for that tiny piece of pumpkin pie perfection.
I could have my pie and diet too!!
Thanksgiving is saved!!

 Or not!

I made a practice batch before the big day.
I wanted to make sure they were wonderful and beautiful and perfect.

I followed the directions to the letter.

I even went on a search for all foil baking cups.
My grocery store now carries fancy baking cups and no longer carries plain old aluminum ones.


Good thing I did, too!!
What a nasty, ugly mess!
The coloring isn't even the same, let alone that the "tartlet" didn't even begin to come out of the cup.
There's a suspicion on my part that the little pie in their picture was made with ingredients that are a far cry from the ingredients in the recipe.
Maybe some cream cheese and whole eggs?
Maybe some full fat evaporated milk?
I would guess that would take the calories up from 100 to about 500.

My biggest question is "WHY?"
It's not like they're making big money on evaporated milk or canned pumpkin.
Why mislead me and other dieters this way?
Maybe no one else makes a test batch.
Maybe other bakers/dieters would just go on faith that their little pies would be beautiful and perfect and bake them on Thanksgiving morning?

Oh well.
It didn't cost me much to learn this lesson.
I think Thanksgiving dinner will be filled with all the common savory and sweet goodies, I'll just eat less of them.
Or I'll eat two pieces of pie and then take a nice long walk.
Either way, don't believe every picture you see.
A picture, in this case, truly is worth a thousand words.
Or three words.
Big. Fat. Lie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sheila the Big Fat Pig Needs Your Help!

One of my favorite blogs is The Kitchens Garden.
It is based in Illinois and is beautifully written by Cecilia Gunther. 
Celi for short.
She has a cast of characters on her farm that fall right in line with the bucolic farm of yesteryear.
She has one or two or three (or more) of just about every farm animal from my childhood books about farm animals.

all photo credits: of Cecila Gunther at KitchensGarden.com
All her animals have delightful names and each has a job.
Milk, eggs, wool, honey, and the youngsters produced from breeding.
Everyone contributes.
Unfortunately, her beloved pig, Sheila cannot contribute.
She had a bad experience with a boar pig and has not come into heat since then.
No baby piggies for Sheila.
In order for Sheila to earn her keep on the farm, she has taken to selling t-shirts and calendars to pay for feed for the winter.
Celi was nice enough to help her with this venture by setting up the accounts and taking all the pictures. 
As you can see above, she finds plenty of food for herself during the warmer months.

If you'd like to help Sheila earn her keep this winter, consider buying a t-shirt or calendar.
The links for both are below.


If you cannot help Sheila, no worries.
Do find time to visit Celi's blog.
She has a way of writing that makes you never want to close your computer.
She is so talented and so humble about it all.
You'll soon have her bookmarked, I promise!