Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A little bit of this and a little bit of that...

We are enjoying the beautiful fall days here at home and are blessed with a gorgeous view!  I will post a few more pictures of that as well.  As you can see, we got a puppy!  Meet Abe:
This is our kids first puppy and they are loving him to pieces.  He is a chocolate lab and such a good little puppy.  He fits right in around here.  He is teaching the kids a lot of responsibility and they are learning just how much work it is to be completely responsible for his well being.  He is a lot more work then the cats, as they pretty much take care of themselves.  My husband and I picked out his name, because we bought him in the "Land of Lincoln".  The kids had chosen sparkles, Hershey, hawk, colt, but in the end our vote won and Abe suits him well.
We have been busy painting as well.  We painted the kitchen this weekend and well, I'm still getting use to it.  I went more bold, then I normally would, but I do like it.
Here is the before, just white and gray:
And the after:
I'm going with a garden theme, and have been collecting antique watering cans for a few years now.  I think they add a nice touch and just need to find the right fabric for some curtains.  To be honest, it's going to take me a little while to get use to it, but I do like the brightness it adds to the home.
So that's what we've been up to.  Between the puppy, painting, the baby kittens, and the everyday happenings, we have been enjoying the beauty of fall.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from this past week:
Silly kids!
♥  Shannon

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A fun experiment for a rainy day

A few weeks ago, we made a trip to the Mennonite dry goods store, as I was running low on some spices and seasonings, as well as unbleached flour.  I LOVE visiting their store.  It's out in the country in the middle of no where, and they have just about everything.  They even had some WI cheese on hand this time, and we stocked up our fridge with some.   I asked if they had peanut butter, as I didn't see any on the shelves.  The nice girl informed me that if I picked out what kind of peanuts I wanted, they would make some fresh.  I couldn't resist, and we had never seen homemade peanut butter being made before.  It was as simple as dumping it into the machine and out came the creamy peanut butter.  How neat, I thought "I need to get me one of those". 

A few days later it was a rainy Saturday and I decided to look online and see if I could possibly find myself a peanut butter machine.  As I was doing so, I stumbled upon an old antique one and I couldn't believe it.  I HAD one of these, way in the back of my pantry.  My grandma gave it to me many years ago and we used it to grind up meats for sandwiches, and I never knew I could use it for peanuts.  We HAD to try it out immediately :)  Thank goodness I had a large bag of peanuts from Sam's club in the back of my pantry, that had been there for quite a while.  The kids started shelling the peanuts, while I washed and put together the old grinder.

It was a messy, but fun job for the kids.  They all took their turn dumping the peanuts into the grinder and then turning the handle. 

It took the nuts a couple of times through the grinder before they became smooth.   We then dumped them into a large bowl and I used my blender to get the texture I was looking for.  I couldn't give an exact recipe, as we were just experiementing and dumping ingredients in as we saw fit.  I did sweeten with lots of honey, a bit of sugar, and a tiny bit of salt, and a splash of water.  That's as exact as my recipe can get. 

When we were finished we all tasted it and agreed it was good, but different then we were use to.  The kids did have it on their toast the next morning at breakfast.  After about a week of the peanut butter sitting in the pantry, I realized the kids weren't going to eat it plain, so my oldest daughter made up some peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, using our homemade peanut butter.  They were delicious!
In the end, it was a fun experiment for a rainy day and yes, I would try it again.  I am going to do a little more research before I attempt it again and try to get a more exact recipe.  With the cost of peanut butter these days it's definitely worth it and the kids have fun making it!
♥  Shannon

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day of School!

My 2nd & 3rd grader's

Yes, I am doing two posts in one day.  My time these days are limited :)  We started school yesterday and it went very well.  I wanted to share a few pictures and a look into our school room.  Also, we are trying something new this year.  My two oldest are going "part time" to the christian school.  They are taking a math and science class there.  That helps me out a lot, as quite honestly, I'm not great with math.  Being a new home school mom (this is my 2nd year), I also haven't figured out how to fit in science experiments and all, into our already busy schedule, so this is a great fit for us right now.  Also, my girls miss the atmosphere of school.  I think the hardest part of home school is adjusting to a new normal.  It doesn't feel normal or natural to either one of them, because they have always been in school.  This is a good compromise for all of us, and I still have 3 at home full time!

My 8th grader!  Where does the time go!   She is happily studying her history here.  We do mostly, all Bob Jones curriculum and I really love it!

My 6th grader.  She is having quiet reading/history time in her room.  I think one thing the girls do enjoy is the quiet laid back atmosphere that home school provides. 

And my baby, started kindergarten!  I always thought there would be tears the day he stepped foot into school.  How thankful I am, that our time together is being continued at home.  Looks like he found the puppets.

Here is a peek into our school room:

I LOVE my whiteboards!  They are a lifesaver.  The kids like to practice their spelling words, and play with word magnet games on here.  My calendar is from Oriental Trading Company and the kids enjoying switching out the months.  It's such a great fun way to teach the days/months of the year!

This is our library we created right off our school room.  It was an extra large hallway which really had no purpose.  My husband bought all the materials at Menards, and built them himself.  One of my favorite areas of the whole, entire house! 

Another one of my favorites of the school room is our farm table.  I started out with this table and the four chairs it came with.  Then I found this antique church pew at a shop right down the road from our house.  It was the perfect fit for the room and at least 3 kids can sit comfortably on the bench.  It is great for family game nights, and craft projects as well!

The large antique cabinet in the background holds all of our games and puzzles.  And then of course, I have a desk with the computer/printer, and laminator, which I haven't tried out yet.  That's pretty much it, but it's cozy, warm, and the kids enjoy our space.

♥  Shannon

Because my garden just won't stop...

I thought I was done with beans. My kids had picked the last of them last week and I stepped outside to take a look and see if they had left any unpicked. I was surprised to find the bushes were FULL again! So we set out to pick once again over the weekend. I was suppose to be cleaning out my school room and organizing, in preparation for our first day of school this week.

I don't have a pressure cooker, so I would be freezing all these beans. I have about 30 gallon bags already frozen, so I decided to make green bean casserole for the freezer. This is one of my families favorite side dishes. I ended up with six pans after working on beans for 2 days. I blanched the beans as if I was freezing them, and then made up the casserole's and put them in the individual pans for freezing. I recommend to everyone to make your own "cream" soup from scratch. It is absolutely delicious, and so much better for you then the canned soups in the store. I will share my recipe below. I did not add french fried onions, but will add those later, when I pull them out of the freezer to bake. If I don't have the french fried onions on hand, I will add crushed croutons for topping and my family likes that just as well.

We also picked an abundance of green peppers and decided to try out a stuffed pepper recipe for the freezer.

I have never made stuffed peppers before, but my husband is a pretty good cook and helped out. It was pretty simple. We fried up some hamburger and onion, then added a spaghetti sauce and rice. We stuffed the peppers and topped with cheese.

I placed the pan into the freezer for about an hour until they were froze, then placed the peppers into gallon size bags for the freezer. I ended up with enough for six separate dinners. How wonderful! It felt really great to add some delicious, home grown, quick and easy freezer meals to my freezer, right before we started our busy school year!

  Homemade creamed soup:

1 c nonfat dry milk
3/4 c cornstarch
1/4 c bouillon
4 Tbsp dried onion
1 tsp basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp pepper

Mix all together and when ready to use add 1/3 cup of mix to 1 1/4 cups of water. Cook on stove top until desired thickness. Cool. I made this dried mix up in large batches and keep in my pantry with instructions for use. I will never go back to canned soup again. Thank you pinterest!

♥ Shannon

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Birthday parties, the County Fair and Apple Pie!

Where to even begin! We have been so very busy, between a birthday, the fair, and our garden harvest, I barely have time for sleep! Not to mention school is right around the corner, and I have been planning, ordering, and cleaning out the school room in preparation for the coming school year, and just today, baby kittens! Wow, when I write it out on paper, I feel even more overwhelmed :) So here is a quick overview of the month of August. Our sweet, spunky, baby girl of the family celebrated her 7th birthday, which happened to be the same week as the County fair. We had a great week at the fair, with many blue ribbons and even a best of show. We squeezed a birthday party into our week, and it was small, special and very festive. We all had a great time celebrating one very smart, special girl!
I have been busy with apples around here. We headed to the orchard yesteday and purchased 3 bushels for half price. "Apple Tom" even threw in an extra bushel for free because he remembered me from last year, and was appreciative of all the apples we buy from him. I some day, hope and (dream) of having enough apples from my own orchard, but for now I enjoy supporting the local, small town apple orchards.
I made a few apple pies. Now, I am not a pie person and they never turn out looking like they should be on a magazine cover, but it's apple pie.. how can you go wrong? They always taste delicious. I have found, that since I don't do well with crust, I like to make a crumb top apple pie or an apple tart. My family loves them and that's all that counts!
I do however LOVE making applesauce and conquered my fears this year and started canning. It was my goal to learn to can, and summer is almost over, so well, I did it! I canned 24 quarts and still have a bushel in the fridge for fresh eating. If we start to slow down on eating them fresh, I may can up some apple pie filling. A few years ago I found a slow cooker applesauce recipe from Gooseberry Patch and have been using it ever since, and sharing it with all my friends. It's amazing, delicious and makes the house smell heavenly. I like to mix it all up in the crockpot, in the evening and slowcook it all night. In the morning we wake up to warm applesauce and again, the house smells divine! This year I tried something new and used a roaster as well as a crockpot, because it cooks down so much, there isn't much left after seven people are served. I recommend cooking with the roaster during the day because it cooks the apples in half the time and you don't want to burn them. I was able to make 10 quarts using my roaster. Here is the recipe: Gooseberry Patch Slow-Cooker Applesauce 3-4 lbs of sauce apples, cored, peeled and thinly sliced 1/2 c. sugar 2 T brown sugar, packed 1 tsp cinnamon (I always double or triple the cinnamon) 1/2 t. nutmeg 1/4 c water Fill your slow cooker with apple to about 2 inches from top. Stir together sugars and spices in small bowl; mix into apples and add water. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 hours, or until apples are tender. Drain; mash apples with potato masher to desired consistency. Store in refrigerator. A few things I do differently, then the recipe: I don't drain or mash the apples. We like our sauce more chunky and I have never found enough extra juice to drain. When I have cooked the applesauce for 8 hours, I mix and stir until desired consistency. Also, if you don't want to use all that sugar, you may substitute with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of honey and 1 tbsp of pure maple syrup (recipe compliments from a friend). If I am not canning the applesauce, I prefer to make it with the honey and maple syrup. Apples also freeze very well, so in years past, I have mixed up the apples with the spices and froze them in gallon size freezer bags. I pulled them out on a cold winter day and put in the crockpot. Just add a little water as they will be juicy from being in the freezer. There is nothing better then the smell of applesauce slow cooking all day, on a cold winter's day.
♥ Shannon

Friday, August 3, 2012

Yummy All American food

It has been a while since I posted.  We've been keeping busy with church events, gardening, and  every day life for a family of 7.  We have been enjoying some great meals from our garden and my husband is the best cook on the grill. 

These burgers were amazing, truly mouth watering.  We've been adding slices of tomatoes from our garden with a side of sweet corn.  All American food, if you ask me!

We are so excited to have our first crop of sweet corn ever!  It wasn't nearly enough for freezing, but we've been enjoying it every day for the past two weeks.  With a family of 7 we can go through a lot of corn.  I did manage to freeze one large bag of corn for Thanksgiving.  Next year, we have plans to expand our garden, to allow more room for sweet corn.  Here are a few more pictures of our harvest so far:

Max and Maddie picking cherry tomatoes

I have started freezing my cherry tomatoes, the same way I freeze blueberries.  Just wash and freeze!  This fall and winter when I make a stew, soup or chili, I will just take out a cup or two and add to the batch.  I added a cup of cherry tomatoes to my homemade spaghetti sauce this week and it was delicious!

Our pumpkins are ready, way too early.  In fact, so early some of them are going bad before we even pick them.  My pie pumpkins have definitely been affected by the drought.  I am saving and freezing what I can of them.  Note to self:  plant pumpkins a lot later next year! 

Overall, the garden has been bountiful and I am thankful for what we have harvested.  God is good!

♥  Shannon

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Just another weekend project...

My daughter once said "I always wondered when dad would finally finish up all his projects, and then I realized they never end".   It's true, projects are his hobby.  He works in management, so his "down time", isn't really down time at all.  He loves to build, create, dream up and create.  My 8 yr. old son loves to help.  Between the two of them, I never know what they are going to come up with next.  I sometimes wish, he could just make a business of it, and do what he loves, but life isn't that simple... or is it??!!   Anyway, this weekend, he finished up, yet another one of his projects.  We had a lot of leftover wood from our shed project, and so he came up with this great idea for our Farmers Market stand.  Usually I help with the design, or even come up with the plan and then he builds it.  But not this time.  I had no idea what he was building or how it was going to turn out.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It's great, and I love it!  We are hoping to have a Farmers Market stand every Friday evening and this should attract some attention and hopefully get the kids some customers. 

Like I said, we used all leftover wood from other projects.  He built the boxes out of cedar and used metal sheets for the roof.  We stained the rest of the wood, varnished the cedar boxes and used stencils to paint the sign.  I am very  excited to try it. 

♥  Shannon

Thursday, July 19, 2012

4-H Fair !

It's 4H fair week!  Wow, it's been a hot one! 

This is our first year in 4-H, and it has been a learning experience.  We just weren't sure what to expect going into the fair.  We didn't know what the judges would be looking for or expecting.  My oldest daughter, who is a wonderful, talented photographer, didn't have a great experience.  She received 2 red ribbons, which is pretty much like saying "thanks for entering"!   She even entered her prize winning photo, that she took last year, and won 1st place for in our county, for the Conservation Office, and the judge just didn't like it. I hope she doesn't get too discouraged, because she has amazing talent.  As her mom, honestly, I was a little disappointed as well with the judges remarks.  Here is one of her photos:

My two middle clover buds had a good learning experience.  They were able to enter whatever they wanted and then just had to get through the judging.  They both did excellent and got great marks! 

Max did a project on composting.  He helped Brent build an actual compost box by our garden, last fall,  and it has been "his" project ever since. 

Here, Max is talking to the judge about his project. 
Below, Marykate is talking to the judge about her loomed hats.

By the end of this week, and with the heat advisory, the kids were pretty tired and crabby.  Two of them have an ear infection and one has a sore throat.  We just had to get through one more judging, and it was taking forever, and spirits were running pretty low.

Maddie was last, but definitely not least.  Here she is below waiting patiently for her cookies to be judged.

The day and week ended on a high note.  Maddie received a blue ribbon, best of show and is headed to the State Fair!

Here are the prize winning, oatmeal choc chip drop cookies!

So, my second child who usually takes a back seat to her older sister, is pretty pleased with her accomplishment, and I am proud of her.  It did take her 3 attempts to get these cookies right, but in the end, her hard work and persistence paid off!

Next month, we have our county fair, and we are all looking forward to entering some more projects.  From photography, to agriculture, to culinary, to arts and crafts.  It should be another busy, fun, crazy, and hopefully much cooler week!

♥  Shannon

Monday, July 16, 2012

More then heart breaking....

This is all that has been on my heart and mind lately....

These two precious girls have been missing for 3 days.  Evansdale, Iowa is very near my hometown, where I grew up... less then 10 miles.  I have close friends who know the family.  My grandma goes to church with their grandma.  They were on a bike ride, and never came home.  That's it.  There is nothing more to the story.  They were still close to home, and their bikes and purse were found.  Please keep these girls, and their families in your prayers!  It was just a bike ride on a Friday afternoon.... 

Thankfully we have a God who is in control.  He knows where they are.  Please, Dear God, allow these girls to be found and brought home safe to their families!!!

♥ Shannon

Friday, July 13, 2012

God's beautiful creations

We have been having fun watching the deer lately.  There is a mother and two fawns living in the woods next to our house.  I try to get pictures and videos, but they are fast :)  They keep a look out for us as well.  Any sound from us, and they are back in the woods.  I have taken a few pictures of the mother, but the babies are too small and hard to see over the tall grasses. 

She caught me, so back in the woods for her.  So I decided to take some pictures of the birds.

My daughters took a walk through the woods yesterday, with their camera in hand, hoping to find the them and get some pictures for the 4H fair next week, but no luck.  Maybe next time. 

♥  Shannon