Thursday, October 31, 2013

Carving Up Pumpkins...

Not carving in your traditional sense of carving, but hollowing them out and feeding the guts to the chickens and saving the seeds for planting next year.  So I guess we were technically "gutting" pumpkins. We didn't carve designs into them as the kids had painted them a couple weeks ago (and it's Halloween today and I just don't like stuff hanging around once the holiday they're for is over so...)

It was messy but a lot of fun.   The kids mostly enjoyed throwing the pumpkin guts to the ducks and chickens and watching the poultry "football" for the best pieces of pumpkin meat. 

This Mille Fleur Cochin girl thoroughly loved the treat.

Throwing treats to the chickens always gets Squeakers started on "I need to the chickens" and she grabs the first thing she can find (in this case a blue bucket) to fill up with grasses and then throws them ot the chickens. 

I do think it's absolutely adorable!  She's so adamant that she needs to feed "her chickens", and at first wasn't too keen on welcoming Big Brother's help.

There may have also been a small - ok huge - meltdown when we told her it was time to go in and "put up the chickens". 

Today the kids are dressing up in the costume of their choice (though we still aren't sure which costume Squeakers is going to go with..she keeps going back and forth between Doc McStuffins and  a princess) and spend the evening with good friends at Trunk or Treat.

Have a safe Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Family Night

After a long and stressful week, we desperately needed something simple, fun, and low-key to finish out the week.  The kids just needed some fun, kids will be kids moments after the roller coaster week we had.

Being that it's Friday, I figured it won't hurt to let the kids stay up later than usual.

So we made caramel apples together...everyone except Squeakers who crashed hard (she also had no nap today).

The kids each made their own caramel apple with help from mom, of course.  They devoured them in no time.  

We are now sitting down to watch Monster's Inc as a family in our pj's. A fun, simple family evening and was the best way to finish out our week I think.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cooking on a Shoe String Budget (Dinner for roughly $5)

A woman's rant on facebook today about her food stamps being cut by $64 got me to thinking how a lot of people really don't know how to cook on a shoe string budget. Or how to cook from scratch.  Granted I wouldn't consider that woman's food budget a "shoe string" budget, considering she still gets $1100 a month to shop with.  But for many of us, we don't have the "luxury" of a monthly budget of a $1000 or more to spend on groceries.

Yet that doesn't mean we can't still eat well!!

When I shop I'm always looking for things that can be purchased in bulk and then broke down into smaller packaging at home for the freezer (or canning which ever the case may be) to make multiple meals later.

I also like meals that the left overs can be made into something else later.  For example, yesterday we had sloppy joes. Not my favorite choice in meals, but my husband and kids love it. They didn't eat all the sloppy joe mix, so that will be used for my meat in a pot of chili. 

Today, I decided to put it to the test and see just for how little could I make a dinner?  When I break all the costs down, I think it comes out to roughly $5.   And I fed 9 people.  For $5.

I started with chicken leg and thigh quarters.  I had bought them for 98 cents a pound.  They weighed 5.28 lbs so total cost to purchase was $5.17.  I boiled the leg quarters until the meat was falling off the bones. I made a creamed chicken using 1/2 the broth, 2 tbls of flour,  a dash of salt and a dash of pepper.  Only used half of the creamed chicken for dinner tonight.  Rough estimate of the costs for the creamed chicken (only counting the amounts used for tonight's dinner) is around $2.60.

 Then I moved on to making homemade egg noodles. I use a recipe from a 1978 Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.   This is an old favorite cookbook that survived our house fire when I was 9, and was the only thing I asked my mom to give me for a wedding gift.

These little bit of ingredients add up to roughly 20 cents.  Yes, you read that right.  Twenty cents to make one batch of egg noodles.  The cup of flour cost about 18 cents, the egg came from my chicken, you have less than a penny's worth of salt, and maybe 1-2 cents worth of milk. 

 Normally I would say the potatoes used came from our own garden, but not this year. But, we did find a good deal for 10 lb bags of potatoes ($2.50/bag) and bought 2 bags of them.   This is half of the potatoes from one of those bags.  So, $1.25 in potatoes that were peeled, washed, diced, cooked up, and whipped into mashed potatoes and drowned in real butter.

To round the meal off, we opened 2 cans of sliced carrots purchased at Aldi's for 53 cents per can ($1.06) and 2 quart jars of green beans that we grew and canned ourselves. The cost of the green bean seed was $1.50 per bag, and we put up over 45 quart jars of beans.  I'm not sure how to break down the math on this, given we picked and canned 16 rows of green beans multiple times that I was sick of looking at green beans!  We think the green beans cost us roughly 5 cents per quart jar.

So when you break it all down, and then add it up, the total cost of dinner, that fed 9 people tonight plus allowed for second servings for the children, was $5.19.

Five dollars over 30 days would be $150 for dinners for the month.  Can you imagine?  Granted, a lot of the savings comes from:
1) cooking from scratch
2) growing and preserving foods on our farm and
3) shopping for good deals.

Yes, it was a simple dinner but it was also delicious and filling and no one had any complaints.

Tomorrow, the left over creamed chicken will be used on sandwiches and I'll be making chili from left over sloppy joe mix.

OH! and in with making things stretch, making the most of a meal, the bones and skin from the chicken I cooked today were saved and put into the slow cooker to be cooked down even further into more broth that I will can up tomorrow.  Homemade chicken stock to be used in future meals. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just stuff..

The last few days have been a roller coaster.  There's a lot I want to blog, and one topic in particular, but I feel like I'm this jumble of just stuff that I need to spill it out before I can talk about the things I want to.

I've had a lot of sick in the pit of my stomach I might vomit feelings since last Thursday (not pregnant at all, it's stress) and I'm ready for that feeling to go away. For a very. very.  very long time.

 So the timeline of events that have thrown me into a funk began on Thursday and continued throughout the weekend, with a few good moments sprinkled know, just to toy with us I'm sure.

I didn't think it would continue on beyond the weekend, but it did.  We landed in the ER with our oldest Monday with concerns that she may have appendicitis.

I nearly freaked out after I called both our family doctor and our pediatrician just to be told neither could get my DD in the following day for a follow up as the ER doctor requested.  Thankfully, we were able to get her an appt for today. 

Today, I woke up to find our youngest two boys are sick. :(  Have spent most of the morning deep cleaning the house to get rid of any contagious bugs or germs or any icks that might be lurking in hidden areas....and let's not forget the kids clogged their bathroom toilet and that had to be cleared up this morning.   My DD is a lot better! She's not as sick as she was, her appendix is fine, and we have a plan in place with her doctor that everyone's happy with.  Hopefully, soon, we'll have answers.

This has totally not been a normal week for us. At. All.  Too much death and sickness and just absolute crazy to deal with at any one time.

I think I understand a little bit of how my friend KC was feeling not too long ago.  She had so much to deal with in such a short matter of time, so much that I was at such a loss of what one could say to her.

I mean, what does one say?  How do you comfort the grief stricken?  You know, without sounding all cliche' and coming off as you don't really care?  A person can only hear "I'm sorry" so many times before the words become empty and meaningless.  Or routine.

Routine. What an ugly thought.  That loss and grief and dying and feeling helpless etc could just be routine.

Know how when you come upon the scene of an accident and you think to yourself, "I wonder what happened..." Well, I don't think I'll ever wonder that again. I don't want to know what happened.  I don't know that I ever want to even watch another Nascar race, because God only knows how many cars are going to flip and smash and make a wrong move or catch fire....or who knows what else.   I just don't think I could watch that and it still be the same.  Granted, we saw a motorcycle get smashed, but still, any smashing and crunching of metal...I'm just sayin'....

Last night the State Trooper that had been on the scene called us for a follow up interview.  I'm working really hard to forget, but apparently that's not a luxury for us.  We may be called in to court, so they don't really want us to forget.  We are supposed to be able to recall every nasty detail.  Worse than that, we learned that the driver of the car was not even supposed to be driving.  He didn't have a valid drivers license (and no, we don't know why) and the whole reason he hit that Harley is due to his choice to play with a radio application on his smart phone.

Nope, he wasn't texting! He was playing with an app!

Maybe it's not that smart to have a smartphone.

When did we become a society that the stupid electronic device in our hand is so very important that we can't pay attention to basic things .... like driving.   I mean, there are people out there who can't chew gum and walk at the same time, and those same people aren't just voting, but they are now operating smartphones and driving at the same time. And breeding.

And putting everyone last one of us in danger when they do.  Nice

You know, just because they can't chew gum and walk at the same time doesn't mean they're lacking in the mutli-tasking while driving department. (and in case you missed it, that's totally dripping with sarcasm.)

So common sense is gone.  People have stopped using it.  Common sense would tell you that texting, downloading apps, checking facebook, etc. with your smartphone are all things that could wait until you're at home or whatever your destination is.   Seriously.  It's not the end of your world if you can't read that text (or reply), get an app to work, check your email, or anything else you might be doing with your smartphone while driving.

It's not the end of your world,  but your poor choice (or dare I say lack of common sense) could be the end of someone else.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


I broke my iPod today.  Haven't had it yet a year, and I broke it.  I wasn't even doing anything abnormal with it - except trying to get an oh so perfect photo of an uncooperative 2 year old.

It all started with skipping church this morning.  Originally we planned to go to church, but we decided to just skip it and do other things.

So first we went to care for friend B's chores for her as previous agreed upon.  Then we went to town to pick up costumes and then stop at the mall. It was a 25th Anniversary event, and Akron zoo was bringing down some of their "special friends" for kids to see.  I was super excited to take my kids there.  And I was going to take pictures. With my iPod.

I was disappointed with Akron's "special friends". A snake and a parrot.  *blink blink*  That's it?!  Then there were turtle shells and an alligator head.  I laughed as I said, "We had an alligator head from FL in our living room. Let's go."

So we went into Elderbeermans because they have their Christmas trees up and their over priced and extravagant ornaments out. And Fiesta dishes.  And cement floors that aren't healthy for iPods.  My iPod slipped from my hand, crashing to the ground, shattering the screen, while I was trying to coax my 2 year old to look at me for a picture in front of an as tall as she is Santa.

I was done. My mood was ruined. I said, "Let's go" and we stalked past the disappointing Zoo display, passed through the doors, and tromped out to the car.  We got everyone into their seats and buckled in, and I slipped the shattered iPod out of my pocket.  I was surprised, but glad, to see it still works. I mumbled to my husband that I was glad we bought the extra warranty on it.  We pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward home.

I was still preoccupied with my disgust over my newly shattered iPod when we came to our exit for home.  There's a light there for traffic that do not take the on ramp, because it's right before a small town and it's a fairly busy intersection.

As we were coming to the light, before getting taking the on ramp to the right, my husband was admiring a burnt orange Harley stopped at the light.  He said, "that's a nice bike right there" and I gave a noncommittal "mmhmm".  Seconds later, as we had just taken our exit to the right, which runs alongside the 4 lane road we had just left for a few hundred feet before it turns up to a bridge, I heard brakes squealing and what sounded like an explosion.

There's an audible gasp from my husband, as he instantly hit the brakes and screamed, "That car just hit that bike!!" 

I look up just in time to see the biker hit the windshield of the car and continue to tumble to the back of the car and disappear.  Time slowed to a screeching halt as the car was still propelling the now driverless bike a good 100 ft up the road.  As we slowed, we passed the biker, lying face down on the ground, motionless. His pallor was already grey.  Pieces of the bike littered the biker and the ground in all directions.

The white Lincoln finally came to a stop, and the bike broke away from the front of the car and skidded a few more feet before settling crossways in the right lane.  Antifreeze and smoked gushed from the where the right front quarter panel of the car used to be.  Never had I seen so completely into the insides of a car's engine from the side of the car before. Nothing on the bike was salvageable. It was completely destroyed.

My husband pulled over. I was on the phone with 911 before I was out of my car.  The truck behind us had also stopped because he had seen it, too. The driver of the car got out and called his wife.  He said to his wife, "I was playing with the radio and not paying attention." He kept asking people there "is he going to be OK?" Another person had stopped and she just happened to be a nurse.  Divine providence.  She grabbed gloves from her car and rushed to check for a pulse.  Traffic had come to a dead stop and people were standing around gawking, cars were slowing down.  People were taking pictures. Are you freaking kidding me. 

The 911 operator asked me to tell her where we were.  She asked if he had a pulse.  I thought he looked dead.  The nurse said he had a pulse and his breathing was shallow. I told 911 there is a nurse here, she was just driving by. I repeated to her what the nurse had said, and that she said he would need to be intubated.  Another nurse stopped and they had carefully turned him to check for his pulse. Blood was trickling down his fore head.  His pallor was still deathly gray. My stomach lurched.  I turned away and told the 911 operator I could hear the sirens of the e-squad.  She said good and you should be seeing them now. I said yes, I see and hear them, and we disconnected our call.

The police and ambulance finally arrived. It only took minutes but it had felt like forever. An officer asked who were witnesses to the accident. Five of us raised our hand.  They asked us to stand to the side and wait to give our statements. They intubated him. Then they cut his shirt and jeans off him.   They started chest compressions.  If you've ever taken a CPR course, it's not the same as seeing chest compressions for real.  They were doing compressions and his stomach was sloshing like jell-o and I knew I was going to vomit.  The driver stumbled over to us and asked us if he was going to be ok. We told him we didn't know, they'd said it was too early to tell, and we just needed to give them space to work on him. They were still doing compressions.  I thought it had been an awful long time for chest compressions, that couldn't be a good sign. 

State Patrol came over and asked the driver to come with them.  They frisked him.  It was like we were on a nightmarish episode of COPS. He was spread eagle against the back end of his cracked up car, getting frisked.  Then they whisked him off to their cruiser.  And they were still doing chest compressions.

The first officer on the scene came over with his clipboard and asked which of us still there were his witnesses.   Thank God for that distraction.  By the time he had handed out the statements they had the biker loaded in the ambulance.  The officer stopped traffic so we could cross back to our cars and fill out our statements.  The fire department completely shut down the road so the ambulance could get out. 

We filled out our statements and handed them to the officer.   I looked at the debris littering the road. The biker had not been wearing a helmet, just a Harley ball cap.  It laid in the middle of all of the debris, looking like it had just been lifted from someone's head.  His saddle bags, jacket,  cd's, and a million pieces of plastic and metal literally spread in every direction.  The Lincoln that had hit him sat in a puddle of antifreeze. 

We told the officer that the bike had been sitting still when the car hit him.  He asked if we had our phone numbers, addresses, etc on our statements. We said yes. He thanked us and again stopped traffic so we could cross back to our car.  My husband looked at me and said, "Makes you think, doesn't it?"

As we pulled away, the bike was still laying in the middle of the road. My husband said, "Such a shame. That guy was minding his own business, just enjoying what was a beautiful bike.  Ruined his day. Maybe his year. Maybe his life."

I'm glad I only broke my iPod today.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Algonquin Mill Festival

 On Saturday we loaded up our crew + 1 and headed out to Algonquin Mill.  One of my favorite things about October is there is a fall festival every weekend with a lot of craft vendors, food, and genuine good, clean fun for the whole family.

Our friend L, from Ewenique Fibers, was also there - spinning wool into yarn on a spinning wheel. 

 They had an activity for the kids - making friendship bracelets using a method called Kumihimo, which is a Japanese form of braiding.  Kids had a lot of fun, even if the adults stepped in to help speed things along lol.  Each left with a bracelet they had crafted themselves.


 After making their bracelets the kids visited and fed the group of Shetland Sheep temporarily housed in a wagon and cattle panels.

Steam powered bottle rockets. They flew fairly far, too!  People were ducking to avoid being hit in the head with 20 oz and 2 liter pop bottles!

We watched some lard being rendered.  We purchased 4 gallons of the freshly rendered yard for our own use. I cannot wait to make some pie crust with it!

Kettle of Apple Butter!!

Friend B and our kid crew! (notice the bucket of lard!)

We watched the Chandler dipping candles.  I remember doing this on a field trip to Zoar when I was in second grade.

Even though we keep bees in our own backyard, the kids were thrilled with this display, and immediately picked out the queen on the frame. 
Finding the Queen

 The black smith was making a button hook for a customer. 

He has a very hot job! 

We strolled up the hill to see the saw mill run from a steam Engine in action....

 but they were having some technical difficulties at the moment and not running..

But the kids managed to get a piece of shingle lumber and stamped it with the Algonquin Mill stamp.  They were thrilled.

Then it was on to the Paulette Fur Company where I may or may have not done some early Christmas shopping for 4 boys....

 There was a barn full of crafters and vendors, but we were not allowed to take any photos inside. I may have snuck this one in anyway..

We had a full, fun, busy weekend!  The week is going to follow suit, with baking, brunch with friends, and another fall festival this coming up weekend!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fall with Friends Party

We had a wonderful fall party Sunday evening..

Our menu included chili (2 types, one mild one spicy),  chips,  hot dogs,  donuts, and granny smith apples on skewers dipped in caramel.

Drink bar included hot chocolate, Hot Apple Cider, Orange Kool Aid, and Coffee.

The kids participated in a pumpkin painting contest..

We had face painting....

No fall party is complete with out a bonfire!  This little brick pit sees a lot of us, especially this time of the year!

 Even Grandpa participated in the face painting. He's such a good sport!

Candle accents on the table.
Everyone had so much fun!  Food was delicious, but the best part was the gathering and sharing of friends and family!