Appreciating Our Homestead

I love our house/property, and I have since we moved here more than 10 years ago. In the last year or two though, I am trying to more purposefully take time to observe and notice. I am using the day-to-day beauty of the flowers and the veggies and the fruits, and the hard work that goes along with it, to help me with missing the kiddos every day. It seems to help me stay (at least slightly more) centered.

The blog and my newer enjoyment of taking pictures also helps. So, while I’m waiting for us to make more progress on the pergola, I thought I’d share a few flowers with you.

The bee balm was beautiful again this year, though it gets a powdery mildew pretty quickly.

And the echinacea did really well.

Daylilies with larkspur and bee balm make a pretty color palette.

Of course, having Fargo The Terrible around helps (most of the time).

Veggie garden, blueberry and pergola updates coming soon!

May (2017) Reflections

How is it the last day of May already? This month was a whirlwind, for sure. I feel grateful that we were able to travel to graduation and that the kiddos were able to spend a week with us here. I have truly marveled at the beauty of Spring every day (as well as at the number of grey days this month).

You can see how much the front bed has filled in!

My Hobby Adventures this month have been limited to current pursuits (garden, baking, yard, Fargo The Terrible, blogging) vs trying new things, but that’s fine. The veggie garden is planted and mulched.

Planters and hanging baskets are done, with the flowers we picked out as a family. I am anxious to see how they all fill out over the summer months, assuming Fargo doesn’t pull off all of the flowers when I’m not looking.

Strawberries are ripening and, though it’s early yet, I’m hopeful we may have enough for some jam.

And there’s so much more. Upcoming will be a post about our step project, and hopefully one or two about the pergola project (hopefully, because I’m hoping we’ll get to it), and of course, more Fargo picture posts.

 

Spring ’17 Continued

I have been having fun taking flower and Fargo pictures.

Tulips in the morning.

Same tulips in the afternoon.

Fargo loves being out in the sun, but I’m not sure he’s really able to relax.

With a ton of help from Fargo…

The first round of veggie garden weeding is DONE! Unfortunately, there will be many more rounds because the only thing we don’t have to work hard to grow is weeds.

Catching Up, Cornbread and Signs of Spring

Hello, sorry it’s been so long. I had to travel for work (which is a rarity), then we were away to see family, then I was trying to catch up from being away for 5 days, then there were actually a few hours of nice weather and I used them to get started on the yard work. But here I am and I have a few things to share.

We bought a cast iron skillet! We have dutch ovens, but never had a skillet. I have seen a number of recipes for desserts baked in a skillet and I saw one for cornbread that looked pretty fun, so we bought a Lodge 10″. Before buying ours, we borrowed the in-law’s skillet (in pictures below) and because hubby loves cornbread, that was the first thing we tried.

This Honey Skillet Cornbread recipe uses corn kernels (we used the corn we froze last Fall) and a lot of butter.

It looked beautiful out of the oven, nicely browned, and even a bit like the picture in the recipe for a change. My “hunny” jar, a gift the youngest made at school a few semesters ago, was perfect in this picture because honey was just the right thing to drizzle on this bread.

It didn’t last long, that’s for sure.

I have since tried another recipe, but it was definitely not as good. I’ll try a few more, but I’m not sure there is a better one.

Happily, the seeds (except for the ones I forgot to order) have almost all sprouted and the seedlings are doing well.

We are supposed to have rain/snow showers tomorrow, so planting is still a ways off. Next step here will be thinning and/or transferring to new cups if I think I can fit more plants in the garden or I have friends who want some. It’s painful for me to actually just get rid of a healthy start for the sake of thinning, but I know it’s necessary, both here and when direct seeding in the garden.

Fargo was very helpful yesterday while I was working on cutting back the tall grass.

I only managed to get to about a third of it yesterday, so it’s still on the overall “to do” list.

I have spent hours weeding two of the perennial beds. There are hours and hours and hours of work left to do. I always have big ideas of how to improve or expand the beds to add more natives, but by the time I get even a fraction of the weeding done, there’s no time left to go above and beyond.

Here are some of the first flowers to show their faces.

I am hoping to take the fancy camera out over the weekend, weather permitting, and take some flower pictures. The grape hyacinth is up, the lace peonies are are working their way up and the dogwood buds are pretty.

In the next few posts, I’ll have the master bathroom re-boot project to share, a new and very exciting outdoor project that will be starting soon, and pictures from a very quick trip to Vermont. I have no Hobby Adventures update for March, as I’m still finishing up one last cross stitch. I will not likely have a report for April, given the mess of yard work waiting for me, but maybe.

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies

I baked over the weekend. I baked using refined sugar. I baked something I saw on Instagram, something that called out to me. I baked Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookie Peanut Butter Swirled Brownies!!! It has almost all of my favorite components (missing pumpkin/squash). After so many weeks of trying to avoid sugar, I figured go big or go home. Or so I thought, but really, this recipe only has 1/2 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar, which is way less than a lot of recipes I’ve made.

I was definitely in a chocolate mood, so lots of melted chocolate was a good way to start. Add in some cocoa powder and instant coffee and mmmmmmmm….

choc cocoa powder

choc mmmmm

Once the brownie half is done, it’s on to the oatmeal cookie half. The recipe gives the option to use a more flavorless oil, or to use coconut oil. I opted to try coconut oil, especially as we’ve been enjoying it so much on popcorn. It was a good choice.

oatmeal batter

As with the brussels sprout latkes, I was concerned as I put the two batters together, that they wouldn’t meld/mix/combine or that they’d combine too much, etc.

choc dollops

choc and oat

Ready to bake, crossing fingers.

choc oat pb

I think I may have left it in a minute or two long because I was unsure if the brownie part was really done, but overall, looked pretty decent.

choc oat pb done

This was a really great choice for the baking comeback. It was not in any way too sweet. Using all dark chocolate and unsweetened peanut butter helped. I really liked the little bit of coffee flavor that came through in the brownie bites. Definitely a winner!

choc oat swirl

Fargo watched me trying to get a good picture of the finished product. I didn’t really get a good picture, but it was funny watching him watching me.

fargo plate

I took all of the pictures with the fancy camera. I definitely have lighting issues, as there are lots of yellow tones. I don’t have picture editing skills yet. I am still also failing on indoor vs outdoor light settings.

pic failure

It’s obviously going to be a long learning curve for me.

 

Playing With The Fancy Camera

One of these days, I’ll understand the light issues/adjustments. But otherwise, I’ve been having some fun. A few turned out pretty neat. I could literally take sunrise and sunset pictures every darn day and never get bored. Of course, I never seem to get bored or tired of taking Fargo pictures either.

Three of the many balls in the yard.

Poor attempt at fixing color issues due to incorrect light settings.

More playing with color adjustments.

February Hobby Update

When I had the brilliant idea to include a “monthly hobby update” on the blog, I certainly thought I’d have more on which to update. Sigh. I have definitely spent way more time following current events than I used to. Maybe that needs to count as a new hobby?

I am on the last of the four cross stitch projects I started before the holidays. This is the third one I completed.

If I cross list my gardening adventures category with my hobby adventures category, I can include that hubby and I spent a good bit of time planning out this year’s garden crops and choosing which varieties of seeds to order.

We ordered through our favorite seed cooperative

And the seeds have already arrived!

A new and exciting aspect to our gardening this year will be participation by a wonderful co-worker and her boyfriend. Given some of the physical challenges we’ve dealt with this year, the help will be very welcomed. In return, we will happily share what will hopefully be a lot of produce.

I am alternating between reading the bread book mentioned in a previous post:

And a book the eldest got me for the holidays:

 

There are some very yummy looking recipes in here and I’m gathering ingredients to try some.

It’s been too cold to work much more on the garage in an attempt to make space for a work bench/work shop. I am pretty sure I have a knitting project picked out, though I’ll need to recruit help getting it started. The master bathroom project we thought would be scrapped, may be back up to the top of the “to do” list as we’re starting to research supplies.

This about sums up the past month. The no sugar thing has definitely put a cramp in my baking…

 

 

Monthly Hobby Update

I just decided this morning, as I started typing, that I would include a Monthly Hobby Update this year. I’m hoping to be working on a few hobbies at any given time, though life has definitely gotten in the way the past few weeks. Mostly good derailment, some I could do without.

Anyway, I’m working with the youngest on a furniture project. Given that the girls are heading out way too soon, I’m reminded that I need some things from her before she leaves so that I can get moving on it without her.

This leads me to the garage project. Although it’s been slow going, there has been enough progress so that the car once again fits inside.

car garage

I think the next steps on the garage will likely need to wait a few months for Spring, but I am actually really pleased and I owe hubby a huge thank you for the time he has put in.

The main hobby I have been spending time on is cross stitch. I decided to make gifts for both girls and two of their close friends. I finished two, this is the third, in progress.

love is

If I were to do it again, I would do at least one thing differently. I have never before used pre-framed canvas, and, unless it is for a VERY small design, I will not use it again. Stitching, and pulling thread through at the end is incredibly difficult near the edges. I have inadvertently stretched the canvas in a few small areas. It seemed like a great idea when I saw them at the store, but not so much in reality.

I keep looking at the bags full of yarn every time I walk by them, so I think I will attempt a knitting project next after the cross stitches are finished. I ground more flour yesterday for the loaf of bread which is in the oven as I type. I am still enjoying watching the flour fall into the measuring cup.

Still trying to figure out the camera, especially the lighting.

dark pic

light pic

In the meantime, the usual chores are still happening. Fargo continues to be quite helpful, especially when it’s time to make the beds.

fargo helping bed

Also, yay me, I logged a whopping two miles on the treadmill Monday! Hopefully I’m going to get a little more back on track with that. Must I register for an event to keep myself motivated?

Social Media

I am not well versed in social media. I get by with Facebook and I’m still learning Snapchat a year later. Hubby and I only finally agreed to let the girls put Snapchat on our phones because it would mean hearing more frequently from them (though I do admit it’s been fun). Although I understand that the idea of Snapchat is that the pictures disappear and, therefore, don’t take up room on phones…I may or may not screenshot some…or a lot.

As I try to figure out what my goals are for this blog, expanding into more social media platforms seems to be a good step. Having an empty nest is different for everyone and it would be nice to draw in others who are figuring out how to approach their new normal. Creating a space to mutually support each other as we try new hobbies, or second careers, or travel more, or deal with crazy puppies, etc. would be fantastic.

So, with the help of my girls, this blog now has an Instagram:

instagram

And a Twitter:

twitter

Fargo is pretty pumped to be the star of all of my social media pages.

fargo paws

I’m thinking that the next step will be a Facebook page. Oh, and figuring out how to best use it all. Suggestions are more than welcome.

Happy New Year (and Cinnamon Apple Pear Crisp)

Well, time to put 2016 to bed and look ahead to 2017. The years keep flying by! This year, one of the big milestones will be attending college graduation for the eldest. Pretty sure it was yesterday that I was spilling tears about her leaving to attend a school on the other side of the country. Other than that, I will be happy with a year that is healthy for all, a year that is safe for all, and a year that brings positive forward progression for all.

As I mentioned in the last post, I would like to try and do more with this blog. I’m thinking I need to learn how to use the blog platform, WordPress, beyond the very basic way I’m using it now. I certainly wish I was more literate in this area than I am. If anyone has suggestions, feel free to share.

Okay, on to the fun food part! Hubby’s brother and wife gave us a box of about 25 pears during the holidays.

pears

We’ve eaten some, and they are delicious. However, they need to be used rather quickly, and we thought a baked good with pears would be fun. My parents are here visiting, so a good sized audience would be partaking.

After looking at a number of recipes, I deferred to my usual resource, Sally’s Baking Addiction. Because we also had some Honey Crisp apples in the house, her Cinnamon Apple Pear Crisp looked perfect.

hc apples

Also note that I used an actual camera, my eldest’s nice camera, for the pictures. My youngest is trying hard to teach me about the settings, the shutter speed, the F stop, and the light meter, etc, but unfortunately, it is not sinking in as fast as I’d like.

The pears were super juicy, so somewhat challenging to peel and slice without a huge mess and without accidentally sending one flying across the kitchen. Though, once all of the filling ingredients were together, I’m pretty sure that the juicy pears made it look so good.

apple pear

As I knew that both the apples and the pears were super sweet, and I didn’t want to hide the flavors of the fruit too much, I cut back a little bit on the brown sugar in both the filling and the topping. I definitely did NOT cut back on the butter though. I’ve come to see butter as a very good friend. The recipe lists the pecans as optional, and I used them.

The smell of the kitchen as it was baking and after I took it out of the oven, was amazing! It looked pretty amazing too. I especially loved the little pockets of liquid that bubbled up through the topping.

apple pear crisp

I plan to get more apples so I can make this again with the rest of the pears. This recipe is going in the favorites folder! It was delicious warm when we ate it as a mid morning snack, and it was delicious last evening with ice cream.

apple pear crisp II

So, what do you think? Can you tell the difference in picture quality?