Monday, November 14, 2011

And so the snow begins....

My Saint of a husband decided it would be a good idea to head out Sunday and find some snow to practice driving in.  Sure enough, we didn't have to travel far and we found ourselves in at least 4 inches of fresh snow, with more falling.  Being a first time snow driver, I was terrified, but soon enough came to appreciate my front wheel drive and brand new studded snow tires.  I was stressed though, but Ray kept his cool and was so patient with me.... hence his title of Saint. 
When I felt a little comfortable and was able to relax a bit, we pulled off to the side and let the boys play around a bit too.

The look on Connor's face sure makes me think he was planning on doing something unwise with that snowball.... luckily he changed his mind!

Thanks to hubby's good thinking because this is what we woke up to this morning.  I had one practice under my belt and headed out for the long drive to classes.

Even my favorite regular wildlife visitor came to see me off and wish me luck!
I'm happy to say I made it to classes and back with no problem, and no dents or insurance claims.  I am becoming a real Montana woman!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quilting and Basketball

I thought the warmth of the laptop would feel nice now, so I decided an update was a good idea.
Things in Montana have been good.... cold and busy, but good.  I've discovered two activities that are really big around these parts.... quilting and basketball.
I joined the local quilt guild, and despite not have many members in my age bracket, it seems like a great group.  There are a lot of events and projects to participate in and it's good activity just for me that doesn't involve children, bookwork homework or cleaning.... so sign me up!  I joined up just in time to attend a weekend workshop where we learned one piecing design and made placemats.  Luckily my sewing machine was one of the items I thought of to move with me, rather that pack away in storage.  My heavy coats were packed away, but I kept my sewing machine and fabric.... you can certainly see where my  priorities were.
Anyway, here's a picture of one of the two placemat tops I've finished.  I have 4 placemats to go and then will quilt them to the back and finish them off.

Another activity that is huge around here is basketball.  People take is seriously and start them out young around here.  "Little Hoopsters" is a program for K-5 kids to teach them fundamentals of the game and get them out on the court.  The kids are coached by the high school basketball team, so it's a great opportunity for the teens too.  My boys are loving it and both are showing some real skills at the hoop!  Here's the photo that was shot of all the teams in the program.  Jacob is in the front row in Navy and Connor is in the third row in Orange.

So now Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  My parents will be coming up for a visit very soon.  Just in time to help hang the kitchen cabinets and get the appliances in.  We are so close to moving in I can almost taste it....
As soon as I can get some good shots of Ray installing the flooring, I will post them, along with some of the kitchen tips for handling Thanksgiving.  Until then, Happy Veterans Day to my fellow Veterans and military spouses! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Vampire and a Zombie

Happy Halloween.... however you may celebrate, there's no getting around the fun of this candy filled holiday! We got to experience what trick or treating is all about here in Bigfork and I have to say, it was so much fun.
The boys got decked out in their costumes and we drove down to the village where all the shops are up and down the main little drag.
All the kids in town gathered and traveled up and down the street collecting candy from the local businesses. It was great and definitely the hot spot for the evening.
After about 45 minutes, the boys were loaded with a bag of loot and we headed home for pizza. Because we live off the beaten path, no trick or treaters made their way to our door. Lots of fun and a change from Halloween's in the past. I hope your Halloween was fun, a little scary and loaded with candy corn!

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Digital Crafty Creation

I mentioned the other day on my dashboard post that homework has been a little overwhelming. While that's true, I have to be honest.... I am loving every minute of it. Maybe I'm a freak, but I love the challenge of the homework in my graphics design classes. It's challenging and stressful, but because it's so relevant and not just junk I have to remember long enough to pass the final, it's fun too.
I will show my works as they progressively get better, but I wanted to pass on a fun little project I worked on for my Photoshop class. Our assignment was to create a desktop wallpaper and have it available for different size monitors and even the iphone. While I haven't received my grade yet, I feel good about the way my wallpaper turned out. What does all this mean to you? I am going to share it with you and if you like it, feel free to save it to your computer and enjoy it.

I put the month of November on there so a calendar would always be handy on your computer.  It's only for November, it won't change months, but maybe I'll have another to share by December.

If you'd like to save the wallpaper and use it, visit my google site and click on the size you want.  When it opens in a second window, just right click on it and save it as your background or desktop.  Easy peasy....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Update and a Money Saver

Okay... so it's been a little while since I've posted.... here are a few of the things I've been up to, in no particular order...
  • Corn harvest.... we had to pick, shuck and process all the corn in one day.... about 170 ears
  • I turned 40
  • Classes are crazy busy.... lots of projects to try to keep up with
  • I got 10 new gray hairs
  • Flew down for a weekend visit to Temecula and had a great time with my friends Teri and Suzy
  • Laundry
  • Suffering dissapointment with the news about remaking of the movie Footloose... some things just need to be left alone....
  • Packing away my flip flops and capri pants
  • Shopping for long underwear and snow boots
  • Thinking about all the things I should be blogging about
  • Getting ready for a visit from my friend Lauren
So, if you can imagine, I've been a little busy.  But I had a break in the action this afternoon so I thought I'd catch everyone up.  Actually, my break isn't long.... just long enough between loads of laundry, but I'm making the most of it.  Before the break, I was busy making sandwiches and I thought I'd share my strategy for saving time and money when it comes to lunches for school.

My boys love peanut butter sandwiches in their lunch box, whether they are made with honey or jelly, they love them.  They always ask for the Smuckers Uncrustables but it pains me to pay $5.00 for 10 little sandwiches, so I came up with an alternative.  Here's what I do:

Start with bargain bread.... either use a coupon or find a thrift store.  It just so happens I had a coupon for a free loaf of store brand wheat bread and was also able to pick up a loaf at the thrift store for .68 cents.  Each regular size loaf should make 10 sandwiches, more or less depending on the size of the loaf.
Spread half of the pieces with some peanut butter, then drizzle on honey (or spread jelly).

Top with the other piece of bread and squash it like a bug.  Then cut off the crusts and crimp the edges with a fork.
Put each sandwich in a ziploc baggy and then pack them all back in the loaf wrapper.  Since they are compacted, you should be able to get all 20 sandwiches into one wrapper.  Then put it in the freezer.  Each morning, just grab a sandwich for the lunchbox... it's thawed and ready to eat at lunch.

I figure each sandwich cost me .05 cents in peanut butter and nothing in honey and .03 cents in bread, so easily under 10 cents each.  It's a great deal and with about a half an hour on one Sunday to knock out 2 weeks worth of sandwiches for my boys, it's really a time and money saver!

This week I have some other good posts for you.... an update on the basement and some tummy-warming Fall recipes!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Honey.... Nature's Sweet Goodness!

Before I knew better, I never thought much of the work that goes into a jar of honey.  It was just something I sweetened my tea with or mixed with butter on a corn muffin.  Sounds good, doesn't it?
Although there is still a lot of the technical aspects of the process I don't know, I certainly do have a new appreciation for honey;  for the bees that make it and all the work that goes into collecting, preparing and bottling it.
Here on the property, we have 10 active bee hives.  I guess in his earlier years, my father in law had about 200 hives spread across the valley.  Just to give you some perspective, from our 10 hives, we extracted just about 500lbs of raw honey.
I have just a couple of pictures to share.  I really did want to get some more shots, but when I went down to the honey house I was immediately put to work.... pictures were not a priority, but my sitting on an upside down bucket in front of the pouring tank sure was!  I earned the title of "Head Bottle Filler" because I could get the jars evenly filled without making a mess.  They made the title sound like something exciting, but I think they were just preparing me for the years to come....
Here's Ray, carrying the frames from the hives to the honey house.  The guys know when the timing is right for this process and everyone pitches in to collect the frames.  The frames are brought into the honey house and the "cap" is cut off the comb with a hot knife.  The cap keeps everything in tact, so when it's cut, the honey is allowed to flow out.  The frames are then put into the centrifuge and spun so that all the honey is thrown out of the frame.  It gets collected, strained and then sits in the tank for a few days to settle and let any impurities rise to the top.
After those few days, we then bottle the honey.  Our honey is raw because it never exceeds 90 degrees, which is the temperature that the bees maintain in the hives.  We don't add anything or process it in any way, we just simply let it run through some mesh so there's nothing yucky in it, but all the goodness stays.  Sounds like I know what I'm doing, doesn't it?
Here are some interesting facts I found that I wanted to share:
  • Honey bees' wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
  • Honeybees are the only insect that produce food for humans.
  • Honeybees are responsible for pollinating approx 80% of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S.
  • Honey is 80% sugars and 20% water.
  • To make one pound of honey, the bees in the colony must visit 2 million flowers, fly over 55,000 miles and will be the lifetime work of approximately 300 bees.
  • A single honeybee will only produce approximately 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
  • Honey is the ONLY food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including water.
  • Honey never spoils.
  • Bees maintain a temperature of 92-93 degrees Fahrenheit in their central brood nest regardless of whether the outside temperature is 110 or -40 degrees.**
Pretty amazing, isn't it?  I tell ya, I have a whole new perspective and appreciation.  Now I just have to figure out what to do with all this honey....

**(Info gathered from Utah County Beekeepers Association)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Little Something Crafty.....

Here's another tutorial I did for CutCardStock...this time I made little holders for Pixy Sticks.  I don't think I will be making this one for the masses in the boys' classes; I started off on the right foot with the teachers so I don't want to go wrong this early in the school year.... But the holder is cute and really easy to make - check out how I did it.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A few things I'm loving right now....

Things have been a little busy here lately.... the boys are back in school and loving it, I am in school and feeling very challenged, Ray is making huge progress on the basement and there's always so much to do on the property.  So, this weekend I am spending some time, when I'm not catching up on homework, to take some pictures, bake and maybe make something a little crafty and post them for all of you.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share a glimpse of a few things that are making my life just a little easier right now....
RSVP International Onion Goggles
Onion Goggles.... seriously, not the most beautiful things, but man are they great!  They come in pink too, but then no man in your house will ever be willing to try them, let alone chop onions for you....
TRESemme Fresh Start Shampoo, Dry
Tresseme Dry Shampoo.... love it!  If I am running behind and don't have time to wash and dry my hair, this stuff is the bomb!

My Job Chart... this is a free, online chore tracking system.  It's great - you assign chores for each kid and set reward amounts for each chore.  Then, when they collect enough in their little account, they can cash it in for something you allow them to purchase or a special reward you've established.  It's really easy to use and kids love the high-tech aspect of it.
Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator
Nesco Dehydrator.... this is great for all the fresh garden goodies I have to figure out something to do with.  Sure, you can dry stuff in your oven, but this dehydrator goes to lower temperatures so you can dry without actually cooking the goods.

OK, so stay tuned for some goodies from the weekend.  You won't believe the progress in the basement.....

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Blackberry Buckle

Since Ray really went to extremes to gather the fresh blackberries, I thought the least I could do was turn them into a great dessert.  I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I adapted the recipe to be Gluten Free and Dairy Free.  Here's what I whipped up....

Gluten Free / Dairy Free Blackberry Buckle
What you'll need:
1/4 cup non-dairy buttery spread
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup all-purpose Gluten Free flour blend
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rice milk

3 cups blackberries
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon non-dairy buttery spread

What to do:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease the bottom of a 8 x 8" square pan.
In a large bowl, cream 1/4 cup non-dairy buttery spread and 1/2 cup sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine GF flour, baking powder and salt.  Add that into butter mixture and then stir in milk.  Your mixture may be thick and lumpy, but go ahead and spread it into the prepared pan.
In a large bowl, combine berries, 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup boiling water. Pour the berry goodness over the batter in the pan. Dot the top with remaining 1 tablespoon of your non-dairy buttery spread.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes.  Allow it to cool and enjoy.  For your dairy loving dessert eaters, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a little extra somthin'!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Treasures from the Garden

After lunch today, we all ventured down to the orchard and garden to see what was new and exciting.  It's been warm the last few days and with the added sunshine, we are seeing good things happen in the garden!  Here's a look at our treasure after we brought it back up to the house....
Tomatoes!  I was so happy to find some of the larger tomatoes finally changing color.  We've been enjoying the cherry tomatoes for over a week now, but haven't seen any action on the big plants in the garden.... until now.

Zucchini!  I have a lot of it.... lots and lots!  We have been eating it several nights a week and every muffin or quick bread I make has zucchini in it.  I've decided that I am going to freeze it, so stay tuned for a blog post on how I managed to do that.

Gladiolas!  Aren't these beautiful?  My father in law brought these in for me and I am enjoying having fresh cut flowers in the kitchen.  I noticed some bright pink Glads beginning to bloom in the garden, so it looks like I will have more to enjoy.

Green Beans!  Over 40 seeds were planted this spring and we didn't think we were going to end up with any beans at all.  Surprisingly, we saw these pop up a few days ago so today we gathered lots for dinner.  The boys picked them and snapped them... they were really good.

Kirby cucumbers and Herbs!  We have 3 pickling cucumber plants and they are starting to really produce.  I'm not going to do full on pickle production this year, but I am trying a jar of quick spicy sweet pickles.  I'll let you know how they turn out.  Here are a few of the herbs I am growing.... Garlic chives, sage, rosemary and thyme.... sounds like a song, doesn't it?

Blackberries!  Ray risked it all to pick about 3 cups of blackberries.  The thorns are really brutal on the bushes and all the good berries were surrounded by yellow jackets and hornets.  My hero did great though and got us enough fresh blackberries for Gluten Free/Dairy Free Blackberry Buckle for dessert tonight.

Here's a sneak peek at the Blackberry Buckle... I will post the recipe later in the week.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Halloween Gift Tutorial

It's September, so it's not too early to start thinking about Halloween.  For some crazy reason, I really love Halloween... crafting for it and decorating for it.  My boys love choosing their costume and trick-or-treating, which will be a challenge this year considering we only have a couple of neighbors within a mile.  I may just have to sugar them up myself... have them take laps around the yard and knock on the door each time they pass.
Anyway, I crafted up a little Halloween memory game that would be so cute to hand out in the classroom or even to Trick-or-Treaters if you don't get a lot of them.  Of course if you do that, make sure you pass out a little candy with it just to keep the little gobblins happy!
This project is super easy to make and I have a tutorial posted over at CutCardStock so you can check it out!

Monday, September 5, 2011

My Birthday Boy!

Today my big boy turns 9 years old.  It's hard to believe..... it seems like just yesterday he was my little chunky-monkey that I strolled around the mall, day in and day out, because most of the time it was just he and I. (Ray was stationed on the ship and unfortunately, gone a lot.)  Now he's almost as tall as I am, his feet are the same size as mine and he's read more Harry Potter books and knows more about the solar system than I ever will.  It's amazing how time flies and before you know it, your babies aren't babies anymore.
We are enjoying the day as a family, still adjusting to this big move of ours.  Sometimes I question this move.... I know logically it was a great choice, but I struggle some days with all the changes.  Then I look at my big boy.  One look at him and I am reassured that this is exactly where we need to be.  He has adapted better than I could have hoped.  He's grown close to his GrandPop; quickly learning his sense of humor and is great at dishing it out to him.  He loves to try many new things around the property.... he jumps at the chance to get in the bee suit and get up close to the honey boxes.  Most days he is down in the basement with the guys, lending a hand with clean-up or practicing his tool skills.  He can't wait to start school and meet all the new kids!
So, I'm doing my best to make this a great birthday for him.... serving up his favorite meatloaf for dinner and following it with vanilla cake filled with strawberry whipped cream frosting.  And after he's showered with Nerf guns, Legos and other things a 9 year old boy loves, I hope what he most remembers about his day is how much he's loved, appreciated and enjoyed by his mommy... OK, make that mom because he gets grossed out when I refer to myself as mommy!