Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Past

It's here!  It's here!
Well, almost.
I've been in the kitchen all afternoon in preparation for tomorrow's festivities.

Is it Christmas without bacon?
I thought not.

In other OCD/ADHD related news - it's taking everything in me not to take the Christmas decorations down. 

Of course - I do realize how ridiculous this is, and I'm surprised that I'm even telling you.
I'm realizing I like the 'lead up' to Christmas - but by the time the actual day gets here - I'm ready to clean up and move on.
I'll wait until Sunday.

Just reposting this from last year - I'll be back very soon.
Again - I have to just thank you all for your incredible gift of friendship to me this year.
My goodness gracious - blogging has changed my life, and made my bottom a little more gelatinous, but it's been worth it all.

Merry Christmas!

Please click here for my rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas"

Friday, December 17, 2010

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime....

Christmas 1965 - That's me on the top.

Just popping in to wish you a Happy Christmas.

My blog break has been wonderful, but I have to tell you, I miss y'all so much!
Thanks so much for the sweet emails and Facebook messages - it helps me feel connected.

It's been a whirlwind of a month - not like I imagined - I was hoping to sit with cocoa and stare at the twinkle of the Christmas tree lights - but instead, I've been up to my elbows in flour, blistering my hands making candy canes, running to and fro - and entertaining so much it would make Martha proud.

This week - this week I hope to settle myself down and sit and drink cocoa.
Just as soon as I finish making four more Christmas presents and make the homemade marshmallows - and clean out the chicken coop - and plan my Christmas Open House for the family......
Yesterday I had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in about 5 years.
Look at the little video she made of our day.
I wish I had a photo of her to share - she's a doll.
I hesitated to post it - since Aaron cut my hair - yes Aaron.  I feel a bit like a concentration camp prisoner now - but it's nothing a can of hairspray or a hat can't fix.  I didn't want to discourage him - it's hair - it'll grow back.

Please notice the cute chicken soup mug - the saucer that matches is shaped like an egg! It was a wonderful gift from my neighbor!  Thanks Gina!
Yes - that's the pot.
I'm lovin' it.

(Teresa - does that mug on the island look familiar? Kelly - does the apron look familiar?)

We sat and chatted the afternoon away.
 I can confidently say she's the most creative person I know, and I was so inspired by her that I barely slept a wink last night!

I felt like I was on a creative high - I couldn't stop searching odd images like this:

Or this:

I wish I had an explanation for it.
I felt like I was searching for something.
I haven't found it yet - fyi.

I digress.

Here are a few glimpses around the old farmhouse -

See the snowflakes hanging from the ceiling?  Aaron and I hang those every year all throughout the house.
One of my favorite traditions - only this year was the first time he tried to do it with one hand - cause the stinkin' cell phone was in the other hand.  Please tell me that this shall pass.....

We've had more snow than we know what to do with.
Monday the town was shut down!
4' drifts - 40 mile an hour winds - single digits.

The girls are hunkered.
I am too.

Merry Christmas friends!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hiring Again....

And again - not sure why the re-post wouldn't show up on we go...

please scroll down

Now Taking Applications for Nanny Position

Originally posted in January of 2009 - Just letting you know I'm accepting applications again.

47 year old Northwest Indiana woman now accepting applications for Nanny.

Immediate opening for highly motivated, organized individuals.

Duties include, but not limited to:

Promptly removing JoAnn's, Micheal's and Hobby Lobby ads from
newspaper before client can read them.

Reviewing all seed orders before placing them, deleting items if necessary.

Administering vitamins daily.

Advising the client that it's bedtime, time to eat, time to exercise, etc.

Advising the client as to which project, out of the twenty she's started, is a priority.

Knowledge of anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals helpful, but not necessary.

Knowledge of a bonus.

You will need a firm, but compassionate hand.

Scenarios like this are to be avoided at all costs.

Client is not to be left alone for long periods of time, or allowed to stop at any residences that display signs bearing words like 'Garage Sale', 'Yard Sale' or 'Free Kittens'. Any more animals allowed in clients home will result in immediate termination of your position.

When client has that far away scheming look in her eyes, she must be distracted immediately with freshly brewed coffee, or freshly baked scones.

Applicant may also have to deal with 14 year old boys wanting to bring live poultry in the house. This behavior should be highly discouraged.

Experience preferred, but not necessary.
Applicants with English accents are given preference.
Salary negotiable.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Gift Idea - A repost

Why reposting an old post never shows up on your blogroll, I have no idea - so I'm just popping this on so you know I've posted...
Please scroll down.

Christmas Gift Idea - A Repost

I'm at it again - cheating here - reposting old posts - but perhaps it's new to a few of yuns...
This year I'm doing apple themed baskets.
Canned pie apples, the crisp topping mixed in a cute fabric bag, a red dishcloth, and apple butter.
Of course I have no pictures, cause I'm not blogging right!?

All is well here in Coopkeeperland.  I'm enjoying my quiet month, and realizing that I have to guard it like gold or I'll be overbooked in a heartbeat.  I'm feeling awfully run down and feel a cold coming.
Phyllis the banty hen is up in the house - toe amputation necessary due to scaly leg mites.  (I shant go into details in this post) so she's fat and sassy and cackling in the kitchen.  I had to decorate her cage as well, since she'll be in for a while).  Aaron comes here after school today for us to do our Annual Snowflake Hanging (200 glitter snowflakes hanging from the ceiling throughout the house).  I just put fresh flannel sheets on his bed and some fresh baked cookies are in order.
And that's all the news fit to print.

Remember - slow down.

Originally posted Dec. 2009

Need a quick little gift idea?

Every year, I tend to do a 'themy' thing like this. This year, because I can't stop thinking about bacon, I have fresh eggs, and I've been roasting my own coffee beans, I decided to do a 'breakfast theme'.

Here's one of the gift baskets ready to go.

I call this one the 'Cowboy Breakfast'

Included in the basket:
Local Bacon (help me)
Fresh eggs (the girls wanted in on this)
Pancake Mix
Homemade Syrup
A handmade dishcloth
A vintagy apron
A little cowboy picture (LOVE THIS, she almost didn't get it)
Fresh roasted coffee
Green coffee beans (she wants to try roasting her own)

If you want to keep it simple, all you need is a little bag of the pancake mix, and a jar of homemade syrup. I added a hand-knitted dish towel for a touch of homey-ness as well.

Here's the link for the pancake mix. I just mixed the dry ingredients, and on the back of the little card, I wrote what you needed to add to finish it up.

The total cost of this gift?
Less than $10, and that includes the basket, bacon, etc.
Of course the dishcloth is worth about $150.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Cookies 102 - A Repost

Alright y'all - I put this blog post up last night, and it's come to my attention that it's not showing up on your blogroll - soooo I just thought I'd do a NEW post here - to see if it could jog Blogger into behaving...

So scroll on down....
Peace out.

Christmas Cookies 101 - A Repost

Alright y'all, I tried!  I did - and here I am up in my chair playing around with the blog.
I thought I'd repost this from last year - there's some great cookie baking info here.
I'm enjoying my blog break!  The house is about decorated, we've a 6 inch blanket of snow on the ground, and Phyllis the banty hen is living in the house, with her cage bedecked for Christmas. 
I ask you - does it get better? 
It does.
Ray Coniff Singers.
Peppermint lattes.
Seeing old friends.
The wonder of  Christ.

Thank you so much for all of your comments and emails.
You are all a wonderful gift to me.

Originally posted Dec. 8th 2009

Good Morning Blog Friends!

I'd like to talk about Christmas Cookies this morning.

I absolutely love to bake, so Christmas is Christmas for me! It's a great excuse to have the flour flying and be in a sugar coma by the end of the afternoon.

So often I see Christmas cookies that are overbaked, misshapen, and a bit of a mystery.

Don't let this happen to you and your loved ones!

I thought I'd share some of my cookie baking secrets with you.

First things first.

Get yourself a nice cup of Christmas tea and pull your recipes out. Have some wonderful Christmas music playing.
Christmas baking is as much as reflecting on past memories as it is about making new memories.

Reading recipes that dear friends have given you.

Baking cookies from precious hand written recipes handed down from generation to generation.

Remembering the years you forgot to add the baking soda to a batch of cookies.

Remembering the year you dumped a whole pan of gingerbread men, fresh from the oven onto the kitchen floor.

Good times.

Back in the late 1980's and early 1990's I used to have a Prairie Christmas Open House and sell crafts and baked goods. I made up that little Cookie Cookbook and sold those. It brings back such wonderful memories every year when I bring it out.

Now that you know what you are going to bake, please make sure that you have all of your ingredients on hand before you begin!

One tip that might prove helpful for you, especially if you have a lot of baking to do, is to make all the dough one day, and then bake it the next. I do this often. That way, I have all the mess in the kitchen one day, and I'm not distracted by the oven timer going off, only to go back to the dough I'm making and wonder if I've already added the salt.

I just put all the dough in Ziploc bags, label them with the type of cookie it is, and the oven temperature it should be baked at.

The next day, I can bake away without all the mess.

This is THE biggest secret of my success:

It's Reynolds Parchment paper. I hope I can encourage you to use it. What I love about it is that I can have such a mass production of cookies going with it. I can have a sheet of cookies baking, and while it's baking, I can fill another sheet of paper (without a pan under it) with raw dough.

I pull the baked cookies out of the oven, slide the paper and all off of the hot sheet onto the island, and then immediately slip on the new sheet of paper with the raw dough. Absolutely no down time at all, or waiting for the pan to cool. Love it. I reuse the sheets over and over until they are so brittle they can't be used again. It keeps the sheets clean and the cookies never ever stick. Once you use it, you'll be lost without it.

A few more things that I do to insure my baking is a success is:
  • ALWAYS preheat the oven for at least a half an hour.
  • Make sure the oven temperature is correct, using an oven thermometer. Adjust your oven if necessary.
  • Watch the cookies carefully, I usually remove them before they really LOOK done. Never brown your cookies.
  • I only use SHINY pans. I abhor the dark pans, they always brown the cookies, and quickly.
  • I only put ONE tray of cookies in at a time so that the oven has good air circulation.
  • I only bake when I'm in a GOOD mood.
Let's talk about that last one for just a minute, shall we?

How often are you rushed and stressed during the holidays? As women, we usually bear the load of the holidays. Gift shopping, party planning, decorating and baking.

It's a lot.

I've found that when I'm baking when I feel frustrated, anything that can go wrong will.

Your cookies will end up looking like this:

The next thing you know, you'll be biting someone's head off.

You want happy cookies don't you?

Perhaps Aaron sums it all up here:

Do you have any idea how much we laugh on a daily basis?
(seeing this video again made me so sad for the boy child.  The nerve of him going to public school!)

I'll share the recipe for my Gingerbread cookies at the end of the post.

Rolling cookies can sometimes be frustrating as doesn't need to be.

I use a flour sack tea towel, well floured and I flour my hands and rolling pin. I used to use a sleeve on the rolling pin, but it left fabric marks on the gingerbread. Me no like.

Take your time. I make mine about 3/8" thick so that they are easy to handle, and hold up well for decorating and packaging.

I decorate them with a simple powdered sugar and milk frosting.

Mini M&M's are fun.

I like tucking them in all around the house. They seem to disappear one by one though....

Here's the recipe! I hope you'll try them, and perhaps they can become a tradition with you, as they are here. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

Gingerbread Men
(makes 20-24 small, or 14 large cookies)

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice

Cream the shortening and the sugar. Blend in the molasses, water, flour, salt, soda and spices. Cover, or put in a Ziploc bag, and chill for 2 to 3 hours (or overnight!).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough 1/4" thick for small cookies, or 3/8" for larger cookies. Cut with cookie cutter and place on ungreased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (DO NOT BROWN). Remove from pans immediately.

Cool thoroughly and decorate.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Facing Your Fears

Have you ever thought about the things you are afraid of?

Do they seem silly?

Do you ever face them?

A few years back - I faced a few frivolous fears I had.

One was sleeping without covers.

Well - I couldn't do it.
I still can't.
No matter how hot I am - I need a cover.

I also tried to sleep with a limb hanging off the bed, and I managed to do that.  Well, at least I fell asleep that way.  I had fears as a child that someone was under the bed, and would grab the limb.  It may or may not have developed that fear after sharing a room with three ridiculous sisters.  How any of us got any sleep is beyond me.  My favorite maneuver?  Creeping out of bed with a naked baby doll and sneaking up to my sister Cindy's bed and slowly raising the baby doll up in  her face.  Oh the memories!  My poor mother!

Eating alone is another fear I've not been able to conquer. To walk in a restaurant that has a menu - sit down - order a meal - and eat it - without a book or a magazine in hand seems impossible. I've never even done it with a book. What an odd fear!

Another fear, perhaps not quite as frivolous, is a fear of horses.  They are just - um - so big.  And I have no faith that a little string in my hand is going to control them whatsoever.  I was thrown off a horse at a Christian Girls camp one time after a scarf that the girl in front of me was wearing flew off and spooked my horse.  A pony tried biting me at the County Fair.  I liked horses from afar.  I did conquer this fear about 15 years ago.  I went to a local stable and asked the horse nearest to death.  I got Amos - a retired Amish farm horse.  He was massive, but let me sit on him while he ate.  He'd walk a bit, and eat some more.  Perfect.

                                                            I've said all of that, to say this.
I'm taking a blogging break.
I'm planning on being back in January.
It scares me - to think of not blogging until then.
I fear you'll all forget about me.
Isn't that odd?
To be scared of NOT blogging?

Truth is I just want to close this computer up for the month of December and enjoy the magic of the season.
I want this Christmas to be different.
I want to slowly lick the candy canes, and take my time with the decorations instead of feeling that it's something to cross off the 'to do' list.
I want to savor it and not feel the need to photograph it and blog it.

I'm hoping I can face this fear!
If not - I'll be back tomorrow.

Merry Christmas y'all!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When Oldness Happens....

I remember watching a movie a while ago.
There was an old frail woman with paper thin skin and sparse gray hair on her head, wearing a flannel nightgown.
I commented to Glenco 'Oh, I worry about looking like that one day.'
His reply?
'You don't need to worry honey - you will look like that one day whether you worry about it or not'
See what I have to live with?

When does this happen?
This oldness?

Lordy - look how gray I am - time for a touch up!

How is it that you can look in the mirror one day and your skin is soft and supple, plump and tight, and then what seems like the next week, it's thin and crinkly? Let's not even get started on the age spots.

It's like waking up fat.
Those of you that struggle with your weight will understand that one.
It's like you just wake up one day - and  you're fat.

I woke up old today.
And then it was noon and I was still in my flannel gown and I thought to meself, I thought 'Why not post some raw photos of yourself on the World Wide Web?'

Whilst putting on my makeup today I really noticed it.
Lots of them.
I don't remember this happening.

I felt I had a choice in that moment, and I needed to be careful of the choice I made.

With my giant brain, I'll rule the world!

I could choose to fight it - and worry about it - I could choose to spend money on trying to fix it and end up looking like a mummified old person anyway.  I'm not mentioning any names, but you've seen them on the cover of People.

Or, I could choose to look at each line like a medal of honor.
Badges - not wrinkles.

I chose the latter.
It's cheaper - #1, and doggone it - it's the only way you can look at it without getting downright depressed!

99% of my wrinkles are laugh lines.
Now, that's a lot of laughing.
Something to be thankful for.

I only have one 'bad wrinkle.
It's in my forehead.
I frowned for one year straight whilst recovering from a serious heart infection due to contracting the Chicken Pox at the age of 42.

It bothered me for a while, seeing that wrinkle.
Now I fondly caress it as a reminder of how incredibly fragile and beautiful life is.
I survived!  I could have died, but I didn't.
God knew you needed to read this blog all about chickens and shenanigans!

There's only one cure for old age - and that's dying young.
No thank you.

Oldness happens.
I'm gonna keep my face out the mirror.
I'm gonna keep my face to the sunshine and the wind.
I'm going to live life - wrinkles and all.
Oldness happens when you are busy living your life.
I'm gonna get busy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chickens in the Bedroom

I loved reading all of your comments yesterday.
The cold still hasn't taken a full hold of me - and I did spend most of the day cleaning and organizing...
I have much to say about it - but today's post is about the Great Chicken Show of Columbus, Ohio and related shenanigans.

I met Lynda through blogging and we got to know each other a bit through Facebook.
Kindred spirits.
She has bees, chickens, geese, guineas, a big garden and she likes words as much as I do.
What's not to love?

Girlfriend had a long drive from Alabama to Indiana.
She talks about it a little bit here.
Not knowing her driving history, and given my history of being a road warrior - I thought it would be funny to pretend she was a lost traveler in my driveway -
Oh my goodness - I realize now how not funny that is for someone that has driven over 500 miles to stay with a virtual stranger - to arrive and be pranked.
I'm so sorry I made you cry Lynda!

I'm sure at this point she had no idea what she was in for.
I have a bit of a big personality.
You may or may not know that about me.
I've been told I enter a room mouth first.
I run over people sometimes.
I try to control myself, I do - but sometimes it's impossible - and I frighten people.
And here she was - stuck with me for five nights.

Long story short - Lynda befriended my childhood friend Peggy via Facebook.
Really - where else but the Internet?  Wonderful things happen on the Internet.
On Thursday, Peggy came to pay us both a visit.
I'd not seen Peggy in about 25 years.
It was a day to remember.
I heart Peggy.
I heart her hard.

She brought me this:

I feel the need to apologize to everyone that I own this and you don't. 
Yes - it's that fabulous.

Photo by Lynda Swink

We spent the late morning and early afternoon jawboning over a pot of odd tasting Stuffed Pepper Soup and Dutch oven bread.  Flourless Chocolate Cake and Cherry Pie.
Reliving old memories, and making new ones.
I felt like the richest girl in town.
Mid-afternoon we drove to town to the thrift and antique stores.
Peggy departed.
Lynda was all mine again.  Bwaa ha ha!

Friday morning we headed out to Columbus, Ohio.
I promised her I'd let her stop to go potty, etc.
It was a five hour drive.
And stop we did - Crawfordsville, Indiana and Richmond...I think it was Richmond.  Wonderful antique stores in Crawfordsville! A few more potty stops along the way.  I really wasn't in a rush.

I've already told you all about the Poultry Show.
Here's the last video I wanted to share with you.
It's a call duck.
Again, I'd never seen anything like it - with it's short little bill.
It's not short on attitude!

I know you can't believe I didn't bring anything home.  I can't believe it either.
Truth be told - I didn't think they'd be selling birds - I thought it was just a show.
I wasn't prepared!
By the time I got through the show I was losing my mind, I needed to hold a bird.
I found a lady holding a lovely rooster and I got to play with it's waddles a bit.
I almost bought a bird just to carry around for a little while.  That thought actually crossed my mind.
"I'll just play with it, and give it back."
I just wanted to rub VO5 on it.
I wanted to kiss it and hug it and play with it's feet.

The most beautifulest rooster I ever did see.  Amen.

 I finally got up the nerve just to ask someone if I could hold one of their birds.
Oh sweet mother.  It was the cutest thing ever.  A little banty hen.

I immediately felt satisfied.
That's when I saw the look in Lynda's eye. 
She was bringing some birds home!
I got to pick them out for her.
A rooster and a hen.
An arranged marriage.

I did come home with a few 'traysures'

This sign:

And a few decals for the car declaring my adoration of all things poultry.

Sunday, we spent a lazy morning here at the house listening to her new rooster crowing in the bedroom.
Yes, the bedroom!
You didn't think we would keep the chickens outside did you?

My sister and Aaron met up with us early in the afternoon and we took a trip to the Buckley Homestead and the Indiana Dunes.
I always bring guests to the Dunes.
It's just something you wouldn't think you'd see in Indiana.
Aaron and Lynda chatted up a storm about photography and cameras.

These photos taken by Aaron

We also took Lynda on a little side trip through Gary, Indiana.
Scary Gary as my pal Shannan likes to call it.
It was actually then that her little Calvin called me and made my day.
Calvin - wanted to talk to me.
Does it get better?
I think not.

Dusk was descending, so we didn't really take her on much of a tour, but at least she can say she visited the Murder Capital of the World - birthplace of Michael Jackson.  Hee hoo!  *grab crotch*

                             It was hard to believe that Lynda's trip was about to come to an end.
I may or may not have traumatized her on Sunday.
When Aaron and I are together - it's mayhem.
Utter mayhem.
I can't wait to read her take of me in the kitchen trying to do the splits before supper.
If the ladybug and box elder bug infestation from unseasonably warm weather didn't do her in, my behavior on Sunday may have.

Speaking of supper - I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed Lynda at my supper table.  Sunday night was extra special since Aaron and my sis were with us as well.
There aren't many things that make me as happy as a table full of friends and family breaking bread, sharing memories, laughing and enjoying each other's company.
It's a sacred time to me.

I'm so thankful to have met Lynda and know her now on a personal level.
She's an inspiration to me.
Her quest for knowledge, her intrepid spirit.
She's kind, funny, tender hearted, intelligent and insightful.
She'd make a mighty fine neighbor.

As I'm sitting here now - typing this to all of you - friends I know - friends I've met through blogging - family - 'virtual' friends that I email back and forth - friends that call me at 4:30am (Nancy - you know I just HAD to rib you about that one - please forgive yourself!) - and the friends I have yet to meet - it just seems so fitting that it's nearly Thanksgiving.

My heart is so full.
I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Thank you all so, so very much for reading my drivel - for leaving comments - for emailing me - for making me feel normal at times when I don't think I am - for challenging me to change - for laughing with me, and crying with me.

Thank you.