Thursday, February 28, 2008

Computer Down

My home computer is in the repair shop right now. They are telling me it will be about 2 weeks. I'm at the library right now and I don't like it.

Anyway, have patience, for...

I'LL BE BACK!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Spring Is Coming


The end of February is in sight and March is just around the corner. I think it's safe to say that there will be no more frost days, at least around here. The weather reports are saying we'll be getting to 70 by the end of this week. It may not stay there but spring is definately in the air.

The days are getting longer and I'm glad. That means soon I'll be able to do all the outdoor stuff I like to do. Stuff like mowing the yards and pulling weeds. I'd much rather be doing outdoor chores than indoor chores.


Something I'll need to be doing very soon is shear the sheep. They are quite wooly and this is close to the time I would normally do that chore.


I'd like to be able to shear them this coming weekend. I could hire it done, but after having done it myself now for a couple of years I'm finally starting to get the hang of it. Besides, there are only five ewes and one goat. The ram, being a Dorper, is what's called a "hair" breed and he will actually shed his coat so there is no shearing required with him. The goat is a Cashmere goat and for some reason is easier to shear than the sheep. Maybe because her skin is not so thin and I don't have to be so careful with her.


I'm looking forward to the weekend because even though I know I have quite a physical chore ahead of me there is always a sense of satisfaction in being able to do something myself. And the tiredness that comes from a physical rather than mental chore is even welcome.

The wooly beasties will be for just a few more days!


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Clyde Update



Clyde had a recheck at the vet's yesterday. His yeast infection is almost completely gone, except for a little left deep inside those big ears of his. He's been limping again on one of his back legs so the x-rays were taken to make sure the problem wasn't with his hips. I was very pleased to hear that his hips are in excellent shape. The diagnosis was that poor Clyde has another bout of panosteitis (aka "growing pains"), something his father suffered from also.

We got medication to help dull the pain and some drops for his ears to finish off that yeast infection.

As you can see in the picture he's doing very well now and he loves his baby.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Talking Baby

Yes, I have become one of those annoying grandparents that thinks their grandchild is the smartest, cutest, most adorable child that ever was.

Here she is talking.

video

And here she is as an actress. She's being the baby from that E-Trade commercial.

video

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Almost Weaning Time


The cow has suddenly dropped a lot of weight and I can think of two possible reasons. The first is that the bull was eating most of her portion of food. The second reason would be the calf is really sucking it out of her (quite literally).

The calf is now three months old and could be weaned if absolutely necessary. He is eating the same hay and grain as his parents and he looks great.

The cow looking a little thinner than I like to see.
The calf and his daddy, both looking great.
I went ahead and separated the cow and calf from the bull. I'll see if the cow starts picking up some weight in the next week or so. If she doesn't, then I know I'll have to take the calf off her and wean him.

Right now the bull is unhappy about not being with his family. When weaning time does come around everybody is unhappy. The mom and baby tend to get rather vocal and I hope the neighbors have good double paned windows like we do (we can't hear it unless a window is open). Fortunately it doesn't last too long; about a week or less.

But I still have some time until that happens...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Watching Paint Dry

My plan was to post this last Monday, since it occurred last weekend. But things weren't happening as planned so here it is today. And as the name implies, it may be a bit boring.

It's been probably ten years since we painted the living room and it was in desperate need of a new paint job. I always liked the color I painted it the last time. It was Olympic paint's "Belgian Waffle". We don't have high ceilings and I didn't want anything that would make the room seem darker. The neutralness (is that a word?) of the creamy soft yellow brightened and made the room seem cheerier. And I love that yummy name!

But it was time to move on and do a little updating. Last summer I repainted our bedroom and made it into bold horizontal stripes. That made the room seem much bigger. Of course moving all the workout equipment out (finally!) helped there too.

For the living room I wanted to stay in the tan colors and I decided to do this one wall in vertical stripes (which would help give the illusion of a taller ceiling). After all, the bedroom's horizontal stripes had come out nicely and vertical stripes would be easier, I thought.

In this picture you can see where I had to put a patch on the wall to cover a hole. A rather large hole. This happened a few months ago when we left our son at home alone while we went on a little weekend overnighter. When we returned we found a rather large hole in the wall. The explanation was that he'd had some friends over and they got to tussling around and one of them missed the other and punched the wall instead. Hmmmmm.


I went to a few home improvement places and picked up a few paint chips. Just a few. At the top are the two chosen colors, Olympic's "Mountain Trail" and "Pony Tail". Even the names go together!


The first thing I did was remove everything from the walls and patched everything that needed patching: cracks and nail holes.


I learned from doing the bedroom stripes that you are supposed to paint the entire wall the lighter color first. Here I've done all the edges and painted a layer over the patches.


Then the entire wall is painted with the lighter color.


In the morning it became obvious that I needed a second coat so I quickly gave the wall another once over. At that point Carli came over to help so we went to lunch first. When we returned several hours had past since I had painted the second coat so I figured it was ready for the taping.


We decided to make the dark stripes bigger than the light stripes. The dark stripes are 8" wide and the light stripes are 4". I first made little measuring dots on the wall with my ruler and a pencil, then used a level to make straight lines. We put the tape in what would be the light stripes and then painted the dark color on the wall.


Now is the part where I got confused. I always thought you aren't supposed to wait until the paint is totally dry before you pull the paint off. That's because if you paint over the tape and it dries when the tape is pulled off, the paint might come with it, which has indeed happened to me before. So in this instance I waited about thirty minutes and began to pull the tape off. In this picture you can see where in most cases the paint underneath the tape came off with the tape straight to the previous color, or in some instances the patch spackle.


I know the spackle was dry because that main hole had been done a few weeks ago. The only thing I can think of why it did that is maybe I should have waited another entire day after applying the second coat of light paint. Then put the tape on and continue.

But in the end I repaired the missing spots by carefully hand painting them in.


Don't worry, I'm not going to do the entire living room like this. I think that would make it too busy. The rest of the walls will be painted in the lighter color.

Eventually.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Eye Exam

I had an eye exam this morning where my eye was dilated. Almost 3 hours later it is still quite dilated, as you can see. For this reason I'm going to put off the post I was going to do today until Monday. (My eyes are kind of sore right now. I know that sounds wierd.)

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Oysters


What could be more perfect than having oysters on Valentine's Day? Besides my chocolate hazlenut cheesecake of course.

In preparation for today's post about oysters, we actually had these about two days ago. I'm going to share two of my favorite ways to prepare oysters.

I don't really like totally raw oysters. You know, the totally uncooked ones that you swallow whole and it's like snorting a big ball of sno-... Well, never mind.

I don't know what this first preparation is called officially, or even if anybody else makes them this way, so we will call these "Tina's Favorite Oysters."

These make a great appetizer and we usually have anywhere from 2 - 4 oysters per person, depending on the size of the oyster. We try to get the medium to smaller ones.

Place the oysters in a pie pan or other baking dish and bake in a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes. Pop the flat shell off and separate the oyster from the shell. Click here for a good tutorial. While the oysters were baking get your condiments ready: chopped green onion, torn cilantro, sesame oil, soy sauce, and hot chili garlic sauce.Put a little of each onto your oyster and you are ready to eat it up!


Next up are fried oysters. For convenience's sake we use jarred oysters (from the fish/meat counter at the grocery store). Again, we try to use the medium to smaller size. Drain the oysters in a collander. Set up a breading station with flour, beaten eggs with a couple tablespoons water added, and panco (Japanese bread crumbs). You can use regular bread crumbs if panco isn't available, but I find the panco makes for a crispier crust. You'll also need kosher salt for after the frying is done.

We used a deep fat fryer and set the temperature to the highest setting (360 degrees). Or you can use a pan with a couple of inches of oil, set to high or medium-high. To bread the oysters first coat in the flour, then dip into the beaten eggs, and finally into the panco. This part gets messy.

Fry for about 3 - 5 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Drain on paper towels and sprinkle immediately with the kosher salt.

Here's our perfect fried oyster meal, served with a nice salad and white rice with lots of butter!

Enjoy!

Valentine's Day


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!


I made my Sonny Bunny a cinnamon sugar heart for breakfast (two tortillas with butter, sugar, cinnamon folded into the shape of a heart).
And can you believe he refuses to use the computer at school to vote for Kneadermeier's picture on http://www.wozog.com/ ? Or tell his friends to vote for her? Hmmph! Kids! I think I'll be going to the library to use their computer(s). Is that cheating?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

I thought I would be original and make a Nutella cheesecake. On a whim I checked the internet to see if anyone else was as bright as I. I found out it had been already done...many times, many ways. Rats. I wasn't as original as I thought.

But I carried on anyhow. Most of the recipes I saw were for a "no bake" version and I wanted to bake mine. I also had to think of a way to make it original and then it struck me. My version has a "surprise" in it.

So if you like Nutella, and you like the Ferrero Rocher balls, you will love this cake. If not then go away. (And come back another day.)

The ingredients for the crust are: 1 1/2 C crushed Nilla wafer cookies; 1/3 C sugar; 1/3 C melted butter. The filling ingredients are: 16 oz. softened cream cheese; 4 eggs; 13 oz. jar Nutella; 16 pack Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust you'll need 1 1/2 cups crushed Nilla wafer cookies. I just happened to grab the box of mini wafers but the big ones will do too. After all, you'll be crushing them to crumbs. An easy way to accomplish this is by putting some of the cookies in a plastic zip baggie and use a meat pounder or small frying pan or something similar to crush the cookies into fine crumbs. Remember not to seal the bag completely or it might explode and you'll have cookie crumbs everywhere you don't want them. Next you'll mix the crumbs with 1/3 C sugar and 1/3 C melted butter. Press the mixture into a springform pan. A neat trick is to use a measuring cup to make neat corners. That's an Ina Garten tip.

Now bake in a 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

When you take the crust out to cool, arrange the Ferrero Rocher balls on the bottom. Reduce oven temperature to 325. (Did you notice there aren't 16 balls here? Yes, I had one.)While the crust is cooling cream together 16 oz. cream cheese and 4 eggs. Scrape the bowl as necessary and continue beating until smooth.
Add the 13 oz. jar of Nutella and beat together until well mixed. Pour over the cooled crust and carefully smooth the top.
Bake in 325 degree oven for about 55 minutes or until center is set.
Cool completely. I refrigerated mine overnight before trying. (Run a knife around the edge before loosening the springform ring.) Just a word of warning: This cake is extremely rich and a thin piece will fulfill any chocolate/hazelnut cravings you may have.
At least for an hour or so.


CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT CHEESECAKE

1 1/2 C crushed Nilla Wafer cookies
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C melted butter
16-pack Ferrero Rocher balls
16 oz. softened cream cheese
4 eggs
13 oz. jar Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix cookie crumbs with sugar and melted butter. Press into springform pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

When crust is done baking arrange the Ferrero Rocher balls on the bottom as it cools. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Beat together the cream cheese and eggs until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the Nutella and mix well. Pour over the cooled crust. Bake in 325 oven for about 55 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely (like overnight in the fridge.) Run a knife around the edge before releasing the springform ring.

Unabashed Request


I have a favor to ask everyone who stops by. I entered a picture of my cat, Kneadermeier, in a "cutest cat" contest and now I need you all to vote for her picture. It's at www.wozog.com . It's a "head to head" contest going in several rounds so I'd appreciate it if you could see it all the way through. The first round ends on February 20th.

The "grand prize" is $32. Leave me a comment that you voted for Kneadermeier and when she wins I'll share it with you. Well, not really, kitty needs cat food. But leave a comment anyway!

THANKS!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sauerkraut


What do you do when you have 8 heads of cabbage all ripening at the same time? Sauerkraut! It's surprisingly easy to make. All you need is cabbage, salt, and a large food grade plastic or crockery container.

I didn't have to buy a new large container because I already had one. Remember the ueberlarge container I got for the Limoncello? That was perfect for the sauerkraut.

Here's what you do: slice the cabbage as thick or thin as you like. Layer it in the container, then lightly sprinkle salt on top. Continue the cabbage/salt layering until you reach the top. Believe it or not, this container was filled to the top with cabbage when we started.

Put the lid on and wait one day. By the end of the first day the cabbage will have wilted into itself and you will notice all of the moisture that has come out. Now you will need a plate that fits over the cabbage and some sort of weight to hold the plate down. We used two gallon size plastic baggies filled with water and a dinner plate that fit perfectly in our container. At this point the cabbage will need to stay under the liquid. If enough liquid hasn't come out of the cabbage yet to completely cover it, you will need to add enough to do so. It's important to keep the cabbage under the liquid so it will get pickled and not be allowed to grow bacteria (which would happen if air got to it).

Now you just have to wait several weeks. If you notice a scum building up on the surface of the water simply skim it off. The main thing at this point is to keep it all under the liquid.

After about four weeks it should be ready to go. You can leave it longer too, so long as the temperature in your house or wherever your container is isn't too warm. We kept ours on the counter in the kitchen.

I must admit I was a bit hesitant about trying it out at first, but I added some caraway seed and it wasn't looking too bad.

It tasted just like sauerkraut! Now, if you don't hear from me again, then never mind!

Lincoln's Birthday

Happy Abe Lincoln's birthday. Yesterday Wil had a holiday, but Carli didn't so I still had to babysit.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Organic Lawnmowers

On one side of our house we have a little used area we call the dog run. I had built a little dog house but they didn't appear to like it. They would only go in with lots of coaxing (ie: food treats and lots of pushing). But that doesn't matter, because like I said we hardly ever use it anyway. About the only time the dogs are banished to the side is if we have a lot of people over that they don't know, like at Carli's baby shower.

There's only one little portion of grass and the rest is all sandy. Since no one ever goes back there the sandy portion has turned to tall weeds. My husband was going to spray RoundUp but he saw the tortoise out of her hole so he didn't.

I got the sheep and put them on the side for a few hours. I know it's not too clear in the pictures so you'll have to trust me when I say the weeds had been about a foot tall (especially on the other side of the dog house).

And now the weeds are at ground level.


Just doing my part to stay "green".

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

Limoncello

Remember about 40 days ago I picked a bunch of lemons and besides all the juicing I started a batch of limoncello? It was time to start the second half of the production. But first I had to go shopping for a sealable glass container.

According to the recipe instructions the container needed to be a 1 gallon glass or crockery container. The little jar I had started everything in was only about a six cup container.

I started at Linens 'N Things but they had nothing large enough that was made out of the proper material. I'm guessing plastic may be too porous and would allow the alcohol to evaporate. That's just a guess, of course. If that were to happen then what would be the point? Very expensive lemonade! Then I made my way to the Target and found exactly what I was looking for. Even the lid has a lining that allows it to push down and make a good seal.

Here's a picture of my new jar (which is supposedly a 1 1/2 gallon) compared to the "starter" jar. It looks like one of those jars you see in the mad scientist movies that have pickled brains in them. Hmm. When we're done with this that might just happen...


In forty days we will strain the zest from the liquid and it should be ready to drink at that point.

The original recipe came from the Sunset Magazine and you can find it by clicking here. The only thing different that we did was we did not add the rosemary.

I'll let you know how it turns out. (I'm wondering if I should start a second batch now...)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dinner Ear Muff

Have you ever been behind the scenes at a dog show and seen the long eared and silky eared dogs wearing what appeared to be a scarf or wrapping of some sort on their ears? Those covering are actually to keep the long hairs (think Borzois) and the long ears (think Bassetts) from getting dirty on the hanging parts.

We had that problem with Clyde. Everytime he'd eat the ends of his ears dangled in his food as he ate and they ended up getting caked and gooky on the tips. (Yes, "gooky" is a technical term.)

I had forgotten about all that while he was away, but of course I was reminded again of his problem when he came home. I'm sure someone must be making those things and selling them at the dog shows, but I haven't been to a dog show in over ten years. I'm not much of a seamstress but then I remembered I had an extra ball of yarn laying around.

Here's Clyde showing off his latest fashion accessory: the dinner ear muff.

It's loose enough to be comfortable.
And as you can see it does a superb job of keeping his ears out of his dinner.

See what you can do with an extra ball of yarn, a crochet hook, and a couple of hours?

PS-The pattern is available so you, too, can make a Dinner Ear Muff for your loving, long eared companion. Send $9.95 + $6.99 S&H for pattern instructions! (Just kidding.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Store Bought vs Home Grown (Eggs)

Just about anybody knows the difference between a home grown tomato and a store bought tomato is like night and day. The home growns have so much more flavor. The store bought tomatoes are virtually tasteless.

The same can be said of eggs, especially if the chickens are allowed to peck about on their own or if not, they are fed extra greens from the garden.

In my own experience I haven't noticed a difference in the taste per a specific chicken breed. Over the years I've had a few different breeds and I tend to rotate between brown egg layers and white egg layers. Again, this isn't due to any taste difference but merely due to my own need for something different now and then. Kind of like how I let my hair grow long and then cut it all off for a few years, let it grow out again, etc.

Because I like to have different, uncommon breeds I waited a long time before I ever got a white leghorn. I thought they would be skittish, fragile birds, but I have found the opposite to be true. They are probably the best egg layers we've ever had, consistently out-laying any other breed we've ever had. And so far they've remained healthy too. I'm not sure if that's because the weather has been milder in the last few years (no heat strokes) or if the breed is hardier than I thought.

Store bought Grade AA "large" egg on the left, home grown white leghorn egg on the right.

It's still fun to have an uncommon breed running around, and when my four remaining chickens go to the big roost in the sky they'll most likely be replaced with brown egg layers. That's just my cyclic thing. Since we can't possibly use all the eggs from a minimum order from a chick hatchery (usually 25 is the smallest order) I just get my chicks from the local feed store. I once had about nine hens at once and we were overrun with eggs. It was like growing zuchini. I couldn't make enough pound cake, or have enough boiled or fried eggs for breakfast, or make enough egg salad for sandwiches. I even felt bad about selling them to a lady at work for a dollar a dozen and ended up giving them away to whomever brought me an empty egg carton.

Home grown eggs usually have a darker yolk, sometimes even almost orange in color. (The store egg is on the left again.)

While it's probably not that economical to "grow" my own eggs, especially without a rooster so I don't have to buy replacement chicks every few years, the joy is in the knowing. I know what the hens are eating and I know they aren't getting artificial stimulants to produce more eggs. I know they aren't being abused and I try to give them a good life. In return all I ask for is a fresh egg every other day or so.