Thursday, July 24, 2014

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} July 24

round button chicken


We planted so many new flowers this year.  It's been fun watching them bloom.  Wingnut Jr. planted cosmos in early June and was so excited to see they are finally blooming.  We have white . . . 

. . . and fuchsia.

I love to photo graph these flowers, known as Lucifer Crocosmia.  Special K planted them two years ago. They are super cool to watch grow and bloom and also a very fun subject to photograph.  I love experimenting with DOF (depth of field) and POV (point of view) with these beauties.


The bees are happily popping from one flower to the next collecting pollen and nectar.


Wingnut Jr. got his hands on my Canon and started snapping shots, and so I joined in and snapped a few shots of him snapping shots. ;)

For some reason I just love this silly shot he took of me and his little brother in the background.


I've been taking a series of photos of the life cycle of this Dahlia for my 365 Project.  She was lovely in her glory, but she is definitely fading quickly.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finished Re-Finishing

Several weeks ago I decided I would strip down, prime, and spray paint our old kitchen table and chair set.  Everything I read said spray painting old furniture was a great way of re-furbishing.  Well, either I'm not super handy in the area of furniture re-finishing or, all the so-called experts were wrong.  This project took much longer, twice as much paint and primer, and I ended up having to put a top-coat over the paint in the end, which all the experts claimed I would not need.  The set looks better than it did before I tackled the project, but there are drips of top coat and the paint is uneven and slightly bumpy in spots.  Sigh.  Well, now I know, re-finishing furniture is not my thing.  Thankfully, the set looks nice enough to use for several more years and then I can invest in a nicer set.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Remembering Dear Friends

Last fall, before her final battle with cancer took her, my friend Joyce wanted to make one of her sons a special birthday dinner.  He requested curry.  She remembered I frequently make curry for our family, especially after my dear friend, and Lil' Lamb's godmother, Mallu Mom, taught me and got us all hooked on her Kerala style curry.  One of the most important steps in making really wonderful curry, is to have fairly fresh garam masala.  This toasted spice powder needs several special ingredients that are not that easy to find, especially in a regular grocery store, and so I suggested to Joyce, she could just use store bought garam masala.  She wanted authentic, and so she spent an afternoon searching for star anise and fresh curry leaves, which she finally found in an Indian grocery in Salt Lake City.  She picked up extra for me, and so I've had a nice large bag of star anise in my pantry for nearly a year.

As I was preparing to make chicken curry last week,  I realized I also needed to replenish my garam masala.  When I make curry, I always think of Mallu Mom and say a prayer for her and her family.  When I make garam masala, I will now think of my friend Joyce and say a prayer for the repose of her soul and the comfort of her family.  It is lovely to think she will always be with me and her gift of star anise will keep her and her intentions present in my mind and heart.
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Monday, July 21, 2014

I Survived

So, I joined our parish choir three weeks ago, and was soon asked to intone the responsorial psalm--not because I'm all that awesome, but because our two regular cantors were not at Thursday rehearsal.  I was pretty nervous.  It has been at least 15 years since I've sung solo in front of people.  I nearly passed out during the final rehearsal, moments before mass on Sunday.

I had two goals in mind, when I did agree to sing.  First, was to actually follow through and do it--I was given an out by the choir director and one of the regular cantors if I felt overwhelmed or too nervous.  The second, was to not stop or acknowledge errors in the actual performance.

I did survive.  My legs were shaking uncontrollably and my voice was unsteady and a tad off pitch to begin from the nerves.  It was not perfect.  Not even close.  I completely missed the first flex in the second verse, but I kept on singing and apparently no one but the choir director and myself recognized the huge error.

Of course, one wonders if one should sing solo in front of people.  I know we don't sound the same to others as we sound to ourselves, so it was a great relief when my two biggest critics, Karate Kid and Oleander, complimented my first foray into cantoring and assured me no one will ever think, "Oh no! Not that redheaded lady again!"

I would like to continue to contribute intoning solo.  Not only is it good for me to get past my nervousness in performing, but it is a small way I can contribute to my parish and lend my imperfect talent in thanksgiving for all God has given me.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Even More Shenanigans from Maurisa

So,  I've wanted to join the church choir for years.  Now that the tyrant king is three and is pretty well behaved at Mass, I've taken the chance and joined our choir three weeks ago.  It's been awesome!  I've been learning chant and chant notation--super cool!

I had no delusions of grandeur in joining.  I just wanted to lend my voice to a pretty decent choir and just be part of the group.  Unfortunately, that is not to be.  Our two regular responsorial psalm cantors did not make it to rehearsal on Thursday.  The choir director asked if I'd be interested in trying it out. Uh.

Thankfully, this week's responsorial isn't super complicated.  I've been drilling and rehearsing like a nut. My copy of the Psalm is all marked up with notations and instructions to myself.   I am so nervous, but I think this will be good for me.  I would appreciate any prayers this direction on Sunday.  I don't want to be so nervous I mess it all up!  Saint Cecilia, pray for me!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

What am I Getting Myself Into???

Our neighbors approached me about a month ago about possibly going in with them and one other family on a milking goat.  They were thinking, between three families, taking care of a goat would not be all that much trouble.  I jumped at the idea.  It'll be a great experience for the kids caring for a farm animal and milking it everyday.   Milk goats are a tad high maintenance.  They need to be bred every 300 days or so to keep their milk supply up, they need to be fed a clean and healthy diet, their living quarters must be very clean, their udders must be carefully cleaned before and after each milking and they must be milked consistently. It really is too much work for one family for just one little goat, especially if this is not their livelihood or lifestyle.

Last week, the ladies and I went and spoke with two different goat farmers, and while it certainly is something doable, we saw it really is quite a commitment.  Goats are herd animals and so we need at least two.  In the end, after a lot of back and forth, we settled on three goats.  Two are a hearty mix of Nubian and Saanen and the third is a more delicate La Mancha--whose milk and milk production is considered superior tot most other goats.  They are awful cute and very affectionate, almost like dogs.  One goat can give up to 1 gallon of milk at a milking, between three families and three goats, that is a lot of milk, but what really got me excited was the prospect of making fresh Chèvre, kefir, and yogurt.  With the abundance we project, I'll be making more than enough cheese for our family. We go through a lot of Chèvre and it is really expensive in the store.  One of the farmers mentioned she also makes goat feta and mozzarella!  Whoop!

Monday one of the neighbors dropped by 2 quarts of fresh goat milk for us to try.  I'd tasted it at one of the farms and knew I liked it, but the rest of the family was still pretty skittish about the idea, having had grocery store goat's milk, which is gamey and sour.  Fresh goat's milk tastes very much like cow's milk.  It is much better for you, too.  Goat's milk is less allergenic, is naturally homogenized, is easier to digest, rarely causes lactose intolerance, and more closely matches human milk.  Goat's milk is a good source of protein, contains less sugar, 13% more calcium, 25% more vitamin B6, 47% more vitamin A, and 134% more potassium than cow's milk.  I've used the donated milk in smoothies, coffee, and in pancakes.  It is slightly more thick and creamy than the cow's milk I'm used to, but it tastes great.  I believe it must have a lower water content, too, as the pancakes I made had slightly crispy edges and browned very nicely.

Our biggest issue with the goats is where will we house them?  Our property has the most unimproved land of all three of us, but absolutely no fencing or shelter for animals, just yet.  We plan on putting in an area for chickens and other small animals, but not just yet.  One neighbor has a nice barn with electricity--perfect for sheltering and milking, but the yard is smaller and they will need to fence a good portion off because of their fruit trees.  Goats will strip fruit trees bare.  The other neighbor has a smaller barn, no electricity, but an already large fenced off area with shade.  She also has three pygmy goats and 6 chickens that would share the space with our milkers.  It will be at least 9 month before our two mixed breeds will be able to provide milk and 15 months until the La Mancha will be ready, so temporarily, we are going with the second neighbor's setup with the hopes to move them into an area provided by our family for at least part of the year.

The next issue will be dividing up the care of the goats. Each family has a responsible girl 13 years or  older that will be capable of milking and caring for the goats on a rotating schedule.  Each family then has an 11 year old child, that is not quite as responsible, but could definitely do the job with supervision--which is absolutely fine by me, as I had really wanted to get my hands a bit dirty too and learn alongside my kiddos.  I'm excited for this venture.  It should be a lot of hard work, but so worth it in the end.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Pulled Pork with Carolina Style Barbecue Sauce

This last weekend Wingnut volunteered to make pulled pork for a work party celebrating the retirement of one of his colleagues.  I love when he volunteers for things like this (notice the hint of sarcasm?) because what this really means is that he has volunteered me to make something.  Fine, I thought.  I'll just cook a pork shoulder up in the crockpot, pull it, and then douse it in BBQ sauce, dust my hands off and be done with it.  This was not what Wingnut had planned on my doing.  No. What he volunteered was a smoked pork butt from the grill with two kinds of homemade BBQ sauce. Sigh.

Thankfully, it ended up being a team effort.  I rubbed and wrapped the roast the night before.  Wingnut lit the grill, soaked wood chips, and threw the roast on the grill and let it smoke away for several hours.  I took the roast off the grill, wrapped it tightly in foil and finished it off in the oven for another couple hours and then hand pulled it.  Earlier in the day I also stirred up a classic bbq sauce and a Carolina style sauce to serve on the side.

In the end it was definitely worth all the extra effort.  It was the absolute best pulled pork we had ever made and the tangy Carolina BBQ sauce was off the charts delicious.  I'm posting the recipe here--one that I adapted--so I won't forget it.

For the pork you need a 10 to 11 pound Boston butt.  Rub with 1/2 cup red chili based rub (I mix my own using two types of chili powder, paprika, black pepper, salt, cumin, oregano, and brown sugar), wrap well with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.  The next morning light your grill and set up to smoke.  Bring roast up to room temp by removing from the fridge and setting it out on the counter for about an hour before putting it on the grill.  We soaked cherrywood chips for an hour in a bowl of water.  Throw chips on the fire and put the roast in a disposable aluminum pan and set on the grill.  Smoke for about 3 hours, keeping the grill at a steady 275 degrees.  Remove the roast from the grill and wrap with aluminum foil (I wrapped around the aluminum pan) and place in a preheated 325 degree oven and roast for another 2-3 hours or until a fork goes into and out of the meat easily.  Slide entire pan into a paper bag and crimp closed and allow to rest 45-60 minutes.  Using two forks or your fingers shred the meat.  Pour pan juices into a fat separator and let sit several minutes until the fat separates from the juices.  Pour juices over shredded meat and discard the fat.  Serve on rolls with your favorite BBQ sauce.  The following recipe is our favorite sauce for pulled pork.

Carolina Style Barbecue Sauce

1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/2-2 tsp crushed red pepper (depending on how spicy you like your sauce--I went with 2 tsp)

Place all ingredients in a small sauce pan whisk together and bring to a boil over medium heat--whisking constantly to keep sugar from burning. Boil for several minutes.  Cool and refrigerate until needed.

This is a thinner sauce and has a good vinegar and mustard tang to it and pairs extremely well with pulled pork.

This was our roast just prior to going into the paper bag to rest (I recovered with the foil and slid the whole pan into two paper bags--one bag sliding over the pan in each direction).  We were in a rush to get out the door after I pulled the pork, so I didn't get a finished photo.  The roast was tender,  juicy and smokey.
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Sunday, July 6, 2014


In a post last week I mentioned Wingnut Jr. has begun scouting.  During his scout camp, he and his buddy decided they needed to purchase pocket knives from the camp outpost.  Wingnut Jr. was so proud of his knife.  I wasn't as thrilled.  We usually make our kiddos wait until they are 12 before we let them own a knife.

I didn't take the knife away, but I did tell him to keep it somewhere safe and away from his mischievous little brother.  Apparently, keeping it safe means keeping it in your pocket and then taking said knife out of your pocket and opening a blade and performing a "blood circle" with open blade in your hand and subsequently slicing your buddy's thumb during your performance.  I guess there really is a reason to place an age limiter on knife possession, after all.  Don't mind me.  I'm just the mom.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} July 2

round button chicken


I made these festive and patriotic wreaths for our front door.  I just love, love, love my red doors!


On top of winning his Little League tournament, Wingnut Jr. began scouts this week.  His very first day of scouts was a day camp in the mountains.  He had so much fun.  He shot a BB gun, a bow and arrow, and a sling shot.  He canoed, made a craft, and went through a super cool obstacle course.  He learned about different trees and what to do in case of "leaves of three" and he bought a pocket knife.  Hmmm, usually we make our kids wait until they are about twelve before we let them have a knife.  Should we let him keep it?


This little guy has had a very busy week.  I forgot to mention he turned eight and got to have his very first non family sleep over with his very best buddy.  They were absolutely adorable.  Can I say that about 8 year olds?


I've decided to refinish/paint our poor kitchen table and chairs.  I had to scrub and sand off 15 years worth of sticky food, glitter glue, fabric paint, and markers one afternoon.

And spray with the first of two coats of Kilz Primer another afternoon.  I'll spray one more coat of primer and then the girls and I will paint them a lovely shade of hunter green satin.  I should get several more years of use out of them when we are finished.  I'll be sure to post final photos here, hopefully next week.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who Knew Little League Could be so Intense?

Wingnut Jr. loves baseball.  He's been butterflying pitches to himself since he was three years old.  One of the great things about living in this community is that there are enough kids to warrant our own sports leagues.  This year our community had enough 6-10 year olds interested in baseball to fill 16 machine pitch teams.  From late May through the end of June they kids have one practice and one game a week.  The first week in July they have a two day playoff tournament.  Our team finished the season in 4th place and when the playoffs began something set off a spark in them that practically exploded until they ended up winning the tournament.

While it was fun to watch.  It was also unfortunate to see so many of the parents get way too emotional and vocal as the tournament wore on.  At one point it became so intense Ben's coach had to come out and remind parents that this was just Little League and this was just for fun.  Little League machine pitch has a few different rules from straight up baseball and it can get confusing and the umpiring did leave a little bit to be desired, but I think some parents forgot the umpires in our league are just teenagers and the players are just little kids.

 I'm more than a little worried the intensity will only get worse as the kids progress through later phases of Little League.

Wingnut and I used the experience to pass on a little good sportsmanship lessons to Wingnut Jr.  Baseball is a great sport and can and should be a lot of fun.  Period.

Playing Catcher

In two years of machine pitch, Wingnut Jr. has struck out only one time.  Most at bats he hits the very first pitch.  He is a solid contact hitter.

Boy, does he ever love that bobble head trophy.

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