Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holiday preparations

Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful! We had friends and family coming and going from Wednesday through Sunday. What a nice time! We were glad to be able to carpet the basement so it was totally finished for our guests.

We've had our share of illness this fall. First Sweet Pea (age 9) got the flu, followed by pneumonia. He missed a whole week of school. That was before Thanksgiving. Now Big Dog (age 12) has the flu. I stayed home with him today and got a lot of things done. I made homemade pizza calzones which I will slice into portions and then freeze. They will be for school lunches. I also made Christmas cookie dough and am preparing to make lasagna right now. I love to bake! I got in a little cleaning and attempted to put the lights on the tree. I need to buy some more lights. It's very pathetic looking right now!

Hope everyone has a happy holiday season!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Autumn Updates

As with most people, things continue to be busy. Except for carpet, our basement is done and decorated. The garden is done and cleaned up until spring. The puppy is housebroken (except for some remaining submissive peeing, which is frustrating). I ended up replacing the foam in the ottoman and putting the fabric upolstry cover right in the washing machine. It was the best solution and is nice and clean!

Our little dead-end road has a lot more traffic than usual these days due to deer hunters. There is quite a bit of public hunting land accessed from our road, so we have trucks driving by much more frequently than normal.

Even with all the "traffic," I've learned that if you live rural and want to meet people other than your 2 neighbors, you have to DO something about it. People don't just walk up the sidewalk and say, "Hi! I'm ___ and live a few blocks down the road" like they do in suburbia. I've been attending church and a few people are remembering my name (if only I could remember theirs). I joined the school improvement team at my son's school to meet the teachers. I am also co-coaching 2 activities this fall--an academic reading team that will compete in a literacy "game show," and a a team for Odyssey of the Mind in which students use creative thinking, team-work and problem solving to complete in a problem-solving competition. Already I'm getting to know a few more people. Even though our "town" is small, the school district includes children from 5 different towns and lots of rural space in between, so the school district actually has a lot of students. Many more than I anticipated when we first moved here.

My meal planning is going pretty well thus far. I put all my meals in my Windows calendar on a rotating basis, so I have 5 meals planned automatically for each week. I just match up my grocery list with my menu for the week and I'm good to go! I do mix things up a bit. I might have Wed's dinner on Monday or something like that, but it sure helps to know I have all the ingredients on hand for 5 different meals. It's not too convenient to run to the store if I run out of something!

I would like to be making more things from scratch to avoid preservatives and eat healthier, but I have some roadblocks. 1st of all, it takes TIME to make everything from scratch and in case you didn't notice, I'm a little busy right now! 2nd, SOMEONE in my family prefers processed foods over homemade!!! This person would rather eat blueberry muffins from a mix or pizza from the chain, rather than completely homemade. How sad! : (

We will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year for 22 of our relatives. This is my first major Thanksgiving dinner, so I'm looking forward to it. It takes a lot of planning and organization. I have purchased everything except for the potatoes and we've borrowed tables and chairs, so we're on our way!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homemade chicken noodle soup

This one's for you Nikki!

You can buy chicken broth in a carton or cans at the store or you can make your own. I usually use a combination of the two and add a spoonful of chicken base as well for extra flavor. You can find both the broth and the base near the soup section of the store.

To make your own broth:

After we have a roasted chicken for dinner, I put all the leftovers (meat, bones, skin everything) in a big pot on the stove and sometimes add onion, carrots, and celery for extra flavor if I had them on hand. Cover and let it simmer for a few hours. Then I put a colander over a large bowl and put everything through. The veggies, meat and bones stay in the colander and the broth goes in the bowl. I then take whatever chicken meat is left off the bones and cut it up for the soup. Sometimes there's a lot of fat in the broth. If you put it in the fridge over night the fat will harden on top and you can spoon it off. The broth usually get gelled, so just heat it back up a bit.

Homemade noodles:
I got this recipe from HeavenlyHomemakers.com.

2 1/3 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 beaten eggs
1/3 C water
1 tsp oil

Mix flour and salt together. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and add the water and oil. Pour over flour and stir and knead until combined. (I put all my ingredients in the bread maker and le tit do the kneading and mixing for me while I do something else. I just turn it off after about 10 minutes.)

Wash, dry and flour your countertop. Roll out the dough and then cut with your pizza cutter into this strips. While I'm doing that I have pot of water on to boil. Place the strips into boiling water and cook until nearly done.

Heat up your broth. Add any chicken, chicken base or other seasonings (I like pepper or garlic) or cooked veggies you want and then add your noodles. Heat and simmer until dinner time.

We had this last night and it was yummy!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nature's Miracle

Well, last time I posted I mentioned locating the puppy pee. If anyone has a puppy who pees on the carpet once in awhile, you really need to get a flourescent black light. I got mine for $10 at Meijer in the lighting section. When it's dark out, you turn off the regular lights and go around with the black light shining it on the carpet. Everywhere there is organic matter will glow! That includes dust mites, so don't think little puppy peed along all your walls-you need to vacuum along them better! I poured Nature's Miracle on all the glowing spots. For almost a week I could still smell the urine every once in awhile. Now, the smell appears to be gone for the most part. Apparently the product stays in the carpet and over time, neutralizes the urine or something like that. I am going to purchase another bottle, because I used the whole first bottle and our covered ottoman still smells if you get your nose down there. That and I'm sure we'll have more accidents.

Actually he's quite housetrained, but pees when he gets excited or nervous still.

I was going to post about the homemake noodles I made for soup, but I'm really too tired!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back to school

Well, we all survived the first week of school! The boys did great. My classes were really good, too!

I am really going to try to pack lunches for all 3 of us most every day this school year. Last year things were hectic with building and our kids ended up eating school lunch almost every day. The oldest chose pizza every single day of the year! It also was pretty expensive for 2 kids--we were paying a little over $20/week for unhealthy lunches! When they did pack a lunch it wasn't very healthy--usually a Lunchable. So far we've had 4 days of school and I managed to have lunches for all 3 of us every day. One day the boys took leftover cheeseburgers from the previous evening's dinner. I've been buying a lot of non-fat yogurt for them and grapes and pretzels. I've got a list of ideas to draw from.

I also have planned all my dinners in advance and have them saved on a calendar so I'll also know what's for dinner and can buy my groceries accordingly! :) Yay for me!

Now that's is dark outside, I must get my blacklight and locate the source of the puppy pee smell in my living room. I bought some Nature's Miracle and hope that it works!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Feeling like fall

Two days ago the season appeared to change overnight. It had been in the 90's for days, a storm blew in and now it's in the 50's and 60's and windy. This is my kind of weather. The mosquitos are even gone!

Josh bought a pick-up a few weeks back to use to snowplow the drive this winter (300 feet--that push snowblower just isn't going to do it). He knew a guy who knows a guy who's a mechanic on the side and gave him a good deal on a bunch of repairs, but it took 2 weeks. He picked it up this morning and then went to look at a snowplow he found for sale on Craigslist. Turned out the plow-selling guy works for a guy whose wife Josh works with. He decided to leave his truck with that guy who is going to weld on a frame for him. So, I had to go pick him up. We live out in the country, but the plow-selling guy was 45 more minutes in the country. It was a beautiful drive. We passed a sign for an apple orchard and on the way back, Josh stopped for me! Turns out it was on the property of an Amish family. When we pulled in the drive, there was one little girl out tending the goats. As I approached the house, another adorable girl came bouncing out the door, eager to sell me her apples. I got a half-bushel of Courtlands for only $5!

Later this afternoon, Josh, Big Dog and I went into the woods to start getting some firewood. Josh cut up a downed tree and we helped carry it out of the woods to the trailer (well, he did most of it, it was heavy and a long way to carry). Then while Josh split the wood, the boys and I finished clearing the area around the rope swing. Now they can swing high without hitting the bushes!

Now I have an apple crisp in the oven for dessert! I will make applesauce later this weekend and maybe try my hand at a pie--we'll see!

Monday, August 16, 2010

More harvest!

Today I harvested 24 ears of corn from the garden, blanched, cut and froze them. That seemed like a lot of corn for the freezer when I picked it, but once it was processed, it's not that much. I suppose it's about 8-10 meals' worth for our family of 4. I still feel like I've accomplished something though! I am also harvesting tomatoes and await the day I have enough to start making and canning salsa-it shouldn't be too much longer! I have 4 orange pumpkins in the garden and a lot of watermelon and acorn squash that aren't ripe yet.

This weekend I made some yeast dinner rolls and pancakes for the freezer. I am planning on making another roll recipe this afternoon. I also need to paint some baseboard trim and I want to clear the area under the boys' rope swing they haven't used all summer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

End of summer activities

With only 2 weeks left of my summer vacation, I have a lot to cram in! Tonight we're hosting a card party, tomorrow family visitors, Monday friends visiting, Tues. dr appointment and a session on raising chickens, Wednesday to my parents' house to drop off my boys for the week and a visit to an old friend I haven't seen in 21 years!

Once I get back home on Thursday (sans boys) I hope to make some meals ahead for the freezer: lasagna, enchiladas, cookie dough, garlic bread, taco meat, cooked ground beef, chicken noodle soup . . . I also hope to have ripe tomatoes some day so I can make and can some salsa. I need to get my menus planned. Josh and I used to get paid on opposite Fridays, now it will be the same Friday, so we'll only be paid every other week. This is going to take some adjustment in the way I shop and plan.

I have some more rooms that need to be painted in the basement and more organizing to do down there as well. I was planning to tile the kitchen backsplash this summer, but honestly, "it ain't gonna happen!"

I also have a few books I'd like to read and relax for a little bit!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Laundry soap

I finally decided to make some laundry soap. I've had the recipe for a couple of years now, Josh was always the one who did the laundry and I didn't know if he'd use it or not. Since I'm not working outside the home during the summer and Josh has been busy finishing the basement, I said I'd take over laundry duties for the summer. This is a good time for me to test the laundry soap. My mom said she used it for about 4 months last year and eventually clothes started to look dingy. I'll test for myself I guess.

I know everyone and their neighbor has blogged about their use of homemade laundry soap, so I won't bore you with all the details. However, here is the recipe I used:

1/3 bar FelsNaptha soap
1/2 C washing soda
1/2 C borax

Grate the soap and put in a saucepan with 6 cups of hot water. Heat and stir until soap melts. Add borax and washing soda and stir until dissolved. Pour mixture into a bucket and add 4 cups of water and stir well. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and keep stirring. Let soap sit for 24 hours to thicken a little. Use 1/2 C per load. There are little to no suds in the washing machine.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So busy and PHOTOS

My mom came down last week and stayed with us for a few days while my dad was on a motorcycle trip. She helped me get the family and playrooms painted in the basment. They were big rooms and we got it all done in just a couple days-2 coats. She went home on Friday. Saturday Josh and I installed laminate flooring in our family room and Sunday we had the couch, tv, and desk all set up! We also did a lot of clean up down there with the help of the boys.

Today I froze more blackberries and some green beans. I have more cukes than I know what to do with! I am not interested in pickling them. Oh well! Next year I'll not plant so many cucumbers! I took some to the neighbor yesterday.
Jalapeno peppers- going into the freezer until the tomatoes are ripe to use in salsa!
Green beans!
The garden!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Begininng to harvest

WOW! My garden is growing out of control! Next year I need to put more space between the hill for squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, watermelon and zucchini because that area is a giant section with plants criss-crossing each other. I put the hills so the centers were 4 ft apart. Next year I need to try 4 or more ft of flat ground between the hill I think. Cucumbers are growing and a few are only a day or so away from picking. I couldn’t even see them, buried under all the leaves. I have 1 tomato that is almost ripe. The romas are about 1-2" long at this point. Jalapenos just keep producing and I keep picking! Onions continue to grow. Green beans have formed and I’m waiting for them to plump out a bit. Today’s hand watering should help. Though we had an 80% chance of storms yesterday, we got almost no rain at all. We haven’t had rain in awhile, so this morning’s soaking was needed. The corn is about 4’ high and the tassles are now formed! I hope our corn is good! That’s the 1 vegetable the whole family will eat! Had friends over this weekend and we enjoyed salad with my fresh lettuce. She commented on how good the lettuce tasted-I was proud!

I have TONS of wild blackberries this year! Last year they were just thorny canes. Last night I picked about 4 cups of the frist ripe ones. The boys want me to make some blackberry crisp today. I think I will try to do that! Some places have huge plump berries while others have smaller berries. I wonder if they are different varieties or if the locations make a difference. The ones on the hill tend to be smaller than those down the hill on the edge of the woods. The berries are at various stages-some still small and white, some pink to red, others black; therefore I should have a long picking season.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Garden updates

The garden is continuing to grow very well! I wish I could post photos, but the cord that goes from the camera to the computer is in a box somewhere in a storage room in the basement all taped off during the drywalling phase of basement finishing. The corn is thigh-high, squash and pumpkins are vining all over the place, green beans and tomatoes are getting blossoms. I've been picking jalapenos and lettuce. I wish the peppers and tomatoes were on the same schedule though! Yesterday there was a garter snake slithering around. It was my 1st snake sighting of the season.

We are due for a break in the heat wave today due to some rain moving in. So far the weather map shows rain all around us, just not here! We could use the rain, as I'm sure most people can!

My fruit trees are a disaster this year (year 1) and I can just hope they survive and try again next year. After all my diligence in plucking off the caterpillars, ants ate the peach tree leaves and I never did figure out what was eating the apple trees. I have been spraying them with an organic treatment for fungus and insects, but I believe I started too late. The damage was already done.

My 2 little blueberry bushes are healthy and are producing a handful of berries each. One of the raspberry bushes is producing berries, but it appears to have some insect damage. The other raspberry bush is green and healthy, but has no berries!

I may go brave the mosquitos before the rain to pick some wild berries this afternoon. I'm off to a really late start today due to being up with the puppy for the majority of the night. Once the kids got up this morning, it was back to bed for me! I'm glad I don't have to work during the summer! I need to vacuum the carpets and mop the kitchen floor. It would be nice to get a loaf of bread started also. I guess I'd getter get started!

PS Last week while the boys were at grandma's house, I made a batch of soap using canola, olive, coconut and castor oils. It is curing and looks pretty nice!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fox sighting #2

We just spotted a fox in the backyard again. We could only see 1, but the other could have been down the hill. We put our dog in the other room before he saw it and scared it away. The fox stayed around for a few minutes and we all got to watch it for awhile. My mother in law is here and she enjoyed seeing it as well.

This afternoon my mother in law is taking Big Dog and Sweet Pea back to her house for the week.

Honey, our 5 year old golden retriever is still adjusting to having a puppy in the house. Her behavior has changed a bit sometimes. Yesterday when mother in law arrived, Honey barked and barked at her. That's not her normal behavior. She is also getting protective about her food--worried the puppy will get it I guess. I'm going to have to do a little research to see how to deal with this.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Addition to the family

On Father's Day, we bought a Golden Retriever puppy. We've been wanting to get another dog to keep our 5 year old Golden "Honey" company. We looked at the Humane Societies and adoption agencies, but nothing really seemed to be the right fit. We finally decided to get another Golden Retriever, because they are such a great, friendly breed. After a couple days of making phone calls, we found some purebred puppies ready to go that day, only 45minutes from home. Both parents were onsite and were very friendly. We had our choice from 4 males. They were all great, so we just picked one.

Honey has been enjoying the puppy. She's learning not to eat the puppy's food. She shares her toys and water dish and sleeps near "Hunter" while he naps. It's quite cute!

Shortly after 9:00 this evening, Honey started barking and looking out the back window. I heard my youngest say "Foxes!" He was correct, we had a pair of foxes bouncing through the back yard. That was pretty exciting--it was the first time we've seen them here.

The garden is growing well now. Finally! I've started mulching around the plants using grass clippings. I am hoping that will keep the weeds down. We've had a lot of rainstorms recently. We still have a downed tree blocking half of our road from Saturdays' storm. All the rain is helping the garden and unfortunately the mosquito population grow. Michigan is known for having a lot of mosquitos. There are t-shirts at tourist stops here with a picture of a mosquito and the words "Michigan's State Bird." Anyway, between the humidity and mosquitos (both caused by the rain) it's not been very comfortable working outside this week. I usually go out in the evenings, but the skeeters are just too much!

Josh has officially hung all the drywall today for our finished basement. I know a few families who have lived in their homes for years still planning to finish their basement "as soon as they have time." Fortunately, I have one of those husbands who makes time to do the projects that are important to our family's safety and enjoyment. Drywalling actually improves the fire rating our our floor, so it is a safety related project. We've also installed a storm room where we'll keep all our storm supplies.

We all love our new home so much! We're really building family memories here and we've only lived here about 10 weeks!

Monday, June 7, 2010


After this weekend's major thunderstorms and today's sun, I have the sprouts of my first seeds! I am a bit behind the other gardens in the area, but that's ok. Today I went out to hoe weeds and saw the first sprouts of squash, cucumbers, green beans and a few corn! I didn't get the onion sets, carrots, lettuce or spinach in the ground until yesterday. The tomato and jalapeno starts I planted are looking good.

Big Dog's outside mowing the lawn with the John Deere for the first time. He just drove by the patio door and smiled and waved in at us. He feels like a man. It helps that he's now taller than 1 grandma and just a few inches shorter than I am! The paths are terribly curvy! :)

Josh drywalled the ceiling in about half the basement this weekend. That was a huge job! I helped with that on Saturday. Sunday I did laundry and cleaned the house.

Next week I begin summer vacation. I have so many things I want to do:

1. Start a compost pile
2. Make soap
3. Make wild berry preserves
4. Tile the kitchen backsplash
5. Get back to quilting
6. Make a braided rug
7. Keep up the garden
8. Preserve my homegrown veggies

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Planting again

Planting was delayed due to days and days of rainstorms followed by illness. Then we went out of town for the holiday weekend. Finally after work today I was able to get back out there. I had to hoe out more weeds of course, but not too many. I planted sweet corn, beans, tomato and pepper plants, cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins. I have more I want to plant, but ran out of daytime.

My blueberries and doing really well. The raspberries and apple trees also seem to be doing fine. The peach tree, however is becoming food for ants. I need to find out what kind of spray I can use on it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Back to the garden

I finally got back to the garden. I was frustrated with all the grass and no seedlings, so I avoided it for awhile. (That and it rained a lot last week!) Saturday I sprayed all the grass and weeds in and around the garden with Round Up. I know, I know, it's bad to use chemicals in the garden and I didn't want to, but without a rototiller, I didn't see how I was ever going to get all that grass out. The grass and weeds from around the fence were also creeping in. The package said the product is only active in the plant, not in the soil and it can be replanted in 3 days. Today was day 3. The grasses and weeds were definately at least half dead. I decided I would get the hoe out today after work and see what damage I could do. Summer temperatures arrived today, so it was too hot to go out until around 8:00. I hoed about 40% of the garden twice and then raked the grass into a pile. There is still some grass in there, but hopefully the Round Up is still at work on those. Tomorrow evening I hope to hoe the other 60%. Wednesday evening I am giving a training on early literacy activities, so I won't be able to get out that night. I would like to get some more done Thursday evening and possibly get some things in the ground before Friday evening.

I am really fighting a battle with those darn tent worms! They of course made tents in our large trees out back, but what has frustrated me is that the caterpillars crawled up to my new fruit trees and bushes! I have to go out there everyday and pick off the caterpillars and squish them on the ground. I am finding 4-6 caterpillars each day. That is a lot on my few tiny plants! I wonder how much longer they will be around. Hopefully not too much longer--I noticed the ones I squished today were getting pretty long. I wonder how people wil larger trees or larger numbers of fruit bushes handle this--I am sure they don't go out everyday and search every inch for caterpillars to squish!

Hopefully your gardens are doing better than mine! I still have high hopes, though! (and sore forearms!)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fresh fruit, anyone?

Well, maybe not right now, but someday! Last year Josh got me 2 red raspberry bushes and 2 blueberry bushes. This weekend I got 2 more of each (bareroot--hopefully they don't die on me!), an Elberta peach tree, a Red Delicous tree and a MacIntosh apple tree! I also got 20 June bearing strawberry plants. The vegetable garden is still a disaster- I didn't touch it all weekend.

Don't you love how once you find something good on the internet, you often find more an dmore links to more and more good information? While looking at our local newspaper online, I found a free introduction to canning class for tomorrow evening I am going to try to attend. That led me to the website of the group hosting the class--Fair Food Matters. They have a variety of classes scheduled for the next few months--more detailed and advanced canning, making cheese at home, raising hens, eating local and root cellaring. I also found a link to a local farm I had not heard of that has all kinds of classes going on as well! I had no idea all of this was available to me and I am so excited!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hodge Podge

This post is a hodge podge of updates.

Garden: It's doing terribly! The T posts keep bending in the wind. There's grass growing all over the place in there and no signs of anything I actually planted! Grrr!

Dog: Honey got into her first tangle with another animal yesterday: the fierce ground hog! She tore off after one and actually caught it. She didn't pick it up or anything, but I think she got it with her paw. The two of them were eye to eye for a bit, then Honey started barking and the ground hog screetched and they were at it. Honey didn't really attack her, mostly just barking and jumping around, but the ground hog was trying to defend itself. I tried calling her away but she wouldn't come. I had Sweet Pea go get Josh who was downstairs. Honey retreated after he called to her a few times. Both animals seemed to survive the ordeal, though Honey's tongue was bleeding--don't know if the groundhog got it or if she bit it when she was barking.

House: Josh has framed the basement all in and started the rough in electrical. We got bids for the HVAC and plumbing and it's not pretty. Not sure what we're going to do about that yet. We are still waiting for the builder to finish the railing on the front porch! Supposed they special ordered the pieces and they came in the wrong size, so they had to re-order them.

Garage sales: Yesterday I stopped at a garage sale on the way home from work. They had a bunch of really cool. old oil lamps--but they wanted $25 a piece. Today I went to a few more and found a cool old oil lamp for $3--so I bought it! I also got a sweater, a puzzle, a book, a gas can, and a bulletin board for Big Dog's room.

Job: I applied for a transfer to one of a few open positions, but did not get one. I'm disappointed, but still employed, so I can't really complain!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Garden, pantry

A few weeks ago, I planted many of the seeds in the garden and put up a fence to keep the deer out. I used T posts and a fencing material made of a netting type fabric that has sleeves in it to slide over the posts. It seemed simple. It actually installed fairly simply. However, it is very windy here and following a particularly windy and rainy day, I came home to discover my T posts had bent in the wind. So, I bought more posts, put them closer together, replaced some of the bent ones and re-installed the netting. Much better. Until Friday's storm. Once again the post bent and the fence is laying on the ground. I guess the "good news" is that none of my seeds seem to be growing right now, so there's no need for a fence!!! It's been cold here lately and I think it's keeping the seeds from germinating. We're due for another storm Thursday, so I'm just leaving the fence as it sits.

I've always been a person who likes to have a full pantry. But now that the "corner store" is a 15 minute drive at 55mph, I really like to have everything we need at home. If I was missing an ingredient mid-dinner preparations in the city, I jumped in the car and was back home with what I wanted in 10 minutes. Now it's at least 35 minutes, plus the extra gas. (Unless it's late on Sunday, then I have to drive a bit further.) If someone gets sick, I want to have the basic medicines we need in the cupboard. If I get sick or break a leg and can't get the grocery shopping done for a few weeks I know we have plenty to eat right here at home. Even if we lost a job for awhile, we have lots of food here to save on groceries each week.

Before we left the city, we started eating from the pantry to avoid moving all that food. We didn't have a lot of storage space at the rental house, so it wasn't the best-stocked pantry around. My new kitchen, however, is a dream! I have a full pantry with deep shelves and so many kitchen cupboards, some are nearly empty! We've only lived here a month, but I'm working on getting everything stocked back up and it feels good to see lots of cans in the pantry and meat in the freezer.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend work

Friday we rented a rotatiller to till up the garden plot. That is a big job. Fortunately Josh helped me! He did the 1st round of tilling, I did a few and then he did a few more. Finally we had some loose soil!

Saturday was cooler and damp. We returned the rotatiller and made a trip to the big box store. I bought some fencing for the garden and Josh picked up the overhead garage door he ordered for the pole barn.

I finally organized my closet Sunday. Our previous house (not the rental) had a master closet the size of a bedroom, so I had shelves and everything in there. This home has nice-sized closets, but no room for shelves other than above the hanging clothes. I bought one of those over-the-door shoe organizers. I found one that didn't have plastic or vinyl on it and it looks nice and keeps all my shoes up and off of the floor. I put my sweaters in a bin in the basement and made a small pile for Goodwill.

Yesterday I made some homemade bread and cookies! I grilled some steak to go with it and baked a few potatoes for dinner.

Josh has been working on framing the basement and really appreciates his new pneumatic nail gun! He worked on the bulkheads today around the ducts and plumbing. That's a big job.

Monday after work I got most of the seeds planted and put the garden fence up. Then Josh and Big Dog returned from the store with a load of over 200 2x4's to unload. (They were $1 off--and that's a lot of money when you need a couple hundred!)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

I just learned about an invasive edible plant that's a big problem in my region-and my own land--garlic mustard! The boys and I had a garlic mustard pull at the edge of our woods yesterday afternoon. We brought a little bit back to the kitchen where we washed it up and tasted it. Tastes a bit like . . . garlic!

We also have an issue with lots of non-fruit bearing brambles! They are everywhere and difficult to remove due to how throny they are. They are not in a place where we can just mow them down.

I haven't started my garden yet. I've been trying to locate an alternative to a rotatiller that I can rent to pull behind the tractor.

This evening we are going to our son's elelmentary school for the science fair. He made a simple project all my himself using his electronics kit.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Finally a full CO!

Today we finally got our complete, final certificate of occupancy! Hurray! Now we can apply for that great home buyer tax credit (on an ammended retun since it's April 16) and close on our mortgage!

Yesterday the cement for our sidewalk and approach to the garage was poured and some of the railings were installed on the front porch. Today the final grade of the yard was completed. We still need to go over it to break up the larger chunks of soil and collect the largest of the rocks.

We bought a 50# bag of grass seed today at Tractor Supply Company, along with a new open trailer with a ramp for talking the tractor in for maintainance, among many other uses. I also bought some peat moss for the yet-to-be-tilled garden and the book Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance. It has information on everything from gardening, to home repairs to raising animals, baking, shed building, butchering animals, making sassafrass rootbeer . . . anything we might ever want to know ( and then some)!

Josh is hoping I'm going to make cookies soon. I am hoping to avoid it. My day started 14 hours ago and I'd like to rest now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Healthier Kids?

Now that we have all this land, the boys are continuing to play outdoors on their own each day! Even Big Dog, my video-game-addicted-almost-12-year-old wanders outside a few times each day to explore. Yesterday Josh played catch with the boys and a football and today the boys went out on their own and played catch together. This may sound typical for most boys, but it hasn't been for mine, so we're thrilled!

I also got the boys to eat a bit of spinach this evening. The nutrition educator who comes to my parenting class made some quesadillas with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, grilled chicken and spinach. My students loved them and said they couldn't taste the spinach. I made some tonight with our regular meal of grilled chicken, mushrooms and rice. Each boy actually tried it and liked it! They only ate 1/4 of a quesadilla each, but that's more spinach then they're ever eaten before, so I didn't want to push it! Sweet pea said, "If you can't taste it, what's the point on putting it in?" I know the cream cheese wasn't the healthiest thing, but I figure sometimes it takes "a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down!" I do the same thing with that high fructose laiden V-8 Splash and V-8 Fusion. It's not all healthy, but it get the veggies in them at least!

The last few days we got the rest of the barbed wire from the woods and we used the John Deere to drag up an old metal trailer frame we found that had been hidden behind the brambles. We're trying to get the rest of the junk that surfaced once the snow melted and before the leaves come out and hide it all again. If we can, I'd like to start getting some of the fallen trees out of the woods as well before the poison ivy returns and we can't get to it anymore.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Step 1: Buy the land. Check.
Step 2: Sell the house. Check.
Step 3: Build the new house. Check.
Step 4: Move into the new house. CHECK!

We got our temporary certificate of occupancy late Wednesday afternoon. My parents came down Wednesday evening to help us with the move. Josh's mother came down Friday morning. By Saturday we were organized and cleaned enough to make Easter dinner before my parents left. This afternoon everyone is gone and we have our new home to ourselves. Too bad I'm so incredibly exhausted. I got some groceries this afternoon. Tomorrow it's back to school for the kids and I, so we'll have to review new bus numbers, bus stops, and after school procedures today. I have some school work to be done before morning also.

My mom and dad gave us our birthday money early so we could buy some fruit trees. Maybe I can do that next weekend. We're hosting our monthly Euchre (cards) club this Friday, so I need to get the inside of the house in shape as much as possible.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nice afternoon (considering)

Well, since we still don't have our certificate of occupancy, the boys and I spent the day in our "future backyard." Big Dog and I prunned a wild apple tree and hauled all the branches up to the firepit. Then he suggested we get some hotdogs and have lunch over the fire. So, that's what we did! It was much nicer to spend the afternoon in our outdoors rather than sitting in the rental house waiting for the builder to call! ( Cell phone was close at hand, of course!)

New recipies

Since the house is still at a stand-still, I thought I'd write about a couple new recipies I tried recently. The first one is for popovers. 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt. Whirl in a blender and bake in muffin tins 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then 350 for 20 minutes more. I served them with jam. Sweet Pea said they tasted too much like eggss-he doesn't care for eggs. Big Dog thought they were OK- but a little plain. I thought they were pretty good, but plain. Maybe next time, I'll experiment with some flavorings.

The other one isn't really a recipe. It's scrambled French toast. Basically it's French toast, using scraps of leftover breads such as hamburger buns that are torn into bite sized pieces. You can cook in in a frying pan or bake it in the oven.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Patience, or the lack thereof

Having patience when waiting seems to be cyclical. Sometimes, I am excited and things are happening and I am feeling patient. Other times, things just don't seem to be moving at the pace I want, and I feel impatient. This is one of those times. Our house was done last week. We're waiting for permission to move in. I was patient Th, Friday, Sat and Sunday, but no more. I am on Spring break this week and want to be moving into my new house today. I snuck in over the weekend and washed out all the cupboards and shelves in the house. I can start putting things in as soon as I get the OK.

You may recall we are living in a fully-furnished cottage. Therefore, all of our furniture, dishes, linens, and most of our "stuff" is either packed in the pole barn or in the storage unit. So, from that respect, we don't have a lot of packing to do this time. This weekend, I packed a lot of non-essentials from the rental house and we took them to the pole barn. I started packing some food in those blue reusable grocery bags and have them all lined up on the table, so we can still get to the food, but it's ready to go at any time. Jacob took apart our "closet" and we packed up many of our clothes. I've gone through the dishes and packed everything that was ours. Most of the toys are packed and in the pole barn. As soon as we get occupancy, I will load up the truck and we'll be taking things over there. We want to be out of this house by the end of the day on Wednesday if at all possible, so we don't have to worry about another month's rent. As you can imagine, we have numerous other expenses at this time.

I guess I'll see what else I can pack up and then sit around and wait for them to call!

Friday, March 26, 2010


We applied for temporary occupancy last week when the house was done except for the concrete being poured for the porch, walkway and garage floor, the back deck, and grading of the earth. It was denied and required that the concrete be finished for the garage and porch, the deck be completed, a rough grade of the yard complete and insulation in the basement.

The insulation in the basement requirement was one that Josh discovered about a month ago when he was researching requirements to finish the basement down the road. He asked the builder about it and the builder got all out of shape about Josh speaking to the township about the house. The builder said we didn't need insulation in the basement to meet code because they meet that criteria through an overall house insulation factor, an alternative to the basement insulation rule. Then, when it showed up on the inspection, Josh wanted to say, "I told you!"

At this point, the house is done. The cement is poured and the deck is built. We are waiting for the builder and the inspector to figure out the insulation issue. Once that is settled, we can move in. I just don't know when that will be. This afternoon? Monday? Next Friday?

Meanwhile, I am cleaning and packing at the rental house. (Actually right now I'm taking a break!) An important goal we have at this point is to be out of our rental house by Wednesday-the end of the month to save us another month's rent. We recently discovered we need an additional $2500 for our retaining wall. We hadn't planned on that cost, so we really don't want to pay another month's rent when we obviously need the money for that wall!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A good day

After 2 days of little to no work on the house, today was a good day! The crew spent the entire day working on all the little details--knobs on the cabinets, doors and doorknobs, towel bars and appliances are all in!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


The anticipation is killing me! We are so close to moving in, we can't stand it! We are anticipating some inspectors to come this week.

The carpet installers came out today (Sunday) and finished it up. We've been pleasantly surprised by subs who work on weekends to finish the job a few times now! We put down some of that sticky backed plastic over the carpet on the major walkways to protect it from dirty feet. Which brings me to mud. Not just regular mud, but the oozy, sink up to your ankles, get your boot stuck mud. The kind of mud that actually has an odor to it--not a pleasant one.

In our rental house, there is not much room to store food-which is an issue for me. I like to stock up on things when they are on sale and have plenty of food in the house all the time. The last few weeks I decided not to buy more than we need each week so we wouldn't have so much to move to the new house. Today at the grocery store, there were too many good deals to not stock up. I got many items for $1.00 each (30-50% off) and I had a few coupons to go with them as well. The need to stock up got the better of me today. I bought plenty of groceries (not a ton, but not a little) for a really good price. Granted we now have 5 tubes of toothpaste, 4 bottles of shampoo and 2 of conditioner and a half dozen boxes of cereal and more, but that's ok. The problem was I really wanted to go put the food away at the new kitchen in my big pantry!

I am also anxiously anticipating getting my garden started! It's too early now, but I have all my seeds and have chosen the site. From seed I will grow carrots, sweet corn, green onion, green beans, watermelon, sunflower and pumpkin. I will get plants from the greenhouse for tomatoes, peppers, herbs and whatever else catches my eye. My mom said she'd get us a couple of fruit trees for our birthdays. I've already got a few blueberry and raspberry bushes.

I am anxiously anticipating getting my "stuff" back. It sounds bad, I know they are just things. But I have all these great things that have been in storage since the end of September and I am dying to use them again! I want my pizza stone, bread maker, waffle maker and kitchen gadgets. I want my own dishes, glasses, couches and my own bed.

I am anticipating baking bread again and making some more soap. I can't wait to fill my freezer again with homemade meals and treats! I want to pick berries again and can some jams!
I bought a great book last spring by Kathy Harrison Just in Case. It gives all kinds of useful information to make your family more self-sufficient and how to be prepared for situations such as long power outages and emergency situations. Last night I discovered Kathy has a blog. It's found at http://justincasebook.wordpress.com/ Check it out!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

SO close!

I think today the photos speak for themselves.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Siding almost done

About 80% of the siding is completed!Imagine this with a poured cement front porch with white beams and railings.

Inside, the flooring installers have installed the vinyl flooring in the 2 bathrooms and are working on prepping the kitchen/dining/laundry/foyer floors for more vinyl early next week. Once the floors are done, the cabinets will be installed. They have all been delivered already.

We're getting close! I've purchased window treatments for the essential windows for now. I've also got the stools for the island and all the appliances.

We can't wait to get all our own stuff out of storage. It's now been nearly 5 months since we've slept in our own beds, sat on our own couch or eaten on our own dishes and we miss it all! Hopefully it won't be too much longer!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fireplace Mantle help!

We are trying to choose a mantle style for this fireplace. We are in a country setting, but our deocrating taste is more classic than country. Here are some of the ones we're considering:
#2 is a quarter-cut log. I couldn't get it bigger. Try using the 100% zoom button in the bottom right corner of the screen, mom to see if you can get a better view.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stone is complete!

The giant stack of trim. Much of this is now sitting in the house on scaffolding after having been painted.
Front view. Will be better when the mounds of dirt are gone!

Fireplace and painted walls. Glare from the windows. Still needs a mantel.

Front of the house-stone on master bedroom.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

That wasn't paint!

They used a tinted primer! Here are the actual paint colors. We like the color in the living room (it's the same as the hall and bedrooms), but that kitchen/bath yellow is awfully bright! I picked it, so I guess I'll live with it for awhile. It might look better once the cabinets are in. The photo below shows the master bath. The cabinets in there will be very dark, so the yellow might look great, who knows? I can always re-paint later!
I talked to the masons today. They were just finishing up for the day when I arrived. They had grouted all the stone on the front of the house today and will finish the fireplace tomorrow. I don't have exterior photos yet because the area is tented with a heater blowing in there until tomorrow.

I wish someone would come back and work on the siding. It's not been touched in 2 weeks! (It's not a sub--our actual builder's crew is doing the siding.) So, siding's still about 25% done.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stone! Paint!

Above: Painted living room wall opposite the fireplace.
Below: Fireplace stone prior to paint

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We have rooms!!!

The drywall is all up! Every bit! We have rooms! We visited our house after work today to find all the drywall is hung! The builder's crew was there working on siding. The back of the house was almost done when we left.

From entry looking into kitchen.

From kitchen: On left is laundry, right is dining area. Looking into foyer and living room.

Master bedroom.

Living room and half wall to basement.

Back of the house!

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Insert clever title here"

From the entry . . . the dining area and kitchen.

Tray ceiling in master bedroom.

Siding going on the back of the house!!!!!!!

The stone for the front of the house and the fireplace came in today!! Siding started going up today!!! Ceilings got drywalled over the weekend!

(I'm out of clever title ideas. Let me know if you've got one--I'll use it!)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A few inside pictures

Here is the fireplace. I like how the top of the wall is angled due to the vaulted ceiling. This picture's from a week ago. Now the fireplace is covered in particle board in preparation for the stone. We decided that since we don't have a large area to cover, we could afford the real stone vs. the man-made. We prefer this look much more. We still have to decide what type of mantle we want.

To the right of the corner fireplace, you can see the opening to the hallway and into the 1st bedroom.

This photo is taken from the kitchen. The far left of the photo is the garage, which is still open. Moving to the right is the door to the panty. Next you see the framing for the pocket door for the laundry room. We insulated the laundry area to help reduce washer/dryer noise in the house. The "railing" on the right is the framing for the half wall at the stairway to the basement. Through the "railing" you can see into the living room, where the fire place is.

This photo is taken from the living room. Starting at the right you see the opening for the basment stairs again and the framing for the coat closet next to the front door. On the left is the master bedroom-the door to that is in the hallway, not by the front door.

This photo was taken from inside the master bedroom into the master bath. You can see they've run the plumbing lines and have the shower in place. Below the window will be the tub and next the toilet. On the opposite wall will be the vanity with 2 sinks and in the corner a tall linen cabinet.
All the electrical, phone and cable lines have been run and everything is roughed in for plumbing, electrical and mechanical. The roof is finally completed and we've passed all the initial inspections. The well and septic field have been in for many weeks now. We are anxious for our insulation to get sprayed in and then they can start DRYWALL!!