Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Far away field trip-Delta Beach, Manitoba, Canada

While we were in Canada this fall, we took the time to drive the 2 hours to visit a place where we made a lot of memories as a family.  Over 10 years ago, my husband was a board member for a conservation organization called Delta Waterfowl.  Mark is a big hunter but he also has a degree in biology and understands that for him to keep hunting, he has to be a part of securing the future of ducks and geese.  

Delta Waterfowl was started back in 1911 by a hunter (James Ford Bell) who decided he would put 3 ducks back for each one he shot.  Later the idea of a waterfowl research facility was born.  In 1938, Hans (Al) Hochbaum arrived at Delta and became the first scientific director.  He and his colleagues pioneered the study of breeding duck ecology and made seminal discoveries on habitat use and behavior.  Today Delta sponsors many graduate and doctorate students in their research studies.  Delta Waterfowl has instituted programs for predator management, alternative land use services, hen houses and adopt-a-pothole.  

Our family would fly to Manitoba each July to hear the students give their research presentations.  We also had the opportunity to go through the research station there at Delta Beach.  This was the first time the girls got to see egg candling.  There were many ducks and geese at all ages and stages.  One summer there was even a big tank that a student used to study diver ducks.  It was because of these first few years and our experiences that the girls and I came to love waterfowl and the beautiful country of Canada.

Since that time the research station has closed at Delta Beach and some of the buildings are gone.  As the girls and I walked around this year, memories came flooding back.  They remember the ducks and geese, the eggs, bonfires with our friends and the students.  So many good times.  It was really nice to go back to a place we hadn't seen in many years and relive those days.

Mary and Grace summer of 2003

Mary, Emma and Grace October 2013

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Glorious sunset

I'm continually in awe of God's handiwork!  This is a sunset we saw while in Canada. Amazing!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A little crocheted chicken

Isn't this the cutest thing ever??  I just love it!  It's really an egg cozy.  I bought little chocolate Kinder eggs and put under mine.  I made several for gifts-now I need one for me!  They make me smile!

I found this pattern and several other delightful projects in the Bernat Country Kitchen book.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Peanut butter chocolate chip chia bites

In my opinion, anything with peanut butter is simply scrumptious!  This recipe is also filled with fiber and Omega 3 which make these a healthy energy snack that just happens to be delicious!
Peanut butter Chocolate Chip Chia Bites*

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup honey
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chia seeds

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Let chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more.  Remove them from fridge, use a small cookie scoop to create uniform portions and roll into balls.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Makes about 4 dozen bites.  

*I found this yummy recipe at Bob's Red Mill.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Apple pie pull apart

I try to eat healthy most of the time and lately have tried to eliminate as much sugar as possible.  If you do the same, don't read any farther.  This is not a healthy or sugar free recipe at all...but boy is it delicious!

Apple Pie Pull Apart*

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 (16oz) tube Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Biscuits
1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced

For Vanilla Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp milk, any kind
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a shallow dish and set aside.

Remove biscuits from tube and slice each in half, creating 16 rounds.  Coat each round and each apple slice with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and layer in the loaf pan, alternating biscuit rounds with apple slices.  Begin and end with the biscuit rounds.

Bake 35-40 minutes, or until bread is fully baked throughout.

For Vanilla Glaze:
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and drizzle over warm bread.

*This is not my original recipe.  I found it at a delicious blog:  Comfort of Cooking

Monday, November 18, 2013

Homemade Velveeta Cheese

I have several recipes that call for Velveeta cheese.  I don't make them that often because I feel guilty buying Velveeta.  Something doesn't feel right about buying my cheese in a box down the canned food aisle.  With a little internet surfing, I came across this recipe.  It may not be 100% healthy, but I think it's a big improvement!  It tastes just as good in all my recipes as the Velveeta does.

Homemade Velveeta

16 oz Natural American Cheese
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cup milk

Place all ingredients in a small crockpot.  Turn on high 2.5 hours.  Stir ingredients every hour to prevent sticking and burning.
I lined a bowl with plastic wrap and poured in the mixture.  After refrigerating for a while, this is what you have:

To make more of a dip rather than just Velveeta follow this recipe:
16 oz natural American cheese
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese
1 10oz can diced tomatoes and green chilies-drained
1 cup of milk
1 tsp cumin powder

Follow same cooking instructions as above.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Double Cheese Chili

The last couple of days have been unseasonably cold here on the gulf coast, which makes me a very happy girl!  I love wearing boots and scarfs and sweaters.  I also love all the cold weather food.  (actually I love food any season.  ha!)
I've never really had a recipe for chili, until my daughter tried this one that was in one of my cook books.  I really like the flavor.  Perfect for those couple of cold days we get each winter. :)

Double Cheese Chili

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup green peppers, chopped
1 can (15oz) kidney beans, drained and rinsed*
1 can(14 1/2 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

*(I actually used 3 cans of beans-1 kidney and 2 black bean-because I like to make it go a little further)

Brown meat in a large skillet on medium heat: drain.  Add onions and peppers; cook and stir 5 minutes or until tender.  Add beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and chili powder; mix well.  Reduce heat to low; cover.  Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle 3 Tbsp cheese onto bottom of each of 6 soup bowls; top with chili and remaining cheese.
I also think that cooking it in an iron pot makes all the difference in the world!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Canada Trip 2013

Our annual trip to Canada has come and gone.  The girls and I flew into Minot, North Dakota where Mark and all the puppies met us.  We had almost 3 weeks of family time-hunting, playing with the dogs and visiting our friends.  I say it every year, but it's always so bittersweet leaving.  Part of my heart is always left there in this beautiful country with these dear people.
Crossing the border

Grace and me on one of the flights

Emma got sick our first day there!  Her buddy Duke was trying to make her feel better

Me and Emma hanging out in the duck blind!

Our girl Thicket posing with a duck she fetched.

Mary, Emma, our friend Mrs. Phyllis, me and Grace

Emma catching up on some school reading on our drive back from Delta Beach.

Our favorite coffee shop and some of our favorite  people.  Mary, Emma, Mrs.Phyllis, Mr.Henry and Grace.

The one time of year we get to ice skate.  We had the whole rink to ourselves.

Grace and Emma lighting our paper lantern.

Emma got to go to school with her friend Samantha.  It was her first time in public school (she has only been home schooled).  She had a blast!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fall library display

The girls and I spend so much time at our local library that it was only natural for me to be drawn to this cute pumpkin!  I found the idea on Pinterest** and it's super simple to make.

1.  Make a pumpkin shape out of a piece of paper and fold in half.
2.  Take the cover off of your book and place the pumpkin pattern with the fold on the binding edge.
3.  Trace around the pattern with a pencil.  You can use an exacto knife or scissors to cut on your line, 5-6 pages at a time.  Keep tracing a cutting until you have all the pages done.  

4.  Put a thin strip of hot glue on the very edge of the front page.  Then bring the back page around and press to the front.  Glue the next page to this one, just on the inside edges.  Keep going around.

5.  Stand your pumpkin up and fluff it a bit.  It you see something that doesn't look right-hot glue it!  Ha!

6.  Once your pumpkin is all pretty and round, take it outside and lightly spray paint the page edges.

7.  Next I got a stick from my yard and hot glued it to make a stem.  You can't tell in the picture, but I also glued some leaves on top too.  You could use a piece of green ribbon to tie around the stem too (I just didn't have one.

That's it!  Now you have an adorable pumpking that will last from year to year.  I made one for us and 2 for our library.  Everyone should have a book pumpkin!

**(the last 2 pictures and the instructions were not made by me, but a very talented gal over at  Thank you Kara!)

Crocheted Mug Cozy

I just love granny squares!  I remember seeing them as a young girl and thinking they were so pretty.  I never thought I would be able to make them myself.  Actually they're really easy!  I'm in the process of making an afgan with all my squares.  I also decided to try my hand at a mug cozy-I've seen so many lately.  I made this one with my granny square pattern and an added border with button hole opening.  I ended up making several of these for all of my friends with fall birthdays.  

Keeping up with birthdays

One of my many faults is forgetting birthdays.  I don't totally forget them.  Usually I remember a few days after the fact.  This past year I was determined to change this.  I sat down after Christmas with 2 boxes of birthday cards and a bunch of stamps.  I got my list out and made out everyone's birthday card.  I really took the time to write something meaningful in them too.  Then I left the stack on the table until everyone else had their turn at writing in each of the cards.  We sealed them up and put a sticky note on each one to remind me when to mail them.  Finally I found a cute basket and placed them inside in date order.  This basket sits right on the kitchen counter where we all can see it.  So far we haven't missed a birthday.  For next year, I plan to expand my list.  It always makes me feel special to get a card on my birthday.  Why not share the blessing!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Black bean Cakes with Avocado Corn Salsa

This is a recipe my daughter found in the recent issue of Southern Living.  We love black beans so we knew this would be a good recipe to try.  We were not disappointed!  These things are delicious!  Not to mention quick, inexpensive and healthy.  

Black Bean Cakes

3/4 cup dices red onion
4 Tbsp canola oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, pressed
Avocado-corn salsa
1 Tbsp taco seasoning (I used more)
2-15oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup panko
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/3 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cups (6oz) shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
6 tostada shells
1/2 cup (2oz) shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Sauté onion in 1 Tbsp hot oil until tender.  Stir in garlic.  Remove from heat.
2.  Prepare Avocado-corn salsa.  Chill.
3.  Mash together taco seasoning and 2 cups of black beans.  Stir in panko, egg, cilantro, onion and garlic, 1 cup of pepper Jack and remaining beans.  Shape into 6 (1/2 inch thick) patties.
4.  Cook in 3 Tbsp hot oil for 4 minutes on each side.
5.  Preheat oven to 400.  Place tostadas on cookie sheet.  Top each one with cheddar and pepper Jack cheese.  Bake until melted.  Top with bean cake and salsa.

Avocado-Corn Salsa
1 Tbsp lime zest
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 avocado, diced
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
Whisk lime zest, juice, oil, mustard and pepper in large bowl.  Stir in corn, tomatoes, avocado, onion, basil and cilanto.  Add salt and pepper.
Makes 6 servings.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A bright, white idea

I have to admit...we have some yucky, yellow pillows.  I know, that's disgusting, but I'm sure we're not the only ones.  :)  I thought the only solution was to buy new pillows.  That was until I came across a remedy on Pinterest (gotta love Pinterest).  Granted, I wasn't looking for this, it just happened to pop up.  Lucky me.  Below is a picture of some of our pillows.  These happened to be the worst, so I started with them.
The recipe calls for the following:

*VERY hot water (I put my machine on deep clean/sanitize)
*I cup of laundry detergent
*1 cup powdered dish washer detergent
*1 cup of bleach
*1/2 cup of Borax
My pillows were so bad that I had to do this procedure twice, but it was well worth it!

Because it was a beautifully sunny day here in the south, I put my pillows outside to dry.  You can also put them in the dryer with tennis balls or homemade 'fluffing' balls to plump them up.

Sorry about the quality of the pics.  I hope you can tell just how clean the pillows are now.  100 times better!  Thank you to Jillee  for posting this.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Long Distance Friends

The beauty of a blog is that you're able to meet so many wonderful people.  I've never had the opportunity to meet any of my blogger friends in person, just through email and text messaging.  My daughter Grace has a much different story.
A girl who reads her blog emailed her one day.  She commented on how much the two of them had in common.  Emails led to Skyping and texting daily.  Their friendship gradually grew. Not only do they share similar personalities and interests, but they are both strong in their faith too.  They wanted so badly to meet each other.  Unfortunately we live more than 900 miles apart.  
When we started planning our DC trip we realized that our route would take us right through Melissa's city!  Both girls were thrilled.  In fact, Melissa's parents even invited us to have dinner with them and to spend the night at their house.  I was so moved by their generosity.  
The visit was all Grace dreamed it would be...just too short.  I really enjoyed getting to know Melissa's mom and dad and her younger sister.  Meeting this family affirmed for me that God has brought Melissa into Grace's life for a reason.  I can't wait to see what the future holds.
Melissa, Grace and Rachel

Mary, Rachel, Grace, Melissa and Emma celebrating Grace's birthday early with cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Happy Reunion

Once upon a time about 7 years ago, I found out a new family had moved in a few blocks from us.  They had children similar in age to mine and they homeschooled!  How perfect.  We ventured over and introduced ourselves.  From that day forward we were fast friends.  There were lots of spend the night parties, bike rides and deep discussions about books.  In fact, Samantha is the one who introduced me to Ambleside Online-the curriculum I still use.  She gave me so many wonderful books-things I would have never picked up on my own but ended up loving.  She opened my eyes to different styles of teaching and all kinds of resources.  Not just school, but we shared recipes, discussed hobbies and diets.  It was such a perfect time in our lives...then they moved.  Our hearts were broken.  Over the years we've kept in touch with email and now texting, but it's just not the same and sitting down face to face and having a good visit.
It happened that in planning our route to DC I found out that we would be passing very close to where they now live.  I was thrilled!  
When I got out of the car at their house and saw Samantha, I couldn't hold back the tears.  We had such a lovely visit.  She made lunch; we got to meet her 2 youngest (who had been born since they moved); Emma played outside with all the little girls; I tried to make up for all the lost years and soak up everything I could.
It's not often that friends and families come into our lives that move us, change us and make us better people.  That's what this family did for us.  They will always have a special place in my heart-no matter how far away they live.  We have truly been blessed with their friendship.

The big girls-Abby, Mary, Erin and Grace

The little girls-Johanna, Emma, Katie and Autumn

The only 2 boys-Seth and Jack

Baby Mia

Samantha and me!  (with baby Mia)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Checking out the coop

Just in case you're wondering how things are going down at the coop, I thought I'd give you a little update.
Here's my rooster-little Lorenzo.  He's so handsome and so sweet.

Some of my girls just chillin' on the roost poles.

One of my 12 baby Buff Orpingtons (12 weeks old and 3 of them are already laying).  

Last but not least in Louise, better know as Weezie.  The smallest of all my girls.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Washington DC trip

The girls and I took another quick trip this summer, this time to the east coast.  I'm 43 years old and had never been to Washington DC!  This was a trip I wanted to do before my girls were grown and gone.  So...we planned it out, as best we could.
One of the first stops was Mt Vernon-George Washington's home.  
The girls were taking a break, looking at the Potomac.
In front of Mt. Vernon

Next we went to the Pentagon and saw the 9/11 Memorial

Our day at Arlington National Cemetery was incredible.  It was such a beautiful, emotional area.  It's also the resting place of a guy who went to high school with me.  

We toured Arlington House and also saw the changing of the guard in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier.  Amazing!

What's a trip to DC without seeing the White House.  It really looks bigger on TV.  lol!

The night before we saw the Lincoln memorial, it was vandalized.  Someone poured paint all over it!  Can you imagine?  Why?  That meant they had it partially closed off because they were trying to remove the paint.  This was as close as we could get.

I'm thankful the guide book I read said to go to the Old Post Office for a spectacular view.  They were right!  Above you can see the Capital building in the distance.

Just as the sun was going down, we made it to the Capital building.  I thought this was the prettiest government building that we saw.

On the way home we stopped at Monticello-Thomas Jefferson's home.  I loved walking through the gardens and enjoying the breathtaking view.

6 history filled days that none of us will ever forget.  I'm so glad we finally made this trip.  God bless our wonderful country!