Tuesday, April 08, 2014

New bitties on the farm!

Guess what?

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Chicken butt!

We got three new hens last week and they are settling in nicely. 

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Meet Olive (top), Popcorn (bt rt), and Caramel (bt left).  Olive is Caramel and Popcorn’s mom.  Olive is 3 and the other two are on their second year.  Still wonderful layers!  We got an egg the first day!

At first we had two obvious flocks.  The three new ones and our older hens both banded together and wherever they collided (such as in the dusting bath space, or wanting the same tender worm) there was pecking and squawking and chasing.  But now, they are all together and very little pecking happens at all. 

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We got rid of our beautiful rooster at the same time.  He was just too loud for our closer neighbors and honestly, for us!  We don’t have enough space for a crowing roo.  He also didn’t have enough large hens for his liking.  He was taking all the feathers off my smaller hens backs with his ‘attentions’ which really can’t continue into the sunny weather or I’d end up with a tiny, sunburnt hen!  He got to go to a farm that has 14 hens who needed protecting.  It was the perfect compromise!  He was happier and so were we.

Each of the new hens lay light blue/green eggs.  We now have 4 green/blue egg layers, and 3 brown egg layers, one white and one very dark brown. 

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All cleaned and put away.  Aren't they beautiful??

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They all lay almost every day, even my 4 year old hens!  In fact, this is going to turn into an important PSA - hens lay eggs for years!  So many people think that hens stop producing after 2 years old.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  My hens are between 1 and 4 years old and the most consistent layer is my Plymouth Rock hen (who is also the alpha hen) who lays every single day except the 2 months she is molting all year long for the past 4 years.  With spring weather (like right now) we get an egg from every one of them every day or so…. which means 7-8 eggs, at least, every single day!  Perfect for a large family who likes eggs.  Alex can eat 4 a day all on his own.

The new hens even made it into my nature notebook. 

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Our whole flock enjoying some scraps together:

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We do love our hens!

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Happy Farming!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Writing in my nature notebook

Spring is my favorite time to nature journal.  So many things feel new and bright and beautiful I want to collect them all.  Usually, during art time, I would read aloud to the kids and they would do their art.  As the time went on though, I started really wanting to participate with the art side and not just the literature side.  So we listened to Swallows and Amazons on audio and I joined in!  We have continued through the entire Swallows and Amazons series, and we are now on to Anne of Green Gables, enjoying great literature and art at the same time!

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I started with little sketches as I watched out the window and listened to the story.

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Quickly it evolved into whole pages being dedicated to a moment where I was watching birds chase each other around our flowering cherry tree. 

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I even felt inspired to write a little poetry… although simple, it caught the way I felt at the moment.

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Writing in my journal helps inspire my kids art as well, and Cyan has started her own journal:

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Watching how the practice helps her improve is my favorite part!

March 2013:

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March 2014:

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Do you ever nature journal?  What inspires you to do art?

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Spring Fair!

Each year there is a fair in the fall for those of us that want to show off our harvest wares.  I haven’t ever entered but I do often go to volunteer with my various tree and gardening groups.  This year I may actually put in a few things in the canning division.  I think my lavender blueberry jam is worth a ribbon!

In the Spring there is a fair just for those under aged farm kids.  There are contests for those between ages 6-11 and ages 12-16.  I have one kiddo in each of those groups and they love participating in the fair.  This year, they decided to stick to the baking section. 

Cyan had big dreams.  She LOVES Cakeboss and the new “Next Great Baker” show.  She is always inspired to create huge sugary concoctions after a marathon of either of these.  This year, for the fair, she wanted to make a beautiful layer cake ala Cakeboss.  She spent a whole week practicing her icing technique and learning to do lettering with frosting (which is actually really hard!).  Her hard work paid off though.  She ended up with a beautiful cake to enter in the fair!

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Logan’s fair entry was for the 6-11 section.  In this section they have a few more ‘rules’ than in the older kids.  The kids all have a common recipe but they are graded on accuracy, execution and form.  In this years case, it is was “Turtle Bread”!  Logan mixed, formed, let rise, and baked this bread with very little help from me aside from lots of reading and mixing when it was still messy.  I liked that he was able to participate without the confusion of so many other steps (like choosing his own recipe).  I am including this years recipe below so if you want to, you can make your own Turtle Bread! 

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This recipe is directly from the Puyallup Spring Fair website:

Turtle Bread

Ingredients:

2 1/2 - 3 cups all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon white sugar

1/2 cup water

1 Tablespoon butter or margarine

2 raisins

1 package dry active yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

1 egg

shorting as needed (I used parchment paper)

 

Directions:

  1. Measure flour.  Mix 1 1/2 cups of flour with dry yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Heat water, milk, and butter to 125* to 130*; stir into yeast-flour mixture.
  3. Stir in egg.  Stir in enough of remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle.
  4. Sprinkle a surface lightly with flour.  Turn dough onto surface and knead until smooth and elastic, approximately 5 minutes.  Cover dough and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening.
  6. Shape a 2-inch piece of dough into a ball for the head.  Shape four walnut sized pieces of dough into balls for feet.  Shape one walnut sized piece of dough into a tail.  Shape remaining dough into a ball for the body; place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly.  Attach head, feet and tail by placing one end of each under the edge of the body to secure.  Press two raisins into the head for eyes.  Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 400*.
  8. Make crisscross cuts in the body 1/4 inch deep, to look like a turtles shell.  Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
  9. Immediately remove from cookie sheet with a spatula.  Let cool on a wire rack. 

Yields one turtle bread.

 

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My kids all ready for the fair!  I am SO proud of my kids this year.  They both worked really really hard and both of them learned quite a bit from their chosen entry.  We dropped them off yesterday and we will see how they did next weekend. 

Mostly though, we just do it because it’s FUN!

Friday, March 14, 2014

First improvement project of Spring

Before:

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It’s a problem area.  Always dirty, always filled with shoes, and even with some cute hooks it still wasn’t very functional. 

After!

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Now, it has tons of charm, is updated and cute, and BONUS, it’s functional!

This is how I did it:

The inspiration:

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a pinterest pin (link!),

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a completed project I LOVE on the other side of that same room,

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and the fabric I am coordinating with, from here.

Work in progress:

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One of my famous drawings that means that big things are moving in the Rose household.  My husband has a love/hate relationship with these drawings.  Winking smile

In progress:

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I had all the cuts done at Home Depot.  The gentleman that helped me was amazing.  It has a BIG sign that says they do not do exact cuts, but you never would have known it with the double measuring and careful care he showed my project.  He made it so much easier!  I just brought it home and put it together like a puzzle.  Well… sort of. 

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The three horizontal boards were too long, so we took them back and had 1/2 inch cut off.  We needed to cut a hole in the beadboard for the plug with only a power drill.  That was a hour long fight, but once the bead board was on and the cuts were right, it really did go together like a giant puzzle.

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Because my wonderful husband was wrangling kids the whole time I did this (outside, in the beautiful sunny weather!) So I took my own ‘in progress’ shots of building, nailing, sanding, painting, sanding, and painting some more. 

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I LOVE the beadboard detail behind it.  That isn’t in the tutorial, but I had seen it on so many other projects I love that it seemed like the perfect fit for this one too.

Once the actual built-in was done, I couldn’t take how dirty the wall looked all around the newly painted shelf/hooks, so I had to paint it too.  My patient husband watched me go BACK to Home Depot (for the 4th time that day.  No joke.) and then I spent the evening painting too.

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This picture doesn’t do this color justice at all.  But I am adding it for reference.  It’s a really nice grey/blue. 

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I always try to put on the last coat of paint on a project right before I head to bed.  It helps me not mess up my beautiful paint jobs with trying to decorate while I am still dealing with tacky paint.  It is very important.  But this morning, I got up at 7 or so, and by 8am, it was done:

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I just LOVE it.  I could stare at it for hours. lol!   It matches the mantel project perfectly but without too much coordination making it seem forced.  It looks updated and makes a purely functional space beautiful!  I’m thrilled.  I love walking in my door now.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

It’s time. I’m breaking out….

What a winter it has been.  That’s not said with feeling, but with incredible amounts of exhaustion.  Family members getting cancer, family members dying, serious childhood illnesses, car accident, failing grades, teen drama, hurt husbands, and the oppressive darkness that hung over it all… I just can’t talk about it anymore. 

I took another unexpected hiatus.  I’m sorry.  Winter tends to do that to me, and I don’t like it.  But living in the greyest place on earth has a few drawbacks.  And the biggest one is winter.  You just don’t see the sun for 3 months.  Like pretty much at all.  In the short hours of daylight we actually do get, it is cloudy and dark.  Human hibernation is completely possible.  I have lived it these past 4 years, each winter. 

Anyhow.  I’m back.  What a strange season to be on the other side of.  Depression is a personal thing.  Some people feel overwhelming numbness.  That is not the way it effects me.  It is like turning all my senses on high.  Hearing a thump is painful (and I have 3 boys!), listening to kids cry turns into nails on chalkboard, and anything smelly or even strong has to be banished due to limited indoor airspace.  I feel as though I am choking if someone sprays cologne across the house.  It’s awful.  And I spend a LOT of time ‘hiding’.  By hiding, I mean, I teach school, make my kids food, then take a nap with the toddler, then set up some sort of activity (which includes the tv about 50% of the time) then go into my room to reread a book I have read 4 times.  It’s not a ‘bad’ place to be.  My children are loved and cared after… but when you know me in the summer… well, I am a totally different person.  And a different mom. 

It’s the second week in March.  The days are almost a reasonable length, the sun has poked through at least 3 times in the past two weeks and I got to work in the garden in shirt-sleeves. 

I’m breaking out of this funk.  And thank God! 

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Yesterday was incredible!  At about 11am the sun broke through the clouds and I could hear the angels singing it was so lovely.  The sky was the color blue that you only see if you have had a lot of rain lately… the kind where you can see from Mt Rainier all the way to Mt St Helens.  50* and sunny.   I dumped myself into house cleaning and projects with a fervor that I didn’t know I still had after this winter of mourning and darkness and managing chaos. 

In the summer, my MO is generally tons of crafts and home improvement projects, my kids doing cool art, or fun games regularly, and we do school type things like hatch praying mantis or taking long hikes to see wild salmon.  These are regular, not ‘special’ things we do.  Special takes on a whole new meaning with building projects that transform the yard or something equally huge.  That’s the person I am.

Except from the months of Nov - March.

Then I am someone else.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Luke’s Circus Birthday Party!

My baby is 3. I can’t believe it.  Logan was this age when I found out I was having Luke.  That will not be happening again.  But thinking back to that seems close.  Almost too close.  Like we took a jump in there somewhere and I missed something.

That being said, I love having a toddler so much more than a baby.  He is an incredible person and I am so happy to be seeing more and more of that person as he gets older. 

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This year, his birthday party had to be pushed back due to a funeral that was on his real birthday.  But to be honest, he barely registered that it was late, and couldn’t have cared less.  I cared, I felt it intensely as I mourned a dear cousin and didn’t even get to see my baby.  I felt robbed.  On many levels.  But knowing that he barely noticed really brings home that these seasons pass and kids are resilient. 

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I threw this party together in three days.  I used things I owned and then borrowed the rest.  It came in under budget by a lot… and I am glad, because I ended up needing it.  lol!

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For the three days we prepared for his party, Luke was obsessed with everything ‘zebra’.   I bought a cake mix that looked like it had zebra stripes and he was a goner!  That cake mix came everywhere with us all day long.  Even to the library. 

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This cake mix seemed simple enough.  Just follow the directions and you had a beautiful cake that looked like zebra stripes when you cut it. 

Yeah.  Not so much.

The stripes didn’t adhere correctly and so when I took the cakes out of the pans for frosting (and hour before the party) the cake fell apart in big rounds. 

But not even that detered me!  I can fix that with frosting, right?? 

Yeah.  Then my frosting curddled. 

It was now t-minus 50 minutes from having 4 families come over for dinner and I didn’t have a cake. 

My husband, in a moment of genius, decided that we were going to Safeway.  He saved the day.

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It was genius.  And I had plenty in the budget to cover it and a few more circus cookies while we were there.  We were home in plenty of time for guests to show up and the table still looked great.

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Most of the kids I invited were also 3 year olds.  So instead of setting up games or anything complicated, I just printed out circus animal coloring pages and read circus books from the library.  They were completely content.

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Happy birthday little buddy!  We sure do love you a lot!

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Monday, January 27, 2014

007 Secret Agent Birthday Party! {and a bit about the healthier side of birthday parties}

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This week, my kiddo turned the big 007!  So in honor of his 007 birthday, he wanted a 007 party!  Bring on the spies, incognito, Secret Agent Training, and all sorts of gear and gadgets!

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The invites were simple {mostly} file folders that had the birthday info {in spy-speak, of course} and an areal map of our neighborhood.  The not-so-simple part was the video that went along with it {outtake pictures below… WHO ARE THOSE CHICKENS WORKING FOR???}. 

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The video was epic in it’s awesomeness, but parts of it were copyrighted so I will not be sharing it on here.  But mostly, it was my son, sitting in his blue chair with his fedora and spy glasses stating that “there is an important mission, if you chose to accept it, to join a group of the very best spies to find the bomb that is hidden in our headquarters and disarm it…”  The kids who received this invite were very excited to join in the mission and all of them wrote “MISSION ACCEPTED” …. from a secure phone line, of course!

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The food was basic healthy fare.  “Secretive Sandwiches” were the only things ‘in theme’ with 4 different kinds of homemade jelly and a mix of almond and peanut butter which were all mixed up so you didn’t know what you would get.  All prepped with my ‘cut and seal’ from Pampered Chef oh so many years ago.  {That thing has seen a LOT of miles and the kids LOVE it.}  In this case however, I honestly don’t think the kids noticed the differences, and I was not going to stop their revelry to make sure they did… so my effort was wasted and I could have saved myself a whole 15 minutes of prep time by making them all apple peel jelly and peanut butter… but I digress.

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We had a lose ‘international super spy’ thing going on with the mustaches and world maps and world flags, which I just loved.  It kept this theme from being too ‘grown up’.  Many spy movies you see now-a-days, even the good ones, end up with someone being tortured or some other ‘verynotformysevenyearold’ type stuff.  I wanted to keep it as ‘G rated’ as humanly possible while bringing in a little ‘Spy Next Door’ and ‘Get Smart’ for good measure.

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(Soapbox alert: skip this paragraph if you love bathing small children in incredible amounts of sugar for every birthday celebration.  For I am currently channeling a healthy food nut and you will find no quarter here.  lol)  Notice how these water bottles are in theme and yet, still water??  I am not above a little sugar on a special day like this one, but I am not going to deck a whole table out in sugar and dye like I have seen the trends moving towards with these incredibly beautiful, but deadly, dessert tables.  Who needs cake pops, and popcorn balls, and cup cakes, and four jars of candy, and giant lollypops AND a full sized cake all at the same party!  There are so many other ways to make a party theme than to have hundreds of pounds of sugar and dye available for all the little kids that I have invited over.  Pinnably beautiful?  Yes!  But dang!  I wouldn’t want to take my kid to that party, nor would I want to deal with her after.  So I stuck with one cookie, and one cupcake, and the rest was the same thing you’d see in any really healthy lunch.  You’re welcome.

Ok, soap box over.

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One comment about my spy travel line… “How very ‘cold war’”.

The activities were all part of one big hunt… to find the bomb!  We had a ticking suitcase located in the house that was locked!  What to do?!?  Well, I made a treasure hunt of sorts, where each clue the kids had to use a different cipher or spy technique to figure out where the next clue was.  One was a riddle, another was a finger print match, another was disappearing ink, and yet another was a cipher wheel with a code they had to break.  They were smarter than I was though, and ended up solving them all in short order.  At the end of the treasure hunt, they found a envelope with 5 keys in it, one of which would open the ticking suitcase…  which was at the end of a ‘hall of lasers’ they had yet to navigate through.  For the setup of said ‘hall of lasers’ I had superspy help:

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The lasers were passed, and the proper key was found.  They brought out the ticking suitcase, but inside was…. dum dum dum…  my kitchen clock and homemade marshmallow shooter kits!

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  I sent them outside, into this glorious {and completely unseasonable} day to decorate and assemble their marshmallow shooters.  They took this job VERY seriously.  I even have a picture of Logan saying “MOM!  No pictures, I’m working here!”  LOL!   They proceeded to pepper each other and my lawn {and my dog} with high-speed, international  super spy marshmallows.

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Then it was cupcake time.  I got to do the honors and light the dynamite candles for my sweet birthday boy!

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Happy Birthday to you, Agent 007!

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The favors {along with the marshmallow shooters that they got to take home} were CD’s of our favorite Secret Agent Tunes, a gum ball, and a large homemade sugar cookie in full incognito. 

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Secret Agent Tunes were:

  • Peter Gunn
  • Dick Tracy Theme
  • Secret Agent Man
  • Superspy (by Save Farris)
  • Mission Impossible Theme
  • The Pink Panther
  • Theme from Dragnet
  • Super Bossa Nova (from Austin Powers)
  • Get Smart theme
  • James Bond theme

And that was a wrap!  The kids had a great time and the marshmallow shooters have already been brought back to my house on a playdate for more sticky fun.  My dog is convinced they are food dispensers and follows the kids around when they have one in their hand.  The Secret Agent tunes have been played around the clock and all the ‘in theme gifts’ have been locked up in a box at night so the ‘bad guys’ {ie: Little Brothers} don’t get them.  It was a huge success!