Thursday, January 18, 2018

A morning walk...

 Sharptail Grouse 

Common Redpolls

Signs of children who play for many hours outdoors.
They love to make these shelters for rabbits and cats.

A beautiful, warm morning with sticky, melting snow underfoot.
Gray skies.
A January thaw.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Time for tea...

Looking out my window.

It was so cold here yesterday that I only got to take a short little walk.  It was 0*F when I went out to gather eggs at the coop and go walking.  I was dressed for it and never felt cold except for my face.  I wear a wool Buff neck gator which really helps, but you still have to see and the cold makes my eyes blink and blink to keep them from freezing.  Going back to the house, I hung up my cold and wet things and decided to make a hot cup of green Kukicha tea and spend some time sitting in the sunny south-facing window with my embroidery.  It really was a beautiful, clear day, but it was deceivingly cold.  I sat on the floor because the sun was low and so I made my chair into a little table to set my things on.  It was nice to feel the warm sun on my skin and to have the sun shining in my eyes.  The light was terrific for embroidery.

About the tea....I've started leaving off my afternoon cup of coffee for tea.  I really, really love coffee, but it gives me the jitters and if I drink it too late in the afternoon, I have trouble falling asleep.  And I really do like my sleep.  I picked up Blueberry Green Kukicha Tea at the health food store on a whim.  I opened the tin and smelled it and was convinced I'd like it from aroma alone.  And I was right!  When I got home I steeped a cup and since I really didn't know what kukicha was, decided to Google it and see.  Kukicha, also called twig tea, is a Japanese tea made of the stems and veins of the tea plant.  It was considered "peasant tea" because the leaves were always the money-maker for their tea sales and not so much the stems and veins so tea growers kept those for their own tea making.  As it turned out, the twig tea has an even greater nutritional value than the green tea leaves and a lovely, nutty, creamy taste.  Add in the dried blueberries that my tea has and you've got a real winner.  I'm also happy that I can steep the tea 2-3 times.  It is said that Kukicha has 6 times more calcium per cup than a cup of milk, and not only that, it's loaded with minerals, has twice the vitamin C of an orange and contains A, E, and B vitamins.  It is almost caffeine free since it has less than 90% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee.  If you'd like to read about Kukicha's many health benefits, click here and here.  I'm so glad I found this satisfying and nutritious dense beverage.  I hope you try it.

Last night's low temperature here was -20* F and this morning we woke up to -14*, but it's warming up now already to 9* and climbing.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Whole30 recipes...

 This dish began as a crock pot pork loin which was delicious, 
and then the leftovers turned into 
Pork, Green Bean and Potato Hash.

Osso Buco and Cauliflower "Rice" & Mushrooms

My "Take A Stitch Tuesday" for last week.
Running stitch, round and round my hoop.

Hello Everybody!
Hubby and I have knocked out over 10 days of Whole30 and we're feeling GOOD!  I've been working at collecting a group of tasty recipes that will conform to the rules of Whole30 so we can have some good things in our dining rotation.  I must say that we've been eating like Kings!  I want our foods to be tasty and mostly easy to make, and I think the recipes that I'm sharing here are all of that.  

Starting at the top:  The Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin.  There was a recipe I found online, but the only part I kept from it included the loin and the cooking time.  Otherwise, I did this:  Salt & Pepper a small pork loin and sear it on all sides in a skillet with a little olive oil.  Cut an onion into chunks and put it on the bottom of the crock pot along with chunks of  carrots, celery, and a couple cloves of smashed garlic.  Roll the seared pork loin into a mixture of course salt & pepper, garlic powder, and rosemary.  Lay the coated loin over the veggies.  Add about 1 cup of water down the side, put the lid on, and let it cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.  I served it with green beans sauteed with onions, water chestnuts, garlic and slivered almonds.

The next day I made a hash with the left-over pork starting with olive oil in my cast iron skillet, the pork pieces, onion, some left-over potatoes,  green beans and a clove of minced garlic.  Add salt & pepper and some smoked paprika at the end to your taste.

The Lime Chili Shrimp Fajita recipe was a hit too.  We both gobbled down an entire pan of this.  Since we are land-locked prairie savages, we don't have access to fresh shrimp, but I do buy frozen, raw shrimp from the local stores and it's just fine.  (What do we know anyway?)  The seasoning in this recipe is really great and I think you could make it with chicken, pork, or beef.  Even though it's a fajita recipe, we did not use tortillas because that's against the rules.  But you can use tortillas if you want.

Osso Buco is SO good.  We are cattle ranchers so we are blessed to have our own home-raised beef.  I know that "real" osso buco is made with veal shanks, but we don't butcher veal so instead, I subbed in beef shanks.  The servings are much larger than veal shanks, and I would venture to guess, every bit as tender.  This is an Ann Burrell recipe, so you know it's good.  The only things I did not follow  in the recipe was the fennel and the tomato paste amount.  I did not have fennel so omitted it and I probably only used 2 -3 tablespoons of tomato paste in my recipe.  

OnlyDaughter gave me a cauliflower "rice" recipe and we made that to eat alongside the Osso Buco.  It was delicious.  I can't find the link to the recipe, but I'll tell you how it went.  I didn't fuss as much as the recipe said (as is my way).

Cauliflower "Rice" & Mushrooms

1 - 12 oz package of frozen riced cauliflower (4 c.)
half of a medium onion, chopped
1 container of mushrooms of choice, sliced
olive oil or coconut oil for sauteing, about 2 T.
2 T. cashew butter
1 small clove garlic, minced (or powdered garlic)
Grated Parmesan cheese (if not restricting dairy)

First saute the onions in oil until beginning to brown.  Add mushrooms and brown them along with onions.  Remove from skillet.  Add a little more oil to skillet and then add riced cauliflower.  Saute a few minutes until tender.  Add cashew butter and minced garlic.  Stir in well and then add mushrooms and onions back in.  Stir  and heat through.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  If you want to, add a few shakes (or grates) of Parmesan cheese.    It's pretty darn good good and seems a lot like rice.

I hope these recipes might be helpful to you if you are working at eating healthier.  Even if you aren't trying to eat less carbs, these recipes are so delicious and well worth trying out.  I hope you do.

Today I'm starting the 2nd stitch for TAST.  It's the buttonhole stitch.  I think I'll do some buttonhole flowers.  We shall see what I come up with.


It's snowing today -- a very wet snow.  Heidi the German Shepherd and I went out walking this morning and got quite wet, but it was so warm it didn't matter to us a bit.  We were dressed for it.  I think we reached 34 degrees today, but it's going to fall as the day progresses and we will be back to single digits for a high temp tomorrow.  Bummer.  How's the weather where you are?

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Good Morning sky and moon...

 First Morning Light

After sunrise.
Banana Nut (Whole30)

The last few mornings we have had these beautiful skies!  Color and clouds, moon and frost.  It makes me so thankful for the simple beauty that God places right before my very eyes each day.

The banana picture is another of my new inventions for our Whole30 food.  I did it like the apple and nut recipe.  I put a teaspoon of coconut oil in the skillet, added walnuts and sauteed them for a minute or so and then added raw coconut and chopped bananas and sauteed another minute or so.  I didn't want the bananas to be mushy.  After it was done, I removed it from the heat and drizzled with a little vanilla extract and tossed.  I think rum extract would be good too.  Our little fruit/nut dessert was so good that I would serve it for dessert for guests!  I'm thinking peaches would be good like this too, don't you?

My painting obsession continues into the new year and I'm glad.  I've decided to continue an "art" journal, for lack of a better word.  I think I should call it an experiment journal instead.  The first pages I smeared some acrylic paint colors all over and then added some matte black acrylic too.  I wanted to use my white pen on top of it.  I decided to write down the Bible verses I've been reading and contemplating these past couple days.  I'm not much of a letter-er or calligrapher.  I wish I was, but at least it's legible.  I might have to try fiddling with that skill too.   I'm doing more embroidery right now too.  I'm participating in TAST (Take A Stitch Tuesday) where we learn a new embroidery stitch each Tuesday and practice it.  The first 20 weeks are outline stitches, so if that is all a person did, you would have a good foundation in embroidery.  I'll see how many weeks I follow through.  Winter is a good time for me to dive into creative ventures.  I want to keep going even when I get busier.  I just know that it's important for me to carve out  a little time each day to be creative.  It brings me much joy.

Do you have any creative things you are doing this winter? 

Friday, January 05, 2018

Whole30, a beginning...

Hey! It's the new year!  A new beginnings!  And it's time to kick-start with eating better.  Hubby and I are taking on the challenge of Whole30.  In a nutshell, you CAN eat meats, eggs, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and good fats.  What you can't eat is sugar, grains (so no breads, pastas and etc.), legumes (including peanuts) and no dairy except for ghee or clarified butter and lastly, no alcohol or tobacco.  Really, it's not bad unless you are addicted to sugar.  I thought I was pretty good about being on the low end of sugar consumption, but I'm feeling the lack thereof.  Honestly, I feel pretty good overall, and I'm thankful that we are allowed fruit.  Fruit never tasted SO good!  We've been eating an orange a day and sometimes share an apple or a banana.  I know that the first week of something like this is hard, hard, hard.  You want what you should not have.  But we are strong, and we can do this!  Whole30 is not meant to be a lifetime eating plan, but rather a kick-start way to learn to choose better foods, to eat less processed foods and sugar, and to be more conscious of what you are eating on a day to day basis.  We plan to carry on with this plan longer than 30 days and may modify it a tiny, tiny bit.

One delicious idea that I came up with is a spin-off of my old recipe that I called, Fried Apples which had a bit of sugar and plenty of butter.  Here's what I'm doing now:

1 apple, chopped
handful of walnuts, chopped

1 t. butter
2 T. raw, unsweetened, shaved coconut (opt)
Cinnamon and nutmeg to your taste.

Melt butter in a non-stick skillet and add everything, including spices.  Saute until apples are tender. If you like your apples really soft, just put a lid on it after a few minutes and turn off the heat, letting apples steam-cook.   EAT!  Enjoy! because you will.

We shared this recipe and had it alongside our scrambled eggs for breakfast.  It was so sweet and warm and spicy.  I would like to do the same with bananas next.  Kind of a Bananas Foster minus the sugar and alcohol.  I would add vanilla extract to it though.  And I can imagine this recipe with frozen peaches too.

If anyone out there has a favorite recipe idea within these guidelines, please share.  And speaking of sharing a good recipe, I have one more for you.  It's called Egg Roll in a Bowl and it's really quick to make and very delicious.  I've made it many times before ever starting Whole30 and I like to add ground beef to mine as a variation.  This recipe calls for powdered ginger, but I like to grate fresh (frozen) ginger into my recipe.  A tip I learned a while ago is to peel raw ginger with the side of a spoon and then cut it into 1/4" discs.  I freeze them and take out a disc whenever I need it and use a microplane zester to grate it.  It's so fast and so much tastier than dried, but dried ginger will work fine too.  I also like to use the frozen ginger discs in tea and to flavor kombucha.

Here's to eating well in 2018!

Monday, January 01, 2018

2018 Super Chill!

 New Year's Day Walk (-1 F)
 Heidi likes to chase jackrabbits and deer

 No words needed

Indoor creativity

Out with the old and in with the new.  The old year goes and the new comes in.  That is how I explained what the new year is to 6 year old Toodles when she asked last night at our new year's eve  supper gathering.   To that simple explanation came her perfect word picture.  "Gram, it's like my wiggly tooth.  The old tooth will fall out and the new tooth will grow right in behind it."  Yes!  And here's a funny thing --  her wiggly tooth fell out last night!  Good bye old tooth!

The old year went out  --  super chill!  It was -25 degrees F from about 7 pm till midnight.  We stayed up so we know!  This morning when we awoke at 7 a.m. it was still -25 degrees.  So the New Year is Super Chill too!  Today we hit a high of 0*.  Woot!  It sounds like warmer days are ahead of us, which we will be very grateful for.  It's been sub-zero all this past week, at least at night.  

I can't help but continue my walks, no matter how chill.  I bundle up.  I'm in wool, as you know.  I try to go out when it's the warmest time of day and I've been tending the chicken chores between 1:30 and 2:00 because the eggs will freeze in the coop if left there very long during this kind of cold.  I'm taking warm water out to them too.  There's a heat lamp over the water bucket and that's the only heat they have besides some straw bedding on the dirt floor.  They are still laying like champs -- usually between 20-24 eggs daily.  Not bad, ay?

Heidi loves taking these short jaunts with me.  She chases jackrabbits and deer while I trudge.  I keep within watching distance of my family members,  walking near the trees so as to keep out of the wind.  Better to be safe and close to home than frozen stiff somewhere far off.  We've got about 5-6" of snow on the ground and in some places there's a foot where the snow catches in tall grass.  I haven't taken out my snowshoes yet.  Another snow and I will.  

All the livestock is hungry.  Each morning they are well fed for the day.  The guys take into account the extra energy the cattle and sheep are using during this cold snap.  Water is a major factor now too.  Tanks must be checked and flowing.  Every day there are water tanks to be chopped and thawed out.  It's just something we know we are going to have to do.  It comes with the territory so to speak!

Indoors the temperatures are fine.  I still have to wear my wool socks and slippers.  Floors just seem cold in winter, and if I can keep my feet warm, I feel warm all over.  Is it that way for you too?  I'm playing with my watercolors again and I plan to start up some more embroidery.  I wonder if playing with bright colors -- threads or paint -- keeps spirits bright during cold, dark days?  It seems to be helpful to me.

My heart's desire for 2018 is the same as my blog friend, Lisa,  
My only really important resolution will be to know Jesus better and to spend more time looking at Him and His word.  I want to be His hands and feet in this world.

Thank you, friends, for coming by here and saying hello and leaving your encouraging words.  I think you're wonderful!  I wish you a JOY-full 2018.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Quiet, stay-at-home Christmas...

It has turned out to be a quiet, stay-at-home, cozy Christmas for Hubby and I.  The whole lot of us (kids and grands and us) came down with the Christmas Crud (stomach virus) this past week and even before that, so we all opted to stay at our homes and just take it easy, recover, and not have our traditional Christmas Feast on the day.

As it always is here on the ranch, the winter feeding chores must be done no matter whose birthday it is or which holiday celebration is happening.  The Sons managed feeding the calves and thawing out the frozen water tanks.  After our morning coffee and a little breakfast, Hubby and I went to feed the cows and sheep.  It was -6 degrees F when we left so the livestock were very happy to see us pull up.  I thought the black cows' faces looked so cute with their whiskers all frosty white.  The sheep came on the run and were absolutely crazy for the salt blocks that were alongside the water tank.  It's funny, they know where the salt is, but they don't think about going to it unless they go down for a drink, and they don't drink much when there is snow on the ground.

I always think fondly of livestock on Christmas Morning, wondering about the animals that might have been in the same barn as Jesus was.  How strange to have people lingering so long and not going in to the house.  I wonder if Joseph might have had to feed some hay to cows or sheep or mules that morning while Mary suckled a warm baby Jesus, tucked in close beside her -- full and content. 

For our Christmas Dinner, I made a simple roast beef with potatoes, onions, and carrots all in the same pot.  The gravy that comes from that combination is the best!  As we enjoyed our salad and dinner, I popped a cherry pie in the oven.  I like to make mine with a mix of frozen sweet and tart cherries.  Hubby says it's his favorite pie.  Here it is, hot out of the oven.  We'll let it cool and have it for afternoon coffee along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.  Oh!  speaking of ice cream, do you ever put a small spoon of ice cream in your coffee?  It's a nice treat once in a while.

It's been a quiet day for us, the first Christmas we've spent "just the two of us".  We've enjoyed it, but it's different from the rowdy houseful of kids and grandkids that we are used to for holidays.  We will all celebrate together very soon though.

I hope you're enjoying this day when we remember the Reason for the Season -- Jesus!
Merry Christmas, friends!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter birds, Winter Solstice...

It was a dark-ish day here so please forgive the less-than-perfect light in my photos.  

There are a few birds that stay here for the winter.  These are tough ones:  the majestic Bald Eagle and the petite Redpoll.  Out on the prairie, the Bald Eagles are numerous in the winter months where they sometimes nest in January and February and then leave in spring.  They spend their time eating mostly jackrabbits and roadkill.  The Redpolls, on the other hand, enjoy seeds and so they are happy to entertain us at the backyard feeders.  The grands like to get close to them by just standing still out by their feeder and letting the Redpolls feed above and below their feet and even at eye level.  That is an amazing feeling -- being so close to a beautiful, wild bird.  We have no chickadees here this winter.  Sometimes they come, and sometimes they just don't.  I've seen a few Sharptail Grouse around  -- another year-round bird for us.  I heard from my father-in-law that he saw a Snowy Owl north of us about 20 miles.  Quite a sight!  I've only seen one in my lifetime and I'm half tempted to drive over where he saw the owl with the hope of maybe seeing it.  There's a chance!  Others in the area have reported sighting him too. 

The weather here has gone from very mild to very cold in just one day's time, and as I type this at 5:00 pm, it is already down to just 6 degrees F.  Chilly!  Colder temps are in the forecast.  There's an inch of snow on the ground and I'm glad for its covering the dirty brown beneath. Thankfully, our wood supply is ample and I'm keeping a fire in the wood stove.  My latest aromatherapy is to put anise seed stars into my kettle of water on the wood stove.  The wafting scent is sweet and spicy.   I find the stars for very little cost in bulk at my health food store.  Winter love!

It's Winter Solstice today, the longest night of the year.  From here on out, we get longer days -- that's the way Hubby sees it.  He's always positive.  Will you celebrate the Solstice?  I did by getting my wool pants out and taking a mile walk up to the mailbox.  I might make us a little mulled wine to sip by the fire tonight and light the candles.  Doesn't that sound nice?

"He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter."  ~John Burroughs
He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.
Read more at:

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tillandsia or air plants...

I was out shopping last week and mainly looking around in a local store that I hadn't had time to explore very much.  The owner sells and uses the Annie Sloan chalk paint and she sells many of her up-cycled creations along with other items like handmade jewelry and clothing.  I passed by an area that had some rocks and plants and woodsy things and it caught my naturalist's eye.  Upon deeper inspection, I realized that none of the plants were in soil but appeared to be just plopped into  natural vessels so I asked the owner what type of plants these were and she said, "Air plants, also known as tillies, short for Tillandsia."  I was immediately enchanted by these unusual plants.  The only air plants I remember from my childhood were those "air ferns" which people sometimes grew in their bathrooms.  I never thought they were very attractive, but these plants have much more substance and character to them than the air ferns did.  Some are of the succulent group of plants, but all need no soil to live and thrive.  Some of the air plants like to eventually attach their roots to woody objects like drift wood or an old chunk of shaggy wood.

As I asked more questions, the store owner explained that all of the plants would bloom the most exquisite and colorful flowers.  That also intrigued me, so I decided to make a purchase then and there.  I bought the Ionatha at the top.  It is green with orangy-red colors coming from within it and is said to produce lovely little purple blooms.  The grass-like air plant in the second picture is called Juncea and right beside it in the rock is another Ionatha.  In the white vase is one called Funckiana.  Another plus to growing Tillandsia is that they will reproduce and pups will form after they bloom or after they reach a certain size.  I love it when plants have babies!

Air plants are considered "easy care" because all they really need is a dunk in a bowl or tub of water every 7 to 10 days depending on how humid it is in your home.  And that's it.  Some people spray-mist them and others I've read say it's better to saturate them by dunking them underwater for a few minutes, so I guess I'm of the dunking theory so far.  Did you know that Spanish moss is considered an air plant?  Some people combine the Spanish moss with the air plants in their arrangements.  I am so fascinated by these plants that I have been doing a little research online to learn more and I have discovered some beautiful ways to display air plants that really appeal to me -- rocks, wood, even hanging suspended in mid-air.  I will add some links for you to browse below.  I also have found that you can buy air plants on Etsy as well as other online stores.  They are, after all, easy to ship with no soil, and very little weight.  However, if you live in the north like me and it's a very cold season, shipping might not work so well.  It might be best to find a local plant seller or wait until warmer weather comes to purchase tillies online.  So my gardening continues through the winter months  indoors with my new-found plant love -- Tillandsia!

OK, now for the links to some fun stuff!

 How to Display Air Plants (video)
Air Plant Care 101 (e-How) 
Air Plants Care and Design Made Easy
Wedding Worthy Air Plants

If  you dare to go on Pinterest and search for air plants, you will be overwhelmed and very tempted to try them for yourself.  There are such gorgeous ideas out there.  Do you grow air plants or have you seen them growing wild in trees in temperate climes?  Do tell!

Friday, December 15, 2017


Our very small creche sits table high so our grandkids can enjoy it and imagine the awe of that Christmas night.  The figures are set in some bark to make it look somewhat crude and cave-like along with tiny lights.  The creche is a Fontanini and the tallest figure is only 2.5 inches in height.    I'm thankful I have the main characters in the manger scene.

The Star on the Barn is up and lights the dark near the county road that goes by our ranch.  These two things are my favorite Christmas traditions.

I've been doing a very little baking, mainly two kinds of cookies so far -- soft molasses cookies and snowballs.  I will make a few cut-out sugar cookies before the big day comes.  It sounds like our fair weather is about to change and cold days are coming.  They will be good days for being indoors and for baking, but while it stays so nice, I'm out walking every day.

How are your Christmas days going?


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