Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grandma's baked beans (in the crock pot)...

Do you ever get a hankerin' for foods that you remember from childhood?  My Grandma Schumacher was a wonderful cook who made all kinds of hearty, traditional foods.  One of those foods that she was well known for was baked beans.  She would bake them for hours in a large roaster until they were softened just right.  I know it breaks with tradition since baked beans are to be baked, not slow cooked in a crock pot, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to make Grandma's soft, creamy-brown baked beans without having to heat the oven all day?  My friend, Mert, recently shared this recipe with me that was just the ticket.  And was it ever delicious!

Boston Baked Beans (in the crock pot)
by Diane Unger-Mahoney (and Mert)

1 pound navy beans, soaked in cold water 8-12 hours
1/2 t. baking soda
2 bay leaves
4 oz. salt pork (I used ham or would use bacon)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c. plus 2 T. molasses
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 c. boiling water
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 t. cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Set slow cooker to high to preheat.  Drain soaked beans and transfer to a Dutch oven.  Add 8 cups water, baking soda, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and use a wide spoon to skim off any foam.  Boil 15 minutes.  Drain beans and transfer to crock pot.  Discard bay leaves. 

While beans are cooking in Dutch oven, fry the salt pork (bacon or ham) to render the fat and then add chopped onions and cook until lightly browned.  Transfer to the crock pot.  Stir in 1/4 c. molasses, brown sugar and the boiling water. 

Cover beans with a piece of aluminum foil, then cover slow cooker with the lid.  Set crock pot to low and cook until beans are tender and creamy, 10-12 hours.  (You may cook on high for 5-6 hours)

Turn off slow cooker and remove lid and foil.  Stir in remaining 2 T. molasses, mustard, and vinegar and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Cover slow cooker with lid and let beans sit until sauce has slightly thickened, 15-20 min.  Serves 4-6

*It is said that slow cookers are notorious for failing to soften baked beans so by placing a layer of foil over the beans, it helps to keep the heat at the bottom of the pot and in the beans rather than letting the heat rise to the lid.  This step shaves off hours of cooking time.

The result?  Just like Grandma's!  She used to serve her beans with malt vinegar.  Shake a little on.  MMMmmmm.

Do you know the poem?

Beans, beans the magical fruit,
The more you eat, the more you toot,
The more you toot, the better you feel
So why not have beans at every meal?

Thursday, February 24, 2011


These were the first twins born.  They have a number 1 spray-painted on their left side to prove it.  Their mother has become very sick so they came in for a bottle of milk.  They may end up as orphans.  We call orphaned lambs or calves "bums."  Not as in "you lazy bums," but as in "bumming milk" from other milking ewes.  I saw them robbing milk in the shed just tonight, trying to get full.

It has been a Full Week.
Full of sheep.
Full of lambs.
Full of buckets of water and bales of hay.
Full of snow( 10" plus) and
Full of cold (sub-zero).
Full of helping hands.
And Full of caring.
My mother-in-love, who was the Best Shepherdess Ever, always said,
"Anyone can tend sheep, you just have to care."
I think that's true about anything.  
If you really care about the sheep (or people),
you usually end up doing the right thing.
Have you ever heard the song Chop Wood and Carry Water
by The Gatlin Brothers?
Well, every time I carry buckets of water to the sheep, I think of that song.
How do I show love?  
Chop wood and carry water.  Build a fire and give a drink to one of God's sons and daughters...
Now, I know that a sheep is not a son or daughter of God, but God did create them, and since He put me and my family here on a ranch with sheep and cattle, I figure He wants us to chop wood (or ice) and carry water for them too.
And's time again to go up to the shed and tend the sheep.  It's cold-- ten below zero-- and there might be a new baby born in the straw. 
 "God has a purpose for my life.  No other person can take my place.  It isn't a big place, to be sure, but for years I have been molded in a peculiar way to fill a peculiar niche in the world's work."
~Charles Steizle

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hydrangea cuff....

Another "practice cuff" is complete.
It is lots prettier in person than in the photo.
(I may have to take some more pictures)
I wanted to try my hand at lots and lots of French knots which are the base of this new cuff.  The center flowers are hydrangeas, and I'm calling the side flowers morning glories.  
The cuff's closure is a mother of pearl button which really reflects the colors of the lavender and blue hydrangeas and the green leaves.
Now I'm really getting excited about starting the bridal cuff.
For now, I have a hallway to paint while I wait for my supplies to come in the mail.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Twins, twins, TWINS!

 We have officially begun lambing.
Today -- three sets of twins.
The ewes all had their babies outdoors in the sunshine.
It was so nice.  I think we hit 55* for a high today.
I wish this warm weather would stay.

To me, there's just nothing quite like watching babies hunting for their milk.
I think lambies born in the sunshine are smarter than those born inside the shed.
I do!
Edit:  One more set of twins and one single born around suppertime.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Embroidered cuff....

This is how I spent my day today.
Besides cooking breakfast and picking up, I did nothing else but work on this embroidered cuff.  It is my "trial run" for a very special cuff I plan to make -- a bridal cuff.
It may take several tries before I get it perfect, but I wanted to see how embroidering on wool/acrylic felt would go, and I think it will be a good fit.

 I'm calling this my Hippie Cuff because to me, it looks like something I would have stitched and worn in the 70's.  I was a bell-bottom blue jeans embroiderer back then and it stuck.  I plan to wear this now that I'm just a Hippie Grammie.  It works, doesn't it?

 I found the pattern on Feeling Stitchy blog.  They are having a stitch-a-long and when I saw this pattern, I knew I just had to do it.  So here is my interpretation of those lazy daisies and French knots.

I put this hot pink and orange cotton fabric on the backside and sewed snaps on to fasten it closed. 
I have learned a lot with this trial run and I'm excited to get started on the bridal cuff.  It will be white or creamy white with light blue hydrangeas and crystal beads. 
I was inspired to do the bridal accessory when I saw this cuff over at Etsy. 
Very inspired!

Monday, February 14, 2011


Sunday was a special Day.  Mary Toodles was dedicated to the Lord.  It was such a nice gathering of our  family.  Everyone was there, even the great grandparents.  And can you believe I brought my camera, threw it in my purse just before we left home, and didn't take a single picture?  

The pastor said such good things.  About how Jesus is Mary's shepherd and that he would lead her to still waters and guide her in and out of green pastures and carry her in His arms.  What a word picture that is to a family of sheep herders.

We all stood up front and said that we promised we would do our best to teach her the Things of the Lord and to share the love of Jesus with her.  We all confessed, "We will."  We not only dedicated Mary to the Lord, but we dedicated ourselves to Mary, to love her and train her up in The Way.  

As I stood there in church with my husband and our five children, one of whom was dedicating his life to his own daughter, I thought about that word "dedication."  There are a lot of years and hard work, trials and tears, joys and small triumphs that go into dedicating your children to the Lord.  Your entire life becomes a life of dedication, whether you feel like it or not.  It's humbling.  And rewarding. If you still have kids at home, keep up the good work and don't grow weary of doing good.  It will all come back to you one day.  I promise!
 I dedicated my day to several people today.  I took HP with me to feed the cows and sheep.  Did you ever think of feeding cows and sheep as dedicated work?  After we were done, I asked HP's mommy if she could stay for the day.  "Yes," she said.  And so she did.  We had fun playing in the mud puddles that were snow and ice just a day ago.  I bought HP a new pair of Boggs boots to muck around in.  We all wear these boots here on the ranch and really, there is just nothing better for warmth and for mucking around in water and mud. They're cute too.

 Hazel was dedicated to swirling the muddy water around and getting herself all wet and muddy today.  Sunny days have been so few and far between, that I let her go ahead and enjoy this day to its full measure.  The clothes would be washed while she napped.  (Gram fell asleep too. What a pleasure!)

The chickens had their day in the sunshine as well.  They are such dedicated old hens.  They faithfully provide us with delicious, fresh eggs every single day.  Oh, some days they don't lay as many as others, but they've been very productive lately since the days have warmed up and the sun is shining a bit more.

One more bit of dedication came in the way of a special Valentine's Day supper for my men.  I made them barbecued country ribs, garlic mashed potatoes and peas, and for dessert, this Lemon Cloud Pie.  It is a recipe that my friend shared with me.  Her 89 year old mother is the true author of the pie and let me tell you, there's a lot of dedication behind this time-tested recipe!  It's scrumptious!

Lemon Cloud Pie
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup water
1/3+ cup lemon juice
2 egg yolks
Combine above ingredients in saucepan; bring to boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.
Add ~ 4 oz. softened cream cheese
           2 tsp. grated lemon peel
Cool mixture to room temperature.
Fold in 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped.
Spread into 9" baked and cooled pie shell.  Chill at least 3 hours or overnight.  Top with sweetened whipped cream, if desired, before serving.
* Even better the next day; keeps well, refrigerated, for 2 or even 3 days.
**  I have made this with limes. 

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, 
do all to the glory of God.
~I Corinthians 10:31

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sweets for the Sweet!

 I'm getting ready.
Are you?

 It's almost Love Day!
(Valentine's Day)

Sweets for my Sweeties!

And one for YOU!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sewing cloth diapers...

Only daughter, G., is due to have her first baby in April and so she asked me to sew up a bunch of cloth diapers for Cupcake.  I really like doing this so of course, I committed to it.  So far, I've only stitched up a half dozen, but I have many, many more to make.  I am using the patterns here and here.  I did buy a Quick Sew diaper pattern that is sized (S,M,L, XL), but so far, I haven't tried it.  I figured if I can sew a one-size-fits-all, why mess with sizes?

Tonight G. is going to try the diapers out on her friend's 5 month old baby.  It'll be interesting to know how they fit and if she might have suggestions in sizing.  There are so many patterns out there that I don't mind trying new ones to see which are The Best.

The green print diaper at the top of the picture is made of three layers of flannel.  It is supposed to be a pocket diaper, but G. and I wondered why a person would want to de-stuff a messy diaper and re-stuff clean ones?  So instead, I just made it plain and sewed up a bunch of diaper soaker pads from the scraps to place right inside the diaper next to baby's bum.  The other two diapers are made of cotton knits.  The grey one is knit terry cloth and the blue bunny diaper has the grey terry cloth inside and is a cotton knit outside.  Both are three layers.  None of these diapers have closures, but will be pinned or snappied shut.  It is possible that we may decide to do velcro tabs, but for now, we've chosen to keep the diapers plain.  I have made velcro tabs on other diapers, and they were well-received.

I think these new fitted cloth diapers are just wonderful.  They sure beat the old pre-fold diapers that I used on my kids.  I thought they worked just fine and they were very inexpensive.  After all, they were diapers -- made for messes, not for pretty. These days, the new-fangled cloth diapers are really expensive.  Check out the Fuzzi Bunz and see what I mean!  Yowza!  I knew I could make diapers on-the-cheap. 

Want a quick sample of a good diaper sewing video?  Click below! She is sewing the same pocket-diaper pattern that I made (minus the pocket).

More links for sewing diapers here:
The Diaper Jungle
Sewing Cloth Diapers
Very Baby (fabrics & patterns available here)
Zany Zebra Designs (lots of free patterns)
Fern & Faerie (frugal diapering)
Confessions of a Diaper Fanatic

Don't have a diaper handy?  Use a T-shirt.
Watch Dad diaper his son.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Shearing time....

Coffee break

Today was the day for shearing the sheep.  We don't actually shear the sheep ourselves, but we hire shearers to come to the ranch and do the job for us.  It was a dismal -6* when things got cranked up this morning and I really felt sorry for everyone.  Sure, the shearing crew brought their portable heater and we had ours in the barn, but golly, it's cold!  See the foggy breath from the ewe in the picture above?  

The sheep are corralled in the barn and then are gradually taken through pens and up this alley and eventually they end up in the shearing rig where the four shearers are waiting for them.  Each man takes a ewe and goes to work.  He doesn't tie up the sheep, but lays it on its back and gently rolls her around until all the wool is expertly and smoothly sheared off in one big fleece.

Shearers doing their thing
After the sheep are sheared, they are popped out of one side of the rig through a trap door while the fleeces are kicked out the other side of the rig.  This fellow takes each fleece and throws it onto a skirting table where he examines it, takes away the "bellies" (which are the soiled and poopy parts) and sacks those bits separately from the big, nice fleeces.

Gathering a fleece from the rig

See the big skirting table below?  This fleece has already been skirted (examined and picked over) and will be thrown into the sacking machine.  All the good wool goes into the sacker and is pressed tightly and is made into a wool bale.  We ended up with 5 bags of good fleeces today and 2 bags of bellies.  The wool was taken to town and weighed and will be sold when the wool buyers come around.  Two hundred head of sheep yielded 2400 lbs. of wool.  We were pretty happy about that.

Skirting wool fleece
Don't the ewes look so white and clean now without their heavy wool?  The wool fleece looks very dark on the surface and actually, the soil line is about half way down the fibers while the other half nearest to the skin is a very creamy white.  It's nice and warm and greasy from the natural lanolin that sheep produce.

All sheared, and white as snow
I think the old girls will be glad to go right into the shed tonight, don't you?  Without their thick, wool jackets, they are likely to feel the cold weather a little more.  We are expecting baby lambs sometime around February 15th and really, they could come any day now.  We're watching them more closely up at the Big Shed.  I'm so glad that our weather is supposed to gradually warm up!  It makes lambing a lot more fun when you don't have to fight the cold.

I always think about what the Bible says about wool whenever the sheep are sheared.  I love looking closely at it, especially the whitest wool.  The sheep don't stay "white" for very long.

"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
~Isaiah 1:18

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Simple pleasures....

 Someone once said, "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the Big Things."  In that spirit, I would like to share some of my simple pleasures, the little things, that make life Big.

Fresh citrus from my Arizona friend.
It's been a blessing to have juicy, sliced lemons to 
make hot lemonade to fight the sniffles.
Buttermilk pancakes for breakfast!
I like this recipe.

 Playing in the snow and making a snowman with Hazel Peach.
Fresh air makes everything better, doesn't it?

My knitted acrylic scrubbies.  
My Arizona friends have made these for me
and there is nothing I like better for scrubbing dishes.

A good book.  
I'm coming to the end of my adventure at 
Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge.

Steamy, hot oatmeal baths.
When the body aches, the bath relieves.
 I can't think of any sorrow in the world that a hot bath wouldn't help, just a little bit.
~Susan Glasee

A piping hot bowl of corn chowder.
Comfort food supreme.

Whenever I've been away from home, I appreciate more than ever the fresh, non-chlorinated water that I drink from the tap every single day.
Water is my favorite drink.

I used to think napping was weakness. 
After a long bout with a bad back, I realized the best thing I could do for my family and for myself was to take a daily nap until I was better.  My mood, my attitude, and my physical strength all improved.  We know the old adage well, "When Mama ain't happy, aint nobody happy."
I say, when Mama ain't happy, she might need a good nap.
Nap in Jesus name.

Singing a hymn.
Yesterday J. and I sang Jesus Savior Pilot Me.
We both agreed, it's good for our souls.

Old friends and new friends.
It's been a joy catching up with old friends and meeting new friends too.
Thank you for being friends with me.
Stay a while!
"Stay is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary."
~Louisa May Alcott

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cooking School...

Our 18 year old son is planning to attend college in Arizona this fall and will not have access to a campus cafeteria or meal ticket, so I have been trying to teach him a few simple meals so as to feed himself while he's away.  I did this with all the kids before they left home and most of them can fend for themselves pretty well.  By the end of "Cooking School" each of our kids left home with a small recipe book of his/her favorite meals to cook.   Last night we had Cooking School after I had been gone all day to town. The guys wanted "Chinese" so J. and I whipped up a simple Broccoli - Beef Stir Fry in approximately 30 minutes. We used about a pound of beef steak (cheap cut) sliced thin, frozen broccoli, sliced onions, and some chopped garlic, salt & pepper. We stir-fried the veggies first (except garlic which tends to burn), removed from the skillet, then stir fried the beef in a little more oil. Added it all back to the pan with the garlic and heated through. We poured on our favorite teriyaki sauce, Veri Veri Teriyaki,  and heated through. We  served it over instant brown rice but you could use white rice or angel hair pasta. 

Other recipes we have made in Cooking School:

Creamy Sausage Stew

1 lb. kielbasa (or other sausage), chopped
2-3 lbs potatoes (approx)chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, thyme, dried parsley (according to taste, may delete but better with these herbs)
1 pint cream

In oven proof skillet, add oil and toss all ingredients together except cream. Put into a 400 degree oven to roast for about 30-40 minutes or until tender. Lastly, add cream and stir. Return to oven until sauce is thickened and bubbles. Serve from the skillet. (This is one of my family's favorites and it's easy to make)

Mandarin Chicken

1-2 lbs chicken (may use breast, thighs, wings, etc)
Salt & pepper
2-3 T. oil
Sliced onions
Fry chicken & onions in skillet until nicely browned. Pour sauce over chicken to complete cooking.

6 T. honey
2 T Hoisen sauce (or fish sauce)
4 t. soy sauce
1/3 c. lemon juice
3 T vinegar
4 t. oil.
Mix in small bowl and pour over chicken. Simmer until sauce is thick and sticky and chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice or eat as-is along with a salad or veggie.

J. knows how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, grill burgers and make spaghetti so those count too, don't they? I only wish he liked eggs. He could cook omlets with Julia Child (or Meryl Streep) below!

"Man cannot live on bread alone, nor beer bread, nor beer and bread!"

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Arizona beauty...

We had a wonderful week in Arizona, but we didn't eat a single nacho.  You know it was on My List, but then again, there were lots of things on My List so I'll share some of those with you instead.
We took a nice walk through the desert.  Isn't this a perfect saguaro cactus?
They say that it takes fifty years before a saguaro cactus will grow one arm;
that's amazing to me!

We visited Arizona's first Spanish mission called Tumacacori Mission,  begun by Jesuit priest, Father Kino in 1691 and continued by Franciscan monks.

We visited the Santa Cruz Spice Shop nearby, and I added jalapeno jelly, prickly pear jelly, and pico de gallo spices to my shopping bag.
This lady-saint was found in the San Xavier del Bac Mission also established by Father Kino.  It is just a few miles from Tumacacori.  I think this Native American woman reflects the simplicity and faithfulness of her people.

Nuestro Senor El Desollado (Our Lord, The One Who is Flayed)  2004  by Paul Pletka

The Phoenix Art Museum was a treat for this country girl.  I love art and it was exciting to see some of my favorite artists displayed there.  Of course, we only saw a fraction of the art, but it was wonderful.  The piece above was totally captivating!  The red curtains draw the eye right into the scene.  The friendly and smart docent explained how the Catholic religion incorporated the culture of the native tribes into the celebrations of the church to draw them to the Christian faith.  The painting further depicted the history we learned at the Tumacacori Mission just a few days previous.
 The painting is approximately 8x10 feet in size.  It was created in three panels.

Claude Monet, Flowering Arches

"Madame Lucy Hessel Working at a Dressmaker's Table" (1908)
by Edouard Vuillard

I feel as though I am standing at the door of this room, looking in on Madame Lucy.  I'd like to bring her a cup of tea and peer out the windows.  I wonder what she was working on?

There was so much to see in this piece,  
"Flowers, Italy" by Joseph Stella.
We played eye-spy with it.
This was another very large painting, measuring approximately 6x6 feet.

Talavera Mexican Pottery
(for my afternoon coffee)

More descriptions of our Arizona stay....
Warm days, cool nights, golf, golf, golf, Sonoran Dessert, cactus, sand, rocks, sunshine, bottles of water, making new friends, catching up with old friends, quilt show, Tubac, Rio Rico, border patrol, Trader Joe's, taquitos, fish tacos, pico de gallo, chimichangas, hearty breakfasts, the theater, art museum, and so much more.  It was lovely to go visiting,
but there's still...
no place like home
(even at 20 below zero).


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