Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve and All's Well!

Just a quick note on this eve of Christmas since this past week has been a whirlwind of activity. My Portland, Oregon daughter, Susie, and granddaughter, Zaidee, arrived in Ohio last Thursday. I had the lucky privilege of having both granddaughters, Zaidee and Olivia, stay the night  together. A rarity for sure.

We had planned on going to see the new movie version of Annie, but Olivia was feeling poorly and had a spiked temperature. Zaidee also wasn't feeling her best after traveling. So we stayed home and played a rousing game of "chicken foot" dominoes and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Of course the two girls had to go out and visit Asterius and Brutus and the others.

Then on Monday I drove Susie and Zaidee down to Columbus for a rendezvous with a very talented woman named Knaba, who performed magic on Zaidee's hair. It took her 5 hours to braid the hair during which time she put up with Amy, Susie and I looking on. Zaidee was patient for about 1/2 of the time. Towards the end she had just about had it but when it was over she was so pleased with the look. The gold braids were metallic and shiny making her look like a Christmas gift and feel like a princess.

Yesterday I was surprised by a visit from two former 7th grade students who are now juniors. Hannah Welter's dad grew up near her and her grandmother lives nearby. She drove out and brought Eddie Vasquez with her. It was so great to see them and catch up. Both kids have set goals for their futures and have taken positive steps to make them happen. It's nice for me to see what happens to "my kids" after they move on; and especially nice to see them turning out so well.

Looking forward to tomorrow and Christmas with my lovely daughters, son-in-law and grand kids all in one place for a change. What grandmother could ask for more?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Home Stretch...

That huge gust of wind coming out of Seneca County two days ago was just me breathing a sigh of relief as I finished the last of my Christmas "to do" list. I have all of the knitted gifts done, all of the baking that I intended to do done and all of the gifts are wrapped and hidden.

This was made from my heather gray worsted yarn, a product of Took and our departed Firenze

In theory, I should be able to just sit back and enjoy Christmas with my children and grandchildren now. In theory...

There is just one little snag in the plan. Our water treatment system, that has been on the fritz for the past month isn't getting any better in spite of having four, count 'em, 1-2-3-4 service calls since Thanksgiving. In fact, it's worse. My entire house smells like boiled cabbage whenever we turn the water on. The water people are in the cellar as I write and I am crossing my fingers that they can solve the problem. My kids are all city kids and have never had to deal with wells, pumps, filtration tanks and such. I'm afraid that the smell will be a bit off-putting for them and I am hoping that it gets remedied before they arrive tomorrow.

On the plus side, I do have all of my shopping done and the gifts are wrapped and hidden away from the prying eyes of grandkids and husbands!

In all fairness, Rich never snoops around trying to find out what he's getting for Christmas. He prefers to be surprised. The only problem I have with him is when he decides to scan the credit card charges and wants to know the details of the unfamiliar ones. I cannot seem to break him of the habit of doing this at Christmas! He never does his shopping until the last minute and the only one he has to shop for is me. In fact, he took a vacation day today in order to go on his annual solo shopping trip to the big city of Columbus. He always hides his stash of shopping bags outside in his wood shop and does it so well that I have not been able to find it in 14 years of marriage! (Yes I do snoop and he knows it.)

My cookie baking is done. I made the usual chocolate chip cookies, gingerbread men, Greek kourabiedes (powdered sugar crescents) and chocolate toffee pine bark, a Paula Deen recipe. I often swirl peanut butter chips into the chocolate of the pine bark, making it one of  Rich's favorites.

This year I added a new "cookie." It's a chocolate mint thing that resembles the traditional Girl Scout favorite. I happened to have Rachel Ray on the television as I was cleaning the other day and saw her dipping Ritz crackers into dark chocolate that was flavored with a few drops of peppermint flavoring. These are habit forming, not to mention that when you dip, you end up elbow deep in chocolate. There is no easy way to dip these but they are certainly worth it.

Right now I have the Chex Mix in the oven which is overlaying the boiled cabbage smell coming from the basement with a more savory odor. It sort of smells like a Hungarian restaurant!

Last week we moved alpacas around into different pastures. Mango was looking very thin and we were concerned that she wasn't getting enough nutrition. She is the only one that is both nursing and pregnant, meaning that she needs more food than the other females. Mango is just a little more timid since she had Mocha and the other two were crowding her out of the feed trough so we had to put them into a separate pasture. Mango and her little boy, Mocha are now in the barn pasture and she is looking much better.

This move meant that we had to shift the boys around a bit and the two yearlings landed in the pasture directly behind the house. They have been such a source of amusement. Whenever they hear the back door open they come running to the gate hoping that it's feeding time again. It doesn't matter that they may have just been fed a half hour ago. These guys are growing and spending so much energy playing that they are eating machines much like teenage boys. The other day when we had a rare moment of sunshine they must have been feeling especially feisty because when I looked out they were "neck wrestling."

They start out in a neck-to-neck position, entwining their necks and eventually circle around into a front to back stance, each one attempting to grab the other's back leg. Quite often Asterius, the larger white animal, will get a good hold of Brutus's back leg and lay down as he hangs on to it. My little guy, Brutus, trumps this move by twisting and laying down across Asterius's neck which makes him let go. I look on from the back window and cannot stop laughing at these two.

I have no transition for these last two pictures other than, this is what our evening looks like after the busy days that we have been experiencing lately.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


The other day we saw a huge, red, Case tractor with caterpillar treads parked out behind the barn. This is the newer model that the man who leases our land uses to work his farm. It is so big that it even makes my 6'4" husband look short! Immediately, said husband, got a brilliant idea and hustled out to the barn to rev up his new  toy, his grandfather's little, red Farmall Cub tractor from the 1950s.

A short while later he poked his head in the back door and shouted, "Grab your camera and come out here!" Always the obedient wife, I shouted back, "Why? It's cold and windy out there!" Once he explained about the picture that he had set up for me, I bundled up in my winter duds, grabbed the camera and reluctantly followed him outside grumbling all the way about having to leave my cozy house.

By the time I got out where he waited, Rich had already snapped a picture and pasted it up as the wallpaper on his cell phone! He had proudly parked his new "toy" in front of it's big brother which presented a concrete image of the very big leap in progress that has been made in agriculture since the time we were kids in the 1950s. Rich's grandfather used this little Farmall tractor and others like it to farm the very same land that the giant Case works up today. What follows are the pictures that I snapped from many angles. Some with Rich on the big machine and some with him on the little one.

As usual, the curious "kids" in the pasture watched the strange antics of their human caretakers and Callie, our Lab, managed to photo bomb one of the pictures.

Monday, December 1, 2014

So Much To Be Thankful For

Aaaah! Today I am finally able to sit down long enough to write about the last four days and the great Thanksgiving holiday that we had out here on the farm.

Because of the early snow and cold temperatures last week, all of our fall decorations were taken down. Only a few of the Christmas things were up. I had put up the inside store decorations last week and Rich had put up a few of the outside lights. The pumpkins that had frozen and then thawed, were beginning to collapse so Rich hauled them out to the woods where they will become food for the animals. That included the red/orange and white pumpkins that I had purchased for use as table decorations and left on the back deck. They look pretty pathetic laying out in the field right now.

I went to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving to pick up a few last minute things for our dinner. While there I bought a couple of gourds in the produce department and two paper turkeys off of an end cap display. Combined with my grandmother's antique blue willow patterned china and some yellow napkins, I think the "table scape" didn't look half bad.

This year our gathering was a small but entertaining bunch. Daughter, Amy; son-in-law, Steve; grandchildren, Olivia and Max; and Steve's grandmother, Treva all joined us for the afternoon. Treva always makes for a lively gathering. She is probably the funniest 80++ year old person ever.

Son-in-law, Steve, and his grandma Treva

Max, Treva and Olivia
In spite of the frigid temperatures and gusty winds Treva wanted to go out to visit with the alpacas. I took her out to the barn to introduce her to our girls and little baby Mocha and the kids tagged along. We fed the animals handfuls of sweet feed and because of their natural curiosity and a craving for treats they were very entertaining. Treva was enchanted by them.

Treva feeding Mango
I am always proud of my grandson, Max. But this day, as I observed how attentive he was to his great grandmother, taking her arm as she walked down the back steps and across the gravel drive, my eyes teared up with pride. (something I hid from him for fear of embarrassing him) Max isn't a fan of the animals; he has a "take 'em or leave 'em" attitude. That afternoon he went into the pasture and actually got a nose kiss from Took.

Max about to get a nose kiss from Took

Max freezing in the barnyard.
Olivia, on the other hand, is quite comfortable around the animals as she has often helped us handle them and lead them around the field. She even chose the name for Mango, who is about to eat out of her hand in this picture, when Mango arrived on the farm as a six-month-old.

Took, baby Mocha, Leezza and Mango with Olivia
Olivia made two of the pies: the traditional pecan and a chocolate s'mores pie. They were so yummy! Treva made her famous lemon meringue pie, using fresh squeezed lemons. I think everyone there had a taste of each pie for dessert.

I am an uber-planner and always have the table set the day before and all of the prep for the cooking done. My biggest shortcoming is that I am too hard on myself and I really stress out before an event like this. Although I had a couple of  stressed out "moments" before our guests arrived (for which I apologized to Rich who is usually the beneficiary of my rants) I think that the meal went well overall. Everything tasted somewhere in a range from OK to excellent. The pies put a great exclamation point on the event. Most of all, I enjoy those few and far between times when I get to cook with my daughter and granddaughter. In the end, Amy and I toasted the day with a fine wine brought to us direct from Italy by some good friends this summer.

Amy and I