Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My First New Year's Resolution

Now that Christmas has passed, my brain has started to think about what comes next.  I know some people refuse to set new years resolutions, because they always get broken, but I like the idea of starting fresh, trying something different, and setting goals.  Even if some of them only last for a week or two.  Here's an easy resolution:  Clean the microwave more than once a year...

I stumbled across this website on pinterest, and after looking around a little, found something that made me get up from my computer and do some cleaning.  It seemed like such an easy, quick job, that it would be silly to NOT get up and do it.  In fact- go do it now!  You can get started and then come back and play on your computer for 8 more minutes until it's ready to wipe...

How to Clean Your Microwave

1) Put 1 cup of vinegar in a glass microwaveable bowl and microwave it on high until it's boiling and has covered the walls of the microwave in vinegary condensation. (this takes about 5 minutes in mine)
Let sit 3 minutes.
2) Carefully remove the bowl of vinegar. With a cloth or paper towel, wipe the surfaces clean. If there are some really stuck on messes, use a scrubby suitable for non-stick cookware.
3) clean the turntable in warm soapy dish water. Dry and put back.
4)Wipe down the outside of your microwave with a damp cloth.

Kelly (the blog author) also suggests sprinkling some baking soda down your kitchen sink drain while the vinegar is in the microwave, then you can pour the vinegar down the drain when you're done with it. You end up with a clean microwave AND fresh drains.  

My addition would be to just use your rag that is now covered in warm vinegar and wipe down the outside of the microwave as well- I guess if the inside was really bad, you might need a new rag, I just folded my rag in half and used the clean side.  I just did mine, and it looks great and was really easy.  I used a microfiber rag.  I would recommend not trying to breathe when your face is in the microwave, with all that vinegar.  :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas News Letter

J is in fifth grade this year, and can now wear my shoes.  His interests are soccer, electronic games, beyblade (although I’m told that beyblades are no longer “in”), and origami.  At school he sold origami creations as part of his class store, and got really good at folding ninja stars.  Mom got really good at folding boxes.  For his birthday this year, he invited his whole class and had a movie outside in the field, and found out what happens when you put mentos into diet coke (we did that on purpose, we were’t just feeding kids diet coke and mentos...).
A is in second grade, and is still just a happy kid.  He loves his teacher, his friends, soccer, and legos.  His smile is infectious, and his teacher has told me several times that he really knows how to make her heart melt.  There are few things better than knowing your child’s teacher loves him as much as you do.
CP is in preschool this year.  When I pick him up he likes to ask me, “so, what did you do today?”  He also played on his first soccer team this year.  Preschool soccer is fun to watch, since most of the kids don’t know what’s going on, and are busy climbing their coach or playing house in the goal net.  CP, thanks to his older brothers, knew what was going on, and we got some good footage of him running down the field to score a goal.  In a few years when the other kids figure it out, that may be a little trickier.
E is finally walking, at 15/16 months.  His favorite things are going down the slide, being carried around, and playing fetch, I mean catch.  He’s a happy kid, except when he’s teething, and we’re so happy he’s part of our family.  CP especially likes having a younger brother to play with (and carry around- E is not so fond of that).  Time is going by so fast, that we’re just trying to enjoy his babyness as much as possible before it’s gone.
This year I’ve discovered that I have hobbies again!  I had forgotten about them for a long time.  I ran a couple of half marathons and my very first full marathon this year (after which I promptly stopped any form of exercise- I’m still recovering- I’ll get back to it one of these days...).  I also rode (and finished) a 100 mile bike ride with some of my friends.  I felt great until mile 70 or so, after that I was grateful to my friends for keeping me going.  
Kyle had a pretty busy training schedule earlier this year when he was training for the St. George Ironman.  He finished, and is crazy enough to want to do it again in a couple of years.  He’s decided that triathlons are more fun that single-event races.  (I tried a sprint tri this year, and am unconvinced.)  
We’re still working on getting our houseplans ready for building in the spring, and are keeping our fingers crossed that everything works out to proceed as planned.  Hopefully next year I’ll be writing this letter from the comfort of my very own home.  Maybe you can all come visit.    All Our Love,  Kyle, Alice & the boys.
Track the progress of our house at

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Crunch Bread

CP calls french bread "Crunch Bread".  He likes it dipped in oil and balsamic vinegar.  

CP, ever since he was a baby, has done this thing where he sucks on his pointer and middle finger, and holds his ear with his other hand, when he's tired.  Tonight, he told me that he can't suck on his fingers because he had chap stick on, and that he couldn't hold his ear because they were warm.  He can only hold his ear when it's cold.  It's hard to go to bed with chap stick and warm ears...  Funny kid.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Damage, Round One

Notice the pine tree.  I'm not sure what happened there, but it looks like something took a bite out of the side.

A couple of the posts for the grape vines have fallen over.

The corkscrew willow in the front yard has been dying/falling over for a couple of years now, so it was decided to cut it down to prevent it from falling on any houses/cars.

Snapped branches on pine trees in the field.

Strawberry bed is missing a side.

Screen door at grandma's house.

The rest of the screen door- looks like it was more glass than screen...

Porch support.  

Oops, one more piece of door.

Siding on a shed.

The new backyard, minus some trees/bushes.  Maybe grass will grow back there again?


Good thing we didn't have a dog living in here anymore.

Fruit tree in the garden.  I think this was a peach.  Not too sad, because it would have had to come out anyway, it's where our house will be.

Broken fence, where the tree broke off and crushed it.  The clean up crew had the fallen part chopped up and hauled away amazingly fast this morning.

New, flat roof, on the chicken coop.  Hopefully it will work until spring.  We can now call it the chicken cube.

Siding damage from the coop roof hitting the shed.

We'll need to get a new boat cover.  The boat looks okay, maybe a little scratched up.  We haven't looked under the cover to be sure.

There's the roof!  It put some nice gouges in the back corner of our camper too.

Siding damage, so that's where the wasps were coming from.

Up high there's siding damage where the cable wire was pulled out of the wall.  The cable is now laying on the ground.  
Wind speeds reached 102 mph.  That's class 2 hurricane.  School was cancelled Thursday and Friday.  Church was cancelled today to allow everyone to go around and clean up the debris before the next round starts tonight.  It's not supposed to be as bad, but who knows.  I moved the cans into the garage, and picked up as much as I could so there are fewer things to blow over to the neighbor's house (or beyond).  We still need to put the small sailboat somewhere safe so it doesn't blow away again (last time I grabbed it before it went too far- that was fun), some big pieces of plastic, and maybe do something with the wood from the former chicken coop roof and the dog run.  Probably ought to clean up as much as we can with the door next door too.  The boys are hoping school is cancelled tomorrow, we'll see.

It's been a really great feeling to see all the neighbors out working together to get things cleaned up.  They're piling stuff up at a church building down the street, and from there it's being hauled to the dump.  I'm not sure how the dump is going to keep it there, but at least it would have to blow a long way before it hit anything from that point.  Kyle brought home a load of pine for our wood pile when he came home for breakfast/lunch.  I'm not sure when they'll be done.

The majority of trucks going by are full of pine branches.  It's surreal.

UPDATE: Round 2 of the wind storm petered out, so YEA.  No more damage.

Baby E learns to slide!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Can I go back to last week?

Last week I dropped Taja dog off at the vet, where she was being kenneled while we went to Oregon for Thanksgiving.  That was Friday.  I took her bed, and a chew toy, and handed her over.  I was a little sad when I climbed into the car.  I love that dog, and I was going to miss her.

I had no idea.

Monday morning the vet called to tell us that Taja had died in her sleep.  Her heart just stopped.  I'm glad it was quick, but my heart hurts that she was not home with her family.

She was a stinky, drooly dog, with floppy ears and a wiggly bum, and we loved her.  It seems a little silly to grieve so much for a dog, but she was really a member of our family.  We're going to bury her in the yard, and plant a tree to mark her grave.

Well miss you, puppy.
Taja Harley Quinn 
(she was AKC papered, and they require ridiculously long names)
AKA Taja, Taja dog, or Puppy.
April 2002- November 21, 2011

Puppy Taja

We have a lot of pictures like this.  Taja was always kind of in the background of whatever was going on.
Taja loved playing soccer with us.

Two Christmases ago


Chewing a bone, enjoying the sunshine- one of her favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

Part of the family.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Photo Update

A teaching CP some sweet soccer skills.

CP at his preschool Halloween Parade.

Our shelf of squash/pumpkins- many of these are now carved and sitting on the porch.

Kyle's getting this area all cleaned up- no more weeds and wood scraps and yard tools jumbled together.

I love watching chickens run across a yard.

J and neighbor B herding the chickens back to their coop.

This was a lot of work.  I did it with the rotary mower.  I was SORE the next day.  The grass hadn't been mowed in a long time, as I mentioned in the previous post- I had to have the boys come out and lift the grass up with rakes so the mower would even catch it- it was so long and matted down.

Not a huge grape harvest this year...  

We're already figuring how many we can drink each month to make them last a year.  :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Clean Up (part three)

I didn't take pictures again.  But, we forced the boys out the door this morning and they did great picking grapes until the first bucket was full, after that it was painful to keep them working.  We ended up with four buckets to put in the steam juicer.

While we were picking grapes, my Mister mowed the field, pulled the hoses from the big garden and stretched them out on the cement to get warm so he could coil them up and put them away, then he mowed the garden.  We didn't plow because we're not sure if we'll be able to garden there next year when the house is being built.  He did plow the neighbor's garden while I sat and visited.  Our neighbor gave us some horseradish, a huge banana squash, a turkey egg, and some walnuts.  It was a fruitful visit.  :)

Next, I wanted to get the yard mowed, so I pulled out the rotary mower and made the boys come out to rake the grass up so the mower would catch it.  It was really long and matted down, so that took awhile.

My Mister cleaned out the boat and laid the cover out to dry.  We need to cover it with a more waterproof tarp this winter so we don't get water build up inside it.  He also weed whacked around the driveway under the grapes.

Next up: making grape juice.  I also need to clean out the black raspberry patch, but I'm not sure I'm going to get to that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall Clean Up (Part Two)

Saturday we had a lot of non-yard stuff to do, so we didn't get started on any of the yard work until close to 4pm.

My Mister started weed whacking around all the fruit trees while I pulled weeds from the strawberry bed, and cleared a place for garlic in another bed.  I added compost, and got nearly a pound of garlic cloves planted.  We planted Music that we ordered from my favorite seed company, Seed Savers Exchange, and covered the garlic with a thick layer of straw mulch.

Next was to weed whack all the strawberries down to nubbins and cover them with a thin layer of straw.  Next spring the plants will grow up through the mulch.  By weed whacking the plants now, the plants will be healthier and have better air circulation next spring.

We also gathered up the watering lines from the raised beds and pulled the tomato plants that don't have tomatoes on them still.

My Mister checked on the bees, and there aren't a lot of them.  He's a little concerned that last month when he cleaned out the crooked comb, he might have killed the queen.  We'll continue to watch the bees to see if their numbers continue to decrease, or if they build up again.  There were some brood cells, but not many.  Worst case, we may be buying bees again in the spring.  Hopefully we learned enough this year, that we can avoid the crooked comb in the future and don't have to do such invasive work on the hive.

My Mister shucked all the corn, and put it in a bucket in the chicken coop storage area, the birds have already eaten/scratched all of the grass in their new run area, so they'll appreciate the corn cobs to play with.

The big pumpkin is finally starting to turn orange, but I don't think it will be orange by halloween.  We'll see.

We moved the leftover hay into the chicken coop storage area, and will try to keep the kids out of it so we can use it in other areas.  I want to use it to mulch over the artichoke plant once I cut it down.  I'm still waiting for it to flower so I can collect some seeds.  If I could get five or six plants to survive a winter, we'd be pretty set for artichokes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall Clean Up (part one)

This wasn't part of fall cleanup, but I had the picture, so here it is...  I tried out a new french bread recipe and we all liked it quite a bit, plus it was less work overall than the "artisan bread in 5-minutes-a-day" recipe that I was using.  It made three pretty nice sized loaves.  

We pulled out all the corn.  The cobs that were still on the stalks we are saving to feed to the chickens.  They're mostly dried out, but the chickens don't seem to mind.  So we'll let the rest of these dry out and give them out a few at a time.  Our corn patch actually produced quite a few ears, but I never thinned it, so the ears are all tiny, and it was hard to get into it to pick much.  We also cut off the sunflower heads.  I'll save some seed to plant more next year, and the rest I think I'm going to try roasting.  If it turns out well, we'll plant them more seriously next year.

I was hoping for a better butternut squash harvest, and there were only two jarrahdale squash, but we ended up with more pumpkins than I thought we'd get, considering our watering system didn't work out quite as well as we hoped it would.  

We picked the dried beans, we'll let them finish drying out, and shell them, and save the seed for next year.  This is my first year saving bean seeds, so I'm not sure how much I need, I'll post an update when we shell them.

We cleaned all the wet, gross, smelly wood shavings out of the chicken coop and replaced them with new, clean, dry shavings.  It smells so much better in there!  We also added a roost bar to help them get to the two side nesting boxes.  They were piling up in the middle box half the time instead of going in the other two.  Silly birds.  

My Mister ran the corn stalks through the chipper, and we added that, and the poo/shavings from the chicken coop to the big pile of grass (from when we mowed the field and RAKED THE WHOLE THING (that was fun).  Now we just need a rain to moisten the whole thing and it will really get hot.  There is already some nice compost in the bottom from just the grass.

Here's a before shot of where the chicken run used to be:

And here's where it is now- we moved the run and the little feeding area lean-to so that the chickens could scratch a new area, the whole thing was getting stinky, so hopefully some fresh land helps, and lets the old area recover a little.  In the spring we can move them back

I left two pumpkins in the garden since they were still green.  A smaller one, and then this HUGE one.  I  don't think it will turn orange in time for halloween, but I'm hoping we can get it pureed and in the freezer.  

Things to do another weekend:  
Weed whack strawberries, and cover with mulch 
Clean out raised beds
Save seeds from artichoke plants (if the things would ever flower!)
Pull the last of the onions
Put away watering system tubes
Prep and plant garlic bed
Clear out blackcap bed, and add compost
Pick grapes and do grape juice
Check bees 

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Sausage

Inspired by our recent trip up to Park City, and our dinner at The Farm, My Mister and I decided to branch out a bit from our regular meals, and try some new recipes using food from our garden.  (The Farm uses mostly local ingredients.)  I found the recipe at and made a few changes based on what we had available and what sounded good.  It turned out really well, so we'll probably make this one again.  CP loved it and gobbled it up, A and J weren't fans of the squash, but ate it without too much coercing.  The squash and onion came from our garden.  See the link for the original recipe, below I've written it based on the changes we made.

2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Butternut Squash cubed and peeled
1 Large Onion, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 box rotini pasta (14.5 oz)
1/2 lb hot italian sausage (we used buffalo, but pork or turkey would work well too)
1 TBSP flour
1/2 C milk
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a glass oven safe dish with the olive oil. Place the squash and onion in the pan, and season with salt and pepper. Roast 30 minutes, or until squash is tender. (Don't overcook the squash or it will be mushy, ours was perfect right at 30 minutes)

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Place pasta in the pot, cook for 8 minutes, until al dente, and drain.

 In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage until evenly brown.  Mix in the flour and garlic. Transfer the cooked squash and onion to the skillet.  Pour in the milk.  Continue cooking until heated through and milk thickens slightly. Gently mix in the pasta. Transfer to a large bowl, and toss with balsamic vinegar to serve.

Top with Parmesan cheese.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thanks again to Home Storage Skills for the idea.  I washed and quartered the pears (and I took the stems off since stems in grape juice does affect the flavor of the juice), and cooked them for 2 hours in my steam juicer.  With grapes 2 hours gets jut about all the juice out, but the pears had hardly cooked down at all.  I could have given them another hour, but I decided to call it good.  I didn't want to cook so much of the juice out that the sauce had no flavor left.  After they cooled a bit in the juicer, I scooped everything into the strainer, and ended up with 4 quarts of juice (plus a little that we drank already- it's delicious) and 6 quarts of sauce- which is still on the runny side.  I really probably should have cooked the pears for another hour in the juicer.  The sauce was still plenty sweet.