Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Goose Outing

I know. The title sounds a little weird and it probably is.

As you all should know, we keep birds and my brothers have a couple of English Springer Spaniels. Jake and Zoe are birding dogs so all of our birds must be chaperoned when out away from the coop. We also have a lot of water on the place, so we thought a short trip to our little pond might be good for the geese since my brother had the dogs inside.

The geese enjoyed their short outing but were ready to go home when I was.

Just for reference I've included a picture of the geese from March 31st of this year. They grow up fast!




Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Chicken Marsala Recipe and Budget Complaints

We've been trying to save money because things are tight right now. Partly because we have the added expense of homeschooling, but I know part of the reason we seem to always be broke is that I haven't been cooking as much as I should. Going out to eat, even at McDonalds, is expensive. For a family of five, we spend at least $30 for every meal we eat away from our table. That adds up pretty quickly.

When I finally get motivated to take action I create a menu for at least two weeks and sometimes as far out as a month in advance. Then we go grocery shopping. Inevitably, we find deals on things, such as a sale on ham or pork roast, or even hot dog buns. Then my menu has to change to make sure we eat the buns before they get moldy. It's not a deal if you don't eat it. It's just money thrown away. What I really need to do is make a menu, go shopping, then adjust the menu to what we bought. That might make a tighter, more easily followed schedule.

Also, I like to try different recipes to keep things from getting boring. I have several recipes that I'd consider regulars - spaghetti is easy, but I reserve that one for when I'm not going to be home to cook. It's easy for the girls to make and I am TIRED of spaghetti. We went through a spaghetti-every-few-days phase a few years back. I make sure to keep that one on the go to list, but don't allow it too often any more. I've gotten the frequency of spaghetti down low enough that I don't completely dread the sound of it and am enjoying it again.

All that being said, I was searching for a chicken recipe. We'd found a deal on boneless, skinless chicken breasts and I'd been aching to use it up. For me, chicken seems to be the easiest thing to try as a new recipe and have at least half of my family enjoy the meal.

In my search I found a recipe for chicken marsala. I once tried my cousin's plate of chicken marsala when we ate at Olive Garden. Sadly, I did not like it. But, the recipe I found called for asparagus. If you've been following me lately, you'll know we have some wild asparagus that grows on our land and we've been harvesting it. I have an abundance of asparagus right now. It's wonderful and if I can include it into a recipe I love it. I consider it as almost free food. Around here I've seen the prices of asparagus as high as $7.99 a pound, so I always feel rich when I eat asparagus. Then, when I think about how we obtained our asparagus (for a small fee of walking around, bending down, and cutting the stalks) I feel like I'm crafty and smart, as if I'm cheating the system somehow. It gives me a giggle. "Take that! I'm eating asparagus for FREE!" Yeah, I know. I'm weird. I'm okay with it.

I had to go do a little extra shopping for marsala wine and mushrooms, but I had everything else the recipe calls for. The wine was right at $14 but I only used 3/4 cup, so I have plenty for later recipes and the mushrooms were less than $2. I figure the recipe cost me about $15 to make, and I think I might have been estimating a little high. I've attached a picture of the finished product on my plate. I hadn't even thought about taking a picture until I tasted it. Then I immediately whipped out my phone. I wanted this documented! It was YUMMY!


The recipe called for chicken - I used the boneless, skinless chicken breasts. However, she states that she also uses chicken thighs. That would cost even less than the breasts. I don't know how much I used. I had taken a package, butterflied the breasts in half to make them thinner. I should have beat them up a little to thin them out a little more, but I didn't. I just coated them in flour with some salt and pepper and then fried them up in a hot skillet with olive oil.

While I cooked the chicken I roasted the asparagus. All I did for that was cut the asparagus into small pieces. Some of our asparagus is HUGE so I cut those down even more. Then I put it all on a tin foil lined cookie sheet with some olive oil and salt and pepper. I put them in the oven at 400° for twenty minutes.

When the chicken was done cooking I took it out of the pan and then added the mushrooms and a little bit of oil. I cooked the mushrooms until they were soft and then I added the garlic. I didn't cook that too long since I tend to burn garlic when I do this. The recipe calls for 2 cloves minced. I just eyeballed some from my HUGE stash of minced garlic I keep on hand at all times.

Then I added the 3/4 cup of marsala wine. It doesn't specify, but I used sweet marsala since that was the only kind my local grocery store had. I guess there is also a dry marsala wine and I might try that someday. I followed the recipe and let it cook on high for a bit to cook off some of the alcohol. Then I added the 3/4 cup of chicken broth. Actually, I added a full can of it. It was probably closer to a cup than to 3/4 cup and might have been more than a full cup.

I let that cook down for about ten minutes. While this was going on the asparagus finished roasting and I put it on the counter to wait. Then I started cooking the pasta.

When the sauce was done (the pasta wasn't done yet) I added the asparagus. I scraped it all into the sauce, trying to be sure to get some of that salt and pepper into the sauce with the asparagus. Then I let it sit until the pasta finished. I never did add the chicken into the sauce - I forgot. I did taste the sauce and added a little more salt and pepper. You may or may not want to do this, but I recommend tasting it first. Of course, I tasted it several times before dinner time.

Then I plated it - pasta, chicken, and then drizzled the sauce with mushrooms and asparagus over the top. The sauce was very thin and I felt like I wanted more, so I will probably double it next time. I might even double the mushrooms, garlic, and asparagus.

Something I just now thought of, the recipe also calls for parmesan cheese and I forgot to use it. Oops. Next time, because there WILL be a next time for this recipe.

I'm including a link to the site that has the recipe because I don't want to claim it as my own. It isn't. I found it on Vodka&Biscuits and I will definitely be frequenting that site.

Here is a link to the CHICKEN MARSALA WITH MUSHROOMS AND ASPARAGUS recipe. She also has prettier pictures of the dish.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Demon Cycle Books

The Core 
by
Peter V. Brett

I first came across The Warded Man several years ago when I was doing research on a producer who asked to shop my books around for a TV or movie deal. Enter in my research - I wanted to know this producer's tastes. One of the books she'd also optioned was The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett. I'd not heard of the book, so I downloaded it and fell in love. I was extremely pleased she'd be interested in my books since she was also interested in a great book like The Warded Man. Of course, nothing came of her efforts with my books. I do like to dream and reminisce once in a while, though.

Brett seems a little slow in putting them out, so I've, honestly, forgotten about the series. If it weren't for my oldest daughter, it may have been a long time before I thought to look for more in the series.

When I first downloaded the books she was too young to read them so I made her hold off until she got older. These books are for a mature audience. I own the first four on audio, so she's been listening to them and informed me I need to get the next book. I was looking for a new book to read, and since she'd reminded me of the series I thought I should pick it up.

In my research, I found that book five doesn't release until October of this year, so I thought I'd share the other four and the pre-order for the next one. I have pre-ordered my copy of The Core and it should be available for me to read/listen to by October 3rd of this year, 2017.

I am including links to buy from Amazon and Audible. You can simply click on the Kindle link if you'd like to buy a Kindle version or the corresponding word for the version you prefer. I do have a link for a four book bundle that will save you some money if you plan to purchase all four for your Kindle at once.

Here is the description for the four book bundle as it is found on Amazon:

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile.

It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault.

Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will do the unthinkable, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past.

Arlen Bales will pay any price, embrace any sacrifice, for freedom, and his grim journey will take him beyond the bounds of human power. Crippled by the demons that killed his parents, Rojer Inn seeks solace in music, only to discover that his instrument can be a weapon as well as a refuge. Wanting to cure the sick and injured, Leesha Paper overcomes great hardship to become a guardian of old world science, learning that what heals can also harm. Together, they will stand against the night.

Book One - The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett - Kindle - Paperback - Audio



Book Two - The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett - Kindle - Paperback - Audio



Book Three - The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett - Kindle - Paperback - Audio


Book Four - The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett - Kindle - Paperback - Audio

If you buy all four books separately for your Kindle the cost is $34.96, but you can buy them all in one for your Kindle for just $24.99 by clicking here:  Four book omnibus - Kindle Edition


Pre-order the fifth book - The Core by Peter V. Brett - Kindle - Hardcover - Audio

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ASPARAGUS and Branding

I know I recently posted about asparagus, but it's THAT time of year. I just love that we've found several patches of wild asparagus on our place. It's so fun to go out and brave the ticks, porcupines, skunk and mud to bring in a bucket full of asparagus.



My middle daughter was in control of the camera this day. This picture is of me and my youngest as we hold hands after a short excursion looking for asparagus.

 

This is our haul from that pick. Hopefully we can get out again before too long because the spears get too tall.

Also, we were invited to join in on some branding. I've lived in this area my entire life and there are plenty of people who live their lives by raising livestock. Good old fashioned cowboys and cowgirls. I have always lived on the fringe between country girl and city girl. So, though I know what it means to raise livestock and live that kind of life, I've never been involved in much regarding large livestock like cows and horses. When I was presented with the opportunity to become part of the cowboy way, if for only a few hours, I jumped at the chance and was not disappointed.

Some of you will already know what it's like to deal with the large livestock, but the thing that struck me first was how loud those cows and calves are. Especially when you separate them. I know what it means to brand an animal - hot iron burns a brand into them. It seems cruel to some, but it's something that has been going on for ages and I do believe, after watching how these people treat their animals, it's done out of necessity. If there was another, better way, I'm sure it would be utilized.

video

My youngest, about a month ago, told me, "Mom, one of my life dreams is to ride a white horse." After all the work was done and we'd been fed - one of the best meals of my life, I might add - she got to ride a white horse. After her ride was over she was extremely excited and told me, "Mom! I fulfilled one of my life's dreams! I got to ride a white horse!" That just happens to be one of MY favorite moments of my life. It made me happy to hear her say that - probably even happier than she was. 

 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

New Animals and Babies Growing Up

Those of you who follow me regularly should already know we keep chickens, ducks, and geese. We've also decided to keep rabbits. We've been talking about it for a couple of years, but just haven't had the money to get started. This year we were offered a female for free and took it as a sign. We went ahead with the rest of the plan.

Also, those of you who follow me regularly might know that we buy chickens every year for the purpose of filling our freezer and that is also the purpose of the rabbits. They are stinking adorable, soft, and sweet. Currently we only have two rabbits, a male and a female. We are also keeping them in the house until we can build an area into the chicken coop that will allow them some protection from the birds. I do not trust those birds. I'm afraid they will peck at the rabbits if they have easy access to them.



The white one is the little girl and the brown/gray one is the little boy. They both have figured out how to open their cages and every once in a while we look down to see a rabbit walking around in our living room.


Not only have we been busy with new rabbits, the kitten we found on our doorstep last August has had kittens of her own. Letting her have kittens was not our intention but she slipped under the radar and went "catting" around a couple months sooner than we'd expected her to. This is a picture of her, Minerva, and her kittens when they are only a few hours old. We ended up with two females and three males. We hope to find homes for the girls (already have two people in line) and may keep and fix the three males.


The baby geese I posted about a while back have grown, and grown, and grown. They are now almost as big as our adult Toulouse goose. You can see them in the first picture, behind the Toulouse, Matilda. Thankfully, they are still docile and don't mind us being around the rest of the flock. Matilda, on the other hand, is a sneaky girl who talks nice and then will reach around to nip at your fingers when you try to feed her grass.  The second picture is one of our new babies who will be kept for eggs. No freezer time for her in the near future. She's a Brahma. The last picture is a closeup of Matilda. Still not sure if she was looking to pose for the camera or looking for the best opportunity to nip at me. Every time I go out and try to make friends I imagine the next day's headlines: Local Resident Dies in Goose Attack.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Busy Times and Special Finds

We've had a busy couple of weeks. Between homeschooling and work and searching for hidden eggs I haven't found much time, actually - any time, to write. It's sad, but we've still been productive around the homestead.

My oldest attended her junior prom with her best friend and their dates. I don't normally post pictures of my kids online but I love this picture so much I couldn't resist. My daughter is in the black dress. They all had a great time.


 My two younger girls and I have been working hard on learning addition (for the seven-year-old), multiplication (for the nine-year-old), reading different stories and books, and all kinds of other fun things. But, since we can disrupt our schedule in the middle of the day we decided to hunt for the "hidden egg" a local radio station hid on Easter. They release a hint every day until the egg is found. The radio station's last clue was a dead giveaway for us and we drove directly to the hiding spot. As we drove into a parking lot my middle daughter said, "Mom, I bet it's in that bush right there." She was pointing to a little evergreen bush with a nice round hole near the bottom of it. As soon as we were parked my youngest was out of the vehicle and on her way to the bush. She stuck her head near the hole and then reached inside and pulled out a baggie with a yellow plastic Easter egg inside. She said, in a matter-of-fact tone, "Huh. Found it." We giggled all the way back to the vehicle and immediately called my brother. He'd been hunting for it, too.

The prize package was substantial. We won two golfing passes at a local golf course, a party for four at a local bowling alley, a nights stay in at a nice resort in the hills, a brand new iPad (Yay!), and a foosball table! Honestly, those prizes are all very wonderful, but the best part of the whole thing was the hunting. The next best part was the finding. The prizes are just an added bonus.


Those are only some of the things we've been up to lately. The wild asparagus is sprouting and growing tall enough to pick so we went on another hunt. Our haul wasn't worth as much as the Easter egg find, but it was just as rewarding. There's not much else that can compare to fresh, wild asparagus. The season has just begun so I'm sure we'll be getting more, but our first harvest was enough for a meal. The plants are well established so a lot of the spears are much larger than those you find in the grocery store. I thought that meant they'd be woody, but I've since found out that it's the height of the spear, not the diameter, that determines the texture. The diameter is just an indication of the plant's age.
 

We've also been doing a lot with our animals since it's spring. I'll be making a separate post about them for next week.  I'll have some pictures of the babies. Who doesn't love baby animal pictures? 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review by Alex Wise - Life of Pi by Yann Martel


Life of Pi
by
Yann Martel


Book Review submitted by Alex Wise

Usually when I read books, I stick to two or three genres. These consist of fantasy, mystery, and sometimes science fiction. So as one can expect, when I picked up this novel, I expected to either stop a few pages in or read it over the course of a couple months and never think about it again. I never expected to read it within a day of picking it up. Nor did I expect to absolutely fall in love with the author's voice and the main character's whimsical view on life.

At the beginning of the book the author somehow managed to take Pi's childhood and, although it wasn't anything too special, make it funny and interesting. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book was the explanation of Pi's name and how he got both his true name and his nickname. It was written in a way that made me pity Pi and laugh at the same time. I also loved all of the other characters. Pie's father with his businessman attitude that led him to think of a radical solution to the dangers of running a zoo with two young children, his mother's reluctant support of his religious views, and his brother's behavior towards him are some of the things that make the book relatable. Due to the fact that they weren't flat characters, when Pi lost his family I could sympathize with him much better than I would have been able to if the author had just revolved completely around Pi and left them undeveloped and undetailed.

When Pi was trapped in the lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena, a rat, and an orangutan I found myself clinging to every word and even when the book was dark and suspenseful, there was always a moment of humorous relief to make the suspense bearable. The book is like a batch of perfectly flavored salsa: Extremely intense with just enough salty-sweetness to give it a delightful tangy taste that tickles the back of your throat as it goes down.

All in all, I loved this book and I wouldn't be opposed to reading it again. I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who loves a humorous story with a plot that is nothing less than epic.

To follow any more reviews from this author please go to her blog: Just Geekin' Around



Click here to buy this book from Amazon


Click here to buy or rent the movie from Amazon


Don't forget - You can sign up for Audible and download two free audiobooks.
 

If you already have an Audible subscription you can click here to buy the book from Audible

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spring 2017

Let me preface this post with the disclosure that I'm scheduling posts ahead of time to be sure I have something coming up for my blog. This is, as the title suggests, a celebration of nicer weather.

I was just outside checking on my plants and can happily report the asparagus is starting to peek through the ground as well as the rhubarb. The trees are starting to bud as well as the lilac bushes.  I only hope the weather doesn't get too nasty again.

We recently got a couple of baby geese, Embden, and were given two Plymouth Rock chicks.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dandelion Jelly


Dandelion Jelly
is...
AWESOME








We made dandelion jelly several years ago. I remembered it didn't set up the way I wanted it and it tasted like honey. I wasn't sure I'd ever make it again because getting rid of the green from the blossoms is a bit time consuming. That was until we walked outside a few days ago and were met with thousands of the sweet little flowers all over the lawn. My middle girl asked if we could make dandelion jelly. I agreed and we picked a bucket full of flowers. Some people worried we were taking all the flowers away from the bees and all the other critters who use them for food. Well, not to worry. We have acres of dandelions, much to my brother's disapproval. And, the area we cleaned out of most of the flowers had even more blooming the next day.

I looked up a recipe online and followed it.  Basically, you pick dandelions, cut the petals from the rest of the plant, make a dandelion tea, then use that tea to make a jelly. I want to give credit to the person whose recipe I used so here is a link to the website if anyone wants to try it:  http://www.simplycanning.com/dandelion-jelly.html


And here is a picture of the finished product. It didn't set up to the thickness I'd hoped for (for a jelly) so I put it in the fridge. After a couple of days it thickened to the consistency of honey, but nothing more. I'm okay with that because of the taste, however, if I make it again, I'll do a little research to try to figure out why it didn't set up all that great and try to get it right.












Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Movie Review - Passengers




Passengers
Starring 
Jennifer Lawrence
Chris Pratt







PG-13
1h 56min

I recently rented Passengers from Amazon. I'd come across the trailer while watching something else online. I really enjoy both Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence so I was interested in watching it.

I don't often go to the theater because of the cost so I waited until this one was available for streaming. I wouldn't have been disappointed to pay theater prices, but I'm equally not disappointed to have waited. I enjoyed the movie and my faith in both Pratt and Lawrence has remained intact. They did a great job with this story.

The story was a good one. It wasn't anything mind blowing but it did give me outside thoughts. How would I handle being stranded in the manner in which they were and so on. There were a couple of things near the beginning that I questioned, such as, why didn't he wake up someone to help him? The absolute inability to fix things seemed glossed over and not very well explained. Still, I ignored those questions and liked the movie despite the questions I had.

If you haven't seen the movie yet and might be interested I'm including a link to Amazon so you can either rent or buy it.

Click here to be taken to the Amazon page - Passengers