More Snow…and a bit of Crochet

Posted by mrssmythe on March 10, 2019 in Crafting, Critters, Seasons, Week in Review |

I don’t mean to harp on snow, but that seems to have been the theme of our week here.

This photo was taken on Monday:

And this photo was taken this morning, as we drove to church.

Fresh snow plus Daylight Savings Time made for a very sparse crowd in the pews.

But, back to the beginning of the week.

The snow was heavy enough on Monday for CPT A’s office to close. He took care of our driveway and then headed to the backyard with his plow to clear some ground for the chickens.

He blew the snow at a single area, and now Ginger has a nice sledding hill in the backyard – very clever, I thought

Ursa is thrilled that the snow is lasting so long.

And, I must confess, weve had some pretty moments…

But, Spring will be very welcome when it finally arrives.

In the meantime, I have tulips.

Aren’t these lovely?

Another bright spot – I’ve been crocheting again. I’m at work on another afghan. This one is a gift, or I’d show you a photo, but it will have to stay under wraps until it goes off to the recipient. In the meantime, I’ll show you a photo of someone else’s afghan – a blanket someone in my mother’s crochet group put together for Project Linus.

love the colors this woman chose! I think they are so pretty and so cheerful. Whoever gets this blanket will get a treasure.

And, finally, I’ll leave you with a photo of Mr. Wa and Opal. The girls were watching Thor in the living room last night and brought Opal down for some hang-out time. Mr. Wa arrived and didn’t want to be left out.

Opal loves Mr. Wa and was thrilled he spent so much time snuggled up with her. Mr. Wa is definitely getting more social as he ages. (He’s now 13).

From the upstairs bedroom, wondering if people get more social as they age…or, if it’s just the opposite. What do you think?

Mrs. Smythe

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Waiting for Spring

Posted by mrssmythe on March 3, 2019 in Baking, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, libraries, Seasons, Week in Review |

A pretty slow week here. All of our attention seems to be on either waiting for the snow to leave or dealing with the new drifts that arrive. Most everyone is thoroughly tired of snow and chomping at the bit for Spring.

Here, Ginger shows that coop-cleaning must go on, regardless of the weather.

On cold days, the half melted snow freezes solid and the yard becomes an ice rink. On warmer days, like today, it starts to melt and the yard becomes a bog. This is always the most challenging season for keeping the floors clean.

Someone who will be sad to see the snow go – Ursa.

If I manage to get the dogs out for a walk (which isn’t as frequently as I’d like), she cavorts in the drifts along the road, flopping over and making snow angels or slowing down to sniff what lies beneath. What does she smell? Rodents? I wonder.

Since opportunities for outdoor play are low this time of year, we focus on what we can do indoors. Craft classes are offered frequently at the local library, and Ginger and Pepper stopped in this past week to make DIY “bath bombs”. Here’s one Ginger put together:

She used it in her bath last night, and all of the little shrunken sponge animals she hid inside popped to life in the warm water.

It made for a very entertaining bath.

And, finally, I chased away some cold weather blahs with a round of bread making this afternoon. Here you see the results of the “Light Rye Bread” recipe I found in my KitchenAid recipe book (the book that comes with the machine).

I love rye bread, but haven’t had a lot of success making it. This was my best batch yet. If you’re interested in trying the recipe (a simple one), you can find it HERE. Happy baking!

From the dining room table, anticipating another round of snow tomorrow,

Mrs. Smythe

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Latest Knitting, a Recipe for Cheese Pie, and some Tidying

Posted by mrssmythe on February 24, 2019 in Cooking, Crafting, Housekeeping, Old Books, Toys, Week in Review |

This week, we’ll start with the cooking. Have you ever had the toasted ravioli at Olive Garden? We’re huge fans and were hoping to recreate the dish at home. Pepper found a wonderful copycat recipe. You can access it HERE.

It’s not very difficult, but I find (after making these twice) that the whole process goes smoother if there are two people working – one to bread the ravioli and the other to man the deep fryer. Today, CPT A was on deep fryer duty.

We like these as much as the ones we’ve had at Olive Garden and recommend them highly!

Another cooking adventure – “Lemon Cheese Pie” from a recipe in my 1960’s Toll House Cook Book.

This was pretty tasty, too, but I’ll probably tweak the recipe some if I make it again. It’s like a light, fluffy cheesecake that you make with cottage cheese instead of cream cheese. If I make it again, I’ll substitute ricotta for the cottage cheese to get a creamier texture, and I might try a different graham cracker crust. Otherwise, it’s a winner and was very popular with the family.

Lemon Cheese Pie (Cheesecake)

Prepare 1 Graham Cracker Crust. 
Mix 1/2 pound cottage cheese and 3 tablespoons sugar. 
Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time, and beat thoroughly. 
Stir in 3 Tbs. flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3 TBs. lemon juice, 2 tsp. grated lemon rind. Mix well.
Add 1 cup light cream or rich milk.
Beat 3 egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar.

Fold egg whites into cheese mixture. Turn into lined pie plate. Sprinkle with additional graham cracker crumbs, and bake in 325 degree oven for 55 minutes. Serves 6.

* From Ruth Wakefield's Toll House Cook Book


On the knitting front, I completed a couple of smaller projects this week. The first was a pair of bird mittens I found in Knitting in the Nordic Tradition.

I’m really pleased with how they turned out – especially considering they were the most challenging thing I’ve done to date. I wouldn’t hesitate to make another pair of Nordic-style mittens like these, though. They were a lot of fun.

Much easier was this Head Sock hat that Ginger is modeling. She saw I’d finished it and threw it on one morning while making her toast.

My favorite part was the decreasing process. It was fascinating to see the ribs magically disappear into the “spokes” of crown.

A very pleasant knit, and a good gift option, as the hat can be made in two sizes and is stretchy enough to fit just about any head.

And, finally, the girls put in some time this week going through their belongings a la Marie Kondo’s decluttering method. Have you heard of her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or seen her Netflix series? Very inspiring stuff!

Here, you see Ginger sorting through a pile of her toys.

And, here is one of Ginger’s dresser after she did a clothing purge. So tidy!

Will it stay that way? I’m not sure. Ginger’s pretty organized by nature and loves to see things in order, so she may be able to keep it up. But, I took a picture just in case.

From the dining room table, thinking my own dresser drawers could use some attention – time to get tidying!

Mrs. Smythe

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A Barred Owl, the Wild Turkeys Drop in…and Some Baking

Posted by mrssmythe on February 18, 2019 in Baking, Books, Chickens, CPT's Lens, Critters, Kitchen, Old Books, Seasons, Week in Review |

We had another visit from the wild turkeys this week.

If you look along the top of our back fence, you can see our turkey (the white one) sidling up to a wild turkey (the darker one to the right). At first we thought she was just being friendly.

But, once the wild turkey dropped into our back yard, our turkey followed it closely (with the ever-present guinea hen in tow), then finally chased it off.

So much for being neighborly.

Later in the day, the wild turkeys returned (though, this time they stayed outside of the fence) with several babies among them.

In other poultry news, two of our chickens continue to lay eggs despite the short days. This is the first year we’ve gotten eggs this deep into winter. Below, you can see a side by side comparison of the yolks of a grocery store egg and one of our chickens’. (Our bird’s egg is on the right).

I don’t taste a difference, myself, but then I don’t have a particularly sensitive palate. I have noticed a difference in yolk color, though, and any time we use our eggs for cooking or baking, the end result is noticeably golden.

Lots of baking going on in the kitchen this week. I made some oatmeal bread – pretty good, but not my favorite, (though it sure looks nice!). I like breads that are a little more rustic…less sandwich-bread-like, if that makes sense. These turned out well, though.

For Valentine’s Day, I baked mini cheesecakes, using a recipe I found in Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook. Have you heard of Junior’s? It’s a restaurant in New York City renowned for its New York style cheesecake. I found their recipe book on the sale shelf at the library and thought I’d give one of their recipes a try for Valentine’s Day.

These are the “original little fella cheesecakes”, and they were very good. However, my cheesecakes fell well below the Junior’s ideal. There’s a chart in the book to help you solve all sorts of cheesecake “problems” and mine had several. They were over-browned, cracked, and they sunk. I think my oven temperature was mainly to blame. But, I used melted chocolate to cover the cosmetic deficiencies, and, as they tasted just fine, didn’t worry too much about it. (I also found comfort in my Fanny Farmer Baking Book which stated in relation to cheesecake, “Don’t worry if the cake cracks in baking.” Thank you, Ms. Farmer. I shall do my best.)

Something else I tried for the first time this week – homemade granola.

CPT A was running low on the sort he usually eats, so I put this together using a recipe I found in The Tightwad Gazette. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. I guess I thought granola required something special – something outside the realm of the ordinary kitchen. But this was surprisingly good – so good, in fact, that I had to stop myself from nibbling on it as it cooled. It tastes a lot like the crumb topping you put over apple crisp. You can customize the recipe, adding nuts, dried fruit, coconut…whatever. I’ll definitely be making it again, and I have to admit I feel strangely empowered knowing I can make my own breakfast cereal (other than plain oatmeal, of course). If you’re interested in trying the recipe, you can find it HERE.

Finally, here’s a photo that CPT A snapped just the other morning. I was making coffee and saw what I thought was a hawk in one of the back pine trees. I asked CPT A to investigate and to put the chickens in the barn if necessary. Imagine my surprise when he returned, very excited, saying it was an owl!

A little research revealed that it was a barred owl. Isn’t it beautiful? It was about 18 inches tall. (I include that last bit because everyone I texted this photo to wanted to know how big the owl was).

From the dining room table, with CPT A brewing beer in the kitchen and snow falling outside (the day is off to a lovely start),

Mrs. Smythe

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What Every Home Needs

Posted by mrssmythe on February 10, 2019 in Critters, Family, Homeschool |

A kind neighbor passes along issues of The English Home to me when she’s finished with them. Are you familiar with the magazine? It’s wonderful. I always enjoy seeing the interiors of so many beautiful and, frequently, historic houses.

One thing I’ve noted is that many of these homes have at least one dog in residence. And, when asked the question “what should no English home be without?,” many of the home owners respond with the words “a dog.”

I suppose we’d agree. Our three dogs certainly help keep our home cozy and lively. No one is given a chance to feel lonely because there’s always a furry someone tagging along, looking for attention. You can’t even sit on the couches in solitude.

Even when you want to.

And, something as simple as doing one’s poetry assignment can get tricky if there’s a dog around who wants to share a bone.

(Ginger isn’t in pain, as the photo would suggest. If I remember correctly, she was trying to mimic the deep, growly noises Ursa makes when she wants to share something.)

And then there is the enjoyment that comes from the sheer silliness of dogs. Here’s Kipper, sitting on the one remaining snowbank in the back yard. He often seeks out the highest point in the yard from which to survey the woods. And, he remains there long after the other dogs have come in.

I’d love to know what he’s thinking. He looks so funny.

But, lest I suggest we derive all of our entertainment and comfort from the dogs – I must admit the cats offer their share as well. Mr. Wa frequently shows up during math lessons.

He has no respect for textbooks.

And Shadow appears every day when I hang the laundry. She’s taken over the basket where I store my clothespins.

She used to sleep on top of the pins, themselves. But when I noticed this had become her favorite sleeping spot, I transferred the pins to a shoe box and turned the basket over to her. I do this sort of thing more often than I’d care to admit.

In fact, I have to be careful not to let the animals take advantage of my soft heart. Kipper has been trying for months to get us to let him eat at the table with the rest of the family.

So far, I’ve held firm. No dogs as dinner guests. We have to draw the line somewhere.

It’s a feeble attempt at maintaining control, but it’s something.

From the upstairs bedroom, certain your pets must know their place much better than ours do,

Mrs. Smythe


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