Friday, February 27, 2009

Cookbooks Galore!

A few weeks ago, the shelf in the kitchen cabinet that was holding my piles of cookbooks gave way. I am horrible about procrastinating when things need organizing, but there was no ignoring that any more. Addicted to books in general, I especially enjoy cookbooks and needed to destash to make room for new ones. I gathered up quite a few to give away or donate, and made room for the others in a much more accessible hutch. Although there are many that I use, I analyzed which are my very favorite ones that I turn to on a regular basis. These made the cut:

New Cook Book (Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbooks) (a great general cookbook)

Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life, by Jamie Oliver (Maybe you've seen "The Naked Chef" on TV, this book has lots of wonderful artwork, photos, and garden information

The Farmhouse Cookbook, by Susan Hermann Loomis (lots of great farm-fresh recipes, I like the corn pancakes)

500 Low-Carb Recipes, by Dana Carpender (not just for low-carb diets, many easy and awesome recipes)

I do have a few new ones that I'm enjoying, especially Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home (my first of her books), and The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine. Does anyone have Martha Stewart's Cooking School yet, and would you recommend it? What is your favorite cookbook? As I gain cooking experience, its most satisfying of all to throw together ingredients together from time to time, based on what's available. This soup came together based on a recipe I saw in a magazine or heard about on the radio. It turned out great and although it's a pretty high-calorie comfort food, it does have lots of nutrients and all of us loved it!

Root Vegetable Soup

1 medium-large onion, diced

4 stalks of celery, diced

1 butternut squash, skinned and cubed

4 carrots, peeled and diced

1-2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

3 parsnips, peeled and diced (a vegetable I never tasted until a few years ago, these add a lot of interest and flavor)

3 cups of chicken bouillion

2 T butter

1 cup of half and half

1 T garlic, minced

Cook the onion and celery in melted butter in a large pot until transparent. Add the chicken boullion, vegetables, and seasoning and heat to boiling. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Blend until somewhat smooth in a blender or food processor. Put back into pot and stir in half and half, reheat to a low boil. Serve plain or with a dollop of sour cream, chives, and paremesan cheese!
Pin It Now!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle... Wow!

I just finished the first non-fiction book I'd read in a while, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.). I can honestly say that this was a life-changing book for me. Not only did I enjoy it to the point of laughter and even tears at the end, but I found it incredibly interesting, informative, and motivating.

In it, renowned author (and Kentucky native) Barbara Kingsolver documents her family's move from the desert of Arizona to her husband's old family homestead in Virginia where they had spent many summers. Drawing from their heritage, experience, and knowledge of biology, nutrition, and farming, they endeavor to live for one year off of food only of a local origin and what they grow or raise themselves. Although the book is mainly from Barbara's point of view, there are excerpts from her biologist/professor husband and college-age daughter. Some of the funniest and most poignant stories are of the experiences she shares raising the garden and poultry with her youngest daughter, Lily, who starts her own egg business at age 9.

The book is filled with intriguing tidbits about our nation's sick food supply chain, horrible eating habits, need for more diversity in the plants we're raising, and dozens of convincing reasons to eat more local food and raise your own if you can. There are also tons of great recipes, which can be accessed at the book's website. In fact, there are oodles of great resources which I just discovered at the website!

So, this book has me completely energized to have our biggest and best garden ever this year. We have had nice gardens in the past (especially pre-children, when we first moved to the farm and I even sold at the Farmer's Market). But, motivation often seems to dwindle when the weeds hit and the last two summers of drought have presented more challenges than usual. Coming to my aid are the two new women at our farm, Jenny (our energetic alpaca farm manager) and Danna (a smart, young biologist living in our cabin who helps part-time). Ironically, they have both read the book and we've decided that we'll all pitch in and have the garden together.
Determined to raise many heirloom varieties of vegetables, we turned to Local Harvest, a site that offers all kinds of resources for purchasing just about anything that can be raised or made locally. I originally found the site when I was searching out beeswax for sealing the surface of my paintings. The seeds I purchased were primarily from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and Happy Cat Organics- Southern Exposure shipped really quickly, but I'm still awaiting the seeds from Happy Cat Organics. I heard on NPR that seed sales are up by 30% this year, so don't wait if you want a garden. Even container gardening for apartment dwellers can be a major benefit!
I honestly can't recommend this book enough, and besides learning so much from it I truly enjoyed Kingsolver's beautiful writing and plan to read some of her fiction books soon. Times are so uncertain right now, and I am finding myself grasping for some control of our family's destiny in ways that are fulfilling, healthy, and sustainable.
Although I am not ready to become a locavore, we are going to make a concerted effort to do more local eating and buying, just as I am trying to recycle more, use cloth bags for grocery shopping, and other small things that make a difference. We are so very blessed with good health and the soil and resources that are literally right at our feet, and we look forward to hard, honest work and a wonderful harvest this year.

So, have you read the book? Has it motivated you to have a garden or make other changes? What is your favorite thing to raise? (I know, that's like asking who is your favorite child?). I'd love to hear from you!
Pin It Now!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wanted: Sure Signs of Spring

We have been teased with a few nice days here and there lately but this past weekend, winter slammed us again with very strong, cold winds, followed by rain, snow and plummeting temperatures. I hate to complain about the long winter when it is still February (okay, maybe I don't mind complaining!) as I know that lots of places have much worse weather. I am simply craving spring!
There are signs of it around, though, and every little glimpse makes me feel so good! We have daffodils popping up everywhere....
... and a vigorous alpaca cria was born the other day, a true black male that I think I'll name "Raven."

Cheering me most of all are the seed trays with broccoli and tomatoes sprouting in my studio. More about our big garden plans later this week. I hope that wherever you are, you capture at least a glimpse of sunshine today.

Pin It Now!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Comfort and Joy

Our dog, Munchie, has been such a wonderful addition to our home since arriving about a year and a half ago. We acquired him from my friend, Shari, who had rescued him as a stray who appeared to be about a year old and had been wandering around Bourbon Co. for about 3 weeks. She eventually found his owner who asked her to find a home for him since the woman had cancer and couldn't care for him properly. Shari was about to sign him over to Shitzu Rescue when Mirian and I met him, and the rest is history! I have owned many, many dogs over the years but Munchie is probably my favorite. All purebred dogs are bred for a job, and all are happiest when they have the opportunity to do that job or adapt to another similar purpose. I have had to rehome a beloved Border Collie and Australian Shepherd, as they couldn't be content unless they were herding something. Our Maremmas and Great Pyrenees are superb at their jobs of guarding livestock, though they do enjoy the company of people when we are feeding or working with the alpacas. They would be a nightmare in the house with their size, exuberance, and coat which sheds profusely in the summer! Munchie's job and what he was bred for is to be a good companion and lap dog. He quietly follows me from room to room, always ready to snuggle and eager to keep my feet warm on the bed each night. It is hilarious to watch as we move around the house, as he quickly scopes out the MOST comfortable spot in the room, usually perching on a pillow. Even when we are in a strange place, he surveys the area for the prime spot where he is cozy and can see what's going on! He is loyal and is a good sentry, though is an immediate friend to anyone who gives him a pat and speaks kindly. If I had the time, I'd consider training him as a therapy dog.
Munchie isn't the smartest dog I've owned, but has the natural curiosity and great sense of smell that leads him into trouble sometimes, just like any dog. Here, he's meeting my parent's swans- his non-threatening manner only brought out a hiss from the swans, who are typically much more aggressive toward newcomers.
He loves going for walks, and can race really fast and joyfully when he's out for a stroll with me!

I was glad to hear that the Obamas are considering a shelter puppy for the official White House pet. Hopefully, they'll find a companion that will give them as much peace and lower blood pressure as our beloved Munchie!
Pin It Now!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Time for Family and Felt

We had a super nice weekend visiting my parents, and I am always so grateful to have time with them. I think that grandparents can be a wonderful influence, and our kids are very fortunate to have three fantastic grandparents. We had such a fun little Valentine's party with homemade cookies and other goodies. We enjoyed going to a children's museum, and I had the bittersweet feeling that my kids were almost too old for it... it won't be long! (I can always count on Robert to be silly and have fun, though).
Felting hearts last week got me on a roll for making small felt pieces... here are some recent creations, felted flower pins. I'm trying to come up with more projects for my alpaca fiber that are not dependent upon cold weather. I'm having fun with the beading, too. I hope you're finding some time to do the things you enjoy as well!
Pin It Now!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Time for creativity

This has been a good week so far, and I think I know why. First of all, it is feeling like spring will come around sometime soon.... I saw my first foals of the year this past weekend, and heard a tom turkey gobbling yesterday morning. It's a LOT warmer, and even our koi fish are visible in their pond after hiding out for weeks during the bitter cold. I got to have lunch yesterday with Marti and MB, the first time the three of us were together in months, and it felt so good to be laughing with them again.
Our new farm manager is back and getting into her routine, and best of all I've found a little bit of time to be creative! I got on a roll with some needle felting, and here are some of the results. I have lots of alpaca fiber dyed up to use for soaps and other projects, and it's so fun to pull out bits here and there for quick projects like these. Just for a few days, I'm trying to procrastinate without guilt... and not think about the billing, taxes, and other tasks that are always waiting in the wings.
All of the projects shown here can be found at Truly Bluegrass in downtown Versailles. I have taken new Seldom Scene alpaca yarn in, too, and will be adding more in the next week or so. I don't know about you, but having a chance to make things is great for my spirit at this gloomy time of year. What are you working on these days?
Pin It Now!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Antler Memories

Mother Nature has gifted me twice in two days with one of my favorite of her creations... shed deer antlers. We have zillions of white-tailed deer on our farm, and February is the time that the bucks annually shed them. (Here's a doe that I photographed from the car window after one of our recent snows).
Yesterday, I found one while feeding, at the spot where one of our guardian dogs always lies. Today, I just happened to see a very lovely one laying in the grass near our driveway. Paul and I have a nice collection on our mantle, and hope to make something really neat with them someday.
My brother Andy was here two years ago, and we went for a long hike with the hope of finding "sheds." He had given me a gorgeous antler one time many years ago for my birthday- he found it in Colorado while hiking on a high plateau. On this walk, we came upon one of the most spectacular ones I'd ever seen, right in the middle of the trail and in perfect condition. I mentioned that I'd heard that sometimes a buck will lose both antlers at nearly the same time, so we should look for the other. Sure enough, just a stone's throw away was the other half of the pair. Andy kept one and I have the other- we took some silly photos with them!
My final antler memory goes way back to my sophomore year in college. I was extremely infatuated with a guy named Dave and was thrilled when he invited me to go jogging with him. We had what was to me an enchanting run, stopping at a pine forest on the outskirts of campus along the way. Later we crossed a field and came upon an antler. He saw it first and kept it, though I secretly coveted that antler since I was a city girl and had never even touched one. We went on a few magical dates after that, and on Valentine's Day there was a card and small package at my door- it was the antler! Our relationship never really went much past my own crush, but I do still have that antler.
I adore antler buttons, and am knitting a sweater vest right now for which I plan to use some that I brought back from Alaska. There is no doubt in my mind that Mother Nature always shares with us the best gifts, with examples such as today's beautiful weather and the lovely antlers!
Pin It Now!

Monday, February 2, 2009


With humble gratitude to electrical workers/linesmen, Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, and others who have contributed to making our lives ever so much more comfortable, I say THANK YOU!!!! Our power finally came back on this afternoon. I think that for me the biggest issue was simply having any semblance of routine completely disrupted. Even the smallest things were so much more challenging. What did I miss the most? I think it was simply cooking and baking in our kitchen, with regular lights and a sink with hot water readily available. Ahhh, the things we take for granted.

For those who are cold or stressed from being "cut off", you are in our prayers. We know that despite our turmoil, we had it much better than so many people.

Here are a few more images to remember... above is Robert in the hot tub after sliding around on the ice, right before the power went out. Below is an old tobacco barn that is literally beside our road (snow and ice-covered here). Besides the novelty of this barn being just a foot from the pavement, it holds a unique memory for us. Last year, a local young man strung it with white lights on Christmas Eve with the words, "Will you Marry Me?" (We assume she said yes!). You can barely make out Marry Me with the ice on the lights.Our driveway went from icy to snowy to icy again before Paul plowed it. Mirian kept saying it looked like Narnia here.The shear magnitude of the ice was amazing as it formed on fences and trees.
Munchie wasn't very thrilled with the weather, he is all about comfort... (and I guess I'm a bit like that, too.) Pin It Now!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

No Power, Day 5

The Ice Storm of 2009 is becoming an experience to remember! On the one hand, it IS time for the kids to go back to school (hopefully tomorrow). I will say, though, that they are adapting pretty well. No TV or video games and little to no internet has been great for them. I must admit that I have enjoyed catching up with my blogs this morning, as it is such an enjoyable part of my day. One of the blogs I enjoy, SouleMama, is written by a very interesting and creative Maine mom (and sometimes Papa, too), and it is interesting how they so cheerfully embrace winter in New England- this post is a good example of their beautiful photography and writing as well as resilience to winter.

On the positive side, I feel very, very fortunate that we have a working generator (and that Paul hasn't sold it out from under us!). Paul's business sells generators and chainsaws (in addition to being a John Deere and Kubota dealer), so this has been an incredibly busy time for them!!!! They have literally sold hundreds? of generators over the past few days due to the widespread power outages (fortunately his business does have power), and this is the first time ever that they are opening on a Sunday. Our generator doesn't power our furnace, but can do several things at once so we can at least have some hot running water and other luxuries, just not as conveniently as usual.

Like so many tribulations, this one is making us all appreciate things SOOO much more!
Yesterday, Robert was at a friend's and Mirian and I went for a drive to take pictures and get a hot lunch at Wallace Station on beautiful Old Frankfort Pike. Some of the largest and most beautiful horse farms in the world are just a few miles from our home, and the icy landscape was even more stunning than usual. I hope you enjoy some of the scenes we took in along the way: Pin It Now!