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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Costumes, Skylights and Monster Fingers

Have I mentioned lately that I really need to learn how to use my sewing machine? Well it’s true. I bought is a couple of years ago and was pretty bent on making throw pillows, blankets and all types of fun stuff. I made a couple of pillows and one blanket and then the bobbin was out of thread and it has never been used again. This sewing machine stares at me every time I go into the garage. There it is on the shelf, daring me to thread a bobbin.  It is getting ridiculous, I know, and it is time to make my son’s Halloween costume and sewing would be so helpful. He has decided to be a Cereal Killer…pun intended.

Someone liked the big pumpkins
The No-Sew costume started with a hunt to find a 10 year old boy size box.  Once that was found, clever me bought some red spray paint and decided the Cereal he was going to kill would be Lucky Charms. I sprayed the box and the writing on it was still showing through. Tonight, I was in a bit of a panic on finding a “just right” size box again so I used paper grocery bags and got out my trusty hot glue gun. After cutting up the bag into strips, I hot glued them onto the box. Brilliant, I say. I then cut out the holes for his head and arms to fit through and sprayed that bad boy red. It is currently drying in my garage but I think the painting of the box was finally a success.  Once it is dry, I will add all the fun parts of making the box look like Lucky Charms and the final touch… dun dun dun dun (read as a spooky voice) a costume fake knife through the front. Hence Cereal Killer. He thought of it on his own, I wish I could take credit for the cleverness but that was all my boy. 

Last night, we went to a friend of mine’s house. She and her husband were hosting a pumpkin carving hayride extravaganza on their farm. I follow a group of women on Twitter who take turns hosting something known as Sunday Supper. It is a movement to get families back to the table for dinners. I love this and I’m pretty sure I have mentioned it before. Well this Sunday’s theme was Halloween goodies. So, already inspired and with a place to go, I made some really simple but tasty Monster Fingers.  You take Pretzel rods (not unprocessed I know, cheater on this one) and dip them into melted chocolate. When melting chocolate I use the double boiler method and heat it over boiling water. To the melting chocolate I added a tablespoon of coconut oil. This helps it to harden back and to give the chocolate a bit of a shine. When the chocolate is melted, I dipped the pretzels into it and then laid them on parchment paper. To them I added sliced almonds as finger nails. As the chocolate was setting up, I used a toothpick to add 2 lines where the knuckle should be. Gruesome, kinda, but the kids enjoyed them. 

Then not to miss out on all the Halloween fun, my oldest son went to his very first Haunted House with some friends from school. They had so much fun, I had fun waiting in the parking lot with the other moms. You could hear people screaming from inside the building and I just knew that my boy would would scream right along with the girls that were in the group. The big tough football players. It still makes me smile when I think about it. After they came out, the kids were all talking non stop to tell us how fun it is. I love being apart of that stuff.  Their excitement was contagious. These memories they are making are great, the friendships, all of it. I love that they still don't mind parents being there waiting in the parking lot. As a mom, I am not ready to let go just yet. Where does the time really go? It seems like he is too young to be going off with girls or going to things on his own...but then he is 13 and that is about the age they start making strides to become who they are meant to be. I can still hold on for a little while, and I don't mind being the parent to drive them about if that means I get to stay and kind of watch out for them too. That's my secret anyway.

skylights on the slope?
It was a good weekend full of productive laundry washing, Haunted House, hayrides and costume making. I let my dearest Husband know all my grand plans for the chicken coop. He is always so enthused with my grand ideas. I try to remind him how boring life would be without them but sometimes I think that goes in one ear and out the other. My great idea for this week,  I believe the coop needs skylights. When we moved the coop I thought it was in a perfect location, but now I realize that their windows are not in the best spot for optimal sun catching. I then began to worry that they wouldn’t get enough sun to heat the coop in the day for the chickens this winter. After all this fretting, I had an Ah Ha moment. We need to add skylights.  I am thinking taking a circular saw to the roof and giving them 1 or 2 skylights by cutting the holes and then covering them with plexiglass. Caulk it nice and tight so there are no leaks of course. Chicken keeping friends out there, what do you think? Have you ever put skylights on a chicken coop? Do you think this will help to warm the coop by letting the sun in or do you think it would not work out at all? I would love to hear from you out there in the blog-o-sphere.

: )
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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Breakfast...UnProcessed October Update

It’s a brisk but beautiful day in Michigan this October morning. The chickens are enjoying the sun and I started my morning off with a good cup of coffee. Then inspiration hit me, what was I going to make for breakfast. This Unprocessed October has been a challenge to me in that I have to plan more of what we eat so I do not fall into a trap of just getting something from a box in the freezer. So instead, this morning, I surveyed my kitchen and decided to use a loaf of starting to stale bread, fresh eggs and my homemade vanilla extract and  make up a pan of baked French Toast. 

fresh bread chunked
I have seen this done on tv and on Pinterest. Most recipes I found called for soaking the bread overnight in the egg mix. Well, that was not going to work for me this morning so I set about with an experiment.  I tore the bread up and placed it into a 9x13 glass baking pan that I had lightly grease with butter. Yes, the real butter…we are not using chemically formed butter flavor spreads at this house anymore, thank you Unprocessed October!  After I set aside the bread in the pan, I started to whip up my egg mix. Into a bowl, I cracked  3 eggs and 3 egg yolks. I mixed in a cup of milk, a pinch of salt and  2 tablespoons of my vanilla extract that I made with Brandy. Once this was whisked together I poured it over the bread and let it soak in for 30 minutes. It was the best I could do with hungry boys and man starting to wake up. I preheated the oven to 350 degrees. I then melted 2 teaspoons of butter and drizzled it over the bread that had soaked up all the egg mix. Just before popping the pan into the over I topped it with a couple of heaping table spoons of cinnamon and sugar. It smelled heavenly while it baked for 35 minutes.  Once the top had formed a nice crunchy top, I served it up with maple syrup. It was fabulous. The next time I make this, I will make 2 pans…note to self.

served with maple syrup

As for Unprocessed October, I have to say we have gone out to dinner twice this month and breakfast once and while out, I threw caution to the wind and just ordered my meals without considering the processed foods they may contain but over all we have been really sticking to this. One of the convenience foods my family would not give up was cereal. Darn you big grain cereal manufactures like Kellogg who are financially backing the opposition of labeling GMO on food labels that will be on November’s ballot in California. It is something that I am passionate about but my children love their cereal and not just for breakfast, they eat it as snacks too.  The boys and man also did not give up chips but hey, it was my decision to join this challenge so they are good sports for the most part. 

Speaking of Unprocessed and homemade, the vanilla extract made with Brandy was fabulous! I’m excited for how the bourbon vanilla extract is coming along. It is  almost 2 months from conception, and now beginning to have a more powerful smell of vanilla over the bourbon. The smokiness of the bourbon is still pronounced…thank goodness. 

Our plans this afternoon include a trip to the pumpkin patch. The sun is shining and this promises to be a good day of simple family togetherness and fun. Call me cheesy I don’t mind but I do hope everyone enjoys their Sunday. Take time to breath in the fresh air, it does wonders for the soul.

: )
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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Life in the Village

Mine would be the painted faced kid

 Life in my corner of the Village has been busy this week. It was Homecoming for our school district. My boys both play football so they were involved in the parade that went through town. Of course, after the parade, even in the freezing cold, we had to attend the football game.  Our team won, but they played my old alma matter so it was a weirdly bitter sweet moment, to be on the opposite side of the town that I grew up in. It was nice though to see my boys so involved in the town that they are growing up in. This is their home town. This is where they will make lifelong friendships and memories. It will be the place they one day bring home wives and maybe even want to settle down to raise families…Close to mom…a girl can home right?

My youngest played a hard won football game on Saturday. It poured rain for the entire game. Those boys were soaked to the bone and cold but they played with heart and determination. In the end, they won against a team that has been undefeated for the whole season. It was a nail biter too, the score was 0-0 until the last 2 minutes of the game when our boys scored a touchdown and the 2 extra points. Whew. 

Something about rainy days makes me want to craft things. My Pinterest boards are over flowing with things that I have plans to make and try. This weekend I made the boys each a bulletin board for pictures. I added hooks to the bottom so that they can hang up their baseball award medals. The oldest boy’s was made with red foam board inside of a wooden frame that I picked up at Hobby Lobby. My youngest boy’s was a cork board that I found at Michaels. I embellished them with scrap book stickers. They both liked the way they turned out. I think they mostly like having pictures up in their rooms of their friends and them. They are reaching that age when their rooms are their own little piece of the world. Where they display what is important to them, much like I do throughout my house. 

I have pretty recently joined the Twitter craze. I am so late to the party, but people have been awesome to me anyways. There is this concept that goes on with Foodies on Twitter, it’s called Sunday Supper. I was excited to join up and tweet about what my family was doing for Sunday Supper. It reminds me of when I was younger and all my aunts, uncles and cousins met up at my grandparents’ house to have Sunday Supper together.  My Sunday Suppers are much smaller now, they consist of my boys, husband and me for the most part but the memories and just being together will hopefully be just as great. 

In keeping with my Unprocessed October pledge, today,  for Sunday Supper, I roasted a small turkey. I slathered up the outside in olive oil and sprinkled the traditional herbs of rosemary, sage and thyme on the bird. I also added a nice helping of minced garlic. Who doesn’t love garlic? I layered the bottom of the roast pan with large chunks of onions and celery and topped them with a bit of chicken stock. To go with our turkey, I mashed potatoes and made carrots with a light drizzle of honey to glaze them. Gravy was made from the drippings in the roasting pan. This all was topped off with my favorite part of the meal…Cranberry sauce. I love cranberry sauce. I do not know why I only make it during the fall and early winter months. It is one of my absolute favorite condiments. I take whole cranberries, pour a cup of sugar over the top and heat them together. The berries open and the juice combine with the sugar to make a delicious goo. I use a cinnamon stick to stir the cranberries. It adds just enough cinnamon to compliment the berries tartness but not enough to take over the flavor profile.  

All cuddled in together
After dinner, I drove over of my favorite farm. My chickens, not too long ago suffered from an over eager dog attack and we lost 3 birds. I would like to point out it was not my dogs that attacked my birds, but a neighbors from around the block who had gotten a new puppy Black Lab and were not aware he could scale fences. They were properly upset by it all but I was so sad to lose some of my ladies. Tina Turner was one of my favorite hens and she is missed. However, my dear friends at Iron Oak Farm in Fenton, Michigan were generous enough to let me shop at their farm for some of their farm bred chickens. I picked out 2 Blue Wyandottes. I stayed to drive the tractor and pet baby goats. Is there really anything more fun? I would be hard pressed to think of something at the moment. 

I even took time to drive around on our back country roads and peep out the Fall colors. Michigan has some beautiful foliage this time of year. I love finding the bright trees and weather barns. People must think I am crazy when I stop to snap pictures. The plus side is that at least the roads are deserted when I do it. 

All in a weekends work for a country girl who lives in a village.
: )

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Unprocessed October Update

Things have been going really well. It has been busy still but I am making time to cook at home. Today for breakfast I had a Fage Greek Yogurt, the one with Cherry and a handful of almonds. For lunch, I had cucumber slices and celery sticks, a banana and a turkey sandwich on rye bread from our local bakery. Dinner was grilled pork chops, cornbread stuffing…I even baked the cornbread… and corn on the cob from a local market. It was the last of my corn that hasn’t been frozen and preserved for  the winter. 

I have to admit, I like making my own lunch to take to work and coming home to relax and prepare dinner. It has been a nice almost calming experience. I have put in the effort to plan a bit more. This has freed up some time because I know exactly what I am going to be making. No more mad dashes to pick up a quick pizza because I forgot to set something out. Not to say that won’t happen this month, I can’t guarantee it as a working busy sports mom. These things happen, but I am being conscience and intentional about avoiding those traps.  Also, the chickens have been reaping the benefits of my unprocessed diet. I roasted a hubbard squash on Sunday and they loved the stringy guts that I scooped out and tossed into their run. They also like to pick at all my salads and bread heels. Lucky Ladies. 

There is just something about October. We have had our first real frosts that have put an end to any late tomatoes I had lingering in the garden. My canning has come to a halt. No more veggies to blanch and then freeze. Foods have been stored. The days are getting shorter. It’s the time to put away the lazy days of summer and meld into a back to school, back to the daily routine kind of time.  There is something about the weather change that brings me back indoors back to the kitchen and back to making sure as a family we have some good quality time together. Summer is always so busy, so much to do and the kids want to be outside and out with friends as much as possible. October brings about a change in that. They kids are still always busy, but with the days being shorter, they are forced indoors earlier than before. As a family we have the time to take a breath, have a family dinner, and maybe even enjoy a movie together. 

October also brings out the inner crafter in me. I can’t explain it but as soon as those beautiful fall colors hit and the weather gets brisk, I just have to create things. I bust out the knitting needles and yarn, or I paint and make wreaths and Christmas ornaments. I can’t be the only one out there who does this, the only one who enjoys being crafty in the Fall. My pinterest boards are already growing with things to make.  By February, I am back into the gardening mind set. I want to peruse seed catalogs and map out garden beds in my head. I make big plans for the yard and garden in the blah days of February in Michigan. My pinterest boards will grow with those plans too. 

This weekend coming up, I am heading to a friend’s house to bake bread. I love the physical aspect of kneading the dough. It is rustic and crafty and reminds me of simpler times. It is especially nice to bake bread with a friend. It gives you someone to chat with while waiting for the dough to rise. I will be taking lots of pictures and posting the recipes we try.  I am planning on using my Michigan honey I got from our local cider mill to help get the yeast blooming. I love what that hint of honey does to breads. Who needs added sugar or corn syrup? Not this girl.

Vanilla extract update… The brandy vanilla mixture still smells the best. It is really taking on a nice color and the sweet aroma of vanilla. The bourbon vanilla, while I like bourbon, still has a stronger liquor smell over the smell of the vanilla. I am still unsure of how rounded a flavor profile it will have. I really should begin taste testing… Note to self lol  

: )
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 1 Unprocessed

Can be bought on
Today has been a good day at my house for the Unprocessed October. I hit the grocery store where I stocked up on things like rice and bakery fresh bread. I also found some pasta that I am excited about. Its called Dal Raccolto...Product of Italy. The ingredients ar : Durum Wheat Semolina, Water.... That is it and at $3.59 for one pound of Strozzapreti noodles, I love it. Do I feel guilty that it comes from Italy and not I don't. I know the work that goes into making my own pasta from scratch. I have even blogged a recipe. The time and energy I saved by buying this one product from far away works out in my book.

I also bough bananas. I love them too. My newest obsession with bananas is to slice them and then sprinle them with cinnamon and sugar. It is so good. Like, where you been all my life good. Mmm mm Good and they can be made even better if you top them with a bit of whipped cream. I die it is so good.
Bananas O'Goodness

Day 1 of Unprocessed October this was my meal list...

Pre Breakfast ... 1 cup...well its a big cup so maybe 2 technically, Coffee...with real cream and a tsp of sugar

Breakfast was Scrambled Eggs, a pear and milk

Lunch was a turkey sandwich with swiss cheese on bakery wheat bread, Greek yogurt and an apple

Dinner was grilled chicken, quinoa with Feta cheese and tomatoes then I squeezed a half of lemon on it, and a grilled red pepper.

Snacks were a  carrot sticks and peanut butter, peanut butter and 5 crackers and also my favorite a banana sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Overall, not a bad day at all. I am satisfied and it felt good to make healthy meals for my family. Not one of anything I ate today had chemicals or was it loaded with preservatives. Feels good.

: )
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Unprocessed October Challenge

While on Twitter, I read a tweet about a challenge a blogger had thrown out for the month of October. blogger Andrew Wilder, at Eating Rules, , proposes that people sign up and take the jump into eating only unprocessed foods for an entire month. This idea completely intrigues me. I try to eat mostly unprocessed foods as it is, but maybe there is more I can do.

October is a busy month for me. Both of my boys are playing football and pretty much everyday of the week there is a practice or game going on. Sundays, we have baseball practice too and some how in the midst of all this I work and take care of things at home. Laundry just does not seem to do itself...yet. Behind all  this bustling activity is excuses. Excuses on why it is just easier to pick up already made pasta sauces when I know full well how to make my own. Excuses for buying so many things premade and prepackaged. Granted, I do can and freeze a lot of our food so things could be worse at our home but I definitely buy lemonade instead of squeezing lemons.  

This challenge it going to make me face my excuses. It begs for me to take time out of my busy schedule to actually prepare food. It is up to me to enjoy it. I love to cook. I love to chop veggies and herbs. I love the smell of bread baking. These are all things that I really enjoy but lately have not carved out time to do. Well Unprocessed October, I am embracing you. I have my handy rules from and I am ready to use them. Menus will be planned. Food will be prepared and eaten. Lunches will still get made. Along the way, I am bring you, my blog and friends, along for the journey. I will post recipes, even the ones that do not work. I am extending the challenge, join me in this Unprocessed October, even if it is just for a weekend. Be intentional and deliberate in your food choices for the month, a week or a weekend and let me know how you did or are doing.Only eat foods with ingredients that you recognize. No preservatives and extra unpronouncable words in the ingredient lists. This is so do-able.

Chickens are going to provide tomorrows breakfast...thank goodness for fresh eggs. Lunch is going to be a sandwich and side salad. Dinner... well that one I am not so sure of just yet. I have to stop at the grocery store tomorrow after work, but before football lol, and I will pick up something to grill. The weather is supposed to be nice and I am looking forward to firing up the grill.

So, join me friends, head over to , and sign up. Its going to be fun.

: )
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Monday, October 1, 2012

Moving and Redoing Our Chicken Coop

This little cutie laughed at me
We got back yard chickens a couple of years ago. It started with the cute chicks at the Feed Store in town and of course having lusted after my friend’s chickens, I knew just what breeds I wanted. . . 1 of everything. We got an Australorp, Orphington, Polish and an Americana aka Easter Egger. I love every one of the breeds, but I do have to admit, while they are not prolific layers, I have a soft spot for the Polish chickens. I just love the plume of feathers that cap their heads. They have a sweet but a bit aloof personality. They are just fun to watch in the yard. Corralling chickens up into crates to move them though is not so fun. I have officially been called Aunt Shannon who Chases Chickens by my 2 year old nephew. He was amused by the chasing, but me…not so much.    

This past weekend we began the process of moving, tightening up the coop and changing up the fencing for the run. We had used an enclosed run that was just too small. It was 8 feet long and 4 feet wide with a height of 4 feet. Not overly huge, but we do let them free range in the yard for most of the day. This time around we decided that instead of using a completely enclosed run, we are going to put up fencing and then add deer netting if we need to over the top. This way, I can walk in there and properly maintain the run. The other system left me practicing acrobatic moves if a stray egg was laid in a random corner far from the door.

The coop itself, is made 5ft 6inches high on its stilted legs but the living space is 5 feet high and 5 feet wide with egg boxes on the outside for easy collecting…well in theory because the hens actually prefer laying in a corner of the coop where they make a nest in the pine shavings. However, they do have 3 egg boxes if they ever wanted to lay in them. There are windows in the coop that are plexiglass. We also have chicken wire “screens” so that we can open them up on nice days. There is a small access point that is drilled into the side of the coop that we run an extension cord to so that we can use heated water dishes during our Michigan winters. I do not provide an additional light source. I tend to like letting nature take its course and so the down time in egg production does not bother me. That is a completely personal choice though, you should do as you see fit and what works best for your flock and family.
Adding new poles
Driving it home

We moved the coop closer to the house where we have an enclosed portion of our yard already fenced off. The coop is heavey so we had to hoist it up on to the bed of a truck to move it to where it was going. A peice of fencing was removed and we were able to drive it right to its new home. Then replace the fence after. For the new run, we added poles and chicken fencing from Tractor Supply around the coop to give the chickens their own area. I am hoping this proves to be more secure of a location with it being closer to the house as well as the perimeter is  patrolled regularly by our dogs. We have a Border Collie mix and a Rottweiler. Neither actually cares about the birds at all and we have not had any incidents that would lead me to be wary of their being near each other.  That being said, dogs and chickens do not always mix so it is best to know and understand your animals before integrating them.

Back home on her roost
To get ready for winter we will insulate the coop on the outside with bales of hay. While I mostly use pine for the chickens litter, I do like to add in some of the hay in the winter to give them something more to scratch around in. First though, is a bit of caulking and a fresh coat of paint for the “ladies”. Yes, I do refer to my chickens as my ladies. I just assume they are all like Mary Poppins. I am not sure where that notion came to be but I have it and it has stuck.

For my fellow chicken keepers, how do you prepare for winter? I would love to hear some of your tips and tricks. My favorite so far has been to use a heated dog water dish for the chickens’ water. It has been quite the blessing and limited the amount of pitchers of water I would have to run down to the coop after dumping out iced over water.

: )
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