The Frantic Mom’s Guide to Dinner

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Too bad supper doesn’t roll around when we have excess energy instead of at the end of the day!  “Should we just go out?” one ponders.  But if $40 is to go towards gas and not a so-so restaurant than mama has to get in the kitchen and figure it out.  Pour a glass of wine, Mama, I will walk you through an easy dinner using just what you have in the kitchen.

Choose a protein- hamburgers, veggie burgers, veggie chicken, chicken breasts, salmon, bean patties, whatever you can find.  I found a package of Ahi tuna in the freezer.

Make a sauce for the protein- Find jelly in the fridge or pantry.  Apricot, chokecherry, jalapeno, apple, blueberry, peach….Now combine it with bbq sauce or soy sauce.  The jelly should be the highest ratio.  Add a dried spice like chipotle, red chile, garlic, dill, basil…be creative.  Add a little broth or white wine to thin to desired consistency or use a jar of jelly that didn’t set!  Done.  Top cooked protein.

Meanwhile choose a frozen or fresh vegetable- artichokes, green beans, carrots, cabbage, anything tastes great with this method.  In the boiling water add a few cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of chipotle, 2 tablespoons of lemon extract (lemons soaked in vodka for two months) or fresh lemons, and sea salt.  The water infuses the vegetables lightly.  A bit of butter and salt is all it takes to transform the vegetables.

IMG_2146Make a pilaf.  I used buckwheat which cooks in 20 minutes.  Rice works too.  Cook in rich broth with raisins and salt until ready, add walnuts and walnut oil or any nut or fruit.

In twenty minutes or so you have a gourmet, delicious, nutritious meal on the table while saving money because it uses what is already there.  Now you have time to start Christmas cards after supper!

Making a Vintage Door Headboard (and decorating a bedroom)

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The last room in our homestead makeover is the bedroom.  It is away from the warmth of the wood cook stove.  It has three moderately sized old windows that look out into the trees and across the prairie.  It is where we sit and read in the evenings before we go to bed.  This room needed plenty of blankets and places to sit.

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In our desire to have plenty of places for folks to sleep should they decide not to make the trek back home, we got ourselves a new bed.  However, when we got to IKEA and looked at prices we realized we did not have enough for the mattress and the frame and headboard combo.  And I did so desperately want a new mattress.  So, we did something drastic.  We went down from a queen sized bed to a double bed.  We have never shared a double bed before, particularly with seven cats, but why not?  We fit, the warmth is most welcome in the middle of the night, and I have three beds in this little house now.  (I just need an air mattress of some sort and I can house all of my kids!)

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Now anything I wanted to bring to this house had to have a use.  Downsizing from 2500 square feet (including garage and basement) to 850 square feet (along with a small space to store luggage and canning jars in the greenhouse) meant that I could not pack everything.  The blue door was a gift from Doug for Christmas.  I love it.  The door to the guest room was hanging off of one hinge and we replaced it with a screen door.  I had two old doors that wanted to be displayed.  By making them into a headboard, they look as if we could walk through to a magical place, if only in dream.

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I painted them both red.  Since one door was white and one was blue, they came out different shades.  I could have painted the blue one white but I kind of like the contrast in the doors.

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The doors were different sizes so I attached a valance with a pattern I love to the top to cover the edges.  A string of metal stars and a sign that reads, “Always kiss me goodnight” sets the scene for sweet dreams.

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They are not attached to the wall.  They are heavy enough to stand on their own and behind the bed they are secure.

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Finishing touches include a simple old dresser, toile curtains, layered comforters and quilts, twinkly lights, oil lamps, and of course, cats.

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One could also make a charming headboard from a section of picket fence complete with a wreath and twinkly lights.  Or line up old chairs behind the bed to show off their antique backs and use as a bookshelf.  Or simply hang a quilt behind the bed as an eye catching headboard.  There are no decorating rules.  Only what you dream up.

 

 

Decorating a Farmstead Kitchen (and making a chalkboard wall)

The kitchen is the heart of the home, where the fires are burning, where memories are made, where the cook stove will stay warm and where  at the breakfast nook near the warm stove we will play board games on snowy winter days.  Where sustaining food is prepared and the baby plays at my feet while I make a pot of tea.  The kitchen is my favorite room.

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In this kitchen I have a bit of space.  Usually my friends crowd around and chat while we all put finishing touches on drinks and food and inevitably a few are pushed out due to lack of space.  In this kitchen I have seating for four and places to mill around.

This is how I turned an ordinary kitchen added on in the early seventies with peeling linoleum into a culinary oasis.  I take inspirations from Amish, Italian, Pioneer, and Country kitchens.  Combined seamlessly together into what my extended family would call a “Katie kitchen”.

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After

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I do not like overhead lighting so twinkly lights are employed to add charm and light to the house.

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The horrid florescent lamp (those always give off a light similar to horror movies in my mind) was covered with a quaint chicken valance.  Another valance was placed above the window in the kitchen.  Doug installed the curtain hardware eight inches over the window so that plenty of light could come through.

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A sunny place to play cards or have a cup of coffee and read.

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An old cabinet piece that I have had a long time is the base for a bookshelf to make a larger cabinet.  My friend, Nancy’s, chicken tea pot, pitcher, and cookie jar stand among pioneer cookbooks and wine glasses.

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Every nook and cranny, every drawer, every cupboard if filled.  I cannot bring one more thing into this kitchen!  Everything in its place is the mantra here now.  My aprons displayed on a vintage hanger along with Maryjane’s apron invite folks to put one on and start cooking!

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The top of the fridge is always a void of inspiration for me.  This whimsical wind catcher and a pretty enamel bowl fill the space with a little fun.

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The unique part of this room is the chalkboard wall.  Simply tape off a section that you would like to use.  Paint on four coats of chalkboard paint, letting dry in between coats.  Let set for two days.  Peel off tape the first day so that it doesn’t become a permanent frame!

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I added my favorite picture to the board by hanging it on a nail in the middle of the chalkboard.  If this little girl was a blonde, it would be Maryjane.  Maryjane loves her chickens!  Notes or menus can be written on the board.

It is easy to add small touches to any kitchen without spending a lot of money.  Any kitchen can benefit from vintage furniture, whimsical touches that bring a smile, and flowers….and a chalkboard wall.

 

Adding Spring to the Farmhouse

The trees are set in a frozen still life.  A myriad of icy white, snowy trees set against the landscape as if from a painting.  Fog rolls softy over the hills muting the land and soft flakes of snow dance dizzily to the ground.  Yet I know spring is arriving.  She peeks her head out then retreats from the cold.  But signs of her are gradually appearing.  The black birds have arrived.  The finches speak loudly as they work on their apartments, preparing their nurseries.  Babies are being born in the fields.  The egg basket is filling back up.  She is tip toeing back, welcome Spring, welcome.

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My farmhouse is darker right now because of the sun rising higher in the sky.  Soon, the plants will have to be moved to the porch to sunbathe.  The living room in all its warm winter colors now depresses me as I cannot get outside quite yet into the warm sun, but cannot stay in the confines of this dark house.  It is time to add spring to the farmhouse.

There are easy ways to add seasonal change to a house for spring.  Last fall we added soft, textured blankets, and candles everywhere.  Soon, it will be lighter longer and we won’t need so many candles, nor will we need the heavy woven Indian blankets.

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I just bought two chairs after Christmas off of Craigslist.  A quite nice western design which matches our southwestern décor.  Southwestern décor around here needs to be saved for when the mustards, deep reds, and browns shine…fall and winter.  Right now I crave large rose prints.  Laura Ashley style, small floral prints, spring colors.  It would be ridiculous for me to get back on Craigslist and find more furniture with these design parameters.

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Surefit.com provided the means to reupholster the chairs seasonally.  Two lovely floral prints arrived by mail.  They can be washed, stored, and displayed all as I see fit.  Quilts and vintage pillows of desired pattern cover the sofas.  New inexpensive cushions are added to the rocking chair making it green with a homemade pillow of small red flowers instead of the gold and red plaid it was.  Two old throw pillows hidden inside a large sham from our sheet set instantly transform the other rocker.  A tablecloth of lovely print covers the tile coffee table.  Flowers can be added to any room to instantly add garden life to spaces.  Unnecessary knick knacks and decorating pieces that match the southwestern décor take a vacation to either the thrift store or the garage.  Everything is spiffed up, cleaned up, and new photos added to the wall.

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Now the house is ready for spring.  It’s time to start seedlings.

Grandma’s Sewing Room-Part 2(the makeover)

Alright folks, this makeover isn’t going to win any awards or find its way into the pages of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.  However, it is a realistic approach that we can all take.  Using what we have.  Admitting that the $20,000 craft room addition may not happen since the goats eat so much.  Not to mention the kids.  But, I had a perfectly usable space.  Though not pretty, unpaintable, and dark, it could certainly stand in for a sewing room.  It came completely equipped with shelving and space.  Good enough!

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Before

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I purchased three rugs to cover the cold floor.  I also bought a space heater that looks like a charming fireplace to warm the room since it is ten degrees cooler downstairs.  Shyanne’s room is the other side of the basement (like thirty feet away).  As soon as she moved home last week, she promptly stole the fireplace and put it on her side.  Who can blame her?

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I unpacked box after box of material and organized them by prominent color.  I placed soap making supplies, the iron, half finished projects of Grandma’s on the top shelf.

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I organized the yarn side by side so that we can see what colors we have before going out to buy more.  Cubbies of rick rack, ribbon, and lace allow me to see what I can use for projects.

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My paintings have a place to stand.  I haven’t completed a single painting this year in all the hubbub of starting a farm so I do hope to spend some time down here painting this winter.  I have so many ideas!

The sewing machine is ready to run.  Ample table space.  Lamps.  Inspiration.  Project ideas.  Christmas presents to be made.

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Now that I am a Grandma, it is nice to have a full sewing room.  I have memories to craft.

Rurban Farm (urban/rural)

Now that we have determined that we are not moving for a few years at least and the hundred acre wood is out of my grasp currently, we are going to stop looking at this house as “someone else’s”.  Who cares if we are renting?  It is our home and we really want to homestead, so this is going to become our homestead.

SAM_0563 (See my bee hive right hand side? I may have missed the boat this year, but there is always next spring!  All of the junk shown was here when we moved in.  We have some hauling to do!)

I am going to quit my whining and paint the garage red like a barn.  I am adopting alpacas and goats (before the rules change in town!) and I am going to continue enjoying my chickens.  A fence will be put up to separate this area around and behind the garage.  Two alpacas and two goats (I don’t know where they are presently.) will share the space and use the garage as housing.  This will inspire me to get rid of all the crap currently holding residence in said garage!  According to the USDA standards and my own gut feeling, this is enough space for four smaller animals.  I could always open the door to the garage that exits into the main yard, and if they promise not to eat my half dead fruit trees, they may come out and play with the greyhound and the chickens and have lunch on the deck with us. (Our animals aren’t spoiled or anything.)

SAM_0565 (Behind the garage and all the way to the neighbor’s white truck.  There is a lot of room back here!)

I was telling Nancy as I showed her all of these ideas that I feel like either I just opened my eyes or God just showed me what we have.  Doug said under his breath, “Or both…”  My friend, Kim, mentioned that she lives on 1.7 acres and is not allowed to have animals.  We wrote down our “perfect parcel of land and its proximity to towns and amenities and requirements and such, and save for the lack of well and acreage, everything else matches this house.  I am able to do everything I want to do on this property!

SAM_0564 (Main back yard with tender fruit trees and chicken coop.  The shed shown is the neighbors, the clothes on the clothes line are mine!  We back to the fairgrounds, so the 2/3 of an acre lives bigger.)

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Doug put up this nifty rabbit fence from all of the metal panels we found behind the garage.  It lends a rustic air to my garden, don’t you think?  The beds are absolutely full of good stuff and as you can see, many things are already coming up.  The problem is, I am out of room.  The beds are fantastic, after a mere year of compost the soil looks good enough to eat.  But the square footage is coming up a smidge short to provide for the family and do market growing.

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The front side yard might make an awesome corn field or fancy English garden…just needs a bit of fencing.  The deer love them some gardens around here.

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Front right side of the porch seems that if a fairy godmother came along, she could turn this into a pumpkin patch.  Wouldn’t it be tremendous fun for trick-or-treaters to walk along the pumpkin patch on Halloween?

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And finally, the front left side of the front yard appears in my imagination as groups of lush herbs, carpets of sweet smelling (deer proof) culinary and medicinal herbs; an Apothecary garden for my work.  This would clear out a lot of space in the garden beds if I moved all of the herbs out here.  The beds could then be reseeded with more delicious greens and more tomatoes!

We need a farm name.  We are hitting the farmer’s markets and are changing the look of our shop and it would be nice to have a name.  Nancy and I and our daughters, along with hubbies in the background, are the Farmgirls, but each of us should have a farm name to show different products like her goat’s shares and my yarn.  We always thought that Cuddlewell Mission was a cute name, but it would better fit a New Mexican adobe.  We thought the “fill in the blank” acre wood would be cute because Winnie the Pooh lives under the name of Sanders, which is our name.  However the Two Thirds of an Acre Kind of Wood doesn’t really have that ring to it.  We thought Silly Chicken Farm, but we don’t want it to sound like we are selling chickens.

So, friends out there….what would be a good name for our not quite rural acreage, not quite urban, thirty animal, medium sized organic farm?