Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Life in "Little Shouse on the Prairie"


I'm sorry I've been so silent - we have been nothing if not busy!  (As I'm sure all of you have been too!).  Hopefully, a picture is worth a thousand words, because that is all I'm able to get up today.  Here is a peek into our life as of late....

Master Hand Grenade became acquainted with winter driving (black ice) and learned the pitfalls of only carrying liability insurance!



And, the next day, his initiation as a butcher occurred.....



Making lotion bars...

Weighing the beeswax

Melting the ingredients

Cooling in the molds

The finished bars

Packaged and ready to go
And making cranberry wine....

Master Calvin scrubbing the barrel, with a Zebra lamp on his head
 (so he could be sure to get all of the nooks and crannies)

30 pounds of coarsely chopped cranberries

Into the "fermentation" vessel (also known as a 55 gallon barrel)

Raisins added (15 pounds)

Stirring the "must" with a pizza paddle!
Cranberry Wine

30 pounds chopped cranberries (fresh or frozen)
15 pounds raisins
45 pounds granulated sugar
4 1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 1/4 C lemon juice
Wine yeast
15 gallons boiled/cooled water

Wash and roughly chop cranberries to allow juices to leave the fruit.  Transfer crushed/chopped cranberries to a clean winemaking fermentation container and add all of the other ingredients except for the wine yeast.

After allowing the cranberry mixture to stand for around 12 hours, add the activated wine yeast.  Stir each morning and evening for 5 days.  Strain and squeeze the solids, transferring the cranberry wine mixture into a demijohn, complete with airlock.

Rack after a month.  Rack once more after 3 months, and then two more times until the wine is clear and approximately 12 months old.  Bottle the wine and leave to stand for over 12 months.

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So, there you go - a brief synopsis of life in "Little Shouse on the Prairie".

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Prayer of Thanksgiving


From time to time I take my robust good health for granted.  This morning I was visiting with my mother (over the phone) while she was busy with last minute Thanksgiving preparations.  She was telling me about her upcoming travels and the many things that needed to be done in the next few weeks.  One of the items on her "to-do" list was making dinner for a local family.  This family is gracefully walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  Dad is a pastor, mom is a homemaker and schools her 6 children at home.  They live a quiet, simple and wholesome life.  And mom has inoperable cancer.  The oldest child has accepted the mantle of womanhood and is schooling and caring for her younger siblings, while she cooks, cleans and runs the home.  Two nights a week, in an effort to ease this young lady's burden, my parent's church provides a meal for the family.  It is a small gift, but a gift born of love.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving this year, we will be giving thanks for the bountiful health we enjoy.  But as we give thanks, we will also remember those that are walking a very different path.  We will thank God that He is caring not only for the healthy but especially for the sick, the tired and the weak.  He truly is The Great Physician.

I Needed the Quiet
 
I needed the quiet so He drew me aside
Into the shadows were we could confide
Away from the bustle where all day long
I hurried and worried when active and strong.
 
I needed the quiet, tho at first I rebelled
But gently, so gently, my cross he upheld
And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things
Tho weakened in body, my spirit took wings
To heights never dreamed of when active and gay
He loved me so greatly he drew me away.
 
I needed the quiet.  No prison my bed,
But a beautiful valley of blessings instead
A place to grow richer, in Jesus to hide.
I needed the quiet, so he drew me aside.
 
Alice Hansche Mortenson
1944


A beautiful Thanksgiving to you all.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Boasting Rights


Once again Miss Serenity has hunting boasting rights.  She is our most faithful hunter (she LOVES it) and has been rewarded with a buck that is even bigger than last years catch. 

This year Serenity hunted in an open field with no discernable cover.  In order to get into the field before the deer came up the draw, Serenity borrowed Sir Knight's ghillie suit and SSG and staked out her little plot of land just before evening overtook the daylight. 

First, the doe's ventured into the field, grazing while their ears twitched, alert for possible danger.  Satisfied that there was no immediate threat, a buck gracefully trotted to join his harem.  Two hundred yards away, Miss Serenity followed the buck in her site.  Adjusting the windage, she slowed her breathing, set the first trigger and then gently squeezed the second trigger.  Two ragged steps and a somersault later her trophy lay on the ground. 

Within minutes, Serenity had called home and Sir Knight, Master Hand Grenade and the two little children were by her side, preparing to gut her kill and haul him home (she shot him just across the road from the shouse).  An hour later, he had been gutted, skinned and hung in our shed.

As evening fell on Little Shouse on the Prairie, Miss Serenity regaled us with her newly minted hunting stories and we thanked God for His wonderful bounty.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rubber Cake - The Quintessential Survival Cake


During my childhood in the hinterboonies of the American Redoubt, when our family wanted a quick chocolate fix but we had nothing in the pantry, my mother would throw together one of our favorite cakes - Rubber Cake.  I'm not entirely certain why it is called Rubber cake, since it doesn't have the consistency of rubber, but it is one of the most interesting cakes in my recipe box.  My understanding is that it was developed by an ingenious housewife during the depths of the depression when resources were scarce.   Necessity is the mother of invention! 

This cake requires no dairy - butter or milk - and is leavened not by eggs but by vinegar and baking soda (I know - vinegar in a cake!).  The result is a moist cake that is perfect alone, sprinkled with powdered sugar or frosted.  Our favorite way to serve this cake is warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!!


Rubber cake is not the least bit crumbly so it is perfect for the lunchbox as well as afternoon tea.  Another benefit?  It is mixed and baked in the same pan - no other bowls to get dirty!  Because it requires no fresh ingredients, Rubber cake is the Quintessential Survival Cake.

Rubber Cake

1 1/2 C flour
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda

Sift together above ingredients into a 9" cake pan (or double the recipe and use a 9"x13" cake pan).  The pan does not have to be greased or floured.

Make 3 wells in the mixture.

Put the following in the separate wells;

6 T vegetable oil in one well
1 T vinegar in one well (I use white vinegar)
1 tsp. vanilla in one well

Pour 1 C of water over the top and mix well.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Serve cold with white, caramel or chocolate frosting.

Three indentations

Filling the wells

One overflowed a bit!

All mixed together

Just out of the oven

A lovely way to end the day!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fantastic (Oven) Fried Chicken



Recently Maid Elizabeth came across a recipe for oven-fried chicken, thought it looked fabulous and asked me to work it into our dinner menu rotation.  She, along with Master Hand Grenade, had been craving fried chicken for awhile but knew that it was like pulling teeth to get me to make it for dinner.  Although I like fried chicken (minus the grease) I don't like making it - so fried chicken is a once a year (at the most) rarity at our house.  Elizabeth's oven-fried recipe looked remarkably good, and easy, so I put it on the menu and eagerly anticipated giving it a try.

Since our first oven-fried chicken experiment, we have had it every other week - without fail!  It is that good!  We love it piping hot, fresh out of the oven, and we love it cold the next day (or later, after dinner has been digested) for lunch.  It is crunchy and tasty and not the least bit greasy (which I really like).  Best of all?  It's relatively quick and very easy.

Generally I just cut up chicken breast to make this dish, however that is pretty decadent.  I think that a cut-up fryer would work equally well - I would just bake it a bit longer.

We love this chicken with mounds of fluffy mashed potatoes and chicken gravy, but it would be just as wonderful with potato salad or whatever suits your fancy.

Fantastic Oven-Fried Chicken

4 or 5 Chicken breasts (I cut each breast into about 3 pieces)
10 T butter

Breading mixture
2 C flour
1 tsp. salt
2 T seasoning salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 T + 1 tsp. paprika 

3 eggs + a splash of milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the butter (cut into chunks) on two large baking sheets and put into the oven to melt.

In a bowl combine the flour, salt, seasoning salt, pepper and paprika.  Mix well.  Measure 1/2 of the mixture into a plastic bag, leaving the other 1/2 in the bowl.  (You can forgo the plain salt if desired).

In a separate bowl whisk eggs and milk.

Put the strips of chicken into the plastic bag with the flour mixture and shake until well coated. 

One at a time, roll a coated piece of chicken in the egg mixture, roll in the flour mixture in the bowl (this will coat the chicken twice) and place on a cookie sheet.  Continue with all of the chicken pieces.

Take your baking sheets out of the oven once the butter has melted and transfer the coated chicken to the baking sheets, leaving space between each piece.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes.  Gently flip each piece and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes. 

Check to make sure the chicken is cooked through (this can vary depending on the thickness of the chicken pieces) and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, if needed (don't over bake - the chicken will dry out). 

Removed to a plate lined with newspaper or a paper towel to soak up any excess grease.  Serve immediately.

Butter on the baking sheet

Chicken cut into large chunks

Two bowls, one with egg and the other with breading

A bag of breading to coat chicken the first time

Place coated chicken on hot baking sheet with melted butter


Turn chicken

(oven) Fried chicken! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Benefits of Islam


This morning I read a news article about a Marine father that had been banned from his daughter's school because of a ruckus he'd caused about a school assignment.  Apparently, a history assignment was given requiring the students to list the benefits of Islam.  The father had a visceral reaction to this particular assignment and strongly stated his case with school officials.  The result was the fathers banishment from the school grounds.

My first reaction was disgust but then, I started thinking about it.  Within minutes, I was doing the assignment in my head.  The more I thought, the more benefits I came up with.  Here are a few....

The Benefits of Islam
  1. Economic.  Islam benefits the economic structure in so many ways.  When a terrorist bomb explodes, hundreds of economic entities go work.  Police and Rapid Response Teams flood the area.  Paramedics and EMT's respond.  ER rooms go into overdrive and funeral homes experience a boom in business.  Once the dust has settled, municipalities, insurance companies and contractors go to work.  The economic impact in the area can go on for months.  Reconstruction, heightened security and PSTD treatment can last for years - adding even more of a financial windfall.
  2. Education.  If you want smaller class sizes and streamlined education - Islam is your religion.  When you educate boys only, effectively eliminating roughly 1/2 of your student burden, you have the ability to work closely with each individual student.  Because you only teach a few core subjects - the Koran, Jihad and a few other choice electives, you have the ability to study your subject matter in depth, producing exceptionally dedicated, knowledgeable scholars.
  3. Political.  The benefits of Islam in the political arena are myriad.  By doing away with pesky freedoms, both of speech and action, you simplify the political process significantly.  Swift elimination of political opponents, specifically by beheading, streamlines the political process and most often brings about a calming sense of continuity to the voting public.
  4. Military/Defense.  This is one area where Islamic nations really shine.  Their countries benefit immensely from the non-structured yet mandatory implementation of aggressive para-military organizations.  Not only do they recruit from within the borders of their own countries, they effectively recruit members from all over the globe.  With the promise of eternal glory, their fighters are arguably the most dedicated in the world.
  5. Environmental.  Islam is very environmentally conscious.  Rather than developing carbon fuel based guidance and delivery systems for their rockets and bombs, they use the much more environmentally friendly camel and donkey delivery systems.  In some cases, they use simple rocks (completely biodegradable) instead of manufactured munitions in their bid to protect mother nature.  And when using a more sophisticated delivery system (usually in the form of a Toyota pickup or Landcruiser), they make sure to use the most fuel efficient model.  Another aspect of environmentalism that is unique to Islamic nations is their fervent adherence to population control.   In an effort to keep their numbers down, their women are stoned at the first hint of an indiscretion and their children are regularly sacrificed to their cause.  Such a dedicated approach to saving the earth is rarely seen in the modern world. 
  6. Social.  The social benefits of Islam are too numerous to mention.  In their quest to reduce envy, covetousness and lust, they have established a proven system of dress and manner that greatly benefits society at large.  Covering their women from head to toe and not allowing them to speak in public has produced a contented, joyful female population.  The men are equally happy, as evidenced by their quiet lives and tender reverence for their families.  All is well in the Islamic world.
This list could go on an on.  How clever of our schools to assign such thought provoking assignments!  Without effective dialog, how will we ever come to understand other cultures?  Score one for a good, ol' fashioned American education! 

Would I get a good grade on my paper?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reality Blogging


Human nature is a funny thing.  We seem to live in a constant state of comparison.  We compare every aspect of our lives with others, either feeling superior or inferior, depending the circumstances.  We compare our spouses, our children and ourselves.  We compare our clothes, our cars and our fences.  We compare ourselves with our friends, with people on television, in magazines and we even compare ourselves with fictional characters.  And more often than not, we don't measure up.

I'm sure that people have measured their lives by the perceived successes and failures of their neighbors since mankind populated the earth - but our modern technological age has created a plague of discontent that is eroding the soul of our nation.

I have never indulged in social media.  I don't have a Facebook account or Twitter (I'm still not sure what that is) or Instagram or any other social interactive site, and I haven't missed them at all.  Over the years I have had friends tell me that I just had to sign up, however, I have a couple of serious problems with our social media culture.  The first issue I have is that you can be anybody you want to be on the internet!  There is no accountability, no truth.  People only post what they want you to see.  You see the successes only - rarely the failures.  You see those few shining moments when a persons life measures up to their own standards of success.  You are inundated with EVERYONE's success and pretty soon you can see nothing but your own failures. 

And we wonder why we are nation depressed!

When I blog, I share snippets out of our lives.  You get to hear about Master Hand Grenade getting his first job and Miss Serenity dropping a buck with 1 shot.  You hear about Maid Elizabeth delivering babies and Princess Dragon Snack riding her first motorcycle.  You see pictures of Master Calvin decked out in his "Gentleman Adventurer" gear and Sir Knight testing tactical equipment.  You read accounts of lessons learned and prayers answered.  But there is so much I don't write.  I don't write about children with bad attitudes or baking projects that end up feeding the dogs.  You don't read about marital difficulties between Sir Knight and I or the bitter disappointments that seem to visit our home with reliable frequency.  You don't see the mess or the failures or the really rotten parts of life that I would be loathe to share.  You don't see the messy stuff. 

I only show you what I want you to know.

But there is another reason I'm not a part of the social media frenzy.  Quite frankly, I don't want to be a busybody.  For a while I "spied" on people via Maid Elizabeth's Facebook account.  I would check on them every week or so, just to see what they were up to.  Maid Elizabeth didn't have many "friends", but I found that often they would post things on their account that I would not have known any other way.  But then, as I was wandering through Elizabeth's "news feed" one day, I suddenly realized that I was like the "busybody" that the Bible talks about!  I was checking in on other people's lives, reading all of their gossip, when I would be much better served by taking care of my own life!

I think blogs, Pinterest and a whole lot of other sites on the world wide web can be wonderful - if they are used with discretion.  There are so many things to learn and so much encouragement waiting for us online, but we have to be discerning.  Remember, behind every website is a real, live, human being that isn't perfect.  Their spouse isn't perfect, their kids aren't perfect and their house isn't perfect.  They don't have the "perfect" survival location, the "perfect" survival plan or the "perfect" survival skills.  They have good days and they have bad days.  Whatever you do, don't look at the lives people present online and assume that your life is in the toilet!  We are all in this boat together - success, failure and everything in between.

Believe it or not, the world is not populated by people that have a perfectly decorated, spotlessly clean home, as they cook organic, homemade meals, while raising 8 impossibly polite children and being the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman (oh, and the perfect wife, of course!).  It is filled with people just. like. you.

Welcome to my reality.  Imperfect. Messy.  Just right!

About the photo --  A snapshot of our imperfect life.  The window is broken (an accident two years ago).  There are little buggy's, dead, between the two panes.  The window can't be cleaned (the dirt is between the two panes) and we can barely see through it.  Such is life!  Someday....