Friday, September 28, 2012

The Story of Two Red Horses

In the shade of this tree on my grandparents' farm
Lie two of my friends - two red horses.
I look at this place and I see and feel them...
Coats the color of burnished copper,
Flowing manes and tails,
Eyes bright with curiosity,
Nostrils flared with excitement,
Hooves dancing in anticipation.
Eager for a day of work or play - 
It doesn't matter which - 
They are ready to go.

One tall and majestic and brave
With a small white star beneath his forelock.
Steady as a rock, always alert to the job at hand,
Doing his best to protect and serve for over 20 years.
A department favorite who found his way here in retirement
To learn to enjoy the sounds of the country
And freedoms he had not known in his big city life.

One small and fidgety and unsure.
Full of flight and fire.
Grateful for a better life, 
But never fully believing danger was gone.
Trusting few and truly loving just one.
Understanding heartache and abuse and neglect - 
The perfect bond for a young girl full of struggles and conflicts
Eager to make a better way for both.

Brought together in old age,
They bonded and became "Two Grumpy Old Men" together.
With the droopy lips of old geldings
and day to day bickering of old men,
They mirrored each other - the big and the small.
Spending their days in the shade of a maple nose to tail
And side by side quietly grazing in the pasture.

On the good days they raced like colts across the field,
Kicking and shaking their mighty heads in play.
On the bad days, as arthritis and the other affects of aging kicked in,
They took watch over each other,
Taking comfort in the companionship of an understanding partner.

When their girl, now grown, came each day,
They nuzzled up and breathed soft sighs of content
As she stroked their silky necks and talked quietly to each one.
A warm mash, thick blankets, deep layers of golden straw,
A heat lamp and tank of warm water
She did all she could to make their last days the best.

Slowly, the light faded in the eyes of the brave.
As that final winter set in and he looked her in the eye,
She knew his time had come.
One last warm mash, his best halter.
She held him and stroked him and softly spoke to him
As he took those last breaths - 
And she knew he understood.
She laid him under that big tree,
Covered with the blanket from his days of service.

Back in that barn, she wept into the mane of that little one
And he seemed to change too.
He grew older and sadder by the day without his friend.
A new companion came, a spunky little pony
Who revived some of the life in that little copper gelding.
But the bond was not the same.
And age continued to advance 
With all the problems that come with it.
As the next winter approached, she knew he was dreading it.
The fire went out of his eyes - that spark that defined him.
And he began to trudge through the days with great effort.
Despite her best efforts, as the new year was dawning,
She knew he could not go on.

She laid to rest that friend of more than 20 years - 
Side by side with his companion once again.
That scared little gelding who had come to trust her.
Full of flight and fire - always on the lookout.
Who had absorbed all those tears and words
She couldn't share with anyone else
Through the years of school, jobs, marriage, babies.
He had been there with her -
A friend when it seemed like there were none.

Who called to her every time he heard her voice
And came to her at a run no matter how much freedom he was given.
Who greeted her hug with a warm soft sigh and gave her kisses over the gate.
Who overcame his fears to carry her bravely
Through the woods, over trails, in parades full of scary things
And back into the arena that was once his place of abuse.

She looks upon this place often - 
Feeling their spirits and missing them dearly.
She takes comfort in knowing that they are reunited - 
Racing side by side - all copper and fire once again.

What's Been Happening Photos

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Natural Home Air Freshener

My husband detests the smell of artificial air fresheners.  One trick I have learned instead is to put a pot of yummy smells on the stove and let it boil for a while to spread through the house.  Of course, this sometimes solicits the questions about what is baking...  My favorite combination is citrus and "warm" spices.  I usually can scrounge up an orange or lemon a little past its peak that would be tossed anyways.  I cut it into thick slices or wedges, add some vanilla, a few cinnamon sticks, some ground nutmeg and some whole cloves in a small pot.  You could use the ground versions too, they just don't tend to last as long - this is a freshener you can leave in a small pot on the back of the stove and reheat for several days.  Fill your pot about 1/2 full of water and heat to a full boil.  Let it continue to boil for 5-10 minutes until the smell is strong and spreads through the house.  Turn off the burner and just let it sit.  You can also scoop a bit into small glass containers while its still hot and place it in other rooms like a corner of the bathroom counter.  The next day, dump all the smaller containers back into the pot and reheat.  Add more water if its getting too low.  You can do this for 3-4 days or until it starts losing its smell.  This can go straight to the compose pile when you are finished.  This is a great way to use old spices that are no longer good enough to cook with and citrus fruit that is on the downhill side.  It also helps add a bit of moisture back into the air in the house when its winter and things are closed up and the furnace is running a lot.  Great to do right before guests come over or after cooking fish.

Recipe Round #2 - Roast Beef to Beef & Noodles

Here is a warm, cozy dish your family will love.  This is perfect to snuggle up to a steaming bowl on a chilly day.  Its also the kind of meal you will love because it makes use of your leftovers, stretches those grocery dollars a little farther, and its quick and easy for you!  It makes a large amount again out of that same roast so you can feed a crowd or freeze it in single portions for lunches or future meals.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pinterest Pallet Garden Update

At long update on the Pinterest-inspired pallet garden.  First let me say that I have loved the low maintenance involved with this garden.  And please note that these are all totally unedited pictures.  It has been virtually weed-free all summer - well Creeping Charlie has crept in just slightly but he's very easy to pull.  Don't mind the long grass around it - the hubster was trying to avoid running over my tomatoes.

Rosemary Beef Roast - Round #1

Here's another part of what I did on Sunday - a rosemary beef roast with vegetables.  I had planned on doing a roast of some sort and my daughter picked out a bundle of fresh rosemary and some nice long, thin eggplant to try when we were at the market.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Fruit Crisp

Fall was in the air this weekend and I spent Sunday doing what I love to do while the guys are watching football - stuff their faces - I mean baking, hahaha.  We scored lot of beautiful fruit at the local market so I decided to make a crisp for dessert.  This recipe is fairly healthy so it also works great to pack in lunches as a side dish or healthy dessert option.  

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread with Marinara

This herbed goat cheese spread with marinara sauce is a simple little snack or side dish that is quick and impressive at the same time.  In this picture, I used a homemade marinara sauce but you could use store-bought or your favorite basic spaghetti sauce.  I first had this in a restaurant and it was served with little toasted bread crisps.  I have served it with homemade bread, french bread, the mini rye/pumpernickel slices you can find near the deli, bagel crisps, and about any kind of cracker.  
Take a small 6" cast iron skillet and put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan to keep the cheese from sticking.  Put your small log of herbed goat cheese (find this near the Brie and other specialty cheeses near the deli) in the center of the skillet.  You can use any kind of the soft goat cheese but I prefer the herbed.  Top with another layer of sauce.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is heated through but not totally melted apart.  Serve this right in the skillet (but be sure to warn your guests!).  

I had never tried goat cheese before having this and will admit I was a little scared that it would be too strong or "goaty".  Trust me, if you like Feta or blue cheese, you will like this.  It is milder than those tastes and even kids seem to love it.  Great warm snack for those Sunday afternoon football games that takes pretty much no work!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy Anniversary my dear husband.  
Thank you.  
For your patience when I am frustrated.  
For your knowledge where I lack.  
For knowing when to bite your tongue and when to pinch my rear.  
For your leadership and strength.  
For your humor.  
For your appreciation of my cooking.  
And for choking it down anyways when its not the greatest.
For your loyalty and dedication - to people and to tasks.
For being a great provider.  
For all the tears your broad shoulders have absorbed.
For standing tall beside me when I have made points that hit a nerve 
with others and stirred an angry response.
For making sure I know that no matter what we are always together.
For our two precious babies.
And for being the father to them that I hoped to find.
For knowing when to wrap me in your arms 
and when to give me some time to pull myself together.
For making me always feel desired and beautiful.
For standing with me even when I am in the wrong.
For being the first to apologize when I find it hard to start.
For holding me together when I want to fall to pieces.
For driving me to be a better me.
For knowing when to argue it out and when to 
just let me slam the door and go throw buckets at the barn wall.
For knowing when its time for a family tickle fight.
For letting me interrupt.
And listening even when I know you're ears are ringing.
For starting each day and ending each night with "I love you."
For making me have fun when I would focus on the "to-do" list.
For pitching in when you see I'm drowning.
For making sure you always kiss our babies good-bye every single time.
For the teamwork.
For loving me.
At 13 years of marriage, I think we have hit our stride.
Love you more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Game for a Country Setting

Croquet - a throwback game that is fun for the whole family.  It is a physical game that will get everyone off the couch.  But its a physical game that even my great-grandma had 2 hip replacements and 2 knee replacements and walked with a walker and she could still play this game with us when we were kids.
The girls at my daughter's birthday party had never seen it or played before but they caught on quickly and had a great time.  Even the ones who were losing by far had a lot of fun cheering on the others and trying to get to each little hoop.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tea Party Table Setting - For the Dolls

Just a couple more tea party things - I promise!  The girls had so much fun I just had too many things to share with all of you, haha.  If you haven't seen the rest of the posts about my daughter's tea party birthday, just put tea party in the search box and you'll find all kinds of recipes for food, drinks and desserts, a birthday cake idea, and even tips on creating a beautiful table setting.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Guest Hosting - Sweet Saturday Link Party!

Happy Friday!  
And can I tell you I am SO happy it is Friday this week - 
so happy I thought yesterday was Friday 
all the way up until I was driving the kids to school 
and they were discussing what day it was 
and I realized it was only Thursday...
Boy that was a long day!  :)

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="<Photobucket" target="_blank">PhotobucketPhotobucket />" alt="Healthy Mommy Healthy Baby" width="125" height="125" /></a>

I know I have bombarded you with tea party posts from the Princess' birthday.
Thanks for hanging with me and I hope you enjoyed them. 
Now, I have a fun change of pace and another first for my little country blog - 
I am guest hosting Sweet Saturday's with 
Jessica at Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby
Go check her out - lots of great healthy recipes like 
and blogging about life with a toddler 
(yes, the adorable little sweetie pie below).  
Thanks so much to Jessica for the opportunity!

So here are the very simple rules for this link party:

1. Link up something sweet to really WOW us all - your blog, Etsy store, Pinterest, Facebook, anything goes and link up as many times as you want! 

2. Please follow me and the hostess, Jessica at Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby. Leave us a comment if you are a new follower so we can follow you back!

3. Visit a few other links and it would be kind if you would leave them a comment. 

4. Grab the Sweet Saturday button above for your blog and encourage your followers to link up too (not required, but it would be nice!).

Thanks for joining us for Sweet Saturday!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tea Party Table Settings - For the Girls

One of the most fun parts of a tea party is the table. 
 It doesn't have to be complicated and mix-and-match settings look just as nice 
(I prefer them) as settings that perfectly matched. 
 There are lots of fun things out there to add to the fun of your table whether you are hosting a tea party for your girlfriends or little girls. Tea parties are fun any time of the day too - and the food is typically small portions so you can splurge on things you might not be able to afford to provide for a bigger party. The best tea parties are about 4-8 guests so there is plenty of time to chat all around the same table. 
 The first thing is to chose your setting. A beautiful porch or shady spot in the garden is perfect when the weather is nice. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekend Wrap-Up

It was definitely a weekend of high's and low's as we enter into the busy fall here in Michigan.  We started bright and early at the local farmer's market and a run to the dollar store where we found all kinds of fun Halloween things for our annual family reunion.
Dropped the munchkins off to spend the night with my mom and headed to a funeral visitation for the father of my best girl friend.  We had not realized how sick he had been over the past year with cancer and an assortment of complications.  It is sad to realize we have come to an age where we will be losing more and more of our parents and grandparents.  We have been fortunate to have very healthy families and the majority of those who passed away even from health complications had lived very long lives.
After that, we headed off to Grand Rapids for a wedding in a most unique location - John Ball Park Zoo!

Farm Market Finds & Hidden Values

You just can't beat your local farm market for quality and value.  For less than $35, I scored all this beautiful goodness.  6 mini pumpkins, 12 heirloom tomatoes, 8 cups of chopped rhubarb, 2 bags of homemade egg noodles, olive oil dipping sauce mix, a candy bar, 2 maple flowers, a pint of honey, a quart of green tomato salsa, 3 eggplants, 10 potatoes, sunflower seeds, and a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in a cute little vase.

Then there were the priceless values.  The time alone with my daughter to discuss and admire the goods.  Giving her practice with her math skills and speaking up to place an order.  Teaching her to evaluate value and price (who has the best looking of each product and who is offering something we don't find anywhere else).  Teaching her to try new things - like the salsa and weird colored tomatoes and eggplant (how many 9-year-olds like eggplant?).  The support we provided to our local community and economy.  Lessons on diversity.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tea Party Treats - Dainty Sandwiches

Heart Sandwiches
1 block cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp preserves or jam (I used my homemade strawberry freezer jam)
fresh raspberries, halved or fresh strawberries, sliced thinly
white bread/wheat bread
sprinkles (optional)

Cut the bread into the desired shapes, such as the hearts I used here.  Beat together the cream cheese and jam until well combined.  Add more jam if needed to reach desired color and flavor.  Spread a thin layer on each piece of bread.  Top with fresh raspberries or strawberries and sprinkles.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tea Party Treats - Blueberry Sparkle Punch

This beautiful and unique drink was probably the most popular item of the party.  These adorable little jelly jar glasses belonged to an aunt who used to serve me with them every time I visited and they added just the right touch to the table.  We took the leftover sprinkles from our other tea party treats and combined them in one little dish to make a special sprinkle mix.  Each jelly jar was dipped in water, then in sprinkles and left to dry for a few minutes.  Then in each glass, I added a squeeze each of fresh lemon and lime, a drop of blue food coloring, and a small handful of frozen blueberries.  Then I added caffeine-free lemon-lime soda pop to each glass.  No need to stir as the fizz will do the work for you and the blueberries will keep the punch cold. I used the leftovers to make a batch for the adults in a pitcher.  They added just the right splash of color to the table.

Tea Party Treats - Pink Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups whole or 2% milk
maraschino cherry juice

Melt together in a saucepan until chocolate is melted and cocoa is hot but not boiling.  Pour into a carafe to keep hot.  If this gets too cold it will form a thin skim of white chocolate on the surface - reheating will fix this.
Provide guests with maraschino cherries or these beautiful specialty marshmallows filled with chocolate.  I found these at the grocery store with the regular marshmallows in a small bag for $1.  This was a popular drink with the girls.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tea Party Treats - Unicorn Horns with Frozen Yogurt

My daughter had a blast helping me make these even though we had so many things we forgot to use them during the party and ended up having a snack of them later in the evening instead.

Tea Party Treats - Orange Fruit Cups

Slice an orange in half.  Using a paring knife, cut little wedge shapes out of the sides to form the jagged edges.  Then use your knife to trim part of the center of the orange out - leaving a little at the edges to eat.  Add small pieces of fruit to the center of your orange cup to make mini fruit salads.  We used mandarin oranges, kiwi, strawberries and raspberries.  You can top with whipped cream or a mini scoop of frozen yogurt or sherbet if you wish.  This is a great project to have kids help make after you dice all the fruit.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mountain Scene Birthday Cake with Homemade Whipped Cream Frosting

Of course, one of the centerpieces of any great birthday party is the dream cake desired by the birthday guest of honor.  And let me just say, my little girl dreams big - like "Cake Boss" big...  She is big on the Schleich fantasy horses and she and Grandma have been collecting them - they work great with the fairy gardens.  So she wanted the perfect mountain scene to display her favorites from the collection.
OK - I can do this right?  I did, after all, make an awesome (if I do say so myself) snowmobile mountain cake for my husband's 30th surprise birthday party.  No sweat.  I'll just break out my trusty buttercream recipe and make some small batches of it colored for grass and mountains and such.

I Will Never Forget

photo credit: Sister72 via photo pin cc

I was reminded today by a friend who was there, that we all experienced 9/11 a bit differently.  For her, it is not a day of honor but it is people that she knew, a tragedy that she survived, comrades that were lost.  Those people she honors and remembers every day.  The hoopla that surrounds the anniversary date stirs up harsh unwanted memories.

For me, it was a knot in the pit of my stomach that grew as the day progressed.  I remember being at work when the first plane hit and racing to turn on televisions and pull up news feeds online.  Then, as we watched live, the second plane hit and we were all sent home.  After checking in with my husband and mom, I raced home to sit glued to the TV as the news continued to pour in about the plane at the Pentagon and the on in Pennsylvania.  My friend was in the Pentagon.  I sat for hours with the phone in my hand awaiting a call from my friend's mother telling me that she was OK.  As the news grew more and more frantic and gruesome and reports on the terror attacks became more defined, the implications for my brother began to set in.  He was a Marine sitting at Camp Pendleton just a few months after finishing boot camp.  I was terrified about what this might mean for him.  I felt powerless to do anything for any of them beyond praying.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tea Party Treats - Dragonflies

These sweet dragonflies were a big hit with the little girls at my daughter's tea party but they would be sure to delight at a big girls tea party or fairy party too.
You'll need about 3 ounces of white chocolate bark, sprinkles, small twist pretzels, mini pretzel sticks, sprinkles and food coloring.  In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate bark 1 minute at a time, stirring in between, until melted smooth.  Add food coloring until you reach the tint you want.  This was blue with a couple drops of green.