Monday, December 22, 2008

How's the heat at your house?

Over at msn the Women in Red are talking about heating costs.....

Here's what is going on for us....

Our house is about 1700 sq ft and was built in 1897. We heat with baseboard electric (I know... groan) and a pellet stove. We have propane for the hot water heater and the cook stovetop. I think I forked over more than $400 to fill the propane tank this summer.... that will last us all year. Our electric bill has been running about $120/month but I'm sure this next one will be a doozy. We keep it around 60 all the time. They don't make programmable thermostats for baseboard heaters so we can't change that.... we don't turn on the baseboards in the two upstairs bedrooms and we don't have one in the downstairs bedroom so we all sleep with our doors open. The heat from the pellet stove keeps us toasty. We have installed all swirly-que light bulbs and are working hard to turn off lights not in use. Pellet prices are up to $250/ton.... we go through almost 3 tons in a typical year.... that baby runs 24-7 during the winter and is our primary heating source... much cheaper than anything else the way we are figuring it and a real luxury.

Flannel sheets & down comforters for all. Oh.... and a nice warm dog that circulates in the night. Although I can't get my kids to wear warm fuzzy jammies no matter how I try. They "choke my chest" according to Sweet and Tuff has some she will wear but she likes gowns the best.

Last week we took the doors off the cabinet under the sink. Due to some poor design the pipes for the kitchen sink run in the wall for a short distance and will freeze solid if we don't keep it open and water running at a trickle during the bitter cold weather.... 10 below zero. We took the doors off completely because my legs were covered in bruises from walking into the baby locks sticking out of the open doors.... I am a klutz.

So far we are holding our own and not freezing up. I have window insulation kits that I want to put up but haven't yet... I know, I know.... maybe tonight.

So what are you doing to stay warm this winter?

Friday, December 19, 2008


Above... her "outside" clothes.... warm pink knit hat, goggles, hot pink snowpants, mittens, heavy hooded sweatshirt (the most important piece of clothing to own when you live here)....

Below.... what she is wearing underneath....

Damn. I love that girl and her fabulous fashion sense.

**Those long underwear are fancy ones from the patagonia outlet and have survived two children....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The great snowman nose heist

It all started innocently enough.... a warm-ish Saturday in December.
And, then, the devious little angels had a thought.....


Oh my.

The nerve!

The co-conspirator.

I kinda feel like this should be an anti-drug campaign... don't do carrot.

The innocent.

Then not-so-innocent.

Monday, December 15, 2008

And, lo, it was a Christmas Miracle...

Suddenly... we have FOUR TV stations.

Oh. My. Goodness.

4. Four. FOUR.

Channel 10. What IS it? They have Smallville and Gossip Girl and reruns of Will & Grace and Sex & the City. Mostly when I check it out it seems to have Cheaters showing.

Channel 12. NBC

Channel 21-1. ABC. This is new. And so exciting.

Channel 21-2. FOX. Wow. New. Lovely.

How did this happen? Who knows. Hot re-scanned for channels (hoping for something new digitally) and found these two. They were on Friday, then out Saturday but back on Sunday night.

Yeah! 2 more channels of crap to gaze at blankly.


Clutter, clutter.... everywhere.

Elle has up a lovely post about enjoying the season. Go read it, I'll wait.

Ok, are you back?

Now you can go read what my darling apartment therapy has to say.

Now... for my thoughts. In an orderly, numbered list. I like to have a plan.

1. The gifts. I keep a running list (in excel, of course) of gift ideas. For me, for family, or just in general. Then, in October or so, I set the budget. The budget, this year, she is slim. Slim and sexy and wearing a little black dress... that's our budget.

2. The cards. This year we are skipping the usual holiday form letter. Just a photo card. From Costco. I ordered it online and bought the stamps there when I picked up the photos. I do the labels on the computer (don't tell Martha... tacky, tacky...) from an (you guessed it) excel spreadsheet.

3. The shopping. I try to shop all year. I follow the budget advice of several frugal websites. I hit cvs the weekend after T-day and got some good stuff for the stockings. I try. I try. My big and brilliant goal is this: Don't go in a store more than once in December. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? (Ok, I confess... there is an exception.... I MUST go to Costco more than once in a month. Must. But I've only been once so far.)

4. The decor. This year we went simple. And we tried to "take down" as much as we "put up" for decorations. The result is a lovely decorated home that doesn't make me want to scream for lack of empty surfaces. Trips to the potty at night are no longer an obstacle course of wooden sleighs and santa-men. It looks great. And my hope is I can take this stuff down after the holidays and NOT PUT BACK anything else. Wish me luck.

5. The packages. I don't mail any gifts. At all. And I've been wrapping & tagging as I go so I'm in pretty good shape. And I have a decent stash of gift bags for Hot's last minute wrapping fest.

6. The food. I make fudge. It is what I do. Everyone gets fudge. It's easy. I also do a little caramel corn. Maybe caramels if I'm feeling crazy... but mostly just fudge. And for pot luck stuff I make spinach salad or shrimp dip. Maybe some fruit dip. But nothing fancy. And I buy Yellowtail Shiraz in the big bottle at Costco for unplanned festivities. What's not to love about that?

7. The parties. Skipped. We each have a work party. Hot's was cancelled due to the extreme cold we are having and mine will be snacks & drinks from 6-8 on Friday. Simple.

8. The inspiration. Every year I save the December issues of whatever glorious decorating magazines I have. Then for the holidays I get them all out of the decorations box and flip through them. It's fun for me. I also collect all of the holiday and winter-themed books we have and put them on the empty shelf on the book case. The kids love reading them before bed.

9. The fun. We sled. A lot. Down the driveway for beginners. Down the big hill for the brave. Behind the 4-wheeler for the adventurous. Even if this year's Christmas Eve HIGH temp is predicted to be a balmy -9F. Yes... the high. (The low? -43F.... PLUS WINDCHILL.) We make snowmen and play fox-n-geese. We make snow forts and snow angels. We eat snow with maple syrup for dessert. We drink a lot of hot chocolate (with real whip cream) and eat a lot of popcorn and fudge. My kids are little so just making a pan of fudge is cause for an all-out celebration. We made a gingerbread house from a kit (clearance from last year) and it was a blast. Kae recommends frosting graham crackers on the outside of a small creamer carton and decorating it. I'm already planning to make mine a gingerbread outhouse.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I have the Jane & The Dragon theme song stuck in my head.

What? You don't? Oh. Go here and click the video link to hear it.

Ahhhh. Qubo.... you and your evil song lyrics.

How do you handle cartoons at your house? We follow a classic cartoon methodology that gives away my 70's upbringing.... Saturday mornings are for cartoons. And eating breakfast in the living room. I like waffles. We get two channels so the kids have a choice of the moral-n-nonviolent Qubo offerings or the more violent stuff on Channel 10. They tend to alternate. And by 11:00 they have to be dressed, have the living room tidy (including breakfast dishes in the sink & tv trays wiped off), and be ready to go outside.

Friday nights are movie night at our house. It was the only way we could stop the "let's watch something" begging every night of the week. Now I just ask, "Huh, is it Friday?" and they have to leave me alone. Although we are watching any and every Christmas cartoon and special during the holidays.... I'm not heartless.

Ah... the eternal Homestead quest to cut down on tv viewing.... sigh.

Jane and the Dragon

There once was a lady in waiting
Let's call her Jane.
That girl wasn't ordinary-
No way for me a lady stuck in waiting
I'd rather battle fire-breathing dragons
I knew I could prove that a girl could be a Knight
Though my friends all laughed at me
I wouldn't be discouraged and trained in secret
Then a dragon pinched the Royal Prince
and everyone was freaking
So I went alone to the dragon's home
to slay the dragon
Hey now, hey now now
Jane and the Dragon are best friends now
Dragon's sweet, he let me save the young Prince
Then the King made me a Knight apprentice
Hey now hey now now...
With Dragon's help I'll be a Knight someday
Composed by Martin Kucaj
Lyrics by Arlene Bishop
Published by Cinesymphonies, Nelvana Limited 2005

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hunting Season 2008

Looking out my dining room window (wow... I washed that window not so long ago... can't even tell....) She's on the (covered) porch. She had to climb several steps to get here:

And then I found a scavenger in my compost pile:

Dude- Nice Rack. I've always wanted to say that. Seriously. He's within skillet-chucking range and 'tis the season....

This is actually a different guy (I think... I know there were two) over by "pirate rock." He's just hangin' with the ladies.... Deer in rut are a pretty funny thing to watch.

Watch This, Mama.....

Seriously... how can you not love a dare devil in snow pants??
*Edited to add: Yes, his feet really are that big. These are his hunting boots and they have extra insoles but he's currently wearing SIZE ONE shoes.... the size of your average 10-year-old.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sweet Mama Soup


I have a great, great, great recipe for squash soup... from Better Homes & Gardens. It calls for Sweet Mama squash but I've used other kinds.

2 to 2-1/2 lb. Sweet Mama, butternut, or acorn squash
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
5 cups chicken broth
2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and black pepper
Chopped red and/or green apple

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If using Sweet Mama, use half to three-fourths of the squash. If using butternut or acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds. Arrange squash, cut sides down, in 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Bake for 1 to 1-1/4 hours for Sweet Mama, 45 to 60 minutes for butternut or acorn, or until squash is tender. Remove from oven; cool slightly. Scoop pulp from squash halves. Place cooked pulp in a bowl; mash with a potato masher or fork (you should have about 2 cups pulp).
2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan cook onion in hot oil for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in broth, apples, and maple syrup. Bring to boiling, reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until apple is very tender. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Stir in mashed squash.
3. Transfer half the squash mixture to a blender container or one-fourth the squash mixture to a food processor bowl. Cover; blend or process until smooth. Repeat with remaining mixture.
4. Return blended squash mixture to saucepan. Stir in whipping cream (if necessary, add additional broth to make desired consistency); heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with chopped apple. Makes 8 side-dish servings.


Money Saving Mom has a post up about brown bagging lunches.

I brown-bag every day. I'm lucky... we have a kitchen with a hotplate & microwave at work so I can even make grilled cheese or soup for lunch. Hot isn't so lucky... he doesn't know where he will be at lunch-time every day. We are trying to break him of his "stop at Bob's" habit. Bob's is a local gas station/convenience store that has lots of pre-made (fairly tasty actually) lunch options. He gets a diet drink, sunflower seeds, a salad & sometimes a newspaper and spends about $10. Which makes my budget gasp and flutter. It can't be avoided sometimes in the summer but in the winter he can pack a lunch.... or so I think.

I'm getting into the idea of bento lunches. I love this site for her quick and clever lunches... and so cute. (Seriously... did you see the hot dog octopus?)

I'm also trying hard to use pyrex bowls with plastic lids for in the microwave. I have several and could, honestly, use a few more... but my tiny kitchen is already a game of tetris to put things away.... one more bowl might tip me over the edge.

Growing up on a farm has made me something of a master of the packed lunch. During harvest we pack a cooler to last all day. Those little playmate ones. Each of us is assigned a different colored cooler and you are responsible for getting it in the house every night so it gets rinsed out and repacked.

Interesting tips for harvest lunches:

1. It is hot so you are never as hungry as you think you will be... even though you are working hard all day.
2. Pack lots of drinks. I don't drink a lot of pop (soda for the rest of you) but I do love an ice-cold root beer during harvest. And a bottle of lemonade frozen solid is a great ice pack.
3. Pack sandwiches veggies separate. Soggy is not fun. But a gorgeously crafted sandwich piled with veggies on a hoagie is a beautiful thing.
4. You can eat sandwiches every day and still have variety. Deli cold-cuts, shaved ham, smoked turkey, shredded bbq beef, ground beef (I need to get this recipe from my mom), roast chicken, egg salad, tuna, cream cheese and veggies. I don't do pbj but my mom loves peanutbutter and banana sandwiches. Heck, you can even eat Spam during harvest.
5. Harvest is the one time a year you can splurge on those single serve packets. Chip varieties. Maybe those little cheese/cracker packs. Gogurt. Individual fruit cups. Mmm.
6. Oreos are ok but homemade cookies are better. We make up cookies ahead of time and freeze them. Last year my sis-in-law brought over a giant assortment of at least 6 different kinds of homemade cookies for the freezer.... yum.
7. Salad is an option. Last year my dad was on a veggie-veggie-veggie kick. I made him the most beautiful salads with homemade vinagrette dressing.
8. It works for kids. I've done hot dogs in a thermos. Usually it is so hot they just want grapes, carrots & chips.... and, sometimes, you have to be ok with that. They eat more at night when we get home and it has cooled off.... just make sure they get enough liquids. And pack hand sanitizer.
9. Everything tastes better with a little dirt and wheat dust on it.
10. Reuse the baggies.
11. Granola bars pack well. Ice cream bars do not pack well. But... if you are dumping in the bins by the house and you are quick you can win a LOT of points with the combine drivers if you bring them a frozen treat once in a while.
12. If all else fails... grab a can of pork-n-beans, some stewed tomatoes and a can opener. There's actually a bit of a bitter story behind this one. One day I packed a beautiful lunch for myself including powdered donuts, an herbed cheese and veggie sandwich on fancy bread, watermelon, veggies with dip... you get the idea.... well, as fate and truck break-downs would have it.... by lunch time I was in dad's truck and he was in mine. He called me on the radio and I could tell his mouth was full. He did mention how good his lunch was and, by that time, I was starving. I was so happy to roll into the field and see all the combines were empty so I had a minute to eat "my" lunch. I opened the cooler and saw a can of pork-n-beans (which I dispise), a diet coke (yuck... and no ice pack even) and a can opener. Lucky me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


This recipe is from the CSA we did this summer.

It is SO GOOD. I made it one Saturday afternoon this fall with a package of deer sausage. I just emailed it to my mom and she is making it today. We will see how she likes it. My husband -meat-n-taters guy that he is- took one look at the recipe and said, "I won't eat it." So I had to inform him I wasn't making it for HIM. Then he wanted just one bite and ended up eating half a squash-worth.

#146036 1¾ hours 20 min prep SERVES 2

1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 lb pork sausage (regular seasoning)
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 celery rib, finely chopped
2 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped (macintosh)
1/2 cup fine breadcrumb
1/4 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Combine the melted butter, garlic salt and 1/8 teaspoons sage; brush over cut sides and cavity of squash. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a large roasting pan, cut side up, at 400 degrees F for 30 - 40 minutes, until squash is tender yet still holds its shape.

Meanwhile make stuffing: Fry pork sausage until light brown. Remove pork to a colander to drain. Drain all but 2 tablespoons drippings from fry pan. Add onion, celery and mushroom; sauté 4 minutes. Stir in apple and sauté 2 more minutes. Combine the pork, vegetables, and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Taste and season with sage, salt or pepper if needed (depending on your sausage you may not want to add more seasoning). Stir in the egg and parsley. Fill the squash halves with stuffing-they should be slightly mounded. Return to oven and bake, covered, for 20 more minutes, until the egg is set. Garnish as desired with parsley and shredded romano cheese.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Things my son said this week....

"Mmmm mama, you smell like swimming trunks." (True, true... I was cleaning every surface with disinfecting wipes after Tuff's weekend-o-vomit last weekend.)

"Hey grandma... I didn't touch my weiner and I didn't touch the toilet seat, so I don't have to wash my hands." (That sounds like a daddy rule, doesn't it?)

"Mom, I can't draw a heart... can I draw a trapezoid instead?" (Um... sure.... I'm sure the trapezoid it the universal sign of affection somewhere.....)

"Hey, mama, where did that one bag that was in your bedroom go? You know... the one with the presents in it?" (Hah! Sucker. I hid it.)

"Hey mom.... watch this." (This will be replaced in his early 20's with.... Ya'll hold my beer and watch this.... this time it involved riding down the hill and launching himself off the manure pile on his bike....)

"Hey mom... I like riding my bike in my snow pants.... it doesn't hurt at all when I tip over."