Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thoughts from the Barn

I really enjoy my daily trips to the barn. I'm down to only 2 goats and a few barn cats nowadays. They are always happy to see me when I arrive. The cats want their food and the goats eagerly wait for the daily treat of grain. How different it is today than it was a few years ago when my barn was filled with goats and daily milking and busy children helping to do the barn chores. Now I'm the one who does it all and am happy to have it small and manageable.

Most days I haul water to the goats, rake out their stall, feed them, talk to them and they talk back :) and it is peaceful and pleasant. It is a nice time to do the chores and think and ponder many things.

One thing I've learned over the years is that it is so easy to grow way to big on a farm. It is easy to take more and more on, but harder to keep up with and manage it all. The maintenance and up keep can become overwhelming. I don't really ever read or hear that end of it when I read homesteading blogs.

After almost 20 years on our homestead the barn needs some repairs, the chicken coop needs a new roof (we don't have chickens right now, but we don't want the coop to fall apart either), fences need repair, the driveway needs new gravel, and so on. I'm sure I'm not alone in having a long list of things to be done on a homestead.

A few years ago I decided it was time to simplify my farm animals. My kids were getting older and they had their own dreams and I put my energy towards helping them emerge into adulthood. We moved to the country mainly because we felt like it would be a wonderful place to raise children, and it certainly has been.
I had to realize as they were growing up that they had their own dreams and desires (just as we did when we moved to the country). And they needed to be able to follow those dreams and see where God wanted them to go in their lives. It was just the next step in the journey of raising children.

So some of the animals were sold, the chickens were eventually put in the freezer when they were done laying eggs, the horses were sold, and we kept only a couple goats and the barn kitties.

One of these days I'd like a few chickens again, but not this year. This year, as I make adjustments with less children in the home and taking on the chores without their help, I'm keeping the words, "simple and manageable" as my motto. I've already seen how quickly things can grow and become overwhelming and that is not where I want to be.

As I was in the barn today I took time to enjoy the peacefulness, the noises of the animals, the simplicity of life in a barn. I thanked the Lord for His blessings in our life and thanked Him for the simple joys of barn chores on a quiet day.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Menu Monday!

Last week was a busy week for me, and too busy to blog. This week I think it should be a bit better. :)

The menu went as planned, and having it planned out was very nice. Last week I mentioned the “Rub with Love” that I bought from Costco. I did use it on chicken breasts and I it was good. It was not strongly flavored, more mild. I sliced my chicken breasts in and put the rub on both sides and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I heated a frying pan, added coconut oil, and cooked the meat for about 4 to 5 minutes per side. The meal was super easy! I'm looking forward to trying it on salmon soon.

Today I'll start the week off with kielbasa cooked with cabbage, garlic roasted potatoes and green beans. It's one of my favorite comfort food meals.

The rest of the week looks like this...

Chicken Vegetable Soup
Chicken and veggies are sounding good this week. Not sure if I'll do my creamy chicken soup, chicken noodle soup (with added veggies) or try something new. We'll see how creative I feel when the time comes. I'll make biscuits to go along with this meal.

Pork Chops
I'll try the rub on the pork chops and bake them. Pasta with garlic & parmesan cheese, some home canned corn and a salad on the side will finish the meal.

It's been a while since I've made chili. A nice pot of chili on a cool winters evening sounds nice. I'll make corn muffins and a salad to go with this.

That should do it for the week!


Monday, February 1, 2016

Menu Monday!

Happy February!! :) January always seems like the longest, darkest month of the year and I am happy to see that it is over. February gives me hope, spring will be here soon.

It's grocery shopping day for me. My husband and I are planning to get a bite to eat out and then go and visit with our son. Our schedules don't mix all that well and we've yet to see his new apartment. He lives way on the other side of the city and we'll be driving through rush hour traffic which has become horrific over the last few years. But it's the only way to see him. :) We'll be taking our ice chest to keep things cool while we visit and drive.

Last week hubby and I had a busy week (his days off are over the week so it was a busy 'weekend'). I did not get the sausage gravy and biscuits made so we'll have that on Tuesday. Tonight we'll be eating out due to a late evening.

For the rest of the week...

Chicken Breasts
I bought some seasoning rub from Costco. It was called “Salmon Rub” but said it could be used for chicken and pork as well. I plan to slice up some chicken breasts, coat with the rub and cook them on the stove top with coconut oil. I'm serving potatoes, squash (I have cooked sweet meat squash in the freezer from the fall), a big green salad or green beans.

Here is a picture of the rub that I bought for any fellow Costco shoppers who are interested...

Easy, filling, simple meal. I'll have all the regular trimmings to go along with the taco meat; lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sliced olives, salsa, sour cream. Tortilla chips & salsa on the side. I like this meal for another reason. Sometimes a taco seems to heavy for me and I'll opt for a taco salad. I use all the goodies except the taco shells and mix them into a yummy salad.

Asian Pork Riblets
I have a big package of pork riblets in the freezer. I plan on putting them in the crockpot, covering them with THIS sauce and letting them cook all day. I'm sure we'll have at least a couple meals with this. I'll serve rice and a salad on the side.

That should do it for the week!


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Breakfast Smoothies

(This article does contain affiliate links to a couple of my favorite products :)

One thing about working hard to get fit is that I also am focused on my eating. I've found smoothies to be a great way to start my day. They are so versatile! You can make them in so many different ways. I also like the fact that I can add extra things to them to boost their nutritional value.

One of my favorite things to add to my smoothies is chia seeds. Those little seeds really pack a huge amount of nutrition in each teaspoon. They are basically tasteless so they don't change the flavor of the smoothie. They also add a little bit of thickening as well. When added to liquids chia seeds expand in size and become somewhat gelatinous.

Here is what I've found out about chia seeds...

They are rich in antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium (gram for gram they have more calcium in them than diary products)
They are high in Omega 3 fatty acids
They are high in B vitamins
They are high in protein
They have anti inflammatory properties and also help in lowering blood pressure and stabilizing blood sugar levels

Plus more.. there is a lot of information on the internet on them for further reading.

Due to the high fiber content in them it is important to incorporate them slowly into your diet so you don't get bloated. I started with 1t a day and now use 2T a day.

My basic breakfast smoothie is simple..

1 cup almond milk
1T chia seeds
½ cup frozen strawberries
¼ cup cottage cheese (adds creaminess and increases protein)

Puree it all in a blender and enjoy!

You can vary this smoothie in many ways...

Use regular milk or coconut milk or kefir
Add different fruits such as bananas or frozen berries
Add grains. My daughter likes to add oats to her smoothies
Add peanut butter or almond butter
Add your favorite yogurt

Add spinach or kale

Play around with different ingredients to produce a nutritious way to begin your day.

I like to also find ways to increase the protein in my smoothies. More protein means I stay satisfied longer. I know some people like to add protein powders to their smoothies but I've not been a big fan of that. Most of them seem to have flavorings and sugars or artificial sugars added as well. I have however found a natural protein supplement that I love...

This is a beef gelatin made from grass fed cows. The gelatin does not thicken up when added to liquids. It is good for the joints and skin and it adds 12 grams of protein in 2T. It does not have any taste to it. I add this to all my breakfast smoothies.

If you are looking to start your day off in a healthy way, try a nutrition packed smoothie!  :)


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Easy Salmon Fillets

I only had a vague idea what I wanted to do with my salmon last week. In the past I've not made a whole lot of seafood and fish. It was just too expensive when feeding a large family. Today it fits better with our budget and it tastes so good!

I only wanted wild caught salmon, not farmed salmon. I found what I was looking for at Costco...

It is very nice for cooking small amounts. It is a 2lb package and each piece of fish is individually wrapped making it handy to just pull out what you need.

I used about 1 ½ lbs of fish, which was 4 pieces.

I cut up a small onion and a few mushrooms and sautéed these in a large frying pan in a bit of olive oil until they were just starting to soften. Then I put the fillets in the frying pan and sprinkled them with salt and pepper...

I let them cook for about 5 minutes and turned them over...

I fried them for another 3 or 4 minutes and poured on a little Italian dressing and let it cook another 2 or 3 minutes and turned over again.. to make sure they were done.

I served them with brussel sprouts and garlic bread for a very easy and quick meal that tasted amazing!

Easy Salmon Fillets

1 small onion, sliced
3 or 4 mushrooms, sliced
2 to 3T olive oil
1 to 1 ½lbs salmon fillets
salt & pepper to taste
¼ cup Italian salad dressing

In a large frying pan sautee onion and mushrooms in olive oil until they just begin to get soft. Lay salmon fillets on veggies in frying pan. Let cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn salmon fillets over. Allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour Italian salad dressing over fillets and let the salmon cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the fish flakes and is cooked all the way through.

Serve and enjoy!!


Monday, January 25, 2016

Menu Monday!


I ended up making a few extra meals last week so I could have some meals in the freezer. I made tuna patties and spaghetti along with the other meals I had planned. It's always nice to have a few meals tucked away in the freezer for those busy days.

One of the meals I made last week was salmon. I found wild caught Alaskan salmon at Costco in the freezer section. It's really nice, each piece is individually wrapped so you can pull out just what you need. I'll be sharing how I cooked that tomorrow.

I made the pork chops that I had on my menu last week on Sunday. I still have enough of that and some of the bean soup leftover, so that is what we are having for dinner tonight. As usual this is errand day and grocery shopping day so the leftovers are nice to come home to.

Here is how my menu is looking for this week...

Garlic Shrimp Pasta
Garlic & onions and a little kale, sauteed in butter with a little salt and pepper. Add shrimp and cook a few minutes. Mix in a bit of angle hair pasta. Serve a salad on the side... and you have dinner in less than 20 minutes! :)

Homemade Pizza
Pizza is just sounding good this week. I plan to also make up a few extra pizza crusts for the freezer. It takes half the work out of homemade pizza if the crust is already made.

Sausage & Gravy with Biscuits
I like to make my sausage gravy first and then put it in a baking dish. I put the biscuits on top and then bake it all until the biscuits are done. It is just easier to serve this way. I'll open a jar of green beans to go along with this.

That should do it for the week!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

13 Ways to Help Ease the Winter Blues

I posted this article a couple years ago. Winter time blues are a real thing. I do find since I started walking and working on fitness it seems to be a bit easier. Also, as #13 says, acceptance of the season has helped but more than that I'm learning to embrace each season, be content and just roll with it. The seasons go by quickly and it is important to realize this and let God help me to appreciate all the little things that make each and every season beautiful and unique. 

I don’t know about you but personally I deal with the winter time blues. It’s not bad but it is something I’ve dealt with for a long time. As soon as the weather warms up, the days get longer, the trees start to bloom, the birds and frogs are back making their spring time noises, I start feeling much better! But in the meantime the stark look of winter and short days are just no fun. However there are a few things that I’ve learned to do over the years to pull me out of it all and learn to make the most of this time of year. 

1. Lights
I’m not talking about the fancy SAD type lights (although I’ve heard they are helpful), I tend to turn on every light in the house during the day. Maybe because I live in an area that can be rather gray and gloomy most of the time I’ve found this to be very helpful.

2. Candles
Candles create a mood, a good mood for me. I find pretty smelling candles and light them. This is especially nice in the evenings.

3. Exercise
Honestly this is not one of my better traits. I’m typically resistant to exercise unless it is something I like doing.. such as swimming in my pond, working in my garden type of exercise. But I’ve learned that a walk in the fresh air is very mood enhancing. And good for my body as well. 

4. New Year’s Goals
Remember those goals you made at the beginning of the year? This is the time most of us have forgotten that fresh outlook and determination to make desired changes for this year. I pull out my list and begin working on whatever I can.

5. Prayer
Don’t forget your quiet time with the Lord. Time spent in His word and in prayer can lighten the burdens of life each and every day.

6. Sleep
I know I seem to sleep more in the winter months. For whatever reason my body just needs it. I look at it a lot like hibernating. ~smile~ I do feel better and more refreshed to start the day when I’ve had plenty of good sleep.

7. Friends
A couple of weeks ago my best friend called and wanted to come and spend the afternoon with me. We had such a good time. We enjoyed coffee lattes made by my daughter and laughed and talked and spent time with our kids. I felt very refreshed after our visit. I can tend to just want to hole up in the winter and avoid people. It was a good reminder to me to take a little time with a friend now and again to just have some fun.

8. Plan a Garden
The garden catalogs are rolling in now and they are fun to look at. I like to think, ponder, create in my mind my dream garden. Even better when I can order some seeds in preparation for spring!

9. Start a Project
Not anything elaborate but I find winter the best time to start a sewing project or crochet an afghan. Or maybe start a craft project. Find something you enjoy and work on it as your time allows. 

10. Eat Healthy
Spending a lot of time indoors in the winter can cause us all to not make the best food choices. We can snack on and eat too much sugar and carbs and then end up feeling awful. Make a point to eat healthy foods and avoid overdoing the junk snacking.  However a treat now and again is a nice way to spend a winter's evening with your family. 

11. Make a Gratitude List
One thing that can always change my mood and give me something to brighten my spirits is a gratitude list. Take a moment and write down all the things you are grateful for in life and hang it on your fridge. Make sure to look at it often and add things to it as you think of them.

12. Do a Little Cleaning & Decorating
I know I feel better when my home is clean and in order. What better time to focus on cleaning up the home. And after you have a room cleaned up, do a little decorating; nothing fancy or expensive. Maybe some flowers, or check out the thrift stores for a little something special that will make your room feel warm and cozy.

13. Acceptance
Finally, instead of fighting winter, accept that we can’t do anything about the time of year. Take on a new attitude. This year I’ve made a point of thinking about how nice it can be to put on a cozy warm sweater, read a good book, snuggle up with an afghan on the couch and a hot cup of tea in the evenings and enjoy family. This season will end and the next will begin so the goal is to walk through it all the best we can!