Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone! Have a safe one. We're off for some much needed R&R with our son & his girlfriend camping & motorcycling.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I saw this over on OklaCookiemaker Quilts blog. It's so much fun to create. Give it a go!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

I love Poppyseed dressing but don't like all the sugar in it so typically avoid it. Now I don't have to. I found this dressing online and was able to adapt it accordingly.

Lemon Poppyseed Dressing

1/3 cup sugar (I used about 2/3 of the 1/3 cup Splenda and topped it off with sugar to make 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I think the fresh juice is what makes this so yummy)
2 teaspoons onions, diced
1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
1 small squirt honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

In a blender, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, honey & salt. Process until well blended.

With blender still running, pour oil in a slow steady stream until mixture is thick & smooth.

Add poppy seeds, processing a few more seconds to mix.

I used this one a salad the other night with spinach, baby romaine, raspberries, strawberries, grapes & sliced almonds. You can adapt to whatever salad fixins you like.

What a great fresh tasting dressing. YUM!

Fun Giveaway!

Rondell, at Tomato Creek Primitives is having a 100th post giveaway. She will be drawing on the 28th. Head on over and sign up. Of course, signing up will be futile since I'M GOING TO WIN!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Glorious Sunday

Today was one of those days that tricked the mind into thinking it is Fall already. 70's and beautiful sunshine with a briskness this morning and evening.

I've been itching to get my fall decorations out but keep telling myself to wait until after Labor Day. It just feels like I'm rushing summer away if I do it any earlier. I love to decorate with "fall stuff"; pumpkins, gourds and indian corn. I like walking through crunchy leaves, bonfires and apple orchards.
I look so forward to our annual trip to Tanner's Apple Orchard, north of Peoria. We hope to work out a time this fall to take Jon, Heidi and the kids with us. They have the coolest bridge and tree house for goats. Yes, I did say tree house for goats. You put in your quarter for goat food, the bell rings and you crank the pulley until the food reaches the top deck as the goats hear the bell and all push and shove to get there first. Okay, so I'm still just a kid at heart, but it's so darn much fun.

Fall also means it gets dark earlier. The days already seem alot shorter. Part of me doesn't like that but the other part of me enjoys the coziness it affords. And Fall coziness usually leads to quilting and crafting which I have neglected for way too long. Summer activities tend to put those things on the back burner for me, so I'm looking forward to starting up again.

This is another scene that will be a little less serene as the corn and bean harvest gets rolling. It will be a flurry of activity in another month or so.

Fall is hands down my favorite season.
The only downside to fall is the cold winter months that come right on it's heels. But I'm not going to think about that right now. Maybe if I ignore that winter thought, it will go away. Trying to ignore, trying to ignore, ignoring, ignoring...yup it worked.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Isn't she pretty?

It lives, it runs, it moves!
This car has been in our garage in virutally the same spot since we moved in 9 years ago. Dan decided now that the shed is up and habitable to move it there.

This car is a 1976 Buick Century Free Spirit, modeled after the Indy pace car for that year. Dan bought it new in 76 and it has less than 50K miles on it. This is the car we dated in, went on a honeymoon in and went to hospital to have our children in. The one and only dent ever put in it was put there by me in an ice storm. This car holds lots of memories (sniff, sniff).

Isn't it strange how different things can evoke memories; photos, places, songs, even vehicles?
I heard a song on the radio this morning on my way to work by Boston that took me straight back to my senior year in high school. We drove by a drive-in theatre yesterday and talked about our first date which was at a drive-in. However, that drive-in has long been demolished in favor of a grocery store and strip mall.

What stirs up memories for you?

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I passed and now can go to the DMV and get the motorcycle stamp on license! I passed the 50 question written with 100%, thanks mostly to Kris's quizzing at lunch.
I passed the riding test with not exactly the score I wanted but at least I was in the passing range.

And here is the proof...

Who would have ever thought a little card could make me so happy AND RELIEVED! The squirrels are once again safe. :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A couple of pictures from today

The bike line-up. They use lightweight small cruiser or dirt bikes for the class. There were Yamaha dirt bikes, Honda Rebels & Honda Nighthawks. I rode a Yamaha. Mine is the 4th one from the far end.

Tom relaxing during a break. Everybody heads for a shade tree when they give us a break which is about every 1-1/2 hours. Friends of Joe & Jon, Tom & Kris Fuchs ended up in this same class. Kris was also my student worker a few years ago when she attended Highland College. It was nice knowing someone else there.

I am really hoping and praying that I pass the tests tomorrow. Before I went, I wanted to learn but now after devoting a weekend to it, doggone it I WANT MY LICENSE!

Class riding - Day 1

The motorcycle class I signed up for back in February is finally here.

I attended classroom lecture last night from 6 - 10. Today was our first day riding. We started by 7:30am this morning. I am riding a Yamaha dirt bike that has come to be my friend and enemy, sometimes all at the same time.
We started out by learning where all the controls are on the bike we have for the day. Good thing to start with, don't ya think?
Then they put us through a series of drills, involving balance, braking, leaning, clutching, etc. This morning's drill mostly went well but then they had to go ahead and have us ride around cones. That's a whole 'nother story! The first set was fun at 20 & 30 feet apart, but then we had to ride around ones at 15' & 20' apart. That got to be a problem. Let's just say, if the cones were squirrels, we'd have about 10 less squirrels in the world right now!
However, I am learning I can lean the bike without feeling like I am falling over. That's a huge step for me! I'm going to hang on to that positive thought as I head back out to the course for the afternoon session of a few more riding drills and more classroom until 6 pm tonight.

Tomorrow we test! Yikes!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Vegetable Fairy

The vegetable fairy came to work again today.

One of Highland's instructors sells vegetable he grows. They sell at local farmers markets and venues like that. He also brings them to work to sell.
What could be better? nice, fresh vegetables delivered to my desk?

The last few times, he's brought them, I've been away from my desk for some reason or another. When I return, Poof! the Vegetable Fairy has been here!

This is the assortment I received today. Don't they look great? Steamed fresh green beans are one of my favorite foods.

John is bringing me okra on Thursday so here is where I'm looking for help....

Do you have a favorite okra recipes you'd be willing to share?
Do you have any tips on how to prepare it?
How do you like to fix it?
Do you have to peel it?
Do you chop it?

I've eaten deep fried okra, stewed okra and okra in soups but have never made it myself.

Can you find it in your heart to help a poor, okra-impaired cook???

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back from the Blast!

Today was about as perfect as it gets in Northwest Illinois...mid seventies, sunny and little to no wind. A perfect day for a motorcycle excursion. We left home this morning about 9am with another couple from church and headed an hour west to one of our church's satellite campuses in Galena, IL where we had just an awesome church service.

After church -- lunch time! We headed a little further northwest crossing the Mississippi River at Dubuque, IA.
North of Dubuque on the Great River Road about 15 miles is Balltown, population 73. On weekends, the population of this tiny little town swells by at least ten fold. In the fall when leaves turn, take that population number by 100. It's a beautiful ride up and down the bluffs along the Mississippi River and great food awaits you when you get there.

The good food you'll find in Balltown goes by the name of Breitbach's Fine Dining. Built in 1852, Breitbach's is Iowa's oldest continual operating bar/restaurant. It's said that Jesse James even ate here. This restaurant has been in the Breitbach family for 6 generations.
Many years ago we first stopped at Breitbach's on a whim as we were passing through tha area. We weren't sure what we were getting in to. From the outside it kind of looked like a dumpy old bar and not all that desirable of a place to eat, but we were pleasantly surprised at how wonderful the food was. Everything, and I mean everything, is homemade, right down to the hamburger buns. It's one of those places that although it's a 2 hour drive for us, it's more than worth it!

However, on the morning of December 24th, 2007, Breitbach's burned to the ground. The owner, Mike Breitbach said right away that they would rebuild. Construction started this Spring and they opened Independence Day weekend. The back of their t-shirts say "Back from the Blast" and I would add -- better than ever! There is more seating and the food is as good if not better than ever. It may not be the same atmosphere as before but it's new and unique and they've managed to keep an old restaurant feel.

The new and improved Breitbach's Fine Dining, Balltown, Iowa It's not uncommon on an October Sunday for them to feed over 2000 people throughout the day!

The view from Balltown.
If you look closely you can see the river in the distance as well as parts of Wisconsin and Illinois.

If you are ever in Northeast Iowa, Balltown is the place to go and Breitbach's is the the place to eat.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Lookin' off my front porch

It's spraying season in farm country.

This afternoon as I was working at the desk, I heard this incredible roar overhead. As I looked out the aerial spray plane was in front of the house, not much higher than the electrical poles.

I have to admit, chemicals aside, it's darn fun to watch him as he dips and rises over the trees and wires. I am no airplane fanatic and I really HATE to fly but this fascinates me.

Making the loop

Dropping lower


Take that you fungus!
After consulting my sister-in-law, the farmer, they're spraying for a fungus of some type that is prevalent in a wet year which this year has definitely been.

Return lap- it just amazes me how low they can get.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back online & putzing

The storm as it starts to come over our house.

After the storm passed us, but was still wreaking havoc on others east of us.
See Suzanne's post of "At Home with a Farmers Wife". I'm not sure exactly where she lives other than east of us in Northern Illinois.

We had a BIG storm come through here Monday night producing straight line winds and tornadoes. You know it's a big, bad storm when the big rooster comes to the basement with Chicken Little.

We were fortunate as we were only out of power for 8 hours. Thankfully, as the storm started approaching Dan thought to fill some buckets with water so we could at least flush the toilet. That's the worst part of being in the country and out of power is not being able to flush. Wouldn't you agree? Is this more information than you want???

Yesterday there were still some without electricity. The power outages were so numerous and widespread, I can't imagine where the electric company even decides where to start. We all complain about our electrical rates from time to time but I sure wouldn't have wanted their job these last couple of days.

We didn't have any damage here at our house but there was lots of wind damage in the area. Jon & Heidi lost part of a big tree, but it missed the house and their vehicles. Praises! Many people have trees down. Dan's been busy helping friends do storm clean-up and he is there again today.

This week is our last four day week at the college so I took the day off to take advantage of one more four day weekend before all the hectic hubbub of school start-up comes at me next week. It's get crazy fast once faculty start coming back. I'm ready for them though. I miss the big galoots! They keep life interesting.

I had no major plans for the day when I asked for it off, but it's been great to just putz around the house. I miss putzing. A friend asked me once to define putzing. I told her it was a feeling of comfort in and of itself with no particular agenda but she still didn't get what I meant. Maybe it's an old German term? My Mom putzed and my sisters putz. Doesn't everyone?

Do you ever "putz"? How would you explain it? Do you do anything in particular while you "putz"? I would love to hear from you.

While putzing this morning, I weeded flower beds, hosed off the deck and the front porch and have been doing laundry. Even though I've been working, it has been so relaxing to work at MY own pace with MY own agenda.

I'm off to putz some more.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sewin' Sunday

I really like this Saturday night church thing. It allows me to sleep in on Sunday mornings. This morning it was 6:30 - woohoo! It's just nice to not have to rush one day a week.

I have barely touched my sewing machine since mid-Spring. Today I was finally able to devote a day to sewing. And my house and I are covered in loose threads to prove it. I sew like I cook - all over the place!

I'm in need of some gifts in the upcoming months and so badly wanted to hand make them. Well, one gift is now almost finished. All I have to do yet is quilt and put the binding on.
It's a Halloween runner that I made completely out of the stash of fabric & scraps I had on hand. I bought the panel which I cut the pumpkin squares from years ago and couldn't ever decide what to do with it. Today I finally cut it up. There are 18 different squares.

There are 5 small pumpkin square panels and two strips of wording from the panel, the rest is pieced.

This is my favorite square.

I also put this bag together this morning. I saw the tutorial on SewMamaSew! and had to try it out. It went together pretty quick.
A few of these would be great to use as grocery bags. Now, before you think I'm getting all "green-like", I just get tired of all the plastic bags. Seriously, how many does a person really need to keep?
The only thing I use them for is the grandkids dirty diapers!
I know, I know, way more information than you needed, right?
Anyway, the bag is great, check out the tutorial.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Good stuff!

Our local newspaper published this recipe last week and oh my, finally an answer to low sugar italian ice which I have never, by the way, been able to find!

Blueberry Granita
3-1/2 cups blue berries
1/2 cup sugar (I used Splenda baking blend)
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon zest (the real kind)
1 T. lemon juice (again, the real kind)

Whipped cream for serving

In a food processor, combine 2-1/2 cups blueberries with the sugar. Process until very smooth.
Transfer puree to a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to press the juices out of the pulp. Discard pulp.
Mix in water, lemon zest & juice. Transfer mixture to a shallow non-reactive baking dish and place in the freezer. Using a fork, stir every hour, crushing and scraping ice as it forms.

Fluff with a fork and spoon into chilled serving glasses. Top with remaining blueberries and unsweetened whipped cream.

From "Outstanding in the Field: a Farm to Table cookbook" by Jim Denevan (with a few of my revisions)

This is so good! Nice & light. I think next time I'll try it with blackberries and forget squeezing out the pulp.

Sorry there is no recipe but I didn't exactly serve it in a chilled glass. I've been just grabbing a scoop out of the dish it was frozen in. That's allowed, right?!?