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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Sweets

With an abundance of goats' milk, fresh summer fruits, and more uninterrupted time at home, we have been indulging in a number of homemade sweets this summer.  With all the summer birthdays, holidays, and visits from extended family, we have all kinds of excuses to make dessert.  This is some of what we've made and consumed during the month of June:

Cinnamon Rolls
On the morning of my birthday, my dear husband got up extra early and made these delicious cinnamon rolls from scratch before he left for work.  These are truly the best I've ever had.  Alas, he didn't supply me with the recipe, and I'm not sure he'd find it again on the Internet.  My hubby is not one for actually measuring ingredients or following a recipe closely, so I doubt I could pass along his secret formula anyway.  Every time he makes something, it's never exactly the same as the time before. 

 Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
After my birthday dinner, our daughter presented me with this lemon cake with homemade cream cheese frosting.  What a light, summer treat!  I think she was going for preppy colors with the pink frosting and lime and kelly green sprinkles.  This is the frosting recipe she used from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book:

Cream Cheese Frosting
Beat together 6 ounces of cream cheese, 1/2 cup softened butter, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla till light and fluffy.  Gradually add 3-4 cups of powdered sugar, beating until smooth.  This recipe is doubled to generously cover a double layer cake.  

Wild Black Raspberries
Of course, the best summer sweets of all are the ones that come naturally with no work involved.  The black raspberries ripened this week on our mountain and in our yard, and the children have been picking and eating them daily.  I love it when we can easily forage for food in the woods or just walk outside and find fresh, organic, healthy foods.

Black Raspberry Goats' Milk Ice Cream
Since the raspberries are plentiful, we've been eating them plain, on cereal, in waffles, and in our weekly batches of hand-churned ice cream.  I'll share our easy recipe with you again:

Homemade Ice Cream
Cook 1 cup of milk/cream to scalding, but not boiling.  Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup sugar and 1/8 teaspoon and salt.  Chill in refrigerator all day.  When you're ready to make the ice cream, pour the cooked milk into the ice cream canister, and add 3 more cups of fresh milk or cream, 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla, and as many raspberries as you like.  Prepare the churn with ice and rock salt, and churn for about 45 minutes.

Strawberry Cake with Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
A week or so ago when the strawberries were for sale everywhere, our teen baker made another double layer cake with homemade chocolate frosting.  She took a large strawberry and cut it into the shape of a rose and used our chocolate mint leaves to adorn the top of the cake.  She and I are trying to experiment with some of our Pinterest pins this summer, and the strawberry rose was pinned to one of her boards.  This was so popular in our family that our youngest son requested the exact same cake be made for his upcoming birthday in a few weeks.

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting
Beat 6 tablespoons butter till light and fluffy.  Gradually add about 2 cups powdered sugar and beat well.  Melt 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, and cool a bit.  Add to the frosting along with 1/4 cup milk and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.  Gradually beat in another 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar and additional milk if necessary.

Here's another view.  It tasted as good as it looks.

I am a happy camper and am enjoying every aspect of summer, especially the desserts.  Still trying to limit myself to only one per day, as hard as that is sometimes.  Running with my kiddos and Tippy up and down the mountain most every day is enabling me to eat these sweet treats without packing on any more pounds.  Unfortunately, I'm not losing any either. 

Wishing all of you a weekend filled with sweet summer treats of some kind.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Our Life Through the Eyes of My Children

One of my birthday gifts this year was a poem written by our 14 year-old daughter about her life---our life.  This has become one of my most cherished possessions.

Where I'm From

I am from homemade bread and scalding hot chili.
From sweet smelling Dawn dish soap and almost empty cans of Lysol.
I am from long, screaming games of Zilch and hours of poker.
From green Irish signs on the wall and small Celtic crosses.
I am from piles of shoes in the kitchen and cats on the couches.  
From the blasting of Bon Jovi and endless Michael Jackson videos.

I am from sheep in the backyard and baby goats climbing over tires. 
From red and brown hair and golden eyes.
I am from the tattered books
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
and Love You Forever.
From wiffle ball and chocolate chip cookie bars.
I am from photos, paintings, and sharpie pictures on the walls.
From long walks in the forest and wading in the creek.

I am from the fallen willow tree and escaping animals.
From gigantic pine trees and sticky sap you could only get off with peanut butter.
I am from homeschooling and field trips to Asher's Chocolates.
From prayers in the evening
and soft songs and Bible readings throughout the day.

And on the crowded bookshelf in my living room,
I find lost memories and grins.
I am from these recollections,
These memories make me, me.

On the days when our life seems too messy, too noisy, rather chaotic, and I ask myself why we're living so far away from everything and should I return to work full-time so money isn't so tight, I look at this poem on our refrigerator, and I know all is as it should be.
And I thank our dear daughter for giving me a glimpse into our life through her eyes.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Make Your Own Yogurt

I warned you I'd be writing lots of posts on what to do with goats' milk.  Last weekend I made homemade yogurt for the first time in a couple of years.  If you don't have a yogurt maker, this does take a little time and attention.  I've found that if I'm short on either, the yogurt still turns out OK, and if the consistency isn't quite what I'd like, I stick it in the freezer and make frozen yogurt.  Here's the recipe I follow to some extent.  Much of my yogurt making experience has been trial and error though.


First, you need to scald 4 cups of milk.  I've only ever used our fresh goats' milk, so I'm not sure how pasteurized, homogenized milk from the supermarket works.  Watch and stir this often so it doesn't burn and stick to the bottom of the pan.  Once scalded, cool it to a temperature of 95-115 degrees.  I use a dairy thermometer to keep track of the temperature.  You'll be using this all day if you don't have a yogurt maker.

Once the milk is the desired temperature, pour into a Pyrex dish, and add 1 cup dry milk powder, 4 Tablespoons of plain yogurt with active cultures (I use Stoneyfield plain organic yogurt,) and 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin that has been softened in 1/4 cup cold water.  Mix well.  The gelatin is optional.  I use it to make the yogurt more firm.  Place the lid on the dish and put in a warm oven with the oven light kept on.  I usually warm the oven to 170 degrees, and then turn it off.

Every couple of hours, you'll need to take the lid off and make sure the temperature of the yogurt remains between 95-115 degrees.  If it's getting low, turn the oven back on to a low setting for a few minutes, and then turn off again.  I have also tried placing dishtowels around the Pyrex plate to maintain warmth.  That's also why you keep the oven light on.  Incubate for 3-9 hours.  There's just no way of knowing when you start, how long it will take until your yogurt is the consistency you desire.  Mine usually takes most of the day.

Once it is finished incubating, I add ingredients for flavor: fresh fruit or vanilla and honey.  This time I added raspberry syrup.

If you like, you can place the entire container in your freezer for frozen yogurt.  Mine was still a little too watery for my family's taste, so I froze it.  Even with over 1/3 of a bottle of syrup, most of my children didn't think it tasted sweet enough---which goes to show how much sugar is put in the commercial brands that my kids love.  My children did like this frozen though---after I let them add some sprinkles or chocolate syrup.  I really prefer using fresh fruit and vanilla, with just a little bit of honey.   

Natural yogurt with live, active cultures is one of the best foods you can give your digestive system.  Give it a try this weekend

Monday, June 20, 2016

Super Easy Butter-Making Without a Butter Churn

If your images of making butter are like mine, they involve someone sitting with a large butter churn in front of them and spending hours there, just churning and churning.  I'm remembering an episode of The Waltons where Mary Ellen churns with book in one hand and complaining about her life to her mama and grandma.  One of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, Farmer Boy, also stands out in my mind because Almonzo Wilder's mother was always making butter to sell.  But today's post will show you that making your own butter can be simple, easy, and requires no equipment other than a jar with a lid, and a marble.  Even the marble is optional.  Here's what you do...

Simply skim the cream off the top of any refrigerated milk you've collected over the past few days (non-homogenized, of course.)  If you left the milk uncovered in your refrigerator, the cream is even easier to skim off.  Just make sure you don't shake the milk up first or the cream will mix in with the rest of the milk.  We typically have over a quart of milk each day, and 3 days worth of cream is typically enough to make butter.  Put the cream in a small Mason jar or jelly jar or even a cup with a tight-fitting lid.  Add some salt if you like salted butter.  You can also add some herbs like dill or chives for added flavor.  Then I place a marble in the jar because it helps me know I'm shaking vigorously enough, and it lets me know when the butter is getting thick.  Put the lid on the jar and start shaking.  This is when a number of children in the house come in handy.  We take turns shaking while we read a book or watch a movie.  After about 30-45 minutes of vigorous shaking, the cream has turned into whipped butter.  Then refrigerate.  We make ours with raw milk, so it needs to get used up in about 4 days.  It's so good that using it quickly is never a problem. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Strawberry Salad, Summer Reading, Swimming, & Song Lyrics

It is a day for alliteration.  None of my topics today have anything in common except summer and the letter S.  Let's start with my favorite salad this time of year: Strawberry Spinach Salad with strawberries purchased at a local farm stand and fresh spinach from our garden.  It's the homemade dressing that really makes this taste so good.

Strawberry Spinach Salad
Whisk together 2 Tablespoons chia seeds, 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1/2 Tablespoon dried onion.  Cover and chill for about an hour in the refrigerator.
In a salad bowl, combine a bunch of torn spinach leaves with about 1/2 quart of sliced strawberries.  You can also add some slivered almonds.  Pour dressing over the salad and toss.  Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

I just finished reading Queen Bees & Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman in hopes that I can help our 14 year old daughter understand and navigate her way through high school Girl World.  This book really explained why girls play the roles they do in their social cliques, and it touches on boys as well.  The one thing I have yet to learn, though, is what makes a girl a queen bee/mean girl in the first place.  Is it just her personality that she was born with?  Is it because of how she was raised or the behavior she saw in her own mother?  Is it from the media that she's been exposed to?  Does it have to do with how she was treated by her own peers at one time?  I'd really like to know how these narcissistic girls become the powerful, controlling heads of their social environments.  As difficult as it is to watch any of my children be excluded, snubbed, or laughed at, I think it would be even harder as a mother to see your own child be the mean one who ridicules and harasses others.  I am seriously hoping that the private Catholic college prep high school we are sending our daughter to will not have nearly as many scary issues as the ones presented in this book.  However, if I'm wrong, this book has shown me ways to deal with these potential problems.  I wish I had read it fifteen years ago when our older daughters were becoming adolescents.

After two full weeks of uncovering the pool, scooping out debris, vacuuming, dumping in pounds of chlorine and stabilizer, and fishing out toads and their eggs, our swimming pool is finally ready for humans to swim in.  Our children spent hours in it the past few days.  Just look at that blue sky yesterday afternoon.  We haven't had many days like this all year.  It was glorious!

As for me, I sat in my lawn chair with my SPF 70 sunblock, big sunhat, and polarized lens prescription sunglasses to try to make up for those foolish teen years of covering myself in baby oil while sunbathing for hours a day.

Finally, my teenagers have managed to pull me away from NPR, Fox News, and Joel Osteen on our Sirius XM radio in our SUV to introduce me to The Blend.  When I heard Humble & Kind, I ran home to see the music video and share it with my husband since this is the message we're always trying to leave with our own children.  I'll close today by leaving with you the lyrics of this song by Tim McGraw.

Humble & Kind
You know there's a light that glows by the front door
Don't forget the key's under the mat
Childhood stars shine, always stay humble and kind
Go to church 'cause your momma says to
Visit grandpa every chance that you can
It won't be wasted time
Always stay humble and kind

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

Don't expect a free ride from no one
Don't hold a grudge or a chip and here's why
Bitterness keeps you from flyin'
Always stay humble and kind
Know the difference between sleeping with someone
And sleeping with someone you love
"I love you" ain't no pick up line so
Always stay humble and kind

Hold the door, say please, say thank you
Don't steal, don't cheat, and don't lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When those dreams you're dreamin' come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

When it's hot, eat a root beer popsicle
Shut off the AC and roll the windows down
Let that summer sun shine
Always stay humble and kind
Don't take for granted the love this life gives you
When you get where you're goin
Don't forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind 

Lyrics and song can be found here:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Thank You to the Sexual Assault Victim of Brock Turner

This is not my typical blog post about farm life, food, family, or fashion.  I have seriously contemplated whether or not I should hit the publish button for fear of losing readers, but I am moved to do so.  I feel compelled to express my gratitude to the unnamed young woman who was sexually assaulted by a Stanford student over a year ago.  The letter she wrote and read aloud to Brock Turner went viral this week, and as I read it, I was moved to tears at how perfectly she found the words to describe the impact that assault had on her life.  I felt that she was writing the letter on behalf of every woman who has been through a similar experience.  Her words are the words we would like to say to our assailants.  If you haven't yet read her letter, it can be found at

I have no way of knowing if my words of thanks will ever be seen by this brave woman, but this is what I want to say:

Thank you...
*for giving every victim feelings, emotions, a soul, and dignity and showing that to your assailant.
*for showing the world that using another human being is not just "20 minutes of action" for the one being assaulted.
*for making it easier to open a dialogue between us mothers and our adolescent daughters as we try to prepare them for life as a woman. 
*for helping us mothers show our adolescent sons what sexual assault does to a young woman, physically and emotionally.
*for giving credit/gratitude to the 2 men who stopped their bikes, chased down the attempted rapist, and who became the face for every good, caring, humble, decent, and heroic man that we all want our sons to be.

*for being the voice of all of us women who have ever...
...blindly trusted our "date" to protect us and do the right thing regardless of our condition.
...accepted a drink made by our date or his friend without seeing what went in it.
...gone to a frat party and remember having 1 drink, and then remembering nothing else until the next morning.
...said No or Stop, but our boundaries were not respected.
...been assaulted and felt like we were to blame for taking a drink or going to a party or agreeing to dance with/go out with/get in the car with this guy we trusted.
...felt like this would not have happened to us if we were more beautiful/thin/smart/wealthy/popular.
...wondered what about us is so inferior/loathsome/defective that he felt he had a right to violate us.
...naively thought we could party with the frat boys and have a good time like they do without the fear of being used/violated/assaulted that night.
...been too afraid to tell anyone what happened because we think we'll be blamed and chastised and looked down on.

So I thank you for being courageous enough to bare your soul and write this open, moving letter, and for reading it aloud to Brock Turner in that courtroom.  Thank you for being the voice for all women who never had a voice of their own.  May we all be moved enough by your words to diligently raise our sons to care for and respect women, and not to see them as things they can use.  And may we raise our daughters with a sense of dignity, self-respect, and the same strength you showed in facing your assailant and reading your letter directly to him.  Thank you.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

More Affordable Summer Outfits For the Middle-Aged Mom

Along with celebrating my forty-something birthday this week, I did a little bit of clothes shopping for myself and also received some wonderful outfits as gifts.  Everything in this post is inexpensive, practical but still interesting, and most of it can be found at Kohl's.  Other than working on the color and cropping a bit from these photos, there was no touching up.  So these are of the real, slightly heavier than last summer, middle-aged me.  I try to keep it real on this blog. 

Hubby surprised me with the sundress above on my birthday.  It's been a long time since he bought me clothing that can be worn out in public.  He did an excellent job, I think.  This dress is Chaps and is found at Kohl's.  I love the light, flowing fabric and the way it feels on me.  I haven't had a long sundress in ages, but  I'll be wearing this a lot.  It will be perfect for an upcoming grandmother/mother/daughter banquet and a future baby shower.  On my feet are the same thong sandals worn last year from Land's End.

I found this plaid skort at Kohl's yesterday and paired it with an old white sleeveless blouse purchased at Target after our 6th child was born and I could no longer wear any of my size 4 clothing.  The white canvas sneakers are a couple of years old too, and I have no idea where I bought them.  The white reversible belt was also purchased at Kohl's, and the turquoise watch is Gossip brand and is one of those cute watches that you can switch the colors of the bands.  This just feels perfect for backyard barbecues and picnics.

This nautical jersey knit dress is also Chaps and from Kohl's.  I like it because it's a bit thicker than a lot of the t-shirt or polo dresses in the stores today, and it's also not too clingy.  The horizontal stripes do make me look a little wider than I'd prefer to be, but that's a good motivator to keep me running.  There's just a hint of red at the button line, so I switched the watchband to a red leather one.  The white sandals are the same ones as last year and are from JC Penney.  Great for shopping, casual dinners, and carting kids to summer activities.

Now that I'm attempting to train for a 5K next spring, I was in dire need of some running clothes.  My husband found some great stuff at Kohl's.  Along with some sports bras (which you will NOT see me in), he also found these Fila running capris that have this nifty pocket in the side for my cellphone.  That comes in handy since I use it to track my time, check my heart rate, and have it on hand if I should ever come up against a bear in the woods and need some saving (yes, this has happened before.)  I raided my kids' drawers for the running pullover in the photo so you wouldn't see the sports bra.  And the Nike sneakers were found for a steal at Macy's last week.  No need to explain where I'll be wearing these, and I try to never run errands in my spandex or yoga pants.

So this concludes my new summer finds that didn't break my budget and that aren't too young and hip or too grandmotherly either.  The weather was not cooperating during this mini photo shoot.  It poured down rain and blew all over the porch, and it was only about 55 degrees.  I coerced my teenagers to take the photos, and years from now I'm sure I'll hear about how much they hated being my personal fashion photographer.  But I just can't get the selfie thing down, and this is one of the advantages of having a large family.

What do you know?  The sun is peeking out, and it's time to pick up my younger ones from their very last day of school for the summer.  Woohoo!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer Saturdays on the Patio With Yet Another Uninvited Visitor

How I love summer weekends spent at home with extended family, lounging on the porches, patio, and by the pool.  Most weekends we make a different flavor of hand-churned ice cream from our goats' milk.  This Saturday we were celebrating our daughter's 8th grade graduation from the only school she's ever attended.  It was rainy at times, but that didn't prevent us from enjoying ourselves outdoors and creating and consuming some of our favorite traditional summer foods.  This vanilla ice cream was our first homemade ice cream in two years since we've been waiting for our goats to become mamas again.  Our 9 year old son even climbed the cherry tree to pick us some ripe cherries to  place atop our dessert. 

He was also one of our most diligent churners, and the ice cream turned out perfect.

To get our goats' milk ice cream recipe, you can access it here in Preppy Mountain Farmhouse's archives.

As usual, we had an uninvited guest.  This little guy crawled out from under our front porch and hung with us for awhile.  I couldn't find his mother anywhere, and it's odd that he was out during the day.  I felt kind of sorry for him...but not sorry enough to take him in and feed him.  I'm really not keen on having a pet opossum.

As we took turns churning ice cream and playing yard beanbag games with the children, Hubby grilled us one of our favorite summer chicken recipes: Chicken Teriyaki.  Below is the recipe for the marinade.

Chicken Teriyaki Marinade
Mix 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 Tablespoon vinegar, 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, and some dried ginger.  Add about 1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and coat with the marinade.  Refrigerate for at least several hours or overnight.  Put on the grill for about 20 minutes.  If you double the recipe like I did, it easily feeds 10+ people.

It is our tradition to sip Gin & Tonics while we churn ice cream, cook out, and celebrate the beginning of summer.  This has always been my beverage of choice in the summer, next to Arnold Palmers, that is.

Some vanilla porter was also tested for the first time with a big thumbs up.

In fact, some of our guests came up with the idea of combining the porter with the homemade ice cream to create their own version of vanilla beer floats.  And the consensus was that this is a great summer treat to be made again in the future.

My vote hasn't been cast on that yet because I steered clear of that combination, but it seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed.

As for our little opossum friend, the last I saw of him he was climbing out of sight.  I'm hoping he hasn't met up with any of the numerous felines on this mountain and he's alive and long as he doesn't take up residence under my farmhouse porch or cabin months from now as an adult.

Two and a half more days of school here, and then it will truly feel like the beginning of summer!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Goats' Milk Vanilla Pudding: Like Nothing You'll Find in a Store

I am so thrilled to have goat kids on our farm again, and with them comes an abundance of delicious goats' milk.  Just warning you that there will be a number of recipes and how-to sessions on creating all kinds of dairy products from goats over the next few months.  This vanilla pudding recipe doesn't take too much time and does not compare to any of the ready-made puddings or boxed mixes from the grocery store.  Cows' milk will work in this recipe too, of course, but I do think the milk from our Nigerian Dwarf goats is richer and creamier than any other milk I've had. 

Vanilla Pudding
(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New CookBook)
In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. 

Stir in 4 cups of goat milk.  Cook and stir over medium heat till thickened and slightly bubbly.  (This takes awhile.  You might want to read a book while you stir.)  

Remove from heat while you gradually stir about 2 cups of the hot mixture into 4 beaten egg yolks.  (Don't use the egg whites because they leave little clumps of cooked egg in the pudding.)  Return all that to the pot and cook and stir for 2 more minutes.  It should be quite thick now.  Remove from heat, and add 1 Tablespoon vanilla and 4 Tablespoons of butter.  Stir until the butter is melted.

Pour into a bowl, and cover the surface with plastic wrap.

You want the plastic wrap right against the pudding to prevent a thickened film from forming on the top.  Don't stir it again, but just put it into the refrigerator to chill.  My family actually likes it warm too.  Either way it's sooo good.

Add toppings if you like.  We've topped with berries, whipped cream, chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, and sprinkles.  Tonight we used my friend's homemade salted caramel sauce warmed up.  I still need to get that recipe from her.  Bananas and vanilla wafers or crumbled graham crackers taste great in this, as does cooked rice.  But we also really like it plain.

Run out to your local farmers' market or goat dairy this week and pick yourself up some goat's milk and give this a try.  Or better yet, I highly recommend purchasing yourself a couple of miniature goats to keep as pets and grass cutters, and you'll have your own fresh milk right outside your door.  I'll save my milking tales for another day.