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Showing posts with label big family issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label big family issues. Show all posts

Sunday, March 19, 2017

So Many Cooks in the Kitchen

 Last evening my white farmhouse kitchen looked like we were preparing a stone soup for dinner.  Four generations of family members wandered in and out of the room, most staying to contribute something to a hearty chicken stew I was attempting to make for the first time.

Some were stirring the pot at the stove while others were retrieving ingredients (and wine) from the refrigerator and basement.

 Others were using their culinary skills to chop numerous vegetables and herbs while a few smaller family members stood by inspecting the progress.

Many of us took turns with the challenging task of keeping a certain eight month old happy and out of mischief.

Those with less experience in the kitchen were in charge of being the sommelier and making lively conversation. 

There were a couple of us in charge of adding diced ingredients to the pot when it was time.

While others just hung around looking handsome and waiting to be sent outside to gather eggs and feed the livestock.

As for me, I was the photographer, of course.  I was all prepared to make the entire dinner myself, as I do most of the time.  It was a pleasant reprieve to simply be the one overseeing it all and delegating various tasks to everyone else.  In the midst of the organized chaos, though, I forgot to take any pictures of the finished product, which got an excellent rating from almost every family member.  All I've got is the image in the cookbook above.  There weren't even any leftovers to heat up and photograph today.  I'll conclude by saying that the phrase "There are too many cooks in the kitchen" just didn't apply.  Each of the eleven family members who were present contributed something and turned out to be the perfect number for making this stew.

Adapted from the Cooking Light: Top-Rated Recipes special edition:
Chicken, Apple, & Butternut Stew (p. 56)

Peel & cube a butternut squash, and peel and dice a bunch of parsnips, and set aside.

Cut up 2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs into bite-size pieces and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt & 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Put 1 Tbsp. olive oil into a large pot and heat over medium heat.  Add half the chicken and saute until browned.  Repeat with remaining chicken, then remove to a plate or bowl.
Chop 2 onions & 3 Tbsp. fresh sage.  Add another Tbsp. olive oil to pot and add the onion, sage, and 2 tsp. dried ginger.  Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the cubed squash and the diced parsnips.  Cook another 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the vegetables with 5 Tbsp. of flour.  Cook 1 minute, stirring to prevent sticking.

Stir in 3 cups apple cider and 3 cups of unsalted chicken stock.  Stir in the cooked chicken, 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper.  Bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.

Peel and chop 3-4 cups of Granny Smith apples.  After the stew has simmered for 25 minutes, add the apples and cook for another 10 minutes.

* I probably added a bit more salt and pepper to this.  I didn't actually measure it.  We also wanted to make the stew thicker, so after adding the cider and stock, I dissolved 1 Tbsp. of corn starch in 1/4 cup of water and stirred that in.  There was so much talk and activity going on that it's a really good thing that I wasn't making this myself because it would have taken me hours to concentrate and get all the prep work done.  It was definitely more fun to read the recipe aloud, sip some wine, take some pictures, and hold our grandson.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Beautiful Mess: My Life

Last week while in Michael's, I came across a bin of brightly colored journals with various words embossed on the covers.  As soon as my eyes landed on this one, I knew it was the right journal for me.  A beautiful mess perfectly describes the season of life I am living right now.  It's a different kind of mess from five years ago when we were finishing up our last round of breastfeeding, potty training, and getting children to sleep in their own beds throughout the night.  Back when we were establishing our little farm and helping goats birth babies, butcher our own chickens, and start seedlings for the gardens all throughout the house.  Those were the days when we had five children under the age of eleven, and I was homeschooling all of them.  Life was most definitely messy, but it was a different kind of mess.  I never thought I'd say this, but I actually kind of miss some of those days.

Now the house is void of diapers, potty chairs, and toddler beds.  I typically let the goats and sheep do their own birthing and only intervene when they're in serious distress and no one else is available.  We no longer butcher any animals (hated that part of farming), nor is my husband allowed to fill every sunny windowsill or table with trays of dirt.  My eleven years of being a homeschooling mom have come to an end, and our farmhouse is now full of preteens and teenagers, except when our baby grandson comes for a visit.  I suppose our youngest---who is about to turn eight---isn't officially a preteen yet, but in her mind, she's been an adolescent since she was about three.  Middle schoolers and high schoolers bring their own unique brands of mess to the house, as do the middle-aged parents who reside with those adolescents.  And that is the season we are currently in.

I'm a little more aware of (and annoyed by) the disarray today because we are just finishing up spring break when we are all home together much of the time.  The weather has not cooperated with the break, and even though the younger children did spend some time outdoors, most of the week has been rainy or cold, so we've been inside a lot.  The kitchen sink has filled up quickly with coffee mugs used to create individual "snickerdoodle" treats found on Pinterest by our ninth grade daughter.  The dining room/multi-purpose room table has been covered in papers, pencils, and tape used by our youngest as she makes more artistic creations.  Which, by the way, is most definitely an improvement over the entire walls she used to cover with her "artwork."  The coffee table in our living room held Nerf guns, tablets, headphones, and sketchbooks until I insisted that everyone pick up their stuff last evening before company came.  The boys' bedroom has always been a disaster zone, but this week all I can see are Legos everywhere.  This is because the ten and eleven year-olds are creating an entire Star Wars themed village with various shops such as Darth Vader's Bakery, Jabba's Fitness Center, and Jawas' Junk Shop.  It's quite clever, I think, but it creates a huge mess while they are in the midst of a creative brainstorm like this.  The girls' room is full of shoes, makeup, nail polish, and a homemade Shopkins house as our teen daughter is practicing new hair and cosmetic techniques for the prom, and our seven year-old has used some of her free time to build a structure for her 86 Shopkins.  Even our bedroom---which is supposed to be off-limits to everyone other than the parental unit---contains clean wet clothes hanging on Amish drying racks, clean folded piles of clothes waiting for the owners to put them in their dresser drawers, and a stack of items to be carried up to the attic, plus an additional large bag full of clothing to be taken to Goodwill.  Even the outdoor areas seem to have extra mess this week because it doesn't matter that I am ready to decorate the porches for spring; Mother Nature is making it clear that I am not in charge.  With a foot of snow forecasted here in about 24 hours, the snow shovels, skis, and rock salt are still sitting on or beside the porches for future use.  And our boys are in the process of building some kind of fort on the bank, so there are poles, arrows, rocks, and homemade flags adorning the side of our property making it clear to everyone driving up the lane that children most definitely still live here.

These are just some of the messes that make up my life and home right now.  It's by no means all of the messes.  I do get frustrated...and aggravated...and discouraged by it all far more than I care to admit.  But I also recognize that what all of these messes have in common is Life.  When I was a little girl, my favorite place to go on Sunday afternoons was my grandmother's house.  Her house was far from empty, quiet, and lonely.  Instead, my many aunts, uncles, and cousins congregated there every weekend, and the house was bustling with activity, good country food, noise, and life.  I had the best times of my childhood right there rolling down the grassy banks, playing games of wiffleball in the yard, hiking up through the cow pastures, and hunting for Easter eggs with my numerous rowdy cousins at my side.  My favorite TV show in the seventies was The Waltons, and I imagined myself growing up and living in a big white farmhouse in the mountains full of energetic, beautiful children, swinging or rocking on the expansive covered front porch.  There would always be people around, and there would always be something going on.  And that's pretty much what I finally got.  I just never thought much about the messiness that comes with that big family country life.

I sometimes feel fed up and disgusted with the messes, especially after looking at Pinterest or home magazines on the store shelves.  I want to post my own beautiful house pictures on Instagram, Facebook, and here on my blog.  I suppose I could make everyone pitch in and do some serious cleaning up, then stage the house just right, and then kick everyone out of the house for awhile so I could get some great shots to load to Google photos and use on here.  But that wouldn't be our real life.  It's not what's really going on here.  When I am feeling rather discouraged, I remember something my mother-in-law said to me four or five years ago when I was feeling especially low.  It was this time of year, and everything outside was a brown muddy mess.  My husband decided to try a new feed project for the livestock by sprouting buckwheat in trays in our kitchen.  We had an actual week old goat kid in a trough by the coal stove whose mother had rejected her and my husband insisted on saving.  And he had bricks from the barn heating on top of the coal stove to take out to the kidding stall at night to keep other new goat babies warm under the heat lamp.  I sat there on a kitchen chair in front of the stove, taking a turn holding this tiny goat kid wrapped up in a blanket, looking around me at this mess of a house that was now my life.  And I started crying.  I sobbed to my mother-in-law that I'm really not this messy, sloppy, terrible housekeeper.  That I used to live in a beautiful, neat, organized, immaculate home before I got with this son of hers and had all of these kids.  That all of this mess around me was not who I really am.  And she said the kindest, most beautiful thing that anyone could have said to me at that time.  She leaned closer and looked into my eyes and said, "Don't you know that when we come here, we don't see a horrible mess?  We see a family full of love for each other and this wonderful Life."

So in my low moments, when I start to feel angry or bitter at the clutter, the projects, the messes around me, those words of hers reverberate in my mind.  And I choose to see instead a Beautiful Mess that is this Life.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

20 Things I Love

Last month I read a blog post by Ashley at The Big White Farmhouse blog where she made a list of 20 simple things she loves about her life.  I thought that was a wonderful way to start the new year, and it inspired me to do the same.  I decided to wait to post mine near Valentine's Day since that seemed fitting, so here is the list I came up with:

1. That first cup of steaming flavored coffee in my favorite mug when I come downstairs at 6 AM.
2. Holding and petting our 2 Maine cooncats.

3. Spending hours browsing in a library or bookstore.
4. Attending concerts and shows with my husband.

5. Sitting in my new kitchen as the sun streams through the windows.
6. The smell of homemade bread baking in the oven.

7. Seeing several "Comments Awaiting Moderation" in my blog inbox after publishing a post.
8. Sitting down to blog when the house is quiet and I have no interruptions.

9. Playing board games as a family on long winter nights.
10. The feel of a baby in my arms.

11. The smell of crisp sheets after they've hung on the clothesline on a sunny day.
12. Walking through the woods with my camera.

13. Filling a pew at church when grandparents and adult children come to visit.
14. Trying out a new dinner recipe while sipping a glass of wine.

15. Feeling the breeze off the mountain blow through our kitchen screen doors on a summer evening.
16. The sound of water flowing in the brook beside our house.

17. My afternoon cup of homemade mocha with nutmeg and cinnamon on my way to the school.
18. Watching goat kids and lambs frolic in the pastures.

19. Licking raw cookie dough off the beaters.
20. One big snowfall each winter with all of us at home for a snow day.

This list just scratches the surface.  Those of you who read this blog know that each season and holiday brings another unique collection of photographs of the things I love most about life.  Focusing on those things and the positive in every person and situation I encounter is one of my goals for this year.  

So what about you?  What would be on your list of 20 things you love?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

10 Dinners at Home With No Kitchen: What We've Really Been Eating

It is Day 10 here of having no kitchen while the renovations continue.  Two weeks ago I had noble plans of coming up with creative dinners for the family using only the crockpot, microwave, and indoor grill.  I thought I'd compose a fantastic, helpful blog post full of simple recipes that others could use if their families were also without a kitchen for some period of time.  Our family brainstormed ideas, and I created a memo in my phone of dinner ideas, along with a list of ingredients I would need.  The reality is that I've only made two of those meals.

In all fairness to me, I couldn't have known that over these ten days I would have sick children home from school and Church a total of four days.  Nor that my husband would be home from work with an injured foot for two days.  Or that in this period of time the children would have one early dismissal, one snow day, and one 2-hour delay due to ice. Plus there was the holiday yesterday when everyone was home that I did know would occur.  Oh, and I couldn't have predicted that I would end up with a killer sinus headache that no OTC meds could touch that lasted for two whole days.  Tending to everyone's needs while squeezing through the mounds of stuff stashed in the dining room trying to find where I put the cough drops, pain relievers, herbal teas, cold medicines, ice packs, etc. proved to be a part-time job.  I soon realized that the hearty beef stews, burgers and veggies done on the George Foreman grill, and pulled pork sandwiches with freshly chopped tossed salads were not going to happen.  Sigh...

Instead, this is what we've actually been eating for dinner for the past ten days.  This includes what we're having tonight.  Other than a scheduled dinner out this Thursday due to a track meet we have to attend, I have no clue what we'll be eating during the remainder of the renovation.  I will say that my crockpot has gotten a lot of use due to the discovery of these Reynolds Slow Cooker liners that a friend told me about.  If it weren't for these, the crockpot would be packed away in the basement somewhere until I have my kitchen back.

Day 1: Frozen burritos and pizza bites heated in microwave (the only frozen dinners eaten so far)
Day 2: Takeout from Pizza Hut only because the pizzas were 50% off that day, and our daughter had a coupon for a free personal pan pizza
Day 3: 3 large cans of beef barley soup warmed in the crockpot and cold cut sandwiches
Day 4: Tacos with grass-fed ground beef browned in microwave with chips and salsa and queso
Day 5: My homemade crab dip, artisan cheese with crackers, baked potatoes (microwaved) with leftover taco meat, & canned baked beans heated in microwave
Day 6: Deli roast beef & cheese sandwiches on kaiser buns, potato chips, & pickle spears for the kiddos.  Hubby & I attended a cocktail party and ate there.
Day 7: 3 large cans of chicken noodle soup in crockpot & crackers.  This was a lean night and my refrigerator was getting bare, but I was 2 pounds lighter the next morning!
Day 8: Grilled bacon wrapped pork loin that Hubby froze weeks ago, potatoes done on the grill out back, green beans steamed in microwave
Day 9: Meatball subs from frozen mini meatballs cooked with jarred spaghetti sauce heated in crockpot, raw veggie platter
Day 10: Deli creamy potato/bacon soup in crockpot, bakery croissants

This was Day 8: Barbecued bacon wrapped pork tenderloin and potatoes that Hubby created himself and put on the patio grill surrounded by snow.  It was, by far, the best dinner we'd eaten in a week even if it was a coronary event just waiting to happen.

What I have realized over the past ten days is just how much of my kitchen I take for granted.  With absolutely no counter space for preparing food right now, it is very difficult to make anything from scratch.  With no cupboard space, all my food ingredients are packed up in boxes and bags or crammed on shelves in the basement.  With no sink in which to wash dishes and cutting boards and knives, it's nearly impossible to rinse, peel, pare, and slice fruits and vegetables.  And of course, with no stove or oven, I am relegated to using only the microwave, crockpot, or grill.  Or we eat things raw.  I have to totally rethink what I should buy at the grocery store, and I'm finding that to be way more challenging than I'd originally thought.

So, instead of publishing a post full of recipes for wonderful "kitchenless" dinners for your families, I humbly post what we're really eating for dinner during this temporary sabbatical from cooking.  I am still welcoming any simple meal ideas from you Dear Readers.  I think we've probably got another ten days or so before we are back in our farmhouse kitchen.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Creating a New Normal During Our Reno

While there is a snow/ice storm occurring outside that seems significantly worse than what was forecasted, I'm waiting inside for Hubby to safely bring home the children from their early dismissal from school.  I've got nervous energy from the stress of roads being closed, worry for all the families and buses out there driving their kiddos home, and too much coffee this morning, so I decided to blog to get my mind off my concerns for awhile.  

We finally managed to get absolutely everything except the wood/coal stove out of our kitchen on Sunday.  It looks like an empty house that's on the real estate market.  Well, it did before the contractor's crew began working on it yesterday morning.  Now I keep the doors to the kitchen closed and try to stay out of their way all day.  We do take a peek at night though to see the magic they have worked.  The day we cleared the last of everything out and wiped down the last of the cobwebs and dust (and there was an awful lot of both), our 7 year-old daughter put on her most beautiful princess dress, broke out the classical music, and danced her little heart out in the middle of that big, empty kitchen floor.  It was her own personal ballroom until her brothers came running in, loving the way their voices echoed in there.  Once the work began, however, all children have been banned from the kitchen, as well as all animals.

We have decided to look at this temporary change in our lives as an adventure as our big family lives without a kitchen, which happens to be the largest room in this house.  Everything that we would absolutely need, and everything that I was afraid might break, got placed in our dining room/multi-purpose room.  That room already had much going on in it: instrumental practice, homework, Internet browsing, game playing, video watching, and roughhousing.  Now the kitchen table and refrigerator are in there, along with much, much more.  

We look like we are hoarders now.  Every inch of space in that room is filled with boxes and bags of stuff that had been located in the drawers, cupboards, and counter tops of our kitchen.  We're having to come up with creative dinners that only require a microwave, toaster, or crockpot.  I'm still working on that.  Any dishwashing that needs to be done has to happen in one of the bathroom sinks, so there's a lot of paper plate use, I'm afraid.  Yesterday morning was the first school and work morning that the kitchen was off limits, and it was rather chaotic.  My husband couldn't find what he needed for work; our middle school son forgot his PE uniform; people were tripping over each other in that very cluttered space; and our youngest dropped and spilled half a quart of juice.  It was a mess.  But we are adjusting, and I'm happy to report that this morning went much smoother.

But I do tend to forget that we have the stove and dry sink stashed in the hallway, and I run into it nearly every time I round the corner with a full basket of laundry on my way down to the basement, which is where the washing machine is located in this old house (another thing I'd like to change.)  The past few days have really reinforced how much I never want to move again. If simply packing up the contents of one room to temporarily move into the next was a lot of work, I can't imagine having to pack up and move everything we've accumulated over the past ten years and moving it hundreds of miles away.  Been there and done that and hope to never have to do it again.  I'm grateful that this temporary situation is minor and of our choosing, and is leading to something we're all excited about (well, mostly I'm the excited one.)

I have every confidence that in a couple more days, we will have all adjusted to our new surroundings and be as relaxed and well-adapted as this guy---whose only issue seems to be that he has to eat in the hallway now instead of the kitchen.

And what do you know?  I see that the snow has stopped just as I come to the end of this post.  Have a great week, All.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Finishing Out the Old Year at Our Preppy Mountain Farmhouse

This is how I feel about the upcoming year.  Can you feel the excitement?

I'm sharing with you today moments from our final week of 2016.

Our youngest loved sporting her new Santa pjs on Christmas Eve.

I made cherry cream cheese danish for breakfast Christmas morning.  Pinterest-inspired, of course.

This is where I spent most of my time around Christmas: in the kitchen in my holiday apron.

One of the odd mishaps that occurred on Christmas day: my air bake pan that was full of corn casserole went screwy when the bottom rose up in the center, pushing the corn contents up and over the top and all through my oven.  We had Christmas dinner in a smoky kitchen.

I tried my hand at some creative appetizers found on Pinterest.  The meat/cheese/cracker Christmas tree on the left looked pretty close to the Pinterest pin; the veggie Santa not so much.

Believe it or not, these one-piece elephant pajamas were not a gag gift.  Our 14-year old loved them!

This hen somehow flew the coop and perched outside our kitchen window most of Christmas day.  She did get to share the scrapings of corn casserole from that mangled cake pan with a very large opossum who showed up in the evening.  I wonder if it's the same marsupial who hung out under our front porch as a baby this summer.

We drank two pitchers of this insanely awesome champagne punch.  The recipe can be found here at Between Naps on the Porch.

Watching our grandson open his first Christmas gifts was so fun, and he was very proud of himself.

This farmhouse felt big when we bought it, but after squeezing 17 family members in one room to exchange gifts and get pictures, it's evident that we need some extra space.  I'm praying big prayers this year for an addition so we can continue to host gatherings as our family expands. 

We have no exciting plans to ring in the new year since Hubby is on call at the hospital and our teen son needs a ride to/from a swing dance.  I'm hoping to not have to be the one to pick him up after midnight, and I can sip some of this delicious Choco Vine I got as a Christmas present while I watch old episodes of Gilmore Girls and Call the Midwife with our teen daughter.  It has really been an awesome year, and I thank God for all the blessings we've received in 2016.

I am so excited about what 2017 has to offer.  I plan on spending more days with our grandson while he's still a baby, learning how to use all the features on my new camera, renovating our farmhouse kitchen, watching our youngest take her first Holy Communion, and spending more time on blogging.

And I want all of you Preppy Mountain Farmhouse readers to know that I also count you among my blessings for this year.  My little blog has tripled in views, subscribers and followers this year thanks to all of you.  I cherish every comment I receive from you and am thrilled when I see in my stats the various cities and countries you are from.  Writing this blog and connecting with you is one of my high points every week.

Happy New Year, Everyone!  See you again in 2017. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Of Thanksgivings Past

Thanksgiving is just a week away, and the only thing I've done to prepare is buy the turkey.  In case I don't have time to do any blogging between now and then, I thought I'd leave you with a few pictures of some of our Thanksgivings we've celebrated since we moved into our farmhouse ten years ago.

Let me start by saying that the images in my head of what our Thanksgiving should be like are similar to last year's Land's End cover of one of their holiday catalogs.  But the reality is that our celebrations really look like this...

Our youngest son was actually baptized over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2006, which is a beautiful thing, but he screamed throughout most of it.

This was the children's table in 2007, back when we had a smaller kitchen table and we could squeeze in a kids' table.  Now that our table seats 10-12, there really isn't room for much else in our farmhouse kitchen.  When we have lots of family here, we now have to split up into two rooms.

We have actually spent a number of Thanksgivings at Disney World.  The kiddos love it, but I never quite feel like it's really Thanksgiving when we have dinner there.  These three are all preteens and teens now.  How I wish I could have just one of those days back again, preferably without the tantrums.

Our only orange-haired son has majorly loved food all his life.  When his siblings and cousins were finished and playing, he continued to sit at the table and clean his plate...and completely devour this turkey leg.

 For many years when my house was full of toddlers and little ones, this is what our Thanksgiving dinner table really looked like.  Definitely nothing fancy, mismatched everything, sippy cups, and if you look closely you'll see that our one year old has her bare foot propped up on the table.  I'm fairly certain the vino got me through.

Remember that this is what I really wanted to see at our Thanksgiving dinner table.

In 2013 we were back at Disney and had reservations to eat at Mickey's outdoor barbecue.  There was a Thanksgiving buffet, and our table was right next to the dance floor so we could be up close to all of the Disney characters.  Unfortunately, our youngest was, and still is, afraid of nearly every person dressed up in a full costume.  She was in hysterics when Donald Duck tried to get her to dance with him, and we had to carry her out of there with her screaming at the top of her lungs. 

Thanksgiving 2014 brought us six inches of heavy snow, which was kind of fun since there was nowhere else we had to be.

It was the only year that our children got to go sledding before they ate Thanksgiving dinner.

Last year my youngest was six, and I had a Pinterest board full of Thanksgiving pins I wanted to try, so in addition to our traditional turkey dinner, I also tried out some new things earlier in the day, and had a great time.  With the children older now, I feel like all the traditional trimmings are getting kind of boring and I could make them in my sleep, but my kids have begged me not to change the menu.  I've agreed to only try one new dish this year, and it's only allowed to replace the green bean casserole.

So just in case I am frantically cleaning, cooking, baking, and decorating over the next week and don't get back to my blog, May All of You Have a Happy Thanksgiving with blessings in abundance.