Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snow is finally here

I was a bit disappointed when there was no snow for Christmas this year again. It started falling in the evening and it lasted only for few minutes. It has been falling on and off since then but never too much to be good for a good snowball fight or even sledding. 

This is the view from our our back door. 

And here are the girls on Christmas eve having fun looking around for the last pieces of green grass. They don't like to come out when the snow is on the ground so this was their last walk around the yard.  

So now is the time to start planning for next year - new garden plans, more garden beds, and some fruit trees that we would like to add to our little farm. I would also love to have bees but I might have to wait for that just one more year. First things first... I will keep you updated on my progress and new findings! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Orange slices as a tree decoration

So this is Christmas my friends! I have been MIA on all my social media websites because just like every year I make a list of way too many handmade gifts that I want to make for friends for Christmas and so just like last year, I spend the last month before the Holidays creating them (and I always finish, even though it sometimes doesn't seem like I will...)

Anyway, I thought I would take a quick break and share a little tutorial for these super cute dry orange ornaments. I make them every year but those from last year are still really well holding up!

First step, you guessed it, is to cut your oranges into circles.

Then lay them on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 Celsius for my European friends) for about 3 hours. Come back and turn them over. Leave them in for another 2 hours. If you have to leave them longer. Check if they are dry enough to use. The middle will turn darker and might be a bit damp, almost gooey-like. That is ok, it will finish drying while hanging on your tree.

Take them out and let them cool. Use a cute ribbon or a string to hang them up. They are such a cute addition to any Christmas tree!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 07, 2012

all the small things

We are very close to Christmas right now and everything is just turning into a chaos. I wish I could just sit back and reflect and really fully appreciate the small blessings in life. I am sure aware of them but just to truly reflect on them is something I need. There is so little time in my days that are filled with work, teaching the kids, housework, animals, and just stuff. I still don't have all christmas presents bought or made and the date is fast approaching. After this weekend I vow to relax more and experience this Christmas season the way it's meant to be experienced. 
For now, please take a look at some of our decorations we put up with the kids around our home!

This angel was a gift from my mom...

We love to pretend that the silver tinsel is our inside snow ;-)

One of my best decorative pieces is this German Candle mill. (Kids love to play with it while eating)

A little count down help...

and some wooden letters are a must! I love them. 

This is a detail of our tree this year and...

This was our tree last year. I have to admit I am a bigger fan of white lights...

Monday, December 03, 2012

Preparing the garden to rest for the winter

It is the time of the year for all of us gardeners to say good bye to our garden and lay it to rest for the winter. Every year I spend at least three days there to finish the job. With little kids I don't get the whole day to work on it, but I am sure if I had uninterrupted time, I could be done in one day - especially in such small space that I have.

First I pulled all my plants out and put it all on my compost pile. I will turn it over before it starts freezing. 

Here you can see the garden somewhat in whole picture. I leave some of the leaves on and let them rot on the garden beds. I also spread some chicken manure from the "girls" on top and let it soak in through the winter.

There is a new thing I am trying out on one of my beds. My sister-in-law did some research and found that organic gardeners don't till the garden beds for the winter. They spread leaves on top and some don't even pull their old plants out. They let it all rot through the winter months. Click here for more information on this subject. It seems that there is lots of benefit in keeping the soil untouched if you are an organic gardener.

And look who LOVES this time of the year in the garden! The girls get to roam my garden beds free of trouble. This is all they want to do the entire summer season - when everything looks so green and juicy. At least now they get to dig up some bugs... the last live food of the season. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Apple strudel

Here is the best recipe out of the best recipes I have ever made... and eaten. This is my grandma's apple strudel. I used to watch her make it and now I make it myself. Here you go, the good old recipe for Czech Apple Strudel. 

For the dough (makes 2):

3 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup butter
3/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vinegar

For filling (for 2 strudels):
12 medium size apples
vanilla sugar

For brushing the top:
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven for 400 degrees. Pour the flour into a bowl and grate cold butter on top of it. This is how cool it will look.

Then add the water, vinegar, and salt, and knead it till it feels nice and tough, but not dry. If it is too sticky, add flour... if too dry add water. 
Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the fridge. You can leave it till the next day and just take it out before you are ready to work with it so the butter has a chance to soften up in there a bit. Or just leave it in the fridge till you are done with preparing the apples and you can use it the same day. 

In the meantime, peel and grate the apples. I used about six medium size apples for one strudel. Flour the surface and place the dough on it. Flatten it...

... and roll it out with a rolling pin into a circle/oval shape, 1-2 millimeters thin.

Spread the grated apples on top of the dough, leaving the sides exposed. Sprinkle it with cinnamon, vanilla sugar, and coconut. Some people also use walnuts and raisins. I just sprinkle it to cover the whole apple surface.

Here is a picture of the vanilla sugar I use. I thought I should include a picture of that because it is not an usual item to buy. They do have it in regular grocery store.

Now we are ready to wrap it all up. Start with folding one side over...

Now carefully lift the whole part with apples up and fold it again...

And now fold the other side over so you don't have to try lift the whole thing up...

Wrap up the ends like this...

Finally I brush some egg with milk over the whole piece.

Place it in the oven for about 30 minutes but keep checking towards the end as ovens vary.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Apple crisps

These apple chips are naturally sweet and it is a great way to preserve your apples for the winter months.

First I peeled the apples and rinsed them under cold water. Then I cut out the core.

I cut the apples into thin slices. From experience, the thiner the slice the crispier the chip. If you have thicker slices, they will be either gooey or hard to bite. That said, the first slice on the photo below is too thick... go with the third or fourth.

Preheat the oven for 200 degrees Fahrenheit. I placed the slices on a cookie sheet and baked them for 4 hours. Turn the slices over and bake for another 2 hours. Keep checking towards the end just in case. Every oven is different in their temperature setting and you don't want to end up with burned apples. I store them in a regular brown paper bag.

Here is your finished product! Crunchy, sweet, delicious apples chips - the kids were fighting over them!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apple Sauce

This apple sauce was made from apples my husband picked with the kids on their walk in a backyard of a deserted house. He said they were all laying on the ground, being eaten by bugs and rotting - you can imagine how much cutting and cleaning I had to do! :-)

First, you have to peel the apples, wash them, and cut out all the bad parts. Then cut them into pieces, discarding the core. Rinse them and boil them in water till nice and soft. Check by poking them with a fork.

I took them out and placed them into a blender to be pureed. Add some of the water they boiled in, if you like your apple sauce more liquified. 

And voila! I didn't add any spices or sugar. This is as good as it gets. You could add some cinnamon or nutmeg.. maybe vanilla sugar if you want to experiment with taste.

Now can I get some apple trees for my yard PLAESE!!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

All about apples

This week I am planning to host "All about apples" week. I had good feedback on my "All about pumpkins" week, so here come some more useful and easy recipes. 

Tune in this coming week for a tutorial on how to make apple sauce, apple chips, and my grandma's recipe for a good old Czech apple strudel. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cowgirl Baby Shower

This past weekend I was busy preparing a baby shower for my very close friend, whose precious baby girl Natalie came to us unexpectedly 13 weeks before her due date. She is such a trooper - strong little girl, who is making tremendous progress everyday and who is a great example of God's love and promise to us!
On Sunday group of ladies got together to celebrate baby Natalie and I will give you a small tour through this special event. (I should mention that this beautiful house is NOT mine)

I made this sign to be the center of the room... the focus on baby Natalie - that is why we were all there :-) and I will post a tutorial for you later this week.

We were able to borrow some props from stables were my friend volunteers on weekly basis.

Wasn't this little saddle just perfect?

Here is a full detail of the fireplace area.

Cute center piece for the table. Don't forget to include burlap fabric, even if just a little accent of it!

You need an area for presents... and you might want to say "Thank you" to your guests for their thoughtfulness! 

Here is a full shot of the gift area.

I kept the games only down to three. This one was my friend's idea. We had people bring their baby picture. I put together a list of names of all the guests and each of the guests also got a name tag in case some people were not familiar with each other. Each picture was assigned a number. When it was time to play, I gave each person pen and paper and they guessed who is who in the baby picture. Everyone was laughing!

We also played the famous "Don't say the word BABY" game, which is always a challenge at a baby shower. Each of the guests got this neckless when they walked into the house - and the game was on!

My third game was "What's in the bag" - but I don't have that pictured. I placed several baby items into a bag and guests had to try to figure out what is in there, by touching them, not looking. They had one try and then they had to write the items down. 
Here was a box with my prizes...

Here is a closer look inside. I had a homemade pumpkin butter, homemade granola, fresh farm eggs, candle, and thank you notes. All decorated to fit the theme.

Ok, I have to include a close up picture of the egg carton design. I copied the original outline of an actual egg carton, only I included my personal photos - our shed and our girls.... and my own text. What do you think? My husband thinks I have too much time on my hands LOL - but really, I just can't help it...

Few more decorations we got from the stables.

Here are few shots of the food and table decorations that were mostly provided by another friend and the owner of the house. They did awesome job cooking and decorating the table. All I did was just added few accents to it.

Thank you for coming, please take one chocolate cupcake with pink cream cheese vanilla frosting!

Here I am with mommy!

Congratulations to the proud parents!!!