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Thursday, September 18, 2014

SHHHHHHHH! Don't Tell, but.....

I really hate to even say this outloud, but here goes.......

This family has no specific place to be until Saturday morning!


Ok, Tink and Bear do have to go to school, but for the first time in FOREVER we do not have a meeting, practice, game, or appointment on the calendar.

So happy I can say that.  We have been running crazy with both girls in soccer and Tink in the middle of volleyball season.

I don't usually do this, but I have to brag a bit on these volleyball girls.

Here they are four years ago playing "up" to help fill the 5th and 6th grade teams.  They were third graders in this picture!

And here they are today, playing other teams their very own age for the first time as true sixth graders!

So far they are undefeated, and they have played through their schedule once.  That means we start playing teams we have already played this year.

I can't begin to tell you how much fun it is to watch these young ladies play.  They rarely take themselves seriously, there are always more smiles that frowns, and they have each other's back. Geez, I'm getting teary just chatting about them.

A big part of their success is their coach, Kristin.  She is able to get the absolute best out of these girls with positive encouragement and lots of giggles.

One of the best things about our beloved little school is the community/family created.  These girls will go off to the Jr./Sr. high school next year.  They will never be a class of 12 again.  They probably will never even be in a classroom with just twelve students.  No matter which way they go in the next six years, they will always have this core group of friends to fall back to and count on.

Yikes!  I had better not get out the caps and gowns, or I will really tear up!  Nope...we have a season of volleyball to finish, and a season of basketball to enjoy before we have to think about seventh grade and all that brings with it.

Yesterday was a work of chaotic organization.  Meetings started at 2:00 and I was home by 4.  Tink stayed after school for volleyball practice, and Bear came home on the bus.  At 5 I went to pick up Tink, at 6 Tall Guy had Bear at soccer practice, and we all met up at the Farm Bureau office for our monthly county board meeting.  Somewhere in there everyone was at least presented with food for supper.  Whew!  So I will be thankful for this wonderful lull in the action around here because harvest is not too far away.  Hope you and your family are enjoying these wonderful, cool days we have been blessed with.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Switching to Gluten Free~ Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust

WIth a month loaded up with volleyball and soccer games, it's been hard to find time in the kitchen, but I have several Gluten-Free (GF) flours and products I want Bear to try, so it's time to make time!

Pizza is a HUGE food choice for most kids, and it's been the hardest for Bear to give up.  Thankfully, there are some brands of frozen pizza that she likes; Udi's is top on her list, but we like to make pizza at home, so the search was on to find a tasty pizza crust.

This crust is super simple to make.  You start with Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust mix.  It comes in a sealed bag, and included in there is a packet of yeast!  (I am bad about having yeast on hand when I want it).  It calls for 2 eggs, 1 1/2 C. Water, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and that's it!  You mix it all up until a ball forms, then let it raise for 20 minutes.

The most different aspect of this GF recipe is that you are to spread it on the pan/stone with wet hands.  I admit I was a bit skeptical on that direction, but it really worked.  The dough is not an elastic kind like wheat flour crusts are.  It's more like a ball of biscuit mix, and it spread easily without any sticky moments.

The difference I am finding with these crusts is that most ask you to bake for 5-7 minutes BEFORE adding toppings.  Tall Guy thought that might be a good idea for any crust that is kind of thick.

Tall Guy helped me out with this recipe, so he is spreading sauce and toppings for me.  I have to tell you that the sausage on our pizza came from a 4-H hog we went in on.  (That means we bought half of it).  It's the first time we have had packages of pork in our freezer, and I think I am going to like that!

After the pizzas was dressed up in all its toppings, it went back in the oven for 15 or so minutes.

The quarter part of pizza with just cheese is Bear's.

It looked good, it smelled good, so I was very hopeful it would pass Bear's sometimes picky taste buds....... and it din't disappoint!  She LIKED it!

What's even better is that we all liked it!  As we try to create GF meals for Bear, we have decided to eat the same food she does for most of the meals.  TG and I still have the occasional wheat bread sandwich for lunch, but Bear isn't here for that meal. 

So we are giving Bob's Red Mill GF pizza crust a 5/5 star rating in our home!!  I can't wait to try more of their mixes.

Here's the recipe:

1-1/2 cups Water (warm)

2 Eggs *

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

2-1/4 tsp Yeast Packet (enclosed)

1.  Preheat oven to 425°F.

2.  In a large bowl, combine water and yeast. Let stand a few minutes. Add eggs and oil to mixture and blend briefly. Add GF Pizza Crust Mix and blend about a minute on medium speed, until combined.

3.  Leave dough in bowl, split in half, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 20 minutes. 

4.  Place dough on greased pizza pans. Using wet hands, spread out dough to cover the full pizza pan. Bake without topping for 7-9 minutes. 

5.   Remove from oven, cover with favorite sauce and toppings. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Makes two 12-inch or one- 16-inch pizza crusts.

I bought this mix on my own. Bob's Red Mill did not ask me to blog about it, but I do plan to work with them in the future to try more of their mixes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dear Laptop.........

Dear Laptop,

You how much I love you right?  You are so much a part of my life that your "s" and "n" keys have the actual letters worn off of them.  Yes, I know; your "e," "c," "a," and "d" keys are also showing wear and starting to fade away.

I think I may have found a solution to slow down your aging process.  It is called a tablet~!

A big thanks to Kyle at Verizon for sending this Sony Xperia Z2 tablet to play with, allowing us to develop a close, personal relationship!

What's so great about this tablet?

Look how nice I look on the screen!

Ok, I will get a bit more serious....  Let me count the many reasons.

1.  It is so light!  I can't even begin to tell you how light it is, and yet I can go anywhere I want to without all the cords and "stuff." This little dude is much easier to carry around than a laptop.

See how thin it is?

2.  It has a USB PORT!  Maybe I lead a sheltered life, but this tablet is the first I have seen with this "hook-up-ability."  Now I can share and download pics and documents to a tablet!  Easy peasy!

What didn't show up very well in the picture above is the little flap that acts like a door to keep dust and water out of your computer. The open space is for a microSD card so you can save information and share.

3.  It truly makes my laptop the new desk-top, and that means the laptop in on the endangered species list.  I think laptops still have a place in my world.  This ASUS has THREE USB ports, and I can keep them all busy at the same time with external hard drives and my "tailless mouse."  Yeah, I'm just not a gifted user of the touch pad...This is the only time I like knowing there is a mouse in my house.

4.  I can take this tablet to a party; it fits in my bag.  I took it to the gathering at Kendell Culp's farm, and it came in handy because my phone started to die about half way through the evening. I grabbed the Sony Xperia and started taking pictures, even videos!

WAY COOL, and I was able to keep tabs on the weather with The Weather Bug app and scare the bejeezus out of everyone with the scary storm lurking in Illinois, poised to cross the state line and smack us here in Indiana. (Writer's note:  Said storm literally disintegrated at the state line, and nary a drop fell on me).  Yeah, I can say Henny Penny.....

I would like to see how this tablet would work with a wireless keyboard.... I'm going to ask to use one if another tablet comes up to review.  It would be soooo much easier to transport a tablet and keyboard than the big laptop.... I see endless possibilities.......

Now you might be thinking, "Lana, didn't Santa bring an iPad to your house a year or two ago?"  I would have to answer, "Yes, but I really haven't touched the device since he left it!"  The girls don't leave that thing alone long enough for me to get my hands on it.   I have to say, and I know this is a bit extravagant, but sometimes it would be nice if each of them had a tablet so that there would be no argument over sharing it.....but that means I still won't get my hands on it much!  Going to have to get tough with these young ladies if it ever comes to pass that we do acquire a second tablet....

So I have to give the Sony Xperia a 4.8 out of 5 rating.  -.1 because I wish it would realize when I forget to leave a space between words and add it for me.  My Samsung 4 phone can figure out what I was trying to say, so I would like to think the tablet could too. -.1 and this really isn't the fault of the tablet, but I would like a different protective case than the one it came with. It was awkward at times for me to hold it while reading and taking pictures.  I wish there was a protective case that would allow me to put my hand through a back strap, sort of like putting on a glove.

Final answer..... I'm a little lost here at home now that i just returned my tablet to the Mother Ship....I think I know what is going on my Christmas List
While Verizon provided me with the tablet to use for a few weeks, I did return it and was not compensated for this post.  My views are my own. Thanks to Verizon for letting me review their latest and greatest products.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dine and Discuss Night in Rensselaer

Yikes!  This post is coming a bit later that I hoped, but I am sitting down at my computer and will not get up until I share with you a trip I took up north to Rensselaer last Thursday. It was a treat on many levels!

Jasper County farmer Kendell Culp and his family opened up their farm/backyard to a variety of county officials, Ag media, and neighbors to talk about "Modern Farming" and how it works on their farm.  It was great to be there because even though I have known Kendell and Tammy for many years, this was the first time I visited their farm.  Here to to put their own take on the evening are two of my blogging pals, Crystal from Chasing Saturdays and Stacy from The Backroad Life.  This gathering was pretty much in their backyards!

This event started off with a "social gathering."  We were treated to sampling wine from Carpenter Creek Cellars, which I passed on 231 on my way to Rennselaer, and cheese from Fair Oaks Farms as we moved around the crowd and mingled with familiar faces and new friends.

As we broke into groups and visited the three main areas set out for us, it was just nice to see everyone enjoying themselves.  I often forget that, outside my immediate world, there are quite a number of people who have never been on a farm.  There's nothing quite like a cool afternoon listening to the locus chirp, the corn stalks rustling in the breeze, and the occasional hum of a bee.......or was it a bee????

At our Technology stop, we were able to see this UAV go to work.

As our speaker told us, this UAV (Unmanned Aviation Vehicle) is going to change how we monitor our fields. It buzzes through the air, and thanks to the Go-Pro camera mounted to it, it allows farmers to truly see out in to the middle of the fields to check for situations like wind damage, insect issues and general condition of the fields. 

This is the receiver that allows a farmer or field specialist to see what the UAV sees.  For those of us with flat crop fields, this device is a game changer as far as knowing and seeing how a crop is growing.

At the sound of a horn, we moved on to the row crop part of the Culp farm.  Here, too, technology in the form of GPS helps farmers like the Culp family learn how to make the most of each seed that goes in the ground.  Precision planting leads to optimal use of ground, fuel, and maps generated from its data.

The final aspect to the Culp farm comes in the form of livestock.  Kendell and Tammy Culp can be found every Saturday morning hanging out around Jasper County's courthouse selling freezer cuts of their hogs to all who attend the Jasper County Farmers' Market.  Kendell's brother likes to work with cattle.

In between these three areas, visitors were able to stroll through the lawn looking at farm equipment, both old and  new.  The message from these machines is two-fold:  One is the fact that farming today was NOT the way Grandpa did it 50 years ago.

This dear old horse is all pretty again, but back its day, he plugged right along the fields. LOVE this "catcher's mitt" seat, and you can see, no shade or cool air for these farmers; they were at the mercy of the clouds.

Now here is where Kendell and his family wanted to spark us to do math in our heads.

Yep, this tractor, with GPS capabilities will set you back $303,000.00 dollars!  And I hate to break it to you, but a tractor isn't too helpful by itself, so the farmer also needs to buy a planter, and often an implement to till the ground, so you know the farmer is going to have to dig a bit deeper to make this purchase practical. Kendell works with his dad and son; this is not anyone's "factory farm."  These gentlemen need to be market-savvy, mechanics, technology-friendly, meteorologists just to be ready to go to the field to plant, spray, and harvest.

This is why you will see veteran machines like this one being used and, at times pampered so they will continue to be useful for many more years.

After everyone made it through their three stop sequence, we were treated to a meal from Jasper County. 

Now any of you out there who were raised in the country or with a large family garden, knows that the day you sit down to eat food COMPLETELY produced by you or your family, well that day is a special one.  We had such a meal at the Culps.

Sorry about the fuzzy words, but I promise it all came from Jasper County farm families.  

I would like to extend my thanks to the Culp family for allowing me to join them in this presentation of their farm.  I would also like to give a shout out to the Indiana Soybean Association and Indiana Family of Farmers.  Don't forget to hop on over to Crystal's blog, Chasing Saturdays, and Stacy's blog, The Backroad Life for their takes on this night on the farm.

I was paid for this commentary on what I saw on the Culp farm by IFOF, but I would have gladly done it for free!  These observations are all mine.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Don't Wait Until It's Too Late!

I am juggling hats this morning: my parent hat and my teacher hat.

With most of  our kids starting that first day of school at the beginning or the middle of this month, enough time has passed for them to get settled and into a routine.  THIS IS THE TIME to contact your children's teacher, and ask them how your kids are adjusting to this year's subjects and routines.

Many was the time that parents (and I am talking about high school here, but I am sure it applies on down the line) thought all was well at school until the 4 1/2 week progress reports came out!  YIKES!  I think it is so important to check in often at the beginning of a new year or new class, or new teacher, so you can head off any potential problems.

Some of us are able to see our kids' grades on-line through programs like Harmony, and that is great, but it's still important to make contact with these teachers if you have a concern or are even curious.  Teachers welcome help from home, and a lot of arguments/differences of opinion and conflict can be avoided if there is actual face to face conversations between parents and teachers.

This year, I think we are about at the end of our math experience with Tink as she heads into 6th grade math. These kids are learning different ways to do the math we did in school, and I'm pretty sure they are learning the fundamentals of algebra and geometry at a much younger age.  By talking with the teachers, you may be directed to educational sites set up to help emphasize new ideas, problems, formulas, theorems, and 1 x 2 x 3b =  4 X  ACK!

As much as I love social media, it is NOT the place to air grievances with school officials.  There is very little constructive that can be done when a parent or a teacher is verbally and publically criticized.  Those conversations should be private.

I hope every child out there has a great school year.  I also hope that there is a good working relationship between parents and educators.  Students succeed when everyone is talking and open to new ideas.

Here's to an awesome 2014-2015 school year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Help! I Have Naked Landscaping!

I know you are out there...you with your Burpee seed catalogues and torn out Better Homes and Gardens pages.  I've seen your garden gloves, little trowels and rakes and knee pads.  Some of you even have the floppy hat thing going for you.....

Well, that's not quite how I roll, so I am calling on you all to help me figure out what to put in these as-yet-unplanted new spots.

I have new spots because we added on earlier this year.  After getting settled on the inside, we are now trying to plan out how we want to "decorate" the extra space on the north, east and south sides of the house.

We have a start on the west side:

I have a miniature lilac bush that flowers twice a year, my "Truffala tree, a ...uhmmmm....a bush with dark green/burgundy leaves and pink flowers.....Dang what the heck is that plant's name??? Oh, and two huge anchor rocks.

This is the side that faces the road and has a porch.

This side has a little stone path off the porch, and cute little bushes that will have red berries on it through most of the winter.  It also has spring bulbs that include tulips, daffodils, and some crocus.

Between the porch and the road, I also have this garden space:

Here you will find daisies, columbine, corabells, Sweet William, a lilac bush that was a wedding gift, iris, a hydrangea transplant that didn't flower all year :-(, and one lone hollyhock.

These spaces are uncharted landscape islands in need of ideas.  The extra north side:

The east side (behind Sadie) that I don't seem to have a picture of, (and I think I am going to plant hollyhocks all along that side just to give Tall Guy something to grumble about.  He has an unreasonable dislike of these wonderful tall plants!)

the south side, a huge triangle of fun.  ( The propane tank will be moved or painted to look like a cow...I'm kind of serious about that!) This wall at the far left is our sun room, so I would like something colorful, simple, bird and butterfly friendly.

So those of you who love to garden, it is time to give me some ideas as to what I should put in these spaces. We have our eyes on a couple more anchor rocks.  I know I am a huge fan of the flowers that come up every year with some but not much maintenance.  My favorites are iris, lavender, sage, daisies, and Sweet William.  I guess these are kind of heirloom plants? Oldies but goodies anyways.  I also want to transplant the one peony bush I have and add to it.  It is right off the picture by the "l" in farmgirl.

This is the one flower patch on the south side of the house:

Yea, I need to get out there and weed!  You can see the cosmos, Sweet William, and baby's breath.  There are also columbine, iris, sage, and coralbells somewhere in all those weeds. 

Ok, my last reminders are 1.)  The wind blows up here A LOT!  2.)  The only two shady spots already have flowers growing under them. 3.)  I have to say again, I am a low maintenance, big color, long flowering kind of girl.  When I was a little girl, my mom grew petunias.  She loved those darned things, but it seems like I was always having to dead-head them.  Sticky icky things!

That's about it.  You now can start sending me all your great ideas for the empty spaces along my house!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Wisconsin Dells!

A lot of what we did in the Dells was not very camera friendly.  There are a slew of water parks and rides and such to experience, and it was safer to leave the camera in the van rather than risk it being dropped, broken, soaked, or lost/pilfered.  All that being said, we(Bear and I) did manage to capture a bit of nature's beauty.
( I want to warn you; there are a lot of pictures to look at, and I played with many of them in my Lightroom program.  That's why you will see a variety of lighting, shades, and colors.  Enjoy!)

First stop: Deer Park.  Yes, we have tons of them in Indiana, but these cutie-pies were so tame.  The girls loved this place.

We took a horseback ride just above this "Lost Canyon" Dell, then went down to take the horse and wagon tour. It is so much cooler in these places!

Can you see the eagle in the rock formation below?

These next few pics were taken as we rode in a DUCK, one of those land/water transport deals.  Just for the record, we went with the Original Duck rides as opposed to the Army Duck rides.

Now it's Bear's turn with the camera to capture some of the flora and fauna around our cabin.....

And at the Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, WI

LOVED the close-up bee pic.  All I did was zoom in on it!  This one might make next year's photo board for her 4-H photography project.

Hope your Wednesday is a great one!


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