Monday, April 28, 2014

Are You Listening?


The weather patterns of the northern prairie have proven to be as fickle and erratic as the gulf coast.  Saturday we hunkered down against a wind storm. Sunday we hibernated against rain and plummeting temperatures.  Today, we awoke to one more covering. 

The combination of rain showers and sudden silence from the pond's frog symphony set my expectations for one more snow.  Nature is always sending us signals.  But we must be alert and pay attention to our natural environment, which seems to be difficult for most  in today's fast paced electronic information aged world.  So often we are distracted by all the man-made technology and gadgets we miss out on the wonders of the natural world God created for us.

I wonder how often we also miss out on God.  In 1 Kings Chapter 19 we find where God does not speak to the prophet, Elijah, through a dramatic wind storm, earthquake or fire.  He chooses to  speak to Elijah in a still, small voice.  Elijah had to actively listen before he could hear God's voice. 

Will you take some time today to turn away from all the distractions our modern world has to offer and listen for the still, small voice of God?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Anniversaries, Quilts & Farm Girls

Whew! A lot has been happening around the B's house.  Although Musician and our future Daughter-in-Love have returned to the Southeast, our busy season is just beginning. 

Mr.B and I celebrated another anniversary.  This year he was so thoughtful.  He is currently working on a project 3 1/2 hours away from home but still found away to pick me up and drive another 65 miles, one-way, into the city for a special supper.  I didn't even know a restaurant as nice as that one existed up here on the northern prairie.  It employed a real chef (not a cook), had linen table cloths & napkins, crystal water glasses, real china, candle light and soft soothing jazz playing quietly in the background. The service was first class and the food was delicious - better than what I cook at home!  For a short hour I felt like I had been transported to an upscale Houston restaurant.  It was such a special treat.

The Women's Ministry is working on quilts for our high school graduates.  Most of the work I've done has been on this brown and purple one.  The top is finished and I currently have it on a quilt stretcher.  Our group will begin the quilting process next week.

Don't you think farm girls are the prettiest girls?  I certainly do!  For the third year, Songbird attended the annual Daughter of the King banquet.  Although she can throw a feed sack, wrestle livestock and plant & plow with the best of them, she also possesses a grace and beauty that rivals any leisured city girl.  (btw, as beautiful as he thinks his little girl is, Mr.B says I'm biased.  However, I beg to differ ... I am not biased).

What's been happening in your neck of the woods?

A Warm Homecoming

Yes, I've been away a while.  Not only does the arrival of spring usher in our busy season, but our Musician came home for a long, overdue visit and brought his intended along to meet the family.  We had a wonderful week long visit.  We were so glad to finally meet the young lady who brings so much joy and contentment to our oldest son.

This was the Intended's first trip out west.  Our closest airport is nearly 70 miles across the state line so, upon re-entering Montana we had to stop for a photo.

Farmer Boy and Songbird LOVED, LOVED, LOVED having their oldest sibling and his Intended home.  As you can see in the photo, I caught them making bracelets and building robots together.

Our Musician brought his violin and joined Songbird and Farmer Boy in ministering "Come Thou Fount" for our church family.  I can't express how comforting it was to hear the beautiful, sweet sounds of the violin drifting through our home while our Musician was home.

Saying a good-bye to our Musician and his intended was emotional.  However, I somehow kept my composure and refrained from crying until after we left the airport parking lot and they were warm and comfortable inside.

On the plane ride home, Musician formally proposed to his Intended.  Even after meeting his "not so normal" family, she said, "YES"!  I am so pleased to now refer to her as my future Daughter-in-Love.  We will be magnificently blessed to have this beautiful young lady join our family.

Mmm, Chocolate Devils

Oh! How I wish I could take credit for this marvelous, melt in your mouth, satisfy any sweet tooth sensation!  But, alas, these divine chocolate morsels from heaven are an adaptation of Ree Drummond's ( The Pioneer Woman Cooks ) Devil Dogs.

I saw Mrs. Drummond make them on her television cooking show and thought they would be a perfect treat for my soon to be daughter-in-love while she and our musician were home for a visit.

Here's my adaptation:

Sandwich Portion:
Collector's Cocoa Cake baked in sheet pan

5 Tbsp. flour
1 c. milk
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Gnoche Spread:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate

maraschino cherries

To Prepare:

1.  Cut sheet cake into equal squares, rounds, rectangles, etc. using a biscuit or cookie cutter.  These will become the "sandwich" tops and bottoms.

2.  Prepare the filling by whisking together 5 Tbsp. flour and 1 c. milk over medium heat until a thick gravy like consistency.  Cool completely.  Add softened butter, vanilla and sugar.  Beat until smooth and fluffy, 10 - 15 minutes.

3.  Use a piping bag or decorator to pipe the filling onto half the cake rounds.  Top with other half of cake rounds forming a sandwich.

4.  Prepare the chocolate gnoche by bringing 1 c. heavy cream almost to a boil.  When you see the little bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pot the temperature will be perfect.  Pour the hot cream over 12 oz. of bittersweet chocolate and whisk until smooth and glossy.  Cool slightly.

5.  Pour or spread the gnoche over the sandwiches.

6.  Use a thin edged spatula to transfer the chocolate devils onto your serving platter. 

7.  For a beautiful garnish, top with 1 or 2 maraschino cherries.

Science Experiment Or Indoor Gardening Or ...

... the palate yearning for fresh vegetables during the long cold winters.
Up here on the northern plains fresh greens during the winter months are expensive.  A head of lettuce or a bunch of spinach can cost as much as $3.50 - $4.00, not to mention the 90 mile round trip on icy roads to obtain them.  Last autumn I began contemplating our desire for fresh greens during winter months and decided I would try some of my dad's "hippy ingenuity" in an attempt to grow them - while it is yet 30 degrees below zero.
The gardening catalogues advertise grow light systems beginning at about $80.00 and some for more than $1,000.00.  I found a less expensive way to set up my indoor winter garden.   Here's what I did.  You can do it too.

Plastic container with lid ($5.00), a 48" hanging fluorescent light ballast with electrical cord ($18.00),  2 T-8 fluorescent lights - aka grow lights ($12.00), potting soil or other growing medium ($7.00), packing peanuts, rock or other drainage materials (free), vegetable seeds - spinach & lettuce (3.00).

Cup hooks are perfect for holding the light ballast chain.

I chose the top of a large cabinet in our basement to set up my indoor garden.  As part of our science experiment we wanted to see if the T-8 grow lights would work on their own or if light from a south or west facing window would also be needed.  Our basement den is very dark.

I chose inexpensive storage tubs with lids and used Mr.B's drill to add 5 drain holes.

I like to use packing peanuts for drainage because they are lightweight and are slow to biodegrade.  Since our packing peanut supply was low, I also incorporated some 3/4" rock.  We filled the storage tub with potting soil.

The storage tub lids make a perfect drainage tray, keeping our cabinet top nice and dry.

A good soak of the planting medium prior to planting the seeds will ensure that seed placement is undisturbed.

Greens, such as lettuce and spinach, do not need lots of spacing between the plants.  The tubs I used allows four "rows" spaced only a few inches apart.

After only 4 weeks, SUCCESS!  I am confident that next winter we will have plenty of fresh greens gracing our dining table and refreshing our palates.

With only one fluorescent light ballast set up, we have not noticed any increase in our electric bill.  I am sure if we had several of these, we would see an increase.  Also, greens are cool weather plants, thus, I did not find a need to constantly run the heat in the basement den (year round temp. is about 55 - 65 degrees).  We continue to use the den's heating system only when we are actively utilizing that room.  I am confident that other cool weather vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and root vegetables, would also thrive under these conditions.  Who knows?  Maybe next winter we will expand our indoor garden.