Thursday, May 31, 2012

The. Cutest. Thing. Ever.

Isn't this the cutest calf you've ever seen?

Since they were born, Fergie has been taking very good care of her twins, but in the first couple of days after they were born, we were concerned that she wasn't taking care of herself (drinking, eating, etc.).  We thought the calves seemed extremely hungry, so to give Mama a break and make sure the calves were getting enough to eat, we started offering the calves each a bottle in the afternoon.  

Now, when we walk out into the pasture, the little bull calf, Simon, sees us and starts licking his muzzle as he skips over to us.  It is SO funny!

  He LOVES his bottle, but his sister, Junie-Junebug, isn't always that hungry.  After the calves are done eating, Junie takes off, but Simon hangs around for some extra lovin'.

 When we're done, Simon usually follows us half way up the lane, and sometimes one of us has to turn around and walk him back out to the cows and calves.  These babies should be a piece of cake to halter break in a couple of weeks as fair time gets closer! 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Amish Sugar Cookies

I decided to "kick it old school" the other day and browse through my "St. John's Lutheran Women of the ELCA" cookbook for a new cookie recipe (as opposed to browsing Pinterest or one of my favorite blogs:  I wanted something other than chocolate chip cookies, I was kind of in the mood for sugar cookies but didn't feel like the mess or the time that that kind of cookie involves.
After my old-fashioned searching, I found "Amish Sugar Cookies".
The batter consists of  the following:

1 c. sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. margarine
1 c. vegetable oil
4 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt

Cream sugars and margarine.  Add eggs, cream again.  Add oil and vanilla and mix well.  Add dry ingredients.

What I liked about this recipe was that it required no chilling, no rolling, no cutting out, etc..
You drop the batter by teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet, then press down with a fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. 

While I do know how to make homemade frosting, I'm a woman of the 21st century. I opened a couple of cans of store-bought frosting and tinted them red and blue in honor of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

Some red and blue sugar sprinkled on top and I was set!  We think these cookies are just as good as the ones that involve all that work, but they really are MUCH quicker, simpler and cheaper than store bought frosted sugar cookies!  The recipe made a few more than 5 dozen.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One for the Money

I have a new favorite thing!!!  The "Stephanie Plum" series by author, Janet Evanovich! 
Last weekend I rented the movie One for the Money, staring Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum, along with  a couple of hot guys (not sure what their real names are... who cares, anyway)!!!! 

I had no idea what the movie was really about, but I knew that it was based on a book in a series that three different friends had recommended to me last summer when the latest in the series came out.  Silly me did not take their recommendations seriously!!!

Normally I am not one to watch a movie and then read the book, but I think that in this case, if you are not familiar with the series, watch One for the Money first, then read it, or any book in the series for that matter.   

Here's the jist:  Stephanie Plum is down on her luck and goes to work for her sleezy cousin as a bounty hunter.  Stephanie gets herself into all sorts of trouble, but another hunky bounty hunter named Ranger always seems to swoop in to save the day, while her hunky boyfriend, the cop, gives her a hard time and seems to have just enough clues to help her catch her man (or woman). 

Along with the hunks, there is her crazy Hungarian-Italian family, complete with overbearing mom and crazy grandma and a very wacky sidekick whom you meet in the movie!
After watching the movie, I checked out the 10th book in the Stephanie Plum series:  10 Big Ones.  I laughed out loud at least 10 times.  (Note:  I had to get # 10 because my library only has 10-18 right now. )  Even though I'm not reading the book sequentially, I totally know what is going on and I don't feel like I've missed anything.  The characters are all the same, and aside from a little Plum family drama, I think I can keep reading ahead in the series, or go back for that matter, and be right on track. 

Now you know what I'll be doing this summer vacation!  And, when I told hubby that I got another Stephanie Plum book at the library, his response was, "When is the next movie coming out?"  So even he is addicted! (Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but he really did like the movie!!!)

P.S.  One of my friends recommended 6 & 7.  If you are already a fan, do you have a favorite Stephanie Plum book?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

3-2-1 Mug Cakes!

My older daughter recently went to a Cloverbud (junior 4-H'er) workshop put on by our WONDERFUL county extension office.  She and a group of 6 and 7 year olds learned how to make these delicious " 3- 2- 1 Mug Cakes".  Before the workshop, I had come across similar recipes on Pinterest and in magazines, but alway figured that they weren't worth the trouble.  After all, I feed 6 people at a time: I need a 9 x 13.    But, after seeing how fun and easy they were for little ones to make, we bought the ingredients and our very own Cloverbud taught her little sister how to make them! 
Ingredients:  1 Angel Food cake mix
1 cake mix of any flavor (we've tried strawberry and chocolate, both are very good)
Garnishes, like mini-chocolate chips, strawberries, sprinkles, sprigs of mint, the options are endless!

Take the two cake mixes and mix them together very thoroughly in a large bowl (one with a cover, preferably because you will have a LOT left over).  Once the mixes are very well-combined,
measure 3 level tablespoons of the mixture into a coffee mug.  Then, add 2 tablespoons of water to the mug and use a spoon to mix the dry and wet ingredients.
Microwave for 1 minute on high.  We let the mug cakes cool for a few minutes, then we put some Reddi-whip on top and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips. 

Deliciousness awaits!  We played around with adding chocolate chips to the cake batter--VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!! Also, we had some fresh strawberries, so we placed a slice on top for a very oh-la-la presentation!  I have some bigger (not huge) coffee mugs and so for dad, the girls used 6 Tbsp. dry mix, 4 Tbsp. water, and about 1 1/2 minutes in the micro.  Dad, of course, also needed double the Reddi-whip (he's a big fan). 
We've made at least 2 dozen and it doesn't feel like we've hardly made a dent in the dry mix.  It's a great gift idea, though, especially with a pretty mug and a can of Reddi-whip.  I'm sure it will keep, and the mug cakes make a great afternoon snack--just the right size and a real treat.  Maybe not the most nutritious, but, you only live once!!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My head is in the (word) clouds!

One of my favorite Mother's Day cards was from my oldest son when he was in 4th grade.  He made me a "wordle"....

  And so began my love affair with word clouds. 
A word cloud is a computer-generated assortment of words.  There are a lot of free websites to create your own word cloud. My son and his teacher made their word clouds at . It's a really simple process: you type in the words you want to use, hit the "create" button, then play around with the layout, color and font using the dropdown menus at the top of the screen. (Note: Make sure you have all the words spelled correctly and that you're happy with what you've typed because there isn't an edit feature... you have to start all over).
For this wordle, I typed "spring" 3 times to make it the biggest word.  Then, from the menu along the top of the screen, I played around with different fonts and layouts, and I customized the color palette I wanted to use in the "color" menu.  To make "green grass" and "rainy days" stick together on the word cloud, I typed them in as green~grass, and rainy~days. 

This is another website that I think is cool for making word clouds: .
 There are different fonts, colors, and layouts, but through this website you can save the word clouds to your own personal space and even order customized T-shirts and things with your cloud., on the other hand, is pretty much a one-time thing-- print it out and be done with it.  You can save it to a public gallery, but I think that's about it. 

Here's one last website: This website is very similar to, but it's very user friendly, perfect for early gradeschoolers. The pulldown menus at the top don't offer as many choices as the other websites I've mentioned, but it's a great site for children!

Back to my son's Mother's Day card (and May of last year): a week or so after  Mother's Day, my Algebra students were getting ready for the final exam. I printed out a list of the 20+ topics we had studied during the semester, I herded them into the computer lab and gave them a quick tutorial on how to use, then I turned them loose to create a word cloud out of 12 of the words on the topics list. The students really enjoyed this non-numeric activity and each student's wordle was unique.  Their personalities shined through in their color, font, and word-arrangement choices. After printing off their wordles, we put them all up on the bulletin board (talk about a room-brightener!) and then the students went to work writing a quiz consisting of one problem for each of the 12 words they used in their wordle. For example, if they used, "factoring", their quiz had to have a problem that required factoring in it. They also had to provide me with a key. They were graded on their wordle (20 free points), their quiz (30 virtually-free points) and their answer key (50 points). It was a great culminating activity and I really feel like the kids got a lot out of writing the quiz and making their answer keys. 

Here are some other ideas I have for using word clouds:  1.)  For Christmas this year, I had my grade-school aged kids make a wordle about their teacher.  We printed them out and then put them in a frame.   2.)  For the reluctant speller:  Make a word cloud with the week's spelling words early in the week; a word cloud would be a lot more interesting to study from then a boring old list!  3.)  Doing a report on a famous person?  Make a word cloud all about the person--facts, dates, etc.!

AND-the beat all to end all:  Last weekend's race t-shirt had a word cloud on the front!!!!  Imagine my excitement!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The best darn "Mama" on the farm...

I was going to post a Mother's Day blog paying homage to my older son's handmade card from a year ago, but in light of the new deliveries at the farm, a very special cow gets Mother's Day billing this year!
I've mentioned Fergie before in an earlier blog, she's our younger son's 4-H cow.  She won grand champion at the 4-H fair last year in the 1-year old heifer class, and she is living up to her champion status!  This past Friday, she gave birth to TWINS!!!! I took the above picture Friday afternoon.  When we first walked out to the pasture, she had one calf hidden in a brush pile while she was feeding the other, smaller calf.  The calf was about 25 yards away from her when we snuck up on it. 
 The little sweetheart let out a little bleat and when mama answered her, she went running right over and nestled up to her side!   It was such a special sight to see; we are so fond of Fergie and to see how good of a mama she's being endears us so much more to her!
The calves were resting a few feet away from Fergie on Saturday afternoon when we checked on them.  As we walked up to them, mama looked up from her grass-munching, nuzzled each one of them on the head, and went back to eating.  One calf got up and started nursing, but the other calf was still sound asleep.  Younger son was able to pet the little guy, he woke up and just layed there and seemed to enjoy the love!  After a while, he'd had enough of younger son's attention and went over to mama. 
This morning, the "experts", aka Dad and Grandpa, thought it would be best if the trio came up closer to the buildings, out of the pasture, to make sure Fergie could get something to eat and drink.  We're going to keep a close eye on them this week.  We know that mama is doing her very best, but a bit of a bottle in the morning and at night will be in everyone's best interest-- that way we know that Fergie's not getting too drained and the calves are getting enough nurishment. 

Oh, and by the way:  Happy Mother's Day to all my two- and four-footed friends :) 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Debut of the La Crosse Peaches!

This past weekend we ditched the kids and headed to La Crosse, Wisconsin  (here's a big shout-out to the grandmas who filled in for me--xoxoxo!).  I was meeting up with two friends from high school and meeting a new friend for the first time.  The four of us were planning on running the La Crosse Fitness Festival marathon as a relay!  Planning is the key word. 
Sunday morning of the race, we met at 5:30am in order to take pre-race pictures and get to the shuttle that would take our first runner across the soon-to-be-closed bridge for the starting line.  It was raining cats and dogs, thundering, and lightning.  We headed out to where the race was supposed to start, only to learn that "an official announcement would be made at 7am".  With nothing better to do, we headed to a diner and the "pit crew", aka the hubbies,  had breakfast while the rest of us watched and drooled.  We didn't want to risk our race tummies on the chance that the rain would stop and we would get to run.
At a little after 7am, we checked the race website and learned that the marathon had been cancelled, but all participants could run the half marathon instead, and it was going to begin at 8:30am.   At around 7:30 we all piled back in the DCDALY 6 totally-rad-awesomely-cool-minivan headed to the park where the race was to start.  It was still raining, but now not only cats and dogs, but miniture ponies, too. 
We spent A LOT of time in the back of the van, but eventually we learned that the marathon relay teams could split up:  two run the first half, two run the second half.  We decided that our "pro runner" would run the entire way with our timing chip, and the three of us, "semi-pro runners" would join in the fun at mile 7.  We left our starter in the rain at the starting line and headed out to find mile marker 7.  We almost missed it, but our "team coach/photographer" did a little investigating (as in hopping out of the van and uprighting a blown over sign) and soon we were settled in for a while, waiting for the runners to start running by so that we could catch up with our chip-timer!
Right on pace, our "pro" zoomed past and we fell into the race with her.  It was a decent run and lucky for us "semi-pros", it had stopped raining and was turning out to be a decent morning, no sun for us, though.  I was pleased with my performance; it wasn't my best run, but I attribute that to a poor night's sleep, a lack of hydration (a fear of having to "go", if you know what I mean), and the emotional ups and downs that the weather and cancellation/postponement presented.  I wasn't in the best frame of mind, but we all finished!  We all received pretty medals, they say "half marathon finisher", but oh well...
Most important about the weekend:  Dave and I had a nice, quiet road trip, we met some new friends, and it was an adventure!  You just never know what will happen next!!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's Derby Day!

As far as vacation memories go, last summer's trip to Louisville, Kentucky is on top of the list.  Since today is the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, I'm going to take a stroll down memory lane and remember our fantastic visit to Churchill Downs.
We were vacationing with my sister and her husband, and it was Father's Day!  We woke up to a rainy, gloomy day, but by the time we ate breakfast and took a tour of the "Louisville Mega-Cavern" (mega-LAME!), the sun was out, the sky was as blue as can be, and the clouds were perfectly white and fluffy! 
We started by taking a guided tour of the grounds.  We had a fantastic tour guide who told us a little about the history and the day-to-day operations at Churchill Downs.  These are the twin spires that Churchhill Downs is known for. 
After the tour of the stadium, it was almost time for a race to start, so we went to the paddock area.  It was awesome to be so close up to the gorgeous horses, the colorful jockeys... it was all so amazingly beautiful! 

We watched as the horses were lead out of the paddock to get in the starting line gates, then we went into the stadium.  We were able to get right up to the track, and soon the trumpet blared and "THEY WERE OFF!!!"  It was so cool as the horses thundered past!  We were so close up that we could hear the horses pound past, we could see the gravel flying out from under their hooves, it was an experience I will never forget!
 After watching a couple of races, my sister and I went inside Churchill Downs and placed a few bets.  We didn't win any big money, but we didn't lose our life savings, either!  And, of course, we had to try a Mint Julep.   Let's just say that I won't be rushing back for the drinks... in my opinion, a Mint Julep tastes like watered-down toothpaste--ick.  
My sister and I both agreed that this was a "bucket list" item.  We remember being kids and watching the Kentucky Derby with our grandparents.  Grandpa Pete would give us nickels to bet on who we thought would win.  I remember being enamored with the ladies' fancy hats and the silky jocky uniforms.  You can bet that we are all going to be tuned into the Kentucky Derby this afternoon!  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Waffle Iron = My New KBF

I have recently fallen in love with my waffle iron. Prior to a few weekends ago, in the 15 years I've had this waffle iron, I think I had used it once. Then, a couple of Sundays ago, I needed to make cookies for my younger son's piano recital, but didn't feel like standing around waiting for cookies to bake. I rummaged through my recipe box and found this recipe.
The cookies turned out great! The recipe didn't make too many cookies: just under two dozen, so exactly the right amount for the dozen required at the recital and some left for our supper that night. I decided to make some more last night,
but this time I scrounged up some Rolos left over from Easter and melted them on top before spreading with a little chocolate frosting.
Chocolate-Rolo Waffle Cookies:
2 squares baking chocolate, melted and cooled
1/3 c. butter
2 eggs
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
approximately 10 Rolos
chocolate frosting
Mix butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Add in flour and salt. Fold in melted chocolate until completely combined. Drop by spoonful onto hot waffle iron. After taking hot cookies off of waffle iron (2-3 minutes), place half of 1 Rolo on top. Let the Rolo sit for a few minutes, then spread around with a knife and a tsp. of chocolate frosting. Cool and enjoy!