The sun is shining and I am also beaming! As I opened our mailbox today, I reached in and found FOUR beautiful, handwritten letters from my beautiful pen pals!
Almost three years ago, my husband and I moved to a farm in central New York. He'd applied for an internship on an organic dairy farm and living there on the top of Moore Hill Road was pretty remote. To check e-mail, we'd drive down the hill into town to use the computer at the library. We didn't know anyone and being far from home, I started to write letters to family and friends. The day I decided to write, I wrote fifteen letters, all in one shot. I wrote to all three of my sisters, my parents, my mother-in-law and ten other friends. (My hand was really tired after that!) Getting mail became the highlight of my day. I would sit on the front steps of the house and try not to look too pathetic as I'd see the mail truck drive by and then run down the path to see if any pen pals replied.
Now in another state, still far from home (and with internet access), I continue to receive handwritten letters in the mail.
Thank you Judy, Kim, Nicole and Wendy for your faithful writing. I am so blessed to have you all in my life <3
*My mother-in-law was also a dedicated pen pal, but now she lives just down the road. Thank you, Renee!*
One evening last week, I wandered over to the barn to meet the newest barn cat, "Mr. Harry." Of course, the one time I went to the barn, "Mr. Harry" was nowhere to be found. When I asked where he was, my husband was giving the newest calf some milk. (On our farm -and most farms- cows and heifers are on a staggered calving schedule, so there are new calves all the time meaning, there's always milk.) The calf was having a hard time because it was her first time drinking out of a bucket. Eventually she got the hang of it. I finally found "Mr. Harry" and pet him for a while before going back to the house to finish dinner.
The next day, my husband came in from chores and said that the new calf wasn't doing very well. The heifer wing in the barn is pretty drafty, so he thought the cold wasn't helping her. He also told me that calves are born with very little fat on their bodies. I asked my husband if there were such things as blankets or coats calves could wear. Of course, there are, but they cost a pretty penny.
This morning as I flipped through posts and updates, a friend posted a video of calves wearing calf coats and ear protectors. The calves in the video were kept in hutches, where they are not as protected from this bitter cold weather. I began thinking of the new little calf... she's probably all curled up in a ball and shivering... poor thing and I'm nice and toasty in my heated house... She needs a coat!
I googled pictures of calf coats and found a pattern for one. The pattern, being very basic, didn't give me everything I needed. Somehow the coat had to be attached. After some more searches, I decided I would make ties around the neck and some ties around the back legs.
The material of choice (and because it was my only choice) was terry cloth, in the form of VERY old beach towels. I layered three towels and tied them together, so they would stay. I used D rings to loop the back ties around the back legs. I finished the edges with a blanket stitch. (I purposefully, put the stripes on the outside, for fun. The barn needs more color.)
After putting the calf coat on Josie, there were some obvious issues. (She didn't make it easy to put on either.)
The ties hung down too long, so my husband had to tuck them in and out of the way, or Josie's neighbor would suck on them and try to eat them. (Look, she's eyeing them already...)
Making a long tab with Velcro might be a better option for around the neck. It's just a prototype, and who knows if we'll need more of these Technicolor calf coats, but Josie is warmer now.
I just hope the other calves and heifers don't get jealous and try to throw her in a pit...
The Crochet Crowd and Yarnspirations.com have teamed up for the "2015 Knit and Crochet-Along Mystery Afghan" project.
I'd heard of mystery crochet-alongs (CALs), but never participated. Because I subscribe to the yarnspirations.com newsletter, I got word of the new project. To sign up and participate it's free. (They do recommend using their yarn and selecting a color scheme they've created, but if you're like me and have LOTS of yarn already, you'll stick to what you've got.) Four colors are needed for the project. My colors are white, green, teal and claret red.
Tune in each Tuesday to find out what the next clue is! Each clue is a written pattern that also includes a diagram. If you can't read patterns or charts, there are also videos of each clue. This "Mystery Afghan" will take a total of ten weeks. I like that there's a little bit of work to do each week because that allows me to work on other projects.
This is a bread that has cornmeal along with white flour, sweetened with molasses. I found a new version of this recipe in the April/May 2014 issue of Cook's Country. I enjoy this magazine because not only do they test the recipe in every way possible to find the best results, they tell you why they do what they do.
This recipe is pretty simple and doesn't have many ingredients: cornmeal, water, molasses, butter, flour, yeast, salt. It's fitting that I send this bread to my sister and her family in Boston because this is a traditional "New-England classic," says Cook's Country.
1 c. cornmeal, plus more for dusting your loaf pans
2 c. warm water
1/2 c. molasses
5 T. butter, melted
5 1/2 c. (27 1/2 oz.) all purpose flour
1 T. yeast
2 1/2 t. salt
Grease and dust with cornmeal, two loaf pans.
Whisk together water, molasses and melted butter until combined; set aside.
In a stand mixer combine cornmeal, flour, yeast and salt. Mix with dough hook attachment on mixer, until combined.
With mixer on low, pour in molasses mixture. Increase the mixer to medium speed and mix for 6-8 minutes more. (My dough was on the verge of coming out the mixing bowl, so I took out the dough and kneaded it on the counter.)
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead for one minute.
Grease the bowl (I pour in a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil) and put dough in the bowl, remembering to turn it over, so that the top is oiled.
Cover with a cloth and let rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (I put mine next to our gas stove and let it rise the full 1 1/2 hours.)
Punch down the dough and divide in half. (I have a kitchen scale and weigh out my dough because my eye has given me some pretty lopsided halves.) Form the dough and place in your prepared pans.
Cover with a cloth again and let rise until the tops have come over the side of your pans about an inch. This will take another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Twenty minutes before the loaves are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
When ready, put loaves in the oven and turn oven down to 375. Bake for 35-45 minutes, switching the pans around halfway.
To be sure, take the bread's temperature and if it is 200 degrees it's done, or when the crust is brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool the loaves on a wire rack and if you can help it, let them cool for two hours before slicing.
I hope you will give this recipe a try! It is great for sandwiches or as toast. The crumb is fine and you can taste the sweet molasses in each bite. Because this recipe makes two loaves, I have one to give and have one to keep!
Late Thursday evening, I made a Lincoln Log. Wait, what? You've never heard of such a thing? I hadn't either- this was something else I married into. Every February 12th, you are to make a jelly roll-type cake, but with cool whip inside and frost the outside. (Basically it's a big ho-ho cake.) Thank you, Abe, for giving me a reason to bake a cake!
(I'm pretty sure that's how I got him in the first place.)
I made him some heart shaped cut outs with pink icing.
A surprise I got yesterday was a bouquet of flowers from him.
I love flowers.
They are colorful, delicate, fragrant, and beautiful.
(He nailed it.)
(Flowers are by "From Me To You Flowers" in Corry, PA. The purples and pinks with pops of yellow are perfect. I also love the Alice Drew pitcher that I'm using as a vase.)
Another way to show love is through handmade valentines. I made all my students create valentines in art class. There were some cheers and some groans, but the valentines they made came out really cute. I made some snails for my pen pals; I thought it was pretty fitting :)
And yes, those are some knitting needles. I am determined to improve my knitting. It's slow going, but I just need to stick with it. These cold days are for doing something crafty in front of the fireplace.
Love comes in many forms: a letter, a handmade valentine, a phone call, something sweet. How do you show your love?
First, I picked out some pretty, green patterned paper that I bought from my friend, Aly, a few years ago. (She has been with the company Stampin' Up! for over ten years. You can peruse the pretty papers, along with lots of other fun products and card ideas at www.alystamps.com.)
Second, I found a Yoda stencil online that I liked. I didn't want something too detailed. I cut out the head shape and drew the face. I used a Sharpie to fill in the face.
Then to get really fancy, instead of glue, I stitched Yoda's face to the card, being careful to stay in the darkened spaces.
I think this is one of the best cards I've ever made.
The inside reads, "A Happy Birthday this year, you will have."
If you see Mr. Barry, please wish him a Happy Birthday! <3