Animals

I was planning on writing on this blog several times a week.  I know that I have been absent for the last week and I plan on starting up again next week on a more regular basis.

We had to put our beloved 12-year-old dog, Stella, to sleep yesterday.  She had a tumor on her ear for about a year.  It was nasty, smelly and gross.  But, it never mattered to us because Stella was  our fur baby.  You take the good with the bad when you love someone. I cleaned her ear regularly until she wouldn’t let me and then we had the vet clean it.  Two weeks ago, I took her in for a check and cleaning and the vet told me that with the exception of her ear, she was in good health.  Every visit to the vet felt like Russian Roulette.  Would this visit be the time that I find out that tumor had caused further illness with her?  When a loved one has cancer, you know something is always lurking.  This week proved that fear to be true.  We always had the option of having the tumor removed, but she had surgery in the winter of 2017 that was too hard for a dog her age.  We decided that we were going to let her go peacefully when her time came.  That’s not to say that I don’t second guess that decision now that she has passed.

Tuesday night I came home from work to find that Stella was on the couch wheezing, she did not want to go outside, play or eat.  My husband and I figured that a senior dog is entitled to a bad day.  However, we both knew something was wrong.  Eric slept in the family room with her that night to monitor her and reported to me Wednesday morning that she had a rough night.  She refused to eat, but drank and went out.  We thought maybe a stomach bug?  Hopefully, just a stomach bug.  By Thursday she had gone 3 days without eating so I bought her a can of her favorite, very expensive, wet dog food.  She refused it and that is when I knew she was very sick.  An x-ray confirmed my fears, my beloved dog had something in her lungs that was putting her into distress.  More tests were possible, but the writing was on the wall.  When you love someone you set them free, so that is what we did.  In all honesty, saying goodbye to that dog was the hardest thing I have ever done.  I take comfort in the fact that her last breath was without struggle for her and we were with her for that.  I was always afraid to watch someone I love die, but it wasn’t scary, it was peaceful.  I hope she knows that we did what we believe was right for her.

Stella came home in December 2005.  My husband brought her home on December 23rd.  He bought a Santa hat, put a bow around her neck and rang the doorbell for our daughter Hannah to answer.  Our 6-year-old daughter (who is now 19)  opened the door to her father holding a 9 week old puppy.  A bit Hallmark movie for me now that I think about it, but at the time it seemed perfect.   The memory that sticks with me about that night is Eric putting her down and her immediately peeing on the floor.  She was so scared to be away from her mom, but she settled in quickly and became a part of the family.  I am so sad that my children, ages 20, 19 and 15 likely have no memory of life without her, she was such an important part of our lives.

Last night and today have been incredibly hard.  Stella was my shadow and her absence has created a hole in our house that will not easily be filled.  We have 2 other dogs, a beagle and black lab mix.  They are sweet dogs and I love them, but everyone, including my family, know that Stella was always my favorite.  I make no apologies for that, she just was.

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Two weeks before she got sick

 

Now on to happier things.  My husband bought chickens today.  I won’t lie, I wish one of them would magically turn into a Golden Retriever, but I doubt that will happen.  Our hope is that these four chicks produce 8-12 eggs per week.  Honestly, I don’t know anything about chickens so as far as I know these birds could be turkeys.  I am a little concerned that they seem to be flying in that box.  I was under the impression that chickens can’t fly.  Should be an interesting summer.  I will be able to write about our bees in a couple of weeks.

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Livestock in the suburbs

 

Cheesy Brown Rice and Bean Bake

Tonight’s dinner was another simple meal, easy on the budget and delicious.  I used ingredients I had on hand, saving money and time.  Cheesy Brown Rice and Bean Bake proved to be a hit at this house, leaving enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Ingredients

Cheesy Brown Rice and Bean Bake

3 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cup brown rice

1 onion

1 can black beans

1 cup corn

8 oz green chilies

1 cup salsa

8 oz sour cream

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 cup cheddar cheese

1 tbsp cumin

1 tsp garlic salt

2 tbsp fresh cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice according to directions.  I use chicken broth in place of water (I always make broth out of the chicken bones after we have chicken).  While rice is cooking, saute onions and add the cumin and garlic salt.  When rice is done, mix in onions, corn, beans, salsa, sour cream, mozzarella cheese and cilantro, add salt and pepper to taste.  Once mixed, pour into baking dish and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Bake at 350 until bubbling.  I put aluminum foil on dish for most of the cooking time to avoid burning cheese.  Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Dinner

The Greenhouse

My husband likes to garden.  I am probably wrong, but I think he had 14 garden beds last summer.  His garden provided us with an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, basil, eggplants, zucchini, squash and kale.  Other plants were not as fruitful, I recall a sad head of broccoli and we have yet to see asparagus.  The rabbits killed the beans and peas and our solitary pumpkin rotted on the vine.  However, I can’t count how many nights I had the privilege of going into my backyard and shopping for dinner.  I have my husband to thank for that because he is 100 percent responsible for giving his family so much food.

This year he wanted a greenhouse so that he can extend his growing season into late fall/ early winter.  Even a sub par green house is expensive, which goes against every fiber of his being.  The man is creative and industrious though and he was able to build a greenhouse with recycled windows.  Below is his masterpiece.  I think it is kind of cool and it cost a grand total of…….$18!

As you can see, he already had plants in there.  A cold spell killed most of them, but he looked at that as a challenge and started again.

I will be the first to say that I do not help a lot with the garden.  But, I am forever grateful for what it gives us every year.  Not only does it provide an abundance of food, but it provides Eric pride in a job well done.  I cannot even imagine how he must feel on the nights I have made a meal that was provided by his hard work.  I think that I need to get more involved in this in 2018.

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Meatless Monday and Our Favorite Recipe

I try to prepare meatless foods on Monday.  It is better for our planet to try to eat meatless a few time a week and since so many of the blogs I follow remind me of this, I tend to comply.  One of our favorite recipes is homemade macaroni and cheese.  I love it, it’s easy to make and easy on the budget.

Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb pasta of your choice

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup flour

2 cups of milk

2 cups cheddar cheese

4 ounces goat cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook pasta according to directions.  Set aside when finished.  Melt the butter in a sauce pan, once melted and the flour and whisk.  When smooth, add the milk and cheese.  Once cheese is melted add pasta, mix, put in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.  Absolutely delicious.  I serve with a salad and dinner is served.

What are your favorite meatless meals?

 

Mac and Cheese

Coconut Cake

During the spring, a coconut cake is a yummy dessert that is not very hard to make. This is a great treat to make for Easter, or just any spring day.

I think that cakes are one of the most enjoyable desserts to make. I love finding new recipes that create new challenges when baking. I am always learning new things every time I make a new dessert, and this one was no exception. This recipe helped me progress as a baker, but it was still a fun and not to hard recipe to recreate.

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I got this recipe from https://www.shugarysweets.com/

Supplies:

Two 9-inch cake pans

Baking spray

Mixing bowl

Ingredients:

For the cake:

5 egg whites at room temperature

3/4 cups of milk

3/4 cups of softened unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/2 tsp of almond extract

2 1/2 cups of cake flour

1 Tbsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of kosher salt

1 cup shredded and sweetened coconut

For the frosting:

1/2 cup of softened unsalted butter

2 8 ounce packages of softened cream cheese

6 cups of powdered sugar

1/4 cup of heavy cream

2 cups of shredded, sweetened coconut

Directions:

Time to start the cake! The first thing that you will want to do is preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Then whisk all of the egg whites together with 1/4 cup of milk in a small bowl until they are slightly combined and then set them aside.

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Now, in a mixing bowl beat the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract at medium speed for two minutes. Add in all of the dry ingredients and mix them until they are combined. Beat the egg white mixture in until everything is blended completely. Add in the rest of the milk and beat it for 3-4 minutes, then fold in the coconut.

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Take out the two 9-inch cake pans and spray them with the baking spray. Pour the batter evenly into the two pans and bake them for 26-28 minutes, or until they are completely cooked through. Then remove them and let them cool on a wire rack.

Now that the cakes are finished, you can start making the frosting! Beat the butter and cream cheese for three minutes using the whisk attachment on an electric mixer. Add the powdered sugar and heavy cream to the mixture. Then beat it together for and extra 4-5 minutes.

It is finally time to assemble your cake. Place one layer of cake onto a cake stand.  Once the cake is completely cooled, spread the frosting onto this layer, and then add the second layer. Then add frosting to the rest of the cake. Add coconut to the top and sides of the cake. Now that the cake is finished, grab a slice and enjoy your delicious coconut cake!

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I hope that you enjoyed creating this very springy cake, and I hope that you found it very delicious.

Another Blast of Winter

Last night it snowed, bringing with it another blast of arctic air.  Part of the reason I love living in the mid west is the unspoken promise of 4 seasons.  So far, I am not seeing that promise fulfilled.   This year it has been either rainy and cold, or just cold.  By April, I am ready for those hints of better weather; tulips, daffodils, birds who are not confused and temperatures that are above 32 degrees.  Wind chills were actually mentioned today!

As I write this, my husband is diligently planning for summer.  His greenhouse is finished (I will be writing a blog post about that) and seeds have been planted in egg cartons in the basement, growing under grow lights.  Our bees have been ordered and the hives are finished.  He is researching the chicks he plans on ordering in late April, as the coop was finished in September.  The beer brewing that he enjoys needs to wait until warmer days so that he can do that project outdoors.  I am married to a man who is happiest when in his yard.  This never-ending winter is making these plans seem like they may never be completed.

On a day like today, it is hard to believe that my college aged children are  just weeks away from their summer vacation.  My son has signed up for summer classes and my daughter is looking forward to her summer job.  My youngest will be going to France in 76 days.  All things marked on our calendar, to be part of summer.    But, as we all know, the days drag and the weeks and months fly by.  Before we know it, the windows will be open, tomatoes will be ripening on the vines and another season will have passed us by.  After all, my daughter told me today that there is only one more snowfall  in the forecast.

Welcome To Our Blog

Welcome to our blog.  My daughter, Maeghan, and I are excited you are here while we start this new adventure!

This blog is going to be a little bit of everything; cooking, baking, gardening.  Really anything that goes with being part of a family and living in a home is up for grabs.  We live in suburban Milwaukee, WI, about 20 miles away from Lake Michigan.  We truly love living here and while life in the country would be great, we have become accustomed to the benefits of living near a city.  We are fortunate to live on close to an acre of land, which allows my husband to do what he loves.  Garden.  Our gardens provide much of our food in the summer, but we have yet to get to the point of being able to preserve enough for winter.

As a family, we believe in the importance of conservation and lowering our carbon footprint.  While we will never be perfect, we strive to make choices that help our environment.  Much of what I plan to discuss will focus on earth friendly and sustainable ideas.  I am always open to new ideas and better methods, so if something can be done more efficiently, let me know.

Here’s to a new adventure!

 

 

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