Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Season Is Upon Us! (Gird your loins!)


I am off and on going through spasms of the nesting phase. As in tearing the entire classroom apart and being up until 4am putting it back together. I've rearrange/reorganized and luckily got my kids to assist in getting both their rooms in order. Their bathroom is less... boy (read: sticky, dirty, and unhygienic). The floors have been swept and mopped after patiently waiting for the chaos of tree placement was through. Oh, and I have to mention, that for men, there seems to be a need to buy a tree that fills the living room. So, being as we have 11ft vaulted ceilings, that meant we HAD to have a 10 1/2ft tree. *sigh*

You would think, wow that's a lot! Put your feet up and take a load off! Uhm, much as I would like to, I just can't. Because the laundry that is currently in organized piles overtaking my bedroom has to be finished while simultaneously continuing to pile up in the dirty section to be done. Which reminds me, my room. Uhg. It neeeeds to be cleaned. As does our bathroom (halfway there!). Also, the kitchen is a disaster. All the while I am trying to keep up with lessons (homeschool, I know: crazy), and was mad enough to sign the kids up for two hour art classes (Santa's Workshop at the Stumptown Art Studio). Which is great but sucks out about 3hrs of day time I could get other things done.

My husband's family will be arriving Saturday, which is fantastic, but so much pressure to get my house in order and find peace amidst the chaos. Pregnancy cravings, being simultaneously tired and suffering from insomnia haven't helped me attain peace of mind either.

So, this is why the long absence, though I hope to get a few postings in with pictures, more than I have lately. Tell me... how do other moms do it? And by that I mean, do it without all their hair falling or being pulled out? How do you not end up baying at the moon and rending your clothes? Gah! It's 4am again! Zombie school will be in session in a few hours. Class? Behave! Raise your hands so I can nibble on them... muhahahahaaa... oh goodness I need sleep!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Arguing with Insulting Squirrels

I admit it. Sometimes, I latch onto a topic and it can really consume my thoughts. I research it and try to fully understand it and then... I get into arguments.

I don't mean to start out arguing with people, but I'm sure you've been in the same situation. You know something to be true, and then some wisenheimer comes up and challenges you with a circular argument. You add new information supporting your side, yet this person keeps repeating, ad nauseum, the same diatribe over and over. Only, with each counter, they get more and more insulting.

I seem to attract the snide and self righteous. They like to call me "sweetie" or "honey" like I'm some bubble headed twit in Junior High who isn't nearly as well read as them. I hate that. It raises the hackles and makes me wish I could get away with shaking them until their marbles fall out.... that is, if they had any.

So, what has gotten me all irritated? Well there is this group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation that has made it their personal mission to obliterate the evidence of faith in our country. They claim it is a question of legality and constantly quote "separation of church and state" as their basis, as well as court cases they have won. They deny the faith of our founding fathers as well even though they quoted scripture liberally, and declared a national time of fasting and prayer during the Revolutionary War.

The beginning of my quest to more fully understand the 1st Amendment and Establishment Clause was due to a disturbing mass hysteria among the FFRF members, over a statue of Jesus that is at the top of Whitefish Mountain in Whitefish, Montana. It was a monument requested by returning WWII veterans, after time spent in Europe, where they saw many icons similar to it, in the mountains. The Knights of Columbus here in the Flathead Valley, requested to lease the land from the US Forest Service and have renewed the lease every 10 years without fail or objection. They maintain the statue and 25X25' ground it sits on. It is in essence, a war memorial.

It quickly became a favorite meeting spot for skiers on that particular run and many pictures have been taken of it. It's become a tourist stop, and even a place for reflection for some skiers. One skier, in an interview in a local paper, stated he stopped there from time to time to think about his mother who passed. No one goes and worships the statue. No religious ceremonies are officially held there. I know that ashes have been spread there, though that's unofficially, off the record. It has become part of the culture in our community and now, it is under attack.

What is infuriating, is that members of the FFRF like to claim this is just a legal matter, though their Facebook page is peppered with insulting quotes and cartoons that mock the Christian religion (only Christian). One member stated "I am giddy for the day the court rules in our favor and you are forced to tear that monstrosity down!" Nice. I thought they were above personal feelings and just out for justice? Guess not.

I found an interesting newsletter that is mostly about the teachings of ID, which I do not agree with, however they touched on the issue of "separation of church and state" since the government will not hear of metaphysical sciences being taught in school and give preference to Darwinism. This person claims, correctly as far as I can tell, that Darwinism is the state declared religion. But that argument is for another day. However, what caught my attention was a lengthy explanation that included citations from a well known court case and quotes from Jefferson, quoted within context, rather than out as the FFRF likes to do. Here is the summary:
In summary: The fiction of "separation of church and state" is a legal monstrosity. It is not the meaning of the clear simple words in the first amendment. It is counter to the intent of the easily ascertainable thoughts of the founders. It is based on the words of Thomas Jefferson written 14 years later in an incidental letter not specifically on the Constitution. Jefferson was not in the country at the time of the drafting of the first amendment. His meaning was the opposite of that interpreted by the Judge. He was referring to a sermon in which the "wall" protected the church from the state and not the state from the church. The first amendment had been properly understood for a century and a half. A former Klu Klux Klan member sat in judgment on the Supreme Court and passed a judgment that happened to coincide with the views of the Klan that his son said he supported. The judge wrote those words in direct and purposeful contradiction to the majority opinion that he was supposed to be expressing.
For further reading: Separation of Church and State Not In the Constitution


So, my conclusion is that either knowingly or unknowingly, they have taken up a grudge by a racist KKK member and run with it. They pervert the language of the Constitution and truly desire to scrub our history clean of all mentions of faith because they personally have a dislike for it. I can't tell you how many times I've been told that the founding father's were deists, as though that meant they had no intention of including God in our government. However, I submit the following as proof, straight from our government pages (Religion and the Founding of the American Republic)
  • At its initial meeting in September 1774 Congress invited the Reverend Jacob Duché (1738-1798), rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, to open its sessions with prayer. DuchéDuché.
  •  On July 4, 1776, Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams "to bring in a device for a seal for the United States of America." Franklin's proposal adapted the biblical story of the parting of the Red Sea. Jefferson first recommended the "Children of Israel in the Wilderness, led by a Cloud by Day, and a Pillar of Fire by night. . . ." He then embraced Franklin's proposal and rewrote it. Jefferson's revision of Franklin's proposal was presented by the committee to Congress on August 20. Although not accepted these drafts reveal the religious temper of the Revolutionary period. Franklin and Jefferson were among the most theologically liberal of the Founders, yet they used biblical imagery for this important task.
  • Congress proclaimed days of fasting and of thanksgiving annually throughout the Revolutionary War. This proclamation by Congress set May 17, 1776, as a "day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer" throughout the colonies. Congress urges its fellow citizens to "confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his [God's] righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness." Massachusetts ordered a "suitable Number" of these proclamations be printed so "that each of the religious Assemblies in this Colony, may be furnished with a Copy of the same" and added the motto "God Save This People" as a substitute for "God Save the King."
  • The war with Britain cut off the supply of Bibles to the United States with the result that on Sept. 11, 1777, Congress instructed its Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from "Scotland, Holland or elsewhere." On January 21, 1781, Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken (1734-1802) petitioned Congress to officially sanction a publication of the Old and New Testament which he was preparing at his own expense. Congress "highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion . . . in this country, and . . . they recommend this edition of the bible to the inhabitants of the United States." This resolution was a result of Aitken's successful accomplishment of his project.

Many would like to deny that our country was founded on Christian principals, and much of that information has been withheld in schools for a long time. Universities that employ leftist and atheists who are antagonistic towards Christianity are ripe with religious intolerance.

The reason this concerns me, is because I feel that if we as Christians, do not fight (peacefully) against this trend, that we hasten the time when we are openly persecuted with violence. Because we know, that this is what it all leads up to in the end. It is already happening all over the world. Now, there are many who are demanding our government be destroyed and rebuilt as socialist/communist. Do you know what they do with Christians in communist China? There are also many working very hard to put into place Sharia Law in our US courts. Do you know about the brutality that is suffered by Christians in Islamic run countries?

So, it begins with a statue of Jesus. A memorial to WWII veterans returned from war. This is what they want destroyed, now, after 58yrs with no complaints. A group, out of Wisconsin, is gunning for this historic, artistic memorial. Will you stand up and say, "No!" to government sanctioned oppression and persecution? Here is their counterpart's Facebook page: Save Jesus In Whitefish Montana and if you are interested, here is the Knights of Columbus website. Congressman Denny Rehberg has come to the rescue with a page (Mountain Jesus: Let Your Voice Be Heard) where you can have your comments sent to the Forest Service. I urge you to do so if you are in support.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;...
The so called "wall of separation between church and state" isn't Constitutional either. Rather, they are some incidental words written by Thomas Jefferson - obviously a founder - written in 1802 that spoke of this "wall" between church and state. A Baptist community in Danbury Connecticut had written a letter to Jefferson in 1802 congratulating him on his successful election to president. As part of his response Jefferson celebrated that the American people had passed the first amendment and that that amendment gave the protection to the Baptists that they desired. That is, the amendment protected the church from the state. Here is the snippet.
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."
Ironically, Jefferson intended for his letter to the Danbury Baptists to reassure them that the new federal government would not endanger the free expression of their religion. This is widely known. But what is not well known is that Jefferson did not actually coin the phrase "separation of church and state." (The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian, p 56, 2005).
So now we have another mystery. Who was Jefferson quoting and what did that person mean? The answer is that they were words from a sermon written by Roger Williams, a prominent Baptist.
That sermon, rendered by Roger Williams (the founder of the Rhode Island Plantation colony, and a Baptist), depicted the church as a garden, the world as a wilderness, and the wall as a device of the Creator's invention that protected the garden from being overrun by the wilderness. Williams explained that, from time to time, for the purpose of disciplining sin in the church, "it hath pleased" the Almighty to break down the wall. Thomas Jefferson, ever the politician, knew when he communicated with the Baptists that "The Garden And The Wilderness" was well known and widely read nearly two generations later. He appealed to them in the terms of their own great man's idiom. (Jim Henderson, letter to the editor, *Whistleblower* magazine, December 2003, 43.)
So now you see, what a mess one man made of our judicial system by using phrases out of context and reinterpreting the 1st Amendment. Because our public school system derives it's textbooks via approval by the government, people in power who use their position freely to suit an agenda that is to destroy religion, it's historical context within our country's founding and the expression of it publicly, we have generations of people who don't know any better. I urge anyone who reads this to seek their own answers from unbiased sources. Do not just trust websites. Look for your answers in textbooks and also let your heart guide you. Pray about any information being received and for discernment to know what is truth and what are lies.
Snow Jesus: The Skiers Mascot


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bacon

Bacon stands alone as one of the top great inventions in food. It can stand alone or be added into almost any food and that dish will be better for it. From the simple perfection of a BLT.... a moment to adore the lovely BLT...

... to the surprisingly wonderful Bacon Chocolate Bar, bacon DOES make everything better!
The wonderful guys at J&D's have made it their life's work to infuse our lives with bacon. I fell in love with their bacon salt and use it on just about everything.

So, of course with both mother and father loving bacon, would it be any wonder that our offspring would also have an almost unholy love for the smoky pork goodness of bacon? My son Connor... he is whip smart and funny. He loves... LOVES bacon. So, one morning, he was reveling in the flavor of dad's latest pick of bacon from the store and took us all with a phrase that we have now copyrighted:


"DANGER TASTES LIKE BACON!"

After a day of chuckling about it, my son asked if we could make a tshirt with that on it. So, I set to creating a design and what we came up with seemed pretty awesome. I put it up on my art gallery under it's own category. I'm hoping, even if it's just for my son, that the idea takes off. He is constantly asking if anyone has bought a shirt yet. Only two so far, but I hope that other like minded folks will notice and find it clever enough to buy a design. If you are such a warm soul, you can check out the products by clicking on any image below.

Danger Tastes Like Bacon shirt
Danger Tastes Like Bacon by cnlbell

Danger: Bacon Flavored shirt
Danger: Bacon Flavored by cnlbell

Danger Tastes Like Bacon hat
Danger Tastes Like Bacon by cnlbell

Breakfast Mug mug
Breakfast Mug by cnlbell

There are more designs. Kid's and women's tshirts and I even made a dog tshirt. So, check out the whole line and maybe you will find a great gift for someone you know, who loves bacon.

Crusty Genious

How many times have you, my fellow bakers, been disappointed by soggy crust? You bake a lovely pie, and by virtue of the fact that it has fruit or pudding, and those are wet ingredients, the bottom of your pie is soggy. Of course, it doesn't affect the flavor, but still, you were striving for flaky and crispy throughout the crust. Well, I think I have a solution!

My searches on how to combat this issue, have turned up various strategies. Everything from prebaking with a brush of fruit jelly, or butter, or egg wash to create a moisture proof barrier. Also, there was a lengthy set of steps where you would prebake, then fill the crust, then bake for a set amount of time on the floor of the oven (only if your oven was flat on the bottom of course) and then moved to the center rack for the remainder of the time. Well shoot! There has to be an easier, TASTIER way to improve on this! Right?

Yes. Yes there is. How about, a toffee like crispy thin moisture barrier, that actually adds to the crispiness and gives your pie a salty sweet crunch to it? Well, I can say, "Eureka! I've FOUND it!"

Don't you want a slice?
I decided to make a Cherry Cheese Pie, which seems very classic and yet just a little bit naughty. The tartness of the cherries are the first thing you taste, then the rich creamy smooth cheese mellows out those cherries. Then, the crispy, crunchy crust, has to be a little salty and sweet to bring it all together. Because, it's like chips and guacamole. You can't eat either by themselves. You MUST have the salty crunch of the chips married with the creamy smoothness of the guacamole.... oh goodness... I need to buy avocados and chips tomorrow! Ahem! Back on track! So, here is both, Cherry Cheese Pie and Crispy Toffee Pie Crust!

(crust must come first so it is cool enough for the filling!)

Crispy Toffee Pie Crust
  • 1 1/4 C. flour
  • 1/2 C. cold butter cut into cubes
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 C. (approx) ice water
Measure flour and salt into food processor (or bowl if you don't have one). Add butter and pulse until blended to resemble coarse meal (cut in with fork or pastry cutter if working by hand).

Next, add ice water one tablespoon at a time, just until dough starts to stick together. Seems closer to 1/8th of a cup most of the time.

Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 2 hours. When 2 hours is up, work quickly so you don't warm the dough up too much.

Put plastic wrap down on your counter to prevent sticking and flour your rolling pin. Roll out to a round that will fit your pie pan. I use glass, because I think it is more even than aluminum. To check the size, I always lay the pie pan on top briefly, and make sure the edge of the dough come about an inch to 1 1/2 inches past the edge of the pan.

Next, if you lay the pan in the center of your dough and hold onto the plastic and flip everything right side up, you can peel the wrap off your dough and it's centered in you pan. Fit, and trim to suit the pan. Next, the syrup to seal your pie from moisture!
finished crust next to syrup

Toffee Syrup Pie Sealer
  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/8 Cup hot water
Note: this wasn't exact science. I was experimenting, so all I know, is these measurements worked for me. You may need to adjust your measurements as you play with this idea.

In sauce pan, melt butter on medium heat. When fully melted, add sugar and water. Cook until sugar dissolves stirring constantly. You may need to turn heat up slightly until it begins to bubble on the edges. Continue cooking until in starts to turn slightly golden and when tested in ice water, a drop of the syrup into the water, turns to the soft ball stage. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle the prepared pie crust with cinnamon, all over. Then, with a silicone brush, brush syrup all over the pie. Even the top edges. Next, prick the bottom of the pie with a fork a few times, to prevent bubbling.

Place in 350° F oven and bake for approx 15 min, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool while making pie filling.

Cherry Cheese Pie
  • 1 (8 ounce) pkg cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 C. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling, chilled
In either a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment or using a hand held electric mixer, cream the cream cheese until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. 

Slowly add the milk mixing on low speed until well combined. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla  until smooth.

Make sure your pie crust is fully cooled. Next, pour into the crust. Place the pie into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours up to overnight, until well chilled and set.

Top the pie with the pie filling just before serving.
I am dedicating this blog post to one of my favorite fellow baking moms:  

Modern Mrs. Cleaver
This is a blog, definitely worth checking out. She has a gift with food, photography and wit. She often has recipe contests and other fun things to try. Just drop on by and while you're there, tell her I said hi!

Friday, October 14, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough....

You know how bad things seem to happen in clusters? You can't just stub your toe. You have to then, in the process of hopping about in pain, step on an errant lego piece with your unhurt foot, which effectively takes you down where you bruise your knee. It never fails. Me, I grit my teeth, and huff and puff and usually try to blow it off. I'll hobble back to bed, and maybe sigh at how clumsy I am. The next morning I can tell my husband the crazy night wandering I had was a near death experience and laugh. Then, it's all okay.

But sometimes, bad things seem to happen over and over, and you wonder if you'll ever get a break. It's happened often in my life. I try to have that enduring faith that God has a purpose for the direction my life is taking. That the bumps are character building, and pushing me to prove my devotion. One time in particular, was a family experience. I kept telling my husband and kids, "Keep praying! God is looking out for us, and it's all going to be okay." but it didn't turn out the way I thought it would. I didn't understand for a year why, but then, things were slowly looking up. I let go of what I thought should have been and realized it wasn't meant to be. That God had better things in store for us. The excitement of the change of course God made, was amazing.... then I stubbed my toe again.

That's life. Nothing stays on a plateau for long. The tide never stays in. Eventually, you have to go down and the tide rolls out. The trick is not continuing to fall or be drawn out into sea. You have to fight the current. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start climbing again. Every time you do, you get stronger. You grow closer to a God who doesn't let you settle for just you, but pushes you to be the best you.
I'm in a valley right now. It feels cold and dark. I'm not sure how I will get out, because I lost some of my resources. Still, I know I have to keep going. Because if I give up, then the ones around me, who are counting on my strength will lose hope and I cannot let that happen. Every choice we make creates a ripple and effects someone around us. If our choice is a poor one, without even knowing it, we can hurt someone who needs our strength, courage, perseverance. I haven't always been the strong one. Sometimes I need someone to be strong for me. But when there is no one physically near, I have to learn to trust in God. Because He is the only one who won't fail me.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Baby Bell #4

Yes, you read that title correctly. We are now expecting another baby in May 2012. Surprised? We were a little, but not really. We have been using Natural Family Planning since having Lachlan and the month we conceived, my husband and I had sort of playing this "should we or shouldn't we" game. My cycle had been a little wonky end of July and into August, so I think it was a combination of playing Russian Roulette (so to speak) and that, that created this pleasant surprise.

My husband was a little surprised, but happy and said, "Well, we did want to try for a girl one last time." Speaking of gender, I searched online for various ways to up the possibility for a girl as well and gender predictors. Through a fertility clinic I found a link to a fertility  doctor's suggestions on how to conceive a girl. I found that our guessed conception time/method indicated a high result for girl. Also,  a Chinese birth calendar used for centuries with a 97% accuracy rate, also indicated a girl for us. So maybe this is finally it! After three fantastic boys, I will get a girl. Of course, she will most likely be rough and tumble just like her brothers, so girly isn't expected. I've also been made to promise that no Barbies will be purchased or accepted for this potential girls (by the men of the house), but that isn't a promise I will find hard to keep, since I abhor the idea of Barbie and all the concepts she embodies.

So, we are all freshly excited by the news. We decided to share our news with the grandparents, on Grandparent's Day. My hubby called his parents and had the kids share the news, as well as a package of cards for the occasion were sent. For my parents, a similar package of cards was hand delivered, along with a game for the kids to play. We didn't tell them, but I put two betting tickets (originally for a horse race) I photoshopped to make them gender betting tickets, in one card. They were pretty slow to pick up on it, but as the gears started turning, the kids couldn't stand it anymore and yelled "We're having another baby!" to which my mom almost dropped the fish she was pulling out of the oven, and squealed with glee.
It will be so nice to be closer to family and I am hoping some of my husband's family will be able to visit near the birth date. So, I am looking forward to another blessing and praying for God to help me grow in my ability to homeschool and raise my kids, while tending to another baby and toddler. All things are possible through Him!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Homeschooling In Full Swing!

 I have thrown myself into homeschooling and am up to my eyeballs in worksheets, coloring page printouts and scheduling. On top of that, I am trying (not really succeeding either) to stay on top of housework. Good gravy! Sometimes I think,
"What on earth have I gotten myself into!"
However, I am convinced that this is better. They are learning about things that have been forgotten in public school (God and country; respect; honor) and I am making sure they read classic children's books. This week is Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach", in honor of Mr. Dahl's birthday, which was on Tuesday. We will be watching the movie on Friday or Saturday, when we finish the book.

I created a blog to follow our homeschooling activities and I have a lot of resources listed there. So, pop on over to the MT Bell Elementary blog and take a gander. I might be over there most of the time for the duration of school. Please comment, I appreciate the feedback (as long as it's constructive and not insulting), and rate. Wish us luck on this educational journey! I know I'm going to need it! haha

Thanks for following!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Watching Them Grow

They are growing too fast! I can't keep up!

No, not the weeds in my garden, my boys. If I could go back and soak up a little more time with those chubby faces, I would. Now, I am watching my baby turn into a toddler. He is just so adorable! Seems only yesterday, he was a big roundness in my belly, then a squirming babe in my arms. Now, he is taking off, squealing at the cat and telling daddy (in his own way) not to go. The other day, my dad came over and Lachlan walked up to him, pointed to his eye as he said, "I" and then pointed up to him and said, "See!" Wow. He is growing up too fast!
Lachlan 2010

2011

My older two are no exception. I have been looking at old pictures and getting misty eyed over videos of them when they were tiny. What's a mother to do?
 

2011
Connor 2004













Finally, my oldest son is becoming too old to hold my hand! We were crossing a street and I held my hand out to him and he says, "Mom! I'm too old to hold your hand! It's embarrassing!" Dash my heart to pieces!! Did he really say, holding my hand was embarrassing? I guess you cannot stop the progression of a growing child. Just hold onto those precious memories fast. Because, before you know it, they are too old to hold onto those apron strings, and it's time to let them go...
Russell 2004
2011
        











Monday, August 01, 2011

White Bean w/Roasted Garlic Dip

So, with the temperatures soaring and needing to round out a meal without adding any cooking time to an already hot house, I set out in search of filling sides that didn't require cooking, and consisted of stuff I already had in the pantry, so I wouldn't have to cool off the sweltering car and run to the store. Here is a dip that I was amazed to find so flavorful and easy I had to restrain myself from eating it all by myself. It literally went with everything we were having for dinner. I had marinated chicken drummies and my husband grilled them (I'll include that recipe at the end), and we slathered them in the dip. I had toasted a tomato bread and that went with the dip. Tortilla chips had also been included with the dip, and of course that was awesome too. I think tomorrow, we will strip the meat off the chicken, and use that, the tomato bread and dip to make sandwiches!

White Bean w/Roasted Garlic Dip

1 can small white beans (canallini is what I used)
1 head of garlic, roasted
1/4 C. olive oil (more as needed)
4 green onions diced (just the green part)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Place all items into a food processor and blend until smooth. If it seems too sticky, drizzle a little more olive oil in while blending, until smooth. The consistency should be like smooth peanut butter. Garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.


Zesty Marinated Chicken Drummies

1/2 C. soy sauce
1/2 C. Zesty Italian dressing
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
10 chicken drumsticks

Combine all ingredients into a bowl or large freezer ziplock bag. Mix all the ingredients together and marinate for as long as 24hrs. Grill or bake, basting with remaining marinade throughout cooking time, until chicken is done.

Count Your Blessings!

From time to time, when I was growing up, my mom would sing this simple song and I could hear the joy in her voice, grow. I was thinking about this song today, watching my soon to be 18mos old sleep in my arms. He's been a complete turkey for the past week or so and I realized more teeth were coming in a couple days ago. While that explains it, it doesn't make him any easier to deal with. He gets incredibly insecure and clinging and it's nearly impossible to get anything done. It's easy to be grumpy and short when you feel like you are running behind and anytime you start on a project, you have to stop to take care of a fussy little one. However, I am trying to so enjoy the good times, that I store it up, and don't forget them when he is most difficult. That way, when he is being a pill, I just stop and breath, and remember how cute he was the day before (or whenever) and remind myself, that it won't last for long.
My Grouchy Flower
Today, he was so stinkin' cute (despite off and on fussiness). I'm sure people thought I was crazy, making faces at him from the rear view mirror (he has one so we can see each other while driving) and reaching behind the seat and grabbing him (to make him squeal) while at stop lights. He was cooing and smiling up a storm in the grocery, and doffing his hat at the older ladies (where did he learn that??) making them smile and coo back.
I stopped to get a coffee and while waiting, he was kissing me and singing momma to me. I just soak these moments up. Especially, because I know it will happen before I know it. He will be too big for kisses, and a big boy and not want to hold my hand while crossing the street (as I was informed by my eldest). As a mother, I wonder, how I will survive (as so many others have) having my heart swell so big with each baby I have, and then utterly dashed as they grow independent and push for more freedom from me. While it makes me proud to see them grow to be young men, I can't imagine how hard it will be to say goodbye as they leave me. So, I have to remember to count my blessings, and save them up in my heart. So much is taken for granted, but these are the things that help us push through each day, knowing there is so much more waiting for us, after this life!

Count Your Blessings (midi) - right click and choose "open in new window"
  1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
    • Refrain:
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      *Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
      [*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]
  2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.
  3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
  4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What A New Pair Of Boots Can Do...

I am kind of in between the rough and tumble, and a bit of a priss. I don't mind getting my hands dirty, and working up a sweat doing honest work, while being truly grateful for indoor plumbing and the occasional latte. I've worked in a seafood processor (Icicle Seafoods, Inc.) during tanner crab season (3rd from the right, 3rd again,), and that specific job gave me a real appreciation for hard work and drive (as well as a hot shower after working in a freezer for 10 hrs!). I think the fact that I've given birth, fearlessly three times (okay, maybe there was a bit of trepidation with the first) is further proof that I am quite capable and strong. Still, the transformation that our family has been going through, getting this farm up and running again, has amazed me.

It truly hit me, when I traded my girlie Sketchers in, for a pair of Danners, and I was excited about it. I wore them all day after bringing them home, and love them. I had gone in looking for work boots, to protect my feet and shins and was so disappointed in the selection for women. I mean, they were "pretty" and hardly serious! I looked towards the men's department, certain I wouldn't find a pair less than 10 lbs and ugly. Luckily, my husband helped me try a few on, and I walked away with these:

Now, I am ready to go hiking, stomping through the brush, get down and dirty doing yard work and gleaning material from the old homestead.... of course, that brings up something else I am working on... the ick factor of spiders and cobwebs in dark dusty places. I can push through for a while, before having to retreat to madly slap and brush off real AND imagined bugs. Hey, love me for who I am! Or you can show yourself to the door!

Now, when the morning comes, and my soon to be 8 year old asks, "What are we doing today momma?" I can say with confidence, "Adventuring!"

Friday, July 01, 2011

How Do You Know Your Farmer Loves You?

Montana American Gothic
I went out to water the garden yesterday, while my husband and two of my boys were gone working at one of the grandmother's. Earlier, my husband had asked me not to forget to water it around 3pm. I put Lachlan in his pack, and went outside. It was pretty hot and humid, but luckily there was a good breeze going. As I went down the rows, carefully watching the hose so it didn't drag through, I noticed something in the dirt. A lovingly drawn heart, still holding a little water in the lines, in one of the paths between the rows of veggies. THAT'S how you know, your farmer loves you. ♥
Organic Expressions of Love

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Farm Life

Old buckboard wagon wheel found in the old barn,
now sitting in front of the new homestead.
Much has happened in such a short time!
  • We took the opportunity of a lifetime, to move to Montana and revive the family farm.
  • With the opportunity, came obligations and responsibilities that we are working hard to fulfill.
  • Two new four legged creatures joined our household family, as well as a brood of rapidly growing chickens.
  • Family members not seen for a long time have been embraced again and enjoyed over happy get togethers.
  • Adjustments are still being made and having to be settled with (less income, new worries, etc).
  • New lessons learned, though hard, yet they come with blessings to lessen the pain.
The Old Homestead:
My two older boys looking towards the old homestead.
I haven't had a real good exploration of the farmhouse, barn, and garage, but my dad has told me I need to because there are treasures to be found. Already, my husband found an awesome little trove of antique farm equipment, and the washbasin that we found a picture of my mother and her siblings as babies, bathing in. So much history and my eldest is delighted. He told my dad how much he likes history and old things. He was always more mature than his years when it came to interests.

Animals!...
We now have a kitten named Chloe and a chocolate lab named Cocoa. They were added about a week apart and were born around the same time. They are friends and play, even sleep together! Chloe is already showing she will be a good mouser and Cocoa is good at tracking down stray tomcats and running them off.
Chloe Bell
Cocoa Bell


The Garden:
Chad, planting away last evening.
Our garden is a 40X45' and was put in by Chad's considerable effort and the use of a Kabota tractor. He did such a good job and I am always so proud of how he figures out how to do things better. We are planting all kinds of veggies and herbs. I will post pictures as they sprout up. Our plan is to can and pickle in stages and use as we go as well as sharing with family. We will be more self sufficient as well as providing low cost nutrition to other family members.
My curly redhead, overseeing his daddy's planting.
We need a fence to protect from the many deer on the property, and we're hoping that won't be too expensive. To date we have seen herds of deer (we think there is one of about 15-20 living on the property regularly), a lone reddish fox, and two elk as well as one tom and two hen turkey strutting about as early as last night and this morning. So much wildlife to enjoy!

New Car:
Okay, not so new year wise, but a gas economic Prius.
My grandmother offered me this car in exchange for cleaning and organizing regularly, as well as visiting and cooking a meal or two each visit for her. It's a big deal, because we cannot afford a vehicle right now and since everything is a decent drive away, the fact that it gets 60 mi/gal is impressive. I am grateful and eager to do my best for her and the family. It is a blessing to be in service to another in the name of God and I feel like God called me here for just this purpose.

So blessings abound! There is so much more, but it smells like the herb bread is possibly done baking, and I still need to sweep and mop, and Lachlan is acting suspicious in the corner, like there might be an impending delivery, then I need to water the garden and get to the post office.... OH! So much to be done!




Saturday, May 21, 2011

Things We'll Miss

If you missed any part of this ongoing story, go back to "Another Door Opens" to start from the beginning.

So, we are just a short four days from our move to Montana. The computer will get packed up this evening or early tomorrow. So, I might not be able to post any updates until our household arrives in our new place. We are getting a Uhaul and then putting it on the barge to Seattle. It takes up to fourteen days to get there and then my husband will have to go get it and drive it back. I might get a chance for a few mini updates via the library or my mom's computer. However, you can Follow AlaskanBelle77 on Twitter, as that is an easy way to send short updates.

My last post is dedicated to some of the things we'll miss when we move. So let's get started...
  1. FRIENDS! Oh we have made many wonderful friends and all of them will be missed so much!! Thankfully we have Facebook, email, blogs and letter writing at our disposal. I will do my best on this side to stay in touch. Promise!
  2. Soldotna Bible Chapel. I have never met a more loving and accepting church family that has a heart for it's community and follow God's calling to be in service to the people within that community. We were led to that church by God and were blessed over and over with each person/family we met. We will miss everyone dearly!
  3. The community of Soldotna, AK. What a great place to raise a family! We felt like we were home the moment we reached city limits. The city and people have done such a good job making sure that it was a family friendly town and it shows. So many activities all year 'round that you could wear yourself out trying to take part in it all. Our kids saw so many parades and fairs every single year. The schools (specifically Redoubt Elementary) are so great, and even if public school isn't your thing, this area is welcoming and supportive of homeschoolers. If we ever moved again, this would be the place, if God wills it!
  4. The Moose Is Loose Bakery. Such wonderful baked goods that are heaven on the tongue! Not just sweet fresh donuts, cakes and cookies, but also amazing breads, and rolls. If ever you get the chance, just passing through or visiting, you HAVE TO go there and have something sweet from this spot. The ladies that work here are lovely and smiley too!
  5. The Kenai River. A beautiful treasure. The entire Kenai area protects this valuable resource and works hard to keep it healthy and clean.
  6. Alaska. Oh, this great wild state that has been consistently under appreciated and dismissed by uppity up city dwellers and politicians. It's vastness is under estimated and played down by so many. It is both wild and magical in it's people, history and beauty. If you haven't visited yet, put it down on your bucket list (the top ten!) and get here!!
  7. The Annual PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend). I can't lie. Having that little boost of cash near the end of the year was a blessing. When times were tough, it got us through. It helped pay bills and pay down debt. It enabled us to give our kids the kind of Christmases they deserved when we didn't think we would be able to afford it. It will be missed!
There is more, but if I went into detail, this post would go on and on and I still have some packing and cleaning to do. I hope, you will subscribe so you can see all the great updates on our adventures in Montana. I'll be posting pictures as we develop the farm and get animals. Our kids are giddy with excitement and can hardly stand the wait. My parents are itchy to hold grandkids in their arms. Farewell to all our friends and family here in the great north. Farewell to the freedom and fierce fighting spirit of independence that this state holds. We travel south to Alaska's cousin, Montana. Similarly beautiful and strong, just a little more tame and settled. Ready or not.... Here we come!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Biological Warfare: Alaskan Style

Ah... navigating the treacherous journey of being a mother to boys.

We live in a really great neighborhood, at the end of a culdesac. There is only one other little boy, but he is younger than mine and has an early curfew. So when my boys go out to play, they play with a great group of rough and tumble girls. Three total.

I was tidying up and playing with my baby, when I hear a knock on the door. This usually means one of the girls with a report about one or both of the boys being less than careful in their play. So, I open the door and here are two of the girls, solemn faced and fidgety.

Brunette: "Mrs. Bell? Uhm.. Connor is uuhmmm... throwing moose turds.... at my head."
Blonde: "Uh HUH!" (eyes all wide and concerned)

This is one of those tricky moments, where you have to be serious too, and not lose it laughing at the hilarity of it all.
nature's grenades
Me: (barely stifling a giggle) "Weeellll.... that's not very nice, but moose just eat grass, sticks and bark.. so it's not like dog poop. It's pretty harmless."
Brunette: (pulling the big sad eyes on me) "But moose turds are hard. So it hurt... and it was right at my head!"

When I got to the bottom of it all, they were playing "war" and throwing "stuff" at each other, like sticks and dirt clods. Then Connor and another little girl, started throwing the ample moose turds at everyone. So, since it was late already, I gave a diplomatic warning to everyone that no one should be throwing anything at anyone. Then told the boys it was time to call it a night.
So, my boys were pulled from their play, for engaging in biological warfare, of the moosey kind. I'm still giggling over it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another Door Opens (continued)

If you haven't read the first part of this, read "Another Door Opens" dated 04/23/11 to understand what is going on.

So, in order to make our decision, we made a list of pros and cons and also asked a few people what they thought. Most of the people we talked to, said that while leaving Alaska is very hard, Montana is so similar in it's way of life, and people, it would be "trading beauty for beauty" as one person put it.

The cons list is pretty small. Concerns were that homeschooling won't be as easy. Alaska is either the only state or one of very few (unsure) that pay a stipend to anyone wanting to homeschool. This is because they recognize it costs the state more money to have a student in public education, rather than just pay a small amount of money for textbooks and supplies, to teach at home. However, I have a cousin who is homeschooling her girls in Montana that said she would help me figure it all out.

Of course we will miss friends we have made here, but having so many family in the area will be wonderful for the kids. My family is very loyal and if anything is needed, they are quick to help.
Cousins
No Salmon!! Uhg! We love smoked salmon, but there will be so much to feast on in Montana. Elk and whitetail deer are on the property we are moving to, and since we will be living there, we have instant rights to hunt whatever is on that property.

No more Alaska Dividend! Well, that's a bummer. While the hike in gas at the pump is totally lame, that price also goes into what we get as a kickback from the pipeline. This year, they are speculating that it could be up around $2000 either right below or even just over that. That is always a nice little bonus near the end of the year to set aside for Christmas, or get caught up on bills. We will get one last one for last year, and then we lose our residency.

The pros are plenty. Kids will be close to grandparents and cousins. We will be living off the land, mostly self sufficient and prepared for the collapse of the economy. More hunting, bigger house, lower rent, ability to have pets, no neighbors, and it goes on.


The marker is approximately where our property is. (click image for larger view)
SO, we had to say yes in the end. It was an offer we couldn't say no to. It was hard, because we love Alaska and our friends here, but the chance to have an all expenses paid adventure that will bring us closer together as a family is hard to beat and would be silly to pass up.

So the "South Central Alaskan Bells" will become the "Montana Bells" at the end of May. It's going to be quite an undertaking, getting from Alaska to Montana. We are weeding out the excess and hope to make a little money in a few yard sales (weather permitting). Our car is nice, but getting old enough that driving it down wouldn't be worth it, so we are hoping to sell that too. Then, it all gets put into a Uhaul, put on a barge and 14 days later my husband will drive it from Seattle to our final destination in Montana. We will all fly down before the barge gets there and "camp out" until our household goods can be picked up. Which is fine, because we need to paint two rooms to the specifications of two little boys (within reason!). It's exciting! I am looking forward to showing the boys where I grew up and Chad my old stomping grounds. It's going to be so great reconnecting with family that I played with as a child. My kids will be able to experience the character building exercises of raising animals and working in the garden. Being paid to do work for family (small tasks) will teach them the value of their hard work and the reward of saving their money. Teaching them good stewardship of our land and animals in our care is such an important one. I am excited to see my boys become amazing young men!
Red arrow: where our new home is. Blue arrow: old homestead (click for larger image)

Keep us in your prayers, and your eyes on this blog! I will update with pictures as much as I can!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fresh Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple were on sale at the local grocery store and the smell was taunting me from the register, so I had to get one. For dinner, my hubby was making bbq ribs and decided to grill some pineapple to go alongside. That left me with half of a pineapple to make a wonderfully sinful cake!

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Topping:
  • 1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored 
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter 
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

Batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 2/3 stick unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice (didn't have any, but grapefruit wasn't even noticeable!) 
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling over cake

Equipment: A well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet. If you lack a cast-iron skillet of this size, make the caramel in a small pot and scrape it into the bottom of a similarly-sized cake pan. (I used a 9″ cake pan)
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make topping: Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces and set aside. Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes. Remove from heat and pour into cake pan. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly.

Make batter: Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.

Another Door Opens


"When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us."
-- Alexander Graham Bell


I am an Alaskan girl. Always will be. I was born in Anchorage and moved all over the state because my dad was a State Trooper. I must have been blessed with kamikaze angels as a young child. I wanted to go pet the moose standing in front of our picture window early in the morning, while everyone slept. I could never get the door open fast enough and they would be gone. I've searched for Easter eggs in spring snowfall. Worn ExtraTuffs with a dress, worked in a cannery and fell in love with the wildness of a southeastern Alaska commercial fisherman. 

Never imagined leaving Alaska after getting married and having kids. Alaska felt safe and familiar. Anywhere else seemed crazy. Alaskans are a different breed. We are independent and fiercely protective of our right to live free, in the pursuit of happiness.... with our guns.


Early this month, my husband and I were getting ready for an overdue date night out. A sort of late anniversary celebration, just the two of us. My husband noticed he had missed a call from my dad. I hadn't called my parents in a while and figured they were looking to talk to the kids. Then, I noticed they had called me too. As we drove to the restaurant, I got nervous, since both my grandmas aren't in the best health. I thought maybe something had happened. So I called back just before getting to the restaurant. Dinner was delayed for a bit while my dad slowly told me what was going on in Montana, and that the family had a proposition for us.

With everything going on in our country, rising fuel and food costs that look to only be worsening, did we feel safe being far from family if something bad happened? What if Chad lost his job? What if there were food shortages? Well... people we had met were very good people, but they weren't family. We weren't sure. Those aren't the easiest questions to answer. Then, he dropped the bomb. Almost all in one breath:

(paraphrased) Your mother and I have been talking and we want to pay your way to move down to Montana and live on the farm in the house your brother just built. Its a four bedroom, two bath, two car garage home with natural gas and wood stove heat on 40 acres of land. Your uncle wants you to manage the farm and Chad will be paid for his time to rebuild the barn, chicken coop, fence in the property, and salvage the wood from the old homestead and barn. In addition to that, Chad will be employed to paint one grandmother's house and renovate a bathroom. While the other grandma needs a garage and a possible add on. We will also pay six month's rent after which it will only be $600/mo. We want to eventually get cows, chickens, maybe alpacas, prepare a portion of land for alfalfa and have a large garden. All the tools are there, even all the farming equipment. You would be paid to help clean the house for one grandma and maybe chauffeur the other from time to time and your mother will help with the kids. It's a lot to take in right now, so don't rush into this decision. Take some time and think about it.

........

I am sitting there stunned. I get off the phone, and tell Chad. We are both stunned. What should we do? There is so much to consider. Can we really walk away from Alaska? Montana is so far away. If we left, there would be no returning because, we cannot afford to go, certainly wouldn't be able to come back once they had moved us (the next day my dad calls to say, if we give it a few years, and it's not working out, they would help pay to send us back to Alaska!) What do we do? How do we process this once in a lifetime offer?

TO BE CONTINUED..... (for conclusion click here)

Past Musings You Might Ponder

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