Spring has arrived!

Well, sort of. The birds are here, singing away. Most of the snow has melted. The temperatures are only hitting freezing at night. The sap is still running, and we've made several quarts of maple syrup on our stove. The kids have been playing outside without jackets and the dog is learning that it's OK to go to the bathroom on things that aren't white (though he still searches out those last few snow patches.)

Spring is usually my favorite time of year, but so far it's been pretty cold and only a couple of my bulbs have opened so far. Still, I am working on some pretty dress patterns for the fabric I found in the attic and the ribbons I bought to match. Spring, Summer, Sun -- here we come!


Birthday Wishes

Lucas has begun making lists for his 5th birthday -- in June!  The boy loves parties. Here he has taken a photo of part of his list: Bakugan. Not pictured: Spiderman, Superman, Joker Motercycle, Robin Motorcycle, Catwoman, Pokemon. Do you detect a theme?


April Plans

My mother just got a work assignment working in Issyk Kul, so we'll be helping take care of her horse farm off and on this spring. I'm rather excited, as it means I will have full-time access to her sewing machine and huge dining room table, which is much, much easier to sew on than mine. Just in time to make some dresses for my daughter and I! I already have some pillowcases picked out for baby J. from the local thrift store, and since I need some ribbons to finish them off I am looking forward to picking out some pretty fabrics from the store for me, too. I've been working out all winter and am weighing less than before I got married, so I am looking forward to making some cute little dresses for me! My plan is to make some simple pillowcase dresses for me, too, using a yard of fabric. I had one dress made this way when I was in highschool and I wore it all the time... How I miss it! Alas, when I had my late growth spurt in college (from 5'6" to 5'8") it suddenly went from daringly short to being too short to sit down in... So I passed it along to the Salvation Army to become another girl's favorite dress.

I'm also excited to begin construction on my improved chicken coop and run next month, once the snow is all gone and the ground has firmed up a bit. My chickens will arrive mid-May, and after a few weeks in the kitchen they'll be ready to make the transition outside. By the fall, we'll have eggs! I can't wait to have my own egg supply again. They are just so much better than anything you can buy at the market, and I love watching the chickens, too.

Our First Chickens: Moon, Phoenix & Aurora


Leprechaun Cake -- St. Patty's Day Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Cake

This ice cream cake was a huge hit at our "Leprechaun Party", and early St. Patty's day celebration last weekend.

Not only was it super easy to make, but it was relative low-calorie (for an ice cream cake) and most importantly: de-lish!

Here's the how and the what:

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Chocolate Cookies
Multi-grain Waffles
Dark Chocolate Chips
Green Sprinkles

Line a 9 x 5 x 3 bread pan with saran wrap, and take a tub of mint chocolate chip ice cream out of the freezer to soften. I used Edy's slow churned version which has 1/2 the calories of regular ice cream, without artificial sweeteners.

Now take melt 2 cups of Hershey's Special Dark chips with a 1/4 cup of milk over low heat in a sauce pan to make a ganache. Remove from heat.

Crush up 4 chocolate famous amos wafers cookies (or any cookies you think would be good). Rolling pins and mortar/pestles both work well for this.

Now for the fun part:

Pour 1/3 of the ganache into the pan.
Spread 1/2 the ice cream on top.
Sprinkle in half the cookies.
Lay in two waffles.
Pour in another 1/3 of the ganache
Spread the rest of the ice cream.
Sprinkle in the rest of the cookies.
Lay in two waffles.
Pour in the last 1/3 of the ganache

Fold over the saran wrap to enclose the cake, press gently to ensure there are no air pockets in the cake, and freeze overnight. Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. Unwrap, cover with green sprinkles, slice and serve.


Note about the waffles: You can use any regular cake or lady fingers or cookies instead, of course. Waffles just happened to be all that was on hand, and I was doubtful about using them but they were actually really great with the cake....


Cilantro coming up & New homes for the fairies

The cilantro I planted last week in an old salad container is coming up beautifully. I kept the lid on until this morning to create a humid sprouting area for the seeds. In front is a small glass where I have a couple plants rooting in water, including the only surviving piece of a gorgeous geranium from last year which my puppy attacked.

 Here is another set of herbs that I planted last night in individual peat pots (I have a couple hundred I got for free on the side of the road!) Note the closed lid creating a steady, moist environment for the seeds. Also note the SNOW we still have mountains of here, despite the fact that rain and flooding melting everyone else's in town earlier this week. We are so sheltered here on our shady mountainside.

Adorable tiny birdhouses I found yesterday for $2 at the local thrift store. They're too small for any real bird, but very cute. The one with a windchime is going in my dogwood tree outside the living room, and the other one, which still has it'sbrand new tags on it,  is going to one of my mother's trees, where the fairies have asked for more birdhouses, small and large. She has many fairy groves on her property, where the trees are each adorned with several windchimes, birdhouses and feeders, and the birds adore the special places. The most sacred tree, the third largest maple in the state, we call "The Mother Tree" and she also has prayer flags and candles around her.


Magical Monday

Red-Bellied Woodpecker at the Berry Suet Feeder
Guiness, our 4-month old Beagle/Dutch Shepard
Lucas loving on Jocelyn
Suddenly she's so big! 13 months and she's already figured out how to run. And sometimes teleport, it seems.


Making Sap at Home -- yes, you can!

When you speak to professional "sugarers" they'll usually tell you horror stories about making your own sap at home, how your walls will get sticky and wet, and how it's just not economical. Well, they aren't completely wrong, but it's pretty easy to do it so that you don't have any of these problems.

First off, if you heat your house with wood, use the heat from your stove or fireplace to boil your sap, and kill two birds with one stone.

Second, especially if you are making syrup on your regular stove, turn on all the fans you have, and open a window or two. Your walls don't need to get wet, or sticky, or anything of the sort. The fact is that the sugar is NOT boiling off, only the water, so there is no reason why your walls would drip with syrup no matter what. I can make 4 ounces of syrup on the stove from 2-3 gallons of sap in about 3 hours. Considering the fact that same home-made local syrup would cost me $12-15, I find that quite economical. It generates the same amount of steam (or less!) as making my own tomato sauce.

And for a little extra frugality, do what the native americans did -- collect the sap at night and let it sit outside overnight. Most likely, in the morning the sap will have some ice on the top, and that ice has none of the sugars in it. Discard the ice, and you have less sap to boil! The Indians would do this over and over again, until all that was left was syrup.

Happy Sugaring :)


It's Maple Time! Fight cancer and diabetes with your favorite sweet stuff.

We've had a few warm days here and the maple sap is really running. I collected over 5 gallons, and today I anticipate just as much. I tapped fewer trees this year, just 5, but it looks like we are getting just as much sap. I boiled down half the haul in three hours yesterday and made a pint of perfect syrup. This morning I am rendering the rest down. Of course, it's still really cold out, so I can't have too many open windows to let out the steam -- I have the front door cracked open and my window box, too, in the kitchen. And of course I am running the wood stove as usual, making it super warm and toasty in the house.

Last year I used all gallon jugs to collect the sap from the trees, which works great when the sap is slower, but not so much when you're getting over a gallon a day. So this year I am using buckets on the biggest producing trees -- three of the trees are right on a small stream's banks, and they run like crazy.

For more info about Maple tapping, check out my previous blogpost: http://healinggreen.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-do-you-juice-tree.html

In the year since my last maple post, it's also come out in scientific journals that Maple Syrup fights bacterial infections, inhibits cancer growth and contains natural acids that benefit diabetes and other metabolic disorders. So eat up, and as always, ENJOY <3