Thursday, June 22, 2017

Camping Family......

Plain and simple we love to camp.  For the most part it is quiet and peaceful and the temps are so much better than at home.  It is nice to just veg out and get away from stress.  So far we have only been camping once this summer of 2017.  I really hope to go at least one more time but it all depends on my new lousy job schedule.

Most people go camping because it is one of the most frugal vacations you can take. It is true, it can be. But there are still some luxuries that are nice to have on a trip.  If you go out and purchase everything at once it can be a bit pricey. But just starting and then upgrading thru the years makes it a little easier on the pocketbook.

As the years have gone by we have invested a little each year on our camping supplies.  We started with a small family tent and struggled with lining up all the poles and setting it up.  A couple years ago we were camping and saw our neighbors pop up their tent within 5 minutes. We were stunned and decided to try and find one.  Best purchase ever. We found the Ozark Trail Instant tent at Walmart for 99.99.   Something I can even set up and take down all by myself.

Never let the size of a tent fool you. Six person means wall to wall sleeping right next to each other with no wiggle room.  This tent was perfect for just the 2 of us and maybe even a 3rd might fit in.  I would not do more than that.  We had two cots in this tent. One to each side and gave us just enough room in center for dressing etc.  I would also note that I prefer a tent that says Cabin Tent rather than Dome tent. It allows a little extra room.
FYI, never forget the tarp.  Always good idea to have a tarp under the tent to help protect it from sharp rocks.  Best place/best low price I have found tarps is at Big Lots.

I do not like cooking over campfire, I don't like the bending and the trouble with getting the proper heat. Then there is also the worrisome issue of whether or not fire restrictions are in place. We started off with a small standard stove. Nothing fancy. Personally I would like to go back to one of these  stoves. Much easier to transport and it easily sits on a table,

Granted if you do have a lot to cook you have to do some shuffling around but if you get creative it can be done.  These stoves take the small green propane bottles which in the long run cost a little more than having a large propane tank but if you do not camp often it works fine.

And this was our upgrade and the one we are still using.

Costway Double Burner Gas Propane Cooker Outdoor Camping Picnic Stove Stand BBQ Grill

I think ours is a Camp Chef and cost about 99.00 when we bought it years ago.  We liked that we could take a big propane tank with us, Same type of propane that would hook up to a gas grill at home.  Less chance of running out halfway thru coking a meal.  I hate that it is so heavy. Hard to lug up into truck bed and if you need to move it around at camp to block the wind it is awkward.

Sometimes a campground has tables, sometimes not. I always come prepared for the not.  We have a couple tables where the top comes away from the base/legs and all the parts roll up into cases similar to camp chair bags. Similar to these but ours are wooden and on their last legs, ha ha, is that a pun?

We have had some of the worst luck with chairs. Usually we would purchase Walmart chairs but they seem to wear out very fast for us. The last batch the seams at the front of the arm rests were torn within one usage. Our upgrade was to the Kijaro chair from Cabellas.  At the time they were 70.00 each OUCH!  but we had points racked up so they actually cost us very little.

Big difference in the quality.

Taking a break, more to come.

Monday, March 7, 2016



I am seriously learning something every time. Still having issues with getting egg whites to whip as stiffly as they should.  I might purchase a new hand mixer just so I can have a whisk attachment.   I also learned this time to shorten the cooking time. I went for 15 minutes.  I also cooked most of these on my large double insuleted cookie sheet and a few remaining on my small thin cookie sheet.  The cookies on the large sheet are much prettier and the ones on the small cookie sheet look slightly over done.

I used the smae macaron recipe as the strawberry macarons and used a drop or two of orange flavoring and some  orange gel coloring.  Ummm, when done these cookies seriously smell like trix cereal  :(     I am not pleased with the smell but the flavor is good. They are smaller cookies, just slightly bigger than a quarter. They are smoother and have shine. A few little bumps here and there but at least I am not getting cracks.  Now that I have said that the next batch will crack.

3 tbs butter ( I  like salted)
1 cup powdered sugar
toothpick of gel vanilla flavoring
gel yellow coloring and red gel coloring
tsp orange zest
orange juice to create correct consistency for buttercream

Not too much of an air pocket.  You shouldn't be able to see an air pocket at all.  The outside should be crisp but when you bit into the cookie it should be slightly moist but full.



I learn something new on every attempt.  This time the macarons are smaller because I printed a template from online.  I prefer the slightly larger macarons.  I purchased a macaron one time in Scottsdale and it was closer to the half dollar size. I am calling this attempt a flop even though they look good.  I cooked them the full 19 minutes just as I did the strawberry macarons and that seems to be too long. They are too crunchy, though on the internet it says too crunchy is better than under done because it will absorb the moisture from the buttercream when you allow them to ripen.  
I also had issues with the egg whites this time.  They just would not form stiff peaks. It could be that I used a plastic boil that may have had some oily residue left. Or it could be that I had dumped the egg whites and granulated sugar into the mixing bowl and let it set while I prepared all of the other ingredients.  Maybe it is because I really need my whisk attachment and can not find it anywhere.

The macarons are on the small side, they are very crunchy on the outside, with a hollow on the inside when you bite into them. Not the perfect macaron.  They are smooth and shiny though.  Practice makes perfect.

Same recipe as the strawberry macarons with a couple drops of lemon extract and yellow gel food coloring.

Lemon Buttercream

3 tbs butter ( I  like salted)
1 cup powdered sugar
toothpick of gel vanillla flavoring
gel yellow coloring
tsp lemon zest
lemon juice to creat correct consistensy for buttercream



I am always up for a challenge and macarons are definitely that challenge.  They are not a simple, whip together ingredients, plop them on cookie sheet, and bake. Nope there are many intricate steps involved to obtain the perfect macaron.   While I suppose each step is not necessarily hard they can take practice and each step is important and can not be skipped.
My First Attempt is Strawberry Macarons
Results are not too bad.  The flavor is pretty good though a bit sweet. Maybe they could have used a bit more salt. I guess the size is kind of big compared to all of the templates I have printed.  I made my own template on this batch and used my smallest measuring cup as the circle. I would say they are about the size of a half dollar.  They had a good crunch on the outside and moist on the inside without a big air bubble. The only problem really is the outside appearance.   The outside had a shine to it but was a bit lumpy looking, not the smooth appearance it should have.  I did achieve 'feet' on most of the shells  on my very first try which I am happy about.  The lumpiness I believe is due to not quite enough hand mixing when I added the almond mixture to the egg whites.  

I am using the macaron recipe from Stella on except that I cut the recipe in half.   It would just make way too many cookies for the whole batch since I am just practicing.

2 ounces almond flour
4 ounces powdered sugar
2 1/2 ounces room temperature egg whites
1 1/4 ounce sugar
scrapings of 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Strawberry Cream Cheese Buttercream
1/2 cup butter
1/2 pkg cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cp powdered sugar
drops strawberry flavoring
pink or red food coloring
Heavy cream, to thin buttercream to desired consistency

Monday, December 16, 2013

Raising Chickens... the First Year

So I have wanted to raise chickens for many years and last year finally took the plunge.   I started small with 6 chicks but they were so cute I ran back to store the next day for a couple more.

I started a lot of my research on   learning what breeds to look for and how to set up for the chicks.   I started with a big box on my kitchen table and eventually had to move to an even larger box.  Pine bedding was used on the floor of the box but it has to be changed often as they grow because they can get stinky.  An outdoor thermometer was attached to the box close to where I kept the heat lamp.  The biggest pain in the rear is the heat lamp.  It is important that they don't get too chilled in the beginning and I finally settled on a 60 watt bulb but I still had to raise and lower the heat lamp all the time.  If the box is big enough the chicks will just move around where they are comfortable.

chicken breeds.......  if you google chicken breed chart you will find a lot of links and images with great charts.

Starter feed is important for the first 12 weeks I think, as well as nice clean water.  Baby chicks are messy and water has to be changed a couple times a day.  A bit of apple cider vinegar in their water helps keep them healthy.

Eventually they grow big enough they start trying to jump out of their box and I had to cover with some plastic fencing material I had.  I am a cheapskate and always trying to use what I had around instead of buying new.   By the time they were big enough to move to the coop we were all ready for that. They get a bit noisy and stinky.

I am not sure if they moved up to grower feed before or after we moved them outside.  When I first moved them outside the coop was just barely big enough. It was just the small short section of the coop I have now.  I thought I would be able to stoop over in there but that just didn't work out.  They did okay there for a couple months though. 

My original plan for the chickens was for them to be free range and just come to their coop at night but then I started worrying that they were going to bother neighbors.  I ended up moving the small coop from a side yard up to front yard where I have garden so had to add on a much bigger section to the coop.  Moving that coop was a tough process.  Lesson learned, build bigger than you think :) 

The girls were content in their home though they would love to get out and have a party in the garden.  I do let them out once in a while but have to watch them closely. 

At about 16 weeks they change to layer feed.    My first rhode island reds started laying at almost exactly 16 weeks.   Black sex links not long after, and Ameraucanas who lay green eggs took forever.    Rhode Island Reds and Black sex links earn their keep.  Ameraucanas not so much.

Link on feeding chickens

My coop is really more of a chicken run than an actual coop.  The run is covered by tarp over the top and the back section have the walls covered.  I figured in the summertime an actual coop with walls of wood would get very hot and I am not air conditioning a coop.

HMM if somebody had access to an old playhouse.....

In the hottest part of the summer I did work hard at keeping them cool.  I froze large blocks of ice and put the smaller ice in their  water containers and the huge ice cream bucket ice would sit on an overturned metal basket.  They would huddle around the water containers and the huge ice to keep cool.   When you see them panting it is not good.  they can overheat.  I thought about a mister but just never got around to the investment last year, maybe will do so this year.

Initially I was able to just take an old pool net and use the long metal pole and slip it thru the chicken wire and that was their roost. but they eventually broke it and I broke down and built a roost.

When they first started laying I used big rubbermaid boxes laid on their sides filled with pine bedding.  That worked until they decided they wanted to climb on top at night and all sleep huddled together on top and they collapsed the boxes. So I built the new nesting boxes attached to the side of the coop  ( I BUILT THEM, no help) LMAO   I made a few changes but this was roughly the plan I used

Biggest pain in the butt has been keeping up with water. Chickens are heavier and stronger than they look and constantly were knocking over the waterers.  Below is the contraption I am still working on perfecting.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Coming along nicely.......

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tomatoes 2013

Bonnie's Best
Golden Jubilee

Costoluto Fiorentino
Old German

Frankenstein Black
San Marzano Redorta

Not Pictured.....Black Krim and Cherokee Purple

This year I am going tomato wild.  I have thirty tomato plants in the garden and hopefully lots of tomatoes on the way. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

12 day difference

 Only a twelve day difference and the grape vines on the pergola  exploded, okra and corn coming up and tomato plants almost doubled in size.

Sunday, March 24, 2013