Saturday, April 20, 2013

Into The Coop

Time to wash those chickens out of my house! As much as we adore our chickens, we decided it was time to kick 'em to the coop despite the freaking SNOW IN APRIL!!

Don't worry, I did much reading to make sure we weren't being cruel, and there's a heat lamp in the coop for those night-time low temps (which are dipping to the low 30s right now in Minnesnowta).

Coop and Snow
For the sake of clarity, the red part is the coop and the fenced in part is the run.
The chickens sleep in the coop, and hang out in the run. The egg boxes are off to the right of the coop and are
currently closed off. We will make them chicken accessible at about 20 weeks (in mid July)

Chickens in their coop, nice and warm. (Sharona, Amy, Nugget on the perch)
We will keep their heat lamp on until it's good and warm at night(it's hanging from the ceiling of the coop)

Peeking in the coop

Jack and Nugget peeking out of the coop.

Jack's Chicken Butt!!

Chicken Love!

Mastermind making some coop door modifications.
He's decided it would be great to pull a string (outside the coop) and have it raise up on rollers rather than having
to enter the run to open and close the coop door. We will have to open the door in the morning to let them
into their run, and close it at night after they go up to roost.

Despite the snow, it is warm and sunny (and sloppy) outside. Not Croc weather, but
Little Frog runs a little warmer than the rest of us. 

And now I'm going to go do another run on the basement carpet with my mom's Rainbow - we borrowed it for the weekend to decontaminate the chicken brooder area. I'd take a picture of the gunk I've sucked up out of the carpet, but you'd probably throw up. So I won't.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Nasty Pasty*

Disclaimer: It's snowing in April, so all the pictures have not the greatest lighting. I repeat. It's snowing in April.

Meal Swap is upon us once again and my dear husband, known to this blog as Mastermind, offered to make his pasties. Let me google that for you, pay careful attention to the pronunciation, rhymes with Nasty not Hasty:

Although the origin is supposedly British, they were hugely popular miners meals in the midwest and you can find pasties on menus in towns with mining ancestors. I'm always surprised when Minnesotans have not heard of pasties, and then I feel very sorry for them that they haven't tasted them. The recipe Mastermind came up with makes a TON, perfect for freezing and bringing out when we're short on meals. They're AMAZING!!

Best of all, my role is reduced to that of basic chopper, because they've been relegated to one of the things that he just does better than me (it's an extensive list, hence the name Mastermind).

But on to the Pasty!

First you have to make the dough: 
4 1/2 C flour
1 C shortening
1 1/4 C ice water
1 tsp salt
whisk flour and salt together in large bowl. Cut in shortening. Make a well in center and quickly stir in water. Form dough into a ball, set aside (this can be done the night before)


The Filling (mix it all together
5 1/2 C thinly sliced potatoes

2 carrots, shredded
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 rutabaga, diced
1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground turkey
1 Tbs salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cube bouillon dissolved in 1/2 C hot water
3 Tbs diced garlic
*any seasonings will do, we like our Penzeys

Rutabagas are hard to cut up

Roll out pastry dough into approx. 6"x8" rectangles. Place about 1/2 C of 
filling in the center of the rectangle. Bring short side up over filling and seal.
Cut a few little slits in the top. Place on dull, not black baking pan. . .

kneading dough

folding over the pasty

Purty Pasty

Bake at 425 for 45 minutes!

Yum! Lots of veggies, lots of flavor.

This recipe makes about 50 pasties - we eat a bunch the first week, but freeze a bunch in ziploc bags. Every month or so we'll bring a bag out of the freezer, pop it in the fridge to thaw, and enjoy for lunches and a dinner or 2 that week. The Pasties you find on The North Shore are much bigger, but we like them small, especially with the kids.

DH and Ox like theirs plain, I like mine with ketchup and mustard. Some serve them with gravy, but gravy grosses me out (think about it). Don't skip the rutabaga - the flavor is necessary for pasties, but not for much else. Any combination of ground meat would be fine, I think the original called for 1 1/2 pounds ground beef and a half-pound of ground pork. Also, play with the seasonings to suit your taste. I think we'll get some fresh sage next time to add to the mix. 


- - - - - - - - - - - - 
*In one of my favorite book series there is a pasty shop called The Nasty Pasty. How awesome would it be to win the lottery and open our own Nasty Pasty, combo micro brew? Yum! If you can tell me the book series The Nasty Pasty appears in, you win a prize!! Maybe I'll knit you some socks, maybe I'll forget altogether. I'm pretty busy after all. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mittens in April

Little Frog lost her mittens. I was holding out hope that:

1) We would find them. They were my first knitted mittens and I had a sentimental feeling about them.



But alas, the mittens are still lost and more snow is in the forecast, and it was a quiet Friday night so. . .

Awkward mitten thumb knitting

 These HUGE size 7 needles felt so awkward in my fingers after making a few pairs of socks with itty bitty size 2s. Fortunately my Mad Knitting Skillz enabled me to whip up a mitten in a few hours (nerd that I am, I studied how the knitter at Very Pink knitted and worked so that I could copy her method of holding the yarn, because it seemed so much quicker than what I had been previously been able to do). I felt a little bit like Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel - faster and faster, I could knit one mitten faster in one evening than 100 men could knit in a week.

Or something like that. Actually nothing like that, but whatever.

Mitten wearing on a Saturday Morning

The super-soft variegated yarn was nice to knit with, too. I'm planning on whipping out the other one today, because of all the FREAKING SNOW in the forecast. In April. Blech.

A trip to Crafty Planet is in today's agenda, though, (along with making 100 pasties for meal swap) because I am really excited to make a Mama Vertebrae sweater for myself. Finally I decided what I wanted to make for myself. I like to wear sweaters in the summer, so this frontless cardi struck me as a perfect project, especially since it's construction is not much more complicated than Little Frog's Shrug:
This shrug gets a LOT of use!

I'm very excited to get it cast on, I'm thinking in a nice deep red, DK weight or Light Worsted (depends on what inspires me when I'm at Crafty Planet).

But first, time to finish that 2nd mitten, because Baby it's COLD outside.

Oh, here's a pic of Little Frog's finished socks. I LOVE them, that yarn was so dreamy to work with, but I doubt I could have gotten grown-up socks out of one skein - there was very little left over. Still, I might need to revisit the yarn for a pair for myself sometime in the future.

Dreamy socks

Friday, April 12, 2013

The New Girls

Six weeks ago we got chickens. These gorgeous baby girls have been a life-long dream of mine; for some reason I have loved chickens since the beginning of time. I didn't have the courage to actually go ahead and get them until my friend over at Underground Chickens got her girls, didn't accidentally kill any of them, and has over 200 eggs to date. Plus, we share a father (in-law, in my case) so we had an automatic "in" for our gorgeous coop.

Stats: We got 4 because we couldn't decide on names so everyone was assigned a chicken to name and "take care of," mainly consisting of being it's #1 cuddle partner so that they become very tame. Amazingly enough there was no squabbling about what person would get which chicken, we all got our first choice chicken.

Ox chose the Rhode Island Red and named her Amelia Pond after Amelia Pond (duh) in Doctor Who, a redhead. She might be his first celebrity crush.

Little Frog chose the Buff Orpington and originally named her Princess Sparkle Rainbow Heart Star but then we started reading the Little House picture books and she decided on Jack.

Mastermind got the Barred Rock, which he named Nugget. Nugget came a week later than our other girls so she's a bit smaller.

I got the Ameraucana and after MUCH deliberation, named her Sharona. Yes, My Sharona.

I've taken as many pictures of our girls as I did when our babies were first born; chickens are incredibly photogenic. Here are a few of my favorites:

Sharona, Amy, & Jack: 1 day old

Nugget at 1 day old

LadyB checking out the Peep Show

Sharona hanging out in the Doll House

Sharona & Jack, about 2 weeks old

Amy at 5 weeks, first time outside.

Makeshift Chicken Run

Jack getting some cuddle time

As you can see, the chickens grow very quickly. We are all anxious to get them outside into their coop. The brooder we made is just not enough for them, they want to run around. We got them outside in their coop on the one gorgeous day we had, but they're not big enough to handle the cold snap we've had this week. Hopefully I'll be able to post a Cooptastic blog sometime in the near future!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Knit Wit

Apologies!! I've been meaning to be a better blogger but my life has been transformed the last few months by a couple of things. No doubt you've been checking out the blog daily to see if there have been any new developments in the life of a MamaStar. I've just been truly busy.

Quite importantly, my kids stopped being so dependent and gave me time to start knitting. We also got chickens, which you can read about HERE.

Despite my Open School background giving me virtually zero research skills I'm a natural researcher and viewed the heck out of LOTS of online tutorials (VeryPink rocks!) and read lots of knitting books before I started and got help from knitting expert Kristy over at TinkerKnits when my Purling was not so purty.

First I knit a hat

Seriously I have a problem. It's so entirely addicting and completely justifiable to spend a lot of time knitting because it's not like I'm wasting time, I'm creating things! Like mittens and socks! ohh I love knitting socks. So much fun! Mittens are great, too. I skipped knitting the traditional starter scarf because scarves are completely boring (and let's face it, nobody wears scarves) and whipped out a set of hats and mittens for the kids.

Of course Easter dresses come with NO sleeves despite the fact that it is very nearly always cold at Easter, so I knit up a shrug for Little Frog with THIS pattern increased for me by my friend from TinkerKnits. It's so great, she wears it to dance class every week over her little leotard to keep her arms warm. I only wish I hadn't picked out boring cream acrylic yarn (hey, I was a Newbie when I grabbed it), I fully plan on making another one in a nicer yarn for Kindergarten this fall. I'm thinkging brown, although she would no doubt like Rock Star Pink.

Little Frog's shrug

I wanted to knit something for my niece's birthday, and I was thinking about legwarmers since she is a rockstar gymnast, but that seemed boring so I went for a little iPod Touch purse and threw a headband in as well. It was my first experience with cable knitting, and it was a lot of fun in this varegiated pinky purple yarn.

And then on to socks. Glorious socks with adorable baby sz 2 double-pointed needles. I know some people adore their fancy Magic Loop on circular needles, but I just like the way DPNs look. I used THIS pattern, my only problem is I knit very tightly and the sock yarn Ox picked out was not particularly stretchy so he had to yank them on his feet the first time. Case in point that I need to lighten up a bit and LOOSEN up myself and my knitting. Little Frog's socks are turning out much better. Sad I have to concentrate on being relaxed.

I find myself counting stitches to go to sleep, rather than sheep. The Kitchener Stitch especially is quite rhythmic and I can get a good visualization going that totally knocks me out when I'm feeling insomniatic. I think I'm going to have to knit something for myself one of these days!