Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas 2010

Oh blog, how I have negleted you! You see, the problem is, the husband bought me a Kindle. While I realize that was exactly what I wanted, that means that I spend all of my free time reading instead of doing something productive, like blogging.

While I was reading, the farmers of America have been hard at work. The animals don't know it's Christmas; it's just another day for them which means the feeding, cleaning and caretaking must go on. I'm very thankful we have such hardworking farm families across the nation, and right here in Indiana too.

Check out Heather's blog to see what the holidays are like with some local farm families.

Now, I'll leave you with some pics from our Christmas #2 and #3 and a promise to put the Kindle down!

I wasn't kidding when I said I had a freezer full of cookies! These are about half the cookies I had left after #1 and #2!

As you can see, our animals live a rough life!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas #1 is Done!

Every year, we have three Christmases to get through. Christmas #1 is with the kids, #2 is just me and the husband, and #3 is with my side of the family. I'm happy to say, we made it through #1.

We started out with the stockings

She must have liked the pants because she wore them the rest of the day!
Soon, the in-laws arrived and we opened all the presents.

I guess it was too much for them; they all crashed!

 Now, for a peaceful evening and onto Christmas #2 with the husband!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Homemade Candy Canes

Call me crazy, but I did it. I actually made candy canes. I've never pulled sugar before, so this was a whole new adventure! The husband was on hand to help me out, which is a good thing because I don't think I could have done it myself.

I started out with these instructions. Just as a note, I think their picture is a little misrepresenting.

First, we got the sugar up to 280 degrees. (After doing this and reading several other recipes, I don't think that's hot enough.)

Note: Instead of following the eHow instructions, we put all the ingredients in one pan.

When the sugar reached the required temperature, I poured it out onto two heat safe cutting boards with raised edges to contain the sugar. We added a generous amount of red food coloring to one cutting board before pouring the sugar on.

Then we let the sugar sit until it formed a thin skin. At that point, it will be still be hot enough to work with, but cool enough to stick together. The husband and I each pulled a color. The white is actually clear until you pull it.

We figured out the trick to handling hot sugar. While I'm not proud to admit this, we stole the kids winter gloves then wore latex gloves over those. The knit gloves helped keep some of the heat off our hands and the latex gloves, sprayed down with Pam, made the sugar easy to work with without sticking to everything! If you can see in the picture, the husband is wearing the purple gloves with the pink hearts on them!!

To form the candy canes, we pulled ropes out of each color then twisted them together. The husband finally gave up on the gloves and suffered through the scorching sugar.

Even I can admit that our candy canes certainly were not pretty. Many of them were almost unidentifiable as canes! In fact, after seeing these pictures on Facebook, one of my co-workers commented on how you could tell which ones the kids made. Blushing, I shamefully looked up and informed her the kids were the photographers in this adventure. All the candy was made by myself and the husband. We all had a good laugh!

All in all, they were tasty, but I don't know if we'll be doing those again anytime soon! I did figure out that a few pieces of candy canes dropped into some hot tea is excellent!
By the way, did you know Indiana ranks 4th in peppermint production? The soggy soils of northern Indiana are perfect growing conditions for mint.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Cookies

I've been busy this weekend....buckeyes, danish wedding cakes, snickerdoodles, and this year Peppermint Pinwheels. Every year I try to do a new cookie and this one looked good. The Peppermint Pinwheels are probably going to make it to the favorite's list!

What you'll need:

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
Red food coloring

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until creamy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. In a smaller bowl stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Blend flour mixture into butter mixture to make a smooth dough. If dough is too dry, add water teaspoon at a time. Divide dough into two equal portions. Set aside one half. 

To the other half add the peppermint extract and enough red food coloring to tint the dough a dark pink. Use gel food coloring, or the Wilton's coloring for best results.

Roll out each color dough to a 16x10 inch rectangle, between sheets of wax paper. 

Remove top sheet of wax paper from the pink dough; place dough on top side down on top of plain dough; peel off paper. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion. Wrap in wax paper and chill several hours until very firm. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices with a sharp knife;

place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes or until cookies are firm, but not browned.

Remove from cookie sheets to wire racks; cool completely. These are so tasty! Next time, I'm going to split the dough into thirds, and add a layer of chocolate!!

By the way, the stand mixer died yesterday. Well, it works, but only one beater stays in . The other one won't lock in anymore. If Santa were to make a visit to my house with a new stand mixer, I promise to make the "Nice" list every year for the rest of my life ;)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Paying it Forward

My husband really is one of those "nice guys". He's the mechanic that stops when he sees someone broke down on the side of the ride. If he can fix it on the spot, he does, no charge. That has led to many missed dinners, late nights, and several hours of me sitting in the car waiting on him. But we've all experienced times in our lives when we really could use a random act of kindness, and I'm glad he's one of those people willing to do all that he does.
This morning, he went into the gas station before work to get his coffee, snack and cigarettes for the day. When he got to the register, his debit card wouldn't work! Most of you may not realize this, but there is a severe lack of gas stations in downtown Indianapolis, so the ones you can find generally have long lines during the peak hours. This one is no exception. So with a line of customers behind him, he's scrounging through his pockets trying to find some loose change. A lady from the back of the line comes up and pays for everything for him. Now, he's not one to accept things from others so he thanks her and walks to the ATM to get cash out. When he tries to give it to her, she refuses to take it. She simply tells him to "pay it forward".
The Pay it Forward idea is nothing new, but it has seemed to really take off during the last few years when so many families are strapped for cash. Whether it was the Christmas Spirit or simply a kind stranger, we would like to extend a big Thank You to the anonymous lady in the Speedway gas station this morning. And to all my blogging buddies, I encourage you all to pay it forward in some way today as we will be doing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Super Yummy Cookies!

Want the recipe for these guys? Head on over to Indiana's Family of Farmers blog to find it! For you local bloggers, there are weekly giveaways there too!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Day at Hubers

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to take a tour of Huber's Orchard and Winery. Huber's is nestled in the town of Starlight, Indiana just miles from Kentucky. Over the last few generations, Huber's has evolved from the original German family farm settlement to a year round agritourism destination offering wines, fresh produce, Christmas trees, and even a petting zoo for the kids!

When we first arrived, we entered the main building that houses the cafe, gift shop and several banquet rooms which are perfectly suited for beautiful weddings.

After a tour of the facilities, we went downstairs to see where the wine is aged.

Next, we moved on to the ice cream shop. WARNING: If you think you like ice cream now, just wait until you try their pumpkin ice cream!! It is to die for. Their chocolate peanut butter isn't too shabby either :)

The cheese on site is from Fair Oaks, also located in Indiana. 
After checking out the ice cream and cheese, we moved on to produce. They still had tons of apples, jams, jellies and butters for sale. 

When we were there, they were setting out the Christmas trees they were getting ready to sell.

Then we moved on to the best tasting!

The tasting room is the original hay loft! Not only is the wine fantastic, but it really is one of the best atmospheres as well.  As the day was winding down, I picked up a few bottles of wine to take home. Some we drank at Thanksgiving, others will be Christmas presents. (Did you see the tree-shaped bottles in the picture above? How cool is that??)  If you get a chance, make sure you visit Huber's in Starlight, Indiana for some amazing Hoosier products. 

Can't wait to get down to Huber's? How about a $50 gift certificate to spend there?? Head on over to Indiana Family of Farmers for a chance to win and more information about Hubers!