The Happiness Tag

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A few weeks ago, I received the lovely surprise of being nominated for The Happiness Tag! What made this extra special is that it came from my dear blogging friend, Tonya, who is absolutely delightful! From the first time I visited her blog, Fourth Generation Farmgirl, I could barely pull myself away from reading, and now I eagerly look forward to each new post!

I love reading about life at Green Hill Farm, Tonya’s travel adventures with her husband, and of course, all of her sweet critters! Her sheep, Hamish, is one of my personal favorites — I’ve always wanted to keep sheep as pets! Maybe someday!

A very special thank you to Tonya for her nomination — I’m truly inspired by her kind heart and generosity!

Here are the Rules:

List:

-Five things that make you happy

-Five songs that make you happy

-Five bloggers that make you happy and notify them of your nomination

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Five things that make me happy

1.My wonderful family — spending time with them, laughing with them, and giving them big hugs!

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2.Cooking/baking with my family and friends — and while on the topic of food, chocolate makes me happy!

3.Our animals — they each have their own individual traits that make me smile. Seeing the chickens come running for treats, the bunnies hopping for joy over clover or dandelions and Marcie, our cat, who loves to cuddle!

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4.Enjoying God’s beautiful creation and spending time with Him. The beach, the mountains, a double rainbow perfectly set in the sky. Birds chirping, children laughing, people walking by.

5.Bringing joy to others!

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Five songs that make me happy

Priceless – For King and Country

The River – Jordan Feliz

That’s How You Change the World – The Newsboys

Hold Me – Jamie Grace

Me Without You – TobyMac

Five bloggers that make me happy

(it was so hard to narrow this down to only five bloggers!)

Sadie from Sadie’s Nest 

Claire from Paintbox Mum

Roberta from Chorizo & Thyme

Jasmine from The Richmond Avenue

Asheton Rose from Tales of A Southern Rose

It’s Texas Sheet Cake, Y’all!

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Well howdy!

After reading the book That’s Not Hay in My Hair this month, I’ve been so inspired by the great state of Texas. Coincidently, I’ve also been missing one of my sisters who lives in Texas, so reading that particular book gave me a feeling of visiting her homestead, so to speak.

Over the years that she and her family have lived in Texas, I have detected the faintest of Texan accents emerging from my sister, and I love it! I love hearing her sweet voice exclaim, “Hey!”, “Howdy!” or “y’all!” as if she were a Texas native. It makes me smile!

So, hey howdy! I’m in the mood for baking up a Texas Sheet Cake for y’all  — which fits very nicely into our patriotic desserts leading up to the 4th of July! Barbecue, Texas Sheet Cake, sparklers and fireworks — sounds like a great 4th to me!

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Texas Sheet Cake

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients

for the cake:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup water

4 Tablespoons cocoa powder

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1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

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1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice)

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla

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-preheat oven to 350 degrees

-In medium-sized saucepan, bring butter, coconut oil, water and cocoa to a boil; remove from heat.

-In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda and sugars. Add the butter/cocoa mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.

-Add in beaten eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.

-Pour into a greased 13″ x 18″ sheet cake pan (or jelly roll pan).

-Bake for 13-14 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

for the frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 Tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons milk (or vanilla almond milk)

1 cup pecans, crushed

extra crushed pecans for garnishing

-With a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add maple syrup and milk — mix until light and fluffy. Gently stir in pecans by hand.

-Immediately spread frosting over the warm cake — the frosting will melt and spread easily. Allow to cool, and top with additional crushed pecans, if desired.

This cake is incredibly moist and flavorful — the chocolate/pecan frosting gives it an extra measure of deliciousness with a subtle hint of maple.

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Enjoy and Happy 4th!

That’s Not Hay in My Hair – Book Review

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Written by the talented young author, Juliette Turner, That’s Not Hay in My Hair is the endearing true story of a young girl and her mom who move from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the wide-open spaces of a 300-acre ranch in Texas.

Together, this delightful mom and daughter team experience the joys and adventures of ranch life — along with Longhorn cattle, horses, dogs and a cat! Beautifully-written, Ms. Turner draws you in from the very first page, weaving together a combination of laughter, tears and inspiration to the very last page. I had a difficult time putting this book down, and actually wished I could continue reading more about their life on the ranch. Her writing has me longing to take my family on a Texas vacation!

From kindly neighbors who live several miles away to visits from the author’s grandparents, I felt as though I had met them all and was visiting the great state of Texas with all its charm and hospitality!

The recommended age for readers is age 8-12, but I completely disagree — I believe readers of all ages, especially those who have a heart for animals, will thoroughly enjoy this book!

*In exchange for my honest review, I was given a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

*Photos courtesy of Google images

The author, Juliette, with her mom, Janine

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The Joy of Chickens

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It’s been almost two years since we came home with seven fluffy bundles in a small cardboard box. Little did we know what a wonderful experience it would be to welcome Chickaletta, Henrietta, Apple Bloom, Cinnamon, Ariel, Midge and Rosa to our family! We were excited, for sure, but little did we know how sweet and endearing chickens could be!

Naturally, I could start by saying that we love our chickens for the wonderful bounty of eggs they supply us with, and that would be 100% true! It’s still a delight to check the nesting box each day and find a beautiful arrangement of tan and brown-hued eggs.

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But the love doesn’t stop there — the girls, as we call them, bring so much joy! Their almost-animated expressions, whimsical antics and inquisitive nature make us smile and laugh each and every day! As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the hens might have their squabbles, but they always remain extremely loyal. If one gets separated while out foraging, she will call for her sisters, with growing intensity, until they are re-united.

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The hens greet us cheerfully each morning  — unless, of course, the weather is exceptionally cold and snowy, and with that I can completely sympathize. I love how they  answer and immediately come running to, “here, girls!”, “here, honey”, “here, chick chicks, and even “here, kitty kitty” when I’m calling our cat. When any one of us are outside, the chickens will gather around — content to spend time with us, sit next to us on a picnic blanket or follow us through the yard. They are especially delighted if we’ve brought them one of their favorite treats — oatmeal, fresh fruit or maybe a side dish of pasta.

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I love watching the chickens forage out in the yard free-range and seeing their excitement when they find something particularly wonderful! Like clock work, they will come waddling back as the sun begins to set — perhaps after spending time in the grape vines  or near the fruit trees. They are undoubtedly very full and content as they walk back to the coop like best friends, hopping onto their perch as they settle down with their soft murmurs and whistles.

And seeing their contentment, their joy in the simplicity of a warm spring day or a cool summer evening, their delight in a cluster of grapes or a bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana in turn brings me much joy!

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Mother’s Day Lemon Meringue Pie

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Mother’s Day is one of my favorite days — celebrating our wonderful mothers as well as the joys of motherhood.

God has blessed me with a wonderful mom whom I cherish, and since Lemon Meringue Pie is one of her favorite desserts, I would like to dedicate this post to her in honor of Mother’s Day. 

In addition, God gave me the great blessing of two precious daughters, so this post is dedicated to them as well. They are my treasures.

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Pie Crust

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 Tablespoons palm oil

6 Tablespoons coconut oil, cold

5-6 Tablespoons ice water

-Preheat oven to 475 degrees

-In a food processor, gently combine all ingredients on pulse until dough forms medium-sized pebbles. Do not over-mix. Alternatively, a pastry cutter can be used to blend ingredients.

-Wrap dough in plastic wrap or place in a small glass bowl, and refrigerate 10-15 minutes until chilled.

-Gently press pie dough into a 9 inch pie dish and return to refrigerator for 20-25 minutes.

-Prick dough with a fork, and bake in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until softly golden.

Lemon Pie Filling

*Slightly adapted from the Joy of Cooking Cookbook

-In a medium-sized saucepan, blend together:

1 1/4 cups raw cane sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Blend  in well:

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Whisk in:

4 egg yolks

3 Tablespoons coconut oil

-Stir over medium heat with a wooden spoon until mixture begins to simmer. Cook for one minute — mixture will thicken. Pour into prepared pie crust.

Meringue

-With a stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk until soft peaks form:

4 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

-Slowly blend in:

2 Tablespoons raw cane sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

-Spread meringue over hot pie filling, ensuring edges of crust are sealed.

-Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.

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Wishing you a beautiful and joyous Mother’s Day!

Book Review – A Royal Easter Story

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A Royal Easter Story

With a little less than three weeks before the celebration of Easter, this delightful story of love and friendship is sure to become a favorite for young readers between the ages of 4 and 8.

Published by Zondervan and included in the Princess Parables Series written by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson, A Royal Easter Story opens as five princess sisters, Joy, Grace, Faith, Charity and Hope are joyously welcoming the arrival of spring with preparations for their annual Easter celebration.

Vivid, colorful illustrations by Omar Aranda bring these engaging characters to life as they learn valuable lessons on the importance of caring for others and putting others first. As preparations are made for the pilgrimage made to the annual Easter celebration, a neighboring family arrives with five young knights and their father. When a friendly race ensues between the knights and princesses, surmounting obstacles  and a lost child keep the princesses behind. The princesses must choose what is most important: Is it better to help others in need or pursue winning the race?

Based on the Biblical parable found in Luke 11:9-13, we read of the great depths of God’s love for us and of our greatest gift of all, Jesus.

 

A Day in the City

Last week, we made a drive into the big city to run some much-needed errands. First on the list: Jonathan’s appointment with an orthopedic specialist. After a series of tests, x-rays and an ultrasound, it was discovered that Jonathan is dealing with not one, but three painful spurs inside his left heel. Although doctors have tried for many months to take the less-invasive route, they have finally reached a point where they feel surgery is probably going to be necessary.

Jonathan has been in so much pain that a look of relief washed over his face when the specialist mentioned surgery to delicately remove the spurs. I seriously think he would have went in for surgery that very day if the doctor had allowed it, but he is encouraged to be moving forward!

Jonathan’s specialist is near downtown Boise, so after his appointment, we decided to enjoy a leisurely lunch and walk around town. Boise is by no means a bustling metropolis like Los Angeles, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in charming little details around almost every corner.

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Our first stop was lunch at one of our very favorites — Moon’s Café. Complete with a lunch counter, famous milkshakes and whimsical décor, Moon’s serves fabulous food with retro flair.

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For example —  a juicy Moon’s Cheddar Burger or a plate of mouth-watering Biscuits with Sausage Gravy. (not organic — but a delightful treat every now and then 😉 )

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After lunch, we most definitely needed to walk — so we spent part of our afternoon strolling down some of our favorites parts of the city.

A few of our favorite views —

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It didn’t take long before “Sweet Street” was brought up. Nicknamed for a sweet variety of shops all conveniently lined up together, Sweet Street happily greets you with City Peanut Shop, the Chocolat Bar and A Cupcake Paradise.

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Hmmm … where do we start?

We decided it would be best to limit our sweets to one shop and agreed on the Chocolat Bar this time around.

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How can I possibly decide which one to try?

Especially after we were given samples, and everything was delicious! I finally narrowed it down to a chocolate truffle — so rich, dense and tiny, yet I felt as if I had ate two chocolate bars. Ahh, the beauty of handmade truffles. I should have taken a picture, but that little truffle disappeared in a flash!

However, I can post a picture of the display case where I found my lovely treat — the soft brown ones on the middle shelf.

Oh little truffles, how I miss you!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed our little walk through downtown Boise! I hope to share more pictures of Boise in the near future!

A huge thank you to my sweet daughter for being my talented photographer throughout Boise.

My Favorite Danish Meat Balls

After posting my Danish Sour Cream-Dill Potato Salad the other day, I immediately knew the next recipe I wanted to share with you!

One of my family’s favorite dishes to pair with potatoes has to be Danish Meat Balls!

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Growing up, these meat balls were different than others — so extremely moist, tender and flavorful! When I was old enough to cook, this is one of the first dinner recipes I wanted to learn! They are one of my very favorites, and to my delight, my husband and daughters love them as well!

When I make them, my kitchen immediately smells like my grandparent’s or parent’s kitchen, and this makes me smile!

My Favorite Danish Meat Balls

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients

l pound ground beef

1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped

2 eggs

1 cup milk

2 pieces of dry bread, processed into fine crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

flour

extra-virgin olive oil

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-In a large bowl, combine all ingredients by hand or large spoon until well incorporated. I like to use a food processor to finely chop the onion and turn the bread into fine crumbs.

-In a small bowl, add approximately 2/3-3/4 cup flour to dip the meat balls.

-In a large pan or on a griddle, coat with olive oil and heat to medium-high.

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-Form into round meat balls or flat patties (about the size of a golf ball or slightly larger), and roll into the flour. The meat mixture will be extremely moist, so the flour is a tip from my Great-Uncle Rudger to help hold everything together! 😉

-Cook meat balls completely through until there is no pink left in the middle. I usually check one or two before I put all of them onto a plate. As you continue cooking, add more olive oil as needed to prevent sticking.

I highly recommend trying this wonderful dish with the potato salad recipe — they pair extremely well together and for me, always taste like “home sweet home”!

I hope you will enjoy!

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Meet Marcie – Part Two

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Slowly but surely, our remodel started taking shape, and we were able to make the move into our first house. The long hours finally paid off, and Marcie was always there to greet us, keep us company while we worked and put a smile on my face.

Time went by, and a little over three years later, we were over the moon with joy to welcome our first daughter! Marcie loved sitting next to Aviah in her stroller, curling up on the couch by her and watching her as we sat out in the yard and played.

I often took Aviah for walks in her stroller — we loved going for walks together, and as the post office was only one block away, we could easily walk there two or three times during the week. Marcie always wanted to go with us, but I was apprehensive of her crossing the street. If I didn’t take her back home, she somehow knew how to hide and swiftly catch up to us.

One beautiful, sunny afternoon while waiting in line at the post office, I could hear soft meows and as the door would open, the meows became louder and more urgent. Marcie seemed to be calling us, and as I turned my head around and smiled, customers would inquire if that was my cat. Why yes it is! When we returned outdoors, Marcie had a mixed expression of relief to see us and pure delight at all the attention she was receiving from most everyone who passed by her.

Time went by and again, we were over the moon with joy to welcome our second daughter. Marcie has always loved the girls, and her desire to join us on family walks continued as we made our move to the country. With the exception of cold winter days, if the girls are headed outdoors to play, Marcie will watch them from the window, then head straight to the door to go out with them.

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Although I wondered how Marcie would react to seven chickens and numerous rabbits joining the family, I had the feeling she would do fine. She has always had a very calm, loving disposition and only seems irritated if another cat roams through the yard. She would watch the young chicks in their brooder like a mother hen, and enjoys the company of a bunny as long as the he/she doesn’t become too rambunctious. In the photo below, Marcie reached her paw out to Cashmere, and the two of them sat contentedly for over an hour.

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In two months, our sweet little Marcie will be turning 15 years old. We’re overjoyed that she is still extremely healthy at her age and enjoying country life with us. These days she moves around a little slower, and it takes some time for her to climb up in her favorite apple tree, but she can still be as playful as the little kitten we once found so long ago.