Buffalo Zoo Visit

It was a beautiful morning so I decided to take the day off from work and treat the kids to a day at the zoo.  The Buffalo Zoo may not be one for the record books, but we are truly blessed to have something less than 15 minutes away that offers an insight into these wonderful animals lives!!  I do not think you can ever be to old or to young for a zoo visit.  When traveling we always try to schedule a quick trip to that state/city zoo.

I am not a photographer and this is truly the time I wish I was so I could capture the special moments these creatures offer the zoo visitors!!

These Buffalo represent our great city.  Enjoy!!

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Chunky Potato Soup

What to do with all of that leftover ham after Easter??  Or maybe looking for a quick soup to fill you up with a piece of bread?  Well this soup will not disappoint. 

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This was “souper” easy to make and the kids ate 2 bowls each.  I made this from leftover ham I had frozen from Christmas.  A slice of fresh bread and this was a great quick and easy meal!!  As always you do not have to follow my recipe religiously except for the flour and milk!!

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Chunky Potato Soup

  • 4 medium red potatoes (I did not have red so used regular russet potatoes and they were small so I used 5)
  • 2 c water
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 TBS butter
  • 3 TBS all-purpose flour
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (I am ashamed to say I am out of these so made it without)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 3 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 c shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 c cubed cooked ham
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Bring water to a boil in large saucepan. Add potatoes and cook until tender
Drain, reserving liquid. Set aside potatoes.

Measure 1 c cooking liquid, adding water, if necessary; set aside.

Peel and finely chop onion.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion to saucepan; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and tender, but not brown.

Add flour to saucepan; season with pepper flakes and black pepper to taste (I put a good 2 grinds of pepper in)  Cook 3 to 4 minutes.

Gradually add potatoes, reserved 1 c cooking liquid, milk, and sugar to onion mixture stirring after each addition

Add cheese and ham again stirring well

Simmer over low heat 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve with warmed bread!! YUMMM

Let me know if you try it and if you found it as great as we did!!

 

Gardening in Pots

Gardening in Pots

This is yet another gardening in pots list of items that will do well!!  Too good not to share.

I have been a gardener for around 35 years.  Can’t believe I never thought of this until I started seeing it on facebook so much.  Without a greenhouse this is a good option.  I have already filled my pot for my “100 lbs” of potatoes from an earlier post and can roll it in and out of the garage if needed until we are sure it’s spring in Buffalo, NY.  Today it is 72 degrees and tomorrow the high is 37 degrees with a light dusting of snow predicted!! 

I will update on my pot gardening as time goes on!!

If these animals could talk…

my 3

My barn is my refuge.  If you are not an animal lover, you may not understand this.  It’s almost like an addiction…in sad times I need my barn, in hard times I need my barn, when I am happiest I can’t wait to get into my barn, when I need to grieve I need my barn.  My horses know more about me than any human.  I’ve told them everything.  I’ve cried while brushing them sharing my grief, I’ve felt their warm breath on my neck while comforting me, I’ve listened to their soft nickers in understanding of my pain.  In joyful times I’ve watched them twitch their ears listening to my rambling while I am cleaning a stall.  Their eyes wide in anticipation of what I am sharing.  When they see me heading back to the barn, they come up from the pasture to greet me.  They love to explore with me riding the trails and enjoying nature.  All the while me talking to them about the leaves, the over full creek, the wild turkey running and so on.  We have a connection.

Tonight while brushing them with the moon brightly overhead, the Buffalo Sabres game on the radio, and the munching sounds of them eating hay, I was reminded again of what a blessing they are to me.  They fill a spot in my heart. I was born in the Chinese year of the Horse.  Maybe that is my need for a horse.

I have had a horse (or 3) in my life for 37 years this month.  I came from a family with not much money growing up and the only thing I begged for was a horse.  At age 10 my parents realized there was no getting around it and bought me my first horse and my dad built a pole barn and put up a small pasture.  I had to take full responsibility and I truly believe that is how I became the self sufficient person I am today.  I did not have money for amusement parks, the mall or movies but I did not care.  I had the best friend/companion in my horse.  He was a crazy thing but I was invincible so that did not matter.  I had him for 19 years until his last breath.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and what we shared.

I have 3 horses now.  I have learned the training methods used by Native Americans so these horses are not wild like my first horse as I know now I am not invincible.  We have a stronger connection because of the training relationship we have and they are a huge part of our family.  Each one of them  came into my life a different way but the connection was made the minute our eyes met.

Tonight was a peaceful night of reflection in the barn.  My only hope while closing the barn up for the night was for my children to experience and feel what I have all these years.

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We did it…Maple Syrup

Last weekend we visited the maple farm and I posted about our trip.  My daughter left there and said why can’t we do this…we have maple trees all over on our 34 acres.  So her and her dad set out on a mission and by gosh they were successful!!

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Because we were late in the season starting they tapped the closest tree to our house to see if it would work.  Over 2 days they collected 4 quarts of sap.  (Reminder it takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup).  The tree stopped producing so they decided to make what we had.

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Once collected they began the boiling process which took about 2 1/2 hours

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we used a white bowl to take samples out while boiling to check the color change and once it hit a light amber and tasted like the sweet syrup we had at the Maple farm we strained it into a mason jar through a cheese cloth (ok it wasn’t really a cheese cloth as I don’t use them when I make my jelly or cranberry sauce instead using cheap pantyhose from the dollar store that have been soaked in hot soapy water, rinsed thoroughly and hung dry!!  Works just as well and will save you about $8.00 each time you need it) Trick from my Italian grandmother.

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It does not get any better than this!!!!  Tomorrow’s breakfast….you guessed it…homemade wheat pancakes and syrup!!!  Next year they will get an earlier start on our trees for sure!!

Make your own Candles

My daughter loves to give her teachers gifts on holidays.  At Christmas she made a body scrub and for Easter she has decided she wanted to make candles for her school teachers as well as her coaches (voice & softball) and for her brothers also.  We make our own candles so I usually have many supplies on hand in a bin in our basement.  So off she went last night to retrieve it.

When starting your “kit” to keep on hand for making your own candles is the only time you need to purchase quite a few items.  I will list them at the bottom.  Once you have these items on hand you can make candles for a long time only supplying things here and there.  Our candles cost about $1.82 each!!!  And they are scented how we like them!!

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Making candles is so easy and such a fun project with your kids as they are excited to know the little candle burning in the kitchen is something they made.  I had to light one after they set up last night as they smelled so good.

Here is our step by step guide:

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Choose jars to make the candles in.  I do not buy dollar store jars as I worry about them breaking when heated.  I prefer to get either mason jars or jars from craft stores that are a thicker type glass.  We also recycle many of our glass jars cleaned out that hold food items which is the rounded jar in the picture.  The mason jars in the picture are wedding favor jars and were $.50 each

You can buy wicks that have a sticky bottom.  I suggest these as it’s easy for the kids to stick them in the middle of the jar.  That is what we do first.

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Melt the wax stirring quite often.  I buy a large bag of soy wax chips from amazon but you can get them at any craft stores (AC Moore, JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels, Hobby Lobby etc).  This pot is our candle pot.  I have had it for years.  It has a nice handle and you can sit it right on the burner on low heat to melt the wax.  After it melts if you are coloring it, add the colorant.  We used a broken red crayon.  Food coloring does not work very well so I suggest using old broken crayons or you can purchase colored wax chips.

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After the wax is melted let it sit off the burner for 15 minutes and then add your scent.  We buy scented oils at the health food store in our area but they have them with the candle making kits in the craft stores.  My daughter made “love scent” which is a fragrant, flowery vanilla scent. It’s important to let the wax cool a little as it will dissipate the scent if too hot.  Don’t be afraid to add to much it should smell strong.  She also made a cinnamon/vanilla scented candle which she melted the crayon in for the red color.

As soon as you fill your jars be sure to wipe out your warm pot with a paper towel so there is no wax or scent left in it.  I have never had to wash mine as I wipe it out immediately and it still looks new!!

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Use an old clothes pin after filling the jars to keep the wick centered in the jars

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Waiting for them to set (we leave them usually overnight)

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Once set trim the wicks to about 1/4 inch. You can close the jar and make cute little labels for them.  We bought stickers and she hand decorated them.

For candles:

candle jars

tin for melting wax or pot with spout

soy wax chips

old crayons

scented oil

stick on wicks

stick on labels

clothes pins

1) stick the wicks into the middle of the jars

2) melt the wax over low heat

3) add colorant or leave cream colored

4) cool for 15 minutes and add scent

5) fill jars and secure wicks in the middle with clothes pins

6) let set up

7) trim wicks and close jars

8) attach the label

Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

Wolfe Maple Farm visit

Regardless of the snow we decided today is one of the last days to see the trees tapped and maple syrup being made.  So off we went in the slushy snow!!  Western New York is a huge supplier of Maple Syrup across the country and we are so lucky to have quite a few maple farms less than a half hour drive away. 

Today we visited Wolfe Maple Farm.  We listened to the history of the farm which kicked off our tour.  We then rode a tram to the back of the property, over pure mud/slush tracks (quite bumpy too) in 30 degree temperatures with 20 mph winds, to the maple trees they tap and have for many many years. Listening to the older farmer explain the history of these trees and how careful they are not to draw too much sap out of each tree (he referenced it to having blood drawn, you can only draw so much before damage will be done), you could hear the pride in his voice of generations of family utilizing this land for the few short months out of the year to try and draw enough supply to service the country.  The planning and care is all around you with tubes from tree to tree, new trees being started wrapped snuggly in tubes to keep them alive during the cold winter months, and sheets listed with limits from each tree.  It is quite a process…and did you know it takes 30 – 40 gallons of sap to make ONE gallon of syrup.  That was probably the most impressive bit of information most people heard as you could hear the gasps on the tram.  For us it was old news as we enjoy taking these trips every year to the maple farms so we knew that tidbit. 

After a visit to the trees you ride back and are dropped off at the building with the steam as the kids call it.  It is the evaporation building where they heat the sap and make it into syrup.  The air is loaded with a sweet smell and there are people everywhere eating maple cotton candy, maple candy, maple fudge, maple nuts, maple almonds and so on.  We take a tour of the building and sample the fresh hot syrup right out of the evaporator.  There is a blue grass band playing and singing for your entertainment and for me is it was for my enjoyment while waiting in line with my gallon of syrup, little pints and quarts of the liquid gold for my friends, cotton candy and maple nugget candy for the kids and of course two taps as this year dad along with our 11 year old daughter have decided they can do this on our 34 acres!!  So as I type this they are off to find some trees.  What a great way to spend a Sunday with our family (and our 2 year old nephew/cousin who joined us!!

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I took this picture of the cows on the farm to show the beautiful sky!!