Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Word of the Year - 2016: Nifty

At the beginning of 2015, I was challenged by my friend to pick a "word of the year" - my mantra so to speak for 2015.  You can read about it here:  http://dickybirdsnest.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-word-for-new-year.html

STEADFAST:  loyal, faithful, committed, devoted, dedicated, dependable, reliable, steady, true, constant, solid, trusty, firm, determined, unwavering 

My challenge was to "stay the course."  

Overall, I would say that was a good word for my year.  

I've been thinking about a word for 2016....I will be 50 in 2016....and have already been working on my "50 things to do before I'm 50"  - so I chose this word - NIFTY.

I know it's almost cliche "nifty to be 50" however, if I were to ever use this word or phrase it would be this year.  

NIFTY:  good, skillful, effective, smart, clever, stylish

Look for my themed posts this year:  "Nifty to be Thrifty;"  "Nifty to be 50;"  "Nifty Ideas;" "50 Things to do Before I Turn 50" and "Nifty to be 'Fitty' (fitness...weight loss ideas)"  

I am looking forward to challenging myself this next year, becoming more skillful, effective and stylish....I'm already good and smart... lol

I hope you following along with me this year....I'm excited for what the Lord has in store for my 2016.

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Minnie's Story

We were looking for another dog.  One that was smaller and could stay in the house.  We researched different breeds.  I know many people like the "pretty" dogs, labs, collies and such.  I have always been drawn to the "ugly" and misfits.   As soon as Al showed me a picture of a Rat Terrier I was sold.  When we read about their traits and being an excellent "farm" dog, I liked the breed even more.  

We kept watching the newspaper, checking the shelters and rescues, but nothing.  We had kind of given up, then I saw a tiny ad in the shoppers guide.  I knew it was an Amish family by how the ad was written (usually, there is a community phone and you call and someone takes the message and they tell the party to call you back).  Anyway, when the lady returned my call she says "we only have 1 puppy left, a female and she is the runt of the liter."  I said, "we will take her."  "Are you sure, you haven't even seen her...."  I said, "yes, sounds just like what I'm looking for! (I love runts)."  

When I picked the girls up from school, I told them we were getting a puppy.  Oh, they were so happy.  We could hardly wait for Al to get home from work so we could go and pick her up.  

The Amish farm was in Greenwood, WI, about an hour from us.  When we pulled up to the old farm house, it was milking time and everyone was busy.  The wife invited us into the home, there was the sweetest dog, belly full of wiggly little teets...the mama....she came over and was licking us - super friendly.  Then we saw her....the tiniest puppy....hiding under the table.  She was very shy, but came out to be by her mama.  For me, it was Love at first sight!  We let her say good bye to her mama and inside my coat she went.  

As we drove away from that old farm house, we started thinking of names...Al came up with Minnie as she was tiny.  It stuck!  

Here is a picture of Minnie as a puppy and Anna in 1st grade.  Those two were almost inseparable.  Oh the "deals " that were made between Justine and Anna to see who could sleep with Minnie.  "If you let Minnie sleep with me this week...I will do (fill in the blank) for you next week."  Oh, how they would fight over that poor puppy.   Somehow, I don't remember, Anna ended up sleeping with her the most - like every night!  Probably because if Justine had Minnie in her room, Anna would lay outside her closed door peeking under it, begging to come in, sucking her thumb falling asleep.  Anna use to "lock" Minnie up in her room so she couldn't get away from her.  Minnie didn't seem to mind...

Minnie had a docked tail.  We had a big farm dog named Champ (this was Justine's dog) who had a long tail.  Oh how Minnie was jealous of it.  She would bite it, hang on like a tug toy and Champ would spin and run a bit - it was like a game.  We said, "Minnie has tail envy."  

Anna signed up for the dog project for 4-H.  She had an idea that she could show Minnie at the fair.  We had a wonderful dog leader who hosted weekly dog obedience classes at her home.  They went on for months.  Minnie, was such a terrier - she would take on the biggest dog at the classes - which, happen to be Rex, an Australian Shepherd, and the nicest dog there.  Minnie, also had "little dog syndrome" - she tried to act tough, but she really wasn't.  For some reason, she didn't like Rex - if she thought he was looking at her, she would growl and bark.  This didn't phase Rex at all, he ignored her for the most part.  

Minnie wasn't the best at the "sit and stay" so Anna never won good ribbons.  However, Anna didn't care, she was just having fun in the costume class.  

That is Rex behind her.  

It was at the fair we met another 4-Hr who had a male Rat Terrier, "Puppers."  We made arrangement for Minnie and him to "meet" the next year and have a liter up puppies.  Minnie decided to have her puppies when we were at Disney World in Florida.  My sister was watching her - it was a good thing too, I couldn't believe that I wasn't there to see it.  We decided to name the puppies after Disney characters.  

It was shortly after our trip to Disney that Anna started having some health problems.  It was a few months later that she was diagnosed with bladder cancer.   Anna was in treatment for a year.  Every Friday she had a chemo treatment with the 3rd Friday an overnight stay at the hospital - we called this the "bad one."  When we would return from her treatments - there Minnie would be.  She wouldn't leave Anna's side.  Laying for hours with Anna on the couch...she was the best comfort I could ask for.  What a good dog!  I loved her even more for that!  This was a bond that was unbreakable.  Anna needed Minnie and Minnie willingly gave of herself.  Even if Anna about drove her crazy and she did...Anna would kiss Minnie's head over and over and count how many kisses it took before she would get pissed and growl.  It was a game...like 50 kisses...and Minnie had enough.  Anna loved to suck her thumb and rub Minnie's ears, smell her ears and rub her ears on her face.  I would say, "leave poor Minnie's ears alone" she would say, "I just can't mom, I love them."  Anna had broke her habit of thumb sucking by 5th grade, however, when she started the chemo treatments the thumb sucking started up again, but only during and after the treatment.  The thumb and Minnie's ears helped her cope.  

A few years later, we decided to breed her again as we wanted to keep 1 of her puppies.  We knew someone with a male Chihuahua, "Cinnamon", that we liked and so we invited him over for a weekend "visit."  It was during that visit, I caught Anna holding Minnie down....if you get my drift...I said, "what are you doing..?!?.."  She says, "I want to make sure she has puppies...."  Oh boy....kids learn about the birds and bees in the most natural ways on a farm....  It worked and Minnie had a liter of puppies.  We picked out the 1 we wanted, the runt, we called her Dori.  Anna, however liked another puppy, Dolly.  Oh how she cried and cried when we said she couldn't keep 2 of them.  Well, as she always can, she worked her Dad into saying "yes" and we kept 2 puppies.  

We had Minnie, Dori and Dolly all spayed.  It was fun having the puppies, but I don't like the breeding...puppy mill thing...just me... 

Minnie was a chicken chaser, oh she loved it when we would say "go get em Minnie" she knew which rooster or hen to chase after.  When we had sheep that needed some exercise, we would tell Minnie to "go get them" and she would run those market lambs up and down the fence.  Minnie loved to jump - she would come in from outside and literally start to hop on the couch from about 8 feet way...somehow she landed it.  Minnie loved to smell...whenever we would go visit someone that had a dog, we would rub their fur all over our clothes...when we came home, Minnie would smell and smell...sticking her nose in fact right on our clothes...it tickled and I LOVED it.  We would say "Minnie we were cheating on you..."  Minnie loved car rides.  For years, she was my daily companion back and forth to school for drop off and pick ups.  Sometimes, if you left the car door open, Minnie would hop in and wait to go somewhere...even if we weren't going.  I would trick her sometimes and drive over to my pole building and say "we are here..."  she would jump out like it was some new adventure...just to see we were still at home.  

Minnie was with us for over 15 years.  She had started getting senile and forgetful.  She could hardly see or hear.  One night this past summer, we let her out before bed.  Only Dolly came back to the door, we called and called...no Minnie.  I thought well, this is "it" - we had to get a whistle and blow for her to hear us...she was behind the horse fence crying.  The more we yelled and blew the whistle, the more confused she got and started running toward the woods.  Good thing her leg got snagged up on some weeds and Al caught her before she got into the woods.  I had to keep a watchful eye on her every time she went outside.  We all knew she was not going to be with us for much longer...we gave her extra love, hugs and kisses, special treats and pampered her for months.  I had to do all I could to make her last days as comfortable as I could - I needed to return the favor to her - she took such good care of Anna when she was sick - how could I not do everything I could to make her end of life the best - I owed her that.

Minnie passed on Monday, November 9, 2015.  I hesitated writing this post, because it was sad...and I don't like extra attention "oh, we are so sorry..." type things.  Obviously, when someone's pet passes we are sorry.  So, please don't leave a comment...instead, I would rather you look at your pet with a new appreciation and give them an extra hug and kiss.  Pets are more than just animals - they are a special gifts we should treasure even after they are gone.  

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cheddar, Broccoli and Potato Soup

For "Souper Sunday" yesterday at church I made cheddar, broccoli and potato soup.  This is comfort food in Wisconsin.  Only, most add a can of beer too...we don't drink...so, I used a lime to mock the taste of it and add a bit of sharpness.  This recipe may be cut 1/2 for a smaller quantity.

Start with 4 cups of stock.  After Thanksgiving, I boiled my turkey carcass and made homemade stock.  I bagged it in 2 cup servings.  So I started with turkey stock.

Dice up 4 cups of potatoes, one sweet onion and 4-5 minced cloves of garlic.

Add all to stock with 4 cups of broccoli - I used frozen (two 16 oz. bags).

Simmer on medium low...it looks like not enough liquid, but you don't want it too runny later...so, just cover and let it simmer and steam in the kettle until fork tender.

In another pan, make a roux.  Roux is equal part fat to flour.  I put 4 tablespoons of butter, let it melt and added 4 tablespoons of flour, stir into a paste.

Add 1 pint of heavy cream and 1 cup of water stir together with the roux until it is thickened.  Add 16 oz of shredded cheddar cheese.

Stir until melted - liquid gold...turn off heat and let it sit.

In the kettle with the veggies, add 1 can of cheddar cheese soup with 1 can of water.  

Stir together and add the cheese mixture.  Mix well.

Then you add the spices.  I used parsley (3-4 tablespoons), nutmeg (2 teaspoons), celery salt (1 teaspoon), sugar (2 teaspoons), salt & pepper - all of this is to taste....  I also added the zest and juice of 1 large lime.

I "fished" out most of the large broccoli pieces along with about 1/2 of the soup and blended it till smooth.  You want to still have chunks of some veggies.

At this point I poured all of this into a crock pot.  I shredded 2 cups of carrots and mixed them in the soup.  Set it on low until ready to eat.  

Any cheese soup is very common up here in America's Dairyland.  What type of soup is your favorite?

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.   

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What is Your Ministry?

What is your "ministry?"

Ministry - it's not just for religious people.

We all have a ministry in our own little world - whether you realize it or not - you make an impact on those around you every day.  

If you forgot to fill your bird feeder - I'm sure the birds would miss that "ministry."  Ministry is that simple.  

With that said...I must tell you what a rewarding day I had yesterday.  

We have been meeting for a ladies bible study for over a year now.  My pastor asked my sister Lori and I to lead this ministry.  I don't know why...as I am no great speaker, no intellect...honestly, Lori would say the same.  However, we said we would do it.  With that said, I just let the Lord lead me, give me an idea.  So, 2 weeks ago, I was thinking about buttons.  I chose to do an object lesson on "why we are like buttons."  I planned a button craft project to go along with the lesson.  I just shared my simple ideas; made common sense observations about the purpose of a button.  Well, yesterday I was so blessed by one of our ladies.  She said that last time, she wasn't going to come because her friend couldn't come, but, she felt she should go.  She came by herself.  She told me yesterday, that she has thought about that little lesson over and over and that she was so happy she chose to come - the message was just for her.  It was a confirmation to me, that even in my simplicity - our simplicity, God can use us.  

Then, after the bible study, I went over to a friend's home to do a little "art class" for her homeschooled children.  I can not tell you how much I enjoy this.  What makes it so special to me is the dynamics of her family.  She has 6 children.  They just seem to make each other better as a family.  One of the little boys started to make a comment about his younger brother...I said..."when Dicky Bird is here, we will only say possitive things"  without missing a beat that same little boy  said "let's play a game and go around the table and say something nice about each other"  I think he is 6?  I don't really know too many 6 year old BOYS that would come up with that game.  I was so blessed by all the nice things I heard and what they said about me!  From the mouth of babes - I was so tickled.  Then the littlest one was calling me "mama" - I told his mama that was OK if he did that...lol.    

I came home and then had 4H.  What a fun night of painting on barn boards - who knew they would like that!  I heard several mamas say "we are so lucky to have Jacky as our leader" she comes up with the best projects.  

So, what's this I was feeling about an "empty nest??"  Maybe not knowing my "purpose?"  Well, guess what, my sharing my time and talents with others, even if it is as simple as crafting - is my ministry!   I have always stated, "I write this blog for me" please don't think this post is one that is bragging on myself - I actually hate that!  Rather, think on this post as a way for you to consider the simple things you do every day, each week, monthly and look for your ministry in it.  I know you have one - we all do!  

Thank you Jesus, for revealing mine to me in such an special way.  

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.  

Linked to:  http://timewarpwife.com/titus-2sday-link-up-party-47/

Monday, December 7, 2015

Gingerbread Houses 2015

Gingerbread House:

5 Cups of flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cloves

Mix together in a bowl and set aside

1 Cup shortening
1 Cup sugar

Cream together and add

1 1/4 Cups Molasses
2 beaten eggs

add the flour mixture 1 cup at a time.  I let my dough refrigerate before I rolled it out. 

Make a pattern as to how you want your house to look. I made a paper pattern and taped it together to see how it looked before I cut them out on the dough.

Spray your pans with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350.

 Roll out your dough (I also rolled a bit thicker) and cut out your pattern.  I used any left over dough and cut them out into abstract tree shapes.  I baked the pieces till slightly brown on edges and a bit harder, so I guess I over baked them.  I wanted to make sure they would be sturdy enough.

Once baked, leave them out on the counter for at least 1 day.  This will help the pieces to harden.

Make some royal icing, I used the recipe in the meringue powder.  

Then the rest is all fun.  You can choose to decorate your gingerbread house will all kinds of items.  Justine made one too, she decided to keep hers just the gingerbread and pipe on the frosting to look like bricks.  I used chex cereal to look like a thatched roof and pretzels to look like logs.  

A tip to help your gingerbread house pieces stand up, is to pipe a line of frosting on the tray you want your house on.  Let each piece set a bit first before adding the next one.  Pipe a line of frosting between the joints, I used my finger to spread it between the corners to push it in all the cracks.  

I ran a little string of tiny battery operated lights.  I hid the control box behind the gum drop tree.  

I really enjoyed making this little gingerbread house.  I have to say, I have some pretty talented 4-H girls all from the same family that are experts at this - in fact, they usually win the merit ribbon for cake decorating.  When I went to the cake review this past year, I knew I wanted to make one for Christmas.  Thanks for the inspiration, Schmoll girls.  I already know what I want to make next year.  

Justine and I missed Anna not being here to make these with us.  Next year I want to make sure to have the houses ready for decorating when Anna is home for Thanksgiving so we all can do them together - start a new tradition for us.

Blessings from Ringle, Wisconsin.