Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Wonderland

I am taking a small break from my real writing to write here.  I am beginning to feel my book is taking a  back seat to the blog. I have made slow progress with it, yet is does have seventeen chapters already - not all of which I'm sure will make the final cut, but when I think about writing that many words I still marvel at the ability.

This blog offers so much more stimulation for me that it is now almost addicting. First of all I especially enjoy taking pictures. The little camera I use offers little variety as far functionality, but it does take some really great shots, despite limited access to manual settings.  It allows me to record everything around me at least and I am learning how to take pictures.

The cold these past few days has presented a realm of beauty we seldom see in this part of the world. I have had fun trying out new things.

I like this shot because, after dozens of tries before this, I finally have achieved a depth of field. My camera doesn't allow me to set the F stop manually so I have to tinker with the ISO and macro modes and see what turns out.  This is great!  Here's another.
See how the foreground is in focus and the back is out of focus.  Effect is achieved.
I didn't even doctor this in Photoshop. I know it is a banal object, but aren't the crystals interesting?

This was sunrise at our farm this morning.  The fog had frozen to everything leaving this beautiful icey mist on the trees and foliage.  I found it fascinating and couldn't resist.

This was today's slices.  Thanks for letting me share.

Love, Jeannene

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How To Walk On Water

Today we have 3 to 4 inches of ice and snow covering the ground in our region of Arkansas. It is the largest amount of snow fall we have had in five years.  It has transformed the farm into a winter wonderland. The animals' behavior is altered as well. I have been entertained watching them cope with all the white. The chickens haven't ventured far past our front porch.  Evidently they have an aversion to cold feet and there is no food to be found with the grass covered by snow.

They are foraging in the narrow strip of grass at the edge of the porch.
As I was taking pictures of our pond, an amazing sight in the snow, our cats scurried over for some attention.  Cats don't seem to have any qualms about walking on water that has frozen solid.

 Cats can walk on water.....if it's frozen.
This guy has no idea there is water beneath his feet.

I spent a large part of the day learning how to use Photoshop Elements and I'm pleased with the progress made.  This is just a piece of our frozen pond I found especially photogenic, in my opinion at least.  The snow gives everything an entirely different look and feel.

Aside from playing on the computer for a large portion of the day, I spent an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen.  Needless to say we ate well and in large quantities.  I love staying home with everyone.

These are the slices for today you all.

Love, Jeannene

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Return of White

Today I truly believed the weather prediction community had misread the signs in the heavens once again and I would be on my merry way into the big city at 0430 this morning.  Alas, I was wrong and my small world was pelted with an inch and a half of sleet.  Needless to say, I did not brave the roadways to make my mandatory appearance at my place of work, a deed for which I am sure to face repercussions, but I have an aversion to accidents and dying so I stayed put.

Of course being at home is the only invitation I require to prepare food. It doesn't matter what kind of food, just any kind will do and my kids are so grateful that foraging in the refrigerator will not be a necessary compulsion to fend off hunger today. Then my thirteen year old will say I'm trying to make everybody fat, but that's not true.  After shedding 35 lbs last year, I refuse to allow those suckers to find me again.

With this as a firm resolution I present you with this morning's tasty dish, at the behest of both my children, Cheesy Potatoes.

You have to start with fried shredded potatoes with onions.

Then you have to smother them in a wonderfully cheesy sauce made from a reux.

Then mix them all together and this is what you get.  Cheesy Potatoes. Mmmm.

This was breakfast today.  A comfort food for all the snow now falling in Arkansas.  

I don't even feel like we are in Arkansas at all.  Somebody moved me a hundred miles north when I wasn't paying attention!

Happy winter all.
Love Jeannene

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter Musings

Well...I am supposed to be staying in the big city because freezing rain is expected in our area tonight and my presence at work is highly anticipated at 0530 in the morning, but there was no room in the inn (the hotel directly across the street from the hospital).  I consider this a directive from a being with more wisdom than I possess to spend my time with my family and eat the soup I prepared for dinner.  This opportunity also affords me the time to make some scrumptious bread to go with that soup. Yummy!

The fire in the wood stove is roaring and bathing the house in its warmth. Such simple satisfaction. If we experience a power outage, we will at least stay warm. The chickens are standing with one foot on the ground, a sure indication of cold climes.

We brace ourselves in Central Arkansas for, what the weather men portend, a sure freeze. I continue to have doubts and will believe it when it manifests itself as layers of ice coating everything. The last winter storm they predicted in minute detail disappointed my children immensely.

For now I write. If I had remained in town, I had planned to devote the lonely hours to continuing my novel and filling out an assignment I have almost completed for the workshop I am taking. Alas, the workshop assignment will have to wait as I answer the promptings of the characters of the novel.  They speak loud and long tonight. 

Keep warm and safe

Love, Jeannene

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A day in the life of .... bread!

Today I write.  I am off from work, having worked the week end, and so I spend this day writing.  I hope.  I started this blog as an effort to write and do it regularly. I find the most wonderful things to write about are the small treasures in my own life.  I realize my life has little importance to anyone except myself and perhaps my immediate family, but I take such pleasure in recording the small joys around me.  I enjoy posting pictures as it gives me practice in using this electronic medium and pushes me to learn how to edit photos, something that is not preternatural, yet fascinating to me.

The camera was a constant companion before the digital age and now I find myself relearning all those techniques on slightly a different medium. Today, the digital realm is challenging and so flexible and easy to manipulate. I can take a picture and have it in solid form in minutes after the shot is formed.  Astounding, the technological age we live in! The photoshop editor can do equally astounding feats if I can only master its abilities. Even my simple point and shoot camera can render some breathtaking photos of scenes I was hard put to capture twenty years ago.

Today, being the only day off I will have in the middle of the week for the next couple of weeks, I am trying to stuff as many things into it as possible.  The laundry calls - and I have answered.  I want to write at least another chapter on the western historical I am in the middle of and I want to make bread. Oh, I almost forgot.  I am supposed to rearrange the meager space in my closet and rifle through all those clothes I can no longer fit into to reduce the space they occupy. I really don't feel like doing that....but I will do it.

I did actually get the bread started. This a new recipe I found at another woman's blog. It promises to be delicious and crispy and will be the perfect accompaniment to the Chicken Parmesan my daughter requested for dinner tonight.  I am so eager to oblige her appeal for outstanding food. We will eat well tonight.

The bread turned out exactly as wonderfully as I had anticipated! I now have a new favorite bread and it is so easy.  This is a tribute to Ivory Hut. Thank you.

I tasted it already and am certain this is the "Italian"bread I have searched for all my life.  The crust is hard and crispy and the center is spongy and moist. Ahhhh.  The simple things in life can be so rewarding.

Happy eating.

Love, Jeannene

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bitrthday Dinner

Today was our third son's sixteenth birthday.  I can't believe he was born that many years ago.  It seems like yesterday. I was so young back then, and yet I don't perceive myself as having aged one day since. Perception never seems to maintain the same pace as reality. Would that reality relied on perception - alas....Any way, back to the present.

My schedule today involved a full day at my paying job, the one I tolerate and from which I gladly accept a check every two weeks.  My time away allowed for little time to bake his birthday cake.  Not a crisis since he wanted to bake it himself.  I have raised self sufficient, self reliant people.  They know their way around the kitchen, thank God! Well, actually he enlisted his little sister to bake his cake today.  She does a bang up job with cakes and meals, even at 13.  Today's cake wasn't as pretty as most, but it tasted wonderful.

I have no clue as to the reason behind it's distinctive lean, but it didn't effect the flavor in the least.

This was my daughter's first cake, made from scratch.  Notice the chocolate curls on top.  She is so imaginative and inventive. 
So we do not judge today's masterpiece harshly.  We know what she is capable of.  The fact that her brother was the one to frost it may have played a roll in its state of lean, but we don't hold that against him either.  

Regardless, we love to eat celebratory birthday food and revel in the birthday boy's joy.  

Love to all,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cats, cats and more cats

I write this for my dad, a consummate cat lover. He was surprised at the gaggle of cats around the feed bowl the other day.  Today I will post pictures of our cats.  Living in the country makes one extremely susceptible to those pesky little varmints called mice.  In our case we have an occasional field rat.  When I say rat, I mean RAT.  Cats are really good at taking care of those nasty pests. 

We brought a male and a female home about a year and a half ago to tackle our inside mouse problem.  Those felines solved the problem post haste and then they procreated and now we have these little gems.

This was in the beginning.  This one is CJ and is he ever tiny here.

Nothing but fur.

This in one whole cat.  He's just very flexible.


Our mama cat                              ....and this is Garfield. He is a big beautiful tabby.

Wood pile sitting is always a popular past time.  This is Zoe and Fluffy.  We named her that because she really is FLUFFY.

Last but not least is TG and Buster.

There are still two not pictured, but this is enough cats.

Thank you all for bearing with me.

Love, Jeannene

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Colors of Food

This is really frivolous, but I just have to include this.  The other day I was making a wonderful soup that required a lot of chopping.  I like to chop.  As my mother pointed out the other day, chopping is therapeutic. I mean hand chopping.  It puts you in contact with the food- direct contact.  The texture is revealed to your touch and the smell and, in the case of onions, that distinct sting to your eyes.  Chopping makes me feel the food.  I am all about feeling the food, especially as it is consumed.

This recipe required at least five different vegetables, all of which were chopped nicely before being dumped in the pot. After they were all ready to go, my daughter passed the chopping board and remarked at the beautiful colors  displayed.  I had the same thought and I had to snap a shot of it.

I didn't plan the assortment, it just happened. Then there was this one.


I like the texture of the tomatoes.  Please don't count me crazy, but I rediscovered the camera. In the drab of winter, besides the morning sky, very little color is available to snap pictures of.

I think I might be getting the hang of this.  Thanks for indulging me.

Happy Birthday Jeremy.  I remember the day you were born.

Love, Mom

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Feed Bowl - Who' s Bowl is it Anyway?

We live in the country.  How I love it out here.  Surrounding our little farm is grass and trees and trees and grass. It is usually quiet (except during hunting season when hunters will fire their weapons against game on their own land). Part of the draw of the country is having animals.  We have some.  They provide wonderful entertainment. We recently added chickens to our animal repertoire. The chickens are free range birds, choosing to roost in various and sundry perches around the farm. We don't feed these birds much either.  They are pretty much on their own.  When it's really cold we'll toss out some corn and grain for them, but for the most part they have to find their own eats.

With that in mind, I post the following shots.  Our chickens, since we don't coddle them, have become extremely resourceful.They eat from every bucket they can find, even from the cat's bowl.  The chickens spend a great deal of their day with the horses scarfing feed that has fallen from their lips.

 Can you make out the feathered 'cats' on the left?  Those cats will allow the chickens to eat with them. Can you believe it?  No shame!

Do you see the roosters waiting in the wings (a little punny)? 

The cats will allow the roosters to intimidate them away from the bowl.  Animals will always amaze me.  Those chickens are a hoot to watch. 

Thanks for sharing this slice with me.

Love, Jeannene

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Western Sky

I just wanted to share a view out of my window.  This was the evening sky tonight. In the past, originating from far West Texas, I believed the only beautiful sunsets on the earth were found in the desert.  I have witnessed countless breathtaking sunsets against the mountains of El Paso. This easily rivals those painted skies and this is in Central Arkansas.

Pretty spectacular isn't it?  I love this stuff.  What an awesome slice.

Love Jeannene

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Structures with a Past

Saturday morning Corvette Man and I took our customary trip into town to buy feed.  This is a trek we have taken countless times over the years, the same route, the same farms and the same buildings on those farms.  This week end, however, I discovered a barn I have seen more times than I can count and yet I SAW it for the first time Saturday morning.  Arkansas has an abundance of such historically artful structures and this one is only a few miles from our farm.

Isn't this the best looking barn?  It wouldn't be so wonderfully aesthetic in the spring as all the foliage surrounding it would block it from view.

This afternoon we drove by another barn not but a few miles from our farm as well.

Arkansas is just chock full of historical paraphernalia. I love looking for these treasures and then taking pictures is a blast. 

Have a great week!

Love Jeannene

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Favorite Pot

I just wanted to give accolades for a special cooking pot I acquired a few years back.  Before we moved to the farm I had this sneaky feeling I would need to be able to cook outside.  I don't mean just camp fire food.  If I have to eat outside I want to eat real food and lots of it. And not just any real food. I want bread and meats and vegetables and desserts - I want to be able to cook anything and everything. What I discovered was there truly was a way to do this.  It is the science of cooking in dutch ovens!I used this skill extensively when we built our house on the farm.  Believe it or not, we lived in a tent for several months and this was how the meals were prepared.  That is another story for another time.(Lots of fun!)

No sooner had I expressed my desire to cook in a dutch oven, then Corvette Man took me to the nearest outdoors store and we researched the market.  I needed a cast iron dutch oven and this place had oodles of them in all sizes and shapes.  I was in heaven.  We settled on two large 12 in pots with feet on them and one 12 in pot with no feet.

This is my favorite pot. God bless it.

This pot lends itself well to indoor cooking.  It will sit over a burner as easily as it will sit on an oven rack.  Anything I make in this pot tastes fantastic and I can make just about everything in it because just about everything will fit in it.

Notice the brand on the lid.  Research revealed a sturdy cast iron pot is to be used if one is cooking over hot coals and poorly manufactured iron pots with not stand the muster under continuous heat.  Lodge is the best brand and most preferred by all cast iron dutch oven cooks.

My research revealed that you can't use just

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Young Lion Syndrome (also known as YLS)

Young Lion

I am the mother of four children, three of which are boys. Any mother of boys will tell you what strange creatures they are, these boys. As small fries they run willie nillie throughout the house, climb on every structure that stands above their own heads in an effort to peer at the world from above and face every challenge in their small life fearlessly, that is until something stops them to make them think about it. As they approach adulthood, they enter into the realm of adolescence.

Ahhhhh. Adolesence. It is a state of being that begins at the age of thirteen and doesn't really end until they have left the nest,but for today's purposes we will say it concludes at the age of eighteen. This is a large span of time to the parent enduring the agony of adolescence. As the victim of YLS I know from which I speak. I am now steeped in the middle of the third son's agonizing transformation into a adulthood.

I just felt the need to document for those mothers of daughters only, not to exclude mothers of sons, the symptoms of YLS to hopefully elicit some form of sympathy. Alas, here it goes.

A young lion with exhibit these telltale signs:

1. An innate knowledge of all things. He will attest to know more about everything than any old lion, which serves only to incite an immediate adverse reaction against the young lion from the old lion. In other words, the old lion wants to give him a swipe of his large meaty paw.

2. An uncanny ability to push himself beyond his own physical restrictions. In other words; surges of testosterone give them a false sense of physical invincibility. This is manifest when he drives an automobile faster than the limit permits or he places himself in a situation where he very well could get killed. Being dead is the farthest thought from the mind of a young lion. They are so full of life.

3. A false bravado instantaneously detectable by any experienced old lion. It is perceived by another young lion as an invitation for altercation - bring it on baby. The old lion will terminate the aggression with one swipe of his meaty paw, thus putting the young lion in his rightful place - subjugated to the old lion. Often times an egregious roar from the old lion is all it takes.

4.Expressions of dissatisfaction in the form of heavy sighs and grey scowls. This sign will elicit a response from the old lioness. Inciting a desire to scratch the uninivited expression from his face and send him scurrying back into his den, his tail between his legs.

Such are just a few of the symptoms of YLS.  I pray we all survive.

Old Lion

 Love,  Jeannene

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Last Day

Today is the last day of my vacation and I am justifiably depressed, despondent and downhearted about returning to the drudge of every day work life.  I finally reconnected with my kitchen this last week, an area of my house that only saw me half of the time last year and an area my family, bless their little hearts, begged me to visit more than three times a week.  My thirteen year old would ask every day when she came home from school, and I mean these were the first words out of her mouth:

What's for dinner, Mom?

Fend for yourself was my customary reply.

You would have thought I killed her favorite cat by the way her face fell to her knees.

Well after a thorough cleaning and a bunch of great recipes, I have reclaimed the space as my own once more.  Even Corvette Man was surprised at the transformation.

Who couldn't cook in this kitchen?  We designed it  and did all the tile work ourselves.  It gave me a great sense of accomplishment when it was finished.

My favorite dutch oven is sitting on the stove.  Love to cook with that.

Love, Jeannene

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pieces of Sky

Over the past five years my job has required that I rise for work at four o'clock in the morning. Yes it is early, but someone has to do it and it might as well be me. Starting my day at such dark hours precludes me from ever, if rarely witnessing the rise of our sun in the west.  Since I have been off for the past week and a half, I have been privileged to take my kids to school and watch the slow dawning of the day.  It is truly a glorious sight for one who is allowed to observe this daily phenomenon only a few times a year.  I have reveled in it, drank it in and bathed in it - at least since the storms of last week cleared out.  I have been watching beautiful pieces of heaven.

Isn't this most beautiful sight?  There is even a sliver of the moon evident. 

Isn't this heavenly? I will treasure these days.  My next vacation will be in the summer and I will have to be up at five o'clock to capture such beauty.

One more day and I return to the dark hours of the mole.

Bask in the daylight.

Love, Jeannene

Monday, January 11, 2010

A little tribute

Today I want to share a couple of slices that I consider treasures.  My dad works with wood.  He has worked with wood for as long as I can remember.  When he was very young he helped my blind Grandfather build houses.  Dad was the helper and Grandpa was the master - truly a remarkable man.  Dad built book shelves - very nice book shelves. He made desks for all six of us - wonder pieces that gave each of us a sense of our own private space.  I loved my desk Dad.  In the past few years he has completed building a beautiful new house.  When that project finished his hands could not remain idle so he embarked on a variety of beautiful projects for all sorts of people.  I can't begin to tell you what they all are, but he showed me plans for some of them and they were just beautiful. 

This Christmas my dad made me something new.  I love it.  It will always hang in my house and I will always think of him when I see it.

It is a hand carved dogwood bloom in a solid block of wood.

Before Christmas he made this.

Isn't it beautiful?

Dad made the entire table. The legs have a distinctive curve to them and the top has a narrow inlay.  I love it. Thanks Dad for such a wonderful keepsake
 I love you.

Love, Jeannene

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cold Feet

I know I keep harping on the cold here, but when it is so rarely this cold and the animals around me behave so strangely, what is a body to do? This morning I actually slept past the crows of our roosters at 0500.  They were all up and about at 0700 when I looked out the window.  What I saw was really funny.  Now it was way too cold to get out and take a picture at 0700 so I took this shot about an hour and a half later, but all the chickens this morning were doing this....

It was too cold for two feet!!

Its a hoot to find all the chickens standing around on one foot because the ground is so-o-o cold.

Just goes to show you the animals know how to keep warm.

This week promises to bring warmer weather.

Love, Jeannene

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Living out here has its wonderful slices.  Many of which present themselves in a different manner than their original state. Remember those eggs I found the other day? 

My wonderful hen, one of them at least, who found enough strength within herself to lay eggs even in the dead of winter.  Bless her little feather bedecked heart!  I love fresh eggs and she blessed me with fresh eggs!

Well we have found some delicious uses for fresh eggs.

Breakfast bacon and EGGS.  Mmmmm.

My absolute favorite is chocolate chip cookies.

The cookies topped off the day. My kids all but dragged me to see Avatar.  I am ashamed they had to almost drag me.  That was the most fabulous movie I have seen since Star Wars in 1977 and I have seen a ton of movies since 1977.  My only regret about today was that I did not take the long drive to the big city to see it at the IMAX in 3D.

I highly recommend the visual experience of Avatar.

Love, Jeannene

Friday, January 8, 2010


Today I understand frostbite.  I just spent forty-five minutes outside. I came in every fifteen minutes to thaw my poor fingers and they were covered with wool lined leather gloves. It was necessary to venture in the Arkansas arctic.  The chickens' water containers were frozen solid, the dog's water was a solid block of ice and our poor horses have at least four inches ice around a small pocket of water.

Does it look like anything could drink from that?

This is AFTER I broke the surface with a hammer.  Believe me those hunks of ice are floating in water.

We are having fun and this is today's slice.

Love, Jeannene

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Frozen Huevos?

Last night was cold.  It is only expected to get colder later on this week, so I shouldn't be so shocked.  This morning I went out to punch holes in the ice covering each water bucket and check on the chickens.  In the barn I discovered these.....


Chickens lay eggs.  They don't usually lay in the winter, so these surprised me.  I thought they were frozen solid in the 14 degree temperature, but evidently eggs don't freeze at the temperature because I cracked one open and it was perfect.  What a grand surprise in such wintery weather.

This was my perfect slice of heaven for today.

Love, Jeannene

Monday, January 4, 2010


I know I seem obsessed with heat and warmth and staying that way and the things that keep us warm, but I am cold natured and this is the beginning of the cold season in Arkansas.  A reality that was grimly brought to our attention this morning as we awoke to falling snow and a thicker blanket of the white stuff on the ground than when our heads hit the pillow last night.  This really was not a bad thing, for me at least.  I did not have to drive in the stuff at 4:30 this morning - I'm on vacation! It really was a wonderful feeling to lie in the bed as flakes fell all around us.

This was the state of our wood pile last week.  It is a small remnant of a full rick.  This was not going to be adequate to heat our home during the ensuing cold snap.  Hurry, hurry somebody find some more wood!

A really wonderful slice of heaven is this...

Can you see the pile of wood has grown?  It is two or three rows deep! This means warmth and comfort.  AHH.  Notice the axe.  Corvette man has been out chopping some of that into smaller pieces. (Could have been our son as well.)  At any rate, I will be warm and cozy.

Hope this finds all of you warm and cozy.

Love Jeannene