Tres Leches Cake

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Do you see this deliciousness that is called tres leches cake?

I made it last week and it was my first time with this recipe.

The first time with this specific dessert.

Tres Leches is Spanish for Three Milk.

This cake is topped with three types of milk…

whole milk

evaporated milk

and (my FAVORITE!) sweetened condensed milk.

The recipe I used for this version of tres leches cake is from this fabulous cookbook in my collection by Pati Jinich.  She’s an amazing chef who hails from Mexico and who has lived in the U.S. for many decades.  My family is very fond of traditional Mexican fare and I use the recipes from this cookbook often.  We try to make our own food at home instead of eating out a lot.  We know what’s going in our childrens’ mouths when we make the food at home and we don’t know what is really going into the dishes when we eat out.

So, the recipe calls for a marbled cake…vanilla and chocolate.

There were a lot of steps in this recipe, I used quite a few bowls.

But, the end result was worth it.

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Before we get to the tres leches part of the recipe, the cake must be made.

Here’s what is needed…

9 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 9×13-inch cake pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, 4-5 minutes.
Reduce the speed to medium and gradually add the sugar.
Then, continue to beat until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In yet another bowl ( I told you there were lots of bowls!) whisk the egg yolks until thick.
Whisk in the vanilla.
Gently fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg white mixture with a rubber spatula, taking care not to deflate the whites.
Gently fold in the flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time.
Gently, gently, gently…this recipe also gets a little messy with the gentle folding.

In yet another bowl, combine the hot water with the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth.
Add half of the cake batter and gently fold in with a rubber spatula until thoroughly mixed.

Spread the vanilla batter in the prepared pan.
Pour the chocolate mixture down the center of the vanilla batter.
With a butter knife, swirl the batters together.

Bake the cake for 22-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack.

Here comes the neat part…

Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the cake so that it will absorb the sauce.

The sauce…here comes the sauce!

In a large bowl combine:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup of whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Stir to blend well.
Gradually pour about two thirds of the sauce over the entire cake.
It may look like there’s too much sauce, but the cake will absorb it all up.

Cover the cake and refrigerate for AT LEAST 2 hours.
This cake gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.

Refrigerate the remaining sauce.

When you are ready to serve the cake, spoon the rest of the sauce over the top.
I didn’t use all of the tres leches mixture on the cake and ended up using it in my coffee for the next three days!

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There is one more step and that’s the whipped topping.
Whip two cups of heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar.
The topping is not too sweet, which is good, because the cake is sweet enough as it is.
I had a bar of Hershey chocolate that I shaved over the top of the cake.

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Ducklings

 

In a previous post I wrote you may remember that our duck, A Khaki Campbell named Patty, was laying on a nest of eggs.

12 eggs…

She began to lay her eggs when we were on our vacation in Florida.

My dad noticed that our male ducks, the drakes, were hanging around behind our garage.  Hanging around means that they had set up shop behind the garage and rarely left.

Upon inspection, he found Patty our lone female duck, laying on a nest under the branches of a wayward growing tree behind the garage.

Were they fertilized eggs?

Would babies emerge in 28 days?

It was a wait and see adventure for us.

And, let me tell you, it was a hard adventure to wait for.

We have never had eggs hatch on our hobby farm before.

We only have hens so any eggs they lay are unfertilized.

George Washington, our lead hen, did get her chicken undies in a bunch when Patty was sitting on her nest.  In a show of superiority, she decided to lay 20 eggs and go broody.  When a hen goes broody (or a duck or any other poultry) it means she’s sitting on eggs and she’s not getting up.  She’s hoping to sit on eggs and incubate them so that they grow into babies.  In George’s case, that was not going to happen.  The babies part.  Because we have no rooster.

Patty the duck, though, had a good chance of incubating her eggs so that the insides grew into babies.  We have three male ducks.  So, we left her and her eggs alone.

And waited…

and waited…

and waited…

And one day we saw this…

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It didn’t look like this egg was actually hatching.  It looked like it was crushed.

Did Patty step on it too hard?

Were these eggs even viable?  She seems to have been sitting on them for a month now…weren’t they ready to hatch yet?

A few days after noticing the crushed egg we found the egg by the back door of our house.  Which is not too far from where Patty’s nest was located.

And the egg was open.

A duckling was hanging out of it.  But, it was dead.  It wasn’t ready to be hatched.

I looked at Patty sitting on her nest and realized it, and she, was covered in ants.

The egg must have opened up from the crushing and ants invaded it.  Patty moved the egg out of the nest to save the rest of the clutch.

And that dead duckling confirmed what we had been wondering…the eggs she was sitting on were fertilized and we would get some ducklings.

After the ant incident, I made a decision.

I moved the nest.

To save the rest of the soon-to-be-hatching ducklings from ants, I moved the nest into the duck house in our barn.  No one was using it, so it was the perfect spot.  The adult ducks we have don’t sleep in it at night anymore.  They sleep with the horse in the barn stall.  We had used it as a brooder for our chicks when they got too big for the box they were living in in our kitchen.  But, they are sleeping in the chicken coop with the adult chickens now.  So, the ducklings could safely hatch in this ant-free zone in the barn.

But, Patty wasn’t having it.

We managed to catch her…now, our ducks do NOT like to be handled.  Only Charlie, the Indian Runner duck, likes to be sort-of touched.  We can occasionally touch his bill.  Nothing else.

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But, Man-Farmer managed to grab her when she was looking behind the garage for her eggs that I had moved.  He was wearing work gloves because there was the possibility that she would try to bite him.

He grabbed.

She scream-quacked.

He high-tailed it to the barn to put her in the duck house with her eggs.

And she hated the whole thing.

To move the eggs to the barn, I had put them in an old round cat bed that was hanging around the barn that the cats had abandoned.

There she was, in a safe, dry, ant-free environment with her eggs sitting sweetly together on the old cat bed and all she did all night was sit NEXT to the cat bed and scream that she had to get back to the garage.

The next day we let her out.

She ran at warp speed, which is still not very fast because she is after all a duck and therefore waddles at all times, back to the garage and the weirdest thing happened.

She got to the area where her nest had been and frantically searched for her eggs.

Ummmm, Patty…you just left your eggs in the barn.

Remember those oval things sitting next to you all night long in the duck house?

Those are your eggs.

I then realized something…had my light bulb moment.

She didn’t care about the eggs themselves and what was in them.

She only cared about sitting on them.  Her addiction was the heat of incubation.

She looked and looked and looked for them.

And later that same day she seemed to have forgotten about them all together.  She was back to hanging with the guys.  Following them around the yard, eating bugs as they flew past her and drinking from a bucket of water.

We set up the duck house as a brooder, plugged the heat lamp in and situated it right over the eggs to keep them warm.

And shortly after Patty stopped caring about her eggs, something happened.

It started as a small hole in one of the eggs.

And then another egg had a small hole in it.

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And they began to emerge.  Some came out quickly, some took their time.  And some didn’t come out at all.  It seems that some had died in the eggs.  Let me tell you, if a duckling dies in it’s egg before it hatches, you’ll be able to smell it.

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Out of the 12 eggs that Patty started sitting on behind our garage, 7 ducklings made it out of their eggs.

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One duckling struggled and struggled and we had to help it out of it’s egg.

I brought it into the house and kept it on a heating pad, but it wasn’t going to make it.

It died the next day.  Gigi put it in a pencil box and Man-Farmer buried it under the old oak tree behind the house that has become our pet cemetery.  It had been named Gilbert.

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The 6 survivors are a week old now and Patty seems to have no recollection that they ever existed inside their eggs.

Yesterday though, something very interesting happened.

I took the ducklings into the barnyard for the first time.  The chickens saw them, the juvenile birds saw them, the goat saw them, and Patty saw them.

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She was hanging out around the duck swimming pool (one of those plastic pools you can buy at the store for $10) and the ducklings were sitting near my feet as I sat on the edge of the concrete water trough.  They were quacking their little duckling quacks and she came to them.  She came so close to me, something that NEVER happens, and she stared at them.  They stared at her.  Her head began to quiver.  She stared and stared and stared.  It was as if she was trying to remember something…do I know you?  You seem so familiar to me…

This went on for about five minutes.

Then the drakes began quacking loudly, alerting her that they were leaving the area.

She gave the ducklings one last glance, turned away from them, and ran after the males.

She caught up with them and walked with them out of the barnyard.

I did the same thing with the ducklings this morning…gave them their morning walk into the barnyard with the other creatures they would be living with in the future.

Patty was there.

She paid zero attention to them.

She was more interested in what was in the tall grass in the corner of the barnyard than in the six babies that just yesterday invoked something within her.

Maybe tomorrow she will be interested.

Maybe George will be their mother figure.

She shows more curiosity in their goings-on than their real mother does.

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The ducklings all look very similar now, they grow very quickly.

Their names are Bilbo, Bambi, Artichoke, Otis, Butterbeer, and Alexander Quackington.

Welcome to the farm little ones…

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The Pool In The Woods

It feels like it’s 98 degrees outside.

That’s what my phone says and I believe it.

The heat is bearing down on us at the farm and our pool looks like this…

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The water has been drained and the big pink flamingo is forced to stare at what used to be his summer home.

The water was drained because we just couldn’t get the water clear and blue this season.  We opened the pool early this year, in early May, because the weather was so warm.  I think it was the earliest opening we have had.  This is the 8th summer of swimming in this pool.  And this is the first summer it hasn’t cooperated for us.  We have been able to enjoy it maybe 5 times.  It’s a bummer.

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It has had a consistent green tinge to it.

It has even turned neon green twice.

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We were fed up with the amount of money that we have spent trying to correct it and decided, all four of us decided, to just drain the whole thing.  Something is terribly wrong.

Man-Farmer scrubbed it with a big brush.

He’s going to get more sand at some point and reload the sand filter.

It was last changed three years ago.

We used to use salt in this pool when it was first installed.  We had a salt chlorinator and it was great.  Man-Farmer would dump bags of water softener salt into the pool at the beginning of the swimming season and that was it.  The salt chlorinator made chlorine for the pool with the salt.  I have zero idea how that works, but it does!  He would add a bag of salt occasionally until he closed it up in the fall…depending on how much rain we received or how hot it was.

While the salt chlorinator worked really well, it did corrode the top ring of the pool.  You know, the top ring that holds the pool up.  A very vital part of the pool itself.

And because the ring has corroded, rusted pieces of metal are dropping into the pool screwing up the PH.

The salt chlorinator died in 2017.  So, Man-Farmer has been using traditional measures when it comes to pool care since last year.

Chlorine tablets.

Algaecide.

Stabilizers.

Blah, blah, blah.

We didn’t have any problems last year.

Man-Farmer and the lady at the pool store have become besties this season.  And he and I have both scoured the internet for what other people have done with their pools when neon green pool water enters their lives.

So, before you offer up advice…we have really tried it all this year.

And spent so much money trying to fix it that we could have bought a membership at the local swim club.

A swim club like this…

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A pool with clear, blue water.  Not a tinge of green at all in there!

We are going to try again next year.

We will refill the whole darn thing and start fresh.

If that doesn’t work, I think I know where our new garden will be.

Summer Reading

I haven’t done a book post since March.

I’ve been reading away and since it’s summer, here are some things that I have enjoyed that you may want to put on your summer reading list.

I’m starting with The Glass Castle.
This book came out in 2006 and I believe it was made (or is going to be made) into a movie.  It’s a memoir of a woman and her unconventional upbringing.  Her parents are dreamers with some mental illness to contend with.  Raising children with these parameters can be challenging.  I thought the book was good, but each chapter was just one crazy story after another and they were starting to sound all the same.  I would watch the movie.

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I heard about this book some time ago.  I think I saw the author on The Today Show or maybe it was The CBS Morning Show (which is my FAVORITE morning television news program!) and I thought “Wow, this sounds captivating and inspiring.”  It took me a very long time to get this from my public library.  The premise behind this remarkable true story is that the author, Amy Silverstein, is in need of her second heart transplant.  Her SECOND transplant people!  She needs to leave the east coast and her support system to save her life.  The west coast becomes her home while waiting for a new heart.  And while she has the support of her husband, he’s stressed.  This is when the story (true story, remember?) gets good.  Her friends step up and become her support system.  And they don’t live on the west coast.  They create schedules so that someone is always with Amy as she sits and waits.  Waits to die…waits to live.  Her story is so remarkable.  Please read this book.

I really enjoyed watching Liane Moriarty’s novel Big Little Lies that HBO turned into a miniseries last year.  I have read another Liane Moriarty book (The Husband’s Secret) and I really liked it, so I grabbed this novel when I saw it at the library.  Truly, Madly, Guilty is a good thriller…someone saw something…who is to blame…what’s the secret from the past that keeps popping up…I really liked it.  I did figure out the ending hallway through the book.

 

I watched a documentary on Nora Ephron on HBO and realized that I had not read or seen Heartburn.  I have been a big fan of Nora since I saw When Harry Met Sally (1989) when I was in college.  It’s a movie that I quote almost daily.  She was the screenwriter for that film and her novel Heartburn was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson (1986).  Although names have been changed, it is the story of Nora’s real life marital upset.  She’s seven months pregnant with her second child with her husband, a renowned journalist, and she discovers her husband has been having an affair and is leaving her.  It’s full of humor and grief.  But, mostly humor.  It’s a quick read and perfect for the summer.

My friend Ron, who used to be in Book Club with me when I lived in Chicago a million years ago, still sends me recommendations of books he’s enjoyed that he thinks I’ll also like.  The Last Mrs. Parrish was recommended by him and BOY it was fun!  This story is about Amber and her desire to be somebody.  And the somebody she wants to be is this guy Jackson Parrish’s wife.  But, here’s the problem.  He already has a wife.  Who is amazing.  This book had enough twists to keep me up at night wanting more.  It has a great ending.

This book was fine.  It’s a sweet tale of an elderly gentleman and his encounter and evolving relationship with a troubled young lady.  It was quick. It was full of warm-hearted goodness.  Give it a go if you want something easy to read that will bring a smile to your face.

I heard this author, Lara Westover, speaking on NPR this past year.  This is her memoir of her unconventional upbringing (sounds similar to The Glass Castle, right?)  and her quest to find herself.  It has a different vibe than The Glass Castle.  Lara Westover’s parents seem more delusional about what they are doing to their children than the parents in the other unconventional parenting memoir I read.  I didn’t like these parents.  And I had a hard time with this book.  I didn’t like many of the characters, who are actually the author’s family.  I had a difficult time understanding how she got so many “saves” in her life from outsiders when she was self-educated from an early age.  It left me feeling conflicted.

This book caught my eye at the library.  Murder mysteries have become more go-to summer read and this hit the nail on the head for me.  A kid is killed in a hit and run.  There are a few suspects and one is a brooding teen.  Who is guilty?  Who is hiding behind their lies?  So much mystery…

Ron told me about this book, too.  Good Me-Bad Me by Ali Land.  Dramatical fiction at it’s best.  Man-Farmer did start reading this before me and he didn’t like it at all.  He didn’t even finish it.  I must agree with him that some of the story started getting redundant towards the end and you “just wanted to see what was going to to happen already!” but I liked the ending.  The topic of the story can be a bit disturbing to some…the main character’s mother is a child serial killer…and she’s trying to decide if she is her mother’s daughter.

I saw this author on Goodreads as an author I may like to read based on my previous reading selections.  The Breakdown is B.A. Paris’s current novel.  It’s a good “who done it” murder mystery.  I liked the play on the title The Breakdown…did someone’s car breakdown or is the main character having a mental breakdown?  Or both?  Or neither?  I did NOT figure out who the guilty party was in this book until the end.

Many of the books I read deal with death.  Death is an essential aspect of life and I have read another book by this author, Caitlin Doughty, before.  She’s a 21st century undertaker.  She deals with death on a daily basis.  She makes death not scary.  But, instead,  something that is a part of our time here on earth and maybe we need to look at it a bit differently.  This book takes the reader on a few journeys.  Journeys to cultures other than the American culture to witness how they deal with death.  And how maybe the American funeral industry can begin to take other ideas into account when helping families with a deceased loved one.  I recommend this book for everyone.  Death finds all of us eventually.  How our family members are left to deal with us, because let’s face it…funerals are for the living…is evolving.

PBS is doing a summer program called The Great American Read.  They did an online poll to find the top 100 books that Americans like to read.  I haven’t heard of some of the books on the list and there are a few that I have problems believing are GREAT reads.  Man-Farmer is a big Agatha Christie fan.  This book was on the list of the top 100 reads and neither one of us had read it.  He got it from the library and quickly devoured it.  I picked it up next and while it was a quick read, it was SO good.  It was hard to put down at night and neither Man-Farmer or I figured out “who done it” until the last chapter.  Agatha Christie is a master at mystery and a master of suspense. This is simple, yet exquisite writing.

This book has been on my To Read list for quite a while.  It has been hard to find at the library and so I eventually just put it on reserve and had to wait until it was shipped from another library in our library system to my hometown library.  It was really worth the wait.  Maggie O’Farrell has an amazing way with words.  I found myself right there with her as she had seventeen brushes with death.  This is a memoir so everything was real.  And I felt it all.  I smelled what she was smelling.  I felt the wind in my hair just as she did.  Like I said, she has an AMAZING way with words!  This book was about death, but has an uplifting presence.  It truly reminds the reader to get out there and live, because anything can happen at any moment.

Not Much To Say

Well…

I don’t have much to say right now.

It’s hot.

The sisters are away at summer camp all week.

Summer is barreling down on us here at the farm.

The pool keeps turning green.

The flies are pestering the horse.

The duck is still laying on her nest of eggs.

I’m giving her one more week and if nothing happens, I’m throwing out the eggs.

She’s become very aggressive and won’t leave the nest to eat or swim.

I have to push her off with a snow shovel.

And then must chase her back to the barnyard to eat.

She returns the moment I turn my back.

We have had a chicken living in the house for a week.

Our blind-in-one-eye chicken, Pepper, had a bit of a problem with her rear end.

I won’t go into too much detail, because it’s gross, but I think George Washington was pecking her in the rear end causing her to get an open sore and then the flies found it.

Enough said. So the dog has given up his dog kennel in the evening so that pepper can sleep in it. During the day she’s been hanging out in our dining room. Today she’s actually outside eating grass and bugs.

But, every time George sees her, she runs up and pecks her on the butt.

My life really is just a game of chase anymore.

Chasing critters here and there.  I’m glad I don’t have neighbors to witness it all.


I’ve started a collection of photos.

The title of this collection is “Trash I Pick Up In My Front Yard Before I Can Mow”

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I find it so odd and frustrating that people still throw their garbage right out of their car window as they drive down the road in 2018.

The first picture is not of a bag of garbage I had collected, it was what I found…an entire bag of garbage. Just sitting in my front yard.

Ugh.

I don’t get it.

I mainly find beer cans…ummm, drinking and driving is illegal…empty cigarette packs, and enormous fast food drink cups.

I think it says a lot about society when there are people STILL, in this day and age, who litter because they obviously don’t care about other people or the earth that they live on. This basic aloofness and apathetic act extends so much further in the litterer’s everyday life. I’m sure of it.

I’ll end this post with photos I took last evening of the sunset from my front yard…sans garbage.

My Basket Is Empty

I’m eggless.

Not personally nor internally.

I mean I’m eggless in that my kitchen has zero eggs in it.

Look at that sad and empty egg basket.

The chickens are NOT laying eggs.

Our adult hens are 5 years old now. They are personally and internally low on eggs.

We were getting some eggs until recently, but they must have been coming from Whistle.

Our chicken that we found dead in the barnyard.

George Washington, our lead hen, had been laying eggs…20 in fact…but had been sitting on them in the barn in her giant unfertilized, hot, rotting nest.

She hasn’t deposited one single egg since we threw those eggs out.

We are also down to only one female duck. Daffy was killed by some predator right before our vacation at the end of May and our other female duck, Patty, is sitting on a nest with 12 eggs in it.

We are giving her until the end of the first week of July to see if these eggs are going to hatch. There is a possibility that they are fertilized as we have male ducks. It’s really all a mystery though.

Will they hatch?

Will they not hatch?

Why do I have EGGS on my grocery list?!

Our new chickens aren’t old enough to lay eggs yet.

They are currently in the teenager stage.

They won’t start laying eggs until PROBABLY at the end of August.

I still have my fingers crossed that the new chickens are all females. They seem to be, but we were surprised with our last batch of hens when one turned out to be a rooster.

And we were not expecting to have so many male ducks when we brought them home a few years ago.

I used my last three eggs on Saturday. They were duck eggs and I used them in a dessert I made my dad.

Tomorrow I’m off to the grocery store.

And I will need to add eggs to my shopping cart.

While in October, I’ll be giving eggs away because I’ll have so many.

It’s feast or famine around here in the egg department.

Purple Is My Favorite Cabbage…

Yesterday I wrote about my obsession with the lusciousness that is sweetened condensed milk.

Today I want to discuss another love of mine.

It’s crunchy, bright, a bit sweet, and adds a rainbow quality to dishes.

Purple Cabbage.

Purple cabbage?

Yes.

Purple cabbage.

I adore it. The way it feels fresh and alive when you take a bite. There’s a sweetness to it that green cabbage doesn’t have.

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And it’s really pretty to look at!

It’s PURPLE!  My favorite color!

My kids claim to dislike cabbage…both green and purple.

Gigi saw a purple cabbage cut in half and marveled at its pattern work.

Then told me she still hated it.

It is quite an exquisite looking vegetable, don’t you think?

Now I don’t like cooked cabbage AT ALL!

Man-Farmer loves sauerkraut, but I find the odor and stringiness of it to be off-putting.

I prefer it raw.

Or shredded into a slaw.

And I enjoy either a vinegar or cream-based slaw dressing.

Then I eat it as a side or on a hot dog or nestled into a shrimp taco or on top of a spicy black bean burger.

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I like using a mandoline to shred it. I do wish I had a bigger mandoline, one that stands itself up on the countertop, but I do achieve what I need with my hand-held version.

To make a slaw, first julienne some green cabbage..,

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then julienne some purple cabbage.

Look!

Already there’s such a punch of color in this simple dish!

Grab a carrot or two and slice it thinly with your mandoline as well.

I like the fun circles that using the end of a whole carrot created with the mandoline.

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Toss them all together in a large bowl.

To make a creamy slaw dressing…

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup mayo with 1/4 cup sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste and squeeze the juice of 2-4 small limes (1-2 large limes) into mixture. I like a lot of zesty tart lime flavor in my slaw, so I usually add 4 small limes. You can also add some zest from the limes for more color. Stir together and pour over julienned vegetables right before serving.

I prefer my slaw to be crunchy, which is why I wait to dress the cabbage right before I eat it, but you can make this ahead of time and let the cabbage soften a bit in the creamy dressing in the fridge.

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Sweet, Sweet Love

I recently posted on my personal Facebook page about an obsession/addiction/love affair that I currently have.

Well, it’s not really current…it’s more an on-going thing for me.

Something that I have had in my life for quite a while now.

Sweetened Condensed Milk.

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I love it.

I could eat it everyday…and usually do consume it every morning in my hot coffee.

I open a can and pour the creamy, white, sweet smelling, lusciousness into a mason jar and store it in the fridge where I can access it for whatever my needs are.

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I also try to keep one or two cans in the pantry in case I want to incorporate it into a dessert.

I love to bake and sweetened condensed milk can really pump up a recipe.

One of our family’s favorite desserts is something I found right on the side of the can.  I know many people who have made this dessert, but if you haven’t tried it yet yourself, here’s the recipe for you…

I alter the recipe a bit when making it.  I crush the graham crackers in a Ziploc bag using a rolling pin.  Then I transfer the crushed grahams to a bowl where I add the brown sugar and butter that I’ve melted on the stovetop.  You can melt your butter in the microwave, but I don’t do that as we don’t own a microwave.

The shear joy I get from tasting sweetened condensed milk is pure and simple…I’m eating sugary milk.

Enough said.

The can states that it’s a good source of calcium.

So it’s healthy!

It’s also an economical thing to have on hand.  You can find most cans for less than $1.30.  Often it can be found for less than $1.  I don’t usually buy a name brand sweetened condensed milk.  After years of buying this product I have found that a well-known brand tastes no better than an off-brand.

Here are a few other uses for the most amazing thing ever created by someone somewhere at sometime…I don’t know the details of the fruition of it, but I say THANK YOU to whoever discovered it.

in hot coffee

in cold coffee

in iced tea

in Thai iced tea

pies

fudge

on top of shaved ice

boil it and it turns to caramel…homemade dulce de leche!

straight out of the can and into your mouth with the biggest spoon you can find

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Stay tuned…I have another food love to share with you tomorrow.

 

Poultry Problems

We got up earlyish on May 25th as we were hoping to set out on our road trip to Florida by 7am.

Man-Farmer went out to the barn as he normally does to open the pasture gate for the pony, Buttercup Luck.  He opens the chicken coop door so that the 4 chickens and 8 juvenile birds can start their day of pecking around on the ground looking for bugs and worms to eat.  He provides fresh water and scoops out chicken feed into two bowls for the poultry crew, ducks included.

He was headed back to the house to start getting himself ready for the two day journey…he had packed the blue minivan the evening before, he just needed to fill his coffee mug and take a shower…when he saw her.

Daffy the duck.

Or A duck, as he didn’t know yet who it was, was lying under one of the giant 100 year old walnut trees that sit between our house and the barn.  The duck wasn’t moving.  The duck was dead.

A large hole was on her chest, under her wing.

It was Daffy, the white Indian Runner duck…the lone female of the original 4 ducks we got 2 years ago.  The male ducks all look alike, but Daffy was smaller and her coloring was lighter.  Male ducks, called drakes, quack.  Females rarely quack.  Their voices are softer and more whispery.  The males are the guardians for the females.  They are always front and center.  As you can see from this photo…that’s Daffy in the back.  With the 3 males standing tall in front of her.

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When Man-Farmer found Daffy he noticed that the other ducks were still hanging about.  But that another white male was missing.  We had named all of the ducks when they were babies, but as they grew and continued to all look alike, it was hard to tell who was who.

Who was gone?

Mandy?

Monty?

Charlie?

I hoped it wasn’t Charlie.  He’s my favorite.  He’s the only duck out of the 6 that we have that will come close to me.  He follows me around when I’m in the barnyard or out in the horse pasture.  He follows me to the gate to the outside world and gets within inches of leaving with me before high-tailing it back to the group.  He would occasionally let me pet his bright orange bill.

We had no idea who was missing.  But as we were getting ready to disembark on our road trip south to see a wizard in Florida, we had no time to analyze the situation more.  Man-Farmer dug yet another hole to bury a pet on the farm.  Little sister was outside crying that sweet Daffy was killed.  We finished putting our snacks and cooler in the car and we drove away.

Hoping everyone would be okay while we vacationing.  I called my parents to tell them what had happened and that we were down to 2 white ducks, 2 brown ducks.  My parents would be coming down multiple times a day to check on our crew…dog, cats, goat, horse, chickens, ducks, and even a hermit crab.

I received a text the next day from my dad that there were still 4 ducks.  No more death.

I thought more about it as we were driving and I figured it had been Charlie who had been taken away by some predator for a meal.  He’s the most social and seemed the bravest.  We had thought about what animal killed one duck and left it and stole another away.  We have been hearing a lot of coyote howls lately and Man-Farmer had even seen two out in the field south of our barn some weeks ago.  He yelled at them and they high-tailed it back into the woods.  Or was it a hawk?  An owl?  We have many of all of these wild creatures hanging around our homestead.

We made it home nine days later and when we arrived the remaining ducks were sitting by our pool which sits right behind our house.  Why are they sitting there?

My parents came over shortly thereafter and my dad said that the brown duck (a Khaki Campbell named Patty) had been sitting behind the garage since we left as he had also noticed right after we left that the ducks were hanging out by the house and they were dirtying up the water bucket we keep outside for the cats and the dog to drink out of if they get thirsty.

Patty was sitting on a nest.

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A nest full of eggs, maybe 8 or so.  It’s hard to tell.  She stays there for long periods of time, hisses at anyone who tries to look at her.  The dog, Willie, keeps trying to look for her in the brush she’s hidden herself in.  He can smell her but it’s hard to see her.

The remaining males have taken to guarding her as she’s nesting. They will occasionally go to the barnyard to have a swim in their pool or peck around in the tall grass for bugs.  But, they have started spending most of their day right behind the house.  Sleeping and guarding.

And as we started settling back into life at home after vacation that we noticed something else.

Charlie wasn’t missing!

He was still amongst the living and he was talking to us and following us around and he’s even gotten VERY close to coming into the house via the back door.

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There he is!

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Charlie!

Good ol’ Charlie.

But happiness wouldn’t last too long.

Tuesday, two days after our return from vacation, Little Sister came running into the house screaming “Whistle is dead!”

Whistle is one of our original light brahma chickens.  She’s the orneriest hen we have and there she was…laying dead in the barnyard.  I had just taken this photo of her the day before.

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Here it was, the middle of the afternoon on a hot summer day, and Whistle was just laying in the open…dead.

I told Little Sister that Whistle was old and probably just died.

But, my real thought turned to predator.  And that predator had to have been a hawk.

As I went to pick Whistle up (so Man-Farmer could once again bury a pet because his daughters would insist) I glanced skyward and saw a brown bird.  A hawk.  I think she was picked up and dropped by the hawk.  A failed attempt at lunch.

The chicks, well they are juvenile birds now, had all put themselves into the chicken coop. Something had scared them.  They stayed there, all on their own, for the rest of the day.  The other chickens, Genevieve and Pepper, were hanging out under the tree in the outdoor chicken run.  But George Washington, our favorite and most personable hen, was no where to be seen.

Not again, I thought.

Not another “dead bird with one missing” scenario.

Sigh…

I looked everywhere for George and never found her.

Man-Farmer locked the birds up when nightfall came.

Still no George.

When he went out to the barn the next morning to open the barn doors, there she was!  Just in the barn, running up to him.  George was still alive!

But, where had she been?

Man-Farmer didn’t let any of the chickens outside into the barnyard.  I asked him not to in case that hawk was still hovering around looking for a meal.

I went out to the barn after the humans had eaten their lunch.  I hadn’t seen any hawks soaring about and thought I would let the chickens outside.  As soon as I opened the main barn door, George Washington bolted out.

She’s always hated being confined.  She likes her freedom.

I thought I saw her a little later on in the day hanging around near Tulip the one-horned goat.

But as nightfall came, she wasn’t in the coop with the other birds when it was time to secure them.

She wasn’t in the barn this morning when the chickens were set free to explore their chicken world.

She’s gone again.

I don’t know if she was taken or if she has packed her chicken bags and moved away.

Is she mad that we left for 9 days?

Is she mad that those ducks (who she has never really tolerated too much) are in her territory near the humans, near the house?

I don’t know what’s happened to her.

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Man-Farmer is just as upset that Patty the Duck is laying on eggs and apparently incubating eggs to make baby ducks.
He doesn’t like the ducks.  He doesn’t want more ducks.

But it’s as if the forces of nature are working hard to replace the birds that have been lost.

Death

Surprises

Renewal

New beginnings

Life on a farm…

We Went On Vacation

We left the farm and drove to Florida last week.

Our minivan, with over 200,000 miles on it, drove our family of four through four states.

And stopped when we got to Orlando.

We didn’t travel to Florida this time to see a mouse and his friends at Disney World , but instead we saw a Wizard at Universal Studios.

Our entire family has read all 7 of the Harry Potter books (the youngest is on book 4) including all available supplemental material, we have seen all 8 of the movies and since we own them all, we watch them numerous times a year.

So, we are real Potterphiles.

It was a great trip and we really enjoyed ourselves. The weather in Orlando was good. I gave it an 8/10. We only had one day of rain. I wear Crocs which are made out of rubber so the rain doesn’t bother my feet. But a few in our party tromped back to the car with very soggy feet.

We spent four days at Universal and went to Downtown Disney (which they now call Disney Springs) one evening. The last full day in Florida was spent at the beach. We drove an hour to the east coast so that the kids could play in the ocean at Cocoa Beach. Both kids were very young the last time we swam in salt water and the youngest didn’t realize how salty the ocean would be.

The animals at the farm were taken care of by my parents who live down the street. We did have a tragedy the morning we woke up to leave for Florida. I’ll be writing about that later this week.

My aunt graciously offered her timeshare to us to use in Orlando and it helped us save a lot of money and we were so close to everything.

Universal Studios consists of two parks.  It’s much smaller than Disney World.  We didn’t really need to spend four days there, but our tickets were a Buy 2 Days-Get 2 Days Free deal, so four days it was!

We had Park-To-Park tickets which meant that we could ride the Hogwarts Express numerous times…this is the train that Harry Potter and his classmates rode to school on each year…they would embark on their journey at Kings Cross station in London and go to platform 9 3/4 to catch their train.  Platform 9 3/4 is located between platforms 9 and 10 at the train station.  Wizards in training can magically go through the brick wall to find this specific platform.  The Hogwarts Express took us from London to Hogsmeade.  Or really from Universal Studios to the adjacent theme park titled Universal Islands of Adventure.   We rode the train twice a day instead of walking from park to park.  It was a nice cool reprieve from the heat.

Man-Farmer and the sisters are BIG fans of The Simpsons. We saw quite a few characters from this show at Universal.

Universal in Orlando is home to the most realistic versions of the villages and storefronts from the Harry Potter books. This is the entrance to the village of Hogsmeade, the village near the school of Hogwarts that Harry Potter attends.  The roofs of the buildings are snow covered and the snow magically does not melt in the Florida heat!

Another character from The Simpsons, Bart Simpson’s best friend Milhouse.
And Duff Man, he is a beer Superhero (sort of!) on The Simpsons.

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Man-Farmer and I in front of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  There’s a super fun ride housed in this building.  It’s called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Forest.  I actually screamed a few times when some giant spiders seemed to be very close to me!

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This is the Hogsmeade again.  A nice lady took a picture with all four of us in it.  We bought the sisters interactive wands.  Wizards in training need to practice their spells and the wands they got allowed them to practice casting spells at specific locations throughout Hogsmeade and also over in Diagon Alley.  Diagon Alley is the hidden wizard street located in London that houses various stores for wizards of all ages.

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This is Diagon Alley.  This is the main thoroughfare.  There are shops that you can enter and buy merchandise relating to the films and other shops that are just for you to enjoy visually.  There was a lot of attention to detail in each shop and it was quite impressive.  There’s a smaller street to the left up ahead called Horizont Alley when you get to the Dragon on the top of the bank.  Go right at the Dragon on the bank and there’s a 4D ride and another street called Carkitt Market where you can enjoy drinks and live musical entertainment.  Tucked behind a wall on Horizont Alley is an area called Knockturn Alley.  It’s a dark and spooky area that houses some spell casting sites and a shop to buy and look at Dark Magic items.

About the dragon…in the books this dragon is kept as a guard/slave in the caverns of the Gringotts Bank.  The Gringotts Bank is owned and operated by goblins.  Very short and very greedy creatures who wear suits and ties.

Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermione, help this dragon escape from it’s slavery at the bank.  It’s a marvelous piece of craftsmanship as it sits high above the streets of Diagon Alley.  It is supposed to breath fire, though.  It NEVER did the ENTIRE time we were there.  And we spent a lot of time in Diagon Alley.  I guess it wasn’t working.  It was very cool nonetheless.  Right next to the Dragon on the bank is a ride called Escape From Gringotts.  You sit in a cart that takes you into the depths of the cave-like bank.  You wear 3D glasses and can actually feel the heat from the dragon as it spews fire towards you.  There are also water effects on the ride and you feel splashes making it very realistic.  We had heard from many people that the rides at Universal can make you a bit nauseous as they are mainly 3D/4D rides.  We had zero problems with nausea and really enjoyed everything we rode.  Since we were there for four days, we rode many rides (including The Harry Potter rides, Men In Black, Despicable Me, The Mummy, King Kong, a Jurassic Park water ride, and some red roller coaster) more than once!

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This is a motorcycle and sidecar that one of the main characters from the books (and movies) drives.  His name is Hagrid and his mother was a giant and his father was a human.  How that worked out is still a mystery to me!  This prop was not there the first three days we were in Diagon Alley and then, just like magic, there it was!

We also saw other sites not related to Harry Potter while at Universal.  We saw a Horror Movie Make-Up Show.  My family, especially Man-Farmer, are big fans of horror movies and this show was right up our alley!  It was very funny and we learned many “tricks of the trade” including that the blood scenes in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho were actually chocolate syrup!

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Universal Studios is home to many Steven Spielberg movies including E.T. (we rode a very cute ride based on this movie) and Jaws.  The Universal Jaws ride in Orlando is no longer around, but the shark is still hanging about.

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Now, for a few things we learned while on vacation…

1. No one drives the speed limit on America’s highways.  No matter what state, how much traffic is surrounding them, or weather conditions.  No one except that family in the blue minivan with Illinois plates and the Totoro sticker on the rear window.  And that guy in the pickup truck who had his windows down during a rain storm in GA.  Everyone drives 15-20 miles over the posted limit.

2. Landlocked people (i.e. pale white people from Illinois) can become very sunburned while frolicking in the salty Atlantic Ocean.  Even if their mother/wife applies sunscreen numerous times to them.

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3. Dessert is calorie-free while on vacation.  Especially when your step counter on your phone logs 14,000-20,000 steps a day!  We had many Butterbeers (a trademark butterscotch drink from the Harry Potter books)

Butterbeer ice cream

Ghirardelli shakes

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Vivoli il Gelato whose trademark shop is located in Florence, Italy!

And giant milkshakes from Toothsome Chocolate Emporium.

4. My kids do not enjoy pulling off of the side of the interstate so mom can see new and different things.  I had seen on my map that The World’s Largest Peanut would be two seconds off of the highway as we passed through Georgia.  It certainly wasn’t as big as I had thought it would be.  It was just poised very high in the air.

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And Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee is not accessible unless you pay money.  Because it’s in a cave.  I thought it would be just a regular waterfall and I LOVE a good waterfall, but no one wanted to wait around for a tour down into a cave to see it, so this is all we saw after we drove halfway up to Lookout Mountain.
I couldn’t get anyone to agree to stop at the Jack Daniel’s Historic Distillery or the Towing and Recovery Museum.

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5. The last road trip we went on, which was to Houston, we started this game.  It’s the traditional license plate game that families have been doing for years as they travel across the good ol’ U.S. of A.  We used the same map (printed at home from this website) that we used when we traveled to Texas.  When we see a license plate on a car from another state, we color in that state on our map.  We saw a few cars from Ontario, Canada so I just colored in the entire top of my map to say that I saw a car from Canada.  We saw almost all of the states this trip!  We came home with only 6 states missing.

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6. As much fun as we had at Universal, we decided that we all like Disney World better.  The Harry Potter sections of the parks were top notch, but they were small.  And the rest of Universal had a Six Flags type of feel to us.

Everyone who worked at Universal was super nice.  The parks were clean.  The food was good…we ate at a fabulous Harry Potter themed restaurant called The Three Broomsticks.

We found the loaded baked potatoes at the London Taxi Stand outside of the train station to Hogwarts to be a delicious deal.  We had somewhat good gyros and chili-cheese dogs at a quick service restaurant called The Fire Eaters Grill at Islands of Adventures, and we had a REALLY GOOD full sized pepperoni pizza in Universal Studios at a large and quick to serve joint called Louie’s.

If you like Harry Potter I highly recommend going to Universal in Orlando. Two days should be plenty of time to get your Potter fill.

Thanks for reading…stay tuned this week for a post about our ducks.  We had something significant happen right before we left for Florida.